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A Marine's Story Part 3

"His Sixth Sense"

When he got back to his barracks Brent and Patterson were in a deep argument about Wraiths and Battlecruisers, and Tiffany was sitting on her bunk smiling at there argument. “-I’m just saying,” Brent was argued, “that if there’s a good pilot at the controls of a wraith it could bring down a battlecruiser.” “Are you kidding?” Patterson cried, “A battlecruiser has like a bazillion lasers. That wraith would be vaped even if the pilot was like the greatest.” Joe walked over to Jon and Joey who were watching the news. Jacob Peterson was reporting on the latest battles of the dominion. “The 397th Wraith division took heavy loses trying to hold a vital trade route between Umoja and Fro Sara. Even though they held the Zerg at bay the death toll of this battle has reached up to 120 human forces dead and 11 are missing in action.” “At least that’s some good news.” Joey said, leaning back and stretching his arms out. “What?” Joe said in amazement, “We lost 131 men!” “At least we still held it. Do you know what’s happening on Kel-Moria?” He asked, “It’s not pretty. We’ve been losing battle, after battle, after battle there. Casualties are just below a thousand.” “Wow.” Joe said in a quieter voice. “-so your saying that if there were any number of wraiths against one battlecruiser, the battlecruiser would still win?” Brent yelled. “Your clearly gay.” Patterson's arms flailed wildly in the air, Tiffany was still listening in her bunk, which was right next to there’s, with a huge smile on her face, “I’m saying that no matter how good the pilot is he can’t take out a battlecruiser by himself!” “YES HE CAN!” Brent yelled. “NO HE CAN’T!” Patterson yelled back. Having finally had enough of this, Jon yelled, “SHUT THE FUCK UP, THERE’S SOMETHING MORE IMPORTANT GOING ON THAN YOUR DAMN ARGUMENT.” “And what is that?” Brent asked. “We have a reporter on Kel-Moria and he has a camera with him.” Joey explained, He had spoken with a slight lisp. Joe folded his arms and turned to look at the TV. The whole barracks gathered around the small 20 inch TV screen but they were all talking so he couldn’t hear a thing. “Shut the fuck up.” someone yelled. “Turn it up” another person asked. Jon being closest to the screen reached to turn up the volume.

The screen flashed to a reporter on a browned earth and red, orange skied planet. He said, “I am with a recon group of marines to scout out a basin to see if the Zerg have any of it’s agents hidden in the mining tunnels.” The reporter was indeed with a group of marines and by the markings they had on there armor they were with the 482nd Hellfire recon group. “I am with Sergeant Mathew Vigsorski, any thoughts on what we might encounter in this basin?” the reporter asked. “Well” Sgt. Vigsorski said, “The recon planes flew over not to long ago so we’re just here to see if there are any lurking around in the mines. I don’t expect that we will see anything that should do use any harm though.” There was five minutes of silence before the sergeant spoke again. “We’re coming up on the basin now.” he said. It was just a big bowl in the earth with a small house at the bottom of the bowl. The radio crackled, “Twenty-one O-six what is your status?” “We’re at the basin, conducting sweep.” The radio operator replied. A sense of foreboding came over Joe. Planes screamed over head. The squad was at the bottom of the basin. It was quite. Even in the barracks. Nothing was moving on either planet. The radio crackled again causing a few people to jump in surprise, but this time the voice was frantic and worried, “Twenty-one O-six get out of there! You have Zerg bearing down on your position. Get out of there now, get the hell out of there!” All of the marines brought there rifles up to there armpits and looked around. The camera man was moving the frame around at the cliffs, he was shaking the camera so it looked like an earthquake was going on. “Alright you heard the man let’s get out of here.” The sergeant yelled. But it was too late.

The camera caught sight of Zerg bearing down on the marines. “Hydras at five ’o clock.” one of the marines yelled. “Zerglings and Lurkers at nine.” another one yelled. “Oh my god.” the reporter whimpered.. “Close up ranks. Fall back toward the structure.” Vigsorski said. All the marines closed around the camera man and the reporter. They started running. The lens started to shake again, but this time it wasn’t from the camera man. About fifty yards ahead of the structure hydralisks came right out of the ground. “Charlie, get on the horn and get us some air support.” Vigsorski said. “HQ, HQ” Charlie repeated in a shaky voice, “this is 21-O6, we need air support immediately. We are surrounded by Zerg and need assistance.” “Roger that 21-O6, wraiths are in bound to your position, but it’ll take two to three minutes. Can you hold out?” “No sir, we can’t there right on top of us.” Charlie yelled. Rifles were going off now and screams could now be heard. The camera man turned toward the source of all the noise. Zerglings had burrowed up from behind the trapped marines and were now devouring one of them. Tearing away his armor to get to his flesh.

Joe had only seen pictures of Zerg and they didn’t come close to there ugliness in real-time. They were small creatures. A little bigger than dogs but with tough leather-like hides and a long snout with small razor sharp teeth that were now covered in marine blood. They also had two claw like arms under there shoulders which were used for tearing its victims to pieces. The marines held them back but another blood curdling scream jerked the camera into the opposite direction.

It showed Sgt. Vigsorski. At first nothing looked wrong with him but as he fell forward about ten, foot-long spines were sticking out of his back. Five, ten foot tall hydralisks stood about thirty yards away from the marines and were starting to make there way closer. They were tall snake-like creatures with the same tough leather hide as the Zerglings. They stood on the end of there tails having no legs. There lower jaw was separated at the middle and behind that were its dagger like teeth. As they got closer they took there long single clawed arms and drove them into injured marines. Having there been only a handful of marines to begin with there was now only two marines, the reporter, and the camera man left, who was still shooting film.

“Follow me.” one of the marines yelled. He had turn and sprinted to the structure. The reporter and camera man fallowed, the other marine however didn’t. Shooting the Zerg out of there way the marine somehow cleared a path to the structure. “Get in, get in.” the marine yelled. The camera man made it inside but as he turn to the door he caught the sight of the reporter getting a spine shot straight threw his skull. He twirled around and fell onto the ground, dead. He then caught sight of the Lisk that killed the reporter. It closed it’s chest cavities that were used to carry its armor piercing spines. The marine shut the door and bolted it. The structure’s windows where just metal bars. They were however small enough not to allow the Zerg entry through them. They walked over to one of them and looked out. The marine who hadn’t fallowed them was still in the middle of the basin, which was now full of Zerg. He stood there in the middle and continued to fight.

A Zerg leapt forward and took a bite at the man’s arm. The armor gave little resistance to the hydras jaws, and it made the marine drop his rifle. He pulled from his leg his pistol and put a round threw the beast’s head. He kept firing that pistol until all that came out of it were empty clicks. A panicked expression came over the marines face. Seeing more Zerg closing in on him he pulled out a grenade. Pulling the pin he held it up to his chest as a Zerg took a bite out of his left leg. “NOOO.” The marine in the structure yelled as the grenade blew up the marine and all the Zerg around him, scattering bits of neosteel armor and blood everywhere.

With the last marine outside the structure dead the Zerg rushed blindly toward the structure. Looking around for a place to hide all they saw was an empty one roomed shack. Retreating to the corner that was farthest away from the door, the marine pulled the camera to face him. He was a good looking man, no older than 23, with light green eyes and blonde hair. There was a nasty cut on his cheek and blood was dripping down from it. “This is it.” he told the camera. “When they break through, I’ll hold them off as best I can. Here.” he said holding out his pistol and giving it to the camera man. “When they get through don’t stop shooting. You only have twelve shots so keep count. We won’t last long so if you’d like save a round for…” he broke off.

We knew what he meant. He wanted him to save a round to kill himself. “If anyone is watching this, this is private Kyle Duke. With the 482nd Hellfire Recon squad. There are a massive amount of Zerg at this position-” There was a loud bang and the door dented inward- “I’m requesting immediate air-strike on this position as soon as possible.” he finished as another loud bang issued form the door denting it further. “Tell my parents that I love them and that I’ll miss them-” BANG, much louder than before dented the door to it’s extent, one more hit and it would collapse- “and I’ll miss you too Tiffany, you brought so much joy to my life and I’ll never forget that.” He said with a tear falling for his eye. Everyone in the barracks was now looking at Tiffany. She had tears streaming down her face and she was now right in front of the TV screen. No one could hear her crying before now because the TV had been so loud. Her hand was up against the screen and she was sobbing to the floor now.

The final BANG made everyone focus back onto the TV. The camera man had put down the camera but had put it facing toward the door. Zerg were now streaming in from the outside. Kyle and the camera man were putting up a valiant last stand but were losing. Kyle launched a grenade for his rifle and blasted open the door even further, but killing many Zerg. There was a Hydralisk that forced it’s way threw the wreckage and had taken hold of Kyle’s right arm, and with a loud rip tore it clean off. Kyle and Tiffany let out painful screams as Kyle fell over in pain. Having achieved its goal it launched its head down into Kyle’s visor. The camera man now put the pistol to his head and pulled the trigger. As he did so a Zergling leapt forward and bit the camera. Now all that could be seen on the screen was white and black squares and a buzzing sound. Tiffany was on her knees and crying. For the longest time no one did, or said, anything. Then Joe decided he couldn’t just let her sit there and cry for everyone to see. So he made his way threw the crowd, hoisted Tiffany to her feet, put her arm around his neck, and stated walking to the infirmary. He didn’t care that people were staring at him and Tiffany as they walked down to hall and into the setting sun. The infirmary wasn’t very far away, but with a crying Tiffany made it seem like an eternity. When he got to the front desk the nurse asked, “What’s wrong with her?” He couldn’t put it into words. Everything that happened. He opened his mouth but nothing came out. The nurse seemed to understand and lead them to a bed. Joe set her down, and started to walk away. “Wait a minute” the nurse called after him, “there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with her.” “She just watched a family member killed by the Zerg.” Joe said. The nurse put her hand over her mouth and Tiffany sobbed harder. “Can she just stay here until she feels better?”, he asked. “Yes of course.” the nurse said walking away to get something. Joe made his way to the door when Tiffany said, “He was my brother.” through her sobs. Joe stopped. He looked at the floor and, thinking of nothing else to say, said, “I’m sorry.” and walked out of the room. Leaving Tiffany and the nurse alone. When he got back to his barracks it was lights out. He walked over to his bunk and laid down. He didn’t undress or pull up the covers. He just laid there. Thinking about what happened. And, without knowing it, drifted off to sleep. He was awakened by a, “Psst…Joe? Are you awake?” “Uhh…now I am. Who are you? What do you want?”, Joe groaned sleepily. “It’s Patterson. Where did you go? Where did you take her?” He asked. “I took her up to the infirmary. What time is it?” Joe asked rubbing his eyes. “It’s 11 at night.” He answered. “And you waited until now to ask me this?” Joe said. “Yeah sorry about that.” Patterson said. “Quite alright, so is this all you wanted to know?” Joe asked laying down again. “Ahh, no.”, Patterson said, “Who was that guy, was that her father.”, he asked. “Her brother.”, Joe said. “Oh” Patterson replied, “Man, that really sucks nut.” “Yeah it does.” Joe replied. “What do you suppose’ll happen now?” came a voice from the dark. It was Jon. He jumped down from his bunk and took a seat on Brent’s bunk. When he did, Brent didn’t make a noise or move made Joe believe he was awake too. “Who all is awake.” Joe asked. “Just us.”, came Joey’s voice as well. “Well I suppose that they’ll give her some time off to spend with her family. Seeing that they all have just taken a great loss.” “That makes sense.” Jon said. “Can I go back to sleep now?” Joe asked politely. “Yeah sure, I guess.” came Brent’s voice. “You guys too, go to sleep.” Joe said rolling over. “We’re gonna have a hard day tomorrow.” And with that Joe drifted off into sleep again. With what he saw yesterday. Joe was pretty determined not to join recon. What did it matter? He was going to do the other three, so what if he skipped one. Captain Drake addressed to company about what happened the other day. “Tiffany will be away for a while. She is taking a well deserved break with her family and won’t be back until it’s time to chose your extra courses.” he explained, “Until then, I’ll be assigning a temporary squad leader to her squad. So be on your best behavior and it just might be you. Now we’ll do ten laps and head to the firing ranges.” The rest of the month pasted slowly. Drake ran them though a few more obstacle courses but these included enemies you had to kill before getting through it.

He also issued them there armor. The armor looked like it weighed a hundred pounds. “This is the CMC-400 Power Combat Suit. It will protect you from most small arms fire and comes equipped with full life support an NBC, Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical, shielding. This armor weighs about one hundred pounds and the Firebats armor weighs even more.” Drake explained, “I know what your thinking ’how are we supposed to move in that thing?’ Well there are mini hydraulic motors all over this baby to help you move. The are activated by a pressure sensitive areas around the inside of the armor. It’ll help you move as if it were am extension of your body. It also has many nifty features. Like when you get hurt or injured, the suit will acknowledge this and inject you with Stim Packs. Also it’s Heads Up Display, HUD, shows you an array of things your normal eyes would have missed. And I strongly recommend that you keep your visors down unless you are in a safe area. When your visor is down noise receptors on the armor will pick up noises from the outside so you can hear them. Now put it on over what you got.” It wasn’t easy. It was big and bulky, you need another person to help you into this thing. It looked like a big muscular human that had its head connected to his shoulders. But once it was all on and sealed it moved so easily. Joe helped Jon into his. “Good.” came Drakes voice when they all had there armor on, “Now lets go for a run.” Joe’s heart sank at these words. It wasn’t as hard as he thought it would be. The armor practically moved by itself. It’s servos whined as he ran. Drake was right, Tiffany didn’t come back until the day before they chose their courses. No one even noticed she was back until the role call. Which wasn’t like her, she like to be noticed. On there last day on the firing range she lined up next to Joe and Jon just like she did before her brother died. She didn’t say anything to them either. She just laid there, shooting her targets. Jon shooting had drastically improved in the last month. He still missed a few but he didn’t need Joe to shoot up his targets anymore. But something still seemed wrong with Tiffany. It wasn’t in Joe’s nature to pry into other people’s problems, something just didn’t seem right about her. So he decided to talk to Drake. “Hey aren’t you going back to the barracks?” Jon asked as Joe began walking over to Drake. “Naw, I need to see the captain about something.” Joe said, “ I’ll catch up with you.” He caught up with Drake as he was resetting the targets. “Yes.” he said in a surprised voice. “Sir, I need to talk to you about Tiffany. She’s acting weird.” Joe said. “Well,” Drake said raising his eyebrows, “she’s been through a lot. Losing a loved one, and on top of that watching him die right in front of her.” “But sir she had a month a way from this place and she was with her family. I’d have thought she’d be somewhat back to normal.” Joe continued. “Tiffany is probably taking this a little harder than I would have expected but she has to go at this at her own pace. She alone can deicide when she’s ready to accept what happened.”, Drake said looking at the dieing sun. He took a heavy sigh and continued, “It’s good that you care about how other people feel but this is something that only she can fix. So just give her time.” “Yes sir.” Joe sighed. “Good.” said Drake. Joe started walking away when Drake said, “Listen I’ll understand if you don’t want to take scout recon. It’s a very dangerous job, but think of it this way. You will know where the enemy is, you will know how strong they are, and you will play the biggest part in there downfall.” Joe never though about it that way. He only thought about it as a suicide mission that would end your life that much quicker. But now he saw that there was heroism behind it. It wasn’t a task that only people who wanted to die took. It took bravery and skill. “You know what sir.” Joe said as Drake walked away, “I am going to take it.” Shocked, Drake turned around and looked at him. Open mouthed. He closed it quickly and smiled. “Thank you.” he said, turned and left. Joe got back to the barracks to see that Patterson and Brent were back at there argument. “You are the dumbest person in this system!” Patterson yelled. Joey and Jon were sitting on an empty bunk cleaning there rifles. Joe walked up to Joey and asked, “So how long will Mike keep going like this?” “Until he gets his way.” He said in a soft voice, smiling. “Then they’ll be going at this all night.” Joe said smiling. He looked over at Jon and knew that what he said was wrong. Jon was rubbing his barrel way to hard. This argument clearly wasn’t going to last the night if he had anything to say about it. Tiffany was sitting on her bunk cleaning her rifle as well. This time, however, she wasn’t smiling at Mike and Brent’s argument. Joe walked over to her and said, “Hey wanna go for a walk?” Taken aback by this suggestion she just sat there for a moment. “Yeah sure.” she replied. As they were walking out of the barracks she asked, “So how long do you think their little disagreement is going to go on for this time?” Joe smiled and replied, “Oh, not too long if Jon has anything to say about it.” And almost if on queue the barracks erupted in a series of yells that could only belong to Jon. They both laughed, she said, “Hey, your hairs growing back.” “Yeah it is. It grows fast.” Joe said running his hand through his now two inch long hair, but now Joe had to get to business. “So,” Joe started, “are you alright?” There was a strange silence. They walked around the base for a minute or two before she let out a sigh and said, “No, not really.” in a quite voice, “I just got back from my parents on Fro Sara and I don’t know how to feel. “You want to talk about it?” Joe asked. She paused again for a little while. Debating with her feelings, Joe watched her as she made her decision. “Yeah.” she said, “Yeah, sure.” They walked three laps around the base complex before she finished. She had pored out all of her feelings how her brother was sometimes the only person in the world who cared about her and how her mother and father weren’t always there but her brother was. And throughout this whole conversation, not one tear fell from her eye. When she had finished she let out a great sigh which signaled that she was done. They walked for a little while longer until she said, “Thank you.” “For what?” Joe asked. “For…everything.”, she continued, “For taking me out of the barracks when my brother died. God knows how long I would have stayed there. Thank for listening to me now. It made me feel a lot better…………and thank you, for being my friend.” She stopped walking grabbed Joe’s arm and pulled him into a hug. Joe could think of nothing else to do but return it. Her chest pressing up against his was clouding his judgment severely. They just remained there for a moment. She let go and started walking again. Then she asked, “So, do you know what courses you’ll be taking?” This question caught him completely off guard. He was still stuck on them hugging. Then his mind pulled him back to the present and he replied, “Umm…captain Drake was thinking that I’d do well in his courses. Tank and walker piloting, advanced weapons, tank and large creature killing, and-,” “-recon.”, she finished for him in a quite voice. “Shit.”, Joe thought to himself. He just got her off the topic of her brother and now he had to be a jerk and bring it back up. Thinking, “Ok, ok, I need to change the topic.” “Umm ahh, what about you what are you planning on doing?” he asked quickly as though trying to trick her into a different topic. Her mind was obviously somewhere else as well, “Oh umm…,” she replied, her brain bring her back to earth just as Joe’s did, “I’ll be doing first aid, psionic training, advanced weapons, and covert ops.” “You wanna be a ghost then?”, Joe replied in mild surprise. Ghosts were the deadliest troopers in the human army. They were extremely rare though. You need to have strong psionic powers to become a ghost. “Yeah.” She began, “It’s been my dream to become a ghost for so long and I don’t know why.” “It’s better than my dream.” Joe said sorely. “Well, what’s your dream?” she asked with a small laugh. Well at least she was smiling it was the first time he’d seen her so that since she got back. “I don’t have one.” Joe said truthfully. “You have to,” Tiffany protested, “everyone has to have a dream.” Joe thought hard. What was his dream. To prove to people that he was more than he seemed? To get respect? He didn’t know. “I guess if it was anything,” he said, “it would be to protect the people who couldn’t protect themselves. You know, earn their respect.” “That’s a good dream.” she said with a smile. They wound up back at the barracks and snuck in. Careful not to wake anyone. “Joe.” she whispered from a few bunks down. “Yeah?” he whispered back. She paused for a moment and said, “Thanks.” Joe smiled at her. He climbed into bed and before he knew it he was falling asleep to the sound of Jon’s snores. Drake woke them up bright and early in the morning. For Joe it was too early. Having been out all night talking with Tiffany it felt like he got no sleep at all. He took them for fifteen laps around the base complex which left Joe feeling more tired than he did when he woke up. They got back to the barracks and he started, “Alright recruits here are your course sheets you will have four and only four points to put into the fallowing courses. If you have a problem come see me. You have the rest of the day to work on these. Courses will begin tomorrow at 8 a.m. sharp. Don’t be late.” And with that he turned and left the room. Jon, Brent, Mike, Joey and Tiffany, who was looking a lot better than she did yesterday, got five chairs and sat next to Joe. Joe looked down at his sheet of paper. It said:

Course Selections Chose from for of the fallowing courses. Circle each course that you wish to participate in and return it to your C.O. Remember to stay within your point limit.

1. Advanced Weapons( required for ghosts) 1 point

2. Cooking 2 points

3. Tank and walker training 1 point

4. First aid(required for ghosts) 1point

5. Psionic training( special talent needed, required for ghosts) 1 point

6. Urban and rural recon 1 point

7. Wraith piloting 4 points

8. Battlecrusier piloting 4 points

9. Battlecrusier gunner training 4 points

10. Covert Ops( psionic traning needed, required for ghosts.) 1 point

11. Tank and large creature killing. 1 point

12. Military tactics 3 points

13. Vehicle Maintenance 1 point

14. Engineering 2 points

15. Artillery crewman 3 points

16. Radio operator 1 point

17. Officer training 2 points

18. Guard training 1 point

19. Medic training( First Aid training required) 3 points

20. Hand to hand combat training 1 point

21. Drop ship piloting 4 points

22. Demolitions 1 point

23. Speeder bike training 3 points

“Lots to choose from.” Jon said in mild surprise, “ You guys know what your gonna do?” “I’ll be doing Battlecrursier piloting.” Joey said, “Gonna fly with my bro!” “Good luck.” Joe said, “What about you Patterson?” Patterson looked up, his hair had been a lot redder than Joe had first noticed, “I think I’ll be going radio operator, advanced weapons, and first aid. But I still need one more point and I don‘t think hand to hand combat with a Zerg would be much fun. Hey Brent how ‘bout you?” This was the stupidest question he could have asked. They had been arguing over this subject for over four months now and he still didn’t know, “I’m gonna be a Wraith pilot.” Brent said staring at Patterson with a smile. Realizing his mistake he said, “Am I not the dumbest person you ever meet?”. Seeing no argument to this Joe nodded and smiled. “What about you Tiff?” Patterson ended with a laugh. “I’ll be training to be a ghost.” she answered. There was a short silence fallowed by Joey saying, “Wow. That’s gonna be tough.” “I know,” she replied, “but I’m up for it.” “Don’t you need special abilities?” Jon asked. “Yep. And I have those special abilities.” she said with a sense of pride in her voice. “Can’t you, like, kill people with your mind and read their thoughts?” “Yes I can. Not so much read there minds though. It‘s very tough for me to read someone‘s mind. It just doesn’t come as naturally to me as the other ghosts” She said with a frown, “Anyway what about you Jon?” “ I think I’ll do first aid, advanced weapons, and vehicle maintenance. And like Patterson I need one more. What are you gonna do Joe?” Pondering on telling them he was taking Drake’s courses, he told them, “Drake though I would do good in his courses.” “Which are…?” Jon asked. “Advanced weapons, Tank and walker piloting, Tank and large creature killing, and recon.” All of them froze for a moment. “Your gonna do recon?” Jon asked, shakily, “After what happened to…” he broke off. Joe knew he almost brought up Tiffany’s brother. “Sorry” Jon said. “Forget it.”, she said. “Anyway, why do you want to do recon?” Joey said. “I don’t know,” Joe replied, “ Drake asked before this thing happened and I kind of feel obligated. Patterson, Jon, why don’t you guys do it with me?” With the expressions on their faces he might have just asked them to go face to face with a Hydralisk, with no weapon. “Umm…yeah, I kinda value my life.” Patterson said. “Me too. I mean why not just do first aid or mechanics?” Jon asked. “It’s not a question of if I value my life or not, which I do.” Joe finished seeing there faces, “ It’s just Drake pointed something out which I had overlooked. Think of it as you’re the eyes of your army. You see the enemy first. You see there strength with our own eyes. You can choose something else but my mind‘s made up.” There was a tense silence. He thought Brent, Joey, and Tiffany had the better end of this deal. They already filled up all their points. “Well,” Jon started, he waited a while before he spoke again, “I don’t want you do go at this alone. So I guess I’ll do it with you.” He finished with a frown. Joe smiled at him. “Yeah.” Patterson said, “Can’t let you do it alone.” “Thanks guys.” Joe said. They all finished up their course sheets and turned them into Drake. Joe’s first lesson was tank and walker training. There weren’t as many people there as Joe had expected. Maybe ten eleven guys at the most. Drake walked them through their schedules. They’d be spending two months on tanks and two months on walkers. “we’ll be learning how to drive tanks first. The tank in which I will be teaching you how to pilot is the Arclite Siege Tank. It has two firing modes. Tank mode and Siege mode. The tank mode has twin 80 millimeter cannons and is mobile. Siege mode, which sports a 120 millimeter shock cannon, isn’t. The firing of this cannon gives a lot of kick back so you have to deploy claws that latch onto the planet’s surface.” Drake explained, “ Now let’s get to work.” It was rather cramped inside this big bulky tank. It had two positions( Drake said they would be learning how to use both just in case) the driver sat in the front of the tank with a multitude of screens that showed all 360 degrees of the tanks surroundings. There was the pilots chair in the center of these screens with what looked like bike handles. There were also six peddles under the handle bars. Joe thought to himself, "Why are there six peddles if there are only four directions?"

Drake taught Joe the controls and he picked them up fairly quick. He just sat down at the gunner position and saw it only had a few knobs and a big red button that said, “Fire”. That was all he had time for today so Drake and Joe walked to the next lesson, which was advanced weapons. There he meet up with Jon, Patterson, and Tiffany. Drake had them take a vote on which weapon they would like to learn about first. The class voted that they would train with the C-10 Canister rifle. Joe had voted for the flamethrower, slightly disappointed, he cheered himself up slightly by telling himself he’d learn about it eventually. They spent the first d

Drake had them take a vote on which weapon they would like to learn about first. The class voted that they would train with the C-10 Canister rifle. Joe had voted for the flamethrower, slightly disappointed, he cheered himself up slightly by telling himself he’d learn about it eventually. They spent the first day on the firing range shooting up wooden targets. The weapon was very similar to the Gauss. Though the bolt action slowed the speed at which the rifle could be fired, it was lighter and slightly more accurate, but slower none the less.

Next he was off to tank and large creature killing. He said his goodbyes to the others and caught back up with Drake. “Your doing well so far.” he told Joe, “You’re well one you way to becoming my second in command.” “Thank you sir.” Joe said slightly surprised. “Think about it,” Drake continued, “Four more months and we’ll be out on the field taking the fight right to the Zerg.” “That’s what I’m waiting for sir.” Joe replied. He couldn’t wait.

They arrived at the class and it was a lot more challenging than the other two. You had to judge distance and wind, and on top of that a possibly moving target. The rocket launcher was much more unwieldy than rifles and smaller arms. Recon was next. Joe meet back up with Jon and Patterson. Both didn’t seem to happy about being the only two there besides Joe and Drake. More people must have seen Tiffany’s brother die than he thought. “Well since this is a small class we should be able to blow through this course in two months. That means you’ll only have three courses to worry about, and if you do as well as I think you will,” Drake said looking at Joe, “ you’ll receive a very nice surprise at end of training. Let’s get started.” They spent the lesson going over positions on a black board. It was rather interesting for seeming like a death trap course. When the lesson ended both Jon and Patterson seemed to have lightened up about taking recon. The next two months passed fast. Joe finished up with the tank driving and gunning and passed with high marks. They finished up with the combat shotgun and finally got to the flamethrower. Joe volunteered to get into the firebat’s armor and use them the way they were intended. The armor was a lot more unwieldy than his marine armor but he guessed the firebats had have extra protection from the heat.

Putting his visor down he steeped onto the course and started dousing his targets in flames from his wrist mounted flamethrowers. He couldn’t help but smile as he burned them up. Tiffany, being a ghost, had her own special armor that helped her become invisible so she had to use a downgraded version of the flamethrower. It was smaller and a lot more mobile, but lacked the spraying ability that only the firebat’s flamethrowers could do. Joe had progressed from killing tanks to killing the dreaded Ultralisks. Though they were only wooden rendering of the massive beasts they still looked imposing. They were the size of elephants with long curved blades as tusks. They also shared the same leathery hides as the Zerglings and Hydralisks. Recon was drawing to a close seeing as how it was only Joe, Jon, and Patterson in it. It was overall a good class to have taken. True they were now more eligible to be going on recon missions than most marines, they now new what to do in case they did.

Brent and Joey’s training courses were going well from what they heard. Brent nearly crashed on his first day but pulled out just in time. Joey was the top of his class and would be shipping out early. “I have to spend a few months on a real battlecruiser before I get my own. Jeremy is seeing if he can get me on his.” Joey said over breakfast one day. “Well I’ll be glad to know that we have two of the best covering use from above.” Joe said to them. Joey and Brent smiled and left for their classes.

When Joe showed up for walker training he knew it’s be the best thing ever once he saw the walker. It stood on two legs and had two missile launchers and two chain guns mounted on either side of the cockpit. “This is the T-47 Goliath light attack walker. It can move on almost any terrain and in any weather. It sports two 30 millimeter autocannons and twin hellfire anti-air missile launchers.” Drake explained, “ Lets see how you handle them.” the cockpit was smaller than the siege tanks. There was a seat in front of the windshield surrounded by many knobs and switches. It had two holes on wither side of the chair which Joe guessed is where his legs went. He took a seat in the chair and waited for instructions.

“Alright Joe hit the system start up to your right.” Joe hit it and the inside came to life with numerous beeps and lights. Two handle bars came from either side of the seat and he felt something clamp onto both his legs. “Use your legs to move around. Don’t touch the handle bars yet.” Joe did as he was told and lifted his right leg. The Goliath’s right leg moved with his and he started walking around for a little while until Drake said, “Alright good. Now take it over here.” he said pointing to a firing range, “ Take the handle bars and, when your ready, start shooting” Joe walked up to the firing line along with a few of his fellow walker pilots. He took up the two handle bars and felt them. They had a trigger on each of the bars. When he touched the triggers a screen popped up in front of his windshield. It had an aiming reticule and a target distance meter. He pulled back the left bar to move the reticule over the target. It was moving rather slowly. He pulled back on it harder and it jerked into place.

He pulled the trigger. The two chain guns went off. It was a noise like no other. They tore the target to little more than splintered wood. “Joe that’s enough.” Drakes voice came through weakly over the sound of the guns. At this Joe let go of the triggers. His hands were still shaking at recon. Drake called them all to attention to give an announcement, “Since you are the only ones to have taken this course I’ll be rewarding you. I will have you all placed under my command when we head out. And that’s not all. You will all be receiving promotions. Mike, you are now a lance corporal. Jon, you are now a corporal. And last, but not least, Joe. I am making you my second in command. You are now a staff sergeant.” They were all speechless. Being made an officer in the marine core had been Joe’s dream. They all finally found their voices and stuttered back, “Sir, yes sir.” “Good.” Drake said.

Later that day they meet up with Brent, Tiffany, and Joey to tell them the good news. Only to find they had all been promoted as well. “Yeah, the best of the best get promoted the last months of basic.” Tiffany explained, “I was made a shadow marshal. I’m in ghost rankings.” “So how does that compare to real rankings?” Jon smiled. “It means I’m a level higher than you but a level lower than Joe.” she said in an annoyed tone of voice. “So I outrank you?” Joe was surprised. “Yes you do.” she replied. “I would be a higher rank except I failed my mind reading exam.” “You can read minds?” Brent asked. “Sometimes,” Tiffany started, “it comes and goes. It’s a passive skill. I can’t really control it, it just comes to me naturally. Anyways, my instructors say it will come to me in time.” Joe was actually kind of glad at this little piece of information. He really didn’t want Tiffany probing through his thoughts. Some things just needed to be kept private, “Anyway, Brent, were you promoted?” Tiffany finished. “Of course. I’m a lieutenant.” Brent said, “So I out rank all you.” “Not me,” Joey said, “ I’m a captain.” They waited for a moment. “ Ah…captain?” “Yeah. And I’m shipping out tomorrow.” Joey said slightly disappointed. “No way.” Jon mumbled. “Yeah I am.” Joey said frowning. “Well, good luck.” Joe replied. “Thanks.” Joey said.

That was the last night that Joey was with them. Joe became top of his walker and tank piloting class and they had just finished mounted machines guns which kind of tricky. His tank and large creature killing class was over as well. No tank or creature would stand in Joe’s way now. On the last day before they shipped out Joe was cleaning his rifle and watching Jacob Peterson when Tiffany came to sit next to him. “Hey.” she said. “Hey, what’s up?” “Can you walk with me?” she asked awkwardly. Jon who was watching the news with Joe looked puzzled. “See ya later.” Joe told him as he left with Tiffany. They were out into the setting sun before she spoke, “Do you mind if I talk?” “God damn it.” Joe thought to himself. He didn’t mind her talking to him but she could have done that in front of Jon. She had to talk to him about bad news. “No, go ahead.” he replied. “My parents are dead.” she said, “Fro Sara has just been hit by the Zerg and there’s nothing left of the area where they lived.” “Oh my god.” Joe said with his mouth open. pausing a moment he replied, “If it helps at all I know how you-” “You don’t know how I feel.” she lashed out at him, “ My brother and my parents have been killed by the Zerg. My whole family is now dead because of them. You couldn’t possibly know how I feel.” “I don’t, do I?” Joe said in a hushed voice, “I was born into a very healthy family, mother, father, two brothers, and a sister. Me being the youngest. When the Zerg attacked the Dominion the senate called all the strong men and women to fight them. They had called my father, my sister and my big brother. They were all put into the same regiment and shipped out to fight the Zerg. My fathers transport was hit on route to Umoja and he was killed. My brother and sister landed safely on the planet but weren’t at all safe from the Zerg. The next day Their camp was overrun and they were killed. The Dominion sent us all three of their death letters on the same day. I was 11. I knew my life would never ever be the same. So now it was only me, my mom, and my brother. When I was fifteen he secretly signed up for the military. He was placed in the 761st wraith fighter division. It was a few months before we received another death letter saying that he was killed in combat. During a tense battle over Korhal he came too close to a scourge detonation and was blasted apart. My mother, overcome with grief, having lost two sons, a daughter, and her husband committed suicide the next morning. Jon’s parents were the ones to tell me I had lost my whole family and, afraid I would drop out of school and become a criminal, they took me in and cared for me like a son. Me and Jon have been brother’s from that day on. So don’t tell me I don’t know how it feels to lose a loved one.” he finished with a hint of anger in his voice. He had never told anyone about what happened to his family. Not even Jon. As far as he knew his parents were off somewhere and were no longer capable of caring for Joe. Joe, who had been on the verge of yelling at Tiffany, looked over to her. She was crying. Tears were rolling down her face. “I’m…so sorry.” she muttered through her sobs. Joe had now lost all anger and was starting to feel guilty for yelling at her. “It’s ok.” Joe said softly. “No, it’s not,” Tiffany cried, “ I’m so sorry. Joe couldn’t stand seeing her this way. “ Hey, come on. Cheer up.” Joe said pulling her into a hug. But she took it one step further and kissed him.

The next morning Joe, Jon, Patterson, and Tiffany had to say their farewells to Brent who was leaving to go to a different post. “Hey I’m gonna miss you man.” Joe said to him as they shook hands. His grip had defiantly gotten stronger. “Yeah me too.” Brent replied. “See ya soon.” Jon said shaking Brent’s hand as well. Brent nodded. “Well,” Patterson started, “I hope I made my point.” Smiling, Brent shook his had and said, “One day I’ll prove it to you.” Tiffany ran up to him, gave him a hug, and bid him goodbye. They all stood there and watched as his transport took off into space. “Well marines, I think we should get going.” came a voice from behind them. Joe turned around to see captain Drake. “Yes sir.” they all said. “Sergeant, please take the shadow marshal and the corporals to the transport. I need to round up the rest of our battalion. Oh and welcome to the C Company of the 390th infantry division. You‘ll get you decals at our outpost.” “Yes sir, thank you sir.” Joe said. Joe lead the way too their transport. They all took their seats and waited for the rest of the team. But as the transport took off a voice crackled over Joe’s intercom and said, “Hey sorry I forgot about you guys. Don’t worry your going to the outpost but your just all by yourselves. Hope you don’t mind.” it was Drake. “No sir, not a problem.” Joe spoke into the comlink. “Good. Oh and if you would tell the others to change into your armor that make things go smoother once we get there.” “Yes sir.” Joe said. “Out.” Drake’s voice came.Joe walked up to the cockpit and asked the pilot to open up their armor storage lockers. He did. And he also opened up the weapons lockers. Seeing no point to go back and ask him to close them he just grabbed his Gauss rifle and set it next to his seat. They had all learned by now to put on there armor by themselves. And, respecting Tiffany’s privacy, they all turned around as they all changed. It still took a while as the armor was still as bulky as it was when he first put it on. Jon finished before Joe and turned around. Joe saw his mouth drop. “That’s your armor?” he asked. Joe wheeled around to see Tiffany in what looked like an extra blue and white layer of skin that ended at her neck. It stuck to her body and she looked rather sexy in it. Her long blonde hair falling over her shoulder and her green eyes going well with her armor. “Yeah, it’s standard issue for all ghosts.” Fixing his helmet on he went to go sit back down. “Does that help you go invisible?” Joe asked. “Yeah, watch.” she said. They waited a second our two and then she was gone. Jon’s eyes widened and Patterson yelled, “Oh baby.” “Yeah pretty nifty huh?” her voice sounded from the seat next to Joe. Joe looked at it but he didn’t see anything. Then she reappeared and smiled. Joe smiled back. “It also keeps me comfortable in warm and cold and also increases my speed.” she added. They spent the rest of their long journey discussing various topics. Tiffany’s armor mainly. Until the pilot’s voice came over the intercom and said, “We’re approaching Tyrador IX. Prepare for drop.”

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