Chapter 3

The pelican rode in the dwindling daylight, flirting the tops of the tall tress below. Jamie lay back against the bulkhead, trying to catch the last possible vestiges of sleep for a long time. His fresh fatigues provided warmth, but the rear compartment was still icily cold from the rushing wind outside. Around him six armed marines sat glaring in his direction; for all the training ops they had been humiliated in they would like nothing more than to pitch the boy out the back right here, right now. Jamie gently ran his hands over the bandages beneath his uniform, feeling the reassuring bumps of his little aids. Though his body rested his mind was fully conscious, formulating plans, running over possible scenarios and watching the sky and trees behind the pelican, trying to calculate its final position in relation to the base.

The small craft bucked in a sudden updraft and Jamie shifted his weight, the two men beside him raising their rifles threateningly.

“One minute to drop,” the pilot called from the cockpit.

The men around Jamie stood up, each holding his rifle at the ready should the child try anything funny. The pelican slowly began to descend into the middle of a flat field, at least half a mile from the nearest cover. They were really going to make this difficult he thought. As soon as the bottom of the pelican came within two metres of the ground Jamie was mercilessly pushed out, rolling onto the damp grass to try and absorb some of the impact. The pelican’s engines roared and quickly gained altitude again, disappearing into the night sky.

Immediately standing Jamie began a quick jog towards the south, away from the base. The patrols would almost certainly concentrate in three main positions; the space between his drop point and the base, the flanks of the main patrol and around the immediate perimeter of the base. If Jamie could get around both of the first patrols he would only have to deal with the base guard. Food and water wasn’t an issue, he didn’t expect to be on the planet come daybreak, he would reach the heavens under his own steam or on a ship, either way was fine.

But there was hope. And hope was all that mattered, for where there was a will there was always a way.

-

The field seemed to stretch for miles yet Jamie knew it to be only a half mile at most. Beyond that was a solid band of untamed forest, thicker and wilder than anything he had trained in; perfect cover.

Reaching a small rivulet before the tree line Jamie dropped to his knees to catch his breath, ashamed at how quickly his ribs had begun to ache. Far off in the distance he could hear the roar of multiple pelicans, all closing in on his drop position. He had to move quickly and silently now if he was to survive, this would be the most dangerous portion of his evasion, when the pursuers were at there most ferocious and alert.

Moving to the trees he slipped in between swiftly, careful to not disturb any foliage lest it give away his position. Brambles and low bushed hindered his progress but soon Jamie reached a small service road, most probably used for testing light ground vehicles. Sticking to the sides he began running west, intending to completely circle the base.

Suddenly from overhead a pelican roared past, its twin engines kicking up a furious wind of dirt and plant material. Jamie dove into the bushes, ignoring the stings from the thorny plants. The mechanical beast passed by, oblivious to the boy below. Slowly Jamie picked himself out of the bushes and looked along the dirt road. The sky overhead had deepened to a crimson red, barely a cloud in the sky. Cold night for sure.

Jamie stayed on the road for only a short while, it would be too risky to follow it all the way. Branching off into the forest he headed north-westerly, the sounds of the woods changing as the sun dipped below the horizon and the darker creatures came out to hunt.

-

The soft earth felt good underneath Jamie’s boots, he kept a steady pace, easily reaching a six minute mile. By his estimates the base would be to his east by now, the patrols far back to the south. He didn’t doubt they would pick up his trail but even the best trackers had to slow down to find their prey’s marks, and Jamie would just keep on running. He could feel the hope in his chest begin to swell, but he pushed it down, now was not the time to get ahead of himself. He had to make it to the base first.

The moon was reaching its apex ahead, its glow bringing a pale illumination to the surrounding foliage. In the distance the moon glinted towards Jamie, like the reflections off of a glass window on a sunny day, or from a sniper’s scope training in upon its target. Jamie dove to the deck just as the muzzle of the far off rifle flashed, the sound trailing behind. The bullet thudded into the tree behind, almost penetrating straight through its core. They were definitely using live ammunition.

Jamie stayed low, crawling on all fours, trying to outflank the sniper. Thoughts began erupting in his mind, why would this sniper be so far removed from the search forces, would he call in back-up, did he already have back-up. But Jamie couldn’t think about that, he had to move, and quickly.

Years of training had taught him that.

And made him good at it.

He hated himself for it.

And yet now it would save him.

In the distance Jamie could almost hear the sniper searching for his target, sweeping the thick foliage for any sign of motion or disturbance. Most snipers would wait in a secure position with a wide, clear view but Jamie knew who this was. He knew she would not wait for others to take her prize. He knew she meant to kill him.

-

Linda held the rifle perfectly steady in her hands, she could see the grass moving slightly ahead, swaying in the opposite direction to that of the wind. She had him, all she had to do was wait for her target to poke his head up. She snuggled the rifle in closer to her chest.

The motion stopped, he was barely fifty metres from her now, the low lying bushes thick, obscuring visual contact.

Linda pulled back the bolt on her rifle, the next round gently sliding into position. Bringing the scope up to her eye she looked out on where her target lay, the night vision amplifying what little light was available. He was waiting her out, trying to make her move first, but she wouldn’t fall for his trap, she could crouch here for days if necessary.

The grass shook; Linda drew in a breath.

Breathe half out.

Steady the sight.

Check wind.

Ready.

The grass moved again and Linda placed her finger against the trigger.

Goodbye Jamie.

-

Jamie lay flat on his stomach, she was watching, he could feel her, as if the scope on her rifle was focusing her gaze upon a tiny point that burned with the concentration.

He hated what he must do.

He doubted if she would. Snipers were trained not to associate with their target. Linda was the best sniper out of all of them.

Jamie moved again, he could see Linda stiffen at the motion in the grass and grinned despite himself. Tunnel vision. She wouldn’t she him coming.

Throwing a final rock, Jamie swung down from the tree, his legs wrapped tightly around the thick branch. He grabbed Linda by the hair and threw her head forwards, into the butt of her rifle. Before she could retaliate Jamie forced one of the small vials of tranquiliser into her mouth and cracked it. She dropped to the ground within seconds, looking totally at peace.

Jamie released his grasp on the overhanging tree and checked for anyone else. Feeling safe for the moment he carefully lay Linda against a tree, relieving her of her rifle, equipment and radio. Her face looked deathly pale in the dim moonlight, her right eye darkening as he knelt beside her.

And then he went back to running.

This felt so natural that Jamie wondered what it would be like when he got home, when he didn’t have to run operations and people wouldn’t be giving him orders or trying to shoot him. He would get used to it, just like he had gotten used to this.

But first, he had to make it home.

-

The night air had grown cold and Jamie shivered despite his constant exertion. Stopping he slumped against a large oak tree, chest heaving trying to get air into his lungs. Pulling one of the booster-shots he had gotten from the Doctor, Jamie twirled it between his fingers, wondering whether to use it or not.

‘Alpha Three, report. Over’

The small radio crackled from within Jamie’s belt, most likely from the distance. Good, that meant they weren’t closing in on him. Jamie recognised the voice, John. Their self-appointed leader, ready to charge into any situation given the order. He was a mindless fool.

‘Say again, Alpha Three what is your situation. Over’

Jamie pulled the small device from his belt, realising that Linda was most probably alpha three. Damn it. He had hoped he had more time.

‘God-damn-it three, respond.’

Jamie clicked the mic twice; confirmation signal. If all went to plan John would think that Linda was ok, she just couldn’t talk at that time, not surprising for a sniper.

The radio clicked twice in response. Fool.

The moon now hung in the twilight sky, its gibbous face obscured by heavy clouds. It would rain before the night was out. Jamie silently un-slung the rifle from his back and ejected the magazine. Removing the tranq vials from his chest wrap he began swapping out the bullets in the cartridges for the glass vials. He had created a long-range tranquiliser rifle. A shot to the head or upper torso might still be lethal, but he had enough skill to avoid causing a mortal wound.

Setting down the heavy weapon Jamie pulled out the booster-shot once again, twirled it once, then pressed it against his arm. It hissed silently, pricking against his skin. Digging carefully he buried it beneath a scrub of bush to ensure it would never be found. The Doctor would keep his anonymity. Jamie owed him that much.

It was time to start moving, he had to make it to the base before daybreak. Hefting the rifle over his shoulders, Jamie looked at the stars to judge his direction before setting off towards the base.

-

‘Situation report son’

‘Sir, target has so far avoided contact with any patrols.’

‘When I gave you this task you said you would have containment within two hours. It’s been three now Spartan and I have yet to hear a single good word.’

‘With all due respect Sir, we have the advantage here. We will find the target, we will neutralise the target and we will succeed.’

‘I like your optimism son, but you had better learn not to disappoint me. You have until 0700 to get this little turd or you will be taking his place.’

‘Sir we will not fail’

‘I know you won’t. Over and out’

John placed the radio back on his belt and looked at his assembled troops, each razor sharp, buzzing for some action. They would not fail, that little runt would not, could not, beat them.

“We’re gonna pull back, concentrate on the base perimeter. Check all incoming vehicles and patrol the fence.”

There were mixed groans at this, many had hoped to chase Jamie through the bushes, hunting him down like an animal. John unclipped his radio and put it to his lips.

‘Alpha Three, report. Over’

Linda wasn’t responding, she had already failed to check in at the predetermined time. She could be like that though, peering down her scope to the exclusion of everything else.

“Dammit.” He exclaimed to himself.

‘Say again, Alpha Three what is your situation. Over’

Two clicks, faint with the distance, but she had responded. John quickly clicked in response and then turned back to his teammates.

“Let’s move.”

-

The world was shattering, the pieces falling apart. Jamie could feel the cold now, chilling his very core. Thunderous booms echoed far of in the distance as the first drops of icy rain began to fall. The soft ground had turned to slushy mud, coating Jamie’s lower legs. But still he ran, through heaven and hell he would charge to see his parents again.

Ahead he could see the artificial lights of the base; they drew him like a moth to its doom. Jamie fell against a thick tree, his chest heaving, blood pooling in his mouth, whatever had begun healing, he had just set it back a month. Pulling the equipment pack he had relieved Linda of, Jamie went through it, trying to lighten his load before his break-in. The first thing he saw was a poncho, quickly donning it and cursing himself for not having checked earlier. After that came an assortment of rations, torch, signal flares, rope and a small back-up pistol Linda had obviously felt would be unnecessary. Touching the cold metal of the weapon Jamie thought back to just a day before, pressing the barrel to his skull, the desperation, finality. No more; he had hope. Checking a round was chambered he stuck the weapon in his belt, feeling like he was prepping for war. Standing up he put the rifle and rope across his back and then put the torch and flares in his pockets. He wouldn’t need the rations; he would be leaving this place tonight, one way or another.

The fence that ran the perimeter of the base was over ten feet tall, topped with barbed wire and cleared of trees for twenty feet in each direction. It would be suicide to try and cross it. Sneaking along the tree line Jamie eventually reached a main access road, flanked by two large guard bunkers. Within multiple guards relaxed back, talking, laughing or sleeping. Content in the belief that the rogue trainee would be killed before he made it within a mile of the base.

Jamie backtracked up the road from the gatehouse, searching for any viable way of penetrating the defences. He searched in vain for almost a quarter of an hour, the rain getting more and more ferocious, the thunder clouds now reaching overhead. Eventually he reached a small shack, constructed from wood it looked battered and beaten, as if it had been placed on the land and forgotten. Within hushed voices could be heard, three soldiers at most Jamie thought as he listened. They were taking shelter from the rain, not needed at the base for another few hours. Outside their single vehicle sat in a growing puddle, the small four-wheel drive jeep looking dejected. The rear compartment had been hastily covered with tarpaulin, peeking inside Jamie found it littered with crates of munitions and assorted heavy weapons. Grinning from ear to ear he opened the drivers door, releasing the handbrake. Quickly getting behind the vehicle, Jamie anchored himself in the mud. Straining for all he was worth he slowly pushed the vehicle forwards, helped by the lack of traction the wheels had. Once he had some momentum it became a great deal easier to guide the large vehicle down the road.

When he had put a good distance between himself and the wooden shack Jamie slowed the car to a stop, guiding it into the undergrowth before raiding the back. Removing an M19 rocket launcher, Jamie stocked up on ammunition before going to work properly. He strapped several rockets together, using strips of the tarpaulin to secure them. Carefully removing the remote detonator coil from a lotus anti-tank mine, Jamie placed the mine within the rocket bundle and armed it. Picking up the improvised explosive he placed it carefully within the back of the truck and then ran around to the front. Starting the engine he drove the vehicle until it was within sight of the gate to the base and then climbed out. Engaging the handbrake, Jamie propped a large stick between the drivers’ seat and the accelerator. The engine strained against the handbrake, roaring to be set loose. Reaching over, Jamie yanked back the handbrake and the jeep shot forward, accelerating faster and faster towards the guard bunkers. It was at least a mile away when Jamie shot the signal flare into the air, alerting the men within. They looked up from their relaxed positions, took in the situation and ran.

As the jeep reached the gate Jamie depressed the trigger on the mine’s remote detonator.

The vehicle smashed into the left hand bunker, briefly lifting of off its back wheels.

Light poured from the rear, momentarily freezing the scene in a ghostly flash.

The tarpaulin skin of the jeep burnt away as the heat engulfed everything around it.

The ground shook as the rockets ignited, a ferocious blast hotter than the sun ripping through the steel-reinforced concrete of the bunker as if it were tissue paper.

The rain evaporated in the air, windows shattered in the immediate buildings from the concussion wave.

Bodies were thrown forty feet away, limbs flailing. And Jamie strode through the carnage, rocket launcher perched on his shoulder, pistol gripped loosely in the other hand.

It was his leaving party and he’d give them something to remember him by.

-

Alpha team was still four miles away when they saw the flash of light, followed by the man-made thunder. It seemed world war four was starting, and they hadn’t been invited. Picking up the pace, John and his team sprinted towards the action.

-

All hell had broken loose, medics rushed to the wounded; water arcs crashed on the ruins of what had once been an impenetrable structure. And in all the confusion Jamie had slipped through, darkness his friend, stealth his best chance of achieving his objective.

He could see the Generals’ room from his perch, the large window dark situated on the top floor of the command building, the commander elsewhere. But he must be patient; there are things to do before he can confront the monster. Jamie lay back on the flat roof, his thoughts drifting, his body aching from the abuse. They would be coming now, his old teammates, they wouldn’t rest until he was dead.

Taking another booster injection from his pockets, Jamie felt the exhaustion more than ever. His whole body felt like it was reaching breaking point, yet his mind kept screaming at him ‘just a bit further’. Putting the injection against his flesh Jamie wondered just how much further he could go.

-

‘Tell me Spartan, are you intentionally sabotaging this mission?’

‘No Sir.’

‘Then why have you shown nothing but gross incompetence tonight? A simple search & elimination operation and you manage to balls it up.’

‘Sir, with all due respect, we are hunting one of our own. He knows all of our patterns, methods and tricks.’

‘Then you know all of his patterns! Use that against him, trap him, flush him out, do whatever you must to destroy him. Do I make myself clear?’

‘Sir, yes Sir.’

John felt his anger rising, he didn’t like being on the losing side, but so far that’s all his team had done. Fail. Around him his brothers and sisters scouted the wreckage of the bunker for any signs of Jamie, but so far they had come up empty handed. He was mocking them, walking right up to their faces and laughing.

“Sir, what do we do now?”

John looked to see Fred, kicking at a piece of burnt metal, the UNSC logo scorched on its surface; he looked thoroughly demoralised.

“We spread out. Fred, you and Kelly take positions in the main command building, guard the commander. Grace and Vinh, I want you on the top of the main radar tower, keep your eyes peeled and radio any sightings. The rest of you, split up into pairs and patrol the base, each take a sector and everyone is to check in every five minutes. Understood?”

A chorus of ‘yes sirs’ and ‘affirmatives’ followed as the team split up to take their positions. John was left with Will, both looking disgruntled at being shown up so badly.

“Sir, when we find the little bastard, do we have to bring him back alive?”

“Negative, dead will suffice.”

Will grinned wildly as the duo set off.

-

Jamie had fallen into a slumber, his mind desperately deprived of beautiful sleep. The radio at his side brought him back to the awful reality of his situation. They were here, his old teammates, Jamie listened as the various units checked in, each sounding both tired yet desperate. The moon had past its highest point, it must have been the small hours. It sure as hell felt like it Jamie bitterly thought.

In the far distance he could still hear the faint crackle of the fire. It must of ignited something within, no amount of water could put it out and the soldiers had long ago decided to simply let it burn itself out. Most of the base staff had been evacuated. Lying on the cold roof of the building Jamie remained hidden by his poncho, the raised edging preventing anyone from seeing him from the ground.

The sniper rifle and rocket launcher lay next to him, each looking more devastatingly beautiful than the other to Jamie at this current moment in time. The small pistol felt warm in his grip, so long had he held it clutched in his hand. The radio crackled dimly again, Jamie having turned the volume down as low as he could to protect his cover.

‘This is alpha 9 checking in, sweep of rear barracks complete. Moving on to storage hangers now.”

The voice, Sam, his only friend here, he was out here looking for him. The true reality hit Jamie harder than any truck full of explosives could off. Not that his friend was a part of his executioners, but that he truly accepted that he could never leave this place. He had been so willing to believe the Generals’ words he had silenced his own. Screw him, he had something to finish, then he would leave by himself.

Moving over to the side of the roof, Jamie cautiously peered over the low wall, waiting for the patrol to arrive. In no time Sam and another recruit entered the main walkway between the four large warehouses arranged in a quad fashion. Each had an assault rifle, slung across their shoulders, but not raised at the present moment. Jamie delicately placed his sniper rifle on the wall, extending the bipod legs to improve his aim. Silently counting his breath he placed a single round into the upper leg of Sam’s unknown accomplice. The wounded child staggered backward from the impact before collapsing to the ground. Sam immediately swung his rifle to bare, but stopped when he saw Jamie approaching, unsure of what action to take.

“You’re a bastard you know,” he said quietly, checking his flanks before lowering his weapon.

“You realise what options you’ve given me?”

“I know.”

“The hell you do!” Sam exclaimed, stepping forwards to confront Jamie.

“If I don’t kill you they will! And if I kill you…” he let the words trail, before looking up at Jamie.

“You didn’t do this just to screw with me did you?” he asked, half curious, half knowing.

“No,” Jamie said quietly.

“Well then come on, spill. I get seen with you and it’s fastest finger first my friend.”

Jamie smiled faintly at this; Sam always could put a humorous spin on the finer points of life.

“I need you to help me.”

“Sure, anything,” Sam replied automatically, stepping closer to Jamie.

After communicating his plan, the pair separated. This would be the last time Jamie saw his friend. Gripping arms they took a quiet moment to thank each other before heading off to complete their own seperate tasks.

-

“Tell me boy, how many years have you been training here for now?”

“Six, Sir.”

“That’s right. And in that time you’ve learnt marksmanship, unarmed combat and strategic thinking. Tell me son, where the hell were your tactics tonight!”

Johns face was burning in rage, but his training had taught him to respect his superiors. He wasn’t about to break his commander’s neck, no matter how much he wanted to.

“You know what, I don’t want to hear any of your excuses. If you radio in once more and say you haven’t found him I’ll find you myself. And it won’t be pleasant. It is 0400 now Spartan, you have until daybreak at 0700, double time it!”

The General shoved his radio back into its belt holster so ferociously he missed the first time. One of the assigned Spartans saluted as he passed them in the corridors, heading towards his office. The trainee looked almost as angry as him, but he had no care for their feelings at the present moment, if they failed it would be him on the chopping block come daybreak.

The General entered his room quickly, the darkness a relief to him. Lounging back in the leather chair, he let out a long breath. Sometimes he really hated his job. In the distance the faint crackle of the fire could be heard. That bastard child.

Sitting up straight, the Generals blood ran cold. He could hear the fire. Fourteen stories up, through soundproofed glass and he could hear the fire. The heavy blinds swayed in the breeze from the open window.

“You made it I see,” he announced to the room.

“You doubted me?” a voice returned from the far corner.

“Never. I always knew you would die.”

“I’m not dead.”

“Yet.”

“You have a ride for me I presume.”

“Certainly. Let me get it fuelled and ready for you.” The General stood from his chair, reaching for the intercom on his desk. Jamie stepped forwards from the shadows, his muddied face startling the larger man.

“I don’t think so.”

The General chuckled as though the near death of a twelve year old child was humorous to him.

“You wouldn’t let me off this planet alive. You couldn’t let me leave.”

“How very right you are my boy. Tell me, how long did it take you to come to that conclusion.”

“I saw through your lies as soon as you said them.”

“Then why the charade!” he demanded indignantly, angered at the subordinates total lack of respect, “Why did you even agree to go through with this exercise if you knew it was futile.”

“I had to get some things in order, but now I’m back to answer your original question.”

“And enlighten me son, what was that?”

“You asked me what I was trying to achieve.”

“And you said you just wanted peace. I remember.”

“Yes, but not your definition of peace.”

“And what, child, is my definition of peace.”

“Your ideal of peace is one in which the citizens do what they are told and the endless war machine grinds on alongside everyday life.”

“I would think that is most people’s idea of peace.”

“Not mine.”

“What is your version then,” the commander asked slowly, forgetting momentarily that this was a trainee who he should dam well execute on the spot.

“Peace is freedom.”

“The people have freedom.”

“Not us.”

“You were conscripted.”

“We were kidnapped!” Jamie screamed, his exhaustion making every syllable resonate in his chest.

The radio in his belt crackled, reporting a disturbance in the command centre, about to breach.

Jamie dove to the corner, and surfaced holding the sniper rifle, crouching on one knee. He waited, footsteps outside, then there was silence as his attackers slowed. Counting off the paces he fired a single shot through the thin door. Wood splintered and a grunt came from the other side before a dull thud sounded as a body fell to the ground. A moment later a second body crashed through the door, Fred roaring to avenge Kelly’s quick exit from the race.

“You traitor!” he shrieked as he charged at the crouching child. He fired multiple rounds from his pistol, one tearing through the side of Jamie’s stomach.

Jamie slung the rifle over his head as quickly as he could, snatching the rocket launcher from the floor before rolling out of the way of Fred’s dive. With a last glance at the General he jumped bodily through the window.

-

“What do you mean he jumped! You’re on the top floor of the god dammed building. How did he escape!” John demanded into the radio.

“He had a rope,” Fred returned.

“Then why didn’t you follow?”

“He must of put a release lock on it, he took it down as soon as he descended.”

“Did you see where he went?”

“Towards the main intelligence building.”

“Good, Grace and Vinh can pick him up. Leave Kelly where she is and take the General to the brig. It’s the most secure building here and I do not want him compromised again.”

“Affirmative.”

John swore as he pulled his radio from his mouth, everything was going to pieces. With the commander out of the way and most of the base staff evacuated because of the fire they had free reign now with Jamie. They would get him for sure this time.

“Vinh, any sign of him yet?”

“No sir,” came the reply.

“Keep an eye out. But don’t shoot. We are going to take the bastard down face to face.”

“Happy hunting sir, we’ll keep a lookout.”

Replacing his radio John turned to his troops. Now would be their final glory hour.

“When we locate the target I want two teams to converge on him from separate directions. Target is armed and will not shoot to kill, so use that against him.”

Grins went round the assembled group, over a hundred of them, all willing to kill one of their own so easily.

“Alpha One! Alpha One come in, we’ve spotted the target. Heading east towards the motor pool.”

“Roger lookout, keep a tab on him.”

Chambering a round in his pistol, John set off at a full run. Today would be a good day.

-

Jamie had spotted the two snipers easily from the top of the central command building earlier. The optical zoom on his own rifle had afforded him a close-up view of Grace and Vinh. He hadn’t shot them though, he had to use them now, Fred and Kelly had interrupted his little conversation with the General as planned and he still had a few things left on his mind.

Seemingly out of ignorance he had passed through a bright patch of grass between two large light posts, giving his position away immediately to the snipers. He knew they wouldn’t shoot at him, he still had Linda’s radio and John’s orders had been very specific on that topic.

Ducking back into the shadows he immediately backtracked on himself. John wasn’t an idiot, but he was getting desperate. Jamie knew he would give everything he had now. And that meant he would leave the General with just Fred for protection.

-

“Alpha one, come in, urgent.”

“This is alpha one, what is it Fred? This isn’t the best moment.”

“Scramble your frequency now Sir!”

John was momentarily puzzled before switching his radio to another setting on his radio while informing everyone else to do the same. After he did so Fred’s voice buzzed forth.

“The general just told me something I think you should know. Jamie had a radio, locked into our frequency with the scramble code already in. You know what that means.”

“Dam it. He’s been listening in all night. And he must have gotten it off of Linda. I knew sending her out alone on that last pelican was a bad idea.”

“What do you want to do Sir?”

“Where are you now Fred?”

“In the brig Sir, the General put up one hell of a fight but I got him here eventually.”

“Oh no,” John stammered, the realisation of his actions dawning on him.

“What Sir?” Fred asked quickly, unnerved by his commanders actions.

“He was listening in the whole time. Fred get…”

From the other end of the line Fred’s voice rang out before been silenced. John gripped his radio in a white knuckled fist before dashing off back the way he had just come. His fellow Spartans looked on at him but he just ran, the cold night air suddenly chilling him.

-

“Hello again Sir,” Jamie said, slowly approaching the cell that Fred had locked the General in. Placing his rifle on the ground next to Fred’s sleeping body he reached down and retrieved the keys to the cell. He had left the rocket launcher by the door, where he had shot Fred from. He had been too distracted on his radio to notice the small barrel peeking around the corner.

The General looked wild, caged within his own prison walls. His face flitted between anger, fear and pleading. He truly was a worthless piece of meat.

“Jamie, I can let you leave. The original deal still stands. You go and never talk of this place and we all live happily.”

Jamie tutted slowly, pulling out the smooth metal pistol from his pocket. The General visibly flinched. He had been in three major conflicts and yet the sight of a small child with a gun scared him worse than any fanatical nut strapped with explosives.

“You should of realised by now I could have escaped. I mean I got into here no trouble. No, you see as soon as I got in the air I would be shot down. I could never leave here.”

“Then what do you want!” the General pleaded.

“Peace. Like I said.”

“But what peace?”

“Freedom. And that means this place has to go.”

“What?”

“Put the gun down Jamie.”

“Hello John, welcome to my leaving party.”

“Put it down, or I blow you to hell.”

Turning around Jamie saw John, his face an angry mask of adolescent rage. Over one shoulder he hefted the loaded rocket launcher.

“General, step back to the far corner and use the bed for cover.”

“Why not just use a rifle?” Jamie asked innocently, his own weapon hanging by his side.

“I felt like using a cannon on a mosquito.”

“You know I’m not going to give up now John.”

“I was kinda hoping for that answer.”

“Good,” Jamie replied.

“You know what they say about natural selection and all,” John stated, training the rocket launcher on him.

Jamie grinned, looking down at his small weapon before replying, “Yeah, it went out the window when we learned to walk and talk.”

John depressed the trigger on the launcher.

The rocket within began moving, its propellant gasses jetting out the rear of the tube.

The explosive charge shot forward, before hitting an obstruction halfway along the cylinder.

Detecting an impact it detonated.

John’s body was instantly thrown aside from the explosion. His head vanished in a ball of flame before his upper body followed.

The concussion wave blew Jamie back against the bars, the General protected by the flimsy mattress.

Jamie slowly stood to his feet. John was an arrogant fool, the tampered device had worked perfectly.

“You weren’t the brightest John,” Jamie said, picking pieces of burnt flesh from his face.

“And now for you,” he said, opening the door to the Generals’ cell.

“Sir!” multiple Spartans rushed into the room, each training their rifles on Jamie. But they wouldn’t fire, not with a weapon held against their superior commanders’ skull.

“What now Jamie?” he asked, relieved at the sudden rush of support.

“Now,” he said, bringing a small black device from his pocket, “We are free.”

“But what about going home, your parents?” the General finally pleaded

“That’s all taken care off.”

“But…”

Jamie pressed the button on the device and he was finally at peace.

-

Sam watched the scene unfold around him, reports were coming in, Jamie was at the brig, he had taken the General hostage. Then the chatter became more frantic, John had been killed, an explosion had echoed throughout the desolate compound. That was Sam’s signal. Now was the time to soar.

Starting up the longsword he was sitting in he knew this would be close. Jamie had been very brief on his details, but when he mentioned a nuke Sam had perked up. He knew the base held such powerful weapons of destruction, but he never assumed Jamie would use one. His trip to the Generals office had served two purposes, to frighten the General into running and also to retrieve the launch codes for a HAVOK tactical nuke.

And now, with the death of John 117, it would only be a matter of minutes until Jamie detonated the weapon. The twin engines roared to life, the ship picking up speed at an incredible speed. He furiously wrestled with the controls, unfamiliar with flying in general. It was a miracle he had even got into the air. He left atmosphere within thirty seconds, ten seconds later the stars were eclipsed by the brightest flash of light he had seen. Then they faded away and Sam was in orbit around the planet.

He had to be quick, Reach was a busy place to hang around and it would only get more frantic after what had just transpired. Setting in the co-ordinates Jamie had given him he engaged the Shaw-Fukikawa slipspace engines and vanished from sight and history. It would take a few weeks to arrive at his destination, but Sam was in no rush. He just hoped the vessel was up to the journey.

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