Alike Apart

Cain sat silently on his small bed. His new fatigues hung loosely on his frail frame as he placed his head in cupped hands. His new way of life was different for sure he thought. A change, for better or worse he didn’t know.

Two days ago he had been filling in forms and doing medical tests, now here he was in a military barracks waiting for his first orders. The doors at the far end of the slate grey room opened with a rough squeak and a young soldier poked his head in, spotting Cain at the other end he smiled in relief.

“I’ve been looking for you all over the base. Come on, the Captain wants you,” he said without moving.

Cain composed himself before starting towards the door. “I was told to wait here,” he said when he came within reach of the man.

“Yeah, but I didn’t know that. Besides gave me an excuse to get out of drills for a bit,” he replied with a smug grin.

As the pair left the barracks Cain looked around at the base. He had only seen it at night when he arrived, now it was daylight he could see just how extensive it really was. Buildings ran off in every direction, exercise yards and training facilities were scattered about and a lone flagpole stood proud in the centre of it all, the UNSC flag flapping wildly in the wind.

“Name’s Tanner by the way, Doug Tanner.”

“Johnson, Cain Johnson,” Cain replied.

“No fuckin’ way! Are you the one that’s friends with an elite!” Tanner practically shouted out.

“Was friends with,” Cain corrected, the memories he had thought to hold back surging forwards again.

“Sorry man, didn’t mean to pry. I… I just talk to much, you know. I’ll shut up now,” he finished with an embarrassed glance at the floor.

“Don’t do that,” Cain said, “You’re the first person I’ve properly spoken to in days. I’m going nuts all by myself.”

Tanner smiled at looked back at Cain, then his watch. “Oh shit, Wilson’s gonna have my ass,” he said.

“Who?” Cain asked quickly.

“The Captain. I said I would have you in his office in twenty minutes and that was an hour ago.”

“Which way then?” Cain stated simply.

-

Captain Wilson’s office was a sparse room, from the clear plastic table to the filing cabinets standing along the walls. The Captain was a well built man, but one who had gone to waste over the years. His haggard face told the tales of hundreds of battles, both from since the Covenant war and before. As Cain walked in he put down the report he was reading and looked up at the new recruit. Cain snapped a crisp salute and announced “Trainee Johnson, reporting as ordered, Sir.”

“At ease Johnson,” the Captain said, “Take a seat son.”

Cain sat down quickly and glanced around the room once more, anything to keep his gaze of the Captain.

“First things first,” the Captain said leaning back in his chair, “I know about you and the elite and so does pretty much every man here. We have no secrets in the UNSC so I expect you to answer me honestly now.”

The Captain picked up his data pad and looked at the report he was reading once more before turning back to Cain.

“I know why the elite joined you. What I don’t know though is why he left? Care to help me?”

“In short, he killed two men Sir. He regretted his actions, but felt he had no choice but to return to his people.”

“And you let him leave!” the Captain said.

“Why wouldn’t I? Sir,” Cain replied, quick to add the declaration.

“He was an enemy and you let him go back. You could have taken him prisoner or anything! But you let him leave.”

“He wasn’t an enemy Sir. He was my friend.”

“He was what! How the hell could a Covie’ end up been a humans friend!”

“He wasn’t a member of the Covenant Sir, he secured that when he killed two squads of their soldiers. His family.”

“Yes, well,” the Captain replied looking disgruntled, “I have one more question for you. Could you kill another elite if you came across one?”

“Sir, Trak was a rare elite, he valued humans and protected us. I would kill any other elite quicker than I could blink.”

“Very well,” said the Captain looking relieved, “I’m assigning you to the Delta team, they’re a couple of men short.”

“Thank you Sir,” Cain said with another salute.

“Dismissed Johnson.”

Cain turned quickly and exited the room, sighing with relief when the door slid shut. Tanner was waiting outside, leaning against the wall and whistling a tune, as Cain approached he stood straight and looked at the younger soldier.

“So how’d it go?” he asked curiously.

“He just asked me about the elite, that’s all.”

“Cool, cool man. So you want the tour of this here base?”

“Sure why not, lead on. By the way, do I have to call you Sir?”

“Only when I’m with an officer,” Tanner replied jokingly.

-

The sun was hot, it shone done on the sparsely vegetated ground and radiated back up into the recruits crawling above. Cain raised his hand and made a fist, behind him all movement stopped. Pulling the binoculars up to his eyes Cain surveyed the quickly installed base in front of him, the target.

Training had begun the day after Cain had arrived. It started off with basic drills and exercises. Soon weapon and tactics were brought in, now Cain was a squad leader recruit with twelve recruits under his small command. They were good though, Cain made sure they were good.

Raising his hand once more he pointed his index finger at the base then made a small circle, next he held up three fingers and finally rotated his index finger pointing down. His commands were effective. Three snipers would stay here, or if they had to move stay in view of the target. The rest moved silently, following Cain around the base. They were good.

Crouching behind a small rock Cain held up his left hand and jerked it up and down, check weapons and ammo. Brining his assault rifle and pistol to bear Cain looked over the basic paintball gun replicas. They wouldn’t kill, but a few choice regions would bruise like hell and cause severe discomfort. Cain smiled at the thought.

The objective was the company flag held in the centre of the makeshift base. Roughly thirty to fifty guards had been estimated. That meant two choices for Cain; they could either go in full assault and neutralise the guards before they could react or slip in and slip out. The former could incur heavy losses for both sides, the latter would be far harder with a large team.

“Rodriguez, I want you and Dwight to secure the barracks. Infiltration style. Secure them inside and leave a basket,” Cain spoke quickly and quietly. The Mexican smirked and looked around at his partner, Dwight was a monster, 250 pounds of tough African American muscle. He was the demo man, there was no competition.

“Sam, Amy and Mark, you hold perimeter. See anything, avoid at all costs. Send word. If absolutely neccersary, make it silent.” Cain knew he should of just said make it quiet, but Mark would probably strangle half the camp that way.

“Ethan, you and Riley are coming with me. Hit and Run. No stopping, no shooting unless pinned. Ready?” Cain glanced around at his team, they were the best, they would not let him down. Placing his hand out each of the others placed theirs on his, “Kick ass,” they all shouted in a whisper.

Rodriguez and Dwight left first, they moved quickly towards the low lying building that was the marines barracks. Rodriguez was a true marksman and expert at hand to hand combat, he would provide cover for Dwight while he worked. They made a good team and could anticipate each other’s moves.

The next unit split up, Sam moving slowly around the low wall, her long brown hair flopping down from below her helmet. The base was laid out like a square with a building on each side and the flag in the inner courtyard. The two main barracks were being taken care of by Dwight, Sam would check the kitchen and recreation room. Mark was heading straight for the command block, “Typical,” Cain thought to himself.

A morning guard came out slowly from the mess hall, rubbing his eyes against the early morning glare. He suddenly disappeared from view as a figure pulled him into the shadows of the building, Sam slowly re-appeared to the scene of the crime. Cain nodded, it was time.

Raising his hand Cain motioned forwards and the trio made their way rapidly to the outer walls of the command block. Inside muted actions could be heard, a gasp and then a clunk as a body fell to the floor unconscious. God, did Mark like his work.

Peering around the edge of the plastic walls Cain scanned the courtyard. Nothing. Cain put his hand up and counted down from three fingers, as the last finger bent down Cain, Ethan and Riley raced across the courtyard. They were halfway to the pole with over a hundred metres still to go when the mess hall doors opened and four guards stepped out, talking and laughing with each other. Their gazes dropped dead when they saw the three recruits. Instantly the one at the back reached for the alarm button at the side of the door. As his hand drew near another one shot forwards and pulled him over the handrail. Sam spun around the corner as the remaining two guards turned on her.

“Shit!” Cain thought to himself, “It was not supposed to go this way.” Dropping to the ground he pulled his pistol out and took aim at one of the soldiers, he crumpled to the ground before Cain could even pull the trigger. A loud crack echoed through the air a split second later, the snipers were doing their jobs. The final man screamed and jammed the alarm down, sirens blared and men at rest in peaceful bunks began stirring into action.

Shouts and bangs were heard at the doors to the two barracks, Dwight’s barricades were holding for the moment. Crashes were heard at the windows as the men fought to break out, suddenly a minor explosion rocketed through the flimsy plastic building as a paint grenade blew out underneath a window frame.

Cain looked up and around, it was now or never. Resuming his sprint he approached the pole and cut the cord with a knife. The rope spun down, bringing the neccersary flag with it. Dropping into a crouch Cain turned back to look at the mayhem. His team were hidden in the early morning shadows, taking out any solider who tried to move. Suddenly the ground around Cain exploded in torrents of dirt. They were using live ammunition he realised. They were pissed.

A second explosion rang out and the firing stopped. Cain raced back to the mess hall side and whistled as loudly as he could. They hadn’t been given radios, the Sergeant wanted to test their abilities he had said. A series of short calls echoed back, an affirmative to his ‘complete so retreat’ command. Moving back into the rocky hills behind the base Cain made sure all his team was their before signalling for extraction with a green flare. They had done it.

“Hey Dwight,” Amy asked with a smirk,” How’d ya’ get the paint grenades to go off like that?” Dwight glanced at his hands, “Explosives 101, contain an explosive in a tight casing and it pops with more force. Three of these babies,” he said tossing a grenade in the air,” rammed into a thermos flask make a nice combo.” Riley and Sam grinned at the explanation, but Mark looked away muttering something about stealth and silence. Cain smiled heartily as the pelican slowly came into view on the horizon.

Dwight sat looking down at the camp, an expression of restlessness on his face. Cain sat next to him slowly, his feet dangling over the ravine below.

“Hey, what’s up man?” he said carefully, noticing the frowning gaze on the recruit.

“Nothing Sir, it’s just that… well. It’s taking to long.”

“What? Something…”

Cain was cut off as a final explosion roared from the base of the canyon. The army barracks, now devoid of soldiers, collapsed in a heap of rubble. Dwight’s eyes glinted, “Never leave an enemy behind,” he said as he sat up and walked over to the others.

Grinning Cain rose as well and followed the others to the drop ship making sure he was the last man onboard.

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