Minutemen: The Crucible -Chapter 16-

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Minutemen Boston Sci FiChapter Sixteen: “Preparing to Fail”

Office of Captain Jack O’Shea
UNSC Post 53, “Fort Bunker Hill” 
City of Boston
September 29, 2552
Three weeks before the invasion of Earth

“Do they still hang traitors?”

Captain Jack O’Shea looked past the holographic displays streaming above his desk and across his spacious office at Master Gunnery Sergeant Gus Reynolds. Jack raised an eyebrow as he waved a hand over the surface of his workspace and powered down the desk.

“I haven’t educated myself on the subject, but I guess it’s pretty timeless, Gus.” The Captain answered, wary of his old friend’s conversational tone.

Reynolds put his freshly polished boots up on the table in front of the wide leather couch and sighed wistfully. “I think that’s how I’d want to go out. Firing squad is just kinda…sudden.”

“You’re in a particularly sunny mood today.”

Reynolds returned to sitting attentively, leaning forward, palms up in conjecture. “I’m just saying. If the kid rats on us—”

O’Shea rolled his eyes. “He’s not going to rat. As I recall, Master Gunnery Sergeant, you hand picked this kid.”

Reynolds shrugged noncommittally. “You can’t know how someone’s going to react to something like this. It’s not like we’re telling him his pet died.”

Jack made a show of powering up the desk again, stopping Reynolds’ train of thought dead in its tracks. “Look,” Captain O’Shea instructed, pulling a Marine dossier literally out of thin air, “This isn’t just some kid we’re talking about here.”

Reynolds stood up to refill his empty coffee mug from the thermos on O’Shea’s desk. “I know.”

“Are you sure?” The Captain asked pointedly. “Do you need another look at the service record?”

Gus put his hands up in surrender. Jack only stretched his hand out to increase the file’s size and resolution and then flicked his hand to spin the hologram so Reynolds had no choice but to see it.

“He’s not a kid. He’s a Marine. And when the corps asked him to put it on the line he did it no questions asked. He swore the same oath we did, Gus. He’ll play ball.”

Reynolds tugged on the hem of his crisp gray duty jacket before sitting down in silent thought. After a moment and a sip of piping hot tasteless coffee, the Master Gunnery Sergeant spoke without a hint of reservation.

“All right,” Gus nodded. “Let’s talk to the kid.”

Jack nodded back, satisfied, and tapped a translucent blue circle hovering an inch over the desk that turned red at his touch. “This is O’Shea,” he instructed casually, “Send in Lance Corporal McHale, please.”

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Minutemen: The Crucible -Chapter 14-

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Chapter Fourteen: “Wind Sprints and Suicides”

Black Rose Bar
Evacuated City of Boston
October 20, 2552
Late evening

This isn’t fair.


Tim McManus shifted his gaze down in reply to Rachel Lynch, who was staring at him with teary green eyes that still stubbornly sparkled in their last moments. The roaring rush of wind combined with the bucking, shuddering chassis of the Warthog disoriented him, but he fought against his churning guts and forced himself to look as brave as possible for his last friend.

They had marched across an obliterated and forgotten city. They had watched strangers and friends die. They had fought and survived firefights with no military training against superior hostile alien forces. They had faced paralyzing fears and crippling conditions, and they had walked away alive from every single encounter.

It was not good enough.

The Harvard Junior was once again lost for words and he hated himself for it. The last thing he could conjure from his racing mind was two words that he doubted she could hear over the deafening, high-pitched shriek of the incoming plasma mortar.

“I’m sorry.”

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Minutemen: The Crucible -Chapter 12-

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86076948Chapter Twelve: “An evening with Rachel Lynch”

Black Rose Bar
City of Boston
United North American Protectorate
October 19, 2552
Night before invasion of Earth

It was illegal to look that good in the Black Rose bar. It was sacrilege. The establishment simply did not deserve the beauty that was casually strutting through the front door and over the bouncer’s jaw. Autumnal red hair, meticulously blown and teased with an artist’s touch, sashayed and swayed along the middle of her back. A short black dress drew attention to her figure without being obnoxious or desperately showy. Subtle jewelry caught the dim light of arcade games, a dingy vending machine, and a single fritzing holo panel that was doing its level best to broadcast the Boston Bruins game.

To the clutches of blue collar Bostonians gathered in islands of bar stools and the midday drunks hunched over the horseshoe-shaped bar, she was gliding over the dark stained hardwood floor. The three attractive girls at the top of the horseshoe turned around on their stools to stare at incoming Aphrodite. A petite young girl with short blonde hair and a look that screamed preparatory schooling took a courageous sip of her martini, spilling a few drops on her jeans and making her curse softly. After dabbing at the drops with a cocktail napkin, she turned her attention back to the gorgeous redhead.

“I thought you were going on a date.”

“I am,” Rachel Lynch replied, a sly smile forming in the corner of her lips. The bartender was already standing at attention when the Boston College Junior perched herself on her bar stool. She could not be sure, but Rachel could have sworn the barrel chested barman was holding his breath. She put her elbows on the bar and leaned forward, craning her graceful neck to examine the arrangement of bottles, even though she knew the layout by heart. The bartender looked like he was about to pass out.

“Vodka soda,” Lynch said, locking eyes with her server. “Make it cheap and hard.”

The bartender’s legs buckled ever so slightly as he turned to fetch the beverage. Rachel now turned to face her friends as they threw her mildly disapproving looks.

“That’s just not fair to the new guy,” the blonde said, swirling her olive around in the martini glass as the rest of the attractive girls in the group turned back to their conversations. “So when’s this date?”

Lynch glanced at the ancient clock above the bar. “Should be…any minute now.”

Each of the girls turned as one and gave their well-dressed “bestie” a collective sideways glance. Blonde spoke for the group.

“He’s coming…here.”

Rachel nodded, avoiding eye contact and draining her cocktail hastily.

“R. Lynch! You’re breaking the rules!”

Lynch spun in her bar stool and stared at the ceiling tiles with feigned exasperation. “Am not.”

A striking girl with long, wavy, raven black hair fixed pleading eyes on Rachel and reached to put a soft, manicured hand on her arm to get Lynch’s attention. “R. Lynch. We. Like. This. Bar. We like that no one else from BC comes here. We like that us girls can be ourselves where no one can find us, and no strange guys hit on us. We like drinking here for next to nothing. You’re breaking rule number one: no boys, and rule number two: don’t dress to impress.”

Rachel shot a look at Raven like she had just been stabbed in the back. “I am not that dressed up,” the Boston College Junior declared.

All the girls swivled on their barstools like a Broadway musical chorus line. Their eyes flitted across the bar and locked on to the only cute boy in the entire establishment: a moderately built bar back sporting a backwards Boston Red Sox cap with a shock of red hair slipping out from underneath it. He was casual to the point of scruffy and shier than a nun at Mardi Gras. He was the girls’ favorite target. Their voices turned to honey while his knees turned to jello.

“Seamus,” Raven and Blonde cooed, “Seamus Conner, come here.”

Seamus looked over his shoulder, a schoolboy being called on in a class he never studied for. He seemed to be taking a second to answer the Sirens’ call. Finally, he stammered, “Yeah?”

“It’s all right,” Rachel said in a reassuring tone. The Irish import flipped a bar towel over his shoulder, thought better of it too late, then grabbed it again and began nervously wiping his hands as he approached.

“Seamus,” Blonde took over, “is Rachel overdressed?”

Seamus looked over his shoulder, then quickly examined the other rough-looking patrons around the bar. He looked at the girls uneasily and responded as if he detected a trick question. “…We don’t really have a dress code here.” His face was doing its best to match his hair.

“When Rachel walked in,” Blonde prodded, “did you notice her?”

“Oh hell yes,” Seamus blurted out, realizing simultaneously that he had indeed said those words and he was indeed staring at the girl in question. These thoughts caused a four-car pile up in his mind, and as the mental conflagration blazed, the young bar back beat a hasty retreat to a phantom emergency that had to be tended to immediately. The rest of the girls turned to Rachel with serene satisfied looks on their faces. Rachel was quietly amused.

“It’s not nice, or fair, to pick on Seamus.”

“Rach,” Blonde said, perfectly plucked eyebrow raised, “we’re picking on you.”

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Minutemen: The Crucible -Chapter 11-

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Chapter Eleven: “End of the road.”

Rowes Wharf
Evacuated City of Boston
Late afternoon

The scene at the warehouse was now the embodiment of chaos. While everyone at the scene had witnessed their fair share of violence and destruction over the course of the day, the Pelican being shot out of the air in full view of the civilians was the equivalent of a match being thrown on a long trail of gasoline. Master Gunnery Sergeant Gus Reynolds and the rest of the soldiers were doing their best to get everyone out before the wharves went up in flames.

Captain Jack O’Shea, Tim McManus, Ron Parsons, and Rachel Lynch jogged back into the tumultuous loading area only a minute after the airship went down, but they hardly recognized the scene now.

What had once been orderly lines of shuffling wounded refugees was now a wobbling, pulsing, bending and breaking mass of desperate people clawing for a chance to board the last available truck, a salty cargo vehicle that, while quite large, did not stand a chance of fitting everyone. The soldiers on hand were on the verge of losing control of the horde and looked like they were considering using their weapons to maintain order. The Captain craned his head and searched the crowd for his second in command, and upon finding the Master Guns directing a pair of soldiers back into action, picked up the pace and ran the rest of the distance to the tall, dark-skinned leader.

“Captain!” Reynolds shouted over the growing noise, “COMs were a mess after that Pelican got—well, truck two’s safely away, we’re loading up Mr. McHale’s commandeered vehicle and throwing the rest on truck one’s return.”

Jack turned around and jumped on the back of Adam McHale’s commandeered mail vehicle, which was sitting lower and lower to the ground with the sheer weight of the refugees. O’Shea frowned. “We’re going to need an escort Warthog right the hell now. Where’s the doctor?” O’Shea began snapping his fingers, trying to recall something. “What was her name again?
Halo Marine
Gus glanced down at his data pad. “Kathleen. Dr. Kathleen De Vere.”

“Dr. De Vere. Where is she?”

“Truck two. Said she wanted to get to camp ASAP to take care of the worst. Didn’t see any harm.”

Jack grunted, taking the pad from Reynolds’ hand. “I would have felt better keeping her in sight.”

“She wasn’t taking ‘no’ for an answer, sir, and I wasn’t about to restrain her in front of all these folks.”

“For a smart woman, she wasn’t exactly thinking about the mess she left behind.” The Captain shook his head in brief exasperation, scanning the crowd again. “All right,” he yelled to huddled masses, “we’re locking down this transport and loading the remainder in the returning truck, warthogs, wherever we can fit people! It’s a short ride, so sit tight!”

Rachel groaned, doing a mental headcount of the remaining soldiers and civilians. “It’s going to be a hot meat locker in that last truck,” she said, tilting her head toward Tim, “I think I’d rather walk.”

“We might have to,” McManus replied, checking his watch. “No way we fit all these people. But if push comes to shove,” he said, patting Ron on the arm, “We’ve slipped by Covenant already, we can do it again.”

“And please don’t diss meat lockers,” Parsons interjected, still looking up at the sky where the Pelican had been shot down. “At this point, I kinda miss my pride-swallowing, soul-sucking sandwich gig.”

“So you’re cool getting packed into a container?” Lynch turned toward Ron, tilting her head at the people crowding into the truck. The lithe amateur sniper shook his head, finally taking his eyes off the sky.

“It beats flying, apparently,” Parsons took a step back as the truck fired up its engine and began rolling away from the docks.

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Minutemen: The Crucible -Chapter 10-

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Chapter Ten: “Happy Landings”

Ron Parsons was about to die. One minute the red-lit troop bay of the Pelican transport was shuddering with the stress of escaping the extraction point, the next it was screaming with stress and twisting with multiple G’s, throwing his stomach into his throat and choking him with fear and dread. One minute red light illuminated the steady faces of his comrades in arms, the next harsh natural sunlight flooded terrified faces as the rear hatch shrieked open and hurtled into open hostile air. Sky and earth became one steady blur until Ron controlled his eyes and stared at the unforgiving ground rushing up to meet them. He tried to listen for instructions, but the howling wind drowned out any other noise.
The Pelican slammed against the side of an apartment building and starting a sickening flat spin, turning the edges of Ron’s vision red and black. Food was starting to force its way back up his throat. The dropship hurtled to the street, spitting the lucky ones out onto the pavement and enveloping the unfortunate in a flaming tomb. Parsons smacked against the rough street and actually skipped along the ground for several feet, feeling each separate impact, feeling the helplessness of becoming a rag doll tossed away by a bored child, feeling the joints twist and bones break until he finally came to a miserable, painful stop.

Ron gasped for air in rasping gulps and looked up groggily, his trained eyes catching two pairs of Jackals walking leisurely toward him, not a care in the world as they leaned down and locked eyes with him. Ron tried to yell out a warning, but found something blocking his airway. As one Jackal put its glowing plasma pistol to his head, Ron’s eyes opened wide and he flailed to get away but it was never enough and the Covenant were too strong and—

The passing maglev train shook the dingy apartment with a firm hand, bolting the young man out of his nightmare. Parsons sat upright, chest heaving, shaggy blond hair hanging just in range of his vision, matted to his scalp. His eyes swept the room as they did every day, searching out phantoms in the morning light. A cheery girl with an upbeat voice informed him that it was nine in the morning, it was a beautiful day in the city of Boston, and he could look forward to a new single from a generic pop group right after this.

“See you there,” Ron breathed, and shut off his alarm.

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Minutemen: The Crucible -Chapter 9-

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Chapter Nine: “Everything Must Go.”

Broad Street
City of Boston
United North American Protectorate
October 10, 2552
Late Afternoon

Tim McManus’ face dropped in total shock, his green eyes wide as saucers as the pair of trucks tore towards his Warthog and certain death. Ron Parsons’ featured twitched with confusion at Tim’s sudden and drastic expression; he immediately turned back to face the rapidly growing front grills of what looked like large, gray mail trucks.

Before Ron could react with a scream of warning, surprise, or fear, the Warthog jerked to the left, nearly rolling the vehicle. The heavy duty Marine transport’s wheels screamed in protest and Tim’s vision blurred and the passing obliterated building facades lurched sickeningly from his perspective. Lance Corporal Adam McHale and McManus twisted in their seats and fought against the force of the skid as Ron Parsons began to fly out of the transport.

Both men barely snatched the arm holes of the tactical vest as Ron lost his balance and began to fall toward the rushing pavement and the huge tires of Delta’s trucks. As Bravo’s Warthog righted itself, Parsons managed to get a grip on his large S2 AM sniper rifle, which was slipping out of his hands. The petrified, former Harvard cook clutched the weapon like a newborn against his chest.

Tim noted for the briefest of moments that the lead Warthog had fallen back to guard the rear of the now-doubled convoy. The trucks took just as hard a turn onto the main street, flirting with tipping onto two wheels, but righting themselves at the last minute. Eventually O’Shea’s Warthog, now the head of the convoy, stopped listing to either side and found its balance. The trio in the back of the troop transport collapsed in their chairs, sweating.

“What the fuck!” Parsons gasped, gesturing angrily at the trailing trucks.

“Delta stole some trucks to move the civvies,” McHale explained. “IFF tags occasionally go nuts and we know the aliens track our COM traffic. We’re operating dark most of the time after we issue orders across town and we’re trusting our sync to time ops right.”

“You gotta be fucking kidding me,” Ron wheezed, finally finding his breath. McManus looked pale as well.

“How many close calls have there been?” Tim asked, genuinely concerned.

Adam made a point of looking away from the vehicles and avoiding the three kids’ prying eyes. “That was our first.”

Rachel looked relieved. “Well, that’s not so bad.”

“…That everyone survived.” McHale finished, shutting up the new recruits.
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Minutemen: The Crucible -Chapter 8-

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Chapter Eight: Backseat Drivers

State Street
City of Boston
United North American Protectorate
October 10, 2552
Late Afternoon

“Where are the seatbelts?”

“Say again?”

“I don’t see seatbelts anywhere in the back of this Warthog.”

“That’s ’cause there aren’t any.”

“What? Why?

Captain Jack O’Shea frowned at Tim McManus like a disappointed schoolteacher whose star pupil had botched a routine quiz. “They’re life threatening,” he stated matter of factly.

“That doesn’t make any sense!” Tim said, fumbling to keep himself secure in his seat and out of the laps of his neighboring riders. O’Shea sighed.

“At any point that this convoy has to stop, there’s going to be incoming enemy fire, and you have to be out of the vehicle and shooting, not fumbling around with a seat belt and trapped in here with your nerves.”

Tim McManus’ eyebrows arched up as if he were the only sane person in the vehicle, which he was beginning to believe. “This thing’s almost punted me twice! If I’m not strapped in, I’m gonna be street pizza!”

Captain Jack O’Shea barely shrugged, turning back around in his passenger seat and trying not to smile, “Welcome to life in the United Nations Space Command,” he said grandly over the wind and dropping temperature.

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