Minutemen: Do No Harm – Prologue


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MINUTEMEN: Do No Harm

Prologue – “No Exit

16:00 DLT

Frigate Enduring Progress

High orbit above colony world Eridanus

The Frigate Enduring Progress was a nuclear-armed coffin tumbling through the inkwell of space. To the passing ship or satellite she was a metal husk, a rush-job war machine with weapons that looked welded on last week. To sensors, the Progress was bereft of life, fallow, useless. As Colonel Tovald Bristow stalked the Progress’ hallways only by the grace of magnetic soled boots, he could not help but agree with that assessment.

As the Progress’ Executive Officer reached the rusty blast doors of the warship’s bridge, a hacking cough attacked and he scowled at the sky blue mucus floating in front of him. Now matter how short the journey, cryogenic freezing was, is, and forever would be a mother.

Ancient blast doors scraped open and Bristow scowled as he stepped into the cold dark silence of the bridge. Nothing moved, save a few pieces of trash floating in zero gravity. No hum of computers, no rush of air outside, only the eerie sensation of hurtling through space at a ludicrous speed yet feeling nothing at all.

The Colonel grunted and put an orange key into a glowing blue port on the captain’s chair. The soft, ethereal, symphonic tones of the ship’s computer booting managed to lift Tovald’s a mood a little as he nodded to the room. “Report.”

The seemingly ubiquitous, disembodied woman’s voice filled the room. “Per emergency order by the Commander. I have repaired essential systems. And am prepared to calculate an escape vector.”

“Where are we?”

 

“We are drifting with the remains of the Resistance Fleet. Of the thirty ships involved in combat action, only Martyr’s Sword and Just Cause survived. Be advised, Just Cause is venting atmosphere and has not responded to my hails in three months.”

 

             “Three months?” The cobwebs in Colonel Tovald Bristow’s head fell away in an instant. Bristow was already dreading the weeks of physical therapy required after such a sustained cryogenic freeze.

All essential systems suffered catastrophic damage in the assault against Colonial forces. Immediate repairs are required.”

“What’s the body count on the ‘Collies? How many did we get?”

The Libertad suffered one fatality from equipment failure during an after-action space walk–”

 

            “Computer to mute.”

 

The clinking of trinkets falling to the deck informed the XO of the return of artificial gravity a split-second before the computer flashed confirmation on the navigation table. A DNA swab and a hand wave later, the table hummed and disgorged gorgeous holograms of turquoise Dominion and its twin moons, Scylla and Charybdis; but there were no holograms of any of the dozens of ships that were always buzzing around the planet.

Bristow smacked the table with a fist, causing the image to flicker and splice, still nothing but the planet and moons. “God damn border control officers,” he muttered as he stalked back to the chair, feeling the hot flush of his blood pressure rising, “Bribe ‘em and they give you a blank map…god damn criminals.”

The Colonel jabbed a button on the captain’s chair. “Begin cryo thaw for all crew and bring jump systems online. Lieutenant Hartley is required ASAP at the bridge to explain himself to the Commander.”

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Minutemen: The Crucible -Chapter 10-


Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9

MINUTEMEN: THE CRUCIBLE

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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.
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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 6-


Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5

MINUTEMEN: THE CRUCIBLE

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Chapter 6: “The Prisoner’s Dilemma”

UNSC Administration Post 53
City of Boston
United North American Protectorate
September 19, 2552 (Three weeks before invasion of Earth)
Afternoon

“Some of the guys think the Sox don’t stand a chance going deep in the playoffs.”

“Some of the guys are idiots.”

A wall of translucent emerald and turquoise sped toward Master Gunnery Sergeant Gus Reynolds’ face and stopped dead two feet from it. With weathered but agile fingers, the UNSC soldier navigated through the mass of data, pushing away statistics and sliding down pictures until he reached his destination. “There,” Reynolds chuckled, turning in his chair and poking the Private First Class hard in the shoulder, “look at that. In the past six years the Red Sox have gotten to the sol system championship. Six years! You tell those New York transfers to look at those numbers before I shove ’em down their throats.”

“Yes, sir,” the Private First Class sighed mockingly. Reynolds spun back around in his chair, rolled his eyes, and smiled to himself. It would be a few weeks before the new arrivals got used to his tough love style of humor. Until then, Gus decided he would have as much fun squeezing the comfort out of them as he could. The dark-skinned UNSC soldier sighed and got back to work, twitching his hand making the data on the Boston Red Sox fall from view in an instant waterfall of ethereal holograms.
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Minutemen: The Crucible -Chapter 5-


Chapter 1   Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4

MINUTEMEN: THE CRUCIBLE

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Chapter 5 – “City Limits”

Charles River
City of Boston
United North American Protectorate
October 10, 2552
Afternoon

“So I’m railing this chick from behind, right?”

Tim McManus and Rachel Lynch warily looked over their shoulders from the front of a tiny motorboat. Behind the water craft, Harvard University burned. The three survivors had gone through collapsing buildings, the assumed deaths of all their friends, and failed miserably in their mission to save other survivors on the campus.

The path ahead appeared no better.

The rickety craft they were trapped on sputtered and puttered along at an agonizingly slow pace, weaving past partially submerged chunks of high-rise office buildings, floating sections of obliterated trees, and bobbing corpses. Until Ron Parsons had spoken, the group had sat in soppy silence for upwards of fifteen minutes. Tim’s brown eyes narrowed in a look that asked just what Ron was on about.

“We’re going at it for, like, forty minutes. Intense stuff.”

Rachel tilted her perfectly proportioned face in utter disturbed confusion.

Parsons looked at his two companions like they had grown extra heads. “Come on, at the forty minute mark you start to get bored unless you’re changing it up.”

McManus turned his attention to the approaching river bank and the smoking, demolished city of Boston ahead. “I’m not entirely sure why we’re sharing this, Ron.”

Parsons threw his hands up. “You know what? Fine. Let’s just sit here in silence while I putter across the River Styx and we can just stew in our thoughts about Boston being destroyed and our friends being dead and Earth being invaded by the goddamn Covenant…which, if you do the short math, means we’re going to die, by the way.”

The antique gas-powered outboard motor took over the conversation as Ron proceeded to pout in the back of the boat. “Don’t know why I’m driving this friggin’ thing anyway,” he muttered to himself.

“All right,” Lynch sighed, turning her body toward Parsons but staring up at the sky. “So what happened next?”

The blonde-haired, slightly lanky Bostonian brightened. “So I decide I’m going to just go for it and put it in her ass.” Ron ignored the disapproving looks his boorish tale was receiving and kept on. “So she gives me the fish eye, right? She asks, ‘The hell do you think you’re doing?’ I say, ‘I was gonna put it in your ass.’ She gets all high and mighty and says, ‘Well that’s a bit presumptuous,’ and I go, ‘Presumptuous?’ Damn, that’s a big word for a nine-year-old.”

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Minutemen: The Crucible -Chapter 4-


Chapter 3 Chapter 2 Chapter 1

MINUTEMEN: THE CRUCIBLE

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CHAPTER FOUR – “GO ON WITHOUT ME.”

Harvard University
City of Boston
United North American Protectorate
October 10, 2552
Afternoon

As Tim scrunched his eyes shut and prepared for the pain, he felt the air rush out of his lungs and his eyes popped wide open in shock. He felt a slight breeze through his hair and he realized his was speeding backwards from the cave in; Tim’s eyes flicked down to catch the Boston Police uniform that had him in a perfect form tackle.

In that instant, time normalized and he hit the ground hard,  ears ringing from the crash of the collapse, then adjusting to the scream of pain from Officer Walt Merriweather. McManus scrambled back with his hands, terrified of the scene in front of him. The selfless Marine vet was pinned from the knee down under the heavy weight of the collapsed hallway, and despite his efforts to wriggle free, the ox of a man was trapped. Ron ran into the intact portion of the hallway and rushed to Merriweather’s side.

“Can you move?” Parsons asked, trying to lift the obstruction.

“Ah’m fuckin’ pinned,” Walt moaned, eyes shut tight in pain. “Gawd damn it.”

Only then did Tim become aware of the staticy voice shouting his name. He lifted the radio to his mouth and called back, “Yeah, I’m here.”

“Are you ok?” Rachel asked, worry evident in her voice. “What was that sound?”

“Rach,” McManus said, joining Ron, “We’ve got a big problem. The cop’s pinned and we’ve got a girl in critical that we’ve gotta move out of here. Grab the packs and get up here right the hell now.”

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Minutemen: The Crucible -Chapter 3-


Chapter One Chapter Two

MINUTEMEN: THE CRUCIBLE

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CHAPTER THREE – “WORST CAMPUS TOUR EVER”

Harvard University
City of Boston
United North American Protectorate
October 10, 2552
Afternoon

For Christ’s sake, your school, your city, and your planet is being bombarded and invaded by hostile alien forces, and you’re really thinking about sex right now?

Tim McManus had tried everything he could to keep that revelation buried in back of his consciousness. Despite being covered in soot and breathing in the rich stench of burning paper, wood, and smoldering brick, it had made its way into the front of his mind. McManus shook his head vigorously as if he could physically jettison the thoughts from his head, but once again, he failed.

Rachel Lynch, the object of Tim’s untoward thoughts, tapped him on the shoulder a step behind him. “What’s the matter with you?” She asked, concerned. Two hours ago Tim would have done handstands to command her attention like this. Despite her beautiful face and sparkling green eyes showing genuine concern and eager to hear his thoughts, Tim knew these particular thoughts would be a distraction that could get both of them killed.

“Nothing.” Tim lied, tightening the straps of his backpack and checking his Battle Rifle for what had to be the hundredth time.

“You sure?” Ron Parsons chimed in, falling in step with the pair and shooting a glance Tim’s way. “Ever since that library burned down, you’ve been fidgeting like a retard sitting on an ant hill.”

Rachel laughed out loud at the off-color joke and Tim did his best impression of an appreciative chuckle. Tim wanted nothing less than to talk about his reasons for distraction, so he changed the subject without thinking. “No,” he deflected, “it’s the noise.”

“What do you mean?” Ron asked, picking a large piece of ash out of his hair.

“It just happened a few minutes ago. Listen.” McManus said, nodding toward the smoking city of Boston. “Like, ten minutes ago there were sirens. Cops, ambulances, fire. Now,” The Harvard Junior paused, letting the silence hang over them like a cartoon anvil, “nothin’.”

“See, I was thinking you were worried about our little fan club.” Ron responded, poking a thumb over his shoulder. Lynch and McManus turned around and finally addressed the problem that none of them wanted to talk about.

At least two-dozen people; students, faculty, staff, and bystanders, were walking about ten feet behind them as if the three dirt-caked, exhausted kids had any idea where they were going. Ron spoke low, as if sharing a personal secret about the people in front of them. “Ever since we ran in to grab Rachel, they’ve been looking at us like we planned that or something.”

Tim bit his lip in quick thought, and while he did not believe what he was saying to his new friends, said anyway, “I’ll take care of it.” To McManus’ relief, the other two fell in behind him.

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Minutemen: The Crucible -Chapter 2-


MINUTEMEN: THE CRUCIBLE

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CHAPTER 2 – “FIRE SALE”

Harvard University
City of Boston
United North American Protectorate
October 20, 2552

Tim McManus could have stared at the giant hovering CCS-Class Battlecruiser for hours, mouth hanging open, standing stock still with the rest of Harvard University. It was an incredible moment for the human home world, and a city-wide silence descended on Bostonians for an unheard of amount of time. The incredible moment was broken, however, by a car colliding violently into another stopped car, the resulting crunching crash sending everyone in the immediate vicinity to cover.

Tim put his hands over his head, got into a desperate crouch, and scurried as fast as he could to a digital newspaper download stand. As he put his back to it, he realized he had left both his book bag and rifle bag in front of the stairs and sprinted to retrieve it. He took stock of the area again and noted just how quickly everything had changed in just a few seconds.

Hundreds of people were now fleeing in every direction in streams of bodies; no one knew where they were going, all they wanted to do was follow the most basic instinct of fight or flight. That flight, Tim knew, would not last long. Now he found himself in an inner conflict. What the hell do I do now?

In that moment he looked inside his bag, where the half-eaten sandwich was still waiting to be consumed. He thought back to the conversation on target shooting he had just had with the sandwich guy and made a snap decision, maybe his last. McManus began sprinting toward Annenberg Hall.

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The campus was utter chaos. Tim tried to wrap his mind around all that was occurring, but between the civil alert announcements, the cacophony of running people going every which way, and the wailing of people mourning the imminent loss of the human home world, McManus’ vision was limited to about five feet around him and no further.

More than once he had to dip a shoulder and shove his way through the crowd, keeping a vice grip on the handle of his gun bag before he finally slung it across his chest and used both arms to move obstacles out of his way. Annenberg Hall loomed large over the press of humanity, and not surprisingly, Tim found it locked. As he started to search for a back door in, he heard the eerie whistling roar of Covenant Phantom dropships being disgorged from the Battlecruiser.

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