Minutemen: Do No Harm – Prologue


For those who haven’t read my first book yet, here’s a handy link so you don’t fall behind!

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 17-


Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16

Minutemen: The Crucible

Chapter Seventeen: “The Life and Death of Tim McManus.”

McGoohan Hall
Harvard University
Boston, United North American Protectorate
September 1, 2552
Two months before the invasion of Earth

McGoohan Hall’s largest classroom was a hundred-seat cathedral designed to worship academia. Beige and baked red bricks towered over the students from every side, reaching up the impressive, ancient-looking domed ceilings. The progressive sunlight of each day sparkled through installed filters that in turn projected soothing, soft, inspiring rays of multi-colored light during the day and real-time constellations relative to the sky at night. To counteract the possibly distracting natural light display above, the ten tiers of evenly spaced workstations were all designed to focus the pupils’ attention down toward the stage-like lectern and the rail-thin professor behind its distinctly alter-like holograph projector.

The teacher’s knee-length formal jacket and bizarre white pants coupled with his hands and arms moving like some manic composer gave the class a more cultish feel, but Tim McManus was too busy thinking about beer.

The hazel-eyed Harvard Junior leaned back in his small leather chair, feeling the responsive nanomachines in the leather shimmy and move to make his new position as comfortable as possible. Tim tapped the stylus of his study tablet against a denim-sheathed knee to the beat of an unheard song and he sighed as he ruffled his long brown hair in anticipation of his emancipation.

The Interstellar Politics professor’s voice echoed against the bricks like a tropical bird’s mating call. “Everyone in the faculty urges you to attend the relief concert Saturday night and to welcome the class of ’56. All proceeds benefit the war refugees of Tribute colony.”

On cue, the study tablet of all ninety-five students winked crimson and white, showing details for Saturday night’s concert along with three buttons forcing the children to choose between if they were attending, might attend, or had no intention to attend. McManus sighed and stabbed his stylus at the “maybe” box, waiting for his teacher’s reaction. The long jacketed-cult leader Professor frowned.

“Ninety ‘maybes’,” He grumbled, “You cowards might as well just say ‘no.’”

McManus rolled his eyes from one of the back tiers, whipping around in his chair as a flash drive knocked into the back of his skull. Tim pushed the high collar of his new crisp fall jacket to playfully glare at his roommate, Dylan Winters, no doubt the perpetrator of the classroom crime. Indeed, Winter’s bright blue eyes shone with mischief, both from his last act and the fact that he was sandwiched between two very well dressed girls that Tim thought he recognized from Harvard’s dance team.

Winter’s dark brown skin contrasted sharply but stylishly against the sky-blue chalk stripes of his tailored suit, the home and away uniform of Harvard’s population of old money students. A slick, form hugging pink shirt lay beneath the suit, accompanied by a dark holopin attached to the lapel of his suit that read in stark black letters, “Remember Reach.” Despite the enormous wealth of Dylan’s family, Tim did not hesitate for a moment to flick the flash drive back at his friend when the Professor restarted his lecture.

“What’re we doin’ tonight?” Winters hissed at McManus and not-so-subtly nodded toward his companions on either side.

Tim McManus stopped tapping his stylus and looked over his shoulder with a look of betrayal. The secretly brilliant student, who knew the Professor’s lecture backwards, pointed the sleek writing utensil at his rich friend. “Um, I’m sorry, is it not the first weekend of the first school year we can legally drink? Because I’m reasonably certain tradition demands we defile ourselves at The Foxhole.”

“It’s like you live in my head.”

Tim laughed to himself. “It’s spacious enough.”

Dylan’s bright eyes narrowed conspiratorially. “Hey,” he breathed, leaning forward cautiously to avoid the Professor’s attention, “Remember last weekend of Relative Physics?”

Tim wagged his head as if jostling the memory out of his brain, “Kinda.”

Dylan leveled a knowing look at his buddy. “Class dismissed.”

McManus’ eyebrows shot up in recollection. “Oh.” He replied, finally putting all the pieces together. “Oh!”

Winters’ eyes twinkled as he glanced down at the droning teacher and the pupil’s sagging postures of boredom. Tim shook his head vehemently.

“We cased that for, like, two weeks.” McManus explained, now actively monitoring the Professor’s position and tone, “The firewalls here are way more sophisticated—”

Winters leaned back and shook his head sadly at the two attractive girls on either side. “Sorry girls,” he apologized, “I guess he’s grown complacent in his old age.”

The two old friends exchanged a series of looks that were a conversation in their own right. Finally Tim rolled his eyes. “Gimme your tab,” he sighed. “If anyone’s gonna get busted for this, it should be the guy whose folks bought the gym.”

“It was a library,” Winters corrected, but Tim was already hunched over Dylan’s study tablet, hands twitching over the glow of its display. The trust fund playboy draped an arm over one of the co-eds as he watched his friend with pride. After two minutes of frenzied but masked movement McManus finally slipped the tablet back under his arm and toward the waiting manicured hand of his colleague.

Dylan glanced at the smooth, thin black data pad, chuckled as he showed it off to the ladies, then tapped it with his pinky finger. Instantly, every student’s data pad faded out the lesson and replaced it with a jovial green and orange glow, accompanied by a bright white invitation in Gaelic font:

First weekend of the school year, the text message glowed in the same manner as the relief concert before. The legend is back and legal for the first time. Foxhole happy hour. Right now. Class dismissed.”

Tim shrugged innocently and lightly tapped the “Attending” box as he stood up, followed moments later by the entirety of the large auditorium. Dylan Winters laughed out loud. “Ninety-five attendings,” he crowed, slapping his friend on the back. “A new record!”

“Ninety-six,” McManus corrected, tossing his backpack onto a shoulder and nodding down at the exit. “I think the Professor beat us out the door.”

“You,” Dylan Winters said with not a little pride, “are a legend, man. They’ll sing your song forever.”

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Minutemen: The Crucible -Chapter 16-


Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15

MINUTEMEN: THE CRUCIBLE

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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10 Thought Tuesday: Things I’ve Learned From Video Games


Karl Marx once wrote, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” Clearly, Comrade Karl did not anticipate the XBOX360.

Americans alone spend hours and hours each week playing video games, leading many big-name titles to make more money in their first week than most motion pictures. We line up for midnight releases, we frag our friends for sport every weekend, and we learn valuable life lessons that I pass on to you in this edition of 10 Thought Tuesday.

(One Mass Effect 2 spoiler ahead for those who haven’t played it through.)

10. My ability to wield a giant sword is directly proportional to the ridiculousness of my haircut.

Did I forget to mention my giant sword is also a gun?

I dare you to say "Compensating" one. more. time.

ok, yeah. Compensating.

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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

PelicanOnHarvest

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 9-


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

MINUTEMEN: THE CRUCIBLE

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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-


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

MINUTEMEN: THE CRUCIBLE

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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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