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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Minutemen: The Crucible -Chapter 14-


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

MINUTEMEN: THE CRUCIBLE

Chapter Fourteen: “Wind Sprints and Suicides”

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

This isn’t fair.

“Tim!”

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 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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