|This article, Expendable, was written by Actene. Please do not edit this fiction without the writer's permission.|
Forced to her knees, arms held firm in the grasp of armored UNSC Marines, Eliza squeezed her eyes shut and rued the day she had ever talked to the ONI people.
In front of her, Lieutenant Forrest—her contact, the man who had trained and inserted her into the Talitsa insurgency in the first place—paced among the ranks of the Marine squad clustered in this filthy alley. He was not wearing his black ONI uniform, but a battered green uniform to match the rest of the Marines. The rank insignia on his uniform was not that of a lieutenant or even an officer, but a regular sergeant. Eliza looked up at him pleadingly, but his cold gaze showed not the slightest sign of familiarity.
I’m going to die, I’m really going to die.
A Marine corporal hefted the messenger bag Eliza’s rebel cell had tasked her with carrying. “What’ve we got here, Sister?” the corporal sneered. The rebels in this region called each other “Brother” and “Sister.”
Eliza squirmed in her captors’ grip. “Nothin’ to say to you, oonskie,” she muttered, desperately trying to keep her cover, hoping against hope that this wasn’t what she thought it was.
The corporal scowled and brought the butt of her rifle down on Eliza’s shoulder. The mole cried out in pain. What did I do wrong, I did everything he wanted, why this, why now…
Forrest examined the bag. “Looks like a field day for the intel spooks,” he grunted. His voice had changed since Eliza had last heard him, carrying a completely different accent.
The corporal indicated Eliza. “And her? Think they’ll work her over too, Sarge?”
Forrest shook his head. “We’ve got a long ride back to HQ. I won’t risk hauling a prisoner.”
He unclipped his sidearm. “Hold her still.”
Eliza’s stomach sank. She wanted to cry, to scream at Forrest for the betrayal, but her jaw was frozen with terror. I got him the information he needs, so now he’ll erase me to cover his tracks.
Forrest raised his pistol, but suddenly threw himself to the ground as gunfire ripped through the alley. Marines cried out in pain and surprise; one of Eliza’s captors fell without a sound. She crawled forwards, head low amidst the gunfire. The rebel ambushers were on the other side of the alley. If she could just reach them…
She risked a glance back and to her horror she saw the corporal kneeling a few paces away, weapon trained on her head.
Oh God, please…
The corporal jerked and fell face-first to the ground. A few feet away, Eliza saw Forrest hastily adjust his aim, but not before she saw where he’d been pointing the gun. He’d shot the corporal dead so she could escape.
Eliza kept her head down and kept crawling, the ONI agent’s game now clear to her. He’d sacrificed the corporal and all those other Marines to cement her cover. They were expendable.
And I’m expendable, too. But not yet.