2632: The Plague by SPARTAN 232
Date: 29 February 2008, 7:28 pm
0245 HOURS, OCTOBER 17, 2632 (MILITARY CALENDAR)
ABOARD COVENANT CRUISER UNMOVING FAITH
INTERSELLAR SPACE, SECTOR Y-366
David's alarm sounded in his Mark VII helmet as the status indicator of his shield dropped to nothing. Without hesitation, he rolled to his right and tucked into an outcropping in the ship's wall. Joseph slid into the slot next to him. He looked at David and said through a private COM,
"This way's too heavily guarded. Black squad is rallying in the hangar. Orin's bringing the Pelican in for us. It's going to be close!" Just then an incoming COM flashed on Joseph's HUD. He activated the link and heard Jen, Black squad's leader,
"Orin's ETA: 1:30, hurry."
"I've got David, we're coming!" Joseph turned to David, a mission timer now appearing on his HUD; 1:26.
"Come on, we gotta move it!" Joseph hit one knee and swung his assault rifle around the corner, "Go!" David ran back down the hall and turned left at the end, taking cover behind the corner. Deftly he flipped his weapon, an MA5C Assault Rifle, around the corner and loosed a burst catching two exposed grunts across the chest. They fell backward, bluish-green blood oozing from their wounds. Joseph ran past, tapping David on the shoulder. David rose and followed Joseph down the twisting corridors that were the Covenant Cruiser Unmoving Faith. Joseph halted in his tracks as they came around the last bend that should have opened up into the large hangar. Instead of being met with the sight of the cruiser's enormous hangar, they only saw a blocked off doorway. Somehow the Covenant had used an override for the door systems breach they had used to keep the doorways open. Not good. The sound of fast approaching grunts reached David's ears and he about faced to meet the new threat appearing on his motion tracker. Five red blips appeared, followed quickly by ten more. David readied a fragmentation grenade and glanced at Joseph who was now looking for an alternate way to the hangar. The first grunt rounded the corner and jumped in surprise. David threw the grenade, which hit off the back wall and bounced into the hallway containing the rest of the red blips on his tracker. The grenade detonated sending shards of bone, meat, and metal flying through the hall. Grunt blood splattered the walls and the first five contacts disappeared. That was strange; it should have killed the rest too. David tightened his grip on the MA5C and waited. The dots drew nearer until it seemed they were just a few feet from him. He remembered the Covenant cloaking technology and sprayed a few rounds which cut through the air and struck the wall ten meters away. The dots passed right where he was kneeling. Then it occurred to him. They weren't in front of him, they were above him. David looked up just as a swarm of drones dropped from a ventilation shaft. He emptied his MA5C's magazine with well-aimed shots that dropped nine out of the ten drones that had flooded the hall. The last drone fired a plasma pistol at David. The green balls of plasma sizzled by his head, causing him to move to his left. He dropped his weapon and reached up, grasping the drone by its back leg. The drone panicked and dropped the plasma pistol, struggling to get away. David scooped up the pistol and trying to bring the drone down, yanked on its leg. The drone, being an insect however didn't have the strongest of appendages and instead of dragging the drone down, he merely ripped its leg from its socket. The drone flittered up and back into the vent. David turned to face Joseph, who had already come upon the same idea he had. David slammed a new clip into his MA5C.
"It'll be a tight fit but I think we can pull it off." He glanced at his HUD; 0:38. It would have to work. The duo climbed up into the cramped quarters of the ventilation system and began to crawl slowly in the right direction. They were forced to disable their shields to fit through the tight spaces. This would spell disaster if they met another group of drones in the vent but they were out of options and they had a lot better odds against a few drones than an exploding ship.
"Joseph! The Pelican's here, you and David are all that's left. Hurry," Jen's voice was calm yet he could tell things were getting hotter by the amount of weapons fire that came through the COM line as she spoke. It seemed like an eternity but they finally reached the access panel to the hangar. The mission timer on Joseph's HUD was blinking: 00 in red. With his fist, Joseph punched out the access panel and viewed the hangar for the first time since departing to find David. His ears were filled with the sounds of battle as five Spartans clad in black armor fought from the back of a Pelican drop ship. The buzzing of drones wings echoed down the vent; apparently legless had gotten his friends and they weren't happy. Joseph slithered out of the vent and dropped to the cat-walk two meters below. David pulled the pin from a grenade and dropped it behind him before tumbling out of the vent. It exploded and the buzzing of wings ceased behind them but they were faced with a new dilemma
getting to the Pelican. There were jackals lining the same cat-walk they were on as well as two sets of grunts working to set up two shade turrets on either side of the hangar. Down below, grunts and brutes were hiding in the shadows, unleashing lethal barrages of plasma and spikes at the Pelican and its drastically outnumbered defenders. The shades were a problem, a big problem. They would rip the Pelican to pieces if they weren't taken care of soon. Even these new Pelican II's with their reinforced titanium battle plate and advanced plasma cooling technology couldn't withstand a barrage from these cannons for a large amount of time. The Spartans' shields flickered back to life as three surprised jackals turned to face them. The first tried to raise its beam rifle at Joseph, was caught by a burst from David's assault rifle, and slinked to the floor. The second dropped its rifle and pulled out its plasma pistol, activating the portable arm shield at the same time. Joseph ran forward and tackled the shielded jackal, crushing it beneath the weight of his armor. The third jackal turned and started running away down the cat-walk. David let fly another burst from his assault rifle that punctured the jackal's spine and the body tumbled over cat-walk's rail. This caught the attention of a group of grunts who quickly spotted the Spartans and raised a warning to their comrades. Jen's voice came over the COM once more,
"Where are you guys?" Joseph motioned for David to throw a grenade at the closest shade on his mark.
"Inbound," he replied, before nodding to David. At the same time he threw one of his own grenades at the second shade. David's grenade was a perfect throw, what you would expect from the demolitions expert of Black squad. It exploded near the base of the turret killing the gunner and two other grunts. It also blew the rounded seat and protective casing loose and it toppled over the railing and landed on a charging brute below, crushing him under its weight. Joseph's grenade, on the other hand, bounced of the turret and began to spiral toward the hangar floor, detonating in mid-air. A fragment caught the gunner through the skull killing him instantly and several more pieces wounded another of the shade's crew, however, the gun remained intact. Joseph didn't stop to watch the effect their grenades had. He gripped the railing with one hand and swung his legs over. He crashed to the floor and rolled over once coming up on his feet, already running. Ahead of him, brute spikes were lodging themselves in the Pelican's reinforced plates and superheated plasma washed over the hull. He sprinted at full speed for the back hatch of the Pelican, not stopping to look back. Despite the speed he was traveling, some well placed shots from a plasma rifle hit him and his shield indicator slowly slid down. The Spartan was completely focused on making himself run as fast as was physically possible. So focused, in fact, he never noticed David's green mark on his motion tracker stop moving. When he was close enough, he dove forward into the back of the Pelican.
Jen saw what happened to David. Seeing that Joseph's grenade had missed its mark, and also knowing that the shade would kill them all if not taken care of, he paused at the top to lob another grenade across to the other cat-walk. This throw was dead-on and rendered the turret useless. He then jumped down and started to run. The enemy however saw him and he was an easier target than Joseph. Not only was he behind and not as far but he was also a slower runner than Joseph. It seemed as if every Covenant being had completely ignored everything else and was intent upon destroying this Spartan. His shield was useless against the amount of firepower that was thrown at him. The shield dissipated quickly and he tried to dodge incoming fire. This, he was particularly good at. He had the fastest reaction time of anyone on Black squad, and most likely the entire class of Spartans. As the projectiles flew from either side he ducked, slid, and jumped over most of them. Then without warning, a brute jumped out behind him and unleashed a salvo of spikes. David never saw them coming and they were soon protruding from his abdomen as he slumped face first to hangar floor. Joseph executed a roll into the Pelican as Jen leaped out and landed on the floor.
The Pelican's engines started to grow louder than died back down to a hover as Shannon Orin, the pilot, realized Jen had jumped out. Equipped with a sniper rifle, not quite the ideal armament but it was what she was best and felt most comfortable with, Jen sprinted for David's body which was now slowly crawling forward. A group of five brutes gathered around the crawling body some kicking at it in a mocking manner. Finally, one clad in gold armor knelt, reached down, and gripped the back of David's head. The brute let out a roar, ready to crush the Spartans skull. Just then, Jen fired the four rounds contained within her Sniper's magazine. The first bullet struck the kneeling brute in the head, passing cleanly through its temple and out the other side. The second round punctured its muscular neck lodging itself deep within. The last two rounds each found separate targets, the skulls of two other blue armored brutes. The three tumbled to the ground. The last remaining brutes turned and with angry roars let out a salvo of red hot spikes as they charged forward at this nuisance which had robbed them of the pleasure of killing their latest prize. Jen tensed as the spikes began to fly toward her. Reaching over her shoulders, she pulled out a set of M7 submachine guns and began to drop to the ground. The brutes couldn't adjust their aim as she fell to the floor. She hit the ground; both smg's blazing and slid right between the pair of charging brutes. Jen came up standing behind them and emptied the rest of her mags into their exposed backs. One of them toppled over, the other seemed to shrug it off, turned, and let out a ferocious roar. Thinking quickly, Jen threw her smg's as hard as she could at the brute's face. The first was batted harmlessly away by the brute's outstretched paw, but the second struck him squarely in the face, momentarily stunning him. Jen used this window of opportunity and lunged forward, striking her armored fist into the brute's skull. The lifeless body slumped to the floor and lay in a heap. Jen's glance shifted to the Pelican. It was still their. That was good news. Smears of plasma and muzzle flashes danced across her reflective visor. She was brought back to her senses as she had to dodge out of the way of a charged plasma bolt that had flown from up above on the cat-walk. A grenade flew from her hand; bounced off the wall, and landed at the feet of a jackal who just so happened to be the culprit. The grenade detonated, leaving nothing to see but smears of blood on the wall. That seemed to be ever so common in her line of work. She reached David's body and passed her biosign reader over his body. He was still there, barely. Quickly, Jen put her biosign reader back and hoisted David's body over her shoulder. Even with the extra weight she managed to keep up a good pace back to the Pelican.
Joseph replaced another magazine from his MA5C with a fresh one. Jen was working her way back to the Pelican, holding David with one arm on her shoulder, and shooting an M6G magnum pistol with the other. The hangar's door was closing and the brutes and grunts were closing in around the Pelican; if they didn't leave soon they weren't going to leave at all. Jen reached the Pelican and passed David's body back as she reached out and grasped a handhold on the Pelican's interior. The Pelican's engines roared to life as it began forward motion. Suddenly, a pawed hand reached out and grasped Jen by the ankle. She tried to yank her boot free but the brute's grip was too strong. The brute pulled and she stumbled backward. Joseph reached out his hand trying to catch Jen's but her fingers slipped out of his grasp and she tumbled back to the hangar below. The Pelican shot forward out of the hangar just as the doors shut behind them, missing crushing them by inches. Orin's gloved fist slammed into the dash of the Pelican. An angry tear streaked down her cheek.
"Spartan-240 to Lambda, come in Lambda!"
"Roger," replied Orin.
"We're all set! Awaiting evac,"
"Roger that, bringing her around now," Orin angled the Pelican in an upward arc, bringing it around to the other side of the Covenant cruiser. Steven glanced over,
"Vince, set those charges, Helen, get that wall breach ready."
"Charges set," Vince nodded to Steven.
"Ready," Helen said, backing away from the wall of the cruiser.
"Take cover, Helen, on my mark detonate the wall breach
The Green team Spartans hunkered behind low walls and outcroppings in the ship for cover.
"Fire in the hole!" yelled Helen, clicking down on the detonator. A large explosion rocked the ship. Suddenly there was a loud roar behind them. A pack of brutes stood in the doorway each wielding a spiker. Steven popped up and let out a burst from his BH55 Battle Rifle at the leading brute,
"Take em!" All of Green team's small arms opened up on the brutes, which now dove for cover behind anything they could find. Grunts poured in the door followed by a group of jackals and another pack of brutes. One of the brutes lobbed a spike grenade into the air, sailing for Vince's position. Helen looked up and saw the grenade heading for Vince; she jumped forward towards him,
"Vince!" He ducked out of the way, the grenade missing his head narrowly, flying into Loren's back. Helen slid between Vince and Loren, yanking the grenade from her back and throwing it back at the brute who had tossed it in the first place. It struck the brute in the torso just as it exploded, ripping him to pieces. Blood trickled out the holes in Loren's back, but was soon filled with the biofoam, being injected by the armor. The wave of Covenant forces had been thoroughly thinned but a pocket of grunts and a single brute remained, putting up a stubborn resistance. Two well coordinated grenades on either side, trapping them between, were sufficient to eliminate the survivors. Steven's motion tracker picked up another group of enemy forces moving towards their location, this one twice the size of the previous one.
"Anytime now Orin," Steven said. The drop ship raced into view as it came over the top of the cruiser. The Pelican swung 180 to face the gaping hole in the cruiser. Its engines flared and it began to race forward towards the opening. Steven heard a loud "whumpf!" Something had just launched out of the cruiser. The Pelican drew nearer gaining speed. Suddenly, a purple shape shot up out of nowhere heading straight for the Pelican, a Seraph fighter. Beams of plasma shot from the front of the fighter, streaking through space towards the oncoming Pelican.
Sweat beaded on Shannon Orin's forehead as the Pelican drop ship rocketed towards the large cruiser. Suddenly, a Seraph fighter launched out from the cruiser on a direct intercept path for the Pelican. Orin's eyebrows narrowed, she kept the Pelican heading straight for the hole in the Covenant cruiser. Beads of light gathered at the nose of the Seraph as the first beams of plasma raced towards the Pelican. The plasma washed over the titanium plates of the Pelican. Orin angled the Pelican down, heading straight for the Seraph fighter. More plasma struck and washed over the cockpit, she could feel noticeably the change in temperature as the cockpit heated from the plasma. The Seraph pilot seemed not to care if it crashed into the Pelican. At the last possible second, Orin punched the fire button releasing a space anti-ship mine, a.k.a. an A3 SASM. She performed a right barrel role and pulled up at a sharp angle. The Seraph tried to swerve away from the mine but its proximity detonated the mine, destroying the Seraph. The explosion rocked the Pelican as it climbed back up towards the hole in the cruiser. Below, Orin saw doors on the side of the cruiser open, revealing a squadron of five Seraphs. She knew she wouldn't stand a chance against five; she would have to hope she could reach the Spartans, load them up, and activate the new Shaw-Fujikawa drive to get them out of there in time.
The last Steven saw was the Pelican plunge straight down towards the Seraph before a brute nearly cleaved his head off with a large blade on the back of what they called a Brute Shot. He ducked and rolled under the blade, coming up behind the brute. The brute spun to face him and threw its weapon away. Steven dropped his as well; he was out of ammo anyway. The brute lunged forward, swiping with one paw. The paw caught Steven across the jaw and spun him backwards. His shield indicator started flashing red as he climbed back to his feet. The brute was right behind him swinging again. He caught the blow with his right fist and swung a left towards the brute's face. The brute ducked under the punch and grabbed Steven's right arm with both its own arms. It began to try to bend the arm backwards. Steven kicked out with his left leg taking the brute by surprise. His boot struck the brute's knee but much to his surprise the leg didn't break. It did however incur a large amount of pain causing the brute to let go of him and howl in a mixture of pain and anger. Steven dove into the brute's chest, knocking him to the floor. The brute rolled over on top of him and struggled to get its arm free from Steven's grip. It finally succeeded and raised its fist high into the air. Steven's arms were pinned beneath the brute's weight and he couldn't move anything. The fist began its downward descent toward his face, just as the butt of an MA5C slammed against the brute's temple. The stock of the gun shattered on impact but also killed the brute mid-swing. The body slumped to the side and Steven saw Helen standing over him. She reached out her hand and grasped his, pulling him to his feet. Only a handful of Covenant forces remained, and those that did were rapidly falling back down the long corridor. The room was littered with spent shell casings and bullet ridden bodies. Steven was proud of his Spartans, not one had fallen during the conflict, though several had sustained minor injuries. He pulled his smg from his hip in case of another attack.
The Pelican roared into view once more heading straight for the ship. It was flying at full speed, trying to outrun a group of Seraph's trailing it. The ship cut its throttle and spun around, now facing the attacking Seraphs. Its momentum continued to carry it towards the cruiser at an alarming rate. The engines kicked back on and worked to stop the momentum it had built up. Nevertheless, it was still flying at a high speed as it hurtled through the hole in the ship. The Pelican slammed into the rear wall of the room, throwing all of the Spartans to the ground. The engines sputtered once then died again. Steven could feel the ship shake as three of the Seraphs couldn't pull away in time and crashed into the cruiser's hull.
Brute voices filled Steven's ears as they bounded down the corridor towards the room. Quickly, he threw the last of his fragmentation grenades down the hall and scrambled aboard the Pelican. In the back, along with his Green team who had already loaded up, were six Spartans in black armor. Each was unconscious in their seats from the impact. Steven raced to the front of the Pelican and slid into the cockpit. Orin's harness had snapped and she lay slumped against the dash. Steven shook her awake,
"Get us out of here!"
Shannon's head and chest hurt but she shrugged it off and eased back into her seat. Her hand ran over the controls, flicking switches here and there. Lights sprang to life and the cockpit was now illuminated by a red light. Damage alerts filled the screen. She clicked these away and started the engines. The Pelican roared to life and slowly started to ease forward. A red hot spike broke through the wall and embedded itself several inches from Orin's head. Small arms fire echoed through the drop ship.
"Hang on! This is going to be a bumpy ride!" She slid the throttle forward and the Pelican shot out the hole in the wall. The Pelican's wing clipped the side of the ship, tearing part of it off and spinning the Pelican around in circles. Shannon fought to regain control of the drop ship. The pedals shook and the joystick was vibrating uncontrollably. Finally, she brought the ship under her control and started to head away from the cruiser.
"Ready when you are!" she yelled.
"Hit it, Vince!" called Steven. Vince clicked the control on the remote detonator. Shannon switched the cameras to aft view and they watched as the Covenant cruiser burst into flames. The two Seraphs who had missed crashing into their own cruiser were enveloped by the rolling ball of flame. The flame dissipated and all that was left was a field of scattered debris floating lazily through space.
Steven glanced around, only six Spartans in black? He looked at their arms none had the red band painted around the bicep or the thigh of their armor. The leader was missing. He again crept forward into the cockpit and looked at Orin,
"Where's Jen?" Orin only looked at him and shook her head slowly. Steven returned to the troop holding area and sat down in a seat, strapping his harness around himself. Shannon was a good pilot, possibly the best Pelican pilot in the entire UNSC. Usually, they didn't last long on high risk operations such as these, but Shannon had been Black squad's pilot for over two years. Now, she was only nineteen but she knew what she was doing. She had managed to live for this long as the Spartans' pilot which was a lot of credit in its self, but besides that she had been awarded several medals for bravery in action. She was just as much a part of them as any other Spartan. Shannon was always on the ball, nothing could shake her; in combat she was like a machine, nothing could stop her from completing what had to be done. Even so, Steven could tell she was shaken by the loss of SPARTAN-211 Jen. Jen was Shannon's closest friend among the Spartan's and Steven hoped she could still perform as well as she always had. She was a natural at flying and this was all that could have possibly saved her this long. Any lack in concentration on her part and she would have been killed many times. Some have it, some don't. She definitely had it, but now he wasn't so sure. He was going to make sure she was given a long break from active duty.
A large, shrill sound filled the air as the Shaw-Fujikawa H4 Slipspace Drive activated. Steven cinched his harness tighter. The Pelican parted space and rocketed for Sol.
2632: Chapter 1
Date: 15 August 2008, 3:07 am
0630 HOURS, OCTOBER 17, 2632 (MILITARY CALENDAR)
SOL SYSTEM, PLANET EARTH, CAMP PIPER
The hot, South American sun beat down on Private James Foley. It had just risen above the mountains and lit the landscape with a red-orange glow. Before him lay the ominous ruins of an ancient Mayan civilization. A large temple rose above the others, shimmering majestically in the early morning sunlight.
Gravel crunched behind him and he turned to look at this new guest. Approaching him was Private Sheryl Levens, a young and energetic girl just out of basic.
"Morning," she said as she drew nearer.
"Morning," James returned her greeting.
"Nice morning, eh?" she asked.
"Yeah, it is," he turned back to face the temple, squinting into the sun.
"Sorry I'm late." Sheryl said sitting down on a sandbag wall.
you missed so much action," he said sarcastically. She grinned,
"I'm sure." James smiled. He sat down on the sandbag wall opposite hers and grabbed his canteen from his belt. James took a long gulp and offered it to her. She smiled and grabbed the canteen, taking a drink. Sheryl passed the canteen back to James and wiped some water off her chin with her sleeve. A long period of silence passed between them before Sheryl broke the ice.
"How long has it been since anything actually came here?" she asked.
about a month, that was a supply convoy bringing us another year of provisions."
"Why are we here again?"
"I don't know, they won't tell us, but I have a feeling it has to do with those ruins. " He pointed his finger towards the massive, looming temple. Sheryl nodded in agreement as it was the only reasonable explanation. She didn't even really need to ask the question, she just wanted to start a conversation. In fact, all the young Marines stationed there, which weren't many, had their own rumors about the ruins. Some said they were conducting weapons experiments, others said they had found some valuable artifacts, and yet others said that they were haunted and that anyone who entered was never heard from again. James wasn't sure what to think or believe all he knew was that there definitely was something happening there.
Both the privates were snapped from their thoughts by the sound of a fast approaching engine. James scanned the horizon and saw a dust cloud traveling down the long winding "road" to the camp. He pulled a pair of binoculars from a chest sitting near the sandbag wall and focused on the vehicle. It was a Warthog, one driver, two passengers. Sheryl stood up and took her post near the road while James replaced the binoculars for his MA5C Assault Rifle. This was odd. The only traffic he had ever seen since he had been posted here was the occasional supply convoy. Things were old fashioned here. Most of the Pelican's and new Pelican II's were being used on the frontlines to combat the New Covenant which was now just beginning its full scale war on humanity. It had been started by leading members of the Elite's Council. The Prophet's race had been expelled from this New Covenant and banned to their home planet. The Elite's motivation for starting a new war was yet to be determined and the military masterminds had only but guesses. All of the old races of Covenant forces were present including Brutes. However, they gave up their leading role to the Elites. The Grunts were now regarded higher yet they still took the place of the main infantry. This was due to their physical characteristics, to have them leading anyone else would be plain awkward.
Soon another cloud of dust accompanied the first. This however, was a large truck with covered bed. The Warthog rolled to a stop in front of the gate. James approached on the driver's side and Sheryl on the other.
"I.D. please?" James asked. The driver was a Marine wearing standard combat BDU's, olive drab helmet, and black tactical combat vest. The passenger however, was dressed as a civilian yet flipped his I.D. out. It had a picture of the man, and his personal information. Ernest Farfaras, ONI Section III. James nodded in approval and handed the man back his identity, before striding back to the guard station. He punched the button raising the gate.
"Welcome to Camp Piper, Sir." The ONI officer nodded, and then tapped the driver on the shoulder. The Warthog eased forward into the base followed by the large truck. James tried to catch a glimpse into the back of the truck but the rear flap had been drawn shut. The gate slowly lowered as the truck passed through. Sheryl looked to James quizzically. He shrugged.
Lieutenant Farfaras hopped from his Warthog, his shoes made contact with solid earth. It felt good to stand after the long ride. An officer appeared out of what he assumed was the officer's quarters. It looked more like a run-down shack to him. The entire "base," if that's what you could call it, looked to be in poor condition. What could you expect of a distant outpost in the middle of the jungle in South America? More ONI specialists dropped from the truck and began to unload their gear. The Marine officer approached him,
"Lieutenant Farfaras I assume?" he asked.
"I'm the one, and you are?" asked Farfaras.
"Captain Richard Dowdey. I'll be taking care of all your needs while you are here with us," answered the Captain. Farfaras nodded and looked around at the buildings. In the center was a cleared sort of parade ground with a flag in the middle. "I know it doesn't look like much Lieutenant, but you'll get used to it
my men have at least," he smiled.
Farfaras returned the smile and shook the Captain's hand. "Come, this way," the Captain laid a hand on his shoulder and guided him with the other. Farfaras stepped into the small hut which Captain Dowdey had told him would be his as long as he was there. Despite the outside appearance, the inside was quite nice. Along one wall was a large desk which had been cleared, allowing him to set up his work station. On the opposite side was a bed that looked very comfortable to the Lieutenant. He was exhausted from his long trip, but there was no time to sleep now. He set his bags down near the bed and returned outside. Marines were assisting the ONI specialists with their gear into a large barracks facility where they would be staying. Farfaras placed his hands on his hips and drew a deep breath. They had a lot of work to do.
The next day Captain Dowdey awoke bright and early to a knock on his door. He climbed from his bed, slipped on his boots and jacket and went to the door. Lieutenant Farfaras stood waiting for him.
"Sir, sorry to bother you but I wanted to get an early start."
"It's no trouble, son. I'll be right with you." Captain Dowdey finished getting dressed, walked out of his quarters, and joined Farfaras near the flagpole. He was watching the privates performing PT under Sergeant Mark Gurien. Sergeant Gurien was a good man and a better sergeant. He held his men with the utmost respect and would do anything for them in combat, of that Dowdey had no doubt. The only problem was he was being wasted here, along with the other forty-eight Marines stationed at Camp Piper. They would indeed do a much greater service fighting the Covenant on the frontlines.
He thought again that maybe it was better they were here. Many of them would undoubtedly be killed eventually if they were fighting in the front. That was the soldier's job however. It seemed to him they were a powerful force that shouldn't be wasted. The value of even a handful of brave men, no matter how inexperienced was proven on the planet Harvest in 2524 by Sergeant Avery Johnson and his band of militia. That was back in the days of the Rebellion. When the Master Chief was what everyone talked about and when humanity had almost been wiped from existence.
Now, it seemed they may again be in danger of annihilation. They must never let the Covenant come as close as they had in the past. 2552, when Spartans still protected the Earth and her colonies, thought Dowdey. To him, there were no more Spartans. They had been all been killed. They had done their job and they were probably the best soldiers to live, but nonetheless they were gone. It was up to men like Marines and ODST's to fend off the Covenant and this newest string of bombardments.
The soldiers continued drilling. That was comical in its self. They had not had PT in months. There was no need. They were no where near a combat zone. They were on Earth not Banki, the latest planet to come under attack. Now he had ordered for them to resume their morning PT just to look good for the ONI spooks. Dowdey had never cared for them, not that he had had much on hand experience with them either, but the stories still reached him. Lieutenant Farfaras seemed normal enough as of yet but being around him still made him feel uneasy.
"Well, Lieutenant, let's be on our way," said Dowdey. Farfaras nodded and turned to the Warthog. "One more thing, I'll be right with you." The Captain quickly covered the ground to where Sergeant Gurien was still leading the men in PT.
"Sergeant that will be enough for now. I want you to select four men besides yourself and meet us at the excavation at 0730. Understood?"
"Aye aye, sir," the sergeant saluted and returned to his men. Captain Dowdey strode to the Warthog and climbed into the driver's seat. He started the ignition and the Warthog's engine roared to life. He put his foot on the gas and the 'Hog rolled towards the front gate. The two privates there, James and Sheryl, opened the gate and saluted as the 'Hog rolled through.
"So, tell me Lieutenant, what exactly is going on here?"
"Well, sir. Our researchers believe they've found something in those ruins."
"And what caused them to start searching there in the first place?"
"Strange signals were emanating from the temple. At first we couldn't make anything out of it, it was just static. But then about six months ago we made out a transmission. There were voices, speaking even. Not in any language we could understand but it was definitely talking. The transmissions became more frequent and the voices began to sound more urgent. It brought chills to my spine when I first heard the sounds."
"And you are sure that these were coming from the ruins? Not some one on a radio playing with you?"
"Oh no. We checked and rechecked all known locations of troops in the area. Yours was the closest, that's why we are here. Furthermore, it was coming from underground somewhere. And third, it was no human signal. Not the technology we use. We are still trying to figure out how we received it. So, as you know, after the first transmission we sent the excavators here to dig to find what was sending us these signals. Soon we received one that shocked us all. It was in human. It was a cry for help. But we had no way to respond. Like I said, we don't even know how they reached us. The strangest thing though is that after we received the message in human, it went back to other languages. Then about a week ago, the diggers found something."
"What was it?"
"Symbols. None previously known to have been used by the ancient inhabitors of this region. They resemble symbols of the Forerunners." A chill ran down Dowdey's spine. To think he had been sitting here above who knows what, for so long. The sight of a small hut soon came in to view. Well, we are here but one more question,
"If there really is something down there, shouldn't we be bringing more troops just in case?"
"No, ONI wants to keep this low profile. For, one that would mean fewer troops on the front and second in the second war for humanity against the Covenant, the last thing the people of Earth need is to be worried about something springing out of their backyard and killing them. They have enough to worry about with the Covenant vaporizing us from space." The Captain nodded but he wasn't quite sure he agreed. If it was a large threat there, there was no way his band of Marines could be able to stop it. The Warthog rolled to a stop outside a small hut set back in the brush. A small, stout man walked out and waved at the captain. The captain stopped the engine and climbed from the 'Hog.
"How's it coming?" asked the captain.
"Good, sir. We just started for the day," returned the man. Farfaras stepped out and looked at the captain.
"Ah, yes, excuse by bad manners, Lieutenant. Lieutenant Farfaras this is Bill Dodwell, the head archaeologist here."
"Pleasure to, finally, meet you Mr. Dodwell," said the Lieutenant.
"Finally meet me?" asked the archaeologist.
"Yes, we've been watching you for quite some time. You do impressive work," said Farfaras.
"Well, about my work, please follow me," said Dodwell moving behind his hut. The captain and Farfaras followed where they came to a small dirt track leading deeper into the jungle. "We've been finding what appear to be ancient symbols, yet they match no previously known markings of any civilization on this continent," explained Dodwell as he led the captain and Farfaras down the track.
"We know," said the lieutenant, "they are, as best we can tell, symbols of the Forerunners." Dodwell nodded his agreement.
"We came to the same conclusion, sir. But
" he hesitated, "recently, as we have been digging deeper into the Earth, vibrations have started occurring routinely."
"Earthquakes, perhaps?" suggested the captain. Simultaneously Farfaras and Dodwell answered his question,
"No." Dodwell took a deep sigh.
"I'm pretty sure we're getting close to what ever it is."
"How can you be sure?"
"The vibrations are getting stronger and stronger. We can't be sure but I believe we'll get to the source real soon," said the archaeologist.
The trio arrived at the temple shortly after their conversation had ended. The workers were busy digging inside and the sound of motors and digging machinery filled the air around them. The sun rose higher in the sky now and illuminated the ground, radiant beams of light shining down through the jungle canopy.
Captain Dowdey glanced about and took in the full scene. The workers huts were scattered around in a rough semi-circle around the temple. Some workers were still rousing from their living spaces, getting ready to take over for the previous shift. Apparently, they had been working non-stop, dividing their crews into shifts, always having someone on the job.
"Please, follow me," said Dodwell, motioning to the Lieutenant and the Captain. The two followed the archaeologist, who seemed very excited to show the work to Lieutenant Farfaras. They passed through the opening into the temple. Inside was dark and damp. Some sunlight shone down through cracks where the ancient stone was cracking. They proceeded downward along a staircase. It wound downward into the darkness, except for a spot of light at the bottom. Eventually they made it to the bottom, where floodlights illuminated the room. Men were there digging with their excavation gear. One wielded a sort of jackhammer device. Another sat upon what would have looked like a JOTUN from harvest, yet smaller in size. They were all etching away at different parts of soil that surrounded them. Dodwell pulled a laptop from a small backpack that had been stashed beneath the stairs. He flipped on the power and booted up the system. Graphs popped up showing seismographic activity just below them.
"See, here are all the reports of the vibrations," said Dodwell. Farfaras looked with interest as the graphs scrolled by. Suddenly, the floor began to vibrate. Loose stones fell from the roof above and dust settled to the floor. The activity on the computer's graphs spiked, then slowly resided as the shaking stopped. Captain Dowdey released his tight grip on the archaeologists chair and realized he had been holding his breath. He exhaled and looked around the room. The workers acted as if nothing had just happened.
"So, that's what they feel like?" asked Farfaras.
"Yes sir. Several times a day now," said Dodwell.
"Well, if I had to guess
that felt like an explosion Mr. Dodwell," said Farfaras. The thought rolled around inside the archaeologists mind for half a minute.
"You know, I think you just may be right. The thought hadn't occurred to me before. I would have never suspected. That would answer a lot of questions, wouldn't it Lieutenant?" asked Dodwell.
"Yes. It certainly would," he replied.
"Yes," agreed Captain Dowdey, "except, who the heck is doing it?" Farfaras and Dodwell looked at each other for a moment.
"Cross-reference that latest spike to the pattern of a large bomb," said Farfaras.
"Working," replied Dodwell. He looked up, "It's a match for a non-natural substance to be sure. This means it is most likely some form of explosive. This theory is conclusive with the other vibration patterns."
Farfaras looked stunned for a moment, and then regained his composure. He pulled a hand radio from his pack and dialed in a frequency.
"This is no good; we're too deep to use it. We'll have to go topside, Captain," said Farfaras.
Instinctively, Captain Dowdey pulled his M6G Magnum from its holster and cocked the slide. The sound of boots grating on steel reached his ears as five marines trod down the stairs.
"Captain Dowdey, Sergeant Gurien reporting for duty as ordered," the sergeant snapped off a quick salute as he spoke.
"At ease, son," said Dowdey. The two privates who were at the gate were also with him as well as two others. Dodwell rose from his chair,
"Men stop di-" He was cut short by a loud rumble as the floor in a corner of the room gave way. The man digging fell through the floor and crashed beneath them. Workers raced to the edge to see the fate of the poor man. He lay below in a pile of rocks and settling dust. He slowly rose to his feet.
"I'm OK," he called up.
"Get a ladder down there," said Dodwell. "And a floodlight."
"Have you forgotten what we just discovered?" questioned Farfaras. The archaeologist paused a moment, deep in thought.
"No, but that was most likely just coincidence. Besides
look down there," he pointed to the hole in the floor. "There's and underground structure there." They could clearly see what looked to be a concrete floor which ran north-south in a narrow hall. Forerunner symbols marked the walls. Farfaras turned to Dowdey,
"Come on, we are going up. My signal couldn't get out. We are too deep underground. We have to get topside to transmit our message to Camp Piper which can then relay the message to all near military bases. The captain nodded his consent,
"What about my Marines?" he asked.
"They will stay here to guard the workers until we return with more men," answered Farfaras. Captain Dowdey didn't like it. Not one bit. If there were hostiles down below, his five Marines wouldn't be able to do much to stop them. If it were the Forerunners or some other peaceful race, he would want to be there to see them. He could understand Dodwell's enthusiasm and fervor but he also knew it was risky and a very naïve move on the archaeologist's part. The captain climbed the stairs right behind Lieutenant Farfaras until they finally reached the top. It felt good to be in the open air after being down in the dark pit for what seemed like an eternity. Farfaras and he piled into the Warthog and he started the engine. The 'Hog fishtailed as it sped away towards Camp Piper.
James set his MA5C against the solid wall of the corridor. A floodlight illuminated the area but they could still not see to the very end of the hall. He could only guess at its length. The workers bustled about taking samples and reading the hieroglyphs etched into the walls. Others were trying to figure out the mechanism on a door that was set in the side of the hall. In the center was some sort of device that glowed red, powered by some unknown source. On the bottom looked like rollers but now matter how hard they pulled, the door wouldn't budge. The head archaeologist had just sent for heavy gear to solve the problem.
Men had reached the ends of this hallway. It dead-ended on either side, leaving this door the only way in to whatever lie beyond. Sheryl set her assault rifle next to his and sat on the floor, pulling her helmet off. She rested her head against his shoulder and closed her eyes. Sheryl exhaled deeply and yawned. It had been an exhausting day for them. They had been on gate duty already for a full cycle before being selected to come to the excavations. Both of them were well over-due for a good rest.
Next to James, on the wall, was etched in English, INSTALLATION-032. This had puzzled Dodwell and he was now staring at it again with great interest. How would that get there? Next to it in letters the same size were Forerunner markings. He tried to make them out in his limited knowledge of the Forerunner's language. He stood with his legs crossed, biting his lower lip, concentrating. Suddenly, a shout was heard from above. The gear was here. It began to be lowered down on an MSE (mobile service elevator.) Soon, workers had the contraption ready to work on the door. Just then, Farfaras and Dowdey returned with the rest of the Marine contingent from Camp Piper.
The machinery roared to life as it started to drill through the doorway. The metal and stone mixture began to glow red hot as it was heated to a liquid. It was then sucked in by the machine, into its internal reservoir where it was cooled before being dumped out.
Bill Dodwell sat contemplating what the Forerunner Hieroglyphs said while watching the heat drill pound its way through the ancient door. Tidal
something. What was it? Tidal
It evaded him for several more minutes. The door was amazingly thick. The drill over-heated once and after a fifteen minute break to cool down the drill and replace bits it was back on-line. Dodwell began thinking again. INSTALLATION-032 Tidal
"Stop!" But it was too late. The drill had punctured through the other side, leaving a gaping hole through the door. It, which had to be contained at all costs, had just been released. The infection poured out, like a
like a tidal flood.
2632: Chapter 2
Date: 26 August 2008, 9:47 pm
Note: It is highly suggested you read 2632:Prologue before reading this section.
0300 HOURS, OCTOBER 17, 2632 (MILITARY CALENDAR)/
ABOARD COVENANT CRUISER UNMOVING FAITH
INTERSTELLAR SPACE, SECTOR Y-366
Jen fell to the floor of the massive hangar, her vision becoming momentarily blurred by the impact. She lay a moment, trying to come to her senses. A large, darkened shape appeared over her. Her mind was working at the proper responses but her body and muscles refused to respond. The large figure bent down and jammed something into her neck. She could feel a sharp point pierce her skin. Darkness encroached at the edges of her vision. Jen struggled, attempting in vain to fight it back. Slowly, more of her vision began to fade to black, until eventually there was but a small spot of light. She felt, rather than saw, the presence of more brutes. There tones echoed through her mind as it slipped into the shadows. All was dark and her mind clouded over.
Rafas, the brute pack leader, stood over the body of the fallen demon. He looked at the red stripe around the demon's arm and thigh. Rafas grunted in thought.
"Let us kill it!" said one of the lesser brutes.
"No, it lives. We must keep it to study it. Up till now we have not defeated one in combat. We must learn their secrets," replied Rafas. The younger brute began to argue but was silenced by Rafas' held-up paw. "The decision is final! It lives
for now." With a guttural grunt he motioned the body to be carried away.
The three lesser brutes grabbed the body, one at each leg and one carrying her by the shoulders. The view of the hangar was sobering and enraging all at once. Bodies of grunts, jackals, and, most importantly, brutes littered the floor. In one aspect the brutes were sorrowful at the death of their comrades and at the same time extremely angered by the cowardice shown by their fleeing enemies. They wanted revenge, now, but orders were orders and if they killed this demon they would be killed by Rafas. Unless
they were protecting themselves. Oh, it would be all too easy.
The double doors slid open revealing an open hallway, leading to a lift. This lift was of old technology, like the rest of the ship, and was much like a human elevator. They carried the body down the hall, planning the story of the demon's death. The brutes paused before going on to the lift.
"Our pack leader will be waiting for us at the top; he has been informed of the demon's capture. We must act quickly. Rafas was quick to tell him. The Chieftain will be angered but he will understand that we had to kill it," said the ring leader of the brutes. The other brutes nodded in agreement. The brute holding Jen's shoulder's turned to punch the switch to bring the lift down.
Jen watched from half-open eyes and listened through half-deafened ears as the brutes plotted her demise. Oh, no you don't, she thought. Timing her action, she waited till the lead brute had turned to summon the lift. Quickly, her hands, obeying her now, flew to her thighs, pulling two magnums off of them. She raised the pistols at the two brutes hefting her legs, which had still barely had time to register any action at all. Two shots rang out and the heavy .50 caliber slugs rammed into the brutes' skulls. The brutes' shields had been down because the fighting had ceased and the rounds easily penetrated their thick skulls. The bodies fell away, releasing Jen's legs. The last brute let go of her shoulders as it tried to react. Jen was too quick and slammed the grip of the pistol into its temple as she climbed to her feet. The unshielded brute crumpled to the floor, lifeless. Jen stepped over the dead body and into the lift. The Chieftain was about to get a rude surprise.
The Chieftain stepped to the double doors of the lift. He could here it rising rapidly upwards. With a "ding" the doors parted. The lift was empty. The Chieftain grunted in confusion and stepped forward. A black arm extended around the corner of the lift. The Chieftain barely had time to reach for his war hammer before the object impacted him in the face.
Jen felt the thud as the spike grenade plunged into the brute's face. She spun around the corner and sprinted forward, shoving the brute into the lift. The door closed and she heard the dull thump of the grenade detonating within. On the floor lay the brute's powerful hammer. She hefted the hammer and stuck it to her back via the magnetic weapon holding system. Ahead of her she could see the control room, and for the first time noticed just how many beings were staring at her.
At first the brutes just stared in amazement. Stunned both by the death of their leader and the sudden appearance of a threat. It did not take them long to regain their composure and mount an attack. They had to defend the control room at all costs. It appeared as though another enemy detachment of demons had breached their engine room while they had been distracted by the demons in the hangar.
Jen's heart skipped a beat as she realized what faced her. She turned and tried to re-enter the lift, but the quick actions of a brute in the control room had sealed it off. Glancing quickly around, she tried to assess another route of escape and much to her dismay found none. There was no way out of this one, she was going to go down and take as many with her as possible.
The first brutes began to pour down the hall, screaming and charging blindly. Jen calmed her nerves and opened fire with her M6 Magnums. These brutes had their shields activated and it was much more difficult to bring them down. She held off the first rush firing controlled and aimed shots to the head, dropping their shields quickly and finishing them with a single shot. The remaining brutes, more than twice what she had already faced, stared in anger as this single demon gunned down their comrades. Jen reloaded her magazines and could hear the brutes communicating with one another. She wasn't about to let them get coordinated. With the new clips secured in her pistols, she sprinted forward. Startled, the brutes did the only thing they could
Jen dropped the brutes one by one as she and the brutes both ran toward each other. As the magnums clicked on empty and the slides locked back, Jen dropped them to the floor. She grabbed her last spike grenade and hurled it into the next brute in line, whom she shoved out of the way as she sprinted into the control room. At the same time, she pulled the war hammer off her back, locking her eyes on a brute in gold armor who was the second in command. A brute wearing blue armor stepped out from behind a corner coming between Jen and the gold armored brute. She swung the hammer into its torso, smashing it to bloody paste. In the same fluid motion she dropped the unwieldy weapon and pulled a combat knife from her belt. The force of the hammer reverberated, dropping her shields partially. The gold armored brute drew a spiker and unleashed a volley of spikes at the charging demon.
Jen leaped into the air, flying straight for the brute, whose spikes now collapsed her shield. The impact of the Spartan dropped the brute's shields and the knife penetrated through its throat. The brute slammed backwards into the control room's dash, Jen braced against the brute. There heads were now but an inch apart and Jen stared into its mean eyes. She felt a weird pain in her gut as the brute let out a low moan. The moan rose in a crescendo to a deafening roar. Jen's audio input sensors automatically dulled to prevent her from going deaf.
Time seemed to stop for a full second before Jen was flying through the air. The brute launched her away towards the wall, climbing off the dash. It ripped the knife from its throat, letting blood squirt out onto the floor.
Jen crashed into the wall and slid to the floor. She blinked her eyes open; the brute was shaking its head and growling. Her left hand reached out for a chair to help pull her up. The brute looked up and saw her effort. It threw her own combat knife with startling accuracy. The knife punctured her unshielded arm and pinned it to the wall. The same feeling of pain returned and she looked down to find its source. Lodged by the blades was the brute's spiker in her abdomen. The brute seemed to gloat in its victory, prolonging her suffering. It walked over to its fallen comrades and retrieved the war hammer of its brother.
Jen wrapped her hand around the spiker and pulled it painfully from her gut. The brute heard the noise and turned to discover its cause. Leveled at its face was its very own spiker. A low bark uttered forth from deep within. Jen pulled the trigger and watched as the spikes tore through its face. She fired until the brute weapon was empty then let her hand slink to the floor. Completely devoid of any energy, she sat awaiting her death. The ship would soon dissolve into pieces, but she had done her job. She had saved her team, she had saved both teams, and she could ask for no better end.
Jen awoke to the sound of engines in her ears. The noise was followed by motion as she could feel the ship rock forward. Every bone and muscle in her body ached. A strong hand gripped her shoulder. She cleared her head and panicked as she saw a brute towering over her. Her arms and legs, however, were constrained by iron cuffs. She was pinned to floor of the ship.
"Demon, calm yourself," said the brute. Jen understood it through the translation software in her helmet. "I thought you might have a similar reaction; that is why you are restrained." Jen recognized this as the same brute which had yanked her out of the Pelican what seemed like days ago. "I trust you not to kill me now, demon," said the brute as it flicked a switch and the cuffs receded into the floor.
Jen flexed her hands as the cuffs released their grip on her armored body. She looked cautiously at the brute.
"I know you don't trust me demon, and you have good reason not too. Arfus was a fool. I am Rafas, honorable to all." The brute reached its paw out towards Jen. She slowly put her gauntlet into its firm grip and let it pull her up.
"Why spare me?" asked Jen.
"As I said," stated the brute. "Arfus was a dishonorable fool. He would have killed you while you were down, it is a good thing you killed him. But not I. I am more honorable than he and I would not kill you. More than that, you are a worthy adversary. In all my years of fighting I have not once seen one take down so many of my kind." Jen did not know what to think. Was this all a trap? Gain her trust, and then kill her? She looked out a viewport. They were in open space in a small ship, surrounded by stars.
"Where are we going?" asked Jen.
"Sol," said the brute. "You are going home, demon."
"Why are you coming? Why not send me off and stay with your own?"
"My own, demon? I have none. You killed my tribe." Jen looked out the aft view. Pieces of rubble drifted through space where once had been the mighty Covenant cruiser. The brute returned to the cockpit and dialed in commands. A portal opened and the ship passed through into slipspace. Jen settled into a seat along the side of ship. She noticed a weight on her hip and looked down to see a fully loaded brute spiker. Confident the brute would not betray her; she set her head back and fell into a much needed sleep.