Date: 21 January 2007, 7:53 pm
Harvest was awful, a nightmarish beginning to the war of wars. It had been as shocking as it had been swift. Two hundred million vanished in a second, a long, deafening last heartbeat that was heard even in the most remote sectors of the UNSC controlled space. What was even more dramatic was not the slaughter, but the riddle that it ensued after a small task force engaged the alien ship. After all communications had been jammed, onboard Artificial Intelligence constructs foiled, a short message was sent through all channels, both encrypted and regular, a message so scary and strange that even the most aggressive naval commanders were baffled. "Your Destruction is the Will of The Gods, and we are their Instrument."
Before the Office of Naval Intelligence could figure out which enemy were they facing, a large fleet shipped out to retake Harvest. Six frigates and two destroyers engaged in open space an alien ship, tonnage according to a large carrier. After hours of battle, the UNSC won, at the loss of two thirds of the fleet.
For the next month, the fleet was pounded on, ravished by the unending horde of enemy ships. ONI determined that the force was alien after just a few days. As the extraterrestrials advanced through space, rarely coming across any opposition, as the fleet approach changed from battle to evacuations. The combined effort of the Marines and the Fleet saved a large amount of in the last ten days of the beginning of the war.
As the killing machine roamed unopposed on open space, only few naval commanders dared to run interference. Then, after one Admiral found the Covenant at the right place and the right time, the advance came to a crushing stop when they found the planet Andorra, in the Falais system. Andorra was the largest military garrison in the outer colonies. The alien force attacked the garrison with a handful of ships; just to be defeated by the land based missile batteries and nuclear silos. Then, something that had never occurred before happened, the aliens committed ground troops. The invasion fleet moved out of the killzone, dispatching only a few, small troopships.
Just before the dropships arrived, a new message was received by the UNSC garrison in the planet, "Our forces will eliminate you vermin, no escape will be allowed or mercy given, you are doomed. This will be the fulfillment of our Covenant," a second later the dropships disappeared out of the radar screens, appearing surprisingly just over the stratosphere. They landed on a large empty field, exactly where the Colonel would have wanted to.
The aliens were taunting him, daring him to attack rapidly on them. That was the only explanation why the ETs landed in an open field, right next to his Marine regiment. It was both tactically and operationally a mistake to pick that LZ. How could a race, so advanced, so brilliant, so brutal could make that mistake? It wasn't his job to second guess the enemy; his job was to kill it and he was happy to. His Marines had not left the planet since the war started, and they were eager for battle.
The troopships remained just inside the Regiment's killzone, hovering just a few feet over the surface, boldly daring him to act hastily. Colonel Mike Francis was just behind the hill the only cover between his Marines and the extraterrestrials-, his tank Regiment was laid up half a mile side to side from him, just formed up on the bed of the slope. On the rear there were a dozens of Marines deploying in their battle positions, running from side to side, waiting for the command to act. He was fearlessly sitting down in the passenger seat of a Warthog, in the open field, handmike on his right cheek, hearing orders and commands between the low level officers as he watched the battalion in front of him to set into position.
Mike spun into action as soon as everyone was in position. He had prepared the assault of three tank and one Infantry Marine Battalions to pincer the LZ at the same time. Slowly every company commander checked in position, everything was in place, then he uttered, "Red seven, ready that fire mission in at my command, over?" he asked the MarDiv artillery batteries just seven miles behind the front lines in a firebase protected by an infantry battalion.
"Roger Romeo six, we are ready to fire at your command." He had ordered his forces to engage the Covenant on the move, all but the infantry on the front, while the pogues covered the mechanized forces incase a retreat was called for. He watched his PDA, he was up linked with his Forward Observers, who had eyes on the ships from a grove that was near the massive LZ. There were four of the oval shaped crafts, they were purple, had ugly looking wings -all in the rear with the nozzles- and several "things" that looked like three barreled weapons. All in all he was glad to get rid of them.
He placed the handmike right next to his ear, and said, "Red seven, fire for effect on pinpointed locations Zebra and gold."
"Roger, fire for effect on Zebra and Gold."
"This is going to be exciting," said the Colonel with a loud chuckle, then turned his head around and found in the horizon dozens of flashes as the batteries cleared their 155mm bores.
"Rounds complete." It took a fraction of a second for the broad whistles of the rifled shells to reach the Marines who cheered, some of them jumped, as the shells headed for the alien ships. Immediately the FO's sight became a bright light that blinded the cameras. Slowly the flash was switched to a large spectrum of dust, at the same time a tremor began to be felt on the surface. The shelling lasted for fifteen emotional seconds, in which the sky was lit up like daylight. As soon as the last flash ended nothing remained to be seen, only an immense, cloud covering where the ships used to be.
He switched the display to IR, it turned immediately turned green, with shades of black; there was nothing to be seen. "OK, let's overrun them," Francis uttered the other two men in the car and placed the handmike back into his right cheek. "Guidons, Guidons, this is Romeo six, attack, attack, attack!" the engines of the Scorpion tanks roared like a perfectly coordinated orchestra and the vehicle began to roll past the slope of the hill. The fifty tanks disappeared behind the hill, guns deafening every man behind of the slope even the Colonel and his staff that were fifty meters behind Hill 492.
"This is Romeo niner, we are rolling, no opposition so far."
"Roger that niner," replied the Colonel. It was then, when his tanks had disappeared from slope to slope that a flicker on one of the digital screen caught his attention, the dropships appeared out of the blue, green glows beneath them. A loud, electric buzz resonated through the battlefield, and before the Colonel has time to talk through the radio receiver it was too late. The Regiment disappeared in the blink-of-an-eye, the shivering gray tanks vanishing in a flash of bright light that rose over the opposite slope of the hill, turning the dark, cold night into a sunny day.
The dismounted Marines vanished behind a mist of fire and the APCs disappeared blast-by-blast. The secondary explosions raised sixty feet into the sky disappearing under the canvas of light that was covered the sky beneath its own mantle of fire. Then, as the explosion faded the radio squawked, "lYou cannot defeat us human, die a vermin's death," the Colonel unwillingly let go the radio transmitter, which landed on his lap. It took two seconds for him regroup himself. He grabbed the handmike again and placed it on his ear. "Adjust fire, suppression, Zebra and Gold, fire!"
But by that time it was too late. His head snapped up after his ear caught a small, whiz in the air, and it seemed he was the only one who could hear it. They were right on top of the Marines, but somehow they escaped their eyesight. Then, too late, he spotted them,. The crafts were purple, had two ski like landing trains and were semi oval, they appeared skimming the hilltop. Immediately they opened fire, hot plasma exited something bellow their cabins, the blue tracers streaking in a perfect, parallel flight paths as they cut down the Marines in the open. Mike counted ten pairs of tracers, but saw only two of the stealthy crafts in the night sky roaming above the Marines, appearing and disappearing out of view.
"What now sir?" asked the driver of the 'Hog, both hands on the steering wheel.
"Hammer that pedal," said the Colonel. "Now!"
The driver, a young PFC, stepped on the gas with all his strength, the car began to roll and skid on the wet ground. He could not lead his men; he had only one remaining job, to warn the Regiment of what had happened and rally his men in the retreat. He rolled the steering wheel to the right and the car slid to the right. It reached sixty miles per hour in three seconds, leaving the battlefield soon after that.
It took twenty minutes for the Warthog to reach the CP, by passing the second echelon of the Regiment purely infantry- and the logistical trains a hundred trucks and LRVs-. The CP was a large mobile outpost defended by a dozen M-247 and two AT Warthogs. The vehicle passed between two piles of sanbags, where two Marines looked at him incredibly preoccupied. The morning was soon approaching and an orangeish mantel was just above the horizon to the north. Waiting for him at the entrance of a command tent was an unusually tall officer arms crossed and a very expressive look on his face. The Colonel unhorsed immediately, and entered rapidly to the tent with the other officer. "Comms are jammed sir. We have heard nothing from Division or the rest of the regiments. What exactly happened out there?"
"We bounced them with everything we had," said the Colonel gulping several ounces of water from his canteens. "And we didn't scratch them. We only have fourth battalion between them and us, and if they did that to a tank battalion, I don't want to know what will happen to those boys."
"Third Regiment got wiped out too when they moved on another LZ, not only that there are reports that there are some invisible creatures that are causing all kind of havoc down at the Samaria silo."
"Shit, any contact with troops?"
The Major shook his head. "No, whatever they are doing, they are calmed about it, only ships so far."
"What about air support?" asked Mike.
Commencement, part one: The Aftermath.
Date: 1 February 2007, 10:36 pm
All the devastation, destruction and carnage were simply atrocious, and the Marines didn't harm the Aliens. The puzzling query was that after dozens of shells went of in their landing zone not even the ground was scratched. Terrible, even above the before described, by far, was the smell of human flesh burnt by plasma and fire, it was terrible in every sense of the word, with each breath intoxicating the minds of the members of the few survivors scattered over the field.
In all seven hours of battle he had not seen any enemies, yet, he had emptied five sixty round magazines on nearly invisible alien crafts which had maimed his platoon to the point he was the only one still alive, out of sixty five men that had filled with lead the sky, to no visible result.
When he was told that enemy had committed ground troops, he had a tingling feeling in his throat, out of fear and excitement, finally a break from the interminable space horde. He jumped on the trucks that headed for the battlefields shortly after the radar pinpointed the location of the Landing Zone, though happy, he knew people were going to get hurt. The PFC had never expected that he would be marching to the grave of all his friends. It had not been different from the space campaigns; it had been a pathetic trouncing as well. The Marines were reduced to be sitting in the bleachers of the one sided, brutal game.
The entire force had been wiped out and, maybe, the ones that lasted more time were the artillery men, who might had scored kills, but the battlefield did not show any. The foxhole was filled with death, from side to side of the long trench. Todd had been sleeping bellow the death bodies of his comrades, struggling to survive the cold of the night. They had dug the trench in position of a possible enemy counter attack, interdicting the follow up alien forces in case they got passed the armor, which they could have as a large gap was formed between the forward echelons and the supporting task force, somehow the Aliens held their position, a few feet above the ground, for some unknown reason.
Private First Class Todd Wallis woke up naturally a few hours after he was shocked into sleep. The PFC stood up, moving the inert bodies of his comrades in arms thrown above him. He popped his head above the trench after he opened his way above the ground, looking from side to side only to find a dreadful landscape. What had been once green prairies and handsome vehicles were both now a horrible path of destruction, nothing was unscathed, not even the earth. Todd raised his stubby MA5B, hung it on his shoulder and jumped out of the trench, hands first.
He landed on his knees and began to walk. His unit had been tasked with the responsibility of holding off a possible enemy counterattack that never took place. What happened was still some sort of mystery for the PFC. The only thing definite, asides the destruction, was de definite sense of defeat. There was no hiding it, the one sided battle had been a slaughter, not a confrontation.
Somehow he had he had been left safe and sound for now, and deep inside him he didn't knew exactly how to feel, either grateful, or simply horrified. He had to get those feelings aside and it now came down to surviving to fight the aliens again. He had to act. On his helmet's mounted Display he uploaded the map of the area thanks to his neural interface, and as the map came on the two choices he had were laid out to him. The first was to go north, towards the city and then, a more risky enterprise, he was to march due west to where his Regimental CP was, in order to find someone with leadership who could bring some justice to the carnage. At the end of all thought, it came down to two choices, either duty, or survival. The war had been something of the latter, a massive struggle to simply get by. The last letter he had received from home was clear.
Mobilization, rationing, draft.
He parted west as he had a reason for it. Someone once said that an armed mob was to an army to what construction materials are to a building. Well, if the Aliens had done that to a Marine Regiment, the civvies in the city were simple fish in a barrel. He had a duty for the people that could survive from the massacre, and he would fulfill it.
Part of the command post had survived, barely. All defenses and electronic gear had failed, all the wiring had melted and the defenses were destroyed. The only thing that remained operational was a simple FM radio and a bunch of small arms, and only the metal ones, not the MA5Bs and SMGs, worked, as the heat from the plasma melted the plastic components of the actions and receivers, jamming the firearms completely.
"We have to counter attack," said the Major the Regimental XO-.
"With what?" noted Colonel Michael Francis as he was kneeling next to a clusters of survivors.
"We have a small reserve force a few clicks from the LZ, mostly the weapons company and the combat trains."
"Food packers and a few Warthogs with guns," noted the Colonel unconvinced. "It is clear that we can't mount and effective resistance to them, we can't even hurt them."
"Lets wait for 'em here," said the Regiment's CSM.
"Sir," said the nearby RTO, "I have the six online, he wants to talk to you."
"OK." The six was the divisional commander back in the city, whose voice was soar, tired and completely depressing. As it turned out to be that the trouncing his Regiment's had suffered was pale in comparison to what the rest of the Division had faces further to the north, where it looked like the units had simply disappeared from the face of the planet. "They had some sort of shield Mike, forming a cluster around them, and not only that their weapons are something terrible, never had I seen such firepower, they use some sort of super heated plasma similar to their ship's torpedoes but more concentrated, that was why the units disappeared out of existence, over."
"Tell me about it sir, what do you want me to do? Over."
"I want you to run interference between them and the city using asymmetric means for the time being, while the reinforcements arrive from eight-zero's location, over?"
Mike shook his head while resting it over his right hand, "Roger that sir, consider it done, out," he turned around to his XO, his expression saying it all. "Weapons Company is to advance on the axis of advance of the enemy and is to delay it using guerrilla tactics."
He heard the sound of voices approaching his position, which for his own relief, he could understand, in other words, they where human; as the voices drew closer he could hear the boots of the Marines trampling over the wet grass. The awkwardly knelt and in front of a brush and a head popped out. Todd immediately recognized them; they were from the Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion. "Yo," said the head from where bellow several shadowy figures emerged. Besides the standard issue MA5B and SMGs, every third man packed a twin tube launcher system, the Jackhammer Surface-to-Surface missile. All of them pointed their arms at him, in a second, all of them lowered at the same time. "Hey," said the sergeant leading the party, who Todd immediately identified not as a rescue party, "Where are the ships?" they were an attack party.
"The ships, the alien ships."
"Oh," replied Todd. "Down the field, behind a hill that is blocking the view," he turned around to face the general direction of the ships, just to be, again, baffled by the devastation. Every tank battalion was destroyed, black smoke pouring out of the open hatches of the Scorpion tanks. The worst, hands down, was the smell of the cooked Marines. It pierced both mentally and physically the living Marines who where going to try and avenge them.
There were four Jackhammers, twelve Marines total; the Sergeant shook Todd's hand and nodded. "Ruiz, Weapons Co, your regiment."
Todd nodded, "I know who you are Staff Sergeant."
"The ships, we are going to hit them."
"That is not going to work, not by a long shot, we fired everything we had last night and we got nothing."
"We have new intel," said the sergeant pulling out his binos and scanning down the field. "They have some sort of shield that screwed with out weapons; we think that if we get closer, while they are unloading troops, we could get a clear shot at them."
"They are unloading troops?"
"Yes son, hundreds of them."
"Shit, we haven't faced the troops and we are already screwed."
The sergeant smiled, "Yeah, they got us by surprise, son."
"You think if we repay, them we could do hammer them, right?"
"Roger that PFC."
"I'm in, then."
"You don't have a choice private." The Sergeant waved his hand in a cut-like movement forward and his squad began to walk side by side from him. "I need every trigger I can get my hands-"
"Contact!" the Marines hit the dirt immediately, all weapons pointed in a three hundred and sixty perimeter.
"What?" asked the sergeant.
"I saw something," uttered the pointman still kneeling and rifle shouldered facing the devastation. He was on the ground, lifeless, headless and limps before he could see what was coming his way. The heat that the bolt generated burnt deep in the exposed skin of the Marines armor and fatigues.
"That was incoming!" shouted one of the Jarheads, however the call was not necessary as everyone instinctively pulled the trigger of their firearms, pouring lead down the field.
As Wallis loaded a second magazine onto the receiver of his assault rifle, there was another blinding flash, mixed with a puff of gray smoke on the chest plate of one of the Marines, whom jumped back unwillingly- and skidded on the ground, dead. "What the hell?" asked the Sergeant kneeling inside the shrub as chaos reigned in the field. He immediately placed his right index finger over his ear and uttered, "one-one, we are engaged with the ETs, don't have eyes on, repeat, no eyes on target."
"Roger that Sarge, hold position while we consult."
The Marines were already crawling back as several hot whizzes passed over their heads. Wallis was the first to jump into the bush, as he ejected a third magazine from his rifle. There was another puff to be heard before the Marines were all inside the tight foxhole, except one. "Noworthy!" but the man was dead too.
"Goddamn it," screamed the sarge slightly crouching before standing back up again. "Three KIA and we haven't get some."
"I hear you," noted Wallis as he shouldered his rifle, parallel to the ground and a few inches above it as he popped his head above the ground. He then saw something, a dim movement on the horizon. Rifle ready to fire, the PFC looked through his sight and stared down the field. There, again the small figure appeared again. Just a meter tall, waving its arms in none healthy fashion, and wearing an orchestrated red armor. "That ain't human staff sergeant."
His trigger finger snapped back in the trigger guard immediately, without waiting for an order or command. His anger burned deeply inside, all of it was pulled away by the hypersonic bullet which left the muzzle at several kilometers per seconds. The head, or whatever that small sphere over the body, was exchanged with a small, husk of flesh.
As he started to celebrate, something made him quiet. Three more, then six more, soon the hill was full with them. "Sarge, you are to hold position at all cost and await further instructions."
The sergeant shook his head and said, "Load the Jackhammers!"
The Marines packing the long tubes exposed in the open- swung their weapons on their backs, and pulled their Jackhammer launchers towards their shoulders. Yet, another scream of horror resonated through the battlefield, and then the small beings began to charge towards the Marines. Wallis placed both his arms on the ground in front of the shrub, forming a bipod for his assault rifle. It would be a tough day. "One-one, this is Ruiz! Blitz-Blitz on our position requesting priority AT on our location, over."
"Roger that sarge," the radioman paused. "Two one-two-oh tubes at your disposition, call it."
As Ruiz pulled out his map another flash erupted inside the brush, this time, the Staff Sergeant fell on the ground, a massive wound on his abdomen. He was gone before Todd could help him. "Everyone!" hollered Todd, "Fire those Jackhammers!"
The two Corporals, leading the two Jackhammers launchers, who where screamed by a PFC-, did not even bother to tear him a new one. "Locked on?"
"Locked!" shouted at unison the Jackhammer shooters.
The Jackhammer missiles exited the launchers and then, for a second, it all went white as the nozzles ignited sending hot gas towards the rear. Before the rockets were in the middle of the flight, a dozens puffs emerged on the ground, as the Marines turned around to face the bush, several flashes erupted on their backs. "Shit!" hollered Wallis as the squad was left without firepower. The missiles struck one of the leading enemies and it disappeared out of existence, taking with him a bunch of the others with him in a spiraling mushroom cloud.
"Bolt! Bolt!" shouted Wallis as he made a run for it, using the bush to cover his retreat. He heard two more thuds; two more Marines had bitten it. Between him and the next cover, a simple tree, was an open patch of green grass. As his legs moved, he could not help but wonder how fast he was going, he had never felt the air pass around him never before in his life.
He swung towards his back for a second and he was being followed by the remaining Marines, immediately he swung around, leveled his MA5B and pulled the trigger. The charging handle moved so fast, it seemed invisible, and by the time it snapped forward after the last cartridge left the muzzle-, he was back on the move towards the inclined, curved tree, and with it, cover.
He slid, on the ground, and turned around in the process, and before he stopped he was turned around, the magazine was expelled out of the receiver and he exchanged it with a full one. He was joined by a couple of Marines, one of which had a Jackhammer.
"OK, let's give 'em hell!" the small aliens reached the bush shortly afterwards, and began to act strange. What had been a regular cohesive force had turned into a mob, running from side to side, bumping against each other and squealing like puppies. Nobody seemed to know what, until, a loud whistle echoed through the battlefield, followed by a loud, dirt plume and a blast dead center of the meter-tall monsters, propelling some of the beasts to the air.
"Get some S-O-B!" screamed one of the Marines, as he opened fire, for a second the MA5B was the only thing to be heard through the battlefield. The sound of the assault rifle was interrupted again, this time by a louder bark of a muzzle, and the three Marines stopped shooting, turning their heads into the general direction of the sound.
Behind a slope a small head was to be seen, like hovering in the sky, began to glide forward, as it approached, the sound became louder, and then Todd recognized it. It was a "fifty."
"You there!" screamed the now in sight Marine standing on the rear of the Warthog, manning the fifty machinegun. A line of little plumes reached the small beings and what panic was before, was sheer, uncontrolled terror. "Get your taints over here!" Todd led the way, running across the field with his MA5B grabbed by the receiver. He threw the rifle on the vehicle and followed it jumping, landing on the turret of the M-243 HMG.
"One-one, SITREP for the six, contact with hostiles north of Phase Line Jeremy, we gave 'em hell, over," said the Lieutenant sitting in the passenger seat, who afterwards nodded twice. "Roger that, we have 'em on board, rolling back to the CP."
"You were lucky guys," said the gunner leaving the controls of the machinegun. "We were recoing the area when your sergeant called the one-one."
"Yeah," said Todd taking a deep, much needed break, "lucky."
"That's goddamn right Marine," noted the Lieutenant laughing at the end of the phrase. "Did you saw those fuckers fly?"
"Damn right Lieutenant."
"What now sir?" said one of the Marines.
"The company has been tasked with the mission of holding the area, and we are to do so, we are preparing something for them, that was why we are around here. Something big is going to happen."
"Big, huh?" asked Todd, What was last night all about then, he asked to himself before the horror, finally, caught up with him.