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Fan Fiction

Immortal by J-117

Immortal: Prologue
Date: 3 January 2007, 4:08 am


Prologue: So It Begins…

0700 Hours, October 20, 2552 (Military Calendar)
Sol System, Earth Defense Platform, Cairo

First Squad leader Sergeant Vladimir Kharkenov sat on his footlocker cleaning his BR55 Battle Rifle, making sure all the parts would shine as his native sun, Sol. He picked up the bolt of the rifle the mat on the floor where the disassembled parts laid. As his hand moved the oil and polish covered rag up and down the Bolt, he looked out at his squad of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, otherwise known as Helljumpers. Vladimir was a proud member of the 105th ODST Division, famous for the tenacity of its soldiers, yet also famous for their intelligent, efficient operations against the Covenant.

Vladimir looked out at his squad, watching them all clean their weapons as well, getting ready for the day's work of training. Today Echo Company was conducting a practice drop over Kenya in the East African Protectorate. They would be launching at 1000 hours from Human Entry Vehicles located in the aft section of the station.

To Vladimir's right lay his right-hand man, Corporal Mark Jay Wahlen of First Fireteam, a native of Utah within the North American Protectorate. Mark always had Vladimir's back, no matter what kind of trouble they got in. Mark was something of a paradox: while usually being the joker of the squad, he always remained sober and refused to take anything that would intoxicate him. He sat on his footlocker, cleaning the Oracle Scope of his SRS99C-S2 AM Sniper Rifle.

Across from Mark was Corporal Bryce McDermid of Second Fireteam, who came from the Great White North of the North American Protectorate. Bryce was the calmest member of the squad, always being deliberate and precise in his words and actions, although his sarcasm was legendary throughout the company. Having finished cleaning his MA5B Assault Rifle, went to work doing his daily push-ups in order to shake off his grogginess.

To Bryce's left was Corporal Max Bennett of Third Fireteam, who heralded from the Pacific Northwest. Max was the Tech Specialist of the squad, never failing to hack a computer system. Max had used his limited security clearance to gather what little information he could find of Covenant computer systems and was currently writing a paper on Covenant algorithms. This act alone had ticked off some of the higher-ups at the Office of Naval Intelligence. After cleaning his M7/Caseless Sub-Machine Gun he sat on his cot, writing a hypothesis on his personal notepad.

"I heard they're givin' the Master Chief a medal today" remarked Private First Class John Mueller of First Fireteam. Mark and he had grown up in the same town in Utah, but John had joined the ODST's a year after Mark. His first anniversary in the ODST's would be soon.

"What, you mean the leader of those freak Spartans?" replied Private First Class Andrew Wilson of Second Fireteam. Andrew was known for his excessive drunkenness throughout the company; however he was one of the most skilled killers in Echo Company, so Company leader First Lieutenant Travis Sink turned a blind eye to him.

"Now, now, you boys play nice with the Chief. He may be a freak in armor, but that man can get the job done. Why do you think we get attached to Spartan missions so much?" Vladimir questioned from his seat upon his footlocker.

"Because the Spartans are the only unit that's good enough to fight with us" replied Mark, looking straight at Vladimir.

"Why you are correct Corporal Wahlen. Two points!"

"Kick-ass!" Mark joked along. The men in the room laughed. It was nice to be able to relieve some pressure in their world, with constant war, and the thought of possible extinction lingering at the back of their minds.

The men soon finished cleaning their weapons and prepared the rest of their gear for their training mission. Private First Class Spencer Wilson [who was of no relation to Andrew] of Third Fireteam looked out the viewport of the barracks into the space beyond when he say a bright flash of light. He could see the speck of a ship in the distance, but it was so small that he could not determine its shape.

"Hey Sir… do you see what I see?" asked Spencer.

"I see it. Probably just another ship reporting for repairs and guard duty, there was supposed to be several ships coming in today from Tantalus IV" replied Max. Spencer looked back towards his gear when out of the corner of his eye he saw more flashes of light.

"What the hell… that's more then several ships. A lot more!"

"I hope that isn't what I think it is" coldly remarked John.

"Don't count against it Private" replied Vladimir. "I'm going to go to the C.O. to check it out." Vladimir walked ten steps towards the hatch when the PA system came on.

"This is Lord Hood. We have detected a fleet of Covenant on an inbound vector to Earth. We all knew that this day would eventually come, but we will fight the Covenant to the last man. This ends here!"

"You all heard the Admiral; it's time to show these Covies why you don't mess with Helljumpers. Oo-rah?" ordered Vladimir.

"Sir, yes Sir!" replied the men, now scrambling into high gear. The men donned their Mark V Orbital Drop Shock Armor, which was similar in design to the famous MJOLNIR Spartan armor; and grabbed their reassembled weapons. They went out the door into the hallway and proceeded to the left for fifty meters, stopping at a stairwell overlooking a corridor that bent to the right fifteen meters down.

"Third stay here. This is our fallback position. First and Second, you're on me. We shall not go back one step!" They ran all through the halls of the Cairo, looking for any targets that could appear, all the while Vladimir thinking: 'I hope to God we're right about this. If not, it's the end for us…'

Chapter I: Saving the Cairo
Date: 3 January 2007, 4:12 am

Chapter I: Saving the Cairo

0715 Hours, October 20, 2552 (Military Calendar)
Sol System, Earth Defense Platform, Cairo

First and Second teams had reached a room full of eight-foot high data displays, with a large viewport to the left showing the chaos that had now ensued on the three hundred Earth Defense Platforms in orbit. The ODST's could not help but see the Covenant boarding craft approach with it's tri-pronged front, shattering the duraplast glass of adjacent viewports in the hanger bay that was adjacent to their current position. In front of the Helljumpers was a large door, one of two ways to get into the room.

"Second team, find cover against those displays, First team lay a supporting base of fire from those crates in the back" ordered Sergeant Vladimir. Behind them were several crates in varying sizes, which allowed a team of four to climb up onto a first level, and have cover with a second level.

"Sir, why are we stopping here?" asked PFC Andrew Wilson of Second team.

"This spot is a bottleneck. Anyone who wants to access the barracks and Auxiliary Fire Control will have to go through us" responded Corporal Bryce of Second team. A bright light suddenly appeared in the line between the halves of the front door.

"Steady men! They're cutting through, ready grenades on my mark!" ordered Vladimir. Second team grabbed their M9 HE-DP Fragmentation grenades and pressed the red button on the grenade's gray top, however, not depressing it. After twenty seconds, the bright line finished its path to the bottom of the door. The door fell inward.

"Mark!" Five grenades flew towards the door that now exposed several Elites and a multitude of Grunts. Five explosions ensued, throwing gore and screaming Covenant in all directions.

"Second team, fire at will!" Vladimir leaned out from his cover and brought his Battle Rifle up to his shoulder, looking for targets. His sights settled in on a now unfazed Elite, the stunning effect of the grenades now worn off. Vladimir squeezed the trigger, sending a three-shot burst into the Elite's helmet. Brain matter escaped from the back of its skull. The grenades had shorted the Elite's shields.

Bryce leaned out and unloaded his Assault Rifle on an Elite. Its shields shimmered and reflected his rounds; the Elite had escaped the initial grenade barrage. The Elite raised its Plasma Rifle to fire, when its shields failed under the assault of the AR. Several holes appeared on its chest as it collapsed, dead.

Andrew leaned out and targeted several grunts with his BR, issuing several kills in seconds. Seconds after the initial exchange, Covenant reinforcements came in and pinned down Second team behind their cover.

"First team, open fire!" Corporal Mark rose along with his three teammates out of cover and fired on the Covenant. Sounds of sniper and BR fire rang throughout the room, pinning down the Covenant.

"Second team, move up!" Vladimir, along with Second team, moved up and through the door, turning left, facing an Elite and several Grunts. The Helljumpers fired from the hip, being too close to look through their sights. The Covenant never had a chance to fire back, mere seconds later they fell. The Helljumpers were in a small hallway, turning left for five meters then right two, which opened up into the hangar bay; where the boarding craft was anchored.

"First and Third teams, pull up to our position. We're going to need a bit more firepower to take the bay" Vladimir ordered. He went up against the side of the hall and sneaked a look at the open bay. A second boarding craft had attached itself to the adjacent window, providing reinforcements for the ever-growing number of Covenant on the station. In the center of the room was a raised platform which that ran back to the right side of the Bay.

On top of it were two Plasma cannons manned by green-armored Grunts. Both turrets were pointed toward his door. However, at the bottom of the platform were a small pile of fusion cores, which could provide a large enough explosion to cover the squad's entry. Within the bay itself, Vladimir counted five Elites, ten Jackals with shields mounted on their forearms, and twenty plus Grunts. He also saw several large crates which would were big enough to hold all four persons of a team, and they ran front, and to the right, under the platform, with a flanking view of the Covenant now guarding the second craft in the back.

"Alright men listen up" Vladimir whispered. "We've got two cannons covering this entrance, but there are fusion cores underneath them, so a grenade with those should give us enough cover to move in. We use the cargo crates as cover. Number of enemy looks like five Elites, ten Jackals, and twenty plus Grunts. First team, I need to give us covering fire from the front. Second team, take out those cannons on top of the platform. Third team, we're going to move right and flank the Covies. Any questions?" There were none.

"Alright, get ready to move on my signal." All thirteen members of the squad moved themselves onto the wall and into the hallway outside the bay. Vladimir took one of his fragmentation grenades and pressed the red button, arming it. With his back to the wall, he threw the grenade behind himself, pass the entrance. It landed at the base of the pile of fusion cores. The ensuing explosion rocked his bones.

"Go, go, go!" he shouted. The ODST's moved in with the force of the shock troopers that they were. Mark's first team slammed into the first crate, leaned out, crouched, and unleashed a wall of lead on the surprised Covenant. Bryce's second team moved right several steps, killing a few grunts that were stunned by their speed. That reached the third crate, which offered them a close view and angled shot of the cannons. With Bryce's team covering him, Bryce threw a grenade that landed perfectly in-between the Grunts. A second explosion tossed the Grunts over the short rail of the platform and several meters to their bone-crunching deaths. Vladimir along with Max's third team moved right, running, they went around, behind the cover of the crates, under the platform and slammed on the right side of a crate, offering them a perfect view of the now-exposed Covenant flank. Chaos ensued, with lead flowing forth into the group of huddled Covenant, with sparse plasma fire returning.

"Second team, move forward!" Bryce ordered, moving his team forward and stopping just under the platform. "Grenades out!" Seconds later, three grenades flew towards the last remaining Covenant. Purple-blooded gore flew every which way afterwards. All in all, the entire battle had taken no more then thirty seconds. The ODST's were not called shock troops for nothing.

"Men! School circle!" called Vladimir. The men assembled in a circle in the middle of the bay. "Good job, that's the way we do things" he remarked with a grin on his face. He then switched his com unit from TEAMCOM to COMPCOM, and the men switched their com's as well so they could listen.

"Lieutenant Sink, this is Sergeant Kharkenov. We've cleared the Covenant from the barracks section and aft Hanger bay four; requesting sitrep and orders."

Company commander Lieutenant Travis Sink replied "Well Headquarters section is up here in the CIC with Lord Hood. We have our light machine gun section guarding certain key points near the CIC, along with third platoon in fifty meter perimeter, covering all entrance points. Second platoon is doing clean-up of key sections of the Cairo with the battalion of Marines from the 332nd in support doing general. Hold on Sergeant." The transmission cut off.

"Sir, look outside!" PFC Mueller shouted. Vladimir looked out the viewport and his jaw dropped at the sight before him. Out in the distance, the Cairo's sister platform, the Multa, and her other sister platform, the Athens, exploded, sending debris everywhere into space.

"Jesus Christ… how many did we-?" PFC Andrew asked.

"The other two ODST companies in our 2nd Battalion, the other two Battalions of the 332nd Marine Regiment, and the crews of the stations themselves; which amounts up to nearly fifteen hundred souls" Vladimir interrupted. The COM came back on.

"We just got word that the explosions were caused by Covenant-planted bombs, and there is sure to be one here on the Cairo. I'm ordering first platoon to reach Maintenance control near the bottom of the station. I've got all three squads along with Second Lieutenant Strayer approaching it from several directions. Once you reach control, you are to lock key sections of this platform along with caging Covenant-controlled sections as well for the Marines to deal with. One last thing… we're sending the Master Chief after the bomb. He's the closest one to it. I need you to lock sections of the platform so that he has a straight path to the bomb with as minimal resistance as possible. We don't know how much time we have left, and it is imperative that the Chief reaches that bomb. Understood?"

"Yes sir" Vladimir replied.

"Good luck Helljumper, Lieutenant Sink out."

"Alright men, you heard the LT, let's haul ass to Maintenance so we can save the Cairo." The men replied "Oo-rah!" and sped off. That found a hatch that went below the hangar bay and the squad descended into the maintenance passages below. A NAV point appeared on Vladimir's Heads-up Display on his helmet's visor. Their objective was 350 meters fore and to port. The passages that they were in were small, with a height of two-point-five meters and wide enough to allow two men to walk abreast of each other.

"Tactical column men, Bennett, you and third take point; First, take the rear, I'll be with Second" Vladimir ordered. They proceeded down the narrow passage at a brisk pace, albeit carefully, using their Infrared Vision to see in the darkened space. After seventy five meters, Max crouched and raised his left fist, signaling the squad to stop. Vladimir crawled up to the front.

"What's the problem?" Vladimir whispered.

"Twenty meters ahead and to the left sir, a dead technician" Max responded. Sure enough, a bit ways ahead to the left was half-charred remains of a technician, in his hands was a M90 Shotgun. There were also scorch marks on the surrounding wall. There was still smoke rising from the body.

"He's real fresh. That means the culprit isn't that far away… There should be a four-way intersection ahead. I know that to the right is the Armory, and I'm thinking we should load up on some more ammo. Wouldn't you agree Corporal?" Vladimir asked.

"I agree sir." The squad moved ahead once more, this time being a bit more cautious. After another seventy-five meters, they reached the intersection. They checked left, forward, and right. Infrared did not show any hostiles. They then proceeded right, and walked carefully once more. About fifty meters in, there was a loud creak behind them.

Mark turned around, facing the darkness. "Halt! Identify yourself!" he ordered.

A voice replied "Third Squad, First Platoon, E Company; and you are?"

"First Squad, E Company. Jesus, Sergeant Massey, is that you sir?" Third Squad walked into the range of vision of Mark's IR.

"Surprised to find you here Corporal Wahlen; where's Kharkenov?" Sergeant Massey asked. Vladimir appeared beside Mark.

"Glad to see you Kharkenov, hell of a pickle we're in eh?" Massey laughed. Vladimir chuckled along, but then noticed that there were only nine men before him instead of the usual thirteen.

"Yea, no kiddin', what happened to the rest of your men?"

"We got ambushed by a group of Elites a while back, lost all of second team" Massey replied in an almost somber tone.

"Sorry to hear that, listen, let's go stockpile some ammo and get to that control center, k?"

"Already ahead of ya there Kharkenov" Massey laughed again. The re-united squads shared a short chuckle as well. Max was still laughing as he turned around and came face-to-face with a big Elite, who looked as surprised as Max was to see the enemy. The Elite opened the four parts of its jaw and unleashed a battle roar, as he grabbed Max by the neck and slammed him against the wall.

PFC Spencer Wilson grabbed his combat knife and rushed at the Elite holding his team leader. He tried to tackle the Elite and stab it, but the knife and he slid off of its shields; however, the Elite did lose its balance and stumbled. Pissed off, the Elite let go of Max and grabbed hold of Spencer's helmet, and squeezed, slowing crushing the helmet with its strength. By this time, Bryce had run up to their spot and kicked the lower leg joint, which was normally bent backwards. The Elite let up on Spencer's helmet, distracted, and whipped around to knock Bryce down, annoyed that this mere human would distract it from its prize.

Max, having recovered from being choked, kicked the Elite in its back, slamming it against the wall, letting go of Spencer altogether. Bryce, now a bit pissed himself, leapt up with an uppercut, which slid against the shields of the Elite's chest, but ended up connecting under its jaw, making it stagger a step back. The PFC's of the squad took the opportunity and leapt on the Elite, and while they kept on slipping their hands on the shield, they managed to pin it down.

Max kicked the Elite hard in the head. Bryce punched the Elite with a hard right hook. Mark stepped up to the plate, brought his boot up and slammed it hard on its face, breaking two of its jaws. The shields short-circuited from so much abuse. Vladimir then took his combat knife and slammed it into its chest.

He turned back to face Third Squad, which was staring in what Vladimir believed was surprise at them. "And that Helljumpers, is how you take down an Elite in close-range." They all laughed and proceeded forward once more, everybody giving the dead Elite a good kick as they passed by. They made it to the base of the Armory without encountering any more Covenant. Vladimir stopped at a hatch overhead and below the Armory and raised his fist. The squad stopped. He then opened the hatch an inch and peered through; he saw a red-armored Elite and two blue-armored Elites.

Vladimir turned back to the squads and held up three fingers so that the front of them formed a triangle, and then held up three fingers; signaling that there were three Elites above.

Massey contacted Vladimir on his COM. "Can Third Squad take this?" Vladimir nodded, and First squad sat back while Third squad crawled up right under the hatch. Massey counted a few breaths and then slammed the hatch open, letting his squad leap through the opening quick and easy. Vladimir heard the tall-tale sound of BR and AR fire, but he also heard Plasma fire as well. He soon heard screams as well, and shouts for 'medic!' First squad ran up and through the hatch to help, only to discover that the three Elites were dead, but parts of Third squad lay on the floor writhing in agony.

"Shit, I got one dead, and three critically wounded" Massey reported, almost disgusted with himself.

"Take them back to an aid station, First Squad can take it from here" Vladimir said.

"Might as well, since we're half operational anyways. Alright Third Squad, take a man and haul it back to the aid station! Ramirez, you and me take point! Henderson, you have the rear!" Third squad picked up their wounded and proceeded to move out of the Armory through a front door. Massey stopped and looked at Vladimir.

"Give 'em hell Kharkenov." Vladimir nodded. "I will Massey, now haul ass before some more Covies get in here!" Third squad left the Armory.

"Alright men, we don't know what we might face in those passages, so take whatever you can carry, we don't know when the next time re-supply could come if we get deployed, so this is it" Vladimir said. The men grabbed extra grenades, both fragmentation and smoke, along with clips for their weapons. After they were locked and loaded, they proceeded back down the hatch and back-tracked all the way to the intersection, then turned right from their current path onto the original forward path. After 150 meters, they reached another intersection, this time turning left towards the port side of the platform.

Max soon came across a group of ten grunts which had stopped, as the pack leader had sniffed something, something that was wrong. Max slowly brought up his SMG and looked through his sights. The grunts turned around, surprised.

"Ahhh, Human!" they shouted in their high-pitched voices. Third team took them all down with little effort with their SMG's and AR's. They proceeded forward once more, reaching the primary maintenance control center without any opposition. In the ten by ten meter room, there were several chairs, a row of security monitors along with a rather large computer console.

"Do your magic Bennett" Vladimir ordered. Max muttered a 'yes-sir' and went to work. He searched through the monitors to check which sections had Covenant, sealing them off, along with key sections of the Defense Platform. He also saw the swath of destruction that the Master Chief was causing. Max then switched one of the monitors to show the schematics of the station, plotting a course to where the bomb was in Fire Control mentally, and sealed off all side doors of the Chief's path.

"There, that should do it" Max said. "Good job Corporal" responded Vladimir. Max nodded his thanks and checked several other monitors, seeing what he could find. Vladimir reported to Lieutenant Sink.

"Sir, this is Sergeant Kharkenov, we've reached Maintenance Control and finished sealing off sectors and creating a path for the Chief" Vladimir said.

"Good job Kharkenov… You've done the ODST's a great service" Sink replied, almost hesitantly. Vladimir knew something was wrong. "Sir, what's wrong?" he asked.

"The situation has deteriorated more then we thought Helljumper. We were able to destroy one fourth of their fleet, but so far we've lost a third of the MAC Defense Platforms and many of our ships are now nothing more then molten slag" he replied somberly. "We also found out that their flagship has passed through our defenses and is now hovering over New Mombassa in the East African Protectorate." Vladimir took this in with a sigh. It seemed that Humanity was fighting a losing battle for their very survival this time. He then came up with an idea.

"Sir, are we over New Mombassa right now?" Vladimir asked.

"We will be over them in five minutes Kharkenov, why do you ask?" came the reply.

"Sir, First Squad of First Platoon requesting permission to do a combat drop over New Mombassa." Vladimir stated in the no-nonsense clipped military fashion. A short pause occurred.

"Granted, I'll send First and Second platoons down with an additional squad from Third. I'll attach them to Second. You'll be able to be of more help down there then help here."

"What about the remaining Covenant Sir?" Vladimir asked.

"We still have a Battalion of Marines up here, so we'll be alright. Move it Helljumper, there's not that much time left!"

"Thank you Sir, over and out!" Kharkenov said with a grin on his face. "Alright men, let's haul ass to the drop pods, we're jumping feet first!" The men shouted 'Oo-rah!' back with grins of their own. They ran back through the long passage and into the Hangar bay, and then proceeded back past their barracks, where the drop pods were located for First Platoon. Each pod was individually set for each ODST, and drop co-ordinates had already been programmed in from CIC. Vladimir checked that each man was secure and ready to drop in his squad, and then strapped himself into his own HEV. His COM came to life.

"We're coming up over New Mombassa right now men. I'll contact you once you're groundside. Good luck" Sink reported. The drop was being controlled by Sink in CIC. Everybody was ready and good to go. In the CIC, First Lieutenant Sink watched his console as the station was perfectly aligned with New Mombassa.

"Dropping in 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Drop commenced."

Sergeant Kharkenov felt his stomach lurch as his pod dropped through the launch tunnel and out into Space. He just hoped that this was not the drop that burned the HEV and killed him. Once he reached ground however, he would face a whole new set of problems…

Chapter II: Battle of New Mombassa
Date: 3 January 2007, 4:14 am

Chapter II: Battle of New Mombassa

0930 Hours, October 20, 2552 (Military Calendar)
Sol System, Earth's Upper Atmosphere, Kharkenov's HEV

Sergeant Kharkenov felt his bones rattle as his Human Entry Vehicle dropped into the Upper Atmosphere of Earth. He noticed through the small square viewport that the tall-tale flames of re-entry were burning the HEV. He could hear the outermost layer peel off as the heat took its course on the HEV. He then felt the heat inside the HEV. He hoped to whatever deity existed that this would not be his final drop.

Ten percent of all ODST casualties were caused by the failure of the HEV during an orbital drop. It was why most people viewed the ODST's as insane, they would have to be to be willing to risk their lives in a small pod that either burned up entirely or malfunctioned in some other manner. Then again, it's what made the ODST's so appealing in the first place to Vladimir: they got to do crazy things that no other human being would even dare doing, and it was because of these crazy things that the Helljumpers knew that they were the best.

Vladimir felt the temperature rising still; he also felt the drop slow a little. The pod's internal temperature could rise to 37 degrees Celsius (98 degrees Fahrenheit), and the drop speed was slowed down by the friction with the atmosphere of Earth itself. He could still hear the layers of ceramic peel off from the heat. After what felt like an hour, but was actually several minutes, the drag chute at the back of the HEV deployed, slowing the pod considerably. That along with retro-thrusters on the bottom of pod caused it to decelerate enough so that the impact wouldn't be as life-threatening.

Vladimir checked the altimeter located in upper right corner of the pod. There was only 1000 feet left, and by now, only the final layer was left of the pod. Vladimir prayed that it would hold when the final impact came. Several seconds he got his wish when the HEV impacted Earth at thirty feet per second. The impact as always jarred his very soul with a heavy thud. The explosive bolts exploded the hermetically sealed door to the pod. Vladimir get out, his bones still rattling from the impact.

"Well that was fun" he said with a grin. He looked around and saw the other pods in his squad land, and seconds later their doors popped, revealing their cargo. They were near some crates and behind them was a downed Scarab, a Covenant weapons/mining platform; it leaked Plasma Coolant. The rest of first platoon landed in other sectors of his area, out of sight. His COM blipped.

"This is Lieutenant Strayer. Listen up First Platoon. It looks like we've landed at several key points that would allow the Covies to flank our Marines protecting the bridge. That bridge, gentlemen, is our only way of transporting armor to Mombassa proper, where the Covenant ship is." Vladimir tried to confirm the report, but the downed scarab was blocking his view.

"We need that armor to reach the city or else we lose the first battle of our world. It is imperative that we hold these points, any questions?" There were none. "Good luck then Helljumpers, Strayer out." The Helljumpers turned a hard left and went down an alley. He saw crates around him, and the tops of several surrounding buildings blown off. They moved forward, down a short ramp, and came at the rear of a medical tent. Vladimir saw a medic tending to four Marines.

"Seems like you've taken some casualties Marine" Vladimir stated. The medic turned around and faced Vladimir. There was a grim, somber look on the Medic's face.

"You would think that we'd be able to cure burns by now, considering how long we've been fighting this damn war; but no, all I can do is give them biofoam and painkillers" the Medic replied. His eyes told Vladimir he'd seen hell and there was defeat in his mind.

"What's your name Marine?" Vladimir asked.

"Corporal Alda sir, 524th Marines; judging from your outfit sir, I'd say you're Helljumpers?" Alda was looking at the 105th ODST Division patch on Vladimir's right shoulder. It was a red shield, with a skull as a flaming comet, mouth opened and eyes ablaze in a hellish manner, with 'O.D.S.T' in black letters and 'Drop Jet Jumpers' in a smaller font below it.

"That'd be correct Corporal, who's in charge around here?" Vladimir inquired.

"I'm guessing Staff Sergeant O'Conner is sir. He's right up front" Alda responded, pointing outside the medical tent. Vladimir looked beyond him and sure enough there was O'Conner, staring to the front of his area, not moving. They moved away from the tent and Vladimir approached O'Conner. O'Conner did not seem to hear Vladimir. Vladimir tapped his shoulder. O'Conner spun towards him quickly, with a scared look on him.

"Jesus, you scared me…Sergeant, thought you were Covenant for a second." Vladimir took a hard look at O'Conner's face. He had the typical thousand-yard stare of one who was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Mark opened a private channel with Vladimir.

"Sir, that look is never good, I suggest we dump him somewhere, he's only going to get in our way" Mark said. Vladimir took the comment in stride.

"Staff Sergeant O'Conner, I'm Sergeant Kharkenov from the 105th. We're taking over this operation, mind telling me what's been happening here?" Vladimir questioned.

"My regiment, the 524th, was tasked with holding Old Mombassa, while the other two regiments in my division were defending New Mombassa and the Industrial Sector." Vladimir remembered the map of New Mombassa that he looked at during the drop down. In the north where they were at currently was Old Mombassa, the original town; southeast over Mombassa Bridge, was New Mombassa, where the Space Elevator was; to his east was the Industrial sector and the docks, where civilians were currently being evacuated. O'Conner continued.

"All was going well for a while; we had several engagements with infantry, but nothing we couldn't handle. Then the Scarabs came. They wiped out our armor and defensive positions. So for the past hour we've been falling back to position after position, getting closer and closer to the bridge. Finally, about fifteen minutes ago, a wing of Longswords came in and was able to down the Scarab that's in our rear. We suspected that the Covenant in there were still alive but we haven't seen any activity."

"Yes we saw the Scarab" Vladimir interrupted. "Alright O'Conner, I want you to take whatever men you have left and your wounded and fall back towards the bridge. We'll cover you." This brought a small smile to O'Conner. Mark opened a channel.

"But sir, what about Strayer's orders?" Mark inquired.

"If what O'Conner says is right, then we have several Scarabs heading towards the bridge. The only way we'll be able to combat them is if we gather enough firepower for one fell strike" Vladimir responded. Mark nodded, he understood. Staying where they were was suicide and worthless, at least on the bridge they might be able to take an effective stand, and buy time for the Armor to get through.

"How do we get to the bridge?" Bryce asked. Vladimir pointed towards a large black door about twenty five meters in front of them.

"According to city plans, that's a highway entrance that loops around to the bridge." Vladimir turned away and pointed at the bridge, which was a klick away forward and to the right. Bryce nodded. There was a sudden squawk from their coms.

"Staff Sergeant, this is Corporal Dietz in the warehouse; the Covenant are cutting a hole in the wall!"

"Dietz, this is Sergeant Kharkenov from the 105th, O'Conner is taking the wounded back to the bridge; I advise that you go with him as well."

"Acknowledged sir, alright men, we're falling back to the bridge!" The signal stopped. The Helljumpers proceeded forward and around a corner where the warehouse was; he saw the Marines were exiting through a large double-flap door. Vladimir could see a quarter-circle red mark, where the Covenant were cutting through. There were large stacks of crates to his left and two to his right.

"Alright men, we don't have that much time, so let's get these crates into position." They kept the two crates on the right where they were, which offered a frontal view of the wall. They also moved what crates they could on the right into a mirror position but eight meters farther behind. The crates were heavy, being three feet long and wide and five tall, each weighing at 150 kilos. They were able to get two sets of crates behind the forward crates, which would offer a leapfrog retreat back to the highway entrance some twenty-five meters behind them. First team was on the rear crates, to their left and eight meters ahead was second team and Vladimir, and to their right and eight meters ahead was third team. A perfect circle was cut into the rear wall of the warehouse and it fell.

Mark looked through the Oracle Scope of his S2-AM Sniper, his sights set on the red-armored elite, which stepped through the hole first. The crosshair was on its head. He squeezed the trigger, sending a 14.5 mm AP round through the Elite's skull. The back of its head exploded from the force of the round. Carnage ensued.

Max unloaded his SMG in bursts at the series of Grunts which went through the hole next. Each burst proliferated each Grunt with three to five rounds. One Grunt exploded after the rounds hit its methane tank. The explosion threw the Covenant bodies away from the hole. An Elite dove through the explosion unfazed, it rose up and fired a burst of plasma from its Plasma Rifle. The plasma flew over the heads of second team. Bryce and Vladimir fired from their rifles and hit the Elite's shields, which caused a shimmering blur for a second, and then the rest of second team joined in the fire. The Elite collapsed under the intensity of the fire, pock-marked with rounds.

Plasma started to flow through the hole and Covenant came out, with covering fire protecting them. Two Elites ran to the remaining crates on the left, and blindfired over the top of them at the ODST's. The Helljumpers attempted to fire back, but there the Plasma overhead was too thick.

"Fallback! Leapfrog formation, and keep low!" Vladimir ordered. First team crouched farther and ran to their left towards a wall adjacent to a series of generators, behind that wall was the Highway entrance as well, which was open. Second team fell back towards first team's position, as third did to second. The ODST's recommenced their fire at the Covenant which was spreading out of the small hole in wall with the rage of a tidal wave.

"Wahlen! Are they gone?!" Vladimir asked over the roar of the battle. Mark stole a glance right towards the medical tent, it was empty.

"Roger that!" he replied. "Fall back to the highway!" Vladimir ordered. They fell back once more, covering each other with grenades and rifle-fire. PFC Spencer Wilson was running to the final wall near the entrance when a burst caught him in his left leg. Spencer fell down as the plasma ate through his suit.

"Ah shit, my leg!" he swore. Max ran to his downed team member with plasma fire all around him. He reached Spencer and grabbed his arms, dragging him back towards the wall. Vladimir looked on in awe as he dragged Spencer several meters without any plasma hitting him. He reached the wall miraculously, he pulling Spencer to his feet.

"Thanks sir, I thought I was a goner" Spencer said, up on his feet with a slight gimp.
"Next time, you haul ass faster Wilson, understand?" Max said with seriousness in his tone. Wilson nodded.

"Enough grab-ass Helljumpers, let's move to the bridge!" Vladimir said. Mark sneaked a peak around the corner of the wall. The Covenant were fast approaching their wall.

"Shit! They're on us!" Mark shouted. The Helljumpers hauled it down the ramp that was the highway entrance. Wilson was having trouble catching up with a gimp leg, so Max and PFC Joe Bartley, another third team member, carried Wilson on their shoulders; all the while having a mob of raging Covenant hot on their trail. Vladimir turned around and set his sights on several grunts, killing them all. Bryce fired on a trailing Elite, unloading his magazine while back-pedaling, the Elite succumbing to its wounds. Max and Joe blind-fired their SMG's while carrying a hopping Wilson.

The ODST's reached the bottom of the curving ramp, and proceed left, up an incline, which would lead them to the bridge. They ran, continuing to fire sporadically at the gaining Covenant hoard. They were halfway up when PFC John Mueller tripped, nearly falling. Vladimir and Mark grabbed him and helped him up without losing a step. They could feel the heat of plasma fire nearly hit them. Vladimir thought that they would not make it, feeling each plasma bolt come closer and closer, when he jumped through the entrance of the bridge, along with his men.

The ODST's crouched and turned, unleashing a wave of fire on the Covenant. Marines from the bridge ran up and joined them. The combined fire soon quelled the tide of Covenant, forcing them to retreat from whence they came. At soon at the least Elite ran out of Vladimir's view, he rose slowly, tired from the intensity of that battle. He looked up and saw two Warthogs approaching; both were the troop carrier design, with the same cab as a normal hog but with a flatbed in the back designed to carry twelve Marines. On the flatbed where two seating benches; several bars that curved from one side to the other, designed to hold a rain tarp, and on the rearmost bar was a M247 GP Heavy Machine Gun - .30 Cal. It was the same one stationed in the rear of Pelican troop bays.

Platoon leader 2nd Lieutenant David Strayer was in the driver seat of the first one, with second squad in the second one.

"Hop in first squad" said Strayer, looking at Vladimir and his men. Vladimir rode shotgun while his men were in the back. They drove across the bridge into New Mombassa.

"Sir, what about our orders to defend the bridge?" Vladimir inquired, looking in the side mirror as the Marines stationed at the bridge disappeared over the hump of the bridge.

"Sink set us new orders. Since we don't have the firepower to take out the Scarabs, protecting the civilian evacuation has been deemed priority." Strayer said, reaching the tool booth of the bridge and driving through.

"But sir, what about the Marines on the bridge?" Vladimir asked, feeling some slight guilt because he already knew the answer.

"Only two of the nine rifle companies are left in the 524th. They've been deemed expendable to give us enough time to protect the civilians." Vladimir thought about this; 260 plus men that were being sent to their deaths. Strayer spoke next as if he had read Vladimir's mind.

"There's nothing we can do for them now, except to proceed with our mission." Vladimir knew he was right, if Marines had to die so that a bit of humanity could be saved, it was worth it.

"So what is our mission sir?" Vladimir asked.

"Second Platoon was able to capture the Liwitoni MagLev Train Station near the Authority Route. It's the fastest way to reach the last civilians, who are at the docks in Section 14" Strayer said as their Warthog turned right onto the Authority Route. The next several minutes were quiet as Vladimir thought of the fate that they had condemned on the Marines. It was horrible, but necessary as their lives would doubtlessly save hundreds of civilians from the hands of the Covenant.

Vladimir was still pondering when he noticed some movement in his peripheral vision. He looked at the side mirror and saw two Banshees five hundred meters behind them and at least fifty meters high in the air. One was on their Warthog and the other on second squad's. He chinned his COM.

"Men, we got—"

"Already on it, sir!" PFC Andrew replied. He got up from his benched and manned the M247. He gripped the bolt and pulled it back, loading a .30 caliber round into the chamber from the ammo drum on it's right. He set the approaching Banshee in the circular sight and thumbed the triggers. He did not notice the slight recoil as .30 caliber rounds erupted from the barrel firing at five hundred rounds a minute. The opening stream of rounds missed the Banshee on the right, as the Banshee barrel-rolled to the left. Andrew cursed and adjusted his aim, cutting a swath horizontally towards the Banshee. It flew up in a loop-de-loop and as it reached the apex of its loop, it barrel-rolled to the right.

"Goddamnit! Whichever split-lip is piloting that banshee is trying to be a smart little bastard" Andrew grinned as he continually tried to adjust his aim while the Banshee would roll away, and fire a few shots of plasma to no avail.

Vladimir sneaked a peak out of his side of the cab and looked at the Banshee hounding second squad. He saw green energy collecting across the two plasma emitters on the front of pilot's capsule, as watched as a Fuel Rod bolt of radioactive plasma launched itself at second squad's 'hog. The bolt impacted several meters behind the 'hog, but the concussion of the blast was enough to lift the back end of the 'hog half a meter into the air. It landed with a loud thud and the Warthog continued on its way. He guessed nothing had happened to them, because a steady stream of fire was still coming out of them.

Andrew was starting to worry about his ammo supply. The M247 only carried a thousand caseless rounds, enough for two minutes of sustained fire. He started to fire in bursts. He was getting pissed at the evasive tactics of this Banshee. He then got an idea. He fired to its right, and he saw the right thruster brighten, and barrel-roll to the left.

"Why the hell didn't I think of that before?" he said as he fired to its left, and watch the left thruster brighten. He then swiveled the M247 to the left quickly and fired a ten-round burst in the spot where he hoped it would land. Sure enough, the Banshee barrel-rolled as he fired and landed in a spot to meet ten .30 caliber rounds in its face. Andrew saw the rounds impact the front of the Banshee and watched as the banshee fell to the ground, exploding as it hit. Andrew looked away for a second and saw its remains tumbling on the Route, trailing far behind them. He turned to the left and aimed the machine gun at the Banshee still trailing the other Warthog. He fired a sustained burst and smiled as the rounds hit the Banshee on its left flank. It wobbled for a second, allowing the other 'hog's gunner to fire across the front of the Banshee. It too, exploded and fell to the ground in pieces. A short cheer went up in both Warthogs, satisfied by their success.

The Warthog's turned right onto an exit and went down a short ramp and through an entrance door into the Liwitoni area. In front of them was a small garage which connected to the only road in the small area. They went onto the road, went past a decommissioned truck, and stopped at a spot with the tracks and second platoon to the right. The ODST's got off the 'hogs and greeted second platoon.

"Damn glad to see you Strayer" Second Lieutenant Arthur Pearce laughed as he shook hands with the first platoon leader.

"So am I Pearce, why don't we get this show on the road?" Strayer replied, as the doors to the MagLev Train opened.

"Ladies first" Pearce said. Strayer shot him a harsh look and muttered under his breath as first platoon boarded, then second platoon. Pearce went up to the driver's cabin and set the stop to Section 14, pressing the autopilot button as he left the cabin. The train moved slowly at first, then gained speed as it moved along the Magnetic Rail towards its destination.
Vladimir sat alone and looked out the window as locales passed by him at fast rate. The slow bumps of the train ride made him relax as he stared outside, as recessed memories swelled to the surface.

0730 Hours, August 30, 2552 (Military Calendar)
Epsilon Eridani System, Reach, Orbital Defense Generator (ODG) B-214

Vladimir ran with his MA5B Assault Rifle in his arms, slamming his shoulder into the remains of a warthog, as plasma flew over his head. Behind him was his faithful squad, defiant to the Covenant onslaught. They attached themselves to other cover in the immediate area. The Covenant had come out of nowhere, ambushing the UNSC ships in orbit along with the Mark V Orbital Defense Stations. The ODST's had been training at a nearby Military Reservation while orders came by. All UNSC infantry were to protect the ODG's powering the Defense Stations at any cost. The Covenant had sent wave after wave of troops against them, and resources were wearing thin among the men.

"Push forward, men!" Vladimir ordered, as he leaned out of cover and fired at an Elite that ran across the pock-marked battlefield towards them. Bryce joined him as their combined fire brought the Elite down. They ran out of cover and crouched into a 'roadie run,' running as fast as they could to the forward bunkers in an attempt to push back the Covenant advance. Plasma whizzed by overhead as Bryce dove into the bunker, which was nothing more then a small trench with a M247, and a façade of Titanium-B armor in a half-square. Bryce came up and saw another Elite firing at some unseen target. He held down the trigger, sending rounds into the Elite's back. It fell forward under the force of the fire and fell down, dead.

Mark got out his M6B Magnum and fired at several Grunts in the trench, killing them all with expertly placed headshots. PFC John Mueller manned the M247, loaded the chamber and fired at a herd of Jackals advancing under shield cover. The machine gun mowed them all down. The other men manned positions on other side of the M247 and unleashed hell upon the Covenant. The steady streams of fire were affecting them, but it was only a pinprick in the approaching hoards. Vladimir's COM flowed with voices from every direction.

"Sir, where the hell is that air strike we requested?!"

"My men are dying here, we need reinforcements!"

"We got a breach in Alpha's sector!"

"We're being overrun! Fall back!"

The confusing din was playing hell with him and everyone else. It seemed that there was no chance that they would be able to hold back the Covenant from the ODG much longer. Vladimir closed his eyes, forcing the voices out. He took a deep breath and opened them, looking down the sights of his AR, and squeezed the trigger, sending bursts into Grunts and Elites. He stole a glance to his left, watched the bunker on the left take a direct hit from a Wraith's Plasma Mortar. He heard men screaming and watched the bunker melt. He saw one men struggle to stand, his face literally melting off onto his disintegrating hands. The world slowed to a snail's pace for Sergeant Kharkenov.

"Get out of here! Fall back!" he yelled, his words seemed slurred and slow, as if he was talking underwater. They moved out of the bunker and fell back, chaos ensuing all around them. He heard a deep rumbling and looked up, witnessing several Longswords flying overheard and past him. They all turned around as they watched the bombers drop their payloads onto the Covenant. Fireballs sprang up everywhere, but the effect only lasted several seconds. The Covenant continued forth, unfazed. Vladimir looked up again and saw Pelicans landing in the rear, evacuating.

They all ran as fast as they could towards the Pelicans, their troop bays deployed and bases of fire covering their approach. They could hear the plasma sizzle past them as they jumped over barbed wire and trenches, over bunkers and craters, until they reached the Pelicans. They all got onboard as the Troop Bay door closed. They flew out of there fast, rising towards the heavens.

Vladimir felt a steel ball drop in his stomach as Plasma impacted the ground where they just were, glassing the area. Turbulent winds rushed forth across the battle plains and the temperature rose, compacting the Atmosphere and disintegrating any building in its path.

"Oh my—sir, is that—?" Mark asked.

"Yes Mark… Reach is gone" Vladimir replied, melancholy. He shut off his COM. He was glad no one could see his face behind his visor. Tears ran down his face. The Covenant had taken everything from him: his family, his love, and now his home for the past couple of years. It was here that he was indoctrinated into the ODST's. H would make damn sure that every single Covenant would pay for their crimes, even if he had to do it himself. His hatred of the Covenant became a true part of him, as much as his hair and eye color. He looked at his other squad-mates in the troop bay, no doubt feeling the same thing he was. Well, he had lost nearly everything; at least he still had this family.

And nothing would stop them from their victory.

"Sir? Get up sir, we're here" Mark said, shaking Vladimir awake. Vladimir sighed at the memory, but remembered what he had to do. He got up and exited the train. They were at the Section 14 station, under the road leading to the docks. They ascended a flight of stairs and opened a door into a tunnel. They got onto the walkway and marched the short distance to the docks.

Amassed in front of him were several hundred civilians, climbing down ladders into the boats that would lead them to their safety. The civilians stretched all the way under the bridge which mantled the statue. It was some sort of circle with rectangles jutting out of it. One could fly through the hole in the center with a Banshee if they wanted too. To his right was a somewhat complete building. To his right and forward was a half-finished building. They're seemed to be many half-finished buildings around here; there was even a bridge with a section missing, which led to the only other entrance into the area. Strayer and Pearce assembled the platoons.

"Alright men, here we are, at the end of the road. It is here that we make our last stand in the city. Our duty is to get the last of the civilians out of here. We are to cover their exit. The good news is that we have the tools necessary" Pearce said. There were three warthogs with M41 Light Anti-Aircraft Guns attached. Each could hold 3-5 men depending on the crowding.

"Bad news is that we have a large force of Covenant on the way. Intel confirms a Wraith tank along with several Spectre's, and Ghosts. All in all, we can count on ten vehicles with fifty-plus infantry. We don't have much time, so let's get to work men" Strayer said. Orders were issued and the ODST's prepared for the assault. The three 'hogs were placed in key positions. One overlooked the entrance to the area from the other side of the main bridge. Another was able to get into the hallway on the right of the entrance, which linked it to the building where they found the 'hogs, which was the first building right next to the docks. The last was placed on the bridge with the statue, it overlooked most of the area and could send cover fire to cover any exit, however there was no cover in the area. One hit from a Wraith and that would be it for the 'hog; the remnant of second squad, second platoon, got to man the 'hogs.

The plan was to force the Covenant to move to its left, down the pathway into the half-finished building in the center of the area. There it would meet ODST's, booby-trapped spaces, and fire from around the sector. From there they could deal with the rest of the vehicles. Vladimir's squad was on the third floor of the building adjacent the target, overlooking the surrounding walkway of the target building. Mark smiled.

"This ought to be as easy as shooting fish in a barrel" he laughed.

"Don't count on it Mark, you never know what Covie has up his sleeve" Bryce replied, amused. Mark shot him a look, then focused his sight through his Oracle scope on the entrance, they were about to come any minute now…

Right on cue, the entrance door melted in a flash and the Wraith tank went through the new hole.

"Damnit, they got smart!" Max said. Usual Covenant Battle Doctrine had the infantry go first, and the vehicles behind them; and not vice versa. The Warthogs paused for a second, confused, but opened up on the Wraith anyways. The .50 caliber rounds made dents in the Wraith's armor, but they were too small to incur any damage. The Wraith turned towards the 'hog on the bridge, as if annoyed by the Warthog, and fired its Plasma Mortar. The large ball of Plasma traveled in its arc as the Warthog was turned into reverse.

Time seemed to slow as everybody watched on helplessly as the plasma ball impacted the ground in front of the Warthog. The splash of heat caused the front of the 'hog to melt, and the engine morphed into slag. The ODST's inside were far enough away only to get slight burns, although black marks appeared on their armor. They ran away from the Warthog, falling back to secondary positions next to the bridge.

The Wraith then turned to its left, looking straight at the other Warthog. The Warthog stopped firing as the men inside scrambled to get out. The Wraith fired again, disintegrating Warthog and all things inside. The infantry started to come through next to the Wraith and walked out almost cautiously at first, then sped up. They spread out over the area.

"Sir, we have targets from our position, requesting permission to fire" Vladimir asked Strayer, Seeing Covenant walking onto the walkway of the target building.

"Open fire in three…two…one…Fire!" Strayer ordered. The ODST's opened up, unleashing an ambush onto the suspicious Covenant. The Covenant on the walkway were pinned down by Vladimir's squad up in their nest while they were flanked from behind by first platoon's second squad. Second squad met with fire on their rear flank by Covenant waiting in a room which opened up onto the walkway; this room was also on the entrance's right side. Second squad hunkered down, pinned in the exact same spot that the Covenant they killed were in mere seconds ago.

"Give them cover fire men!" Vladimir ordered, rising out of his cover to fire upon the Covenant in the room by the Covenant entrance. He squeezed his trigger, pinning an Elite and saw in his peripheral vision as Second Squad fell back on the walkway and ran towards Vladimir's position, then turned right, and lay against a wall overlooking the Covenant's position. The squad leader nodded at Vladimir, he returned it and looked forward. The Wraith was looking right at him. It fired.

"Move out!" Vladimir shouted, turning around to face his men and hauling some of the crouched ones up to their feet. He turned around to see the Plasma Mortar impact his position. The building ate up most of the blast, but the concussive forces knocked him back several meters. He slammed into the ground hard, but was miraculously unharmed. Mark helped him to his feet.

"Sir, are you alright?" Mark asked.

"Yea, this is starting to get a bit old though" Vladimir responded, both laughing. They descended the stairs to the second floor, turned right and then left into a hallway that was adjacent to the target building. This afforded them a flanking view of the walkway between the target building and the Covenant position. Second squad stopped firing on the position to reload, and the Covenant took the lull in the fighting to charge Second Squad's position.

Vladimir's squad opened up on them. A few of the Covenant were knocked so hard by the surprising fire that they fall off the walkway, falling ten meters to the dirt floor below. The Covenant turned towards him and returned plasma fire. Vladimir and his squad ducked behind cover, as Second Squad fired on the now re-flanked Covenant. The Covenant attempted to fall back but was annihilated by both sources of gunfire.

The Wraith turned towards second Squad's position. A look went across Vladimir's face, but then changed as the Wraith exploded.

"What the hell?" said Max, perplexed by what could have occurred; both platoons did not have any M19 SSM Rocket Launchers. A voice came in over the COM.

"Turns out one of the civilians had an antique rocket, what are the odds of that?"

"See if you can scrounge some more up Jim, for the other vehicles" replied another voice. The other vehicles popped into view from the entrance, unleashing plasma in all directions. The remaining Warthog fired back, unleashing a torrential stream of .50 caliber fire onto the entrance, downing several of the single-piloted Ghosts quickly. The Spectre's fired back, the Plasma Cannon on top unleashing hundreds of plasma rounds per minute. The Warthog drove off its perch, driving down two short flights of steps onto the road that lead to the main bridge.

Vladimir's Squad watched the Warthog stop and rev its tires, then let go, driving fast up the ramp that lead to the space where the bridge would be. It flew, and unleashed round after round at the surprised Covenant Vehicles. A Ghost on the left of the 'hog fired up at the 'hog in its midair flight; the fire impacting the rear axle of Warthog. The back end of the Warthog exploded, sending it end over end into several Ghosts and a Spectre. The garbled mass collided and exploded in a bright flash of plasma. Nothing would have survived that blast. That left one Ghost on the dirt floor in the middle of the area, and another Spectre beside it.

The ODST's moved forward into the target building and descended several flights of stairs onto the ground floor, only to come face to face with the Ghost, and its Elite pilot having its smug grin slapped onto its face. A sharp crack ensued in the staircase, and the Elite's now headless body dropped to the floor, the Ghost sitting down onto the ground. The barrel of Mark's Sniper Rifle smoked.

"And that, my friends, is called payback" he remarked with a smile.

"Remind me not to get on your bad side" John said, as the ODST's exited the target building, with the Spectre's back on them. Mark fired on the exposed gunner, killing it. The Spectre turned around, now gunner-less, as the ODST's opened up their guns on it. The side passengers died quickly, the driver taking a little bit longer. As the driver died, Vladimir turned his COM onto the Company channel so that everybody in the vicinity would hear him.

"All hostiles destroyed." You could hear the cheer from the ODST's in the area as they celebrated their hard-fought victory. Strayer and Pearce assembled the men quickly.

"Good job men, we won without any civilian casualties. Although we have lost a few of our own…Let this day not be forgotten amongst the men who fought here, and amongst those who have died" Pearce said, as the men muttered a quiet 'Oo-rah' in honor of their fallen brethren. "Pelicans have been called. We're leaving New Mombassa. We'll be re-deployed shortly so don't hold your breath. Dismissed" Pearce remarked.

They did not have to wait long for the Pelicans to arrive, and each squad boarded their own. As they flew away from New Mombassa, Vladimir stood up to address the men.

"While the day may not be over yet, I just wanted to say that I am damn proud of each and every one of you. You've outdone yourselves time and again, and I am proud that to have the privilege to serve beside such men of courage, duty, and honor…Yes, we have lost New Mombassa to the Covenant, but rest assured we will be back, two days, two weeks, or two months from now. We will come back." Vladimir sat back down, receiving a pat on the back from Bryce.

"Good speech sir, I think I vouch for the men when I say that we're glad to have you with us."

"Thanks McDermid. I really appreciate it—"

"Holy shit, what the hell is that?" PFC Joe Bartley interrupted. Everyone looked outside. They all watched hopelessly as the Covenant ship hovering over the city punched a hole into the atmosphere. The Covenant Assault Carrier was making a trip into Slipspace inside the atmosphere. The Nitrogen in Earth's Atmosphere collided with the nothingness of Slipspace and created a chain reaction as the Covenant ship and a human frigate passed into Slipspace.

A humming occurred that grew louder and louder as a ball of chaotic energy ate up New Mombassa. It expanded and kept on growing, and growing.

It approached the Pelicans….

Chapter III:
Date: 25 May 2007, 3:51 am

Chapter III: "Hell on Earth"

1245 Hours, October 20, 2552 (Military Calendar)
Sol System, New Mombassa, Earth

The wave of relentless energy continued its seemingly slow push towards the Pelicans, when it was actually gaining on them every passing second. Crew Chief Mitch Kiplern saw the blinding white wave coming towards them at an alarming rate.

"Jack, go faster, it's gaining on us!" he said, a tremble in his voice. The pilot named Jack had a look of frustration on his face at his outburst.

"Shut the hell up, Mitch! I'm going as fast as I can!" Jack shouted, sweat pouring off his forehead. "C'mon baby, don't fail me now…" he said, pushing the throttle to the max. He looked to his side, and saw the wave nearly on his tail, enveloping everything in its path. He clenched his teeth as he prayed to whatever deity existed that it would get him out of this. He took a second look and saw that it was going to get him. He closed his eyes, waiting for the wave to destroy him, and when nothing happened, he opened his eyes. He looked outside. The wave was gone.

"Thank God, Buddha, and Christ for that!" said Mitch, patting Jack on the back with a smile on his face.

"Yea, this baby hasn't failed me yet" Jack said with a grin and a hearty laugh. A burst of static occurred on the intercom in the pilot's cabin.

"Thought we were goners there, thanks flyboys." It was Kharkenov in the Troop bay.

"Us too Sergeant" replied Mitch. Vladimir shut off the intercom and stood there standing, thinking. He looked behind him and saw the ramp release lever. He walked over to it and pulled it down, letting the door open; he did not know why he did it. The ramp steadily deployed and everyone in the bay gasped at what they saw.

What was once Mombassa was now nothing more then a smoking crater. There was nothing left, just an empty desert plain with pieces of the Space Elevator still falling down into the surrounding countryside.

"Oh my god…" muttered John Mueller. The door separating the pilot's cabin from the troop bay slid open. Mitch stepped out.

"Thought we detected the—Jesus Christ!" he said as he slammed his hand onto his forehead, surveying the destruction before him. Kharkenov stared blankly into the air for several moments then closed the ramp. He turned around, facing Mitch.

"How many did we lose?" said Vladimir coldly. Mitch thought about it for a second.

"Well Mombassa was a city of five million and knowing Standard Evacuation Procedure, and the number of homeless and those who wouldn't be able to catch the boats… 150,000" he said, the number slowly registering in his mind. "Damnit" he said, his head looking down at the floor. Vladimir nodded in understanding.

"You just get us where we're supposed to go Crew Chief, we'll handle everything else" said Vladimir. Mitch nodded and closed the door. First squad's com's crackled on. It was Strayer.

"Got new orders men, listen up. Another Covenant Assault Carrier has just penetrated our defenses and is heading towards Kenya. We've got reports that they're already releasing drop pods and Phantoms towards the place where the refugees are headed: Zanzibar Island. Our regiment has been given the task of defending the civilians until we can be relieved. Zanzibar houses forty-nine large power generators that provide power to the Island. These are critical because we have established batteries of SAM's that will prevent the Covies from getting to the civilians. We only have enough men to have one squad secure each of the generators while the rest of the regiment defends the refugee camps. I'm uploading deployment orders to each squad separately. I wish you the best of luck Helljumpers, Strayer out."

Vladimir guessed that since the rest of the Battalion was gone along with casualties from the other parts of the Regiment, they would only have eight hundred plus men to defend the large island. Orders appeared on his HUD along with specs on Zanzibar. The island was large indeed, over sixteen hundred square kilometers. There would enough space for the refugees along with the power stations. However it was a ridiculously large area for eight hundred to cover. Deployment orders then appeared. First squad was going to Wind Power Station Seven, also known as 'Camp Froman.' He looked at several aerial shots of the area as well. It was walled off on three sides and was on the beach. Behind the short stretch of beach was a large rock wall, and it looked like steps had been carved into it. Behind that was the large propeller which turned the turbine in order to supply energy, on its right was a tower that would serve as a nice lookout position, to its left was a maintenance shack of sorts, and two ramps leading to the top of it. There was a bridge that connected the lookout tower to the open second floor of the propeller. Behind the propeller was the station itself, housing the turbines and the controls for them. It would be a fairly large area for them to cover.

The Pelican arrived at their destination shortly. The ODST's were dropped off in a small field to the right of the station, near the main gate. Vladimir knew that there was not that much time left before enemy forces dropped in.

"Wahlen, I want First team forward in that tower, and along the propeller. You're going to be our eyes and ears. Second and Third teams, set up shop in the station. Second will have top floor, Third will get the bottom. Be sure to secure all entrances, from the looks of it, we have at eight possible entry points. Clear?" ordered Vladimir. The squad nodded, and they split apart.

Mark split his men as best as he could. He sent John to the second story of the tower, allowing him a vantage lookout position of the seawall and most of the beach. He sent his other two men to wait behind the bottom of propeller and the shack, covering each other and also allowing themselves a good view of a hole in the right part of the seawall and the seawall itself. Finally, Mark camped on the second floor of the propeller with Vladimir. There were some walls, offering cover, and behind them was a two-meter jump to the second floor of the station, should they need to fall back quickly. "Ready" said Mark.

Inside the station, the other teams were setting up their own defensive positions. Third team had one man each covering the left and right forward entrances, which another covering the at the moment closed gate from the cover of one of the central pillars in the station. Max set himself in a niche right next to the bottom of the stairwell, which also allowed him to cover all three entrances as well. Second team set themselves accordingly as well, with one man covering the left and right second floor side entrances, and another man covering the open forward entrance. Bryce placed himself within a small doorway to the right of forward entrance, also allowing him to view the other entrance points on the second floor. "Ready" said Bryce and Max. Vladimir acknowledged, and waited patiently for the Covenant to arrive.

He did not have to wait long, as he soon saw the small outline of a Covenant ship descending through the atmosphere, and as it went past them, out of range of the SAM's, he increased the magnification of his HUD. He could see small details of the ship now but saw a fleet of dots leaving the ship. He was soon able to discern that they were drop pods, as he had already guessed previously. He frowned inside his helmet. Drop pods were harder to hit with the SAM's, since they left a smaller heat signature.

"Looks like we got Covenant on the way, they're using drop pods, so expect a lot more of them" said Vladimir. He got 'roger's from his squad mates. He continued to track the pods from his position and noticed that they were splitting apart in groups of twenty-five. By the looks of the number of groups, Vladimir estimated about twelve to fifteen hundred drop pods were being descending towards Zanzibar. At first it seemed to Vladimir that the Covenant were over-investing their resources to attack this large island, but then as the Covenant Assault Carrier, which was over five kilometers long and nearly a kilometer wide allowing for twenty-thousand plus Covenant to occupy its thousands of compartments, passed overhead, he realized that there was much more to this piece of dirt then he originally thought. The mere thought however, of such masses of Covenant almost made Vladimir shiver. He refocused his attention to the pods and saw that other groups were already hitting their destinations on other parts of the island.

"Incoming!" shouted John as group of drop pods landed on the beach. Their hatches exploded outward. John felt a lump in his throat when he saw their contents: twenty-five heavily armed black-armored Elites.

"Sir, we got a problem. We got spec-ops Elites here" said John. Vladimir mentally swore at the mention of spec-ops. These Elites were highly experienced and were a grand deal more intelligent then their blue-and-red-armored cousins. The squad had defeated such Elites before, but not without measurable difficulty. Vladimir was not naïve and knew that this next battle would be a hard one indeed.

"Alright men, we got twenty-five experienced Elites that do not mess around, so do not underestimate their capabilities. We have been in this situation before however, outnumbered and outgunned, but we're ODST's damnit, so we are not going down without a fight." Vladimir received 'Hoo-rah's with that remark. "The key to victory will be surprise, so do not fire until my mark." He got acknowledgements from the squad.

"Looks like they're on the seawall and also going through the hole in the 'wall as well" reported John. He leaned his head slightly out of the tower, looking at the Elites below. They were covering each other's advances and ran quietly from cover to cover. The sight concerned John somewhat. He then looked below at the passageway next to the tower as the Elites proceeded cautiously below him. Luckily, none of the Elites had thought to go up to the second floor. John quietly shouldered his BR and waited for the signal. Vladimir did not give it however, waiting patiently for the Elites to get as close to the station as possible.

An Elite's roar was heard and Mark and Vladimir turned to their left, towards the shack as an spec-ops Elite found the other half of first team.

"Shit! They've been made! First team, fall back to the station!" ordered Vladimir quickly. Mark attempted to cover first team's retreat with his Sniper. He fired once, instantly killing an Elite with an expertly placed headshot. But the damage was already done, and the Elites moved forward with stride and fired on Mark and Vladimir's position. Another Elite was killed as a small group pursued the two members of first fireteam, but the wall of plasma fire hit the ODST's mid-stride, and they collapsed. The two fired back as valiantly as they could, but soon died as rounds of plasma burned through the Helljumpers armor and their skin, liquefying their internal organs.

"No!" Mark shouted angrily, almost leaping off the second floor of the propeller when Vladimir grabbed his armor and threw him down.

"There's nothing we can do! Haul ass back to station!" ordered Vladimir. Mark rose bitterly, angry at his squad leader, but knew that he was right. He ran and leapt the distance between the propeller and the station and landed on the balcony of the station. He ran inside.

Plasma rounds whipped past Vladimir's face for the thousandth time as he covered John's retreat. The Elites were focused on Vladimir, as John leapt out of his perch, landed on the back of an Elite, knocking it out, rolled, got up, and ran without missing a beat. John fired a few stray shots as he made it back to the station without any injuries.

By now the Elite's combined fire had effectively pinned Vladimir down. He swore as he fired several shots to no effect. He could not get up and run to get the necessary speed to jump the gap. The fire intensified as several Elites found their way up to the second level of the tower and were proceeding towards Vladimir.

"Goddamnit!" he shouted, firing to no effect. Mark, inside the station, looked at his Sergeant and felt anger.

"I got to save him before he's killed!" He was in the motion of getting up when Bryce pulled him down.

"Are you insane? You'll be fried before you know it!" said Bryce, holding Mark down.

"Goddamnit Bryce! If we don't do anything he's done for!" replied Mark, angrily ripping Bryce's hand off of his shoulder.

"I'm sorry Mark, but we need to finish the mission!" said Bryce simply.

"Listen to Bryce Corporal, leave me and finish the mission." Vladimir said calmly. Mark swore under his breath and acknowledged.

Downstairs, PFC Spencer Wilson listened to the exchange above and gritted his teeth. No way in hell was Sarge going to go down like this. Not if he could help it. Suddenly, he felt a new warmth boil inside his chest, a sense of duty. He left his position and ran up the stairs, ignoring the screaming pain in his leg. He rounded the first flight and flew up the second, running between Mark and Bryce. Both ODST's stared in amazement as the fearless Helljumper ran and jumped the gap, plasma fire ensuing all around him.

Time slowed as Spencer grabbed Vladimir and hauled him up onto his feet, grabbing his armor, and using his body as a shield as he literally threw Vladimir over the gap with one hand; the other holding down the trigger on his SMG. Vladimir hit the ground hard and ran inside turning back, reaching for his squad mate.

"Nooo!" Vladimir shouted, as Bryce and Mark pulled him down, they all watched Spencer as he just stood there, firing as the Spec-Ops Elites below. But it was of no use, as his armor was sprayed with round upon round of Plasma. His body danced as Spencer succumbed to the acidic heat, knowing he was dying, but content with his final actions. Behind his helmet, he smiled, and collapsed as blackness consumed him.

"Son of a bitch!" said Vladimir desperately. Three men were dead because of this SNAFU. His thoughts were interrupted by someone shouting 'they're coming!' along with a Plasma grenade a second later. He could not hear his words but they sounded to him like 'get ready!' as he moved towards the entranceway.

The grenade exploded, sending a wave of heat washing over the ODST assigned to protect that door. A second explosion confirmed a multi-directional attack. The concussion from the explosion threw Vladimir back; he got back up just in time to see Elites move through the door, firing on his men.

Angry beyond all reason, Vladimir leapt to his feet, running towards the Elite, and using the butt of his rifle, he smashed its shield. The Elite momentarily stunned that a Human could do such a thing roared as it brought its Plasma Rifle down onto Vladimir. Vladimir dodged to the left and came back up, hitting the Elite again in the head. He heard a short whine as its shield failed, and Vladimir brought his rifle to bear. The Elite turned its head, facing the muzzle of the rifle, as it erupted with a burst. The bullets caught the Elite's hole for a mouth and exited out the back of its head, showering its companions with purple-blooded chunks of matter.

A second Elite roared and was about to fire on Vladimir, when its head exploded as well, a contrail of smoke falling back to Mark's Sniper Rifle. Vladimir fell back as more Elites popped in through the entrance. Bryce threw a grenade into the entrance, which exploded a short time later to the dismay of several Elites. The blast did not kill them however, but it was all Bryce needed, as his rifle erupted and several shield-less Elites fell.

Plasma rounds erupted over the trio's heads however; as they turned to see that the two Elites from the tower had reached their destination at Vladimir's old position. They were firing from behind cover, and then advancing slowly. The ODST's exchanged several rounds but watched as two Plasma Grenades flew in an arc towards them. The ODST's jumped out of the way as the grenades exploded. Mark got back to see that the Elites were jumping the gap towards them.

Mark raised his rifle and fired prematurely, but watched with glee as a rather large hole appeared in the midsection of one Elite, killing it instantly. Its comrade turned shortly, seeing his dead brethren and charged Mark. His finger was about to pull the trigger when the Elite dove into Mark, slamming him against a wall. The force of the impact was so great that the Rifle left Mark's hands. The Elite raised one clawed hand, preparing to strike when Bryce grabbed its shielded arm. The Elite, annoyed and pissed, shook his arm and threw Bryce off of it, slamming him into a wall of his own. Vladimir fired on the Elite, but to no avail as the Elite got up from its prize and grabbed Vladimir's head, throwing him off into another wall. The Elite turned around and faced a now-standing Mark, Sniper Rifle in hand. The Elite looked at the rifle and roared. Its battle-lust was cut short as the 14.5 mm round that fired ripped through its shield and through its midsection. The round itself pulled what the remained of the Elite into a wall, splattering itself with a chorus of cracks as bones broke from the impact.

"No dirty ass Covie lays its hands on me." Mark said. Vladimir and Bryce got up, both with what amounted to large headaches and witnessed the chaos in the station around them. John and PFC Andrew Wilson were locked in a status of close-quarters combat with the Elites that had entered via the second-floor ramp next to the Gate of the station. Andrew and Bryce were the remaining members of second team after the other two were killed in the first explosions. Downstairs, Third team with its remaining three members were pinned down within multiple fields of fire. Max was struggling to hold his position, but flanking Covenant from the second floor compromised all possible escapes. He leaned out of his cover to fire several bursts at an Elite behind a pillar. The Elite leaned out of its cover to return fire in kind.

"Damnit, we need reinforcements!" Max said, fire ensuing from multiple directions. The rest of his team was behind pillars, dealing with the Elites on the ramps leading to the ground floor as Max had to deal with two Elites taking cover behind pillars of their own.

"Mark, Bryce, help John and Andrew deal with those Elites coming up through those outside ramps. If we contain stop the flow of reinforcements, Third team is doomed. I'll provide support for Third. Now move!" ordered Vladimir as he moved back around the corridor towards the entrance leading to the tower, and then turning a sharp left down a short corridor, leading to an opposite ramp going down onto the ground floor. From behind cover he threw a grenade over towards the opposite pillars where two Elites were firing at the retreating but pinned Third team. The grenade landed right behind the Elites and bounced, detonating a meter off the ground. Howls were heard in the station as shrapnel buried itself into their legs. One Elite dropped from the perforations and wounds while another merely collapsed, crippled.

Vladimir leaned out again from behind his cover and fired twice, killing both Elites. He looked through the scope of his Battle Rifle to found several Elites with Carbines and Plasma Rifles advancing down the ramp opposite to his position. The Elites were firing at Max, slowly chipping away his cover.

"Aw, to hell with this!" he shouted, as he spun around to the opposite column, directly below Vladimir's position. He poked his SMG around the corner and blindfired at the Elites. Vladimir leaned out once more, and fired at the Elites, catching them in a crossfire. Two Elites fell instantly, while a third Elite, armed with a Carbine, fired back at Vladimir, forcing him to take cover. The Elite then jumped and took cover at Max's pillar, landing opposite his position. It then leaned out from its cover and rolled beyond Max's position, jumping up not two inches from Max's face. It roared, attempting to scare Max. Max, unwilling to let a mere Elite face him down, yelled back with a battle cry and shoved his SMG into its mouth beyond the four jaws, and depressed the trigger. Its grey matter splattered the wall several meters behind it.

Meanwhile, at John's position over the front gate, the four ODST's there were exchanging fire with the last Elites, which were using nearby rocks as cover. Bryce leaned out of cover and fired at a large rock sheltering an Elite. The rounds of his Battle Rifle missed the Elite as it once more ducked behind its cover. Bryce ducked behind his cover as the Elite fired potshots at him with its Carbine. The telltale green rods flew past his position and hit the wall behind him.

"This won't last forever, one of us will eventually run out of ammo" Bryce remarked, growing increasing annoyed at his present position. To his left, John felt a spark in his mind.

"I got an idea. Just cover me" said John. Before the rest of the ODST's could reply, John ran to the ramp next to the gate, and ran down it, carrying his BR in his arms.

"Aw hell, cover fire!" said Mark, as he unloaded his sniper at the rocks, along with Bryce and Andrew, as they pinned the Elites down; John sprinted across the fifteen meters of open ground, hitting one of the rocks that an Elite was covering behind with his shoulder. He ignored the pain as his chucked his few remaining grenades over the rocks. The Elites on the other side grunted in surprise and dove out of the rocks as the grenades exploded, missing them all. John smiled. They fell for it. Now exposed in the open, John, Mark, Bryce, and Andrew fired upon the Elites, killing them before they had a chance to return fire.

"Is it clear?" asked Mark. John looked around the rocks for a sign of any more enemies. There were none. He acknowledged. Mark opened his com. "Sir, this is Wahlen, we're clear."

"We're clear too" replied Max and Bryce. Vladimir acknowledged. His com beeped, indicating a call on another channel. He switched it from TEAMCOM to COMPCOM once more.

"Sergeant, it's Sink. Listen, we're pulling you and your men out ASAP. We got breaches in the refugee camps." Vladimir mentally swore. This was bad news. "Furthermore, and this is classified son, ONI has requested ODST's to help secure its installation on the island." Vladimir pondered this. Whatever was at the base must have been pretty damn important to send entire legions of Elite Spec Ops onto the island. "Your mission Sergeant, is to protect the labs of the base from being breached at all costs. We're sending evac off to you as we speak."

"Sir, I got men here who are in critical need of medical attention" Vladimir replied, thinking about the casualties his men suffered.

"We're sending medevac as well but this mission takes priority son, the contents of those labs are absolutely vital to the war effort and we you to protect them from Covenant hands. Are we clear?" said Sink, not bothering to expand upon what these mysterious contents were.

After a moments hesitation, Vladimir replied: "Yes Sir." The com clicked off, ending the conversation. He keyed it once more back to TEAMCOM. "Status report" Vladimir simply said.

"First and Second Teams down to two each" replied Mark. "Third Team down to three" said Max. Vladimir acknowledged with a chin control and breathed slowly, taking it all in. In the past six hours he had lost five members of his squad. It was the first time his unit has suffered such tremendous casualties at such a fast rate. This war may have been hell on everyone, but this day was the Reckoning to Vladimir.

"Son of a bitch" he said. All of the remaining ODST's had assembled on the beach, waiting patiently and carrying the bodies of those ODST's who were still whole as the Pelicans arrived. A somber atmosphere had fallen upon them all. Everyone was in their own space, reflecting upon the past battle. Vladimir could feel the tension, the pressure, and its effect upon his men. He had to do something, to give them hope once more, that all was not lost.

"Listen men," Vladimir began, all of his men now looking at him, their leader. "Today's been one hell of a day, no doubt about that. I know we're all tired, and that we want to just go home and leave the fighting to some other young punks. But we soldier on, for we're not just Marines, we're the ODST's, and no matter what, we will not stop until every single one of our brothers and sisters have been avenged for." They all continued to look at him behind visored helmets but Vladimir knew a grin was upon all of their lips. "All I ask of you men, is one more battle, one more fight, one more round with these Covenant bastards." They all nodded with Vladimir.

"Amen to that" said Bryce.

"I still not up to my quota on kills" remarked Max.

"We're with you to the end sir" replied Mark. They all nodded with Vladimir once more, and one by one, with nothing left to be said, the remaining ODST's got onto the Pelican while their dead brethren were put into the Medevac. The Pelican lifted up into the air and flew across the island at an altitude of twenty meters.

"We are we headed Chief?" asked Vladimir to the Chief who was in the open doorway to the cockpit.

"Refugee Camp Alpha; it's up on a plateau about twenty kilometers from here, and several kilometers inland. It's bad over there Sergeant. Some of the power generators fell, which allowed a big enough hole in the SAM defense grid to allow Phantoms to drop in regular Covenant along with those damn Spec Ops Elites." Vladimir just nodded in reply and went back to his wandering thoughts. There must be something really damn important in those labs to commit nearly an entire Carrier's worth of troops to it. Then again, there were nearly two million refugees from Mombassa on Zanzibar.

Several minutes later, the sounds of battle could be heard in the cabin. The familiar cracks of Battle Rifles, along with the static fuzz of Plasma Rifles could be determined; that along with a plethora of explosions of all sorts.

"We're coming into a hot LZ Sergeant, so be ready for anything" remarked the Crew Chief.

"Alright then, Wilson, you're on the MG!" Vladimir ordered, as PFC Andrew Wilson leapt up from his seat and got on the M247 in rear of the cabin. In addition to this crew gun, the Pelican also sported a chin-mounted 70 mm MG as well. This would provide the ODST's with enough cover fire to get them deployed. As they passed over the boundaries of the camp, the distinctive blue bolts of plasma fire could be seen, along with the orange flash of muzzles. A few stray Covenant fired upon the lone Pelican as it flew towards the center of the camp. Screams of all natures were abundant in the chaotic air. A bolt flew into the cabin, narrowly missing Andrew's helmet.

"Son of a bitch!" he exclaimed as he cocked the bolt, and released the action of the M247. He pointed the gun down and let loose a torrential amount of hot lead upon the massacre below. The .30 caliber rounds descended, flying straight and true, into the hearts of the Covenant, as Elites, Grunts, and Jackals alike were slaughtered mercilessly with the might of Humanity's fury.

A Grunt's methane tank exploded as the M247 rounds hit it, causing the methane within to combust. A Jackal shrieked with its avian call as blue flames enveloped its fragile frame. It fell to the continuous wave of heat, devouring its life.

The Pelican lowered as the chin-mounted gun chimed into the destruction. With the immediate landing area cleared, the ODST's got out of the cabin, and landed in a crouched position, weapons at the ready. There was no immediate cover except for stray craters. There were some tin shacks along with other prefab structures, but most were just rubble or slag due to the incursion of the Covenant. Vladimir looked right, where a nav point on his HUD pointed, and thirty meters away was a large lone duracrete structure, still standing despite the chaotic surroundings.

"Move out!" ordered Vladimir, as the ODST's hoofed it towards the structure. About ten meters out, green plasma flew at the Helljumpers. "Get down!" said Vladimir, as he located the source of fire. A lone Plasma turret was set up some fifty meters from their position, pinning them down. "Wahlen!" Vladimir said.

"Already on it sir! Give me covering fire!" Mark ordered as ran towards a meter-high wall. He got to the wall and rolled over it, using it as cover from the Plasma turret. The Helljumpers proceeded to fire back upon the turret, refocusing its fire upon them. That one second was all Mark needed, as he leaned over the wall, his eye looking through his scope, the reticule upon a Grunts head. He fired. The armor-piercing round took the Grunt's head clean off, along with nearly half its body as well. "Clear!" Mark said.

The ODST's got to the building, only to find a molten door. Inside, there were the remnants of a lobby, with a tattered receptionist's desk, a few overturned chairs, and another door leading to a long hallway in the back.

"They're inside" said John, stating what everyone already knew.

"Tactical formation Alpha men" ordered Vladimir, as the ODST's went inside slowly, grouped in two diamonds of four. There was blood everybody, along with several bodies.

"Jesus…They didn't stand a chance" said Max, surveying the carnage around him. There were no other doors in the lobby except for the one in the back. The Helljumpers proceeded to the broken sliding doors, cracked and pockmarked with the tall tale burns of plasma. They passed through the doorway; the hallway was long, with several doors on either side. The lights were damaged and some were flickering, creating a strobe-like effect. Vladimir could not help but have a bad feeling about this place, something that went beyond the usual clandestineness of the Office of Naval Intelligence. He guessed his men were feeling similar, as some of them had a twitch periodically, most likely from the creepy atmosphere.

They proceeded down the hallway, covering some twenty meters when they got to a T-shaped fork. The NAV point went to the left on Vladimir's HUD. He motioned his men to follow him. They took a right at another intersection soon after, coming to an open elevator shaft. Vladimir looked down, and the elevator was still down there at the bottom, thirty meters down.

"I'm guessing the Covies took the elevator down to the lower levels, if we recall it, they must be waiting to ambush us down there. So we're going to have to rope down" explained Vladimir, taking a few steps back, then running and jumping. He grabbed the rope in the middle of the shaft, and roped down towards the top of the car. He waited as men did the same. When all eight were assembled on the car, Vladimir opened the top hatch and dropped down, rolling upon landing to his right, and in a crouched position.

The door was still closed, so Vladimir had Bryce and Andrew opened it with their hands. Grabbing the edges, they pulled the doors to the sides, revealing another half-lit hallway, beyond it came the sounds of battle. The ODST's ran out, taking a left at a fork and another right soon after, coming upon the backs of Covenant forces firing at a hatch. The ODST's unleashed fire upon the Elites and Grunts instantly, catching their enemies in surprise. The battle was shortly over, the Covenant not even having a chance to fire back.

The Helljumpers stood in front of the hatch, rifles at the ready. Vladimir tried to turn the wheel on the hatch. It would not budge. He got an idea. He gathered a few of the fallen Plasma grenades off of the dead Covenant, placing them at several key points around the hatch.

"Get back" warned Vladimir, as his men did as they were told. Vladimir took his BR, aimed at a grenade and fired. The bullets caused a chain reaction, exploding the grenades. The combined effect of the grenades ate through the hatch, eating its hinges as well. The thick hatch fell with a large thud. There was a loud bang, and a round passed by Vladimir's head.

"Cease fire! Cease Fire! Friendlies comin' through!" Vladimir shouted, as he and his men went through the hatch. They were at the labs. There were tables everywhere, and work stations were on every wall. In the center of the room lay a small holographic projector, where various alien signs cycled through the air. There were several men in lab coats around the room. There was one man however, in a military uniform with the oak leaves of Major upon his collar, behind an overturned table, holding a smoking M6B Magnum.

"It's about time you showed up, we were wondering when reinforcements would arrive" said the Major.
"Sir, we're from the 105th. We're here to evac you and whatever sensitive cargo you might have" said Vladimir, nodding towards the holographic projector.

"Evacuate? But we still need to finish uploading the data!" cried out one of the scientists.

"We need to move now. The Covenant had thoroughly incurred upon the camp above, and it's only a matter of time before they control it completely" insisted Vladimir.

"He's right Rykov, we need to leave this base with the package" said the Major to the scientist, who had gathered the projector and clutched it tightly to his chest. The scientist named Rykov had a look of defeat upon his face, but nodded all the same. They all proceeded out, back through the hallways and into the elevator. Luckily the power in the elevator still worked and they proceeded back the way they came, through the hallways, and into the lobby without incident. They were halfway through the lobby when Vladimir stopped the Major.

"Wait" Vladimir said, stopping the Major with his hand. "Five of my men died today to rescue you and that object, the least you can do is explain just what that is" he said, pointing to the projector in Rykov's hand.

"I don't have time for this. Move out of the way Sergeant" demanded the Major, but Vladimir did not budge.

"Bullshit, I am not moving until you tell me what my men died for" insisted Vladimir. The Major was surprised, along with everyone else, at this clear insubordination.

"It's not within your security clearance, so step aside Sergeant" ordered the Major. Vladimir did not budge.

"I will not until I know" stated Vladimir simply, unwavering in his tone. The Major took a deep breath and let it out, a scowl upon his face.

"Fine. Some months ago we did a routine scanning on the planet surface, when we noticed some strange magnetic anomalies several kilometers in a mountain several kilometers outside of Mombassa. We decided to investigate, setting up a dig under the guise of an archeological project. After digging into the mountain for three months, we found a large cavern, along with several strange structures in there. Within one, we find this" he said, looking at the projector. We haven't been able to decode the symbols because we found that they were not Covenant, rather they were something that predated the Covenant. It was not until the Master Chief returned from Halo that we were able to decrypt the symbols." He said. The Spartan's campaign on Halo was public knowledge throughout the militaries of the UNSC. The Major took a breath and started once more.

"These symbols were Forerunner, and we found that the symbols were actually a map. A map leading to a structure known simply as the 'Ark.' This structure not only had a library of Forerunner knowledge, but also had the ability to set off the Halos, thereby killing all life in the galaxy. We finished decrypting it five days ago, and since had crews trying to find the Ark ever since. Then the Covenant showed up six hours ago." He said.

"There are more Halos?" inquired Vladimir. He had only heard about the one where the Master Chief was on.

"Yes there are, seven to be exact. Now if you'll excuse me, I would like to leave this place before containment protocol is enacted."

"What do you mean?" asked Vladimir.

"There's still sensitive databanks in the labs that were not purged. If the Covenant gets their hands on it, it would spell disaster for us. So I rigged the core to explode with the force of a large nuclear bomb" said the Major, annoying by this soldier in his way.

"If the core detonates, this camp and the surrounding area will go with it. Hell, the fallout will spread to the rest of the island" said Vladimir.

"And?" retorted the Major.

"Millions of innocents are going to die! Don't you give a damn about human life?!" argued Vladimir.

"If millions must die so that our secrets are not discovered, so that the Covenant can't find the location of the Ark, then so be it" the Major said, with cold eyes piercing Vladimir's soul. Vladimir stood silent, as the Major went to the side and proceeded towards the door outside.

"Sir-"started Mark.

"No" whispered Vladimir.

"Sir-" began Bryce.

"No!" shouted Vladimir, as he pulled his M6B Magnum was his thigh holster and pointed it at the retreating Major's head. "I will not let you slaughter these people." The Major turned back to face the Sergeant, furious at him now.

"Are you out of your mind, Marine? Put that firearm down!" ordered the Major.

"I swore an oath to defend the lives of all human beings, civilian or otherwise. My duty cannot allow you to commit this heinous act" said Vladimir, still pointing the weapon at the Major's head.

"What are you going to do Sergeant, fire? Even if you do, there's no time to go down to the core and disarm it. The destruction of this base and this camp is inevitable, so you might as well stop your little mutiny." The Major turned and walked away, out the front door. Vladimir's pistol wavered in his hand. He dropped the Major's head from his sights.

"Damnit" Vladimir said.

"He's right sir, there's nothing we can do" stated Bryce calmly.

"I know, but such loss is unacceptable in my eyes, and dishonorable in the eyes of the Corps…I am condemning these people to their deaths" said Vladimir, melancholy at this sudden turn of events. The men simply exited the base, where a Pelican was waiting for them, their mission complete. Their work for this battle over; as the men were boarding, Vladimir took one last look around the Refugee camp, shaking his head at what was to come. He got up onto the Pelican and sat down, the ramp closed and they proceeded off to some unknown destination.

As they flew over the ocean towards land once more, Vladimir looked out the viewport, hearing a loud boom, and witnessing an orange mushroom cloud appearing on the horizon…

To Be Continued…