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Mombasa by SeverianofUrth

A Summer at Mombasa
Date: 11 January 2005, 3:04 PM

      A Summer at Mombasa: Part One

      Sabastini ran for cover, battle rifle grasped tightly to his chest, breathing irregularly. Plasma fire pulsed into the ground behind, smashing into walls and shattering the pavement. The back of his neck felt burned and lacerated from the fragments of concrete that flew up with each shot.
      He dived into the nearest open building- he didn't see what it might be- and looked back, gasping. The grunts had focused their fire now on the others; Ochoa, Johnson, and Richards. He watched as Ochoa's head shattered into pieces, blood leaking to the ground as the headless corpse fell limply. Snipers, he thought.
      "Here!" Sabastini screamed, as he aimed with the battle rifle. There was a sniper up there, he knew, and it was dumb to stick his neck out like this, but Johnson and Richards were out there still-
      Another shot. An instant, his eyes catching just a flickering purple beam, and Johnson was down, his shoulder bleeding. Sabastini saw from the corner of his sight Richards turning back and dragging Johnson to safety. Every instant now feeling like eternity, he turned his rifle over to the Jackal, now visibly aiming towards him-

      He squeezed the trigger.
      A burst of three rounds, and the jackal, perched atop a balcony of the nearby apartment, fell off and dropped through the air. The body landed by the grunts, who screamed. The plasma turrets were silent for a second.
      Richards finally dragged Johnson into the building (Sabastini noticed now that it was an abandoned Starbucks). Johnson, a short, stocky man, groaned.
      "Are we the last?" Richards asked, as he pulled out a medpack. He applied it to Johnson's wound, the white package seeping medicine to his shoulder.
      "Probably," Sabastini replied. "Our whole damn platoon got wasted trying to take out a Scarab, while you and Johnson were out picnicking."
      "Fuck off." Richards grinned. "Besides, we had the most fun."
      Sabastini smiled. He could hear the grunts now, chattering away. Probably debating whether they should charge us, he thought. "I bet you did."
      Richards knew this was just banter. A last laugh before death. A lame one at that, but this was the best they could do under the circumstances. "Yeah, I mean-"
      A gunshot rang inside the store. It didn't echo. The acoustics were just terrible. Johnson grinned, a pistol in hand.
      "Tried to sneak up on us," he said, pointing over to the corpse of a grunt nearby.

      New Mombasa. The only place on Earth where the Covenant had landed. There was fighting elsewhere in the world, but New Mombasa was the place where the Covenant had landed, and New Mombasa was the place where most of the Afrikaaner army was gathered, fighting to retake the city. 'Retake' was an exaggeration, however; the army's main priority had become, over the month, from 'retake' to 'survival.'
      As small as it was, the Covenant still decimated the human forces. Men died by thousands. Small skirmishes in the alleyways occurred every second of the day, and the jackal snipers dominated those battles, ripping whole squads apart in a space of seconds. Scarabs lorded over skyscrapers and apartments, a giant stepping on little men and tanks. Fleets of phantoms ferried armies while the banshees tore apart the helicopters and the VTOL's.
      Sabastini's platoon was gone, buried under an avalanche of plasma. He survived because he was a coward; not the sort who runs away, but those who calculatingly places others in more dangerous situations, those who appear brave but are inside shivering and lying and pleading- miserable, just vermin, really. They were cowards, all of them, with nothing on their minds but survival. And yet, remember this: cowards win battles, too.

      "A warthog there." Johnson said, matter-of-factly. "It doesn't seem to be broken."
      Sabastini raised the battle rifle to his eyes, and looked at where Johnson was pointing. He saw the warthog, miraculously standing upright, seemingly untouched. Corpses lay arrayed nearby, victims, he presumed, of sniper fire.
      "You know, I think it's a trap."
      "You figured it out?" Johnson looked sour. "If we could grab a warthog, we might be able to speed out of here- but that whole place is probably covered with snipers."
      They were hiding behind some rubble. The warthog stood in a mysteriously empty courtyard, about a kilometer away- and surrounding it were many apartment buildings, all with balconies.
      "We'll be cut to pieces, if we go in there."
      "No shit." Johnson gingerly touched his shoulder wound. "Any ideas?"
      "We get out of here." Richards said. "Forget the warthog."
      "How?" Sabastini asked. "It's about fifty kilometers to the nearest safe-zone. And that may have been pushed back, too- our only sure chance is to get out of the city altogether."
      "And we need a vehicle for that." Johnson peeked from behind the rubble once again at the warthog. "That's the ride we need; all we need to do is to get it."
      "But how?" Richards looked pissed. "One shot and we're down. We need three to use the goddamn 'hog. And there's probably a whole pile of snipers just waiting there, waiting to rip our faces open!"
      "Calm down," Johnson said. "We're not gonna charge in, if that's what you're afraid of. We're gonna have a plan."
      Sabastini couldn't resist. It was lame, but who cared, in this city? "What plan! We have no plan!"

      There is a 'quarantine zone,' around New Mombasa. It's not under attack from the Covenant forces, who are concentrating on just the city itself. The quarantine zone was set up when Command, fearing a viral infection (at least, that's what they told the grunts), built the camps and the bases at least 25-km's away from the city, eventually surrounding it completely.
      The 25-km radius was also set up in case the soldiers would need to utilize nuclear weapons. Although the 25-km radius would be useless in case of an orbital bombing, it would be easily outside a megaton-nuclear explosion.

      The plan was that there was no plan.
      Sabastini crept up to the building, fear building in rising crescendos. How had he gotten here? His policy had always been to send fools to their deaths, while he waited in the back. But he had been overruled, here; the others had outvoted him, smirking.
      What was there of the plan consisted of sneaking up to the buildings and engaging in close-combat with the snipers. Sabastini knew that the jackals sometimes dropped their rifles when in close-quarters, but he was also keenly aware that the sniper rifles killed just as easily up-close as it did afar.
      One of the first apartments loomed over him. He shuffled up to a building- no one was taking any shots at him, yet. He opened the steel door, and walked inside, palms sweaty.
      The door swung shut silently. Sabastini walked over to a stair- you couldn't trust elevators now- and started walking up. The apartment was five stories tall, and he would need to check every room, every floor, nerves frayed and adrenaline jacked up.
      The sniper wouldn't, probably, be in the first, second, or third floor. That left fourth of fifth- and there seemed to be six rooms on each floor.
      Too conscious of the way his footsteps rang, he thought of what Johnson and Richards might be doing. As he opened the first door, praying that the hinges remain silent, and hoping that the jackal just wasn't waiting for him with the rifle leveled at the door, Sabastini thought of his summer in New Mombasa.