Nightwraiths by Conrad Lauf
The Greatest Allies Are Darkness, Stealth And Speed
Date: 3 May 2004, 8:59 AM
GUNNERY Sergeant Joseph Casey held down on the firing stud, and let out a whoop of excitement as another Banshee hit the earth, its hull already a smouldering wreckage. He swung the turret around, and focused his fire onto the cockpit window of a swarming Covenant dropship. His twin-linked Vulcan miniguns whirred, spitting millions of tracers at its target. Casey shifted his fire onto an elite sitting in the cargo bay that was firing its plasma rifle at him in an extended burst. The elite was thrown back against its seat as hundreds of bullets hit his body, their armour-piercing tips cutting through the elite's armour like it was paper Plasma fire crackled and burned as it hit Casey's armour, and he gritted his teeth against the pain. But then his AP, or Attack Pelican, swung away and the already doomed Dropship disappeared from Casey's aiming zone in a cloud of bluish grey engine smoke.
He and three other AP's were trying to infiltrate a Covenant bunker, whose occupants had hijacked a cruiseship and taken its Commander, Benjamin Wendell hostage, and were using him as ransom, demanding that unless the UNSC removed all cruisers and civilization from the Karaluan sector, they would kill Wendell. The UNSC refused, and instead sent out a team designed for this kind of worst-case scenario. Enter Casey's Nghtwraiths, a team that performed the same duties as the ancient S.W.A.T. teams on Earth. But back to the story.
Casey's pilot Gregory Pillas said, "We're touching down Sarge, prepare for disembarkment immediately. And good luck."
Casey disconnected his safety harness, and pressed the pad for the top hatch of the AP's gun turret. With a soft hiss it steadily opened, and Casey emerged into sunlight.
Ka'soon watched the marines leap out from their aircraft ten metres away, and clicked his mandibles rapidly as once again fiery pain raced up his leg. The marines couldn't see Ka'soon, as he was in the shadows. He had been in the last Dropship as it had crashed, and now Ka'soon was trapped under a red-hot piece of its hull. His right leg had been shorn off by a jagged piece of steel as he hit the earth, and now purple blood pumped from its stump. He ignored the pain and brought up his plasma rifle, taking aim at the leading marine. His dog-tag read: Joseph Casey. Ka'soon slowly pressed the trigger, and suddenly realized a marine had spotted him, and was bringing his MA5B around to bear on him. Ka'soon turned slightly, and fired at the marine that had spotted him.
Private Lars Jenkinson screamed as he was hit by about fifteen rounds of plasma, and his body leapt and contorted. Casey dropped onto one knee, bringing up his MA5B as he did so. He let out a short, controlled burst of fire at the elite, hitting its collar-bone. It slumped to the earth, lifeless. "Son of a bitch!" Casey yelled, running forward to see if there was any life left in Private Jenkinson. A faint glimmer of hope fluttered in his heart as he saw Jenkinson's chest rising and falling. "Hendo!" Casey shouted, motioning for the squad's medic to assist. "Do whatever it takes to keep this man alive until the AP gets back. Understood?"
Private Glen Henderson nodded, already tending to Jenkinson's wounds.
"Okay marines! Let's get Wendell!"
Ia'suan looked up through the bunker's clear roof, and hissed as he was blinded by the sun's blinding light. He raised his arm to cover his eyes. When he lowered it the light was gone. Ia'suan whipped his head up, and blocking the sun was an armoured figure. The sun was directly behind the silhouette's head, like some mythical halo. But Ia'suan knew this was not a Covenant warrior. He snarled a warning, and brought up his plasma rifle. But he was too slow. The figure, followed by seven others, launched itself into the air, supported by a rapidly unraveling nylon rope. It brought out twin silenced M6D assault pistols as it fell, and the last thing Ia'suan ever heard was the quietened "thwack" of the guns discharging their deadly payload.
Casey removed the safety harness from his belt, and the other Nightwraiths followed suite. He hauled the elite's body into the shadows of a storage room. Casey said, "That was too close. If it had fired that plasma rifle the alarm would have been raised. And then we would have had a challenge. Now, the last hostage transmission from Wendell came from a large room, judging by the echo in the background." Casey switched on his helmet-integrated microphone and said, "Pillas. We need to know where the largest room in this place is. It used to be a UNSC bunker, so look for any maps for a bunker on Earth VIII. Over."
Pillas replied, "The largest room in the bunker is the mess hall, which is in the centre of the building. So just follow any halls heading east. Over."
"Okay Wraiths! Prepare for a firefight!"
To be continued in:
The Wrath Of The Shadows
Nightwraiths: The Wrath Of The Shadows-Chapter 2
Date: 6 May 2004, 9:38 AM
JARAH'MEE exhaled deeply as he patrolled the hall, bored as usual. He hadn't been in conflict for three months now, and longed for battle. He met Su'lantee at the corner where their halls met, and said, "This task is ever pointless! The tan-skins know that we will kill their leader if they attempt to rescue him, and therefore they will not risk their leader's life by being detected by our radar. So why is everyone so worried about nothing?"
Before Sulan'tee could answer though, a human voice replied, "Because our APs' radar-absorbent paint cannot be detected by your forces. Therefore you have much to worry about."
And with that a black-clad figure wearing a balaclava, and covered with stealth weapon holsters burst around a corner, emptying two clips of twin silenced M6D pistol rounds as he strafed the elites' hallway with a line of fire. Once on the other side of the T-intersection, Casey slammed fresh clips into his pistols. He burst back out, leveling both pistols, their laser-sights finding an invisible target on the elites' foreheads. Casey pulled the triggers, and with that Sulan'tee and Jarah'mee left this world. He removed his mask, spat on Jarah'mee's body and said, "Too easy."
Wendell screamed again as a Jackal torturer applied a drop of plasma to the palm of his hand. "I'm telling you," he sobbed, "I don't know the route to Earth from this planet. And even if I did, I would rather die than give it to you."
He spat at the face of the elite interrogator sitting opposite him, who slowly wiped the sputum from his facial armour. "Very well," it said. "Double the amount of plasma to his hands!"
A scream echoed down the hall. Casey's team paused, and continued, doubling their pace. Casey said, "Wraiths! Fasten silencers to your assault rifles! We're about to have a hell of a fight on our hands! Remember, use your assault rifles, then pistols. Let them remember that we will always best them in subterfuge and combat!"
Casey heard another scream, right around the corner, and halted. "Jones!" he whispered. "Get that grenade launcher here now!" Private Alex Jones ran forward, shoving a smoke grenade into his launcher. "Bounce one into the room, so we have a protective wall." Jones tucked the butt against his shoulder, and puller the trigger. A small, grey cylinder shot out, and ricocheted off the wall opposite them. Casey pulled down his gas mask. The others copied him. And at that moment all hell broke loose in the mess hall.
A grunt screamed as blood-red laser beams cut through the smoke, passing over its tiny body. A softened 'blam' sent it sprawling backwards, flipping head over heels, where it lay, its respirator shattered, exposing its lungs to the poisonous oxygen. As the smoke cleared, the Nightwraiths strode through the dissipating mist, guns blazing, a couple of Wraiths firing silenced MA5Bs with one hand, emptying clips of M6Ds into the Covenant with the other. Within minutes the Covenant guards were slaughtered. Or so they thought. Casey's stomach clenched. The elite interrogator was standing over Wendell, the beaker filled with plasma being held above Wendell's head, on the verge of being spilt. This was a crisis situation. "Freeze," said Casey, holding up his hand, motioning for his Wraiths to cease fire.
"I'll do it!" growled the elite, jolting the beaker forward, a tiny drop of it splashing onto Wendell's shoulder, burning through his ceremonial jacket. Wendell stifled a scream of pain. "Okay, okay," said Casey, placing his M6Ds on the floor in front of him, and kicked them away. A clattering sound indicated that the rest of the squad were also surrendering their weapons. The elite paused, and placed the beaker on the table beside him. And drew his plasma rifle. "Too easy," he hissed, and fired an extended burst. At Wendell. Casey covered his eyes, not wanting to witness Wendell's death. When he removed his arm, Wendell's head was gone. "Now its time for you to die," laughed the elite, swinging around the rifle. But Casey had already drawn out the twin SMGs stashed in the back of his combat fatigues and dropped to his knees, causing the plasma bolts to whistle overhead, fizzling out harmlessly on the steel wall behind. The Nightwraiths followed suite, and before the elite knew what was happening, he was assaulted by dozens of rounds, stumbling back against the table and falling. The beaker, three-quarters full of liquefied plasma, then toppled forward. Right over the elite. Its howls of agony filled the room, echoing off the walls as the squad of Nightwraiths left the bunker, carrying the body of Commander Wendell between them.
A solemn procession made its way through the streets of New York, carrying the covered body of the deceased Commander. A priest began the funeral, his low, booming voice filling the monstrously huge cathedral. The Covenant forces would never relent, but the hunt must go on.
If you liked this story, then give me good comments, and I'll write more in this ongoing series about the adventures of the Nightwraiths. And as you can tell, not all their adventures have happy endings, but that's just to create an unexpected ending.
In Darkness They Hunt
Date: 9 May 2004, 6:56 AM
LOCATION: Ghor'amel - Covenant Supply World
KA'LIMEE aimed his plasma rifle at the crouching figure in front of him, making sure the rifle wasn't overheated. Ka'limee wanted this to be the easiest kill ever. Last time the plasma rifle had been overheated, and as a result he lost the element of surprise, and the squad of marines had proven quite a challenge to destroy.
The figure in Ka'limee's aim was facing the other direction, and was disabling the security system for the vault containing the Covenant stronghold's cloaking and overshield storage. The human was so engrossed in his or her work that they didn't hear Ka'limee stalking them. The human had almost hacked into the computer; they only had to figure out three more numbers. Ka'limee smiled, his eyes closing to slits as he thought of the publicity of the kill. He could almost hear the cheers from his fellow Covenant…
What Ka'limee didn't hear was the slight sound of nine shadowed Nightwraiths hitting the floor after dropping from their nylon ropes, attached to the ceiling behind him. What he did hear, however, was the metallic sound of a silenced M6D being cocked, the long barrel pressing against the back of Ka'limee's head.
"Oh shi-" Blam. Ka'limee never managed to finish the sentence.
Casey watched as the elite in front of him slumped to the floor, a puddle of pink blood forming around the body.
"Shane, how's that code coming along?" Casey asked.
"Nearly done sir," replied Private Shane Boswell, as he typed frantically at the portable keyboard in front of him. Casey turned around, making sure they weren't about to disturbed by some unwanted intruders.
"All done sir," reported Boswell, packing up his hacking equipment.
"Door's open for us."
A keening siren wailed, as flashing orange lights passed over running elites, jackals and grunts. A squad of a gold elite, three grunts and a pair of jackals ran flat-out in the direction of the high-security vault. They turned a corner, and feared the sight before them. The vault was wide open, its contents gone. But it was not this that filled the squad with dread. It was the sight of Commander Nao'gon, one of the last fifteen green elites left in the universe. As the squad pulled to a halt in the hallway, Nao'gon turned to face, accompanied by his bodyguard of hunters.
"What is the meaning of this?" asked Nao'gon, chest heaving with rage.
Sha'milee, the elite sergeant, replied, "I do not know, my liege, apart from the fact that fifteen active camouflages and thirty active overshields are now stolen from this vault."
Above them, a single screw fell to the floor with a tinkle. All twelve Covenant soldiers looked up, and could hardly believe their eyes. Through the grating, they could see the frightened eyes of a human, as he tried desperately to keep still.
"By the Gods," remarked Nao'gon. "Kill the human thieves!" Sha'milee shouted to the hunters, who moved forward, directly underneath the two metre-wide air-con grating.
Casey swore loudly as he saw the five hunters fire up their fuel rod guns, and shouted, "Go Wraiths! Upupup!"
With a crackle, five plasma bolts whistled up into the grating, obliterating Conan, the last man in the vent with a ferocity that defied reason. The body of Conan, however, managed to get forced up three metres by the impact, giving the nine Nightwraiths a boost to the top of the vertical shaft. One by one, they pulled each other up into the flat tunnel. Once up, Casey found he could stand up easily in the horizontal shaft, as it was two metres high.
He turned to yell, "Come on! They know where we are now, so there's pressure!"
He helped Private Frank Bennings, who was struggling under the weight of the stolen shields.Casey could hear voices in the tunnel to their left, and thought,
'Holy shit that was fast! How'd they manage to get troops up here so quickly?'
He turned the corner, drawing out a silenced SMG, carrying the crate full of shields with the other. As they hit the right-angle turn, Casey sent a swathe of lead covering the area in front of his squad, met by the group of ten grunts that were ready for them. Instantly Bennings' head snapped back, his spine shattered by the charged-up plasma blast that slammed into his face, and Casey was forced to drop the crate and instead had to stand guard, making sure the Covenant din't come anywhere near it.
Private Peter Menzing screamed as he was hit by an onslaught of plasma rifle bolts, but took down three grunts with his silenced MA7B battle rifle as he fell. Casey took down four grunts simultaneously with his twin SMG's, and was forced to drop both when their clips ran dry, and unslung his MA7B, hastily unscrewing the silencer so he would have more power with his shots.
Stealth was out the door at this point, and all that mattered was the lives of Casey's Nightwraiths…
To be continued in:
Embodiments Of Vengeance
Embodiment Of Vengeance
Date: 11 May 2004, 9:30 AM
A grunt squealed as it was thrown back against the steel wall, and Casey drew back his armoured fist for the killing blow. The grunt raised its arms above its chest, and Casey booted it in the groin. Hard. He brought his MA7B around, slamming its butt into the jaw of another grunt. Casey grimaced as the grunt's respirator shattered under the impact, and pieces of alien plastic flew into his face.
The tide of battle was turning in the Nightwraiths' favour; they had only lost three men, and there was only two grunts left. Simple. Casey shredded a grunt's backpack with armour-piercing rounds from the MA7B as it prepared to throw a grenade onto a Wraith's face. The grunt fell, its methane supply hissing into the air in a blue cloud. Casey grabbed the remaining grunt from behind, a threw it at the nearest wall. Blue ichor spurted, forming a sort of gory splatter effect on the steel. Casey now grabbed the body, and carried it to the corner of the tunnel, and his suspicions were confirmed.
A squad of four elites were walking cautiously down the tunnel, having climbed up the vent that the Nightwraiths had made their desperate escape through, and were planning on ambushing them from the rear. Casey guessed that if the elites continued at the pace they were at now, they would reach the Nightwraiths' corner in a matter of minutes. Suddenly an idea sparked in Casey's mind.
Dragging the still-warm body of the grunt, Casey reached down and picked up one of his twin SMG's. Now that he had some time on his hands, Casey was able to reload and cock the weapon. Now for the fun part. Casey motioned for the remaining four Wraiths to burst around the corner at the same time as Casey did. Casey held up his fingers for the countdown to the firefight. Five. Four. Three. Two. One.
Now Casey tossed the body of the grunt across the tunnel, directly in the elites' view. He heard plasma rifles and needlers blaze at the body, and Casey was truly thankful for the elites' slow minds as they blindly emptied entire clips at the body, until they realized the grunt was dead, and it was one not a human. While they either reloaded, or waited for their plasma rifles to dump waste heat, the remaining five Nightwraiths burst out from their cover, and sent a hail of lead rocketing down the narrow tunnel, throwing the elites back. Four MA7B's and an SMG chattered, and hundreds of spent casings hit the floor. The four elites' bodies leapt and contorted, like some kind of grotesque dance, but they were already dead.
Casey turned to his Wraiths.
"Now, where were we?" he simply asked.
The Attack Pelican Dragoon-215 flew swiftly over the landscape, heading towards the dark-grey concrete stronghold in the distance. The pilot, Margaret Egan, said:
"Attention Wraiths, I am approaching your location and am proceeding to land on the designated area. Over."
Casey replied, "Understood Dragoon. We'll be there ASAP. Over."
Casey turned to his squad and said, "Okay Wraiths. Now we have a bit of a challenge. Who knows the exact direction of the landing pad from here?"
Private Gary Lawson nodded, answering, "Yeah. I studied the map while we were in the AP on the way here, and also took note of the direction from this tunnel to the pad, just in case of a situation like this. These pipes are visible from the outside, and run along the perimeter of this structure. The pad is right outside that thin steel wall there."
He pointed over Casey's shoulder.
"Thanks Lawson. Now, did anyone think to bring any demolition equipment?"
Fredrick Jacobs nodded, and pulled three thermal plastic explosive sticks out of his pack.
"Perfect," said Casey, reaching for the sticks.
Margaret gently landed the AP on the landing pad, and told her gunner, "John, I need you to aim your guns on that pipe there." She pointed at the pipe directly behind them. Gunner John Kupoinsky swung his twin-linked Vulcan miniguns around onto the pipe, his targeting reticles fixed squarely on its steel ribbing.
The five Nightwraiths held their hands over their ears as the plastic explosives went off, tearing through the thin steel like paper. Instantly the Wraiths ran through the resulting hole in the wall, carrying between them the precious crate containing the shields. Suddenly Casey heard heavy footfalls behind them.
"Ok shit!" he yelled, as two hunters came into view through the grey smoke.
"Go Wraiths! Move, move, move!"
They dove into the cargo bay of the AP, placing the crate first. The Nightwraiths didn't come this far to leave their prize behind. Casey was the last man in, and strapped himself in for the ride to come. Suddeny his vision of the hunters behind them on the outdoor concrete balcony was obscured by the hundreds of shells falling from Kupoinsky's miniguns, and Casey watched as the hunters fell, overpowered by the shear strength of the heavy supportive fire. As the doomed hunters on their small cliff grew smaller and smaller, Casey sighed, and said, "Now that was fun."