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Specters by MadJackal

Specters (Part 1)
Date: 27 December 2003, 8:41 AM

United Nations Space Command Priority Transmission 09872H-98
Encryption Code:
Public Key: N/A
From: Codename: VIPER
To: Codename: SCALPEL

/file extraction-reconstitution complete/
/start file/

      We've found a candidate suitable for the final slot on Specter team Rho, a man by the name of Takeda Yoshinaga. I've included his profile for you. We need conformation of his suitability for the job and we can officially form the team. After that, the only thing that remains is your approval and we can activate the team. Don't worry, I've found good people for these teams and this final candidate is no exception.

Profile: Takeda Yoshinaga
      At 28 years of age, Takeda Yoshinaga is a new arrival to ONI but is well acquainted with war. He has spent ten years in the Marines and has a surplus of experience against the Covenant. He is in excellent physical shape and is mentally stable. He does not fear dying and has some notion of honor and a "good death" that apparently stems from his Japanese ancestry. He lives by the saying "There are many ways to die, but few ways to die well." A student of Bushido and numerous martial arts, he had a gift that many others did not have when he joined the Marines at the age of 18. ONI interviews with his comrades in the Marines revealed many things about his personality and various traits that I believe make him perfect for this job.
      His friends have found him on many occasions sitting quietly on his cot, not moving, apparently meditating. He tries to achieve a "stillness of his soul" which has seemingly transferred to his behavior on the battlefield. He is rock solid under stressful combat conditions and has a skill with assault rifles that is rare. He also has a knack for stealth. His comrades related to ONI interviewers many times in which Takeda snuck through camp, stealing extra food and supplies for his friends without ever getting caught, by guards or even surveillance cameras. An oddity is that he keeps a pair of ancient swords with him, what seems to be a relic of his ancestors' past. ONI research has identified them as swords identical to those used by the Samurai in the ancient days of Earth. Apparently they were given to him as an inheritance from his father before he died.
      He is confident in his abilities, but understands that he is quite human and is not invincible. My conclusion is that he is perfect for the job and I highly recommend him for the Specter project. He will round out Specter Team Rho well.

/end file/

Press ENTER to continue.

0600 Hours, July 18, 2552 (Military Calendar)/
ONI Prowler Ship Defiance,
Inbound approach vector to Sigma Octanus IV

      Takeda Yoshinaga sat in the crew compartment of the ONI prowler ship, readying his equipment for the mission to come. Around him sat the other three members of Specter Team Rho. To his right sat David Wolff, the team leader. To his left sat Chris Leyda. On the deck in front of a myriad of parts for his customizable S2 AM sniper rifle, was Jarred Baldwin, the team sniper. Since the team had been officially activated several months ago, Specter Unit Rho had been training almost constantly in order to get the unit operating smoothly as most of the team did not know each other. With time, that had changed.
      Takeda knew that Jarred was withdrawn, always watching from the shadows, offering his bit here and there but never really engaging in conversation. David was strong and determined. He was the perfect leader. Chris was the social one. He and Takeda had become good friends over the course of their training. As for Takeda, he was the odd one in the group. The others were slightly amused at his insistence on taking his Samurai swords, his katana and wakazashi, with him to every place they had been deployed. Despite regulations, he somehow managed to smuggle them into the barracks every time. He never brought them on missions however. They just got in the way.
      Finished reassembling his MA2B Assault Rifle, the collapsed version of the standard MA5B Assault Rifle, he moved on to his M6D SD pistol. The pistol packed quite a punch, accepting 12-round extended magazines of 12.7mm semi-armor-piercing, high explosive rounds. The SD version served their purposes better with a flash/sound suppressor. The MA2B Assault Rifle also was an essential part of their arsenal. It was light and compact while still maintaining accuracy and also could be fitted with a flash/sound suppressor as well as a scope. They would need all of these things. Their unit's purpose required such equipment.
      Specter Units were designed by ONI to be used for covert operations. Falling under NavSpecWep, Specter teams were assassins, scouts, infiltrators, hackers, and soldiers all in one. Newly formed to gather intelligence on the Covenant threat, Specter teams are efficient and deadly. Colonel Ackerson himself thought up the concept of Specter teams. Though Specter Units are effective, they cannot match the incredible fighting record of the Spartans, much to Colonel Ackerson's chagrin.
      Chris spoke up, "Did you guys see the battle footage of Captain Keyes taking down those Covenant ships?"
      Takeda had seen the footage. A Covenant task force, consisting of a destroyer, two frigates and an assault carrier, had entered the Sigma Octanus system to launch an attack. Displaying great skill, a lot of luck, or a combination of both, Captain Jacob Keyes had single-handedly annihilated the task force and the survivors had fled out system. But before they left, the Covenant had launched hundreds of dropships and now Covenant troops had landed planet side on Sigma Octanus IV. They had taken the city of Cote d'Azur and were making forays into the surrounding territory. Takeda was confident that they would be stopped. General Kits and his Marines were standing between the Covenant and the city of Luc. He didn't expect the Covenant to last very long.
      But he knew that the Covenant would be back with reinforcements. Fleeing from battle was not a characteristic common to Covenant commanders. They would be back, and with a vengeance. And that was why Admiral Stanforth had assembled the fleet here in the Sigma Octanus system. When the Covenant returned, there would be a nasty little surprise waiting for them.
      "Yeah, I've seen the footage. That was some fancy maneuvering." Takeda answered.
      "I don't think that's ever been done before." Chris continued.
      "No Leyda, I don't suspect it has." David Wolff, the team leader said.
      Their mission was simple. They were to land on Sigma Octanus IV. They were to observe the Covenant forces and try to identify new species of Covenant, how they fought, and what their weaknesses were, if possible. They were to investigate the possibility of a Covenant warrior race of field commanders. After identifying and confirming such commanders they were to assassinate them if possible. And to do that, they were going to go straight into the lions' den: Cote d'Azur. The city was swarming with Covenant, making it the ideal place to accomplish their mission. ONI wanted documentation confirming rumors of a new alien race, and the Specters were the perfect force to accomplish that.
      Takeda stood and started pulling on his armor. It was all black, as befitted the armor of a stealth unit. It wasn't really armor in the context of the Spartans' MJOLNIR armor, as it was much lighter and weaker. It was meant to give its wearer the best combination of maneuverability, stealth, and strength that was possible. It included a helmet that had night and thermal vision abilities.
      He gathered his weapons, ammo and his combat knife and slung them in the appropriate places. He slung his MA2B over his back and slid on his helmet. He was testing the various functions of the helmet. He tested night vision and thermal vision and confirmed that they were working properly. Around him, the other team members were doing the same. Everything was in order. They were ready. The battle of Sigma Octanus IV had already begun. Now it was time to make their entrance.

0800 Hours, July 18, 2552 (Military Calendar)/
Sigma Octanus IV, jungles outside of C'te d'Azur

      The Marine firebases were destroyed. It was hopeless. Takeda had seen it with his own eyes. He had seen hundreds of dead and dying Marines lying helpless in the mud as the Covenant patrols wandered around the killing zones, finishing off the wounded. Early that morning, the Covenant had launched a series of massive assaults on the firebases surrounding Cote d'Azur. Though taking heavy casualties, the Covenant had wiped out all the Marines in the surrounding area.
      There was nothing the Specters could have done. They merely watched, gathering intelligence. They had discovered two new species of Covenant: the field commanders whose existence they were supposed to confirm and these armored behemoths that carried huge shields on their left arms that seemed as thick as starship battle plate. And they had watched, unable to do anything, as these new species had methodically annihilated the Marines.
      Now they were on their way into Cote d'Azur. Once inside, they would gather intelligence on these new species up close and fulfill the next part of their mission: assassinate them.
      It was slow going. The jungle foliage slowed them down considerably. They walked in a staggered line, with Chris taking point. Suddenly, Chris froze, then sank slowly into a crouch. He raised his left hand and tightened it into a fist, signaling the others to scatter. The team melted away into the foliage.
      "Covenant patrol," Chris whispered over the comm. net, "They're coming straight for us."
      "Hold your fire until my command. If it is a large patrol we leave it alone. If it's small, we take it out." David ordered.
      Takeda unslung his MA2B Assault Rifle and slipped off the safety. He peered through the leaves of the plants that concealed him, looking for a sign of the enemy. Thermal vision would not help here. Everything was hot in the jungle. He had to rely on his eyes. Then, something moved. From behind a fern came one of the Covenant Grunts. He was the point man. The red-armored little alien sniffed the air, panning his needler back and forth. Satisfied that it was clear, he signaled for the rest of the patrol to move up. Five other Grunts stepped out of the foliage, followed by one of the field commanders, which Takeda had already nicknamed Elites. The Elite stood more than eight feet tall and wore shiny blue armor. He carried a plasma rifle. The patrol started to move forward.
      Here was a chance to kill one of the commanders! Takeda readied himself for David's command. When the point Grunt had passed David's position, the order came.
       "Take them."
      Takeda sighted the nearest Grunt and pulled the trigger. There was a cough from his rifle as he fired a suppressed burst of 7.62mm armor-piercing bullets. The rounds blasted through the head of the Grunt, spattering light blue blood across the armor of the Elite. Three more coughs sounded from his teammates' concealed positions, the sounds barely audible over the sounds of the jungle and the rain. Three more Grunts yelped and gasped in pain as they died, collapsing all around the Elite.
      The Elite froze for a second, then brought up his weapon as the point Grunt turned in confusion over what was happening. Takeda did not give the Grunt a chance to think things through as he fired another short burst into its chest and neck. Methane escaped from the ruptured breath mask of the Grunt's environmental suit as it clutched its neck, gripping the hole in the mask and the blood that poured from the wound. The Grunt would suffocate in a few moments as its small, weak lungs collapsed on themselves, but another burst of weapons fire from the shadows mercifully cut it down. All that was left was the Elite.
      Cursing in its language, the Elite started firing blindly into the foliage with its plasma rifle. The superheated plasma struck trees, and branches and leaves, but none found the Specters. Takeda and the others Specters unleashed a barrage of full-automatic weapons fire at the Elite. The rounds hammered into it, but started bouncing off. It's got energy shields! Takeda thought. The Elite ducked and dodged, keeping up its plasma bombardment until his shields finally flickered and died. With nothing to stop them now, the 7.62 mm rounds tore through its armor and into its flesh, riddling its body. The Elite howled in pain, doubling over. Clutching its stomach, it crumpled to the ground.
      Silence fell once again upon this section of the jungle. Takeda emerged from the trees and walked over to the Elite. It was still breathing. Dark purple blood stained its shiny blue armor, making it look dull and dark. The Elite coughed and blood oozed from its mouth. Takeda stared at it for a few minutes, then put his gun to its head, and pulled the trigger. More of the purple blood splashed across the leaves.
       "Come on. We've got to move. We made too much noise and there are sure to be more Covenant in the area." David said.
      Takeda slung the MA2B Assault Rifle across his back and joined the rest of team. They still had to sneak into Cote d'Azur. Things had been easy so far. They were about to get much more difficult.

To Be Continued

Specters (Part 2)
Date: 29 December 2003, 9:06 PM

1000 Hours, July 18, 2552 (Military Calendar)/
Sigma Octanus IV, outside Cote d'Azur

      "I've thought of a nickname for our team," Takeda Yoshinaga whispered to his teammate, Chris.
      Ahead, lying prone in the mud and water of the rice paddy was Jarred, their sniper, scanning the city outskirts with his S2 AM sniper rifle, making sure no Covenant would see them as they snuck into the sewer system underneath the city. A little farther ahead, out of the rice paddy was the team leader, David Wolff, who was cutting a hole in the grates big enough for the team to get through into the sewers.
      "What is it?" Chris whispered back.
      "The Nekekami." Takeda said.
      "Huh?" Chris said, his head tilted questionably.
      "It means Spirit Cats in my language." Takeda responded.
      "Specter Team Rho, the Spirit Cats. I like it. It fits." Chris said.
      "I was inclined to think that we would be calling ourselves the Nekekami, not the Spirit Cats."
      "Nobody knows what that means anyway. Besides, Spirit Cats has a ring to it." Chris answered, smiling at his friend.
      There was a barely audible clank ahead as David carefully removed the grate from the pipe. With a series of quick hand signals, he motioned for the team to go in, with Chris taking point. They entered the sewers.
      It was dark, very dark. They turned on their night vision and moved forward through the knee-high muck. The pipe was filled with the sound of sloshing water as it echoed up and down the pipe.
      "Shit! Slow down and keep quiet, guys. We're in no hurry," David snapped over the comm. channel.
      After about five minutes of creeping through the pipe, David ordered the team to stop. "We're going to check out the residential district first. Just to check," he said.
      None of them believed that there would be any survivors in the city, but there was always a chance. If a civilian got lucky and managed to hide from the Covenant patrols...
      David brought up a map of the sewer system and overlaid it on all of their helmets' HUDs. He traced the route they were to take on the maps and then they were on the move again. It was slow going. Every now and then, a grate appeared overhead and an odd pattern of light sifted in through it, like dozens of little rays reaching down to touch them as they passed underneath. And occasionally something ominously moved over the grate and blocked out portions of that light.
      They had to be careful not to scrape their MA2Bs against the sides of the pipes. It was not likely that the Covenant above would notice the sounds and if they did, they probably wouldn't care, but it was better to be safe then sorry. And what was the purpose of a stealth unit that couldn't keep quiet?
      So a trip that might have taken them one hour took three hours as they paused at every grate and storm drain to make sure that there was not some Covenant guard standing there to see them. Soon they had reached their destination. They were underneath the residential district of Cote d'Azur.
      David found a manhole opening and snaked a fiber optic probe up through it and attached it to his helmet. "It's clear. Let's go quickly," he reported. He quietly pushed the manhole cover up and out of the way and pulled himself out followed by the other Specters. They were in a dark alleyway. Takeda pointed to some stairs on the side of the building. David nodded and they worked their way up the stairs to a door. It was locked. Takeda moved forward and inserted a special lock pick that consisted of microexplosives. These would go off, delivering a sudden blow that effectively shattered the pins and would unlock the door. It was also relatively quiet.
      Takeda set off the pick and moved his hands away from the door. There was a hissing sound as both the pins and the lock pick dissolved under the impact. Takeda waited a few seconds for the door to cool down and then opened it. He immediately unslung his MA2B and panned the hallway for any threats. There were none. He gestured that it was safe and moved deeper into the hallway. The rest of the team followed him.
      They were in some sort of apartment complex. Doors were splintered and caved in, a sure sign of forced entry. There was plasma scoring along the walls and there were melted light fixtures in the hallway from stray plasma fire. "Look," he said, pointing, "on the walls."
      There was blood. Human blood, and lots of it. It was smeared across the walls and it stained the carpet of the floor. Moving closer, Takeda could make out a bloody handprint, eternal testimony to the horror of what had happened here. "The Covenant," Takeda said bitterly.
      "Where are the bodies?" Chris said.
      "They probably gathered them all in one place for the Grunts and Jackals to tear up. Like that massacre on Jericho VII. They rounded up all of the human civilian population and then executed them." Takeda said.
      "Let's keep moving. We're going to find a place for Jarred to snipe some of their field commanders." David said.
      "I've nicknamed them Elites," Takeda said.
      "Well, I guess since we are the first to have gotten good data on them, we should be able to name them. What about the huge armored ones with the shields?" David replied.
      "Hunters," the normally quiet and withdrawn Jarred said.
      "I like it. It's fitting," Takeda said.
      They continued down the hallway panning the area with their MA2Bs. They got to the stairwell and walked in. Harsh white lights illuminated it. Takeda pulled out his M6D SD and shot out the lights. The stairwell fell into darkness. "They won't see us as well this way," he explained.
      Most of the lights had been melted by plasma fire already as the Covenant troops had rampaged through the building shooting anything and everything they found beneath their sights. But, of course this worked to the Specters' advantage. Suddenly, a door banged open two flights beneath them and the stairwell was filled with the oddly dog-like barking of Grunts as they moved into the stairwell. Then, they started moving up the stairs.
      Looking madly around, Takeda saw that there was still one flickering light hanging over this part of the stairwell and that the Grunts would see them as soon as they came around. They couldn't run because that would alert the patrol to their presence. And if he shot out the light, even though his weapons were silenced, the Grunts would surely notice the lighting change and the sound of shattering light bulbs. He had to react. Pulling out his M6D SD again, he shot out the light. He was banking on the possibility that Grunts didn't have good night vision.
      When the light went out, the Grunts barked in alarm and started conversing madly with themselves. Then, they started moving cautiously up the stairs, weapons at the ready. Takeda motioned for the rest of the team to fade back. They did so, as quiet and invisible as ghosts. Takeda started moving back as well, watching the stairs intently through his night vision. The lead Grunt turned the corner moving slowly. Takeda brought up his MA2B Assault Rifle and lined it up with the Grunt's head, praying that the Grunt couldn't see him. When the Grunt moved forward and stumbled on the first step, Takeda smiled. They couldn't see well in the dark.
      Another Grunt moved up behind his comrade. Takeda squeezed the trigger. A suppressed burst of 7.62 armor-piercing bullets tore through the lead Grunt, causing it to tumble back down the stairs, right into the second Grunt. The second Grunt caught the body, and said something to it in their odd, barking language. When the corpse didn't respond, the Grunt shook it, spattering some of its blood against his armor. The Grunt noticed this, reached down to feel the blood, realized what it was and started to raise his weapon and alert the others...
      Another burst of Assault Rifle bullets caught it in the head, silencing it forever, stilling its cry of alarm while it was still in its throat. It too collapsed and tumbled down to the floor. More Grunts charged up the stairs, tripping over the dead bodies of their comrades.
      "Takeda, move! We need a clear line of sight to give you supporting fire!" David whispered over the comm. channel.
      Where could he move? The stairwell was very narrow... but Takeda could improvise, just like he had done when he had stolen the extra rations for his friends from the storerooms back in camp when he was in the Marines. Takeda slung his rifle over his back, grabbed the twisted rail of the stairs, and swung over it. He caught himself and brought his feet up. Hooking his legs around the bent rail, he let himself hang upside down. The lane was clear for his teammates above. There was a storm of suppressed rifle fire and the sound of Grunts gasping in pain as they died. Looking to his left, Takeda saw another Grunt running up the stairs, not two feet away from him and not noticing him hanging their in the dark. He unslung his MA2B and fired a long burst at the running Grunt. Rounds tore through its armor and it staggered back under the blows until a round blew through its heart and killed it. The eerily glowing blood seeped from its body as it collapsed.
      Five seconds later, the firefight was over. Getting dizzy from the blood rushing to his head, Takeda strained and pulled himself back up and over the rail and landed on the stairs again. "What the hell was that?" David asked him.
      "I was improvising, sir." Takeda answered.
      "At least we got 'em. All right, let's move on."
      They got to the top floor and made their way to the door that led to the roof. David eased open the door, just enough to get a fiber optic probe through the gap. "There's nobody on the roof, but I saw a Banshee flying around. It might not be safe with all the air cover they have to snipe from the roof," he reported.
      "Let's do it the old fashioned way then," Takeda said, hefting his MA2B.
      "Alright. Let's split up into two teams and go hunting for targets to assassinate. Jarred, you're with me. Takeda and Chris, you will pair up and go hunting. We will meet back in the alley with the manhole cover at 1800 hours sharp. If there is nobody here by 1830 hours, then I want the other team to leave without the others and make their way to the rendezvous point in the jungle. Understood?" David said.
      "Sir, yes sir!" They all answered in unison.
      And they went their separate ways. "Let's go across the alley to the other building," Takeda suggested to his friend.
      "All right."
      Moving quickly and with a purpose, the team found their way back to the outside stairs and took them down to the alley. Once there, they were faced with a dilemma. There was no obvious way into the next building from the alley. The most straightforward way would have been to walk out into the street and go in the front, but that was suicide. Covenant patrols were swarming the streets. They had to find another way in. Looking around, Takeda spotted a small pipe running from ground level up the side of the building. It passed by several broken windows on the higher floors. Perfect.
      "The pipe," he said.
      Chris nodded and they made their way to it. Then, they heard hoarse chattering from the other end of the alley. Jackals. Nodding to each other, the Specters faded back into the darkest shadows in the alley behind dumpsters and other objects, their black stealth armor allowing them to blend in. Takeda reached down to his leg and slid his combat knife out of its sheath. They remained motionless as the Jackals made their way further down the alley.
      Takeda watched intently as the first Jackal passed by his position, his energy shield lowered and his pistol swinging at his side. It was relaxed and not alert. That was good. Turning on thermal vision, Takeda was able to pick up only one more Jackal coming down the alley. He couldn't be one hundred percent sure, but he thought that there were no others following. When the second Jackal passed by him, Takeda stepped quietly from his hiding place, his stance lowered, his knife steady. He looked down the alley to make sure that there were no other Covenant in sight and then turned his attention to the Jackals.
      He snuck up behind the second Jackal, using all of his skills to keep silent, no louder than a wisp of wind. The Jackal stopped and looked to his left. Takeda froze. The Jackal turned back and rushed to follow his friend. Takeda closed in on the Jackal, grabbed it from behind, wrapping his arm around its head, and slit its throat. Dark purple blood gushed from the wound, running down the front of the Jackal's armor. But, hearing the sound of the attack, as Jackals have notoriously good senses, the first one spun around, his shield raised in a defensive position in front of him. Grabbing the arm of the dead Jackal, whose head was still wrapped in Takeda's arm, Takeda raised its own shield in front of him.
      The Jackal fired his plasma pistol. Plasma bolts struck the shield in rapid succession. Takeda jabbed his knife into the chest of the dead Jackal, finding no convenient way to put it away and started fumbling for his silenced pistol. When Takeda looked up, the Jackal's head suddenly exploded in a shower of blood and bits of bone which spattered over the inside surface of its shield. It fell sideways, revealing Chris, who was standing behind it with his MA2B Assault Rifle.
      "Thanks," Takeda said.
      "Anytime." Chris answered.
      "Now that we've made enough noise, I think that it is time to vacate the vicinity before these Jackals' friends show up thirsty for revenge," Takeda said.
      Takeda retrieved his knife and slid it back into its sheath. Carefully avoiding the pools of blood that were forming around the corpses, he made his way to the pipe. He jumped up, found a grip on the pipe and pulled himself up as if he were climbing a tree. Chris followed him. When he reached the first broken window, Takeda stepped off of the pipe onto the window sill and rolled into the room. He came up with his MA2B at the ready. There was no one. Chris rolled into the room as well, his Assault Rifle up. They relaxed and looked around. They were in some sort of storage room. A single light hung overhead. Takeda pulled out his pistol and aimed for the light when it suddenly turned itself off. Looking around, he noticed Chris standing next to the wall and a light switch. "Save yourself the ammo," he chided.
      Nodding, Takeda got to his feet and holstered his pistol. "After you," he said, motioning towards the door.
      Chris opened the door and stepped out. Takeda followed him. They were on top of some scaffolding. The building was under construction. There were unfinished parts. There was scaffolding, ladders, exposed pipes in the ceilings, and the floor beneath them did not yet have a ceiling in most places. Looking up, Takeda was gratified to notice that the building did at least have a roof. Also, he noticed that there were few working lights. Good. He motioned towards a ladder to his right and they took it down to the ceiling of the floor beneath them.
      As they started to move across the floor, they heard voices from an open area in front of them. The voices were very low and menacing. Takeda had heard such a voice only once before, at that was his conflict with the Elite in the jungle. There must be Elites down there. He looked towards Chris and said, "Elites."
      "Yeah, we've located our primary targets. Now, lets take them out," Chris whispered. Keeping to the shadows, they snuck towards the edge, where the ceiling had not yet been installed and peered over. There were three Elites conversing together in the room below. Takeda's practiced eye identified their weapons; two were carrying plasma rifles and one was carrying a needler.
      "It's going to be too hard to take them all out with the MA2Bs. We need to take down their shields," Takeda whispered.
      "Grenades," Chris whispered back.
      They pulled out their fragmentation grenades, pulled the pins, and threw them. They clanked and bounced and rolled to a stop by the Elites. One rolled into the middle of the group and the other rolled to a stop by one Elite's feet. The Elites spun around in shock and stared at the round objects. Then, they exploded. For the Elite standing next to the grenade, there was no hope. The blast was too powerful, even for his shields. The shields were knocked out in an instant and the shrapnel shredded the lower half of the Elite. The mutilated upper half spun through the air in a spray of dark blood, its arms flailing wildly until it came to a rest on the floor. The other grenade knocked the other two Elites back, taking down their shields and wounding them, but not killing them.
      But their shields were down, and that was all that the Specters needed. They opened up with a full automatic spray of Assault Rifle rounds, emptying their magazines into the helpless Elites, even after the last gasp of pain had left their bodies, the impact of the bullets giving the dead Elites false life.
      "Let's get out of here. Those explosions are going to attract every Covenant soldier and his grandmother," Chris said.
      They turned and ran back towards the ladder when the floor beneath them suddenly shuddered with a forceful impact. The floor splintered and cracked and then finally collapsed under their weight. They tumbled down to the floor beneath them. Dazed, Takeda had barely gotten up when he caught motion out of the corner of his eye. He rolled to the side and barely dodged a huge, swinging piece a metal as thick as starship battle plate. It smashed into the ground creating a crater where Takeda had been not two seconds before. Looking up, he followed the piece of metal to the thing that was attached to. A Hunter! The piece of metal was a huge shield. It had to be big, for the creature that it was guarding was even bigger. The thing only stood eight feet tall because of the lower ceiling above where it was standing, but Takeda sensed that it was much taller than that. Now he knew what had caused the ceiling to collapse. It must have heard them running above and had struck the ceiling with its shield. Takeda rolled to his feet and saw that Chris was also to his feet, his weapon at the ready.
      The Hunter moved forward, to the broken part of the ceiling, giving itself room to stand its full height. The thing was huge. It had to be at least twelve feet tall when it stood up straight. But even more horrifying was what emerged from behind it. Another one. There were two of the bastards. Takeda raised his MA2B and opened up. He noticed Chris doing the same. The armor-piercing rounds impacted all over the first Hunter, some finding gaps in its armor, sending out spurts of bright orange blood. But the others bounced off. The thing didn't even seem to notice the wounds that it did sustain. It moved forward, raising its right arm, which ended in a huge gun. The end of it started to glow menacingly. A charging plasma weapon! Takeda was desperate. The glow became blinding and he knew it was about to fire. "Dodge it!" he yelled to Chris, as the world seemed to tear itself apart around him. I'm going to die, he thought.

To Be Continued

Specters (Part 3)
Date: 26 June 2004, 12:13 AM

Author's Note: Since I did not include titles for the first two parts of this series, which were written a long time ago, I have decided that it is not appropriate to give titles for the individual parts of the rest of the series. I apologize in advance for any inconvenience this might cause. Please enjoy!

1345 Hours, July 18, 2552 (Military Calendar)/
Sigma Octanus IV, Cote d'Azur

      Takeda Yoshinaga did not know where he was. He could not see nor could he hear. Bright spots of light swirled in his vision, and he couldn't make sense out of the images. He heard a sound, but he couldn't identify it. It was just a low sound, a sound like rushing water, almost as if every sound in the universe had mixed to form a haze as deafening as the blurring of his vision was blinding. Takeda also realized that he could not feel. It seemed like he was floating in a sea of nothingness.
      He pushed his way out with his mind and the clouds started to disperse. Memories came back. He was fighting the Covenant. He was in a building. Hunters. Chris. Chris! The last thing that Takeda could remember seeing was a Hunter about to fire its weapon, the menacing glow of the charging weapon seeming to signal Takeda's end. He remembered screaming out to his friend to try and dodge the blast.
      Takeda's hearing started to return in a maddening rush, a sudden crescendo of sound that rose until he could start to make out individual sounds. He heard the steady pounding of an Assault Rifle. It seemed far away, in the distance. Takeda reached out for it in his mind and his sense of touch started to return as well. He felt the floor beneath his fingers and he tasted the metallic taste of blood in his mouth. The bright spots of light in his vision started to fade and he could make out the floor through the visor of his helmet. Blood was spattered across the visor. His blood.
      Takeda willed himself to move and felt his arms responding. He got his left arm underneath him and pushed. He got to his hands and knees and sat up. He looked around. The first and most obvious thing was the towering Hunter standing in front of him, the barrel of its plasma weapon still smoking from the blast. Takeda saw that bullets were impacting the monster all over its front, but most were being deflected by its huge shield. Takeda looked to his left and saw Chris on the other side of the room, firing his MA2B on full automatic, desperate to put the creature down.
      Takeda struggled to his feet and almost collapsed. He saw his own rifle on the floor in the middle of the room. It must have been thrown over there by the force of the explosion. Takeda looked behind him and saw that the rest of the room was simply...gone. It wasn't there anymore. The creature's weapon had melted it away. The thing had to be incredibly powerful. It had hit the wall not too far behind him, which explained his temporary shock. Takeda collected himself and focused on the task at hand: surviving. He didn't have time to get his rifle, so he pulled out his M6D SD.
      He brought up the modified 12.7mm pistol, the heavy barrel and its silencer perfectly balancing the weapon even in his shaking grip. Takeda opened fire. The semi-armor-piercing, high-explosive rounds hit the creature in its chest. They didn't penetrate its armor. Takeda walked his fire up the creature's chest and into its neck. Round after round of 12.7mm bullets tore gaping wounds in the creature's neck, where there was a gap in its armor. Blood spurted from the entry wounds as the bullets hit, but the exit wounds were horrific. Bright orange blood splashed across the wall behind the Hunter as it gave a death gurgle and collapsed. The ground shook as the monster hit the ground.
      Takeda kept firing, emptying the last of the M6D's twelve round magazine into its body, not believing it was dead. It clicked empty and Takeda started fumbling for another clip as the second Hunter lowered itself into a combat stance as it stepped farther out into the room to cover the body of its dead comrade. Takeda slapped a fresh magazine into the pistol and took aim, searching for any weak spot, some gap in its armor, but its shield completely covered the gaps. Its lowered head also took away another opportunity for an attempt at neck shots. The creature raised its weapon and the end started to glow as it built up enough charge for a shot.
      A strong hand grabbed Takeda from behind, practically yanking him off of his feet. It was Chris. "We've got to get out of here! Run!" Chris yelled as he took off through the destruction wreaked by the first Hunter's cannon.
      Takeda turned and ran, stopping only to scoop up his MA2B Assault Rifle. He followed Chris, who was dashing in the direction of a ladder that led to the top of the half-finished first floor. The building had never been finished, as evidenced by the scaffolding and the building materials lying about, and the way things were going, it would never get to be finished.
      There was a bright explosion behind them as the Hunter fired its cannon again. Fortunately for the two Specters, the blast had fallen short. Takeda and Chris scrambled up the ladder made a dash for the scaffolding they had used to get down there. They heard voices echoing up from below them and the pounding of armored feet. Among the voices were the ominous, deep voices of the Elites.
      Takeda attempted to raise his team leader over the radio, "David! It's Takeda! We're in serious trouble! We've stirred up the hornet's nest!"
      "What's your status, Takeda?" came the reassuring voice of David Wolff, the Specter team leader.
      "I think we're okay, but we won't be if we don't get out. We're headed back to the alley for an exfil," Takeda answered.
      "Alright. Get there; secure a perimeter as best you can. Jarred and I'll link up with you in the alley and we'll leave the same way we came in. Do you copy?"
      "I copy."
      Takeda sprinted after Chris, who was already on the next ladder. Takeda reached the bottom of the ladder as Chris reached the top. Plasma fire erupted from below, the fiery blasts of energy striking the wall all around Chris. He crouched calmly on top of the scaffolding, taking shots with his rifle, giving Takeda covering fire as he scrambled up. Once they were both up, they ran for the door. Chris got there first and threw open the door. They stormed into the room followed by plasma blasts. Takeda slammed the door shut behind them.
      One after the other, they swung out of the window and grabbed the pipe running next to it, using it to slide down the side of the building and to the alley floor. They took cover behind several dumpsters and trash cans, their rifles panning back and forth for targets. Takeda activated his helmet's thermal vision, trying to pick out heat traces of any enemies. There were none at the moment.
      Takeda was having trouble seeing with the blood that dotted his visor. He reached up and slid it off. He felt a lot of blood on the side of his neck so he probed the area with his fingers, trying to locate the wound. He found it: a piece of shrapnel had cut through the side of his helmet and embedded itself in him. He briefly considered cracking open his medical kit to do some basic first aid, but decided against it. The situation was too hostile to be caught wrapping a bandage around his head.
      He wiped the blood from the inside of his helmet as best as he could with his hand and he slid it back on. Just then, two suppressed shots rang out followed by a gurgle of pain from above. Chris was firing his weapon at the window they had come out of. "Chris! You cover the windows, I'll cover the entrance to the alley!" Takeda yelled.
      Takeda lowered himself to the ground so that only his head and his weapon were visible from behind the dumpster and took aim at the mouth of the valley. There was some commotion and three Grunts came into view, followed by two Jackals.
      Takeda struggled to control his racing breathing and started taking shots. The first Grunt was yanked off of its feet by the invisible force of the 7.62mm bullet that blasted through its skull. Two more shots and another Grunt was down. The Jackals reacted quickly, their keen senses locating Takeda despite the darkness and the silencer on his rifle. They crouched behind their shields and put out a fierce storm of plasma fire down the alley.
      Takeda squinted through the harsh light as some plasma blasts tore into the pavement by his head. He concentrated, aiming for the exposed weapon hand of one of the Jackals. He squeezed the trigger and an armor-piercing round exploded through its hand. The Jackal screamed out a hoarse cry of pain, dropping its pistol and turning to grip its shattered hand. This exposed its back. The Jackals wore armor vests, but they were light, sacrificing protection for mobility. Takeda sent another bullet into its back and it screamed out in pain again, twisting towards its tormentor. It fell backwards, its shield dropping as it looked up to stare at Takeda.
      The Jackal was sitting up, cradling its ruined hand against its body, reaching for its plasma pistol with its other hand. Takeda ended its suffering, pulling the trigger two more times. Dark purple blood blossomed from its chest in little clouds of dying mist. It gasped one last time and collapsed to the ground. The second Jackal rolled to the side, taking cover behind a group of trashcans. After dispatching the last Grunt, Takeda emptied the rest of his magazine into the trashcans, knowing that the armor-piercing rounds would penetrate them with ease, hopefully finding the Jackal on the other side.
      Takeda smiled when he heard a bark of surprise mixed with pain. One of the trashcans fell over as the limp body of the Jackal slumped against it. A pool of blood spread out from behind the trashcans, and Takeda didn't bother to check and make sure that the Jackal was dead.
      Takeda heard spent shell casings clanking on the ground behind him and knew that Chris was busy suppressing the Covenant soldiers as well. At the mouth of the alley, Takeda heard the low, barked orders of an Elite and the clanking of armored feet. Lots of armored feet. He finished reloading his rifle, slamming a fresh magazine into it. He racked the bolt, chambering a round. Takeda took aim, and waited.
      Two Elites leapt into view from either side of the alley's entrance and started to charge towards the Specters, followed by some Grunts and Jackals. Takeda opened up on full automatic, fighting the recoil and struggling to keep the stream of bullets on the lead Elite. Round after round slammed into the Elite, making its shields flare up, but they held. Takeda began cursing. He could almost feel the magazine emptying as he burned through all of its ammo. The Elite's shields finally failed and the bullets began tearing through its armor.
      The Elite doubled over, clutching its wounds, dark purple blood running down the sides of its armor. Takeda fired another burst. This one caught it in the right leg, causing it to give out under the Elite. It sagged to the ground, its arm supporting it. Takeda brought his rifle up, correcting his aim, this time aiming for the head. He pulled the trigger...
      Nothing. It clicked empty. "Damn it!" he screamed as he fumbled for his pistol, which he could pull out and fire faster than he could reload the rifle. He got it in his hands, sensed the wounded Elite's partner raising its plasma rifle to kill him. He brought it up, prepared to take at least one of them with him, when two rifle shots boomed through the alley, echoing in the tight confines of the space between the two buildings. Both shots blew through the standing Elite's head. The corpse collapsed next to the wounded Elite. The wounded Elite looked up, started to raise his plasma rifle, and was thrown roughly back as another 14.5mm rifle round blew its head apart.
      Takeda looked up to where the Elite had been looking. Perched the stairs on the side of the apartment building was Jarred, the team sniper. He fired another shot at a target farther down the alley and started to reload. Next to him, in the open doorway leading into the building, was David Wolff, the team leader.
      David ran down the steps, swung over the railing, and landed in the alley. He raised his hand and was about to say something to Takeda when something farther down the alley caught his eye. He froze. Takeda turned around and stared back at the mouth of the alley and saw a Hunter. It was the same one from inside the building. It had come outside to avenge its partner. David yelled back at Chris to make sure the manhole cover was removed. He raised his MA2B and started firing. Jarred started firing as well, but even the awesome power of his sniper rifle wasn't enough to put the creature down.
      The Hunter charged, shouldering aside trashcans, its huge silhouette filling the alley with its size. Takeda started to back away, firing his MA2B as fast as he could, willing it to fire faster. David stayed rooted to the ground, calmly firing his own rifle. The Hunter closed the distance between him and David with astonishing speed. Takeda yelled out a warning, but it was too late.
      The Hunter swept David off of his feet with a broad swing of its shield, throwing him up against the alley wall. Takeda cringed. He could hear the bones breaking in David's body from the force of the blow. David sagged to the ground, where he collapsed and didn't move. Takeda held down his trigger, emptying his rifle into the monster, but the bullets seemed to bounce off of its armor. A few got through, but it was not enough. Two more shots rang out from Jarred's sniper rifle, one striking the Hunter in the chest and the other ricocheting off of its huge shield.
      The Hunter raised its right arm, the cannon arm, and it started to glow. Takeda screamed out another warning for Jarred, but again, it was too late. The cannon erupted in light and heat and Takeda threw up his arms to protect his eyes. When the light had faded, Takeda looked up to where Jarred had been. The stairs and the side of the building were melted and twisted in a grotesque sort of way. Of Jarred, there was no sign.
      "No! You bastard!" Takeda screamed, his rage taking hold of him.
      He slipped a fresh magazine into his rifle and began to fire. Suddenly, bright splashes of orange blood erupted from the Hunter's body, at its midline, where there was a gap in its armor. Takeda stood in shock. Had he done that? The Hunter grunted in pain and collapsed, falling forward onto its face, where it lay still. Behind it, his helmet off and coughing up blood, was David, still alive, with a pistol in his hand. He didn't have the strength to lift his Assault Rifle, so he had used the only weapon he could. He had killed the Hunter and saved Takeda.
      Takeda rushed to David's side, but was afraid of moving him. He could go into shock. His left arm was twisted at an odd angle and hung limply at his side. His armor was dented and twisted and seemed to have caved in farther than seemed possible with a human inside. David looked up, staring Takeda full in the eyes. David was biting back tears of pain, but he spoke, "Leave me here. I can't move. I'd just slow you down."
      "No, you're the team leader. We can still save you," Takeda said.
      "How? By carrying me all the way back to the extraction zone? It feels like I've broken every bone in my body! I'd go into shock and I'd probably be dead by the time you reached the extraction zone. I'm dead weight. What would you do if a Covenant patrol found you? Hell, how would you get out of here? They're going to follow you down the manhole and you'd be moving too slow with me," David answered.
      Takeda could see that talking was making him hurt even more. David was dying and there was nothing he could do about it. "Here," David said, thumbing the magazine catch for his MA2B and letting the magazine fall from the rifle, "take these. You're going to need them."
      He fished in his ammo pouch for more clips, but most of them had been horribly bent and smashed by the force of the Hunter's blow. Takeda quietly accepted the ammo and looked his commander in the eye. Takeda took some grenades out of his own belt and handed them to David. "I can't use these, Takeda. I've only got one hand," David said.
      Shots rang out above them, taking down Covenant soldiers foolish enough to show their heads. Takeda looked up and saw Jarred, very much alive, and very much intact. He had rolled into the doorway, which had sheltered him from the Hunter's blast. David saw him also. "Takeda, take these men and get them out of here. We've done well today. They're your team now. Get them back in one piece."
      Takeda stared wordlessly at his commander. He reached over and took David's pistol from his shaking grip. He rapidly switched out magazines, putting a full 12-round clip into the pistol. "You won't be able to reload in your condition. Make 'em count. Good luck," Takeda said, handing the pistol back.
      David accepted the pistol. Takeda turned and ordered Chris and Jarred to go down the manhole and into the sewers. Jarred leapt down from the stairs and onto the alley floor. Chris knelt by the manhole, watching out for Jarred as he scrambled down the manhole, slinging his sniper rifle over his back. Chris yelled for Takeda. Takeda got up, ready to leave his leader's side, but a suddenly strong hand gripped his arm. Takeda looked down at the bloody hand of his commander. David spoke, "You're a Samurai, aren't you? Will it be a good death?"
      Takeda smiled. He put a reassuring arm on David's shoulder. "It will be a good death."
      With that, Takeda ran for the manhole cover and David settled back against the wall, accepting his fate. Chris disappeared down the hole, and Takeda started down after him. Before he disappeared as well, Takeda risked on last look at David. He was propped up against the wall, his pistol raised, firing shot after shot at the Covenant soldiers who were now charging down the alleyway. Plasma struck the wall all around David, but he didn't flinch. Takeda scrambled down the ladder, pulling the manhole cover over him, blocking out the light of day.
      That was the image of David that would be forever burned into Takeda's mind. Cold, unflinching, brave, and deadly. It was a glorious death indeed.

2125 hours, July 18, 2552 (Military Calendar)/
Sigma Octanus IV, Extraction Zone

      Takeda sat with his back against a tree, staring into the clearing. He couldn't see either of his two teammates, but he knew they were there, lurking in the tree line, establishing as best of a perimeter as three men could establish. Many hours had passed since their escape from Cote d'Azur. They had made their way as fast as they could without compromising their location, evading Covenant patrols when possible, and eliminating Covenant patrols when they couldn't. Eventually, they had arrived at Extraction Zone.
      The UNSC hadn't been able to spare them a dropship and they had been waiting for quite a while. Takeda and the surviving Specters had set up motion detectors to cover the areas they could not cover with their eyes and the areas in front of them to alert them to the approach of any hostiles before the enemy was aware of their presence. And they had simply settled down to wait.
      Suddenly, in the distance, the horizon lit up, blossoming into a bright glare that blocked out the stars and the sky. It faded into nothingness. "What was that?" Chris asked over the radio.
      "That's in the direction of Cote d'Azur. It looks like someone decided to nuke it," Takeda said.
      "Good, 'cause there was a shit storm of Covenant in there," Chris said.
      Takeda waited long into the night. The exhaustion of the day threatened to lull him to sleep. Suddenly, the roar of a Pelican dropship startled him fully awake. He cursed himself for his lack of vigilance. He scanned the sky and heard a call over the radio. "Any UNSC forces, this is Bravo Six Nineteen, do you copy?"
      "Roger, Bravo Six Nineteen. It's about time you showed up," Takeda answered.
      "Sorry about the wait. We've been evacuating wounded for most of the day."
      "No problem, Bravo Six Nineteen. We're putting out a strobe for you to home in on."
      Takeda pulled an infrared strobe out of his pouch and threw it into the center of the clearing. The Pelican pilot saw the strobe and brought his Pelican in to land in the clearing. Takeda, Chris, and Jarred ran towards the open troop bay of the Pelican and clambered inside. Waiting for them was a Lieutenant, dressed in the all black uniform of ONI. As the dropship lifted off, the Lieutenant handed Takeda a data disk. Takeda looked at the Lieutenant, waiting for an explanation.
      The name on the ONI First Lieutenant's uniform said 'Haverson.' Lieutenant Haverson spoke up, "That disk contains your new orders. We're going to REACH. ONI would like to debrief you. They're engineering some new plan to bring the fight to the Covenant, and the information that you guys have is vital. Details on the disk."
      With that, Haverson sat back and closed his eyes. Takeda eyed the strange ONI operative. He decided to ignore him for now. He would figure out what was going on once they got back to their ONI Prowler Ship, the Defiance. Jarred was already asleep. Chris sat back with his combat knife, examining the blade to pass the time. Takeda decided that he would follow Jarred's example and surrender himself to the realm of dreams.

To Be Continued...