Stormbringers by WildebeestNZ
Stormbringers, Part 1: BungY, not BungIE
Date: 21 November 2002, 7:32 am
THE MAN CHECKED his watch, then pressed his face against the glass again. One hour to go until the landing.
He had travelled through space so many times, and yet there was still something amazing about it. Perhaps it was the sheer majesty of the place. Trillions of light-years of endless stars, dust, and planets. The cold, dark void was almost inviting in that sense. The problem was, some of that cold and dark void would always be full of new challenges and enemies to face. No one owned the galaxy. But whoever had the most would be the richest.
Such was life in the Corps.
"Hope you slept well, Jarvis. You'd better get over here, we're prepping up."
The intercom broke him out of his trance.
"Roger. On my way."
He climbed into his combat armour and turned it on. The HUD flickered as it powered up on his visor.
>Welcome to your Chameleon Mark VI Combat suit. All systems online. <
The computer voice notified him that he could move now.
Two minutes later he was in the Shuttle Bay, surrounded by two others of his kind.
Technicians buzzed around them like flies, performing final suit checkups and passing weapons to the three combatants. He took his weapons and clambered aboard the Stealth Dropship.
"You girls all strapped in nice and tight now?" Flight Lieutenant Ed Wood cackled, as he hit the door-sealing mechanism.
"Who you calling girl, pansy flyboy?" Agent Jed Benson laughed.
"Robo-trash." Ed called back.
The third Spartan, Sergeant Will Jenkins, cut them short.
"Alright boys, cut the chatter. Entering the ring's atmosphere in thirty seconds. Prepare for insertion sequence."
This was what the Humans called Beta Halo, the 2nd of three. Covenant ground forces heavily occupied it, and any attempt to take it over conventionally, from either space or the ground, was a suicide mission.
That was why they sent the Stormbringers. A crack team of Spartan warriors, they were the most formidable battle group in the galaxy. They had beaten scores of the best Covenant Black Squads, Reclamation Teams- you name it: they'd beaten it.
The only other fighting machine like them was the Master Chief.
Only a handful of men knew who the Stormbringers were, and whenever they completed a successful mission, the media were told, "It was just another Marine success". The Stormbringers were the UNSC's best-kept secret. Admiral Cole (the Stormbringers were his love-child) referred to them as "the masters of Ungentlemanly Warfare."
"Men, atmosphere is clear. We got cloudy skies, below-zero temperatures and light snowfall. Gonna be a good day for killin'."
Jarvis grinned under his helmet. He was a big fan of snowy conditions- he loved how easy it was to hide in the snow due to the lack of visibility and the camoflauge.
Sometimes he could stay undetected until Covenant troops were literally standing in front of him. Then he would pull the pin, bounce the grenade and dive for cover, all before the troops could react.
The clamps whooshed and the stealth screen shimmered as the Dropship's door opened. The ship glided down onto the jagged cliff-tops.
"Alright guys, lets move OUT! You know the drill!"
The Dropship was gone as quickly as it came.
Jarvis listened in for the radio confirmation.
"OK then, I'm gonna go and park in the hills over here, so as to go unnoticed. I'll remain there for the rest of the mission, until you call me up. Good luck men!" crackled Ed on the radio.
Jarvis peered over the edge of the cliff. He couldn't see it, but he knew the bottom of the chasm was some 600 metres below.
"Let's get going guys. Them blue bastards don't know we're here, but the less time this mission takes us, the better."
The three snow-coloured Spartans clamped their rope-pulleys onto the cliff side.
"Heheh, I love this job. Ready to jump?" asked Jenkins.
Jarvis nodded, and disappeared over the edge.
Stormbringers, part 2: fire and ice
Date: 21 November 2002, 11:11 pm
AS AGENT JARVIS descended helplessly in the chasm, he couldn't help but wonder what the ONI freaks had them doing this time. They had been told that they were on a routine reconnaissance mission- they were to make their way towards one of the Covenant research stations, obtain whatever design or weapons schematics they could find, and return to their ship for debriefing.
Everything was a goddamn "routine reconnaissance mission" when you worked for those spooks.
The air rushed past him like a storm, and his stomach heaved as he reached terminal velocity. He had done this many times before. Even so, he still found it exhilarating, and wondered if this was what it would be like to fly.
He felt himself slowing down- he realised he had reached the end of the rope length. The elastic cable tossed him up and down like a spider, until he finally came to a halt about 5 metres above the ground.
Jarvis turned around, still upside down, and swung himself towards the wall, his shield shimmering as it absorbed the impact. One hand drew his combat knife out of its sheath and slashed through the rope, while Jarvis skilfully used the other hand to pivot himself around so that he was facing the right way up. He slid feet first down the small rock face onto the soft, snowy ground.
"Don't you just love that moment before you reach terminal velocity? It's as if you're-"
Jarvis and Jenkins often thought along the same wavelength.
"Looks pretty empty in here. How far is it to the valley?"
"Around that bend there is the first line of defences, I believe. You know the drill- minimal disturbance, move as fast as you can etcetera."
The three Agents set off down the chasm, sticking to the walls.
To your average Covenant trooper, all that would have been seen was just another snow flurry. Had they looked closer, they would have noticed the blurred camoflauge outline of the three Agents in tight formation.
Luckily for the three men, these were average troopers, and this was your average Covenant checkpoint. Some of them were even asleep. An incursion anywhere on Beta Halo seemed highly unlikely to the Covenant- the humans were supposedly tied up just keeping them at bay anyway. The Agents passed through without incident.
Soon they came across a second checkpoint. It looked slightly more beefed up than the previous one, so Jenkins motioned them to stop about 100 metres from the checkpoint. Jarvis unslung his sniper rifle and scanned the checkpoint. Sure enough, there was an entire Black Squad patrolling this checkpoint. Four elites, seven grunts (with fuel rod guns) and a couple of particularly nasty-looking hunters.
"How do you propose we solve this one?"
Jed Benson, ever the thinker, unslung both his rocket launcher and looked at Jenkins, who proceeded to do the same.
"What do you think? Finish 'em quick?"
Jenkins nodded, and he and Benson crawled until they were about 100 metres from the checkpoint.
"When you see me fire, let her rip." Jarvis called out on his radio.
Jarvis sighted his rifle. He pointed the targeting reticle at one of the Hunters' eyes, and grinned briefly.
Then he pulled the trigger, and hell was unleashed.
What happened next was probably one of the most brilliant five-second military manoeuvres in the history of mankind. It was a shame that almost none mankind would know about it.
The first Hunter hit the ground half a second after it was hit, by which time Jenkins and Benson had stood up and fired as well.
Several members of the troop cluster tried to dive out of the way when they saw it, but their efforts were in vain.
Two rockets slammed into the ground, their respective blast radiuses overlapping slightly, and columns of fire erupted into the air. The ground was covered in a mixture of soot, blood and body pieces.
The second Hunter, standing not far from the area where the clusters once stood, flinched from the shockwave. Jarvis subsequently punished it, with a fin-stabilized, armour-piercing Message from God. It landed in a bloodied heap next to its companion. It had sinned, because it had not followed one of the Stormbringers most important rules: no matter how much pain you take, never, ever flinch.
The three Agents looked around briefly, and ran towards the now unmanned checkpoint.
Stormbringers Part 3: "Which one of you is next!?"
Date: 28 November 2002, 8:01 am
Jarvis spotted the green flame almost immediately.
He hit the ground almost as quickly as he had got up, and the two others followed suit. The mini fuel-rod rifles detonated about a nanosecond after the three Agents hit the snow, and the resulting chain reaction caused a mammoth explosion.
The tall Agent's visor dimmed automatically to prevent the glare harming his eyes, and he watched with slight pleasure as the checkpoint was engulfed in an inferno of blue plasma.
The smoke was still clearing as the three Agents made their way towards the crater that was once the checkpoint. As if the weather was affected by the fighting, the light snowfall had now turned into a raging blizzard.
"They'll be sending reinforcements out here- I really think we should leave now."
Jenkins wasn't really even ranked that much higher than the other two- they had a sort of democracy. He was just the Sergeant for administration purposes, but they always listened to him carefully nonetheless.
"Roger that. Let's get moving, we've still got a Research Centre, plus a whole bunch of goodies in it, to capture."
The three Agents faded into the blizzard almost as quickly as they came.
The investigation team decided it was some sort of accident- a grunt dropped a grenade and it set off the others, or something. It had happened before- when you had almost your entire male population in military service, accidents were bound to happen. The only thing that troubled many Covenant leaders is that it was a Black Squad. This was definitely the first time an entire Black Squad had been killed in an "accident".
"Have you ever wondered what it must be like to be one of those poor bastards we take out? I mean, you're just standing there and BAM! There goes your group leader. Two seconds later you've joined him."
Benson was talking as they jogged through the canyon.
"Hah. They do it to our guys too," replied Jenkins.
"S'pose. But I mean, it must really suck to have no fighting chance like that."
"Yeah. What do you think Jarvis?"
Jarvis wasn't much for talking. He preferred to focus on the task at hand, a quality that was seemingly inherent amongst the Spartans. But Jarvis wasn't a Spartan. He was a Stormbringer- not as good as a Spartan all-round, but the Stormbringers could kick Spartan ass when it came to stealth missions.
He snapped back to the conversation.
"Yeah. It happens to both sides. Hopefully, we'll never be on the receiving end of the ambush."
The canyon had opened up a bit now. The research station looked faintly like the photos from Master Chief's video recordings of the Control Room on Alpha Halo. However, it was slightly smaller and had a definite Covenant architecture.
Not Forerunner at all, it was a large, pyramid shaped structure embedded in the wall of the canyon. Like the Control Room, it had a zigzag, metal path running from the ground to the entrance, which was quite high up. At the top of this path stood the ominous entrance. It looked dark and uninviting, and Covenant troops swarmed over it like an ant nest.
"So what's the plot?"
The three men stopped and crouched in the snow as Jenkins told them what to do.
The elite's head snapped back, as the sniper round blasted through the nasal cavity, and it fell to the ground like a brick.
Its grunt companion looked at the body for a few seconds, then started to open its mouth in a scream. It was cut off by a second round.
Somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd Elite that was felled, the Covenant realised that they were more or less under attack.
"LETS ROCK!" screamed Benson on his headset, right on cue.
He released a rocket at a large group of Covenant running near the bottom of the path, and a second at the group near the top.
Benson didn't bother reloading his rocket launcher: he was a risk taker. He threw it down on the ground, whipped out his specialist MA6C AR (complete with plasma-tipped bullets and silencer) and ran up the path, even before the rocket smoke had cleared. Jenkins slung his rocket launcher, unsheathed his own AR and followed up behind Benson.
"Hurry up guys, we gotta do this one fast- we can't have them alerting the guys inside," Jenkins yelled.
Jarvis stood up and picked off the last Elite with his sniper rifle- the only Covenant unit left that knew how to operate a radio station. He was lucky to get it- it was only about 20 metres from the station when it fell. He slung his rifle over his back.
Then he was running to catch up with Jenkins and Benson.
The bullets tore swathes in the small, ragtag battle groups that remained from the rocket blasts. They didn't stand a chance- they were totally disorientated.
Benson encountered the last unit- a Jackal near the entrance door.
He decided wasn't worth the two bullets required to take it out. Instead, he sprinted towards it and concentrated his momentum into the butt of his rifle, sending the nasty-looking alien flying into the wall.
"Yeah!!! Oh yeah! Who's da MAN? Suck on that ya blue bastard!" Benson danced around the body.
Jarvis and Jenkins looked at each other.
"You're a f**ing maniac Jed," Jenkins and Jarvis roared with laughter.
Stormbringers Part 4: Infiltration
Date: 11 December 2002, 10:08 pm
"OK, so no-one knows we're here. Yet. But we've got to hurry- the longer we're here the bigger the risk."
"Roger," replied Benson and Jarvis in unison.
Jenkins was giving his usual pep talk. Jarvis was very similar to Jenkins, but Jenkins talked quite a lot- and rightly so, he was the leader- whereas Jarvis didn't talk much at all. Jenkins knew that there was something special about Jarvis- he was glad to be working with him. And Benson too. Benson was a total maniac, but he also was a damn fine soldier, and loyal friend to both.
There was a sort of bond between the Stormbringers- like a brotherhood. If one was in trouble, the other two would risk everything to help them.
"I'll hit the door switch. Jarvis and Benson, take out anything that you see as the door opens."
Jarvis was surprised to find nothing waiting for them.
They made their way into the outer reaches of the compound without incident- the Covenant had either put all their guards in one place (the entrance path), or there were more in the inner section. The latter possibility worried Jarvis a lot- if there were even more Covenant troopers in this compound, then there was something really important in this Research Centre. Perhaps ONI knew a lot more than they divulged.
>>BIP. BIP. BIP>>
Jarvis glanced at his motion tracker. Four enemies were slowly moving-obviously walking- in their direction. Because they were walking, Jarvis guessed it was just a patrol- they didn't know about the attack. He breathed a sigh of relief.
The three men pressed themselves against the wall, obscured from the view of any being making its way down the corridor. Jenkins signalled the two men to hold their fire.
Soon, three unwary grunts and a Jackal wandered past them. They were chattering as they walked by. Jenkins signalled the men to listen:
"Stupid techie. They do something strange in there. Won't let us in."
"Yeah. I want another job. This place sucks. The techies are crazy. Have you seen them? They are all acting strange."
"What do they do in there?"
"You hear the Noise sometimes? I do. I woke up when I heard it at night. Techie told me it was just a faulty vent. But I know it isn't. They treat us like we're stupid. Like dog-poo."
"Shut up! Listen!"
A loud humming sound permeated the silence. The grunt, hearing this, panicked.
"AAAAAH! GET ME OUTTA HERE!"
The grunt broke into a sprint down the corridor. By chance he saw the three Agents standing right next to him.
Several distinct "phuts" rang out from the silencers in quick succession.
The grunts and the Jackal fell to the ground.
"Looks like we're looking for some serious stuff. If Covenant technicians won't let grunts into a research centre then there must be something pretty interesting going on in there. And what the hell was that noise?" Benson muttered, allowing his rifle to drop to his side.
"I don't know, but I want to find out. Shall we?" Jenkins pointed down the corridor.
Soon they were outside a very large blast door.
"How the hell do we get in there?" whispered Benson.
"I don't know. But I've got motion all over the place in there. There's ten -no-eleven guys in there. By the looks of it, eight of them are guards." Jarvis replied.
"How do you know?" Benson asked Jarvis.
"You can tell. Guards have regular movements- like patterns as they patrol the rooms."
"Right. Back to the task at hand. How do we get in there in the first place?"
"Blast our way in?"
"They might run when the doors explode."
"Is there another way in?"
"Ventilation system is way too small- it's only designed for grunts-for grunts to crawl through."
The three men stood in silence.
"Why don't we just knock?" broke Jarvis.
"You got some funny ideas. Let's knock then shall we? Let them all know we're here!" rebuked Benson.
"No, wait -Jed, he has a point. If we sound like we're guards or something and we need to get in, they might open the door."
Jenkins pulled out his translator, and Benson moaned.
It was worth a try. Jenkins held the translator up to the door.
>>Patrol reporting in. We found a dead human, it's got a funny looking suit. Need you to take a look at it.>>
>>Human? Here? Go back to your post soldier!!!>>
>>Really. A human. One man fighter crashed near here. We think....we think it's the Green One.>>
>>The one who supposedly escaped from Halo?>>
Jarvis stood tense. It was a difficult ploy.
>>Yes. We think so. Open the door.>>
The last thing the guard at the control panel saw was a flash of light. He fell to the ground, a plasma-tipped bullet lodged in his neck.
"Let 'em have it!" Jenkins screamed.
The room was filled with screams and silenced gunfire. Jarvis took down three elites with his rifle, and then turned to find another standing right in front of him. Its arm was raised above its head to strike. He flinched as the blow threw him off his feet, his shields destabilized.
The elite pointed the rifle at his face.
Fortunately for Jarvis, the elite lived out it's own command.
Benson appeared behind it and smashed his rifle into the back of its skull. In a single movement, he kicked the body out of the way and helped Jarvis to his feet.
Benson had proved his loyalty yet again.
Meanwhile, Jenkins was looking around the room, standing atop the bodies of two guards. Save one technician, all the Covenant in the room lay dead. Jarvis raised his rifle and pointed at it, and Jenkins spoke into the translator....
Stormbringers Part 5: tell us your name, rank and secret project number
Date: 17 January 2003, 6:12 am
Authors Note: I must apologise for the time delay between this Part and Part 4. Part 6 follows on Monday. This is where the story really starts to kick off J
Happy reading- Beest
Stormbringers Part 5: "Tell us your name, rank and secret project number."
>>You will live if you tell us why you are here.>>
Jenkins looked the techie in the eye.
The technician looked somewhat like a Jackal, but without the combat armour. He had seen engineers as well- similar to grunts, except without the high-tech suits. Clearly the Covenant had different jobs for the same species. He wondered what the "other" jobs were, for the Hunter and Elite classes.
It was distinctly birdlike in its facial movements as it replied, and Jarvis saw its eyes flash.
>>Yes, let me get the key. Please, don't hurt me!>>
But it wasn't a key it was reaching for.
Jarvis saw it before Jenkins, and shot the creature, but the grenade was already ignited. The three men dived for cover.
Everything shook as the grenade went off, and smoke filled the room. The three Agents felt their suits switch to hazard mode. Their rebreathers activated, preventing the smoke from entering their lungs. Clearly, suicide was a better alternative than interrogation, to this fanatical researcher. Yes, the Covenant were fanatical, but normally they didn't blow themselves up to try and destroy their enemy.
Something was definitely going on here.
Through the smoke Jarvis could make out red lights flashing. As his audio module came back online he noted the loud alarm sounds. It was only a matter of minutes before reinforcements arrived.
Jenkins got up from the floor, his shield shimmering.
"Right. Now that we've alerted everyone nearby, I think we should find whatever we're looking for and get the hell out. Jarvis, how long have we got?"
"Looking at standard procedures, I'd say five minutes- plus two for the fact they aren't expecting any human activity out here."
"Seven minutes guys. In that time we've got to take whatever they've got, get out and call the Dropship."
As Jenkins started making radio transmissions, Jarvis and Benson hurriedly searched the room in the haze. There were several control panels: one of them was marked RESTRICTED ACCESS ONLY in Covenant language.
"That terminal, try that." Benson pointed at it.
Jarvis pushed his finger into a slot at the terminal, and waited as the suit interfaced with the control panel. One of the reasons he had been selected for the Stormbringer program was because he "had a knack for unknown computer systems".
Not that many people these days weren't computer geniuses. It took a special kind of recruitment scout to find a computer genius who was also a good soldier. It took another kind of scout altogether to find one who had the ability to disappear into the environment: who could suddenly materialize and mow down hordes of Covenant troops. And still be able to kill someone from over a kilometre away with a sniper rifle. Jarvis was one in a billion.
They'd been lucky to find him. He was the only survivor of the Nessus Mining disaster on Mars in 2535: an accident which killed over 7000 people. They'd found him wandering on top of the rubble afterwards: somehow he had found his way from beneath the masses of rubble to the top. That was something special. The media had never been informed that there was one survivor: to keep things quiet the officials made sure everyone knew there were "no survivors." Henceforth Jarvis was incorporated into the Stormbringer Project, at the age of 8.
The interface flashed up on his HUD, and he began manipulating it, as he had done many times before.
ONI Datalink 5.5a
>>Directory: BetaNode/188.8.131.520/BetaR/...Project Shadow/
+COPY ALL: PROJECT SHADOW
>>Copying BetaNode/184.108.40.2060/BetaR/...Project Shadow/
>>Copy complete. End Interface Y/N?
+N. DELETE 220.127.116.110/BetaR2/...Project Shadow/
>>Complete. End Interface Y/N?
>>Interface Complete. Have a nice day!
"F**k I hate that smiley thing."
Jarvis wasn't joking. When he actually said he hated something, he really meant it.
"There are worse things to worry about. Let's get the hell out."
The Sergeant pointed towards the exit.
They spoke as they ran out the door.
"Project Shadow? Sounds dangerous. I bet ONI knows something about this."
"Well we're not going to find out until we get out, are we? Come on! Faster!"
"Oka-Hey! What the hell is that?"
Benson pointed near the entrance.
There were several funny-looking life support tanks wired up to the wall. There was a motionless humanoid shape in each. Whatever was in the tanks was obviously dead.
It was an unusual sight- they looked like some sort of incubation tank-for a strange new life form, maybe? Could the Covenant be engineering a new foe for the humans? Jarvis shook his head subconsciously. Not possible: they were technologically advanced enough already to defeat the humans. Jarvis wiped his visor. This was one helluva day.
"Is that what ONI wanted us to "discover"?" muttered Benson.
"I don't know. But hopefully it's in that damn file Jarvis downloaded. Now, let's get the hell outta here!"
Jenkins grabbed Benson and shoved him out the door.
The men reached the exit after about half a minute of running- they were going pretty fast. Stealth was no longer an issue.
Jarvis found himself looking down the canyon the other way- it actually seemed quite different-almost tranquil. The gunpowder and the bodies had been covered in the snowfall- the blizzard was still at its best.
"This is the Sergeant. Mission complete. Request extraction."
"Roger...picking up...transponder signal-can't get down...blizzard too strong...higher ground."
Jarvis thought he could hear the faint thrum of a Covenant Dropship. He had always relied on hearing- he could judge distances by sound even in the loudest background noise.
"Time for the hook-and-pulley guys."
No soldier enjoyed this. They had all been issued with an electric-winch grappling hook, for scaling large vertical surfaces. The cliff, like the one he had bungy-jumped from earlier, was probably about 600m high. Of course, the grappling hook rope was only 60m in length, so they'd have to winch up several times. And there was the 3% chance of the winch failing, according to UNSC statistics.
Jarvis took a breath and fired the grappling hook to a rock ledge above. The wind whipped his armour as he flew up the rock face, and he used his arms to absorb the impact. As he flew up the face he thought he could make out the shape of a Covenant Dropship entering the canyon.
Using one hand and two feet to hang on to the wall, he fired the grappling hook again.
After a few more shots he found himself atop the cliff. The Dropship sat there, motionless. Wood was standing next to it, rubbing his hands.
"Good to see you ladies had a good time down there," he said, pointing at the purple bloodstain on Jarvis' chest.
"Just so you know, I'm baring my teeth at you, Wood," said Jarvis.
This was one of those times where a visor was inconvenient.
"You wouldn't do that to the best pilot in the Corps would you? Come on, let's go."
Wood disappeared into the cockpit and gunned the engine.
The three Agents strapped up and the exit door creaked as it sealed itself shut.
"Well done guys. We're moving on up in the world!" yelled Wood, as the ship exited the ring's atmosphere.
It passed unnoticed through the small Covenant battlegroups.
Stormbringers Part 6: Shadow? As in dark-and-sinister-alley Shadows?
Date: 28 January 2003, 11:36 pm
"Well done men. You go and get some rest, I'll send your weapons and armour down to maintenance."
The engineers were surprised to find a nasty scratch on the back of Jarvis' armour: they didn't normally get hit. It wasn't even common for them to even be seen. However, situations were sometimes difficult for any man to resolve, and there had been one or two times in the past, where the Stormbringers had turned up with the odd burn or bash mark on their suits.
"I think this is what you might be looking for, Sir."
Jarvis removed the disk from his pocket and handed it to The Boss. His real name was Colonel Steve Hugo. They'd nicknamed him Boss because of the way he always sat around with a big fat Cuban cigar sticking out of his mouth. Cuban cigars had gone out of fashion since the anti-Communist revolution in the early 21st century, but The Boss was a bit of a rogue.
"So what exactly is all this Shadow stuff?" Jarvis didn't need to tell him about the life-support tanks and the things he'd seen in the base. It was probably already on the disk.
"We're not entirely sure. Still, ONI asked us to pass it through without delay. Sounds kinda weird. I'll send it now."
Jarvis saluted The Boss and left the room anxiously. Whatever was in those tanks wasn't a good thing. The Covenant were planning something. It was only a matter of time until the Stormbringers found out. Jarvis hoped it would be sooner rather than later.
Daedalus Command Post, Planet Servo Prime, Proxima Centauri System
Private Derek Regis watched the dust drift across the landscape. What in the name of God had possessed him to join this outfit? He had joined the Corps in the hope of some action: some real Covenant butt-kicking.
So the bastards had posted him to some backwater command post in the middle of a desert. Even worse: he had been made a sentry. Quite possibly the single biggest waste of time in the Corps- well, in this dead sector anyway. To top it off, other than himself, several other sentries and a handful of officers, this place was empty.
"Hey Evans, why do we even bother having guards here anyway?"
Regis' co-sentry looked back at him through his environment-helmet.
"I don't know. We're in the middle of a war, Regis. Anything could happen."
"Yeah right. Slap me when it does."
Regis turned, walked about a hundred metres away from Evans and looked out into the vast expanse of desert again.
Regis glanced at his motion-tracker. He could almost swear he saw something move on it.
"Evans, did you see that?"
No response. Evans must've fallen asleep. Again, he thought. Better go wake him up.
"Evans? Yo! Where you gone this time? Come on, this isn't funny."
Still no response.
"Alright that's it, I'm coming to get you. If you've left your post I'm dobbing you in!"
Regis jogged halfway to Evans' post and then stopped dead. A motionless humanoid shape lay at the post, next to the door.
Regis sprinted. Evans' body lay on the ground. He had a blank expression on his face, as if he hadn't realised what was happening when he died. Surprise attack.
Regis turned the body over and almost retched. There was a fairly large, round hole where Evans' spinal cord met his skull, and the flesh was all burnt and cauterised. Something had burned a hole right through the back of his head. Similar to plasma-scoring, Regis thought, from what he saw on the training videos.
"Sergeant! This is Private Regis! We have a KIA, suspected plasma burn! I repeat! KIA! Poor bastard."
Regis waited a couple of moments. No response from command.
He ran towards the door to the command bunker. The control panel was broken, and the door slid open. This wasn't right. Someone had tampered with the panel.
Raising his rifle to eye level, he crept down the corridor towards the command station.
The lights had gone out. He flicked on his torch. This was like a nightmare come true.
And it was.
Jenkins heard something behind him and turned around.
The air was stabbed with a scream that could make even the most hardened soldiers shudder in their boots.