Macerr Chapters 1 - 20
Posted By: Adam Stark, Amanda Rzucidlo, Nick Fiore, Joe Lord, Connor Sheppard, Daniel<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 7 September 2006, 2:50 am
After the Planet Cairn was glassed by the Covenant, the surviving members of the Red and Blue forces were transferred to the planet of Macerr (Pronounced Mah-sair) in orbit of the Alpha Forcanis A system. It's been about a year since then. October 2553.
Macerr is a combination of desolation and abundance. The minerals and forests on the northern hemisphere make up for the desolate and lifeless wasteland on the Southern Hemisphere. The planet's largest city and capital, Macerr City, borders both hemisphereres. There are no major bodies of water anymore in the Southern Hemisphere, and the Northern Hemisphere is kept alive by The Dios River and Sea of Macerr. The river is fed from a spring in the Altonor Mountains.
However, the crucial factor for both sides is a remote uranium mine in the Southern Hemisphere.
War is hell. The only thing is, there is no heaven.
Welcome to Macerr.
Chapter 0.The Prelude
Forty red soldiers waited in the trenches in front of Omicron. A heavy fog was beginning to settle in front them. It was about a 350-meter sprint to the next cover, and recon had done nothing to spot the Blue machine gun nests. Not to forget the AP mines in the field. Whoever organized this operation should be hanged. Major Tomson raised his arm, and swung it back down, signaling the charge. The soldiers charged out of the trench and sprinted across the open plain. Major Tomson stopped in the middle of the field.
"Odd, no mines or machine guns," he thought. Suddenly an Antlion Mine went off under him, blowing his legs clear off of him. Simultaneously, M247 GMPGs began firing, cutting through the fog. The rest of the soldiers hit the deck, but to their dismay. More antlions went off, blowing limbs off right and left. On sergeant took off back to the trenches, but was cut down by the machine gun spray. Soldiers began spraying through the fog, killing nothing but air. They were cut down as well. By the time the M247s ceased, 39 out of 40 Red Soldiers were dead. The remaining private stood up and looked around. He turned back around to look forward, and was cut in half by the bumper of an M12 LRV. Four other warthogs drove through the field of corpses, crushing skulls and bodies. The Blues had just captured Omicron.
Chapter 1.Angels Touch Down
The Albatross designated R-365 touched down with a bit of a hop, the soldiers inside jostled slightly. They'd been ready for it of course, most of them had seen much worse. They were still chatting as the doors opened, most of them bustling out in civilian clothing, one of the Red soldiers however still wearing his right shoulderpad and arm plates down to his orange, white and black gloved hand. Ezekial Crowe, or as he was known in the service Ezekial Seraphim Crowe, a Hawk emblem of white shining brightly on plates of white and orange. As was mandatory he had his medals and awards pinned to his left breast, 3 purple hearts, several iron, silver and gold stars. A Sergeant's insignia on his chest, as well as a few more awards as he shouldered the rather large packs behind each shoulder. They were actually wrapped around his shoulders, large boxes in either hand. His personal weapons of war, disassembled and cleaned, ready for use as soon as he could reassemble them. Onto the hoverbus, placing all of his bags in the bottom storage compartment. He sat down slowly stretching his arms, a broad smile across his face. Stark white hair, piercing green eyes, a strong build but the mind of a scholar behind that tan forehead. He wiped a bit of sweat from his brow, admiring the fact that he was off a transport and on another one. He hated them so, what irony to get off, have one moment of freedom from this mechanical housing, then right back on. The sooner he arrived at Iota the better.
Sanderson had fallen asleep in her helmet again. Too much work being a platoon commander. A bleep was going off inside her helmet. She picked her head up off her desk and turned on her comm. "Go ahead, Napoleon."
"Excuse me, not to disturb ma'am, but the captain needs the platoon leaders on emergency conference channel 1. If you recall, Lt. Colonel Backersi was assaulting Blue Base alpha. The conflict went south, if you get what I-"
Sanderson clicked off her comm and rested her head back down on the desk. She switched it back on to the conference channel. She caught Captain Antwone in another on of his sermons.
"So if we pull together, and compensate for our recent losses, I'm sure our team can pull ahead and achieve victory. Recon confirms Lt. Colonel Backersi has been captured. As with the deployment of Alpha, Bravo, and Delta companies in the Southern Hemisphere, it is up to us to defeat the Blues on our own ground. Since 2nd platoon sustained 27 casualties in last night's raid, they will not be participating in the counterassault. Skyhawk and Longswords will be pounding the base for all of tomorrow to soften their defenses. 1st and 3rd platoon will be deployed by troop pod Pelicans to the outskirts of Omicron in two days. Ready your soldiers, this battle's gonna be big."
Another beep, soldiers were arriving. The last of 1st Platoon were on their way into the base, a list of arrivals already set for Sanderson. A new Sergeant had arrived for 1st Platoon; his voice was already reverberating through the halls. He was telling jokes, a favorite pastime, and like every time he had everyone within earshot laughing hysterically. Sergeant Ezekial Seraphim Crowe, the "Guardian Angel" of the Red Army was doing the talking, his teammates and fellow Red soldiers doing the laughing.
He carried in his own bags and his two large boxes, wondering if he'd be met by his commanding officer, or if he was expected to head to his new quarters first. He marveled at the structure that was the Iota Compound, already knowing his room assignment. He started telling another joke, best to get everyone loose, get everyone in a good mood. They never knew when all hell would break loose.
Sanderson's helmet light went back off just as she had turned off her comm. She turned it back on. "-Sigh- what now, Napoleon?"
"Sergeant Crowe and the rest of the replacements are here. Just thought you should know."
"Great. Just perfect. Tell the replacements to head to their rooms, if you can reach them. I'm going to go meet with the new sergeant."
Sanderson left her quarters on the Officers' Quarters floor and headed down the ramp to the rest of the quarters. She could hear a few faint laughs echoing through the hallway as she turned the corner. She looked left and right through the battleship gray hallways,
looking for the Sergeant's quarters. She found the room a few doors down on the left and knocked on it.
A voice from inside. A young man's voice, full of humor and happiness. The sound of armor rustling, of clicks and whirrs. The Sergeant was busy with something in the room.-
"Doors open, come on in."
Sanderson opened the door to Crowe arranging his stuff.
"Sergeant Ezekial Crowe?" she asked to make sure it was him.
"That's me ma'am."
He stood and turned to her, saluting with his gloved right hand, still armored to the shoulder. His awards jingled on the left side of his shirt, on the bed a half-assembled M7057 Defoliation Projector and a fully assembled M19 SSM Rocket Launcher. "Kaminari" was written on the side of the M19 in dark orange letters, his personal Thunder launcher as he called it. The rest of his armor was strapped to their specific panels on the wall, easily accessible for him should the need arise.
"At ease. The reason you were sent here is because we needed a good NCO who wouldn't get any more soldiers killed. You seem to do the opposite, if one were to glance at your operational records. Also, these boys that you came in with are fresh outta boot.
All they want is, "lets go fight some blues" or, "man I hope we get some action." I'm sure you can whip these replacements into shape. Am I right?"
"You are ma'am. I spent a year training recruits at the Galedon Red Military Academy on Terra 4. I shouldn't have any trouble with this group. And..yes...I am known for my track record of...zero losses...hoping to keep it that way, ma'am..thank you."
"Hehe. Well, get some shuteye. Its already almost morning. We're going to be deploying in two days."
Sanderson saluted and left the quarters, heading back down the concrete hallway and back up the ramp to her quarters. She went inside and fell down onto her bed.
He nodded, saluting her once again before she departed. He turned, back to work assembling "Gojira," his Defoliant Projector. He'd get some rest once it was done, placing it and "Kaminari" on their boxes in the corner, close to his armor. Spare ammunition was left inside, he always carried 4 rockets on him and 3 full tanks of napalm.
He settled down into bed after removing his right arm plates and glove, hanging them up on the wall with the rest of his suit. He removed his medals, placing them on the left breast of the armor, changing into his boxers and a white t-shirt. Down beneath the covers, his eyes closing a few minutes after. The Seraphim would not let these souls down, not ever.
Chapter 3.Ghosts In The Night
The stealthy dark exterior of the Oni ship coupled with its incredibly efficient silent engines brought the craft down without any detection just a bit South of the mines. The dead of night, a horrible place, but it would do them well to set their...experiment here. A small amount of people, an incredibly large field of terrain, water available from the town or from the well they'd installed earlier, just for this purpose. The rear bay doors of the black craft opened to allow 5 armored soldiers, all just as dark as the ship to start lugging a crate to the ground. A red insignia, Red's Oni division dropping off their cargo.
One of the Oni's patted the side of the box, looking through her custom visor of deep green, the only one in the group that wasn't black. She signaled for her soldiers to undo the triple-thick locks on either side, deactivate the containment field and open the crate. The door hissed open with the rush of air and rose vertically, exposing the cargo of the crate to the Oni official. A voice croaked from her visor into the headsets of her fellow Oni members as she reached in, stroking something inside with the glove of her right hand.
"You're going to do us proud, my little experiment...yesss...."
She brought her hand back, moving around to the rear of the crate to access a datapanel there. She placed her own personal password into the onboard screen, several clicks heard inside the crate as locks were undone and something was released. A loud thud inside the crate, almost a grunt heard. The Oni's backed away slowly, two of them actually running for their ship. Only the female Oni, the lead scientist for this expedition remained, walking around the crate to view her specimen. He'd live up to the expectations of her officers, and he'd surpass all of the tests. The SPARTAN project had been a success, project OROCHI would only accomplish more.
She entered the last few commands for the crate, to wake the experiment in one standard hour. Once he was free and clear of the crate, it would self-destruct to leave no debris behind. The crate certainly had enough C7 and high explosives to atomize it. She boarded the ship, blowing a kiss to the crate as its bay doors closed. The ship ascended into the sky, leaving behind its priceless cargo, its pristine experiment.
He was cautious. Maybe what the ship had left was valuable, maybe he could sell it. He could certainly use the money; mining wasn't the most paying job on Macerr. He approached from the side with the datapanel, looking down at it with a confused look. "Project OROCHI" was the only thing on the panel, the controls locked by the final commands of that one last soldier. He noticed the raised door of the crate, circling around to take a look inside. Money, valuable minerals? He had to see, turning around the box and standing infront of it. All he was met with was a low growl, something shuffling in the contents of the crate.
An electrical current surged over a dark figure, small points of gold light beginning to emerge across a metallic body. It rose in the cage, 4ft, 5ft, 6ft, almost 7ft tall, its face as red as blood. The man released only the smallest of screams, most likely not even audible to any of the sleeping citizens here in the South. The creature was upon him, steely jaws tearing through flesh, through muscle, through his windpipe and trachea, through bone, one quick clamping of its jaws almost severing the man's head from his body.
The corpse would be found the next day, lying on its back in the middle of a dry field. He looked as though he'd been mauled by an animal of some sort, much of his muscle torn away, leaving heat-seared wounds and cauterized arteries exposed. They'd find a large black crater about 50 yards away, strange as noone had heard an explosion, noone had seen a meteor come down. The only thing they found at the crater was a damaged datapanel, still displaying "OROCHI" on its flickering plasma screen. That night they'd hear a howl, with the wind, over the wind, unearthly, inhuman, and it came from all sides of the small mining community. They locked their doors, they barred their windows. They traveled to the mines with weapons and in packs, and the rumors of the Orochi began to spread across Macerr.
Chapter 4.The Residence of Mr. Harold
A dark-haired man armored from the neck down strolls through the streets of Kalaa, carrying his helmet below his arm and smiling and waving at those he knows. He finds himself in a secluded neighborhood inhabited by beautiful houses and walks right in the front door of a large log cabin-esque house.
"Jack, you here?" Lieutenant Lennalli calls out as he steps through the entryway.
"In the basement." Comes a reply. Lennalli walks through the house and descends a stairway to an unfurnished basement. The room is strewn with pieces of various machines and in the corner, bent over a poorly constructed workbench, is a frail man formerly known as Corporal Jack Harold. Now a shadow of his former self, he's allowed his formerly muscular frame to atrophy and his pale skin hasn't seen the sun for months. He looks up at his old friend and in the dim light one could see his hair, jet black only a year ago, has now become almost entirely gray.
"You look like shit, Jack. You need to get out of this basement every-so-often. C'mon. I'll buy you a drink." Jack just shakes his head and turns back to his 'work'. "No, no. I've got far too much to do. If I continue at this pace it'll only be 2 more weeks before he's finished." At this Lennalli shakes his head and looks over at a roughly human-shaped form slumped in a corner.
"You've been saying that for 3 months, Jack. It's not gonna start working again. You'd be better off starting fresh the trying to repair it." Mr. Harold barely reacts. Without even lifting his head he throws back a retort to the lieutenant. "He saved both our lives more times then I can count. I'm not just gonna leave him in the scrap heap. And don't try to get me to come 'take a tour of the base' again. I still refuse to re-enlist. I can't believe you're still in it after you saw what happened to Private Samson."
"Even I've come to peace with what happened to those privates that day. There was nothing we could've done. That could've happened whether he was enlisted or not. For the love of god. The 3rd largest base on the planet is right outside of town. You think just because you're not a soldier anymore you don't have anything to worry about? You're not thinking straight anymore. You need to get out of the house. At least take a walk and get some fresh air. Go to the pool hall. Have some fun. You're worrying me."
Lennalli just shakes his head and turns to leave. "I'm going back to base. You know how to get ahold of me if you change your mind."
Chapter 5.South of Iota Outpost
...beep... beep... beep... beep...
"Not yet... five more minutes..."
...beep... beep... beep... beep...
"Ugh... fine..." Talitha's feet hit the floor, scrubbing her shoulder length hair out of her eyes, her hand reaching for her alarm, but it was off, her datapad rumbling again. More messages, three more messages from the Mercenary Guild alone, asking her to join up. She deleted them all without even looking at their contents, disgust on her face as she headed for the kitchen of her small home. No glory, no fame... she just wanted to go back... back to where she could actually make a difference, and joining up with those backstabbing killers was the last thing she wanted to do. She wouldn't work for people with whom loyalty was forgotten as soon as a quick quid could be made.
She passed her armor on its rack, the maroon covered with the dull steel and brown camouflage of her trade, her shotgun propped up next to it, a thin layer of dust over both. No jobs in a while, and money was starting to run thin. A cup of tea was in the synthesizer for her, and she took it outside to watch the sunrise. Maybe the new day would bring something for her to do... this new life sure was boring.
It beeped, and it blinked. It hadn't done anything for a year, just sitting where Talitha had left it, wherever that was. Its battery life couldn't even be calculated, even when it wasn't docked with its mother armor. Another beep, a steady beeping. Something was up, something had activated it. The comm-mod just kept its steady tone.
The com-mod was on a table next to her large armchair, almost a place of reverence, the one part of her life she had left behind that she regretted... but he had died when Cairn was glassed... hadn't he? She just watched it beep for a while, stupified... he was alive... he was here on Macerr... but where? She reached for her datapad, beginning to slam her fingers into it. Where was he?!?
A whirr and a click from the comm-mod, it had locked onto a location. South, far south of Iota. A topographical map of the area, a blinking symbol. A few more beeps from the comm-mod. It was on the move, the device having a hard time tracking it. Close to the mining communities around the area, a small rocky series of outcroppings. Perfect hiding spot.
"Near the mines... beats the shit out of just sitting here." She headed back, wrapping her lithe fingers around the muzzle of her shotgun, her other hand grabbing the keys to her Ghost. She put the prefab dome into lockdown, heading to the shed in the back, hastily undoing the triple locks on the shed, frowning slightly at the state of disrepair her purple hovering wonder was in. Nothing out in the wastes, though, she wasn't even taking her armor, just in an army drab jumpsuit. She strapped the com-mod to the panel, gripping the dual motorbike grips and letting the throttle fly wide open, heading south.
It was moving during the day as the sun began to rise. The marker on the screen from the comm-mod showed it moving faster than any human could run. Was it even Riggs, or was it just his armor? It kept on going, heading East of the mining colony, coming close to something...a structure...the Blue's Lambda Base. What did it want there? Why was it heading in that direction?
They'd receive the alert late into the night, something moving on the borders of their bunkers. It was still several hundred yards out, but if anyone was watching the radar they'd see it make a complete circle around the perimeter of the bunker, taunting them, remaining just out of range for any A.I to tell just what it was. The signature read like any standard infantry suit, but the signature looked to be as long as a Hog, just making languid circles around their structure.
It started up low, like a rushing wind across a bare plain, then it began to pick up, began to deepen in pitch and grow, pushing through the wind to an inhuman roar. It was a challenge, whatever it was, it wanted the attention of the soldiers in Lambda base to come out, and it wasn't going to leave until they did. It kept up its circles, always just beyond the range of the base's more powerful detection systems, the howl picking up several times through the night.
Chapter 6.Enter Cocaine
The cab pulls up outside of the B-Sector High-Rises. It slows to a stop, brakes squealing softly. I just arrived on Macerr and now it's time to find somewhere to stay. Cairn was a disaster. The only plus is that I didn't have to linger. Lord knows the UNSC can't be too far behind me now...and it's only a matter of time until the next-
Well, enough reminiscing. I step out into the pouring rain. It's dark, just an hour past sunset. The rain splatters on my visor, obscuring my view of the street. I can make out a few vagrants across the road. Nothing of interest anyway.
I pay off the cabbie after he places my...baggage...on the curb. HK-133-E has moved around the cab now and I instruct him to bring my things inside. I lead 133-E into the building, pausing inside the doorway to allow the water to pool into the collectors and be deposited back outside. Continuing inside, I signal the clerk. He makes the necessary arrangements and assures me a few too many times that this place is secure. It was obvious that he recognized my name. I can see it on the Wanted Listing behind him. He won't want any trouble and has no problem accepting a small bribe to keep quiet.
The small man leads me up to my new room. For a "small fee" he says he can reserve the whole floor for me. I doubt that money will ever reach the ledgers. There's no doubt the demand to live in South-Central is at an all time low. This place looks like it hasn't been renovated since the 26th century. The equivalent of Earth mice can be seen scurrying about in the shadows. Proper lighting isn't much of a priority in this establishment either. Suits me just fine.
The clerk leaves after showing me my lovely living quarters. A small bedroom in the back, a dilapidated kitchen, and a moderately sized living room comprise my new home. Apartment #----. The A/C is broken. Hmm...
133-E comes back out of the bedroom and shuts down in the corner of the room to recharge and update his systems. Miraculously this place supports Xi-Fi. Guess I won't have to worry about hard-lining E then. The phone works...time to make a few calls, I suppose. Back to business. Back to being Cocaine.
I hang up the phone. I've almost forgotten how tiring it is to set up an operation in a new city. Too many damn calls have to be made and too many damn contacts have to be brought in. And I'll have to do it all over again in a few hours. Looking at the clock I can see that it's just past midnight. No time to rest. Have to finish this before tomorrow. 133-E responds quickly, powering up and readying himself. I ensure that the alarm systems are set and we're off. Mag lock on the door is sealed...of course, I doubt there'll be any trouble my first night here, but you can never be too careful. If we'd only been more careful then...things might be different...
I shrug off the thoughts and hail a cab outside. The rain has subsided by now and the water glistens on the road, reflecting the faint glow of the overheads. The car arrives and we climb inside. The driver is not too pleased at the prospect of traveling outside the city, much less that our destination is the center of the Blue sympathetics. Little matter, a few hundred quid suppresses his anxiety and we're off.
We arrive hours behind schedule, no thanks to a flat tire in the middle of nowhere and an unprepared driver. Hopefully everything will still be in place for my arrival. The cab pulls up at our destination. I pay the man, but leave no tip. After this fiasco, he's lucky to be alive...
...My how I've grown bitter over the years...
My liaison is waiting. He's negotiated the purchase of a local warehouse...the warehouse that we are now standing in. All that is left is the money I bring to seal the transaction. We aren't penalized for the delay...lucky break.
Tomorrow we'll begin unloading and stocking the warehouse. My ship is in orbit, probably on the flip side, but that doesn't matter right now. Now I've got to make up for lost time and set up shop quickly. My man hands me the daily reports...no activity in the Blue sectors, heavy fighting near Omicron, good bit of troop movements in the other Red sectors, reports of some mysterious sightings in some mines down south...nothing of interest at present, we'll get back to that later.
We're outside now, the day broke sometime while we were inside and the streets are filled with the amber glow of the resident star. My visor adjusts to the light and I get into the LRV. No doubt it's stolen, but we won't look out of place at this time of day...the patrols should still be out, I think...
A few blocks away is a little bar/nightclub that I'm told I should find to my liking. If the meet goes well I should have my base of ops up by tonight. Looking back at the reports this should be fine...although it doesn't look like the Blue faction is bringing in the numbers they were hoping for. Turning the last corner now...oh my, what a beautiful sight...
As I flip the power switches I can't help but think back to Cairn and to my first day there. Setting up the little bar in capital city...I really thought I could've retired there. Who knows what lies in store these days, really? What with the Covenant armies around every celestial corner, so to speak. If they didn't hate humankind so much, I'd probably be living on their side of the Galaxy...away from here and those damned UNSC agents. Don't doubt I'd fare just as well...and sure wouldn't have to worry about the inevitable defeat for that matter. But then...well, I'd sure miss some of these characters. Word is most of the survivors of Cairn have been reassigned here. And those that didn't have military ties, in some miraculous coincidence, decided to relocate here as well.
I see that 133-E has taken up residence in the corner near the entrance. He's powered off at the moment, but his internal systems will be running constant monitor programs to ensure the security of my new front.
The "Open" sign is lit now, but I doubt I will see many file in tonight. Got to wait a few days before the word gets out. Hopefully I'll see some Blue Army officers slink in here during off-duty hours. Need someone in the ranks to kick-start the economy around here.
Welll...I'll just enjoy a drink and have a bit or rest. Hell...I'll be heading back to Macerr in a few days to set up a "business" there tomorrow or the next day. Better take it easy while I can...don't doubt this'll be one of the few nights I'll get to relax...
Hmmmm...some damn fine whiskey on this planet...
My man just walked into the club. We're almost ready to open for the night, and he's right on time with the daily reports. I step around from behind the bar and greet him as he hands me the datapad. These little things really are important when you're first starting out, especially in unfamiliar territory.
Hmm...not much of interest today again...oh, hello. Oh Damnit. Looks like our boys botched the deal last night...let's see...a shootout with the gang that tried to bust the deal...well, did bust the deal...one man down, two in the hospital. Of all the bad luck...
"Alright, Sam," I speak up to my lieutenant. "Looks like we've got to tie up a few loose ends." A dark grin breaks across his face. Sam turns to a cabinet in the corner and pulls out two pistols, tosses them to me, and grabs an M90. I holster the pistols in the low-riding belt and take the M90 from Sam. We secured our weapons permits just yesterday, so there shouldn't be any trouble along the way. Sam has readied himself by now as well. I pick up my helmet and hang it on the backside of my belt. No need to wear it just yet. Time to hit the hospital.
Lennalli barely walks through the base's front door before a young woman in blue army fatigues walks up to him with some papers. "Sir, here's the casualty reports from the recent assault on base Kappa."
The Lieutenant glances down at the papers and his eyes widen "59 deaths?!? That base only barracks for 120! Son of a bitch...Give the order to wipe all computers in the base and retreat to Base Gamma. Shouldn't Command at Alpha be taking care of this stuff?"
"They're currently formulating a strategy for an attack of our own, Sir. The minor outlying bases are fully under your command for the time being in addition to base Rho."
"There just must not be enough officers in this army...Alright, I've got some recruits to train." Lennalli looks up at the young woman and hands the reports back. "Samantha, isn't it? You're probly due for a bit of training yourself. Get your armor and a sniper rifle and report to Training hall C."
It takes her almost a half-hour to get armored, prepare her weapon and get to the training hall. She steps through the door to find a half-dozen recruits, all wearing regulation blue armor from the neck down, sitting around the lieutenant, laughing their asses off. "Ah, you finally got here. Troops, this is Private First Class Samantha Williams. She'll be joining you in training today." One of the privates whispers something to another, causing a chuckle. Lennalli snaps a death glare in that direction. "You will treat her as if she was my little sister." The laughter ends immediately.
Lennalli turns his attention towards PFC Williams. "I understand it's been six months since you've seen combat?" She nods. "Alright, well load that rifle of yours and lets see how rusty you've gotten." She steps over to a shooting platform and lies in a prone position. She looks through her scope at the distant target and empties two magazines into it.
Lennalli pushes a button and a few moments later the paper, human-shaped target is dragged to where they stand, a smiley face shot into its head. "Impressive." Is all the lieutenant can manage to say through his grin. "Ok, recruits. Get your helmets on and grab an assault rifle. I've got quite the training exercise set up for you. This ain't boot-camp anymore."
The six privates head off in one direction and Lennalli motions for PFC Williams to follow him to the observation area. From there they watch the privates basically engage in a paintball match with some other soldiers in red armor. The Lieutenant turns the Samantha. "So what do you think? How would you handle them?" Her response is rather quick. "Rodrigues is quite gung-ho. Put him at point, give him a shotgun and put Peterson close behind him with a battle rifle. He needs someone to watch him. Private Mishama seems to hang back and survey the situation a good deal before acting. A sniper rifle should fit him nicely. Kusman and Ried seem very proficient with the assault rifle. Have Ried carry the medpack. As for Private Davis, that assault rifle seems like too much for him. I say give him a pair of those nice pistols you officers carry around and plenty of grenades. The only problem is that they lack leadership and none of them seem to have the proper qualities. How do you intend to handle that?"
Lennalli's responds without hesitation. "You're now in charge of these six men. You've never spoken with them but you already know as much about them as I do. Your talents are being wasted in a secretary position. You need to be out on the field. I'll leave the seven of you to get acquainted. Sergeant Harris will set up your next scenario." With that Lennalli turns to go, leaving the PFC to her shock.
Talitha snapped down her glasses against the oncoming glare from the rising sun straight ahead of her, the circuits automatically increasing the contrast and allowing her to see the obstacles ahead of her and her Ghost. The regional map showed she was approximately two miles from Lambda Base... god damn Blues... She still didn't have an aversion to shooting back if they decided to be obnoxious, even if it got her on bad terms with them... guh... she took her mind off freelancing, focusing it back on the com-mod, watching it steadily blink and beep. The disturbance was about a mile and a half ahead of her, it hadn't moved in the past few hours she had been flying. And the battery was only down to 62%!
She may not look like much anymore, but she's still got it...
It was moving again, giving up on the Lambda bunker. It was once again moving on a straight Eastern line, towards the mountain ranges, and boy could it move. Its land speed was comparable to that of perhaps a hoverboard or recreational skiff, the comm-mod flickering, gaining a target, losing it and gaining it again. She had to speed up if she was going to beat it to the mountains. She'd never find it in there. Too much magnetite and hematite, she knew she'd lose the signal. Not even Riggs' pirated technology could break through geological disturbances.
"Shit... come on, girl... I know you're gonna hate me for this..."
She cut in the newly installed boosters, the plasma cannons fading as all power went to the engines, increasing her speed by half, rushing to catch up.
The Blue's would have registered the direction the signature was moving, and they wouldn't have much of a problem chasing after it if they used Hogs. Still it kept going, but Talitha was gaining on it, the boost of speed beginning to close the uneasy gap between herself and whatever the comm-mod was locked on to. Still it kept running, it had been moving for hours, never seeming to tire or suffer from fatigue. It kept its pace steady, hurtling across the landscape, oblivious to the one following it, the one who knew its location.
The fusion core continued to steadily drain; she couldn't keep up this power draw for long. The com-mod projected a location, a speed... her fingers flickered through the calculations.
"Just a few more minutes girl... just stay above 50..."
And there it was! The beeping of the comm-mod grew steadily louder as she approached, pointing in a surefire direction, just dead ahead. But what it was could not be told. It moved as though transferring its particles through the air, a heavy distortion such as heat rising off tarmac. A waver across the field, a ghost of the past moving between this realm and the next. It did not turn back towards Talitha, it just kept running forward. The mountain ranges were in sight; it was heading for cover, possibly from the sun. It seemed long, maybe as long as her Ghost, but no other features could be distinguished at this distance. What in the name of everything holy was it..?
"Come on girl... just a little further... gotta see what this thing is..."
The core was toying with 51% power... it would take her 30% to get back as the core reached the bottom of its discharge curve... 20% for safekeeping... time for a risk.
It slowed, it almost stopped, then it actually ran faster than before! A stretched out body, thinner than originally thought. The signature was only so large because of the distortion it was making, because of its length. She could see something trailing behind what might have been its hips, a long, segmented tail-like appendage, steadily growing thinner from the base of the creature's spine. Its body was thin, lithe, designed for speed, but at the same time the distortion it was creating obscured most specifics.
The heat was like a sauna expanded around the creature, far hotter than the ground. Talitha might already have sweat forming on her brow from the heat. It worked to hide the creature in these small thermals, the scent of ozone in the air around it. Spines, or what might have been spines rose from its shoulders, two extremely long pairs swept back almost a full meter and a half, a smaller pair roughly one meter just below them, and another half-meter set below those. Four spines seemed to jut back from its helmet, two long tendrils roughly a foot and a half, a smaller 6-inch set below those. As close to Riggs' original helmet as they would come.
Two blue Warthogs closed in, on the two bleeps on the radar. They didn't have visual contact yet, but they tried to hail them. "Unknown object, identify yourself. This is Sergeant Anderson from Blue Base Lambda. Do you copy, over?" The 'Hogs sped up to try to come in visual contact, but they saw the objects speed up even faster. Anderson pulled out a rangefinder and set it on the dash, to try and get a view. Nothing, yet.
"Please respond, over."
"Damn... too hot..." -She felt the Ghost start to buck and shudder in protest, the hoverpads couldn't take this intense burst of energy. She shut down the engines, sighing heavily as she let the disturbance carry on by itself.
That had to be Riggs... looked just like him... sorta... it had to be... right?
Just then, the Blues' transmission came through, jerking her head back up. She could see them on the com-mod, half a mile off. Could she outrun them? Should she even try, would they still mistake her for a Red? Sure, she had Red sympathies... no time to think, time to run. She kicked the throttle back up, heading straight back for Red Territory. No sense taking any chances, even if she would pass them on the way.
It just kept running, kept on moving, continued to gain speed as it streaked across the landscape, making its way to the safety of the mountains. It had almost ground to a halt when Talitha had called its name, the distortions wavering enough to see pitch-black armor, the same as Riggs' always wore. But in that instance something set this creature apart from Riggs. It was longer, more predatory in appearance. The helmet was thinner, more like the jaws of a raptor or some avian than the brutish jaws of Riggs.-
The Blue's weren't going to get any clues, save for the talon-like footprints left in the dirt, and the signatures they had on the creature. Talitha however would receive a clue, the comm-mod giving a beep as it received a message for her. From the mining community she'd first seen the creatures' signature. Someone wanted to speak with her there.
Sergeant Anderson halted the 'Hogs. Damn. The signals split up. This isn't good. He hopped out of the passenger's seat and went to the back of the warthog. He pulled out two crates. One was labeled WST M19 SSM and the other WST SRSC99-S2AM. He opened the crates and pulled out the rocket launcher and sniper rifle.
"Corporal Pribade, take the S2 and follow the one heading for the mountains. We're going for the other one. It's heading for Red Territory."
The corporal nodded and took the S2AM in his hands. The 'Hog sped off after the object. Anderson grabbed extra rockets and settled back into his seat. The jeep sped off after the other object.
The Hog that followed the strange creature wouldn't have the best of luck following him. The magnetite and hematite of the mountains was already affecting their motion sensors, and the tracking sensors following the object had long lost focus. It was still there however, somewhere at the base of the mountain, hidden in the rocky crags and outcroppings. If they wanted to find it, they'd have to go on foot, the Hog couldn't squeeze through some of the gaps.
It moved and twisted, watched them as they could not watch it. The shadows were its ally, the heat its brother in arms, its body its weapon. It had all the patience in the world, stalking its prey, always watching, always waiting...to feed.
Fuck, they're following... and I can't push full throttle anymore... hopefully I can make it back to base... come on girl... I'll even clean your hull if you get us back...
No plasma turrets... nothing but plains between her and home... shit... she drove in as straight of a line as she could, conserving her speed.
The Warthog chasing the object into the mountains halted at the base. The corporal scanned the rocks with the sniper rifle, but the digital scope was FUBAR. The three soldiers climbed out and proceeded into the rocks together. One had an M90 Shotgun, one, an M/7, and the corporal had an M6C. The moved through the crevices in a line, scanning every nook in cranny.
Meanwhile, the 'Hog began to catch up with the object out on the plains. Sergeant Anderson ordered the LAAG gunner to fire about 30 rounds in the air above the object.
Soon after a loud "BlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlamBlam
rung out on the plains."
The sergeant tried to hail the object again. "Is anyone there? Respond immediatly. The next shots will not be in the air." He readied the M19 and brought it up to his shoulders so he could have a thermal lock once they were closer. The object was in sight now, but it was still unrecognizable.
SHIT! I know you're not gonna like this, girl... here we go...
She ducked away from the LAAG fire, twisting the grips and bringing up the rudimentary AI, dormant for so long... it probably wouldn't save her, but it was damn sure worth a try. After being Red for six years, they sure weren't gonna be cozy when they heard her name.
Claw marks here and there on the rocks, an unearthly heat that seemed to be all around them. A low growl to the left, to the right. It was playing with them, surrounding them, its eyes on every one of the Blues that had followed it into the mountain range. No sight, not a clue as to its location, only the steady hiss and the moving heat. Just waiting for the right moment, watch for the moment, watch the enemy, destroy the enemy ..Destroy destroy DESTROY!.
One of the soldiers stopped at one of the scratched rocks and removed his helmet.
"Sir, I don't think anything was even out here. These are old." He panted a bit and then took a drink of water.
The corporal stopped and turned around. "Get your fucking helmet back on. These are fresh. There's specks of the rock around the scratches, which means the wind hasn't had time to blow the sand away." Meanwhile the third soldier kept on going, peeking through the rocks with his M90, looking for anything else alive in this barren area.
"This is your last chance. Respond."
Anderson had just lost his thermal lock. He turned to the driver and said, "gun the 'Hog. We're probably dealing with a criminal." He reshouldered the M19 and tracked the object in its straight line. He smiled. It was an impossibly easy target for anything. Whoever the pilot was, they probably didn't know a thing about evasive actions.
"...Alright... let's do this Tal..."
She gunned the engines of her Ghost, sending it leaping forward, steering with her knees as she quickly programmed the evasive maneuvers into the computer, trying to gain as much distance as possible. Dodging rockets, even with a fully active Ghost, was far from easy.
He'd hear it before he'd see it, a whistling sound from his right, moving towards his left. Something dark, something black slicing through the air, level with the throat of the soldier that had strayed from his companions. It looked like a blade, flat, a triangular hole in the center of the weapon as it moved through the air effortlessly, affixed to a series of interlocking cylinders, a tail that twitched and throttled that blade towards the larynx, trachea and jugular vein of the soldier. The hiss started up, but it sounded closer to the two soldiers rather than this third, this possible first victim.
The soldier turned to see the object decapitate him, leaving nothing but a red, spongy stump. The body twitched for a second, and then fell to the ground. His head rolled around, still in his helmet. It rolled back down the slope to the two soldiers, stopping at the foot of the corporal. He looked down, and froze at what he saw. The bloody upper stump his a bit as the air was released through the flapping valves and severed trachea.
"Jesus Christ. Private, run. Now!"
Both soldiers took off running through the rocks, dodging them and nearly running head into them. They sprinted towards their hog, about 100 meters away.
Anderson fired his rocket; this one had a thermal lock. It flew through the air as the object tried to dodge it. He lowered his M19 to see the impact and explosion. The 'Hog slowed in case some explosives were blown up, so there was a blast radius to take thought of.
"OH FUCK!" The AI brought her Ghost into a sudden stall and jerked to the right, the rocket hitting the ground just off her right engine, the blast radius enough to almost flip her Ghost. That was too damn close, she was getting sloppy. One more rocket, then reload time... as long as she dodged the next one, she might be okay... this was a bad idea.
-The soldiers could hear it before they could see it, the hissing of air escaping tires, a thunderous explosion and pieces of metal flying as the engine of the Warthog was shredded and ruptured. It stood there, turning towards them. How fast, so fast it had already slain one of their men and had time to beat them to the hog and destroy it. The air and the fire wavered and flickered, an obviously powerful active camouflage system installed in the armor that stood before them.-
They could still make out its shape due to the fire. Hideously long blades extended from each wrists, its fingers ending in long rending claws. Several enormous spines rose from its back, bobbing as it breathed heavily. Its boots were instead clawed toes, talons that could tear through metal and flesh. A long, multi-segmented tail weaved through the air, crimson blood splattered across a 1.5ft long blade of black and silver. It just growled, watching them as they headed right for it, awaiting the inevitable feast to come.
The two soldiers stopped cold in their tracks. With no way out, the only thing to do was hide. They took off in opposite directions. The corporal began climbing the mountains, hoping to get over and into the dried up sea. The other private took off into a rocky outcropping, trying to conceal himself in a crevice. The corporal shed his helmet, handgun, and Sniper Rifle to speed up. The private jumped into the outcropping, but it was just a small pit in the center with zero cover.
"Shit. Out of the frying pan and into the fire."
The 'Hog caught up with the Ghost and was withing 25 feet. Anderson told the LAAG gunner to open up with the turret. Bullets began whizzing through the air as the M41 spat out casing after casing. "Prepare to die, criminal."
The bullets began to spring off the hull, even as much as she spun and dodged. It was just as the first bullet sliced into her right calf, her grip on the handlebars braking the Ghost in response. She opened up her comm channel, punching up the only Blue freq she knew.
"You have no reason to be firing on me! I'm an independent freelancer in pursuit of a bounty in your territory!"
The sound of rocks falling, something scrabbling up the cliff, much faster than the Corporal. That growl, a hiss, the sound of something creaking open just inches from his face. If he looked he could stare into the very jaws of death, hideous metallic fangs and blades in a maw more hideous than any shark or lion. It lunged forward, its clawed hands and feet dug into the rock wall, thrusting it towards the Corporal, to bring those vice-like jaws towards his face. The monstrosities head turned, swiveled so that if it found the Corporal in its jaws they would close on his cheeks, all the way to his ears to crack bone and severe the frontal lobes of his brain.
The corporal didn't have a chance the moment they began tailing the creature. His entire
skull was crushed, and the fragments punctured the brain. The blood in his mouth gurgled and bubbled, slowly oozing out in a saliva/blood mixture. The remaining skull pieces fell out of the grip of the jaw. All that remained was a gooey combination of mush and hard bone. The body split away from the head, dropping to the ground. The private could hear the crunch, his heart racing. He knew he was next.
Anderson told the gunner to cease-fire. "State your name, freelancer." he shouted as the 'Hog caught up to the stopped vehicle. How the hell did a freelancer get a Covenant Ghost? Something's not right about this...Anderson reshouldered his launcher in case of an emergency.
"My name is irrelevant. All that matters is that you fired on me first." She pressed her hands to either side of the hole on her calf, tracking each of the three Blues with her eyes.
"Let me pass back to Red Territory, and I might consider accepting future jobs from you."
Anderson had a grim expression behind his helmet. "Then why didn't you respond to the
hail that I sent?" She's no freelancer; she's a goddamn red spy. If I just had some proof...
"That's personal. I was unsuccessful in pursuing my quarry, and I simply wish to return home. Maybe take care of this shot wound before it gets infected."
He could hear it now too, the last of three. That hiss, footfalls that kicked up small clouds of dust. It was approaching his hiding spot. It knew where he was. What could the soldier do but cower? Could he fight it? Dare he fight it? The footsteps came ever so close, so close that from his hole he could see dust flying up with each step. Then it began to move away, as did that low growl. He could see the blood-smeared tailblade slide across the dirt, wiping itself clean on the ground. It was moving off. Maybe it was sparing him, maybe it was releasing him.
The private gripped his M/7 tightly as he lay back in the pit. He was dead anyway. The 'Hog was demolished, and its a 12 hour walk back to the base. By nighttime, the indigenous creatures would pick him clean. He pulled his helmet off. Radio wouldn't work. The mountains could easily block any transmissions. He pulled a grenade out of his pack. He tossed it around, knowing what to do. He stuck it in his mouth and primed it.
Anderson scoffed at the response. "Bullshit. You're a red spy. Why else would you be so god damn deep in blue territory?"
"Chasing that disturbance your other Warthog went after."
She wasn't used to this pain, it had been too long. Keep your thoughts together, don't slip, Talitha, you've been in worse binds than this.
It had been standing just above the Blue private's hiding spot, waiting for him to come out. When the grenade went off it just smiled in satisfaction. It wiped the blood clean from its body, using the dirt and heat around it to remove the biological crimson chemicals. Once it was clean it once again was on the move, heading back towards the Lambda Blue Base at its enhanced run. It crossed the terrain like a blur of air and wind, its tail straightening for balance as it ran hunched forward, arms swung back, solid hooked blades from its wrists fully extended. It had a mission, a directive, they had to die, all of them had to die. Kill them all....kill them...Talitha....kill them all...the Blues...all of the blues...
Anderson paused, thinking about what to do.
"Hrmm. Alright. Follow us back to Lambda. You'll receive medical attention."
Anderson put the rocket launcher in his lap as he kept his eyes on the suspicious freelancer. The warthog began to move, going about 5 mph, to see if the freelancer would follow.
"I can handle this myself, thanks."
Anderson brought his rocket launcher back up to his shoulder.
"No, I insist. Its the least I can do for this....mishap."
"Now, my dear Sergeant... we just met... I wouldn't want our possible relations to go so sour after our first encounter. I'll be fine - I have a medkit back at my residence."
It was being picked up by the base's outer radar once again, flashing, appearing and disappearing, its signature so chaotic the computer might even have a hard time telling what it was. The effects of the magnetite and hematite had skewed its camouflage system, temporarily shut down the active camo matrix so that it could degauss and function properly later. It dodged and weaved, it moved like a demon on fire across the terrain. Perhaps it knew the set-up of the mines situated around the base, if there were any. Maybe it had staked them out in the night, had seen their defenses and knew how to penetrate them. Whatever the reason this demonic entity was moving upon the Lambda base of the Blues, with one thing in its mind. Death.
Anderson knew this freelancer was hiding something, or otherwise she probably follow them. He reached under his seat and pulled out the emergency medkit. He tossed it over to her in the Ghost.
"Here. Use mine."
She pulled a syringe of biofoam free, injecting it into the hole, then quickly bandaging it. The Sarge might be able to catch a small tattoo behind her ear as she brushed her hair back - it was the emblem of the Mercury Project.
The door had been little to no problem. Two X-shaped slashes from his blades had cleaved it into 8 pieces, dropping them to the ground with loud booms and tangs. If anyone was in the base, the alarms should be going off by now. Fresh blood to be spilt. It moved through the halls, its sense of smell and sight far beyond that of the average human. Its cloaking device was partially working, exposing some of the monster, cloaking other areas, so that noone that might happen upon it would get a look at its full shape. They would however note the two incredibly long, curved blades expanding from each wrist, each hooked tip-ending 2ft from his balled, talloned fists.
It growled and hissed as it moved through the complex, its jaws opening slightly as it searched for the warmth of the living to steal, for the blood that flowed through its enemies' veins. It wanted to spill that blood across its hands, tear flesh and bone and muscle, rip and rend, mangle and destroy. Destroy destroy DESTROY!
Anderson flinched as a large amount of screams and static came through his comm.
"Ah shit! The hell? Did you guys hear that?" The two other soldiers nodded. One message stood out from the rest. "Is anyone out there, respond? I'm hiding in a closet. This thing is out there killing everyone inside. Jesus, what is it?"
Anderson looked at the freelancer, then back at his fellow soldiers.
"Freelancer, follow us. Something's going on at the base. We may need your assistance." The 'Hog peeled around and headed off for Blue Base Lambda.
...Well that's convenient. Now the question remains... ahh hell... out of the frying pan, into the fire... maybe I could get some cash off of this...
She fired the engines of her Ghost, keeping pace with the 'Hog as well as the bullet ridden vehicle could.
Chapter 9.Training Day
He had them running through tire-rows before the sun was even up, just a sliver of orange on the horizon. A 5km run was up next, Ezekiel Seraphim Crowe making several large circles around the base. If a soldier lagged he was there to give them a morale boost, then headed up to the front of the line. Next he had them don their armor, another run of 2km's ending their first Basics with the Sergeant. They performed magnificently, the well-oiled machine that would be 1st Squad, who'd already coined a name. The Light Brigade moved on into a series of stretches and short runs, finally taking a short break for breakfast.-
-He sat them down in a field to the East of the base after they'd had their fill from the mess hall, Weapons Inspection being a key part of a soldier's life. He had his M19 SSM Rocket Launcher "Kaminari" for display, as well as his M7057 Defoliant Projector Gojira at his feet. He showed them the proper way to load the M19 in case they needed to use one, then fired a dummy-rocket into an outcropping. He taught them about the newly equipped heat guidance systems the M19's had. He had every soldier lock onto one of the Warthogs he had running beside them, then pass "Kaminari" on to the next person.
Lance Corporal Stephen Graye raised his hand, a question in his mind.
"Sir, what should we do in case an enemy moves into close quarter combat with us? What is the best method for dealing with such a threat?"
Ezekiel nodded to the Lance Corporal, then replied.
"Lance Corporal Stephen Graye, if you are using an M19 SSM Rocket Launcher and someone comes into close quarter combat range, you break that person's skull in with the back end of your M19. Built just for that purpose."
The entire group chuckled, then broke for lunch. Ezekiel watched them go. His Light Brigade was taking shape.
Sanderson awoke at about 10:00am. She still had her helmet on, falling asleep in her armor. She crawled out of the cot and removed her helmet. She walked over the small desk and picked up her datapad. Nothing new other than troop deployment records as of that morning. She attached it to her belt and grabbed the M/7 out of its case. She slung it over her shoulder, and then reattached her helmet. She turned on her comm to hear the voice of Napoleon.
"That was very rude what you-" She cut him off again. She left her quarters and headed towards the mess hall on the second floor. Lets see, menu. Glurp, glurp, Protein Drink, glurp. As usual. She got some food and began consuming. At about 11, she finished, just as Crowe's squad entered. She disposed of the waste and went to talk to Crowe. She met up with Crowe as he watched them enter.
"Good day, Sergeant. I take it you were up early training them?"
Ezekiel stopped and saluted Sanderson, dropping his hand once he was told at ease. He watched his squad, his Light Brigade take their seats close to each other, staying in one tight-knit group.
"Why yes ma'am I was. Up at about 0800, will be every morning. Getting them into shape, teaching them what it means to be a team, to be a Red."
Sanderson chuckled a bit.
"At ease, sergeant. That's good to hear. I just hope they'll be ready by tomorrow night. Command is throwing everyone in my command into the rescue mission. And also, make sure you have someone in your squad be able to use an S2. Give em a crash course if necessary."
Yes ma'am. We have weapons detail and live-fire exercises lined up for this afternoon. I'll find our best marksman and educate him in the use of the S2. I'd like to request 3 S2 Sniper Rifles with 6 rounds of ammunition each on the firing range by 0100 if possible, ma'am.
"I'll have the gunnery sergeant get those down there. Now I'm sure you're hungry, so I won't keep you from lunch anymore. Good day, sergeant." The lieutenant saluted and headed down to the Pelican Hanger. The Pelicans they'd be going in on were being equipped with HE Anvil II missile pods. Troop pods were mounted on four of the five, with the fifth carrying an M12T1. This operation was crazy enough to work.
He saluted in return before heading for the line. He took his plate full and sat down with his group, explaining to them that this would be the routine every day. They had to get comfortable with being shoulder-to-shoulder, if they were ever in a foxhole together they'd be even closer. They had to be alert, they had to be ready. Above all else, they had to think about each other, not about themselves.
Chapter 10.The Base
The hog arrived to see the bunker door in a piece of rubble in the doorway.
"What the hell happened here?" he asked himself as he grabbed more rockets.
"Freelancer, come." As they walked down the hallway, blood was smeared across the walls. They checked the living quarters first. Most were killed in there sleep.
"Ok. Doytrev, go with the freelancer and secure the mess hall and R&R hall. We'll secure the offices and motor pool."
The sound of tearing metal, a sudden gasp and a "THUNK!" The soldier let out his last breath in a raspy gurgle, a deep growling sound heard on the other line. More screams as metal tore from metal. It was tearing not only the people but also the base apart, smashing any weapon it found that could be used against it. Further through the base he found a soldier, cowering with a pistol in his hand. The man brought the pistol to his own head, but the sweet salvation of suicide would not be his. His hand was removed at the wrist, his other hand at the wrist, his feet at the ankles. His legs were cut in half at the knees, arms at the elbows, legs removed at the waist, arms removed at the shoulders.
The beast planted its blades into the man's stomach, into the wall he was leaning against. Metal ground against metal as he pulled the man up, blood dribbling and drooling from his lips as he cried out in utter torment. The jaws of the monster opened, its hideous maw slamming forward to cleave the man's head from his shoulders. It dropped and rolled to the ground, the beast retracting its blades to let the body slump to the floor. On to more killing.
As the creature turns in search of more victims it finds some. A half-dozen blue privates armed with assault rifles and a sergeant with a shotgun stand aiming at the beast.
It knew these words, possibly because they had been burned into its skull, or maybe because of its military background. Either one caused it to lack hesitation, diving into the alcove the soldier it had just eviscerated had used as his hiding spot. Sparks flew, plates of metal torn and thrown from the nook, the creature's tail the last thing they'd see. Thumps and echoes through the base, moving through the inner workings, through air vents and wide gaps between structural supports. To complicate things its motion signature was extremely erratic, sometimes jumping by at least 2 meters left, right, forward and back.
It found a spot, a nice area for it to prepare an ambush. It kept quiet, pulling its tail to itself. It coiled its tail behind it the way a snake coiled in preparation for a strike, and so it waited, waited for the first Blue soldier to make his or her way into the killing field. Again its patience was infinite, it was designed to strike fear and terror, and just the thought of knowing something like this monstrosity was loose amongst them surely might have riled some of those who were still alive, those who had witnessed its carnage. They wouldn't escape, none would escape...
Mess hall huh? Maybe if I play nice they won't try to dig anything up on me.
"Come on, Doytrev, stay close. Watch the rear, I got the front." Talitha hefted her shotgun, clicking a few extra shells into the chambers, making sure it was fully loaded as she crept down the hallway. She took an extra few seconds to tighten the bandage around her calf, making her foot slightly numb, but it didn't hurt any more either, which would definitely be a plus if the shit hit the fan. Another deep breath, and she turned the corner, creeping slowly down the hallway, making sure the corporal stayed close behind.
"Cease fire!" The privates release their triggers and reload. Sergeant Hennessy takes a few steps ahead of his men and listens. "It's stopped moving. Waiting for us most likely." He turns to the privates, every one of them trembling with fear. "Private Daniels, broadcast a transmission to every soldier left alive on the base. Tell them they have less than five minutes to get the hell out before I blow this whole god forsaken bunker off the face of this rock."
The Lambda compound may've been barely a bunker as far as the base itself was concerned but being the last chance for vehicles to fuel up before getting into red territory, it had a filling station just as large as any other blue base, save maybe Epsilon and Alpha. "Everyone run like hell to get outside and drop a grenade into the first fuel access point you find. I've always hated this place anyways."
It began to move again. With those words it knew where it had to go, knew how it could sustain and survive, not caring about anyone else in the facility. A few fleeting glimpses, nothing more as its active camouflage device once again seemed to be working. Some would feel the heat of its breath on the backs of their necks, others would hear its growl and hiss, but none would be given the time to aim and pull a trigger as it moved through the innards of the base, waiting once again.
..well that makes this easy... get this Blue back with his buddies and I should be good to go... I hope...
"Where's the closest fuel access point, kid?"
"Uh... back where we came..."
"Alright, let's motor. I don't wanna stick around here when your Sarge lights this place up."
It feels like hours before the seven men reach the outside of the base. The frightened privates stayed right behind Sergeant Hennassy the whole time. Immediatly after exiting they find a steel plate bolted to the ground, hidden under some sand. He tells his men to back off and a few shotgun blasts later, he's looking into a hole in the ground filled with massive amounts of extremely flammable liquid. If this doesn't kill me...I'm sure the guys at Alpha will...He pulls a pin on a grenade and drops it in there. Just for good measure he drops two more before running like the privates behind him are to a single warthog that one very wise individual decided to pull out of the garage. There's not another living soldier in sight as the sergeant climbs into the passenger seat and all 6 privates do their best to all fit in the rear of the vehicle.
"Floor it. And remind me to make sure you get a promotion."
It might be then that the Sergeant realized his driver was missing a head. Not only that, it was sitting on the ground just behind a long, waving distortion of some sort, like a desert heat rising off the ground. A low hiss, the heat seeming to move through the Warthog, the smell of ozone suddenly permeating the air, thick and copper to the nostrils. The Warthog bucked and thudded back to the ground, once, twice, whatever it was on the driver's side was actually trying to tip the Warthog.
It succeeded on the fourth try, a guttural roar emanating from raspy jaws as the Warthog flipped and rolled over, something immediately moving around the other side, halting, out of sight, but not out of feeling, not out of scent. Ozone and heat, but from where? It seemed all around them...where had it gone?
"Son of a bitch!" The sergeant was thrown from the vehicle as it flipped. at least one unfortunate private was crushed underneath it. the rest immediatly open fire at wherever they the think enemy might be. At this point, they'll all be dead soon anyway with the coming explosion. Hennessy gets close to the 'hog and fires his shotgun into the fuel tank of the 'hog. Looks like command will never get the chance. Maybe they'll at least send my wife a purple heart.
As the vehicle explodes, sending the sergeant and three more of the privates to meet their maker, the fuel line below the base does too. Flames erupt from the ground all over; as a massive area, much larger than one would expect, is blown into nothingness. The explosion could be heard from as far away as the mines and left nothing but a crater where the blue outpost Lambda used to stand.
"Come on kid, don't lag behind!" She kept running, even wounded able to outrun the dazed and confused soldier following her, knowing she didn't have much time.
Just as she got outside, she saw the fully loaded Warthog begin to drive away. "SHIT!!! Come on, we gotta go!"
She pulled the Blue along, throwing him across her Ghost before gunning the engines, making it to about 500 feet before the world exploded, flipping her Ghost end over end, throwing her off to skid against the ground, her vision blacking out as she slammed into a rock and felt a sharp pain lance through her arm and her chest, almost enough to save her from unconsciousness in hostile territory. Almost.
In the firefight it had fled before the inevitable explosion, only moving in once the smoke was rising, once it knew 3 of the soldiers were dead. Any bodies it found were skewered with the twin blades of its right wrist. One slash, right through the heart of each either dead or dying victim. It seemed to gain some sort of twisted satisfaction with each murder, its jaws spreading open in almost a smile as it moved about, playing God and Death at the same time with the Blues.
Talitha's nostrils would pick up the thick metallic scent moving through them, if she was awake she'd feel the footfalls on the ground as something approached. The heat on the back of her head, moving past her, searching for any still-living Blues at the moment.
A warthog slowly pulled to a stop behind the Ghost. Sergeant Anderson climbed out of the Hog and walked over to the crashed vehicle. He limped over to the vehicle. A 5-inch piece of steel was imbedded in his thigh. He pulled the blue soldier off of the freelancer. His neck was broken. He was dead for sure. He limped back over to the freelancer and shook her a bit.
"Hey, freelancer, you ok?"
Her eyes fluttered weakly open, blood thickly covering a gash just above her hairline. She was awake enough to regret that she hadn't brought her armor, but aside from a broken arm, a cracked rib, and a few cuts and bruises from shrapnel, she seemed to be recovering fairly quickly, the dead Blue having saved her life by cushioning her head from striking the rock.
"Are you ok? Anything broken?" The sergeant tried not to move her or displace any possible broken bones. He pulled out a small cloth to wipe the blood that was dripping from the gash in her head.
"...think my arm's broken... AGH! Yeah... it's broken... ribs don't feel too good either..."
Great... now the Blues'll take me back... find out who I am... just bloody perfect...
"Can you walk?"
"Think so... might need some help... one of your boys shot me in the calf with a LAAG before..."
She tried to boost herself up, using her uninjured right arm and her good left leg.
Anderson grabbed her good arm and slung it over his neck. He helped her up and over to the 'Hog. He set her down in the passenger and went and got the dead private. He put him in the back and climbed into the driver's seat.
"We're going to Rho. Or would you rather want to be dropped off at your place?"
Two loud footfalls, a low hiss rising like hot lead thrust into water. Two loud sounds like metal grinding on metal, 3ft long hooked blades thrusting out from special mounts on the backs of his wrists. It was right there, not two meters from Sanderson and Talitha. It let out a crackle from its jaws, spreading its talloned hands as its metallic teeth ground against each other. Its helmet was narrow and long, like the face of a raptor or bird of prey. It seemed extremely thin, best for its movement, its speed and liquid grace. All in all it looked like a much more gaunt miniature Hunter than a soldier, its black armor seeming to glow a faint gold in the darkness.
It took a step towards Talitha and Anderson, its tail flicking behind it. It looked down at her, seemed to stop, actually took a step back. It looked confused, tilting its head off-center as it let out a long series of clicks. What could be going through the mind of a monster?
"My place... thanks... I think I've had enough of your... ugh... hospitality... for one day..."
"Ok. What are the coordinates?"
He keyed the ignition, and checked to make sure everything was secure.
It landed on the hood of the Warthog, shrieking like a banshee at the inhabitants. At the same time it began to rip and tear at the armor plating of the hog, trying to make its way to the more important targets inside. Its tail slashed over its back and between the rows of spines on its black, smashing in the windshield of the hog and throwing the tempered, armored glass all over its occupants. The beast wasn't relenting, wasn't giving up, throwing its past hesitation aside as it attempted to disable the vehicle.
"25 southeast of the Red Iota Base... start driving towards there... you'll hit it along the way... I thinkAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!"
She shrieked like a 6 year old, her eyes going wide at the apparition before her, fumbling for her pistol at her side.
"Jesus Christ!" Anderson shouted as he bailed out of the driver's seat of the Warthog. He had no weapon, and the only thing that could within 100 yards that could shoot was the M41 on the back of the Hog. He scrambled back to the rear of the Hog, but found the ammunition barrel to be empty. Shit.
A snarl as Anderson went for the weapon of the Warthog, the creature leaping from the hood towards the rear of the vehicle. It cleared Talitha by at least 2ft, the heat almost unbearable at this range. She'd see the tiny flecks of gold, arranged in what might have been patterns at one time. A simple set in the center of its chest plate, a crimson Greek symbol for the letter Alpha. Only a fleeting glimpse though as the monster slammed its blades into the protective shields of the weapon. Its jaws opened with the hiss of pneumatic pistons, clamping down as they rended and tore at the barrel of the Hog's primary weapon. Three chomps severed the end of the barrel, assuring it that this would no longer be a threat.
Its head turned menacingly slow towards Anderson, a low growl starting up in its chest as its blades retracted into the housings, large sections rising up through the back of each device to run parallel with his arms when at rest. It made a slow hop from the turret to the ground, slowly circling the Sergeant with the most ill of intents. Its tail snapped the air behind it like a bullwhip, its hands spread wide to reveal the almost 3-inch long talons it had for fingertips. It wanted a fight, and it would get one.
Anderson laid back on the ground, the monster steadily approaching him. He bit his lip and pulled the piece of metal out of his thigh. It was very sharp and about 8 inches long.
It was at least something, as he knew he was gonna die anyways.
"I hate it when two enemies make small talk during battle, so I'll be quick. Do it already, you ugly ass lizard."
Talitha nearly passed out again from the heat as the creature jumped straight over her, but she kept it together somehow, bailing out of the Warthog while it was still fixated on the Sarge. There it was, 25 feet away, under the starboard hoverpad... her shottie. Hopefully she could get to it in time to save that Blue's life. She inched closer, using her legs to push herself along the ground, crouching low to stay hidden behind the bumper of the Hog.
She rolled and threw herself clear, balancing carefully on her good leg, aiming a shot to the right of the creature, away from Anderson and the Hog. The simple act of pulling the trigger to send a warning spray of shrapnel sent another thrust of pain through her arm, enough that she was glad the Warthog was there to steady her as she waited to see what the creature would do now, gingerly pumping the slide to ready another shell, though reloading was out of the question.
At the least it turned its head slightly when the shotgun went off, could feel the wind of its shot pass his right side and continue on, not even a ping as the entirety of the round cleared him. It released a very low hiss, then refocused on Sergeant Anderson. It hunkered down, spreading its arms wide as another billowing roar exploded from its throat. It continued to circle him, waiting until it had moved to place the Blue between itself and the woman with the shotgun...Talitha...Talitha....is that......gah...kill..kill....
One last growl before it kicked off with its right foot, hurling itself towards the Blue, its tail cracking the air once again as it straightened behind the creature. It balled its right fist into its palm, knuckles releasing several more cracks and pops from its joints. As it neared the Blue it let loose another howl of anger and rage, hoping to distract him or even frighten him before it let its fist fly, aiming for the left shoulder of the opponent. He wanted to turn the man around, get that weapon from him before savaging him as he had the rest of the Blue squad here.
As the creature charged him with its fist coming towards him, Anderson raised the piece of steel into the path of the creature's fist, hoping to have the creature spear its own fist on the steel.
He's not stopping... yeah he's Blue... but this guy doesn't deserve to die... not just because he's Blue... he helped me... he was gonna take me back, no questions asked... maybe I could get a job off him now... no... I gotta stop him...
"RIGGS! NO! STOP!!!"
She stumbled forward, working her way forward until she could aim her weapon at Riggs again, and this time, she wouldn't shoot to miss.
He stopped. All that force, all of that muscle, all of that energy just seemed to disappear, as though the creature had reach absolute zero right infront of Anderson. The knuckle of its right middle finger rested against the tip of the Sergeant's blade, its talloned boots digging into the ground. Its jaw was ajar slightly, quivering, almost commanding to push its hand forward, or at least to release the pair of hideous curved blades in their assembly above his right wrist. Anderson could see about 4 or 5 inches of those claws, extending from the block-like housing, their tips ending above the back of the beast's hand. Even at this range, if it cared to release them they'd tear right through the Sergeant, but it held firm, it obeyed the command.-
It slowly turned its visor to Talitha, its voice gravelly, raw in its throat. Human blood still dripped from those mechanical black jaws, signs of its earlier kills all over its body, from the blade of its tail to the ends of the horns on its head. An electrical surge moved up its body, the creature slowly bringing its hand back to resting. It looked away from Talitha, one last feral cry in the night before it turned and began to run, leaving behind the woman it knew...wanted to remember, but even now could not. The comm-mod's beeps slowly grew silent, the creature out of its tracking range completely, or it had taken shelter in the mountains.
The sergeant watched the creature run off before getting back up, throwing the piece of metal to the ground. He limped over to the freelancer with the M90, offering his assistance. "You know what that thing is, don't you? What the hell is going on?"
Talitha shuddered as she dropped her shotgun to the ground, resting against the side of the 'Hog as she clutched her broken arm.
"...I... I don't know... he should have been dead... but he's alive..."
She swallowed hard, closing her eyes as her vision swam. The adrenaline was fading, leaving her just with the pain of her stupidity, not bringing her armor...
"How about that ride back to my place, huh?"
Anderson had a grim expression on his face. "Yeah, that ride." He looked over into the Hog. The LAAG was busted up, the windshield was broken, and the hood was crushed in. Hopefully the engine survived. "Hopefully the engine block survived. That thing crunched the hood in pretty hard." He walked over in front of the Hog and popped open the hood. A few hoses were severed, but nothing serious. "It should work." He closed the hood and walked back over to the freelancer. "What do you want to do about your Ghost? Can't really leave it out here, it'd be gone by tomorrow morning."
"I can hook it up to the back."
She limped over carefully, opening up the storage pod behind the seat, pulling out the length of rope she had there. A few taps on the controls, and the hoverpads activated and stayed on even as she tied the plasma cannons to the bumper of the 'Hog, leaving about 2 meters for it to move and sway, activating the inertial dampers so that it wouldn't crash into the back. As she worked, she kept shaking her head, blood loss obviously getting to her.
"Well, good then. When you're done, get in. Its best if we get out of here soon. No telling when that thing will return." The sergeant picked up the M90 on the ground and tossed it into the 'Hog as he sat down into the driver's seat. He keyed the ignition, and heard the Hog whine as it tried to start, unsuccessfully. He tried it again, but still lost it. He tried a third time, but still nothing. "Shit it won't start."
...you can't call the Reds... you can't rely on them anymore... shiiiit...
"...maybe... call... your superiors... all I got is that Ghost... and I'm an independent, I can't call the Guild..."
Talitha shivered slightly again, pulling Anderson's medpack out of her Ghost and gingerly wrapping some gauze around the break.
Anderson grabbed the M90 and walked out in front of the 'Hog. He raised the shotgun above his head, and begin beating on the hood of the 'Hog. Goddamn car! Fucking start already! Don't use that tone with me! I'll demote your ass! Miraculously, it starts. The sergeant freezes, shotgun in mid-air. He lowers it down. "Huh. Heh, never thought it'd actually work...C'mon. Lets go." He got back into the Hog and they sped off. Soon though, they stopped. "What were those coordinates again? You sure you don't need a doctor?"
"...maybe I should... normally it doesn't hurt this much... heh... it's been a while..."
"Good choice." The 'Hog sped off again towards Blue Base Rho and the City of Kalaa.
Chapter 11.The Club
My man just walked into the club. We're almost ready to open for the night, and he's right on time with the daily reports. I step around from behind the bar and greet him as he hands me the datapad. These little things really are important when you're first starting out, especially in unfamiliar territory.
Hmm...not much of interest today again...oh, hello. Oh Damnit. Looks like our boys botched the deal last night...let's see...a shootout with the gang that tried to bust the deal...well, did bust the deal...one man down, two in the hospital. Of all the bad luck...
"Alright, Sam," I speak up to my lieutenant. "Looks like we've got to tie up a few loose ends." A dark grin breaks across his face. Sam turns to a cabinet in the corner and pulls out two pistols, tosses them to me, and grabs an M90. I holster the pistols in the low-riding belt and take the M90 from Sam. We secured our weapons permits just yesterday, so there shouldn't be any trouble along the way. Sam has readied himself by now as well. I pick up my helmet and hang it on the backside of my belt. No need to wear it just yet. Time to hit the hospital.
Chapter 12.The Hospital
The 'Hog pulled to a stop outside the Kalaa Medical Center. The sergeant looked over at the freelancer. "You owe me for not taking you to the infirmary at the base. Now c'mon."
The sergeant waited in the driver's seat for the freelancer to get out so he could go park.
"Yeah... I do..." It's not gonna do anything anyway... once they pull my file, in the middle of a city of Blues, I'm still done for.
She hopped out gingerly, looking up at the smooth white building of the hospital as she rubbed her shoulder a bit.
Anderson nodded and drove off into the underground parking garage. He parked the 'Hog and got out, taking the M90 with him. He took the Airlift up to the main level and walked outside. He keyed his comm and began to speak. "This is Sergeant Anderson I need a fire team at the Kalaa Medical Center. We've got a red spy here." He turned it off
and limped inside to meet up with the freelancer. After, of course, he got his leg stitched
She slowly worked her way up the stairs, holding her hand to the wound in her leg until the orderlies noticed and helped her inside, letting her lay down on a stretcher. She just answered all their questions with a nod or a shake of her head, closing her eyes as she felt the medics and nurses patch up her arm, side and leg better than she ever could have on her own.
...just wish I was at Macerr City rather than here...
The nurse finished the stitches on the back of his thigh. Five of them, to be exact. Alright, back to business. He wandered around until he found the freelancer. He stopped outside of the room and keyed his comm. "Ok guys, she's on floor 2, room 238. Meet me up here, over." He peeked back inside as the nurses and doctors patched her up.
Talitha's keen ears just barely caught the noise, but it was quickly pushed from her mind as a nurse deftly set her arm, wrapping it in thermoplast to keep it steady until it healed.
"Agh... that's the only left arm I have, you know?"
Five blue soldiers came running down the hall and stopped next to the sergeant. "Nice of you to make it, corporal."
"Yes, sir. What do we have here?"
"Female, age 28-35. The thing that destroyed Lambda, she knew it. Something's not right. It killed about 23 soldiers. She seemed to be able to control it. So if we control the controller, we control the beast. Ok? So wait for the doctors to finish up, then when she exits, we nab her."
"Roger that. sir." The soldiers waited lined up on the wall as the nurses patched up the freelancer.
...fuckshit... alright... alright... calm down, don't let them catch on that you know...
She tried to control her thoughts as she forced herself to relax, even through the medics speed healing the damaged calf muscle of her right leg. The window... she was only on the second floor... take one of them hostage... but she was outnumbered, unarmed, and injured with blood loss.
This wasn't gonna be pretty.
We arrive at the hospital shortly thereafter. Sam parks the LRV near the exit in case there's need of a quick escape. Can never be too prepared. We enter the reception area and I walk directly to the secretaries at the front desk. I give a false name, naturally, and state that I am the patient's uncle. The lady opposite me gives me a disapproving look but, as there's no way for her to prove I'm lying, she tells me that he's in a waiting room on the 2nd floor with his friend. "Excellent service, thanks," I sneer.
Turning back to Sam, I share the information with him and we head up the stairs.
Oh yeah! Completely forgot... yes...
Her pistol may have been in the 'Hog, that damn Blue Sarge might have her shottie, but she still had her knife, that old trusty friend she'd had for as long as she could remember, the whole way back from the Mercury Project... and everything before that...
Don't think about that... just think about getting out of here...
She gladly sat up as the medic began to patch her side, wrapping each of the cracked ribs over the heated paste that quickly soothed the sore muscles there, gingerly reaching forward beneath the sheets to loosen the blade in its sheath in the inside of her left ankle. She could barely contain her smile as two of the medics left the room to deal with the paperwork. As the third finished the wrapping on her side, Talitha carefully used her good arm to help him pull her shirt back on, then fasten up her slightly torn jumpsuit.
"Need anything else, ma'am?"
"Nope. I'm all good."
The medic turned to leave, and Talitha made her move. She leapt from her bed, aiming for a body slam into the wall, unfortunately something that would be heard by the fire team standing outside waiting for her, but she had to take that chance. Hopefully she'd be able to subdue this medic before they came in.
"I'm really sorry about this, but I am not leaving in handcuffs."
The sergeant heard the scuffle and ran into the room, holding the M90 at firing level. He saw the freelancer pin the medic up against the wall. "What the hell are you doing freelancer!? Don't move!"
"You know, asking for my help goes a long way instead of deciding I have to help you. Let me get back to my Ghost and get out of here - I don't want to kill this guy."
She pulled the medic's back against her stomach, holding the blade against his throat. She really did regret doing this, and he was heavy against her still sore and injured form, but she kept that glint in her eye, trying to bluff her way out of the situation that had suddenly gotten that much hairier.
The sergeant gripped the shotgun tighter. "I'm really sorry bout this, but hell, its my god damn job. And that means a whole lot more to me than to some freelancer that I met deep in our territory. Hell, all signs point to you being a goddamn Red spy! That thing you were with was probably your damn contact in some kind of fucked up armor! But hell, I'll at least get bonus if I don't feel good about this afterwards."
"I told you, I'M NOT A SPY! I'm a freelancer, and I knew Riggs when I lived on Cairn, alright? I haven't even talked to a Red since I got here to Macerr!"
The medic was slipping in her arms, he was starting to come around.
This is going well...
"Throw the knife away now or you AND the medical officer will be dead. Drop it, and you both will live."
"I knew you were an ass, doing this after I saved your life, but killing someone on your side? That's just heartless!"
"Saved my life? What about the 23 soldiers that died because of that thing? Did you bother to try and save them? I don't think so. And so what if I'm heartless? I kill people like you for a living. The whole damn universe is heartless"
"It's more than you saved. You think I wanted those 23 people to die?"
"Enough talking!" The sergeant fired the shotgun over her head and into the wall, making eight black indentations in the room's wall. He pumped the shotgun and prepared to fire again. "Now. Do what I say."
Talitha flinched slightly as the shot went off over her head, causing her to lose her grip on the medic, who dropped and threw himself away from Talitha. She didn't try to go after him though, but she did throw the knife, imbedding it in the wall near the window.
"Fine. You're making a big mistake, though."
Lennalli was strolling about the streets of Kalaa, as was his custom on Tuesday afternoons, when he spots a covenant ghost with a Blue army warthog parked outside the city's hospital. "Huh...haven't seen one of these since I was back on Cairn." As he moves to get a closer look he vaguely hears a police broadcast coming from his helmet, which is tucked under his arm.
Kalaa's law enforcement would often broadcast on blue frequencies in addition to their own and Lieutenant Lennalli saw to it that they were assisted as often as possible. He was always all for furthering relationships with the civilian developments.
All he makes out is something about a hostage situation at a hospital. Maybe it's this one. I may as well check.
The sergeant motioned for the private to get the medical officer out of the area. He then
took his pump hand off and grabbed the freelancer by the collar. "Get the lead out. Lets go." He pushed her out of the room and into the hallway, meeting up with the five other blue soldiers. "Wait here." Sergeant Anderson left the freelancer with the five blue soldiers and went down to the clerk at the desk, talking to her and paying her off.
Lennalli starts moving more quickly after hearing gunfire and meets the others after just a short time. "Sergeant! I hope that wasn't you behind that shotgun blast I heard just a moment ago"
"I hate you. I was sleeping until you showed up."
Talitha looked up at the speaking private. "I'm sorry, I didn't ask for you guys to come-" Another private cut her off.
"My buddy was stationed at Lambda."
She turned her head, slowly picking herself up from the floor, holding her hands up to try and calm them down.
"I did what I could... I tried-"
"No you didn't, cause he's dead!"
Next thing she knew, the irate privates were trying to meld her face with the wall as she was roughly slammed into it. She could taste blood on her lip as her hands were planted against the wall and her feet were spread, two sets of hands patting her down to make sure she didn't have anything else on her. She truly didn't, not even her ID on her, not even a spare grenade. The corporal pressed his pistol into the back of her neck to make sure she stayed where she was, but she just shook her head slightly.
Damn idealistic privates... fresh out of basic probably... filled with all of these notions... no idea what real war is like... heh...
The sergeant finishes the paperwork at the hospital's desk and turns around to face his superior. He salutes the lieutenant and begins to speak. "Sir, she had a knife to one of the medical officers here. The shot scared her into releasing the medic and we've got her in custody."
"A shotgun isn't exactly the proper weapon for handling a hostage situation."Lennalli sets his helmet on the reception desk and flips through the papers Sergeant Anderson just filled out. "I wanna know exactly what went on and who was involved in this. How's the hostage by the way?"
"Well, sir, at least it worked. The girl in custody is between 28 and 35. She had a ghost with her. The monster that took out Lambda seems to react uniquely to her. I believe she called it 'Riggs'. The hostage though is fine, no wounds, but possibly a minor concussion.
Come, sir. I'll take you to the woman in custody."
At the name 'Riggs' the color drains from the lieutenants face. "Riggs...Riggs is supposed to be dead...How can he be here..." Lennalli shakes his head and regains his composure. "Yes. I'd like to have a few words with her."
Umm, this way sir," he says as he points to the elevator. "But oddly, that's what the girl said."
Lennalli is silent as he steps onto the elevator. He waits for the doors to close before he starts talking. "This 'Man' Riggs. He was back on Cairn. Most of the injuries I sustained there were his doing. He's the reason I don't have my real right hand anymore. I doubted at first that the destruction of Lambda was because of one person but if he's involved I can certainly see it happening."
The elevator doors opened to the second floor, where down the hall the privates were holding a gun to the back of the woman's neck. "This way, sir. Just down the hall." They walked down the hall and met up with the privates. "Privates, stand at attention." The privates stood at attention in front of the lieutenant. The sergeant pointed to the girl with
her back to them. "That's her, sir."
Talitha's head perked up slightly as she heard the higher level Blues come up behind her, but she didn't turn around, keeping her hands against the wall, shifting her weight off her right leg slightly. The scab was itching like anything...
"At ease, privates." As the soldiers relax the lieutenant focuses on the woman. "I am Second Lieutenant James Lennalli. I'd like a few words with you. I understand you were at Lambda during the 'incident'. What exactly happened there?"
...nothing to lose now...
"...After shooting me in the leg, your Sarge here asked me to come back and help after he heard the distress call over the radio. I followed, and went with Corporal... Doytrev... I think it was... to secure the mess, but they called to evac, so I got out, then the fuel tanks exploded. I got thrown, broke my arm. Then... something was about to attack us, so I told it to stop, and it ran off."
...is that... yeah... that Blue that... oh shit... good thing I didn't say any more...
" 'Something'...hmm...What's your name miss? I recognize your voice but I can't remember from where."
"How long are you planning on holding me?"
Steer him away... but Lennalli isn't stupid... shitshitshitshit...
Lennalli ignores her and repeats himself. With more authority this time. "What's your name miss?"
She kept quiet, staring at the floor. This is not good... why can't you idiots just fricking believe me?!?
He can see that it's going nowhere. He softens his voice a bit. "I'm not accusing you of anything. I have to explain to 23 families why their loved ones aren't coming home. I want to know what that creature is, why it's here, and what connection you have with it. I need you to co-operate."
"I don't know why it's here. I thought he was dead... I wish I could have done more for your soldiers, Sar... Lieutenant, but I'm just a freelancer, trying to leave her past behind. Seems like it's caught up with me."
No point in playing dumb now. She obviously knows me. Yup. There's no mistaking it. She's the one from Cairn.
"In any case, you have at least some control over Riggs. We need your assistance. I ask you come with us to Blue Base Rho. I'm sure you could use the pay. I know how hard it is for independent freelancers to find work. Especially work from the blues for former red officers."
Her eyes flew wide as she turned her head, then smiled a bit.
"Heh... thought you'd remember me... just wasn't sure... your Sarge thought I was a spy without even knowing me. Can't be too careful."
She slowly turned around, watching the privates digest this news.
"I wouldn't mind the pay, that's for sure. I just want to make sure you don't change your mind later."
"Great. Well, I'll call for a vehicle and we can discuss all that back at Rho. I'm sure most of the troops there won't offer you much trust. I figure there must be some reason why you left the reds or you wouldn't be a freelancer." Lennalli tells Sergeant Anderson to call for a transport big enough to take her ghost back to Rho. "You're probly not up to walking back, are you."
"Meh. I've had worse. And I wasn't expecting anyone to trust me - hell, I thought a hostage was the only way I was getting out of here scot-free. Glad he's alright..."
She smiled thoughtfully, rubbing her arm slightly where it had been broken.
I had put my helmet on a soon as I'd reached the second floor. There she was...Talitha Richardson, another ghost from my past. And there was the Blue Lieutenant, too. Looks like there's been a bit of trouble, but as I'm walking past I stay close to the far wall and listen in on the conversation. Everything sounds under control, so I continue on to the waiting room I was directed to. I glance back one last time before entering the room...
"Yes sir." The sergeant looked at the freelancer one more time with a disapproving glance before going down into the reception area to put in the order. When he reached the lobby, he keyed his comm. "Blue Base Rho, come in, over. This is Sergeant Anderson."
"This is Blue Base Rho. Go ahead, sergeant."
"Lieutenant Lennalli and I need an M12T1 Transport Hog."
"Affirmative, sergeant. The vehicle is en route and will arrive in ten minutes."
"Thanks, Rho. Anderson, out."
The visit went just fine. My boys will be released in a week or so. I got the information I needed from them, and I feel confident that their loyalty lies with my organization. Well, now Sam and I are off to Macerr to finish setting up my operation on this planet. But first...well, let's just say we need to reclaim stolen goods.
We again pass by Talitha, Lennalli, and the rest of the Blue soldiers. Taking the elevator down to the lobby, I see a Blue Sergeant talking on his comm set. We exit the building and head towards the garage...
"Oh, it may or may not be scot-free, depending on if your hostage decides to press charges. Come with me downstairs. Our transport should be arriving periodically."
"Eheh... yeah... that... great... I'm gonna quick grab my knife..."
Talitha ducked back into her room, pulling her combat dagger out of the wall, then clicking it neatly into the sheath before following Lennalli down to the main lobby, fully conscious of the privates and the corporal behind her. She could almost feel their stares boring out holes in the back of her neck. She sighed.
Not here, you've caused enough damage already... at least these damn Blues aren't trying to make a fuss either... may not be the same when I'm an ex-Red in the middle of one of the biggest Blue bases in this quadrant... hopefully the pay's good... my Ghost is gonna need one hell of a tune-up.
As they pass the reception desk Lennalli grabs his helmet that he'd left there and turns to Talitha as they walk. "So tell me...What causes an officer to leave the red army and become a freelancer?"
"Well, it's a pretty long story, and I dunno how much of it I'd really wanna tell you."
Huh...Well I was just expecting her to tell me what I wanted to hear...I'm impressed, Miss Richardson.
"well then, I suppose I'll have to earn your trust too."
"Are you saying I have yours, Lieutenant?"
Talitha waited for the transport next to him on the stairs, her eyes stopping on him for just a few seconds before flickering over the populace of Kalaa. Sure, she'd been here a few times before, but never for this long. Most of the time it was get in, get your stuff you couldn't get from Macerr City, namely certain parts for her Ghost. She'd prefer the rest of the world not knowing she had that vehicle, especially since it was her only mode of transportation on the planet. Wouldn't do if someone stole it, then she might have to pay him or her a visit... Her eyes flicked back to Lennalli.
"Just to know how I stand here."
Sergeant Anderson approached the lieutenant. "Excuse me sir, but the vehicle is here."
Outside was an M12T1 LVP. A driver was waiting, with seating for seven.
"Logic says no. But my instincts say I have nothing to fear from you. Besides that, I need you. This Riggs guy seemed to have some personal vendetta against me. Now then, our transport is waiting."
"Works for me. Let's get back to your base - I have a few ideas, once we get the payment issue worked out, of course."
Talitha headed down the stairs, sliding into a seat near her Ghost, running her hand over the smooth purple translucent armor, scrubbing away at a small piece of dirt with a fingernail.
The fire team piled into the back of the transport hog. Sergeant Anderson saluted to the lieutenant and then went off to go retrieve the Hog they arrived in. He soon pulled into a spot behind the transport hog, waiting to depart.
As he always does, Lennalli climbs in last.
"Alright. Lets head home."
A few clicks beside Talitha, a whirr of internal mechanisms. Something was being projected from the screen of her Ghost, a steady double-beep resounding every few seconds. It was coming from Riggs' old comm-mod, the little self-built appliance projecting a map using the primary screen of the ghost.-
Beep beep.....beep beep......beep beep.......beep beep....
Chapter 13.Second Sighting
The darkness of the craft was almost despairing to any who laid eyes upon it, but it had once again returned to Macerr, this time with its second cargo. It descended silently through the atmosphere, coming to rest at the northern-most river that fed Macerr and Kalaa, North of the Red Base designated "Alpha." She wondered if it would have been more suiting to put Experiment Alpha here rather than Beta, but Alpha supposedly had red ties, so that might interrupt the project. She'd been going over the recordings with the council, most displeasing that someone had actually caused a lapse in the assignment of unit Alpha. That person would have to be eliminated, but at a later time. Now for Beta.
The rear bay doors of the Oni craft opened, the same five soldiers disembarking from their transport. They hauled out the next container, their lead science officer again stepping behind the crate. She entered her personal activation code into the terminal equipped to the crate, activating the waking procedures for her second test subject. She walked to the front of the crate as a softer thud resounded inside the now-opened crate.
"You will do no less than Alpha, if anything you have more capacity to perform, my experiment...my Lycan.."
She patted something with her gloved hand, her guards and herself heading back to the Oni ship. They departed, leaving their second parcel behind for the people of Macerr to discover, much to their inevitable horror. Once onboard the science officer went to her room aboard the vessel. She accessed Unit Alpha's recordings, taken by macrobinocular records set into his visor. She heard the woman speak, "Riggs! No Stop!" "Talitha Richardson" read the file that was displayed beside her primary holovid. This Richardson woman needed to be taken care of as soon as possible. She would not have anyone meddling with her Alpha her Orochi, her Riggs.
Only 30 minutes passed before another electrical current brought a second monstrosity to life. Noone around it at this time, noone nearby for it to prey upon. It was hungry, thirsty, it had to quench its most primitive of needs before it could begin its mission. It stood, a much lighter frame than Alpha. Sleek, white armor that slowly became translucent as its active camouflage system powered up. A small Greek letter, Beta disappeared from its left shoulder as the camo shrouded the beast. It took off for the river, a topographical map at its disposal whenever it needed.
A second howl resounded on Macerr, joined by the first somewhere to the East. Alpha and Beta, Orochi and Lycan...what could ever be next?
Red Base Alpha would not be given the chance to send a distress signal. The communications officers all had looks of bafflement upon their faces as one by one their long-range and short-range telecomm systems went offline, something interfering or damaging the equipment outside. Two officers headed out, knowing a quite nasty storm had set in. They'd heard several cracks of thunder, seen lightning outside the windows of the structure. Perhaps the howling wind and the pouring rain had battered or even broken the transmission dish and its surrounding antennae.
They climbed up the service ladder, finding themselves on the roof. Tiny wiper assemblies were attached to their visors, helping to keep out the rain as they clomped and walked their way to the communication equipment. An even greater look of confusion, the dish was completely gone, as were all of the antennae. One of the soldiers placed a finger to where the remains of one of the antennae stood, pulling his hand back as he could feel the heat burning through the armor of his glove.
Those soldiers wouldn't have time to scream, very few of them would. So silent was it that it had made its way behind them, only a meter away. They could feel the strange heat that overcame them, hear the hissing of evaporating rain. They turned slowly, but a moment to take their last breaths as a pair of thin, whiplike steel bands slashed into their visors, punctured through reinforced armor glass, metal, flesh, muscle, bone and brain tissue. The ends of the tendrils exploded from the back of each helmet, carrying forward fresh sprays of blood and bone. They pulled out, retracting into the wrists of the second beast here on Macerr, Oni's "Lycan" or "Beta" experiment.
It had watched the Warthogs leave earlier, a few days past. The Command of the Red Army here on Macerr had headed out for the city of Macerr, a military council convened to discuss what to do about the loss of Red Base Omicron to the Blues. They hadn't come back yet. No matter, its task was to destroy the personnel, the soldiers, not the top brass. It was actually told not to destroy them, and so it would strike now while they were away.
It turned, padding across the roof on all fours, its long tail swinging through the air behind it. It headed into the Alpha structure of the Red Army here on Macerr. Down into the bowels of the base, amongst the soldiers of the Reds, men, women, all here. The door slammed shut...the end of Red Base Alpha. No screams, no transmissions, no warnings or maydays. Just blood, sweat, bullets, and death. A few rampant shots heard in the distance, muffled by the rain and thunder. Two hours later the hatch reopened, Beta climbing up and closing it behind her. She stood in the rain, tilting her visor up to the clouds to allow the cascade of water to wipe away the blood dripping off her body. Not her blood, not a single wound.
Her thin metallic jaws opened, water trickling down her throat for a moment. A shrill howl like that of a wolf rippled amongst the thunder and lightning, louder than the thunder and rain. She leapt from the roof, into the night. The Reds wouldn't know of the incident until they came looking, whenever that would be. Ninety soldiers confirmed dead, many more wounded. A large faction of the base had gone with the Top Brass to the meeting as protection. Thank god they weren't here when the devil herself came knocking on that door.
It was about 1:00am, and Lt. Sanderson was in her quarters. She was about to go to sleep when her datapad starting beeping and buzzing. She turned it on to a distress message. She read through it.F-f-from Alpha? How? That's almost 300 soldiers! She quickly switched to the emergency conference channel on her radio. She caught the Major in one of his sermons, again.
"Ok. Something is going on, definitely strange. The Base AI is going nuts, and the message was received through emergency landlines. Now, first platoon, you're going in to secure the area. Get the squads together and be at the Pelican Bay in ten minutes."
Lieutenant Sanderson scrambled to get her stuff together, throwing her armor back on while sending an urgent page to all the members of the platoon.
"1st platoon, fall out, combat ready in ten minutes at the Pelican Bay.
She grabbed her guns and sprinted down two levels to the Pelican Bay, waiting for the rest of the soldiers.
Sanderson's Pelican landed about 1/2 a mile south of Alpha base as Pelican 2 went and landed on the North side. As the soldiers unloaded, they began to march on foot towards the base. The Pelican's engines roared as it departed to a standby altitude. The perimeter is clear, but I wonder about the interior. She halted her part of the platoon. "Sergeant Crowe, do you copy? We've landed and are approaching the base. What's your status, over?"
He left Kaminari in his seat, as well as his pack of spare rockets. After landing the standard 1/2-mile from the site his forces, his Light Brigade and the two squads accompanying him moved out. BR-55's, M90's, M91's and dual M7 Caseless SMG's scanned the darkness, the group activating their helmet-mounted external lights to provide illumination. It was still raining, but only lightly now, though the wind hadn't died down.
Crowe instructed the entirety of his combined force to pan out, spreading from one large group to subgroups of 5, a medic assigned to each group in case things got hot. He let the targeting reticle in the center of his HUD pan across the surroundings, locking on the steady glow from the lights of Alpha base. They began to double-time it to the base, eating up the distance between them and their mission objective. He holstered his right SMG, bringing his gloved hand to his helmet.
"We touched down and are enroute to Alpha as we speak, maybe another minute, two at tops.
Sanderson's squad of seven arrived at the base's south entrance. She pushed in the access code for the door and it slowly opened. A dank stench of death poured out. The squad backed up a bit, trying to avoid the smell that even made it past the helmets' air purifiers. Sanderson peeked around the corner. Several corpses lay in the corridor. She saw a few moving, and much blood stained the walls. She ordered the squad to move in.
They did so reluctantly. She had them check every room and corridor. Many were wounded severely, and some dead. "Sergeant Crowe, come in. We've entered the base. We got lots of wounded and dead, so get in here with those medics, over."
Whatever it was, it wasn't blue.
"Ma'am, you think that sides a mess...the entire base is a slaughter-house...there are wounded though...far more wounded then dead...I don't think it was Blues.."
They'd entered the Northern Entrance of the base only a quarter of a minute after Sanderson and her squad had entered the South. The medics were already treating the wounded as best they could. Blood, limbs, and dead were everywhere, the wounded either screaming in agony or screaming in horror, reliving whatever hell took place here. Crowe just dropped to his knees and said a prayer for the survivors.
Sanderson heard something from command over her headset and relayed it to Crowe.
"Sergeant, command wants you to leave the medics and 4 soldiers here. We need to get the rest back to base and have them ready for tomorrow night. We're pulling out. Meet you at Iota, over."
Sanderson selected a few soldiers to guard the medics and stay at the base as the rest exited the base back onto the Pelican. Whatever it was, it'd have to wait. A more important even would soon occur.
"Understood ma'am. Crowe out."
He signaled to his soldiers, his Light Brigade and the two squads added. He ordered the medics to remain behind and continue to help the wounded. Two soldiers would go to Macerr in a Hog should any still exist in the garage. The medics would need extra equipment, more supplies if they were going to help clean up this mess. Two more soldiers were to stay and protect the Medics until the soldiers from Macerr returned. Pvt. 1st Class Hartfeld would stay behind with his M90, a soldier from the 2nd squad remaining with a BR-55. The two soldiers headed to Macerr were also equipped with BR-55's. They'd keep in constant contact with Crowe in case anything happened. He wasn't going to lose anyone this soon into the campaign.
Crowe and the remaining soldiers of his group and the other 2 groups moved out, back to their Pelican. He gave one last scan of the area, swinging his M7 Caseless SMG's back and forth before boarding the Pelican last. He strapped in, saying one more prayer to the poor souls who had been lost this night as the Light Brigade rose into the sky.
The only real spaceport of the Blue Forces on planet, Epsilon can hold 10 pelicans and a squadron of LongSword Bombers. This is also the location where Blue Forces may call in for Air Support or a pick up. This is also home to Eliar Meine, Pelican pilot of the 181st division. Eliar dropped down next to his Pelican as he wiped the oil stains off his hands. He was dressed in his mechanics gear, a full black baggy body suit with patches of military engagements and his status were sown into his left sleeve. His hat had a Celtic design upon the front with nothing on the back as he twisted it around so he could get closer to his machine. He was having trouble with his number 4 engine, one that assisted in controlling vertical take offs and landings. He sighed as he ran a sleeve over his forehead and it came away damp with sweat. He had replaced the injectors, the intake manifold, the super-charger, and every fuse and wire he could think of, but it still only read as 99% efficiency.
He dropped down and sat on a crate of 50 caliber rounds and grabbed a canteen of water from his belt and took a long drag of cold water that chilled him even in the heat of the mechanics bay. He capped the top and slid the metal container back into its pouch before grabbing a wrench and ducting back into the engine core.
He hummed while he worked, playing off a favorite song of his that existed back in the year 2004. He loved the old music, none of this new techno culture that always blasted out on the radio waves. Eliar pulled himself from the engine and test fired it. It went off without a hitch on the first pull and the computers read 100% on Engine 4. The roar was deafening, but it meant he had done a good job. He cleaned his hands off again as he took his hat off and ran a hand through his black hair. Sweat beaded from his face as he shut the engines off. He checked the repair sheets on his Pelican he called "Issy" and checked off Engine 4. Nothing else left to do by continue the modifications.
By all standards and specs, a UNSC Pelican weighs 70 tons with a full fuel load, and weapons load. With his modifications to the engines, he gained a 15% better fuel efficiency so he had added additional armour plating around the engine housings and a much more efficient weapons system that gave a much more punch to. The standard two 70mm Heavy chain guns were mounted with armour piercing high explosive rounds that assisted in the two Gauss Cannons mounted underneath the nose the craft that could tear through a Tank in a single burst. The Two missile pods on the wings were loaded with Wide Spread Cluster missiles that had high yield explosive cores that multiplied the normal explosion area by 3 times. He had 6 Aerial Mines installed on the underneath side of each wing that could detach, fly for a short time, plant where they landed and detonate which was a good thing to have in some situations.
He sighed as he ran his hand across the front image on the side panel close to the cockpit he had spray painted on months ago after his first bird crashed. It was a circular design with lines sinking in towards the center of various colors. He smiled before he turned and jumped in through the back cargo hold as he called it and entered the cockpit. Everything was customized to his liking as he powered up all 12 engines on a pre-flight test and everything registered 100%. He shut them down as he sat in his Pilots chair, watching the sun set calmly off across the horizon.
Chapter 15.Kalaa Sentinel
...clipping from Metro section, 30 October, 2553...
...Yesterday three bodies were found inside a residential apartment on the ^%*%... block, downtown Kalaa. No suspects have been named in the case, although Kalaa PD has stated that they believe the incident to be gang related. All three persons bore the mark of the local chapter of the Southsider gang. This gang is believed to be responsible for numerous armed robberies in the area, and several members have been involved in shootouts with the local law enforcement...
Chapter 16.The Offer
The transport arrived at Base Rho after about a half-hour drive. It parked in the relatively large garage and Lennalli hops out immediatly and opens the base door.
"If you'll accompany me to my office, Miss Richardson, we can begin discussing things."
"Sounds like a plan. Just a second."
She helped the privates pull her Ghost out of the transport Hog, watching to see how they were handling it. Thankfully, they seemed to be treating it rather well, at least with their lieutenant watching. She undid the straps holding the commod to her dashboard and smiled, thanking a few of them before searching for Anderson.
"Sarge, if you would just leave my shotgun by my Ghost, that would be great. Thanks."
Talitha's grin didn't fade as she followed Lennalli to his office.
The sergeant grunted as she walked away with the smirk on her face. He really hated it when he was wrong. She just said shotgun, don't say nothin bout the ammo. The sergeant pumps the shotgun to unload the unfired shells, picking them up and dumping them in his utility pouch. He set the empty shotgun next to the Ghost and followed Lennalli and Talitha.
As the two walk through the halls on the large base, Lennalli turns to Talitha. "I know one hell of a mechanic if you ever need repairs on that. He specializes in non-conventional items. Though I'm sure he won't be cheap. Ah, here we are."
Lennalli turns and taps a few keys on a electronic lock on the wall next to a door with his name on it. He walks in and sits behind a large desk and motions for Talitha to sit in a chair in front of the desk.
"Now then. This Riggs fellow. He seems to take great pleasure in killing my men. In addition, I'm pretty sure he hates me. Now, I'm never one to cause human death when it's avoidable, I assume he is still human somewhere under there, but unless you can somehow detain him we're gonna have plenty more deaths and I will do everything in my power to make him one of those deaths. I'll be assigning you a crew of soldiers and putting you in charge of taking care of him. I personally will not be able to help much, with the way this army's being run of late. There are 16 officers on this planet that out-rank me or are my same rank. 14 are at Blue Base Alpha. The other two are at epsilon and beta. For some reason command saw fit to place me in charge of the other 16...ahem...15 bases on the planet. It's no secret around here that I don't much like the way things are run."
"I've been doing repairs on her for 12 years since I got her, I think I can handle it. Freelancing gives you a lot of time to spend on things you normally don't get to do."
She sat down in the chair, unconsciously crossing her legs to keep her blade in easy reach, leaning against the side of the chair.
"I don't wanna see your men die any more than you do, Lennalli. We should be out there killing Covies, not each other. I appreciate the help, but I think I'd be better off working alone here - using your soldiers as recon would just get them killed, and with my shottie, maybe an M19, I should be able to handle Riggs if he gets rowdy."
She swung her legs down, staring full at Lennalli.
"I'm not just doing this for you. He's killed civvies that had absolutely nothing to do with this by the mines. He didn't do that before, so I gotta find out why he's doing it now. I'll stop him, don't you worry about that."
She relaxed again, twirling a longer strand of her hair in thought.
"Now for price... I keep the rocket launcher, enough shells to refill my shotgun that your Sergeant so unthoughtfully removed, some power cells to recharge my Ghost, and 5000C. You give me that..."
She patted the beeping commod in her lap, smiling as she watched the signal that would lead her to Riggs.
"And I'll make sure he doesn't kill any more of your men."
"But I digress. You will of course be paid handsomely. What amount do you expect for an undertaking like this?"
"Very well. Rocket launcher with plenty of ammo, shotgun ammo, power cells for your ghost and 10000C. And no soldiers...If you decide to change your mind on that I'm sure I could arrange a decent squad."
Lennalli opens a drawer on his desk and rummages around a bit before pulling out a card key and handing it to Talitha.
"This will let you into room b-8. It's an un-occupied officer's quarters. You can stay there for free until your task is finished."
Whee! Four months instead of two! Maybe I can even pay off that back payment on the construction permit! YES!
Talitha smiled, taking the cardkey with one hand and slipping it into her pocket, reaching out with her right for a handshake to seal the deal.
"Good to do business with you."
Lennalli grins and accepts the handshake.
"You let me know if there's anything else you need."
"I will, thanks."
She stood and headed for the door of Lennalli's office, watching the com-mod blipping and beeping Riggs' armor signature's location... he was in the mountains... that was all she could tell... but there was a second signal... huh... check that out later...
The door shut behind her, and she allowed herself a sigh of relief. Had the Blues really just offered to pay her 10000C?
I could have sworn Lennalli hated me... though we really didn't spend too much time getting to know each other... there was that one time at Cocaine's, but... heh...
She smiled as her memories drifted back to Cairn - the Halloween party, when Brahe had promoted her... but then his face quickly morphed and shifted, half of his skull blown off... the report that Riggs had disappeared... privates maimed and hacked to pieces by that deathbot... Sellings' open and terrified stare... an Elite waving a probe before her eyes before chuckling...
She jolted herself out of her memories, her breath heavier than normal as her eyes darted around. She couldn't lose it here. Not in a base full of Blues. She raked her fingers back through her hair, wiping the sweat on the leg of her BDU before heading back into the garage, towards her Ghost. Her frown shifted to a grin as she saw the rockets lying there, with a new-looking M19 sitting on top, the Blue location transponder removed from the handgrip, leaving a metallic patch that reflected the overhead lighting. Another 12 shells for her shotgun lay beside it ontop of 6 megawatt power cells.
I'll say this for the Blues... damn efficient...
It took her about 15 minutes to hook up the power cell to the fusion core for her Ghost, but she managed, sitting in the cockpit and clicking the shells into place as the numbers slowly climbed back to 100%.
Kay... get loaded up... head back to my place... get my armor... then go find Riggs... cake.
A new whirr from the comm-mod, followed by some louder, longer tones. Coordinates could be displayed now, the small device rerouting power to its higher functions. That couldn't be right. The new signature was still reading far North, above the stream that fed the lake East of Kalaa. Riggs' signature was....between her and her house, and moving in a North Western pattern, towards her home.
The change in tone jolted her out of the light slumber she was in as the cells charged. Hmmm? Her legs uncrossed as she picked up the com-mod, blinking the sand out of her eyes.
What the... OH SHIT...
She hurriedly strapped her shotgun to her back, almost tripping over her new rocket launcher as she reached out to disconnect the fuel cell from the power core. A few tense minutes later, her Ghost was at 75% power and speeding her off through the darkness back towards her home.
It was following a trail moving through the waking hours of the day. Across fields, rocks, and through puddles of water it ran, arms swept back, spines bobbing on its back with each step. The landscape was a blurr to the macrobinocular cameras mounted in its visor, though the being within that nightmarish armor could still see with a seemingly more-than-20/20 vision. Onward it went, possibly directed to do so, maybe not. It could see the structure, the dome that the scent had originated from. Here it would wait, here it would hunt once again.-
Her Ghost was sputtering, weaving. The boosters weren't working, the plasma cannons were completely shot.
Goddamn Blues... goddamn Blues...
But her home was in sight, the Ghost now making a whine loud enough that it could probably be heard from the mines.
It heard the sound, rounding the structure to see the approaching source. It slunk back behind the base, staying perfectly still, occasionally tilting its eyes behind its blood red visor. It listened, waited.
The comm-mod was going nuts. The signature was everywhere around her home, and the scent of ozone was rising from the grass around her. It was still here, the source more concentrated around her temporary house.
Talitha stopped her Ghost about 50 feet from her home, letting it drift to the slowly waving grass. She stood, her eyes flickering around as her nostrils were clogged by the thick ozone, making the hair on the back of her neck stand up. She unslung her shotgun, slowly creeping towards her home, ready to run for it if she saw anything move.
It continued to remain stationary, spreading the spikes of its back across the building, the two lowest pair impaling the ground. Vibrations were its sight, though it could not tell exact location. It knew she was walking towards it at least. A low snarl, maybe a growl, nothing more.
She was jumping at shadows in the early morning light, swiveling to point her shotgun at whatever threat her adrenaline-laden mind had thought was behind her. She was within 25 feet of the front door, ready to dash and lock herself inside.
That growl, it was all around her again, as well as the growing scent of ozone. The cloud seemed to thicken around her. Ticks and taps as something moved around her, that growl rising to try and cover its exact location. Was it behind her....or was the sound coming from above her? The comm-mod went nuts, the growl becoming more of a confused tone than an angry snarl.
"...Riggs... John... please... if that's you... show yourself... I don't want to hurt you..."
She turned her back towards her home, her eyes darting around for the active camo, coughing from the ozone, ready to defend herself if whatever was watching her wasn't the one thing she had regretted leaving behind on Cairn.
Its footsteps could be heard rounding the side of her home. It was in view in three strides, electricity crackling across its body as its active camouflage system deactivated. It stopped, its entire body trembling. It took a shaky, seemingly fought step towards her, its arms beginning to shake even more. Its fingers clenched into fists, each set of hooked blades exploding from their housings. He was still a good three meters from Talitha, another forced step, its back arching as though trying to pull itself away from her.
"...Riggs... what are you doing...?"
Her shotgun came back up as she took a step back, walking towards the door.
She forced him to take another step towards this woman, this Talitha Richardson. Rigged with a neurofiber harness, small electrode disks covering the largest muscles beneath her skin, beneath her black skin-tight suit. Another step, another. If he wouldn't obey her willingly, she'd make him kill her. Noone was going to ruin this experiment, noone would ruin her Orochi, her Riggs.
The comm-mod kept buzzing and whirring, a slight magnetic pull even towards Riggs, Talitha could feel it in her hand. Riggs took another step, another, spreading his arms wide as his blades locked into position, fingers uncurling their rending talons. The jaws of his helmet moved with his words, his voice, ragged, almost a gurgle.
"Riggs... stop... STOP!"
She backed up another step, closing her eyes and firing a shot at his legs.
She screamed out as she felt the pain of her experiment, crumpling to the ground just as Riggs did. Several pellets from the 8-gauge M90 had ricocheted off the angled and smooth surfaces of the Orochi's armor. Even though it had been reinforced for durability his kneecaps, tendons, lower thighs and upper shins still took a serious pounding at this range. Blood poured through the black armor of the Orochi as it slumped to the ground, letting out a blood-curdling scream of pain.
He managed to tap his helmet before he shook and quaked again. His claws dug into the ground, pulling himself towards her, his legs dragging behind him as his blood began to pool into the soft earth beneath him.
"I'm not killing you!"
She turned, heading inside, looking around for her medpack. Damnit, where'd I put that thing?
She tore apart her bedroom, finally finding the case under her bed, throwing it open and pulling a syringe free, then another. 50ccs of anesthetic in both, hopefully enough to knock him out.
Another scream. Something was seriously wrong now, she'd hear thuds, thumps, grunts of pain with each one. He was walking again, claws digging into the floor, leaving 4 long trails of shredded material and sparks behind them. Whatever was against him, whatever he was fighting didn't have control over his body, it had control over his armor, marching him after her despite his struggles to retain control.
"Talitha...you have to...stop me..."
"I'm trying! Oh god..."
Her eyes went wide as she saw him walking, moisture beading at the edges. She stood up, took a deep breath that she knew might be her last. She ran forward in a flying tackle as he tried to take another step, her hands moving for the locks on his helmet. She knew how to take it off, he had shown her so long ago... would she have enough time?
His spines flared out as she caught him off guard, caught whatever was controlling him off guard. The surprise allowed him to spread his arms to the sides, keeping them as far away from her as physically possible. On the other end she fought, straining to force Riggs to place his talons into her flesh, to rend her to pieces.-
"MOVE DAMN YOU! KILL HER NOW!"
He didn't, he fought, he gritted his teeth, his biceps, triceps, forearms and wrists all screaming in worse agony than his knees. The locks were the same, his helmet sliding off with a hiss. His face, his eyes squeezed shut, his lips pulled back as his teeth bore down on each other as he fought. Around his neck, the jade collar still remained. It was Riggs, his black hair matted to his head from sweat.
"Oh god... I knew it... I'm so sorry... wait..."
She got up off of Riggs, picking the com-mod up in her hand, the two syringes in the other one. Talitha looked back at Riggs, waiting for him to get up again.
"John, try and roll over!"
She could hear his legs shuffling in the tight-fitting armor around them, his body fighting against whatever held it, manipulated it beyond his control. A long grunt of pain and he managed to roll over onto his stomach, keeping his arms tucked beneath him and the weight of his armor.
She came up behind him quickly, planting the com-mod against the backplate in the little indentation made for it. Her hand still held the syringes, ready to put him under if he still had to fight.
An electrical charge exploded across his armor, the comm-mod falling silent. No more ozone, tiny red LEDs all across his armor turning black as he relaxed. He breathed raggedly, small droplet of blood exiting the armor around his knees. He said nothing, nodding to her slowly.
"I'm so sorry John... here..." She headed to her kitchen, filling up a glass of water and bringing it out for him, unsure if he had the strength to even hold it.
She pounded on the console infront of her, actually denting the reflective alloy that made up the housing of the control module. How could this happen?! No video feed, no motor control, not even a damn location! It was as though he'd disappeared from their entire net.
"Huh? What's wrong? I wish I hadn't shot you... I'm so sorry..."
She crouched beside him, stroking through his hair as she searched for the locks to remove the rest of his armor.
They came off rather easily, no piece giving her trouble. He was only wearing a black pair of boxer-briefs, allowing her to see the extent of the damage. He had been bleeding heavily, the entrance wounds of several pellets of shot more than visible in his skin. He'd always been a fast healer, most of the holes at least ceasing to bleed. He wouldn't be walking any time soon that was for sure.
Further inspection would show the pellets hadn't gone too far, the deepest lodged against his kneecaps. None had broken bone however, a miracle indeed. Nothing seriously injured, the reason for so much blood was just the sheer number of pellets that had penetrated his flesh.
"How...h...hows it look...?"
"I've seen worse... like when you pulled me off that battlefield when that Blue merc attacked... heh..."
She put about 10ccs of anesthetic into each knee from the first syringe, just enough to dull the pain he had to be feeling, using a bit of the water to wipe the blood from his skin before using a pair of tweezers to begin to pull the shot free.
His fingers clenched with each one that came out. Despite the anesthia he still knew what was happening. He hadn't been shot up like this in a long time, and it pained him to see that their first time together again had to be under circumstances like this.
"....I.........I missed you..."
"...I thought you were dead... I got a report... that you had disappeared..."
Her face turned away, a drop of moisture falling from her face to mix with the blood on his leg as she continued to work.
"...I thought I was dead too....."
He couldn't bear to look at her either at the moment, turning his head. It was harder for him though to hide the moisture at the edges of his eyes, this being the worst scenario he'd ever have to press on her. He'd almost attacked her, and now she was forced to fix him up.
"...I knew you weren't... I knew you wouldn't die... I missed you too much..."
She stood up, throwing the bloody shot in the matter converter before punching up the creation sequences, turning the energy from the shot into a pint of blood that could heal him as she went back to her room, pulling out bandages, splints, and a refiller case of biofoam. She didn't head back out right away though, just sitting on her bed.
He's alive... he's alive... he's here... on Macerr... he's alive...
He looked over at his armor, feeling a shudder run through his body. He wasn't dead...he was here...her was here with her.... He wanted to remember how he got here, where he'd been. It had been like a dream, nightmares of dead Blues, of threatening her. That was real. Had he really slaughtered so many Blues..?
She came back out a few minutes later, her eyes dry, though her face was still dotted with tears. She smiled though as she sat back down, injecting biofoam into each little wound before wrapping it carefully with clean white gauze bandages.
"Feels..much better. Thank you...."
What else could he say? How much he wanted to say, but he didn't know how she'd take it, didn't know whether to open his mouth or keep it shut. Best to keep it shut for now, a faint smile towards her.
"You don't need to thank me... it's my fault these are here."
"Thank you...for stopping me..."
"Heh... you think I wanted to die?"
She smiled, trying to make light of the situation as she switched sides, working on his left knee now.
"Heh... easiest job I've ever taken... you came right back to me..."
"..wanted to make sure it wasn't a dream....wanted you to stop me...looks like we both got something out of this mess..."
She laid the bandages aside, just sitting and smiling over at Riggs, disbelieving that he was here.
His hand found hers, his arms deep red from all the stress he'd put on them. He gave her hand a squeeze, blinking back a few small tears as he looked up at her. He didn't need to say anything. That bright green had returned to his eyes, that light they always had when they looked at her.
"Hey... it's alright..."
She reached down with her other hand, wiping away the tears as she gave his hand a squeeze.
"I know you've been through a lot... but it's over now..."
"You're right...its all over......I'm safe.......with you.."
Only a few more before he managed to contain himself. He gave her hand another squeeze, smoothing and rubbing the back of her hand with his thumb. He tried to sit up, maybe to hug her, he just wanted to embrace her now.
Her arms wrapped around him, pulling him up against her, making sure he didn't strain himself... or at least that's what she told herself she was doing...
I did miss him... I missed him a lot... it's been too long... but I cut myself away from that... hrrmmmm...
"Hehe...the floor is kinda cold..."
He squeezed her slightly in his arms, just holding her, his chin on her shoulder. This felt good, this felt right, after who knew how long everything had been wrong.
"Oh... I'm sorry... you should have said something... here..."
She gently lifted him in her arms, carrying him just like he had carried her off that battlefield... from that Pelican... so long ago... so much to thank him for... back to the spare bedroom she had, though it had been unoccupied in the year she had been here, and it showed with the spare parts and clutter that filled the room, using a foot to clear debris off the bed before lying him down on it.
"Thank you, Talitha......thank you...."
He shuffled a bit on the bed, just getting comfortable as he kept his eyes on hers. He didn't mind the clutter, he didn't even care, he was too busy seeing her, a thousand thoughts buzzing through his mind about her. He remembered carrying her off the battlefield, the Pelican...so so long ago...
She's probably found someone else....been gone so long...can't blame her...
"Do you need anything? I have to head into Blue Territory... pick up my supplies... and my paycheck..."
God those eyes... how could I forget them...
"I should be alright...maybe I'll catch a nap for the first time.......thank you, Talitha..for everything..."
Probably the only person I don't mind staring at me...hehe....wonder if she even notices...
"No need to thank me, John... I'll be back soon... help yourself to the fridge, okay?"
She gave him a smile, squeezing his hand one more time before she left the room, shutting the door behind her. She let a relieved sigh escape her, wiping her eyes and finding a bit of moisture on her fingers. He'll be safe now... hmmmm... good... She stopped before her armor, smiling into her visor before pulling each piece down and strapping, snapping, or flexing it into place, carrying her helmet and her shotgun out to her Ghost, using a bit of her rope to hold both hers and Riggs' helmet in the horrendously damaged storage pod before kicking on the engines one more time, taking it slow, no reason to push her, not now... such a good ship...
He gave her hand a squeeze in return, closing his eyes slowly, letting a content, relieved sigh escape his lips. He was with her, he never thought that would ever happen again. He thought he'd be trapped in that nightmare armor forever. He was free now, she'd be back soon. Just close your eyes, breathe easy, time for sleep...
It took her nearly 5 hours to go from her home to Rho when before it had only taken 2, the Ghost whining, sputtering and weaving the whole way. It had been okay for the first hour or so, but then the powercore had shorted, and the front hoverpad had cut out... just a laundry list of problems. But Rho was on the horizon, and she'd probably be setting off the sensors right about now.
When Talitha finally reaches her destination she would find Lieutenant Lennalli waiting by the main entrance, armored to the neck as usual and his arms folded across is chest.
The Ghost was actually smoking as she stopped it about 10 yards from Blue Base, trying not to grimace as it sputtered and crackled against the grass. She waved to the Lieutenant as she jumped out of her Ghost, beginning to untie Riggs' helmet from the storage port, it had actually stayed put for the trip. Well, I really didn't go fast enough to make it jump out of here... She walked over to the base, carrying his helmet under her arm where hers normally resided, moving to the rhythm as the butt of her shotgun clicked against the rear of it.
Lennalli grins and motions towards the helmet under Talitha's arm.
"You mind letting me keep that? I've a few theories to test."
"As long as it's not permanent, I'm thinking Riggs might want it back."
She handed it over, waiting and watching the Lieutenant.
Lennalli takes the helmet and gives Talitha a strange look.
"He's not dead? He killed 2 dozen of my men. I could understand if he was still affiliated with the red army but..."
The lieutenant stops speaking abruptly and forces himself to regain composure.
"I'm not saying he should be killed... but I believe he should be tried. I want at the very least an explanation and repentance, not only for me but for the families of those soldiers."
"I wish I knew, Lennalli - that's one of the reasons I didn't kill him. I'm not trying to justify what he did, and I don't think he's proud of it either. I just know the Jonathan Riggs I knew on Cairn wouldn't have killed so many people so horrifically... and I have very good evidence that he was being controlled by an outside source."
Talitha took a deep breath, raking a hand through her short brown hair to try and collect her thoughts.
"Until I take payment, I'm still contracted to the Blue Army. I'll stick around while you're running your tests, fix up my Ghost a bit. Riggs is at my residence right now, and I'd be more than happy to take you there if you'd like to talk to him. But until then, I think I'll stick around for a bit - something tells me you might need me for more than just stopping a killer."
Lennalli's voice and eyes are firm but forcibly devoid of anger as he gives the freelancer his instructions.
"I want him brought here. I want his armor, weapons, and anything else he had on him when you found him, quite separately, brought in too. No harm will come to him as long as he co-operates. He is to be un-armed and in civilian clothes. If you don't have any you can take some of mine. I'll arrange a transport."
"Not until I figure out why he did it. I had to rough him up a bit in order to disable whatever the hell was controlling him, and I'm certainly not moving him until he's rested some."
Talitha crossed her arms, returning Lennalli's resolute stare. "And neither of us know that he's left the Red Army like I have."
The lieutenant averts his gaze for a moment and ponders.
"Fine. Give him a week to rest."
His cold blue eyes lock back on Talitha's and he crosses his arms across his chest, the helmet dangling under his left elbow.
"Bring him in here 7 days from now. Private First Class Samantha Williams will go with you to ensure Riggs doesn't decide to go anywhere until then. The blue army will pay for whatever it'll cost you to have another houseguest."
"Don't try to order me around Lennalli. You offered me payment to stop Riggs, and I did that. Unless you wanna pay me more, I'm not going to help you fulfill your vendetta, and I'm not sure if any amount of money will make me betray a friend."
"I've no intention of harming the man. I told you my intentions. It is as you said. Until you receive payment you're still under contract with the blues. If you want to be paid more for bringing him in, fine. You can have more."
"If bringing Riggs in is the only way I get paid, then maybe I don't want to be paid at all. Another 10000C would have been nice, but I think I can deal without."
Lennalli shakes his head and sighs.
"You aren't understanding me, are you? All I'm asking is to talk to the man. I offered a rejuvenation period with only the stipulation that someone goes to make sure he doesn't try to run off anywhere before he comes here."
"...alright... as long as it's just to talk. But I'm warning you now - you try to hold him here against his will, and I'll suddenly have a place to practice with that rocket launcher you gave me, get me?"
She finally uncrossed her arms, but the distrust still shimmered in her jade green eyes fixed firmly on Lennalli's sky blue pair. She let her threat hang in the air for a second before a slight smile curved the right side of her lips.
"I would appreciate the transport though - as you saw, my Ghost isn't in the best condition. If you have a Hog with the LAAG removed, I think that would be perfect for your Private and I to ride back to my residence."
"Yea. We've got one. Ms. Williams will prep the vehicle and bring it around. If you'd like to pull your ghost into the garage we'll fix it up. Or just not touch it if you prefer."
"I'd rather fix it up myself - it's kind of finicky if you've never worked with Covie technology before. But thank you for the offer."
"Alright. Just park it inside, we'll keep it the way you left it."
At this time a disarmed warthog pulls around and Private First Class Williams hops out and waits for the freelancer.
"There's your ride. Now if you'll excuse me I've an errand to run."
"Don't suppose you'll tell me what kind of errand?"
With help from Williams and a few other Blue techs in the garage, they were able to move the almost completely non-functional Ghost into the spot where she had left the remaining powercells and the rocket launcher. She left the former, hoisting the latter to her shoulder as she cradled four additional rockets under her arm, slinging these into the back of the 'Hog and strapping them down with the D-rings in the floor of the vehicle. She waited for Lennalli's reply before climbing into the driver's seat.
"It's a personal matter. Don't worry about it, and don't get my secretary killed."
With that he jumps into the driver's seat of another warthog and heads toward town.
PFC Williams climbs into the passenger seat of the un-armed warthog after securing a battle rifle in the rear and her pistol to a low-slung holster on her right hip. Once she's situated she removes her helmet and gives Talitha a friendly nod.
She watched Lennalli drive off towards Kalaa, waiting until his dust plume disappeared before hopping into the driver's seat, returning Williams' nod, her helmet still sitting back with her new rocket launcher.
"Well... let's get back to my place... no reason to hang around here..."
She gunned the engine, letting it roar as she drove towards Red Territory.
Chapter 19.Zero Hour Part 1
-=The Very Next Day...=-
There was a silence over Iota. Zero hour was upon them. That night 120 soldiers would ride on Pelicans to Omicron. Sanderson arose from her bed, already ready. She headed out of her quarters back down to the assembly hall, where the two platoons were to be briefed. She met up with 2nd Lt. Mariso and Antwone, who were busy organizing tactical data. She saluted to the captain and turned to Mariso. "Good morning, lieutenant, sir. When will the rest be here?"
The captain turned to Sanderson. "In about ten minutes. Have a seat."
Sanderson sat down in one of the chairs on the stage next to the marble podium. A few soldiers started coming in for the briefing. She sat waiting.
Ezekial Crowe and the entirety of his Light Brigade filtered into the assembly hall, armored with their helmets in the crooks of their arms. They sat in their appointed row, Crowe in the direct center of the squad. He nodded to Sanderson, activating the small holographic screen before him. He had his squad do the same, teaching them the basics of the assembly hall and briefing, how they could access the interactive topographical maps, move them, observe key features with the push of a button or finger.
He was focusing heavily on the topography of the area surrounding Red Base Omicron. A whole ton of flat land, perfect for his weaponry, but bad for squad cover. Foxholes, trenches here and there, a nice road South of the base. North was the river towards Kalaa. He didn't want to have to use the river, it would slow them down far too much. Across the ground, they'd have to keep low, fire when they knew they could hit something, so that that something couldn't fire back. He waited to see just what the higher-ups had in mind for this one.
Shit shit shit Jacobs thought as he scurried down the corridor towards the assembly hall. He had overslept, and was running late. It's probably already started. He dropped his helmet and it rolled down a ramp he was passing by. Fuck! He chased it down the ramp, finally grabbing it at the bottom. He fastened it onto his utility belt and ran up the ramp back down the corridor to the assembly hall. He arrived in the assembly hall and sat down in the back, trying not to be noticed too much. At least they hadn't started yet.
Sanderson observed Jacobs scurry in from the corner of her eye. She turned back towards Mariso and the Captain. The Captain began the briefing.
"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Tonight's OP is very important. Our goal is to either retake Omicron or retrieve the Lt. Colonel and bring him home. Estimated reports
score the death total of Red soldiers at all but forty. Now, the Blues have set up ground turrets with MLA 50mm AutoCannons capable of taking out tanks in one hit. So we're going in via D77TC Pelican. Good news is 2nd Platoon got reinforced last night, so they'll be heading in also. First platoon, lead by Lt. Sanderson, will be the primary strike force. Jonston, who was briefed last night and is currently in Macerr City, and his men will be tasked with destroying the 5 MLA AutoCannons set up around the base and highway. Lt. Mariso's platoon will be guarding the Extraction Point. Now, if you will all observe the maps that should now be displayed.(Refer to map below.) As you can see, it
is crucial Jonston's forces take out the first MLA so Mariso's platoon can secure the EP. Mariso's forces will take two M12T1s for quicker transit to the EP. Should the EP fall before extraction time, then all forces are to go to Alpha. Now I know what you're thinking. Alpha is 25 kilometers from Omicron. However, we will have patrols out to pick you up should this plan be put in use. That is all. Godspeed."
The captain saluted and sat down. Sanderson stood up and went to the podium. "I need to see Crowe, Eriec, and McCarly for a personal briefing. The rest of you from my platoon are dismissed."
He dismissed the Light Brigade, ordering them on weapons detail for each other. They would have to prepare, and he'd have more information for them after this meeting with the Captain. Once the Light Brigade filed out he headed down to the Sanderson, his helmet in the crook of his arm. He stood at attention, saluting Sanderson until relieved.
"You wished to see me, ma'am?"
The two other sergeants, Eriec and McCarly followed behind Crowe and saluted as well.
Sanderson returned the salute. "As ease. Now, I'll be quick. The main facility of Omicron is three stories. So Crowe will be taking the 3rd floor, Eriec the 2nd, and McCarly the 1st. Jacobs, the 'bodyguard' they sent me, and I will secure the computer databases located in the bunker under the main complex. That is all." Sanderson saluted and returned to her quarters.
Ezekial saluted once more before filing out to join his squad. They'd need their usual ranged weapons on top of close quarter combat weaponry, it would be tight quarters in the base. He'd take Kaminari along, as well as his pair of M7 Caseless SMG's. He'd advise his squad to do the same, or fill out with M6D's.
Sanderson spent the afternoon in her quarters, resting up. With all the stuff that's happened in the last few days, she hasn't gotten much sleep. Her BR-55 and M/7 were both thoroughly cleaned and ready for combat. She went over the tactical map, looking for anything that could go wrong. She watched the clock tick away, the OP was drawing near.
Chapter 20.Zero Hour Part 2
11:00PM had arrived. It was time. Sanderson left her quarters in full battle gear and headed down to the Pelican Bay. Funny, this seems familiar. The thought. Yes that
thought. It was Aiur. Tarsonis. Planet. James. No, she could not get distracted by the man. That man. The one who saved her, the one. But, it felt so similar. Fixed target, riding in, possibly of getting blown away by stationary targets, it was once again here. History. Repeating. Once again. She shook her head. It's not a good time to get distracted by the worries. Just, the last time, hell broke loose. Thirty-eight KIA, two wounded. Only now she was in his shoes. No. She wouldn't let these recruits die. She would not allow history. The repetion. It was different. A new mission. Fifteen Pelicans going in. Five per platoon. Time to fly. She arrived in the bay and waited for the troops to assemble. Its time...
1st Squad, Ezekial Crowe's Light Brigade was ready and waiting, armored up, helmets on. They were running final weapon checks, Crowe's M7057 Defoliant Projector "Gojira" in hand, a fresh canister of liquid napalm loaded up. At his feet was a large black box, containing his M19 SSM Rocket Launcher "Kaminari." At each hip was an M7 Caseless SMG. He was armed and armored for war, and his squad showed it. Either a BR-55 or an M90 in their hands or strapped to their backs, a few soldiers carrying an M7 sidearm or an M6C or D just in case tight quarters occurred in the base.
Ezekial saluted Sanderson as soon as she came into view, as did the rest of the Light Brigade. They were all set to go, all set for the hell they'd be entering. They were ready for a victory, not to kill the Blues. He'd trained them for disabling shots, killing blows frowned upon in the eyes of Ezekial Seraphim Crowe. If they couldn't stop a person they'd kill him, but that was the only condition. Any wounded would be treated by his medics, any dead collected to be sent back to the Blues so that their families could be notified, could be given the bodies of their sons, daughters, wives, husbands, mothers and fathers.
Jacobs entered the Pelican Bay, armed with his M/7, his S2 and plenty of ammo. He saluted to Sanderson and stood in front of her, waiting for the rest.
Sanderson watched as 2nd and 3rd squad entered. Her platoon was assembled. She watched as the other two platoons assembled in their respective areas. She stood on one of the ramps, able to see her whole platoon. "First Platoon, fall in! Get into your designated dropships. And may God have mercy on your soul!" She hopped into one of the Pelican's front seats so she could observe from the rear. She watched as soldiers began loading in, Jacobs across from her. This was it. Now.
The 9 members of the Light Brigade, 1st Squad stuck together in one Pelican, Crowe the last one up after another 3 soldiers from 1st platoon filed in. He pressed his palm to the Pelican rear door control, watching the bay door of the Pelican rise vertically to seal them in. He took his seat as the very rear of the Pelican; he'd be the first one down to secure the area for his squad. Via their HUDs and communications he informed them of their goal, the safety and securing of Omicron's uppermost level, the 3rd floor. He gave them the projected layout, telling them that any number of Blues could be on the level, in any corner and in any room. They'd have to be sharp.
Any soldiers on the base's roof would be disabled if possible, removed from the Blue's infantry pool permanently if debilitation wasn't working. Inside it would be all close quarter fighting, Crowe recommending they switch to their smaller sidearms and prepare for the worst. He, like the rest of his squad had a 9-inch vibroharmonic K-Bar knife in his right shin brace, if for some reason his pair of M7 SMGs couldn't handle the job. They all nodded in acknowledgement of their mission. He ended with words he'd taught every squad, especially the Light Brigade. He began with the opening lines to the classic work of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, whom he'd adopted the title of his squad.
"Half a league, half a league, half a league onward, all in the valley of Death rode the six hundred. 'Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns!' he said: Into the valley of Death rode the six hundred."
Corporal Iome Earindal and Corporal Michelle Najees began the second verse together.
"'Forward, the Light Brigade!' Was there a man dismay'd ? Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd: Their's not to make reply, Their's not to reason why, Their's but to do and die: Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred."
Next came Lance Corporal Justin Marknene(Medical Officer) and Lance Corporal Stephen Graye with the third, speaking in perfect stride note for note, word for word.
"Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them Volley'd and thunder'd; Storm'd at with shot and shell, Boldly they rode and well, Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of Hell Rode the six hundred."
Lance Corporal Michael Jameson and Private First Class Emily Hanover had the fourth verse.
"Flash'd all their sabres bare, Flash'd as they turn'd in air Sabring the gunners there, Charging an army, while All the world wonder'd: Plunged in the battery-smoke Right thro' the line they broke; Cossack and Russian Reel'd from the sabre-stroke Shatter'd and sunder'd. Then they rode back, but not, not the six hundred."
Private First Class Connor Barnes and Private First Class Alexander Hartfeld picked up the fifth verse.
"Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them, Cannon behind them Volley'd and thunder'd; Storm'd at with shot and shell, While horse and hero fell, They that had fought so well Came thro' the jaws of Death, Back from the mouth of Hell, All that was left of them, Left of six hundred."
Crowe was going to begin the sixth and final verse alone as he had taught his squad . He was surprised however when all 8 of his soldiers spoke in unison, joined by his voice a moment later. The 9 members of 1st Squad, Ezekial "Seraphim" Crowe's Light Brigade finished the poem together. He knew it would be a moral boost, so Crowe opened his comm to an open Red channel so that all of the soldiers flying to Red Base Omicron would hear it, loud and proud.
"When can their glory fade? O the wild charge they made! All the world wonder'd. Honour the charge they made! Honour the Light Brigade, Noble six hundred! For the glory of mankind and peace for all in this universe, onward we charge, soldiers of the Red Army!"
Sanderson listened to the squad over the radio, all in perfect unison. She chuckled a bit.
"Not bad, 1st squad. Anways, we'll be hitting the LZ in ten minutes, so watch for any flak, and to keep your cookies in for any of you rookies." Sanderson looked out the rear of the Pelican and smiled again, the outline of the highways visible by the lights. "Check weapons and keep cool. Sanderson, out."
Safeties off, clicks and clacks emanating from inside the Pelican. Ezekial removed "Kaminari," his M9 SSM Rocket Launcher and loaded up two heat-seeking rockets. He'd be using this to clear the roof, maybe he could at least disorient the Blue soldiers. He realized how unethical using this weapon would be, even worse if he brought "Gojira" the defoliant projector into the building. It had to be done though, and he'd say a prayer for each and every soul that passed here, hoping to guide them to the light of heaven, to help the Lord see their accomplishments and positives rather than the negatives of this war. He only hoped that when he passed he would be judged the same.
Sanderson watched out the rear of the Pelican. Two other Pelicans were behind the Pelican she was in. She checked the mission clock. Thirty seconds. "Thirty seconds!" she shouted over the radio. Suddenly, a 102mm rocket impacts the rear Pelican on the Front Right of the Cockpit. The black smoke and dark night made it impossible to see what had happened. But they were going down. "All Pelicans, all pelicans. Foxtrot Niner Niner is hit and is going down. I repeat. Eriec's Pelican is hit and is going down." Shit. "McCarly, have your bird swoop down and secure the crash site. All other birds be advised. We'll be hitting the LZ in ten."
The flak from the MLA 50mm autocannons could be seen zipping through the sky. Her Pelican touched down, and she hopped out, followed by Jacobs. She took a knee and keyed her radio. "Crowe, proceed on mission. Clear the entire complex. Jacobs and I will secure the LZ. Good luck. Sanderson, out."
"You heard her soldiers, were taking that building alone! Warriors of the Light Brigade, send these Blue Bastards to the abyss!"
Crowe stood, bracing himself as he hit the Pelican's rear door. He ordered the pilot to lower them towards the roof, slinging "Kaminari" onto his shoulder. He scanned for any targets, he didn't want to be setting the Pelican down onto enemies. Corporal Earindal and Pvt. 1st Class Emily Hanover stood beside him, each with a BR-55 on the watch for anyone they could take down at the uppermost level of the base. They could hear the flak exploding in the air, the soldiers ready to leap out of the back of the Pelican to the roof below.
Four Blue defenders on the roof, the rocketeer who had brought down the first Pelican, reloading his M19 with two more 102mm shaped charges, another on a mounted mobile turret, spitting out 7.62mm rounds at the Pelican, another with a sniper rifle, trying to get a bead on the crews milling around the crashed Pelican. The fourth appeared to be an officer, yelling barely audible commands over the din of hell. Warthogs were roaring out, heading for Sanderson and the rest of her party.
Jacobs turned to see the Warthogs approaching from the Southeast through the scope of his S2. He raised his rifle and shot 4 14.5x114mm bullets towards the heads of the warthog drivers. The shots rang out almost simultaneously. He watched through his scope to see if the rounds hit.
Two thudded into the windshield, the first cracking and shattering the glass, the second creating a fist sized hole in the supports before slicing into the shoulder of the left hand driver. The squeal of his tires almost overwhelmed his scream of pain and terror. But the second driver didn't live long enough to even whimper, a bloody hole right above his nose, blood spurting all over the gunner and the officer sitting in the passenger seat. Sergeant Luyten wiped the gore off his glasses before shouting for the private on the LAAG to open fire, directing a hail of bullets towards the Pelicans as he jumped out and tried to pry the corporal's lifeless body from his restraints.
Crowe had a bead on the mobile turret as it hammered their Pelican with armor piercing rounds. One rocket for that soldier; he wouldn't be endangering Crowe's soldiers any longer. Corporal Earindal began firing single shots from his BR-55, preferring a more sniper-like approach than the standard 3-round burst the rifle had to offer. His job was to take down that M19, preferably the soldier wielding it. He aimed for the legs of soldier, preferably the ankles and shins, for the most part firing around the Blue's feet. A few shots at his M19, maybe he could hit something important and disable the weapon entirely.
Pvt. 1st Class Hanover was next up, her BR-55 on 3-round burst. She spray-fired for the sniper's hands and S2, concentrated bursts of molten metal sent flying for pretty much every part of the sniper rifle visible at this angle. They'd been trained to disable, not to kill. Only kill if they're trying to kill you, otherwise take them hostage, and show them the same treatment we show our soldiers. The remainder of the Light Brigade waited patiently, weapons at the ready for when the roof was secured.
Private Dayton threw down his M19 as rounds began to sprang around his feet, watching in horror as one of Earindal's rounds penetrated the rear of the charge, igniting it in a double boom as he was thrown backwards, just as PFC Rushi was vaporized in Crowe's rocket and the ensuing ammunition explosion. Corporal Cirris turned to hear her final scream, and the distraction was long enough for all three of Hanover's rounds from a burst to slice into his left hand. He held back a hiss as he reached for the SMG holstered at his hip, tossing it to Sergeant Zukav before pulling the other one free as well. They both let loose with the concussive caseless rounds, the Sarge saving his pistol as he backpedaled towards Dayton's moaning form.
Rounds sprang and ricocheted off the armored panels of the Pelican, a few whizzing past Crowe's visor as he pushed his forces back into the safety of the bay. He counted down, three...two...one...He whipped around, a quick-shot letting loose his second rocket, aimed between the two remaining armed Blues. It wasn't a shot to kill either one of them, hopefully the blast would either knock them off the roof or disable them long enough for his soldiers to get onto the roof and secure them. He felt an SMG round ricochet off the right vent of his helmet, leaving a nice silver gash in its path before he ducked back, listening for the sound of his missile's impact.
"Cirris! GET DOWN!"
Zukav threw himself over Dayton, protecting the private from the explosion, feeling it singe the armor on the back of his legs. He looked up a few seconds later, scooting over to the edge of the base and extending a hand to the dangling Corporal, hanging on for dear life from an access ladder with his good hand.
A hand passed the Blue Soldiers, orange armor with a white series of emblems and cryptic figures. It took the hand of the Blue hanging by the access ladder, followed by maroon armor, red armor. They hauled the soldier up onto the roof, medical officer Michelle Najees was there with an injection of biofoam for each of the holes, removing the soldiers glove before wrapping it up tightly in a pressure bandage. Crowe looked down at the Blue who had seemed to be in charge.
"How many in the base? This can go two ways. The first way is you tell your men inside to stand down, and all of you live. The second way is you don't tell me, I knock you unconscious and we go balls-to-the-wall on anyone inside. Its your choice soldier."
Zukav didn't say anything at first, just letting his eyes flicker over the scene, taking in the Corporal, his pistol and SMG lying next to Dayton. Hopefully the kid would be alright, these Red bastards hadn't killed them, yet. He let a smirk twist his features behind his visor.
"Heh, you must be as stupid as your colonel if you think I'm gonna surrender."
Just then, Dayton's hand lanced out for the SMG, hoping he could get it and open fire before the Reds noticed.
Four clicks, two so close the Blue going for the SMG could feel the reverberations in his helmet. If he looked he'd have 3 BR-55's and an M90 Shotgun aimed directly at his face. The only thing that kept the Reds from perforating the poor bastard's skull was Crowe's raised hand. His soldiers kept one eye on that hand, one eye on the Blue. If Crowe lowered his hand without telling them to pull back they knew they could open fire without discretion on this unlucky Blue, and so they waited for the call from their commanding officer.
"Well? Are you going to play nice, or do I need to start with the executions?"
"Shut UP, Dayton! You don't want to disappoint Melissa, do you?"
The private pulled his hand away from the SMG, sliding back a bit from the weapons pointed at his faceplate, concentrating on not throwing up in his helmet. Cirris looked down at his bandaged hand, clenching it until moisture welled up in his eyes from the pain and blood oozed out from the bandages.
"...two squads down below-"
"With all due respect sir, I don't think your threat of a court-martial will do much now."
"Are you going to tell them to lay down their arms and play nice? If not...well....Graye!"
Lance Corporal Stephen Graye came up behind Crowe, holding something rather large in his hands. Crowe turned and took it, nodding to the Lance Corporal who went to the door of the building. He began to attach C6 mines to the door at the very top of the base, ready to make them a rather sizeable entrance into the facility.
Crowe spun and looked down at the soldier, the pilot light of an M7057 Defoliant Projector inches from his face. Crowe tweaked the napalm canister, adjusting the flow to maximum output on the small left-hand control grip.
"If not, 'Gojira' and I have a date with the Blues."
"No can do, you goddamn Red. I'm not in command here, and I wouldn't order them to stand down and await your "mercy" even if I was! FENWICK! NOW!!"
The door slammed open without Graye's C6 charges even going off, half a dozen grenades thrown haphazardly onto the roof.
"Soldiers, drop and scatter!"
They had to get as far away from the grenades as physically possible, they'd been informed on dispersionary tactics incase of grenade use. The three Red soldiers armed with BR-55's, Corporal Earindal, Pvt. 1st Class Hanover and Corporal Najees dove for the door, tucking and rolling past the frame as quickly as possible. Lance Corporal Graye and Ezekial dove for the sides, Crowe towards the remains of the machinegun emplacement, Graye for the opposite side of the roof.
Crowe twisted in midair. He couldn't afford to land on "Gojira" and damage any of the defoliant projector's outer equipment. This Blue had possibly cost him a soldier's life, had endangered himself but more importantly his squad. His right hand squeezed down on the trigger, letting a cleansing burst of flaming napalm spew forth from the mouth of the Defoliant Projector. "Gojira" let loose the tongue of flame towards the man who had called for the door, possibly the first victim of its wrath here on Macerr.
Sanderson and Jacobs exited the LZ and headed for the cover of the outer walls of the base. She heard the flamethrower and grenades go off on the roof above, debris falling to the ground. She quickly keyed her radio. "Crowe, you alright up there?" She spun around and saw a Blue soldier standing in front of an open access door to the base's bunker. He had an M6C at eye level, pointed straight at Sanderson's cerebrum. She stood, frozen at gunpoint, with Jacobs behind her.
"You two, throw the M/7 and BR-55 to the ground, now!"
Obviously he hadn't seen the M/7 Sanderson had behind her attached to her utility belt.
She threw her weapon away and put her hands on her head.
Jacobs through his M/7 away. But as he brought his hands up, he quickly grabbed Sanderson's M/7 and fired it over her shoulder at the Blue. The quickly spray caught the Blue soldier in the neck, piercing his trachea. The wound made a wet whistle sort of noise, as the combination of blood and oxygen escaped from his body. He fell back into the doorway, dead.
"Shall we move on, ma'am?"
"good move, Jacobs. Grab your weapon. I'll take that."
Sanderson grabbed her M/7 from Jacobs's hands and reattached it to its previous location. She picked up her BR-55 and walked towards the door, kicking away the Blue soldier's corpse. She proceeded down the flight of stairs to the base's subterranean bunker. It was dank and not kept up well. She proceeded down the dark corridor along with Jacobs, which then lead into a large circular room. A few rifles here and there, but it looked as if someone packed up and left a long time ago. She stopped in the chamber and checked her radio. She wasn't getting a signal down there. She walked over to the grate in the roof, which lead to an escape ladder up to the first floor. She climbed up and opened the grate to try and get a signal. Nothing. She climbed higher up, right under the first floor. Suddenly someone stepped on the grate above her. It was a blue soldier. More followed. But then someone who wasn't in blue armor. But a red uniform.
Shit. It's the Lt. Colonel. She slid back down the ladder to meet up with Jacobs.
"We got a problem. The blues are moving the Lt. Colonel west through the complex. We're going up into the main complex." She began to climb back up the ladder, waiting for Jacobs.
The grenades went off with an earth-shattering boom. Dayton screamed as he went fetal, trying to shield himself from the shrapnel whizzing around him, jumping and whimpering as they cut into his armor and poked against his flesh. Why the hell did I join up...?
Cirris was clearer, able to hide behind one of the barriers shielding the edge of the base, then vaulting over it and scooping up the SMG he had dropped. But a slight whimper made him turn, and his eyes bugged out of his head as he saw Zukav's teal armor disappearing beneath the white-hot napalm flame. The Sergeant managed a salute as he forced himself to his feet. "Keep... Dayton... 'live..." The blood oozing from the grenade wounds only fed the flames as he forced himself into a shuffling run, hoping to return the favor and spread the flame onto the Red's officer.
Crowe did not have time to reply to Sanderson's message, having to deal with the Blues at the moment on the roof. His finger left the trigger as he saw the burning soldier running towards him, cutting the trail of flame. He rolled to his right, kicking out with his right foot towards the man's rear. He was trying to boot him off the roof to the ground so far below rather than waste any more precious ammunition on the soon-to-be-dead Blue.
Lance Corporal Graye had struggled to his feet, still disoriented after the sextet of blasts had rung in his helmet. He saw the Blue with the SMG, saw the burning man running towards Crowe. He observed Crowe's roll and kick, knowing his commanding officer could handle himself. This Blue with the M7 however had to be dealt with. Graye flipped his shotgun in his hands, setting the safety on as he took the stock and pump. He swung the butt of the shotgun like a baseball bat towards the left side of the Blue's head, throwing all of his strength behind that one solid swing.
Zukav began to stumble as he approached the edge of the roof and his quarry, barely even noticing as his legs gave out, Crowe's kick catching him in the small of the back and throwing him off the roof. But the Sergeant didn't even live long enough to feel himself hit the ground 15 meters below.
Cirris barely managed to duck underneath Graye's blow, standing back up and trying to return the favor with the butt of the SMG. Another half-dozen Blues thundered up the stairs, five of them charging the small group of Reds with SMGs and M90s blazing, trying to beat back the attackers until their superiors could evacuate their hostage, one moving to help Cirris as Dayton began to crawl for Zukav's M6C.
The butt of the SMG caught Graye right in the center of his helmet's faceplate, actually lifting him off of his feet slightly. He landed on his rear with a thud, stunned slightly as his vision blurred. He brought his M90 between himself and the aggressor, unable to focus enough to aim. Close range, he hoped he could get this first guy off of him. He pulled the trigger, the boom of the 8-gauge shotgun ringing as loudly as one of those grenades had. Shot the size of ball bearings exploded from the muzzle of the shotgun, spraying out at Cirris without any order.
Crowe had brought himself to his feet once the Blue had teetered over the edge. He felt the heat on his right boot, knew some of the napalm had transferred over to him. He'd have to deal with it later, his armor would hold for a few seconds if it was just a small flame. The Blue's coming up to the roof guns blazing had to be dealt with now. Crowe gave the signal as his three Reds behind the doorway made it to their feet. Weapons hot, shoot-to-kill. BR-55s shot 3-round bursts of ammunition towards the backs, helmets, arms and torsos of the Blues that made it through the door. Crowe let loose another blast of napalm towards them, "Gojira's" breathes igniting the air itself as it spewed forth towards the Blues.
Sanderson checked the hallway through the slits in the grate before popping it out. She climbed up through the manhole and helped Jacobs up. Now that they both were on the first floor, she slid the grate back into position with a metallic "Clack!". They proceeded down the corridor with their sights at eye level, scanning the hall for any blues. Suddenly a Blue with an M91 ran out of a room, dead in front of them. He had caught them off guard. He put his shotgun point blank into Sanderson's chest and fired. She stumbled back, flabbergasted, and fell down to the ground. Her armor had absorbed most of the shot, but not most of the energy. It had knocked the wind out of her, and she was gasping for air. The Blue pointed his shotgun to Jacobs, but the thing jammed.
Jacobs's opens fire with his M/7, cutting down the Blue to shreds. As the Blue falls to the floor, he continues firing at the Blues head. By the time he was out, all 60 rounds had passed through the Blue's cerebrum. He reloaded and walked over to the lieutenant to help her. "Are you ok, ma'am?"
Cirris' cry almost overshadowed the roar of gunfire on the top of the base, the SMG clattering back to the concrete as he clutched his right arm to his chest, crimson freely flowing over his cobalt armor. He looked up, trying to be ready for that second shot, but it didn't look like it would come. Dayton had finally gotten his bearings, and had Zukav's pistol shakily pointed at Graye's forehead.
The five PFCs that had come up to the roof tried to duck behind the intermediate barriers, two using the door itself as cover, two more diving and rolling for the left, a lance corporal heading for the right as the private with him caught half a dozen bullets with his chest and collapsed twitching to the roof. One private took two shots to his leg as he fell short of his bunker, hastily trying to move for cover before Gojira's breath found him, engulfing him in flames that did nothing to mask his screams. The four other members of Fire Team Delta were red-hot, pouring SMG and BR-55 rounds at the Reds, more to keep their heads down than retaliate for the loss of two members of their squad.
Graye heard the click as the hammer of the pistol cocked back, knew this might be the end for him. From the bay of the Pelican, armed and ready the remaining 4 members of the Light Brigade armed their weapons. They had to support their commanding officer and their fellow soldiers, and they'd do just that. Lance Corporal Michael Jameson was the first on the roof, BR-55 raised and at the ready. The first thing he took note of was Lance Corporal Graye's situation. He fired over Graye's helmet, 3 pulls of the trigger sending 9 molten projectiles towards the Blue with the pistol aimed at his friend and allie's head.
Earindal looked up at the wrong time in the wrong place, ready to return fire to the Blue's only to catch 4 shots from an SMG in the faceplate. He teetered back, grabbing at his mask and screaming in pain, blood oozing up from its silver, shattered facemask. Corporal Najees was quick to assess the damage, pulling Earindal back behind the safety of the rear of the door's expansion to the roof. She pulled his helmet off, noting that one round had made a shallow slash past his left temple, one had broken his nose. Another round had cracked in three of his teeth, and she was quick with a pair of forceps to remove that round from the back of his throat less it do more damage. Biofoam for his nose, she'd have to extract that round later. The fourth round was rattling around inside his helmet, possibly the first round that had its energy sapped by the faceplate.
"Sergeant Ezekial! Earindal is down!"
The "Seraphim" seemed to take this news rather well, well, perhaps well isn't the word to use. The correct word would be seething with malice. He had to give Najees enough time to help Earindal, enough time for Lance Corporal Marknene to help if it was a grievous wound. He saw his men jumping from the back of the Pelican, BR-55's raised and at the ready, pouring lead at the remaining Blue's. Ezekial ordered Marknene to prepare for a run to Earindal and Najees, standing from behind the small barricade at the edge of the roof he'd taken as cover. He squeezed the trigger of his Defoliant Projector "Gojira" for one long while, letting multiple tongues of flame lash out at the Blue's and their own protective walls and the door, hoping to either baste them or the Blue soldiers in sticky napalm.
Dayton hesitated, shaking some, adrenaline the only thing keeping him up as the fear tried to drag him down. He was about to speak when the first three shot round whizzed past his head, and his fingers reflexively pulled the trigger. The second burst caught him in the elbow, forcing him to drop the pistol. But the third set caught him in the chest, all three rounds savaging his right lung and dropping him to the roof. The Private only had time for a few bone rattling coughs before his back arched with a long sigh as his eyes rolled back in his head.
Lance Corporal McCray heard Cirris' cry of anguish as the Corporal watched the private fall, but he had more important things on his mind, namely the napalm threatening to roast all of Fire Team Delta alive. "COVER!" He pulled back, wincing as he heard another scream as yet another of the privates met a warm sticky end. He felt the intense heat on his left side, noting a small patch of flame on his elbow. His hand immediately moved to smother the flame, his left hand moving for the lucky grenade he always kept with him, the one he had since Sigma Draconis... he primed it, then quickly stood and threw it, hoping the Reds wouldn't hit the obvious target his white form presented before he could duck back behind his shelter.
Sanderson, threw her helmet off, gasping for air. She coughed up blood, signs of internal bleeding and damage, even if only a few pellets punctured her chest. She took a minute to collect herself, and then focus. "Yeah, I'll be alright. We need to get moving." She picked up her helmet and reattached it to her armor, activating her radio. "Crowe, abandon current objective and proceed to first floor. They have the Lt. Colonel and are making their escape through the terminal. We can't let them lea-" she was interrupted by an emergency broadcast. "-pzsh- this is Mariso! Objective failed! The guns are still in place, and Jonston's platoon has been wiped out! We're retreati - oh god!- pzszshzshhhshshh"
Sanderson, hung still for a moment. That was 80 soldiers. Plus, Eriec and McCarly. Quickly she switched channels. "McCarly, Eriec, do you copy?"
Only static replied.
She switched back channels. "Ok, we're all that's left. Find the lt. colonel, and we gotta leg it out of the hot zone. Jacobs and I will commandeer some Hogs. Sanderson, out."
Graye moved as soon as his soldiers began to fire, but it didn't help too much. The bullet from the Blue's pistol ripped through his faceplate, shattering his nose and right cheek. He fell to the ground, letting out a gurgling cry of pain as his shotgun clattered to the ground. Marknene had just exited the Pelican when he saw the gruesome point-blank shot. He hurried for Graye, pulling him behind a heating block to keep him safe as he removed the LC's helmet to begin working on the grievous wounds he'd taken.
Ezekial didn't have time to even pull the trigger of his Defoliant Projector when he saw the grenade clattering across the ground towards him. He tossed "Gojira" towards Najees and Earindal as he took off across the roof of the Red Base. His soldiers opened fire with BR-55's on the remaining Blues' cover, giving Ezekial enough time to put some distance between himself and the grenade. He rolled when it exploded, knocked off his feet from the shockwave. He swore he could feel small pieces of shrapnel just begin to poke into his shoulders and back, but he had more pressing matters to deal with. He unslung his dual M7 Caseless SMG's, time to deal with these Blues the hard way.
To Be Continued...
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