Posted By: Alex Martin<email@example.com>
Date: 29 April 2006, 4:13 am
Madrid Geo-Sync Platform
2552-10-20 (Military calendar) 12:19 UTC
Corporal Aaron Adler stood in front of a window, looking outwards to the enormous MAC gun that dwarfed the rest of the surrounding station. High above the glorious blue earth that shone like a diamond in the midmorning sun, a variety of cruisers, frigates, destroyers, and transports carried out their orders, occasionally docking at the Super MAC platforms to load or unload equipment. Across the vast vacuum of space, everything was silent and peaceful.
Behind Adler, a small group of UNSC Marines sat at a small table, chatting quietly and playing cards, themselves enjoying the peacefulness. Occasionally, they looked up past Adler to take in the view. Oddly, training had been cancelled that day, each squad from his company being assigned to a different section of the station. The officers that gave the order seemed to have been somewhat troubled but made an effort not to show it. Had this taken place a few months prior, Adler and the other marines would have been suspicious, but now, it seemed routine; as opposed to feeling nervous or anxious they were now relaxed and enjoying their day off.
"Any idea what's going on today?" Adler asked, suddenly feeling it had grown too quiet.
"Nope, haven't heard a word," said Lance Corporal Hamilton, preoccupied with the growing stack of poker chips before him.
Private First Class Juan Mendez spoke. "I was talking to a guy from second platoon, he said something about a whisper they'd picked up somewhere far off in space. Probably nothing."
Hamilton smirked, "Are you complaining? Better this than being in physical training right now. I'm still sore from hand combat yesterday." He tilted back in his chair, his eyes widening. He let out a large breath of air and ran his hand through his buzz-cut hair. Sticking his other arm out, he let the movement of the chair falling back into place push his stack of chips to the centre of the table. "I'm all in," he mumbled.
Adler suddenly grew interested in the poker game and turned to face his fireteam. That crazy son of a bitch, he thought jokingly. If there were anyone in his platoon that would risk his ass to pull off a stunt in the heat of a battle, it would be Hamilton. Still, if Adler had to be stuck in a foxhole with anyone in his platoon, it would be him. He maintained a calm, collected attitude throughout training, and was an excellent marksman with the BR55 assault rifle. Between himself and Adler, he had only lost the promotion to Corporal by the narrowest of margins.
In this particular poker game, however, his normally composed self was instead shaking his leg nervously and drumming his thumb on the table as he waited for the other two players to show their hands. All of a sudden, he jumped to his feet, the chair crashing into the rail behind him. He threw up his arms and screamed at the top of his lungs
"YEA-" The annoying wail of a siren drowned out the last half of Hamilton's triumphant roar. Spinning lights turned the clean white walls an angry red. For a brief moment, the marines sat there, unalarmed due to Hamilton's outburst.
"Shit!" spat Mendez in a Spanish accent. He scooped a pile of poker chips into an open tunic pocket and sprang up, reaching for his gun. At the same time, the rest of the squad, headed by Sergeant Stevenson, came running in from the next room and out onto the platform where Adler and his fireteam stood.
"What the hell is going on?" Adler shouted to Stevenson over the alarm.
"May be a drill-" at the moment the voice of an officer broke in overhead.
"Attention all military personnel. Covenant boarding craft are on approach. All non-military personnel report to loading bay bravo immediately. This is not a drill, I repeat, this is not a drill."
"Cancel that," Stevenson frowned. Adler turned his head to look back out the window. What was only moments ago a tranquil view was now a mess of spaceships scrambling to meet the incoming Covenant craft. A frigate and a Halcyon-class Cruiser flew directly overhead and met up with the rest of the armada.
Shit. Adler thought. This better not be a repeat of Reach. Memories of watching military broadcast reports of the disaster only two months previous were still fresh in each marine's memory.
"All right marines, set up a defence on the opposite side of this room," Stevenson pointed to a second platform that also overlooked the room down below. "I want machineguns and anything you can get your hands on. Don't use explosives or you'll blow a hole through the glass. Get to it!" He raised his BR55 proudly and shoved in a clip of ammo for effect.
"Yes Sergeant!" came the reply from all of the marines.
"Jelani," Adler said to a marine of African descent. "Grab that turret and set it up. Mendez, Hamilton, you two and I are going to grab anything we can and use as cover; steel crates, anything."
"Yes Corporal!" They split, looking for anything they could find.
"Corporal," came Private First Class Mendez's voice. "Look what I found," he entered the room carrying a pair of collapsible battle shields that when unfolded, provided full cover to a soldier, even in standing position. Slots in the sides allowed for a place to peak out from and shoot.
"Good work marine," Adler shouted, then turned his head to look at the steel crate he was pushing across the floor. "Guess we won't be needing this." What a horrible place for a firefight, he thought. That glass better hold up to more than a few stray bullets.
"Fuck, they're already here!" yelled a marine from the other fireteam. Everyone but Hamilton, who was absorbed in his work, turned to look outside.
The view was a mess. Frigates, cruisers and destroyers flew helter-skelter in a sea of enemy fire and friendly debris. Boarding craft were already latched to several positions on the Madrid and bursts of blue light came from the rooms where each of them had attached. A craft that hadn't yet made it to the platform was engulfed in an explosion from a homing missile. Pieces of metal and alien bodies flew every which way and pitted against the window.
Stevenson came in, toting a machinegun over his shoulder. "Alright boys, those bastards are already here, we need to move our asses down to the pelican bay ASAP!"
"God damnit," Adler sighed. He pounded on the crate he had been pushing. The rest of the marines got up from what they had been doing and stretched wearily. "Let's move!" he shouted. The squad quickly picked up their weapons, Jelani again toting his machine gun, and sprinted out of the room.
The run to the pelican bay was fairly short, but was elongated by the sounds of gunfire that echoed down the hallways. By now, everyone was dying to kill a Covenant elite. They remained quiet about it, but it could be seen on each of their faces.
They came to the final hallway that ended with the doors to the pelican bay when they were met with a surprise. The door burst open, and a volley of plasma bolts danced along the walls of the hallway, scorching the metal where they landed. The head of a marine slightly ahead of Adler shot back violently, blood spurting out from his face, and he slumped over backwards on the cold steel floor. The other marines dove for cover behind rubble that lay everywhere and returned fire with a barrage of grenades.
"Holy shit!" came the cry of a shell-shocked marine. A bright blue flash came from an exploding plasma grenade that sent shrapnel ricocheting down the hall. The pile of rubble that was Adler's cover was almost completely blown away by the blast. Still lying prone, he took aim with his rifle and found the head of an elite in his sights. He fired a burst of ammo, and smiled when he saw the elite jump and bury his face in his hands. A few more well placed shots to the panicking alien and he was dead.
Silence. The heads of the 6 remaining marines peeked up from behind their cover. Stevenson, out in front of the pack, gave a hand signal to advance. Slowly they got to their feet and walked quietly to the entrance of the hangar. Stevenson sat closest to the doorway, where just before it a smaller hallway branched off to the right and led to a set of stairs leading up to a platform that overlooked the hangar.
Adler watched as Stevenson cocked his head to the right, all the while keeping his eyes on the inside of the hangar. He knew what Stevenson meant. Keeping close to the left wall, facing towards the stairway, he quickly peeked around the corner and raised his rifle to shoot.
Nothing. Where Stevenson had suspected there to be an ambush, a dead grunt lay face down on top of a turret he had knocked over as he fell. A puddle of blue blood lay in the energy shield. He then became aware of the other dead Covenant. What a mess, he thought to himself. Dismembered bodies and wreckage lay covered in blood spatter.
The marines quickly and quietly moved through the rest of the hangar and made sure that no threat remained. "That's odd," said Adler aloud. "You'd think they wouldn't have done an all-out charge on us." His attention was then turned to the widows on the bay doors. Outside, Covenant capitol ships were blasting their way through the human fleet. The MAC Gun fired, sending a massive shell clean through the hull of an approaching enemy ship. The rest of the squad chuckled and cursed at the spectacle.
Hamilton turned away and faced Stevenson. "Something's not right," he said, then looking out towards the Madrid's two sister platforms, the Casablanca and the Barcelona. Stevenson was quick to agree
* * *
Second Lieutenant MacGinnis stumbled in to the airlock beneath the giant MAC Gun of the Madrid, sweat pouring down from beneath his helmet and stinging his eyes. "God damn," he gasped in his Scottish accent. "The fucking Covenant are going to pay for this one."
He was followed off the elevator by a sergeant and two corporals, the remnants of his platoon that were scattered all over the station in the chaos and confusion of the attack. Cautiously, they made their way down a narrow walkway that lead towards the loading bay door. It was odd that after fighting all the way here that they would find nothing when they arrived. "Something's up," MacGinnis whispered. He looked around the room, waiting for something to jump out of the shadows.
"What the hell is that?" one of the Corporals asked. MacGinnis raised his MA5B assault rifle and looked in the same direction as the Corporal. His eyes fell upon a large, oval object hidden behind a stack of crates. Long, purple spikes stuck out at every angle from it, and on top of it, a red light glowed vibrantly.
MacGinnis approached it and examined it closely. Holy shit. It can't be
It was a bomb. He stood, stunned by what he saw. Hair stood on end and his voice shook as he managed to force out the words, "Open the fucking airlock now!"
The Sergeant broke into a sprint, but had not gotten more than a few paces before a plasma rifle opened up overhead and a torrent of plasma bolts thudded into the marine's body. "You motherfucking aliens!" wailed the Second Lieutenant. He dove behind a control panel and turned over, letting loose a 60-round clip into the elites that stood before a window that overlooked the room. White-hot plasma bolts peppered the ground around him and he rolled behind a pillar for better cover. There was a loud explosion that echoed through the room, and small debris flew past the pillar and bounced across the floor. The other marines were dead.
"This is Second Lieutenant MacGinnis of A Platoon, I'm down in the MAC gun airlock. They have a bomb. I can't get to it or the airlock controls; everyone in my platoon is dead. Get the hell out of this place!"
A small, blue plasma grenade was lobbed out the window and landed beside his leg. Fuck, this is it, he told himself. Without thinking, he sprang up from behind his cover and made a mad dash for the windows up above. Two elites clad in red armour opened fire on him as he pulled the pin on his final hand grenade and tossed it towards the broken window. He was suddenly and inexplicably halted as he came crashing down on his knees. Where the hell is my gun? The thought passed through his mind for an instant, and then he understood. Large, purple needles made of crystal had lacerated his entire body. They were a stunning sight in contrast to the bloody mess that they made of him. Surprisingly, however, he felt very little pain. He grinned a little as he saw his grenade explode, and the body of an elite collapse to the ground, wailing in agony. It was all he could do; the Covenant were willing to give their lives to take this station, he just wanted to make sure he'd given them a fucking good ass-kicking before they did.
* * *
"You heard the man, get back to the pelican dock!" Stevenson shouted. They had just started towards the command centre when the order came in; everyone was ordered to evacuate immediately. The alarms were now blaring overhead once again.
"Sergeant, shouldn't we wait and see if anyone else comes?" said Private First Class Jelani.
"God damnit we don't have enough time!" Stevenson snapped back, ushering Jelani forward with an outstretched hand.
"What about the pilots, how will we get out of here without a pilot?"
Two men, half dressed in flight gear ran into the bay just as soon as the Marines had arrived. "There," said Stevenson laughing.
"She's taken a few plasma bolts, but nothing serious," shouted one pilot to another. He looked towards the platoon of six. "Get in!" he ordered.
The marines scrambled into the open cargo bay door of the pelican. Just as soon as the last man had made it in the door began to close. There are still six empty seats, Jelani thought sadly.
"How do you plan on getting through that?" Stevenson shouted angrily, leaning into the cockpit and pointing to the hangar doors.
The pilot sighed and shook his head. "Fuck it," he flipped the safety switch to his left and pushed a button on his control column. A rocket shot out from under each wing and exploded on contact with the doors, rattling the ship and sending fragments of the door flying every which way. A chunk of it grazed the right wing of the pelican and smaller pieces crashed into the canopy. Luckily, the pelican was only slightly damaged.
"Is that safe?" The pilot didn't answer Stevenson, who ducked in his place and then, seeing they were fine, made a mad dash for a seat behind the co-pilot. The propulsion systems roared. The pilot shoved the throttle forward and the pelican accelerated rapidly, crashing through the remnants of the door and out into space. Adler, like several other marines in the back, had not yet buckled themselves in completely and cursed loudly, hanging on tightly as they were pulled through a series of sharp turns. Adler fought the g-force and twisted his head to look though a section of the cockpit's canopy; C-709 Longsword interceptors flew by in delta formation behind spurts from a frigate's MAC gun. In this final battle for earth, the pelican was a small, insignificant ship. He closed his eyes and hoped they would make it through this mess.
"Son of a bitch!" exclaimed the pilot. Through tightly shut eyelids Adler saw a brilliant white flash illuminate the cockpit. He peeked for a split second, just in time to see the pieces of the Barcelona be scattered across all four corners of the earth. At once, the pelican was bombarded with tiny fragments of metal, and then there was a large crashing sound as the ship swung up and to the left violently. In the back, marines winced and shouted at the top of their lungs as the pelican spun out of control.
In the cockpit, the pilot struggled with the controls, frantically attempting to stabilize the dropship. "The left engine is out!" screamed the co-pilot. "The right engine's about to go out, too."
The pelican dropship was now drifting powerless through the vacuum, rolling over and over as it went. Inside, everything was silent, except for the gasping of the marines and the sounds of fastening harnesses. Adler, floating in the weightless environment, pushed his way up to the cockpit and into the seat beside Sergeant Stevenson. "How's the Madrid?" he asked quietly.
"Still in one piece," the Sergeant replied, "I don't know how." He drew in a long breath and went to speak again, but the pilot, now requesting assistance from any available craft, interrupted him.
Adler looked out through the canopy window and saw the diminishing human fleet fighting off the Covenant. Suddenly, the MAC gun of the Madrid fired a massive shell. Flying at over thirty percent the speed of light, it was imperceptible to any human, but Adler saw the radiant burst of blue plasma erupt from a Covenant capitol ship, and glowing red debris fly out the opposite end. Within moments, it exploded into a million pieces.
Stevenson suppressed his laughter, but by now, a Covenant carrier had surpassed the MAC stations, passing through the distant wreckage of the Malta.
"Alright," came the pilot's voice. "There's a nearby frigate coming to pick us up, and then we're taking this battle to the surface."
"Where are they headed?" Adler asked.
"Somewhere in Africa, they're not sure quite yet."
Adler gripped his battle rifle. So this is it.