Orion - The Knife's Edge
Posted By: CaptainRaspberry<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 19 March 2010, 12:19 pm
Days after the end of the Human-Covenant War, a message was received from the colony Barthes. Insurrectionists of the Baszac faction, sensing the UNSC's weakness and thirsting for independence, had taken control of the capital city of Saricas. Unwilling to falter despite its severely reduced resources, the UNSC conducted a vicious ground war against the insurgents.
After weeks at a diplomatic stalemate, the Baszacs have become desperate to force the UNSC to break their bloc around the capital of Saricas. To do so, they have prepared a risky kidnapping operation to provoke a reaction from the ground forces.
12:49 [L;AM], 26 Október 2553 (Local Calendar)/
Saricas, Barthes -- Baszac containment perimeter
One by one, the Baszac soldiers slid into position in the wet grit of the alley, concealed by darkness. Istvan Miklosfy hunkered down right behind The Fox. For this mission the resistance had broken out its special cache of weapons: captured Covenant models, obtained on the black market during the war. Though Istvan was unfamiliar with their use and was acutely aware of the glowing spots that would betray their stealth, they were said to be quieter and more easily concealed. At least, some of them.
A plasma pistol sat awkwardly on his hip, covered by his coat. The same went for most others, including Laszlo who was somewhere behind Istvan. The Fox, however, had tied a leather strap around a Carbine and slung it over his shoulder.
"Be ready," he muttered, though with the deep timber of his voice it carried far.
Someone had apparenty bribed the sentries, as Istvan couldn't see any UNSC Marines anywhere nearby. This was one of the rarely-patrolled areas anyway, but still he felt nervous. What if this were a trick? Snipers or worse could be hiding anywhere.
Suddenly he wished Marton was here. The veteran seemed to be able to spot the enemy no matter what.
A single point of light flashed rapidly far ahead.
"Go!" hissed The Fox. Together the Baszacs ran across the open ground between them and the UNSC bloc. Nobody fired at them. They crossed through a gate that had been left unlocked and unattended, and into the city beyond. Despite the dark, he could see that the buildings on this side had been repaired and had power.
Someone opened a door to their left. "This way!" Silhouetted in the light, a man beckoned them into the building. They hurried in; once everyone was inside, the metal door slammed shut. The man saluted, smiling. "I am glad to see you, comrades. You must be tired, but with your valor, we will soon be in control of this city."
The Fox stepped forward. "What of the mission?"
"The patrol we will kidnap comes through here in half an hour. Two or three men will be decoys, out after curfew, to draw their attention. Then, when the stupid fucking Yoonies come to investigate, we will swarm them, make them drop their weapons, and you will take them back through the wall."
Istvan felt anxious. Who would be selected as decoys?
The Fox looked over the assembled soldiers. "Istvan, Laszlo, you will be decoys with our new-found comrade. Do as he says. Everyone else, outside and get into position. Who has the jammer?"
One man stepped forward, holding a crude device that had been assembled from the gutted remains of a microwave and two radios. "Here, sir."
"Good. Activate it now and hide it in here. Istvan, Laszlo, why are you still standing here? Get moving!"
1:21 [L;AM], 26 Október 2553 (Local Calendar)/
Saricas, Barthes -- S. Lorinne Street
The night was cold. Istvan had wrapped his arms tightly around him, trying to keep his heat from escaping into the air around him. His coat still had that hole in it, and he cursed its previous owner's poor luck at avoiding bullets. Laszlo shivered next to him while their new "friend," named Markos, stood at the corner, peering around.
"This plan," muttered Laszlo, "does not make me feel patriotic."
Istvan was about to agree when Markos returned. "They're on their way. Here," he said, pulling out a pack of cigarettes and handing them one each, "smoke these. They will make you look like you belong here, and maybe will warm you up. What the fuck are you doing? Put your hands in your pockets!"
They did as they were told, lighting the cigs and putting their hands in their pockets. Each had cut holes in their pockets where their weapon was, and Istvan ran his finger over the alien metal of his plasma pistol. He had been shown how to use it, but he hadn't fired it; apparently there was no way to reload them, and every shot was valuable.
An M6 would have been nice.
He tensed as he heard the Marines turn the corner, and could hear them conversing.
"Fuck! What's up with our radios?"
"I dunno, maybe one of these assholes is running a broken microwave."
"Shut up and pay attention... Hey! You three! It's past curfew, get inside!"
Markos turned to face the Yoonies. "Hey, we're just enjoying our cigarettes! Do you want to join us?"
"You can enjoy those inside." The Marines approached slowly but without raising their weapons, though Istvan thought in the dark he could make out the faint click of them being unsafed. Nervousy he gripped his hidden weapon, feeling it hum unnervingly in his grip. A glance to the side showed that Laszlo was still shaking, but with cold or anxiety Istvan didn't know.
Markos made a small hand gesture. Wait for it. "Come on -- sergeant, right? Relax. You are among allies here." He held out the pack. "Would you not like one? They keep you warm."
"Last warning," said the sergeant-apparent. His weapon was starting to come up. Laszlo was shivering even more. Istvan wanted to say something, but Laszlo's hand was coming out of his pocket. Too fast. One of the Yoonies noticed it. "Watch it--"
Shots rang out. Two green bolts zipped out from beneath the fabric of Laszlo's coat, one melting the pavement and the other hitting the sergeant in the side. His rifle went wide, spraying an arc of bullets that caught Laszlo across the chest and Markos in the shoulder as he was turning towards the door. Instantly the two Marines raised their weapons and hollered; Istvan was still trying to get his weapon clear of his coat.
The night came alive with green and blue lights, the other Baszac soldiers emerging from the darkness in a ring. "You are surrounded!" In the haze of instinct, Istvan could still recognize The Fox's voice. "Put down your weapons!"
Looking around them, the two Marines hesitated a moment before letting their rifles drop to the ground. The resistance came around them, binding their hands and picking up their discarded MA5Cs. Istvan rushed to Laszlo, who was convulsing on the ground.
He turned back to the group. "Someone help me!" The Fox strode over. "Please, Laszlo is hit! We must get him back to a medic, or he'll die!"
In one motion The Fox lifted Istvan by his coat's collar. "What the fuck did you think you were doing?!" Istvan squirmed.
"Fine." The Fox dropped him, then turned away. "Andris, Gabi! Get over here and help our wounded comrade."
"Hey!" One of the Marines struggled against the hands that gripped him. "What about our sarge? That fucker shot him!"
"Him too." The Fox looked down at Istvan. "And when we get back, you and I will have words."
0839 Hours, 24 August 2553 (Military Calendar)/
Saricas, Barthes -- UNSC Local Command Center
Sylvester Bishop sat on the observation platform, cradling the datapad in his hands and carefully reading every word on the screen. He was so focused that he didn't detect Lena Doyle's approach behind him, until her shadow fell over his back.
Looking up, he saw her twisted smirk. "Another love letter?"
"Asshole," mumbled Bishop, thumbing the screen dark. Just over a week ago he had met Georgia Bohley at the restaurant, and since then the two had kept up communication. He certainly felt an attraction to her, but their exchanges so far had been platonic. Next time he got a day pass, he was hoping to visit her.
"Jeez, what's got you wound up?"
She took a seat next to him on the bench and together they looked out over the training area that Major Ghest had ordered constructed. It was an instacrete and plastic mockup of the inside of a building; at three stories tall, the top floor had no roof and monitors installed on the observation platform allowed observers to see the two hidden floors.
Sergeant Henry Kimmle and PFC Valentin Reeves had just started a training op with the regular Marines, teaching them how to breach and clear a building. Their weapons were loaded with TTR rounds, soft projectiles filled with a paint-like anesthetic that tripped the electronics in their armor, making whatever body part that was hit freeze up. Kimmle had divided the Marines into two teams, one acting as breachers and the other as insurrectionists. He insisted that forcing them to take the role of the enemy would help them learn how to think like a Baszac soldier.
After a while of watching them, Doyle cleared her throat. "So, uh, do you remember when you asked me about Nolan?"
"I..." He looked up, and saw she was biting her lip. "After Benny -- after the sergeant died, I didn't know what to do. I just felt so lost, I looked for anything that would make me feel like I was still with him somehow. Then one night, I tried looking up his service record, to see where he had been. I was desperate.
"But I couldn't access it. I was denied."
Bishop frowned. "Classified?"
"That's weird. I didn't think the sergeant's actions were classified."
"They're not, after he joined ODST. But when I try to read what came before it, I'm blocked out."
"What does it say?"
"Here." She took his pad and logged into the UNSC Database. Luck was with them; the Slipspace beacon was active, probably processing some other claim, so they wouldn't have to wait hours until her request went through. In minutes, Gunnery Sergeant Benjamin Nolan's service record was scrolling across the screen.
The gunny had been old, but the time he spent in cryo tended to fudge the aging process. Sometimes Bishop wondered if maybe the UNSC kept soldiers in cryo for a long time on purpose, just so their tours of duty could be stretched. Still, counting the time he had spent in cryo, Nolan had been in service since before the Covenant showed up. He had renewed his tour several times.
Doyle was right. His service record listed up to his first action as an ODST, fighting Innies on Tribute in 2524, but nothing else. That couldn't be true; nobody could join ODST while they were still green. While technically a volunteer outfit, you had to impress someone and get invited before you were allowed to sign up. Bishop had gotten noticed for his actions on Pearl, but he had stayed with his old unit for a couple of months before he made up his mind.
"And look," Doyle said, "when I try to see what he did before? All I get is this."
The datapad processed her request for only an instant before a warning sign popped up, flashing text visible:
LEVEL BLACK CLEARANCE REQUIRED
"Jesus," Bishop muttered. He took the pad and canceled out. "I don't even know who you have to be in order to have black-level clearance." They sat in silence for a moment, staring ahead. The tide had turned somewhat as the Marines on the third floor blocked the stairway up, firing down at the intruders below. "Why are you showing this to me, anyhow?"
She hesitated. "I finally may have found somebody who can help me out."
"I've been... I've been talking to Headshot's A.I., and... I think he's willing to lift the clearance for me." Bishop's first thought must have shown up on his face, because Doyle shook her head. "I know it's crazy, but he said he'd help me out."
"Yeah, maybe, but you know Gosford. You do something for him, he wants something back."
A shrill alarm cut through the air. First there was stillness, as everyone took a moment to react. Then people started moving; the training exercise was forgotten, the Marines dropping their weapons and pounding out of the fake building. Bishop and Doyle were themselves already in motion.
"Attention, attention," said a voice over the intercom. "All combat Marines are to report to their designated briefing stations. Repeat, all combatants are to report to designated briefing stations. This is not a drill."
Corvo squad shared their station with Foxtrot company and another group of ODSTs, Noz squad. As they entered, they saw Lieutenant McGehan waiting beside a projected map of the city. "Hurry it up, people, quick, quick," he said, giving sharp hand gestures. "Gather round and listen up. This everybody? Good.
"At approximatley oh-one-twenty hours last night, a Marine patrol went missing near the Baszac containment perimeter. As of ten minutes ago, we received a transmission from the Baszac Party leaders, in which they've claimed credit for kidnapping the patrol. They're holding them hostage and demanding the UNSC back down.
"The Barthan government is still advocating a peaceful solution, but word just came down from the brass: we are putting an end to this shit. Orbital surveillance has shown us that the Innies' command structure is holed up in one of five buildings. Corvo and Noz squads will be inserted via rapid response Pelican to this building" -- he pointed to one towards the northwest -- "to infiltrate and neutralize whatever threats may lie within. Your primary objective is to locate and apprehend the Baszac Party leaders, so we can force a cease-fire and hopefully some kind of surrender.
"The rest of us will be rolling in and knocking on doors. Our main area of interest will be in the same general sector, but our job is a hell of a lot more fun: locate and eliminate any and all armed resistance elements. The sensor frigate By Your Command is already in position and will be beaming us real-time intelligence as the situation unfolds.
"What the hell are you still doing here, Marines? Let's make some noise!"