Patterns - Histories
Posted By: CaptainRaspberry<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 22 June 2011, 6:24 pm
29 June 2583 (timestamp truncated)
I hope this message reaches you before you're gone. No one remembers those pre-battle jitters better than me, and what you're doing these days is a lot more intense than what we used to do.
Of course, I don't know for sure what you're doing these days. Out of all of us, you're the only one who decided to stick around. I hope it wasn't for Nolan's sake. It's not healthy to hold on to a dead man for so long. Cryo sleep fucks with our sense of time, so just remember that you've been carrying that torch for twenty years already.
I guess you don't need a lecture right now. Be safe, come home, and be sure to visit soon. Georgia would love to have you over again. I think it gives her some perspective, seeing the people I served beside and knowing we all went through it together.
0900 Hours, 30 June 2583 (Military Calendar)/
Slipspace transition aboard Pelican H293
Their time on the Pen of Herodotus was short-lived. Shortly after boarding at 0500, the entire team -- now designated IRON -- had been hustled to the armory, equipped, and then locked in the Pelican. Then the massive ship had jumped farther and faster than any before to a spot in deep space only a few parsecs from Ebica. Apparently the Covies had also shared their Slipspace technology, though from the few words Erich Gemmen could glean on the subject, it only amounted to a map.
"The way we navigated Slipspace up to this time," said one engineer in passing, "is like to trying to sail across the ocean without knowing the currents."
The technical implications went over Gemmen's head. At least, he figured, cryo-sleep was a little less necessary now. He recalled with clarity the difficulties had in his own life over the loss of time in such a fashion.
Now the Pelican rattled itself through Slipspace with a "popper" drive, a one-shot externally attached Shaw-Fujikawa drive that followed a pre-set flight plan. Gemmen sat in the troop bay with six of IRON Team's members; only Master Sergeant Peter Fil and Sergeant Allie Meryll were absent, being at the front of the Pelican. A dumb AI had been provided to fly the ship.
The bay was quiet. The elephant in the room was the Spartan, dressed head to toe in all-encasing MJOLNIR armor. Emblazoned across the top was her name: Amy-G006. No-one seemed to care to look at her, least of all Staff Sergeant Doyle, a former ODST.
Except for Amy, everyone was dressed in black SPI armor, a more advanced combat suit than the rigs that ODSTs wore and with the added benefit of motion trackers and Chameleon plates that could mimic the textures of a soldier's surrounding environment. The closed helmet had a large blue-black visor. It was a fully sealable suit, and everyone had their helmets on tight, just in case of sudden decompression. Of course, losing air was the least of their concerns; in a situation where that might occur, they had more to worry about getting sucked out into the infinite, empty void of Slipspace.
The door to the cockpit hissed open, and Master Sergeant Fil stepped into the bay.
"All right, listen up," he said. "Our course will drop us right on top of Ebica's atmosphere, so be prepped for a rough ride. We'll be putting down eight klicks outside the capital, Gallerus. Our first priority will be to infiltrate the outskirts of the city, establish an operating post, and acquire convincing civilian attire. We'll proceed on our mission from there."
Less than an hour later, the Pelican exited Slipspace just inside the upper limits of the atmosphere with a sudden jolt. It made its way down as a fiery comet, flashing on LIDAR screens as a brief blip before its stealth systems cut in, banishing the flames and smoothing out its ride.
It landed roughly, the nose landing gear failing to deploy properly. The whole team was thrown about inside the dropship.
When it was over, Fil coughed out over the COMs: "Sound off!"
"IRON Two, okay," said Doyle.
"IRON Three, okay," said Montour.
"IRON Four, here," said Cugini.
Bernardi took a moment to reply. "IRON Five. Think I busted my wrist."
"IRON Six, okay," said Meryll.
Gemmen quickly checked himself. "IRON Seven, okay."
"IRON Eight, okay," said Amy-G006. There was absolutely no tremor in her voice.
"Four, check Five," said Fil. "Everyone else, up and at it. Make sure your weapons are in working order. We're moving out."
0954 Hours, 30 June 2583 (Military Calendar)/
Ebica -- high altitude
The Pelican eased itself down through Ebica's upper atmosphere. Neil had been making regular visits over the past week himself to speak more with Elodia. He didn't even permit a pilot; he was more than qualified to fly the dropship himself.
What the AI had to tell him was chilling: prophecies about the crumbling human infrastructure, galaxy-wide conflict, new war with alien races... extinction. She had come under the impression that, unless steps were taken right away, humanity would never reach its potential before it was wiped out by external forces -- let alone all the insurrection that currently ripped through the UNSC.
Neil took all she said with a grain of salt, being that she was well past her rampancy date, but her predictions were convincingly rational and eery.
Patterns, she said.
Doctor Halsey had flash-cloned her own brain twenty-odd times when ONI wanted to create some kind of super AI. Only one had been perfect for the task, but a few were considered "good enough" for other ONI projects. Elodia had been one, ultimately the only survivor. Two had been deleted in Operation WHITE GLOVE after the fall of Reach, and the last had gone rampant prematurely long before that.
Interrupting his thoughts, the Pelican's COM flashed urgently. Neil keyed it. "Temura here."
"Switch to secure channel gamma-three-three."
He engaged the appropriate encryption key. "Trouble, Adonai?"
"Maybe." She was being terse. Not a good sign. "The civilian astronomer's society reported a meteor several klicks out from Gallerus."
"A meteor. Did any of the orbital facilities pick it up?"
Well, thought Neil, it took them long enough. He re-vectored his course and started doing long-range scanning. "We knew it was coming," he told her, "and they've given us a lot of time to prepare. You know what you have to do."
"Affirmative. Adonai out."
He passed quickly over the forested region that lay between Gallerus and what he had estimated would be the ideal landing site. A check of the NewsNet confirmed his suspicions: the "meteor" had come down right around this area.
He wished he could believe it was a meteor.
Deep scanning offered nothing, but it wasn't a surprise. Whoever the UNSC sent would be good, probably a kill team equipped with some top-of-the-line armor and infiltration systems. Fortunately, Neil hadn't been satisfied just guessing where an attack would come from; he had spent months setting up various traps and pitfalls in the forest. At best, he might kill a few of them. At worst, it would only slow them down.
Flyover finished, Neil turned his Pelican back to home.
1134 Hours, 30 June 2583 (Military Calendar)/
Ebica -- Agrya Forest
Amy-G006 halted suddenly, raising her closed fist. IRON dropped down quickly. "Dammit, again?" swore Montour. "Those guys must have set a hundred traps along this route. How'd they know where we were coming in?"
Fil huffed over the COM. "Command said they were something different than what we're used to."
Gemmen watched as Amy crept forward and fiddled with something in the dirt. He held his breath, letting out only a small stream between his clenched teeth. This was the fourth time they had to stop because of a trap, and it didn't get any less tense, no matter how many the Spartan disarmed.
After a few minutes, Amy waved Fil up. "Take a look at this," she said.
He gazed into the small hole she had dug and whistled. "Shit," he said, "that's a Moray."
"A Moray?" Cugini shook his head. "For fuck's sake! That's a space mine. They're for blowing holes in frigates and they buried it in the goddamn forest." His shoulders sagged a little. "What's next, a HORNET nuke?"
Nobody said anything.
"Spartan," said Fil, "what do you think of this?"
"It seems familiar," she said. "Something we learned in training."
"Oh yeah? How familiar?"
She said nothing.
"Can you get us around the rest of them?"
"Yes." She stood up and motioned everyone forward again. "Provided they stuck to the pattern."