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Riverside Party: Chapter 2
Posted By: Dagorath<hoyinshan@gmail.com>
Date: 21 July 2005, 11:17 am

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The Special Operations Commander turned from the communicator to the rest of his Elites, who were all waiting expectantly in a crowd around him. When he turned, they all sprang back into columns: eight columns with five Elites each. At the back, the Commander could just make out one of his Elites rubbing hard at a non-existent spot on his gleaming black armour.
      "It looks like a strike force down below has run into some trouble with a human battleship and needs a little help," he said smiling. The Spec Ops Elites stared back impassively.
       "We shall take the Archangel. I want forty of our Grunts assembled in the docking bay in one minute."
       "What vehicles should we take, sir?" asked one Elite at the front.
      The Commander already had a plan in mind. "I want five Ghosts. Extra armour."
      The other nodded impassively. The Commander said to the Elite who had asked him, "You shall be in charge of getting those Ghosts." To the others, he said, "Dismissed."
      As one, they spun on their heels and marched out.
      The Commander chucked to himself. Somehow, that reminded him of how an expectant mother laughed. Odd.

The Spec Ops team managed to be ready in forty seconds instead of one minute. Every Elite had duel plasma rifles or dual needlers as well as an energy sword. Every Grunt had a plasma pistol or needler, with quite a few holding fuel rod guns on their small shoulders. Piles of power cores and ammunition as well as mini antimatter bombs lay to one side. To the other were the Ghosts the Commander had commissioned.
      Behind the impeccably lined Spec Ops team was the Archangel. Completely black, it looked like an arrow, every surface gleaming. Twice as large as the Phantom, able to carry more than twice as many soldiers and equipped with plasma mortar cannons as well as active camouflage, it was the pinnacle of Covenant technology. Twice as large, twice as powerful and twice as cool as the Phantom, the Archangel was reserved only for the Covenant's Spec Ops forces.
       "Our task is to forcibly suppress the resistance on the frigate," he said, though every one of the Spec Ops team had already been briefed by their sub commanders. "It is not necessary to destroy it, just suppress it. It is also an objective to help the ground forces currently in the city suppress the enemy government."
      He smiled. "It seems that their acting commander forgot to prepare for enemies in the river, and so lost a Wraith, Spectre and two Phantoms, as well as his dignity."
      His face turned hard. "There will be a lot of killing. I respect the humans for their perseverance against a foe too powerful for them. However, orders are orders, and I intend to follow them."
      He pointed at the Archangel. "Let's go," he said in a quiet voice, but everyone heard him clearly.
      With practiced efficiency, the entire Spec Ops team got, one by one, into the Archangel. A few of them stayed in the dock and passed the energy cores, antimatter bombs and ammunition up before getting in. The whole operation seemed like it had been rehearsed, day after day, in the team's spare time.
      The Commander got in last, after looking long at the beautiful blue jewel that was the humans' home planet. Perhaps he could settle here, after the humans had been eradicated. Or whatever true goal the Prophets had for ordering them to attack the planet.
      The Elites had never known a home planet, at least not for tens of thousands of years. Ever since the destruction of the planet in the Thousand Year War against the Prophets before their covenant, the Elites had known no other home than High Charity, the huge habitation centre in space, powered by a Forerunner spacecraft.
      The Commander wondered how it would be like: to have a planet to be proud of, to strive for, to defend.
      To call home.
      If things had turned out differently….
      His mind spinning with endless possibilities and regrets, the Commander boarded the Archangel. The sleek black arrow, bearing resemblances to the Spec Ops Elites' helmets, swooped out of the docking bay like a magpie after a shiny object. The magpie being itself, and the shiny object Earth.

Contrary to the Phantoms' stealthy descent earlier on, the Archangel smashed through billboards and signs as it streaked towards the river. The massive guns spat forth huge balls of plasma, smashing into buildings and setting off fires. Despite the Spec Ops Commander's respect towards the humans, he did not intend to leave a job half-done.
      The Archangel sped past the carnage at the rotary and above the debris-choked roads to the river. The Commander took in the hole in the bridge, the Warthogs advancing on the ground team's position, and the frigate in the water, lying in wait like a hungry crocodile.
      The Commander smiled slightly. It looked like the ground team needed a little assistance. "Elites! I want ten of you to engage active camouflage and board those Warthogs."
      Ten Elites at the front immediately turned and ran off, engaging active camo as they went. As the Archangel hovered over the Warthogs (now moving at full pelt, intending to run the ground team over), the Elites dropped down onto the hoods of the Warthogs (one unfortunate Elite had miscalculated his jump and instead sat down hard on the barrel of the mounted turret, damaging something vital) and threw the humans out, dropping them in front of the hurtling Warthogs, before climbing into the driver's seats and executing perfect powerslides, to stop in front of the gaping ground team.
      The Spec Ops Elites jumped off the Warthogs and lined up in rows as the Archangel suddenly deactivated active camo and cast a sudden shadow over the ground team as the rest of the Spec Ops team jumped down from the Archangel. The Commander came last, resplendent in his white armour, standing out like a beacon amongst the black of the Spec Ops.
      The Commander strode forward and spoke to the head of the Honour Guards. "Please, where is your commander? I want to have a little," he paused, "'discussion' with him."

The gold Elite appeared to be crouching on the floor of the Phantom, staring intently at a speck of dirt as the Commander entered. He stood and watched the gold Elite.
      The gold Elite looked up abruptly, and his eyes widened when he saw the Commander. "You!"
      The Commander looked at the gold Elite with contempt. "You are in no position to be uncivil. I am to be addressed as 'sir', not 'you'. Is that clear?"
      The gold Elite straightened and smiled. "Oh, come on, man, for old - "
       "Silence!" the Commander thundered. "And I am to be addressed as 'sir'."
      The gold Elite seemed a little crestfallen. "Yes….sir."
      The Commander acted as if the confrontation had not taken place. "Artu Magamee, you are accused of incompetence in battle. This has been proved through surveillance of your techniques today and the accounts of your underlings. You are hereby relieved of your rank until your delivery to the Command Council aboard the Unswerving Loyalty."
      The gold Elite was outraged. "Look here, sir! There are no boats in High Charity, and I had never seen one before! I just, kind of, neglected - "
       "Causing the death of your soldiers." The Commander checked his electronic pad. "The Elite in the Wraith that drowned, the four Elites in the first Phantom, the four in the second and twenty Grunts that were obliterate with the Wraith. Quite good going. I think several Elites and Grunts were squashed when the second Phantom lost control. A total of about fifteen Elites and twenty Grunts. You have some explaining to do."
       "I'm sorry, sir, but I did the best I could. I evacuated all personnel with minimum loss - "
       "Look here," said the Commander, placing a hand on the gold Elite's shoulder. "You did pretty well in the training school, and in the battles I fought beside you. I thought you were a pretty good warrior." He smiled slightly. "We had some good times, and look!" He pointed at the other's golden armour. "Field Master!" Suddenly, his voice turned more menacing. "But that was an unforgivable mistake!" he spat through clenched teeth.
       "I am now relieving you of your rank, Field Master," he said officiously. "You are to stay in this Phantom until we have finished the conquest of the city and you are transported up to the Unswerving Loyalty."
      There was a long pause. The Commander stared at the gold Elite as the other fiddled with his armour.
      At last, the gold Elite looked up. "Yes, sir."
      The Commander left the dropship.