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Battle Lines - Rapier Team
Posted By: Delahunt<delirium.end@realityrefracted.com>
Date: 19 March 2011, 10:12 pm

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1603 Hours, 16 August 2552 (Military Calendar) -- Sinclaris Five Surface

Jamie slowly crept through the sea of Covenant dead around the four drop pods. Behind him, he could hear Mark and Erik as they made similar progress. The three Spartans had been scattered during the drop, and had only managed to join back together ten minutes ago. Jamie had assumed that all the pods had scattered, but apparently at least four of the ODSTs had been good enough to stick together and land in some semblance of a formation. Not that it had done them any good.

From the look of things, the Covenant had hit almost as soon as the pods landed. The shell casings and dead bodies that littered the ground around the pods were a testament to how hard the four troopers had fought before finally going down. Near the end, the fighting had gotten messy, personal. The closest ODST to Jamie had gone down with a line of needles up her body, the last one penetrated her visor; for some reason the super-combine explosion had never triggered. The second trooper had been just a hair too late in avoiding a grunt suicide bomber. The resultant blast had cleared the way for an elite to get in at the backs of the last two in a successful, if suicidal, charge. It hadn't been an ideal situation, but Jamie had to give it to the Helljumpers: they'd given much worse than they'd received.

Mark's acknowledgment light pulsed amber. Jamie clicked his green light back, and took up overwatch. Under Jamie's cover, Mark and Erik quickly policed the remaining ammunition and supplies. The Helljumpers had burned through most of their ammo, but not all of it. Several magazines of MA5 ammunition, a couple jackhammers, three pistol mags, and four mags of SRS-99C ammunition were recovered before the Spartans continued on mission. As they left, Jamie made a mental note of the drop site's location. Once they'd won, someone would want to know where the ODSTs had fallen.

Erik stood as still as a statue behind the rocky outcropping. Progress had been slow since the ODST crash site. It felt like every five steps forward was accompanied by three steps back due to Covenant patrols. At first, Mark had simply ordered them to evade, but the Covenant activity had grown too big to simply be avoided.

"Found the trouble" Jamie's voice came soft and smooth over the comm. The sniper was atop the rocky outcropping, scanning the area to see just what the Covenant were up to. "We're near the debris trail. Looks like someone is giving the Covenant one hell of a fight there too. Three groups are moving in to flank whoever it is; two to the north and one to the south."

"We'll take the north and buy our friends some time." Mark said, and immediately headed out. Erik heard more than saw the stealthy sniper drop off the outcropping and take up his position behind and to Mark's right. He gave the pair a thirty second lead before moving out of cover to follow and catch up.

Moving at speed, it didn't take long for the trio to find and catch up to their quarry. Mark flashed a hand signal and Jamie vanished off to one side to set up. Another hand signal and Erik pulsed his green acknowledgment light. He'd been waiting for a chance to use the jackhammers.

The Covenant never knew what hit them. One moment they were moving along and getting into position to join their allies; the next, a pair of rockets - one for each group - went off in their midst. Those that weren't outright killed were thrown to the ground in a wide arc. Mark's assault rifle filled the air with staccato bursts of sound as he picked off targets with his usual cool precision.

Hit from two angles, and with neither Spartan visible, the Covenant had no choice but to split their fire between where they thought the attacks were coming from. Reloaded rocket launcher between his legs, Erik ducked back to avoid the incoming plasma and needle fire. Next, he pulled two of his grenades and waited for a lull in the firing; it wasn't a long wait.

An elite yelled a warning right before the grenades went off. A second later, Erik heard the unmistakable sound of Jamie's SRS-99C as the sniper performed his trademark rapid fire four shot burst. Mark's assault rifle sounded once, twice more, and then it was over.

The three Spartans took a few seconds to check their respective vectors before signalling the all clear. Mark headed into the center of their ambush, and swiftly policed the salvageable plasma grenades. They were close enough now that, with the 5x zoom built into their helmets at least, they could clearly see the distinctive muzzle flash of UNSC weapons.

Mark gave another hand signal, and the three Spartans headed off to join the fight.

David couldn't keep the smile off of his face. His heart raced. Plasma projectiles came in from all sides. And he finally had permission to really cut loose. He'd never felt so alive in his life.

David had always been fast on his feet, easily the fastest in Gamma company and perhaps even the fastest out of all the Spartans. He'd once overheard CPO Mendez mention that he'd almost broken a record from when Lieutenant Commander Ambrose had been in training. He'd only grown faster since then, and, for the last four minutes, David had put his speed to good use. He'd darted from cover to cover; slipped around behind Jackals, Grunts, and even one Elite; and taken out all targets with extreme prejudice. Through it all, he'd kept tabs on Melissa as the slower Spartan also made her way up the debris strewn ravine. Together, they'd cleared a path and kept moving towards their objective. It was loud, graceless, and had drawn even more Covenant attention than they wanted, but it was the only reason they were still alive.

"Last mag!" Melissa's called over the comm. Her voice had dropped to the usual cool tone she'd always had in training exercises. "Got an Elite here. Stop show boating and get your ass in gear, David!" He was close enough that even without the comm he could hear Melissa swear when her MA5K belched out its last round and died; the elite roared a challenge in response. When David rounded the last bend, it was towering over a knocked-prone Melissa, plasma sword held at the ready. With no time for anything fancy, David opted for direct: he shoulder charged into the back of the Elite.

A near quarter ton of Spartan and armor moving at speed was more than enough to knock the surprised Elite flat onto its face. David shoulder rolled over the Elite, regained his footing, turned, and promptly unloaded a slug from his shotgun into the back of the alien's armored head. The results weren't pretty, but they were satisfying.

Melissa was back on her feet in a second, and together, the two found some breathing room. "What the hell took you so long?" Melissa's voice still kept the cool tone David had grown used to during their missions.

"I was busy showing off. Thought I'd told you that."

"I should've figured, hot dogging jerk."

"Hey, it's not my fault you suck, preachy know-it-all dweeb!" David's grin was briefly more than a predatory smile. Distantly, a part of him recognized that the banter was good. It meant their spirits were still up. Not that he could figure out why their spirits shouldn't be up; they were winning. "So...what do we do?"

"That Wraith still in the area? The one that lost its energy mortar?"

"Yeah, it's on the east side."

"Alright, I need a minute, maybe two; and your shot gun. Think you can buy me the time?" David handed the shotgun over without protest. His eyes turned to the area around them and the Covenant weapons that littered the ground. He felt his grin grow broader.

"Yeah, I can do that."

"Alright, break east on my signal. Try to get as many of them to follow you as possible." Melissa hopped over the hunk of debris she'd been using for cover as soon as she finished speaking. David, for his part, grabbed the small device a dead Jackal had died holding before fast crawling his way back to the elite he'd just killed. This was going to be a lot of fun.

"All you Covenant bastards not ready to take on a real Spartan best run and hide! It's about to get very very bloody!" David yelled the words as loud as he could, then stepped out into the open. His newly acquired energy shield and plasma sword opened with a snap-hiss; the energy fields ran havoc over his photo-reactive camouflage, shutting it shut off moments before overload. He wondered if any Spartan had ever looked more the part than he did right now. "Ready or not, here I come!"

Melissa risked a glance back towards David. The other Spartan had always been good in close. So much so that the drill instructors had often had him train with Tom or Lucy for hand to hand combat, rather than risk the injury to one of the other trainees. David even claimed he'd trained with the Lieutenant Commander once, but - he'd admitted wryly - it hadn't been much of a fight. Now, equipped with energy sword and shield, the only word she could find for him was terrifying. He covered himself expertly with the shield, danced around his opponents, and used the sword with quick stabs and small cuts that never left him over extended. In his wake he left more maimed and literally disarmed Covenant than dead; they provided better cover when they were still standing but out of the fight.

Over the noise, Melissa could hear David taunt and cajole his opponents. As more Covenant trained their fire or started to move in his direction, she had to fight the urge to go over and help him. He was buying time for her. It was her job to make sure that it wasn't a wasted effort. Which meant she had to get to work.

Melissa picked through the corpses as she made her way east; careful to stay low and behind cover, even if she was camouflaged. She could see the wraith, her ultimate target, just a little ways off. Melissa still didn't understand the lucky break that had put a plasma grenade on the energy mortar, but she wasn't going to look the gift horse in the mouth now either.

A dead grunt had the last item she needed clutched in its hand, and Melissa got to the 'fun' part of her job. Her 'lucky' roll of duct tape - a constant companion for her on field exercises - was easily pulled from the side pocket on her pack. It only took her a few seconds to carefully apply two long trips, sticky side out, to the small sphere. She attached the other grenades to the tape, and got ready to move. Unbidden memories of the last time she'd tried something like this - a flash bang, a frag grenade, and an oil drum - came back to her. She'd been blinded and hospitalized for nearly a week. It had been stupid curiosity then. This time, it was desperate stupidity. That made it ok, or so she told herself.

The combi-grenade held carefully under one arm, Melissa made her way towards the wraith. "David, five seconds then break east. Acknowledge." No light responded from David. His biosigns were still good - if excited - and her HUD showed no damage to his armor. She looked over in his direction; he was fighting with a pair of elites, both in red armor. The careful and precise strokes from earlier were gone, and even from a distance she could tell he was being baited into a trap. "Break east now, Spartan!" The tone in her voice broke through whatever haze was in his head. David's green light winked on and he immediately broke from the two elites, headed towards her.

David rabbited well. He kept the pursuing Covenant clustered as he led them on a merry chase. Melissa had no doubt that David could have left them all in the dust, but that wouldn't help the Spartans win. The wraith took the bait as well and moved to block David's apparent escape route on the east side. An elite popped the hatch and manned the anti-infantry plasma cannon. Perfect, now she just needed to time it right.

As David neared the east edge of the ravine, Melissa pressed the still exposed button on the center plasma grenade and ran for the wraith. The gunner, fixated on David as he ran past on the other side, didn't notice her until she'd stuffed the large glowing ball into the hole the mortar housing protruded from. By then it was too late, and, despite the elite's roar of protest, Melissa dove off the wraith. Inside her head she counted down the seconds left on the grenade's fuse. She'd misjudged; she wasn't going to clear in time.

The cascading explosions ripped through the wraith. It was spectacular.

Master Sergeant Terrence Johnson - no relation - contained a sigh as he looked at his men. They were good men; he had no doubt of that. Some of them had even been with him for the better part of five years now. That didn't mean they were immune to Covenant plasma and needle rounds though, and while some of his men were veterans; most were as green as could be. The mission was supposed to have been cake. Scare some innies, get the green newbs some experience, and give the vets some on duty rest. If Terry didn't know better, he'd swear that the Covenant were coming for him personally.

The Stone Cold lurched, popped, and banged as she maneuvered. Terry didn't know what exactly the captain had planned, but he was sure it was balls out crazy. Orders had come down to secure all passageways leading to engineering, the bridge, the ships data center, and several other key locations as fast as possible, and then to prepare to repel boarders. That had been nearly an hour ago. An hour of naval maneuvering and peek-a-boo games with two Covenant ships if what Terry had heard was to be believed.

"Door's secured, Sarge." Private Miller reported as he turned the flame off on his welder.

"Same down here, Sarge." Private Dale sounded off a moment later.

"Doors are secure, and the M247H is bolted and ready to rock, Sergeant." Corporal Vaugn gave the final report.

Terry nodded and took the corridor in one more time. There wasn't much in the way of cover aside from what his men had brought in. Good, he had no interest in giving the Covenant so much as a glimpse of a fair fight. "Alright boys, lock and load. You all know the drill: if it's not human, you shoot it until it stops moving. If nothing else is moving, you shoot it again just to be safe. Let's show these bastards how much of a Stone Cold Bitch this ship can be!" The combined 'oorah' was heartening. "Corporal Vaugn, tell the Captain that we're ready for her house guests."

"Engines failing, total shut down in 135 seconds!"

"Hull breach on decks 7 through 15, sections 4A to 7C!"

"There's a fire in engineering, they don't know if they can contain it!"

"Port side Archer Missile Pods are empty or destroyed!"

"Emergency Thrusters down to 5%!"

Commander Jane let the reports wash over her. The last hour had not been kind on her ship, but they were still here. The series of desperate gambit after desperate gambit had taken a toll on the crew, but, again, they were still here. The sacrifice of fuel, armor, weapons, and even crew in some cases had all been worthwhile, when looked at objectively. Despite the costs, they'd managed to destroy another of the Covenant ships with a double barreled MAC salvo that had driven the alien vessel into the moon. Now though, it looked like their luck had just run out.

"Ma'am, all Marine teams have checked in. Key locations are double secured, and they are ready to repel all invaders." Li's voice was a light in the darkness.

"Engines to full stop. Make us look dead, like they just blew on us. Granny, activate a fail safe. Any system you get cut off from destroys itself; rig it as a dead man's switch. Blow the ship if you have to, but try to buy us as much time to win the old fashioned way as you can." Lauren was standing as she gave the orders. Not that she could go anywhere; her and her bridge crew were sealed in as one of the 'key locations' to be protected at all costs. She could hate herself for that later.

The ship darkened as the reactors played dead. The emergency lights kicked in a second later. "Mr. Li, I need your creativity again. I want them to intercept communications from us saying that we're preparing to move our precious cargo from the dig site via a Tier One Security Asset."

Granny appeared on the holographic projector once again. She didn't look happy. "Dear, I've analyzed your probable actions and I must point out that not only are they tantamount to suicide, but also could be viewed as a violation of Cole Protocol Artice 1-5 which states: In case of imminent capture by Covenant ships and boarders-"

"I know what it says, Granny. We're only in violation if we lose and you don't have things rigged to blow like I told you. Otherwise, I am following this course of action to enforce the Cole Protocol. Until we get the all clear from the ground team, assuming they're even still alive, there is nav data at risk. As such, this ship's duty is to live and fight for as long as possible, to win, and to make sure they don't get their damned claws on the location of Earth or any other of our worlds. Understood?" Lauren regretted the edge in her voice as she addressed the AI. She didn't need to think of her teachers for the lectures of how a ship captain should always be in control of herself to come to mind. Still, her words - and the fire behind them - did seem to perk the crew up. They knew what they were fighting for. They knew there was a goal to aim for. It wasn't much, but it was better than aimless desperation.

"Understood dear. Deadman switches are set and active. Any primary or secondary system that is severed from my connection will detonate immediately. The ship will detonate should I be removed, or the data core go offline."

"Thank you, Granny. Keep monitoring for news from the ground team."

David inserted the nozzle into Melissa's back and squeezed the handle. The biofoam injector made a sound like compressed whipped cream as the jar emptied and the wound filled. It had taken Dave the better part of five minutes to dig Melissa out of the wreckage from her explosion. Whatever she had done had set off a chain reaction in the wraith and caused a blast that had obliterated the Covenant chasing him. His back was still sore from the shock wave, but that was nothing compared to the chunk of Wraith that had gone through Melissa.

When the can of biofoam emptied, David sighed and tossed it back over his shoulder; he'd done all he could do for her. He looked around and tried to decide if it was better to leave her here, or bring her with him when he continued on mission. When she woke up, she would be useful to have around, but until then she would just slow him down. Moreover, with as damaged as her armor was, he doubted the camouflage would be much use anymore. It would be best to leave Melissa where she was. She could follow when she woke up, but, until then, David would move faster on his own. Time was of the essence.

He pulled down a large chunk of debris and covered Melissa with it. It would keep her out of sight until she moved or someone went through the pile. David turned to head out, but had to abandon the idea a second later. Another wraith was patrolling the wreckage, and, judging from the increased noise, had just seen him.

David checked his pistol as the wraith approached. He'd lost his sword and shield in the blast, and the shot gun had been irreparably damaged. It wouldn't matter how well armed he was if the wraith decided to simply blast them. He'd have to charge, risk it all on a gamble that gave him and Melissa the best chance of survival. David paused to take a breath and center himself, then straightened at the unexpected two tone that broadcasted from the wraith. He whistled the tone in reverse and breathed a sigh of relief as the hatch on the wraith popped open to show Erik's helmet.

"You made it!" David called out. He scrambled back out from under cover and moved to join his teammates. Jamie appeared at his side; the sniper had been behind cover with rifle at the ready just in case. "Melissa's hurt. I hit her with some biofoam, but she's not conscious yet."

Mark popped the hatch under the assault turret and flashed his acknowledgment light. "Load her onto the wraith. We'll wake her en route. We're about a ten minutes walk from the Drop The Hammer, and, from the sounds of it, the Covenant just found a way in. It's not going to be pretty."

"They wouldn't have sent us if it was going to be, Mark." David felt the start of another grin.