The Stand - Rapier Team
Posted By: Delahunt<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 27 March 2011, 3:27 pm
1643 Hours, 16 August 2552 (Military Calendar) -- Sinclaris Five Surface
Melissa woke with a start. Her body tensed; ears immediately assaulted by the sound of a Wraith on the move. Had it somehow survived her bomb? Had another come along and found her? If so, why wasn't she dead? Her mind raced with the possibilities as she tried to stay still and play dead. She would only have one chance to get out of here.
"Good, you're awake. We were about to go through your pack for the stims." Erik's voice was cheerful as he spoke. "Careful, don't move too fast if you don't have to. Your abdomen is full of biofoam, probably why you're tingling."
"What happened?" Melissa's voice sounded groggy to her. She bit down on her lip and shook her head twice to clear the cobwebs before gently pulling herself into a seated position. Erik was right, she was tingly and her insides felt cold from the biofoam. Erik handed over a bit of reflective glass and Melissa used it to check her wound. It wasn't pretty, but it wouldn't be fatal either. Assuming the biofoam held.
"We're not sure. David says you blew up a wraith, and judging from the fact you still have all your demo charges, we figure you did something incredibly stupid again. Why carry them if you're not going to use them?"
"We might need them later. Besides, they take too long to set up for combat use." Further conversation halted as the Wraith crested a hill and the Drop The Hammer came into view. Three Covenant patrols waited outside the gaping hole that led into the ship, but a downed Spirit meant there were probably even more inside.
"Oscar, you ready to go?" Melissa smiled at her old nickname. It was as close to expressing affection as Mark got on missions.
"Good to go, sir."
"Good. We're going to need you on this. Jamie, spread the ammo out. Erik and Dave, do a quick gear check. I don't want this stuff failing on us when we dive into the hornets' nest. Oscar, turn this wraith into the biggest bomb you can. We're going in hard." Four green lights pulsed in response to Mark's orders. Jamie immediately began to take inventory of the ammunition the group had left while Erik and David got to work on the gear. Melissa pulled the pack off of her back and opened it up while eyeing the wraith. Mark would get his explosion.
"Grenades!" Master Sergeant Johnson's voice was clear, even over the sound of the M247H. The ten marines that still guarded the sealed data core doors responded as one, lobbing and bowling fragmentation grenades down the hall towards the jackal shield wall. The aliens froze in the face of the multi-angled assault. A second later, all ten fragmentation grenades went off as one and the jackals' worries were over.
The corridor was suddenly eerily quiet. No new Covenant troops rounded the corner. No gunfire broke the silence as Terry's marines defended their bottleneck with their lives. It wouldn't last. "Reset the barricades. Anyone who needs ammo, raise your hand with how many mags you need. Davidson, make sure everyone gets what they need. Vaugn, let the Captain know we're still holding, but they're coming in bigger and bigger waves."
The sound of his marines getting to work was reassuring. Terry took the chance to top off his own mags and reload the shotgun at his feet. Truth be told, even crammed in with no way to retreat, Terry preferred this kind of fighting. At least here he had a say in whether he lived or died; a luxury that wasn't present in ship battles. The fact that while the Covenant were actively boarding the Stone Cold they weren't ripping her to pieces with plasma was an additional bonus.
The ship rocked and shook as if struck. Even close to the center of the Stone Cold, Terry could hear the sound of super heated metal being peeled away. Round four was about to begin. "Check your ammo, we've got another round of party crashers coming. Vaugn, get that heavy gun spinning!"
Terry slapped a full mag into his MA5B and shouldered the weapon. He didn't have long to wait before the first grunt rounded the corner.
"All key defensive positions are holding. Compromised defense positions have fallen back and are reinforcing at designated choke points." Everett's voice was still clear. Lauren made a mental note of it. The whole crew would deserve commendations for what she'd put them through, but a few on her bridge - like Ms. Everett - were really going above and beyond.
"Pelican and ODST crew are away. No sign that they've been detected as of yet. They should be able to ride our shadow until they're in the moon's shadow. ETA to package delivery is seven minutes." Mr. Li was also due for a commendation or two.
"Tell the Marines that in seven minutes this should be over." Seven minutes wasn't long in the grand scheme of things, but could be an eternity in combat. Lauren had no doubt that they'd be the longest seven minutes of her life. "We still have some thrust on the port side, Mr. Karas?"
"Yes ma'am. Not much, but we should be able to turn or dodge one more direct shot."
"Good. Mr. Merchison, I want the MACs brought back online, you have six minutes and ten seconds to charge them. Use every second."
"That's going to be hard, ma'am. Engineering is repelling boarders, and the reactors are-"
"Just get it done, Mr. Merchison."
"Aye aye, ma'am."
"Granny, I want you working some math for me. At this range, I need a firing time and solution for every archer missile we have left to hit precisely one second before a MAC round on that Covenant ship."
The wraith glided down towards the Covenant around the Drop The Hammer. Erik had rigged the controls well, and aimed it even better. The pilotless wraith moved straight towards the small gap between the patrols; just another Covenant vehicle joining the search. None of the Covenant thought anything strange about it until the Wraith continued on straight towards the Spirit. By then it was too late.
Melissa squeezed the plunger as soon as the wraith moved underneath the Covenant drop ship. The blast was huge. Chunks of wraith scattered and killed everything that had been around the tank. The energy mortar launched straight up and into one of the Spirit's pylons, causing a chain reaction - helped along by other bits of Wraith shrapnel - that detonated the Spirit as well.
With the explosion still booming, the Spartans rushed down the hill. Erik added to the confusion with a pair of jackhammers, fired on the run, into the closest masses of Covenant. The rockets missed their intended targets, but the blast was still enough to drop shields and expose the aliens to the hail of controlled bursts coming from Jamie and Mark's MA5Ks.
As they reached the bottom of the hill, David surged ahead of the group. Melissa watched as he dropped to his knees and slid the last few feet towards the downed frigate. He passed harmlessly under the arc of fire from a pair of elites who'd come back to investigate the noise. David's shot gun sounded once and dropped the right elite in a single blast. The other elite reacted too slowly. By the time it had turned to face David,the Spartan was ready. The butt of David's shot gun came around with enough force to stagger the elite out of the ship and drop its shields. The following shotgun blast tore through the elite's armor and left it a pulped mess on the ground.
The five Spartans joined up at the frigate's entrance. Mark flashed a few hand signals, and the squad broke down into two fire teams: Mark and Erik on the right, Jamie, Melissa, and David on the left. A waypoint appeared on the minimap on Melissa's HUD, the location of the main data core. Four acknowledgment lights pulsed in response and the fire teams split up. They'd join back together at the waypoint, after destroying all sensitive data found on the way up.
David took point and forced open a doorway to bring them into a new corridor. The minimap had already been marked with the locations to check by the Stone Cold's AI. It was a simple matter to plan an efficient route that checked all points on the way to the data core.
Melissa silently raged as Jamie fell into rear guard. Logically, she understood why she was in the middle of the three, but that didn't mean she had to like it. Injured or not, camouflage or no, she could carry her weight. She was still a Spartan. Unfortunately, now wasn't the time to complain. Not during the most dangerous part of the mission.
The three Spartans made good time as they picked their way through the ship. The corridors were a mess, and not just from the crash landing. Whatever the innies had been doing with the ship, they hadn't been taking proper care of it. Melissa frowned at the sight of plasma burns and needle marks in some of the bodies. Had the Covenant shot the dead bodies? Or had some of the crew survived the crash, only to be gunned down by the intruders? Either way, it meant there would be opposition somewhere ahead of them.
David held a hand out to stop Melissa and Jamie at the next doorway. They'd reached their first objective. David ducked his head into the doorway, then held up three fingers on his outstretched hand. Melissa and Jamie clicked their acknowledgment lights and moved up to the door. Jamie and David crept into the room while Melissa covered them from the door. David's hand flashed another signal and Melissa relaxed a little; the three jackals in the room were alone.
The take down was as quick as it was silent. Melissa moved into the room, and gave the terminal the jackals had been studying a quick once over. "Something on here had their attention."
"Blow it, and let's go." David said while checking the next door down. Melissa pulled an explosive strip from her pack and attached it to the terminal's drive and network connector. She punched a twenty second fuse into the strip, then gave Jamie the 'all set' signal before moving to join David at the door. The three Spartans headed back into the corridor towards their next objective. Behind them, the terminal exploded.
Mark slapped a fresh mag into his MA5K, jerked the charging handle, and waited for a lull in the firing. Erik and he hadn't gone far before running into a large group of elites and grunts, and luck hadn't been with them ever since. A grunt had practically run into Erik, and managed to sound an alarm before the Spartan could permanently silence it. They'd been caught in a firefight ever since. About the only bright spot had come at the expense of Erik's last jackhammer. An elite had moved on instinct, dodging the rocket and letting it impact against the terminal they'd been trying to pull data from. Secondary objective achieved, but the elites sure weren't happy about it.
The lull came, and Mark twisted to see around the cover. He quickly took aim, and put an accurate burst through the face and air hoses of the three closest grunts before he ducked back. Something was wrong. "Erik, eyes sharp. One of the elites went missing!"
Erik nodded, fired once through the doorway, and then immediately ducked back behind cover. The blast of two plasma grenades shook the deck a few seconds later. When Mark checked how many Covenant were left he had to smile. The suicide bomber that Erik had killed had taken most of his grunt friends with him.
A shimmer of light ruined the surprise attack. Mark ducked his head just in time to avoid the plasma sword, then turned his MA5K on the cloaked elite. The elite's shields lit up as the remainder of the MA5K's magazine emptied into its stomach. Erik yelled a challenge from the side, and tackled the elite to the ground. A knife flashed in Erik's hand as he wrestled with the elite for control of the grapple. Leverage won out, and Erik repeatedly plunged the knife into the elite's side.
Mark wanted to help his friend, but, with the plasma and needle fire renewing from beyond the door, it would be suicide to even try. He tossed his last grenade through the door and followed it up with a three round burst from his pistol. It bought him enough time to load one of his last three mags into the MA5K. Behind him, Erik finished off the elite with another stab of his knife and moved back into cover.
"He have anything worthwhile on him?" Mark asked between bursts from his assault rifle. He'd always picked his shots carefully, but now he was forced to be down right stingy with his ammo.
"Just the plasma sword. I think they know time's on their side, boss." Erik responded. "Well, and these" He added a moment later and held up two plasma grenades. "Must've forgotten to give them to his friends before coming over to play."
"We really should give them back, don't you think?" Erik visibly nodded. "I'll pin them back behind cover, think you can stick 'em?" Erik's light pulsed green and Mark counted in his head. On three, he pivoted around the door frame and opened up with the carbine. The two elites scrambled for cover from the hail of bullets. One of them was forced to double back and dive towards his friend as Erik's plasma grenade landed right in front of it. It never noticed the second grenade stuck to its back until it was too late. Both elites vanished in a flash of white.
David shouldered his way through the door and kicked the surprised looking grunt in the face. As the grunt fell back he put a pistol round through its brain, then emptied the rest of the magazine into the other four grunts in the room. His shotgun lay empty on the floor somewhere behind him in a pool of jackal blood. They were running out of ammo quick, but they were almost to the data core.
They'd run into more Covenant than expected in the Drop The Hammer. An impossible amount, unless the Stone Cold had been destroyed and the Covenant had sent reinforcements for their troops on the ground. David pushed the thought from his mind; he wasn't going to let the Covenant win, not this time. However, time wasn't on their side. In fact, it was actively working against them.
The only bright spot that David could see was the maps they had of the ship. The covenant had to search the whole wreck for where the data would be stored, the Spartans could go straight to the key points and destroy them. He was fairly sure that, thanks to the map, they were actually ahead of the lead Covenant searcher teams. It would explain why they were only seeing grunts this far; the elites were using them to scout ahead and set off any booby traps. It meant they still had a chance.
"Next stop is the data core; let's move Rapier team." Jamie and Melissa's green lights pulsed, but Melissa's movements were a bit stiff as she applied one of her demolition charges to the terminal and moved to join them. She'd been moving stiffly for a few minutes now. The exertion must have worn away at the biofoam, and due to her injury's location, every movement seemed to be sending lances of pain up her spine. Not that she'd complained once, or even slowed down in a fight, but David had noticed it in the lulls between fighting.
Melissa stopped and looked to him. He got the sense, even through the mirrored visor, that she was daring him to say something. David shook off the concern. She was right, they didn't have time for this.
Melissa whistled the familiar two-tone as she, David, and Jamie approached the data core. She'd taken point after David had paused in the last room; even without seeing his face she knew David was concerned for her, but that just made her press on all the harder. She didn't need them to worry about her slowing them down. Not when her primary job was to make sure they were still able to do theirs.
The two-tone sounded in reverse over the comm. A half second later the door to the data core opened up and Rapier team was whole again. Melissa drew her fingers across her visor in greeting to Erik and Mark. Erik returned the gesture, but Mark merely nodded.
"We don't have much time before more covies show up. How long to secure the data?" Mark's question prompted Melissa to look around. It was definitely the oldest core she'd ever seen. She wasn't even sure you could still call it a 'core' with the computer banks as spread out as they were.
"One minute to do it fast, three minutes to do it right." She responded crisply. She knew without asking which way he'd want it done, and started to set out the charges she had left. "Give or take thirty seconds" she added sheepishly when she saw how little she had left.
"Get it done. Rapier team, we're defending this room for at least the next three minutes. Pick your spots carefully. Jamie, I want ammo evenly distributed."
David stepped up as Jamie collected the loose ammunition for redistribution. "We're going to want the two doors open. We're blind with them shut. Open, we get warning and give Jamie time to use that giant rifle he's been hauling around on his back." David said; his voice had slipped back into an almost cold tone. Mark nodded once, and the Spartan moved to get the job done.
"Contact!" Jamie's warning was followed by the sound of his sniper rifle. Melissa checked the time on her HUD. Not even a minute had passed since she'd started. The next three minutes were going to be rough.
"Ten seconds until package delivery." Granny's voice continued the count down.
"Emergency thrust, line us up with that ship. Fire all Archer Missiles and time the MAC off Granny's firing solution!" Lauren once again found herself standing as she directed her bridge crew. The last six minutes had been painful to sit through. Bad enough to be playing dead, but having to hear the marines on board fight, kill, and die in defense of the vessel while doing so was nearly unbearable.
The Stone Cold, or at least what was left of her, shuddered as the remaining missile pods emptied their contents into space. The missiles arced out wide on their flight paths, filling the space around the last Covenant ship with dozens of twinkling lights. With luck, the Covenant wouldn't notice the single non-archer missile in the cluster.
"MAC firing in 2...1..." there was a bright flash from the alien ship as the Archer missiles and Shiva nuke impacted against the shields. The Stone Cold shifted and lurched backwards as both heavy slugs raced from the front of the destroyer. The nuke had dropped the Covenant shields, leaving only the superstructure to impede the dual ferrous rounds. The shots impacted as one, spinning and crumpling the Covenant vessel as they tore through it from keel to stern.
A cheer went up through the bridge as the Covenant ship exploded. They had done the impossible. Three on one against them, and they were the ones still standing. Lauren felt the tension leave her body all at once and slumped back down into the captain's chair. They were all still alive, but at what cost?
"Ma'am, we've got a message from the ground team. It's patchy, and weak but sounds like they're saying they've done it." Lauren looked towards Li as he spoke.
"Play it for me."
"Yes, ma'am." There was a moment of silence and then the air in the bridge filled with the static filled broadcast:
"Th...is...97. We hav..cured.....data....ently enga... th...nant...force..s. Repeat....secure...arge....pres....n...anet."
The words were gibberish to Lauren, but she could feel her stomach turning from the tone of the Spartan's voice, and the constant presence of gunfire in the background. "Give me a magnified view of that area of the planet."
"On screen now, ma'am"
Lauren's heart missed a beat. The cheer that had filled the bridge just moments ago was replaced by dread. There was a fourth Covenant ship.
"Mark!" Melissa broke cover and ran the short distance, narrowly avoiding being shot herself along the way. She grabbed Mark by the back of his armor, and pulled the downed Spartan back behind the wall. Beside her, David shifted to share his fire between the two doors and keep the Covenant at bay.
"I'm good." Mark said. His voice even sounded fine, and the press of his arm against her chest was strong. Still, Melissa fought him back to the ground.
"Good to hear, now let me hit you with biofoam so you don't fall apart as soon as you stand up." Mark quieted, and Melissa speedily slipped the nozzle into the new hole in his armor before squeezing the handle. Mark would likely need surgery later, but the foam would have to do for now.
"Grenade!" Erik's voice boomed. Melissa moved on instinct, covering Mark's body with her own and shielding him from the blast. Outside, the Covenant guns turned briefly on one of their own. "Not to be a sour apple here guys, but there are a lot of covies on this planet."
"Are the charges set?" Mark sat up without issue this time and checked the ammo on his MA5K. Melissa hesitated a second, she'd announced that nearly a minute ago.
"Primed and ready."
"Alright, Rapier team, against the wall. Oscar, blow it." There wasn't so much as a word of protest as Rapier team pressed themselves against the wall and hunkered down as low as possible. Melissa thumbed the detonator and the ship shook with small explosions. A final, loud boom filled the room seconds before the room bellowed dust and smoke down the Covenant filled corridors.
Melissa coughed as the smoke penetrated her unsealed suit. Outside the room, the Covenant roared in protest. Bolts of plasma and pink needles shot through the smoke and filled the doorway. Melissa chuckled and picked her way to the door. Let them come, the Spartans had already won.
Terry hopped over the dead Covenant and slid back behind cover. His men pushed forward around him; assault rifles and shotguns dispensed death all around. The corridor was a mess, littered with dead bodies, blood, and God alone knew what else, but the fighting was almost done. Terry didn't even want to think about how many had died on this trip, all because some damn innie couldn't have been bothered to wipe his databases on the way down to the planet.
"Johnson, this is Daniels. Perimeter is clear, what's your status?" Daniels was from another ship, the UNSC Savage Strike. The Savage Strike and eight other UNSC ships had jumped in system nearly thirty minutes ago; just in time to save the Stone Cold's ass from the fourth Covenant ship. The nine late comers had come in pursuit of the Drop The Hammer and the original Covenant ships. They'd made short work of the sole remaining vessels, and promptly offered to relieve the Stone Cold in the system. Commander Jane's response had been prompt and to the point: not until her people were off the ground.
Which was how Terry had ended up planet side, picking his way towards the innie ship's data core. Other teams had found and accounted for all of the HEVs. All save five of the deployed troops had also been found. Seven of the ODSTs were still alive, three of which were still on planet helping with mop up operations; the other four were back on their way to the ship, injuries to severe for anything else. The final missing five were presumably holed up on the ship, likely in the data core if the Stone Cold's AI was to be believed.
"Coming up on the Data Core now, Daniels. Hold one." The corridor, doorway, and room that held the data core were a mess. The walls were stained with soot, blood, and plasma scoring. Dead Covenant, weapons, and shell casings littered the ground. The metal had bubbeled and deformed in several places due to the intense heat of plasma grenades and whatever the strike team had used to detonate the navigation center.
Terry carefully moved through the wreckage, MA5B at the ready. His foot brushed against an out of place armored breastplate, causing Terry to halt and check the room once more. The armor looked like a strange combination of ODST gear and what the Spartans in the videos were always wearing. It also seemed to be placed to fill a hole in a pile of debris.
Terry crouched low, and moved forward. He could see a boot behind the unnatural pile of rubble. Another step forward and the full body came into view, as well as a similarly armored figure - a woman from the shape of her - next to whomever was on the ground. The woman had her hands in the soldiers abdomen. Despite the cracks, and even a small hole, in her visor, the woman still wore her helmet.
Terry's weight shifted with a soft crunch as something broke. The woman's response was immediate: a jackal shield sprung to life, covering the body on the ground more than the woman holding it. "Easy soldier, same side! Master Sergeant Terrence Johnson, UNSC Marine Corp, from the Stone Cold."
The shield turned off. "Warrant Officer Melissa G106. Rapier Team." The response was cool, in control.
"Alright ma'am, is your team alive?"
The armored warrant officer nodded, "Mark and Erik need medical attention. I've done what I can for them here, but they'll both need surgery. David and Jamie were knocked out by concussive force from whatever bombed the place. Too close to the wall when it happened."
Terry looked back over the ocean of dead bodies. Five against those odds, and at least three of them had still been standing until the UNSC bombed the hell out of the area? The Marine silently added whoever these five were to his 'do not fuck with' list. "Medics are on the way, ma'am. We'll have your team in a med bay in about seven minutes."
The woman nodded and shifted to sit down. Apparently she had done all she could for her injured comrade. When she moved, Terry noted the gaping hole in the woman's armor, as well as the blood leaking out around what he assumed was biofoam. If the woman noticed, she gave no sign of it. Down the hall a pair of medics appeared. Terry waved them close and helped them set up the stretcher. The woman left with the first stretcher.
Terry shook his head in disbelief. He wondered if she was single.
The next week moved by in a blur for Commander Lauren Jane. Saved from certain death at the last second, the Stone Cold had been given emergency repairs and then escorted to the nearest ship dock. It was there that her crew had been given some well deserved R&R, though the sobering rumors that Reach had fallen put a dampner on whatever joy the crew had received at surviving through the battle.
The debriefings with the admiralty had been strange. The brass couldn't decide if she was to be commended for heroics and pulling off the seemingly impossible, or berated for the reckless way in which she had captained her ship, endangering crew and the very fate of humanity. In the end, an Army officer named Ackerson had saved her - though what he was doing in an admiralty debriefing she'd never found out - pointing out that she had deployed resources accordingly, and done what was necessary to ensure the Covenant didn't find more human colonies than they already had. In short, she'd played to win, and had pulled it off marvelously. Lauren still felt dirty from the way some of the brass had talked about and around her while she was still there.
In the end they had decided to leave her as Commander and as the Captain for the Stone Cold, which would be fit to fly again in a couple of days. The news of her stay of execution, as well as the expedited repair of her ship, had also come with orders bearing Ackerson's name in several places. Among other things, the Stone Cold would become the primary deployment point for Rapier Team, and assigned missions befitting a Spartan strike team against the odds that the Stone Cold and her crew had already shown themselves capable of handling.
As she held the orders and confirmed their veracity, the words her old tactical instructor in the Academy came back to her: You won the battle, make sure it doesn't cost you the war. It wouldn't be long before Jane and her crew would be tested again. The question was, would they be up for it?