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Chapter III:
Posted By: J-117<gjm_25@yahoo.com>
Date: 25 May 2007, 3:51 am

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Chapter III: "Hell on Earth"

1245 Hours, October 20, 2552 (Military Calendar)
Sol System, New Mombassa, Earth

The wave of relentless energy continued its seemingly slow push towards the Pelicans, when it was actually gaining on them every passing second. Crew Chief Mitch Kiplern saw the blinding white wave coming towards them at an alarming rate.

"Jack, go faster, it's gaining on us!" he said, a tremble in his voice. The pilot named Jack had a look of frustration on his face at his outburst.

"Shut the hell up, Mitch! I'm going as fast as I can!" Jack shouted, sweat pouring off his forehead. "C'mon baby, don't fail me now…" he said, pushing the throttle to the max. He looked to his side, and saw the wave nearly on his tail, enveloping everything in its path. He clenched his teeth as he prayed to whatever deity existed that it would get him out of this. He took a second look and saw that it was going to get him. He closed his eyes, waiting for the wave to destroy him, and when nothing happened, he opened his eyes. He looked outside. The wave was gone.

"Thank God, Buddha, and Christ for that!" said Mitch, patting Jack on the back with a smile on his face.

"Yea, this baby hasn't failed me yet" Jack said with a grin and a hearty laugh. A burst of static occurred on the intercom in the pilot's cabin.

"Thought we were goners there, thanks flyboys." It was Kharkenov in the Troop bay.

"Us too Sergeant" replied Mitch. Vladimir shut off the intercom and stood there standing, thinking. He looked behind him and saw the ramp release lever. He walked over to it and pulled it down, letting the door open; he did not know why he did it. The ramp steadily deployed and everyone in the bay gasped at what they saw.

What was once Mombassa was now nothing more then a smoking crater. There was nothing left, just an empty desert plain with pieces of the Space Elevator still falling down into the surrounding countryside.

"Oh my god…" muttered John Mueller. The door separating the pilot's cabin from the troop bay slid open. Mitch stepped out.

"Thought we detected the—Jesus Christ!" he said as he slammed his hand onto his forehead, surveying the destruction before him. Kharkenov stared blankly into the air for several moments then closed the ramp. He turned around, facing Mitch.

"How many did we lose?" said Vladimir coldly. Mitch thought about it for a second.

"Well Mombassa was a city of five million and knowing Standard Evacuation Procedure, and the number of homeless and those who wouldn't be able to catch the boats… 150,000" he said, the number slowly registering in his mind. "Damnit" he said, his head looking down at the floor. Vladimir nodded in understanding.

"You just get us where we're supposed to go Crew Chief, we'll handle everything else" said Vladimir. Mitch nodded and closed the door. First squad's com's crackled on. It was Strayer.

"Got new orders men, listen up. Another Covenant Assault Carrier has just penetrated our defenses and is heading towards Kenya. We've got reports that they're already releasing drop pods and Phantoms towards the place where the refugees are headed: Zanzibar Island. Our regiment has been given the task of defending the civilians until we can be relieved. Zanzibar houses forty-nine large power generators that provide power to the Island. These are critical because we have established batteries of SAM's that will prevent the Covies from getting to the civilians. We only have enough men to have one squad secure each of the generators while the rest of the regiment defends the refugee camps. I'm uploading deployment orders to each squad separately. I wish you the best of luck Helljumpers, Strayer out."

Vladimir guessed that since the rest of the Battalion was gone along with casualties from the other parts of the Regiment, they would only have eight hundred plus men to defend the large island. Orders appeared on his HUD along with specs on Zanzibar. The island was large indeed, over sixteen hundred square kilometers. There would enough space for the refugees along with the power stations. However it was a ridiculously large area for eight hundred to cover. Deployment orders then appeared. First squad was going to Wind Power Station Seven, also known as 'Camp Froman.' He looked at several aerial shots of the area as well. It was walled off on three sides and was on the beach. Behind the short stretch of beach was a large rock wall, and it looked like steps had been carved into it. Behind that was the large propeller which turned the turbine in order to supply energy, on its right was a tower that would serve as a nice lookout position, to its left was a maintenance shack of sorts, and two ramps leading to the top of it. There was a bridge that connected the lookout tower to the open second floor of the propeller. Behind the propeller was the station itself, housing the turbines and the controls for them. It would be a fairly large area for them to cover.

The Pelican arrived at their destination shortly. The ODST's were dropped off in a small field to the right of the station, near the main gate. Vladimir knew that there was not that much time left before enemy forces dropped in.

"Wahlen, I want First team forward in that tower, and along the propeller. You're going to be our eyes and ears. Second and Third teams, set up shop in the station. Second will have top floor, Third will get the bottom. Be sure to secure all entrances, from the looks of it, we have at eight possible entry points. Clear?" ordered Vladimir. The squad nodded, and they split apart.

Mark split his men as best as he could. He sent John to the second story of the tower, allowing him a vantage lookout position of the seawall and most of the beach. He sent his other two men to wait behind the bottom of propeller and the shack, covering each other and also allowing themselves a good view of a hole in the right part of the seawall and the seawall itself. Finally, Mark camped on the second floor of the propeller with Vladimir. There were some walls, offering cover, and behind them was a two-meter jump to the second floor of the station, should they need to fall back quickly. "Ready" said Mark.

Inside the station, the other teams were setting up their own defensive positions. Third team had one man each covering the left and right forward entrances, which another covering the at the moment closed gate from the cover of one of the central pillars in the station. Max set himself in a niche right next to the bottom of the stairwell, which also allowed him to cover all three entrances as well. Second team set themselves accordingly as well, with one man covering the left and right second floor side entrances, and another man covering the open forward entrance. Bryce placed himself within a small doorway to the right of forward entrance, also allowing him to view the other entrance points on the second floor. "Ready" said Bryce and Max. Vladimir acknowledged, and waited patiently for the Covenant to arrive.

He did not have to wait long, as he soon saw the small outline of a Covenant ship descending through the atmosphere, and as it went past them, out of range of the SAM's, he increased the magnification of his HUD. He could see small details of the ship now but saw a fleet of dots leaving the ship. He was soon able to discern that they were drop pods, as he had already guessed previously. He frowned inside his helmet. Drop pods were harder to hit with the SAM's, since they left a smaller heat signature.

"Looks like we got Covenant on the way, they're using drop pods, so expect a lot more of them" said Vladimir. He got 'roger's from his squad mates. He continued to track the pods from his position and noticed that they were splitting apart in groups of twenty-five. By the looks of the number of groups, Vladimir estimated about twelve to fifteen hundred drop pods were being descending towards Zanzibar. At first it seemed to Vladimir that the Covenant were over-investing their resources to attack this large island, but then as the Covenant Assault Carrier, which was over five kilometers long and nearly a kilometer wide allowing for twenty-thousand plus Covenant to occupy its thousands of compartments, passed overhead, he realized that there was much more to this piece of dirt then he originally thought. The mere thought however, of such masses of Covenant almost made Vladimir shiver. He refocused his attention to the pods and saw that other groups were already hitting their destinations on other parts of the island.

"Incoming!" shouted John as group of drop pods landed on the beach. Their hatches exploded outward. John felt a lump in his throat when he saw their contents: twenty-five heavily armed black-armored Elites.

"Sir, we got a problem. We got spec-ops Elites here" said John. Vladimir mentally swore at the mention of spec-ops. These Elites were highly experienced and were a grand deal more intelligent then their blue-and-red-armored cousins. The squad had defeated such Elites before, but not without measurable difficulty. Vladimir was not naïve and knew that this next battle would be a hard one indeed.

"Alright men, we got twenty-five experienced Elites that do not mess around, so do not underestimate their capabilities. We have been in this situation before however, outnumbered and outgunned, but we're ODST's damnit, so we are not going down without a fight." Vladimir received 'Hoo-rah's with that remark. "The key to victory will be surprise, so do not fire until my mark." He got acknowledgements from the squad.

"Looks like they're on the seawall and also going through the hole in the 'wall as well" reported John. He leaned his head slightly out of the tower, looking at the Elites below. They were covering each other's advances and ran quietly from cover to cover. The sight concerned John somewhat. He then looked below at the passageway next to the tower as the Elites proceeded cautiously below him. Luckily, none of the Elites had thought to go up to the second floor. John quietly shouldered his BR and waited for the signal. Vladimir did not give it however, waiting patiently for the Elites to get as close to the station as possible.

An Elite's roar was heard and Mark and Vladimir turned to their left, towards the shack as an spec-ops Elite found the other half of first team.

"Shit! They've been made! First team, fall back to the station!" ordered Vladimir quickly. Mark attempted to cover first team's retreat with his Sniper. He fired once, instantly killing an Elite with an expertly placed headshot. But the damage was already done, and the Elites moved forward with stride and fired on Mark and Vladimir's position. Another Elite was killed as a small group pursued the two members of first fireteam, but the wall of plasma fire hit the ODST's mid-stride, and they collapsed. The two fired back as valiantly as they could, but soon died as rounds of plasma burned through the Helljumpers armor and their skin, liquefying their internal organs.

"No!" Mark shouted angrily, almost leaping off the second floor of the propeller when Vladimir grabbed his armor and threw him down.

"There's nothing we can do! Haul ass back to station!" ordered Vladimir. Mark rose bitterly, angry at his squad leader, but knew that he was right. He ran and leapt the distance between the propeller and the station and landed on the balcony of the station. He ran inside.

Plasma rounds whipped past Vladimir's face for the thousandth time as he covered John's retreat. The Elites were focused on Vladimir, as John leapt out of his perch, landed on the back of an Elite, knocking it out, rolled, got up, and ran without missing a beat. John fired a few stray shots as he made it back to the station without any injuries.

By now the Elite's combined fire had effectively pinned Vladimir down. He swore as he fired several shots to no effect. He could not get up and run to get the necessary speed to jump the gap. The fire intensified as several Elites found their way up to the second level of the tower and were proceeding towards Vladimir.

"Goddamnit!" he shouted, firing to no effect. Mark, inside the station, looked at his Sergeant and felt anger.

"I got to save him before he's killed!" He was in the motion of getting up when Bryce pulled him down.

"Are you insane? You'll be fried before you know it!" said Bryce, holding Mark down.

"Goddamnit Bryce! If we don't do anything he's done for!" replied Mark, angrily ripping Bryce's hand off of his shoulder.

"I'm sorry Mark, but we need to finish the mission!" said Bryce simply.

"Listen to Bryce Corporal, leave me and finish the mission." Vladimir said calmly. Mark swore under his breath and acknowledged.

Downstairs, PFC Spencer Wilson listened to the exchange above and gritted his teeth. No way in hell was Sarge going to go down like this. Not if he could help it. Suddenly, he felt a new warmth boil inside his chest, a sense of duty. He left his position and ran up the stairs, ignoring the screaming pain in his leg. He rounded the first flight and flew up the second, running between Mark and Bryce. Both ODST's stared in amazement as the fearless Helljumper ran and jumped the gap, plasma fire ensuing all around him.

Time slowed as Spencer grabbed Vladimir and hauled him up onto his feet, grabbing his armor, and using his body as a shield as he literally threw Vladimir over the gap with one hand; the other holding down the trigger on his SMG. Vladimir hit the ground hard and ran inside turning back, reaching for his squad mate.

"Nooo!" Vladimir shouted, as Bryce and Mark pulled him down, they all watched Spencer as he just stood there, firing as the Spec-Ops Elites below. But it was of no use, as his armor was sprayed with round upon round of Plasma. His body danced as Spencer succumbed to the acidic heat, knowing he was dying, but content with his final actions. Behind his helmet, he smiled, and collapsed as blackness consumed him.

"Son of a bitch!" said Vladimir desperately. Three men were dead because of this SNAFU. His thoughts were interrupted by someone shouting 'they're coming!' along with a Plasma grenade a second later. He could not hear his words but they sounded to him like 'get ready!' as he moved towards the entranceway.

The grenade exploded, sending a wave of heat washing over the ODST assigned to protect that door. A second explosion confirmed a multi-directional attack. The concussion from the explosion threw Vladimir back; he got back up just in time to see Elites move through the door, firing on his men.

Angry beyond all reason, Vladimir leapt to his feet, running towards the Elite, and using the butt of his rifle, he smashed its shield. The Elite momentarily stunned that a Human could do such a thing roared as it brought its Plasma Rifle down onto Vladimir. Vladimir dodged to the left and came back up, hitting the Elite again in the head. He heard a short whine as its shield failed, and Vladimir brought his rifle to bear. The Elite turned its head, facing the muzzle of the rifle, as it erupted with a burst. The bullets caught the Elite's hole for a mouth and exited out the back of its head, showering its companions with purple-blooded chunks of matter.

A second Elite roared and was about to fire on Vladimir, when its head exploded as well, a contrail of smoke falling back to Mark's Sniper Rifle. Vladimir fell back as more Elites popped in through the entrance. Bryce threw a grenade into the entrance, which exploded a short time later to the dismay of several Elites. The blast did not kill them however, but it was all Bryce needed, as his rifle erupted and several shield-less Elites fell.

Plasma rounds erupted over the trio's heads however; as they turned to see that the two Elites from the tower had reached their destination at Vladimir's old position. They were firing from behind cover, and then advancing slowly. The ODST's exchanged several rounds but watched as two Plasma Grenades flew in an arc towards them. The ODST's jumped out of the way as the grenades exploded. Mark got back to see that the Elites were jumping the gap towards them.

Mark raised his rifle and fired prematurely, but watched with glee as a rather large hole appeared in the midsection of one Elite, killing it instantly. Its comrade turned shortly, seeing his dead brethren and charged Mark. His finger was about to pull the trigger when the Elite dove into Mark, slamming him against a wall. The force of the impact was so great that the Rifle left Mark's hands. The Elite raised one clawed hand, preparing to strike when Bryce grabbed its shielded arm. The Elite, annoyed and pissed, shook his arm and threw Bryce off of it, slamming him into a wall of his own. Vladimir fired on the Elite, but to no avail as the Elite got up from its prize and grabbed Vladimir's head, throwing him off into another wall. The Elite turned around and faced a now-standing Mark, Sniper Rifle in hand. The Elite looked at the rifle and roared. Its battle-lust was cut short as the 14.5 mm round that fired ripped through its shield and through its midsection. The round itself pulled what the remained of the Elite into a wall, splattering itself with a chorus of cracks as bones broke from the impact.

"No dirty ass Covie lays its hands on me." Mark said. Vladimir and Bryce got up, both with what amounted to large headaches and witnessed the chaos in the station around them. John and PFC Andrew Wilson were locked in a status of close-quarters combat with the Elites that had entered via the second-floor ramp next to the Gate of the station. Andrew and Bryce were the remaining members of second team after the other two were killed in the first explosions. Downstairs, Third team with its remaining three members were pinned down within multiple fields of fire. Max was struggling to hold his position, but flanking Covenant from the second floor compromised all possible escapes. He leaned out of his cover to fire several bursts at an Elite behind a pillar. The Elite leaned out of its cover to return fire in kind.

"Damnit, we need reinforcements!" Max said, fire ensuing from multiple directions. The rest of his team was behind pillars, dealing with the Elites on the ramps leading to the ground floor as Max had to deal with two Elites taking cover behind pillars of their own.

"Mark, Bryce, help John and Andrew deal with those Elites coming up through those outside ramps. If we contain stop the flow of reinforcements, Third team is doomed. I'll provide support for Third. Now move!" ordered Vladimir as he moved back around the corridor towards the entrance leading to the tower, and then turning a sharp left down a short corridor, leading to an opposite ramp going down onto the ground floor. From behind cover he threw a grenade over towards the opposite pillars where two Elites were firing at the retreating but pinned Third team. The grenade landed right behind the Elites and bounced, detonating a meter off the ground. Howls were heard in the station as shrapnel buried itself into their legs. One Elite dropped from the perforations and wounds while another merely collapsed, crippled.

Vladimir leaned out again from behind his cover and fired twice, killing both Elites. He looked through the scope of his Battle Rifle to found several Elites with Carbines and Plasma Rifles advancing down the ramp opposite to his position. The Elites were firing at Max, slowly chipping away his cover.

"Aw, to hell with this!" he shouted, as he spun around to the opposite column, directly below Vladimir's position. He poked his SMG around the corner and blindfired at the Elites. Vladimir leaned out once more, and fired at the Elites, catching them in a crossfire. Two Elites fell instantly, while a third Elite, armed with a Carbine, fired back at Vladimir, forcing him to take cover. The Elite then jumped and took cover at Max's pillar, landing opposite his position. It then leaned out from its cover and rolled beyond Max's position, jumping up not two inches from Max's face. It roared, attempting to scare Max. Max, unwilling to let a mere Elite face him down, yelled back with a battle cry and shoved his SMG into its mouth beyond the four jaws, and depressed the trigger. Its grey matter splattered the wall several meters behind it.

Meanwhile, at John's position over the front gate, the four ODST's there were exchanging fire with the last Elites, which were using nearby rocks as cover. Bryce leaned out of cover and fired at a large rock sheltering an Elite. The rounds of his Battle Rifle missed the Elite as it once more ducked behind its cover. Bryce ducked behind his cover as the Elite fired potshots at him with its Carbine. The telltale green rods flew past his position and hit the wall behind him.

"This won't last forever, one of us will eventually run out of ammo" Bryce remarked, growing increasing annoyed at his present position. To his left, John felt a spark in his mind.

"I got an idea. Just cover me" said John. Before the rest of the ODST's could reply, John ran to the ramp next to the gate, and ran down it, carrying his BR in his arms.

"Aw hell, cover fire!" said Mark, as he unloaded his sniper at the rocks, along with Bryce and Andrew, as they pinned the Elites down; John sprinted across the fifteen meters of open ground, hitting one of the rocks that an Elite was covering behind with his shoulder. He ignored the pain as his chucked his few remaining grenades over the rocks. The Elites on the other side grunted in surprise and dove out of the rocks as the grenades exploded, missing them all. John smiled. They fell for it. Now exposed in the open, John, Mark, Bryce, and Andrew fired upon the Elites, killing them before they had a chance to return fire.

"Is it clear?" asked Mark. John looked around the rocks for a sign of any more enemies. There were none. He acknowledged. Mark opened his com. "Sir, this is Wahlen, we're clear."

"We're clear too" replied Max and Bryce. Vladimir acknowledged. His com beeped, indicating a call on another channel. He switched it from TEAMCOM to COMPCOM once more.

"Sergeant, it's Sink. Listen, we're pulling you and your men out ASAP. We got breaches in the refugee camps." Vladimir mentally swore. This was bad news. "Furthermore, and this is classified son, ONI has requested ODST's to help secure its installation on the island." Vladimir pondered this. Whatever was at the base must have been pretty damn important to send entire legions of Elite Spec Ops onto the island. "Your mission Sergeant, is to protect the labs of the base from being breached at all costs. We're sending evac off to you as we speak."

"Sir, I got men here who are in critical need of medical attention" Vladimir replied, thinking about the casualties his men suffered.

"We're sending medevac as well but this mission takes priority son, the contents of those labs are absolutely vital to the war effort and we you to protect them from Covenant hands. Are we clear?" said Sink, not bothering to expand upon what these mysterious contents were.

After a moments hesitation, Vladimir replied: "Yes Sir." The com clicked off, ending the conversation. He keyed it once more back to TEAMCOM. "Status report" Vladimir simply said.

"First and Second Teams down to two each" replied Mark. "Third Team down to three" said Max. Vladimir acknowledged with a chin control and breathed slowly, taking it all in. In the past six hours he had lost five members of his squad. It was the first time his unit has suffered such tremendous casualties at such a fast rate. This war may have been hell on everyone, but this day was the Reckoning to Vladimir.

"Son of a bitch" he said. All of the remaining ODST's had assembled on the beach, waiting patiently and carrying the bodies of those ODST's who were still whole as the Pelicans arrived. A somber atmosphere had fallen upon them all. Everyone was in their own space, reflecting upon the past battle. Vladimir could feel the tension, the pressure, and its effect upon his men. He had to do something, to give them hope once more, that all was not lost.

"Listen men," Vladimir began, all of his men now looking at him, their leader. "Today's been one hell of a day, no doubt about that. I know we're all tired, and that we want to just go home and leave the fighting to some other young punks. But we soldier on, for we're not just Marines, we're the ODST's, and no matter what, we will not stop until every single one of our brothers and sisters have been avenged for." They all continued to look at him behind visored helmets but Vladimir knew a grin was upon all of their lips. "All I ask of you men, is one more battle, one more fight, one more round with these Covenant bastards." They all nodded with Vladimir.

"Amen to that" said Bryce.

"I still not up to my quota on kills" remarked Max.

"We're with you to the end sir" replied Mark. They all nodded with Vladimir once more, and one by one, with nothing left to be said, the remaining ODST's got onto the Pelican while their dead brethren were put into the Medevac. The Pelican lifted up into the air and flew across the island at an altitude of twenty meters.

"We are we headed Chief?" asked Vladimir to the Chief who was in the open doorway to the cockpit.

"Refugee Camp Alpha; it's up on a plateau about twenty kilometers from here, and several kilometers inland. It's bad over there Sergeant. Some of the power generators fell, which allowed a big enough hole in the SAM defense grid to allow Phantoms to drop in regular Covenant along with those damn Spec Ops Elites." Vladimir just nodded in reply and went back to his wandering thoughts. There must be something really damn important in those labs to commit nearly an entire Carrier's worth of troops to it. Then again, there were nearly two million refugees from Mombassa on Zanzibar.

Several minutes later, the sounds of battle could be heard in the cabin. The familiar cracks of Battle Rifles, along with the static fuzz of Plasma Rifles could be determined; that along with a plethora of explosions of all sorts.

"We're coming into a hot LZ Sergeant, so be ready for anything" remarked the Crew Chief.

"Alright then, Wilson, you're on the MG!" Vladimir ordered, as PFC Andrew Wilson leapt up from his seat and got on the M247 in rear of the cabin. In addition to this crew gun, the Pelican also sported a chin-mounted 70 mm MG as well. This would provide the ODST's with enough cover fire to get them deployed. As they passed over the boundaries of the camp, the distinctive blue bolts of plasma fire could be seen, along with the orange flash of muzzles. A few stray Covenant fired upon the lone Pelican as it flew towards the center of the camp. Screams of all natures were abundant in the chaotic air. A bolt flew into the cabin, narrowly missing Andrew's helmet.

"Son of a bitch!" he exclaimed as he cocked the bolt, and released the action of the M247. He pointed the gun down and let loose a torrential amount of hot lead upon the massacre below. The .30 caliber rounds descended, flying straight and true, into the hearts of the Covenant, as Elites, Grunts, and Jackals alike were slaughtered mercilessly with the might of Humanity's fury.

A Grunt's methane tank exploded as the M247 rounds hit it, causing the methane within to combust. A Jackal shrieked with its avian call as blue flames enveloped its fragile frame. It fell to the continuous wave of heat, devouring its life.

The Pelican lowered as the chin-mounted gun chimed into the destruction. With the immediate landing area cleared, the ODST's got out of the cabin, and landed in a crouched position, weapons at the ready. There was no immediate cover except for stray craters. There were some tin shacks along with other prefab structures, but most were just rubble or slag due to the incursion of the Covenant. Vladimir looked right, where a nav point on his HUD pointed, and thirty meters away was a large lone duracrete structure, still standing despite the chaotic surroundings.

"Move out!" ordered Vladimir, as the ODST's hoofed it towards the structure. About ten meters out, green plasma flew at the Helljumpers. "Get down!" said Vladimir, as he located the source of fire. A lone Plasma turret was set up some fifty meters from their position, pinning them down. "Wahlen!" Vladimir said.

"Already on it sir! Give me covering fire!" Mark ordered as ran towards a meter-high wall. He got to the wall and rolled over it, using it as cover from the Plasma turret. The Helljumpers proceeded to fire back upon the turret, refocusing its fire upon them. That one second was all Mark needed, as he leaned over the wall, his eye looking through his scope, the reticule upon a Grunts head. He fired. The armor-piercing round took the Grunt's head clean off, along with nearly half its body as well. "Clear!" Mark said.

The ODST's got to the building, only to find a molten door. Inside, there were the remnants of a lobby, with a tattered receptionist's desk, a few overturned chairs, and another door leading to a long hallway in the back.

"They're inside" said John, stating what everyone already knew.

"Tactical formation Alpha men" ordered Vladimir, as the ODST's went inside slowly, grouped in two diamonds of four. There was blood everybody, along with several bodies.

"Jesus…They didn't stand a chance" said Max, surveying the carnage around him. There were no other doors in the lobby except for the one in the back. The Helljumpers proceeded to the broken sliding doors, cracked and pockmarked with the tall tale burns of plasma. They passed through the doorway; the hallway was long, with several doors on either side. The lights were damaged and some were flickering, creating a strobe-like effect. Vladimir could not help but have a bad feeling about this place, something that went beyond the usual clandestineness of the Office of Naval Intelligence. He guessed his men were feeling similar, as some of them had a twitch periodically, most likely from the creepy atmosphere.

They proceeded down the hallway, covering some twenty meters when they got to a T-shaped fork. The NAV point went to the left on Vladimir's HUD. He motioned his men to follow him. They took a right at another intersection soon after, coming to an open elevator shaft. Vladimir looked down, and the elevator was still down there at the bottom, thirty meters down.

"I'm guessing the Covies took the elevator down to the lower levels, if we recall it, they must be waiting to ambush us down there. So we're going to have to rope down" explained Vladimir, taking a few steps back, then running and jumping. He grabbed the rope in the middle of the shaft, and roped down towards the top of the car. He waited as men did the same. When all eight were assembled on the car, Vladimir opened the top hatch and dropped down, rolling upon landing to his right, and in a crouched position.

The door was still closed, so Vladimir had Bryce and Andrew opened it with their hands. Grabbing the edges, they pulled the doors to the sides, revealing another half-lit hallway, beyond it came the sounds of battle. The ODST's ran out, taking a left at a fork and another right soon after, coming upon the backs of Covenant forces firing at a hatch. The ODST's unleashed fire upon the Elites and Grunts instantly, catching their enemies in surprise. The battle was shortly over, the Covenant not even having a chance to fire back.

The Helljumpers stood in front of the hatch, rifles at the ready. Vladimir tried to turn the wheel on the hatch. It would not budge. He got an idea. He gathered a few of the fallen Plasma grenades off of the dead Covenant, placing them at several key points around the hatch.

"Get back" warned Vladimir, as his men did as they were told. Vladimir took his BR, aimed at a grenade and fired. The bullets caused a chain reaction, exploding the grenades. The combined effect of the grenades ate through the hatch, eating its hinges as well. The thick hatch fell with a large thud. There was a loud bang, and a round passed by Vladimir's head.

"Cease fire! Cease Fire! Friendlies comin' through!" Vladimir shouted, as he and his men went through the hatch. They were at the labs. There were tables everywhere, and work stations were on every wall. In the center of the room lay a small holographic projector, where various alien signs cycled through the air. There were several men in lab coats around the room. There was one man however, in a military uniform with the oak leaves of Major upon his collar, behind an overturned table, holding a smoking M6B Magnum.

"It's about time you showed up, we were wondering when reinforcements would arrive" said the Major.
"Sir, we're from the 105th. We're here to evac you and whatever sensitive cargo you might have" said Vladimir, nodding towards the holographic projector.

"Evacuate? But we still need to finish uploading the data!" cried out one of the scientists.

"We need to move now. The Covenant had thoroughly incurred upon the camp above, and it's only a matter of time before they control it completely" insisted Vladimir.

"He's right Rykov, we need to leave this base with the package" said the Major to the scientist, who had gathered the projector and clutched it tightly to his chest. The scientist named Rykov had a look of defeat upon his face, but nodded all the same. They all proceeded out, back through the hallways and into the elevator. Luckily the power in the elevator still worked and they proceeded back the way they came, through the hallways, and into the lobby without incident. They were halfway through the lobby when Vladimir stopped the Major.

"Wait" Vladimir said, stopping the Major with his hand. "Five of my men died today to rescue you and that object, the least you can do is explain just what that is" he said, pointing to the projector in Rykov's hand.

"I don't have time for this. Move out of the way Sergeant" demanded the Major, but Vladimir did not budge.

"Bullshit, I am not moving until you tell me what my men died for" insisted Vladimir. The Major was surprised, along with everyone else, at this clear insubordination.

"It's not within your security clearance, so step aside Sergeant" ordered the Major. Vladimir did not budge.

"I will not until I know" stated Vladimir simply, unwavering in his tone. The Major took a deep breath and let it out, a scowl upon his face.

"Fine. Some months ago we did a routine scanning on the planet surface, when we noticed some strange magnetic anomalies several kilometers in a mountain several kilometers outside of Mombassa. We decided to investigate, setting up a dig under the guise of an archeological project. After digging into the mountain for three months, we found a large cavern, along with several strange structures in there. Within one, we find this" he said, looking at the projector. We haven't been able to decode the symbols because we found that they were not Covenant, rather they were something that predated the Covenant. It was not until the Master Chief returned from Halo that we were able to decrypt the symbols." He said. The Spartan's campaign on Halo was public knowledge throughout the militaries of the UNSC. The Major took a breath and started once more.

"These symbols were Forerunner, and we found that the symbols were actually a map. A map leading to a structure known simply as the 'Ark.' This structure not only had a library of Forerunner knowledge, but also had the ability to set off the Halos, thereby killing all life in the galaxy. We finished decrypting it five days ago, and since had crews trying to find the Ark ever since. Then the Covenant showed up six hours ago." He said.

"There are more Halos?" inquired Vladimir. He had only heard about the one where the Master Chief was on.

"Yes there are, seven to be exact. Now if you'll excuse me, I would like to leave this place before containment protocol is enacted."

"What do you mean?" asked Vladimir.

"There's still sensitive databanks in the labs that were not purged. If the Covenant gets their hands on it, it would spell disaster for us. So I rigged the core to explode with the force of a large nuclear bomb" said the Major, annoying by this soldier in his way.

"If the core detonates, this camp and the surrounding area will go with it. Hell, the fallout will spread to the rest of the island" said Vladimir.

"And?" retorted the Major.

"Millions of innocents are going to die! Don't you give a damn about human life?!" argued Vladimir.

"If millions must die so that our secrets are not discovered, so that the Covenant can't find the location of the Ark, then so be it" the Major said, with cold eyes piercing Vladimir's soul. Vladimir stood silent, as the Major went to the side and proceeded towards the door outside.

"Sir-"started Mark.

"No" whispered Vladimir.

"Sir-" began Bryce.

"No!" shouted Vladimir, as he pulled his M6B Magnum was his thigh holster and pointed it at the retreating Major's head. "I will not let you slaughter these people." The Major turned back to face the Sergeant, furious at him now.

"Are you out of your mind, Marine? Put that firearm down!" ordered the Major.

"I swore an oath to defend the lives of all human beings, civilian or otherwise. My duty cannot allow you to commit this heinous act" said Vladimir, still pointing the weapon at the Major's head.

"What are you going to do Sergeant, fire? Even if you do, there's no time to go down to the core and disarm it. The destruction of this base and this camp is inevitable, so you might as well stop your little mutiny." The Major turned and walked away, out the front door. Vladimir's pistol wavered in his hand. He dropped the Major's head from his sights.

"Damnit" Vladimir said.

"He's right sir, there's nothing we can do" stated Bryce calmly.

"I know, but such loss is unacceptable in my eyes, and dishonorable in the eyes of the Corps…I am condemning these people to their deaths" said Vladimir, melancholy at this sudden turn of events. The men simply exited the base, where a Pelican was waiting for them, their mission complete. Their work for this battle over; as the men were boarding, Vladimir took one last look around the Refugee camp, shaking his head at what was to come. He got up onto the Pelican and sat down, the ramp closed and they proceeded off to some unknown destination.

As they flew over the ocean towards land once more, Vladimir looked out the viewport, hearing a loud boom, and witnessing an orange mushroom cloud appearing on the horizon…

To Be Continued…