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Attack on Installation 06, part 16
Posted By: Jake Trommer<wedgefan@comcast.net>
Date: 2 January 2009, 1:32 am

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Attack on Installation 06
Chapter 13
1630 Hours, July 09, 2553 (Military Calendar)
Tharidanis System, Installation 06

      The Sangheili-made CCS-class cruiser, like a purple knife, plunged into the hull of the rebel Assault Carrier. The enemy ship's armor plating simply cracked and buckled to accommodate the foreign object, and for a few seconds it seemed as if she would go on fighting.
      Then a malevolent purple light shone from the inside of the CCS. It pulsed for several seconds, and then the cruiser vanished in a blaze of flourescent blue fire.
      On the bridge of the Shadow of Intent, Fleet Master Rtas 'Vadum swivelled to face the Sangheili sensor officer. "Sensors, report! Has our foe been vanquished?"
      The other scanned his console for several seconds, then looked up. "Enemy Assault Carrier is still intact, Fleet Master! She's had all shields and weapons on the port side knocked out, but she just sent another salvo our way!"
      Admiral Brett Harsoth, his emaciated body hunched over the tactical board, swivelled to flace 'Vadum. "Fleet Master, that gambit was our last hope."
      'Vadum's mandibles compressed. "No. No it was not." The silver-armored Sangheili swivelled to face the alien manning the communications station. "Comms, signal the fleet. Prepare for the 'Zamamee Pincer."
      Fleet Admiral Terrence Hood, immaculately groomed brows furrowed, stepped forward. "Fleet Master, care to tell us what that means?"
      'Vadum shook his head. "Not this time. Just watch the tactical board."
      The two Admirals exchanged worried glances, but did as the Fleet Master bade.
      The Fleet of Retribution had split up into an enveloping formation, pouring plasma fire at the enemy cruisers. The sensor officer let out a cry. "Fleet Master! One of their CARs has been destroyed!"
      "Good! Continue with the attack!"
      The Sangheili ships continued to charge towards each other, plasma fire erupting from their hulls like blue lances. The Shadow of Intent hove up and about, maneuvering so she was above the vulnerable port side of the hostile Assault Carrier. Beneath the rebel flagship, one of 'Vadum's two surviving CARs were doing the same. The final CAR was still engaged in a standoff with her counterpart on the rebel side.
      Shadow of Intent's bridge was a hive of activity. "Fleet Master!" shouted the comms officer. "Fleet signals ready to begin the Pincer!"
      "Fleet Master!" cried the shields officer. "Shields are down to fifty percent!"
      'Vadum wasted no time. "Begin the pincer! All batteries fire at will! Helm, roll us so damage is spread out across our hull!"
      The Shadow of Intent and her companion ship poured blue flame into the hostile Assault Carrier, punching huge holes in the rebel craft's hull.
      "Her shields are down, Fleet Master!" cried the Sensor officer.
      'Vadum let out a predatory laugh. "She's ours now. Maximum power to the batteries! Finish her off!"
      But 'Vadum's triumphant air proved premature: the sensor officer suddenly let out a bark. "New contacts, Fleet Master! Five CAR cruisers!"
      Harsoth and Hood looked at each other, mirroring each other with expressions of shock. There was no way that Shadow of Intent and her companion ships would make it out of that alive.
      At his command console, 'Vadum had actually frozen.
      "Fleet Master," began Harsoth, "we should---"
      "Signal to all ships," spat the Fleet Master, disgusted with what he knew he had to do.
      "What shall it say?" asked the communications officer.
      "Execute a slipspace jump. Get us out of here."


      Gunnery Sergeant Will Reynolds hefted his BR-55 battle rifle, dumped two bursts into the Grunt trying to get a bead on him, and swivelled back to face the Marines placing the explosives. "How we doing, Stafford?"
      The hatchet-faced Sergeant Jim Stafford, holed up with the rest of his squad in the rear of the octagonal room setting the charges that would hopefully destroy the pulse generator, shook his head. "Four minutes, Gunny!"
      Reynolds fired off another burst to ensure that any particularly bold Covie would keep their heads down. His forty-man platoon was down to thirty, with about five men wounded. Major Domo Usze 'Taham's Elites were on their way, but Reynolds hadn't heard from them in ages.
      The Gunny suddenly realized that the outgoing plasma fire had slackened to a halt. Something was up. Reynolds motioned for the the platoon to get against the wall bracketing the entrance way so the Covies couldn't see them. Reaching onto his tactical vest, Reynolds hefted the thermal imager he had taken from the dead Sergeant Casey Griego. Clicking it online, he prayed the Covies had had sense enough to retreat.
      No luck. On the thermal, two Elites rounded the corner of the corridor leading into the control room, clutching purple Covenant Carbines. Reynolds motioned to the two two-man teams bracketing the entrance to the generator room to stand ready.
      Each two-man team had one marine with a plasma pistol, the other with an M7 submachine gun. One soldier would disable the Elite's shields, the other would pump the alien full of hot caseless lead.
      The two rebel aliens approached the door, cautiously sniffing the air.
      Reynolds raised his hand, and the two teams flanking the door readied their weapons, charging the plasma pistols and loading the SMGs. Contrary to popular belief, Marines liked to make as little noise as possible when readying their weapons; the metallic click could alert unaware enemies, and besides, it was unprofessional.
      The two Elites entered the room, panning their weapons across the room.
      Reynolds chopped his hand down.
      Two green blobs leaped from the plasma pistols, slamming into the Elites. Blue light flared from the aliens' armor as their shields dropped. Then the SMGs blazed to life, and the Elites dropped.
      The Marines moved swiftly. The two Elite bodies were policed for their carbines and plasma grenades, and the door was once again blocked by a line of soldiers. Reynolds, massaging his temples in a futile attempt to ward off his perpetual low-grade migraine, shot a questioning glance at Sergeant Stafford. The hatchet-faced squad leader gave Reynolds a thumbs-up.
      Reynolds executed a beautiful double-take. "Seriously, Sergeant?"
      "Affirmative, Gunny," replied Stafford. "Charges are all set."
      Reynolds frantically thought of what could go wrong. "The EMP shielding?"
      "In place."
      "The detonators?"
      "Online and functioning."
      "Sure, Gunny."
      Reynolds swivelled to face his squad. "Charges are set, Marines! We are leaving!"
      The men warily diverted their attention from the entrance to the pulse generator. Reynolds continued: "Charges are in place, it's time for us to pull out. Sergeant Stafford, your squad takes point. Move it out, people."
      Moving in single file, the Marines departed the room. Reynolds, second from the front, was behind Sergeant Stafford. Grunt and Elite bodies were everywhere; there was no sign of the surviving Covenant that had attacked the Marines in the generator room.
      Stafford called a halt at a corner, and took out the thermal. When he stiffened, Reynolds knew that something was up. "Contact?"
      "Elites," replied Stafford. "Four of them. They look they're trying to avoid detection."
      Reynolds took the thermal from Stafford and peered down the scope. Four Elites, plasma rifles clutched in their hands, were advancing in a diamond formation down the corridor.
      "Doesn't look they know we're here," said Reyolds. "We'll just hit 'em hard. No need for subtlety. On my mark...go!"
      The Marines lunged around the corner, three-round bursts cracking from their BR-55s. The Elites took the rounds, but didn't return fire. One dropped as a burst pierced and armor.
      Reynolds was suddenly aware of a shouting blaring over the headset "Cease fire, dammit! Cease fire! We're friendlies, dammit!"
      By now, a second Elite had dropped. "Cease fire!" barked Reynolds. "Cease fire, goddammit! Medics, see to those Elites."
      "Gunny," said Stafford, "did we just..."
      "Yes," replied Reynolds. "We just shot the fuck out of 'Taham's men.


      Master Gunnery Sergeant Pete Stacker, standing behind the M41 LAAG of a Warthog, surveyed the Forerunner building.
      It was a grand structure, shaped like an upside-down U, blue lights glinting around the entrance.
      The color was fitting, considering the fact that Cortana might be inside.
      The towering Master Chief, battered green MJOLNIR armor glinting in the sunlight, stood in front of the door. "It's unlocked."
      "Roger that, Sir," said Stacker. The Gunny reached for his headset. "Hocus, you copy that?"
      "Copy," came the reply. "I'll stay on station. Call me if you need anything."
      "Will do," replied Stacker. For a second, as he had so many times since the Ark, Stacker fervently wished that Avery was here. He'd been one of the best Marines Stacker had worked with...and Stacker knew he'd do everything to get Cortana back. For despite Stacker's assistance to the Chief on most of the Spartan's campaigns, it'd been Avery he'd bonded with, Avery he'd let into a select circle of those that he considered to be comrades-in-arms, and not simply another green-armored piece of cannon fodder. Stacker simply didn't have Avery's attachment to the blue-colored AI.
      The Chief's iron-hard rasp interrupted his thoughts. "Gunny. Get the Marines ready."
      "Will do," repeated Stacker. "Dubbo! Get the platoon ready!"
      Corporal Chips Dubbo, one of the three surviving veterans of Installation 04 nodded. "Platoon! Stand to!"
      Twenty of the thirty Marines, minus the ones manning the Warthog guns guarding the entrance, lined up in front of the entrance.
      Stacker hopped off the chaingun and jogged up to the Chief. "Twenty Marines, ready to roll, Sir."
      The Chief's only response was to open the facility's door.
      There was a simaltaneous click as the Marines all flicked the safeties off of their weapons.
      Four Sentinels floated out of the door. Stacker cast a glance at the Chief. The Spartan was gripping his rifle hard enough to crimp the metal.
      The Sentinels didn't fire.
      "Let's go," said the Chief.
      Stacker turned to face the platoon. "Let's roll."
      The Marines advanced into the facility. As soon as the last one was in, Hocus's voice crackled over Stacker's headset. "Gunny, I'm reading a major power sur---"
      The Pelican pilot's voice cut off as the massive door into the facility slammed shut.
      Stacker swivelled to face the retrieval platoon. "Third squad, guard that door! Second Squad, First Squad, stand ready."
      The third squad moved to defensive positions in front of the door, hefting their BR-55s in anticipation of a Covenant assault.
      "Gunny," said Dubbo, nodding at the Sentinels, "what about them?"
      "Fear not," replied one of the Sentinels, "we will not harm you, Reclaimers."
      Stacker blinked. He'd served on three Forerunner constructs, and not once had the Sentinels uttered a word.
      The Chief evidently had the same thoughts. "You can talk?"
      "We are a special model," replied the same Sentinel.
      "Can you tell me where Cortana is?"
      The machine paused. "We can take you there."
      "Do it," said the Cheif.
      "Follow us, Reclaimer," replied the spokes-Sentinel.
      The flying robots moved off, the Chief following in their wake.
      Stacker looked at the Marines. "Once more into the breach, gents. Let's move."