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Attack on Installation 06, part 19
Posted By: Jake Trommer<wedgefan@comcast.net>
Date: 5 May 2009, 10:30 pm

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Attack on Installation 06
Chapter 19
1940 Hours, July 09, 2553 (Military Calendar)
Tharidanis System, Installation 06

      Warrant Officer Shilds, swearing under his breath, danced his fingers across his co-pilot's console. The IFF sensors were still blazing red, and the comm channels for Stacker's recovery team were still hissing with static.
      Fortunately, the channel used by the Warthog gunners standing overwatch for the facility was still active. Hocus was on the horn with them now: "I say again, Savior One, you have incoming. Unknown number of hostiles, but definitely a large one, over."
      The voice of Staff Sergeant Fred Henricks crackled back. "Copy, Hocus. We have eyes on approaching hostile forces. We're showing at least one Wraith and two Ghosts for armored support, plus lots of infantry. Can you offer us anything, over?"
      Hocus considered it. Her Pelican was of the newer variant, the D77H, and packed a chin-mounted rotary cannon and two missile pods, plus an HMG that could be mounted in the troop bay. "I won't be able to hold them off single-handedly, Staff Sergeant. But I think we can make their eyes water, over."
      "Copy, Hocus," repeated Henricks. "Has your robot buddy been able to get the team just inside on the horn, over?"
      Hocus fixed her visor on 16807 Repetant Instigator. "Well?"
      The Forerunner machine shook his head. "The protections my makers installed around that facility render me unable to contact your comrades via their com systems. However, I could send a Sentinel as a messenger."
      Shilds swivelled his chair away from his console to face the Monitor. "Do it. Now. Now now now."
      Repetant Instigator either ignored or took no notice of the Marine pilot's urgency. "Of course, reclaimer."
      The Warrant Officer looked at Hocus. "Those squid-heads sure know how to ruin a beautiful night, LT."
      Hocus shook her head. "Warrant Officer, make yourself useful and tell Sergeant Nomuri to set up the HMG in the troop bay."
      "Yes ma'am," came the diffident reply.
      "Hocus," came the voice of Staff Sergeant Henricks, "we've got a better visual on the incoming forces. That Wraith we spotted is a triple-A model, over."
      The Pelican jock restrained a curse. The red-plated anti-air variant of the Wraith tank had become the bane of UNSC pilots as the Covenant had pushed into the Inner Colonies, its six fuel rod cannons wreaking havoc against the Hornets and Pelicans that had gone up against them.
      "We copy," responded Hocus. "Just hold out as long as you can."
      "Will do," replied the Staff Sergeant, "Henricks out."


      Down below, the Staff Sergeant clicked off his helmet comm, and turned to look at the other nine Marines manning the chainguns. "Alright, ladies---"
      Lance Corporal Shelley Treif gave a small cough.
      Henricks actually blushed, no mean feat. "Sorry, Lance Corporal. Alright people, the Covies have decided to throw a party, and we are the lucky few chosen to come. Hocus'll be giving us air support, and she's working on getting us through to our pals on the other side of the door, but don't bank on it. If they start to overrun us, get off the chaingun, grab what gear you can, and run for the hills. Am I understood?"
      Nine voices chorused, "Yes Staff Sergeant!"
      Henricks snugged the stock of the LAAG mount against his shoulders. "Alright, then. Get ready."


      The blue-lit room was still and grim, occupied only by Master Gunnery Sergeant Pete Stacker, Corporal Chips Dubbo, and several Sentinels. And, of course, the Master Chief.
      The Spartan stood over the room's central blue-lit console, his posture hunched and nervous. Stacker hadn't realized that worry was a part of the Chief's emotional pantheon until now, but the Chief's haunting question of, "Cortana, can you hear me?" had convinced him otherwise.
      Blue and humming, the console made no reply.
      "Cortana?" the Chief repeated.
      The console's humming suddenly increased in pitch, and a hologram fizzled into existence, that of a woman. Had she been flesh and blood, she'd have been the target of any man within Stacker's unit---but none of the Gunny's men had a thing for AIs.
      It didn't take a genius to realize that this was Cortana.
      When the Chief next spoke, his voice sounded less tense, more relaxed somehow. "Cortana...thank God."
      The AI gave a wan smile. "It's good to see you again, Chief."
      It was all very heartwarming, Stacker supposed. Even the Gunny, hardened by his years of service against the Covenant, couldn't help but feel for the Chief. Even Corporal Dubbo, normally not one for crying, actually wiped what looked like a tear from his eye.
      Of course, that was when the first salvo from the triple-A Wraith slammed into the building.


      Hocus executed a slick sideslip to avoid running into the rounds from the triple-A Wraith streaking up at her from the ground. "Shilds! How're we doing?"
      From his seat at the Pelican's weapons station, the Warrant Officer shook his head. "Missile pods are empty, chaingun's at three-fourths ammo, and Nomuri's still almost full for the HMG."
      "Roger", replied Hocus, maneuvering the Pelican like it was a Longsword fighter rather than a dropship. "I'll set her up, you knock 'em down."
      Shilds twitched.
      Hocus rolled her eyes. Next time, she'd request a less hormonal co-pilot, although Shilds was competent enough. "Do your job, Warrant Officer."
      "Yes, LT."
      Hocus centered the anti-air Wraith in the Pelican's canopy, feeling the nose-mounted chaingun rattle as Shilds opened up. "Henricks? How you doing?"
      The Staff Sergeant's voice was barely coherent. "I've got two KIA and we're runnin' low on ammo! Has your robot got the door open yet?"
      The Pelican pilot looked at Repetant Instigator.
      The Monitor's blue eye gazed back. "I have my Sentinels moving to assist your troops, Reclaimer."
      "He's working on it!" Hocus shouted into her headset.
      "Copy," came the response. "Hocus, tell him to hurry, we can't---"
      The signal dissolved into static. "Shilds!" Hocus shouted. "Get Henricks back on the horn!"
      The Warrant Officer gave the chaingun a couple of seconds to cool down as he worked the comm system. "No signal, Hocus, he's gone!"
      Hocus swore. "Is anyone alive down there?"
      Shilds stared out the canopy. One Hog gunner stood her ground, gamely firing away at the oncoming Covenant forces. Another had jumped off his chaingun and was running for the hills, Covenant plasma fire streaking after him. As Shilds watched, a plasma volley pierced his back.
      "One left, LT!"
      "All right, I'm bringing us down to pick her up. Lightbulb, you'd better tell our pals in there to get ready."
      "Of course, Reclaimer."


      The Sentinel drifted up next to Pete Stacker and opened its mandibles. Once upon a time, that would've been a signal for the Gunny to hose the flying machine with 7.62 ammo, but now he held his fire.
      "My Monitor wishes to inform you that a Covenant attack is impending," said the Sentinel. "Your defenders outside the building have been killed. I suggest you alert those inside to prepare to repel attackers."
      The Master Chief, Cortana now slotted back into the MJOLNIR armor that served as her home, looked at Stacker. "Get Third Squad on the horn, Gunny. Let 'em know they've got company."
      "Aye aye Chief," replied Stacker, slapping a hand to his headset. "Sergeant? You got incoming."
      The voice of ODST Sergeant Adrian Shephard, a veteran of New Mombasa and Installation 05, came back, distorted by static. "Copy Gunny. We'll set the table."
      Stacker looked at the Chief. "Ready to move out, Sir."
      The Spartan looked back. Something about his posture seemed almost...happy. "Sure. Let's move, Stacker."


      Third Squad had been handpicked by Stacker for the retrieval, ODSTs and veterans of at least one Halo ring all. And none of them had been through more than their squad leader, Sergeant Adrian Shephard.
      Shephard wasn't a big man. In fact, he was decidedly average in stature, but he'd been leading from the front long enough to command the respect and loyalty of his men. During the action in New Mombasa, he'd been dropped late, and had spent most of his time searching for his squad. During that odyssey, something had happened to him that he refused to talk about. All anyone knew about it was that ONI had spirited him away, and it had been a long time before he had returned to duty.
      He didn't talk much; when it was, it was mostly to bark out orders, which he was doing now.
      "All right, Helljumpers, stack up! They'll be coming in force, so I want riflemen to protect our M-489 gunners; those SAWs will make or break this defense. Jackson?"
      Lance Corporal Harold Jackson, a man who spoke with an even thicker Southern US accent than Stacker and had a goatee to match, looked up from the charges he was setting. "Satchel charges in place, Sergeant," he said around the ever-present cigarette clutched in his mouth. "Soon as we need to fall back, we'll be able to delay the Covies. Ought to be able to give their first team a bit of a surprise as well."
      Shephard nodded. "Tower?"
      Corporal John Tower wiped his brow with the bandanna he kept tied around his head. "Machine-gun section is good to go, Sir."
      A scraping sound came from the direction of the door.
      "Get ready," said Shephard. "Here we go."
      The scraping sound intensified, increasing in pitch. A sudden burst of plasma fire sounded from outside.
      The door began to hiss open.
      "They've cut the lock!" said one of Shephard's helljumpers.
      The ODSTs racked the charging levers on their rifles. Dim alien outlines could be seen in the doorway.
      The same Helljumper let out another cry: "Here they come!"