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Attack on Installation 06, part 20
Posted By: Jake Trommer<wedgefan@comcast.net>
Date: 15 May 2009, 12:10 am

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Attack on Installation 06
Chapter 20
2050 Hours, July 09, 2553 (Military Calendar)
Tharidanis System, Installation 06

      Four alien silhouettes appeared in the doorway leading into the Forerunner facility. Short and stocky, it didn't take long for Sergeant Adrian Shephard to recognize them.
      Grunts, the Sergeant thought to himself. Probably just scouting ahead, not much of a threat.
      The rest of Third Squad, stacked up around the entrance ready to repel attackers, looked at their commanding NCO. Corporal John Tower, leader of the machine gun section, cocked his head questioningly.
      Shephard shook his head, Tower nodded, and swivelled his hefty frame to signal his gunners to stand by. Assured that his heavy weapons were ready, Shephard returned his attention to the attackers.
      The Grunts hadn't advanced. In fact, it seemed as if they had drawn and primed some kind of personal heavy weapon.
      Four green blobs emerged from the Grunts' weapons and rocketed into the entrance chamber, sending Helljumpers diving for cover.
      Grunts with Fuel Rod Guns, Shephard amended silently. Considerably more of a threat.
      That being established, Shephard burst into action, issuing orders whilst hosing the Grunts with battle rifle rounds: "Squad, return fire! Machine guns, keep 'em pinned down! Jackson, stand by with the charges!"
      The entrance chamber erupted with gunfire, mowing down the Grunts in a matter of seconds; purple blood splattered the wall, and one of the stocky aliens' methane tanks exploded in a blaze of blue flame.
      "Cease fire!" barked Shephard. "Conserve your ammo; they'll be back for more."
      The words had scarcely emerged from his mouth when four red-clad Elites, energy swords glowing, charged in through the door.
      Madness erupted. Two Helljumpers were skewered by the same Elite's sword, screaming their hearts out. One had a plasma grenade affix itself to his helmet; the ODST managed to get the bucket off and throw it away...right into the midst of a group of his buddies.
      Adding to the cacophony were the panicked cries of the men:
      "Hold the line!"
      "Second wave, second wave!"
      "Watch your left!"
      Shephard sprayed several bursts at the incoming aliens from his battle rifle, his voice cutting above the chaos. "Jackson, set off those charges! Everyone else, fall back!"
      "Yes Sir!" came the response from the southern-fried Lance Corporal, grinning through his goatee as he raised the detonator
      Shephard, running for his life, only heard the click. Then his helmet's buffers kicked in and muted the blast as a giant fist hit him in the back and hurled him forward.
      He didn't know how long he lay there on the ground hearing nothing but his labored breathing, but next thing Shephard knew, Corporal Tower was standing over him, his bandanna smeared with blood from a wound on his forehead.
      "Sergeant, we gotta go!"
      Shephard hauled himself to his feet. "Status?"
      "Six KIA, two wounded."
      Shephard winced. Half his squad was dead, with two more besides wounded. "All right," said the Sergeant. "Fall back and set up another defensive position...they'll be back for more."
      "Will do."
      "And tell Jackson to get more charges set; looks like that strategy worked pretty well."
      Tower's brown grime-smeared face grew grim. He silently motioned at an arm, a leg, and a head sticking out from under the debris. A cigarette, still smoking, was clutched in the corpse's mouth.
      Shephard winced. "All right, have anyone with demo experience set charges. Move fast; we don't have much time."


      Kilo 023, the sole remaining survivor of the Savior team of Warthogs onboard, executed an airborne pirouette and rocketed towards the Berlin.
      In the cockpit, Hocus glanced aft to look at Warrant Officer Dan Shilds. The Pelican co-pilot hadn't seen any combat prior to this, and she wanted to be sure he was holding up. "You OK, Warrant Officer?"
      Shilds's helmet was off and Hocus suddenly realized she'd never seen him without it. He had an average face, nothing remarkable, with dirty blonde hair and grim brown eyes. "They're all dead, LT."
      "Lance Corporal Treif made it."
      Shilds's face grew even more despondent. "But not the others...we failed them, LT."
      Hocus looked at the kid, and immediately reproached herself for thinking of her dependable co-pilot that way...but that's what he was. Shilds was barely out of his teens, had enlisted in the Marine Air Wing after high school, and had gone to Warrant Officer school after one year, so stellar was his track record. But that had been after the Covenant War, when humanity had needed all the officer it could get...Shilds hadn't had the baptism of fire she had.
      "Warrant Officer...Daniel...people die in war. One of my best friends made it through the entire war, then lost her life trying to save the Chief's ass on Halo. I remember Foehammer every day."
      Shilds gave Hocus a scornful look. "You expect me to listen to platitudes like that, LT? I know who Foehammer was; she's a legend in the Pelican community. But she didn't have anyone to save her; those Marines did. And that was us."
      Hocus blinked. "Shilds, I---"
      The Warrant Officer jammed his helmet on and swivelled to face his console. "Berlin's hailing us, LT. Putting her onscreen now."
      The bald head of UNSC Navy Lieutenant Freyyr burst into existence on the dropship's vid-comm screen. "Hocus, report. Is the Chief with you?"
      "Negative, negative. I'm here for reinforcements; the Chief and the retrieval team need help, they're trapped in some Forerunner facility. Is Gunny Reynolds there?"
      Freyyr shook his head. "No, he's in critical condition. He had an aneurysm from over use of his neural implant. There's no way in hell he'll be able to help you."
      Hocus swore. "Dammit, Lieutenant, the Chief and Gunny Stacker could be dying out there, and you---"
      "I didn't say I wouldn't be giving you any reinforcements," interrupted Freyyr. "Master Sergeant Anselm has been complaining for some time now about not being 'in the shit', as he so colorfully put it. I think he'll be happy to assist you."


      I'm getting too old for this, Stacker thought as he raced through the hallways of the Forerunner structure.
      The Chief was on point, MA5C at the ready, with Stacker next in line, Dubbo and the rest of Second Squad following close behind. Stacker hadn't been able to raise Shephard or Third Squad, but judging by the explosions and gunfire, there was a major fight going on up there."Cortana, are you sure you can't get Adrian on the horn?"
      "Negative," came the static-laced voice of the AI. "I'm sorry, Sergeant, but I haven't been able to contact any member of Third Squad."
      Stacker didn't bother correcting Cortana on his rank; she'd paid even less attention to him than the Chief had.
      "Gunny," said Dubbo, "the gunfire just stopped."
      "Let's move," said Stacker. "And pray we're not too late."