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Attack on Installation 06, part 5
Posted By: Jake Trommer<wedgefan@comcast.net>
Date: 25 June 2008, 12:45 am

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Attack on Installation 06
Chapter 5
Halo Installation, Tharidanis system, 2553

      Marine Captain Joseph Kline, veteran of Sigma Octanus, Reach, and far more campaigns that he would rather not have experienced, surveyed the Covenant lines.
      The aliens had set up defensive positions mirroring the Marines' own: a series of slit trenches, with a battery of tanks behind to provide artillery support. The Covies had even brought up a line of Brute Prowlers to counter the Warthogs positioned behind the Marine trenches. Elites, burnished red and blue armor glittering in the sunlight, were prowling the alien defenses, growling at skittering Grunts, giving orders to bird-like Jackals, and keeping a respectful distance from the brooding Hunter pairs that had just joined the fight.
      Kline shook his head. His face, and general attitude, for that matter, had more than once been described as "grim." That wasn't inaccurate. The Captain had entered the war at the beginning, serving as a Second Lieutenant on Vice Admiral Preston Cole's campaign to retake Harvest. Kline had been no stranger to war, his commission had been earned during OPERATION: Trebuchet, but fighting the Covenant was different. There was the tech, of course; the aliens had the humans outclassed in everthing from small arms to artillery to capital ship systems. But more disturbing was the lack of quarter the Covenant gave the humans.
      During the Harvest campaign, Kline had been the jokester of his platoon, always ready with a smile or a joke. He had done all he could to keep his mens' spirits high. Then, one day, he saw his platoon sergeant attempt to surrender to a gold-armored Elite.
      The alien warrior hadn't even glanced at the man before running him through with an energy sword. The hopeful expression hadn't even vanished from the NCO's face.
      After that, Kline had stopped smiling.
      So here he was, on a damn Halo ring, attempting to defend a grounded ship against the Covenant and the Flood. The plateau that the Marathon-class cruiser Berlin had crashed had seemed a rather nice place to be marooned on; it was a nice place, with grasslands, neither too hot nor too cold, with the occasional rainfall.
      Now it was a hell.
      For five days now, the men of Kline's Marine company had fought back assault after assault by the Covenant, and yesterday the Flood had seen fit to attack the Covenant lines. Though the Covies had beat the alien parasite off, Kline had no illusions that the creatures would return.
      The Captain clicked on his helmet COM. "Platoon leaders, form up at my position. Come on guys, let's shift it."
      A few seconds later, four Marines, each one displaying the double-bar insignia of a lieutenant on Kline's HUD, came racing to his position. The four platoon leaders snapped to attention, then, realizing that garrison formality was rather pointless in the field, relaxed.
      Kline mentally chuckled. He would expect no less of the four men he had trained up to his exacting standards.
      Lieutenant Matthew Delckiss, leader of 1st Platoon, was an old hand, he had rotated in at Sigma Octanus IV, and had acquitted himself quite well at Reach. Delckiss was a rather short man, thin, with black hair. He was rather quiet, but the men seemed to flock to him as a natural leader.
      Lieutenant Jonathan Smith, whose name had been the subject of much mockery from his men, commanded 2nd Platoon. He hadn't shown any exceptional skills so far; in fact, the stocky Lieutenant had been content so far to be the embodiment of an REMF: he currently was acting as company supply officer, letting his platoon sergeant, the stolid Gunnery Sergeant Fredericks, handle the frontline leadership.
      The silent Lieutenant Tim Crowe, 3rd Platoon's CO, had shown himself to be an above-average leader. He wore his blonde hair cut short, and was famous throughout the company for having rescued a squad pinned down by a Wraith tank with nothing but an MA5C assault rifle and several captured plasma grenades.
      4th Platoon was under the command of Lieutenant William Wilde, the newest officer in the company. The young, round-faced (and somewhat acne-afflicted) Wilde had yet to be accepted by his men, and the real leader of the platoon was Master Sergeant Al Anselm, a veteran NCO whose command style emulated that of the sadly deceased Avery Johnson.
      "Alright, Marines," said Kline. "Report."
      "1st Platoon is still operational. We've taken fourteen casualties...twelve killed, two wounded, so far. Captain...this might be another Reach, sir." Delckiss' expression was, as usual, tired; the Lieutenant was fast adopting the persona of the war-weary veteran.
      Kline fought off the memories of that campaign. "The Admiral wants us to take that risk," he replied, but both men knew Kline thought that Harsoth could go to Hell.
      Smith hesitated. "Erm...Gunnery Sergeant Fredericks has informed me we've taken six casualties, all wounded. So we're good to go."
      "Copy. Lieutenant Crowe?"
      Crowe merely nodded, which was completely in character for the Lieutenant.
      "Lieutenant Wilde?"
      The nervous platoon commander of that name blinked twice, rapidly. "Sergeant Anselm has informed me that we have taken one-third unit casualties; four KIA and eight wounded."
      "Got it," said Kline. "All right...it's fairly evident at this point that the Covies have dug in, and are going to wait for us to come to them. We're not going to oblige."
      "Somehow, I didn't think we were," interjected Delckiss, deadpan.
      "What we're going to do is hold. We don't move until they do. And when they do...we blow them to hell."
      "Oorah!" cried Crowe.
      Everyone stared. "So you can talk," remarked Kline.
      "What else can you do, Crowe?" asked Wilde. "You holding out on us?"
      But Crowe, back to his normal reticence, simply shrugged, and returned to his platoon.
      Kline looked at the other Lieutenants. "Come on, people, let's head 'em out. You never know when the enemy's gonna move."
      It was, Kline would later reflect, a brutal irony that it was that moment the Covenant chose to commence an artillery barrage, along with an all-out charge on the UNSC lines.
      The Scorpion and Warthog defensive lines opened fire, annihilating the Grunts sent ahead as suicide scouts. The next rank of the advancing aliens, a squad of Jackals, cawed and took shelter behind their shields, the devices sparking as they deflected rounds from the Warthogs; the Jackal personal arm shields were excellent devices for coping with rounds from most human armaments. However, the round from a Scorpion tank's main gun was not most armaments. The avians fell just as fast as their Grunt bretheren did.
      Kline, gazing through his binoculars, frowned. The cannon fodder had been called up and annihilated, as per what the humans had by now realized was standard Covenant doctrine. But where were the Elites?
      Two seconds later, a blue flash and a humming noise manifested next to Kline. The Marine next to him howled and fell, two holes pierced through his chest. The blurry outline of a Covenant Elite using active camouflage was visible over the corpse. Cries were now sounding throughout the trenches, and over the command comm, the voice of Lieutenant Wilde could be heard exhorting his men to "use your shotguns! For God's sake, use your shotguns!"
      The Elite near Kline suddenly swiveled to face him. The point of the sword blade came up, and the Captain knew he was in trouble.