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Attack on Installation 06, part 8
Posted By: Jake Trommer<wedgefan@comcast.net>
Date: 15 July 2008, 4:29 pm

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Attack on Installation 06
Chapter 8
0900 Hours, July 09, 2553 (Military Calendar)
Tharidanis System, Installation 06

      Shortly before the reinforcements arrived, Harsoth received word that Captain Kline was dead.
      Lieutenant Freyyr delivered the news in a cold, emotionless tone, perfectly in keeping with the spartan appointments of the Admiral's quarters. Harsoth wasn't surprised; the Marine Captain and Freyyr had clashed more than a few times, but Harsoth would have thought that his bald aide would've had a little more respect for the deceased Marine officer.
      The Admiral shook his head. He and Kline hadn't always gotten along, but the Marine Captain had stuck by his side from Reach onwards, and there was something to be said for loyalty like that. The Admiral hefted his thin frame from his desk, and looked at Freyyr. "How'd it happen?"
      The Lieutenant's laser-sharp gaze was directed at a spot above and to the left of Harsoth's head. Ironically, that was where Harsoth had hung a citation for valor regarding his actions at Reach, for saving what he could of the Trafalgar's crew...including Kline. "Complications from the gut wound, Sir. It appears he was...well, disembowled."
      Harsoth's head whipped around. "What? His intestines certainly weren't falling apart on the bridge."
      Freyyr's unconcerned facade cracked a little. Not noticeably, but to Harsoth, who'd worked with the Lieutenant for years, it showed just how horrified the junior officer was. "It appears..." Freyyr gulped, then spoke the next words in a rush. "The sword tore him up, Sir, his armor was all that was keeping him together. When the medics took it off..."
      Harsoth could guess the rest. "How long did it take?"
      "When the medics realized what had happened, they told First Sergeant Anselm they couldn't save him. The First Sergeant decided to give the Captain a 'clean' death."
      Harsoth nodded. "Alright, Lieutenant. Dismissed."
      "Yes Sir." Freyyr saluted, executed a crisp about-face, and left the room.
      Harsoth closed the door and locked it. He then sat down at his desk, and proceeded to hit it until his hand was bruised. The Admiral then opened his mouth, sucked in as much air as he could, and screamed, a long hard exhalation of pain and frustration and loss. Harsoth then drew his M6D sidearm, and proceeded to unload the magazine into the citation for valor. The Admiral was losing it, and worse, he knew he was losing it, and he knew that he couldn't afford to. Knew that he had to keep it together, and win this fight. Win it for Kline's sake.
      Harsoth wasted a few seconds calming down, trying to get his breathing under control. He reloaded his sidearm, clipped it to his trouser leg, and smoothed out his uniform; he slipped his peaked cap onto his head, and it worked a change. The loss, the pain, the frustration slipped away; he was once again the consummate Admiral. Ready to win, ready to fight....ready to die. Because that was all, absolutely all, he could do to honor the memory of a loyal Marine officer who'd lost his life, trying to win this fight.
      The Admiral opened the door, and stalked off to the bridge. He had a battle to win.


      Master Gunnery Sergeant Pete Stacker slipped himself into the Covenant Orbital Insertion pod, feeling the purple stasis field of the coffin-shaped drop pod take a hold of him. Stacker looked around the pod to see what it was adorned with. One solitary viewscreen. That was it. No controls, no comm beyond his headset, not even a weapons locker---the Elites jumped holding their weapons. Stacker didn't know how it felt to an Elite, but if he was jumping with an Assault Rifle, he'd rather have it in a locker rather than strapped to his back, robbing him of what little semblance of comfort the OIP might have offered.
      Stacker clicked online his COM headset. "Alright, people, sound off." Once the forty-eight men of the Helljumper platoon had barked out acknowledgements, he clicked the headset over to the frequency used by the Pelican squadron. "Hocus, this is Stacker. Helljumpers are good to go."
      The southern-accented voice of Hocus, pilot of Pelican Kilo 023, responded. "Roger. Clear the deck for us, and we'll be right behind you."
      Stacker's next message was directed to the Elite officer controlling the drop bay. "Control, OIPs are good to go."
      "Very well," came the reply. Stacker jolted as he recognized the voice of Rtas 'Vadum. "May your aim be true, and your bullets fly straight."
      The Gunnery Sergeant chuckled. "Save the pep talk for your warriors, Fleet Master. We're the ODSTs, we don't need that."
      "I hope so," retorted 'Vadum, "because you'll be dropping now."
      There wasn't even a countdown. One minute, Pete felt as though he were standing on solid ground; the next, a sensation of weightlessness, of falling through an empty void. The viewscreen of the pod showed him hurtling past the orbiting Elite ships, the other OIPs forming up with him. The AI controlling Stacker's pod gave an extra burst from the manuevering rockets so he'd be the first one onto the ground; ODST doctrine dictated that the highest-ranking officer would be the first one to land.
      As the OIP entered the ring's atmosphere, fire began to creep across the OIP's heat shield, obscuring the viewscreen. The ODSTs' motto crept unbidden into Stacker's mind: Feet First into Hell.
      A voice crackled over the radio channels; Corporal Jessica Horgen's, singing something. Stacker furrowed his brow, and upped the volume on his headset to try and hear what she was singing: "From the balls of Lord Hood's juniors to the shores of Eridani, we will curse the UNSC leaders 'cross the stars and land and sea; first to fight the Covie scum, dropping out of the sky in HEVs..."
      Stacker recognized it; the unofficial hymn of the UNSC Marine Corps, with some changes made for the ODSTs. The Gunny had never been one for this sort of thing, but he still found himself joining in; "We do or die! We ask not why! 'Cause we're ODSTs!"


      In the troop bay of dropship Kilo 023, Gunnery Sergeant William Reynolds surveyed his squad. He hadn't bothered to learn their names; if he needed to talk to them, his neural implant would register their names from their IFF and show them on his HUD. Reynolds hadn't bothered to learn the names of any of the men and women under his command in quite some time. Not after what had happened to Bravo Team.
      Stacker's Helljumpers should have taken the LZ by now; the squad was shifting around impatiently. One Marine with a rather spectacular pair of muttonchops was flicking the safety catch on his MA5C back and forth, fingering the trigger when the safety was on; if he wasn't careful, he'd trigger the rifle by accident. Curious, Reynolds scanned the man's IFF transponder: Corporal---and Reynolds had to surpress a laugh at the man's name---John Silver. "Hey!" said Reynolds. "Long John!" The man's head jerked up; his eyes were murderous. Reynolds suppressed a gulp, and persevered. "Quit playing with the AR; you trigger that thing by accident, and I'm booting you off the Pelican."
      Silver's voice bore a thick Cockney accent; Reynolds once again had to restrain laughter. "Aye, Sir. But lemme ask you something: have you ever been nervous before a combat drop before?"
      Reynolds suddenly remembered the Pelican ride to the Chief's LZ on Earth. Bravo Team had been walking on air, knowing that they were finally going to be able to win the war, because the Chief was back. On the Pelican ride to the Crow's Nest, Reynolds had surveyed the survivors of the rescue mission: the Chief had obviously made it, as had Johnson and Stacker. Several soldiers from Alpha Team had managed to make it out alive. Bravo Team's bodies had been left strewn about the narrow valley that had been the site of their last stand. He spoke. "Not since Reach, Corporal. Not since Reach."
      Corporal Silver stroked his muttonchops introspectively. "Aye, Sir."
      Reynolds nodded, but said nothing more. Hocus's pleasant Southern twang crackled over the Pelican's COM. "Just got a message from Stacker; they're landing in five."
      "Copy," replied Reynolds. "Stand by."


      Stacker's drop pod rattled as the drag chute detached; fire still obscured the viewscreen, and the COM was blaring with cries from the Helljumpers.
      "Quiet!" barked Stacker. "Cut the chatter, I need to be able to hear what's going on in order to fight!"
      Silence now reigned over the command frequency, although Stacker had no doubt the regular channels were still packed with chatter. A countdown timer to touchdown suddenly appeared on the OIP's viewscreen; in keeping with the rest of the craft, the numbers were purple: 5:00:00.
      "Alright!" said the Gunnery Sergeant. "We have five to dirt, repeat five to dirt! This LZ is gonna be hotter than my last date, so get set to come out swinging!"
      The OIP's viewscreen now showed a dirty, dusty plateau, a UNSC Marathon-class crusier crashed on one side, a series of defensive trenches zig-zagging from it. On the other side of the plateau was a Covenant encampment, four Wraith tanks standing sentry, and an obscenely large assortment of Jackals, Elites, and Grunts; at least sixty of them. Bad odds, but they could definetely have been worse. Stacker took note of the gold-armored Elite directing the aliens, marking the warrior's position on his HUD.
      Stacker broadcast a second set of orders over the COM. "Anyone with a rocket launcher, I want those Wraiths out of commission ASAP! Everyone else, target the infantry!"
      The countdown timer was displaying 00:59:59. "One minute!" yelled Stacker.
      The OIP's breaking thrusters flared; Stacker felt as if a Brute was sitting on his lap. The Gunnery Sergeant unslung his BR-55, and prepared himself, staring at the timer.
      The timer now showed 00:10:00. "Ten seconds, people!" shouted Stacker, more for his own benefit than the other Helljumpers'. "Look sharp!"
      At five seconds, Stacker yanked the charging lever on his battle rifle, and braced himself against the OIP's stasis field. There was a massive bang, an equally large lurch, and the pod embedded itself within the surface of the ringworld.
      Stacker had barely enough time to jam the Battle Rifle's stock against his shoulder before the pod blew in half.
      At first the Gunny thought he'd been nailed by a plasma mortar round, but he realized it was the release system for the OIP's passenger: the stasis field had dissolved. Stacker shook his head; his Helljumpers had probably been scared out of there minds when that had happened. Surveying the LZ, however, he was pleased to see almost no one had panicked, although his HUD was showing two soldiers had already been KIA. Squad leaders had managed to rally up their troops, and two of the Wraiths were smoking purple scrapheaps.
      The other two were firing on the Helljumpers.
      Stacker dove for cover as a round from a plasma mortar hurtled overhead. Some of the Helljumpers were pushing forward in an attempt to break through the Covie sentries into the encampment proper; the Helljumpers were being aided by the rocket launchers, which had by now dispatched a third wraith, but they were taking casualties.
      The Gunnery Sergeant triggered his COM. "All ODSTs, fall back, take up defensive positions! There's no way in Hell we'll take this camp without Reynolds' team!"
      Platoon Sergeant Jon Salko's voice crackled over Stacker's headset. "Falling back now, Sir! Orders?"
      Stacker nodded. "Contact Reynolds and the Elites. Tell 'em to get here soon...or not bother getting here at all."