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Attack on Installation 06, part 2
Posted By: Jake Trommer<wedgefan@comcast.net>
Date: 25 July 2007, 12:45 am

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Attack on Installation 06
Chapter 2
Unidientified ringworld, Tharidanis system, 2553

      UNSC Marine Captain Joseph Kline stood on the bridge of the Berlin, and read through all the data the UNSC had on the Halo constructs.
      It wasn't much, to be sure, but better some intel than none at all, and what the UNSC did have was proving to be very useful. For one thing, Kline had all the data on the Flood that the spooks at ONI had seen fit to make available, so that was an additional stroke of luck. What was proving to be a problem, however, was getting off the ring.
      The Berlin's engines were out of commission, and no act of God or any other deity could repair them without the proper parts. But the very, very, very cruel irony was that all other systems were functional, from the MAC gun to the restrooms. The Berlin had engaged the enemy in such a way that all the damage to her had been dealt to her stern area, and that, too, was being quickly repaired.
      Kline's Marine company was at full strength, and they were ready to serve Admiral Harsoth as best they could. The problem was that Harsoth had hit on the rather odd idea that the ring's creators had given it slipspace engines, which would allow the ring to be used as a transport back to Earth. Kline respected Harsoth, but ever since Reach, the Admiral had become more and more focused on getting his career back off the ground, and had been resorting to increasingly hare-brained plans to regain the respect Admiral Lord Hood had had for him.
      And this most recent plan was perhaps the most hare-brained of all.
      For one thing, the Cole Protocol was explicitly clear that no vessels could jump directly to Earth. Period. For another, data recorded by Master Chief Petty Officer SPARTAN-117 indicated that the Halo rings had no engines. And the Cole Protocol and other Halos aside, there was the matter of the Flood to consider.
      This wasn't the first time something like this had happened on a Halo as well. On the first Halo discovered, ODST Major Antonio Silva had attempted to bring a captured Covenant cruiser back to Earth without purging it of the Flood first. The possible assimilation of the Human race's home planet had only been averted by the timely action of Lieutenant Melissa McKay, who had destroyed the hijacked cruiser.
      But, orders were orders, and as of now, Kline couldn't think of a way to make it off of Halo. He swiveled to face the grim-faced Admiral. "Sir...I really don't know if this idea is a good one."
      "Regardless," replied Harsoth, "we still need to capture the ringworld's control room if we're to control the ringworld."
      "Agreed, Sir" said Kline. "I'll detail First and Second Platoons to keep an eye on the base, and take a squad each from Third and Fourth to raid the Control Room." Kline looked expectantly at Harsoth.
      "Very well," said the Admiral. "Pelicans Bravo 989 and Foxtrot 687 will be dispatched to take you in as close as possible."
      For a second, Kline thought he saw something furtive flit across the Admiral's craggy face. But it was soon gone, so the Captain saluted, and left to brief his troops.
      Harsoth watched as the Captain left. Kline was the closest thing Harsoth had to a friend, and it hurt to hide his plans from the Captain; but if Harsoth got his men off the ring with the specimens of the creatures reputed to inhabit these rings and back to Earth, he would be a viable force within the Admiralty once more.
      So long as his plan didn't get everyone killed, that is.
      Captain Joseph Kline gazed at the squad of Marines seated in the troop bay of Pelican Bravo 989. The squad leader, Gunnery Sergeant John Fredericks, was shouting out last-minute orders: "All right: once we land, we need to form up with the other squad ASAP! If the Covies catch us before we re-form, we will be well and truly screwed. Am I clear, Marines?"
      The cry of "SIR YES SIR!" rang throughout the troop bay.
      "Then let's roll!" barked the Sergeant.
      The voice of Bravo 989's pilot crackled over the intercom: "We're coming up on the insertion point, gents! Stand to!"
      Kline scrambled to his feet, racking a round into his MA5B assault rifle. The view from the rear of the Pelican's troop bay showed a grassland vista. "Go! Go! Go!" the Captain cried.
      The Marine squad charged out of the dropship, and spread out into a rough delta formation as the dropship rocketed away. "Area secured!" said a young Corporal. "Looks like the Covies forgot to lay out the welcome mat."
      Kline knew that was practically begging for a swift application of karma, and when the Corporal collapsed two seconds later from a beam rifle shot to the neck, he wasn't particularly surprised. "Cover!" shouted Kline. "We can't let them pin us down!
      The Marines snapped off several bursts of MA5B fire, causing a Jackal sniper to fall out of a tree. "Wow," a Marine remarked. "They really do look like fried chicken when they're dead."
      "Cut the chatter," snapped Gunnery Sergeant Fredericks. "Captain, did any of the other teams call in a contact?"
      Kline checked his headset. "Negative, Sergeant."
      Fredericks clicked online his COM. "Gunnery Sergeant Fredericks to any UNSC forces: report status, over.
      There was static for a few seconds, then a voice crackled over. "This is Corporal Jones of Second Squad. We're currently engaged by Covenant forces...we're not going to be able to make the RV in time. We're---no! Get back! Get----" The message dissolved in static.
      Kline clicked online his COM headset. They hadn't been on the ground for ten minutes, and already the mission had gone south. "Kline to Admiral Harsoth: you copy, Sir? Over."
      The voice that responded wasn't Harsoth's, but Lieutenant Freyyr's. "Captain, the Admiral is currently...unavailable."
      Kline gritted his teeth. "Lieutenant, where is he?"
      "I'm under orders from the Admiral not to say, Captain."
      Kline was losing patience at this point. "Where is the Admiral?"
      "Trust me, Captain," Lieuteant Freyyr replied, "you don't want to know."
      The view from the troop bay of dropship Alpha 145 was very gloomy, showing tall trees and a large swamp. Harsoth, for the second time since the ship had taken off, reviewed his plan.
      The ring had to have either slipspace drives or parts they could use to repair the Berlin's engines. And in either case, specimens of the species contained on the ring had to be recovered so ONI could find a counter-measure for them. There was the problem of the creatures' method of reproduction, but Harsoth would cross that bridge when they came to it.
      The thickly built Marine Sergeant sitting next to Harsoth looked at the Admiral. "We're coming up on the insertion point now, Sir. And Captain Kline's looking for you, Sir; he contacted the Berlin," said Jeff Strossar.
      Harsoth winced. "What'd he say?"
      "He said that he'd find the control room, but once that's done, he's going to try to find you."
      Harsoth sighed. "I suppose that's inevitable. Is your squad ready?"
      Strossar nodded. "We're ready to roll."
      "Good. Remember: don't let them close, and if you see something that looks like a squid land on top of one of your men, shoot them."
      The Sergeant looked horrified. "Shoot one of my men?"
      "It's better than what those squids will do to them."
      "And that is...?"
      "You don't want to know, Sergeant."
      "The LZ is clear, Sir!" the dropship pilot said over the intercom. "I'm putting us down."
      Harsoth nodded, and swiveled to face the Sergeant. "Move out in formation two-six, Sergeant. And stay sharp for contacts."
      "Formation two-six, Sir?"
      "Sorry, Sergeant, naval term. Move in a delta formation."
      "Will do."
      By now, the dropship had touched down, and the 12 other Marines in the dropship were streaming out. "Move, move, move!" barked Strossar.
      Harsoth paused to hitch up the unfamiliar Marine fatigues he wore, slammed a clip into his M6D pistol, and hopped out. The Marine squad looked expectantly at him for orders. The Admiral pointed at a Marine. "What's your name, soldier?"
      "Morrison, Sir," replied the man, an Austrailian accent tinging his voice. The man had dark skin, and his face was pockmarked with scars.
      "Morrison, you have point."
      "Sir!" said the Marine.
      Strossar stepped forward. "Chapman, you're our rearguard. Let's move, Marines."
      The squad advanced through the swamp, panning their M-90 shotguns and MA5B assault rifles across the area. Harsoth had selected the squad's loadout because of the creatures he expected to encounter; the Marines had grumbled, but the Admiral knew they wouldn't be complaining once they found the creatures.
      Morrison's deep bass drifted back to Harsoth and Strossar. "Structure ahead, Sergeant. Looks like the one we're looking for."
      Harsoth inhaled. "Remember your briefings, men. Don't let them close."
      The Marines all nodded.
      The squad cautiously walked into the structure, warily scanning the area for threats. Sergeant Strossar checked his helmet's motion scanner, then barked, "Area secured!"
      The room was small, hexagonal, with a small shaft in the center, and no entrances or exits apart from the one they had just come in from. "Now what?" asked the skinny Marine named Chapman.
      As if in answer to the Marine's question, a glass lift rose up through the shaft, and stopped. There was no sign of what could have triggered it.
      Morrison looked at Sergeant Strossar questioningly. "Get aboard," ordered the noncom. "Stay sharp, and set helmet motion sensors for maximum sensitivity. No telling what we might meet down there."
      At the bottom of the shaft, all was clear, save for splashes on the walls of what looked like blue paint, but wasn't. The Covenant had beat the humans here...and there was no telling what they might have released.
      "Sarge," said a Marine, "I don't like the looks of this..."
      "Agreed," replied Harsoth. "Guns up, squad. Not telling what we might find."
      The Marines advanced through several halls and corridors, finding several Covenant bodies: Jackals, Grunts, and, incredibly, a pair of Hunters who had fallen one atop the other. But, strangely, no Elites. Not a one.
      Harsoth was thoroughly spooked by the time they arrived at a pair of ramps leading down to a door. Two Grunts lay in front of the door, odd-shaped puncture wounds in their chest. Harsoth knew their goal was nearly at hand. "All right," said the Admiral. "Remember: don't let them close, and try and find some way to take on alive. Good luck."
      The squad's tech specialist, Private Brenner, slapped a spoofer onto the door. The device beeped twice, let out a prolonged tone, and the door opened. Harsoth and the squad crept inside.
      The room was a large hall, with six doors on each side, and one in the back of the room. A water-like swirling sound could be heard. "I have a bad feeling about this..." said Morrison.
      Neither Harsoth nor Strossar bothered to contradict him. "Stay sharp," said Harsoth. "Any minute now..."
      A banging noise was suddenly audible from the end of the room.
      "Stand firm!" barked the Admiral.
      The door burst open, a horde of yellow, squidlike beings charged out, and the Flood was upon Harsoth and his squad.