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Attack on Installation 06, part 3
Posted By: Jake Trommer<wedgefan@comcast.net>
Date: 17 August 2007, 7:52 pm

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Attack on Installation 06
Chapter 3
Halo installation, Tharidanis system, 2553

      Harsoth gritted his teeth as the horde of squidlike creatures charged for him and his squad. Sergeant Strossar barked out "Open fire!", and the Marines let loose with their MA5B assault rifles.
      Private Chapman let out a horrible cry as one of the squids jumped onto his back. Harsoth dropped the private with a headshot from his M6D pistol, and swiveled to face the squad. Sergeant Strossar's eyes were wild. "Sir, there's no way we can take one of these things alive!"
      "We can, soldier, and we will!" Harsoth barked, and ditched his M6D, and hurriedly scooped up Private Chapman's MA5B and shotgun. One of the Infection Forms made a leap for the Admiral, and Harsoth caught it just before it could shove a penetrator into his skin. The Admiral was about to let out a victorious cry, but the Flood form popped as Harsoth squeezed.
      "Dammit," said Harsoth. "All right, fall back. We'll see if we can take one of the combat forms alive."
      The Marines barked out acknowledgements of the order, and formed into a phalanx, MA5Bs emitting a ceaseless stream of gunfire. Incredibly, they managed to make it to the door. "Good work," said the Admiral. "Those combat forms have to be around here somewhere. Let's see if we can---"
      Private Morrison suddenly let out a cry of horror: one of the infection forms had landed on his back. Sergeant Strossar swore, and slammed his shotgun's stock into his shoulder as he pointed it at the soon-to-be-ex-Marine. But Harsoth waved the man down. "Get some binders on him. We've got our captive."
      The squad, down two members (one, if you didn't count the infected Morrison) trooped back to the elevator. Apparently the Flood containment had been well preserved: the Covenant had managed to herd the Infection Forms back into their containment chambers and lock them down, which explained the lack of carrier or combat forms attacking the Admiral's squad. Harsoth thought it was a little too convenient, but he wasn't inclined to ruin the high spirits of Sergeant Strossar and his squad.
      Once the squad made it topside, the Admiral swiveled to face Strossar. "Who here is our comms specialist? We need to contact Alpha 145 for extraction."
      The Sergeant mutely thumbed back towards the infected Morrison, who could be visibly seen mutating, with his head slowly moving off to the side, and tentacles sprouting from his chest and arms.
      "Damn," said the Admiral, and clicked on his COM headset. "Alpha 145, do you copy? This is Harsoth. We need extraction now, over."
      In the murky, mucky mire that was the swamp where Alpha 145 had put down, Lieutenant Brad Gregoro received the transmission, and raced into the troop bay, where his co-pilot, Ensign Jones, was playing solitaire. "Let's get the engines fired up, Jonesy, the team needs extraction!"
      The Ensign dropped the cards, and charged into the cockpit. The Pelican's engines flared to life as Gregoro punched the ignition, and the dropship rose into the air. Suddenly, plasma fire erupted all around them. "What the hell?!" Jones exclaimed.
      Gregoro set his jaw, shoved the throttle, and the Pelican leapt forward, rocketing towards a large structure. Harsoth and his Marines were there, firing their MA5Bs at something in the swamp. Gregoro brought the Pelican about, kicking in her ventral jets, while Jones laid down suppressing fire at whatever was in the swamp with Alpha 145's chainguns.
      Harsoth, Strossar, and the rest of the Marine squad clambered on board. Gregoro looked back to check to see if everyone was okay, and did a double take as he saw the infected Morrison, who was by now a fully infected combat form.
      "Don't ask," said the Admiral. Gregoro didn't, and the Pelican soared off, out of the swamp, harrassed by a few streams of plasma fire, but in the clear.
      Captain Joseph Kline's Marine squad surged forward, mowing down the pitiful lance of Grunts that was the only thing that stood between them and the control center.
      The Marines had taken heavy casualties; despite hooking up with what remained of Second Squad, they were down to just a little more than a fireteam's worth of men, plus Kline and Gunnery Sergeant Fredericks.
      The last Grunt remaining, a red-armored Major, fell back, slapped a control panel, and retreated, screaming all the while. Gunnery Sergeant Fredericks cut the alien down without a second thought.
      The Grunt had been hurtling towards a large door. Large, as in it was a wall that split open. Kline in his men skidded to halt in amazement as the door hissed open, then continued to stand still in awe as the door revealed a cavernous chamber so large one couldn't see the bottom. A walkway lead out onto a circular platform with a large holographic control panel. A huge hologram of a Halo installation, presumably the one they were on, looped around the walkway. In the center of the circle was a to-scale hologram of the planet Tharidanis and the Halo ring.
      This could only be the control room.
      Kline was the first to shake off his amazement, and swiveled to face the stolid Gunnery Sergeant Fredericks. "Get your men moving, Sergeant, come on."
      "Will do, Sir!"
      The Marines spread out, all flanking the circular walkway. Fredericks and Kline, flanked by a pair of Corporals, approached the control panel. The Marine foursome studied it for several minutes, until Fredericks asked, "Does anyone here know how to use this dang thing?"
      No one did.
      The Gunnery Sergeant looked at Kline, who shrugged, and tapped a button that looked like a large circle with a line and a smaller circle within it. For several seconds, nothing happened.
      Then, a small column of amber-colored rings appeared. The Marines swivelled to face it, cocking their weapons. Kline cautiously waved them down. "Hold fire, men. I think I know what this is."
      The column of light vanished, leaving a small, hovering, yellow-colored sphere. The thing had a small eye in the center of the sphere, and a light pulsated from it constantly. "Greetings. I am the Monitor of Installation Zero-Six. I am Sixteen-Eight-Oh-Seven Repetant Instigator."
      Kline looked at 16807. "Look, we're not here to---"
      The Monitor suddenly swivelled to face the Marines as if just spotting them. "Reclaimers? Here? We do not need to activate the ring to control this outbreak; it is a minor one. I will take you to the location of the outbreak. We can easily combat it there."
      Kline was the only one present who had read the ONI data on the Halos, and had a very bad feeling about what was about to happen. "Now, hold on a second---"
      Too late. Amber columns of light were surrounding the ten Marines in the control room, and Kline knew he was going to have a very interesting debriefing to give to Admiral Harsoth.
      Alpha 145's engines were running close to the redline as she rocketed back towards the Berlin's crash site.
      Harsoth had received a transmission from Lieutenant Freyyr, which had put the Admiral in a rather bad mood: On his own initiative, the Lieutenant had deployed several slipspace drice-equipped Longsword scout fighters back to Earth to get reinforcements. Harsoth was good to hear that they wouldn't be on the ring for much longer, but he knew he wouldn't be able to claim credit for the idea, which rankled him.
      Sergeant Strossar and his squad, meanwhile were still trying to keep the infected Morrison under control. Unlike the incident with Private Wallace Jenkins on the first Halo, Morrison had been completely assimilated, and no longer had any control whatsoever over his body or his actions. Strossar's squad had been forced to keep the combat form completely trussed up. Harsoth's plan was to keep the creature bound up until they left the ring, and bring it to ONI so they could find a countermeasure for the Flood.
      As the dropship set down in the hive of activity that was the Berlin's hanger, Harsoth spotted Lieutenant Freyyr walking towards the Pelican. The middle-aged officer saluted, and, to his credit, did not flinch when he spotted the combat form. "I see you got your...erm...specimen, Admiral."
      "Indeed," said the Admiral. Harsoth swiveled to face Sergeant Strossar and his squad. "Get Morrison down to the brig, keep him under guard."
      As the Marines trotted off, the combat form in tow, Harsoth turned to look at Freyyr. "Anything from FLEETCOM?"
      "No Sir. All recon Longswords have been launched back to Earth. No word from Lord Hood or any members of the Admiralty yet."
      "What about the Covenant?"
      Freyyr's expression grew considerably grim. "That's the bad news, Sir. This way."
      The duo walked onto the bridge, accepting a salute from the Ensign wearing the red uniform of a security officer at the door. Freyyr lead Harsoth to the main tactical screen. A large swarm of pulsating red blips was steadily approaching the Berlin's crash site. "Covenant army," said the Lieutenant. "In a few hours, they'll---"
      "Wait, wait," interrupted Harsoth. "An army? I don't think so. That only looks to be a be a battalion's worth of men. They only outnumber us three to one. With a couple of Scorpion squadrons and with Longswords for air support, we could easily even those odds."
      "Very well, Sir, but there's also the matter of the Flood. Your men didn't succeed in reestablishing lockdown."
      Harsoth grimaced. "Once Lord Hood sends a fleet here, we can nuke this ring to oblivion, and the Flood here won't matter a bit."
      "Maybe, Sir, but what about Captain Kline and his squad? One of his Marines sent a transmission indicating the ring's Monitor has enlisted them in restoring the quarantine."
      "They were teleported to the ring's Library?"
      "No Sir, they were apparently teleported to the swamp to simply kill all the Flood."
      "Dammit...can we spare a Pelican?"
      "Victor 698 has requested the mission, Sir."
      "Tell them to deploy when ready."
      "Lieutenant, I also want Longsword squadrons Alpha through Delta on standby, as well as Scorpion Squads Alpha and Bravo. I want all Marine personnel to the defense trenches we dug---you did have Engineering dig them, didn't you?---, while Security personnel will hold here on the Berlin."
      "Lieutenant, armor and air support is critical. I want the Marines armed with long range weaponry: sniper rifles and rocket launchers and the like. If we let the Covenant close, we're screwed."
      "Got it, Sir. I'll get to it."
      "Good. Dismissed."
      Joseph Kline shook his head to eliminate the disorientation after being teleported, and looked around.
      He was in a large swamp with the rest of his squad, no doubt the one Harsoth had visited with Sergeant Strossar's squad. There was an entrance to a building nearby, probably a Flood Containment Facility, which meant...
      "Contact!" barked Gunnery Sergeant Fredericks, as a horde of Flood infection forms and combat forms came charging out of the entrance.
      "Don't let them close!" shouted Kline, and opened up with his MA5B. The Marines all crouched into firing stances, and let loose with a hail of gunfire. The first swarm of infection forms popped one after the other, but the combat forms continued to surge forward.
      The Marines were on the verge of being overrun; humanoid masses of tattered grey flesh and tentacles were everywhere, with more infection forms following in their wake. Kline was reloading his MA5B, ducking to avoid the tentacles of an infected Elite when the smell of burning flesh assailed his nose. The Captain looked up, and saw a swarm of flying robots, laser beams coming from their 'noses', for lack of a better word, attacking the Flood.
      16807 Repetant Instigator spoke. "These are the Sentinels. They are the ring's security system. You will no doubt find them most helpful in combating the Flood."
      Kline said nothing, he simply kept firing. He was vaguely aware of the fact that the fireteam was down to just him, Gunnery Sergeant Strossar, and three other Marines, but he paid no heed to that. All he could do was load his gun and fire, load and fire, and hope for the best.
      As it turned out, the best had yet to come: Kline suddenly was aware of a loud humming noise, and three seconds later, dropship Victor 698 blasted overheard, and came to a hovering halt in front of the Marines. The pilot's voice crackled over Kline's helmet. "This is Victor Six-Ninety-eight; no time to talk Captain, just get your men onboard!"
      The Marines needed no second bidding; they charged aboard as if the dropship was their one chance to stay alive. Once inside, the Pelican fired off its belly thrusters, raked the Flood horde with gunfire, triggered its main thrusters, and rocketed out of the fetid swamp.
      On board the Berlin, Kline had been briefed by the Admiral of the situation and had headed out for the trenches. Marine Lieutenant Delckiss, Kline's second-in-command, had been happy to effect the handover of command to the Captain.
      The Marine company had a fairly good view of the oncoming Covenant, since they were trying to hold a plateau. Kline didn't know what Admiral Harsoth was playing at, but he knew that if the Admiral didn't commence Longsword airstrikes, and maybe a foray here or there with a Warthog squad or a Scorpion squad, the Marines were going to be in trouble.
      Fortunately for Kline, the trenches were incredibly well-defended: all Warthogs on board the Berlin had been set up in a line behind the trenches, so the Marines could use their chainguns as an impromptu artillery battery of sorts; quite a few techs from on board the Berlin knew how to use the chainguns, and had volunteered for combat. They had been given Marine armor, and some tips by Marine heavy-weapons specialists, and were as ready to roll as they would ever be.
      Harsoth, meanwhile, knew that the time had come to commence attacks. Longsword squadron Delta had been given orders to make a scouting/bombing run on the main Covenant unit, and they were ready to deploy.
      In the hanger bay of the Berlin, Naval Lieutenant Cresswell, Delta Leader, was already clambering into his fighter. He had seen combat against the Covenant for several years now, and was hoping they hadn't added some accurate AA weaponry to their bottomless arsenal.
      A naval crewman made the all-clear signal, and the sound of twelve Longsword engines roaring to life filled the hanger bay. The fighters soared out of the bay, and accelerated over the plain. In the cockpit of his fighter, Lieutenant Cresswell assesed the situation: Delta Squadron had formed up into a large 'V' shape, ideal for both recon and bombing missions.
      The edge of the plateau was coming into sight, and the squadron could see the massed Covenant battalion. Lieutenant Cresswell's targeting computer beeped a lock on some Covenant target, a Wraith tank judging by the profile. The Lieutenant clicked his COM headset online. "All right Deltas, fast and hard. One run, and then let's get the hell out of here."
      Thus saying, Cresswell brought his fighter down low for a strafing run, and opened up with his Longsword's cannons, blazing away at the Covenant positions. Grunts and Jackals scattered, but one Elite pompously stood his ground, and was sliced in half by the low-flying fighter.
      About three Wraith tanks, twenty Ghosts, and an obscenely large number of infantry were taken out.
      The Covenant, however, did not intend to be caught napping. The twelve remaining Wraiths opened up with their mortars, shooting down six Longswords, halving the squad.
      Cresswell swore, yanked hard on the stick, and rocketed back towards the Berlin, praying his squad would do the same.
      The rest of the delta-wing craft heeled about, but not before two more of them were downed by the Wraith tanks.
      Cresswell gritted his teeth, and accelerated towards the Berlin. Behind him, another Longsword vanished in a ball of fire, leaving Delta Squadron at only three fighters, counting Cresswell.
      The Lieutenant snapped off a transmission to Lieutenant Freyyr on board the Berlin, shoved his stick to the right, and gunned his engines once more.
      The Lieutenant suddenly saw a flash of purple outside his cockpit. His Longsword shuddered, the ground rushed up to meet him, and a few seconds later, Lieutenant Cresswell ceased to exist.
      Joseph Kline, along with the Marines and Navy volunteers manning the Berlin's defenses, stared in horror as Delta Squadron's Longsword's were annihilated. Not a one managed to make it back to the Berlin.
      The Captain moved fast. "Delckiss, get everyone ready! Get the chainguns loaded! And someone contact Admiral Harsoth and tell him we need Scorpions."
      The Admiral's voice was already crackling over Delckiss's helmet. "Don't worry, soldier, I've already got a squad's worth of tanks being deployed as we speak."
      In the trenches, MA5Bs were loaded, M-41 rocket launchers were checked, clips were slammed into SR992-AM sniper rifles, helmet viewfinders and COM systems were clicked online, and men prepared for battle. In the midst of this chaos, Kline clicked online his helmet viewfinder's magnification: a company's worth of Covenant were approaching, plus five Wraith tanks and an equal number of Ghosts.
      The Captain swivelled to face Lieutenant Delckiss. "We've got to conserve our ammo. Don't fire until they do. Understand?"
      The Lieutenant nodded. "Yes Sir."
      "Good," replied Kline, turning his attention once more to the oncoming Covenant troops.
      A sudden humming noise filled the air, the Captain swivelled around to look behind him, and jumped a foot in the air as he found himself staring down the barrel of a Scorpion tank's main cannon. "Captain," said the tanker in charge of the lead vehicle, "Scorpion squadron Alpha reporting for duty, Sir!"
      "Good to see you, tanker," said Kline. "How many in your squad?"
      "Five of us, Sir."
      "There's five Wraith tanks coming up on our position. Take them down when I give the word."
      "Will do, Sir."
      About two seconds after that exchange, a round from a Wraith mortar slammed into the ground behind the Warthog battery, throwing a purple sheen over everything for a few seconds. "Fire!" Kline shouted.
      With a roar, the Scorpions let loose their shells, taking out three of the Wraiths in a flash of red flame. The chaingun battery blazed to life, throwing a veritable wall of lead at the onrushing Covenant, taking down the Grunts ordered to charge ahead of the pack.
      In the trenches, Kline watched the proceedings with a faint sense of satisfaction, a sense that was soon lost as a shot from a Wraith's mortar slammed into the ground in front of the trenches, blinding the Captain for several seconds. As soon as Kline opened his eyes, another mortar blast roared downt to slam into a nearby section of the trench, annihilating an entire squad of Marines.
      Next to Kline, Lieutenant Delckiss shouted, "Snipers, open fire!" The crack of sniper rifles opening fire soon filled the air.
      Kline spotted a flash of burnished red and blue armor. "Aim for the Elites!" the Captain shouted at the snipers.
      The men adjusted their targets, and before long, the Elites were down.
      Two seconds later, a Wraith mortar round slammed into the middle of the chaingun battery, flipping four of the thirty Warthogs in the battery. Navy techs jumped clear, and struggled to right the Hogs. The rest of the battery continued to fire, downing a lance of Jackals and Grunts charging UNSC lines.
      Kline gazed out at the enemy company. Incredibly, the Covenant were holding position, sniping away at the UNSC trenches with beam rifles and plasma pistols. Behind the Captain, another salvo from the Scorpions roared downrange, and blasted the remaining Wraiths to smithereens.
      Kline swivelled behind him to face the tanks. Amazingly, none had been destroyed. The tanker officer opened a COM channel to Kline's headset. "Orders, Sir?"
      "We need to force a rout," said the Captain. "And I need your tanks to do it. Get in gear, and force the Covies off this plateau."
      "Yes Sir!" The tanker squad leader clicked over to his squadron COM frequency, but Kline could still hear the man via the command frequency. "All right, Alpha Squad, let's get in gear! We're gonna force those split-chinned, squid-headed jerks offa this rock!"
      As the tanks rumbled towards the Covenant formation, the aliens' line held, buckled, and began to retreat.
      The tankers took full advantage of the chaos, opening up with their machine guns and main cannons. Bodies of Grunts, Elites, Jackals flew everywhere.
      Kline watched the aliens retreat, and opened a COM channel to Admiral Harsoth. "Sir, first Covenant offensive has been pushed back."
      "Excellent work, Captain," replied the Admiral. "Hang tight. They'll be back."
      "Yes Sir," said Kline.
      In the brig of the Berlin, the captured Flood Combat Form had been kept under constant guard by Sergeant Strossar and his Marines. But when all the Marines had been called to the trenches, Naval Security personnel under Ensign Gregory Konstantin had been given custody of the infected Morrison. The Ensign and his men meant well, but the battle outside was taking up the majority of their attention as they clustered around Konstantin's COM gear, listening to action reports from Kline and his company. That was why they didn't notice the Combat Form's gradual mutation to a Carrier Form.
      The Flood had been making their way through Halo's labyrinthine passageways to the plateau where the Berlin had crashed, and the hastily made Brain Form coordinating them had decided that it would be a good idea to have an inside operative on the Berlin, and ordered the infected Morrison to accelerate Infection Form production, thus causing his mutation into a Carrier Form.
      Once the Combat Form had fully mutated into a Carrier Form, it wasted no time releasing its payload of six Infection Forms.
      The loud bang alerted the Navy personnel to their new predicament. The Ensign and his team all drew their M6Ds, opening fire on the six Infection Forms that made their way past the bars of the holding cell and charged towards the four-man security team. The battle was almost over before it had begun, the men were taken down in seconds.
      On the far side of the plateau, opposite from the Berlin's crash site and the Covenant encampment, a Flood horde began a long, slow climb to their next meal...and a means to escape the confines of the ring.