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Attack on Installation 06, part 11
Posted By: Jake Trommer<wedgefan@comcast.net>
Date: 25 August 2008, 12:56 am

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Attack on Installation 06
Chapter 9
1130 Hours, July 09, 2553 (Military Calendar)
Tharidanis System, Installation 06

      The facility housing the third pulse-mass firing generator for Installation 06 was situated on a flat expanse of desert, at the top of a massive stone spire. There were no handholds, ladders, or crags that could otherwise be used to ascend it, but to the Forerunners, who with their advanced tech had had no need of such archaic devices, that wouldn't have been an issue.
      To Gunnery Sergeant Will Reynolds and his 40-man strong Marine platoon, on the other hand, that was a severe problem. A flight of Pelicans would have easily solved the problem, but Covenant defenses on the top of the spire made that impossible.
      Reynolds' platoon sergeant, 28 year old Staff Sergeant Greg Schref, peered up at the defenses, then swivelled to face Reynolds. "I can't make out the numbers, Gunny. Looks like thirty, at least."
      The Gunny had already confirmed that, courtesy of the enhanced vision his neural lace afforded him. "Agreed. Looks like a ten-ten-ten makeup."
      "10 Elites, Jackals, and Grunts?"
      "Correct, Staff Sergeant. Though I can't tell whether or not those Jackals are standard infantry or snipers."
      "Aye, Sir. So what's our plan of attack?"
      Reynolds massaged his temples; these days he seemed to have a perpetual low-grade migraine, no doubt from all the stress. "We don't have too many choices, Staff Sergeant, either we---"
      The conversation was interrupted as the radio in Reynolds' Warthog crackled to life. "Alpha Actual, this Alpha Two. Recon of the area around the spire is complete, how copy, over."
      Schref got to the radio first. "Solid copy, Alpha Two. Stand by for tasking, over." Thus saying, he handed the handset to Reynolds.
      "Alpha Two, this is Alpha Actual. Report, over."
      "Pretty much the same all the way around, Gunny," came the reply, somewhat distorted by static. "No Covies on the ground, but we count thirty on the top, over."
      Reynolds bit his lip. "Roger, Alpha Two. RTB."
      "Return to base? What base, Gunny?"
      "Force of habit," amended Reynolds. "Form up with the rest of the Hogs, over."
      "Roger. Alpha Two out."
      The Gunny slammed the handset down, and swivelled to face Schref, his face livid. "This is ridiculous, Greg. There's just forty of us, and we're being asked to assault a Covie encampment with no air support, no arty support, and the heavy weapons we have can't get up the bloody cliff. Not to mention the fact that Hood's spooks were wrong about the number of Covies in this area."
      The Staff Sergeant shrugged. "Gunny, you haven't even told us how we're going up."
      Reynolds gritted his teeth. "We fire grappling lines up to the top. Then we walk it."
      The platoon sergeant stared. "Sir, with all due respect...that sounds like something not even Hollywood would try."
      Reynolds glared daggers. "You have a better idea, Staff Sergeant? The Elites have no doubt already attacked their targets by now, and I'm in no mood to hear 'Taham's mocking about how we can't even handle one pulse generator."
      Schref steadily gazed back. "Well, that's the thing, Gunny. I don't."


      After Repetant Instigator's bombshell, the Monitor was shown out from the Admiral's Quarters by a Marine guard, leaving Admirals Hood and Harsoth alone.
      The bone-thin, bone-weary Harsoth was shaking. "Sir...can this be it? Can we really have found him?"
      Hood's face seemed even more lined than usual. "I want to hope, Brett. I really do. But think of all the disappointments we've had over the past few years...this could be a trap. A ploy to lure in our best soldiers."
      "Sir...Terrence...without hope, how would we have won the war?"
      The Fleet Admiral's eyes flashed. "You think I don't realize that, Brett? I had the hopes and dreams, tears and fears of the UNSCDF and the goddamn Security Council riding on my shoulders. And believe me, I want to hope, I want to have the Chief back. But I don't see how we can afford to take the risk."
      Harsoth leaned forward to face the viewscreen. "Sir...I don't see how we can afford not to."
      Hood's face cracked into an all-too-rare smile. "Alright, Brett. Let's do it. Fleet Master 'Vadum and I will be on the Berlin shortly. Matters of this magnitude should be discussed in person."
      Returning the smile, Harsoth saluted. "Admiral, it will be an honor."


      The two dropships, one an organic-looking Phantom, the other an angular Pelican, hovered, executed an aerial about-face, and set down in the Berlin's hangar bay.
      Master Gunnery Sergeant Pete Stacker, commanding the forty-man-strong Marine/ODST honor guard flanking the two dropships gave a bark of, "Admiral on the deck!"
      The sound of forty battle-armored humans snapping to attention echoed through the hangar.
      Fleet Admiral Sir Terrence Hood, along with Sangheili Fleet Master Rtas "Half-Jaw" 'Vadum, looked quite impressed. "As you were."
      The Marines snapped into an at-ease position. Hood chuckled. "No, I meant back to your stations. Dismissed."
      Stacker prepared to bark out that order as well, when Half-Jaw placed his hand on his shoulder. Stacker automatically stiffened, and reached for his M6D, when he remembered the treaty. "My apologies, Fleet Master."
      'Vadum gave Stacker an enigmatic look. "None necessary. Old memories die hard. To say nothing of old survival reflexes."
      Hood broke in. "Pete, the Fleet Master and I need you to come with us."
      "Yes Sir, Admiral. Is something wrong?"
      "Nothing's wrong, Pete. Just some news. Big news."


      It took less than ten minutes for Hood, Harsoth and Half-Jaw to tell the news to Stacker.
      It took five more minutes for Stacker to lift up his jaw and vocalize his reaction.
      "Is this true, Sir?" he said, looking at Hood. "Is the Chief really back?"
      The Admiral fixed Stacker with a grim look. "We don't know, Pete. But we hope it's true."
      "So, what's the catch, Sir? Why do you need me?"
      "We don't know this isn't a trap, Pete. Whether by Repetant whatever-the-hell-his-name-is, or by the Covenant. You know what happened the last time we trusted a Monitor."
      Stacker's eyes tensed noticably at the mention of Avery Johnson's death. "I know what happened to Avery. Some of us who knew from ORION still aren't over it."
      Hood shrugged. "I've never had much contact with ORION veterans, so I wouldn't know. What I do know, Pete, is that we need to verify this report. How many men do you need."
      The Master Gunnery Sergeant stiffened. "I'll take the survivors of my ODSTs, plus 24 Marines."
      "Anyone in particular?"
      "No, Sir."
      "Then good luck, Pete."
      "Thank you, Sir."


      "You know, he never really acknowledged me like he did Avery. Maybe it was because I wasn't there for Ascendant Justice, I dunno."
      Hocus shrugged. "I was just another Pelican pilot to him. I think he closed himself down to us pilots after he lost Carol."
      Stacker, assisting in the loading of Kilo 023 with food, water, and ammo, looked askance at the other. He'd never paid much attention to Hocus like he and the other Helljumpers in Silva's battalion had to Foehammer, but she wasn't half-bad looking: slim, with short-cut blonde hair, and sharp, intelligent eyes. Courtesy of the hangar door, she even had a little outline of light around her from the noonday light.
      The pilot caught the other's glance, and dropped a sly wink. Stacker chuckled to himself. Hocus was well-aware of her attractiveness; her past inter-service flings had included such noteworthies as Longsword squadron leader Major Tom Easley, Staff Sergeant Marcus Banks, and, according to rumor, even Avery Johnson. No doubt she was enjoying the way she was rattling the Gunny.
      Stacker's platoon sergeant, Staff Sergeant Jon Salko, walked up and saluted. "We're all set, Sir. Lieutenant Delckiss has given us two of his best squads, and they're all loaded up."
      "Copy that, Staff Sergeant. Let's find ourselves a Spartan."