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Attack on Installation 06, part 14
Posted By: Jake Trommer<wedgefan@comcast.net>
Date: 12 October 2008, 12:19 am

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Attack on Installation 06
Chapter 11
1430 Hours, July 09, 2553 (Military Calendar)
Tharidanis System, Installation 06

      The Sangheili Fleet of Righteous Retribution, headed up by the Assault Carrier Shadow of Intent, manuevered into battle formation above Halo Installation 06, spreading out like a predatory flower opening its petals. A not-insignificant distance away, the rebel Sangheili battlegroup was doing the same.
      On the Shadow of Intent's bridge, UNSC Admirals Brett Harsoth and Sir Terrence Hood stood in front of the tactical holoboard and viewscreen. "We're in trouble," remarked Harsoth, waving an emaciated hand at the tactical board. "Look at this. Six CCS cruisers, five CARs, and a goddam assault carrier. We've got the exact same fleet makeup, plus a CCS and CAR."
      Hood, brow even more furrowed than it normally was, nodded. "Personnel matters as well, Brett. Half-Jaw's got a good fleet, a good crew. That counts for something."
      Fleet Master Rtas 'Vadum, clad in the burnished silver armor that he so loved, looked away from the sensor master's station at the mention of his nickname. "We have numbers on them, Admiral Harsoth, and we have minds. We will triumph."
      Harsoth saluted. "Aye aye, Fleet Master."
      'Vadum turned back to the sensor master. "Talk to me, 'Jadlo. What are our foes doing?"
      The sensor master's chest inflated, something that Harsoth had learned to recognize as a sign of anxiety amongst the Sangheili. "Enemy vessels are approaching in formation Heilios, Fleet Master. It looks like they're going to focus on us. The Shadow of Intent, I mean."
      The Fleet Master nodded. "More glory to us, then. Are they charging their weapons?"
      "We're reading energy spikes from the lead vessels' plasma turrets."
      "Are they launching boarding craft?"
      "No, Fleet Master."
      "Carry on, then." 'Vadum swivelled to face another station. "Communications!"
      "Yes, Fleet Master!"
      "Contact the CCS cruisers, have them advance past us. Hold the CARs in reserve, we don't know whether or not we'll need their firepower."
      "It will be done, Fleet Master!"
      Harsoth studied the tactical board as the orders were carried out, understanding the logic. The CCS-class cruisers were middle-of-the-road craft: fast, maneuverable, decent firepower and shields. En masse, they made for a formidable flotilla. The CAR cruisers, on the other hand, were the Sangheili's heavy hitters: heavily armed, heavily shielded, and with speed and maneuverability that were unfavorably compared to a rock stuck in molasses. Holding them back gave 'Vadum a formidable reserve.
      Admiral Hood surveyed the opposing fleet's formation. "Looks like they're doing the opposite. CARs and CCSs are taking point. They're throwing everything they have at us."
      'Vadum settled into his command chair, and looked at the two human Admirals. "Fear not, my brothers. We will live to see another day."
      Harsoth nodded. "Can you switch this viewscreen over to forward view? I'd like to see what's going on."
      'Vadum spread his mandibles in what Harsoth took to be a smile. "Yes, a holdover from your somewhat suicidal tendencies to keep your bridges in easily-destroyed locations. Engineering, do as he commands."
      A few seconds later, the view of the enemy fleet resolved itself. Harsoth surveyed it, and flinched when the ships dissappeared behind a flash of blue light.
      "Enemy ships have fired, Fleet Master!" cried the sensor officer.
      Half-Jaw bared his fangs. "The hunt is on, brothers!" Pressing a button on his command chair, he declared, "All ships, fire at will! Burn their traitorious hides!"
      Harsoth and Hood stared at the tactical board as the two Sangheili fleets maneuvered towards and around each other, blasting away with their plasma turrets. The two Admirals, not equipped with Sangheili comm headsets, didn't have a complete picture of what was going on, but the chatter emanating from the Communication Master's console was more than enough: "All shields forward, fire all forward plasma lines---" "---Two and Three are down! Repeat, Hunter Two and Hunter Three are down!" "---additional Seraphs launching---" "By the Forerunners, they just destroyed the Devotion!" "---glory to whomever destroyed that CAR---" "All CARs, advance! Let your cannons roar!" "Forerunners be praised, their CCSs are retreating---"
      At the last one, the two Admirals swivelled to face the tactical board. Indeed, the symbols representing the three remaining hostile CCS cruisers were winking away, leaving only four CARs and one assault carrier. "Fleet Master, what happened?"
      'Vadum gave what Harsoth presumed was a sneer. "They are cowards. We are winning, so they flee."
      Hood gritted his teeth. "We still have a major fight ahead of us, Fleet Master."
      Half-Jaw gave one of his unnerving grins. "Yes. We do."


      Gunnery Sergeant Will Reynolds surveyed the entrance to the pulse generator, and shook his head. "No heat, no movement, no Covies anywhere. Something's not right."
      Staff Sergeant Casey Griego, filling in for incapacitated platoon sergeant Greg Schref, shrugged. "It could be a trap, Gunny. Or we could be counting the teeth of the biggest goddam gift horse ever."
      Reynolds winced as another wave of pain wracked his skull. "Maybe. Either we, we have a job to do."
      Griego, a squat man with a rodentlike face and narrow, intelligent eyes, sized up Reynolds. "Sir, you really need to have the medics check you out."
      "After the mission, Staff Sergeant. After the mission. Now let's move."
      The twenty-five man strong Marine platoon advanced into the facility, panning their rifles around the area. Reynolds, on point, clicked online his neural implant, and checked their location. "Alright," said Reynolds, addressing the platoon. "There's a lift around the next corner. We take it up, move through a few more corners, and there we are."
      Staff Sergeant Griego, his armor festooned with thermal imagers, scopes, binoculars, and night vision goggles, swivelled to face the platoon. "C'mon, people, you heard the Gunny, let's move!"
      The Marines, mumbling and grumbling as enlisted man are so wont to do, advanced up the corridor.
      Reynolds, still on point, raised a hand just as he was about to turn the corner that lead to the elevator. Snuffling sounds could be heard from the other side of the corridor.
      Staff Sergeant Griego moved up next to Reynolds. "Paint 'em with the thermal," said the Gunnery Sergeant.
      The platoon sergeant hefted the PAS-26 thermal imager, a device which resembled an overly large video camera, and gazed at the corner. He flinched, and lowered the unit. "Elites, Gunny, three of them."
      Reynolds muttered a curse. "Platoon, grenades on my mark," said the Gunny, suiting action to words by hefting a frag grenade. "Three...two...one...MARK!"
      Twenty five M9 High-Explosive Dual-Purpose frag grenades bounced around the corner. Three cries of "Wort wort wort!" sounded, and then twenty-five explosions. Reynolds barked out, "Go!" and charged around the corner.
      The three rebel Elites were dead, each one bearing multiple shrapnel wounds. Reynolds disinterestedly stepped over the corpses, chuckling to himself as he heard Staff Sergeant Griego spit on them. "C'mon, Staff Sergeant. There'll be plenty more downstairs."
      Griego's flinty eyes gazed back at Reynolds. "Roger that, Gunny. Roger that."


      With a yell of pain and loss, the Master Chief swept his assault rifle across the cryo chamber, sending a scything stream of bullets flying. Gunnery Sergeant Pete Stacker, Staff Sergeant Jon Salko, and Corporal Chips Dubbo, and 16807 Repetant Instigator all dipped, ducked, dived or dodged away from the bullets, the three Marines reaching for their shotguns.
      "Hold fire!" shouted Stacker, knowing it wouldn't have done much good for them to have opened fire in any event. "Chief! Sir, it's me! Gunny Stacker! Please hold, Sir!"
      The Chief made no reply, still emptying the clip from the MA5C...but into the Monitor of Installation 06. Repetant Instigator gave what appeared to be a petulant look at the Master Chief. "Please cease fire, Reclaimer!"
      The Chief did so, but only because he had expended all the rounds in the clip. The implacable armor-clad giant spoke, a harsh grating. "You took her away from me."
      Something changed on Repetant Instigator's metal countenance. Whether it was dimming of his optical light, or whatever, something changed, and Stacker wasn't sure it was for the better. "Reclaimer, I have no idea what you're talking about."
      The Master Chief made a derisive noise, and swivelled to face the Marines, who were still cowering on the ground. "Stacker...Dubbo...it's been a while..."
      Stacker wasn't sure the Chief was all together; the Spartan was still breathing heavily, and there was a certain intensity about him that Stacker had never felt before. But all the same, he could hardly ignore humanity's best soldier. "It has, Sir."
      "Cortana's gone. That metal bastard back there took her from me."
      Cortana. The Chief's armor-integrated AI, and, if scuttlebutt was to be belived, something more. "I'm sorry to hear that, Sir."
      "We're finding her."
      "Sir, there's only twenty-five of us on this op, and we've got to report back to Admiral Hood."
      The Chief paused slammed a fresh clip home in his rifle's receiver. "We. Are. Finding. Cortana."
      Platoon Staff Sergeant Salko hefted his thin frame off of the floor. "Sir...with all due respect..."
      The Chief didn't even hesitate as he swivelled the barrel of his rifle to point at Salko's, and pulled the trigger. The rattling of the assault rifle was unusually loud in the cryochamber, and the clank of Salko's unconscious armored body hitting the ground echoed ominously. "Do I need to repeat myself, Gunnery Sergeant?"
      Stacker winced. "Let me rally up the men, Sir. And we'll go get Cortana."