Posted By: Jillybean<email@example.com>
Date: 14 November 2006, 9:15 pm
AN: Some language ahead.
This is unedited & bashed out in about an hour or so, and an exploration in the human side of the war - with the Covenant as the bad guys. What's life without experimentation? And fever addled brains.
Yasmin hesitated before she brought a cup of coffee to the marine. He was the last one, the sole reminder of a united front against the Covenant, the leader of a few poxy planetary guard. And he looked alone. Sitting with his back against the wall, he had one arm wrapped arm wrapped around his chest, his fingers idly rubbing the UNSC patch on his left shoulder. The threads were worn and tattered, coming away from their patterns. The bright gold border had faded with age and use, dirt coating the edges. The oak leaf emblem was barely recognisable.
Licking her lips, and tasting a copper tinge where the soft skin had chapped away from her constant worrying at it, Yasmin took a deep breath and plunged onwards. She reached the marine's side and handed him both sealed mugs.
He glanced up, a little curious as he obediently held onto both containers while she pulled a crate around to sit on. He handed her mug back to her, his eyes warming a little as she made her intention to stick around clear. Twisting the cap on his own mug, he cradled it in both lands, breathing in the smell. "Hot coffee, cold mornings. I missed it on Preal."
Yasmin smiled wanly. She didn't know much about the outer colonies, but from what she'd gathered, Preal had been a desert planet. The forests surrounding her dripped with water, the constant warble of the jungle life hadn't yet been silenced by the Covenant. She doubted it would be. The various avians and lizards of Athena had survived the humans and their settlement, they would survive the Covenant invasion too. She watched him surreptitiously as he drank, running her fingers over the brushed steel of her own mug. "Can I call you Sam?" she asked.
He nodded, his eyelids drifting closed as he leaned back against the outside wall of the bunker entrance. "Call me whatever you want," he mumbled.
"Do you prefer that or Corporal Jacobson?"
"It really doesn't bother me," he said. Now it was his turn to watch her, the barest hint of a smile on his face as she took a drink.
Holding her arms out, Yasmin raised an eyebrow. "What?"
Sam's eyes tracked downwards. Abruptly he sat up, reaching forwards for her belt and the gun she'd hooked over her hip. He pulled it away, pointing it to the ground and running his fingers over the barrel, finding the poorly fastened join and ramming the pieces home. Checking that the safety was on, he handed it back to her, kicking his feet up on her crate and folding his arms as he leaned back again. "What did they teach you?" he muttered.
"We're not an army," she retorted quickly. Casting her eyes up at the grey sky, she scowled. "And no one cared enough to send us any real protection."
"A fitting epithet for my team," Sam said coolly, meeting her gaze as she realised what she'd said. "Still. Your planet didn't even see fit to teach its soldiers to assemble a rifle properly."
"I was drafted when the war reached us, I was never meant to be a soldier," Yasmin began quickly, pointing at him. "Delta was a peaceful planet, our guards didn't have need for guns, we prized ourselves on our safe homes and beautiful gardens and we never once thought we'd have to deal with this." Gesturing sharply to the tangle of jungle, she hesitated, breathing heavily.
"You asked for help, and you got us," Sam said. "You wouldn't have gotten better marines. I promise you that." He shifted slightly, somehow stepping back and away from the fight even though he'd barely moved a muscle. Closing his eyes, he let his helmeted head rest on the wall of the bunker entrance. "When they come for us we'll hold the bunker as long as we can. If they don't glass us first."
A sharp chill of fear passed down Yasmin's spine. "Why would they glass us?" she whispered.
"Stop us from attacking back. You have to admire their tactics," Sam said without opening his eyes.
"No I don't." Taking a deep breath, Yasmin forced herself to relax. She listened out to the sounds of the jungle and far away the gentle rumblings of a Covenant engine. Just one ship, so far as they knew, one ship this far out which had happened to stumble on their little planet. It had dropped to orbit and let loose wave upon wave of Elites until all that was left of Delta's inhabitants were here. Soon the alien bastards would come crashing through the undergrowth. She glanced back to the marine, her throat tight. "Thank you," she said quietly.
"Just doing my job, ma'am."
"Yasmin," she corrected.
"I know," he said again, this time opening his eyes. "Trust me, people have said worse things." He stretched and reached for his mug, finishing the coffee in a few gulps. "Do you hear that?" he asked, setting the cup aside.
"Hear what?" She tilted her head to the side. "I hear the Covenant ship."
"Yeah, but, I hear two." Sam was on his feet, gun in hand, faster than Yasmin could make out the distinctive higher whine.
She stumbled to her feet, radioing to the rest of the guard before she could remember their codes. She settled for just yelping her position. Wincing when Sam glared at her, she flicked the safety off on her gun, staring up at the skies. "It's coming, isn't it?" she whispered.
"Steady," Sam reached out, his hand settling on her uniform. He squeezed her forearm. "Not yet." He signalled two short bursts of static on his radio.
"What does that mean, sir?" asked the voice on the other end of the radio.
With the barest of sighs, Sam shook his head. "Hostile inbound. Keep your heads." He motioned for Yasmin to move further to his right but her feet felt like lead. Any move away from the marine was a bad one. Sam was crouching, creeping away from her as he left the bunker entrance and reached the fringe of the jungle.
The growl of engines grew louder, changing in pitch. Automatically, Yasmin straightened, trying to pinpoint where the new noise was coming from. Two drop ships.
"Oh thank you," she heard Sam whisper before she heard a messy two bursts of static from the radio.
She didn't have time to check as the Covenant dropship burst out over the canopy of trees, screeching its death cry as circled around to return. Shifting her grip on the rifle, she licked her lips and watched as it came closer, its twin barrels swivelling to point at the bunker.
"Ground to bird, we need cover, now!" Sam's voice was impossibly close in her ear and she realised he was speaking over the radio.
"Ground, this is your bird," a woman's voice replied. "Cover's on its way."
"I don't . . ." Sam trailed off. Out of the corner of her eye, Yasmin could see his entire posture shift as he caught sight of something.
Tearing her gaze from the dropship, she glanced upwards. An ugly UNSC ship was in the atmosphere, its swollen belly looking remarkably bereft of guns. It was a transport ship, older than the one the first colonists had used to get to Delta. And something was falling from it, a tarnished bit of metal, coloured green like the rest of the ship. It was falling fast.
"Oh, shit," Sam breathed.
The piece of metal contorted, twisting as continued it's downwards spiral before suddenly exploding. Two heavy parachutes deployed, the canvas so large that it cast a shadow over the clearing.
"What the fuck is that?" hissed someone on the radio.
"Clear the ground, take cover," Sam radioed back. "Take cover!" He dived forwards, grabbing Yasmin by the waist and dragging her towards the bunker. "Take cover!" he repeated, his voice echoing strangely in her ears and radio. Pushing her against the overhanging lip of the bunker, he braced himself against the wall. "All Hell's gonna break loose," he murmured in her ear. Yasmin craned her neck to stare out at the sky.
The object was closer now, in the shape of a man. It cut away the chutes, the two sails of canvas being swept away on a thermal and it dropped to the ground, flexing its knees. Yasmin felt the impact of the Spartan with Delta through her feet. The Spartan tilted its golden visor upwards as the dropship opened fire. The reflection of the purple plasma blazed against the gold, making the Spartan appear to glint. It paused, the fingers on its right hand stretched out to touch the earth, it's left hand reaching for the largest gun Yasmin had ever seen. Strapped to the Spartan's back was what she could only assume was a rocket launcher.
"Shit," Sam said again, pressing closer. "Keep your head down."
Yasmin didn't listen. She watched as the Spartan poised on one knee, resting the rocket launcher on its shoulder. Two shots from the dropship's guns hit the Spartan's shield and the suit flared gold. The hiss of the rocket launcher's shot seemed to shake in Yasmin's chest and she watched as smoke coiled around the Spartan's back. The dropship veered away, the rocket glancing across its left side. Another rocket and the ship's engines change, droning as the ship fell towards the forest.
The Spartan flung away the rocket launcher, taking the next weapon from its hip. This gun, a simple battle rifle, looked strangely small in the Spartan's hands. The suit of armour moved then, like a snake uncoiling. It began moving towards the jungle in a long, low gait that brought it to the trees in no time at all. It disappeared into the bushes, moving between the large fronds, not leaving a single leaf quivering.
"My God," Yasmin breathed.
Sam let her go, grimacing at the plasma scorched ground. "Ground to bird, LZ is clear, we have two hundred colonists in this bunker, you'd better get down here," he said. Turning back to Yasmin, he gestured to the door. "I want them in groups of ten, ready to start moving when I tell them."
Nodding, Yasmin keyed the door code, surprised to see that her fingers were shaking. The other members of the guard filtered in from other areas of the compound, their faces pale.
"Was that a Spartan?" one asked.
"Jesus Christ, did you see it move?"
Yasmin relayed their orders, waiting at the threshold. She watched Sam gather ammunition and clear the crates as the transport loomed closer, blocking out the grey light. An explosion sounded in the forest with the hiss of plasma fizzling out on damp ground. She thought about the Spartan and, unbidden, her mind threw out the image of its suit readily absorbing the plasma cannon shots from the dropship.
"Get the first group ready to go," Sam roared over the engines of the transport as it hovered above them. He stood with his back to the bunker, staring out at the trees, his weapon in his hand.
She called down the stairs and listened to the sound of footsteps against the metal steps. Half a dozen children stared up at her, flanked by a few woman and one elderly gentleman who looked embarrassed to be there. Yasmin recognised him, the poet, hardly the contribution to society she would have picked to be one of the first out.
"Yasmin!" Sam's cry was almost lost to the sound of the engines.
The transport hadn't landed yet and was blowing clods of earth everywhere as it descended. The loading gangplank was deployed, a few metres from the ground. She glanced back, reaching down the hallway with her fingers extended. "Take my hand," she called down to the first child, grabbing his wrist and sprinting towards the gangplank. The draft from the thrusters was hot, burning her skin as she held the child up to be lifted onboard by the UNSC personnel inside. Grabbing the next child, she held him up to, and before the ship had fully landed the first group was inside. She sprinted back to the bunker door as the next group was led out by someone else. Group three waited on the stairs, their tearful faces looking hopeful.
Something distinctly inhuman sounded from the crates where she and Sam had shared coffee barely half an hour ago. A scream escaped her and she stumbled back against the door, fumbling for her gun.
"Get the civilians out of here!" Sam yelled.
The Elite swivelled its head to see the marine, ducking its head as it prepared to charge. Sam opened fire, his bullets barely scratching the shields of the Elite as it raced towards him. Yasmin's gun suddenly jumped into her hands. She flexed her knees, bracing her back against the bunker's wall and opened fire. The recoil from the gun shaking her hands.
The Elite stumbled to the side, suddenly confronted with two potential targets. As it stared around, it caught sight of the civilians being loaded into the transport. Its four jaws opened wide and it abruptly changed course, moving towards the ship. Yasmin's gun clicked empty and she couldn't remember where her extra rounds were. Sam was running forwards, attempting to cut the Elite off as he reloaded.
"Watch out," Yasmin hissed, not loud enough for anyone to hear but herself. Beyond the trees something moved before breaking out from the foliage. The Spartan moved faster than any human, easily outstripping Sam. It moved from a run into a slide, holding a Covenant weapon in each hand as it slid along the ground cutting in front of the Elite. As the Spartan broke the Elite's path it opened fire, hot plasma spilling out over the Elite's shield.
Both guns overloaded and the Spartan flung them aside, moving upwards as if it weighed nothing and was simply lifted by a gentle breeze. The Elite fell to the ground and the Spartan plunged its fist into the Elite's throat. It fell with a snarl, kicking out and bringing the Spartan to its knees.
Yasmin let hooked her gun to her belt once more and grabbed the hand of the first person in group three. "Move!" she yelled, her voice hoarse. The woman struggled against her at first, unwilling to move out into the open.
"Move it, lady!"
"You can do it!"
The shouts from the bay of the transport seemed to galvanise the woman and she left Yasmin, going so far as to push her away. The rest of group three raced to the ship as the Spartan flung the Elite towards the crates. As the Elite sailed through the air, the Spartan whirled around, dropping to pick up one of its discarded guns in one swift movement. Completing the 360 degree turn it fired at the Elite, burning a hold through its armour. The Elite fell and did not get up.
Yasmin turned back to the bunker, yelling for the fourth group. She took up position with the UNSC personnel, helping people inside the gaping maw of the loading bay. She noticed more of the planet's guard sneaking on board the transport, escaping. The groups became more and more disorganised until it was only a ragged group of elderly, lost children and the occasional good soul who had stayed behind to help.
Sam headed down into the bunker, returning with a flushed face. He dragged his hand over his brow, smearing even more mud over his forehead. "There's no one left," he called, waving the others into the ship. He turned to the Spartan patrolling the perimeter and beckoned him over. "Come on," he said to Yasmin.
She hesitated, waiting until the Spartan reached them before entering the ship. It was already rising up and she stumbled, reaching out to catch the Spartan's hand to stop herself from falling to the deck. The Spartan turned its visor towards her, remaining steady as a rock as they moved upwards. It let go of her as she steadied herself and moved away.
Sam approached it, saluting. "We would have been lost down there without you," he said. The ship shook as it took on fire and the colonists hunkered down as the UNSC crewmen hurried to strap the last of them in to the seats along the side.
The Spartan didn't move. "Just doing my job," the voice that echoed from the suit was deep, but it seemed detached.
"So are we all," Sam said, "but you're doing a good one." He hesitated for a moment before reaching out to touch the Spartan's shoulder.
"Excuse me, ma'am," one of the crew stopped beside Yasmin. "You have to be secured."
The ship shook again and Yasmin thought the Spartan might have tensed. Sam hurried to sit by her side. He strapped himself in while one of the crew secured Yasmin to her crash seat.
"Sir," the crewman called to the Spartan.
"I'll be fine," the Spartan dismissed them, keeping watch over them.
"Are we going to Earth?" Yasmin called to one of the crewmen.
"We're going to the next planet," the crewman told her, shouting around Sam. "This is what we do." He jerked his head towards the Spartan.
Yasmin stared at the suit of armour and smiled when he inclined his helmet towards her.