Fort Underworld Pt 6
Posted By: K. Beitzel and J.B.<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 21 June 2010, 12:24 am
The elevator began to slow as it reached the top of the shaft, the low whirring of it's antigrav systems tapering off into silence around the Marines. "Enough small talk, ladies, eyes on the prize," Decker growled. "God knows what's up here."
The ancient machinery groaned softly before settling into place with a low thump, and a massive set of doors hissed open in front of the service elevator. Decker raised his hand to block the glare of the sunrise as it crested the mist-covered mountains of Installation 04. As his eyes attempted to compensate for the sudden change in brightness, he could hear the distinct pop-hiss-clank! of Walters deploying green smoke on the makeshift extraction zone.
"Area clear and smoke deployed, sir! Where the hell are the birds?"
Decker scanned the horizon, but couldn't make anything out through the haze. "Where the hell is the evac?" he wondered aloud, watching what remained of his men - and the Elite, who still carried her unconscious Jackal cargo over her shoulder - gaze skyward, looking for a rescue that didn't seem to be coming.
Never willing to completely give up hope, he tapped his PTT again. "Echo 412, Cliffhanger Actual. We're topside, where the hell are you, over?"
"Cliffhanger, this is Echo 412, we're almost there, ETA 60 seconds. Echo 351 is ready to provide CAS if necessary, break. Be ready to go when we get there, we are bingo on fuel, over."
"Copy, Echo 412. CAS is not needed at this time, LZ is marked with green smoke. Cliffhanger Act-son of a bitch! Contact, three o'clock!"
Decker quickly brought his weapon to bear and began pouring fire into the creatures that had followed them up and through the lift room. The few "friendly" alien sentries that had accompanied them in the elevator were quickly torn to shreds by mutated Marines and Covenant wielding the deadly tools of their former occupations. As the Marines tried desperately to hold, Decker became vaguely aware of a distant, worried voice shouting in his ear.
"...do you copy, over? What the hell is going on down there?"
"These goddamned things are shooting back!," Decker yelled over the sound of his M247. "Give me that air cover - shoot everything squawking friendly! Kill all those sons of bitches!"
As if on cue, the massive silhouette of a D77-TC Pelican roared overhead, it's engine wash quickly blasting the fog away from the clearing. A cool-headed female voice buzzed over the radio with the most comforting words anyone had heard in the past twenty-four hours:
"Echo 351, engaging with guns."
The drop ship's nose-mounted 70mm chain-gun etched a line of destruction through the alien lines, tearing the creatures limb from limb. The soldiers whooped and cheered as the horde went from a swarming mass of death to a twitching pile of bodies.
With the imminent threat annihilated, Echo 351's guns fell silent, and it pulled back to circle the area to admire it's handiwork while Echo 412 touched down at long last. Decker sprinted over to the cargo bay and covered the survivors while they climbed aboard the ship. Climbing in after the last man had boarded, he tapped on the pilot's shoulder. "We're all clear, let's go!"
The drop ship slowly rose away from the mountainside and banked east, closing it's rear hatch as it turned away from the landing zone. The pilot gave a thumbs-up as the Pelican continued ascending. "Glad to see you made it, Sergeant Major. We'll get you back to Camp Exodus in one piece."
Decker raised a brow in suspicion. "Exodus? I don't remember anyone talking about a Camp Exodus."
The pilot laughed softly. "That's because there wasn't a Camp Exodus until about four hours ago. While you assholes were holed up here playing with whatever the hell those things were, we lost contact with Captain Keyes. They even sent that Spartan after him, and we lost contact with him too. Some of the other pilots and I decided we were going to get the hell out of here whi-"
"That's dereliction of duty, Lieutenant. You know this. We can't let the Covenant get control of this construct at any cost."
"And they won't get it. Those things you ran into down there - they call them the 'Flood,' and the bastards have been swarming all over the God-damned place like someone kicked over an ant pile. The Covvies are losing ground like it's going out of style, and if they're getting their asses kicked, we won't fare much better. So we're grabbing a damaged Covenant corvette that went down about 90 klicks from here, making some quick repairs, and getting the hell out of dodge before we all end up dead."
Decker's hand went to his hip and curled around the butt of his pistol. "It's still dereliction of duty. You'll be court-marshalled."
The pilot laughed again. "Sounds better than dead, Sergeant. Ask your buddies back there which one they'd prefer to be."
Decker looked over his shoulder at his squad. All but the Elite had fallen asleep, their adrenaline rush long gone. Alexis in particular looked bruised and battered, and both Walters and Nichols were in a pitiful state. Decker's hand slowly moved away from his sidearm. One way or another, they were all dead men, but a soldier's duty was to delay dying as long as possible so he could complete his mission - and there was no way they could complete this mission. To stay would be suicide.
Decker gave a soft sigh and put his hand on the pilot's shoulder. "You make a good argument, sir. I'm in - they can bitch me out later."
"Good," the pilot replied. "I just got a report back from Exodus - the corvette looks like it'll be space-worthy by the time we get there, and they're almost finished loading supplies onto it, so no worries about starving to death before we can get back. There is however, one small problem."
"And that is?"
"Witnesses. Cole Protocol. You know how it works, and you can never be too careful," he said, subtly handing a hypodermic needle and a stubby rod to Decker before flipping the switch to 'ON'. "Do what you have to, Sergeant."
Walking back towards the bay, Decker found the Elite facing away from the cockpit, tending to the unconscious Jackal. "I overheard that you plan to escape this ring-world. A wise decision, even if it goes against every instinct you have as a warrior. As for this one, I know not what you did to him, but this Kig-Yar will not be reawakening for a long while."
"I know," Decker said, extending the Humbler to it's full length. "Neither will you."
Hyla's body convulsed violently as the stun baton cracked against the back of her skull. A second strike caused her to crumple into the floor of the cargo bay. Barely able to move, she rolled herself over just in time to see Decker bring the Humbler down again on her chest, sending burning pain through her body. Decker knelt down next to Hyla's face and removed the safety cover of the needle, quickly tapping it to remove air bubbles before injecting the sedative into her neck.
The last thing Hyla would remember before fading out of consciousness was Decker standing above her, a completely emotionless look on his face.
"Sorry squid. Nothing personal."