Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Ten
Posted By: LordofDestruction<email@example.com>
Date: 10 December 2005, 2:01 am
Author's Note: I've decided to come out of retirement and finish this older series that's been left unfinished. I'd recommend going and reading parts one through nine before reading this one. Also, most of this series was written before Halo 2 came out, so some of the names don't match up, such as in my story, the Spectre is the successor to the Wraith tank.
Halo: The Scythe of Death Part Ten
2301 Hours (Universal Time), April 17th, 2578 (Military Calendar) /
4/809 Battalion, 1756th Armored Division defensive position (37º 52' 33" S, 82° 25' 12" W), Isen River Battlespace, Vega Prime Theatre of Operations, Sigma Vega system
Lieutenant Colonel Michael Patton finished assisting the support crew in rearming and refueling his tank and repainting its active camouflage paint, and then put his helmet to his MJOLNIR armor back on, and saw the new order issued out to battalion commanders.
The order moved his division, the 1756th Armored, to the flanks of the UNSC battle area, and then across a series of gravity bridges set up by Marine engineers to the opposite side of the river. Upon reaching the opposite shore, the division would strike at the flanks of the invading Covenant armies, and hopefully, envelope them. Like any counterstrike, it had its risks.
He yelled to his tank crew, "All right, lets saddle up. We're moving to Phase-Line Mace"
His driver quickly started up the MBT-1A Dragon tank, while Command Sergeant Major Downes coordinated the battalion's movement with the individual company commanders. The battalion had close to sixty Dragon tanks and fifty Manticore infantry fighting vehicles at full strength, but was now down to roughly two-thirds strength.
Patton checked through the order again on his PDA, and tracked his battalion and the other battalions' progress in the movement. What amazed him was how fast his unit would be ready to move. It would only take two hours from when the order was received to move to the waypoint almost seventy kilometers away. In about twenty minutes, the whole division was on the move to the waypoint.
The ride to the waypoint was a rather rough one across rolling, uneven terrain. Even with the tank's advanced suspension system, the sharp reliefs of the terrain jostled the tank crews around. The terrain was quite remarkably beautiful, a dark green field dotted with trees set against the crimson red light of the setting sun. The three-hundred-sixty degree field of view created by tank's visual sensors painted a brilliant panorama in Patton's mind. It was amazing how much he could see through the tank's sensors, all of the overwhelming information was superimposed over his normal vision by his neural interface. And with just a thought, he could zoom in onto an area of interest, change visual spectrums, identify targets, issue orders to his crew, or even fire the tank's weapons himself. The sheer power was almost overwhelming to anyone.
In the distance, he could see the three gravity bridges that his battalion was going to cross. They were close to five kilometers away, each were nearly seven hundred meters long. The Isen River was quite an imposing obstacle, almost thirteen thousand kilometers long, and at places over five kilometers wide. The bridges had blue-gray camouflage nets strung all across their length in an effort to disguise the bridges from casual reconnaissance.
He checked his map on his PDA again. There were close to seventy gravity bridges set up over a fifty kilometer stretch of the river. At each end of the bridges, there were four AAM-3B surface air missile launchers. Each tracked, mobile launcher carried eight SAM-5 missiles, surface to air missiles with a range of over one hundred eighty kilometers. With each group of launchers was a mobile radar station. As he approached the bridgehead, he expected to see scorched earth at the base of each launcher, but, apparently, the launchers hadn't fired at all yet. That meant the Covenant hadn't made any notice of the bridges—even the dumbest commander would recognize them as a threat.
When his tank rolled to a halt at the bridge head, he disengaged from the tank's neural interface, and disembarked from the tank. He walked to an older, grizzled looking Master Sergeant, with the golden engineering spade emblem on his shoulder. The Sergeant saluted, then said in his cockney accent, "Welcome to Isen crossing Echo, Leftenant Colonel, I'm Master Sergeant Nigel Cromwell, 288th Engineering Brigade."
Patton shook the Sergeant's hand, "Thank you for all of your assistance, Sergeant. Has there been any enemy contact?"
Cromwell chuckled, "None within sight of the crossing, but a scout patrol spotted a couple of split-chins about seven kilometers from the opposite shore. They nailed the little blighters good. Oth'r then that, not much."
Patton relaxed a bit, "That's good. How long before 4th Battalion can cross?"
"We can have you start to cross in about ten minutes. Your division's Cav troop went acr'ss about twenty minutes ago. We jus' need to check if the bridge is still anchored properly."
"Carry on, Sergeant. You and your men have done a fine job on such short notice."
"Aye, guv'ner. I'll tell the men what ya had to say."
Several minutes later, the tanks and infantry fighting vehicles from the 4th Mechanized Battalion began crossing the gravity bridges. The bridge could only support two thousand tons safely, so only twenty vehicles could be on the bridge at any one time. Consequently, it took almost forty-five minutes for the entire battalion to clear the bridge and move to Phase-Line Mace.
The four lead maneuver brigades of the 1756th took an additional fifty minutes to reach Phase-Line Mace. The divisional artillery would stay on the south shore and cover the mechanized attack from a distance.
On the move to Phase-Line Talon, the 4th Battalion was moving at a steady march speed of forty kilometers/hour. Phase-Line Talon was a line of advance only three kilometers away from the flanks of one of the advancing Covenant armies, the 301st Guards Combined Army. It had a total of eight maneuver divisions, four mechanized and four armored, and two support divisions of artillery. It outnumbered the 1756th Armored, at least on paper, by a factor of 8:1, but it had lost nearly a quarter of its operational effectiveness because of air attack and spare part shortages.
At 0315, the lead Cavalry squadron made contact with the outermost Covenant division. She wouldn't engage until the lead maneuver brigade caught up with her. Patton's battalion was on the vanguard of the lead brigade, and reached waypoint bravo twenty minutes later.
As his tank crested a hill, he zoomed his thermal sensors in on a group of heat blobs. He zoomed in on the lead heat blob. His fire-control computer identified it as a command variant Spectre main battle tank. Following it were two Imp infantry fighting vehicles, and a Shadow infantry carrier.
Sergeant Major Downes locked the main gun onto the Spectre, while three Manticore infantry fighting vehicles from the forward cavalry screen locked onto the Covenant personnel carriers. Patton's neural interface displayed the blips of his battalion taking aim at unsuspecting Covenant vehicles.
He quickly looked back at the enemy command platoon to make sure they hadn't spotted his tank. Very soon afterward, he received the green light order from division headquarters. He clicked on his radio, "Green light to engage. Repeat, green light to engage. Fire at will."
He had barely finished his sentence when his tank rocked back from the recoil of the mammoth 152.2mm mass driver as it spat its deadly venom onto the target. The 132-kilogram penetrator struck the Spectre tank just behind its turret, right in the middle of its crew compartment. It tore through the shields, and ripped a ragged hole in its armor, sending molten chunks of armor and charred bits of flesh out the far side.
Two seconds later, 50mm high explosive shells from the three Manticores rained onto the Covenant vehicles. The Shadow was instantly blown apart, but the two Imps managed to cough up some return fire before being snuffed out.
Even inside the tank, Lt. Colonel Patton could hear the loud, sharp cracks of nearly thirty other Dragon tanks firing into the night. His tank barely had started to reload when he started scanning the horizon for return fire. Nearly five kilometers away, a bright green plasma bolt shot out of a Spectre tank at over a kilometer a second, heading straight for Patton's tank.
By the time he saw the bolt heading towards him, it was too late to dodge it. All he could do was swing his tank gun out of the path of the bolt, and hold on for dear life. As the bolt struck, he checked to make sure the main gun was safe from the plasma, and grabbed onto the nearest handhold as the tank started bucking. Nearly all of the right side turret armor was burned off by the blast, and the entire tank was turned a sickly black charcoal color, but the tank was otherwise intact, and its crew still alive.
Patton shouted, "Sgt. Major, send him our uranium care package, express delivery."
"With pleasure, sir." The turret spun to the right quickly, and locked onto the Spectre tank. It had just ignited its boosters and was about to duck for cover behind a large boulder when a burning white uranium slug punched through its shields and armor, right into its fusion cell. It spun to the left, fell to the ground, and exploded in a brilliant blue flash of plasma. The two surviving Sanghelli crewmembers popped the hatch and were climbing off of the charred wreck when a burst 25.5mm HE rounds from the Dragon's coaxial autocannon exploded on the Spectre's hull, the shrapnel tearing the two poor bastards apart.
Downes mused at his handiwork, "Ground split-chin, three credits a kilo! About time those sons of bitches started paying."
"Okay, Sergeant, knock it off." Patton clicked his radio on, "Okay, I need Able and Bravo companies to move forward, Charlie company, you're running right flank security, Dog company, you're on the left with me. Easy company, I need you in reserve. Task Force Epsilon, keep the skies clear for us." He clicked his radio off, "Driver, get us behind that hill." The icons on his map began crawling around like ants, and then started moving uniformly forward, thanks to the marvels of GPS. As his tank parked behind the knoll, TF Epsilon, the SAM task force, finally got rolling smoothly.
A squadron of Kukri ground attack fighters flew overhead, most likely off to engage Covenant armor. A storm of artillery impacts could be heard kilometers away. Patton muttered to himself, "God help the poor bastards caught under that hail," and surprisingly, sincerely meant it. They were just doing their duty, and he was just doing his. The nihilism of this war seemed to know no bounds. Nearly a trillion innocent humans butchered, and now billions of Covenant civilians murdered by the UNSC in payment for the earlier atrocities. The only reason why the pathetic piece of dirt they were fighting for was still intact was that FLEETCOM felt the colony to be of "strategic interest." Dozens of other former Covenant colonies had nearly every city nuked from orbit, and then surrounded with nuclear space mines to prevent relief from getting to the colony until most of its denizens had starved to death.
The oath he took when he became an officer only said he had to preserve, protect and defend the people of Earth—It said nothing about participating in the vengeful, wholesale slaughter of helpless masses.
There were more cackles of mass drivers in the background, though this time they weren't unanswered. Bright blue streaks betrayed the positions of at least two-dozen enemy tanks. One of those streaks shot past Patton's concealed tank, and right into a Manticore infantry carrier. The Manticore never stood a chance, its frontal armor was consumed in an instant, and much of the plasma burned through into the vehicle's crew compartment, immolating every person inside.
"Driver! Get us into a firing position on that Spectre! Gunner, take him out ASAP!" The tank leapt forward, and started to crest the hill, while the two other Manticores dashed behind the knoll. Patton's gunner, Sgt. Major Downes, let loose a round from the main gun as the tank started to descend down the knoll.
The blazing streak of the long-rod penetrator hit the Spectre just over a second after it left the rails of its mass driver. It punched through the shields, and caught the hull on the left side booster wing. The booster was torn off, but the tank was left otherwise intact. It began to charge up a plasma blast aimed towards Patton's tank, but was then struck in its main gun by a Pilum anti-tank missile fired by the second Manticore. The high explosive anti-tank round sent a jet of molten metal and armor fragments into the plasma cannon's delicate internal machinery. The forward mounted turret exploded from the damage, leaving the Spectre a helpless hulk. Its crew smartly bailed out, and unlike the last, managed to escape their vehicle.
As the tank continued to roll down the hill at eighty kilometers per hour, the turret traversed quickly to the left. The gunner locked the 25.4mm coaxial cannon onto an Imp infantry carrier, and let lose a barrage of burst fire.
The armor piercing rounds tore through the Imp's turret, splattering a purple-blue paste of the commander and gunner on the inside of the turret.
Patton's unit AI, Draco, broke in, "Sir, may I suggest that you consult with me before you decide to move your unit into enemy territory?"
"Any more insightful news from the overgrown video game?"
"Well, actually yes, yes there is. The three-oh-first Guards have begun preparing for further attacks. We have lost the element of surprise. I have queried air strikes to reduce their combat power."
Patton sighed, "Good. That should help some. Throw everything you can at them, and keep me informed of any new developments."
To be continued