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Not Exactly Human Ch. 7 Pt. 1: Rescue
Posted By: QuantumSheep<jasnash@optusnet.com.au>
Date: 8 July 2008, 1:07 am


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Time passed since landing according to Sergeant Jeff Ganszo's Mission Clock— 2: 37: 23.90

Jeff had slept for one and a half hours, and since it had been only a short nap, he wasn't feeling any less tired than he had been before. He yawned, able to feel how sore his muscles were now that the adrenaline had stopped flowing through his system. It was always the same: he didn't feel very tired in the middle of a firefight, but he would always feel it afterwards.

He was sitting in the back of a Pelican which was on its way to a position several hundred meters from the Covenant outpost where the Captain was meant to be locked up, captured by the Covenant. In all his experience he hadn't know the Covenant to take prisoners, no matter what rank they happened to be.

The other men sitting in the back of the Pelican included Jones and Heinrich, both of them having volunteered for the mission. There were six other marines, a few Jeff hadn't seen before but most that were with them were ones he had seen on the Winter Sunshine and at Camp Golding.

A lot had happened since they had come to this planet, and that had only been two and a half hours ago. It seemed it would always be like this, considering there would always be something happening. There would always be Covenant soldiers to kill, always be a mission to complete. To Jeff, it was all getting a bit monotonous.

The Pelican's engines were hardly making a nose; the only discernible sound they seemed to be making was a faint high pitched whirr.

On Jeff's lap sat an S2 AM sniper rifle. It was a large and long black metal weapon with a large scope and a large magazine, despite the fact that it held only four 14.5mm sabot rounds inside of it. He would have to complain about the magazine size when, or more like if he got back to UNSC space. Sure, four of the high calibre rounds could kill at least four Minor Elites if you didn't miss, but he preferred his firearms to hold more than just four bullets.

He had cleaned the rifle prior to boarding the Pelican so it was in pristine condition and had very little chance of jamming. His backup weapon was the Bob Turnwell's Colt pistol which he would give back to the Captain once they found him. He still had plenty of ammunition for it since it could take M6D rounds as well, and they were common.

Loading a fresh magazine into the S2 Am sniper rifle, he pointed it at an angle towards the floor and looked through the scope, making sure everything was in good condition. The scope could zoom in up to 10x which was enough for a distant target. The more heavy duty sniper rifles he had seen could zoom up to 25x.

The scope could also be switched to night vision which would be needed in the night time conditions outside. The Pelican's bay door was open and the cold night air was billowing in. They were flying over what looked to be forest reminiscent of what was in the Pike's Creek area on Reach. Grassy plains rolled out beneath them and for some reason hardly anyone in the Pelican had said a word. Jeff could see that they were all tired, but they had to find the Captain before he disclosed any information about Earth, about anything to do with humans.

Jeff doubted the Captain would give away anything and would rather die first. This was why they had to hurry, since the Captain may end up having to bump himself off to avoid disclosing information to the Covenant.

One of the marines sitting closest to the door which went into the Pelican's cockpit, a Corporal, suddenly reached into one of his pouches and retrieved a small disc which he slipped into the small sound system in the wall nearby. A centuries old song suddenly started playing quite loudly throughout the ship and most of the passengers shifted in their seats and began talking.

'What is this crap?' A Private said, 'it sounds old. Real old.'

Jeff tried to remember where he had heard the song before. It was familiar, but at the same time it wasn't.

'Why can't ya see.../What'cha doin' to me? / When you don't believe a word I say…'

'Haven't you heard of the King of rock and roll?' The Corporal replied. He had a typical southern American accent. Jeff had noticed a lot of the higher ranking officers from the Winter Sunshine did seem to have accents like these.

'Who?' The Private asked.

'Elvis Presley, big in his time and still was popular years after he died,' the Corporal said, 'besides, everything was so quiet in here I was beginning to think everybody had died or something.'
Jones, who was sitting on Jeff's left, turned to him.

'You know, the only reason I volunteered for this was because you were leading the mission and, being such a good friend, thought I should stick with you,' he said, 'but now I feel kind of exhausted, you know.'

'I know how you feel,' Jeff said, 'but we have to keep going. No use just sitting around and doing nothing. The Covenant could whack us at any second.'

'Well, I guess saving the Captain is important,' Jones said, 'I find it hard to believe he let himself get captured.'

'I doubt he had much of a choice,' Jeff said. He paused. 'So, you ended up stuck with the Colonel on the same escape pod?'

'Yeah, that's right,' Jones said, 'although, despite what people say he's not a bad guy. He just likes his shotgun too much and drinks too much. He's going to have trouble getting drunk since most of our alcohol is still on board the ship.'

'I used to know him, from my short time in the ODSTs,' Jeff said, 'but he's changed. The one major mission I did during my ODST time was botched so badly it resulted in the deaths of everyone other than me. I ended up wounded and stuck on a small forest moon under control of the Covenant for a week. I was lucky…'

'You don't have to talk about this,' Jones said, his grin fading, 'I know about most of it anyway. How about we just get…well, focused, I suppose, on what we're going to have to do tonight.'

Jeff nodded, although he had gotten over what had happened during that mission eighteen years ago. Now things were different.

'ETA till touchdown fifteen minutes,' the pilot announced from the cockpit.

They had the element of surprise for now, mostly thanks to Windtalker being able to hack the Covenant battle-net and cover their Pelican's tracks to make it look like a Covenant drop-ship. Hopefully that would enable to get them close to the Covenant base before they get found out.

Jeff had listened to what the Major had said earlier and had read up on how to set up the more simpler of the booby traps described in the Major's copy of A Soldier's Guide to the Jungle. They would all be nasty surprises for any Covenant soldier unfortunate enough to fall into one, or walk into it depending on what kind of trap it was.
He took a glance out the back of the Pelican and could see a few distant lights, most likely Covenant patrols and encampments. The Pelican was slowing down now, closing in on their landing zone.

According to what the Major had told him before they had left, a few scouts had been sent out to this area to see what it was like. None had returned for obvious reasons and it was their secondary objective to find any of the missing scouts. The area had been nicknamed 'Hell's Passage' due to the unpredictable terrain and the Covenant presence there.

In the distance Jeff could make out the Covenant cruiser the Justifiable Light. Small blue pinpoints of light were on its sides and a blue shaft of energy came from the center of its base, obviously the ship's gravity lift. The Covenant base was a few hundred meters from the base of the ship, part of it visible among the rocky outcrops. There were plenty of Covenant vehicles parked outside of it but the forest was too thick for the vehicles to be used effectively.

The Pelican flew over some sets of large, jagged rocks and was starting to fly away from the Covenant base and the ship to a designated landing zone in a small clearing surrounded by jagged rocks.

'Only a few minutes now folks,' the pilot announced.

Heinrich, who was sitting across from Jeff, loaded a fresh magazine into his AK rifle and looked up at Jeff.

'So, since we don't really know each other,' Heinrich said, 'I suppose we should start asking each other questions so we get to know each other better. If we're going to be together for as long as we're on this planet, we should know about each other well enough.'

'Go ahead,' Jeff said, 'I'm always willing to make new friends.'

'Right, for starters, why did you join up?' Heinrich asked, 'I joined up because my father had been an engineer before he went missing in action when I was about twenty. I'm thirty-seven now, if you're wondering.'

'Missing in action?'

'He was assigned to a destroyer and he and some marines had to go and attempt to liberate a command post on a nearby planet from the Covenant. Some members of the squad returned but they don't report of seeing him get killed, so he's "missing in action". What about your parents?'

Jeff thought for a moment. He hadn't seen them for a long time, and there was only his father left anyway.

'I only have my father, who lives down in New Mombasa,' Jeff replied, 'my mother died when I was young, young enough not to remember her very well. My dad raised me by himself. He owns a hydroponics dome outside the city. It's good business, fresh fruit and vegetables for a city like that which is pretty much in the middle of the desert.'

Heinrich nodded, taking all this in.

'So, you live in Kenya, since Mombasa is in Kenya, right?' The Corporal said, obviously having been listening to the conversation, 'at least, I'm sure it is…'

'It isn't Kenya anymore, it's the East African Protectorate,' Jeff said, 'since Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia, Uganda, Malawi and Mozambique formed into one large country in 2527. You should work on your geography.'

'What's the capital?' Jones asked.

'I have no idea,' Jeff replied.

'We're coming down now folks,' the pilot announced, 'get ready to disembark.'

Jeff's train of thought broke, now concentrating on the mission at hand. He picked up his sniper rifle as the Pelican descended into a small clearing surrounded by jagged rocks, natural passages in between some of them.

The Pelican hovered about half a meter off of the ground, the marines nearest the bay door jumping out onto soft grass. Heinrich went out, followed by Jeff, Jones and the remaining marines including the Corporal.

Jeff's radio hissed and the voice of the Pelican pilot came on.

'Once you have the Captain, you just radio in and I'll pick you guys up,' the pilot said, the Pelican ascending and flying out of view.
Jeff took in the area around them. All they had to do was move through the naturally made passages and into the forest, eliminating any Covenant threats they encountered and hopefully not alerting the area's entire Covenant force.

The marines spread out, Jones stepping over to one of the narrow passages winding through the jagged rocks. He took a look down the passage and turned around.

'This way's clear,' he said, 'and according to our intelligence, it leads out onto some grassland.'

'That means there's not much cover,' the Corporal, Jackson, said.

'There's forest as well,' Jones replied, 'we're not going to be too exposed. I don't think there are a lot of aliens this far out anyway.'

'Alright, we'll stick together as a group making sure there is always someone watching our backs. PFC Roberts, you're on our tail,' Jeff ordered, pointing at one of the marines, 'make sure nothing sneaks up on us.'

'Right sir,' the PFC replied, stepping into position behind the main group.

'The base is about a kilometre away through some tricky terrain, as well as some forest and grassland,' Jeff said, 'and we don't want to make it too obvious that we're here. We'll eliminate any Covenant patrols we encounter and sabotage and disable any mounted guns we come across, but we don't want any of the bastards running off to sound the alarm, which means we want every Grunt and Jackal eliminated. I doubt the Elites would run off. If I say or signal you guys to stop, you guys stop. Is that understood?'

'Yes sir,' a few of the marines replied. Others just nodded and Jones just looked at him and grinned.

'What's so funny?' Jeff asked him.

'It's just it's been a while since I've been put under your command,'
he said, still grinning, 'and for some reason, the way you tell people what to do is kind of funny.'

'How about we just get on with rescuing the Captain?' Jeff said, shaking his head.

One of the marines stepped over to him. Jeff watched him approach, unsure of what the marine had to say.

'Sir, I have a question,' the marine asked.

'Fire away,' Jeff said.

'How are we meant to be stealthy and whatever if we have weapons that make really, really loud noises?' The marine asked.

Jeff paused for a moment. That was a good point, but they really couldn't do much about it.

'The brass doesn't issue the lowly Navy and Marine Corps with silencers. That's Special Ops stuff,' Jeff answered, 'if you wanted a quieter weapon, I suggest next time you bring your own silencer.'
The marine nodded before he stepped back over to where he had been standing before.

Making sure everyone was ready to go, he walked over to where Jones was standing and looked down the narrow natural passage which winded through the rocks.

'I suppose this is the most obvious way to go,' Jeff said. He cleared his throat.

'Okay, we're moving on!' He shouted, 'let's go! Just try and keep quiet. We don't want any curious Covenant soldiers finding their way to us.'

The others readied their gear as Jeff started through the narrow, rough passage. Rocks and sand crunched under his feet and he was beginning to think that any nearby Covenant patrols could hear that.

The path twisted and turned through the rocks until it eventually came to a stop and they were forced to climb over the large rocks before finally coming to an open clearing walled in by rocks with a few scattered trees and some undergrowth. At the end of it, near a natural pass which lead out of the clearing, was a Covenant Shade, a large mounted gun which hovered slightly over a small platform when activated and hence gave it a three hundred and sixty degree angle of fire.
Putting a hand up so the others following would stop, Jeff un-slung his sniper rifle from his shoulder and crouched amongst the long grass. The marines did the same and Jones and Heinrich stepped just behind Jeff.

'What is it?' Heinrich asked.

'There's a mounted gun there,' Jeff said, 'I can also make out a Grunt sitting at its controls.'

He zoomed in with his sniper rifle's scope and switched on the night-vision function.

Standing near the shade, casually walking along was a Minor Elite. He was able to get a good look at it through his scope. As well as the Elite there were two Grunts asleep on the ground nearby, curled up with their heads resting on their arms.

He directed half of the marines along the right flank amongst some trees and undergrowth which went around to the Covenant position at the end of the clearing.

Jeff switched on his radio.

'Don't fire until they return fire,' Jeff said, 'that way we can catch them off guard.'

Getting positive responses from the marines on the right flank, Jeff took a deep breath and steadied his aim with the rifle. Years of training and natural ability took over as he caught the Elite in between the crosshairs of the rifle's scope.

There wasn't very much wind in the area and the target was only a hundred or so meters away, so this should be an easy kill. The Elite didn't know it, but pretty soon it would be suffering from a massive head injury.

He tightened his grip on the trigger, made sure his aim was steady and squeezed. The rifle bucked backwards slightly, a white smoking contrail tracing its away across the darkened night-time landscape. The bullet entered through the side of the Elite's head, blowing a chunk of it clean off. Purple blood and bits of brain followed the shot and the alien's corpse crumpled to the ground.

The sleeping Grunts awoke with a start, and totally surprised at the fact that their squad leader now lay dead, started to run around waving their arms wildly and shouting in their high pitched voices.

The Grunt in the turret swung it in Jeff's direction. It opened fire; light purple blasts in neat looking triangles of three flew across the canyon, a few flying over Jeff's head. The marines on the right flank opened fire, peppering the Grunt in the Shade with rifle rounds, silencing the mounted gun.

Jeff, Jones and Heinrich as well as the remaining marines moved up the clearing, the marines on the right flank coming out of hiding and moving down to the natural passage which lead out of the clearing.

A few Covenant made lights were on the ground, providing some illumination to the otherwise dark area. Looking up at the night sky, Jeff could see plenty of stars as well as a few of the planet's moons. It all seemed so tranquil, despite the fact the planet was under Covenant control in most parts.

Jeff noticed some movement up the passage and a pair of Elites, one in blue armor, the other in red as well as some Jackals came into view, opening fire with their plasma weapons.

Jeff rolled behind a boulder, loading a fresh magazine into his S2 AM. He leaned around the boulder and fired at the first Elite that came into view, the crimson armored Major. He fired, the alien's shield ailing as soon as the bullet impacted. The Elite stumbled back, groaning as purple blood sprayed out of its new chest wound.

Jeff fired again before the Elite had a chance to recover, the shot getting it in the head. The Elite fell backwards and slumped against a boulder.

Jones and Heinrich had brought down a few of the Jackals with combined rifle fire while the marines were all firing at the other Elite, who had taken cover behind a boulder and was probably waiting for its personal shield to recharge.

Jeff ran over to the boulder, stepped around it and managed to catch the Elite off guard, pressing his rifle into its side and firing. Dark purple blood spurted out of the wound and covered his rifle, the Elite howling in pain as it fell, most probably dead. Jeff kicked it in the head just to be sure and when it didn't respond he continued a little way down the passage.

The others followed. For Jeff it had been a while since he had done this kind of thing, a proper mission. Sure, he had killed plenty of aliens before but that had been quite some time ago. Maybe he should start collecting trophies, he thought, starting with the helmets of Elites.

He went back to the two dead Elites and managed to slide off each of their helmets, clipping them onto his pack. This would be a nice start to a probably good collection, if he ever made it back to Earth. He remembered the golden armored Elite he had shot back on board the Winter Sunshine. That Elite's helmet would have looked nice on his mantelpiece back at his place on Reach. He remembered that his place on Reach probably wasn't there anymore. That meant he would have to start thinking about where he should purchase a new home. Once again this involved the fact that he would have to get back to Earth alive.

He made sure everyone else was following as he walked along and through the passage. It took them out into a larger area, tall trees and undergrowth taking up most of the space here.

Jeff crouched so he wasn't much higher than the undergrowth. The others did the same as they slowly began to make their way through the forest.

Jeff, leading the group, noticed a Minor Elite and a few Grunts were on patrol, walking around in a repetitive pattern. Using his watch to time how long it was before they came back into view, he told the others to hold their position while he went ahead to plant a trap.
He didn't have much trap worthy equipment on him, so he took out a fragmentation grenade and a length of wire, moving over to a set of trees the Covenant patrol went past. Picking up a small stick, he tied the grenade to it and stuck it into the dirt so it was only just visible. Hopefully the patrol wouldn't notice, though.

He attached the length of wire to the pin and pulled it so it was just on the verge of arming the grenade. He tied the wire to another stick he stuck into the ground, making sure it ran across the small length of space the patrol went through. The Elite, leading the small patrol, would hopefully be the first to step through it.

Jeff went back to the group, checking his watch. There was only about half a minute before the patrol returned, if they kept to the same way.

He wasn't let down when the group came back into view, the Elite looking kind of bored as he strolled in typical Elite fashion at the front of a trio of Grunts, who seemed a bit bored as well. Patrols were never much fun if nothing was happening, Jeff knew that. Being in the Marine Corps you would have to do patrols, no matter where you were.

'What are we waiting for?' Heinrich asked, 'we don't we just blast them?'

'I want to see what happens,' Jeff replied.

'What? What's going to happen?'

'I put a little surprise for them amongst the trees,' Jeff said.

The Elite stopped and looked around. He was only about half a meter from the trip wire and maybe he had heard Jeff and Heinrich's voices.

Satisfied that there was no one else around the Elite continued, stepping right on top of the trip wire. There was a click and suddenly the Elite disappeared amongst a shower of dirt and flame as the grenade detonated, shaking this part of the forest. A few disembodied limbs flew out of the explosion and a scorched Elite helmet landed in the bushes near where Jeff and the others were hiding.

Jeff went over and picked it up, putting it with the others. The Grunts that had been with the Elite started running around now that their squad leader was dead. They were cut down in rifle fire from the marines.

Continuing through the forest, they began to notice that tree stumps from cut down trees were getting more and more frequent. They were obviously nearing some sort of Covenant camp since they weren't close to the Covenant base just yet.

Jeff made sure no one was missing from the squad, glancing behind him at the squad members. They were all looking their normal selves, not exactly exhausted but not exactly energetic. Heinrich was near Jeff.

'What is it?' He asked, seeing that Jeff was looking at them.

'I like to keep tabs on my squad members,' Jeff replied, 'by the way, do you know how far till we actually get to the Covenant base?'

'It could still be a kilometre away since we've only been encountering small Covenant patrols,' Heinrich said, 'or I could be wrong. It shouldn't be hard to spot the base anyway. It's most likely to be partly underground.'

'Yeah, that would be the obvious way to build a base in the jungle,' Jeff said.

They encountered a few more patrols which were dealt with the same as the previous ones, eventually coming to a cleared area where a few Covenant Shades were positioned. A few Elites were on patrol, Grunts manning the Shades as well as some Jackals that were wandering around.

Jeff noticed that there was a ledge which ran up alongside the clearing and overlooked the Covenant encampment. He signalled the squad to stop.

'I'm going up onto that ledge over there,' he said, pointing over to the ledge, 'you guys spread out throughout the bushes. Once they return fire, if they return fire, you guys open up on them. I'm going to take as many down as I can from the ledge.'

'Just you and that rifle?' The Corporal asked, 'once you kill one of them they'll all be shooting at you. You'll probably get killed before we have a chance to suppress their positions.'

Jeff raised an eyebrow.

'I know exactly what I'm doing,' Jeff said, 'and it's a heck of a lot better than a full frontal assault. There's a lot of aliens there I'm just itching to kill.'

'Don't worry about a thing, Corporal,' Jones said, sliding the bolt back on his AK rifle, 'of all the people here, Jeff is probably the one who knows exactly how to get the job done in the most efficient way. You just follow your orders, okay?'

The Corporal nodded and he and a few other marines disappeared through some bushes, getting into position. Jeff started up onto the ledge, moving along and using the shadows as cover. There wasn't much light where he was and so he shouldn't be very easy to shoot if the Covenant soldiers fired at him.

He crouched near a boulder and loaded a fresh clip into his sniper rifle. He raised the rifle, looked through the scope and counted the amount of enemies. Three Elites, two Minors while the other was a Major. There were three Jackals and three Grunts, a Grunt in each of the shades. He would take out the mounted guns first since they could easily cut him to pieces if they all decided to fire on his position.

Taking a breath to steady his aim he got the first Grunt in his sights which was in the nearest Shade. He fired, the Grunt slumping in the gunner's seat. He quickly brought the next Grunt in his sights, gunning that one down and the next, all before the enemy could react.

At first they didn't seem to notice where he was and were looking around, unable to see him. He fired again, a Minor Elite copping the shot in the middle of its chest. It stumbled backwards before it fell, trying to recover. It didn't.

Plasma bolts started flying past Jeff, some hitting the ground near his feet. He stood his ground, rifle fire colliding with some of the Jackals and the Elites.

He loaded a new clip into his sniper rifle, raised it again and fired again, taking down another Minor Elite and the Major. All that was left were the three Jackals and they were too busy taking fire from the marines concealed in the undergrowth to pay much attention to Jeff. He was simply able to plug a bullet into them from behind.

Once the dust had settled and the others had stopped firing, he jumped down off the short ledge. Jones, Heinrich and the marines came over.

'I always knew you were good with that thing,' Jones said, nodding towards the sniper rifle in Jeff's hands, 'but that was just amazing. You got them down all really quickly. How do you do it?'

'I just shoot,' Jeff replied, 'it's nothing that hard.'

'I couldn't do that at all,' Jones said, 'sure, I can handle the rifle but I wouldn't be able to shoot stuff that quickly.'

'How about we just get on with the mission?' Heinrich said, 'I doubt the Captain's having a good time.'

'Yeah, well, what I don't get is why they captured him,' Jones said as they started walking through another naturally made passage, 'wouldn't they just kill him?'

'They obviously want something from him,' Heinrich said, 'maybe the location of Earth?'

'I doubt the Captain himself would know the exact coordinates,' Jones said, 'I know I don't. It's not exactly something I take notice of.'

The forest continued through to another large area, although a few Covenant observation towers had been set up overlooking the treetops. There were about three scattered throughout the area. They weren't exactly towers, they were rather platforms. There was a base which projected a gravity shaft which appeared as a transparent blue colour. The platform floated a few meters above the platform, held up by the gravity column. In each of the towers was a Jackal without a shield, most likely armed with a sniper weapon instead.

The forest would provide cover; all Jeff had to do was get into one of the towers and use it as a vantage point to take down the others. Getting his squad to stop, he started for the nearest tower, using the forest as cover.

'You guys watch the ground for enemies,' Jeff said as he started for the tower, 'there are probably enemy patrols around here.'
Jeff started moving towards the tower, keeping an eye on the Jackal sniper in the tower, who currently was looking in another direction.
Jeff dived onto the ground at the base of the tower as plasma bolts flew close by, a Minor Elite standing about twenty meters away having opened fire with its Plasma Rifle.

The squad opened fire and more enemies, mainly Grunts and Jackals, began coming out of the undergrowth. Bullets and plasma began flying practically all over the place as Jeff crawled onto the base of the turret and managed to blast the Elite with his sniper rifle.

He got up, stepped into the gravity shaft and felt a strange, weightless sensation as it propelled gradually up through the hole in the center of the platform's floor and then onto the platform itself.
The Jackal, having heard him, turned around and before it could react Jeff had brought the butt of his sniper rifle onto its skull, caving it in and watching with some satisfaction as it brains spilled out, purple blood spilling onto the floor of the platform. He picked up the corpse with one hand and pushed it off the side of the platform, letting it drop to the forest below.

The Jackals in the other two observation towers had their attention to him, so he raised his rifle and gunned one of them down, the other which was a fair distance to his right firing its sniper weapon, a pink beam of energy grazing the armor plating on Jeff's right shoulder. He simply fired a shot which blasted open the Jackal's head, the alien stumbling backwards and falling out of the tower.

He aimed at one of the Elites on the ground below, busy shooting at the rest of the squad. He fired a shot which entered through the back of its head, blowing its helmet off. The Elite abruptly fell forwards and crumpled into a heap on the ground.

Jeff turned his attention to a pair of Jackals who were taking rifle fire from the marines. He had a straight shot past their shields, so he took the chance and blasted each one down.

He reloaded his sniper rifle, noticing that there were only a few Grunts left now. They weren't too keen on fighting alone and started to run away. The marines just mowed them down once their backs were turned.

Jeff went back down the gravity lift. Why the Covenant simply couldn't use ladders was beyond him.

Jones and Heinrich came over, the marines moving up through the forest and keeping watch.

'Well, I suppose they're well alerted by now,' Jones said, 'it would be hard not to notice us.'

'Let's just get moving and maybe they won't be able to find us,' Jeff said, 'we'll find them instead. I like it better that way.'

They continued through the forest, entering a small gorge which had only a few sparsely scattered trees. At the end of the gorge was an obvious Covenant encampment, and counting the amount of enemies could see, there were about four Elites, a lot of Grunts and several Jackals. They were getting close to the base; that was for sure.

To make things a little more complicated, Jeff could see three Covenant Ghosts parked near the paroling aliens. These were small; one-seater scout-craft armed with dual forward firing plasma cannons and were in the typical Covenant metal colour of purple. The craft used hover technology so they didn't actually touch the ground when in use and could traverse tricky terrain this way. They were called Ghosts because of their ability to quietly enter battle and evade attacks ghost-like.

Jeff thought about how they should deal with this group of enemies. A full frontal assault was out of the question but possibly the only way to do this right. Even if he sniped a few of them, there was always going to be an Elite left to get in one of the Ghosts. There wasn't a lot of cover in the area and the Ghost pilots would use this to their advantage.

'You guys,' he said, pointing at Jones and about half of the marines, 'go around the left. Everyone else around the right. Try and use the shrubs and boulders as cover and go along the sides. Get as close as you can and if they see you, open fire.'

The groups moved off into position, Jeff running over to a boulder and crouching beside it. He took aim at a Major Elite who was standing close to one of the Ghosts. He waited for the others to get into position, getting spotted and drawing the fire and leaving Jeff free to snipe.

He fired, the Major Elite stumbling backwards and clutching at its new chest wound. He quickly fired again, finishing the Elite off. A Minor Elite started running towards one of the Ghosts but Jeff simply took aim and shot it through the head as it ran, the Elite stumbling forwards from its own momentum and tumbling for a few meters.

A Major Elite had jumped into one of the Ghosts as the Grunts and Jackals were getting mowed down by the combined fire from the humans positioned on the sides.

The Elite piloting the Ghost opened fire on the group where Jones was, forcing the humans to take cover, going prone. Jeff watched as one of the marines was cut down in the plasma fire and another quickly followed, the Ghost evading all of the grenades that were being thrown at it.

Jeff got the pilot in his sights and fired, depleting the Elite's shield. He reloaded his sniper rifle and took aim again, the Ghost now firing in his direction. Another Elite, a Minor, had climbed into another of the Ghosts.

Jeff was about to fire when he was forced to dive out of the way of the vehicle. The pilot turned it around and prepared to fire. Jeff rolled behind the boulder as the plasma cannons opened fire, scorching the rock.

The Ghost sped past the boulder, and Jeff, taking a deep breath and making sure his timing was right, jumped at the Ghost and managed to land right on the front of it, face to face with the Elite. His rifle out of the way, Jeff started to continuously punch the Elite in the face, making sure the alien's shield didn't have a chance to recharge. The Elite let one hand go from the Ghost's controls and grabbed Jeff's right hand.

Jeff couldn't let go of the Ghost with his left hand and so wasn't ready for the head-butt he received from the Elite, which dazed him and sent him tumbling off the moving vehicle. As he fell, he pulled a fragmentation grenade out of one of his uniform's pouches and armed it, managing to stick it between the Elite's back and the seat of the Ghost.

The vehicle exploded into a large fireball, consuming the Elite and sending smouldering pieces of metal flying in all directions. All that was left was a scorched shell of the Ghost, which exploded in a blue-white fireball when whatever powered it overloaded.

Jeff now lay on his back on the ground, slightly dazed and with a sore head. He slowly got to his feet and could see that the other Ghost had been taken care of, the Minor Elite that had been piloting it now lying dead next to the vehicle. The Grunts and Jackals lay dead nearby and Jones, Heinrich and the surviving marines, now only down to Corporal Jackson and four others came over to Jeff.

'That was crazy what you did,' Jones said.

'It almost didn't work,' Jeff replied, grinning.




Major George Golding sat at his desk, having just come back from the toilet. He doubted whether you could call a hole in the ground a 'toilet'. He liked to call it a 'shit-hole', since it damn well was one.
Being in charge of the entire base, he was expected to do all kinds of paperwork and organize his troops. Right now there was no paperwork and the troops were organizing themselves, dawdling around the base as if they were at home. Some had set up poker games while others had started drinking contests with the salvaged supply of alcoholic beverages.

George didn't really care what his men got up to. They weren't bound under many laws now that they weren't in UNSC space so they could do what they want as long as it didn't endanger anyone. None of the activities going on around the cap had just yet.

He was flicking through a troop manifest when the Colonel walked in, bottle of whiskey in his left hand and the double barrelled shotgun he liked so much slung over one shoulder. George had deemed the Colonel unfit to command and the Colonel himself hadn't had much of a problem with that, letting the Major take charge.

It had been only about ten minutes since the Colonel had come into the office, despite the fact it wasn't a proper 'office', more like a desk in a large room.

'What is it Colonel?' George asked, 'you run out of whiskey again?'

'No, it's just that a few of your ODSTs say they've spotted something about a kilometre from here, in the jungle,' the Colonel replied, 'say it looks like a crashed Covenant fighter or something. It wasn't there an hour ago, that's for sure.'

'Is it a Covenant fighter?' George asked, noticing the Colonel was slurring most of his words. He did this a lot, by right now it was more noticeable.

'I don't know,' Colonel Vance replied, 'they haven't actually gone close enough to be sure.'

'Why not?'

'They think it's booby trapped or something,' Vance replied, 'well, it is booby trapped. One of your ODSTs had his leg blown off when he triggered off a hidden plasma grenade.'

George raised an eyebrow. The Colonel sounded like he had no idea what he was talking about.

'Where is he now?' He asked.

'In the medical wing,' Vance replied, 'he's in bad shape. Your medic, Alan, is trying his best…Poor guy's bleeding to death…'

'You're not a very reliable source of information, you know that?' George said, getting up.

'Where are you going?' Vance asked.

'I'm going to this crash site,' George replied, starting for the room's exit, 'if it's been booby trapped then there is obviously something important in there.'

George left the Colonel and began his way outside, passing through rooms where marines had set up tables and chairs and was either eating, drinking, playing cards, talking or doing a combination of the four.

He came to the ground floor and passed through the medical wing, coming across Private Alan who was busy trying to keep an ODST alive. This particular ODST was missing his left leg; by the look of it the leg had been totally incinerated.

George had become hardened to this kind of thing throughout his time in the military and had seen people who had pretty much had their guts blown out so this was something only minor compared to what could happen to you.

'How's he doing?' George asked as he approached.

Alan looked surprised to hear the Major's voice. He turned around.

'I've stopped all the bleeding but he won't be able to fight for as long as he's only got the one leg. We don't have the equipment to build an artificial one and we may be able to find that equipment on board the Winter Sunshine,' Alan explained.

'He'll be fine Alan,' George said, 'now, how does accompanying me to this crash site sound?'

Alan raised an eyebrow.

'Why?'

'Because if anyone gets hurt you're the only medic we have,' George said.

'Well, this guy should be alright,' he said, glancing at the unconscious ODST who lay on the hospital bed, 'so I'll come. It's not like there's anything better to do anyway.'

Alan followed George outside into the large clearing. The wreckage of the Wraith tank George had destroyed a few hours ago was still there and was still letting off a plume of black smoke. A few of the marines were dragging the corpse of the Elite that had been piloting it off of the clearing and into a pit that had been dug nearby. In it were most of the corpses of the Covenant soldiers that had been killed in the fight for the base except for the ones which lay wrapped up in George's office, put on ice so they didn't rot and stink up the place.

George approached one of the marines who was loading the pit and was just about to kick a Grunt's corpse into it.

'What are you doing?' George asked, 'I don't remember authorizing this.'

'You didn't,' the marine replied, 'the Colonel did. He told us to burn the bodies except for the ones you want to research. So that's what we're doing.'

The marine turned around and looked towards another marine who was standing nearby, carrying a large steel can.

'You got the gasoline?' The first marine asked.

'What the hell does it look like I've got?' The other marine replied, stepping over to the side of the pit. He tipped the can and began pouring gasoline over the corpses. At the same time he was trying not to stumble and fall in.

'You know about the crash site?' George asked the marine.

'Yeah, why?'

'Which way is it?'

'North-west,' the marine replied, 'there should already be people there now.'

George and Alan continued across the clearing and into the jungle. They passed a few patrols and after about a kilometre they came to where what appeared to be a half buried and wrecked Seraph fighter lying in a small clearing. There was nothing stopping George from going straight to the crash site and he was about to start on his way towards it when he noticed a pair of ODSTs crouched behind a fallen tree, every now and then looking towards the crash site.

George approached them, wondering why the hell they weren't moving forwards.

'Soldiers, why the hell haven't you secured the crash site yet?' George asked, 'the area seems clear. What's stopping you?'

One of the ODSTs looked up at the Major, resting his rifle in his lap.

'There's an Elite there sir,' the ODST replied, 'some bastard in chrome armor. He's wired plasma grenades to go off all around the crash site. He doesn't want anyone getting in.'

George looked around. He certainly couldn't see any plasma grenades until he took a closer look at a spot a few meters from where he stood. He could just see a grenade jutting out of the dirt, a thin length of wire going across to a tree stump nearby.

'Chrome armor?' George asked, 'what rank's that?'

'We don't know sir,' the ODST replied, 'but he's definitely a pilot.'

'No shit,' George said, 'explain to me why this fighter crashed here? No one's told me how yet.'

'We saw it coming and used one of the Covenant gun emplacements against it to take it down. We think it was scouting out the area for a possible counter-attack.'

'You think?'

'We don't know sir,' the ODST said, 'if you want, maybe you can politely ask the Elite why he was flying over here.'

George looked at the crashed Seraph fighter and then at Alan who was standing nearby.

'Alan, you're coming with me,' George said, 'we're going to find this Elite.'

'What about the traps?' Alan asked, sounding nervous.

'Fuck the traps,' George said, stepping forwards a little, 'they can't be everywhere. I doubt he has enough grenades.'

Alan reluctantly followed the Major as he went down low and began closely examining every part of the ground ahead of them.

George felt through the dirt, making sure there was no nasty surprises waiting for them. It was a bit dark in the jungle so he took out his flashlight to help provide better illumination.

About ten meters from the crash fighter he found a plasma grenade hidden just behind a fallen branch. He tried to think of anything he had that may be able to cut the wire and defuse it when he remembered he always carried around a pair of scissors with him.
Time and again he had reminded his troops to always carry scissors with them; they would always come in handy. It was one of his golden rules.

He took them out and put a hand on the grenade, putting a few fingers on the wire closest to it and then cutting the wire halfway across. He pulled the wire quickly so it wouldn't go slack and set off the grenade.

Picking up the grenade, he noticed that the wire was attached to the small button that armed the grenades, but this time the button was jutting out, the wire tied to a small latch underneath it. He untied it, making the grenade safe and disarmed.

'We're almost home free Alan,' he said, getting up. There was only blackened dirt around most of the crash Seraph fighter, most of the trees near it having been brought down.

George stepped over to the side of the crashed fighter, noticing the hatch on its roof was opened. Walking around, he suddenly felt something cold and hard pressing into his back.

Turning around very slowly, he found himself face to face with a chrome armored Elite who was pressing the firing end of a Plasma Rifle into him.

Completely unfazed, George grinned. He could see Alan standing a few meters behind the Elite, holding an M6D pistol at the ready.
Looking down a little, George could see the Elite had its left hand clutching a nasty looking wound in the side of its stomach. Dark purple blood was slowly oozing out and judging by the Elite's shallow breathing, he guessed it wasn't feeling a hundred percent.

'So, you're hurt,' George said, 'quite a place you set up here with the grenades.'

Alan fired, the Elite suddenly tensing as the bullet hit it in the back. It looked at George before stumbling against the side of the crashed fighter, dropping its Plasma Rifle. It slumped against the metal and looked up at George, quite obviously very angry.

George thought for a moment what he should do with the alien. It was still alive and with some medical treatment would end up feeling quite well again.

He stepped over to the Elite and crouched so he was face to face with it. It wasn't in any state to try and lash out at him, so he made sure he was as intimidating as possible to the alien.

'You're now our prisoner,' George said, reaching into his pocket and taking out a small booklet that all UNSC officers were issued with. 'You're now bound under the Fifth Geneva Convention which was hosted back in 2529, under the "Extraterrestrial Prisoner Treatment" section. Since us humans are kind enough to take prisoners, you will have the right to speak, the right to a clean cell, the right to enough food to keep you alive, the right to enough water—'

'What are you doing Major?' Alan asked, 'shouldn't we just kill him?'
George shut the Geneva Convention Booklet and looked at the young medic, thinking over his answer.

'He'll be an important asset,' George said, 'a pilot, shot down over enemy lines. He'll know a lot about the enemy's airborne forces. And I've never captured an Elite before. This is bound to be interesting.'

The Elite seemed to have an idea of what was going on and appeared to be about to say something before it coughed up some purple blood instead.

'What was that ugly?' George asked, sounding as intimidating as possible, speak up, I can't hear you.' He kicked the Elite in the side and the alien groaned, keeling over and losing consciousness.

'Alan, would you make sure he doesn't die?' George said, turning to the medic.

Alan stepped over and knelt beside the Elite, taking out a first aid kit and examining the alien's wounds.

'I have no idea how to treat an Elite,' Alan said.

'Hence the reason I wanted you to do that autopsy.' George paused for a moment, thinking. 'You were once a vet, right?'

'How did you know that?' Alan asked.

'It's in your file. You were a veterinarian before you joined up. Now, use your veterinary knowledge to treat him. It shouldn't be too hard.'

'Treat him like an animal?'

'Exactly. Radio the base and get some guys to come down here with a stretcher. I want that Elite conscious and talking in an hour.'

Alan nodded and proceeded to talk into his radio, opening up a communications link with the base.

George started on his way back to the base, satisfied that that job was done. An Elite as a prisoner, which was certainly new for the UNSC. Sure, they had found a few in the past but only after successful ground engagements, and there had never been too many of those.

It surprised him how very little they knew about their enemy. What they needed was more prisoners. None of the Covenant soldiers would surrender, so they would have to make them surrender. Or just capture them. Either way, they got prisoners.

George arrived back in his office to find the Colonel still there and looking through one of the Covenant supply crates that were at the back of the room. Windtalker's hologram was on the pedestal near the desk, watching the Colonel with some slight amusement.

'Vance, what are you doing?' George asked as he entered the room.

'Seeing that you liked this stuff so much, I decided to work out what was so good about it,' Vance said.

Before he could continue, Windtalker interrupted, looking grim. Well, as grim as a hologram could be.

'I've just been surfing the Covenant battle-net,' he said, 'it seems they recovered some data discs off of the Captain when he was captured.'
George walked over to the hologram. Data discs? From the Captain? That didn't sound like good news.

'Why did the Captain have data discs on him?' George asked, 'it doesn't sound like him at all.'

'The Covenant believes they hold all the necessary information to find more human worlds, including Earth,' Windtalker said. Vance had stopped rummaging through the crate and had walked over to Windtalker as well; holding a bottle of whiskey in one hand and smelling like alcohol.

'Why would the Captain have the discs on him?' George asked again, 'it's a violation of the Cole Protocol if they have information concerning humans on them.'

'It doesn't make sense,' Windtalker said, 'but if the Covenant's planning to have a look at what's on the discs and find something, it certainly isn't going to be much of a good thing for us. I suggest the best course of action is a recovery mission.'

'We already have a squad on its way to rescue the Captain,' Vance said, hiccupping once he had finished the sentence, 'couldn't they do it?'

'Take too long,' George said, 'we need those discs back as soon as possible. Where are the discs now?'

'On board the ship Justifiable Light, hovering over a clearing near the Covenant base that the Captain is being held in. Either we send a new squad or we get the one already there to do it.'

George thought about it for a moment. The sooner they got those discs back, the better off they would all be. He turned to Vance.

'Go get Lieutenant Frank Hastings,' George said, 'bring him here. We'll be sending in him and his squad.'

Vance nodded and left the room, returning a few minutes later with the Lieutenant. The Lieutenant was still in what he had been wearing ever since they escaped from the Winter Sunshine and seemed a bit tired.

'Major, you wanted me?' Frank asked, George trying not to stare at the Lieutenant's unnaturally white front teeth. Trying to avert his eyes away from the teeth and to the rest of the Lieutenant's face, George gave him a brief rundown of the situation. There were data discs that possibly contained information regarding Earth's location in the hands of the Covenant and it was imperative they retrieve them.

'What about the Sergeant's squad?' Frank asked, 'can't they do it?'

'They're busy,' George replied, 'and if possible, you could link up with them. Otherwise get you and your squad aboard that ship and make sure the discs are found. If both squads got on the ship, maybe the job would be done quicker and easier. Now get moving. There's a Pelican outside waiting for you and your squad.'

'Yes sir,' the Lieutenant said, giving a slight salute before turning around and leaving the room.

'Can you really rely on him?' Vance asked.

George raised an eyebrow.

'I can't rely on you, so maybe I'm better trying my luck with the Lieutenant,' George replied, grinning.

'Up yours Major,' Vance said, turning around and walking out.






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