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A Marine's Story
Posted By: Seraph NZ<the_t3rm1n4t0r@hotmail.com>
Date: 1 October 2006, 9:36 pm

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A Marine's Story

Halo Fan Fiction
By Seraph NZ

The events in this story take place throughout the duration of those which happen in Halo 2, in the year 2552. Any similarities between this and other published fan-fics are purely coincidental. The story details the experiences of eighteen-year-old marine: Private Lee Thompson.

WARNING: This story is quite LONG. It's nearly like a novel or something. I will post new chapters as I go along, and I will accept any feed back or advice you may have for me, and if I have gotten any of the facts wrong about Halo stuff, please notify me. Thank you, and enjoy the story.

Lee Child - writer of the best mystery/crime novels ever, is who inspired me to write this, this is for you, Lee.


Damn boots were too small. As I stepped out into the sweltering African sunlight from the cool shade of the barracks I only had one thing on my mind: going to the supplies warden to get some boots that fit. I had only been in the corps two months (I joined on my eighteenth birthday) – all of which had been rigorous training – and throughout this my bloody boots were too small, now I had a couple of nasty blisters on my feet. I'm not a very large guy, only about a meter eighty tall, and approximately 75 kilograms. I have short brown hair and sharp, keen hazel eyes, and I wear the standard marine's battle dress uniform. My feet aren't that big, but the dang corps gave me the wrong sized boots, and that was why I was heading towards the administration block (where the supplies station is located). While I slowly ambled my way across the parade ground, the blazing desert sun high in the sky, burning the back of my neck, I heard a familiar voice shout out at me "Where you goin' off to ya lazy, no-good slacker?!" It was Hamish; he's been my mate ever since I joined the Marine Corps, he likes to joke around a bit, his mouth gets him into trouble sometimes, but not many people want to mess around with him seeing that he's roughly two meters tall, muscle-bound and has huge hands. His hair is black, and slightly longer than mine, he has dark olive skin, steely gray eyes, which with one solid stare would make you want to back off instantly. "Getting' some boots that fit!" I yelled in reply as he leapt out from behind one of the dormitories, and ran up beside me to join as I continued towards the wardens supply station. The base was deserted. The whole place was having a siesta, it was a Sunday afternoon, and everyone was chilling out. The base is called Fort Kibaha. It is situated about four kilometers South of Old Mombasa. Fort Kibaha is comprised of the various, huddled together, low-lying barracks to the North-East of the complex, the parade ground and miscellaneous training exercises to the South, the vehicle bays in the centre, a 200 meter firing range to the East, and below that the administration block (which included assorted offices, and of course the supply store) to the South-East; that's where we were heading.

"How'd you get through all that friggin training with a pair of boots two sizes small?" asked Hamish
"I just got through it" I replied, but I wasn't really listening. I was thinking about my family (what's left of it). My Father died in a factory accident ten years ago, and my Mother's been by herself since it happened. My brother was serving on Reach when it was attacked by the Covenant and contact with the colony was lost. Ever since this happened she has pleaded with me to come home to New Zealand, but it's my duty to protect our race from the rampaging alien force known as the Covenant. That got me thinking about New Zealand (where I was born and raised), such a spectacular country, with vast native forests, fertile farmland and stunning landscape. Overpopulation had ruined most other countries natural aesthetic wonders, but as more space colonies were established, it was decided that the number of citizens in New Zealand would be limited to around 5-6 million people, as to withhold the pure, immense beauty of the country. I felt an elbow nudge me in the side "Hey, Lee, you listnin' to me? Stop daydreamin', ok? It'll get you killed one day!"
"Ok Hamish…I was just thinking about…home"
"That's ok man, I'd way rather be home than this hell hole of an barren pit"
"Yeah" I said with a chuckle.

A whirlwind of dust cascaded over the vehicle storage bay and settled down before us as the administration block shimmered into view in the distance. I dusted off my BDUs as we stopped as we walked by a group of marines in an alleyway between two pelican hangars. They were pushing around a smaller, weaker marine, who appeared to be struggling to re-acquire his glasses, which the biggest, tallest marine was dangling above, and just out of reach of the poor guy. Two other marines stood on either side of him, arms folded and chuckling at the squirming marine. "You shouldn't even be in the corps you scrawny piece of crap!" roared the largest marine (who appeared to be the leader of the group) "Why don'cha just go home you worthless…"
But he was cut short by Hamish as he whispered "Why don't you leave him alone and give him back his glasses, asshole?"
"Heh, look at this guy, thinks he's Mr. tough-guy here-to-save-the-day" replied the leader, but with a hint of fear in his greasy, cocky voice.
I watched as Hamish approached the group, their leader turning to meet him face on, his henchmen at his side "This is none of your business son" he said, tossing the glasses over his shoulder, partly shattering over the asphalt as the feeble marine scrambled to pick them up, stumbling out of sight down the alleyway. Hamish remained silent. The leader poked Hamish in the chest as he spat at him "what are you gonna' do about it, boy?"
"This!" yelled Hamish as he landed a crushing elbow to the side of the leaders head, sending him stumbling sideways into a stack of trash cans adjacent to the alleyway. I ran to join him, but he was already fighting the two henchmen, sending a crisp side-kick into ones face, corkscrewing him into the air, then as he fell, he radiated a plume of dust out as he hit the hard ground. The other swung a lofty haymaker, but Hamish caught it in his massive hands, gave it a quick twist, the thug screaming as his wrist cracked under the pressure, Hamish then thrust his knee into his stomach, blood spattering out his mouth, the thug then crumpled to the deck like a rag-doll. I was standing meters away and watching this spectacle when the leader got his bearings back and saw me, then realising that I was smaller, came charging at me with psychotic vengeance. I braced myself as he reeled towards me, then…WHAM! Hamish had performed a hard hitting lunging front kick into his kidney propelling him into the wall of the alley, then with a scream of agony he peeled over and plunged down into a pile of garbage bags. There were three limp marines scattered over the ground, dust already settling on them as they lay squirming and writhing in pain.

The marine with the glasses (now cracked and damaged) came fumbling towards us, when he reached us he fell to his knees thanking us incoherently. Hamish one-handedly pulled him to his feet "No problem mate, jus' thought you needed a hand with those punks" said Hamish, waving his and over the twitching marine-thugs face-down in the dirt. "M…my name is...is Corporal d…David Harris" stuttered the stunned marine "I…I don't know how to repay you"
"You can start by tellin' us why those marines were messing with you" I said slickly
"Well uh, I was just walking down the road, then these guys pulled me into this alley and started giving me some trouble…and that's when you guys came along. If it wasn't for you, I probably would be on the ground like they are now" said Corporal Harris fearfully, and then he quickly added "I have to go now" and then staggered away.
"Jeez, poor guy" I sympathized, "he must've been getting beaten up all his life to be such an emotional wreck, he didn't even ask who we were"
"Yeah" said Hamish as he flipped one of the fallen marines over onto his side with his foot, and tilted his head back, as he did so the felled marine gave a excruciating groan "It's called the recovery position, stops them choking or suffocating to death, we don't want to have a homicide on our hands"
I did the same to the other two, and joined Hamish as he strode on towards the supplies store.

We arrived at the store. There was a slide door which opened into a shady room with a fan on the ceiling slowly rotating. There was the supplies warden sitting in a chair snoozing, he was an old marine with grayed hair. There a military issue radio on the table beside him, tuned into a local station, a news reader half way through a sentence announcing "...since then the Covenant have been annihilating our colonies such as Harvest and Reach..." At the mention of Reach my stomach gave a squirm at the memory of my brother but the announcer continued "...we have been living in fear of a direct attack on Earth..." But the radio was interrupted by Hamish shouting at the warden "wake up ya lazy bum, you don't get paid to lie around sleeping all day!" at that he gave a jump and asked us what we wanted "size 14 boots, sir" at that the warden muttered as he withdrew through a door leading to the supplies storage area and came back a few moments later holding the boots "may I ask you to remove your current boots, son" I did so, slipping on and lacing up the new ones, a rush of comfort spreading through my torn up feet as I handed the aged warden my old boots.

We arrived back at the Barracks after our journey to the supplies store, Hamish rushing inside as he needed to relieve himself, since on the way back he consumed some curry from the cafeteria. I remained outside, leaning on the wall of our dorm, lighting up a cigarette as I watched the scene before me, the asphalt between the Barrack's dorms stretching out and meeting the dirt ground, tumble weeds slowly meandering their way across the desolate wasteland of arid intensity that we were stationed in, and getting trapped in the mesh fence enclosing the base. The bone dry and scorched land held only a few desert plants, and the waterless climate making me continuously parched. I wanted to be back in New Zealand, where the flourishing, green, water soaked ferns and native trees stretched out endlessly over the horizon. At that moment Hamish came dashing out of the dorm and leant back on the wall beside me, stealing a cigarette out the pack in my front pocket and asking "got a light?"
I thumbed my lighter and lit the cigarette dangling out of his mouth. I was still watching the scene played out in front of me, the bleak, uninhabited wilderness stretching for miles. "looking at the beautiful, luscious scenery I see" said Hamish sarcastically.
"To think there's an urban metropolis just kilometers from here" I said
"Yeah, New Mombasa is and island city, and probably is the only reason we're stationed in this place. Most important is the Space Tether, as would be a main target for the Covenant if they attacked us, It's here in the East African Protectorate because it's nice and close to the equator" explained Hamish knowledgeably
"Yeah" was – again – all I could think to say.
But I thought that Earth was perfectly safe from the Covenant, ever since the Cole Protocol was imposed the Covenant ships would never find us. I was wrong.

Chapter One: Training

I woke up after a short sleep and rubbed my eyes. As the room came into focus I realized it was Monday. I glanced over at my watch sitting on the floor beside my bunk, it read 6:52. "Shoot!" I yelled, we were meant to be out on the parade ground ready for morning training exercises by seven o'clock. I hammered on the bunk on top of me and screamed at Hamish to get up; he came tumbling off the side of his bunk and fell to the floor with a thud. "Wasshappening" he sleepily slurred while getting up off the floor. I looked around the dormitory and saw all the rows of bunks empty, a cool breeze filtering through the door which was swinging open at the end of the rectangular dorm. I saw by the expression on Hamish's face that he knew that we were late. I quickly pulled on my BDUs, laced up my boots (now much more comfortable), grabbed my helmet and rifle then sprinted out the door seconds after Hamish who was already dressed. Outside it was still dark, as the scorching sun had not risen yet, consequently it was freezing. A desert may be scalding hot during the day, but at night it can reach sub-zero temperatures. I followed Hamish at a run to the parade ground while still shoving my helmet on. I checked my watch, it was 7:01. I quickened my pace and caught up with Hamish. "Hell, I wonder what'll happen to us when the Sarge sees us turn up late" I said worriedly, puffing out clouds of mist as I spoke
"Yeah, I'm not looking forward to it" replied Hamish, slightly out of breath.

We were five minutes late when we arrived at the parade ground. Our platoon was being rallied in the North-West section of the ground. All forty men were lined up in front of Sergeant David Scott, who is the drill instructor of our platoon. He was cussing profusely at a marine who had dropped his helmet while he was speaking. When Sergeant Scott noticed us try and slip stealthily he discontinued his indecorous bellowing at the unfortunate marine who dropped his helmet, and approached us "Now what in gods name do you think you're doing sons" he said in a disconcertingly low voice.
Hamish replied with "Sir standing sir!"
"Ok smart ass, you can drop an' give me twenty!" hollered Sergeant Scott at the top of his lungs "And then you useless slackers can both give me one-hundred-and-fifty each, then you can complete the training course with the rest of the platoon, and if I see one of you come last, you'll both be doing it again!"

At that, Sergeant Scott sent the remainder of the platoon off to execute the grueling training course's many challenging obstacles. He then came and stood beside us to count as we lay our rifles on the ground beside us and started to perform our one-hundred-and-fifty push-ups. The Sergeant set a slow pace which made it even harder, and by the end of them we were both exhausted. I strung my rifle over my back and sprinted along-side Hamish to catch up to the rest of the marines as they worked their way through the various obstacles. Hamish and I only just caught up to the marine in last position on the fourth obstacle, after the horizontal beams, climbing wall and zigzag balance beams. We passed Private Allen Young as he struggled over a fence in a system of three consecutive and height varied assault walls. We vaulted over them, leaving Private Young in the distance. After ten more miscellaneous obstructions we had finished the obstacle section of the circuit. By now the scorching hot sun was beginning to rise over the distant hills to the West, we then continued to accomplish the training circuit, which now was to run around the perimeter of the base twice, then report to the firing range for further instruction. Once we had puffed our way around the base two times we arrived promptly at the 200m firing range, thankfully, not being the ones to arrive last.

While we got our breath back, Sergeant Scott gave us the instruction to grab some ammunition from the crate adjacent to the range, and stand facing the targets laid out on the field ahead of us. This was our first visit to the firing range, up until now we had just carried our rifles around like useless pieces of scrap metal, but today, we were going to use them. The firing range was a long area of ground, where two-hundred meters away there were targets. The targets were cardboard cut-outs of Covenant aliens. I had never seen, or fought against any Covenant before, but we had learnt about them. From what I saw, the targets were just Elites and Grunts. The Sergeant then told us to line up and that the first person in line would shoot the targets to the best of his/her ability, the targets would be reset, and then the next person would shoot. I got in line as fast as possible, while the rest of the platoon shuffled into line too. I was seventh in line, Hamish behind me. In front of me I realized it was Corporal David Harris "Hey David, I didn't know you were in our platoon" I said whilst tapping him on the shoulder. He turned around and I saw that his glasses were taped up.
"Yeah, I saw you guys turn up late, I thought Sergeant Scott was going to kill you for a second" Said Harris "Oh, I forgot to ask who you guys were….I was kinda in a daze"
"That's ok, I'm Lee Thompson"
"And I'm Hamish Williams" said Hamish from behind me, reaching out to shake Harris's hand, and by the grimace on his face, I'd say he'd regretted shaking Hamish's hand, as he has an extremely strong grip, and he doesn't even realize.

"You're up next, Harris" barked the Sergeant, as the six people in front had been and done their shooting already. I watched while Harris shouldered his rifle, pulled the trigger and crack-crack-crack the rifle let off a three round burst and missed every single target. After a few more of these he had only hit an Elite in the stomach with one bullet, and had expended his entire magazine. "Get outta here Harris, and drop an' gimme twenty for that hopeless performance. Thompson! You're up!" Sergeant Scott yelled.
I un-slung my rifle and held it up, as Harris went down to pathetically attempt to do a push up. I stepped forward to the firing area and raised my rifle, the stock ergonomically molding to my shoulder, my left hand clasping to the grip, my right around the trigger. I spread my legs to shoulder width and thumbed the safety switch to fire, then closed my left eye and looked into the scope of my BR55 Battle Rifle, a very fine weapon, it fires an automatic three round burst of 9.5mm rounds from a 36-round magazine, and is very accurate, with a relatively high rate of fire. I breathed in as the cross-hairs of the 2x optical zoom scope passed over a cardboard Elite's head, I lowered my aim a bit to point at the aliens chest. I counted my heartbeats, one...two...three...Then I breathed out as I slowly squeezed the trigger and…crack-crack-crack, then three holes appeared in the Elite, one in the chest, one in the neck, and another through the head, right between its lifeless, painted-on, cardboard eyes. I then shifted to a grunt-target, depicted as crouching, and aiming a plasma pistol at me, I pumped a burst into it and without even watching to see if the bullets had hit their target, moved onto the next 10 targets and shot them methodically. When I was done, everyone was looking at me in awe, imagine a platoon of marines, with their mouths hanging open and gawping at you, dumbstruck. Even Sergeant Scott was impressed "That was the best shooting I've ever seen, soldier"
All the other marines were murmuring amongst themselves when I saw Hamish approach me and say "That was friggin awesome man, are you a mutant or something?"
I was wondering what everyone was on about when I turned around to see that every round had hit their target, they all had three clean holes in them from the chest up, there was sunlight gleaming through them as a group of marines cleared the finished targets and replaced them with fresh ones for the next person-Hamish. I watched from the side while he fired, he only managed to hit three Elites in the abdomen, and two grunts with only two bullets in each of them. Hamish may be great hand to hand combat, but he's lacking attributes in his marksmanship. "Not too bad, Williams, get outta here. James, you're up!"
We were allowed to leave once we had completed the firing range, so Hamish and I proceeded to walk back to the Barracks and chill out for a while.

It was one o'clock in the afternoon when we arrived at the barracks, we took off our helmets and lay down or rifles there. We hadn't had breakfast because we had overslept and were now absolutely starving, so we decided to go down to the cafeteria and grab a bite to eat. Once there I got a sandwich and a cola, Hamish (from experience) did not order curry this time and instead he got a pizza and some coffee. We sat in a corner table and talked about things like the latest music, and how the current politicians suck. We joked around a bit, until the female marine at the cafeteria kicked us out after I aggravated Hamish and he threw a mug at me, shattering it into hundreds of pieces that went bouncing of the walls and ceiling. So we shuffled our way back to the barracks. On our way we saw the three thugs that were bullying Harris in the alleyway yesterday. They were skulking around the back of the cafeteria and as we walked past, the leader confronted us, he approached us, and we stopped. "You!" he said, carefully making sure he was at least two meters away from us "No-one messes with James Newman, and that's Corporal Newman to you, so you'd better watch out b-"
But he was cut off by the sound of a siren wailing, a few marines jumped out of dormitories to see what was going on "What the…" was all Hamish managed to say before a calm, male voice spoke over an intercom system "UNSC forces report the sighting of a Covenant fleet approaching Earth's outer defense battle cluster, all marines report to the parade ground with full battle equipment, this is not a drill, I repeat, all marines…" and the announcement continued playing continuously. I gave Hamish a look of mixed surprise, fear and excitement as we rushed to our dorm to grab our equipment. We hurried onto the parade ground and saw the whole base's twenty-thousand marines assembling, fully equipped and ready for battle.

Chapter Two: Preparation

The whole of Fort Kibaha's garrison stood before us, hundreds of marines were still filtering onto the parade ground. The message playing over the base's intercom was still playing repeatedly as every marine in the complex assembled in front of a stage, where Colonel Lance stood. The announcement over the intercom stopped. "The Covenant have attacked our outer defense cluster. We stand by the belief that our network of MAC gun stations will hold off the Covenant offensive. But just in case they breach our outer security, we have been ordered to evacuate Mombasa, as it is a prime target for the Covenant forces" Colonel Lance proclaimed over a microphone, then continued "We also have orders to station marines from the surrounding bases of Fort Zanzibar, Molad, Gulu, and of course us, Fort Kibaha. I must ask you all to proceed to the vehicle bays, and in order of squads, G-Company and H-Company will be airlifted to New Mombasa, J-Company will ride in convoy to Old Mombasa via Warthogs…" but that was all that we heard, as we were already heading to the vehicle bays. Hamish and I were part of J-Company – we were in the warthogs. I was feeling a sundry assortment of emotions passing through me as I followed Hamish to the Warthog bay, a blend of extreme nervousness and dread were probably the major ones that practically drowned out the rest of the feelings rapidly flowing and pulsating through my body. My head was also swimming with thoughts that endlessly coursed through my brain at that moment 'am I going to die?' I tried to think of happy things, but the only happy place I had was New Zealand. But thinking about home just made it worse 'will the Covenant attack home?' all I could do was cling on to the hope that the Covenant wouldn't target New Zealand because of its strategic insignificance. All I had was hope. I started shaking and was all of a sudden very cold despite the searing temperature of the dazzling mid-afternoon sun. Following Hamish, I rounded a corner and was faced by the sight of a fleet of Pelicans nosing out of their hangars and then lifting off and soaring away to the north, each one packed with battle ready marines. We passed round the back of the hangars and stepped out into the Warthog sheds. Other members of J-Company were piling into the Warthogs and driving up the road in line to the gate. J-Company was split up into our platoons, which would travel in separate convoys to increase maneuverability.

The marine coordinating the boarding of vehicles directed us to a Warthog idling in one of the long, squat shed which housed about fifty vehicles in each, there were about twenty of these in total, and supposedly F-Company was traveling to Old Mombasa behind us. There was already a marine waiting in the Warthog's driver seat when Hamish and I paced into the dark shed, the Warthog's headlights spilling bluish-white light through the shed eerily casting ghostly shadows over the remaining Warthogs, which were lying cold and motionless in the sinister light and jarring shadows cast by the Warthog with the marine in the driver's seat, awaiting our embarking of the vehicle. The Warthog is the marines' light reconnaissance vehicle (LRV), it's a proven and reliable standard vehicle which is armed with a machine gun turret on back. The Warthog is very maneuverable and excellent in any terrain. "I call shotgun!" I yelled out as I leapt into the passenger seat, the echoes of my words resonating through the shed as Hamish said "All right, gunner" with a tinge of sarcasm in his tone of voice. I got comfortable in my seat of the Warthog and looked to my left, and there sat Lieutenant Mitchell, our platoon commander! I was amazed that we were in his vehicle and he was driving us. The Lieutenant probably preferred driving to the other options. I know I do, but I had to make do with the passenger side. I raised my rifle up to my shoulder and checked the magazine; it was full to the brim. I held it down and leant back on the padded Warthog seat and squirmed until I was comfortable. I hitched my foot up on the dash and looked outside from the dark shed, the sight astounded me: there was a vast line of vehicles stretching the two kilometer span of the road leading to the northern gate. Lieutenant Mitchell revved the Warthog to warm the engine then sidled out of the shed, the searing sun washed over me as we crept into line behind another Warthog in front of us in the convoy and I blinked as my eyes adjusted to the harsh, bright intensity of the African sun. "You boys ready?" the Lieutenant asked.
"Standing by, sir" Hamish and I replied in unison.
"Good, because the Covenant don't show any mercy, so keep on your toes, and you'll be fine" but even Lieutenant Mitchell sounded slightly worried upon saying this, and that's saying something. Lieutenant Mitchell is a sturdy marine who's seen many battles with the Covenant; he went on a tour with the Space Command and came back to Earth after seeing at least four skirmishes with Covenant vessels. The Lieutenant is an averagely built man with a tough expression imbedded into his thirty-five-year-old and battle hardened face, which has a long scar down the left side which was supposedly from a Covenant Zealot's energy blade, and he apparently fought it off with an SMG that had ten rounds in it after the Covenant had boarded their ship. No-one believed him though.
"Yes, sir" we said in reply, Hamish manning the Warthog's turret, (which is the M41 3-barreled, electric powered, link-less drum-fed vehicle mounted light anti-aircraft gun, or LAAG which fires a mind numbing 440-550 armor penetrating rounds per minute. It's the standard armament on the Warthog) turned and gave me a look that said 'we'll be fine' then rotated around to watch as vehicles behind us joined in the convoy. Once everyone was in line from our platoon, we moved along through the northern gate in a single convoy.

I watched as Fort Kibaha disappeared over the horizon behind us. We were speeding along a dusty, sun baked and cracked bitumen road, the Warthog's rubber tires kicking up clouds of dust as we sped towards Mombasa in convoy. I felt oddly calm at this moment, the cool wind sweeping across my warm face while I jammed my helmet on tighter so that it didn't blow off. Everyone was silent and the only sound was the breeze gusting around the aerodynamic contours of the Warthog. I watched the small desert plants and trees surging past and closed my eyes and lay my head back on the seat. I thought about my Mother, I was hoping that she was safe, that the Covenant wouldn't attack her. Now I was slightly less calm, so I opened my eyes again and adjusted the scope on my rifle to keep my mind off things. But the silence was interrupted by a transmission coming over the vehicles comm. system. 'Attention all ground units: we have contact with the Covenant, they are attacking and boarding our MAC gun stations, we don't think that our outer defenses can hold off the Covenant offensive, we advise you to brace for a Covenant ground assault, I repeat...' The message was about to replay, but the Lieutenant tuned the radio off. I no longer felt at ease and relaxed anymore. The cool breeze now sickened me and there was now a tense feeling of anxiety spreading over the vehicle. I could see it in the vehicles in front and behind us in the convoy because their driving seemed to stiffen after the transmission. "Ok soldiers, looks like we're in for a war" said the Lieutenant shakily.
"Sir, do you think the Covenant will take Mombasa?" questioned Hamish from behind the massive chain-gun turret.
"Marine, that's something I don't know, but at least we have control over the outcome. Prepare yourselves, because you're gonna need to be ready when the Covenant reach the ground" replied the Lieutenant managerially.
I decided to prepare myself mentally for the battle that was to come. I watched out the side of the Warthog at the landscape fluidly blurring past.

A lone tree caught my eye. It was about fifty meters away from the road. It was sticking out of the baked earth, jutting out on an odd angle until the middle where it was bent and knotted, where after it went vertical. Gnarled branches were protruding from the twisted trunk. The tree's leaves were thrashing in the now gusting arid wind. Time seemed to have stopped now, as nothing was moving. I forgot everything that was happening around me, I was lost in space and time. I saw a bird on one of the tree's crooked branches. My vision was gray and blurry. The distorted image of the bird cocked its head sideways to look directly into my eyes. It was a hawk. Strangely, I could smell the musty dampness of the hawk's feathers and feel the roughness of its large talons. I could even taste the tang of its last scaly meal on its breath. The hawk on the tree appeared closer now, only a few meters away. Close enough to touch. The bird tilted its head away from my stare then spread its vast wings and beat its wings listlessly until it gained enough lift to ascent to the right altitude and soar towards the sun. The brightness of the sun tore through the grayness of my vision and scorched my eyes as I tried to watch the hawk fly into the distance. Then I came to. Everything was back to normal. I was back in the Warthog convoy with Lieutenant Mitchell and Hamish. I was clutching my rifle tight to my chest and was drenched in cold sweat. The Lieutenant and Hamish were having a conversation about the Scorpion tank. "...Is very effective against enemy vehicles as well as...whoa! You look you've just seen a ghost, son!" said the Lieutenant, startled.
"D...did you see the...never mind, I think it's just the heat" I mumbled, trying not to sound stupid. If I told them what I saw they would've thought I was a lunatic. I just took a swig from my water flask and settled my gaze on the horizon ahead of us, the convoy of vehicles stretching into the distance. The Lieutenant and Hamish resumed their conversation, but I tuned it out and thought about the hawk. I must've been hallucinating because of the lack of water I thought, that's it. So I settled it at that.

I flicked my wrist out of the sleeve of my shirt. 2:07 my watch read. The sight of Old Mombasa rising up before us amazed me. It was a very large city. The vast warrens cramped alleyways and African architecture of the Old area gave way to the clean, wide streets, high-rise buildings and of course the Space Tether of New Mombasa. The Space Tether is basically a giant slingshot that propels manpower and machinery into space. It stretches way, way up into the sky and disappears out of view into the heavens. It's the reason that there was any point defending this place. We reached the outermost part of Old Mombasa and Lieutenant Mitchell nosed the Warthog off the road and onto the reddened African dirt and parked. There were hundreds of vehicles similarly parked along the outskirts of Mombasa. I gripped my rifle in one hand and the side of the vehicle in the other and launched myself out. The Lieutenant was rallying our platoon and instructing them to stay at ease by their vehicles. On hearing this I leant on the front fender of the warthog and pulled a cigarette out of the packet in my front pocket, drew my lighter and making a shield with my hand I lit the cigarette hanging out of my mouth then put the lighter back. I inhaled the smoke as I swept my glance over the crowd of marines before me: some were carrying SMGs, some carrying Rocket Launchers, and some (like me) had Battle Rifles. They were all lounging around beside their Warthogs and checking their gear. I filtered the smoke out of my nose and inhaled again. I felt calm and cool as I exhaled again, my anxiety slowly easing away with every breath. Until I heard something that made the cigarette drop right out of my mouth, then cough and splutter with surprise.

A new message blared over each Warthogs comm. unit in unison 'The Covenant have destroyed the Athens! They are proceeding to land on Earth. All ground units prepare for contact, I repeat, all ground units prepare for contact!' and then the transmission bugged out. "Ok marines! Lets roll!" yelled the Lieutenant as he thrust himself into the driver's seat of our Warthog, Hamish jumping into the turret after him. 'Time to go' I thought as I vaulted into the passenger seat, shouldering my rifle and thumbing the safety to fire. The whole convoy was merging back onto the road and advancing towards Mombasa.

Chapter Three: City Defense

We had just driven through the gate when the Covenant Cruiser departed from of slip-space and appeared over the now empty (except for military forces) city of Mombasa. Pelicans soared over our heads, shaking the vehicle and sending wind gusting through the cab. The Lieutenant drove us down a wide street of the city, the remainder of our platoon following us as we were now leading the convoy of Warthogs. By now I was extremely nervous, blood pumping through my body at accelerated speed as the adrenaline kicked in. I kept myself alert. My rifle was hard against my shoulder. I tightened my grip and scanned the blue, cloudless sky. There were Covenant Phantoms cascading out of the massive, silver Cruiser that was drifting beside the Space Tether on the island city of New Mombasa, which is separated from the old sector by an immense suspension bridge. We sped past countless abandoned homes and vast, sandy ghettos. There were mammoth African architectural structures which I had no clue of their purpose scattered randomly throughout the city. Mostly all the buildings were made of a sandstone-like rock, which was furthermore covered in immeasurable amounts of dust and sand from the surrounding desert. A huge purple beam was issuing from the Cruiser's underbelly which I assumed was the gravity lift. The Covenant would probably be sending equipment too big to carry with Phantoms down it. I was discomforted by the thought of what war machine could be too big to fit on a Phantom. The Phantom is the Covenant's main deployment aircraft which can transport troops and carry tanks, ground reconnaissance vehicles and ground transport vehicles. Back when we were training we had painstakingly been taught everything that was known about Covenant military weapons and tactics.

The Phantoms were already landing in New Mombasa. I just hoped all the marines positioned there were ok. But I had to think about my own safety as there was a contingent of Phantoms heading our way. The Lieutenant ordered our platoon's convoy to form a roadblock with the Warthogs and await the Covenant's arrival. The other platoons' Warthog convoys would've been scattered throughout the city by now as well. Lieutenant Mitchell braked and did a perfect slide lasting about five meters and ended up sideways across the sand-strewn road, a haze of dust whirled around the convoy as they shaped into a tidy roadblock. 'This is it' I thought, mentally preparing myself for the imminent arrival of the enemy. My side of the vehicle was facing east (the direction of the road and New Mombasa, where the covenant were emanating from the gleaming Cruiser high in the pristine sky) I nervously checked my ammunition. I had five magazines for my battle rifle and four fragmentation grenades. I cocked the slide and aimed my rifle up the road. I was still sitting in the Warthog. I looked back at the rest of the convoy; they all looked focused and prepared. The Lieutenant was still in the driver's seat with the engine idling for if we needed to get out in a hurry. Hamish was behind the chain-gun turret, a large metal shield attached to the gun protecting most of his body. I suddenly felt envious of his position. I was exposed in this seat, so as a last minute decision I slid out of the passenger seat, planted my feet firmly on the road and ran around the other side of the Warthog to use the front as cover. The Phantoms were about to land just up the road about one-hundred meters away. I rested my rifle on the Warthog and looked through the targeting scope at the sight in front of me. The Covenant had landed.

The Phantoms were about twenty meters above the ground and they were spewing out troops through a blue sphere in their underside. The troops slowly floated to the ground, assumingly the blue gravity spheres of the Phantoms aided in this effect. The aliens were too far down the road to shoot accurately at, so we held our fire for the moment. The enemy infantry landed on the ground, but quickly withdrew to the adjacent side alleys and roads. These aliens were smart. They weren't just going to stage a full frontal assault on us. That would be suicide. They were going to try and flank us. "Smart little bastards aye?" quietly commented the Lieutenant, who then yelled "Marines, keep an eye on the rooftops either side of us!"
"You ready, Lee?" asked Hamish from the turret of the Warthog, holding his gaze ahead.
"I'm ready, mate" I replied.

Once the phantoms had emptied their loads they peeled off to return to the Cruiser. As they took flight they fired the occasional plasma bolt at us from their mounted plasma cannons. A huge bolt of red, superheated plasma burst into the windshield of our Warthog. I ducked as it sent shards of glass scything through the air. The Lieutenant jumped out of the vehicle after this, his pistol at the ready. A shard of glass cut me across the cheek as the windshield exploded. I paid no attention, and got back up and aimed down the road. There was an additional group of Covenant troops was approaching us head on now, probably a distraction for the ones going for the sides I thought. There were about fifty aliens approaching us head on they consisted of Grunts in the front and Elites in the back. About the same amount had withdrawn to the sides to try and box us in. I had only seen a flash of them but I thought I saw mainly Jackals. Our platoon had only fifty men in it, we were up against one-hundred alien warriors.

Once the approaching enemies were approximately seventy meters away the Lieutenant gave the order "Open fire!"
At that moment all sixteen Warthog crews churned out a wave of lead from the chain-gun turrets and small-arms. The fifty-strong group of covenant approaching us from up the road returned fire and plasma was sent surging all around us. I heard the screams of the marines who were hit. I targeted a grunt and pounded a three round burst straight through its alien skull, sending it somersaulting into a gutter. Hamish was thudding rounds into the approaching alien phalanx, destroying them continuously. The majority of the grunts had been thinned out by the continuous chain-gun fire, but most of the Elites were still standing. I selected a red-armored Elite (We had been taught that this indicates a Major) and drove three round bursts into its head continuously from my rifle, the Elite's shield blazing with each hit. The Elite I was shooting attempted to take cover behind an abandoned civilian car, but its shield popped of in a storm of yellow static and I fired a fatal burst at its elongated head. I heard the Elites woeful roar as it fell to its knees, dropping its plasma rifle and finally dropping to the hot bitumen road-side. I saw Hamish incessantly propelling rounds of ammunition from his chain-gun turret into a group of Elites, eventually eliminating them. A few moments later, after combating various enemies, a green plasma bolt burnt into my left elbow. It felt like I had been branded with a hot poker. I quickly blasted a burst at the culprit – a yellow armored grunt – spreading it over a group of other grunts and killing all three. Once satisfied with this I dropped down below the cover of the Warthog and gave a groan of pain as I slumped down with my back to the left-front tire and looked upwards. That probably saved my life. There was a group of Jackals with no shields on one of the rooftops adjacent to the road. Each was holding a long, slender blue rifle. I completely forgot about my plasma wound and hollered over the noise of battle at the marines behind me "Eyes up, snipers!"

The sight behind me was shocking. Just as I yelled the warning a pink bolt of energy squelched out of one of the Jackal snipers' rifles and drilled clean through marines' head, misty, pink vapor spreading through the air as he fell to his side, his light armor clanking as he hit the ground and dropped his rifle. There were about fifteen other lifeless marines scattered across the ground. But I didn't have much time to observe the scene played out behind me. I had only a split second because I immediately jumped to my feet and thumped rounds into the enemy jackal snipers on the rooftops. I squeezed the trigger continuously until I heard the ominous click of the empty chamber. I hastily ducked down and slotted in a new magazine. Just as well, because at that moment, a pink sniper bolt whizzed over my head and left a circular burn mark on the road behind me. Casting the spent magazine away, not even watching it skid across the ground, I leapt back to my feet and methodically killed four Jackal snipers. By now the other marines had cleaned up all the other snipers, but just as I thought it may be over, a wave of regular Jackals with hand-held energy shields (that were circular, and with two notches on either side for them to fire through and are a good weak point to exploit) appeared on the rims of the buildings either side of the road and opened fire on us. We were boxed in.

Bolts of green plasma rained down on us from the Jackals' plasma pistols. I got hit again in the thigh, but this time it didn't hurt as much. Maybe I was used to it. I decided to take cover on the other side of the Warthog, so I rounded the back behind Hamish in the gunner's seat. He was still going strong. The chink-chink-chink-chink of the chain-gun was rattling my eardrums. The spent shell casings were raining down around me as they were ejected from the massive chain-guns three-barreled revolving chamber. I crept around the back, firing a couple of times into a group of Jackals above me and carefully making sure to aim for the notches in the shield where they fire from, I obliterated the group. The bodies of my Jackal victims rolled off the building and fell before me, so I stepped over them and arrived on the other side of our vehicle. Lieutenant Mitchell was there, he was firing a pistol up into the rooftops. "I've got your back sir!" I yelled over the deafening noise of weapons firing, and started shooting at the opposite rooftop to him. To my right there were the bodies of the group of Covenant who attempted the frontal assault (approximately thirty Grunts and twenty Elites of miscellaneous rank) and to my left there was our Warthog, which I was using as cover. I reloaded my magazine again and continued firing, the dead bodies of Jackals and the occasional grunt peeling off the high walls of the buildings and plummeting to the pavement below as we killed them.

Then I heard Hamish yell "Look out, fuel rods!"
"Run!" I heard another marine scream
Then I saw it. Grunts with silver armor – denoting a high rank – and wielding large, purple fuel rod cannons appeared over the lip of the rooftops. I rapidly issued a burst from my rifle into one, but that was all I could do as they were beginning to fire upon us. I sprinted up the road away from our vehicle, looking back to see Hamish swiftly scramble out of the Warthog's turret and sprint the same direction as me. Just as Hamish got out of the way a huge ball of green radioactive fuel rod buried itself in our Warthog and exploded. Hamish jumped as the shock wave carried him skidding just past my feet. Our once functional vehicle was now blasted into of a heap of twisted, burning metal. The chain-guns ammunition detonated with a loud BANG after the initial explosion. A burning tire bounced past me and settled on the ground behind me. Hamish got up beside me, his rifle at the ready. I did the same and we slowly approached our wrecked Warthog. I spotted a grunt on a building that was just about to fire a fuel rod again and shot him fresh through the head. Hamish then finished off a couple to the right as I dealt with a group of remaining Jackals to the left. That was it. We had survived the attack.

All the enemies were face down in the dirt, pools of alien blood oozing from their fatal wounds. But as we surveyed the remainder of our forces I dry wretched. There were the bodies of our fallen comrades littering the ground, their weapons lying where they fell. There were miscellaneous patches of blood splattered over the walls and floor. A mix of Human and Covenant casualties heaped in a gutter. These visions disturbed me deeply. All the Warthogs in the entire convoy had been destroyed. There were only eight surviving marines including Hamish and I. Four marines were crowded around another. He was leaning on the side of a demolished Warthog skeleton. I approached slowly, Hamish behind me and as I got to an angle where I could see I gave a gasp of terror. The marine leaning on the Warthog carcass was Lieutenant Mitchell and he was missing his legs. They were gone up until just above the knee and blood was pouring out in a torrent. His face was blackened and burnt. Our medic had been killed in the battle, so we could do little to help him except comfort him as he bled to death. I kneeled down beside him and held him in my arms. "You marines...did good..." he managed to wheeze, flecks of blood spattering his shirt as he spoke "...real good..." and then he died in my arms.
His eyes slowly settled closed and his head lolled to the side. I lay him down on the road beside the blackened heap of warped metal that was once a Warthog and left him lying there. This morning I had never killed anyone, nor seen anyone die. This war was punishing us all, not just the ones who succumbed to it, but the ones who witnessed its horrific deeds as well.

Chapter Four: Regrouping

We left the Lieutenant where he lay. I swept my eyes over the carnage before me. Six marines standing, forty-three killed in action, sixteen destroyed Warthogs and one-hundred dead Covenant. The scene was terrible. I checked my ammunition: Two BR55 Battle Rifle magazines and four fragmentation grenades. I looked down at my clothes and armor and saw that they were blackened and peppered with plasma burns. I had taken some hits and didn't even notice them. My BDUs were torn and ragged and there were cuts in my arms that were bleeding all over my shredded sleeves. Hamish approached me as I inspected what was left of my gear. "You look terrible mate" He spoke quieter than normal. He wasn't his usual self.
I looked at Hamish. His face was covered in grit and his clothes were looking like mine did. "Likewise" I replied. All I could think to say.
Then in the corner of my eye I noticed something. It was a marine. He was sitting with his back up against the wall of a building to the side of the road. His leg looked broken, severely. I rushed over to him, calling out at the other surviving marines to follow me. They were still standing around the Lieutenant. As they came walking towards us, for the first time I properly surveyed the other marines. The four of them were pretty much as beaten up as Hamish and I were. I knew one of them instantly. It was Corporal David Harris, the guy who was being terrorized by the thugs in the alleyway back at Fort Kibaha. "Hey, David!" I yelled out to him individually.
"Hi, I saw you before with, with the Lieutenant..." Upon mentioning the Lieutenant his speech hushed, then faded into silence.

As the other marines crowded around I looked at them. Private Leon Baker read a short, stocky marine's nametag. He was one of our platoon's Anti Tank (AT) soldiers. He was holding a SPINKr rocket launcher. There was also Private Gareth Palmer. He was about the same size as me and was holding an SMG. The last marine wandered up to join us. She was Corporal Amy Roscoe. She slung her Battle Rifle over her shoulder as she arrived. Those four marines, Hamish, me and the injured man on the ground were all that was left of our platoon. "Whaddaya fools waiting 'round for, help this poor bastard!" Roscoe yelled. We then turned our gazes to the injured marine. He looked appalling, worse than all of us by a long shot. All of his right side was charred and blackened, probably courtesy of one of the fuel rods. I looked down at his broken leg. It sure as hell was broken. The bone was sticking out of his shin at an acute angle just below the knee.

"Ok, let's help this guy up" I said solemnly.
Baker and Palmer rushed over and threw the injured marine's arms over their shoulders and hoisted him up off the pavement. He gave a scream of agony as the two marines pulled him to his feet. Baker was on his left hand side, Palmer on his right. "What's your name, marine?" I asked, as I couldn't see his tag because it had been singed and blackened.
"K-Kevin Jones" He managed to wheeze out between bloody coughs.
His armor was hanging off him, severed at the shoulder. His clothes on his right side were melted into his skin, the rest hanging of in ragged shreds. He had pretty bad burns, and that broken leg could get infected. "Ok, Kevin, we need to get you some medical attention. I'll find our comm specialist and call for evac" I told him.

I wandered around the section of road that we were ambushed in. The once Blazing Warthogs were now just smoldering heaps of junk metal. I wiped the gathering sweat off my forehead with the back of my forearm. I had virtually no energy left, but I had to push on. I found the comm specialist. He was lying on his side in a pool of blood. A sniper beam had hit him through his heart, he would've died instantly. I nudged him over and inspected his communications backpack. It seemed to be in check, so I picked up the receiver and thumbed it on. "This is Private Lee Thompson, 3rd platoon, J-Company. Do you read me HQ? Over" I let my thumb off as I waited for the reply.
"This is HQ, what's your situation, Private?" replied a stressed sounding voice.
"Yes, HQ, the rest of our platoon is KIA. There are only seven marines alive, sir, including myself. One of them is badly injured and he needs to be evacuated and given medical care immediately, over." I anxiously replied, hoping that we could get Jones out of here.
"Private, we're sorry, but there is no way we're sending a Pelican to evacuate you at your current position, I've just got your GPS readings. There's Covenant crawling all through the district. The closest safe area where an LZ can be set up is about three kilometers away to the East. Once you're there we can evacuate the injured soldier and link you up with another platoon. I'll give you the co-ordinates for the LZ." The HQ executive gave me the co-ordinates. I wrote them down then checked them to a map I had. "Ok HQ, we'll be there ASAP, over" I stashed the receiver back in the comm backpack and began to walk back to the others.

They were attending to Jones. A makeshift tourniquet made of someone's torn BDUs had been tied above the knee of his broken leg. "What's happening, is he getting evac?" asked Roscoe. She was dark skinned and attractive. I don't know why she joined the Marine Corps. Maybe her family was poor and it was a way to make money. I had no idea, but I wasn't about to ask. She would probably rip my head off and use it as a basketball. She was the type of woman who was strong and attractive at the same time, and whoa did she have a temper. "I talked to HQ. The closest LZ is three k's away. We'll have to take Jones there. Then we'll get linked up with another platoon." I responded.
Hamish gave me a grimace of anguish that said 'what the?' so I continued "We can't get airlifted outta here because there are too many Covenant forces in this particular district"
We were standing in a circle. The others were all looking at the ground after this news. Baker and Palmer still propping Jones up, his left arm lower than his right because of Baker's short stature. "Ok, everyone stock up on ammo and rations before we leave" I told everyone. I don't know why, but I was taking the leadership role, and everyone was following me. It was strange.

Baker and Palmer gently let Jones down and then rushed off to get ammunition. Hamish, Roscoe and Harris did the same. I saw that Hamish's left sleeve was missing. He must've been the one who had tied it above Jones' knee to stop the bleeding. I set off towards a mangled Warthog chassis to look for some ammunition. I arrived and there was a dead Grunt there, bright cyan blood still seeped from its fatal wounds. I picked up a strange blue grenade lying beside it. A plasma grenade, it's the standard Covenant one. I stowed it in a pocket attached to my torso armor. 'It may come in handy' I thought. I continued along, slowly scanning the ground. I came across a pistol lying on the ground, a holster nearby. There was a huge scorch mark on the ground next to it. I strung the holster around my thigh and latched it on. Then I picked up the pistol and checked the ammunition. One full clip. I guided the clip back into the pistol and flicked the safety to 'safe'. I slid my newly acquired pistol into the holster on my right thigh and fastened it in. A few meters away there was a dead marine on the ground near a Jackal of the same fate. I knelt down beside the marine and picked up three BR55 magazines off him and pocketed them. This was all I needed. I returned to our little rally point where Jones lay. As I arrived, he chucked me something. I caught it. It was a clip for my pistol. "Thanks, man" I said, confused.
"That was my pistol" he said slowly. "I dropped it when I got hit by a fuel rod, my holster came loose"
I started to un-fasten the pistol, but he told me not to. "It's yours" He said weakly "I don't need it anymore"
"Thank you" I said "It'll be useful"
Just then, Baker and Palmer arrived back, both stocked up with supplies. They were soon followed by Hamish, Harris and then Roscoe, last. Harris was now wielding an SMG. I pulled a cigarette out of my front pocket and lit it up. The smoke was calming me down with every puff. I knew tobacco was a health risk, I just didn't care. I took the cigarette out of my mouth and gave everyone orders to get ready to move out. Harris seemed to be shaking with fear at the thought of moving out back into battle. Baker hurled his rocket launcher onto his back, Palmer doing the same with his much lighter Sub-Machine Gun. They then hoisted Jones up, his arms around their shoulders so that they could walk him as he hopped along on one leg between them. As Jones was hoisted up he was clearly in great pain, as the mangled and tormented expression on his face portrayed. He kept quiet though, not a gasp of pain, which I respect him for.

We set off up the road. It had been quiet for a while, apart from the occasional explosion in the distance. Phantoms laced the sky, which was very demoralizing as there were hardly any human Pelicans. Hamish and I took the lead, our rifles at the ready in case we were ambushed. Behind us were Baker and Palmer carrying Jones as he hopped along, his broken leg dangling limply with the bone protruding repulsively out of the shin. Behind them were Roscoe and Harris, guarding the back. We were moving extremely slow because of Jones. But we had to get him out of here. We couldn't just leave him on the side of the road to die. I lead the group down an East facing alleyway between two high sandy buildings. I felt the rush of cool air engulf me as I entered the shady alley. I was following a path that I had chosen to make it to the LZ. We followed the alleyway until it was about to open out onto a road. There was a giant crater in one of the buildings beside us in the alley. Rubble was strewn across our path just five meters before it led to the road, so we had to step over it. But just as I did so I heard a low rumbling noise and stopped. Hamish stopped too. I held my hand out behind me, palm facing the others to signal them to also stop. The rumbling was getting louder so I yelled to everyone "Get back!" Baker and Palmer immediately lowered Jones down behind the rubble as gently as they could, and then joined him hidden behind the rubble. Roscoe and Harris ducked behind a pile of trash while Hamish and I steeped back over the debris scattered over the alley and ducked down beside Baker, Palmer and Jones. I signaled Roscoe and Harris to come up beside us. I heard Harris give a whimper as he scrambled up beside us, Roscoe right behind him. The rumbling was now deafening "get down" I mouthed to the others in the dark.

We were all crouched and well hidden behind the debris of bricks and rock when they came past. I poked my eyes just above the rubble to see a Wraith glide by. "Wraiths!" I whispered.
Wraiths are the Covenant's main battle tank. They fire enormous balls of plasma from a large, back-mounted and mortar-like cannon. They use (like every other Covenant vehicle) a strange form of boosted gravity propulsion drive to travel. Wraiths are one of the most fearsome features in the Covenants array of vehicles, although they are slow and bulky, it's a very destructive form of mobile armor. I saw Baker start to ready his Rocket Launcher, but I guided it back down with my palm and said "No, that'll be suicide" I looked back over our pile of debris, my eyes hardly over the rim, to see a group of Elites following the Wraith that had just coasted past. They were being lead by an important looking Elite in pearly white armor which was glistening in the late afternoon sun. The Elites were wielding Plasma Rifles, which appeared dwarfed in their large hands. The group of Elites was then followed by a group of Wraiths, which were then followed by another group of Elites, then continuing to be followed by more Wraiths. This went on for about five minutes. There were also groups of Grunts, Jackals and also strange, green, flying and insect-like aliens which we knew as Drones. All of these groups were then followed by pair after pair of Hunters. Hunters are very large aliens that are clad in thick armor, and have arm-mounted fuel rod guns. They are probably the toughest, most formidable, and frightening of the Covenant infantry. These groups were then followed by various types of vehicle. There were Ghosts, which are light reconnaissance vehicles with dual plasma cannons at the front. Followed by Specters (which are armored light transport vehicles with a plasma turret on back. They are quite similar to our human Warthogs) and last there were wave upon wave of Shadows, which are the Covenant's main land transportation vehicle. The shadow seats a driver, a gunner (plasma cannon mounted on back) and up to eight seated occupants in the long, blue, slender vehicle. The convoy cruised past and then the noisy rumble of their movement died off into the distance. We waited behind cover for at least another minute after they left before anyone spoke. "I can see why they won't send a Pelican anywhere near here" said Hamish, bewildered by the sight of the redoubtable force that just marched by.

Everybody was still crouched behind the rubble when I got up onto my feet. With my rifle at the ready I slowly approached the corner where the alley met the roadside. I swung around and aimed in the direction the Covenant convoy went. Nothing. There was just a tumbleweed rolling its way across the road in the arid Mombasa wind, sand was surging over the now abandoned road in waves. I gave the thumbs up to the marines back in the alley. The sun was beginning to set down below the buildings of Old Mombasa, casting long shadows over the road. As the others came to join me I looked up to see a damaged Phantom roar over our heads, only about five meters above the rooftops. There was blue, plasma-like static surging from a gaping hole in the side. Intricate circuitry was showing through the penetrated exterior armor. The stricken Phantom then continued to soar straight onto a building just across the road from us. It skidded uncontrollably over the buildings flat roof, rotating slowly as it did so. There were sparks flying in all directions from the friction of the Phantom and the rock rooftop. After ten meters of sliding over the roof, it then flipped over on its side and fell off the back of the building and we heard a CRASH as it collided below. A plume of smoke bellowed out in a thick pillar from where it had landed. We couldn't see what had happened to the Phantom, as it was on the other side of a building. It had probably plunged into another building adjacent to the one it skidded over.

I ordered the other marines to stay while I checked it out, but Hamish followed me anyway. The rest held their position behind the rubble in the alleyway. "Whoa, that was an impressive collision" said Hamish excitedly.
We rushed down a street leading the way the Phantom had crashed. We followed the pillar of smoke issuing from the middle of a group of buildings and then rounded down an alley to the right. Our eyes were met with a bewildering sight as we entered the area where the Covenant airship had fallen. We were behind the building that it had skidded over. After it had flipped off the building, the Phantom had hit a low-lying building and completely collapsed its roof. All that was left now was three half destroyed and crumbled walls, as it had crushed one of the walls entirely on its descent. The Phantom lay upside-down in a pile of collapsed building material. There were severe scrape marks on the ship where it had grated along the rooftop of the adjacent building before it plummeted down and crushed the low structure that appeared to have been a manufacturing plant of some description. The Phantom sat there smoldering. Smoke was pouring from the ruins of the manufacturing plant it had destroyed. Then I saw a flicker of movement. I shouldered my rifle and kept my eyes sharp. A solitary Grunt scuttled out of the rubble and did a double take once he saw us. The Grunt gave a squeal as it feebly attempted to escape as our bullets thumped into its atmospheric tank and through the abdomen of its scrawny body. That seemed to be all that had survived the collision. We cautiously approached the wrecked Phantom. Sparks and blue static were dancing around the hole that brought it down and a strange plasma-like substance was leaking out of a scratch in the hull. Apart from this, the ship seemed to be abandoned. We didn't want to venture inside the wreckage, too dangerous.

"Well, that was exciting!" yelled Hamish, his deep voice echoing around the circle of buildings we were in the middle of. "Ok, but let's get outta here, and keep it down. We don't want the whole Covenant army hearing us" I didn't admit it, but I had a strange feeling that we were being watched as I said this. The hairs on the back of my neck started to stand up, so I began to walk towards the alley we came in through. Hamish was close behind me. "Man, this place is giving me the cree-" but I cut my sentence short because in front of us and blocking our escape were four Special Operations Elites. Their active camouflage slowly faded off as they deactivated it, revealing their shiny black armor with built in energy shield. I held my rifle up and pointed it at the lead
Elite as he stepped forward and pulled out a silver handle. The rest did the same. The Elite leader then squeezed the handle, thrusting it to the side and activating his energy sword. The other three followed suit. I started to back away, but saw Hamish rising up to the challenge. He took a step closer to the Elites. The lead Elite seemed slightly surprised at this gesture, but he continued and barked an order to his comrades in an alien tongue. The Spec. Ops Elites with energy swords slowly closed in on us. But I wasn't going to waste any time being sliced, diced, cut up and destroyed. So I opened fire on the Elite furthest on the right, he let out a wild roar and charged at me. I kept emptying three round bursts into his skull. The Elite's internal shield pulsing in an aura around him as it depleted from the force of my relentless bullets. When it got close enough, the Elite made a great lunging strike towards me. I dodged to the side and hit the Elite in the neck with the butt of my rifle. My foe stumbled under the force of my critical bow so I took advantage of it and squeezed the trigger four times, pouring twelve 9.5mm rounds into its cranium. The Elite gave a cry of anguish as it fell to the ground and died, as its shield had been depleted and the last thee rounds were fatal.

I looked to my right to see how Hamish was doing. There was an Elite lying lifeless on the ground. It had blood gushing out of its jugular artery in its neck as there was a standard military issue combat knife piercing into it. Hamish had discarded his rifle and was fighting the Spec. Ops Elite leader hand to hand, as it had lost its energy sword. The Elite took a swing with a closed, three fingered fist, but Hamish caught it. Hamish then put pressure on the back of the Elite's bicep with his left hand, into the golges tendon. With his right hand which he caught the fist with he put the Elite's hand into a wrist lock and pulled the forearm towards him. The Elite screamed in pain as its arm snapped under the immense pressure of Hamish's arm bar. The Elite then tried to swing at Hamish with his other arm, but he ducked under the punch and sidestepped around behind the Elite. The Elite confusedly tried to turn around, but Hamish already had his arm around its neck. I looked away as Hamish reached around the Elite's face. He grabbed a hold then with one fluid motion, snapped the alien's neck. Hamish stood out of breath as his Spec. Ops victim limply folded to the ground. If there was one thing never to do in you life, it was to get in fist-fight with Hamish Williams.

But I had to concentrate on my own survival. The last Elite was dashing towards me speedily. I made a split second decision to pull out the Covenant grenade I had taken from the dead grunt. I thumbed the activation panel to prime the explosive and tossed at the approaching Elite. I had only one shot and I nailed it. The grenade sailed through the air, plasma gasses wafting off it and stuck to the oncoming Elite's chest. It hissed while the dumbstruck Elite pathetically tried to pull the adhered grenade from himself. But his efforts were futile. The plasma grenade exploded. I looked away as the alien was propelled two meters into the air, and then crunched to the ground below. That was it. We had single handedly fended off two Spec Ops Elites complete with energy swords each, coming to a total of four.

I walked up to Hamish and reloaded my rifle as he yanked his combat knife out of a fallen Elite's neck, putting it back in its sheath. Then picking up his discarded rifle he turned to face me "Piece of cake eh?" he said jovially.
But he was not unscathed. There was a long, deep cut across his left arm which was spilling blood profusely. Hamish then ripped his other sleeve off and tied it as tourniquet above the wound. The bleeding ebbed as he tightly tied the shred of material around his arm. "You all right, mate?" I asked, concerned.
"Fine, never felt better" replied Hamish
Hamish's helmet was missing. I then noticed that it was crushed by a fallen Elite. "Your helmets busted" I informed him
"Ah crap and I just had it dry-cleaned" He replied sarcastically while patting his head. He then used the remainder of his torn sleeve to tie a bandana around his head. "Won't stop bullets, but it'll keep the dang sweat outta my eyes" he said as he tied it. "You ready?" I asked.
"Sure, let's get out of here before we run into any more trouble" Hamish replied, not sarcastic anymore.
We took the way we came in back out and ran back to the alleyway where the others were waiting. The sun was almost fully set by the time we arrived back to the others. "Where've you guys been? We heard gunshots" asked Roscoe.
I explained to them about the crash site and how we were ambushed. They seemed captivated by my story. The others then filled us in on what they had seen. They told us that here had been two more Covenant convoys, but much smaller ones consisting of a smaller variety of troops and vehicles. This place was really dangerous. Hamish seemed oddly silent and looked very pale. "You ok Hamish?" I heard Harris ask.
"I just think I need a rest, that's all" Hamish replied.
That brought me to another thought. We were going to have to wait out the night before we continued to the LZ. There's no use trying to escort an injured marine around in the dark. Besides, we were all absolutely exhausted. It had been a long day since Hamish and I had woken up late for morning training.

We managed to climb up the pile of rubble and into the building above us that had the crater in it. I took some hard work to get Jones up there without hurting him. We had tried the door, but it was completely caved in. But we managed to carry him up. The crater was on the second story of the building. There was a stone floor and a five by five meter room, of which the roof and floor were partly missing due to the crater. There was then a door on the far side leading to another room that was slightly larger. There had been a staircase in the second room, but it was now collapsed. We were going to hole up here for the night. The marines were finding out who would do sentry duty first. We had to have a sentry to watch for Covenant and alert the others if there was any danger. We worked out that it would be done in shifts so that everyone got some rest. I offered to do the first shift, everyone else gladly accepting. So I sat on the edge of the building where the floor was missing, dangled my legs off the edge and watched the sun slowly sink below the horizon.