Stories of a Soundtrack -- Part 4
Posted By: The Meep
Date: 5 January 2007, 12:49 am
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Name: Wu, Louis Gandry
Degrees: AhD, PDf, CaAP
Location: Slipspace, en route to Lost Colony from Nib Ki (CONDITION: Rendered INHABITABLE by HV Plasma) Debris Field
Place of Residence: Def'Na City, Manchile Continent, Lost System.
DOB: February 29th, 2522 (SAC)
POB: Def'Na City, Manchile Continent, Lost System
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Request: Retrieve File 159 – 852 – 753 – SOAS – 56
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A Walk in the Woods
Near Hill Golf 331, Murnil Forest, Acienic Continent, Planet Yeng III, Yeng system
The force of battered armor, weary souls, and heavy prospects moved through the dense woods, filtering through trees, crushing ferns underfoot, and looking out for pursuers. They had fled the Battle of Murnil Plains, leaving their wounded, and struggling to make it into the safety of the forest.
They were the Army of the Tangible Remains of Faith, a relatively small company that had been dispatched to Yeng as part of the 3rd Parallel Invasion Force. They had started out as 2,500 strong, with files of Grunts, Elites, Jackals, and even several Hunter Pairs. Wraiths and Ghosts had complemented their strength along with two Heavy Mortars. Now, there were only a hundred and thirty two troops, mostly Grunts, but with a light scattering of Jackals and Elites taking up the front of the force.
In the very center of the Army of the Tangible Remains of Faith was an Elite, dressed in the Silver armor of the Commander. He was tall and imposing, and could bend the toughest of soldiers to his will. His name and title were Army Commander Futo 'Gulomemee, and he had led them through many conflicts, survived many battles, and had the scars to show for it.
Even now, with more than 95% of his force dead, he acted as if they had command of the battlefield. He walked with a strut in his battle scarred armor, his eyes held confidence, and his chest was puffed out. He clicked his mandibles at a nearby Veteran Minor; the blue armored female Pula 'Furtoma. "'Furtoma, are we within reasonable distance of any defensible positions? High hills, steep walls, bodies of water?" he asked. Most Covenant would be surprised for an Army Commander to speak with a Veteran Minor, let alone a female Veteran Minor, but 'Gulomemee was a fair leader. He had seen her fight, and believed that she had more than proven herself on the battlefield and was long overdue for a promotion to Major Veteran at the least.
'Furtoma, who had become used to being spoken to by the Army Commander, checked her Topographic Simulator. The small red tube beeped, and a holographic topographic map appeared out of the end of it. "Most High Army Commander, there is a nearby hill in an open clearing about two hundred Mild Units that way," 'Furtoma said, pointing to the north. "Elevation, ten Major Units. Length, thirty five Major Units. Width, twenty Major Units. Ground is soft and ribbed with hard rock, good for trench making. There are large rocks on it providing ample cover and a large flat rock crowns the hill. Scans show that it is a reasonable platform for the mortar."
"Very good," said "Gulomemee. He held a small purple cube to his mandibles and spoke, the cube relaying the message to every Covenant in the formation. "Honorable survivors of the Army of the Tangible Remains of Faith, we have come this far and lived. Even now, the filthy Infidels that slaughtered are comrades are gathering and advancing upon us. If we hold any chance of survival, it's in reaching a defensible location. Fortunately, the Forerunners have smiled on us as we struggled, and we are blessed with a hill that, with us in command of it, will withstand the hardiest of attacks. This is where we will make our stand, where we will fight back and send the Heathens to their Hell. For we are the Covenant! And none have ever beaten us, and these Humans will be no different! For we shall stand victorious and be guaranteed are passage with our Prophets on the Great Journey!"
As soon as 'Gulomemee finished his speech, the front ranks broke out of the dense forest and into a large clearing dominated by a hill in the center. The Covenant let out a cheer and immediately made preparations for a long siege, tossing their whole selves into the task. 'Gulomemee commanded the operations from the crest of the hill, right in front of the rock that the mortar was to be placed on. But even as the fortifications were built, and the mortar placed, the trenches built, and the turrets placed, he knew he would never leave the hill alive.
Thirty five Units later, the Covenant were entrenched in the South side of the hill. Two trenches were blasted and smoothed out between bands of granite, roughly 3 feet deep, and lined with stationary plasma turrets. On top of a hill, the Sniper Perch was set up, the container floating above the platform. Several Jackals inside the container checked their Beam Rifles for energy and damage.
At the very crest of the hill was a large mass of battle scarred purple metal. A wide platform held up a wide, curved turret mounted on a half circle base, the tip of the turret glowing purple as it waited to unleash it's deadly plasma. The platform was held roughly one Minor Unit above the ground by three stubby legs.
Standing in front of the machine, his armor reflecting the last rays of sunlight, 'Gulomemee watched as the Grunts finished positioning the Plasma Turrets above the trenches. 'Furtoma walked up beside him and held up a small disc, a holographic report floating above it. "Most Honorable Commander, you wished for me to report the advances of the Humans when within a three hundred Major Units. A large Human force, about 500 in all with armor support, is advancing on our position."
"Thank you 'Furtoma," 'Gulomemee said without turning his black eyes away from the setting sun. "Retrieve 'Jugomee and 'Dunomonee and send them to the crest. Leave the report with me."
"Of course Most Honorable Commander," said 'Furtoma as she placed the disc in 'Gulomemee's hand before backing away with a graceful bow. 'Gulomemee looked away from the sunset as 'Furtoma loped down the slope, her multi-jointed legs receiving the shock of her downhill run. The Commander joined his opposing mandibles together and let the bottom two fall down, the Sangheili equivalent of a Human sigh. One of his fingers made their way to a small pad on the disc, activating the holographic battlefield.
The hill that the Army of the Tangible Remains of Faith had entrenched appeared, the forest of thin tall trees found on Yeng materializing around it. A small section of the forest to the south pulsed and became lined with red dots. They moved in the tight rectangular formation the Humans preferred, the vehicles following on the flanks.
'Gulomemee was studying the distance between the Human column and the hill when two High Major Veterans loped up to his side. Both wore scarred armor that had seen one to many bullets. 'Dunomonee was bleeding from a shrapnel wound on his shoulder. 'Jugomee was missing his chest piece.
Without wasting time on formalities, the Commander addressed his officers. "Fellow Sangheili brethren, the infidels march upon our position. As you can tell from the map, they are within a hundred Major Units from us and are fortunately arriving on our entrenched flank. From my studies, the battlefield is in our favor. We are embedded, have stable artillery, snipers, trenches, and an elevated position. With our long range sensors, we can keep track of their movements. Our only weakness is our numbers. Although with the Unggoy, we number over a hundred, we are short in our amount of experienced, skilled, or well trained soldiers."
Edo 'Jugomee cut in, pride ringing in his voice. "We Sangheili number fifteen, and our very best Kig-Yar have survived the battle! Weak as the Unggoy may be, enough of them should provide protection for us. We have more than enough [experienced] troops to survive this!" 'Jugomee stopped short, realizing he had spoken out and against a superior officer, one three whole ranks above himself.
Commander 'Gulomemee looked down at the shorter 'Jugomee, anger burning deep in his eyes. He lifted his arm and backhanded 'Jugomee across the face, hard. 'Gulomemee's eyelids slid down and up, moistening his eyes against the dry air. "In any other situation, you would be shot on the spot and have your dishonor thrown back on your clan. But, we are outnumbered and cut off. As you pointed out, we are fifteen Sangheili with a compliment of Unggoy and a file of Kig-Yar. But, this is not enough. A Human force of five hundred with vehicle support is enough to wipe us off this hill." He paused, looking at the turned head of 'Jugomee. "We need every warrior we have, no matter how small. Or disrespectful. Is that understood?"
'Jugomee looked up, hatred burning in his eyes. "Of course, Honorable Commander," he forced threw constricted mandibles.
'Gulomemee's expression lightened slightly. "Good! Now, let us concentrate our mentality on pressing matters. We have no time for frivolities. The Humans are within two hundred and fifty Major Units of our position. They number five hundred with several of their light vehicles and a tank. We have only one hundred Unggoy, seventeen Kig-Yar, and one fedrula of Sangheili, including us.
"Our only advantage is the hill we are embedded in. The rocks provide ample cover, and several trenches make the way haphazard for any Human foolish enough to approach. The firm crest makes an excellent platform for our single remaining mortar and the Infidels will have to cross a small open plain to reach us. If we hold tight, we can weather the maelstrom."
Over the next few Minor Units, 'Gulomemee outlined the defense plan. At times, 'Dunomonee would ask questions, but 'Jugomee never opened his mouth.
After 'Gulomemee finished, he sent his officers to their duties. 'Dunomonee went down to the trenches to oversee the front line defenses and to monitor the turrets. 'Jugomee was kept on the crest to keep watch of the Sniper Kig-Yar and to make sure the Unggoy operating the mortar didn't mess up.
'Gulomemee had him near him for a reason. The Commander had had time to review the Major Veteran's report. What he saw was not dazzling. Several counts of Minor Disrespect, a Minor Violence violation against another Sangheili, and a most puzzling was that he had been in the Military of the Covenant for over twenty five Cycles, nearly half his life, and had not had a single infraction before mysteriously disappearing for a Succession several Cycles before joining the Army of the Tangible Remains of Faith. He knew something wasn't right.
As he thought over 'Jugomee, he felt a tingling on the nape of his neck, as if someone was watching him. He turned around, hand on his plasma pistol, to find 'Jugomee staring right at him, a cold and determined look in his eyes.
"Haul her up boys! We ain't on no daisy picking!" yelled Gunnery Sergeant Ricky Gum, throwing his arm over his head in an exaggerated motion at the Marines behind him who were hauling a crate filled with ammunition towards the edge of the forest. The two Marines, both Privates, finally dropped the crate of 7.62 mm bullets heavily on the ground. Sergeant Gun whistled and headed back towards a loaded Warthog, one of five the Marine force had brought.
The other Warthogs and the Scorpion were in the process of unloading the strapped on supplies several meters back in the forest. Everything from ammo crates and rockets to gun mounts and fire shields had been brought along; anything that could be scrounged from the Murnil Plains where thousands lay dead.
As the Marines followed their Sergeant back, Gum started counting in his head. He always liked to see how far he got before he needed to break up a fight. Gum claimed it help calm him down and help him concentrate. He already had used it three times since entering the Murnil Forest.
"Gawd Sarge, them AR rounds weigh more than one of 'em Hunters," whined one Marine with the name "Nex" stenciled on his helmet.
The other Marine, a Delcin "Rica" Fedrick, glared over the box at Nex. "Since when has a soft-ass like you ever seen a Worm Farm?"
"On Felix IV, that's where! A big 'un too. The Docs had us haulin' it's fat ass over to a Pelican for dissection," shot back Nex, who pronounced dissection as "diss-etch-un".
"That's [dissection] you idiot."
"Makin' fun of my accent, Rica?"
"Whut accent?" replied Rica, mocking Nex's distinctive Prosperity drawl.
"Why you sun-uva-butch, stuck up, Reacher! You shou'd be back at base test-tastin' the slop!"
"I thought that was your job. If it turns out to be deadly, they won't mind losing an ugly face."
"Tea Time's over boys," said Gum, stepping between the two scowling Marines. "Congratulations, you set a new record. I actually waited only six seconds that time." He slapped them both on the back, hard, as they picked up the last crate, one holding three light weight Battle Shields. Light weight as in twenty kilograms.
Gum lifted one of his thick arms and tapped his boom mike twice, connecting himself to the CO of the force, Master Sergeant Resinky. "Ma'am, Warthog Opera Gertrude has been unloaded. Awaiting for further orders for Fire Team Opera-Trade."
Resinky came over the COM, her voice scratchy in the poor reception area. "Stick to the plan FT Opera-Trade. That hill is crawling with chimps and split lips. Be careful, stay hidden."
"Yes Ma'am. Gum out." Ricky turned back to Nex and Rica, who had finished unloading the Battle Shields. "Come-on, let's go. You guys remember the plan?"
"Good, now follow it. Remember, stay on my tracks, watch your backs, keep an eye on that hill, and stay hidden. There should be some Battle Shields and a Sniper stop up ahead."
The three Marines moved off into the forest, heading along the tree line to keep hidden while holding a good view of the hill in the dual moonlight. Gum watched the hill carefully. There was a trench, obviously made by plasma, lining the South face about thirty feet up the slope. Another trench snaked it's away another twenty feet higher, near the crest of the hill.
Gum turned on his Battle Awareness Display (affectionately known as the BAD by Marines) as he crouch walked along the tree line. A map indicating the locations of the ammo and attack drop points flicked into his iris along with blue blips indicating Human forces. A series of numbers on the bottom of the map showed the total count of Human forces and the coordinates, relative to Yeng.
Snap! The sudden noise alerted Gum. He whirled around, his pistol out in front of him to find a sheepish looking Nex standing on top of a broken branch. "Sorra Sir," he mumbled.
Gum sighed. "Just watch your stepping okay?"
"Yeah Nex," taunted Rica. "Watch those big feet of yours. Your gonna get us all--"
Rica's headless body crumpled and rolled down a small incline, the Beam Rifle silencing his words. Behind him was a tree with a red rimmed hole dead center in it's trunk, Rica's cerebral remains painted around it.
"Commence Firing!" roared 'Gulomemee into his purple receiver. Immediately, the tension on the hill was broken as the hidden Covenant forces started pouring plasma on the supposedly hidden Humans. The disguised Plasma Turrets in the trenches pulsed to life and rained plasma on the enemy. The Jackal Snipers flicked on their weapons and began sharp shooting any Human who would show his head. Behind himself, 'Gulomemee could feel the Plasma Mortar activating, the heat warming his back.
"The first Human is mine!" bragged a Kig-Yar sniper on his nearby perch. "It's head was clean off!"
"Silence Kig-Yar, and resume your attacks!" scolded 'Gulomemee. "You will have more than enough notches to carve in your weapon by the end of night!"
The three Kig-Yar giggled in their perch, a gargling caw in 'Gulomemee's ears. Filthy and disrespectful creatures, snarled 'Gulomemee inwardly. They care nothing of honor.
A whining noise filled the air as the mortar prepared to fire. The engineers had reported to 'Gulomemee saying that it would take twice as long to fire than before, due to a severed plasma coil. They recommended using it only sparingly; the overuse of the lone plasma coil could cause an explosion. 'Gulomemee knew he would have to risk it, it was their only chance of surviving.
As the weapon slowly charged, 'Gulomemee continued to survey the battlefield from his position. The tree line was almost completely scorched and several fires had broken out, unfourtanely contained by the damp ground and trees. 'Gulomemee was hoping he could use fire to help drive the Humans back.
Plasma fire continued to volley into the undergrowth, and now the Humans were starting to return fire. Tracers help light up the night as they impacted on the hillside. Several rockets were also launched, but most only exploded in the gap between trenches, hurling earth down upon the bottom trench.
Finally, the mortar shuddered and squeezed out a ball of plasma several Minor Units wide. It sailed into the air, gracefully adding a third moon to the sky, before falling back to Yeng. A large section of the forest was vaporized on impact, taking several Humans and a Warthog with it. The Unggoy crew cheered at the successful hit. 'Gulomemee turned around to insure that the Unggoy and 'Jugomee returned to work.
The Unggoy were already preparing the mortar for another launch. 'Jugomee wasn't there with them. 'Gulomemee blinked and narrowed his eyes, his mandibles flexing with anger. [The filthy swine has deserted!] he roared inwardly. Before he could ask the Unggoy where their supervisor went, the crest of the hill turned into an inferno.
Ever since Rica had his extreme lobotomy, Gum and Nex had been running to the East, away from Rica's headless body. After falling flat to the ground a second after Rica lost his head, Gum and Nex had crawled into a narrow riverbed turned bog and trudged through the disgusting muck until reaching a shallow slope, where they hastily got out of the rotting vegetation.
Once out, they found chaos. A Marine squad had been based there, all dead, their bodies strewn around. Most were missing body parts, or had large hole sin them. Plasma can easily mutilate a body. The area around them was burning with isolated fires, easily contained by the damp terrain.
"Gawd, it luks like a slughtur huss," said Nex, his mouth hanging slightly. Gum started moving towards the burning corpses. "Wuddya doin' Sarge?!" yelled Nex.
"Quiet!" said Gum in a hushed whisper. "I'm getting their tags, they deserve that much."
After he had gathered the tags while Nex kept an eye on the Jackal Snipers, Gum took out a pair of binoculars and looked in the direction of the Sniper Perch. "Yeh, that's them. I count three Birdies with snipes pickin' us off. Their not firing too much, probably trying to conserve. Too far away for us to get a shot out."
"What shou'd we do Sarge?" asked Nex.
"Move to a new location, hunker down, and take 'em out!"
Before Nex could reply, thunder broke through the staccato of bullets. The ground shook and the air whistled as the top of the hill became wrapped in fire. "The Scorp'! She's shootin'!" said Nex.
A few seconds later and the process repeated itself. Thunder, whistling, fire. The mortar on top of the hill squeezed out its own plasma in return, but the bolt missed and landed harmlessly behind the Marine force, vaporizing a small grove of trees.
Gum spoke up. "It doesn't matter how many rounds the Scorp' shoots, none of 'em will do any more good than make ankle-twisters unless they hit something worthwhile." He paused, checked the map in his BAD for a few moments. He then shook Nex on the shoulder and slapped his helmet. "Come-on Nexxy, lets go kill some Jacks!"
The two Marines headed off deeper into the woods to avoid Sniper fire before leveling out East. Their route would lead them to a flanking area directly North of the hill, giving them a good shooting field at the East facing Covenant. As they continued on, Gum looked at Nex and Nex looked back. Something passed between the two Marines, lifelong buddies since the 3rd grade. Something neither would ever bring up but knew one day they would have to face it. They looked away, both knowing that this was that day.
To be continued…