Stories of a Soundtrack -- Part 7
Posted By: The Meep<HaloFanatic101@yahoo.com>
Date: 12 September 2007, 6:37 pm
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Frezni Ice Field, 45.223 AU from Lost, Lost System
"Fire Team Hotel, Theta right, on my mark," said Staff Sergeant Parce, his voice barely above a whisper. He loosened his grip on the ice formation and bunched his legs, preparing to launch to his new Theta right position. On his BAD (Battle Awareness Display), three tags, Private McCall, Lance Corporal Dimon, and Lance Corporal Fitzpatrick, lit up with the green "acknowledge" mark at their corresponding positions around the twenty ton web of water crystals.
Parce quickly double-checked his reasoning behind the order, once again coming to the conclusion that it would provide sufficient crossfire and retreat options for the situation. He flicked his TEAMCOM on again, firing single beam transmissions to each of his soldiers. "Mark."
Even as he said this, he crouched low on his thighs and kicked off from the ice patch. He didn't have to check to make sure his squad was following suit, only make sure he would land on the slight curve in a frozen ice crystal web and cover his individual LOF.
He neared his target. Thirty meters, twenty, ten. Then he landed on it, bending his necessary joints to take the blow in zero-g and gripping a protruding water crystal to prevent rebounding off into the emptiness of space. After securing himself and making sure his weapon was undamaged he reopened the single beam TEAMCOM. "Sound off, Hotel Omega here."
One by one, his team checked in.
"Hotel Delta, reporting Sir," Dimon's rough voice crackled over the TEAMCOM.
"Hotel Zulu here, nice and tight with my Packer, sir," answered McCall, heavy breathing heard in the background.
"Hotel Kappa, nice and frosty Sir," chirped Fitzpatrick. Nervous laughter answered her pun. The giant field of ice crystals surrounding Fire Team Hotel made the North Pole look like a tropical retreat.
"Hell, bet it took you the entire tour aboard the Gargantum to think of that one," commented Dimon. More nervous laughter, but slightly relaxed this time.
Parce abruptly interjected. "Any sight of Mike or Alpha?" Although the laughter helped keep his Marines loose, he had to make sure it didn't distract them.
McCall's IFF flashed amber as he established a COM link. "No, sir, lanes are clear an-- AAARGH!" His yell pierced Parce's ears as the COM shrieked from the sudden decibel rise. Parce turned sideways in his bulky EVA suit, careful not to throw himself off in the null gravity, just in time to see a sublimed jet of superheated water vapor eject from the crystals where McCall had been stationed. The area had been vaporized.
Aboard the bridge of the Gargantum, a Cherokee class Heavy Destroyer, the mood was happy. Laughter arced across the small steel room as COM techs and bridge officers exchanged jokes and hummed carols. Even though they were in a relative null velocity inside one of the largest ice fields in UNSC space, it was still Christmas Eve as told by the Military clock. The near absolute zero temperatures in the vacuum did little to dampen the festive mood inside. The Zero Beer, so named for its nonexistent alcohol level, helped too.
Near the front of the bridge, Commander LaShalle stood in front of her Battle Screen, immune to the festivities around her. Being a Commander had its privileges, but drinking Zero with the crew was not one of them. Instead, she watched the small blips on the Battle Screen dance among the sheets of ice crystals; Marine Squads in a routine training exercise. She smiled as she watched Fire Team Hotel maneuver behind a large chunk of ice, only to lose one of their members to Fire Team Alpha in a superior firing position. Wild cursing came from the incapacitated Marine as his EVA suit stiffened and he "died."
LaShalle turned to her General Operations Officer, Lieutenant Gris. "End the training exercise, FT Alpha winner." Gris turned to his console and punched in commands, green lighting the exercise and declaring Alpha the winner.
"O, and thaw out the Marine," she said, almost as after thought. "Gris let out a gruff chuckle as he unfroze the immobilized soldier drifting near Fire Team Hotel. The banter between the two squads came in over the COM, FT Hotel calling FT Alpha cheaters and Alpha returning with slackers. It slowly grew friendly as the two squads met up, preparing to board the destroyer.
The Gargantum along with the three frigates, a cruiser, and two destroyers had been involved in a massive training exercise. A total of three hundred Marines had been released into the ice field for a series of training "death matches" to give them more experience in zero gee space combat. The Frezni Ice Field was the ideal location; plenty of room for multiple simultaneous training skirmishes, plenty of cover to encourage strategic thinking, and a perfect place to spend Christmas Eve. Even the brass know how to let soldiers cut loose during the holidays, thought LaShalle.
Her COM officer interrupted her silent thought. Lieutenant Junior Grade Lin was new aboard the Gargantum and had horns greener than a Christmas pine, having no more combat experience than a baby. Even so, he was competent, did his job, and rose in rank quickly. "Ma'am, incoming transmission from the Julius Caesar. It's the Admiral, Ma'am."
"Put him on the Main," LaShalle ordered.
The Battle Screen abruptly changed from a tactical view of the ice field to the stern face of Vice Admiral Ferman. The low din on the bridge abruptly disappeared. A few of the crew members furtively tried to hide the circular Zero bottles and many tried to appear to be busy. Ferman looked around the bridge quickly and smiled. "Merry Christmas, Commander," he said without emotion. "Pull in your division, we're heading back to Lost II," he said sharply.
LaShalle saluted. "Sir, yes sir."
Ferman looked away, as if motioning to cut the line, but turned back. "And LaShalle, keep your officers in check. Christmas or not, their duty comes first."
"Yes Sir," she replied. The transmission cut off, the screen once again a tableau of crystallized water and small IFF blips. Some of the bridge members made a move to take a last swig of Zero, but LaShalle stopped them. "Orders are orders. You can celebrate when you swap out." She stared frostily at one NAV tech holding two Zeros. He turned his eyes away, unable to hold the gaze. "Dispose of the drinks and return to your jobs."
LaShalle motioned to Gris. "Round them up and let's get out of this freezer."
"Yes Ma'am," he replied, eager to get his Holiday Shore Leave upon returning planetside. He typed in some commands and the IFF tags on the Battle Screen dispersed and started heading towards the Gargantum.
A noise cut through the bridge. Her NAV officer, Lieutenant Feraday, yelled out. "Ma'am, Slipspace ruptures bearing zero five nine by five three five. Covenant!"
To be continued...