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Quarantine 0 -- Prologue - Chapter 1: Night Assault
Posted By: The Meep<HaloFanatic101@yahoo.com>
Date: 5 October 2006, 8:19 pm

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      The human fled the squat structure crowning the hills. She was a short woman of Asian descent wearing the tan floats and button down shirt of a civilian. Her clothes were ripped and torn and she was covered with various bruises, scrapes, and scratches. A long gash snaked its way across the side of her abdomen and blood dripped from the fresh wound, leaving red drops on the ground behind her. Her nails were splintered and lips cracked and one of her eyes was swollen. A holster clattered against her waist, the out dated M6C pistol, a gift from her father, was left forgotten inside the holster's straps. A red nametag pinned over her breast read "Jefna" as it flapped in the small slipstream that formed around her body. Her entire body was covered in the blood of her friend, his screams finally fading on the wind.

      Inhuman growls chased her to the crest of the hill where she almost toppled over the sheer cliff located there. Sobbing, panting, and crying heavily, her wild eyes danced across the side of the cliff. She caught sight of the "others" and sprinted to her left, away from her pursuers. The woman glanced over the cliff and saw it molded into the side of a sloping hill. She willed her legs to go faster and soon came to a slight rise. Over was the slope and, as she thought it, freedom.

      She topped the rise to a site of incomparable beauty. The hill she was on slid down into other hills which gradually shrunk in size. They rolled into a plain, almost as if intruding upon the plain's serenity. The large field went on for about two kilometers before tapering off into a wide rocky band of desert. After about three kilometers of desert, a large, majestic butte extended upward.

      The butte was well over five hundred feet tall and looked strikingly similar to Devil's Tower. Atop the butte was a barely discernible clump of buildings: Alpha Base. After the butte, the colors mixed to form a diluted band which curved up to complete the ring.

      The beauty, however, was lost upon the woman as she let a sigh of relief explode from her heaving chest as she saw Alpha Base. She paused momentarily. The howls behind her brought her back to reality and she glanced over her shoulder. "They" were getting closer and she started to run again. Even though her feet began to move, her eyes remained on her pursuers and her Dulax shoes caught a stone and sent her body tumbling down the incline. Each roll brought lancing pain throughout her body and she sensed a sickly tear where her abdominal gash was. The pain almost made her fade from consciousness but fear, adrenaline, and sheer willpower kept her awake.

      The world whirled around her in a loop. First she'd see ground before she upended and saw the opposite diametrical end of the ring-world and then roll back into the ground again, starting a new roll. The constant whirling, her pain, and the horrors she had seen caused her stomach to wrench and she vomited. She straightened her legs in an attempt to stall her tumble. Her feet stopped, but her body and too much momentum and it kept going on down the incline before crashing into a large boulder at the base of the hill.

      Her spine snapped and her legs went strangely numb. She could still feel her upper body though, which meant that as she lay still, wondering what happened to her legs, all of he her pain returned along with the last reserves of her adrenaline. The blood cries commenced again as the "others" crested the hill and started down the incline. The woman tried to get up but found her legs useless. She suddenly remembered her pistol and she whipped it out as fast as she could. She took aim and fired 7 shots, none of which seemed to slow the tide of her pursuers. Realizing she was going to die, she brought the pistol to her temple and prepared to squeeze the trigger.

      Before she could, they were upon her and her M6C was thrown out of her reach. Her screams went on for a full minute as she died. As her last shriek died, her mutilated body exhaled a long sigh that turned into a gurgling groan. A couple of short, rough grunts were heard over her dead body and followed by one loud roar. Then all was quiet.

Chapter 1: Night Assault

24 Hours Earlier

      Moonlight shown down from Basis and covered the butte with a silver glow. Rocks glowed tranquilly and their shadows fell behind them. As the light fell upon a makeshift structure, artificial lights dissipated the natural glow. One end of the structure was filled with booths, while the other was a large mound of earth, piled up with metal pieces in front of it. The wall was pockmarked with hundreds of bullets and an occasional plasma burn.

      The shooting range was located on the far end of the Alpha Base butte, opposite the Forerunner structures. Considered low priority on the agenda, the range was constructed after some off duty engineers and Marines put together a crude machine that ran the targets. The rest was easy: setting up booths, supplying ear protection, and fixing together a makeshift armory. The range was strictly off-duty personnel only. Work needed to be done, and it took the main concern over target practice. Because of this, it was mainly occupied by naval personnel, although Marines could sub the firing range over a meal.

      At the moment, the firing range was overflowing with all manner of military personnel, each armed with a weapon. The relatively soft staccato of the M7 SMG, the sharp reports of the M6D pistol, and the loud drum roll of the MA5B AR filled the firing range with an offbeat melody. One side held off-duty Marines on their dinner break who practiced their accuracy in the case of another unexpected assault on the butte. The other side was filled with naval personnel, pilots, and anybody else who found an excuse to fire one of the high tech weaponry.
Electronic machinery whirred, unheard over the weaponry, and moved the improvised metal targets at erratic intervals, trying to disrupt aim. Some shots missed, but most impacted on the steel bulkheads being used as targets. Every few minutes, one of the targets would be retrieved by a mechanical arm and replaced with a fresh one.

      One of the Marines, a Private, walked up to one of the firing booths and shoved the naval tech named Earl out of the way, even though the latter was still firing his pistol. His shot went awry, and impacted on the earthen wall on the other side of the course. "Move it, swabbie," the Private commented in a gruff voice even as the tech tried to regain his place.

      "Hey, I'm shooting here!" he protested.

      "Times up swabbie, I'm here now. Go wait in line," the Private said. He spat the words out, as if talking to the tech was distasteful. The Private was muscular and pushing six and a half feet. Earl was a wiry, short person who was lacking in the physical department and wasn't able to force his way past.

      The marine ignored him and shouldered his MA5B. He fired a three round burst that impacted right on target. Earl gave up trying to reclaim his place and headed back to the armory to return his M6D. On his way, a tall blonde woman named Reese waved to him. He left the pistol on the rack and rushed over to the woman. They hugged and shared a brief kiss before heading to their bararcks in the direction of the Pelican Landing Pads.

      Halfway there, a klaxon blared and an announcement resounded across the butte. The couple paused and strained to listen over the firing range. "Un-scheduled and possibly hostile Pelican landing on central pad. Requesting Precautionary Team to be present upon arrival in 2 minutes. I repeat: possibly hostile aircraft landing on Pad 4, requesting Precautionary Team ASAP."
Earl turned to Reese and said "Huh, that's strange... I wonder why they would classify a Pelican as 'possibly hostile'."

      "Well, that's not for us to know, now is it? Whatever it is, it's just a safety measure. Nothing will come of it, but we better hurry. Don't want Fleck yelling at us for slacking, again," she warned.

      The man mentioned was Staff Sergeant Fleck, a very strict and authoritarian man who loved to yell at those unfortunate enough to be in violation of any of his numerous rules, or "guidelines" as he called them. He had earned the nickname "Spitfire" for his long half lecture, half yelling spree moments.

      "Otherwise, we may not be able to do it after mess…" she commented seductively.

      The man remained suspicious but went along anyway, swallowing his apprehension. As a member of the Precautionary Team, he had to be on station whenever a problematic aircraft landed as a backup fire crew, stemming a fuel leak, or assisting the medical team in evacuating wounded personnel.

      Reese, his girlfriend, was also on the Precautionary Team. They jogged over with ten other techs and grouped with the hoses, fuel vacuums, and other essential crash supplies. After a minute, the distinct roar of a Pelican could be heard and, a few heartbeats later, it started to descend. A slight fluctuation in the descent worried Earl. A normal pilot always made a smooth landing, especially with a Precautionary Team on standby. Something wasn't quite right. He could feel it.

      He put a hand on his companion and nudged her back, unconsciously fearing for her. The skids made contact with the metal, and the crash team prepared for the worst.

      A group of three Marines lounged by the MA5B rack in the Armory after a brief stint firing their choice weapons at the inanimate chunks of Titanium A. They were in casual dress, wearing the camo briefs and white shirts favored by the Marines, and unarmed except for their combat knifes.

      The tallest and strongest of the group, Sergeant Jundson was 6' 3" and had muscles with muscles. He was a crack shot with the S2 AM and could best most sharpshooters in his unit. Jundson was also an expert with knives and could impale an Elite right through the shield with one of his throwing blades. Several encounters with the Covenant menace had given him the experience needed to become a good squad leader.

      Sergeant Jundson was the kind of man that would win a chess tournament. He never took unnecessary risks without a good reason and he thought through every situation thoroughly. Sergeant Jundson also had an uncanny luckiness about him. He had been wounded many times, but never seriously; something he referred to as the "wast' of a gud ban'age"

      He was talking animatedly in his distinctive Antigan accent about an encounter he had with a certain red haired beauty on the day of his high school graduation. Another second passed by and the trio roared with laughter. Jundson was known in his circles as the best comedian in the UNSC.

      The short woman next to Jundson was Corporal Glacia D. Hudson, a master of explosives, rockets, and anything else that goes boom in the night. Despite her extreme knowledge of unstable and explosive materials, she isn't exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. Also, Corporal Hudson had come very close to borderline cowardice several times in her past. Although dependable on her job, most who knew her wouldn't trust her with their life.

      Physically, she was a work of art, the perfection of the human body. She had a rounded face, a cute nose, and sparkling blue eyes. Corporal Hudson also managed to somehow make her hair look deceptively attractive even at fifteen centimeters. Her body was nothing short of gorgeous and she wasn't ashamed to demonstrate it. More than once had she shown off to much to a fellow soldier. But beauty had its drawbacks, and she was extremely self-conscious.

      Opposite of the two Marines was a soldier who could have been mistaken for a civilian if not for his military attire. Or the sharp tantō sheathed on his thigh. This was Corporal Klide F. Helios, a young and lean man who had a boyish face, short brown hair, and an overall kind demeanor. He acted light hearted and funny during peaceful moments and when off-duty. When he saw Covenant however, he became a cold blooded killing machine where nothing stood between him and his enemies, even if that something was a locked door or a fellow soldier. Of the trio, no one had killed more than Helios. Corporal Helios was skilled with all manner of weaponry, especially Covenant. He has knowledge in interfacing with the Covenant language and used to be an interrogator of captured Covenant. He was discharged from this unit after he started torturing the Covenant more than questioning them.

      All three of them had a tattoo on their biceps of the same image: a hammer and sickle crossing each other. They had decided on this because of the power it seemed to radiate from its very core. They were aware of the fact that this was the flag of the Ancient Russian superpower but history lessons were taught differently in the 26th century. They were unaware of its original sinister intent.

      They are officially designated as "Assault Team Lima Bravo" by their company. The team, like most others, had earned a nickname in order to personalize it a bit and too make it easier to say in battle chatter. While other Assault Teams preferred original names that had nothing to do with their designation, such as Wasp or Rocket, Assault Team Lima Bravo preferred the simple Libra, or Lima Bravo in short.

      After Jundson had finished his comedic tale, and their mirth died down, they turned to watching the others practicing their aim.

      Helios looked up and pointed at a large man shoving another man in casual naval dress away from one of the booths, despite his protests. "Hey, isn't that Geoff over there? Jesus, bullying the swabbies again. I'm not exactly found of them myself, but at least I give 'em what they deserve."

      Jundson scoffed and watched some naval personnel select pistols from a rack of weaponry. "Well, tha's Geoff for ya. You rememba tha' time when he almoot smothered tha' swab in the grub at the caf'? Man, ya don wunt to be in 'is way if you a swab, no ya don," he commented in his Antigan accent.

      The symphony of weaponry continued as they watched the tech join up with a young woman and jog away. They remained unaware as the klaxons went off unheard on the far away landing pads. They remained unaware as a Pelican landed, and a massacre began.

      Earl watched as the wheels came to a standstill and someone rushed chocks under them. The engines died down and the air grew cooler.
He heard a hiss as the back door started to slide open to reveal…

      …nothing, absolutely nothing. He breathed a sigh of relief even as something moved in the cockpit. Suddenly, the garroted body of a pilot fell out and landed on Earl. His breath caught in his throat as he struggled to get the body off even as several shimmers landed on the pad.

      Earl heard a swish as his head lost contact with his body and rolled away. He felt numb and dazed, his eyes misting over as he died. The last thing he saw was Reese, staring at his severed head in shock.

      Reese became frozen with fear as she saw her boyfriends head roll over the pad, the headless body collapsing in a fountain of blood. She screamed as another man on the crash crew died to the invisible blade. Yet another man fell to the ground clutching at his face that had been hit by plasma.

      An Elite warbled in its strange dialect and a grenade materialized out of nowhere, landing on one of the members of the reaction team. He saw what happened and jumped right into the area where the grenade had originated and grabbed an invisible body. The Marine's blood cry combined with the Elite's panicked howl before the grenade detonated.

      Suddenly, Reese realized what was happening. Her mind was finally working its way around what she had seen in the past 15 seconds. Her boyfriend was dead, her fellow crewmembers were dying, and she was in peril. She did the only thing an unarmed, inexperienced, shocked, and terrified person would do. She fled the pad, the Pelican, and the invisible warriors.

      She started to turn, but before the message to move her legs was halfway there, its neural pathway was severed as the top half of her body lost contact with her lower half. Her face registered shock as her abdomen landed on the pad, her blood spreading in a puddle and mixing with her crewmember's.

      As she departed this life, her face twitched with a final emotion: one of regret for failing to bring her new life into existence.

      The first plasma grenade explosion went unheard in the noisy firing range, as did the first bullets fired by the reaction team. The first frag grenade, however, was sufficient to break the noise shield and alert the personnel of an attack.

      Jundson looked up after hearing the faint wump of the grenade. "You 'ear tha'? Sunded lik' a frag g'enade jut e'ploded at tha landing pads," he said. He stood a little straighter and let his hand drift toward a nearby M7. Both Hudson and Helios also had heard something, and it appeared that others had too. The firing on the range sputtered and died out as people strained their ears to detect the elusive sound.

      Suddenly a burst of machine gun fire echoed from the buildings and a plasma grenade went off. Distant screams could also be heard. Someone yelled "Hey! We're under attack, back to the pads!"

      Suddenly, as if someone had flipped a switch, the Marines in the complex rushed for the exit, grabbing any available weapons. Jundson grabbed the M7 and waited a split second to make sure that Helios and Hudson had also acquired firearms before sprinting for the landing pads.
Hudson had grabbed a M6D from the rack and gripped it with both her hands as she debated whether to go or not. Although she yearned to live up to the expectations of her fellow soldiers, she worried for her own life and safety. She could feel her reluctance seeping through her as she thought about it more. Another scream tore the air, and she made up her mind.

      Helios had grabbed a MA5B was jogging towards the pads, his mind locked into his alter-ego; the one that killed without thought. He saw Hudson back away with her weapon and saw how she occupied herself by tossing weapons to those without any. Well, looks like Hudson chickened, again… he thought with a mental sneer. More for me. He chuckled inwardly as he heard another person die, coming to the conclusion that if a person died, there were still Covenant afoot. He longed for another human death cry to show that there were still Covenant to kill. He felt no regret for those who had perished.

      Jundson had reached the landing pads to discover a scene of chaos. Over a dozen humans lay dead, or dying. Marines panicked and fired around randomly while shimmers gunned them down. His sharp eyes picked up the tell-tale flicker of a camouflaged Elite and he fired his M7 into it and was rewarded with an anguished howl. The Elite didn't die, but lifted his arm to shoot back when Helios shot it with his Assault Rifle. Jundson smiled at Helios. "Ya alwa's got ma back, eh Helios? Thanks fur it," he said, grinning widely.

      Helios made no comment but instead shot at another glimmer. Jundson swept his eyes across the platform searching for a target when he heard a woman yell out "GET DOWN!" Jundson registered the warning and was about to tackle Helios down to the ground when he was lifted into the air from a large explosion. He hit the ground hard, his head banging on a rock. As darkness crept in on his vision, he could see Helios lying on the ground, blood flowing from his ear. He heard screams and another blast as he felt something pressed against his temple, a plasma rifle. Then he heard an explosion, screams, and a saw a blinding flash of light. Sergeant Jundson's world went black.

To be continued...