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Stories of a Soundtrack -- Part 3
Posted By: The Meep<HaloFanatic101@yahoo.com>
Date: 21 December 2006, 7:58 pm

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Stories of a Soundtrack

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"Bud, Huff, its Fredrik. Sorry that I've been out of contact for so long. I'll be traveling to the Big Y soon enough. Can't wait to get out of the Lost system. I'll be arriving sometime next week, SAC, give or take a day. Stupid SlipStorms make Slipspace travel more annoying than Military Drafters. See ya then, F."
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Perilous Journey

      Sol System, Approximately 345.76 Miles above Earth, Onboard Military Station MAC-231 (A.K.A. Malta Station), Romeo Terrarium

      "Okay, on three, say 'MAC'! One, two, Three!"


      The small Pip flashed its bright white light, the rays bouncing off the three women standing, arms over shoulders, in front of the half meter thick space glass. Captured light bounced back and burned an image onto the sensitive picture plate of the Pip, momentarily etching its designs on it. The image was captured and stored inside a supra-dense crystal even as the plate cleaned itself.

      The women let go of each other and ran behind the tall, scarlet haired man who took the picture. He pressed a button and the crystal plate on the Pip lit up with a high definition replica of the women standing there.

      "Wow," one said. "I'm going to make that my desktop once I get back to my job." She was a short, young lady, about twenty, and had long flowing black hair. Her face portrayed obvious signs of Prosperity heritage, a colony populated mainly by a Eurasian people. Her DZ shirt holding the customized logo, "Don't mess with Bindy."

      "I'm going to make a shirt out of it," declared the second lady, a thin pretty woman with short hair that fell to just above the shoulders. Her nose was small and rounded, her eyes a dark green, and her teeth a stainless white. Her face had a heavy Filipino accent to it. "I can see it now, 'Don't you wish you were here, Calsa was!'"

      The last woman, also of Filipino complexion, and nearly identical to Calsa piped up. "I'll outdo you both. I'll stick it on my Maro's hood!"

      Bindy nudged Calsa. "Imagine this. That would be the tenth one on Dona's Maro. Any more and it might not move anymore." The group burst out laughing at the thought of Dona's little car unable to budge because of one to many spray-ons.

      Dona took on a hurt expression. "Neil," she said in an overly injured tone, "make them stop."

      The tall, red haired man only laughed harder at Dona's request. Dona huffed and crossed her arms over her chest. "Well, that's it. I'm going back to find the Tour Guide. Even he's better company than hanging out with you Grunts."

      Dona turned and made a show of walking away, before succumbing to laughing herself. The group finally stopped giggling as the laughs died down into hoarse chuckling. Neil slid the Pip into his pocket, making sure it was off, and looped his arms around Calsa and Bindy. "Well," he said. "We better catch up with Mr. Stuffy-Tour-Guide before he kicks us off the station."

      "Do we have to?" playfully whined Bindy. "He's so uptight. He makes this place feel like a museum. And, after seeing the station fire off a test round, I know it's anything but that."

      "Ya, really," chimed in Dona. "Can't we just make our own way through here?"

      "No, not unless you want to spend the rest of your life in the EC," warned Neil. "Come on; let's go give our guide a fit."

      "How?" inquired Calsa.

      "We'll tell him we pressed a big red button labeled 'DO NOT PRESS'."

      The small group moved out of the large atrium and into a small military hallway, giggling at how they would make their tour guide have an early heart attack.

      After catching up with the rest of the tour group, the foursome endured a short lecture from the guide, a Mr. Machivelli, on the rules aboard the Malta, the assembly moved out. Mr. Machivelli led them through an open bay door and into a large docking bay where several Pelicans were docked and receiving new paint jobs. "This," he announced in an unnaturally high voice, "is the aft Docking Bay, where small craft, such as these Pelicans here, can dock and be repaired, loaded, or refitted."

      Mr. Machivelli droned on, talking about the specifics and construction of the docking and securing mechanism. Dona nudged Neil in the ribs. "How about a little make out in the cockpit?"

      Neil, her boyfriend, gave her a queer look. "What? Are you missing a few screws up there? We can't do that."

      She batted her eyes, gave a small frown, and clamped her hands together. "Well, can we at least look inside of it?" she asked in a pitifully small voice.

      Neil, unable to turn down such a look, sighed and nodded his head. Dona gave a squeal and giggled excitedly. Mr. Machivelli peered over the heads of the other tourists at Dona and Neil in the back. "I'm sorry. Did you say something?" he squeaked.

      "Nope, nothing," Dona quickly replied. Mr. Machivelli gave a disapproving frown but resumed talking. Dona rolled her eyes. "God, I don't believe he was ever in the Military; it seems like they loaned him from a Persumary School," she said, referring to her 10th Grade English Teacher.

      "Tell me about it," said Neil. "Now let's go, but be quiet." As they turned to leave, Bindy saw them and grabbed Dona's arm.

      "Now where are you going?" she asked.

      "Neil just wants to show me some of the inner workings of the cockpit," she replied. Seeing the concerned look on her friend's face, she quickly said "Don't worry, we'll be quiet. The guide won't even know we're gone."

      Calsa, witnessing the discussion, tossed her two cents in. "Seriously guys, you get us in trouble here, we'll be off the station quicker than you can say 'Malta'."

      Dona ignored her and led Neil by the hand around the group and into the back of the Pelican. They walked along the immaculately clean interior and through the sliding door into the cockpit. Neil closed it behind them. It secured itself with a slight hiss, soundproofing the compartment.

      Dona gave a quick clap and plucked down into the co-pilot's seat. She gripped side of the chair and looked around. "Wow. Look at all the switches and buttons. There's so many." She made an exaggerated motion towards the trigger on the stick.

      Neil reacted quickly, shoving her hand away. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" he hissed.

      "I was just kidding, silly," Dona grumbled. "Take a joke will you."

      "Whatever. Just don't do it again." Neil looked around the interior of the cockpit. "As a matter of fact, we really shouldn't be here. This could warrant a HLFC and an express trip Earth side; in a Prison boat."

      "O, you worry too much," chided Dona. She looked through the window. "Hey, what's that?" she asked, pointing at something in space.

      Neil followed her finger and peered through the Bay Window. After a few seconds, he could make out a small speck. "Hmm, not sure. Looks kind of like one of them fighter ships from the SC."

      "Well, whatever it is, it's heading straight for us, and it seems to be going faster," said Dona, fear darkening her tone.

      A sudden alarm blared through the cockpit. The sound had a universal meaning: imminent collision. "Jesus, and its heading straight for us. It could blow out the windows!" yelled Neil.

      Dona quickly secured herself in the co-pilots seat, Neil jumping into the pilot's side. Screams came from outside the Pelican, but went unheard by Neil and Dona inside the soundproofed cockpit. Neil swallowed and licked dry lips. "Is it just me, or does that ship look Covenant?"

      "No, it can't be. We're too far in. They can't know where Earth is," cried Dona, her voice starting to crack. But as the ship came closer, its origins were confirmed. The hull was a deep purple, covered in intricate geometry. Three equally distanced "legs" circled the main part, a long, bulged cylindrical piece that ended in a red-hot circle. The tube was apparently hollow.

      "Look," said Neil. "It's slowing down." The aura of the engines in the back of the craft pulsed and changed from a light blue to a crimson red as the ship poured on counter thrust. Suddenly, it's "legs" pivoted forward and contacted the glass.

      Instead cracking and breaking the thick window as Neil and Dona had thought it would, the leg tips glowed red, fusing the glass to itself. The front tube of the odd craft shot forward and melted a hole in the glass window. Neil and Dona watched as the tube moved through the hole, plugging it and preventing any atmosphere from escaping.

      A few seconds passed and nothing happened. There was just this obscene craft sticking onto the window; latched on like a tick on its host. "Neil, what's going to happen?" Dona whispered.

      Before Neil could answer, a sharp alarm pierced through the cockpit, accompanied by a synthesized female voice. Warning, Warning. Covenant bio-signs detected within immediate area. Thermal scans indicate roughly a dozen Grunts and three to five Elites.

      At Grunts, the tube suddenly sprang to life. A glowing blue gravity rope shot through the center of the cylinder, expanding until it covered the inner the walls of the ship. Without warning, a dozen or so Grunts shot through the tube, supported by the anti-gravity field, and were suspended at the end of the tunnel. They dropped down onto the deck all at once and crouched there, sniveling and looking around but did nothing else. Dona screamed, Neil stared shocked, but neither knew the horrors to come.

      "Release Gravity Filter," came the voice of Minor Ship Leader Rusa 'Onomonee, a tall Elite with a proud stance and red armor. 'Onomonee had been in engagements before, and so had developed an arrogant nature. Even so, he had combat experience and a moderate understanding of strategics.

      In one particular engangement the Ship Leader was killed. Being the next highest ranking Elite, 'Onomonee took command of the Boarding Vessel Brilliant Infiltration. He clicked his mandibles, the beady eyes focusing as he thought over the protocol. "Insure docking clamps are secure and that the void is contained."

      Another Elite, also in the veteran's red armor, but with the insignia of Minor Veteran, checked a series of holographic monitors. "The void is contained, Ship Leader. All scans indicate atmosphere within Infidel's station is intact."

      A third Elite, one in blue armor, also spoke. "Gravity Filter operating full efficiency. Soldiers ready for battle. Surely we have been blessed with good fortune." His mandibles curled in on themselves in what passed for a smile. "Giving the troops blue light to pass in. Troops away."

      A large holographic image appeared in the center of the teardrop shaped bridge. The image became more defined and the resolution sharpened, making it apparent it was a camera viewing the inside of the bay. Several boxes were scattered around and the bay was split in half by an elevated walkway. The side opposite the Brilliant Infiltration was dominated by one of the Human's bulky troop carriers, one they called a "Pelican".

      The picture shimmered as the Gravity Filter activated and briefly distorted the space around the camera. The image flashed and several Grunts appeared, the cannon fodder of the force, and landed on the deck. 'Onomonee's Communication Officer, Soya 'Puleemee, spoke to the Grunts, giving commands and demanding reports, since 'Onomonee considered himself above talking to the Inferiors.

      "Ship Leader," said 'Puleemee. "Unggoy Veteran Chulap reports several heat textures throughout the bay. He wonders if he should attack."

      'Onomonee snarled. "Foolish Unggoy. They need no order to kill Infidels. Tell the Unggoy that unless he fights well, he will be used as Kig-Yar bait."

      'Puleemee relayed the message and the Grunts moved out, encircling in a primitive pincer motion on a large crate. The holographic screen in the middle of the bridge pulsed and switched to infrared. Sure enough, a large heat blob was situated behind the box the Grunts were advancing on.

      Without warning, a Human in bright white clothing sprung from a metal shield on the walkway above the Grunts, gripping a small pistol. He opened fire on the Grunts, killing two and wounding one other. The Grunts, cowardly as they are, scattered, screaming unintelligibly after the barrage of bullets. "Direct their fire! You're not in the military to watch!" snarled 'Onomonee at Puleemee. The lower Elite quickly dispatched commands, reassuring the Grunts that directed fire would insure them victory.

      The Grunts, as a group, turned to their right and discharged their plasma pistols. The plasma melted right through the hardened Titanium A shield, causing it to distort and collapse on the Human behind it. The heat killed him instantly, not even leaving him enough time to yell out, and his body was encased inside of a solidifying metal shell.

      "Return back to original route, concentrate on the Infidels beyond the unholy canisters," directed 'Puleemee. "Kill them all, the Kig-Yar and Sangheili will follow."

      The holographic field throbbed again and the picture resolved into normal light, showing that the Grunts were advancing on the large crate blocking the heat. When they were within five feet, a scream cut the air. The audio sensors briefly overloaded at the sudden decibel rise and a piercing feedback whine cut throughout the bridge. No one flinched; an Elite's range of hearing makes feedback sound like a muffled tire screech.

      The source of the yell became apparent as a Human woman ran from behind the crate towards an open bay door. The Grunts quickly cut her down, even though she was unarmed. As soon as her smoking body stopped moving, more Humans ran. The Grunts killed all of them. 'Puleemee clicked his mandibles, a sound generally made in satisfaction. "Unggoy report that the Infidels were unarmed, and that they must've have thrown down their weapons and fled in fright."

      'Onomonee shook his head and spoke. "Fled in fright, yes, but they were unarmed. Their primitive clothing shows no sign of Battle Preparation or the primitive plates they are so fond of. No, these Humans were Socials, not Fighters."

      "A correct assumption, Ship Leader. We bathe in your intelligence and wit." 'Onomonee accepted the compliment quietly, his ego inflating at the praise.

      'Onomonee watched as the Grunts swept the bay, and finding no more Humans, returned to the entrance of Brilliant Infiltration, awaiting the promised Kig-Yar and Sangheili reinforcements. They came soon enough. The small force carried off a couple of shield generators, and set them up around the opening. Soon, the bay would be reinforced to allow passage of the Holy Light, if needed.

      Suddenly, 'Puleemee shouted out. "Ship Leader! Multiple Infidel targets approaching rapidly. Scans show nine in all." A quick pause, then "These ones are equipped with weaponry, primitive as it is."

      "Warning taken," growled 'Onomonee. "We should be able to hold them out. Tell the Minors to hold positions."

      "Accepted, Ship Leader. Relaying orders."

      The holographic image in the bridge grew larger, and 'Onomonee walked inside of it, his armor reflecting the light. The Minors on the floor assembled behind the shield generators, the Kig-Yar in front, the Sangheili resting their weapons inside slots in the shield, and the Unggoy in the back, Plasma Grenades primed. They were ready to fight, and all had no doubt they would win.

      "Mezin, Fora, move it up!" yelled out Sergeant Yasmine. "The Covies have boarded our beautiful station and by God, they came without an invitation! Let's show 'em to the door."

      The two Marines ran up to the bay door that opened up into the large room beyond. Mezin spoke up. "Ma'am, the Covies are entrenched behind a couple of SG's. They got 'nades and Elites. Look pretty tough."

      "Den, pass up the decoy," called back Yasmine. A short Marine in the back lugged a Grunt up front to the doorway and handed it to Mezin and Fora. The two Marines gripped the dead Grunt, who was missing his head, by the arms and swung him a couple of times. On the third swing, they let go and the Grunt sailed into the room. Even as the alien flew through the air, Yasmine was handing out more orders. "Bravo and Alpha, move it up after decoy. Foxtrot, hold in reserve and use those 55s to snipe."

      A sudden ring of explosions sounded, slightly deafening the small squad. As planned, the Covenant had mistaken their dead comrade as an enemy and thrown the grenades at it, only realizing too late their error. As soon as the explosions sounded, Mezin, Fora, and Den of Bravo rounded the bay door and tossed the grenades at the entrenched Covenant before diving behind a large storage crate for cover. Yasmine, Felice, and Julio of Alpha followed quickly, spraying their MA5B's past the now collapsed shield generators and into the dense Covenant formation. They scrambled in the confusion to another crate, hoping the Covenant didn't toss more Grenades.

      Yasmine snuck a peak around the crate and saw the dazed and confused Covenant staggering around, almost all of them wounded. "Hit 'em NOW, Foxtrot!"

      In compliance to the order, Gidry, Flick, and Orez poked their heads and 55s out of the doorway and opened fire. The confused Covenant were easy pickings for the experienced and accurate Marines, especially with their shields down. Gore spattered the deck and windows behind the invaders, and at least a dozen fell. Then shield generators popped and fizzed, and a protective window popped up, deflecting the bullets into bulkheads or boxes.

      Foxtrot, seeing their attacks were futile on the shields, backed back into the protective grasp of the hallway. "Gimme a body count Orez!" yelled Yasmine.

      "Yes Ma'am," he replied. A brief pause followed as Orez checked his BAD (the military slang for the Battle Awareness Display). "Scans read thirteen Covenant down, mostly the chimps. We got two split lips though, and all the Jacks are dead. About ten still standing, eight split lips and two Grunts."

      "Eight?" said Gidry. "Damn, that's a lot of skulls to crack."

      "Consider yourself lucky Marine. Not many people get this chance," said Julio.

      "Lottery, all right," muttered Gidry.

      "Stop the chatter," growled Yasmine. "Foxtrot, provide cover. Shoot any inhuman son-of-a-bitch who shows himself. Bravo, circle around the walkway and provide a flanking position. Alpha, on me, and be prepared to rush in after Bravo."

      Bravo ducked from the ring of boxes and proceeded under cover to the circuitry covered pillar holding the walkway up. "Bravo in position," radioed Mezin. "Moving in."

      Onboard the Brilliant Infiltration, 'Onomonee watched the Humans circle into a flanking position. "'Puleemee, warn the Minors of the flanking movement!"

      "Yes Honorable Ship Leader!" the Elite replied. Five seconds later, the majority of the Minors were prepared for Bravo team.

      Bravo rounded the corner of the pillar, expecting to catch the Covenant on the uncovered side, but instead found all eight Elites looking right at them. "What the hell…" was all Mezin managed before he and Den were vaporized by the plasma. Fora managed to duck back behind the pillar, her shoulder armor smoking.

      Alpha, thinking Bravo was in position, rushed out of cover and started firing on the Covenant. Foxtrot also joined the melee. The Elites, unharmed by Bravo's flanking, were in a comfortable position to fire back at the Marines. Yasmine realized too late what had happened. "Pull Back Alpha. PULL THE HELL BACK!"

      Julio and Felice realized what had happened and fell back immediately, but Julio took a needler round into the back of his head, the resulting explosion spattering its contents around his body. Felice and Yasmine huddled behind the crate, pushing Julio from their minds, and praying that the crate the Covenant were melting didn't contain explosives.

      Their charge had cost the Covenant though. Four more Elites lay dead, and the entire area was littered with mangled Covenant corpses. The remaining Covenant looked around nervously, even the Elites shaken by the carnage.

      "Yasmine, I think we got something," came Orez's voice over the COM. "I just found a couple of concussions on a dead Naval guy. We could use them to disorient the Covies. Disorient and kill."

      "Chuck 'em," ordered Yasmine. "Amplify Audio Dampers NOW!"

      She pushed her AD's to full and the world around her went still and quiet, as if it were stuffed with invisible cotton. She felt two vibrations rumble the deck and she rounded the crate for the third time. The shield generators were still active, but the Covenant behind them were crouched on the floor, ear drums blown and eyes blinded. She fired off her MA5B as Foxtrot fired their 55s. The remaining five Covenant fell quickly.

      "WHAT?! NO!" screamed out 'Onomonee. The arrogant Elite had watched as his Minors were annihilated by the Infidels, of which only three were dead. He had been so confident that his Minors would win that the sight of them dead was overloading the Elite.

      "Ship Leader, all the Minors are dead, thermals show that six Infidels remain," reported "Heffemee, a Minor Operations Elite. "We have no more troops on the roster. Should we disengage and retreat?"

      "No, we must wait for the Holy Light before leaving," said 'Onomonee, struggling hard to keep his voice level. "If we leave now, we will compromise the Infidel's station and kill our comrades. No, they cannot enter our ship, and we will wait for the Supreme Prophet of Regret to give the order to evacuate."

      "What of the wrath of our superiors when they discover our failure?" inquired 'Puleemee.

      'Onomonee didn't reply immediately, but thought over the question. Arrogant as he was, the Elite had a strong sense of pride. "Then we will get our just punishment. We are honorable and will not flee for our lives."

      "So be it, Ship Leader."

      "Good work Marines, file in and check for survivors," Yasmine ordered.

      A chorus of stressed "Yes Ma'am"s came back over the COM. The squad was saddened from the loss of Mezin, Den, and Julio. A quick staccato sounded as Fora put rounds into the wounded body of an Elite. "That's for my Marines, motherfucker."

      "Ma'am!" called out Flick. "We got civilians on the thermals." A pause, then "All dead Ma'am. They look like that tourist group that passed through back in the Terrarium. Wait a second! We got two live ones!"

      Yasmine perked up at the last comment, happy that not all the civilians were killed. "Where?"

      "In the cockpit of the Pelican. The thermals are faint, but compensation shows that they are alive. I'll retrieve 'em."

      Neil and Dona refused to come out of the cockpit at first. The trauma of watching Calsa and Bindy and the other tourists get slaughtered by the Grunts had put them in a momentary catatonic state. It took a death threat for the Marine to get them out. After exiting the cockpit, Dona vomited at the gory carnage as the remaining Marines policed the bodies. The team Medic, Orez, walked over and gave Dona a shot form a hypodermic needle. "Here, this will help."

      Neil was also offered the medication, but he declined. Despite the sickening bloodbath, he didn't want his mind fogged.

      Yasmine, despite her thankfulness that the civilians were secure, acted as if they were unimportant. "Gidry! Orez! You're on civvy duty! The rest of you, fall out on me!"

      The Marines jumped to their duties: Gidry and Orez flanked Neil and Dona while Felice, Fora, and Flick fell in behind Yasmine, who proceeded to move through an open bay door into a small curving hallway.

      The hallway had a fire burning from a wall on the right and there was rubble from the ceiling on the floor. Dona and Neil hurriedly rushed from the bay room, glad to be away. The Marines came across another group of humans, all dead Marines, and took the time to move them off to the side of the hallway, close their eyes, and lat their arms on their chests.

      During this process, Neil tried to console Dona, but didn't know what to say. All he could do was put his arms around her shoulders and hug her. She got the message. "Thanks, but it doesn't mean anything, their still dead."

      "Yes, but we're not. Do you think Calsa would want you to mourn her and get yourself killed?" he said, watching Dona flinch at her dead sister's name. It was a risky move, but it got her attention. "We just need to follow these, these soldiers and do what they tell us. If anything goes wrong, which it won't, they'll protect us. Trust me."

      Dona didn't answer, but Neil could see hope in her eyes. He had grossly optimized their situation but he knew she needed it.

      Without warning, a loud rumble and grinding noise went throughout Malta Station followed by a loud roar and a sharp bang. "What in infernal hell was that?" yelled Fora.

      "The Big Stick! It's firing!" answered Felice. "They must be attempting to repel the Covenant fleet!"

      The noise and shaking repeated as the Super MAC recycled and fired again. Without warning, the gravity disappeared. The Marines, the bodies, Dona, and Neil all floated up into the air. "What the hell?" said Flick.

      Yasmine gave an explanation. "The station stops rotating for better accuracy. Thus, the gravity dissipates." She bended at the waist and grabbed a handhold on the floor. Swinging her legs downward, she hooked her foot under it, and then swung her body upward into a standing position. "Remember your training. Zero G ain't fun, but if you know how to move in it, you just might survive."

      Orez also hooked his foot under a handhold and directed Neil and Dona on how to "walk" in the Zero G: by hooking your feet under consecutive handholds. "I always wondered what those were for," said Neil to Dona, trying to keep her mind off the attack. The medication was working though, and Dona was becoming much more relaxed and rational. Neil could've sworn he saw a smile on her face as she manipulated the footholds.

      Progress was much slower now as they have to make each step count or they could twist an ankle or break a leg. After what seemed hours of shuddering MAC fire, they made it to the end of the corridor.

      Flick and Felice took up positions on the open doorway to another cargo bay and peeked inside. Felice reported. "Uh, Ma'am, we may need to turn back."

      "Why?" said Yasmine.

      "Because there are like ten Elites in this room and a dozen Grunts. About fifteen Jacks too."

      "Shit," Yasmine muttered. "Do you see anything else?"

      "Yeah," said Flick. "There's a big, a big thing in there. It kind of looks like an oversized hitball with a ton of spikes on it. And, it's blinking."

      "Patch it through." An image snapped onto Yasmine's BAD, the little computer analyzing it.

      After a second, the synthesized female voice spoke. "Scans show several deposits of anti-matter inside of object. Anti-matter is being held in a chamber adjacent to a large piece of supra dense promethium. Analysis: Anti-Matter bomb."

      "Holy shit! They're trying to blow up the Malta!" said Orez.

      "Flick, Felice. What's the 'nade count?"

      "Enough," said Flick.

      "Well, lug a couple of them towards the head Elite. Fora, Flick, and myself will open up firing and then get behind that circuit board over there," said Yasmine, pointing to a large wall covered in panels. "Orez, Gidry, and Felice will follow up with their Battle Rifles and take down any vulnerable sons of bitches. The two civvies, stay up there and don't move."

      "Ma'am?" asked Gidry over the COM. "Don't you think the odds are a little lopsided? Thirty five plus Covies against us? We don't stand a chance."

      "We have to try. If that bomb goes off, it'll open a hole between here and Earth. Not to mention we'll still be dead anyway. We can't have that."

      A long silence, then "Yes Ma'am, I understand."

      "Good, execute NOW!"

      Felice and Flick tossed as many grenades as they could throw in flat trajectories to make up for the lost gravity. The Elites were caught off guard, their shields down. After the tenth and final grenade, the Grunts and most of the Elites were paste. Their remains shot off in trajectories away from the explosion, creating a delicate dance of gore and blood on their side of the bay.

      But they recovered quickly. Yasmine, Fora, and Flick dove through the doorway, pushing off hard to propel them to far wall. Their weapons fired off and hundreds of bullets impacted on the now shielded Jackals and Elites.

      None got through.

      They returned fire at the flying Marines. Flick took a hit right in the abdomen, spinning his burning body into the far wall. His flailing arms grabbed Fora's boot and yanked her off her course. Her body hit the far wall with a sickening crunch and bounced off into the open area of the bay right towards the Covenant fortification. Unable to slow or change her direction, Fora screamed and fired at the rapidly approaching Covenant. They fired back at her and hit her, burning her body through the armor, but she still landed on an Elite, wrapping her body around it. The plasma burned through both and another two corpses were added to the floating ballet of the dead.

      Fora distracted the Covenant long enough so that Yasmine was able to reach the shelter of the circuit wall, panting heavily. She keyed her COM as the Covenant started to pour fire on her. "Orez, get the civvies some weapons. Have 'em do some round-about firing."

      "Aye Ma'am," replied Orez, shaken by the fact they were fighting an un-winnable battle. He pulled the body of Flick closer, as it had drifted near the hallway, and took his BR55 and sidearm. He pushed the body deeper into the hall to keep it from getting even more mutilated. He passed the rifle Neil and the pistol to Dona. "Do you know how to use a weapon?"



      "Well, good. Poke 'em out the doorway and shoot at the Covies."

      Orez was surprised; the civvies took it in stride. They floated up towards the door, gripping a handhold so they wouldn't go into the room, and fired. Several screams echoed through the bay as the last Grunt and two Jackals died. Plasma fire started coming at the doorway too, melting the frame. Neil yelled and yanked his hand back, the sudden movement almost twisting his ankle. The BR55 he had been using was now just a lump of melted metal with a thin scope sticking out the top.

      "Catch any?" Orez asked as Gidry and Felice started firing back.

      "Nah, just burned me a little."

      "Put some of this on it, it'll help," said Orez as he gave Neil a small tube.

      The COM crackled to life with Yasmine coming over it. "Orez, Gidry, Felice! We got trouble. Them Jack-asses are pulling a Beta on us. Can't get a shot in edgewise. The split lips are following 'em."

      Orez took a peek around the slagged frame and saw what Yasmine was saying. The Jackals were forming a phalanx and haphazardly crossing the floor towards Yasmine's position. The boots of the Jackals and Elites were too big for the handholds on the floor, a specific design by the engineers, so they had to carefully maneuver using nearby objects. Even so, the shields were impenetrable to the Marines' weaponry.

      "Damnit. Gidry, Felise, fire on the formation," said Orez. He hoped to use the momentum of the bullets to break the haphazard formation. The two Marines fired at the aliens, and the bullets were deflected from the shields, but the force of the impacts distorted the formation and it broke.

      Soon Yasmine joined the fight and the Jackals began to fall quickly. Felice took a shot to the face from an Elite and her body remained stuck on the handhold she had been using. Gidry got stuck with a Plasma Grenade on his weapon but threw it at the Jackals before it went off. A piece of shrapnel form the explosion, however, hit him between the eyes, killing him instantly.

      Finally the last Elite fell to a shot in the abdomen. Orez, Neil, Yasmine, and Dona floated at the end of the bay, looking at the dozens of floating Human and Covenant bodies against a backdrop of Earth. Rivulets of blood flowed around, sticking to anything. Every now and then a body or weapon would plow through one and leave a small hole and a shower of blood drops. Every time the MAC fired, everything in the bay shuddered and changed direction. Pulsing quickly now, the bomb floated from one end of the room to the other, it's momentum bowling bodies away from it, leaving a wake in it's trail. Two Grunts were impaled on the spikes.

      Yasmine and Orez bounced over to the bomb. moving through a cloud of shell casings form their weapons and threw several blood rivulets. They caught the bomb and slowed it down, careful not to make a Marine shiskabob out of themselves. Neil and Dona, now used to the butchery, watched from the slagged door as the Marines discussed how to shut the bomb down.

      "Look, I'm no master of Covenant tech or anything, but I bet the small circle sign on the display will shut it off," explained Orez.

      "You sure? That squiggly 'X' looks more inviting," said Yasmine.

      "Well, we have to choose one now, or we all die."

      "Right, you do it."

      "Ok, I'll- Wait, why me?" protested Orez.

      "Because I ordered you to."

      The Medic sighed. "Pulling rank on me Ma'am. I would never have though it from you. Alright, here goes nothing."

      He touched the small circle. For a second, nothing happened, then the pulsing stopped and the display cleared. Orez whooped, accidentally flinging himself into the window.

      Yasmine just smiled. "Good choice Orez, now we can go home."

      Neil and Dona overheard the conversation and started whooping too. Despite everything they had been through, they would be alright. They hugged and kissed each other before resuming the celebrating.

      Back on the Brilliant Infiltration, a panel flashed red. 'Heffemee hit a holographic switch, stopping the flashing. "Most High Ship Leader 'Onomonee, the Holy Light has been activated. Removing ourselves from the Infidel's Station."

      'Onomonee curled his mandibles into a smile. "So our failure does not matter. The Holy Light will be activated, the Infidels driven away, and their planet used as a channel into the Great Journey. All is not lost."

      "Switching Holographic Display to Expanded View," announced 'Heffemee. The holographic display on the bridge zoomed out from the carnage in the Docking Bay and focused on the cluster of the three Super MAC's. Their ship appeared as a blip on the screen, a blip that left a long white ion trail behind it. Several other blips flashed onto the screen, a name posted next to each one.

      "Ship Leader, Boarding Vessels Dark Light and Ascended Faith and Justice are still on the station," said 'Heffemee, a touch of sadness entering his gruff voice. "I will pray for them as they start the Great Journey."

      Inside the bomb that had begun drifting again, two cylinders slid towards eachother. One containing supra-dense promethium, the other a volatile mix of anti-matter. The two cylinders met at the ends and prepared to eject their contents into eachother.

      Several dozen miles beyond Malta Station floated Cairo Station, the de facto HQ of the Mediterranean Battle Cluster. In one Docking Bay, nearly identical to the one where Yasmine, Orez, Neil, and Dona were celebrating, a titan in green MJOLNIR armor shot an Elite and picked up it's Plasma Sword. The Spartan flicked a switch and a sheet of plasma filled out into a two pronged sword. John tested it a couple more times before deactivating it and hitching it on his thigh.

      He cocked his head as he unslung his Battle Rifle and listened to the chatter.

      "Hey, check it out. The Malta's already driven off it's borders," said a Marine even as white streaks sped from the massive Super MAC.

      Cortana's voice sounded over the COM. "Malta, what is your status, Over."

      The Commander of the station, a John Fedrico, spoke. "I don't believe it! They're retreating; we won!"

      It sounded like he may have said more, but the COM was suddenly cut off and replaced with static.

      The two cylinders inside the bomb suddenly opened their touching ends and mixed their contents. Almost immediately, the anti-matter hit the promethium and converted it into pure energy. The explosion was contained inside the dense Novenium shell of the bomb for a millisecond, enough time to amplify it's power a hudrend-fold. Then it was released in a hell storm of incinerating fire and plasma.

John watched as Malta Station's living area was vaporized and the burning, disconnected MAC gun drifted upward, the loading and recoil compensator floating downward. The intensity of the light caused his helmet to polarize to it's maximum tint before it faded away. All that remained was a field of molten debris, burning metal, and flash fired bodies.

      The Master Chief heard an explosion and turned, his eyes falling on two Elites and four Grunts entering through a blown out doorway. He grabbed the sword, flicked it on, and sprinted toward the White Elite wielding an identical weapon. As the two swords connected, the Master Chief hissed. "This is for Malta Station."

Coming soon!

A Walk in the Woods, the story of a belleugered Covenant garrison caught in the Vice Grip of the UNSC.

Also, Ambient Wonder, the story of how the Christmas Cloud turned from a beautiful ice formation into a raging battlefield.

And, The Gun Pointed at the Head of the Universe, the story of Sergeant Mobuto, a Human Marine who's chosen by 343 Guilty Spark to purge the Galaxy of the Flood.