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HALO: Iron Cross [Chapter Four, Part 2]
Posted By: UNSC Trooper<unsctrooper@hotmail.com>
Date: 13 January 2008, 4:07 pm

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1743 Hours, December 2, 2537 (Military Calendar) /
Hellespont System, planet Mamore, Designated Dropzone 1A

The wind blew through Diana's hair as she adjusted her line of sight. A man's head came into view. She pulled the trigger and the weapon gently jostled her backwards. The bullet exited the long barrel and impacted a guardsman's head. Blood splashed around his colleagues and covered the windows. Diana remained silent, still looking through her scope. She pulled the trigger again: another man fell and one of the windows broke apart, scattering small pieces of glass inside the tower's room.

The soldiers watched as Diana reloaded her rifle and fired three rounds. The sound of gunshots ripped through the forest. But did the rebels hear it? The woods had suddenly awakened as nearby birds flew out of the trees and into the depth of the jungles. For a few moments, the forest was silent again. The sun was setting fast overhead.

Diana removed her finger from the rifle's trigger and lifted her right arm, holding the weapon steady between her left hand and her chest. She raised two fingers, barely covered by her ragged glove. Her hand tilted as she pointed toward the distant sun: the "all clear" signal.

The troopers acknowledged the sign and picked up their rifles. Lieutenant Silva ran toward their target, his legs sliding on the wet ground. He touched his chest plate; the knife was still there. His breath suddenly intensified as he struggled to save his energy.

Scott's mouth was dry, but he still sprinted behind the Lieutenant. His water bottle was in his backpack, but he couldn't stop for anything. He had to keep running, or risk getting separated from the squad. His long hair fell over his eyes.

The team approached the entrance path of the compound and stopped behind a tall bush. The Lieutenant looked at the watchtowers: several commandos had climbed up the stairs to investigate the deaths of their comrades. That was good, they were distracted.

Curiously, the Warthogs' engines were still running. Perhaps the rebels' leader was there to check the garrison's maintenance and would be leaving shortly afterwards. Silva's suspicions however, weren't always accurate. He whispered over the COM, "The gate might be open. Let's move."

Scott immediately ran up to the massive metallic entrance. Short wires and display screens covered either side of the walls. He couldn't make anything out. "David, move into position." Scott said. The private reached into his backpack and retracted a palm-sized device. He opened its hatch, pulled out two wires, and connected them to one of the control panels. He ran a bypass and a beating sound echoed in his ears.

The gate slowly opened. Two buildings were revealed as the doors cleared the squad's view. David grabbed Roger's arm and pushed him back against the wall. Silva leisurely paced into the compound's large field, keeping his head ducked as he crouched and hung his weapon around his neck.

There was a peculiar silence inside the facility, and nothing seemed to move. Scott reassessed his objective: the development station ahead had to be secured. The field in front of him was crammed between the building and the line of walls. He looked over his shoulder and gestured the "fall in" signal to Mike. They sprinted across the tight strip of the field. Mike's back was aching.

They approached the station's door. Silva and Roger advanced up to the nearby storage rooms. Three militias walked out of the building, armed with light machine guns. Scott recognized the weapons; they were widely acclaimed throughout the rebel community despite their inefficiency in combat. The UNSC had nicknamed them "Confetti Makers".

These men were unusually well-dressed for commandos: Tight jackets, elegant sports trousers, neatly cleaned leather boots, and they wore a red armband around their upper right arm. They walked with an obvious pride, their backs straight. A second passed, and the commandos glanced to their right side. They made eye contact with Scott and Mike.

The militiamen pointed their machine guns toward the two ODSTs, their faces suddenly grim and coated in hatred. Scott primed his rifle and shot the first rebel. Mike drew his MA5B and fired it at the two other men, first their legs, and then their stomachs. Blood dripped out of their wounds and soaked their clothes. Their lifeless bodies fell on the concrete ground, their legs almost shredded to pieces by the bullets.

Scott stepped over the corpses and walked inside the building, his weapon leveled just above his thigh. Several tall generators surrounded the room and computer-like machines lay in its midst. Mike scanned the machines carefully, leaning over their corners and checking their screens. He tapped one of the generator's casings, making a hollow sound as his hand hit the metal.

"Standard equipment for uranium enrichment procedures." Mike remarked. "Are you sure?" Scott queried. He didn't want to risk blowing up machines that didn't pose a direct threat to the UNSC. Mike nodded.

The rocket launcher was still hung over Mike's back. He swung the launcher over his chest and loaded a missile into the barrel. He walked out of the building. Scott followed behind him. "Stand back!" Mike shouted as struggled to lift the heavy launcher over his shoulder and fixed his target. He pressed the trigger.

Smoke rocketed out of the weapon's rear as the missile flew out of the barrel, leaving a thick line of grey fume behind its path. The building burst. The room was engulfed in flames and large explosions which sent the equipment inside rocketing upward, and plummeting back down on the ground.

Gunfire resounded. "Target neutralized." Silva's voice spoke inside Scott and Mike's helmets. Roger and David ran out of a small building on the edge of the line of walls, and entered another room.

Scott pointed two fingers toward the storage deposit: their primary target and the location of the stolen warheads. Mike acknowledged the gesture and sprinted ahead. Scott cast a glance at one of the dead commandos. He crouched and looked at his red armband: a white circle was labeled onto the fine material, and a strange cross was traced in the middle. He'd seen this cross before in history classes on Reach. He remembered what the people on Earth had called it five hundred years ago; an iron cross dating back from a certain "Second World War".

He ripped the band off the dead man's arm, bent it twice and put it in his pocket. Might be something HIGHCOM would want to see, he thought. Scott stood on his feet and followed Mike's footsteps up to the explosive deposit's entrance door. He took a deep breath, slid his faceplate open and whispered to Mike, "Pick your targets carefully."

Mike murmured a sound of acknowledgment and nodded rapidly. Scott took one last glimpse of his reflection on Mike's faceplate and closed his visor. He clenched the rifle in his hands so tight, that his finger bones started to hurt. Mike reached for the door's handle and slowly pushed it backwards. The door opened and Mike pushed it away swiftly, scrambling to regain a hold of his rifle with both hands. He walked into the room.

Four militiamen sat at a table on the other side of the chamber, quickly reacting to the ODSTs' intrusion and screaming to their comrades as they rose from their chairs. One man fiercely pushed his seat into the table as he rose to his feet and fired his M6D pistol.

Scott rolled to the ground and steadied his rifle as he crouched. He fired his weapon across the room, struggling to avoid hitting the warheads placed just on top of several shelves to his right. Mike sprinted to the table, firing a full round at the rebels. He hit two of them.

The other commandos took cover behind the table and momentarily ceased firing their MA2B's. An awkward silence followed. No one fired their weapon. A man's voice echoed off the walls, "Clear!" A fragmentation grenade flew over the table and across the room. It landed beside Mike's foot. He dodged and rolled over to his left side. Shrapnel scattered across the chamber as the grenade exploded.

Scott felt like his eardrums had just been hit by a shovel. Dizziness swarmed across his vision. The surroundings suddenly wiggled as he covered his head with his hands. He regained control over his senses. "Parker, are you there? Parker, respond!" Lieutenant Silva's voice barked over TEAMCOM. Scott almost hadn't noticed Silva was calling him by his last name. He didn't reply.

The men behind the table fired their M6D's at Scott. He ducked and waited. They ran out of ammo. This was the perfect moment: he ran across the room, jumped over the table and grabbed one of the commandos by his neck. He punched him once, pinned his right elbow into the man's stomach and threw him over the round table.

Mike shot the other rebel. He fell on the ground, his right hand still holding the pistol. Scott leaned over and took a glimpse of the documents lying on the table: journals, photographs and paperwork all covered in blood. He crammed as many papers as he could into his backpack and gazed at his wristwatch.

"Warheads are secured, sir." Scott opened the TEAMCOM frequency and acknowledged. A moment of hissing static followed. "Copy that, Parker. Fall into the extraction zone on the double." Silva said. A few scattered stars shone on the sky, night had fallen. Scott exhaled relieved and stepped outside of the building. He took off his helmet, wiped his sweaty face and touched his hair. I really have to get a haircut, he thought to himself as he swung his rifle on his shoulder, but not too soon.