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Shattered Skies - Chapter 2
Posted By: Webbo227<webbo128@hotmail.co.uk>
Date: 19 October 2008, 10:30 am

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Shattered Skies

Chapter 2

The verdant overgrown jungles of Mondcano IV were proving to be a nightmare to the PFC Joshua Greenwood. The UNSC saw it fit to plunge him into some proper action against vicious troops, but from what the thermal imaging could show the rookie, only towering trees, minute creatures and luminous plants scattered the planets surface. The officers at ONI sought to prove otherwise, assuming that the Covenant survivors were using a cloaking tower to scramble the waves that the overhead satellite beamed down across the planet. Even so, the Marine thought, the structure must be producing plenty of energy to make the thermals go crazy. His nervousness about the mission couldn't be seen from the outside, but from the faces of the other Marines who accompanied him, it was all too clear that they were sharing the same thought. Something wasn't right. Two of the Marines were trailing at the back of the formation, hefting M19 SSM Rocket Launchers each, whilst Sergeant Taylor leaded the company through the thick, mutated growths that trailed between trees, delved into the ground, and sprouted from the ground in the far off mists. The base had provided the heavy firepower of the rocket launchers, in case deactivating the supposed "tower" proved too difficult or too boring, whichever took their fancy. Joshua was loaded with his own weaponry designed for regular combat, his MA5C Assault Rifle with two spare ammunition clips, a M6G pistol, which he hoped he didn't have to use, and two M9 Fragmentation Grenades which proved their worth when tossed into a standard Covenant formation. The same trend carried on for the other Marines, minus the two Marines who couldn't possibly heft more than one weapon. Sergeant Taylor however was armed with an exceptionally powerful M90 Shotgun that many Sergeants seemed to carry, and a polished combat knife that, once the battle was over, would have to be cleaned again; Sergeant Taylor was a savage soldier.

The trees parted into a vacant clearing, only scattered boulders littered the ground. Orders were signalled over the COM link, and the eight soldiers split into two directions, a rocket following each team. Nothing was out of the ordinary about this place, except from the eerie silence, but previous encounters with the Covenant and the stories survivors had to tell, seemed to indicate that what they were hunting for was hidden here. The Covenant had planned dominance, but they most obviously prepared for hiding. The clearing had unnerved him, Joshua had not seen open ground on this planet; even the encampment was squashed against the lack of space the tree trunks offered.

"The Covenant are here," Joshua thought, "But what are they doing?"

Before his thought could fade into the jumbled thoughts the nineteen-year-old soldier was experiencing, Sergeant Taylor's voice echoed through the small speakers in his helmet.

"Boys. There can be no doubt that beyond this glamour, Covenant uglies are welcoming our surprise party, just for us. I feel it only fair that we let everyone know what great pals they are."

No one broke the radio silence, but it was plain to see that they all agreed that the Covenant had to come out and play.

It was impossible to gauge how strong the cloaking field was, how big its range was, and if the Covenant were aware of our presence. The barrier was silencing all sound waves from inside it; a Grunt couldn't stop moaning unless it was dozing off. Joshua and the other Marines fell on their stomachs and crawled slowly towards the centre field, hands clenched tightly around the loaded Assault Rifle, knowing that in a few moments it would be mowing down cowardly Grunts, birdlike Jackals, and the ferocious Brutes. Joshua smiled as he thought of the fun and bloodshed he would have to inflict today.

Perhaps half a minute later, the team disturbed the barrier, sending small ripples to stretch around the spherical surface. Joshua rose to his feet, leant against the bubble as though it was a solid wall, rifle to his chest, and burst through, Marines following obediently, trusting the rookie's initiative for danger, unaware of what could be lying in wait for them.

The flimsy barrier encased the flipside to the secluded valley. Massive, towering machines gathered around the centre, hammering into the soft land underneath. Walkways had been erected from metal supports, and a dozen jackals walked along them, armed with Type-51 Carbines cradled in their arms. Across the ground were small huts that could just about fit a grown Brute into it, but was instead reserved for the cannon fodder race, the Grunts. From a distance, Joshua could make out two of them sleeping peacefully, despite the thundering racket the digger was creating, and another refilling its methane reserves at a elongated stand that reminded Joshua of an old water faucet. But prowling round with Type 25 "Spikers" at their sides, the eight foot, hulking, masked monsters, the Brutes, scowled hatefully at everything around them, wondering how they had wound up hiding away from the human stain. About ten meters ahead of him though, was the tower that was making their elusive dig possible. Black, polished metal stood twenty meters tall by five meters wide, with a lime crystal emanating a soft, radiant aura that melted to transparency as soon as it hit the atmosphere. Joshua had no idea how defensively capable this base was, or how fragile the tower could be. No word from the Sergeant, either he was apprehensive about the shield, or was already evading the regular patrols; Joshua was certain that he wasn't found yet, or else the whole base would know it.

Waiting behind a small metal lump of a building, Joshua, his two armed Marines, and the bulky rocket wielder waited in silence for the all clear from Taylor. He was glad to see that none of them were frightened, just confused. He had to admit, he had no idea what the dig would relinquish. A minute. Two.

After three minutes and forty-three seconds, static pounded the PFC's already fragile eardrums, but it soon melted out into a smooth transmission.

"Greenwood, we are in position. Be ready to fire at the support beams holding this thing up. Fire in precisely twenty seconds. Out."

Joshua did not need telling twice, his helmet's small visor already printed his time limit for him. He signalled for the men to move into more open ground for a clearer shot. The Marine with the rockets crouched against the ground; launcher perched on his shoulder. The 2X zoom activated, and the Marine took careful aim, locked on to the large legs propping the structure up and waited for the signal. Six seconds. Five. As the counter reached four, a Grunt in red armor, a Major Grunt, rounded the corner lazily, unaware of the four humans and their lethal explosive weaponry. He screamed and was prepared to run off, when one of the Marines took his Assault Rifle and panicked as he squeezed the trigger. What Joshua had thought was a clean head shot turned into a hail of eleven bullets aiming for the small alien's methane tank attached to his back. Eight of the bullets pierced the tank, and as the alien took off in blind fear, the methane ignited, causing an explosion to blast a small chunk of the ground away. And alerted every enemy of the unwanted guests.

A rocket had already flown by and hit its target dead on. The rocket blossomed into a deadly inferno, with the shrapnel its jagged petals. The structure moaned under the force acting against it, causing the barrier to flicker wildly. However it stood tall, damaged, but operational, with one missing leg. Joshua's Marine tried to concentrate again, when he slumped to the floor, a bolt from a Covenant Carbine passing through his skull. Joshua hastily retrieved the launcher and headed to the only piece of cover available, the metal building. Seconds later, he was joined with his surviving comrades, one of them burned by an encounter with a Grunt's Plasma Pistol. Spikes of metal were being fired at the metal wall, so close that Joshua could hear the spikes cooling down from the heated flight. He armed himself with his rifle and peeked his head round the corner, aimed at the nearest Brute and fired at the centre mass. The Brute staggered backwards under the force of the 7.62mm rounds bombarding his chest and roared violently for the Grunts to gather round and burn the humans. Joshua paused, grabbed one of the two grenades, pulled the pin, counted to three and threw the primed grenade into the middle of the bunched Grunts, causing them to fly in different directions, mostly into walls, cracking their skulls as they did so. The Brute roared again, and this time charged towards them unarmed, prepared to tear them to shreds. The other Marines were fighting their own battle, so Joshua crouched against the building, angled his gun downwards and waited for the clumsy footsteps to arrive. He twisted his body and fired at the approaching entity, firing upwards as he did, cracking the damaged chest plate, shattering its shoulder and blinding it in its right eye. It stumbled in agony, hands clutching its useless eye, giving Joshua a chance to side step round it and, using the butt of his rifle, whacked the beast in the back, and watched it as it slumped to the floor, dead. Joshua ran back to the invaluable cover, and picked up the discarded rockets. Fumbling with the launcher, Joshua tried to figure out how to operate it properly without blowing everyone up. He had managed to find the trigger, but was still fiddling with the controls to find the zoom. Another rocket flew by and hit another of the three remaining legs. This time, the leg didn't respond to the explosion and carried on as usual.

"Greenwood! What happened?" shouted the COM link.

Joshua activated his microphone and responded.

"We were spotted sir! We couldn't get a clear shot either. There's too many Jackals, they took down one of ours with no effort."

No response came from the speakers, but from the Jackal's vantage point atop the supports, came an almighty detonation as a rocket crippled the metal walkways, plummeting the dozen Jackals to the ground below.

"Hope you're happy son, that was our last rocket. You'd better make those two of yours count, out."

Priorities had changed with the enemy, as they investigated the origin of the rocket and prepared to strike the small task force, leaving Joshua's group with no resistance. Lifting the launcher as high as he could hold it, he rested it on his shoulder, flicked the zoom switch, and let loose the launcher's first airborne explosive. It sailed quietly across the field and hit the leg that had been previously damaged. This time, its metal couldn't brace the flaring rocket and the tower was snapped off its support, wobbling as it was been slowly pulled towards the ground. Wasting no time, Joshua unloaded his last rocket, aiming at the third leg. Hopefully, if he was correct, he could make a bit more of a bang then his Sergeant. Previous detonations had already made the rest of the tower delicate, so the leg snapped off with ease. But the best was yet to come. It shook violently, and then pulled away from its largest mass, the one last leg, and fell…directly onto the digging machine. The result was a white-blue cloud of energy that swallowed surrounding Brutes, encased the dead Jackals and crippled everything they had worked towards. What a shame.

Satisfied with his work, he contacted the Sergeant with requests to pull back. Hastily granted, they worked with the enemies confusion and fled the scene, sprinting towards the forests edge, spikes of metal flying around their heads in an inaccurate trajectory. The Brutes large hands couldn't operate the Carbine; so long range offence wouldn't be a problem.

Safely shrouded in the forest the seven Marines celebrated their exceptional work. One of them inquired however, "What do we do now sir? We can't just leave them alive, they'll hunt us down, and in close quarters I don't think we can jest."

The Sergeant sighed heavily, "Didn't your mama teach you any manners? They gave us a lovely present so we have to give one back."

He keyed a series of codes into his tablet, while the other Marines looked round in confused with their CO's plan.

"Taylor to Triumphant. Do you read me?"

A calm voice replied to the Sergeant, "We hear you Taylor, what is the status of your mission?"

"In progress, but mostly complete. We could use some help. We destroyed the tower, you should be able to pick up the base in our surrounding area."

A pause as the Triumphant re-did their scan.

"Yes we see it Taylor, what's your plan?"

Taylor smiled, "Why, just being courteous to our guests. Perhaps some nice bombing runs just to let them know how much me and my boys care."

The person at the other end chuckled and thanked the Sergeant for his work. The Marines had eavesdropped on the conversation and were already cheering about the bombing run they were expecting. Joshua stared out into the Covenant camp, watching the Brutes, which were unaware of the added explosions they would have to deal with today.

However from the corner of his eye, he saw a glimmer of light shine towards his face. It wasn't the neon blue plants, this light was green, jade green. He leapt over the fallen log and investigated the source, for some reason he felt it wasn't natural.

Lying on the floor was an ODST. His helmet obscured his face, jade green, just as he had saw reflected but there was no way to identify him. He was odd; he wore the same military standard boots that he himself was wearing but his chest plate was slightly reminiscent of the legendary SPARTAN-II program. He was coloured a dark grey just like an ODST, but, he had never seen an ODST like this before. He looked for any identification, and gave up when all he could see was a small message on the helmet saying "UNSC-227". He signalled for the Sergeant to come over here and identify him. Sergeant Taylor frowned and re-established contact with the Triumphant.

"Triumphant? Did you send another task forced down here before us?"

No response, but after a couple of seconds the same voice echoed, this time loud enough for the whole group to hear, who had gathered round the mysterious Helljumper.

"No, the only force on the planet should be you and your seven Marines."

Taylor scowled, he didn't like been kept in the dark. Someone had ordered these ODST's to come to the planet prior to their arrival.

The Triumphant responded again, "What identification can you get from him?"

Taylor looked at the body. He was still alive, but only just. He looked around him and found the same number as Joshua did.

"Its strange, he doesn't have the original identification, just "UNSC – 227"."

Silence again, but this time keyboards could be heard hammering away.

"Oh God! It can't be. This can't be right!"

Taylor was getting annoyed at this point. "Goddamn it Triumphant, tell me what's going on right now or so hel-"

"Is he alive?" The Triumphant cut in.


"Bring him back now. We need to know how he got there. How he's still here…"

Sergeant Taylor ended the broadcast, picked up the soldier and slung him over his back, ordering the remaining troops to fall back to the base. And as they navigated to the bunker they had been placed in, the screams of Brutes and Grunts could be heard over the sound of C709 Longswords, bombing the entire encampment to ruins.