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Shattered Skies - Chapter 5
Posted By: Webbo227<webbo128@hotmail.co.uk>
Date: 4 December 2008, 10:15 pm

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Shattered Skies

Chapter 5

      "You're not staying here private! Why do you have to be so much more goddamn difficult then everyone else?!"

      Two hours had passed since Sergeant Taylor and his team had their initial briefing with the commander, and word had spread that the freelancer was up and around, but no one had seen him for the past half hour. At this time however, a newly equipped Pelican was loaded with the battle weary Marines that Taylor commanded, readying them for transport to the Mako Class Corvette "UNSC Blue Moon", which was under strict command to transport the Marines to one of the inner colonies so that the Marines could undergo advanced training, aided by PFC Greenwood who had passed it on his first attempt. But the young soldier refused to entertain the idea of joining them on a course that he had already completed. It was his duty to remain behind, a duty he had called upon himself.

      "Son, I am not having another incident when my own men get killed out of lack of knowledge and skill. I'm not asking you to join them, I'm ordering you to." Sergeant Taylor spoke, his voice returning to its stern standard.

      Joshua stood there, eyes unwavering under Taylor's fierce gaze, mind made up about the whole situation. He knew that the Covenant had some information on a weapon, and that wasn't going to be enough time to be training recruits if they were going to die before the Covenant did.

      "Likewise sir, this is not a request, this is what I will be doing. The only way you can make me leave this place is to boot me out of the UNSC for good and I don't think you're willing to do that."

      The Marines shifted awkwardly in their seats unsure of the outcome. The Sergeant was stubborn, but so was Joshua, the argument could swing both ways. But they didn't care that much about the outcome; they were tired and hungry, still chained to the boundaries of human morality and would have loved to doze away as the Pelican glided them safely towards civilization.

      However, a voice rose from behind the squabbling men. An armour-clad soldier stood proudly against the two Marines, ceasing the argument before greeting the red-faced warriors.

      "Sergeant Taylor? May I have a word please?"

      Sergeant Taylor looked at the man, face returning to its impassionate state. He was dressed ready for combat, an SRS99D-S2 AM Sniper Rifle slung on his back, a varied assortment of grenades around his belt, including two thermite grenades, five fragmentation grenades and three sonic grenades, carefully ordered and positioned for immediate use. His boots were a faded gray and stood out against his gleaming olive armour. On his chest was a pinned insignia of a silver star with three gold bars directly below it, belonging to Field Major Samuel. And clutched in his right hand, was a modified M6C Magnum that had spent all of its ammo. Taylor was the first to snap to attention.

      "I apologize sir! I wasn't under the impression that we were receiving a high ranking soldier such as yourself." Taylor stuttered.

      Samuel cast him a menacing look, "I don't have time to hear songs of praise on my behalf, you should always be ready for the unexpected, it's what you're job is, isn't it?"

      Taylor looked down ashamed. The roles had been reversed, and now Taylor looked like a misbehaving schoolboy.

      "…Yes sir…"

      Samuel smiled, "Good. Now to the matter at hand, it seems that the young private here will not be joining you on the course as he has been called upon to remain here."

      "Sir? I don't…" Taylor started before falling silent once more.

      "Private First Class Greenwood has shown commendable courage during your previous mission and all subsequent missions beforehand. The commander felt it necessary to keep him back under my control. However, General Eckenbauer deemed it necessary for you, Sergeant, to accompany your remaining Marines."

      "Eckenbauer? Why would he want me to leave?"

      Eckenbauer was a high-ranking general at the UNSC and controlled a fair amount of force from his desk, back on a peaceful planet nestled securely in a cluster of spatial defences. Sam paused, then walked the small distance between them, twin footsteps echoing on the titanium floor.

      "Because I am under direct order from him to inform you to stand down from the mission. You do not need to challenge that, do you Sergeant?"

      "…No sir…"

      The near vacated docking area, which only contained 12 other people besides the six worn out Marines, looked on in awe at the arguing soldiers, silently cheering on the superior warrior. The Major turned to the private and ushered him out of the area, as the disgraced Sergeant boarded the impatient transport.

      "Joshua! We were worried that you would have left already, weren't we Sam?"

      Joshua had found himself again back in the briefing room, a slightly flustered commander pacing around it, happy yet troubled. The major however stood like a statue of unmoving flesh against the door. He didn't answer James but instead responded with an unconvincing grunt.

      "Oh lighten up son. You could be pushing pencils in a dreary office or…"

      "I could be pushing pencils on a floating hunk of metal." Sam quipped, "How thankful I am, really."

      James shifted his gaze and waved a hand lazily in his direction. "I wanted to see you before you were pushed onto a course that has already and successfully gauged your skills. After your last mission went so well, we felt that you should be part of the Triumphant's next mission. Whatever that may be."

      Joshua had occupied the nearest seat and was staring at the commander in awe. Had his skills really turned the heads of such a high ranking official? It was hard to believe that a commander had picked him especially for his own agenda of victorious skirmishes. A small light flashed on a console near the commander, and was activated moments later to reveal a larger light of the ship's A.I.

      "Sir? Mako Class Corvette "UNSC Blue Moon" is attempting to activate a live broadcast feed. Saving under public key, file triumphant. From Sergeant Taylor to you sir. Would you like to accept the broadcast feed?"

      "Affirmative Gary." A short pause before a familiar voice echoed through the room and the ears of everyone in it.

      "James? We've made it aboard the corvette and the Slipspace drives are nearly charged. We'll be making the jump in about a minute. I hope you come through for us. I'll have the rooks trained before you know it. We'll…what the? James! Look out they're…STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY 31%…"

      A tremendous explosion rattled the ship as a bolt of lightning blue plasma hit "Blue Moon". Joshua dashed from his seat and peered through the re-enforced panel that separated man from vacuum, anxious to see the ship pull from the cloud of energy that engulfed the panels of metal.

      "…Goddamn. Covenant! Came out of nowhere! Quick you've got to get us into Slipspace! …I don't care if the engine will fry, we'll all fry if we don't get out. Watch out; get the shields up or something. …Ok good, get us out of here…ok men, hang…"

      The transmission cut off abruptly, as a second bolt flashed by and hit the ship again, this time nothing replaced the plasma, just flickers of shining metal.

      "Sir; we've lost communication and there was no indication to say they were able to jump to Slipspace. They didn't make it."

      Joshua's eyes were a flurry of tears. Boiling energy bolts from a large purple monstrosity snatched the people, who he had worked alongside only mere hours ago.
"What the hell? Why is the Covenant here, why did they just destroy a defenceless corvette?" James yelled, his face nearly awash with salty beads of water.

      "What did you expect? You just destroyed their excavation, you didn't expect they wouldn't be pissed off by that did you?" Sam shouted back, resigning from his position to confront the two men. No time for arguing, James sprinted to the door and sped towards the bridge, Joshua and Sam following in his wake. James was stood near his seat, his left hand clenched on the arm of the chair.

      "What have we got Lieutenant?" he asked.

      The Lieutenant turned round from his seat and gave a quick glance at the Commander.

      "Sir. We've got confirmation of a damaged Covenant Destroyer, hull integrity 23%, four Seraphs, and…" he paused and rechecked the scanners. "A Phantom? Yes, I.D. checks out. What are they doing sending dropships in?"

      "They're desperate. This is their full fighting force. Listen up; the Covenant just destroyed Blue Moon and the onboard passengers. If I find anyone giving the Covenant mercy, I'll court martial you with a shotgun up your…" He stopped; the crew were staring with fear, partially from the upcoming battle, mostly because of his promise he made, and sensing that the speech had stopped, quickly resumed with hastened speed.

      "Gary!" James shouted, "Status report!"

      The holotank on the right of the Commander's chair lit up and the familiar figure of Gary rose in mere nano-seconds.

      "Greetings sir. Oh," he looked at Joshua and smiled. "I see you managed to catch up with Private First Class, Joshua Gree"

      GARY! I HAVE NO TIME FOR THIS! Prime the Archer missiles and ready the MAC Cannon. I won't be letting anyone else die without a fighting chance." James's face was sweltering under the sudden attack. He had dealt with fiercer battles, but none had started with the death of his trusted friend.

      "Of course sir. Priming pods A through H … firing solution obtained. Ready to fire on comma." The avatar froze for a second and resumed almost as quickly, its hue changed to a blood red. "Warning proximity to Seraph class ship detected. Trajectory indicates direct course with port hull."

      The furthest Lieutenant activated the camera and was greeted with a speeding teardrop of a ship threatening to detonate. Sam quickly analysed the situation and inquired the status of the 50mm cannons.

      "Operational. But out of range of current target. Delaying Archer launch, diverting 43% of MAC Cannon energy to thrusters. Attempting evasive maneou."
He was immediately cut short by a metal churning explosion that dimmed the lights of the entire frigate and short-circuited the holotank. Joshua and a handful of others were thrown off their feet by the resulting force, but leapt to their feet with no serious injury.

      "Sir!" a panicked Lieutenant shouted out, "A.I. system not responding, we have to use manual controls till Gary is rebooted."

      "Understood Lieutenant. Make sure to get the best possible aim you can get, that explosion was much more powerful than usual, they probably packed the ships with explosives then use the ships as suicide bombers. Do not let another one hit us, understand?"

      Sam stood to attention and gained the Commander's attention. "Sir, me and the private will go and restore A.I. systems ASAP. It shouldn't take too long to do…that…Sir! What is the status of the Phantom?" he asked, his face drained of blood. It was evident that he had figured out a sinister plan, and by the matched expression the Commander wore, he had also thought of the same scenario.

      "Lieutenant! Phantom status report, now!"

      "Approaching with decelerating speed. Oh. Sir, the Phantom has managed to bypass defences, the manual commands haven't been fully issued yet. They've touched down in "Docking Bay Alpha". No reports on size of force, but in these cramped corridors, it'll be a bloodbath if it's Brutes."

      No response, just a click of a button, and the speakers littered across the halls and rooms woke with a wave of static.

      "Attention all personnel. Covenant boarding parties have infiltrated the "Triumphant". All non-combatants seal doors with lock codes. All Marines, prepare for our visitors. Gain any additional ammo from the armouries then congregate at key points. King out." He released the button, wished the pair luck and sent them on their way to the bottom of the frigate to restore A.I. capabilities.

      Emptiness. The hit had knocked out the light in some of the sections of the ship, which left the Marines with the night-vision capabilities in the helmets. At the end of long corridors, were makeshift defences and a huddle of four or five Marines ready to fire on a moment's notice at any inhuman contacts. Had he been left without a direct order, Joshua would have lent his help to them, but orders were orders and he was forced to leave them to win or fail.

      The lifts lowered the pair deeper and deeper into the metal fort, till they reached dead centre of the ship, where the A.I. was supposedly kept behind grand defences, as the Covenant had a habit of stealing A.I.'s for their own purposes. And it was evident in the bath of purple blood and gaping Jackal corpses that decorated the rounded, locked door. Armed with the release codes, Sam went to work unlocking the numerous locks and passwords that protected the delicate equipment, leaving Joshua to scour the remaining halls for any survivors. He had done a full sweep of the three hallways and five rooms, all vacated, and returned to a near unlocked vault door.

      "Nearly done now…they never really wanted anyone to get in here. Not easily anyway…"

      A beep and the hissing of metal turning and the door sliding away smoothly to reveal a mess of wires and terminals. The middle section, a metal dome, glowed a dim red and sparked occasionally when approached. Following instructions, Sam worked again, attaching wires and rebooting essential software, all the while a lone soldier armed with a Battle Rifle, was his only defence in case of a sneak attack. A computer squealed with delight, and the entire room was lit up with usual bog standard UNSC ambience.

      "Sir?" Sam voiced over the COM link, "We've been successful in fixing the computers. Have you re-established contact with Gary?" A delay as the message passed through the multiple layers of metal.

      "Negative Sam, we're still without automated control. The manual commands were too slow to be established, and the Destroyer has moved up to point blank range. Scans show a lack of weaponry, but we can't use our weaponry in case of blowing ourselves up. For now just get yourselves up here, the Marines have done well with the enemies. Plenty of blood."

      Sam left first and called the lift down. The doors squeaked, as they were forced apart by the mechanisms inside. Joshua locked down the doors, which proved easier than unlocking them in his opinion. However, as the last lock slid into place, the shadows parted to reveal a bloodied monster, rampaging towards him at breakneck speeds. It waved its fists around in a barbaric fashion and fixed its glare on the green demon. Sam had nearly intercepted the beast, when the doors snapped shut, and sent him skyrocketing towards the surface, leaving the private alone, with a snarling Brute. It pinned him against the wall with ease, and wrapped its hands around his neck, slowly squeezing the air out of him. Slowly and surely, his life began to unravel; there was no way Sam could coax the lift back down in time. The Brute grinned with yellow teeth, which stunk of rotted meat. And that was the last thing it did as its grip released and slumped to the floor, head leaking precious fluids, but ultimately killed, killed by a trio of bullets from a Battle Rifle. But not Joshua's Battle Rifle. As the lights regained their power from the greedy MAC Cannon. The lights illuminated a pearly white warrior, with boots stained with a swirl of purple blood. He wore a bulky shoulder on his right, and an angled one on his left. His head however, was covered with a helmet of an ODST with an emerald visor. He stood proudly; smoke fuming from his Battle Rifle that dispatched the monster.

      "Now…" he spoke with a deep yet young voice, "Now we're even."