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Recce, Chapter Three
Posted By: Zombie<kolin013@hotmail.com>
Date: 11 August 2006, 3:26 am

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0400 Hours, October 14, 2552 (Military Calendar)
Siberia, Russia/ Western Siberian Plains

      The RV point was the camp that Sergeant Dagmar had set up when he and his team were first inserted into the forest. It looked secure, but Dagmar kicked himself for not properly tearing down the tent and doing a quick sweep of the area in case the enemy happened to stumble across the little camp. He moved out from his cover of shrubbery and cautiously advanced towards the camouflaged position.

      Dagmar's skills in tracking had been perfected thanks to the "Pathfinders" course he took to get where he was now. The moment he had left Corporal Lauren behind, he'd picked up the trail of Private Victor easily. Victor was carrying Corporal Scott and therefore his footprints were deep and often clustered as if he stumbled a bit. Dagmar had also found blood stained on leaves and the trail ended here at the RV point. Victor was around somewhere and Dagmar meant to find the crazed man.

      The Sergeant entered the small wooded area the camp was set up in, finger just off the trigger of his battle rifle. However, his need of caution was not needed. Private Victor lay on the grass, just outside Dagmar's command tent. His chest was heaving violently as he tried to catch his breath. Corporal Scott lay off to the side, sprawled out and completely motionless. As Dagmar approached Victor, the man stood up and brandished a knife at his Sergeant.

      "Stay away!" Victor screamed.

      "God damnit Victor, keep your voice down," growled Dagmar. Since his departure, Dagmar was unsure if the enemy was around or not and he sure didn't want Victor to compromise their position. One attacker was enough for the Sergeant to deal with, but an entire platoon of Covenant soldiers was another story. He scrutinized the knife, rolled his eyes and glared at Victor. "Son, put down the knife," he said calmly.

      "Fuck you! You aren't taking me, I'll kill you!" Victor shouted. The sniper's eyes were darting back and forth, looking around Dagmar as if there were ghosts surrounding them.

      "Private Victor you will comply with my orders and drop that knife!" Dagmar boomed, ignoring the fact that he was screaming as loud as Victor.

      "No! Never!" Victor was thrashing his arms out against an invisible enemy and grabbing his head as if he was suffering from a major migraine. Dagmar stepped forward, but Victor snapped up and lunged at the Sergeant. "Stay back you piece of shit!"

      "Who the fuck are you?" Dagmar demanded. Victor hesitated and stopped thrashing, looking up at his Sergeant.

      "Jonathan Victor," he answered quietly, still breathing heavily, his face bathed in a cold sweat.

      "What is your rank and serial code, meat?" Dagmar shouted, standing at the position of attention and addressing Victor like he was a mere trainee.

      "Private J. Victor, serial code Juliet-niner-zero, four-one-tree, eight-two-two," Victor shouted back, copying Dagmar's position of attention.

      "What is your godly call sign Private?" Dagmar continued. Victor hesitated, no doubt trying to figure out what was going on. But Dagmar didn't let him and stepped forward so that he was inches away from Victor's face. "Holy fuck boot, you just killed half your team by hesitating like that. When I ask a question, you better well fucking answer or else there will be something worse than hell to pay!"

      "Delta Pathfinders, Special Recon Unit!" answered Victor immediately.

      "And who is your commanding officer in this Special Recon Unit? Spit it out boy!"

      "Sergeant Dagmar!"

      "Then you will obey my command and give me that knife, Private," hissed Dagmar. Victor seemed to have snapped out of his insanity and was acting like he was back in basic training. He held out the knife and Dagmar walked forward. He grabbed Victor's whole hand and pulled Victor towards him, bringing up his other arm and smashing his fist into Victor's face. The man fell back onto the ground and did not get up.

      Dagmar pocketed the knife and knelt down beside the still body of Corporal Scott. There was a large stab wound through his chest, but not a single drop of blood had stained his uniform. As Dagmar examined the hole, he couldn't see any blood at all, just charred skin and bone. His face looked dead, eyes wide open and glazed, skin tone completely white. The Sergeant put two fingers on Scott's neck and his eyes widened. There was a pulse, a weak one, but Scott's heart and brain were still working. How a man could have survived a plasma sword through the body was beyond Dagmar, but he was determined to get the leader of Bravo team saved.

      As Dagmar knelt there between both the surviving soldiers, he remembered what he wanted to originally know from Victor. What had happened to them on their mission? Dagmar knew Victor was in no mood to talk, but the Sergeant gripped the sniper's helmet and carefully removed the personal field recorder. Dagmar had ensured that each member of his team had one. The video feed it captured, was transferred to the computer hub Dagmar had set up within the tent.

      The Sergeant stood, holding the video recorder in one hand and moved to his tent. The chair had been knocked over when Dagmar and Lauren heard Bravo team were in trouble and as he entered the tent again, he righted the chair and sat down in front of the computer monitor. Dagmar then took out several connecting wires from the side of the monitor and plugged them into the USB connections of the recorder. The screen came to life, showing tactical data at first.

UNSC Personal Field Recorder
Personnel: Private Victor, Jonathan (J90-413-822)
Dated: 14 – 10 – 2552
Timing: 0200-0345

Begin recording…

      Dagmar immediately hit the fast forward button, he didn't need to see Corporal Scott's mission briefing or the six halts Scott had given to call in contact reports and then continue sneaking through the forest. He knew his men were flawless and yet they had been nearly wiped out by something that Victor wouldn't explain and Oliver couldn't say. Dagmar intended to find out what that was.

      Dagmar pressed the play button and a patrol of Jackals could be seen moving across the screen, Victor following them with his sniper rifle. As the image rotated, Dagmar could make out a portion of Scott laying beside Victor, but looking away from the Jackals. The Sergeant could only assume he was talking to Oliver and Murray.

      Without warning, one of the Jackals was picked up by something in the trees. As chaos ensued among the Jackals, Dagmar searched the image for the intruder in the trees. It couldn't have been Murray or Oliver, for an ambush like that would've been perfect for Victor and Scott to open fire and neither one had discharged their weapons. The Jackals were confused, screaming at one another. Several more suddenly fell dead and then a plasma sword was ignited.

      The Covenant were killing each other? This sword sliced its way through the last three Jackals and then remained high in the air. Dagmar's mouth was open slightly as he stared at the screen. Plasma swords were carried by Covenant field commanders and assassins, namely Elites. This one seemed different however. Normal swords were double-bladed, yet this one was a single blade of glowing plasma. And the fact that it just destroyed a patrol of Jackals was bewildering. The image shifted as Victor looked at Scott, who gave him a series of hand signals. Victor brought up the sniper rifle and Dagmar had a view from inside the scope of the rifle. The targeting reticule was trained on the sword.

      Shadows moved across the scope and Victor re-positioned it slightly to watch Scott, Oliver and Murray approach the sword, weapons held to their shoulders. The three soldiers were trying to take this invisible assassin as a prisoner, but it wasn't moving. They flanked the sword and Scott gave his last warning.

      Suddenly, the sword disappeared. The night vision brightened as Scott, Oliver and Murray fired at nothing. The scope moved back and forth and Dagmar caught sight of a shape in the forest. It charged forward and slammed its transparent body into Oliver. The image shifted briefly to watch the Private slam into a tree and fall to the ground. There were more flashes across the screen as Murray opened fire into the trees and tried to get to Oliver. Dagmar gasped as the same shape appeared behind Murray and the plasma sword ignited again. Murray turned, but the sword easily cut off his head.

      The entire picture shook suddenly as Victor fired off a round at the sword. Dagmar could just see blood seeping out from a wound as the sword flailed around like a wounded animal. Scott stood nearby, his weapon still up. The sword was suddenly thrown like a spear and it implanted itself into Scott's chest. Victor immediately fired off the rest of his clip. Dagmar saw a blurred image of a tall, muscular creature appear and then fall to the ground, just as Victor stood up and ran to Scott's body.

      The rest of the video was Victor picking up Scott, waking up the wounded Oliver and making a run through the forest, just as Covenant reinforcements arrived. Dagmar hit the rewind button and paused the image as the sword was thrown into Scott again. He let it play a little bit and paused it again as Victor emptied his clip into the creature. He squinted at the blurred outline, confused. It didn't look like an Elite, much too muscular. Elites had powerful, broad shoulders and long arms. This creature looked humanoid, with an oddly shaped head. It was easily seven or eight feet tall, but beyond that, Dagmar couldn't see much else.

      The Sergeant leaned back in the chair, like he had done when he had been bored watching the mission unfold. It had fully unfolded into a complete disaster, something Dagmar would have to fix. He had two men down, one wounded and one unable to perform proper duties. There objectives were to find the downed Pelican, but from what he'd gathered, Corporal Scott had reached the desired coordinates and found nothing.

      He'd have to split what remained of his team. Dagmar would keep all of Alpha team with him and send Victor and Scott back to HQ or up to the Black Hawk, where perhaps Captain Savard could get some more information out of Dagmar's crazed sniper. Dagmar would then conduct his own patrol of the surrounding area to try and find this Pelican.

      Dagmar's field radio wouldn't be able to communicate with the Black Hawk, so he searched for a T22 land to air radio kit. Upon finding the massive radio, he set the frequency for UNSC Fleet COM and grabbed the radio headset. As soon as he did a preliminary inspection and activated the radio, he was swarmed with requests for acknowledgment by the emotionless radio operator from the Black Hawk. He clicked the send button, muting the operator and held the microphone to his mouth.

      "Zero, this is 2-1-Alpha, message, over," he said.

      "2-1-Alpha, this is Zero Sunlight, where the fuck have you been, over?" growled a harsh voice, ignoring proper radio voice procedures. Dagmar sighed; 'Zero Sunlight' meant that he was speaking to Captain Savard.

      "Zero Sunlight, SIT REP: Two KIA, two WIA. Request immediate extract for wounded personnel, over," explained Dagmar. There was a pause and Dagmar could hear gunshots off in the distance. Corporal Lauren was close.

      "2-1-Alpha, SIT REP acknowledged. Extraction to your position not possible. Move personnel to coordinates four-niner-four, seven-one-six for starlight and extract, over." Captain Savard was calmer now that he'd heard there were casualties in the field. He was a strong and proud leader, but he was compassionate for those that worked under him. It pained him as much as it pained Dagmar that two men were dead.

      "Zero Sunlight, coordinates confirmed, out." Dagmar shut off the radio and grabbed his battle rifle. The gunshots were few, but they were extremely close. The Sergeant quickly checked his map and could see that the extraction point given by the Captain was approximately a kilometre away, located within a valley just big enough for a Pelican. It was one of the few valleys located within this area of the forest. Dagmar left the map on the table and grabbed his battle rifle, cocking it and moving out of the tent.

      More gunshots echoed straight ahead of Dagmar, who moved to the edge of their camp, keeping his head low. Victor and Scott were both still unconscious on the ground, but Dagmar moved past them and crouched down behind a massive log. He raised his battle rifle to his face and peered into the scope. He targeted three fast moving shadows in the forest and switched on his night vision. The faces of Corporal Lauren, Private Thomson and Private Reynolds appeared in Dagmar's scope. The Sergeant quickly put down his rifle and pulled out a small signal flare. He ignited it, waved it twice in the air and then tossed it to the ground. Dagmar looked back into his scope and could see his three soldiers maneuvering themselves towards his position.

      Dagmar moved the rifle to the right and could make out a small group of Covenant chasing his team. Four Grunts, two Jackals and an Elite saw Dagmar's signal flare go off and followed Alpha team towards the Sergeant's position. Dagmar's current fire position was compromised with Lauren, Thomson and Reynolds advancing towards him. He repositioned himself behind a cluster of trees, five metres away from the flare and got a clear sight on the Covenant. Dagmar tapped the trigger of his rifle and sent bursts of ammo at the leading Grunts. The first two Grunts flipped over backwards in the air, sprawling out on the ground with aqua blood leaking from holes in their small heads. A third Grunt took several bullets to the chest. Its methane tank ruptured and exploded, blowing the Grunt into several pieces. The remaining Grunt watched its comrade erupt, turned and ran away, squealing in its odd language.

      Dagmar heard movement nearby and could see Alpha team positioning themselves by the log Dagmar had been at. They sprayed the battlefield with ammo, forcing the two charging Jackals to hide behind their personal energy shields. The Elite advanced behind them and tossed a plasma grenade. It landed on Thomson's helmet. Thomson calmly took off his head protection and tossed it back at the approaching Covenant. It exploded in the air, showering the Jackals with plasma. They halted and Dagmar ordered a rapid fire rate. Alpha team changed clips of ammo and fired at a constant rate of one bullet per second. The rounds overpowered both Jackals and eventually struck through their weak armour. As they collapsed, the Elite charged, firing its plasma rifle wildly. Thomson, who carried Alpha team's sniper rifle, unslung the powerful weapon from his back, cocked it and fired. The 14.5mm slug easily pierced the shields around the field commander's head, blowing out the back of its helmet and spraying brain matter and blood everywhere. The Elite fell to its knees and then toppled forward, dead.

      Dagmar switched on the safety on his rifle and turned to Lauren. She had ditched her helmet and had replaced it with a camouflage bandana. There was a large scar on her cheek and she was breathing heavily. She gave him a two-fingered salute regardless and smiled beautifully.

      "Reporting as ordered Sarge," she said. Dagmar looked over Thomson and Reynolds.

      Thomson was six foot five and could move so silently through a forest, it was like he wasn't even there. As a Special Reconnaissance unit, they were all scouts, but within the team, Dagmar used him often as a scout and would order him to advance ahead to report on what was there. In replace for Thomson's helmet, he covered his shaved head with black camouflage paint and looked good to go.

      Reynolds was two hundred pounds of pure muscle; his uniform bulged around the arms and chest. He wore a black toque and had a small limp in his step. Dagmar examined his legs and noticed plasma scaring on his thigh.

      "You get hit?" Dagmar asked. Reynolds shrugged.

      "Nothing to be worried about Sergeant," he said. Dagmar grinned. He'd seen Reynolds take three plasma bolts and keep on fighting before Dagmar ordered him off the field.

      "The Covenant are attacking in waves, small search and destroy parties of 10-15 troops. Any plans yet Sarge?" Lauren asked. Dagmar glanced over at the still bodies of Victor and Scott and nodded.

      "Thomson and Reynolds, secure this area for now, we'll be moving out soon. Lauren come with me," he quickly ordered. They dispersed and Corporal Lauren followed Sergeant Dagmar into the tent. As they entered, Dagmar pointed to the chair by the monitor and Lauren sat down. The image of the creature being shot by Victor was still frozen on the screen and Lauren stared at it, perplexed.

      "What the fuck is that?" she asked.

      "What killed Murray and wounded Scott," answered Dagmar, looking at his map. Lauren glanced over at her Sergeant's back.

      "Wounded Scott?" she repeated.

      "Yeah, he's still got a pulse. Don't know how though, he took a plasma sword through the chest," explained Dagmar. Lauren looked back at the screen.

      "Were they ambushed?" she asked.

      "Short version of the story: they watched a Jackal patrol get ambushed by that creature, tried to take it in as a prisoner and got fucked up," Dagmar said, looking at Lauren who raised one eyebrow.

      "Called it in?"

      "Yeah, extract is a kilometre south of here," explained Dagmar, "We need to move, get Scott and Victor on that Pelican and then I'll fill everyone in on what's happened." The Sergeant turned away from Corporal Lauren and began rolling up his map and stuffing it into his tactical vest.

      "Yes Sergeant," said Lauren, standing up from the table. She turned to the tent entrance, when it opened suddenly. Private Victor stepped inside, a battle rifle shouldered and his sniper rifle slung over his back. His one eye was swelled up badly, but his other looked calm and he scrutinized Dagmar and Lauren.

      "Sergeant Dagmar, permission to rejoin Delta Pathfinders," Victor said smartly. His voice seemed normal, no longer high-pitched and crazed like before. Dagmar had obviously knocked some sense into him. He crossed his arms and studied Victor carefully.

      "Corporal Lauren, pack up any essential equipment and help secure the perimeter. We'll be leaving soon," Dagmar ordered, not taking his eyes of Victor.

      "Sergeant," acknowledged Lauren, pushing past Victor and exiting the tent. Dagmar leaned against one of the tent poles and looked up at Victor.

      "Son, what do you remember?" he asked first.

      "My team members were being attacked by something we couldn't see and my mind snapped. I was crazy Sergeant," Victor immediately explained. Dagmar nodded.

      "You tried to kill me Private, and now you're asking me that you want back in?" Victor didn't answer and merely stood still at attention. Dagmar had seen men crack like that in the field before, even quiet ones like Victor. Those with troubled pasts often expressed their pent up emotions when bullets started to fly past their heads and kill people.

      "Victor, when this team first came together, you kept to yourself mostly. You rarely paid attention to teamwork. I know your past; I know teamwork has never been your forte," Dagmar went on, watching Victor's posture stiffen at the mention of his past, "But in this type of combat, something like trust can determine the fate of you, or the guy next to you. We need trust in order to survive and be an effective team." Victor remained silent; he knew he deserved this talk.

      "You broke that trust when you ran from battle and turned the knife on me. I've seen it happen before and most teams don't last a battle when one soldier goes crazy and leaves his team, his brothers and sisters. I can't have that happen here." Victor's solid expression was beginning to soften. Dagmar couldn't let him come back; soldiers like Victor needed counseling before they could go back to war.

      "This mission is delicate and so is your mind Victor. I can't let you rejoin the group. We're moving out to an extraction point and you'll evac with Scott. I'm sure Captain Savard will have some questions for you and you can explain what happened down here," Dagmar said, ending the conversation. Victor remained still, staring straight ahead. He suddenly checked his arms to the side and came properly to attention.

      "Yes Sergeant!" he yelled. Dagmar looked him over and nodded.

      "Dismissed, Private." Victor performed an about turn, marched three steps and then exited the tent. Dagmar watched him go and sighed. Another helping hand would've been great, but it was like Dagmar had said, trust was vital and he didn't know if he could trust Victor after the incident. Soldiers who cracked weren't to blame; they'd seen death so many times that it just got to their heads. But Dagmar didn't want to see more of his troops killed and not only was he perhaps saving lives by refusing Victor, but he was also saving Victor's life.

      Dagmar's thoughts were interrupted by gunfire and Lauren appeared in the tent again. "Enemy contact Sarge, it's now or never," she said quickly before going back into battle. Dagmar slammed on his Sergeant cap, cocked his battle rifle and exited the tent.

      "Pathfinders, rally on me, we're moving out!"