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Recce, Chapter Four
Posted By: Zombie<kolin013@hotmail.com>
Date: 18 August 2006, 7:17 am

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0500 Hours, October 14, 2552 (Military Calendar)
Siberia, Russia/ Western Siberian Plains

      "Sentry to Alpha team, landing zone appears clear. I say again, landing zone appears clear, over."

      "Alpha to Sentry, roger, we are coming to you, out." The clusters of bushes and plants that formed a scattered circle around the desired location for the Pelican landing zone began moving erratically against the morning wind that was blasting through the forest. Sergeant Dagmar emerged with his team and they quickly crossed through the small valley, scanning left and right with their weapons for any enemy contact. Private Thomson had a good eye, but he only said that the landing zone appeared clear.

      Sergeant Dagmar dropped into a mound of tall grass and watched Corporal Lauren, Private Victor and Private Reynolds rush past him and form an all around defense on Dagmar. Reynolds carefully laid Corporal Scott onto the ground and checked for a pulse. He nodded to Dagmar. Scott looked like a mess however. His skin was mostly white, with random patches of a grey tone and odd coloured veins were pulsing out of his forehead and neck. They had to get him out of here quickly. Dagmar had handed the field radio to Private Thomson. He glanced to his right and patted his hand on his head. Thomson suddenly dropped down from a tree above Dagmar and took a knee beside the Sergeant, offering him the radio headset. Dagmar nodded his thanks and then put the receiver to his ear.

      "Zero, this is 2-1-Alpha, message, over," Dagmar whispered. A faint hiss of static could be heard, which lasted for thirty seconds before a different voice answered Dagmar.

      "2-1-Alpha, this is November 213, I am currently en route to coordinates: four-niner-four, seven-one-six, over," a Texas-accent voice answered. Dagmar recognized the call sign however and knew that it was their pick up.

      "November 213, roger that, 2-1-Alpha is at desired coordinates, awaiting starlight, over," said Dagmar, referring to medical personnel for Corporal Scott.

      "2-1-Alpha, ETA: five minutes, sit tight, over," the pilot of the Pelican dropship responded.

      "November 213, will do, out." Dagmar handed the headset back to Thomson and turned to look at his squad. Every leader knew that five minutes could be like five hours, depending on the situation. In this case, there was an unknown weapon in this area that had the ability to take out aircraft without any possibility of evasion. Not only that, but the Covenant could choose a precise moment during the five minutes to attack, forcing Dagmar and his troops to fight them off before the Pelican could land. He bit his lower lip and went through his options.

      "Alpha team, on me," he said suddenly. His small squad gathered around him in a tight circle, facing outwards and scanning the forest with their weapons. Dagmar looked at the back of their heads, knowing full well that half of their attention was directed towards him.

      "Here's the deal. We got a Pelican incoming in five minutes to evac Scott and Victor, but there's still a weapon in this forest that can take out aircraft easily, along with a couple thousand divisions of Covenant troops. So I'm thinking that five minutes could become longer. For the time being, I want a tight perimeter on me, watch and shoot. Once the Pelican comes and leaves, we will start where Bravo team left off and continue looking for this damned weapon. We clear?" explained Dagmar.

      Corporal Lauren answered for the rest of the team: "Understood Sarge." Dagmar nodded and watched his team disperse into the forest. They formed a spearhead perimeter around Dagmar. Lauren and Reynolds crouched in the grass to the left and right of the Sergeant, while Thomson posted himself directly to Dagmar's rear. He would most likely help defend Victor and Scott. The two men were near Dagmar, in the middle of the perimeter. Victor had not said a word since his Sergeant had spoken to him and calmly lay in the grass beside Corporal Scott. Dagmar had had Reynolds disarm Victor, but they allowed him to keep his sidearm, so long as it stayed in its holster until circumstances proved to be too difficult for Alpha team to handle. The sniper had complied and had seemed to have returned to his silent personality like before.

      Satisfied, Dagmar turned back around to cover the valley. Since the loss of Bravo team, the Sergeant's military thought process was split in two. On one side, he had an unknown creature that had killed half of Bravo team and critically wounded another. Dagmar remembered watching Victor's recorder, he saw the creature go down after Victor fired, but this didn't change the fact that Bravo team was down and that there could be more of those creatures.

      The other side of Dagmar's mind was focused on this weapon that had taken out the Pelican carrying advance forces and supplies for Moscow. This landing zone was not far off from where the Pelican had gone down. Alpha team had gone through the necessary reconnaissance steps; Corporal Lauren and Private Thomson had completed a full box clear out of this valley, searching for booby traps and/or hidden Covenant ambushes. Nothing could sneak up on them so easily. But this weapon clearly was able to wipe out targets from a large distance away. Dagmar bit his bottom lip. Although things were calm now, the situation was dire.

      "Possible contact, my twelve," Thomson whispered suddenly into his radio. Dagmar slowly turned his upper body around to see Thomson raise his rifle to his head and peer into the scope. The Sergeant glanced over at Lauren, put two fingers to his eyes and then pointed towards the valley. Lauren nodded and covered Dagmar's rear as he slowly lowered himself into the grass and 'leopard crawled' towards Thomson, picking his way carefully around sticks and leaves to prevent excessive noise.

      "Contact report," whispered Lauren over the radio. While they were within close proximity to each other, there was no need for formality over the radio.

      "Movement in the bushes Corporal," answered Thomson. Dagmar pulled himself up against a tree near Thomson and raised his head above the tall grass. His eyesight couldn't see anything out of place, so he raised his battle rifle and peered into the scope, zooming in and scanning left and right of where Thomson was looking. He still saw nothing and looked at the Private with a questioning look. Thomson shifted slightly and leaned in close to Dagmar

      "Two o'clock reference: intertwined tree trunks," he whispered, motioning to the distance. Dagmar moved his eyesight slightly right and searched the forest foreground and background until he found two trees that were twisted together as they rose towards the forest canopy.

      "Seen," confirmed Dagmar.

      "Three quarters left, patch of dark green shrubbery," Thomson continued, leaning away from his Sergeant. Dagmar looked into his scope, targeted the trees and slowly began moving to the left. A strong wind blew through the forest, shaking the bushes that were crossing through Dagmar's site. When the wind died out, several of the bushes were still moving when everything else had stopped. Dagmar nodded.

      "Confirm that possible contact, we have unknown movement in a patch of bushes two hundred metres to my two o'clock," Dagmar reported over the radio. He caught sight of Lauren and raised a fist at her. She nodded and passed the signal to hold position over to Reynolds.

      "Thomson, arm your sniper rifle. Let's make this a quick fire fight," explained the Sergeant. Thomson nodded and slowly lowered his battle rifle. The massive S2 AM sniper rifle was slung over Thomson's back. He dropped to the ground to prevent the vegetation around him from moving and took hold of the rifle, loading it carefully with a clip of four rounds and cocking it.

      Meanwhile, Dagmar kept his sight on the bushes. The movement had spread from the very middle, to the entire patch shifting and being pushed around by something advancing through them. The Sergeant fastened a silencer onto the end of his battle rifle and propped it against a low hanging branch. Thomson slowly crawled over to the right and sought cover among a cluster of tall grass. The Alpha team sniper wore a bush cap, covered in leaves and had his face covered in green, brown and black camouflage paint. He wouldn't be spotted easily and his accuracy would ensure that not a single enemy soldier would have a chance to look.

      As if on cue, the bushes parted finally and the glowing colours of yellow and blue Jackal personal shields greeted Sergeant Dagmar. He immediately sighted the lead Jackal, but watched a phalanx of Grunts appear behind them, with two Elites closely following. Dagmar's scope was dancing all over the place, so he forced himself to breath slowly and the reticule slowly centered itself on the lead Jackal's exposed body. They were relaxed, the shields hanging from their sides, weapons holstered. The Grunts behind the Jackals were chatting loudly in their odd language and Dagmar could make out the Elites' silently conversing with each other. Dagmar kept his battle rifle braced against the branch and moved his one hand to his radio.

      "Thomson, I want those Elites dead, out," whispered Dagmar, not expecting a response from the sniper. Dagmar put his hand back onto his rifle and got ready, focusing the optical sight on the Jackals. When Dagmar gave a command, his soldiers did everything possible to comply. Dagmar grinned as the sniper rifle near him fired.

      Two 14.5mm slugs pierced the morning air, traveling at light speed to their targets. The Elites had no time to react. The one on the right had just opened its mouth to speak when the first bullet entered its throat. The round easily punctured the body shield, rupturing through the flesh and exploding out the other side. A steady stream of blood poured out from the Elites' mouth as it stopped and fell backwards, its limbs twitching.

      The last Elite took the second round in the side of the head, as it turned to talk to its now dead partner. The combat helmet shattered and leaked blood and brain matter as the bullet lodged itself deep within the Elites' skull. The Field Commander spun around on the spot and then collapsed to the ground. All this happened so slowly to Dagmar's eyes, but as time sped up and the Jackals turned their unprotected backs to him, he snapped out of his trance and pressed down on the trigger.

      His battle rifle coughed, sending silenced three-round bursts of ammo at the ambushed Covenant patrol. Two Jackals immediately fell forwards as their heads were taken off by the accurate rounds of the rifle. Another Jackal was cut down as it spun around to search for the enemy. The remaining three ducked behind their shields, and Dagmar's rounds harmlessly bounced and ricocheted off of them, straight into the Grunts that scattered behind the Jackals.

      Sergeant Dagmar's ammo counter read zero and when he examined the bolt, he saw it was directly to the rear of the chamber. As Dagmar ejected the spent clip and grabbed a new one, Thomson fired a new clip of sniper rounds. Four rounds zoomed down range, smashed into the three confused Jackals and continued through into the remaining Grunts. As the bodies crumpled to the cold ground, three Grunts remained. Dagmar quickly disengaged the bolt catch and fired, hitting the first two Grunts in the head and the final one in the chest. Their methane tanks ruptured and sprayed the Grunts bodies as they fell, officially silenced by the Delta Pathfinders.

      Like always, the soldiers waited five minutes and listened carefully for any hint of counter-attack. Dagmar had his eyes glued to the surrounding vegetation and was just waiting for another Grunt or Jackal to stick their head out for him to pick off. He drummed his fingers lightly along the hand guards of his rifle and continued to survey the jungle.

      "Where you at mother fuckers, where you at?" he whispered softly. As if on cue, plasma fire erupted from behind the Sergeant.

      "Contact! Enemy at my twelve, my twelve!" Lauren screamed to her squad, dropping down to the prone position and firing off several rounds from her rifle. Dagmar turned and took a quick glance at the battle before dropping himself into the grass. A platoon size group of Covenant charged across the valley to the Pathfinder's position. Dagmar quickly ordered Thomson to suppress them, while he moved forward and took up position between Reynolds and Lauren.

      "Victor, cover our six!" the Sergeant roared as he flicked off his safety and fired off quick bursts at the fast approaching enemy. The Covenant lines were a mess; their field commanders had made no attempt to protect themselves or the Grunts with the shielded Jackals. They merely charged forward, firing their plasma weapons into the shrubbery. It gave Dagmar and his team easy targets, but they were vastly outnumbered.

      "Loading!" Reynolds announced beside Dagmar, tossing aside an empty magazine and quickly inspecting a new one before inserting it into the magazine feed port and cocking the weapon. Two Grunts flew backwards from a single sniper round from Thomson, and a Jackal was overwhelmed with bullets from Lauren and Dagmar. The Sergeant paused to reload, and as his ears stopped ringing, he could make out several Elites bark out orders to their troops. The Covenant slowly stopped their hasty assault and began to retreat into the vegetation, firing from behind cover. Dagmar cocked his weapon and peered into the battle sight. The valley was littered with Covenant bodies, but a vast majority of the platoon remained and was hiding behind boulders, trees, anything that could provide them with sufficient protection.

      "Sarge, we may have a problem. Reference your ten o'clock," Corporal Lauren said into the radio. Dagmar shifted his rifle to the left and squinted. In the foreground, several Grunts ignited plasma grenades and threw them into the air. Luckily, the grenades landed among the dead Covenant in the valley and erupted harmlessly. Dagmar however searched the background and could see something massive moving through the forest. Huge trees were being knocked down, which to Dagmar meant that the Covenant had vehicle support.

      "Thomson, hold fire and get over to me," the Sergeant immediately ordered into his radio. Seconds after he let go of his headset, Thomson crawled up beside Dagmar.

      "Sergeant," he acknowledged.

      "Give me the radio phone and get out your map, hurry, we need to call in a fire mission," said Dagmar anxiously, putting down his rifle, but keeping his eyes on the approaching Covenant vehicle. Thomson didn't waste any time; he zipped open his tactical vest and retrieved his map with one arm, while grabbing the radio phone with his other and giving it to his Sergeant. He then spread out the map on the grass for Dagmar. As Thomson resumed firing at the enemy, Sergeant Dagmar looked at the map and wrote down their grid location and the approximate location of the Covenant tank. He then put the radio phone to his ear and clicked the send button.

      "Zero, this is 2-1-Alpha, fire mission, over," Dagmar said.

      "2-1-Alpha, this is Zero, send request and we'll overlay to ground units, over," came the voice of one of the Black Hawk's tactical officers. The ground units were located all the way in Moscow, which had been outfitted with ten batteries of fast-firing artillery canons. Dagmar re-checked his figures and then spoke into the headset.

      "Fire mission, para-alpha: four-niner-four, seven-one-six. Bravo: 0875 mils, north-north east. Charlie: Covenant armoured support and infantry platoon. Delta: Eliminate for five minutes, repeat eliminate for five minutes, over," said Dagmar, slowly explaining the orders so the officer could write it down. He looked up to see several Covenant soldiers crawl aside as a Wraith mortar tank moved into the valley.

      "2-1-Alpha, say again Charlie, over," requested the Lieutenant. Dagmar swore and held the phone tight.

      "Zero, I say again charlie: Covenant armoured support unit and infantry platoon, over," he said carefully.

      "2-1-Alpha, confirmed fire mission request, relaying to November 3-2-Bravo, over," the Lieutenant responded immediately.

      "Zero, roger that, out." The Sergeant packed the phone back into Thomson's radio pack and then resumed firing his rifle at the Covenant attack force. The Wraith tank moved into the open, its large turret spiraling around, searching for a target. Twin plasma turrets mounted on its front turned and sprayed the area the Pathfinders were hiding in.

      "Get down!" Dagmar roared, flattening himself to the dirt. Thomson was putting the radio phone away over his back, when a plasma bolt exploded on his exposed shoulder. He grimaced, and immediately rolled over on his back, placing one hand over the burned wound and grabbing his field dressing from his vest with his injured arm. Reynolds' helmet flew off his head as another bolt slammed into it. The plasma began to melt the material and he quickly tossed it aside, keeping as low as possible. Any closer and they were all going to die. Dagmar could barely make out the firing turret pivot and aim at the tall grass he was hiding in. Where the hell was the artillery, why wasn't this area bathed in fire?

      The Wraith tank fired, but the plasma mortar flew over their heads and exploded behind their position, spraying plasma over Victor and the unconscious Corporal Scott. The ground shook like an earthquake and Dagmar's teeth rattled against each other as the mortar orb erupted. He reached into his vest and pulled out an M-69 fragmentation grenade.

      "Pathfinders, rapid rate of fire on centre of axis, go, go!" Dagmar ordered. Without hesitation, the three soldiers along side Dagmar raised their weapons back into the air and opened fire. As the plasma turrets turned to target them, Dagmar burst out from under his cover and rushed straight at the tank. The nearby Covenant attempted to get a shot, but Dagmar was too fast. In less than thirty seconds, he was climbing the enemy artillery vehicle, and pulling the pin on his grenade. With his left boot, he slammed the driver's hatch until one of the hinges broke and exposed a portion of the cockpit. Dagmar quickly inserted the grenade through the hole, turned and dove into the air. The grenade detonated, obliterating the Elite within and destroying vital controls. The plasma engine caught fire and exploded, blowing apart the armour that protected it.

      Dagmar tucked and rolled as he landed, his back partially scarred from the flame. He turned to see the plasma turrets on the Wraith swivel around and target him. Obviously, the grenade had not been as effective as the Sergeant had hoped. However, as he bolted back to his team, Dagmar heard the familiar whistle of artillery shells coming down through the air.

      "Arty, arty, arty!" screamed Corporal Lauren, covering her head. Dagmar once again dropped to the ground beside Thomson and lowered his head to the dirt.

      Colossal 155mm explosive shells slammed into the valley in front of the Pathfinders and detonated in massive fireballs that surrounded the area. Columns of fire rose into the sky, along with the screams of Covenant soldiers engulfed in the flame and utterly destroyed by the explosions. The heat was intense and Dagmar forced himself to push his head further into the ground.

      It was a scene out of hell, as if the ground had opened up and exposed the realm of fire and death. Shells continued to rain down from above, creating immense craters in the once smooth terrain and ripping apart the vegetation. One round penetrated the Wraith tank that had not moved and the resulting explosion split the vehicle in two, each half burning with plasma and ripped apart by additional shells. Unknown to the Pathfinders, there had been a second Wraith tank advancing to their position. However, as more shells came down, the artillery vehicle caught fire and its pilot immediately abandoned the cockpit, only to be ripped apart by the explosion of multiple shells around the tank.

      Five minutes passed and the whistling of incoming artillery shells ceased. Dagmar slowly raised his head and scanned his surroundings carefully. His ears were pounding with blood as adrenaline raced through his system, yet he kept his wits about him and brought up his weapon to his shoulder. The valley was lit up by fire and smoke billowed into the air. The once green forest was completely annihilated, becoming a barren and burning black wasteland. Siberia was the realm of ice and snow, but this was not present here. The Pathfinders were bathed in heat and even the trees had been wiped clean from the surface. There wasn't a single body lying around of the Covenant platoon that had been attacking them.

      Dagmar's first thoughts were that the rising black smog would be an excellent smoke signal for nearby Covenant troops. The counter on his battle rifle blinked twenty rounds, with one clip remaining in his vest. There was no way they could fend off another assault. His team gathered near him, keeping their weapons up and peering through the optical sights.

      "Cas rep!" Dagmar ordered. The team quickly examined their weapons kit, checking to see how many magazines and grenades they went through during the battle. Thomson grimaced as he finished taping up the wound he received on his shoulder and then spoke first.

      "Six plus four clips, one grenade, minor shoulder wound."

      "Eight clips, two grenades, all okay," Reynolds said next.

      "Eight clips, one grenade, all okay," finished Lauren. In total, Dagmar estimated that they had a total of four battle rifle magazines left and maybe half a sniper rifle clip. He sighed and wiped sweat from his brow. The pilot's promise of five minutes seemed like hours ago and as they stood in that burning valley, the hours kept getting larger.

      The distant sound of jet engines caught the Sergeant's attention and he looked up from the ground. Lauren and the others also looked to the sky, searching for the source of the sudden commotion. Dagmar stood, squinted through the burning trees and saw a black shape moving towards them.

      "Pelican inbound, let's get ready," Dagmar announced happily. Lauren and Reynolds grabbed smoke grenades from their tactical vests and pulled the pins, tossing them into the destroyed valley. As white smoke billowed from the two canisters, Thomson turned to where they had left Victor and Scott, but he froze.

      "Sergeant!" Thomson yelled. Dagmar turned away from the Pelican that was hovering above them and gasped. Victor lay twenty feet away, unconscious in the jungle vegetation. Corporal Scott however was awake and standing, looking at his team mates with an emotionless gaze.

      "Corporal Scott?" Lauren asked. He did not answer. Dagmar looked over Scott and could see that he had changed. His skin color had gone from a pale white to a dark grey. Along his arms, neck and the sides of his face were veins that were colored black and purple, as if he was on some sort of drug. The pupils of his eyes were completely black and during the time of his unconsciousness, he seemed to have grown an additional two feet. His muscles were even bigger than Reynolds. Something had happened to him, he did not look at all human. Thomson seemed to feel this too and he slowly reached for his sidearm.

      "No, Thomson!" yelled Dagmar, reaching out to the Private. The being that had been Scott saw this hostile movement and reacted. With incredible speed, it lunged forward and slammed its fist into Thomson's chest. The soldier flew ten feet backwards and skidded along the charred ground of the valley.

      Scott spun around and slammed his boot into the side of Sergeant Dagmar's face. The world spun as Dagmar flipped over backwards and landed on the ground, blood trickling from a gash on his head. Lauren and Reynolds raised their weapons and fired. Scott however disappeared from view momentarily, and then reappeared behind the two soldiers, his movements blurred by his incredible speed. He grabbed Lauren by the head and tossed her effortlessly into the wreckage of the destroyed Wraith tank.

      Scott went to grab Reynolds, but the big man reacted quickly by grabbing onto Scott's wrist. Scott bawled his other fist, but Reynolds grabbed that arm also. The two grappled with one another, trying to overpower each other. Scott suddenly broke free of Reynolds' grasp and lashed out quickly with two punches that struck Reynolds in the chest. He stumbled backwards, but was able to recover quickly and block two more punches with one arm; bringing the other around and slamming it into Scott's face. Reynolds suddenly screamed in pain as the knuckles on his hand broke. Scott's emotionless face suddenly grinned and he roundhouse kicked Reynolds backwards with so much force that the tree he slammed into cracked near the bottom and nearly fell over.

      Sergeant Dagmar meanwhile slowly sat up, shaking off the nausea that passed through his body. He saw that his team was down and turned to see Scott standing in the middle of the valley, looking up at the Pelican that was still attempting to land.

      Suddenly, white light appeared in Scott's left hand and grew to become a ball of pulsating energy the size of a basketball. Without warning, the radio equipment Dagmar still carried exploded with static and then went completely dead. The Pelican pilot's confused voice was cut off sharply by a hiss of interference. The Sergeant however paid no attention to this and stared at Scott with utter confusion. This was the source of the electromagnetic pulse that had taken down the Pelican? But how? Scott wasn't even here in the forest when that had happened.

      Dagmar's mind searched for answers. It was clearly electromagnetic energy coming from Scott since Dagmar's heads up display was flashing warning symbols and all of his radio gear had become non-serviceable. There couldn't be another cause or source, they had searched the forest thoroughly and found nothing else except for spooked Covenant.

      The eyes of Sergeant Dagmar suddenly widened as the realization hit him. There was something else besides Covenant soldiers: The creature that had ambushed the Jackal patrol and Dagmar's men. The Sergeant's memory played flashbacks in his head of the video recording of this thing attacking Murray and Oliver, and then tossing a sword at Scott. What had that sword been? It obviously didn't kill Corporal Scott, but it turned him into something that wasn't human.

      And this something suddenly raised the ball of energy in Scott's hand and shot it at the Pelican that was still trying to land safely in the valley. The EMP enveloped the Pelican like a shield, but as Dagmar looked on, he saw the engines explode, the cockpit collapse, and fire break out along the hull. The shield then collapsed with a violent shockwave that blasted Dagmar and his squad backwards, leaving plenty of room for the Pelican to come crashing to the ground.

      With no pilot and no engines, the dropship simply fell straight down and landed heavily on the destroyed ground. The twin wings exploded and the rear tail fin cracked in half. Small explosions dotted the hull as interior systems exploded and fires roared around the wreckage. While this was happening, Corporal Scott stood silently nearby, looking over the crash site. He suddenly smirked and then turned around, walking away into the forest. He took five steps, and then disappeared completely.