Those Who Fought: Capter 1
Posted By: Wandering Attention<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 5 June 2006, 1:59 am
Those Who Fought: Chapter 1
Glory and Survival
Note: This story's timeline coincides roughly with that of Halo 2
Wings was lost somewhere in the dark ether of a nightmare, horrific images flitting past her mind's eye. Her comrades, fighting for their lives
Stepping over the bodies of Covenant soldiers
and other, less tangible things that fretted at the edges of her mind. At length, they settled on an alien, some eight feet tall and holding a bright energy blade. In the memory, Wings fumbled to reload her weapon as it stepped forward, laughing, and swung for her head. She jerked back at the last second, the sword's double tips raking across her throat just beneath the chin.
Remembered pain brought her halfway back to consciousness. She still saw the Elite standing above her, about to finish her off, when an explosion behind it drew its attention. It left at a run, leaving her to bleed. Wings recalled only fragments of what came after: her fellow marines finding her curled up on the deck, hand clasped to her ruined throat; being carried back behind friendly lines; Honorable Discharge papers made out for Corporal Mahar, Alexei S.
"Wings. Wings . Get up, dammit, you're doing it again."
Consciousness asserted itself fully this time, and she blinked blearily up at her sister. Andrea Mahar (better known as Hotshot to those who knew her) was her twin's mirror image, minus the scars gleaned from fighting on the front lines. "So little time to fight the Covies you have to do it in your sleep?"
Wings signed something uncomplimentary and sat up. In that fateful attack so recently revisited, her vocal cords had been damaged beyond the help of reconstructive surgery. She had never acquired a voice synthesizer, repelled by the sheer falseness of their sound, and had instead taught herself sign language. What time is it? she asked.
"Half past nine, since you asked so nicely. Looking forward to tonight's festivities?"
Wings grinned wolfishly. Festivities was a good word for what was planned.
Wings assembled her squad in the main cavern, glancing about as the other groups formed up. The inhabitants of the ancient cave system were a mixed bag; civilians mostly, but with many former military folk like Wings and a number of self-trained fighters. They had all been driven underground by the invasion of the Covenant fleet, but were still fighting tooth and nail to keep the aliens from taking Earth. Raids like tonight's kept the Covies' forces stretched thin locally, at least, since a relatively small force had been sent to neutralize the city the guerilla fighters had abandoned.
With all three squads of five together, they moved out into the dim moonlight. Wings' team was armed with explosive charges, some stolen from abandoned arms caches, some made by closet pyros like Boomer, their resident bomb expert. After her squad had silently neutralized the sentries, the charges would be placed around the outpost erected by Covenant soldiers not too far outside the city. Wings considered it a compliment that this detachment of troops was formed specifically to deal with her fellow fighters. The second squad, led by a former thief nicknamed Pinch, was to sneak in and steal everything that wasn't nailed down. The third group was to hang back and provide cover for the first two. It consisted only of snipers, led by Hotshot.
In this outfit, everyone who earned a 'name-sign' from Wings was worth knowing.
It went on without a hitch at first, Wings' and Pinch's squads sneaking through the tall grass, rocks, and erosion gullies and into the camp in absolute silence. Once the well-laden thieves were clear, the explosives were detonated. The raiders hightailed it back to the caverns, while the other two teams hung around to deal with whatever alien SOBs had survived the blast.
Das 'Tiromee saw the flash and ordered his patrol to return to camp with all speed. Damn the human vermin! He had been expecting anything except a direct strike at his camp. The audacity of the creatures, to outsmart him like this
but that was why he had such an out-of-the-way detail to begin with.
'Tiromee had been promoted to the rank of Commander at a fairly young age due to his potential as a leader. It seemed his superiors had given his gleaming white armor too soon, however, as inexperience outweighed potential and he began to make mistakes. They had built up to the point that he was at risk of losing his lofty station. The only way to salvage his honor was to complete this disgracefully unimportant errand of wiping out a pocket of humans without any major screwups.
Predictably, he had made one in not defending his camp well enough.
'Tiromee knew he had one chance left: kill or capture the humans who had done this, now, before they escaped and made him a laughingstock.
He ordered half of the patrol to circle around the remains of the outpost and ambush any remaining humans. He revised the orders a moment later to capture instead of kill, if possible, seeing a partially hidden trail. It was fresh, and had been left by a number of the creatures, presumably leading back to their warren. He knew it would disappear almost as soon as he began to follow it, but it meant that there were more of them in hiding. So he needed at least one live human to tell him the way back.
Wings didn't know what hit her. She had been chipping away at a group of Jackals with a hunting rifle when something smashed against the back of her head. Once the stars stopped playing across her vision and her sense of balance returned, she realized an Elite had snuck up on her, whacked her over the head, and was now half-dragging her to the center of the camp. Five others waited there, all held captive by the aliens. Scanning their faces, she saw the rest of her squad and one of Hotshot's snipers.
A white-armored Elite swaggered up, looking his prisoners over. He seemed to be enjoying himself hugely, taking his time as he sized the captives up. He paused as his gaze swept over Wings.
She only recognized a few words in their language, gleaned from overhearing commands in the field. Thus she didn't realize what he had said until the other five humans had been executed on the spot. Alarmed and angry, Wings tried to break free of her captor's grip. She succeeded only in making him grasp her arms hard enough to bruise.
'Tiromee grinned to himself. He had seen this human before, leading others into battle. What good fortune, to find it waiting so patiently for capture
Perhaps his luck had finally changed for the better, and he could finish this menial task at last.
"Return to the city outskirts," he ordered, "'Rakurolee's outpost will do. Confine the human to a cell so it can be dealt with later."
'Tiromee had almost finished briefing the red-armored Zolos 'Rakurolee on the situation when a Minor Elite approached, waiting politely to be recognized. 'Tiromee beckoned him forward once he was done speaking with the Major.
"It was carrying this, Excellency. I felt it should be brought to your attention."
The young commander didn't really care what his subordinate had felt, but his annoyance was banished by surprise when he accepted the tiny object. Its core seemed to be made of stone, but upon closer examination it was etched with delicate symbols. Thin spires of violet crystal jutted from it at regular intervals between them. Wordlessly, he handed it to 'Rakurolee. His face hardened when he recognized its origin. "They defile the holy relics with their very presence. But to claim them as their own
"If the foul thing will not tell us the location of its base, we can still force the location of the relics from it," 'Tiromee thought aloud. That will also be a mark in my favor. I may remain a commander yet, he added silently.
The two Elites entered the makeshift cell, ducking under the doorframe. It was a small price to pay for using pre-made structures. The human lay on the floor, seemingly dead to the world. It had been knocked unconscious, making it easier to bring in but, obviously, more difficult to interrogate.
"How hard did you hit it?" 'Rakurolee asked.
'Tiromee shrugged his mandibles. "Not very."
"They're fragile, this species. One hard blow to the head can damage them permanently, if not kill them. I don't know how much this one will be able to tell us." The Major stooped to have a closer look. He had interrogated dozens of humans in the past and had learned something of their physiology in the process. "It's fit enough, I suppose," he said after a moment. "Its skull isn't cracked, no other broken bones
" 'Rakurolee made a face. "Female. And you said it not only fights, but leads others? Barbaric." 'Tiromee rolled his eyes slightly. 'Rakurolee was a good soldier, but tended towards meaningless monologues. "Ah, but look at this." 'Tiromee leaned forward as the Major pulled the human's head back by its scalp. A puckered scar ran across its throat. "That passes right over its vocal cords. I believe it may be mute."
'Tiromee's luck hadn't changed after all. Of the six captives, he had picked the only one unable to communicate.
Yet he couldn't let that stop him.