Posted By: Anonymous Coward<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 21 May 2001, 8:46 pm
A disaster. An utter, fucking disaster. No means of escape, no chance of surrender, nothing. This wasn't a war - this was an extermination. The calm, synchronised actions of a higher species slowly, methodically eradicating an unpleasant nuisance.
Private Ian Johnston leant back. It was dark - as a precaution against whatever surveillance equipment these corridors might be fitted with, the improvised camp was perpetually shrouded in silent blackness. Ian wondered what kind of civilisation could build the Halo, yet be unable to see in the dark - he suspected that the policy was yet another suggestion by that artificial bitch Cortana, always doing her bit for the morale of the species that created her, trapping the animals in some burrow.
The task he'd been allocated was maintaining the slowly decreasing fleet of vehicles belonging to his squad. Electric jeeps, armoured boats, even the few remaining dropships. Depressingly frequently, rescue missions were conducted by the squad - not for human lives, but for the infinitely more valuable machinery left after yet another failed attack on the Covenant. Some might have envied his job, far from actual combat, but the reality was different. Cleaning bone fragments out of gearboxes got to you after time.
The radio chirped, stirring him from his thoughts. Yet another warthog, plucked from the burning carcass of a wrecked dropship. He got up, and switched on the small light affixed to the dull, smooth metal of the wall. He collected a few tools, put on his jacket, and walked towards the door, a slight limp betraying an improperly healed broken leg. The light switched itself off, and the silence filled the room once more.
The warthog was only superficially damaged - while its windscreen was smashed, its tyres and seats burned by the heat of the destroyed dropship, its internals were still close to operational. It looked like the catch on the roll-cage had been wrenched off, presumably in the crash, keeping the vehicle clear of the inferno of the dropship's burning fuel tanks. The prognosis for the marines inside the dropship would not have been so good.
Ian stood up, stretching his arms. A long, curved room with a high ceiling had become the centre of the encampent. Its original purpose was unclear, but the small corridors branching off the interior of the curve had proved useful access to other, smaller rooms. The curved room had proved itself more than adequate as an impromptu supply and repair depot, the battered crates salvaged from the Pillar of Autumn's crashed modules contrasting against the smooth, ancient metal of the Halo itself.
"Oh, shit! Ambush, ambush, ambush!"
The voice shouted from further down the room, before being drowned out in a barrage of gunfire, both ballistic and plasma-based. Ian ducked behind the warthog he had been working on, as Covenant elite burst in through the doors along the inside of the curve. Somehow, they had got past the soldiers guarding the entrance, and were now, with near-surgical precision, killing every last human. The Covenant didn't take prisoners, they preferred to extract intelligence from the dead humans' machines. Why treat vermin with respect?
A grenade fell beside Ian. Not a Covenant plasma device, but a marine's fragmentation grenade. Panicking, he pushed it away - but too late. It was only a metre or so away when it exploded, the force of the explosion removing his right arm, and flinging him backwards against the wall, bleeding profusely. The warthog was pushed on its side, blocking him from the rest of the room, where the Covenant had almost completed their brief but destructive mission.
His vision was fading, his blood leaching through his torn clothing. The shattered remnants of his arm had stopped hurting, his entire body was becoming numb. Things had become quiet now - he could hear human voices approaching.
"Not too bad. Things are still pretty hairy down here, so we'll be up as soon as we can."
The marines from the rescue party emerged into the sunlight, dragging their subject behind them out of the long, ornately decorated metal corridor that plunged deep into the tree-covered hillside. A trail of blood followed them, testament to the carnage that had occurred within.
"Dropship inbound, we'd better prepare for it. Status?"
"Looked like a slaughterhouse down there - I'm glad we're out. We didn't see any survivors, so we got out as quickly as possible."
Haggard-looking, the marine propped his rifle against the blood-spattered warthog chassis, and looked upwards into the immense blue sky, bisected by the terrifying, devastating size of the Halo, waiting for their transport to arrive.