Posted By: Ad Infinitum<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 23 February 2005, 6:44 PM
"What in the Christ is going on, Private!?" screamed Sergeant Collins, Hell was almost being raised to the surface. Collins clutched his MA5B rifle as though it were his heart he held in his hands, and it was the only thing between him and death.
The sky was being lit up, a bright fiery red as the ground erupted into flames, and the air resonated with thunderous explosions, causing the very earth beneath Collins' feet to shake in fear. He looked up towards the fireball, and saw a huge blue ball of fiery gas, plasma, plummet headlong into the heart of the blaze.
"It's them, Sir." replied Private Llewellyn, his eyes written with fear. He'd fought this enemy before. Collins was new to the field, only just out of field NCO training. "They've arrived."
'They' were the single greatest threat mankind had ever witnessed. A league of alien worlds known as The Covenant. Fearsome warriors with technology far in advance of Earth's, they struck like lightning, whittling Earth's fledgling interstellar empire down to nothing. All that survived was Earth. Earth, and this small moon that the humans had dubbed Tachyon IV.
Tachyon IV was a top-secret research base, where humanity had tried to reverse-engineer Covenant plasma weapons into something that the average human could use without too much trouble. The results had been hit-and-miss. So far they'd figured out a way to recharge a plasma battery, however converting the weapon into a standard-issue UNSC firearm was still a long way away. Too long.
"Well," Collins answered, pushing his angular helmet back up. It hadn't fit him since the day he got it. He'd hoped it would 'wear in', but it hadn't. And now with the air heating up around him, it wasn't going to get any more snug a fit. "how in God's name did they find this place!? It's not even on our star charts-"
"Wrong." came a dark, synthetic voice from the trees behind him, as a large armoured hand came and plonked itself on his shoulder-pad. "The Covies got it from the computer on Reach."
Collins swallowed hard, forcing the lump in his throat to retreat to the safety of his larynx, and forced himself to turn around and see what it was that held his shoulder.
What he saw was a faceless tower of black. Standing a clear seven inches taller than him and looking more alien than human, it looked down upon his form, now crumpling into itself in fear.
It was actually a SPARTAN, a cyborg human designed for one thing. War. Normally their armour had green ceramic plating, however this one was pure black, save for his visor. The armour looked chunky, however a SPARTAN could move it just by thought. In addition, SPARTANS were geniuses with IQs of over 200, they could hear a pin drop in a sandstorm and see as well in near-total darkness as in broad daylight.
Llewellyn looked on in amazement. "Whoa...a SPARTAN...this must be serious shit we're in."
The black-clad SPARTAN looked over to him, and removed his hand from the Sergeant's shoulder.
"Tachyon will fall." the SPARTAN's semi-electronic voice replied, almost without emotion.
But even Collins, who was staggered by the amazing turn of events, could detect that underneath it all, all the enhancements and the armour, this guy was human. "I came to collect your troop and head over to North Point for evac. How many are you?"
"Twenty." Collins replied, finally catching his breath.
"Weapons and vehicles?" SPARTANs were not known for wasting time with banter.
"We all have rifles and plenty of ammo," the Sergeant replied. "We have five Warthogs with Em-Gees, and two with Gauss Cannons."
GCs were the latest and greatest weapons ever to befriend the Marines. They'd long been used in space by the UNSC fleet, but those immense weapons went by the moniker of Magnetic Accelerator Cannons (MACs). Whatever the name, the principle was the same. Blast massive metal slugs out of the barrel at near-light speed using magnetic power. The Gauss Cannon was a much smaller entity of this type of weapon, now able to be mounted on a Warthog and capable of firing 60 rounds a minute. However, the barrel would overheat at that sort of sustained fire. All the same, any 'Covie'who was hit would face certain death. A Covenant Wraith tank would end up having a hole punched from one side to the other if the shot was good enough.
Which was the point. Humans had a chance in the ground-war. It was up in space where the war was lost and won.
The three of them returned to the squad.
"So, uh..." Collins asked, "what do we call you?"
"I'm a CPO," the SPARTAN replied, "so I guess you call me 'Sir". The SPARTAN walked over to the group of Warthogs, which looked the same save for the armament. All the Marines looked as scared as Collins did. They didn't know what the hell was going on. All they knew was that they didn't want to die here. It was a pity, the SPARTAN reflected to himself, all these kids looked barely old enough to be wearing that uniform...many of them might never see their home again. For a few, Tachyon might just be their home.
His thoughts were interrupted by plasma blasts spattering themselves into the trees around them, scorching clean through the bark and igniting the rest of the trunk.
"Contact!" screamed Collins as he span around to see a huge swarm of Grunts scrabbling towards them through the trees, plasma pistols flaring evilly.
The little buggers seemed endless. They were the fodder of the Covenant league, standing five feet tall and flooding enemy positions, overwhelming with numbers rather than expertise, taking bullets for the bigger, higher-caste Elites.
The Marines all turned their guns towards the oncoming horde. For the majority this was their MA5B assault rifles, armed with 7.62mm armour piercing bullets. The air was punctuated by a constant rattle of gunfire. Above the 7.62mm baseline rose the cacophony of 12.7mm chaingun fire from the Warthogs. If the assault rifles were a rattle, this was rapid-fire thunder.
And so thousands of Grunts charged at the twenty-one soldiers, and so thousands of grunts fell as they were met by a wall of lead.
The SPARTAN knew better than to let this go on. It would be endless, and it would be a slaughter if Elites, or worse, Hunters, came through the forest.
"Alright!" he called, "Heads up, people, we're moving out." He grabbed the driver of one of the Gauss Warthogs by his uniform and tossed him from the driver's seat.
"What the hell!?" the Marine asked, dazed and shocked by the act. By the time he'd finished his sentence the SPARTAN was already in the seat and revving up the engine. Also, the squad was saddling up in their own warthogs. A driver, a man on the gun, and one in the passenger seat with his assault rifle ready to shoot out of the side.
And so the seven Warthogs made the remainder of the Covenant task force eat dust. That firefight had cost the Marines only two of their number. One chaingun 'Hog was without a gunner, and the SPARTAN's 'Hog was without a guy riding shotgun.
The convoy set off at high speed, rolling over the hillocks and mounds with ease, occasionally jumping the odd mound and landing with a whoop of excitement from the rear gunner. Elites and Grunts tore through the undergrowth to either side and had a pop at the Warthogs with their plasma weapons, fireballs arcing through the air over the heads of the Marines, who ducked ever so slightly that an onlooker might not have noticed. All knew the power of a plasma bolt if it hit.
As a result, they were all more than hasty to hose the oncomers down with bullets.
The SPARTAN frowned behind his visor. "Save your ammo," he said flatly over the headset radios, broadcasting so all the Marines could hear. "We might be needing it."
"Expecting more trouble, Sir!?" one shouted over the sound of his 'Hog's chaingun.
"Soldier," the SPARTAN replied, "I'm always expecting trouble."
He gunned the throttle as an Elite tried to block his path. It soon realised the error of this move, pressed home by six tons of Warthog, SPARTAN and Marine. Tire-tracks werevisible upon the Elite's peculiar suit of armour. Not that anyone had time to observe them, as a further three Warthogs followed the lead car's tracks, and soon the Elite was righteously crushed, and semi-buried in the soil.
The trailing 'Hog cut a forty-five degree arc with its gun, and a whole slew of Grunts who were emerging from the bushes were perforated by the rounds. However, another Grunt got his revenge on the gunner. It charged its plasma pistol up to full, so that the tiny gun was glowing a bright and vibrant emerald, and that its stubby hand was being scalded. The blast was unleashed, hitting the soldier squarely on his shoulder. He screamed in total agony as his arm and upper right-torso were completely seared from his body.
Luckily for him, death was quick. He slumped and fell from the back of the Warthog and was quickly set upon by two of the birdlike Jackals. They pointed their own plasma pistols to the corpse and began to obliterate it from existence.
"God damn it," the Marine who was driving the Warthog that the gunner had been manning, "why the hell did I sign up for this outfit?"
He wasn't the only one thinking that, either.
After a few moments of peace, with no Covenant around, the Marines relaxed a little, and took a moment to glance back over to where they'd been looking before the SPARTAN had arrived. It was completely in flames, a strange orange haze dominated the eastern skyline, and pillars of fire rose high into the sky. The SPARTAN knew that if they were to go there, the ground would turn from soil and grasses to scorched and barren wasteland, and then to glass, such was the heat of the Covenant plasma. They'd 'glassed' just about every human planet they'd encountered, particularly those where the humans had won in ground-wars. It seemed tactically absurd to the SPARTAN. Why not just glass the planet first? Why bother trying to conquer it? Yet...it seemed they didn't want to glass this planet totally. Just enough to stop research. Which was why they'd only set one cruiser to the task, the True Redemption. They didn't have to worry about defences. Had the UNSC stationed a large force there, the Covenant would have known it was there and gone for it sooner. But...they were here. Tachyon didn't stay hidden for long once they hacked Reach's databases and recovered the data.
"That was HQ...wasn't it, Sir?" the Gauss gunner said to his SPARTAN driver.
The SPARTAN didn't respond straight away, instead giving a slow and deliberate nod. "They wanted to stop us from using their tech."
The SPARTAN didn't really want to think about the waste of human life, nor the massive dent on morale. Not that it was very high to begin with.
"Why don't they just glass Earth and get it over with?" the soldier sighed, instantly cursing his tongue.
"We'll be hearing less of that, soldier." came Collins' voice over the COM channel, "It ain't over until the fat lady sings, and nobody's warbling!"
It struck the SPARTAN as odd, the guy who'd been so afraid of him to begin with was now instilling some encouragement to his men. It was a good sign.
They turned a bend in the dirt path, vigilantly keeping their eyes to the shrubbery, knowing just how shifty the Covenant were. For all their righteousness, they weren't averse to using sneak tactics.
Inaudible to the Marines due to the engine noises, the SPARTAN made out the faint whistling noises of overhead Banshee fliers. These Covenant strike craft were slow, due to their stubby and poor aerodynamics, but they were effective strike craft, sporting dual plasma cannons and a fuel-rod gun. Basically the Covenant equivalent of a mortar, the Fuel Rod gun lobbed a massive plasma bomb, which exploded and coated the area in a horrendously hot green plasma.
"Heads up, Marines." the SPARTAN said, flatly. He didn't need to tell them twice.
Seventeen minds simultaneously wondered how the hell he'd heard the whine over the engine noise, however the SPARTAN had the unnatural ability to blank out the engines and listen for everything else over them.
To his own personal dismay, he hadn't been fast enough in hearing them.
Twelve of the fliers swooped down in a tight V formation. The lead craft opened fire, strafing the rearmost Warthogs, the plasma fire melting and shearing away parts of the body work.
"HOLY SHIT!" came a scream from the driver of the trailing 'Hog who, without a rear gunner, felt particularly vulnerable. Not that it mattered, for a bolt of the plasma obliterated the rear gun without much trouble. His passenger turned himself to face behind the craft and opened fire with his MA5B, the light rounds pinging and chiming off the force shield that covered the Banshee. The shields flashed white around where the bullet would otherwise have hit, but soon the 'shield flare' dissipated and the view of the Banshee was restored to normal.
"What the..? I didn't know Banshees had shields!" the rifleman said to his driver, and to everyone else over the open COM channel. It was a clear warning.
The two rearmost Banshees throttled forwards, and cleansed that Warthog from existence with the combined power of their Fuel-Rod cannons, clearly smiting them in retalitation for spoiling the surprise. The rest of the 'Hogs took the hint, and picked up speed. A few of the chainguns cut the sky in two with arcs of fire, but the bullets either missed the Banshees or the shots were simply deflected by the shields.
"Fuck it," came the call of the SPARTAN's gunner, who lined up the sights of his awesome weapon on the lead Banshee.
The SPARTAN looked over his shoulder at the Marine for a brief moment. "You can't make that shot." he said.
"Don't worry. I might not be a SPARTAN but I know how to shoot."
"You can not make that shot!" he repeated, absolutely certain that he was right. The odds against him hitting the Banshee with so much rugged terrain...the bumps would surely throw his aim and possibly even end with him railing some of his own men.
But the SPARTAN was wrong.
With a blinding flash and a distorted whistling sound, the Gauss Cannon sprang into life.
A shockwave bent the air to both sides of the barrel as the round was forced from it. A spiral trail coursed its way through the air at an impossible speed, fading gradually from barrel to impact zone.
The Banshee literally disintegrated from the impact. The shield-flare dissipated along with the burning wreckage.
"Hah!" the Marine cried, "You like that!?"
But this wasn't time for celebrations yet. The remaining six Warthog crews, given a renewed vitality by the destruction of the lead Banshee, soon pointed every possible gun to the sky, one or two of the passengers even taking an MA5B in each hand to fight with.
The recoil was phenomenal but one particular soldier, a Corporal Carter according to the SPARTAN's HUD, was particularly adept at it. Clearly the guy was strong as an ox.
The bullets pinged off the shields, but the sheer volume of them caused the pilots to worry. The shields were definitely depleting. And fast.
A second spiral carved the air up, and stripped a second Banshee from the formation, which broke up, and the remaining ten scattered throughout the sky. Smart move, because to keep a tight formation with a crackshot Gauss gunner was a death sentence.
From then on, the Banshees flew erratic patterns in their pursuit of the Warthogs, dancing about the sky in a crazy waltz.
Even the better gunners were having difficulty. However, the Banshees were having a party, strafing one or two of the Warthogs with quite a bit of success. One of them melted the front half of the vehicle, leaving the gunner unaware until it rolled to a stop. He turned, and noticed both the scorched and blackened remains of what was left of his comrades, and also a huge lump of semi-molten metal where there had once been seating for the driver and passenger.
'Ohh...sh-' was the last thought that occurred to him before he too suffered the fate of his 'Hog crew.
The other Warthog targets only took a couple of indirect hits, which warped and scorched off chunks of the otherwise stylish bodywork. The crew unharmed, their fight went on.
Although the Warthogs were in a broken group and not a rigid parade, the fact they had little room to manoeuvre made them easier targets. Of course, the Banshees had the entire sky to themselves. The roadway boxed the 'Hogs in, and although there was enough room for three 'Hogs to run parallel, they could really have done with some open ground to make use of, and spread out in all directions.
"How far until we get some open ground!?" the SPARTAN called, hoping that the Marines weren't too engrossed in their battle to answer.
"About another...four miles as the crow flies, Sir!" one called back.
Four miles, at their current speed, with bendy roads, that meant about four minutes. Damn
The SPARTAN had the sense to close the COM channel momentarily while he cursed to himself. He opened it again afterwards, and said, "Concentrate on one flier at a time. Take them down one by one, like they're doing to us. Drivers, weave as much as the road allows. Don't give 'em easy targets."
A few calls in the affirmative came over the channel.
The Gauss gunners would suffer as a result, but the priority was to survive, not notch up kills. Although that would of course be good, too.
A gunner got his leg scorched by a lance of plasma that hit the side-bodywork of the 'Hog he was manning. He uttered a few choice swear words at the pain. He would live, but the pain was still excruciating as residual breakaway plasma continued to bore into the wound.
However, he didn't let that stop him gunning for all he was worth. His chaingun continued to spit rounds out at an incredible rate. As one of the Banshees swooped low, in its sadistic effort to melt the entire crew with a single plasma bolt, he and his passenger compatriot pummelled their shots into the underbelly. The shields flickered, dissipated and soon the metal hull that composed the craft was being ripped to shreds...as was the pilot. The craft soon veered off course, careening straight into another nearby Banshee hapless enough to get in the way. The two craft plummetted to the ground, and exploded in a shower of sparks and smoke. That left eight, to five 'Hogs, three with MG's (one unmanned), two with Gauss Cannons. In total, thirteen UNSC soldiers remained.
A daring Marine clambered over to his 'Hog's unmanned gun and soon set the barrels spinning. His MA5B rested in the passenger seat, just in case.
The SPARTAN's Gauss gunner and his counterpart in the other Gauss 'Hog decided it was about time they got some more easy kills. They fired as best they could at the unpredictable Banshees, their slugs flashing high into the sky. The combined efforts of the Gauss Cannons and the Chainguns brought down another Banshee within a few moments. The bends and bumps and weaving made it hard for the Gauss gunners, but even so they kept the fire up, dilligently hoping that maybe they'd get a kill, or force the Banshees to flee.
It didn't work. The remaining Banshees began to dump their heavy ordnance upon the remaining cars. Most of it missed, splashing against the ground and spurting emerald fire. Some of the residual washed against the bodywork of the Warthog, or against the plate armour or bare flesh of the Marines in it. No matter what it hit, the result was the same.
It burned through like some terrible acid, and made a painful hiss to match. The Marines grunted in pain above the fizzing sound, but knew that to stop firing and pay attention to it would mean certain death.
A plasma bolt from one of the Banshees slashed into the SPARTAN's shields, which flared and dispersed. In his helmet he heard the rhythmic warning beep. The bodywork around him litterally vaporised, leaving his seat as a cavern. However his body had served to keep the control column intact and he continued to drive.
One more hit like that, and he was a goner. At least until his shield recharged.
Luckily, they hit the open ground they so desperately needed.
"Fan out." Collins ordered. He didn't need to, for they were already putting a bit of distance between themselves and the fliers. They didn't stop firing, though. Hurling massive globs of plasma down upon the fleeing vehicles seemed to be a joy for them.
Then came another snag. As if they didn't have enough. There was a bridge up ahead, leading towards the extraction point, and it was filled with Covenant. Two of whom were Hunters. Clad in near impervious armour, they stood a full twelve feet tall, and carried a massive pointed shield on one arm, which they loved to bring down upon unsuspecting Marines. On their other arm was a fuel rod cannon, slightly less powerful than the one straddled on the Banshee. They were the real heavies in the Covie army. Three Elites spotted the oncomers and moved in to join battle, but they were brushed aside by the Hunters.
They just wanted the kill, and no one, not even a Covie would stand in the way.
One of the Hunters raised his cannon, and loosed a fuel rod canister at the SPARTAN's Warthog. He swerved the vehicle hard, and the gunner was thrown forward into his gun as he turned to face the new threat. The wind was knocked clean out of his lungs and he struggled to remain upright. The Hunter roared as the SPARTAN got out of the now-shredded Warthog. Plasma had turned the front-left side of the car into a semi-molten mush from the tires up to the windshield.
The SPARTAN's shields kept it out, and luckily the Marine's injuries were nothing more severe than a few minor spots of burning and his breathlessness. The SPARTAN took a frag grenade from his pack and tossed it in the Hunter's direction. Sadly, the Hunter smacked it away with its shield, where it exploded harmlessly in mid-air.
The Hunter roared in victory, and charged towards the car. The remaining vehicles were set upon by the other Hunter and the eight Banshees still circling like vultures over their heads.
The SPARTAN snatched the gunner by the scruff of his neck and dragged him from the vehicle as the first Hunter slammed into it broadside, and sent it cartwheeling off to the side with a massive metallic smash, almost over the SPARTAN's head. The vehicle clattered down onto its roof as it impacted, snapping the gun from its housing and utterly collapsing the semi-roof canopy. Yet still momentum kept the vehicle rolling. The gun lay immobile on the ground, and the rest of the Warthog ended up five feet away, once again belly-up. To finish it off, the Hunter decided to lob another canister at it, incinerating the stricken vehicle in a heartbeat. It then turned to the two who'd once crewed it.
The SPARTAN jumped to his feet and slammed his previously-holstered M6D combat pistol into the Hunter's armoured face before it had a chance to react, and emptied the entire clip into it. While the bullets themselves had very little impact, the muzzle flash seemed to incapacitate it. Blinded, the creature seemed to take a half-step back and shake its head to rid itself of the flash.
In the confusion, one of the Warthogs broke free of the battle taking place no more than ten feet away, and crunched into the dazed Hunter. The Hunter fell over backwards, mortally wounded and moaning in pain. The Warthog's front end crumpled and crunched into a horrendous malformation. The twindshield shattered, and the Marine crew were thrown forward in their seats. The gunner almost lost his footing, but maintained a death-grip upon his machine gun and somehow managed to stay upright.
Corporal Carter, who was in the passenger seat, stood up and opened up with his akimbo-MA5Bs, peppering the half-dead Hunter in the exposed back area. Orange blood fountained and splattered from the entry-wounds, accompanied by the bark of the gunfire and also the battle cry of Corporal Carter, "Eat this, shithead!"
The other hunter caught sight of this summarial execution of his dead kin, and charged in a rage at Carter's 'Hog.
The SPARTAN silently thanked the driver of the 'Hog as he got up and sprinted for the loose Gauss Cannon. He hoped he would reach it in time.
Luckily, the Marines weren't stupid. They'd already jumped clear of their 'Hog as the humongous Hunter hit it, sending it flying through the air.
They ran for their lives, knowing they couldn't take on a Hunter on foot. They really wished for an M-808V 'Scorpion' tank...that would even the odds up.
Luckily, the SPARTAN found the Gauss Cannon. He hefted the heavy weapon as though it were his rifle, and let loose its power upon the second Hunter. It hit its mark, and the huge behemoth's torso was completely obliterated. The power of the weapon had sheared it clean from its limbs, which fell to the floor in a bloody orange heap like a sickly disgusting cartoon.
A few of the Marines saw and whooped for joy, in amongst the crack of the machine guns and the pulsing sounds of plasma bolts being loosed.
Speaking of which, one could feel that ground getting hotter from the apocalypse that was taking place halfway across the planet. The air, too, became much stuffier and warmer and thicker.
"Jesus Christ," said the SPARTAN's former Gunner, "it's getting a little warm, ain't it, Sir?"
The SPARTAN didn't answer, as he'd noticed it got a little TOO warm for Corporal Carter. A plasma bolt hit him squarely in the chest, melting its way through his body and forcing him to scream. However, as he screamed, no sound came from his lungs. Just smoke. Horrible, thick, brown smoke, laden with the stench of Carter's insides.
The other Warthogs, free of the Hunter roadblock, gunned the engines and began to pick up speed again. A couple who were running a little light on crews stopped by to pick up the SPARTAN and his former Gauss gunner.
"Hop aboard, Sir. Let us do a bit of the driving!"
The SPARTAN was more than happy to oblige, given that plasma blasts were splitting the sky and the soil close by.
And then...for some reason, the Banshees pulled off.
"Where the hell do those assholes think they're going?" called the remaining Gauss gunner as he loosed a couple of slugs and took one of them down. "We were just gettin' started!"
"Covenant don't just run off." Collins insisted, correctly. "We'd better get off-world fast."
He got on the COM channel to the SPARTAN. "What's your plan, Sir?"
The SPARTAN thought to himself for a moment as the vehicles continued on over the now-secure bridge.
"There was a Pelican-II coming down for us at North Point, but somehow I think we need to go a bit faster than that. I reckon the Covies know they haven't destroyed what they came to destroy-"
"Which was?" Collins interjected, much to the SPARTAN's irritation.
"A laser pulse weapon. Similar to plasma technology. It wasn't finished, but it was in the final stages of prep."
The Sergeant gave a low whistle.
"Precisely. I have it with me. It's in pieces. That was my objective, but I figured I might as well save a few of UNSC's proudest while I was here."
"Wait a minute," the Sergeant said, "they only sent you down?"
"The rest are on mission. Mine was to secure the half-finished weapon. I did that already.
I was on my way out and saw you guys here. So I figured someone should live to tell the tale."
Collins laughed dryly, "And God, are we glad you did."
An unfamiliar static crackle came over the COM headsets, and a few of the Marines flinched with the hiss. Then it cleared out and a dark female voice came over the headset.
"This is Angel One calling SPARTAN-001 and Bravo Team," Angel One had definitely got the message from the SPARTAN that there were more to pick up. "Any chance you can high-tail it a bit faster? LZ's about to get real hot...like, a thousand degrees hot. I guess we got maybe 10 minutes before there ain't gonna be an LZ."
"This is Bravo Team Leader, that's a negative, Angel One," called Collins, "we're too far from North Point. You should be able to pick us out. We're on open ground. Covies are everywhere but we could do a dust-off."
A hiss of static filled out a five-second pause that seemed to go on forever.
"*crackle* Copy that, Bravo Leader. We have your location tagged. I'll be right down. Hold onto your drawers and don't piss in 'em. This is gonna be a fast drop, we got company..."
Within a few moments, the Banshee squadron from earlier descended, all of them fast-descending along with the Pelican-II. This ship was much larger, tougher and with a bigger payload than the original Pelican dropship. To make matters even better, there was a twin defence cannon on the upper fuselage. Currently this weapon was blasting out massive chunks of metal at the oncoming Banshees. One of them was ripped apart like paper through a shredder, and pieces of it and its former occupant simply fluttered down to the ground.
However, plasma still ruled the battlefield weapons systems, and large sections of the hull were burned through. Luckily, the armour was thick enough and resillient enough to deal with the heat for the most part.
With a huge whine the ship bottomed out, and came ever so close to slamming belly-first into the ground, and the Marines waiting below.
"Come on, hurry it up, ladies!" called Collins, chivvying his men aboard.
His mend didn't need telling twice, they quickly hopped into the cavernous craft, which hovered on a dime as they got in, gun still blazing fire out. Similarly, a couple of the Marines set up a bit of a perimiter defence around the Pelican as their comrades were evac-ed. They expended every last round of ammunition from their chainguns up at the Banshees, and managed to take one down. This new shielded variety were going to be a problem, and the Gauss cannons could not fire fast enough to really pose a threat.
Perhaps the weapon pieces that the SPARTAN had would solve that?
The SPARTAN hadn't got aboard yet. He clacked a fresh clip into his pistol, and activated the scope on it, baring his aim down on three Grunts and two Jackals that really wanted the Marine party to stay.
One Grunt clutched a gaping hole in its upper body and flopped to the floor with a sucking chest wound.
The first shot had been trained upon a Jackal, half of whose face was ripped clean from the rest, and it dropped. The second hit the methane tank of one of the other Grunts, who clutched at its throat as it struggled in vain to breathe.
BANG. BANG. BANG. BANG.
He alternated between the remaining two foes. The first was aimed at the Jackal, who blocked it with its shield. The shield flashed a brilliant white and rippled like a pond after a pebble plopped in. The second kneecapped the Grunt and it hopped around in agony. The second shot on the Jackal was better-aimed, and caught it in its horrendously ugly throat. And finally, a headshot silenced the Grunt's agonised babble. None of the five enemies had even got a shot off in the ten seconds that the whole thing took.
"Come on, Sir!" called one of the Marines, "We don't have time to kick those Covenant pussies' asses!"
As much as it irked the SPARTAN, the Marine was right. He'd not been happy about getting this easy mission. He'd rather have fought alongside the Chief and the other remaining SPARTANs, but no. He'd fluffed the short straw and gone on a cakewalk. He at least wanted to notch some up on his tally. He'd been driving most of the way, and had only a bunch of Grunts, a Hunter and now those five he just killed to his day's tally. He just knew his SPARTAN brothers and sisters would have got quadruple that in an hour.
The SPARTAN grudgingly hopped aboard, and the pilot took off with all the remaining Marines still alive. In fact, they had done well to keep so many alive. A number of them had minor plasma burns, but they weren't mortally injured.
They burst through the planet's atmosphere with a huge, unanimous sigh of relief. It had only been a small Covenant force attacking a small, near-insignificant moon for one very significant piece of technology. But they had survived it.
None of them looked out of a window. None of them wanted to see the planet glassed before their very eyes. One or two had seen it when Chiron fell...and they did not wish for a repeat.
As a result, none of them saw the three Covenant Seraph fighters, bulbous yet sleek bracket-shaped singleships, flying towards them in a triangular attack formation on their starboard side, plasma barrels glowing a bright orange and ready to fire...