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Shadow Ops II: Chapter Four
Posted By: Agent Shade<cthompson013@hotmail.com>
Date: 16 December 2003, 8:24 PM

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Chapter Four

The sun shined brightly onto the jungle landscape of Vivec. Although it was the middle of the afternoon, where the sun's light and energy is the greatest, it barely penetrated the mantle of trees that formed a solid canopy over the ground. Points of light broke through the spaces between the leaves and branches, but other than that, the interior of the jungle was shrouded in darkness. Sergeant Colin Thompson liked and also hated this darkness that surrounded him. Although it provided good cover for himself and the Shadow Ops, it also provided good cover for a possible threat that could be following or waiting for them.

The team had been dropped off inside the jungle only three hours ago by a Pelican dropship from the Blade of Wrath. Since then, the Shadow Ops had been doing nothing but running and jogging through the thick and dense tropical forest. Colin's face was drenched with sweat, soaking into the hat he wore over his head and his clothes. Although the sun's light could barely penetrate the canopy of the jungle, the heat and energy was heavy on them as they slowly carved out a path through the forest. Corporal Dela Cruz led the way, a large katana sword in his hand as he chopped and cut away braches and leaves. Behind him, the other five members followed their weapons up against their shoulders and circling their surroundings. Behind the Corporal, Lieutenant Owens held onto the data pad given to them by Captain Hayes. Colin could make out a small map on the screen which showed the area of the jungle they were now walking through.

"We keep going straight, we should reach the colony before sunset" he whispered out loud. Colin raised an eyebrow.

"Sir? What about the Pelicans?" he asked the Lieutenant, referring to the two dropships that had disappeared in this area. Owens looked back at him.

"They could be anywhere inside this damn place. All Captain Hayes gave us were there last coordinates of their position, I highly doubt that if the Pelican crashed, it crashed right where it disappeared off the Blade of Wrath's scopes" he said, shaking his head. Colin realized that Owens was right and simply nodded, falling back into formation. Regardless, he still couldn't help feel somewhat helpless. He had a feeling that those Pelicans did indeed crash and its occupants managed to escape.

His thoughts were interrupted by huge explosions off in the distance. The entire squad dropped low to the ground floor as the earth beneath them shook violently.

"What the fuck?" Corporal McConnell said, looking around him and in the air. The sounds of artillery shells whistling through the air and slamming into an unknown enemy could be heard, along with the clattering of gunfire. Colin stood up and could make out a large hill made of rock that stuck out of the ground and towered above the jungle canopy. He rushed forward, slinging his assault rifle and began to climb the giant boulder. He could hear the rest of the team run through the grass and shrubbery and climbing after him. Colin's hands searched the rock for grooves as he climbed up. It was made out of an odd limestone that was wet when he grabbed onto a piece of rock sticking out. However, it was covered in grooves, which pleased the sniper. He reached the top of the hill first, which was just big enough to fit the entire team.

A blanket of green surrounded them, but in the distance, dark rain clouds were forming and thunder could be heard. This was no surprise, since it rained here often. Colin thought he saw a flash of lightning to the north, but realized that it wasn't lightning. There were multiple flashes of light appearing to the south, and they flashed continuously. Following the flash of light, a loud boom could be heard, shaking the ground beneath them.

"That's Alpha Colony" Lieutenant Owens whispered, lowering the data pad in his hand.

"That battle has already started" stated Corporal Bishop, whose eyes were wide as the detonations of explosive weaponry light up the clouds that hovered above them. There was a long moment as each Shadow Ops member longed to be fighting with the marines there. They all could sense that loss of life was definitely severe. The continuous explosions only emphasized the fact that the marine forces were fighting a huge, bloody battle. It was Lieutenant Owens who finally broke this moment.

"As much as we all long to be there fighting, we still have a mission to complete" he said, stepping down from the rock and getting ready to climb back down.

"Stupid mission" Corporal McConnell muttered, still looking at the explosions. Lieutenant Owens looked at the heavy weapons specialist, who glared at the horizon. "This is a waste of time sir. We shouldn't be doing this stupid scouting stuff. Marines should be here, we should be fighting" he growled. Owens stood up.

"We are all as pissed off as you are Death, but regardless, we were given orders from a higher ranking officer to scout this colony out. We must obey, unless you wish to be court marshaled and possibly kicked out of the UNSC Military Forces" he said. McConnell tore his view away from the battle and bowed his head.

"Let's get this thing over with sir" he said. Owens patted the man lightly on the back, and then they all climbed down the rock and continued their long trek to the colony.

Captain Brian Hayes stood on the bridge off the Blade of Wrath. He stared down at the planet they orbited, where flashes of light could be seen from the surface below. He sighed heavily. He had served with the Marine Corps before the war between the Covenant and Humans started, however a back injury forced him to quit. He had then went to the Academy and graduated with good marks. He knew what war was like, he had seen it, and at this moment as he looked down at the planet's surface, completely safe inside his large war cruiser, he missed it.

"The battle has begun." Hayes turned to see Admiral Baker approach him. He saluted to the man, before turning his view back to the surface.

"That it has sir" he said. Baker stood silently beside him for a moment, before turning to the Captain.

"What's wrong Hayes?" he asked. Brian sighed.

"You know my background Admiral. Those years as being a marine are coming back to me. It's as if the marine side of me has taken over. I want to be down there fighting those bastards" he said, pointing to the explosions. Baker sighed.

"Don't we all" he said, turning to look at the bridge crew. The bridge Lieutenants and other crewman were gathered around view screens that showed the explosive surface below. Brian chuckled.

"Guess we all have a little marine in us" he said. Sighing, the Captain walked away from the window and returned to his command chair or the "hot seat" as it was normally called.

"As much as I'm sure we all want to be down there fighting, we still have some jobs to do up here ladies and gentlemen" he said, looking at the crew. The cluster of crewman's dispersed and went back to monitoring the ship.

"Status on Gamma Colony?" Brian asked.

"All the wounded are onboard the Nordic sir. Scans indicate there is absolutely no Covenant activity in the area" Lieutenant Nixon, the Communications officer said. Brian nodded.

"Any reports from the other planets?" he asked again. There were five other planets in the Vardenfell system which required attention. Admiral Baker had split up the battle group and sent certain ships to each planet. Because this system was still in an agriculture era, it required a lot of protection. The Blade of Wrath, the Nordic and the UNSC Hammer were the only ships orbiting Vivec. There were four ships at Gnisis, four ships at Balmora, three ships at Dagon, two ships at Dunmer and three ships at Cyrodil.

"Recent field reports indicate small skirmishes between marine and Covenant forces. Seems as if everything is under control so far sir" Lieutenant Nixon said again.

"Captain, our scanners are picking up additional dropship signatures coming from the North Pole and moving down to Alpha Colony" Lieutenant Scott, the Navigation officer reported. Captain Hayes sat forward.

"How many?" he asked.

"Looks like fifty or so sir" Scott said.

"Order all ships to attack. What weapons can we use?" Hayes ordered, before turning to look at his weapons officer. Lieutenant Elliott looked up at the Captain.

"I wouldn't recommend using the MAC guns sir. If we move in to 15,000 kilometers, we can use out chain guns" she said. Hayes nodded.

"Relay those orders to Nordic and Hammer. Bring us in Lieutenant Scott" he said. Lieutenant Scott nodded and moved his hands across the data board in front of him. The Blade of Wrath's engines accelerated and they slowly moved in towards the planet. The Covenant dropships were flying above planets surface and as the cruiser closed in, Captain Hayes could make them out flying towards them.

"They're maneuvering!" Lieutenant Nixon reported.

"Range?" Captain Hayes asked. Lieutenant Elliott paused, before grinning at Brian.

"Locked on" she said.

"Fire" Hayes ordered. The hull off the cruiser had evenly spread out 50mm chain guns, which were usually used for point to point defense from Seraph fighters and any other type of small craft. The barrels of these guns turned to face the dropships that were slowly flying away from the three ships. The barrels clicked and started to turn. Tracers cut through space and zoomed to the dropships. The Nordic and Hammer opened fire as well; their hulls alight as the chain guns fired. The dropships began to scatter and weave as the bullets flew around them. Several dropships took rounds to their armor and were vaporized as they began to fall into the atmosphere. Pieces of metal and other debris floated all over the place as a number of dropships erupted in huge fireballs.

"They're moving away sir" Lieutenant Scott reported. Hayes looked out the view screen window and could make out six surviving dropships turn sharply and disappear.

"Can we chase them?" Hayes asked.

"Negative Captain, they are moving too fast and we also put atmospheric entry at high risk" Scott said. Captain Hayes nodded and relaxed. They at least prevented another army to attack Alpha Colony. This would be a fair battle that they would win. Hayes was about to stand and leave, when Lieutenant Nixon's console blared a small alarm. The Lieutenant jumped in his chair and accessed the system.

"Report" Captain Hayes ordered.

"The computer is picking up strange Slipstream signatures just north east of our current position" he said, studying his screen.

"Range?" Brian asked. Lieutenant Nixon typed at his keypad, but turned around, one eyebrow raised.

"The signatures are gone" he said. Brian walked to the Lieutenant's console and glared at it.

"What do you mean they are gone?" he asked.

"I mean that the Slipstream signatures that the computer detected are gone sir. Nothing, just empty space" he said, typing in commands.

"Aft cameras" Hayes ordered. The view screen changed to show the empty space behind the three UNSC ships. Brian squinted hard, but couldn't see anything. Regardless, if the computer had detected something, it was a matter of concern.

"Scan the area and post a nav point there, just in case" he said. Nixon nodded. As Hayes began to walk away, the alarm went off again. Brian was about to turn and yell at the Lieutenant, when the whole ship rumbled. The bulkhead near Brian exploded, showering the Captain with metal and wires. He was blasted backwards into his chair, as all hell broke loose...

A twig behind Colin snapped. He whirled around quickly, his gun up and pointed straight ahead. At first, nothing moved. He looked at the ground and could make out large lizard walking by. Shaking his head, Colin turned around and ran after the Shadow Ops team. They had stopped up ahead by a cluster of rocks and seemed to be taking a break. Colin reached them and took his bag off, allowing his sweaty back to cool off. Lieutenant Owens put his data pad down and sat on one of the rocks.

"Ten minute break boys. Break out some snacks" he said. Colin sat across from the Lieutenant. He continued to look over his back into the jungle around him. He could swear that from the moment they had arrived, he could feel a presence around them. It was if something was watching him. He turned back around and began to unwrap a small nutrition bar. Lieutenant Owens glanced over at him.

"What is it Sergeant?" he asked. Colin paused and looked around him again.

"I dunno sir. I feel like we are being watched. I keep hearing the sounds of something walking around us, or with us. Probably nothing, but still confuses me" he said. Lieutenant Owens raised an eyebrow, and then opened his own nutrition bar.

"Scout, circle around us, make sure nothing is following us" he ordered Aaron Dela Cruz. The Hispanic man nodded and stood, grabbing his assault rifle and disappearing into the jungle. Colin sighed and tossed his wrapper over his shoulder. The new plastics that were used for the snack bars were biodegradable and could compost easily into the soil. Unknown to Colin, the wrapper he threw bounced on something in mid air, before falling to the ground. The sniper closed his equipment bag and stood, throwing it over his shoulder and grabbed his assault rifle. The other team members began packing their own stuff and getting ready to move out. Lieutenant Owens whistled twice into the forest. Corporal Dela Cruz soon materialized out of the environment.

"Nothing sirs. There's nothing out there. I couldn't find any tracks or signs of life besides us" he said, grabbing his bag and swinging it over his shoulder. Colin sighed and nodded. He must be hallucinating. The team all got back into formation and trudged back into the jungle, Corporal Dela Cruz still leading the way.

Rain clouds blackened the sky and made the jungle even darker then it was before. Thunder continued to boom loudly, muting the explosions still emanating from Alpha Colony. Fork lightning flashed in the sky, quickly followed by thunder. Soon, the clouds opened up and a downpour of rain slammed into the jungle. Colin was already drenched with sweat, but the cold rain was a definite change that his body felt. He quickly picked up his pace as the team began to jog lightly, Dela Cruz swinging his katana all around him. Anonymous to the Shadow Ops, a figure continued chasing after them, the rain falling around it, creating a small outline in the rain that poured through the jungle canopy. Colin would turn to look behind him, but would only see green leaves and rain. The darkness that had encumbered the jungle was also very annoying for the sniper.

As they continued to run, the explosions from Alpha colony died off and the only noise that could be heard was the thunder above them and the rain around them. Lieutenant Owens estimated they had around one mile to go, and ordered them to run faster. Colin lowered his assault rifle, slinging it over his shoulder and sprinted after everyone else. However, this sprint did not last long. Branches, twigs and leaves continued to get in their way and Corporal McConnell tripped over a root, knocking Corporal Kreutz Kamp to the ground. They were eventually just jogging again, weapons shouldered and scanning the dark jungle around them. Dela Cruz suddenly held up a fist and the entire squad froze, dropping low to the ground and looking around their surroundings.

"Scout?" Owens asked.

"There's something non-natural up ahead" Colin could hear the Corporal whisper. He squinted ahead of him and could definitely make out a shape that didn't represent a rock or a tree.

"Go check it out" Owens ordered. Aaron nodded and slowly advanced, his assault rifle up in front of him. Colin eventually lost sight of him as the darkness took him. Although it was just the beginning of the evening, it still felt like midnight to him. There was a long moment of silence, where all that could be heard was the rain. Another twig snapped behind them. Both Colin and Corporal Bishop whirled their heads around and peered into the jungle.

"You hear that?" Colin asked the medic.

"Yes sir" Jacob whispered. Colin moved forward slightly, pushing apart some trees and shrubs. He could definitely make something out behind a large fern leaf and a bamboo tree. He nodded at Corporal Bishop, who crawled forward and raised his assault rifle. Colin grabbed the bamboo tree and ripped it aside, bringing the fern tree with him.

"Oh my god!" The corpses of four humans lay on the jungle floor. Their clothes were scattered and their skin all peeled away, revealing the muscle and bone beneath. Their eyeballs had been plucked out, but the emotion of shock and pain was still on their dead faces. Various jungle insects, ranging from ants to large beetles crawled around the bodies, ripping off pieces of skin and virtually decomposing the bodies. Bishop had fallen backwards, his hand over his mouth to prevent him from throwing up. Colin simply stared at the dead faces that stared back at him. He could see dog tags around their exposed necks. They had been marines.

They were soon joined by the other Shadow Ops members, who averted their eyes from the grotesque sight. Colin stepped back and chopped away several shrubs and trees, allowing room for the bodies to be investigated. Corporal Dela Cruz returned quickly. He showed no emotion when he saw the bodies and simply crouched beside them, pushing aside bugs and taking off the dog tags.

"That shape in the forest was a destroyed Pelican dropship sir. Did a complete nose dive. The pilot and co-pilot are still inside, dead" he reported, stepping away from the bodies. Lieutenant Owens held his hand to his mouth, much like everyone else was doing.

"Could the Covenant have done this?" he asked the scout master.

"I personally do not know sir. The dropship is covered in scratches and other marks from the trees, but I saw no evidence off them being shot down. The Covenant could have killed these marines, but there isn't any evidence of plasma burns, or Covenant foot prints in the ground. Everything around these bodies is undisturbed. It's as if they just suddenly dropped dead" he said, shaking his head. As the two of them continued to talk, Colin heard movement to their left. His snapped in that direction and he stuck his hand out, moving aside several leaves. A figure covered in leaves and other vegetation jumped out and tackled Colin. The sniper fell backwards, the individual lying on top of him. They rolled back and forth for a moment, but then stopped. Colin crouched over the figure and punched him repeatedly in the face. The person brought his or her hands up, and blocked several blows. Colin stood up, bringing the man with him, and slammed him against a tree.

"Stop!" someone yelled. Colin whirled around and looked over at his squad mates. Additional figures dressed with leaves and dirt stood around the other Shadow Ops members, weapons held to their heads and body area. Colin let go of the person he held onto. The figure dropped to the ground and limped away, groaning. One figure stepped forward, holstering his pistol.

"UNSC?" he asked. Colin nodded and motioned to Lieutenant Owens.

"He's in charge" he muttered. The figure turned to the Lieutenant, who glared down at the small man.

"Who are you?" he questioned Fredrick. Owens grinned; even through the barrel of a pistol was pressed against his head.

"We are the Shadow Ops" he said. The man standing before him laughed.

"They are dead" he growled. Owens shook his head and showed him the grey star on the black patch. The man stared at it and paused, as if thinking. His face was hidden by a black mask worn around his head. He and the other individuals dressed like him held UNSC-issued MA5B assault rifles and M6D pistols. They were obviously on their side. The man suddenly nodded to his comrades. The weapons were lowered and they revealed themselves to be marines. There were a total of four of them, all wearing heavy camouflage that was attached to their combat uniforms.

"Sergeant Johnston, Fire Team Romeo" he said.

"Lieutenant Owens, Shadow Ops II" Fredrick said. Immediately, the four marines around them saluted. Owens returned it. Sergeant Johnston shook his head.

"Thought we were done for sir" he said, leaning against a tree. Owens looked towards the crashed Pelican.

"That yours?" he asked the Sergeant. The man shook his head.

"Our pilot was able to control our fall and landed us in a valley. Still hurt like a bitch though. I don't know what happened, but all of a sudden, all power in the dropship went out. Pilots were screaming at each other and us, telling us to get out. We couldn't though, the ramp door wouldn't open. All I remember was we hit the ground and I was knocked out. Woke up in the valley" the Sergeant explained quickly.

"The dropship just stopped working?" Colin asked.

"Yeah. The lights went out, the roar from the engines was gone, and we just dropped like a rock. I think the co-pilot was able to get back the controlling for the air foils, which allowed the pilot to ease our landing slightly so we didn't explode on impact, but other than that, we were flying blind, with no radio or anything" Johnston said.

"How many survivors?" Lieutenant Owens asked.

"The pilots were killed, both of them. We originally had eight marines. We lost three during the crash, then we lost another" Johnston said.

"You lost another? What happened?" Colin asked.

"We don't know. He went out for his night shift, Private Marleau here woke up to trade places, but he was gone" the Sergeant said, pointing to a marine standing beside him.

"What was his name?" Lieutenant Owens asked.

"Private Tucker I think, he didn't talk much. He had been with the 106th Infantry Brigade, but since that was slaughtered with the Gamma Colony fight, he was sent to us" Johnston said.

"Private Tucker you said?" Owens asked again.

"Yeah. Why, you know him?"

"I do. He and I were in the trenches during that fight. Thought he was dead after our Warthog was blown into the trench" Owens said, his eyes glazing over for a moment.

"Well, the kid is probably dead now, we don't know where he went" Sergeant Johnston said. Owens nodded.

"Take us to your Pelican for now Sergeant, we may need your help" the Lieutenant said. Sergeant Johnston nodded.

"Marleau! Take point, the rest of ya, fall in" he barked. Private Marleau and Corporal Dela Cruz lead the way together, both of them wielding katanas. The other three marines and the rest of the Shadow Ops squad followed behind them, their weapons shouldered and scanning the jungle. The rain continued to pour down on them like an endless wave. The clouds above them showed no signs of closing and moving on. The lightning and thunder continued to light up the jungle and broke the empty silence that surrounded them. Although it was believed that they had solved the possible threat that had been following them, a figure still cloaked followed the group of humans, preparing to strike at the best opportunity that would be given to it.

By: Agent Shade