Group3 - Chapter 3 (Final Chapter)
Posted By: FoxHound<email@example.com>
Date: 09 April 2001, 1:46 pm
We all felt apprehensive as I eased the hog down the gorge and into the depths of the canyon, there was no turning back now, the freak storm had startled us earlier, we knew they happened but the ferocity was something none of us had been prepared for. As we hauled ourselves further in, the canyon walls seemed to change, the rock now seemed to be patchy in places almost as if some crystal resin was slowly ebbing from the rock, making the rock glint like metal under the moon light. "Hold up, Jal check out those patches on the walls, what the hell is that" I said. Jal jumped out of the jeep and crossed over to the wall, approaching the surface slowly "Looks like some sort of organic residue, maybe some sort of resin" he said. I could see him keeping his distance and refraining from touching the surface. We hadn't worked out the ecco system on this ring world let alone the huge bio-diversity that was available to us. We would be ignorant to think it was all harmless. "Ok, stay on point, we must be nearly at the first drop point." I gave Jal a hand signal to go on ahead, I could see a large opening in the canyons appearing so I sent Jahal on to sweep the area and make sure the hog was ok to proceed. We needed to pick up the pace, time was of an essence now. Picking up a mole and switched it on, I let it fall to the ground and turned to Kry, still poised on the chain gun. "Ok two more down here then we cut across to the other channel and lay the remaining three on our way out". Jal had gone round the corner to scout the layout ahead I had lost a visual on him and thought nothing of it, it was quite normal for Jal to look after himself on point, in fact it was rare for him to be in such close proximity on a mission. The mole activated ok so I readied the next one so we could make up some time. I remember wondering about the crystal on the rock and thinking about the struggle we've had here on the Halo construct. A bio division and genealogist group had been set up on our arrival and I'm sure they would be keen to question us on our return, they very really got out beyond the safe areas. So our stories and the samples we collected were really the only material for them to understanding how diverse the gene pool was on this construct. It had become apparent quite early on that our co-habitants, who we called the covanent, were not indigenous either but then nor was most of the plant life here. In fact we had no idea how many species there were on the construct. This place was still very much an enigma that no one knew the answer to. Looking up from my thoughts I motioned to Kry that we were to move on.
Following round with the jeep with Kry covering the tops of the canyons as usual, nothing had prepared me for what was to happened next. As we rounded the corner I immediately saw Jahal, his body was limp and looked affixed to a patch of the organic resin on the rock, similar to the ones we had seen earlier. His arms and legs were outstretched, his body and head hung there motionless and lifeless. On the floor in front I saw his helmet and webbing scattered as if it had been torn from his body. I felt paralysed, transfixed by the shock of seeing him there. I slammed on the break not knowing if this was a trap, looking upwards to the high ridges at the same time trying to see if there were any Covanent. It was at that moment the chain gun spun into action. "Covies" Kry screamed. Huge flashes of white light shot from the rear gun and a thundering noise shook the hog, I was showered in ejected casings as the massive gun came up to speed. I turned to see what Kry was firing at. His focus of fire was into a small cave almost opposite where Jal stood. The gun spun down in a matter of seconds making a cold whirring noise as the barrel chambers slowed to a halt, the barrel smoldering from the volume of lead discharged. There was no movement from within the cave. "Two of them, in the cave" said Kry. As the dust from the obliterated rock settled there was what looked like 2 Covanent lying in a heap on the ground their bodies torn and mutilated by the volume of rounds ejected into them. The surrounding walls were splattered and scared in what I presumed was their blood, bone, sinew and the marks of the bullets. The air stank of a putrid stench like some decomposed amphibian, burning the nostrils into a submission making me breath through the mouth. "Cover me" I said as I slid from the jeep, gun poised at the crumpled mess of bodies. Approaching the cave I let off a number of rounds into the carcasses to make sure there was no retaliation. The bodies lay there motionless. I wiped my nostrils with the sleeve of my jacket, helping to ease the irritation of the smell and lifted a part of one of the carcass' with the muzzle of my gun, letting it drop slowly with a dull squelch... they were dead. My attention then quickly turned to Jahal, approaching him slowly repeating his name in a whisper, my weapon raised and covering my every eye movement. There was no reply from him. "Keep your eyes open for covies Kry, we must have awaken the dead with the chain gun". I raised my NV goggles onto my forehead. Moving closer I saw what they had done to him. Down the side of his face and neck was a huge gaping wound. It looked like it was some sort of high energy burn or maybe a knife wound. As I encircled him calling his name again I saw further wounds on the left side of his torso, the blood running down his leg and collecting in a pool at his feet. Those bastards had got to him quick and had hit him hard, how the hell did they do this to him without him being able to let off a shot or raise the alarm. As I moved closer he lifted his head an inch or so and in an blind gaze, slowly mumbled something, I lent towards him to hear what he was trying to say, "leave me...leave here, no time" he said in a gurgled plea. "Kry, bring the hog over, he's alive" I shouted. "No way Jal, we're gonna get you out of here, you hang in there". I said trying to give him some reassurance. Jal coughed with a mumbled groan, the gurgling blood trickling from the edge of his mouth, falling to the floor. "OK buddy, we'll have you out in a minute". Kry skidded the hog to a halt close to Jal. I was aware of the organic matter his body was attached to on the rock wall. We had no idea what it was but it looked as though it was causing him incredible pain, you could see him trying to arch his back away from the wall but for some reason he was trapped. "Kry, give me a hand, we'll put him up front". Kry jumped down from the rear of the jeep and came over, 'those bastards, what the hell have they done to him?"
"Take his arm and ease him off the rock face, watch that shit he's stuck to". I took hold of Jahals' arm, "OK on 3.... 1..2..3". As we eased Jahal off the wall his back came into view, "Sheeez man" Kry said, I looked down at his back, the material from his combat gear appeared to have been dissolved almost as if it had been eaten by some sort of acid and his back looked horrific, the flesh had been brutally scared and was covered in lesions, almost as if it had been exposed to some sort of high intensity radiation. As we eased him off the wall some of his jacket and skin tissue stuck and tore from his back leaving patches of torn flesh and fabric on the rock face. Jal let out a loud groan and then just slumped onto our supporting arms, no doubt blacking out with the pain. "Get him up front quick Kry". Kry slung him over his shoulder and laid him on the front seat of the hog, on the passenger side. "What the hell is that stuff?" Kry motioned to the patch where Jahal had stood. "I have no idea, it looks like some sort of organic energy matter, see if you can grab a sample but be careful, by the look of those burns on Jals back, it's almost like some sort of natural radiation. Damn, we haven't got time to play scientists, Lets get outta here, this place is going to be crawling with covies soon." I watched Kry prize off a small lump, this was something new. If this resin held radioactive properties it could be the reason they were mining on the construct. If this was indeed a source for their energy matter it would go along way to better understand their firepower. I looked over at the rock as Kry stepped into the hog realising we now a real problem on our hands. This organic matter was nothing we had ever come across, and why were those two covenant standing nearby in the cave... where they guarding the resin, pin pointing it for excavation, why did they sling Jahal across the rock, was there a reason or was it just in their oppressive nature to do such things? My mind was spinning, nothing made sense. Our mission now felt almost impossible to complete. Jahal was wounded bad, if there were any covanent in the near vicinity they would be on their way to intercept us by now. I wasn't even sure Jal would make it through the night especially if we made further contact with the covanent. Without someone on point our options were narrowing. I looked up to Kry "lets get moving while we still can, I'll drop a mole here, it's close enough". I picked up the device that I had activated earlier and let it fall to the ground. I quickly prepared the other three and lay them next to Jal.
Kry stood ready at the gun, I pushed the ignition and the hog came to life. As we edged the hog forward along the rock edge we came into the large opening with a further two openings opposite, the place was like a labyrinth, out of the corner of my left eye I spotted some sort of constructed opening in the rock face, this was no natural cave. There were stairs leading up into the opening which had massive stone carvings worked into the rock face. Out in front was some sort of stone platform. with pillars on either side, the entrance looked decorated in some sort of pattern or alien glyphs. Just at that moment I saw a covanent appear from the darkened entrance he spotted us, raised his head upwards unleashing a guttural roar like a deranged animal howling at the moon, tit echoed around the huge opening we were in and within seconds they came running First the sentry grunts, then the elite covanent . A flash of blue scorched the air in front of us hitting the rock face we were up against bringing a small shower of rock fragments down on top of us. "Get moving" shouted Kry, "there's loads of them, shitttt!" Kry swung the mounted gun around and as it spun into action, managed to take out the initial rush that came through the opening. "Shit...we've walked right into some sort of base or mine complex, lets get the hell outta here" I yelled slamming my foot on the accelerator, "move" screamed Kry "they're everywhere". There were now blue flashes all around us, screaming past us making a deathly 'whoosh' as they hit the rock and ground. I spun the jeep and headed up an opening to our right and opposite the covanent base. I checked my mirror and saw light scout hovers appearing from one of the side entrances, firing wildly in our direction. A stray low energy beam struck the side of the jeep lifting it up onto two wheels. It came back down with a crunch and bounced heavily under the suspension, I held onto Jahals limp body with my hand as he was thrown about like a rag doll. Looking up through the front screen I steered towards the opening ahead of me, the pounding of the chain gun mixed with the screaming of the damaged engine tore through my body, huge flashes of blue and white light rupturing the ground around us shaking the hog making the whole jeep shudder. Sometimes the blasts were so close that it distorted my vision, making my eyes reverberate with the intense impacts. I kept my eyes ahead frantically trying to keep the hog under control. As I steered the jeep down the thin canyons trying to miss the outcrops of rock hidden round the blind bends I threw another mole out, I didn't bother to check if it activated ok, in fact, I didn't care if the moles worked or not, one wrong move and we were either dead or going to be tortured to death. Some of the rocks were impossible not to hit, the dust and dirt made the hog drift and one point we crashed side-on into the rock wall. Again the hog shuddered and the front screen caved in shattering glass all over myself and Jahal. I looked up at Kry to check he was ok, his leg was drenched in blood, you could see the flash burns where the energy blast had grazed him, tearing some of the leg muscle with its energy "keep moving" he screamed "they're still coming, shit... move it, move". I spun the hog back onto into the middle of the canyon, tossing out another mole as we moved off. I could hear the hog engine grinding and grating, the sound of metal grinding against metal was one that sent shivers down my spine, at times it sounded like someone screaming, only adding to the insane situation we were in. The damage to the engine grew worse very quickly. Without warning thick blue smoke started to appear from under the front, I wasn't sure how long she would last so I just kept my foot floored on the accelerator. We couldn't have been to far from the edge of the canyon, almost near to where we had entered earlier on that evening. I reached down and flicked on the comm system "Group 3 requesting immediate evac from South East of Leean Bridge at rendezvous position 18.104.22.168" there was no response, I tried again "Group3 to Base Camp, Group3 to Base Camp, request immediate evac from 22.214.171.124, do you read, over", again nothing but silence. I threw the warthog around the next bend releasing the last of the moles, I saw it bounce off a rock and hit the dirt. I just hoped in all the action and confusion the covanent hadn't see them. As the jeep slid in the dirt I glanced back and saw what I shall never forget, it looked like a whole legion of covanent were after us. There were airborne and infantry, a sea of blue was swarming towards us, relentless in their pursuit. The onslaught of their energy pulses passing us shaking and tearing the ground around us. Suddenly from out of nowhere our comm link crackled and a voice came over,
"Group3 proceed west, I repeat west, from exit of canyons towards rendezvous point 126.96.36.199, over".
Thank the stars, there was someone there, "the covanent, they're right on our tail" I yelled, "we need suppressing fire" trying to make my voice heard over the grinding engine.
"Affirmative Group3, understood", came the distorted reply.
"Prepare for dust off and immediate medevac, we've got a man down." "Roger that Group 3, proceed to rendezvous point. Network trackers on-line, we see the enemy, Zulu out."
Zulu... Zulu...they were here, talk about timing, my hopes were suddenly raised now, I prayed they had enough fire power to take out what we had just stirred up. The moles were obviously working and tracking the covanent movement within the canyons. I looked down at Jahal he was wincing at the pain of being thrown about. "Hang in there bud" I shouted as the hog was flung savagely by the deep ruts in the canyon floor "we're nearly clear". I felt him reach up and grab my arm then he fell back into unconsciousness and his grip weakened and fell. I saw the opening up ahead, dawn was just starting to break and you could see the top of Leean Bridge about half a mile to our right. I turned hard out of the canyon and tried to keep close to the open wall, it was then that Zulu appeared from the valley floor there were 8 or 10 heavy vehicles racing towards us with a number of hogs with the missile launcher on them. They released a volley of missiles over us and into the canyons, the exhaust trails arching over us homing in on the targets. As I straightened up from the turn I saw a BAT division on the opposite side of the river open fire. First only the sight of smoke appealed from their turrets then the delayed 'boom', then a second of silence before the rush and whistles as the high energy shells flew out over our head. I punched the air elation and looked down at Jahal again, there was no movement. I lifted my foot off the gass and turned to check on Kry, he was lying on the floor in the back. I couldn't see his face only his outstretched legs and a hand on the edge of the jeep. I shouted his name but there was no response. A drop ship appeared from the valley and I watched it dust off lowering it's ramp at the same time. The wind from its jet engines billowing up a cloud of dust as we drew nearer. I covered my eyes from the dirt and noticed three Bob's descending down the ramp holding their medi packs as we slid to a stop. Pulling myself up on the steering wheel I looked over at Kry, a part of his jacket was still smouldering from a direct hit, he was still with his eyes gazing up at the mounting. I shouted his name again "Kry... Kryno.... "Excuse me sir, excuse me" one of the bobs startled me at my door, "check them first I'm ok", waving my arm at him. One of the Bobs had jumped up in the back and was leaning over Kry, he looked up at the other Bob and then me and slowly shook his head, I quickly turned to the Bob looking over Jahal, he had some small device on his chest and had his head cocked as if he was looking out over the valley. Slowly he turned to me, "I'm sorry sir, there's nothing we can do." I felt an emptiness in my soul. And then it came, like a wave from the bottom of my stomach, racing up through my body and exploding through my mind "NOOOooo" I screamed. "No.... no, do something, help him you damn piece of junk, help him." The last I remember was the noise of the vapour jab in my neck. The Bob in the back had sedated me ready for transport back to base, the mission completed. My eyes slowly closed, the warmth of the darkness shrouding me in contentment as I eased off into a deep sleep.