Posted By: CoLd BlooDed<email@example.com>
Date: 25 February 2004, 5:05 AM
The two Pelicans hovered directly above the LZ point, which consisted of swamps, malformed trees, and plenty of Covenant. The pale yellow lights on the seats reflected on Private Chips Dubbo's face which was dripping with sweat, not from fear or nervousness, but from the heat of the swamp.
"LZ is clear, I'm bringing us down!" the Pilots voice echoed over the COM, the Pelican shifted and started to descend gradually.
Dubbo looked up from his Shotgun at the other Marines seated; every one of them looked calm for the operation, which was to destroy a small Covenant encampment located deep in the bog.
They had gotten the details of a Covenant setup from a captured Elite that had been interrogated... and then they had forced the words out of him. Captain Keyes was busy collecting weapons from a cache elsewhere in the vast swamp, the Elite has spilled information on that as well.
"What are you lookin' at, Chips?" asked the Corporal, Howard Raiset, the Corporal never showed to respect to Privates. How he got to that rank, Dubbo didn't know, but blinked at Raiset and stared down at the floor.
"I asked you a direct question, Private." Howard said through gritted teeth, and hissed the word Private which started anger boiled up in Dubbo's.
"Nothing, sir, nothing at all," Chips replied with a sharp tone and glared at the Corporal who turned away, then grinned to one of the other Marines.
Dubbo and the Corporal had never gotten along too well, but the Private avoided Howard whenever possible.
Going on a mission together was going to be hard.
The Pelican stopped and the Sergeant—who was closest to the ramp—jumped off and signaled the others to come out of the dropship. Dubbo was the last to step off, and was one of the several that groaned as they stepped in the warm, putrid-smelling water.
The other Pelican dropped down beside the first and unloaded its full load of troops. They waded through the shin-deep water to the other soldiers.
"Sir!" said Sergeant Tykes to Lieutenant Darks, the leader of Second Squad, the Marines materialized out of the thick mist beside him.
Dubbo grinned and stepped out of the murky water while shouldering his Shotgun and securing the other weapons on his belt; including the frag grenades and Pistol.
"We should get going," the Lieutenant said, "Intel shows that the base should be south-south east, and remember the plan."
"Sir! Yes, sir." replied Tykes.
The plan was pretty simple, once the two squadrons reached the outskirts of the base, Second Squad would circle around it. At First Squad's signal they would flank the enemy and hopefully be successful, it was pretty much flawless; the Covies wouldn't know what hit them.
The two groups of UNSC Marines had spent the last thirty minutes marching across a depressing bog growing with rotting vegetation that had never been seen before. Dubbo's legs were tired, but he held back the uncomforting feeling and continued on. In a few seconds, however, Darks gave the hand signal for people to stop and scouted the area ahead.
"All clear." the Lieutenant whispered over the COM, "We're on their doorstep and knockin' to come in."
Dubbo went into a crouch along with the others and rushed over to where the Lieutenant was standing.
When the Private stopped, he noticed that they were all standing at the top of a big grass slope; lights in the distance—at the bottom of the giant hill--broke through the haze and revealed the Covenants position.
"We'll be waiting, Sergeant." said Darks as he turned around to face Tykes with a serious expression, "You screw up and we'll all be dead."
"Yes, sir." the Sergeant gulped.
Second Squad moved around the right, and it only took several more minutes until they gave the ready signal, a long whistle followed by the clicking of a tongue. A weird one, all right, but it usually worked.
"We screw up..." said Dubbo's Marine friend, David Wilson, "Then I'm blaming the Lieutenant."
Everyone shared a nervous laugh, but the Sarge turned around with a serious expression, "Stow it, Marine." The soldiers fell quiet.
"You all ready, people?" asked the Sergeant to the group of Privates crouching behind him.
A chorus of "Yes, sir's" broke out and Tykes gave the counter-signal to the Lieutenant, who was somewhere hiding on the other side of the heavy mist and structure.
"Go, go, go!"
Dubbo trailed behind Corporal Howard as the Marines stormed down the hill, but they remained silent, they couldn't see the enemy just yet.
Shots broke the uneasy silence as the soldiers stopped at the bottom of the hill—but the sounds came from the other side of the structure.
"Inside, Marines!" yelled the Sergeant and waved all the troops forward, "The Covenant are waiting for us!"
Dubbo was squeezed into a double-file line as they ran up the ramp; the structure was similar to the one he had crash-landed nearby in a Bumblebee. Several Grunts came around the corner and stopped at the top of the metal ramp, through the fog they couldn't see if the approaching Marines were actual enemies—they stood there with Needlers raised.
The Corporal squeezed off a shot from his Pistol at one of the Grunts, the creature toppled off the ramp after its head exploded onto the wall. The Covenant soldiers returned fire, now that they were convinced they were enemies—crystalline projectiles launched from the weapons and bounced off the walls courtesy of poor aiming.
The Marines stopped and crouched and then opened fire, a frag came sailing in over the shooting soldier's heads and landed beside the other five Grunts.
Two managed to dive out of the way, but the blast sent the other three over the ledge and to the muddy ground below. Chips covered his face as shrapnel from the grenade pelted his face along with the others.
"Don't even get back up!" hollered David and shot one of the Grunts that had foolishly dived into the approaching Marines; phosphorescent blue blood covered his face as bullets tore into its body.
The other Grunt had managed to get away, but as shots emanated from the 'terrace' of the structure the body toppled down onto the ramp.
"What you waiting for, girls?" said Tykes who smirked, then waved the Marines forward once again, "Come on! This battle ain't over yet!"
Dubbo crouched and searched for an alien to kill once he cleared the ramp—an unlucky Jackal with its back exposed wandered into the Privates view and took several shots to the back. A green orb of charged plasma shot into the fog from the dead alien's weapon.
First Squad waited a few seconds until all of Second Squad had made it to the top; they looked far more tired and bloodied up.
"Casualties, sir?" asked the Sergeant to the Lieutenant.
"Negative," he said with a smile and an amiable tone, "My men did pretty damn good."
"Same here, sir."
"Good, now let's search the interior of the structure," he paused, looked around, and faced the Sarge again, "Although I'm nervous...if this was a Covenant setup, shouldn't there be more Covenant?"
"Maybe they left." said Dubbo with his Australian accent, the Lieutenant and Sergeant turned to face him.
"Where would they go? The Covenant doesn't just leave." said the Lieutenant, "But you may have a point... everyone, search the inside of the building!"
The Marines of First Squad and Second Squad joined up in the inner chambers. There was nothing down here either, except several extremely mangled Covenant bodies lying in pools of their own blood. Dubbo kicked at one and the blood was coagulated and stuck to his boot.
"Nasty son of a bitches." commented Chips as he tried to wipe off the blood on the floor, but was unsuccessful.
The El-Tee and Sarge had stayed on top of the structure while the Marines searched the inside. Dubbo might've been right, they might have left.
There were green colored bloodstains that mixed into the Covenant blood, and most of it covered the room, even the ceiling.
"How do you think it got on the roof?" asked Dubbo, the Corporal answered, "Don't ask any questions or step on anything important, Private, or I'll have your head on a pike."
"Sorry for asking, sir..." muttered the Private through gritted teeth.
Light emitted from the Marine's weapons crisscrossed and shone on different walls, illuminating the ancient design etched with large plasma scorches. Grunt blood was also smeared all over the room, plasma holes varied in size as the light at the top of the room flickered and spat out sparks.
Dubbo relaxed himself and pushed the anger towards the Corporal deep down until he couldn't feel it, then lowered his weapon and turned to Wilson. "What do you think?"
"I dunno," he said absent-mindedly and stared at the shadowed ceiling, "Those dirty Covenant bastards have all sorts of tricks."
Chips grinned and turned away, the Corporals voice broke into the odd silence, "All right, Marines! Everyone back to where the El-Tee and Sergeant are, we gotta tell 'em 'bout this."
"What? You're serious that there is no more Covenant?" the Lieutenant said and paused, then sighed and added, "We're to report this back at Alpha Base, come on people, look alive, we're heading back."
The shuffling of feet echoed through the tall structure, and as the two squads moved down the opposite ramp of which First Squad had came up from, something snarled in the massive bushes.
"What was that?" asked Dubbo.
"Don't know," the Lieutenant replied, and then the snarl turned into growls, there was more than one of whatever was making that noise, "Second Squad, lets go check it out. First Squad, stay back here and secure the building."
"Sir! Alright, ladies, you heard the El-Tee, stay here until they get back." ordered the Sergeant; all the Marines took out their weapons.
Chips raised his HE Pistol, loaded it, and went into a crouch, all the soldiers of First Squad were cramped on the ramp, either checking their weapons or concentrating them on the bushes where the sound had came from.
"Finally," sighed David, "Maybe we're about to have a little action."
Dubbo smiled, "Maybe the Covenant went to go hide in the bushes." David didn't reply, instead, he cocked his weapon and watched intently at the Marines that walked into the towering trees and bushes.
The Private watched as the last of Second Squad disappeared into the fog and trees then lowered his weapon and clicked on the safety.
"Nothing...wait a second," the voice was that of Lieutenant Darks, the tone was of confusion and distraction, "We have a body here...but it's not Covenant, it's like a mutation of some kind."
Chips listened in; this interested him, a mutation? Maybe there would be some action, maybe there would be a larger fight, maybe he would score a few kills or save the Lieutenant and get a medal for his bravery.
He liked the sound of that and smiled, but for a soldier he had an overactive imagination, sometimes his lively imagination helped him and sometimes it got him in trouble.
Darks continued to describe the mutated corpse, how it had rotting yellowish skin, dark green blood, and from its arm protruded a few sharp tentacles.
In the midst of the description the COM suddenly went dead, no static, no nothing.
"Sarge, what happened? They just cut out." asked Dubbo over the COM channel, even though Tykes was at the bottom of the ramp the sound of the rain pattering on the ground would've drowned his voice out if he had just called to him.
"I don't know Chips, maybe some interference, just wait a few seconds."
Seconds passed, minutes in fact; there was still no answer from the Lieutenant. But when the Sergeant told everyone to move down the ramp a transmission broke out over the COM, "We've got contacts! Lots of them, but they're not Covenant... they're just tearing through us, what the—! Oh, nooooo!"
Dubbo straightened almost immediately; the transmission was clearly from the Corporal in Second Squad, not Howard, who was in First, but Jordan Wiles. The Private replaced his Pistol for a Shotgun and gripped it tight; the Sergeant looked at the Marines with wide eyes and said: "Marines...we need to get to the rendezvous point, pronto."
First Squad had been separated from the rest of the mission and they were now heading for the RV point at full pace, each Marine was concerned about what happened and shot hundreds of questions at the Sarge during the trek. There weren't many very positive or clear answers.
Up ahead was an area where the foliage cleared and the sun shone down into the section which made the rendezvous point. Shadows were cast over the slimy ground and decomposing undergrowth, creating an eerie atmosphere as the rain continued to pour down.
"Sarge...they're not here." calmly said one of the Marines, but then he started to laugh, "They're not here. Great! Just great, with some unspecified aliens killing our men are probably walking around in these swamps, I'm sure we'll all die, fucking die!"
"Stow it, soldier! I didn't plan this, so get a freakin' grip on yourself!" the Sergeant barked at the Marine who immediately stopped, "I'm just a Sergeant, the El-Tee is dead or missing, and we're here by ourselves! So Marines, what do we do now?"
Dubbo raised his hand like he would back in boot and replied in his Australian accent, "We improvise."
"Correct, soldier, but how? Or with what?"
The Private shrugged, and then the Sergeant answered for him, "We can secure this area, whatever kinda freaks are wandering this bog, we're gonna show them what hell is! Am I right, soldiers?!"
"Yes, sir!" all the Marines replied simultaneously, but with a tone of fear bordering each ones voice, including Dubbo's.
"All right, spread out, we have twelve in this squad, so this should be enough for now. Remember, people, improvise!"
Chips ran over to where David was standing and went into a crouch, the sun had once again disappeared behind the clouds and everything in the swamp had turned into a shade of grey.
The same growling that they had heard before resonated through the murky mire, but the noise was accompanied by another sound, this one was similar to the slithering of a snake.
"Tykes! Listen!" cried out one of the Marines on the other side of the circle which First Squad had made around the clearing.
"What is that?" asked Howard, no one answered him.
There was a popping noise and the slithering sound grew louder, Dubbo spun his head to see numerous squid-like creatures falling out of the trees. One hit the ground but remained intact, then waddled over to the Corporal and jumped towards its face.
The small bulbous thing attached its tentacles over Raiset's face, the Corporal tried to rip it off but it was ineffective. Dubbo fired his weapon at the creatures that were now jumping out from bushes, there were quite a few now.
The round creatures could be killed pretty easily, a shot was all it took, but if they managed to get a grasp around a person the victim went down. The Corporal had help from a nearby Marine to pull off the thing that had glued itself to Howard's face. But the squid-resembling creature had been pulled off along with the Corporals expression. Blood poured onto the grass and stained the skin of the parasitic form which was then trying to grab onto the Marines chest.
"They're everywhere!" shouted the Marine before the little creature was successful, from the side Dubbo saw the thing impale one of its sharp tentacles into the soldier's body.
The Marine quickly went down in a spray of red blood which covered the little bloodsucker, but it never loosened its grip. The other soldiers quickly finished off the parasites with two casualties. But Dubbo scared himself; no emotion had filled him when the Corporal had died, instead he had laughed and kept shooting.
"There weren't that hard!" crowed a Marine, "We kick ass!"
Another Marine was about to make a comment when he screamed mid-sentence, Dubbo wheeled around on his feet to see creatures—ones that fit the late Lieutenant Dark's descriptions—hit down several soldiers. Blood sprayed in all directions as a Marine took shots from one of the mutations that held an Assault Rifle.
"Firing!" yelled Chips and fired randomly at the creatures, trying to keep them in his line of fire.
One of the creatures went down in a spray of bone and decaying flesh by some slugs from David's Shotgun—but then it stood back up and killed another Marine.
"Improvising my ass! Those things are invincible! Retreat!" yelled Wilson, the Sergeant didn't care about the chain of command and followed the soldiers as they darted out from the RV point.
Bullets shot past the surviving Marine's faces and splintered tree bark and tore up the ground, the abominations kept shooting. Dubbo was right behind David—the leader of the fleeing survivors—as they ended their long dash through mud and rock and jumped off a hill into knee-high water.
"This is gonna slow us down, eh mate?" said Chips to David who didn't respond, but instead kept sloshing through the swamp.
The horrified Private turned around to see at least six other survivors not including himself and David. Every single Marine had panic-stricken faces and widened eyes, rain trickled down their faces and onto their UNSC uniforms.
The water started to level out and the soldiers saw a light cutting through the mist which was now clearing up. It turned out to be a large structure dug into the side of a hill and the Marines darted inside and surrounded a large chasm in the middle of the room.
"What...what...what the hell were those?!" cried a soldier who buried his face in his hands, "If I'm going back out there, I'm gonna need a friggin' miracle!"
The sudden whir of machinery broke into the tense atmosphere and the chasm in the middle of the room was the source of the sound. Seconds after a platform filled the opening and a soldier in green armor stepped out of the shadows.
"I think it's your miracle," Dubbo heard David remark to the Marine.
It was a Spartan; maybe they did have a chance after all. The Private ran up to the Master Chief, they had been together briefly on the Pillar of Autumn and Chips wasn't afraid of the Spartan.
"Sir! Thank God you're here! We've been lost out here for hours. After we lost contact with the rest of the mission, we headed for the RV point, and then these-these...these things... they ambushed us! We've gotta get out of here!" pleaded the Private to the Spartan, the armored soldier didn't respond, but instead ran out of the structure followed by all the surviving Marines.
"The cavalry has arrived!" said a Marine with enthusiasm and pointed at the Spartan.
They moved through the swamp getting ravaged by what the creatures, many of the Marines fell to the bulbous Infection Forms. The soldiers took heavy losses when they made their way through a small passage of tall grass hills. The Sergeant had been lost along with four other Marines when they had finally made it to a structure sitting in the middle of a large swamp pond.
Dubbo let loose another barrage of slugs and blew apart a Human Flood Form, the Private was going insane, this was too much for him, and everywhere he looked there was one of the creatures.
"Die you motherfuckers!" he yelled at the creatures as another one of the Marines was taken down, the Spartan was trying his best but the soldiers were too unprotected.
Dubbo roared as he saw flying metal things hover towards them and start firing what appeared to be lasers at the monsters. Following them was a glowing blue orb and it shone so bright that Dubbo had to squint when looking at it.
"Aggghhh! Get it off, get it off!" the voice broke into Chips' thoughts, and made him almost burst into tears, the voice belonged to David.
"Noooo!" the Private yelled and shot at the little parasite that had latched onto his friend's stomach, it was no use though, as the bullets tore into David's flesh.
Dubbo turned around—his eyes watering and blurring his vision—and saw that the Spartan had disappeared. Something struck him across the back and sent him face-first into the water.
He gagged as he got a mouthful of the swamp-water and turned face up; a Human Flood Form struck him across the face and tore open his cheek. Then the creature raised its weapon, but Dubbo wasn't afraid, he had lost everything, he wasn't worried.
A shot rang out and blew the Australian's face to pieces.