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The Strive to Survive (Chapter 8: Sounds of Battle)
Posted By: CoLd BlooDed<kwb_419_@hotmail.com>
Date: 4 May 2004, 3:13 AM

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When you read this story, I suggest you listen to Navras (Matrix Soundtrack) or O Fortuna, it really helps set the mood to this story. -CoLd BlooDed

The Strive to Survive (Chapter 8: Sounds of Battle)
0302 Hours, January 14, 2553 (Military Calendar)/ On Ancient Forerunner Ringworld: Halo 07, Landing Zones waiting for departure.

      Jake looked among the rows of Marines before him and sighed; if it took this many people just to reach a structure, detonate it, and get back, it meant it was going to be one hell of an operation. He shuffled where he stood, tightened the strap on the Battle Rifle, and looked over to Sara—she grinned bitterly.
      "How long will it take to cross the plateau?" he asked softly. The technician winced as pain coursed up and down through his leg, the wound he had recently received treatment for still hurt.
      "Longer than it took to reach the landing zones," she paused, turned around to look at the grass plain, then looked back at Jake, "Remember, we're walking."
      He sighed and rubbed his temples with his forefingers, a headache had begun thumping against his skull in slow, painful beats. It was not the best thing to have before marching across a kilometer-long field with Flood destined to appear and wreak hell across the troops.
      Sergeant Vladimir had disappeared with Peters and Cunliffe a few minutes before, leading them to the front of Bravo platoon. The Colonel was standing on a large piece of broken fuselage stripped from destroyed Pelicans; he had his arms cross behind his back and was frowning. Three other soldiers, decorated in various medals, stood by Smith with weapons in hands. The Colonel addressed his soldiers. How he got into commanding Bravo platoon, Jake didn't know, it was possible the old CO had been killed when the platoons escaped from the structure and had been of a lesser rank.
      "We will be leaving in a matter of minutes; I want armor on, weapons loaded, and everyone to be ready." Colonel Smith announced, "As you all know, Delta platoon is coming with us, and remember... no one gets left behind. Unless you can't tell the difference between a Human and a Flood, you shoot it."
      The Marines stayed quiet. The Colonel stepped down from his spot. Jake felt the feeling in his stomach grow worse along with his migraine, he grasped his abdomen and let out a pained moan.
      "What is it?" asked Sara fearfully, she looked deeply into his calm eyes.
      "Nothing, just an ache."
      She smiled, "I know we will be safe, I mean, we have two rough-neck platoons coming with us, I think that'll be enough." Jake grinned back, and for a sudden moment, he felt something for the scientist. But the emotion was squelched as an earsplitting thunderclap echoed over the human survivors; the technician looked up in a calm manner only to get warm rain drops on his face. They were big droplets, not the kind you would see back on Earth. More thunder rolled through the swelling black clouds, and Jake was forced to wipe his face with his already-soaked sleeve, it didn't help.
      It began to pour, but the Marines of the two assembled platoons—Bravo and Delta—didn't bother to move. Lightning cracked above them, the large raindrops created pools of water that became absorbed by the dirt. Dark puddles of mud spattered from the fall of hot droplets were produced by the ringworlds' clouds. Jake could feel his heart thumping against his chest in anxiety and nervousness, he laughed bitterly.
      Just go through with it, the voice of his late father echoed through his mind, Just go through with it and you'll be fine, don't make it any worse by worrying. Come on, do it for me.
      I can't!
      Don't deny Jake, or the next thing you know you'll be with me.
      He noticed his eyes were watering, he felt the stinging feeling—even through the heavy beads of precipitation that pattered on his face—and blinked repeatedly to flush the irritating feeling from his eyes. Jake couldn't lie to himself; he knew why he was crying. He just didn't want to think about it.
      It'll come around eventually, Jake.
      The friendly tone of his father was drowned out by more intense thunder and lightning, the technician closed his eyes as his shadow lit up suddenly in the dull mist; he could see the dancing colors of light behind his shut eyelids. And when the second intense flash of brightness commenced, the two formed platoons set off for their long march across their own chartered land—the land which had been taken by the hands of the Flood. The technician sighed, tightened the strap on his weapon, and walked on with thoughts on his dead father. Another thunderclap, another lightening bolt, another explosion from the grenades behind them.

First Cycle, 3 Units (Covenant Battle Calendar)/ Ancient Ringworld Halo 07, mountainside overlooking plateau.

      His troops stood before him, not talking, not moving, and not breathing. Rira 'Nosalymee parted his mandibles, which in his race was considered a smile—although the one he was making was believed as an evil sneer. The Field Commander looked upon the tanks—Wraiths as they had been named—that were hovering above the Forerunner created stone, and motioned for them to start down the massive slope, then he motioned for his men. A legion of Jackals, Grunts, other Elites and Brutes marched down the snow-covered hill just as rain began to pound against the mountainside. The clouds roared in rage and sent bolts of electricity speeding towards the grass that made up the plateau.
      Everything before had led up to this, his men were bloodthirsty, and the only thing that had only a small chance of stopping them were the Flood. Rira roared, his soldiers roared back, they had been patient enough, it was time, the inevitable was happening.
      But he had spoken—or more appropriately, thought, too soon. If 'Nosalymee had looked back upon his actions he would have called himself conceited and arrogant.

0334 Hours, January 14, 2553 (Military Calendar)/ On Ancient Forerunner Ringworld: Halo 07, proceeding to Forerunner structure.

      Jake, for a moment, had been nervous, but as soon as he saw the glowing blue volley of superheated plasma launched into the air, he became terrified. Not only were the Flood destined to strike, the Covenant were making a surprise attack—it couldn't have been a worse time for them to decide that.
      The technician watched in fear as the Wraith plasma soared up, arched, and began its long descent towards a large lake consisting of mire and sludge in front of the marching Marines. The shot came down fast accompanied by a low, rumbling whoosh, and exploded on contact with the ground. It threw watery sludge everywhere as the azure-hue flash vaporized the large globules of rainfall, some of the muck landed on the Colonel who was in front but he continued walking forward, slowly but calmly.
      Another plasma mortar explosion came from behind and then slightly to the side. Jake wondered if the Marines felt the same way as he did, scared, helpless, doomed, or if they had been treated so they didn't experience these emotions, so they didn't break down when it came to this. The technician very much doubted himself.
      A sudden battle-cry resonated from the cliffs, and Jake saw a large quantity of Covenant soldiers in the distance, running down the massive slope that connected the plateau to the mountains. They would first have to cross the river, however, but in the numbers they were traveling in, it wouldn't take long.
      Jake refocused his attention on the ground in front of him and the others, and through the severe downpour and haze he saw shapes moving towards them, threatening shapes. It was the Flood, and they had already taken a swift step into the ever-approaching battle.
      The Covenant had begun firing again, and the pink, blue, and green shots lit up the darkness cast by the blackening clouds in sudden flashes. They streaked towards the moving Marine as a lightning flash blinded the soldiers momentarily, camouflaging the plasma bolts and hiding them as they impacted into the platoons. Jake swore that he felt plasma sizzle past his ears; it stung for a split second but was replaced with the soothing and warm caress of intense rainfall.
      "Get ready, soldiers..." the Colonel announced over the COM, "don't give up, don't be afraid. Don't leave anyone behind."
      As soon as he finished talking another thunderclap resonated throughout the large plateau, immediately after that a lightning bolt ripped through the clouds; unofficially announcing the battle had begun. The Flood and Covenant had both gained a lot of ground, and were already shooting at the platoons. Smith looked back, waved his hand forward and shouted: "Give 'em hell, Marines!" The platoons were running straight for the oncoming Flood, which didn't show any emotion or physical conflict; the creatures that just wouldn't quit.
      Instantly—from the soldiers in the front ranks of the platoons—opened fire, ripping apart Flood combat forms and popping the infection forms buried within. Jake was now running, both to keep up with the Marines and to avoid being trampled by the ones behind him, Sara was doing the same. Rain continuously pounded down on the Flood, humans, and approaching Covenant, Jake sputtered out a mouthful of rainwater as a plasma bomb exploded directly in the center of Delta platoon. Charred bodies flew in every direction, landing in deep puddles of mud and dirtied precipitation.
      The two platoons began to disassemble and scatter, and seconds after the Marines were in staggered formation, the Covenant were quickly upon them. Screams echoed in vain over the unencrypted network, they were so deeply sickening and managed to send chills down Jakes' spine. Green and blue shots sped through the air, lighting up the small, circular circumference around the attackers.
      Elites broke through formation with glowing energy swords, slicing their way through men without a care—they kept moving without pausing to wipe their visors clean of human blood.
      Jake fired at a confused Grunt which had stumbled into his vision; the technician quickly snapped off the safety and squeezed the trigger. Bullets exited the chamber in white muzzle flashes and ripped through the Covenant soldiers' chest, the alien was sent to the ground. The tech looked to see that the Covenant had begun battling Flood along with other Marines; he saw a carrier form explode beside several Brutes and send small infection forms everywhere. Jake spun to face one of the Jackals; it hissed and fired right towards him.
      The green plasma vaporized the thick raindrops that fell from the olive-hue sky; the clouds were blocking the sunlight to make it appear as such a color. It was both magnificent and terrifying as stray plasma bolts streaked through the air, illuminating the haze that had enveloped them, all of them.
      The ONI tech dived to the ground to avoid the incoming fire, felt it tear the fabric comprised into his uniform, and returned fire. The Jackal was jerked around by the impact of the rounds, and as it was about to fall one of the plasma bombs fired by the Covenant tanks exploded on top of it. Jake let the clip slide into the mud and reloaded, Marines were running—some sprinting—past him as he lay there, letting the hot rain soak into his attire.
      Get up, for God's sake, Jake.
      He, as if in a trance, stood up and began to run with the others, he had lost Sara in the frantically sprinting group but trusted that she was still alive. Jake hopped over a body of an Elite, then a dismembered Marine, and then many Flood forms, then once he realized that there were too many bodies to avoid, he began stepping on them without a second look.
      "Stick together! Approaching half-way point, destination blocked, don't give... ahh... ahh!" an explosion that rumbled under the feet of the technician—and every other Marine—cut off the voice of the Colonel. Stifled sobs came in response.
      The rain was really pouring now; it came down so thick that Jake couldn't even open his mouth for air. The sun was completely blocked along with the three moons that floated arbitrarily across the horizon. Thunder and lightning literally exploded in the clouds, drowning out any occurring sounds for mere seconds. More screams, more explosions; more snarls from both Covenant Elites and Flood forms, everything was complete chaos.

First Cycle, 3 Units (Covenant Battle Calendar)/ Ancient Ringworld Halo 07, on plateau fighting in battle.

      Rira roared as he plunged his plasma sword into the abdomen of a human Marine, the soldier groaned and collapsed as the Field Commander pulled out the blade quickly. Blood sprayed out of the wound in tons, maimed organs flopped into the mud—and were quickly buried by the frantically stampeding Marines and other Covenant.
      'Nosalymee spun around with his sword outstretched, managing to sever the appendage of a nearby Infidel. He took pride of the splattered human blood that covered his visor, and took pleasure in the taste, Rira laughed triumphantly. The Covenant battlenet, however, was a mess, incoming communiqués came in through with panicked voices, while others were calm and content. Rira didn't recognize many of the voices, but knew that they were coming directly from the fighting ground. A lightning bolt tore through the atmosphere in an abrupt white flash, the Field Commander blinked repeatedly before tossing a grenade into a crowd of attacking Flood. The plasma exploded as another flash of light enlightened the plateau—rotting corpses were immediately sent to the muddy grass.
      His men had already clashed with the humans and Flood, sweeping relentlessly through them, killing anything that didn't look Covenant.
      But there was a problem, a problem that was overlooked by the Prophets—the Flood were much larger in numbers than they had anticipated, and that was a big mistake to have been unseen. The Flood were to be reckoned with the utmost caution, they were an enemy that actually threatened the Covenant civilization, and any other race that wasn't immune to the Flood biological transformation.
      There was a deafening roar of thunder followed by a plasma explosion—but the explosion was much too close for comfort. Rira spun to the source and was forced to use his plasma sword to slice at any large chunks of rock that flew at him. A massive stone was tossed towards him, but the Field Commander had grown weary and faltered for too long, the rock impacted into his helmet. A pain so intense ripped through his skull and a white light took him, the green haze that had replaced the once-shiny plateau disappeared momentarily, then returned. Oozing purple blood impeded him from seeing more than two meters; he collapsed to his knees and dropped his weapon.
      Rira lay there, feeling the pain subside and be replaced with a sudden sway of nausea. Rain pounded on his shoulders, his troops ran past him, and he thought why the plasma had exploded so close. He had used the best Wraith drivers that had been landed on the ring, the answer would've come to him if his brain was functioning properly—a hit to skull didn't help thinking.
      Why did you fail?
      The blood suddenly glowed pink and knew that another lightning bolt had streaked across the sky. The Field Commander wiped off the blood, spun around, and in the haze he made out a figure—a thin human, but with a weapon, posing him as a threat. Rira, however, did not make a move, but instead welcomed the white flash that would take his life. He wondered if he would make it to the sacred place that all Covenant looked forward to after death. But one thought remained...
      How did you fail?

0432 Hours, January 14, 2553 (Military Calendar)/ On Ancient Forerunner Ringworld: Halo 07, proceeding to Forerunner structure.

      Jake felt the Battle Rifle buck under his slippery hands, the wounded Elite that had knelt before him slumped to the ground as its brains, helmet and flesh painted the mud. More Marines ran by him, and the technician joined them. Up ahead loomed the giant formation of structures that made up the facility; yet another flash of lightning commenced, illuminating the Forerunner structure in an eerie glow. Thunder followed soon after.
      They were closer now; he knew it, the fatigue he felt throughout his body was a sign, he felt it. Jake avoided a human soldier struggling with a combat form, and instead took several shots at the Flood creature. The flimsy tendons that were attached to the head tore and the skull blew up in small, rotting fragments. The Marine's expression was of shock, but the soldier recovered, got up and continued running.
      Bullets whizzed by Jake and the others running alongside him in low, muffled shoops, he ignored them and kept running. Four explosions from the Wraith bombs rung out simultaneously in the technicians' ears, and he turned to see the bodies of several Marines flying through the air, blood flying in the air with them.
      "Stick together, men, approaching structure!" the voice of the Lieutenant echoed over the network. Jake was relieved, in a way.
      Several Flood attack forms broke through two Marines running in front of him—the two soldiers were sent into a wet patch of grass unconscious. Jake raised his weapon and shouted as he squeezed the trigger; bullets ripped into the abdomens of the creatures and sent the closest one into the mud. The other combat form slipped and was quickly eliminated by a nearby Marine.
      "This is suicide! Gah!" the panicked tone of a random soldier burst into Jake's ear, adding to the long-lasting adrenaline rush that had been inserted into his system long before.
      Jake turned to see Covenant massing behind them; they weren't bothering to fight with them anymore and had instead turned to the landing zones. Many enemy Covenant soldiers still were fighting, but they had been separated from the group and were battling for survival.
      The surviving troopers began a slight ascent up a hill. The rain was still intense, and Jake had trouble keeping his footing, as did other Marines who slid and tripped in the mud. Barely any grass was visible now; only deep dark spaces of sludge occupied the plateau. Jake slid again as he tried to fire his rifle at an infection form.
      The two platoons finished climbing up the small slope, entered the overhang of the structure and stopped, they had made it, they had fucking made it.
      "T-That was fucking intense, man!" crowed a Marine in ragged gasps.
      But Jake noticed only a quarter of the men that had made the two platoons remained, his eyes watered.
      "This is it?" asked the familiar voice of Sergeant Peters, he stepped forward and shot at a fleeing Grunt that staggered out in the storm, wounded. The Covenant soldier stumbled in the precipitation and was finished off by infection forms. "You gotta be shittin' me."
      Jake slicked his hair back; water trickled down his hands in a small stream and dripped off his elbow. He sighed; Sara, Alex and a wounded Maxell were standing in front of him, each with the pained expressions as every other standing there. The soothing—yet heavy—pitter-patter of rain resonated through the thick Forerunner metal as more thunder rumbled—although this time stifled—throughout the metal barrier.
      Flood forms were still waddling around in the storm, tripping over dead or wounded bodies from humans and Covenant alike. A mechanical door was placed where the surviving Marines stood a few yards away, glowing in the gloomy atmosphere before them. Lightning lit up the 'half-room' momentarily to reveal green blood painted on the wall; the soldiers' shadows were cast in long, awkward angles onto the walls. Lieutenant Packs groaned in the shadows, his shoulders heaved and he laughed grimly.
      "Great," he said, "just fucking great, the Colonel is dead, we've lost more than half of our goddamn Marines and we still gotta carry out this operation."—he moved out into the pale green light, blood and perspiration dribbled down his brow and he panted, his eyes were wide—"Come on, we better get movin'."
      Jake watched as Maxell was hoisted from the ground by two burly troops, and then moved to the door with the others. He knew that this was just the beginning, and the march across the plateau had claimed the lives of many. Elites fought desperately out in the rain against other Flood, the blue plasma from their rifles illuminating their bodies in ethereal glows. The flash mixed beautifully with the olive-haze environment and caught the Elites in their last moments of triumph. Jake both valued and feared the mighty Covenant soldiers. The technician turned to the el-tee who crouched near the door in the shadows, he raised his weapon.
      "Charge in on my mark..." Packs ordered silently, "If there's anything in there that ain't human, kill it. Alright boys, three, two, one... mark!"
      The technician rushed in through the doorway after the el-tee. The other soldiers entered at the Lieutenant's signal with his gun raised, and flashes of white light immediately fulfilled Jake's vision while the motion tracker painted dozens of red dots.
      "Contacts, lots of contacts!"