Posted By: Dirty Commie<email@example.com>
Date: 31 March 2003, 10:57 PM
Yuri's gut wrenched. The moment of vertigo just after detach was the worst. It could even seize a seasoned drop trooper like Yuri. Finally the sensation passed and Yuri could focus on the target.
Atonement scrolled up on his range finder, 29,000 m and holding. He craned his neck to the left to see their modified dropship double-timing it back to the bulk of the UNSC fleet. It was taking heavy fire from the Atonement, but managed to limp out of range with repairable damage.
Yuri turned his attention back to the target, a small Covenant cruiser that had strayed out of formation and was taking heavy damage from a group of UNSC escort cruisers. Yuri watched the mission clock ticking from negative digits to zero. He resisted the urge to check in with his CO, radio silence was imperative for this mission. The five members of the Wild Weasels used their attitude thrusters to come together in a circular formation, linked by nothing more than the entwined fingers of their priceless vacuum combat armor. The mission clock lit up; thirty seconds to the fun part.
Midshipman Arnold was having a hell of a time. His heavy plasma battery was hammering away at the Atonement. Its shields were down and engines estimated to be at 25%. It was only a matter of time before the Panama painted another ship on its hull. He was shifting his fire spread when his headphones emitted a loud beep and his targeting reticule turned yellow.
"What the hell?!" Arnold pounded his console. He requested more information on the target. Invalid Target - Boarding Action in Progress, scrolled up on his message bar. Arnold furrowed his brow, there was no indication of any assault shuttle or...or anything! He called up his supervisor, who, as usual, didn't know anything or wouldn't tell him anything. Arnold cursed and acquired a new target.
Yuri tensed. His clock hit zero and began ticking up into positive numbers. Everyone's leg rockets ignited simultaneously and Yuri's range finder began to tick down. Around 8,000 m Yuri could see the shimmering field of the Covenant docking bay, the Weasel's primary -only— target. He saw the fire from the UNSC ships stop, looked ahead to the hundreds of gun emplacements nestled around the bay, and wondered if these four men beside him could really capture a Covenant cruiser.
It was at this point that the plasma began to fly. The gunners aboard the Atonement had spotted the team and were clumsily trying to blast them with guns that, at this range, probably couldn't hit five moving scorpion tanks, much less five men. Yuri still shuddered when one massive bolt flew close overhead. All it took was one lucky shot...Luckily he soon passed below the fields of fire and had a clear course to the docking bay.
Captain Hudson's voice boomed into his ear. "Weasels! Remember your training! Move fast! Move hard! Protect your comrades! And above all, get the job done! Bay in six...five—" Their leg rockets ran out of fuel and broke away, exactly as planned. Yuri brought his suited legs and arms together into a curl. Hitting a magnetic field at 700 m/sec and falling into artificial gravity was jarring, to say the least. As the blue field rushed up, Yuri ducked his head and tried not to think about food.
As his torso pushed through the field, his legs were still moving at vacuum speed, which pushed him forward and threw him into a flip that dumped him unceremoniously on the deck. When the ship stopped spinning and he could stand up again, he shakily trotted over to the assembling circle of Weasels, who were circled up around Sergeant Richards like a wagon train.
Yuri jerked a thumb in his direction. "What's with him?"
"Just a little sick, give him a few moments, I don't see any Covs." The Captain replied. Yuri averted his eyes, vomiting was like yawning, explosively contagious.
Once Richards had cleaned out his helmet—and stomach—the team spread out to find the bay's data uplink. Obtaining detailed plans of the ship was crucial to their mission. Captain Hudson found it first and promptly downloaded everything he could break into (which was a lot, the Covenant weren't very good at cryptology). Their suits automatically analyzed and translated the data into a helpful nav point directing them to the ship's bridge. Yuri smiled; so far the experimental Weasel unit was performing admirably.
The Captain came over the proximity-band, "Alright, let's get the hell out of this docking bay! Third level, west door! And up!" Every man flexed his disgustingly powerful mechanical legs, and sprung up to the third level of the bay without breaking a sweat. They assembled around the west door S.W.A.T. style while the Captain barked out his orders. "Remember, we have to keep moving to the bridge. Our tech plotted the best course, its all hallways with only two ceilings to cut through. From here on out your weapons are hot and your fire is accurate. Oh, and let's not blast each other's heads off, this isn't VR anymore, right Yuri?" Yuri nodded. His squadmates couldn't see it, but he was blushing fiercely. Make one mistake in training and jeez! The Captain continued. "Okay lock and load. Danny and I will take point."
Yuri checked his Integrated Assault Rifle, one of the triumphs of the Wild Weasel project. The weapon was buried under the suit's armor along the side of the forearm, simulating the feel of a regular handheld rifle. It was double-barreled, self-cleaning, and had an adjustable range for unparalleled accuracy in combat. With three different kinds of ammo—depleted uranium, grenade, and flechette—which could be fired individually or in several different spreads that alternated types, the IAR was, in a phrase, totally kickass. When Yuri armed the weapon, a small trigger assembly and grip were imitated by hardening the armored glove into the shape of a hand gripping a gun, even though nothing was there. When Yuri pulled the "trigger," instead of his finger moving towards his palm, the IAR would fire. He tried not to think about how much the suit cost, and how screwed he would be if he ruined it. He looked up as Hudson kicked in the reinforced blast door with the amazing armored legs. Actually, saying he kicked it in would be like saying the Covenant aren't fond of humans. Showtime.
The team first encountered Covenant around only the second corner. The group of grunts had been milling about outside of their escape pods, not boarding or returning to battle stations. Yuri guessed they had been ordered to abandon ship, and the order had been belayed when the UNSC fire had been halted. The Captain and Danny Winters selected flechette rounds and slaughtered them with ease. Yuri and Richards, forming the rearguard, never even got a shot off. Rob Praug was between the two pairs of Weasels for protection, carrying the heavy equipment—fusion cutter, gas, etc.—as he was.
After wading through the steaming carcasses of grunts, they came to the first ceiling cut. The Captain called up Praug and he set to work with his huge backpack cutter. When he was about halfway finished with the second layer of ceiling (which would be the floor plates of the deck above them) a pair of elites wandered around the corner and were promptly mowed down by Yuri, who urged Praug to move faster. Captain Hudson assured him it was just an accidental encounter and the mission was right on schedule. Yuri didn't feel reassured.
As they clambered up through the rough hole into yet another identical purple hall, the Captain raised his fist in the halt gesture. "Change of plans," came his voice over proximity band, "the auxiliary bridge was just activated, waypoint software is updating."
Just as he said, the next waypoint was shifted to the squad's left, and Yuri smiled. The auxiliary bridge was located on the same level, and less than 200 meters away. With renewed vigor, the Weasels set off again.
Yuri craned his head, trying to see what Praug was up to. They had paused just around the corner from the auxiliary bridge's entrance. The Captain had motioned Praug quietly up to the corner and they were talking on a private band. Finally Praug stood up and took some assorted items out of one of his many magnetic leg-packs. One of these was a rather innocent looking spray bottle. He walked down the line of crouching suits, one by one ordering them to stand up as he coated the entire front of each man in a pink foam substance. Yuri inspected his newest skin with a zooming function in his helmet (one of the objectives of the mission was to explore as many aspects of the suits as possible). As it hardened, he could see thousands of tiny honeycombs coalescing on his armor.
The Captain spoke up then. He was whispering, even though he could shout at the top of his lungs and nobody without a radio could hear him. "This is a heat ablative. The Covs set up three shades at the entrance to the bridge and we've got a good fifty meters to cover. We'll all go together. Pick a uranium-flechette spread, we don't want to run over our own 'nades." The men all nodded their acknowledgement and bunched up as close as they could at the corner.
Captain Hudson tensed his legs, the other four men doing the same. Like a deer—a two ton deer—darting across a back road, he burst into the hallway and started laying down a sheet of metal into the trio of shades. The three streams of purple plasma converged on him, but the steely Captain held his ground and continued to fire until the four other men had formed up and began to advance on the ragtag position. The three streams diverged and peppered the advancing line. Praug's ablative material began to evaporate as steam, but Yuri's damage indicator held a steady green.
Finally the Cov gunners got the right idea and focused all of their fire on the Captain, the first one to enter the charge and the most vulnerable of the squad. One of the guns ceased firing; the barrage of fire had taken its toll on someone, at least. Then sparks flew to Yuri's left, and he glimpsed the Captain go down in the corner of his eye. Praug hit the deck to check Hudson, and the three remaining kept closing the distance.
Yuri's damage display beeped and his left arm faded to red. His heart began to beat faster, but as he looked up, the Covenant gunners, realizing that the Wild Weasels were not to be stopped, began to climb out of their armored turrets.
Danny Winters wasn't about to let them go that easy, he left his feet in a flying tackle, hit the shade, and stopped when the tangled heap of grunt, battle suit, and turret smashed into the bulkhead. Blue blood oozed from the mess.
Yuri held his hand up to stop Richards. He knelt down and took careful aim on the fleeing grunt, the last survivor of the Weasel charge. He slowly selected depleted uranium rounds and let fly a single round. It neatly severed the pitiful thing's head. Yuri stood up and accepted Richards' waiting high-five.
"Nice shot, where's the Cap'n?"
"Back with Praug, check it out, I'll guard the bridge." Yuri replied. Richards nodded and trotted down to the Captain, lying on his back. Praug came over the squad's main band then.
"He's alright, just took a hit in the shoulder and lost some key power conduits. We'll have to get him out of the suit."
Yuri sighed. Losing power was bad. You were effectively paralyzed; no one can lift even a leg without power assistance. After several uneventful minutes, the Captain reappeared with the rest of the squad, though clad only in a t-shirt and boxer shorts, rather than a priceless battle suit. He still seemed to tower over the Weasels, though. One of the hallmarks of a commander, Yuri thought.
He continued as if nothing had happened. Hefting his scavenged plasma rifle, he barked, "What are y'all gawkin at me for? Let's take this ship!"
The men chuckled.
Winters spoke up, "Sir, I advise you to act as a rearguard."
"Good point Danny, I'll stay out here if you don't mind." More chuckles. The smiles faded quickly, though. These men were all business.
They lined up two to each side of the thick door. "Zero collateral damage." Whispered Hudson. "Five."
The men took the count silently from there. Four...three...two... Yuri, standing in front of Danny Winters, readied his flechette rounds. He looked to his right. Richards reared up on one leg and smashed in the door. Yuri pivoted on his foot and opened up with his IAR. Not on the Covenant, but on the ceiling. The fragmenting rounds quickly shattered all the glowpanels, plunging the auxiliary bridge into darkness and causing mass confusion in the Covenant crew.
Yuri pivoted back into the hallway as Winters and Praug rushed into the darkness. Their IAR's flashed as they started clearing the bridge. Yuri and Richards activated their Night Vision modes and followed. The prey was easy. Cowering in fear or running about in confusion, it didn't matter. The deck plates were soon slick with blood. Clear sounded from each corner of the large room.
Yuri walked over to the Captain's chair, inspecting the command panels. The Weasels had done a remarkable job in minimizing collateral damage. Another testament to the effectiveness of the legendary Drill Sergeants of Earth.
The Captain's holodisplay was in mint condition. Yuri smiled as he took a closer look. Weapons were disabled, and hull integrity was low, of course, but other than that, the Weasels had flawlessly delivered the Atonement to the UNSC.
Winters established a link to the Flurry and declared their mission accomplished. Yuri slumped down against the Captain's console, resting his weary eyes. When he opened them again, a slowly blinking red LED light at the base of the Captain's chair caught his attention. His curiosity piqued, Yuri activated his head lamp to take a closer look. The red light was part of a small, smooth box, no more than five square centimeters, lying beside the chair. A blue wire snaked away from the box and disappeared in between the chair and the deck. The whole assembly was suspicious to Yuri.
Standing up, he wound up and delivered a titanic kick to the chair, sending it hurling into the wall with a tremendous crash. A ragged hole in the deck gaped at Yuri when he looked down. An array of ominous blinking lights was nestled in the hole.
Yuri's dislodging of the chair had brought the rest of the team running. Now they all looked at the lights in the hole, sitting on top of cables and wires, definitely not in the ship's blueprints. Someone spoke up.
"What the hell is that?"
Yuri was cycling through different display modes already. Night vision...ultraviolet...x-ray...aw fuck. He whispered his conclusion: "To me...it looks like a rather large...uh...thermonuclear device."
Captain Hudson took charge immediately. "Abandon ship! Everyone back to the bay NOW!" The Weasels overrode their curiosity and sprinted out of the auxiliary bridge. Yuri, the last one out, turned back to look at the Captain.
"Sir, let's go!"
The Captain laughed at Yuri. "My suit's toasted, Sergeant. I'll see what I can do here, you get out."
The door slammed behind Yuri, leaving the bridge—and the Captain—behind forever.
Yuri arrived at the docking bay breathless. The team had found no flyable ships and was resorting to an ingenious method of egress. Praug, who had been a discus thrower as a kid, was flinging each man out by his ankles. The massive strength of his suit sent each man out into space at a quite a respectable speed. Yuri was the last. Praug looked at him, grinning.
"I hope you didn't eat much this morning." Yuri grimaced. Praug laughed and grabbed his ankles. He began to spin wildly, causing Yuri to lose his large breakfast fast. The next thing he knew, he didn't feel nauseous anymore. He had cleared the bay and was spinning in zero-g back towards the UNSC fleet. He could see two longbows streaking towards the other two men already. It then occurred to Yuri that Praug couldn't throw himself out of the bay.
By firing his IAR, Yuri was able to steady himself enough to see the Atonement clearly. It was breathing fire and debris. He checked his life signs panel. Praug and Hudson were flatlining. Yuri felt sick again. He felt a tractor beam lock onto him then. An unfamiliar voice spoke.
"Welcome back, Sergeant. Covenant forces are in retreat, another victory for the good guys."
It was a bittersweet victory for Yuri.