Role Reversal Chapter 2: The Welcoming Party
Posted By: Mark Nelson<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 03 October 2000, 9:03 pm
The PoA was set on a flight path that lead directly into the gas giant in the hope that the Covenant fleet would pass straight through the sector. Cortana had other ideas, as the last dropship was leaving the AI became self-aware and earned rogue status. She downloaded herself into the dropship and before anyone could notice she had spread throughout the entire ComSat network. The alarm was only raised when the last dropship touched down and Bowman asked if the PoA was still on course for the gas giant. When he found out that it was in a geo-stationary orbit inside the Halo he ordered a standard RAIS (or Rogue Artificial Intelligence Shutdown.) What scared Wilkins most was not that an AI had gone rogue, but that it happens often enough for there to be a standard protocol for it.
There was nothing they could do, it was too late to launch a dropship to manually control the PoA and without an AI there was no way they could do it remotely. So they just had to sit tight and wait for the Covenant fleet to discover the PoA, or at least what was left of it. The Covenant fleet arrived at 15:57, the Hyperspatial exit gate lit up the sky and the marines knew that they were in for the fight of their lives. Not long after a massive explosion was seen as the Pillar of Autumn was destroyed by the Covenant. The Covenant scan of the wreckage showed up no dead bodies and not enough wreckage for a capital ship of its size. It didn't take long for the Covenant to realise that the humans had landed on the Halo.
About 20:00 the Covenant welcoming party was seen lighting up the sky like comets as the dropships pierced the atmosphere. The humans had got lucky; the Covenant drops were far from the mountain range. This would give them a few weeks to solidify their defences and start expanding through underground tunnels.
Two weeks later:
"Sir, more reports of Covenant patrols, they're getting closer sir" Lieutenant Johnson told his superior
"I know Lieutenant, I don't want to strike unless I have to, I don't want to give away our position," replied Wilkins. He was about to continue his explanation when the ComSat terminal in his office beeped at him. The image was grainy but he could make out that it was a science officer.
"Sir, Professor Smith here, we've just found the primer encoded in the alien message." His voice was ecstatic.
"Calm down Smith," Wilkins never liked science geeks, "what does the message say?"
"It's quite long but there are a couple of points that might interest you," said Smith. "Not likely," thought the Field Marshall. "It speaks of an alien race that built this construct, and of the eight Temples of the Ring Gods, we believe this is the first. It isn't complete and we can't make out the technological schematics. We believe that the primer is different in each temple and when we combine each the message will decode completely." The professor was calmer now.
"So we need to locate the other 7 temples?" inquired Wilkins.
"Yes sir, there is a map that was embedded in the text, we can find the other temples easily now sir. Problem is the next one would put us no more than 10 clicks from the Covenant landing party."
"I suggest you report back to Omaha and I'll assign a squad to protect your science team."
"I'll be there immediately sir." The ComSat terminated.
Wilkins looked up to find that Lieutenant Jones hadn't left. "What are you still doing here?"
"You didn't dismiss me sir," a grin came across Jones' face, he knew that his squad would be assigned to protect the science team and chances are that he would see some action. Every marine was dying to see some action as they had been observing Covenant patrols for two weeks. Jones turned and left the room with a spring in his step. He raced back to his squad. He burst in the door and the 15 marines jumped to their feet.
"Looks like we got us a mission men. We are to escort a science team to another one of those buildings the 109th scouts came across," said Jones.
"Wow an escort mission, that'll be fun," said Rich with a sarcastic grin across his face.
"Thing is this building is 10 clicks from the Covenant landing party. This area's hot and chances are we'll be the first to nail some blue bastards," stated Jones.
The marines let out a cheer and they grabbed their rifles ready for action. "Calm down men, we have to wait for the science team to arrive. A dropship has been sent to pick them up, they'll be here in an hour."
Jones' squad, the 2nd Rangers, was an elite group of veterans that had fought in the millennium wars and had been under Field Marshall Wilkins' command in the battle on the Sagoo homeworld. They were "The best of the best," as one 20th century General had put it. If there was a task that needed doing most often it would be the 2nd Rangers that did it. The squad had played a key role in crushing the Allied Pirate rebellion on Sol 4. So far the mission on Halo was going pretty slowly for the 2nd Rangers, they didn't train for over 10 years to watch Covenant patrols. Things were to change, soon. The squad was about 2km out before they ran into their first Covenant patrol. It wasn't large enough to warrant an incursion, so Jones ordered the men to seek cover and let the patrol pass. The marines had expected that if anyone gave away their position it would be a science boy. Instead it was a trigger-happy marine that had just joined the 2nd Rangers, Corporal Chavez. He broke cover and unleashed a hail of bullets onto the Covenant patrol. It was seconds before every marine was on his feet. A massacre ensued. The Covenant patrol was taken completely by surprise, most didn't have the chance to aim their weapon, let alone fire it.
"Get me a body count, take their weapons and bring me the little shit Chavez," Jones yelled at his second officer, Sergeant Paterson.
"Sir, yes sir." Paterson turned and ran to Chavez's, who was standing with a pile of dead Covenant bodies infront of him, a hude grin on his face. His minigun stopped rotating as he saw Paterson approaching his smile disappeared. Realisation of what he had just done set in and he knew he was through.
A few minutes passed, Jones sat and considered what he was going to do to Chavez, at first he was going to put a bullet in his brain but he realised that they needed every man they could muster. Paterson arrived with Chavez; Jones stood up and dismissed the sergeant.
"What the fuck were you thinking corporal? You know now that you have just given away our position and most likely the position of the bases. What do you have to say for yourself?" Jones began to feel the blood rushing to his head.
Chavez didn't respond.
"Take yourself to Sergeant Paterson, he will escort you back to base where you will report to the Field Marshall. If you come out of his office alive I will be surprised." Jones was more passive now but the adrenaline was still flowing around his system. He called over Paterson and asked for the body count.
"16 covs dead, one man wounded from an energy blast, it's just a flesh wound though."
"Sergeant you are to escort this fool back to base where he is to report to Field Marshall Wilkins. If he tries to defect do not hesitate to shoot him. Get the men to move bury these bodies, make sure they strip them of anything valuable and any intel they are carrying."
After the squad had buried the bodies they moved off towards the base, Jones was still angry with Chavez and part of him hoped that he would try to flee so Paterson could shoot him. The marines didn't need a soldier that didn't know how to keep hidden. It took the squad another 5 hours to get to the temple, they came across another patrol but they let it pass. This time no one would leave their position after seeing what happened to Chavez.
The temple was located at the summit of a hill that overlooked a river, from the top you could see for miles. The view was breathtaking; the rolling planes of the Halo, the mountains that protruded from the surface in the distance, the salmon like fish that were leaping in the river. It was the perfect defensive position, too difficult for artillery to hit, too difficult for tanks to traverse and a slaughter would befall any battalion that attempted to take the temple. The squad were, however, dangerously open to bombardment from Covenant fliers. Jones set up defensive machine gun emplacements on every side of the temple; a sniper on the roof of the building, mobile anti-tank guns, and 4 fixed AA rocket emplacements. Everyone knew they wouldn't be able to survive long if the Covenant used fliers, they had all seen the versatility of the fliers when they were on patrol hunts. One scout had reported seeing a flier turn 180* on a 30m curve travelling at over 600mph, the Covenant must have developed incredible inertial dampers to withstand the g-forces.
Jones called over professor Smith, he wanted to get the science boys to work as soon as possible, "Smith get your boys working now I don't want to have to be here any longer than you do, especially if the Covenant hit us with their fliers."
"But sir if we rush this we may damage the message." Smith pleaded for more time.
"When the Covenant are raining down energy beams from their fliers the text is the last thing that will be on your mind, get started now." Jones was growing impatient with the professor.
"But sir..." Smith was cut off mid sentence by Jones
"No buts tech boy just get started." Smith walked off in a sulk, it didn't bother the Lieutenant, why should it? No marine has ever liked the tech boys, especially not the Rangers.
It took the tech boys two weeks to decipher the text and all without any incursions with the Covenant; it wasn't until they were pulling out that the Covenant located the Rangers.
"I want outta this place now! Get your boys packed up and ready to evac. Store all the data on the ComSat network; make sure you use a cloaked channel. I don't want to be found because one of you tech boys fucked up the transmission." Jones had been edgy since the first night at the temple, he didn't want to risk any of his men, but he was starting to develop an itchy trigger finger. He found comfort from this by yelling at Professor Smith periodically.
"Yes, sir." Smith had grown tired of the constant abuse from the Lieutenant, but he was smart enough not to speak back at a commanding officer. Smith sulked off, his head hung low.
The Lieutenant was organising the withdrawal from the temple and he looked back at the holo-map that was being projected below him. "We'll proceed down the East Side of the hill and through the valley into that forest. It should be pretty difficult for the Covenant fliers to spot us in there. We'll move out at night to give us more cover from the fliers. I don't want to be caught in an ambush in that valley, so I want a small squad to scout the area before we enter."
"Sir we may get caught at that river, if we come across a Covenant patrol there we would really be in the shit," said Sergeant King
"I know, but scouts have reported few covenant patrols in the area and we'll be close enough to home to request back-up."
"It's still a pretty big risk."
"I know but we can't pull out the way we came in thanks to Chavez, and I can't see a better way out. Brief the men, I'll watch the tech boys to make sure they don't fuck anything up. We pull out at 01:30"
"Sir, yes sir." Jones turned and retired back to his quarters.
The temple was deserted, all trace of human presence had been removed, it was of prime importance that the Covenant didn't know where the humans were. The humans were going to have to employ the philosophy that if they cannot see you they cannot shoot you.
"Sir, report from the scout squad," the radio operator held up the ComSat terminal to the Lieutenant.
"Go ahead soldier," said Jones.
"All quiet on the Western front sir, I thought we were gonna see some action sir? The only action I've seen is these bloody fish,"
"That's what I like to hear. We'll withdraw from the temple in 15 minutes, and rendezvous with you at the entrance to the forest. Jones out." Jones handed the ComSat terminal back to the operator and called everyone round.
"Right we pull out in 15 minutes, you've all been briefed on our plan, I want you all to be on the look out for Covenant fliers, if we get spotted before we enter the forest we will all be going back home in very small pieces. You get me?"
"SIR, YES SIR." The marines broke and assembled their gear. They were ready and waiting for the tech boys to get the shit ready.
1 hour later, the squad arrives at the forest...
It was the dead of night, only the marines with their enhanced vision chips could see. It was just as well; none of the tech boys would want to see what had happened to the scout squad. Some of the bodies had their testicles cut off and placed in their slack jaws, others had been thrown into a pile and burnt, the metal enhancements had melted away revealing the mouths of the soldiers wide open. They had been burnt alive. They must have been detected by a Covenant patrol. Spent rounds littered the ground, but there were few Covenant bodies and little trace of Covenant losses.
"Sir we have to pull out into the forest, if we wait here we're as good as dead," Sergeant King tried to hide his fear, but the Lieutenant could that it was eating him up inside.
Jones weighed up his options, he could try and push through the forest and into range of the bases, or he could withdraw back to the temple. He had already decided, he hated the temple, it had a surreal atmosphere, when he was there a strange force would come over him. "Okay, we'll try and make it through the forest, hopefully the Covenant have reported back to base. They'll no doubt send out another patrol to check for more human presence. If we are quick we may make it through."
It was pitch black, nothing moved all was calm had a squad have no been slaughtered the marines would be joking about how little action they had seen. As it was the marines moved through the forest double time in perfect silence, no one wanted to suffer the fate of the scout squad. These men had been trained to put thoughts like that out of their mind; some even had implants to stop it, but a sight that horrid would stay in your mind no matter what.
The Rangers had travelled about halfway through the forest when three Covenant fliers passed overhead.
The marines scattered and dove for cover, as a burst of energy tore through the sky landing among the tech boys, three of them were thrown backwards. One was thrown against a tree, his spine snapped and he fell towards the ground. Two more energy bursts pierced the darkness, luckily the trees absorbed the blast. The only thing in the marine's favour was that the Covenant fliers would find it difficult to hit them due to the trees.
"Break out the AA rockets we need to put those fliers down for good. Private organise the squad into teams of four, give each an AA rocket launcher and 4 rounds, if we don't get them down soon we are gonna be the next offering to those blue bastard's Gods. Radio base our co-ordinates and tell them we need back-up fast."
The private signalled the marines to split into fours and pickup and AA rockets they had. The marines scurried about fetching AA ammo and launchers. The fliers circled to make another pass. Four bolts of energy shot forward, three were absorbed by the trees, but one got through and impacted close to the Lieutenant, causing him to lose balance and fall to his knees. Dazed from the blast he staggered to his feet and steadied himself against the nearest tree. The private ran over to see if he was hurt, "Sir are you alright, do you need a medic?"
"No private I'm fine, just a bit drunk that's all. Are the marines ready?" Jones said with a smirk on his face.
"Yes sir cock-locked and ready to fire."
"Good, when the fliers come in low to make the next pass, I want them to fire on the fliers. If we time it so that we fire at them at the bottom of their flight curve, they won't have time to react. Tell them to wait for my signal."
The private ran over to the AA teams and informed them of what to do. The entire plan hinged on whether they could time it just right that the Covenant fliers wouldn't be able to avoid the missiles. The private had informed all the squads just as the fliers were turning to make another approach. Jones lowered his microphone to his mouth, so he could talk to all marines at once. "Steady now, don't go getting itchy trigger fingers on me." The fliers began their descent. "Steady..." the fliers began to accelerate towards the marines, "wait for it," the fliers let off two shots, and just began to climb when,
The marines unleashed three rockets that screamed towards their targets, weaving between the trees and leaving a trail of smoke. The HUD in the Covenant fliers began flashing informing them there was a missile locked onto their craft. The just began to swerve when the missiles collided with their targets. Two of the fliers exploded in a massive fireball instantly deep frying the pilots, the other flier lost control and began falling towards the ground in a head long spin. It crashed into the upper branches of the trees slowing it down before it fell to the ground throwing it's pilot out of his cockpit, only a couple of hundred metres from the marines.
"Booyah," the marines let out a cheer.
"Check that body," ordered Jones who was feeling the adrenaline surge through all parts of his body.
Two marines ran up to the Covenant pilot. As they were approaching, it began to move, shaking its head and re-orientating itself it reached for its energy sword that was only a few feet from him. Just as he was about to pick it up, he felt something pressing down on its arm. He looked and saw the boot of a human marine. The marine lent over and picked up the sword.
"Hi my name's King," the sergeant said in a sarcastic yet polite tone.
"Why should I care," the Covenant rolled over, to see that the marine had activated the sword.
"So that when you see your Gods you can tell them I said hi." Sergeant King thrust the sword through the Covenant's chest, the Covenant began to shudder and cough up blood. He clutched the wound trying to slow his death, the two marines watching with calm detachment. The body went limp as the Covenant warrior let out his final breath. King looked up to his buddy, "these energy swords are pretty cool, I am definitely gonna keep this little baby. Hey what do you think I should call her?" It was a tradition among the Rangers that every weapon had to be given a name. "I think I'll call her Jade, sounds good huh." The other marine just shrugged and walked back to the Lieutenant.
"Is he dead?" inquired Jones"Do you think we'd be standing here if he wasn't? Ask a stupid question get a stupid answer," a grin came across King's face. Had any other marine said this he would have been on the receiving end of one of Jones' lectures, but King and the Lieutenant were good friends and he let it pass.
"What's that?" Jones was looking at energy sword that was in King's hand.
"Some sort of energy blade, very nice piece of kit, I've called her Jade," King admired the blade, holding it out at arms length and rotating it.
"Well we don't have time to admire weapons, the Covenant will know our location and will have sent reinforcements. Smith!" Jones called over the professor, he ran over, the marines started laughing because he ran like a girl, Jones silenced them with a just a scowl. "How are your boys holding up," Jones showed sympathy towards the professor; he knew what it was like to lose men under your command.
"One dead, two are in pretty bad shape sir. They are both unconscious and one is unlikely to make it," Smith was shocked from the skirmish, he had never operated in a war-zone before.
"We don't have time to bury the dead, get the other two ready to move."
"You're not going to leave the body here for those bastards. You can't do that, sir."
"OK get the body ready to move," that was about as much compassion as Jones had shown in his entire life.
Smith turned and walked back towards the science team. He wasn't sure whether he was more shocked by the attack or from the compassion shown by the Lieutenant. Either way he was still agitated but he tried to clear his mind of all thoughts. It took the marines and the science team 5 minutes to organise themselves; no-one wanted to be caught by the Covenant after seeing what had happened to the scout team.
The marines moved swiftly through forest in absolute silence, everyone's minds were occupied with the grim fate that had befallen the scout team. Though no-one would dare to say so everyone was tormented by the thoughts that went through their heads. The river flowed down the mountains and out into the lush valleys, its spring was only a few kilometres from Omaha base. If they could follow the river out of forest they would be close enough to Omaha to request a dropship.
"Move, move, move. Come on you pansies get your fat asses moving." Energy discharges from Covenant pistols cut through the night as the marines scrambled across the river. The water was flash boiled as the blue shocks of pure energy hit the water. The marines reached the other side of the river and adopted defensive positions. Tracers and plasma lit up the night sky as a fierce gun battle ensued. A squad of Covenant warriors began to pursue the marines across the river, while the remaining Covenant forces laid down covering fire. It was a textbook human manoeuvre, executed with perfect harmony.
"Get those heavy weapons down and put some fire on the Covenant position." Jones was screaming out orders at the top of his voice, the Covenant had caught them just were the needed it least. The marines had lost four soldiers and three science boys crossing the river, but they had to get across if they were going to have any chance of beating the Covenant in pursuit. As he finished his sentence two privates had set up a machine gun and were saturating the Covenant positions with lead. This was aided by the two remaining mini-guns. They were managing to inflict severe casualties on the Covenant warriors trying to cross the river until a Covenant sniper put what must have been rail-gun shots through the two mini-gun soldiers. The soldiers were thrown back and carried in the air by the shots. King loaded his assault rifle cum sniper rifle and surveyed the other bank for the Covenant sniper. King located a Covenant soldier carrying a gun that had three prongs that must have magnetised a bullet at speeds close to the speed of light. Wasting no time King pulled the trigger and let off three bullets. The soldier was thrown to the ground permanently.
King clutched his assault rifle to his chest. "Betty," as he called it, had been specially modified to suit his combat style; it had a scope attached to the top to provide limited sniper use and a magazine that could hold an extra 200 boat tailed rounds. King edged the assault rifle around the tree he was using for cover. He brought the scope up to his eye, focusing on the point man he squeezed off three rounds. The first two struck the energy shield which began to falter, the third passed straight through the shield and struck the alien full in his face. The alien was thrown backwards and landed in the river, purple blood began to seep from the wound. Before the alien had even hit the ground, King had picked another target and was waiting for the scope to auto adjust. The HUD inside his power armour suit flashed indicating that the scope had adjusted for wind and range. Once again King fired off three rounds, this time the energy shield failed after just one shot and the following two rounds utterly destroyed the alien's face. King took his eye away from the scope and looked at the approaching squad, they had been reduced to three but still they crossed the river in perfect harmony, when one warrior fell another would replace him almost immediately.
The Covenant were moving a heavy weapon into place on the other side of the river and were just about to fire when an AT rocket streaked across the river, homing in on it's target. The Covenant warriors manning the weapon were blown apart and the weapon was destroyed in a fireball that engulfed the Covenant soldiers standing in the proximity. King took another look at fast approaching Covenant squad; they were almost upon him. He dropped his assault rifle and in one fluid move grabbed Jade and activated the indigo blade. The lead warrior saw King and reached for his blade, the two charged each other and became locked in deadly combat. King sliced across the alien's chest and then thrust the blade towards his chest, but both attacks were parried and the alien fought back with extreme strength. King felt something tear through his power armour, looking down he saw the energy sword had been thrust through his right leg. The metal had been melted and the cyborg implants fused together. Strangely he felt no pain; the heat of the blade had cauterised the wound and the nerve endings had been destroyed. King, unable to balance himself, fell to the ground. The alien had removed the sword and was standing over him ready to plunge the sword full into King's chest. The last thing King remembered seeing was the alien's chest being torn apart by what must have been a shotgun blast to the back.
King woke in a medi-tank, a giant glass tank filled with a saturated solution of nano-medics. They would repair his wound and rebuild the severed nerve endings. King was beginning to feel pain in his legs, which he guessed, was a sign that the nano-medics were working. King had been in a medi-tank before after his right arm had been shot off by a shotgun blast up close. He hated it then and he hated it now; he never did like confined spaces.
After regaining consciousness King began to struggle, he wanted out of the tank. The medic on duty heard the commotion and approached the tank. "Calm down Sergeant, we'll have you out of there as soon as possible, your leg isn't quite healed yet but the nano-medics will see to that. You should be out of there in 24 hours." The medic looked like one of those people you wouldn't trust with a potato gun let alone your right leg.
"What about my squad, the 2nd Rangers, what happened to them," King's voice was full of fear, he thought the worst.
"Last I heard they were picked up by the 101st Airborne after a pretty hairy battle with an elite Covenant squad. Seems they lost a few, but were lucky the 101st were operating in the area it could have been a lot worse. Word has it that they are waiting for you before they go on a sabotage mission into the Covenant landing zone, but you didn't hear that from me." The medic raised his index finger to his lips, "so keep it under your hat."
King was relieved that his squad had survived. He drifted back to sleep, but his dreams were plagued with the sight of the scout squad being burnt alive and a strange character who called herself Cortana, he wasn't sure what to make of the dreams so he decided to ignore them. They were probably just a result of the medi-tank or something. He increased the morphine levels in his system to let him sleep easier, but it was to no avail, he knew it would be a long 24 hours...