A New Year's Day, Chapter 5
Posted By: Guilty Spark<email@example.com>
Date: 22 December 2002, 7:16 am
[February 4, 2558. 0500 hours. Aboard the USNC Concordia orbiting Luna II.]
Beneath the Pelican dropship Kingfisher, five Spartan soldiers were making final preparations for their upcoming mission. The floor of the landing bay was covered with weapons, ammunition and equipment. MA7A battle rifles. Medkits. M12 IE (incendiary explosive) grenades. Field rations. Off to the side, a sixth Spartan was practicing with a M33 HPR (high-output pulse rifle). Also known as a "thumper", the M33 was a heavy energy-fed, rapid-fire gun. Due to its size, it was literally worn by its user. A harness connected soldier to gun. A gyroscopic attachment allowed free movement of the rifle in most any direction. The M33 was based on the same technology as turbo laser weaponry, reduced in size to be usable by an individual soldier. The team often joked that the "thumper" handled the soldier, not the other way around.
Lt. Commander Pasdar entered the bay, paused and watched the soldiers. Jester. Napalm. Diamondback. Swede. Windows. And, Priest. Where did they come up with those names? Bravado or just unorthodox? she thought. No matter, they're special ops. A different breed, even by Spartan standards. They think different. Act different. And, they get the job done. I wouldn't trade them for anything.
Pasdar approached the soldiers. "Good morning. Everyone rested? I hope so; you have a busy day ahead. Priest, did everyone get a chance to view the holo-records of yesterday's events?"
"Yes, sir. We're ready," replied the team leader.
"Let me reiterate to everyone - this mission is recon only. Run silent and avoid contact. Only fire if you're in immediate danger. Our objective is to find out what's going on down there, not to start a ruckus. Your pickup will be at 0030, tomorrow, at the insertion LZ. Any questions?"
"Why the make believe clean up party during insertion?" asked Diamondback as she finished getting into her battle suit.
"In case of prying eyes. Whether they be Covenant or otherwise. They will see a small group of salvage marines. Not a group of Spartans infiltrating Luna II."
"Then, why are we extracting from the insertion LZ? Won't 'prying eyes' be aware that we landed there earlier? Someone will surely see our pickup. I don't like it," growled Napalm.
"Stow it, Napalm," said Priest glaring at the other Spartan.
"If I could guarantee safe passage and a sweet-smelling mission, then I wouldn't be talking to the six of you. Would I?" countered Pasdar.
Napalm grunted, looked down and resumed locking grenades to his utility belt.
"That is why it's important you maintain stealth. If your cover is blown, then any Covies that are present will certainly take their shots at you." Pasdar continued, "Just in case, we will have Longswords flying patrol to deal with that situation. If compromised, your E & E (escape and evasion) is one click southwest of the insertion LZ. Good luck. See you back here in eighteen-and-a-half."
Pasdar turned and began walking out of the bay, then stopped. She turned back to the Spartans, "By the way, Windows, I want a rematch at chess at 1200 tomorrow."
"You got it, Lou," he replied. "Lou" was short for lieutenant commander, an affectionate nickname the Spartans called Pasdar when no one else was around.
Pasdar gave a nodding smile and exited from the bay.
[February 4, 2558. 0630 hours. Luna II. LZ X-ray.]
The Kingfisher and Mother Goose settled to the ground, snow billowing around the engine arrays from both dropships. Ten marines hit the ground running and immediately began collecting weapons and equipment that lay scattered about.
With active camou engaged, the Spartans left the confines of their dropship. A linked tracking system enabled them to see each other. They made their way to where the marines were working, being sure to make as few tracks as possible.
The marines worked at a furious pace and in just over ten minutes had the Kingfisher fully loaded with materiel. During the commotion, the Spartans stood silent and surveyed the area for movement. The marines boarded Mother Goose and her engines revved up. Both dropships lifted off and within seconds had disappeared in the low clouds above. Unseen, but heard, was the hum of Longswords as they flew through the clouds to join the dropships for the return trip to the Concordia.
The Spartans were alone.
"No snowfall. Good. What's the word, Windows?" asked Priest.
"We've got good commo with the Concordia," replied Windows.
"Diamondback, where to?"
"I see three faint trails leading away. Two appear to be Covie. One is definitely marine, heading west towards that rock," she said. The team looked to the west. A large, sheer wall of rock rose about two clicks away.
"West it is. Let's go. Single file. Seek clear patches and avoid powder," Priest ordered.
The Spartans headed out, each soldier about five meters apart. Swede, brandishing the M33, took point. Priest, Napalm, Diamondback, and Windows followed. Jester brought up the rear. It'll take an hour to get to the rock, provided we don't run into anyone, thought Priest.
"Who in the hell would want this chunk of ice?" asked Napalm.
"The USNC bikini ski team," quipped Jester.
The group broke into hushed laughter.
"Swede, you were on that team, weren't you?" continued Jester.
Swede returned a string of obscenities at Jester. And again, laughter coursed through the group, a little louder this time.
"Can it," said Priest. "Stay alert."
An hour had nearly passed and the wall of rock loomed just ahead. "Must be three or four kilometers high," said Windows. "Odd place to put a mountain."
Swede motioned for the team to freeze. Priest slowly stepped up behind him. "What have you got?"
"Two figures. Off to the right about a hundred meters. Heading away from us," replied Swede.
Priest spotted the figures walking slowly towards an outcropping from the rock wall. Elites? he thought.
Swede gestured to the ground just ahead. The trailing turned in the direction of the outcropping and the figures. "Follow it?" he asked.
Priest scanned their surroundings. Flat terrain to the south and east. The rock wall directly ahead trailing off to the north. "No cover out here. We don't have much of a choice. Follow it," replied Priest.
Swede motioned forward and the Spartans resumed their walk, keeping an eye on the two newcomers. A few minutes later the two figures reached the rocky outcropping and vanished behind it. Swede looked back at Priest, who nodded to keep moving.
The team reached the outcropping and stopped. "Napalm. Diamondback. Get on top of that ridge. Lets take a peek at what our friends are doing."
Napalm and Diamondback quickly, but carefully climbed the outcropping. They reached the top and peered over the side. Napalm looked back at the other Spartans and made several hand signals.
"No one there," said Priest reading the hand signals. "Entrance in wall. Thirty-five meters ahead." Priest signaled back to Napalm and Diamondback to hold their position until the rest of the team could set up near the entrance.
Swede, Priest, Windows and Jester made their way around the ridge, and then they saw it. The entrance. It was nothing more than a thin crevasse in the wall. Large enough for three or four to walk abreast, but easily missed due to the nearby ridge. Priest signaled and Napalm and Diamondback rejoined the group.
"Swede, you stay at point. We're maintaining single file order. Stick to the side." In case of trouble, Priest knew they would need all the space they could get.
The Spartans entered the crevasse and stopped. The snowy floor quickly gave way to smooth dry rock. The ceiling grew narrow the higher it went, thus dimming available light - and their ability to see.
"Give me the word, Windows," said Priest, looking at the ceiling.
"Commo is faint already. The rock is acting like a barrier. We'll lose it within minutes," he replied.
Priest motioned the team forward. Slowly, they moved along the crevasse going deeper into the mountain, and further from help.