Posted By: Jon Chang<email@example.com>
Date: 15 August 2001, 9:28 PM
The pitch black came apart. Carbines fired in sloppy automatic belches. Tracer fire richochetting wildly off the local terrain. Then the cluster of mines burst. Submunitions scattering shards of metal and explosive into the air at over a hundred miles and hour.
Ski heard the screams.
He swung around and saw one of the snatch team being dragged over the berm, kicking and screaming. He'd lost his weapon. He flailed and screamed and kicked. "Fuck! Get the fuck off me you motherfuckers! FUCK!!!!" His assailants weren't visible. It had to be Covenant Leets.
Ski drew a bead in the general direction and burned through his clip.
"Fuck!!! FUCK!!!!!" the voice cried out.
Ski fired a grenade round and ducked. Phosphor and cordite laced the airburst and the screaming stopped. Then the wounded cries of the Covenant rallied in place of the human ones. They screeched and wailed.
Ski snapped in fresh clip, his last. Just in time. He saw earth give. There was nothing there, not even with optical enhancement. He shouldered and charged through the magazine, impacts drawing brief sparks, refraction lighting the masked forms of Covenant soldiers.
The receiver locked open. "Fuck you!" he screamed and he threw the useless carbine only to see it swatted away by the invisible foes.
Ski turned and ran.
Another grenade exploded, loosing a burst of light across the terrain.
Ski glanced over his shoulder to see the Covenant grunt's form illustrated for a moment as the light bore through it and it's thermoptics struggled to adjust.
He slid down into a shell crater and then hid as best he could in the dark. He waited and waited for the trooper to appear over the lip of ground and pull him out, but it never came.
Then the shooting stopped.
He could hear the grumbling of fire cooking terrain features nearby and a few flakes of hot ash sailed over the hole he'd dipped down in.
Ski dug the dirt out of his palms and swore a silent curse to whatever celestial that had dropped him into this particular corner of the halo.
The dropship had gone down over a rise, 500 meters to the west. The warthog hadn't been as resiliant or as bullet proof as advertised. Typical. Three others from the snatch team plus the pilot had made it out. The rest were wiped.
His squad had been wiped when they took out a Covenant com tower about 30 klicks back towards the coast.
The SLAP carbine ammo they'd been doled out, worked for shit on a Leet Covenant trooper's armor. Apparently the fuckers had thermoptic camo too, because one minute the Semtex 9 charges were in place and the next half the task unit was dead. Luckily, or not, one of the Leets tripped some fragwire and wiped everything above sea level for about 50 meters in every direction.
Ski had drawn the rear guard, so he had lived.
The comm tower was down. All enemies killed.
There was nothing else to be done here. So he popped the 24 mhz beeper for an exfil bird to home on and waited. It had come in low, off the ocean, in perfect form. Too bad they walked right into a flak emplacement and got shot to pieces. But the crew still managed to take out the flak turret and they got him out in one piece.
The bird limped inland about 28 klicks before they got pegged by a couple of Covenant gunships and were picked out of the sky. The crash had killed just about everyone. Ski wasn't sure how he'd survived. He could feel the broken ribs grinding against his chest armor, but there wasn't much he could do about it.
When they'd gotten out and they weren't being strafed, Ski figured it was because they were going to come and collect a few pee-dubs. They had made it another few klicks inland before they spotted a platoon of the Covenant grunts milling about ahead. The stupid little bastards forgot to use things like thermal masking luckily, but that pause had provided a window for a squad of Leets to sneak up and hit them.
The Covenant hadn't actually used their weapons, but they had dragged off at least the pilot. Who knew about the others. He wasn't about to call out to them. Fucking jarheads would most likely opt to shoot it out rather than beat their feet. He was the last of the army special forces guys from the Pillar of Autumn. These Marines knew fuck all about discretionary warfare he'd found, especially based on their high mortality rates. 20 of them go out to wipe a comm tower and maybe 1 comes back. His unit had performed over twenty sorties without a single man lost, until the latest mish.
Night was expiring fast. When daylight came up the grunts would sweep the area for survivors. With no weapon, he was pretty much screwed.
Fucking army, he thought as he started to crawl to the lip of the crater and began foraging for weapons.
No one in sight.
Big suprise. The Leets would still be jacking their thermoptics and the jarheads would be tucked down hiding if they weren't already snatched or wiped.
Muzzle reports cracked out. Same direction of where the Covenant grunts had been earlier. The gun fire quickly abated. Then there was nothing.
Ski crawled into another nearby hole, keeping as flat to the ground as possible.
Ski waited for the Covenant grunts to polcie up the area but they never came. He peered over the crater. Clear. Then the air shivered, a human form materialized and the Soldier was there. Definitely human, he was decked out in some custom armor job from head to toe. Apparently he also had some thermoptics with him as well.
"Are you wounded?" the Soldier asked, his voice flat and almost mechanical.
"You can rise. There are no Covenant here anymore."
"You have a spare weapon?" Ski asked, still down in the crater.
The Soldier unslung an needler and tossed it down. "Do you understand how to operate this---"
"Yeah, yeah, point and click." Ski interrupted, "I saw the movie."
The Soldier remained unphased as Ski charged the first round into the needler. Ski rose from the crater and looked around. There was a dark purple blood trail staining the ground nearby. Ski strode over to the blood marks and followed them to a large pooling. He kicked out experminetally with his foot, gently as if searching for...and then he found it.
He crouched down and felt around on the Leet's body for the thermoptic on/off toggle. He'd seen them use it. It was a wrist band that was turned on and off with a touch. He found it, keyed the switch and the corpse became visible.
Ski drew his knife, which began shimmering the second it was clear of it's hilt. He drew up the corpse's arm and sawed it off just below the wrist, with a single motion. Ski slid the band off the dismembered appendage and then onto his own, where it quickly fastened itself securely to his wrist.
The Soldier's shadow fell across him as he examinjed his new bracelet.
Ski looked up into the blank mask.
"Where you headed?" he asked.
"Southwest," the Soldier answered in the same cold voice, "there's an engagement I'm due to assist there."
"Good luck," Ski said and stood up, getting his bearings.
It was going to be a long walk. Maybe he could get another exfil bird routed to him.
"Are you online with the POA?" Ski asked flatly.
"Can you call me an exfil bird?"
"Why not?" Ski asked coldly.
"You've been reassigned."
"Yes," then the Soldier turned it's attention to the west.
"Was there a vehicle in your vessel?"
"Yeah, but it's totalled." Then suddenly, "How did you know about 'my vessel'?" he asked angrily.
"I tracked your ship when it went down, it's how I vectored in on your position. I killed all the Covenant during the night when they tried to snatch you. Are you ready to go?" The flatness with which it answered him was infuriating.
"Yeah," Ski answered half heartedly, "Let's fucking go war hero."