Scoop - Chapter Two: Bravo Sec
Posted By: kr142616<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 4 September 2009, 4:57 am
Chapter Two: Bravo Sec
"Make sure to watch tomorrow when, for the first time, a member of the media reports with official UNSC sanction from the front lines of the conflict. Our Senior Defense Correspondent, Aaron Hayes, will be reporting from Fidelity."
-Emily Aldrich, GNA Earth
0107 hours, January 20, 2549 (Earth Standard Time) 0907 hours (Fidelity Local Time) UNSC Dropship Alpha 382, en route to Camp Lexington, Fidelity
The heavy raindrops spattered off the armor plating of the marines next to Hayes. The two lay silent in the mud, their eyes, like Hayes', on the downed Pelican, smoke pouring from the troop bay. All three tried to ignore the metallic emergency blanket beside the dropship, glistening in the rain. It was serving now as a makeshift body bag for the pilots and that Texan sergeant; Giles had dragged the three from the troopbay, not satisfied with their tags, or the risk of the Pelican catching fire. And now the three sat, waiting to see who came to find them.
This'll make a great opener, Hayes thought, smiling despite himself. He'd barely been in-system before he was shot down, certainly a new experience in his five years jumping the colonies. And Fidelity was supposed to be one of the safer fronts, in equal parts excitement and worry. He couldn't imagine the footage he'd be getting in the coming weeks.
"What're you grinning at, jackass?" Giles asked, scowling at Hayes. The correspondent was starting to think it was the marine's default expression.
"Just earning my pay," Hayes said, shrugging sheepishly. It wasn't that he wasn't afraid. But Goddamn, he thought.
"We're down two pilots, a marine, and a dropship, stuck in the middle of fuckin' nowhere, and you're worrying about your paycheck?" Giles nudged the other marine, Lewis, next to him. "Texan was right," he said. "Asshole ain't gonna last the week."
Lewis didn't reply, his eyes firmly aligned down the sights of his submachine gun. After a moment, Giles grunted and turned back towards the dropship, too, and save the rain, their puddle was silent.
Giles shook his head. "Not a week."
Corporal Vidal Salbatore jostled in his jump seat, watching the scenery pass from the rear of the troop carrier 'Hog. Next to him sat Winger, his eccentric spotter, smiling blithely.
"Lovely weather, huh, Sal?" he asked, the rain sliding off his already-soaked blonde hair.
"Not for me, Winger," Salbatore said, remembering the temperate air of Camp Acapulco on Oro. Fidelity had much the same weather, but New Boston was cold, a lot further from the equator. The marksman looked straight ahead—or rather, behind. It was much less depressing seeing the dreary weather they'd already left, rather than that they were driving into.
"How's our time, Quid?" Private Elen Katsaros shouted, despite being the fact that she was seated immediately to the staff sergeant's left and was broadcasting clear on the unit's comms.
"ETA two minutes, Katsaros," Quitidamo replied, the irritation in his voice clear over the Bravo Sec comms. He'd never liked the nickname the unit had given him, but he'd quickly accepted it, if only to avoid confusion between himself and the two other sergeants in Bravo.
Salbatore frowned, his thoughts drifting to the downed Pelican. This was an unusual bout of activity in the New Boston theater. Contact with the enemy had been at a minimum the past several weeks, with only small skirmishes with Covenant patrols out near the limits of UNSC-held territory. In what was a remarkably rare occasion, the battle lines were static, with neither side giving nor taking any ground in orbit or planetside, and neither eager to commit forces without an assured victory.
"Heads up," Quitidamo said over the comms, snapping Salbatore back to the task at hand. The trio of 'Hogs slowed to a stop. Pulling himself up with the roll cage, the marksman turned to look ahead over Sergeant Diez, the section second in command and their current driver.
Smoke immediately caught his eye, and he traced it back to the battered hulk of their downed dropship. Bingo. Flames flickered in the troopbay, and a silver glint flashed a few meters out. It was hard to tell, but the bay appeared empty.
"Command, this is Bravo-One," the staff sergeant said, leaving the channel open for the squad to listen in. "Visual on Alpha three-eight-two, badly damaged. No sign of survivors."
"Roger, Bravo-One," the reply came. "Keep looking. We've got a high-profile passenger listed as on Alpha three-eight-two. Acknowledge."
"Acknowledged, Command," Quitidamo answered. "Wilco." With that, he terminated the transmission.
"Why the fuck weren't we told there was a VIP onboard?" That was Cadwaller, Quitidamo's driver, whining from the first 'Hog, Bravo-One. Salbatore couldn't help but agree with him, though. It would've been nice to know beforehand.
"Because intel sucks," Sergeant Ward replied from Bravo-Two. "Think it's the civvie, or one of the marines?"
"Doesn't matter." The staff sergeant grunted. "Can't see any bodies from here."
"Might still be around," Katsaros chimed in, still shouting despite the comms.
"Right," the Quitidamo said. "Bravo-Two, dismount."
"Roger, sir," Ward replied, and to his left Salbatore saw Ward jump from the passenger seat of her 'Hog,
Salbatore didn't get to hear the rest of Quitidamo's orders. Without warning, his world was spinning and his whole body shook with a crash.
After what could have been seconds or minutes or hours, Salbatore opened his eyes. He was leaning against the roll cage of Bravo-Three, the 'Hog on its side. What the hell hit us? he thought, the words bouncing around his head as his vision cleared.
Then he felt another bang on his helmet. The marksman spun around to see Winger holding out a BR55. "Lucky you were wearing that," he said, winking as he tapped Salbatore's helmet again.
"Knock it off," Salbatore said, accepting the battle rifle and shaking the stars from his head. "And thanks."
"No problem, boss," Winger said, shifting the S2 AM on his shoulder and cradling his own battle rifle. "Come on, let's find Diez."
"Shit. Either of you see where that came from?"
"No," Hayes replied, squinting through the rain, hoping to make out something, anything. "I was looking at the Pelican."
"Same," Lewis answered. "Definitely fuel rod, though. Portable, not Hunter, and shot across the dropship." Hayes managed to hold in a sigh of relief. He'd seen a Hunter pair, once, and it wasn't one of his fonder memories of the past five years.
"The 'Hogs alright?" Giles asked.
"Closest to us took a hit near the front, flipped back down the hill," the quiet private replied. He'd lost all awkwardness as soon as the shit hit the fan, completely in his element.
"Lucky," Giles said. "And the other two bugged out?"
"One did, then dismounted by the treeline. Other's still up there, but empty."
"Smart bastards," came Giles' reply. "Don't wanna present a target."
Hayes glanced sidelong at the two marines. He was impressed how they were handling themselves. The correspondent had been in enough tight places to keep his fear down, and was still feeling himself sweat. Giles and Lewis, though, they were as level-headed as the best of them. This'll make great footage, Hayes thought, suppressing a smiling. He'd lost count of how often he'd repeated that to himself since the crash.
"Think we should turn IFF back on?" Giles asked after a moment.
"No," Lewis replied, nodding. "We've got contact."
"Contact," Winger muttered, lowering his optics. "Grunts, four."
"Copy, boss?" Salbatore asked over the comm..
"Got it," Quitidamo replied over the unit comms. "Just Grunts?"
"And a couple Jackals," Winger answered. "Don't see any anti-air or anti-armor, though."
"Shit," Diez muttered, the most eloquent he'd been besides the occasionally, "He's right, staff sergeant."
"Shit's right," Ward chimed in. "We don't know what took 'em down, do we?"
"Rhee's got her launcher, just in case." Quitidamo said, not reassuringly in the least. Salbatore, Winger, and Diez were without any kind of heavy weaponry except the sergeant's GL25, and the 25mm grenades wouldn't do much to stop a Wraith.
"Alright, Bravo," Quitidamo continued. "One and Two are gonna search the area, try and find our VIPs and the AA team. Diez, you take Three and find a better position. Roger?"
"Wilco, Quid," Ward answered.
"Yes, sir, staff sergeant." Diez turned to Salbatore deferentially, who nodded in reply. Diez knew Salbatore and Winger knew their craft, and the marksman appreciated it.
"Alright, let's go," Salbatore said. He began to lift himself up when he noticed a new sound. A slight sizzling had joined the monotone of pattering rain.
Curious, Salbatore picked up the S2 and rolled over to stand up. He saw a ghost of movement in the air before a shimmer of light removed a good portion of his rifle's barrel. Without consciously thinking, he fired.
The marksman's teeth rattled as the rifle fired, and before him appeared an Elite, shields flaring as its active camo dissipated. The alien staggered back but growled, its grip tight on its energy sword as it continued toward Salbatore. Shit, the marine thought. Lucky shot, rifle's wasted, not gonna get a second chance—
Before the Elite could take another step, though, it was hit with a wall of lead as Winger emptied his rifle into its chest, Diez adding his M6 to the mix. With a wail, it toppled backwards, energy sword winking out.
For a moment, none of the three said a word, the sound of raindrops only interrupted by the rasp of breath in Salbatore's ears. Then Quitidamo broke the silence.
"Diez, what the shit was that? We heard the S2, even in this downpour." Before he could answer, though, Salbatore was interrupted by the staff sergeant's exclamation of, "Aw, fuck!"
Before Salbatore could respond, though, the whine of plasma fire split the air, the rest of the Elite's unit emerging from the treeline.
A roar sounded through the rain, followed by the staccato sound of what would only be automatic weapons fire. Hayes' head jerked to the source of the sound, somewhere off to his left near where the trio of Warthogs had been parked, when across the clearing more weapons fire joined the fray. By the time he turned back to the group of Grunts and Jackals by the downed Pelican, they were gone.
"Not good," Giles said to himself. "We need to help these guys."
Lewis simply nodded. He looked across the clearing, then towards the hillside, where the initial gunshot had broken the silence. Then, he stood, beckoned to Hayes and Giles, and took off, following the treeline.
Hayes let out a quick sigh of relief. As much as he didn't want to throw himself into a gunfight, he'd much rather not cross the open clearing to whatever mess was going on there. As soon as he could think to be relieved, though, Lewis dropped, Giles following in turn and Hayes only an instant later.
The marines didn't need to tell what they had seen. Ahead was an assortment of Grunts and Jackals, the Grunts huddled around one Jackal's shield while another hung back, firing from some kind of rifle. A few dozen meters off, on the edge of the hill, a trio of marines returned fire intermittently, hugging the dirt. Neither group was making much in the way of progress.
Lewis looked to his partner, bringing up his submachine gun. "All you," he said. "I'm not gonna hit much from here."
"Got it," Giles replied. "Firing," he said, and suited actions to words.
Hayes was left to watch, the handgun useless in his grip. He was no soldier, and while he could shoot, he wouldn't trust himself to hit anything. Instead, he made sure he got the best footage he possibly could. His freecam floated above it all, its multiple lenses catching the alien attackers, the defending marines, and his own trio.
On his own headset, the correspondent watched as Giles' first volley took a Grunt full in the side, downing it. Before any more of his or Lewis' rounds could find their mark, though, the Jackal in the rear threw down its carbine, a shield springing to life on its arm. The birdlike creature ran forward, skidding to a stop in front of the dying Grunt and the rest of the unit.
Giles swore, but kept firing with Lewis. With their attention divided, the aliens' return fire slowed, until Hayes heard a muffled thump from the hillside. An explosion tore into the first Jackal and its shield collapsed, leaving the aliens exposed. The second tried to shift its shield to take some of his comrade's burden, but not before another grenade detonated, showering the remaining aliens with shrapnel. A pair of bursts from the hillside put down the remaining dazed Grunt.
Giles and Lewis remained motionless. "See anything?" Lewis asked Hayes, pointing to the sky.
" Hayes switched to his freecam's view, scanning the clump of alien bodies for movement. "They're pretty still. Can't see too far into the trees, though."
Lewis nodded and stood, Giles following, Hayes again being left to trail behind. As impressive as it was, the pair's nonverbal communication was getting on his nerves. As he caught up, he saw Giles policing weapons and grenades from the bodies, and the just-recently beleaguered trio of marines approaching from the hillside.
"Thanks for the help," one said, a corporal carrying a ruined sniper rifle. "Corporal Salbatore," he said. His IFF tag flashed for just an instant across Hayes' view before it disappeared again, noting him as one CPL VIDAL R. SALBATORE.
The spokesman glanced between the three, his eyes lingering on Hayes, before he turned to the sergeant next to him.
"You're with us," said the sergeant, a wiry, dark man whose IFF flicker identified him as SGT ADRIAN A. DIEZ. "Our unit's in trouble." His black eyes sought out Hayes in particular, and the correspondent grimaced. So it's gonna be one of those assignments? he asked himself.
"Well let's get moving," Giles said. "Lead on, sarge."
I should be reading my fucking book, Staff Sergeant Quitidamo thought with a mental sigh. A burst of plasma sizzled over his head, and next to him Cadwaller ducked out of reflex, then shrugged sheepishly. Quitidamo grunted, cursing whatever VIP who'd decided to get himself shot the fuck down on what was otherwise shaping up to be a good morning.
A tree over, Katsaros returned suppressing fire from her M247 SAW. She might as well have been blind, but the staff sergeant caught her smile as a Grunt squealed in terror. Not dead, but the suppressing fire was doing the trick.
"What's the count, Cadwaller?" Quitidamo shouted, poking his head out from behind his tree only to dart back behind over under a barrage of plasma.
"I've got two Jackals, three Grunts, fourth bleeding out. Elite Minor hanging back."
"Good eyes," the staff sergeant grunted. The private's counted matched his own. "Ward?"
"Two Jackals, two Grunts, Elite Major. Shit's looking rough, Rhee can't get a shot off with her launcher, and they're hiding behing our 'Hog anyways."
"Fucker," Quitidamo growled. "Diez, Sal, where the hell are you?"
"Coming, sir," came Salbatore's reply. "Picked up some strays, and our VIP."
"First good news today," the staff sergeant muttered to himself, a globule of plasma sizzling angrily as it slammed into his cover. "Hear that, everyone?" he shouted, switching to the section comms. "Stay alive till we're home and we're set!"
There was a chorus of affirmatives, and the staff sergeant opened up a channel. "Command, this is Bravo-One. Survivors have been located, as has the VIP. We are still under heavy fire, though. Request air support."
"Negative, Bravo-One," the voice of Command replied. "Intel is showing your location is hot. Stand by."
"Stand by? Dammit, how many more of them are there?" Quitidamo shouted, more to himself than anyone else.
As if someone, somewhere were determined to make sure his question did not remain rhetorical, the rumble of Covenant Wraith's propulsion drive joined the cacophony of whining plasma and alien chatter.