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Specters (Part 3)
Posted By: MadJackal
Date: 26 June 2004, 12:13 AM

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Author's Note: Since I did not include titles for the first two parts of this series, which were written a long time ago, I have decided that it is not appropriate to give titles for the individual parts of the rest of the series. I apologize in advance for any inconvenience this might cause. Please enjoy!

1345 Hours, July 18, 2552 (Military Calendar)/
Sigma Octanus IV, Cote d'Azur

      Takeda Yoshinaga did not know where he was. He could not see nor could he hear. Bright spots of light swirled in his vision, and he couldn't make sense out of the images. He heard a sound, but he couldn't identify it. It was just a low sound, a sound like rushing water, almost as if every sound in the universe had mixed to form a haze as deafening as the blurring of his vision was blinding. Takeda also realized that he could not feel. It seemed like he was floating in a sea of nothingness.
      He pushed his way out with his mind and the clouds started to disperse. Memories came back. He was fighting the Covenant. He was in a building. Hunters. Chris. Chris! The last thing that Takeda could remember seeing was a Hunter about to fire its weapon, the menacing glow of the charging weapon seeming to signal Takeda's end. He remembered screaming out to his friend to try and dodge the blast.
      Takeda's hearing started to return in a maddening rush, a sudden crescendo of sound that rose until he could start to make out individual sounds. He heard the steady pounding of an Assault Rifle. It seemed far away, in the distance. Takeda reached out for it in his mind and his sense of touch started to return as well. He felt the floor beneath his fingers and he tasted the metallic taste of blood in his mouth. The bright spots of light in his vision started to fade and he could make out the floor through the visor of his helmet. Blood was spattered across the visor. His blood.
      Takeda willed himself to move and felt his arms responding. He got his left arm underneath him and pushed. He got to his hands and knees and sat up. He looked around. The first and most obvious thing was the towering Hunter standing in front of him, the barrel of its plasma weapon still smoking from the blast. Takeda saw that bullets were impacting the monster all over its front, but most were being deflected by its huge shield. Takeda looked to his left and saw Chris on the other side of the room, firing his MA2B on full automatic, desperate to put the creature down.
      Takeda struggled to his feet and almost collapsed. He saw his own rifle on the floor in the middle of the room. It must have been thrown over there by the force of the explosion. Takeda looked behind him and saw that the rest of the room was simply...gone. It wasn't there anymore. The creature's weapon had melted it away. The thing had to be incredibly powerful. It had hit the wall not too far behind him, which explained his temporary shock. Takeda collected himself and focused on the task at hand: surviving. He didn't have time to get his rifle, so he pulled out his M6D SD.
      He brought up the modified 12.7mm pistol, the heavy barrel and its silencer perfectly balancing the weapon even in his shaking grip. Takeda opened fire. The semi-armor-piercing, high-explosive rounds hit the creature in its chest. They didn't penetrate its armor. Takeda walked his fire up the creature's chest and into its neck. Round after round of 12.7mm bullets tore gaping wounds in the creature's neck, where there was a gap in its armor. Blood spurted from the entry wounds as the bullets hit, but the exit wounds were horrific. Bright orange blood splashed across the wall behind the Hunter as it gave a death gurgle and collapsed. The ground shook as the monster hit the ground.
      Takeda kept firing, emptying the last of the M6D's twelve round magazine into its body, not believing it was dead. It clicked empty and Takeda started fumbling for another clip as the second Hunter lowered itself into a combat stance as it stepped farther out into the room to cover the body of its dead comrade. Takeda slapped a fresh magazine into the pistol and took aim, searching for any weak spot, some gap in its armor, but its shield completely covered the gaps. Its lowered head also took away another opportunity for an attempt at neck shots. The creature raised its weapon and the end started to glow as it built up enough charge for a shot.
      A strong hand grabbed Takeda from behind, practically yanking him off of his feet. It was Chris. "We've got to get out of here! Run!" Chris yelled as he took off through the destruction wreaked by the first Hunter's cannon.
      Takeda turned and ran, stopping only to scoop up his MA2B Assault Rifle. He followed Chris, who was dashing in the direction of a ladder that led to the top of the half-finished first floor. The building had never been finished, as evidenced by the scaffolding and the building materials lying about, and the way things were going, it would never get to be finished.
      There was a bright explosion behind them as the Hunter fired its cannon again. Fortunately for the two Specters, the blast had fallen short. Takeda and Chris scrambled up the ladder made a dash for the scaffolding they had used to get down there. They heard voices echoing up from below them and the pounding of armored feet. Among the voices were the ominous, deep voices of the Elites.
      Takeda attempted to raise his team leader over the radio, "David! It's Takeda! We're in serious trouble! We've stirred up the hornet's nest!"
      "What's your status, Takeda?" came the reassuring voice of David Wolff, the Specter team leader.
      "I think we're okay, but we won't be if we don't get out. We're headed back to the alley for an exfil," Takeda answered.
      "Alright. Get there; secure a perimeter as best you can. Jarred and I'll link up with you in the alley and we'll leave the same way we came in. Do you copy?"
      "I copy."
      Takeda sprinted after Chris, who was already on the next ladder. Takeda reached the bottom of the ladder as Chris reached the top. Plasma fire erupted from below, the fiery blasts of energy striking the wall all around Chris. He crouched calmly on top of the scaffolding, taking shots with his rifle, giving Takeda covering fire as he scrambled up. Once they were both up, they ran for the door. Chris got there first and threw open the door. They stormed into the room followed by plasma blasts. Takeda slammed the door shut behind them.
      One after the other, they swung out of the window and grabbed the pipe running next to it, using it to slide down the side of the building and to the alley floor. They took cover behind several dumpsters and trash cans, their rifles panning back and forth for targets. Takeda activated his helmet's thermal vision, trying to pick out heat traces of any enemies. There were none at the moment.
      Takeda was having trouble seeing with the blood that dotted his visor. He reached up and slid it off. He felt a lot of blood on the side of his neck so he probed the area with his fingers, trying to locate the wound. He found it: a piece of shrapnel had cut through the side of his helmet and embedded itself in him. He briefly considered cracking open his medical kit to do some basic first aid, but decided against it. The situation was too hostile to be caught wrapping a bandage around his head.
      He wiped the blood from the inside of his helmet as best as he could with his hand and he slid it back on. Just then, two suppressed shots rang out followed by a gurgle of pain from above. Chris was firing his weapon at the window they had come out of. "Chris! You cover the windows, I'll cover the entrance to the alley!" Takeda yelled.
      Takeda lowered himself to the ground so that only his head and his weapon were visible from behind the dumpster and took aim at the mouth of the valley. There was some commotion and three Grunts came into view, followed by two Jackals.
      Takeda struggled to control his racing breathing and started taking shots. The first Grunt was yanked off of its feet by the invisible force of the 7.62mm bullet that blasted through its skull. Two more shots and another Grunt was down. The Jackals reacted quickly, their keen senses locating Takeda despite the darkness and the silencer on his rifle. They crouched behind their shields and put out a fierce storm of plasma fire down the alley.
      Takeda squinted through the harsh light as some plasma blasts tore into the pavement by his head. He concentrated, aiming for the exposed weapon hand of one of the Jackals. He squeezed the trigger and an armor-piercing round exploded through its hand. The Jackal screamed out a hoarse cry of pain, dropping its pistol and turning to grip its shattered hand. This exposed its back. The Jackals wore armor vests, but they were light, sacrificing protection for mobility. Takeda sent another bullet into its back and it screamed out in pain again, twisting towards its tormentor. It fell backwards, its shield dropping as it looked up to stare at Takeda.
      The Jackal was sitting up, cradling its ruined hand against its body, reaching for its plasma pistol with its other hand. Takeda ended its suffering, pulling the trigger two more times. Dark purple blood blossomed from its chest in little clouds of dying mist. It gasped one last time and collapsed to the ground. The second Jackal rolled to the side, taking cover behind a group of trashcans. After dispatching the last Grunt, Takeda emptied the rest of his magazine into the trashcans, knowing that the armor-piercing rounds would penetrate them with ease, hopefully finding the Jackal on the other side.
      Takeda smiled when he heard a bark of surprise mixed with pain. One of the trashcans fell over as the limp body of the Jackal slumped against it. A pool of blood spread out from behind the trashcans, and Takeda didn't bother to check and make sure that the Jackal was dead.
      Takeda heard spent shell casings clanking on the ground behind him and knew that Chris was busy suppressing the Covenant soldiers as well. At the mouth of the alley, Takeda heard the low, barked orders of an Elite and the clanking of armored feet. Lots of armored feet. He finished reloading his rifle, slamming a fresh magazine into it. He racked the bolt, chambering a round. Takeda took aim, and waited.
      Two Elites leapt into view from either side of the alley's entrance and started to charge towards the Specters, followed by some Grunts and Jackals. Takeda opened up on full automatic, fighting the recoil and struggling to keep the stream of bullets on the lead Elite. Round after round slammed into the Elite, making its shields flare up, but they held. Takeda began cursing. He could almost feel the magazine emptying as he burned through all of its ammo. The Elite's shields finally failed and the bullets began tearing through its armor.
      The Elite doubled over, clutching its wounds, dark purple blood running down the sides of its armor. Takeda fired another burst. This one caught it in the right leg, causing it to give out under the Elite. It sagged to the ground, its arm supporting it. Takeda brought his rifle up, correcting his aim, this time aiming for the head. He pulled the trigger...
      Nothing. It clicked empty. "Damn it!" he screamed as he fumbled for his pistol, which he could pull out and fire faster than he could reload the rifle. He got it in his hands, sensed the wounded Elite's partner raising its plasma rifle to kill him. He brought it up, prepared to take at least one of them with him, when two rifle shots boomed through the alley, echoing in the tight confines of the space between the two buildings. Both shots blew through the standing Elite's head. The corpse collapsed next to the wounded Elite. The wounded Elite looked up, started to raise his plasma rifle, and was thrown roughly back as another 14.5mm rifle round blew its head apart.
      Takeda looked up to where the Elite had been looking. Perched the stairs on the side of the apartment building was Jarred, the team sniper. He fired another shot at a target farther down the alley and started to reload. Next to him, in the open doorway leading into the building, was David Wolff, the team leader.
      David ran down the steps, swung over the railing, and landed in the alley. He raised his hand and was about to say something to Takeda when something farther down the alley caught his eye. He froze. Takeda turned around and stared back at the mouth of the alley and saw a Hunter. It was the same one from inside the building. It had come outside to avenge its partner. David yelled back at Chris to make sure the manhole cover was removed. He raised his MA2B and started firing. Jarred started firing as well, but even the awesome power of his sniper rifle wasn't enough to put the creature down.
      The Hunter charged, shouldering aside trashcans, its huge silhouette filling the alley with its size. Takeda started to back away, firing his MA2B as fast as he could, willing it to fire faster. David stayed rooted to the ground, calmly firing his own rifle. The Hunter closed the distance between him and David with astonishing speed. Takeda yelled out a warning, but it was too late.
      The Hunter swept David off of his feet with a broad swing of its shield, throwing him up against the alley wall. Takeda cringed. He could hear the bones breaking in David's body from the force of the blow. David sagged to the ground, where he collapsed and didn't move. Takeda held down his trigger, emptying his rifle into the monster, but the bullets seemed to bounce off of its armor. A few got through, but it was not enough. Two more shots rang out from Jarred's sniper rifle, one striking the Hunter in the chest and the other ricocheting off of its huge shield.
      The Hunter raised its right arm, the cannon arm, and it started to glow. Takeda screamed out another warning for Jarred, but again, it was too late. The cannon erupted in light and heat and Takeda threw up his arms to protect his eyes. When the light had faded, Takeda looked up to where Jarred had been. The stairs and the side of the building were melted and twisted in a grotesque sort of way. Of Jarred, there was no sign.
      "No! You bastard!" Takeda screamed, his rage taking hold of him.
      He slipped a fresh magazine into his rifle and began to fire. Suddenly, bright splashes of orange blood erupted from the Hunter's body, at its midline, where there was a gap in its armor. Takeda stood in shock. Had he done that? The Hunter grunted in pain and collapsed, falling forward onto its face, where it lay still. Behind it, his helmet off and coughing up blood, was David, still alive, with a pistol in his hand. He didn't have the strength to lift his Assault Rifle, so he had used the only weapon he could. He had killed the Hunter and saved Takeda.
      Takeda rushed to David's side, but was afraid of moving him. He could go into shock. His left arm was twisted at an odd angle and hung limply at his side. His armor was dented and twisted and seemed to have caved in farther than seemed possible with a human inside. David looked up, staring Takeda full in the eyes. David was biting back tears of pain, but he spoke, "Leave me here. I can't move. I'd just slow you down."
      "No, you're the team leader. We can still save you," Takeda said.
      "How? By carrying me all the way back to the extraction zone? It feels like I've broken every bone in my body! I'd go into shock and I'd probably be dead by the time you reached the extraction zone. I'm dead weight. What would you do if a Covenant patrol found you? Hell, how would you get out of here? They're going to follow you down the manhole and you'd be moving too slow with me," David answered.
      Takeda could see that talking was making him hurt even more. David was dying and there was nothing he could do about it. "Here," David said, thumbing the magazine catch for his MA2B and letting the magazine fall from the rifle, "take these. You're going to need them."
      He fished in his ammo pouch for more clips, but most of them had been horribly bent and smashed by the force of the Hunter's blow. Takeda quietly accepted the ammo and looked his commander in the eye. Takeda took some grenades out of his own belt and handed them to David. "I can't use these, Takeda. I've only got one hand," David said.
      Shots rang out above them, taking down Covenant soldiers foolish enough to show their heads. Takeda looked up and saw Jarred, very much alive, and very much intact. He had rolled into the doorway, which had sheltered him from the Hunter's blast. David saw him also. "Takeda, take these men and get them out of here. We've done well today. They're your team now. Get them back in one piece."
      Takeda stared wordlessly at his commander. He reached over and took David's pistol from his shaking grip. He rapidly switched out magazines, putting a full 12-round clip into the pistol. "You won't be able to reload in your condition. Make 'em count. Good luck," Takeda said, handing the pistol back.
      David accepted the pistol. Takeda turned and ordered Chris and Jarred to go down the manhole and into the sewers. Jarred leapt down from the stairs and onto the alley floor. Chris knelt by the manhole, watching out for Jarred as he scrambled down the manhole, slinging his sniper rifle over his back. Chris yelled for Takeda. Takeda got up, ready to leave his leader's side, but a suddenly strong hand gripped his arm. Takeda looked down at the bloody hand of his commander. David spoke, "You're a Samurai, aren't you? Will it be a good death?"
      Takeda smiled. He put a reassuring arm on David's shoulder. "It will be a good death."
      With that, Takeda ran for the manhole cover and David settled back against the wall, accepting his fate. Chris disappeared down the hole, and Takeda started down after him. Before he disappeared as well, Takeda risked on last look at David. He was propped up against the wall, his pistol raised, firing shot after shot at the Covenant soldiers who were now charging down the alleyway. Plasma struck the wall all around David, but he didn't flinch. Takeda scrambled down the ladder, pulling the manhole cover over him, blocking out the light of day.
      That was the image of David that would be forever burned into Takeda's mind. Cold, unflinching, brave, and deadly. It was a glorious death indeed.

2125 hours, July 18, 2552 (Military Calendar)/
Sigma Octanus IV, Extraction Zone

      Takeda sat with his back against a tree, staring into the clearing. He couldn't see either of his two teammates, but he knew they were there, lurking in the tree line, establishing as best of a perimeter as three men could establish. Many hours had passed since their escape from Cote d'Azur. They had made their way as fast as they could without compromising their location, evading Covenant patrols when possible, and eliminating Covenant patrols when they couldn't. Eventually, they had arrived at Extraction Zone.
      The UNSC hadn't been able to spare them a dropship and they had been waiting for quite a while. Takeda and the surviving Specters had set up motion detectors to cover the areas they could not cover with their eyes and the areas in front of them to alert them to the approach of any hostiles before the enemy was aware of their presence. And they had simply settled down to wait.
      Suddenly, in the distance, the horizon lit up, blossoming into a bright glare that blocked out the stars and the sky. It faded into nothingness. "What was that?" Chris asked over the radio.
      "That's in the direction of Cote d'Azur. It looks like someone decided to nuke it," Takeda said.
      "Good, 'cause there was a shit storm of Covenant in there," Chris said.
      Takeda waited long into the night. The exhaustion of the day threatened to lull him to sleep. Suddenly, the roar of a Pelican dropship startled him fully awake. He cursed himself for his lack of vigilance. He scanned the sky and heard a call over the radio. "Any UNSC forces, this is Bravo Six Nineteen, do you copy?"
      "Roger, Bravo Six Nineteen. It's about time you showed up," Takeda answered.
      "Sorry about the wait. We've been evacuating wounded for most of the day."
      "No problem, Bravo Six Nineteen. We're putting out a strobe for you to home in on."
      Takeda pulled an infrared strobe out of his pouch and threw it into the center of the clearing. The Pelican pilot saw the strobe and brought his Pelican in to land in the clearing. Takeda, Chris, and Jarred ran towards the open troop bay of the Pelican and clambered inside. Waiting for them was a Lieutenant, dressed in the all black uniform of ONI. As the dropship lifted off, the Lieutenant handed Takeda a data disk. Takeda looked at the Lieutenant, waiting for an explanation.
      The name on the ONI First Lieutenant's uniform said 'Haverson.' Lieutenant Haverson spoke up, "That disk contains your new orders. We're going to REACH. ONI would like to debrief you. They're engineering some new plan to bring the fight to the Covenant, and the information that you guys have is vital. Details on the disk."
      With that, Haverson sat back and closed his eyes. Takeda eyed the strange ONI operative. He decided to ignore him for now. He would figure out what was going on once they got back to their ONI Prowler Ship, the Defiance. Jarred was already asleep. Chris sat back with his combat knife, examining the blade to pass the time. Takeda decided that he would follow Jarred's example and surrender himself to the realm of dreams.

To Be Continued...