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Countdown Earth: Hour Four
Posted By: Mainevent
Date: 13 January 2004, 9:25 PM


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      Hour Four




      "Where the hell did they come from?" McPherson asked solemnly of his radar operator. "You said they wouldn't be here for another hour at least!"
      "Listen Gunny, all of my scanners are operating. The SatRads just weren't focused on the area their coming from. I couldn't have seen them no matter how hard I looked. SatRads aren't under my control. I can just access their feeds."
      "How long do we have?"
      "If they keep up their current heading and speed."
      "Then..."
      "Ten minutes. That's an optimistic estimate too."
      "Shit. I'm no radar expert, but that doesn't look like a small landing party either."
      "No sir, it's not. The covenant fly overlapping formations so that it reduces their signature, but either way you look at it, we're outnumbered, outgunned, and outlucked."
      "Leave the post, we don't need radar anymore. Get your gear and spread the word. ALl hands to combat stations. If we can't win this, we'll give 'em hell."
The Gunny saluted the brave corporal, and watched sourly as he left the room.
      "Communications, send a message to TacCom."
      "Ready sir."
      "Last communique. Overrun by large surprise force. Covenant following north by northeast vector at unknown speed. Don't let this happen to anyone else. McPherson out."
      The bewildered and confused communications officer sat staring blankly. The words hadn't fully hit him, but he knew that the words overrun and last weren't good. Fear ached through his body, pulsing at his veins, and tearing through his heart. His breaths were short and quick, an almost pant.
      "Did you hear me? Send that message now!"
      "Y-Ye-Yes sir." He stuttered. His body swiveled awkwardly, as though he was undergoing vertigo, or taking his first steps as a young child.
      "After you've sent it, shut down North One, and get ready to fight. As for the rest of you, there's nothing more you can do here. Check your armor and weapons, and see Corporal Lance for orders. Now move like you gotta' purpose!"
      "Sir, yes sir!" Echoed throughout the room.
      North One was the wing of the airport that contained the tower and command center. The airport was a large structure, but weapons like those the Covenant had didn't care. They could burn through metal and concrete easily. McPherson knew they didn't have a chance, but he could do something. If this force was an attack force designed to move surprisingly and devastatingly through the country, he could reduce it and give a warning.
      In the foyer stood Lance, and fifty three other men and women. The six civilians the marines had rescued eariler were also in the room, the small boy standing at a non-uniform salute. His palm was out, and his hand touched the top of his forehead, but he was trying.
      "I've never bullshitted you before, and I won't start now. We won't win this fight, we can't win this fight. I'm an optimist, but I'm also logical. What we can do, is batter their numbers, and give them the most hell they've ever seen. I wouldn't ask you to sacrifice your lives if I could avoid it, but we have nowhere else to go. So we're staying, and we're fighting."
      "You better not give up! If you turn tale and run, I'll shoot you myself. We'll be dead before we see them if we do. I don't care if you're shot, missing an arm, or your dick's been shot off. Chances are the guy next to you is already dead, and you better go out fighting. Do you understand me marines?"
      "We understand you sir! We will not give up sir!" Drowned out the dull humm of machines and vents that perpetually creaked through the building.
      "Hooha!" McPherson yelled, and was quickly followed by his marines.
      "Well, what are you jarheads looking at? We've got a battle to fight. Get to your damn stations!"
      His men said nothing, simply skattered like roaches in the light. The six civilians were put to work helping with the ordinance. Making a jerry-rigged supply chain that sent jackhammer rockets and boxes of ammunition up to the tower. If they couldn't fight, there were a million other things they could do.
      Marines rushed in every direction, many with belts of ammo draped over their shoulders and weapons in their hands. Gun bolts were snapping to a stop as weapons were undergoing a quick check. The seven bottlenecks and chokepoints that had been set up in the roughly U-shaped building were at nearly regular intervals, and the closest thing they'd get to heavy support.
      Three APC's sat calmly at the front door, manned and ready by Blue Team. Ground forces would have a good time getting through their thick skin and .50 caliber heavy machine guns. They hadn't heard the speech, but they didn't need to. They'd never give up, none of the marines would've. They knew their duty.
      What no one at the airport did know, or could've known, was that the strike force consisted of nothing but special forces. The black-armored warriors were legendary on their homeworlds, they had never known defeat and laughed in alien tongues at the humans efforts to kill them. Even the pilots were specially trained. None of the humans had a chance.
      PFC Walker stared in disbelief as the enemy craft dotted the horizon. Fifteen Seraphs with two Banshee escorts each, six Phantoms, and easily twenty Specter Dropships. He counted again, just to make sure his eyes weren't betraying him. He'd expected a fight, but this wasn't a fight. This was suicide. McPherson was right all along; no one would leave the airport alive.
      He and the other eight men in the room all hefted the launchers on their shoulders, and readied themselves. Four took knees, and the other four stood between them. Walker was the one giving the orders in the tower, and it was up to him to judge. Six hundred meters, no. Five hundred meters, no. Four hundred meters, no. Three hundred meters, FIRE!
      His rocket whirred to life and spewed fire as it whizzed out of it's tube; the only signal the others needed to open fire. The dumb rockets only chance at hitting the enemy was to take advantage of their numbers, or hit them with a precisely calculated shot.
      A Seraph dodged the shot with ease, but left his guardian Banshee unawares as the shot mushroomed into it's cockpit. The stubby wings were severed violently and pinged into other flyers as they fell to Earth. Another seraph wasn't so lucky, and was hit by two rockets. The flames that bellowed off of it's rear temporarily blinded the Banshee behind it, who caught himself on a dead path with another rocket. Two of the rockets missed entirely, but the other two impacted a Phantom. It belched plasma fumes and fire, listed to it's side, and slowly inched to the ground. Gravity didn't care what side you were on, it hated everyone.
      They weren't getting a second chance; there wasn't time to reload. The enormous formation split into two equal groups, which one in itself was enough to wreak more havoc than needed. A huge volley of plasma torpedoes and bullets churned towards the tower from the first wing. They seemingly combined into one singular blast, the size of a minivan.
      Walker kept reloading as the rest of the men rushed down the stairwell and headed for the ground. His finger jerked once, then again. Two of the flyers too close to pull up died a flaming molten death. The blast impacted the tower at the midsection, rocking it to it's core. All seven men inside were scorched instantly as the explosion cut solidly through the front and exited the rear. The tower shook on it's foundation and toppled backwards.
      The PFC took a white-knuckle grip on a nearby computer terminal, and willed it to hang on. The screws holding it to the floor stripped free and released the heavy machines it was securing. Luckily, the man holding onto them had enough time to roll away to safety. A large hole had been cut into North One from the tower's forceful removal, and Walker made a dash for it. Fifteen feet until he was in. Ten feet. Five feet. The roar of ravenous Banshees behind him told him he had to hurry, and he gave it all he had. He leapt the remaining five feet, and landed on the tiled floor.
      He smiled to himself as he turned to give them the finger, but he never made it. His body disappeared in a bright green flash, as well as the entire fifteen foot section of North One that hadn't been previously destroyed.
      The Phantoms took a slowly circling path and landed on the tarmac, as did the Specters. Hundreds of ground troops poured out of their clam-hatched doors with a fervor, eager to taste human blood.
      The Banshees and Seraphs finished the APCs off in a single miraculous blast, all of their armor and the men inside had been reduced to molten slag in two seconds. They began a random attack pattern, hitting the wartorn building with a torpedo or strafing it whenever they could.
      McPherson swore under his breath as he watched the tower fall. Eight good men were gone. Another rumble shook the ground. Glass spewed into the foyer. A quick glance showed him that his heavy armor was gone too. Whoever these Covenant were, they were better than any he'd seen before.
      The glimmer of black armor in the sunlight caught his eye. Five elites jumped into the building at once, while fifteen squatty grunts took positions outside. Machine guns screached to life in protest of their intrusion. Shields flared and died as bullets found a new home; finally dying. Their armor dented with pockmarks and finally ripped open from force. Purple blood columned into the air and coagulated.
      Six grunts moaned in pain as the machine guns found new targets. The other nine shot off a salvo of heavy ordinance. Mini-plasma torpedoes splashed across the walls, as did human blood. In less than a minute three of the bottlenecks had fallen. They wouldn't last five minutes at this rate. He spun around as machine guns behind him opened fire. On nothing, it appeared.
      Two machine guns on opposite sides of the hallway were sending six hundred rounds a minute down range. Flickers of light gave away the camoflauged elites attempting to sneak in through the back amidst the confusion. Bullets peppered their unshielded bodies, but it would take more than one shot to penetrate their armor.
      Air sizzled as a long bluish-green blade forged itself into life. The marine manning the left machine gun turned to face his attacker, but was too slow. His head toppled to the floor in a pool of it's own blood. The right marine didn't flinch, or even look. He just kept firing.
      Six invisible elites clutched their throats or let out heavy roars as they died. One arm was cut brutally off from a swipe, but it wasn't fatal yet. The marine only screamed and squeezed the trigger harder. A second swipe removed his torso, and his machine gun's barrel jerked to the ceiling. The elite that killed him jerked violently as bullets ripped through him, bouncing around inside his body and tearing his organs to hell.
      The still running machine gun created a thick white powder that rained to the floor, revealing another six previously cloaked elites. Grenades bounced into their formation, and carefully plucked their limbs from their bodies.
      "Lance, get over here!" He yelled over the fire.
      The corporal began his jog to his commanding officer, but a falling piece of debris crushed him in a single blow. One of the finest and most brilliant men in the military died in a single, fateless blow. Life wasn't fair.
      Two hunters and a company of jackals and grunts poured in behind the elites, sending thousands of rounds of plasma into the open building. Thirty of the forty remaining marines were killed in the fighting at the door. Many never even sighted a target. The pure volume of fire simply overwhelmed them.
      McPherson screamed as a bolt severed his knee from his leg, and he toppled onto his back. The heat cauterized the wound. He pumped six slugs into the grun that had fired the shot. It barked a guttural chirp and spun to the floor. A nearby hunter charged six marines providing cover fire.
      It's heavy boot was the last thing Gunnery Sergeant Patrick McPherson would ever see. It's half-ton of unknown metal crushed his head in a single forceful step. His body jerked twice before stilling. The ten marines left were obliterated in five minutes.
      Mobile International Airport, like so many other places, had fallen. Many of the major countries were struggling to survive. Space was the key factor in the battle for Earth, and it wasn't faring any better. The sheer volume of Covenant space ships that had arrived negated almost any chance they had to fend off the enemy. It would be a long three hours. A critical time for Earth.





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