Posted By: Mainevent<email@example.com>
Date: 27 August 2003, 2:11 AM
Chapter One- The Covies Ain't Got Nothing On This
His mind was lost in the vast sea of space that lay sprawled endlessly before him. It was hard to imagine how anything harmful could exist in the tranquility. The panorama of planets, moons, suns, and an asteroid belt played endlessly on the viewing screen. He was thankful for the slight reprieve he was awarded, even if it was leading up to another battle.
In seventy-two hours he nor his crew may be alive. It was finally time, the UNSC brass had ordered a massive fleet on what would be the first, and maybe last, offensive of the war. They hoped to bait the covenant away from the real attack by sending highly encrypted messages to dummy ships. Hopefully, the covenant would intercept and decode the message, and that would be fewer enemies to face.
The real orders were delivered via stealthy prowlers that ran at high speeds. Captain Richard Capulet, known to his crew as Cap, was standing nervously in front of the large bay windows of the bridge. He was waiting at a designated point for his prowler. The UNSC Enigmatic was scheduled to arrive at 0410 hours today.
"Cap, we have an incoming message from UNSC vessel Enigmatic. Class III Prowler designation. Do you wish to accept"" Ensign Hugh Richards asked cautiously. His freckles and baby face concealed exactly how deadly he could be.
"What time is it ensign?" Capulet questioned.
"Sir, time is 0546 sir, the Enigmatic is one hour and thirty six minutes late sir."
"Scan her for any damage or plasma scarring."
A large hologram of the Enigmatic appeared above the holo-port. A multi-colored 2D square passed over the ship, and the scan was done. Three patches were red and glowing on the holographic model.
"Sir, scan shows three covered plasma marks in her left engine. Should I open fire on her sir?"
The captain strolled to his command chair and took a seat. He thought for a second and then answered.
"No, give them permission to land in bay F-15. And dispatch three Longsword Interceptors to escort her in." He told Richards Calmly.
"Caprice, send four combat teams to bay F-15 on the double, and have them hidden. If this is a trick I want our little friends to be sorry they ever tried it."
Kimberly Caprice nodded silently and typed the orders into her stations monitor.
"Combat teams Alpha through Delta report to Bay F-15 on the double. Stay out of sight. We have visitors." Was the computer animated voice that blared overhead.
"Give me another scan of that ship Richards. This time for explosives."
Hugh's face suddenly tightened as he realized what the captain was thinking. "Sir, yes sir!" The Enigmatic reappeared on the holo-port and another scan was initiated. The scan took less than fifteen seconds to finish, and came up negative. The command crew took a sigh, as well as the captain, although his was inside.
"Richards, you're in command while I go to greet our visitors. If anything, and I mean so much as a sneeze happens while I'm gone, I want to know." The captain turned quickly on his heel and stood at the large doors leading into and exiting the bridge. They squeaked as they opened before him, and he walked briskly from the room.
The bay was small compared to some of the ones on the ship, and that is what Sergeant Blackwell wanted. A close-quarters battle where his marines would be in charge if anything went wrong; and tonight, everything would go wrong.
The bay was two levels tall, roughly thirty meters wide, and about four-hundred meters long, with a large airlock at one end. On the other end were two large metallic doors from which all personnel entered and exited the bay from level one.
About midway through the bay on either side were stairs which granted access to the second floor. There were several large maintenance clasps overhead for repairing longswords. Throughout the bay were roughly fifty large boxes of machine parts and several loaded rocket tubes that hadn't been installed.
Blackwell ordered his men to place the boxes strategically. With four areas all blocking off the airlock. They were arranged in a rough semi-crescent pattern, usually with stacks of five or six on the bottom, and two or three placed evenly to give the men cover. The setup provided the marines with an excellent area to fire from while concealing themselves from fire.
"Johnson, get Alpha team up on level two, I want some overhead fire if things get messy. And have some grenades at the ready." Came the brutish orders through the headset. Johnson was in charge of combat team Alpha; one of four recently activated teams. They had no orders other than to move stealthily into bay F-15, and remain out of view, and so they did.
"I want teams Bravo and Charlie behind those crates at either end of the bay. Get me some snipers propped up between these boxes." Could be heard over the comm. channel. Sergeant Blackwell was a tough commander, but he sure the hell knew what he was doing. A veteran of ten ground encounters with the covenant, he knew how to handle the tricky aliens.
"I want four heat vision scanners on the hatch in case they decide to camouflage a couple of those elite bastards." He pointed to several areas in the cramped bay, and his men moved methodically to them. "Grenades at the ready, here she comes. From here on out radio silence."
He slipped from view behind a large crate containing an engine for a Longsword. The bay's airlock door slid slowly open; the small spacecraft hovering noisily inside. It scooted inside of the bay and three small legs extended from it's hull. The small feet clanging as metal touched metal. The hatch on the ship opened to reveal a human pilot.
"Thank god it's not the covenant. I was worried for a moment." Johnson whispered to a marine seated beside him. He glanced back around the crate at the pilot. Suddenly, his head erupted into a bluish-green splatter as the plasma bolt pulsed through him. His head-less body falling limply to the floor, and an elite growling victoriously behind him.
"Oh shit!" Johnson muttered looking towards his partner; who was vomiting on the floor. He grabbed his partner"s shoulder and tugged him hard; the go command in an ambush situation. All hell broke loose in the cramped compartment as three elites jumped into the open area.
Three 14.5 mm armor-piercing rounds tore through their bodies instantly. One of their heads came rolling by a marine rushing to the door of the craft. He primed a frag grenade and rolled it inside.
He rushed to a nearby container and leaped over. Fire flared from the hatch of the ship and it lurched violently. The cockpit windows shattered and sent shrapnel throughout the room. Body parts from several grunts went flying as the impact hurled them through the air.
"This is Interceptor Tango Five, enemy dropships inbound. Four of the bastards to be exact. we're engaged at the moment. You guys are gonna have to handle it!"
The news hit the combat teams like a brick to the face. Four dropships with roughly 15 elites, jackals, grunts, and if they were especially unlucky, hunters, were about to land right on top of them. Blackwell thought silently to himself for several seconds.
"Our surprise is out the window, those bastards know we're here, so lets give them hell." He gave a loud, "hoorah", and the team did the same.
"Get me some rocketeers in here! I want all of you snipers reloaded and ready to fire as soon as those doors open. Call the Cap, tell him to activate the automated turrets on this area of the ship. If so much as one of them steps their living bodies on this floor you all owe me KP duty for a year. Got it""
"Sir, Yes Sir!" Came the resounding call from his marines. There was a quick rush as several snipers moved to the deck above for easier shots on the covenant as their doors opened. Marines quickly filled their vacancies, and everyone knew what was going on. The all-hands alarm began wailing three minutes before that. A squad of ten rocketeers, all fully loaded, rushed into the bay. They quickly moved into position. Everything was on plan. Blackwell had talked to Caligula, the ships onboard AI, only moments before. And the turrets were online.
"Sergeant, Captain Capulet is on his way to the bay now. He wants to see the visitors." Came Richard"s voice over the headset.
"Negative on that ensign, area is hostile and turning extreme. Get him to safety immediately."
"But sir, he is on his way. I can't reach him in time."
"Damnit man make an announcement."
"All of our communications are busy at the moment."
"Listen son, can you make an exception for once in your life and just tell him to report back to the bridge."
"Negative, Caligula has all control over the comm. channels, and they are all busy at the moment. Advise you send a team to intercept and secure him."
Sergeant Blackwell was furious. He was about to fight an enormous life-altering battle, and now, this. He motioned to a squatting private Johnson who scuttled from his position to the Sergeant.
"Son, you"re in charge until I return. I am leaving you in charge of this battle until I get back. There better be something to get back to or it will be your ass." He turned quickly, and without so much as a salute, left the room.
"Three banshees on your six Tango four. Do a loop and I can fly wing." Came the panicked voice of pilot Vince "Lucky devil" Wilson. Fifteen banshees against a group of five Longsword Interceptors. They sprang forth violently from an asteroid ring between two planets. The UNSC Suncoast"s 50mm high explosive incendiary(HEI) rounds tore through several of the small ships without problem. Suddenly, several Spectre heavy-attack fighters entered the fray.
These covenant space fighters were behemoths for fighters. Easily the size of three longswords, these ships packed enough punch to take out ten Longswords each; and their were only five to start with.
"Caligula, fire ten Argent VII missiles at each of those Specters immediately."
"Affirmative Captain, argent missile"s have been launched at your request."
"I love you Caligula!" He said enthusiastically.
"I know you do sir!" Came the AI"s response.
The argent VII missiles left small plumes of smoke in their wake as they streaked towards their respective targets. The missiles impacted the ships violently. One of the covenant ships erupted into a small thermonuclear explosion as it's power-plant overloaded. The second one"s engines sputtered before finally igniting and tearing the ship in half.
The third one, which managed to sustain only marginal damage hurriedly sped for the asteroid belt"s safety. Two longswords disengaged and chased after it.
"Tango three and one, get back in formation. That is probably a trap. I repeat do not enter the asteroid belt." Vince winched as he watched a plasma missile smash into the side of the longsword. It's extreme temperatures quickly eating through the armor, and explosive decompression happened immediately.
The pilot"s bodies shrunk and then exploded in under five seconds. Their blood boiling in space. Vince screamed into his headset, but it did no good. That wouldn't bring them back.
"Tango two and four, grab my wing. we're gonna save the Suncoast."
"Roger that sir, and let's fry a few of the bastards for Andy and Horseshoe okay commander""
"Roger that Cross, let's take "em out."
The three longswords swept violently from above like hawks on pigeons. Three banshees grouped in tight formation were easy prey for the Excalibur missiles they carried onboard. The missile lurched from it's tube and jetted through the pitch black space.
Vince watched as the small fire-red engine split into five separate pieces, and created a self-contained implosion in the vacuum. All three of the banshees screamed forth as their stubby wings seemingly grasped for something in space.
Johnson had changed the arrangement after Blackwell left. He figured the snipers would get one shot at most before the turrets on the dropships shredded them. He had several spare Longsword rocket tubes moved into place on top of the crates in the middle of the bay. He couldn't wait to see the faces of the covenant as they landed.
The snipers had been pulled down from the second floor and placed on either side of the bay behind the crates with a couple rifleman and an occasional shotgun carrying infantry for close range support. The rocketeers were moved to the second floor and told to hold position until the order was given. At which time they would leap forth and fire into the most heavily concentrated areas, or at high-priority targets.
Considered high-priority at the moment were the elites and hunters that the covenant may have packed into the massive vessels. The small packs of grunts and jackals were also nice targets, their close formations making for multiple kills in one shot.
The ships cruised slowly into the belly of the beast. The docking bay doors sliding eerily open, and the sight of empty boxes and equipment everywhere. They cautiously slid into the metallic encampment, and set slowly down. The large clasp-like doors of the dropship opened and everyone on board hopped out. Hoping to clear the room before the marines were able to firmly implant themselves; causing a real problem.
Everyone except Da "Akazeem, a special forces elite sent into the ship to plant explosives that hopefully would tear through the behemoth. He was a veteran of six wars, and ten battles against humans. He knew how wily they could be; not to be underestimated at any rate.
Either way, his job was to let the invasion party distract the marines onboard long enough for him to slip through the ship unnoticed. Three grunts exited the vehicles pod-like wings ready to scatter for cover. They moved to the small semi-circular perimeter that was to be made for cover until the dropships could leave.
In all, fifteen grunts, seven jackals, four elites, and three hunters had been dropped off; including "Akazeem who was still aboard the rear dropship. He peered around a small corner from the ship he was on. The grunts started waddling their way to the large double doors at the front of the bay.
Suddenly, bullets tore through all four of the elites with deadly accuracy. Three of them tore at the gaping holes now where their throats were. The sudden ferocity and surprise of the attack caught the covenant off guard. Two of the dropships tried to escape in a frenzied panic only to crash into each other and then crash helplessly on the floor below.
Two of the hunters survived the sniper"s round, but even their large shield couldn't stop the force of a rocket. The force of the round as well as the shrapnel cut hundreds of small holes in the brutish figures armor. He reeled backwards flailing his arms wildly. The massive metallic fist of the beast came with astounding force as he sent three jackals hurling fifty meters across the bay and crashing into several large crates.
"Akazeem was still astounded at how fierce of fighters these humans were. Although he learned quickly during his first encounter not to let his guard down. He had done it once and it nearly cost him his head, literally.
In the academies on his home world, they were taught that humans were weak, dumb, and had inferior weapons. The prophets also led in the propaganda, constantly dribbling their nonsense about how the gods willed the destruction of the humans. He had never been one for religion, especially the religion of the prophets.
The original team was reduced to half in a matter of seconds, and the battle wasn't over yet. The grunts were like magnets as hundreds of bullets riddled their fragile bodies every second. During the mayhem and chaos occurring all around them, a marine managed to slip a lone grenade between a group of the remaining four jackals; none of them survived. In only twenty seconds of combat ten grunts, two hunters, and all of the jackals and elites had been annihilated.
"Akazeem was plastered to the dropships interior with fear, his alien claws scratching helplessly at the metal walls of his crypt. Surely he would be caught, but maybe he could bargain with them. NO! That would be betrayal, and he knew better than betrayal. Another academy rule was to never betray the covenant. To leave your physical form for the prophet"s wild illusions was the highest accomplishment. But not to "Akazeem. He preferred his physical form, he liked his physical form, and he was staying in his physical form.
He thought it over quickly in his head, and the flying, flailing hunter that flew by surely didn"t help the process. He decided hurriedly that he would surrender. Suddenly, three grunts waddled past the ship before him, and each fell silently to the ground. A bullet squarely placed in their small foreheads. Their bluish-green blood oozing onto the Suncoast"s hull.
He would try a maneuver that he had seen human marines do before. Put his hands behind his skull, and walk slowly toward the aggressors. It was apparently a sign of weakness, as the covenant had no procedures for surrender, or even considered it. Maybe the prophets had been right after all; maybe the "humans" were weaker than he had thought, but one thing was evident, he was cornered by the bi-pedal primates.
"Hold your fire marines, Blue three, Blue one, move up to investigate that wreckage. Blue two and four, come with us to secure their weapons, and prepare the bodies for autopsy." Johnson ordered calmly, quite happy with his recent and stunning victory over the covenant.
The teams quietly moved from their cover behind the boxes; with the exception of the snipers. They merged into two teams, one headed for the downed dropships, and the other heading for the sputtering dropships that now lay abandoned. Suddenly, two alien arms leapt forth from one of the ships.
Between them was the loudly clacking mandibles of an elite. He appeared to be surrendering, but with the covenant you could never let your guard down.
"Hold your fire teams, give me a concentric circle around him, and get three men in there to secure him. I want double restraints, and a warthog class chain to hold him down. Intel says these mother"s are strong, and fast, so watch it.
Three men cautiously approached the beast. Who"s large body almost dwarfed the three marines by a foot and a half. They clasped the handcuffs extremely tight on his wrists, and then brought in a strong metal crate. They chained him inside with a strange assortment of criss-crosses and "knots"; and then welded the crate shut. A group of welders cut a small slit, large enough for a tube of food to be inserted and the creature to be observed.
"Request the Captain in Bay F-15 Caligula, on the double." Johnson requested pleadingly. He organized the crate in the center of the bay, with all of the bodies arranged in a neat line to the right of it. All of their weapons were lain above the respective owner"s body. And the dropships were being moved into a row as he spoke.
"The Captain is currently on his way to your Bay private, but he may be momentarily delayed. There was an...........unexpected visitor that just arrived."
The pause in the AI"s voice made Johnson extremely nervous. He couldn't be entirely sure if the presence was friend or foe, and from the sound of Caligula"s voice regulator, it was of high priority. An Intel spook perhaps, but here" and now"
Johnson aligned his men in two parallel rows along the walls, at attention. They held this rigid stance for nearly ten minutes before the Captain arrived in the bay. With him was a soldier dressed in fatigues and body armor. He carried an assault rifle in his hands, a shotgun slung over his back, and a pistol strapped to his leg. None of the marines in the bay had ever seen this marine before, and he was quite pail for someone who appeared to have such a high importance.
"Sir, is this our new solar powered weapons system?" Came the quip from a marine on the left, followed by laughter.
"Hell no Berelly, that is the new camouflaged version of the marines. The covenant can't see that spectrum of light." This brought more laughter from the marines.
"Johnson, how the hell are you supposed to run a squad if you won't even discipline them?" Came Sergeant Blackwell's intruding voice. "We have a visitor onboard, and you condone these actions. I am hereby resuming control of the squad Johnson............get back in line."
"Sir, yes sir. But it was a light-hearted joke sir. With all do respect, that marine has enough weapons and ammo on him to outgun one of us. Don"t you think the Intel guys should just leave the fighting to us""
Captain Capulet stepped forth and the entire bay went suddenly silent. He waited a moment and then glanced back toward the granite figure behind him. "This men, is Master Chief.....Franklin Roberts. He will be staying with us a while. So give him some respect!"
"Sir, yes sir!" Came the resounding whoop from all of the marines.
"He will be staying with us for a while, and I want him treated with the utmost respect, or you will regret it. Do I make myself clear?"
"Sir, yes sir!"
"Excuse me, Master Chief, but would you be kind enough to not kill any of my marines while here for your stay?"
"Yes Captain, but am I allowed to defend myself if attacked""
"Of course Master Chief; as long as you don't......intentionally..........kill them."
"Sir, we have enough casualties in this war as it is."
Cap nodded and then disappeared through the large double doors of the bay. Master Chief turned around and saw Sergeant Blackwell and his men forming a small circle around the covenant corpses.
He made his way over to the group, and heard several of the comment the marines were making.
"These grunts must be the weakest things I have ever seen."
"This elite has a box on his back, must be a suicide bomber."
"The hunter ain't deadly as long as you stay away from his shield and gun."
He thought back through all of his encounters with the covenant, and made a couple of corrective comments.
"Actually, the grunts are usually in vast numbers, far superior to any that we engage in a single battle. It isn't uncommon to find several thousand grunts in a suicidal frenzy rushing toward you. And the Elite Grunts are extremely dangerous. That "box" on the elites back is a camouflaging device, and would be used to slit your throats had not you been present when they arrived. The hunter is extremely deadly no matter where you are. And the worst place to end up in a battle with these creatures is behind them. Their enormous spikes can tear through body armor like paper."
All of the marines stared at him with wide eyes and several had disbelief on their faces. Partly because of his explanation, and partly from the gall that this unknown greenhorn had to try and correct them.
"Wait just a damn minute newbie. How the hell can you tell me, a veteran of three encounters with the covenant, what the hell these are for. I bet you haven't even seen a covenant up close before. I mean look at how pale you are, how much could you have fought if you have never gone outside?"
Master Chief wasn't a man of humor, but the irony of who he was talking to caught up with him. Unfortunately, he was under special orders to be silent during his stay, and to get silently to his destination. The last thing they UNSC needed was their star Marine dying onboard a cruiser before getting to his destination. He instead walked calmly from the bay and made his way to the bridge. Inside, the Captain was sitting hunched at his chair, dispatching orders to and fro. The well orchestrated command crew reminded John of a holo-vid titles "opera" he had seen playing during a previous mission.
He pondered his life, or the small bit he knew, and his mind wandered into the space breezing around him. Where was he from" Who were his parents" What would his life be like if he hadn"t been picked" A bounty of questions were running through his mind, and he wanted answers.
"Master Chief! Master Chief!" The captain wailed frantically.
John snapped back into the real world; only to find the tranquil view-screen now full of Covenant spacecraft. Four banshees screamed over the bridge, firing forcefully as they passed. In the distance were blue flashes he could only imagine to be plasma weapons of some sort.
"Launch all longswords immediately. I want all combat teams on full alert. Activate our automatic defenses. Send out this message, "Schip in leed, vereist onmiddellijke hulp van enig surveillancewagen verkrijgbare." I want that at regular intervals, 10 seconds." The captain sent out a distress in Dutch, which he was sure the covenant couldn't speak; hell, he could barely speak it himself.
The captains quick thinking and brash orders reminded him of Captain Keyes. The captain was a brilliant tactician, and demanded full respect from his crew. Something that was apparently evident in both men.
"Master Chief, I need you suited up and ready to go immediately. If the covenant do manage to...........", the captain glanced around and then whispered, "if those bastards get onboard, and take control of the ship. I'm going to have to get you out of here immediately."
Master Chief nodded understandingly and strode briskly from the double doors. In the usually complacent hallways adjoining the bridge were crew dashing about. He entered the armory, and began for the door at the rear.
"Well look who it is boys. The good ole Master Chief has come to save the day. We should be gracious enough to bow in his presence. The pansy isn't even getting a gun. Go hide little boy, run and hide. I guess the real marines will have to fight this battle." Lance Corporal Hendricks taunted viciously. A wry grin crept across John"s face, but he kept on his way.
The doors to the "Storage Facilities" were locked, and under armed guard. He approached the guards, who immediately moved to the side. The keypad to the room had been recently changed. It now not only required a 6 digit code, but fingerprint and voice analysis as well.
"Pillar, Halo, Cortana, One-One-Seven" He spoke clearly into the device. It acknowledged his voice, and the doors slid quietly open. He beckoned the two marines into the room with him. They hesitated momentarily then followed him into the darkness; the doors closed behind them. Inside were several metal boxes, and a bounty of wooden crates stacked neatly against the wall.
"So which one is it sir?" One of the marines queried.
John simply motioned to a crate at the far end of the room, and the marines walked casually to it. They both bent low and grasped it firmly. He chuckled silently to himself as the rather muscular men struggled to haul the box even a few centimeters.
"With all do respect sir, can we just open it here?"
The chief nodded, and approached the box. A rather inconspicuous carrier for such a prized piece of technology, but that is what the UNSC wanted. The wood crackled as the marines shattered it with two nearby hammers. They removed the top, or what was left of it, and were amazed by what they found.
Until then, they had been under strict orders to guard this room, and it's contents with the highest priority, but neither expected to find what they did. Inside the crate was the Chief"s shell. The extremely tough armor was made of a multi-layer alloy with a reflective coating that dispersed a limited number of the covenant energy weapons.
The marines spun around as they heard another crate fall to the deck and splinter into hundreds of pieces. They peered inside to find several more suits. One appeared to be made of interwoven crystal, a skin suit, and a suit that appeared to be filled with gel. They stared on as he removed his clothing, and began putting the suits pieces together rather uniformly.
"Could you help me put this on"" He motioned to the shell, and pulled the boots from the container. The two marines hauled the chest plate, and leg pieces from the box, and laid them neatly on the hull. In a matter of minutes he had assembled the suit; as well as homeostasis inside the suit. He heard a click and felt a small pain in his neck as his helmet was connected to his neural implant.
"This can't be good." Cortana mused to herself as she reacquainted to two in her unique manner. "So what is it this time, covenant, flood, insane constructs""
"Hello Cortana." He said in his peculiarly deep voice.
"Welcome back Chief!" She greeted him with her soothing voice, which he had become quite used to in the past. Cortana had turned from a useful construct into a...........friend. John couldn't really ponder a friend, but he knew that this must be what they were. This was one of the few people Master Chief, although being taught not too, had grown an emotional attachment too; even if she wasn't human.
"We have to go, now!" He told her in his calm yet forceful manner.