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Homeworlds V
Posted By: Mainevent<billygoat359@netscape.net>
Date: 5 September 2003, 9:00 PM

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Chapter five-Pelican Droppings

      The pelicans nose began turning a rosy orange as it entered the atmosphere. Fire licked the hull of the transport on all sides, but it persevered. Her strangely stubby wings flapped to and fro in a useless attempt at controlling the vessel in it's decent. She rocked and rolled from side to side in the torrent of flames.

      "We'll be over Blood Gulch in two minutes ladies. Strap on, and gear up." Came over the speakers in the rear of the craft. The ODSTs checked their helmets and then snapped them into place. Their jet-black suits were aerodynamic and easily spotted in the chrome-colored suits of the normal marines. Their chests were expanded farther due to the small oxygen tank embedded into their suits, but it would last less than 15 minutes, and was highly explosive. Much like the bulbous methane suits of the covenant's grunt troops.

      The meter-tall fighters were more conscripts than actual regulars, but that took none of their deadliness from them. They came in extraordinary waves, and their sheer number, not brute strength, was what often won their battles. The master chief had witnessed countless occasions of several hundred grunts being incinerated, only to have their corpses trampled over by a furious army of thousands more. Their grunts, squeaks, and yelps all combined to make a horrendous noise that could be heard for miles.

      The chief, holding on to the overhead supports, made his way to the cockpit. He tapped gently, as gently as a Spartan can, and waited for the hatch to open. The small wheel made a sudden jerk to the right, followed by a longer and more methodical turn. It made a shrill yelp as it unbolted and swung into the passenger area. The pilot and co-pilot looked almost mechanical with their large helmets adorned with lights and computer sensors.

      "Can I help you?" The pilot asked gruffly. "I'm sort of busy at the moment, piloting this thing isn't a synch you know."

      "I need you to fly us over the enemy before we land, make a quick aerial reconnaissance. I need to know what we're getting into down there." John told the pilot as calmly as possible.

      "You have satellite photos don't you? Mull over those. Let me do the flying. Unless you think you could do better..." He responded almost violently, but Cortana, sensing a hint of challenge in his voice, made her move.

      "Accessing ship controls." Her feminine voice rang out through the ships speakers and the marine's radios. The small gray w-shaped control was ripped from the pilot's fingers, and began moving on it's own. It did a number of dips, dives, and spins as the AI calibrated her programs.

"Can you handle it?" He asked his companion.

"You know me better than that chief. Of course I can."

"Then take us over their base."

      "Roger." The recorded voice of an old friend was ushered through his headset. It was that of Pelican "Echo 419". Foehammer was Cortana and the Chief's ride throughout their duration on Halo, and her demise at the hands of two banshees was disheartening to say the least. "I thought that might cheer you up some."

      "I don't need cheer, I need you to drive." There was a brief silence in the room, "But thanks." He answered more to himself than Cortana.

      He raised himself up between to two pilots, who were taken aback by the presence of a Spartan onboard. The slanted windows didn't leave much to the imagination, but he could see enough. The pelican, living true to it's name, made a sudden swoop to just above water level as it sped down a river. It's distorted image waving eerily in the glassy water. It followed the river for about fifteen miles, through a small forest and into some terra-cotta cliffs. The Pelicans' mighty roar sent several boulders traversing the cliff side and splashing into the water. Plumes of the liquid washed the underbelly and sent a refreshing mist into the cargo area.

      Like an eagle it rose brilliantly into the sky and then made another dive into Blood Gulch. It shuddered as the AI controlled beast stabilized itself. His enhanced sight enabled him to out-view even the remote cameras attached to the Pelican. A small but formidable covenant position had been established in a recession. Two wraiths, six ghosts, a larger vehicle with a top-mounted plasma cannon, and several hundred troops all ran feverishly throughout the area.

      The chief's largest concern however, were the eight banshee assault aircraft and three dropships stationed at a roughly made landing site. The Pelican's sudden appearance had stirred the hornet's nest, and they were about to feel the sting.

      Elites strapped into their fliers and took quickly off. The Pelicans' door gunners immediately opened fire on the incoming covenant troops. The armor-piercing rounds bit and tore at the purple-tinted alien alloy, and sent one of the alien bastards to hell.

      His left wing was torn from the hull and took half of the main fuselage with it. The elite's body was left soaring through the air by his waist where he was attached to the ship via a harness. He frantically clawed at it, but to no avail. It's body impacted first, sending a large spurt of blue-green blood to coat the ground. The craft landed on top of the cadaver, and smeared the corpse, armor and all, along the box canyon's dusty floor. Only it's twitching legs remained, with a small portion of what appeared to be a spinal column left.

      The other four banshees surged ahead, and with renewed vigor began their violent attack. Plasma rounds impacted the pelican from every angle, and turned her rear starboard engine into a molten rod as it cooled.
The chief raced to the rear of the vehicle, and opened one of the small overhead hatches. Inside was a sniper rifle, loaded and ready to fire, for use in case of emergencies.

      He placed the butt of the gun firmly into his shoulder, and sighted the scope. The cross hairs of the rifle were aligned directly on of the banshee's grav pods. He ran the crosshairs up it's stubby wings, and centered it on the large cocoon-like fuselage. He slowly squeezed the trigger, and waited for the blast. A thick air-stream followed the bullet to it's mark. A four millimeter hole penetrated the ship, and it's occupants cranium.

      It slowly glided into a grassy knoll close to the human's base. Two of the other following banshees erupted into flames before the last one retreated. The crippled ships finally made it to their base. It was a bit larger than the covenant base, and had several pre-fab structures and tents set up neatly. It was a rough landing for the marines, but Cortana's expert maneuvering made it as gentle as possible.

      The marines poured from the ships, several kissing the ground when they landed, and all sighed in relief. A group of eight to ten of the marines stationed at the base greeted the group.

      "Welcome to Blood Gulch, Master Chief. we're all you have, so you should get to know us. My name is Grif." The ODST slapped his chest, and then pointed at the other marines as he called their names. "These are Church and Simmons, they complain a lot, but are veterans at what they do. Caboose and Donut are greenhorns we got about a month ago, they need some real action. That over there is Sarge, he was the CO until you guys arrived, and a real hard-ass if you ask me. Lopez here is our mechanic and weapons specialist, and this here is Tex. Tex is one of the best scouts in the UNSC." The private finished with a quick smile."

"Damnit Grif, you forgot me again." Yelled one of the marines in the rear.

"Oh yea, that is tucker. He isn't really important, so I forget to introduce him sometimes."

"Shut up cockbite." Tucker responded.

"Ok girls, enough with the pillow talk. Get to work." The Sarge approached the group apparently unaware of the new arrivals, or at least pretending to be

      The chief's eyes were diverted to the equipment already at the base. The warthogs and tanks were in top shape, and two of them had even been named. Puma was painted onto the side of one of the warthogs in large red letters, and Sheila was placed onto one of the scorpions with large blue stickers.

      "We move out tonight. Prep the tanks and warthogs. Have your gear in working order, and your guns clean." Sarge ordered. "It's time to take it to those bastards, and take it to 'em hard."

      It was time to move out. The five tanks were lined up at the rear of the base, each with a driver, a gunner, and four marines on it's massive armored chasse. The six warthogs were parked accordingly, with the three carrying LAAG"s stationed behind the tanks, and the three with rocket launchers stationed in front. All of them were fully equipped, and armed to the tusk. The six ATVs were manned by soldiers carrying radios, and their duty was to call in the mortars which were being set up on one of the cliff side ledges.

      One-hundred twenty marines were standing single file wielding assault rifles, shotguns, and pistols for their side arms. A small batch of specialists had been pulled to the side, and included were ten rocketeers, eight groups of sixteen UNA (United Naval Academy) trained snipers and sighters, and five engineers. The Suncoast's arrivals eyed the detachment, and were pleasantly surprised.

"Damn fine group of men we have here." Blackwell commented to the Chief.

"Yea, they'll do." He said turning to survey his holo-pad containing the satellite photos.

      "These are all wrong." Vince said jogging over to the photos with several holo-pads in hand. "These are straight from Tex, and he just got back from a recon."

      He slapped the holo-pads on the table, and then clicked them on. He linked the two together with a small black cable, and then hooked them both into a small laptop. He tapped the keys for several moments, and then watched the show. The first holo-pad, with the Suncoast"s orbital photos, had two to three medium-sized structures, and one large stone structure, with roughly thirty covenant troops.

      The second holo-pad, the ones taken by Tex, had fifteen medium-sized structures, two large structures, and the stone structure. The computer readout counted ninety covenant troops visible, and estimated that there were at least fifty more inside. Seventy jackals, fifty grunts, and twenty elites. The elites obviously played a command role, and each of them were apparently in charge of a squad of six.

      "These numbers are a huge increase, and how they got here without any of our sensors, satellites, or even the Suncoast detecting them is amazing. Our satellites are still there, our sensors are in working order, and the Suncoast is in orbit. There is no reason we shouldn't have seen them entering the atmosphere." Vince cried emphatically.

"There already here then." The chief answered.

"You mean there is a larger group of them already stationed on the planet. That means there are probably covenant ships nearby!"

"We have to warn the Suncoast. Get Capulet on the horn, and tell him now!" Blackwell ordered.

"Roger that." Devilfish uttered as he strolled to the radios.

"How many mortars are there?" The Chief queried.

"We have twenty-two mortars ready to go, and six MLRS rocket launch systems with smart munitions."

"I want those MLRSs targeting the barracks, and eleven mortars firing randomly into their base. I want it to be hell in there when we arrive, but wait for my signal."

"Roger that!" McKinley, the chief radio operator grabbed his headset and gave the orders.

      The Sergeants, the Chief, and the rest of the marines readied themselves. He saw the snipers already climbing the cliff wall, and heading for a small inlet in the rock face. They pulled themselves into the precipice, and went prone.

"Cortana to Eagle Eye, Cortana to Eagle Eye."

"Roger Cortana, this is Eagle Eye, what do you need""

"Direct your first salvo at those elites, take out their commanders."

"Will do. Eagle Eye out."

      As he left the Command and Control tent several marines brushed past him. They were heading for the landing pads, and boarding the pelicans. In fifteen minutes they should be heading for the covenant base, and in thirty minutes, it should be over. Assuming that all went as planned.

      "Sir, the Suncoast's pelicans have been patched up, and a new engine put on. We can go in those if you prefer." Devilfish yelled on the run. He leapt into the rear of the aircraft and ran to the door. He rapt it with his knuckles and it opened. Vince was already running the pre-flight checks on the pelican, and she began humming to life.

      The chief climbed into the rear with seven of the ODSTs sent to accompany him. The enormous rear jets screamed to life as gigantic columns of exhaust made the air uncomfortably hot. The mechanical bird-of-prey hovered several feet above the rocky floor, and then pulled into the air.

"Fly low to the ground at about a half mile to the compound, the chief and I are going solo." Cortana radioed to Vince.

"Can do."

      The pelican slowed it's momentum and aimed its nose at a hill. She pulled up before hitting the crest, and the master chief hopped off of the metal and landed on the knoll. The loose soil gave way under the impact of the half-ton MJOLNIR armor and sent him rolling to the bottom. He collided with a boulder at the cliff's foundation, and started a small rockslide. Smaller pebbles and sand clanked as it bounced off of his shields, but a gargantuan stone pillar began cracking at the rear. It finally gave way and a huge piece of rock-hard clay began plummeting toward his face. He pushed hard and spun to his left. The rock impacted the soft soil and sank three feet into it.

"Let's get out of here before that happens again."

      The Chief's heart was pulsing wildly from the adrenaline rush he had just been treated to. "Yes ma'am." He sat upright, and then slowly stood up. About a half mile to his left, the enormous covenant base. A quarter-mile to his right, the entire mechanized invasion force, including the pelicans, tanks, warthogs, and ATVs. He glanced quickly at the covenant fortress, and as if she could read his mind, Cortana called in the big guns.

"Fire at will."

      The ground began to rumble slightly beneath his feet, but his suit's shock absorbers went to work. Several elites and grunts came out of the barracks to see what was happening, but they couldn't see anything. Three more elites rushed from the command building, plasma rifles in hand.

      "The eagle has landed." Came over the radio as eight simultaneous streaks of death slashed through the air. Eight of the covenant present toppled over. Eight were dead. Massive plumes of fire, smoke, and debris were thrown in the air as the rocket launched smart bombs found their target. Limbs and bodies were tossed several hundred meters like rag dolls.

      Surviving covenant forces were scrambling left and right, but the titanic craters left by the bombing only created graves for them. Two bewildered jackals ran for the cliff, but fell into one of the craters. It's walls sparkled and shattered as they clawed at the glassy dirt while trying to escape. A mortar round found them and they were torn viciously apart. One of their shields went sailing through the air like a Frisbee. It found the corpse of a grunt killed by a sniper, and severed the body in half as it dug into the ground. Methane from the grunt erupted in a small fireball, and killed one jackal who was trying to leap over his fallen comrade. Three wraith mortar tanks began slowly moving into battle, painfully slow.

      Three warthogs bounded a small mound and it's gunner opened fire. One rocket, then two, then three, all racing toward one wraith. It began strafing to the left, but the three rockets had been adjusted accordingly with each shot. The rocket fired slightly left of the wraith"s original position erupted with no effect. The center rocket's explosion lifted the strange vehicle onto it's side, and the left rocket impacted head on with a surprised elite.

      Bursts of joy came from the gunner as he watched the flaming hulk sink into the ground. The other two wraiths, however, had targeted the warthog and were powering up their plasma cannons. The warthog"s gunner was loading the third round into the launcher when he heard the sound. The sound of air sizzling and popping as plasma passed through it. His eyes followed it's trajectory, and he tried to estimate where it would land.

      It slammed into the earth only slightly to the right of the warthog, and hit a tree. The explosion tossed the jeep onto it's left side, decapitating the partially ejected driver and ejecting the passengers. The gunner tried to brace for the impact, and felt excruciating pain as his arms broke beneath him. The sound of bone braking and flesh ripping sent him into hysteria. It seemed like forever before his body finally impacted, shattering all of his lower ribs and rupturing his spleen. His head slammed forcefully into the ground, breaking his neck and spine instantly. Blood slowly trickled from his mouth, nose, ears, and eye sockets.

      The side passenger was sent tumbling under the covenant vehicle. The hair on his arms and head began smoking and catching on fire, and his nails began turning black. He rolled out from the underbelly, and was covered in second degree burns. His armor was sizzling and a for a brief moment light orange. His helmet had fallen off during the crash, and he was now clawing frantically at his chest plate.

      Meanwhile, the other two rocket launcher equipped warthogs rumbled into the battle. Their gunners immediately attacked the wraith tanks, and both were smoldering heaps in under fifteen seconds. One of the warthogs came to a grinding halt at the body of the burnt marine.

      The passenger quickly retrieved a medical kit from under the seat, and went to help him. The burn-spray created a thin but strong second skin, to protect from infections. The bodies of the gunner and driver were also visible, and it took all he could do to keep from regurgitating the few pieces of chicken process he had for lunch.