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Countdown Earth: Hour Nine
Posted By: Mainevent<billygoat359@netscape.net>
Date: 13 October 2003, 10:56 PM

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E.S.N. Capital Building
Biloxi, Mississippi

"Oslow, Mobile, New York, Beijing, Paris, Rome, San Diego, Tampa Bay, Buenos Ares, Mexico City, Bagdhad, Tokyo, and New Delhi all under heavy attack sir. As well as many lesser engagements in surrounding smaller cities." Major Sergeant Taki read the list off with a solemn and downtrodden voice. Earth was under attack, that much was sure, it had been expected for some time now. The strength and timing of the attack, however, were not determined. Even the most pessimistic estimates at how many ships the covenant would send were quickly doused as the real invasion began.

With only marginal protection from UNSC capital ships in the region, many deploid in other sectors ONI had prioritized. They had totally skipped their normal procedures. Losing sight of their method of taking out every human colony one by one, they opted now for a direct attack on Earth.

"What's our status Taki, how long do we have?" General Anderson, who was seated next to Admirals Trotson and Relinoir, asked with uneasy eyes.

"E.S.N. (Earth Shield Network, the massive network of land and space based orbital MAC super-cannons) AI Phoenix estimates they can hold the Covenant off only so long."

"How long is that Taki?"

"Phoenix won't speculate sir, the AI are doing everything in their power to stop them sir, but there's only so much they can do from fixed positions."

"How many ships do we have fighting?"

"The capital ships Magistrate, Ghandi, Mohammed, Shield of Fate, Partridge, Phantom, Romulus, Cerebrus, Lemnos, Sphericles, and Euclid are doing their best. We have received transmissions from the third, sixth, and eighth fleets, all are heading our way now. The third and sixth estimate nine hours until their arrival, the eighth is closer and should be here in two. The third and sixth are the only fleets with enough firepower to bare to stave the attacks. So if we can't last until they get here, there will be no lasting."

"That'll be close, very close." Trotson said with visible perspiration running down his crown and dripping off of his nose.

"We'll have to make due with what we have si-Incoming transmission..." Taki was interupted, his face on the General and Admiral's video feeds changing to that of a rock-jawed Captain.

"This is Captain Shields, you should know that another wave of dropships are heading planetside as we speak. My longswords are doing their best, but those damn Seraphs keep ducking in their from time to time. They look clustered and heading for Europe. Best wishes sirs, Shields out." His video link was abruptly ended, and the small round face of Taki returned.

"He's right, Phoenix estimates they'll hit London, Amsterdam and the Aix-en-Provence within the hour. I've already sent alerts to their commanders." The computer terminal behind Taki was aglow with reports and scrolling text, information from the field that wasn't looking very promising.

"Keep track of the battle, we're going to see what we can do, and Taki, be sure to tell us if anything happens we should know about. Whatever you do, be sure to keep E.S.N. running, without her, Earth is dead. Do you understand me?" Relinoir's seriousness made him look almost vicious in the dimly-lit room in which he was seated.

"Crystal sir."

Mobile, Alabama
(Home of Brookley Aerospace Industries and the Am-Sat shipyards)

"Where are they Corporal?" Gunnery Sergeant McPherson asked brutally."

"Scattered, they're heading for the shipyards and Aerospace facilities, we know that much, but the patrols there've seen nothing." Corporal Lance responded, handing the Sergeant his canteen of sweet tea. Dirt cracking and finally falling off in clumps as his lips parted and the cool liquid seeped into his mouth. He sloshed it around on his palette for several seconds before swallowing, a heavy exhale his only thanks.

"You're wife makes damn good sweet tea Roderick." McPherson growled without turning his head away from the emptied streets before him. Overturned cars, a smoldering bus, and corpses littered the paved gradeyard he was passing through, and he cursed to himself as he passed by the charred remains of a small child. Any thanks Lance was going to give was obliterated as the gas pedal was jammed to the floor.

A stop light on the four-lane main road was red, but there was no one in the city who, if alive, cared. He sped past it's blinking warning and towards the airport. Three "Armadillo" APC's were following him. They were going to drop off marines and retrieve the wounded, if there were any, and evac them to a nearby M.A.S.H. unit.

His warthog bounded ferociously over the abrupt end to the hill, sending it hurtling ten or more meters before finally crashing to the ground with a harsh scraping of his chasis sending sparks to the heavens. They were perhaps his only plea to the gods during his journey, as he was too occupied to think about such stuff in his rush to save lives.

The gigantic cylindrical control tower was littered with holes, and plasma scoring peppered the base. A heavy-duty metal fence was the only barrier into the airport's main building, and the sturdy warthog had no problem slicing through it. An orange and white checkered tin building also crumpled under the weight, breaking several unknown devices as it was crushed.

The APC's were considerably slower, but their zeal somehow kept them behind McPherson's speeding vehicle. The rectangular marble building that was the heart of the complex loomed ominously in front of him. It grew exponentially the closer he moved to it, and was before long at least six stories above his head. The covering that usually protected passengers from rain was now only a pile of broken glass on the gravel pathway.

McPherson and Lance rolled out of the car's seats and crouched behind it's armor plated siding. Their gunner concentrated his aim on the sliding glass doors, which were only now sliding steel frames. The Armadillos' breaks squeeled as they came to an abrupt halt at the entrance. Their top-gunners also turning to face the entrance. A thick back panel on each Armadillo pulsed open from hydraulic force, and marines quickly surged from the hatch.

Thirty marines lined up along the wall of the building, weapons at the ready. The majestic oak ticket-counter in the foyer was on fire, and three bodies lay heaped on top of it. The smell of frying flesh permeated through the doorway and gagged Lance's lungs.

McPherson and Lance slowly crawled into a small opaque hallway that preceded the larger room's open waiting area, and the congolmerate of marines behind them followed closely. Lance nearly stepped carelessly into the seemingly lifeless room, but McPherson's large forearm stopped him. The Gunny pulled a small black box, with two long black wires attached. He plugged one into his eyepiece, and probed the other around the corner.

Four sleeping grunts were breathing heavily through their methane masks, and a lone jackal was on duty. The optical viewer was slid to the other side of the hallway, with similar results. A large blue-spiked beast was knelt in the corner, his back to the team. He was staring at several shadowy figures Lance could see sprinting around the hall a distance away. Several lobs of plasma sprang from it's arm-bound weapon. Pieces of marble cracked and shattered as they impacted the heavy tile floor.

A hidden Elite appeared from in front of him, masked by the Hunter's enormous figure. Just what they needed, a Hunter and Elite were their biggest opponents. Where the Hunter's companion was was beyond anyone's knowledge, they could only mark it as dead in their minds and push forward.

The elite spun quickly around, as the slower Hunter was only beginning to, as the metallic clink of grenades entered their ears. Their columns of fire and molten death splintered through the half of the room they were in, killing the elite's shields. The metal shards packed into the device only ricocheted off of the Hunter's heavy plate shield.

A succession of two more grenades bounced into the pack of sleeping grunts, splattering their blue-green blood along the walls. Grunts' flesh flew everwhere, several pieces making their home on McPherson's uniform and face. He brushed them off with the back of his hand, and then gripped his weapon.

The volley of human warriors rushed into the confusion that had ensnared the elite and hunter, and a hail of bullets were a brutal reality check. The elite's body jumped backwards as hot tungsten steel filled his cavities.

The hunter roared monstrously and bounded into action, raising his shield high above his head, and charging his plasma cannon. Lance pulled off a perfect roll, landing on his shoulder, as a plasma round soared past him. Two unfortunate marines behind him met tragically different fates. Plasma seared off one of their arms at the shoulder, the intense heat cauterizing his bloodvessels. The other slammed into the abdomen of another Private, his internal organs instantly melted from the extreme heat.

Lance pelted the creature with his MA5B's shredder rounds. Many only made loud tinks and bounded off of it's shield, but three did exactly what he hoped for. Two lodged itself in it's stomach, and one snapped through it's spine and stuck in the wall.

They combed the area, and once sure that there were no other enemy threats present, moved into the adjacent hallway. Four of the mechanics stationed at the airport slowly crawled from behind a thick barracade of overturned baggage trolleys. McPherson greeted one of them as the other marines moved on, looking for survivors, or enemies.

"Anyone else alive here?" Lance asked first, glancing slyly at the cutoff McPherson who was still standing open mouthed before the man.

"We dunno, we heard the firing, saw some bodies, and covenant, and they saw us. So we've been hiding here."

"For how long?"

"Two or so hours."

"With no weapons." We found the guard house on the way up here, and there were several pistols and shotguns in there. But we ran out of bullets about thirty minutes into it. Killed several of those grunt buggers, and they held off. That big mother with the spikes been pelting us ever since, they apparently didn't know we were out of ammo."

"You're very luck men." Lance's radio crackled to life as the voice of an unknown marine came over the frequency. "Dropships sighted in the area, six or more hitting the shipyards, five hitting the Aerospace facilities, and four or five heading north. Towards the airport. Anyone in these areas be prepared. E T A thirty minutes. Over."

Lance and McPherson rounded up the men they had found, and were prepairing to leave. The APC's were going to follow ten or so minutes later, after the marines had thoroughly searched the entire facility and it's outlying buildings.

They headed towards the center of town, trying to make it back to the hastily set up command center. The warthog slowed considerably as they approached the smoking hulk of the bridge leading back to the city. Something powerful had blown it's center out with the desired effects, stranding them from the town by a wide margin. The only other road to the town took them a good fifty miles out of the way, and through a Covenant hot spot.

The vehicle spun around, and shot back towards the airport. An unfamiliar growl arose as two banshees whoosed over the treetops and turned to face McPherson's position. The gunner opened up, but his accuracy from so far away was greatly diminished. White-hot orbs of plasma shot past them and exploded several yards away. The obvious culprits of the bridge incident.

It was beginning to be a very long day.