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Warrior's Fate: Part 1- Going Feet First
Posted By: maxx<spiritedge@yahoo.com>
Date: 17 March 2005, 3:16 AM

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Quad Seven briefing room
UNSC Battle Cruiser Tecumseh
Agatha Sedona system
Six weeks ago

      Sixteen men sat waiting in the briefing room. At first glance, they might not have looked much different from the other Marines on ship. But these men were not average grunts. Most of them were older, and all of them exuded a more weathered and mature demeanor than typical Marine infantrymen. The insignia on their shoulders revealed that they were part of the celebrated ODST branch of the Marine Corps. But even within that universally respected unit, these guys were a cut above the rest. They were members of the ODST's elite wing of covert operatives. More precisely, they were from 2nd Platoon Bravo Company, Special Purpose Group, 3rd ODST Battalion. Statistically, only 30 percent of the infantrymen who volunteered to try out for the ODST passed the grueling standards and training necessary to earn the Helljumper badge. And amongst all the badged ODST troopers who tested for the SpecGroup, about four out of every hundred usually passed selection. In other words, the sixteen men waiting in the briefing room aboard the Tecumseh represented the very best that the Marine Corps had to offer.
      The youngest and least experienced operative in the group of battle-hardened career soldiers was 23-year-old Corporal Daryl Tai, who had been assigned to the platoon immediately after passing selection just two months prior. The ODST SpecGroup rarely accepted anyone under the age of 25 into their ranks. But with the high rate of wartime casualties, exceptions were occasionally made. Tai justly regarded his acceptance into the unit as the crowning achievement of his young life. His former platoon leader in the regular ODST had recommended him for an invitation to try out in SpecGroup selection, praising him as a 'prodigiously competent Marine'. But upon arrival to his new unit, the members of 2nd platoon had nicknamed him 'Superboy' with affectionate sarcasm. Although already a capable and battle proven Marine, he was still a rookie to them. Ever eager to prove himself, Daryl did not mind the bit of hazing they gave him. He knew he'd have to show them how capable he was in the field before they would ever truly accept him. Fortunately, he would soon get his chance. He was about to embark on his first high risk operation as a member of the unit.
      While the men from 2nd platoon waited for their company commander to show up, a veteran sergeant named Leiva babbled stories to Tai. He was recounting memories about his past sexual escapades with the beautiful local women of some Inner Colony planet. But Tai only pretended to pay attention. His mind was too focused on the job ahead of him. His heart swelled with pride and anticipation as he looked around at the great warriors surrounding him. They were the best of the best. To imagine that he had been accepted into their ranks, and was about to go deep behind enemy lines with them, made him feel intensely proud.
      But before Tai had the chance to think anymore self-congratulatory thoughts, and before Leiva could finish unloading his braggart's tale on deaf ears, Major Parstapos marched into the room to begin the briefing. Although an officer had just arrived on deck, none of the men stood to attention, nor did Parstapos expect them to. The Major knew better than to regard this as a sign of disrespect, though. He didn't need standard protocol to assure him that he commanded his men's respect. Under most circumstances, top tier operators like the boys in SpecGroup were not held to the same standards of rigid formality as normal military personnel were. Parstapos knew how good these Marines were. And regardless of rank, he viewed them as equals.
      "Afternoon boys," he greeted them. "How's everyone doing?"
      He waited for the murmur of replies before continuing. "Alright then let's get on with it. As you all know, Task Force 152's mission is to aid in the capture of a Covenant outpost located on C-planet's primary moon."
      The Major reached down to slip a data stick into the Holo-Monitor. A 3-D schematic of the moon flickered to life above the projector. Then a series of neon lines crisscrossed around the diagram, dividing it into labeled sections. "As you were informed, this started out as an Inter Colonial Guard operation. But as expected, the Guardies couldn't get the job done without a little Marine Corps intervention."
      There was a brief wave of laughter among the men. Parstapos allowed himself a few guffaws as well before continuing. "The bulk of the ICG battle group entered the atmosphere from here, in Area Foxtrot," he gestured. "Intel indicates that most of the Covenant forces have amassed near Foxtrot and in the space above it to repel them. So this leaves the enemy flank relatively unguarded here at Areas Tango and Lima," he again pointed on the schematic.
      "And that is where our task force will hit the dirt. If we establish a foothold in these areas, it will enable us to completely envelop the Covies and score an easy victory. I shouldn't have to tell you what the successful capture of this outpost will mean, but I'll remind you anyway: All sorts of Covenant weapons and equipment available for analysis. And if we're lucky, we'll get data archives for the ONI spooks to look at, as well as plenty of prisoners for them to interrogate. Rarely do we stumble upon lightly guarded Covenant installations such as this within our striking distance. We don't know why they're there, and we don't care. Whatever the case, this is a golden opportunity."
      "So what's our part in making this happen, sir?" asked Master Gunnery Sergeant Bradley Crowe, who was 2nd platoon's senior noncom.
      "I was about to get to that," continued Parstapos. "When those ICG fools began their attack and started sending their landing parties to the moon surface, they disregarded the potential threat of Covenant ground-to-air defenses. And it turned out that the Covies had multiple heavy ion cannons stationed all over the surface. As a result, the ICG assault forces took a pounding during their approach. Half of their ships were lost before they ever touched down. Another one-third was forced to retreat back to orbit."
      "What a disaster," someone muttered.
      "We are determined to ensure," the Major went on, "that Task Force 152 does not make the same fatal mistake. Unfortunately, the cannons are well hidden from sat-scans, which leaves us unable to pinpoint them for orbital bombing. Longswords and other attack craft don't have a chance of penetrating the atmosphere over Tango and Lima without being obliterated by Covenant defenses. In fact, the only ships that have any chance of slipping through the defense undetected are small Hummingbird stealth transport shuttles. But even for them, it'll be pretty dicey. And that is where you guys come into the picture."
      Most of the SpecGroup operators nodded knowingly, already understanding what the Major was about to propose.
      "We have been able to roughly triangulate the cannons to the individual sectors in which they are located. Our best bet is to covertly insert multiple patrols via cloaked pod drop into the outskirts of each sector. From there, each patrol will proceed deeper into their area of operations and do a thorough covert reconnaissance. There should be no more than one, or possibly a few cannons in each sector. Once you get a visual on the cannons, you will relay their positions up to us via your encrypted comm. channel. We will then be able to execute orbital strike, eliminating each one of them. Once we take them out, you are to evade enemy contact, find a good hide site, and just lay low until the main force can safely touch down in your sector. You'll be able to regroup with us upon our arrival. Any questions?" he scanned the room.
      "What kind of support can we expect, sir?" inquired Leiva.
      "I have four stealth shuttles that will maintain low orbit outside the atmosphere," Parstapos replied. "They will sneak past Covenant defenses to re-supply you if needed, and they will attempt to extract you in the event of a compromise or other emergency abort. Those four shuttles will support all patrols on the ground, and that's all the help you'll get."
      There were a few murmurs of disapproval, but they died down quickly. The men understood that in this profession, circumstances were never ideal. Adapting to adverse conditions was a key aspect of the job. Parstapos looked around for other questions before continuing.
      "Your patrol has been designated 'Viking'. The ground call sign for 1st squad's eight-man chalk will be Viking One. 2nd squad's will be Viking Two. Your area of operations will be Tango Blue sector," he gestured again at the schematic. "Viking-1 will be inserted at the southwest outskirts, and Viking-2 will be inserted to the southeast. You'll then commence your sweep headed north, with Viking-1 handling the west side and Viking-2 covering the east. Is everyone clear on that?"
      The Marines expressed affirmatives.
      "Alright then boys," the Major nodded his approval. "Then this is your official warning order for recon patrol mission Viking. Do your planning sessions and prep, and then submit your equipment requests ASAP. Your drop time is 0700 tomorrow night. Dismissed."
      The men from 2nd platoon immediately stood up, and began purposefully filing out of the briefing room. It was time to get down to business...

      In the narrow passages of the HEV drop bay, sixteen commandos from 2nd platoon SpecGroup Bravo Company stood fully dressed in standard ODST drop suits and custom tactical gear. The Marines were quickly loading equipment and weapons into their individual pods. Colonel Rudimar Fernando, commanding officer of the 3rd ODST battalion, swaggered into the drop bay along with Major Parstapos trailing behind. The burly colonel gestured for the two chalk leaders to approach him. Crowe and First Sergeant Olu stopped what they were doing and walked over.
      "I just came to see you boys off and wish you good luck," said the Colonel.
      "Thank you, sir."
      "We won't let you down, sir."
      Fernando nodded back curtly, slapped Olu on the back, and then did a quick about-face towards the exit.
      It was then Parstapos' turn to pull the team leaders aside. "Be sure to make all your status reports on schedule. If we lose contact with you, we will send a stealth shuttle to the designated emergency rendezvous. And if everything really goes to shit and all else fails, remember that you can burst transmit a distress call on your emergency beacons. The ICG guys will be able to receive your call on their guard net. Keep that in mind, but just make sure you stay out of trouble down there!"
      "Will do, Major," replied Crowe.
      Parstapos shook hands with both of them before they headed back to their pods.
      A warning siren suddenly blared in the drop bay, followed by an automated voice on the loudspeaker. "Troopers stand by for drop, three minutes and counting. All other personnel must clear the drop bay."
      Before Parstapos made his way to the exit, he saw each of the troopers' faces disappear behind dark visor covered masks, as they strapped on their drop suit helmets.
      Just as the pods sealed shut, Crowe's bellowing voice rang out over the helmet receivers. "HOW ARE WE GOING, GENTLEMEN?"
      "FEET FIRST!!" they yelled back in unison.

      Looking out the viewing port, Parstapos observed the HEVs being shot out of the Tecumseh's belly. Each exit was accompanied by a muffled boom and a slight tremor in the floor beneath his feet. The pods rapidly became smaller and smaller until the last one disappeared from view completely.
      "Godspeed," the ODST officer whispered.