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Warrior's Fate: Part 2- Complications
Posted By: maxx<spiritedge@yahoo.com>
Date: 17 March 2005, 3:32 AM

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      The vulnerability, darkness, and claustrophobia of an HEV drop was something that Crowe could never get used to no matter how many times he went through it. The battle-hardened Marine would always experience a feeling of helpless dread, and an unfathomable yearning for solid ground beneath his feet. Some ODST commanders carried on the time-honored tradition of playing the militaristic and fiery Helljumpers' anthem over their team frequency during drops. However, Brad Crowe practiced a slightly different ritual. Shortly after connecting his data player to the freq, the calming melody of Flower Duet reverberated through each pod.
      "Arrrrgh!" Corpsman Mitchell's voice crackled over Crowe's receiver. "Didn't you promise me that you'd quit doing this?"
      "I lied."
      "Dammit, Master Guns!" This time it was Tahadi. "Turn this soft lullaby crap off before it completely saps my will to fight!"
      "Sorry devil-dogs," Crowe grinned to himself. "You're just gonna have to deal with it."
      He took a deep breath, and tried to let the music calm his nerves. He always regarded the song's warm tranquility as a therapeutic contrast to the hot turbulence and tension of an HEV drop. Crowe enjoyed Flower Duet quietly for a few more minutes until he noticed First Sergeant Olu hailing him over a private link.
      He keyed the comm. "You better not be complaining about the music, Olu."
      "Its not that, Brad," Olu responded.
      He sounded nervous, and that made Crowe a bit nervous as well. "Then what is it?" Crowe asked warily.
      "Take a look at your imager, and then trace the path of our current trajectory."
      "Alright Olu, I'm doing it."
      "Our LZs are supposed to be in the southern outskirts of the sector, where there shouldn't be any Covenant units to notice our landing."
      "No kidding," Crowe replied sarcastically.
      "Well look at the damn trajectory! That's not where we're headed. The way we're going, we'll end up somewhere near Tango Blue's center. That area's crawling with Covies, and it looks like we're gonna crash right in their backyard."
      Crowe examined closely, and realized that it was true. "Shit, you're right. So much for our freakin' covert insertion!" he fumed. "Some sloppy idiot in the tech house must've miscalculated our drop coordinates!"
      "How could that happen?" Olu asked in disbelief.
      "How the hell should I know?!"
      A cloaked drop was specially designed to be more covert in nature than a standard HEV combat drop. The cloaked pods did not show up on scanners as easily as normal ones. Their built-in dampeners also ensured that they would make relatively little noise as they entered an atmosphere. And especially during a nighttime drop, it was considerably difficult to visually spot the HEV entries from a fair distance away. That's why all the patrols were supposed to be dropped a safe distance away from the main enemy presence in their sectors. But to be dropped right on top of the Covenant forces, even cloaked pods would have little chance of arriving undetected. Furthermore, if the enemy were to swiftly mass a reaction force, the small reconnaissance patrol would almost surely be overwhelmed.
      Crowe felt a sick feeling rise in his stomach as he came to this realization. This op was definitely not off to a good start, he thought to himself.
      He got on the team freq. "Listen up, people. We're gonna have some major problems that you need to be aware of. First Sergeant Olu will explain it to you."
      Olu took the cue and started talking fast. In the meantime, Crowe opened the encrypted comm. channel link to the Tecumseh.
      "Godfather, this is Viking. Be advised, we are off course trajectory and headed into the hornet's nest. We may need immediate support as soon as we touch down. Stand by for possible mission abort. I say again, we have a mis-drop! Repeat, we have a mis-drop and are headed into the hornet's nest! Please acknowledge, over."
      There was no response.
      Crowe double-checked to make sure that he was properly set to the channel assigned to his patrol by 3rd Battalion's Communications officer, and then tried again. "Godfather, this is Viking. Acknowledge, over."
      Still no response came through. The Master Gunny tried a few more times without success, and then had Olu and a few others try as well. They all received no response. Crowe cursed out loud to himself in bitter frustration, feeling trapped within the dark and cramped confines of his pod. There was little the patrol commander could do, except pray for the best and prepare for the worst, as the HEVs continued to carry his team towards possible disaster.

Command Bridge
UNSC Battle Cruiser Tecumseh
Viking Deployment +00:08:34

      Rear Admiral Emerson Dyke, commander of Task Force 152, paced slowly around the center of his bridge as he looked out the main viewport. Three of his assault cruisers and several strike fighter groups had engaged in combat with a small contingent of Covenant ships. Onscreen, the battle looked far away. It appeared simply as a gathering of small shapes out in the distance, punctuated by sparks of light and dancing fireflies.
      "Sir," a junior lieutenant called out to him. "Captain Takeda aboard the Divine Mediterranean says he's still waiting for clearance to engage."
      "Tell him his fighters are clear to engage, but I want the Mediterranean to stay in holding pattern," Dyke replied without taking his eyes off the battle.
      "Yes sir."
      He heard boot steps approaching him from behind, and then turned around to come face-to-face with Marine Colonel Fernando. "Ah, Rudy. There you are."
      "Reporting as requested, Admiral," replied the strapping old Marine.
      "Good. I just needed to touch base with you on a few issues, Colonel. I think we should have a moment in private."
      Dyke gestured for Fernando to follow him out.
      "Commander Kraus, the bridge is yours," he nodded at one of his subordinates.
      "Aye aye, sir," acknowledged the young officer.

      They sat down across from each other in an empty officers' lounge. Dyke took a few sips from his coffee mug before speaking.
      "You know Rudy, it's really sad to see how seriously our friends from the Inter Colonial Guard have botched this operation up so far," he shook his head grimly.
      "Of course sir. They've lost a lot of..."
      "Sad for them, and the people they needlessly wasted," the Admiral cut him off, "but actually rather fortunate...for us."
      Dyke leaned forward in his seat, looking the taller man in the eye. "It is important for this operation to succeed, Colonel. There will be a lot of people paying attention to what happens here...and a lot of recognition will go to those responsible for the smooth achievement of the mission objectives. Wouldn't you think so?"
      Fernando nodded back slowly. "It's definitely not an opportunity we should squander, sir."
      "I'm glad you feel that way, Rudy," Dyke replied coldly. "And I think you're smart enough to know that there's always someone else waiting to jump on the horse...the moment you fall off. You understand what I'm saying?"
      "Perfectly, Admiral." Fernando caught his drift all too well. Dyke knew enough about him to realize how ambitious he was. And Dyke was just the sort of well-connected and influential commanding officer whose recommendation could either make or break a colonel's hope for ascension to the ranks of General.
      "Then I'm glad we see eye to eye," Dyke continued. "Because if we hope to accomplish our mission with the kind of speed and efficiency that will distinguish our command, then your 3rd ODST Battalion will be instrumental to our cause."
      "Sir, as we speak, my special ops teams are already reconnoitering the surface for those ion cannons," Fernando said with assurance.
      "The sooner we take care of those cannons, the sooner we can commence the ground assault. I hope your SpecGroup boys work fast."
      "We anticipate 90 percent of the cannons being eliminated within three days, Admiral."
      "That sounds fine, as long as you can back it up with results," replied Dyke.
      "I have complete faith in my men, sir."
      Dyke locked eyes with him in ominous silence for a moment before responding. "Okay Rudy. Then can I assume that you can take care of the cannons and spearhead the first wave of our ground assault swiftly, and without any setbacks?"
      "Absolutely," Fernando declared with as much conviction as he could muster.
      "Thank you Colonel. Then I'll let you go and concentrate on your task. In the meantime, I have a battle to attend to myself."
      The two men downed the rest of their coffee and got up to exit the lounge.
      "Remember Rudy...we're under a lot of scrutiny. We can't afford any mistakes," Dyke warned one last time.
      Fernando returned the Admiral's icy stare unflinchingly as he replied, "None, sir."