Warrior's Fate, Part 5: Back-up Plan
Posted By: maxx
Date: 19 April 2005, 11:19 PM
Charlie-Alpha Moon surface (Tango Blue Sector)
Tai slumped down tiredly, resting his back against a tree trunk as he unsealed and removed his helmet. He took a deep breath and doused his head with water before guzzling the rest of the bottle.
Olu tapped him on the shoulder. "You may need to ration your supply. So try not to chug."
Tai nodded back an affirmative as his squad leader took a more conservative swig from his own bottle. He looked around at his other squad mates, and found himself comforted by the fact that although they were all tired, no one looked on the verge of exhaustion. They had been running non-stop from the Covenant patrol for hours now. That the team had been able to keep up such a fast pace for a prolonged period of time was a testament to the rigorous physical training of the ODST SpecGroup. They had thrown the large Covenant unit into disarray with their ambush, and then broke contact and evaded with perfect tactical precision. Their effective execution and successful evasion thus far provided a much needed morale boost, especially after losing Kravitch, Inoue, and Tahadi during the inexplicable mis-drop.
The team had retreated deep into a forest zone that was dense with foliage. Much of the strange flora and fauna now surrounding them glowed with slightly fluorescent purple and yellow tones unlike any earthly plant life. Luckily, the Helljumpers' Chameleon model combat drop suits were able to absorb the light around them and adjust color tone to blend in slightly. Although the effect was far from profound, it did provide at least some tactical advantage. The suits were favored for use in covert reconnaissance operations.
Tai noticed Leiva wiping away blood from the side of his neck. "Hey, you okay there, Sergeant?" he asked worriedly.
Leiva nodded back, although he seemed to grimace in pain. "Don't sweat it, Superboy. One of those bastards grazed me with a carbine shot, but it's just a scratch. No big deal."
"Well we better make sure of that," Olu interjected. "Rigazzo, take a look at it."
The Corpsman got up from where he was sitting and pulled a medi-kit out of his pack. "Can't we let him bleed to death instead? Nobody likes him anyway," he said jokingly.
Leiva shook his head, giving him the finger. "Asshole."
After a quick examination, Rigazzo wiped the wound clean and sprayed Leiva's neck with a bit of disinfectant seal. "You're right, old man. It's a pretty superficial scratch. Not even worth a drop of bio-foam, really. But you're lucky. A little to the left and it would've put a hole through your throat, or at least taken out your carotid artery."
They heard a light ruffling of leaves and branches as Sergeant Ettish climbed down from the tree where he had been perched up high with his S2-AM. He made one final short jump down to the ground below, and walked a short distance over to rejoin his teammates.
"So what do you have for me, E?" Olu asked him.
Ettish propped his sniper rifle against a rock and unwrapped a food bar as he replied. "Well, it looks good. No trace of any pursuers. We've definitely shaken them off our tail, at least for now."
"Good," Olu nodded with approval.
Ettish sighed as he bit into his food bar. "You know, I'm almost disappointed that a few didn't pop up on my scope while I was up there. I need to put down a lot more targets before the score's been settled for Tahadi, Inoue, and Kravitch."
"Amen to that," Olu agreed bitterly.
Hearing Ettish mention the names of the three fallen Marines, Leiva let out a grim chuckle. "Damn, Inoue still owed me a shitload of credits from our last few card games."
"Maybe he'll have something for you in his will," shrugged Olu. "He was a pretty damn lousy card player though, wasn't he?"
Everyone laughed in agreement except for Tai, who hadn't been with the unit long enough to know Inoue very well. Although the words and the laughter sounded casual and callous, Tai could feel repressed sorrow behind the grim humor.
"Okay let's stop wasting time," Olu cut the reminiscing short. He knew it was not the right time or place to think about their fallen comrades. "We need to sort things out."
"So here's the deal. Our encrypted link to the Tecumseh is a dud. So we can't call for any support, and we obviously can't do this job until communication can be reestablished."
"This is just weird," Leiva shook his head in frustration. "I double verified that channel with the communications officer. It's our assigned channel, no doubt. And I know that Tahadi and Horenstein verified our drop coordinates before we left the ship. So how in the world we were mis-dropped is beyond me!"
Olu waved his hand to dismiss that point. "Let's just concentrate on getting out of this shit for now. We can worry about how exactly we got into it in the first place later."
"Okay, so what do we do now?" Tai piped in.
"From here on, we'll have to revert to the lost comms contingency procedure," replied Olu.
Standard operating procedure required the team to make a scheduled report back to command every two hours. The lost communications contingency procedure dictated that a ship would be sent out to meet the team at a pre-designated nighttime rendezvous, in the event that the team failed to make a report after twelve consecutive hours. Depending on how bad the circumstances were, the team would then either be given a new comlink set to continue with the mission, or be extracted.
"They'll send a shuttle to the rendezvous tomorrow night," Olu continued. "I'm hoping that they'll bring us a comlink with a new channel prepared, because I still think we can finish the job between the five of us."
"Yeah I don't want to leave without taking care of business either," Tai added his support. "Too much has already been lost for this to end in failure."
The others nodded solemnly in agreement.
"Okay then," Olu went on. "We have a few more hours until first light. That gives us a little time to find a good hide site to lie up in during the day. As soon as it gets dark tomorrow, we'll haul ass to the rendezvous point. We should be able to move fast enough to make it there by twenty-one hundred hours, provided that we don't run into any trouble. That sound good?"
"Good to go."
"Then let's get moving and find our hide site."
The team immediately began picking up their gear and re-sealing their helmets. As Tai checked to make sure all his gear was strapped on tight, he began to feel better about the situation. Nothing could change the fact that they had been mis-dropped with no communications and had lost three good men. But they had fought the Covies off and managed a successful escape and evasion. Things were starting to get back under control. All they had to do now was to get a functional comm channel from the shuttle and then accomplish the task they had set out to do. With renewed determination, Tai followed his teammates as they continued moving through the alien forest.