This is Suicide: Chapter 4
Posted By: Neile Pederson<email@example.com>
Date: 4 December 2002, 5:47 am
The Longsword interceptors swept in at half throttle, cannons blazing, unleashing volley upon volley of 27.3 mm deleted uranium shells into the crater, shattering the pile of boulders that the Covenant had used to create a crude defensive wall around the crash site, spraying dust and stone chips into the air. The screaming engines almost completely eclipsed the yells of the Covenant leaders attempting to call their soldiers back into a defensive position. Many of them huddled under the wings of the M704C Pelican that lay in wreckage amidst the fallen trees and charred grasses in the stadium-sized crater, with the exception of the Hunters, who had no need to hide due to their thick armor. The main structure of the dropship was still intact, but the engine arrays had been torn of when it slammed into the ground and lay nearly one hundred meters away, seeping coolant and hydraulic fluid.
Overhead, the Longswords pulled up and flew around in a tight circle, preparing for another run before they would have to return to the ship. The interceptors closed up into a tight delta formation, nearly wing to wing, twin ramjet engines howling like hell's war dogs. The pair of Banshees were nowhere to be seen, but the Wraith was firing as rapidly as possible trying to down at least a few of the Longswords, to no avail. The interceptors were simply too quick for the plasma burst to catch up to. On the next run, all three of the UNSC aircraft targeted the Wraith with their heavy machine cannons and one of the interceptors fired a pair of Rockeye laser-guided missiles, just in case the gunfire wouldn't be sufficient destructive force. The Rockeyes slammed into the front of the armor plate shielding the cockpit at the same time that the large-bore uranium shells peppered the thick layers of armor. The combined efforts of the weapons caused the medium battle tank to erupt in a storm of metal alloy fragments, fire and smoke. As the hover-drive of the Covenant tank sputtered and failed, the frame of the behemoth fell to the dusty earth, settling with a loud metallic thud into the grass. Smoke still roiled from the cockpit and the skeleton of the Elite in command of the destroyed assault vehicle could be clearly seen still sitting at the controls, cooking in its own armor. The flight of Longswords turned due east and pulled up to nearly a 45˚ angle, losing barely any speed in the process. A Hunter sidestepped out from behind the engine array of the doomed Pelican, charged its fuel-rod cannon and released the bolt of superheated plasma explosive at the tail of the rearmost escaping assailant. The fuel rod quickly closed the distance between the Hunter and the intended target; the pilot of the Longsword barely had enough time to figure out that his interceptor had been hit before it detonated mid-air in a shower of white-hot metal chunks and rapidly expanding and combusting oxygen.
What a shame, thought Mendoza as he watched the remaining wreckage slam into an enormous tree on the top of the hill, about two hundred meters away. Turning away from the gruesome crash site, he unhooked his M19 Jackhammer rocket launcher from the back segment of his armor and hefted it up to his shoulder. The private kneeling next to him peered through a set of binoculars, calling out targets of opportunity and reloading the M19 when necessary.
"Hunter with it's back turned, trotting up the far side of the crater, probably tryin' to flank us, sir. If you lead him by about fifty meters, it should be a direct hit," the private remarked. He was young, most likely fresh out of Basic Training. Mendoza secretly wished that the kid would not be killed during the mission, but one cannot control everything.
Mendoza did as the private had suggested and squeezed the trigger. What followed was the all-too-familiar whoosh, like that of any enormous blowtorch being lit, and the hard shoulder-kick of the recoil. The rocket leapt from the launcher tube and quickly accelerated to almost the speed of sound, headed towards the ground roughly forty-five meters in the path of the rushing Hunter. The Hunter saw the rocket out of the corner of its eye and attempted to stop, but it was already too late. The 102 mm shaped high-explosive charge broadsided the Covenant, the ensuing explosion throwing the creature several meters backwards against an uprooted tree, its corpse tumbling over the large log and coming to stop on the other side of the stump.
Draught popped the caps off of the red marking flares and placed them in the middle of a large clearing at the base of the hill surrounding the crater. The ground was scorched and there were uprooted trees at the edges of the clearing; apparently the Covenant also found this area a good place to drop off troops and supplies. After the landing zone was marked off, Draught ran up the long, steep slope in the general direction of the Master Chief. The air could not have been more than 85% as dense as Earth's atmosphere and by the time Elise had reached the top of the hill, her lungs were burning and she felt the urge to bend over and catch her breath. But the plasma burst that whipped past her head gave her different plans. She ducked, rolled to the left and crouched behind a large stump, pulled the M6D pistol from her side holster and scanned the open area some fifty meters below. A Jackal crouched behind one of the Pelican's landing struts, firing its plasma rifle towards Mendoza, the private who was currently sending explosively personal Messages from God to the Hunters. The firing position of the enemy warrior gave Draught a clear shot at its back, and she took it. The 12.7 mm explosive round slammed into the back of the creatures neck, detonating on contact, shattering it spine and esophagus, leaving it to die in a matter of minutes. Elise sidestepped to the right, knowing full well that the Covenant would now be aware that they were under attack from multiple directions now, lobbed a fragmentation grenade into the fray and hit a dead sprint over to the Master Chief's position, about thirty yards away. She slid the last few feet to avoid a burst over plasma rifle fire, like a baseball player of years past.
Lieutenant Jacob McHenry lay in a small clump of bushes on a rocky outcropping further up the craters side and opposite the majority of the rest of the tactical team. The position afforded good visibility of the battleground, but was fairly exposed to enemy fire, should they find him. Through the power of his 10x scope, McHenry looked at the face of the Grunt manning the Shade plasma turret on the left side of the crater and decided it could be vastly improved upon by taking it clean off. He squeezed the hair-trigger and in less than a second, the Grunt fell to the ground with a hollowed-out head. Much better, thought the lieutenant. In the upper right corner of the scope, he could see the feet of an Elite trying to sneak up and flank the cluster of Marines at the crest of the impact hill. McHenry found the little earhole in the side of its head and released another round from the all-powerful rifle. The shell tore through the Elite's shields, penetrated its eardrum and ripped straight through its brain. The corpse fell face first into the tree that it was hiding behind and bounced backwards to lay looking straight up at the sun circling overhead.
The Master Chief kneeled with his back to a large rock that had been charred from the crash of the Pelican. He swapped out his assault rifle for the S2B AM3 Advanced Sniper Rifle, lobbed a M9 HE-DP frag grenade over his shoulder and spun to right, clearing the rock, snapping the scope up to the blast shield in front of his right eye. With the scope activated at 15x, the Chief settled the crosshairs on one of the Ghost hovercraft and fired. The shot ripped into the plasma retention grid on the lower right side of the craft. Blue plasma gushed out of the ruined tanks, leaving a trail behind the Ghost. Just as planned, the craft detonated in blue fireball, consuming the pilot and scorching the bushes on either side of the path the late Covenant commander was attempting to get up. But while he was targeting the Ghost, a Jackal had managed to make its way out of the massacre in the crater and had snuck up behind the SPARTAN. John didn't even see the green glow of the overcharged plasma pistol or hear the snap of the bolt being released. The plasma shot tore through the 10 meters of air between the crouched Covie and the Master Chief's back and the impact knocked John forward, causing him to lose his bead on the leader of the pack of Grunts trudging their way up the steep slope to Mendoza's position. The MJONLIR shield instantly dropped to nothing, but with no real cover to hide behind until they recharged, the super-soldier did not have very nice options. John spun on his heel to face the Jackal and took off at a dead run. Thanks to the genetic augmentations, the short distance between the opposing soldier closer at a rapid rate. The Covenant warrior was crouched behind a large rock, shield held firmly in front of its relative frail body. The Jackal fired its pistol as quickly as it could, but the Master Chief simply shrugged off the onslaught of energy bolts. He hopped over the rock, the Jackal trying in vain to track his movement with its attack, but John landed on the opposite side of the Covenant. Within a split second of landing, the SPARTAN spun around and landed a kick to the side of his foe's head, caving in the Jackal's skull as if it were made of cardboard. John looked down to view the damage done to his battle suit and was thoroughly surprise to see plasma charring on his breastplate and a trickle of crimson blood coming from underneath the alloy plating. He couldn't remember the last time that a Covenant had drawn blood before, but it had certainly been a while. A muted beep signaled that the MJONLIR had finally built up enough of a charge to reengage the shields, followed by a low humming sound of the generators coming back online. A brief glance up at his health status indicator showed that the Jackal had caused quite a bit of superficial damage and John winced at the sharp pain of his cooked flesh rubbing against the vacuum-sealed suit. Next chance I get, the Master Chief thought, I better patch that up.
Mendoza pressed the firing stud on the forward grip of his rocket launcher and the high-explosive munition screamed towards the Wraith. The rocket ripped a hole roughly the size of a grenade in the outer armor, exposing the thinner bulkhead. Knowing that this would only anger the tank's operator, the Marine quickly pressed the firing stud again, only to hear the metallic click of a arming hammer striking an empty launch tube. The Spanish man cursed to himself in his native language and nearly shouted for the Marines crouched a few feet away to run. The Wraith fired its cannon, the plasma fragmentation mortar shell arcing towards the crest Mendoza was laying on, attempting to reload the M19 as quickly as he was physically capable of doing. In his peripheral vision, he saw the other Marines sprint along the rim of the crater, firing at a trio of Grunts that had just made it to the top of the slope. Mendoza turned just in time to see the plasma burst in front of him, felt the heat of it boiling his skin an instant before it slammed directly into his face.
Draught turned away from the sight of Mendoza's charred corpse being blown into no less than four different directions. Elise closed her eyes, whispered a farewell to her fallen comrade and was instantly filled with a rage that controlled her very thoughts. She was suddenly galvanized by the thought of Carlos and possessed by a need to avenge his death. She would not let that Wraith kill any more of her fellow soldiers, even if it meant that she would die in the process. Pure rage caused her to run down the slope of the crater, made her sprint towards the tank, clubbing Grunts and Jackals with the butt of her MA5B as they tried to impede her assault, caused her to jump up unto the pylons containing the hover drives and stick the muzzle of her rifle into the narrow slit that the operator used to view his surroundings. Draught emptied the entire clip of armor-piercing rounds into the face of the Elite at the controls, determined to kill the wretched creature that had stolen away her only true friend in the Corps. The Marines on the rim rained as much cover fire as they could on the Covenant soldiers forming an ever-tightening ring around the tank, but many of the aliens dodged the rounds, firing their own weapons at Elise. She felt the impacts of nearly two-dozen needler rounds, ten plasma rifle bursts and an overcharged plasma pistol burst before the world went dark.