Posted By: Steve<Eaglesalltheway2@yahoo.com>
Date: 2 June 2004, 5:18 PM
Once again, another long story. Enjoy!
1700 Hours, September 21st, 2552 (Military Calender)/
West European Protectorate, Barcelona, Earth.
What the Master Chief knew was that Barcelona couldn't fall. Barcelona had become the center for major weapons manufacturing in 2320 after very rich iron and copper deposits were found deep off its ports. Many wealthy business men invested highly in the deposit and soon, Barcelona was the hub of weapons making in the entire UNSC. Even though Earth was being pounded from the Covenant, the ammunition and weapons had to keep rolling out, or else the Marines would have to fight with sticks and stones.
Madrid had fallen a day before, glassed from orbit, before the destroyer, The Lincoln, blasted it away with her MAC guns. Covenant ground troops seized half of the European Protectorate, including 95% of the western part of the protectorate. Barcelona was the last stronghold, and probably the best fortified, of all the European Protectorate. In 2496, there was an attempt by the rebels to sabotage the entire 2-kilometer square facility. So, they moved it underground, and incorporated it with the constant mining. Some people speculated that the facility was even as well fortified as ONI's CASTLE base on Reach.
But the Chief also knew what happened to Reach, as well as the base.
So, the only thing Barcelona was to the Covenant was an eventuality. But to John, it was an objective, and he always completed an objective.
The Pelican descended under heavy fire to the "landing pad" which was merely a clear space on a scorched parking lot. Marines were already in heavy fighting with the Covenant, who were on the outskirts of the facility. Mounted guns screamed and Battle Rifles stuttered in semi-auto and three-round bursts. John saw one Marine duck under an incoming needle, poke his head back up over the small wall and get a green bolt to the face. The Pelican lifted back up, and was soon engaged with two Banshees as it tried to fly to safety.
Unfortunately, the Chief would have to go solo on this mission. Linda, Fred, and Will were busy fighting to protect other key locations critical to Earth's survival. He wished he was with his team, wished he could fight alongside his fellow Spartans. But he knew that the Spartans would aid Earth greater spreading their effectiveness around.
The Spartan wasn't alone, however. Cortana had agreed to aid the Chief on this mission, giving him in the field intelligence and up-to-the-second mission objectives. A squad of 3 ODST's in their new combat suits, dubbed "Mini-Marks" by the Marines, were there to aid him as well. They would come in handy. Although they lacked the telepathic connection John had with his Spartans, they were still some of the best normal Human soldiers in the UNSC. And those suits would provide an extra edge over the Covenant.
"Help the Marines up here while I go get a SitRep," the Chief said to the ODST's in a private com channel.
"Yes, sir," said the highest ranked ODST among them, Lieutenant Locke. He made a series of quick hand motions, and ordered the other two Helljumpers, Sergeant Baxter and Corporal Jennings, to take up the left and right sides of the wall.
The platform which held the wall looked over a larger section, which connected to the main gate. Covenant artillery had blasted away the 2-meter thick gate in five minutes before an air strike could be organized to take care of the problem. Then, hundreds of Grunts and Jackals marched through the gate. It was believed that the Marines could stop them by concentrating fire on the gate, but the Covenant used waves of Banshees to strafe the larger platform and tie-up the Longswords and SkyHawks, allowing the Phantoms to come in and place dozens of Brutes and Elites on the platform. The Grunts and Jackals flowed through, and soon the first level of the complex was lost. There were four levels that ringed around the structure and got progressively smaller until the top where the communication beacon was. But that was only the tip of the iceberg.
There were 60 levels underneath ground level, some as massive as 300 meters tall. Civilians and workers were forced to the bottom levels, still churning out weapons and ammo. Reserve Marines and officers were on the 14th floor, but prepared to set up a second HQ on the 28th. And go down 14 levels per retreat. But that meant that they could only fall back several times before they would be forced to make a last stand on the last 4 floors, something no Marine was going to let happen.
But John's primary mission now was to receive orders from General Evans. After a minute on the lift, he was met by 10 Marines with Battle Rifles, SMG's, and Shotguns, prepared for Camo Elites. Once tagged friendly, he was ushered through the screening area, and immediately taken to the General.
"Good to have you, Chief," Evans said with a British accent. "We could use the help."
"I'm eager to help, sir," John said at rigid attention.
"At ease." The Chief spread his legs a little further and clasped his hands around his back but didn't look "at ease" one bit. "As you know, we lost the one advantage we had in the gate, and now are trying to push the Covenant back from the top. If communication is lost, any remaining air cover will be useless for an effective counter-attack. We have plans to blow the top once it's compromised, giving the Covenant something else to tangle with, but they will eventually drill through that, if Reach was any indication."
He paused after that, damning the Covenant for what they did.
"What I want you and your team to do is find a way to flank the Covenant, get behind them, anything to weaken their defenses. I heard you Spartans work best when on the offensive, eh?"
"Sir, yes sir," John said, wishing that his team was here to acknowledge the complement.
"Any ideas, old boy?"
John thought hard for a minute, trying to think of a way to get behind their lines. An aerial insertion would be suicidal in the slow Pelicans, especially with likely a thousand ground troops and dozens of Banshees. Tunneling would take too long. There had to be a way. There was always a way.
Maybe if he conferred with his ODST's they could come up with a way. It'd probably be a crazy idea. You have to be crazy to fly in one of those Human Entry Vehicles. Getting shot out of a ship like a rocket, subject to-.
"Sir, I think I've got an idea."
"Let's hear it, son."
"Do you have any HEV's on the base?" John asked.
"We do have a small subsidiary plant on the 16th level that makes HEV's, yes. Why?"
"My squad and I will launch ourselves via the anti-aircraft rocket bays in HEV's over the Covenant line. We'll fly up a kilometer, if Cortana's calculations are correct, and land behind their lines. There is a 30 second lapse between when we're fired and when we land, and given the combat and our speed, it's unlikely we'll be spotted.
"After we land, we'll move around through the maintenance hatches that run throughout the walls, engaging in guerilla combat and placing changes of C-12 in bulk around one side of the facility. My team should reduce the assaulting force on the chosen side by at least two-thirds, creating a weak point, allowing a proper counter-attack to flank the enemy. Any additional air-cover can be directed to strafe points of combat. Then, we can push them back to the gate and hopefully keep our original advantage."
"Are you sure you can achieve your goals, Chief?" Evans asked, somewhat unsure about everything including the HEV part.
"I guarantee it," John said, confidently. "I need a few things, though, sir."
"I need four rocket pads' barrels enlarged, and four HEV's fitted with an extra 3 centimeters of steel plating."
"I can get a team of Engineers on it, all I need-."
"Are the measurements?" Cortana interjected over the Chief's com. "I've already sent the specs and the engineers are calibrating now."
"Good. Well, Chief, although I believe your crazy scheme may not be as simple as I had hoped, it could work. Especially for a Spartan and ODST's. Mission approved."
"Thank you, sir. I won't let you down." John snapped to attention, raised a salute and headed towards the lift.
"God's speed," Evans mumbled. "God's speed."
When the Chief arrived back on the surface, specifically the part where the ODST's had been, only two-thirds of the Marines he'd seen when he arrived were still firing. Some were lifeless in a pool of blood. Others sat propped against the wall, holding their sides, arms, or legs. Thankfully, the ODST's remained unhurt, and he quickly got them to regroup.
All three Helljumpers wordlessly crouched by the Chief. He told them the plan, mission objectives, and scenarios that would come into play soon.
When he was done briefing them, Cortana said over his suits speakers, "10 minutes until HEV's are ready."
The Chief said, "Roger. Team, let's give the Marines some help and then boot over to the rocket pad."
"Yes sir," they replied. The four of them spread out along the wall and fired down on the incoming hostiles. They were trying to come up ramps, set up ladders, and climb on boxes. The cargo crates scattered around provided cover as each Covenant soldier took the last soldier's piece of cover. They lashed their plasma across the wall and fired to keep the Humans' heads down while they slowly progressed up the ramps.
A blue/white light caught the Chief's eye and he shifted his Battle Rifle fire to a Grunt with a plasma grenade. The 9.6mm bullet went through the Grunt's head and stopped his arm's motion. The grenade layed on the ground for 3 seconds, then exploded, taking three other Grunts and a Jackal with it.
As John shot another methane-breather, he noticed an orange barrel behind the now dead Grunt. Normal Humans would have no chance of reading what it said from 50 meters, but with the Chief's enhanced vision, he could easily read what was labeled: Fusion cell.
He waited until an Elite, 2 Jackals, and 5 Grunts ran by it to fire. In a mighty explosion, the entire squad was engulfed.
Suddenly, a green light washed over him. A quick check of his shield bar indicated an overcharged plasma burst. He crouched and turned to his right and saw the Grunt get mowed down by Jennings' SMG. He quickly rounded the ramp's corner and shot three more Grunts galloping up the ramp.
"Blue-4, stay up here and provide cover. I'll clear that ramp," John ordered.
"Roger, Blue-1," Jennings replied. The Spartan waited for his shields to recharge, then jogged to the ramp's mouth and turned down it. He put away his Battle Rifle and pulled out his SMG, better suited for close-up work. After gunning down two more of the pesky Grunts, he ran into two Jackals. One didn't see him and had its shield at its side, allowing a quick burst to subdue him. The other, however, was a veteran, his orange shield protecting his feable body. Green plasma launched from the pistol and was dispersed over the Chief's shields. He took cover near a crate came up with a quick counter-move. A smaller box was in front of him, a perfect foothold. John stepped on it then jumped over the crate and on top of the surprised Jackal, crushing him with his armor's weight.
As John turned to the left to continue down the ramp, a cobalt Elite almost ran right into him. The Master Chief acted first, crouching and punching the creature in the stomach, causing the Elite to double over. Then, he forced the alien's Plasma Rifle into its chest and pushed its slender finger into the trigger. In two shots, the shields on the Elite were gone, and so the Spartan brought his right hand up, which held the SMG, and unloaded the remainder his clip in the rookie's face.
Before the purple brain and gore had started to dribble down the wall, John was already engaged in a battle with six Grunts. Rather than engage single targets, he decided to spray back and forth. Unfortunately, the Grunts were 5 meters away, and this decreased the amount of bullets that would hit a target. When the clip was finally spent, only 4 Grunts were dead. As John ejected the spent clip and reached for a fresh one, both the surviving Grunts' Plasma Pistols glowed green with overcharge. One would take care of his shields, the other would certainly kill him.
He backpedaled, searching for cover, finding none. The Grunts had him, so they launched their bolts. But they impacted on a the wal, far away from the Chief, who was busy moving erratically to evade the plasma. John looked at the Grunts, who were both dead from head shots. He looked up and saw Jennings with a Battle Rifle. The Corporal shifted his fire and killed a Jackal charging the Chief.
After his gun was reloaded, he made his way down to the bottom platform. He peeked around the corner he was hiding behind and saw three Elites, all veterans, ordering a unit of Jackals into position. Behind them sat two Hunters, waiting for orders. And one more peek confirmed four Brutes firing their weapons up at a squad of Marines trying to force back some Grunts. One Marine's M9 DP-HE grenade took down the Grunts, but the Brutes' weapons tore apart the 5 Marines.
John was just about to ask the ODST's for cover fire or some heavy weapons, when Lieutenant Locke said, "Chief, stand back. That fusion core you shot gave us an idea."
Spartan-117 complied with the Helljumpers, and he backed half way up the ramp. He looked up and saw six orange barrels fall twenty meters and impact with the platform. All of them exploded within a second of each other, and engulfed the entire platform. John could make out bodies outlined by the hellish fire, but they soon fell.
When the fire died, the Elites had been vaporized. Not a trace remained of the Jackals, and the heat caused the ammo in the Hunters' Fuel Rod Cannons to simultaneously go off, enveloping their heavily armored bodies. But the Brutes were alive, although burnt badly. All the hair was gone, exposing their now blacker hides. Whatever clothes they wore were gone, and their guns had melted in the process. It was amazing that they could have survived.
But John didn't wait for them to recover. He unlimbered his Battle Rifle and shot the first two in the head. The other two were gunned down from above by three-round bursts. Surprisingly, the only Covenant that remained were a batch of wounded Grunts safe in a corner. The Chief's rifle didn't show mercy. Blue blood sat in puddles under the lifeless bodies.
"West side of platform one secure," the Chief said over the com. "Marines, move up! Helljumpers, you're with me."
"Sir, yes sir!" came in through his team freq.
"Your augmented HEV's will be ready in two minutes," Cortana said. "I suggest you get to the engineers."
"Roger. Let's go." After a two minute run to the engineers, they entered a room across from the second level anti-air rocket bays and saw some Marines firing out of some windows. The Marine on the far right window was busy firing his SMG, when a needle-fine laser hit him between the eyes. He fell to the deck, never knowing what happened.
"Sniper!" the Marines called out, ducking from their windows.
"Sergeant," the Chief said, "Go help them out."
"Sir, yes sir!" Baxter put away his Battle Rifle and pulled out his S2 AM. "Corporal!" the non-com barked, "Get over here and draw that sniper's attention."
"Yes, sir," Jennings said. He put his Battle Rifle on three-round burst and blindly fired at where a sniper might be. After his third burst, a blue/white super-fine line of plasma shot right past his head. Baxter saw the flash, sighted the Elite, and shot him in the head. The alien's Carbine fell to the Earth from the piece of Longsword wreckage he had hid in.
"Sniper down. Fire away, Marines!" The Marines resumed their fight and fired down on the enemy.
The last engineer lifted his face-plate and smiled, pleased with his work. He then whistled, and four robot dollies came in and hefted the beefed-up HEV's. They carried them to the next room and placed them in the rocket pods. John positioned his inside the tube and helped the ODST's heft theirs into place. Then, the team entered and sealed their HEV's and awaited Cortana's firing solution.
"Solution acquired, Chief. Fire when ready."
"Ready?" John said to the team. Acknowledgment lights winked. "Fire in the hole."
The Chief felt his stomach get sent into his feet. Ten seconds later, his stomach was then in his throat as the HEV hit its apex. Then, they began to free fall. John's bones then felt a discerning jerk, and looked around. There were holes in his HEV from the initial propellant, but other than that remained well intact. When the pods were 10 meters off the ground, they released their cage and the Chief glided to the ground.
When he looked up, Corporal Jennings lay five meters to his right, getting up slowly. Sergeant Baxter was picking up his Battle Rifle and sniper rifle that had landed two meters in front of him. And Lieutenant Locke was thirty meters to his left. Good, the team made it.
Once the team had organized and regrouped, they marched forward half a kilometer over wrecked planes and Banshees to the gate. When at the gate, they saw hundreds of Grunts, Jackals, and Elites preparing for a massive assault. There had to be at least four hundred Covenant waiting for the order to strike.
John wasn't about to let them hear that order.
He told his team to hold position, and pulled out all the C-12 he had, fourty kilos worth, enough to blast a fourty-meter wide hole in a Cruiser's hull. After a long belly crawl, the Chief was within twenty meters of the group when he decided to toss it. He set the timer to ten seconds, threw it, and ran like hell. The Chief ran in between wrecks and any other cover he could find to dodge the tons of incoming fire. Even with his enhanced speed and agility, he could not evade the tidal wave of plasma directed at him. his shields flared and died. He dove behind his squad mates who were giving him suppressive fire. Just as his shields began to recharge, a tremendous explosion sent tons of dirt and bodies fifty meters into the air. When the Chief looked back up, he saw a giant hundred-meter wide crater where the Covenant used to be. Parts of the wall and gate were battered, burnt, and broken. Spots of blood and bits of bodies were all that hinted at a living organism's presence.
"Gate cleared," John said over all channels. But before he could do anything else, a swarm of dropships flew in over his team and where about to land when they noticed the crater where their LZ should have been. They then immediately bugged out.
With reports like, "East side clear!" and, "Platform one secure!", John knew they might have just saved the entire structure, neglecting their next objective, which was to engage in guerilla combat via maintenance hallways. Hard to do that with no enemies around.
"The Banshees are pulling back," a pilot said. Good. It looks like the Humans can have a victory today.
But before the Master Chief could think another thought, a huge droning sound was heard behind them, and when he turned, he could not believe what he was seeing.
At least 50 Phantoms were incoming, with 100 Banshee escorts. The fifteen or so Longswords and five SkyHawks were able to take down eleven Banshees and two Phantoms, before they were overwhelmed by fire.
Most of the Marines didn't stare in awe for too long. Fear replaced that emotion, and in seconds all the Marines who had come out in victory stood as perfect targets for incoming Banshees eager to take back this humiliation.
Luckily, the men who armed the anti-air turrets that bristled the complex had stood at their posts long enough to engage the Banshees. Two, three, then four of the aircraft fell to the ground in sparks and flames. Another fell under the Chief and his team's Battle Rifles. Gauss cannons took down a few more with one or two shots, and soon the battle was in full sway again.
A Fuel Rod Cannon slagged an AA turret, as well as its gunner. Another gunner fell under the Banshees' plasma cannons.
The Chief was almost to the gate when he got hit three times in the back, causing the audible alarm to go off. He looked back and saw a Banshee flying a meter off the ground aiming to run him down. The Spartan ran past a downed SkyHawk and tripped. He landed on his back, and when he looked up, the Banshee was headed right for him.
But the Banshee was low, too low, and it clipped the wrecked SkyHawk, sending it end over end until the Banshee came to a rest ten meters behind the Chief. The pilot was thrown free, and when he groggily looked up, a Battle Rifle was there to greet him.
John ran to the Banshee, flipped it upright, and hopped in. No Banshee would suspect another Banshee, so he had to make his first shots count before his cover was blown. The Phantoms were just coming in, and they posed the most threat, seeing as how they could carry half a dozen Brutes.
He got above and behind one Phantom and fired his Fuel Rod Cannon, then his plasma cannons. The dropship started to fly erratically. Once the Fuel Rod Cannon had recycled, he fired again, hitting it in the same place. The entire back was enveloped in blue/white flames and the Phantom spun into the Earth, taking a Banshee who had flown under the ship with it.
John took down two more Banshees, before they realized what was going on. Soon, his Banshee started taking hits, and it barely avoided getting nailed with a Fuel Rod Cannon. One Banshee lined up directly behind him, and was about to fire, when a rocket lashed upward and took it out. Lines of rockets streaked from the ground to their targets, most of them simultaneously striking Phantoms, and with the M19's new tracking system, Banshees had a tough time avoiding them. One Banshee was able to dodge one, only to fly into another and then another.
John looked down and saw his ODST's leading a squad of twenty Marines with rocket launchers. Corporal Jennings had one, as did Baxter. But the Lieutenant was too busy passing out boxes of rockets to fire a launcher.
A Banshee flew directly in front of the Chief, and he blew him away with his Fuel Rod Cannon. Then he concentrated his fire on a Phantom, then another Banshee, and then another. The air raid was starting to break down, and the Covenant knew it. Several smoking Banshees were turning back, as well as some badly damaged Phantoms.
But not all of the Phantoms were down. Seven got through, and they headed for the back of the facility. Twelve Banshees were also up and whizzing around the Marines' heads.
A Banshee with a terrific pilot flew straight at the rocket line. The aircraft was too close for the rockets to easily track, and most of the Marines were reloading their launchers. The pilot dodged two rockets and got off his Fuel Rod Cannon before his ride was cut short. The fuel rod, however, was dead on, impacting in the middle of the line.
The Chief was busy taking it to a Phantom when he saw a green explosion where the Marines were. He saw a wrecked Banshee crash into the wall and hit the ground, black smoke billowing out of holes in the hull. He did a flyby of the Marines and saw six slowly get up, bleeding profusely, none of them his team.
He looked at his team's biometers. Lieutenant Locke's and Corporal Jennings' were flatlined, but Sergeant Baxter's was there, although weak. He gave a few shots to scare away the Phantoms that were leaving before trying to land.
When his Banshee touched down, he slid out and went over to the Marines. Two stumbled past the Chief, supporting each other with one arm, and holding their wounds with the other. Two more Marines lay to his sides, both bleeding heavily from the stomach. A char mark and some blood spatters were what remained of the middle of the line.
"Cortana, do a scan for any neural transmitters from Blue-2 or -4," John said.
"I've done two," she said. "Nothing."
"One more time, please, Cortana," the Chief said, forcing himself to slow down and keep his calm.
"Not a thing Chief."
There was a long pause.
The silence was then by plasma bursts. 20 Elites, some rookies, others veterans, and one commando was behind what remained of the rocket team. John raised his Battle Rifle and was about to fire, when an explosion ripped apart the Elites near the epicenter. Five blue Elites and two red were immidiately down, and a second explosion took care of the commando and two more rookies. John and several surviving Marines took down three of the ten Elites left, and a nearby anti-air turret ripped the other Elites into pieces. A grenade finished off any other Elites.
Baxter came out of the smoke limping, a rocket launcher on his shoulder. He held his side, wincing with every step. When he got to the Chief, he grabbed the Spartan's shoulder to support himself, and took off his helmet. A Gauss Cannon and AA fire took down one of the escaping Phantoms that had snaked through right as Baxter began to speak.
"So this is all in a day's work for a Spartan," Baxter said, looking at the wrecked Phantoms and Banshees that covered the burning field in front of them where the outskirts of the city were. The sunset gave the battlefield an orange glow, which reflected to the puffy clouds. Buildings could be seen in the horizon, sounds of battle and gunfire entangled with the slight wind which tug at the Marines' clothes. All this destruction was, oddly, peaceful to John, even though hundreds of Marines had died, including two of his teammates.
John could have slept, could have cried, could have done a lot of other things other than fight. But he knew. Knew it so well he didn't even need to finish his thought. Fight or die.
As he helped Baxter onto the Pelican, he damned the Covenant once more for the last 27 years, and closed his eyes.
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