Halo Story Part II
Posted By: Vector40<email@example.com>
Date: 27 April 2001, 4:05 PM
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed.
The sergeant had arranged the battle in a semi-circular firesack deployment, a layout that had been used for literally hundreds of years. Nothing fancy, just a scimitar-curving grouping of foxholes and trenches, thickly-laid and distributed in the order of battle. A hook on one end of the scimitar contained two of the three surviving ARVs, and the single heavily damaged light tank, all dug in hull-down through the heavy clay and grime of the earth. The configuration was simple, well-planned and executed, and tested innumerably by time and grizzly battles. It was a strong and effective.
But it was not a miracle.
The swarm of Covenant struck without ceremony and without needlessly complex tactics. They outnumbered the marines nearly 10 to 1, and were not disposed to overplan in any case. Number were numbers, and numbers worked.
The first line, two hundred strong and composed of grunts employed as shock-troops, swept over the human emplacements in moments. They closed the distance, grappling to get near enough to use their close-range and melee weapons, bellowing war-cries and lighting the air with bursts of energy fire, and upon reaching a line one hundred meters from the trenches, died.
The marines, none of which had fired more than three shots, quietly recalibrated their scopes, took a moment to place weapons or comms in more convenient positions, and balefully eyed the next wave of Covenant.
The sergeant settled into his hole, watched the swarm of attackers sweep over a second invisible line, and spoke into his mike: "Light."
Falcone pressed the button.
Four hundred alien bodies, this time split roughly 50/50 between grunts and warbling elite, were hurtled into the air in a variety of pieces.
The battle came, full speed and without mercy.
Scarcely behind their ranks of still-warm dead, and through the billowing clouds of smoke and soot, the roaring tide smashed into the trench-line with the whip-crack ferocity of a striking snake. Blazing white-hot plasma down the field, they met a solid wall of doom and fate as the 44th Marines finally let loose their fire.
The fortified vehicles added their own efforts, pouring the heavy rat-a-rat staccato of the heavy machine guns and the slower ka-LAM of the tanks single cannon. The marines raked the charging line with the last of their ammunition, filling the sky with fire.
Falcone had thrust his sword into the ground as a rally point, and eschewing the safety of the trench from which Michaels and Freebachi were slewing reams of fire downrange, he lanced streak after streak of DU and armor-piercing penetrators after the advancing hordes from a kneeling position he assumed in the loamy earth. He fired in short bursts, seeking out the heads of the taller elite above the crowd when he could. He cut two away from a squad-manned energy weapon, shot a third through the knees as it approached to take their place, and put the last five shots of the magazine into the hooded viewing-prism of an armored vehicle. Without pausing in his tirade, he let the clip fall about an inch before becoming impatient and knocking at aside with a fresh one, which he slammed into place. Laying a ceiling of fire over a group approaching him, he twisted into a roll, running a half-dozen steps before crumpling under an incoming barrage. When it abated- momentarily- he revolved upright, continued the motion through his arm, and flipped a plasma pyrotechnic a dozen meters forward. He dropped again, falling barely under a hail of fire, counted a fast three, and was up and sprinting again as the grenade exploded, casting up a plume of smoke and dust. He was behind it and then through, firing as he ran, dropping figures in the mist one-two-three, floating spectres that haunted him as his gun jammed on a misfeed, clacking harshly as he begun to turn to engage a new target; he finished the turn, accelerating into a savage pirouette, and hurled the rifle javelin-straight into a crowd of locust-swarming grunts. One fell, the others turned inward in confusion, and his hands found the grip of his pistols and they were out, tracking two targets bam-bam-bam; six grunts fell pocked with the charged neodymium, heart head gut-gut vessel chamber, and one hamstrung through both legs in an incredible lucky shot. Luck? Was it luck?
Was it ever?
He heard the roar and knew it, fell back rolling as his guns pivoted up and saw the two jets, smelled blood, and leapt forward like starving bloodhound. One, three, five shots missed, but then a shot took one in the wing and the next drilled through his wingmate's fuel port, just as one pistol clicked dryly and the other felt his beck and call and tracered the next shot, sheathing it in green flame that arced through the air, lighting the fog unexpectedly as he turned and was once again running. He cleared the edge of his mini-smokescreen, found himself fifty feet from the lines and the enemy already there. His pistols reloaded. Had he done that? No matter, because they were working again, back and forth, following in a brace of grenades as they blew a hole in the horde and broke the siege on his pit; swept through as his pistols gave up the ghost and drew his sword from where it stood glowing in the earth, decapitated a templar elite that stood over Michaels' prone form with a rather neat swing-and-tuck, and collapsing to the cover of the dirt wall with a creak of the armor.
He gasped once, twice, took a deep one, let it out, and rolled over carefully. Michaels was sitting, stunned, at the opposite edge of the pit. Falcone affected a cheerful, bored, rather nonchalant smile that he knew was wasted against his helmets tint, and said, "How's it going?
Michaels stared at him as the council of executives might see the Cirque du Soleil wander into its boardroom for coffee.
"The battle, Kaz. How's the battle?"
"The battle, Jerry! How's it going?"
Michaels blinked, slowly. He seemed to be attempting to speak, made several false starts, began and ended at the same time, and finally just shook his head.
Falcone levered his head over the edge of the hole, letting a line of visor two inches high peek over the top.
The battlefield was swept with devastation. It looked like it had been in a frontal collision. Debris, wreckage, shattered vehicles lay everywhere; bodies both suited and unsuited, human and alien, lay in a denser sprinkling, interposed among the heavier pieces. Clouds of black smoke, leaking steam, sporadic kinetic and energy fire, screams of pain and pleasure from throats comely and horrific all filled the air, painting a dark and evil portrait of torment and distress. A thick, malevolent cloud of pounding Covenant stood still at the edge of the arena, waiting for their chance, pouring onto the mosaic of horror to add their own atrocities and suffering to the mix.
He sank back with a start, turned-
Specialist Stuart Freebachi, Feeb, the kid. Twenty-two damn years old. Transferred from embassy duty because he wanted to travel more. Satiny blond hair and outrageous blue eyes that had never seen a day of combat.
He lay, disturbingly bloodless, with a fist-sized cauterized hole in his helmet.
The back of his helmet.
His hand had never reached a weapon.
Yes, it was time.
He picked up his sword.
TO BE CONTINUED