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Hawk Chronicles: Chapter 1a, Part 2
Posted By: Vector40<brandon@berkeleyhigh.org>
Date: 06 August 2001, 6:25 PM

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    John Banning ducked his head low, keeping his large frame below the grass. Behind him, Macedon and Carson were kneeling so deeply they were virtually prone. Carson wore a flatplate armor vest that dropped to his thighs; but not a single armor jacket in Supply had fit around his bulky arms- as usual- so he had them cut away, and he carried his minigun wandering somewhere around his hip. Macedon was garbed only in his usual BreakShield cloak.
    Banning inched forward slightly, trying to get a view of the two gate guards. They seemed completely aware, as always- no half-asleep sentries sharing a cigarette, around here. He tapped his receiver to change the frequency and bit. "Chariot."
    "Positioned for the pick?"
    "Clear on this end."
    Banning turned, and without a word inquired to the two men. Carson had a savage grin; Macedon, just his usual dark glimmer.
    He whispered into his mike.
    Suddenly, from no apparent source, a perfectly straight, endlessly long line lanced out of nowhere. The tiny, blue-gray-green contrail split the air, whispering like an unsheathed blade.
    It ended, breaking softly through the guardhouse's window with a sound like a cracking icicle, burrowed into the stem of a Covenant brain.
    Barely a second later, a second horizon-line tore past, the smoke of invisible tracers dissipating quickly, and the second Covenant turned just in time for it to lodge in his center lobe.
    "TAG," Banning whispered furiously.
    A moment later, there was a muffled thump; two feet in front of the triple-set of watchers, a cloud of silvery metal burst, filling the air. Banning could see the crackle of energy snik between each charged scrap.
    Another luk, luk and two of the watchers were smashed, their wide round crystal eyes shattered.
    Banning lurched to his feet, was up and sprinting in a moment, as yet another shot was heard and the third mechanical guard lost its cyclopean sensor. He angled toward the guardhouse, hearing the footsteps of Mace and Carson far louder than his own; cracking his jaw, he muttered "LIFT".
    He reached the guardhouse, slapped the door control and swung inside. The two Covenant were most definitely dead. He ran to the back wall, where a door opened into the interior of the complex; fishing into his hip bandoleer, he removed the prearranged breaching charge, activated the magnetic anchors by pulling on a tab, and slapped the fist-sized device onto the wall.
    Turning, he ran back out, past the two others where they had been guarding the entrance. He made his way as fast as possible, running dead-heat.
    A moment later, he heard a revving; mere seconds afterward, the Warthog crested the hill, barreling through the high grass. At the wheel, skillfully maintaining his course on the uneven surface, was Hailman; beside him, Wilder held to his seat desperately.
    They drove directly at Banning, not pausing in their acceleration for a moment.
    Banning tensed, counting silently, and then barked into his earpiece, "Mount!"
    Hailman spun the vehicle in a whirling circle, carving a donut out of the ground; at the same instant, Banning leapt into the air, describing a full flip, and landing in the same spot- occupied, now, by the Jeep. He slipped, gently as a feather save for a small bump, into the back seat, as the Jeep finished its mad circle and continued on its arrow-straight course.
    Carson and Macedon slid noisily into the seat next to him. Both had omitted Banning's rather flashy mid-air somersault, but had landed fine, as they always did in practice.
    They drove in a collision course with the guardhouse. Banning, slumping low into the seat to avoid the whistling wind, reached around to his wristpad and drew a circle.
    A low bump was the only indication of the detonation.
    The next moment, the Jeep barreled into the guardhouse, and the ruined building collapsed with a heave. They hurtled through the debris, knocking aside several scraps too stubborn to smash, and burst out on the other side.
    A wide, open field was the base for the towers. Several pillbox shaped structures jutted from the ground, apparently providing a source of power; a ring-shaped enclosure, surrounded with surging, glowing fields of plasma, contained the entrance to the central tower.
    Banning barely noticed as Wilder slipped from the vehicle noiselessly, rolling to absorb the impact. Hailman reached beside the Jeep's dash with his left hand, wrapped his hand around his rifle, and drew it from the leather sheath. He flipped a switch, and the arm brace folded open, fixing itself to his arm below the elbow.
    Banning considered leaning forward to shout, decided against it, and twitched his jaw instead. He reached up, tapping for the LOS short-range freq. "Hail?"
    "Let's have a lap."
    "Got it."
    Hailman maneuvered the Jeep one-handed, turning it in a loop around the center tower. Banning watched the ground roll past watchfully.
    They completed the circuit. Banning, satisfied, tapped Hail on the shoulder, and they ground to a halt.
    Banning leaned in, looking at the three others. "Okay. Carson, Hail, you two are going to provide cover; get a perimeter, all directions. I'll have a look at the door to this place. Mace-"
    Banning broke off, seeing the expression on his face. "What's wrong?" he asked sharply.
    It was then that the gentle humming reached his ears. He spun around savagely.
    The smooth ground around them had ruptured. Soil crumbled away from numerous breaks in the earth, and cavities began to open as horizontal blast doors slid apart.
    Rising up from below them, platforms were being pushed up. Piled barricades and combat shields were arrayed, and Covenant were gathered in the center of the lifts.
    How many? A hundred Covenant? A dozen strongpoints?
    "Out!" Banning bellowed. He shoved his door open and slid out, dropping down low. Christ- they were all around. One particular orientation wasn't going to help.
    Mace had rolled out with a sweep of his cloak, looking like some mystical cavalier riding in a storm cloud as he rolled away. Carson just swore; he spun around in the back of the Jeep, swinging up his minigun, and resting it on top. Out of the side of his mouth, he snarled "Ride, Hail!"
    The Warthog spun its tires and fishtailed forward. Carson grunted, hooked his heels to the front of the seat, and began to discharge a fusillade in the direction of the nearest Covenant. Shots peppered against combat shields, reflecting off or being absorbed. A few unlucky grunts took shots that rose high.
    Hailman wheeled the Jeep around again, pointing it at the Covenant. He lifted his rifle up one-handed, tilted it toward them, and began popping flechettes. They burst, causing the Covs to duck instinctively- the next second, they were knocked into the air by a concussion grenade from Carson. He took the opportunity for target practice, riddling them before they reached the ground.
    Hailman kept going at the barricades, crashing into the edges; with a practiced motion, he relaxed his body, tumbling over the windshield and rolling along the hood to the ground. He jammed his gun's brace back, flipped a setting, and began launching flares into the sky.
    Raynor Carson fell down beside him, grumbling, and rubbing his shoulder where it had collided with the driver seat. He racked another belt of bullets into his gun.
    Mace had been crouching, immobile, under a flurry of bullets and energy blasts that were criss-crossing the air over him. He picked a source, watched the plasma surge through the air, hit his count of 500, and leapt to his feet as the stream stopped. He bent his knees and began to run... angling directly at the nearest barricaded platform.
    Shots burst off his long cloak, emitting a rainbow of impact colors. Kinetic energy pummeled him back, but he forced through, pumping his legs, driving into a dead sprint. When he reached a spot thirty meters from the target he suddenly stopped his run. He stood for a moment, motionless.
    Then, as if striking a blow, his hand crossed his body in a blur, he spun, and his gun was out in a flash.
    Four exposed heads of the firing Covenant exploded, each within a second of each other.
    He gave two more shots, lightning-quick, and the fifth Elite saw his needler shot away from him, then holed. It spread its arm, lunging for another, only to see it take three more shots, so fast that they sounded like one.
    Then, it watched, in dire fascination as blow after blow began to rock into the combat barricade directly in front of it. The shots caused no damage, but so furious was their power, that the shield was being knocked back from its anchor to the very earth.
    A final shot, and the shield fell from its mounts, twisted away.
    The Elite felt the burning pain of its ruptured vessel chamber for approximately 1/8 of a second, before the next shot tore its head off.
    Macedon lowered his pistol. Hefting its weight, he tapped out the empty magazine and slapped in another. He moved the gun- and suddenly, it was away, inside his cloak. He began to walk, slowly, almost meandering, to the strongpoint.
    Reaching the site of the carnage, he stepped carefully over the barricades, entering into the protected circle. He checked each, feeling for the tension of the throat sacks, and, satisfied, stepped away. He stood for a moment in the middle, reflecting.
    A rustle sounded behind him.
    And a shot snapped out of the air.
    The grunt fell to the ground, boneless, the gun dropping from its paws.
    Macedon didn't turn. "I saw him," he said, sounding resigned... irritated. His pistol was in his hand.
    Tal Wilder dropped one of his handguns back to its holster. His knee was resting nonchalantly on a heavy density "sandbag." "How was I supposed to know that?"
    "Never mind. Did you see Banning?"
    Wilder dropped his foot, leaned forward, and kicked the plasma weapon from the nerveless digits of the grunt. "Sure did."
    "How is he?"
    Wilder chewed idly on his lip.
    Banning tore another gap into the line- no, not the line, the mob- of encroaching Covenant. He was stuck directly in the middle of a group of three of the strongpoints, with no cover, and he was so far outnumbered that they were beginning to venture out from their barricades, charging him directly.
    He slipped out his clip, popped in another, and cradled the weapon to his chest, he began to roll. As he rolled, he jabbed his wrist gauntlet twice, and his energy shield burst out, a teardrop of glowing aquamarine on his arm. He lifted it above his head, continuing to roll, as three glancing plasma bursts cracked against it, flaring cobalt that shivered his arm.
    Stopping suddenly, he rolled twice in the opposite direction, flipped his rifle up, spun it to his shoulder as he came up into a kneel, and blazed a stream of fiery death into the swarm of Covenant. Misting more shots, he pressed a key with his thumb, lit up the target, and flamed a grenade out, low. The next moment, he leapt forward, ran two feet, hit and rolled again, and deflected two more shots with his arm shield. His rifle was up next to it, raking across two Elites with burning penetrators-
    and the grenade exploded with a heavy Ka-wham!, hurtling fragments in every direction. He heard cries of agony. Perfect- as usual, the stubby grunts had been directly in the blast radius, and now the Elites were forced to either help the wounded shock troops, kill them, or trip on them.
    Banning jerked a cylindrical smoke canister from his shoulder sack, let it fall to his hand, and pitched it directly downward as hard as he could. A plume of smoke pyred upward, evolving quickly to an inferno, and he turned and ran hard.
    As he ran, he kicked himself into the comm channel. "Hawks! Status!"
    "Hey, i-"
    The signal snapped away as quickly as it had appeared. He twisted his jaw several times, trying to regain the interlink.
    It remained as it was, silent as death.
    He swore as a fresh volley of glowing fire-flies rocketed past, one within a foot from his face. "Shit!" He felt at his cheeks, touching the burn.
    Whirling, his heightened senses shifted his arm, fast, blocking three more shots. Deducting, in an instant, the futility of it, he let go of his grip on the rifle, dropping it down and shooting his arm up through the sling, as he fell into a hard cartwheel to his left, came up, and twisted as he dropped into a sit, his gun flickering out the last of the magazine into a lunging group of grunts. Swiftly, he brought to bear the barrel on the last, the Elite leading the group, squeezed the trigger, and
    Heard a dead, hollow click as the hammer slammed forward on an empty chamber.
    The elite walked up to him, moving with that jerky, slinking step that seemed to eat up space in moments without looking like moving at all. Banning didn't need to reach for another clip. He already knew what he would find; that his battle harness had slipped from his chest, severed by an errant burst of fire, as he had fought. With it, his spare ammunition, his sidearm, and-
    The Elite extended an arm, letting a burst of light flare as the sword exploded downward. He finished his approach, standing over Banning.
    If that's not a smirk on his face, I'll be dipped in shit, Banning thought.
    "Your death," the Covenant growled with a synthesized voice, "is the will of the gods."
    It leaned close, raising the sword. "And we are their-"
    His body exploded backwards, knocked a half-dozen feet by a dozen simultaneous impacts. Riddled with fire, the Elite crumpled to the ground, seeping blue, effulgent fluids into the dirt.
    Banning's radio crackled. "I want credit on that kill."
    "Like hell! That was me!"
    "Are you people crazy? I had you all beat!"
    Mace's voice spoke through. "Apparently, there are delusions of grandeur at play here. My first shot was more than one half-second ahead of all of you- and my second was a half-second after. So, you see, I hold both-."
    Wilder cut him off. "Mace, I don't care if you can shoot off my belt at a thousand paces, I had that Cov bastard dead to rights. All you people were just window dressing. He was dead as soon as I pulled the trigger."
    "Yeah, that's right. BEFORE you pulled it, actually."
    Banning, bewildered, jerked his head up. "Steve?"
    He could almost hear his grin. "In the flesh, my boy. Couldn't miss out on the fun, could I?"
    Banning looked up. The force-dome surrounding the site was gone. A trace of blue smoke, from as far as the eye could see, was dissipating in the air.
    Wilder's voice came back. "We found the dome controls right beside the wave field jammer. Right on one of those platforms. We were kinda pissed off, you know, that we couldn't talk to you. And had no idea where you were. Fortunately, that Covie-idiot over here, the tall bastard, decided to light his fluorescent pig-sticker, and that was something of a clue."
    The man behind the voice materialized in the smog, with Carson beside him, holding a smoking minigun. He offered a hand to Banning. "Hell of a smoke screen you got here."
    Banning stared at the hand, sighed, and grasped it. He pulled him to his feet.
    "It's the new model. The SM-17s.
    "Remind me the next time I want to pollute a major city."
    The others had turned up. "Where's Hail?" Banning inquired.
    "Giving the Covs on the other side of this monstrous tower a little show. Don't worry, he'll be fine. He has the remote to the dome-field, and he'll bolt when it gets too hot. Bottle them up like so many fish in a barrel. Come on."
    They started walking.
    "Oh, hey- ain't this yours, Bird?"
    Carson flipped Banning's battle harness to him. His eyes lit up.
    "Son of a bitch! Old Bessie. Can't believe I lost her."
    "Yeah, well, maybe now you'll get something at least a little new?"
    "Don't even start."
    Banning stopped, frowning. "Wait- oh, shit. My gauntlet's fried. What's the count?"
    Wilder eyed the smoking device dubiously. "Looks like you blocked a nuke with that. Don't worry. We're perfect as usual. Ten seconds."
    They were in front of the entrance to the tower.
    Wilder yawned. "Two... One..."
    The security fields around the huge doors flicked out, as if swallowed.
    Carson tossed Banning his rifle. "Here."
    They walked inside.

Author's Note: Any of this sound a little familiar?You've only seen the censored version. Pah! Gough! What the hell kind of name- never mind.