Hawk Chronicles: Chapter 1b
Posted By: Vector40<email@example.com>
Date: 09 August 2001, 9:39 PM
Chronicles of the ***Silver Hawks***
The passage was dimly lit in natural-light tones. It was an interesting bit of data to add to the old question of Covenant visible spectrums- indeed, if they saw visible light at all. Some captured enemy bases and outposts had sported lighting, like this, but others were completely devoid of any illumination, be it visible, ultraviolet, infrared, or whatnot.
Banning walked slowly. Information was running through his head like a checklist. Should be another five hundred AR shots. Three more grenades? Gauntlet was irretrievably gone, short of "dry dock"- Hail's shop. The burn on his face was painful, but wouldn't be permanently damaging, not as long as he got it treated immediately upon their return.
"Hey, Bird. Check this out." He turned.
Wilder was standing, reading from a display mounted on his left wrist. His right hand was at his side, tickling one of his guns nervously.
"This is really weird. I've got my backpack antennae" -Wilder had been designated the comms officer for this mission- "set to All Bands. Just in case, you know. Well, I'm getting this funny-looking scan off of one of the unconventional carriers."
"Magnetic? Who the hell communicates with magnetic?"
"A few. Some of the sparser deep-space colonies. Our equipment can swing it, if we want. It uses a sequence of pulsed-"
"Right. Anyway, this is really more Hail's field than mine. But like I said, I'm picking up a signal right now. A very odd one."
Banning leaned against the wall and sighed. "Wilder, what's it say?"
"Well, that's just the thing. It doesn't say anything. It's just a sort of phased pattern, pumping out cycles, then repeating. Like some sort of recorded message."
Banning swore. "Jesus Christ. Fine, store it. You can give it to Hail when you see him."
They continued following the corridor. According to the sub-terrain pidar, there was almost a mile of pure leg-work, just to reach the end of the entrance hall. Bored, Banning activated his comm.
"Cap'an! How ya doing!" The voice sang out cheerfully from the resonating filament.
He must be having the time of his life.
"Just dandy. You're the one with the sawed-off army after you, though. How's it going?"
"What, these guys? Ha! I could drive circles around them in my sleep! Hell, I could take them myself, man! You want me to?" He was shouting. Explosions could be heard through the line.
"I don't think so."
"You sure? Hell, I could take 'em with a knife! A fork! A sharp spoon!" A roaring thud echoed through Banning's ears.
"What was that?"
"What, that? Five Elite, nine grunts, and a crew-served plasma MG! Why?"
Banning signed off.
They trudged on.
Eventually, they reached the end of the tunnel. There was a large doorway, hermetically sealed, set deeply into the surrounding walls. "Shit," said Banning.
"What, shit? Put that away," Wilder said. Banning had been reaching for a vibra-breach charge.
Standing away from the wall, Wilder examined it for a moment. Then, he set his feet, squared his shoulders, and drew his pistols with a yank and a twirl.
The air snapped and flashed, three times. Banning closed his left eye reflexively. When he opened it again, there were six pock marks all along the metallic walls. Wilder grinned, holstered, walked up, and gave the door a kick.
The massive, reinforced blast barrier fell over with a smash.
"Just gotta know how they make 'em, sir."
Banning was beyond being surprised today. He just shook his head, and walked inside.
Only to be tackled in the next instant by Macedon.
He fell to the floor, cracking his teeth together. "Fuck!" Surprise quickly gave way to adrenaline, as he sniffed the burnt oxy, twisted his head, and saw the black pit against the bulkhead where the plasma burst had scarred it.
He rolled one way, Mace rolled the other. Wilder had been firing the whole time. Clicking dry, he cursed and ducked behind the lip of the door.
Banning rose up, jamming his cheek to the butt of his gun. The circular wall of the room already had miniature craters where Wilder's shots had burst the plasma turrets, running about halfway around. They were more or less invisible in the dim lighting, but Banning calculated their distance from each other, adjusted for the spacing, and quickly blasted the wall from one half of the exploded turrets where they ought to be. Mace followed suit, handling the other side.
The last unmanned gun flared blue-green and died. Banning relaxed. Mace's gun disappeared.
Wilder reentered the room, pistols reloaded and ready. Seeing no threats, he lowered them, wiping his face. "What the hell?"
Banning stood, popped out his mag and checked it. "They set out a party for us."
Mace was examining the marks of the destroyed batteries. Wilder groaned. "You know, I was just about to say that this seemed too easy."
"Next time, say it."
There was only one other door to the room, nestled among what appeared to be storage cabinets. He checked one. Locked.
The door, however, slid open to the touch. He turned and beckoned.
"Come on, guys. Into the breach."
Within moments of crossing the threshold into the new passage, the lights had become nonexistent. More food for thought. Before anyone could speak, he said, "No torch."
"I wasn't going to ask."
"You probably should. We just made enough noise, not to mention emissions, to bring half the Covenant army down on us. Stealth is more or less pointless."
"Then why not a torch?"
"I thought that you weren't going to ask."
Banning produced his eye-HUD. He slipped it over the bridge of his nose, fastened it to his ear, and tapped for artificial illumination. It lit. He added in a decibel meter and a reaction detector, then waved his fist. They kept moving.
The path they were following had begun to achieve a more and more serpentine quality. In lieu of the characteristically Covenant bulbous, warped, but utilitarian and straight architecture, a more artistic hand was starting to be revealed.
Banning mentioned it.
"We're in his fucking house, Bird. They're not producing it by assembly line."
Banning was about to reply when a flashing indicator caught his attention. On the left side of his HUD, the little scale that was measuring weapons reactions had given a twitch.
He waved for a halt, staring at it.
It seemed to be struggling under a load. It rested at 0, forced its way up to 10 micro-PEMS, and then dropped back down to 0. The next time, the indicator made it up to 15, held its own for a moment, and fell like a stone.
Banning was still frowning at it, mesmerized, when a thrum filled the air, and Macedon gave a cry.
He spun around.
Only to be blinded by a surge of powerful light, not from his HUD, but from his uncovered eye. He fell to the ground, blinking desperately. Spots were swimming laps in his eyelids, and all he could see as a commanding shine, surrounding him and enveloping his vision.
A moment later, there was furious growl, followed by a scream.
Banning doubled over deliriously, rubbing his eyes. He groped around his webbing. Feeling his water bulb come under his hand, he grasped it, shoved it into his face, and squirted a deluge into his eyes. Knocking his HUD off, he gave another to that eye.
It helped. Several seconds later, he was able to make out shapes, and he snatched up his rifle angrily, spinning around, looking for a target.
There was only Wilder, huddled against a wall, the dark form of Macedon on the ground, and a huge, black mass mere feet away.
In one hand, it held a fiery sword; in the other, a glowing shield.
Banning turned slowly to Wilder. "What the h-"
Another noise from behind Banning. Pumped, enraged, he whirled maddened and- realized that his gun was unloaded. The magazine lay on the floor, meters away.
Wilder gave a cry, and Banning saw him yanking at his pistols.
Both had been nailed to their holsters by a glimmering blade through the trigger guards.
Kris Salvador was standing at the other end of the hall. Another edge, shining in the dim light of the energy weapons, lay prominently in her hand.
Wilder stopped struggling with holsters, looking up in amazement. "Storm? Holy shit!"
"Nice to see you too, Tal."
"Don't fucking call me that."
Salvador was cloaked in 1/4 visual camouflage, pure black. The skin-tight combat/recon jumpsuit, capped off with an ordinary black watch cap holding in her reckless, wavy blond hair made her appear almost ethereal in the dim light. She had a thin, wraparound rucksack, into which her knife vanished as she approached them.
Banning rubber his eyes and glared at her half-heartedly. "Dammit, do you have to make these entrances?"
"Ho ho ho."
She bent over the collapsed figure on the floor and did something. The glowing sword flickered and died.
Banning frowned at it. "What the hell happened, anyway? What is that thing?"
She stood. "Covenant Hunter. Order of the Templar. Third deirgn."
"Well, what the fuck did he do to me?"
"Superheated plasma from three inches away. Don't complain, it could have been zero inches and your head."
"Well, what did you do?"
She stomped on the Hunters arm. The shield faded away, leaving them in darkness. "I'll tell you someday." She popped a torch. "Incognito is out the fucking window."
Banning was about to reply when something tugged at his consciousness, and he frowned and turned. Mace was lying on the ground, enshrouded in his cloak.
Banning ran over and crouched beside him. He turned him over.
A wide, dark burn mark was slashed across his torso. His cloak had reached the limit of its shield-tension, and the energized material had split, tearing away from the point of stress; now, it sat dead and lifeless. Banning unfastened it carefully, peeling away the fabric half-melted. The energy sword had entered through Macedon's sternum and exited out his left shoulder-bone.
Feeling his neck, Banning counted the pulse. (x) beats a minute, faint and thready. But the blade looked like it had missed the lung, and his heart was fine. The amazing heat of the blade had cauterized the wound, and the bleeding was almost nonexistent. He looked up.
"I think he'll be all right. But I'm not sure-"
Banning broke off, squeezing his eyes shut. Jesus, this job was getting to him. What had he just said?
More firmly, he spoke again. "We'll leave him here. He should be fine until we come back on the way out. Storm, is this area frequented often?"
"Almost never. It's way above anywhere that they usually operate in." She shoved the Hunter's corpse on the ground with her foot. "This bastard was sent special for you."
"Fine. This is beyond my expertise- he needs Steve to look at him. We can carry him up as we return this way." They nodded.
"Okay, then let's go. We've still got two levels to cover. Storm, lead off."
She moved off down the corridor. Wilder had finally gotten the knives out of his hip holsters, and he glanced at them uncertainly before stuffing them in his pocket. He followed Salvador.
Banning stood looking at the figure on the ground for several moments. Then, he bent down and placed Mace's pistol into his hand.
He stood and left.
They hugged the shadows, barely daring to move.
The wide corridor was filled with bustling figures. Alien machinery was hissing and thumping, guttural orders were being cried and obeyed without thought. Two Covenant grunts passed within feet of the corner where the three huddled.
Salvador's looked at the others and moved her mouth, subvocalizing. Her voice came over the radio. "We need to get to the other side of that chamber. There's a flight of stairs. Then, we're more or less there."
Banning frowned. He was lousy at subvocalizing, but he put his lips to her ear and said in his deadest whisper, "How did you do it before?"
She pointed up.
Above them, a catwalk of wires, lines, and cables interconnected in a wide net, supporting an array of rafters and pulleys. The web ran from one side of the room to the other.
"I could do it, and maybe Wild. Not you, Bird."
Banning glared, but it was an accurate evaluation. He cast his eyes about the space.
The words No Way came to mind.
"Storm, do you have a bolt hole down there?"
She turned and stared at him, her green eyes flashing. "Why?"
"For fuck's sake, tell me."
"Of course I do."
He gave the room one last glance. It looked even worse than before. He turned, gesturing Wilder and Salvador in close.
"Hell with playing it quiet. I'm going to blast this entire place. We run like shit. Get across, handle the mission, and bug the fuck out of here."
Glances were exchanged. Then, Wilder leaned in and asked, "Boss, what about Mace?"
Banning looked down. Seconds passed. Suddenly, Salvador spoke up, too loud. "I'll get him."
Banning snapped his head up. "Are you nuts?"
She returned his ardor. "Am I nuts? No, I'm not. I did this before. Having Cov guards swarming all over will just make it more interesting."
Banning held her gaze.
Several beats passed.
Finally, dropping his head again, Banning said, almost too quietly to be heard, "Fine.
Wilder looked away, muttering.
Banning said, "You know-"
"I know," she said.
"When you get across here, go down the stairs, turn left, and go in the door. The access terminal's there. Get what you need and activate the sequence. The door to the room is double-strength, field-reinforced triluminum. Locks automatically. When you're done, go to the far wall, tap the lights three times, and smash it in. It's an old one-man service elevator. I don't know why it was there, or why it was walled up. Probably some executive's back door. It'll fit both of you. Goes to the surface automatically ten seconds after you do the lights."
She fixed her steely eyes on Wilder. "Wild can break the computer. But he better make sure he does it fast. They can override the door, given enough time."
They all looked at each other. Banning spoke. "We'll wait at the surface."
"Not too long. They'll be bringing reinforcements from all over."
One last time. They exchanged glances.
Ten grenades, a compilation of five concussion, three fragmentation, and two incendiaries flew toward the center of the chamber. A few saw them. One Elite even managed to bark a command that no one heard.
The cavern lit with fire.
Banning and Wilder sprinted madly, blazing a storm of shots in every direction. Banning smashed the butt of his rifle into the neck of a grunt, tearing its throat sack. Wilder shot two Elite simultaneously, ran at the grunt in the middle, dove and flipped over it, putting a single shot down the center of its body in mid-flight.
A needle ripped into Banning's shoulder, penetrating flesh and muscle. He yanked it out reflexively and tossed it, not even thinking, until he saw what it had been and his eye widened.
They reached the stairs. Wilder leapt, hitting the landing and rolling, as Banning dove and slid. They reached the same point, and ran.
Salvador watched them turn the corner, leading a mob of Covenant. A single grunt ran nearly into her without seeing; she slipped a knife into her hand instinctively and drove it into its neck.
It was time.
Moving in a broken dash, she ran at the side wall of the tunnel. Hitting it, she rebounded off, leaping as high as she could, and snagged the lowest wire from the mess above her. She swung up, planted her feet, jumped again, caught another and slung herself up, and landed on a third cable. Good enough. She would wait until the rabble had cleared out, then make her way down and then upwards in the tunnels to Mace.
A stampede of pounding footsteps.
She turned and looked down.
A full dozen Hunters, an entire half-deirgn, had made an entrance to the cavern. They had chased out the others, and were collecting below her, shimmering weapons and shining shields. Her blood ran cold.
Where the hell had they come from?
Despite her words to Banning, she knew how impossible it could be to defeat the Hunters in face-to-face combat. The best- in fact, nearly the only- way to slay them, and certainly the most efficacious, was from behind, caught unaware, with a sharp charged blade between the nervous bundle and head.
Her ruminations were cut off in mid-thought as one of the Hunters looked up.
She hurled herself off the wire, leaping for another with as much speed as she could muster into her precariously perched feet. Javelins of energy lanced off swords and smashed into the wire where she had been, severing it and bringing down a rafter.
She spun off a cable, hooked a foot on a pulley and twirled around, then grabbed onto a hanging beam. It tilted over with her weight, she described an arc in the air and hit two wires, grabbing them with both hands.
She lifted a foot to a wire, stepped, dove for another- and slipped.
Her toe slid, and she tumbled from the cable, flipping through the air. Huddling into a ball, she whistled through the air, and the ground rose like a fist.
She rolled a little, taking the impact on her hip and shoulders. She howled in pain as a surge of fire burst in her back. The Covenant, an angry mass, gathered above her.
Suddenly ceasing her moaning, she spun up, produced three blades, and flung them moonbeam-straight.
One disappeared into a glowing energy shield. A second was cut from the air with a lightning-quick plasma sword.
The third shot up, splintered from a wall, then the ceiling, and arrowed directly into the neck of a Hunter- who was no longer there. It had shifted, too quickly to discern, three inches to the left.
With a flick, a glowing energy sword was at Salvador's throat, and a blow smote her from behind.
The last thing she remembered was the world exploding.
Banning looked around desperately.
"Sir, we've really got to go."
The pilot subsided with a sigh. Banning frowned, turning to look at the others in the hovering TJA.
"I've got to... I... Just one more minute."
He could see the worry on their faces. Hailman came on the freq. "You wanna take the Hog?" The vehicle was hanging from the bottom of the Pelican's "claws", secured by thick metal bands.
"I'm not going anywhere. I just... need to make sure."
Banning turned to look at the shield-gate's exit once more.
"There's only a few minutes left, Bird."
He walked slowly up to the gate. He could hear through Hail's mike the pilot berating him. "He does realize that there's an entire airborne cavalry division on its way here, right?"
"What are your orders, Marine?"
"To give you guys whatever you need."
"Well, we fucking need you to stay here until the Captain says to fucking leave. Got it?"
Banning closed his eyes. There was nothing.
He turned and started to walk away.
Until a heavy sound came from behind him, and he spun around sharply.
A tall stack of stone, steel, metal and debris was being lifted and knocked aside by an unseen hand. Massive chunks of dense rock and supporting materials were being pushed, until a breach in the rubble became visible.
Behind it, stepping through, came a tall, green-suited figure.
He- was it a he? A she? Something else? He was huge, massively powerful, nothing but green reflexive armor until the helmet, where the blank face of a tinted visor spoke silence.
From under each arm, Mace and Storm could be seen, carried by the incredible strength of two mechanical arms.
The machine, moving forward, set down the two figures gently. Stepped back.
They exchanged scrutinies.
And, with a fiercely strong rap, the cyborg snapped off a salute.
Banning looked at him.
The mirror of his face showed nothing but Banning.
He returned the salute.