Hawk Chronicles: Chapter 3a
Posted By: Vector40<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 5 November 2001, 1:58 am
Chronicles of the ***Silver Hawks***
Can't you see...
It's not me you're dying for
-Brick, Ben Folds Five
Location: Silver HQ, Quaker Mountains, Halo
Raynor Carson hit the floor hard, banging the back of his head against the thick matting. He groaned, shook himself, then took the offered hand and pulled himself to his feet.
"Hey, nice one!"
"Shut up, asshole."
"Bigger they are, harder they fall, Raynor?"
"Go fuck yourself," he said succinctly, then stalked out of the ring, rubbing his neck.
"Hey, you wanna go, Storm?" Wilder nudged her with his foot. She looked up.
"Huh? Oh. Um... Yeah, why not." Rising, she stepped out onto the floor.
Macedon waited impassively. He was wearing a loose white robe, wrapped wrists, and without any padding, looked like some mystical warrior-priest off to do battle. He breathed easily.
Storm approached him, shaking herself loose, then extended a hand, which he shook. They squared off, taking their respective stances-—her, a casual, relaxed semblance of preparedness that would fool any but the most astute of observers, him, a semi-formal, guarded high stance with his hands close. They stared each other down, neither moving a muscle.
Then a subliminal blink, and they both leapt.
She moved first, slipping in behind his guard with a quicksilver jilt. Spinning agilely, she twisted, grabbed at his shoulders, and spun, throwing him over her hip.
Their audience watched, rapt and grinning, most knowing what would happen.
Mace allowed himself to go limp, flung around, and slapped to the ground. Storm was already stepping away, triumphant, when she noticed something, looked down, and say his feet entwined with hers.
He jerked, and she flipped backwards.
She managed to turn the motion into a roll, slamming her shoulder nonetheless, and came up into a kneel. Mace, back on his feet, feinted at her three times in seizure-inducing stream, lunged, and snapped a kick at her head, fast.
Ducking desperately, she fell under it, then lithely twisted, whirled around, and swept him with both feet. But he was there, and with his other leg still in the air, jumped, cleared the sweep, and landed on the other side of her.
Reacting instinctively, she rolled back, kicking hard with her left foot. The foot blurred directly toward his face—and he twisted, letting it cleave past, spun around, hooked her other leg, and heaved her to the ground again.
This time, she fell, and didn't get up. Moaning, she stared at the ceiling morosely as Mace approached and offered a hand.
She took it.
—wrapped her arms around it, planted a foot on his chest, and fell backwards, hurtling him through the air—
—except her hadn't relinquished his grip. Maintaining his hold, he hit, kept the momentum, tumbled, and in turn sent Storm flying whip-crack fast. She curled and managed to avoid hitting Hackenberg, only to bowl over Hailman and jab Wilder with a knee.
The groaning heap of Hawks pushed apart from each other. Storm stayed where she was, Hailman limped away, and Wilder fell into a chair, rubbing at his stomach.
The quiet, picturesque scene remained unmoving until the silence was shattered by the whining klaxon of the alarm.
Banning's voice cut in sharply over the loudspeaker, the sound reverberating against the walls of the exercise room.
"Move, move, move, everybody, now. We have a Code Four. That's Code Four—move your asses. Drop what you're doing and move."
They were scrambling. The voice came back on.
"Hit the armory, people, grab your shit, suit up, and be at the hanger in six minutes. I'll brief you in-flight."
Already running down the halls, it took them less then a minute to reach the door of the equipment room and blow in. Banning was there, throwing on his gear. "Hurry up."
They found their respective racks, palmed them open, and began vesting.
"Wait," he said.
They looked up. He was shaking his head.
"Storm, Mace, and Steve—the three of you aren't going."
Incredulous. "What the f-"
"We don't need all seven for this. You two are wounded. Stay here, sit your asses down, and play solitaire or something. Steve, keep an eye on them."
Banning grabbed his rifle and pounded in a clip. "That's it."
"Where are you going?"
The four of them were already filing through the exit into the hanger bay. Last in the line, Banning turned.
"The Marine base is under attack."
<Our plans ripen>
The whirring sound of the jet faded away. Storm slumped down into the chair.
"Oh, stop it, Storm." Hackenberg was walking past. "Me, I'm glad for the break. Let them handle whatever the brush fire is this time. They'll be fine."
He grinned. "Well, I'll leave you to brood." The door shut.
<It is ready?>
<Let us bring forth the end of turmoil>
<The end is near>
<Make it thus>
Yawning, Hackenberg reclined his chair another notch, then dialed up the volume on the tri-d viewer.
"Now, you'll notice that the crust is already starting to turn a little brown. That's okay—it's going to be even darker."
Beneath his hands, the components of an unassembled M-37 grenade launcher were arranged.
"Baste it—so. Isn't that a nice color?"
A buzzer sounded. Immediately, he grabbed the first piece, slotted it into the action, and locked it.
"Don't be bashful with the cognac!"
Sliding up the rear end of the dual-bolt, he inserted the trigger mechanism. Locked.
"Be sure you reduce it to just a simmer—any more, it could crystallize."
The quick-attach barrel turned, turned, locked. He ran the sights up the notch, then twisted and slapped at the timer.
Twenty seconds. Not bad.
He was starting to take it down again when he noticed the light on the alarm panel flashing.
"Storm! Mace! Heads up!" The frantic voice over the intercom sounded high and strained.
She jerked her head up, eyes alert.
"Early-warning sensors are showing a approaching enemy force! Here! Company sized, more surfacing every second! I'm going to hit the tower—lock yourself down in one of the defense rooms. The C3 is open."
Running down the corridor, Hackenberg jumped, grabbed at the ladder, and began to climb. The long, heavy sniper rifle slung across his back swung from side to side.
Fifteen meters. Arms aching, he pulled himself over the top and clambered to his feet.
The watch tower had been built from a design he'd made himself, utilizing a high angle and multiple open-face ports to their best advantage. Ignoring the observation equipment and mounted weapons, he pushed himself to the nearest shielded firing slit and opened it.
Stretching out on the cushioned surface, he unpacked the rifle and settled it onto the bipod. He activated the scope and, both eyes open, peered through.
The site for the base had been chosen specifically by Banning for its position, and there were only two approaches that would be taken from the ground. Air routes were open, but so vulnerable from every conceivable direction that it was futile to all but the strongest of forces.
Both ground paths, winding up through the mountains, were flooded with the moving forms of Covenant Elites.
Elites. Not a grunt among them. Worse: in the sharp focus of his scope, panning across the pass, he could see dozens of Hunters, leading the group in an orderly surge.
He nodded to himself, shut off the mental warnings that were hounding him, unloaded his anti-personnel clip, and reached for the Shield-Piercers.
The door slammed shut with a click as Storm dashed into the Control center. Paying no attention to the winking alarm lights and scrolling sensor readings, she slid into a chair, pulling a command board from a slot. She tapped in the frequency with three fingers, grabbed a headset, and hit the access key.
"Hawk Lead, this is Nest."
She kept her hand on the switch, listening. "Nest to Hawk Lead, come in."
Only the unfettered silence of the particle feed greeted her.
Annoyed, she doubled her signal gain and punched the key again. "Hawk Lead! This is God! Respond!"
"Dammit, John! Answer—"
She broke off when she saw the indicator on the comm unit blinking red.
Full-frequency jamming active
A thudding, humming buzz banged out of the barrel exhausts. Another shot slammed down through the ravine.
An Elite fell dead, his hoverbike twisting out of control, three others diving out of the way.
Ramming back the bolt, Hackenberg chambered the next round, keeping his eye to the scope. He turned, reacquired a target—a second Elite, standing tall—and squeezed.
The gyroing, charged bullet lanced out, cut through the neckbone of the creature, and buried itself in another that was standing behind.
He chambered another.
Ammo was precious.
Ah—a Hunter, foolishly uncovered. Darwinian, it was. Poetic justice.
Fire, fly, strike. Hundreds of pounds of force blew the Covenant back twenty feet, bringing his shields down to a soap-bubble's strength. It stood teetering on the brink of the cliff edge, then barely managed to recover its balance, only to have Hackenberg's second shot blast him over, dead before he hit the ground.
The clip, able to hold only four of the massive SP rounds, ran dry—he slipped it out and replaced it in one fluid motion.
Slow and plodding as they were, the attacking force was beginning to realize they were under attack. Guttural orders were barked back and forth, and the pace of the party sped up, Hunters holding their shields up in protective one-man phalanxes.
On the narrow path, though, they couldn't scatter. He put another shot through one, two, three Elites, finally terminating it in the unshielded divide of a gliding strafer.
Seeing an opportunity, he trained his plain-X crosshairs higher.
Fired and missed. Unbelievable. It was barely a mile.
Again, fire, and this time, as if to redeem himself, it flew so true that only one shot was required—the massive, looming boulder that had been imposing itself over the path broke away cleanly, fell thirty feet, and crushed a Hunter-commanded tank.
<There is resistance>
<Have no mercy>
Punching in a command, Storm logged herself onto the defense station. Instantly, a whirring sound emitted from the headset, and a flawless tridimensional display sprang up an inch from her eyes.
Without hesitation, she grasped the double-yoke handles and squeezed. A long, flaming arc of cannon fire leapt out of her sight.
She turned it downwards, and began to work.
Quickly reloading, Hackenberg grabbed at the pile of ammunition beside him and replaced his clip. He'd gone through more than ten of them already—and the attacking force, though beginning to look slightly anemic, was still as powerful as ever.
Another volley from the base's batteries took down a swath of Elites and a tank. "Good old Storm." He saw a Hunter turn—idiot—and uncover himself, and he blew off its head.
But they were growing closer.
He cracked a shot off. Sank it into an Elite's left eye.
A flare, on the edge of his vision—quickly, he panned left, and saw a tank's inclined barrel, pointing at—
He fired reflexively, and the tank exploded in a massive, incendiary design of destruction. A group of Covenant fell away, burning.
It was complemented by yet another cannonade from the base.
But they were getting closer.
<We will take their kin and make mockery of their gods>
Sweating, Hackenberg dropped out the magazine and reached for another. The last.
The tide had reached them.
He rolled over and grabbed at the nearest intercom. "Storm!" he bellowed.
A moment, then a crackling. "What?" She sounded strained.
"They're fucking on top of us! They've reached the gates! Lock down the base and smash the controls!"
Hissing. "I got it."
"Roger." He pulled himself to his feet and sprinted back to the tower hatch. As he reached it, it suddenly gave out an electric whine and slammed shut.
He found the emergency axe in the wall and destroyed the hinge mechanism with two blows.
Then he returned to the wall, to spend his last four rounds dearly.
Storm executed the command, then slid the data board off her lap and stepped away. She turned, bent down, and pulled the chair off its track.
Then she lifted it and broke the board in two. She ruined all four consoles and the main command box before letting the chair fall.
She crossed the room and sat down in the last unscathed station, a Data/Scan terminal with no access privileges. She keyed up a camera view of the front entrance.
In the hazy, clean image of the viewer, the tremendous, reinforced triluminum door was shaking.
Macedon shook his head and looked down. Lifting his hand, he touched the side of his head. "Storm?"
There was a pause. Then: "Mace? Where the fuck are you?"
The hatch swelled perceptibly, bending inward.
"I'm by the entrance."
"The entrance? Are you crazy?! That fucking thing's going to go any second! Get out of there!"
"I'm going to take them."
In the instant's silence while she was collecting her wrath, he shut off the comm, and, discerning a change in the molecular mesh of the steel, stepped back and around the corner.
Then it exploded, blowing inward with a fathomless wail of ruined strength.
He counted to two, then stepped around the corner and fired low.
An Elite, holding a massive, kinetic-energy breacher, took the round in its chest and flipped over.
He blinked left, right, and moved ten feet forward in one flowing motion. The pistol in his hand spoke one, two, threefourfivesix times, so quickly it sounded as one—then fell with him as he dropped as fast as gravity allowed, only a heartbeat ahead of a volley of lethal plasma fire.
Whipping his legs around, he spun himself to his feet, sent his last five shots out in a linear stream, and bent behind his cloak to deflect and absorb a ball of glowing energy.
Then he stepped back, ducked behind the corner, and reloaded.
Storm sat, hearing the sounds of gunfire, and was afraid.
He poked his head out around the corner, pulled it back quickly, saw the mass of white-hot power slam past, then leapt sideways deathly-fast and rolled. Now, he fired so quickly, the magazine was empty before he stopped moving, and when he came up from the roll, he had another out and in, slapping the slide forward before the eleven bodies of the Elites had hit the ground.
He hit the ground too, falling forward prone and casting the cloak around himself in a murky shroud. The gun was forward, and spoke again as another Elite tried to pitch a grenade—the bullet rang off the edge of it, and although too stable to detonate prematurely, the explosive slanted back and buried itself in the Elite's stomach.
Too surprised to move. It burst, taking out its unwilling host and a score of others who had grown too bold.
Behind the wall again, angles and trajectories running through his head, Mace pointed the gun, froze, and fired. The shot whanged off the corridor wall, sprang away at a tangent and cut through an unsuspecting Hunter, unguarded and unaware.
Then he walked out from his cover purposefully, assumed a rigid, two-handed stance, and commenced firing.
<Can it be he?>
Storm covered her face, trying not to listen as the hail of fire continued, just outside the door.
Bowing his head forward, Mace knelt down and loaded his final clip.
Then he kissed the side of his gun and stepped forward.
The TJA landed on the outdoor pad. That was standard procedure for a possibly compromised location.
They could see the devastation for miles.
They dismissed the pilot, then the four men walked slowly to the main entrance. The smell of cordite and burnt ozone hung in the air.
The gate was gone.
Wordlessly, they moved inside. Hundreds of bodies, Covenant bodies, Elites, Hunters, all tough and hardened, all riddled with holes or charred with flame.
They stepped over them, and found Mace.
He was lying, entombed in a halo of his dark cloak. A metallic, glinting light reflected from around him; the ground was covered with spent shell casings.
In his hand, his pistol, locked open on an empty chamber.
His chest, stomach, and right arm had bandages on them, the arm also surrounded by an inflatable splint. They checked his pulse, found it relatively strong, and moved on.
They reached the door to the Command center, and found it broken down.
Hackenberg was inside.
"It's all over. They left about twenty minutes ago."
Banning stepped forward. Steve, unflappable Steve, was looking furiously angry.
"I looked at Mace. He'll be fine. Broken ribs, fractured arm, and a ruptured kidney. I gave him Prophyl."
Frowning, Banning took the seat in front of him. "Steve," he said. "What happened?"
He threw the tape at him with a snarl.
Banning looked at him, then found the only undamaged terminal in the room and socketed in the recording.
Storm's voice, frantic and reedy, played over the speakers.
He got them, you know. Every last one. A company, or a platoon, or whatever the hell they are. But they had reinforcements. A whole, untouched force. Not even he could take them.
He got them. But they weren't going to leave without somebody. They needed a prisoner. I can take that better than Mace can.
So I went.
Don't come after me. I'll handle it myself. See to Mace. I made sure he was alive.
There was a snik, and her voice cut off.
Hailman was looking at the door. It had been broken open from the inside.
Banning closed his eyes.