The Battle for Phi Delta: Part Two
Posted By: witelancer<email@example.com>
Date: 28 November 2003, 3:43 AM
April 17th, 2545
Buford slowly came to, his vision clearing. Where am I? Oh, that's right. We were on a Pelican, on some kind of mission... but what was the mission? What's that smell? Thoughts raced through his head, making it spin. Buford shook his head out and unbuckled his crash harness. He fell straight to the ground, ten feet below him, and landed flat on his face, feeling the snow beneath him. The sergeant grunted in pain and then stood up, his vision still blurry. He looked up and saw that over half of the Pelican's crew was dead, pierced by the titanium hull's bracers and girders. Blood dripped from their orifices to the ground, coating the snow underneath the Pelican with crimson. The dropship was overturned on its right side, with one wing shattered beneath it. This crumpled wing had killed more than half of the Marines on board.
Buford looked around for his MA5B assault rifle, which he remembered dropping in the crash. He found a rifle about five feet away, clutched in a death grip by one Marine. He would remember the dead Marine's face for a long time—a titanium hull bracer had pierced his eye socket, leaving the rest of his face a distorted mess. Buford averted his eyes and pulled the rifle away from the corpse with considerable effort. Then, he turned around and walked away from the wrecked Pelican, looking for a Warthog.
Meanwhile, Johnson and McAlister were in the same situation. Johnson had been thrown out of the Pelican when it crashed, but he was miraculously unscathed. He even had his sidearm, an M6D pistol, with him. When he came to, a mere five minutes after Buford, he was right next to the Pelican's Warthog, which had been thrown free. He quickly got to his feet and jumped in the driver's seat.
"You're in the wrong seat, Calvin," said McAlister from behind him. Johnson jumped up, scared out of his mind, and then he heard Private McAlister laughing.
"Goddamn it, Nadia, I don't want you to do that!" he exclaimed.
"Stow it, Johnson. We've got work to do. Where's the Sarge?" asked McAlister, as she abruptly stopped laughing.
"I don't know... let's find him."
Johnson jumped up over the Warthog's console and landed in the passenger seat as McAlister took the steering wheel. She gunned the engine and left tracks in the snow as the two Marines began to search for their commander.
Ten minutes later
Main Gate of Firebase Bravo
"Where.. where is everyone?" asked Johnson.
"It can't be... they're all dead," said Buford. "We were too late."
The three Marines had linked up within three minutes. Buford had taken his usual place behind the 50mm cannon, and the three soldiers had sped away towards Firebase Bravo, a remote UNSC outpost manned by three hundred Marines and a few Warthogs. Bravo only had one Pelican, an older-model ship armed with 40mm chain guns under the wings and unguided rockets rather than the newer-model dropships, which were armed with 70mm chin guns and guided missiles. But both varieties of Pelican were sitting in front of the Warthog.
The Pelicans were burning or had already burned down to skeletal frames. The corpses of Marines were strewn out all over the entrance to the Firebase, laying in pools of blood, with their weapons tossed aside. Plasma burns and 7.62mm bullet holes dotted the Pelicans' hulls.
"Well... we should check for survivors, I guess," began Johnson, but then Buford cut him off.
"Shut up, Johnson!" hissed the Sergeant. "The Covies are all over this damn base, and we don't want any more attention than we've gotten already. Everyone, dismount!" whispered Buford.
The three Marines climbed out of the Warthog and stealthily snuck towards the Pelican wrecks. Smoke was rising from the ships, and Buford found it hard to breathe. The three Marines searched every wreck in sight, but they didn't find a single survivor.
"Sir! Look at this!" exclaimed McAlister.
"What is it?"
"There's bootprints here, sir. They look like combat boots, size 9 or 10. I can't see all the way to the barracks, but it looks like at least a few Marines got away."
"Yeah, that's a good way to look at it," said Johnson, his rifle ready to fire.
"I agree. Let's check this out, Marines," said Buford.
The soldiers followed the trail left by the Marines, looking for survivors. As they traversed the snow-covered plateau, they were constantly on the lookout for Covenant. Suddenly, M6D shots rang out. Johnson gave everyone a tight smile as he assumed a shooter's stance and strafed left, firing at a Grunt about one hundred feet away. The Covenant trooper fell, blue blood spraying from a neck wound.
"Get under cover, everyone! There's more of them!" screamed Buford. More Grunts and Jackals streamed out of the base's guardhouses, firing plasma pistols and needlers. The green bolts of plasma and the magenta trails of needler rounds tracked the three Marines as the sheltered beneath the wreckage of one of Bravo's Warthogs. They fired their weapons at the distant Covenant, but only a smattering of Grunts fell. The Jackals began to form shield formations, drawing off most of the Marines' fire.
"Damn it! The Jackals are covering the rest of the Covies. Johnson, I need a grenade," said Buford as he snapped off a three-round burst.
"Here, sir. Take this one."
Buford accepted the HE grenade and took a good look at the Covenant through a hole in the Warthog's bumper. All right, here goes nothing, thought the Sergeant. He stood and tossed the weapon, while hoping that the other Marines would keep the Covenant pinned down. It was the longest three seconds of his life as Buford waited for the grenade to explode. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the crump of the grenade echoed across the plateau and the screams and wails of the Covenant could be heard.
All three of the Marines stood and fired their assault rifles at the Covenant troops, ripping apart the survivors of the blast. Then, they turned and sprinted through the corrugated steel door into the barracks. Plasma bolts whistled through the air behind them, and then Buford slammed the door shut.
"Well.. that was close," he said.
"Nice throw, Sergeant," said McAlister. "I was surprised—for an old guy, you throw pretty damn well."
The three Marines laughed, and the sounds of their chuckling was the only happy sound that could be heard for miles.
1700 Hours, April 17th, 2545
In orbit around Phi Delta V
On board the Minotaur
"We'll be coming out of Slipspace in about ten minutes, Admiral," said a lieutenant.
"All right, Lieutenant. Prepare the ODSTs... we've got a whole lot of work to do", said Vice Admiral Preston Cole.
The Minotaur and her task force had been urgently called to Phi Delta in response to the attack on the system ten days earlier. The flight from Reach had been full of anxiety—who knew whether the Minotaur would see the bright green gem of Phi Delta V or a glassed, destroyed planet? The ship's complement of ODST Helljumpers had been especially uneasy about the deployment, since the last four worlds they had seen had all been glassed.
Cole looked out the viewport at the wildly shifting space-time rifts of Slipstream space. The view showed a dimension in which nothing was constant, and the rules of physics didn't apply—and the same was true of the war against the Covenant.
They're so unpredictable, thought Cole. They glass Harvest, invade Chi Ceti 4, glass the next fifteen colonies, and then they take the time to invade Ruur? It doesn't make any sense.
"Admiral, we're coming out of Slipspace now," said the lieutenant. "Orders?"
Cole snapped out of his musings and began to order the Minotaur into position.
It's going to be a long day, he thought.