12 January 2011

HALO Frontlines: Part Two-Guilt

2517 Hours May 7th, 2551 (Military Calendar)

18 Scorpii A System, Turnbull Colony, outskirts of Eridanos

How could he have had done? Was one of those freaks worth his squad? Captain Kevin Hutcheson asked these questions while the SPARTAN-II had his back to him.

“Captain,” the armored super-soldier spoke, “it’s almost dark, time to get to the objective.”

“Yes-” he paused when it turned its helmeted head, “-sir.”

Without another word, the two-man team, moved through the burned forest that surrounded the city of Eridanos. It was normal for ODST or marine units to assist SPARTAN-II activities, but Marine RECON were usually independent.

FLEETCOM had ordered Hutcheson’s unit to meet with a lone drop pod beyond the realm of the city in the forest. He left his RECON unit still on over-watch of the Covenant picking through the charred remains of Eridanos. He did not know it was a SPARTAN until the SOEIV popped open.

He and his new buddy were too far away to help when the screaming of his RECON marines filled their comm-channel. His mind raced back to those sounds, and the heavy weight settling in his stomach that if he could have saved them just if he had been there.

Now, it was just he and this thing.

He finally decided to break eternal silence between them; “what’s the OP, sir?”

“Maintain radio silence, sergeant.”

It was for the best, that the SPARTAN ordered no talking, he had heard that the SPARTANs made for terrible conservationist. Below them was the site of his original mission. His RECON team had been deployed from Reach to setup an eyes-on intelligence gathering mission on the odd behavior of the Covenant after their occupation of Turnbull colony in the 18 Scorpii A star system. A re-tasked weather satellite had witnessed an alien construction project in the farm lands nearly the city. Unlike, many of the fallen human worlds, Turnbull had not been glassed, instead heavier Covie warship had been moved in. FLEETCOM and ONI wanted answers.

The both of them knew that the enemy would be scouring the city since they found one human Special Forces team. The SPARTAN had reacted with disgust when he confirmed the RECON team’s death. He shifted his sound suppressed M7 submachine gun to the other hand while walking through the woods. Hutcheson knew that the √úbermensch was observing the enemy below.

While he over-watched for the SPARTAN-II, he noticed his odd choice of weaponry. They both carried the M6S 12.7mm sidearm, but his primary was an old Army DMR fitted with a scope from a 99C-S2AM sniper rifle. The marines had quick using the weapon ages ago, and only the army made use of it.

When the SPARTAN paused, Hutcheson raised his SMG. It was a blur of movement, a Jackal sniper was walking through the trees, when the 1,000 pound super-soldier leaped like a jaguar. He pinned the beam rifle to the bird-like alien’s chest, then smashed a back-fist into its head. The neck made a clear cracking noise, but no other sound was uttered by the dying alien.

With anything useful stripped, including some plasma grenades, Hutcheson and the SPARTAN hid the body.

Now, the way was clear into Eridanos. It was a blackened maze of the remains of a once busy urban complex that served the nearby farms and ranches. Turnbull had once been the kind of place where people talk of retiring or getting fresh air or doing labor that wasn’t tied to a key board.

Now, Phantoms patrolled the clear starry night sky, cutting through the darkness with bright search beams. They were looking for them, but the SPARTAN knew his stuff, and they were leapfrogging through the ruins without a issue.

With a single hand signal, Hutcheson stopped, shod cover, and readied his caseless weapon. There, in his VISR, he watch a walking patrol of one Elite supported by grunts and jackals. It was a lucky break, for the Elites to be the leadership of the Covenant forces on this planet. The Elites fight with honor and a code of behavior, they would kill you, but in the fashion of one warrior to another. While those goddamned apes would eat you while you screamed, and commit horrible war crimes like it was second nature.

When the patrol passed by, the SPARTAN led Hutcheson into a shattered parking structure that was attached to a mall, both had received heavy bombardment. Dead civilians, a few police and soldiers littered the ground floor next to shattered electric cars. There were more of us then them dead on the cold concrete.

Hutcheson shook his head, same shit different planet…

They moved down the stairwell, and his VISR picked up nothing important down in the deep darkness. But there was a feeling of safety that the RECON marine had not experienced while he was exposed on the street. Now, there were tons of concrete and a clear exit and entrance point for those bastards.

When they reached the ground floor of the stairwell, the SPARTAN moved to the far wall and stood until a small crack of light created an outline of a door. When the door opened, the marine saw the unmistakable seal of the office of naval intelligence.

Great! Hutcheson rolled his eyes. When ONI is involved, the outcome is always dirty.

The ONI field base was small, like a walk-in closet, but it was stuffed with monitors, computers whirling away, and a small exam table. The SPARTAN moved to a terminal and tapped away, while Hutcheson checked out the strangle rocks on the exam table.

The small pieces of some sort of rock-like material were inscribed with illumined alien symbols. They were not any Covenant language that he had ever seen. These were new…but old. He could tell somehow.

“Is this was what my marines died for?” He asked out loud, but the super-soldier ignored him. ONI sites were to be protected, and from the fighting upstairs, they had been the defenders of something that some likely didn’t know was down here. He had done missions like that before. FLEETCOM would order marines to defend a building at all cost.

“I hope 15 minutes is enough to get back to ‘hog.” That was only the second time the SPARTAN had spoken to the marine.

“Is that it?! We walk in, nuke the city, and damn any survivors?!” The SPARTAN walked past him like a ghost. Hutcheson made dangerous decision; he gripped the bicep of the massive warrior.

Hutcheson had seen, with his own eyes, these soldiers go toe-to-toe with an Elite, and win. The SPARTAN could have beaten the RECON marine into a bloody pulp if he wanted. But, he simple looked down at the marine, and cocked his head, as if to say “do you know what you are doing?”

“You’re going to answer me, dammit!”

“My orders are to secure this site with the micro-nuclear package, and destroy the Covenant digging operation along with it.”

“So, what, my marines died for these little glowing stones?!”

“Yes.” He answered simply, and Hutcheson suddenly felt cold and powerless. He had been trained to kill with no thought, to jump from sub-orbit into a hot LZ, and he believed that the brass at UNSC cared about its soldiers.

Today, he learned on this little world, they did not.

“Fine…let’s go.” The SPARTAN nodded, and they ascended up the stairs in silence. A million thoughts plagued Hutcheson, but one was clear above the noise in his head…guilt.

The UNSC wouldn’t deploy SPARTANs to protect civilian transport normally, or push ships to guard a world just a little longer to protect fleeing vessels, but a hunk of glowing rocks…the UNSC would send in one of their elite super-soldiers, and nuke an entire town-site!

His stomach rolled as they opened the outer door.

The first salvo of pink razor-sharp needles impacted on the door, barely missing the marine’s head, only due to the SPARTAN’s lightning quick reactions. In that belief moment of time, the SPARTAN tossed several fragment grenades.

Once the explosions rocked the heavy door, the SPARTAN whipped out his DMR, and emptied an entire magazine.

“The patrol..took out three grunts, maybe two Jackals. The Elite is under deep cover. On three, we flash-bang, and break right over the wall.” The SPARTAN laid down the plan in a heartbeat.

“Got it?”

“Roger that.” Hutcheson unscrewed his sound suppressor, and popped a flash-bang off of his webbing. The detonation covered their escape, in that moment of confusion; they laid down suppressive fire, and ran for the wall. The hope was that the street would be clear, and they could lose any followers in the ruins and woods.

The fuel rod cannon ended that desperate prayer. Hutcheson was tossed into an electric car with the smell of seared armor. The SPARTAN was near, and his shielding flickered, no movement was seen, even when the Elite activated an Energy Blade.

Fighting through the pain, the marine dumped the remains of his magazine into the looming seven-foot tall alien warrior. It screamed as 5mm round hit his armor. Tiny sprays of blueberry colored blood played across his armor. Hutcheson couldn’t lift the half a ton of combat cyborg, he didn’t have a plan, just the drive to survive.

In the flash of adrenaline, Hutcheson weighted his options.

Go or stay…

When the weapon clicked dry, his choice was made.

The Elite was wounded, and they recover quickly. The marine thought that his time had come, as an Energy Sword cracked to life. He dropped the M7 and raised his pistol in a desperate gamble to beat the Elite to the punch of his swing.

Just before the blade impacted, and the trigger was pulled, the Elite was thrown to the concrete ground by a foot sweep. When the alien crashed down, the SPARTAN-II was on top of it, smashing his DMR into the alien’s face repeatedly.

The remains of the grunts made a push, desperate to save their master, but one attached plasma grenade sent them screaming back. Before they could recover, the two humans were running out of the parking structure and into the ruins to ditch their pursuers.

It was a futile effort for the RECON Marine to keep with the SPARTAN, he felt like he was back in basic. By the time, he caught up to the super-soldier; the Warthog was lying down 12.7mm rounds onto a team of jackal snipers that were covering the building and the Warthog.

The SPARTAN had walked into a trap, when he tried to recover the vehicle from an old hydrogen station. The ground was lit up by tree-turkeys shooting the green radioactive rounds, the SPARTAN’s shielding splashed and blazed brightly. Hutcheson knew it was just a matter of time.

Darting into a burned-out building, the Marine activated his scope on the magnum pistol, as he popped several flash-bangs into the heart of the fuel station. In the storm of blinding light and buzzing ears, Hutcheson went to work, popping tree-turkeys with 12.7mm of his own. Their brittle head cracked like walnuts when impacted by the fat round, and Hutcheson had created some breathing room for the SPARTAN-II to target the last of the snipers.

“You shoot; I’ll drive to the LZ.” Hutcheson didn’t get a word of thanks from the armored warrior, but he’d expect one, either. SPARTANs were so typical. He shook his head, and mounted the still-hot tri-barreled rotary cannon. Hanging on for dear life was the only impulse that the Marine possessed when the super-soldier mashed the accelerator, and the broken city of Eridanos became a blur.

The Landing Zone was on the very edge of town, and the Warthog spun a 180 into a good bit of cover, as the SPARTAN wiped out his special DMR. Hutcheson panned the massive cannon around and he could make out children’s playground equipped. It look like the aliens had been using it as target practice.

“This SPARTAN-079 to Charlie 217, evac dust-off required at LZ Gamma.”

“Solid copy, S-079, we’re inbound hot.”

“BLACK-RAIN is in effect, Charlie-217, need void ASAP.”

“Roger that, S-079, we’ll be ready.”

The merry-go-around spun as the wash from the VTOL engines of the Pelican hovered just inches off of the scoured ground. As they boarded the workhorse of the UNSC, Hutcheson was touched by guilt when it lifted off of the ground. He was leaving the dead behind to be nuked into basic atoms, and Marines never left their dead. Hutcheson was thrown into the jump-seat of the Pelican as it sped star-side, but he peeled his face to witness the mushroom cloud consume the city and the bodies of his team.

“Semper Fidelis.”

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