Posted By: Harbringer352<email@example.com>
Date: 6 May 2010, 2:03 am
Dark as the devil himself, the night was shrouded with a blanket of clouds and coated in a nauseating feeling of foreboding that kept my gut wretched in marvelous corkscrews. Nothing sang, nothing chirped, no one dared to move lest they disturb the night's apprehensive aura.
Personally, I would've kept to the gloom of the overhanging ledge, silently veiled amongst the dripping flora, until dawn spread her bleeding fingers across the terra firma. The hours of darkness were young, and god knew I could hold out till sunrise, but there's this funny thing called a 'superior officer' who is currently breathing down my neck to make sure I get the mission done.
I reluctantly disengaged myself from the coagulated shadows and crept onward through the jungle located on the south side of the Shira peak, where I'd grown used to the constant cacophony of beasts deafening the ears. But now, in the mantle of dusk, there was only the silence worthy of a tomb. As I moved from tree to tree, keeping in the cover of blackness, I listened for those dissimilar noises that marked the presence of Covie forces.
Occasionally I came across Marine bodies sprawled across rocks. I found abandoned rifles, their mechanisms clogged with fungus and rain. Unexploded Trip Mines lay with all the innocence of a wounded tiger, their key orange lights still pulsating through the grass. I made my way through canyons and clambered up a stone wall, my visor misted with the cool breeze radiating from the waterfall flowing past my shoulder. At the crown of the waterfall I found protein bar wrappers and C rations still air-tight. I followed the falls' creek, my boots sinking slightly in the silt. Soon the creek was reduced to a trickle, and the moon glared through the foliage, now dappling my dried path. I paused to listen.
The rasping breath of a Unngoy as it sucked methane through breathing apparatus. The occasional crackle of Jiralhanae power armor; I could spot the luminous slits of the armor's articulation points, some ten feet ahead of me. There was a sizzle as a Kigyar's crimson shield slid across a broad-leafed fern, briefly sparking when it struck a stone. And, if I were so unlucky, the scratching noise I was hearing could be Mgalekgolo spines on the surface of a cave hidden from view. I didn't have the mayhem to deal with that kind of meat, so I stuck to the shadows and stayed quiet.
I chinned a switch on my helmet and my surroundings were suddenly outlined in a sort of tan color. Turning to where the noises were coming from, I saw the Covies were now traced in a virulent red. I could easily spot four Grunts sleeping, sails prominent in the air whilst their heads were tucked between their knees. A Brute Captain leaned against a boulder, head bobbing in fiercely-resisted slumber. I could pick out the twin Hunters in their cave, spiny ridges stabbing the air like a crop of nettles. Hard to tell if those can o' worms were napping.
What disturbed me were the two Brutes outlined in gold.
Typically, when the enemy was unmarked with the correct color, it spelled disaster. Was it because my VISR was ineffective? Was it some new Covenant trick? Or, most likely, it meant they had that annoying power armor specifically designed to enable a degree of invisibility; essentially, the Covenant police force with grayish-black armor (when you could see 'em). I'd seen the same sneaky getup on the Elites a while back; except then, they had generators that gave off one hell of a heat signature.
These Brutes weren't as easy to find without the VISR; usually you found the apes just prior to your head being abruptly ripped from your shoulders. The new suit gave off virtually no thermal indicators
plus, these particular apes were wide-awake and armed with Incendiary Grenades. The recipe for my death. Crème brulee, Spartan-style.
One Brute turned and looked directly at me, his forehead glimmering like the Third Eye. The simple laser mounted in the forehead had always scared the willies out of me, even though it was simply the alien-version of a laser-pointer. It felt like he could see me, but I doubted it. I was well hidden; in my eyes at least. See if that mattered to mongo over there.
My MJOLNIR VI armor had been redesigned to look like the bastard child of an ODST drop suit and the Spartan Scout armor. It had the VISR getup and black cameo, like the ODST suit and, like the Scout armor, had plating reduced at the joints to allow for easier maneuverability. The articulation points were covered to avoid being spotted. My suit in particular was painted in leaf-shaped, dappled gray designs. With my mottled armor and disturbingly silent ways, I was preferable in jungle ops.
But taking on this rather heavily armed pack was suicide. Even my ego told me to hold on a sec.
Leaving a few moments to make sure they hadn't spotted me, I retreated a safe distance to make contact with the boss. I knew something would probably go wrong regarding this particular encounter (hell, one of the freaks might hear me or smell me or something) so I made sure I was safely distant.
There were brief buzzes as I searched for the correct channel. When I found it, I nearly jumped out of my skin when he started talking.
"Number One? Is that you?"
I reflexively checked my scanner for movement. Finding none, I replied, "Yes, sir. I've called regarding this mission."
There was a shuffle of papers and a sniff. "Ah yes. Infiltrate Jungle-Base-34's perimeter and search for any survivors. Is there a problem involved in which you cannot handle?"
His amiable voice ended with a sort of sarcastic tone that had my ego rolling up her sleeves. I hate to be stereotypical, but the Boss was Section-3 and thus never had much respect going for him (in my thoughts at least). I could picture him looking down his nose at me as if I were a stain on his otherwise spot-free over-priced suit. Or maybe I was that cowlick on the crown of his head that simply refused to be suppressed. You never know with the Boss.
"Yes," I said, struggling to keep the irritation out of my voice. "I don't have sufficient armor or weapons to deal with this number of adversaries."
"It's a stealth mission, One. You aren't waging war with these stragglers."
I resisted the overpowering urge to respond to that ridiculous statement. No sir, we aren't at war with these aliens. I'm just coming by to ask for some freaking tea. And maybe after that we can eat cookie dough and talk about boys. But no, not war. No sirree.
"Boss, I'm simply requesting some extra guns around here
He sighed explosively, the noise coming in loud over my COM. I found myself wishing I'd never hailed the prat.
"Just get in, get out. I can't send you reinforcements because this isn't exactly a op that will be praised in the papers. Get my drift? So suck it up and get your ass back on the line." And with that, the channel was reduced to white noise.
"I believe he just hung up on me," I said to no one in particular. I switched off the radio and steeled myself for sneaking through the patrol. Of course, I could always just go around the circus, but crashing around in the jungle in the dead of night was the ideal way to ask for conflict. On my way back, I'd have a crew of civvies on my tail. I had to take out the pack.
And for all this trouble, I wouldn't even get the key to the city, or the free dinners, or even a gift card. Life is rough all over (even when you're a Spartan with a capital 'S').
These 'stragglers' were all that remained of the Earth-bound Covenant forces. For the past few months, my job had been to clear out the buggers in designated sectors. Hey, I'm not complaining about my job I get to run around with a gun and shoot things. That's my trade, and I don't mind it. But when some unnamed ONI pest 'hires' me for an op, I kind of want to know what I'm being dragged into. Apparently this had been too much to ask for, and I was dumped five miles from my current position with nothing but a silenced sub-machine gun, a silenced pistol, and no snacks to speak of. I'd been told to find the FUBAR base, save the screaming civvies, and haul ass to the rally point.
All by my lonesome.
I shouldered my silenced SMG and cursed the Boss under my breath. I neared the camp and stayed hidden for a few minutes just to make sure no one had gotten excited since I'd left. Then I headed for the Hunters, avoiding the sleeping Brute.
I unsheathed my combat knife, the sharp edge glinting in Luna's light. For a moment I realized this was one of the few ops not situated on an alien planet. If I were to die, it would be on Earth, and not some Planet X.
One hell of a consolation.
I'd never tried this before. Knifing a Hunter, I mean. I've sniped them. I've set them on fire. Hell, I tricked one into falling off a cliff Looney Tunes-style. But this was new. So I prayed to whatever god was listening and sneaked into the cave. I had to edge around Hunter Numero Uno and avoid the shield. Once behind him, I looked for his buddy and kept my eye on him.
I raised the knife and slashed vertically across the exposed back. Titian gore splattered across my black armor as the assemblage of worms squealed and died. Yet the Hunter unexpectedly keeled over (literally) and died.
Adrenaline making me punchy, I turned and ran into the depths of the cave, which only went back fourteen feet. I knelt in the shadows cast by a boulder and watched as the other Hunter saw his dead brother, keening loudly. He hadn't spotted me though, so I was still in the clear
And bright orange. I looked like a freaking road sign.
I tried desperately to wipe it off, but succeeded in only getting it on my gloves. The blood was slick and oily, a bright fluorescent orange that glowed in the dark. I cleaned my knife off on the sparse grass back here. I smirked when I saw the grass turn a lovely carroty color.
I peered through the darkness (VISR helping plenty) and watched the spectacle: the Grunts were absent, the Brute Captain still asleep. A haunting shifting of light as the cloaked apes moved about. The Hunter stood over his brother's body and expressed a guttural growl, hefting his massive arm-mounted plasma cannon threateningly. He flexed his shield, a quarter-meter thick slab of metal, and assumed a stance I'd seen oh so many times before. Enough times to know this Hunter was pissed.
He still didn't see me though. I stayed deadly still, feeling those hundreds of sensory organs in the worms scan my position. You don't know what it's like; to feel the eyes of the enemy on you, but he doesn't notice you. Kind of like a really bad surprise party.
I waited with my back against the boulder, waiting for the commotion to die down. Soon silence ruled the bloody court, and I made for the front of the cave
Only to notice the significant lack of a second Hunter.
How the hell do they move that fast? And how do you hide a Hunter?!
I also realized the invisible Brutes were gone. That's a silly statement. Of course they were gone ooh my. Guarding the cave's exit were the Brutes, Maulers at ready. They saw me, I saw them, and they, well, aimed the Maulers at me and I responded accordingly:
I muttered a rather colorful curse and ran away. The cave's dark maw looked awful inviting.
The Covie-equivalent of a shotgun was hand-held and packed one helluva punch, so I was in no rush to experience it. I retreated to my boulder again and resumed hiding. It seemed inevitable, so I waited for them to come in after me.
The first Brute rushed in almost immediately, and would have passed me, if I hadn't jumped and tackled him. I knifed him in the neck then rolled and hefted the corpse as a shield just in time, too when I felt a kick. I figured it was the other Brute firing at me. Running backwards suddenly (and probably resembling a demented turtle) I tossed my shield off. The body landed on the Brute who, for a moment, was distracted as he threw the cadaver aside.
"Hey, buddy," I whispered while I came up close. I was eye-to-eye with him when I promptly stabbed the beast through the throat. There was a sickly crack and the angry red eyes lost their light. I riffled through their pockets and found a few incendiary grenades. Huzzah.
Two bodies laid at my feet, when with a barrel-chested roar, it became rather obvious that I'd woken up the patrol.
I whipped to face the Brute Captain in time to see him do this weird sumo-wrestler thing and go berserk. This was not a totally new concept, but it still scared the stuffing out of me every time. I mean, here's this gazillion pound beast of a sasquatch running at me with the full intent to cause bodily harm. Who on God's green Earth feels the immediate need to find out the color of her insides?
The armored alien charged me and I hardly knew what to do except stick him with a recently-acquired fire grenade and watch him burn. I didn't feel like smelling burning Bravo Kilo, so I left the cave, making for the sails poking out of the leaves like mushrooms. Or gremlins.
Then those 'gremlins' popped up with dramatic cries of 'Ooh' and 'Aah'.
"Yeah, I'm human," I said, kicking the first one in the face. The thing's mask flew off into the bushes and he flailed around a bit before running into a tree and dying from all this Earthly oxygen. I stabbed two more and was left with the last one, who looked at me and squeaked. He fumbled for his plasma pistol, but before he could shoot me I deftly unsheathed my M6C/SOCOM (ah, scope and loveliness) and pegged him in the head.
"No, I didn't forget you either," I said out loud, before whipping about and shooting the fleeing Jackal, already a few yards out. The bullet caught his head and he flipped head over heels. His useless shield extinguished and the clearing was awash with clear, clean, pallid Moon light. Natural.
I noticed the Hunter was no where to be found. No freaky spines sticking out of the foliage, no throaty growls, no ominous humming noise as the trademark plasma cannon warmed. He was gone. Hopefully, I wouldn't have to run into him again.
I was left alone in the slight clearing, splashed in fluorescent orange and blue. A spray of dark Brute blood coated the left side of my visor. I wasn't sweating (thank you, MJOLNIR makers) but the adrenaline had me shaking in erratic pulsations.
I imagined I would make an ideal painting lonesome, armored soldier painted with ethereal light, standing amidst the still bodies of her enemies, gazing at the night sky scratch that. Too pretty for death. Look at me, glorifying war. Huh.
I noticed the creatures of night were chirping again. Fancy that, I thought. Only when the space bugs leave do the real ones come out.
At one hundred hours I'd reached the (remains of) Jungle-Base-34. Great craters marked where grenades had gone off. There were claw prints and bits of flesh that looked unnervingly Caucasian. Yellow hard hats lay discarded, some of which hung from tree branches, almost sulking in manner. Some of the hats still had the heads inside.
I avoided those.
I noticed a significant lack of cartridge shells and alien bodies. I saw men pegged to the walls by gray spikes like they were insects in a frame. A woman appeared to have been crawling her way across the jungle floor when she'd been stepped on; a boot print the size of my head imprinted on her lower abdomen. It looked like she'd exploded.
There couldn't have been more than fifteen total civilian technicians here.
Not that any of the corpses were recognizable.
When I scanned the area, the VISR system picked up nothing. This area was cold, dead, and abandoned. The force that had come through here hadn't necessarily been formidable, but rather the humans had been unprepared. Only a few sonic grenades and maybe a pistol or two. This place had been asking for it. What made me nervous was the fact I hadn't run into that kind of force. I'd send a Alpha-priority alert to ONI to keep an eye on this sector.
Jungle-Base-34 had been one of the first bases to be rebuilt after the War, so when ONI received a plea for help, the Boss sent me. We expected Covenant, because we knew some of them had been left behind.
Mission outline: Base attacked by vengeful Covenant forces. Save whatever hasn't been torn to bits.
So he sent me, Miss 'Hired-Gun', to scout it out. I wasn't here on nobodies orders except his little circle, so I couldn't hope for backup or even for someone to come pick up my body.
So I had to find anyone here who had survived (and by the looks of it, no one had) and boot their butts back into civilization where ONI could chew them out.
But even as I searched the busted duracrete buildings, climbed over mounds of composite stone and the like, I didn't find anything. Brutes aren't well-known for their mercy devices, so it didn't surprise me.
So, needless to say, I was a little more than miffed when I ran into a civilian.
The technician was missing a leg. His chest looked like it'd been scooped out with a ice cream scooper. He had his back against the wall in what looked to be the shower area. Several of the showers were still running, so his blood mingled with the water and created a chilling, horror-movie spectacle. He was holding a knife and was
Sawing off his fingers.
I splashed toward him, ripping the knife out of his bloody hands and tossing it away. I looked about for means of wrapping his hands when I noticed the extent of his injuries and figured he wouldn't make it.
One leg had been ripped off at the knee, though the wound was torn in such a way it almost looked like it'd been chewed on. Something had gauged into his chest and scooped out the gooey center. Like a nougat chocolate-
Oh my god, I'm describing a bleeding man like candy.
"They eated them," the man said in poor speech. He was in so much pain he couldn't form complete sentences. "Eaten and chewed on and screaming."
"Sir, I'll get you out of here
" I said gently, but I don't think he heard me. He was staring past me. I followed his eyes and saw streaks of bloody hand prints on the tiled walls. There had definitely been a struggle here short-lived, though it may be - and it resembled a scene where the killer whales played with their food before they skinned th-
"No no no
before my friend died, he
they were biting off his fingers, one at a time and laughing. They laughed at him."
Then he laughed violently. He cackled in pain and the chest cavity splashed blood across my chest. It didn't glow and it didn't sluice off me like alien blood. It wasn't orange, it wasn't blue, it wasn't purple. It was crimson. It was human.
"I want him to have his fingers again," he said between giggles. "So I'll give him mine."
And he reached out to my chest armor, grasped my knife, and even as I reached out to stop him, he sliced off the remaining fingers on the opposite hand in one, swift strike. Apparently this was too much, because soon after he stopped moving.
stopped. His eyes were wide and unblinking.
The eyes were green and oddly detached, staring through me. I suppose this is what eyes belonging to a dead man are supposed to look like.
I sighed and stood up. Base 34 looked like it was, and always had been, an outhouse. Worth nothing, hiding nothing. This whole night had been a bitch and I was walking home empty handed. Somewhere across Africa some other unlucky bastard was fighting his way through hell and doing something about ass-end of this 'fight'. 'Fight' with a capital F.
Then, to top off the whole bloody cake, I heard the distinct hum of a Hunter's plasma cannon.
"Damn," I muttered, running out of the shower rooms and into the jungle clearing. There was an explosion and sharp bits of tile peppered my shield, vaporizing on impact. I ducked and rolled, just in time too super-heated plasma blasted just over my head, raising the MJOLNIR suit's internal temperature a few degrees. I felt the hair on my scalp stand on end and my skin blistered.
I came back up again, bringing my SMG to bear and cursing the Boss under my breath. I thumbed the safety and pulled the trigger; the barrage of bullets impacted on the metal shield the Hunter had quickly brought up. I stopped firing and the behemoth lumbered out of the ruined shower station, ceramic crunching under his boots. The second time he fired, it was a fleeting burst of energy that I narrowly dodged. I felt the armor on my calf melt slightly and fuse together, deformed.
I returned fire, still moving. I reloaded as I ducked a third burst. The lime green plasma impacted on the ancient tree behind me, burning halfway through the trunk. The poor tree groaned and split, falling through the air toward me. I screamed as I watched Newton's first law make itself painfully known; the unrestrained tree moved in slow motion, in a achingly sluggish arc, to the ground.
The Hunter's squat head angled upward to watch the tree, the tree that was at least a thousand years old (and thus very, very thick) topple directly on him. The once-formidable alien was squashed beneath the tree. The tree shook violently on impact; the crushed alien was splattered like, well, a worm.
Orange blood drenched the bark and the surrounding dirt. I watched the leaves on the tree shake violently as dozens of animals escaped the ruin; the resounding explosive noise of the impact blasted through the jungle. Birds flitted through the air, chirping in fear.
For a few moments I stood and blessed Lady Luck. I blinked repeatedly and gulped. The tail-end of shock kicked in and I fell to my knees. Here I was, alone in the jungle again. With only shattered bits of tile and a flattened corpse and the first light of morning.
"And I get the outhouse."
My voice spread around the clearing and drifted off, mocking the earlier clamor of the tree. I called the Boss, told him the news, then left to watch dawn spread her bloody fingers across the good ol' terra firma.
I turned my back on the warming skies and trekked to the rally point.