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"I need a weapon."

Chapter 3 (v.1) - Chapter Three: Home Field Advantage

Submitted: November 12, 2018

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Submitted: November 12, 2018

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Chapter Three
Home Field Advantage

 

Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 and Sergeant Major Avery Johnson were greeted by a sea of cheers as they stepped out into the crowd. They stood on a thick glass platform surrounded by men and women dressed in green Marines battle uniforms entailing a camouflage-patterned material with metal plating around the chest, back, shoulders and knees above their grey boots. They all stood applauding the two survivors as flying video cameras hovered in the air above them, focusing in on the Master Chief and Sergeant while the pair treaded through the crowd.

“You told me there wouldn't be any cameras,” John began.

“You told me you were gonna wear something nice! Folks need heroes, Chief, to give them hope,” Johnson replied, lifting his cap and brushing his fingers through his short hair before continuing. “So smile, would you? While we still got something to smile about.”

The wide door to the station’s main control room, the bridge, opened; the two halves of the metal separating at the horizontal split in the middle. They stepped through, leaving the crowd behind them. The bridge was a wide-open room filled with workstations and large, transparent computer screens. There were officers at every screen. Apart from the metal frames holding it in place, the entire ceiling and the walls were made from glass; a perfect view of Cairo Station’s surroundings in space. The ground at the front of the bridge was elevated, a stage of sorts with a much larger screen than the rest. Several figures stood onstage in front of the screen as the Chief and Johnson approached.

Upon reaching the stage, the pair snapped to attention, saluting Lord Terrence Hood as he turned to them. Fleet Admiral Lord Hood was the commanding officer of the UNSC Home Fleet, the last defence of Earth against the Covenant empire. He was the man in charge. Hood was an older gentleman. His head was completely shaven, and the hairs that remained on his eyebrows were wispy and white. He looked tired, but the way he carried himself suggested he had once been a very strong and powerful figure. He was known throughout the UNSC as a well-respected leader, one that would live as long as he could fight. Hood wore a white uniform identical to Johnson’s and the other figures in the room, albeit with more trimmings.

“Gentlemen, we're lucky to have you back.” Lord Hood’s clear, heavy voice projected loudly into the room contradicting his elderly appearance.

Atop a vertical tube by the main screen, a small sky-blue image sprang to life. It was a three-dimensional display of a woman, Cortana. Hood addressed her.

“Go ahead, Cortana,” he said.

 “Another whisper, sir, near Io.” The glowing woman spoke up, “We have probes en route.”

Lord hood turned back to John and Avery.

“I apologise, but we're going to have to make this quick.”

Cortana looked up at the pair and spoke.

“You look nice,” she said smiling.

“Thank you,” both men replied in unison, immediately turning toward one another awkwardly, unsure of who she had been addressing.

Hints of violet shone through from within Cortana’s default blue form as she chuckled. Her avatar then flickered out of the scene as quickly as it had come. Another naval officer stepped forward, presenting a box of coloured ribbons. Lord Hood selected one particular ribbon out of the box, at the bottom of which hung a heavy, rounded, cross-shaped medallion. He spoke directly to Johnson, still loudly enough for all to hear.

“Sergeant Major, the Colonial Cross is awarded for acts of singular daring and devotion. For a soldier of the United Earth Space Corps you have proven to be amongst the greatest of those in defence of our homeland and prior colonies. You executed incredible prowess during the fight on the Autumn, on Reach and on countless other operations,” Hood said, pinning the ribbon to Johnson’s uniform.

He stepped back, addressing the line of uniformed officers who stood to the side of the stage.

“Commander Miranda Keyes, please come forward.”

A female officer walked across the stage and stood beside John, looking quite petite in comparison with the towering Spartan in his full green armour. She was a younger officer. John estimated she’d be no older than thirty. Her dark-brown hair came down below her white hat, tucked back behind her ears aside from the few stubborn locks that hung forward. She had grey-blue eyes, light skin and a faint scar on her left cheek. As the daughter of Captain Jacob Keyes of the Pillar of Autumn, John noticed several distinct features of her father that had been passed down, including a more feminine version of the captain’s sharp jaw. John also noticed something else in Miranda. She reminded him of Cortana, although younger-looking than the blue hologram woman. A peculiar thought occurred to him…

Lord Hood reached for another medalled ribbon from the box, and presented it Miranda.

“Commander Keyes, your father's actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of military service. His bravery in the face of impossible odds reflects great credit, upon himself, and the UNSC. The navy has lost one of its best.”

He turned to John. The titanium-A soldier stood still, not moving an inch. What could Lord Hood say to the Master Chief? John had already been rewarded every existing UNSC ribbon apart from the Prisoner of War medallion of which he was thankful to be ineligible for. Just as Hood opened his mouth to speak, Cortana flickered back into view above her cylindrical pedestal, interrupting the Fleet Admiral.

“Slipspace ruptures directly off our battle cluster!” She announced.

“Show me,” Hood replied.

The large glass screen on the stage lit up. On the right, displayed the large spherical blueprint of the planet Earth surrounded by UNSC starships and defence platforms. Then something crept into view from the left side of the screen. One shape followed by another and then another slid into view. Several long, smooth silhouettes of foreign spaceships glided forward, getting gradually closer to Earth and its defences. The Covenant fleet had arrived.

“Fifteen Covenant capital ships holding position just outside the kill zone,” Cortana provided.

A muffled voice sounded over the main com. It was transmitted from the bridge of one of the UNSC battlecruisers.

“This is Fleet Admiral Harper. We are engaging the enemy.”

Lord Hood stepped toward the console below the screen and held down a button with his finger. He leaned forward to speak into the device.

“Negative, Admiral. Form a defensive perimeter around the cluster.” He turned back to Miranda Keyes. “Commander, get to your ship and link up with the fleet.”

Miranda’s ship, a UNSC frigate named the In Amber Clad was docked to the side of the space station.

“Yes, sir!” She replied, spinning around and heading off to the bridge exit immediately.

Hood turned back to Cortana.

“You have the MAC gun. As soon as they come in range, open up.”

“Gladly,” she nodded, disappearing once more.

Hood stared at the digital images of the Covenant ships.

“Something's not right,” he said disconcertedly without turning away from the screen. “The fleet that destroyed Reach was fifty times this size.”

An officer sitting behind one of the workstations stood up and cried out in a panic.

“Sir, additional contacts!” He burst. “Boarding craft, and lots of them!”

“They're going to try to take our MAC offline, give their capital ships a straight shot at Earth,” replied Hood. He turned John. “Master Chief, defend this station.”

“Yes, sir!” John replied. Turning toward Johnson on his side, “I need a weapon.”

“Right this way.”

The pair marched out of the bridge back to the glass platform as a number of UNSC starships flew past overhead. They stepped through the wide threshold onto the thick glass. The tram cart they had arrived was now sliding away, filled with white uniformed officers and armoured marines who now wore green metal half-helmets, ammo pouches and wielded rifles. They disappeared as the cart raced off down a tunnel, bending out of sight toward another section of the Cairo.

Johnson lead the Master Chief down a staircase to the area directly below the glass platform. It was no armoury, but there were some guns clipped onto stands upon the walls. The Chief approached one of them. The BR55 Battle Rifle was long and dark with a digital ammo counter at the top and a small telescope above that. The magazine sat at the back behind the handle, and the long stock extended into a narrow barrel. John paused. If the Covenant were boarding the station, there’d be no use for weapons such as the BR just yet. He’d be better off with something a little more close-quarters.

The Master Chief looked to his right. Johnson was lifting a heavy machine gun turret from the wall it had been leaning against. It was an M247 with a foldable stand. He must have placed the goliath there earlier, planning for the inevitable attack. He brought it up to rest on his shoulder.

“Hurry, Chief. We need to be prepared before the bastards arrive,” Johnson said.

John turned toward a stack of crates. Three other weapons sat on top. One was an M6C Magnum handgun, a small pistol. The other two were a M7 submachine guns, or SMGs. The SMGs were light weapons with short barrels and small iron-sights. Both weapons were significantly reduced in size compared with the BR55 and utterly miniscule in comparison with the heavy machine gun turret, but they would do the job. The Chief checked the pistol was loaded and placed it on his hip. His armour automatically magnetised, fixing the magnum to his side. John picked up one of the SMGs with his right hand and checked it was also loaded. The sixty-round magazine of the machine gun was full. He then lifted the second SMG in his left hand, once again verifying the ammo was full, and followed Johnson out of the room.

They entered the next room through a more classic, but still metal, automatic sliding door. It had green lights to show that it was open. The Recreational Room did not have much to show for its name. The recreational materials had been locked away for days now. All that stood in the room were several computer terminals intended to be used in crew members’ free-time, but were now gathering dust. On the left wall was a large window facing out into the stars, and down the centre of the room was an open path to another blast door at the opposite side from where John, Avery and now a fireteam of marines, each wielding an SMG, were standing. The lights on the blast door were red. It was sealed shut.

“Alert! Alert!” Came over the loudspeaker. “Covenant boarders inbound! All hands report to battle stations. This is not a drill. Repeat, this is not a drill.”

Johnson leaned over to one of the computer consoles, pressing a button and speaking into the com.

“How’s it going, Malta?” He asked the neighbouring space centre.

“Stand by,” replied the officer over the coms. “They’re latched! Check your targets. Watch the crossfires. They're in standard formation; little bastards up front, big ones in back. Good luck, Cairo.”

Right on cue, the ground began to rumble. A Covenant boarding craft had latched itself onto the Cairo somewhere nearby. Johnson placed his turret down where he stood at the opposite end of the path to the sealed blast door. The large gun sat atop its stand, waiting to unleash a stream of lead into anything that came through that entryway. He crouched behind the turret, waiting while the other marines in the room filled out on the sides, out from the potential line-of-fire of the blast door. Then they waited.

Soon, muffled plasma fire could be heard on the other side of the door. The Covenant had entered. John moved up toward the closed doorway, waiting on the right side of it. He wondered what would come through first. Most likely it would be Grunts.

The Covenant Grunts, or Unggoy as the Covenant called them, made up the majority of the Covenant’s population. While shorter than the average adult human, they were wider, stockier and highly excitable. Like most Covenant species, the Unggoy were humanoid, meaning they had a head, torso and a pair each of arms and legs. The Unggoy were somewhat like large-apes in frame but with tough, grey exoskeletons instead of skin. That and their large forearms and lower legs gave them a lobster-like appearance. John was fairly certain a team of Covenant Grunts would be soon to burst into the room, the lower half of their faces obscured by their gasmask-like rebreathers and their negligible orange armour only covering parts of their chest and waist. Their armour would be stretching back into the tall pyramidal tanks on their backs, forcing them to hunch over as they would stagger through as fast as they could.

The plasma sounds outside the room ceased, and a yellow light began to glow from the seal of the blast door. Sparks flew out from the horizontal split. The light got steadily brighter before- BAM! The door blew open. Chucks of metal sailed through the air out into the room. One piece smashed right through a computer screen, shattering it open and showering one of the marines with glass. He groaned loudly and crouched down behind the console as blood poured down his shard-embedded face. The last fragments of the door made their final clunks on the metal floor before the room fell silent again.

The soldiers turned their attention back toward the giant hole where the blast door had been. The porthole was obscured by smoke and dust, and then, a roar bellowed from the other side of it. A mass of blue metal and rubbery flesh rushed out from the smoke. A Covenant Elite, one of the aliens that called themselves Sangheili, sprinted forward, yelling a deep alien battle cry. It ran straight down the centre path, closing the distance between the blast door and Johnson on the other side of the room.

Johnson stared down the Covenant Elite as he held the trigger of his heavy gun turret. The bullets sprayed out, every one of them hitting the Elite as it raced forward. The Elite’s blue energy shield lit up around it, absorbing the bullets from Johnson’s weapon and letting them drop to the floor. Unharmed, the Elite continued forward.

The Master Chief and the marines began unloading bullets from their SMGs into the Elite. John held the trigger down on both guns at the same time. The Elite only made it halfway down the path before his shield popped apart, just as the Chief’s had earlier from the zapper. The blue shimmer disappeared while the marines kept firing. Now the bullets were making direct contact with the Elite. Some of them formed dents in the blue armour of the Sangheili. Others pierced straight into its rippled skin. Dark indigo blood poured out of the creature as it fell before the long barrel of Johnson’s turret, delivering a final growl before curling up on the floor.

Johnson looked down at the long, lifeless creature. Its mandibles twitched silently. Covenant Elites had no visible lips. Instead they had two split mandibles on each side of their upper jaw. Sharp teeth stuck out downwards from their top jaw and mandibles, while the equally sharp teeth on their lower mandibles spiked directly upwards.

“You know, I only have one question,” Johnson called over to the Chief. “How the hell do they eat with those things? Can’t imagine an Elite burying its face into an egg sandwich, can ya?”

They turned back toward the door.  The dust was beginning to settle, and the shadows of six smaller creatures could now be identified. This time a much croakier, squeakier, high-pitched cry was made as the party of Grunts charged forward. Their oddly shaped arms were outstretched and their C-shaped plasma pistols raised forward. Short bursts of glowing green light shot out from their weapons at the marines. Fortunately, the Grunts were terrible shots in a panic, and it seemed the death of their commander had shaken them. Superheated plasma energy scorched the walls as the marines dodged and weaved around the room, ducking behind the computer terminals for cover.

Johnson was forced to step out from his turret and move into a more strategical position. John continued unleashing his submachine gun into the crowded Grunts. The hits blasted holes into their hard grey exterior, causing them to cry out in pain. A bright cyan coloured liquid rained from the alien’s bodies. The Chief aimed his SMGs from one Grunt to another. He managed to slay three of them while the shared effort of the marines took out the other three without themselves receiving any major causalities. The humans had had the advantage in this room due to positioning, but it was time to move forward. They needed to take out these Covenant before the Covies took out the station’s primary MAC canon.

A heavy bass voice spoke to John from within his helmet. It was a transmission from Lord Hood.

“Find the Covenant's point of entry, Chief,” he trumpeted. “Cut them off at the source!”

“Yes, sir!”

The loudspeaker from earlier continued.

“This is not a drill. This is not a drill. Boarders in Habitat Alpha. I need a squad there ASAP.”

One of the marines unbuckled his green helmet and lifted it off his head.

“Did I say you could remove your headgear, marine?” Started Johnson. “I wanna see your-”

He stopped talking. The marine revealed his face, now completely red with blood. Shards of glass were still sticking out all over it as the liquid oozed into the collar of his uniform.

“Sir,” a freckled female marine spoke up to the Sergeant Major, “Permission to remain behind to patch up Vusaro.”

“Negative, Pinciotti,” he replied. “You tryin’ to run out on me, Private?”

“No, Sarge. Just wanted to get a squad mate back up to full strength, sir.”

Johnson turned to the blood covered Vusaro.

“How bad as it?” He asked.

“Nothing I can’t fix, sir!” Replied Private Vusaro.

“You stay here. Get yourself cleaned-up. Radio in when you’re ready to rejoin the fight.” Johnson turned back to Private Pinciotti. “We’re gonna need everyone working together to drive back the alien bastards. Chief, you have the point.”

John lead the Sergeant Major and his four remaining marines out of the room, while Vusaro was left behind, using his reflection on one of the display screens in the Recreation Room to pick out the glass from his face. The team strode down a straight corridor. A painted red arrow on the floor was labelled “Hangar A-01”. That was where they needed to be. They crossed through one of the Commons, navigating through the courtyard around the benches and palm trees before turning up a stair case. They restocked their weapons with ammunition found in crates in the next corridor before continuing onward, arriving into an open shuttle bay.

They entered the hangar onto a grated walkway above the main floor. The hangar was large enough to fit two UNSC Pelican dropships, evidentially, as one such troop carrier filled half the room. It was a chunky aircraft with flat, stubby wings on the either side. Large square thrusters sat atop the wings and back of the Pelican, useful for both in atmosphere and outer space flight. The pilot and co-pilot seats could be seen through the front windshield while a large passenger container opened at the rear, below the back thrusters. Inside were two rows of seats, pressed against the side walls, facing in on each other. The Chief had been dropped into battle via Pelicans such as this one often enough that he granted it no attention.

The front of the Pelican faced out toward the large hangar exit. The exit was kept closed by a massive, sliding, glass door held together with thick heavy beams. Beyond it; Earth, the neighbouring defence space stations and countless flying ships could be seen through space. UNSC Longswords were zooming about in combat against the Covenant Seraph fighters of teardrop-shaped design. There were strips of black and yellow all over the hangar bay warning personnel to watch their step. Multiple metal doors, some open and some locked according to the colours of their lights, were built into the walls. There were several stacking crates and some metal barricades recently placed around the room for soldiers to use as cover, but none of these things were what caught the eye of the Master Chief and the marines.

On the left side of the huge glass hangar door was a Covenant docking vessel. The awkward-looking boarding craft was made up of a thick purple tube with three pincer-like arms reaching forward and clipping onto the station from the exterior of the glass. The narrowest section of the tube extended forward, straight through the glass as if a perfect circle had been cut the exact size for the large pipe to fit through into the room.  

The team moved forward across the high walkway that stretched out into the middle of the bay, separating it into two halves. The Chief jumped over the railing down onto the bottom level. His heavy armour made a loud clunk that vibrated along the floor. The marines remained up on the walkway, guns aimed at the opening to the umbilical of the boarding craft that was threaded through the glass. John stood half crouched behind one of the portable barriers in the room, both SMGs at the ready once more.

The clunking of footsteps echoed out from within the purple tube before several orange-armoured Grunts poured out into the hangar bay followed by another large blue-armoured Elite. The Elite recoiled as he was instantly stung by what appeared to be a thousand bullets hitting him at once. His bright blue shielding lit up around his body. He flung his arms about wildly and ducked for cover behind a nearby crate. A blue electricity-like energy sparkled and rose up around him as his shield recharged.

This Elite, as indicated by the blue armour, was of a low rank. It was likely either a young Elite that had recently joined the Covenant military or an older Elite who had so far been unable to prove himself in battle. Just by looking at the thing, John could not tell which. The pointed angles at the back and sides of its helmet, top of its shoulder pads, end of its elbow pads and front of its knee armour were presented almost like fins, and while it was crouched over behind the crate, the Elite looked more like a shark than ever, albeit in humanoid form. Of course, underneath the sharp armour it was smoother and squid-like. 

In its hand the Covenant Elite held a shiny blue plasma rifle. Like most Covenant weaponry, it was rounded and unconventional. It was shaped almost like a sideways ‘H’ with alien markings on one side. As the Elite’s energy shield was finishing recharging it began to fire its rifle from out behind the crate. Using its cover, it peeked out ever-so-slightly above the crate and brought its plasma weapon around the side, firing a long stream of bright-blue balls of energy, singing the side of the metal crate black as they whizzed passed.

The Grunts jumped around the room, also using the crates and barricades to their advantage. Three of them fired their smaller bursts of green plasma at the marines on the walkway. Two Grunts focused on the Chief. John’s automatic translating device activated inside his helmet as the Grunts began to yap in their high-pitched native tongues.

“I see you, Demon!” One croaked though its rebreather mask.

“You no hide from me!” Another chimed in.

The Master Chief held his SMG’s triggers town. John and the Grunts now danced about the room to avoid each other’s fire. It would have been easy for the Chief to dispatch of the Grunts if it weren’t for the Elite’s constant cascade of plasma coming from behind its crate.

“Sergeant,” John called out to Johnson still on the walkway, “Have any grenades?”

“On the menu, Chief!” He barked back.

Johnson took out the hand grenade from a pouch strapped onto his uniform. The green fragmentation grenade was spherical with indented lines around the middle and a cylindrical attachment at the top, the pin. He pulled the pin out and threw the grenade up across the room. It landed directly behind the Elite’s crate, right beside the alien.

“Hope you like pineapple!” Johnson yelled at the Elite, referencing the grenade’s shape.

The Elite looked sideways at the grenade, gasping in surprise. He tried to leap out from behind the crate, but it was too late. The grenade exploded apart. Shards of metal flew open, blasting into the creature. Proving too strong at such a close proximity for both the Elite’s shields and armour to hold together, the monster blew apart. Indigo-coloured blood and guts rained through the air, splattering over the metal around the hangar.

Two of the Grunts froze in terror as their officer had been slain. The pupils on their beady wide-set eyes shrinking in fear. They were immediately taken down by the marines above. The other three dropped their plasma pistols and rose their arms up in the air. Losing all senses, they began running, each in different directions to nowhere in particular.

“They got leader! Ruuun!” One of them wailed.

Johnson clipped his SMGs to the sides of his magnetic armour and unclipped his magnum. He raised the pistol, shooting each of the Grunts once in the head, killing them all instantly before swapping back to the submachine guns. The room was now covered in indigo and cyan blood as if it were the aftermath of a blue-confetti-filled party.  

“I always said we needed more paint in this place,” uttered Johnson.

“Look,” cried Private Pinciotti. Her gun was lowered in one hand while her other hand was raised and pointing out at the space beyond the massive glass hangar door. “The Malta's already driven off its boarders.”

John looked out towards the surrounding space. At a distance he could see the Malta defence platform across from the Athens. It was identical to the Cairo except that it now seemed to have several purples fleas detaching themselves from the space station. They glided away off into space. Cortana’s voice came over the loudspeaker, communicating with Malta Station for all to hear.

“Malta, what’s your status?” She asked.

“I don’t believe it!” The Malta officer exclaimed over the com in reply, “They’re retreating. We won!”

Suddenly, a bright light emitted from Malta Station. The defence platform exploded, blowing apart into a million pieces. Malta and its entire crew were now gone.

A hint of red caught John’s eye. His motion tracker had lit up with red dots to reveal nearby enemies. He spun around. One of the hangar doors had opened directly below the walkway the marines stood on, blocking their view of the enemies. A wave of Elites and Grunts spilled into the room. John launched one of his SMGs square at the head of a Grunt, knocking it back.

“Johnson,” John called raising his now empty left hand in the air.

Johnson opened his remaining grenade pouch and tossed John the explosive with the pin still intact. The Chief tore it out and lobbed the grenade directly into the Covenant cluster. A red-armoured Elite managed to dive out from the group, but the rest of the aliens were blown to smithereens. The red armour of this Elite symbolised a higher rank and likely higher skill.

The Elite Major roared, it’s mandibles splitting open, giving the Master Chief a direct view down the creature’s throat as it charged toward him. John could see blue energy crackling around the Elite as its shields had not yet recharged after the grenade went off; though he knew they were not fully depleted either. The red Major rose its blue plasma rifle. John jumped forward, knocking the gun out of its hand. The Elite then swung one of its large alien fists downward, trying to pummel the Chief through his helmet. John swivelled to the side, dodging the blow. He leaned forward and shoved his body directly into the creature. The weight of his armour slammed the Elite back into the wall, knocking the last energy out of its shields. The Chief rose his remaining SMG and blasted the alien in the face. Its mandibles blew right off its skull, splattering John’s green armour with drops of indigo blood. The Elite Major now lay motionless on the floor amongst the other bodies.

Having spent the last of his submachine gun ammo, John dropped the gun and picked up the alien plasma rifle from the floor beside the dead Elite. This Covenant group must have come from another boarding craft. He needed to find it and stop the Covenant from repeating whatever they had done to the Malta. Whatever they were doing, by destroying the Malta they were making it easier for themselves to get a clean shot at Earth. Once the Covenant fleet broke through Earth’s defences, that was it. The Covenant would reach their goal. They would kill every last human being who hadn’t died in the war already; without care and without mercy. The human race, our entire species, would cease to exist.


© Copyright 2019 Halo Array. All rights reserved.

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