Nothing was visible from above.
The green plains and sparse forests failed to hint at any sort of disturbance or unknown presence. Nevertheless, the transponders claimed otherwise. The message repeatedly flashed on the screen.
>> Yankee-1214 ; compromised status
"Dammit, Franko! Get connected with Sierra-379!" the commodore shouted; hammering the screen with a closed fist.
"He can't be tracked! Hotel's got a comm shield in high altitude, we need to get that spire down!" replied Ensign Franko, the ship's communications officer.
"Commodore Tokuyashi, we have Orion's bogeys homing in on our position!" another officer called out.
"Izsak, track the targets and open up with point defense, scramble the Knight squadrons ASAP."
A digital voice replied back. It was hazed by a strong South African accent. "Understood sir. What of the primary cannons?"
"Gear them up, but don't engage without my command." Tokuyashi was now seated in his throne of sorts which oversaw the whole of the cruiser-carrier's bridge. Outside the vessel, forty olive drab fighter craft soared out from the belly of the ship in staggered pairs. They aligned into a cone-shaped formation as they met the twenty enemy craft.
"This is Alpha Blue One threading the needle, over," the pilot of the lead Knight reported on the frequency.
"Copy that, Alpha Blue One. Engage at will," requested Franko in her brash voice amidst the chaotic bridge of the Slovenija. The cone formation split into quarters, three of which slid around the enemy vessels and the remainder charging at point. After a minute or so, Franko looked to the commodore. "Airspace is hot but secure for the moment."
"Good," Tokuyashi said to himself. He pressed a few buttons, connecting him to Captain Bennett of the 76th Shock Troops, "This is Commodore Tokuyashi to Captain Bennett. The cavalry's confirmed to go. Load up drop pods."
"Confirmed, sir. Bennett out." The responder's voice was violent and aggressive yet painfully calm. Something one might expect from Helljumper brass.
As the rain continued to pummel the drought-scarred plains, twenty bulky metal pods smashed themselves into the mud. Each of their front faces shot off, revealing a Shock Trooper inside. "Rally up, Helljumpers!" Bennett called out after depolarizing his visor. He tuned his helmet radio to the encrypted ground frequency, "Red Raider to Deuce-379', do you read?"
"Five by five, Captain." The voice of the replying operator was even more brash than Bennetts, something he didn't expect.
"I have a read on your position, Red Raider.
"Roger, Sierra. We're on our way now." Bennett was hoping the Slovenija Naval brass would be willing to send in a few vehicles for his strike team to ride in, but he knew the ship was struggling to fend off the attackers in high orbit. Our legs will just have to do for now, he thought to himself as he gave the signal to begin the trek.
Before long, the strike team troopers were delighted by the sight of a handful of Stork dropships swooping in from the heavens; each carried a pair of Boar LRVs.
"This is Whiskey 551, leading the pack," Bennett heard via his comm receiver.
"Damn glad to see you, Whiskey," he said back to the lead pilot.
"Likewise, Red Raider. We have plenty of presents for your boys to play with."
"Thanks, Kringle," Bennett chuckled a bit to himself. "Copy that, Red Raider out." Seven infantry support vehicles plopped onto the ground as the dropship squadron ascended toward the looming blue-gray clouds. "Saddle up and prepare for the hunt, Troopers!" the Captain yelled as he hopped onto the rear Gauss turret of one of the Boars. "Sierra-379, whats your status?" Bennett spoke into his helmet microphone.
"The downed craft is here, but no sign of the occupants," the Spartan replied.
"Maybe they escaped?"
UNDISCLOSED UNSC COLONY WORLD, SECOND RIM
NOVEMBER 10TH, 2586 @ 0112 HOURS LOCAL TIME
The trooper peaked over the edge of the cliff as he slowly and quietly loaded the magazine into his rifle and pulled the charging handle. He had severed his chatter link in order to prevent being located by hostile sensors. Down in the valley, an extraterrestrial outpost was slowly accelerating in pace and urgency.
The Covenant's really testing the UNSC with this, he thought. Exactly why we were sent here, I guess...
He cleared his head, steadied his breath, and aligned his sights on one of the Jiralhanae Minors.
The marksman did not randomly choose it, however; the New Covenant often equipped important officers with apparently basic armor so that they weren't major targets in battle.
The Jiralhanae may have only been donning the garb of a minor, but a keen eye would be able to notice said armor had been expansively upgraded. James squeezed the trigger, and the fourteen-and-a-half millimeter round darted through the air and cleanly penetrated the back of the target's neck.
An instant kill and instant chaos.
James finally broke his comm silence as manually reestablished his connection to the chatter. "Deuce-379, do you read?" He heard a feint sigh on the other end.
"Dammit, Captain, where are you? They have a shock platoon searching for you," replied the Spartan. "What's your status?"
"I've tracked their groundside base of operations, and their Chieftain's bleeding like a fountain."
"Well I suppose that's good. Need a posse?"
"Probably wouldn't hurt. Space Ninja out," James said as he rose from prone position, holstered his M201B rifle, and readied his R66 assault rifle. James comfortably assumed that the dimwitted Unggoy that were wallowing about did not notice his position, so he remained with a single knee on the ground as he produced a rope with a long spike attached to one end from a clip on his thigh plate. He bluntly prodded the ground with it before forcefully slamming it in with is foot.
Play time, James chuckled to himself as he noticed a figure closing in from the direction opposite the encampment.
"Glad of you to join the party. Where's the platoon?" James radioed over.
"Surveillance found another encampment, I guess."
"Oi meh," the former Trooper groaned. Travis killed his engine a distance away so that he didn't catch the attention of the camp, which by now had come under control at the expense of an Unggoy via foot.
"It's been too long," the Spartan said as they simultaneously shook hands and hugged; the lifetime comrades had known each other since before Travis' indoctrination, and as a result James knew much more than he should.
"Couldn't agree morel; now, about the Covenant..." Travis nodded as he retrieved his stored weapon: the M6 Nonlinear Rifle. He and James jogged to the ledge where James set up the tether. The sight below was not what was expected, though. The occupants of the crater had packed up much of their supplies and were momentarily ready to leave the position.
"Now or never," said James as he polarized his visor.
"Now," the monstrous Spartan charged the cannon and decimated a Shadow, the only vehicle the Covenant force had. He slipped into the crevice with one leap and swapped weapons for a shotgun in the process. Just behind, James tossed the roped down and rappelled the thirty meters down and provided cover fire for Travis in the process.
James slid behind a supply crate as he cracked an Unggoy in the face with his metal boot, caving it in and coating his foot in a thin blue slime. He rolled right into a crouch seconds later and blew out a Jiralhanae Major's shields before he quickly unsheathed his katara to disembowel the beast. He stomped the cretin's face in as a sign of mercy.
James ran as quickly as he could towards Travis as he unloaded single shots from his rifle at the engaging Unggoy. One of the two remaining Jiralhanae was atop the entrance to the crater and in a desperate fit to reactivate its fried turret; it was not a common behavior for the bold and brave Jiralhanae species.
The Major finally caught up to his ally and tapped him on his unarmored side, "Draw some fire while I get a shot on that bush buster in the Shadow!"
"No problem," the Spartan said as he discharged his final eight gauge shell and proceeded to sling controlled bursts with James' assault rifle from behind the boulder while James equipped his sniper rifle and lined up with the young Jiralhanae. He squeezed the trigger, and overloaded the quite week shields and impaled the enemy's pelvis. He quickly steadied his rifle once more and scored a direct hit to the torso, effectively eliminating the threat.
"Wheres the other Kilo?" James called out.
"He's laying behind the two containers over there," said Travis as he jerked his head towards the Unggoy squad.
"You got him?"
"Yeah, cover me," Travis loaded the shells into his shotgun and pumped it once, loading the first shell into the chamber. "Go!" The Spartan accelerated at an inhuman rate as he approached the enemy resistance. He quickly unloaded two shots from his Close Assault Weapon System and efficiently took out three of the Unggoy bullet shields as James dispatched of another with his handgun.
Just then, the Jiralhanae Major sprung up and smacked the blades of his carbine on 379's back, knocking him off his feet and depleting his shields. Before he could finish the commando, Major Corbett was able to draw his attention, allowing Travis to roll over and up to his feet. He drew his katara "punching blade" once more and drove it up into the Brute's brain cavity through the bottom of its jaw.
"Fucking pig..." The Spartan had always exhibited an extreme resentment towards the Jiralhanae, something James had always been somewhat boggled by. James leisurely began to reload a fresh magazine into his rifle just as he noticed something odd: a cowering Unggoy near the crater's edge. He pointed and caught his ally's attention, "Kro te sehl ma zis?"
James had not the least idea what Travis was saying, though he still listened carefully to the Unggoy's response, "Te senz yel nokt."
"Mind filling me in?" James said.
"He speaks English," explained the Spartan. "He may be of use to us."
"That's just fucking dandy. I'll report in." While the trooper sat down and attempted to establish communication with the Slovenija, Travis sat down with the small creature.
"Where is your home, Unggoy?"
"I- I not supposed speak with Demon," it replied with a wobbly voice.
"You speak, or I eat," Travis was well aware of the Unggoy rumor that Spartans had a greater thirst for Unggoy blood than did the Jiralhanae.
"No no no! I speak. I come from Balaho, big Jurnays take me, make me fight. I come here, you take me. I pistol, too," he replied with a shade of embarrassment.
"Pistoled?" Travis questioned. By this time, James had made his way over.
"He means 'pissed.' Grunts confuse the words all the time," they both managed out an excuse for a smile under their visors. "Anyways, we have to get going. Brass has a plan."