- December 22nd, 2552, 0900 Hours
- New Jerusalem, Cygnus System
- Just North of Mount Haven, Pelican Dropship Charlie 093
- D+ 01.12.49 (SPARTAN-319 Mission Clock)
Standing on the edge of the Pelican troop transport, I find it easy to remember why I don’t like combat drops. Heights have never been my thing; space is ok, ground is better, and underwater is just plain random, but put me in freefall, and my stomach is bound to get a little wobbly. I’ve been like this since training, ever since Lazlo strapped a parachute on my back and shoved me out of a Dropship hold with a wisecrack and a devious smile. I remember having a hard time keeping my composure, so that I could make a joke on the way down. I’m good at thinking on the fly, but some things are tough even for me.
Speaking of thinking on the fly, I start to wonder if I should start paying attention to the baby faced lieutenant blathering out our orders. Mica likes to get on me about not planning things ahead of time, and it’d be nice to prove her wrong for once. So for a moment, I try--really, genuinely, make an attempt to listen to the LT. After a few dull and brain numbing seconds, I give up. Something about Wraiths, Marines, and a whole lot of people getting their shit messed up in some Covenant ambush--a bunch of crap I really could care less about.
It’s nothing personal, and I got nothing against marines, it’s just I really don’t care. The marines aren’t part of my close-knit group of friends--Roger, Mica, and on a good day, maybe Laszlo or Colonel Standoff--and so, they have little importance to me. Like the rest of my squad, what happens to them is none of my concern. I wasn’t always like this--not like Roger or Mica, who have always pretty much been out for just us--but it only took a few battles for me to realize they had it right all along. Other people don’t matter one bit.
A gust of wind rocks the Pelican, and I reconsider my close position to the edge of the blood tray. No need to fall out of the dropship prematurely and make myself look like an idiot. I take a step back, and continue pretending to listen to the Lieutenant, absentmindedly checking my gear. An MA5B, and one of those old M319 IGLs. I had to pull some strings to get that bad boy and hack a few supply manifests to get my hands on it, since the things have gotten so rare in the post-Battle of Earth craziness, but its worth it. An M41 is to much extra weight for an airdrop like this, but the slim little grenade launcher is the perfect size.
The pilot comes over the intercom, telling us that this is our stop, and I stop fooling around with my gear and make my way back towards the open bay door. Ahead of me, Roger and Mica are already good to go, chutes linked to the hard ports on their armor and ready to jump. Roger draws the M392 he’s apparently held on to since Reach; Mica is apparently content to strap her SRS99D and M7 to her back and grab them when she lands. I follow Roger’s example, and keep my MA5B clutched closely to my chest. If I start tumbling, I don’t want to end up on the ground with no weapon.
Roger’s voices comes over the comm, cold and hard, like it always gets before a deployment. I remind myself to give him some grief about it first chance I get, as soon as I think of something witty. We gather in a line as the pilot opens the cockpit door and gives us a count down with his gloved hand. The guy’s an idiot; we’ve already got a backup timer in our HUD. Pulling stunts like that is a good way for a Pilot to get hit by ordnance that normally would just mess up the troop bay. It seems like an off chance, but I’ve seen it happen. Anything can happen when the Covenant are put in the equation.
While I marvel at how someone so stupid could have lived through the past war, we hit out drop point. The Pelican shudders to a halt, easing itself onto VTOL thrusters and holding station. Roger’s the first one out, dropping off with a quick step and disappearing into the wind. Mica follows, tucking into a ball to stabilize herself. I decided to go balls out and do a flip as I leap from the troop bay door, trying to make sure my helmet gets a good view of my aerial acrobatics. Mica has a visual link to my HUD, and the best defense against her jibes is to show her that I‘m not afraid of jumps like I used to be. As I leave the friendly Titanium-A of the Pelican behind, however, I start to regret my decision. My little stunt leaves me spinning and disoriented; it takes me a few nauseating seconds to right myself and decide which direction up and down are.
Training has it’s purpose though, and I stabilize without to much difficulty. Now it’s routine--agonizingly frightening routine, but routine nonetheless. We pass through the cloud layer, and get our first good look at the terrain below us. It’s a study of how easily a few hours of fighting can wreck a perfectly nice place. Below us, miles and miles of coniferous forest and glistening mountains have been reduced to smoldering ash, impact craters, and glass marks. In the distance, I pick out a small, badly damaged city--the remains of Mount Haven, or so my HUD tells me. Beyond the city, over a small set of mountains, I can just barely glimpse the blackened remains of some wilderness. Trivia from the intel I glanced over earlier sticks out in my mind, and I recognized the spot as some dumb ODST’s last stand. At least the guy left his mark on the world.
The mountains fall out of sight as we descend, and soon, the city disappears too. Below us, the ground is rushing up alarmingly quickly. Roger comes over the comm channel again, barking orders in a rapid tone. My ears hear them without comprehending; my brain knows what he is saying without listening. We deploy our chutes, slowing our descent my a factor of ten. Almost simultaneously, we activate the new ‘experimental’ cloaking devices that Roger and Mica have been working with since Colonel Standoff snuck them to the duo on Reach. Our mismatched MJOLNIR suits, and the heavy duty HALO chutes trailing behind us, fade into a blur.
The first part of our objective is now visible below us, a small valley swarming with Covenant. In the center, the bright orange flashes of gunfire are visible--the UNSC Marines we’re apparently here to support. Roger beams the relevant data to our HUD displays, and I smile. He’s got real time video from one of the Marine officers on the ground, and it looks good for us. The marines are being pinned down by a few dozen Covenant infantry, supported by three Wraiths and a couple of Revenant hover sleds. Hal in a barrel, as Laszlo used to say.
We’re about fifty meters above the ground when I key the second phase of my chute, detaching from it with a loud clunk. My suit’s active camo struggles to keep up with the rapidly changing scenery, so I deactivate and reroute the power to my shields. Adrenaline pumps through my system as I give in to the drop and let myself fall, aiming for one of the Wraith tanks. It’s moments like these--sheer, unbridled exhilaration--that make my life tolerable. That and my team, of course.
I miss the Wraith tank, but manage to cushion my fall with a pair of very surprised Grunts. I smirk, feeling their bodies crush beneath the force of a half ton suit of armor land full force on them. The tank is ten meters away, and the gunner on it’s turret looks equally surprised and frightened to see me. I smile again. It’s nice to know that no matter the audience, I always have the same effect on people.
My smile remains glued to my face as I snap my MA5B to my shoulder, letting off a fifteen round burst into the grunt’s torso. Fluorescent blue blood sprays from a dozen entry wounds; the stout little alien slumps forward and slides out of the gunner seat. The Wraith’s driver notices me, but he’s already done. One of the old elites might have been quick enough to get off a shot with the plasma mortar, but the Brutes leading the Covenant now are almost as dumb as the Grunts they're commanding. Spraying dirt behind me, I vault forward, closing the short gap between myself and the tank and leaping onto the burnished blue metal.
I bring my fist down on the hatch, and after a few quick knocks, it crunches to pieces beneath my gauntlets. Over the radio, I say something about how they don’t make Covenant vehicles like they used to. I’m almost disappointed to hear a short chuckle from Mica. That means she’s already inside her tank and well ahead of me. Resolving to pick up the pace, I pry the broken hatch from the top of the tank, and spray the remainder of my MA5B’s magazine into the Brute piloting the Wraith. Yanking the body out, I throw my rifle inside, and drop into the cockpit.
Blinking and whining alien control holigrams surround me, but experience and ONI translation technology are on my side and I take control of the tank with relative ease. I peer through the display screen, and spot remainder of the marine group we were sent to support, huddled behind the meager cover of a few basic trenches. They look like they’re all about to collectively shit themselves. The thought seems perversely funny, more than it should be, so I distract myself from the idea by aligning the plasma mortar with the nearest cluster of Covenant infantry and letting rip.
Roger and Mica have already open fired with their own captured tanks, so I don’t get the element of surprise like they did. I aim for the dumb ones, though, and am rewarded by the mesmerizing sight of a dozen or so Covenant bodies going flying. Lobbing glowing blue orbs of energy into the center of the Covenant group, I decide that it’s still plenty of fun, even without catching the aliens unawares. A few of the Brute leaders decide to try and fight back, peppering the hull of my tank with Spiker rounds and plasma bolts, but when I blow them away, the remaining Covenant start running for their lives. It’s a joy to watch them explode while they run.
The Covenant that decided to run now realize that maybe it isn‘t such a good idea, as we expertly lob energy mortar rounds into their retreating backsides. After three years of fighting, and we‘ve had plenty of time to practice with Covenant vehicles. Soon the field is empty, save for the charred bodies of the aliens and the frightened marines. I engage my cloak and grab my MA5B, jumping out of the Wraith tank’s cockpit and leaving the vehicle to idle. Roger calls Mica and myself over to him, and makes a comment about the quality of our teamwork. I respond with a wisecrack of my own, and earn and knuckle plate to the side of my helmet in retaliation.
Behind us, the shell-shocked marines slowly emerge from their cover, oblivious to our presence with our cloaked MJOLNIR suits. I smile as they scan the area around them, confused and disoriented. If anything, at least they’ll have a good story to tell their buddies back at base. Roger relays us our next objective, and I scan over the intel in my HUD as we move out at a brisk trot, hoping that maybe our next mission will give me a chance to use that M319 I picked up. Taking one last look at the marines behind me, and smiling at their oblivious cheers, I reload my MA5B and follow my teammates off towards our next battle.