Lions and tigers and bears! Oh my!
UNSC Firebase Mitchell
September 15, 2536 — 1045 Local Time
Michael watched as the firebase evacuated. It was five weeks since the Covenant defeated the orbital defenses around New Constantinople and landed, establishing ground bases to continue their attack on the planet.
Wounded while clearing the ODP hanger bay to evacuate, he rode down to the planet in a captured Phantom dropship along with the other wounded. Lieutenant Grant ordered the dropship to make for the closest UNSC medical facility to offload the wounded.
Before they treated Michael, they required an Ordnance Disposal team to remove the unexploded needler shard embedded in him. After disposing of the shard, they treated his injuries laying him up for a week. While healing, this gave the techs time to repair the damage to his battle armor from the fighting on the ODP.
There was still the question of him disobeying Lieutenant Grant’s orders back on the ODP. For some strange reason the Lieutenant let the matter drop. No one mentioned or brought up the incident in any of the after-action debriefings and reports. The only thing mentioned was Michael’s performance in clearing the enemy from the ODP, allowing for its evacuation.
While Michael recuperated, the Covenant weren’t idle. They’d landed, establishing shielded ground bases. The UNSC mounted air strikes and challenged the enemy in space with limited success. The cities and towns caught within the Covenant invasion area were the scenes of desperate fighting as UNSC forces tried to buy time to get the civilians evacuated. Even with the evacuation order given ahead of the invasion it still took time to get the people out. Despite heroic efforts and rearguard defense by the Marines, not everyone got out... civilian causalities were horrendous.
Cities and towns burned in and around the Covenant foothold, lighting up the night sky and casting a dark pall of smoke over the region. The burning cities and towns were like an ill omen, appearing like giant funeral pyres as Covenant forces “cleansed” the area of humans. In the following weeks, the Covenant expanded their foothold on the planet, spreading out in all directions with intense, desperate fighting seeming to go on with no end. At times, the Marines would fight the enemy to a standstill, halting their advance. The Covenant would break the impasse by bringing in one of their heavy ships. With its plasma batteries and energy projectors the ship would “glass” the surface, destroying everything... buildings, vehicles, defenders and civilians in its path.
Vice-Admiral Whitcomb wasn’t idle himself, pushing his people to the limit as he reorganized his defenses and repaired his surviving fleet units to strike back at the enemy. He used whatever resources were on hand, hitting the enemy using guerrilla-style hit-and-run raids on enemy fleet and surface units.
The surviving ODPs were redeployed to cover the fleet, the remaining orbital installations and cities on the far side of the planet. Whitcomb beefed up the perimeter defenses of the platforms to take into account the new enemy boarding tactics. The Covenant tested the defenses by sending in ships to penetrate the human’s shrinking orbital defense perimeter. The UNSC beat back these probing attacks with each side suffering losses, but it seemed as if the UNSC was ending up on the losing side of these exchanges.
For the ground battles, Whitcomb struggled to husband and conserve his resources. He used the SPARTAN-IIIs of Alpha Company as a surgical strike force to take out priority targets, trying to preserve their strength rather than wasting them on suicide missions. The Marines conducted fighting withdrawals, holding positions long enough to get the civilians evacuated then withdraw before the Covenant brought ships in to glass the area. Despite the Marines buying valuable time with their lives, large numbers of civilians failed to escape as the Covenant expanded their foothold. A never ending number of massacres seemed to occur daily it became impossible to track and report them.
Despite his tactics, and carefully using his forces, Whitcomb realized it was only a matter of time before more Covenant reinforcements arrived. When they arrived, they would overwhelm the remaining orbital and ground defenses. The priority was to evacuate civilians, but there was also the understanding he couldn’t afford to lose every fleet and ground unit. Whitcomb realized there would come a point when he would have to choose between saving his remaining forces and sacrificing the civilian population. It burned in his gut knowing he would have to abandon civilians, but if he stayed he would lose everything. What choice did he have?
That didn’t mean he wouldn’t fight tooth and nail to hang on as long as possible and evacuate as many people as possible. Whitcomb ordered, requisitioned and appropriated any Slipspace-capable vessel that could carry people. He enlisted any ship not capable of Slipspace travel to shuttle evacuees from the planet to rendezvous with Slipspace-capable ships at points around the system.
Once healed, the Vice-Admiral used Michael as a one-man fire bridge, dropping him into the hottest battle zones. He supported ground units to hold back the advancing Covenant, making the enemy pay a heavy price. Yet, he was only one Spartan and couldn’t be at every point along the perimeter, holding the enemy up at one point only for them to advance at another.
As the Covenant continued expanding their perimeter, it didn’t require a Vice-Admiral to see New Constantinople’s fate... it was just a matter of when. Like the Vice-Admiral that didn’t mean that Michael gave up. Spartans didn’t know the meaning of giving up, and Michael was nothing but stubborn and obstinate in his determination to buy as much time as possible. He would make the Covenant bleed for every inch of ground.
While soldiers and support personnel moved about frantically to evacuate the firebase, Michael waited for a Pelican to pick him up for his latest mission. FLEETCOM had him going on an infiltration mission behind enemy lines. He was to gather intel on Covenant supply depots along with any other info related to their troop and ship deployments. There were high expectations placed on him for this two-week mission of skulking around in the enemy’s rear areas. The mission priority was gathering information, but if any targets of opportunity appeared, he could “indulge” himself... anything to hurt the Covenant.
His thoughts drifted as people and vehicles rushed around him. From the latest reports, the Covenant were closing on the firebase and everyone wanted to be out of here before they arrived. The roar of an incoming Pelican cut his thoughts short. The identification number on the dropship told him this was his ride.
Time to go to work, he thought, checking and gathering his equipment together as the Pelican landed. Michael wasted no time, boarding and settling into the dropship. The Pelican executed a quick turnaround, taking off and heading towards Covenant-controlled air space, leaving the chaos of the evacuating firebase behind.
10 days later — 2218 Local Time
Only the sound of the wind blew as a testament to the Covenant’s thoroughness as Michael moved through the remains of the town. He stayed in the shadows, moving through the bombed and burned out buildings for cover. The stench of death hung everywhere, but he’d become immune to the countless scenes of death and massacres of those who hadn’t escaped the Covenant advance. Now, this town was just another navigation point on his patrol sweep to gather intelligence on Covenant supply depots and troop movements.
Intelligence intercepts of Covenant communications indicated there was a major supply depot in his area supporting ground operations for several sectors. He’d been scouting for this depot and so far located a number of supply depots. Unfortunately, these depots were too small and appeared to just be staging depots for supplies coming in from a larger depot. Michael still marked their locations and forwarded the information via encrypted burst transmission to FLEETCOM. From the placement of these smaller depots, he surmised a proximate location of where this large supply depot might be. Today’s sweep was to determine if his hunch was correct or not.
Michael used the destroyed town as a navigation point to orient his position to his base of operations when he made his sweeps. On his way out, he passed through the town, but skirted the edge of the town on his way back to his outpost.
The smell of death lingered everywhere as Special Operations Officer Jaqo ’Putumee observed the remains of the human settlement ahead of him. No signs of life emanated from the ruins, “It appears we cleansed this area, effectively,” he muttered, viewing the ruins.
“Sir? Did you say something?” his second-in-command, Oro ’Gradaree, asked.
’Putumee turned to his second, “No… It was nothing. Gather everyone... it is time,” he ordered.
’Putumee waited as ’Gradaree gathered the rest of their special operations unit around him. The eleven Sangheili special operations soldiers he commanded stood proudly as they gathered around their commander. ’Putumee met each of their eyes, they acknowledged their respect with a small nod.
’Putumee began his briefing, “Warriors… We are here to hunt a most dangerous prey. There have been sightings of a human demon… one of those so-called Spartans is operating in this area.”
This information startled the gathered soldiers, and they murmured amongst themselves. A sense of agitation flowed over the Sangheili at the news they would hunt a demon.
’Putumee saw their agitation and spoke to put them at ease, “Yes, I know about the stories that have been told of these… Spartans. Whatever you may have heard they are still only humans. We have our orders to hunt down and exterminate this threat to our operations.”
He let his words sink in, noting his soldiers settling down he continued, “We have received reports from Kig-Yar sentries in the sector. They have reported movement in this area with glimpses of ‘something’ that seems to match the descriptions of these so-called Spartans.”
’Putumee noted several of his soldiers shaking their heads, “Yes, I know what you are thinking. We are being sent out on a hunt for imagined Kig-Yar ghosts,” he said somewhat sarcastically, eliciting a few laughs.
He let the laughs subside before continuing, “It is important that we protect our operations in this area, so we will do our duty. Even if this turns out to be nothing we must take care... these Spartans can be like Helioskrills. ’Gradaree, I want you to take seven soldiers and approach this ruined settlement from the west. I want your group to be visible, but not too obvious, so the enemy can easily detect your presence as you sweep through the settlement. I will take the rest of the unit and approach from the south-east. The plan is for you to force the demon towards my group. Do you understand?”
The Sangheili warriors nodded their understanding at what their commander planned. ’Putumee grunted with satisfaction. His warriors were veterans he could rely upon to do their duty.
From the position he was using as a rest point, he scanned the surrounding terrain. After ten days in this wasteland, the ruins and desolation began to look all the same as he yawned and blinked his eyes, trying to push the tiredness away.
He yawned again, but stifled it as he snapped to attention, picking up what sounded like slow movement through the rubble at a distance. He observed the ruins, looking for threats. At first he saw nothing, but there was something out there... and it was getting closer. With the last remnants of daylight fading, he switched his helmet over to night amplification mode to give him greater visual range.
Michael picked up Elites moving through the rubble. He studied their movements and their uniforms... those were Special Operations soldiers out there. They were moving, strung out in a line, two hundred and fifty meters out, and the direction they were moving in would eventually take them by his position.
Hmmm… maybe it’s time to leave, he thought studying the enemy’s movements. He hadn’t planned on or wanted an open confrontation with the Covenant right now as he planned his exit strategy.
He started to retreat, but stopped and looked again towards the advancing Elites. Something about their formation and movements bothered him. The whole situation didn’t seem right, and it nagged at him.
Those are Special Ops Elites… they stay quiet. They might as well be a bunch of Grunts for all the noise they’re making…
Michael wasn’t going to complain if the Elites wanted to stumble around and ghost their position, giving him a chance to slip away. Yet, his feelings and instincts were telling him something wasn’t right. He wasn’t going to ignore them... they’d kept him alive so far.
“It’s time to get out of the lion’s den…” Michael muttered. An old movie flashed in his head, Lions and tigers and bears, oh my…
It suddenly dawned on him what was happening and why the Elites were behaving this way. He scanned the areas around him as the group of Elites continued moving closer. The detection of a faint movement coming from another direction rewarded his patience. It took Michael a moment to lock on as this new threat moved only sporadically to mask their presence. He finally glimpsed a smaller group of Elites moving stealthily through the ruins and understood what was happening.
He realized the larger group was purposely making noise to force him out of his position... and straight into this smaller group. Though they appeared to not know his exact position, they must have gotten a sniff of him to come looking here. He could retreat, avoiding contact, but that wouldn’t stop the Covenant from looking for him. That was a Special Ops unit out there hunting him, and that changed the dynamics of the situation.
If he engaged the Elites now, he had some minor advantages. He knew what they were attempting, and they’d divided their forces into two groups... splitting them. The question then became which group to engage first?
Michael tried putting himself in the boots of the Elite commander, and how he would approach this situation. The kill team was the smaller group... the larger group was the distraction to force him into the kill zone. The smaller group would be the more dangerous of the two. If he engaged, it would be better to attack the larger group first. They wouldn’t be expecting someone to come at them as their focus would be on trying to drive their prey towards the other group. If he used his speed, turning the corner of their line, and didn’t get pinned down then he might get the odds on his side. If things turned bad, there was still the option of breaking contact and retreating.
He understood that once he initiated contact with the larger group, the smaller group would rush to close and engage him. Michael would have to move fast to neutralize as much of the larger group as possible before the other group could catch him in a crossfire. For this he would need to get the biggest bang as possible to cut down as many Elites as possible with his first shot. At the thought of explosions, an idea flashed in his head, bringing a small smile to his face...
So far there was no sign or evidence of the “demon” as ’Gradaree swept the ruins, checking for threats and movement. He glanced to each side, checking on the warriors in his group as they continued moving forward in a line. Despite his confidence in his Commander’s plan he still felt uneasy having to make noise and be “visible” during a hunt operation. The warrior part of ’Gradaree burned, looking forward to battling this human. Yet, the stories he’d heard about these Spartans... they caused a chill through him. He was a veteran of many battles, proving himself time and again, but this was different.
’Gradaree took another glance at his line of troops. He wasn’t worried about them. They were all dedicated warriors that would follow their orders and do their duty. What worried him was what was waiting out there for them in the ruins of this dead human settlement.
’Gradaree was focusing on these thoughts and worries he missed seeing a large object tossed to land just behind the soldiers on his right flank...
The night amplification mode on Michael’s helmet switched off as an explosion lit up the darkness. A sense of satisfaction filled him at seeing three Elites cut down by the grenades. He’d moved into a flanking position on the line of Elites, waiting for them to pass by. With some wire, he’d pulled from the ruins, Michael bundled three of his grenades together. He activated them as the Elites passed by, tossing the grenade bundle to just land behind a section of their advancing line.
The explosion hadn’t subsided when Michael opened fire with his battle rifle, taking out two more enemy before the survivors found cover and returned fire. Plasma rifle shots streaked through the darkness, forcing him to duck for cover.
“Time to move,” he muttered, orienting the hostiles on his motion sensors before moving to make another sweep around the surviving Elites.
The explosion followed by shooting caught ’Putumee by surprise. Cursing under his breath, he realized his plan to herd the Spartan into a trap was a failure. As more shots rang out among the ruins, he signaled his warriors to follow him. They moved to join up with the rest of their team.
Despite this setback, ’Putumee thought they could still be victorious. He tried to figure out what this human’s strategy was as his attack against the larger group was unexpected. He grudgingly admitted that these Spartans acted like Sangheili warriors when faced with battle. Though their tactics were not what he would choose, being strange and unorthodox, they could still be effective. Most of the Covenant dismissed the humans as feeble and ineffective, but even with their technology lagging, they still killed large numbers of Covenant soldiers.
He figured the Spartan would fall back, moving to another firing position rather than continuing to attack as a Sangheili would do. ’Putumee hated to leave his subordinate and others on their own, but honor and the duty of completing this mission overrode anything else. Rather than continue moving straight in, he signaled his group to change direction. Without hesitation they followed him as he led them to make a wide sweep to come back around on the left of ’Gradaree’s position.
Another warrior in ’Gradaree’s group screamed out as more tracer rounds came out of the darkness. That left him aware there was only him and one other soldier still fighting from their group. There was no panic as he knew his commander would rush to help them. ’Gradaree noted the other surviving warrior was firing back at where the human tracer rounds came from. A glimpse of a shadowy figure moving caught his attention, and he realized it was the “demon” changing positions.
A burning desire of anger overtook ’Gradaree as he drew his plasma sword. The urge to strike back was strong, but he maintained control and didn’t activate the sword. From the movements he’d glimpsed, it gave him a rough idea of where the human demon was moving to next. He moved to flank his enemy...
Have to keep moving… Still lots of Elites out here…
He’d gotten bogged down in exchanging fire with an Elite as his mind raced, evaluating the current tactical situation. Plasma fire forced him to duck, but his augmented reflexes gave him the advantage as he popped back up, firing a three-shot burst. Luck favored him as the shots caught the Elite in the face, dropping the alien to the ground. Michael didn’t have time to take any satisfaction in his kill as the distinctive sound of an energy sword being activated surprised him.
Michael spun to face the new threat and out of instinct ducked at the same time. The bright shimmering light of a plasma energy sword filled his visor as it missed him by inches. Reflexes kicked in as he swung his battle rifle to counter the Elite’s back swing with the rifle and sword striking each other. Both weapons flew out of their hands, into the darkness, leaving both combatants unarmed, but not defenseless. Michael’s close-combat training kicked in... he didn’t hesitate.
He attacked the Elite, grappling with the alien. Each of them traded blows, trying to get an advantage. Michael, couldn’t reach his knife or sidearm as he focused on keeping the alien from getting its plasma weapon free and going for his throat. They pushed and shoved each other, struggling for position and leverage, trying to use their hands to kill or at least disable the other.
’Putumee with his group completed their wide sweep around the left flank. The sight of ’Gradaree struggling in hand-to-hand combat with a “demon” stunned the group. ’Putumee raised his weapon to fire, but before he pulled the trigger, one of his soldiers tossed a plasma grenade to “stick” the human.
“NO!” ’Putumee shouted, watching as the glowing plasma grenade flew towards the human and ’Gradaree.
Focused on his death struggle with the Elite, Michael saw nothing until a part of him screamed out a warning. Out of the corner of his eye, he recognized the glimpse of the glowing object flying towards him and the Elite.
Time slowed to a crawl as he reacted. The Elite was unaware of the incoming plasma grenade as Michael loosed his grip on the alien. The Elite felt the grip loosen on him and moved to take advantage of the human’s mistake. Before the alien realized what was happening, Michael shifted his weight and body position to get better leverage on the Elite. Michael’s hands gripped the alien’s body and spun it, placing it between him and the incoming plasma grenade.
Everything was moving in slow motion as the plasma grenade landed, sticking to the Elite’s back. He saw the shock and surprise on the alien’s face as the creature realized what was happening. Michael tightened his grip on the Elite’s body in anticipation, hoping it would be enough. In those final moments, he looked into those alien eyes and recognized that the Elite knew he was about to die. The grenade went off…
As the plasma grenade exploded, Michael experienced a moment of clarity as he became hyperaware of everything going on around him. Time froze as the world lit up from a huge blinding flash of light. He didn’t hear the explosion, but he knew what was happening. Time resumed as the explosion expanded, taking out most of the Elite’s body as it absorbed the brunt of the explosive force. His senses shutdown from overload as the explosion overwhelmed and tossed him through the air as if he weighed nothing. Darkness enveloped him as he hit the ground hard.
A huge blue lake with a forest surrounding it seemed to spread out forever from the balcony he was standing on. He realized he wasn’t wearing any armor, but wasn’t worried or concerned as he raised his head to the sunny clear day. He closed his eyes, basking in the warmth as a gentle breeze, coming off the lake, provided a pleasant temperature as it mixed with the sun touching his exposed skin. Suddenly, he sensed he wasn’t alone and turned to find a woman with brunette hair watching him. A sense of déjà vu overcame him as he swore he knew her... her name dangling at the tip of his tongue, waiting for him to grasp and say it. Their eyes met and her face lit up in a smile that struck him with a strange unfamiliar feeling. Before he realized it, words escaped his mouth, “Can I stay here with you?” he asked, finding himself lost in her beauty. She moved closer, catching him off guard, causing more strange, yet pleasant sensations. He didn’t move as she placed her hand gently on his face, enjoying the warmth from her hand. The heat from her caress coursed through him, causing more emotions and sensations to surge inside him. She finally answered him, “Michael… You need to wake up… You need to move now,” he looked at her as confusion mixed with other emotions. He realized a part of him didn’t want to move... he wanted to stay. The woman sensed his confusion and spoke again, this time in a more urgent tone, “Wake up soldier and get moving!”
Michael forced his eyes to open, trying to remember where he was and what was happening. Distorted and confusing images flashed through his mind as he tried to sort himself out. He suddenly remembered the grenade and explosion. It felt like hours since the grenade exploded, but according to his helmet display less than a minute had elapsed.
Every muscle and joint burned and ached as he forced himself to get up and move. The sounds of approaching footsteps was the added incentive to push past the pain and get moving. Michael didn’t want to make himself a target, so he stayed low crawling and scrambling his way along the ground to avoid the remaining enemy soldiers. He skittered low across the ground, using his hands to guide and help keep his balance. His hand brushed across a familiar curved piece of metal, he didn’t hesitate as he gripped it as he continued moving.
Those final seconds as the human spun ’Gradaree to use as a shield from the plasma grenade would haunt ’Putumee. The explosion blinded the surviving Sangheili, and as soon as they’d recovered they checked to see if the human demon was still alive.
As his warriors scoured the area for remains of the human, ’Putumee muttered curses. This hunt had cost most of his unit, yet if this Spartan was dead then the cost would have been worth it. As time passed and with no remains of the demon found, more curses erupted from ’Putumee.
“Spread out and keep your eyes open!” ’Putumee hissed at his remaining troops. The Sangheili soldiers formed a small arc, warily moving forward as a group looking for any signs of the human.
Michael scrambled into some ruins to catch his breath. He could hear the Elites searching for him as his motion sensors displayed four red hostile targets. He checked for any damage or injuries. Other than his head throbbing and blurry vision, he couldn’t find anything serious. Using the Elite as a blast shield along with his battle armor and augmentations allowed him to survive a close encounter with the plasma grenade.
Good to know, but I wouldn’t recommend trying that again, he thought trying to focus his vision. He moved as the Elites came closer to his position.
There were only four enemy targets left and the idea of breaking contact and retreating whispered to him. He brushed off those thoughts as he focused on removing the last of his enemies. His remaining weapons comprised one grenade, his combat knife and the plasma energy sword he had stumbled across. The limited arsenal, along with constant throbbing in his head, didn’t deter him as he moved to his right to get on the flank of the Elites. He pulled out and armed his last grenade...
’Putumee’s senses were on high alert as he and his warriors continued moving through the rubble. An explosion on his right caused him to whip his head in that direction. The sight of the bodies of two of his troops on the ground drew his attention. He shouted a warning to his remaining warrior, but the warning died in his throat as a Sangheili’s voice cried out. His head turned towards the death cry, greeting him was the sight of the human demon removing the blade of a plasma sword from the chest of his last soldier.
“Demon!” ’Putumee hissed, turning to face the human. He didn’t hesitate drawing and activating his own plasma sword. He couldn’t see the demon’s face behind the golden colored helmet visor, but he could feel the human studying him. There was no thoughts of fear as ’Putumee stared at the glow of the plasma sword reflecting off the helmet visor. A calmness filled ’Putumee, as he studied his opponent, a part of him revelled for this fight.
This is the way it should be… This is the way it should end… There is a certain rightness to this...
As Michael faced off against this last Elite, he fought through blurry vision and the now present taste of blood in his mouth. He recognized the unit leader’s markings on this last Elite’s armor, but even in his current state there was no thought of retreat. There was no other option now as he and the alien circled each other, holding plasma swords in front of them.
Michael fought to keep his focus on the Elite. Not now… this is not my time, he thought as his eyes locked on his opponent’s chest, trying not to let any arm and shoulder movements distract him. Unlike the Elites, Michael didn’t have as much experience with plasma swords, but he used his training, instincts and augmentations to balance out his lack of experience. He didn’t have to wait long for the Elite to lunge at him.
He side-stepped, deflecting the Elite’s sword slash with his sword. Plasma flashed, crackled and pulsed as both energy swords struck each other. Quickly, each opponent adjusted their positions, sizing each other up, looking for an opening to exploit and attack.
Michael kept circling, studying the Elite. His lack of experience sword fighting almost cost him as he almost missed the alien’s subtle movement changes. It was only his augmented reflexes that saved him as the Elite took another swing at him, forcing him to arch backwards and side-step the attempted blow. The sounds of crackling plasma filled Michael’s ears as the plasma sword cut into the air inches from him. He quickly regained his balance and counter-attacked. The Elite expected the counterstrike, easily meeting and blocking Michael’s attempted swing.
Michael realized the Elite’s experience with plasma swords gave the alien a distinct advantage. The longer this duel continued on the more the scales would tip in the Elite’s favor. If they continued fighting to the Elite’s style he would be at a disadvantage.
Enough of this… Time to change the rules…
He faked to his left then moved right swinging his sword. It was an obvious move, but that was the point as the Elite easily countered and blocked it. What the Elite wasn’t expecting was the follow-up punch from Michael’s left hand, catching the alien in the face sending the creature staggering back.
The Elite recovered, roaring in a rage. Michael smirked, seeing he was getting under the alien’s skin causing the creature to become distracted. The Elite responded by rushing at Michael, swinging its sword, but only cutting into empty air as Michael moved backwards dodging the attempted death blows. Michael countered, parrying the blows and then spun, striking the Elite in the head with his left elbow. Again, the blow sent the alien staggering.
Once again the Elite recovered, turning to face Michael, bellowing another angry roar. He could read in the alien’s face he’d really pissed off the Elite now. The Elite charged Michael, any attempt at subtle or fancy attacks forgotten as the alien resorted to brute force, trying to overwhelm him. The alien swung its plasma sword wildly as anger took control, Michael avoided and blocked the swings.
An uneasy pause fell on the duel as the Elite caught his breath, and to study its foe. Michael realized he couldn’t let the Elite recover if he was going to survive. He stepped forward to challenge the Elite. This provoked the alien as it let out a fierce roar and charged Michael.
Michael took his opening, the move he was attempting was risky even if the Elite wasn’t distracted and unfocused by its anger. He side-stepped the charging Elite and spun as the alien went past. The move placed him facing the Elite’s back. He didn’t hesitate, using his speed to wrap his left arm across the alien’s neck while shoving the plasma sword into the Elite’s back. The alien screamed and roared in pain as the plasma blade impaled him. The Elite used its waning strength, thrashing to break free of the human’s grip and the sword. Michael kept his death grip on the alien, pushing the crackling plasma blade even deeper. He felt the Elite’s strength fading as the alien died, yet he didn’t loosen his grip.
The Elite finally slumped forward as the last of its life left him. Michael waited a moment before letting go. Only the sound of the wind and energy sword crackling reverberated through the ruins as the body slide off the sword blade, falling to the ground. Michael’s heart was pounding as he stared at the dead alien on the ground. The constant throbbing in his head switched to a pounding, causing him to drop to his knees as his strength gave out.
Michael fought to focus through the pain as he realized he couldn’t stay here... he had to get moving. If there was a Special Ops team out hunting him, then there was a high probability there were more Covenant in the area looking for him. He took a moment, taking deep breaths as he focused on standing up. Finally able to stand, he staggered away to head back to his outpost. Continuing his mission wasn’t even considered as his vision blurred and the taste of blood in his mouth became more pronounced. He struggled to make his way through the ruins, keeping one eye on his motion sensors for any further threats.
His outpost, hidden in a group of hills some distance from the ruined town, took longer than usual to return to. As he staggered into his outpost, he collapsed to the floor, thankful for the respite from the pain in his head as he fell unconscious.
The first thing Michael checked as he regained consciousness was his helmet display chronometer... he’d been unconscious for over a day. The pounding in his head was down to a dull throbbing ache as he moved his body and limbs slowly, checking for any other injuries or damage. He took it slow, moving on his hands and knees over to a wall of his outpost where he sat down, leaning against the wall. He popped his helmet off, letting it fall to the ground beside him, taking deep breaths of the crisp air.
A myriad of thoughts and images swirled in his head as he tried to regain his focus and equilibrium. He replayed his encounter with the Elites. A sense of frustration grew inside him as he realized that the Covenant knew of his presence in the area.
This mission is blown! They’ll definitely know I’m out here once they find the remains of that Special Operations unit. They’ll send in more soldiers to track me down. Damn it! I wasn’t able to find the main supply depot. Maybe with the info I have they can locate that depot. We can still take out the smaller supply depots I found... that should slow down their operations.
Michael radioed FLEETCOM to inform them of his status and that he needed to scrub the rest of his mission and required extraction. He picked up on their disappointment, but they didn’t hesitate to send in a Pelican to pull him out. They weren’t willing to risk losing a Spartan, especially knowing the Covenant were sending their best out to find him. The plan was to use the intel he’d gathered to take out the identified supply depots with ODSTs and airstrikes. There was still a chance they might locate the main supply depot, but that wasn’t Michael’s problem now.
Ten hours later, the whine of a Pelican’s engines told Michael that his ride was here. The dropship hovered low to the ground as he gathered his equipment and scrubbed his outpost clean of his presence. For him, this mission was over. He would head back to a base where he would get a medical checkup. After that FLEETCOM would decide where to deploy him to deal with the next Covenant threat.