“There has to be something on one of those god-damned so-called Forerunner planets that we can use against the Covenant!”
— Unnamed ONI high-ranking official to ONI research scientists.
November 6, 2552 – 1322 Local Time
The voice repeated through the helmet com system, this time it came through much clearer.
“Sierra-113 respond? Requesting SITREP?”
The soldier with the designation “Sierra-113” took a moment to gather his thoughts before responding, “Sierra-113 here… Current situation is fluid. In contact with enemy forces and currently holding in place. Bravo-Team has taken heavy casualties, six Kilo-India-Alpha, four Whiskey-India-Alpha. Bravo-Team strength at eight effectives with myself in support…over.”
Sierra-113 waited as there seemed to be a long pause before the voice on the other end replied, “Understood, Sierra-113. Provide update on your status? Can you continue to provide rearguard support?”
Sierra-113 shook his head in frustration, “I’m at full effectiveness and can continue to provide rearguard support…” he paused as he visualized and planned what he needed to do to make sure that the survivors of this little force got out of here, “I’m requesting Bravo-Team withdrawal to designated pickup LZ Victor-Tango-Zero-Four. I will hold in place to prevent Covenant forces from following…”
The response was almost instantaneous, “Negative Sierra-113, Bravo-Team will remain in place to provide support for completion of the mission.”
There was no hesitation with his reply as he tried to keep his frustration and anger out of his tone, “Bravo-Team has taken too many casualties and is now a liability to rearguard support mission.”
The now becoming annoying voice responded, “Negative Sierra-113, this is a command authority override. Bravo-Team will remain in place.”
The soldier cut the channel in disgust. He scanned the battlefield using his augmented eyesight and helmet optics to again evaluate the tactical situation. From what he could see of his and the enemy’s positions only reaffirmed his earlier thoughts. If the surviving marines of Bravo-Team were going to have any chance to get of here alive, they had to go soon. He opened a communication channel over the tactical net, calling out, “Bravo-Team… this is Sierra-113. Do you copy?”
“I take it you heard?” Sierra-113 asked trying to keep the disgusted frustrated tone out of his voice.
“Yeah… Sucks to be us. What’s the call?” Bravo-One replied with a heavy sigh.
Sierra-113 took a moment as he once again looked at the dwindling number of tactical options along with the pros and cons they had. Shaking his head, he made his decision, “Disregard commands last orders… On my call, you’ll pack up your wounded and haul ass back to the LZ. I will hold in place to provide cover for your withdrawal and continue rearguard by myself.”
It felt like there was a long pause before Bravo-One responded. Sierra-113 could hear the reluctance in the marine’s voice as he spoke, “I dislike disobeying orders, but what I really hate even more is running and leaving you behind…”
Sierra-113 snorted as a small smirk formed on his face. He understood how Bravo-One was feeling, “No worries… I take full responsibility for the decision.”
Sierra-113 cut him off as they were running out of time, “No buts! This is my call and I take responsibility for it! I will open up to provide cover fire in five minutes. Get your people ready to fall back to the LZ.”
There was another pause before Bravo-One replied, “Roger that Sierra-113… Thanks... and good luck.”
As the com channel closed, the Spartan with the designation Sierra-113, used his suit sensors to look over the battlefield in front of him to see what the Covenant were up to.
The alien bodies, from three previous enemy attacks, lay strewn across the open area in front of his and Bravo-Team’s defensive positions. From analyzing the increasing strength of the attacks, he knew that they could probably holdout against at least another two attacks. He didn’t want to sacrifice anymore of Bravo-Team’s people for a mission that was attaining Charlie-Foxtrot status. A clear, loud and annoyed female voice spoke up interrupting his thoughts.
“Taking it upon yourself to decide matters...again, Michael.”
“You have a lousy sense of timing to start critiquing my decision making process… plus those orders sucked.”
“You have to learn to play nice with others,” teased the female voice, “Also, it’s my ass on the line here too you know.”
“You don’t have any ass to speak off, figuratively. You’re an AI and a very annoying one at that,” Michael replied with a small snort.
“But you would get very lonely out here without me to keep you company,” the female voice said with a teasing tone.
“Adriana, can you take a moment from your busy schedule and give me an analysis of our current situation?” Michael asked shaking his head slightly.
“Why most certainly,” came the reply.
Almost immediately data scrolled on the display screen built into Michael’s helmet visor.
*****Mission “BRIAR PATCH” Analysis*****
*Two UNSC marine fire teams and one SPARTAN-II to provide ground escort/support for ONI recon/research team to suspected Forerunner planet — PX-2235.
*Investigate planet to recover any and all alien technology for further study.
*Maintain low profile and avoid contact with Covenant forces.
*Safety of ONI team and any recovered data/materials is paramount.
More data scrolled across the helmet visor…
*From analysis of combat and SIGINT of Covenant battlenet…enemy forces estimated at least one full battle group.
*Using current known enemy battle order and force parameters, mission success estimated at less than 10%.
*Retrieval of ONI team and recovered artifacts considered mission priority.
*Sacrifice of support personnel considered to be within acceptable mission parameters.
*Strategic data modeling using current force estimates and known capabilities indicate that if SPARTAN-II remains to provide rearguard support, estimate of mission success rises to 25%.
Well there it is, Michael thought digesting the data.
From the initial mission briefing, he knew that this mission had a bad smell to it. On the other hand, when your species was fighting for its very existence, sometimes you had to suck it up and take one for the race. In the end that was what Spartans were made to do — take on those missions and tasks that were considered impossible.
He formulated his tactics and strategy as he put in another call over the tactical channel, “Bravo-One... anyone home?”
“You almost ready to move?”
“We’re all packed and ready to move on your call. Just give the word.”
“You go into two minutes. I’ll lay down cover fire to keep them distracted, you make for the LZ.”
“Roger that, Sierra-113.”
“Bravo-One… When you reach the LZ, I need you to dump your extra ammo. I’ll be doing a run and gun towards the LZ and will need a refill by the time I get there. Do you copy?”
“Copy that Sierra-113. We’ll leave the whole store.”
Michael did a final weapon and ammo check. Being a Spartan had ingrained this habit into him.
At the start of this mission he had not been happy about giving up his old trusty MA5 assault rifle, for a new weapon prototype, but the new M41A pulse rifle had made him a convert.
The scuttlebutt was that the M41A was developed from an idea that a weapons designer had gotten from watching an old 20th century vid about some marines fighting space aliens — who knew.
Initially he’d been unsure when they first handed him the weapon, but the new magazine capacity — 99 vs. 32 rounds — was a bonus, but the final selling feature was the 30mm over and under grenade launcher with 4 round capacity. That had proven an unpleasant surprise to the first Covenant forces they had encountered on this planet.
The new rifle had been a force multiplier, but when you were horribly outnumbered, it can only make up a small difference. Despite what they faced, a weapon like this in a Spartan’s hands, was like giving a painter a new brush to create a masterpiece on a fresh canvas. Michael wasn’t a painter, he was a Spartan and his medium and skill was creating chaos and death.
It was now time to create art...
Moving up into a new firing position, Michael used his scanners to pick and mark the closest targets. Once again appreciating the grenade launcher, he fired off a couple of High Explosive (HE) greeting cards on to Covenant positions. His battle suit’s audio sensors picked up alien screams and curses as the grenades went off.
“Bravo-One, move your team now!” Michael called out over the tactical channel.
The response was almost immediate as the channel crackled, “Bravo team... time to leave Marines!”
As the green-marked friendlies on his scanner started to move away, Michael put Bravo-Team at the back of his mind as his main focus was now on the Covenant and holding them off.
His experience and training told him that staying in one place would allow the enemy to eventually surround and overwhelm him. He had to move and shoot if he was going to stay alive and buy time for Bravo-Team along with the rest of the mission’s personnel to evacuate off the planet.
Any thoughts about getting himself off-planet were shelved for now as he saw the friendlies disappear out of his scanner’s range. Right now he had to focus on the Covenant and staying alive. He would worry about leaving later.
Following up the grenades, he fired several short bursts from his pulse rifle towards the Covenant positions to make sure that their attention was on him. He had to be mindful of the differences the M41A had with the old reliable MA5. Even with the pulse rifle’s larger magazine capacity, if you went full rock and roll — holding down the trigger on full auto — you could burn through a 99-round magazine in a few seconds.
“Adriana, can you use the recon maps to plot us a route to conduct a fighting retreat back to the LZ, but draw out the time and keep us in cover?”
“I’m already working on it. I’ll plot the way points on your helmet NAV display.”
“That’s a good girl, you’re always two steps ahead of me.”
Explosions went off close to Michael’s position and the area surrounding Bravo-Team’s now empty positions. Dirt and debris rained down on him as he ducked down, but he suffered no damage as his battle armor shrugged it off.
“Michael! We have Elites moving up on our left...250 meters and closing!” Adriana said with an urgent voice,
Damn! They must have spotted Bravo-Team pulling out and are trying to pursue.
“So much for best laid plans,” Michael muttered as he had to reassess the changing tactical situation. He didn’t hesitate as he quickly moved out of his firing position to cut-off the advancing Elites moving on Bravo-Team’s former positions.
Glancing at his scanner, he saw the advancing red-marked enemy troops. His augmentation, training and experience gave him a huge tactical advantage over his enemy as he plotted a position on the battlefield that would let him get into a flanking position on the advancing Elites.
His speed allowed him to dodge explosions and bursts of plasma fire directed towards him as the Covenant troops belatedly realized he was on the move. The energy shields built into his battle armor flared several times as several random plasma shots caught him. The shields brushed off the hits preventing any serious damage or slowing him down. They recharged by the time he reached his new firing position.
As he settled into the new position, it had felt like he had traveled kilometers, but it had only been several hundred meters. Taking stock of this new position, he saw he had a good view along with a good field of fire to cover the area.
He opened his “goodie bag”, strapped to his left waist to carry extra ammo and supplies beyond what the built-in storage compartments in his battle armor could carry. He pulled out two fragmentation grenades, activating one.
Using his armor’s sensors, he calculated the wind speed and direction with the results being displayed on his helmet visor. With that data, he picked the optimum spot to toss the grenade. His augmented strength made it easy to throw the grenade the necessary distance and with the needed accuracy. He had barely finished throwing the first grenade when he followed it by arming and throwing the second grenade.
Two large explosions followed with in seconds of each other taking out most of the advancing Elites in the front ranks, forcing the survivors to take cover.He had their attention...