“Then what the fuck are we waiting for?” Ochinko piped up. “Let’s blow this place to hell.”
Collins liked the sound of that. He checked his HUD display his team was in position and all tangos were still inside the building. With everybody in position, and the time ticking it was high time the meat of the mission started. But first they had to enter the place without raising the alarm. The advantage of surprise would work in their favor. Breaking down the door would alert whoever is in there and possibly screw the whole mission up. Per UNSC protocol entering the security pass code would alert anybody on the inside off there presence. Luckily, the tech junkie of their team, Corporal Will Lawson had a resolution to their dilemma.
“Okay, Law, walk us through this, one step at a time.”
Lawson voice came over the radio. “Do all teams have their decoder?”
“Affirmative…” Ochinko said.
Collins glanced at Short who waved a small bowl like device in his hand. That oddly shaped device would some how get them to unlock all the doors without alerting anybody in the inside. “We got it.”
Short spoke up, studying the odd device. “Law, you call this thing a decoder? Looks more like something I eat my oatmeal out of.” He chuckled. And it did. Collins couldn’t deny that it looked like an ordinary bowl. He could imagine it full of deliciously hot oatmeal.
Lawson ignored Short’s joke. “Okay, the process is simple, each team has to simply cover the hand scanner with the device and switch the NetSync on. Then it can work its magic.”
Collin’s complied and covered the hand scanner with the device and switched the NetSync on with his thumb.
“So what does this thing do exactly?”
“It’s pretty ingenious, if I dare say so myself.” Lawson said proudly. “Every time someone presses their hand against the scanner they leave a hand print. A distinctive one.”
“What other kind is there?” Short said sarcastically. Collins stared at Short. Though he knew Short couldn’t see his face he could tell he got the message: Shut the fuck up.
Lawson continued. “The device scans for the most recent handprint and copies the information. Sensors on the scanner contain an analog to digital converter to digitalize the hand print to compare its memory database. If the handprint is in the database the person is allowed entrance, yet it will still send a notification to Security. The bowl then creates an electric current between sensor and device, then transmits a digital copy of the handprint electrically, fooling the sensors into accepting a digital hand print rather than an actual.”
Ned spoke up. “That’s all well and good, but how does it keep it from alerting our friends inside?”
“Simple. It only takes a split second for a scanner to send an alert via hardline after it has finished confirming an identity. My device severs that connection with a small EMP blast in half that time.” As if on cue Collins heard a soft click from the door. “Doors unlocked.”
Collins let out a sigh. The doors had unlocked, and the lack of Covies rushing to their position meant that the EMP blast had worked.
“You’re a nerd, you know that Lawson?” Alicia said teasingly.
“Hey, the nerd got you in the building.”
“Silence!” Collins whispered. He had heard faint sounds coming from the other side of the wall. Sounds he hadn’t expected to hear. “You all here that?”
“Gunfire?” Roberts said confused. Collins checked his radar, the red dots indicating the enemy, were disappearing one by one.
“One of our own must be already in there.” Ochinko announced.
Before Collins could ponder that possibility, the gunfire ended as abruptly as it had started. All the red dots were gone. This wasn’t good at all. But it didn’t change their mission; they still had to get in the building.
“Okay people, flashes, in 3…, 2…, 1. Flash out!” Collins threw his flash. He cut off all outside auditory reception and closed his eyes. He heard his team call “flash out!” in rapid succession followed by another succession of a loud bang and a blinding flash of light. Even with his precautions, Collin’s ears still rung. After the last flash banged, he grabbed his MA5D assault rifle. “Let’s move!” He motioned Short to the door. With one kick the door flew open. Collins and Short rushed into the fueling station, both of their weapons at the ready. Once inside the building, Collins slowed his gate and lowered his weapon. What he saw came as a complete shock.
Off in the distance, perched on a ledge, was a dark figure. Its mission was to watch the fueling station and report if anyone had entered or left the building. The Superiors were right, the Figure thought to itself, the humans did send a team of “demons” down here to foil their divine plan. How unfortunate.
It witnessed Collins and his team enter the fueling station. The figure shook its head; they didn’t know what they were getting into. These demons were in for a real surprise. The figure raised its superiors on the radio, and relayed what it just witnessed. It listened intently for further orders. After receiving those orders the Figure pulled a small device from its utility belt. It mashed the lone button the device had. Satisfied the figure dropped the device on the ground and walked away.
Time was running out for the little “demons” in the fueling station.
Collins slowed down and lowered his weapon. Brownback and Blue team rappelled down from the top entrance while Ochinko and Green team swept in from the rear.
“What the hell!?” Brownback swore as he looked around. Collin’s couldn’t blame him; what he saw made no sense to him.
Bodies lay strewn about the station in various states of mortis. Covie bodies. Blood was everywhere but none of it was human. That could either be a good thing, or a bad thing.
He advised his team to stay on high alert until they could figure out which one it was.
“Well, looks like these suckers got owned.” Short said, kicking an elites head with his boot.
“Massacred, more like.” Roberts said. She had kneeled down to inspect one of the fallen Elites. Zanolini was studying a dead Imperial Grunt. “But the question is; by whom? One of our own?”
“Or Prometheans.” Tanaka announced, keeping vigilance at the rear entrance. “Didn’t the Master Chief say that the Covies and the Prometheans were fighting at first on Requiem in his debriefing?”
“That was ten years ago, Roy.” Brownback countered. “The Covies and Prometheans have been allies since then.”
Tanaka shrugged. “Yeah but maybe something happened that divided the two factions again, I don’t know.”
Collins had to admit that was a pretty interesting theory. If it were the case and the Prometheans and Covies found a way to get on each others bad side that would come as a strategic advantage in this never ending war with them. A house divided can not hope to withstand adversity. That was something that his father had always tried to drill in him and his siblings’ head. Not that all of them took his teachings to heart.
Ochinko approached Collins. “Sir, we still have a mission to complete. I would like to get out of here before we get any more surprises.”
Collins, still looking at the dead bodies, slowly nodded his head. Ochinko was the team’s demolition specialist and she was eager to blow some stuff up. “You’re right, Lieutenant.” He snapped his head up. “Law and Agent Z, you go with Ochinko to the fueling room, and set them charges. Four minutes.” He said putting up four fingers. “Let’s wrap this shit up and get the hell out of here.”
“You got it, Commander.”
Ochinko, Lawson and Zanolini trotted off to set the charges. Collins crossed the room to Roberts who was inspecting another fallen Covie. He kneeled beside her. “Find anything?”
Roberts shook her head. He imagined her pinching her brows together and pursing her full lips in concentration. “This doesn’t make sense.” She pointed to the Jackal’s armor. “You see his armor? It suffered from plasma damage.” She nodded to two other dead Covies. “They did as well. Needlers and Carbines.” She stood up and pointed across the room. “Those three got blasted by a fuel rod cannon.”
Collins looked where she was pointing. Three grunts lay dead on the floor, limbs severely dislocated. One grunt’s leg only stayed connected to the rest of its body by its thick skin.
Yeah definitely a Fuel Rod Cannon.
“And I would expect the rest of these guys to have suffered the same damage.” Roberts added.
“She’s right.” Short announced, standing up. “These assholes got killed by their own fucking weapons.”
Odd. That would only mean…
“They killed each other?” Tanaka asked, incredulously.
“That’s what it looks like.” Roberts answered.
“I know the Covenant are a bunch of religious lunatics, but this?” Brownback said. “What would make them do this?”
Silence met his question. Nobody had an answer.
Short laughed. “Ah shit. Only if Nikki were here… She would love to know that the Covies went split and killed themselves.”
Agent Nicole, the ninth member of Collins team, was stuck back at the Quest for Peace undergoing a psych evaluation. She was in danger of being dishonorably discharged. Especially after what she did.
“Yeah, she probably would.” Collins said solemnly.
That was a long-ass hallway, Ochinko thought as she finally made it to the fuel supply room. The room was gigantic with equally as enormous glass tanks full of plasma fuel. This was it, the Quest for Peace’s reprieve. It was time to set these damn charges and get gone. She gave Lawson and Zanolini four charges each. Zanolini nodded and headed to the tank furthest from the entrance.
“They shouldn’t have been able to do that.” Lawson said.
“Convert our fuel tanks to their fuel tanks. UNSC fuel stations are specifically designed to shut down upon reception of plasma fuel to keep things like this from happening.”
“Well they did, it’s our job to blow this place up, not play Sherlock Holmes. Leave that to Science.” Ochinko said, preparing her charges. She positioned one charge on the center tank and set the timer for four minutes. Enough time for the team to get airborne in the Pelican before these babies went off. She was preparing the second charge when she heard a high pitch sound. She froze. She waited to see if it came again.
It did. This time a little bit louder and more distinct. What the hell? The sound came again. It sounded like it was coming from behind the tank. She circled the tank, the noise getting louder as she got closer to it. “Lieutenant? You hear that?” she heard Lawson say. He must hear it too. As she made it around the tank she stopped dead in her tracks. Oh hell no. Seated right beside the fuel tank was a covenant bomb. A chill ran up her spine.
She rushed over to the alien charge. What the hell was a Covie Bomb doing in one of their converted fuel stations? This mission was becoming more and more confusing by the second. She didn’t know whether to defuse it or let it do its job. Their job. The job her team was sent to accomplish. She flipped the lid on the bomb, on the screen alien numbers counted down. On her HUD the numbers translated into something she could understand.
It wasn’t good. The timer was counting down and it was already at a minute and a half. She glanced behind the other tanks as well. All five had bombs and they were all counting down. She couldn’t defuse them all. And now they were beeping distinctively faster.
“Oh fuck me.” She breathed. “Get the hell out of here!!”
“Go!! Go!! Go!!” Collin’s heard Ochinko yelling over his radio. She, Lawson, and Zanolini came rushing into the room. “We got to get the fuck out of here!!”
“Lieutenant, what the hell is going on?” Collins demanded an answer.
“Covie bomb is set to go off in a minute and fifteen!” came her answer.
“The fuck?” exclaimed Short.
“Bomb?” Brownback said shocked.
Collins was shocked too, but he didn’t have to be told twice. He trusted Ochinko with his life, like the rest of his team. So if she said there was a Covenant bomb about blow them all up, there was a Covenant bomb about to blow them all up no matter how much it didn’t make sense. “Let’s go, team! Go! Go!”
Collins and his team ran out the fueling station as fast as they could. There was little chance that they would get outside the blast radius before those bombs detonated. But they had to try. This new development raised too many questions that he didn’t even know how to begin to answer. Like why did the Covenant go homicidal on each other? And why did they set up a bomb detonating their own fueling station?
Collins had been in his fair share of missions that turned soured. But the trick was to adapt to changes and act accordingly. That was what they were trained as Spartans to do: adapt. But how does one adapt to the enemy doing your job for you? Did they have contingency plans for that?
“Twenty seconds!” Ochinko shouted over the radio.
Blood pounded in Collins ears as he ran. He took a glance behind him. They weren’t nearly as far away from the fueling station as he wanted to be. But he kept running.
“Everybody down!!” Collins yelled as he hit the deck hard. He closed his eyes and prepared for the worse.
No amount of preparation could have readied him for the thundering succession of explosions that rocked the world around him. He glanced behind him again and what was once a fueling station now was a grand display of green plasma fuel exploding outward. But that wasn’t all. The resulting shock wave swept him from the ground about six feet from the ground. The last thing he saw was a huge boulder… then nothing.
To be continued…