I've had some extra time now, so I proof-read the prologue and chapter one. Here they go (entire chapter 1 this time)
Pink mist – written by Daniel A. Bolstad.
- Last thoughts of private Pat Sajak, third grade. Defense of civilian planet Eridanus II, 2448, Eridanus system -
This is what I’d prepared for. This is where 10 years of training would pay off. It was cool and foggy. The sound of gunfire echoed, even before the battle. Was it my imagination? I felt that I could take on the entire freak armada by myself. Then again, what made me different from the marine next to me? Luck? Hell no. Fuck it! I don’t want to die, but if I had to, this sure as hell would be the way for me to go.
Dying as a hero defending Eridanus II. Yes, that would be the title. It’s a shame that I wouldn’t be able to witness my family being proud of me.
Heck, what choice did I have? Die fighting for Eridanus or die running from Eridanus.
The fog was thicker then ever, but blue lights were shimmering even through the fog. Had the covenant defeated our first barricade so quickly? Scorpions, pelicans and even a naval crusier. Could the gunfire be from the few minutes where a thousand men and women had fought and died?
I leveled my standard issue assault rifle. I let the years of training kick in. I checked that everything was in order and shouted to my superior sergeant, Thomas “Bricks” Jonathan Jackson. “Hey, uh… Bricks – any orders?”
“Yes, Pat! Shoot!”
I widened my eyes. Two-three thousand covenant troops lead by elites in golden armor closed in on our position, revealing themselves as ghosts through the fog. Radars had been knocked out by orbital bombing just a few hours ago and other supplies had been cut so we couldn’t see them coming. The elites were followed by hundreds of Jackals hurtling behind shields. Their vulture like faces snapped to attention and they started charging their plasma pistols. Overhead were Banshees. Jet fighters for the covenant.
“Shit!” – I ducked behind the concrete barricade just in time to avoid a shimmering green glowing blob melting whatever stood in it’s way. Thousands more passed overhead seconds later. “Command? Command, do you read?” They are more then we thought! Thousands more! There’s no chance to hold ‘em! We’ll have to pull back! Do you copy? I repeat, do you copy?”
Static, and static only. I rolled around to grab the Assault rifle, when all my worst fears came to life… A kilometer long covenant destroyer hovering inside the atmosphere. They were going to glass the planet. I’d seen it before, on harvest. These waves of soldiers were just here to clean up. A Banshee flew overhead and dropped a superheated plasma rod. The green glowing glob closed in 500 meters a second. A searing heat burned through my skin. Then black. Darkness.
Aboard shadow of liberty, class III stealth cruiser, hidden in the debris field around Eradinus VI, 2550.
Captain Liam Carver stared in disbelief out the view from his NAV window. How could it have happened that the covenant almost drove the human race extinct?
“La'Kisha – any life form readings?”
“No sir,” the holographic AI replied. “But the surface temperature is eighteen hundred degrees, you can’t la…”
“I don’t intend to, La’Kisha. Bring me closer to the surface. Take me to the skeleton of that burned up covenant cruiser”
He pointed to a monitor displaying the surface. The covenant had glassed the entire planet.
“Keep me at a distance where the radiation won’t be an issue. Send a droid into the skeleton and see what it can recover.”
“Aye aye, sir.”
“La’Kisha,” he said talking slightly lower – “it’s desperate times. “We have to try and recover anything that may be of use – Intel on a covenant planet – a covenant stronghold – anything.”
“I understand, sir – there is a risk that the radiation may act as an electromagnetic pulse. We may loose contact with the droids… and the only droids we have left are carrying Havoc nuclear bombs. If we have an accidental detonation the chance of our position being revealed is –“
“I’ll take that risk, La’Kisha. Disarm the droid as best you can and send it off.”
“This requires precision – flying inside a cruiser,” she said while glaring at the monitor displaying the used-to-be organic shaped cruiser turned into a peace of molten black metal. “It will need to be manually controlled into the ship. The database says that the only person aboard who qualifies for this is an engineer called Darren Christopher.”
“Thank you, La’Kisha.” Carver turned on the public com. “This is Carver. Darren “Daring” Christopher, service tag 0112583 report to the bridge ASAP.”
A marine sitting in the hangar bay, Neal, turned around just in time to see Darren walk through the hangar door. “Hey, Darren – what’s up?”
“I’m going on a high-risk op that may reveal our position to the covenant.”
“Yeah, I heard that part” he said with a southern accent. “Y’know – they should get one of them, um, Spartans to do it. I heard they are immortal with the reflexes of a panther.”
“No way man, why aren’t they here now to save our sorry asses. They are only a myth to boost moral. – Where were they when millions of civilians…”
Darren and Neal looked out the bay viewport towards Eradinus VI. The surface was burned, and had an eerie red glow to it. They went silent for almost a minute.
“Alight bud. Be strong and silent. Don’t screw this up.” The marine, Neal, said to break the scilence.
“I’ll screw up just for you.” Darren said – and a grin formed on his face.
“Take it easy.” Neal said and smiled.
Darren walked out, and used his keycard to pass through various doors and hallways – Finally he entered a high-security room containing numerous control panels, boards and monitors. They were accompanied by a giant window.
“Darren Christopher, 0112583 – Operation Tailwind”
“Ah, yeah!” a person sitting by the control boards said without even turning around. “You’re the guy driving a nuclear droid on a recon mission. Everything is set up for you.”
An announcement sounded over the speaker. “Droid launch in T minus 5 minutes – I want everyone on their stations, pronto!”
Darren took a seat, and rolled on his chair from one computer to another, turning various switches and knobs. He finally came to a stop in front of a shimmering green screen displaying a three-dimensional picture of what was in front of the droid, a sonar screen – like a submarine would have.
There was a moment of static before captain Carver’s voice sounded over the speakers again – this time only on Darren’s com. “Darren, precisely controlling a droid is a job for five men, and the help of a hundred more when attempting to keep it from exploding. Are you sure you can handle this?”
Darren picked up his com radio and replied “Yes sir.”
“T-minus 1 minute and counting.”
He looked towards the planet surface. He couldn’t believe that it used to be green and blue.
“T-minus 10 seconds and counting… 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1, droid is launched.”
The green sonar screen crackled slightly, as a result of the electromagnetic pulses being emitted.
“Havoc recon droid is on course 0-5-2. Contact is weakening” The other person in the control room said.
Suddenly everything in the ship blacked out and a light ten times brighter then the sun blinded them.
“Did we just have a detonation?” The person said.
“…What the? – No, uh…”
“Ok, Tony –“ Darren continued. – “It looks like a slipspace rupture. The pulse has rendered all the equipment aboard useless. The nuke didn’t detonate though.”
Tony was about to say something when he was interrupted. A covenant assault carrier exited slipspace and came to a halt. Darren and Tony stood and glared out the polarized window, both speechless. The lights started blinking on, and every peace of equipment started working again.
“Cave, this is Darran! Re-arm the nuke! It is INSIDE the vessel”
Spartan-089, Mike pulled an energy bar out of his Mark IV MOJNIR powered infiltration armor. Apposed to the military-brand olive green assault armor Mike and the rest of his Special Warfare – Gray team - wore gray armor. He scouted the woods around him for any tangos and pulled off his helmet with a hiss. Despite his training to conserve supplies he gulped the entire power bar in one bite.
He was not sure if he’d ever see his friends, his family… humanity ever again. As such, being stranded could also be a good thing. Knowing how the UNSC was doing he wasn’t sure if he wanted to be alive to witness the end. All in all we would fight, but inevitably die in the end.
Bad thoughts aside, he was still set on finding a way out of there so he could fight along side the brave men and woman of war.
“Always aim for the top” Mike mumbled for himself. That’s what his NCO Chief Mendez used to say. He had located a hilltop where he could scout for his team. They were probably dead. An impact from orbit would do that to you. But then again, Mike was alive. He opened his com to all frequencies.
“This is Mike, service tag-089. If anyone can hear this, respond! Over.”
Nothing but chatter. Mike put his helmet back on, halted to the top and looked around. Maximum zoom. No life signs detected. He sat down again to treat his leg injuries. Gray team had to jump out of their pelican in low orbit to avoid hail and capture by the covenant. They had landed on the outer colony planet “Victoria” – the planet that used to be a rebel outpost now was an enemy stronghold. The covenant had glassed mere half of the planet, and set up base of operations on the other.
Gray team was instructed by a secret high-security branch of the ONI (Office of naval intelligence) to infiltrate the covenant’s weapons production factories and blow up their plasma batteries. So much for that mission. The covenant had detected them before they reached and secured the LZ – so here Mike is now.
He picked up a can of OptiGel and filled his wounds with it. OptiGel is a military brand biofoam made to prevent extensive bleeding. A large peace of wood had lodged itself into his foot, rendering it useless. Spartans were of course trained to sustain much harder circumstances.
It was quiet. There were no birds in the trees. The sound on something stepping on mud was barely heard. Mike immediately reacted, pulled out his M16 pistol from it’s holster, leaped around and stood eye to eye – or rather gun to gun with Adriana – a member of his team. They both lowered their guns and mike pushed his helmet off again.
“Adriana service tag-111 reporting for duty, SIR.” She said with a grin.
“No need for rehearsal, Adriana. Just don’t sneak up on me like that”
“Make that scared, sir – and no. But if you perform a stunt like that again you might just get yourself killed”
“I’ve missed you too, sir. Why didn’t you reply in com?”
“My communications systems must be damaged. I’ve only got chatter. Have you located Jai?”
“He didn’t make it, sir. He impacted too hard.”
Mike looked at the ground for a few seconds. They were friends since childhood. Spartans were trained to withstand emotions, but this was too harsh.
“There was nothing you could have done, sir.”
Mike looked up again, and attempted to compress he’s feelings.
“Is…” He started saying, before interrupting himself with a short sniff and continuing “Are you ok, soldier?”
“I can walk. I just got cuts and bruises. Looks like you weren’t as lucky, huh sir? – Need any help?”
“I’m fine. I’m glad you’re alive, Addey.”
He looked up at her. She was taller then him. Blonde hair, slightly taller then six feet and a Slavic accent. Her hair was cut to standard military proportions, but had grown since she joined gray team. It was now on shoulder height.
“Ok, get contact with the UNSC via our satellites and get them to rendezvous with us at 5-1-3-7, Victoria”
“The satellite network around this planet is down, sir. Everything is under Covenant control. We’re going to have to complete our mission. If I may I have a tactic that might work…”
0100 mission clock.
“Ok, we can’t communicate through com, so remember – if anything goes wrong rendezvous at 5-1-3-9” Mike whispered.
Addey moved around the flank where there was a clear view of the gigantic weapons factory the covenant had put up there. A gigantic plasma battery glowed inside, and it shimmered through the transparent walls.
Mike lifted two fingers and pointed one at the building. They slowly moved using the darkness too their advantage. For any covenant that might spot them they would be two silhouettes – probably shrubs, in front of the woods. Nothing special to alert anyone’s attention.
Addey was first to reach the large building. She used the wall as cover and snuck up to the part of the wall that was transparent. She lifted three fingers then pointed them inside. Mike and Addey were about 300 feet apart, yet Mike’s perfect vision saw it and gave the affirmative sign, and Addey’s enhanced night vision mode – the V.I.S.R. gave her the ability to see even the smallest details from long distances away.
Mike snuck up to what looked like an entrance – a mechanical looking object with a circle in the middle. Presumably a lock. Addey quickly looked inside the window again and painted the three targets inside. One of the only parts still functioning on Mike’s helmet. He could see pointers over the targets through the wall. He took a deep breath, picked up his silenced M16 pistol. He walked a bit closer to the entrance and the circle quickly spun around. The door slid open. It took less then a second. The three Jackals standing there turned around just in time to get hit by three perfectly placed peaces of lead. Three shots, three kills. Mike gave the all clear signal.
Addey met up with Mike and they went inside the facility. Both holding close to the walls – purple organic-looking decorations highlighted images of large thin characters with fragile heads. They sat in thrones. Were these the covenant leaders? There was no time for speculation. They had an all-clear.
There were almost no guards around. The covenant weren’t expecting visitors. Especially since they had high-finesse sensors monitoring all airspace around the planet. They didn’t know the debris from one of the humans blown up troop transport vessels actually were Spartans… and that they had survived.
Two more tangos were located and quickly eliminated. The gigantic glowing battery was now directly in front of them. It violently vibrated every 10 minutes whilst emitting a purple light that fit into the environment around it.
“That went better then expected. Even if they didn’t expect us they should have had more guards… sir”
“Let’s not speculate on that, but rather on how we blow up this damned thing.”
“I think I’ve got an idea, sir. Have you noticed how once in a while this thing shakes like hell?”
“Can I borrow your footplating and a handgrenade? I’m thinking we can pull the pin of the grenade now, stuff it in your shoe, climb up to the top of that service ladder, place it on the edge of the battery – and next time that thing vibrates the shoe falls down, the grenade comes loose as well as the lever and the whole place goes to hell… hopefully. It’s a long shot, sir – but it’s worth a try.”
“I don’t like taking any unnecessary risk. If it goes ten minutes without one helluva explosion, I’ll go in there and shoot it myself. Wait until the next time it vibrates, then place your booby-trap there. Then we’ve got a few minutes to find our way out of here.”
The ground shook, almost so violently that the trained Spartan II’s fell to the ground. The shaking faded out.
“Ok, now’s your chance. Set it up, I’ll keep your back covered.”
“I’m done, let’s go” Addey said as she slid down the service ladder. Mike and Addey jogged out of the room. Just when circling the corner out of the power room a plasmabolt hit Addey’s body. She screamed in pain. Mike grabbed her hand and jerked her behind cover, taking a hit on his hand. He could be considered lucky ending up with only a burned hand, seeing as five jackals and an Elite were standing aiming and ready. He pulled off her helmet and felt her pulse.
The elite started advancing, but it took cover when Mike stood up with his pistol and systematically shot each jackal. He was known for not following protocol, but this was unlike anything. His emotions had taken the upper hand and regardless for his own life he walked around the cover where the elite was and emptied a clip into it’s skull while shouting “You bastards! You killed Addey!”
How Covenant had found Mike he was still uncertain of. Maybe a patrol had found the bodies and alerted the others or the sensors had picked them up upon landing – either way it was a surprisingly small ambush party. Without thinking too much as emotions started clouding his thoughts he ran outside holding his pistol firmly in front of him. He spotted only one covenant – an elite standing in front of a phantom. They weren’t expecting them – they just overheard them and stood on the ready. Before the elite could react and entire clip was emptied on it. It injured the elite and drained it’s shields. Before it could pull up it’s plasma rifle Mike ran towards it. They slammed into each other, and the elite was pushed slightly back. The elite rammed it’s fist on Mike’s face, and the teeth he had remaining shattered. If he was still wearing his helmet it might have absorbed some of the damage. Through Mike’s now-clouded vision he could now see a peace of armor had fallen off from the elite. He grabbed the exposed flesh and bore his empty pistol through first. Purple gore started pouring out of the hole. The elite growled in pain, and strained to keep in balance. It quickly came to it’s senses, grabbed Mikes arm and spun him like he was an overhand sling. The grip loosened and Mike found himself eleven feet in the air, hitting the hull of the phantom. He landed with a harsh ‘thud’ laying motionless. The elite walked over to his lifeless body whilst holding his wound. In the blink of the eye Mike jumped up and grabbed the plasma rifle from the elite’s holster. He kept shooting the elite until there was a hole in it so large he could fit his fist through it. He threw the rifle on the corpse, loaded his pistol and grabbed onto the phantom’s troop transport exits.
With the only collective strength left in his body he lifted his half-ton self into the phantom. There was no-one left aboard. He collapsed on the hull and looked up on the ceiling. He checked his mission clock. Ten minutes… He got up and went to the cockpit. There was a Covenant assault carrier overhead. This was odd, since the planet was already under covenant control. Mike glared up upon in and mumbled for himself.
“So this is my escape plan, huh? So much for a routine operation…”
The swiped some blood away from his mouth using his hand and started dancing it around the control panel. He had basic knowledge on how to fly these things. He took off and started accelerating upwards.
The hull in the phantom shook, and the equipment crackled. Milliseconds later a large ‘boom’ was head. Mission success. For Mike it was a mission failure. Loosing two Spartans – two friends for life – for what, holding the last line of defense one or two more days. Those Spartans could have made a larger difference.
That gigantic explosion couldn’t be missed – the covenant knew Mike was coming. And Mike knew that.
The Covenant vehicle wasn’t firing back. They were in fact powering down. Electric currents traveled between polarities on the half-kilometer large vessel. It was getting ready for a slipspace jump.
“Oh no you don’t. I’m getting the hell off of here, and you know it!” Mike said. Victoria is a distant planet in the outer colonies. It would take hundreds of years for him to reach a human-colonized planet without a slipspace jump. Phantoms and smaller vehicles aren’t equipped with Shaw-Fujika translight engines.
A glowing bubble extended on the front of the ship, engulfing if. It closed rapidly. Mike looked at the phantoms sensors – 3 kilometers… 2 kilometers… 1 kilometer… - even at 800 meters per second he might not make it. The bubble was slightly bigger then the pelican, but dead ahead still. The ship entered just as it closed – most of it did.
“Quickly, do what the man says!” Liam shouted. “We may not have much time.”
Announcements played over the speakers and people snapped out of their frozen speechless positions and started running around like rabbits.
“Full operational status. Video feed shows that the covenant ship exited slipspace right where the nuke was. It’s in their cargo bay with no apparent damage. This is a one-in a billion. We are damned lucky!”
“I wouldn’t consider us lucky under these circumstances, ma’am.”
A man stood up from his chair on the bridge in the ship.
“Detonating warhead when ready.”
“Detonate at mark, lieutenant.”
“Roger.” – he sat back down in his chair and let his fingers dance over the keyboard. “Sir, we have multiple contacts. One… five… I count twenty banshee fighters and a phantom dropship sir!”
“They will be vaporized in the explosion. Get me a sitrep on the Shaw-Fujika drives – we’ll need them to get out of here when the time comes.”
“All operations are functioning, sir. They are at 30%”
“Charge to 60%, detonate, then jump to a safe, random location.”
“The blast might kill us before we can escape…”
“What difference will that make? This was supposed to be a covert operation. Finding Covenant technology without being detected. Our position is revealed, so we can’t do more then blowing up this carrier. If we jump before we blow it up, our remote detonation signal won’t reach the drone. This is out best hope of victory and survival at the moment…”
A human vessel? Mike didn’t know where he was. Hitchhiking with the Covenant was a new experience for him. About twenty covenant fighters – “Banshees” were dispatched through the hangar bay. They ignored Mike’s captured phantom and headed for “The shadow of liberty” as the ship apparently was called.
Mike was wondering why the shadow of liberty didn’t fire back. He got a feeling of déjà vu as the ship powered down and electric currents bounced about the hull.
“Oh god, not again – this has got to be a record!”
The banshees retreated back to the carrier to avoid the repercussions of a slipspace rupture.
Both the shadow of liberty and the captured pelican entered the slipspace bubble. – Right before entering there had been a bright flash. Mike, unsure of what it assumed the covenant cruiser had fired their weapons.
Slipspace looked different this time around. Instead of everything being black, accompanied by the slight blur of a large glowing star it looked more like a nebula. A yellow/orange dusk, that turned and twisted with the slipspace route. Something without knowing particularly what had hitchhiked. Mere seconds after entering slipspace they exited.
They had exited in front of a planet. It was nice, with lots of vegetation and water. It looked quite like earth. He didn’t immediately recognize it. The shadow of liberty had sustained large amounts of damage. The ship was bent and twisted. Parts of it was chipping off and exploding. Mike thought the covenant had hit them. Poor bastards. They were surprisingly close to the atmosphere for it being a controlled jump. It didn’t take long before both ships started getting affected by gravity. The vegetation grew closer as they decended, and a city’s skyline was sighted far away. Tall buildings hundreds of kilometers away were visible. He couldn’t remember any human colonized planets looking like this one. Mike saw the shadow of liberty attempt to steer closer to the city hoping for a swift rescue. He followed. The ship crashed violently triggering many secondary explosions about 100 klicks north of the city. Debris went everywhere and the twisted hull gave into the forces of gravity. Three out of the five sublevels of the ship exploded and caved in. The bridge went up in flames, and many parts of the surviving sublevels chipped off the ship and flew in every direction. Chances of survival were… slim to say the least.
The nuke went off about a second before entering slipspace. The shockwave had almost reached the shadow of liberty.
This slipspace showed no normal energy readings. The slipspace tunnel was hundreds of times more powerful. The energy must have transferred from the nuclear weapon to the slipspace bubble, amplifying it.
This vessel was not created to withstand this amount of stress. The ship creaked. Darren knew his best chance for survival would be in the cargo bay. He shouted to Tony “We have to get to the cargo bay! The ships hull may be breached here!”
Tony snapped out of his position - stiff with his eyes closed and fingers crossed - as Darren grabbed his arm and nudged him out of position. Before exiting the room he informed the captain.
Sparks flew overhead and the sounds of glass breaking filled the moments when there wasn’t crew running forward and back in panic whilst the ship alert sounded. All the halls were flooded with red light. Explosions could be heard. Then the cracking went silent – they had exited slipspace. The transferred energy from the nuclear warhead had drained.
“Darren to the bridge, is there anyone alive up there”
There was radio silence for five entire seconds before someone replied “The bridge is intact, I repeat, the bridge is in-tact. – we exited right in front of a planet – we’re going to try and land there with as few casualties as possible. We are in unmarked territory. It looks like our covenant hitchhiker survived without any external damage”
Darren stopped a crewmember running by, asking for his PDA. He checked the ships sensor readings. A covenant phantom was intact and en-route to our presumed crash site. It was built to sustain this kind of stress.
“Brace for impact in 5…”
End of chapter.