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"I was almost on board when THEY showed up."

Chapter 5 (v.1) - Chapter Five: Authorised Personnel Only

Submitted: November 20, 2018

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Submitted: November 20, 2018

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A A A

Chapter Five
Authorised Personnel Only

 

John-117 restocked his ammunition before continuing. The marines had almost completely cleared the armoury as soon as the Covenant attack had begun. The panels on the wall were now open, and the railing inside held up only a few SMGs. The rest had been taken. Fortunately, there was plenty of battle rifle ammo for the Chief to carry and enough shells to refill his shotgun. He’d have liked another grenade, but it seemed they’d all been taken too.

There was no time for standing around idly. As soon as John had reloaded his shotgun, he jogged out through the blast door into Commons B-01. Keeping an eye on his motion tracker he scanned the large courtyard. It gave him the feeling of being outdoors. In reality of course, he was inside the Cairo. The walls on either side of him stretched up far higher than they needed to, and the glass ceiling overhead revealed the battle waging outside.

Above the station, Longswords and Pelicans swerved about avoiding fire from Banshees and teardrop-shaped Seraphs, returning fire when they could. At a distance the less agile UNSC frigates and cruisers mimicked the actions of their smaller counterparts in a magnified battle with Covenant cruisers and carriers. The Covenant carriers dwarfed everything else in sight like whales swimming amongst fish. All ships in battle flashed every colour of the rainbow consecutively as various forms of plasma, bullets and rockets were unleashed upon one another. The flashing colours were reflected down into the Commons below, over the Chief and the hiding Covenant within.

The room had eight small gardens with recesses in the walls beside them. It was a perfect place for the Covenant to hide, and John knew that too. He could hear the snuffles of Grunts beneath their masks, and no doubt they’d be supported by their Elite commanders. There was no time to wait for the aliens to reveal themselves. They were too idle to appear on the motion tracker, so John sprinted forward to uncover their positions himself. He leapt over the first line of bushes and around the palm trees. As a Spartan, he could hold his battle rifle at his shoulder, point the barrel forwards and run at the same time without any drawbacks.

The first Grunt gasped. It had been hiding behind the initial row of gardens with three companions. There was no Elite with them, but there was a red-armoured Grunt Major in the mix. John dispatched of all of them as quickly as he could. He swept his battle rifle across the group with a single pull of the trigger. Two grunts were hit in the head by a bullet each. The rest received a melee to the head as the Chief heard a growl from further down the room.

Jumping out from behind a garden at the end of the room directly below the large window of a security chamber lookout was an Elite Minor followed by his four Grunt subordinates. Immediately following, another identical group stepped out from the shadows of one of the recesses in the left wall, and another presented themselves from behind the second last row of gardens. Lastly, John saw a green-covered Grunt setting up a plasma canon from behind the glass of the security lookout above the back group.

The battle rifle wouldn’t provide the same stun effect as the SMGs John had earlier, but it was a more powerful weapon. The shotgun was likely the strongest weapon in the room, but it was utterly useless at a distance. John needed to close the gap between him and the aliens as fast as possible. He charged forward aiming his BR at the closest Elite and fired. Bam. Bam. Bam. He switched to his shotgun as he approached, blasting the creature in the chest. The surrounding Grunts trembled before him. Some of them dropped their plasma pistols. The Chief ignored them and looked for the next Elite.

Once again, John charged forward. All the while, blue and green splashed across his chest from his opponents’ weaponry as he navigated through the gardens. His shield constantly lit up and the meter reduced, but it didn’t matter as long as he was fast enough. Bam. Bam. Bam. Bang! The next Elite was dead. Its Grunts cowered in fear. John was nearing the last group. The Grunt behind the plasma canon began shooting at him. The plasma shattered the glass as it passed through. The Chief took out his fragmentation grenade and hurled it right between the last Elite’s feet, then shot it with his BR, distracting it before it had time to dive away.

He had just enough shield left to pull off what he needed. With all his Spartan strength, he leapt over the group. The grenade exploded, igniting the air below him. Alien members splattered, littering the gardens as the Chief was launched high up into the air. The force from the explosion fully depleted his shield, but his armour was intact. John was launched directly through the window of the security room, landing right beside the Grunt gunner. He slammed the butt of his rifle straight into its forehead, killing the clammy creature.

John glanced through the window behind him. A few frazzled Grunts hopped about senselessly. They were stuck in an enemy base, outnumbered and without their leaders to direct them. Covenant Grunts were extremely deadly in organised groups, but when they’d lost their purpose like these ones, it wouldn’t take long for the marines to sweep them up. Without needing too long to regain his breath, John continued onward past the flashing screens and panels of the security room while his shield recharged.

The Master Chief followed the trail of Covenant for several more minutes. The occasional Elite or band of Grunts confirmed he was heading in the right direction. As he travelled through the various rooms and corridors of the Cairo, it became more apparent to the Chief that the bomb was likely being placed in the centre of the station. Judging from how close he was getting to the core without having seen the bomb, it was going to be armed very soon if it hadn’t been already. How much time did John have to race there? Surely the Covenant would give themselves enough time to flee the station, or would they leave a squad defending the bomb ready to die for their cause?

“I need a squad in Habitat Delta,” came the loudspeaker.

Boarding craft were still arriving. There was still time. John stepped through a door out onto a glass platform. A cart just like the one he’d ridden in earlier sat on rails to his right. At the top of the staircase ahead of him was no one other than Avery Junior Johnson holding a battle rifle of his own.

“Come on, Chief!” Johnson shouted before disappearing down the stairs. “This way.”

John descended after him only to find Miranda Keyes with a couple of other uniformed officers at the foot of the staircase. They were at the docks. The hallway to their left was lined with airlocks, tubed space-jetties, one of which lead to the UNSC In Amber Clad.

“I was almost on board when they showed up,” said the Commander.

“Don’t worry, ma’am,” John replied.

“We’re on it,” continued the Sergeant Major.

John hugged the left wall, peering down the hallway. He studied the scene before him. There were UNSC barricades set up along the sides with a few Covenant stationary shield generators further ahead. Bodies were scattered along the floor; some of them Covenant, most of them human. There were both marine and naval crewmen corpses lying together within the piles. The Chief’s motion tracker lit up red. The aliens were spilling out from the last airlock.

“Sergeant, I need to get to that bomb,” John asserted.

“Affirmative,” Johnson replied. “I’ll shoot from the barricades. You dash through. Ensure the Elites are dead, and I can clean up the rest.”

The Chief nodded then sprinted forward. He zigzagged through the room, dodging plasma bolts before springing right into the onslaught of enemies. He could here Johnson’s BR going off behind him. The hall was long and neither the plasma pistols nor rifles the Covenant were carrying were designed for long-ranged combat. They couldn’t compete with the BR. Johnson was safe, but John was in the middle of the danger. Grunts fell on either side of him and the shield of an Elite ahead shimmered as Johnson did his duty. The Elite swung his rifle at the Chief as John dodged around him. The Spartan swung around and meleed the Elite in the back, knocking its shield clean. The Elite fell to its knees and then flat on its stomach as Johnson achieved a headshot. Its long neck and skull were the last to flop onto the floor.

The Chief ignored the orange and red grunts, keeping all of his attention on the two Elites at the end of the hall before him. The Elite Major snarled.

“Your death is at hand,” it spat. “Cyborg!”

The Elites split apart. The Minor headed for the Spartan’s left and the Major for his right. John flipped his rifle onto his back as they approached, pulling out his shotgun once more. According to his head-up-display, it only had two shots left. He went for the Minor. Bang! One shot and then a melee to the face. John didn’t take the time to watch the Elite’s body hit the wall behind it as he spun back around to face the Elite Major, which had its arms reaching forward to grab at him. Before he could pull the trigger again he noticed one of the red dots on his motion-tracker behind him move closer before a flash of blue and white lit up the room.

Luckily for the Chief, the Grunt that threw the plasma grenade from behind had been a poor shot. It missed the Spartan entirely. The Elite Major shook its head and growled. Its mandibles opened up like outstretched clawed fingers. The Chief’s head rang slightly from the noise of the plasma explosion, but it had affected the Elite worse. John headbutted the alien with his compact MJOLNIR helmet. The dent in the Elite’s red headpiece continued straight through to its skull, knocking the creature out. Its body hit the floor with a thump. John fired his shotgun into its stomach, guaranteeing its death.

John turned back around to catch the grenade-throwing Grunt. All he saw was a trail of corpses. Johnson had already taken it out.

“Chief, you ever wonder about the word corpsman?” Barked the Sergeant from Miranda’s end of the hallway. “We don’t pronounce the ‘PS’, you know. It’s not a good idea for a man delivering first-aid to be called a corps man.”

“Thanks, Chief,” Miranda Keyes sighed. “I owe you one.”

The pair exited into an airlock down the hall followed by the other two officers. Before the Master Chief entered his respective airlock he looked down at the bodies. He swapped the shotgun for a plasma pistol, but there was something else he was looking for, and he found one. A smooth, blue, metallic sphere with green lights and a yellow hieroglyph had rolled along the floor to rest at the body of a marine. John snatched it up, stuck it to his armour and entered the airlock the Covenant had just come in from. The lights on the airlock door switched from green to red as it closed behind the Chief. He heard the sound of gas pressurising as the door sealed. The door at the opposite end of the airlock slid open, and all air within the room was consequently sucked out into the vacuum of space.  

Next, John heard a sound he recognised instantly. This was one he hadn’t heard since the battle of Reach. The door was opened up into empty space. If the Chief were to step through, he’d float right out into the nothingness. The rest of the station could still be seen, but it was a drop down from the airlock. Two fully-suited Elites landed in the doorway. They wore a much lighter-blue than the Elite Minors, and their armour covered every inch of their bodies. While still the sleek and smooth style of the typical Elite combat harnesses, these EVA harnesses were also akin to that of the Spartan’s MJOLNIR, albeit a little more elegant. They were bulkier and perhaps more heavily protected than the version John remembered seeing in orbit above Reach. The jetpacks on their backs kept them afloat, and the fiery energy they emitted caused vibrations along metal tube resulting in the familiar sound John associated with Elite Rangers.

Each Ranger wielded two plasma rifles. They fired both of their weapons at the Chief simultaneously. Due to the lack of air in space for sound to travel, the gunfire was completely silent until it hit the Spartan’s energy shield. There was no cover in the airlock. John had no choice but to sprint towards the Elites as they severely lowered his shield. He managed to intimidate them. By the time the Spartan reached the open doorway, both Elites had jumped backwards, drifting away slightly. Their plasma rifles overheated due to the continuous fire. They were forced to pause, allowing their weapons to cool before they could continue. John took this opportunity to retaliate.

He lifted his plasma pistol and held his index finger down on the small light that substituted a trigger. A green ball of glowing energy developed at the front of the weapon. The Chief released his finger, and the plasma blasted forward into the left Elite, depleting its shield entirely. John switched to his BR and fired one shot into the creature’s head. The first two bullets managed to pierce a hole in the visor. The third embedded in its head, killing the creature which now floated precariously through the space.

John’s shield had just begun to recharge as the Ranger on the right raised its weapons once more. John jumped up, grabbed the lip at the top of the doorway and pushed himself downwards into the space below. He made contact with the metal roof of another section of the Cairo. His boots hit with a clang and instantaneously magnetised, allowing him to stand upright on the platform. The Ranger slowly hovered down to meet him as the Chief charged his plasma pistol again. He unleashed the ball of plasma on the Ranger’s shields just as his own was almost emptied as well. John then spammed the ‘trigger’ light quickly, tapping it consecutively as smaller bolts of green attacked the Ranger. Running out of time, John’s helmet began beeping as his shield became fully depleted. John shot one more bolt from the plasma pistol. The Elite finally died. It spun back, cartwheeling in slow-motion out away from the station.

The plasma pistol’s battery was almost completely drained. John tossed it away and grabbed the two Elite rifles that were floating suspended above his head. He looked around and saw he was standing out in the middle of space on an open metal floor. There were huge packing containers around him and a painted arrow painted on the floor below the airlock that read “Shipping”. He ignored it and looked out toward the centre tower of the space station. It was taller than the Cairo was wide. He heard Cortana’s voice over the com.

“Boarders have breached the Fire Control Centre,” she exclaimed. “They have the bomb!”

“Can you defuse it?” Lord Hood asked.

“Yes, but I need a way to make direct contact with the detonator.”

John felt the ghost of an itch at the back of his scalp. The port at the rear of his helmet held an empty data chip within.

“Chief, get to the bomb double time,” Hood commanded. “Cortana, prioritise targets and fire at will.”

John saw the world around him tilt slightly while narrow structures along the side of the main tower slid slowly upwards and then rush back down again at a super speed. An explosion ignited at the peak of the tower as the giant barrel fired a missile off into the sea of UNSC and Covenant ships above. Inside that building, within the enormous MAC gun itself was the Firing Control Centre. The bomb was being armed this very minute.

John ran across the metal plating. He passed the exteriors of several boarding craft attached to different sections of the Cairo. The magnetic boots automatically clicked and unclicked, allowing him to travel across the surface without floating away. He drew nearer to the active MAC tower until he was right at the foot of the titanic weapon. It felt like an earthquake below John as the framing around the weapon pulled back down, unleashing another round into the Covenant fleet. Thrusters on the underside of the orbital defence platform counteracted the recoil, holding the station firm in place, maintaining its position.  

Admiral Harper spoke over the com from his UNSC cruiser.

“The carriers are breaking through! They're heading straight for the Cairo!”

“Cortana, concentrate your fire on the first carrier,” Hood replied. “Admiral, do what you can against the second.”

“Everyone, form up. Follow my lead,” Harper finished.

Suddenly the ground began to shake again, but this time it felt different. It felt wrong. A gargantuan Covenant carrier filled the Chief’s view. It flew right past the entire Cairo, straight down into the depths below. The force from the carrier’s engines as close as they were sent a shock through the station like a tidal wave. John braced himself briefly, before pushing forward. He needed to get inside that canon. He saw a door on the exterior.

“The first carrier completely ignored us,” Cortana informed them. “Blew right through the Malta's debris field and headed straight for Earth!”

John timed the movement of the MAC. He watched the large hammer on the side rise slowly. He sprinted across as soon as it was halfway up the long barrel, and then it snapped back down behind him. Had he stood below it, he’d have become flatter than roadkill. The door ahead of the Chief opened, and he stepped right through into the gun itself. He heard the air pressurise before the elevator he was inside descended downward into the core of Cairo Station.

“Just so you know,” Cortana told John, “There are quite a few Elites guarding the bomb. You may need to get creative.”

The elevator stopped, and the door behind the Chief reopened into the Firing Control Centre. In the middle of the room was a girthy, round, pillar with yellow and black supports. To John’s left was a heavy machine delivering MAC slugs directly into the pillar; and in front of the Spartan, on the other side of the room was the bomb. The Covenant Antimatter Charge bomb was a purple, oblong-shaped device covered in spikes and about as heavy as a small truck. A tiny round interface glowed at the top. There were no Grunts in the room. Instead, five Elites stood around the bomb; two Elite Minors, two Elite Majors and one Elite Ultra in white armour.

The light at the top of the bomb started flashing. It was going to detonate. John released the spherical plasma grenade from his MJOLNIR and tapped the hieroglyph to activate it. The metal ball lit up with flaming energy before the Chief launched it directly into one of the Elite Majors. The special energy of the plasma grenade caused it to stick to the Elite’s armour. The plasma exploded as the Chief sprinted into the chaos while firing his dual plasma rifles at the Elite Ultra. The first Elite Major died. It was no more, and the shields of those around it sparkled blue. The Elite Ultra took cover behind the Antimatter Charge. The remaining Elite Major, which had been close to the explosion radius was still recovering. John dropped his plasma rifles and slapped the Major’s weapon from its hand.

The three other Elites fired their plasma rifles as John dove behind the heavy MAC machinery on his left. His newly acquired weapon was similar in appearance to the plasma rifle but with fourteen long, sharp, pink crystalline shards sticking out of the top. It was a needler. John jumped back into the action, firing the needler at the group. The glowing pink needles bent around the air, seeking their targets. He managed to embed one of the Minors with seven. The needles ignited and the alien blew apart amidst a cloud of pink and blue. The Major ran toward the Chief. He slammed the top of the needler into the creature’s face. The weapon’s seven remaining needles cut right through the Elites leftover shield and pierced its face. It fell as John punched it in the gut with his left fist. The other Minor ran straight over to the Spartan, roaring as loudly as it could. John unleashed the remaining seven needles into its flesh. It met the same fate as its brother. Finally, there was the Ultra to deal with.

The Elite Ultra had started pressing buttons on the top of the bomb. The interface began to flash faster, and was now making a beeping sound not entirely dissimilar from John’s helmet when his energy shield was down. John dropped the needler and fired his battle rifle into the Elite Ultra. Bam! Bam! Bam! The Ultra charged at him. Its shields were stronger than its comrades. As it tore toward the Chief, the Elite reached for a small bar attached to the armour at the side of its upper thigh. It was the hilt of an energy sword. John knew those weapons all too well.

The Elite held the bar horizontally in its closed alien fist. Blue light glowed out from either side before it ignited like a flame. The blade blazed brightly. Its energy formed two crescents on either side of the Elite’s hand and extended out side-by-side into two sharp prongs over a metre long. The Ultra leapt forward slicing the energy blade through the air. The sword was long enough that the Elite did not need to get close to the Spartan before it swiped at him. John dodged the swipe by ducking down, his knees to his chest and then pushed himself to the right. The Elite raised its sword high above and then swung downwards. John rolled over, feeling the heat of the blade as it just missed. An orange streak glowed from the metal floor, singed by the flaring gas around the blade. John was still on the floor as the Elite pulled its blade back preparing to strike again. John rocked back on the ground and launched his titanium-clad legs upwards. His boots made contact between the alien’s legs, causing it to let the sword slip from its hand as its entire body launched backwards through the air. John jumped up, caught the sword by its handle and lunged at the creature with it. The Elite Ultra gurgled as it was stabbed through the chest with its own energy sword.

Cortana’s form flickered to life on a nearby pedestal John hadn’t previously noticed.  

“Me. Inside your head. Now!”

John touched the pedestal with his hand, allowing Cortana access to his armour. Her sentience coursed through the battle suit up to the helmet where she could access its systems. The Chief then ran over and touched the interface at the top of the bomb. The flashing and beeping ceased.

“How much time was left?” John asked.

“You don’t want to know,” she replied.

Miranda Keyes’ voice came over the loudspeaker.

“Cairo, this is In Amber Clad. The carrier’s shield is down. I’m in position and ready for immediate assault.”

“Negative, Commander,” Lord Hood replied. “Not against a ship that size. Not on your own.”

John mentally used his suit’s interface to open the coms.

“Sir,” John spoke. “Permission to leave the station?”

“For what purpose, Master Chief?” Hood asked.

John paused before answering.

“To give the Covenant back their bomb.”

“Permission granted.”

John walked over to one of the ends of the Covenant bomb and grabbed onto the two nearest spikes.

“I know what you’re thinking,” came from Cortana’s voice within the Chief’s helmet, “And it’s crazy.”

“So, stay here.”

John pulled at the bomb. Using his Spartan strength, he leant back and began stepping rearward towards to door he’d entered through. The metal of the Antimatter Charge against the plating of the floor emitted a piercing grinding sound as sparks flew out from between the rubbing surfaces.

“Unfortunately for us both,” Cortana replied, “I like crazy.”

“Where’s the closest launch bay?” John asked.

“Habitat Delta,” she replied, “But Gamma has no boarding craft.”

The Chief stepped into the elevator backwards, dragging the bomb after him. The door slammed shut, and the lift sped up the elevator shaft. A squad of marines stared open-mouthed at the Spartan as he exited the lift and grinded the bomb down a hallway toward Hangar C-01. He felt the space station around him turn into position as Cortana’s subroutines responded to her commands. The glass doors of the hangar bay displayed more of the same fight the Chief had seen earlier. Longswords, Seraphs, frigates and cruisers all zoomed about like an agitated insect swarm. John dragged the bomb over to the wall near a pillar that connected the above walkway to the ground he stood on. He slammed a button on the pillar causing a hatch to fall open, revealing a leaver.

“Just one question,” Cortana said. “What if you miss?”

“I won’t.”

He pulled the latch. The metal framing of the glass doors began sliding apart, pulling them open. The gap that was now forming between the sliding glass doors sucked out all the air, crates and barricades out into the vacuum of space, and the much heavier bomb began to slowly grind toward the door. John waited as the doors opened more. The bomb began to speed up faster along the ground. He grabbed onto the spikes of the bomb once more and flew out of the bay with it. John was shot out into space in the exact direction he had planned.

The first Covenant carrier to break through was directly between the Chief and Earth. The bomb zoomed down toward it with the Spartan clinging on its back. The ship got further away just as a second carrier came into view below him. A beam of light shot up from the ship. The plasma missed John narrowly but struck its target just above him; Admiral Harper’s UNSC Marathon-class cruiser that had been flying in to stop the carrier. The cruiser went dark as its engines failed. The bomb and the Chief continued plummeting downward as two Longsword fighters swept by toward the carrier. The fighters launched missiles at a part of the ship directly in line with John’s travel path. The projectiles hit the hull of the ship, opening up a hole as the Longswords swerved away. The hole was just big enough for the Chief and his bomb to slip through as he got closer. Despite not having the ability to manoeuvre in space without any thrusters, John managed to thread through the hole, passing through the first layer of casing. 

Still technically on the exterior of the carrier, John and his bomb floated above a bright Covenant fusion core. The light from the fusion core shone immensely, reflecting blindingly over the purple cover of the spiked bomb. The core’s purpose was to provided energy to the rest of the ship. John glided over the bomb. His movements were as if submerged in water. He touched the interface. Cortana, from within John’s armour, set its activation sequence causing it to begin flashing and beeping once more, this time faster than ever. Using the spikes on the bomb, John clawed his way into position over it and pushed himself away as hard as he could. The Spartan shot back out of the hole as the bomb crashed down into the core.

John already thought the fusion core had been bright, but it was nothing compared to the flash that came with the tremendous explosion when the Antimatter Charge ignited behind him. He was far away now, but even then, the force from the explosion propelled him even further from the carrier. He tilted his head downwards to look at the destruction behind him. The Covenant carrier blew apart into as many pieces as the Malta and Athens had earlier.

The UNSC In Amber Clad rose up from below to catch the Spartan. Commander Miranda Keyes and Sergeant Major Johnson sat in bridge of the frigate. Upon hearing the thud of the Master Chief landing on the outside of the ship, Johnson smiled and turned to the Commander.

“For a brick, he flew pretty good.”

Miranda spoke over the com.

“Chief, get inside. Gear up. We’re taking this flight to the surface.”

The first Covenant carrier had escaped somewhere down below. John and Cortana entered the frigate as the ship dived hard in pursuit of their target, toward the planet Earth.


© Copyright 2019 David Cameron. All rights reserved.

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