Chapter 17: Galactic Message
The wind hit his armor hard. He could feel it seeping through the very tiny holes in his suit. The cold air felt punishing amidst the speed they flew at in their helicopter. Washington did his best to keep his mind off of the cold and looked at how the others were faring. About as well I would have expected of them to, he thought seeing their shaking forms who seemed to complain ever few minutes or so. He turned to see Carolina and Simmons, both of them sat quietly waiting to reach their destination. At least some of us are faring better in this cold, even if such attitude from them is a little worrisome.
"How are we doing for time?" asked Wash of the pilots. One of them looked at the map they had retrieved ahead of time from one of the towers they originally wanted to visit. As luck would have it, there just so happened to be a similar communications tower like on Chorus. Studying the marked coordinates and their current position, the pilot confirmed. "It would be about another five minutes or so. I would go ahead and get the team ready sir."
"Alright, thanks," Wash turned back to walk to the seating area and looked all around. "I will be leading this expedition, any problems?"
No concerns were raised, and all were in favor. Wash nodded his head and said. "Good, then remember to follow my every order and only take risky actions when there is no other way to approach or escape from a situation."
The helicopter began to descend. The pilot looked back from the cockpit and shouted. "Sir, we will be landing a little ways off from the tower. We can't afford to give away our presence here if there is anyone at the tower."
"Understood," Wash replied motioning for the others to stand. They all took their weapons and attached them onto their armors. Washington stopped Carolina and Simmons from standing up and motioned for them to sit back down. The helicopter touched the ground safely and soon shut off its motors. He turned to Muffins and motioned towards his two allies. "Watch after them for me will you Captain?"
"You are leaving us behind?" Simmons asked distraught at the sudden exchange of words between Muffins and Wash. The grey soldier turned to simply nod at him. "I can't risk the mission going wrong with you two possibly going amuck out there."
"Who said we would do such a thing?" Carolina asked angrily. She fought against his hard grip on her shoulder. Her strength was strong enough to overpower five men with his strength. Wash gritted his teeth and cursed in the back of his head. "I meant that I don't want to risk you two losing control. We are dealing with the New Order after all. It is best that you two save your strength for when we actually fight Equal."
That name alone was enough to put the two on edge. They stopped to struggle against Washington's strength and sat back down obediently. He let out a relieved sigh and said. "Thank you, and should anything happen you guys will be our backup alongside the Captain and his crew."
"Ready to go?" asked Donut as Washington exited the heli. He nodded to the group and motioned for them to follow. The wind did not help make this walk to their target any easier. They kept their senses on high alert. No longer could they now rest as they once did behind the comforts of a wall and warm fire. The feeling of being on the frontlines they once felt on Chorus began to resurface. To again fight a war on a foreign planet, totally like Chorus. Many of them thought and kept their guns aimed in front of them.
They were very near their target now. So near that Wash could feel his heart pounding away to burst out of his chest. He stopped the group and motioned for them to take certain positions. "Remember, right now we only recon. If you see something then report back and do not take any actions."
They all went to a few sets of small hills. Wash and the others took out their binoculars and zoomed in towards the tower. Wash was quickly alerted to enemy presence as he saw a squad on patrol. Great, just our luck. He radioed into the others and said. "We got trouble guys. I just spotted an enemy squad patrolling close to the tower."
"What do we do?" asked Grif itching to test out his new alien sword. Wash stated his intentions in a stern voice to make it clear to the whole group. "I will go in and handle this. You guys just watch, if I'm in trouble then screw it I guess. Come in guns blazing."
Wash slid down the mountain and approached the group from the back. He took out a knife from the back and knocked out two soldiers at the very back. The others didn't fail to notice this and quickly trained their guns on him. Shouting orders to surrender, Washington moved between the soldiers with expert precision and slashed their legs. He quickly proceeded to knock the soldiers unconscious and leave one lone soldier awake. The freelancer approached the still conscious soldier and cracked his knuckles. "Well, lucky you."
The others in Wash's squad came up from behind him with their guns aimed his way. The soldier felt his whole body shiver with one sarcastic thought in the back of his head. Yeah, lucky me. Washington bent down beside the soldier, took off his helmet and applied some pressure with his knife in the enemy's right leg. "So, here is how this is going to work. I ask, and you answer. If you remain quiet, the knife goes deeper. If you don't cooperate, well I may just go ahead and pop your kneecap off, I mean it wouldn't be so bad to walk with a stick or a walker now would it?"
"I- I will do my best!"
"That's the spirit," Grif taunted the man with a grin. The others formed a perimeter leaving for Washington to conduct his interrogation in peace. Washington slowly moved the knife around in the man's leg causing him to nearly burst out in cries. But the grey soldier reacted quickly and placed his hand on the man's mouth. "Just bear with it for a bit. Let's start by getting you used to this feeling."
The man had finally calmed down and Wash proceeded to question. "How many people are here?"
"I don't know exactly," the man answered but quickly added to it after seeing Wash's hand move a little. "B- But I know that there are a group of scientists here to study the tower, and two more squads of soldiers to help protect them. Some of those squads have some high ranking military officials in them."
"See, was that so hard?"
The enemy remained quiet still paralyzed by the fear. Washington looked around to see their situation and studied the enemy soldier. "Before I leave, do you have anything else to add to your answer?"
The man shook his head. Wash nodded his head as he retrieved the knife. The man was relieved to see the metal object excavated out of his body. He looked up at Wash who stood towered over him with an uncertain look. "You will let me go now right?"
"Sure, in a bit."
"In a bit?" and the man was drooling down onto the ground as he took a small nap. Washington stretched his leg thinking. What a thick headed lug. He cleaned the knife off and walked away. "Thank you for your cooperation."
Everyone else gathered close to Wash and upon his orders followed him. After a few more minutes of eventless walking, they finally managed to reach the tower. Many of them felt their hearts drop and with it their confidence. Wash bit his lips. I was really hoping he would have been wrong about the soldiers and the scientists. "Alright so here is what's going to happen. I will go ahead and clear out as many as I can quietly. If they notice me, then forget about being quiet."
"Whatever you say," said Grif sitting down against a rock formation with his hands behind his head. Washington took out his knife and jumped down a small cliff. He landed quietly and began to survey his surroundings. Only rocks and some bushes, this should be interesting. He moved into one of the bushes and waited for a soldier to walk past. Wash slowly exited the bush with light feet and took hold of the enemy by the neck. He inflicted multiple stabs into the enemy soldier's back until they were motionless. Leaving the body behind in a bush, he began to tail a group of two patrol men.
The two patrol men came to a stop and with them so did Wash. He hid behind a rock and waited for them to turn around, as soon as they began to go the other way Wash ran up behind the two and smashed their heads together. Two more were down.
"What was that noise?"
Washington heard an unknown voice close by. Before he could be spotted by a stray spotlight searching the area, he managed to hide behind the rock. The enemy soldier came rushing up to the bodies and bent down to study them. They were still alive, but the same could not be said for this curious man. Wash let out a loud enough whistle to reach the man's ears and attracted him in that direction. "Who is there?"
Wash quickly swung around from his cover and stabbed the soldier in the abdomen. He dragged the now limp body back to his hiding spot and ran with the wind. Wash jumped into a bush and looked all around. Doing this stealthily may take too much time after all. He looked at the grenades on his belt, looked back to the cliff he left the others at and grinned under his helmet. Time to make them do some work as well I suppose.
Taking out his pistol, he jumps out into plan view and throws three grenades. The once ordered soldiers quickly disperse from the grave danger. The grenades explode and panic quickly blankets the battlefield. Washington runs from cover to cover shooting down his targets. He aims for their vital points to make it a quick death. His team jumps down to the battlefield and opens fire. While many of them only manage to hit their targets thanks to their AI fragments, they still feel a sense of accomplishment of having contributed to the fight. The last of the stragglers were down and only the scientists remained.
"I bet Simmons would get along great with these guys," said Donut studying all the various technical equipment on the many platforms around them. Washington walked into the middle of the scientific group and activated his speaker set in his helmet. "Attention everyone, if you don't want to lose your head over this then I highly suggest that you put down everything and leave now."
Many of them as expected complied. Washington knew things were going well and that they were performing well as far as mission time went. He looked over at Grif. "You know what to do."
"Hey Microsoft Sam, I need you here," Grif called out to Gamma activating his sword. He walked over to a similar panel that was activated via the sword. "Are you ready?"
"Simply activate the tower and I will handle the rest," assured Gamma.
On the front lines of the waging war, the UNSC ships were falling like flies to the overwhelming numbers and strength of the New Order. After many losses, the UNSC defense fleet Captain had to make the difficult decision of a retreat. "Order every ship to retreat."
With their electronics down, they had to make do with other methods of communication. A few UNSC space trained soldiers entered the vacuum, and with the aid of their gravity boots they stuck to the ship. All of them lit up red flares that shined brightly. But not all of the UNSC ships could see the light amidst the darkness. Soon however the ships were coming back online, the EMP drone's effect wore off. The UNSC began to retaliate and in response the attacking fleet sent out more drones. The defense yet again was short lived as the drones were thorough in their work. The Captain of the defense fleet smashed his fist against a panel in frustration. "These bastards won't even let us retreat from the fight?!"
The Captain aboard the Angel of Hope reached for the communication panel and relayed a message to all ships. "Let's move onto the final phase of this battle people. Begin with boarding and raiding the UNSC ships, make sure no survivors remain but the captains. Kill them after they give us their codes so that we may take over the ships completely."
Slowly reeling in close to the UNSC ships, the New Order fleet established a connection from one ship to the other. The slaves from the planet, the drafted soldiers were all forced to hold a gun and told to fight for their pathetic lives. Many of them ran in their cheaply designed space armor, the one in the front would plant a small explosive on the UNSC ship hatch and lead the rest inside. Once inside they were faced with gunfire as it was to be expected. The UNSC would not go down so easily, not without a fight.
Everyone felt their ears cringe at the sudden static echoing in their suits. Everyone in the fight stopped firing momentarily and looked at their radios.
"Testing, testing, this is the AI fragment, designation Gamma transmitting on all frequencies."
What the hell is this? Many of them wondered as they looked to one another in confusion. All of them wanted answers, the Captains were confused themselves. The Angel of Hope's Captain looked at his closest associate and ordered the following. "Find out where this transmission is coming from."
"This message is being transmitted across many galaxies. I request a moment of your time to tell you all a certain truth that has been kept not only from the people of other worlds but the UNSC as well. I ask of you to listen to the story of the New Order."
Aboard the space station, Equal sat shaken by this declaration. As Gamma spoke of the inception and brutalities of the New Order, he felt his anger rise. How did they manage to get to the communication tower? Useless the lot of them, all of our soldiers are useless! He pressed a button to his right as he saw various cruel and morally questionable images pop up in the transmission. "Get me our security and information department."
Sarge stood still proudly with a smile under his helmet. I knew you boys would still be alive. He eyed Tucker staring at the screen in disbelief, but relieved all the same. "Looks like someone was wrong blue."
"Yeah, yeah okay I was wrong," admitted Tucker and he was relieved to say that. "I wonder what stories they will be bringing back once we all meet up."
"Aren't those the pictures from the data Locus gave to us initially?" Doc asked studying the various space colony images and specs. The pictures also included themes of slavery and inequality on the planet under the New Order's control as Gamma would narrate such themes. From what Gamma had been able to determine based on his experiences, he relayed in his message. "The difference in the quality of life is big, almost like Earth and Moon apart. People on the planet are oppressed for believing something that the New Order would not approve of. They are forced into a fight they never chose to support or ever wanted to be a part of. They all just wanted to lead a peaceful life."
Just as the information department stepped into his office, he stood up and ordered for a full retreat of the message drones that hovered over the various parts of the colony daily. His message had been overwritten by the one being transmitted. This is a major fuck up and I will see that the teams responsible for the defense of the tower will pay!
Just as the drones turned around to retreat, the pictures of the Blood Gulch crew played one by one. "Remember this Equal, we have seen some of your atrocities first hand and we do not forget nor do we forgive so easily. You will be brought to justice. We are coming for you."
Inside the Sangheli embassy, Junior looked at the monitor amidst the crowd of his brothers and sisters. Father… He wondered with worry at what misadventures Tucker managed to get himself wrapped up in now. Junior looked down from the screen to a few of his closely trusted friends. They all nodded towards him and he eyed a Covenant Cruiser ship.
The crew on the station alongside the rebel group were even more pumped now. They knew the major blow Equal's organization would take because of this and that it presented a great opportunity to present further blows. Beat an already weakened organization down till it's nothing, and victory shall be theirs. They all cheered on and amidst the noise, they all felt the motivations rising and inspiration running high in their blood.
The citizens in the streets looked up at the media drones confused. Some were beginning to question what they had heard and the New Order's existence, while many others remained fiercely loyal to those that had led them this far. To any who questioned Equal's morality and whether he was capable to committing such horror, they were brought down with such labels as 'traitors' or 'heretics'. Many of his supporters still blindly believed him to be a benevolent man capable of no wrong doings.
A man from the security department enters Equal's office with an apologetic and scared look. "I- I'm sorry sir, we were unable to stop the transmission completely. And it seems that it is playing on a loop still throughout any active media devices including things like phones."
That was it. That was the last straw. There was only so much that Equal could take. He felt it slipping, the rage boiled from deep within his mind like an active volcano. His urges told him to just let go, shower in the rage and let it drive his will forward. Knocking his chair backwards, stepping atop his desk and jumping high into the air, he landed atop the messenger and beat his jaw in hard with his left fist!
The stress was unfolding, and with it so was his image. His work all seemed to be growing meaningless with every action the Blood Gulch crew took to thwart his plans. "All of you are fucking useless at your bloody jobs! I ask for you to maintain strict control, and protect our network. But you can't even do that!"
He punched the man in the nose causing some blood to spray on the floor. He bashed the man's head in causing a loud crack to echo in the room. The others could only look in horror just like before. They were all rightfully questioning Equal's behavior and intent now. Those that had not known of what really happened under the happy and joyous picture painted by the New Order were now opening their eyes. But this did not mean that the people in the organization were any safer from Equal's wrath or anyone else for that matter. Everyone had a target painted across their foreheads now.
Equal broke the man's teeth with a single swing. The messenger went limp already near death. Equal stopped to take in deep breaths and look at his work of terror. The floor around them was painted in a bloody red. The others in the room were shaken down to their core with fear, and paralyzed by it. They could not say anything and could not do anything. Equal raised his hands together and smashed the man's nose in. His face became almost unrecognizable.
Justice outside of the office heard the scantily audible noises and against her better judgement she investigated. Opening the door to his office she found the body on the floor, by the side stood Equal with his fists and armor covered in blood. She rushed over to the man's side. She was able to thankfully still get a pulse out of him. Equal was about to go in for another punch, this time to the man's ribs. Justice stopped him in his tracks. "Stop this at once! Don't do this. Don't go over to that insane world anymore than you already have!"
He pushed her away and glared up at her. "You dare to question me again. I have been overlooking it all this time but every time you disagree with me on these matters, you sound like a traitor!"
He pointed her way and said. "You either stand by my side Justice…"
He motioned his thumb across his own neck. "Or you stand against the people of this colony and the New Order."
She marched his way and glared at him. The two stared one another down. She took in a deep breath and huffed. "I stand with our people, but not to condemn such vile acts. Doing this makes us no better than what the UNSC did to us in the past. Condemning this would mean sacrificing my personal beliefs and thoughts just for the sake of the colony as you make it seem. I will never be a mindless drone!"
He looked at her with a frown. Her answer did not bode will with him. Why could you not just be obedient like the others? He wondered in this growing rage. Equal so desperately wanted to raise his hand against her, to punch her down to the ground and eliminate yet another obstacle in his way. No, she isn't an obstacle…not yet. She is just someone who sees things differently, and maybe that could endanger my vision in the end after all. He managed to gain a second of control, he turned around and threw his table aside.
Justice was prepared to take any blows he would throw her way. But instead he did not and for that she was grateful. At least he still has some control it seems. She turned to one of the staff members and told them to call for an ambulance.
"Leave the cretin be."
They all froze at the words. Justice could not believe such words coming out of Equal's mouth. I thought you would be willing to change and get better. It seems that you like to prove me wrong. She argued why. Equal had no answer to give to her aside from the one he always did. "I have no use for weaklings."
Equal faced the staff member and said. "No ambulance, instead strip him of everything. That also includes his clothing, and eject him into space."
"Do you know what you are even saying?" she asked with her mind still in turmoil over his words. "Do you understand how insane your order sounds?"
"I already said I have no use for the weak," Equal responded looking at the body being dragged away. "Everyone in this colony must conform to being strong, or else they can be ejected into space. The weak will only breed more weak."
Equal heard a new noise originating from his radio. Justice heard it as well. It was coming from the special frequency they dedicated to the war effort. The noise cleared up to the cries of the soldiers from the frontlines. Equal was distraught to hear this, he was not expecting this at all. He thought to hear words of victory, not of cries.
"Sir, we can hear multiple new boogies coming in!" shouted a soldier. Equal ordered for the soldier to slow down and asked for an explanation. According to the soldier, ever since that message from the planet relayed, the UNSC began sending in reinforcements. It seems they put two and two together to figure out that one of their fleets was under attack and no doubt they would send some to the station as well. The message did contain the planet's and the space station's coordinates after all. "We don't have enough of the EMP drones, what do we do sir? We need instructions, we need an escape!"
Suddenly the radio went silent. Equal gritted his teeth at the worrying silence. "Hello, are you still there? Hello?!"
He tried, and he failed to get through. Justice already knew that their advantage was lost and this war had just become a huge tide slowly coming towards them. They had to do whatever they could now to prepare for such a storm. Equal kicked his chair away loudly cursing. Justice looked behind her and gently guided the rest out of the office. She spared a few words of apology to them on his behalf, but she understood that it was of no consolation to their already paralyzed minds.
She walked back inside the office and pinned him up to a wall. "Get your act together Equal! We are now on the losing end and you need to know what you are doing. I don't need any of this psychotic rage fucking things up for us! If you don't quickly learn to be the leader you once were to us then you really will have no one left by your side, not even me."
Gamma reappeared besides Grif. "It is done. The message has finished looping several times now."
The tower deactivated. Washington looked down from the tower to his two comrades. "Good job, now I imagine we will be having some company soon."
"Yeah, about that…," Donut replied in a shaken tone. They all looked up to see the various ships flying down from the clouds. Sister raised her weapons up towards them and said. "Meh, this is nothing compared to that one time I raided the medical center for some morphine and had the whole base of fifty guys coming for me. It got sweaty and messy real fast. Thankfully they didn't have as much stamina as me."
"You just had to make this weird, didn't you?" Grif questioned as he studied the ships land down and several New Order soldiers exit to surround them. One of them walked out in a different looking armor. That one must be the leader, thought Washington as he prepared his pistol. The leader prepared to speak. "Lay down your weapons!"
"Oh yeah?" Grif held out his arms in an intimidating manner. "You and what army?!"
"We have a hundred men here you twat!" the leader shouted back.
"Wow what a sausage-fest," Sis interjected only to have Grif turn her way and shout back. "Okay, seriously, stop making this weird!"
The leader observed the banter and felt his intelligence leaving him every second the siblings spoke. "Okay you know what, fuck it! Just shoot them boys."
The enemy prepared to open fire and was quickly taken off guard by a new variable added to the battlefield. The rebellion group on the planet stormed the battle and gunned down several soldiers in their way. The enemy turned to look around and were gunned down from the other direction. They turned to look there and were again gunned down from another direction. No matter where they looked, they were surrounded.
One of the rebellion men came up to the Blood Gulch crew and respectfully nodded his head at them all. "Nice work, we could hear the message clearly. It is sure to leave a sour taste in that asshole's mouth."
"Why are you here?" Wash asked pleasantly surprised. The rebellion soldier grinned widely and said. "We couldn't let our brothers and sisters be left out for the lions now could we? Remember, as long as you are still here on this planet, you can count on us for support. Now let's go kick some ass!"
"Halleluiah for convenience," stated Grif as he opened fire at the enemy soldiers. Many of them were easily gunned down and the path to their victory seemed to be getting closer.