Thank you to every body who reviewed my last chapter, especially Dragon Scales 13, sharpshooter one two five, Warior, Derek and his Yami, my very first reviewers ever. I enjoyed your comments and I welcome any future suggestions on where to the story should go. Thanx and enjoy chapter 2
Disclaimer: I don't own my own pizza shop, strawberries or Cortana. Oh yeah, and everybody/everything in the halo story. What I do own is my original characters/locations and a 1976 pinto with a gas leak.
Chapter 2 Unwelcome Visitors
Lieutenant Ashcroft watched as the Covenant Phantom sped towards the base, weaving erratically. Dang the Covenant and their hyperspace technology. The ship had materialized behind the massive MAC guns that orbited the asteroid base and evaded the primary defenses entirely. Automated turrets began to open fire as the ship approached the surface.
How did those bastards find us? Ashcroft thought to himself as he looked his squad over, noticing that they shifted their weight nervously, tightly clutching their weapons.
Smoke bellowed from the ship like an angry cloud as one of the plasma batteries exploded. The phantom lost control and began to spiral. Edward appeared in the Lieutenant's HUD.
"Be ready Lieutenant, impact with surface in 5…4…3…2… the ship has crashed .3 clicks west of your position. Proceed to the target and neutralize the covenant threat. For some unknown reason, the ship has not transmitted our coordinates; I suggest you neutralize it before it does so." The AI clicked off and Ashcroft signaled his men to move out.
Two of them boarded captured ghosts as he jumped into a warthog with two others. The wheels spun as a nav marker appeared in his HUD. Without hesitation they headed towards the target.
Bentley and Rucoba circled the crash in their ghosts, surveying the wreckage. Nothing stirred as McKinsey grabbed a portable turret from the warthog and began to assemble it. Gretsky clicked the safety off of his own mounted turret as he surveyed the scene anxiously.
"Edward, what have you got for us?" Ashcroft asked through a private Comm link in his helmet.
"I'm not detecting any lifesigns, it seems that those covey freaks died in the crash." The AI responded, "But the motion detectors are off the charts. Something's definitely in there so proceed with caution. Edwards out."
Now Ashcroft was getting nervous. No life signs, but lots of movement probably didn't mean anything good. Bentley and Rucoba returned and dismounted their ghosts. Slamming clips into their automatic weapons, they stared anxiously at the hatch.
"Something is very, very wrong here," McKinsey muttered. The others nodded. Ashcroft regained his composure and signaled Bentley and Rucoba to advance as McKinsey and Gretsky covered them. A loud boom echoed through the thin atmosphere of the asteroid as the hatch began to break and bend under extreme pressure as something fought to get out. Bentley and Rucoba began to back up as the banging continued, warping the hatch. With the sound of screeching metal, the hatch exploded outward, flying away from the wreckage as though it sought to escape the monstrosities inside.
"Fire!" Lieutenant Ashcroft screamed as something horrible burst from the opening.
The marines unloaded with everything they had. Volleys of armor piercing automatic fire pierced the air, raining death upon the first attackers. The onslaught of enemies continued, however, and the first that were free of the ship launched themselves high into the thin atmosphere, landing among the marines. Ashcroft cut two of them in half with a stream of automatic fire before they could land. Another, however, on its descent lashed at Ashcroft with a foul, unnatural tentacle and a neat line appeared in his suit. Blood began to spray as his atmosphere started to vent. Breathing just became a whole lot harder, as he now had to depend on the extremely thin atmosphere of the asteroid for his oxygen supply. Ashcroft, however, barely had time to notice as he blew the thing's head of with a full clip from his assault rifle.
Tossing the empty gun away, the Lieutenant drew both of his pistols and began to shoot anything that moved, mowing his enemies down in a surge of adrenaline and rage. Then, as quickly as the battle had started, it was over. Ashcroft walked over to one of the bodies that was still twitching, kicked it over and unloaded the remainder of his clip into its face.
Ashcroft breathed a sigh of relief as he surveyed his team. No casualties, but three of them, including himself, had compromised suits. He was already feeling the effects of the extremely thin oxygen as he staggered to the warthog to retrieve the necessary tools to repair his suit.
"Oh crap! Lieutenant, Rucoba's not looking so good." Bentley yelled through the intercom.
That is the understatement of the century, Ashcroft thought as he surveyed the scene. Rucoba was literally holding his guts inside with his hands. He needed surgery now, or he probably wouldn't make it.
"Patch him up soldier," Ashcroft commanded, "and call for evac and squads two and three to send backup."
"Yes sir," Bentley snapped as he filled Rucoba up with biofoam and closing the wound with medical tape. Soon after, he resealed Rucoba's suit with the liquid polymer stashed in the jeep and began to pump in backup oxygen; he soon did the same about his own wounds and suit.
The Lieutenant did the same for himself, noticing that he could see shards of bone from his chest sticking through the neat cut in his suit. He swore, but continued without so much as another murmur as he filled himself up with the stinging biofoam. Once everyone was patched up and help was on the way, Ashcroft signaled for them to move in while Rucoba, wounded as he was, covered them with the turret. They had gone no more then a few steps however as bloated forms appeared, waddling from the wreckage. His marines did not wait for an order as they unloaded. Ashcroft watched with a certain satisfaction as they exploded, one by one. His grin of satisfaction fell quickly from his face as the explosions propelled yet another menace towards them. The small creatures skittered and danced as they deftly avoided the hail of bullets. Whenever one was hit, it exploded, causing others in the near vicinity to do the same, but there were simply to many to take out. Ashcroft watched in horror as his fallen enemies suddenly reanimated as the small, spiderlike creatures buried themselves in the corpses' chests. Without hesitating, Ashcroft primed a grenade and saw the others do the same. In unison, four grenades bounced in the midst of their opponents and gore flew everywhere, splattering on Ashcroft's HUD. Lasers wiped the goo from his mask just in time to see Bentley drop his empty gun and sprint towards the jeep. Ashcroft would have shot him then and there for being a coward if he didn't have bigger problems. He and Gretsky were standing back to back, fire salvos in a semicircle, struggling to keep the tides at bay. One particularly large monster began running towards Ashcroft as he unloaded on it. His bullets however did little other then piss it of and Ashcroft knew it was over when his ammo depleted. Ashcroft stood there frozen when he heard a loud roar behind him and turn just in time to see a rocket rush by him and strike the creature in the torso, blowing to pieces and destroying all the surrounding foes. Bentley tossed Ashcroft a fresh clip and reloaded his rocket launcher as Ashcroft slammed the clip into the chamber and resumed fire; Bentley was definitely getting a promotion for that. Then all went silent once more. The spinning barrels of the turrets slowed as smoke rose from the end of the death spewing tubes. The three of them, Gretsky, Bentley and himself, stood back to back, searching for the source of what the all heard. The skittering continued and bits of flesh flashed briefly before disappearing once more behind rocks, followed by bursts of gunfire. McKinsey approached cautiously, having retrieved more ammo from the jeep, including a number of captured Covenant plasma grenades. The small nightmarish figure appeared and vanished once again amongst a storm of bullets. And then the sound stopped. Cautiously, Bentley approached the last place where the creature had appeared, sweeping his gun back and forth, when the thing appeared from nowhere and latched onto Bentley's throat. Bentley screamed and backed up, dropping his weapon in an attempt to save himself from the cursed thing, but it was all for nothing as the creature disappeared into his throat and Bentley fell, gurgling on his own blood. Gretsky rushed over to help him, but was too late as Bentley's biosigniture winked off in Ashcroft's HUD proclaiming the apparent, he was dead. Sadly, Gretsky tried to arrange him to look as though he had died peacefully, crossing his arms and laying his rocket launcher beside him. But war waits for no one. Ashcroft walked over, put his hand on Gretsky's shoulder and firmly moved him away from the corpse. With somber hearts, Gretsky, McKinsey and Ashcroft headed toward the target once more.
As they entered the Covenant craft at last, their HUDs automatically adjusted to the darkness within, bathing everything in an eerie green glow. Nothing moved. The Lieutenant saw a shape on the floor and carefully advanced. As he drew nearer he saw that it was a marine, naked from the waste up and had an arm and chest like the monstrosities they had just destroyed. There was a crazed look in his eyes, as though he didn't know what was going on. His lips were moving, as though he was trying to say something and Ashcroft noticed two dog tags around his neck. Private Jenkins, one of the tags read. Ashcroft leaned closer to hear what the poor private was trying to tell him, but the poor soldier's low mumbling was suddenly interrupted by Rucoba, still out on the turret, shouting on the Comm system.
"Sir, I…I can't believe it, it's a miracle Sir. Bentley he's, he's alive…Bentley buddy your okay, thank I goodness I thought…hey, wait, what are you doing? Come on buddy don't do that. Please don't. Bentley, if you don't stop now, I'll be forced to fire, don't do this…I'm sorry." The sound of automatic fire rattled through the Comm system.
"Stand down!' Ashcroft shouted over the link.
Rucoba responded breathlessly "I can't Sir, he's not giving me a choice…he's become on of them. Oh #…." Rucoba paused for a second, before he softly whispered on a private Comm link with Ashcroft, "Goodbye Sir."
The sound of an explosion filled his ears along with the screams of a dying comrade. The blood the had frozen in Ashcroft's veins at the news that Bentley had risen from the dead became even thicker as his friend died, killed by the hand of another friend.
Ashcroft sank to his knees, feeling an emptiness enter him, despair flowed through him as he looked in the infected marine at his side and saw the same hopelessness reflected in his half crazed eyes. He stayed there for a moment, his mind blank except for the despair he was feeling, numbed by fear.
McKinsey's voice cackled on the radio, "Sir, Bentley is approaching the ship, request permission to engage."
Ashcroft came out of the trance long enough to reply "Negative soldier, he's got a rocket launcher. Hide in the ship. We will take it by surprise."
McKinsey and Gretsky acknowledged, but the Lieutenant hardly noticed. The icy numbness that he had felt was transforming into a raging fire of hatred. He was going to take this thing down personally. Taking one of the plasma grenades from his belt, he crept into the shadows next to the door. He was going to stick the grenade onto the bastard before he knew what was happening.
Ashcroft moved behind the thing as it lumbered into the ship, holding the rocket launcher at ready. Ashcroft paused, from behind there was no indication that any thing was wrong with his friend. Ashcroft's hesitation nearly proved fatal as the monstrosity turned and smacked him in the side with the butt of his launcher, sending Ashcroft flying across the ship, ribs snapping. The unprimed grenade flew somewhere unknown. Ashcroft looked up and saw, through the blood in his eyes, the most terrible thing he could have imagined, advancing on him, determined to squeeze the last breaths from its victim's lungs. What he saw had no semblance of his former friend. The uniform had been shredded, the helmet blown off, along with half of the face, thanks to Rucoba's last stand. The flesh that showed seemed to be rotting even as he watched and bright red blood mixed with a sickly green fluid flowed from its wounds. Ashcroft hung his head, knowing it was all over. He didn't mind dying, he just hoped he wouldn't meet the same fate as Bentley. The monstrosity that had stolen his friend's body rose the launcher into the air, preparing to strike. This next blow would crush his skull. He closed his eyes and thought of his family, soon he would be joining them.
The blow never fell. Ashcroft looked up after a moment and was surprised to see, three barbed tentacles protruding from the monster's chest. The creature slowly dropped the weapon and fell to its knees, and then, finally, on the floor. Ashcroft watched as the tentacles retracted back to their source; Jenkins' wrist. The two men's eyes met as McKinsey and Gretsky rushed to help their superior officer. The last thing Ashcroft saw before he fainted from the pain was a sliver of hope enter the private's eyes.