Chapter CXXXIX: Evacuation is Not Fun

September 1, 2545 (UNSC Calendar)/

New Montevideo outskirts, Acheron-VII, Beta Rho Omega System


"In urban situations things become a little too fast. Hell, they become too furious."- Lance Corporal Robert Aganarsson


The Pelican was constantly shaking from the flak. It wasn't accurate or even deadly flak, but enough hits from the automated guns would eventually punch through the bottom of the Pelican. That's why the pilot swerved as much as he could to avoid the green explosions. Fifteen of us were onboard the Pelican. Lieutenant Hayes and Master Sergeant Dajani were going over a map of New Montevideo.

Montevideo…that's Uruguay, right? I was going back to my basic Earth geography lessons back in Mexico City. I could barely remember anything. I remembered an old teacher with wrinkled skin and then stealing glances at a pretty girl that sat next to me. I couldn't tell anybody that I found her pretty, I mean, I was supposed to hate girls.

"Think she'd jump in the sack with you if you saw her again?" Schitzo asked me. "I know that you'd have no trouble jumping in with her."

Shut up. It had been a while since I had last had access to my crazy pills. I had been trying to have them as often as the doc had told me, but sometimes I forgot and sometimes they didn't work. Shut up.

"I know already know that you have no problem with cheating on your girlfriend, so why bother asking."

Shut up.

"And you thought that she was planning on breaking up with you just because she didn't send any letters." Schitzo paced around the Pelican and stepped on the edge of the open hatch. "She was having a breakdown you selfish dick." Schitzo stepped off the platform, but for a moment I thought that I was seeing myself instead of him.

Shut up.

"You say something Gunny?" Almers asked from right next to me. He was sitting on the seat that I normally took, so I had chosen to stand up instead of antagonizing him this early on.

"Talking to the voices in my head," I replied.

"Fine, don't tell me."

"Castillo," Hayes called. "Come 'ere."

I nodded and walked towards her carefully, holding onto the handle hanging overhead. "Yes, sir?"

Dajani handed me the datapad and I examined the map of the city. He tapped the corner of it and the map changed to a live picture from an overhead satellite. The outskirts of the city were burned to the ground, the space port was under siege and local forces were fighting street for street, house for house, and room for room. It was one helluva shithole.

"Where are our forces?" I asked the El-tee.

"Second Battalion is already en route, they took a little while because they were mobilizing massively. All of their forces are going down at the same time.

"Talk about sledgehammer," I said.

Behind me Snark snorted.

"Regardless, they will not be able to cross the siege. Two Pelicans can bypass the flak barrier, but a whole battalion will be focused on." Hayes looked around at half of our platoon. "And their objective is not important right now. Our objective is."

I nodded. "What are we doing?"

"You Gunny?" Dajani asked. "Nothing."

"Explain."

"One squad is all that's needed for this mission. We're going to infiltrate their lines and blow up two of their air control facilities. The Covenant has air superiority in the city, Shortswords and Hornets haven't been able to knock them all out yet."

"Why aren't they attacking us now, then?" I asked.

Hayes shrugged. "Not enough of a threat I guess. I would be shooting down any bird that tried to fly past us, but that's not our problem."
I nodded carefully and examined the newest set of pictures on the datapad. "Which squad is going to be going in?"

"Mine," Dajani stated.

I looked at his squad, all of it was in here. "And what about One and Two?"

"You and me will be aiding in evacuation duties."

I looked at the close-ups. "This housing development right here?" I asked. It was just a huge bunch of pre-made houses. It basically looked like piled up containers.

"Poor people's suburbs. It's going to be crowded."

"Yes," Hayes nodded. "Population was living there until a few hours ago, it is estimated that over thirty percent of the residents are still there."

"The rest?" I asked.

"Dead."

I grunted. "Who are we going to be working with?"

"Local police and army are trying to hold the line, buy some time for the civvies to move back, run towards the spaceport."

I gaped. "There's no organized evacuation?!" My voice was one full of shock. I was cold, but you just didn't leave civilians to die if there was even the slightest chance of saving them.

"'Fraid not, locals are focusing on protecting the spaceport, focusing most of their assets around it while everyone still alive runs for it."

"Damn."

"Yeah," Hayes agreed. "You can deal with local police and Army, right?"

"I've dealt with the Army," I told her. "But never really with the coppers."

Hayes muttered under her breath. "Goddamit, were you trained for it?"

"Negative on that, sir."

"No time for an impromptu course on PR. Take command and don't get them in too much danger."

I nodded, it sounded easy enough.

Hayes then turned to face a pair of Helljumpers who were muttering under their breath. I thought that they would've been too quiet for unenhanced ears to hear their conversation, but Hayes didn't seem to have that problem. "And quit bitching!"

The two men immediately stopped talking to one another, instead looking directly across.

"ETA is thirty seconds!" the pilot yelled from cockpit. "Gonna get heavy fire on us!"

"Second Squad! Helmets on, weapons ready!" I yelled even as Hayes started giving orders. Only half of my squad was here, the other half was on the other Pelican along with most of First Squad.

I cocked my rifle and moved towards the edge of the cockpit even as the copilot on the Pelican cocked the Gatling on the back. It was dark and we were flying fast, I could barely make out anything other than green flashes, sometimes close, sometimes not. Then I started seeing the neighborhood. Prism-shaped houses were one on top of the other, stacking themselves to form a flat-topped pyramid of sorts. Occasionally there would be a courtyard or a landing pad, with chutes towards ground level being strewn about. It was quite a messy place.

"Gonna love this," I grunted.

The Pelican did a full one-eighty while on the move, something that almost threw me off my feet. I found ourselves facing a small flat space. A few plasma shots flew in our direction, but the man on the gun quickly suppressed the fire.

"Go, go, go!" Hayes cried.

I was first one out, with Hayes close on my six. The second Pelican was dropping off the troops on another courtyard half a level up. I could see the second half of my squad over there, Pavel commanding them. I turned around to see the Pelican that I had been on fly away at near supersonic speed. The other one kept flying straight, towards the UNSC cordon.

"First Squad! On me!" Hayes shouted. "Second Squad, you're on the balconies!" She paused for the briefest of seconds. "Move your asses!"

"You heard the lady!" I boomed in my best drill sergeant voice. "On my six! Pavel, I want you to provide as much suppressing fire as you can, be careful, there are still civilians out there. Beckel, you'll provide support and cover him from any rushing attempts. Wiremu, Serge, and Almers, you're bottom level, leapfrog your way ahead, form a nice perimeter. Novak and Caboose, find a nice high point, Caboose, suppressing and support fire, protect her from rushing attempts." As I gave out orders the respective ODSTs broke off from the squad and found spots. They were all trained to stay within short distance of one another, we wouldn't want to be too far from one another if things got ugly.

The coppers and soldiers were holding firm at a gap in between the container houses. The gap reached all the way down to the ground, with a couple of railways before the compartments reached the bottom. There was a bridge, wide enough to fit two school buses parallel to each other. Right now there were a couple of smaller metal crates in a broken barricade. One side of the bridge was littered with human corpses, the other one was littered with both human and alien. Grunts and jackals were exchanging shots with the officers and soldiers while two brutes ordered them around, occasionally firing a grenade into the hastily fortified positions.

"Novak, those two brutes, I want them dead, now!"

"Gunny," she replied affirmatively. Her helmet cam showed her climbing.

Cabooses helmet cam showed her ass as she climbed.

I ran up to the nearest officer and ducked behind cover with her. "Officer!" I yelled at her, startling her. "Officer, who's in command here?"

"A Helljumper?"

"And a rather good-looking one too," I assured her. Pavel's machine gun started roaring as I depolarized my visor to show her that I wasn't lying. "Who's in command?"

"Captain Adama was shot a few minutes ago, the rest of us police officers are following the corporal's orders."

I heard the thick accent and immediately switched to Spanish. "What corporal? Can you point me to him?" I would've gone there directly, but these men and women didn't have UNSC IFF, a terrible mistake if you ask me.

"Over there," she replied, the thick Uruguayan accent reminded me of a friend of my dad's. "Behind that concrete divider."

"Thanks," I told her, putting my hand on her shoulder. "Keep your head low and stay strong."

"Yes, sir," she replied, sliding down the wall. She looked thankful, relieved.

I crouch-ran across the open space until I reached the safety rails. They weren't rails per se, they were made out of polycrete and tall enough for me to sit down without getting my head shot off in one of them.

"Corporal?" I asked.

"What?!" he replied. "Oh, Gunny, pleasure to have you here, we though they weren't sending any more reinforcements."

"Afraid we're it."

"Don't stop firing!" he yelled at a cowering officer. "Keep shooting goddammit!" He turned towards me. "Covvies got us pinned here, we can't fall back without giving them the bridge, and if we give them the bridge…well."

Before I could reply the man next to the corporal got shot through the eye with a needle. The man jerked backwards and slumped to the floor, blood already pooling around his head.

"Medic!" he yelled.

"That was our medic!" another soldier replied.

"Gunny?" Almers asked me.

"He's dead," I replied. "Corporal, we're gonna take back the other side of the bridge, push forward."

"Hey, if you can do it, feel free to try it."

"Spearhead fireteam," I called out. "Move up to the crates on the bridge on my mark."

"Got it," Wiremu told me. "Just say the word."

"Got one of the brutes!" Novak announced. "The other one scurried away."

"It'll have to do." I shrugged. "Pavel, spray the right side. Novak, keep the ones on the left with their heads down."

I stood up and fired a burst at the first thing I saw, which incidentally, happened to be grunt preparing to toss a plasma grenade. With its stubby little arms it probably wouldn't have made it, but I felt quite satisfied with myself. Novak hit a jackal aiming for me the next moment, and I kept firing at the top of the railing with single rounds, spraying little pieces of polycrete on whoever was hiding behind it, startling it. I was willing to bet that Pavel was doing the exact same thing on the other side.

With a machine gun.

"Move up!" I ordered my fireteam. "Corporal, tell your men to help provide suppressing fire."

"Aye, aye!" he replied immediately. "You heard the Helljumper, fire!"

Wiremu ran halfway up the bridge, the heavy SPANKr on his back looking unwieldy. Serge moved right behind him with the confidence of a man that had served his whole life in the military. The plasma bolts that flew past him barely seemed to faze him. Almers, on the other hand, looked a little bit more nervous when he moved. Being a PFC he had maybe two tours under his belt, and I'm willing to bet that he hadn't seen anything on the level that Reaper had faced.

With my luck, that was bound to change.

They reached the two crates in the middle of the bridge and ducked underneath them.

"They have their heads down!" I boomed. "Vault over and massacre those fuckers!"

Very inspirational, I told myself.

Brisbois was the first one up. The grizzled legionnaire didn't hesitate to follow my near-suicidal orders. He ran the length of the bridge, hopping over bodies, just as Wiremu and Almers vaulted over the crates. Once he reached the end of the bridge he slid down and fired blindly behind cover before shooting at the visible enemies opposite him. By that time Wiremu and Almers had arrived and crossed the bridge itself, firing on the clustered aliens. With no cover and completely surprised they were quickly overrun.

"Secure that side!" I ordered them. "Beckel, get down here!" I turned to face the corporal. "With me."

He nodded. "Push forward!"

I ran up to the crates along with the corporal before jumping over. The three guys up ahead were already securing the area, taking positions behind the corners and firing occasional bursts. I kept my focus on the rooftops, trying to spot any eager jackals. The corporal and his miss-matched team of soldiers and officer moved up towards the corner. The narrow alley-like street stopped abruptly and turned to either side. Each side climbed up to other levels.

"Here, you!" I stopped a tall and muscular officer. "Boost me up."

He helped me climb up the roof of one of the container houses and I ran to the corner. "Wiremu?"

"No takers, hit a jackal in the leg, hid behind that piece of metal. Other grunts managed to get away."

"Move up," I told him. "Clear the left and then the right."

"This is like a fucking labyrinth, Gunny," Wiremu stated.

"Yes, but it will work for us, comprendre?" PFC Brisbois told him.

"Frenchman is wise," I said, agreeing with Serge. "Move up, Corporal, you two, wait for my team to secure the left side and go to the right. Beckel, you're in charge of them."

"Me? My own command? Nah."

I ignored the sarcasm and climbed up another rooftop. I felt like I was in a videogame or a corny action movie, jumping through the rooftops. I entered a house through a broken window and cleared it before sitting down in a chair. I immediately tried to make contact with a recon drone. There were a couple within range. I redirected one to fly above us in circles, pointing out targets thermally. That would come with the bonus of showing us where any civilians were alive.

"We got a thermal map!" I stated. "Pavel, move up here, but be ready to fall back to the bridge any moment. Caboose, set charges on the bridge, you got any?"

"Enough," he replied. "I'm working on it."

"Novak," I said, pausing before giving out the order. "Stay there, find higher ground if you can, keep your eyes on the bridge."

"Back here?"

"No, Novak. Not back there."

"Fine," she replied, flustered.

"Thermal imaging is online," Pavel said. "Go!"

There were three thermal signatures in the house that I was in. One of them was my own, obviously, the other two were unknowns, I verified them immediately, spotting them in different rooms. The larger one was a pot full of boiling water; the other one was a punctured fusion coil. From that point on I went house by house on the second level. While my team and the locals cleared the lower one I kept watch above them.

"Whoa!" I managed as a pan smacked me right in the face. Well, visor. "The fuck?"

I rolled as the attacker tried to smack me in the head again and got up before she could follow up with a third attack. I grabbed the woman's wrist and smacked it against the wall, forcing her to drop the pan. "Calm down!" I shouted.

"Dios mio," she exclaimed.

"Relax," I told her, switching to Spanish once more. "I'm human. See?" My visor depolarized so that the woman could see my face.

The woman herself was in her early thirties, disheveled, and visibly pregnant. I hadn't realized until I took a step back.

"Oh crap," I muttered. "Can you move?"

"My husband, my baby," she cried.

"Can you move?" I asked again, pushing her off me. "Ma'am, listen, I need you to listen to me!"

She stopped sniffling and looked at me. "They killed them."

"And they're gonna kill you too unless you walk towards the bridge, you know the one I'm talking about?" I went on after she nodded. "Good, then. Move quickly and keep your head down."

She nodded and walked off, stopping only to grab a frame with changing stills of herself and her family. Her dead family.

"Novak, there's a civvie on the way, cover her."

"Got it, the cops here are setting up a nice barricade, bringing in a couple of transports to move people. With any luck we might get Pelicans."

"Don't dwell on it too much," I told her. "Just do your job."

"Uh, sure, yes Gunny."

Down on the lower floor things weren't going so well. "Holy shit! Four brutes, brute shots, power armor." Beckel sounded quite serene considering his pinned down predicament.

"I'm on my way," I replied. "Can you keep them with their heads down?"

"Can try," he said. "Army guys are doing a good job."

I nodded absently as I switched directions and ran on the rooftops, occasionally hopping over ledges and narrow alleys. I was enjoying myself despite the situation. This roof-hopping thing was quite fun. I stepped twice of another house compartment and pulled myself up to the rood. From this point I could also see the brutes firing on Beckel. He occasionally fired back over cover with his shotgun, sending the brutes back into cover. I aimed at the leader and hesitated before taking my finger off the trigger. Instead of firing I moved a few steps closer towards the brutes, moving up on their flank. Thank God for giving me a little patience. I grabbed a frag and dropped it in their midst. Two of them were immediately killed. The other two were taken out with quick bursts to the head.

"Thanks Gunny," Beckel told me. "I'm adequately impressed."

"I aim to please," I grunted, jumping across the narrow street and moving over the houses towards Pavel's group. This time I had to break inside a couple of houses instead of taking a huge detour. There were underground hallways in between the houses. Not necessarily underground, but I couldn't see the stars or moons. I met a few scared civilians, stopping to tell them where we were evacuating. Most of them were banged up and a few of them were splashed in blood. It was a sorry spectacle, but I couldn't stay there with them.

"Pavel, thins good?"

"Not bad, but we could use some help." He fired at a target I couldn't see. "Where are you?"

"Where do you think?" I replied.

"Showoff."

There were several grunts firing constantly at Pavel's own fireteam. It wasn't exactly a tough situation, but I was nearby and had a higher vantage point as well as a very good aim. The grunts were dead in two seconds.

"Showoff," Pavel repeated. "How does the search go?"

"Civvies all over the place, I'm trying to send them back to the bridge."

"Yeah, pretty much the same deal here too."

I climbed up another house to get a nice perspective on the surroundings. Up there I saw what must've passed off as a park in this neighborhood. It was a courtyard with a few benches and trees. There wasn't an alien in sight, but it could prove to be a defensible position on this side of the bridge. This could be our definite…landing position, if you will. Beachhead, that's the word. I examined and placed a secondary waypoint on it before climbing a section of the container house that I was on. I only realized how stupid I was being a moment before being shot.

I was highly visible to any creature with mediocre night vision. This jackal didn't have mediocre night vision, he had better than that.

The round nicked my neck, an inch off my carotid. I collapsed for two reasons. Number one was to make the shooter think that I had been killed and number two was because the mind numbing pain made my legs give under my weight. I fell down the expanded section and back to the roof. I could feel the warm blood flowing from the wound. It was probably a needle rifle that hit me. I remained still, my neck in pain and my limbs in awkward positions.

"Frank!"

"I'm good," I grunted. "Can you see the shooter?"

"Not from down here," Wiremu grunted.

"Wait, didn't I tell you to stay back at the bridge?" I asked Pavel.

"No…"

"Dick." There was nothing I could do about it. "Fine, think the jackal can see me right now?"

"Probably," Wiremu admitted.

Here goes nothing.

I jumped behind whatever meager cover I could find and then rolled down the container, falling three meters to the next rooftop. Two needles flew by me, missing my millimeters.

I groaned in pain, pressing my hand against the scratch as I fumbled through my pouches, looking for the can of biofoam on me. I poured a little bit of it on my hand and took a deep breath before rubbing it on my neck. It stung like fuck, but I was used to it, and the pain would die away in a couple of seconds. Holy fuck rolling of the side of a house was a bad idea.

"Gunny, you ok?" Almers asked. I don't think that he was asking out of the kindness of his heart. He was the designated medic, he was just doing your job.

I'm fine," I groaned. "Yeah, I'm peachy."

"You sure?"

"Yup, no go and take that courtyard, set up shop there. Novak!"

"Yes Gunny?" she asked immediately. If I hadn't known better I would've thought that she was waiting for an order.

"How many friendlies do we have there?"

"An even dozen, Gunny," she answered quickly. "Why?"

I sighed. "Cause I need you here, fast as you can. Beckel, you good?"

"A lilttle bit tired and numb from all the death and sadness," he stated. "But otherwise I'm fine."

"Your team making their way towards the courtyard?"

"Yup, seems that most roads lead there in here. Sorry, not roads, I don't know what these are."

"Double time it then," I ordered. "That courtyard is gonna be our evacuating point." I moved up and leaned against the wall, the shock from the impact still on my bones. "Command?" I asked tentatively.

"Identify yourself," a voice ordered.

I squinted, trying to remember the code sign for our platoon. "This is Ash-3," I said. "Do you copy?"

"We copy Ash-3, what do you need?"

"Need nothing, but there are a few thousand civilians still in here, we have a viable landing spot for Pelicans to evacuate. And reinforcements are always good," I added as an afterthought.

"Landing area, you say? Last intel showed your sector as completely overrun."

"Not anymore, I'm sending the coordinates right now."

"And you're telling me it's clear?"

I glanced around the corner, seeing all the tracers and plasma bolts still flying around. "What's the ETA on evac Pelicans?"

"Five minutes."

"Then, yes, it's clear."

"Your call Gunny," the operator sighed. "If the pilots see a single shot they'll bail and won't come back."

"Understood."

I sighed, muttering to myself. I could've waited five minutes and then asked for five more. "Pavel, Wiremu, I want that courtyard cleared in three minutes or there'll be consecuences! Novak!"

"I'm here," she replied. I could actually hear her without my radio.

"Novak," I repeated. "How quick are you on the trigger?"

"Uh…"

"Never mind," I rolled my eyes. "I'm going to climb up there and you're gonna take out the fucker that tries to shot me, ok?"

"Are you sure?"

"Why, think you're gonna miss?"

"No, but-"

"But nothing." I snapped. "Get ready, shots are coming from your eleven o'clock."

Novak nodded nervously, I could tell that she wasn't ready to have me die because of her. If I died right now, it would be because of her. Snark never would've hesitated to follow this order. I sighed and slapped her arm lightly. "You'll be fine," I assured her. "Now get ready."

"Ready," she said.

"Here goes nothing," I mumbled to myself.

"Francisco, one day you're gonna get the both of us killed," Schitzo muttered sadly.

"You can do this," Scarecrow assured me. Man, was he a sight for sore eyes. "Trust her."

"Scratch that, he is going to get us killed," Schitzo amended.

I climbed up the stairs with my rifle up and ready. A shot was fired and I dodged to the right on instinct. Thankfully, my movement didn't put me in the way of the needle. Before a second round could be fired Novak shot five times at the jackal. I moved my eyes to the bird's perch and saw the creature falling from behind a window.

"Nice job," I said, I was a little bit more nervous than I had imagined I would be. I missed Snark. "Pavel?"

"We clearing surrounding buildings!" he replied. "It's a mess in here. I've got an idea!"

"Can it," I snapped at him. "You're still under my command."

He grunted but otherwise remained silent.

"Novak, spot for sharpshooters, I want this place clear as can be."

"That's a tough one."

"It wouldn't be a mission for a Helljumper otherwise," I told her.

I jumped down and started running across the rooftops until I could jump to the alleyways on courtyard level. This one in particular had been hit by brutes. Several human bodies were carpeting the ground, spikes protruding from their bodies and blood splattered on the walls. I averted my eyes from their faces and stepped over the bodies, being as careful as I could at the speed I was going.

They were all dead, there was nothing I could do about it.

"Clear," Beckel yelled from my left. "Oh, hey Gunny."

"Hey," I replied. "Keep doing what you're doing," I ordered. The courtyard was now almost completely clear. "I want a Perimeter, there's only two direct methods of entrance so it shouldn't be hard." I looked around. "I want men on the high ground."

Beckel nodded and turned to the corporal, who in turn ordered several of his soldiers to start moving around towards different positions. Pavel's fireteam had already cleared the surrounding area and they were beginning to set a perimeter. This was good, we might just evacuate a lot of people in here.

Five minutes later when the first Pelican arrived a squad of Marines emerged.

"Captain Galván?" I asked, surprised. "Nice to see you," I saluted him.

"Likewise Gunny, what's the situation here?"

"FUBAR," Almers said helpfully.

"Got some civvies coming in and we have a decent perimeter, but our grip on this sector is tenuous as best, Spirit ships have been dropping troops for the last minute. Three transports in all."

He nodded and waved his men around. "We've got two more Pelican's worth of Marines coming, that ought to even up the stakes."

"Sir, if you don't mind me asking, why would they send the XO of a battalion to command a platoon?"

"Because I don't want to see civilians die," he admitted.

I shrugged, most officers were…pragmatic, sacrifice a thousand to save a hundred that were more valuable or kill one to save three. It varied, but most of the guys in the military accepted civilian deaths as a part of life. It's what it was, we didn't have to like it, but we had to live with it.

"Fine by me, sir." I looked around to see civilians climbing onto the Pelican, wounded and children went first. "Orders?"

This time he looked around at the civilians. "There is actually one order for you." It was the way he said it.

"Someone up there owes someone down here a favor, am I right?"

"Unfortunately for you, yes," he replied. "You need to pull out a girl."

"Always a girl I muttered."

"Castillo," Captain Galván looked at me with disbelief. "Shut up, I'm talking." He shook his head. "As I was saying, you need to pull out a girl from this location. Well, her transponder has that as her location, but…I don't know if she's alive."

I nodded. "Orders are orders."

Galván rolled his head and rubbed his neck. "That they are. Of you go."

"Caboose, Wiremu, Almers, you three are with me. We got a special VIP mission," I said as I walked towards the alley leading outside of this courtyard. "You're gonna love this one."

"I still don't know why you consent to being called Caboose," Beckel said. "It's demeaning. Like they're calling you a butt, or an ass."

"Shut up," Brisbois told him. I could just picture the legionnaire slapping Beckel in the back of the head.

"We got the location," I said. "Three hundred meters from our position. Near the spot where we've seen the Spirits."

"That's what I'm here for," Wiremu said. It was half a question.

"Yup," Almers replied. "Hey, how heavy is that SPANKr?"

"Heavier than your little back could carry."

Almers wasn't scrawny by any means, like most guys in the military he had a very good physique, but it couldn't compare to the ex rugby player standing next to him.

"Cut the chit-chat," I told them. "We do this house by house, slowly but surely, steady wins the race. I think you get the point."

"Frank?" Pavel called in on the radio.

"I need you here for leadership," I said before he could even ask the question. "It wouldn't do any good to have both of us dead, now would it?"

"If you die, can I keep your knife?"

"Me? Die? I was talking about you."


"We're here," Almers muttered. "Opening the door."

"Quiet," I muttered, there were brutes all around us, not all of them were visible. "Caboose?"

"It's clear."

"Tempting luck," Wiremu said. "Open yet?"

"Aaand done, going in."

I followed Almers with my pistol out, I didn't want to make the least amount of noise, especially not with a platoon's worth of brutes and a hunter pair nearby. When I think back to it it's amazing how quickly things can go from bad to worse. It had been like five minutes since we left the courtyard, how was it even possible for us to find ourselves in this situation.

"Clear," I said quietly.

"Clear," Almers replied in kind.

"Clear," Wiremu said finally.

"Caboose, cover the door," I ordered. "Now where's the gi-oh shit."

"What's wro-oh shit."

The girl in question was in front of us. There were two spikes on each of her shoulders, holding her against the wall. That wasn't the only thing, two wide wounds from a spiker bayonet had gutted her, intestines and organs were hanging out of her belly. There was a look of pure pain and horror on her face.

"What'd she do to deserve this?" Wiremu asked. "Why?"

"Gun," Almers said, pointing at a civilian model of the M6. "She probably angered the brutes."

"Fucking apes," Lance Corporal Wiremu spat.

"She's dead," I said, nothing we can do about it. Let's go."

"We can't leave her here," Wiremu complained.

"Api," Almers started.

"No, I won't leave her like that."

"Fine," I ceded, moving towards the girl. She couldn't have been more than sixteen. I averted those dead eyes and pushed her head to the other side while I yanked the spikes on her left shoulder.

I repeated the process and gently placed her on her bed. My armor was getting soaked in blood and gore, but for Wiremu's sake I didn't drop the corpse. One she was in the bed I looked at the Maori man and waited for him to say anything. "Happy?"

He said nothing, instead walking towards her and closing her eyes with his hands before yanking the bedsheets from underneath her and using them to cover her gutted belly. "There."

I could almost see Caboose rolling his eyes in diapproval.

"Let's go then."

"Shit."

An appropriate statement considering that after Caboose said that everything went to shit.

Brute chieftain plus dead bodyguards and narrow spaces equals a whole lot of trouble.

"Move back!" I yelled, firing in full-auto at the huge specimen. The rounds pinged of its shields, barely even making the chieftain flinch. It was big enough to have to squeeze in the alley. It was strong enough to move aside the house containers. "Shotgun!" I ordered, throwing my hand back. As soon as I felt something on my hand I grabbed it and aimed at the brute again. Two shots to the face were enough to stall it a little, and we turned a corner.

There were two brute majors tking fire from Almers and Wiremu. I tossed Caboose his shotgun back. And fired blindly onto the alley that we had just been in before tossing a grenade. I turned and saw that the chieftain's body wasn't there. There wasn't even a little bit of blood.

"Tangos down!" Almers announced. "Both of 'em."

"We have to get back!" Wiremu said, firing onto unseen enemies. "Now!"

"Ok, I'll cover you," I said. "Go."

The three of them ran past me, sprinting through a different alleyway to avoid enemy fire while I emptied my magazine at the pack of brutes that were trying to rush me. I think I might've killed one before I tossed another grenade and ran after my fireteam. The chieftain was still nowhere to be seen. I looked back at the apes. They looked very much like angry gorillas right now, running at us on all fours with their guns behind their backs. They wanted some blood and they wanted it quick.

"Why did you gut that bodyguard?" Schitzo asked. "You only provoked them."

"Almers! Fire by me!"

I moved to the left as rounds started whistling by my ear, awfully close to my head. The 7.62mm rounds were like mosquito bites on the brutes, it barely slowed them and only served to make them angrier. Sure, after the adrenaline and anger wore off they would die, but right now their bodies wouldn't stop unless they simply couldn't go anymore.

"Go," I ordered my squad. They didn't hesitate to take off down the next alley as I turned and emptied another clip on the brutes. Two of them collapsed on top of one another before I was forced to reload and run after my team. I grabbed my sidearm and fired while on the run. I don't think I hit anything, but I'm sure that the rounds all flew directly behind me. It was a very well practiced maneuver.

"Gunny!" Almers warned from up ahead.

I turned just in time to avoid a lunging brute. It was bleeding from the chest and neck, I guess I hadn't missed. The brute flew over me and landed on a trash can, knocking it down. It was sliding back to its feet even as I raised my rifle. Two shots hit its head and one flew back. The brute took two steps towards me before falling down, its own brain realizing it was dead. The danger wasn't over yet, I turned back and emptied my clip on another brute. It seemed to float there for a moment, the bullets keeping it in that position. When my gun clicked empty the brute fell down as if on queue.

"Above us," Wiremu shouted, calling attention to a dozen brutes that had climbed up the roofs and were now ahead of me. In between the three Helljumpers and me.

The lead brute was killed with combined fire and the rest jumped down. It was the biggest mistake that they could've possibly made.

"Kill 'em!" I ordered, a new magazine already on the rifle.

I fired as I walked forward, my three squad mates doing the same thing on the other side. The brutes collapsed one by one, taking fire from both sides. It wasn't until the very last brute fell down that I felt the sting.

I raised my arm and saw blood trickling from above my elbow. "You shot me," I said to either Almers or Wiremu.

"Shit," Almers said. "Here, let me-"

"No time," Caboose yanked him back.

I turned and saw the chieftain running towards us. It was angry as fuck and the hammer was over its head. I fired several rounds before my gun clicked empty and I had to run. Caboose and Almers were already ahead of us, and Wiremu was firing short bursts while I reached their position. Once I was near enough he turned around and ran. I placed my rifle over my back as I reloaded my pistol once again. When I felt the brute coming too close I turned and fired two rounds. Those two were only a distraction; the third one was aimed at its hands. I was lucky that I hit the target, one of the hands let go of the huge hammer and the brute was stalled by the weight before roaring and regaining its grip on the weapon. This one was determined to kill me, I'll give him that.

I felt a grip on my leg and fell down. I turned to fire five rounds at the chieftain. Two of them hit its jaw and it recoiled. I took advantage to kick it in the face before recoiling backwards. A pair of arms helped me up and gave me a boost before I started running. Almers nodded at me and ran as fast as he could.

My neck was pulsing, the recent wound hurting like hell and back.

I paused once again to fire at the kneeling brute. It raised its head and suddenly it was covered in a golden web.

"Fucker's gone indestructible!" Almers complained.

There was nothing left to do but to outrun it. The chances of doing that weren't exactly high. I fired the last of my rounds and ran after Almers. I followed him through a corner and ran up a slanted alley only to spot Wiremu at the top, SPANKr at me.

"Gunny!" he yelled.

Slow-motion kicked in.

Huh, I guess I should call it Spartan Time. After all, I'm just like those freaks.

I lifted my right arm and turned to the side just as I heard the faint sound of Lance Corporal Wiremu pulling the trigger of his weapon. Even with everything happening so slowly the rocket flew incredibly fast. I kept turning, moving my arm up and to the side as the rocket flew past me. It must've been less than a foot away from my torso when it streaked by. I turned my head as I rolled, tracking the missile's movement with my eyes. I saw the expression on the brute's face as the missile collided with its face.

Back to reality.

The overshields weren't destroyed. In fact, they weren't even damaged.

But physics can be a bitch sometimes. The kinetic force that the explosion produced was enough to launch the brute chieftain backwards at a speed of at least sixty miles per hour. Its overshield ran out while it was on the air and it landed against a wall with a very sickening cacophony of cracks. The dented metal wall was splattered with its blood.

I turned around to look at Wiremu, his smoking weapon over his shoulder. "Next time you could wait half a second more."

He actually looked flustered at how close he had been to killing his commanding officer. "I-uh, I am-"

"Can it," I interrupted. "Thanks. You'll do fine." I looked around at Almers and Caboose and nodded at them. "What are you doing? Move along, we have to make it back to our perimeter!"

We started back to the rest of the squad. This one would be a pretty good story, and I could always use the extra respect with this unit.


Thanks to Alshep and SilasWhitfield for proof-reading this chapter.

A quick apology for taking so long to update, I've been a little bit lazy when it comes to writing for the last few days, but I've got several exams and projects due in a span of only three days as an excuse.

That's the first time that you see Second Squad in some proper action. They're all new and they'll get their time in the spotlight, but not right now. I need to start developing those characters slowly, giving them personalities and all that stuff. Man, it would be so much easier to make them one-dimensional characters and keep them that way...

Well, as for the setting of this chapter think favelas of the future (hence the chapter quote). Kind of like the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer map Firebase Ghost. I might've been able to do all that better, but oh well. On a different topic, that was the shortest VIP rescue mission ever. Fairly realistic ending considering the circumstances through.

Oh, and the killing of brute hammer chieftains just amuses me so much that I keep finding ways to write them into the story. Read through the entire fic (feel free to skip the first forty chapters 'cause they're pretty bad) and you'll see that every single hammer chieftain dies rather graphically. Oh, don't lie, I know you enjoy it too.

As always my faithful readers, stay strong.

-casquis