ONI Sloop Winter Walker

CRYO Bay 17

Spartan Recon Group Delta: S45 Jai "Boomer", S79 Remy "Psycho", S24 Jackson "Blade", S107 Tom "Boss"

Objective: Destroy/Disable Covenant Shipyards in orbit over Scion 4

It's a long, long road…

Spartan Recon Squadron Delta, en route to the Bridge

The Battle Rifle threw 3 rounds at his target as a hail of bullets flew past him from all around. His right side peripheral vision caught a bright orange fiery blast that ripped through a Flood Form and lit several Infection Forms behind it on fire. The loud CRACK of a DMR came from his right, and his left side peripheral saw the round enter a Flood Form, exit out the back, impact a second target, exit, and continue into the darkness. He saw the tracer rounds of an LMG fly past his left side, 5 inches away from his shields. They flew slightly downward on a path towards a few Infection Pods, all clustered together, and suddenly they were flying at a Flood Form's torso, tearing it to pieces.

Another 3-round burst left Tom's rifle as Boomer's shotgun put another wall of fire towards the remaining Infection Pods, taking out a Flood Form's legs and setting him ablaze. The DMR cracked, and the round flew right through the last Flood Form. More tracers flew from behind Tom and destroyed the remaining Infection Forms and the deck beneath them.

The engagement lasted no more than 3 seconds.

"Clear!" Boomer yelled enthusiastically.

"Copy!" called Psycho.

"Copy!" replied Blade.

"Affirmative! Press on!" ordered Tom. The squad began moving through the halls towards the elevator at a run.

"Psycho, why tracers?" asked Blade.

"I find them beautiful." Psycho responded in his low monotone voice. "And it's all the Armory had."

Tom grinned. Typical Remy…

They rounded a corner and saw a barricade 25 yards ahead of them.

"Break through!" Tom yelled over the comm line.

The squad put their weapons behind them with their left hands while bringing their right arms up into a protective position. Their speed increased to a flat-out sprint, their boots thundering through the halls; the bloody, dimly lit halls. Without saying a word, without a thought crossing their minds, they formed up in a straight line, Tom and Blade on the left and Boomer and Psycho on the right. They chose the weakest points in the barricade ahead, and targeted them. Time slowed down as Tom's head twisted to the left as his right shoulder impacted the barricade. Simultaneously, he heard his squad's collective bodies slam against the barricade. It creaked and gave way to 8.5 tons of Spartan, shrapnel flying in every direction. Tom's shields drained to half, and as he twisted his head forward again, he was met with the bodies of Flood Forms.

His body naturally brought his rifle to bear, but he was too slow. A Flood Form reached out and was about to hit him when he heard a loud BOOM and saw the creature in front of him burst into flames. As it flew off to his left, he saw more Flood Forms up ahead. His finger tightened around his rifle's trigger, and 3 Armor Piercing rounds flew forward, impacting a Flood Form, lifting it off the ground and slamming it onto its back. He heard SMG fire from his left, saw the shotgun's fiery blaze light up the halls, quickly followed by the bright white lines of LMG shredder tracers.

The firing stopped, time resumed its course, and the Spartans came to a dead halt, standing in front of a destroyed barricade in the dim Condition Red ground lights, the walls covered in blood, bodies on the ground, some set ablaze due to Boomer's excellent taste in ammunition. They were standing in the bloody fallout of a fight between Marines and the Flood.

"Holy shit…" came 4's voice through the silence. Tom was surprised; that was usually his line. Remy was never surprised by anything. This was a bad omen.

"18 Marines. Not normal ones; these guys are UNSC Special Forces. MP armor, heavy weapons, a barricade…and they still didn't make it." Blade analyzed.

"These aren't the normal Flood Forms we've encountered in the past. They're bigger and stronger. And the targets we just engaged are worse; not much aside from Covenant are taller than Spartans." Boomer responded.

"These aren't Covenant." Psycho announced.

Tom glanced down at the Flood Form body in front of him and saw a normal-looking human head, but upon further study, he noticed something that disturbed him deeply.

"These are human Flood Forms, but they're different." Tom stated. "The musculature, strength, and overall body shape is that of a recently graduated Spartan. Just like us after we received our biological modifications."

"Someone's been infecting people with the Flood parasite and engineering them to be like us? Why?" Blade asked.

"God knows. But it's our problem now, and that problem has rendered our shipyard sabotage mission impossible. Our new objective is to get to the bridge, access the shipboard A.I., and put out an SOS." Tom announced.

"Delta 2 copies all." Boomer called.

"Copy." said Blade.

"4." said Psycho.

"Swap magazines and pull ammo from the dead; they won't need it anymore." Tom ordered.

He dropped his Battle Rifle magazine and slapped in a new one, then squatted in front of a dead Marine who was carrying the same rifle and ammo.

This explains the unusual emptiness of the Spartan Armory. Tom thought.

He pulled 9 rounds from the dead soldier and put them into his recently dropped magazine before putting the clip away in his combat vest. He looked up and realized that the man's eyes were open, a look of absolute terror frozen in them. Tom reached up and ran his fingers down the man's face, closing his eyes.

The dead should be remembered…

"Grab their IFF Tags and Chains and download their information; someone will want to know what happened to these men." Tom ordered. He pulled the small, yellow chip from the back of the man's helmet, inserted it into the slot in the back of his helmet, and accessed it. The man's name was Robinson, David J., rank Master Sergeant, Assault Team Epsilon Lead, Age 32. Tom was able to access 7 other soldier's IFF Tags from Sergeant Robinson's and download their information. After that process, he pulled the chip out of his helmet, placed in back in the dead Sergeant's helmet, and yanked his Chains, which contained his Dog Tags. He stood up and pulled the Chains from the other Epsilon squad members.

When he turned around, Blade and Psycho were already on their feet, and Boomer had just pulled her last Chain.

"Delta, synchronize data, and set syncs for 15 minute intervals." Tom called.

A spinning semi-circle appeared next to each Delta members' name, indicating synchronization. Less than a second later, it was gone, and a green light flashed 3 times next to each of their roster slots.

"Affirmative. Fall in." Tom ordered.

Delta formed up in their diamond formation and jogged down the hall. Tom checked his squad's location on the computer's path. They were just over halfway to the elevator. He glanced at his motion tracker; it was blank aside from the green dots that marked his squad mates.

It's clear for now. Tom thought.

The squad jogged around another corner and saw the elevator doors 30 yards down the hall from them. The hallway was clear; no targets in sight. The Spartans came to a halt in front of them. 3 and 4 spun around and raised their weapons, keeping the hallway secure as 2 stood in front of the elevator doors, shotgun steadied against her shoulder, ready to blast whatever might be waiting inside the elevator. Tom moved to the small panel in the wall directly on the right of the door. A keypad came up on the panel along with a window asking for a 6-digit access code. Tom's hand reached for the touch-sensitive surface of the panel, his fingers a blur, as the numbers " 2" appeared in the blank window above the keypad.

The words "ACCESS GRANTED; S107, TOM, MAJOR" appeared on the screen, followed by another keypad, with the numbers 1-6 on one half of the screen and the letters A-D on the other half. His fingers tapped the surfaces that contained the digits A-1. A window popped up with the words "BRIDGE AND COMBAT OPERATIONS". Another window blossomed open underneath the previous window. "CONFIRM: YES/NO".

Tom confirmed his destination and watched as the computer confirmed his request. The screen changed to show the deck the elevator was currently on. The letters and numbers scrolled by as the elevator ascended from deck D4 to B6. It came to a halt on deck C2, and a red window appeared that said "ELEVATOR DISABLED; OBSTRUCTION DETECTED".

Son of a bitch. That's not good. Tom evaluated the situation. All the stairwell doors he had seen on the way here were sealed shut, and now the elevator was obstructed. That meant someone might still be alive on the bridge.

"Delta, stack up. We're going for a little climb." Tom announced. "2, break that door."

He slid his rifle muzzle down over the magnetic holster on the right side of his back as Boomer pulled out a breaching charge. The 5x5x1/2 inch white box had a red border, indicating high explosives. When she slammed it onto the surface of the doors, it stuck. Tom pulled his SMG from the holster on his right leg and stood 3 feet from the doors as Boomer pressed a small button in the center of the device. It's 3 second detonation timer was initiated, and she jumped in front of Tom and took a knee, shotgun leveled at the doors. The charge exploded, its Titanium B interior directing the blast into the doors before the whole thing disintegrated. The reinforced doors flew straight back into the elevator shaft, denting on impact with the other side, and began a long fall downwards.

Nothing but loud clanging came from the tunnel in front of them before going completely silent.

Maybe the obstruction kept the Flood out of this part of the shaft. But if the obstruction was caused on purpose, there may be more ahead. Tom thought.

Tom and Boomer moved to the doors and turned on their gun-mounted lights. Boomer spun around to face the hallway, and fell backwards, reaching out with her left hand to grab the right side of the door frame, shotgun aimed towards the upper decks. Tom fell forwards, catching the left side door frame with his left hand, SMG sweeping the lower decks in his right hand.

"Clear!" Boomer yelled.

"Clear!" Tom responded.

Tom pushed himself back into the hallway, followed quickly by Boomer. He scanned the other side of the shaft with his light as Boomer took a knee behind him, shotgun aimed down the hall.

There should be a ladder somewhere…there!

"Delta, there's a ladder on the far side of the shaft; distance 10 feet. 2, after me; 3 and 4 follow close behind." Tom ordered. Blade and Psycho instantly backpedaled to positions on either side of the opening into the shaft. Boomer held her position 3 feet from the opening. Tom holstered his SMG, took a small step that placed his right foot on the edge of the door frame, sank into his hips, and launched himself across the abyss. He impacted the ladder, stabilized his footing, and quickly ascended the ladder, his impact noise reverberating through the shaft.

"Clear!" he yelled, signaling 2 to make her jump. A second later, a loud clang came from underneath him. He continued his silent ascent up the ladder, making room for her to clear the LZ.

"Clear!" she yelled. 3 spun from his position by the door and easily cleared the jump, holstered his DMR mid-flight, impacted the ladder, and began his ascent.

"Clear!" he called. 4 spun around and launched himself across the shaft, slamming into the ladder, bending the rungs to breaking point.

"Clear." he said calmly. Tom continued his ascent. He continued to hear the sounds of metal creaking, breaking, and impacting the obstruction far below. He stopped his ascent.

"Delta, what the hell is that noise?" Tom asked over the squad's radio freq.

"I've only broken the ones that could possibly be reached by jumping through that particular door, Boss. It may not stop the Flood, but it'll slow them down." Psycho responded.

"How much more noise do you plan to make, 4?" Tom asked. Just then he heard metal being broken away, clanging off the walls on its way down before coming to rest with a loud CLANG.

"That was the last one, Lead." Psycho looked down through his arms at the rungs below him. He'd broken 40; nothing he knew could jump 15 yards at that angle through a door frame and stick that landing, especially when there was nothing to grab on to.

"Psycho, could you keep it down for a while?" Tom inquired.

"Copy." came his response.

The ascent continued in silence. A few times they'd heard gunfire and screams for help, but the doors were on the other side of a 10 foot gap, and there were no handholds on the other side. Once, something was thrown into the elevator doors hard enough to dent them heavily, but the reinforced steel didn't give.

It made the climb harder, listening to their fellow soldiers die like that, but there was nothing that could be done. Everyone had their objectives, and each soldier would complete that objective to the best of their ability, and nothing more could be asked of them.

I'll make sure someone knows of their sacrifice. Tom vowed to himself.

Finally, after 11 decks worth of climbing, the doors with the label A1 stood directly across from the Spartans.

"Delta, any ideas?" Tom asked over the squad freq. He heard a magnetic holster disengage, and when he looked down through his arms he saw Boomer holding her sticky grenade launcher.

"If I put 1 grenade towards the top of the doors and one towards the bottom, right on the split line, and detonate them together, that should do it." Boomer stated. She set the detonator for 2 grenades and fired the first with a loud THUD. It stuck halfway between the middle of the doors and the top, right on the split line. A second THUD rang out, and the second grenade landed on the split line hallway between the middle and bottom of the doors.

"Fire in the hole!" she called as she squeezed the detonation trigger. The grenades went off simultaneously, and the doors blossomed open into the halls of Deck A1.

Tom took his right hand off of the ladder and turned around to face the doorway.

I'll need the high ground. He decided. He climbed up the ladder until the doorway had decreased in size by 1/4. He took his right hand off the ladder, sank into his right hip, and pushed himself off the ladder and towards the doorway. His left foot hit the edge of the door frame on the ground, and he shifted his weight forward as his right foot made contact with the floor. He brought his chest to his right leg, pushed with his left foot, and dove away from the door, ending in a roll that brought him to one knee, SMG raised and shouldered.

"Clear!" he yelled. He stood up and moved 5 feet down the hall and dropped to one knee. Boomer made her jump, landed, and rolled to a standing position.

"Clear!" she called. She moved to Tom's left, took up a standing position, and shouldered her shotgun. Blade flew through the door and landed in his position to Tom's left, standing, with his DMR against his shoulder and aimed down the hall.

"Clear!" he said, his voice full of exhilaration. Psycho's jump bent the rungs he had been standing on, and he landed with a loud THUMP as he stuck the landing, no rolls. He lifted his boots out of the dents they'd made in the floor and moved to his position behind Tom, SAW raised.

"Clear." he said coolly. Tom couldn't help but smile.

"Affirmative. Move to the Bridge." he ordered. He stood up and moved at a jog through the halls. He passed 2 doors the faced each other from across the hall 30 yards from the elevator shaft; staircases that led just below the floor they were walking on to the Combat Operations Room. 20 yards further down the hall stood a reinforced titanium door that led to the Bridge.

Tom jogged to the small panel that was in the wall next to the door.

"Delta, stack up! Breach and clear!" Tom called. His fingers entered his 6-digit access code. A window popped up; "ACCESS DENIED". Tom tried again. "ACCESS DENIED".

"Boomer, break this door." Tom ordered. Boomer was walking up to the door with plasma tape when the door opened up to a woman standing there with a M6-C Magnum Pistol in her hand. When she realized that she was staring at Spartans, she lowered her weapon, smiled, and said, "Well, it's about damn time! Spartans, welcome to the Bridge!"