The Ghost of Noble Six

Chapter VII

A wise man, in times of peace, prepares for war.

We didn't have much time left. The clock had been ticking since the beginning, and now it was running short. Covenant weren't used to getting sent back to where they came from. They'd regroup and throw more enemies at us. Looking around, I could see that there was no way in hell that we'd survive another assault like that. The number of marines that were capable of fighting had just about been cut in half. We didn't have much of a choice. I still don't think that we'd make it if we try to move somewhere. It was a situation of 'damned if you do, damned if you don't'. The truth of the matter was that I wouldn't be able to save these marines if we got attacked. All of them would die on my watch. Because I wasn't strong enough to protect us all. I stood on top of the alien structure, trying to think of a way to get ourselves out of the situation.

There was small background noise from the marines as they chatted amongst each other. I could hear distant sounds of warfare. Somebody was catching hell, that was for sure. The sound of a machine gun was distinct and constant. It was a constant reminder that warfare was never far away.

I heard a voice next to me that sounded light, like an ocean at night time or something. That same one that had spoken to me earlier. I remembered that voice. I knew that it was Jennson before I turned to face her.

"What are we going to do?" She asked me. I didn't have a real answer.

"We're going to survive. We have to."

Jennson turned to face me. She was afraid.

"How are we going to do that?"

I didn't have an answer.

"Do Spartans ever get scared? Do you ever feel scared?" Strands of dark black hair hung down lazily over her face. She was asking too many questions. She was talking too much. But I could understand why she would speak to me, and I would do the same if I were in her shoes. It'd been a long day, plenty of lives were lost, the ship was shot to hell, and now the idea of survival was hanging by threads. Yes, I would also ask the spartan what to do. The problem with the question was that I wasn't sure if I should answer truthfully or not. Only a fool goes into battle without being afraid. If I said that I was scared, it would probably lower morale.

"Yes. Anybody out here who says that they aren't afraid is either a liar, or dead. But we're going to make it out of here. Trust me." I said to her. Jennson closed her eyes and let out a soft sigh. I noticed that her fingers were small and delicate, like a baby's. It was a strange thing to note, and I don't exactly know why I did. Strange that a marine would have beautiful hands like hers.

Out in the distance, I heard the faint roar of a pelican's engines. My attention snapped to it immediately, and I magnified the zoom in my HUD. Barely above a stretch of trees was a small dot, steadily growing larger. I knew that it wasn't a Covenant drop ship because it didn't have the right signs to be one. There would be more than one if it was Covenant. And it would be flying much faster. The outline of a UNSC pelican got larger and larger and the marines noticed it.

"Hey! 'S That what I think it is?!" A marine shouted from down below.

The commotion began to pick up as everybody spotted the incoming pelican. Cheers began ranging out. Marines began to clap for themselves, excited with joy. I watched as a smile spread across Jennson's face. It was hard to believe. I wasn't cheering like all the others for several reasons. The pelican was open for attack by any AA units that the Covenant had. The most critical part of any mission was the home stretch. Guards get let down, surprises get made, deaths happen. Mission failure.

My comm unit began to crackle and the sound caught me off guard. It felt like forever since I last heard it.

"-419 inbound ... -on my six!" I heard. The transmission was weak, but it was there.

"This is Noble Six of the UNSC Pillar of Autumn, send traffic again."

There was a short delay. I magnified the zoom of my HUD further and saw a pair of Covenant banshee fliers tagging the pelican with plasma fire. Shit.

"-Echo 419 inbound- ... -banshees on my ass!"

I reset the zoom of my HUD and immediately turned towards the machine gunner. He saw me approach and the smile on his face went away slowly. "Covenant banshees are in hot pursuit of the pelican. Tell Marcon to get everyone into cover and get ready. Make it quick." The marine scrambled to his feet, looking out at the approaching banshees. A look of terror was on his face. He ran off to spread the news, still staring at the pelican.

I stepped up the machine gun, gripped it firmly, and began to pull on it. I'd seen Jorge do it plenty of times, but the thing wouldn't budge. I'd need the machine gun to take out the aircraft. It was the heaviest thing that we had, and I would be slaughtered if I stayed stationary. Movement was key when fighting banshees. Split seconds are the difference between life and death. I pushed down with my legs and pulled up with my hands. It ripped off with a loud snapping sound, separating from the tripod that held it to the floor. I hefted it with my dominant left hand on the trigger, realizing just how heavy the thing was. Jorge had made it look much easier than it actually was. The weight would throw my aim off a little, but it wouldn't make much of a difference. In theory, the weapon should make small work of the banshees. In theory.

The pelican was much closer now, a dark trail of smoke behind it. My radar had a flurry of motion on it as marines scrambled to find cover.

"I've got two enemy fighters on my six - I need assistance!"

"Listen, Echo 419. Lower your altitude and slow down when you reach our position. I'll take care of the rest."

I estimated about 30 seconds between us and the pelican. If the marines were out of cover, they'd be chewed up by the banshee fliers. We would get strafed, they would knock out as many of us as possible, and then continue hunting down 419. But I had another scenario in mind. By getting down low, the banshees would have to follow 419 to keep in range, getting them within strong distance of my machine gun. It would also leave them with little maneuverability because of the tree tops. Pelicans were built to fly in traffic, but banshees were more suited to do traditional fighter work like strafing and dogfighting. If Echo 419 slowed down like I told her to, then the banshees would most likely follow suit. They were too greedy to pull off and attack and simply fly past 419. They were too smart for that as well. If they did that, then they would be exposed to attack from the pelican. In theory, the plan should work.

My finger rested on the trigger and I loosened my muscles, preparing to evade any dangerous shots if necessary. Plasma rounds began scoring the ground as the banshees were getting closer and closer. They were taking shots at the dug - in marines. As soon as they got within range, I opened fire on the nearest one. The machine gun rattled in my hands with fierce recoil, and I struggled to keep it controlled. Heavy MG rounds began piercing the armor of the banshee, tearing into it ruthlessly. They'd slowed down to stay behind the pelican, and it allowed me to keep a bead on the targets. A wing was blown off and the banshee began to spin out of control, diving towards the ground. It erupted in a ball of blue flames before it crashed, igniting like a sun. Broken debris slid along the ground and tore into the vegetation. I moved my aim to the next banshee, being careful not to hit the pelican, and didn't take my hand off of the trigger.

Plasma shots began searing beside me, heating my energy shields. A couple of rounds struck me and drained my shielding to 68%. I didn't move, and continued pouring round after round into the banshee. Inky smoke trailed it and chunks of it's armor were blown off. The pelican flew by overhead and caused a deep vibration. An explosion ignited the rear of the banshee, tearing it in half right in mid air. There was a slight outline as the elite piloting it was vaporized. Half of the banshee flew off in a random direction, and the other half soared straight towards me at a blinding speed. I dropped the machine gun and bent my knees slightly to evade out of the way, but I was too late.

A huge chunk of banshee slammed into me and sent me flying backwards with it. The breathe was knocked out of me and my vision went extremely blurry. I slid along the alien structure with the huge piece of alien metal crushing me. My energy shields were wiped out absolutely and my HUD was beginning to flicker and fail. Blood dotted the inside of my helmet and it felt as if I were about to die. Without slowing down, I slid completely off the top of the alien structure and plummeted to the ground below. My entire body felt battered to death when I hit the ground and I couldn't move. The large piece of banshee armor fell off as well and landed directly on top of my chest. If I hadn't been given superhuman injections during S-III boot camp, every bone in my body would've been shattered to pieces. My vision faded to black instantly.

It was a dream, I could tell. Almost like a memory of something that never happened. I was standing on the edge of a cliff, staring out across a vast distance of black emptiness. Death roamed the ground beneath me with the ruins of a great city. Everything felt dead. There were no sounds that I could hear. I was staring at a waste land of burning ruins and nothingness. Was I dead? Was I in Hell? On the horizon, I could see great white flashes, like a vicious lightning storm was raging far off in the distance. The flashes of light were illuminating the far off pieces of dead city, and I felt as if I were looking at a graveyard of an entire civilization. It scared me. There was no essence on this world at all - it just felt flat-out blank. Like someone had sucked every bit of life out of it. The only thing that they left behind was the remains of someone's home.

Suddenly, I began to hear whispers around me. As a matter of fact, it sounded like the voices were inside my head, like some weird telepathic move. Frightened, I took a step back from the cliff.

"You..." A clear voice spoke. I shook my head to get rid of it, but I couldn't. "Your journey does not end here" I heard it say. I put my hands to my head, willing the voice to leave me, but it wouldn't. "Your soul may yet be saved from utter destruction. Death awaits those who do not possess the necessary will. Thousands before you have perished." I began to look around frantically, searching for the source of the whisper within me.

The voice trailed off, replaced by the sounds of people that I know. In front of my eyes, I began to see flashes of people. I saw my mother's face, but I couldn't hear her voice. I saw my sister. I saw the faces of Noble team. I saw Marcon. It felt as if I was hallucinating, but I stared at the anomaly that covered my vision. Hundreds of faces flashed before my eyes. I couldn't understand what was happening, and it made me want to hit something. Hit anything. The face of Jennson appeared in front of me. I let out a scream and closed my eyes, falling to my knees.

"You do not belong in the spiritual realm. But you... You have something within you, Coario."

Coario? Not Noble Six? It's been so long since I've heard that... So much time of being called Noble Six. Noble Six... Noble Six... Not Coario. Noble Six...

"Noble Six!"

"I hope he's not dead. Spartans can't die, can they?"

"I don't think he's gonna make it."

"Did you see what happened to him?"

My eyes snapped open and I was looking straight up, lying on my back. A wave of pain seared through me; I was hurting like hell. Blinking to clear the blur of my vision, I recognized Marcon standing above me, along with other marines. They were surrounding me completely, standing over me and watching. All of them. I let out a grunt and winced as a sharp pain cut through my ribs.

"He's ohkay!" The marines were clearly happy to see that I was alive. They were cheering. Marcon extended his hand down towards me and he helped me stand to my feet. I stood in the center of all of them, naturally taking a look around to gather in my surroundings. The half of the banshee that hit me was lying on the ground 5 yards away. Past the marines, I could see a damaged pelican resting in a clearing on the ground. The pilot was walking towards us.

"Gotta say, I can't believe you survived that, even for a Spartan. Damn you're tough." She said, taking off her flight helmet. "Thanks, by the way." The tag on her flight suit read Foehammer.

Marcon extended an assault rifle to me. "I think this is yours, Six." I grabbed it from him. "So, what now?" Marcon asked.

I took a long look around at the marines. "Did anybody get hurt from the banshees?" I asked.

"We're good."

Turning my attention to Foehammer, I stepped past the circle of marines. "Can your bird fly?"

"She's a little shaken, but she'll hold. Ready to get the hell out of here, right?" She asked. I smiled behind my helmet.