|This article, Danger Close, was written by LegendOfElTopo. Please do not edit this fiction without the writer's permission.|
| Operation HANGING GARDENS - November 8th, 2552
Location: Shatin, New Territories
The skies of Hong Kong were ablaze - and Hari-G055 hated the rain.
This wasn't just rain, though - these were monsoon rains, sheets of water cascading down through the concrete jungle, turning streets into rivers. It made driving her warthog that much harder - and it made it almost impossible to spot the Wraith up ahead before it turned the lead vehicle of her convoy into a burning wreck.
"One's down, five's down!" Came the shout from the other Hog over COM, followed by a string of colourful curses in Miridam slang. "Motherfucker came out of nowhere!"
Hari gritted her teeth, swerving sharply to avoid the remains of an axle. "We need to get off the streets, now - we're sitting ducks out here."
Lyzander-G276 clearly seemed to agree, because she saw his Warthog peeling off down a side alley, out of sight from the roadblock up ahead. She followed suit, pulling up beside him, dismounting and gesturing to the others to do the same. "Out, out, out!"
Beside her, Sara-G141 herded the beleagured civilians further down the road, while Hari headed over to the corner where Lyzander stood. "Those Banshees breathing down our necks the entire time - they were just herding us into a kill zone, weren't they?"
"Yep." The demolition specialist's assessment was short and sobering. "It's what I'd do."
Hari didn't reply, looking back and doing a headcount of the civilians they had left, before risking a glance upwards - and instantly regretting it. The pair of battlecruisers hanging in the sky, the dim glow of excavation beams from further inland, the dropships circling above - vultures, waiting for the city to roll over and die. It was all a reminder that they were losing, here, on Earth. The whole thing just seemed surreal.
"Hey, H, remind me why we're babysitting these civvies?" The low growl of Lyzander in her ear - and the crackle of interference that always accompanied a nearby glassing - brought her back to reality. "Nothing against them, I'd just rather be punching holes in those ships, y'know?"
"You know why, Ly - we couldn't hold the SinoViet complex much longer. That was always the plan; Dagger and Kukri handle the data dump, we make sure the wetware gets out safely, and everyone lives to fight another day." This was the third time he'd asked, but it was obvious he needed the comfort of an answer. They both did.
The evacuation had gone...badly. The thinly spread defenders had been caught off guard by Covenant forces dropping in on top of their positions, and after that any organised plan of battle had rapidly dissolved. The Spartans were ordered to pull back, to keep sensitive material out of Covenant hands - but without support or intel on the operational situation, the three commandeered police warthogs had driven right into a well-laid ambush.
Leaving them here. Two - no, three - wraiths, a pair of shade turrets, and enough infantry to ruin anyone's day. A mess.
Hari leaned out around the corner, peering through the gloom at the roadblock. "Ly, don't suppose you've got anything to make those tanks disappear?"
"That's a big fat negative - all of my ordnance was in the first Hog." His frustration was audible, even over COM; the irony of all his toys being blown to pieces wasn't lost on him.
"Ah. Shit." She ducked back around the corner just in time to dodge a glob of sizzling plasma, then switched channel to the dumb AI coordinating local defence. "Ulysses, how's our tactical situation?"
The voice responding was dry, formal, functional. "Area Golf-49 operational report: nominal strength: 14,397 personnel, 94 units. Current strength: 5,018 personnel, 12 units. Projecte-"
"Ulysses - the situation on HANGING GARDENS?" Another, smarter AI would've picked up the anger in her tone, but all of those were elsewhere, on more important tasks.
"Spartan G049 is incapacitated, Spartan G221 is unresponsive; Spartan G055 reassigned as Fireteam Kalis lead." Hari winced at hearing the loss of friends in such dry terms, before forcing herself back to the moment. Mourn later, fight now. "Transmission and destruction of sensitive material ongoing. Fireteams Dagger and Kukri heavily engaged in defence of SinoViet facility Oscar-09. Four members of Fireteam Dagger are incapacitated, casevac unavailable."
A bloodbath. Hari's heart sank. "Ulysses, Kalis Two - we are currently pinned down and requesting extraction.
A beat. "Battlegroup Juliet is moving to engage Covenant forces over Southeast Asia - the UNSC Poor Yorick is deploying forces nearby in support of a local counter-offensive, and will be on-station for support."
"Put me through."
Another voice - older, tired, distorted by static - came through after a few seconds. "Kalis Two, this is Yorick actual."
"Good to hear you. Yorick - we've got a bunch of civilians evacuated from facility Oscar Niner, and they need a ride out of here."
"Negative, Kalis, your current position is too hot to extract - we've lost enough pelicans to AAA already, and we still have materiel to deploy."
More curses, this time in Hari's own, Actian tongue. "Yorick, we're currently down to small arms only - can you provide fire support?"
"Only if you can lase for us, Kalis - we took some hits over Manila and our targeting capability is limited."
Out of the corner of her eye, Hari spotted Lyzander shaking his head; gesturing to their target designator, the top half of which had melted away after taking a glancing blow in their last battle. Shit. "Yorick, we..." A pause. "We can do that. Kalis out."
"Are you mad?" Lyzander was more incredulous than anything else. "How exactly do you-"
"He could tell our location, couldn't he?"
"So, he can get a location fix on where we are, if nothing else. Or more specifically, where our COM is."
"So-" Lyzander's voice trailed off for a moment, before returning with a grin. "Hey, not gonna let me do the honours at least?"
"Not when I can throw further, sucker." Back to the comm channel. "Yorick, this is Kalis Two."
"Fire mission: requesting immediate fire for effect, any available ordnance, against Covenant armour and infantry directly on my position."
"Immediate fire, any ordnance, mixed force on your position. Confirm, mike-five."
"Commencing fire, twenty seconds. Yorick out."
Cleansing their homeworld was an honour in itself - but after shattering a human relief force trying to reach one of their strongholds, and entrapping the demons fleeing from it, Eda 'Chatanee was rather enjoying this invasion. Now, however, he waited for them to come to him; no Sangheili could hope to match a demon in combat, but out in the open his sheer firepower would even the odds.
But now one emerged from the hole it was cowering in, at last. It stepped forward, pulled off its helmet, hurling it forward to land heavy at his feet - and revealing its face.
These were no demons, no immortal vengeful spirits. These were humans; and they could die like humans. Emboldened, the Elite strode towards the demon, energy sword drawn, roaring a challenge-
-Hari stepped back, shielding her face-
-Lyzander whistled softly-
-and 'Chatanee, along with his roadblock, was swiftly obliterated by several thousand pounds of high explosive.