|2347 Hours, November 5th, 2549
Paris IV Orbit, Paris System
"This is SPARTAN-035, can anyone hear me?"
Marco-035 floated slowly through space, helpless as he watched the battle rage around him. Covenant warships moved over the surface of Paris IV, discharging plasma torpedoes towards defenceless orbital stations while Longsword fighter formations zipped around them like shoals of fish, dodging laser bursts and engaging enemy vessels. Country-sized portions of the planet below glowed red from orbital bombardment, and all the Spartan could do was watch.
The COM's dead. They must be jamming us.
When news of Paris IV's besiegement had reached HIGHCOM, Sigma Team had been among the first battlegroup dispatched to help counter the Covenant invasion, with Marco and two others assisting in the defence of one of the colony's largest orbital stations. Marco, Resk-063 and Jax-007 had put up a spirited defence before retreating back towards their Pelican dropship, only for a nearby Cruiser to fire on their position with its energy projector. Lagging a few metres behind his comrades, Marco had been taken by surprise as the corridor before him was sliced open, sending him careening off into space.
This isn't good.
Alone in the void, there was nothing Marco could do. Without a T-pack or even a weapon - he'd lost his as he left the station - he was completely and utterly stuck. He checked his MJOLNIR suit's oxygen supply: 26 minutes. He'd already been out here for over an hour, forced to watch as the Covenant slowly won the battle. This was a feeling he and his brethren despised. For all their strength and skill, there was nothing they could do against their foe in orbit, nor could they always stem the near-endless tide of soldiers the Covenant seemed to possess.
"I repeat, this is SPARTAN-035, can anyone hear me?"
Consigned to his fate above a soon to be glassed planet, Marco felt an unfamiliar, creeping sensation move through him: fear. As a Spartan, he had been trained from an early age to suppress such emotions. Situations were to be addressed logically and dealt with efficiency. Out here though, unable to maneuver to safety in the midst of an orbital battle, there was no solution Marco could come up with. While he could never admit it, death frightened him. Dying in combat was something he had come to terms with years ago; Marco could see no other alternative in his line of work. To suffocate out here where his body would likely never be recovered was a different matter entirely for him.
He would cease to exist, having died a quiet, ignominious death. Very few would remember him, and history would mark him down forever as another missing soldier in a war that had claimed billions. He could certainly struggle and try to move to safety, but it would be in vain. Looking out over towards the night-side of Paris IV, Marco saw the distant flare of an exploding ship, and sighed. This was agony. He briefly considered removing his helmet and overriding its seals to hasten his demise, perhaps out of some desire to reject the countdown on his HUD which now signified how much longer the Spartan would live.
Never. I'm a fighter.
Knowing full well that he would not - could not - end his own life, Marco resumed his vigil over the burning planet, checking on the countdown every so often.
It wouldn't be long now. Sweat beaded on Marco's forehead as he found himself facing the end. All his life - the gruelling years of training, over two decades of war, everyone he'd lost - seemed fairly insignificant now. As the timer ticked down to four minutes, he balled his armoured hands into fists, ready to scream at the unfairness of it all. He didn't want to go out like this.
"Marco, is that you!?"
A voice suddenly crackled through his COM, surprising Marco after spending so long in dead silence, with only his own breathing to hear. He took a quick breath and replied.
"Jax? Where are you?"
"We're on our way, Spartan. Found your armour's beacon."
A Pelican dropship was approaching him from a distance, two searchlights cutting through the blackness of space. As Marco's timer hit a minute, it found him, illuminating the armoured supersoldier for a few moments before turning to face him. The rear doors slid open, revealing two other Spartans clad in blue and red respectively. Jax-007 reached out, catching hold of Marco's hand and pulling him back towards the dropship. Resk helped heave him inside, and just as the dropship's door closed, a beeping from within his helmet signified that his MJOLNIR suit was out of air.
"Took your time," Marco removed his helmet and flashed a rare smile. "Thought you'd left me out there."
Jax sat opposite him. "Had to get that cruiser off our backs first before we started looking. The rest of the team's gonna RZ with a Prowler on the edge of the system. Paris IV's doomed, I'm afraid."
Marco nodded, feeling overwhelmed with relief.
"You okay?" Resk asked, looking concerned as ever.
"Yeah, fine. That one was a little close, even for me."