|1746 Hours, February 20th, 2529
Harvest, Epsilon Indi System
"UNSC Monkshood, this is PREACHER, requesting immediate fire support!"
The instacrete bunker shuddered as a pair of fuel rod blasts struck the ground outside. Hunched over a tiny field radio, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Mack Senior waited for a reply before almost half a minute before standing up with a resigned sigh.
"Looks like help's not coming," he muttered to himself, picking up an MA5 rifle.
In the months since he had been deployed to Harvest as part of a renewed effort to drive its Covenant occupiers out of what remained of the planet's cities, Mack had seen little progress and hundreds of dead Marines. Despite the occasional victory, they were still heavily outnumbered and outgunned on the ground. Four hours ago, the building complex acting as his forward operating base had seemed nigh-impregnable. Now it was a smoking ruin, defended by only a few dozen Marines still trading fire with the steadily-advancing Covenant. Keeping his head low, Mack darted into a half-collapsed house and clambered up a winding interior staircase to the roof, where he'd stationed a sniper team.
Need to regroup. Counter-attack if possible, but retreat if we have to.
Both of Mack's marksmen were dead; blown to pieces by a banshee airstrike. Ignoring the pair of charred corpses to his right, he crouched down and grabbed a pair of binoculars from a nearby crate, intent on finding out where the enemy was coming from. A brief scan across the shattered, burnt-out buildings that made up the horizon yielded little information, though the sight of a purple tower peeking over the rooftops caught Mack's eye. The Covenant rarely constructed anything on the battlefield, save for the odd encampment during a long campaign. After a moment's thought, he realised what it was: a jamming tower.
While he'd initially chalked up the failure of their short-range COM systems to an electronic failure and their inability to call for help to general military unhelpfulness, this made a lot more sense. Mack shook his head, bewildered at the Covenant's sudden change in tactics from basic overwhelming force to something genuinely smart, and left the rooftop as quickly as possible. As he exited the building, the officer sighted a cadre of Grunts, clambering over their sandbag fortifications and conversing in low, squeaky voices. He dropped to one knee, took aim, and opened fire on the squat aliens as they sighted him. Two fell before they could react, while the third got a couple of missed shots off before Mack put him down. It was then that the Elite showed up; tall, blue-armoured and wielding a pair of plasma rifles.
"Fire in the hole!" a voice yelled from Mack's right.
He threw himself into the dirt as a missile streaked past, striking the hulking alien in the chest and obliterating him in an instant. Standing at the entrance to the warehouse Mack's company had been using as a vehicle bay was a young Marine, his armour caked in dirt and blue blood. Mack picked himself up off the floor and advanced towards the young man, who gave him a tired smile.
"Thanks for the save, uh-"
"Private First Class Carlos Driscol, sir." the Marine nodded, not bothering to salute.
"Yeah, thanks. Come with me."
The Private did as ordered, tailing the Lieutenant Colonel as he looked through the rather poor collection of transportation in the warehouse. After perusing a selection of barely-functional civilian vehicles and three warthogs half-melted with plasma damage, he halted before a heavy, six-wheeled vehicle with a cannon mounted on the roof. Mack spent a few seconds glowering at it, then shrugged.
"Damn, this thing's ugly. It'll do."
"We're using the Gremlin, sir?" Driscol asked uncertainly.
"Is that what it's called? Yeah."
"It's just, uh, that it's not really a combat vehicle. That thing on top is an EMP cannon."
Mack pulled open a hatch to the driver's compartment. "You ever driven one of these, Private?"
"Good, because we're going to hit a Covvie tower with it."
Within a few minutes, the Gremlin was careening along a dusty street and right towards a very startled squad of Covenant soldiers. Before Mack could speak, Driscol gunned the engines and smashed through the shrieking aliens with a satisfying thump, continuing their way towards the jamming tower. Leaving navigation to the younger man, Mack was tuning both his personal tacpad and radio, which he had snatched from the bunker before they set out. As soon as that thing went down, he would need the correct coordinates to call in fire support. It was certainly one of his riskier plans - certainly up there with some enacted in his younger days with ORION - but the venerable soldier would make things work. He always had.
"Sir!" Driscol yelled suddenly. "Enemy armour!"
Ahead of them, a Wraith tank sidled into view, already angling its plasma mortar towards them. Mack leapt towards the Gremlin's turret controls, locked on to the Covenant vehicle, and gave a silent prayer as the EMP weapon charged up and unleashed a directed pulse that struck the tank head-on. The Wraith immediately pitched forward into the dirt, its propulsion drive momentarily knocked out. Driscol sped up, immediately turning a corner before their attacker recovered. Ahead of them, the jamming tower sat alone and protected only by a minor security detail.
"Punch it, Private!" Mack yelled.
While he pulled open the exit hatch, Driscol increased to maximum speed and left the driver's seat. The vehicle continued onwards, unmanned as the Marines abandoned it. Mack was first to his feet as he hit the street, peppering a distant Elite with gunfire as the Gremlin struck the tower's power supply with a surprisingly large explosion. Moments later, his COM crackled to life with a dozen overlapping voices. The two men ran, Mack activating the device as they entered a bombed out shop.
"This is PREACHER," he swiped his TACPAD. "Calling in fire support on the following locations, ASAP."
He immediately began entering coordinates into the COM system, marking a wide swathe of land where the Covenant were making their advance. If this didn't save what was left of his men back at the FOB, nothing would. A calm officer's voice replied in moments.
"We hear you, PREACHER. We've got Shortswords inbound and Falcon close air support right behind it to cover your evac. Over and out."
Mack and Driscol sat and watched as a wing of aircraft swept by, hammering three city blocks into dust in an instant. As the sound of propellers grew closer, followed by the buzz of miniguns, the Lieutenant Colonel breathed a sigh of relief. This was a small victory, but a victory all the same.