|0746 Hours, July 20th, 2552
Dorvyesk III, Inner Colonies
The final hours of a colony world's existence were always the worst to behold. The desperate retreats of a broken military force pursued by a horde of zealous monsters eager to hunt them down was a sight that had become far too common to the Spartans of Sigma Team. As he lay prone on a rooftop, looking down the sights of his rifle, Kane-098 flashed a green light over TEAMCOM.
"Another group moving up on the right. Marco, get on the M247 and cover them!"
Spread out across the rubble-strewn city street were five SPARTAN-II supersoldiers, each with their backs to a number of civilian transport ships that sat in what remained of the spaceport. Civilians ran past them amidst exchanges of gunfire and plasma bolts, most focused solely on boarding the nearest vessel and getting off the planet while they still could. Any Marine presence on Dorvyesk III was committed entirely to evacuating the populace or making valiant final stands elsewhere, leaving Sigma Team to hold the line as long as possible.
"Jackals!" called Jax-007, crouched behind what had once been a toll booth with rifle in hand. To his left, Resk-063 let loose his last missile and blew six of the birdlike creatures to smithereens as they emerged from a building.
"Looks like they've finally caught up," he intoned, brushing some cinders off his light blue armour as he stooped to grab a rifle. "We got an evac plan?"
Jax glanced skywards. "Pelican, most likely."
"Huh," his friend nodded. "We're last out, then."
There was a crash from nearby as a Sangheili warrior was tackled through the window of a decimated office block, falling two storeys before it hit the ground with a loud thud. Wulf-041 pulled his bloody knife from its throat and stood up, flashing a green status light towards the others as he fell back towards them.
"Where were you?" Jax called, tossing a spare BR55 rifle his way.
Wulf's reply was laconic as ever. "Scouting."
That meant anything from actual reconnaissance to wiring an entire street to explode in his book. Jax watched Wulf flip a small device upwards in his palm. Moments later, a blast shook the ground, and a cloud of dust, smoke and debris rose from about a block away. Jax smirked, and his comrade swiped two fingers across the front of his visor.
"More civilians!" Kane spoke suddenly over TEAMCOM.
The Spartans leapt into action as a convoy of rather battered-looking trucks emerged from a highway off-ramp, trundling towards their position as fast as possible. As they neared the spaceport, a green bolt flashed past and struck the lead vehicle in a blaze of emerald fire. Its front half incinerated, the truck tipped over with a crash and the others were forced to halt, their path blocked. As their doors opened and a horde of terrified civilians spilled out onto the road, the Spartans caught sight of a lance of Unggoy infantry ambling round a corner not far behind them.
"We've got to save them!" Resk barked, kicking off the ground hard as he raced towards the civilians.
The other Spartans fell in line behind their larger comrade, firing towards the incoming mass of Covenant troops to distract them from the fleeing innocents. Cries and shouts of fear went up from the crowed as they surged past the Spartans, some toppling over as they were struck from behind by plasma fire. The trio moved to cover them, allowing their energy shields to absorb a few glancing bolts as they advanced. Jax crashed into a bombed-out cafe just as a burly Sangheili led a gaggle of Unggoy through a side door and smashed the warrior across the face with his rifle. Tossing the damaged weapon aside as his opponent staggered back, missing several teeth, the red-armoured Spartan drew his trusty shotgun.
He waited for the Sangheili to look up before firing, blowing away the alien's face with a single blast before turning it on its squealing followers.He'd been trained to dispose of foes efficiently, but sometimes Jax couldn't resist the temptation to taunt the Covenant in battle. As he slid new shells into his M90, a familiar whine drifted across the rooftops.
Outside, Resk had discarded his rifle and snatched up a carbine from a Jackal he'd throttled to death. Each round took down another advancing Covenant solder, only for several more to spring up and take its place. Bodies, both Human and alien, lay sprawled across the concrete around him. The sight of every dead civilian seemed to anger him more and more as he continued firing and reloading in a near-robotic manner, not letting up for a single moment. A child's cry from nearby snapped Resk out of this state for just a moment, and from his position halfway up the corpse-strewn street he noticed a small family at the rear of the crowd, struggling to keep up with the others as they neared the evacuation vessels. As a banshee flier wheeled around the building corner above them, the Spartan knew what was about to happen.
"Banshees up high," he said, calm as ever. "Moving in to give cover."
The Spartan moved as quickly as he dared, his armoured boots cracking the ground through sheer force as he sprinted towards the civilians. Resk ran beneath the banshee's shadow as it lowered itself for an attack run, moving until he was directly behind the family of stragglers before spinning round to face the vehicle, arms outstretched. The Spartan smiled as a flash of green filled his vision.
Jax saw his best friend fall. The fuel rod blast enveloped Resk for a second, his armoured form outlined for a moment in the blast before he was sent tumbling backwards. The family he had protected stumbled for a moment, but continued to run without a second glance. The Covenant craft shot upward to prepare for another attack run, only for a series of missiles to strike it from above and blow the vehicle to smithereens. He waited for a few moments, staring in complete shock at the charred body as he waited for Resk to get up, dust himself off, and continue fighting.
The rest of Sigma heard their teammate's cry over the COM seconds after Resk's vital signs flatlined. Their evac Pelican had arrived moments too late for SPARTAN-063, and as the last transport ships loaded themselves up with surviving civilians and gave the all-clear to take off, the supersoldiers knew it was time to leave.
"Jax!" Kane called, leaping down from his position as Marco and Wulf continued firing. "We've got to go, Spartan!"
His leader's words sounded hollow and distant to Jax, who had ran headlong into another infantry squad. He had tossed aside the M90 after a few blasts and had drawn his combat knife with a savage yell that he made sure the Covenant could hear. In less than ten seconds he had personally killed almost a dozen Covenant soldiers, snapping bones and tearing flesh, slicing and stabbing everything he could as his armour's systems whined shrilly upon taking several direct plasma bolts. As he stood panting over a mutilated Sangheili, a gauntleted hand grabber his shoulder and brought him back into reality.
"Jax," Marco-035's voice was unnaturally soft. "We've got to get him out of here."
His armour drenched in purple and blue blood, Jax was a sight to behold. He nodded, and jogged to where Resk lay, feeling utterly numb. His armour was horribly melted and scorched around the chestplate and his visor was badly-cracked, but the damage didn't look particularly bad on the outside. With a grunt of effort, Jax heaved the body onto his shoulder. The others knew better than to offer to help him as he slowly carried Resk's body towards the waiting Pelican.
The departure from Dorvyesk III was made in total silence, the Spartans removing their helmets as Jax cradled the corpse on the Pelican's blood tray. They were no strangers to death, and courted it almost daily with their constant deployments, but it still hurt them all the same to have a man they considered a brother fall so suddenly, and to protect so little. Having already lost four members of their team in the past two years, the four Spartans of Sigma all felt the sorrow of their family getting a little bit smaller.