Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Capture the Flag

So, I like to write sometimes, and I don't just mean blog posts. A while ago, I wrote a short story set in the Halo 3 multiplayer universe. Technically, yeah it's fanfiction, but you're not going to find some crazy mashup of various well-known characters from multiple universes, nor any "classy" material featuring tentacles. What you will find (I hope!) is an entertaining glimpse into the lives of our multiplayer avatars. If interest is high enough, I may follow up with additional Halo stories.

Spartan Kilo-One-Seven came out of his daze and immediately scanned his environment. There was an assortment of rocks and trees on the slope, but most of these were to the left. A beaten-down dirt path took up the right, hugging the opposite cliff and curving around it and out of view. There was an old, partially-crumbled wall in place some 30 meters ahead of where the Spartan was standing, angling away from him to the left and marking the far edge of the trees and rocks. Beyond that, another wide path split off from the first where it curved, forming a Y-shaped junction. This second path snaked between the crumbling wall and a three-meter rise strewn with boulders, atop which stood a bunker. The path continued up past another cliff which marked the side of the bunker and curved up to the right between it and yet another cliff, the two rock faces being joined at the top to form a large archway.

He was standing on some sort of rocky ledge, looking over the lip of it towards the hill. He knew this place. He didn't know how, but he knew it already, knew about the cliff at his back and the sandy beach to the right, below the ledge he was standing on. He knew that just before the nearest path curved off to the right, there was another path on the right side that wound through a small cave up to another partially-broken wall, and out into the open in front of the base. He also knew about the other cave just to the right of that second wall, which led straight up to a crumbling portion of the structure's main wall, right next to the massive gate.

All of these thoughts processed within fractions of a second, and then the Spartan scrutinized his Heads-Up Display. His MJOLNIR Mark VI armor read fully operational, and he could see three small lights that were lit up green and knew immediately that he had teammates. From his motion tracker, he could tell that they were standing behind him, one on the left, another on the right, and one directly behind, the four of them forming a rough square. His energy shield indicator read fully-charged, and an ammo indicator read that his standard-issue MA5C assault rifle held a full clip, and that he had two extra clips with him. The weapon was linked up to his HUD to provide a targeting reticle, which moved with his motions and adjusted based on distance to whatever he was aiming at. Grenade indicators read that he held two M9HE-DP fragmentation grenades.

Finally, the Spartan saw a NAV marker with a flag icon above it, just as he heard a deep voice speak through his helmet speakers, saying “Capture the flag”. The Spartan shook off his disorientation. He could figure out how he got here later, but right now he had an objective, and judging by the five-minute countdown timer, he didn't have long to reach it.

He leapt down off the ledge and sprinted forward towards the small cave on the right as he informed his teammates he was going to get a sniper rifle. He briefly wondered how he knew there was an SRS 99D AM sniper rifle in that cave, then banished the thought so it wouldn't distract him from his goal. He heard his teammates respond, telling him their own intentions. The Spartan on his left, designated Bravo-two-three took off along the cliff, heading for the “overshield,” which would essentially give him an extra layer of shielding for a short while. The other two Spartans jumped down to his right and made beelines for the two vehicles parked on the beach. One jumped in the mongoose just as K17 entered the cave, and the other slid into the ghost as K17 picked up the sniper rifle, the weapon immediately syncing with his suit.

Both the mongoose and the ghost sped up past the cave and turned right, heading for the main gate. Spartan Gamma-Eight-Five jumped off the mongoose at the second wall and grabbed the M41 SSR MAV/AW rocket launcher that lay there, just as K17 emerged from the cave next to him. G85 announced to the team that the launcher was loaded, and that he found two reloads with it. As he finished the sentence, however, a Brute spike grenade sailed through the air and struck him in the back. There was a hissing noise as G85 dropped the launcher and frantically reached for it. What seemed like an eternity later, the grenade detonated, throwing spikes from his back and obliterating a large chunk of his torso. Discipline kept him from screaming as he fell, and a pool of blood gathered around his corpse and twisted armor, soaking into the dirt.

Spartan Delta-Four-Two, who was manning the ghost, had seen the grenade arcing through the air and turned to the source: a broken section of the bunker's wall. He spotted the opposing Spartan there and opened fire, painting the enemy with plasma. He only managed to take out the enemy's shield though, before the target ducked behind the wall. However, the damage was done, and B23, now equipped with an overshield and an MR55HB SR battle rifle he had picked up along the way, put a three-round burst into the man's unshielded skull from one of the bunker windows and repainted the wall behind him.

K17 didn't even see it happen; instead he was sighting his scope on the tower that stood above the bunker. He had noticed a narrow, red beam that had pointed at G85 before the grenade struck, and traced it back to the tower. There was only one weapon he could think of that used a targeting laser, and knew it was also one of the biggest threats he and his team faced.

He was just about to sweep the rest of the structure with his scope, thinking that the opponent wielding the dreaded WAV M6 GGNR Spartan Laser, or “splaser” as the UNSC marine corps had dubbed it, had moved, when he saw the enemy step out from cover. The splaser was already half-charged and the targeting beam rested squarely on D42 and his ghost. K17 adjusted his aim so that the reticle swept over the hostile's visor and turned red, then squeezed the trigger. His sniper rifle kicked back against his shoulder as the high-velocity 14.5x114mm round streaked away and blew the enemy's head off, shattering the visor and spraying blood from the stump of neck left behind as the body collapsed. The splaser, now disengaged, fell to the ground as the charge depleted itself harmlessly. K17 took no joy in the kill, but simply moved on with cold, machine-like precision.

K17 stood up from his crouch, acknowledged D42's thanks with a grunt, then moved up through the next cave to the crumbling wall section. He paused at G85's body, searching for the launcher, but it was nowhere to be seen. Must have been thrown by the blast somewhere, he thought, and moved on. The Spartan was just about to run up the ramp to the bridge that crossed over the gate, when he noticed an opening in the wall to his right. He crouched and peered inside of it after checking the ramp for hostiles, and saw that it led to a large pipe of some sort, and that there was an opening in it.

"Moving up through the bunker, I'll be at the gate controls in a minute," B23 informed him through the COM.

“Affirmative, I”m moving in through a broken pipe on the right side of the base. I'll be in position to cover you once I'm through; wait to open the gate until then,” responded K17 as he backed into the pipe, watching for enemies rounding the corner. Once he was inside, he turned around and headed down the pipe, switching to his assault rifle. He was only halfway through it when he heard D42 call out on the COM.

"I'm pinned down by a turret on the bridge! I've parked behind some rocks and thrown down a bubble shield."
"Acknowledged, Delta. I'm almost in position to flank him," B23 replied. There was a loud bang over the COM as Beta used the M90 CAWS shotgun to tear a hole through the turret operator, followed by a remark about the opponent having to be a new recruit.

By this time, K17 had emerged from the pipe inside the base, in a room directly across from where the NAV indicator sat. A short bridge connected the two chambers, and he could see inside the flag room. K17 saw that one of their opponents sat crouched next to the front entrance, where he expected the shotgun-wielding B23 to come charging in. What he hadn't counted on, was K17 emerging on his 6 with a sniper rifle.

“B23, on my mark open the gate and toss two grenades into the flag room from your position, try to bounce them towards the center of the room. D42, as soon as that gate opens, get that ghost inside the base and run distraction.” K17 switched back to the sniper rifle and activated the 5x zoom on his scope, settling it squarely on the back of the waiting enemy's head. As soon as the acknowledgment lights for his teammates winked, telling him they were in position, K17 said “Mark.” He waited for the sound of the gate opening, and fired as the first grenade sailed through the doorway.

The soldier he had been sighting crumpled into a heap, and K17 stood up and switched to his assault rifle. He started to sprint across the bridge when he saw the second grenade enter the room ahead, and felt the double Thump! through the ground just before entering. He looked to his right as he crossed the doorway and put a fourth of a clip into a partially-shielded enemy that he had suspected would be there. The opponent fell after firing one round from his Mauler, a Brute weapon that functioned as a handheld shotgun, and taking out three-fourths of K17's shield. One more round and he would have been obliterated.

K17 noted the winking red light that indicated B23's death, saw the red “X” marker on his HUD in the structure ahead of him, grabbed the flag, and went back out the way he came. He thought twice about returning through the pipe where he would be a sitting duck, and leapt 3 meters from the bridge he was on up onto a landing that led to the outer wall between the main bridge and the crumbled section with the broken pipe. As he ran up, He saw an opponent run across the bridge ahead of him and open fire with an assault rifle. His shields weren't quite fully recharged yet, and he dropped the flag, backpedaling as he returned fire.
He knew he couldn't win this one, and was immediately relieved when a bright flash of red light speared his opponent and instantly vaporized his midsection. Reloading, he called out a thanks to his teammate, who had made his way up onto the tower and taken the splaser, then did a double-take as he noticed the service tag of the soldier he was thanking: G85.

"No problem, now get that flag back to the beach." G85 called back to him over the COM, preemptively charging the laser as he scanned the inside of the base.

K17 was confused, but didn't have time to question the situation. He grabbed the flag again as precious seconds ticked off the timer on his HUD, and ran as fast as he could through the first cave, past the wall where the rocket launcher had been, and down towards where he had grabbed his sniper rifle.

He noticed a shimmering by the end of the cave, and shook his head to clear it, but when he looked again the shimmer had been replaced with an opponent slowly materializing out of thin air, wielding the rocket launcher. Before K17 could even call for help, a 102mm shaped-charge rocket filled his vision, and everything went black.

5...He floated, the whole world black except for the timer in the center of his HUD that was counting down. 4... What was this? 3... He was dead, wasn't he? 2... He could hear the boops that accompanied the numbers now, but he didn't understand what they were. 1... All he could do was wait. 0... Beep!

Suddenly, his vision cleared and he was standing on the beach. He could see a NAV marker over the flag, it was just ahead inside of the cave where the sniper rifle was, and the timer on his HUD had lost about 10 seconds. He could see another marker denoting B23's location as he fought in the cave with the rocket-wielding opponent, and G85's service tag showed him that his teammate was still in the tower with the splaser, but D42's marker was a large red “X” just outside of the cave where some purple wreckage rested on the ground, scattered around a blackened crater.

With no time to waste, K17 charged forward with his assault rifle raised.

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