Even ODST's get sick when they came out of the freezer. It always started the same way, with harsh artificial light pouring into his ill adjusted pupils with stabs of pain like knives in his eye sockets. He'd screw them shut and enjoy the brief moment of respite from the shock of it but then the dull ache would build in the back of his skull. It started at the base of his neck and wormed its way into his brain, pressing on the backs of his eye balls with enough force enough to make him feel like they would pop out of his skull if he opened them. After a couple of seconds his whole head felt like it was three times its normal size and the continuous throb started to bring with it waves of nausea like he was coming down from a month long bender. Trooper Rolf Grimes heard a hiss of compressed gas as his cryo tube opened but it was distant and muffled as if he was hearing it underwater. With a groan he spilled out onto the cold rubberised floor and proceeded to violently puke his guts out. He never got used to it, even after all this time. He hunched over for a few seconds, shivering, on his hands and knees, aware of the other troopers in his squad hacking and cursing to his left and right, the smell of bile touched his nostrils and he retched again, stringy vomit hanging from his lips. There was a loud and annoying sound reverberating through his skull, making his headache worse and a flashing red light that seemed in sync with his own pulse. It took his cryo sleep addled brain a long time to register it was an emergency claxon.
He could hear a voice as well, a woman's quiet and musical but her tone commanded authority. "All personnel prepare to repel borders. I repeat all personnel prepare to repel borders in hangar decks C through E."
That was Whisper, the ships A.I.
"What the fuck is going on Grim?" Another woman's voice but this time it was his squad mate, Ruby, she sounded like she was half dead, her voice dry and cracked.
Grim rubbed his eyes with a finger and thumb, they were still caked with crust and his heart beat still throbbed in his ears like an incessant drum beat. He spat and wiped his mouth, "I have no idea." He didn't sound much better either, his throat sore and croaky from his brief heaving session.
As usual the Lieutenant, Becker, was already on his feet and heading for the lockers, "Come on you lazy bastards get up we obviously got a problem."
Spits and curses followed in reply but they were ODST's, the best of the best and a little freezer burn and nausea wasn't going to stop them doing their job.
Grim threw his locker open and snatched a ration pack from a bag, it tasted like shit but he'd need the energy and these things were designed to keep a trooper going behind enemy lines for weeks on end so eating one was like eating a whole meal.
"What I wouldn't give for a bacon sandwich." Ruby muttered sticking her own bar between her teeth and pulling on her jump suit, for ease and speed she'd forgone bothering with any underwear, Grim smiled inwardly, for some reason knowing that was enough to turn him on. He let his eyes wander just before she zipped the front up and hid her curves behind black combat gear.
Next to her trooper Zao retched, "Don't mention food, not yet." He moaned.
Ruby was tying her ash blonde hair back with both hands, she still had the bar stuck in her mouth so she turned to face him. She pealed her lips back and bared her teeth so Zao could see all the pieces of it stuck between them. He took one glance at her and puked down his locker.
"Goddamn it woman!" He spat, "Every time!"
"Stop fucking around!" Becker roared from the opposite end of the room.
"LT? What's going on?" Trooper Flynn demanded.
"I don't know yet son but it sounds rough…"
Those words had barely left his mouth when he was interrupted by Whisper, "All hands brace for impact!" A hollow clang echoed around the hull and the deck beneath their feet vibrated violently. Grim glanced at Ruby and all humour vanished from her cyan eyes.
Grim's heart was hammering with adrenaline now, the effects of cryo sleep fading and the ration bars energy kicked in. He was a certified marksman but on board the Avenging Angel there were tight corridors and enclosed spaces. Close quarters would require SMG's and shotguns, he took a M45 Tactical from the weapon rack and checked it was loaded, then, just in case, he slid his DMR onto the magnetic clamps on the back of his armour. He glanced back the squad, the Heart Breakers, they called them. Each was decked out in full ODST body armour, all matte black plating from shins to shoulders and emotionless ice blue visors. On their chest plates was a little heart emblem, a jagged line down its centre and a drop of blood falling from the crack. Behind it were crossed broad swords on a field of yellow flames. Beneath that was each troopers name or nickname.
"Alright let's move." Becker ordered.
They piled out into the corridor, weapons ready just in case. Whisper's voice still echoed throughout the ship, giving various commands and warnings. Grim glanced out of a view port and stopped in his tracks. A covenant cruiser hovered alongside the Angel, scores of landing craft racing across the void from its huge docking bays, most of them were wiped out by Angels guns before they got close but enough were making it through to be a problem. The Covvie's guns were quiet but Grim couldn't work out why they hadn't just blown the Angel apart. Then again, Angel was a marathon class and judging by the scarring on the Covenant ship's hull she'd given as good as she'd got and Utora was one of the best ship captains in the fleet, she wouldn't have gone down without a fight. Even as he watched the last of the covenant boarding tubes launched and the Angel's guns turned on the cruiser itself, if the alien ship was dead in the water as it appeared to be then it probably wouldn't be long before the Angel killed her completely. Then his eyes fell upon something else and his heart skipped a beat.
It was a planet, a muddy red colour with rusted looking oceans and thick grey clouds swirling in its atmosphere.
"That's not Reach." Flynn stood behind him.
Doc Brody, the team medic, appeared next to Flynn. "Where the hell are we then?"
Grim shrugged, he hoped Utora would have some answers. He was used to dropping blind behind enemy lines but a little bit of information never hurt. How had they got here, had the Covenant been waiting for them? He grunted to himself, their mistake, you mess with the Heart Breakers you're gonna get fucked, whatever your plan was, it isn't happening now.
It was chaos in the hangar deck. Grim tossed himself flat against a support pillar, wreckage and fire billowing past his shoulders as a warthog was flipped off its wheels and tossed across the deck by a plasma grenade. He growled in his helmet, HUD showing multiple enemy contacts as winking red dots in the left had corner of his visor. One dot was rapidly drawing up to his left. Grim tensed and whirled around the pillar shotgun raised, a Grunt, its body armour orange and black, stood dumfounded for the briefest of moments before its head evaporated into a fine mist of cyan blood. Grim wracked his M45 slide, the spent shell spiralling away in a trail of grey smoke, he sprang forward under a barrage of plasma fire and came up firing again, another Grunt was hurled backwards in a shower of blood. Grim kept moving, weaving between green plasma bolts and pink needle rounds. His shotgun banged twice more punching a hole through a third Grunt and ripping a Jackal in half. Needing to reload he slid into cover behind the flipped hog. Ruby slumped in next to him, she popped a clip from one of her SMG's and slapped a fresh one in its place with a soft click.
"One of the marines reckons the Captain picked up a distress beacon, when she dropped in on those co-ordinates the Covvie ship was already here, engines and main guns already fried. If their shields hadn't been functioning she would have blown it outta the sky but instead we're fighting a goddanm boarding action!"
"She's picking it apart now, besides it's not as much fun killing em when you can't see the looks on their ugly faces." Grim replied.
"Yeah, the fuckin split lips won't know what hit em when we get our hands on em right?"
"Split and clean?"
"Fuckin' a-right." Ruby grunted.
As one they separated, one going either side of the warthog wreck, Ruby's SMG's flaring, one in each hand, Grim's shotgun thumping out round after round. On the deck was a mix of Grunts and Jackal's, needler and plasma fire speared back at the ODST's but they ignored it like it was nothing more than rain. Within a few moment's the covenant squad in front of Ruby and Grim was beat down and killed with neither trooper taking even a grazed hit.
In a series of shuddering bangs and screeches another covenant boarding craft ploughed into the hangar deck, its armoured prow shoving mongoose ATV's and warthogs aside with equal ease, its engine housing was smoking badly and appeared to be crashing rather than landing. Grim shoved Ruby sideways as a stack of crates was knocked over by the downed ship. They landed hard on the metal deck and cracked open, spilling ammo boxes and ration bars across the floor. Grim and Ruby tumbled into one of the recessed warthog bays with Grim on top and the wind thoroughly knocked from their lungs.
Gasping Ruby bumped Grim's helmet with her own, "Think this is the best time?" Her tone mocking despite the breathlessness.
Grim sneered behind his mask, "You fucking wish!"
She shoved him in the chest, "Damn right I do, but not now." She replied getting to her feet, Grim couldn't tell if she was serious or not but the thought lingered longer than it should have under the circumstances.
More covenant were leaping from the crashed boarding craft, some of them were already being cut down by the Heart Breakers and the surviving marines. Grim saw a green armoured trooper blown back off his feet by a barrage of plasma fire spilling from an Elites dual wielded rifles. LT and Wilko popped up from behind their cover and snapped off a few shots at the elite. Howling the red armoured alien stumbled under the impact of the hard rounds ricocheting from its shield. In a split second however it recovered enough to pour another barrage of plasma fire back at the Lieutenant and Wilko forcing them into cover again as another two elites in blue armour dropped from the craft in its wake. Grim filled his shotgun back up with shells and bounded across the deck with it braced in his shoulder. Ruby followed him, leaping over the fallen ammo crates, her SMG's crackling discharge reflected in her visor. Her well aimed shots tore through the spines of Jackals with their backs to the ODST duo thinking the danger was in the opposite direction. They twitched and flailed, trying and failing to bring their shields around to block the barrage of bullets. Then the elites responded with a whickering hail of sapphire plasma rounds. Grim felt one graze his left thigh, the burning sensation sharp enough to make him hiss in pain but not enough to slow his advance, he'd taken worse. Ruby switched her attention to the nearest blue armoured leader, she emptied what remained in her clips into his shield causing it to flicker madly. Grim pumped a shotgun round into its chest and the shield died completely in a flash of blue white energy, his second round blew its chest cavity out through its back. Becker and Wilko sprang up from cover once more adding their assault rifles fire power to the fight. Caught between four ODST's the second blue armoured elite died next, his head and neck riddled with bullets when his shield fizzled out too. Roaring in defiance the red elite kept firing until his rifles overheated but his shots were wild and ill aimed as his body was jerked left and right by the deluge of hard shot slamming into his shield. Even through his helmet Grim could smell the acrid reek of the plasma rifles vented gasses as he walked right up to the red elite and planted a shot point blank into its gut. An anguished howl escaped the beasts split lips, the shot had finished off its shield and a few pellets penetrated its armour, a fine mist of purple blood spewed forth. Raging the alien was slammed against the hull of the drop ship, weapons tumbling from its weird four fingered hands. Without missing a beat Grim rammed his shotgun into the aliens maw and squeezed the trigger. Its effect was satisfyingly messy, pulped brain matter and blood sprayed from the back of the aliens head and splattered up the ship's hull in a wide gory fan. It was almost art. Picking a piece of brain from his visor Grim let the alien leader slump to the floor at his feet.
"Fuck you." He growled.
"That it?" Wilko asked dropping a spent magazine from his weapon.
Grim looked around, the warning claxons were still blaring but Whisper wasn't giving any more boarding tube alerts.
"Maybe." Becker replied. "Alright Heart Breakers form up."
From the rear of the hanger a heavy boom echoed across the chamber and the deck vibrated. All eyes turned and weapons slowly raised. One of the heavy blast doors that had automatically sealed during the fire fight seemed to shudder and another loud bang from the other side bent one its sections inwards. Zao who was closest to them began to back off, his rifle aimed at the gap where the two sections locked together. Grim had a sick feeling in his gut he knew what was coming. He replaced his shotgun with his DMR, sliding the marksman rifle from his back and slotting the shotgun in its place. Another gigantic clang was followed by a massive plume of green tinged flames as the doors were ripped from their mountings and tossed across the deck. Zao ducked spinning chunks of metal but a bolt of white hot plasma energy spat from behind the smoke coverage and caught him high in the chest. He didn't even make a sound as he died, the bolt melted his armour and flesh instantly, throwing his liquefied remains across the decking.
"Hunters!" Becker roared, "Cover!"
As one the Heart Breakers scattered.
"You'll pay for that you mother fuckers!" Wilko was screaming as he slid in behind one of the arched pillars supporting the hanger roof.
Grim gritted his teeth, sighting over the top of the fallen crate stack he watched through his scope as the massive shape of two Hunters emerged. They were hunched down with their broad shields held protectively over their exposed midriffs, plasma cannons aimed over the top. Though vaguely humanoid in shape, with two obvious legs, arms and a head, Grim knew Hunters were actually made up of a colony of alien worms. These two were likely a bonded pair, killing one would send the other into a mad rage.
"We got heavy weapons?" Becker demanded on the comm as a stream of bullets flashed across the hanger to strike harmlessly off the Hunters shields.
"That's a negative LT!" Flynn replied.
Grim saw one of the surviving marines mount one of the undamaged warthog turrets. He swung the chain gun around and poured on the fire. One of the Hunters stumbled, pieces of its blue armour chipped away but the other turned and fired its cannon ins response. Grim turned away from the explosion shielding his eyes, even his visors filter couldn't compensate for how bright it was. He heard the marine screaming and the high pitched sound of metal grinding on metal.
Becker was incensed. "Pesky!" he roared, referring to the teams sniper Amy Bana.
As if to answer his question a sniper shot banged out but at the last second the alien it was aimed at ducked to one side and took the blow on its armoured shoulder instead of through the neck. It launched off a shot of its own and Grim watched Pesky leap away from her cover seconds before the bolt melted the deck where she'd been hiding.
"What the fuck is that?" Doc Brody exclaimed suddenly pointing to the gangways suspended above the deck.
Grim and Ruby looked up to see a dark figure bounding along the centre walkway. It skidded to a halt above the Hunters and vaulted the handrail.
Grim whistled to himself, he'd never seen one in the flesh, he'd no idea there was one even on board. Assault rifle blazing as he fell the Spartan landed on one of the Hunters back, his boot and free hand catching the spines jutting from the beasts armoured plates, the impact drove the alien to one knee. The Spartan unloaded his assault rifle into the back of its neck, orange blood and pieces of worm sprayed like a fountain, splattering in luminous pools across the decking. With a final roar the Hunter sagged forwards, its "head" detached from its body, and slammed into the floor with a resounding bang. Its partner emitted a howl of anger and swung its shield at the Spartan in attempt to crush him. Grim looked on in bewildered awe as the Spartan leapt onto the shield and kicked away from it, using the momentum of its swing to propel him into a graceful back flip. He landed some meters away with enough force to dent the deck plates beneath his boots. With its back to them the ODST's prepared to pour their combined fire power into the aliens weakest spot but before a trigger could be pulled a rocket screamed down from the walkways and detonated in the aliens exposed flesh. Orange gore and pieces of blue armour were scattered in a wide circle, Grim ducked a spinning chunk of spine and heard it stick in the wall behind him. He scanned the walkway, another Spartan leapt the handrail and dropped on the deck. He nodded to the other who shrugged his shoulders and nodded back.
Grim had never seen anything like it. A hint of jealousy swelled in his gut but he bit it back, the marines were cheering.
"All decks secured." Whisper interrupted everyone's thoughts, snapping the ODST's back to reality. "ODST and Spartan units to the bridge."
Without a backwards glance the Spartans turned and headed for the hangers exit. Grim watched them go aware of Ruby at his shoulder.
"You ever seen anything like that?" She asked quietly as the Heart Breakers formed up to follow their saviours to the bridge.
"Nope." Grim shook his head, "Scary huh?"
"Pretty fucking cool though right?"
Grim smirked behind his visor. "I got competition now?"
She slapped his shoulder hard, "Hell no."
Becker kicked a chunk of Hunter armour away as he walked, "Alright ladies let's see what Captain Utora wants with us this time."