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Noble Team: Origins (Part 2)
Posted By: Flugel Meister<flugel_mcdougall@hotmail.co.uk>
Date: 7 June 2010, 8:27 am

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Part Two

Fifty-Two Kilometres from Objective

"What do you mean they have it easy?" Jake replied, pausing mid-stride.

Jen stopped ahead, the chameleonic layer of her SPI armour masking her true position. "All I'm saying is that their armour can take a beating, whereas ours can't, and they don't have an army nut-job sending them off to the wild beyond," she replied, with an excited tone.

Jake could tell she was becoming chattier. There had been nothing else for the last ten kilometres. The thought of hearing his sister endlessly talking about the most mundane subjects you could think of was something that filled him with dread. On several occasions, the thought of either listening to his sister talk for hours or taking on fifty Hunter pairs was deliberated to drown out the noise. He knew exactly which choice was preferable. He didn't even have the luxury of turning off the COM channel. But this time the subject was far more interesting and too important to ignore. "I don't agree. It's not like any of their missions are sugar-coated walks in the park."

Jen's shimmering shape moved off again, with slow deliberate steps, towards a pile of uprooted trees near a rise in the terrain. "Okay then. Maybe they don't have it easy, but things a far better for them than they are for us three's. "

"How's that?"

"Well, they were made public, which means they get all the support HIGHCOM and ONI can dish out. So they get all the back up they need to see a mission through. All we get is a magic clown suit and a box of tricks."

"If it bothers you that much," Jake replied, sarcasm ringing through, "why don't you join the 85th in Pirth. I'm sure they'll be pleased to see you, especially when you tell them they're nothing more than a diversion and that HIGHCOM has no intention of holding on to this jungle covered rock."

"Mmm, maybe. I don't know, Jake."

Jake smiled. It was unusual for Jen to be lost for words, but being the monopoly on conversation for the past five years had obviously softened her resolve for a good argument. And for the first time in those five years, there was a full three kilometres of silence. Jake relished it. He hadn't even noticed until now that his ears were ringing slightly. After a while, though, and with a sense of frustration, Jake was beginning to notice the lack of noise. After all this time he had actually become accustomed to her one-sided conversations.

"Okay, Jen. You win. Looks like I can't do without your riveting conversation after all."

Jake waited for a response or a sharp witted reply, but neither came. He quickly checked his motion scanner. Jen was stationary. "Jen, Report," he whispered.

Her status light flashed amber. "Possible sentries. Fifty metres."

"Strength and composition?"

"Unknown. They're using active camo," she replied.

Jake was puzzled. "Elites?"

"Looks like it. I can just make them out. Two clusters of three. I think."

An enemy position this far out was to be expected, but one filled with Elites draped in active camouflage was unusual, even for the Covenant. Whatever Ackerson had designated as their target, it was damn important.

"Any patrols?" Jake probed.

There was an obvious pause before Jen replied. "I can't see any movement and the motion scanner isn't picking anything up, but they could simply be further in -- "

"or out of range," Jake concluded. "We'll have to box around them. Give them a wide berth. Two kilometres should do it. Pull back. Leapfrog. I'll follow."

Jake watched for Jen's barely visible mirage but, like him, she was exceptional at covert insertions. Only the blur of a leaf gave her away as she passed by with a light tap on the shoulder. Jake slowly followed whilst keeping a watchful eye on the area they had just come from. They managed another five-hundred metres before Jen's snail-like pace stopped altogether.

Her status light flashed amber several times.

Jake looked on, trying to pick out the threat. Was it another sentry position? He thought. Then he saw what the problem was. They weren't the only ones trying to sneak around. Another trio of Elites in active cam were slowly making their way through the jungle, though not slow enough to avoid a vigilant pair of eyes and a frequent use of VISR, but too slow for the motion scanner to pick them out. And they were coming right towards them.

Jake's heart began to race, pounding out a powerful drumbeat inside his reinforced ribcage. He was eager for a fight. Sneaking around for hours seemed like a dull life for a Spartan, even if it did ensure survival.

"Avoid the obvious," Jake whispered. "Let them through."

A green status light signalled her response.

Jake inched slowly to one side, keeping an eye on the approaching trio as he did so. Jen had already moved over to avoid them but her position was better placed to avoid any contact, but Jake would be cutting it close. Fortunately, the difference between the Covenant active camouflage and the newly reworked ONI version was substantial. The Elite variant was greatly displaced by movement. The faster the wearer walks, the more visible they become. The Elites were obviously aware of this and were keeping their movement to a minimum, but it was still enough to reveal a shimmer. Jake's suit was different, though. Although less robust and not as capable of taking hits, it was an ideal choice for covert operations as the entire skin of the armour was covered in photo reactive cells that mirrored the surrounding environment with incredible accuracy. Jake's suit was currently the second generation version, designed exclusively for infiltration in the most impossible of situations. It was because of this why Jake knew exactly what separated the Spartan II's from the III's. You know when a Spartan II has been around as everything and everyone will be dead, but you won't know if a Three has been there until a Covenant cruiser explodes.

The three Elites were now only five metres away. Jake carefully moved over as quickly as was safe to do so. Inside, he was yearning for the chance to down an Elite or two, Jen could take out the third, but with patrols come regular patterns of operating. Regular status reports to and from the patrols and the sentry positions, especially around this carefully guarded location, would be strictly adhered to. Any deviation as a result of a missing patrol would bring a lot of unnecessary attention, and heighten the defensive posture of an already wary enemy.

Jake watched two of the Elites pass by with only a foot separating them. He was filled with a strange sense of giddiness in this deadly situation. Thoughts of tapping them on the shoulder and shouting "Boo!" or poking one Elite in the eye were at the forefront of his mind, but he resisted the temptation to do so. The third Elite, however, stopped level with Jake.

At such close quarters, he could hear the thing breathing and grinding its awkward mandibles. Its head moved, scanning the terrain. Could it sense him? Did the Covenant's finest have the alien equivalent of a sixth sense? Speculation would only lead to an overactive imagination.

After a minute or so, the Elite moved off with the other two until they disappeared completely.

"That was close," Jen voiced.

Sure was, Jake thought. "C'mon. Let's keep moving."

To be continued...