“Holy shit this hurts,” Sgt. Ranulf McClelland call-sign “Wolf” thought to himself as the drop pod entered the atmosphere of the planet. Even though he was strapped in so tightly he felt as if he were in a vice, his innards banged around inside his body. The initial weightlessness and feeling of his stomach trying to force its way up into his throat when the pod blasted away from the ship was overwhelming. Struggling to not black out from the excessive G-force Ranulf felt his guts smash back into his stomach when the reverse rockets kicked in to slow his descent. Despite the powerful reverse thrust, his drop pod slammed into the ground with such force that Ranulf was sure he’d suffered a severe concussion and a few cracked ribs.
“We’ll that was fun,” Wolf said out loud as the hatch to his drop pod blew open. Checking to make sure the M6C SOCOM Magnum was still secured in the holster on his right hip; Wolf paused only briefly as he realized a few things didn’t make sense. He didn’t remember getting into his drop pod. His first recollection was being strapped in and wondering why he couldn’t hear the man fastening him in, or was he fastening him down instead? And why couldn’t he hear the man when he was clearly speaking. At least his lips were moving. And then there was the drop itself. Oh it felt pretty damn real alright, especially the feeling that he was being run over by a warthog. But Wolf remembered from his training that the instructor said at one point they’d feel as if they were literally on fire. But Wolf couldn’t recall THAT kind of pain.
“Oh well, no time to sit around pondering the meaning of life, gotta DT it to my squad.” Wolf grabbed the M7C Suppressed Submachine gun out of its rack, checked to make sure it was ready to rock, stowed the extra mags in his ammo pouch, snatched the med-kit and started jogging just as his HUD synched and flashed three other green blips, or ‘friendlies’ roughly 250 meters ahead and over a rocky ridge he’d have to scale. Each blip displayed call-signs for those Wolf knew to be the rest of his squad – ‘LT’, ‘Mal’ and ‘Loki’.
As Wolf was about to crest the ridge, two red blips popped up on his HUD about 50 meters out. Peering over a boulder Wolf found two small alien creatures in a bowl-type clearing fumbling around the back of a stationary Warthog, one of the ones with .50 cal. heavy machine gun mounted in the back. UNSC reports he’d studied until he felt like he was about to pass out identified these aliens as “Grunts,” not the biggest or the baddest of the Covenant forces but dangerous none-the-less. Wolf raised his subgun to his shoulder, sited the two Grunts, calmly walked into the clearing and squeezed the trigger. A full auto burst of hot armor-piercing lead tore into the creatures and one spun violently around on the ground as gas spewed from the breathing tank the aliens wore, punctured by a subgun round. It bounced off the vehicle a came to rest next to it.
Wolf pulled the dog tags of the dead marine he found sitting in the Warthog and placed a waypoint on the body after laying the marine on the ground. Wolf had a mission to complete and had no time to babysit a corpse. Once the area was secure and the mission completed. A Pelican would come and retrieve the body. He started the hog and began heading towards the other end of the bowl to link up with his squad when the sound of gunfire and explosions filled his ears despite the roaring of the hog’s engines. As red blips started popping up all around the three greens ones, Wolf knew there wasn’t any time to be subtle. He jammed the pedal to the floor and braced himself as he hit what he hoped was a rock-like ramp on the far side of the bowl. He felt a rush he hadn’t felt in a long time as the hog launched itself into the air. He could just make out a bombed out facility with his three ODST squad mates trading fire with several large, hairy ape-like creatures known as Brutes.
Hitting the breaks and cranking the wheel hard to the right, Wolf guided the hog into a 180-degree spin right between the two groups. He immediately grabbed for his subgun and started popping off rounds. One went down just as the ODST with the call-sign Loki jumped on the .50 cal. The heavy weapon sounded like a buzz saw as it tore into the Brutes, separating the torso of one from its legs.
“They’re behind us!” Wolf heard someone shout just before two huge rounds of bright green energy pounded into the warthog sending Loki flying and flipping the vehicle over almost crushing Wolf in the process. Hidden from view from these new Brutes with heavy weapons, Wolf spun around towards the Brutes who now had him and Loki caught in a crossfire, firing rounds in an attempt to keep them pinned down while the two troopers tried to figure a way out. Time unfortunately ran out though as another series of heavy weapons fire was loosed from the Brutes. No one could have survived the explosions that ripped apart the back of the overturned warthog and engulfed Loki.
Wolf primed a grenade and tossed it at the two Brutes with the heavy weapons. Not looking to see the result, he pulled Loki to what little cover the twisted heap of metal that was once a UNSC warthog could provide and began working on him to stabilize his wounds. Once he got Loki’s injuries under control, Wolf looked up long enough to see another one of his mates, call-sign Mal go down just as he sent another Brute back to hell. This wasn’t gonna work. Still surrounded and with half the team down it was only a matter of time before those heavy weapons decimated what was left of the squad. Finding a pause in the action while the enemy reloaded, Wolf sprinted towards the entrance of the building which was scorched by countless plasma and heavy weapons rounds. The LT would hold them off long enough for a rescue ship to arrive or he’d die trying. That is what it meant to be an ODST. You did your job, no matter what. Wolf knew that even if the LT died, he’d sure as hell take a shitload of those hairy bastards with him. Wolf knew the LT would buy him the time he needed.
Inside he found two civilian doctors who identified themselves as Drs . Wu and Freedman seeking cover behind a long desk in what appeared to have previously been a laboratory. Now is was just another blown out ruin compliments of the Covenant forces. “We need to get you outta here,” Wolf informed the two. “We’ll provide covering fire while you make a break for the ridge. There’s a clearing on the other side where a Pelican will evacuate you to safety.” Just as Wolf started towards the doorway another serious of explosions ripped into the building just above their heads and Wolf watched the last green light fade out of his HUD. “You want us to go out there? No way in hell!” Dr. Freedman shouted.
Wolf briefly lowered his head, kneeling motionless for the briefest of moments before snapping back into action. “Change of plans.” Wolf spoke into the communications link located in his helmet. “UNSC Hercules, this is ODST Sgt. Wolf of the 9th Battalion of the 105th UNSC Special Forces requesting immediate evac. Waypoint marker is placed. Landing zone is hot. I repeat, landing zone is hot. We are surrounded. I have the two civilians and three severely injured members of my squad. We need he-“
Wolf stopped transmitting and instead knocked the two doctors to the ground and dove down himself as plasma and energy bolts ripped into the room. Huge chunks of metal were torn from the counter they hid behind and Wolf quickly snuck a peek through one of the large newly created holes spying several shapes entering the room. He pulled back just in time as more bursts pounded into the desk. Their cover wasn’t going to last much longer. “Better reach out to whatever gods you pray to cuz this is it,” Wolf said to the doctors. Wolf primed his last grenade and slowly stood up. “I’ve been in nastier fixes than this,” he thought and his mouth formed into a smile inside hide helmet. A grenade in one hand and his subgun in the other, he screamed “Come and die alien scum!” threw the grenade towards the doorway and was just starting to pull the trigger when everything went a bright and blinding white…
“Marines. Open your eyes, slowly. Do not move. You are connected through your neural interface to a device that doesn’t exist and has no name. Please let the technicians disconnect you and wait until given permission before attempting to move”
As their vision clarified, the three soldiers appeared to be in some kind of medical lab, but surrounded by more technology than a typical med-bay. They were each strapped into a contoured chair in a reclined position, connected to tubes and wires. Technicians in white smocks disconnected devices and cables from the three soldiers. All three were alive and well.
A brightly backlit figure stood in front of them. As their eyes finished acclimating, they spotted the unmistakable UNSC Marine fatigues and now knew this was the source of the voice they had heard.
“Now, soldiers, please take a moment to gather yourselves, the aftereffects can be somewhat disorienting, and then fall in – at ease.”
“You have just endured a very classified simulation protocol that the Navy has been developing for some time. Congratulations gentlemen, you were the first official, sanctioned run of the protocol. I’m sure you have questions… but right now, suffice it to say, you passed.”
“Pass?” questioned Mal, “But Sir, the mission was a rescue mission. We didn’t get them out.”
“No, but you didn’t quit. You never lost your resolve. Once Wolf requested an immediate evac, the simulation ended.” The Lieutenant continued, “You will all be further debriefed and told what you missed. And then I need you for a mission. A real mission. Are you in?”
“Sir, yes sir!” replied the three soldiers.