"Hey Jinxie, try not to doom this mission with your powers." Corporal Jast Vjun teased as he passed by Srin's bunk. She scowled an unconvincing scowl.
"I already told you not to call me that!"
"You like the nickname."
Srin sighed and went back to fiddling with an inert grenade. At least she insisted it was inert. No matter how many times Sgt. Penlan had yelled at her and given her extra duties, Srin kept bringing explosives into the Barracks. Vjun thought it was hilarious, but Li was noticeably on edge when Chéreau was in possession of explosives. The older of the two squadmates seemed to totally believe in the 'curse' surrounding Srin and it slightly ticked her off when he voiced his concerns. She had trained to blow stuff up for just as long as he had trained to beat stuff with his rifle or whatever it is they teach the normal ground-pounders. Oh well. Some things could not be helped. In the long run it didn't matter what Li or Vjun thought, so long as they got through the mission. She deftly slipped the explosive core back into the shell and screwed the top back on before tossing it in her rucksack with the rest of the specially marked grenades and flopping back in her bunk.
After what seemed like only minutes came the soft hiss of the automatic door opening and a voice like thunder. Srin's eyes shot open and she jolted up in bed, nearly smacking herself on the top bunk.
"All Bravo Company fireteams report to the briefing room in five minutes! You have five minutes or you'll be riding a Warthog down to the surface!"
The last remark elicited a few laughs from the room, including Jinxie's recognisable laugh, which was somewhere between a giggle and hysterical meltdown. The Explosives Expert swung her feet off of the bunk and brushed her messy hair with her hand halfheartedly before grabbing her vest and boots and joining the rest of Bravo Company in suiting up. Vjun walked up and grabbed one of her boots before she could put it on.
"Damn Jinxie, you have some tiny feet, you sure you're old enough to serve in the illustrious UNSC's Army?"
The sarcasm placed on illustrious made it all too clear how Vjun thought of the UNSC.
"Give me that back you-" Srin snatched the boot back and stuck it on her foot. She had 'borrowed' some extra armour and attached it to her boots. They were a little heavier but they'd also protect her feet better. A worthy tradeoff when dealing with explosives.
Vjun repeated her protest back to her, mocking her accent. Chéreau retorted with a swift punch to his shoulder and wondered if he ever got tired of being an ass. Slinging her rucksack and putting her helmet loosely on her head, Private First Class Chéreau made her way to assembly room with the rest of the stragglers. Li was already there, looking as dour as ever. Vjun was there too, chatting up the Specialist next to him. Penlan slid up next to him and elbowed him hard enough to make him whince and rub his side. The Sergeant wasn't much for words but made her points plenty clear. The lights dimmed and a holo projector of the surface of the alien construct flickered to life. The Captain began to outline the objectives of the mission and all the other details. To be honest, he had a habit of droning on and on and that gave Srin the habit of dozing off. Briefings were so terribly boring...
"... and I know you will deliver! Dismissed!"
Jinxie shook herself out of her daydream and followed the crowd into the armoury to finish suiting up. Technically she was only supposed to be issued three frag grenades, which she did take. But if you added the ones she had modified and stored in her rucksack previously you got closer to nine. Srin laughed to herself as she grabbed her MA37 and a few magazines, which she slung across her back and stuffed into the pouches on her vest, respectively. Last up was the M6C. Some guys claimed it was way weaker than the other M6 models but Srin did not notice or care enough to request a different one. A slight pressure on her back caused her to turn around and catch Vjun, red handed, in the process of writing something on her armour.
"What did you write on my back, Vjun?"
"The truth." came the smug response from the Corporal, who capped his blue pen and walked away.
Srin shrugged and walked into the hangar.
The Pelican bay door closed with a clicking noise and the eight soldiers housed within were bathed in darkness for a few moments before the overhead lights kicked in and illuminated the room once again. Srin blew some hair out of her face and looked around. She only recognised a few faces from the other fireteam. Vjun was the first to cut the relative silence, as always.
"Hey pilot, you better be careful. One of the soldiers down here is bad luck!"
The pilot chuckled and responded in good humour, "I don't care, I make my own luck."
"Wait, are we with Jinxie's team?"
"Yeah didn't you see the giant 'JINXED' written on her back?"
"THAT'S what you wrote on my back?"
Vjun erupted into laughter.
Srin threw a mock pout at the other soldier, "You're trying to get the Covenant to kill me!"
"Can it, all of you." Sgt. Penlan decreed forcefully, "And Vjun, you're gonna clean that off of Chéreau's armour once we hit the ground. That's defacing UNSC property."
The past three hours had been rough to say the least.
They landed without incident, and Vjun had even offered to clean the graffiti off of her armour but Srin shrugged. It made him happy and she didn't care much. Li had scowled at Vjun but said nothing. The Sergeant was too busy trying to organise the other squad and get everyone's bearings to intervene. They had figured out the general direction of the Marines and ODST squads that they were supposed to attach to and started walking. Thank goodness their helmets had intricate navigation systems; the forest was extremely dense and Jinxie had no doubt she would become hopelessly lost without the nav beacon on her eyepiece.
After an hour or so of walking, the eight man unit ran smack into a Covenant patrol, neither of which had seen the other coming due to the heavy foliage. Two Brutes, a Jackal and three Grunts versus eight UNSC Army troopers at melee distance. One of the Brutes roared in surprised and gored the unfortunate pointman from the other fireteam on his spike rifle. Immediately all 7 remaining troopers opened up with small arms fire. The furry monster died in a bloody heap, the pointman still impaled and gurgling on the weapon. The second brute dove behind a tree to avoid a similar fate. Jinxie dashed behind a rock and wildly sprayed the general area of the enemy with her rifle. A Grunt's panicked cries told her she hit something. As a satisfying end to the opening statement, Srin tossed a grenade over the rock, which detonated with a satisfying thump and snap as a tree buckled from the blast.
For the next three or so minutes Pfc. Chéreau peeked from her rock to periodically pepper the vague area of hostiles with gunfire. Eventually she peered over the stone to see Penlan eat a plasma blob to the chest and die stoically firing her rifle 'til it clicked. Vjun avenged the fallen Sergeant by turning the killer Grunt into a blue-green mess of gore. The Jackal screeched as it planted a bolt from it's purple carbine through another soldier's chest. Srin unloaded a burst at it but only one bullet hit the hideous bird-thing in the arm, causing it to recoil in pain and leap for cover.
"JINXIE! LOOK OU-"
Srin wheeled around in time to see Vjun point at something behind her. Something that promptly fired a trio of foot long spikes into his chest, (hopefully) killing him instantly. Jinxie swiveled again in time to see the brute raise his spike rifle for a death blow. However this gave her enough time to raise her rifle to block the blow. The blades chopped into the weapon and rendered it harmless and the monster wielding it pulled the spiker away and with it, the MA37. Srin fumbled for her pistol and managed to crack off two shots before the Brute gut punched her with it's free hand. The blunt force of the blow knocked the soldier back several feet and into unconsciousness. The last thing she saw being Li engaging the would-be killer with his rifle.
Srin Chéreau awoke an hour(?) later to silence, save for the sounds of the forest. Her chest ached in pain and she suddenly remembered the events of the last hour or two. She sat up from the damp forest floor with a groan. Dead troopers lay everywhere, it was obvious who had lost this engagement. Although the alien patrol had taken near total casualties as well, the Brute who had incapacitated Jinxie and killed Vjun was nowhere to be seen. That's when she remembered. Vjun!
She ran over to his body. Sure enough, he had died nearly instantly as far as Srin could tell. She tried in vain to yank the spikes out of his cold body but gave up after a couple tries. She wiped tears or maybe sweat off of her face and grabbed his tags and rifle before standing up. None of the other soldiers she checked were alive. She played the grim duty of tag collector as she took the fallen's ID tags and stuffed them in her pocket. The only one missing was Li. She found his helmet but there was no blood or trace of his body. Drag marks or maybe heavy footsteps lead off the site of the battle but she lost them in the soft forest ground. The Nav beacon blinked softly in her eyepiece, reminding Srin of her former goal. Current goal? She took a deep breath and started off in the direction of the beacon.
After a few minutes of walking the radio crackled to life, informing all available callsigns that there would be a ping for a short time at this 'Chariot 9-' whatever's location.
"Chariot, this is what's left of Army Fireteam 2 Bravo 9, I'm on my way to your location, over." The HUD on her eyepiece confirmed the ping had been received and saved locally so she had something to track.
Hey, better than nothing.