The two teams arranged themselves quickly once they had been given orders, then proceeded down the split paths with haste. The corridors were fairly narrow, though fortunately there was no resistance in the halls themselves, at least for now. Both paths led downwards towards large chambers that were similar, though not identical.
Down the left path, the final door opened into a wide, tall chamber. Its original purpose to the Forerunners was not apparent, but as it was open and mostly featureless, it was now filled with stacks of crates almost from one wall to the other, though they did have an orderly arrangement that allowed one to navigate between them. There were also two rows of three long, flat columns each going from the floor to two walkways above. One was on the far side of the room, while the other row was on the near side just in front of the door the team entered through. Although they could not see through the ceiling above them, there was presumably a second walkway just above them, overlooking the center of the room.
Among the collection of crates in the center of the chamber was where the enemy had been putting up barricades and starting to fortify. They mostly consisted of metal, deployable barriers, though Humans were not the only defenders among them. There was also a small pack of Brutes, four individuals, though their leader wore the armor of a Chieftain. Including the Human rebels, there were about a dozen defenders ahead of them from what they could see. The Jiralhanae used exclusively their own weapons, such as spikers, or a gravity hammer in the case of the Chieftain. The Humans, meanwhile, wielded a mix of Human and Covenant weaponry. Out of those that were visible as the team entered the chamber, two carried storm rifles, one a needler, and one a carbine.
Most notably, the Humans and Brutes did not appear to be entirely unified. Some of the Humans seemed to be on alert and in defensive positions, but the Chieftain seemed to be having an altercation with a Human commander. Just as Aviza’s team was making it into the room, the Chieftain struck the Human “lightly”, which, for a Brute, was still enough to knock him clean off of his feet. “Cowards! There will be no retreat; we will crush them, feast on their flesh, and suck the marrow from their bones! Flee from them, and I will make you my dessert.”
Vael 'Virisusai and Tasuma
Vael led his team from the front down the right path. He moved alongside Tasuma through the halls, as a Mgalekgolo could force its way through nearly any obstacle they might come across in the halls. Fortunately, they did seem to have moved quickly enough that their enemy did not have time to fortify the halls. Although, the moment they reached the large chamber at the end of the hall, they faced immediate resistance.
The chamber itself was large and quite open, except for the crates in the center of the room. They were stacked and organized neatly, though it was not obvious from the outside whether or not they contained weapons. What was apparent was that the rebels had put up barriers in the center for cover, including two mounted heavy machine guns, both of which had opened fire as soon as the door had opened.
Fortunately, Vael’s team was not left completely without options. There were two of what seemed to be support struts running diagonally up to the ceiling, one to the left and right of the door Vael’s team was entering through. The struts were wide, so they did offer ample cover. Vael lunged and rolled to the left to get behind one of the struts as quickly as he could, though even with his armor’s shield strength, the heavy weapons had very nearly depleted them in just the few moments he had been exposed to incoming fire.
“Spread out and get to cover!” Vael ordered, though Tasuma took that order at a slower pace. It kept a low posture with its shield in front to protect itself, then used the smoke launchers mounted on its armor to fire two smoke grenades towards the center of the room. It would take a short time for the smoke to fill out, but it would at least provide partial cover for the rest of the team to move. Overall, the Hunter’s armor could handle the incoming fire for a time, which, together with the smoke, would hopefully allow the rest of the team to reach cover.
It was difficult for Vael to see in detail, but there seemed to be ten or fifteen Humans ahead of them. The chamber was longer than it was wide, and he could see an upper walkway that ran along the right side of the room to the far side, with a ramp to just next to the other support strut to access it. However, from his angle, he could not see if there were more rebels up on the walkway defending that path.