Jaron Cable stepped on hard concrete, listening to the sounds of pebbles bounce around as he walked towards Viking One. The sun was relentless, battering down on the marines without mercy. Sporadic gunfire cast a constant crescendo of background noise. The city itself felt dead, however. Jaron spat onto the ground and kept walking.
"Viking One is up ahead." Sergeant Collins told them. His voice was like a blend of sandpaper and rust. It reminded Jaron of his father, back when he lived with his sister as a kid on Earth.
The group of marines walked past abandoned cars and empty ammo crates. Jaron felt uneasy. It was like walking through a kid's room, with toys thrown about. This was all that was left of what was once a thriving population.
Abandoned cars, empty ammo crates. And plasma burns.
Sergeant Collins held up his fist, and they all stopped moving. His face was tight, like he was listening for something that he couldn't hear. "Get out of sight." He said. It was a simple collection of 4 words, but that short sentence carried some serious weight. No explanation was needed.
The marines immediately drifted into the shadows on either side of the wide street, melting into the shadows like ghosts. Jaron crouched under a small UNSC recruitment station. He could hear the sound of a phantom approaching. His lips suddenly felt dry, and his hands started to feel a bit shaky. That was how he always got, when Covenant was nearby.
The sound of the drop ship was getting louder as it neared. It was an urgent sound, a probing sound. Like it was hunting them. Jaron shrunk under the recruitment station, getting as small as he possibly could. He felt like a small mouse, hiding from a hungry cat.
The phantom was moving slowly as it flew by overhead. Fear splintered through Jaron like an electric shock. It passed over and its sound began to grow distant. Jaron realized that he'd been holding his breathe. He peeked out from under the recruiting station. The phantom was gone. They were okay, for now.
The marines of 2nd platoon emerged from the shadows, the reverse of what they'd done only a few minutes earlier. Sergeant Collins pointed to one of them, a new one fresh out of boot camp. "You, Sam. Take point." A flash of fear crossed Sam's face. She nodded and jogged to the front of the formation, doing as she was ordered.
2nd platoon got back into the rhythm, progressing towards Viking One's position. Jaron knew that he would feel relieved once they got there.