Forever - Adeus Ex Machina?
Date: 4 January 2004, 8:06 AM
Forever Adeus Ex Machina
I smiled. My rifle cracked and a bullet leapt from the end of my rifle, contacting a Grunt's shoulder. Bullets sparsely traveled alone, though, and soon blue blood blossomed from a half dozen impacts across the Grunt's frail body. It twisted in the air before drifting lazily to the ground. I stood and ran across the rubble to the fallen Grunt, kicking its body to confirm its demise. Satisfied that my rifle had ceased his life I leapt over his body and slid from the mountain of cement boulders. Some of the smaller rocks followed my descent, as well as a plume of dust. I shuffled around the remaining base of the building to the next corner. Nervously, I peered around the end of the block. Convinced that my survey of the area couldn't unearth any hidden foes I continued to cross the street, nearly trotting. After I successfully walked to the next block I heard nearby gunfire, accompanied by the orange glow of humanity's projectile-based weaponry.
For a moment I considered cowering and simply turning back, but I was compelled by what duty and honor lie within me to help my fellow man. Full of valor and pride I charged around the corner. Bullets whirred in the air, dancing with plasma bolts to form a beautiful and deadly spectacle. A wounded soldier hobbled past me to escape the battle, and I remembered the infinite costs of the art ahead. Keeping first at a safe distance, I began to fire at misfortunate Grunts that were so unlucky as to have exposed their head or one of their limbs. Eventually, after around four kills, I was noticed by the enemy.
I ducked behind some crumbled cement and steel. My back pressed to cold concrete I tried to consider what to do next. I tried as best I could to ignore the gunfire passing over my head in either direction, and to reload. When we were in training I hadn't realized how hard it would be to reload when I was trembling in terror. Within a half minute I had managed to reload, and carefully exposed my forehead and eyes from cover. The enemies who had begun to proceed towards my position was busy killing the last of the original Marines in the area. The pack of mixed Covenant continued down the street, through the intersection at the start of my block and into the street between the buildings to my left and right.
I started to scramble to my feet to flee. I managed to get a half step from the boulder before tripping. I peered over my shoulder as an Elite's head poked over the rubble. It stared at me for a brief second, and growled hatefully. I crawled pitifully away from the foul beast, nearly crying. Suddenly the windows in the building across the street from my position exploded in gunfire. Literally dozens of ODSTs repelled from the fifth story windows, and the second story had rained glass and hot lead spontaneously. The Elite's shield cracked as gunfire splashed across it.
First, the Elite spun to face its assailant; arrogantly expecting the shield to hold. Its foolish overestimation of safety cost it, however, as a stream of bullets shattered the shield and plunged into the Elite. It toppled onto the rubble, purple gore popping into the air. As it fell, emotionless, beady black eyes stared upon me. I watched the last of the Covenant die at the hands of the ODSTs and hit the Elite in the stomach with my rifle's butt. The Elite yelled in pain. Gloating, I spun my rifle. I pressed the bloodsoaked butt against my shoulder and took aim at the Elite's chest. I deliberately depressed the trigger, and watched as a dozen bullets stole the Elite's life. A careful smile crept across my face, before I began to help the ODSTs look for surviving Humans to help, and surviving Covenant to slaughter. As we finished searching the bodies another Covenant patrol emerged, this time two Creeps. The long, bus-like craft hovered across fallen rubble and bodies alike as it continued to battle us.
The Marines were the first to fire. ODST machine-gunmen killed one of the Creep's gunners and several passengers before the craft managed to pass into our block. Most of the ODSTs in the street had managed to run to cover, but the remaining half dozen were slaughtered at the hands of purple lances of plasma. As they fell, I stood behind the bloodsoaked boulder and began firing. I peered nervously through a trembling scope, firing at the driver of the closest Creep. Sparks fountained from dozens of impacts with the metal, a manifestation of my inaccuracy. However, two lucky bullets managed to plunge into the pilot. The limp Grunt body fell from the Creep, crashing to the ground besides the Creep. Disorganized Covenant panicked and leapt from the fallen Creep. As it toppled to one side it crushed almost half of the passengers. I continued to fire at enemy soldiers, though after many dozen shots I realized my Magazine had been empty for most. The ring in my ears left my senses blind to reload. I noted this weakness, and continued to drop behind the boulder and reload. As my hearing came back an explosion cracked on the other side of the cement boulder. My ears rang, and I was sprayed in a purple mist. A twisted Elite's body was hurtled over the rock. Most of the beast tumbled to a stop before me. I suddenly wished I had a grenade or two. I rose from cover and killed a Grunt that was within two yards of me. Only a few muzzle flashes scattered loosely throughout the street indicated surviving Marines. The surviving Covenant of the crashed Creep were-for the most part-nonexistent. The other Creep was still fully operational, and had dispatched all of its troops. The turret atop it rained fire on a stranded group of Marines, who hid behind a melting cement barrier. I fired two magazines into the turret, though it wasn't till the last half dozen that I managed to vacant the vehicle. The Marines behind the rock waved a short thanks, before diving back into combat against a dispatched team of Elites. A few Grunts began to fire towards me as well. I dropped behind cover, and slowly, tactically killed two Grunts. As I slaughtered a third Grunt I was rewarded by the shouts of a dozen of Marines.
Some hurtled their helmets, rejoicing. Others simply yelled thanks to the sky; thanking god for their victory. I simply grinned, knowing that I had been called to duty, and fulfilled my requirements. In the simplest possible fashion I collected my ammo and continued walking down the street.
Silently I wondered to myself...
Deus ex machina?
Not with my luck...
Forever - Dimidium Facti Qui Coepit Habet
Date: 7 February 2004, 9:12 PM
Forever Dimidium Facti Qui Coepit Habet
I was happy. An odd, simple statement - especially for a man with no luck and no future. I marched in a loose line with a dozen other Marines, one of whom my friend of a dozen years. We hadn't encountered any fighting for at least a half hour. We had stumbled blindly between buildings, over bodies and through rubble. We could hear explosions and gunfire everywhere, and we always assumed combat would lie around the next corner, but never found a single live enemy. The sound of our allies screaming for help, and the shrieks of alien gunfire howled through the city's skyscrapers; taunting us - assured that it was a safe distance away. Granted I wasn't looking for combat, I also didn't want to be a coward. "Hey, Chavez!" my friend said, "What's the first thing you wanna do once we kill the Covenant off this planet!"
"Grammar school. I know you learned Spanish and English when you were a kid, but for the love of god, English is your first language!"
"Hell yeah!" he shouted back. "I was thinking something to do with twin girls, but whatever. Anyways, I've gotta ask you this... Am I in your will?" I chuckled, "I mean, if I make it through this and you don't I want to see some benefits. I'm out here sticking my neck out to make sure that you don't get your ass fried Lunar 4 style, and you haven't said anything about it!"
"Well, I never wrote a will. I'm 25. I've spent every year that I should be making money in the Marines. I have a thousand credits and a hydrogen guzzling car. If you want you can have it!"
"Oh yeah... 2525' vintage... Leather seats, chrome bumper - none of that plastic crap... What color was it? About half black and half rust red... Probably weighs more than a Warthog and uses more gas than a Scorpion... I have to wonder what's worse for the environment, your car or the Covenant."
I laughed, "Well, look at Earth. I read it used to be called the green planet. I also read that Mars was the red planet. Weird how that works out..."
"I heard Harvest used to be a green planet too. Then it got real orange, real fast."
"The same for dozens of planets... But here on Lunar 4 we have a chance! We're a planet of fighters! We come here, deceived and either die begging in the streets or fight to live on minimum wage!"
"That or fight to die for your army - which you've been conscripted to..."
"I didn't say it was all pretty on Lunar 4."
"You're right..." Allen hesitated. I could tell what was about to happen... "Plenty of fat chicks to sully our planet!"
"Plenty of skinny ugly ones too."
"I dare you to find a hot fat chick."
"I think I'll take you up on that..." I thought I heard gunfire and explosions, "Anyone else hear that?"
"I think I hear gunfire, probably a quarter mile away.", Marshals replied.
"Which was is it coming from?" another Marine asked.
"I've got no idea. There's so many damn echoes in these buildings! It's probably closer than a quarter mile though."
"Alright, let's pack up and move out! We only got so many streets to cross until we find em!" Suddenly a rocket exploded at the fifteenth story of a building in front of our group. The contrail pointed to its source.
"Alright! Looks like we found some friends to bail out! Let's go!" In one of the innumerable intersections of the city a group or around 25 Marines had gathered behind some cement barriers. They had managed to create a rudimentary trench of craters and seemed to be fighting fairly well, considering how badly outnumbered they were. The barricade - located in a standard four way intersection - faced bombardment from two sides. The Covenant were attacking from the side of the intersection to my left, and across the Marine barricade from my position.
"Holy shit!" Allen yelled over the gunfire. It suddenly leapt from taunting demon to a raging beast, smashing deeper into our skulls through our ears.
"Allen, we'll take the building to the left. Have any grenades?" I yelled.
"Only enough to make a tiny hellfire for a few Covenant! Let's go, I'm sure they'll be fine with sharing!"
We charged into the building, running across a mutilated Marine body to the escalators. They were shut down because of the invasion, so we quickly jogged up them. Once we had reached the third floor we came to a series of small, thirty by thirty rooms. We shuffled to the first Room and peered nervously in the window. I spotted a lone Jackal standing casually. I waved a lone finger and pointed into the room, followed by the sign language symbol for J. He nodded in acknowledgement and crept to my position. With a quick hand signal, he ordered me to move forward. I crawled forward, as to not allow the Jackal to see me through the half windows. I looked backwards to see Allen reach into the room and stick an angular grenade to the wall, leveling it towards the Jackal. I assumed he knew what he was doing, and peered into the next room. I didn't see any Covenant, so I signaled for Allen to advance. I slowly walked while kneeling towards the next room. Within I spotted a group of at least five Grunts and a Jackal. Allen was close enough that he looked through before I could give him a hand signal. I tried to come up with a tactical solution to the problem, but before I could think Allen handed me a detonator. He pulled two grenades from his belt and held them in opposite hands. Using his teeth he pulled the pins from the grenades and gestured that he was going to toss them in the room. I moved backwards a few feet, knowing that the paper thin walls beneath the windows wouldn't protect me from any shrapnel. He tossed the two grenades into the room. I counted to two and detonated my grenade. The Jackal shrieked as the grenade showered it in shrapnel; a moment before the Grunts in the latter room exploded. I stood and ran noisily into the third room. Allen had already smashed the large windows to the outside with his grenade, and began firing in the streets. His rifle was box fed and full automatic, so accuracy wasn't a problem. He sprayed the streets with gunfire. The Covenant ran for cover, but I didn't see him hit anything. I wondered if he was a bad shot or if that was his intention, as he tossed a grenade into one of the alcoves the Covenant had hidden in. Regardless, the grenade exploded and two Grunt bodies were tossed into the street. He laughed victoriously before handing me a grenade and throwing another into the street. Gunfire continued to clatter from the intersection, but seemed to be directed at the other street. His grenade flashed behind a boulder, but no bodies emerged. I threw my grenade towards a boulder that I had seen an Elite run behind, but hit the boulder instead. It bounced harmlessly to the street. Allen looked me to see what I though of my error, and I shrugged it off.
"Out of grenades!" he yelled. He must have been deafened by the explosions.
"Well, we can't hit anything without em! They're too well fortified in those rocks!" I shouted back.
Suddenly I heard heavy footsteps behind us running up the escalators. Instantly, I recognized them. "Elites!" I shouted. Allen spun onto his back and leveled his rifle at the doorway. There was only one way out of this room, which led immediately into a waiting enemy. It soon began to appear that waiting was not a proper description for the Elites, as heavy footsteps progressed around the corner. Allen unclipped another of the box-shaped magazines from his vest, fumbling to clip it in his rifle. I could hear almost a dozen Elites. We wouldn't stand a chance, but our only route of escape was directly into the Elites. My mind cycled through thousands of possibilities, never once considering that we might win. Thinking quickly, I kicked a bookshelf over to make makeshift cover. Allen rested his rifle on the bookshelf and leveled the sight at the window to the hallway. An Elite's head appeared in the window. Allen shot through the window. The Elite's shielding dissolved the threat of injury, but he bobbled his head as at least a dozen shots bounced off its shield. Three more Elites charged into sight in the window, this time returning fire. I ducked behind the shelf with Allen as the Elites shot the shelf, peppering it with burning holes. With my back to the bookshelf I realized the only way out of the room. I pointed to the window to show Allen what was happening, though I didn't really care if he understood immediately. After I jumped to the street he would certainly understand. I waited a few moments, trying to use my patience to wait for a break in the gunfire, but Allen charged out the window and rolled to the street. The Elites would probably charge, since they realized we weren't corner. Waiting was suicide, even more so than running under a hail of gunfire. Without thinking, I charged. A heavenly blue orb danced near my head for an eternal moment as I leapt from the window.
As I passed through the shattered window pane the world suddenly changed. Blinding light spilled into my eyes. Everything was white, brilliant, distant sunlight destroying my vision. For a moment, I thought time has frozen and I was drifting through a heavenly cloud. My suspicions were instantly dismissed, as I hit the ground. As I hit the ground I tried to roll to a stop, but I heard a disgusting pop in my right foot. I scrambled to my feet and shielded my eyes from the sun. Allen had run halfway across the street by the time I managed to start running. I didn't bother to look behind after I stood, but instead focused only on running. Every time my right foot contacted the ground a horrible pain traveled up my foot, driving itself into my mind. By this point I had convinced myself that my toe was broken, if not half of my foot. All I knew was that cold wind was splitting around my face faster than it ever had before; and singing plasma darted past my head - still a thousand times faster than me. Grunts, Elites and Jackals all leapt from cover at the opportunity to fire at me. I ran across the street, scrambling between fallen rubble and destroyed cars. Gunfire from the Covenant wasn't all that was passing uncomfortably close. I kicked a fragmentation grenade away that had landed near my feet. The human forces in the intersection fired vigilantly into the Covenant horde, unwavering at the sight of humans amidst the enemy. Perhaps the adrenaline within their bodies compelled this heartlessness, or perhaps it was simply that they assumed I was lost already. I felt a sting in my back. I was perplexed - what force had created this pain. It was like nothing I had ever felt before. It certainly wasn't as bad as my shattered foot. What could have created it?
The pain blossomed into a horrible, tearing sensation. I felt as though I was being ripped in half in a single, acute movement. Broken and beaten, I tumbled forward. I was too distracted by the pain to cradle my fall, and hit the ground face first. One balled fist at a time I dragged myself towards the building, still a dozen feet away. I knew there was no hope that I would survive to reach my salvation within the confines of that concrete monolith. It sat a distant ten feet away and yet my strength was so sapped that I could hardly move myself. I grabbed onto the concrete and started to pull myself forward again as a Grunt stepped before me. My purgatory was predetermined. There was no justice in the mind of the beast standing before me. It raised its pistol, compelled to pull the trigger and bring a sudden end to my blessed life. I closed my eyes, waiting for the deathblow to seep forth from its gun. Oddly enough, there was no burn. No plasma bolt arched through the air, and no death split my skull. Before I looked upwards to see if my enemy had granted me mercy, I felt blood splash on my face. I wiped blue blood from around my eyes, trembling, and peered up. The silhouette of the Grunt stood above me for a terrifying moment before it collapsed in a tangled mass. I felt a hand grab my shoulder strap and drag me towards the building. My vision gradually blurred, and the sounds of gunfire gradually faded until I passed into unconsciousness.
Forever Credo certe ne cras.
Date: 24 March 2004, 3:47 AM
Forever Credo certe ne cras.
I opened my eyes. Something smelled horrible. I could hear dripping water in the distance, as well as falling dust.
"One's up." Someone said.
I rolled onto my stomach and looked back. The sound of distant muffled explosions and the roar of gunfire awakened my primal instinct to run. Nervously, I raised my chin. Green light filtered in through grates in the ceiling and cast long, terrifying shadows across the Marine's armor plates. I couldn't recognize his face, but nor could I see him very well. "Where am I? Who are you?" I asked.
"I'm just a Doctor with no money and no luck. And, you wouldn't recognize it, but right now you're in the red light district of Cian underneath the planet's largest casino."
"What the hell do you mean?"
"Well, the surviving Marines are taking cover in the sewers if they aren't still in the streets fighting. You were wounded, so you were brought here. You couldn't fight in the streets unconscious."
"What happened? Where's Allen and the rest of the squad?"
"I'm just gonna guess Allen is the one who brought you down here. Lanky guy, about 6' 2" and dark hair." Neither of these could identify Allen, "Ugly as hell." I nodded in recognition.
"That'd be him. What happened to me? Was I shot?"
"Yeah, you got shot in the back."
"Odd... All the war veterans who have been shot act like it hurts a hell of a lot more than this." I couldn't feel much pain in my back. It was simply a mild sting.
"Maybe that's because the bullet just grazed your back. You have a scab, basically. The veterans you're talking about are probably the people that had holes the size of baseballs melted in them and crawled out of some crater to find that the metal plates in their armor had melted to their flesh. If they leave it in the wound it cuts them every time they move and makes the already severe bleeding worse, but if they try to pull it off they'll face unimaginable pain."
"I remember hearing that..." I said, embarrassed at my arrogance, "What time is it?"
"About o'two hundred hours. As far as I know you were shot earlier yesterday. You were passed out for a pretty long time for a superficial wound like that. You'll need to make up a better story to tell to the easy bar girls when you get back home."
"Right... Well, maybe the Covenant can make one for me. Are we holding the city?"
"More or less. We haven't let them have it, to say the least. Most Marines are in the sewers because down here you can't get mauled in an airstrike, and we know our way around a little better so we can set up ambushes. I'm surprised you didn't ever get any sewer combat training. It's the general plan on most planets. The sewers are even safer than a bunker, in most cases. As long as you don't get lost, that is... Anyways, we do still have control of the Cian Anti-Space MAC facility though, and most of the surrounding citytower. About an eighth of the surface is under friendly control."
"What's my standing orders?"
"To help defend the MAC cannon and the surrounding premises. Most Marines are on that duty. I really don't know what you're supposed to do, but if I were to guess, that'd be it."
"Am I combat worthy?"
"If I were to bet on it, I'd say yes."
"You like guessing and betting, don't you?"
"Like I said earlier, I'm a poor Doctor. The other half of the puzzle is that I like to gamble."
I laughed and smiled, though I could say with some certainty, there is no tomorrow for me. I stood, thanked the Doctor for his help and left. As I stepped around the corner I walked into Allen. His armor, formerly clean enough that I could see my reflection in it, was now covered in scratches and a few deep, jagged cuts. Aside from the area of his face that was covered by his helmet and goggles, his face was covered in black soot from combat. He had a few little cuts on his face, but his hands were covered in scrapes. Dried blood was plastered to his fingers and face. I noticed his smile was missing a tooth.
"Don't surprise me like that!" he yelled. Something was different about him.
"How are things on the surface?" I asked grimly.
"I don't know." He replied. I noticed he was trembling. A bead of sweat that had formed as his hairline ran down his face, washing the soot away.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine! Those god damn monsters! They're everywhere! I tried to shoot one, but I was too slow! They killed Jenny!"
"Sorry... It's not your fault."
"She was my girlfriend, and they killed her! I don't get it! Why'd they take her! It was just one random shot! Why not me?" he yelled franticly.
"Stay calm, you're okay down here. It's safe." I was confused. Allen wasn't acting normal.
"It's never safe! Nowhere's safe! You think you know of somewhere that's safe, show me!"
"We're in the safest place on the planet, you'll-"
"I keep seeing it!"
"What? What is it?"
"The monster! I killed it Chavez. I killed it with my bare hands. I stabbed it again and again..." I noticed blue bloodstains up and down his forearms."
"How long have you been up there fighting?"
"Hours! 12 hours? 14 hours? I don't know! I keep seeing her Chavez, the look on her face! She died, Chavez! Why am I still here?"
"Listen," I grabbed Allen by the shoulders and shook him, "I'm alive because of what you did for me. I would've died in those streets, but you dragged me to the building. I owe you my life. You aren't responsible for what happened to Jenny. You look like you have some Combat stress. Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. I'm fine, but I don't think I have much longer to go."
"What do you mean?"
"I look all around and everyone I know is dying. I think I'm next."
"Don't talk like that. Listen, you stay down here with the Doctor. He'll take care of you. I'm gonna head off to the front lines and help make sure these sewers are safe."
"Alone? You'll be killed! Sorry, but I'm not gonna be responsible for another of my friends dying. Martin, James, Calvin, Jenny. They all died because I wasn't fast enough to help them. I'm not letting you die too!" he yelled.
"You can come if you promise me one thing... You are not crazy. You have to tell me right now that you are capable of fighting the Covenant and keeping yourself safe. Also, if I die, you'll realize it's not your fault."
"If you let me come, you won't die."
"We all die, but I promise you that I won't die till I'm good and ready. Which way to the surface?"
Allen pointed me to the surface. I looked down the sewer. The light on the ceiling blinked every few moments, randomly illuminating the tunnel. The ceiling rumbled occasionally and dust rained a moment after the explosions. The water, normally stagnant, was rippling. The ground rumbled, not just the pipes. Gunfire, both human and monster, echoed through the tunnels. Allen and I did all we could. We blindly ran where fate told us to. A left, a right, a left, straight forward. Allen lead me, but I'm not sure he had any idea where he was going. We ran for minutes without seeing people, and would suddenly stumble upon a group of Marines, bloodied from combat. They would limp past us, often carrying a friend on their shoulders. We ran around at least three corners to spot Covenant soldiers, but ran from each encounter. As we stumbled into the fourth enemy patrol, we tried to turn around and go back around the corner. Another group of enemy soldiers had already advanced into place, following us.
The Elite grunted in surprise and ordered his pair of wounded Grunts to fire. Needler bolts slowly lurched towards us. I rolled out of the way, but Allen stood and looked at the bullets, hurtling towards him. He seemed to have lost most of his will to live. I grabbed him and dragged him behind the corner, just as the needler bolts struck the wall. I didn't have a rifle, so I pulled my pistol from its holster on my leg. I fired twelve rounds down the pipe towards the enemy soldiers, hitting one of the Grunts in the shoulder. The others retreated for cover to regroup. It seems they were as surprised to be shot from behind as we were to find them.
I leaned around the other corner. The Grunts had ducked out of sight, but I could see the Elite's face around the corner. His beady eyes stared back into mine for a moment before he ducked around the corner and barked an order to his subjects. As the nose of a needler emerged from the corner I grabbed Allen's shoulder strap and tugged him away. My feet splashed in the water as I ran through the tunnel in a seeming slow motion, my blood diluted with much adrenaline. Sparks flying from electrical conduits flew through the air, sparkling. The lights flickered off for a moment, followed by a deep rumbling. Some dust rained from the ceiling, followed by pitch blackness.
Instinctively, I reached for the flashlight button on my gun. Later, I realized that my pistol didn't have a flashlight. I could hear something moving through the water, coming closer. It seemed to be coming from both sides though. The sound seemed to be echoing all around me. I couldn't see anything; just hear the haunting footsteps of the unknown enemy, hiding behind the curtain of darkness. The lights flashed back on to expose an Elite before me. I stumbled backwards, tripping over something, possibly my own feet. I splashed to a soft stop in the muddy water, lying on my back. I flung my pistol in the air and fired twice, though I soon realized that I had forgotten to reload.
The Elite laughed cruelty, and leveled its rifle on my head. Suddenly his shield splashed as a bullet struck his face. I stared in confusion, wondering what denizen of this sewer could save me. We were surrounded on both sides, and we could have heard anyone coming from either side. Another bullet struck its shield. I could almost see the bullet disintegrate across the Elite's shields. The Elite managed to look up in time to see another hot lump of god-sent lead strike its face. The shield flickered as it stopped the bullet. Two more bullets hit the Elite's chest, this time splashing purple blood in my eyes. I was blinded as I wiped the blood from my eyes. As I regained my vision more bullets hurtled into the Elite, shattering what little remained of its shields and exploding its skull. The bloody carcass collapsed on my legs, and I looked over my shoulders to see who my savior was.
Allen stood, trembling. He held the pistol leveled with where the Elite had formerly rest, smoke lightly seeping from its barrel. The empty magazine dropped from his pistol, and splashed to a stop in the water. Methodically, he slid another clip into his pistol, and cocked the weapon. Allen stood for another moment experiencing some indescribable mix of emotions before helping to roll the Elite from my legs. I stood, thanked him, and reloaded. The Grunts that I had shot at before were screaming in terror. They had apparently been followers of the dead Elite. We charged around the corner, together, and fired mercilessly into the backs of the running duo of Grunts. I didn't wait till they fell to the ground before running along their tunnel. I knew taking my chances with two wounded Grunts was better than waiting and having to run from an Elite and two Grunts behind us. The Grunts were dead before we passed them, however. As we passed the Grunts I spit on one of them, quickly. Translucent blood blinked in the flickering light, floating on the water like oil. We stumbled around the next bend in the pipe to find a huge, empty room. The pipe ended, and the water running down it trickled off the edge, falling hundreds of feet to the ground far below. My clip of ammo was empty from killing the Grunts, so I took the liberty of dropping it to see how deep the chamber was. I watched as it dropped into the unlit, terrifying darkness below. It faded from my vision for a few seconds before I heard the splash of it hitting the water. I fumbled for my flashlight again, a reflex. I found nothing. Quickly, we turned to fight the Covenant following us.
The Elite and his pair of Grunts charged around the corner only fifty feet away. My pistol's muzzle flashed a dozen times, firing at least fast enough to match the cyclic rate established by the UNSC. A few of the bullets managed to kill one of the Grunts, tearing through its throat. I could hear a hissing, from one of the dead Grunts. I looked at the dead Grunt that we had killed earlier. The water around his suit was bubbling. As fast as possible, I slid another magazine into my pistol. The Elite had nearly passed the Grunt's body. The magazine was my second to last, and I was very careful with my ammo. The single bullet I fired hit the metal pipe, sparking on impact. The methane in the air from the Grunt's ruptured suit absorbed the spark. It combusted into a ball of fire. Instantly, warmth lanced past my face, blasting shrapnel toward me. The explosion continued to grow for another fleeting moment. As the fire cleared, I could see the Elite and Grunt on the other side of a sheet of flames. Methane continued to seep through a tiny hole in the Grunt's suit slowly, creating a small flamethrower. The fire arced upwards enough to block the entire tunnel, shielding us from the enemy. The Grunt on the far side, the last surviving, was dying. It ran in terror, fire trailing its motions. Its face and arms were nothing but bones and molten, flaming flesh. Thought I would hate for something similar to happen to me, I felt no remorse for the Grunt. I smiled as the Elite stepped a few yards back from the explosion, cautious. His shield had absorbed most of the blast. At least, I figured, there was one less enemy to fight, and we had a few more minutes to find a solution. For a brief moment I wondered how long the Grunt's methane supply would last, before turning to more important things. We couldn't face that Elite, most likely. It had superior weaponry, and a shield. If it had grenades, we couldn't hide, either. The Grunt couldn't burn forever, so the Elite would eventually come for us.
We looked into the cliff. I squeezed my eyes shut, in hopes of adapting to the darkness faster. A few moments later I opened my eyes to a nearly pitch black reality. I looked at the bottom of the pit. It was deep, and full of stagnant water at some point.
"Allen, can you brace me and let me lean out a little so I can look for something to grab onto on the wall?" I asked. Allen still trembled. Something was wrong with him. The war had done something to him.
He nodded, and grabbed one of my arms. He spread his legs so they would be on the dry part of the pipes, and leaned back against my weight. I wasn't sure whether I trusted my life to him, any more. I slowly, nervously leaned into the chasm. The glow of the nearby fire lit the area, granted very little. A few weak lights inside the pipe also contributed to the area's illumination. However, the chasm was still darker than anything I had ever seen before. I reached as high as I could, only a foot or so above the pip, and felt for anything I could grab onto. My query found nothing besides cold, hard concrete. I tugged my arm and pulled myself back into the pipe. I looked at the lights that illuminated the ceiling of the tunnel. The wires went from the light, about a foot into metal rods in the ceiling. I felt that if we could see into the other area, we would have a better chance of getting out. I jumped and swung my arm for the light, coming a few inches short. Frustrated, I jumped again, missing. Allen pushed me out of the way, reached up, and grabbed the light while standing flat on his feet. He caught on to what I was planning, apparently, and tugged the light down a few inches, just enough to bend the metal pipe that contained the cords in the ceiling. He then reached a little higher and firmly placed a hand on the cord itself, pulling the rest from the ceiling. He tossed the light to me and looked around the corner. I dragged the light to the end of the tunnel and looked outward. To the right, about ten feet from the pipe, a thin metal pole ran downwards as far as I could see. It was the only thing I could see in any direction. I dropped the light so it hung from the end of the pipe and ran to tell Allen what I found. He was watching the Elite intently. Either his sanity has slipped to the point where he felt this was the right thing to do, or the Elite was acting odd. I watched also. The Elite played with his wristplate on his arm. He appeared to be pressing buttons, preparing for something. Suddenly, the Elite stopped. He charged forward, towards our position. I knew that if he stumbled into the fire, he would be burned. Unless this was a suicide attack, I saw little purpose in it. The Elite ran to within a yard of the fire, and leapt into the air, curling his feet upwards. As its limbs contacted the fire its shields flared. I had forgotten about the shields... The Elite cleared the flames to our side of the Grunt. Its shields flared and the Elite roared ferociously. Flamed trailed from the jagged points in his armor, as he landed, and the water around his feet steamed. Allen stood and started to scramble for the end of the pipe.
"There's a pipe to the right about ten feet! Jump for it when you get to the end!", I shouted.
"Got it!" he replied, nearing the end of the pipe. I watched as he jumped from my view, and screamed. Regardless of what happened to him, there was nothing I could do for him now. I simply set my sights on making it to the pipe. A splash echoed from the bottom of the chasm, and a sinking feeling arose in my stomach. As the pipe ended, I turned right and leapt. A dozen plasma bolts chased me from the tunnel. I fell, hitting the metal pole. I was dazed from the impact, but scrambled for the pole with my gloved hands. My hands clamped onto the pole, but I was moving too fast. I swung into the pole again, and was knocked loose. As I fell, I began to accept death, as a fist grabbed my shoulder strap. I could feel that I was still descending, but not nearly fast enough to be falling. Above me, someone held my shoulder. I looked up, but was left only to assume it was Allen. The light above cast a generic silhouette, but nothing more. I fumbled for the pipe, regaining my ability to think after hitting my head. The feeling was familiar. This wouldn't be the first concussion of my life, just the most painful. I wrapped a hand around the pipe.
Silently, I wondered to myself... Credo certe ne cras?
I can say with certainty there is no tomorrow.