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Halo Reach: Last Stand
Posted By: Croswynd<Croswynd@gmail.com>
Date: 31 March 2011, 5:33 am

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"Good guns, Spartan!" Keyes voice came over the comm, "All stations brace for castoff."

I climb down from the gun, watching as the ship lifts off. It's massive engines grew brighter as the maneuvering jets detached, sending it tearing away from this doomed paradise.

"This is the Pillar of Autumn. We're away. The Package is with us."

Those were the last words I heard before everything burned around me. My whole team was decimated. I hope Jun got out alive with Halsey, but looking out over Reach's charred landscape I have my doubts. Still, I had done my duty, to the best of my ability. It's strangely peaceful sitting here, watching the end of the world. The towering beams of plasma in the distance are beautiful in a way, even as they scour away the beauty Reach had been known for.

My hand tightens into a fist as I stare it all down, feeling helpless. Emile's body lay broken a few feet from me amid a pile of zealots. He had been a good man, through all his bluster. In the distance, a faint outline of a Scarab burning along with the rest of the world lay. Carter's ashes drifted in the breeze. Kat's body had been buried amid the scrap of New Alexandria, the place she had given her all to protect long enough to get most of the population away safely. Nothing remained of Jorge but a memory and the dog tags buried in one of the pockets in my armor; cold and warm at the same time, as if the metal were alive.

They had all died to protect Reach. And I was still here. So I walked, leaving the massive gun, climbing down the mountain side where a few flashes of plasma and gunfire chattered away at each other. Maybe I could make a difference, give some marines enough time to hide in the caves or shelters. Something. I couldn't just sit here. I lose my grip as I descend, tumbling end over end, pain lighting up all over my body. And it stopped. I can't breath as I stare at the red and black clouds of plasma-lit ash. Everything starts getting less clear, dust kicking up around me. I have to get up, even though I can no longer hear the machine gun fire in the distance.

So I walk, my DMR cradled in my arms, until I come upon a broken ruin of what looks like a pipeline with demolished huts all around. It's hard to see, even with my visor enhancing my vision. I walk along, carefully, my weapon raised as I stalk the ruins. My boot hits something hard and I look down. Staring up at me is a shattered visor and I feel the urge to throw up. A Spartan, one I don't even know. I kneel down and reach for his dog tags, yanking them away and bowing my head slightly. I keep moving, it feels like forever I walk through the ashy ground, not even stopping for the bodies anymore. Spartans lie dead everywhere, all different armor permutations. Stab wounds, plasma wounds, limbs missing. This is our Thermopylae.

I hear the whine of repulsors in the distance, a faint shape of a Covenant dropship flying toward me. I stand there, dropping my gun to the side, standing defiant. I'll fight until the end, among my brothers and sisters. This is where I make my last stand.

Another dropship follows the first as they draw closer, disgorging Grunts, Jackals, and Elites from their bulbous, violet frames. I raise my weapon, bracing myself against a broken wall and fire. Two of the small forms drop, blue gore coating the rocks behind them as the bullets tear through their skulls. Instantly, plasma flies at me as the Jackals and Elites return fire. I duck behind a broken wall, turning and firing through a gap in the middle of another wall, catching a Jackal in the chest as it moves forward carelessly. I duck again as the Covenant commanders roar over the sound of plasma scorching the masonry. I close my eyes, hearing the blood pumping in my ears and my own breathing drowning everything out. It's hypnotizing.

I jump out again, running to the left, pumping the last of my clip into a tank squatting close to the Elite's position. Fire consumes the immediate surroundings, shrapnel ripping through the alien's shields and armor, piercing the skin beneath. I feel like I can actually hear the death rattles.

Fire comes from my left, a needle ricocheting off my visor, cracking it. I drop my weapon and dive toward the nearest Spartan body, coming up with a Sniper Rifle. Two shots, two Skirmishers drop. More fire comes from behind me, blasting into my shields until alarms ring in my ears. I turn and fire, expending the last two bullets in the magazine to obliterate a Brute's brainpain. The pitter patter of feet behind me warns me of another enemy.

I swing the rifle around, catching a charging Grunt in the head and bending the rifle into a v-shape. Useless. More fire comes from behind me and I run toward it, my shields holding long enough for me to slam my shoulder into an Elite's chest, knocking out its shield overlay. I rip out my knife and stab it in the neck before it can recover, purple blood coming away on my blade. I'm breathing hard now, a familiar stitch in my side from my days in boot, surrounded by my "family".

I can almost hear them cheering me on as another shot cracks my visor. I pull my helmet off, feeling the dust and heat assaulting my skin instantly. A nearby Assault Rifle lies on the ground and I stumble toward it, smiling as I pick it up and remembering the first time I had ever done so. I can feel my fellow Spartans holding me up as I empty a quarter of the clip into a charging Elite. Plasma catches me in the back, my shields long gone, faint warmth spreading along my spine. Still they hold me up as I turn, shouldering into another alien before ending its life with my sidearm. More fire from the left. I shoot another quarter of the clip. Plasma rips into my side, blood leaking from a dozen wounds. I reach for my side arm, shooting yet another Elite while holding others off with the Assault Rifle.

Suddenly I find myself flying backwards as a heavy weight crashes into me, knocking my breath away. I look up just as it comes at me with a plasma dagger, kicking it away with my armored boot, strength slowly fading. Another one comes from the right side but I slam the butt of my pistol into its four pronged jaw. The one I kicked away comes back, stabbing into the dirt beside my head as I deflect it's arm with my own. I laugh as the other Elite comes back with another dagger. It comes down slowly, all the pain slowly vanishing as my vision blurs.

I see my family clustered around me, welcoming me back home. All my fellow recruits from the training facility on Onyx. Carter, Kat, Jorge, Emile, their helmets all off and smiling. Other, nameless Spartans standing around them, hands on each other's shoulders. They were all there, waiting for me to watch over the survivors with them. To share stories of our exploits and adventures. And most of all, to remember each other.

There was a lot of catching up to do. So I stood up and joined them.