Cordero's Nightmare (I)
Posted By: Nosolee<email@example.com>
Date: 30 June 2006, 12:22 am
It's been a looooong time since I've posted a story here on HBO. Some of you may remember the Fall of Fate series (critically acclaimed, if I do say so myself ;) that, regrettably, I have not finished. First story was posted May 5th 2003, here's the link for anyone that's interested:
Regardless, please don't stop reading if you were put off by the content or some errors in that story, I submitted it when I was a wee freshman in high school. I like to believe that my writing has grown better (hopefully ;) since Fall of Fate. Also, don't stop reading this particular story because you haven't read any other segments of the Fall of Fate series. This piece has nothing to do with anything else I have ever written here at HBO.
back to what's important.
I didn't start with a particular plan for this piece, I have a better idea now that the first part is done and edited. What I do know is that I want this story to reflect more of Halo: Combat Evolved feeling, not Halo 2. Something slightly more retro—i.e. the aliens were uni- dimensional (when we weren't really in their psychology), the marines wore green eyepieces, and the Spartans were mysterious.
(apologies for the epic pre-script, without further adieu...):
1700 Hours, March 31, 2534 (Military Calendar)
12 Parlor Street, Perkston (Industrial City Suburban District)
Hephaestus, First Inhabited Planet of the Circinus Galaxy (Outer Colony: Established 2382
"Lean low, low, out of sight, ok, ok ok
" never before had Infantryman Private Alec Cordero ever been so breathless—not from fatigue, but from fear. Not the type of fear that paralyzes a person in a nightmare—the fear of the unseen—no, that which frightened Private Cordero was well in sight.
He huddled behind the lateral side of a bed within a ruined house. Making sure his head was well below the line of sight, he nursed a bleeding ankle. Cursing himself for filling the wound with too much biofoam, he rubbed out the excess mess of milky crimson white glop—the pungent smell of the medical foam stung his nostrils. As Cordero hid against the bed he stared out of a window no more than two feet from his face parallel to the bed. The unfolding nightmare—the very real nightmare seized his gaze.
In the far distance a deep, furious yellow-orange spread across the sky's horizon, and a wide vortex of swirling stormy fire rose to the clouds off of the superheated ground.
That was where they had stared glassing.
They slammed the unwanted territory from orbit and instantaneously eliminated an entire megalopolis, all 53 super-developed miles of it. Presto, like microwaving a cold bowl of chili.
As soon as he had heard that Covenant ships appeared in local space, Cordero made sure his family was on the first wave of evacuation ships. He thought—now trapped in a ruined house and death rummaging around downstairs—of his mother, bubbling with tears, barely audible above the sirens blaring all the way to the ship. His father tried to calm her, but his voice wavered and cracked as small tears trickled down his face. They knew for sure their son would die, and they felt everything from guilt to grief. Private Cordero, however, had no intentions of dying, not here at least. No sir, none whatsoever.
Indeed, he desperately clutched a butter knife, found in the collapsed kitchen of the house. In that small piece of silverware Private Cordero desperately entrusted his entire existence.
He had fired all of his remaining ammunition only a half-hour earlier at a phalanx of Jackals, the firey-eyed featherless chicken-like aliens of the Covenant, recently disbanded from one of their U shaped dropships. The dropship pummeled his squad's location; a makeshift wall of sandbags at the end of a suburban cul-de-sac lined with medium sized houses. Purple-white hot plasma swathed over the bags and ground as the vehicle rose and provided cover for the advancing line of seven Jackals. Their yellow-shielded squad leader walked in the center, flanked by three others at his left and right. Cordero tried to remember the proper way of dismantling a Jackal Phalanx from training, but classroom exercises seemed all too distant in this situation. He wasn't only worried about the Jackals. The dropship continued to rain plasma, keeping a safe distance. The Jackals all began sending zips of green from their weapons, skimming the marines' heads.
"How the fuck are we supposed to take that thing out!" Private Vassar shouted at the squad's Sergeant. Only three marines remained.
"Gimme a minute, alright!" the Sarge, after a pause, shouted. "Any ideas, Cordero?"
"None yet, sir," Cordero replied, surveying the supplies and ammo at hand—nothing much.
"One launcher with a single rocket, our MA5Bs with clips collected from the dead, a loaded sniper, four rounds only," he clucked his teeth and shook his head, "and several ammo-less M6Ds." The sniper seemed useless against the line of shields; they couldn't get above the bunker's horizon even if they wanted to fire. The launcher would have to be carefully used against the dropship's main cannon and expertly placed, a task very difficult to execute under the immense pressure. Private Cordero squinted at the objects, hoping something would pop up, wondering if this desperation—this fear was what countless other squads felt before they were murdered by these things. His eyes darted in panic about the collected weapons, glancing at the body of an already fallen Jackal. Now he had his idea.
He slowly crouch-walked over to the lifeless, rifle-punctured body and removed and activated the yellow energy shield.
"Cordero, what in hell are you doing?" the Sergeant shouted.
"I've got an idea, sir," he replied focused on his new plan. Normally, when privates "got ideas" in the middle of a fight the Sergeant knew it was reckless trouble leading to some human casualty. Cordero, however, didn't get regular ideas. When he had "gotten ideas" in the past, they were good ones. Private Cordero couldn't explain exactly what he was going to do to the Sarge, he didn't have the time, he just had to do it.
"I hope for my ass you know what you're doing, kid," the Sergeant sighed.
"Sheeuh," Vassar snickered, worriedly. Cordero crept with the oval, Persian-like shield and rested it vertically against the wall of a house perpendicular to the far right of the sandbags, allowing it to peek out slightly past the bunker's wall. He softly scampered back to the pile of supplies, snatched the sniper-rifle, and returned to the shield. He glanced at the shiny surface of the orange oval and thankfully saw the silhouettes of the advancing Jackals, just as he had hoped.
Cordero quickly composed himself; this would take complete focus. Sitting and resting the rifle across his body, finger poised on the smooth trigger, he closed his eyes, breathed deeply and thought. The curvature of the shield, what was the angle necessary for the right ricochet? This was a math problem, that's all this was, a simple geometry problem
No it wasn't.
"Aaarrhh!" Vassar screamed as the dropship's cannon incinerated his calves. It was drawing closer, realizing their desperate situation.
"Cordero!" the Sarge bellowed. The Private opened his eyes..
"After I fire this, you take that dropship's gun out. This should frighten the Jackals enough to give you some room. Green bolts from the avian creatures' pistols still zipped overhead.
It was a simple physics problem.
He was swiftly running out of time, Vassar continued to scream.
"Sshhshuuh," the Sarge tried to hush Vassar as he shakily loaded the rocket. It was pointless; the vultures already knew their prey was wounded.
Cordero took a few steps back, raised the scope to his eye, zoomed toward the shield, steadied the rifle and thought. The Jackals were approaching slowly—slow enough for Cordero to plan the right shot, he only had one try at this; the force of the bullet would cripple the energy shield for several minutes—may as well be eternity.
The silhouette of the phalanx was close enough to the bunker so that he had a near perfect image of all seven of the aliens in a V-line. He sucked and deeply held in his breath, incrementally adjusted the angle of the shot, and fired.
Crack! Feewwing! the white vapor trail of the bullet impacted the shield and ricocheted on a sharp angle toward the Jackals. The shield popped and died in fizzling sparks of energy.
"Hassshhhiiiiiannk!"The Jackals hissed. "Haaaatoo!"
"Now!" Cordero shouted. The Sergeant rose with the heavy launcher, targeted the dropship's suspended cannon, and fired with a holler. The rocket streaked forward and impacted the purple machine, detonating and sending the weapon up in flames and smoke. The hovering dropship immediately rose higher and accelerated away in a great whirr. Fiery debris dribbled off.
Cordero shouted as he popped up from behind the bunker's safety and fired his assault rifle at the Jackals. The long sniper bullet had actually torn off the hand of the phalanx leader and passed through side of three of the aliens flanking his left side, downing them immediately. Cordero easily dispatched the standing four who, completely caught off guard, desperately tried to coordinate themselves. The bullets pierced into their unprotected side and they each fell rather quickly. Cordero, after finished off the mortally wounded three squirming on the floor, let out a deep sight and shook his head. Far too close.
Scanning the street outside of the entrenchment and noticing no immediate danger, Cordero rushed over to the Sarge and Vassar, each now reclining and clutching their respective injuries.
"Sarge?" Cordero gestured at his leader's shoulder. The green shirt below the marine's metallic brown armor was already damp and black with blood and the armor in that area sizzled from heat, parts completely incinerated away.
"Ah, when I, oof," the Sarge struggled, "when I shot the turret the bastard nicked me."
"He nicked you
" The Sergeant nodded.
"I got 'em back," the marine smiled, "hell of a shot, I say so myself."
"Definitely," Cordero agreed, with a feeble grin. "Vassar?"
"He got hit down below, he was crawling toward the ammo and they got him in his damned legs." Vassar was silent and pale, with his back leaning against the wall of the trench. He breathed and convulsed in wheezing gasps. The young soldier's legs were completely incinerated, not only his calves, but his thighs and lower waist, blackened and burnt fleshy red. The liquid of his melted armor greaves seeped into the wounds. Cordero grimaced.
"We need medical support," Cordero muttered, eyes wide in horror.
"No, shit. So do a lotta other units," the Sarge paused, lighting a cigarette, letting the ambiance of the surrounding war sink in. Cordero hadn't recently, noticed the thunder of the bombs and rattling of gunfire in the distance. Some of it not too far away, he had censored out the din while he focused on the Jackals—on surviving.
"It doesn't look like we're moving for shit," the Sarge cursed again. "The nearest med-tent is a half mile from here, and they're swamped." Cordero stared anxiously, entranced by the pitiful figure of Vassar.
"What's it feel like, Sarge, to get burned by plasma?"
"Like a really bad sun-burn," he said matter-of-factly through his cigarette.
"Hey, get that med-kit over there, willya?" the Sarge pointed to the white oval-like octagon hidden beneath some asphalt-rubble.
"Sure," Cordero sauntered over, thinking about the Sarge's reply. Like a really bad sunburn
"Grenade!" Cordero's eyes widened as he jumped back, tripped and covered his head.
" The Sarge sighed and knew the futility of any attempt at cover. The blue, pulsating orb detonated with a great bladuum!, erasing both the Seargant and Vassar in a fine red mist. Once the debris had settled, a dazed Cordero looked up and winced at a new, sharp pain in his left ankle. A piece of jagged debris had lodged itself in the muscle above his foot and between the bone knob. Crimson welled up around the edges of the injury and began to seep out. Cordero moaned and immediately pulled the shard from his leg with a great, sickening effort. He struggled to get to the med-kit, and took sad notice of the stains that were once the Sergeant and Vassar. Just a second ago he was talking to them. Just a second and that was it. That's all it takes. A second. He was lucky.
Tossing away the lid of the med-kid and about to fill his wound with bio-foam, Cordero suddenly wondered where the grenade had come from. Hearing the little pitter-patter of grunts' feet, Cordero immediately glanced around for a weapon, but they had all been either destroyed or severely damaged and scattered about the site by the grenade. None were in reach. How could I have missed them? he thought. Hearing the commotion, the grunts had crept out from the side of a nearby house. When they saw the bodies of the Jackals and the dropship zooming away, they knew some humans remained in that encampment. They thought it best to throw a plasma grenade into the hole and see if anything crawled out or moved—nothing did. As the small troupe of grunts, three in total, bobbled curiously toward the remains of Sarge and Vassar, Cordero did all he could in his fear—play dead. He held his breath and fixed his eyes in a blank stare, cautious not to flinch or blink, his heard pounded in his chest. The small aliens peered around the trench and, satisfied, walked away. Cordero remained still for another minute, breathing slowly. Confident that the Grunts had left, let out a sigh and winced. He filled his wound with bio-foam, the goopy medical fuzz that relieved pain and temporarily halted excessive blood flow. His foot had already felt prickly with sleep.
Cordero again scanned the area for danger and, seeing none, crawled out of the trench and limped down the cul-de-sac toward a half ruined house. He had to hide in there, at least until his foot felt better.
Now, here he was, entrusting his life to a thin piece of silverware. Something— Covenant no doubt—had recently entered a little while after Cordero had and was thumping around the first floor of the house. Cordero listened carefully, trying to pin down which of creature it was. He knew what some of them looked like in reality
Grunts, Jackals and
He breathed in deeply, his heart pounded faster now, droning on like a relentless machine. Something bigger than a Grunt or Jackal was down there. It spoke; Cordero could hear its deep, foreign and utterly inhuman voice echo from the room below him. A shrill Jackal's voice responded. Then he heard, in great terror, the heavy footsteps creaking up the house's wooden steps. Thump