Posted By: Paul Shelley<Bzerker01@gmail.com>
Date: 7 September 2010, 7:39 pm
By: Paul Shelley
Josef listened to the distant thunder of guns as he was bounced around in the back of the troop carrier. He and his squad had been rushed into action with little information. He had heard rumors that the Covenant had found Reach, but he dismissed those rumors as baseless. It was more likely some Innie's managed to pull off an attack and they were to hunt them down. He looked out as hog bounced side to side taking in the view. It wasn't that spectacular, brown lifeless dirt and gray drab stone dominated the landscape.
He sighed and began to hum a song as he reached into a pocket and produced a cigarette with a lighter. "Whoa, thought it was a nightmare, Lo, it's all so true, They told me, Don't go walkin' slow, The Devil's on the loose." He struck the hammer of the lighter a few times before he managed to get a flame. He pressed the end of the cigarette to the fire and puffed before continuing. "Better run through the jungle, Better run through the jungle, Better run through the jungle, Woa, Don't look back to see." He closed his eyes and took and inhaled and what met his lungs wasn't the stale dirt filled air of Reach, but cool clean fresh air pregnant with water.
The wisps of air pushed past his cheek as he smelled the fresh air of the mid day. He opened his eyes to see the ground was heavy with green and the sounds of life were all around him. With a sigh Josef tasted the wind, a storm was coming. He could hear the thunder in a distance and felt his skin tingle with anticipation. He sighed once more before he felt the jolt of a hand grab his arm with force. "Move it marine, we gotta fall back!"
The sky grew dark and that storm he heard in the distance became the silhouette of a Covenant ship, the ground was no longer lush green but drab brown slurry. He was in a trench, in the middle of a war for survival.
"Move it!" Shouted Josef's Commanding Officer as his squad hurriedly packed their things and began to move down the trench. They were quickly moving away from the ominous slow moving organic craft that was settling over them. Josef joined his comrades grabbing his kit and his MA5B Assault Rifle from its carefully crafted niche.
As he began to hustle down the small trench he heard the first sounds of alien contact, the high pitch squeals of the methane breathing Grunts moving in on both sides of them. Josef heard the familiar forceful tone of the commanding officers voice, "Don't engage, keep moving Marines!"
It wasn't long after that he began hearing the terribly familiar sounds of supercharged plasma flying overhead. He could feel the hair on his body stand up as they whizzed over head. He ducked lower in the small trench instinctively gritting his teeth while he focused on keeping one foot in front of the other.
Josef began to sing under his breath as he scrambled, "Better run through the jungle, Better run through the jungle, Better run through the jungle, Woa, Don't look back to see." The sounds of the deeper voiced Elites could now be heard echoing off the walls of a nearby building bellowing out orders to their grunt peons. "Thought I heard a rumblin', Callin' to my name, Two hundred million guns are loaded, Satan cries, Take aim!"
An explosion of dirt in front of Josef left marks of red and black over his armor as the marine in front of him disappeared from existence. Josef didn't think much about it, he just kept pushing on. "Better run through the jungle, Better run through the jungle, Better run through the jungle, Woa, Don't look back to see." As he felt another plasma blast nearing he shut his eyes tight waiting for the blast. When the world became quiet and the anticipated blast didn't come he opened his eyes.
He was back in the field, the smell of the grass the view of the entire village in front of him. He could see the combines that fed his village chugging along in the distance and a small line on the horizon of the Catan Space Elevator, their link to the rest of the galaxy. He blinked a few times to make sure he wasn't dreaming, every time he reopened his eyes he saw the same view he grew more confused. "What?" He asked as he took in the sight.
"Having dreams again love?" The voice of his wife, Natasha, came from behind him. He turned to see her, in the white summer dress he gave to her on their last anniversary. The wind blew her long hair around and pressed the cloth close to her body as she lay out on a checkered blanket. A smile perked up on his face at the sight.
"I don't know, maybe I'm having a hallucination here. I don't remember having a super model wife." He gave a dopey smile as he took a seat next to her. She smiled back and shook her head brushing some errant hair away from her face.
"Well if this is a hallucination then there is no real point to give you that back massage." She said as she rolled over away from him. He smiled and chuckled reaching over to roll her back over. As he pulled her towards him the sight that greeted him wasn't the impish and lively woman he fell in love with but the cold corpse of a Marine.
The background dissolved into the gritty hell of Reach as he stared at one of his compatriot's lifeless half body, his guts strewn about the mud. He stared down at the corpse for a moment before another strong hand grabbed a hold of his shoulder. As he turned he saw his friend Jacob. "Come on Josef, we need your help on the line!"
Josef shook his head, coming back to reality. He grabbed his MA5 and scrambled to the lip of the trench next to Jacob. What he saw over the edge was surreal. He could see the fires burning in the distance as the planets vast forests were burning from the assault by orbiting Covenant ships. Silhouetted by the flames were wave after wave of Covenant troops advancing on them, like demons unleashed from hell itself.
As he hesitated, taking in the sight the Marine next to him took a blast of super heated plasma to his head. When Josef turned to look at his fallen comrade all that was left of him was a headless corpse. "Josef!"
Josef turned to see his wife once more in her summer dress, a concerned look upon her face. "Are you ok Hun?" Josef shook his head violently and gave his skull a few whacks trying to make sense of what was going on.
"I don't...I don't know." He stood up and looked around, the same scene of the lush planet greeted him. The smell of the wind the feel of the grass everything seemed so real. "What is going on here?" His wife reached up and gently touched his arm.
"Maybe we should take you to Doctor Nimitz?" She suggested with a voice filled with urgency. Josef looked forlornly at his wife and paused, after a few seconds he nodded weakly and stared down at the ground. He felt her give him a pat on the back and began to lead him down the hill. As they slowly walked down the hill he realized they had left their blanket behind. He quickly turned to point out their mistake but to his chagrin the only sight he saw was the fires of a dead planet.
He watched as the flames drew closer to him. An eerie silence enveloped the entire area as he and his squad stood ready to make their final stand at the outskirts of the city. They stood patiently, weapons at the ready. A figure rose from the flames and approached him. He held his finger on the trigger as the figure grew closer and closer. To his amazement, he the figure was the outline of a human, a Spartan.
Its gold visor and singed armor gave it the appearance of a phoenix, rising from the ashes. The avenging angel approached what remained of his squad who stood in awe. The towering human seemed to stare back with equal awe at this tiny group of resilient veterans. Their mutual astonishment ended as the whine of a Pelican quickly descending and landing nearby echoed through the caverns of what remained of the towering buildings of New Alexandria.
In a deep commanding voice the Spartan rose its hand and pointed at the Pelican, "Go, now, you are relieved Marines." Josef's Friend or Foe marker registered the Spartan's rank as Lieutenant. He didn't hesitant to follow the order of a superior officer so he turned and motioned for his squad to follow him. As they settled into the pelican Josef looked back and saw the lone Spartan watching them.
He began to softly sing once more as he watched the Spartan grow smaller into the distance, "Over on the mountain, Thunder magic spoke, Let the people know my wisdom, Fill the land with smoke." The bay doors slowly began to close as the Spartan continued to watch them as they flew up and out of the jaws of hell. "Better run through the jungle, Better run through the jungle, Better run through the jungle, Woa, Don't look back to see." As the doors shut the world became black, he closed his eyes trying to adjust to the dark cabin.
When he opened his eyes the world was dark, he couldn't see what was around him but he could hear the sound of the wind blowing hard against the outside. The storm had come, but which one he didn't know. He felt heat wash over him once again not knowing the reason behind it. His head throbbed and he didn't quite know which reality he was in. He tried to move but his body didn't respond. He lay back in the darkness, unable to move, listening to the wind.
He thought that he might finally be dead, the torment of life passing him now leaving him in a blessed purgatory. He sighed, thanking god for the end of his torment or at least a respite from the confusion of the different realities. He settled in and closed his eyes once more his lids slid open as he felt the warm touch of someone else nearby. "Natasha?"
A soft and caring shush is all that replied as the warm touch turned into a soft caress. Josef smiled feeling the comforting hands on him urging him to rest his eyes. As he closed his eyes he heard a delicate voice call to him, "You have done your duty; it is time to rest now." His world grew quieter, the sounds growing more distant and eventually disappearing all together.