Posted By: Spartan 006<email@example.com>
Date: 2 June 2008, 4:29 am
Jason Williams sat in an old wooden chair at dimly lit table. His face rested in palms of his hands as he took a deep breath. "I'm telling you I had nothing to do with it." he said frustrated.
A second man, who stood in a dark corner, came towards Jason and leaned on the table. He wore a black suit and smelled of smoke. "Well soldier, can you tell me exactly how your entire unit got wiped out while you mysteriously escaped unharmed? Maybe it's just me, but that seems a little convenient don't you think, Mr. Williams."
Jason raised his head and looked at the man with disgust. "Pete, you and I both know that I would never, under any circumstances, abandon my unit much less betray them." Both men stared at each other. Finally, Pete stepped away from Jason, picking up a folder and flipping through its contents. After a minute of silence Pete closed the folder and sighed. He walked over to the table and sat down in a chair opposite of Jason.
"Jason, we've been friends for how long? Ten, twelve years? You know I'd love nothing more than to just let you go, but I have a job to do and that job requires me to put the blame on someone, whether they did it or not."
Jason shook his head. "You don't get it do you, Pete? I've already told you what happened, but you don't believe it."
Pete slammed his fist on the table. "Jason," he whispered angrily, "what you've told me is a load of crap!" Pete sat back and took a moment to regain composure. "Now let's try this one more time. Tell me happened August 15th, 2553, aboard the Frigate Vesuvius."
Jason sighed, "Pete, we've been through this twice already."
"Well then humor me, Jason. What happened?" Jason placed his hands together and looked into Pete's eyes.
"It started out like any other day, the smell of oil and sweat greeting you as you woke up. You know the movies really messed up on how real marines look while on duty. They make them-"
"Let's stay focused here Jason." interrupted Pete.
Jason rolled his eyes. "We were preparing to check out another planet for colonization, we hadn't done any actual action in over a year so the greenhorns were hoping to find something they could shoot. Everyone who had seen action, though, hoped we could just get in and get out. I got dressed and went over to the mess hall where we were having our usual, moldy bread, meat burnt beyond recognition, and water. Needless to say there weren't very many fat guys on that ship. After I forced down my breakfast I went over to the hangar bay, I was scheduled to pilot one of the first pelicans to the surface. As I was gearing up, Sergeant Jean Kinder came to ask me a question about the maximum payload of the Pelican."
"Didn't you wonder why she was curious?" pried Pete.
"Not really," answered Jason matter-of-factly, "I figured she just wanted know how much stuff she'd be able to fit into the Pelican at once. I explained to her the payload capacity, and she thanked me and went on her way. She was a good officer; had the respect of the entire senior crew. She was going to leave the Marines next year to start a family."
"That's very touching Jason, but I'm not here to listen to your thoughts about other officers." said Pete flippantly.
Jason leaned forward and put his finger in Pete's face. "Those were people, Pete! Men and women whose lives were ended in a way that no one should have to die."
"So are you admitting that you know how these people died?"
Jason prepared to answer, but sat back down in his chair and hung his head. "No."
"Well then let's keep going."
"I did my usual check of the Pelican. Fuel, armament, stabilizers, you name it I checked it and double checked it, there was nothing wrong with that bird before it left the hangar. Around 1100 hours my friend, and pilot, Steven came over to see how I was doing. We had gotten together and had a bet going on who would make the most trips. He, of course, told me not to worry about trying because he would have at least two trips for every one of mine."
"Could this wager of yours caused either of you skip some precautionary measures to win?"
Jason shook his head. "Not at all, we followed everything to the letter. We started making our runs at around 1200. The planets atmosphere was extremely humid and we had to slow our descent speed by seventy-five percent. After we breached the atmosphere, it became apparent to us that the entire planet was a bog. There were few places to land, and most of us had to unload our Pelicans without landing. After unloading my bird I left the marines on the planet to go get another Pelican full of supplies."
Pete scratched his head with his pen. "Was that decision made by you?"
"No, that had been the plan laid out six months earlier. If it was habitable, they were to hold there and keep the area clear for the Pelicans. When we returned to the Vesuvius Sergeant Kinder was on the next Pelican down, my Pelican. I usually wait in the cockpit while the Marines and engineers load, but this time I decided to help. Call me old school, but I don't think that women should be in any branch of the Armed Forces."
"You can debate woman's place in the world later, Jason, stay on track."
"Anyways, I was helping load when Steven landed in his Albatross. He came over rub his three trips in my face, he had gotten a landing zone where the fog wasn't as thick. I told him that the day was far from over and that he'd need to keep up the pace if wanted to win our bet. We joked around until we were done loading my Pelican, then Jean, myself, and three other Marines boarded the Pelican and headed for the surface. As we neared the planet I realized that the fog was considerably thicker than it was forty-five minutes ago, reducing our descent to a crawl. I didn't know why, but I had a gut feeling that we were walking into something horrible. I came to the drop zone and waited for someone to show me the best spot to hold my Pelican. When no one came I tried my comm., there was no answer. After a minute or two Jean went with two of her men to search for the ground crew. She was only gone for about twenty seconds when she and one of the Marines jumped back in the Pelican. She came into the cockpit and told me that we needed to get out, that we had been compromised. I instinctively went, full throttle, out through the fog towards the Vesuvius. As I began my ascent I could hear one of the Marines screaming. I looked threw my mirror that let me see inside the rear of the Pelican to see the Marine being pulled out of the Pelican by something."
"And what was that something, Jason?"
"For the third time, Pete, I don't know!" Jason yelled, throwing his hands in the air. There was a moment of silence before Jason continued. "It...it was something, something we disturbed by landing on that planet. It's our own fault that those people died, no one else's." Jason put his hand over his face. "But we didn't use common sense." Jason looked up at Pete, and threw the dim, strained light Pete thought he could see tears welling up in Jason's eyes. "They sent us back, Pete. They sent us back."
Pete rubbed his chin and sat in deep thought. "You mean that you didn't hold out hope that maybe some of them were still alive?"
Jason gave a sniff as tears fell to the table, its ragged dry boards soaking them up. "Pete, if you saw what I did there would be no doubt in your mind. There were no survivors." Jason wiped away the tears and composed himself. "They sent Jean back down with two Pelicans full of Marines. She wasn't on mine, we followed her group in. The other Pelican was all composed of new guys, with exception Sergeant Kinder, so I kind of expected to see some casualties before we left. My Pelican was mostly comprised of recruits as well, the only officers with any experience was another sergeant and two corporals. When we touched down at the landing site we found it in total disarray. Things were thrown everywhere as though whatever had attacked was looking for something. It apparently hadn't found anything, a search revealed that nothing was missing from the site, just the men. Jean and the other Sergeant took three-fourths of the men out to search the surrounding area. She didn't say it, but you could tell over the comm. that she didn't want to be down here again. They were only gone for about twenty minutes before we heard the first shots being fired. They radioed in that they had stumbled onto a group of hostiles, a large group."
"Did they identify them as Covenant?" Pete asked jotting down some notes on a slip of paper.
"No, actually they said they were sure it wasn't Covenant. If I recall correctly, they mentioned something about it being invisible, like it was cloaked or something."
"Well we know that the Elites have cloaking technology and Intel that the Brutes have been working on it. It is possible that they could have simply mistaken it for something non-Covenant."
"No sir, I checked with them. They were one-hundred percent sure that it wasn't Covenant."
"Very well," Pete replied switching to another piece of paper, "continue."
"After about fifteen minutes of almost continuous gunfire, Jean and about a fourth of the men that went out came back. She was almost ready to collapse, but all she would do was tell the men to get back in the Pelicans."
Pete leaned forward. "You don't find it the least bit surprising that a Marine officer was ready to leave, not just one, but over half her men behind without a good reason? Doesn't that make you suspicious in the least, Jason?"
"Sir, what part of we disturbed something evil am I not getting across to you?" Jason said tapping his finger aggravatingly on the table.
"The part where you think that entire planet is evil, Jason. So you and your group stumbled onto something that we didn't know what it was, big deal. As soon as we can figure out what got to all those people we can find a way to stop it."
"Pete, if they send anyone else to that place you're going to a repeat of what happened with us!"
"Let's get back on track, Jason. Now, where were you?"
Jason sighed. "She got on my Pelican along with half the survivors. As we exited the fog and prepared to leave the atmosphere, it happened." Jason leaned on the table, Pete did the same. "As their ship was leaving the atmosphere they radioed in that they were receiving some unusual vibrations from their main engine, right side. I figured it was just some mechanical difficulties that they were having, but then I heard him say that they were leaking atmosphere. They went to turn back, but as they did, their Pelican just...well, disintegrated. There wasn't anything I could do, so I continued on to the Vesuvius, hoping that nothing would happen to us before we got there."
"Any idea of what could have caused that to happen?"
"It had to be whatever was on that planet, all Pelicans were checked before they left Vesuvius' hangar and they all passed inspection. After we returned to the Vesuvius and I filled out my flight log, I learned that Jean had got hit during the skirmish. I went to the infirmary to check on her, she seemed okay, but she may have brought back something she hadn't intended."
"What are you getting at, Jason?"
"Pete, I've gone over this hundreds of times in my mind. The only plausible explanation for how all those people died is one of those things stowing away inside her."
"Jason, isn't it possible that whatever you think it was stowed away on your Pelican instead of inside Sergeant Kinder, did that ever occur to you?"
"I thought that may have been the case at first, but they did a check of those birds every time we came back. It would have notified and the frigate would have been checked to see if anything else had come back to the Vesuvius." Jason slumped back in his chair, slinging his arm over the back. "They cleared Jean and she went back to her room. I went there to see how she was doing before I had to go out on my next run to the planet, I still couldn't figure out why they were still thinking about colonization after what just happened. She wasn't feeling all that well, so I left and she decided to go to sleep." Jason sat in silence for a moment. "That was the last time I'd see her alive. My next run was to a part of the planet near a sea, it was the same drop-point as Steven. It was a relatively quick run, I was only gone for thirty minutes. Steven and I both returned at the same time to find the frigate totally empty. We searched frantically throughout the entire ship, but no one had survived."
"I don't know, but one thing was for sure, whatever killed all those people was not anything we've encountered before. There were no signs of any intrusion into the bodies that would have been present if bullets or even plasma weapons had been used. Everyone was just pale, as though they had been scared to death. That's the best way I could describe it. I've began to question if it was even something of this plane of existence." Both men sat in silence for a moment.
"You mentioned that your fellow pilot, Steven, was still alive. What happened to him?"
"Well, I went to check on Jean while he went to the bridge to radio those still planet side, to warn them not to come back yet. As I entered Jean's room I was greeted with the smell of her decaying body. It was the only one that was damaged in any way. The contents of her abdomen were spread all over the opposite wall. I immediately went to get Steven so we could get out of there, but when I found him he was lying slumped over the radio. He had gotten the message out, but it cost him his life. I ran all the way back to the hangar, the entire way there I could hear this deafening howl emanating throughout the entire ship. When I reached my Pelican I immediately took off and headed for the planet, for all I knew I could be carrying whatever killed the crew to the survivors on the planet. Luckily, I wasn't. When I got to the drop-zone I told the officer in charge about what I had found, and he placed a distress beacon relaying our position to the rest of the UNSC. After about a week or two of waiting, you guys showed up. That, Peter, is what happened. If you still don't believe me, go question those who were on the planet, but please don't go onboard that ship."
"I believe it's a little too late for that, Jason."
"Peter, please tell me they didn't send people to search that ship."
Peter sighed and looked down at the table. "We were going to send a crew over there to inspect the ship, but as they approached the Vesuvius it started to come apart. The only thing left now is a pile of rubble."
Jason gave a sigh of relief. "Well, at least we won't have to worry about them getting off the planet, right Peter?" Peter didn't look up at Jason, instead he flipped through some files that he had set beside him. "Peter," Jason pleaded, "please tell me they're not sending more people back there."
Peter gathered his work and stood to his feet. "I'm sorry, Jason." With that he left the room with Jason in tears.