Posted By: Typhoongale<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 30 September 2009, 7:58 pm
Assault Carrier Lone Justice
Orbiting Miridem, August 13, 2557
Lieutenant Frank Murray observed the second moon of Miridem in awe from his position on the command center. An eerily beautiful metallic structure with platforms and spires was attached to the satellite's cracked surface. As he looked at it, an odd sense of dread caught him in the pit of his stomach. He looked enquiringly at Ship Master Zor 'Thuram.
"The satellite you humans thought was a moon is actually a forerunner outpost." said Zor calmly, "Once we glassed Miridem, we activated it. The prophets explored it but found nothing of religious importance. It can still act as a fortress and, as you already know, we have discovered that brutes are living in it."
Frank winced at the memory of the battle of Miridem. He disliked Zor's lack of tact when it came to talking about the war. He thought back to when he volunteered for the post-war military activities. The Lieutenant hadn't thought that helping the Elites getting rid of the remnants of the Covenant meant sending a single squad of ODSTs in an Elite ship for 3 years. There were very few soldiers who wanted to fight and a large lack of resources meant that the UNSC had to improvise. They wanted to further cement their alliance with the Elites so they sent soldiers to assist Sangheili activities in any way possible. Frank dwelled on his few weeks as a civilian and remembered how he was unable to adapt to the lifestyle. That was why he was here. He was pulled out of his reflections when the rest of his squad entered the bridge.
"Seems like another day as the clean-up crew" said Sergeant Ito.
After the war, Ito accidentally killed two people in an alcohol related accident. He was here because he wanted to stay out of jail. Frank liked him though, he had been sober for three years and his behavior was exemplary.
Corporal Bryce let out a low whistle and said:
"How many nukes d'you reckon we'll need?"
"How about we establish a plan of action first?" said Simon Trent the medical specialist.
Frank nodded approvingly and looked at the Elites on the bridge.
"Zor what do you think?" asked Frank.
"I have the facility's plans here", he said as a holographic image of the structure appeared. "There are two hangar bays. Your group should take one while mine takes the other. We both bring explosives to the facility's reactor. Once we escape, we detonate the bombs and not one of them survives! Meanwhile, the
Assault carrier makes sure nobody escapes except us" completed Frank letting out a small grin.
Zor nodded approvingly. Frank had been thinking the same thing. They made the adjustments to the plan in the half-hour following and Frank left towards the section of the ship reserved for him and his men. They had fixed this section so that humans could live comfortably in the ship. As he entered the armory where his squad was preparing, he overheard Ito talk about his sparring sessions. The three stopped chatting when they saw Frank. He took his gear (BR55 battle rifle, M6D pistol, frag grenades and a knife) and expectantly watched them follow suit. As they finished, he ordered them to be in the pelican in ten minutes.
"I really miss the orbital insertions" noted Bryce, "they gave me a nice warm feeling inside ya know?"
"You sure it wasn't your heart going into overdrive?" asked Frank who knew of Bryce's addiction to adrenaline, "Oh and get a HAVOK tactical nuke. This time, please ready its time fuse so we don't have to wait ten minutes for you in the red zone."
They all finished up and made their way to the hangar. Half
a dozen spec-ops Elites joined them accompanied by Ship Master Zor in his polished gold combat armor. The two groups exchanged nods and a few words but were interrupted when the whole ship cringed from a blast.
"What was that?"asked Frank.
"The outpost's defense systems have been activated they are firing at us!" replied Zor who had received the message via his radio link.
The Ship Master proceeded by giving orders on the comm:
"Slip into the shadows, activate the active camouflage and apply stealth protocols."
He turned towards Frank:
"We must continue with our plans."
Zor and the Elites headed towards their stealth black Phantom. One of them was pulling a spherical device with spikes protruding from it. Frank's group did the same and entered their modified pelican. Bryce put the bomb in a radiation-proof compartment and sat at the pilot's seat.
"You got the coordinates?" asked Frank.
"Entered them in advance. How 'bout that sir?"
"Good job, Helljumper."
The pelican lifted and, accompanied by the phantom, left the protection of the Lone Justice. The drop ships separated about five minutes later and the phantom sped towards the other end of the moon. They had planned to enter the facility simultaneously to cause panic. The pelican slowed and Bryce activated the active camouflage. They now had a few moments to enjoy the calm before the storm.
"Hey Lieutenant?" said Ito scanning the dark surface of the glassed planet, "you participated in the battle of Miridem right?"
"Ya, it was actually the first time I saw Spartans. I saw one die too. I remember the spooks coming to tell me to shut up about it: said they'd get me in a shitload of trouble if I didn't." said Frank grinning, "It was my first big battle as an ODST and I didn't really understand why the rest of my squad disliked the Spartans so you know
Frank's story was cut short by the signal that meant they were to start operations in 5 minutes. The Lone Justice swiftly broke out of its stealth and sent a barrage of plasma towards the moon. The shielding covering the structure overloaded providing them the opportunity they needed. Frank watched as the assault carrier slipped back into the shadows, narrowly avoiding a blast from the facility's main cannon. Quickly remembering that this was their entrance, he yelled:
"The door's open! Go! Go!"
The ship rocketed towards the opening provided by the deactivation of the shields. Unfortunately, great mechanized doors were sliding inwards to stop their advance. The pelican entered the hangar though, as the metallic barriers sealed the bay. He sent a quick message to Zor who quickly responded:
"We have also entered the hangar. Maintain radio silence from now on".
The pelican's hatch fell down and Frank jumped outside, quickly followed by the others. The expansive room was separated in four parts by three pillars. On the opposite side of the doors was an elevated platform with two doors leading into the facility. For a hangar bay, it was pretty empty. A few grunts were waiting for them outside. Frank killed them with quick bursts from his rifle, spraying the floor with blue blood. He spotted jackals entering the bay from the doors and dashed towards a pillar for cover. He squeezed rounds into their heads and, seeing grunts coming from the doorway, tossed two grenades, killing the reinforcements as they entered. Ito, Trent and Bryce had spread out and were clearing the hangar. In less than fifteen minutes, they were alone in the expansive room. Frank wasn't surprised by how easy this was: they had already done this a few times. The remnants of the Covenant weren't that well organized.
"I wonder why no Brutes welcomed us?" wondered Frank out loud.
"You ask to much unimportant questions." replied Bryce.
"The Lieutenant has a point
" said Ito
"How 'bout you stop kissin' his ass bro?" whispered Bryce
It was in these times that Frank wished he had three Trents in his squad. The medic only talked when it was necessary.
"Hello guys? We're on a mission remember? Bryce, place some C-12 on all the transports. I don't want anyone to escape" ordered Frank who was now observing the schematics
that he had uploaded in his helmet.
He walked up to the door that they would have to take. Curiously, it was locked. He suddenly understood why the welcome party was so small
"Forget that! Put them all on this door quick!" he yelled back at the corporal.
Bryce came running and, not asking why, quickly placed the explosives. They all took cover and the room resonated with the force of the explosion. This was followed with and even louder bang and Frank watched, as he was expecting, the gates sealing the room blast apart. The shields keeping the atmosphere inside started to flicker. Frank made a mad dash with his squad close behind for the hole they had opened. They all dived into the hallway and the emergency airlocks closed, protecting them from the explosive decompression in the hangar.
"Those bastards!" cursed Bryce as the doors slightly caved outwards, screeching in protest. He yelled out two more curses and stopped. Frank was sure that if he could see Bryce's face, it would be drained of color.
"Ah shit the nuke!" yelled Bryce. He had left it in the pelican which was now drifting in space.
"We just have to hope that Zor has his bomb" said Trent in a slightly annoyed tone, "It should be enough to overload the facility's reactor. Come on we're wasting time."
Frank was disconcerted by Trent giving the orders but decided to ignore it. Weapons at the ready, they headed to the other end of the hallway. As they entered the next room, they stopped in their tracks. Forty well-armored brutes and a swarm of drones were waiting, guns pointed towards the four suddenly ill equipped men.
"Drop your weapons!" said the massive pack leader.
They did as he asked. He barked a few orders and four brutes separated from the pack. Frank blacked out as one of them smashed his head.He slowly woke up with a horrible headache. Although his eyes were out of focus, he noticed his helmet had been removed. As he recovered his vision, the ominous sight caught him off guard: He was kneeling down in a circular room with a domed ceiling. Sangheili bodies were sprawled on the blood covered floor. Bryce, Trent, Ito and Zor were at Frank's sides. Suddenly struck with shock, he looked at what had to be one of the last prophets in the galaxy hovering on a small chair. Next to him was the Chieftain. Frank looked around and saw about ten brutes.
"It seems our last guest has awakened." said the prophet in a leathery voice, "I was just trying to convince shipmaster Zor to give me the control of his vessel." He looked at Frank intently and continued: "I am the leader of the Neo-Covenant, the last Hierarch. My name is the Prophet of Vengeance!"
"Self-appointed I presume? and Neo-Covenant? I've only heard that one like seven times." said Frank sarcastically.
Unfortunately, his cheek earned him a hard kick in the back. The prophet didn't look like a leader. He was sitting on a small, lightly adorned throne and was wearing the oldest robes Frank had ever seen.
"And how are you going to convince Zor to willingly give you his vessel?" asked Frank, trying to hide his tone.
"I obviously can't take it by force can I? I also don't have the resources to destroy those that have killed my brothers. Luckily, because of a discovery that I have made on this facility, my cause is not lost."
"But it was reported that nothing of interest was found." said Zor who wasn't hiding his hatred for the prophet.
"That's because I was the head of the expedition and I knew my discovery would be
heavily frowned upon."
"Well, what did you find?" said Frank who was starting to become impatient.
"I found a database containing the genetic code of every single living being in the galaxy
"And how the hell does that help you have your revenge?" interrupted Bryce.
"Quiet! I shall not have anymore interruptions!" shouted the prophet, "The computer contained the genetic structure of everything. It even had the flood super cell's DNA! With that information, I have managed to recreate flood spores. When I ordered to fire on your ship, we used not plasma projectiles, but dozens of capsules containing exactly that: thousands of flood spores that can and will infect the whole ship in a matter of hours!"
"You sick bastard" muttered Ito
Frank couldn't believe what he just heard. This prophet wanted to unleash the flood on the galaxy just for revenge? If he succeeded, there would be nothing to stop the flood from consuming everything. Distraught, Frank looked at Zor who seemed impossibly angry. Ito though, looked positively murderous.
"So why do you want Zor to give you control of his ship if you already have flood contaminating it?" asked Ito.
"Why, I want to add insult to injury! I shall watch the shipmaster's face when he sees what has happened to his beloved ship and crew. Of course, I also want to infect myself. I shall partake in the destruction of all you hold dear! I shall become part of the new Gravemind! You see
Ito interrupted him:
"You crazy son of a bitch! Your race is a collective of idiot! First the 'great journey' and now THIS?"
"I shall not tolerate you desecrating the memory of my brethren! Kill the one who uttered those horrid words!" spat Vengeance.
The chieftain, wielding a spiker, grabbed Ito by the throat. He lifted him, and slowly plunged the gun's razor sharp blades into Ito's stomach. The ODST cried out in pain as the chieftain fired rounds in his chest. Frank stared in shock as Ito fell to the floor. The prophet laughed cruelly along with most of the brutes in the room.
"No!!" shouted Trent in horror.
Ito had been his closest friend for the last three years. Bryce was staring at the floor whispering words that Frank knew were prayers. Frank looked at Zor and was surprised to see that he was wearing a face of stone. He slowly understood as he saw Zor's hand slip into a secret compartment that held a spare plasma sword. They were bound by chains not plasma bearings
He let out a deep breath and cleared his mind of all emotions. He gave a few meaningful looks at Trent and Bryce. They understood his message. Bryce waggled his boot twice and Trent shook his chains gently. All this happened in less than a few seconds. Quickly and suddenly, a few more things occurred at the same time. The prophet was about to speak but was interrupted as Zor's sword hissed to life. He flicked his wrist, cutting his chains, and in one swift motion, freed Frank. While the Elite jumped towards the prophet, Frank ran into the Brute closest to him and yanked a mauler free from its belt. He shot it once in the chest and stabbed it with the blade near the guard. Unfortunately, the blade caught bone and Frank couldn't pull it free. He dragged the corpse in front of him as a shield. He quickly pried the spiker free from the brute's lifeless hands and fired at a brute that hadn't activated its energy shielding. Frank looked around to observe the whole scene. Bryce had freed himself using the diamond coated knife he always kept in his boot. He was now firing on the apes with a brute-shot he had taken from its owner who was convulsing on the floor. Trent, the only one who hadn't taken the chains off, was strangling the brute that killed Ito with them. All firing ceased though, when Zor appeared with his blade to the hierarch's throat. Vengeance ordered his troops out of the room complying with the Ship Master's demands. When the room was empty of living brutes, Trent ran to Ito who was surprisingly still alive but shacking uncontrollably. Frank dropped the mauler and solemnly walked accompanied by Bryce to the scene. Trent was checking the wounds while Ito coughed copious amounts of blood.
"Your friend is a persistent fighter. I have never seen anyone survive that long from injuries like that
Surely he must come from a noble bloodline." said Zor who was trying to console the medic.
He was also clutching the prophet's throat so that the worm could not speak.
"Well?" asked Bryce
"The blades impaled his stomach, liver and one kidney. The spikes punctured his right lung but luckily missed his heart
He's still in a critical condition though
I can't do anything... "
He was about to rise but Ito gave a rasping breath and pulled Trent towards him. He slowly whispered a few words, let go of his friend and stopped trembling. Trent gently closed his eyes, took Ito's dog tags and rose. Without a warning, he spun and punched the prophet in the mouth, breaking his jaw. He took a spiker from the ground and was going to shoot but Bryce stopped him.
"He's our ticket out of here remember?"
"At least he can't talk now." said Frank, observing the pained expression on the prophet's face.
Frank thought about the need to have a helmet. He looked around and spotted his along with the three others. He put it on and gave Bryce and Trent theirs. The helmet's electronic system was broken but the air seal was undamaged. He turned to Zor and asked:
"Can you get us to the hangar you came in from?"
"Yes" replied Zor.
Zor walked to the door and they all followed. When it opened, Zor pushed the prophet out into the hall.
"If I see one Jiralhanae, I shall cut Vengeance's head off.
I'll count to five!" shouted Zor.
He started counting and Frank heard the shuffling of many footsteps. He was impressed this was actually working. Were brutes this cowardly without a leader? Zor quickly stepped outside and motioned for everyone to follow. They made their way corridor after corridor until they reached a room identical to the one Frank and his team had entered. There were still a few Phantoms and even an old Spirit. Unfortunately, they were welcomed by more than thirty brutes.
Zor lifted his free hand and showed a small device.
"This is the detonator for the bomb in my Phantom (Frank noticed the black phantom Zor used with his spec-ops team) clear the way or I shall activate it!"
The brutes argued in between themselves on what to do. A small fight rapidly broke out and soon, complete and utter chaos filled the hangar as the brutes fired upon one another. Frank pointed to the closest phantom and they all broke in a dead sprint. The brutes finally noticed this but it was too late: The phantom's engines flared and it left the confusion and bloodstained floors of the hangar.
"You left the bomb in the phantom?" asked Frank
"Yes, when we entered the hangar, those brutes were waiting for us and we had to surrender. It seems they did not move it."
Frank laughed and looked to the floor. They all finally noticed that the prophet was lying on the floor with his neck bent in an odd angle. While they were running, Zor had unwillingly snapped his neck. As the ship zoomed towards The Lone Justice, the cabin filled with an awkward silence.
"What did Ito tell you before he died?" asked Bryce, trying to make conversation.
"I don't think he wanted me to tell you." replied Trent.
Bryce was about to say something but stopped thinking it was better to drop the subject.
"So how exactly are we going to get rid of the flood?" asked Bryce to himself.
"I'll crash the ship into the moon. The fires shall cleanse my ship of the infection and everything living in the facility will die."
" said Bryce
They were suddenly interrupted when the speakers hissed to life:
"State your identities or you shall be obliterated."
"It is good to know you take your responsibility with honor but let us in Sato. It is Ship Master Zor accompanied by the humans."
"I am relieved of your safety Ship master but we have problems on board. The parasite
"I am aware of the presence of the vile creatures on my ship. Have you isolated the sections of the ship containing the infection?" asked Zor.
"Yes, but we won't be able to imprison them for much longer. The flood has taken about sixty percent of the Lone Justice. What shall you ask of us Ship master?"
"As soon as we come in, seal the hangar. Cleanse our database of all star system locations and disconnect the slipspace drive. Lock all doors leading to escape pods and make the locks open only to my security code. I am on my way."
Frank was unnerved by how ominous Zor sounded but his mind kept dwelling on the Flood. He had never encountered the parasite but by the stories he had heard, it wasn't really something he wanted to meet. The phantom entered the hangar and lowered its hatches. Before leaving the ship, Trent activated a firebomb and threw it on the prophet's corpse.
"I won't let him be the parasite." muttered the medic.
Zor nodded and, addressing the whole squad, said:
"I must go to the bridge but I want you take the nearest escape pod."
"What do you mean take the nearest escape pod?" objected Frank, "aren't you coming with us?" objected Frank.
"I will rejoin you if I have the time. If I don't, at least my death will save the lives of many. I shall be remembered as a great Ship master."
"Can't you just give your orders from here? You would live and fight another day! " said Bryce.
"The ship's computer will only allow the collision if I give my authorization. I must also coordinate the evacuations. Only after that would I leave the ship."
"Well, I guess we can't change your mind?" asked Frank.
"Fine then. I've noticed we're all in need of weapons. Do you want to at least come with us to the armory?" questioned Trent.
"I do not see any inconveniences to it
" replied Zor, now checking the ship's map, "It seems chance has fallen upon us. The armory is close-by and unoccupied.
"All right, let's do this." ordered Frank.
They all left the hangar and made their way to the weapon's cache. Frank was taken aback by the difference in the ship. Red lights were light in every hallway and there was a constant hissing and rattling coming from the infected decks. Many doors where heavily dented and they had to constantly use security codes to get to where they wanted. Frank let out a sigh of relief as they arrived. There was only covenant weaponry here so Frank took a carbine, plasma rifle and four plasma grenades. Once they were all set, he shook hands with Zor
"It was an honor." said Frank
"Likewise" replied Zor
They all left the room and separated. The squad of ODSTs made their way to a locked door. It was the entrance to the infected part of the ship. There was no way to escape without having to pass through a flood-occupied zone. Frank was worried by this: The flood, as some sort of intelligent collective, had a plan. He entered the authorization code and the doors slid open. Expecting to see hostiles, they all raised their weapons. Nothing met them. They slowly entered the small room and the doors locked once again. Frank heard muted footsteps and a blood-chilling hiss. He turned around but, seeing nothing continued towards the next door. They entered another corridor and were met by some yellowish spores that bounced off their helmets. As they progressed through the hallways, they only saw dead bodies. Trent couldn't find any signs of a fight so he concluded that they died asphyxiated by the spores. Frank was perplexed by the absence of enemies. As they turned left, though, something large collided unexpectedly with him. An oddly contorted Elite punched him hard in the gut. Sent to the floor, he heard Bryce and Trent firing. The thing let out a howl and died. Frank got up and looked around the corner. It's death had unfortunately alerted others .There was now a large group of what had to be infection forms scurrying towards them. Frank fired and killed them all. He motioned to Bryce and Trent to follow. They were met by more enemies and a small firefight ensued. The squad slowly made their way towards the destination having to fight tooth and nail for every inch; always leaving piles of oozing flesh behind them. They finally entered the last flood occupied room. Opposite from them was an elevated walk-way and right under it, was the door to the escape pods. Frank was stunned though, by the amount of flood in the large storage room. About forty combat forms were making a pile of corpses. The amount of combat forms was growing though, as the bodies were possessed.
"Ok guys," whispered Frank in a voice as calm as he could
possibly make it, "there's too much of them for us to handle so we'll have to stealth our way out. If we stay low and use cover properly, they'll only notice us once we've opened the door."
Trent and Bryce nodded. Frank was happy that the room was cluttered with crates as he quickly moved from one to another. Suddenly, he heard a loud pop and turned around. Trent had stepped on an infection form. The room was suddenly filled with a horrible wailing. He looked over his crate and saw the flood approaching their position. The squad got up and started firing while running towards the door. They were quickly halted by a group of combat forms. Trent threw a flame grenade and cleared a path through the burning mass of flesh and bone. They took cover behind crates and the pillars holding the walkway. There was now nothing in between them and the door but they were being assaulted by the flood. Frank threw all his plasma grenades at the approaching mob of flesh and tentacles. He ran to the locked door and heard the detonations and suppressive fire from Bryce and Trent. He frenetically entered the access code as globules of plasma came very close to his head.
"Give me your identification and you may pass."
"Zor! It's me, Frank Murray. Please let us pass!" yelled Frank.
"It is good to hear you are safe my friend. I unfortunately won't be able to come with you. Have a safe journey."
And with that, the doors opened. Frank looked back and saw Trent throw firebombs on the floor to block access to the Flood. He turned and quickly ran towards the opening followed by Bryce. They passed through the door but just before it closed, a combat form that had leapt over the flames ran at a surprising speed into the corridor. Frank turned around and started firing carbine rounds at its head. The combat form unfortunately didn't slow down, and shoved Frank onto the floor. Frank struggled fiercely as it pinned him on the ground and bit his shoulder. He let out a pained cry and felt blood trickle down his arm. He heard gunfire and felt the monster fall off him. He looked down at it and saw nothing but a heap of pulsating grey flesh. He tried getting up but let out a curse as he moved his arm. Trent immediately helped him into a sitting position. Frank was not concentrating on the pain in his arm though, as he heard muted banging on the other side of the door.
"Good news is that its teeth didn't go through your armor. You won't become one of them. The bad news is that it crushed your clavicle and scapula together tearing a lot of your muscles. I also think a shard of bone might have perforated your skin."
"Just open up one of the pods already! We don't have much time!" ordered Frank.
Bryce opened one of the airlocks. Trent helped Frank up and brought him inside the capsule. He turned around and closed the hatch. Frank heard a heavy click as the pod disengaged from the ship. He looked outside and saw the ship accelerating. Zor was bringing his plan to fruition. Frank felt a pang of sorrow for the ship master. Everything felt numb though. He paid little attention to when Trent removed his armor to treat his wound and barely felt the pain although he was sure it was there. Would he one day sacrifice himself to save others? Why couldn't he just try to rebuild his life on earth? Frank kept thinking about it as Bryce and Trent were talking about Ito. He did not like to dwell on the dead but Ito was special. It was clear he had fought for more than just staying out of jail. Frank had never asked though.
"I need to stop fighting for a while." said Trent.
"Why?" asked Bryce.
"Ito asked me to give a message to the family of the people he killed. Did you know he actually preferred this to jail? He said he was paying his debt to them" said Trent somberly.
"So he fought out of guilt then?" asked Bryce.
"Something like that."
"Hey Trent, give me the dog tags." ordered Frank.
Frank had a dislike for keeping the tags and had given the responsibility to Trent. The medic nodded and took a small pouch from his belt. He emptied the contents into Franks' hands. Frank looked at the five dog tags. Eight people had originally embarked on this journey. Ito was the latest death. Frank was sick of watching people die. He suddenly didn't feel like fighting anymore. He would rather try and rebuild his life than see anymore lives lost. It had taken four good people to die for him to realize that his life was worth more than this. He then suddenly realized he would never see Zor again. They all silently watched as The Lone Justice collided with the moon. The resulting explosion engulfed the two bodies in a small purple-tinged sun. A minute later, they where hailed from an unknown source.
"Holy shit! It's Zor's signature!" said Frank in a surprised tone.
A small screen activated and they all saw Zor unharmed in an escape pod. He smiled and then Frank was washed away with relief.