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Shattered Skies - Chapter 6
Posted By: Webbo227<webbo128@hotmail.co.uk>
Date: 18 December 2008, 7:28 pm

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Shattered Skies

Chapter 6

      The lift doors sealed shut and refused to budge. Even from behind the reinforced doors, Sam could still hear the gasping breaths of the bloodthirsty Brute, as it continued its speedy campaign of mutilation. Then the lift started to rise, with more force than it did coming down, crippling the balance that he controlled for a brief period as he ascended alone.

      Would Greenwood make it? Perhaps, he thought. He had never seen him in battle, but if what his records stated were true, then he could pull through. But even so, the Brute had caught even him, a seasoned soldier of destruction, off guard. They were too relaxed; they assumed that the area was clear. That assumption could cost Greenwood his life. The lift controls were useless, even though the panel was reasonably intact. Even as he jabbed his fingers at the buttons, the lift would not acknowledge his command, but continued its ascent with a mind of its own.

      The lift was nearing the floor Sam had witnessed mindless brutish slaughter. He immediately activated the radio, and contacted King. Maybe he could get a Lieutenant to control the erratic lift, or if Gary was restored, get the A.I. to do it. Greenwood would probably be dead by then, but he had to give it a try. Sam expected the young Marine would do the same.

      "Sir! I need help re-activating this goddamn lift, its trapped the private down in the A.I. room with a Brute."

      A hiss of static answered his call until the Commander finally responded.

      "Samuel, it's fine."

      "No it's not fine! He's stranded down there, and I don't know if he can cope or…"

      "Samuel, it's fine," he repeated, "We've just got word, he's in a good state, the Brute is well and truly dead this time. It was really close, he couldn't have survived on his own."

      Sam relaxed and pondered at the same time. Who else was down there with them? No one had followed them; at least he didn't think so. He also thought all threats were dealt with. What a fool he had been.

      The hair-ridden feet of Brutes were being unwillingly dragged by the adrenaline pumped soldiers into a disorderly slump in a corner as the doors snapped open. Prowleral eyes bulged from their crowded sockets and threatened to pop out as they were thrown out of corridors and into empty rooms. No Grunts however, Sam noticed, perhaps they were littered around the dropship, their life spans incredibly short in the heat of battle. He had underestimated the cold discipline these Marines wielded.
Commander King stood at the head of the ship, frowning at the Destroyer; now dangerously close to the ship, yet unable to act on its manoeuvre. The Seraphs had tried to wreck more turmoil onboard, but were outgunned by the 50mm superiority that tore through metal and shields. Only two remained, hovering eerily outside the guns rotation range.

      "Sir? Who else..." Sam immediately asked as the Commander acknowledged his presence.

      "Who else? Only one person could have saved Joshua without such blunt execution." He replied, a glimmer of a smirk tearing at the corners of his mouth.

      Sam knew only too well. The Freelancer. Prowler. Cold as the Marines were, there was only a limit of accuracy a SMG could contain without spewing bullets in frenzy at friend and foe. Only calm precision could cut through such a barbaric machine.

      "Sir, why?"

      Frown re-instated, James turned and looked at him in near disappointment.

      "Sam, no matter what your opinion of him may be, Prowler is still a soldier. He did what any soldier should have done, drilled into him over the years, bolstered by a sense of gratitude. And because of him, another soldier gets to fight on."

      The doors slid open another time, and this time a white faced Marine stumbled into it, clutching his Assault Rifle like a plank of wood in the middle of an ocean. Joshua had not fully recovered from the shock of being squeezed nearly half to death and struggled to cling onto a surface more solid until his legs solidified. Behind him, Prowler walked in, purple footsteps lingering on the floor, and stood to attention in front of the Commander.


      "Ah, Prowler. Thank you. I suppose you've already met…"

      "Samuel? We've met."

      Samuel stared yet again in shock. How had he been able to figure out who he was eluded even him.

      "We've had no word from Gary," the Commander went on, "The system keeps failing to acknowledge his presence. Like he isn't even here." He reverted his gaze to the crippled ship that found refuge near the titanium walls of his own. "The destroyer. It can't do anything, and neither can we. If we try to move to a decent range, in the time it takes to prep the weapons, they'll have moved back to our position. We're in a fashion, trapped."

      The Marines looked on in puzzlement. A destroyer this size would surely house more than a dropship's worth of troops. Why didn't they try a stronger offensive?

      Almost in response to their thinking, the pedestal flickered and the avatar of the ship's A.I. spluttered to life once more.

      "…Systems nominal. No lasting damage obtained. Efficiency decrease 0.02%…hello Commander, is everything all right?"

      "Gary! Thank god. What happened?" James eagerly asked.

      Gary swivelled round in a fashion the Commander would be proud of, "Impact with the Seraph class ship knocked out some of my primary sources, and I was forced into standby until a secondary source could be booted."

      James smiled, as he should. A.I.'s were expensive and weren't fixed. Just replaced.

      "Do you understand the situation?"

      Gary stared at the Commander for a moment, blue numbers whizzing past his body as he did so. "Yes sir. Covenant Destroyer at point blank range; Unable to use conventional weapons against it, a desperate tactic." Gary summarized, a hint of boredom echoing through his voice. "Expected time for weapons prep is drastically cut now. It would be advisable to move to a greater range and allow me control of the weapons."


      James stood back and signalled the three soldiers for their attention.

      "I assume that the Marine's role in this skirmish is over. Samuel, inform the men to stand down from their position. Perhaps they would enjoy a ship to experience nuclear missile bombar…"

      "Sir." Gary pitched in, volume heightened for effect, "The Destroyer is moving. Detected Slipspace rupture, they are beginning to jump."

      "Ok. Gary, make sure they don't leave." James replied, and returned to the men.

      "Sir that would be inadvisable."

      James froze, and walked towards the pedestal, eyes livid.

      "Gary! The last time I checked, I am the Commander of this ship. And as I see it, I am your commanding officer. I will not ask you again; fire the "Shiva" missiles now!

      The whole room had grown deadly silent. A.I.'s were normally co-operative. What was it doing denying orders?

      "Sir. We could destroy the ship here and be pleased with our meagre victory. Or, we could follow the ship into the Slipstream and see where it's going. Chances are, it will go to find reinforcements."

      The Commander sighed. He had never dealt with any personnel like this. The plan was only drawn together with chance. It was only on rare occasions when a ship 'dogged' the enemy when it began to jump. It was even more rare that the ship actually survived. From what survivors of 'In Amber Clad' had told of the 'New Mombassa' Slipspace event, weapons systems, engines, they were cut out when they emerged. His plan hinged on the ship fleeing in terror and not leading them into a trap. But it could be worth it if they could wipe out a large portion of forces. Cripple them once more.

      "Sir, what Gary says makes sense." Sam piped up, "If it gives us a big advantage, then let's take it."

      "Commander," Gary continued, "If you are going to make a decision, you must make it now. The destroyer is nearly ready for a jump."

      The Commander closed his eyes, exhaled sharply and snapped his eyes open. His mind set, he walked to the rails and leant over them.

      "Lieutenant, power down all systems except for life support and engines."

      The Lieutenant nodded and went to work, lights beginning to fade.

      "Scratch that, keep the lights as well."

      The Lieutenant grunted and the lights grew in intensity till they shone again.

      "Gary, take us as near as possible towards the Destroyer. If the Seraphs…"

      "The Seraphs have docked sir." Gary noted.

      "Very good. Handle all calculations and inform me as soon as we start to hit regular space. I think we all deserve some rest. They don't know we're coming; this will be easy."

      Exiting the room, a full squadron of Marines following his footsteps admirably, Gary paused, swivelled then faded, a flicker of blue light all that remained of his hard work.


      "Come in."

      Sam sat at his desk, hastily scrawled on papers surrounding a detailed document prepped for delivery. The outlandish turn of events since his arrival here had given him plenty to write about and plenty for the General to read. Cowering Brutes, wavering forces, and of course the dirty sordid secret, more secluded than Spartans. The General would embellish his power upon this with utmost attention, more than he deserved.

      "Come in." A note of irritation responding in unison to the twinned knocks at his door.

      Sam hoped that the message wouldn't take that long to be delivered. He wished he had sent the message before they had clung on to the twisted, violet monstrosity. But the situation had arisen, and he himself had approved it. It was too late to point fingers.

      Again the door vibrated with the familiar knocking. Sam stood silently, drew his firearm, and cautiously approached the door. He didn't expect hostility, but that didn't rule it out.

      Pulling the door back, only a grey shadow met him. 'Surely the Marines were not immature enough to play pranks,' he thought. He began back to his room when his throat was immediately clasped from the right.

      "Now. I really don't like playing games. But it's the only thing that you accept so I'll go along with it for now."

      No light, no breathing, all done through the filters in the UNSC headgear the man wore. It was obvious who it was. He mustered his mouth open but was clenched shut almost instantly.

      "No, you don't talk. It's my turn. I have no idea how long I've been trapped, but in whatever timeframe we're talking about, my comrades have already been branded traitors and labelled me a monster. I assure you, I'm no monster."

      His grip loosened and a glimmer caught Sam's eye as an entity clunked away from dome of light.

      "You don't know me, and if your antics continue, you won't know me at all, just the people who trusted and died for you…have a nice sleep."

      Gone, just a bounced whisper dying swiftly. Sam recovered, fled into his room, grabbed the keyboard and discarded the previous message. His fingers were filled with the fluent movements that would detail every action the Freelancer had made. Hopefully there would be enough time.

      "Approximately 3 hours till jump out of Slipspace." A speaker said sweetly.

      Yes, plenty of time.