Saving Fifth Street
Posted By: Ajax<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 28 November 2003, 6:23 PM
An inhuman screech ripped into existence and several more people were swallowed in fire and blood. Energized with terror he sprinted away, slipping and sliding on the gore drenched streets of the city. Energy lanced from the heavens with tremendous booms, melting buildings and people into smoking goo. The dense crowded streets were filled with gore, screaming people, fire, and smoke. There were roars and barks as alien soldiers unleashed purifying fire on the humans, horribly burning their skin and heating their insides to the boiling point. The skies above were black and impaled with blue beams, and the whole scene was lit in a hellish red glow. "Sarah!" he screamed. "Kate! Where are you?" Finally he saw the pair staggering on the street crying and dripping with blood. Sobbing, he ran towards them. He had almost reached them when an explosion covered them in fire, and screaming, Jamal Thomas woke up.
He leaped out of bed and looked around crazily. Soaked in sweat, he tried to control the trembling of his hands as he recognized his bedroom. Kate stirred and sleepily looked at him, and even in the dark he saw the concern on her beautiful face.
"What is it honey?" she asked.
He paused before answering. "Nothing. Go back to sleep, baby."
He stroked her hair and kissed her on the forehead, then went to the bathroom. The cold water he splashed on his face helped to cure his grogginess, and after slipping on pants, a jacket, and shoes he tiptoed downstairs. The log they had left burning in the fireplace hours earlier was now only a soft red glow, and Jamal stood in the dark, silent house and reflected on his feelings.
Something was wrong, he thought. You feel that way all the time, he told himself. It's nothing. But a sense of nervousness crept into his consciousness, and he knew he was lying to himself. He opened the door to the back patio, and closed it behind him with a creak. The chirping of insects, so common to this planet's forested environment, was absent, and an uneasy silence filled the air. Something is definitely wrong, he told himself. And what are you going to do about it, a nasty voice said inside his mind. You're forty-nine years old. You retired from the UNSC years ago.
But once a Marine, always a Marine, he told himself, and his instincts, the things his instructors had always told him to trust, were screaming at him to do something. Do what, he thought? What's wrong? A cold breeze lashed against his face suddenly, and casually glancing to the left, he saw them. A purple glow and faint buzzing faintly illuminated a portion of the sky, and the outline of three distant prong-shaped objects blocked the glistening stairs. Instantly he recognized them. Dropships, he thought. Covenant dropships.
With that thought his training took over and he went into overdrive. Thinking quickly, he dashed inside the house. He flung open the closet door, snaking his hands between the jackets, and found the panel. Flipping open the casing, he pressed the red button, and alarms went off in his house and every house on the street.
Kate and Sarah, his four year old daughter, appeared on the stairs with panicked looks on their faces. As he soothed them with calming words and led them down to the basement, and once inside, the armored room under the trapdoor, he knew that eight other men were doing the same. The trapdoor closed with a bang and Thomas leaped up the steps and locked the door behind him. He went to the locked cabinet in the pantry and quickly spun the combination on the lock. The doors opened to reveal a black Bowie knife, a Desert Eagle S8, a shotgun, and ammunition for both. The knife and pistol went in holsters on his belt, the shotgun in his hands, and the ammo in pockets on his black jacket.
Jamal quietly opened the front door and stepped outside. Instantly the frigid air came to meet him and the breath he exhaled slowly to ease the shaking of his hands became a wisp of mist. As he reached the street he saw the other men of Fifth Street step out of their houses and walk towards him, all holding guns and wearing jackets and solemn looks on their faces. The dropships were much closer, no longer dots in the sky, now real figures, and he estimated they had two minutes before they touched down. They met at the side of Barry Willard's house and talked strategy. Three others, Barry, an older man with a beard, Jack, a heavily muscled short guy, and Nick, a tall, powerful man, had also been in the UNSC, and together with Thomas they outlined the plan that they had developed and gone over so many times before, in case the Covenant attacked them. But several of the men were paying more attention to the humming dropships as they grew larger and larger, and Jamal could see their fear.
Then they were done talking and shook hands. They ran to their positions and loaded their weapons. As Thomas loaded his shotgun he swore to himself that these alien fucks would not touch his family, and with this resolution he cocked his twelve gauge. With him were Barry and two other guys. They saw that the dropships were going to touch down at the end of the street. They probably thought they would work their way to the end and torch all nine houses. Not this street, Jamal thought, and his fingers gripped the steel barrel harder.
And then it was game time, and Jamal stopped thinking. The trio of dropships paused a foot or so above the ground and their twin doors flipped open. The plasma cannons on the underside of the ships were scanning for targets, and Jamal pressed himself harder into the soil. About thirty aliens stepped down from the ships. They broke into three squads and fanned out, sweeping the street with their plasma weapons and growling softly to each other. Behind them the dropships lifted off and flew away into the night. One squad was coming to their position, and another to Ted Fillmore's group across the street. As the squad approached Jamal counted two Elites, five Grunts, and three Jackals. The squad reached the end of the light cast by the streetlight, and paused for a second before stepping into darkness.
They attacked from the side. Four shotguns boomed and three hit their targets, pasting the ground with Grunt gore. A fourth caught some shrapnel and squealed. The remaining aliens turned and roared, unleashing a hail of plasma. They desperately ducked but the fire hit Omar Peterson and burned him in half, and his anguished scream of pain tore into the nerves of Jamal. He saw red, and stood up. "Covenant fuckers!" he screamed and tackled a Jackal, kicking it in the chest with all his strength. His boot broke its ribs and the alien foamed at the mouth, squawking feebly. He stuck his shotgun into its mouth and the gun boomed. Its head exploded like a watermelon, soaking the ground with fleshy bits of brain. The two elites roared and came toward him, but the two other men opened fire and they leaped out of the way. The four other aliens sprayed plasma at them. Some of it burned into the stomach of Barry, who merely grunted, shot a Jackal with his shotgun, and fell to the earth, taking cover behind a boulder.
Five left, he thought, and fired his shotgun at the two remaining Grunts. One was caught in the head, blowing it into mush, which dripped onto the ground. The other was hit in the chest. Its armor cracked, blue blood bubbled out of the hole in its body and it lay on the ground, drawing long shaking breaths. Its death rattle. Jamal had just enough time to grin before an Elite slammed into him. The pure force of the blow felt like he had been kicked by a giant, and his body flew several feet through the air, smacking against a boulder. He dropped to the ground and spat blood.
Where the hell are Barry and Mike? he thought desperately. The elite, a tower of deep blue armor and rippling muscle, slowly approached its prey. Its mandibles contracted into what only could have been a grin as the alien brought its plasma rifle up and aimed at Jamal's face. He blew off its hand and the plasma rifle dropped, covered in gore, to the ground. The elite howled and leaped at him, snarling in rage. He stayed where he was and pulled the trigger again. The sizzling aura of white-blue energy that had suddenly appeared popped, and some shrapnel bit into its flesh. It growled and kicked the gun out of his hands, breaking a few of his fingers.
Jamal grunted and rolled to the side just in time to avoid the alien as it slammed against the boulder. Three hundred pounds of metal and muscle met rock and it sprawled onto the ground, stunned. Jamal saw it was still breathing and he fumbled at his belt for his Bowie knife. He thought of what the bastard would have done to Sarah and Kate and gripped the bastard's head in one hand and his knife in the other. He put all of his hundred and ninety pounds behind the blow that sank the six-inch blade deep into the alien's neck. It gurgled as dark blood squirted from the wound, but soon stopped moving. He whirled around to find his shotgun lying on the ground a few meters away. Scrambling to pick it up, he turned around and raced back to the clearing where he had left Barry and Mike.
Suddenly he tripped over something. When he picked himself up he recognized Mike's face, only it was distorted into a grimace. He glanced at the rest of his friend's body and quickly looked away. Unable to fight down the bile, he threw up. Barry? he thought, and then saw his friend backed up against a boulder. The man's left side was covered in blood but he held his gore-slicked shotgun steady as he blew away the last of the Jackals. The bodies of other aliens lay near him. He recognized the small forms of grunts and jackals but no elite. Where was it?
His answer became evident as the red elite appeared out of the darkness and sent a volley of blue fire at Barry's stomach. He screamed as it tore into his smoking flesh. "Nooooooooo!" Jamal screamed and brought up his shotgun. "Mother!" BOOM! "Fucking!" BOOM! "Bastard!" he shouted and with the last bullet in his gun sent a round into the alien's now unshielded back. It collapsed onto the ground, a pile of shredded bloody flesh, but it was still groaning. "Don't you bastards ever die?" he screamed, gripped his shotgun like a baseball bat and swung at its head with all his might, cracking its neck.
Thomas ran forward and knelt by his friend. Barry Willard was covered in burns and blood. His whole left side was drenched in blood. Burns covered his chests, and his right leg had been torn apart by needler rounds. Somehow the old soldier was still alive, and he managed a smile through blood-covered lips. "We got 'em, Jamal", he said, and coughed weakly.
Jamal nodded, but said "Barry, stay with me man, you're fine."
Barry ignored him and rasped, "Kill...others. Save...our families." He coughed again, and blood bubbled out of his mouth.
Tears filled Jamal's eyes, and he didn't say anything.
Barry turned his head in Jamal's direction, but somehow his eyes looked through him and not at him. He whispered, "Amanda...I'm coming home." And he smiled.
Jamal crouched motionless for a minute. Then he stood up, wiping his eyes, and remembered that Barry's wife Amanda had died years before from cancer. He saluted the body of his friend and took his shotgun ammo. A frag grenade was nestled on his belt, and Jamal took that too. Then he loaded his shotgun and ran across the street in a half crouch. With the barrel under his right eye he looked around for aliens, but saw none. He imitated an owl hoot. Silence. Then another hoot echoed back to him, and he grinned and stepped out of the street. Ted and Jack came forward to meet him. Jack looked untouched, but Ted's shirt was stained red from blood.
"You okay?" Jamal asked him.
Ted nodded. "Fucking grunt caught me in the side with his goddamned plasma pistol. I'll be okay though."
Jack answered. "I got 'em with a frag grenade when they were still in a group, and that took out half of them. That didn't stop the elites and two grunts from killing Ken and Richard, though," he added bitterly. "But we finally killed them with our shotguns."
"One more squad, right?"
Ted nodded. "They went down the street."
Fuck. "What about Nick?" Nick had been a sniper in the UNSC, and he had set up on the roof of his house.
Ted shook his head. "I saw it," he said. "He blew off the head of an elite and crippled a Jackal. Then they saw him and starting shooting. He killed two more grunts before they stuck a plasma grenade to his neck."
Jamal thought quickly. "His sniper rifle?"
"Might still be up there. Should I check it out?"
"Yeah. If it's still working we'll need it."
Ted nodded and ran into the woods towards Nick's house.
Jack turned to Jamal and cocked his shotgun. "What the fuck are we waiting for? Lets kill the bastards."
Jamal's answer was to head towards the street. The problem was they didn't know which house the last alien squad had gone into, and the more time they wasted looking for them the longer the Covies had to find where some of the women and children were hiding. Jack nudged him. Thomas turned and Jack pointed to a house. It looked the same as the others, but as Jamal studied it he saw, among the shadows of the trees and bushes, the form of a grunt.
"Guard." Jamal said, and Jack nodded. They headed towards it.
Gogli the grunt stood outside the human dwelling. Bored, he kicked the ground with his foot and sucked on his methane. The dumb 'Tanamee had made him stand sentry while everyone else got to go inside and kill humans. Gogli wanted to kill humans too, but everyone else had all the fun. Having nothing else to do, he inspected his weapon. A holy hand-weapon. It was a good gun, Gogli reflected. He liked firing it. It made him feel powerful. Maybe when 'Tanamee came out he would shoot him with the charge bolt. He wouldn't be laughing after that, Gogli thought. Maybe he would even have to be guard and Gogli could shoot humans instead. At that thought he giggled, and sucked on more methane.
Jamal took up position in the bushes to the right of the grunt. Jack was at its left. Like they had talked about, Jamal picked up a rock and threw it against the wooden fence near Jack. The rock knocked loudly against the wood. The grunt jumped in surprise, and peered in the direction of the fence. Jamal threw another rock. The grunt heard it and trembled. It hesitated for a moment, but then looked at his plasma pistol and, holding it tightly, creeped down the steps and investigated the fence.
Suddenly everything was quiet, and then Thomas saw a shape blur towards the Grunt. It squealed and Jamal heard liquid spraying onto the fence. Jack held the Grunt as it struggled more and more feebly. It stopped moving, and the ex-marine tossed the body onto the ground with contempt. He bent down and wiped his knife clean on the grass. Jamal came towards him and they looked in each other's eyes for a moment, then softly went to the front door. Jamal opened it. It creaked and they winced at the sound, but no sound came from the house and they stepped inside. It was Barry's house, and as they covered each other's backs and sweeped the silent house with their shotguns, Jamal smiled as he recognized the evidence that his friend had lived there. Pictures of Amanda, a deer head hanging over the fireplace. Barry had always been a great hunter.
Jack nudged him and pointed to a closed door. Jamal suddenly thought that the house was too quiet, and they should be hearing their enemy. His instincts suddenly kicked in, and he opened his mouth to shout to Jack to stop, but the man was already opening the door. Jack screamed as his body was impaled with a thousand bolts of energy and needles, and a second later his smoking carcass thudded to the floor. The aliens inside changed their aim to target the other human but Jamal was already moving, running down the hall and through the door and into the garage, and panicked, he locked the door behind him.
Fucking ambush! he thought, and a second later, they must have seen us kill the grunt outside. But there was no time for that and they were already thudding against the door, and their growls and inhuman screeches chilled his blood. Where the fuck are you gonna go now, Jamal? He cursed his panic and his cowardice. He should have stood his ground and died with his friend but instead he ran away and he was in a fucking garage with no fucking way out and the Covies were gonna fucking kill him and he was gonna die... His eyes fell on the car parked right in front of him.
The door burst open just in time to let the aliens see Jamal drive the Hummer right through the garage door and out onto the street. They roared and ran forward and fired their weapons but the plasma splashed harmlessly on the back of the jeep. Then the elite 'Tanamee barked to his companion, for he had just remembered the vehicles the last dropship had left for them.
Jamal held his foot down on the accelerator and the Hummer roared down the street. His shotgun, Desert Eagle, and frag grenade were on the seat beside him, and he breathed a sigh of relief that he had escaped. The black Hummer J9 that he was driving was really tricked out. It had no top and he breathed in the cold winter air. Too bad this baby didn't have a minigun in the back, he reflected, and the thought made him grin. He stopped and turned the Hummer around, looking back down the street. He saw a small group of grunts and jackals waddling in his direction, and two...no. Fuck. Two Ghosts. The twin hovercraft screamed as they accelerated towards the black Hummer parked at the end of the dark street.
Jamal thought about panicking but then remembered what Jack had always said. "Okay", he said. "Let's play hard." He gunned the engine of the Hummer and the beast growled in anticipation. The jeep roared towards the ghosts. When they got close the Ghosts opened fire with their plasma cannons and Jamal ducked. Confidently he guided the Hummer right into one of the ghosts. The sleek hovercraft flew up the front of the Hummer and over Jamal's head, and as the vulnerable underbelly passed over him Jamal's shotgun boomed. The slug hit the fuel tank, and the ghost exploded in a fireball just behind Jamal. A wave of intense heat washed over him and metal parts and a burnt body thudded into the back seat of the jeap.
"Come along for the ride, did ya?" Jamal muttered as he headed towards the group of grunts and jackals. He aimed right for them and pulled the trigger of his shotgun, but it was empty. "Fuck!" he said, and grabbed the frag grenade. The Hummer plowed right through the group, running over those who had been too slow to dodge. Those who had died in mid-laugh as the grenade he dropped detonated. It boomed with a loud roar and fire and metal shards consumed the last of the squad. He hit the breaks and spun the Hummer around to deal with the last ghost, but it had screamed toward him and crashed into the side of the jeep. The Hummer groaned as its metal body screeched against the street, and the car flipped over. Before it crashed to the ground Jamal grabbed his Desert Eagle and jumped into the air. He landed hard but rolled and came up in a crouch. He cocked the gun and aimed at the speeding ghost coming towards him.
Desert Eagle pistols were .50 caliber monsters, the pinnacle of 25th century human ballistic technology. They fired slugs so powerful the bullets could go through two inches of armor. Jamal steadied his arm and his gun boomed over and over again. Each time a jagged hole appeared in the armor of the hovercraft, and it started smoking, but its approach continued. Plasma screamed towards him and he flung his body to the ground. The bolts streaked over him so close he felt the wind of their passage. He kept firing his Desert Eagle. Just before his gun boomed one last time he saw a dark shape fling itself from the hovercraft. His bullet met the engine, and the ghost exploded in a fireball.
But the elite had leaped clear, and now it roared with rage and slammed into him with the force of a train. Three hundred pounds of alien smacked him into the ground. His head hit the concrete and he saw stars. Dazedly he heard the elite growl in an alien tongue and he saw it bring its plasma rifle to bear on his face. Jamal dully saw the elite's mandibles extend into a smile, and it laughed. Then its head exploded in an expanding cloud of blood and brain. The fleshy insides of the elite's head drenched Jamal, and its decapitated body collapsed on top of him, the neck oozing gore and filling his nose with a reeking stench. He grunted, and pushed the body off him.
He stared at the sky for several minutes. Then he slowly turned over on his stomach, and wearily pushed himself to his feet. He spit blood, then wiped his mouth with his hand. Looking up, he saw that all the houses of Fifth Street were safe, and he knew that his and all of his friends' families were alive. Then he saw Ted walking towards him holding a sniper rifle. Jamal Thomas laughed, and his heart was glad.