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Ghosts of Erebus÷the conclusion÷Already Dead (pt 1)
Posted By: Chuckles
Date: 4 April 2005, 12:23 PM

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Ghosts of Erebus—the conclusion—Already Dead (pt 1)

Even the madmen would have thought it odd; bodies sitting on top of graves rather than below. But the madmen were no longer alive, so they paid it no mind. Carrion birds did not dwell on Erebus, and even if they had, they would not have gone near the slaughter. In fact, every animal within fifty miles was busy running in the opposite direction. Carnage on a biblical scale, to be sure, but on Erebus it amounted to little more than a punctuation mark at the end of a twisted story. And so as the mass graves drank the blood of nearly one-hundred thousand madmen with dark satisfaction, nobody took notice of the slaying—nobody except the slayer. Even that was only for a moment, for there was more work to be done. Twenty miles to the east the city of Parnassus was full of life, life that needed to end. Death was coming, and although dawn was only a few hours away, the sun would rise on sightless eyes, and its light would be wasted on the dead.

It was after midnight and darkness still enveloped Parnassus like a black shroud; trapping the man-made light in a dim halo over the city. But it did little to dispel the blackness, and so it was in shadow that the crowds of loud, intoxicated soldiers danced in the streets, filling the air with smoke as they fired their guns in celebration. After all, celebration was in order: the Clowns, their most feared and deadly enemy, were finally dead. First had come the news that Lexicus had been blown to pieces by a bomb—and then it got even better. Moments earlier they had watched Chuckles stumble through the streets in wonderful humiliation, as the entire city cursed, cheered and mocked. Walking slowly with jerky, uneven movements and continually sliding one foot sideways on the ground, the Spartan-turned-madman looked like a drunk, a cripple, a clown—and the rebels loved it.

Turpolev loved it too. While Chuckles was bumbling his way out of the city, the rebel leader was tucked safely in his fortified home just north of the military installation. Sitting alone in his office he stared wistfully at two framed pictures that sat on his desk. Already half drunk, he lifted a glass of vodka in clumsy, unsure hands and gestured forward in a silent toast.

"Iosif and Anatoly, you may finally rest." Tears filled his eyes as he lowered the glass and sat it on the table beside the still, silent photos. Turpolev had always imagined that he would feel joy and relief once he had avenged his sons. Yet, as he sat in his large, luxurious office drinking to his victory, he felt no joy. Although he grieved deeply over the loss of his sons, the promise of future vengeance had driven him forward and given him purpose; making life bearable. But no more. Now without even revenge to shield him from his grief, the rebel leader was utterly alone, stripped of everything that connected him to his boys—stripped of everything that numbed his guilt-laden sorrow. While Turpolev toasted pictures, his two sons rotted in graves on a far distant planet.

Thank God for the vodka.

Wearily, he wiped tears from his face, grabbed his glass and dumped the contents down his throat. As he poured himself another cup of the clear, strong drink he suddenly found himself wishing that the Clowns were still alive—that it wasn't over. At that very moment about four miles south, Turpolev's alcohol-induced wish was about to come true: in fact, it had just entered the city.

Lexicus leapt over the wall unnoticed, landing in darkness on the other side. Standing just inside Parnassus, he saw thousands of soldiers dancing in the streets, loudly celebrating the death of his closest friend. Blood ran cold in his veins as the last of his humanity was pushed aside, replaced by the cold steel of his will. Almost involuntarily Lexicus raised his pistol, palmed a grenade and considered killing them—every worthless one of them—while they celebrated. But he had not come for mere soldiers, not yet anyway. One man was responsible for this entire mess and that man was going to die. Summoning all of his rage, Lexicus opened his mouth and let out a challenge that exploded into the night.

"Turpolev! Turpolev!"

Fueled by bottomless anger he stepped out of the darkness and into the crowds, daring the drunken rabble to get in his way. Cheering stopped as heads turned towards the cry and all eyes fell upon the large Spartan with the Clown symbol above his visor. At that moment, as the terrified rebels tried to reconcile what they were seeing with what they thought they knew, confusion spread through the streets like wildfire. Some thought it was Chuckles, others thought it was a third, unknown Clown, and there were even a few who believed the Clowns had returned from the dead. None dared move. If Thanatos' madness and a powerful bomb could not kill them, what could?

"Turpolev!" Lexicus lifted his challenge again and moved forward, steadily increasing his pace, eager to fight. But as he advanced the throng of heavily armed soldiers merely parted, giving him space to walk. The thought of such complete cowards mocking and jeering Chuckles was almost more than Lex could take without forgetting his goal and taking on the entire city. As he walked, he remembered something that CPO Mendez had drilled into his mind as a child: Although emotion is the enemy of planning, it can be the friend of execution.

Perfect. Execution was just what Lexicus had in mind.

"Cerberus, this is Rhinox. Repeat, Cerberus, this is Rhinox." Trying to contact the cruiser as the Pelican sped it's way upward, the Spartan suddenly wondered if anybody up there knew who he was.

"Rhinox, this is the Cerberus. Where are you?"

"I am inbound, piloting a Pelican. Be advised, I have Lieutenant Sagus aboard. I need to speak to the Captain."

"Rhinox, this is Lieutenant Sandie Gordon, and I am acting Captain of the Cerberus. Glad to hear about the Lieutenant. Did you also retrieve his cargo?"

Acting Captain? What happened to Addy? Rhinox hesitated. Was there a mutiny? Quickly deciding that, mutiny or not, there was nowhere else to land the dropship, he finally responded. "No, we were not able to retrieve the container."

Gordon's voice was grave. "Very well. What is your ETA?"


Something bounced off the back of the Spartan's helmet. Rhinox turned around and saw Sagus on the floor, evidently searching for another object to throw. "Lieutenant, is something wrong?" Abruptly stopping his search, Sagus gestured for Rhinox to come closer. As the Spartan lowered his head, an urgent voice crackled in his helmet.

"I repeat: what is your ETA?"

"Just a moment, Captain." Sagus pulled his mouth close to the Spartan's helmet and whispered.

"Be careful . . . they will destroy it."

"Destroy what?"

"The city . . . protocol for BeSSI if anything is lost." Rhinox shook his head in confusion.

"Bessy?" Before he could ask Sagus what a "bessy" was, an irate female voice again filled his helmet.

"Soldier, tell me your ETA now!"

"Our ETA is . . . " Sagus mouthed the word "no" while waving his arms emphatically. Again, Rhinox lowered his head and listened to the faint whisper.

"Since we do not have the container, they will destroy the city and your friend. Do not talk to them. Once I am aboard they will launch a nuclear attack on Parnassus. Trust me." Rhinox stood, and walked quickly to the front of the Pelican.

"Rhinox, respond!" The Spartan was silent for a moment, and then spoke in a firm voice.

"Captain, we'll get there when we get there. Out."

Sandie Gordon was livid. ONI had given her clear orders, and she had been moments from carrying them out when the Spartan contacted her. Now she would be delayed, and every moment she waited brought her closer to possible loss of command, and thus her ability to launch a nuclear strike. Sandie was nobody's fool—she could read the looks she was getting from the crew. Captain Addy was renowned throughout the UNSC for taking care of those under his command, so it was no surprise that he was also very popular. What was more, they knew—they all knew—that Addy was no murderer. ONI backing or not, what she had done was mutiny, plain and simple; and once the rest of the crew caught on to that fact she would be lucky to escape with her life.

No matter. A BeSSI discovery was lost on that planet—a rebel planet no less—and that meant the population had to be reduced to zero: operation POTLUCK was extremely clear on that point. But while there was even a chance of recovering Lieutenant Sagus she could not risk a launch. Sandie punched her COM and raised the shuttle bay.

"This is the Captain. We have a Pelican inbound. Let me know the instant it arrives." The tone of the response made her mouth go dry.

"Aye, aye, Captain."

For the first time in his life Thanatos had felt fear. Not the fear a child feels in the dark, or afflicts teenagers before a first date. No, this was the sort of fear Stephen had always reserved for others, the kind that comes from knowing—not thinking but knowing—that you are going to be tortured to death; that you are going to die while screaming. He discovered that those little hairs on the back of your neck really do stand up and muscles really do refuse to move. He had learned something about pain too: it hurt a lot.

As he lay on the operating table awaiting emergency surgery, Thanatos could not help but feel lucky. Almost all of his teeth had been broken or knocked out, his right eye had been torn from its socket, one of his lungs had been punctured and his right ear had been bitten off the day before; but he was still alive and in his right mind. Looking down at him, the surgeon smiled politely.

"Dr. Thanatos, are you certain that you want to be awake for this?"

Trying to speak without front teeth made Stephen feel like an idiot. "Yeth, I am thertain." Make me talk again and I'll kill you.

"Very well, I'll be ready to start soon, however, there is a problem," the surgeon frowned slightly. "Most of the building has emptied out, and I can't do this alone. I have to go find someone to assist, which means that you will be alone for several minutes. Do you understand?"

Thanatos tried to nod, but the surgical drugs had now taken full effect, and he could not even move his neck. Silently vowing to kill this idiot at his earliest convenience, he spoke with great difficulty. "Yeth."

The doctor nodded and then walked quickly towards the doorway, "I'll try to be quick." With that he left, shutting the door behind him.


A terrible scream suddenly erupted from the other side of the doorway, followed by the sick snapping and cracking of bones. Thanatos instinctively tried to sit up, but nothing moved except those little hairs on the back of his neck—they were standing straight up. A body thudded to the floor outside the room, and an instant later the lights went out. Powerless to move anything but his eyes, Stephen tried to control himself and think. From deep inside an awful, twisted, nightmarish fear began to blow like a hurricane. A glow filled the room as the steel door melted and a great and terrible shadow moved silently to his side. It had no eyes that Thanatos could see, but he knew that it was looking at him—looking into him.

Then, as if a movie had started inside his head, he saw it. Stephen's greatest fear was to be left at the mercy of someone who would torture without pity; someone who actually enjoyed it—someone like himself. And now as he lay paralyzed and alone the Demon's thoughts flowed through his mind and he saw his death. But more than that, Stephen saw how much he was going to suffer. For what seemed like days Thanatos watched every inhuman act he had ever done gleefully performed on him as he lay paralyzed and unable to even flinch. As adrenaline poured into his veins, Stephen's heart rate soared and sweat streamed off his skin, soaking the table. Finally the hideous vision faded.

It was time to begin.

Only bare white walls witnessed the torment and killing of Thanatos, but had they possessed eyes the walls would have shut them tight. For who can look intently upon the full measure of punishment, even when it is justly visited upon the evil. No, even the strong would shrink back in horror for suffering alone pays no debt and rights no wrongs; therefore the full weight of justice is as insatiable as a black hole.

Before it was over Thanatos actually prayed for death, which was the cruelest of ironies; for if anyone was listening to his plea and cared enough to help, then death would certainly bring no end to his pain.


Already within half a mile of the compound, Lexicus moved through the streets unchallenged, both amazed and angered at the cowardice of the rebels. Fear hung upon the city like thick fog, paralyzing the crowds; but that would not last forever. To his left was the squat, two mile long installation that he had attacked the day before, and to his right the buildings were tall and getting taller as he moved deeper into the city—each one presenting a possible threat. A lone sniper could drop him easily, and Lexicus knew it. What he did not know was that the best sniper on Erebus was just getting into place a quarter mile ahead.

Although the sniper had never been on top of this particular building, it was the tallest structure in the area and he had guessed that there would be a nest on top. When the presence of two sniper rifles and a pile of ammunition confirmed his suspicion, he smiled. Quickly getting into position, he gazed through the scope, searching the street. There you are. The massive, armored Spartan moved through the city at a brisk pace while thousands of armed soldiers lined the streets, merely watching. "Cowards," the sniper muttered under his breath. As the Spartan passed directly beneath him, the soldier noticed movement near the compound—meaningful movement.

Turpolev had finally heard the challenge and his elite troops were getting into place. An eight-foot solid metal wall topped with barbed wire surrounded his compound; which amounted to little more than a fortified mansion. From atop the building the soldier watched as four snipers peaked their rifles under the wire, and several others armed with everything from shotguns to rocket launchers, began moving slowly up the street. Well, its about time.

It was too much, and the sniper knew it. Unlike the regular rebels, the elite soldiers were quite willing to use their weapons, and once the first shot was fired the trance would be broken and every soldier in the city would attack the lone Spartan. Yeah, assaulting this compound alone was suicide. As Helljumper sighted in on his first target, his lips curled into dark smile. Good thing he's not alone.

Now only a few hundred meters from the wall of the compound, Lexicus heard the crack of a rifle and saw a head explode just behind the wall. In the span of a second three more heads took a round through the brain, and the entire city came to life.


Lexicus shot forward with incredible speed just as thousands of soldiers poured into the street to block him—but he didn't slow down. With Chuckles' eighteen-inch knife in one hand and a pistol in the other Lex slammed into the rebels like a cannonball. Soldiers loomed deep as a sea before him, but his rage was deeper still and it flowed now unchecked. Moving quicker than the human eye could follow he ducked, slashed and shot his way through the rebels like an angel of death, instantly killing all in his path.

On top of the building Helljumper was firing just as quickly as he could reload, dropping one elite soldier after another. Suddenly seeing Lexicus in his scope, he froze. Oh my . . . Although he had heard stories of Lex's exploits during the Bishkek Rebellion, this was the first time he had seen the Spartan fight—and it took his breath away.

Continuing up the street with surprising speed, Lexicus cut through the crush of humanity with cruel vengeance, his eyes burning beneath his visor. Soldier after soldier fired at the lethal blur, each hitting either a fellow rebel or nothing at all. Suddenly, with one great leap, the Spartan somersaulted through the air, landing inside the wall of the compound. Thousands began to scale the wall, trying to follow, but Lex was not looking back—he was too near his goal.

Warrant Officer Jimmy Doyle took guilty pleasure in his inactivity as the Pelican entered the shuttle bay and cycled through the air-lock. Sure, the mutinous Lieutenant Gordon had wanted to know the moment this Pelican arrived, but Doyle did not work for her, he worked for Captain Addy. The soldier watched as a huge figure emerged from the ship carrying what looked like an emaciated white corpse. But as the Spartan neared Jimmy was shocked to see the wasted figure moving.

My God, he's alive. Doyle was still staring at Sagus when Rhinox began to speak.

"Soldier, I have to see the Captain now!"

"He's not in charge any—"

"I'm aware of that! Where is he?" Rhinox was in a hurry.

"He's locked in the brig." Quickly putting Sagus into the soldier's arms, Rhinox spoke in a tone that made Jimmy's knees go week.

"Do NOT tell Lieutenant Gordon that we're here." Before the frightened soldier could respond, Rhinox had disappeared into the ship's interior.

Like all Spartans, Rhinox memorized the layout of any ship that he had to be on for more than an hour. Running with desperation, he reached the brig in just over a minute. Two guards stood in front of the door, staring uneasily at the huge figure.

There was no time for negotiation. Without hesitating, Rhinox struck both of them with a sweeping backhand, knocking them out. Taking one step back, he charged into the door; sending it flying from its hinges and scaring Captain Addy half to death. Looking up at the huge Spartan from his cell, Addy remembered Lexicus' threat—that he would kill him if he ever returned to the ship.


"No, Captain, Lexicus is still on Erebus." Working quickly, Rhinox tore the cell door open. Addy shrank back into the wall, still unsure of the Spartan's intentions.

"Soldier," the Captain said with sincerity, "I never wanted to cut you loose. That order came from way over my head." A look flashed across Addy's face that reminded Rhinox of Lexicus—it was a look of rage. "Dealing with Turpolev turned my stomach, but I had no choice."

"We'll have to talk about that later, sir." Grabbing Addy's arm, Rhinox yanked him out of the cell and handed him a pistol. "I have reason to believe that Lieutenant Gordon is about to launch a nuclear strike on Parnassus while our men are still on the ground."

"How many men?"

"Two. Helljumper and Lexicus."

Addy thought for a moment and then shook his head slowly. "Well then, that's two too many—we're not leaving anyone behind. Where are the rest of them?"

Rhinox heard himself answer, but it still didn't seem real. "They're dead, sir."

The Captain froze. What have I done? Then, pushing everything aside except the anger, he walked through the door and began stripping ammunition from the unconscious guards. "Gordon is no fool. We'll need more men to take back the bridge."

"With all due respect, sir," Rhinox said, feeding that last few cartridges into his shotgun and chambering a round, "I'm all the men you're going to need."

Lexicus shot across the lush green lawn towards the door as bullets whistled past his head and slammed into the ground by his feet. At first hundreds had tried to follow, but Helljumper was splattering the brains of anyone who got near the wall and the rebels soon lost all taste for climbing.

Slamming into the steel doors like a battering ram, Lexicus sent them flying from their hinges. Four soldiers had been waiting on the other side, but they had been too close. Three had died instantly, bludgeoned by the large, metal doors. The fourth, suddenly alone and laying eyes on the vengeful Spartan for the very first time, was paralyzed with fear. Before the rebel could make his body move, Lexicus grabbed him by the neck and yanked him up to his visor.

"Where is he?" It was the voice of certain death.

"H-h-he is s-straight up the s-s-stairs."

"Right there?" Lexicus said, pointing.

"Y-yes." Eyes as wide as saucers, the trembling wretch waited, hoping for mercy. But the monster that held him was no longer a man, but a machine made of armor, muscle and bone. Less than an hour earlier he had fired a bullet into the ruined brain of his dearest friend. Mercy was a dead option.

Lex hurled the rebel up the steps and into the wooden doors, breaking them with a loud Crack! Pausing only to grab a discarded shotgun, the massive Spartan cleared the stairs with a single leap; stepping over the dead soldier and into the ornate office.


Turpolev sat at his desk, armed only with an empty bottle of vodka. Tossing the huge desk aside as if it weighed nothing, Lexicus smashed the shotgun stock into the rebel leader's chest, shattering his breastbone like cheap glass and slamming him backwards into the wall. Rushing forward like a spirit, a reaper—a Clown—he grabbed Chuckles' combat knife and plunged it into Turpolev's gut with the force of a jackhammer, shoving it up under his ribcage and stabbing his blackened heart. Quickly yanking off his MJOLNIR helmet, Lexicus lifted Turpolev upon the huge blade until they were face to face, and glared into his dying eyes with cold, unforgiving silence.

As he policed the compound wall with his rifle, Helljumper suddenly felt something that he had not experienced in more than twenty years—he started to feel fear. Not the useful sort of fear that springs from common sense and keeps soldiers alive. No, this fear went from his head to his stomach, nearly paralyzing him. As he lay on his belly trying to figure out what was happening, he saw someone leaving Turpolev's mansion, and the ODST did not need his scope to figure out who it was.

Emerging from the doorway dragging Turpolev's body behind him by a leg, Lexicus headed towards the wall with imaptience. On the other side tens of thousands of soldiers filled the streets, waiting to see what had happened in the compound. Slowly, like a poison cloud carried on a soft wind, an eerie, horrifying fear began to take hold of the rebels. Some of them had felt it before, but most had no idea.

With a powerful leap, Lexicus landed on top of the wall and lifted Turpolev's corpse like a grim trophy. As the crowds saw their slain leader illuminated in the dim lights near the compound, silence fell over the city. Looking down upon the rebels, Lexicus did not even try to control his rage. They too were to blame what had happened and he was going to kill them—every last one of them. Taking a firm hold on Turpolev's leg, he spun him once over his head and hurled the corpse towards the crowd—but it flew only three meters before it stopped, seemingly suspended in space. Cries of horror replaced the silence as the body was ripped in two and then dumped into the crowd.

The creature had returned.

*NOTE: This chapter was posted in two parts due to it's size. To read the rest of this chapter, go to Ghosts of Erebus—the conclusion—Already Dead (pt 2) which is already posted.