Ghosts of Erebus—the conclusion—Already Dead (pt 2)
Posted By: Chuckles
Date: 4 April 2005, 12:23 PM
Ghosts of Erebus—the conclusion—Already Dead (pt 2)
A powerful, violent blow suddenly knocked Lexicus off of his feet and into a street light sixty meters away; killing power to the lights around the wall. Looking up he saw a huge, inky black shadow moving towards him in the darkness as the rebels either ran away or lay paralyzed in fear. But Lexicus was not afraid, he was angry. Leaping to his feet he ran straight for the creature, but as he was about to run into it, something reached out, stopping Lex and holding him still.
The Demon's most powerful weapon was the fear it found waiting in each of its victims. Manipulating those inner terrors allowed it to immobilize and kill on a large or small scale. It searched the Spartan's mind for any trace of fear—but Lexicus had none to give.
A feeling, a thought invaded Lexicus' brain, crawling through his mind, and he could feel it's confusion, and even hear it speak. Why is it not afraid? Why does it not fear? Can it die?
Moving so suddenly that the creature was actually taken by surprise, Lexicus exploded out of its hold and screamed in a voice devoid of fear, but full of rage.
"I'M ALREADY DEAD! CAN YOU DIE?!
Bringing up his weapon, he fired the shotgun into the creature so rapidly that the barrel began to glow. A shadowy appendage thrust into the dark to grab him, but Lexicus jumped to the side, grabbed Chuckles' huge knife and using both hands he brought it down on the dark arm, burying it deep. Like a sudden wind, the intruder in his brain rushed away, and the shadow jerked backwards, taking the knife with it. To the Demon this made no sense: kills were supposed to be easy, performed on victims paralyzed by fear.
But it had never faced an opponent like Lexicus.
Watching the horrible scene from the building, Helljumper knew that this was the creature Sagus had saved him from. Unbelievably, Lexicus seemed to be putting up a fight—but the hardened ODST did not expect that to last. Tearing his eyes away from the battle with great difficulty, he searched the area with his scope.
A Pelican was sitting just behind Turpolev's mansion—and Helljumper had never seen a more beautiful sight. Standing to leave, he took a final look at the battle between Lex and the creature—and took off so fast that he nearly left his boots behind.
Sandie Gordon was too nervous to sit, so when the com next to the Captain's chair beeped, she had to lean over.
"Addy is heading toward the bridge with a Spartan!" She recognized the voice—it was one of the guards she had placed outside the brigg.
A Spartan? That meant Sagus was already aboard. With a gesture she sent two guards out into the hall, and then began to bark orders.
"Lieutenant Sisson, arm a Shiva missile, and remove all safeties."
"Just do it! Use the same coordinates as before." Gunfire erupted outside in the hallway, followed immediately by a painful scream.
"Shiva is armed, Captain." A shotgun blast impacted the door. "Safeties are removed."
Sandie turned around and saw the a powerful arm tear the door to pieces. A moment later Addy and Rhinox entered the doorway. Gordon's eyes met Addy's as she gave the order.
Exploding from the entrance, Rhinox crossed the room in a single stride, knocked Gordon to the floor and leveled the shotgun at her head.
"Call off that missile, Lieutenant!" Addy screamed, his pistol pointed at the frightened officer. But the show of force was unneccessary—they were all glad to have their Captain back.
Staring at the monster standing over her, Sandie barely found the courage to speak. "He can't. Nothing can stop the missile, the—"
A huge boot came down on Gordon's neck and the barrel of a freshly fired shotgun pressed into her forehead, burning her skin. "You had better pray for a miracle, Lieutenant, because if Helljumper and Lexicus don't make it," he lifted the shotgun, cocking it loudly, "then neither do you—I promise."
The Demon sprung backwards, surprised by Lexicus' attack. Thinking that he had wounded the creature, Lex was about to attack again when he saw the knife he had stuck into it flash bright red and then melt; rolling off the shadowy arm onto the pavement below. In that moment Lexicus knew that he could not win. As he stared at the shiny puddle that used to be Chuckles' blade, he knew that he would die. He knew—
But he didn't care.
Abandoning all caution, Lexicus ran towards the black shadow and smashing his fist into it with all of his rage. The sound of the impact echoed through the city like thunder as the monster staggered and fell. But before Lexicus could attack again, he was yanked off of his feet and slammed violently to the pavement. Thoughts invaded his mind as he lay stunned. You will die slowly. You will scream in pain. Grabbing him again, the powerful black arm hurled him into the metal wall, nearly knocking him out. A voice spoke to him inside his helmet, but it was not the creature.
"Lexicus, can you hear me?! Lexicus!?"
The creature moved toward him slowly. I will burn you. I will watch you die.
"Run towards the mansion NOW!"
Pain shot through his body as Lex stood. He could see the demon coming quickly towards him just before he leapt over the wall and began to run. With a roar, the Pelican rose up behind the house, and then swept down and across the lawn towards the Spartan.
Helljumper turned the ship sideways as he brought it within a meter of the ground. With the Demon so close that he could feel its heat on his back, Lexicus jumped into the Pelican, and slammed the door shut.
As the ship sped away, a hideous voice filled his brain. I will find you again. I will watch you die. And then, like a chilled breeze, the thoughts left.
Turning upward as he gathered speed, Helljumper saw something exiting the atmosphere far above.
Oh my God!
"Strap in Lex!" The Spartan did just that, and not a moment too soon. Pushing the Pelican right to the edge of its endurance, Helljumper threw the engines wide open and began gobbling altitude. It was going to be close. Shooting straight up they passed within a kilometer of the descending missile—causing the ODST to shudder. Come on baby, move!
Silence filled the bridge as Addy stared helplessly at the console. Three, two, one . . . and it was all over. A bright flash filled the display screen, and Parnassus was no more. The rookie Weapons Officer broke the silence.
"Detonation successful, sir."
Addy looked down at Sisson with derision. "Thank you, Lieutenant, I noticed." Turning to his Communications Officer, he spoke calmly. "Okay Connie, see if anyone made it out."
As the officer tried to hail survivors, Rhinox stood over a very frightened Lieutenant Gordon. She glanced over at Addy, hoping that he would do something to end this madness. Certainly he would not allow the Spartan to blow her head off right there on the bridge? But he did nothing. As Lieutenant Connie Kuchner repeatedly called out in vain, the Captain's face darkened and Sandie lost all hope. Finally, Kuchner looked at Addy and shook her head slowly.
"I'm sorry, sir."
Rhinox leveled the shotgun at Gordon's forehead with grim finality. Tears formed in her eyes as Sandie squeezed them shut in fear, but the Spartan was unmoved. "Goodbye, Lieutenant."
Her miracle came, without a moment to spare.
"Cerberus this is Helljumper, do you read?"
The Captain smiled. "Helljumper, this is Addy. Thank God, we didn't think you made it." Fortunately, nobody on the bridge could see the look on the ODST's face.
"Yeah, right. Our ETA is ten minutes. Out."
Rhinox lifted the shotgun, and Sandie jumped to her feet, crying hysterically. It was finally over, and for the first time it really hit him—his brother Xraf was dead. The entire bridge watched in silence as the massive Spartan fell to one knee, pulled off his helmet and wept like a child.
Admiral Thomas Kraft sucked on the cigarette with sad desperation as the vehicle pulled up to the door. Admiral Bobby Denning, his superior, had left a terse message at his office. Something was very wrong, and that made Kraft nervous—and when he was nervous he smoked. A soldier opened his door, and Thomas stepped out, dropping the cigarette into the snow. It was a cold morning—in more ways than one.
Walking briskly into the building, Kraft hung his coat in the hallway and walked into the large office. Looking up from her desk, Denning's secretary regarded him with caution.
"You can go right in, Admiral."
Here goes. Kraft entered, trying to look at ease. "You wanted to see me, sir?" Lifting his head from his desk, Denning stared at him with disgust.
"Do you remember why you were allowed to coordinate the Sagus rescue, Kraft?"
Oh no. "Yes sir."
"Because you said you were friends, because he had looked up to you, because you felt an obligation, right?!"
Kraft managed only a nod. Admiral Denning tossed a thick folder across the desk.
"Can you explain then why you two haven't even been on the same planet together since Sagus was five?" Denning's eyes were burning with something worse than anger. Kraft started to protest, but the words died in his throat as he paged through the damning file.
"Where did you get—"
"That file? From your grossly misappropriated AI, Loxias. Tell me, Admiral what was an experimental AI which was assigned to you doing in an ONI office?!" Too upset to stay in his seat, Denning stood as he continued. "Loxias sent me that entire file the moment before you decommissioned him. Among other things, the AI said that you had Ackerson killed!"
"Sir, that is—"
"Shut up and listen! I haven't even got started with you!" Yanking the file from Kraft's hands, he pulled out a page and dangled it before Thomas's eyes like a poison snake. "Says here that you had over twenty conversations with Viktor Turpolev in the month preceding his surprise attack on the UN. Twenty!"
"Sir, I can—"
"And look at this!" Denning pulled out the transcript of one of their conversations, and Kraft's face lost all color.
"How did you—"
"What does it matter!?" Looking down at Thomas, face red with fury, he spoke with hatred. "I lost two kids and a brother in that attack, Kraft! Over a million UN soldiers were killed during a training exercise!" Trying vainly to calm himself down, Denning returned to his chair.
"You will be formally brought up on charges before the day is out, so don't even consider leaving the base. If it were up to me, you wouldn't leave this office alive." Denning pointed at the door. "Now get out!"
Hurrying out of the door and into the hallway, Kraft grabbed his coat. Numb with shock he went to the cafeteria—it was the only place he could think of going, since his office was not even on this base. Sitting down at a table alone he tried to sort out his emotions, and came up with only one thing—he needed a cigarette. He checked the pocket where they should have been, but they were gone. What else could go wrong today?
"Hey, mind if I sit with you, sir?"
Kraft turned to see a soldier carrying a tray jam-packed with breakfast food. "Sure, why not."
"Thank you, sir."
"Please, call me Thomas."
"Thank you sir, uh, Thomas."
I'm not a knight, you imbecile. He had just decided to ignore the young—was he young?—soldier, when he saw him pull out a cigarette. Gesturing towards the pack, he said, "Do you mind if I—"
"No, no," the soldier said with glee, "go right ahead."
"Thank you." Kraft snatched one of them from the pack as if it were pure gold, and quickly lit it. He'd be needing another cigarette shortly, so he decided to talk to the moron after all.
"So, what is your name, son?"
The soldier beamed with delight. "Tony, sir. Tony Meyers."
Kraft reached out and shook his hand, "Please, Tony, call me Thomas."
For some reason the admiral suddenly had the urge to poor his heart out to this soldier. Why not? "So, Tony, do you think life is fair?
"Sorry." Smiling weakly, he continued. "Well, yes, I guess I do."
Kraft chuckled. "Boy, you're in for a big letdown, because life is not fair. You can work your tail off doing what is right, sacrifice everything to a cause that you believe in, and for what? So that someone can come along and destroy it and you." He turned towards Tony. "And that is what they are going to do—destroy me. But not until they've had their fun."
"Gosh, I'm sorry Thomas. Wow." Tony was quiet for a moment, and then spoke softly. "I guess all you can do is laugh."
"Something that my dad, God rest his soul, used to say. When I was a kid he told me that if I was ever being tortured by an enemy that I should laugh as hard as I could. Mind you, this was back when we were fighting other men, and not heartless aliens, but—"
"Heck of a thing to tell a kid." Kraft said, cutting the soldier off. "Why in the world would he tell you to laugh during torture?"
Tony answered, smiling like a fool. "Well, because one of two things is going to happen. If you are lucky it will make them mad and cause them to kill you quicker. I mean, that's a lot better than dying slow."
"And even if it doesn't make them kill you faster, it always feels good to laugh." Tony looked at him, smiling ear to ear.
Almost against his will, Kraft found himself smiling too. There might really be something to this. Why should I let these losers get me down? I shouldn't! No, I'll go down laughing!
"Thanks Tony, that really helped. Your father must have been very wise."
"Oh, thank you sir! I mean, Thomas. Glad to help." Glancing down at his watch, the soldier nearly jumped. "Holy cow, I gotta go!" As he stood, he shook Kraft's hand. "It has been an honor to meet you, Thomas. Good luck!"
"Thank you, son." What a nice fellow Kraft thought as Tony walked away.
Once he had left the cafeteria, Tony, whose real name was Wiley, smiled with satisfaction. Within the hour the poison from the cigarette would do its work and Kraft would be dead. Heck, for all intents and purposes, he was already dead. By the time anyone figured out why, Wiley would be gone, swallowed whole by blissful anonymity. Doing a job for a dead client was a first for him, and he found it quite amusing. Fact was, the money Ackerson had promised him to eliminate Kraft had appeared in his account the day after Ackerson's death. Someone with a weird name had apparently authorized the transaction in the good Colonels stead. The name was so strange that Wiley did not think that he would ever forget it. Seriously, what kind of parents would name a kid Loxias?