Mission From SATU part 6: Death Rattle
Posted By: Chuckles
Date: 21 August 2004, 5:42 PM
Mission From SATU part 6: Death Rattle
Mistakes. Some are benign, some are painful, and some pause only to measure us for grave-clothes and a pine box. Helljumper's mistake was the latter. Children would dance to the sing-song rhythm of the coffin maker's hammer, and the gravedigger would pocket a little overtime. Such are the joys of death: small and dearly bought.
For the first time in his career Ackerson considered killing a subordinate in anger. Had the officer standing before him been anything less than an ODST Captain, he might have. Lifting his eyes from the damning report on his desk, he glared at Helljumper with contempt.
"My orders specifically stated that none of the young Spartans were to be killed. Your orders allowed at the most for you to wound one—and that was only if firing rounds over their heads didn't get the desired results." Getting up from his desk, the Colonel stood within inches of Helljumper's face. "And who is the idiot who wrote this note to the liaison? 'IF YOU WANT THE DOE THREATEN HER FAWNS'?" Ackerson, fists clenched and face red, took a moment to compose himself.
"You have over twenty years experience in SpecOps, yet you picked an officer who was capable of this" he waved the picture in the Captain's face, "to lead an operation this important?"
"That was a question soldier!"
"The men that carried out this lunacy—they are all dead?"
"Yes sir" Helljumper replied in a voice slightly above a whisper.
"Good." The Colonel sat back on his desk and crossed his arms. "This is on your head Captain. An officer that cannot control his men is worthless. If you can't fix this, God help you. God help us both. How much do you really know about Lexicus?"
"Sir, he was a Spartan from the original group, and considered one of the best to ever come out of the program. He, along with Chuckles, made up the Clowns: the most successful SpecOps group in the war."
"Probably the most successful in history, Captain. Did you know that we have thousands of hours of satellite video documenting their operations during those eight years? I witnessed a battle two years before the end of the war that convinced me to recruit them. After I saw it, I arranged for ONI disavow them as soon as the fighting ended. After I saw it, I knew that I had found the Spartan I needed."
"Lexicus was ambushed while he was alone. Keep in mind that this was years before ONI managed to integrate Covenant shield technology into the MJOLNIR armor. Eighty-three soldiers attacked him at once. Within seconds, he had depleted his pistol ammunition, and we thought we were going to lose him. We thought wrong."
A video screen next to Ackerson's desk came to life, and Helljumper watched in shocked stupor. As a hardened ODST Captain, he had seen just about everything, including Spartans fighting the Covenant. But this . . . this defied description. Lexicus slaughtered scores of well armed soldiers with little more than his bare hands. He moved so fast that he seemed to just appear here and there, until the last they were all dead. The video ended, and the screen clicked off.
"I had an agreement with the man on that video. None, not one of those young Spartans was to be killed. You broke that agreement. I can promise you that if Lexicus finds the Masterchief he will kill him—and then come kill us." Had Ackerson made that statement ten minutes earlier, Helljumper would have shrugged it off. Not now.
"Since you made this mess, I am going to send you in to clean it up. Take three of your best snipers and make sure that when the job is done, Lexicus is dead." Ackerson did not want to give the next order, and yet it was all too easy to justify.
"As a result of your stupidity a dozen dead ODST's litter the ground at that training site. News of UNSC forces being sent there to kill would blow the operation to hell and back, regardless of the outcome. You are therefore ordered to eliminate every Spartan," he took a deep breath and lowered his eyes, "even the children."
Eyes are windows to the soul. Looking at them we discern thoughts and emotions. Looking at them, we read each other like books. It is impossible to see the eyes of an armored Spartan, but there are other windows into the soul, and Lexicus was peering through them with concern. A lowered head, a slumped shoulder, a hesitant walk. He was losing his team—in more ways than one.
Another patrol had to be sent to the rear, and with Linda continuing to hunt them he might as well be giving out cigarettes and blindfolds. Three Spartans had gone out during the night, and all three had died. Blondsniper, the youngest of their group, was the first. Her death angered the teams, and Ydnar had volunteered for patrol immediately. When his body was carried back two hours later, shoulders shrugged, heads lowered, and nobody volunteered.
Any soldier who has seen sustained combat knows that death is more than the end of life: death is. You can hear it walk, feel it's touch and smell it's hideous stench. When Lexicus finally ordered XrayJ to go on the patrol, the soldier walked out as one expecting to be carried back. An hour later, he was. Death followed Lexicus and Chuckles as surely as day followed night.
Day was breaking.
One bright spot remained: Linda was still tracking them, and she was their best chance to get at John. Lexicus called Chuckles and Simjanes. Contrary to all appearances, his pieces were finally in place. It was time to act.
He didn't waste words. "Find Linda and kill her. It's that simple."
Moving like ghosts, the two Spartans searched the wooded hills. Both of them were experienced snipers, and this terrain was child's play compared to Old Afghanistan. It didn't take long. After a mere forty minutes Chuckles' voice crackled in Simjanes' helmet.
"I've got a twenty on her, Sim. Top of that hill, northeast. She's lying flat next to the rock."
Simjanes searched the area with his scope. "I don't see her. How sure are you?"
"Hundred percent. The rock must be blocking your view. I've got a shot, and I'm taking it."
Chuckles sighted in. It had to be perfect. Slowly he squeezed the trigger . . . squeezed . . . the rifle jerked backwards and the sniper round found it's mark.
Simjanes collapsed to the ground, grabbing his side in agony. "Chuck! I'm shot! I'm shot—" he choked on his blood. "I'm . . . I'm . . . " he choked again. Thick, hot blood filled his mouth, and the sickening taste caused him to vomit.
Chuckles walked over slowly, his rifle slung behind his back. Bending down and removing Simjanes' helmet he said, "I got a question for you Sim: why did you shoot Fred in the side?" Simjanes stared up at the Clown, his eyes wide with horror. "I mean, you're a witch with that rifle. You could've scored a headshot from twice that distance. Getting shot through the lungs, slowly suffocating on your own blood—that's a horrible, slow way to die. Fred deserved better, don't you think?" Simjanes tried to respond, but only spit up more blood.
Linda emerged from the woods and stood beside Chuckles. Simjanes' eyes were now wide with confusion. "Why? Is that what you want to know? Well, I'll tell you why I shot you: because Linda would have had the decency to shoot you in the head."
Through slowly dimming sight, Simjanes watched them walk away together. I've got to warn Lex. Desperately, he reached for his helmet, and pulled it over his head. "Lex—" he couldn't take a breath. "L—" He choked again, and this time blood flowed from his mouth.
"Sim, this is Lex, are you there?" Choking, gurgling and splashing sounds filled Lex's ears; and finally, one long, wet, rattling sigh.