Ghosts of Erebus (part five): Drawing with Broken Fingers
Posted By: Chuckles
Date: 18 December 2004, 9:08 AM
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I want to thank Helljumper for giving me permission to use his character in this series. As some of you know I also used him in my Mission from SATU series. The character was great, so I wanted to bring him back. Let's hope he meets a better fate this time ;)
Ghosts of Erebus (part five): Drawing with Broken Fingers
A large soldier entered the cell, dragging what was left of the Operations Officer by a bloody handful of hair. As the mutilated corpse of Shane Gentry was dropped next to him, Captain Addy searched for the appropriate response—shock, sympathy, grief, revulsion—but found only a dreamlike numbness. Three weeks of waking nightmares had shot his emotions to doll-rags, replacing them with cold logic. A few minutes earlier the tortured screams and pitiful begging had stopped, so this was expected.
"Whoooeee!" the soldier looked down at Addy with a toothy grin. "Strong one. He was, uh . . . your good friend, eh?"
Addy nodded slowly.
"Yeah, he said that you two had been together for," he flipped through some notes, "twenty years? Wow. He also told us that you know all about the Clowns." Addy knew this was a lie. "Could've saved himself some incredible pain and told us earlier. Oh well, what's one more death?"
The Captain almost nodded in agreement. What's one more death? This is Erebus, where life is tread down like a winepress, and the soured ground drinks the blood.
A loud knock on his cabin door woke the Captain from his memories. And they wonder why I don't sleep.
His muscles tensed as Lieutenant Scott Carion entered the room. Something about the young officer seemed off, but he could hardly trust his feelings in this matter: as Admiral Kraft's personal lapdog, Carion was on the ship to make sure that Addy did exactly what the Admiral ordered.
"Captain, we need to talk."
Making no attempt to hide his disdain, Addy replied, "And what do we need to talk about Lieutenant? You are here to observe—period. You are not a member of my command crew, and I am not interested in your views or opinions."
"Sir, " Carion replied with more confidence than he actually felt, "I am here to represent Admiral Kraft, and you know it. We need to talk about the situation. It was . . . unexpected."
Why, you sniveling infant! "Unexpected?! These are the Clowns, you imbecile. Plus four additional Spartans who are only here because of your screw-up. Now you are going to try and tell me how to respond?"
Deflated, the small man answered in a thin voice. "No sir, I am here to tell you how the Admiral wants you to respond." After a moment of silence, Carion continued. "I assume that your offer to help the Clowns was merely a ruse?"
"And if it wasn't?"
"Our orders are clear, Sir. We are not, under any circumstances to help them. You do remember our meeting with the Admiral, don't you sir?"
Addy was silent. He remembered, but he had never understood the order. Why wouldn't they support their own forces, especially when it was in their interest? When he questioned the Admiral he was told that the reasons "didn't concern him".
"Yes, Lieutenant, I remember." Carion smirked.
That's it! Standing quickly, Addy got right into Carion's face. At six foot two, he towered over the young officer. "But you need to remember something, son: your sugar daddy is almost forty light-years away, while I," he poked the Lieutenant's chest with each syllable, "am right here with you. Space is a dangerous, volatile place and we lose men on every mission. Understand?" Carion shook his head. "Dismissed."
The Lieutenant left, mopping his forehead with a handkerchief. A few minutes later in his cabin, he placed a communication device into his ear. A voice crackled on the other end.
"I think we've hit a snag. I need to speak with Turpolev, immediately"
It was almost sunset when Chuckles finished with Krasky. The interrogation, which lasted several hours, had started in the Pelican just outside the city, and ended in heavily wooded hills over one hundred miles further west. Turpolev's doomed advisor sat on a box at the edge of a small clearing.
"Quite a story," the Spartan said, pulling out his knife, and studying the blade. "Did you know that when they first settled Reach it was covered with dogs?" Krasky shook his head, confused. "At least, they looked like dogs—nothing like we have on Earth. They were about the size of a pony, huge teeth and very powerful. I bet that they could've held their own against the big cats in Africa. Strange, fascinating animals. They had never seen men, so they weren't afraid of us, but they didn't consider us as prey either."
"But let me tell you," Chuckles stood. "We must've tasted like prime rib to those dogs, because once—for whatever reason—they got a bite of us and realized what they were missing," he began to circle Krasky, "they couldn't get enough. By the time I was growing up on Reach, most of them had been killed. But one day out in the woods on a training mission I actually saw one. That particular dog must've tasted human flesh before, because it took off after me like the dinner bell had rang. I never was one to run from a fight, so I stood my ground," Stopping in front of Krasky, he waived the massive blade in his face. "And killed him with this."
A coward, Krasky's eyes went wide as he stared at the weapon.
"You're a lot like him. Once you tasted blood, you were hooked. I had to kill the dog, and now I have to kill you. No different really, except—" with lightning speed, Chuckles slashed the rebel's throat, "—I felt bad for the dog."
Lexicus was standing near the Pelican when Chuckles found him. "That," the Clown said, pointing at the system's star sitting low on the horizon, "is Zeta2 Reticuli."
Shocked, Lexicus looked around and said, "This is Orpheus?"
"Yeah, doesn't look glassed, does it?" Then, looking down, shaking his head in disgust, Chuckles said, "Wait until your hear the rest."
Stopping several feet away, Tyler "Weed" DeWeerd stared at the thick, steel door as if it were a firing squad. He had heard the stories. After all, the more terrifying something is, the more likely a man is to repeat it.
Everybody was repeating this.
How seven young men had died of apparent heart attacks; how the dead men's expressions had been so hideous that the doctors had covered the faces during the autopsies; how one soldier had gripped his weapon so tight that they found him with several broken fingers. He had even heard rumors that the box contained . . . something truly evil. Still, Weed was not a coward, and had no wish arouse the wrath of Stephen Thanatos, lest he end up like most of the other soldiers—a mindless animal. He had been ordered to guard the container, and orders were orders.
Summoning all of his courage he finally walked the final steps and slowly opened the door. It was small, and like nearly every room in the military complex, had white walls and a shiny, black floor. A chair to his left represented the only furnishings, and sitting on the ground, nearly fifteen feet away was a white container, about the size of a large, rectangular suitcase. Weed laughed at his silly fear: it looked utterly harmless. After shutting and locking the door, he sat down in the chair.
More likely this stupid chair killed them then that thing he thought, trying to get comfortable. Idiots! Just trying to spook me with lies. Guard duty where you get to sit down? Nothing spooky about that. Stretching his arms and letting out a long, heartfelt yawn, he had an idea. Before anyone, even an officer could enter the room, Weed would have to unlock the door. He could actually get some sleep while on guard duty! Smiling, he reached over and turned off the light.
A soldier walking past the door was the first to hear the screams, accompanied by dull thumps. Twenty minutes later, when rescuers were finally able to force their way in, the floor was slick with blood, and Weed had collapsed from shock. Nearly every bone in his mangled hands had been shattered, pounded into bloody pulp on the thick steel door—with the key hanging around his neck.
"Look at this," a soldier motioned to the floor moments after Weed was lifted onto a stretcher and wheeled away. "Seems like he was drawing something with his blood. It looks like . . . " Their mouths dropped open.
Nobody said a word. They all knew what it looked like.
Captain Addy had come to a difficult decision. Ever wary of recklessly risking the lives of his men—he'd seen enough of them die in the past—he felt far worse about sending any of them to Erebus. But he had a mission to accomplish—whether he understood it or not—and that left him little choice. He tapped his com.
On the other side of the ship a legendary ODST Captain heard his com beep. None of his men knew his real name, and none dared ask. "Sir" to those he ranked, and "Helljumper" to his superiors, his presence on the Cerberus was no accident. Few soldiers dared to face Spartans, even in training situations, and even fewer had a chance of success. But Helljumper had no fear of Spartans, or of anything else for that matter. To him they were merely a potential challenge: a challenge that he had been hoping to face. Each time Spartans had trained against ODST's, Helljumper had volunteered. And each time he had been turned down because "he was too valuable to risk." That, he knew, was a load of crap. As the only ODST to ever defeat a Spartan in the Navy's Combat Simulator, they saw him as a threat—and he loved it.
He keyed the Com. "Captain?"
"Helljumper, I'm going to need you on Erebus." A smile spread across the ODST's face.
"Thank you, Captain. How many men?"
"You'll go over that with Lieutenant Timmer," he said, referring to his Combat Officer. "There are things that you do not know about this planet, Captain. Things that I believe you and your men are going to see when you get there. If ever there was one, this planet is a living hell."
Helljumper laughed. "Hell, Captain? I think me and my men will feel right at home then. Sir, you point, we'll go."
"Very well, Lieutenant Timmer will meet you in the wardroom in five minutes."
"Can you tell me one thing Captain? Are we going there to help the Spartans or hunt them?" To Helljumper, it seemed that the answer took forever.
Addy shut his eyes, and rubbed his temples. Sometimes he hated this job. "You are going to hunt them. God be with you."
Of all things, they could have at least killed him. But they didn't, and once again he was hanging by his wrists. Only now, he could breathe easier: they no longer had a reason to pull a hood over his head. To his shame, David remembered that he had answered the traitor's questions. But Thanatos had been too eager, and asked too few. Now, the fool was ignorant of something, something that sent a chill down David's spine.
Time was running out.
How much was left? Days? Hours? Minutes? Had the time already passed? As they undoubtedly knew, the container was a powerful freezer. What they probably did not know was that it was only good for two months—two months that were all but over. Once that container began to warm . . . Why didn't they kill me?!
Across the complex, locked in a room and guarded inside by only a camera, the container stirred. Sagus was wrong: time was not short—time had run out.