A thick, all-encompassing mist had settled over the waters of the swamps, acting as a shroud that hid the secrets that lay within. Lekk cursed the mist because he could not see very far. But at the same time, a primitive fear made him thankful for the mist. It hid the Flood, the horrible abominations. It hid Halo's deepest, darkest secret from Lekk's sight.
He splashed through the knee-deep water, his plasma pistol at the ready, his ears straining to pick out the sounds of approaching enemies from the sounds of the swamp. Behind Lekk was his file, a mix of Jackals and Grunts. Lekk himself was a Jackal. Like most file leaders, Lekk aimed for an image of savagery and viciousness in his appearance in battle.
Unlike the Jackals under his command, Lekk did not wear the skull-like helmet that Jackals wore into battle. His naturally bright colored hair had been shaped into a spiked mohawk that contrasted with the dull color of his teeth, which were set in a permanent, sadistic grin. His eyes were an intense orange color that burned with a hatred that was mirrored by the hoarse bark of his voice.
He wore a light armor vest that covered his torso, but his arms were bare. Around his right wrist was a device that generated a strong energy shield that could be used to protect himself from enemy weapons fire. His legs were covered with armor. Around his neck, but tucked inside his armor vest, was a talisman of his gods. It would bring him good fortune in battle. Finally, he carried a plasma pistol in his left hand. The plasma pistol was the standard weapon of the Jackals. Compact, light, effective, and easy to wield, the pistol was a deadly weapon in the hands of one who knew how to use it.
Lekk heard splashing off to his left. He immediately halted his file with a quick hand movement and strained to hear. The splashing grew louder. It was a group of creatures, large ones, from the noise they made. Giving two rapid hand signals, Lekk ordered his squad to form a loose circle, facing outward. Lekk wished that Squad Master Zolenee had made it out of the facility alive. They needed the courage and the strength of their dead commander right now. But Lekk could not dwell on that. The Elite was dead because he had been too confident in his own abilities. He had gone into that room first, instead of sending in the Grunts first. Naturally, the Flood had attacked him first. He hadn't lasted very long. The screams had stopped after a few minutes.
Another sound rose above the others. It was the pitiful cries of a Grunt, squealing as it died. The Grunts in Lekk's file started to fidget nervously, staring in the direction of the sounds with wide eyes. Lekk gave another series of hand signals, and his file formed up behind him. Lekk started making his way cautiously towards the sounds of the struggle, his weapon raised, ready to blast anything that came out of the mist. Behind him, his file cautiously followed.
The mist seemed to part before Lekk's eyes, and he got his first glimpse of the bodies. A dead Jackal lay half submerged beneath the swamp waters, his blood staining the water around him a dark purple. More bodies appeared. A couple of Grunts lay beneath the water, their arms extended above the surface, as if grasping for the souls that had left their bodies.
They came across a dead Flood combat form. It was a horribly mutated Elite. Its skin had turned a sick yellow-green. Tentacles sprouted from its left arm, the result of the alterations in its DNA that had been caused by the Flood infection form that had once lived inside of its chest cavity. Its blood had changed from a dark purple to a dark green color. Its lifeless white eyes stared into eternity, chilling Lekk to the bone. Careful to avoid the bloodstained water around the corpse, Lekk continued on.
They came upon the Grunt that had been screaming. A Flood infection form had latched onto it and inserted its tentacles into it, infecting the Grunt with its virus. The infection form was currently trying to dig its way deeper into the Grunt's chest. Lekk raised his plasma pistol and fired a single shot. The infection form exploded in a spray of green blood.
Lekk heard more splashing off to his right. The creatures had heard the shot. He thought that they must have been combat forms because of the noise they made as they ran through the shallow water. The noise they made could only be from relatively large creatures, which either meant Covenant Elites or infected Elites. Lekk doubted that there were any Covenant Elites roaming the swamps. He hadn't seen any escape the research facility alive.
Lekk peered into the mist, waiting for his first glimpse of whatever was coming for them. Lekk heard more splashing from other directions. They were surrounded. Lekk reached down and tapped one of the buttons on the shield generator around his right wrist. The air seemed to jump away from the startling blue energy shield that materialized in front of him. Lekk had kept it off so that the enemy would not see the glowing light of the shield in the mist. It would give away his position, but now that the enemy already knew where they were, stealth was no longer needed. He needed the protection of the shield.
Behind him, the other Jackals in Lekk's file also activated their shields. Once again, Lekk gave a rapid series of hand signals. His file formed a circle facing outward into the mist. Lekk heard snarls coming from around them and knew that it was the Flood combat forms. He instinctively reached up and pulled his talisman out from behind his armor vest. He ran his fingers along its smooth surface, letting the feel of it calm his nerves. Taking a deep breath, he prepared himself for the fight that was ahead.
The mist began to form into shapes. Shadows danced in and out of view all around them. Suddenly, Flood combat forms exploded from the surrounding mist, some wielding weapons captured from their victims. Those that had weapons immediately opened fire. Lekk crouched behind his shield, straining against the impact of bullets against it. Plasma hit the shield and dispersed. His shimmering blue shield started to glow a dull red color from the hits. But that did not lessen the fear that Lekk felt as he stared at the charging monsters.
The shield distorted the sight, but that only made the horrible mutations look worse. They looked like the walking dead. The Elites ran with their heads flopping lifelessly behind them, their mutations pushing their heads and necks up and back so that they drooped behind them. Tentacles and sensory appendages jutted from their chests and arms. Many had sustained incredible wounds that included everything from missing limbs to gaping holes in their torsos. What was most frightening was their newfound strength. Their tentacles were very strong, as had been demonstrated in front of Lekk repeatedly in the fighting inside the research facility. They also possessed unusual strength in their normal muscles, which they used to leap high into the air.
Lekk's file opened up, sending out a hail of plasma and needles at the oncoming monstrosities. Plasma tore through them, blasting off pieces of their flesh. They kept coming, unfazed by the fact that they were shedding pieces of their bodies as they charged into the wall of fire. Lekk opened up as well, firing his plasma pistol as fast as he could without overheating it. Following the combat forms was a swarm of the smaller infection forms. They came at the circle of Covenant troops, eager to infect a host.
Lekk's plasma blasts hammered into the chest of an infected Elite, blasting away its stomach and revealing charred bits of bone and flesh. The Elite fell backwards into the water with a big splash. Lekk was about to switch his fire to another combat form when the one he had just shot struggled back to its feet. It snarled in rage and leapt high into the air, coming straight for Lekk. Lekk stumbled backwards and raised his shield to protect him. More plasma and needles crisscrossed in the air, tearing into the combat form as it descended straight down at Lekk.
It landed right on top of him, its weight throwing Lekk into the water beneath his shield. The stunning impact shocked him. Lekk struggled to free himself from beneath the combat form and the water. He watched through the shimmering surface of the water as the combat form regained its feet and started swinging its tentacles at the Covenant standing next to it. Lekk, struggling for air, slid his way out from underneath the Flood form and burst from underneath the water. Able to breath again, he watched as the combat form swung its tentacles at another Jackal.
The tentacles struck the Jackal in the back, sending it sprawling forward into the water. The combat form leapt on top of it, forcing its head beneath the water with its tentacles. Then, it lifted the Jackal out of the water and snapped its neck. The Jackal's head hung lifelessly to the side. The combat form released its grip on the Jackal, letting it slide beneath the water. Lekk started to back away, leveling his plasma pistol at the combat form. He held down the trigger, charging the pistol. The end of the pistol started to glow menacingly, and it started to shake with the energy that was building up inside of it. Aiming at the infected Elite's neck, Lekk released the trigger.
The overcharged energy bolt caught the infection form high in the neck, melting through it and separating the head from the rest of the body. The form collapsed into the water, its death spasms throwing up sprays of water. Lekk heard a huge splash behind him. He spun around and saw another combat form rising from a crouch, water running off of its putrefying skin. It was carrying a human assault rifle. The combat form opened up, emptying the rest of the weapon's magazine into the back of a Grunt. The armor piercing bullets exploded through the Grunt's chest, followed by spurts of bright blue blood. The Grunt fell forwards, its corpse joining the growing collection of corpses that lay in the water.
Lekk's plasma pistol had cooled enough after the last overcharged blast that he could safely fire it again. He tightened his finger on the trigger, sending bolt after bolt at the combat form. It ran at him, its left arm raised, its tentacles tensing for a killing blow. Lekk dove to his left, landing in the water and narrowly avoiding the tentacles as they slashed through the water, attempting to strike him. Lekk got back up and continued to fire, his pistol close to overheating. Blasts took the form's left arm off at the elbow. The tentacle-riddled arm dropped into the water, where it disappeared beneath the surface. Another series of plasma bolts found their way into the combat form's chest cavity, killing the infection form inside. The combat form fell backwards, twitching in its death throws.
Lekk looked around in panic. The infection forms had arrived. The little round creatures leapt onto his troops, swarming over them. A Grunt threw a plasma grenade. The grenade exploded in a blinding white flash, vaporizing water and killing many of the infection forms. But there were too many. Lekk saw that his file was doomed. He watched as they fell to either the fury of the combat forms or infection. Lekk knew that he should stay to fight, but he could not control himself. Self-preservation was all that mattered now. Lekk turned and ran.
He ducked and dodged attacking infection forms, clearing a path with his pistol. He ran as fast as he could. The water slowed him down. Lekk's talisman clanked against his armor vest, making Lekk remember the gods. Lekk cried out to the heavens, begging the gods to spare him. As if summoned by his plea, the water was broken by dry land. Lekk struggled out of the water and onto solid ground, where he could run the fastest. He broke into a sprint, running faster than he had ever run before as bullets and plasma blasts followed him from the pursuing combat forms. The combat forms were faster than him and would catch up soon if Lekk did not find safety.
Lekk saw two lights loom out of the mist and he knew that he had just stumbled upon an entrance to the research facility. After fighting so hard to get out of it, Lekk had been led right back to it. He had no other choice but to go back inside. To stay outside was suicide. Perhaps another Covenant Strike Team would be sent in to help. He would hide inside the structure and wait for any troops so that he could link up with them and hopefully escape on a dropship.
As Lekk ran up to the entrance, he noticed that drops of rain were finding their way through the canopy of the trees. It had started to rain while he had been engaged in the fighting out in the swamps. Lekk ran into the entrance, passing several mutilated bodies on the way. He made his way down a long ramp that led to a large room. In the middle of the room was a lift. He reached out and tapped the holographic control panel and heard the sound of the lift rising from the level beneath him.
A burst of bullets from a human assault rifle stitched a line of holes in the wall above Lekk's head. The combat forms that had followed him had reached the entrance. Lekk raised his plasma pistol and snapped off a few shots as the lift slowed to a stop behind him. He backed onto the lift and hit the control panel again. The lift started to descend. Lekk breathed a sigh of relief. He checked the charge on his pistol. It was at twenty-seven percent charge. He needed a replacement soon or he was going to be weaponless.
The lift ground to a halt. Lekk raised his pistol and shield, ready for a Flood ambush. But there was nothing. The room was silent. Lekk stepped off of the lift and looked around. There were several dead bodies here as well. He walked over to a Grunt and picked up its plasma pistol. Some of the Grunt's bright blue blood coated the side of the weapon. Lekk wiped as much of it off as he could and inspected it for damage. The pistol was in perfect working order and was at eighty-six percent charge. Lekk dropped his old pistol, which clattered to the floor, and wrapped his hand around the new one.
Lekk explored the room and found a door. He walked up to it and it slid open. Lekk moved through, his weapon at the ready. The only sound was his own ragged breathing and the rattle of his talisman softly hitting the front of his armor vest as he cautiously stepped forward. He was on a second floor platform that overlooked a scene of carnage below. Dead Covenant and Flood alike lay strewn across the open area below, their blood smeared across the walls and floor. Averting his eyes, Lekk searched for another door.
He found one off to his right. Lekk went through, chilled by the feeling of being absolutely alone in this place. The door led to a square hallway that went to his right and left. Lekk knew that the room was nothing but a square hallway that led to a single door on the other side. He chose to take the left branch. His boots echoed dully on strange material that made up the floor here. He reached the other door and went through. This room was empty as well. A fire burned in the far corner by a collapsed catwalk and the bodies of several Covenant soldiers and a couple of human Marines. There was another door, but it was jammed shut.
Lekk was about to try and find a way onto the upper catwalks when he heard something behind him. He slowly turned to face the door that he had come through, dreading what was on the other side. He heard the shuffling sound that combat forms made when they walked and knew that it was the end. He was alone and there was nowhere to run.
The door hissed open and several combat forms burst into the room. They saw him and charged, eager for a kill. Lekk crouched behind his shield and started to fire. Fierce green plasma blasts tore into his enemies, sending some staggering back beneath the punishment. One leapt through the air to land in front of him. It swung its left arm, which had mutated so that a mass of tentacles sprouted from its hand and forearm. The tentacles struck his shield, and the impact sent him flying backwards. Lekk skidded to a stop on his back. He raised his plasma pistol and opened fire. Blasts melted through its chest, killing the infection form that controlled it.
Even as the Flood form toppled over and Lekk regained his feet, an infected human jumped to take its comrade's place. The combat form carried a human pistol, which it fired at Lekk. Rounds hammered into his shield, making him stumble. Another round blasted through his lower left leg. Lekk let out a scream of pain as his leg gave way beneath him. The combat form closed in for the kill. Lekk swung his shield as hard as he could. It caught the form in the chest, making it stagger backwards. Lekk raised his plasma pistol and fired. Plasma tore into the infected human's grotesque face, blasting it away. Lekk kept firing, and soon, the form collapsed, the top half of its head shot away.
Lekk looked up and saw Flood infection forms dropping down from the catwalks above him. They hit the floor and started skittering towards him. Lekk fired his plasma pistol as he tried to get away, dragging his wounded leg behind him. Dark purple blood ran down the outside of leg, staining the armor and leaving a trail of blood behind him. Lekk was so intent on staying away from the infection forms that he did not notice the infected Elite sneak up behind him.
A stunning impact threw him forward, facedown onto the floor. His wounded leg twisted at an odd angle, causing Lekk to scream out in pain. He rolled over and saw the combat form that had hit him. It walked forward, looming over him. Lekk felt the weight of his talisman around his neck and somehow, it gave him strength. Lekk brought up his plasma pistol, charging it as he aimed. The combat form raised its arm, preparing to smash Lekk's skull. Lekk fired.
Lekk could feel the heat of the plasma blast as it tore completely through the combat form's chest, vaporizing the infection form within and exposing what was left of its spine. The form fell on top of Lekk, pinning him. Lekk struggled against the weight. He slid out from under the corpse and saw that the infection forms had reached him while he had been busy fighting the combat form. Still on his hands and knees, Lekk stared at one of the infection forms, which was an arm's length away from his face. Lekk's talisman hung around his neck, swinging slowly back and forth. Time seemed to stop in Lekk's eyes.
Lekk knew that he could not get out of this alone. His chances of survival were very slim. It would take a miracle to get him out of this alive. As Lekk fired his plasma pistol, killing the infection form, he prayed like he had never prayed before, begging the gods to spare him from such a horrible death. He brought his shield down on top of three more infection forms, causing them to explode from the pressure. Their blood spattered across the outside of the shield's shimmering surface.
More combat forms entered the room. Bullets hammered into Lekk's exposed side, making him stumble and then fall. His plasma pistol clattered to the floor. Lying in a growing pool of his own blood, with infection forms closing in on him from every side, Lekk reached up and wrapped his bloodstained left hand around his talisman. He prayed for some sort of miracle from the gods; he let his voice be heard in the heavens. There was no answer. The gods were silent. Lekk knew from their silence that it was his time to go.
Lekk reached down for his plasma pistol and wrapped his fingers around it. As he brought the weapon up to the side of his head, a smile managed to form on his face. The infection forms jumped onto his chest, ready to infect him, to steal his body from his soul. Lekk grinned at them as his finger tightened on the trigger. If he couldn't keep his body, he definitely wouldn't let the Flood have it. The plasma blast burned through Lekk's skull, killing his body, while his soul drifted into the eternal happiness of paradise.