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An Anniversary to Remember (Part 2 of 2)
Posted By: Mainevent
Date: 3 May 2004, 10:05 PM

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      A heavy boot landed in the creature's tentacle-ridden chest. It toppled backwards, tripping over David's leg and falling into the street. The horde of aliens behind them swarmed on, trampling the downed creature en masse. Nick realized he hadn't taken a breath in over a minute. Nickleson fired several bursts into the oncoming flood of enemies.
      "This is my wagon, and we play nice on it." He smirked while still firing.
      Corporal Sandersman was going as easy on the hammer as he could. They only had three hundred rounds, and these things were absorbing them like they weren't even there. They were incredibly tough. He'd taken one's head clean off, and watched it fall to a gooey death. But then he saw it get right back up and continue its chase.
      "Yea!" The two men were yelling over the gunfire.
      "Jacobi and Pitts better find us somewhere else to go, because this road seriously isn't doing it for us. I'm down to twenty rounds."
      "I'm running low too. Hold on, I'll see where this wagon's headed." Nickleson turned to the cabin, but turned back around in contemplation. He knelt down to Nick, whose pupils were two times larger than normal.
      "You ever shot one of these things before?" He asked calmly. Nick shook his head. "What about either of you, ya'll have any experience?" He asked the two men holding onto the side rails. Mr. Robart nodded slowly.
      He had some experience. He joined the UNSC at eighteen because it looked like it would be a good learning experience; the first bullet over his head with an enemy on the other end did teach him a valuable lesson too. He was in the wrong trade.
      Nickleson debated handing his weapon to the man for several seconds, before doing so. Robart balanced the grip on the small stub of arm he had left. It wasn't as steady as a hand, but it would have to do. He wasn't counting on accuracy anyway, there were enough 'hostile biological organisms' that a child could hit 'em.
      It had been a while since he'd used a gun, but the MA5B was as user-friendly as it got. Insert clip, cock, and fire. It was basically self-cleaning, and even came with an auto-expel feature. Nickleson usually didn't use the auto-expel, he was perfectly capable of pushing the button that ejected the spent clip, but he turned it on for Robart.
      He handed his sidearm to Nick, and hoped he knew what to do with it. Nick wasn't an ODST by any means, but he was smart enough to point the business end at the torrent of flesh and tentacles seething after them and pull the trigger. Nickleson took a firm grip on the handrail and knelt down to the small window on the rear of the cabin.
      "What's our situation Pitts? Because we ain't looking so good here."
      Nickleson's attention was caught by the gleam of a falling star from the corner of his eye. It plowed a path through the atmosphere before the red-hot vapor trail dissipated. They were oddly beautiful, and on any other night would have been a Godsend. Tonight, it was as though hell itself was falling from the sky.
      "I'm talking to command now, hold on. Repeat that command, over." Pittman radioed to the gruff voice on the other end. A command post had been established about six miles outside of town, on the north side. The wave of enemies had stormed the city from the south, and closed rapidly. Command was the safest place any of the group could hope to get to. But this road was looking longer by the second, and that six miles might as well have been a hundred.
      "This is command, you need to take a-" The chatter was interupted by mixed voices in the background. Pitts upped the volume on the vehicle's radio so that everyone could hear.
      "Jesus. Activate counter-measures immediately." One voice screamed.
      "It's too late, there's no time." Another replied in the background.
      "Evacuate now!" The radio operator screamed, apparently forgetting the mouthpiece that echoed and intensified his voice. "All channel announcement, command is inoperable. Incoming-." A loud explosion roared through the dashboard speakers before the frequency filled with static. Nickleson saw the bright flash of an explosion rising above the city's buildings. Red-orange slithers of fire billowing into the darkness like an octopus clutching its food.
      "That's bullshit Lieutenant. You know that right. Pure bullshit." Pitts slammed his fist into the dashboard in rage.
      "Yea marine, I know." Jacobi replied solemnly; the hint of disgust and seething rage soaking through. He pushed the gas pedal harder, but it didn't help. It didn't bring Command back. It just got them nowhere faster.
      Nickleson looked back to see Sandersman on his butt firing into the flood of bodies. Three or four would fall as bullets tore into them, only to be replaced by a fresh set of the writhing bastards. Robart's gun was already empty, and Nick was pulling pockshots at them through the M6D's Smartscope.
      Nick wasn't professing to be a great shot, but he was happy with what he was pulling off. No training and he was still taking several of the bastards down. He still hated himself for doing it though. They were human after all. Weren't they? He didn't know how they worked, but he knew they were at one time, and that was just as important to him.
      "This is Command. All survivors are to go to the New Mara Airfield as soon as possible. Forces are standing by for immediate evacuation. This message will be repeated in thirty second intervals." Pitts turned in surprise and grinned to Jacobi. The lieutenant simply turned the radio off.
      "Didn't you hear that man? That's great for us."
      "I just remember the last time Command gave us directions. It doesn't really matter though, we're running low on fuel." Jacobi put in ominously.

New Mara Airfield

      They were fast, that was for sure. Luckily for those in the transport, not fast enough. Though it did seem like every time they lost one wave, another one would take its place. How fast did this virus, if that's what it was, spread? It was curious that the Marines happened to show up before the actual warning of the mosntrosities, but that there were so many of them. What did they know? Jess wondered as the vehicle crushed through the gates surrounding the facility.
      "Corporal Sandersman, when did you know about the infection?" She asked him as he took a breather.
      "We got an order earlier this afternoon to send a relief force to New Mara. We had HazMat and BioChem specialists with us, because the call we got from New Mara said there was a full-fledged outbreak. Sure didn't look like it when we got there though. I mean, the streets weren't as active as usual, but nothing suspicious. We started a search of the city and that's when we found you ma'am. After that, it all went to hell."
      "Wait, a call from New Mara this morning about a rampant outbreak? There was nothing on the news, no emergency warning. Everything was fine today. It couldn't have been from New Mara."
      "Fine? This looks anything but fine to me." Nickleson smirked as he struck the ready-lite strip on his cigarette.
      It didn't make sense. What the hell was going on here? A call from New Mara about an outbreak that hadn't occurred yet? Something majorly wrong was going on, and she had a very bad feeling about it.
      The transport came to a halt on the foremost tarmac. Jacobi and Pitts stepped out of the quietened vehicle as it sat on the runway. Those sittin in the bed of the truck hopped out too. The airfield was bare. There wasn't so much as a breadcrumb of an evacuation effort going on here.
      "God damnit. Two times in one day command. Two times in one day." Pitts kicked a tire.
      "It doesn't really matter," Nickleson interjected, "we're all out of ammo back here. We can't just ride around until something good finally happens."
      "You got that right, truck's out of gas." Jacobi took a cigarette from Nickleson and lit it. He didn't usually smoke, but now was a good time to start. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen here.
      The odd-but-familiar swashing humm was back. Faint, but growing louder as it closed the distance. They were back. This time though, the group wouldn't be going anywhere. Jacobi and Pitts took out their pistols in a vain effort. They wouldn't put a dent in the onslaught, but they wouldn't go out as cowards.
      Nick took Jessica's hand in his. Her small, slender fingers intwined with his large digits for the first time in months. She stared into his eyes with honest love, and he returned it. They slowly kissed as the gunfire erupted. Mrs. Wilmore's cries, and Mr. Wilmore's futile calming words as they cradled each other didn't help.
      "Happy Anniversary." Nick whispered.
      "Happy Anniversary." Jess whispered back.

UNSC BlackBird

      The forward video screen panned in on the runway. A single extended transport was parked on it, and only ten humans were huddled around it. A pity. I had hoped for more survivors for the experiment. Major Ackerson thought to himself.
      "Sir, the Flood will be entering the airfield in five minutes." Lieutenant Commander Capulet said as he watched the screen's periphery fill with seething masses of the bioweapons.
      "Very good. You see people, you see this? This is what will defeat the Covenant. Not a bomb. Not some damned enhanced freakshow. This right here. This will destroy them. In only a matter of hours, the unsuspecting population of this entire backwater colony was obliterated. This will be what the Covenant homeworld looks like if I have my way. I will go down in the history books."
      "And you don't feel bad for what you've done here today? Did you have to slaughter all of these people for your little project?" Colonel Abigaid asked from behind Ackerson. Ackerson's heart skipped a beat from the surprise of Abigaid's voice.
      "Some wouldn't understand the cost of progress. One day Colonel Abigaid, these creatures will be on a Covenant homeworld, and we will be the ones recognized for putting them there. A glorious achievement."
      "Sir, there are two pelicans near there location. I can reroute them, and it may be possible for a quick pickup." Capulet interjected timidly.
      "No, we're going to watch this. It'll teach you all a lesson. When they're dead, pull us out of orbit and nuke the planet."
      Ackerson, Abigaid, and the rest of the command crew watched the screen in a fascinated horror. Two of the humans fired what appeared to be small arms at the tidal wave of Flood coming at them. Four others were huddled close together by the vehicle, and four more were running from the truck towards an empty hangar.
      The tangle of dead flesh wrapped around the fighting bodies of the 'subjects'. They ripped them violently to pieces, and in mere seconds it was over. The wave shifted direction and turned on the fleeing humans, who were nearly at the hangar.
      "Pull us out of orbit and nuke it. We've seen enough." Ackerson said as he turned on his heel and followed Abigaid through the door.
      Capulet stared on as the ship's thrusters kicked in and pulled out of the planet's orbit. Tears had welled in his eyes as he watched those helpless people torn to shreds, and knew the other four would suffer the same fate. It was too much. First, the willing insertion of these insidious creatures into the population; then, the military alert.
      He would have, he could have, accepted what happened if it were left at that. But no, Ackerson had to bomb the military unit's command facility, eradicating any hope of survivors. Now this. Capulet was sure that he would never unleash this hideous weapon on anyone; he couldn't.
      The dull whump as the six first-stage SHIVA nuclear missiles launched rattled him to the core. He turned away from the screen as they flared into the atmosphere and headed towards the city.

      Nickleson stopped running as six more falling stars flared. He wasn't going to run anymore. He was tired of it. The others kept running, but not him. He removed his belt and sat on the gravel. They were beautiful. The flare disappeared, but a light flitter of fire still trailed them.
      He smiled in understanding before the brilliant white flash erupted in the city. It was beautiful too. He closed his eyes and felt the warm wash of heat before the actual wave of nuclear radiation. This was the best way he could hope to go, and for this he was glad. His eyelids turned from black to a calming purple, to red, to orange, to white. It was the last thing he ever saw.