Cancer in my cells.
Cancer in my brain.
In every living thing.
Cancer spreading here.
Cancer spreading there.
I'm too tired to fight.
Weary from constant wear.
I think I'll go to sleep now, it seems to be getting late.
I'll let you handle your own affairs.
I could careless about your fate.
The text scrolled sadistically across the screen. Seemingly hostile to his very presence. Second Lieutenant Larson slammed his large fist down on the terminal. The worn crystaline surface cracked under the pressure. No telling how long it had been there, probably hundreds or thousands of years. Judging by the dust that had settled over it; a thick white layer.
This whole landing had gone straight down the shitter. Stocks, his best friend and right-hand man, had disappeared soon after the HEV's ejected from the Ragnarok. A plasma torpedo had impacted the ship broad-side, knocking most of the human entry vehicles' launch trajectories out of synch. For all Larson knew, Stocks HEV entered the atmosphere at a dangerous angle and overheated, roasting his friend alive.
The Covenant would have hell to pay for that little incident. Even making Larson think like that, that was asking for trouble. The Helljumper was a veteran of fifteen atmospheric entries, and countless parachute insertions. He wasn't some OCS prick who didn't know whether to shuck corn with his teeth or on the prickly rod that seemed to be stuck up everyone of their asses. He knew what he was doing.
The facility seemed to have a perpetual feel to it. A resonating humm that wasn't as scary as it was ominously soothing. The sound of a monster's pacifier. Putting whatever demons this ancient place had to sleep. The humm wasn't his enemy, it was his friend. It told him that whatever this place was supposed to be doing, it still was.
However, the local AI seemed to be a little quirky. It called itself 'Enkidu', and was a mean son-of-a-bitch. But what could he expect from an outdated AI? Milk and cookies. It wouldn't have mattered, Helljumpers didn't eat that crap. That was for softies. ODSTs were the least soft men alive. The platoon even had a running joke, about how they wiped their asses with sandpaper.
Larson didn't like the joke though, he thought it made the Helljumpers look too soft in front of the others. He smiled to himself as he thought over training. Somehow, it had managed to be both the best and worst time of his life simultaneously. God bless the human condition.
The burly man was nearly a mile inside of the facility, and from what he could see, hadn't even scratched its depths. Though there was a strange luminescent aura eminating from deep withing. It was strangely appetising; a siren's lure to the weak. Larson wasn't as fortunate as Odysseus had been, he was shit out of beeswax; he'd have to weather this storm.
Mechanical gyros in his hand stabilized his aim as he sighted his S2 AM sniper rifle, otherwise known as 'The Librarian'. Too many of his enemies had been hushed by this cruel mistress. Larson loved his BIO-Gentech Corporation's series ten military battle armament. He never kidded himself, he missed that hand a lot, but this thing was a true beauty.
The prosthetic right forearm and hand was a titanium alloy model, and as rugged as they came. It had fuel-cell batteries that lasted for months at a time. The gyroscopic stabilizers built into the hand made him one of the most lethal snipers in the human arsenal. It compensated for, and virtually eliminated, aim distortion usually caused by breathing and the body's natural tendency to shake.
There was nothing down-range, and so he lowered his weapon. His boots made a dull tinking sound on the floors. His feet were still only human, and were beginning to ache. But pain only reassured Larson he was alive; and as long as he was alive, he could kick Covenant ass.
The thrumming humm was audibly louder as he descended into the darkness. The monster obviously slept down here. So why was he going down here? Because, he reassured himself, I'm not afraid of monsters.. It was a light-hearted gesture, aimed at making the situation less disturbing. But it failed horribly.
He passed under what appeared to be blast doors. Why someone would need blast doors this far underground he wasn't sure of, but that only helped make the mood more unsettling. The gigantic, alien baroque design looked futuristic to him; but he figured, to the people who had built it, that it looked old and rustic. It was hard to imagine there may be creatures that advanced, but he had to concede that possibility. He was in one of their instalations after all.
Along the dimly lit corridor were hundreds of smaller rooms, each with miniature blast doors. Though these were all closed. The red figures above them were obvious enough. Closed, warning, turn back, do not enter; whatever the translation, it wasn't a welcome mat. He'd seen welcome mats before. Napalm, high explosives, shrapnel and fragmenation devices; those were welcome mats. Whatever was behind these doors was much more than a welcome mat.
Curiosity sidestepped his reason and inserted its vulgar reason into his brain's thought pattern. Why not just look? The doors have little windows and everything. It hissed at him like Lucifer in the garden of Eden. He tried to reason out of it, telling himself that he couldn't be sure if the doors were locked, or if that they may have been booby-trapped. But that was futile. It was his nature to do so. Human nature.
His rifle's scope was tracing the edge of the door frame before his brain registered what it saw and interpreted it all. Natures way of telling him to be cautious. The ODST approached cautiosly, but not slowly. Years of experience had given him an awkward stance, that was both surprisingly stable and increased his agility.
Ten meters. Five. One. Too late to turn back. He leaned his head in the small recessed window to look inside. There was a startling, disembodied voice from above. It was Enkidu again.
"I told you that this facility had a cancer, and you just had to play doctor. You had to find out what that cancer was. Well doctor, here's your chance. I hope you learn; some cancers are better left untreated." The echoing voice ended at the same moment all of the red lights flickered to green. Shit! Raced through the lieutenants mind.
He hadn't realized it, but he'd already taken ten steps back. A subconcious reaction to the events occurring around him. At least his instincts were still at their peak.
There was a distant rolling snap that continued to get louder. The doors at the end of his vision began opening, and came to a stop with the same snapping sound. I think we've over-stayed our welcome Lars old boy, it's time to leave. The understatement of the century had just been thought as hundreds of small tear-shaped creatures poured from every door. Their sounds were amplified by the walls, and no longer was the humm audible. The monster was wide awake now.
He pivoted instantly and began a dead sprint for the exit. The baroque blast doors he'd passed earlier were already closing. They had an odd design, and were closing from all four corners at once. Smart design, bad luck. That meant he had a fourth the time he would have on a standard blast door. His mind begged his legs to push harder, and they tried their best to accomodate. They had as much to lose as the brain did.
The swarm of creatures looked like a massive rolling wave as he glanced back to look. The entire group rolled and moved in unison; like a tidal wave about to crash his beach party. This surfer wasn't in the mood though.
He reached the gigantic doors and began a sidestep, but inadvertently side-leapt through them. His foot caught on the door and spun him onto his stomach. Muscles tensed and adjusted his body so that his shooting arm was facing the doorway. Four shots rang out in succession; sending massive rows of death through the creatures' ranks. But it was only a matter of seconds before they had all been replaced.
The doors closed with a deep exhale of some gas pressure, and both Larson and the object seemed to sigh a breath of relief. But he had never been that lucky before, and this was certainly not a lucky day. Enkidu made a return appearance; though this time his voice was noticeably clearer. If not somewhat distorted by what sounded like different tones of the same voice talking at once in the background.
"You want to play doctor, so I thought I'd give you a scalpel. Don't cut yourself." The voice disappeared with a bone-chilling laugh that he couldn't get out of his head.
Ten mechanical monstrosities fluttered around the bend, and all seemed to have the same thought. Larson knew that it wasn't an invitation to tea and crumpets, and squeazed off his last four sniper rounds. They impacted with a spark, followed by a miniscule explosion that sent three of them smoking to the ground. Metal pinged off the alien tiles, striking melancholy musical notes.
He dropped the rifle and unslung his last weapon, a M7AB Battle Rifle. Though somewhat smaller than a M5AB Assault Rifle, it was much more accurate and stable. He sent six rounds into the shields of a single floating foe, but they just absorbed it with ease. There was enough ammo to take out the rest of these things. He'd have to take desperate measures.
"Doctor's in! Cut open the skin and let me see the cancer again." He yelled to the walls. Hoping Enkidu would hear him.
The heavy doors behind him began struggling to unseal, and the tear-shaped flood of forms exploded out. Now was the part where luck had to be on his side. For just once. It was. The guardian devices moved quickly to stem the flow of fleshen bulbs, and ignored Larson as he began running again.
It was six minutes before he ran through the archway that led into the facility, and into open air. Shitty planners. Must've been a race of women. He thought to himself. Stocklear! Larson ran up to the man as he trudged up the hill, and grabbed his shoulders as he continued to run.
"What the hell's goin on Lars?" He began to ask.
"Shut the fuck up and run soldier." Larson replied out of breath. Stocklear heard the unfamiliar sloshing sound coming from the facility, and turned to run. It was about to be an even longer day than it already was.