Foregoing the Experience
Posted By: Mainevent
Date: 21 December 2003, 11:40 PM
The Watchman sparked and flickered as it lay helplessly on the ground. Plasma fumed from the ruptured engine compartment on it's back, and hydraulic fluid slowly spurted from two ruptured hoses. Elsrik was semi-conscious, fiddling haphazardly with the control pannel in the cockpit, looking for a way out. He'd learned the driving and weapons mechanics easily enough, but didn't have a clue how to eject.
The Watchmen were the smallest vehicles in the Forerunner army. It was also the last remaining bipedal class vehicles as well, the others being slowly phased out for larger four-legged walkers or massive hovering tanks. Half of the original Watchmen had been refit to serve as loaders, mechanics, or of some use in many of The Gardens other plants and factories.
It's meter thick legs were surrounded by an additional six inches of liquid-Marconium, which absorbed any solid projectiles with ease, before ejecting them and retaking it's original shape. The chasis was also made from the same thick brown liquid armor, and was a mixture of spheres and cubes. There was no clear viewport, instead the pilot had to wear a helmet which provided a clear 360-degree view of the outside.
The Watchmen were very versatile as well, having many configurations that they could be arranged in. The bulk of them had four stubby arms, with a single particle-laser ball-turret at each of their ends. Other Watchmen had a large heavy particle-beam cannon, and were mainly used against heavy armor.
Elsrik quickly jabbed at every button before finally hitting the hatch release. The hull strained to open, and only parted halfway before stopping. It had lost too much hydraulic fluid to go any further, but Elsrik would manage. He hunched his legs up near his chest, found a foothold in on the door, and pushed as hard as he could. It squeeked and moaned as he pushed, his musles as hard as a rock as he gave it his all. They edged an inch before he had to quit, he wasn't getting any further either.
He unhooked himself from his protective harness, and conformed himself into a thick ball as he maneuvered inside of the cockpit. It was a minute before his head was facing the door so that he could crawl out. Their was another problem however. Four Sentinels had locked onto his felled fighter and begun their ferocious attack. Two of their particle lasers sliced through the liquid-Marconium armor, which was practically useless against anything but solid weapons, and into the legs itself. A fine hydraulic myst sprayed into the air from the thick gash the weapon had left. The other two beams concentrated on the cockpit, one ripping through the hatch and burning a four inch deep hole where Elsrik's head had been moments before. The other had luckily shorn through the small hydraulic lifts that opened and closed the compartment.
Elsrik rolled onto the legs of his Watchman, coming face to face with one of the Sentinels. He rolled his feet up to his chest once more, kicked the bastard in it's primary-sensor array, and landed on the floor. Three other Sentinels were already charging for their second volley, but fire from back-up Watchmen cut them down to nothing more than smoldering hunks of metal.
In all the excitement with the Sentinels Elsrik had forgotten about the Angastal. He collided head on with one of them, and went tumbling for several meters. His adrenalmorphenine kicked in, and he bounded onto his feet as part of the fall. Three more of the Divine Flood were on his heels though, and gaining quickly. His eyes darted around the periphery of the room, looking for anything that he could use for a weapon.
All of the vehicles were occupied or out of commission. He would have to find a hand-held weapon. A warm spray of mucus-green blood covered his back, two of the Flood behind him falling under fire. The small contingent of fighters responsible for the miracle waving to him from behind a overturned table. He made a quick change in direction, something the following beast couldn't. It went sliding into the wreckage of a downed Sidewinder.
Elsrik leapt over the small metal partition and knelt behind it. Six armored warriors fired mercilessly at anything that wasn't Forerunner, taking down hordes of Angastal and freeing up the larger vehicles to concentrate on the Sentinels.
"You know how to handle one of these?" A man who appeared to be the leader asked without removing his eyes from the battle.
"I'll learn." Elsrik replied, taking one of the small weapons. "No offense, but do you have anything else? I can't make toast with this."
"There's a Plasma Cannon, a Sharder, and several suits of armor in the armory behind us. If you can handle them, be my guest. We could use all of the help we can get." The sound of several more eratic bursts drowned out any comment Elsrik would have made in return, so he opted to make a dash for the armory.
He gathered his senses and made a headlong run for the single door roughly fifteen meters away. Two or three men were ducking in and out of it, firing at the intruders as they went. Elsrik yelled for them to cease-fire as he entered.
None of them so much as acknowledged him, and he really didn't care. The massive room had been virtually emptied, two racks of armor, a rack of light weapons, and the several heavy weapons the other man had mentioned were all that was left. He strapped on the dark black armor, a type he recognized as that of the Ceremonial Guards. They were the most elite units in the underground army, highly-trained and extremely deadly. The normal penalty for those caught wearing this rare armor was death, which was probably the reason they hadn't been touched, but Elsrik would take his chances. He strapped the Particle Cannon to his back, and hefted the Sharder as best he could.
He waddled back to the small group of men he left minutes before, their numbers wittled now down to four. He gladly dropped the cannon, and set up the Sharder for himself.
The Sharder fired a thick crystalline round, which exploded mid-air. The computer inside of the weapon fired a particle laser at the shards, which broke the beam into hundreds of smaller ones. It was extremely effective against large groups and clusters of enemies, but took a long time to recharge.
"Sorry for the disrespect sir. I had no idea you were a Ceremonial Guard." The leader yelled over the gunfire.
"I'm not. I stole it from the armory." Elsrik replied. The man laughed to himself.
"Well in that case, I'm still sorry. 'Cause either way you got a helluva lot of brass."
Elsrik fired his weapon into a swarm of Flood heading for a Sidewinder, and it tore them into several small hunks of meat. A large blue glob of death sizzled into the air and erupted on a Sentinel, enveloping it in a flash. Half of the Sentinel, glowing bright orange from the heat, fell from the air and landed on a small group of the infectious Angastal forms. Thousands of the tiny teardrop shaped organisms erupted into nothing in a chainreaction.
The small sidearm given to him minutes ago merrily fired into the large cavern. Green columns of gore splurted into the air from his victims. He managed to take six combat forms out of action before his heavy weapon recharged, and he sent another group to oblivion. A Warden floated by meters in front of them, it's greedy weapons etching out any sound other than their own. A combat form was climbing up it's dorsal side, but was quickly killed under Elsrik's fire.
"We need to move. The bastards are either too smart or too scared to come this way anymore. Lets go help some others out. Follow the Warden, it'll give us more cover than we deserve." Gelinoir, the senior officer of the group, yelled.
The three-man squad ran over to the heavy fighter, tossed their weapons onto it's flat horizontal side panels, and pulled themselves up. Gelinoir told the pilot their plan, and he readily agreed.
"He's calling for all of the ground troops to follow our lead. They'll hitch a ride on a Warden or whatever else they can, and we'll be responsible for all of the Angastal that are attacking. They say they can handle the Sentinels."
"Gotcha." Elsrik replied as he sent another salvo of death into the enemy formation. It wasn't so much of a formation as it was a wave, and a seemingly endless wave at that. His ears were going numb from all of the Warden's heavy weapons, but he was more than willing to make bare the inconvenience. The Warden was truely a fearsome sight on the battle field, it's six super-plasma particle cannons, four heavy particle beams, and five plasma lasers could dish out more death than was usually necessary.
Six hours of non-stop fighting passed before the invaders had been repelled. Of the four hundred Watchmen stationed in the base, only seventeen were left. The Sidewinders only lost six of their thirty, and only one of the Wardens was out of commission. The Garden's foot soldiers had suffered thunderous casualties though. The fifteen thousand men and women comprising the small militia had been cut down to only three hundred, including the quickly conscripted fighters like Elsrik.
Monastor Goranth entered the battle-ravaged main cavern through a thick door leading from the control center. Tremendous divots had been cut into the floor, some as deep as ten meters. Hardly a meter of unscathed tiling was left, all of it either gone or a charred black. Multitudes of pylons had been cut to ribbons or removed entirely by the fighting.
Goranth scanned the room, shaking his wearied head at the carnage and destruction before him. Wounded soldiers limped, hopped, or were dragged to the make-shift medical facilities. He passed one of them, his eyes weeping at the horrendous sounds of those moaning from their wounds or gargling from their own blood.
"Where is Elsrik Andagall?" The Monastor asked a rushing field-doctor as he passed. The man removed a small pad from his blood-soaked shirt, his drenched and shaking hands tapping the name in as quickly as possible.
"He hasn't been recorded, but neither have a lot of people. Too many wounded to keep track of right now." The doctor, who would have quickly shrugged off anyone other than the Monastor, turned from the man and returned to his duties.
Goranth strolled slowly around the room. Past the charred hulks of Watchmen and several Sidewinders. Past the multitudes of dead bodies that filled up an entire section of the cavern. Stacked neatly on top of each other, their stench was overpowering.
He meandered throughout the room somberly, reflecting on the day. All of the lives lost. There was an upside to the battle though. Seventeen hundred sentinels had been destroyed in the chaos, over three-fourths of the total recorded number that the Dark Cons scouts had reported. More dead bodies from the wave after wave of Flood had been hastily pushed to one side of the room.
Goranth wasn't sure if Elsrik was dead or alive. He hoped he was, but from what he saw he couldn't be sure. There was too much death, to many people who looked like Elsrik to know now. He would have to wait and see. Which was probably the worst part of it all for him.