Sic Transit Gloria Mundi
Posted By: Octavio XVIII<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 5 Jun 2000, 4:57 am
Matthew Soell collapsed to all fours in the mud. Leafy vegetation thrashed and snapped in the gale force winds. Rain slashed through the night air. Soell pulled himself forward through the filth, his hands and knees catching on centuries' worth of dead branches and marshy detritus. He regained his footing and looked back.
Blue lights of the Covenant flickered in the distance, interspersed with the muzzle fire of marine assault rifles. The nearest were a klick back, maybe a little more. Soell heard splashing nearby. Lightning flashed and a running figure emerged from the tree line. It floundered through the mud, approaching; the figure was a marine, Soell could tell, but he couldn't identify him through the downpour.
"Matt!" the marine shouted.
Soell recognized the voice. "Jason!"
"Regier's line is coming apart fast," the marine, Jason Jones said. "We've got to push forward on our own." Golden fireballs ballooned up in the forest two klicks back. Trees bowed under shockwaves of compressed air and moments later the blast rushed over them with . "Come ON!"
They ran. Brazen light sharply defined each tree and blade of grass against the dark mud and murky undergrowth. "We're almost to the hill," shouted Jones. "We've gotta to be!"
Soell heard a concussive series of high explosive detonations behind them, and the battle sounds of Regier's platoon faded and died. A dark ridge loomed up before them, heavily foliated. Above, in places where the nimbostratus thinned, the opposite stretch of the Halo, a band of sunlit viridescence, curved upward into the heavens. "The entrance should be halfway up this slope," Jones said. They began to climb. Soell heard splintering wood in the distance behind. He glanced over his shoulder, nearly slipping on the rotting muck that coated the ground. Covenant battle tanks powered forward, splitting wide paths through the burning trees. A few plaintive bursts of human gunfire erupted to the sides but the advance never slowed. For a moment, Soell stared transfixed. Then he began to run.
The overcast grew thicker, the rain drove harder and the Halo faded from sight. Jones climbed somewhere above. Slippery currents washed downward, and Soell often found himself crawling. He pulled himself onto a narrow, bushy shelf. Jones was waiting. "This is it," he said.
Matt looked at the mossy wall that backed the ledge. Lightning scintillated across the sky and for an instant he saw intricate designs which had been carved across the face in ancient times. Behind Jones, a narrow aperture lead into darkness. Gusts of wind swept the slope and lightning flickered once more. Blue lights flashed from amidst the gnarled trees. The Covenant had located them. Bedazzling energy bolts sizzled through the air beside the hapless marines. Soell pushed Jones through the dripping aperture as the fire intensified. The sweet stench of ozone permeated the air. Soell shot his assault rifle out into the trees, more as suppressive fire than anything else. He raked the underbrush, trying to discourage immediate pursuit. Although leaves and vines ripped asunder and he hit no enemies, the Covenant onslaught briefly paused. Jones pulled him back and they worked their way deeper inside in the brief time Soell had bought. The slit gradually opened until they could fit side by side.
"Proximity mines," said Jones. "Now." Jones was already arming his. The two marines tossed the mines towards the entrance, where they latched onto the first surface they touched. "Run," said Jones. They ran.
Soell found his flashlight and switched it on. He held it over his head as they raced into the heart of the mountain. Jones ran ahead of him, his form bleached by the intensity of the light. Black shadows danced wildly along the azure metallic walls. Far behind and above, the entrance exploded.
"Hopefully the entrance collapsed," Jones shouted raggedly. "It'll hold them back a few minutes."
Soell didn't reply. The downward slope of the corridor was decreasing, flattening until it was nearly level. Their footsteps rang hollowly in the bouncing light. At last, Jones stopped. The passage had opened up into a wide circular room. Opposite them, a massive door was set in the curving wall, inlaid with elaborate curvilinear patterns. "This is it," Jones gasped, trying to force his breathing back to normal. They had sprinted nearly eight hundred meters into the hillside. He moved towards the portal.
Soell caught his arm. "Hold on!" he rasped. "We need to wait for the Mjolnir."
"There's no way he survived that," Jones responded. "He's dead."
"We can't go in there alone," Soell insisted, nervously playing his flashlight across the domed ceiling.
"Maybe you're right," Jones said quietly. He switched off his light. "Maybe we can't."
Soell felt a horrible compulsion to aim his own light at Jones. The beam caught on his companion's rigid face, then on the pistol in his hand. The gun flashed, shattering the silence and resounding across the walls. Soell felt the rounds punching into his flesh and exploding with each staccato gunshot. Shrapnel sliced through his innards and his body seemed to dissolve as hot fluid rushed downward, inside and out. Soell's flashlight busted apart as a round tore through his wrist and cleaved halfway up his forearm. Sparks spanged off the wall behind him. Successive muzzle flares lit Soell and Jones in static relief. Each consecutive flash brought Soell closer to the ground until the gunfire stopped and darkness resumed. Jones heard a weak thud and half a dozen casings skitter off towards the corners of the room. Cordite mingled with the scent of the dust his firing had kicked up, and also the scent of airborne blood of particles. Jones flicked his own flashlight back on. Blood had spattered across the dusty stone floor and ran in collected in the channels between the bricks, shining blackly in the glare. Soell's mangled body lay crumpled against the wall, deeply shaded and nearly unrecognizable.
Jones turned back towards the closed doors. There was no nothing to stop him from gaining ultimate control of the Halo. And from there, possibilities were unlimited. Without waiting another moment, Jones stepped towards the portal....
Well, there we have it. I might continue it if I get a positive respons. And if Matt and Jason don't teleport me out into hard vacuum or just come to my house and kick my ass :-).