The Death of Ensign Lovell
Posted By: Walker<email@example.com>
Date: 1 November 2003, 4:54 PM
All dialogue, save a few exceptions, and descriptions of events courtesy of William C. Dietz, author, "The Flood".
I pushed hard, making no complaints as the rocky ground took its tool on my legs and ankles and on my feet. I didn't complain, but I kept pushing, because I knew that was the only way I was going to make it off of this hellhole alive, and live to be eighty and die in bed some day with no pants on, no boots on. The thought was pleasing, and so I pushed harder.
"Can't we rest for a bit?" Dowski whined.
There, that bitch was complaining again. She kept whining, and I didn't want to hear it. None of us did, not Abiad, not Hikowa, not Singh, and not Wang, though the Skipper was slightly more patient with her. He shouldn't have been; she knew what the job was going to be like when she signed up. She knew there was that chance she wouldn't spend six years on a ship, go home without having done much more than tap a few computer keys, and get the chance to say she was a veteran. She knew she would very likely have to fight, and here she is, telling us that it's not fair. God, she should never have been given a commission.
"Look, there's some water up ahead," said Wang, in an attempt to quiet her.
I looked. And there was. Singh began gathering the party's canteens, and Dowski handed hers over haughtily, as if offended to have received some of the help she had been begging and complaining for all through the past hour. The Navy needed good officers. The Navy didn't need Dowski.
"Thanks." I nodded to Singh.
Dowski set herself down on a boulder and was quiet for once. As I stood by Singh, waiting for my canteen, I thought how nice quiet sounded, especially when I had just had an earful of Dowski for the past hour. It sounded nice, I decided. But nothing lasts forever, and she started up again.
Wang washed his face downstream of Singh so none of us would have to drink the sweat that dripped off his face, but it wouldn't matter to most. We were a team, and we shared each other's company, feelings, ideas, sweat and blood. And Dowski was too good, too godlike to join in with us in an effort to win the war. She was taking up too much of our time, and too much of my time thinking about her.
I'd much rather think about someone like Hikowa. She was plenty pretty, and didn't bitch every three seconds about what a drag it was to get into the war. Compared to Dowski, she was the best woman in the world. There it was again. Dowski's name. Somebody ought to shut the bitch up.
"They know where we are," she told us, like a hurt child.
Even the Skipper's patience was wearing thin. "They know where we are, sir."
"Okay, they know where we are, sir. So why continue to run? They'll catch us in the end." Now Dowski looked each of us in the eye, expected support for her cause. Didn't she understand she was asking mutiny of us? Even if I had had no other connections to the group or the Skipper, or even the Navy, just being here with her would have pissed me off. And it did that plenty.
"Maybe, and maybe not. I've been in contact with both Cortana and Wellsley. They're both busy at the moment," the Skipper said, going slow as if explaining to a incompliant child, "but they'll send help as soon as they can. In the mean time, we tie up as many of their resources as possible, avoid capture, and kill some of the bastards if we can."
Dowski still wasn't satisfied. "For what? So you can make Admiral? I submit that we've done all we could reasonably be expected to do, that the longer we delay the harsher the Covenant will be." She spoke as if patronizing, while she was the child. "It makes sense to surrender now."
Now Hikowa walked forward, and seemed as if she was about to slap the bitch. I almost cheered her. "And you are an idiot. First of all, the Captain rates the honorific 'sir'. You will render that honorific or I will plant my foot in your ass.
"Secondly, use your brain, assuming that you have one. The Covenant doesn't take prisoners, everyone knows that, so surrender equals death."
Gathering up her courage, Dowski spat, "Oh, yeah? Well, why haven't they already killed us then? They could strafe us with cannons, fire rockets into the rocks, or drop bombs on our position, but they haven't. Explain that."
Sing palmed his sidearm, and shoved it into Dowski's ear. "Explain this. I'm starting to think that you look a lot like a Grunt. Lovell... check her face. I'll bet it peels right off," he said, looking to me. I was almost tempted to do it, but instead I let my hand drift down to my right hip, where my own sidearm was holstered. Just incase Dowski got any stupid ideas.
The Skipper stared at her for a long moment, then spoke. "Okay, you win. I should charge you with cowardice, insubordination and dereliction of duty, but I'm a little pressed for time. So I hereby give you permission to surrender."
I exchanged glances with Abiad and Hikowa, who raised her left eyebrow. The Skipper continued:
"Hikowa, relieve her of her weapon, ammo, and pack. Singh, truss her up. Nothing too tight... just enough so she can't follow us."
Hikowa reached over and pulled the latch on Dowski's gunbelt. It came off and Hikowa handed it to the Captain, who had given his own pistol away earlier to someone who would most likely make better use of it than anyone else could.
"You're going to leave me? All by myself? With no supplies?" Dowski looked shocked.
"No, you wanted to surrender, remember? The Covenant will keep you company, and as for supplies, well, I have no idea what sort of rations they eat, but it should be interesting if they allow you a last meal. Bon appétit," the Skipper said with a slight smirk.
"But—but—" Dowski began, but was silenced by Singh, who proceeded to gag her with a field dressing and tape, and rendered her immobile when he tied her wrists and ankles together.
"That should keep her out of trouble for awhile."
Some of the Marines we had been traveling with returned from their positions as scouts, brushed past Dowski and their leader, Corporal Wilkins, nodded to the Skipper. "A Covenant dropship landed a squad of Elites about one klick to the south, sir. It's time to move."
"Thank you, Corporal," the Skipper answered him. "The command team is ready. Please lead the way."
Three hours later Dowski was out of sight and mind as we jogged toward the nearest Marine outpost. I could feel the sweat dripping from my hair and running down my back in a way it hadn't since OCS, where we learned the skills most Naval personnel hoped they would never need. We learned how to shoot a rifle, coordinate a ground strike, evade capture, and travel in all sorts of climates and conditions. Now I was putting every method of self- and team-preservation I had learned at OCS to use.
The Skipper called for us to stop as he bent down and took a breather. I straightened up and dropped my pack off my shoulders, giving them a short rest. Abiad leaned over and vomited, but didn't say a word. Hikowa and Singh examined the straight up-and-down cliff that barred our way, while Wang wiped his face clean with his shirt collar.
I heard the hum of engines and saw a Covenant dropship fly overhead, turn ninety degrees and begin its descent, the prongs of its U-shape facing us. I unhooked the leather strap holding my M6D in place and would have drawn it save for the voice that just then resounded through the canyon:
"Captain Keyes? This is Ellen Dowski. This is a box canyon. There's no place for you to run. You might as well pack it in."
The left hatch popped open and Dowski lowered herself down to the ground, folded her arms and smirked at us. "You see? It's just like I told you it would be."
Six Elites followed her out, trailed by two Grunts, who had fuel rod guns. "You will drop your weapons. Now," and Elite said, his gravelly speech barely understandable.
I looked to Keyes, as did the others. The Skipper made no comment, merely shrugged, and laid his sidearm on the ground at his feet. Abiad and Wang did likewise, and Hikowa ejected the magazine from hers, put them on the ground and kicked them toward the Covenant capture party without a word. Singh simply unholstered his and dropped it. Reluctantly, I laid mine, with the safety off, on the boulder beside me, where I could reach it quickly if needed. The Covenant seemed not to notice that the weapon was within easy reach, but simply scanned each pair of eyes. The head Elite asked, "Which?"
Dowski flung her arm out and directed her finger toward the Skipper. "That one!" she shouted gleefully.
Hikowa lunged at her, ready to strike. "You little bitch! Ill—"
She was cut off suddenly as the head Elites raised his plasma pistol and fired a plasma bolt at her, which struck her square in the chest and burned a hole through her body. She dropped, and before the rest of us could do anything the Skipper tried to finish the attack she had started, finish her lunge, except his was directed at the head Elite.
He almost took the Elite down, but the battle-wise creature sidestepped and delivered a blow to his temple that took him down and laid him out on the deck.
Then it was slaughter as the Elites opened fire, shooting first the Marines and then us. Wang turned and bolted, trying to make for the cover of the boulder-studded hill behind us, and his arms flung outward as a plasma bolt severed his spinal cord.
I snatched up my pistol, got a good grip on it, and began to raise it just as four plasma guns turned to face me. I could tell I wouldn't be fast enough. I could tell that just as I began my trigger squeeze I would be cut into pieces by plasma, but I kept raising my pistol. Right when it was centered on the Elites' chest I began to pull the trigger—
Keyes, surrounded by Covenant warriors, lay chained in the dropship. He jolted in his seat as, with a rumble, the dropship began to rise, and then lay his head back when the smoothness of airborne travel took hold.
He began to prepare himself mentally for the interrogation process which he was sure he would be subjected to. Torture was physical. Beatings were physical. Imprisonment was physical. And the physical was controlled by the mind.
He had to find something to hang onto, something to pull him through until he was rescued. He was sure there would be every possible attempt made to rescue him; he was their main ticket off of this place.
He remembered everything he believed in, everyone he loved and knew, everything he fought for, and then he remembered back to the scene when he was carried into the dropship. He had seen all the bodies there, behind him, the bodies of the men and women who had died with him, the bodies of his crew. He remembered, especially, the terrible look on Hikowa's empty eyes, and the fact that, in Ensign Lovell's hand, was his sidearm. The luck bastard had managed to get a grab on his gun.
And that, that simple sight, that simple yet so complicated last monument to a great crew, that was what he knew would let him live. More than Country, Cause, or even the fate of humanity. It was the deaths of his crew that would keep him alive. Slowly, surely, Captain Keyes burned the image of each body into his mind. Hikowa. Singh. Abiad. Wang. Even Dowski. And, finally, he thought of Ensign Lovell, who died with a gun in his hands. Because of that, he would survive.
And Ensign Lovell would have his revenge.