Decisions, Chapter 2
Posted By: Warbow<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 21 November 2002, 2:35 pm
Walsh blinked, trying to clear the haze from his eyes. His chest and lungsfelt heavy like the feeling you get after you spend the entire day swimming.His arms and legs seemed disconnected.
The technician in a yellow suit beside him ordered, "Sit up."
Walsh commanded the muscles of his arms and upper torso to push him off thebed. He half expected nothing to happen. He felt the weight shift to hislegs and feet. The technician reached out and steadied him as he steppeddown onto the coolness of the metal floor.
"You need to cough to clear your lungs. You better swallow it or spit itin the bucket! Because, I ain't cleaning up another damn mess!" Whinedthe technician.
Inhaling deeply was difficult. Walsh's body tensed with spasms as he coughed.Warm liquid filled his mouth. He resisted the urge to spit. He swallowedand the taste of the cyro inhalant washed over his senses. "Foul stuff."muttered Walsh. Just then, another bout of coughing hit him. This time hespit into the bucket.
"Are you going be ok?" asked the technician. "I still got more to get outof the freezer."
Walsh nodded. He turned to find his uniform that he had removed theday before. Had it been yesterday? He hated cyro sleep. "You never know howlong you were frozen." He looked up at the clock and thought to himself."They should include the date on all ship clocks." He realized that shipboardAI was the probably the only one who actually knew the correct date.
He grabbed his oil soaked clothes, slipped on his pants and boots. Walshdecided not to wear the shirt and started back to his bunk to get a freshuniform. He entered the elevator with twenty or more soldiers and rode itdown one floor. When the elevator opened he walked down the corridor pastseveral bunkrooms and entered his own.
Walsh opened his locker. His arm shot up quickly and caught the assault riflebefore it smacked him in the face. He spun around looking to see who wasin the room. He greatest fear now was that Sergeant Freeman would find outthat he had stowed his equipment in the lockers. He quickly opened the lockernext to him and proceeded to make a neat pile of the explosives and his ARon the floor. He mentally kicked himself for being so stupid. He had intendedto return the C-12 and grenades to the armory. However, after seeing everyonestoring their weapons in their lockers, he had stuffed the explosives intoan empty locker next to his own. Walsh realized how inanely dense this was,the C-12 could have exploded and done severe damage to the Pillar of Autumn.
Walsh grabbed the clean uniform and whipped on the shirt, kicked off hisboots, and slid off his pants. He was tucking in his shirt as Sergeant Freemanentered the bunkhouse.
"Attention all combat personnel. Please report to your action stations."Boomed Cortana over the loudspeaker.
"Hustle up marines!" commanded Freeman. Walsh and four other men rapidlyformed up in front of Sergeant Freeman. "Where are the rest of the team?"questioned Freeman.
Before anyone could reply, another message came over the loudspeaker. "FifthPlatoon, secure airlocks on Deck 11. Fourteenth Platoon, rendezvous with22nd Tactical at Bulkhead Charlie 14."
"Ok, combat team Kilo, let's look sharp. I want everyone combat ready. Pronto!Barked Sergeant Freeman.
The loudspeaker boomed again. "This is not a drill. I repeat, this is nota drill."
"Walsh same layout as before." Ordered Freeman.
Walsh snapped a quick salute. "Sir, yes, Sir." He hurried back to his pileof equipment and knelt down beside it. He strapped the transmitter to hisarm. Flipped up the cover plate and checked the batteries, green, it wasa go. He tested the four receivers and placed them into the pouch on hiship.
Cortana voice echoed through the Pillar of Autumn. "Attention all personnel.We are re-engaging the enemy. External and internal contacts imminent."
Walsh placed the backpacks of C-12 over each shoulder grabbed the AR andthe strap of the satchel containing the grenades. He stood and leaned therifle against his leg. He lifted the heavy satchel and placed the strap overhis left shoulder. He shifted his upper body and hips to make sure that everythingwas seated properly. He retrieved the rifle and slid the bolt repeatedly,checking the action of his weapon. He turned and started back toward thefront of the room. As he approached Sergeant Freeman, he slapped a full ammunitionclip into his MA5B.
"Way to move fast, Walsh." Grinned Freeman. Walsh avoided eye contact withthe Sergeant and fell into formation with the other marines.
"Cortana is expecting the enemy to try and board OUR ship. Let's make surewe are there to give them the greeting that they deserve!"
"Sir, yes, Sir!" they all responded in unison, followed by the click-clickof the bolts on their AR's. They sounded like a well-oiled machine, evenif they were missing a few gears or men.
"Walsh, I want you to hang back. You cover the rear." Ordered Freeman. "Idon't want those explosive getting hit, they could rip a hole clean throughthe Autumn."
Combat Team Kilo surged out of the bunk area and clattered down the corridor.Their boots clacking on the metal decking as they ran down the hallway. TheAutumn trembled under them, causing them to slow their pace. The halls becameclogged with marines and Ops personnel moving in different directions.
"Fire teams: sensors show inbound Covenant boarding craft. Stand by to repelboarders." Reverberated the loudspeaker.
"Ok, marines! Listen up...this is our section. Rodgers, Franklin, you keepthe point. You're with me Page." Barked Freeman as he pointed the directionshe wanted his team to go. "Slade and Walsh you've got the rear. I want thiscorridor locked down. If any uglies show their face...take it off!"
The team moved into their positions and didn't have to wait long. Walsh hearda huge explosion behind him, quickly followed by the screams of Franklinand Rodgers. The screams were still echoing down the hall when he caughtmovement out of the corner of his eye. Walsh turned to look at Slade whomoved from his half kneeling position to standing. The sounds of plasma andAR fire ripped down the corridors. Walsh watched as Slade ran around thecorner. He almost instantly stumbled back into view. Slade's body fell andlanded on its back. He was emitting a strange pink glow. Suddenly the bodystarted jumping around all over the floor. Walsh realized that it was severallittle explosions moving the body. He had seen it before, some kind of explosiveneedles that the Covenant used.
The noise of the firefight continued, the voice over the loudspeaker wasmuffled under the commotion. "Ops personnel on decks nine through twelve,report to evac stations now."
Walsh resisted the urge to check around the corner. He heard another explosion,this one he recognized as that of a fragmentation grenade. The sound of thefirefight stop for a few seconds, he heard the sound of assault rifles beingreloaded. Suddenly, a roar like a lion echoed from down the hall. "Fall back!"screamed Sergeant Freeman. AR's blasted. Walsh heard a blood curly screamthat seemed completely alien.
The corridor fell silent again. The silence was quickly broken by SergeantFreeman "Walsh, I need you up here now! Keep your damn head down!"
Walsh rushed to the corner and peered around. Freeman was crouched behinda pile of debris on the right side of the passage. Walsh hunkered down andtook a position opposite the Sergeant. The corpse of Page lay in the middleof the walkway. The body of some huge monster was beside him. Walsh had neverseen anything like this before.
"They have some sorta energy shield like the Jackals. It covers the entirebody." stated Freeman as he gestured toward the creature. "We emptied anentire clip into it."
Walsh stared at the creature, the head of the beast stared back blankly athim. He reached his foot out and kicked the head so that it faced the otherdirection. He had fought Grunts and Jackals before but he had never seenanything like this before.
Freeman continued "This must be the Elites that we have heard about."
Walsh peeked over his make shift barrier. Three Grunts and an Elite tookup an offensive stance at the end of hall. He opened the satchel. Freemannodded and opened his hands in a catching motion. Walsh tossed the grenadeover.
Freeman chucked the frag in an arch over his shoulder. The grenade flew throughthe air, hit the decking and took two large bounces. The grunts and the elitedove out of the way. Two of the grunts didn't jump far enough and were blowninto the air from the blast.
"Concentrated fire on the Elite!" barked Freeman.
Walsh hesitated, thinking to himself. "If the Elites are as tough as theSarge says then it might make more sense to take out the remaining gruntfirst." Walsh pushed this thought out of his head and nodded approval toFreeman.
Another voice rang out over the loudspeaker. "All hands. This is the Captain.Prepare to abandon ship. Combat teams, repel boarders until Ops personnelare away. Good luck. Keyes out."
Freeman nodded to Walsh. They both jumped up from behind their barriers andpulled the triggers on their MA5B assault rifles at the same time. The Elite'sbody shimmered with blue and white aura. It held its ground and began firingback at Walsh. The Elite was aiming too low and the plasma bolts were hittingthe blockade in front of Walsh. The Elite jumped to the side as it took cover.Walsh followed with his AR until the Elite was completely out of sight.
Walsh saw flashes of green light cross his firing line. He heard the screamsof Sergeant Freeman as he pulled his rifle in line with the Grunt's chest.He squeezed the trigger and saw the Grunt stumble backwards. He brought theweapon up the grunt's body and concentrated his bullets on the face of thegrunt. The corpse sunk to its knees and fell forward on its stomach. Walshrealized that his AR was empty and was making a clicking sound every timehe pulled the trigger.
Walsh spun and slid down into a sitting position. He didn't want to lookover at the Sarge. He decided not to. He still had the Elite to deal with,he remove the empty clip from his weapon and slapped a new one in its place.He looked down at the satchel that was setting beside him. While pullinga grenade from the bag, he moved into a crouching position behind the barrier.He had to get the angle just right.
Walsh's arm moved and the grenade left his hand just as the clatter of MA5B'sfilled the air. The noise of firing covered the thud that the grenade madeas it bounced off the wall. It also covered the two tiny tink tink soundsas the grenade landed behind the distracted Elite. The boom of the grenadecovered all other sounds except the death scream of the Elite. Walsh sawthe Elite fly through the air and land on the deck motionless.
"Report, who's there?" ordered a voice with authority.
Walsh gathered his gear and rounding the corner. "Private Stanley Walsh."He responded with a salute. He saw two techs, four marines and the Sergeant.
"Anymore of your team coming?" inquired the Sergeant.
"No, Sir. I am the only one left." Replied Walsh.
"Sorry to hear that, son. I am Sergeant Johnson. Looks like you're with us."
The voice of Keyes echoed over the loudspeaker. "Combat teams Alpha throughNovember, pull out to nearest evac station."
Sergeant Johnson looked into the lifepod. "We need a pilot for this bird.Anyone qualified?"
The technician in a blue uniform stepped forward. "Yes, Sir. I've had theappropriate training."
"Well, let's get some wings flapping then." Replied Johnson as he rolledhis eyes.
Walsh let the others enter the lifepod. The marine standing behind him motionedhim to enter first. Walsh removed the satchel and backpacks before enteringthe craft. He placed them under the seat and buckled the safety straps.
Johnson barked "Khoral get your skinny ass in here now!"
The marine standing outside rushed to enter the lifepod, tripped slightlyon threshold and landed very ungraciously in the seat next to Walsh. Khoralfumbled with his safety harness for a second or two then finally got it latched.The doors to the pod closed.
The pilot announced "Launching in three..." Suddenly the doors opposite theirlifepod exploded into the hallway. "Two..." Walsh saw an Elite jump throughthe wrecked doors. "One..." The Elite looked left then right and then spottedthe escape pod. It hunched it shoulders and let out a silent roar. "Away!"
Walsh's body was jerked as the pod sped away from the Pillar of Autumn.