Posted By: Zeta<JangoMaster126@aol.com>
Date: 28 September 2004, 10:50 PM
The dream was always the same, a city in ruins. Bodies strewn about the rubble covered streets, flames and smoke rising from shattered buildings. A feeling of approaching doom, of death inbound. The blurry images of the burned and twisted bodies, the smoke filled sky above. Kent let out a short scream as he rolled off of his cot onto the concrete floor. He lay there for a moment, breathing hard, it was always the same. Ever since Reach had fallen he'd been assaulted by this dream, it invaded his mind every night, showing him the exact same things. He ran his hand over his face as he got to his feet, stopping to rub his eyes with his thumb and finger.
A quick glance around the room revealed that he was alone, the room was small, it's dull grey walls were covered with pictures and posters. A windowless door led to a hall, which led outside; a small fridge sat next to the cot. Five-star stuff. Kent thought. The door suddenly flew open with a crash, Kent turned to see what had happened. A dark figure stood in the doorway, Kent squinted, trying see it's features. It was an ODST, his chest was covered in ammo pouches and gear pockets. A blue visor hid the mans face, Kent could see the room reflected in it. The pair stood for a moment, silently staring at each other, what did the ODST want? Kent was about to say something when the soldier raised his weapon...And fired. But there was no sound, no crack of gunfire, just a silent spray of blood as the bullets tore through him. Kent took a single step back as his knees weakened, he could see his own reflection in the mans visor. The ODST stood silently, SMG still raised, thin tendrils of smoke wafting from its barrel. Kent took one last look at him before he fell.
He jerked awake right before he hit the floor. "What the hell?" He asked aloud, another dream. A dream inside a dream? This was something new, he lifted his head off of his pillow and looked around. He was in a room identical to the one in the dream, he frowned. The dreams no longer made any sense, not that they had made much sense in the first place. He sat up, throwing the cots' thin blanket off of him, the clock on top of the fridge read 8:00AM. Kent swung his feet off the cot and sat on it's edge, the door suddenly opened. He stiffened as someone stepped into the room. But it was only Tom, Kent's friend and fellow Marine, "They've called a briefing, come on." Tom said. "They" was most likely the General and his staff, Kent had a guess as to what the briefing was about. The Covenant had been pushing the Humans back toward Earth for a while, the destruction of Reach was a terrible blow. The next planet in their path was Earth, the timing seemed right...They had probably arrived.
They were in a Pelican thirty minutes later, inbound to the LZ. Eleven other Marines sat in the compartment, buckled into the seats along either side of it. The Sergeant examined a map, making small notes on it with a pencil. Kent checked his rifle over, then his grenades, then all the buckles and straps of his armor. No one spoke, the roar of the drop ships engines was too loud. The noise rumbled and pulsed through the cabin, Kent found it almost soothing. He rested his head on the metal plates behind him, feeling the vibration of the engines. The pilots voice suddenly cut through the engine noise, "Covenant AA fire, brace for maneuvers!" Kent tightened the straps holding him into the seat. An incredible hiss overpowered the engine noise, the heat in the cabin spiked. The pilot threw the craft into a hard left bank, and then pulled it back to the right, going into a shallow dive. Kent unbuckled himself and pulled himself to the cockpit, straining against the G forces. The pilot was wrestling with the controls, bursts of blue plasma filled the air around the Pelican. "Get us out of here!" Kent yelled, "I'm trying!" The pilot responded.
The Pelican lurched, the heat spiked again, patches of the troop compartments walls started to glow orange. A gout of blue flame suddenly exploded into the interior, killing two Marines. The roar of rushing air filled the craft, it shuddered as more plasma impacted. There was a massive explosion. The Pelican banked hard to the left, the pilot struggling to keep it straight. "We've lost an engine!" He screamed. More plasma burned into the sides and bottom of the Pelican, causing molten metal to spray through the troop bay. Flames billowed in through the many holes, the screams of men being burned pierced the noise. They were losing altitude fast, another explosion rocked the craft. "The controls are dead!" The pilot said, panic seeping into his voice. The ground rushed up to meet them as the Pelicans dive steepened, Kent braced himself.
He snapped awake right before they hit the ground. He was still on the Pelican, everything appeared normal. He had fallen asleep on the way to the LZ, a time when most men were too nervous to sit still. Kent cursed, that dream had been so real, he swore he had felt the heat from the plasma and flames. "You okay?" Tom asked, "Yeah." Kent answered, "How long until we land?" "You were asleep for a while...We land in an hour."
It was nearing noon as Kent advanced down a narrow alley, sweeping it with his rifle. The rest of his squad followed behind, watching above and behind. "So, where are the Covenant?" Tom asked, Kent shrugged, "Maybe they pulled out?" Tom had a point, it was far too quiet for a city supposedly under Covenant control. Kent stopped to peek around a corner, then stepped around it and continued on. This alley was directly in line with the sun, its light poured into it. Kent blinked as he noticed smoke up ahead, he stopped as he reached the end of the alley...and his jaw dropped. The city stretched out before them, clouds of black smoke drifted upwards, several large fires raged. Rubble filled the cratered streets, no building was unscathed. But there was still no Covenant. "Otto, get up here." Kent ordered, Otto was the squads' sniper. His eyes widened as he appeared next to Kent, "Damn..." He grumbled and stared through his rifles scope. "I'm not seeing anything, no hostiles." He reported, Kent frowned. There wasn't much else for them to do now except carry out their orders.
The squad moved down into the city, slowly, carefully. Harth walked point, glancing in every direction, scanning to dark windows of the buildings. The crunching of the squads boot on the rubble coated street was the only sound to be heard. "Right turn, head east." Kent whispered, Harth nodded. He turned and moved into a gap between two burned buildings, the rest of the squad trailing close behind. Kent stumbled as a chunk of concrete shifted under his boot, he put his arm out, the wall saving him from a fall. The squad reached the end of the alley, Harth went into the open space first. He stood for a few minutes, looking all around. Kent watched from the alley, just waiting for the man to get cut down by a hail of plasma.
But it didn't happen, he motioned the squad into the clearing. A large pile of rubble was on their left, almost two stories tall. What used to be a two story building was on their right, it's top story was destroyed. The ground was clear of debris in this area, Kent walked over to the wall of the building. There were burns on it, plasma most likely, but there were also bullet holes. Another mystery, where were the soldiers stationed here? There had obviously been a fight, but there were no bodies, Covenant or Human. Kent turned to the squad, he wasn't sure what to do next. The eyes of the group were on him, "What are your orders, sir?" Harth asked. "I don't' know, Harth. This situation is...Fubar." Kent answered, "Fubar." The others echoed. Kent looked at his watch; it was 12:24PM. He looked back to the squad, Harth, Bresten(Tom), Tyner, Welsh, Otto. All good men, Kent had known them for years.
An alien growl suddenly filled the space, echoing off the nearby walls. "Up there!" Tyner yelled, snapping his rifle up and taking aim at a point somewhere above Kent. The others did the same and they opened fire, the rattle of their weapons filling the space. Kent was showered with bits of concrete as some of their rounds hit the wall above him. He ran to the right, getting away from their line of fire. He turned as he raised his rifle. A black armored Elite leapt from the window he had been standing under, it's shields flaring bright silver as bullets glanced off. A hissing energy blade came to life in its right hand as it landed heavily in front of the squad. Kent held his fire as the alien lunged at Welsh, he didn't want to hit him. Welsh screamed as the alien cut his rifle in half with a downwards vertical slice, taking his left forearm with it. The rest of the group scattered, Kent opened fire as Welsh fell. His rounds bounced off the Elites shields, ricocheting in all directions.
Tyner caught one of the wild rounds in his neck, blood spraying over the wall behind him. He fell in a heap, clutching at his throat; his rifle firing a burst as it clattered to the ground. Kent stopped firing, stunned by what had just happened. The Elite roared as one of Otto's sniper rounds deflected off of its shields, flying up into the sky. The alien grabbed the long barrel of Otto's rifle and pulled. Otto stumbled foreword, instinctively trying to keep the rifle in his grasp. He stumbled foreword just enough to get the Elite's blade in his gut. Otto's body fell towards the Elite, it brutally shoved it aside. "Tom, run!" Harth yelled, firing at the alien, it turned to face him. Tom didn't listen, he opened fire as well as the Elite rushed foreword.
Another scream sounded as the Elite sliced Harth in half. Kent started to back away from the scene, up the pile of rubble, his jaw hung open, his eyes were wide. Tom froze as the alien turned towards him. The Elite charged, lowering its shoulder. Tom explosively exhaled as it slammed into him, pushing him backwards into the wall. There was a sickening crunch as Tom's rib cage was crushed between the wall and the Elite. Kent's blood turned to ice, he turned and ran, scrambling up the pile of rubble. He lost his footing as he reached the top and tumbled down the other side, seeming to hit every sharp object on the way down. He landed hard at the bottom, shrouded in a cloud of concrete dust. An alien laugh drifted over him, and then a scream as the Elite finished Welsh off. Kent quickly got to his feet and kept running. Distance, distance was life now.
The setting sun cast sharp-edged shadows across the urban landscape, creating deep shadows that covered Kent's' position. A large slab of concrete that had fallen against the wall of a building, Kent was wedged into the space between the slab and the wall. He crouched in the darkness with his rifle ready, waiting for the Elite to come for him. His face was grim as he stared through his rifles sights, black pillars of smoke swirled into the sky to be carried away by the wind. But nothing else moved. Fine. I can wait. Kent thought, letting himself fall into a sitting position against the wall. He could wait, yes, but not forever, he had no food and little water. Eventually he'd be forced to do something, unless he wanted to face a slow and painful death. A large open square was before Kent, painted with the suns oranges and golds, it would be easy to spot anything moving across it.
And so he waited, for minutes, then hours. The suns light faded into twilight blues and purples, a cool breeze picked up. Kent still sat, staring into the dark, the screams of his comrades echoing through his mind. He hadn't done a thing to help them, in fact, he'd done more to help the Elite than anyone else. If only they had gone left, and not right. It was almost amusing, how such a seemingly insignificant decision could have such a huge effect. Five lives were gone now, five good men, all because Kent had decided to go right. He wondered what had made him choose that certain direction. No answer came to him, it hadn't exactly been a tactical decision, any direction would have been acceptable to carry out their orders. But no, he had to choose right. Perhaps it was destiny, or maybe fate, or even the will of God. Kent didn't know, or care, his friends were dead, and he was never going to see them again.
But had they truly died? What if it had been a dream? If it was, why wasn't he awake yet? Had he even really left his barracks, or was he still asleep on his cot? Kent sat for a moment, lost in thought. Maybe I should pinch myself? He thought, you weren't supposed to feel things like that in dreams. So he did, grabbing the skin of his left forearm with his right thumb and finger. He squeezed as hard as he could, and then stopped abruptly as he felt pain. He frowned, his arms falling to his sides, they really were dead, and he really was stranded in the middle of this city.
The night drew on, Kent began to grow tired, tired of waiting as well as tired physically. He nodded off to sleep, but quickly woke back up. "Alright, I'll come to you." He said, grabbing his rifle as he got to his feet. He looked the weapon over, then walked off into the darkness. With no nightvision gear he was at a serious disadvantage, but he doubted the Elite had such equipment either. He glanced left and right as he crossed the square, checking behind himself every few seconds. He slowed as he picked a path between two massive blocks of concrete, making sure to watch above him as well as the other directions.
He walked for what felt like hours, weaving through the crumbling buildings. He didn't dare go inside them, he wouldn't have a chance in such close quarters, better to keep a good amount of open space surrounding him. It was very quiet, anything moving would be easily heard, and anything could easily hear him stumbling around. There wasn't anything he could do about it, it was impossible to be quiet when you couldn't see what you were stepping on. A dim light began to appear in the east, the sun was starting to rise. Kent stopped as he came to a wide street, he stood looked up and down the street, it looked clear. He walked out into the center of it, taking a good look around, examining the buildings lining it. The sun was beginning to touch their tops, illuminating their soot-streaked walls. Kent kept moving, walking to the other side of the street. Something moved behind him as he reached the other side, he quickly ducked into a doorway, his heart suddenly pounding.
He peeked around the edge of the doorway, quickly drawing his head back in as something moved in the shadows on the opposite side of the street. Was it the Elite? He looked again. Yes, it was. The alien walked from the shadows into the center of the street, just as Kent had. It seemed to be looking at the ground, then it's head snapped up...And it looked straight at Kent. Kent quickly moved his head back, his breathe catching. He heard footsteps, it was coming this way, it must have seen him. He hadn't been quick enough. He felt fear gripping him, a strong fear, and he was confused by it. He had been so ready to face the Elite just a few minutes before, what had changed? There was no time to answer the question, he had to move, had to do something The room he had entered was small, there was one door leading deeper into the building, he jogged through it.
He turned sharply to the left, rushing down a narrow hallway, the walls were cracked and burned. A single door sat at the end of the hall, he burst through it and came to a sudden stop. He was in a stairwell, a quick glance upwards revealed that this building was tall, possibly ten stories. He wasn't exactly sure, he hadn't bothered to look at the building when he ran into it. There was only one way to go. Up. So he did, starting up the stairs, taking them three steps at a time. He climbed one flight, then another, he quickly lost count and just went as fast as he could. He ignored the doors he passed, he wanted to get as high up as possible. He reached the top, his lungs burning, and stumbled through the door. And onto the roof of the building, the sun blinding him for an instant. There was no time to catch his breathe, the Elite must have heard him scrambling up the stairs. There wasn't any cover on the roof. Maybe this had been a bad idea, he had nowhere to hide. Fine, then I'll fight him. Kent thought, walking to the far edge of the roof. He turned back to the doorway, taking one of the grenades from his belt.
Footsteps could be heard after a few minutes, signaling the aliens approach. It stepped slowly through the door, it's gaze immediately locking onto Kent. "That's right, come and get me." Kent growled, preparing to arm the grenade. A sizzling blade of energy activated with a flick of the aliens wrist, it started towards Kent. The fear overtook him again, he drowned it out, telling himself there was nowhere to run. He wondered if it would hurt, whatever the Elite did to him. If he would experience a moment of terror, or exhilaration. He armed the grenade. The Elite broke into a run, raising the blade above it's head. Kent held the live grenade for a moment, then threw it at the alien. It landed a yard in front of the alien, rolled to a stop, and detonated. The concrete shook under Kent's feet, the overpressure washed over him. The crack of the explosion slammed into his ears; a large cloud of black smoke formed. But something was wrong, the concrete shifted beneath Kent, large cracks raced through it. He was helpless as the roof collapsed; he fell backwards over the side of the building.
He experienced a moment of total disorientation, air rushing all around him, the world a blur. He had just seconds before he hit the ground, a few seconds to say goodbyes, or to contemplate his fate. But all he could think about was how much this was going to hurt. He tightly closed his eyes, waiting for the bone shattering impact. Nothing happened, the rushing of the air stopped. He was suddenly very aware of his arms and legs, as if they hadn't been there before.
He felt a hard surface pressing against his back; had he hit the ground? It didn't feel that way, in fact, he felt perfectly intact.
He opened his eyes.
He was still under the concrete slab, still in his hiding place, still alive. "Damnit." Kent spat, slowly getting to his feet. It had seemed so real... His ears still seemed to be ringing from the blast of the grenade. No more sleep. He told himself, staring out across the square. The sun was peeking over the horizon, sending golden bars of light through the gaps in the buildings. Massive clouds of smoke still rose into the sky. Kent spotted a Pelican far above, flying back towards the base he had come from. He noticed another...And another. He realized what it meant, the Marines were pulling out of the city, and leaving him behind.
There was no hope now, no hope of rescue, no hope of surviving. Kent grabbed his rifle, if he was going to die here, he wanted to take that alien son-of-a-bitch with him. He checked over his other gear. Three fragmentation grenades, an M6D, and several extra magazines for the rifle and M6D. A combat knife was strapped to his right shin. Kent hoped it didn't come to that, although it would be a small bit of justice to kill the Elite in that fashion. Just as it had killed his squad.
"Fucker... Come on, keep walking." Kent whispered as he stared through the scope of his rifle. He was standing behind a tall concrete wall, he had his rifle leveled through a hole that had been blown through it. A tall building was at his back; the wall ran for a few meters to the right and left. He had wandered to this point in search of the alien, but stopped here to rest and get his bearings. The Elite had shown up a few minutes later. Now it was walking across the large rubble-covered field on the other side of the wall.
Kent had an extremely large field of fire from this position, enough to cover the entire open space. The Elite strolled across the field, stopping to listen for Kent every few yards. The early morning sun was reflecting off the sharp points of it's black armor. Kent brought the cross-hairs of the rifle's scope over the aliens head, he relaxed, his breathing slowed. The inactive hilt of the plasma sword hung from the Elite's waist, the very weapon that had killed his squad. Kent wanted to get his hands on it, give the alien a taste of it's own medicine. But that was far too risky, he wasn't going to engage the Elite in a hand-to-hand fight.
Wait for him to stop. Kent told himself, preparing to open fire. The Elite was looking in his direction, Kent doubted it could see him. It stopped, peering into the shadows that bathed Kent's position. Kent fired. The round smacked into the Elite's shields, jerking it's head to the left. It roared, reaching for something on it's belt. Kent fired again; and again; and again; The rounds deflecting off the shield each time. He fired one more shot, the shields dropped. The Elite raised something and pointed it right at him, Kent ducked back behind the wall. Green bolts of plasma came hissing through the hole; Kent cringed, feeling the heat. He twisted and leveled his rifle through the hole again, snapping off a few quick shots without aiming. The plasma fire stopped, he heard fast-approaching footsteps. He poked his head out, taking a peek through the hole. He couldn't see the Elite. A shadow suddenly moved over him, he whirled around and looked up.
The Elite had jumped the wall. It landed with a crunch on the rubble, it's back to Kent. He froze, unable to bring his rifle up. The Elite turned and rushed him, he dove to the right and out of it's path. He cursed, so much for not getting into a hand-to-hand fight. It wasn't exactly a hand-to-hand fight yet, Kent could run...But he likely wouldn't get far. The Elite turned and charged him again; Kent switched to burst fire and pulled the trigger. The three round burst tore into the Elite's left shoulder, causing a thin purple mist to spray into the air. But it wasn't stopping, it simply charged faster. Fear filled Kent, he took a few steps back, shakily raising the rifle to fire again. Another three round burst stitched the wall next to the alien, sending tiny bits of concrete flying through the air. Kent started to backpedal, the rubble slipping out from underneath his feet. The Elite grabbed his rifle and twisted it out of his grasp.
It tossed it aside, then threw a vicious punch at Kents' head. Kent's vision blurred and pain exploded into his mind as the alien punched him. He stumbled back, almost tripping over some chunks of concrete. The Elite attacked again, burying it's fist in his stomach. Kent grunted and doubled over in pain. The Elite whipped him in the side of the head with it's plasma pistol, then brought it's armored knee up into his face. Kent's head snapped back and he fell, blood streaming from his broken nose. He felt extremely dizzy; the sky wheeled overhead. A single word jumped into his mind, breaking through all the pain. Knife.
Kent reached down to his shin with a trembling hand, grabbing the handle of the combat knife. He yanked it from it's sheath, pushing himself backwards and away from the Elite with his other hand. The Elite seemed to let him do this, not advancing towards him. He struggled to his feet, wiping away the blood from his nose with the back of his hand. Several of his teeth had been broken as well, his mouth was filled with blood. He spit it out onto the ground, glaring at the alien the whole time. His eyes blazed with pure fury...He was remembering his squad. Harth, Tom, Otto, Tyner, and Welsh. He could see their faces. "No more running away." He said to himself. He was either going to avenge their deaths...Or die trying.
Kent broke into a sprint, screaming in rage. The knife glittered in the sunlight, as did the blood that covered him. The Elite stood it's ground, not moving a muscle. Kent drew the knife back, preparing to plunge it into the aliens chest. He didn't slow down as he closed to within one yard of the alien. The Elite's arm suddenly snapped out, it backhanded him across the face. He felt his jaw break as the aliens hand slammed into it, he was knocked sideways into the wall. He fell face first to the ground and lay there, not moving. The damned alien was toying with him, having its fun before delivering the final blow. Kent was defeated, the pain was unbelievable. He pulled himself to his feet using the wall, the knife slipping from his grasp. The Elite was eyeing him, assessing the damage it had done. Kent spat more blood. He wasn't going to be able to avenge their deaths after all.
Kent staggered away from the alien, it followed him. He reached down and drew his M6D, stumbling to a halt. He turned and raised the pistol to his temple. If he couldn't kill the alien, then he would deny it the pleasure of killing him. The Elite stopped and grabbed the sword hilt from it's belt, seeing what was about the happen. Kent wondered if this was another dream, if he would wake up when he depressed the trigger. "I had better not wake up." He said to the alien, curling his finger around the trigger. The Elite activated the sword and stalked towards him, eager for the kill. Kent pulled the trigger.
But there was no sound, no crack of gunfire. The Elite froze mid-stride, as did everything else, the smoke, the wind, the fires, the clouds. Everything blurred, as if Kents' eyes were losing focus. There was a mighty roar and the world suddenly exploded outwards, shattering into a billion shining fragments. They swirled around Kent. He pulled the trigger again, everything instantly snapped back into place. But he wasn't where he had been before...He was standing back in the square.
"Goddamnit!" He screamed and fired again. Everything shattered.
He closed his eyes and pulled the trigger again; and again; and again; and again; and again. There was suddenly silence, his eyes snapped open. No...No, this isn't real. He thought, his eyes widening. He was standing in the hall at his barracks. Tom was standing in front of him, an extremely worried look on his face. "Kent...What's goin' on man? What's wrong?" He asked shakily, looking from the pistol to Kent. "Fuck you, you aren't real." Kent spat, "One giant dream...Not real...None of it...You're dead, just like the rest of them...Just a goddamned dream!" He yelled. Tom took a step towards Kent, his hand held out. "Give me the gun, man...I'll take you to the sick bay." He said.
Kent wasn't listening, he wanted out of this dream. Tom wasn't alive, Kent had watched him die. He was dead. Just like the rest of them. The overwhelming pain that had filled him a minute ago was all but gone. He could no longer taste blood in his mouth, or smell it in his nose.
"Give me the gun, Kent." Tom insisted, his eyes searching Kent's face for any sign of what was wrong. Kent stared at him for a moment...his face twisting into a scowl. He lowered the pistol, Tom exhaled. Kent suddenly brought the pistol up, levelling it at Tom. He fired. The pistols' report was deafening in the silence.
The round tore into Toms' chest, creating a fist-sized exit wound as it exited his back. His eyes glazed over, his knees shook. Kent raised the pistol back to his temple, "Not...Real." He said as Tom collapsed to the floor with a thud. The shell casing clinked as it hit the floor an instant later. A pool of dark blood began to form, it ran across the floor, touching Kent's boots. Harth suddenly burst through the door they had been standing next to.
"What the hell..." He said, and suddenly stopped, seeing the blood, and Tom. His expression melted from confusion into horror. "Oh my God..." He said, and backed back into his room. Kent exhaled deeply, his finger tightening on the trigger. "Just a dream..." He said...And pulled it.
The round exploded through Kents head, spraying the adjacent wall with blood, brains, and bits of bone.
He fell in a heap; The pistol clattering to the ground next to him.
He wouldn't be waking up.
Big thanks to CoLd for coming up with the title to this one.