2304 Hours / Day 01 of Routine Patrol / Geo-sync orbit Atlántico III, Atlantic system / UNSCS Fable’s Fate
The few survivors slumped down in the lift as it slowly moved from the command level to the bottom decks. Arkanos pressed himself into a corner, carbine lying next to him and scanned the assembled crew.
Martin Jettin attended to Tyler Hatfield, checking his pulse and re-bandaging his gut wound. Fenix watched intently as he worked, wondering whether Tyler would pull through, he didn’t think he could bear to watch his good friend slowly die, slowly drifting into death’s cold embrace.
Jettin turned from Tyler and spoke to Arkanos, “He’s lost a bit of blood and is still in shock, but I think he’ll pull though. We need to get him to a doctor soon though or else his wound is going to be untreatable.” Fenix nodded slowly, trying to figure out a way to survive this and get rid of the Covenant. He glanced over the rest of his bridge crew, noticing how much they all seemed to have turned into soldiers in a very short time.
Melissa Nameck cleared her throat, she was so much like her father and mother in the way she took action and made other react to her, not vice versa. “Now, where exactly are we going?”
No-one replied and the hiss of the lift slowly descending filled the atmosphere. Finally Arkanos spoke, “I think that we need to go down to the Shiva warheads and set one off. It’ll kill the Covenant ship and any Covenant around.” He turned to the lieutenant colonel as he spoke into his headset, trying to link up with any UNSC marines he could, “Fox One. Romeo. Repeat.”
Nothing came back over the headset and the look on his face told everyone all they needed to know. This was a man who had just lost everything and everyone he cared about. His marine brothers were some grisly Covenant meal now and he had nothing to lose.
Tyler groaned softly from the corner as he regained consciousness, gripping his stomach. Fenix turned to him for a second before speaking again, “I’m sorry Tommy,” was all he could think to say to the emotionally ruined troopers who now sat in the corner, burning a hole in the opposite wall with his gaze. Arkanos thought he looked catatonic, but then he noticed a deep, burning fire in his eyes and he realised this was a man that would fight to the last round in the chamber, and then he would pick up some rocks and throw them until he was cut down.
Fenix absently strapped on one of the spare headsets Collins had and handed the other one back. Tommy waved it away silently, so Fenix handed it to his XO, Jettin, who was back attending to Hatfield as he regained consciousness.
The lift shook and bumped as it hit the bottom deck and the wild-eyed humans stood up, guns at the ready. Fenix and Martin moved to the doors again and heaved them open, grunting with the effort. Tommy Collins rolled around the partially open sliding doors and panned his gun and flashlight across the corridor, nothing.
The rest of the crew cautiously came out, guns at the ready and scanned the corridor. Arkanos noticed that this particular stretch was clean and clear, completely devoid of battle damage, blood or bodies. This didn’t do much to settle Fenix’s nerves, but Collins waved the group forward and they leap-frogged up the hall as a unit, covering each other almost like a real squad of marines, almost.
The first inkling that Fenix had that something was greatly wrong was when he came across a battle damaged riot wall with thousands of spare casings and plasma scoring all around it, but no bodies. Stevens came around the corner last and stopped, “Jesus,” he whispered, “what happened here?” His question was answered when Tommy Collins came back from around the next bend, his face ashen and devoid of colour, “I don’t think you want to see.”
Arkanos wheeled around and followed Collins back around the corner and stepped into their own little version of hell. The sickly smell of blood and burnt flesh clogged Arkanos’ nostrils and sent his gagging reflex into overdrive and he doubled over, fighting the urge to vomit as his bile rose. When he finally got his reflexes under control again he looked up and fully took in the padre of horrors that dominated the intersection before him. His barrel mounted flashlight played over the horror before him, adding to the scary and disgusting atmosphere. Probably a dozen UNSC marine lay before him, but he couldn’t be sure because of all the body parts lying around. Marines were missing legs and arms, and a few had ripped open chests which were dripping blood onto the already slick decking. Plasma wounds on many of them served to show that they had gone down fighting, as did the thousands of empties littering the floor around them. Their faces were distorted by some unimaginable pain, and Fenix could only begin to imagine their final moments, surrounded by Covenant and cut off, running out of ammunition, and finally losing out and being ripped apart by ravenous jackals and grunts.
The rest of the bridge crew came around the corner, and immediately wished they hadn’t. Melissa turned around they threw up, painting the wall a technicolour as she hurled. Jettin had a slightly stronger stomach and quickly averted his eyes, staring determinedly at the wall and trying not to think of the horror that lay behind him. He didn’t last long and soon he too was doubled over, a pile of vomit lying at his feet. Tyler, thankfully, passed out as the smell hit him and he avoided joining Melissa and Martin in painting the Fable’s Fate technicolour. Stevens was also made of stronger stuff and he managed to avoid hurling, but only barely.
The crew moved quickly past the bloody battle scene, avoiding looking or thinking about it was much as possible. Collins moved up cautiously, taking point and sweeping the corridor with his flashlight. It came as a surprise to him when he panned across a lone grunt with his back to him. He stopped, did a small double take and then spun back, smacking the grunt with his customised short bayonet. The diminutive grunt gurgling quietly as he fell to the deck with a dull thud that sounded like a gun going off to the secretive escapees; their senses working overtime. Collins hoped he had got the grunt quickly enough, but as if to prove him wrong a second grunt appeared out of a side passage and stared at the humans.
Tommy was too far away to stab him quietly with his bayonet and he squeezed down on his trigger just as the grunt let out a yell. A trio of bullets punctured its chest, exploding out the other side and, as if everything was conspiring against the escape of the humans, the methane rig burst into flames, casting flickering shadows as it burned. “****!” Tommy yelled as another pair of grunts appeared and he fired again, dropping them in quick time, “We’ve got company! Let’s go!”
The crew burst into a run, taking corners left and right as grunts chased them through the darkened corridors, firing wildly at their fleeing backs. Collins ran, gun up, not really noticing where he was going, just popping any grunts that appeared before him, trusting the CO and XO to deal with anything from the sides.
Tommy took a left turn and stopped dead, his heart pounding, looking at a dead end room. The rest of the crew piled into the room and stopped, milling around, looking for a way out. The sizzling of plasma served to disperse the crew as they dived for what little cover there was, all except the lieutenant colonel who stood tall and fired, the muzzle flashes lighting his face in strobe effect, as he stared down the optics railing.
Arkanos cast around wildly from where he was pressed into a corner, looking for a way out. He was about to give up in despair when he noticed a large grill set in the roof. “Martin,” he called out, edging towards desperation, “Pop that grill!”
Martin followed the admiral’s pointing finger to the roof 1 and a half metres above his head. “Admiral, it’s too high!” he replied.
**** this, thought Arkanos as he burst from his hiding spot and sprinted over to Jettin, plasma scoring the deck and walls behind him. He turned back to the door for a second and spotted Tommy, keeping the Covenant at bay from the relative safety of the door frame. Almost as though he knew the admiral was looking, he called out without turning around or stopping firing, “Sir, you need to go now! I’m running out of ammo!”
Fenix turned around and gave Martin a boost up, allowing him to reach the grill and push it up and in. He grabbed the lip and hauled himself up, placing his carbine in before disappearing into the air ducting. Next up was Hatfield, still semi-unconscious, followed by Melissa and then Stevens. Arkanos Fenix turned around to Tommy Collins, shouting to be heard over the sounds of battle, “Collins! Let’s go!”
Tommy fired off a last burst and in the lull while he was reloading he spoke quickly, “No time sir, they’ll know you’ve gone up the air vents. I’ll stay and hold them off for as long as possible. You need to get to those Shiva’s, set them off and get the hell out of Dodge!” He slammed home a new clip and kept on firing in short, controlled bursts. The grunts were learning quickly, and were covering each other as they advanced on the dead end room.
“Godspeed, Collins. You will be avenged, I swear it,” Fenix replied as he turned around to the waiting Matt Stevens and jumped up, grabbing his hands and disappearing into the vent.
Fenix replaced the grill and took the lead, crawling along the vent away from the Covenant and hopefully to the Shiva launch bay. The sounds of battle followed them, echoing along the ducting as the lieutenant colonel fired precision bursts. A louder bang echoed and Arkanos realised he had just set off a grenade. The burst fire continued for a while longer before it stopped and a distant tiny clatter and profuse swearing could be heard. The fire started up again, although it was a lot slower, and Arkanos realised that Tommy Collins had run out of carbine ammo and had switched to his pistol.
The pistol soon stopped firing as well and a distant battle cry could be heard, followed by faint running as the colonel engaged the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. Fenix and the crew winced as they clearly heard the colonel slam bodily into a bulkhead and bones snapped, followed by a human scream of pain and then, nothing. Complete silence reigned as the crew crawled stealthily through the dusty venting, putting as much distance between the Covenant as they could.
Arkanos silently gave thanks for the brave ODST who had just given his life to let the bridge crew escape, and hoped he wouldn’t have died in vain. There was still a lot of tunnel left to crawl through, and a million things to go wrong.
0001 Hours / Day 02 of Routine Patrol / Geo-sync orbit Atlántico III, Atlantic system / UNSCS Fable’s Fate
Arkanos huffed and puffed as he crawled along on his hands and knees, carbine slung over his back, bumping into the top of the vent and slowly bruising his spine. Behind him Melissa Nameck crawled, equally as tired and sweaty as Fenix. Matt Stevens came after Nameck, half dragging Tyler behind him as Tyler used his feet to push himself along on his back, helping Stevens out. Both were sweating profusely, although Stevens was actually from extreme physical exertion while Hatfield’s was from the very early onset of shock from his gut wound.
“You know admiral,” Melissa quipped, a slight smile on her face despite her sweat slicked hair flying everywhere as she crawled behind Fenix with a wonderful view of his backside, “this really isn’t your best angle.”
Stevens looked forward at Melissa, “I don’t know, it could be worse,” he replied.
“Hey!” Melissa cried indignantly, “I do have a husband you know!”
Last of all was Martin Jettin, sliding along on his backside and completely uninterested in everyone else appraisals of everyone’s asses, covering their rear ends with his carbine as usual. The Covenant had sent what seemed like a battalion of grunts into the air vents after them when they realised where they had gone. The first few had almost caught Martin off-guard, but the air vents echoed loudly and Jettin had heard them coming, just in time to swing around and cut them down with an un-aimed burst from his carbine. Since then Arkanos had been leading the way, several times going round in circles.
Martin fired another three round burst as an overly ambitious grunt and snapped it back, severing its head from its body. He checked his ammo counter, 21 left. Martin patted himself down for clips and found only a single one left. He sighed explosively, “Arkanos!” he yelled as he pushed himself along, covering their backs; “We need to get out and find some ammo or get to those warheads now! I’ve got a clip and a bit left!”
Up front Arkanos peered through what seemed like the millionth grill and finally spotted what he was looking for, the Shiva launch bay. The puncture-like sound of a carbine firing from the back of the group served to remind him just how important this was.
“I’ve got it!” Fenix shouted back as he pulled the grill up and out; dropping into the room with his carbine raised. The rest of the group followed, fanning out quickly, with Jettin diving in headfirst last, narrowly avoiding a plasma explosion that consumed a metre or so of the ducting and melted the ends together, and effectively sealing them off.
Martin spotted two A7’s in a corner and he and Stevens picked them up and placed them outside the door, covering the corridor in front of them leading to the launch bays. The turrets powered up with a hydraulic hiss and began slowly panning across the area in front of them.
Fenix meanwhile had grabbed a headlight off a rack and had pulled out an access panel to the nuclear warhead, tinkering away madly inside, speaking more to himself than anyone else as they all took defensive positions inside the room covering the door, except Jettin who heaved a cargo container into the corridor and hunkered down, some appropriated ammo lying at his feet.
“Now,” Fenix said to himself as he pulled the guidance and detonation control unit out of the warhead, “All I have to do is switch a few wires around and set it to the frequency of my detonator.” He grabbed a multi-tool off the deck before him and disappeared back inside the missile. “Now, was it red-green-red or red-red-green? Oh, my bad, it’s written here on the panel. Red-green-yellow?”
The bridge crew shared quizzical looks and wondered why they were letting their commanding officer who forgot the wiring sequence for a detonation signal fiddle with the delicate innards of a Shiva. Still, they reasoned, there would be nothing to feel, they would just disappear.
The whirr of the A7’s outside followed by the whine of return plasma and the clatter of Jettin’s carbine split the silence and caused Fenix to jump, bumping his head on the warhead as he pulled it out, swearing profusely. Everyone stared at the now closed door and waited for the inevitable explosion that would breach it.
Fenix hurriedly reached inside his uniform and pulled out the detonation key and the detonator. He swiped the card and entered his code, locking the system out and setting the tamper-proof mechanisms in action. He pressed the control panel back inside and sealed the warhead, placing the detonator in his pocket.
The battle outside grew louder, with more powerful plasma weaponry being brought in. The A7’s still resolutely whirred away and Martin’s carbine fired again and again, almost being drowned out by plasma fire. Static crackled in Fenix’s ear and he jumped, forgetting that he wore a wrap-around headset. He bent the boom mike around and yelled into it, “They’re getting closer! You have to come!”
Static crackled over the link for a second before the obviously strained voice of Martin replied, interspaced with bursts from his carbine, “No, there’s no time! You have to go now. Go, go, I’ll hold ‘em off!”
Fenix groaned loudly to himself, yet another person playing the hero, he thought, “No! We won’t leave you! There’s still time!” Plasma whined over the connection, thudding into the container and walls, highlighting just how close they really were.
Jettin’s voice replied, barely audible above the sounds of battle and explosions and interspaced with carbine fire, “Jesus! Here they come. Go now! Go before it’s too late---” the transmission cut abruptly as something detonated on the other side of the door, shaking the deck and stopping one of the A7’s. A carbine could be faintly heard still firing, and Fenix stared at the door for a few seconds as it started to glow a dull red. “Godspeed my friend, may you rest in peace.” He whispered to Jettin, not knowing whether he would hear him or not.
The link re-established itself for a second, just in time for Arkanos to hear Martin Jettin yell obscenities at the Covenant and hurl a threat their way, “You want some? Come and get it!” The link dissolved into static amidst heavy weapons fire.
Melissa moved from her position and slapped the controls for the secondary access tunnel, sweeping the passage beyond with her pistol as the door hissed open. Fenix tore his eyes away from the main passageway and scooped Tyler up, and dumped him on his shoulder, before running out the door with Melissa and Stevens hot on his heels.
The sounds of battle followed them as they ran for the nearby lifeboat. Melissa quickly took the lead as Fenix lumbered under the weight of Tyler. Matt Stevens ran along last of all, pistol in hand, often glancing over his shoulder, waiting for a final, fatal shot to hit him at any moment. A deep rumbling explosion shook the deck and the sounds of battle stopped completely, to be replaced by silence and then the roaring of an elite.
Fenix didn’t miss a beat, “Keep running!” They’ll be after us soon!”
Melissa reached the lifeboat and opened the door, waiting anxiously for Fenix to arrive. He stopped, panting, and passed Tyler inside, where Melissa tried with some difficulty to strap him into an acceleration couch. Stevens reached the lifeboat and was in the process of entering the airlock when a ragged wound appeared in his chest and he pitched backwards, falling away from the lifeboat, a look of utmost surprise on his face.
Fenix cast around wildly for the source of the beam and spotted an elite at the far end of the corridor, taking aim again with some form of long nosed gun. The rifle bucked in its hands and a beam sped in its way, straight for Melissa who was just coming out of the pod, looking at Stevens with apoplectic horror.
Without thinking, Fenix stepped in front of her, pushing her back into the pod just as the beam hit him, stumbling him back a few steps. Pain like nothing else flooded through him as his nerves registered the extreme burning from the plasma. He brought his hands up to his chest and they came away bloody and wet. Fenix looked at them quizzically before he slowly collapsed into the life pod, breathing shallowly.
Melissa scrambled back away from the exit where Fenix had unceremoniously shoved her, and slapped her hand down on the launch button on the control surface. The door slid shut with a snap and the boosters fired shooting the pod out on a pillar of fire away from the doomed Fable’s Fate.
Once the initial gee forces died down Melissa moved from her position half in an acceleration couch to Fenix, noticing how much blood he had lost and how his eyes started to glaze over.
Arkanos couldn’t feel much, his pain receptors having shut down due to the massive overload of pain coming from his chest. He noticed Tyler in his acceleration couch, and as soon as Tyler saw him looking he snapped out of his seemingly lethargic state, all thoughts of his wound forgotten.
Fenix reached shaking, bloody hands down into his pocket and withdrew a single data crystal, trying to hand it to Tyler. He just couldn’t reach that far and his arm dropped as he realised the effort was futile. Tears began to well in his eyes as Arkanos realised he wouldn’t make it, that he couldn’t even hand a data crystal to his friend.
Melissa swam into view, gently sitting him upright against the couches next to Tyler. Fenix lifted his arm again, it now felt like lead, and dropped the data crystal into Tyler’s hands, his hands shaking so badly he almost dropped it on the floor. His monumental task accomplished he dropped his arm and whispered to Hatfield, coughing up blood, “Take good care of...Sev for me Tyler. Treat him…well, and let him know…I was proud…to have an AI like…him. It was…a pleasure to…serve with…you Tyler. I hope you…live long, and prosper.”
Tyler smiled sadly down at the dying admiral, tears pricking at the corners of his eyes, “The pleasure was mine admiral. Sev is in good hands, I’ll tell him what you said.”
Fenix turned to Melissa next and tried to pull the detonator out of his pocket but failed, his arms now barely responding to his commands and shaking uncontrollably whenever he tried to do something. Melissa reached into his pocket and pulled out the detonator, tears rolling down her dirty cheeks and dropping to the deck in great big splashes. Fenix looked at Melissa, “You know what…to do.” He paused, coughing up blood,” Tell everyone I…love them, especially Krios. Tell him I’m sorry…for not being there…for him. Tell Drist it was…a pleasure to serve…with him, tell everyone it was…a pleasure.”
Melissa was now openly crying now, tears rolling down her cheeks in twin streams, pooling at her feet. “Ye…Yes Admiral,” she stammered through the lump in her throat. She gently reached out and turned him around to face his battered and broken cruiser as it shrunk into the distance, the covenant destroyer still attached.
Melissa pressed the arm button on the detonator and paused for a second before placing the detonator in Arkanos’ lap and letting the dying admiral perform the destruction of his own vessel; it was the least she could do. Fenix shakily reached a bloody hand up, grabbing it with his other hand to steady it, and pressed down on the detonate button.
In the distance a blue ball of pure energy erupted from the Fable’s Fate, and like the Fable before it, it went up in a nuclear firestorm, along with the Covenant destroyer and everyone on board. Fenix smiled sadly as he watched his vessel consumed by the nuclear weapon, his eyes barely open, and his heart slowly shutting down, missing beats here and there. As the blue fire died Rear Admiral Arkanos Fenix closed his eyes and his last breath left him as he slumped down slowly.
Melissa, still crying openly, slowly turned away from the admiral and took the pilot’s chair, guiding the life boat towards Atlántico III.
1109 Hours / Epilogue / Reach, Epsilon Eridani system / Reach Orbital Naval Shipyards
Lieutenant’s Melissa Nameck and Tyler Hatfield stepped out of the UNSC transport vessel as soon as it docked with the yards. Outside a group of sombre people stood, some crying, other just staring resolutely ahead. Vice Admiral Adam Arnold beckoned his daughter over and they embraced tightly, Melissa thankful to have someone familiar to hold onto. They disengaged and Melissa turned to Krios Fenix who was staring resolutely at the ship, trying not to let his tears come pouring out.
“Krios, Arkanos asked me to tell you something before he died.” He turned to Melissa and looked intently, his emotions now starting to run free. “He said that he was sorry that he wouldn’t be there for you and that he loved you.”
Krios lost it then and just hugged Melissa, who returned the embrace, letting him pour his emotions onto her shoulder. He finally let go and smiled sheepishly, but Melissa waved him down and said it was OK.
She turned back to the greater crowd and addressed them all. “Arkanos asked me to pass on a message to everyone here: he said he loved everyone and that it was a true pleasure to serve with or under you all at some stage.”
Melissa stepped back, feeling suddenly awkward and everyone slowly broke into conversation as they waited for Fenix’s casket to be unloaded. She spotted Drist in a corner and ran over to him, hugging him tightly and spilling all her emotions on him. “Drist, Arkanos said it was a pleasure to serve with you.” Drist just nodded and held Melissa tightly as she cried onto his shoulder, letting the emotional trauma of her ordeal leave her.
United Nations Space Command DELTA PRIORITY TRANSMISSION 150372D-66
Encryption Code: [color=blueblue[/color/
Public Key: file foxtrot-echo-november-india-X-ray/
From: Office of Naval Intelligence PERSCOM/
To: All Related to Action at Atlántico III/
Subject: After Action Report UNSCS Fable’s Fate Crew Members
Classification: Classified (Archangel/2B Directive)/
To All Related to Action at Atlántico III,
- LIEUTENANT Junior Grade Brett McDonnell deceased with full honours 14 July 2535 in the Atlantic System defending Atlántico III from Covenant assault.
- LIEUTENANT Devon Caskenette deceased with full honours 14 July 2535 in the Atlantic System defending Atlántico III from Covenant assault.
- LIEUTENANT Colonel Tommy Collins, 77th ODST Battalion, deceased with full honours 14 July 2535 in the Atlantic System defending Atlántico III from Covenant assault.
- LIEUTENANT Commander Martin Jettin deceased with full honours 15 July 2535 in the Atlantic System defending Atlántico III from Covenant assault.
- LIEUTENANT Junior Grade Matt Stevens deceased with full honours 15 July 2535 in the Atlantic System defending Atlántico III from Covenant assault.
- REAR ADMIRAL Upper Half Arkanos Fenix deceased with full honours 15 July 2535 in the Atlantic System defending Atlántico III from Covenant assault.
- LIEUTENANT Tyler Hatfield wounded in action with full honours 14 July 2535 in the Atlantic System defending Atlántico III from Covenant assault. Promoted to Lieutenant Commander and transferred to UNSCS Origin, 101st Naval Squadron.
- MIL AI 1207 ‘Sev’ attached to Lieutenant Commander Tyler Hatfield on board the UNSCS Origin, 101st Naval Squadron.
- LIEUTENANT Melissa Nameck awarded full honours 14 July 2535 in the Atlantic System defending Atlántico III from Covenant assault. Transferred from active combat duty to Reach Naval Shipyards, Repair and Refit Division.
United Nations Space Command PUBLIC TRANSMISSION 191377P-99
Encryption Code: [color=blueblue[/color/
Public Key: file foxtrot-echo-november/
From: Office of Naval Intelligence PERSCOM/
To: Mr and Mrs Fenix/
Subject: RE: Rear Admiral Upper Half Arkanos Fenix
Classification: Unclassified (Archangel/2B Directive)/
Mr and Mrs Fenix,
We regret to inform you that on 15 July 2535 at approximately 0100 Hours your son; Rear Admiral Upper Half Arkanos Fenix was severely wounded in combat and subsequently died on the lifeboat.
By making the ultimate sacrifice your son allowed Lieutenant Melissa Nameck, Lieutenant Tyler Hatfield and MIL AI 1207 ‘Sev’ to escape capture by Covenant forces.
Rear Admiral Upper Half Arkanos Fenix was deceased with full honours for keeping in line the proud tradition of the United Nations Space Command Defence Force in defending 17 million citizens on a nearby planet from Covenant assault.
Comments?/Suggestions?/Criticisms?/Anything at all.