Hey Spartans! I don’t know if this is allowed here, but I know there used to be/are community writing contests, and I figured somebody might enjoy this story I wrote. If it’s not allowed here, or is supposed to go to a different section of the forums, can somebody let me know? This new format is kind of confusing for me, and not as easy to navigate. Thanks!
Two Corpses in One Grave
Corporal Jaxon O’Connell tumbled hard down a sandy slope and to an abrupt halt face up looking at the stars. His body ached, and his side burned from the grazing shot of a plasma bolt, and he decided his best option in this moment was to lay there and catch his breath for a minute.
He looked into the night sky, and for what must have been the hundredth time in the last 17 hours, appreciated the once in a lifetime view it offered him. In the sky far from the chaos that was this god forsaken installation, glistened the entirety of the Milky Way Galaxy, and all its stars and constellations. It was truly a sight to behold, and it made him wish he were anywhere in the universe besides where he lay, exhausted, and injured right now.
He sat up and unlatched the hard case rucksack from his back, and began digging through it to access the canister of biofoam he had stored inside. He unfolded the nozzle, placing it gently against the 2nd degree burns on his lower ribs, and wearily released a layer of the fast-acting foam onto his wound.
“AGHMMM!” Jaxon struggled to keep his torment quiet as the foam spread into his body and worked to coagulate the bleeding and numb the pain of his scorched flesh. It didn’t matter how many times you used biofoam, the damn stuff always stings when applied, like a hundred ants biting you at once.
When the wound was sealed, Jaxon placed the foam into his pack, and slung it over his back, before struggling to his feet and wiping the sand from his gear, and trying to push the thoughts of his pain to the back of his mind. That was until the agonizing sound of screeching and hellish wails rolled through the hills of the barren dunes, and promptly snapped his attention back to the here and now, reinitiating his fight or flight senses.
He was in danger. More danger than he had ever felt he’d been in despite his hardened three year service career as an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper, and it was all because he had absolutely no clue what it was he was fighting. He’d seen them sure, but he still couldn’t understand what they were, or how many of them were still around. And just when he figured he’d killed the last of them, their screams in the distance always proved him wrong. They just kept coming, like waves crashing into you when you’re stranded on a raft in the ocean. He could manage them for now, but he knew that sooner or later there would be a wave too big, and his raft would flip, and he would drown all alone, nobody the wiser.
Except these things were far worse than the waves of any ocean, on any colony. He’d watched them do horrible things to his friends and team. Not a single one of the other four troopers in his squad, Echo Three, had survived the last nine hours. They had all been gunned down, infected, and mutilated by the parasites that had emerged from Slipspace in a surprise attack not long beforehand. “The Flood” as the disembodied voices of officers and field personnel from across The Ark had been calling them on the UNSC E-Band. He had never fought them before or even imagined they could have existed, yet here they were, ruining the UNSC’s operation with The Arbiter’s Separatists to bring down the remainder of the Covenant.
Well that was hours ago. Who knew how that had gone by this point? He certainly didn’t, not after his comms were destroyed in a pelican crash caused by a pair of patrolling Banshees, and his squad was stranded dozens of kilometers from the nearest UNSC forces. Hell, for all he knew, he was the last living being on the Installation. But he doubted it, nothing could beat the Master Chief, not the Covenant, and certainly not a bunch of undead parasites. At least he hoped so.
Another shriek came from the shadowy dessert. This time closer than before, causing Jax to instinctively hit the magazine release on his MA5C, and load a fresh magazine into the assault rifle. He then felt along his outer thigh to the M6G magnum that was magnetically holstered to his leg, and satisfied that it was still there, readied himself to fend off the ghoulish nightmares that hunted him and hungered for his bones.
He took a calming breath through his nose and appreciated what he figured could very well be the last bit of fresh air he’d ever have, before activating his VISR night vision, then helmet cam and began a recording of his actions. If he was going to keep fighting these things, he wanted a record of it. And if he was to die doing so, he wanted anyone who found him to know what happened to him. Hell, maybe ONI could use the data from his armor and undead corpse to learn something about these things.
“I am Corporal Jaxon O’Connell from the 105th Shock Trooper Division, Service Number: 72985-48210-JO. Approximately four hours ago, My Sergeant and last teammate on Echo Three, was infected and killed by the parasite known as The Flood… I am all that is left. I don’t know what’s happened since I lost contact with the rest of our forces here on The Ark, but-” He paused as the audible sound of wet flesh and horrid screeches drew closer and closer, “Listen, if I don’t make it back to the Dawn, and someone finds this recording somewhere with me dead in this armor, let my parents know I love them will ya? …But until then, enjoy the show.”
A red blip appeared on Jaxon’s Motion Tracker. It was moving fast, right in his direction from his six. He spun on his heels and raised his rifle as the rotted and mangled body of his Sergeant came lunging at him from above and screaming a familiar and unholy noise that made Jaxson’s stomach flip. His Sergeant’s visor was shattered in half, revealing the pasty gray skin covered in rotted blisters underneath, and his head dangled from the gooey string of matter that used to be his neck, all the way down past his shoulders. Long, jagged tendrils tore from the flesh at his elbow and formed a massive claw that extended past his hand, and reached to Jaxon for a taste of living skin and blood.
“Sorry Sarge,” Jaxon muttered to himself as he squeezed off a burst of 7.62x51mm that shredded through the liquid innards of the thing that was before him. Each bullet tore away another recognizable part of his Sergeant until his torso took enough damage, and he fell to rotted pieces around Jaxon, splattering him in the grey-green bio liquid from its insides. The stench was unbearable, even though his helmet’s filters.
Two more pings came into the outer radius of Jaxon’s motion sensor. They were bigger than the one displayed for his Sergeant, but they moved slower than him. That was until they reached the hillside and saw the lone Helljumper standing in the sand, at which point the two Brute Combat Forms broke into a sprint, then a gallop on all fours.
“FEED!” an intense and omnipotent voice bellowed from the shadows of The Ark itself as the two forms rushed to their next meal, mangled tendrils flailing, and sent a cold shiver down Jaxon’s spine.
But the ODST did what he was trained to do in an overwhelming situation: assess the closest threat, determine the best solution of neutralizing it, and did exactly that. He leveled his rifle and aimed for the ulgy -Yoink!- on the left charging with no care in the world, letting off a hail of bullets until his magazine was empty and the creature tumbled to bits and pieces.
The second Flood form took no heed from its partner’s demise and continued on its path. It was closing fast. Jaxon held his rifle in his left hand as he began backpedaling, and with his right, reached for the magnum on his side, aimed it, and fired all eight of the bullets in its magazine straight into the Brute’s mushy chest Right where he had seen one of the smaller infection forms crawl its way into before taking control of its host body. The Brute let out a hoarse bellow of defeat as it exploded like a water balloon, and stained the desert sands with its liquified entrails.
“And STAY DOWN!” he yelled at the miscellaneous parts scattered before him. He reloaded his magnum then placed it back on his thigh, before loading a fresh mag into his MA5C and shouldering it, prepared for another assault.
A new set of dots flashed onto his motion sensor. It was more than before, a lot more than before. So many small dots filled his radar that the upper half of the circle was nothing but red. He heard the slimy shuffling and ruffles of what must have been scores upon scores of Infection Forms and decided that the best thing for him to do was to retreat with haste. He turned around and began sprinting away from the horde at his back, clutching his side as the slight pain of his plasma burn came back to focus.
“There is no respite in my grave!” the ancient and booming voice spoke once again from the nether.
Jaxon looked over his shoulder and watched in terror as over a hundred Pod Infectors came shuffling towards him. Row by row. Tendril by tendril. And in the mix of them all, leaping and sprinting in a desperate will to reach him first, were another dozen Combat Forms. Some of them wielded weapons of their own, objects held in the deathgrips of the beings they infected during their final moments. Those ones took aim and fired wildly in his direction. Plasma bolts, needles, and bullets rained around Jaxon as he kept his sprint going, spotted a massive rock formation on his right and changed his direction.
As the ODST slid into the protection of the boulders, a bullet zipped into his shoulder plate and sent him into a roll behind the cover, "Sh**! Haha. Thank you armor!”
His arm was sore and bruised for sure, but at least he wasn’t bleeding with a ruined shoulder. He could work with that. He reached to his belt and pulled one of the two frag grenades he had from its slot. He didn’t know how effective it would be on a group this size but he knew it would help for damn sure. He thumbed the grenade prime, stood, and threw it at the silhouetted group of Flood forms about 30 meters out. It detonated with a WHAM, spewing a geyser of sand into the air, and killing some 20 Infection Forms immediately, and another 25 from the chain reaction of their explosions that followed.
That was something, but not nearly as close to what he had wanted or needed.
Next, Jaxon hefted his MA5C and began laying down fire into the Combat Forms that were still shooting at him far behind the horde of Pods. He kept his mind cool and limited himself to five round bursts, anything more and he feared he would be wasting ammo at this range. He aimed for their chest cavities, but also settled for anything that managed to sever their shooting arm.
Gunfire rang out into the starry night, but was drowned immediately by the overwhelming shrills and bellows of the horde that wanted him dead.
One. Two…Three…Four. Five…Six.
As he fired, he began counting the creatures he had reduced to their baser parts or had left without a weapon, and were forced to charge him for the kill, while at the same time keeping an eye on the Pod Infectors who were now within 15 meters of him.
He pressed the magazine release and slammed a new one home, realizing it was his last but opting to worry about one crisis at a time. He took aim at the little ones that skittered about towards him and fired in sustained bursts, killing one and popping the few that surrounded them. Another 50 exploded and splashed their decayed insides into the sandy flatground, before Jaxon heard a familiar CLACK and his rifle’s ammo counter flashed a red ‘00’.
He slung his rifle over his shoulder and magnetically clamped it to his backpack as he drew his sidearm and-
A massive tendril struck him from his right and sent him sprawling to the ground dazed. A red blip shone bright on his motion tracker right on top of him, as he rolled to his back to face his attacker, line up a shot with his magnum, and-
“Mark?” Jaxon muttered, wide-eyed and torn to his core about seeing his fellow ODST and childhood friend in such a dreadful state. Rotted tentacles crept from his helmetless mouth, slithering slowly back and forth of their own accord. He was missing his left arm and half of his ribcage too, revealing the edge of the pale brown Infection Pod that had nestled its way into his chest cavity, and liquified everything on the inside.
“Your flesh will be my food!” the disembodied voice spoke with malice and anticipation as Mark rose his horribly mangled tendril of an arm, and stabbed deep into Jaxon’s stomach, and pinning him to the ground with lightning speed.
Cries of pain and fear released into the night. Jaxon tried to pull the infection out, but his strength was dwindling rapidly, and he had very little strength to give as he coughed blood onto his visor. He looked to the side and watched as the first of the Infection Forms rounded the corner of his rock, and began crawling over him, before one shot a single tentacle into his chest, through his ribs, and into his spine.
It was the single greatest pain he had ever felt. Every moment was exponentially more excruciating than the last, as he felt his consciousness fading in and out. But he refused to go out like this. He refused to become one of them. Jaxon struggled to will the remainder of the energy he had to reach for the last grenade on his belt. He would kill himself, Mark, and the rest of these bastards as his final act. He would. He-
“Let us begin.”