The bumblebee pod doors sealed with a hiss, and the marines watched nervously as the SPARTAN catapulted into space in the pod. Their only known means of escape from the haunting vessel was drifting away from them. Their journals no longer clinging onto them. Private Gus Johnson turned to the rest of the marines. Three scrawny marines stood before him. How did four privates end up on the flagship of a mysterious, seemingly abandoned fleet?
"Marines! I'm sure you know there's no turning back now. Our first objective - We're getting to the bridge. There's gotta be some form of communication left on this ship. Redford! You'll be our scout. I want to know what's gonna be round each and every corner. Stealth is the key. If something wants to bite our ass they can think again. Creaser! You know a thing or two about communications. When we get there I want you to establish some sort of channel. See what you can pick up. Cox, you and I are gonna hold down the entrance to the bridge. Nothing gets in. Marines, this may well be our last stand for humanity. Whether we die, or tow this god damn fleet back to earth, let's give humanity an excuse to remember us. We may all be privates, but that makes us the ass-kicking foot of the UNSC. Am I right, or am I wrong?"
The three marines jeered and stood tall. They sold their right to survival when they signed up for the UNSC. There was no time for regrets now. Private Keith Redford set out down the eerie corridors, glancing round corners and observing through doors. There was no sign of life. No rats, and no sign of whatever set out for them before. He never went more than one hallway ahead of the group. Safety and numbers was crucial. There was no time for mistakes.
After following the directions plastered on the walls and floors, Redford had successfully led the group to the bridge. It was a pitiful sight. The door to the bridge seemed untouched, barely used. No sign of damage at all. At least, that's how it seemed. As Pvt. Creaser opened the door, all four marines cringed in surprise at the sight on the other side. A body lay against the wall. Unrecognisable. The body was charred and burnt, the bones barely holding together. It seemed old, but a wet pool of blood was up the hallway a bit. Drag marks leading to the body, signs that the incomplete cremation was recent. Redford, walked to the end of the corridor, peering slowly into the bridge for signs of movement. Nothing at all. The group poured into the bridge, and sighed in relief having realised their first objective was complete.
Pvt. Johnson glanced around the room. He ushered for Pvt. Creaser to start with the communications as the other two sat down on convenient seating. Pvt. Cox followed Johnson's movements for a while with his eyes. He noticed a strong indication that Johnson was worried. Being the youngest and newest recruit in the group, at only 19, he spoke out for the first time.
Cox: "Sir? Is something wrong?"
Johnson: "It's nothing Cox."
Cox: "It doesn't look like nothin'..."
Gus Johnson shook the last comment off, and ushered in his next set of objectives.
Johnson: "Redford! How far to the nearest Pelican bay?"
Redford: "Hard to say. Judging by the directions I saw, about 5 to 10 minutes?"
Cox: "But that's bullshit! We did the task! I thought we were done. We got here, we have communications going. What good would a Pelican be if we're waiting for support?!"
Johnson sighed. With a great deal of sympathy and guilt, he placed a hand on Cox's shoulder.
Johnson: "Look, there's no way we can rely on communications alone. We need a backup plan. If that means getting a Pelican ready for departure, then so be it. We don't have any other choices...."
As he spoke there was a loud clatter from out in the hallway. An echoing metallic crash followed by repetitive thudding of heavy footsteps. Redford and Johnson sealed the door and lay with their back against it. Creaser hid behind a control panel out of view as Cox ran over to close the other door. A drop of sweat slowly ran down Redford's face as gentle, slow footsteps teased their minds. The gentle thuds sounded more like the paws of a beast, and were right behind the door. A small scratch at the door made their hearts race, then a gentle rumbling growl. All of a sudden there was a crash against the door, then another, then nothing at all. The padding footsteps grew quieter as the beast retreated into the quiet, darkened madness of the ship's halls. The group sighed in relief, grabbed their Assault rifles, and slowly readied themselves as they opened the door...
Redford and Creaser threw their assault rifles through the door and began pushing it shut. The door was broken, but would close with enough force. As they pushed the door Johnson edged through the small gap, then shoved a table across the door to barricade it. The door jammed, leaving a worrying gap. Redford took aim through the gap while the others barricaded it further.
Redford: "Hey Johnson, you mind telling what the fuck happened to Cox?"
Johnson: "Less talk, keep your guard up. Creaser, help me with this damaged radio antennae. It's a hell of a load."
Creaser "Got it sir."
Creaser moved over and used his force against the antennae to aid Johnson. It looked as though the antennae was damaged, probably in for repair. The two pushed and moved the antennae a pathetic distance, the weight being too much for them.
Redford: "No, more talk. What gives you the right to be in charge? For all I know, you just got Cox killed! Why don't you cut this crap and tell me what the hell happened back there?!"
Redford lowered his rifle and turned towards the two marines. Johnson stood up and stared right at Redford. There was no way Redford would forget this, and Johnson didn't want to cause any confrontations. The two stood eye to eye, daring each other to make a move. It was then that Johnson asserted his authority. He spun Redford and shoved him head first through the gap in the barricade, leaving him half in, half out. Johnson held him there, waiting for a response.
Redford: "Oh you're dead Johnson, lemme go!"
Johnson: "No can do. I can either let you dangle there while those things strip your bones of flesh in seconds, or you can shut up and forget Cox. Your choice. But by the looks of things, you have less than ten seconds..."
Redford looked up. Down the hall, three beasts, hard to detail from where he was, were pacing down the hall towards him. They ran on four limbs, and had large teeth, though the rest was unclear to him.
Redford: "Pull me back in! Hurry you ass!"
Johnson pulled Redford in, tossing him to the floor. He and Creaser then started firing through the gap, their assault rifles blazing. Interestingly enough, the beasts never slowed. None of them fell, despite multiple hits. In fact, after many hits, the three creatures suddenly faded, exactly the same as the Covenant do when using active camouflage. The marines stopped firing. They dropped their weapons and slammed tables against the door. Table after table piled up. Chairs, desks, crates, nothing was overlooked. Every movable object was piled against the door, as the creatures rammed the barricade.
After the last chair was placed, the three marines turned and fled, continuing their journey to the pelican bay. They had a long way to go, and Johnson had a bad feeling that Cox's death would land him a heap of trouble later...