|This article, Effluvium, was written by Sonasaurus. Please do not edit this fiction without the writer's permission.|
| 1949 HOURS (UNSC STANDARD) // MAY 18, 2542
Location: 26 KM FROM BASILEUS // PLANET ALLUVION, BHAAKTO SYSTEM
The smouldering outline of the distant city flashed against the red-white horizon, illuminated for a moment with the monstrous silhouettes that spewed beams of plasma against Alluvion’s surface. Felix felt the rumbles of the shockwave long before he saw it—the sensors in his MJOLNIR armour having been shorted out some time ago—and as one of the SPARTAN-IIs behind him shifted into a crouching position, he moved in unison with the other three; they shielded their comrade with their own bodies, planting their feet against the charred ground as a furious gale swept over the open mesa. Bits of debris hurled through the wasteland, an assortment of broken military tech and enormous chunks of twisted metal that seemed to have come from Basileus itself. Felix grimaced as he eyed Alluvion’s once-proud capital through his ash-covered visor. Even with his suit filtering the irradiated oxygen, every breath he drew felt unpleasantly hot against his lungs.
The tremors settled once more as the shockwave passed, and the Spartans straightened before they continued on wordlessly. Felix noticed one of them—Maddison—casting a sidelong glance at the lacerations in Nyarai’s suit, or maybe it was the way she clutched the bloody opening over her stomach as she staggered on with the others. Felix was almost glad he couldn’t hear the sniper’s ragged breaths over the COM, which had gone offline after the initial bombardment. Stop thinking about it. We can’t slow down.
The silence was broken by Lian, thankfully diverting Felix’s attention for the time being. “Echo Base at eleven o’clock,” she announced. She was peering through a battered set of binoculars, scavenged from the aftermath of a battle they had come across earlier. “Bay doors are cracked open. The EMP would have fried all the aircraft.”
“It’s worth a look,” Felix said firmly. “At least we’ll have some cover when the next round of plasma comes down. Take point, VELOX Five. VELOX Three, check for remaining personnel.” It was unlikely there would be survivors given the volatile state of the atmosphere, but he had to keep morale going wherever possible.
Lian and Maddison made for the divot in the charred, barren ground where the half-opened bay doors were hidden by dense foliage just a few days ago. Felix didn’t watch them go; instead he turned his attention to Nyarai, who was being propped against a blackened tree stump by Eldar. “Sir, she’s slipping into shock,” the medic reported quietly. “The last wave hit us pretty hard, and the biofoam’s absorbing more radiation every second we’re out here. I can’t pull up the readings, but even if she doesn’t bleed out, the breach in her suit has left her exposed for too long. I’m...not sure she’s going to make it.”
Felix grimaced. After a Covenant patrol found Alluvion in late 2541, ONI tasked VELOX with taking out the leadership of the impending invasion force. Surely enough, the aliens returned with a massive fleet, led by a Sangheili officer known only as “The Destroyer”. In the weeks spanning the battle for Alluvion, Felix and his Spartans had boarded and destroyed four capital ships and eliminated nine of The Destroyer’s top-ranking officers. Their efforts bought the UNSC the time it needed to hold the Covenant at bay as its people evacuated, but one by one the colony’s support lines and orbital elevators came down, and humanity’s foothold on Alluvion was lost. VELOX’s final mission to neutralize The Destroyer had ended in catastrophe, and now they were stranded on a burning planet with no communications.
Nyarai stirred. Her fingers twitched, and droplets of blood and biofoam trickled from her armoured gauntlet. Felix leaned in as her helmet lolled to one side. He focused on his second-in-command’s features underneath her depolarized visor. “Talk to me, VELOX Two. Whatever you can manage.”
The sniper coughed violently, spattering the inside of her helmet with sickly mucous. “We...we got a ride off this hellhole, sir?” she gasped.
I hope so. Felix took her armoured hand in his own and squeezed. “Yeah. Just hold on, we’ll be out of here before you know it.”
Nyarai’s other hand reached up and rested heavily against his shoulder. “Think that...proud-looking gold prick will think twice before messing with us again?”
“Yeah, if the souvenir you left in his chest hasn’t killed him.” Felix tried to smile, but his expression held rigid. “Guess we’ll see on the next mission.”
“He’s not going to die. I—I could tell from the look in his eyes.” Nyarai uttered a soft groan as dark liquid seeped from her abdomen. “It wasn’t his time...but it is mine.”
“Least it wasn’t him that finished me off,” the dying Spartan murmured. “Would have been easier than breathing in this poison, I suppose...but I’m glad for it. I wanted to tell you something...”
Felix turned to Eldar desperately. “Isn’t there anything you can do?”
The hand on his shoulder cupped the bottom of his helmet, turning his head forward again. “Listen to me, Felix,” Nyarai asserted fiercely. “You keep going, no matter what. You show these bastards their Destroyer isn’t invincible.”
For a moment, his voice caught in his throat. “You already did,” he reminded her gently. Even through the armour, he could feel her grasp weaken.
“Then finish what I started,” she whispered. “Not for revenge—not even for ONI. For humanity, you hear?” Nyarai’s voice was barely audible now, beneath the helmet and her slow, rattling breaths. “For everything we gave up...all we’ve become...” Her hand released his, dropping to her side with a dull thump.
Felix did not move from his crouching position. Eldar stood beside him in silence, gazing down at Nyarai’s motionless form. But as the sound of Maddison’s heavy footfalls were heard approaching, both Spartans straightened and turned about. The demolitions expert stopped in her tracks. “Is she...?”
“Gone,” Felix responded shortly. “Report, VELOX Three.”
“I...yes, sir. No personnel found in Echo Base. Lian found the black-box hangar, exactly where Se—where Commander Osman said it would be. There’s a Condor inside with all systems functioning.”
“Do we have a way of opening the bay doors?”
“I appropriated some charges from the armoury and set them on the doors. Detonators aren’t working, but the Condor’s guns should be able to set them off.”
As if on cue, a series of muffled explosions blasted upward from the semi-opened doors behind Maddison. Felix instinctively moved to cover Nyarai’s body as bits of smoking rock and shrapnel showered them. The Condor rose out of the hole a moment later, dispelling the haze of ash from the surrounding air as it levelled itself out beside the Spartans. Felix gently picked up Nyarai under the knees and back as the others boarded the dropship. “Next bombardment will be coming down soon,” he said gruffly, setting the sniper’s body on the cargo bay floor before joining Lian in the lower cockpit. “Let’s get out of here, VELOX.”