Interlude Chapter – Part 5

“No thanks, I’m allergic”.

“More for me then” he said as he slurped back the rest of the can of peaches. The syrup overflowed from his mouth and ran down the right side of his cheek to his earlobe. He reached his uninjured hand up, tugging on the IV line and wiped the syrup away with the back of his hand.

“Stop tugging on that or it’s going to come out, and I don’t have the supplies to fix it.” Julia said, as he finished wiping the side of his face.

“Sorry”, he said sheepishly.

“What’s your name lawyer man?” She asked.

“How did you know I’m a lawyer?” he asked. She pointed to the ground between the kitchen and the living room, right near the door where his smashed BAR certification lay amongst his shoes.

“Oh… ya, that kind of gives it away” he said as he laid back down on the cool floor.

“Not going to tell me your name?” She asked again.

“Oh, right. sorry. My name’s Garrick.”

“Garrick…Garrick, what?”

“Garrick Whyte” he replied, as Julia stood up from her crouched position and began looking around the pantry.

“What kind of a name is Garrick, especially nowadays?” Julia asked with a small laugh as she checked some of the contents of the pantry.

“My parents liked old fashioned names. You should see my sister, her name is Katelina, but she goes by Kaylie…” he trailed off as he suddenly realized that he had no idea if anything had happened to her in this attack. Did they only hit his City? Had she seen it coming? Did she get away somehow? What about his parents? He had no idea what happened to anyone in his family, his dad, his mom, or his sister, and it made him worry.

“I’d probably go by Kaylie as well if my name sounded like an 1800’s Russian ballerina” Julia remarked as she began grabbing some of the undamaged canned goods and putting them in her bag.

“I haven’t spoken to her in weeks…” Garrick said as he sat up off the floor for the first time in a while. He could feel the throbbing in his head of his body not liking the sudden change of position, but he ignored it as he rested his back against one of the shelving units that lined the walls of his pantry. “I have to get a hold of them” he finally said after a few moments of uneasy silence as Julia picked her way through the canned goods.

“Ya, that’s not going to happen bud” Julia said as she continued to grab cans of all kinds, adding them to her bag which was beginning to bulge from the contents. She turned to him and looked him in the eyes for the first time since meeting him. Garrick turned his head upwards to look her in the eyes, locking her gaze as she started speaking. “There’s no communication. Internet, Cell phones, radios, hell…even the landlines are dead”

“Fuck” he said as he lowered his head again defeated.

“Ya, right now, we gotta grab what we can and move. Yours wasn’t the last building on this block and there might be some more people who need my help.”

“Okay, I understand. Give me five minutes to get some stuff together. Can I take this IV out now?” Garrick asked as he stood up using the shelving unit for support. Julia moved over and checked his pulse and blood pressure quickly before cutting off the IV and removing it from his arm.

“You should be okay for now, I can save the rest of this for someone else. If you start feeling feint or anything you need to tell me immediately though, okay?” She said as she cut the used end of the IV that had been in his arm and packed the rest of the bag away safely in her paramedic bag that had been holding the canned food. Garrick moved down the hall past his bathroom and into his fairly untouched bedroom. There was a fine layer of drywall dust that had fallen over everything from the explosions that had rocked the building. Had the world not been ending he probably would’ve cared but it didn’t matter now. He moved towards his closet on the far side of the room adjacent to his window. As he opened the closet door, he looked out the window and couldn’t believe what he saw.

It wasn’t the City or neighbourhood he remembered, it more or less resembled a war zone. Debris and craters littered the street. Chunks of his building were strewn about the front of the property completely covering the small bit of grass on an otherwise barren landscape. Cars were covered in concrete dust, chunks of buildings, or they were overturned in the street. Some of the street lights were ripped down and lay across the road while others were just missing with small craters where they used to be. Water was spilling into the street from a burst fire hydrant and there was a city bus missing then entire top half of the frame on fire in the middle of the street. Mostly though, he noticed the bodies. Not just a few here and there, dozens of people strewn about in various locations. Some had obviously attempted to flee and were shot down, some were blown to pieces and some looked like they had been burned. He saw a couple of dead police officers behind their cruiser which was parked diagonally in the middle of the road in front of his building. It looked like they had tried to defend the people around them and paid the ultimate price. He tore his eyes from the street and continued grabbing some clothing out of his closet and packing himself a large backpack. As he finished packing his bag and changing into a more acceptable, attire of dark jeans, hiking boots, and his favourite retro t-shirt of a concert put on by Iron Maiden nearly 80 years before, his eyes lingered on the long case at the back of his closet. Resolving he might need it, he grabbed it and left his room to meet up with Julia in the kitchen. She had found his hockey bag and upturned the contents on the floor. She had taken all of the canned goods she could find along with the extra jug of water from the pantry and stuffed them in the bag.

“What’s in the case?” she asked as she bent down and hefted the large bag of supplies while her paramedic pack was strapped firmly to her back.

“It’s my compound bow and hunting arrows. I haven’t used it in a long time, but it’s the only thing I have besides my kitchen knife.”

“It’s better than nothing” she said as she moved to the door of his apartment. She set the bag down and crept out into the hallway. Garrick set down his bow case and followed her, making sure to make as little noise as possible. She leaned against the wall opposite his door and held her breath listening for a few seconds. Not hearing anything she put her fingers to her mouth and let out a long, frighteningly loud whistle.

“What the fuck are you doing?!” Garrick whispered at Julia as he started backing into his apartment. There was a response whistle and Julia looked at him with a smile on her face.

“What’s the matter? I had to see if anyone was left in the building. Let’s go” she said as she moved into his apartment and picked up the bag of supplies again.

“How did you know that there weren’t more of them?” he asked as they made their way down the dark hallway towards the staircase past other blown open apartments while the bodies of his friends and neighbours littered the ground.

“I listened and didn’t hear anything. So I took the chance that they were gone or that the only two sent to clear the building were dead in your apartment.”

“That’s a pretty fucking big chance to take” Garrick growled under his breath.

“Zip it! I saved your ass! Don’t you forget that..”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s all good. Now help me carry this down the stairs and out to our truck. I’m strong but bot that strong”. Garrick placed his bow case on top of the supply bag and grabbed the one end with his good arm. Down the stairs they went, stepping over chunks of concrete, unknown bodies and missing chunks of stairs. They didn’t find any familiar bodies until they got near the bottom of the stair case. As they rounded the last small flight of stairs to the exit door,Garrick noticed the stairs were covered in bodies not just the nameless people on the street or farther up the stairwell, Garrick knew these people.

The entire Gonzalez family, that Garrick had dinner with on occasion, was at the base of the stairs by the door, Janet and David Thomas who hosted the building’s wine nights were between Jason and Tyler who lived the floor above Garrick, all of whom were halfway up the stairs their survival bags still clutched in their hands. The thing that hit Garrick the most was James Victor and his daughter Stacey who had been killed at the top of the final staircase as they tried to run back up to safety.

Garrick sank to his knees on the landing as he looked down at Stacey’s face. There was no pain in her motionless visage. If anything, she looked like she had been sleeping when she had passed. No pain, just a peaceful passing. The drying blood clotting in her auburn air, and the red stains on the back of her tanned neck and between her should blades showed it had been anything but a peaceful death.

“Is this your sister?” Julia asked as she moved over behind Garrick lowering herself to her knees and putting her hand on his right shoulder in an attempt to provide some comfort to him.

“No, this isn’t Kaylie, this is Stacey Victor. She lived with her dad James two apartments down from me. She was accepted to Stanford Medical School in the fall. I helped her study for the SATs… She was so excited to go…” Garrick whispered as he reached down to move a strand of Stacey’s hair out of her face, tucking it behind her ear. As he brought his hand back he noticed it was covered in blood and wiped it on his shirt, leaving large crimson streaks down his front. ” I knew all of these people” he said as he looked about the massacre in the stairwell. ” What purpose does gunning down innocent people have?” he asked the anger rising in his voice.

“I don’t know what they are or why they did this. But I do know that you can’t help these people anymore, they’re gone. There are people waiting outside who do need our help and who are in very real danger right now, so we need to go” Julia said as she stood up removing her hand from his shoulder.

“How can you be so callous?” he snapped, tears welling up in his eyes.

“You can’t save everyone Garrick. sometimes you can do everything right and it doesn’t matter, you lose someone. That’s just how it is. So you concentrate on the people you can save, the people you can help, and you mourn those you lost.” Garrick sat unmoving staring down at Stacey’s body and slowly panning his vision to look at the rest of his neighbours and friends who lay dead around him. He took mental snapshots of each person so he would be able to remember them and the times they shared; the new tenant mixer that Janet Thomas had thrown when he had moved in, helping Stacey with the SATs, Cinqo de Mayo with the Gonzalezes and Tyler’s 22nd birthday, all great memories that he could recall to bring a smile to his face. A lasting memory for these people he had grown to regard as a surrogate family. He stood up, taking his pack off and started his work. He began moving their bodies very carefully to the sides of the staircase, taking care not to cause any further harm to them. Eventually there was a small path he and Julia could walk down to get to the door.

Wordlessly, he walked up the path and grabbed his pack, he adjusted his bow case on top of the supply bag, moving it to the center of the bag, that he had discarded so he could move his fallen friends. Julia moved beside the supply bag and together they lifted the bag and made their way down through the veritable honour guard of Garrick’s fallen neighbours. Julia put her shoulder to the door and pushed with all her might. There was a loud scraping sound as the door swung open and blinding light filled the small space.

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Interlude Chapter – Part 4

It wasn’t harsh, it wasn’t cold, it was… peaceful. The darkness welcomed him like a long lost love and brought him into its warm embrace. There was something wrong though, it wasn’t how he had imagined it. Growing up in the Catholic belt of the Northern Regions, he had been spoon fed the same bullshit over and over; paradise, unending and eternal. This was a far cry from that.

It was warm sure, but there was no paradise. It was a darkness, a darkness that he had never fully believed in. It wasn’t the cold release of death, it was the darkness of the mind. The emptiness we feel when we are about to finally drift off to sleep. He spun around and sitting a few meters away was a small wooden table with a photo which was turned away from him. He moved over to the table, his limbs feeling very heavy, he reached out with his left hand and felt a sharp blinding pain, he looked down and saw the blood running down his arm. He gasped as he watched the blood leave his body falling to the ground, or more accurately the darkness he was standing on. He could hear some low clicking, and it caused the hair on the back of his neck to stand on end. He looked up from his bleeding arm and the table with the photo had moved farther away. He began moving towards it but for every step he took it moved farther away. He started moving faster and the clicking he had been hearing was replaced with the light pattering of rain on a roof. He moved faster. The table moved. He broke into a run ignoring the pain in his arm and reached out for the photo, the pattering was louder now like it was hitting a metal roof directly above him, he could hear the sounds of screaming and tires screeching but he still couldn’t see anything in the darkness but this table and the photo that was turned away. He stopped briefly listening to try and discern the sounds he was hearing.

He started running again, finally gaining some ground on the elusive table. The screaming and tires screeching became deafening and he couldn’t help but think that the voices screaming sounded familiar. He kept running, he was getting closer and closer, the voices becoming clearer and sharper. He reached out and grabbed a hold of the table. Instantly everything stopped. He kept his hand on the table not wanting it to take off again, he could hear the clear voice of a woman whimpering and calling out but he couldn’t make out the name she was saying. He reached with his injured hand and grasped the photo frame as his blood continued to drain off his elbow. The woman’s voice became clearer and he could make out what she was saying, it was one word, a name, “Shane”. He turned the photo over to find the last photo he had of him and Shane. He had his arm in a cast and Shane was signing his name in massive letters right across the top of it. He lifted the photo and looked at it closely, something was off… He remembered this photo being taken, it had been day time, but the photo showed it happening at night. He continued to examine the photo and the woman’s voice started again, “Shane? Shane? Shane?” just repeating the name over and over again. The voice was cut off by the sound of tires screeching as it got closer and closer. The woman’s voice said “I love you Shane” as a resounding crash cut off the last of her voice.

“NOOOOOOO!!!!” he shouted staring up into the darkness. “SOP THIS! WHAT IS GOING ON?”

The photograph in his hand began to shake and he looked down to see the night sky was oozing out of the photograph on his fingers that clutched the frame. The cold started at the tips of his fingers, as the ooze moved up his arm, the cold spread. It felt like he was standing outside in one of the terrible northern winters without any clothing trying to battle the sub zero temperatures. He dropped the photo and the frame shattered on the black of the floor. The entire space started to move, like a wave of black ooze. He tried to move but his legs were stuck fast in the black. He swung his free, injured arm, ignoring the pain for it to be grabbed by a tendril of the darkness so that it would be held fast. The ooze continued to move up his extremities to his core where the cold pierced his very soul. “WHAT IS THIS?!” He shouted as the darkness moved up his neck.

“We are the Drift…” a metallic voice answered, “..we are legion and we will not be stopped!”

The ooze was moving up the sides and back of his head, he tried to scream but he couldn’t make any noise. It enveloped his entire body and then went in his mouth and down through his entire body. He screamed silently as the darkness took over. There was a blinding pain in his leg and he awoke.

He wasn’t in the dark, he wasn’t covered in black ooze, he was in his pantry, soaked with a mixture of water and blood. He remembered fighting the aliens and he remembered barely winning, but he didn’t remember collapsing in his pantry. He tried to sit up but there was a sharp intense pain coming from his left shoulder which caused him to collapse back down.

“Don’t try to sit up, I have to patch your arm and give you some blood. What’s your blood type?”

” O- Negative… Wait who are you?!” he asked the woman who was crouched over him.

“Oh right, my name’s Julia and I’m the paramedic that just saved your ass. I’m with a group of survivors moving through the buildings looking for anyone alive. One of them found you and ran to get me. You flatlined, so I had to hit you with a shot of Adrenaline. I was worried it was going to be a waste on you but you perked right up. Lay down and don’t move, I need to patch this wound.” She replied as she set to work on him. She was wearing bright orange of the Critical Care paramedics designation and had jet black hair with a very fair complexion. Her movements were methodical and exact, like someone who had done this for years and was confident in their skills.

He laid back down and stared at the ceiling of his pantry as she set to work opening up an IV line and setting up a bag of blood to replenish what he lost in the fight with the aliens. “Well…”, he said out loud, “… this is definitely not how I planned on starting my day.” Julia looked at him with an expression that was equal ‘you don’t say?’ and ‘No shit Sherlock’ before cleaning up the supplies she had used reviving him. As he watched her clean up his eyes lingered on the larger needle that was attached to a syringe labeled Epinephrine. Julia noticed his gaze and smirked while saying “Ya, this is what I stabbed you in the leg with, so don’t fuck with me” she let out a small laugh and set back to work.

He looked around the small space and finally realized how much destruction his fight with the two aliens had caused. There were canned goods everywhere and coffee grinds scattered about the floor mixing with the leaking water and the bodies of the aliens. As he continued to look around the space he spied a small can underneath one of his shelving units. It was small and green, with a picture of a sunrise. He reached out with his good arm and tugged the IV in Julia’s hand.

“And just what do you think you’re doing?” she asked.

“Getting breakfast” he replied as he reached the can and pulled it out popping the easy open lid. He tipped the can back and let the delicious taste of peaches in syrup fill his dry mouth. After a long slurp where he downed half the can, he looked up at Julia gave the can a shake and asked “Want some?”

Interlude Chapter – Part 3

He collapsed in front of the sink, blood oozing out of the wound in his shoulder and what felt like 4 or 5 cuts on his back. He couldn’t tell for sure but when the projectile had impacted his skin he could feel it split apart into several smaller pieces, each one passing through his body and shredding out the other side. He was no paramedic, but even he knew, if he didn’t end this fast and get medical attention, he was as good as dead. The water being thrown around the room by the broken faucet felt nice on his skin and helped to wash some of the blood away. With the water falling on his skin he remembered the time when he had separated his shoulder as kid trying to  climb the cliff near his family’s cottage in northern Ontario during a terrible rainstorm. He had been there with his best friend, Shane, and his sister, Kaylie; they had decided to climb the cliff but once the rain started Kaylie had wanted to turn back while he and Shane wanted to press on.

Shane and he were inseparable. They had been mistaken for brothers on more than one occasion and liked it that way. They had grown up living three houses away from one an other and became fast friends at the ripe old age of 3. They didn’t remember this but their parents had told them that when they first met, they fought over who would get to go down the slide at the local park first. As they whined and threw temper tantrums their mothers put them both on the slide side by side, as it was big enough for both of them, and the crying stopped immediately. From that moment on, they were glued to each other. Through day care, elementary school and even high school. Shane’s dad had accepted a job on the other side of the country during their grade 10 year. They had kept in touch but it just wasn’t the same. It was like someone had cut a piece of him out and he wasn’t sure on how to cope. 

They made it to the summit and snapped a picture of victory against the high winds and driving rain. It was in that moment that he was happy, happier than he had been in a long time. It was the first time he had seen Shane in over 2 years and they had spent every waking moment together. It made this victory up on top of the cliff that much sweeter. Even despite her reservations against climbing in the rain, Kaylie had the biggest smile on her face. That was the last good memory he had. After that day, everything had gone to shit in no time at all. Not two days after their trip to the cottage, his parents told him they were getting a divorce. Kaylie would be going to live with their mother and he would be going to spend time with his father before he went off to college. He was six months away from his high school graduation when he got the call, Shane’s mother called him and could barely get the words out between sobs, Shane and his father had been killed in a car accident. When the phone call ended he sat there on his couch, staring straight forward tears welling up behind his eyes.

“Everything alright, Champ?” his dad asked taking his gaze away from the hockey game they were watching on the projector.

“Shane’s dead” was all he managed to get out.

The following days were a blur. His dad had taken time off work to fly him across the country to attend his best friends’ funeral. He felt numb the entire time, waiting for the feeling to come back… but it never did. He finished high school, university, and law school by himself, he got a job at a great firm by himself, he lives by himself, and… he might die alone he thought laying on the floor; the pain of his shoulder bringing the present back into focus. As the water continued to spray from the faucet that had been severed, he reached around for something he could use as a weapon, having lost his own when he had been thrown by the creature. As he scrambled around on the floor never taking his eyes off his opponent who had begun to lower its weapon again, his right hand closed around a can from one of his cupboards. Without pausing to see what it was he pulled his arm back, ignoring the searing pain in his left side, and launched it across the small space at the assailant. As the can flew through the air, it spun slightly throwing some of the water being sprayed into the air onto the attacker. There was a sizzling sound as the creatures shrieked. It had dodged the can but the water that had hit it caused the creature to recoil in fear. It moved around to the far side of the granite topped island and took cover lowering its weapon and firing off some more shots.

He slipped and slid around on the wet floor as he tried to slide closer to the island to get out of the path of the alien’s weapon. He slid through coffee grounds, broken dishes and glasses, some moldy bagels he had been meaning to throw out, boxes of Kraft Dinner, and non-perishable cans of all types. As he scrambled around on the ground he spied his trusty cooking knife he had in his hand before being thrown laying just in front of the island the assailant was using as cover. As he slid into the island with a thud, his hands gripped the handle on the knife as he grabbed it off the floor. He could feel the blood oozing from his wounds and sliding down his arm as he crouched against the island holding the knife in front of him. The alien had stopped firing, and was presumably, crouched on the other side of the island. He took the chance and slid around the far side of the island closest to the pantry and the hallway to his bedroom. As he made his way around the island, he held the knife in his right hand ready to strike at a moment’s notice. He came around the far side of the island and the creature had not noticed him. He got closer to the creature until he was nearly directly beside it. As he got closer it must have noticed him because it let out a shriek and its body morphed to face him. Not turned. Morphed. Rather than its body turning and bringing its weapon to bare, it shifted its entire mass so that it was now facing him with its weapon on the opposite arm. This time he didn’t hesitate, he drove the knife directly into the creature near the top of its mass, right where the neck would’ve been on a human.

His knife sliced into the creature and it let our a shriek. As he pulled the knife out, a substantial amount of the metallic liquid inside began to ooze out and sizzle. The assailant let out a shriek and began to move towards his living room to seek help from the other one that was still smashing its way through his possessions. “Oh no you don’t” he said as he grabbed hold of the creature’s weapon, making sure to keep the business end away from his person. With a searing pain he pushed/tossed the creature across his small kitchen into the counter right in front of the sink… right into the path of the spraying water. As the water made contact with the creature, it shook violently like it was having a Grand mal seizure and then fell to the ground in a smoldering pile of ooze and foul smelling fumes.

Amazed at what he had just witnessed, he stood for a moment staring at the smoldering remains of the attacker. When a grunt came from the living room and the sound of smashing had stopped he knew the other one was about to come into his kitchen. He moved into the pantry and pulled the water jug off the cooler.As he heaved the jug off the top of the cooler, he heard a growl of anger and the sound of one of their weapons being discharged. The sound of the spraying faucet ceased and was replaced by the sound of dripping and water pouring onto the floor.

As he held the jug of water from the cooler he was glad he hadn’t gone with his mother’s idea to get a bigger one. He was hing trouble holding the 10L jug with his injured arm as it was. He was biting his lip against the pain and he knew if it was any bigger he wouldn’t have been able to carry it. He moved out of the pantry and slid behind the island, the jug of water striking the side of the island causing a loud thud to sound through the small room. The other creature had been standing over the remains of the first as the water slowly oozed out across the floor from under the sink. At the sound of the thud, it morphed to face him firing its weapon instantly. The shots flew over his head and embedded in the wall behind him before dissipating. The can he had thrown at the first assailant was on the ground and he picked it up with his good hand, laying the knife he had been carrying on the ground in its place. He hefted the can once more and let it fly at the assailant. As the creature moved out of the way it stepped to the right which brought it into contact with the water making its way across the floor.

There was the sound of liquid being boiled off of a stove top as the creature growled in pain and anger. He swung the jug, ignoring the pain in his arm and shoulder and tossed it at the creature. The creature tracked the jug as it flew through the air and fired its weapon at it, as the rounds made contact with the airborne projectile, they stuck into the outside of the jug, causing cracks to appear in the receptacle. The jug struck the creature and broke apart at the cracks causing the water to spill over the alien.

He ducked behind the counter his hand finding the familiar handle of the knife as he stood up to move towards the alien. As he stood back up he saw the second alien had collapsed back onto the ground right in the puddle of water and was sizzling as it laid there. He rushed over and began stabbing it in the center of it’s mass, each stab harder and more vicious than the last. after about 10 seconds he stopped and watched as the metallic center made contact with the water and instantly boiled away leaving that foul smelling smoke in its wake.

Amazed at what he had done, he hadn’t noticed how dizzy he had become, he looked down at the arm to see it covered in blood which was still running from his wound. He moved towards the pantry his legs not cooperating with his brain anymore and he crashed to the ground inside the small space.

This is it, he thought to himself, this is going to be my casket, I’m okay with that. He laid on the ground, his body getting colder and his vision darkening, This is fine, I’ll be able to see Shane again… He could hear footsteps as the darkness took over his vision right before he lost consciousness he heard a gasp.

Interlude Chapter – Part 2

 

He stood there, immobile, leaning against his water cooler hidden in his kitchen closet in his boxers and t-shirt, waiting.

He heard it again, the screeching he had heard earlier coming from the street, only this time it was much quieter and almost guttural in its delivery.  Back and forth, a higher pitched shrieking and a low guttural sound for what felt like eternity; then he heard it, a soft barely audible metallic clink, like dropping a dime on a hard surface.  There was a whooshing sound followed immediately by the unmistakable drone of all electronics dying simultaneously.

An EMP? he thought. The military was far from being able to weaponize an electromagnetic pulse… This is bad! he thought to himself.  As the electronics in his apartment died the all too familiar high pitched whine came over his entertainment dock to notify him of power loss. It’s high pitched whine was unmistakable, like nails on a chalk board amplified. It was meant to signal him to reset the power so that he didn’t lose all of his files from his storage drive due to the drive overheating. Many a time he had been awoken at night when the power failed and his back up supply had depleted before they got the power restored. He hated that sound, hated it with a passion.

Whatever was in the hallway outside of his front door didn’t like the whine of the entertainment dock in the slightest either. He heard the floor boards creak slightly before a low angry grunt came from his living room/common area. The grunt was followed by several more and accompanied by the sound of his tech being tossed around as whatever had entered his apartment was looking for the source of the whine. A loud crack could be heard over the whine singalling his dock had been broken. As the whining stopped, the floorboards creaked again signalling that whatever had been in his living room had moved back to near his door.

The grunting and screeching came back in full force. Either this thing was talking to itself or there was another one with it, he thought to himself in a panic. He gripped his knife and the frozen jug of water tightly, his hand was beginning to slip on the handle from the condensation on the outside of the jug. He stayed in the pantry leaning against the water jug as he heard the assailants enter his apartment and begin their search.

He could make out the sound of his shoes being cast around as if the assailants were expecting something to be hiding inside of them, waiting to pounce. The floorboards creaked as one of the intruders entered into his kitchen. The creaky floorboards had been a point of contention with him and the realtor about the apartment. He had argued that he should be given a substantial break on the price because he would have to redo the floors within a few years, and real wood floors cost ‘an arm and a leg’. The realtor had fired back that while the floor boards creaked he would not find a place with ‘this much square footage south of the Nord river; and if he did find a place with this much space, it wouldn’t have granite counter tops or an island’. In the end he had agreed with the realtor and they had compromised on a small reduction in price. Now, he thought to himself as he hid in the pantry, he’s happy he had the floorboards. At least they gave him some sign of where these things were in his apartment.

BANG!

He heard the sound of his utility drawer being ripped out of the counter, its contents dumped on the floor. Then, one after the other, his remaining drawers we ripped out and their contents spilled. Once the drawers were done, they moved to the cupboards. Each one in turn ripped open and the contents thrown from the shelves to crash on the floor. They had started at the far end of his kitchen working their way counter clockwise around the small space, ending with the cupboards that were immediately adjacent to the pantry where he hid. He could hear more commotion coming from his living room as more things were being thrown around and destroyed, his heart broke a little with each crash. His most treasured possessions were in that room. His 16K TV, his gaming consoles, computer, stereo system, entertainment dock, all his photos of family and friends, not to mention his film collection…

That’s it! I am going to kill these bastards he thought to himself as he straightened up and moved towards the pantry door. He reached out his hand and grasped the knob to turn it but felt some resistance.

“NO! No No No No!” he whispered as he withdrew from the door, he hadn’t locked it. That meant the resistance on the knob could only come from something holding onto the other side.  As he stepped back from the door there was a shredding sound and the door was ripped off its hinges and thrown against the island in his kitchen.

He tightened his grip on both his knife and ice jug and the light from his windows flooded into the pantry temporarily blinding him. He could hear it before he could see it. It shrieked and moved in front to block some of the light allowing him to see the intruder for the first time.

It looked like someone had encased mercury in some sort of membrane. It had a vaguely humanoid shape but it’s interior was constantly in motion. There were no eyes or mouth of any kind and no ears or nose either. Attached to its arm was a fearsome looking gun that glowed yellow from between the overlapping plates that made up its exterior. It was long and sleek with no real edges and ended in two sharp points. There was no real handle or cartridge to hold rounds of any kind and it appeared to be fused to the alien’s body, giving the impression that this creature would have to die before it let go of its weapon. It let out a shriek and lowered its weapon towards him.

Not willing to die without a fight, he lunged forward out of pure fear and instinct swinging the frozen jug like a club towards the creature. As he was swinging the jug he noticed the weapon the alien was using changed from a yellow glow to a purple glow as three projectiles released from the end of the top point. One of the projectiles went through the jug in his hand as he was at the apex of his swing, the other two barely, missed him  and landed somewhere in the pantry behind him.

His jug made contact with the side of the intruders head and it was knocked back into the island shrieking as a faint sizzle sound could be heard. Knowing that he had the invader dazed he lunged forward with his trusty kitchen knife. He sliced into the alien with relative ease but causing little damage to the creature. He withdrew his blade from the torso where his lunge had carried it and noticed the blade came out clean but the incision began to leak some of the liquid that made up the creature. The creature let out another shriek as it brought it’s un-armed appendage down and  gripping his shirt threw him against his counter. As he hit the counter right in front of his sink, the creature brought the weapon to bear once more and fire two shots. Shot one, hit the faucet on his sink causing it to be severed from the counter and water to begin spraying out; shot two found its target, and it tore through his left shoulder.

 

Interlude Chapter – Part 1

I know I’ve been gone for a while, I’ve been working on a lot of things and this is one of them. This is a very rough first draft of an interlude chapter in a Sci-Fi story I’m working on. Not sure if it will be just for me pleasure or if I’ll see about publishing it after some serious editing. Enjoy!

 

“We are not soldiers! And we’re definitely not heroes…”

“I know! But right now, with everything going on, those people out there, they need someone… something to believe in, right now..they need heroes. Now you can sit here and pity yourselves, or you can stand with me and be the heroes those people need. That’s the choice I leave to you.” She turned and left the small meeting room closing the door behind her.

He stared around the small meeting room looking dejected. They weren’t heroes, not even close. There was a criminal, a doctor, a teacher, a mechanic, and him a lawyer; none of which had ever done anything heroic. He had spent his entire life working for the assholes of the world and saving them from million dollar lawsuits. When the skies fell, he fought to survive. He wasn’t skilled, but he was resolute that he wasn’t going to go out without a fight. He fought tooth and nail, using everything at his disposal to ensure he wouldn’t be another victim upon the mountain of bodies.

They came fast and without warning. The aliens swept across the planet and they wiped out everything that could conceivably be used to combat them. Entire countries fell in a matter of hours, continents went dark within days. The only thing they had been able to discern from these mysterious invaders’ communications was their name, The Drift. They looked nothing like the aliens they’d been putting in movies for generations. They were fluid, metallic looking creatures, the only solid part of them was a weapon that was made of solid unknown alloy attached to what would appear to be an arm.

The weapon itself was devastating. It didn’t fire conventional projectiles or even super heated plasma, as with advance military tech, it fired small star-like projectiles that when they came into contact with something warm, splintered and shredded. They could kill anything organic in one shot, but would embed in colder objects like walls and metal armour. The most curious thing was the projectiles didn’t last long, once fired they only lasted a few seconds until they would dissipate into nothing, making analyzing them impossible without a working weapon to fire it. The issue was, the weapon appeared to be surgically grafted to the aliens and couldn’t be removed without killing the alien, which in turn, rendered the weapon non-functional. The military, or what remained of it, was attempting to capture one alive to study and find a weak spot. They have so far been unsuccessful. Reports came in a few days before the attack stating that their military training outpost being wiped out, there were no survivors. He had sat and watched the reports at his desk on his computer screen, wondering what could wipe out their entire military and the planet that housed them?

He went home that night and spent his last normal night sitting in front of his TV watching reruns of his favourite sitcom until he passed out on his couch. He woke in the middle of the night to move to his bed. As he walked by his window he noticed a meteor shower across the night sky. Odd, he thought. The next meteor shower wasn’t due for several days. In his sleepy state he chalked it up to the scientists being wrong and finally made it to his bed before collapsing and drifting off to sleep.

He woke up in a world he didn’t recognize.

An explosion rocked his apartment and he sat bolt upright in shock. The sounds of screaming and gun fire from the street below were drowned out by another explosion that caused dust to fall from his ceiling. He sat there, frozen in fear as more dust continued to rain down on him; the sounds of terror in the street falling into nothingness and then being replaced by high pitched screeching the sounds of which he had never heard before. It sounded like a mixture of the screeching bats used to communicate and navigate in the dark mixed with feedback produced from having recording equipment too close to a sound system.

He sat there, frozen in fear, beads of sweat running from his temple down his cheek. This had to be a dream, it had to be.

“Alright..”, he said to himself, “…no more watching weird Sci-Fi shit before falling asleep.”

Just as he put his foot down on his floor to get out of bed, he felt the tremor run through the building, like something has just driven a truck into it. There was a deafening silence as he sat there unable to move, hoping this was some sort of vivid dream. Then, he heard it, the screams. The screams of people who had undoubtedly thought the same as him, that this was some sort of dream. He could hear them screaming in pain, in fear, in terror and then nothing. There was silence again, followed by another building rumbling boom and more screaming.

Oh no… they’re moving from apartment to apartment! he thought to himself. He had to hide or fight back! Ya, fight back how? He has no idea who or what is moving through his building. Fight back… that’s a smart idea he thought to himself sarcastically as he eased out of his bed onto the floor and moved to the hallway.

Another boom and more screaming, this time it sounded closer, maybe two floors below him, he needed to think fast. He made his way from the hallway to his kitchen and crept over to his cutlery drawer. He rummaged through looking for something to use as a weapon. Spatula? No. Cheese grater? No. Serving Ladle? Definitely not. Then his hand found it, that familiar cold steel feeling, his hands grasped it and pulled it from the drawer, his butcher knife!  His favourite cooking utensil, he mostly used it for cooking homemade stir frys, but today it could mean the difference between him being another body on the mountain of conquered foes, or a survivor. It was a folded steel knife he had imported from Japan many years ago, it has cost him quite a pretty penny, but it might pay off now. He took his knife and he looked for something else he could use if he had to fight, he opened his fridge, nothing. He really should stop eating take-out, if I survive this, I will cook more! he promised himself. He opened his freezer, nothing was in there either except for a frozen 4 gallon jug of water. ” Better than nothing…” he whispered under his breath as he hefted the jug.

BOOM!

He froze in place, that sounded really close… next door? Move! Move! Move Dammit! he pleaded with himself. He stood stock still, unable to move from fear and disbelief that this might be it… No! I’m going to go out like this! he thought to himself. He quietly crept from his kitchen around his island which had been one of the reasons he had purchased this apartment. Real granite counter tops were rare in this day and age and it had driven the price of the sale up quite substantially, but he hadn’t cared. He could host parties and maybe one day have his kids eating there before they headed off to school in the morning. They’d jump off the stools run over to his wife, a woman he hasn’t even met yet, and kiss her on the cheek before running out the door to catch the tram to school. He smiled to himself, that was all a pipe dream, that was gone, it was never going to happen. Not because he worked too much and didn’t date, though that was part of it, no, it was because he was about to die from an unknown enemy that was moving through and exterminating everyone in his building. He managed to hide in his pantry and leaned back against his water cooler, its low hum brought him a little bit of ease as he waited for what he thought would be certain doom.

BOOM! His front door flew of its hinges and slammed into the wall immediately opposite before sliding to the ground with a thud.

SPARTAN IIs – The Heroes Humanity Needed

This month for my Halo themed post, I will be breaking down the SPARTAN-II program which is the backbone of the Halo universe.  For anyone that’s a fan of the series, Halo is centered around John-117 “the Master Chief”. John was believed to have been the sole surviving member of the SPARTAN-II program, until the novel Halo: First Strike and the newest game Halo 5 : Guardians when the rest of Blue team was brought back. As I stated in my last Halo post concerning Project ORION, Dr. Catherine Halsey was the brilliant and frankly insane mind behind the SPARTAN-IIs and their success in turning the tide of the Human-Covenant War.

CONCEPTION

As I stated before in the Project: ORION post, Dr. Catherine Halsey was the driving force behind the development of the SPARTAN-II program. After the shuttering of the SPARTAN-Is (Project:ORION), Halsey met with ONI and Section III Special Projects Division, to discuss a new program to pick up where ORION left off. Halsey surmised that children would be better suited as candidates due to their relatively malleable minds and impressionable nature. The candidates were all 6 years of age, having been previously screened using an outer colony vaccination program. In 2511, the SPARTAN-II program was officially green lit, and the candidates were retrieved. The candidates were abducted in the dead of night by ONI operatives and replaced with flash clones. The clones were grown from the DNA retrieved during the vaccination program and placed with their families so that nobody would know about the missing children and in turn, the project. Due to the complication of growing a full human in the span of months, the clones suffered from degenerative defects that caused them all to die out within a year.

The candidates were sedated and whisked away across the galaxy to Reach (the main human military training world) where they would be trained under Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Mendez and Dr. Halsey with the assistance of various UNSC divisions and the AI, Déjà.

TRAINING

As the candidates arrived at Reach they were brought out of cryo-sleep and rushed into the main meeting hall where Dr. Halsey was waiting. She informed the children that in accordance with Naval Code 45812 they were hereby conscripted into the UNSC to help defend Earth and her colonies. She also told them they would no longer be allowed to return to their parents and that they would endure many hardships in the coming years; the children were then taken to the barracks for a meal, then sent to bed.

On September 24, 2517, the recruits were awoken by CPO Mendez and his training staff at 0530 hours. The recruits were instructed to go to the showers and prepare for the day, those that refused were hit with a stun baton. When they finished their morning ablutions, they were escorted outside where CPO Mendez ran them through a vigorous exercise routine consisting of 100 reps of jumping jacks, squats, sit ups, deep knee bends, and leg lifts. They were then run a mile to the Reach Naval Academy, where Déjà was waiting for them to instruct them in Mathematics, Science, and History. The first history lesson they were taught was the battle of Thermopylae between the Spartans and the Persian Empire. After their lessons they were run two more miles to the “playground” (a suspended obstacle course with a bell at the top). The recruits were divided into teams of three and told that their objective was to ring the bell, the last team to do so would go without supper. John (Master Chief SPARTAN 117) was teamed with Kelly (SPARTAN 087) and Samuel (SPARTAN 034) for the course. While John was first to reach the bell the rest of his team were last and thus they all went without supper.

300px-Halo_TFoR_Amphitheater

On September 25, 2517, the recruits were awoken and did their morning calisthenics routine before jogging to the classroom for another lesson from Déjà. The lesson Déjà taught them that day was based on hunting in packs; specifically, they were shown how wolves hunted a moose by corralling the animal until they could overwhelm it. Following their lesson they were run to the playground which had been modified to be more difficult. John and his team worked together and while they weren’t the first to ring the bell they were not last, John, Sam and Kelly became fast friends after that.

For the next two years Mendez taught them various military lessons ranging from weapons control and marksmanship, to setting and disarming traps, basic field medical procedures and  squad tactics. CPO Mendez always incorporated various obstacles into his lessons (snipers with paint guns, stun grenades, stun batons, etc) forcing the recruits to constantly be on guard and ready for anything. On June 12, 2519, the recruits were dropped individually in the Reach wilderness and each given a piece of a map that would be used to get to the dropship that would take themback to the base. The last recruit to get to the dropship, would be left behind to walk home. John took on a leadership role and coordinated all the recruits to commandeer the dropship from the marines guarding it and pilot it back to base themselves. Following the task, John was brought before CPO Mendez and Dr. Halsey. John thought he was getting kicked out of the program, to his surprise, he was given the rank of Team leader for his planning, reaction to the training operation, and obvious leadership skills.

On July 14, 2523, the SPARTAN recruits were paired against Tango Company (the best marines on Reach) for future training scenario war games. Despite only being 12 years old, the Spartans continuously won against Tango Company. With the men of Tango company growing increasingly brutal with their treatment of the recruits. After a brutal defeat by the SPARTANS, the CO of Tango Company, ordered his men to use live rounds instead of stun rounds. The SPARTANS were still victorious.

Spartans 3

In 2525 at the onset of puberty for the SPARTAN recruits, they underwent the augmentation procedures. These procedures were very dangerous and resulted in 30 of the 75 SPARTAN candidates being killed on the operating table, with a further 12 being considered “washed out” after being physically deformed from the procedures or paralyzed. The augmentations performed are as follows:

  • Carbide Ceramic Ossification – Advanced material grafted to skeleton to make it virtually unbreakable
  • Muscular Enhancement Injections – Protein complex injected intramuscularly to increase tissue density and decrease lactase recovery time
  • Catalytic Thyroid Implant – Platinum coated pellet containing Human Growth Hormone implanted into the Thyroid gland to boost growth of skeletal and muscle tissues
  • Occipital Capillary Reversal – Submergence and boosted blood vessel flow beneath the rods and cones of the subject’s retina to produce marked visual perception increase
  • Superconducting Fibrification of Neural Dendrites – Alteration of bioeletrical nerve transduction to shielded electronic transduction. Providing a 300% increase in subject reflexes with a marked side increase in intelligence, memory, and creativity

In September of 2525, following the successful augmentation, the SPARTANS were forced to relocated to an abandoned mine on Reach to enhance the secrecy of the program and reduce risk to other training personnel. The training personnel were forced to don Mark I power armour to keep up with the augmented SPARTANS. Victory for the SPARTANS was inevitable with the security cameras used to watch the training exercises even being neutralized.

MJOLNIR POWER ARMOUR

The MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armour System was developed in conjunction with the SPARTAN-II recruits themselves. The program went though various iterations before finally being able to function in the way envisioned by Dr. Halsey. When the SPARTAN-II program first began, the Special Projects group had already been working on a powered exoskeleton for roughly 11 years, with some success. The Mark I, Mark II, and Mark III exo-suits were able to function but due to their immense power requirements needed to be tethered to a power source, severely limiting their range. When Halsey joined the project, they abandoned the exo-skeleton research to focus on the MJOLNIR armour.

MJOLNIR

The first iteration of the assault armour was dubbed the Mark IV in accordance with the previous exo-suit designs. This was the first mass produced armour to be given to the SPARTAN-IIs. This is the armour that the SPARTANS wore while assaulting the frigate that resulted in Samuel 034’s death.

The Mark V armour included the upgraded reverse engineered energy shield from the captured jackal tech; as well as, the ability to incorporate an AI into the armour system. This is the armour worn during Halo:Combat Evolved.  A special modified version of this armour dubbed the Mark IV Black, was developed in secret and deployed with SPARTAN Team Black in 2552.

The Mark VI incorporated a faster shield recharge time to help reduce the amount of time a SPARTAN was forced to remain in cover. It also included improved synchronization between suit and the SPARTAN allowing for faster movement harder hitting and higher jumps. This is the armour given to the Master Chief at the beginning of the Halo 2 game campaign.

The Mark VII was never widely produced due to the incredible cost associated with its production. It bolstered a lighter weight making the SPARTAN faster, limited energy shield shaping, and a nano technology repair suite.

HUMAN COVENANT WAR

Immediately following the SPARTANS being outfitted with their MJOLNIR armour, they were engaged by a Covenant frigate. The frigate and the UNSC Commonwealth, engaged in a ship to ship battle with the Spartans deploying via dropship mid fight to disable or destroy the frigateWhile exploring the ship, John 117, Samuel 034, and Kelly 087, came into contact with covenant forces. During the firefight a Kig-Yar (Jackal as referred to by the UNSC) had flanked the SPARTANS and loosed a charged a plasma pistol shot aimed at John. Samuel jumped in front of John taking the hit from the plasma pistol directly into his armour, burning through the layers and losing his vacuum seal. As the squad moved through the frigate they eventually found the engine room. John, Sam, and Kelly planted several ANVIL-II ASMs (Air to Surface Missile) around the fusion reactor to blow the ship. Due to his compromised armour, Sam volunteered to stay behind and hold off the Covenant forces to give John and Kelly time to escape via an EVA maneuver. Sam held off waves of Covenant troops until John gave him the all clear signal, at which point Sam, badly injured, detonated the missiles blowing the frigate. During this mission John and Kelly captured a functioning Jackal shield modulator which they took back to Halsey to incorporate into the armour systems of the SPARTANS.

Due to the morale effect the SPARTANS and their feats had on the entire human population, SPARTANS were not allowed to be listed as KIA (Killed in Action), they were to be marked as MIA (Missing in Action) or WIA (Wounded in Action). Sam was the first SPARTAN to be killed and listed as MIA during the Human Covenant War.

Due to the young age at which they were taken, the SPARTAN-IIs became each other’s surrogate family. The death of Samuel was mourned by all the SPARTANS and was remembered years after his death by Kurt (SPARTAN 051) who made a similar sacrifice during Onyx event.

*Kurt 051 was secretly recruited to train a new generation of SPARTANS dubbed SPARTAN-IIIs. This new generation relied more heavily on teamwork and an active camouflage module incorporated into their armour instead of shields. They were largely utilized for suicide missions on Covenant strong points. This new generation were trained on the planet Onyx.*

Spartans 1

Following the death of Samuel, Frederick (SPARTAN 104) was transferred to Blue Team, along with Linda (SPARTAN 058), to form the most well known version of the team. Throughout the beginning of the war, the SPARTANS were deployed against the Covenant and met with large success in ground combat. While the UNSC tactics and training surpassed the Covenant in ground conflicts, most of the engagements were lost in ship battles, in which the Covenant technology was vastly superior. On August 27, 2552, all active SPARTAN-IIs with the exception of Grey Team, were recalled to Reach for Operation: RED FLAG. Operation: RED FLAG was a multi-phase plan which entailed the capture of a Covenant carrier, the discovery of the Covenant home world “High Charity”, and the piloting of the carrier to the home world to extract a Prophet Hierarch to be used for negotiations to force a cease fire. Before the UNSC could enact this plan, the Covenant found Reach and began their assault.

THE FALL OF REACH

The Fall of Reach saw almost all of the active SPARTAN-IIs recalled to the planet in defense of the military stronghold. Red Team was deployed to the surface and believed to have died when it was thought the Covenant had “glassed the planet” (plasma bombardment from space to destroy the landscape). Linda 058, was killed when she along with several SPARTAN-IIs and the Master Chief were defending an orbital defense platform. She was later resuscitated following the battle of Installation 04.

The rest of the SPARTAN-IIs that were not tasked with defending the orbital platform, were tasked with defending various crucial points on the surface. Frederick 104, commanded the SPARTAN-IIs in their defense of Orbital Defense Generator Facility A-331. While en route to the station, Bravo 001 was shot down, killing four SPARTAN-IIs and wounding several others.  Upon their arrival at the facility, they discovered the shell shocked remains of Charlie Company, the marines assigned to its defense.  Frederick split the remaining SPARTAN-IIs into 4 teams with objectives for each.

Team Alpha (Frederick, Kelly and Joshua) was tasked with eliminating an encampment of 10,000 Covenant soldiers and their hovering cruiser.

Team Beta (11 unnamed SPARTAN-IIs) was tasked with defense of the Orbital Defense Generators.

Team Gamma (Li, Anton and Grace) was tasked with the retrieval of Admiral Whitcomb.

Team Delta (composed of the injured SPARTAN-IIs along with William, Isaac, Vinh and the remains of Charlie company) were tasked with securing their fallback point at CASTLE Base.

While Alpha team was successful in destroying the cruiser, they lost Joshua (SPARTAN 029) from concentrated fire from the 10,000 Covenant ground forces. Team Beta was presumably killed when under the threat of the Covenant overrunning their position, the UNSC Majestic fired 6 MAC (Magnetic Acceleration Canon) rounds into the base and the surrounding area; all 11 SPARTAN-IIs are presumed KIA. Team Gamma was successful but did not make it to CASTLE base and was forced to take shelter at Camp Independence. Team Delta was successful but lost all members except for Vinh, Isaac and William.

With the Orbital power facility destroyed the Covenant ships overwhelmed the defense platforms and began glassing Reach.

*Originally it was thought the Covenant had glassed the whole planet and any survivors fighting on its surface. It is later revealed the Covenant merely glassed the poles leaving the majority of the planet and all surviving SPARTAN-IIs intact.*

POST FALL OF REACH

While many ships retreated to Earth, one cruiser, The Pillar of Autumn, broke through the Covenant lines and made a blind jump through slip space. This is where the entire franchise kicked off with the first game, Halo: Combat Evolved.  Following the events of the game, John 117, and several other human survivors would go on to meet up with the other survivors of Reach in First Strike. During this novel the Master Chief would team with other surviving UNSC personnel to attack a Covenant Fleet Anchorage to stall their attack on Earth.

Halo_3_arbiter_and_master_chief

Eventually societal rifts in the Covenant along with the death of two of their Hierarchs, and revelation of what the Halo rings actually are, resulted in a civil war among the races of the Covenant. This civil war ended with the Elites siding with humanity against the other races. John 117, along with the Arbiter, Thel ‘Vadam, helped to put an end to the Human-Covenant war and bring an uneasy peace to the galaxy. After the fall of the Covenant and the peace brought on between the Sangheili (Elites) and humanity, several Covenant members refused to believe the Arbiter and created splinter factions, most notably the faction led by Jul ‘Mdama which took the title, the New Covenant.

At the culmination of Halo 3, after the battle of Installation 00, the Master Chief is believed to have been lost along with the remains of the Forward Unto Dawn.

Upon his return to Earth, following the Events of Halo 2, 3 &4, the Master Chief (John 117) is finally reunited with the SPARTAN-IIs he believed to have been killed in the Fall of Reach.

The lore and history behind the Human-Covenant war is quite extensive and deserves a post highlighting the various victories and defeats on both sides.  This is just a streamlined version of the involvement of the SPARTAN-II program. Many of the members of this program would become heroes to humanity and eventually the Sangheili. John 117 (forever known by his title as Master Chief) is fondly remembered by both humanity and the Elites that he fought beside near the end of the war.

That concludes the brief history of the SPARTAN-II program along with its various victories and defeats. I know I personally love the franchise and with so many games, comics, shows, and novels… it’s only going to continue to grow!

halo-4-master-chief

“Our duty, as soldiers, is to protect humanity. Whatever the cost.”

“You say that like soldiers and humanity are two different things. Soldiers aren’t machines. We’re just people.”

“She asked me that once, about which one of us was the machine…”

Project ORION – The Rise of the Spartans

This month for the continuation of the Halo series, I decided to focus on the SPARTANS and their origins as a unit.  Starting out in the early years of the United Earth Government (UEG), Project ORION is where it all began.

SPARTAN-II logo

PROJECT ORION

Project ORION was launched in the early years of the 23rd century shortly after the unification of the Earth into the UEG and the formation of the United Nations Space Command (UNSC). The project was started in an attempt to biochemically alter soldiers to create super soldiers for use in the field. While ORION would eventually be shut down, the concept was taken and utilized as the basis for future SPARTAN programs and certain advancements were used for field kits following the Insurrectionist Civil War.

In 2390, the UEG had formally established the Inner Colonies of the Earth Empire. For the next hundred years, humanity began to expand into the Sol system establishing dozens of colonies on habitable worlds. As the expansion continued, the power and influence of the UEG began the wane to the point that political independence was the hot topic among the colonists. Colonies began to separate themselves from UEG control and the UNSC took steps to maintain a grip on the Outer colonies that were trying to secede from the UEG. In preparation for conflict, the UNSC enacted Project: ORION on April 13, 2321, as a means of developing tougher, faster and stronger soldiers. Of the original 5 candidates selected, none were deemed a success and the candidates were returned to their respective units. Each of these candidates would die within a year of being returned to their unit for reasons  undisclosed by the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI).

Insurrectionist

As the Civil Wars on the Outer colonies intensified, Project: ORION was relaunched in secret on January 29, 2491, to combat insurgent attacks. The project was opened with 65 candidates, with a future 100 volunteers being accepted following initial training. On January 12, 2496, the first ORION soldiers were deployed as part of Operation: CHARLEMAGNE to recover a sub-orbital transit station over Eridanus II. The mission was successful without any casualties and without detection, this was also the only time in the program’s history that a full unit of its operators would ever be deployed.

With the success of Operation: CHARLEMAGNE, the tales of super soldiers being deployed by the UNSC spread like wildfire, causing conspiracy theories to be born. ONI used the leaked knowledge in a very aggressive propaganda run in the following decades to incite compliance from the outer colonies. During the same year as Operation: CHARLEMAGNE, ORION operatives were deployed as part of Operation: VERITAS, where they apprehended several Secessionist Union operatives who were employed in various high-level offices in the Colonial Military Administration (CMA).

As the Insurrectionist War began to heat up, the UNSC escalated their counter-insurgent activities with Operation: TREBUCHET. This operation was put into immediate action following the defection of UNSC Marine Colonel Robert Watts. ORION operatives were deployed to combat the insurgent threat and were very effective for a time. As the conflict dragged on, the insurgents became harder and harder to root out. The Insurgents adapted to the tactics of the ORION operatives very quickly and became increasingly harder to combat. While the bombings and flashpoint scenarios between Insurrectionists and the UNSC continued to increase, more civilians were caught in the crossfire, and were killed as a result. These civilian deaths added to the growing resentment for the UNSC on the outer colonies forcing more to join the Insurrectionist fight. In response to the growing Insurrectionist threat, the UNSC recruited more operatives into the ORION program, culminating in 300 active duty personnel.

As Operation: TREBUCHET continued, some of the older members of ORION began to exhibit PTSD and sympathy towards the Insurrectionists. Some operatives refused to participate in the program post-augmentation and were incarcerated as a result. Despite the success the ORION soldiers were having, the results were far below what the scientists expected. Due to the age of most candidates and the inadequate genetic screening performed during recruitment.; the genetic modifications led to minimal improvement and the immunosuppressants failed in many candidates. These issues led to irreversible genetic fragmentation and degenerative conditions in most of the ORION personnel.

In 2502, Operation: KALEIDOSCOPE was put in to action. KALEIDOSCOPE was a multi pronged approach by the UNSC to pacify the Insurrectionist threat. ORION operatives were deployed to neutralize key insurgent strongholds and eliminate insurgent personnel. The main goal was to eliminate Jerald Mulkey Ander, the leader of the Secessionist Union.

KALEIDOSCOPE

On March 13, 2502, Jerald Ander was assassinated by ORION operative, Corporal Avery Johnson. With Ander’s death, the Secessionist Union was easily dismantled; however, it did not deter those from seeking independent control from the UEG, it actually served to strengthen the Insurrectionist movement on several planets. While KALEIDOSCOPE dealt a massive blow to the insurgents, it failed to pacify the planets as had been originally intended and was declared a failure as the result. As Operation: KALEIDOSCOPE was wrapping up, it became apparent that some of the ORION operatives were beginning to develop severe side effects from the augmentations. These side effects ranged from physical anomalies to mental illness.

The ORION project began to decline in performance due to the ineffective strategies used by the UNSC. Operation: TANGLEWOOD was the final operation that ORION operatives participated in.

In 2506, project ORION was quietly terminated with the remaining 165 members being reassigned to various special forces elements in the UNSC. Some of the former ORION operatives began to exhibit mental instabilities and were discharged from the UNSC as a result. ONI concocted a plan to cover up the ailments being exhibited by the former ORION members as a medical ailment called Boren’s Syndrome. As many of the ORION soldiers began to retire and have families, the children of the former operatives required specially formulated injections to ensure they suffered no health defects. While some ORION members were discharged, others like Avery Johnson, were able to serve well past what is normally expected of human service. Johnson served for a continued four decades after the project was shut down.

*Johnson was dosed with an abnormally high amount of radiation emanating from a crate of plasma grenades on Paris IV; as a result, he was immune to Flood infection.*

THE FUTURE OF PROJECT ORION

Following the shuttering of Project ORION many of the augmentations and advancements were incorporated into the SPARTAN-II program and its successors. The failures of project ORION were blamed on the age of the recruits. Being adults, the recruits bodies rejected many of the augmentations, giving a less than expected result. The SPARTAN-II and SPARTAN-III programs were therefore forced to use prepubescent recruits so that their genetic information and physicality would allow for the augmentations to take hold. The SPARTAN-IV program overcame this obstacle, but that was not until after the end of the Human-Covenant War on March 3, 2553.

Due to the combat effectiveness of the ORION operatives the UNSC utilized project ORION and its operators as the model for a reorganization of the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODSTs).

In the years following the closure of Project: ORION in 2506, the small amount of special forces in the UNSC were not able to effectively combat the rising Insurrectionist threat. Around 2510, ONI began to re-examine the Carver Findings (A set of theories published by Dr. Elias Carver in 2491, predicting the outbreak of an insurrection) to determine if there was a solution within Carver’s predictions to their current Insurrectionist issue. The findings stated that the instability would continue to grow unless drastic military action was taken. ONI had conducted it’s own research and came to the same conclusion as Dr. Carver; if the threat was not subdued, by 2525 there would be an open war between the inner and outer colonies.

Dr. Catherine Halsey had taken Carver’s findings and built on them herself. Halsey’s findings predicted that if UNSC inaction against rebel leadership continued, there would be a 35 year war with over 5 billion dead or a conflict of indeterminate length that would lead to the downfall of human civilization.  Halsey presented her findings to Vice Admiral Stanforth and ONI Section III, who had come to their own similar conclusions. In order to avoid this grim future, Halsey agreed to work for ONI under Section III’s Special Projects Division to develop a solution.

Halsey

Dr. Halsey took the data from the initial Project ORION and made drastic changes. The candidates would be selected based on age, and genetic markers that would increase the success of the augmentations. The candidates would have to exhibit physical strength and mental attributes as well as being under the age of 10. The age limit also helped with instilling core military values and the understanding of War; which could not be taught to already enlisted individuals. In addition to the more selective candidate pool, one of the other major changes involved the creation of powered exoskeletons for use by the operatives. The drawback of this new armor is its requirement for augmenting the subject, effectively turning the participants into human guinea pigs. Despite the obvious danger to recruits and the unethical means to which they would be treated, ORION-II was permitted.

In 2511, Generation II of Project ORION was initiated to combat the Insurrectionist threat.  By 2517, 150 suitable candidates had been selected for the program, though funding only allowed for half that number. Thus the top 75 candidates were selected from all planets across UNSC controlled space. The selection pool included both male and female candidates as well as various ethnic backgrounds to ensure diversity. The candidates all were around the age of six years old and most lived on the outer planets. ONI operatives kidnapped the candidates in the night and replaced them with flash clones. These flash clones were grown from the DNA acquired by the Outer Colony Vaccination Program. The clones would die after roughly a year due to medical complications resulting from flash cloning an entire human being.

Halsey was not fond of the original name for the project, Project ORION Generation II, so she renamed the project out of personal preference and desire to distance it from the failures of the first Project: ORION. Halsey centered on the SPARTAN-II program as a homage to the name of ORION.

With the subsequent success of the SPARTAN-II program, Project ORION was retroactively renamed as SPARTAN-I.

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There you have it, the story of how the SPARTAN program came to be. While the most popular iteration of the SPARTAN program is the SPARTAN-IIs and the face of Halo, the Master Chief; none of that would be possible without Project: ORION. Next month I will breakdown the SPARTAN-II program along with its various victories and defeats. See you next week!

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