Chapter 17: Self-sacrifice
Tucker smashed his fist against the door even after Sarge tried to stop him. He turned to look at Caboose and asked for Delta to come out. "How may I be of…assistance?"
"I want you to open this door right now," Tucker demanded as the fragment entered the keypad lock. Delta tried to enter through several different pathways, but each attempt ended in failure. This is strange, just moments ago their security seemed poor. But now the quality has exceeded beyond even what I am presently capable of. Delta exited the lock after a few more tries all ending in defeat. "I'm sorry Captain Tucker but I can't open the door."
"What do you mean? Aren't you supposed to be smart or something?!" Tucker asked in an outrage. Caboose created distance between Delta and Tucker coming to his fragment's defense. "Hey! Tucker, that was not very nice. Delta tried his best."
Tucker simply kicked the door in anger and crossed his arms. This is some serious bullshit! He thought as the others turned to look behind them. Simmons pointed to another door stating. "That wasn't there before."
"So, who wants to wager that we won't be able to hack the other doors as well now?" Grif asked looking all around. Doc smirked under his helmet saying. "I will take that action. I got fifty bucks on not being able to open it."
Everyone looked at Delta who tried to do his thing with the other lock. He failed. Even Delta was shocked to see this happen. He believed he had been created as the most logical and smartest AI fragment, thus not much should be able to stand in his way. Yet here stood what once was a flimsy lock, easily foiling his every attempt to bypass the security.
"So…you guys wouldn't happen to know of any other way out now would you?" Sis asked tapping her feet in impatience. Doc pointed to a vent up above. "Check it out. We could use that to go to Sector-D."
Sarge was impressed by Doc's calm tone in this situation. "Great find Doc, now let's get to work on opening the vent."
"Ah great, more work," Grif moaned in a tired tone. Sarge pointed his shotgun at him. "Can it Numb-nuts or I will shoot you with my shotgun."
"Nothing new there," said Grif.
The two war friends stared at one another in silence. Locus could see the pain behind Equal's eyes to have to come to this confrontation. You are not the only one hurting, I didn't want to do this either. Locus raised his weapon at the group, but unexpectedly they remained still. Are they not intimidated or feeling threatened? Locus pondered with Equal walking out of the group.
"Locus, you have some serious explaining to do," said Equal studying Locus' body language. There was no hesitation in his movements. This indicated to Equal that Locus deeply believed in his actions. "So enlighten me locus, why this betrayal?"
"I…," Locus stopped to carefully consider his words. No, I have to be honest. Playing politics will bring nothing but more sorrow to our friendship now. "I don't believe in what you are doing. The way you aim to achieve your goals are wrong."
"Yes, you want to incite war with the UNSC in an effort to bring justice for all those who were wronged. Bringing justice is one thing, but doing it through the means of war is another."
"So you want us to use the language of diplomacy?" Equal asked amused at the suggestion. "What will that change in the long run? People are bound to forget things that happen quietly. History can repeat itself. But do something so massive to leave a permanent mark, and they will remember."
"Equal, War will only create more hate than what you have. Do you really believe that there will be no consequences for your actions? Do you really think you can cure hate with more hate?" Locus asked putting forth an interesting question. "No it won't. If you fight, then you will be the harbinger of another war, one in which I fear your people won't fair well."
"Don't speak of us as if we are weak!" Equal replied with his tone clearly affected by Locus' words. Locus stopped a moment to let Equal calm down. He breathed in deeply and continued. "But you should know best from experience. Remember the hate that fueled our fight against the aliens? Remember the after effects of that hate? Do you really want to start the cycle all over again?"
"Unfortunately, that hatred was born the moment the UNSC wronged us. And it only deepened when you and Captain Tucker decided it be a fair idea to kill our men in your escape. Do you think the people will forgive and forget that so easily? I think not," Equal replied walking back to his group of allies. He felt a deep sense of heaviness in his heart. He didn't want to do it, but he had to in order to be fair and just to everyone. "It pains me to say this Locus. I trusted you the most out of everyone. We were like brothers during and after the Great War. And now, I have to order for your execution. You must die for betraying us."
All the other enemy soldiers surrounded Locus with their guns pointed at his head. Locus dropped his head in disappointment. I'm sorry it had to come to this as well friend. He suddenly ran his camouflage unit just as the soldiers opened fire. Within a matter of seconds he was gone and already massacring the soldiers.
He was killing them left and right with all of his weapons at disposal. Striking down the last, Locus ran for Equal. I will end everything here right now. With you gone…with you gone they will no longer be as coordinated. There will be an opportunity for others to strike down this station then and all that it stands for. Locus jumped above everyone else and activated his alien sword. He swung downwards, but before he could make contact, he was kicked away!
Locus picked himself as his right side ached. He held it tightly to ease the pain and saw that Pure stood in his way. Pure looked down at his rail gun and activated the energy sword attachment at the bottom. "I shall oblige you by being your opponent Locus."
Locus felt his hands shake a little. Am I afraid of him? No I don't have the luxury to be. I must fight! Locus ran for Pure and both of them raised their swords in the air. The swords clashed and they stared at one another intensely, each trying to stare down the other. Locus saw that his strength was failing him against Pure's brutish power. He jumped to the left just barely escaping a gory fate. Locus jumped head first knocking Pure down to the ground.
The rest watched from one side of the room giving the two plenty of fighting ground. Equal averted his gaze however. He could not bear the prospect of seeing his allies fight amongst themselves. As much as he wanted revenge for all those deaths Locus caused, he was still too afraid to see Locus be struck down.
Pure got up and kicked Locus away causing him to roll down to the ground. Locus struggled to get himself up, but his body felt broken. Just from one hit? He is a monster, Locus pondered barely standing up. Pure walked closer with his sword up high and swung it wide. Locus was just grazed, but he avoided a fatal blow. He swung his alien sword, but every hit Locus thought he could make contact with was constantly missing.
Pure was using his additional jets for additional flexibility in dodging the attacks. He had the upper hand here. Pure dodged another swing and punched Locus hard in the jaw. Locus went flying to the ground a few meters away from his opponent. The sword deactivated as it was flung off far away from Locus. He looked around for it. There is no chance I am going to be able to get to it without distracting Pure.
Pure walked closer and lifted Locus up by his neck. He tightened his grip nearly to the point that Locus was hardly able to breathe. "Just so you know Locus, you killed ten of my friends today."
Locus struggled against Pure's grip, hitting his arm with his losing strength. Pure eventually flung Locus against a wall. Everyone in the room could hear a crack echo from Locus' body. Pain was evident from the hindered movements in Locus's back. Equal looked at his ally thinking, what a merciless man you can be Pure. The big man walked towards Locus and activated his sword attachment. "For them Locus, pay with your life!"
With a swift swing, Pure impaled Locus' abdomen causing him to grunt in excruciating pain. Every fiber of his body ached with all of his pain receptors feeling the hot burning sensation of the energy sword. He tried to get it out, but Pure would not allow it for he firmly held it down. Is this really it? Locus pondered as the weakness spread from the wound to the rest of his body. Is this really the end?
"Know that your death is for the benefit of our people," said Pure as he leaned in closer. Locus grew weary and his head began to fall back. But before he went completely limb, he managed to activate a trigger. "What the hell are you doing?!"
Pure looked all around the room and saw no bombs present. What was that trigger for then? He wondered. Locus' body went completely limp. He was quickly losing the sensation in there. He breathed heavily, like a man on his death bed taking his last few breaths. So, this is the end.
Truth pointed to Pure's chest shouting. "Pure, what is that?!"
The big man looked down with a shocked gasp. He struggled against a stuck object on his chest. It was a sticky bomb.
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
Pure almost had it, and he used his other hand as well to apply more force. Locus felt his vision go blurry from his sustained injury. Did I do something good in the end?
Beep! Beep! Beep! Beep!
Locus slowly with a struggle turned to look in Equal's direction. The person that ordered his execution, and yet he still considered him a friend. Maybe now I understand why Tucker had so much faith in me at the very end. Friendship…
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!
Equal was shocked to see things play out this way. Justice was already in front of Equal ready to protect him from the explosion. He looked down at Locus who now lay still. His breathing had lessened. It was to the point where he could hardly notice Locus' chest moving. Locus' vision began to go dark, and his final parting thought was one in which he could take comfort in. I did do some good. I did make something right at the very end. Tucker and the rest of the sim troopers…I just hope you can carry on my actions. I just want to see Equal liberated from this hate. I just want peace.
Pure removed the bomb from his chest. Locus' vision went dark. The bomb exploded! Justice activated her shield to protect them all from the force of the explosion. Equal did his best to push past her, but he was held back by Truth. He called out for Pure, but they could hear nothing but the explosion.
"What the hell was that?!" asked Grif as he finished helping Sarge up into the vent. Simmons looked towards the locked door and shrugged his shoulders. He turned his attention to the ceiling however. "What is that beeping noise?"
Sarge strained his hearing and quickly decided to dismiss the idea. "Who cares, we need to skedaddle on out of here quickly."
"Right, double-O Donut never fails his mission. Let's go everyone!" Donut replied in a positive and encouraging tone. Grif motioned for Sis to get into the vent next. Just as she took a step towards Grif, they all heard a few explosions taking place. Outside the colony, the devices Locus had planted on the colony's surface exploded creating a tear between Sector-C and Sector-D. The whole area the crew occupied suddenly depressurized. Simmons held down onto the floor handles beneath his feet noting. "So did you guys hear that one?!"
Donut and Sis went flying out into space. Grif looked behind him trying to reach out for Sis, but he was too late. Thanks to Gamma, he had activated his gravity boots almost instantly. Sarge looked to the two crew members evacuated to space. They were floating still by Sector-D. Uh nuts, what do we do now?! Sarge pondered as he turned to notice Grif losing his traction on the surface.
"Uh Simmons, help," Grif called out slowly being dragged towards space. Simmons reached out with his free hand. "Grab hold!"
Suddenly Grif lost all friction that caused him to fling backwards. By some luck he managed to grab hold of Simmons' arm. The sudden jolt was not nice to the maroon soldier. He struggled to keep a tight grip on the handle. Though the floor structure the handle was attached to was constantly shaking. Please don't do this to us now, Simmons thought as he saw a screw coming loose and flying away. The floor cover suddenly came loose causing Simmons' to suddenly arch backwards. The only thing that kept him planted to the floor was his gravity boots and even those seemed to be losing their effect against the deadly forces of space. "Uh Grif, hang on."
Just as quickly Grif uttered his words, the two were thrown away quickly heading for space. Simmons managed to grab hold of some damaged debris still attached to Sector-C. Grif suddenly lost his grip on Simmons and flew out towards Sector-C. "Simmmmooooohhhnnnnsss!"
"Grif, look out!" Simmons shouted over the radio as the orange soldier turned around to find Sector-D on fast approach. "Oh…fuck me."
With a loud and forceful crash, Grif's body remained still. Sarge looked at his only man still struggling to hold on and called out to him. "Simmons, hold on! Use your jets to get yourself back in here!"
"I can't sir, the pressure is too much!" Simmons shouted just as he lost his grip. He went flying down towards Sector-D only to meet the same fate as Grif, Donut and Sis. Sarge was left distraught. This was supposed to be a rescue mission for Tucker, and yet here they were again completely separated from one another. Doc gently brushed Sarge's shoulder with his foot. "We need to go Sarge, there is nothing we can do for them from here right now. We should head back into Sector-C. The vents are already closing off section by section. We need to hurry."
"Yeah, just have faith that they will be alive," Tucker added filled with worry. Sarge reluctantly followed the others deeper into the vents and to wherever they may lead the remaining group.
Gamma appeared besides Grif trying to get a proper readout on his health. It wasn't looking good. And according to the other fragments, it didn't look good for Simmons or Donut either. Gamma tagged Sis and activated a distress beacon alongside the other fragments in the hopes that Captain Muffins manages to retrieve them somehow. Captain Muffins now seemed to be their only hope of getting out of this alive. It was just a matter of time. But even that was limited in supply with their oxygen modules slowly running out of air.
Everyone in Equal's group looked towards the door alongside him. His heart grew weary from worry and the ache it has suffered today. "What was that?"
"It sounded like an explosion," Truth advised as he went to a nearby panel for surveillance systems. Justice tapped on Equal's shoulder and motioned toward the explosion Locus and Pure were involved in. "The smoke is clearing."
Equal's mouth dropped open at the sight. The floor was covered in an exuberant amount of blood, torn limbs and pieces from within the human body that were no longer identifiable. Equal walked over to Locus' corpse that was mostly intact, though his armor seemed to have suffered some major burn damage. He bent down to retrieve the sword and activated it. The sword now obeyed his command.
Equal stared at the sword and gritted his teeth. His vision focused from the sword to Locus. Why?! He wondered in a sudden surge of anger. He fell to his knees as his legs malfunctioned from the sudden chemical imbalance. "Why would you do this Locus?!"
Justice rushed over to his side and held him by his back. "Equal, please calm down."
"No! I won't calm down. I can't calm down, not when I had to be the one to order my friend's execution. And in the process, I lost two of some of the closest people to me in my life. Why would he do this to begin with?!" Equal questioned, and in a fit of rage he punched the floor causing a dent. "I thought we had a mutual understanding established. Why would you do this then Locus? Why?!"
Truth warily approached his colleagues with even worse news. Both of them stared up at him waiting to spit it out. He lowered his head feeling the weight of being the bearer of such news. "I'm sorry Equal, but it seems that Sector-D was blown clean off from the rest of the station. All the people still on there are now lost."
"Hold on, we can still mount a rescue mission!" Justice argued standing up to Truth's level and going toe to toe with him. He shook his head at her. "That isn't possible. The amount of damage they have done to us already will take up most of our resources. If we dedicate people, time and other resources to rescuing those on a lost sector now, then we put the ones on the station at a higher risk of dying. It may sound cruel to abandon them, no it is cruel. But we don't have much of a choice."
"FUCK!" Equal shouted suddenly stabbing the sword through the floor. His eyes were bloodshot with rage. He wanted to pick up Locus' corpse and shred it apart with his bare hands. Is this the type of peace you sought Locus?! You not only killed our soldiers, but also the innocent! You were nothing but a walking contradiction.
Everyone was quiet. They all understood that a moment of silence was needed. Truth cleared his throat to break the silence soon after. "We will…we will officially declare everyone trapped on Sector-D dead after we have handled basic cleanup."
Equal looked at Locus' helmet and let out a tired, sad and a broken laugh as he sat down in the pool of blood. "Just what is trust? If I could not trust the person I valued the most in my life, then what worth is there in trust? Does that not mean that I'm- that we are all truly alone in the very end? There is no value at all…"
Justice looked at Equal with sympathetic, compassionate and most of all understanding eyes. Truth felt his head become heavier with these thoughts. He left to start handling cleanup, and he left Equal in Justice's care, she always knew how best to deal with him. Justice agreed to the plan as she watched Truth leave. We are tired, broken and I would argue even pathetic. Our enemy managed to get the best of us, and they managed to scar us all.
She placed a comforting hand on Equal's shoulder and bent down beside him. She took his hand in hers and held it in silence. Equal didn't know what to do anymore. All the sacrifices he had made to this point, it all seemed to be unravelling right before his eyes. What have I been fighting for all this time if you chose to stand up against it so strongly Locus?
"Justice," Equal whispered in a dry and weary tone. "Are we all really alone?"
She shook her head at him. "No, you are not alone. I'm not alone, and neither is Truth. Looks at us, we are all a bunch of broken people who understand each other's pain. Because we have all experienced the way UNSC played with our trust and belief in them, we are able to truly understand one another mutually. On this station, none of us are really alone."
"I suppose you are right," Equal admitted thinking about her words in-depth. He turned to look at the remains of Pure and closed his eyes as a sign of respect. You fought well friend, your opponents were formidable and you always managed to overcome them. Even this, I would count it as a victory, because you managed to protect us all. "Pure had a family, did he not?"
Justice bit her bottom lip thinking about what will become of them. "Yes, they will no doubt be devastated by this."
"Especially his daughter," Equal stated, he shook his head still unable to truly grasp these stirring emotions inside of his mind. "He was so excited for his daughter's fifth birthday next week. He told me that they had plans to go out to all of her favorite places, make it the best damn birthday they could for her."
Justice tightened her grip on his hand. She rubbed Equal's back holding her own tears back. Equal could no longer fight it though. He had to let this pain out somehow. She continued to rub his back as he silently cried. "I'm sure it would have been great…maybe we should all do something together for them. But someone will need to be sent down to their residence to deliver this news."
"Then let me do it," Equal demanded, he could not bring himself to go through with sending someone else to deliver this news while he sat safely behind a desk. "Let me be the one to tell them."
"Are you sure?" Justice inquired greatly concerned at this course of action. Equal nodded his head veraciously. "They deserve to know the truth from someone close to him."
Justice helped Equal stand up as he had now calmed down. He looked at the spot Pure's remains were scattered and begged for forgiveness. Forgive me for this Pure, forgive me. He turned to Locus' corpse and now could not feel anything else but heartache. He turned to walk around and leave the room slowly with the support of the wall and Justice. This is where our paths must diverge. I suppose this is goodbye Locus, goodbye.