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Let's Play Halo SPV3 Stage 10A LAST EPISODE
Posted By: Lion O CyborgDate: 6/8/20 8:17 a.m.

Stage 10: The Maw

Destroy Halo before Halo destroys all life in the galaxy

Hey guys it’s LOC and welcome back to more Let’s Play Halo SPV3. Where last we left off, we saw the Arbiter’s side of what is just about to come, as an early bird cameo to the next game. (not in Halo 1 and Halo Anniversary, nor SPV3.1) The last place we actually left off was when after failing to save everyone at Alpha Base, I succeeded in saving a small group of survivors, also not in those other versions of Halo 1. They have presumably headed for orbit and I return to the Autumn in the banshee I stole at the end of Keyes. The time has come.

Act 1: …And the Horse You Rode In On – Space Gadget

I approach the Autumn over the sea, where it has crashed on a desert coastline. You may not be able to tell as the dawn sunlight and texture of the water makes it look like more sand. Anniversary and SPV3 make the fact it’s the ocean much clearer. The chapter title is taken from the phrase “Fuck you and the horse you rode in on”. In short, we’re giving 343 Guilty Spark and the Covenant the finger by blowing up Halo.

As the camera pans under the bow of the ship, now hanging off the edge of a cliff above the main desert like artificial Netherlands, I take a moment to savour one of the best songs in the game and series, named after this level.

Halo 1:

SPV3 Version:

Halo 2:

This is the perfect song for an end scene build-up. I namecheck the Raccoons & The Lost Star as I’ve referenced none too subtly in this LP before, such as after Cyril’s mountain fortress is destroyed. Hell, this would make a great DVD menu opening sequence song too, whether the Raccoons or Halo DVDs themselves.

The ship’s MAC gun, once proud and erect now hangs broken and flaccid over a steep dropoff under the similarly broken windows of the bridge, much like 2 different pieces of hardware with the same names.

I actually mistook the desert below the ship for more sea, with the desert coastline dunes the Pillar of Autumn is on being a sandbar or spit. This was due to the differences in the sand and ocean being subtle and/or I just didn’t notice since I was a kid back then. Anniversary makes it clear as well, by showing the desert areas with swirling sandstorms and tall rocky stacks like mushroom rocks.

“This thing is falling apart!” Cortana yells as I fly my banshee toward the first lifepod bays I saw when I was here before. If the fighter is damaged somehow, it certainly would explain how the engine keeps cutting out. “It’ll hold.” I reassure her in vain. “We’re not gonna make it!” “We’ll make it.” I insist. “Pull up! Pull up!”

*BANG!*

I crash the banshee into the side of the ship under the lifepod bay just as the engine cuts out again, quickly ejecting and grabbing a foothold on the hull. “…You did that on purpose, didn’t you?” the AI practically glares at me as I climb up. I glance around to check that the coast is clear before pulling up into the bay.

In SPV3, this sequence is a little different: While the sea is clearly water, it extends all around the parts of crash site we can see as an actual spit, there’s more wreckage lying about and the desert is now grassy plains.

OK, that’s new. This was still a banshee in SPV3.1 but since we took a Pelican at the end of None Left Behind, we instead use that. However, it makes the opening to this level look a tad corny, especially the crash.

https://youtu.be/5fOXvXrCaTA?t=21

Far below, you can see a pair of fires where the banshee is supposed to have crash landed. Those despawn if you revert to the last checkpoint here.

“We need to get to the bridge.” Cortana informs me as I enter the ship proper through the tiny airlock. “From there, we can use the Captain’s neural implants to initiate an overload of the ship’s fusion engines. The explosion will damage enough systems below it to destroy the ring.”

I pick up a brute shot inside to replace my pistol, but keep the machinegun turret. If I find a brute plasma rifle, I’ll take that instead. The first terminal is right in front of the lifepod bays.

He’s right about the state of the cruiser. The new sections from the first level return with some extra additions and they are almost all completely dark, requiring a VISR. However, I don’t think we even get one if we haven’t one already. The new areas have also been turned into Flood hives. Don’t hang around as sentinels will show up.

This ladder is in the maintenance accessway I was in before and it connects to the hallway beside the first airlock where the boarding craft was. The enemy ship is long gone and the closed airlock door looks out over the desert below, only now it’s the sea. I chuck a grenade down to deal with the vanilla carrier forms lurking down there but there’s sentinels too. If you eluded the ones in the lifepod bays, you meet them here and all of them have shields from now on.

Remember the melee attack training at the start of all this? The Flood now use that against you. Brute combat forms and jackal carriers lurk behind the first wave. When the last one pops, I see this strange Halo 1 glitch for the first time in SPV3.2:

If you see enemies stuck frozen like that or stuck in an idle state and you can’t seem to rouse them, you can stick plasma grenades to them and they’ll fail to go off, like Tom’s traps in Tom & Jerry. Leaving the map through a loading zone and coming back causes everything you do to them such as grenades or gunshots to all occur simultaneously, it even happens in Anniversary.

I don’t know what causes it but it’s a fun glitch when it happens, especially if they unfreeze at the wrong time and the grenades do indeed go off in your face.

I’m back at the mess hall only now we’re serving up sentient viruses, rotting meat and hive-minded worm colonies, just like your average McDonalds. This is where Spec Ops elites become a pain in vanilla as they throw grenades a lot in here, at least in vanilla. You also see grunts with handheld fuel rod cannons here a lot more. Like the energy sword, you can’t use them in Halo 1 & Anniversary until Halo 2. If you see a dead grunt’s weapon start burning green fire when it dies, run away: The fuel rod cannon will explode soon afterward and it can also set off nearby grenades.

Fuel rod cannons can however be used in multiplayer, but only in Halo PC and the Master Chief Collection where they look like this:

These are weird. They also function like a plasma weapon, unlike every other game in the series. Halo Reach reuses this same model but tweaks its shape a little and recolors it gold to fit with the actual Fuel Rod Cannon from Halo 2:

This is the real Fuel Rod Cannon from Halo 2:

Like the rocket launcher, it has a scope but the fuel rods arc downward like Tomb Raider 2 grenade launcher grenades and the tracking shots feature that enemies can use (and the RPG has) vanishes the instant you get your hands on it. In Halo 3 onward –I can’t remember if Halo 2 does it as well- the fuel rods bounce when they hit something to avoid going off in the player’s face, which can cause them to miss if you try to exploit splash damage too close. Red vs Blue parodied this: https://youtu.be/zZ0rX03nZaU?list=PL2vBnPCQT4WJMSFpQMsxt5JLsSXE3CLAq&t=164

The first Covenant terminal is in here between the food dispensers where I enter.

We meet Zamamee in person for the first time and the last time just before the final escape. There’s no indication it’s him other than the book.

More spec-ops elites and jackals replacing the grunts that were here in vanilla are in the hallway before the bridge, and one last elite and 3 jackals on the bridge itself. Cortana asks me to upload her into the control systems via the terminal by the main view screen as I did before. When the AI appears over the holotank, everywhere she looks, she can see burned-out equipment, bloodstained decks and smashed viewports. Cortana shakes her head sadly, bringing a hand up to her translucent forehead. “I leave home for a few days and look what happens. This won’t take long.”

“There. That should give us enough time to make it to a lifepod and put some distance between ourselves and Halo before the detonation.” As I bend down to pick her up and put her back in my head, I hear 343 Guilty Spark’s voice. “I’m afraid that’s out the question, really.” Cortana groans, “Oh hell.” I bring my gun up but I can’t see any sign of the Monitor or his Sentinels. That didn’t prevent the construct from babbling in my ears though: he’s accessed my comm system.

“Ridiculous! That you would imbue your warship’s AI with such a wealth of knowledge! Weren’t you worried that it might be captured? Or destroyed?” Cortana frowns. “He’s in my data arrays. A local tap.”

Though nowhere near the bridge, the Monitor is on board in the engine room, and flits from one control panel to the next, sucking information out of Cortana’s nonsentient subprocessors with the ease of someone hoovering a pair of curtains. How he’s able to do it from reactor instrument panels and exhaust coupling controls I’ve no idea. “You can’t imagine how exciting this is! To have a record of all of our lost time! Human history is it? Fascinating.”

He flies past the 3 big brown exhaust couplings over the reactor exhaust shafts before taking more data out of the manifold control panel next to the level 3 entrance. “Oh how I will enjoy every moment of its categorisation! To think that you would destroy this installation, as well as this record! I am shocked. Almost too shocked for words.” I actually misheard this as a kid and still do to this day as him saying “I am sherbet. Almost too sherbet for words.” I only found out what he’s supposed to be saying from the original print of the book, back in 2007/2008.

There’s a beep and the timer on the main view screen ceases counting down. “He’s stopped the self-destruct sequence.” Cortana warns. “Why do you continue to fight us, Reclaimer?” Spark demands. “You cannot win! Give us the construct! And I will endeavour to make your death relatively painless, and…” there’s an electronic chirp as the rest of 343 Guilty Spark’s words are chopped off as if someone has thrown a switch. “At least I still have control over the comm channels.” Cortana says.

“Where is he?” I ask. “I’m detecting taps throughout the ship. Sentinels most likely, as for the Monitor…he’s in engineering. He must be trying to take the core offline! Even if I could get the countdown restarted…I don’t know what to do.” I stare at Cortana in surprise. This is a first-and it makes her seem more human somehow. “How much firepower would you need to crack one of the engine’s shields?”

“Not much,” Cortana replies. “A well placed grenade perhaps, but why…”

“…OK I’m coming with you.” Forget what coach told you too: aim it, don’t throw it! I reach for her again only for sentinels to surround the bridge outside the smashed window. In unison, the machines attack, smashing the main view screen and flaring my shields as I grab Cortana and stuff her back in my head.

Act 2: Lost Impact – I’ve Got A Bad Feeling About This

I quickly use my brute plasma pistol to destroy the sentinels. If you skip the cutscene or die in this section, the main view screen comes back and can’t be destroyed again, giving you extra cover. However it can still be destroyed in SPV3.

You can see what I mean by the desert below looking like more of the sea. Don’t fall down into the weapons station as the ladder is broken and so is the glass floor. Looking down there at the cliff close enough, you can see an evilly grinning serpent’s face in the rocks. It’s still there in SPV3.

“The ship was heavily damaged when it crashed." Cortana says. “Head for the cryo chamber. We should be able to get to the engine room through there.” The Flood attack as I head back to the armoury and there’s a lot of them. Hunters and elites duke it out with more Flood in the hall beyond but I slip past them. I then come across jackal carrier forms and sentinels as well as the next terminal.

The Flood do infect the dead, though we don’t see it in this game, original, Anniversary or this remake. I said before that this is one of the best final levels in any game and I meant it. The original is good enough and the SPV3 version improves upon it further. Through the half open blast door is the cryo bay. The original pipes I jumped over are on fire and there’s a medipack behind them. Cryo 2 is locked however so I have to go into Cryo 1 that was locked the first time instead. The main differences are all the tubes are missing from the floor and walls, there’s ladders up the side catwalks and there’s an enclosed walkway over the middle from the control room that the catwalks connect to. There’s Flood an sentinels all over here, with the majority of the former clustered in the control room and the exit hall.

Inside the control room, there’s another terminal: a log from Cortana in the small screen showing either me or another Spartan.

We’ll see what her ultimate fate is in First Strike. Like the terminals in Halo 3, this is the only one that changes depending on the difficulty, with this being the Heroic one. The rest of them are here:

Normal

Legendary

Hmm. She must be having horrible dreams right now. Or maybe they’re real. Do dead men dream? (“men” meaning “human” in this case, not strictly male)

Noble

On the wall behind me is another terminal with an incoming message. You probably saw this coming: it’s the final Halo Anniversary terminal not counting the secret one you unlock in Halo waypoint. (now available from the start via MCC)

This may not be much of a big deal now, but that sequel hook for Halo 4 was huge back when I first played Anniversary in 2011. I hadn’t read the Forerunner saga yet so I had no idea who the Prometheans and Didact were, other than that there were 2 Didacts and the second one was the guy speaking to the Librarian in the Halo 3 terminals. The extra FMV cutscenes added to Halo 2 Anniversary taking place long after the game at the very start and very end (with the Arbiter and Spartan Locke) are the same idea but for Halo 5, which I still haven’t finished yet at time of writing. How Spark was able to record that before escaping I’ve no idea. When does this terminal take place?

There’s a rocket launcher usually found here of the left of the exit hall in vanilla, but I don’t know if it’s just sitting there or if a combat form drops it. There’s an overshield in the hall where the elite and first explosion was and there’s jackal carrier forms (infection forms normally) in the second maintenance accessway. The red emergency lighting is on but it doesn’t help, as I’m now entering the pitch black hive in the new areas of the ship with not a VISR in sight.

Act 2b: We’ve Been Here Before – Final Haunt

I come out into the first of the new halls and I’m blind as a bat without my torch. The emergency lights and the occasional flare are too few and far between: everything else is pitch black.


“We can see in the Dark. Can you?”

The pods explode as I pass them. I frantically spray the combat forms inside with sentinel sniper beam fire. This whole section of the ship is deathly quiet, with only a low, creepy droning sound to break it. It makes this place really feel abandoned save for monsters hiding in the shadows, what little power remains is slowly running down. It feels like the ship could collapse on its own at any time.

And I thought the Flood containment facility in the swamp, the Oracle & High Charity in Halo 2 and Cortana in Halo 3 were scary as a kid. The entire hive section of the Maw in Halo SPV3 is scary right now! The constant Flood in their pods, complete darkness and that creepy humming, there’s no guarantee the Flood will even emerge straight away, but you’ll be twitchy and ready to fire on anything at moment’s notice. Coupled with sentinel beams or a TOZT if one exists on this level, plus the overall goal of my mission here, it really makes you feel like Ripley in the climax of the first Alien movie.

I guess the mod makers were thinking the exact same thing. What should I find just after saying that a Flamethrower would complete the Alien vibe? I hide down a hallway to the right, finding some reading material behind a pod.

There’s a loud bang and a wet scream as I enter the next airlock bay after dropping down the hatch. It sounded awfully close. Some sort of derelict wind effect I should think. *sigh* Who am I kidding?

The airlocks are blocked, but I can’t tell if it’s by the cliffs outside or if they’re plugged by Flood biomass.

Flood fight sentinels in the next cryo chamber and more infest the first of the cargo holds. I swap out my shotgun for a brute plasma rifle in case I don’t find one later.

AH HELL!

I can hear a lot of Flood in the second cargo hold, but I can’t see them. That’s because they are below me, in the lowest level of the hold.

There’s no other way out of here. I have to go through this hall. After using up my remaining napalm, there’s the sound of glass smashing and I hear my “wind effect” gnashing its teeth. The Monitor’s robotic dentists in the third hold aid in their defanging. I decide to take the fresh TOZT I find instead of the plasma rifle so I get to keep my shotgun. I just hope I find another one later, but the situation demands the switch right now.

As I fight my way through the power plant and vehicle tunnels, I have a terrible thought: I have no way of ascending the elevator if the power in this section is out. Fortunately, there is another way: past a group of gasbags, the subsequent sea of flugs and invisible combat forms at the warthog garage, I find that the lift does work, though it jams on a different floor, forcing me to crawl out.

Several decks were warped and twisted in the crash. I stumble and slide down the tiled corridor where it dumps me out next to a similarly crushed vehicle tunnel.

I hope this slide goes to a big ball pool and more climbing tunnels to play in like you get in the Cocket Hat pub in Station Square and themed pizza restaurants, but I know better. It actually dumps me in another hive, which leads to the stairs leading up, similar to the one I saw when I was here before. Through the infested hall at the top, I see a blue screen on some computer banks with some gasbags lurking around them.

And me with no flamethrower. Past it is the crew sleeping quarters with marines and Bobs lodged in the tiny, narrow bunks in the walls like catacombs or a capsule hotel.

Damn. This is creepy. The final human terminal of the game is on the floor between the bunks next to a lit flare.

Jackal carrier forms drop out of nowhere constantly in this area. Further ahead, one final maintenance accessway takes me to where I need to go. A spec-ops jackal (spec-ops grunt normally) flees from flugs while elites and hunters fight sentinels and an ambush of combat forms and gasbags. The final terminal of the game is behind the sentinels next to the door the Flood come from.

Guess he’s going to Forerunner hell then. I end up fighting him just after I finish in the engine room.

This appears to be the tail end of the final section of the first level, just accessed a different way. The first time I was here, the blast doors further down were sealed. Now they are open. At the end of the hall is an armoury full to the brim with guns and medipacks.

I take a rocket launcher and a flamethrower. I will need them both, especially the rocket launcher. Don’t take too long in here as the far door will open and a wave of combat forms with active camo will come pouring in. The winding corridor just before the armoury is labelled “ENGINEERING”. This is well lit in the original and remaster but it’s still fairly dim in this remake. I follow it to the engine room.

Act 3: Light Fuse, Run Away – FINALHAZARD, Ingue Ferroque

"Engine Room located, we’re here.” Cortana announces as I enter. I immediately start running up a large ramp past some instrument panels to the level 2 ramp. I hear electronic laughter that sounds like the radio from that Tom & Jerry flashback episode and know that Guilty Spark is still in here. “Alert! The Monitor has disabled all command access. We can’t restart the countdown. The only remaining option is to detonate the ship’s fusion reactors. That should do enough damage to destroy Halo.” I come out on the small level 2 platform as she says this and head up the next ramp to level 3. “Don’t worry, I have access to all the reactor schematics and procedures. I’ll walk you through it. First we need to pull back the exhaust coupling. That will expose a shaft that leads to the primary fusion drive core.”

Oh good, I was afraid it might be complicated. The Flood and sentinels never stop coming in here. It takes me some time to burn a path over the closest control panel. They look a lot like human versions of the Forerunner holopanels come to think of it. Hitting it causes a loud alarm to sound as the giant exhaust pipe manifold retracts from the shaft, giving me a straight shot into the fusion reactor.

As you may recall from the primer, the engine room as described in the Fall of Reach looks nothing like this: The engine room in-game is 3 levels high and split in 2 halves. They are separated by a big round thing in the middle and connected by a catwalk tunnel on level 3 & an underpass on level 1.

Level 1 has a bunch of those circular plasma cell things that were reused for the power plant on the floor and a pair of small galleries with instrument panels, the second is too small on either side and seems only to serve as maintenance access for the exhaust pipes and level 3 contains the controls to those pipes plus a second entrance leading to a service elevator.

The reactor rings described in the book are probably either inside the big round thing in the middle between the halves, or underneath this room, accessed either way by the exhaust shafts covered by the 6 giant pipes.

“Good! Step 1 complete! We have a straight shot into the fusion reactor! We need a catalyst explosion to destabilise the magnetic containment fields surrounding the fusion cells. Use an explosive. I recommend a grenade or rocket. If we run out of explosives, there is an armoury station located near the engine room’s entrance.”

Now, while nuclear reactors aren’t bombs especially fusion, this actually makes sense: as Cortana says, I’m not blowing up a fission core and making the magic neutrons mad, I’m dislodging the magnets holding the reactor’s plasma core in place.

You see, real life fusion reactors are designed to generate plasma several times hotter than the surface of Sol i.e. our sun. About, ooh, 100 000 000 degrees Kelvin. One form of reactor called a tokamak has magnetic fields like the Pillar of Autumn, used to stop what is essentially an artificial star from escaping.

What I’m doing is cracking or dislodging those magnets so the energy in the Autumn’s fusion reactors will be released and essentially go supernova.

However if this happened in real life, it would just explode immediately at worst or at best, simply stop the reactor working and fizzle out. So John would either die in the blast with no time to even try and escape or, more likely, just waste his time and wreck the ship further. I think the 15 to 6 minute/5 minute delay can be handwaved as safety mechanisms attempting to prevent total reactor failure in order to allow for repairs or evacuation, those systems inevitably failing themselves at time of detonation.

The fusion reactor exhaust shafts have little flaps in their grills that open and close periodically. You know the grill is open when you can see the angry red glow of the plasma, the artificial star of the tokamaks (if that’s what the reactors are based on) inside. You may need to take cover from sentinels so they don’t pester you if you need to wait for them to open again.

This part of the level is effectively Begging For Mercy Makes Me Angry if cribbing from Alien and Aliens instead of 2001. Cortana says that using explosives on the other reactors it should be enough to trigger a “wildcat destabilisation” of the engines. A what now?

http://halo.bungie.net/images/games/halo/audio/outtakes/jen/whats_with_joe_and_wildcats.mp3

And I thought a malicious spirit world crossed with cyberspace based on a series of dreams and fever dreams I had around at least 2005 to 2007 called Death Legend, ruled over by an evil giant artificial chaos crossed with the gravemind known only as The Source was just a cool sounding name that made no sense when you thought about it. Details of Death Legend are best saved for another time, especially as not all of the dreams that gave me the idea were to do with Halo and all of them were long before I’d even heard of Marathon.

Speaking of Marathon, you could say Bungie’s little in-joke for this level is that instead of Frog Blasting the Vent Core, we’re Frag blasting the Core vents? That pun is even worse than the flash memory one in Two Betrayals.

I head back up to level 3. The catwalk tunnel is on fire so be quick running through it. I destroy the next 2 fusion reactors on the other side of the engine room from left to right from the catwalk tunnel. So long as you don’t fall, you can jump along the exhaust couplings to another ramp leading up. Be careful as the Flood love to crowd this area, making perfect flamethrower barbies. 343 Guilty Spark flies around, berating you, the Autumn’s design and generally whinging:

“You would destroy this installation, as well as this fascinating record?”

“Do you require medical attention?”

“Your behavior is not in accordance with established protocols.”

“Oh, how touching.”

“Detaching the fail-safe just now?”

“Please. Surrender the construct and I will endeavor to make the necessary repairs as quickly as possible.”

“The Flood continue to multiply, Reclaimer!”

“Why do you continue to ignore your task?”

“Are you perhaps ill?”

“Why do you continue to resist us, Reclaimer?”

“Inconsistent!”

“Inadequate safeguards.”

“This AI construct possesses far too much data.”

“Weren’t you worried it might be compromised?”

“Unacceptable, Reclaimer!”

“Not acceptable, Reclaimer. You must surrender the construct, so that we may return to our appointed task.”

“Your behaviour necessitates repair and revision.”

“Surrender the construct to me, or I will be forced to take you offline permanently.”

He shows up as an enemy on both the motion tracker and crosshairs, but shooting him does absolutely nothing as we don’t have a Spartan Laser (yet).

I also like how as more fusion reactors are damaged, parts of the ship catch fire by stray flares from the core and other parts explode.

The aardvark morph with the broken nose who was stalking us-there’s no beating around the bush anymore: it’s Cyril Sneer-ambushes me on the way back up; Nazi officer like hat in his head, armed with a hunter’s fuel rod beam assault cannon and a fat cigar in his mouth.

“You!” He bellows in fury. Seems his plan to exploit the ring has gone tits up. “You miserable meddling overgrown monkey! Get out or I’ll turn that tin can of yours into scrap iron and sink you into that furnace!”

“Need a light?” I say simply in response. And flame him. However, I end up using the rest of my TOZTs fuel so I snag an assault rifle off a nearby combat form. Cyril pursues me back up again despite the barbecue, firing wildly. He corners me on the last fusion reactor, posied to fire a bolt this time. However, I notice that the reactor shaft’s grill is open and he’s standing right above it. Quickly, I launch the final rocket into the shaft, shattering the magnets in the reactor itself, triggering the presumed failsafes and the explosion sending Cyril flying off the catwalk. He survives and will get away of course, but not without a few burns and a now straight nose.

A deep, loud alarm different to the main ones sounds as the reactor melts down and fires rage everywhere as more and more of the Core’s plasma leaks out in mini solar flares & Cortana yells into my ears. “That did it! The engines’ gone critical! Based on the current rate of decay we should have 15 minutes to get off the ship, we don’t have much time! We should move outside and signal for evac. Accessing schematics: there’s a service lift at the top of the engine room. It leads to a Class 7 service corridor that runs along the ship’s dorsal structure. Hurry!”

That service corridor is very likely the reason this level is one of the ones with new areas added to it for SPV3: it goes much further than the actual Pillar of Autumn model does: the ship is apparently 1.17km long, the spinal service tunnels are 3.5km.I’d be tempted to call it 5D space but I don’t know if the ship’s outside and each interior section even share the same map. I crouch jump onto the catwalk and run through the upper entrance to the elevator. The door explodes and the service elevator descends to my level.

See those elites? One of them is Zuka Zamamee. In the book, Cortana makes the lift drop and John rolls a pair of grenades into the shaft. That doesn’t happen in the game so I settle for the rest of my rockets. The remaining jackal’s brute plasma pistol starts another fire as the blast doors seal behind me. More explosions incinerate the floor I was just on and the service lift ascends. “Cortana to Echo 419, come in Echo 419!”

“Roger, Cortana!” Foehammer calls from somewhere above. “I read you 5 by 5!”

I see and feel a series of explosions all over the shaft shake the elevator as the very top of the ship creaks steadily closer, know the ship is starting to come apart as it gets incinerated by the slowly growing artificial star in the engines and look forward to when I’ll be free of it.

“The Pillar of Autumn’s engines are going critical Foehammer,” Cortana continues. “Request immediate extraction! Approach the crash site and be ready to pick us up at external access junction 4C as soon as you get my signal!”

“Affirmative. Echo 419 going on station. Echo 419 to Cortana, things are getting noisy down there. Is everything OK?”

The elevator shakes again and quickly reaches the top as the AI says “Negative, negative! We have a wildcat destabilisation of the ship’s fusion core. The engines must have sustained more damage than we thought!” I thought that’s what you wanted to happen, Cortana? If the engines were damaged more than we planned by the rockets, shouldn’t that be a different destabilisation?

Final Act in Stage 10B

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