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Fan Fiction

Mobuto by Steve

Mobuto - Part 1 of 2
Date: 11 July 2006, 2:34 am

      Sergeant Marvin Mobuto had been cut off from Alpha Base for over four hours, and he was in the midst of what he was sure was his last battle, in a hell hole somewhere on this god-forsaken ring. As the recoil of his assault rifle jammed into hands, he reflected on what was probably the last day of his life: He and his squad had been sent on a routine reconnaissance mission. But, about an hour into the patrol, things became far from routine.
      Mobuto didn't know precisely where the fire came from, but, before he knew it, Giorgio and Reynolds were hosed up and down with blue plasma. The Sergeant picked a direction and started to fire his assault rifle. A likely looking bush caught the brunt of his fire, and an Elite's personal shields flared.
      In the haze of the swamp, the two and a half meter tall silver outline of the alien stood out against the dark, engrossing jungle, and what remained of his squad could now direct their fire.
      Unfortunately, its shields did not fail until after it threw the grenade that attached to Collins' knee. In a futile attempt to take the Elite with him, Collins charged it. When he came up short, his blood was sprayed all over the front of the Elite's black armor. The effect of the grenade bought the warrior enough time to dive behind a thick tree trunk and wait for his shields to recharge.
      Mobuto had just looked over top of the boulder he had dived behind for cover to see that the Elite was now gone. Its black armor allowed it to blend into the marshy environment perfectly. It could be anywhere. Hell, it could be behind him.
      With that thought, he wheeled around, saw nothing, and quickly turned around again. His squad was crouched behind cover, weapons leveled, awaiting an order. Using hand motions, Mobuto signaled that he would flank around the left side, while the rest of his team would provide cover.
      In a careful crouch, he moved from tree to tree, stepping over twigs and plants to avoid making a noise. His boots sank into the soft moss and waded in the ankle deep puddles that dotted the area. Mobuto's dark eyes cut through the fog, searching for a shadow.
      Suddenly, an electric whoosh was heard over his right shoulder, and it nearly made his heart stop. A lump formed at the pit of his stomach when he finally realized that the noise had come from behind his squad.
      He had just enough time to stand, turn around, and yell, "Behind!" before Jones and Valdez were cut in half in a single swing. The blue-white blade made several more swoops and arcs before coming straight down on Corporal Manning. The dead Marine's MA5B strobed twice, then ceased. Lacey and Dowling opened fire on the Elite, their shotguns blasting holes in the tree it now ducked behind.
      Seeing his chance, Mobuto primed and lobbed a grenade towards the tree. It hit the round surface of the tree and bounced slightly away from its target. This meant that the Elite's shields were only peppered with shrapnel, instead of being engulfed. It did, however, flush out the Elite, and forced him to move away from his cover. It scrambled to a nearby rock, narrowly avoiding two shotgun blasts.
      Mobuto still had its flank, however. He was out of grenades at this point, though, and was forced to use his assault rifle, which was less than accurate at this range. He fired in short, controlled bursts. The dirt around the Elite started to kick up, and the tree soon became pocked with bullet holes. Its shields took a cluster of the 7.62mm rounds and failed. The three-round burst after that hit him in the shoulder, causing the Covenant soldier to warble in a mixture of pain and anger.
      Realizing it had very little options at that point, the Elite drew its Plasma Rifle with its free hand, still grasping the deadly energy sword with its other hand. It sprinted from its cover and ran straight at the two Marines. The humans fired simultaneously. Lacey's shot was high, sending pellets over the commando's shoulder. Dowling's aim was a little low, but still managed to hit its left thigh. The Elite stumbled and fell forward, firing its Plasma Rifle into the dirt.
      The Marines pumped fresh rounds into their M90's and shifted their aim. The Elite rolled to its right just as they fired. Once again, Lacey's shot was off and it blew the ground apart where the alien had previously been. Dowling's shot barely grazed the wounded warrior's back, causing minimal damage at best. As the Marines racked their shotguns, the Elite rolled behind another tree.
      Sergeant Mobuto charged ahead, feeling the exhilaration that came with closing in on a kill. Adrenaline surged through him, and he maneuvered to his right to get a clear shot.
      "Give me some covering fire!" he yelled into his mike. Almost instantly, a shotgun blast bit away at the tree the Elite was behind. Right after that one, another was shot. The alternation of their shots allowed for a constant rate of fire, keeping the Elite effectively pinned until he himself could get a good angle at it.
      Suddenly, a loud, agony-laden scream was heard over the com channel. It was Dowling's voice, and it sounded like he was in trouble. Mobuto glanced back at the two soldiers. Although it was hard to tell in the mist, it looked like two more Elites had jumped from the ten meter high plateau behind them and landed in their midst.
      He shouted, "Get down!" over the com, and he opened fire on the Elites. He saw them flinch as armor-piercing bullets pierced them, but did not see their shields react. Were they deactivated? A different kind of Elite, maybe?
      As he pondered that, he saw Lacey get whipped in the chest and sent flying a distance of eight meters before landing awkwardly on a tree stump. Dowling was no where to be seen, but, wherever he was, Mobuto doubted he was alive.
      He fired the last nine rounds in his assault rifle at the Elites and ducked down to reload. He had just expelled the spent magazine and pulled out a new one, when the black Elite fired a burst from his plasma rifle over his head. The leaves of a plant by his side were burnt clean off. Mobuto reflexively jumped backwards from the incoming fire, and accidentally dropped the new magazine. He cursed, and reached behind himself to retrieve another one.
      The black Elite kept firing, only the whines from it were getting louder, which meant only one thing: the bastard was charging.
      Mobuto quickly loaded his MA5B, cycled the bolt, stood up and started running, firing his gun behind him as he ran. His goal was a fallen log five meters away. The Sergeant mumbled swears for the lack of traction the ground provided and willed his legs to move faster than they were going. Blue plasma streaked over his head just as he vaulted over the log and landed on a knee. He stood up and fired the rest of the ammo in his rifle at the charging Elite.
      The bullets had a scattering effect being fired on full auto, and most of the bullets were absorbed by the swamp. Two bullets impacted the Elite, however, and it grunted in response, but it did not slow its mad dash. Its jaws opened wide, revealing rows of sharp, tiny teeth. Its coal eyes had a hint of fiery red in them. The arm that held the sword was stiff at its side, having taken three bullets to the shoulder. Violet blood oozed out of the wounds in its chest and leg, and the Elite held the overheating plasma rifle out to the side.
      Time slowed as the distance between the Covenant Elite and the Human Marine dwindled. Mobuto's hands moved from his ammo belt to his rifle, a fresh clip being slammed home. In one fluent, trained motion, the Sergeant moved his hand from the back of the rifle to the bolt, slapping it forward. The ammo counter changed from zero to sixty.
      His eyes locked with the desperate Elite's. There was only wild determination in its eyes. Mobuto saw nothing else. He didn't see the swamp, he didn't see his rifle, he didn't see anything. All he saw were black eyes staring him down.
      His finger was already wrapped around the trigger and a simple impulse from his brain twitched the finger.
      The gun fired, spat out a burst aimed squarely at the Elite.
      But the commando was hammered out of the way before the bullets hit. It fell forward and to the side, collapsing in a heap two meters to Mobuto's right. His bullets instead impacted one of those shieldless Elites that had killed Lacey and Dowling. Green blood and white, rotted flesh was blown out of the exit holes.
      The monster bent over slightly, but stood in place. The human's eyes darted from the thing to the Elite, who wasn't moving, then back to the thing.
      If it was an Elite, it was an Elite that had spent far too much time in this swamp. It had a sickly beige skin color, with tentacles and jarred bones puncturing it. Its head was thrown over its back like a scarf, and its jaws were locked open in an endless, silent scream.
      But, after years of fighting, Mobuto had developed the habit of shooting anything that wasn't human instantly. So, that's what he did. He continued to fire, his weapon on full automatic. The thing's limbs flailed then came off. Its leg was blown off, forcing it to fall over. Believing it was dead, Mobuto ceased fire.
      But, just as he began to reload, the monstrosity turned over and began to crawl towards him using one arm. Its pace was slow, though, which allowed the Marine Sergeant to properly reload and fire another half of a clip into it.
      Once he was certain that it wasn't going to be getting up, he moved around the log to the now dead commando Elite. As he walked up to it, he saw its eyes staring back at him, only now they had lost their red gleam. Now, they looked glassed over, and lighter in color.
      Angry at this son of a bitch for killing his entire squad and angry at himself for allowing it to do so, he fired ten rounds into its face, splashing purple blood onto his pant legs.
      After a few deep breaths, he calmly reloaded his rifle and began to send a message to Alpha Base.
      "This is Sergeant Marvin Mobuto, does anyone read me?" There was only static. "I repeat, this is-"
      Something akin to a whip whacked him in the back, broke the titanium armor plate on his back in half, and sent him flying forward into a rather large puddle, which was slick with the blood of the black Elite.
      Although his muscles protested, he scurried out of the water, turned and fired wildly, his eyes blurry. He could barely make out the outline of something moving, so he fired, and when his ammo was expended, he dropped it and drew his pistol. The powerful slugs shook his shoulders when he fired, and the recoil soon made him very disoriented. The outline was still moving, and when Mobuto felt his back press against a rocky wall, he knew he was screwed.
      The last bullet in his pistol hit the beast's lower left leg, and it wilted over. This gave the Marine a second to wipe his eyes and allow him to see his attacker.
      It was indeed another rotten Elite, although, since these things killed the commando Elite a second ago, it was safe to assume that these things were not Elites. Still this one bore a striking resemblance to the former monster, and therefore needed to be killed.
      Since he was out of ammo, the Sergeant stepped over the downed zombie, which lay practically at his feet, and began to stomp it to death. The first stomp sent a green, thick, moist spray out of a hole around its neck, and a crunching sound could be heard, as well as a soft, wet, spongy sound. The second stomp was in the same spot as his first, and he got the same reaction. As he lifted his foot for another stomp, the creature grabbed his ankle, and threw him three meters away.
      Mobuto landed hard on his shoulder, and thought it was dislocated, until he moved it out from under him and flexed it. Luckily, he still grasped his M6D, which he quickly reloaded. The thing rose up, and turned to face the Marine. This provided a bigger target , which allowed him to shoot it six times in a row, then three more times when it was down. He then properly stomped it, until it was no more that four inches off of the ground.
      He found his assault rifle and reloaded it. He then started to walk to the spot where Lacey's horribly mangled body lay. It was then he noticed the little balls of flesh that jumped and scurried over the hill from which the monsters had come from before. Two latched onto Lacey's body. Mobuto watched only for a few seconds more, as the balls ate the dead Marine's body, then started running.
      He didn't really know exactly where he was going, but he knew he wasn't going to stay there. As he ran, he reached up to grab his radio attached to his shoulder, and noticed that it was missing. The latter engagement had ripped the radio from his shoulder, and left it back in that mess. Screw it, he thought. I'm not going back there to get it.
      After ten minutes of running, he came upon a weird looking structure, covered in vines and other forms of overgrowth. It was then he noticed the shadows of at least twenty of those zombies in the distance, all coming at him.
      Without hesitation, he fired on them, watched one of them collapse, and was then forced to reload, backpedaling as he went. The idiots started to bunch, allowing more bullets to collide with their grotesque features. Two more were killed, and two more stumbled, but did not stop. That still left over a dozen of the incoming creatures very much alive and very angry.
      Reload. Backpedal. Two more creatures down. Reload. Backpedal. Three more creatures down. He was in the process of loading his last clip and cursing himself for dropping that full one earlier, when one of the surviving monsters leapt four meters into the air, and landed directly in front of him.
      It knocked the rifle out of his hands and he tumbled backwards, tripping over his own feet. He brought his sidearm out of its holster while still on the ground, and scrambled backwards in a crab walk, firing as he went. The nearest monster fell under the well aimed fire, as did another one rounding the corner.
      But now they had him. His magazine was empty, he was on his back, and they were only three meters away. It was over.
      A beast hurled itself into the air and was at the apex of its jump when a lancing beam of orange fire speared it and followed it down to the ground. Several more beams appeared, each selecting individual targets and burning them down to the ground. As the chaos raged, Mobuto was able to look at his guardian angels. They appeared to be robots with angular wings and an oblong shape. They had turrets on the front, under a blue light, which shot out a powerful beam of fire. He didn't know where they came from, and he really didn't care.
      He took this respite to reload his pistol with his last full magazine. Just as he stood up, yellow strobes appeared around him. He felt light-headed for a second, then felt nothing, then felt everything all at once as he was whisked away to what he believed was the top of the structure he had seen a minute ago.
      Another robot floated before him, only this one was spherical, and had a large blue light at its center.
      "Greetings. I am the Monitor of installation zero-four. I am 343 Guilty Spark. Someone has released the Flood. My function is to prevent it from leaving this installation. But I require your assistance. Come. This way."
      Mobuto wanted to ask a lot of questions to this robot, but was unable to, as rings of pulsating yellow light encircled him and he felt light-headed again.

Mobuto - Part 2 of 2
Date: 19 July 2006, 2:59 am

      Staff Sergeant Marvin Mobuto was pieced together and fought to keep the sense of light-headedness at bay. The rings of gold light fell at his sides and dispersed. Once he caught his breath, he surveyed the surroundings which he had been whisked away to, unwillingly.
      His eyes adjusted to the darkness, which was broken by the occasional amber lights that dotted the area. Vents on the sides vented a thick, billowing gas that looked infected somehow. Two pulsating structures sat in front of him. From what he could tell, he was in some kind of vault or chamber. The little blue ball that brought him here hovered twenty meters ahead of him, waiting. With no other options he approached it. As he did, two little fleshy balls from earlier appeared, and he quickly popped them with his pistol.
      He then continued forward. Suddenly, off to his right, he saw at least thirty more of the little pods, as well as a large, bulbous creature that wiggled and hobbled towards him. Mobuto opened fired on it, and after two rounds the thing exploded, spewing five more of the pods into the area. The rest of his clip was spent killing those things.
      After searching the area for any more of the exploders, he began to talk with the blue ball.
       "What the hell am I doing here?"
       "The installation was specifically built to study and contain the Flood," it replied. "Their survival as a race was dependant upon it. I am grateful to see that some of them survived to reproduce."
       "So, these things are called the Flood?" he asked.
       "What an odd question, Reclaimer." The two stood there. An awkward pause passed.
       "What did I just kill?" Mobuto asked, attempting to gleam some useful information from the blue ball.
       "Carrier forms. Their upper sac contains five live infection forms. There is no time for this banter, Reclaimer. We must retrieve the index. This way."
       "My name's Marvin, not Reclaimer." But the blue ball flew away and hovered above the ground thirty meters away and did not reply. From what Mobuto could discern, the thing was an AI who was a monitor of this ring, which was built to study and contain these monsters that were called the Flood. The large things that exploded were called carriers, and the things they carried were called infection forms.
      His mind was still racing as he moved forward. Suddenly, he heard a loud thump on his left. He looked up to see a rotten Elite in the vent above him. He placed three rounds from his pistol into the thing, which collapsed, still inside the vent. A carrier waddled from behind another pulsating structure and he shot it, blowing more infection forms everywhere. He crushed one under his boot and shot the rest.
      Just as he began to advance, another wave of infection forms climbed over the wall to his right and ran at him. He shot two, which popped the others around them.
       "We are near the index chamber," Guilty Spark said when Mobuto got close. "Follow me." He buzzed away somewhere to the right, and, as he did so, carriers shuffled towards him. An Elite dropped down from a vent above the carriers and landed in their midst. The Marine fired at the carrier. The resulting explosion wounded the Elite and blew the other two against the opposite walls.
      A gurgle startled Mobuto because of how close it was. Practically on his elbow was a grotesque form that looked like a human that had been dead for a month. He held his fire until it lashed out a tentacle which barely missed his head by centimeters. He backpedaled impulsively, firing at the humanoid Flood form. When it hit the floor, two more Elite forms rushed from behind it. One fired its plasma rifle as it charged, missing all of its shots by meters. They both were stopped by the explosive projectiles which tore through their ravaged bodies.
      Mobuto felt sweat trickle down his back and felt his hands shake as he loaded his last clip into his pistol's grip.
      Stepping over the corpses, he saw both a pistol and a shotgun lying under the human Flood form. He pried off four magazines of pistol ammo and loaded his shotgun. He was left with two extra shells.
      As he started to advance again, more Flood forms dropped out of vents ahead of him, and he was quick the pistol the buggers before they had a chance to rush him. Two human forms and a carrier were disposed of quickly. Mobuto reached behind him to grab another M6D clip. Just as he slid it into the receiver, a human form from out of the shadows rushed him. A tentacle whipped the side of his face and put a nasty gash in his left cheek.
      Scared, angry, confused, and in pain, the Sergeant fired his pistol without aiming. The bulk of his shots nailed the zombie's face, blowing it clean off. Even though it was minus a head, it drew its arm back for another swing. Marvin dropped to a knee, placed the muzzle of the gun ten centimeters from its chest and blasted the creature to Hell.
      He then noticed that even more Flood forms dropped from the vent and began their assault. Once the ammo in his pistol was expended, he tossed a grenade in the mix and switched to his shotgun. The final Elite form took a blast, then stumbled forward into another. Green blood soaked through the holes in its skin.
      Mobuto followed the Monitor through a passageway and saw what had to be an infinitely deep shaft, brightly illuminated by yellow-white lights. Suspended within the middle of the vertical nothingness was a comparatively minuscule, green, shifting object. What it was, he wasn't sure. But as a carrier came towards him, he really didn't care.
      After disposing of the resulting infection forms, he continued forward to another gateway of sorts. Luckily, his shotgun was still in hand when no less than half a dozen Flood forms jammed into the passageway, eager for the fresh meal before them. Eight rounds of shotgun later, the opening was stacked half a meter high with bodies.
      During the ensuing lull, he reloaded his shotgun, picking up some ammo for it within the tangle of corpses. Another pulsating structure blocked his direct view, but as he moved around the left side of it, an Elite form that had been hiding sprang overtop of it and landed behind the Marine.
      Mobuto heard the squishy thud that the beasts made when they fell and he wheeled around as fast as he could go, his shotgun already leveled at shoulder height. As he completed his rotation, he saw the horribly ravaged creature and prepared to fire. But this Flood form was smarter than the other ones, and it used its left arm to block the gun from coming full circle. Mobuto accidentally fired, and the pellets impacted harmlessly against the far wall.
      He backed up to get away from the ogre, but its tentacle wrapped around the shotgun and tugged. Not willing to let go of the gun, Mobuto went with it, and he was drawn closer to the thing. His left hand dropped to his sidearm as his face bounced into the wet, spongy flesh. Green, filthy streaks were painted onto his cheek. Grunting in disgust, he then leaned backwards to put some distance between the two of them, but did not relinquish his grip on the M90. Just as he brought his pistol up and pressed the muzzle into its chest, Mobuto saw the lime glow of a plasma pistol in its right claw.
      They fired simultaneously. The bullet from the Sergeant's gun penetrated the Elite's chest cavity and then exploded, blowing blood and other gore out of its back. The plasma bolt from its gun, however, was not as well aimed and impacted the left side of Mobuto's hip. The Marine stumbled backwards, but remained standing, cursing in pain. He stood over the creature and fired six more rounds into the Elite and kicked it.
      He inspected his wound. There was a small amount of blood because the skin was charred and blackened over. It hurt like hell when he flexed it, but he could still move.
      Mobuto popped a pain killer and a stim pill, then unwrapped the stiff tentacle from around the muzzle of his shotgun. He reloaded his pistol, replaced it in its holster, picked up some ammo, and hobbled ahead towards Guilty Spark, who was patiently floating in front of a very large door. It opened horizontally, revealing the same dank environment that Mobuto hoped would not have been there.
       "Follow closely," the Monitor said, whizzing ahead. "This portal is the first of ten."
      Mobuto snorted and moved forward, taking a right at the fork ahead of him. He made his way past three glass panels on the floor and walked right into another ambush. They came from every angle, firing their weapons that they had acquired from their hosts. They would jump down from extreme heights of over ten meters, breaking bones as they fell. The Flood forms would pause for a second, and then continue their ravenous attack. The Staff Sergeant tried to nail them as they landed, but they didn't always stay down. He would shift his fire, only to have a wounded Flood form limp his way.
      His shotgun soon ran out of ammo, and he was forced to back up, loading two or three shells at a time and firing them instantly. He retreated back over one of the glass floor tiles, firing as he went. A bullet hit the glass as his foot was on it and it shattered, causing the Marine to lose his balance and drop his leg into the deep shaft. His arms caught him, and he was able to push himself back up before the mob charged him en masse. He dropped two plasma grenades at his feet and retreated back towards the large metal doors. Twin explosions sent a carrier form arcing over his head and landing with a splat against the far wall. Its sac then ruptured, freeing the infection forms inside.
      Mobuto had just reloaded the last twelve shells in his shotgun at that point, and was hesitant you waste the ammo on the fragile pods. He pulled out his pistol and took care of the stragglers.
      All of a sudden, two human Flood forms jumped over the wall he was hiding behind and landed two meters in front of him. He fired the last few rounds of his pistol into the ugly one on the left and knew he wouldn't have time to reload and shoot the other one.
      The human Flood form whipped its tattered arm outward, but the wily Sergeant had already ducked under it and tackled the thing. It must have been surprised, because it didn't attempt to get up while he primed a grenade and shoved it in its tattered camouflaged pants. He dove out of the way. A muffled explosion sent pieces of pale meat into the air and dropping all around him.
      He got up slowly, examined his still aching wound and hoped that one of the human Flood forms had some sort of first-aid kit on them.
      With a reloaded pistol, he peeked around the corner and saw the Flood milling about by the glass, not aware of his presence. Another frag grenade did the trick, and he was now free to move ahead, however, cautiously.
      Passing by another set of glass floor tiles, he expected heavy resistance, but was met with none. Maybe he had been through the worst of it; maybe the Flood had put all their forces at the entrance of this place. The sight of empty hallways supported this theory, and he shuffled a little faster, an overwhelming sense of hope rising in his stomach. Or was this shock? Was it hysteria? Was he going crazy?
      He paused and shook his head. He had to get a grip if he was going to make it through this alive. By going through each nook and cranny carefully and keeping his head on a swivel, he would see the enemy and avoid the ambushes. He would keep up the pattern he was using now, which was to walk in, attract the enemy, then retreat to spread their formation thin. If he kept this up, he was confident that he could make it out of here.
      But as he rounded the next corner, he was met with no less than twenty Flood forms, a mix of carriers, Elites, and humans, along with a swarm of the infection forms. They were about twenty meters away, so he had time to throw two grenades into the horde and reduce their numbers by a third. Unfortunately, the same amount jumped and bounced out of adjacent vents and replaced their fallen comrades.
      Just as he began to fall into the tactic of retreating, he heard several humming noises. He craned his neck upwards to see those winged robots from earlier that fired the orange beams of energy. Six of them flew overhead and engaged the crowd, popping pods and burning anything in their path with utter precision. One Flood form jumped straight up seven meters, landed on one of the robots, and began to pound it with a pipe until sparks began to shoot out of the top. Another machine turned and fired on the two and took both of them out in a few seconds. The tangle of metal and flesh collapsed to the floor, crushing ten infection forms under their combined weight.
      Once again, hope arose in Marvin Mobuto. With the help of these robots, he could probably sit back and watch most of the action, maybe pitching in every now and then to mop up the little infection forms.
      When the last Flood form was burned to the ground, Guilty Spark flew in and led him down the charred and bloody hallway, which led to an enormous circular platform. With a jerk, the platform began to rise slowly, but steadily.
      No sooner had the lift come to a halt then the Flood charged out of the narrow hallway before him.
      This time there was no cover. No way to avoid the voracious mob, no where to run. All he could do was kill them when they were still in the narrow exit of the lift. He used the other two frag grenades he had on him, and was then forced to fall back into the center of the platform, taking the enemies off their feet with his pistol.
      Where the hell were those robots when he needed them?
      He fired his pistol into the group and then switched to his shotgun. The spread should be wide enough to get a few of them at once. And indeed it was. Although it took two or three shots to put each one down for good at this range, it prevented them from rolling over him. When the battle was over, he could feel his hands tingling. He was forced to wipe the sweat from his forehead to keep it out of his eyes. The stench of the dead Flood at the lift's exit almost made him throw up.
      And if that wasn't bad enough, the moment he left the lift room and walked into corridors that looked identical to the lower floor's, the robots decided to show up, flying in perfect formation. Mobuto spat onto the ground, giving a sour eye to the tardy machines.
      But he had no time to indulge in his resentment, for another wave of Flood came pouring out of everywhere and rushed him. The robots took care of the carriers and infection forms, but had trouble controlling the bipedal creatures. Before long, only two of the flying automatons remained airborne, both trailing smoke and sparks.
      Fearing the loss of his only support, Mobuto chose that moment to toss in some grenades and cut the monsters down to size. He shot an Elite's leg off, and then finished it off with another blast from his shotgun. An armless human attempted to bite him and was punished accordingly. A second human clutched a grenade and charged the Marine head on, but a lucky beam from the robots nicked the grenade and set it off, blowing the Flood form into a thick mist. Mobuto slid more shells into the receiver.
      As he was walking away, a human Flood form landed on top of his shoulders and brought him down. He had limited options lying on his stomach, so he improvised. He kicked with all his might towards the beasts' left knee. It bent backwards and sent the creature tilting, off balance. The Marine used his other leg to sweep its legs out from under it. The human Flood form landed with a wet thud on the ground. He then sat up, shoved the muzzle of his shotgun in its side, and fired. It didn't get back up.
      He proceeded to follow the quirky AI through several more hallways, encountering little resistance. He arrived at another set of very large doors which were not open. The Monitor disappeared and the Sergeant was forced to use a ramp which led down into a shallow underground tunnel of sorts. This was also dimly lit, as well as cramped. Once he had entered the passageway, he severely wished he hadn't. With enough Flood, he'd have no where to dodge the incoming fire or pause to reload. But this was the only way around, so he didn't have much choice in the matter.
      And his worst fears were encountered as he rounded a 90 degree turn. No less than six Elite and human Flood forms, along with the usual bunch of infection forms, stood four meters away. The pack turned just as Mobuto opened fire, hoping to kill a few to block the channel. One form fell, but others scrambled to close in on their prey.
      Mobuto's back hit the wall as he tried to backpedal, and he was forced to dive back the way he had come to avoid a salvo of needles. He barely had enough time to get onto his feet before the lead Elite ran into him and sent him toppling backwards. But he rolled with it, landing in a crouched position, leveling his shotgun. The Elite charged him again, whipping a backhanded tentacle over his head. Mobuto put his shoulder into the creature's lower waist and its momentum sent it flipping over his head. He caught two of the monsters with his next blast, and killed another with the follow up shot.
      He then felt something wrap around his ankles. The next thing he knew he was being dragged backwards on his stomach by the Elite he had flipped. It was difficult, but he managed to flip his hips and bring his shotgun around just long enough to put a fist-sized hole in its abdomen. Still lying down, he wheeled back around and put two more shells into the pack.
      But a lucky infection form managed to avoid the lethal pellets and hopped over its comrades towards its target. Unfortunately, its jump was a little too short and instead of landing on the uninfected human's face, it was actually caught in the prey's hands. A firm squeeze ended its promising, but ultimately disappointing run.
      When he finally managed to stand up, he realized how fatigued he was. His leg muscles were weary and struggled to keep him up. His shoulders hurt when he rotated them, and his chest pulsed with each heart beat. He was beginning to believe that he couldn't keep going at this rate. He needed a place to rest, an uninterrupted spot where he could just rest for an hour or two.
      A deep sense of despair filled the bottom of his stomach and he suddenly felt like sitting down with head between his knees. Not because he was afraid of dieing, but because he felt that everyone on this ring was going to die. Covenant, Human, flying robots, whatever. Every single human soldier and every single Covenant warrior. He had been trained to fight the Covenant, and for three and a half years he had killed more of them than he could count. But that paled in comparison to how many infected Elites and fellow humans he was forced to kill, not to mention the infection forms and carriers. He knew he was living on borrowed time. He should have died in that swamp with his team, and he definitely should have died five waves of Flood ago.
      Yet here he stood, shotgun in hand, wading in the middle of one of the many massacres he has had to endure in this giant vault which would probably be his coffin.
      Swallowing the rest of the stim pills he had, he forged ahead, only now with a mental clock ticking in the back of his mind. He would fight as hard as he could for as long as he could, but he was at his limits and he knew it. It would no longer be an act of will, but an act of complete exhaustion. At some point, he would run out of bullets. At some point, he would get wounded in such a way as to not be able to move about. And once that happens, it would only be a matter of time before the horde would overtake him and consume him.
      A ramp led upwards and Mobuto was weary of any kind of ambush, since he would have only a very narrow and cramped route from which to retreat. But no Flood pounced on him, and for that he was thankful.
      Sweeping the area just to be sure, he saw two large vents that the Flood usually fall out of, and kept his eyes trained on them. This room seemed darker than the others somehow, which was pretty tough to accomplish in this murky structure. There were no shadows, very few lights, and no activity. All of this scared the Marine.
      Guilty Spark hovered off to his right, and he hustled over to his location. He stood by another large set of gates as they opened slowly. Moving down the new hallway thirty meters, he arrived at another set of large doors. Only, instead of sliding open like they should have, they remained in place, motionless.
       "Please wait here," the deviant AI said, and he quickly buzzed into some sort of tunnel and was gone.
      Mobuto turned his back to the wall and waited for anything to poke its ugly head out. There were two likely looking Flood vents ten and twenty meters away, along with the two from the previous room, and he eyed them suspiciously. But nothing moved. Nothing scrambled, nothing hobbled, nothing shot, and nothing stirred. There was only a constant dripping noise that had been the background music for this entire nightmare. And this silence, this eerie calm, scared him more than twenty Flood forms in full charge. Because with the silence came possibilities; and all the possibilities that ran through the roughneck's mind caused him to check, double check, then triple check his weapons in nervous anticipation.
      Then the dripping stopped.

      Then all hell broke loose.

      Out of every vent, gap, and crack, they came with guns blazing and mouths flapping. Bullets, needles, and plasma almost drowned out the series of gargles and cries that the horde barked. Carriers jostled next to each other to reach their prey first; human and Elite Flood forms rubbed elbows, firing their weapons into each other; infection forms ran between stumps and legs, shifting wildly from side to side.
      This was madness. The sheer number of targets caused him to hold his fire for a split second before he reached for a frag grenade. He strafed to the left where a brace for the structure protruded from the wall. The incoming fire was deflected from this cover, but the grenade flew true and landed directly in front of the incoming mob. The most eager Flood forms were cut down to size, while the next line was only slowed. Another grenade took them out, while the amount of Flood in the back continued to grow.
      But this appeared to be the only way to, if nothing else, slow their advance and allow Mobuto a chance to stave off death for another minute longer. Being fresh out of frag grenades, he grabbed some plasma grenades he had pulled off of dead Elite the day before.
      His aim was perfect for the first grenade, sticking the lead human form on its chest. It exploded in a flash of blue-white and green, engulfing three other Flood forms around it. His next grenade landed at the feet of a carrier, which simultaneously detonated, clearing a nice radius of Flood in their wake.
      The last two grenades landed some kills, but didn't have the effectiveness of the others, simply because two-thirds of the attackers had been incapacitated from the previous blasts.
      Several Flood remained alive and kicking, however, as even more trickled down from the vents. Round one was over. Now that he was out of grenades, he'd have to get up close and personal, hoping that there would be a lull in the ensuing battle to reload.
      He turned the corner and saw a human Flood form charging his position. Unlimbering his M90, he waited until the monster was within range, then pulled the trigger. It fell like a wet sack of potatoes, as two more climbed over its smoldering body. They were put down in the same manner, while a carrier form waddled dangerously close. Pellets tore through its large pouch, spewing pods in every direction. He used his pistol to mop up the infection forms, then used it to put down some of the Flood forms farther away from him.
      But his pistol only fired so many shots, and, before long, he found himself forced to reload with the Flood advancing in a full fledged suicide charge. So he had to switch back to his still smoking shotgun. The spread was wide enough to clip several creatures at once, but only managed to put a few of them down for good.
      Instinctively, he backpack pedaled, shooting two leaping Elite Flood forms right out of the air. Another Elite Flood form naively catapulted itself into the air, attempting to attain what its successors had not. Mobuto sighted the beast, pulled the trigger, and heard a disheartening click. He was out of ammo.
      Running on pure adrenaline, he took the butt of his shotgun and shoved it into its chest cavity as it landed. It made a squishy crunching noise, followed by a wet suction sound as he pulled it out of the wound. The Elite barely flinched; instead it threw the Sergeant head over heels and crashing into the sealed metal doors.
      Ironically, this bought Mobuto precious seconds to wearily place the last two shells he had in the receiver of his M90 and put another, more lethal wound in its chest. The final round was used on a carrier form, which blew up next to two other carriers and a human form who had been drawing a bead on the Marine with its MA5B. The assault rifle bounced right at his feet, and he accepted the lucky break. The computerized ammo counter read 60 rounds in the weapon and for that he was thankful.
      Even though there were still some carriers and infection forms still alive, they were too far away to be an immediate threat, and he used this time to reload his pistol and acquire a frag grenade. Then he went to work, popping infection forms and blowing carriers apart into fleshy strips.
      Suddenly, one of the Elite combat forms got back up, and turned towards Mobuto. It had no arms and a chunk of its chest was missing, but it still posed an immediate threat, as far as he was concerned. So, having his pistol in his hands, he implemented it on the wounded Elite, and after three rounds it fell to the ground. Two more rounds insured that it would stay down for good.
      During this encounter, Sergeant Mobuto had not heard the doors begin to part behind him and was more than a little bit surprised to feel scaly, sagging arms wrapped around his chest in a bear hug fashion. The human form pulled him tight, straining his chest plate to the breaking point and pushing the air from his lungs. Teeth sank into his neck, and blood flowed freely from the bite marks. He flailed his legs madly and pounded them on the thin legs and boney frame of the creature in a futile attempt to live, crying out in pain all the while. He still had his reloaded pistol in hand, however, and he managed to accurately point it at the human form's left knee. When the knee cap shattered, the beast was unstable, and could not support their combined weight.
      Together they fell to the floor. The fall made the human Flood form loosen its grasp, and allowed Mobuto the chance to roll out of its arms and bring the pistol up to its proper firing position. Holes were soon carved into the creature with explosive rounds, and it fell back down to the ground.
      The Marine's eyes focused on the area around the dead human and saw at least thirty more Flood forms directly behind its corpse.
      The words, "Oh my god" were still leaving his lips when his trigger finger twitched and sent the remainder of his clip into the now charging mass. Three forms fell, but it hardly mattered.
      He did an about face, throwing the useless pistol onto the ground. He hoped to make a mad dash into the narrow corridor in the previous room and get the hell out of the room, but he instead almost ran right into a waiting Elite Flood form. Mobuto recoiled in shock and surprise, nearly tripping on his feet doing so. His right hand dropped to the grip of his stolen MA5B and brought it around just in time to shoot its left leg off.
      Even though it wasn't dead, he knew it would buy a few seconds to turn around and engage the advancing mob. He plucked the recently obtained frag grenade from his combat harness and tossed it amongst the Flood. But he soon saw that they were a little too close, and when a secondary explosion from a frag grenade one of the creatures carried went off, it showered him in shrapnel, grating the flesh that was exposed to the blast and putting dents in his armor.
      He didn't have time to feel the pain, however. All he had time to do was take as many of those bastards as he could with him. The flashes from his assault rifle cast menacing shadows on his now scarred face and reflected off of the spewing brass that began to quickly collect at his feet.
      A burst from another assault rifle caught him in his lower abdomen and he collapsed on the ground, coughing up blood in between the curses. Pink needles came at him relentlessly. The Marine was able to deflect one or two out of the air with his weapon, but at least six penetrated the skin around his left arm and exploded in succession.
      He curled over into a ball on his side, his eyes beginning to blur and tear. Blood ran from his nose, stomach, and arm, as well as his neck, but all he felt was pain. Pain and anger.
      Holding his assault rifle one handed, he was able to put his last burst into a leaping Elite form which sailed over his head and landed in a heap against the wall. The bolt locked open, and he passed out.
      Plasma and bullets washed over him. A red pool formed around his carcass as a sea of mutated bodies rushed him. Limbs flailed and relentlessly beat on the intruder. Tiny mouths leached onto the corpse, but did nothing further. The Flood fought for position like a group of hungry pigs at a trough. Where there once was a body, only an assortment of bones and meat remained.
      Guilty Spark hovered twenty meters away and sighed. Encircled by gold rings, he vanished from his location to search for another Reclaimer to achieve what this one could not.