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Zanzibar-The Remnants: Chapter 17
Posted By: 343 Salty Beans<hockyfreak5@yahoo.com>
Date: 2 October 2004, 6:26 AM

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      Author's note: Okay, I've had people screaming at me for the past two months, demanding that my cliffhanger be undone. It's a long story, and I intend to tell you the whole sad tale in all it's glory and...sadness. Stuff.
      It began with my wonderful vacation. I came back, only to find my ignorant, computer-retarded family gave it a virus. So far, my two months of fruitless attempts to repair it have failed entirely. But hark! My father's laptop fits. After struggling through to a weekend of my junior year I felt up to the job, I've began. I hope you guys aren't too mad at me...and I am so sorry.
      I'm also sorry about the quality of the story. It's really missing the climax I wanted, but it's hard to resume after two months and just be able to write the way I used to be able to. And for any typos. It's late, I'm tired, and I gotta get this submitted.
      And once again, it resumes.

      John pushed the throttle as far as it would go and swerved to avoid a Creep. He scraped between it and the wall of the tunnel the Covenant had flash-dug to the Forerunner artifact. The panicked bus driver crunched into the opposite wall and sent Grunts flying from it's compartments.
      Ghosts, Shadows, Creeps, and the occasional Wraith were all chasing after him with a blood-hungered vengeance. His mind wandered to his last moments with Grace...but he pulled it back to his situation and concentrated on the task at hand. Shoving his emotions to the back of his mind, he opened up the Shadow and skidded around a Wraith. The beetle-like tank lobbed a plasma mortar, missed, and hit a pack of Ghosts instead. They blew like frag grenades, showering the escapees with debris. One of William's men sprayed a full clip of SMG into the offending Wraith. It didn't do much, but one of the bullets hit something critical. The Wraith lost it's antigrav ability and nosed into the dirt, further delaying their pursuers.
      Linda hosed another bus with plasma fire, watched it burst open like a lotus flower, and turned her attention to a skittering Ghost that was harassing them with plasma fire.
      John swore as he looked up ahead. Three Wraiths had spread out across the tunnel and effectively formed a roadblock. Behind that, he could see a legion of Covenant waiting to overtake them. He was trapped.
      No. Thinking that way wouldn't get them out. He pushed the throttle harder, realized it was already at full, and prayed he was doing the right thing.

      Kelly dropped another Jackal with her battle rifle, and Will hit the last two Grunts in the garage with a single SMG burst. They sprinted to the nearest Warthog and hopped in. Kelly clambered into the gunner position, Will saddled up in the passenger's seat, and Fred slid into the driver's spot and punched in the UNSC-wide start code.
      The 'Hog sputtered, then roared to life. He nosed it out of the garage and into a long passageway. It seemed to go on forever, straight and gently sloped. He stepped on the accelerator and punched the thing into fourth gear in less than 5 seconds. He intended to make it out alive, with or without his objective accomplished.
      Will's dual SMGs flashed, and a Grunt ahead of them toppled. Few Covenant...good. The faster, the better.

      "Chief...I assume you know what you're doing?" queried Cortana.
      John grimaced as the tanks grew closer, their carapaces glittering malevolent blue. He heard their plasma mortars cycle, and prayed they wouldn't get one more shot. "Hang on!" he yelled into his COM. The Wraiths fired their weapons, each of the mortars falling in a straight line for the lone Shadow.
      Time blurred and slowed, only the deadly blue plasma bombs and their senders in clear focus. He heard one of the SpecOperatives swear in the background as they raced towards the spheres. Clear them, he thought. Clear them. The Shadow's alien engine whined...and they were under. The bombs exploded behind them, digging meter-deep craters in the ground and sending out a huge shockwave. Pursuing Ghosts and Shadows crumpled and exploded behind them, leaving only ashen shells of twisted alien metal. And that was just the easy part.
      The three tanks loomed closer, and he killed the engine, then pushed it to full again. The action raised the nose of the alien craft and pushed it to even higher speeds. The Wraith was less than twenty meters away when it's top began to glow blue, the sign of imminent discharge.
      The Shadow roared over the tank and arced above the mass of Covenant. The Special Operatives fired and tossed frags into their midst, while Linda pulled the firing studs of the plasma battery, spearing aliens with massive spikes of purple energy. The Shadow fell and bottomed out onto a pair of Hunters. It battered it's way through a huge array of aliens and pushed it's way free of the crowd.
      The horde roared and poured plasma at the hovering craft, but it skittered away. John noticed his hands shaking, almost visibly, but he kept a firm grip on the controls. He managed a sideways glance at Williams. The black op officer was in bad shape...his mouth was contorted into a twisted, silent scream, but his eyes were steady, though blanketed with fear. His fatigues had a wet spot near his crotch.
      The SPO regained his voice. "You crazy bastard!" he said hoarsely as he directed a battle rifle burst at a Ghost. For the first time since before Halo, John almost laughed. They were going to make it. The timer read five minutes and twenty seconds...and the objective marker sat a kilometer away.

      Fred slowed the Hog as they came to a point in the tunnel that was cut clean through. A totally seamless circle edged its way down at about three degrees. The 'Hog jolted to a stop, but he didn't notice.
      "John's way out." Whispered Kelly. "Are they going to make it?" Fred glanced at his timer...4:37.
      A yellow dot blipped at the outer reaches of his motion tracker. It rapidly approached their position. A Covenant trick?
      No. It was John. It needed to be John. They sat in silence, desperately hoping.
      At least 40 other red targets appeared behind it. He shoved the pedal to the floor and sent the 'Hog skidding into the tunnel, in time to sync up with a Shadow. It's passengers were two Spartans and a trio of Black Oppers. Fred opened up on the UNSC E-Band. "Need a hand, Blue-One?" Kelly poured rounds downhill with her LAAG as they roared up the slope, nearly stonewalling all progress. Ghosts skidded and blew up, Shadows slammed their prows into the dirt, and Wraith tanks blossomed with fire.
      John actually laughed, and flashed a smile sign across his faceplate. Fred returned it, then his heart sank. Two Spartans. Where was Grace?
      Cortana chimed over his COM. "Since this whole place is going up in smoke, I'm pretty sure we can broadcast on this channel. I don't have time to explain, but we need to get out of here. The planet's being evacuated. I've already hailed a Pelican, and it's on the surface."
      Fred flashed the acknowledge light, but a lump still remained in his throat. Grace was gone. He almost wanted to turn around, to go to her...but didn't. The UNSC was going to need them. What was left of them.
      John watched the circle of light ahead grow closer. He keyed the all-team freq. "When Twenty meters before we hit the exit, drop grenades. We'll need them to cover our escape."
      Seven acknowledgement lights winked on his HUD.
      He pulled a grenade, primed it, and tossed it over his shoulder just before they roared out the exit into the hell that remained of East Africa. Explosions shook the tunnel, and it collapsed Just as Red Team's Hog cleared the exit.
      The Pelican waited for them as they roared across the beach. The sky was orange and blood-red, and smoke poured out of what had been New Mombassa just north. He watched evac shuttles scream across the sky to get into orbit. How many would survive? How many would get past the Covenant blockade and into UNSC ships? How many would be glassed with Earth?
      He powered down the Shadow and hopped out, then covered the beach while the rest piled into the Pelican. He jumped aboard, the pilot fired it's thrusters, and they moved off into the atmosphere.
      John sat and pulled the quarter from his ammo pouch. He looked out at the sky, watching as the planet that was the human's home burn. Plasma bombardments had already begun, tearing through the atmosphere and boiling the oceans away. He examined the silver disc, then thought of Grace one last time.
      The only family he had ever known was being whittled down, it's members destroyed by an unstoppable force. Grace had made the ultimate sacrifice, protecting her fellow Spartans, the colonies, and humanity.
      He took the quarter and flung it out the back. He watched as the spinning disc disappeared into the haze, reminiscing on what had been, and would never be again. The hatch began to pull close as the dropship climbed higher.
      What was next for humanity? Escaping and terraforming more planets to their needs? Finding the Forerunner? Claiming another Halo? He wasn't sure. He would never be sure. But mankind needed him and his few brothers and sisters in arms. He would not forsake his duty as long as another human was in danger of the enemy. He would fight.

      A Prophet sat in high orbit over Earth, watching the disgusting planet burn. Pockets of air burned away, the oceans vaporized, and entire continents turned to glass...all at his whim.
      He turned away from the slaughter to view the Elite that walkd into his presence. The golden-clad beast bowed, then handed the Prophet a data-chip. "It is finished, Excellency. The human's homeworld is destroyed." He stood to his full height, mandibles clicking with pride. "We have won."
      The Prophet inserted the chip into his headdress, then sifted through it as it literally poured it's contents into his mind. "Not all is finished. Some escaped?"
      "Yes, Excellency. At least twenty-five medium-class vessels jumped out of the system before we could terminate them. Their trajectories were recorded, but most likely random.
      The Prophet turned back, and watched the planet burn. "Then let us hunt."
      The Elite bared it's teeth, eager for more blood. "So it will be, Ancient One."