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Biological Storage: Three
Posted By: Dagorath<hoyinshan@gmail.com>
Date: 10 March 2006, 12:59 pm

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John and the Marine MPs gaped in disbelief as Miranda Keyes just disappeared before their eyes. She had raised the phone to her ear and just vanished. Even the mobile phone itself was nowhere to be seen.

"What is this?" John asked the Sergeant innocently.

The soldier blinked, then spun round. "That woman" – he pointed at the table where Keyes had been sitting – "infiltrated this complex."

"Impossible," John said smoothly. "This base is protected by granite, Titanium-A armour, EMP – "

"We are aware of what the base is shielded by," the Sergeant said testily, humiliated at having been stared down by Keyes before his men. "Who are you anyway?" he asked.

"Spartan-117," John replied. "And I can have you court-martialed for non-respect to a senior officer, son."

The Sergeant gaped at him a while, before the words "Spartan" registered in his mind. Humiliated before his men yet again, he said in a barely restrained voice, "Well, sorry to intrude upon you, sir. Why are you here?"

"Oh, it was nothing," John replied lightly. "I must be heading home now. I've stayed here quite enough."

"Of course, sir. Please take the lift."

John was troubled all the way back home in the Warthog the receptionist had provided. Events were going on at a furious clip, and John was being swept along.

He lined up the events in his head. Something was wrong, that was clear. He hadn't had a vision when Keyes disappeared in Earth HighCom. The Marines had seen it too. And Johnson's message was not a coincidence.

It didn't slot in with anything else he knew though. The Covenant had disappeared twenty years ago; nothing had been heard about them since. And how could he have been "wired up" – as Keyes put it – to some sort of virtual reality world?

John shook his head wearily. He hadn't lost the excitement of yesterday after all.

He slept uneasily that night. The images of the day swept through John's mind: the young ONI Lieutenant in the morning, Earth HighCom, and Admiral Keyes disappearing right before his eyes.

The whole scene re-enacted itself in his mind. Stepping out of the lift, pushing the door open, seeing Keyes sitting there. He didn't notice in the morning, but his mind brought the details back out. The exact colour of her sweatshirt, the slogan, even the minute creases in her jeans. Her every word, echoing in his brain….

And then the sounds of the Marine MPs moving into position at the door. That voice over the COM…..

Clank, clank, clank.

He could see Keyes gripping his shirt, shouting words into his face.

The sounds got louder, louder. Keyes's voice was gradually covered by the sounds of MPs running –

John's eyes snapped open, taking in the dark ceiling, the curtains rustling softly because of the breeze, and Cassandra leaning against him again. The clanking continued. This time, it came not from a steel door in memory, but right outside his bedroom door.

Instincts from more than thirty years of army service kicked in. John leapt up, picked up a wardrobe and used it to barricade the door. Then came two hardwood chairs and a small bedside table. Without a pause, John reached under his bed and pulled out his silenced M6C pistol. In a smooth action, he cocked it and hugged the wall just next to the door, waiting for the assailants to charge in.

A storm of bullets; the furniture burst into a shower of splinters and large fragments. Cassandra sprang up from the bed and screamed. A huge smashing sound. Five black-clad soldiers crashed in, searching for targets.

Puff, puff. John fired from behind the soldiers, downing two of them in carefully aimed shots to the back of the neck. He leapt forward and tackled one down just as the remaining two sprayed where he had been with bullets. One bullet zipped towards his ribs, but the bodily augmentations he had had before saved him. With an impossible twist, he arched his back and it sped past to hit the doorframe.

John's considerable weight slammed onto the soldier, knocking out his breath as the Spartan's body smashed him onto the floor. John did not even bother firing his weapon: he rolled over onto his back, using the soldier as a shield, and slammed his fist into the soldiers head, knocking him out.

Throwing the unconscious man off, John swept his foot out to trip the feet of one of the remaining soldiers. The man fell forwards, firing his rifle, which spat bullets onto the floor. One of them pierced the knee of his comrade, who screamed with pain. John elbowed the falling man and leapt up, putting a bullet in the other soldier's head. The man crashed to the floor.

John stood up, breathing hard. Cassandra was crouching behind the bed, her eyes round as coins, staring at the dead attackers. Bullet holes were all over the bedroom, from the head of the bed to the ones in the remains of the door.

From long experience, the first thing John did was eject the nearly-spent magazine from his pistol and reach for another one under the bed. It slid to with a satisfying snick. Then he turned towards the door.

Maria and Jacob were standing there, with their mouths wide open. They stared at the smoking pistol in John's hand. Jacob's eyes darted from his mother behind the bed to the corpses on the floor, then to the remains of the door strewn across the bedroom floor.

"What the…." Jacob breathed. In his hand was a PDA, where the voice of a man was yelling, "Are you there, boy? The beta testers are still asking for answers to that network problem!"

John opened his mouth to speak, and then saw Maria. Unlike Jacob, who was beginning to walk forwards unsteadily, Maria was still standing at the doorway, stock still. Neither her eyes nor her feet had moved.

He looked closer. "Maria – " and stopped.

There was a bullet hole just under her collar bone. As John leapt forward, Maria fell backwards onto the hardwood floor with a crash. Her head slammed onto the ground and there was a horrible crunch. Blood spread in a dark pool.

Cassandra screamed. John dropped onto his knees, desperately trying to pull his daughter back from the brink, as Jacob stood, terrified, his mother's wails echoing through the house.