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Project: Shadow Spartan, Chapter 7
Posted By: Agent Shade<shadow_agent13@hotmail.com>
Date: 23 July 2003, 1:24 AM

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      The village of Balmora was located on a single hill that overlooked most of the other hills around it. Some say it was a mountain, but the people who lived there believed it was too small to be a mountain. Surrounding the city were the Grasslands. Endless meadows and valleys of field grass and the odd cluster of rolling hills. It was a perfect farming spot for the people at Balmora, who were all farmers. The city usually supplied food for military bases and cities. When the taxes were collected, the farmers would give up close to half of their crops to the military. They still did that now, but since all the military officials were either off the planet or dead, taxes hadn't been collected.

      Balmora consisted of a large cluster of huts and houses that circled around a main courtyard. There was only one entrance to the town, which would usually be guarded by a few UNSC marines, but since the war was over, all the military personnel had been called away, leaving the town defenseless. There was a single ten feet high wall that encircled the entire edge of the hill, allowing room for expansion within the town. However, on this day, the usual peaceful atmosphere was gone.

      Sam approached Balmora from the north, still sprinting and extremely tired. He stopped dead at the base of the mountain and nearly collapsed. He panted heavily, then took off his helmet and spat out the saliva that was in his throat. He coughed a few times and strapped his helmet back on.

      "How long?" he asked his AI Lancelot. He heard the AI chuckle.

      "Twenty-one minutes and ten seconds" he said.

      "Damn, oh well, close enough" Sam said, shaking. He leaned back, and then slowly climbed up the steep hill. The entrance to the town was on the other side of the wall, which forced Sam to scale the entire perimeter until he reached his destination. However, he did not step right in between the pillars that made up the entrance. He poked his head around the corner.

      All he saw was the side of the troop bay of a Pelican dropship staring back at him. Sam swore and tried to get a better angle, but the entire ship blocked his view. He retracted his head and began to feel the wall around him, trying to find some grooves. He stood over seven feet tall, yet the perimeter wall still towered over him. He reached the corner and found some grooves, which he immediately grabbed hold off. Using his right hand, he pulled himself up so his left hand grabbed the top of the wall. He then pushed himself up, grabbing hold of the wall with his right hand as well and bracing himself on the groove with his right leg. He pushed off with his leg and flipped over the wall, landing in the compound feet first.

      Sam grabbed hold of the hilt of his sword, but there was no sign of hostility. He looked to his left and could see the Pelican dropship's cockpit looking at him. Sam rolled forward to a nearby hut and looked around him.

      "Motion tracker shows all clear Sam" Lancelot reported. Sam nodded and began to move quickly in between the houses, his left hand still on his sword hilt. Which one was it?, he continued to ask himself, looking through the windows of the houses. Suddenly he stopped as his motion tracker painted a red dot a few meters away. Sam stopped and pressed his back against the wall of the house he was near. He poked his head around the corner and watched a patrol of three Spartans pass him by. Swearing, Sam began jogging in between the houses. He was getting so desperate that he was whispering his mother's name, even though he knew she couldn't hear him. Finally, he came to the house he wanted.

      He remembered clearly from childhood, him always surprising his mother by running through the old back door, which had a broken lock on it. He grinned and walked up to his desired house, grabbing hold of the knob of the back door and turning it. It didn't move. Sam frowned and tried it again. It still didn't move.

      "Must've fixed it" he muttered, looking in the windows. He was definitely at the right house. Sam remembered waiting at the dinner table for his breakfast, lunch and dinner. Giving up, he went up to the door again and punched his fist through the glass. He felt around for the interior knob and turned it. He heard a click, and then the door opened. Sam walked in and heard another click. This one however was a gun being cocked.

      Sam froze. He could barely make out his target to his right, hiding in the curtains. He didn't move a muscle, but after awhile, he raised his hands, dropping his MA5B assault rifle on the ground and kicked it away.

      "Your pistol" he heard a female voice snap at him. Slowly, Sam grabbed hold of his holstered pistol, whipped it out and dropped it. His attacker appeared out of the curtains, gun held straight at his head. Sam grinned as the women stepped right in front of him.

      It was his mother's house maiden and also a good friend; Sarah Morningwell. She glared up at Sam.

      "Who are you? Are you one of those green armored assholes trying to kill us?" he demanded. Sam shook his head.

      "Sarah, it's me, Samuel" he said. He could tell Sarah recognized his voice. She relaxed her grip on the assault rifle she held.

      "How do you know my name?" she asked. Still grinning, Sam reached up and took his helmet off, revealing his face. At that moment, Sarah gasped and dropped her weapon.

      "Bless the lord! It's Sam. Laura! Come quick, it's Samuel" she screaming, embracing the armored Spartan. Sam grinned and let Sarah escort him to the lobby. Sam watched happily as his 56 year old mother, Laura Culling (her maiden name) bounded down the stairs and embraced her son.

      "My son" she said. Sam wanted to enjoy this moment as best as possible, but he knew he couldn't. He finally let go of his weeping mother.

      "Mom, as much as I'm glad to see you, we don't have time for this. I need you to pack up a small bag with clothes and food, then we must leave" he said sternly, looking at his petit mother. Laura looked at him, confused.

      "Whatever for?" she asked.

      "There's a reason why the Spartans are here" he said, looking right into his mother's eyes. Laura gasped.

      "They found out who you are?" she cried. Sam nodded and was about to tell her to move, but she continued to babbly about.

      "But, how? How could they have, you are in your suit, they can't see your...where is John?" Sam didn't want to answer this and a flashback appeared in his mind and he watched his father fall from continuous gun shots.

      "I'm sorry mom, there is no time to explain, you need to leave now" he said.

      "He's right Laura, the Spartans are five houses away" said Sarah, who was peering out the window. Laura looked around, obviously confused, but nodded.

      "All right" she said and leapt up the stairs. Sam watched her go, and then looked at Sarah.

      "I have got to get her out of here, she is in great danger. You are welcome to come along Sarah, but I can't promise your protection" he said to her. The maid nodded.

      "I shall remain here Sam" she said firmly. Sam nodded.

      "You better get into some normal clothes; the Spartans will know you are a maid by your apparel. He said, looking at her black and white dress. Sarah nodded and rushed up the stairs as well. Sam looked out the window nearest to him and cursed as the Spartans knocked on the door next to them. He was about to yell, when Laura came down the stairs, a duffle back around her shoulder and wearing what looked like traveling clothes. Sam nodded as Sarah quickly followed, buttoning up a pink dress shirt.

      "Good, let's go" he said, walking towards the back door. Suddenly, as he neared the kitchen, he heard a knock on the front door. Sam whirled around and could see a Spartan looking through the window. He immediately grabbed his mother and pulled her to the ground near him. Sarah watched them, and then moved to the door, opening it.

      Zach watched the door open and looked at the tall woman standing in the frame way. She glared at him.

      "What?" she asked. Zach grinned.

      "I'm looking for someone named Laura Culling, would this happen to be her household?" he asked, even though he knew it was. The woman shook her head.

      "Sorry pal, ain't no one named Laura lives here" she said, hand moving to the door. Zach saw this and chuckled at the woman's movements.

      "Then perhaps you could explain this" he said, motioning for Paul. The big Spartan took out a piece of paper, which he raised to the woman's face. It was a letter, written by John and sent to Laura. It had the exact address and everything. The woman shook her head again.

      "Sorry, can't explain that, you have the wrong address" she said. Zach was growing impatient. He was fingering his M6D pistol at his side.

      "Miss, this is the right address, there is someone here named Laura Culling and I need her now" he growled. The woman glared right back at him.

      "Read my lips. Laura-Culling-does-not-live-here" she said. Zach had had enough.

      "So be it" he said. He grabbed the hilt of his pistol and raised it.

      Sam saw the Spartan grab his pistol. He heard his mother gasp and was about to scream for her friend, but Sam covered up her mouth. The Spartan fired a single round into Sarah's head. The bullet drove right through her skull, puncturing her brain. The single round exploded out of the back of her head, spilling blood and brain tissue all over the wall behind her. Sarah's body fell backwards, her eyes rolled back into her head. Laura was screaming, but Sam had a tight grip on her mouth. Suddenly, he could hear movement near him. He looked up from under the table and could see three Spartans walking to the back door.

      "Fuck" he said. The door opened and the Spartans walked in, guns up. Sam however had his sword drawn already. He stabbed it through the first Spartan. The tip of his battle blade pierced the second Spartan behind the now dead one. The last one watched his comrades fall dead as Sam withdrew the blade, then brought it down on Sam's head. Quickly, he rushed out of the back door, pulling his mother along with her.

      "Run" he yelled at her. Laura sprinted after Sam. The Shadow Spartan had been able to pick up his MA5B assault rifle and pistol before leaving the house. He loaded both the weapons, holstered his pistol and raised his assault rifle. They moved quickly, rushing towards the entrance.

      Zach walked into the house, followed by four other Spartans. They fanned out around him, some going upstairs, others going down. Zach walked into the small dining room, observing various pictures on the mantle of the fireplace and tables. He saw pictures of Josh's mentor, John, with Laura and a tall boy. Zach grabbed the photograph and raised it in front of him. He looked at the boy being hugged by both his parents. Zach never knew his parents and this single picture brought hatred into him. However, he knew that the boy he was looking at was the Shadow Spartan that was hunting them down. Zach growled and threw the photograph into the fireplace. He walked into the kitchen and stopped dead in his tracks.

      The bodies of Greg, Oliver and Katie lay in front of him, pools of blood all around them. He could feel his fists shaking with anger. Zach pulled his pistol out and stepped out of the opened back door. He looked to his left and saw nothing. However, when he looked to his right, he could see two individuals running among the houses. Zach leveled his pistol at them and fired a few shots. He missed, but he didn't care.

      "Paul! Let's move!" Zach yelled, reloading his pistol and taking out his assault rifle. He sprinted down the length of the houses, his friend and three other Spartans right behind him.

      Sam felt the bullets ping around him. He stopped, grabbed his mother and pulled her down. He looked behind them and could see a group of Spartans rushing after them. He raised his assault rifle and fired several quick bursts at them. He watched some of them stop as their shields flared from the bullet impacts. Sam, still holding onto his mother, stood up, and continued to run, firing random shots over his head, hoping to scare the Spartans. He heard gun fire behind him, so he turned right sharply, ran between two houses and emerged into the courtyard.

      Several villagers were standing in a group, five Spartans looking over them. Sam could make out the same patrol of Spartans ahead of him. All eight Spartans stopped and turned to him, leveling their weapons. Sam crouched low, ordering his mom to find cover, and then he fired off shots at his enemies. He reloaded quickly, the put his assault rifle in one hand, followed by putting his pistol in the other. He cocked both the weapons and stood, raising them both and firing in two different directions. As he did this, he ran to his mom.

      "Go go go!" he yelled at her, using his body to protect her as he ran. The two of them ran to the Pelican, bullets flying all around them. The weapons Sam held stopped firing. He dropped both of them and bolted after his mother. Parallel lines of bullets chased them all the way to the entrance to the troop bay. There was a single Spartan standing in it. Sam grabbed hold of him and tossed him out. The Spartan got up, but Sam slapped away his weapon and smashed his boot into the Spartan's visor. The green armored figure fell over, grabbing his helmet and screaming in pain. Sam rushed in and closed the troop bay doors. He jumped into the pilot's chair of the Pelican and inserted Lancelot's processor cube. The Black Knight's holographic image appeared on the console between him and the co-pilots chair, which was occupied by his mom. Lancelot raised his sword at her.

      "A pleasure to see you again Ms. Culling, now let's get moving" he said. The Pelican's engines rumbled and slowly, the dropship ascended into the air. It shook violently as more and more bullets smashed into the titanium armor.

      "Hold on" Lancelot said as he drove the Pelican straight forward, skimming the tip of the entrance pillars. Slowly, he raised the ship into the air and leveled the ship. Sam grinned and embraced his mother. She was safe.

      Zach lowered his weapon and watched the dropship disappear into the sky. He threw his weapon on the ground.

      "Fuck!" he roared, smashing his fist into the wall of a large hut near him. He could feel pain, but ignored it. He looked around as his Spartans gathered around him. He slowly controlled his temper.

      "All right, he has our dropship. Everyone begin searching the village for transportation" he ordered. The Spartans dispersed, walking towards garages near houses and entering huts and homes. Zach watched them for a second, and then ran after Paul.

      Sam sat in the troop bay of the Pelican, comforting his mother. He had his armor off, allowing him to actually touch her. Sam had just told her what happened, including the death of his father, her husband. Laura wept in Sam's shoulder and all he could do was rub her back and hold her. Tears of sadness ran down his face as well. The two of them remained like this for awhile, until finally, Sam let go of her.

      "Come on mom, you know dad wouldn't want us to be like this. We need to be strong now; all we have is each other. I for one am proud of my dad and I plan to avenge his death, for both of us" he said, looking at his mom, who did not make eye contact. She wiped her face with her shirt, and then looked to the cockpit, still avoiding his eyes.

      "What are you going to do?" she asked him, finally turning to look at him. Sam broke eye contact and looked out the cockpit window.

      "I'm going to kill every single one of them" he growled.

      Zach walked into the courtyard where Paul and two other Spartans stood waiting. Surrounding his friend were twenty vehicles which Zach had never seen before. He nodded at Paul.

      "What's this?" he asked Paul was grinning in his suit.

      "The farmers here call them hover bikes, which is what I would call them too. They use them to get to their crop fields east of here. Quite fast and are able to hold two people" he said. The design of the bike was simple. It had a main body, which had the seating, along with the controls and the engine inside the casing. The hover engines were small, and there were thrusters on the back. Attached on either side of the back part were two huge rocket tubes. Attached to the front was a system of long bars connected to what looked like wind panels, used for steering. The tubes however interested Zach the most. Paul nodded at them.

      "Normally, they are equipped with equipment used for farming. Dirt spikes, seeds, stuff like that, but I can outfit them to hold 102mm rockets" he said. Zach turned to his friend and grinned.

      "I'm glad you're with me Paul. I'll team everyone up, you outfit them" he said. Paul nodded and went to work. Zach called all of his Spartans to him. He still had time to win.

By: Agent Shade