No Biscuit For You!
Posted By: Chris Bisoski<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 21 March 2001, 9:13 am
"Holy $#@+!" Peterson yelled as looked over his shoulder just in time to see a 3 ton crumpled mass of steel, a mass of steel that had once been the body a jeep, fly through the air and crash into the artificial embankment 200 meters above him. Almost instantly a shockwave came vibrating through the grating Peterson was standing on, followed by thousands of small steel fragments sent flying from the force of the impact, cascading outward like a glinty steel fountain. But the jeep remained intact for the most part. For a second, it seemed to hover there, poised over him within it's misty entourage of shrapnel. But as he watched, the entire scene began accelerating, all coming towards him all at once, accelerating at .7 g's.
The reverberations traveling through the grating were making it hard to get his footing, but he collected himself enough to stand up and mutter "Why is this happening?" in a girly whine. He glanced around for someplace he could run to. It was hopeless- he was surrounded by high walls and there were no doors. He had a grappling rope, but there was no way he could ever get up a good swing, catch the embankment above him, and climb out in time. He looked around frantically. The carcass of Gary, the only other survivor from the third platoon, was lying on the grating nearby. A minute ago, Gary had met the same fate as the jeep - hurtled against the embankment above by that - that thing. Small steel fragments were pelting down all around him now, a few careening off his armor like bullets pelting a tanks armor. It surprised him each time one struck him, because they had such force, like a gun muzzle on your shoulder. Just then a crimson sparkling caught his eye, coming from the area of Gary's corpse.
is that what I think it is? Peterson had but a split second to react. The crimson sparklings were characteristic of a shield that has recently been switched off. Gary had been wearing a shield! The shield did nothing to slow the impact of Gary's introduction with the steel wall, but it might still stop the jeep and all the debris from crushing him! Peterson threw himself onto the grating beside Gary's body and flipped on the shield.
Almost instantly the steel rain began to intensify. The shield blocked out most of the noise around him, but he could still hear reverberations coming through the grating. It sounded like a jackhammer hitting a broken xylophone stuck on one note and amplified through a hundred sub-woofers. He closed his eyes and the intervals between the crashes became longer until he finally opened his eyes for a quick glance around. There were larger fragments all around him, crushed like foil balls, but the main body was- Peterson threw up his arms in a futile gesture as he looked up to see the twisted mess of steel tubing and armor plating- the same one that had terrified him half to death a second ago- come crashing down, and darkness with it.
It hit with a deafening sound, but Peterson didn't hear it that way. Maybe his brain was sick of the racket and just severed the link with his senses. But it was very quiet now.
Am I dead? He didn't feel injured. Groping around with his hands, he found his legs, and they moved fine. A great relief went through him. He felt around on his chest and head, all there. His upper body began to heave in a repetitive fashion, fighting his muscles which wanted only to lie still, as a raspy cajoling noise came from his throat coinciding with the spasms. He was laughing. Only a second ago he was about to be crushed, terrified half to death, and now, he was laughing that he was still alive. Then, bit by bit he started to see a crimson and green storm all around him. It was the shield again, flushing with color as if to complain of it's overuse. He remembered someone saying that a good personal shield wouldn't hold more than 3400 agu's. He didn't know what 3400 agu's were, but he guessed it was more than one slightly mangled jeep resting on top of you.
He lay there watching as the streaks of color slowly subsided. Again he was shrouded in darkness. He started doubting his existence again, but then he saw a small point of bright white light in front of him. He tensed and filled with fear. No! I'm still alive damnit! He screamed out from the dark corner his consciousness had huddled into. Just then the light faded back into the blackness the same way it had come. ha! Death won't take me, not after all I've survived. After a brief pause, the light came back. ...??? And then it faded out the same way it did before. Peterson started to become frustrated, but decided he would just give in to impulse and move towards the light. He felt around himself and decided it was safe to stand up. He got a few feet off the ground and the light began to grow. As he came closer and closer, he started seeing some black figures outlined by the white. He started to make them out, they were familiar shapes.. they started to become clearer now- Peterson was looking at the words "please fasten your seatbelt". He sighed and fell back to the ground.
Just then he heard a scraping crunching sound, accompanying that familiar crimson green color. The shield was giving in.
"Oh *$ !" As the shifting steel wreckage grew more discontent, Peterson tried to brace himself against the steel grating. He was facing upward, toward the impending death that poised just feet above his entire body, which was now ready to crash down and squirt him out the bottom of the meshing like a cheese grater. Just then, the swirls of crimson and green shuddered and went out, and so did the noise. For a second, it was quite again, and Petersons knuckles were beyond white as he was convinced even the slightest movement would send the wreckage crashing down onto him- again. Then he heard a small scraping, and then another, and then thousands it seemed from every direction as the weight finally gave. Peterson watched as the jeep plummeted, but something was wrong. Peterson felt weightless- he was falling. The jeep was falling, but so was he. He tried to glance around, but there was nothing but a light coming through from a grating up above. A grating littered with large chunks of steel crushed like foil, and a gaping hole. Peterson realised that the shield must have been holding the grating floor together, and he was now in free fall as the ground below him finally gave way. He heard something coming from below- it was barely audible through the wind rushing at his ears, but it sounded like...
Splash! Peterson found himself underwater, bubbles shooting in from every direction as he tried to figure out which way was up. He was a decent swimmer, and he picked a direction and went with it, until he found a wall. But something was wrong, because this wall was falling. Then he realized it wasn't a wall but it instead the jeep- or a chunk of it. He let go of it and tried to swim upward, but he wasn't doing any better than the jeep. Something was weighing him down. My armor! Peterson frantically began pulling off his armor, while trying to salvage a couple of his things before they fell to the bottom of this murky abyss. He grabbed the strap of a bag he thought would come in handy, and slowly began the ascent to the barely visible light above. As he began to near the surface, a few plinks of steel followed by plumes of bubbles reassured him that he should be dead right now. Air was really beginning to run low. With what seemed like miles left to go, Peterson closed on the last ten feet of the desperate struggle upward and closed his eyes. He kept kicking, giving up with his single free arm because it was too clumsy to swim with just one arm. And then he surfaced.
Water splashed out around him as the cold air infused itself with his lungs. Never had he been so grateful for air before. Silently, he vowed to find some dry, level ground, and when he did he would lie there for an eternity. But that was easier said than done. He slowed his breathing just enough to get a brief pause in between breaths so he could listen for some kind of echo, something that would indicate what his surroundings were.
As his breath calmed, he started to see a little in the dim light now. He also started to get a taste of the water. It was pretty clean - almost smelled like it was treated with some chemicals to keep it that way. It had a strange rancorous feel to it, kind of like little steel shards were mixed around in it, but considering what had just happened that made plenty of sense. Treading water, he realized that he wasn't as tired as he thought he'd be. He didn't have to go to the bathroom anymore either, and he still had the bag he had worked so hard to rescue. Aside from the knowledge that he had a one in seventy three thousand chance of living any longer, he was feeling pretty relieved. He looked around a little bit, and he could start to see some darker shapes floating around against the dull silvery waves. He swam towards one of the shapes, and it turned out to be a tire from the jeep. As he clambered up onto it and pulled his bag on with him, and then tried to get a better look around. The circular grating above him let in a shaft of light that extend 10 meters across, of which he was floating inside of just off center. In the dim circle of light he could make out a couple more bits of junk bobbing around, but beyond the 10 meters it was too dark to see anything. He called out.
"AHHHHH!" That felt great. He had been wanting to do that for a while now. His breathing was more controlled now, and he listened for an echo. One... two... three... three and half seconds. If his physics were right, that meant this enclosure was about 600 meters long in that direction. He listened for it to come back from the other wall.
Krrrbthssshhh! Peterson nearly fell off his tire at the sudden eruption in the otherwise calm surface. That wasn't his echo! A huge surge of water bellowed up just two meters in front of him, and became a pillar that seemed to leap from the surface as it splashed out in all directions. It reached it's apex and seemed to take on a new shape, like a black disk. It crashed back down onto the surface, gave out a final splash and then just bobbed there. Peterson eventually recomposed himself and, after a brief inspection of the bobbing thing, relief came over him. It was just another tire. It must have been dragged under by the jeep, and finally torn loose as the water pressure was too great. He yelled a couple more times, listening for echoes. It was the same on all sides. He decided he must be in the middle of it, whatever it was.
He sat up now, and made room for the pack. The tire was starting to tip, but he managed to steady it and started taking inventory. There wasn't too much light, but a little rummaging revealed one toothbrush, one bar of soap, three stale and soaking wet biscuits, 5 grenade canisters of foam deterrent, one bottle of anti-fogging mixture, and a cork. Gee, Monkey Island wouldn't stand a chance against us.
"oh @#$8" Peterson cursed as he rummaged through the last of the contents. His favorite, and only, drinking cup had been crushed quite badly by the fall- or maybe it was the jeep that landed on him. He almost started to laugh about it again. A jeep had landed on him! But he turned his attention back to the unfortunate mangled cup. Muttering a few words of discouragement, he beat the cup against his tire trying to bring it back to a functional shape. He threw it back into the bag, and zipped it up. Peterson tried to remember a briefing on the foam grenades, and finally it came back to him. He had fallen asleep during the briefing. Normally he paid attention at a briefing as life and death hung in the balance with anything conveyed there, but the "weapon" seemed so pointless. It was a small canister which, when triggered, expanded into a room sized mass of thick foam. The only words that came to mind was something about sensory deterrent. As he began to close up the bag and begin to wonder what would happen to him next, he stopped wondering.
Somewhere out over the nonexistent horizon, there seemed to be a single soft glimmer shining from well beneath the surface. He tried to get a better angle by propping himself up onto his tire, but capsized the whole thing. He quickly grabbed the bag, throwing it back to safety, but he stayed in the water to see if he could get a better look.
As the glimmering came closer, it began to resemble a glowing amoeba, shifting shape and size. Then the single shifting blotch started to separate into multiple points of light, and it started to look more like a school of fish. He could make out single points of light darting around the perimeter of the group, and the ones in the middle seemed to stay more centered. It was getting closer now. And these fish were started to look a little bigger. They had a streamlined form and emitted their own light, a bright one too. It seemed to be a plain white, slightly toned blue by the water, with a black marking on top. Also, they were an odd shape for fish- more arrowlike, almost like a bird. They finally came down under him, but kept a great distance below. Circling, the school seemed to stay in a pack instead of surrounding him like predators. He noticed that in the center of the pack there was a larger shape, similar to the others except for its' size and absence of black markings. It briefly occurred to him the this may be just the visible tip of a great beast, but he had a good feeling it wasn't.
The pack kept circling, and he kept watching. They seemed to be intelligent- or as intelligent as one needed be to trace out such a graceful circle. Finally settling into a more relaxed formation, the fish that had been zipping around the perimeter of the pack were now keeping a tight arrow formation behind the large one. They began to pick up speed as they came up towards him, then slowing as they came nearer and nearer, stopping a good five meters below him. Wow! The small ones were as big as he was, and the big one was more than two jeeps wide! And there was this sudden warmth- the water temperature must have hiked up about ten degrees. Startled, he clambered up onto his tire again and peered down at them through the wavy surface. The arrow shaped body was steadily undulating at the sides, like underwater wings. It was kind of flat too, maybe a meter thick at most. It just hovered there, providing a great backlight. The light shone through the rippling surface of the water, throwing those shiny bobbly cascades of light onto himself and his tire. It even illuminated some of the other junk floating nearby! As Peterson studied the smaller fish, he noticed the black markings on their backs were more than markings, they were protrusions. He observed one coming into clear view as it banked over the large one. The protrusion was a meter or so tall, with clamps that came down around the sides of their bodies, and a round shape at the top- it wasn't a protrusion- it was a human! There were people down there, all riding on the backs of these fish!
He watched a little longer, until he started yelling. "Hey! I've got some biscuits! Please don't kill me!" He clambered around in his bag, and threw out one of the biscuits as an offering of peace. One of the horse/fish came closer to the surface, both driver and fish ignoring the biscuit, but rising up enough so that the rider's head and torso emerged. It looked human, but it couldn't have been. It's was hard to make out details with the sharp contrasts in light, especially with . But he managed to notice that the humanoids skin was a reddish-purple color. Also, it was wearing a mask, it looked a lot like scuba gear. The humanoid and its fish just hovered there, staring at him, with the others still circling the larger one below.
"Look, I'd like my biscuit back if you don't want it." If these guys were just going to stare at him, he was going to get hungry sooner or later.
But then the humanoid glanced downward, and seemed to be saying something to the others, but didn't make any noise he could hear. Then it pulled off it's mask and began speaking to him. At first, the voice was nothing but gibberish, but slowly his universal language interpreter implant established some basic referents and before long the gibberish started to come to life.
"I'm Sam. This is my pod. The big one is called Kantack, and the others are just my brothers. You don't want to know them, because they're all jerks. Can you understand what I say?"
Peterson nodded. "Yes." he said.
Sam just stared back at him for a little while, and then she nodded. Well- she didn't really nod, she only mimicked his movement without knowing it's purpose. "I can't understand you. Do you understand me?"
Geeze, Peterson was really counting on the nod being universal. He sat and thought for a second. He had always been horrible at charades. But he finally had an idea. He pointed down at the big fish, and then made a sweeping gesture to trace the shape of its' arrow body in the air while saying its' name: "Kantack".
Sam jumped back in surprise. "Kantack! That's right!" Sam's tone went from excited acknowledgement to distasteful hesitancy as she said. "I thought for a second we might have to eat you." The great fish below seemed to shift with accord.
Peterson looked surprised. He pointed to himself with a questioning look, and then bit his finger like he was eating it. Then he looked at her, his hand in his mouth.
Sam laughed. "Thats right. My brothers and I are hunting. But don't worry, we don't eat smart things." Then she glanced down again to speak with her pod.
Peterson waited for her to look back at him. When she did, he gestured all around himself at the expansive blackness, and made a motion like he was swimming outward, and did some more gestures around, but Sam stopped him.
"Wow, you're terrible at non-verbal communication. Maybe we'll eat you after all." Sam paused to see his reaction. Peterson gave up, sinking back down onto his tire with a defeative splash at the water.
Sam laughed again. "I'm just kidding. I promise we won't eat you. Kantack says he likes you, and he is starting to understand what you said earlier. Are you trying to say that you need to swim to someplace?"
Peterson shook his head. "I want to know where I am. I'm supposed to join back up with my squad, or what's left of it, and take out more of those covenant bastards."
Sam reared back on her fish/horse, and it suddenly sprang forward and up, out of the water. A steady breeze started flowing past him, and now the fish/horse was a fish/horse/bird. Just as Sam did, the others also sprang up out from the water. The all started engaging in a heated argument, occasionally looking at him. Peterson caught a few words of it.
"We should leave him here, and move on before the Pleenta catches up with us." One of the voices said.
"But he's smart, and the Pleenta will surely kill him!" That was Sam's voice.
"He speaks of the Covenant! We should kill him ourselves!" A Third opinion rang out.
Peterson admired the whole scene. He was almost killed twice now, what's a third? And if he blocked out the voices, the hypnotic cascades of light were very soothing. This had been the most peace of mind he had found since the he fell asleep last night on his squads hauler truck. He considered his options. He could offer them all more biscuits, he could jump up and down and scream at people who hardly understood anything he said, or he could sit here, waiting while a bunch of purple guys riding on fish/horse/bird thingies argued his fate. He sat back and looked out over the blackness. He was starting to get used to the regular noise, and settled down and rummaged through his bag for one of those biscuits. He was starting to get a little hungry after all the near death experiences. He eventually found one of them, and was almost going to take a bite until he heard a new noise. He shifted his head to better triangulate the sound of a steady rushing water coming from the same place his visitors had emerged from. He threw the biscuit back into the back and started to worry - hadn't they mentioned something about being followed by something called a Pleenta?"
Peterson sat up straight, pointed at the source of the noise, and started yelling "Pleenta!". It got the pod's attention. They all became very quiet, and then one of them came down next to his tire and grudgingly barked an order at him.
"Get on!" Peterson got on. As the pack picked up speed and left his tire and the grating behind, he began to sense the groups emotions. There was fear, but this seemed to be a structured fear, more like respect. It seemed like they had done this many times before, and he was sure that whatever it was, it had something to do with the thing that had killed Gary and thrown the jeep like it was a golf ball.
Gradually, the luminescence from the pack started to increase as they moved faster and faster. Petersons' driver yelled back at him "Hold on!". Suddenly a downward thrust made them weightless which just as suddenly became a pull upward. They leveled back out just above the surface of the water, the sharp change in direction planted him in his seat and threatened to pull his pack from his grip. He looked down to see the waters surface whipping by inches below his dangling feet. Kantack was still submerged just below the pack, his wings now taking great strides as they cut through the water. The pod all began to dive back into the water now. One by one, each rider took up a place behind Kantack. Finally, Peterson's fish thing was the last one left to dive. The air was rushing by so fast it was becoming hard to hear, but he hear the driver yell "Inhale!" and then they dove under.