The Strive to Survive ch. 13: From Bad to Worse
Posted By: CoLd BlooDed
Date: 21 July 2004, 1:09 AM
The Strive to Survive (Chapter 13: From Bad to Worse)
0832 Hours, January 14, 2553 (Military Calendar)/ On Ancient Forerunner Ringworld: Halo 07, in Warthog traveling to landing zones for departure.
The technician breathed in grating gasps, full of noxious air--he could sense the toxins, Flood were already altering the atmosphere. What would happen? What could happen? These thoughts caught him off guard, and for a moment he could see himself choking in the back of 'Hog as Oliver was infected too--then he saw himself gasping for any clean remnants of air as the vehicle plunged into the lake, never to be seen again.
You're crazy. We're going to make it--look how close we are!
"Captain? This is Lieutenant Packs, we're clear of the enemy." the commissioned officer spoke over the COM in excited breaths, he wore an adrenaline provoked smile on his expression, devoid of any fear or worries. "Boot up the Sierra's system, we're almost out of here."
Thoughts began to flood Jake's mind--he had only recently been referring to the Sierra as the Prowler. Was that strange? Quite, he responded in his mind.
"That's an affirmative, Lieutenant, we'll be waiting for you."
There was an uneasy silence, and then everything that had happened before pushed over the other thoughts--thoughts which damn well seemed measly and poor considered to this. Why was Packs conversing with Corons, a man who had backstabbed the ONI corporation and its people for studying purposes, like everything was normal? Maybe, Jake thought wearily, that he was going to act all friendly until he got to the Prowler (Sierra, his mind corrected subconsciously), and then deliver it swiftly to the Captain. Maybe with a punch to the face, maybe with words--but it didn't matter, as long as justice was served. Corons deserved death, Jake thought, just like anybody else who went along with this.
Sara. Briggs. Maxell. Ring a bell?
The Warthog dipped as the wheels pounded into the terrain, creating large square imprints on the surface. The desperate growl of the vehicles' engine pierced the technician's ears along with the beat emanating from the Prowler ahead, it's large rear-jets thrumming and pulsating a calm blue. Jake tried to listen to the flurry of comments given by the Marines beside and behind him, but all were irrelevant to what was really happening.
"Are you ignoring the fact that Corons screwed us over, sir?" blatantly asked the tech, half angry, half mocking. The Lieutenant didn't even look over his shoulder to respond, but his grip tightened hard enough on the wheel to whiten them.
"No." Oliver said without sympathy or even the tiniest trace of sorrow. "I am very aware of what Corons did, Jake, but I believe it is best left unsaid. The man has power."
Jake couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"What?! You just want us to step aside and let the asshole do whatever he pleases?" he cried, the same potent anger he had experienced when The Truth was revealed boiled up inside him. "I'm sorry sir, but you must be a damn fool if you just want to brush this aside. This kind of thing must not be ignored! If you don't do something about it, I will." His face turned red, Olivers did not.
"We'll see when the time comes. As of now, I just want to get off this ring."
Both men fell silent along with the other Marines--they had been listening carefully and they too were struck by what the el-tee had said.
"Don't think I'm with this guy, people, I hate him just as much as you do." Packs said, then he turned around after making sure he wasn't going to veer off course without looking, "But this man has power; if you didn't think he had any before, you were dead wrong. Now he has even more power, and he can probably get you killed without even anyone else noticing." Oliver paused, looked back over the dashboard, swerved to miss a decayed tree, and then added: "Not even your families." the mans voice wavered.
Jake knew what the next words that would've been if Oliver hadn't burst into silent tears: They would be killed too. Just like mine, but it wasn't Corons who did it, it was someone else, but with the same amount of power.
0847 Hours, January 14, 2553 (Human Calendar)/ On Forerunner Creation, inside human starship, engineering
The flat colors of the massive engineering room floor flickered red as the monitor swept over them, his light pulsating fiercely yet calmly in different directions. This was no time to relax, however, he was rushing, his form bouncing and weaving through the air in careless arcs, he had to get to the ships core and see if he could break into the system. Why would he want to? Why, to download as much possible information on human history--he just had to get to the archives and everything would then be simple.
Sentinels floated arbitrarily across the room, upwards, downwards, across; as if they were located in a room devoid of gravity. Still, 747 needed the information, whether or not the humans which had landed on this planet were dead. He didn't exactly need them dead, but it would be helpful.
It was funny to think that mere moments ago he had been hovering above the override panels in one of the many subsystems located in and under the plateau, toying with holographic switches that would render the Flood free from their chambers. They had swept under him in what seemed like a tidal wave, found ways to the surface, and chased after the lone human vehicle speeding towards the human starship. Now he was inside the ship, trying to access the millions of records stored in the class-B restricted access system. Gracefully, he removed the system protocols and managed to establish an uplink between his own memory core and the ships memory core--now he could move elsewhere while continuing to load the endless stream of human data.
Authentic Denial was technically alone, but he had ways of passing the time. His robotic self ascended to the top of the room, skimmed over an intersection between the catwalks, and came to another diode. Pleased with himself, he attempted to access the schematics of what they called a "Prowler". The monitor of installation 07 was successful in a matter of seconds.
He consulted the downloaded subroutines and mentally smiled, the humans were here. Lots of them, too, all located in or around the control room, or... the bridge. There were the soldiers patrolling the hallways while the officers scanned the bridge, making sure it was clear of any hostiles; currently, it was.
In a few moments, however, it wouldn't be.
"Sentinels," the monitor called out piously, his voice echoed. Sentinels swarmed in front of him, hovering among each other like flocks of birds, "I require you all to travel to the bridge of this interstellar vessel and eliminate any hostile forces--you all realize what this means. Remain in groups, don't be a problem. Wait for the opportune moment. As for me, I will abide in the engineering room and wait until everything is loaded. I will join you shortly."
The Sentinels hummed and buzzed stupidly, then floated up and through the vents which were oddly tiny compared to the ones the Forerunner had created. Still, it was an easy way of travelling through large bodies.
The monitor of installation 07 began humming, oblivous to what his plan was going to become.
0858 Hours, January 14, 2553 (Military Calendar)/ On Ancient Forerunner Ringworld: Halo 07, inside the Sierra, the bridge.
They had been greeted warmly enough by the remaining Marines of Romeo Platoon (which really weren't many), although the atmosphere gradually changed from hectic to relaxed, things were still a bit chaotic.
The Prowler was having technical difficulties, the Flood were swarming from all directions, and the survivors barely knew their asses from their elbows. A bit chaotic was a bit of an understatement. Saying that all hell was breaking loose was more fitting.
They had been led to the gut of the Sierra, passing under broken lights, through scarred hallways, and over catwalks that seemed too high to have been constructed safely. The "gut" was the bridge, where Captain Corons and his henchmen conversed rather too happily, tapping commands into data-ports where the screens seemed to be ignited by blue fire.
Now Jake stood there, not talking or moving, but listening to the stable conversation between injured Lieutenant Oliver Packs and the healthy Captain Corons. He grimaced at some of the responses given by Corons, they were lies, outright lies. It was about five minutes until Jake finally burst, directly after Corons had replied to the HORE organization by saying: "It's a beneficial association derived from the most important lines of ONI, bred for direct studying purposes that would change the world forever." only it was how the man had said it more than the words themselves. He had been practically wearing a long stupid, toothy grin.
Jake now spoke loudly. It was not exactly yelling, but it wasn't exactly talking, either.
"What do you mean, beneficial? This... this corporation of yours is hell-bound! You've sent thousands of people to their deaths because you wanted to study! Come on, Corons, to STUDY! That's not beneficial, that is, by God, murder; and if anyone else doesn't see it that way, you can go to Hell."
The Captain looked as if he had been slapped in the face, and hard. Jake continued jabbing his finger into the mans chest, spitting as he yelled. "And don't even think about coming up with another lame-ass excuse, Corons, because we know what you've been up to, you stinking bastard. You've got guts to send people to gruesome deaths? Then have the fucking guts to tell us the TRUTH!"
There was a silence, a long, awkward silence. Corons face went from pale white to a pale red, his brow furrowed abruptly and he gave his rebuttal.
"Don't you dare take that tone with me, Jacob, I could've just as easily sent you to your death as well--which I now see is what you deserved! HORE was created to keep people like you at work, stopping you from prattling on about what has happened and what is about to! So don't you fucking tell me to tell the truth, you lowlife! For anything, I should file a report on your actions and--"
Jake had had enough, he consciously watched his fist fly up, but as if he was watching someone else do it. His knuckles found the reddening skin of Corons, right around the cheek. Pain kicked at his clenched hand and through his arm, but he smiled. The pain was pleasure.
Corons was scrambling on the ground, holding his jaw which was undoubtedly broken, spitting out thin streams of blood and saliva onto the tile floor. He looked up at the angered technician carefully and then his foot somehow managed to find Jakes' shin.
"You like to hit old men, do you? Don't you? You motherfucking lowlife!" Corons screamed, getting up, hitting Jake down to the ground. Everybody on the bridge had backed away, looking cautiously from the technician to the Captain like it was an old-fashioned tennis match. "Well, hit me again, mister big shot!"
Jake kicked out with his feet; they connected to Corons' knee, and practically crippled him. There wasn't a snap or a crack, but the Captain fell to the ground, grasping for his injury, swearing heavily at Jake.
"No," the technician finally responded as he stood up, "I like to hit assholes who don't know what the fuck is going on, pervious to anything that is happening on this goddamn ringworld. You'll be the end of us all, Corons. You and your HORES--even though all the others are dead."
Jake stormed out of the bridge, his anger ceasing, when the call from 747 echoed out of the speakers. No one picked up Corons as he lay there with a damaged knee and broken jawbone, but instead listened carefully.
"Well, it seems as if some of you are in dire need of help, yes?"
The voice was mocking, giggling.
"I can make everything easier, for you, if you'd like." 747 stated clearly over the bridge speakers, "I've already hacked into the system and I'm downloading bits and pieces of your human past, very interesting, I might add. Who knew that much blood was spilled over your society! It's a shame, really, I was looking forward to seeing how this turned out.
"Your ship is disabled, I'm sorry to say--well, not exactly, haw haw haw--and you're not going any place soon. Oh, how exciting this is! I feel like Guilty Spark on installation 04! The bliss is really superficial, however, and I feel more needs to be done. Prepare to go to a place where no one is welcome, humans, and prepare fast."
The robotic voice (which seemed to hum) clicked off in an instant, leaving the personnel on the bridge to squabble, deciding what to do and fast.
"We've got to blow the Prowler, too, people." Corons spoke up, everyone fell silent. "Everyone can take the Longswords docked outside"--he stood, swaying slightly--"but we need to blow the ship before he can get any good info out of the system. We need--"
There were gunshots outside, then the heavy thump of falling bodies.
"Aw, shit, what now?" one of the crewman sighed frustratingly.
Marines backed up into the room, the door they had come to remained open. One of the soldiers muttered something, but before one of the others could ask what he said, Sentinels swarmed into the room, buzzing stupidly.
"Fire. At. Will." Packs ordered slowly before diving behind a computer console.
Gunshots broke out, screams rebounded off the walls, and blood splattered everywhere. How long was it going to take just to get off this ring?