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Survival Instincts, Chapter 2
Posted By: GLADIATRRR3000<gladiatrrr3000@hotmail.com>
Date: 29 November 2004, 4:19 AM

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      Travis woke with a jump. In the few waking moments after sleep, when all was calm and blissful, he had forgotten why he was in a dark cave with 2-dozen other people. Suddenly, he remembered the terrible, horrible attack on his home planet, Seta VI. Hoping against hope that it was a terrible dream, although he knew it was reality, he walked to the mouth of the cave and stared down at his once beautiful seaside ocean city.

      The city lay in ruins. No building taller than two stories was left standing, and everything else was either burned to the ground or reduced to rubble and molten metal. He could see Banshees flying over the city, every now and then swooping down and raining plasma at survivors. He leaned against the cave wall and forced down the gagging feeling he was encountering. Several other people were watching the city as well, most of them crying silently. Several older men were staring out into space, no emotions on their faces. One of the women in the back had a radio, switching frequencies every few seconds, desperately searching for signs of other survivors.

      Travis heard Tom stand up, brush the spiders off his jeans, and walk over to him. "I checked our food." He said, looking towards the docks, which were now sending a huge plume of smoke into the sky. "We only have enough fruit for three more people. We need to go out there... salvage some food."

      Travis tried to tell him that that was suicide, but all that came out was a squeaking noise. He cleared his throat, thought for a minute, and replied, "I'm coming with you."

      Tom nodded. He knew that taking him would be a hassle, but figured he needed to get something in his mind to forget the screams of yesterday. Travis walked to the back, grabbed a plasma pistol and the hunting rifle, and handed the rifle to Tom. "Alright, everyone." Tom said, waking several younger kids up. "We need a few more people to find food. We don't have enough to last an hour. If you feel up to it, grab a Covenant plasma weapon and meet us at the edge of the cave."

      Travis watched an elderly man grab a pistol and follow them. They waited several minutes, but no one else joined them. "Well, we better get going. No body talk unless you need to, and if they Covenant find you and chase you, don't head back here. Lead them away from everyone else."

      The elderly man nodded. "I'm Tom, by the way, and this is Travis, my brother." Tom gestured towards Travis.

      "Patterson. We should check to see if the produce shop near the edge of the forest is still up, before we head deeper into town." The old man wheezed.

      "Good idea. Let's go." Tom said, nodding. They jogged to the bottom of the trail, careful to wipe their footprints to leave no trace. As they ran through the forest, they would duck behind large bushes when a ship flew overhead. When they reached the edge of the city, Tom motioned for them to stop. They all looked around and knelt beside him.

      "Ok. Looks like the produce shop is still standing, but there are three Elites about two hundred feet to the... Northeast... see them?" He pointed. The old man nodded, and Travis saw them seconds later. "Let's avoid all contact with them. They don't know we're here, and I don't want them to. Cross the street as fast as you can, and hide behind that dumpster to the left of the store."

      They nodded and moved to the edge of the street. They looked both ways, saw a Ghost moving up the hill in the other direction, and ran across quickly, diving behind the dumpster. "Ok, Travis, melt the lock to the back door. Your plasma pistol is a lot quieter than my rifle." Travis nodded, moved towards the door near the back corner of the store, and shot the small padlock several times. It turned white hot and seeped off the door. Tom shoved the steel door open.

      Inside, there was the smell of fruit and vegetables gone slightly bad. The power, out for almost a day, left the produce out in the air, so they were slightly rotting. Tom grabbed a Nectarine, imported from Earth, smelled it, then took a big bite. He spat out a small bit of the pit, then smiled. "They're still good." He said, handing one to Patterson and Travis.

      They grabbed the plastic bags from the dispenser near the cash register and filled them all with different fruits. They went to the juice section, grabbed 9 gallons of orange juice, and headed for the back again. Travis struggled with the weight, but Tom grabbed the juice containers from him. "I'll take them." He said, wincing as more weight was added to his backpack.

      They moved slowly out the back door and to the front of the store. They hid behind the dumpster, looking around for any signs of Covenant. The three Elites down the road had moved on, and there were no ships in the air near them. "Come on, let's hurry back." Said Tom.

      As they moved out into the street, the ground started shaking. Travis noticed it first. It began shaking hard, as if something heavy were moving across it. They dove to the bushes at the other side of the road, and hid, not moving. Travis realized that it wasn't the ground shaking, but the air vibrating. There was a Wraith tank going down the street, hovering two feet off the ground. They held their breath as it went by. When it turned the corner and the air stopped shaking, they stood and ran.

      Then, Travis stopped. He heard the one sound that he feared: the sound of a Covenant laughing. Despite themselves, all three of them turned to look. A Grunt was staring at them, laughing. It turned and ran back around the corner, and they could hear the barking of at least three-dozen more Grunts. "Run." Tom said.

      They both turned and ran up the hill. Patterson broke off from Tom and Travis, running towards the caves. Tom and Travis were too busy to notice this, and kept running straight up the mountain. Travis threw his backpack into the bushes near the trail that led up to the caves, but ran down a different path. Tom threw the juice containers into the small river, which got stuck in rocks and stopped moving. "If we live, we can come back for them." Tom said over his shoulder to Travis.

      They ran a quarter mile up the hill. Too tired to keep going, they hid behind a boulder, breathing hard. They sat in silence for a couple of minutes, praying that the Grunts had lost the scent. Then they heard more barking coming up the trail. Seconds later, the Grunts were running by. Tom and Travis stopped breathing. Just when the Grunts had passed them over, one barked at the group. The pack stopped and started sniffing the air, noses pointing towards the sky. "How...good...can...they...smell?" Travis whispered out of the side of his mouth, answered only by the laughing of the Grunts.

      Travis screamed as a Grunt leapt out from the side of the boulder. Before the Grunt could fire his pistol, Travis had punched it in its face, temporarily stunning it. Tom took this second to shoot its stomach out. The other Grunts, now positive there were humans there, ran around the sides of the boulder. Travis was firing his plasma pistol as fast as it allowed, hitting the Grunts as they appeared. They were going down quickly, and only a few got a shot off, all clean misses.

      Travis's gun overheated, and another Grunt turned and fired at him. Travis ducked, kicked the Grunt's skinny legs out, and shoved the white-hot edge of the pistol in its face. The Grunt screamed in agony, firing random plasma beams out. One hit the boulder behind Travis, which dripped molten rock on his leg. Travis screamed, letting go of his gun and the Grunt and clutching the burn. The Grunt rolled over, sat up, and laughed. The laugh was a half-whimper, but it stood up and leveled its pistol at Travis's face. Tom rammed the butt of the rifle into the Grunt's skull, and the Grunt snapped his head back. It stood for a moment, it's eyes crossed, then fell to the ground with a snapping noise. "Hurry, let's go." Tom told Travis, hoisting him over his shoulder. "Before more come."

      As Tom carried him farther up the mountainside, Travis passed out with pain.

      He enjoyed the peaceful sleep.