Survival Instincts, Chapter 3
Posted By: GLADIATRRR3000<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 29 November 2004, 4:23 AM
For the second time in 12 hours, Travis woke up not knowing where he was or why he was there. He tried to stand, but the pain in his leg made him stay where he was. Brushing the ants out of his hair, he sat up. He looked down at his leg and saw the left leg of his jeans torn off and wrapped around where he was burned. Wincing, he slowly peeled a small bit of the makeshift bandage off the burn to look at it. It was turning dark red, but didn't appear to be in horrible condition. The molten rock had stopped at the muscle, only burning a square inch of flesh. The area around it was turning purple, but other that that, he was fine.
He stood up, putting his weight on his right leg and looked around. Tom had carried him to the top of the mountain, or somewhere near it. They were on top of a large cliff that gave them an even greater view of the city. "Well," Travis said to himself. "Would have been a greater view of the city, if it were still there."
He could see the two Covenant warships floating several thousand feet above the ocean a few miles out to sea. He could see the hundreds of troop transports flying through the air, looking like flies at the distance. Banshees, sounding only like a soft breeze so far away, were on patrol routes throughout the city. But what caught Travis's attention was that there were hundreds of Elites, Jackals, and Grunts lined up at the very edge of the forest. All facing towards the giant warships in the sky, they stood there, silent from what Travis could hear, not moving or turning.
"They've been doing that for an hour, or at least since we got up here." Tom said, motioning towards the line of Covenant at the forest's edge. "I wonder what they're up to."
Travis didn't say anything, but walked over towards him. "We should get back to the cave. Tell everyone to move out, since all those Covenant are right at our doorstep. We should probably move deeper into the forest." He said, gently rubbing his burn.
"Remember what everyone told us? Don't go into the forest; there's creatures out there we haven't tamed yet." Tom said. "Remember those wolves that were being transported to the zoo from Earth? The cargo ship landed at the quarantine base a few miles out, but the truck delivering them never made it here."
Travis nodded, remembering the story. "There were a few dozen of them, one third of what was left on Earth. I don't know how easily they adapted to our environment, but if they escaped, then you can bet the environment couldn't adapt to them fast enough." Tom continued.
Travis cut him off. "Well, it's either a slow, painful death by the Covenant, or run and hide with only a small chance of getting eaten."
"Yeah, true. We could try reaching the quarantine bay. Maybe we could send a radio transmission to the UNSC to come help, if they haven't realized this planet is gone yet." Tom said. "Well, you're right. Let's head back to the cave and tell everyone to move farther into the forest. Let's just hope the Covenant don't know we're here."
Transmission from Field Master Zukamee. Receiving.... Received.
Shall I display the message? Message displayed. Forever is the Covenant's Glory.
Excellencies, we have discovered several survivors of the initial assault making refuge in the mountains at the edge of the human outpost. Initial reports state that they are not armed and are not considered dangerous, however, they seem to be near where the Ancient Artifact lies. Radiation from the human "Nuclear Silos" nearby distorts the actual location of the Ancient Artifact. Simulations show that if we proceed bombardment of the survivors, there is a 48% chance that the Artifact is damaged or destroyed. As your Excellencies know, this is unacceptable, and we are therefore asking how we should continue. Forever is the Covenant's Glory.
End of Message. Reply cannot be sent at this time, your Excellencies, as all energy is diverted to coolant leakage in sector nine. We shall alert you at once when the problem is solved.
Tom carried Travis down the path that he had been unconscious for. Tom lost his footing twice, but regained his balance by grabbing on to tree branches or boulders. Near the bottom of the path, Travis recognized the boulder that they had hidden behind when they were chased by the pack of Grunts, but all the bodies were gone, leaving neon blue trails of blood leading into the forest to their right. "Something dragged the corpses off..." Tom muttered. "I'm going to put you down for a while. I'm going to get all the weapons that the Covenant dropped."
After several minutes of sitting and watching Tom pick plasma pistols and rifles up, Tom walked over to him, handed him a dozen weapons, and picked him up. Travis had trouble holding them all, but found it easy to stick his hands through the crescent shape of the pistols and supporting them on his arm while grabbing the rifles. Tom carried him farther down the mountain to where they had left the food and juice. A few bottles have been swept away by the river, but all the fruit was there. Tom picked up the backpack filled with fruit and waded into the water, grabbing the jugs of orange juice.
They continued up the path to the caves. For several minutes all Travis heard was the heavy breathing of Tom and all he saw was the back of his head. Halfway up the trail, Tom stopped for a second, looked over his shoulder, and said, "Close your eyes and hold your breath." Travis did as he was told, but as Tom pressed on, Travis peeked his eyes open a little and saw what looked like the burning corpse of Patterson, still clutching a burning backpack.
When they reached the cave, it was almost noon. People near the front smiled weakly as they saw them carrying food, while others jumped up and rushed over, grabbing handfuls of apples and oranges, sticking out their hands as cups for the orange juice. Tom set Travis down, and several men, early twenties, took the weapons away from him and placed them in a neat pile on the other side of the cave. A woman was singing a nursery rhyme to a baby, and a little girl was humming to herself, throwing rocks to the back of the cave. "Everyone," Tom said loudly, waiting for everyone to turn towards him. "The Covenant are grouping at the bottom of the forest and we believe they are heading towards us." There were several gasps and screams at this. "I believe we need to head deeper into the forest to get away, but..."
A middle-aged woman cut him off. "Who decided that you get to make all the decisions? What makes you think we'll be safer out there? We would have no shelter, no cover, no place to keep warm..." She said harshly.
"Listen, I saw them. They're going to come up here, searching every cave and every rock for us. They know we're here. We can either leave now, or die when they find us." Tom said, a hint of anger in his voice, but overall calmly. "If you want to stay, fine, but I'm not leaving here with a heavy conscience as well as a heavy burden. Anyone who feels they should leave, grab whatever is yours and follow me."
Twenty of the twenty-four people stood, grabbed a plasma weapon and some food and juice, walked towards the front of the cave and stood there, waiting for Tom. The four stragglers sat in the cave, staring at the walls. "Fools," said the woman. "You're all fools! They'll find you! They'll find you and kill you all! Go on, leave us! I hope your deaths are quick and painless, for your sake."
Some mothers covered their children's ears, and the twenty people walked away. Travis could hear the woman with a baby still in the cave, still singing a nursery rhyme. "Hush little baby, don't you cry, momma's going to sing you a lullaby..."
The rhyme could be heard for a minute as the walked down the path, leaving an eerie silence when it finally died away.
Your Excellencies, coolant leak repaired. Sending power to radio transmitter. Reply to Message?
Send the troops up the mountain. Order them to use no explosives. Find and kill all the humans, no matter what the cost is, short of damaging or destroying the Artifact. A reward will be granted to the one who returns with the most human heads.