Galaxy 07 - Part Five - Escape
Posted By: Jillybean<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 25 November 2003, 5:48 PM
AN: I apologise for the 'choppiness' of this chapter. Working through Writer's Block will do that to you. And writing crappy in this fanfic is better than writing crappy in my novel.
Daxia went to answer the door and was shocked when the eight foot tall Elite fell into her quarters.
The younger Elite, dressed in blue armour, apologized in poor English.
"Had no where to take him, must warn others." With this he turned and left. Daxia stared at Ishe' Manatee, strewn across the floor.
"John!" she bellowed and tried her best to drag Manatee from the doorway.
"What! Is something wrong?" The Spartan ran into the room and stopped dead at the sight before him.
"Stop gawking and help me," Daxia snapped. With John's help she managed to pull the Elite into the room and doors slid shut.
"What happened to him?" she asked.
John reached forward and traced what appeared to be scoring across the shoulder plates of his armour. The back plate was missing and his leathery grey skin was revealed.
"This isn't plasma scoring," John told her. "I'd guess it's some sort electric stunner."
"How can you tell?" Daxia asked curiously. Off his sardonic look she corrected herself. "Never mind. I'll believe you. Help me take his armour off, I don't think he can breathe."
Obediently John helped her remove the armour. He couldn't help but notice what appeared to be old wounds on the creature. Wounds that were perhaps a few days old. He had never been this close to a living, vulnerable, Elite before. What they could learn from the specimen . . . he shivered. He sounded like the Forerunner.
"Do these look old to you?" Daxia looked up, worry in her eyes.
John nodded. "I get the feeling he hasn't found it easy. The Covenant have given him a hard time over being our pet."
"He's not our pet," Daxia corrected as she eased another piece of armour off. "He's our ally."
"If you say so." John met her gaze steadily. Manatee shifted a little and he pulled her out of the way, an instinctive distrust of the Covenant was still taking precedence over logic.
"He's not going to hurt us." Daxia shook him off and crouched by the head of the Elite. "Where's Cortana?"
"She's offline right now," John replied.
"Well bring her online. I'll need her help. If she can manage . . . hey, are you okay?"
Manatee regarded her with small, predatory eyes. His mandibles worked, finally concealing his ferocious teeth and he pulled himself to sit up.
"I will live," he told her.
"You're pretty beat up." Daxia gazed at him worriedly. "Maybe you should rest for a while."
"The Prophets have declared me a traitor. It is not safe for me, nor those of the Covenant who have joined forces with you."
"I'm sorry," Daxia said solemnly.
"Was it you who hurt me?" Manatee asked. "It is not your fault. It is mine as a warrior."
John left the room and headed to the small port where Cortana was installed. Currently her chip sat above the unit. It was not wise to leave her active all the time, her thought process grew too long and complicated. He picked the chip up and plugged her in. As she flickered into life before him he smiled.
"Manatee is in the front room. He's wounded," John explained. He quietly removed a pistol from it's hiding place and hid it under his shirt. Cortana watched, wordlessly, then headed through.
"You were attacked by the Prophets," she deduced instantly.
Manatee confirmed her statement.
"Our time is running out," she said worriedly. "If the Prophets are moving against their traitors-"
"I am no traitor!" Manatee hissed.
"For want of a better term," Cortana corrected. "We must move fast. The Prophets will sell us out to the Forerunners, I have seen this in my simulations." The AI closed her eyes, as if in pain. "There's so much," she whispered. She was silent for a few moments before she opened her eyes once more. "We must move quickly."
"How do you propose?" Daxia stood up and looked between John and the AI. "We're scattered throughout the compound."
"How much time do you estimate we have?" John asked.
Cortana shook her head. "One at a time. Please," she implored. "We have perhaps twenty hours. That is an estimate. We could rally at 12 hundred hours. Most of us will be in the Mess Hall."
"Yes but how do we escape? Our plans are . . . fractured . . . at best," Daxia stated.
"I knew there was something I had to tell you!" Cortana exclaimed. "There is a daily shipment of Forerunners,"
"The one that brings the Forerunners to the exhibition," Daxia snapped. "We know that."
"I learned of the location of the drop ship. It was heavily encrypted, but I know it. I covered my tracks, I'm pretty sure they don't know I know."
"That's our exit," John said darkly. "Dax, I take it you still remember how to fly?" He ignored her outrage sputtering and turned to Manatee. "We're leaving tonight. Where are your Covenant?"
"Taking shelter in the human quarters," Manatee replied.
"Okay. Cortana, raise the alarm. We're meeting out in the front courtyard. Tell everyone to hide their weapons, but make sure they leave no guns behind."
"Yes sir," Cortana said sarcastically.
"Ish," Daxia leaned down to the Elite. "You help Cortana." She watched as the Elite limped from the room.
When she looked up once more, John was watching her.
"Are you ready?" he asked softly.
Daxia took a deep breath. "I don't want to be a specimen all my life. But . . . if something happens-"
"Dax . . ."
"If something happens to me. Or you. I just want you to know," she blinked and returned his gaze steadily. "I have had some of the happiest times of my life here. With you."
"I love you too," John pulled her into a strong embrace. Without words they parted. John turned to dress in the MJOLNIR armour. Daxia left to rally the troops. They had said all they needed to.
It was with a hesitant and somewhat fearful air that the seventy eight specimens gathered in front of the Master Chief. The courtyard seemed full, but it appeared to the Chief that some had chickened out at the last minute. There should have been more of them there.
He did not have time to dwell.
The five squad leaders approached him.
"Cortana has given you the co-ordinates?" he asked. They replied affirmative. "Then you are to get your squad to the point as soon as possible. If it looks as though your last chance for take-off is slipping. Go. Don't wait for the other squads."
He looked to where Daxia was briefing the squad pilots. She nodded at him. They were all ready.
"Move out," the Chief ordered.
He watched as the five squads moved out. They each moved in separate directions, taking the paths they knew well. All their boot camp had not been for nothing. Slowly he slid Cortana's chip into his head and Daxia slid up beside him.
"It's just like old times," Cortana mused as she came online.
Daxia grinned. "Wish I still looked like I did seven years ago," she joked. She slid the clip into her pistol and waited for the Chief to lead the way.
Manatee, though injured, had no trouble running the distance to the drop point. The five squads were spread over the Forerunner colonized planet, each squad helping their own.
The squads had been meticulously planned. While most of the escapees had attended Boot camp, some had been unable to. Whether through illness or simple age, they were unable to move as fast as the others. Manatee would have left them behind, but not the humans. Even the warrior humans who should have known better were determined to get every aged scientist out of the Forerunner facility. Every wounded Jackal. Even Goro' Nyessh - the Elite who had been blinded in the assault on Strayforth.
No one gets left behind. That was their motto. Manatee couldn't say he understood - but in some ways he sort of liked it.
Sentinels appeared almost the instant the squads broke out the compound's invisible boundaries. Their lasers started to swing, inaccurately, across the spiky grass. Manatee fell to one knee and took aim with his plasma pistol. The Sentinel he hit fell to the ground, sparking wildly. The humans that were running ahead let out a whoop of victory. Manatee laughed wickedly to himself and fired at the next robot.
"This is interesting," Cortana mused as the Chief rounded a corner.
He fired at the rapidly approaching Forerunner and felt a huge sense of satisfaction when the long legged creature fell to the ground. "What?"
"My thought process feel clearer when I am residing in your databanks." Cortana sounded more like her old self as she spoke.
"I don't know if I like the idea of that," Daxia muttered, rounding the corner after the Chief had cleared it away. She scanned the room quickly. "When we get out of here you should have a diagnostic run, Chief."
"Yes ma'am," he muttered.
Cortana directed them through the Forerunner Sanctuary, to the places where the specimens had never been allowed to go. They met with little resistance, all the Forerunner were tourists.
"This the control tower," Cortana announced as they reached the tall, glass-walled tower that looked out over the Sanctuary.
"Environmental controls, nutritional programmes, disease procedures," the Chief read from the displays. He had become fluent in Forerunner with Cortana's help. "You'd never guess that we were supposed to be unhampered with Specimen's." He slid Cortana's chip from his helmet and into a panel.
"I'm disabling their stratospheric and space defences." Cortana flicked into life before them. She nodded. "We're safe to go, we should meet little resistance from the Fleet above."
"Was that - environmental controls?" Daxia asked.
The Chief nodded and pointed to the panel. "There? How good's your flying these days?"
Cortana started to change the weather, bubbling, black clouds started to grow on the horizon. "There's one way to find out," she challenged mischievously.
Manatee leapt over the heads of the Forerunner guard and spun. Even injured, it was no problem for him to snap the long, frail neck of the Forerunner. There was in an inexplicable joy to be found in the action.
"Behind you!" A marine dropped to one knee and fired with his pistol. The Forerunner inside the ship fell, dead.
Manatee watched it, dispassionate. "My thanks," he said to the marine.
The human saluted him cheekily. "My pleasure, mate!"
Manatee's squad was the first to reach the shuttle. The others began to approach, closely pursued by the Sentinel's. Each squad had had at least one pilot with them, that way the shuttle could take off at any time.
"Are we ready to fly?" the Elite asked of the pilot.
The young man ran his hands over the dials and turned his head. "Good to go when you are, sir!" he shouted over the hum of the engines.
Manatee turned his attention to the fields. The other squads were nearly all safe.
"This way," Cortana interjected, back in the MC's head, as they ran into a Forerunner guard. The Chief knew the command was meant for Daxia, who obediently ducked into the side passage. The Chief barrelled forwards, knocking the Forerunner off his feet. An overloaded plasma pistol finished the alien.
"That's a pretty thing," Daxia mused, picking the Forerunner's gun off the ground.
The Chief looked at it. "Hold on to that, we may need it," he ordered.
Daxia stared at him. "Need it? We don't know how to use it!"
As if on cue, two Forerunner guards emerged from the corridor behind them. The Chief snatched the gun from her and fired it. There was a wave of blue light and the Forerunners slumped to the ground.
"Hmm, a neural inhibitor," Cortana mused. "Fascinating!"
"I know you're laughing under that helmet," Daxia muttered as they headed for the roof.
"I wouldn't dare," the Chief replied.
They reached the roof to find the rain was pouring down. It sluiced off the sides of the black granite building, creating rivers that threatened to erode the walls. It was strange, in all her years at Sanctuary, Daxia had never seen a thunder storm. Now, as lightning arced the sky, she wondered what Cortana had done.
"Here comes the shuttle," the Chief warned. He held both his guns up, ready to shoot if it turned out to be a Forerunner at the helm.
The shuttle hovered above the landing pad, the gangway extended. Daxia sprinted up the ramp and shoved past the closely packed passengers. At the cockpit she hovered over the pilot and co-pilot, ready to hand out advice should they need it.
"Ascending now," the pilot said softly, in his monotone.
Daxia knew she was annoying the two perfectly competent pilots, but she couldn't help herself. She judged their every action.
"Look-" the co-pilot breathed.
Manatee and the Chief peered over Daxia's shoulders to see the ghost fleet above them. Covenant ships. Human ships. Locked in an eternal display of warfare. There were even mock cannon blasts, suspended between the ships.
"We're docking with the Marathon class cruiser . . . " the pilot began.
"No," Daxia shook her head. "The Forerunner ships are much faster. Cortana, in the control tower, did you find the location of a Forerunner ship?"
"I've uploaded the co-ordinates now," Cortana replied smoothly. The pilots re-directed the shuttle and it slid into the bay of a large Forerunner ship.
"What's the name of this one?" Daxia asked curiously, hiding round a corner while the Chief and marines scouted ahead.
Manatee glanced at her. "Why is it important to know?"
"Because, I don't want to insult her," Daxia replied.
The Chief waved them forward and Cortana replied. "The translation is, I guess, Mordred."
"Here's the bridge," the Chief growled. He and Manatee fanned out, both on the alert as Daxia slid into the pilot's chair.
"Everything in place?" Cortana asked, her voice full of smiles.
"Oh yes," Daxia replied, moving the ship out of it's dock. "Now, mind showing me that trick you did with the Avalon?"