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The Enemy Within-Chapter Nineteen: Benedictions of the Mind
Posted By: Mind_Affecting_Parasite<pbplayer_24@yahoo.com>
Date: 11 February 2005, 2:56 AM

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       Bullets and plasma seemed to strike every surface around the lone Sergeant; save his body. Metal slugs pinged from the few purple Covenant cargo containers around him, flying around his head like a hail storm and leaving scars and divots in the silver alloys at the man's feet. He could feel the heat from the plasma, too; glowing craters pot-marking all that was surrounding his form, even dead bodies.
       Sergeant Lance Ferring ran for his life, not turning his head to look at a threat that was all too real to him: A mass of Flood forms, hungry for his blood. Their gurgles, growls and occasional screams were the only things that the sole Human occupant of the large Forerunner crafted room could hear. But it was the latter that got to him the most.
       He had heard the screams before; but now, so close and so plentiful, it was all he could do not to fall to the floor holding his ears. The cry was inhuman; something that came from beyond the grave and was meant to stay there. But it didn't. These monstrosities, these beasts, these non-mortal horrors didn't seem to discern between the living and the dead. All they did was kill and destroy, dominate and consume; like a virus that knew no bounds.
       Lance didn't know much about the purpose of these rings, but he had sure had time to think about it. They held these creatures, they had seemingly held them for millennia in dark corridors and labyrinthian halls. Now free, nothing could stop them. All that the still-living could do was try to escape. Leave the nightmares and atrocities behind and go far, far away; never to return. The ancient beings that had built these rings must have had the right idea, the Sergeant thought.
       All that Sergeant Ferring knew now, however, were the results. He was presently finding himself choosing the only remaining option: running.

       The black-alloy gravity lift base sat waiting ahead, burnished in alien blood. Just a few seconds before, the other members of Lance's squad had been standing right there; lending covering fire and calling their leader to them.
       Get your ass up that lift, Carter! he had said, trying to get his soldiers safe.
       But sir! his SINC had called in response, agonizing over the sight of his doomed CO.
       I mean now; that's an order! that leader, this man, had shouted back; telling his own people to leave him behind.
       Now, the Sergeant almost regretted giving that order; but not quite. He no longer had a desire to live for himself. No, the only reason he sustained his life was for the good of those whom he served. He had done the right thing in getting his Marines - and Navy pilot - to a safer place; or a place that he hoped was safer. That was done, and now this soldier's only remaining duty was to make sure he kept the things behind him from endangering anymore lives that he had control of. It was his duty, his charge, his choice.

       Pain lanced again up his leg, spreading from the wound that he had so hastily repaired only hours earlier. Blood now ran freely down his calf, moistening his dark hairs and soaking into his clothes. He would have to make a real effort now if he was to make it to the lift. It was only seven meters now, to his salvation, to his way of escape. Of course, he would have to make it there before his adversaries did.
       Sergeant Ferring finally made the decision to look behind him, to see what he was up against. He quickly wished he hadn't.
       Back that short time ago, when Private Daniels had still been there in the captured Shade plasma turret, raining hellish fire upon the green demons that vied to come forth from their pit, things had been looking like they all could have made it. But, after those purple beams of energy had disappeared with the rest of the Human forces up the grav lift, things had gone from bad to much worse.
       The Flood's numbers had multiplied by two fold; now just a rolling green mass. Some were out in front, having more intact bodies or a more eager hunger; but most were part of a single rotting crowd. The Sergeant thought he could even see the rear of the group, where their numbers had finally run out and stopped flowing through the doorway now so far away. If only they would have held them back a couple minutes longer...
       He had to do something now, Lance quickly realized, pulling himself back from his despair. In his hands was a weapon that would spell certain destruction to several of those chasing after him - but he only had one shot with the powerful M19 SSM Rocket Launcher. It would have to do.
       With grave determination on his face, the Marine swivelled his waist to face a dense pocket of Flood Combat Forms. His sharp eyes scanned for something - anything that would intensify the explosion, to make his single shot well worth it. There! The bright blue grenades bouncing on the waist of several of the closest forms stood like jewels in the mayhem; and there were sure to be human grenades somewhere in the mix. That was all Lance needed to see.
       With a pull of his weapon's mighty trigger, the second, and last, rocket of his current magazine zipped from the 'Launcher. It only took half a second for it to reach the enemy forms, now only ten meters back. In a ball of fire, no less than a dozen decomposing bodies transformed into chunks of burnt flesh, clouds of sprayed fluids, and vaporized tissues. Though, the explosion didn't stop there. Crackling blue clouds erupted within the still-think smoke, their lightning reaching out to every solid mass within their deadly proximity. Dozens more of the explosive packages attached to other Combat Forms were set off as those nearby un-stabilized their continents.
       A rapid streak of shrapnel and plasma ripped through the soft-bodied army massed so close together, flinging gore in every direction. One branch of the reaction reached all the way to the back of the crowd - barely; but enough to upset the delicate balance held within the bulging sacks of Carrier forms. A whole file of them transformed themselves, and those nearest them, into eruptions of puss and wet flesh.
       Sergeant Ferring had felt some of the heat of the initial detonation of the 102mm shaped charge; but the shockwave of the combined secondary explosions rattled his bones. That, he thought, should slow them the hell down. Through the clinging haze and carnage, however, and just as always, more of the monsters came. They were scattered, any many were now missing portions of their stolen bodies, but they were still in motion. It wasn't over yet.

       Now lacking ammunition, the useless heavy weapon dropped unceremoniously to the cold floor; a limping Human scurrying away as quickly as his leg would allow. The man's prize waited only five feet away now, close enough to touch within another moment. Until a thought that was powerful enough to make the Sergeant slow pounded into his consciousness.
       What will stop them from following me?

       Blood and gore were the only things that the fallen Black Master could see. Bodies, intact and otherwise, lay all around him; their blood pooling up in a lake under his back and all around his body. There were still some Covenant troops left, but they were hopelessly outnumbered. The Flood continued onward as if they could not feel pain, as if their numbers knew no ends; as if their approach was as inevitable as the incoming tide.
       'Lashowagee tried for the hundredth time in the last few minutes to move his body; but, without change, found that he could not. Each time he but moved his mandibles, pain lanced through him like a burning flame, eager to consume him. He could feel his crushed atlas-vertebrae, grinding with each small movement of his head. The feeling of loss, vulnerability, pain, sorrow, agony, and despair was all that the once great Apprentice Field Master had to himself now.
       Another explosion sent a third body toppling to the ground within centiunits of 'Lashowagee's body. In the upper reaches of his vision, the Black Master could see a wall of green mutant forms growing closer with each passing second. No longer did he care, however. No longer did he care that his fate was fast approaching.
       With the new-found apathy, the world went quiet. There was no more gunfire, no more death, no more screaming, no more shouting, and no more distraction besides the contents of this Elite's own mind. The dim lights around him seemed to be at a distance, as if he was an observer from afar. But he still knew he was not. He was still not free of the physical bounds known to him for so long.
       The last of the remaining Covenant forces stumbled backwards past the Field Master's stationary position; their weapons discharging their final ounces of energy. But, as the energy cores depleted, so did their hope and chance of making it away from Halo alive. 'Lashowagee knew now that the great rings were no place of salvation, but only damnation; a place where nightmares became reality, and hopes were absorbed as quickly as the bodies of friends and enemies alike. In his final resting place, he had found Hell.

       All he knew was pain. It was the only sensation that registered in his mind. He could feel the breaks in his bones with each shallow and ragged breath - the fractures sending waves of agony through his torso. In fact, the very pain that had pushed his mind from a conscious state had only served to reverse the process but a couple moments later.
       Squad Master 'Lshowee could smell the fluids that had leaked from his body and onto the ground beneath him. And he could feel from where the liquids still leaked from. His belly suffered the most grievous injury: two holes straight through his intestines and excretory system. Bile, half-digested food, feces, and urine had all spilt from his now-open body cavity. It made an oddly colored mosaic, mixed with at least a unit of his thick blood.
       The visible world came back far too slowly; light fading in and out with each weak pump of his heart. It was wounded as well. The single bullet to penetrate his chest must have done more damage than he had originally thought. However, it was just one of many physical hindrances that the Elite now had to contend with.
       As soon as the dull pain in his limbs faded back to its full intensity - signaling that he now had control over them again - he made efforts to flex his muscles. He instantly regretted the choice. The new pulses of pain causing him to convulse; he nearly blacked-out a second time. But he barely managed to resist. He was still aware - if but faintly - that he was in a battle-zone; and that meant if he didn't get up and moving soon, he was dead. Whether it be from his sustained injuries, or by the hands of another foe.
       So, he had little choice but to bare his pain and force his body into motion. 'Lshowee strained to ignore the torturous discomfort in his entire body; but he did so, pushing himself up with his arms, and out of his own pool of gore. The viscous substance clung to his armor; at first streaming off in solid strings, but soon slowing to a constant drip.
       The room was still dark, which was not a surprise to this Elite. Still, there were plenty of other things to look at besides bright lights. A battle still raged between the small and scattered groups of Covenant and with the dwindling Flood numbers on the opposite side of the large chamber. To this warrior's quick-to-assess eye, though, it was clear who the unfortunate victor would prove to be.
       Then, also, was the mass of mutated bodies - composed of humans and Covenant troops alike - that was in the process of rushing a lone primate on 'Lshowee's own side of the room. He hoped it would give him what little time he required to complete his escape. As soon as he knew he was supporting himself by his arms and single good leg, he pushed off the ground and towards the Banshee not a standard unit away.
       With the feel of the smooth alloy came a rising sense of hope for the struggling soldier. Within several agonizing seconds, the Elite managed to pull himself towards the small cockpit of the flying vehicle. Then came the challenge. 'Lshowee's plan included taking a short flight into space and to another - uninfected, of course - ship. Seeing as his armor was breached, and he was in a critical condition, this would prove to be a problem. The obvious solution came with the assurance that the pre-placed environmental armor-upgrade was still sitting to the side of the controls.
       The only thing left for this Elite warrior to do was to equip the device. A task easier said that done. With fractured ribs, ruptured internal organs, a fatal - if not soon treated - chest wound, and a shredded leg, the normally simple action of slipping on the air-tight suit and activating the oxygen-recyclers became much more complicated.

       The pool of blood around the former Elite had finally grown stagnant; the bodily liquids having exhausted themselves. Black Squad Master Iko 'Balinee considered moving the corpse - but decided against it. No, a crumpled body and pool of blood was better than the long smear across the floor that dragging it would cause. It was unfortunate that the soldier had forced his own death. Such lack of discipline and action of duty was rare among the Covenant ranks. Still, it weeded out those that were unfit warriors; getting rid of them before their incompetence could cause fatal problems on a battlefield. Of course, Iko had no way of knowing that whether or not the former Squad Master sprawled out before him had acted, the many inevitable deaths could not have been stopped.
       With the end of that thought process, 'Balinee glanced back to the control console - which doubled as a communications link when troops were directly below the ship. It was silent. The Squad Master thought that he was beginning to see a pattern: When they had arrived, there had been no contact from the troops below; after the two squads of soldiers had descended, they had not received a communiqué; and now, after the 'Field Master had gone down for himself, he had not reported back. This disturbed Squad Master 'Balinee greatly. For he did not believe in coincidences - so this series of occurrences could only mean something grave was befalling them all.
       It was at this moment that the senior Master of the Gravity Lift Embarkation Room decided on his next action. However, it would not be following the same pattern that had resulted in nothing but a clear lack of results. No, this action would be sure to get something accomplished; of that, Iko was certain. 'Balinee flexed his shoulders and started the short trek towards the console, preparing the words in his mind that he would present to his Ship Master - but then something observable finally happened: The Gravity Lift hummed into active status.
       'Balinee was close enough to the command console to quickly find out what was in occurrence. With a quick look, he saw something that finally eased his mind's troubles; a group was finally rising up the lift. They would certainly bring news of the current situation, and an explanation. Perhaps it was even 'Field Master 'Lashowagee himself.
       The Black Squad Master stiffened to present himself for the arrival of the rising forces. He prepared several different queries, in the case that a lower ranking soldier was in charge of the incoming group, and several replies, in the case that a higher ranking Master was ascending. 'Balinee was ready for whatever was to rise through the opening iris in the floor - or so he thought; this Elite was ready for news, explanation, or a delayed withdrawal of troops. What he was indeed not prepared for was what slowed to a hovering stop in the center of the room: A pitiful looking band of Human filth.