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The Enemy Within-Chapter Fourteen: A Decision Made Too Late
Posted By: Mind_Affecting_Parasite<pbplayer_24@yahoo.com>
Date: 1 August 2004, 4:07 AM

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       "Now?" asked the other Elite, named 'Agasee. The designation "Master" wasn't needed, seeing as 'Agasee was of equal rank to 'Reigando. But even though the Ship Master didn't outrank him, 'Agasee still had to take orders. The Impending Incursion was 'Reigando's ship, after all.
       "Yes, 'Agasee," answered 'Reigando, through the ship board communications system. "Prepare your Special Operations troops immediately."
       'Agasee, a First Class Black Master, replied from his barracks section, "Of course, I will sound the call at once." He could tell that the Ship Master on the other end of the connection was jittery, nervous, perhaps was even becoming frightened. "Are you in a condition to command?"
       "Of course I am fit to command, I am fine," replied 'Reigando. "Now begin searching the vessel."
       "Right away," 'Agasee terminated the link.
       Black Master; 'Agasee rather preferred that title over Ship Master. He had decided to dedicate himself to the Special Operation Forces, rather than go into ship commanding. This Elite thought riding in a ship much too tiresome, and lacking of action. He preferred the heat and tense atmosphere of battle. 'Agasee also preferred his title over Field Master. He outranked even a First Class Field Master, but only because he had gone into Special Operations rather than standard ground operations. In actuality, 'Agasee's full rank was First Class, Special Operations, Black Field Master; but the "Black" before "Field Master" acknowledged that this Covenant warrior was of high ability.
       The Black Master input a command on the holographic consol he was already in front of. It was for all of the troops in his barracks to prepare themselves. This would take but a couple units, for all Special Operation soldiers were on standby at all times, especially when hovering over a planet, or in this case, docked to a broken ancient structure.
       "All Squad Masters report to the main preparation chamber at once!" 'Agasee barked over the speakers. "Troops: prepare for patrol duty. Gather your equipment and assemble at your designated areas."
       The Black Master made his way quickly from the Masters' section to the main preparation room. He made it there mere seconds before his Squad Masters and two lower ranking Field Masters arrived, fully armored and armed.
       The highest ranking under 'Agasee spoke first. "What is our mission, Master?" Third Class Black Field Master Igkas 'Shukee sounded enthusiastic, ready for some kind of action more than watch duty.
       'Agasee looked over the two Field Masters and several Squad Masters and smiled, his troops were well trained and ready for any challenge. "Your Ship Master has ordered that search teams be sent through out the vessel, and regular patrols to be set until full security has been established within the vessel."
       Apprentice Field Master 'Lashowagee spoke up, "What is the threat, Master 'Agasee?"
       "The Ship Master wants to make sure that we have not unknowingly allowed any enemy forces aboard this vessel." The Black Master slightly appreciated being addressed by his name and more than a title, but still, a professional attitude should be maintained.
       "What are our orders?" asked 'Shukee.
       "You will coordinate the search teams. Apprentice Field Master 'Lashowagee: you will take three squads to help with the effort at the gravitational lift," replied 'Agasee. "I will be commanding a group to make sure the Control Room remains secure."
       All of the lower Masters present nodded once, acknowledging the orders. The Apprentice Field Master quickly and quietly selected three Squad Masters, ones he usually battled with and commanded, and set off to gather the rest of the three squads appointed to him.

       Meanwhile, the normal troops aboard the Impending Incursion were also given new orders. The current guard posts and normal stations were to be doubled in force. The troops that had previously been off-duty made their way to their local armory.
       Elites, Hunters, Jackals, and Grunts filed into the weapon and armor holding chambers. Little did the first group of armored Covenant soldiers, filing into the equipment chambers, know that a nasty surprise waited for them. The Hunters picked up charges for their main weapon, already integrated into their armor; the Elites, picked up Plasma Grenades and Plasma Rifles or Needlers; the Jackals picked up their shields and Plasma Pistols; and the Grunts made their way to pick up grenades and Plasma Pistols or Needlers. Some of the Elites were of the class to pick up a Plasma Sword as their weapon, others moved to pick up the cloaking devices they used at their duty stations.
       Just as they thought they were about to leave, the waiting danger decided that their wait was over. Signaled by some unseen, unheard, and un-smelt signal, or maybe even having grown tired of waiting, the Flood unleashed themselves. Their numbers were not small, they had had many days to build up their numbers in the small crevasses and unchecked spaces in the Covenant ship. The Combat forms could not have made it in through the hull, they were finding an alternate means of entrance, but the soft and flexible Rangers were just right for the job of infiltration.
       Now, the Flood's numbers had built up to a critical level in the confined spaces they were kept to, but no longer. All of a sudden, what looked like a green foam poured from the vents and small passageways into the armory of un-expectant Covenant. The bubbling mass was hard to miss, and hundreds of shots were sent into the mass; but the soldiers wielding the weapons observed that for as quickly as the creatures popped, they appeared thrice as fast. The Covenant contingent of soldiers in the armory was quickly overrun. Having learnt, the Flood took advantage of the bodies, and the Infection forms first order of business was to convert as many normal Covenant troops into agents of the Flood's bidding.
       Unbeknownst to the majority of the crew aboard the Impending Incursion, they were being assaulted within their own ranks. Death, it was beginning to seem, was approaching on swift wings.

       'Itlaee walked slowly down the corridor, taking his time to reach his destination. The Elite was glad, however, he would finally get to think in peace, now that the ship was soon leaving the broken ring. The last couple of days, 'Itlaee had been experiencing odd feelings throughout his consciousness. Like he was being watched, and like a foul presence was creeping in on the ship. It had all seemed like non-sense at first, but now . . . now the cause of the feelings were much more clear.
       The Elite walked around another bend, through another circular room, and towards the door that led into the hangar where Field Master 'Ipnaimee was stationed. 'Itlaee felt a strong feeling now, like something wasn't right. The sounds coming from the room on the other side of the door weren't normal, and a sickening smell wafted from the door's seems. 'Itlaee knew what was happening; it had to be another Flood attack. He had to inform the Ship Master-but the Elite had strayed to close to the door. The sensors detected him and the two door sections slid open, revealing the horrid sights on the other side.
       'Itlaee, shocked and scared beyond belief, tried to run. He managed to spin around and take three strides. The Flood that had been pressing against the other side of the door, however, were faster than the Elite. The rotten masses plowed into 'Itlaee, and instead of rounding the corner, through the room through which he had just past, the Elite was thrown forward into the wall. He could feel the bodies passing him, and heard a horrible gurgling in his ears, but couldn't move. The wall had taken his breath away, and shot stars into his vision. Nevertheless, it wouldn't have mattered for this Elite. In his dazed, frightened confusion, his guard was let down. The Infection form had no problem sending its penetrator between 'Itlaee's helmet and torso armor. Within a minute, 'Itlaee was just another body, marching with the Flood through the halls.

       When to make the move, that was the question on Lance's mind. It wasn't taking long for the Covenant to pack up, and soon they would all certainly pull back to within the ship. They were smart bastards though. They still had kept all four Shades out and fairly close to the two doors: the only easy ways into the large room. Plus the vehicles had stayed behind, a smart move to cover the ground troops. In that field of things, the remaining troops had moved into covering positions by the shades and, mainly, by the grav lift.
       The two gold Elites were still there, one on either side of the gravity lift. The two invisible sword Elites were also still there, but they had jumped up on two of the pieces that jutted off the main grav lift platform. A sort of invisible sentry service, it would seem. Sergeant Ferring didn't like the sound of taking all of it on at all. He would need some kind of strategy to take them out quickly. The Sergeant almost wished the Flood would attack again, from the other door; but he knew well that if they came from one side, they would almost certainly appear again on the other.
       Lance conjectured that he and his squad might just have to wait a little longer. Wait until half of the ground troops were gone; and maybe the Covenant would send up the vehicles and Shades up and leave a final group of just ground troops that would be easier to contend with. Time would tell, though, and the Sergeant knew that.
       Meanwhile, Kyle had been able to wrap up Sam a little more. She had even regained consciousness for a few seconds before conking back out again. The woman was honestly not looking that well. Her face had drained of color, and her pulse was weak, as well as her breathing being shallow. Lance knew that the female soldier had lost a lot of blood through her legs. Plus, there was no telling what kind of trauma she had experience from the half Flood infection. Private Jones was currently holding his wife in his lap, her torso rested against his stomach, and her head held in his arms. Kyle ran his finger slowly through Samantha's hair, and wiped the dirt off of her face. Lance knew he must be going through many emotions right now; and was probably wishing that his wife was still safe at home, with a good chance to live.
       Derrick and James were talking a bit, but Sergeant Ferring wasn't sure what their conversation was about. Beside the two, against the wall, the Elite was still laying. The creature seemed to be unconscious, but no one could be sure. Daniels had felt for a pulse and said he had found something, but non of the team members were experts in Covenant physiology. Lance could only guess that the animal was in pain. The thing's skin was visible burnt and some parts were cracking. No more blood was coming out, and some had dried on the burnt-blue armor. The Sergeant still couldn't feel sympathetic for the beast. Maybe if some of the damned Covenant would understand that Humanity was fighting against the same thing in this case, Lance could develop an understanding; but the arrogant fashion in which the aliens conducted their action really turned Sergeant Ferring against the bastards.
       Beside the Sergeant, Corporal Carter was still crouched. Having surrendered his optical probe camera to Sergeant Ferring, Patrick was now only looking at the images coming from the small camera as an observer. Pat was contemplating the best course of action the Marines should take when the time for and offensive move came. The Rocket Launcher would be a big asset, it would be able to take out the Hunters, and, the Corporal remembered, the communications crate would be a good thing to hit. Only four shots though. His CO had found the 'Launcher with two ammunition boxes; and the two shots which had been in the weapon at the time had already been fired. That left, the previously thought of, four more shots. Not a whole lot to work with, so targets would have to be chosen carefully.
       The Sniper Rifle would be very nice as well. Carter had overheard that Derrick had been responsible for the find. At least the Swabbie had made up for his disappearance. Perhaps Hunter would turn out alright. After all, he was the only pilot in the squad if they had to take a flight out of the Covenant ship. That was if they made it that far, but James didn't want to think about the negative, so he refocused on how the 'Rifle would be implemented. The Elites would be good targets to get first, being the most dangerous; the Corporal thought maybe the invisible ones on the grav lift pedestal, and Pat knew that those gold Elites were trouble, luckily only one was on this side of the lift, though, and he was all the way back at the base of the lift. Sniper round wouldn't be an initial problem, Derrick had also found some extra ammo with the weapon.
       Vehicles; those would be the real problem. Private Kyle Jones, the team Rifleman, was a good shot, and so the Ghosts might not be a big problem, if Jones could get the shots off when the pilots were exposed. The Banshee didn't have a pilot in it, so as long as they didn't allow anything near it: no problem there; Patrick thought that the nearby maroon armored Elite was probably that pilot. The creature was currently standing a couple meters from a communications console-the only one visible in the room-with the Banshee another two meters away; he would have to be one of the first to go.
       Then was the issue of lighting. The random blue lights placed in the geometrically patterned, near and far, walls weren't that bright, but if someone was looking . . . it would probably be best to not stick to the walls. On the other hand, the only real covenant lighting was placed near the gravity lift and doors; with some evenly spaced lights creating a perimeter, a few meters away from the grav lift, and a few more evenly spaced between the lift and opposing doors. Approaching from the side, from the created shadows, could be a good tactic; but the Humans would have to get through the doorway unnoticed first. There were a lot of things to consider, and not a lot of time to spend thinking over them. Corporal Carter was fully aware that the Flood could attack again at any moment, and he and the rest of his fellow Humans wouldn't last long in these tunnels; with and enemy on either side. No, they would have to move very soon if ever.
       Then Pat remembered the grav carts and came up with an idea. The Covenant had already loaded the two Shades at, at least, their end onto a pair of hovering gravity carts; but the gunners had remained in the guns. A good move on the Covenant's part, thought Carter, but it might work to the Humans' advantage. Patrick continued to formulate his plan. If they could take out the enemy in the area of the carts, then two members of the team could jump into the Shades and start lighting up the Covenant's world. The Corporal nodded lightly at his own idea.
       Sergeant Ferring jerked his head to the side, focusing beyond the image on his boom-mounted information screen, and looked at his second in command. Corporal Carter motioned for the two of them to move back, away from the corner. The Sergeant turned off the probe camera and moved back a few feet.
       "What is it Corporal?" he asked.
       "Well, sir, I have a plan," answered Patrick. "It could just be crazy enough to work."
       Lance looked past Carter at the five other bodies at the far corner, then glanced back at the corner he had just occupied. "What do you think?"

(Author/Story Note: I was speculating about the whole Black Master and rest of Spec Ops Elites ranks. I will do this more during the ending chapters of this series. I hope I got all the details about rank equivalence right, but is any of you who read this know more about the subject, please inform me so I can improve upon the subject. Also, those of you who have differing opinions, or maybe agree with how I described it, please go ahead and say something in your comment to this story.)