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The Enemy Within-Chapter Seventeen: Enter In The Black Masters
Posted By: Mind_Affecting_Parasite<pbplayer_24@yahoo.com>
Date: 8 September 2004, 9:31 PM

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       Apprentice Field Master 'Lashowagee strode proudly up the large passageway, on his way to the Gravitational Lift Embarkation Room. He walked with a look on his face like nothing could touch him, like he was the best of the best, the cream of the crop, and no enemy would scare or thwart him. The three Squad Masters walking in sync acted in the same manner, inflating their chests, and pulling their wide shoulders back ever so slightly, just enough to give them an appearance of authority. Of course, they had the right to act as they did, as arrogant as some others might think of them, they had earned the titles to believe they were the greatest soldiers in the Covenant. These Elites were Special Operation, and not just that, they were Black Special Operations troops.
       The three Squad Masters walked closely behind their Commanding Officer, leading their individual squads of soldiers forward to their duty. Four Grunts and two Elites followed each of the three, who followed the single 'Field Master. Perhaps he wasn't a full Field Master, but he most certainly had proven his skill in battle, showed that he had the skills and attitude to act within the specialized group of Covenant soldiers.
       The six lower ranking Elites, ones having been recruited fairly recently, and having not yet reach the status of a Squad Master, the status that allowed one to lead a team of fellow soldiers, followed behind in obedience. They also tried to inflate themselves to look more warrior-like, to look more like the Masters they admired and wished to become like, but they hadn't had as much practice at looking more powerful; so their attempts were not fully successful. Still, even if they didn't look powerful enough by themselves, their image was automatically boosted when walking with their more well known leaders.
       All of the six lower ranking Black Operations Elites also wanted to wear the symbolic black armor that the Black Field Masters were privileged enough to wear. Their armor looked black, yes, but not the solid jet black that adored the high ranking. The armor that the lower ranking Elites wore distinguished that they were still not Masters yet; giving off a slight blue tint in the light. Squad Masters' armor looked more purple than blue, the faint maroon color replacing that of the blue in the armor plates. Even Apprentice Field Master 'Lashowagee didn't get the solid black armor; though, the hue that adorned his form containing traces of silver.
       Regardless of colors, or of rank, the group of three Black squads and their leader was an impressive one. The total twenty-two soldiers marching around the final corner on the way to the gravity lift room was sure to bring chills of either respect or fear.

       "Master!" shouted a maroon armored Elite, standing by the control panel to the lift, bowing to show his respect.
       A group of regular soldiers was standing at the ready on the gravity lift's departure pad, apparently preparing to drop down below the ship.
       "Report, Squad Master," ordered 'Lashowagee.
       The Squad Master, slightly intimidated by the black armored soldier in front of him, swallowed and remained stiff. "Yes, Master: the troops surrounding the gravity lift are in the process of pulling all personnel and equipment back into the ship."
       "What is you delay?" inquired the intuitive 'Field Master, wondering why two squads were being sent down if troops were supposed to be coming from the opposite position. "Why do you send these two squads of troops? Do the forces below require assistance?"
       "We are not sure, Excellency," the Squad Master replied, hesitating.
       The Apprentice Master stood, his head a few centiunits over the subordinates, holding his stature, waiting for a reply.
       "We have not received the scheduled communication from the stationed Master, and do not know what the current situation is," finally continued the maroon clad Elite. "I was sending the squads down to assess the situation."
       'Lashowagee nodded lightly, accepting the explanation. "Very well Squad Master. Send you troops down, and check on the progress and condition of the troops below."
       "Yes, of course, Master. Right away."
       The Squad Master turned and quickly signaled the Masters of the two squads to prepare for insertion. They quickly replied positively, and called their troops to bunch up and gather for a clean and smooth drop down the lift.
       The commanding Squad Master punched a control, the lift activated, and within seconds, the two squads of Covenant troops were gone, dropping down into the unknown chaos below.

       'Lshowee breathed deeply, calming himself and quickly thinking over the situation. He had been hit, that was obvious, but he hadn't had the time to notice from which direction the fire came from. The Flood? he pondered again, wondering if in fact they could use a sniper weapon. It didn't matter at the moment though, what did was getting to a safer position. The Elite looked over at his shoulder. The armor plate was dented in near the top, with something still lodged in the protective armor. 'Lshowee carefully removed the plate, exposing damaged flesh, and a pocket of blood.
       The Squad Master could bare the pain, but he had to see what had happened to his shoulder plate. Some kind of projectile had jammed itself in the armor, managing to go all the way through and barely be stopped with two-centiunits of its blunted tip protruding from the inner side. It had definitely gotten into the Elite's skin, puncturing a ragged hole in the mottled flesh, letting the dark blue-purple liquid start to flow.
       The injured, but thankfully still living, Elite discarded is damaged combat armor component, glancing over at the former sentry's body. It only took a few seconds to remove the shoulder plate from the body that no longer needed it, and only a couple more to fasten it in place in 'Lshowee's own body. The blue-silver color didn't match his own armors maroon hue, but it still would do the job. A small amount of pain was still present from the wound, but this Elite didn't pay it any mind, ignoring it for the moment; knowing that his arm still worked, and so would be fine for now.
       Now it was time to get to a safer position. 'Lshowee decided to move to the side of the lift with the most battle, to be closer to a Field Master, and possibly the strength of numbers. With careful steps, the Elite moved quickly around the perimeter of the lift's base, making sure to keep his eyes open for anything.
       Finally, after what had seemed like an eternity, but had really only been a few seconds, the Squad Master made it to the other side of the lift's base, past strewn out body parts, and to the side of Field Master 'Tacoayee. The higher ranking, gold armored, Elite was busy shouting frantic and demanding orders to his troops until his fellow Elite came up behind him.
       "Where have you been, Squad Master?" shouted the Field Master, over all of the ruckus.
       The waves of Flood that continued to throw themselves forward had been stalled not far from the opening from whence they came. Things were not improving; however, and even through the combined efforts of all the present troops, many soldiers were falling, and so the outgoing fire slackened.
       "I have been busy, Master," was 'Lshowee's reply. "I regret to inform you that I was not able to reach the communications crate in time to send any messages to the troops within the ship."
       The Wraith, now having moved farther towards the more violent side of the room, lobbed another large ball of blue-white plasma at the oncoming hoard. Upon impact, the liquid-like projectile seemed to splash over the rotting forms that had been beneath it when it hit. The soft, spongy makeup of the several bodies caught in the fiery embrace of the explosion simply seemed to vanish, as the liquid in their bodies instantly expanded and vaporized, and what was left was sent flying into the air in the form of free floating carbon. The circular gap, complete with a ring of varying levels of destruction, stayed vacant for but a moment, until more monstrosities rushed to take their fallen brethren's place.
       "I see," responded 'Tacoayee. "And it is obvious the troops did not make it up the gravity lift."
       'Lshowee subconsciously glanced towards the complete decimation atop the lift base. "What now Master?"
       "Gather what troops you can, Squad Master. And get as many as you can up into the safety of the ship."
       "And you?" questioned 'Lshowee, trying to formulate a plan in his mind.
       The Field Master glanced once at the soldiers fighting a losing battle before him, then back at his subordinate. "I will hold off the Flood as long as I can. Now go! Quickly!."
       'Tacoayee sighed once, an expression of rage coming over his face, the Elite filling himself with anger and a renewed strength. With a flick of his wrist, the Field Master activated his Plasma Sword, the brilliant blue-white energy casting a shimmering pattern on the metal covering the floor of the expansive room. With a single nod, the determined Elite ran off toward the not-so-far-away front lines, to show his faith and bravery.
       'Lshowee glanced at his superior running off towards the enemy and let the equivalent of a smirk form on his face. Another Master out of my way, he thought to himself, fairwell.
       The two Shade turrets still fired away, their gunners shaking from the vibrations of the weapons. Hundreds of purple lances rushed to great the forms they were aimed upon, and the receivers unhappily took the fire in. Flesh melted away from the energy, the smell of burnt flesh thickening in the air. A haze of smoke and steam started build over the battle, lit up for a brief moment every time a shot was fired, creating a series of non-rhythmic pulses of colored light, flashing constantly.
       Just then, a group of Covenant soldiers floated down from above. The two squads looked around for a moment, and seemed to be confused over the situation. All of them started fragmenting within seconds; however, as Plasma Turret fire rained on top of them; and hundreds of stray shots from the nearby battle pierced the air and some of their bodies.
       As the Squad Master turned to look at the quickly falling troops, he was immediately perplexed. The feeling soon faded, and he began to think more logically. If fire was coming from the other direction, that meant that the Flood were there as well.
       "You!" 'Lshowee shouted to a squad of Covenant troops taking cover and returning inaccurate fire at the Flood on their side. "Assist them!"
       The commanding Elite of the group, only a minor blue armored figure, glanced between the Flood and the superior officer for a moment before rallying the small contingent of Grunts, Jackals, and a single other Elite with him to head towards the gravity lift. Their fate was not a good one, though, and their bodies, too, became victim to a spray of Shade fire from the other direction. This is hopeless the Squad Master admitted to himself, looking around for a means of escape. He might be able to make it to the gravity lift, but first he would give some final orders.
       "'Urucilee!" he shouted, sprinting towards the Elite still piloting the Ghost.
       The younger being stopped firing and looked at the roughed up Master coming towards him. "Yes, Master?"
       "You will go forward: drive straight and true towards the demons!" was the order from 'Lshowee.
       "What for Master?" asked the pilot, somewhat confused.
       "Do not question an order! Go, help your comrades, run over and crush the enemy! You will be rewarded in the afterlife do you pass on!"
       The younger Elite nodded, started to look determined, and gunned his controls forward. 'Urucilee was all too focused on his inspired drive, that he didn't even notice his commanding Elite stick a remote mine to the back of his vehicle.
       The Ghost sped forward, past the straining Covenant positions, and drove right into the attacking mob. The two stubby wings cut through the first of the forms that got in the way, cutting them in two from sheer force. The next few forms didn't go down in pieces, but were still crushed as the hovering vehicle plowed through them all. 'Urucilee was just a few units from the door from which the enemy was coming when the observing Squad Master detonated the explosive.
       Blue fire engulfed the small craft, turning it into pieces of smoldering wreckage as its engine exploded. A large diameter circle appeared the Flood's archaic formation, reaching all the way to the door. Green bodies littered the area, not moving at all. The mass of fire lessened audibly as the plug of burnt bodies kept the mutant horrors from continuing their onslaught from the door. The strategy had worked, if only for a moment.
       'Lshowee switched his attention to Master 'Tacoayee. The gold armored figure fought with an incredible vigor, pushing through his foes with the ease of parting curtains. Sizzles and pops filled the air around the prevailing Elite as the energy blade sliced through rotting bodies like they were no more dense than the air. Even great Field Masters made mistakes; however, and the Squad Master noticed it just before 'Tacoayee was made violently aware. He had pushed in too far, too quickly, letting the forms to his side quickly pass him by, thinking he was covered from his rear by his own troops. The loyal soldiers were doing their best, blazing away with all they had, but the mix of Combat, Carrier, and Infection forms were quick to close in around the ignorant non-mutant.
       Before he knew it, Field Master 'Tacoayee, who hadn't even been a real Swordsman, was blocked in from all sides. The immensely strong Elite still fought, swinging his blade in an arc all around him. It wasn't enough. The small amounts of plasma bolts and hardened projectiles soon caused the Master to falter, stumble and start to fall, in turn making his attacks less accurate and less devastating. Small geysers of dark purple blood shot into the air with the dreadful wails as 'Tacoayee's body was buried beneath a small pile of monstrosities.
       'Lshowee didn't even grimace, in fact, the familiar look of satisfaction came over his face. Now was his time to leave, his time to save his life, to live to fight another day.

       "What is the delay? Why have we not received information from your away teams?" questioned Apprentice Black Field Master 'Lashowagee.
       The stationed Squad Master hesitated, frantically reading over the displays in front of him. "I am unsure Master, I have lost contact with both of the commanding Masters of both the squads."
       "I see," replied 'Lashowagee, looking around at his own troops, observing their readiness.
       "Here, let me try again-" tried the maroon armored Elite, looking away from the angered black commanding officer.
       "No, do not anger me further with your delinquent actions," growled the Field Master, stepping forward.
       "Master, I-"
       "Be silent!"
       The Squad Master, who obviously had not had much experience in the past, took two involuntary steps back, frightened by the Black Master before him. He decided not to speak a verbal response, and replied with a respectful nod.
       "Are there any active signals down there? And what are the sensor readings?" demanded 'Lashowagee. "Be quick!"
       The maroon Squad Master was already stunned, and so was unsure whether he should reply, step forward and access the information, or remain silent. After a second's consideration, with no answer of any kind coming from his lips, the Elite prepared to take the steps forward
necessary to acquire the requested information.
       It was too late. By this time, the Field Master was infuriated by the incompetence of this subordinate. A black armored arm was already halfway through its' swing when the energy blade came to life. Plasma Swords extend quickly, but 'Lashowagee's reflexes were too quick for even the great technology of the lethal device. The blue-white blade was only extended to half of its full length when it contacted the stunned Squad Master's throat. It took only a fraction of a second for the energy shields to fail, and the blade to cut through layers of combat suit, skin, muscle, arteries, veins, and other tubes. The head of the maroon clad body stayed attached; however, as the spinal cord had not been severed by the short blade.
       A limp Elite's body fell with a clack and a thump to the floor. Purple blood flowed freely from the severed circulatory system, quickly forming a puddle that started to encompass the whole of the deceased warriors dead form.
       None of the present Black Special Operations troops so much as batted an eyelash. All of them knew the price for failure, and so it came with no surprises.
       "Squad Master 'Balinee," addressed 'Lashowagee.
       "Yes Master?" came the reply, the named Elite stepping forward and bowing his head.
       "I deem you in command of the embarkation area."
       "Of course, Master."
       "You two," the Field Master gestured towards his other Squad Masters. "You and your squads will accompany me to view the situation below."
       The replies were two respectful nods.
       "Let us go."