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Battle for the Norah: Part Fifteen
Posted By: Sterfrye36<Sterfrye36@yahoo.com>
Date: 5 March 2004, 3:36 AM

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      "Yikes," Cunningham muttered. "Looks to be about, what, forty meters?" Barnes nodded. "The only problem is," Cunningham continued, "that you can't tell whether it's up or down."
      "Agreed. Zero-g stinks," Barnes said as he grinned.
      It had been about five minutes since the second Covenant group had crashed through the covering in the center of the room. The alliance had only lost one Marine, two Jackals and a Grunt. Strangely enough, gravity reversed itself again, far more than creating zero-g. It actually created negative-g. That's why Cunningham and the rest were able to walk on the ceiling. 'Kanamee and Cunningham were letting their groups each take a break. Over to Cunningham's right was a group of four Marines sitting on the floor, or rather, ceiling, in a circle, playing poker. A Grunt stood on its toes in order to see over their shoulders as it tried to decipher the game.
      "That King, right?" it asked a burly Marine in its diminutive voice. The other three Marines traded glances.
      The Marine grimaced and muttered, "Maybe."
      "Those other four ace?" The other Marines instantly folded. The burly Marine turned beet red; Cunningham could tell that it was taking all of his self-restraint to not kill the alien. He must've had some money riding on the game.
      "Well," Cunningham said as he turned to 'Kanamee. The Elite seemed weary. Cunningham couldn't blame him after nearly being blown to bits by his own kind...but there was something else going on there, he could tell. "Shall we get moving? It's been what, five or ten minutes? The longer we wait..." 'Kanamee nodded. "Okay, break's over!" he yelled. There were complaints and curses muttered as the Marines gathered up their equipment. He motioned to Barnes. The Sergeant dipped into his rucksack and produced an ascender with a pleading look. Andrew breathed a sigh of relief when the Lieutenant Commander attached the ascender to the floor and hooked the D-ring to his belt.
      Barnes then groaned when Cunningham demanded he attach himself to one. He really, really hated rappelling, and Cunningham knew it. The El Tee Commander called Sergeant Johnson over. Johnson gladly accepted an ascender, and attached it to the ceiling. Barnes sighed after he latched himself on; he kicked off.

      Why him? They were heading right towards the last place that Kall 'Kanamee wanted to be right now. He might be able to make them bypass it...but it was a small chance. Plus, Harrak 'Dulamee, the commando Elite that he had sent to assassinate the group of three Humans had not returned. Though the Humans hadn't, either. That was a good sign. As long as the Humans didn't return, there was little to no chance of "Kunninghamm" finding out that he intended to kill them off soon.

      The room was dark. Pitch black as a matter of fact. The hole was deeper than Andrew had expected. The only light came from the top of the Jackal barracks, which were about sixty meters above he and the Lt. Commander. He felt his body become heavier. Had gravity been restored down here? Not that it mattered. He wanted to be out of here, anyway. It felt like he was being entombed.
      "Sir, it's too dark in here. Let's go back."
      "Not until we figure out what happened to the rest of those Covenant."
      "Sir, we could hear a massive firefight; they're dead. Let's go back."
      "I agree that they're gone, but I don't think it was from normal Flood."
      "Sir, if it's something that's more dangerous than the Flood, it's not smart to be down here. Let's go back."
      "Suck it up, wussy," Johnson chuckled.
      "Shut up," Cunningham growled. "Turn on your flashlight." Barnes gave a sound that was halfway between a sigh, a groan, and an animal wail. But he flipped the light on the end of his AR anyway.
      The ghostly beam fell on gore. Lots of it. Multicolored at that. Barnes swung it to the right. More gore, more colors. Then his beam fell on something that he couldn't take his eyes off of.
      "Sir, you...uh...you'd better take a look at this."
      "Hold on, I'm looking at something else right now. I can't tell exactly what it is, but it looks like an Elite torso without any arms or legs...and I don't want to think of how that happened."
      "Sir, I'm telling you..." Cunningham sighed.
      "All right, all right..." Cunningham rotated around and followed Barnes's flashlight beam. "Okay," he said, his voice oddly flat. "What is that?" The flashlight beam had fallen on something huge. Cunningham estimated it to be twenty feet wide by thirty feet high. Plus, it looked like it was made out sickly colored Flood skin like the floor covering above had been . This naturally was not a good thing. There was a large, gash that was oozing a foul-smelling, brown colored liquid.
      "Looks like a giant zit," Sergeant Johnson commented. "What do you think it is, some kind of nursery? Where they hatch Infection Forms?"
      Cunningham shook his head. "Sergeant, we don't know how the Flood reproduce. For all we know, they spawn. But, that theory is as good as any, I suppose." Johnson directed the flashlight on the front of his Assault Rifle at the floor in front of the object. There was a Jackal. Crushed flat. There wasn't more than a millimeter of Jackal on that floor.
      "I thought they was ugly when they were just dead. But crushed?" Johnson murmured. "I need a new rating for this on my weird crap-o-meter...what's that sound?"
      "Sound?" Cunningham and Barnes asked in unison.
      "Yeah, sound. It sounds like a grinding�" Then Johnson was cut off as light exploded into the chamber. "What the�?!" Johnson spun himself around, winced in the harsh light and raised his AR to fire on any Flood that might enter...but none did. A door that was, once again, flush with the wall had opened to reveal a hallway with a vaulted ceiling. "Okay, this is scoring about a seven on that meter..." He grinned. "Hey, as long as we haven't got any Flood, no worries, right?" Cunningham and Barnes nodded. Barnes seemed genuinely relieved...

      A few minutes later, the rest of the group was down at the bottom. In front of the door to the environment control center, as a matter of fact. The door in the Jackal room had led to a large, tall hallway with a number of doors. The doorway to the environment room had large writing above it, which caused 'Kanamee to say that it was, indeed, the environment control center. The entire group was happy at the disappearance of the Flood. With the exception of Cunningham. Secretly, Cunningham was getting worried. No Flood? That couldn't be right. Couldn't be at all. Plus, that door had slid open without any help from Sami. Or maybe she had done it on her own initiative. But that seemed out of character for her.
      The hallway seemed larger, too. Plus, it was, as usual, streaked with gore...but more so than normal. It was making Cunningham nervous as well. He felt small, insignificant. He shook his head. He couldn't let his nervousness get to him now. Not in front of his men. They would lose confidence in him, and that would be unacceptable. He was shaken out of his train of thought as the door to the environment center opened.
      He felt his stomach get queasy. Another door had opened without any requests to Sami. This was getting too weird. He sighed and stuffed his fears into a less noticeable portion of his stomach and walked into the environment control center with the rest of the group. His first impression was of a large, cavernous structure. It was huge. Sqaure, like the engine room. Unlike the usual Covenant art aesthetic, this room was full of pipes. They lined the walls, blanketed parts of the floor. Computer consoles where everywhere.
      The feeling in his stomach became more insistent. His instincts yelled at him to get out, but why should he? He had an objective to accomplish, and it would probably save them all. The air conditioning system had to be kicked into high gear so they could filter out Flood spores. Once enough spores had been inhaled by a victim, they caused paralysis, at least temporarily. It was a mechanism the Flood used to make their hosts easier to infiltrate. Cunningham glanced at his watch. Two hours ago, just after the Humans had used their Warthogs and Scorpions to lure as many Flood out of the Norah and destroy them, Spark had told him about the spores, and that it would be about five hours until they began to take effect. It stood to reason that it would work more quickly inside the cruiser since it was an enclosed space.
      The watch said that it had only been two hours since that had happened. There was plenty of time. The Lt. Commander felt his stomach relax a bit at the good news. He was right here where he could shut off a major threat without any trouble. What was there to worry�
      There was a computer screen on the far right of a bank set in the wall that suddenly snapped on, and blasted with static and an earsplitting squeal. Cunningham felt the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. His stomach began churning again, twice as hard as before. He walked over to it, and the static gradually resolved itself into a picture.
      It was Sami. Her normally colorful appearance had become as white as a sheet. Her expression was flat. Cunningham watched as a single logic symbol traveled up from her combat boots, snaked up her leg, and finally disappeared as it crossed through her head. In a voice that made Cunningham's blood turn to ice, she said with her completely blank face: