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Battle for the Norah: Part Sixteen
Posted By: Sterfrye36
Date: 3 April 2004, 3:40 AM

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      The screen reverted to static, and Sami disappeared. Cunningham was surprised to realize that he had been holding a breath. He let it out slowly and inhaled deeply. That had scared the wits out of him. What was the point of that anyway? Sami was a ship A.I., and she wouldn't be able to find the ability to pull a prank like this.
      That and the fact that Sami had opened the doors without his permission or opened them with a bust of static...He had to get a hold of her. He keyed his radio.
      "Sami? Sami, are you there?" Only static answered him. Was the signal simply not getting through? Or was something seriously wrong? He hoped it was the former. He had to get though to her. Retrying the radio probably wouldn't yield and results, so that left boosting the signal, a ludicrous task in its own right. What was he going to do, wrap tinfoil around the boom mike? No, that wasn't a possibility. Was there another way? Maybe he could get Spark...
      Cunningham snapped his fingers. Of course! It was so obvious now. All he had to do was get Guilty Spark to relay the signal or something. He turned around. "Spark, I need for you..." He trailed off as his eyes scanned across the room. "Anybody seen Spark?" he said aloud. Marines shrugged. Most shook their heads. 'Kanamee barked an order and the Covenant answered him in their own tongues. 'Kanamee turned around to Cunningham and shook his head. Cunningham found it strange that 'Kanamee would pick up a very Human gesture.
      But still, Spark was no where to be found. Why hadn't Cunningham used him before? He should have asked Spark to help Sami destroy, track down or at least block the insurgent...Suddenly, everything clicked into place. Cunningham cursed." I really, really hate that robot," he muttered right as a bloodcurdling roar echoed off of the pipes.

      343 Guilty Spark, the monitor of instillation 04, hummed to himself as he finished erasing the annoying Human artificial intelligence construct. That had been far too easy. The Human artificial intelligence construct had almost seemed to have been pre-occupied. He floated in place for a moment on the bridge as he examined the code. Oh, how he was going to enjoy every moment of categorization, organization, dissection, reconstruct�. He halted his joy subroutine. That was odd. A subdirectory in the Human's artificial intelligence construct seemed to be mutating. It constantly changed is address within the larger directory. Odd, indeed. He tried to access it, but received an error message.
      ERROR: #2401 ACCESS IS DENIED. WARNING; THIS FILE MAY HAVE ONE OR MORE READ/WRITE ERRORS. DELETE IMMEDIATELY. How unfortunate. Spark took the error message at its word and tried to erase the subdirectory.
      ERROR: #147 CANNOT DELETE FILE. ACCESS IS DENIED. WARNING; THIS FILE MAY HAVE ONE OR MORE READ/WRITE ERRORS. DELETE IMMEDIATELY. Puzzling. Almost exactly the same error message. Hmm. Well, if he couldn't erase it from its immediate source, he could erase it another way. Spark copied the subdirectory to his own system. He started to erase it�but stopped. Perhaps this had been what the Human's artificial intelligence construct had been pre-occupied with? Spark had always been intrigued by mystery, so he set to work on trying to access it.
      He spun off a small program to constantly change the directory to match the subdirectory's address. There, that should do it. He accessed it. Very odd. There was only one file...such a shame. Spark opened it.
      It had the extension .exe, which meant it was a program instead of a text or picture file...but something was wrong with it. He was surprised to find that the file contained multiple dead ends and infinite loops. When he had looked at the Human artificial intelligence construct's code, it was inelegant and brutish, but at least it was functional. He made a tsking noise. How foolish could the Humans be? He corrected the errors and ran the program.
      He was surprised to see the Human artificial intelligence construct appear in front of him again. Had he resurrected it by mistake? No, of course not. The file was much to small. It spoke: "Spark, if you're watching this, you're a tremendous fool. You're system files are being deleted even as this movie is playing. Oh, and I imagine you'd like to meet an old friend...or at least part of her. She's left Halo, of course. Her name is Cortana. The small part of herself that she's left behind will quickly eat away at you. Have a nice day." Spark was stunned as Cortana's image also appeared before him. The two images of the A.I.'s then proceeded to give him a tremendously rude hand gesture.
       Then part of the program terminated. With horror, Spark realized that his system files were indeed being deleted! He scrambled to block the virus, but it was spreading far too quickly for him to stop. He felt sheer terror as the virus snaked its way into his core code.
      With a twitch, 343 Guilty Spark, the monitor of instillation 04 crashed. His entire system shut down as necessary files and folders disappeared from the Human A.I.'s trickery. He fell to the floor of the bridge.

      Cunningham felt the hair on the back of his neck stand on end as he spun around to find the source of the roar. Whatever it was had was had stepped out from around a bank of pipes in the corner of the room. When Cunningham saw it, he almost lost control of his bowels.
      It could have come straight from the darkest depths of hell: it was huge and could have easily been nine meters tall. It was covered in sickly, puckering, oily green flesh that looked to have the texture of leather. Armor plates that looked to be as big as a Hunter's covered is from head to toe, but only emerged from below the skin in a few places. It roared again. The creature somehow managed to combine a deep, bass rumble with a high pitched scream. Its mouth was about a yard wide and had a set of razor sharp, serrated teeth. It faced directly towards them and became as still as a statue.
      Nobody, Human or Covenant alike moved. No one breathed. No one said a word, except for Corporal Locklear who expelled a long, breathy, heartfelt expletive. Cunningham heartily agreed. "Okay," he said; his voice was barely above a whisper. "Everyone back away slowly. I'm hoping that thing has bad eyesight. Maybe we can sneak out without us noticing it and�" Cunningham grimaced as he heard the whine of a plasma pistol firing.
      He heard a Grunt half scream "Run!" The green bolt of arced across the bay and hit the monster. Oh, Cunningham thought to himself. The voice in his head was strangely calm. Crap. That thing is almost four times larger than you are. It looks like it has impenetrable armor and its skin looks almost as tough. Plus, it's Flood. It is going to come over here and kill us.
      The monster roared again and charged. Cunningham screamed. He fired his M90 shotgun as rapidly as he could. Every being in the room fired at the monstrosity. Bullets bounced off of the thick armor. Plasma hit it and left a slight burn, but did no serious damage. "RETREAT!!" he screamed at the top of his lungs. The group turned around and ran.
      Cunningham realized more things as they ran. Not only had Spark cut off communications, he had led them into this. Also, the big zit-like cocoons they had found in the Jackal quarters must have been used to grow or breed this thing. He pointed his shotgun over his shoulder and fired again. The Lieutenant Commander chanced a look over his shoulder.
      The beast was faster than Cunningham would have guessed. It had almost caught up with them. Cunningham sprinted through the large doorway, heard a crack, and instinctively ducked. It was fortunate that he did; I Grunt that looked like it had nearly been smashed flat and was trailing methane flew past his ear. He looked up again. Both Private Thompson and the other Jackhammer wielding Marine had been in the back of the group and had gotten the furthest.
      "Get going, get going!" Thompson yelled as he pointed towards an open door to his left. Cunningham nodded as he sprinted through the large doorway. The two kneeled lifted their rocket launchers and fired once. The pair of rockets streaked across the room with a roar that seemed puny compared the beast's shriek.
      Cunningham felt his heart leap as the two rockets slammed into the beast. Two craters appeared in the beast's chest. The monster nearly fell over. It stumbled into the wall. The Lieutenant Commander lost his footing and fell face first to the deck as the floor shook violently. He quickly got his legs under himself and looked back. The beast shouldered his way off of the wall and continued towards the group. Colin and the other Marine cursed and ran towards the room. Cunningham turned and kept running.
      A second shockwave knocked him off of his feet yet again. He rolled over and looked over his chest. One of the Jackhammer wielding Marines had been vaporized by the aberration's fuel rod gun and left only a pile of ashes on the floor. The other lay face-down. The beast stepped over the fallen Marine and advanced into the room.
      Cunningham got to his feet again. The room he was in had a solid left wall. Directly in front of him was a weapons locker filled with plasma pistols and rifles. The right wall was punctuated by panels of large, purple energy. They looked to be about seven feet high and ten feet wide. He couldn't tell what was on the other side of the energy. The entire group was in the room. Several Marines and Covenant were already shooting. Cunningham spotted a control panel next to each of the energy panels. He knew that they would have to get inside these things and reactivate the shields to save everyone. He slammed his fist into every button, but the plasma shield remained.Out of frustration, he shot it with his M90. The wall of energy next to it immediately fizzled and died. Several Marines stood inside.