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Battle for the Norah: Part Nineteen
Posted By: Sterfrye36<Sterfrye36@yahoo.com>
Date: 23 June 2004, 7:01 PM

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      Oh, boy, Johnson thought as the Banshee sped toward the Seraph. Quickly, he slapped the stripe of smooth material again and grappled with the two joysticks. It wasn't enough, however, as the Banshee skidded across the floor, missed the Seraph by three feet, and hit the wall at full steam. It stopped immediately, and Johnson smacked his face into the control panel. He cursed and rubbed his nose.
      "You, uh, need a little 'crash course' in Banshee control, Sergeant?" Polaski teased over the radio.
      "No," Johnson answered tersely. "I crash just fine. What I need is a minute to figure out this alien piece of crap that they call a flying machine!"
      "Right, right," Polaski said, a chuckle still evident in her voice. "Well then, shall we get going? Oh, and before you haul off and do something stupid, Sergeant, you push the right stick forward to go down. You pull it back to go up."
      "Shut up," Johnson muttered as one by one, the Banshees floated out of the bay.

       It was over. It was finally over. All of the Covenant lay dead at long last. Cunningham smiled and laughed as he leaned up against the wall. Spark had been deleted; the Hunter Killers were dead, one crushed, the other with a shattered spinal cord; and finally, Kall 'Kanamee was buried under several hundreds pounds of rubble. Things couldn't get better.
      "Okay, Sami, let's get off of this rock, shunt the atmosphere, and get back to Earth." Sami made a small sound in surprise.
      "Oh no."
      Cunningham suddenly felt the same feeling in his gut that he had gotten when getting near the Hunter Killer in the environmental control room. Something was definitely wrong...again.
      The smile melted of f of the Lieutenant Commander's face. "Great. What now?"
      "Commander," Sami said, her voice still aghast. "Some of the bridge crew and Marines are missing. And I can't find their biomonitors on this ship."
      "Who's missing?"
       Sami's tone was worried and apologetic at the same time. "Warrant Officers Harrison and Polaski, Sergeant Johnson, Corporal Locklear and three other Marines are missing as well. I don't know what happened. They must've left right before the second Hunter Killer came. That gave them a time of about five minutes. I was too busy rebuilding myself to look for them."
      "Why would they take off like that? It doesn't make any sense!"
      "I know it doesn't, but--" Sami was cut off as a pompous, authoritative voice butted in.
      "Well, Commander Cunningham, I really must congratulate you. Your construct nearly erased me, but none of you can destroy me. I am, after all, a genius." Cunningham's jaw dropped.
      "Spark!? You're supposed to be dead!"
      Spark continued un-phased. "Quite. Unfortunately for you, I created a routine just before your construct's virus destroyed me; it essentially reloaded all of my systems from what remains of this instillation's computers. I can't destroy your construct; at the moment, I'm far too weak for that. I can, however, destroy you. This piece of instillation zero-four's orbit is decaying. It will crash into the planet shortly. I suggest that you spend your remaining time wisely."
      "You're insane! You'll kill yourself, too!"
      "Oh, most certainly not. I have commandeered on of the Covenant's fighter craft and am speaking to you from orbit."
      Sami, cut him off with a noise of exasperation and frustration. Cunningham couldn't believe what was happening. "Sami, we've got to act fast. Get this cruiser off of this rock!"
      "I would," she said, her voice strained. "But I've just found the missing personnel."
      "Well, where are they?"

      "Well," Sergeant Johnson yelled over the radio. "Where are they?"
      "How should I know?" Polaski yelled back. "Sami said they'd be right here!"
      The orbit had already begun to decay once they had taken off from the bay. The weather had gotten worse as they went. As the piece of Halo tumbled towards Threshold The spore filled air had actually begun storms that were nearly impossible to fly through, especially with the Covenant craft. They had gone to the exact spot that Sami had said there would be supplies at.
      There weren't any.
      "Why would she be wrong about this?" Polaski asked as she wrestled with the twin sticks to keep her Banshee from colliding with the canyon walls. "Did the supplies move when Halo blew?"
      "I'll tell you why," Eric Harrison said suddenly. Polaski felt her heart flutter; whenever Harrison spoke, it was always unexpected. "That wasn't Sami."
      "Are you nuts?" Locklear cut in. "We heard her as plain as day!"
      "Trust me," Harrison continued. "It was Guilty Spark."
      "How do you figure that?"
      "Simple. Her voice didn't send just Polaski and me. Why the Marine escort? Surely, we could tie a rope to a cargo module and haul it back to the cruiser by ourselves. That and the fact that we had to wait twenty minutes before you guys showed up. She wouldn't have sent us out there until she had finished with Spark."
      "Well, maybe she was!"
      "Why, then, did she nearly let you get killed by this Hunter Killer thing you've been telling us about?"
      The channel fell completely silent as the realization dawned on them.
      "We need to get back to the cruiser," Polaski finally managed. The Warrant Officer looked down at her watch. "Scratch that. There isn't time. We've got four minutes until this thing starts to go down."
      "Four!?" Locklear exploded. "How're we going to get off of this thing in four minutes?"
      "We've got one shot," Harrison jumped back in. "The Pelican that Polaski and I flew down here. We passed over it on our way here. Back in those rocks. Those really high, really sharp, really dangerous looking rocks."
      "You're kidding, right?" Locklear asked, clearly flabbergasted.
      "I wish. Polaski and I thought they might make good cover." Back inside his cockpit, Locklear shook his head.
      "Uh-uh, no way. I'm getting back to the cruiser."
      "Did you not hear Polaski? There's no time!"
      "There's no way that Pelican will have time to take off; I'm heading back to the cruiser!"
      "Listen, I'm the lieutenant here, and you will--"
      "Say what, Harrison?" Back inside his cockpit, Lieutenant Haverson realized that he'd blown his cover. Oh, well, he though; no point in hiding it any longer.
      "Yes, I'm a lieutenant. Haverson. Lieutenant Haverson if you have to know. And as a lieutenant, I'm ordering you to get your insubordinate butt in line and help us find that Pelican!" To punctuate his point, he dropped his Banshee in behind Locklear and pulled the trigger under his right finger, which sent six bolts of plasma over Locklear's Banshee.
      Locklear got the point and wheeled his Banshee back around.

      "Commander, we can't wait for them any longer. If we're going to get off of this rock, we've got to go now. There's no chance of them getting back to the cruiser."
      "Do we have enough supplies to make it back to Earth?"
      "Yes, I hauled them in with the two Scorpions, from outside immediately after Spark got you into the ship. I'm sorry...if I had let you know, then those seven might not be out there."
      Cunningham had been hoping against all hope that they would have time to make it back. But, by now, it was obvious that they weren't. He felt the last of his strength leave him as he gave the command: "Do it."
      The doors to the hidden armory, cellblock, and security center slammed closed. In some sections of the ship, air pressure was immediately quintupled. The popcorn like infection forms exploded instantly, and their feathery shards were sucked towards ventilation grates as the pressure dropped by a magnitude. Combat forms' blood boiled, and carrier forms were torn apart by the rapidly changing pressures.
      Soon afterward, the deck rumbled as the Norah powered up once again. Her engines growled as they warmed themselves up and antigravity generators came online. The Marines fought a sense of vertigo as the battered Covenant cruiser named the Norah lifted off of the largest piece of Halo left. It climbed out of the atmosphere like an eagle rising out of a storm. As it began to leave Threshold's gravitational pull, it activated its slipspace drives; with complete accordance to the Cole Protocol, it selected a random jump vector, and leapt into slipspace.

      "Got it!" Polaski yelled. She set her Banshee down just in front of the passenger cabin. Gale force winds buffeted the Covenant craft and she struggled to keep it steady. She rotated it clockwise to where the Banshee's side faced the Pelican's back and opened the hatch. The Warrant Officer was almost carried off by the wind, but she managed to find a handhold on the bird.
      She took a breath and immediately gagged. The spore's felt like a meat-grinder as they wound their way down her throat and towards her lungs. Polaski slapped the open button, and the hatch came down like a medieval drawbridge. She staggered in to find that Sergeant Johnson and Lieutenant Haverson were right behind her.
      The Warrant Officer grabbed Haverson's arm and pointed to the cockpit. She couldn't speak; the spore's had seen to that. Haverson nodded and he helped her to the cockpit.
      She all but collapsed into the pilot's seat. Haverson sat down heavily in the co-pilot seat and flicked a series of switches in a split-second. The bird hummed as it warmed up. "No time for a pre-flight checklist," Haverson yelled above the roar of the engines as they came online. "We'll have to take her out manually!" Polaski could only nod in reply.
      She gripped the twin sticks that would control the bird like a twenty-first century helicopter. The stick on the left determined the angle of attack for the Pelican's pulse detonation engines. The stick on the right handled normal flight controls, such as climbing, diving and turning. Pedals under her feet controlled the yaw. She tested each stick in every direction and then gave a thumbs up to Haverson. He nodded as the hatch in the back came down once more and Corporal Locklear staggered in.
      "What are you trying to do, kill me? I get within a yard of this thing when BAM! The stupid engines change their angle and nearly fry me!"
      "Quit whining!" Johnson yelled, "and let them do their work!" Then, after a moment, "Where're the others?"
      "They didn't make it. They lost control of their Banshees in those rocks and slammed into them." Johnson nodded gravely. Another couple of good soldiers gone.
      "Easy on the stick, Polaski," Haverson muttered. "I'll help you, but we can't hit these rocks in this wind."
      "Why?" Locklear asked, his voice full of disgust. "Will it damage the Pelican?"
      "It won't damage it," Haverson muttered. "It'll crush it."