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Battle for the Norah: Part Twenty [FINALE]
Posted By: Sterfrye36<Sterfrye36@yahoo.com>
Date: 19 July 2004, 5:41 PM

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      "What do you mean by 'crush it'?" Locklear yelled.
      "Exactly what I said," Haverson yelled back. "If we hit those rocks in this wind, it'll crush this bird! Not damage it, not hinder it, completely and totally destroy it!" Locklear fell silent. The Pelican shuddered as Polaski gunned the throttle. The Corporal and Sergeant Johnson had to grab onto the doorframe for support. The turbulence grew worse as the dropship rose up into the air.
      "Hang on!" Haverson grunted against the g-forces as the Pelican cleared the rocks, and tilted its nose to a forty-five degree angle. Polaski slammed the throttle to 100% full military thrust. The Pelican groped for sky as its engines screamed. It reconfigured its moveable wings for maximum lift and jumped upward.
      "Angels forty," Polaski grunted under her breath as she used the short term for forty-thousand feet. "Forty-three...fifty-one...sixty-seven...seventy-eight..." Gradually, the sky began to give way to the star filled void of space.
      "Get into the cockpit...I'm going to...blow...the hatch. We're still...way too deep in Threshold's... gravitational well to escape." Polaski grunted against her harness. Johnson grunted an unintelligible reply and managed to swat roll himself into the cockpit. Locklear swore and managed to haul himself halfway into the cockpit from the now, nearly vertical Pelican. Johnson grabbed the corporal's hand and yanked him upward.
      Haverson reached over his shoulder without looking, and slapped a button on the back wall. The two halves of the cockpit door slid closed horizontally. Polaski reached up and flicked a switch over her head. There was a tremendous explosion, and the Pelican stopped its backwards slide. Polaski pushed the throttle even farther forward than recommended, and the bird struggled to escape Threshold's gravitational hold.
      Slowly, the passengers felt their weight leave them as they exited Threshold's pull. Haverson slapped the button again to close the ramp. He flicked several more switches above his head, and oxygen was pumped back into the compartment. Johnson opened the door and floated into the cabin. He kicked off of the wall and did several flips.
      "Try it, Locklear! You'll like it!"
      Locklear made another contorted face that didn't look entirely composed of disgust. "I feel sick," he said, with a slightly higher than normal voice. Johnson just laughed.
      Back in the cockpit, things were not as cheery.
      Haverson sighed in relief and forced himself to relax. The straining he'd been doing against the g-forces and it had really tired him out. He brought the Pelican out into the debris field and activated the scopes. Polaski raised an eyebrow at him.
      "What're you doing?" she asked.
      "Looking for the cruiser." Polaski just shook her head. Before she could say anything, the instruments pinged. "Got an echo...but it's clear on the other side of the debris field..." Haverson announced. His eyebrows knitted in confusion. "Why would he be on the other side of the field...?"
      "Well, here," Polaski offered. "Let me turn on the beacon--"
      "No!" Haverson hastily said and grabbed her hand before it could turn on the distress beacon. "Why just an echo? And why so far out? Cunningham would have kept the ship right here," he said, exasperated. The instruments pinged again. Haverson glanced back at the scopes. "Whatever that echo is, it's getting stronger."
      "Meaning...what exactly?" Johnson asked as he poked his head back through the door.
      "Meaning that it isn't an echo. My guess is that it's one, if not several Covenant ships."
      "How are we going to get past them, back to Cunningham?"
      "There's no chance. We'll have to hide."
      "Hide? Out here?" Johnson cast a quizzical eye at the Lieutenant. "Just where can we hide out here?" Haverson shrugged and shook his head.
      "Any number of places," Polaski put in, sensing her co-pilot's helplessness. "Lieutenant, set the radar for a wide scan. Burst mode; activate it for two seconds only." Haverson complied with a confused face until he looked out of the cockpit. Yes, he thought.
      The radar scanned the debris field for exactly two seconds before it gave a return.
      "Wait," Johnson spoke back up. "Wouldn't using the radar give away our position?"
      Polaski nodded. "Normally it would. But with so many rocks out here, we'd only appear as an echo, an anomaly. The good news is, we still get a good view of what's around us. For instance, look here," Polaski tapped the radar screen and indicated a large return.
      "What's that?"
      "It's a piece of Halo. A big one, too. About half a kilometer in diameter." She grinned. "Perfect."
      "Perfect for--" Johnson began to ask, but Polaski jerked the throttle to sixty percent, and the Sergeant flew backwards through the door...and straight into Locklear. Together, they yelled curses, tumbled towards the back of the Pelican, and slammed into the hatch.
      Polaski initiated a series of rolling maneuvers combined with sudden climbs and beyond vertical drops that were designed to bring the dropship ever closer to the largest piece of Halo in the vicinity. It was approximately half a kilometer in diameter. The Warrant Officer set the Pelican down as gently as she possibly could. It didn't help much. Locklear and Johnson still bounced around the cabin like super balls shot out of a cannon.
      Polaski brought the Pelican down slowly on the rock, nose-out. It needed to be ready to go if the Covenant found it with their sensors. She shut down everything except for the basic systems and put the radar into passive scan mode. Locklear and Johnson, both nursing bruises, came back through the door and the group surrounded the scope.
      It took thirty seconds before they got another hit.
      "Contact, bearing zero-one-zero; small distress beacon." Haverson muttered. "What on Earth...? It's a cryotube...It must have ejected before the Autumn entered the atmosphere. It's a miracle it survived Halo's explosion...Captain Keyes must have ejected the crew that wasn't reawakened in time..."
      "We obviously can't go get it...those Covenant ships are close enough"
      "Should we chance a scan?" Polaski asked as she looked back at the radar scope; the "echoes" of the Covenant ships had indeed grown stronger. Haverson bit his lip...and slowly shook his head, no. Any radar scan would be far too risky. The Covenant were close enough that they would definitly pick it up. But Polaski, with her pilot's instinct, insisted. "Infrared? It won't light up the Covenant's sensors. It's totally passive." Haverson sighed and relented; his fingers flicked to one of the multi-function displays.

      In the nose of the Pelican, under the 70 mm chain gun pod, the Combination Infrared, Night-Vision, and Electromagnetic Targeting pod (CINVET) warmed up. The CINVET was created by Boeing under government contract specifically for low-altitude support aircraft, such as the Pelican. As its full name showed, it had full infrared, night vision, and electromagnetic targeting abilities. Haverson slaved it to the distress beacon's location, and the pod swiveled around to get a look.
      The cryotube was completely dark on the MFD; nobody was surprised. They hadn't really expected any heat from a living person aboard that thing. After all, it had floated out in space for four days. What did catch their eye, was a small red dot behind the cryotube. Polaski enhanced the magnification, and it became evident that they weren't the only survivors out here.
      Behind the cryotube was a C709 Longsword.