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Battle for the Norah: Part Eleven
Posted By: Sterfrye36<Sterfrye36@yahoo.com>
Date: 10 December 2003, 2:43 AM

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      "Frag out!" somebody yelled from behind him. Sergeant Jacob Strom was forced to duck around back behind a corner in the path to the Security Center in order to not be blown to bits. A fragmentation grenade flew past him, bounced around the corner and exploded. It took out a Combat Form with an overcharged plasma pistol, and some Infection Forms. Amid the dust and smoke, a mangled, claw like limb shot away from the point of detonation and lodged in the lavender wall just above a Grunt's head. It promptly screamed, and rolled up into a little ball on the floor. Jacob grunted and brought his upper body around. He drew his M6D sidearm and popped off randomly aimed shots. He heard more wet thunks as the HE rounds hit something, and a Carrier Form emerged out of the smoke and collapsed against the wall, dead. The Infection forms inside of it were still trying to worm their way out. Strom sighted in on one of them and popped it. The others began to crawl out, but a sustained burst from a Corporal's MA5B tore more chunks out of the already mutilated form and shredded the unlucky infection forms to featherlike shards. The Corporal, Locklear, was an ODST who had his HEV land not to far from them, only a kilometer downspin. He was as good a fighter as any in Lieutenant Commander Cunningham's forces. That was the end of the firefight, the third one they had run into. It was, needless to say, getting tiring. How many more of these would they run into?
      As the group began to move out again, Strom tapped the Grunt with his foot. It whimpered. He rolled his eyes and growled. The Grunt must have thought that Jacob was an Elite, because it jumped to attention. Strom stared at for a few more seconds in disgust. The diminutive Grunt looked up at him, looked back down at himself and muttered something.
      "What'd you say?" the Sergeant demanded.
      The Grunt kept a straight face and said loudly for anyone within thirty meters to hear, "I just wet myself!"
      The Sergeant had to struggle in order to not burst a gut.
      "Good, we've reached it." Strom turned to see who had spoken. It was Cunningham. "I need two volunteers," he continued as he looked at the men under his command. Locklear immediately stepped forward, and was followed by a PFC with an M90. They took up positions beside the door. Locklear ejected his magazine and slid a new one in with a satisfying clack.
      The soon to be utilized battle formation for the group had two Humans with assault weapons, such as Shotguns kneeling in front of the door, and two Covies with heavy, explosive weapons in the back, such as Fuel Rod Guns. The group wouldn't have the use of the heavy weapons this round, though. They would damage the computers if they did. Instead, they were going to have to make due with a Shotgun armed Marine and MA5B utilizing Corporal, two Elites with Plasma Rifles and a Jackal with a Needler who managed to squeeze in on the side .
      They had made their way down the hidden hallway with Sami's directions. The "open button" for the door had been cleverly concealed as an air conditioning control panel. A certain pattern of hot and cold buttons was needed to open the door.

      The door to the Security Center required a normal access code, which Sami was searching for with her hacking skills, and several tools that Cortana had left behind for her. 343 Guilty Spark was hanging at the back of the group, muttering and blabbering something about proper procedure and protocol. They were ignoring him, though he had already gotten under most of their skins.

      "Bingo. It's seven, forty-nine, three hundred forty three, and two-thousand four hundred and one. Be careful. I'm reading several hostiles."
      "Gotcha. Since I don't know Covie numbers, 'Kanamee, open it up."
      The golden Elite and leader of the Covenant there, 'Kanamee nodded and punched the button combination in. The door opened to reveal a smattering of Infection forms, and a group of Combat forms. The Jackal threw back his head and let out a screech as he fired the Needler indiscriminately. The Marine and ODST both proved to be superior marksmen as both arms were blown off of a Combat forms at the same time. Locklear was slightly overzealous, and pockmarks from bullets appeared on the back wall. One of the Elites nailed some Infection forms and they chain-popped. Their feathery shards hovered in the air for a moment before drifting gently to the ground. The Corporal and PFC were forced to pull back their guns as the door slammed shut. A Combat form had taken enough of the glowing, glassy needles, and it was about to blow. The muffled explosion could be heard through the doors, thick as they were. The doors whooshed open again and revealed a messy scene. Gore covered a good part of the wall, and severed limbs from the Combat forms lay on the floor. They advanced into the room, and gingerly stepped over the various appendages.
      "Sami, are there any more hostiles?"
      "The ventilation shaft."
      "Gotcha." Cunningham directed a Grunt to fire into the shaft. It waddled over, stuck its plasma pistol in and fired. Several infection forms popped; their hope for surprise flank attack was gone.
      The pair of Engineers sensed that the room was clear, and they floated in like big, purple blimps. They immediately began typing on the keys that belonged to the row of computers. While Sami gave them commands, Cunningham looked around.

      The Security Center was surprisingly small. Cunningham estimated that it was only eleven feet by thirty feet. A bank of computers occupied the entire right-side wall. There were only two doors out of here. One was dead ahead and lead forward. The other door was on the left, and the Lieutenant Commander could only guess as to where it led. Cunningham himself didn't exactly know how capturing the security system would do. He had his suspicions, but he wanted to make sure. Just as he was about to ask, Sami asked and told him the answer.

      "Okay, I suppose you're wondering why I dragged you to this compartment. The truth is, before, I had very little control over the ship."
      "Very little control?" Cunningham asked incredulously. "You were hacked into the system and the bridge. How couldn't have had control?"
      "Well, if you must know, the Covie security system for the ship is very complex. It's almost airtight. Before a ship can activate its systems completely, it must receive a specific code from each essential compartment, with the exception of life support. Each code is, fortunately stored on a computer. I just need those Engineers to help me hack it."

      "Why can't you hack it yourself?"
      Sami processed an electronic sigh. "Because I'm not meant to hack. I'm a ship operator, but I'm no Cortana. You wouldn't believe how hard it is for me to smash my way through this counter-code. It's like trying to run through a brick wall with pillows for padding."

      "Ah, very clear. I see...So what exactly can you do now?"
      "I'm glad you asked."
      "No, but I'll tell you anyway. I now have control over the doors. I can open and/or close them anytime I want. I have control over all the cameras-" Sami suddenly stopped in mid-sentence and scowled.

      There. A ping at the edge of the system. It wasn't a normal ping from one of the systems, either. She immediately initiated a tracing program that Cortana had used, but the presence had covered its tracks. The program had nothing to follow. Could the Flood have taken over an Engineer? Despite their appearance, they were extremely intelligent. She knew that from the way they navigated around the computer system. She knew that no Engineer had ever been seen infected before, but it was a possibility...
      Then, without warning, she lost a system and was hit full force by an onslaught of code.

      "What's the matter? Why'd you stop?"
      "I just lost the bridge cameras. The Flood don't want me seeing what's going on up there. They're fighting me hard. Whoever is up there is moving in on the other systems, and he's good. Very good. I'll need one of the Engineers," she said demandingly, "To stay here and help me keep what we've got under our control. The other one of you can go with the group and help at the other compartments."
      The Engineer gave no sign of comprehension, but began to type on the keys once more.

      "Okay, anything else we should know, and what's our next target?"
      "Right. With the exception of the bridge, I have all of the security cameras. I'll provide you with intel while you make our next move."
      "Good," Cunningham muttered. "I always wanted a Cortana."
      "Glad to be the next best thing." Sami's reply was so dry that the Marines could feel the humidity level in the room drop. "Leastways, I think you should hit the Jackal's quarters next." Carrier Forms...Cunningham thought. "There's something funky going on in there, and I can't tell what, even with the cameras. However, I can tell you that the artificial gravity system in there is reversed."

      "Reversed? As in things are floating up in the air instead of having their feet planted solidly on the ground?"
      "Precisely, but I don't know why. Once you've cleaned that out, move further forward and hit the life support systems. We want to kick the air conditioner into high gear so as to filter out the Flood's paralyzer spores."
      "Okay, then. How far is it to the Jackal area?"
      "It's down some more hallways. About one-hundred meters. You'll take a few more firefights before you reach it."
      "Joy. We all know how everybody likes firefights. Don't we boys!?" Cunningham yelled at the Marines.
      "Sir, yes, sir!"
      "All right, you pantywaists. I hope you haven't gotten too comfortable with having gravity angled down. We're about to go to the Jackal barracks, and we're going to nail the Flood with everything we got. Flying or not, got it?!"
      "Sir, absolutely, sir!"
      "Lock and load, gentlemen. Let's move!"

      At the back of the group, Kall 'Kanamee watched the morale raiser through narrowed eyes. This Human was a good commander. 'Kanamee would have to find a way to get rid of him...And, by any means necessary, he could not let the Humans get the strange alliance near the brig...There was something there that the Humans could absolutely not discover...And to make matters worse, is was right in their path.