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Battle for the Norah: Part Thirteen
Posted By: Sterfrye36<Sterfrye36@yahoo.com>
Date: 29 December 2003, 4:00 PM

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      Where is it!? Where is it!? Strom silently screamed at himself. His eyes flew desperately around the armory in a fleeting attempt to find the silent assassin. Hernandez's head continued to roll away and tapped into the Oriental PFC's heel. The PFC jerked in surprise and stopped wrestling with the lockers long enough to glance down at his heel. He screamed, turned and drew his Plasma Pistol.
      "Shoot! Shoot! The bolts will home in on it!" the Sergeant yelled at the Private. The Oriental stood frozen; his eyes were wide and looked wildly for any sign that might give the assassin away. As he heard the tell-tale sound of a Plasma Grenade being primed, he quickly backed into the lockers.
      Straight into the trap.
      Strom shouted a warning, but it was too late. As though the phantom had read the human's mind, it had stuck the grenade to the lockers. When the PFC felt himself stick on the grenade and felt its heat, his eyes went wide. He knew instantly that there was no way to escape.
      He died before he could scream.
      The grenade detonated. The PFC's stomach and chest blew outward; guts, entrails and bone were blown into the opposite wall with a sickening splat. Strom held hope for the briefest of moments that the blood spray would outline the killer, but there was no such luck. The dead Oriental slid to the floor, with a gaping hole in his torso, in a pool of his own blood.
      It became absolutely quite, with only a distant hum of machinery and the whir of an air conditioner to make noise. Strom slung his S2 and drew his M6D sidearm. The rifle's accuracy and power wouldn't help him here, especially if the killer were a Flood form, be it a very smart one. He could hear his heart hammering in his ears and he began sweating heavily. His neck felt like volleyball had been shoved down it; he could barely breathe, and even his breathes came short and rapid. He had thought that saying that one's legs could feel like rubber was just an expression; he realized with alarm that it was true.
      A plan, he needed a plan.
      Both of them dead...both from behind...
      Instinct quickly backed him into the rack of Plasma Rifles and Pistols. He didn't feel any heat, so he knew he was alive for a few more seconds. He narrowed his eyes and looked into thin air as he willed the assassin to reveal itself. Realization sent adrenaline coursing though his system.
      No, no...I'm going about this all wrong. I'm looking up in the air. This guy's too good. There isn't even an active camo shimmer...
      As he saw the shimmer in his mind's eye, it reminded him of something. Waves? No, it wasn't that, something more subtle...
      Strom lowered his eyes towards the pooling blood on the floor and let them slowly go out of focus. It helped him to see motion. Three seconds passed. Then...motion, near Hernandez's decapitated head. Strom swung the M6D into position above the puddle of blood and fired.
      The slug missed, but the assassin jumped out of the way and made a large splash in the blood. The Sergeant brought the pistol into line and shot again. Another miss, but the bullet passed close enough to cause the assassin's active camo to falter briefly.
      Strom drew a perfect bead, and held down the trigger for full automatic fire. Four bullets slammed into the Phantom, and were accompanied by a roar full of pain. A Plasma Sword ignited and it advanced towards the Sergeant, ready and more than willing to strike.
      It became a race. Strom tried to find the assassin's head for a fatal shot, but the bullets only impacted on its chest. Six more shots connected, and the active camo finally failed. The spec ops Elite was exposed. Dark colored blood gushed from multiple wounds in its chest. By all rights, it should have died.
      Should have. Strom pulled the trigger a final time...and heard a distinctive, metallic, click. The Elite roared and brought the Plasma Sword down and forward, as though he were punching the Sergeant in the gut.
      Strom felt the sword smash through his stomach and penetrate the wall. It barely missed his spinal cord. The Sergeant screamed; the pain was unbelievable, unlike anything he could imagine. He felt several of his ribs crack, and some broke in half. A lung collapsed and spots and stars appeared in his vision. Blood ran out of his body and over the sword like red wine. Molten metal from the wall ran across his back and caused second and third degree burns.
      The heat the sword created cauterized any wounds it opened; they were instantly sealed by dried blood. However, even as the sword closed off wounds, they were torn open by the immense heat. It created a constant cycle of pain. To Strom it felt as though a small, vicious animal was tearing him apart from the inside. His breaths came raggedly and his vision began to darken. He coughed up blood. He knew there was no chance that he would survive; he was finished.
      So, he resolved to take the Elite down with him. He let the useless M6D fall to the floor and slid his S2 down his arm. With the strength that his ragged body could muster for him, he shakily lifted the rifle and pointed it squarely at the Elite's head. It gaped in surprise and struggled to remove the sword from Strom's gut; unfortunately for him, it was still stuck in the wall. The Sergeant grinned unsteadily and muttered his last sentence.
      He pulled the trigger.

      It left. Just like that, it left. Sami would have torn her hair out if she had any. The hacker had withdrawn once again. At least she could talk to Cunningham and the others again.
      She knew she had to report PFC Chang's, Private Hernandez's, and Staff Sergeant Jacob Strom's death...No, she couldn't do that. It would spark a small civil war between the alliance. That would be disastrous for both sides. Instead, she would have to spend her time eliminating the insurgent.
      She scanned the radio system and found that the hacker had left himself a backdoor. And another...and another...She deleted all that she found. The A.I. knew she would have to destroy this insurgent. It had taken three Human lives. Well, she had tried all of the options that would have helped her locate someone working at a console and come up blank. It was a long shot, but whoever it was must be working from a handheld...She skimmed across the wavelengths of the radio found a signal. No, two signals. Three, seven, sixteen.
      There were hundreds of signal echoes across the entire ship!!! The construct restrained her anger and began to sift through them.

Two minutes later...

      "So, what do you make of him?"
      "Which one?"
      "Goldilocks, there."
      "Oh, him? He who may very well be a load of sheet."
      "Yeah, that was my analysis, too, Sarge," chuckled Private Colin Thompson. Sergeant A.J. Johnson grinned back.
      "Well, I never trust them any further than I can throw 'em."
      "Which is about?"
      "Six feet." The two Marines laughed. Lieutenant Commander Cunningham glanced back over his shoulder at them. He was mulling over the problem of how to take out Flood in a room with zero gee...He knew that he couldn't just dash in there. That would be disastrous for he and his crew. All sorts of problems could erupt. He knew that they would have to push off of walls, ceilings and floors to get anywhere. It would be tricky to make precision jumps.
      But then again, perhaps the solution was not to go in at all...
      "Barnes," he hollered back to his second Sergeant. "You still got that rappelling equipment?"
      "Boss," Barnes whined. "Please tell me we're not going to rappel into the room..."
      "All right then. We're not going to rappel into the room."