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Chapter 19, "The Decisive Battle: Finale"

The pearlescent walls of this ship would be a comforting visual, if not for the blood spatter and flood infestation we encountered in the depths of the ship. Having made our to the aft end of the Cruiser, we encountered little resistance from the Flood. A few groups, but nothing like we'd expected. As we continued on, however, 'Sakamee was becoming increasingly arrogant. Having not had much real combat experience as a Shipmaster, he believed this was all the Flood could muster. Not long after that, he would learn the truth. "You're certain there're still Flood back here? We could've returned to the bridge by now..." 'Sakamee complained. "You'll have patience, unless you want to return on your own." I recoiled. With a snort, he dropped the argument. An echo of a scream alerted us to another small band of vile creatures. The only thing wrong with it was that this howl seemed to emanate from much farther into the ship...behind us. I paid no mind, as these beasts are clever at hiding themselves. 'Perhaps it's a larger band? We'd have seen it, though...but it's no cause for concern' I myself thought rather ignorantly. To that extent, I only became worried when the roar was much louder now, closer, and moving in our direction. The metal plates of the floor started to clamor; something normally only made possible by Hunters or massive Brutes. "Tactical positions. Stake a corner and keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary." I commanded. The Elites complied, with Grunts falling in behind them. The shaking continued for some time, then abruptly stopped. "...Perhaps it's gone? We should cont-" 'Sakamee began to utter before a fearsome display occurred; several spiked tentacles drove through his chest and head, killing him instantly. The monster revealed itself, a nightmarish, titanic juggernaut composed of decaying flesh and distorted cries. I moved to attack, but was knocked back as it threw the dead body of my comrade. "By the Rings, what is that?" an Elite, 'Maumee questioned. "Whatever it is, it's made of Flood, and that means it dies." I responded, raising my cannon. As I fired, the beast charged me. It had to have stood 13 feet, and it would have, if not for the confined walls of the hall. An immense arm reached to strike me as it had 'Sakamee, but I managed to fire in time to stop its advance. To my horror, however, the plasma sheared off a layer of flesh that began to regenerate. Clearly, we were up against something never before encountered in the Flood arsenal.

Flailing violently, the creature drove back any direct physical attempts to fight it. 'Maumee managed to plant a grenade on what was universally decided to be its face...to little effect. At that, it turned on him. In a meaningless attempt, I rammed the Juggernaut in the back, and it stumbled. But it reacted quickly, and grabbed me by the head. It swung me into the wall with such force that I breached it, and half of me ended up out the other wall. Not only did this disorient me, it severely damaged my armor, with several sections crumple, and another falling to the ground with a crack against the metal. It pulled me from the wrecked wall, and would have thrown me some distance, if not for Karn's intervention. My brother crashed into the back of it, and began to melee it with his shield. This took the monster's attention from me, but focused its rage on Karn. It took him in both of its malformed hands and catapulted him nearly 7 yards down the hall, where he skidded to a halt near the exit, motionless. Enraged, I ran it through with my spikes, but again the damage was minimal to this demon. For a half-second, my mind flashed back to the Demon, the Master Chief, and how they seemed to be alike in that matter. That gave me all the more motivation to defeat it now. As the battle continued, the exit opened, revealing a group of bloodthirsty Combat Forms. "Gah, the last thing we need." Frenirn grunted, firing at the small Infection forms that burst through as well. "We can't handle a group that big, much less this thing. Should we retreat?" 'Maumee asked. I hesitated, but agreed. This was too much for anything less than a Drinol to handle. With that, we fought our way to the exit. The Juggernaut began after is, when Frenirn stopped and started backward. "Are you mad, what're you doing? You'll get yourself killed, you fool!" I cried as he stayed behind. "You protect me in the past, so isn't it only right I protect you?" he made his point as he fired at it. Before I could start again, the beast stopped to attack him, instead of us. We rushed through the exit, and I locked it. I acknowledged his noble sacrifice with a silent prayer, before we ran back the way we came. "Shouldn't we have waited...?" 'Maumee asked, a warrior's pride slightly injured by the need to flee. "We couldn't have won, and that Grunt assured our escape. Its better that we live to fight. 'Sakamee and Frenirn's sacrifices are worth something..." I answered. That would indeed be the last of one of my few friends, and we made the hard way back to the bridge.

When we arrived back, Johnson's group was still at business. "Good God, what the hell happened to you people?" Sergeant Hill was aghast. Indeed, we suffered grievous wounds in the battle: 'Maumee lost his right eye and forearm, the latter in the attempt to plant the grenade; I had lost part of my armor, and orange blood spilled from the mangled plates covering my back. We'd managed to save Karn through all of the chaos, but he was unconscious. "We encountered a Flood Juggernaut. I don't believe either of our races have ever encountered it, and we hadn't the resources to have a delusion of defeating it." I explained the events of the bloody skirmish to him. He let out a low whistle. "So wait, you mean to say...that this thing's still running amok?" he asked nervously. "I'm afraid so. 'Sakamee and Frenirn were lost in the battle, and I'd have undoubtedly been a casualty if not for Karn." I glanced at my injured brother. "Reckon it'd be a good idea to seal off the backdoors?" He questioned. "Indeed. Please relay that to the Commander." I requested, and he hurried to do so. Observing the bridge, the Humans had done nice work in fixing hardware, but I wasn't surprised at the lack of work on the control panels. After all, there weren't many Elites left who knew how the controls for the ship worked, and that situation wasn't helped with the loss of 'Sakamee. Luckily, Commander 'Ralkamee was now onboard, and so he would know how to pilot the flagship. At that time, the momentary peace was ended by a transmission from Johnson. "This's Johnson, Bridge. We've got a pretty bad situation here, so I'll keep it short: We're trapped in the very front of this damn ship, with a big Flood bastard nailin' us. Was hopin' you guys could get your lazy asses up here and help!" and with that, it ended. "Goddamn, there's two of these things now?" came the anxious, exasperated voice of Hill. I couldn't say I blamed him, either. Before any words were needed, 'Maumee and I were already setting up to leave. "Hey, wait a minute!" another Marine called before we left. His tag read "Ezekiel", and the symbols on his arm were supposed to mark him as some kind of low-ranking officer. "Corporal Lance Ezekiel, sir! I recommend you take this baby," he said, producing a large sphere. "If worse comes to worse in there, you can use this thing. Course, it'd be a good idea to get a good distance away before she goes off." He handed it to 'Maumee, who obviously had more dexterity than I did. He saluted, and we acknowledged it with a nod. With that, we left toward the prow, dreading another encounter with the Juggernaut.

The journey to the front end of the ship was considerably harder than our pervious expedition, in that there were far more Flood in tighter spaces. However, we managed to fight our way through. It took several hours, as did the search of the stern, and by this time we were beginning to doubt there'd be anyone left to save when we got there. But I pushed such worries aside; the Humans were certainly resourceful and more importantly, persistent. They'd survive until we could reach them. The lighting and electronics at this end were damaged from some earlier escapade, no doubt Johnson's work, and unworkable doors were a constant hindrance. Soon, though, we heard the telltale snarls and the shaking ground of the Juggernaut. As we entered the very last section, it was a sight to behold; the demon writhing in agony as Potter blew a large section of it off with the same large bullet that decommissioned me in my battle with the Master Chief. "'Bout damn time you showed up! We were startin' to think you'd be too yellow to show up." Johnson greeted. "I'm not sure what our color has to do with it, but we've fought this thing before." I answered bluntly. As I finished my sentence, the beast regained a fighting stance and smashed several Marines out of its way toward us. Before I could react, I was kicked to the ground by the beast. It began mauling the mangled parts of my armor, and its sheer strength overwhelmed me. I regret that I was helpless to do anything but try and force it away. It ripped the front of my chest section off, but another explosion tore its back open. It recoiled, emitting a high-pitched scream as it turned on those shooting it. 'Maumee wielded a Fuel Rod Gun against it, and that seemed to have the best effect. I managed to get a shot out of my own cannon, and the result was more devastating than before. That didn't alleviate the situation, unfortunately, and it still rampaged through our ranks. "Damn, ain't there anything that'll work on this thing? We've used rockets, grenades, everything available." Potter asked, dodging a hit from our lumbering adversary. 'Maumee took this opportunity to bring out the sphere that Ezekiel had given. "Damnit, why didn't you get this out earlier?" Johnson demanded. "What difference will it serve? What will we do, throw it at the thing?" I added sardonically, not knowing this ball's use. "This's a bomb, boy! We're gonna blow that mutha sky high!" he replied. He pressed a button on its top, and held it for a few minutes before shooting the Juggernaut with a pistol. "Come and get it!" he bellowed. The beast came for him, and he threw it at the monster's deformed face. It stuck in the weak, rotting matter, and it tried to remove it. "Shit! Get outta the room!" Potter yelled. Several of us exited through the door, while a few remaining Humans took shelter behind debris.

A fantastic explosion rocked the area. When we reentered to check the damage, pieces of it littered the room. "Well, I think that about sums things up. Don't you?" Potter asked. I nodded in agreement, noting the relief they all held in this victory. I'd be out of work for a while, at the loss of my armor. I managed to find the missing armor, and figured it might be salvageable. With this business done, we began back toward the control center. About halfway through the return trip, though, a shudder moved through the entire ship. Grating sounds could be heard resonating through the empty halls. "Apparently we've docked with the Spirit." I pointed out, and we hurried much faster to our destination. Arriving after nearly a half hour of trudging through wreckage, we entered the command center. Several more Humans and Elites were among us now, including two newcomers: a floating, lit orb, and a Human of a type which I'd only seen once before on the High Charity. This human had a weaker frame than the others and appeared to have two extra...appendages, I suppose? Johnson saluted her, so I assumed she was a higher rank. "Come here, man. This is UNSC Commander Miranda Keyes, our head officer." Johnson explained. "A pleasure. I assume you're the reinforcements we were informed about?" I inquired. "Yes, and we have more troops on the move from the other ship." Keyes answered, although this human seemed to be uncomfortable with my presence. "Our ETA to Earth is still one hour away. We've taken precautions to make sure there's no more Flood interference, so I suggest we all get some sort of rest." 'Ralkamee advised. The Marines sounded their agreement, and I took a spot in the far corner of the room. Something gave me the distinct feeling that our arrival at Earth would be something short of welcoming...

End of Chapter 19.

So, tell me what you guys thing, R&R! By the way, I'm soon going to be reformatting the chapters to make them more readable. So look for new updates, ya hear?