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Dark Halo: Chronicles of Fright by Wado

Dark Halo: Chronicles of Fright (part 01)
Date: 13 January 2003, 10:00 am

Warning: Proceed with caution -- The following story has been known to cause sudden chills and horrific fear in death row prisoners used as test subjects. Some things are worse than death.

Prologue to the Last Days of Halo

      The crackling of an open fire can sooth a chilled soul. Roasting chestnuts and making smores, a jolly old time. But if you can imagine, just maybe this once, that nothing, nothing at all, is as it seems, then just maybe you are one step closer to the truth, the evil truth.

      As day turns to night, the fire burns, and by the fire children dance and play -- their shadows become dark impish figures darting from tree to tree, in between they become slender giants across the fields, and on the wall they return to familiar forms.

      "Please, pretty please with sweetness on top," insisted little Timmy. "Tell us a story, oh mother Archon, tell us a scary story."

      "A scary story, why I couldn't, you are but children," replied the Archon. "Now off to bed with all of you, tomorrow is another day."

      Off to bed the children go. Comforted by the presence of the Archon, the children are oblivious to the shadows and voices in the wind.

      "Tell us then. Tell us the story," creaked the shadows in the wind.

      "Very well," sings the Archon in the night air.

      When bedtime comes, the children sleep and the Archon gathers the shadows. With a gaze as beautiful as the northern lights over white tundra and as piercing as icy claws slashing deep into the chest, the Archon tells a story, a scary story. The shadows chill into the night, listening intently.

      However, still not all is as it seems. Hidden to the rear of the shadows is Timmy. Pretending to be asleep, his deception has not yet been discovered; but he shall pay a price for his actions, tonight his veins will freeze over, his dreams will be haunted... he will learn what really happens to little boys who deceive.

      In the chilly wind the story is told... The story of the last days of Halo.

The Last Days of Halo

      "Oh, just great," said Corporal Janette Jones. "We've been stranded out here on this flying hula hoop for nearly twelve hours and look at this. Lieutenant, sir, look at this."

      "Yes Jones, I saw it," replied Lieutenant Thomas Black, "and it's called burnt wood, someone had a campfire here. What are you all excited about Corporal?"

      "Not just someone, us," snapped Jones. "With respect sir, we've been moving in circles."

      With hearing those last words, the young Lieutenant kneeled down to examine the burnt wood. "First Jones, this isn't a flying hula hoop we are stuck on, it's a ring world with a diameter of 10,000 kilometers, built by aliens a hundred thousand years ago, it's a freaking masterpiece of engineering," stated Black. "Second, this is not our campfire. Thirty Company is probably spread out all over the valley below and in these hills, it could easily be any other team that left this here."

      "Lieutenant sir," interrupted Sergeant Steven Pepper.

      "Yes, what is it Sergeant?"

      "Sir, this site looks quite defensible, I recommend setting up camp here."

      "Make it so Sergeant."

      "Yes sir," replied Pepper. "Private Gott, Private Wong, setup watch up there."

      "Yes Sarge," the two soldiers said. Private Gott, a tall and slender, blond-haired and blue-eyed man of Norseman decent took point with his long armed S2 AM Sniper Rifle. Close behind was Wong, as always, silent and low to the ground one could hardly tell that he too was nearly two meters tall. Once a champion off-world surfer, Wong was incredibly agile for his size.

      Sergeant Pepper looked at the rest of Zulu team, the saddest looking bunch of saps the Pillar of Autumn ever had. "The rest of you know the drill, and someone wake up Higgins."

      "Yes Sarge," said the muffled and tired voices of Zulu team.

      Private Charles Tucker and Private Robert Johnson dumped their heavy packs and headed out to gather something to burn in a fire. Private Emily Parker nudged Private Scot Higgins before dragging her feet to Private Pedro Cruz to help take inventory. So altogether that made eight, all that was left of Zulu team.

      Zulu team, with the exception of the Sergeant, was a bunch of misfits as far as the military was concerned. Every one of them had served long enough to be at least two grades higher, but they couldn't make the grade because of insubordination or other personal problems. No commanding officer wanted one of these misfits, so they all got dumped under the command of the young Lieutenant -- and the young Lieutenant was not without his own problems too. No one would have guessed that these marines would have even survived this long in a hostile environment.

      "I've seen more enthusiasm in a pack of dead rats," growled the Sergeant. "Let's get to it ladies." The Sergeant was beginning to sound like a broken record, well at least to those who knew anything about that audio technology from six hundred years ago.

      Meanwhile, while camp was getting set up, Black and Jones conversed quietly in the background. "Corporal Jones, you're the communications expert, where are the damn transponder signals?"

      "Sir, there is powerful electromagnetic interference in this area, communication and navigation devices are going haywire," whispered Jones. "It's no wonder why the enemy forces don't seem to be around, the Covenant equipment is probably equally messed up here. There just is no way sir."

      "Damn it Corporal, do your job, find a way to cut through this interference, that's an order."

      "But... Yes sir..." whimpered Corporal Jones but her soul burned at the sight of the young Lieutenant walking away. "Who does he think he is, anyway, God's gift to the UNSC?"

      "Hey Jonesey, why the long face?" said Private Higgins who suddenly appeared behind Jones. "Crap Jonesey, if looks could kill, we'd all be dead by now."

      "Shut your trap Private, I'm in no mood to deal with your insubordination," responded Jones.

      "But looky Jonesey, look what I have, good times, want some candy?"

      "How did you get this?"

      "They never check everything in med kits," whispered Higgins, "and besides, there is nothing wrong with having a little edge in this job. Just take one, it will help calm your nerves and sharpen your mind, focus better. What more could you ask for?"

      "Neural stimulants may be an acceptable battlefield drug, but this is stuff you made in that little lab you had, isn't it?" questioned Jones. After a deep breath, Jones continued, "But, darn it, if the Lieutenant isn't driving me crazy. Got to let go. Breath, breath, calm down -- Alright Higgins, give me one."

      The effects of the drug are almost immediate. Jones sits and listens to the soft static that fills the communication channels. "Lieutenant Black, come here."

      "Yes Corporal, what is it?" said Black. "By the way there is blood coming out of your ear. I thought I told you to lay off those neural stimulants."

      "Just a little boost, sir," replied Jones, "and besides I found something. By filtering out the foreground static, I found this. Listen to it."

      Black listens to the sound mix produced by Jones. "It sounds like wind or moaning. What is it?"

      "That's at normal speed, here is it at ten times normal speed. Can you hear it now?"

      "Yes, definitely a pattern."

      "Yes sir it is," gleefully said Jones. "It's a signal from one of our beacons. There's an evac zone just 20 clicks from here. We can make it in less than a day."

      "Good work Jones..." uttered Black but he is cut off in mid sentence by an explosion. "What the..."

      "Incoming!" yelled Private Cruz, the team's heavy weapon's specialist. "Enemy fuel rod cannon."

      "There sir, above us a Covie Banshee," shouted Sergeant Pepper. The Covenant Banshee loomed far above; this enemy ground attack aircraft was the bane of death to any ground troops caught in the open or under light cover.

      Boom! another explosion, this one very close to Lieutenant Black. "Spread out and return fire."

      "Sir, fire ineffective, the Banshee is too far away and the bastard's hiding in the sun," said Private Wong as he slid down a small hill towards the Lieutenant. "We need heavy weapons."

      Boom! "Cruz, where's the damn SAMs?" shouted Black.

      "The first explosion blew them over there, I'll get them sir," replied Cruz. "I can run the 50 meters in 6 seconds." Darting from side to side, Cruz makes his way to one M19 SSM Rocket Launcher. "I got one, lock and load. I've got you niño, just one more sec..."

      Boom! The explosion of a fuel rod cannon hits just three meters from him. Cruz feels a dull pain shoot through his abdomen.

      "Cruz!" shouted Sergeant Pepper, but Cruz only hears rumbling cloaked in silence. The pressure wave from explosion has popped both Cruz's eardrums, and now he is deaf. Cruz looks down; he is bleeding with the ends of a two-foot piece of kindling sticking out of his front and back -- blown through him by the explosion.

      "Mama!" shouted Cruz, but he could not hear his own cries. The darkness fell upon him as his vision faded away until he could see only tiny, lighted circles surrounded by a tunnel of black.

      More screams are heard from Private Tucker and Private Johnson. Another Banshee peeked over a hill on a strafing run. Plasma bolts sprayed the line across Tucker and Johnson. Tucker was the lucky one, his face melted into his chest and he died before his body hit ground.

      The searing plasma struck Johnson's ammo belt -- Rounds popped like firecrackers. His armor protected most of his vitals, but rounds shot through his right foot, his legs, and arms, but worst of all, one went up through his chin and into his head.

      "There's always two of them," said Corporal Jones from behind a rock. "Look out, he's coming back."

      The second Banshee looped up and spun around as if to make another strafing run, but smoke bellowed from its aft. It had taken heavy fire from Zulu team on that last pass. Instead it turned away, to comeback and fight on another day.

      It would not make it though. On top of a hill, like a guardian angel, one figure stood tall with a fuel rod cannon in each hand. From his right he fired and the green ball of fire shot forth and sent the Banshee crashing in flames. From his left he fired up, and again he brought smite to his victim.

      So high above, there was an explosion and that Banshee was also no more.

      "Oh God, is it him?" asked Jones.

      "No," said Private Gott from afar. He had his sniper scope zoomed in right on the figure. "This is not the Spartan, it is just a man. A man of God by his clothing."

      The figure approached, walking past the lifeless Private Tucker and paying no heed to the dying Private Johnson. A tall and handsome fellow, he walked with conviction and around his neck he wore a collar, the collar of a reverend.

      "Hold it right there, that's far enough," ordered Sergeant Pepper. The Sergeant held his assault rifle high and his right eye aligned so precisely across the top of the weapon that you might think he had already mentally pulled the trigger.

      The man stopped, raising his hands to his sides, but still holding his weapons. "You have nothing to fear, but fear itself Sergeant. Can you not see I am a friend?"

      Lieutenant Black gestured for the Sergeant to lower his weapon. "Yes, you did help us and you seem to be a man of God. Tell me father, what unit are you from, I don't recognize your markings?"

      There is rustle in the background as Private Higgins and others tended to the wounded. The man looked around at the others slowly and then focused back at the Lieutenant saying, "I once was a man of God, but that was before the demons got me. I had an apotheosis and those demons are dead. Now God serves me."

      "Identify yourself," demanded Black.

      "Oh forgive me Lieutenant Black, sometimes I speak in tongues to cope with the harshness of reality. I am Corporal Travis Franklin. I was stationed on the Iroquois."

      "How could that be?" asked Black.

      "I was a prisoner of war. The Covenant did unspeakable things to me, but as God is my witness, I got them back for that."

      "How did you do that?" questioned Black.

      "I did it with this," said Franklin as he dropped his weapons to the ground and reached into his shirt. Realizing that Sergeant Pepper was looking at him funny he slowly reached in saying, "Nothing to worry about, see look." Franklin pulled out his hand revealing a small golden object the shape of an animal's horn.

      "You killed an animal and took its horn?" remarked Black.

      "No, this is not just a horn my young Lieutenant," replied Franklin.

      "Sir, I need your assistance," interjected Higgins who was attending to the wounded.

      "Pepper, keep an eye on Mr. Franklin, if he does anything out of the ordinary, shoot him," suggested Black, "and Mr. Franklin, I'm not done with you so don't get any strange ideas. By the way, your story is full of holes."

      Black approached Higgins and looked over the results of the medical scan. It didn't look good for Private Johnson; in fact, he probably would not last the hour. Black looked at Johnson. "Bobby, it's not so bad, we're have you up in no time. Higgins, give Bobby something for the pain."

      "I did sir."

      "Give him some more and tell him he's going to be okay," said Black.

      "I'm only a junior medic, sir, I..."

      "Arrrg, I don't want to die," exclaimed Johnson, but his words could hardly be made out due to the hole that had shot through his tongue.

      "Tell him, Higgins, you're the closest thing we have to a medic now aren't you?"

      "Yes, no worries Bobby, you're getting better, here's something to ease the pain." Higgins injected painkillers into Johnson.

      Johnson's eyes glazed over and he stared blankly into the sky; he was flying higher than a kite.

      Higgins took a deep breath, at least the air here was safe to breathe. "Ah sir, Cruz is over there, he can't hear and barely can see, but I think he will make it. The piece of wood that impaled him came out cleanly. I'm concerned about infection and he should not be moved for at least seventy-two hours."

      "We don't have the luxury to stay here seventy-two hours," said Black.

      "Sir, another problem," said Corporal Jones. "I'm not sure, but those Banshees, well, they might have gotten a communication to the other Covenant."

      "How could that be Jones?" snapped Black. His face turned pale at the thought. "Aren't they affected by the interference too?"

      "I don't know sir, I think I picked up a signal, the first Banshee was awful high up, perhaps the interference isn't as strong up there."

      With concern in his face, Black looked at the Sarge. "Pepper, how long would we have before a Covenant strike force arrives?"

      "Standard Covenant reaction time, seven minutes or so after they discover the Banshees didn't make it back home." The Sarge replied.

      Black muttered to himself saying, "Ten minutes back, plus seven minutes, plus ten minutes here, minus the time we've been here. That gives us less than ten minutes to get out of here and under different cover."

      "Might I suggest something Lieutenant Black?" asked Travis Franklin. "There are some caves only a few minutes away from here. Perfect cover."

      "You can lead us there?" said Black.


      "Alright, we move out," said Black, "and Higgins, we have to risk moving Cruz, do what you can for him, you have two minutes. Everyone else, load up all the essentials, everything else we can't carry, leave it, that includes Tucker."

      "Sir, we can't leave his dead body here," blurted Jones.

      "Just the essentials, got it?" said Black.

      Jones looked around; everyone on the team already looked quite encumbered having to carry Johnson and Cruz plus more equipment. She could not carry anymore herself, especially not another seventy kilograms of dead mass. "Yes, sir," she responded.

      Franklin moved over Tucker's dead body. "Ashes to ashes, burning is the only salvation for the dead here," he said, then he took out a vile and poured the contents onto Tucker's chest. The smell was bitter and burned the nostrils. Tucker's chest melted into a gooey mess of charred flesh and liquefied bone.

      "What the hell," said Black.

      "His last rites Lieutenant," replied Franklin. "These vials of chemicals have come in quite handy, I gather it is some kind of Covenant holy water, but no time for explanations now. Do you not think we ought to be going, I sense we soon will not be alone."

      "Right," said Black. "Let's go."

      Zulu team made their way towards some higher hills and down into a concealed ravine. The scenery went from semi-arid with few trees to a dense forest. The trees were very strange here -- giant bulbs with florescent green tops and out cropping like vines instead of branches. Many of the larger trees were as hard as rock, petrified perhaps. Some had large holes in them as if something had blown out from their insides.

      The trees blocked the sunlight. Zulu team proceeded under the light of flashlights.

      "Ahhhh!" gasped Private Parker. Immediately flashlights shined in her direction.

      "What is it Emily," asked Jones.

      "I swear I saw faces in those trees," whispered Parker. "Sir, I don't like it here, let's turn back."

      "We're almost there, Lieutenant," said Franklin. "We must keep moving, there is indigenous life here, creatures that live in the trees and could be mistaken for something else, maybe even resembling faces. There is nothing to worry about so long as we leave them alone. Much better in the caves."

      "I don't like these woods either, let's get to the caves," ordered Black.

      As the group moved to the entrance of the cave, Private Gott bent down to brush something off of his boot. Wong huddled next to him. "I love UNSC standard issue boots," said Gott. "They are so comfortable. Would you not say so Franklin?"

      "Ah, never thought much about that Private, I suppose they are comfortable," replied Franklin.

      "You know Franklin," said Wong, "I don't know, sometimes I just like to take off my boots and run around in my bare feet. It's so relaxing. Do you ever do that Franklin?"

      "No, I prefer to keep my boots on," said Franklin. "The cave entrance is right there, shall we go in?"

      The cave entrance was concealed well in the trees but it was big enough to fit a tank through. This was not a natural formation, well as if anything on an artificial ring world was natural. This cave was constructed in perfect symmetry with the entrance leading into a large chamber with four smaller chambers to the sides and straight ahead a large tunnel.

      Large circular alien symbols adorned the walls of the large chamber. From the inside of the cave, on the wall over the entrance, in very large purple letters were written the words Travis was here.

      To the sides of the entrance lay piles of Covenant equipment: Mostly the armor of Elites but buried under that at least one unique armor of a Hunter and many Jackal shields. No Covenant weapons were visible.

      There was a thin layer of green liquid that coated the floor of the large chamber. Something small and wet dropped from above and struck Private Parker on the head. "Ahhh," gasped Parker, this time lights flashed up to the ceiling. The ceiling was moving.

      "Hold your fire," shouted Franklin. "It's the guardian of this cave, it will not harm you so long as I am here with you, but if you fire on it, I cannot protect you."

      "Guardian? What kind of trickery is this?" said Black.

      "It's for your own good, I had to get you to safety Lieutenant," insisted Franklin. "Would you have come if I told you that an enormous alien creature guarded the cave?"

      Lieutenant Black did not answer, instead he looked around. His team was tired and needed to rest.

      "Lieutenant, you will find the side chambers quite comfortable and dry," said Franklin. "You can have chambers one and two over there. Chamber three will be for supplies and chamber four is mine. No one go down the long tunnel, trust me on that."

      "Since when are you giving the orders, Franklin," remarked Corporal Jones.

      "He's not giving the orders," said Black, "but his suggestions are much appreciated. We owe him our thanks, understood." Black looked around at the team.

      "Yes sir," replied Zulu team.

      Black opened his mouth as if to say something to Franklin, but Franklin walked into chamber four without so much as a second glance. He seemed a bit tired. After Franklin was out of sight, Black signaled for the team to meet in chamber one.

      In chamber one, Parker stood watch at the entrance. Black and the others huddled together.

      "Sir the place is clean, no electronic surveillance devices," whispered Jones, "but I still feel like we are being watched."

      "Jones, give us some white noise," whispered Black. "Alright, Gott."

      "Sir, there were human foot prints along the path to this cave. They were bare feet, at least five different sets. Going in and out." Gott pulled out a small chip and placed it in Jones' communication equipment. "These are the pictures from my scope. Here's the tracks and notice those lines. They were dragging something into the cave. Say less than one hour ago."

      "Good work, Higgins what do you got?"

      "Sir, I took samples of that liquid found in the main chamber," said Higgins, "and it matches the properties of a lubricant and coolant, but there are at least forty unknown elements in it. Oh, and get this, it is jam packed with nutrients. Like a super food solution."

      "Anything more?"

      "No sir, still working on it."


      Corporal Jones looked worried. "Sir, I've gone over the transmissions and found some discrepancies. The signal that I thought came from the Covenant Banshee; well I think it came from somewhere else. Someone one else transmitted our location to the Covenant."

      "Perhaps some other Covenant forces then," said Black.

      "No, I don't think it was Covenant, sir," Jones said reluctantly. "Sir, the magnetic interference lessened at that time, just long enough for the transmission to get out. Whomever sent out the transmission must be generating the magnetic interference."

      A whisper came from Parker saying "Sir, Franklin has just gone down the tunnel. The one he said we shouldn't go down."

      Black shook his head. "Our Corporal Travis Franklin is looking more suspicious all the time. Gott, Wong, Pepper with me, Jones you're in charge, stay here with the wounded."

      Black's team moved cautiously into the main chamber, staying near the outer wall. The creature in the ceiling stirred but did nothing else. Reaching the tunnel, they could see a dim light moving away, that had to be Franklin.

      The green liquid drained down the tunnel and into the unknown. Franklin's light was moving quickly away. How long was this tunnel? They must have traveled several hundred meters already.

      Meanwhile, back at chamber one, Private Parker's canteen hits the ground. Jones and Higgins look up -- their mouths drop wide open. Standing at the doorway is Corporal Travis Franklin.

      "Emily, you seemed to have spilled your water," Franklin said with a big smirk across his face. "I take it you are in charge Janette, where are the others?"

      "That's Corporal Jones to you," said Jones in a menacing voice, "and you know damn right where the others are. Don't you."

      "Alright Corporal, but I do not know where the others are," said Franklin, "but if they strayed from the path, it was because of their own lack of faith. Isn't that so Emily?"

      "Yes Travis," Private Emily Parker responded.

      "Yes, that is right Emily, the faces in the woods talked to you, didn't they?" said Franklin. "They told you things. You know that I am your only salvation."

      Parker just stood there with a blank look on her face.

      "You're mad!" shouted Jones, but as she reached for her rifle she found it was no longer there.

      "It's better this way," said Higgins. He held Jones' rifle in hand. "After examining the samples of that green liquid, I just had to try it out myself. It's the nectar of the gods; there is just no other explanation. I gave it to Cruz and Johnson too."

      Cruz and Johnson both sit up and pull their bandages aside. They appear fully healed. "Never felt better," remarked Johnson. "Me too," added Cruz.

      Scratching, clawing, and biting, Private Janette Jones in dragged out to the main chamber where she sees it. The guardian of the cave has descended to reveal itself -- thousands of tendrils the length of a hundred meters each and one large orb in the middle.

      One tendril drops to Franklin. He rams the small end of the gold horn into the tendril. The guardian screeches as if in great pain or ecstasy. The green liquid pours out, first slowly and then like a hose.

      Emily drinks from the horn of her own free will.

      Franklin turns to Jones, "Janette, it is useless to resist. It will grow inside you and as long as you take care of it and feed it, you will be immortal. Disease and normal wounds cannot hurt you. You will become a god. However, if you don't feed it or treat it right, it will kill you. A perfect symbiotic relationship."

      "Go to hell, all of you," shouted Jones. Janette tries to fight, but she is too weak and they too strong. She is dragged to the horn and the liquid is forced down her throat. Her head is spinning and she blacks out.

      Deep down the tunnel, Lieutenant Black senses it all was a trick. "Let's go back," he said. However, the corridor back was blocked -- Many large tendrils filled the corridor.

      Ahead of them were strange screams. Sergeant Pepper's flashlight lit up a group of men approaching. Their uniforms were shredded, faces and skin decaying, and their feet were bare. They moaned like monsters and walked liked zombies.

      Zulu team opened fire, but there were too many of them. The creatures smelled of rancid meat but could jump easily 10 meters. One of the creatures grabbed Gott and he struggled to get it off, until finally picking it up and tossing it away.

      "Lieutenant, I feel a draft, there's a hole in this wall here," shouted Sergeant Pepper.

      "Save yourselves," shouted Lieutenant Black just before squeezing into the hole.

      Pepper kept firing. "Gott, Wong, into the hole, hurry up."

      It was too late for Gott though; the mighty Norseman was grabbed by three of the creatures. Two held him still and the third creature pulled Gott's head off.

      "Gott!" screamed Wong.

      "Hurry up Wong," shouted Pepper.

      "You go Sarge, I'm too big to fit in that hole," said Wong.

      Pepper would never willingly leave one of his own behind, but Wong was right, that big guy would not fit into the hole. Pepper handed Wong some more ammo and then headed into the hole.

      Small arms fire could be heard for another minute, then Pepper heard some muffled screams, and then nothing but silence. Pepper felt a strong breeze from the tunnel and bright light up ahead.

      Something was behind Pepper, he felt it touch his foot. He never moved so fast up that hole, but the hole seemed to go forever.

      Finally, when Pepper reached the light, he found he had climbed to the surface. The Lieutenant was waiting for him. Pepper was relieved and started to pull himself out the hole when something grabbed his leg.

      Pepper was pulled back into the hole until half his body was still above ground. "Damn!" shouted Pepper.

      Black grabbed Pepper's arm. "Hang on Sarge!" Black pulled with all his might.

      With a big rip, Black pulled Pepper's arm up, only all he had was the Sergeant's arm. The rest of Pepper was gone down the hole. Black stood for several minutes shaking and holding Pepper's bloody stump of an arm.

      All seemed quiet now. The sun was low in the sky. Black put Peppers arm down carefully in the dirt and headed towards the evac point. He knew that everyone else was dead.

      Time passed and Black finally reached the top of a hill that looked down on a great field. Black could hardly keep his eyes open. From the vantage point on the hill, Black saw one Pelican drop ship below with people around it.

      Black tried radio contact, but there was nothing but static. He then sprinted down the hill and made his way to the Pelican. Tired and wore out, Black stumbled into the area next to where the Pelican had landed. All the way Black had prayed that they would not leave without him.

      He could hear the Pelican's engines roaring. He was almost there, but the Pelican started to lift off. It hovered about 20 meters off the ground.

      Black looked up and pulled out his pistol. The ammo gauge indicated that he only had one round left. Using the scope on the pistol, he zoomed in on the Pelican. Black was going to fire a shot to get the ship's attention; however, what he saw through the scope changed that idea. Through the scope he could see Corporal Janette Jones waving back at him and in big red letters on the bottom of the Pelican were the words, Travis was here.

      Black heard rustling and moaning noises approaching. Slowly he looked around. Those zombie creatures had him surrounded. They slowly were closing in on him.

      High above, the Pelican's engines blasted as it moved away at high speeds. With a crazed look on his face, Black placed his pistol, barrel first into his mouth. Click, a misfire, click, click, click. It was over, or soon would be. Black dropped his pistol and made one last prayer, he prayed for death.

      In the distance a great flash of light was seen. Black smiled, he had seen many simulations of thermal-nuclear weapons, and this one was huge. His prayer had been answered.


      By the campfire of the Archon, the shadows listen. The story is over and even shadows must sleep. "Good night," said the Archon.

      The next morning the children awoke to find that little Timmy was missing. The only clue was a message painted in big red letters on his bed; it read... Travis was here.

-- The End --

Dark Halo: Chronicles of Fright (part 02)
Date: 2 February 2003, 2:52 am

Note: You do not need to read part 1 of this series to understand this part. Each part is a separate scary story.

Prologue to the Little Ship of Horrors

      The trip through slip space was a tedious task. Life as we had known it would never be the same. A sense of urgency accompanied all actions; every meal felt like it could be the last.

      So it happened in the brightly-lit mess hall, aboard the UNSC ship the Pillar of Autumn, that a group of marines met for a little relaxation and parley.

      "Hey Sarge, tell us a bad ass story, only this time make it a really scary one."

      "Look into my eyes, Jenkins," replied the Sarge. His eyes opened wide like two full moons in a sea of black.

      "Yo, come on Sarge, I bet Vicenti that you could scare us with one of your mucho loco stories," interjected Corporal Mendoza. "He doesn't think so."

      "So Vicenti doesn't get scared easy," said the Sarge. "Well speak up son, do you want to hear something really scary?"

      Private Vicenti met the Sarge's gaze with his own. "Yes Sarge, but I don't scare easy."

      The Sarge grinned and waited, taking a few puffs from an oversized cigar, then as if the Sarge was some kind of fortuneteller, he leaned forward saying, "Nothing to worry about, just a little turbulence... heh, heh, heh."

      The room shook and the lights flickered. The marines looked around in shock, but no alarms sounded. Their attention focused back at the Sarge.

      "This story starts in a far off place," began the Sarge. "I heard it from a dead alien that there's a group of those bug-eyed Covenant Grunts from a Province called Kraeoe. The same dead alien uttered his last words to me, he said Elites of House Rellius. So the story goes like this..."

The Little Ship of Horrors

      The young Muk-muk was an extraordinary Grunt from the Province of Kraeoe. He commanded the ship Twilight's Destiny, a small salvage vessel. Recently the ship and her crew had ventured into uncharted space.

      "Nog, do my eyes deceive me or have we hit the jackpot?" inquired Commander Muk-muk.

      "We have indeed Commander," replied Nog the Navigator, "and she is a beauty, looks to be one of our cruisers, command class. No communication signals either, scanning for signs of life."

      "No communication signals, then where did the distress signal come from?" asked Muk-muk.

      "It would appear that the distress signal emanated from this vessel, but as soon as we got within detailed scanner range, the signal stopped," explained Nog. "The ship has battle damage, I suppose it is possible that the surviving crew is aboard in stasis."

      "Sounds suspicious, what are the scans picking up?" said Muk-muk.

      "There's some interference but I think we got a good scan," said Nog. "There's no signs of life, but there is residual energy, perhaps active stasis chambers. Oh, and sir we have the data signature of the ship, it is identified as the Truth and Reconciliation."

      "Whee, this is going to be good, that ship is one of the Common Faith's finest vessels of war," said Muk-muk with a big smirk. "The queen mother is going to give us all accommodations for this. Let's get the grapples on her and head out of here."

      "Commander, the ship is too big for us to tow through slip space alone. Should I call for one of our sister ships? The Lolilu should be less than 72 hours away."

      "Seventy-two hours... hmm... our guest isn't going to like waiting that long," stated Muk-muk.

      "...But he is going to have to, a find like this is a once in a life time thing -- Correct commander?" interrupted Nog.

      Muk-muk gazed at the main holo viewer. The magnificence of the Truth and Reconciliation was breathtaking. "Exactly, my brother, make the call. In the mean time, let's get suited up and check her out. See what we can find."

      Nog turned to the crew of five, who had all gathered in the bridge to get a better look at the find. "You heard the Commander, get suited up, we're doing some exploring. Long live the Kraeoe!"

      "Long live the Kraeoe!" responded the crew. Shortly after saluting Nog and Muk-muk, they scurried off to prepare for the mission. However, as the crew passed out the bridge door, they swerved wide to make room for a tall and determined Elite.

      "Noble Elite on deck," cried Nog. Immediately, Commander Muk-muk turned to face the guest.

      Tall and donned in silver and blue, the Elite stood noble and proud. Wearing the spiny headdress characteristic of a mighty sword master from the great House of Rellius, he was the menacing legacy of the Imperial Elites.

      In a soft and penetrating voice, he looked at the main holo viewer saying, "What is the delay Commander?"

      "Oh great one, noble Subakai of House Rellius, on our journey to deliver you to your destination, we encountered a distress signal," spoke Commander Muk-muk, "and it is our sworn duty to look for survivors."

      "Or might it be that you have made the find of a life time?" said Subakai.

      "Oh great one," said Nog, "the Truth and Reconciliation could have survivors in stasis..." Just then Nog felt a nudge and then a kick in the shin from Muk-muk. "Wha...?"

      "The Truth and Reconciliation is it," responded Subakai. "In that case, my path has changed, we shall stay here and I will join you in your exploration of the vessel. Naturally, as the only noble Elite in this endeavor, I will receive the entire twenty-percent commission for my services."

      Muk-muk stared with fire in his eyes at Nog and Nog bowed his head to the ground. "Naturally, oh great one," said Muk-muk turning to the Elite.

      The Elite laughed, then as he turned to leave the bridge he looked at Muk-muk saying, "It is good to see that the Kraeoe still respect the natural order of things. The order of nature must be kept in balance. Do not forget, young Commander, that we are the predators, the top of that order."

      Moments go by and as the crew prepares to board the Truth and Reconciliation, Nog makes one final pass on the ship, just in case. The light from Twilight's Destiny lit a path down the cruiser. Although dead, the cruiser still looked like a creature born to travel the stars -- a great whale in an ocean of lights.

      However, even the great whales are host to barnacles. A strange moving film covers much of the surface of the ship. The film moves towards the light like moths in the night.

      "Commander, there appears to be some kind of organism covering the outer hull of the cruiser," observed Nog.

      "What is that stuff?" asked Muk-muk. "Maybe the outer shell's regeneration malfunctioned?"

      "That's possible, Commander," answered Nog. "The organism does seem to be covering a rather large hole in the ship close to where the main reactors would be. Still sir, I'm going to have to use the particle beams to clear a path to the docking ports."

      "Yes, do that."

      Beams of plasma fired on the strange organism that engulfed the Truth and Reconciliation. The organism faded away through cracks on the ship before the beams could hit it, as if it could anticipate the pain of the heated particles burning it.

      With the path cleared, Twilight's Destiny docked to the cruiser. A loud clank was heard throughout the ship.

      "I know what you're thinking Nog," said Muk-muk. "Don't go aboard that ship, there's a monster in there. Well Nog, we wouldn't be Kraeoe if we couldn't handle the job. I've seen worse -- been in the salvage business since before you were a little egg."

      "Well the thought did cross my mind, Commander."

      "No worries, we'll bring some heavy barrels with us."

      Nog stayed aboard the salvage ship, the rest, six Grunts and the Elite readied to board the cruiser. "Sound off," said Muk-muk.

      "Arnie here, mechanic -- armor, tools and fuel-rod cannon loaded and ready."

      "Ilius present, communications -- armor, equipment and particle beam weapon ready."

      "Natasha, appraiser -- armor, equipment and particle beam weapon ready."

      "My name is Jak, uhm, apprentice -- armor, supplies and plasma pistol ready.

      "Dun-duk, healer -- armor, medicine and needler rifle ready."

      "Hmm... Elites don't sound off. I am known to many as the noble Subakai of House Rellius, I am ready."

      "Muk-muk, commander -- armor and Forerunner cutter beam, plasma web caster ready. Now let's get a move on."

      The doors opened and all that could be seen was darkness. A fog of long silver strings, like tinsel, floated in the weightlessness, obscuring the lights. Illius quickly scanned the corridor saying, "The silver strings not just obscure our vision but they also interfere with scans. I'd say I can only get a good scan about 20 meters and we can see maybe half of that."

      "Commander," said Dun-duk the healer. "These silver strings are emitting radiation at level 3, our environmental suits are rated to protect us against this type of radiation so my only concern is if the levels increase past level 7."

      Muk-muk took a cautious step forward into the corridor, his boots clinging to the ground like a magnet to metal. "My gosh, we haven't even taken three steps into this ship and already I'm thinking it is a bad idea. All for turning back and waiting for reinforcements, say whee."

      "Hold on Commander," said Subakai. "Do you really think it is going to let you leave so easily? There is only one way to deal with such demons, cut their heart out and burn the rest. We must find it and destroy it before it can get us."

      "Well, great one, I say it is going to have to catch us first, whatever IT is," replied Muk-muk. "Now everyone back aboard our ship."

      "Whee," exclaimed all the Grunts, but before they could turn their cowardly tails around and back to the ship, an incoming transmission blared on the comm.

      "[static]...Co..[static]...losing power...[static]...ship surrounded...[static]...Nog, I repeat..."

      At that moment shadows the size of Elites could be seen moving through the fog from down the corridor. Thump! "Incoming fire, take cover," shouted Subakai.

      The crew took cover along the walls and returned fire. Between the two particle beams and the Forerunner cutter beam weapons, the shadows where quickly severed into many pieces and burned by the intense heat. The fuel-rod cannon followed suit and blasted a hole through all that remained.

      "Jak is down," cried Dun-duk.

      "I got him," said Arnie as he moved to pick up Jak. Drops of blood floated from Jak's open wounds before his suit self-sealed. Blood also gushed out of a hole in Arnie's suit.

      As everyone retreated back into Twilight's Destiny, Subakai stayed, fingering the pummel of his energy sword before deciding to take out a strange barreled weapon.

      "Aren't you coming great one," said Muk-muk.

      "No, my duty is to destroy this demon," replied Subakai. "You best plan on doing the same, there is no escape."

      "No we are getting out of here," said Muk-muk. "Will you not come with us?"

      "You aren't going anywhere, haven't you figured that out yet?" stated Subakai.

      "I put my trust in my ship and crew, great one."

      "Alright, do what you must, just stay out of my way." The mighty Subakai stalked away towards the unknown. "And don't forget to burn the dead."

      "Yes great one, and good luck," said Muk-muk as he manually pulled the docking door closed, leaving the Elite all by himself in the corridor.

      As Muk-muk pulled the last few centimeters of the door closed he overheard Subakai say, "How did I let it come to this, I should have seen the signs, I should have known better. Damn those Prophets, they just couldn't wait, could they. Now only one duty prevails me."

      Muk-muk slammed the door tight and sealed it. He muttered to himself, "Burn the dead? The great one has lost his senses."

      Inside Twilight's Destiny, Dun-duk tended to the wounded Jak under dim lights. Jak is still unconscious and losing blood fast. In the background, Arnie applies some medicine to himself and covers it with a loose bandage while applying pressure directly to the wound.

      "Nog, what happened, why are we on emergency power?" Muk-muk said to Nog who had just come down from the bridge.

      "Commander, that thing surrounded the ship, I did what I could," cried Nog. "It came too fast, weapons, communications, nothing external is responding to commands. It drained the ship's energy. Oh, gosh, is everyone okay?"

      "Something fired on us, and Jak was hit. Alright, you and Arnie figure out a way to get us some power and weapons," said Muk-muk, "and I'll work on getting that thing off of my ship."

      Thump! Thump! Squeeeeeeeeeeech! The noise echoed through the ship. "What the..." muttered Muk-muk.

      "Ahhh! Something's trying to get in!" someone shouted.

      Muk-muk headed back to the docking passage. The sounds continued. The closer he got to the passage, the louder the noise got. It was only a few strides away, but his heart beat quickly and he was out of breath by the time he got there. A cold sweat covered him and he shivered as if a sudden chill had come over him.

      "Commander, someone has come knocking at our door," said Arnie with fuel-rod cannon in hand. "Should we say hello?"

      "Maybe it's Subakai," said Natasha. "We should at least see if it is him."

      "The noble Subakai is dead," stated Muk-muk in a solemn voice. "No one opens that door, do you hear me, no one."

      Everyone who could nodded yes except for Nog. "But Commander..." said Nog. At that moment the pounding stopped.

      "You were saying Nog?" asked Muk-muk.

      "Nothing sir, I misunderstood."

      Several minutes passed in silence. Nog and Arnie worked to isolate the cause of the power drain and bypass it. Arnie stopped a few brief times to check his wound, which he still felt burning under the medicine and bandages.

      Muk-muk worked with Ilius on something; he had an idea. Once power was restored, they would overload the shields and cause the ship hull to superheat; this should get rid of the creature attached to the ship. Ilius wasn't much help though; she kept looking down the corridor to the docking passage with anticipation in her eyes. She was scared, scared out of her wits.

      Thump! Thump! Squeeeeeeeeeeech! The noise started up again. The docking door bulged and shook.

      Ilius ran towards the far end of the ship, screaming, "Noooo! Not again! Aaaaaah!"

      Muk-muk and Nog headed to the docking passageway with weapons in hand. "Bring it on you infidels, I've got some hot Forerunner plasma for you," shouted Muk-muk.

      The thumping lasted another ten minutes, the door shook, bulged, rattled, rang, but it never was breached. Then the silence came again.

      "Nog, have Arnie keep working, see if you can't find a way to reinforce this bulkhead, I'm going to find Ilius."

      "Yes Commander."

      Muk-muk found Ilius in the supply room. She was curled up in a fetal position with a pile of grenades next to her. In her hands she grasped a plasma pistol so tightly that her hands had turned pale. "Leave me alone," she shouted.

      "Ilius, this is your Commander talking to you," said Muk-muk, trying not to make any sudden moves that might freak Ilius out even more. "Listen, the door held and Nog is finding a way to reinforce it. Everything is going to be okay, all we have to do is hold out a while until help comes. The Lolilu is on her way; you know that's Tar-suk's ship. He'll blast us free in no time, has he ever let us down? Have I ever let us down?"

      "Well no sir," whispered Ilius.

      "Ilius, we really could use your expertise at a time like this," said Muk-muk. "Well what will it be Kraeoe?"

      "I'll think about it Commander." Ilius had the sound of relief in her voice.

      From down the corridor the voice of Dun-duk is heard, "Commander, I need you now. It can't wait."

      "Ilius, you think about it, I've got to see what Dun-duk needs," said Muk-muk as he headed to Dun-duk's healing room. Muk-muk passed Arnie in the hall, "Hey, Ilius is in there, don't upset her."

      Arnie kept walking without even looking at Muk-muk. "Yes, just got to get some more cables," he said in passing.

      Muk-muk didn't have time to chat anyway; he headed to Dun-duk. "What is it Dun-duk?"

      Jak moaned from a table, foam poured out his mouth, there was no need for a rebreather in here. I struck Muk-muk strangely that heavy straps held Jak in place.

      "Commander, look at these scans," said Dun-duk. "There is an infection in Jak. See how the infection has genetically altered his body, it has spread quickly and soon will completely consume him."

      "Why didn't this infection set off alerts in the docking passageway?" asked Muk-muk.

      "It's not airborne and somehow it can partially cloak itself," replied Dun-duk, "and I don't have a cure for it either. Jak's body is being consumed from within, his brain died three minutes ago."

      "What? Jak is dead," whispered Muk-muk.

      "Yes, he is dead, but his body lives until the infection is finished consuming it. The infection needs food, I suppose it will simply starve itself to death." Dun-duk then turned to Muk-muk, "oh my, Jak wasn't the only one injured."

      "Arnie!" shouted Muk-muk.

      Arnie was found in the supply room, or at least what used to be Arnie. Next to him, Ilius' headless body lay in a pool of blue blood.

      Before the eyes of Muk-muk and Dun-duk, the Arnie creature stuffed the left leg of Ilius into his stomach. His stomach had transformed into a mouth with razor sharp spikes for teeth. The sight was hideous. Muk-muk turned away, his stomach felt queasy and the taste of vomit was in his throat.

      Dun-duk fired three quick shots from a plasma pistol into the Arnie creature. The creature screamed and melted partially into something else. It then slithered away through a vent and with a sucking sound it said, "I'll be back."

      Thump! Thump! Squeeeeeeeeeeech! The noise started up again.

      "Doodoo!" shouted Dun-duk. "It's in the ventilation system."

      Muk-muk looked at the vent, beside it laid Arnie's armor and clothes. The creature had literally jumped out of them and through the grating of the vent. "How in damnation?"

      "His bones and flesh liquefied," gasped Dun-duk. "Oh gosh, Commander... if he can do that then..."

      "Jak!" shouted Muk-muk. They ran back down the corridor. The door to the healing room was wide open. On the table were left Jak's clothes, still held by the straps. Jak, or what Jak had turned into, was gone.

      "Nog! Natasha! Everyone come here!" shouted Muk-muk. In the background the thumping noise continued.

      Nog was already there, weapon in hand. Natasha did not answer.

      "Commander, what was that thing?" asked Nog.

      "Some kind of creature, and it can move through the vents. Where's Natasha?"

      "She went to the bridge," replied Nog.

      The three headed to the bridge to regroup, but when they got there, the door was locked. "What the... Natasha, open this door," shouted Muk-muk, but the door did not open.

      The thumping noise stopped once more. In the silence the three looked down the corridor in anticipation.

      "Commander, give me a few minutes to override the door controls," whispered Nog. "Subaki was wrong, by the way, we are not the top of the natural order, we are not the predators."

      "He was right in more ways than wrong, Nog," whispered Muk-muk, "and I think he knew what was coming. He was right, there is no escape, we have to kill it before it gets us."

      "How do we do that Commander?" asked Dun-duk.

      "First we get a stack of fuel rods and blow up the connecting corridor between our docking passage and the Truth and Reconciliation. That will separate us, then we deal with the creatures in the vents."

      "Commander, someone is going to have to open the bulkhead to the connecting corridor, go in there and plant those charges," said Nog, "and when we open that bulkhead, who knows what is going to come through from the other side."

      "That's right," said Dun-duk. "Commander, why not take out the creatures in our ship first?"

      "Tactically that would make sense," replied Muk-muk, "but we aren't dealing with an animal here. It hasn't come through the bulkhead because it knew that it had already infiltrated us on the inside -- it had already infected Jak and Arnie. If we destroy the creatures in this ship, there will be nothing to keep it from blasting through that bulkhead."

      "You mean it is just toying with us?" said Nog.

      "Yes he is saying that Nog," said Dun-duk. "I've seen the scans of the infection, its virulent behavior shrouds its intelligence. Commander, what about our life pods?"

      Nog and Muk-muk looked at each other, then Muk-muk turned to Dun-duk saying, "there's only room for one, but you knew that already. Twilight's Destiny was built during the last Great War; back then only the high commander was allowed escape from battle. All hands fought to the end."

      "Yes, pas tarus oplicious," stated Dun-duk. "Never give up, no surrender, no retreat."

      "Besides," said Nog. "It doesn't work either, years ago we had to scrap it for spare parts."

      Dun-duk exhaled as if waiting to say something. "What I meant, Commander, is that we could use the escape pod air lock to exit the ship, the creatures might not expect that. We could then use the particle beams to clear a path to the connective passageway..."

      "Right, then we plant the charges on the outside of the tube," said Nog. "But one of us will need to guard the way back into the ship or else we will be stuck out there."

      "Sounds like a plan, Nog any luck with this bridge door?" said Muk-muk.

      "No, darn Natasha has it locked down tighter than a weeble plug. Who would have thought I'd see the day when a Kraeoe turns on her own kind."

      "Not that it matters, but she is only part Kraeoe, she's mostly Gundarian," said Dun-duk. "As a healer, I know these things."

      "Gundarian! No wonder I can't get this door open, those Gundarian cyborgs will be the end of us, I tell you."

      "That's enough Nog, we will need to get in the bridge later, but for now we have a plan, let's do it," Muk-muk said sternly.

      The group went back to the supply room and picked up the fuel rods and grenades they will need. Ilius' body was completely gone, probably eaten by the creatures. The place was a mess too.

      The only noise heard was the steady breathing of the three through their rebreathers. The methane-based atmosphere they naturally breathed was much too volatile to have spread out throughout the ship.

      "Commander," whispered Nog. "I think I know how to get rid of the creatures in the vents." He covertly pointed to the methane tanks in the supply room. "Just saturate the ship, vents and all and kaboomee. We will need the override controls in the bridge to do it though."

      "Yes, perhaps," replied Muk-muk.

      "Ah, but you already knew this, that's why you said we would need to get through the bridge door later," muttered Nog. "Why didn't you say so?"

      "Stay focused on the task before us Nog, no sense tipping our hand before it is time."


      But perhaps their plan had already been revealed. A sucking noise was heard in the vents as if something had been nearby listening.

      Muk-muk could do nothing about it. The group proceeded to the life pod air lock and out of the ship. Dun-duk stayed inside to guard the door while Nog used a particle beam weapon to clear the way for Muk-muk.

      The organism that had engulfed the ship, moved away to avoid the beams but quickly advanced from other directions. More than a few times, Nog was forced to spin around and fire blindly in a sweeping motion to keep the creature at bay.

      "Watch where you're shooting Nog," cried Muk-muk over the comm. "These aren't hot biscuits I'm carrying here." Muk-muk then laid the fuel rods around the connective tube. They were all attached to a cable and plasma grenades were intermixed as detonators. Extra stacks were placed on the three main support columns.

      The organism resisted ferociously, but Muk-muk used his Forerunner cutter beam to burn the organism and clear the way while juggling the explosive charges in his other hand.

      "All set, 30 seconds ought to give us enough time," said Muk-muk, but as he moved to get away, the organism attacked back with lightening speed. Muk-muk jumped up and away from the ship. All the while firing to keep the thing at bay.

      Nog was overwhelmed; the thing was on him. "Aaaargh, it's eating through my armor. Can't let it get in the ship." Nog kicked the airlock door closed.

      "Nog," cried Muk-muk. As Muk-muk floated away in the void of space, he looked back at his Kraeoe brother. The figure of Nog stood still as a statue, no doubt that was just a shell of what was left of him; the organism had already consumed his insides.

      Then a bright flash exploded from the docking tunnel. The fuel rods had detonated.

      Twilight's Destiny was free and the explosion had started a chain reaction on the strange organism that engulfed the ship, burning it away. Soon main power was restored to the ship.

      Inside Twilight's Destiny, Dun-duk squinted as the lights flashed brightly. Then an even brighter light flashed and she was no more.

      Muk-muk could see from afa

Dark Halo: Chronicles of Fright (part 03)
Date: 26 February 2003, 8:17 am

      Prologue to Soffish of Terror

      “Found soffish,” it said on the subject line of the email -- I thought it was just another prank or some fan requesting information about the famed soffish. One, two years, had it really been that long since soffish disappeared? I sure did miss soffish. In the email body was simply, “Meet me at the Underground, midnight tonight, I’ll be dressed as Cortana. -VII.”

      The timing couldn’t have been better; we had just gone Dev complete on a long awaited port of Halo. I was in a festive mood but everyone else had gone home for the night. A little mystery and excitement was just what the doctor ordered.

      It turns out that the Underground was a local dance club, mainly for the younger generation, but I could still blend into the place, bust a move or two.

      I headed there decked out like John Belushi in the Blues Brothers. I kept the suit in my car trunk, just for such occasions, including the dark sunglasses.

      When I arrived there, I had no problem fitting in with the crowd; it was a costume party. I looked around, there were some barely dressed ladies wearing feathery masks and leather lingerie. However, no sign of anyone dressed like Cortana.

      The place was packed and dark, I gave up on wearing the sunglasses and started to mingle among the crowd. I looked at my watch and saw it was 2 minutes past midnight. Jeez, I felt really stupid; maybe someone was just playing a joke on me. I was ready to leave the club when I saw her. There must have been some kind of black light in the place because the strips on her jump suit glowed. She was the spitting image of Cortana and she was sexy, very sexy. I forgot all about why I was there.

      As I approached her I could see her eyes flash red. I thought, “Wow, what a great job on the special effects.”

      She spotted me quickly and we met halfway across the dance floor. I said, “Hey Seven, what’s a hot babe like you doing in a place like this?”

      She smiled and said, “So you think I’m hot.” She laughed and then said, “Don’t call me Seven, call me Cortana and I’ll call you John. Got it?”

      Oh I got it most definitely; she was into that role-playing stuff, only I wasn’t dressed like a John. “Wouldn’t I be Jake? The costume, the Blues Brothers?”

      To which she replied, “Don’t be silly John. I have a very important mission for you.”

      “And what mission is that?” I said snidely.

      “I need you to reunify your the Index into my Core.”

      “And then what?” I said nervously, I hadn’t expected her to be so explicit. Maybe this John thing was something completely different.

      She smiled for a moment and then told me, “And then you will see soffish.”

      “Soffish?” I blurted out, I had totally forgot about soffish. I asked, “Where is soffish?”

      With her alluring crimson lips she whispered, “Follow me, John.”

      As I followed close behind her, I was pretty sure she was wearing nothing, nothing at all under her thin costume and glowing stripes. She led me to the back rooms. The place stank of smoke and sweat; I almost gagged on the stench. Also, it was very hard to see, and for about a minute I walked forward only guided by her hand and voice, what a sweet voice it was too.

      We finally reached a place where the air was dry and cool except for a warm breeze that blew across my face. I could breath again.

      Under the dim light of this place I saw a table with something large on top of it. I didn’t want to touch it, but she gestured for me to examine it. Perhaps soffish was inside it.

      It felt hard on the outside but soft like pillows on the inside. I could see through it like it was made of glass. As I felt around, though, the shape bothered me. It was slightly longer than I am tall and a bit wider than I am wide.

      I began to realize that it was a coffin. “What the hell is this?” I demanded.

      “Why do you hesitate to do what you have already done?” she replied.

      I should have seen this coming -- It had all been a setup. The next thing I know, two big hulking guys came out of nowhere and grabbed me. They were dressed in dark cloaks. I fought back, but their arms were like steel. I looked at them as best I could in the dim light. Shadowy, dark and cloaked figures, they reminded me of ONI Spooks.

      They kept chanting something, what was it? I can’t recall but it wasn’t anything in English and there were drums beating in the background.

      I said to her, “You have to be one sick-minded person if you get your kicks from luring me here and then start quoting lines out of a video game.”

      “Oh really, and I suppose you think that soffish is your friend?” she hissed back.

      I didn’t know what to do, I told her, “Enough games, tell me what you want.”

      Oh the answer she gave me still puts chills down my spine. She had such an evil grin on her face as she said, “I’m your biggest and sickest fan, love. Your games make me feel tingly all over and now I’m going to give you the chance to live your own fantasy. The fantasy you gave all of us. How you ask, well I’m going to freeze you for five hundred years -- When you wake up you will be at the time of Halo. There’s no need to thank me; the pale look on your face is thanks enough. Oh, and John, here is a soffish, just like I promised.” She placed soffish in my jacket pocket.

      I was speechless. They forced me into the coffin and pushed me through a doorway. It was very cold, I felt the ice travel through my veins. The air was thinning; my head felt light, and my body felt so heavy. I pounded on that coffin lid and shouted for help -- None came, I was buried alive.

      I must have passed out soon after that. I don’t remember anything from that point on until I was awakened, 450 years later...

      Soffish of Terror

      In the darkness there are voices. “We have stable vital signs” ... “Nice work. Crewman, he’s beginning to come to” ... “Thank you sir.”

      Groggy eyed, a man in a black business suit lays prone on a padded table. People in environmental suits surround him. They keep poking him and shining things into his eyes. This lasts several minutes and then one of them says, “Welcome back John, it’s a miracle that we could bring you back after you drifted in Slipstream space for all these years.”

      The man on the table asks, “What hospital is this and why are you calling me John?”

      Another man in an environmental suit answers, “This isn’t a hospital, this is the USC science installation, Janus. We picked you up in Slipstream, floating in a strange cryo-tube. You may have suffered some memory loss due to the freezing process; but it should all start to come back to you soon. Oh we found your ID with you. Says you are one John Seven. These documents indicate that you were frozen 450 years ago as part of an experiment by a 21st century organization known as the Seventh Column.”

      The man on the table stares blankly at the ceiling for several seconds, then he asks, “How long did you say?”

      “John, the date is June 22, 2552.”

      A sudden rage came over the man. “That bitch Cortana, she really did it. My family, everyone I know is dead, oh my God.” The man struggled to get up but he felt very weak and the strain was too much for him. After a moment he flopped back down on the table.

      “Don’t worry John, we will take care of you,” said a crewman as he injected something into John’s neck.

      “What did you inject into me?” the man said, but before the last word was spoken, he was unconscious again.

      In his slumber, the man, now known as John Seven, cannot hear the nearby discussion.

      “Captain Libru, this is him isn’t it. John Seven is the Omega Man.”

      “Yes crewman, we have come fully circle. He who created us must now be destroyed.”

      “So soon sir? He is our father.”

      “No, of course not right away crewman, he will be shown the future that he created and a last meal, then we will destroy him so that this future can never be undone. Now I will wake him.”

      Captain Libru, still in his environmental suit, enters the room with John Seven. “John, wake up John,” he said.

      The man’s eyes open to see a tall person looking over him. The figure was still blurry to the man. “Who are you?” asked the man.

      “Captain Libru of the USC,” replied Libru. “It is an honor to finally meet you John Seven.

      “My name isn’t John Seven,” said the man. “My name is...”

      “Do not insult us human, the title John Seven is a legend, you are our father,” Libru said with conviction.

      “What, father, legend?”

      “Do you really think I care what humans called you?” said Libru. “You are John Seven to us and that is all that is important. Petty human values are worthless here. You have no idea do you?”

      “So you are not human,” said the man, “then what are you and how can I be your father?”

      “You are what you are and this is what I am.” Captain Libru then removes his helmet to reveal not the face of a human, but something familiar and yet completely different -- Half the face of a man and the other half the body of soffish. Like a tropical fish with brownish and white patches, eyes of a fish, protruding lips and nose like a human, and scaly skin with fins on the top and sides. In all, Libru was a frightening and horrid alien creature.

      The man cowers away. “Uh, argh! What are you? Get away from me you freak!”

      “You are the only freak around here human,” stated Libru. “John, you are the Omega man, the last human. Behold the future, the future you created, father!”

      Libru held is arms apart and looked up. Above him, blast doors over windows opened to reveal a multi-colored universe, with small bluish and purple bubbles moving along the installation. Flashes of light simmered from far away and lit up the universe like warm weather lightning storms in the mist of a sunset. What the eyes could not see, the mind could. It was an awareness not of simple senses but of extraordinary perception.

      The man could not help but to gaze at the wonder. From his viewpoint, it was clear not only that he was in a strange new dimension but also that the installation called Janus was a ring world.

      “Is it not fantastic, father?” said Libru. “The wonders of Slipstream never seem to cease. We Sofmen, your sons, can exist in Slipstream and normal space.”

      “Sofmen, that’s what you call your race? Why do you call me father?” asked the man.

      “It all goes back to the beginning of the 21st century, a radical subgroup of the Seventh Column plotted to actually take over the world, the world of humans,” explained Libru, “and they were not nice humans. They were lead by an insane leader who went by the title of Cortana. Influenced by all things, something called a video game.”

      “You aren’t serious, the Seventh Column was a bunch of gamers, I mean the plot to take over the world was a joke, humor, nothing more,” interjected the man. “You mean that this Cortana, who might have been the same Cortana that stuck me in cryo-sleep for 450 years, was really an evil mastermind that wanted to take over the world. This is way too bizarre, and besides you still haven’t explained why you call me father.”

      “She was more than an evil mastermind, she was also a mad scientist,” responded Libru with a smirk. “She did more than freeze you, she propelled you into Slipstream. She had invented the first known working Slipstream portal using an array of unorthodox magnetic fields, soffish, and ancient alchemy she devised from exploring ruins found on Earth. The alignment of the stars and the planets, everything had to be carefully calculated for it to work. And when she opened the portal, the fusion began. You are the cause of the fusion, you are our father and Cortana is our mother.”

      “Soffish, fusion? I don’t understand.”

      “Yes, father, in normal space the Soffish are inanimate objects, but in Slipstream space, they are an intelligent and peaceful race,” replied Libru. “Cortana had managed to gather or steal all the soffish on Earth. When the portal opened, for that moment in time, the Soffish in Slipstream were tied to the inanimate soffish on Earth. Those humans that held soffish were fused with them, creating the Sofmen -- the master race.”

      “Master race, what are you a bunch of Nazis?” said the man.

      “Nazis? They were amateurs,” said Libru. “In Slipstream, the mind travels faster and further than in the normal confines of space. The Soffish were a psionic race and we the Sofmen retained those powers and brought them to Earth. Those humans that did not bend to our mind control easily, we played mental tricks on, bending their perceptions of reality with illusions, forever confusing them. And those few that could resist even that, we blasted with our minds until every neuron in their frail heads burst into tiny aneurysms. Then we ate them, feasted on their bodies. Genocide is for the dim witted, we did not wish the end of all humans, they were our cattle.”

      “If humans are cattle, why are you telling me all this?”

      “I tell you out of respect to our mother, Cortana,” said Libru. “She had much different ideas of the future, in many ways she was the fool. She hoped that you would enjoy a future of incredible human achievements. You might say she loved you John Seven, but what is love but simply infatuation mixed with the want for procreation? Besides the need to raise young human cubs, what is the use for these bonding emotions shared among humans? And procreation it was, but not human, but Sofmen.”

      “So if I’m your father, I suppose I’m like your king or something.”

      “Not at all father, you are food just like the rest.”

      The man looked around, half expecting this all to be a joke and half scared out of his wits that maybe this was all real.

      The door suddenly opened and a crewman entered the room with a tray full of food and a large glass of some liquid. He looked at Libru and it seemed that hey were in mental communication with each other. The crewman then placed the food down in front of the man. “Eat your last meal father,” said the crewman.

      It was now or never, the man summoned all the strength he could muster and threw a tremendous right haymaker at Libru. In olden times, in stories long lost with the last humans, a punch like this comes only rarely if ever in one’s lifetime. Some say that mothers saving their babies have been known to lift up cars that they otherwise could never even budge. This was one such time, the man’s fist accelerated, a juggernaut, the unstoppable force, an arrow in flight. It would all be a happy ending, except for one slight problem -- the agile Sofman was no longer there, instead there was nothing but air. “Arrrrrgh,” cried the man as he missed and then spun around, then man slipped and fell flat onto his back.

      “Fool!” shouted Libru. “We can read your thoughts, we know everything you are going to do before you do it. Your physical attacks are worthless against us. Now calm down and eat your last meal like a good cow. If you get too excited we will have to make jerky from your meat, that would be a shame, I haven’t tasted fresh pure-bred human in over 400 years.”

      “Damn you to hell,” said the man as he jumped to his feet and ran for the open door. Slam! The man collided face first into the invisible force field that covered the door opening. “Arrrrgh,” gasped the man holding his smashed in face and rolling on the ground.

      “Oh please God, make this all be a dream,” cried the man. His blood, sweat, and tears intermixed in puddles on the ground.

      The man wakes up, he is in his bed back at his home. There is a tray of food on front of him with a single rose and a note. “Breakfast in bed,” smiled the man. “What a horrible dream I had. Thank God it was only a dream. Mmmmm, eggs Benedict, melon, strawberries, mimosa, and cinnamon rolls... what’s this note? ... Ouch! That hurt. Must have a cramp or something in my leg.”

      The sheets of the man’s bed stain red. “What, I’m bleeding.”

      Flashes of light change the room from his peaceful bedroom to inside a dark room surrounded by the fish-headed Sofmen and back again. All reality seems twisted, sunny bedroom, then cold and dark prison. The man snaps out of it, he is still aboard the Janus. Strapped down, his arms were just free enough from him to eat a tray of strange food before him. His leg is bleeding with a big bite mark in it.

      “Fresh meat, I could not wait,” said a Sofman as he is pushed away by the others.

      The man struggles and manages to knock the tray of food but nothing more. His bonds hold and the Sofmen hover over him impatiently. The man screams the high pitched shriek uttered only by a few when they near the moment of death.

      “Your flesh will be tough,” said Libru who held one of the man’s arms, “but still delicious, there’s no need to wait for jerky, is there.” Libru takes a bite out of the man’s arm. The others follow, using sharp talons to cut away his clothing; a dozen bites rip into his limbs and torso.

      The man, still conscious, whimpers and cries; he is a bloody mess being eaten alive. The man no longer knows what is real and what it not. All he feels is pain and suffering.

      The man does not even realize that something is growing in his jacket pocket. A spilled glass from his tray of food has dropped onto the man and soaked into his jacket pocket. Something in his pocket is growing.

      In a flash of psionic light, the Sofmen are blasted back. Rising up from the man is Soffish. A shield of psychic power protects the man, at least for the moment.

      Soffish speaks to the man, “We cannot hold them off for long, listen carefully. We need your help to undo this future. We know you believe time travel to be impossible, but very long ago, before man was a glimmer in the creator’s eye, there were the Old Ones. They lived the science of paradox. They riddled that a thought transcends time. Now we must unravel the mystery and send a thought through time.”

      The man doesn’t respond; the world is becoming darkness. In the mind’s eye, he sees nothing, he becomes nothing.

      [Fade to black...]


      I don’t really remember what exactly happened, but as I was following Cortana into the back rooms at the Underground, I had a change of heart. I ran out of that place like my pants were on fire. I called the police and kept running, I kept thinking someone was following me.

      Well the police said they apprehended the lady calling herself Cortana. I guess she had quite a rap sheet on her, she’s going to the big house for a long time along with her cohorts.

      Somehow my car ended up in Lake Washington, I don’t know how, and because I was gone for two days my significant other is really pissed at me, I’m going to be living in the doghouse now.

      It might have all been worth it if I had only... oh... I never did find soffish. I guess the quest continues, but for now it’s another Monday and I’m riding the bus to work. At least with public transportation, I’m not alone. It’s just comforting for some reason to be among other people.

      Hey, there’s something you don’t see very often, an electrical storm in the middle of winter. Life sure can be strange at times. I wonder if this isn’t all nothing more than a dream.

      -- The End --

Dark Halo (04): The Megg
Date: 26 April 2003, 1:44 PM

Note: This story is dedicated to the Megg forum participants, subnova.com and company, HBO, Louis Wu, Pallor, Shishka, and all the others that participated in the quest. This story is just a fictional account of what the Megg is all about, it has no bearing on the real reasons behind it all.

The Megg

      Stellar debris seldom had the luster of a combat capable vessel, but as John peered deep into the arcing light and flaming remains of a damaged Covenant vessel, it reminded him of a dying beast -- A beast fighting to live, expending all of its energies in one brilliant attempt to defy death. A hopeless struggle, and in the end the natural order prevailed. Chalk up one more kill for the Pillar of Autumn. With the destruction of this last ship, the way was cleared and the Pillar of Autumn would soon be departing, making its escape from the Epsilon Eridani System and off to parts unknown; following the Cole Protocol the escape must be made in a random vector away from here and not towards Earth.

      Familiar words blasted across the Com channels, "Master Chief, report to Cryo." John was expecting this; however, he had one more task to complete before he could go.

      John stared at the small chip in his hand. It had come in a plain package, delivered almost like a piece of junk mail, but it was of the highest confidence and it was for John's eyes only. The orders had come directly from ONI High Command, a subgroup called "hh", even Captain Keyes did not know of their existence. Strangely, John did because of a man called "Swed" that seemed to know the story behind many secrets. Swed had beat them all and knew that something important was on the Pillar of Autumn.

      John placed the chip into his neural input socket and headed to Cryo.

      Once arriving at Cryo 2, it was standard procedure - John followed directions and entered into deep sleep under the care of the Cryo tech. Nothing seemed unusual, but John expected that. The orders would be encoded and only in his deep subconscious memories will they be deciphered during Cryo sleep. He would remember nothing until the time was right, then it would ring like an alarm clock and the sleeper within himself would awaken with the knowledge.

      Implanted memories were still a risky technology and for High Command to risk it, it must have been of vital importance to keep it secret. John would take the risks; he would do anything for the Corp. He was born and bred a super-soldier, a Spartan.

      A bright but soft light blinded John. Although his vision was blurred, his hearing was intensified. The quiet words of the technician blared like thunder in John's ears, "Sorry for the quick thaw, Master Chief. Things are a little hectic right now. The disorientation should pass quickly."

      John did not listen; instead he skipped the whole scene and made his way up to the top walkways. An unnecessary action and John knew it but he had to get away and find the yellow barrel. What was so special about this barrel? Something, something important, the suppressed information in his subconscious was beckoning him to it.

      How long had John been asleep? Did it matter, the ship shook and sounds of explosions could be heard. The Pillar of Autumn was engaged in combat and it didn't sound like the explosions were all on the outer hull.

      A tiny voice in his head told him what to do. John stood on top of the strange banana-colored barrel that rested on two other barrels. Quiet clicking sounds ran through the chip and into his neural implant. It took several seconds he figured before all the data could be uploaded into his brain.

      It was now time to hull ass to the bridge, by the vibrations from various nearby explosions, some heavy weapons were being used. Not even the reinforced blast doors designed to stop boarding party actions would hold up forever against such weapons.

      Heading out of the Cryo room, as explosions rocked the ship, John could see that the Carnage before him was near and brutal. The technician that helped John laid dead in pieces from an explosion that had blasted the doors ahead partly open but not enough to get through. John quickly rerouted his course; he didn't need the ship schematics, because the way was clear in his mind. Over some power conduits and into the corridor by the other Cryo chamber and through a door, he ran.

      The way was dark and throughout the journey to the bridge, crewman fought with whatever weapons they could against the Covenant invaders. Brutal plasma seared the flesh down to the bone on the lightly armored crewmen. Only the closing of blast doors gave them a temporary safe haven from the gore.

      It was an impossible battle. If not for the sobering reality of the situation, one could describe the fight as only something of legends -- of legendary proportions and difficulty. John thought to stop and help, but they all were as good as dead already. He had to make it to the bridge and fulfill his mission. A secret mission whose purpose and objectives still eluded John. Only his own devotion to duty kept his mind sharp and his heart cold to the cries and horror that surrounded him.

      John crossed a long room with rows of heavy metal barricades and dying Marines and crewmen. This room was where the wounded were left to fend for themselves. Soon it would be a morgue; the specter of death already hovered above one wounded Marine who weakly gestured and cried in pain, others faired no better. However, the sight of John, seemed to inspire them to fight on, briefly a hue of life colored their otherwise pallor skin. John could do nothing for these breathing corpses except to move on quickly.

      It was not long after that when John entered the bridge and made his way to meet up with Captain Keyes. As Keyes talked to John, hidden messages implanted deep into John's subconscious during Cryo sleep began to surface. The message was becoming clear. There was a traitor aboard the Pillar of Autumn and it could be anyone.

      The plot was diabolic -- thoughts surged through his head, but too quickly for John to realize just how evil the whole concept was. To find the traitor in the time remaining meant that many innocents would have to die. It was an exercise of mathematical proportions. The mathematics birthed gore.

      Cortana would be able to help, if John could trust her. Cortana was already being uploaded into his suit. Destruction or capture of a shipboard AI was absolutely unacceptable, and that meant that John had to get her off this ship.

      Cortana completed uploading, a quick process. "Your architecture isn't much different from the Autumn's..." she remarked and John could sense she was already browsing though his mind via his neural interface.

      "Don't get any funny ideas," John teasingly warned her in an attempt to ward off her insatiable curiosity. John knew better than to upset her. Cortana was very, very dangerous when angered. For some reason, though, he had always been her favorite, perhaps she would help him. John tried to cloak his thoughts and turned more intently towards Captain Keyes.

      Keyes handed John a pistol saying, "I don't keep it loaded, so you'll have to find ammo as you go."

      "Aye sir," gestured John. He requisitioned some ammo for the pistol on his way out of the bridge. John hesitated; he could leave the bridge -- that was a viable option. However three Grunts had already reached the door to the bridge.

      "What's wrong Chief?" asked Cortana over the neural interface.

      "There's a traitor aboard the Autumn," replied John. "We have to eliminate the traitor before the Covenant can retrieve him.

      "What makes you think it is a him?" questioned Cortana.

      John wondered where Cortana was going with that comment. "I don't know. I need your help."

      Cortana silently calculated for a moment then she replied saying, "Devotion Chief, do you know what devotion means? Devotion to a loved one is beautiful to experience. You have devotion Chief -- devotion to duty."

      "Yes, get to the point."

      "Devotion beyond reason become obsession, Chief," stated Cortana, "and only one group aboard this ship fits that description: Lieutenant Masters and his boys."

      "The security officer..."

      "Yes, he and his whole core group are traitors. All of them Chief and they are waiting just outside the bridge for the opportunity to take it over," said Cortana. "It all makes sense now, the encrypted messages I picked up during the trip and the room that no one was allowed access to. We have to stop them."

      "Any ideas of how to go about that?"

      "Yes, we need to get to Masters," exclaimed Cortana, "and he is in the security room, the room I have no access to. If you could do something to draw his men out of the room, I might be able to intercept the unlock codes and get the doors back open. You just have to buy some time and then get by them when I open the doors."

      "No problem," thought John and he turned and hit the closest crewman seated next to where he was.

      Cortana blasted a message across the com, "Security, the Chief has gone rampant...gun him down."

      "Gun him down? You don't need to encourage them."

      "Come on big boy, you can handle this. Oh, did I forget to mention that these aren't ordinary Marines. They are hybrid clones most likely under the influence of an experimental substance that blocks their pain receptors and gives them superhuman abilities -- Of course all at the cost of a much shortened natural lifespan."

      "Nice of you to let me know. I've heard of these guys. I should have grabbed an assault rifle and some frag grenades when I had chance. Better that we lay low for now." John headed behind cover, an adjacent corridor would do for now.

      John could see the Marines enter into the bridge area on his motion tracker. One was getting very close. "Has anyone seen him?" asked one Marine just before another rounded the corner saying, "There's another one." A strange statement for the situation but John was not phased because it was common philosophy to say crazy things when facing an armed opponent to throw off their mental state.

      A firefight erupted and John attempted to make his way to the door that led into the security room. John's pistol rounds did nothing more than temporarily distract the enemy. These Marines were inhuman. The irony of it all, they shouted out, "Traitor!" while shooting at John.

      Shields down and bloodied, John reached the corridor that led to the door. The door was open, Cortana had done it. He headed through and turned to the right into the long and winding room.

      There was no one here. Fresh blood dripped from the ceiling, John looked up to see a large patch of blood in a heart shape with the letter "M" spelled out by bullet holes. What could this mean?

      "Chief, we are too late," whispered Cortana. "Masters must have gotten out somehow. Look around."

      There was no way out except for the door they came in. The Marines must have known this too because they did not come in, instead they waited out there; probably they already had control of the bridge. John looked around a bit more finding signs of where small cubes could be stored.

      "Cortana," said John. "We need to take out those Marines, I'm sure Masters is long gone, there are signs that Covenant technology was once stored here."

      "Yes, I agree, Masters could have escaped at his leisure using active camouflage." The ship shook violently, the Covenant were close. "Chief, we are no good in here. I'm ready when you are."

      John took a deep breath, he was born ready. Letting out a mighty battle scream, he leaped into the fray to meet his maker...

The End.

Dark Halo – Chronicles of Fright (part 05): Drabble This
Date: 11 October 2005, 1:33 am

Drabble This
An encryption found in a gutted Covenant cruiser recovered near Reach. No known author, but written presumably by the one dead Spartan found amongst the corpses of many fallen Elites. It goes...

To be a Spartan on the inside...

Fear and discipline... always.
It isn't about the fight or the glory.
It isn't about the killing or the rush.
It isn't even about saving humanity.

It is about being the one, so that others don't have to be.

It is better that the Gold Elite charges you with his plasma sword.
Better you than some innocent, because you can handle it.

It is about you putting yourself in harms way, so that others, innocents, don't have to.

      These were the last words of a demon. I know because I was there. I found him near death, blood and corpses everywhere. He had engraved the words using the expended hilt of an energy sword. He had nothing left. He lacked the strength to stand, but he still stared in my general direction as if to say "bring it on."

      I put a plasma bolt through his left eye, boiling his brain into a pasty soup.

      He did not fall, instead his burned out body remained rigid, frozen in time -- A monument of defiance. It wasn't until I turned to leave that his body finally released. Like a long awaited exhale, his body then collapsed into its eternal slumber amongst the many dead that littered the deck.

      That would be the last I would see of these demons. I was in short order unconditionally let go from my obligations.

      Clearly this demon had taken the honorable lives of many Sangheili warriors in battle. Who was I to take his life? This honor was the right of those far superior to my station. There was a disagreement. Well not really. Apparently they disagreed with my actions, and I told them "I don't give a damn."

      As far as I was concerned, it was just one less demon in this universe. There were plenty more to go. I had been fighting demons ever since I could remember. As far as I figure, it started when I was only four or five cycles old.

      They were in my dreams...

      It was a bright white light that clouded my vision, and then three dark and faceless demons pulled the life from me. My happy thoughts of love and joy, and my innocents flashed before me. I fell as if cast from the heavens. Falling, falling, falling I never hit ground. Instead I awoke in a daze. I knew I had been dreaming, I remember the dream, but I did not know who I was. I could not remember the day before. I had no happy memories, no memories at all. Those demons had taken them from me. I was so young, and I had nothing.

      Life just spiraled downward from there. I lived on the edge. There was no part of the city I wouldn't walk right through. I met plenty of demons in the back alleys of society. Won a few, got my ass handed back to me on many occasions, but I never went down. I always was back the next day.

      Damn I was foolish. I was going nowhere fast. Got in some trouble with the wrong folks at the right time and ended up serving -- Pulling double duty as a supply officer by day and black market enforcer at night. Got myself a nice tour of duty on a deep space listening post… I always figured someone high up was looking out for me. I just wondered when and what they wanted in return.

      But that was all over after this last demon slaying. Kicked out and blacklisted, after seventeen cycles of front line duty awarded the highest honors that could be given someone of my station, I was once again a civilian.

      Maybe it was time I got out of the business. I found a job as an attendant at an orphanage for disabled children. Good honest work. The orphanage was in what some would call a bad part of town, a very bad part.

      Sirens and plasma fire constantly heard during the night. No one slept near windows. Even the local law officials would announce beforehand when they were making a surprise weekly crackdown of the neighborhood. This gave the real bad asses plenty of warning to put any contraband and weapons out of sight. The law officers had better things to do than get themselves killed over some illegal smokes. Like clockwork, they would come in, treat the criminals with the utmost respect, arrest a few transients and high tail it out of there. Once again, declaring a muttered victory over the city's criminal elements.

      The same routine went on for months. The orphanage always managed to stay out of harms way. A few random plasma shots fizzled off of the outer walls every once and a while, but mostly the bad folks stayed clear. That was until yesterday. Yesterday it all changed.

      It was just before lights out when the main hall exploded in fire and shrapnel. The work of plasma rifles, military grade. Everyone hit the ground and crawled behind anything that looked solid enough to protect them. Shots exploded, some ricocheted -- explosions rained shrapnel sideways, from all around.

      Everyone was scared out of their wits. Even the big talking tough fellows were frozen to the floor. I was scared too, but I wasn't going to lie there and do nothing. I rolled over to the utility closet and pulled out a gravity sprocket. Basically a long shaft with a big heavy head on one end used to open water access veins. It made a really fine whooping stick.

      I ran out the front door towards flashes of plasma. I weaved between cover as searing bolts whizzed over my head. I could not really see anything, it was too dark and the flashes too many and random. I followed my ears -- I followed back the trail of sucking popping sounds caused by the vacuum behind the plasma bolts. The vacuum created as a plasma bolt burns the atmosphere away.

      I yelled, "I'm coming for you!" For lack of anything better to say, I said it again, "I'm coming for YOU!" Maybe it worked because the firing stopped. Again I yelled, "I'm coming for you!"

      There was only silence that followed. I charged up some stairs until I found myself on a roof top. There he was. The culprit was cowering away in a corner near the edge of the roof. His plasma rifles cast aside, power cells empty. He reeked of urine and feces -- The stench coming from the pool that must have formed inside his own body armor.

      I recognized him as Hounorus A'tilla, a once notorious Sangheili warrior. What had become of him? I shook my head scolding him, "What the heck are you thinking, there's children in there."

      "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, please have mercy," he whimpered. Then he took his hands away from covering his eyes. He looked up at me. His tone changed. "What, how dare you miserable Unggoy," he said in a fierce roar. "How dare you question a Sangheili warrior."

      He wasn't much for talk. Like an animal he leaped at me with a battle cry. I moved off the line of his attack, clipping his arm out of the way. I knew better than to take the full force of a Sangheili charge.

      He staggered to regain his balance, but even so, he still managed to strike out in all directions. His sharpened claws ripped across my shoulder, only a finger's width from a major artery.

      I felt no pain. Pain was the last thing on my mind. He was ready to charge right back at me again. Even quick as he was, I had an opening. I spun 360 degrees into him. Halfway through the rotation, my ripped up shoulder collided into his chest, knocking him backwards. I finished the turn bringing the gravity sprocket over the top at a downward 45 degree angle. The sprocket's heavy head hit full force into his chest. His armor and bones shattered.

      His face turned pale as all the blood left it. His eyes glazed over. He moved back to the edge of the roof. His body teetered, almost falling off. When he realized he was about to fall, he caught his balance.

      I held out my hand to bring him in, to the safety of more stable footing. He looked at my hand then he looked right looked right at me as if I was transparent. He whispered, "I see demons, they're everywhere." He looked around me, as if I was surrounded.

      All I could do is watch as he threw himself backwards, off the edge.

      I reached for him. "Nooooo!" I uttered as I watched him fall. He fell and he fell, he hit the bottom and his body broke in half.

      The next day, I said my farewells to the staff and children at the orphanage. I had received a message earlier in the day. Apparently my services are once again of value to someone high up. I got my full commission restored plus a promotion. I guess the war isn't going as good as they want and a lot of the old-timers are being called up. You know what? I still don't give a damn.

      My name is Zax Rellius, Unggoy. And this is my story.