halo.bungie.org

They're Random, Baby!

Fan Fiction

Halo 3: The Ark by FOrunnER



Halo 3: The Ark-Chapter 1
Date: 9 January 2005, 5:17 AM

Authors note: Not really much to say. I'm not as into Halo anymore so my posts may not be as frequent, but I still find it interesting or I wouldn't be writing. This is a pretty long first chapter, and there are spoilers for those who havn't finished Halo 2. Oh yeah, and for those who don't know:
Unggoy=Grunts
Lekgolo=Hunters
Sangheili=Elites
Yanme'e=Drones
Kig-Yar=Jackals
Jiralhanae=Brutes

      "BRING THE SURVIVORS BEFORE ME", the bellow echoed throughout the dimly lit purple room. Every grin was wiped off of every face, and the Jiralhanae and there subordinates stood at strict attention as there leader, there general, entered the High Charity Worship Chamber.
       The Chamber was a large room, circular in design with many pillars embroidered with glowing gems along its circumference. The roof was vaulted a good twelve stories high, hanging from it was a massive silver chandelier of decorative display. Dominating the front of the room was an enormous mirrored window, covered in a patchwork of different colored glass like stained glass, a hologram projected just a few feet from it of a massive Halo ring. Nearly a hundred benches were all lined in rows facing the display.
       Ratakus scanned the room. He was, very nearly, appalled, and that was a hard thing to make a Jiralhanae considering they thrived on carnage and blood. The pillars that had been embroided with the most priceless gems the Covenant could find were scorched black or knocked down all together. Those gems shone no more. The silver chandelier that had projected out beautiful color displays on the ceilings had been smashed to the floor, the energy cables that had been holding it were no longer active. The benches had been uprooted and strewn about, and the giant stained-glass window had shattered into a thousand pieces, its holo-display flickered on and off.
       The Worship Chamber was one of the many holy sites sprinkled throughout the High Charity where Covenant leaders of high statures, such as council members or on occasion even the Hierarchs themselves, came to show there humble loyalty the mighty Gods. No violence had ever allowed in the Worship Chamber, as part of the Covenant oath you swore that you would never fight on Prophet-decreed sanctuaries. Fighting on holy sites was one of the highest forms of sacrilege. He had once seen a pair of Kig-Yar fight in a holy site, the next they had been beaten to near death by Unggoy 'volunteers' then hung by there genitals and paraded through the city. They had still been alive, and survived the ordeal only to rot in the jail cells.
       However the Prophets had given Ratakus permission to do whatever was necessary to rid the High Charity of the Sangheili scum. Knowing that violence was not allowed in the Worship Chamber, many Sangheili had sunk refuge there as a chance to regroup. They had established a make-shift base and his forces, not knowing what to do, stood outside the chamber dumbfounded. When the order had been given, they swept through the holy site like a wave. Sixty units later victory had been assured, and nearly a platoon of Sangheili and three pairs of Lekgolo rebels lay dead, with the same approximate numbers of Jiralhanae, Kig-Yar, and Yanme'e scattered about.
       Ratakus was still scanning the carnage when his Jiralhanae brought four Sangheili before him. Two were white SpecOps commanders, one was a gold Zealot, and the last survivor was a lowly red Major. He was by far the most injured, two of his mandible hung limp, burn marks pocketed his armor, his helmet was gone, and there was a moderately deep gash across his chest, mostly likely from the blade of a Brute Shot. They were all forced down on there knees as a trio of Jiralhanae guards a handful of Kig-Yar pointed there weapons at the four Sangheili's heads. Ratakus stood in front of the line of Sangheili. Every individual stared strait ahead and refused to acknowledge him.
       Ratakus inspected them each, then grabbed the red major's should plate and hefted him up. The Sangheili grunted but continued to stare strait ahead, one hand at his side and another over the cut across his chest.
       The Jiralhanae eyed him, "Do you want to live, Sangheili?"
       The question, he could see, had taken him off guard. The Sangheili blinked in surprise for several seconds then maintained his stoic expression. After a few more minutes of contemplating the Sangheili turned his head stared Ratakus dead in the eyes. He snarled then spat on the ground.
       He chuckled. Ratakus un-clipped a Brute Plasma Rifle from his side. The Sangheili glanced at it then raised his head high in a very dignified stance, awaiting imminent death. The Plasma Rifle was shoved into his hand.
       "All you must do, Sangheili, to earn your life and your place in the Covenant back, is to shoot him", a long, hairy finger extended at the Zealot.
       The other Sangheili to turned there heads towards the red major and the Jiralhanae Ratakus. The Junior Chieftain, for his part, was all but bursting out from laughter inside. He would not let the Sangheili live regardless of whether he killed his brethren or not, but he enjoyed pushing the limits of there loyalty.
       The Sangheili, puzzled, looked at the plasma rifle as if he had just been given some incredibly difficult puzzle to solve. The rifle was raised and aimed at the Zealot, both of them shared a look and nodded.
       The blow came so fast that most would not have been able to react in time, but Ratakus had expected it before-hand. The Sangheili attempted to swing his rifle back around and knock him on the side of his head, but Ratakus already had one big hairy arm up to block it. While he was blocking the Majors attack with one hand, the other was already plunging a captured plasma sword into the warriors side. It let out an ear-splitting scream that reverberated throughout the room, which was soon muffled by a gurgle in its throat. The white-hot sword was plunged through and through, however the Sangheili still refused to die. Ratakus pulled the Sangheili towards him on the blade and began twisting it, tearing up its internal organs. A small stream of purple blood escaped between its mandibles as it finally went limp. He was pushed off the blade like a piece of meat.
       The rest of the Sangheili roared with anger and broke there bindings with concealed swords of there own. They didn't even make it two steps before plasma and Needler fire from every conceivable direction punctured there bodies. They all fell with sizzling burns covering there bodies like swiss cheese, one flew apart into several bloody chunks afterwards from a needle explosion.
       Ratakus stepped over the bloodied bodies, and raised his sword high. A cacophony of noises arose in the chamber, growls and hollers from his fellow Jiralhanae, screeches from the Kig-Yar footmen, and high-pitched buzzes from the legion of Yanme'e in the rafters. It all conjoined into one skull-splitting cheer that some claimed they could hear from even the Lower Districts. Victory had been assured, the Sangheili rebels and there followers had been cast down, and at the very least every creature in the room knew they had assured themselves a spot in the Great Journey. The Prophets will' had been done.
       Ratakus managed to be heard over the chorus, aided by a microphone 'collar' around his neck. "MY COVENANT BROTHERS, THIS HAS BEEN A MIGHTY VICTORY FOR SURE. BUT THE REBELS STILL LIVE. WE SHALL JOIN THE FORCES ASSAULTING THE MAUSOLEUM, THEN WE SHALL ONCE AND FOR ALL RID OURSELVES OF THOSE SANGHEILI SCUM AND ALL THOSE FOOLISH ENOUGH TO DEFY THE HEIRARCHES. WE SHALL BRING GLORY TO THE PROPHETS, AND CEMENT OUR PLACE INTO THE DIVINE BEYOND!!!"
       Ratakus forces nearly trampled each other as they charged out of the room. The Brute had sent them into a blood lust. Those filthy beasts let the Prophet of Regret die, and for that they could be granted no mercy. They would avenge the fallen leader....

       Ratakus trailed his rampaging troops. The captured plasma sword was a remarkable weapon, it was a shame that for so many years it had been wasted in such incompetent hands. He held the sparkling sword the light, the blood from his latest kill cast a purple shadow across his face. He grinned and deactivated the weapon. There would be many chances to use in the near future.

___________________________

       Meanwhile, unbeknownst to them, another, greater presence watched them rush out, interested and slightly amused. It to had forces that thirsted from blood, but for now they would work in the shadows. They would wait until the Reclaimer completed or failed to complete his mission, then they would strike. They too would grant no mercy. ......

____________________________


       The room had suddenly turned dark. It was creepy, its vast size made it feel like a gigantic cavern. The lack of security at her back made Miranda nervous. Some sort of mechanical hum whirred to life within the depths of the control room, and a dim, seemingly source-less light filled the room.
       A screen suddenly popped on in front of her. Several small rings spread out along a holographic surfaces, each one with a line of unique symbols sprouting from it with what she could only imagine was technical data. One ring had several breaks along its surface and was flashing red, no doubt Installation 04, and another ring was flashing green. Perhaps the one the were on.
       A glowing purple light was in the center of the display, spider-webs of energy connecting to the other installations. As she was studying it 343 Guilty Spark floated down from above carrying what would have been, at any other time, a very comical creature. It was Sergeant Johnson, hugging the Monitor for dear life as he crossed the chasm, he alternated between cursing in several languages and pleading with numerous divine entities ('OH GOD, DON'T LET ME DIE. OH JESUS.'). Johnson let go of Spark after crossing the perilous drop and nearly kissed the ground he stood on. Miranda ignored the sweating Johnson and addressed Spark.
       "What' that?", she pointed to the light in the center of the display.
       It answered bluntly, a rare commodity, "A beacon"
       "What's it doing?"
       Sounding more like his regular self, "Communicating with super-aluminum speeds with the frequency of-"
       "Communicating with what?"
       "The other installations", it decided to explain further to avoid being caught off guard by anymore exceedingly basic questions. "Secondary protocol. In the event of a canceled firing sequence, the entire system moves onto standby status. The other Installations are now ready for remote activation".
       It added with an irritated huff, "Except for Installation 04"
       Miranda ignored the last quip. She had more important things on here mind. "Remote activation? From here?"
       It chided, "Don't be ridiculous"
       Johnson, annoyed that he was still sweating, growled "Listen tinkerbell, don't make me-"
       Miranda put a hand on his shoulder. "Then where? Where would someone go to activate the other rings?"
       Spark cocked his 'head'. "Why, the Ark of course"
       "And where, Oracle, is that?"
       A giant figure stepped in from behind Miranda and Johnson. The Arbiter and an escort of six Elites returned to the middle of the platform after having disposed of Tartarus body over the side of the chasm. Johnson noted with discomfort how the group surrounded there position. This new alliance was something he may never get used to.
       The Monitor was now completely lost. It turned its 'head' from Miranda to Johnson to the Arbiter then back. For it that was the most basic question they could ask, comparable to asking a full grown adult where his own head was located.
       It's tone suddenly turned suspicious. "I must ask why Reclaimer's. Are you repealing your decision not to activate the rings?"
       Johnson laughed. "Ha! Now why the hell would we do that you dumb bucket of bolts-"
       "ARBITER!!", one of the Elites surrounding there position yelled. The Arbiter and, subsequently, every other head in the room jerked up. Sentinels, dozens of them, were drifting upwards form the chasm below them. Both the shielded and non-shielded variety surrounded them, including an Enforcer. All of them had there laser cannon and/or energy motors armed.
       Everybody on the platform had a weapon up and ready. The Arbiter aimed a Carbine, Johnson hefted a Beam Rifle, Miranda produced a Magnum, and the half-dozen Elites around the loaded/charged/activated various weapons. Even with each of them aiming at a different Sentinel, there was not enough to cover all the targets and more were floating up. Within another thirty seconds those dozen Sentinels and single Enforcer became three dozen Sentinels and three Enforcers. Even as the Arbiter searched for possible weaknesses, strategies, or even escape routes, he became aware that the situation was entirely hopeless.
       The Monitor floated out of arms-reach and started humming. The machine was oblivious to the glares it received from every living creature in the room. When it saw fit, it explained. "Protocol requires me to assist the Reclaimer or Reclaimer's in any way possible. However, if the Reclaimer's actions directly interferes with any part of the protocol itself, as if by removing the Index during the critical count-down moment, then I am authorized to assume the Reclaimer has become rampant and intervene as necessary".
       It turned to Miranda. "Please turn over the Index to me. There is still time to find another Reclaimer and get the countdown back on track. I can assure you that your deaths will all be as painless as possible-"
       Miranda shot it. The bullet sparked off of its housing and elicited nothing more than a scoff, "I am sorry that you have not seen the reasoning in my offer. I quite enjoyed my time with you while in captivity", its next comment was direct at the Sentinels, but purposefully made loud enough for them to hear. "Kill all but the female. Bring her to me so I can retrieve the Index, then dispose of her"
       Before the Sentinels could do just that, an explosion rocked the room. Somewhere up high above, a Scarab energy weapon had punched through the layers protective alloys surrounding the roof of the control room. The lighting of the room suddenly changed from dim to extremely bright as the late-morning sun shined in from outside.
       A large piece of debris speared one of the Enforcers, and a shower of smaller debris knocked out several Sentinels. A few of the mechanical contingent attacked there group, but they were dispatched fairy quick. The majority had already floated farther upwards to face whatever was coming out of that hole.
       The answer was fairly unexpected, a Pelican nose dived its way through the hole and ran over a couple of Sentinels on its way. The rest of them opened fire on it, burning deep gouaches into its titanium bulkhead, but it was another one of the Enforcers that scored the kill with its energy motor. The Pelican plummeted like a rock down the chasm, narrowly missing there floating platform and disappearing into the depths below.
       The crash was still echoing through the room when the Banshee's dropped in. Immediately they started making mince-meat out of the Sentinels and harassed the Enforcers with there fuel rod cannons. However something wasn't right.
       The Arbiter, with his trained eye, noticed it first. Most of the Banshee's dropping into the control room were heavily damaged, that in itself wouldn't have been all that unusual if there was a big battle outside. However he got the feeling that the damage on the flyers were not the result of battle, but of bad flying.
       One of the banshees managed to scrape its left 'wing' against the wall of the Control Room until the anti-grav pod on that side was ripped off, forcing to craft to permanently fly at an unnatural tilt. Another of the Banshee's did nothing but loop-de-loops until it collided with the under-carriage of the Enforcer. And finally, this is how he found out for sure that the Banshee's were not piloted by Brutes or Elites, one of the pilots abandoned his craft altogether. The combat form fell from the rider-less Banshee and onto the wide back of the second Enforcer. It grabbed hold with one gnarled hand and fired a scavenged SMG into the machine with the other. Virtually no damage was done, but the Enforcer was distracted from the main battle as it attempted to shake off the boarder.
       However the Elite-Human alliance had there own problems separate from the battle above. In addition to the Sentinels sent to dispatch them, Covenant forces were sent pouring through both of the control room doors. The Brutes engaged them at the same time the Sentinels still below also engaged them, and chaos consumed. Flood controlled aircraft and Sentinels were battling above, Brutes, Jackals and Drones were mounting a defense against the Sentinels below and simultaneously trying to mount an offense against the Arbiter's Elites and there human alliance.
       The Arbiter rapidly fired Carbine rounds and sent a Brute captain to the ground with a trickle of blood flowing from its forehead. Johnson managed to take down one of the Sentinels with a beam shot, it exploded and showered a trio of Jackals below with shrapnel. A purple armored 'commando' Elite managed to slice apart a Brute that had made the leap to there position, another red armored Elite was blown apart from the waste down by Brute Shots, and Miranda used a few well placed Magnum bullets to shoot a Drone that had been fluttering about.
       It was no use, more just kept filing in. Thankfully they kept most of there attention on the equally large Sentinel force, if either side had turned there full attention to there small band they would have been instantly overwhelmed.
       The Arbiter unleashed the rest of his Carbine clip onto a passing Sentinel, and turned his back towards the battle. He stared intently at the holo-panel and started punching in symbols as fast as his four-fingered hands would allow.
       Johnson fired off a shot with his Beam Rifle and was forced to wait as it cooled. He turned and shouted over his shoulder at him, although he could still barely be heard, "What the Hell are your doing!!"
       "We cannot win this fight, and our escape route has been blocked by the Brutes", he replied calmly, even as a stray plasma bolt was absorbed by his shield.
       Johnson put the Beam Rifle to his shoulder and fired again, this time at a Banshee as it dipped in low in an attempt to turn an Elite into a blood splatter, it succeeded and flew off. Johnson's Beam missed but the pilot didn't seem to be interested in him anyway, it swooped back up and came under fire from several Sentinels. He grunted, "You turning your back on a fight, split-lip!!"
       The Arbiter growled in mild annoyance, "We must protect the Icon from the Brutes and the Sentinels at all cost, which means that this 'Commander' of yours must also be protected. I am attempting to reverse the gravity lift transcending the three platforms so that it will take use down to the lower levels. The shaft at the bottom of the control room on Installation 04 connected directly to the underground tunnels circumcising the rings, and I am assuming this rings control room has a similar entrance to those tunnels. It may be our only means of escape"
       He explained all this while standing calmly in the midst a raging firefight, occasionally catching stray shots on his shields. Those shields were now down to half percent yet the Arbiter had not even flinched when those projectiles hit him or, for that matter, even blink. He was completely focused on his task. The Sergeant had to admit that the Elite had balls.
       While the Sergeant was both keeping his eye on the Arbiter and trying to hold back a wave of enemies, Miranda had drifted from the main body of the group. A Jackal that had managed to traverse the platform had a large grin on his face as he lifted his overcharged pistol, the green glow made him look like some kind of warped monster.
       It was surprised when the seemingly frail human let off a series of quick, accurate shots with its small projectile weapon and rolled out of the way. Most of the bullets either missed completely or hit its shield, but either a very lucky or very accurate round had managed to hit the wrist of its shooting arm. The alien screeched and dropped the pistol, covering its bleeding wrist with its other hand.
       Miranda had completed her roll and now found she had a perfect angle on the Jackal. She fired another trio of rounds and made three neat holes in the Jackals chest. It fell backwards over the lip of the platform, then floated back up. Up on the back of a Sentinel that is. Another one quickly followed it, both had there laser cannons trained on her.
       She closed her eyes, and flew through the air as she was she was knocked to the ground. One of the Arbiters Elites had shoved her aside and absorbed the punishment of the Sentinels lasers on his own shield. The Minor unleashed its own punishment with dual Plasma Rifles. A constant wave of blue-white energy dissipated against the lead Sentinels shields for what seemed like eternity...then finally broke through. The machine seemed to rock in the air as if it were being physically punched, and exploded as the metal protecting its engine evaporated.
       The Elite turned its rifles on the second Sentinel, but it was to late. The laser fire burned through his own shields and cut through his chest. Miranda got to her knees and found her fallen pistol and expended the last of her clip but she may as well have been throwing marsh-mellows. She nearly jumped when it exploded, she still hadn't even broken through its shielding.
       Johnson had expended the last percentile of energy in his Beam Rifle and un-slung a Shotgun as he ran to her. The black man hefted her up with one arm and shouted, "With all due respect ma'm, don't EVER do anything that stupid again"
       She shot him a look.
       "I would have to agree with the larger one", Miranda looked over Johnson's shoulder. The Elite that had shoved her out of the way of certain death was miraculously standing, holding the smoking wound in its chest with one hand, the other grasping one of its plasma rifles. It seemed to have much trouble breathing.
       She was about to thank him when another large explosion sounded overhead. One of the Sentinel Enforcers overhead blew apart piece by piece as its frame finally buckled under the impact of multiple fuel rod rounds. Its flaming carcass fell down chasm, close enough to Miranda's position that she could feel the heat from it.
       "We need to get the HELL out of dodge", said Johnson. He grabbed Miranda and pulled her away, the Elite that had saved Miranda followed.
       The gravity beam in the center of the platform had changed from white to a dark, dark purple. The Arbiter was no longer typing symbols on the console, he had his Carbine up and was covering the purple commando Elite as it was zipped down the shaft in a dark beam of light.
       The Arbiter glanced at them, "Go, I'll cover you from here"
       Miranda had no objections, there was no need of force from Johnson as she was led to the lift and stepped in, the heroic Elite bringing up there rear. They zipped down the beam of light and into the darkness below.
       The Arbiter watched them step in out of the corner of his eye and refocused his attention. He fired several more shots from his Carbine and knocked down two more Brutes, and a sailing plasma grenade took care of tightly-packed group of Jackals. Two of his brothers were still trapped amongst the horde of Sentinels and Brutes, but they would not make it in time. He would still not leave them till he was sure.
       He watched as one of them was felled by an Brute Berserker, it pinned him down and pounded its fist on the Elites chest until the armor caved in and bone broke. The second made skilled use of several grenades and Needler fire to dispatch a group of Jackals and Brutes attacking him, but was ultimately shot in the back by a Sentinel.
       There was no more time for delay, the Arbiter turned around and stepped into the beam. He was zipped down into the darkness with the rest of his comrades. The lift shut down behind him.....



Halo 3: The Ark, Chapter 2- A Legacy Desecrated
Date: 23 January 2005, 8:36 AM

Authors Note: The time of posting is about 1:30 in the morning for me, so I really hope you all like this once. I'll give names to all the chapters in this series, I meant to title chapter one 'Arbiters Escape' but I forgot to type that in. I hope you guys enjoy, and I'm sorry if theres any trouble reading it, I'm beat.
And for those who don't know:
Unggoy=Grunts
Lekgolo=Hunters
Sangheili=Elites
Yanme'e=Drones
Kig-Yar=Jackals
Jiralhanae=Brutes

Halo 3: The Ark-Chapter 2, A Legacy Desecrated

       Ratakus pulled with all his strength, his iron-hard muscles strained against his stubborn enemy. A pair of Jiralhanae attempted to help him, but he turned his head and let out a deep growl. He would do this by himself.
       It finally started to give way, the metallic supports keeping it in place groaned and buckled. The Junior Chieftain gave one final pull, and the crypt slid out of the wall neatly. He used his plasma sword to slice off the top of it. The Sword was quickly becoming his trademark within the Covenant forces, many still had not gotten used to the site of a being allowed to carry such a magnificent weapon.
       On the inside of the purple box-like container was the body of an Sangheili, nearly perfectly preserved and dressed in a magnificent suit of silver armor that shone in the Mausoleum's now dim lighting. The Sangheili had its chins raised and eyes closed, one of its hands was over its chest, covering a ragged puncture wound. Purple blood had long ago crusted over the skin and armor on that part of the body. It's pose signified dignity and pride, a warrior that had sacrificed his life for the greater good of his empire.
       This concept was lost on the two Jiralhanae that had been nearby. The two unceremoniously dragged the body out its resting place. One grabbed its legs while the other grabbed under its arms, and they threw the body into the air. It landed on a pile of dead Sangheili nearly ten feet tall, all of them bearing similar armor. All of them former Arbiters.
       Ratakus and his forces had taken the Mausoleum. That wasn't surprising, he had known that victory was almost a given. What was surprising was that there hadn't been any resistance. Every Sangheili and Lekgolo that had holed up inside the Mausoleum had been killed, including a Councilor. However whatever entity had done this had not targeted only the Sangheili and there allies. Nearly a dozen Jiralhanae and supporting Yanme'e and Kig-Yar infantry had also been smited, no doubt the remains of and assault force .
       Surely at least some of the damage done they had inflicted upon each other, but had a third party not been involved at least one side would have a few stragglers left that would have been able to claim the Mausoleum, but there had been none left alive.
       Well, that wasn't completely true. An Unggoy had seen the entire battle unfold from his shadowy corner, a hiding spot for the cowardly creature. After some severe beatings it had revealed that the human abomination had been responsible for the carnage. The Demon, the Destroyer of the Ring, the Master Chief.
       Ratakus had sweeper teams combing High Charity in search of it, but he doubted it was still onboard. The Prophet of Truth had departed on the Forerunner ship en route to Earth, and Tartarus had left with the Sacred Icon along two high-ranking Human prisoners in tow. There was nothing that the Demon could possibly want on High Charity now, so it most likely had left the city by one mean or another. Perhaps it had taken one of the escape pods, they fired from the High Charity periodically now. Either way, he had to admit to himself that right now the Demon had been a help to him. His forces now held the Mausoleum uncontested thanks to his deed, and they could now carry out the Prophets will.
       Several bodies rained from the sky, all of them also former Arbiters. Some landed in the huge pile, others didn't. Those that missed were dragged over to it by Kig-Yar standing nearby. Ratakus had just pulled out the last crypt from the wall within arms reach, now Jiralhanae with anti-gravity packs (scavenged from High Charities main armory) and Yanme'e were working on getting the ones higher up. Most of the Jiralhanae were working in pairs with several Yanme'e to pull the crypts out. Ratakus took great pride in the fact that he had managed to pull one out on his own. Each one had been sealed into the walls with metal braces that were 'welded' into place. Pulling one out by ones self was an rather large accomplishment, even for a Jiralhanae.
       All the bodies in the crypts were as perfectly preserved as the day they had died, however for most that meant they weren't in very good shape at all. The one that Ratakus had recovered had been one of the better looking ones, chest wound and all. The majority of those pulled out were missing limbs or body parts of some kind, arms, legs, heads, torso's and so forth. It was not uncommon for the bodies to have many scars along the surface of the skin. Some of the more severe ones looked as if they had been charred black, others look like the skin had bubbled and melted while it was still alive. The bodies condition all depended on the circumstances in which they died. Some had been blown apart and parts of them never found. He had opened one crypt earlier where nothing had been left of the body save a head and a spinal column, like some sort of sick staff. He had toyed with the idea of keeping it and using it as such, but decided it would burn with the rest.
       His train of thought was interrupted by the flickering of lights. They shut down for several seconds, then switched back on, but even dimmer than before. This disturbed Ratakus. Ever since the Forerunner ship had disengaged, power problems had run amok within High Charity. A series of generators had been strung throughout the holy city, but they had never been intended to power the whole city. Jiralhanae had evolved on a planet with only a distant red-dwarf as a sun, so they were fine with little light. However in no light they were blind as a Sangheili, and therefore just as vulnerable. Ratakus didn't like that.
       He motioned to a nearby Jiralhanae, his personal assistant Bratakus. He was not particularly tall for his species but was broader than most, a lack of left eye was his most distinguishing feature. Bratakus had made himself known throughout the Covenant for his open hatred for the Sangheili, even before the Civil War. A quarrel with an Sangheili Zealot, 'Argomee, resulted in a scuffle within spitting distance of a holy site. The Zealot had pulled a plasma pistol on him, but Bratakus had overpowered the Sangheili's gun hand and forced it to his own temple. The matter had been simply forgotten by the Prophets. It had been one of the first early signs of the Prophets being discontent with the Sangheili's service.
       Bratakus moved towards him.
       "Have the troops hasten their work. The Mausoleum Tower has encountered several blackouts since our arrival, and I do not wish to be here when power fails completely"
       Bratakus bowed his head. "The last crypts are being opened now. We have amassed nearly all the bodies"
       Indeed it was true. The walls of the Mausoleum had been stripped clean, only the top most ring of crypts were left, and the Yanme'e and Jiralhanae Rangers were already working on removing them. They let the crypts drop to the ground from some twenty-odd stories, most broke open on impact and made it much easier for the Kig-Yar and Unggoy (those that were still loyal to the Prophets word) to get to the bodies. The pile had heightened.
       As per decree of the Hierarchs, as part of the Sangheili's punishment in addition to being hunted down to extinction, every official record of an honorable action taken by a Sangheili to protect the Covenant would be dismissed and, if possible, erased from the Covenant archives. The mere presence of the Arbiters corpses were such a record. They would soon be erased.
       The Sangheili may have been weak and incompetent, but Ratakus knew that they were no fools. Whatever leadership remained amongst the scattered rebel forces must have realized that there Mausoleum was in peril the moment the Prophet declared all Sangheili 'heretics' and ordered there complete extermination from the Covenant. It was an awkwardly indefensible position, simply being one small tower in the middle of a hollowed-out large tower. There was no logical reason for the rebels to have chosen it as a mustering point unless they realized that several thousand years worth of Sangheili ancestry and honor was at stake. They had been trying to prevent exactly what was happening now. They had failed. Just like they had failed the Prophets.
       The last body had been gathered. Two Kig-Yar appeared from a corner of the room hefting rather large looking weapons. Each one had a long, hose like barrel with a brightly glowing end and a thick, stocky purple body that they held under them. The weapons were Incinerators, the equivalent of plasma flamethrowers. They were too cumbersome for frontline use, mostly they were used for sterilizing fields of bodies after Flood engagements, to make sure that there was nothing left for passing spores to infect. Today they would be used to scour away a different kind of parasite. A 1,000 year-old parasite that had been embedded within the Covenant since its formation. The Sangheili legacy.
       The Kig-Yar charged there Incinerators and let loose a wall of blue flames. They licked at the edge of the bodies and refused to catch fire for several seconds, then finally burned bright. The blue-white flames spread until the entire pile became engulfed in flames. The chemicals that had been used to keep the bodies so perfectly preserved released a nauseating odor. It overpowered the whole room and, apparently, every living thing in the rooms senses.
       The Yanme'e turned a slightly paler shade of green (although changes in skin color was the most emotion those creatures ever showed). The Kig-Yar, who's diet consisted of mostly carrion by nature, vomited or ran out of the room covering there mouths. Even the majority of the Jiralhanae covered there noses or at least stepped away from the stench. The few Unggoy in the room weren't bothered by it at all, there own self-contained methane atmosphere blocked it out.
       Ratakus stepped forward and breathed a deep, drawn-out breath. To him it was not a nauseating smell at all, but a smell of success. Once the nausea was set aside, this would be an invigorating morale boost for his forces, even more so than the victory at the Worship Chamber. More importantly, once news spread, it would strengthen the Sangheili's resolve. Make them angrier. Make them stronger. Give him more of a challenge.
       The light of the fire glinted in his eyes. A grin slowly extended across Ratakus's face.
--------------------

       Meanwhile, somewhere within High Charity, a pair of Jiralhanae and a pair of Sangheili fought one another. They occupied a corridor in the Lower Districts, therefore there was no light to illuminate the battle. All power to the 'low priority' parts of High Charity had been lost. The only light there was the brief illumination given off by the blind exchange of red and blue plasma.
       Watching there firefight in an out of the way corner was a lone Unggoy. The orange Minor, Jajawz, suckled a food nipple contently while he waited. He was confident that neither the Sangheili or the Jiralhanae could see him, and he did not plan on revealing himself until one side had one out. He'd stick with whoever ended up being the strongest. Until then all he had to due was enjoy the tangy-flavored nipple.
       The attack was fast and silent. So fast that the little Unggoy didn't even have time to drop his rations. A hard, fleshy spike penetrated his neck, splattering luminous blue blood against the dark purple bulkhead. JaJawz made feeble grabs at whatever appendage had impaled its throat, but it was no use. Even as the Unggoy drew its last dying breaths, it was dragged off into the darkness by the unseen attacker. Little JaJawz had just become the launching pad for the Floods siege of High Charity.
-----------------

       The Arbiter could feel the passage narrowing as eased down through it. The Elite was not claustrophobic, however he became increasingly aware that the passage was getting even narrower the deeper he went. Just as he feared his broad frame would no longer fit, it finally opened up into a large, dome-shaped room.
       The grav-lift lowered him down the room and dropped him a slight hexagonal depression in the flooring. His feet finally, thankfully, hit solid ground. The Arbiter raised his Carbine as he scanned the room, aware only now that the weapon had but three rounds left.
       He was in the center of a large, rectangular room whose walls somehow morphed to become the dome that towered overhead, a few Sentinel portals hung along the walls but from what he could see they were all destroyed. That could have been the work of his Elites, but they weren't there. Miranda, Johnson, and the other two of his kind that had gone down before him were not waiting for him at the gravity lift as he might expect. This heightened his apprehension, a 'chill' ran down his spine.
       The room his was in was lighted in the typical fashion of there lords, an indirect illumination that somehow lit the whole area. Well, at least half the area in this case. That source less glow left half the room dark, and no matter how hard he tried the Arbiter could not penetrate that thick black veil.
       Something gurgled behind the veil. Something slithered. The Elite could hear it clearly. He crouched and waited for it to approach.
       He waited for what felt like infinity. Seemingly nothing stirred behind the darkness, he wanted to call out to his allies, but he feared that if there was another entity in the room he did not want to alert it to his presence. Just as he was about to call out anyway, even if just to bring out his unseen foe so he could face it once and for all, he was stopped again.
       There was another gurgle, or maybe a low growl was the best description. It was to his left. It was closer than the first, much closer. Its origin could not possibly be more than two feet away. The Arbiter spun on his heels and fired a shot in that direction, but hit nothing. Something brushed against his back, grazing the back of his battle armor. The Arbiter growled in disgust and annoyance. His attacker was scouting him, assessing its target. It used tricks and shadows to hide itself, it had no honor.
       The Arbiter stepped backwards as he activated his cameo. His mandibles parted in what passed for an evil grin amongst his race, he would play by this unseen foes rules. He slowly circled around the lighted area of room, sticking close to the wall and away from any direct light sources that would reveal him. No doubt his enemy was doing the same if he had any experience in stealth, so it was likely they would bump into each other.
       As it turned out, his foe was not well versed in stealth combat. From his vantage point in the corner he could clearly see a shimmer in the air, one that had a vaguely Elite shape. It darted around the Arbiters last visible position, as if trying to find him.
       He took aim with the Carbine, and emptied the last two round of his gun. Both were dead on, and the Active Cameo of an Elite Combat form shimmered away. At the same time, the Arbiters own Active Cameo disintegrated, finally giving both enemies the chance to see each other. The Combat Forms first instinct was the rush towards the Arbiters position like its ass was on fire, ignoring the blasts of plasma that splashed against its back from the darkened portion of the room. The Arbiter himself dropped his useless Carbine and activated a plasma sword, he intended to meet this parasite head-on.
       The distance between the two closed in seconds. The Arbiter was the first to lash out, his reach with the sword was slightly longer than the ex-Elites. The energy blade washed against a defunct shield system and lightly slashed at its chest, spraying black ooze out of the wound.
       It returned with its own melee attack, the hardened whip-like appendages sprouting from its wrist slapped at him. The surprising force of the blow sent the Arbiter stumbling backwards and momentarily stunned him, he absentmindedly noted that his shields were down to fifty percent. Before his could gather himself enough to even think about brining up his blade to his defense, another whip-like blow knocked him flat on his ass and dropped his shields down to a tenth of a percent. This time he managed to roll his way out of a third (and what would have been the final) successive strike. Within an instant he had gotten back onto his feet and brought his sword to bear. He had misjudged the close-quarters capabilities of the parasite, he would make sure it did not happen again.
       However it didn't appear that that would be necessary. The Combat Form was not longer interested in him, it had turned to the two tantalizing entrées that had emerged from the darkened section of the room. The two Elites that had escorted the humans Commander were rushing at the parasite, trying to distract it from there temporarily weakened leader. There combined energy bolts at this range didn't seem to hurt it, but it did annoy it significantly. It made another rush, at them this time. The two aliens admirably held there ground, firing there plasma rifles in full automatic.
       As the Combat Form continued its rush, unperturbed, the human soldier called 'Sergeant Johnson' shouldered his way between the two towering behemoths.
       "Hah!! Let me show you boys how a real weapon works!", Johnson brought up his gun and aimed.
       The parasite made a large leap to cover the last bit of distance between it and its potential prey, plasma bolts still having no effect whatsoever. Johnson fired the shotgun as it came bearing down upon him, kicking against his shoulder and sending definitive BOOM!! echoing throughout the room. The effect was instantaneous, the bit of shielding that had managed to reform around it instantly fell and the whole sickly creation came apart. Three main pieces rained down on them, the lower torso, the right-side upper torso, and the left-side upper torso, along with many more chunk sized fists. The infection form inside was visible for a split second, before it to came apart in its own zit-like fashion.
       The fading echo of the shotguns report had silenced the room, or at least the startled Elites in it. Johnson was all talk ("God damn it, I knew I should have brought an extra shirt. Got all these nasty pieces of Flood chunks on me...what is this? What is this? This better be really fat finger or else I am going to KICK SOME SERIOUS ASS!")
       The Arbiter ignored Johnson's increasingly candid remarks and approached the two surviving Elites, a purple armored Commando and a blue armored Minor. Both had plasma rifles in hand, both probably running low. The Commando had a few scuffs in hi armor, but the Minor was in more serious shape. He had a neatly-cut hole running straight through his chest, from his practiced eye the Arbiter could see it had been cut between the Elites two hearts and just above his main air sack, the latter of which had probably been clipped as showed by his trouble breathing. If the shot had been off by a matter of millimeters he would not be alive.
       Both the Elites bowed there heads, the Commando stepped forward. "Excellency, we are sorry we did not come to your aid, but we feared of revealing out position to the parasite. We needed to conceal the Commander before doing so"
       He nodded. "Pay it no mind, what is the status of your weapons?"
       Both Elites examined there rifles.
       "21% charge, Excellency"
       "13% charge, Excellency"
       "As you can see those rifles are woefully ineffective against the Flood. It would be in your best interest to find new ones"
       A new voice entered the mix. The human female, the one with the Icon, Miranda, strode over to them. "Johnson, give them your SMG's"
       Johnson gave her a disapproving look "Mam, I..."
       She put a hand on his shoulder, "Just do it Sergeant"
       He grumbled and handed them each one of the submachine guns strapped to his thigh rigs. He gave them both five clips of ammunition and a brief tutorial on how to work the gun.
       While he was doing that, Miranda addressed the Arbiter. "We need to get to a ship as soon as possible. We cannot let Truth activate the Ark, he'll destroy everything"
       Her tone caused the Arbiter to give her a look. Miranda was sheepishly reminded that she had no official command over these aliens, and indeed a being as such high stature as this 'Arbiter' fellow might not appreciate being ordered around.
       Still, if he was angry he bit his tongue. "We shall make our way to the surface and join with Commander Lao Lasomee's rebel forces. He is gathering Sangheili rebels and there loyal Unggoy and Lekgolo allies throughout the Delta Halo to launch a siege on the Regrets former Assault Carrier, Holy Vanguard. The intention was to use that ships firepower win the fleet battle in orbit, but I could convince 'Lasomee to repurpose that craft for a journey to the Ark, although we have no idea where to go"
       Miranda responded, "We'll figure that out once we get there. We should probably muster with General Khans forces in the valley for the assault on the carrier. I'm betting we could smooth over our alliance with Khans and this Commander 'Lasomee of yours"
      "Indeed"
       She absently nodded to herself, "It all sounds good. Alright, which way the surface?"
       The Arbiter cocked his head, turned around as if looking for something, then looked back at Miranda. He shrugged.



Halo 3: The Ark- Chapter 3, The Enemy of my Enemy, is my Enemy?
Date: 20 March 2005, 7:59 AM

Note: Okay, I'm really sorry that this took so long to get out. Three factors contributed to this: 1) there was a recent death in my family, my Uncle, which I had to deal with, 2) an unfortunate series of computer problems. I'll try to update more regularly now but I can't always guarantee steady release dates. I know the authors notes make the story look 'unprofessional' but I personally could care less, I'm 14 for Christ's sake. You don't like it, don't read the story.

Halo 3: The Ark, Chapter 3-The Enemy of my Enemy, is my Enemy?
      Blood red-plasma slashed against the polished bronze column, melting the century old stone into droplets that splashed about the room. Natural sunlight filtering in from the open roofed room illuminated three Jiralhanae armed with Brute Plasma Rifles, and another three supporting Kig-Yar pulling up in front of them. The plasma fire had Lao 'Lasomee and his two purple-armored Commando Sangheili bodyguards pinned down behind separate columns like his own spread throughout the room.
      'Lasomee primed a plasma grenade and threw it in the general direction of the enemy troops. The Sangheili waited for the plume of plasma to follow, along with the satisfying squawks of the Kig-Yar infantry as they were engulfed in the blast. 'Lasomee stepped out from behind his cover and quickly surveyed the destruction.
      A shallow crater had formed in the room where the enemy squad had once been, a ring of blackened stone encircling the damage area. Two of the Kig-Yar had been killed in the blast, one Jiralhanae was moderately injured, and the rest had been severely disoriented. Before they could regain there composure, 'Lasomee stepped out from behind his cover and activated a plasma sword.
      "RRRRRAAAAAAAAGGGHHH!!!," 'Lasomee let out an earsplitting battle cry that reverberated around the room.
      The cry seemed to shake the Jiralhanae and there single Kig-Yar follower out of there daze, but by then it was to late. 'Lasomee crossed more than half the distance to his target by the time that they saw him. The Jiralhanae he was running at, a Captain judging from the small red flag waving from his shoulder, had jumped in the different direction than the rest of the group to get away from the blast and was therefore isolated.
      Isolated or not, he was armed and well-trained, and there was nothing but open ground between him and the angry Sangheili rushing at him. The Captain brought up his plasma rifle and let out a withering barrage of fire, the bolts bitterly biting at Lasomee's shield. He didn't slow, but the Commander absently realized that his shields were drained to nearly 40%.
      'Lasomee braced his knees, all four of them, against the ancient Forerunner tile. In an instant, he pounced on the Jiralhanae Captain who was still several feet away from him. The surprised ape threw its arms up to defend itself but it was pathetically useless. Even the thick hide and dense, Kevlar-like layers of muscle couldn't withstand the super-fine plasma 'blade' contained within the swords magnetic envelope.
      'Lasomee easily gutted the Jiralhanae with his sword, and performed an uppercut with the weapon that nearly bisected his enemy completely. Purple blood splashed against the Sangheili's weakened shields, illuminating the field of blue energy around him.
      He instantly came under fire from his flank, the other side of the blast crater, where the rest of the Kig-Yar and Jiralhanae were positioned. Lasomee' retracted his blade and ducked behind another one of the bronze pillars that dotted the room. He managed to get behind it just in time to avoid an overcharged bolt from the Kig-Yar's pistol, he could hear the air crackle as the deadly gas rushed by him.
      At the same time 'Lasomee ducked behind cover, his bodyguards returned fire with there plasma rifles. The Kig-Yar had his side facing to them and was instantly taken out, but the Jiralhanae fanned out and returned fire. They wouldn't be caught by another easy grenade, that trick wouldn't work twice. However they were so busy watching for grenades and shooting at there enemy, they didn't realize that the door behind them had just produced two Sangheili. Both of them had dual plasma rifles
      They didn't to hesitate to fire, a near solid beam of energy erupted from the newcomer's guns and tore into the backs of the Jiralhanae. They stumbled about at tried to withstand the barrage, but they could not. Skin melted away and muscle was lit aflame, both creatures died as a gory, smoldering mess.
      'Lasomee and his two guards emerged from cover. Just as 'Lasomee was about to address the two, a rather battered Zealot with a Carbine at his side squeezed between them. He cast a glance around the room and locked his eyes on to the Commander.
      "Excellency, there retreating. We've won!!," The Sangheili's excitement was obvious.
      'Lasomee listened closely. He observed that, indeed, the sounds of battle had changed. The constant zap of plasma bolts being fire had died down immensely, and the begging's of a victory cheer was starting to arise amongst his forces.
      'Lasomee charged through the beings between him and the door, friendly or not. The SpecOps Commander ran up the ramp in a near sprint, the five Sangheili he had left behind tried hard to keep up with him, especially his body guards. He and the entourage trailing him followed 'Lasomee up several more twisting stone ramps of the surprisingly primitive Forerunner temple.
      They reached there destination after several more flights, the upper-most floor of the temple. The Forerunner architecture in this particular building was sloppy at best, the construction had crumbled against the wind of time and was more bland compared to other Forerunner marvels. It was essentially a large, square tower with some smaller rectangular buildings at its base. The whole thing overlooked a grassy plain with numerous hills, boulders, and a sparkling purple ship in the background many miles away. More recently, craters, bodies and demolished scenery were part of the otherwise serenely tranquil sight.
      The same path 'Lasomee had used to attack this temple from was the same way the occupying force was now retreating. His view on the top floor, which had large, open windows looking out over this battlefield, allowed him a very good vantage point. Even without a visual aid, he could see the line of reluctantly retreating Jiralhanae regrouping in the distance.
      Covering there collective asses was a line of lightly armed Kig-Yar, Yanme'e, and the few remaining Wraiths they had left. It wasn't much, but it was enough to keep 'Lasomee's rebels from pursuing. Such a move would have been impractical in first place, but it was the kind of move the overzealous Brute Commanders would anticipate.
      From somewhere below, a trio of Fuel Rod blasts arced over the field at the Wraiths. The first round landed behind the tank and merely jolted it, but the driver made the mistake of scooting up slightly....right into the next two. The heavy radioactive projectiles smashed through the protective armor like tissue. The cockpit of the craft collapsed completely and entombed the driver. The other Wraith, witnessing the death of his partner, decided to pull back. Fuel rods chased him but he managed to move out of the rounds effective range.
      Finally, several Phantoms came in from the proverbial 'east' and let the remaining Wraith and Yanme'e/Kig-Yar troop make there own hasty retreat. Most of the rebels caught out in the open were mowed down the by crafts heavy guns, the rest were forced to take cover. This continued for several seconds before more Phantoms and Banshee escorts appeared.
      The new arrivals opened fire......on the Phantoms stationed over the field. They fired bolt after bolt of plasma blasts and fuel rod rounds at the gun-ships.
      The new arrivals were manned by 'Lasomee's own troop, the air wing of there fledgling army. Most of the craft had been salvaged from battle or had been stationed at Jiralhanae camps that had been overrun. Apparently the Jiralhanae forces hadn't suspected that 'Lasomee had any sufficient air forces, just as he had hoped. They were caught completely off guard and attacked from behind and above, the only two places where a Phantoms guns couldn't reach.
      Some attempted to turn around and fight, others flew off, abandoning the battle altogether. The ones that turned around immediately came under fire from ground troops, most of the small plasma bolts that merely scorched its hull were no threat, but Fuel Rods and fire from a scattered handful of ground vehicles did.
      One of the Jiralhanae Phantoms finally fell, a fuel rod from a harassing banshee managed to penetrate the armored cockpit. The ship took a nose dive and impacted in the middle of a lightly-wooded forest, sending a plume of dirt and shredded tree's into the air. A second later some critical component overloaded, and a blight flare of plasma followed the debris. With the ground forces having already made there retreat anyway, the rest of the enemy Phantoms took this as there cue to leave, flying back to the same east-bound direction they had come from. Back to the Holy Vanguard.
      As the battle cry grew around him, 'Lasomee turned a deaf ear. Instead of celebrating, he gazed longingly at the Flagship and all that it could offer. He would make sure that he got it. Soon.
-
      General Khans himself joined the reconnaissance team he had assigned to watch over the Elite army. That formation had been marching parallel to his own forces, survivors that managed to get off the Flood-infected In Amber Clad. There best chance for getting off of this ring and warn the UNSC of the Flood threat was to capture a Covenant ship. In Amber Clad had had some of the best Covenant-tech researchers in the UNSC on board, and thankfully most had already been grounded so they could study the ring. They would be vital in piloting the ship.
      Unfortunately, the only ship within feasible grasp was the largest ship Khans had ever laid eyes on. After 25 years of fighting the Covenant, Khans always knew one thing for sure about them: big meant important. Important, for both humans and Covenant, meant heavily guarded.
      His assessment turned out to be right, the aliens had had the resources to established a defensive perimeter miles away from there grav-lift. A string of well-armed guard-posts and bases encompassed a roughly circle section of land around the lift, mostly in the lightly wooded areas or open, grassy fields. The thicker forest was devoid of enemy emplacements but were most likely patrolled by ground units.
      Khans had been trying to figure out away to get through this network without half of his force being roasted, however it had turned out to be easy.
      Another force, apparently made up of Covenant troops, had engaged that perimeter and pushed through. Khans had been riding that groups coat-tails ever since he had learned of them, letting them take care of all the heavy work while they followed through the already cleared-out sections enemy territory. There was no honor in doing so, but he wasn't interested in honor. He was interested in surviving.
      Khans had been thoroughly confused about reports Covenant-engaging-Covenant, until he analyzed his scouts recon reports. He, like his advisors, had become convinced that a civil war amongst the Covenant was to blame. The details weren't important, Khans only interest that this civil war had greatly weakened his enemies, and given him a fair shot at taking that Flagship.
      He would have to deal with the Elite-led army clearing his path soon though. Although they had helped him significantly, there destination was obviously the same as his, the Flagship. Taking them out before they reached it was a priority, but a priority that Khans bided his time on. There were still plenty of miles to go, and many more Brute outposts that the Elites could clear for him.
___________________________________________________________

      They had been moving randomly about the tunnels for what felt like hours, and they were making virtually no progress. The Arbiter had done his best to lead the group through the maze-like corridors of the underground facility, but without a map he could have very well been leading them in circles. Not that Miranda could blame him, she knew she couldn't have done better herself.
      The group finally decided to hole up for a while in a small, triangular room they had found buried within the maze. It was bare and made of cold gray steel, the only noteworthy feature was the light display on the ceiling with shifted through different color frequencies in a seemingly random fashion. The humans sat in a corner of the room while two of the Elites guarded the entrances, the third sat in another forlorn corner.
      Johnson slipped a shell into his shotgun as he eyed the Arbiter, who was diligently watching one of the rooms two entrances for approaching hostiles. Ever since the first combat form they had met surprisingly little Flood resistance and only a few scattered Sentinel guards to boot. No, Johnson was more worried about....other potential enemies.
      Miranda saw the glare in Johnson's eye. "Sergeant, what's the problem?"
      Johnson sighed and pulled out a cigar, "Mam?"
      He offered it to her. She turned him down and stared pointedly at the cigar that was already in his mouth. He reluctantly spat it out.
      "There's no problem 'mam, just keeping an eye on our new friends", he spoke louder than she would have liked.
      "Sergeant, I am ordering you to set aside whatever problems you may have about this alliance. We need them if we are going to survive", she whispered loud enough just so that he could hear. None of the Elites had appeared to notice the conversation, but she was growing more uncomfortable by the minute in there presence.
      Johnson was silent. Silent to long for Keyes's taste.
      "Johnson, acknowledge that order"
      He gave her a hard stare, "Do you honestly trust them?"
      There was almost menace in his voice as he switched that deadly glare from the Arbiter to Miranda. She was even more disturbed by the lack of honorific at the end of his sentence, so far Johnson had treated her with the utmost respect. Apparently she had struck a nerve. However she didn't confront him on his tone.
      His question had been a good one, and Miranda seriously considered it. Was she really about to trust the aliens that two generations of Keye's had sworn to kill? What made her so sure that she could trust them? They didn't really need to protect her, they could just kill her now and take the Index. So why didn't they?
      Miranda stopped and considered their situation. They were lost in an underground maze that no doubt held more Sentinels and Flood than they had yet encountered, and were under the questionable 'protection' of three Elites, one apparently revered to a near-god status amongst his peers. They didn't have anywhere to run, and it was unlikely the Arbiter and his cronies would let them anyway. Miranda realized that her level of freedom depended solely on the Arbiters will. Johnson, no matter how good a soldier, could not feasibly fight through three Elites. Simply put, they were prisoners.
      The Commander was careful not to reveal this information to Johnson. She was afraid of the possible reaction, "We don't have a choice"
      Before he could try to drag her back into debate, she braced herself against the wall and stood.
      "Ma'm, what are you doing?"
      Her answer was cryptic, "Doing some reconnaissance"
      Johnson saw where she was headed, the Elite that was fixing his armor in the corner. Alarmed, Johnson went to go after her when a heavy had laid on his shoulder. He spun around and nearly pointed his gun at the Elites face, but checked himself. It was that one Commando Elite, the one in the purple armor.
      It grumbled simply, "Your turn"
      Johnson saw it was gesturing to the far entrance, it was his turn to guard there rear.
      "Why don't you-", he stopped. He had orders now, orders from the Commander to play nice with these squid-heads. Johnson simply grumbled and hefted the shotgun, watching over his shoulder as Miranda neared the injured Elite.
      The Commander was careful to make her footsteps heavy as she approached, she didn't want to accidentally surprise this thing. She mentally smacked herself on the forehead. She probably couldn't have snuck up on it if she tried.
      As she got closer she watched as the Elite, the same blue Elite that had saved her earlier, fixed his armor plating. As it removed its breast plate, Miranda got a glimpse of wound that had been inflicted upon it. It was very neat and precise, a small circle ringed with charred flesh and meat along with dried blood that had crusted over the skin. Miranda noticed that the wound looked almost identical to the type of wound created by medical lasers, but much deeper and with no painkillers passed out beforehand
      She watched as it re-atched its chest plate after injecting something into the wound and inspected its weapons, the SMG's that Sarge had so generously given up. The other purple Elite had rejected the gun on some moral issue or another, so it's blue counter-part got both SMG's while the purple guy got both Plasma Rifles, despite there lack of affect against the Flood.
      The Elite was aware of her presence but made gave her no acknowledgement and simply continued to inspect one of the weapons clips. Miranda didn't really know how to start the conversations, she tried several different varations in her head but discarded them before they became spoken word. Just as she had decided on what to say, the Elite spoke up.
      "Your weapons are strange, human. They operate much like our Carbines and Needlers, but fire primitively simple munitions. You manage to propel these munitions with crude chemical explosions in the barrel.
      Yet despite its unbalanced and cumbersome design, your weapons are still fairly effective against our troops. And the Flood. If I remember correctly this particular model is best used in pairs", he grabbed the other SMG beside him and held both weapons up.
      Miranda was stiff. Apparently the members of the Covenant were given the basic lessons on how humanities weapons functioned. All the better to understand, and kill, the enemy. The corps did the same thing vice versa.
      "That's right", she said uncertainly. She decided to get this over with so she could leave this thing to itself. It made her uncomfortable.
      "I would like to thank you", she said slowly, "for assisting me earlier"
      She didn't say 'save'. She didn't want to give it any sense of superiority.
      The Elite stared at her. It's eyes didn't even blink as it spoke, "You hold the Index, therefore you must be protected"
      Miranda nodded. There wasn't really any clear answer to that statement, which was just fine with her. More the reason to leave.
      As she turned around to walk away, she felt it get to its knee's and stand behind her.
      "Wait"
      It's voice didn't have the pitch of a command. It sounded more like a plea. Despite there bleak situation, the thought of an 8ft tall alien warrior pleading with her was amusing. Before she thought about it she turned around to face it.
      It stood not a few feet away from her, no helmet and bare chest. She noted that without the helmet, the Elites head was almost comically small in proportion to its body. The armor probably made it bulk up, better to scare the enemy.
      It tilted its head to the side as it regarded her. "Why did Tartarus need you to start the Great Journey?"
      She nodded her head, "You were there. You know damn well that wasn't going to start any Great Journey. Just a mass grave"
      It considered, "Yes. But still, why were you needed?"
      The Commander thought back to when she had been a prisoner. First when her dropship had been captured by Covenant forces as she fled In Amber Clad, then to the time spent in High Charity's brig, being ferried from that city to Halo, and finally to the control room, where Tartarus had forced her to start the countdown that nearly eradicated very sentient being in the galaxy. During the ride aboard the Phantom 343 Spark had dutifully informed Tartarus that only a human could insert the index into Halo's Control room.
      Tartarus had bluntly ignored Spark's warning and attempted to do it himself. The index had passed straight through the holo-panel like it was thin air. After trying several times, he had finally turned his attention to Miranda and tried to make her do it. That's when the Arbiter had come in. She didn't know why a human had to start it, when she had confronted Spark about en route to Halo the little machine had simply commented that humans were the 'Reclaimers' of the Forerunner. It said that statement like she had questioned a fundamental fact of the universe.
      Miranda nodded her head, "I don't know. The Forerunner machine, Guilty Spark, gave me some cryptic bullshit."
      The Elite considered and stared off into space. As Miranda watched it she got the feeling that this Elite was a bit odd, even among its own kin. It abruptly stuck out an outstretched hand. Miranda resisted the strong urge to flinch. She realized that the creature was offering to shake her hand.
      It spoke to her, "I have learned through observation between your officers that the clasping of hands is a mutual sign of respect"
      Miranda was stunned into silence. After several seconds of no response, the Elite spoke again, "I am Obi 'Kajomee, Minor Rank, formerly a warrior of the Covenant Empire. What is your title?"
      Miranda was still wary of the creature before her, but for some reason she trusted it enough to give it her name. "Miranda M. Keyes, UNSC Ship Commander"
      For the first time ever, Human and Elite clasped hands with intents of friendship.





bungie.org
brr!