Perspective - Teaser, Act 0
Date: 4 June 2010, 3:22 am
I'm Corporal Richard Alex Gum,
I am Lance Major Vtan 'Vishumee,
I am a UNSC soldier,
I am a Sangheili warrior,
I don't wear reflective armor plating,
I do not command armies or fleets,
I can't dodge plasma bolts,
I can not overcome my handicap,
I have been disowned by my family,
My lineage dies along with my body,
I'm a suicidal coward,
I am a heretical dishonor,
I'll never be better than this,
My successors will never know of me,
I'm only Human,
I am only Sangheili.
We are not heroes,
We are not legends,
We are not immortal.
We are only survivors.
...makes all the difference.
A full length series by The Meep.
To be continued on June 18th.
Perspective - Prolouge, Act I
Date: 18 June 2010, 1:44 am
Corporal Richard Gum, sniper and long range marksman, grenade mule and back up medic, Reach city boy, spacediver extraordinaire, and soon to be suicide sat on a crate playing with his utuility knife. It's fifteen centimeter blade could be used for many marine related activities, such as shaving, cutting food, and gutting aliens. Right now, though, Richard was content to simply pick at the dry, calloused skin on his palm; the point was exceedingly sharp, but his hand was exceedingly steady. Not once did he accidentally cut to deep, or draw blood.
He was also exceedingly bored.
The In Amber Clad - probably one of the most poetic names for a warship he'd ever heard - was slowly inching its way towards one of the thousands of orbital platforms above Earth. This one, simply named Cairo, just happened to have a half kilometer long gun attached to it. The Orbital Magnetic Accelerator Cannon (O-MAC or, as called by the marines, the O-SHIT cannon) dwarfed the diminutive frigate. Richard half-heartedly wished there was a viewing port nearby, just so he would have something to look at. But the nearest window was in the bridge, and that was obviously off limits to the rank and file marines.
For now, he would have to remain in the staging area. It was a long, narrow black bay, lined with weapon racks and airlocks, that was right up against the inside of the In Amber Clad's hull. It did what it was called: acted as a place for marines and naval personnel to gather prior to docking, so that they could disembark as quickly and efficiently as possible. At the moment, the staging area was mostly empty. There was Richard and his squad, a platoon strength of marines being relocated to the Malta orbital via Cairo's shuttles, and a small honorary color guard waiting for the bridge officers to arrive.
"Alert: orbital thrusters disengaging for docking procedures. Please secure yourself and all loose items."
The PA was curt and formal, but Richard recognized the voice of Commander Keyes, the Old Man of the IAC herself. He and his squad had only been on her ship for two weeks, but it was long enough for him to develop a liking for the Commander. She had a habit of making ship-wide announcements herself, and was pretty loose when it came to regulations. Plus she had a nice voice. And when it came to naval swabs, that was saying a lot.
Still, Richard didn't want to stab himself in the eye when the IAC stopped spinning; so, he put Keyes out of his mind and sheathed his knife. The marine grabbed a handhold above him. Across the metal walkway, his fellow squad members did likewise.
First Lieutenant Benjamin Souza (everyone just called him Soup) was their current platoon leader. Of course, their platoon only had eight men and women in it at the moment, so Soup was also their impromptu squad leader. He was a short, thick bodied man, with beady eyes and a warm smile. He liked to go bald, something that shocked fellow officers but earned respect from the men and women under his command. He stood directly across from Richard, and gave the Corporal a reassuring nod as gravity ceased to exist and their stomachs dissapeared.
Standing next to him was a new face: Lieutenant Sylva, a Naval attache to their squad for the next two days. She had just ridden up from Earth a few hours ago, handing Soup an official looking document and saying she was "observing" their squad for the next forty eight hours. The El-Tee had told him it was nothing, but Richard wasn't fooled. The eye-and-dagger of the Office of Naval Intillgence was stamped proudly on her shoulder; it seemed to stare him down as Sylva leaned over and whispered in Soup's ear.
On the other side of Soup was Staff Sergeant Raine Iabara, the former squad leader of Richard's . She was relieved after the rest of Golf Platoon had vanished in a cloud of freezing gas and burning metal that had once been a UNSC ship-of-the-line above Reach. For now, she served as the leader of Fireteam Bravo, something usually done by a Buck Sergeant, three whole paygrades below her. Raine didn't mind: she got the pay of a SSgt. and only had to do half the work. Her face pinched petite, with big eyes and red hair cut so short it looked brown. Her breasts floated in free fall, and Richard tried his best not to stare at them in the company of officers. She winked at him, then cast a sidelong glance at the ONI spook and drew a finger across her throat. Richard threw up a false smile. Their friendship had been strained by the fall of Reach, and he didn't want to risk burning any more bridges. So he smiled.
The marine looked to his right down the black hallway, towards the other platoon. The forty or so soldiers were spread out, many staring at a wall or their hands. The feeling of despair was almost palpable: none of them smiled, none of them cracked jokes or even talked. The staging area was silent aside from the pitter-patter of precise docking thrusters firing on the IAC's hull.
Richard figured it wasn't that surprising. Sure, the war was going badly before Reach fell, but at least the soldiers could point at their fleet and the solid wall of fortified Inner Colonies and say in a hopeful voice "The Covies still have to get through this!"
But then the Covies did get through it. And it didn't take them years or decades like everyone said it would. Just one massive invasion, one immense battle that lasted less than three days was enough to turn the single most fortified planet owned by Humanity into a cinder. How many ships did they lose? At least three times as many as CENTCOM would admit. And there was no way only one hundred million people died. Five hundred of nearly eight hundred million people survived the battle; and if only one hundred million died, what happened to the other two hundred million?
The war was falling apart. The economy was running on imaginary credits. Martial law was the only thing holding the central government together. The military was scraping the bottom of the personnel barrel; they said recruitment was at an all time high, but then how come Richard's platoon hadn't been filled or even merged with another one? in over a month? Not only had the UNSC lost valuable soldiers and equipment over Epsilon Eridani, but they had apparently lost the core of their logistical and beuruacratic support. Armies weren't getting supplies, soldiers weren't getting trained, literally entire battalions had gone AWOL, and there was no one to round them up. The brass could strategize and spread propoganda all they wanted, but it couldn't hide the fact that thousands of basic necessities simply were not being met.
Richard closed his eyes. Logistics and manpower was one thing, but he was more focused on the hopelessness that had pervaded the UNSC after the fall of Reach. What a terrible blow, so powerful that even the quietest, most far fetched hopes held secret and safe within the depths of every person were shattered.
We have nothing: no hope, no will, no reason to exist. Nothing.
Perspective - Omega, Act II
Perspective - Reflection, Act I
Date: 25 June 2010, 1:40 am
Vtan 'Vishumee - Lance Major, sangheili legionnaire, Primier of Aroka-Vish clan, amputee, and Hero of the Covenant - sat, alone, in pure darkness. He was in a room specially designed to starve the senses: no lights, soundproofed walls, a soft floor, and thoroughly processed air made the small cube perfect for meditation, something Vtan had caught himself doing much more often in the past cycles. His eyes blinked thoughtfully. Ever since the tragedy of Halo, really.
His calmed mind drifted in nothingness, encountering and confronting stray thoughts and soul-staining dilemmas.
Vtan had to admit, he had been intentionally avoiding the topic of Halo, both amongst his peers and in himself. It distressed him. But now his mind brought it up, and there was no avoiding it. Not during meditation.
He had been amongst the graced: he had walked on the ring. He had seen the wonders of the gods with his own mortal eyes, felt their contours and hefted their weight with his vulnerable flesh. He had stood on the edge of a dusty plateau and looked up to see a thin strip of blue, white, and green cutting the sky in half. It was a cut of cloth, an inside-out world. It was beautiful, humbling, and horrifying all at once. When Rtas said that the grace of Halo extended far beyond its power, he had been speaking the truth.
So why did Vtan feel so empty? It wasn't because of Halo's destruction; then he would have felt anger, frustration, loss. But now, as he examined his emotions with a detached mind, he could only find disappointment.
The muted hum of the air filter continued in the background, its white noise helping to keep the mind from conjuring audio hallucinations. Vtan's mind drifted, before once again delving into his soul.
Halo was marvelous, easily one of the most grandiose sights Vtan had ever viewed. And he had seen things that would make the High Council fall to their collective knees and weep tears of awe. But was Halo ascendant? Was it truly a divine vessel? In that instant, Vtan found the source of his inner turmoil. He was underwhelmed.
The ring had been built by mortal hands with utility in mind. It contained nothing that Vtan had not seen before. The Forerunner ruins were the same as those found on other worlds, the artifacts no different. It rotated to provide stability, was lined with barriers to keep the atmosphere from spilling out. Beneath the landscape lay immense tunnels and caverns: storage and transportation, used during the construction but now without a purpose. Despite its size and beauty, Halo was not divine. Not in the least.
The epiphany surprised Vtan. If Halo had been the first Forerunner artifact that the Covenant had found, would they have seen it as a godly creation? He blinked, momentarily stunned by his answer. No. They would not.
Vtan was briefly torn. He feared what he would find if he continued down this line of thought, but wasn't enlightenment always superior to ignorance? Was he committing heresy, or simply taking on religion from a different viewpoint?
His father's voice suddenly leaped, unbidden, from distant memory. Vtan had been young: just old enough to have moved past the how of fighting, and begin studying the why. As the young sangheili had sat on his courtyard's gravel, rubbing his fresh bruises after their latest sparring session, his father had spoken. "Never let blind faith overtake your good sense. Zealotry can be a useful ally in any battle, but always keep your wits about you. Accept nothing, question everything."
Emboldened by his late patron's words, Vtan kept still, allowing himself to sink deeper into the meditative state. He would pursue this to the bitter end.
If Halo was not divine, then why worship it? According to the san 'shyuum, the Forerunners had built the ringworld as a way to ascend their mortality, and become gods. Vtan had willingly believed this since his youth, just like every other member of the Covenant. But, there is a dilemma. If Halo was made to raise them to godhood, why did the Forerunner's store the Flood on the ring? Why were the ruins all for storage and research? What was the purpose of the mass amounts of unused energy stored in Halo's generators - generators which were not connected to a conduit or emitter, but instead massive arrays of turrets? Why was the ring built with functionality and utility placed above grace and worship? Nothing fit.
Now the sangheili was on a path he could not leave. His mind continued at a blistering speed.
Vtan thought of his time on Halo. His lance had been the first to secure the control room after it was discovered. They had remained there, even as the Covenant moved entire armies into the canyon, serving as an elite guard; they were the first line of defense. When human forces had appeared near the control room, Vtan and his lance engaged them first. Then, after the parasite was let loose, he had found himself aboard the Truth and Reconciliation, fighting horrors that should never have existed. It was there he had lost his arm and leg, and it was because of that nightmare that he had been named a Hero of the Covenant.
He realized that despite all its wonder and grace, Halo had brought nothing but death and misery to the Covenant. How many soldiers were killed by the humans? By the Flood? Just how many lives were lost when the ring had been destroyed? Vtan thought of his new limbs. He may have survived, but he didn't escape unscathed. The Council said that the calamity was part of a series of tests, left in place by the Forerunners to ensure only those worthy enough could ascend to godhood. It made sense, but Vtan found once again that something didn't fit.
The air filter stopped, and a faint glow slowly intensified through out the room. His time was up. Vtan awoke from his deep meditation, blinking moisture back into his eyes. He realized both of his hands were clenched. The sangheili relaxed them, and was rewarded with sharp stabs of pain from his cramped muscles.
Usually, his mind would have to catch up and recall what he thought during his meditation. It was two wholly different mental perspectives, and it could be difficult to pursue a line of thought through the transition. But Vtan could remember everything he had been thinking, so . He closed his slack mandibles and placed a hand over his eyes. His faith was shaken, doubts appearing and cracking his formerly impervious wall of religious zealotry.
A shadow crossed his face. Vtan looked up to see Rtas 'Vadumee standing in the doorway. His mandibles were fully healed from the battle aboard the Infinite Succor, but the scars were still swollen and pink. It only made the Commander look more intimidating.
Vtan stood as his superior spoke. "Our attendance at the Fleet Master's trial is mandatory, Vtan." His eyes lost focus and glassed over, then cleared with a blink. Rtas eyed Vtan's new limbs. Like his scarred mandibles, the Lance Major's skin was rippled and pink where the old met the new. The Commander's mandibles tightened critically, but he remained silent.
"Commander," Vtan said, walking towards the door. "During meditation, my thoughts kept returning to Halo." His head lowered, eyes cast downward. Rtas simply waited patiently.
Vtan looked back up, his expression confident and open. "I've found it difficult to see Halo as a boon. All it brought us was death and misery. The Flood. I don't know if this is a passing weakness, or--"
Rtas cut him off by placing his hand on Vtan's shoulder, and nodded. It was an expression of understanding, meant to reassure and embolden. The Commander obviously meant well by it.
Vtan just felt empty.