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Dies Irae- III
Posted By: Cthulhu117<azathoth117@gmail.com>
Date: 26 January 2007, 1:37 am

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Covenant Cycle of the Prophets 84483
Rotation 243, Unit 1.2
Patrol Carrier Arcane Wrath
Covenant Empire Border System Hesha-661

      'Vasunee choked down his fourth glass of liquor and shivered. More from the memory that still burned beneath his skull than the drink.

      He stared into the pale liquid, watching his reflection shimmer and float surreally. He tried desperately not to look at his eyes, but his gaze was inexorably drawn to them.

      They were deep green, almost gray, slightly bloodshot and watery due to the potency of the drink. The drink, as it happened, was also greenish, although very much lighter than the eyes. He turned the glass so that more light fell on it, and shivered again. "Heat, full," he ordered the room's computer.

      He started to sweat slightly, but he kept shivering.

      He poured himself another drink.

      After his seventh glass it occurred to him that it might not be particularly wise to become this intoxicated while involved in the critical matters he had inadvertently become a part of.

      He poured himself an eighth glass, mulling the idea, then drained it. Absently, he poured himself a ninth, and drank that one too, still pondering.

      As he poured the tenth measure into the glass, he discarded the idea.

      It took him six more glasses before he dropped the decanter in mid pour and sprawled onto the table-top, slipping into a nightmare-laden sleep that completely failed to relax him.

      Chun-Sung Kim awoke to a nightmare of his own.

      He was naked, totally sealed in what appeared to be a block of pale green ice. Not that appearances were entirely reliable at this point, because it felt very much like he was in a hot shower. He could feel the individual water droplets. The illusion was so strong that he looked to see if his skin was red.

      Abruptly, he realized he did not have enough room to turn his head. If he moved his head an inch to the left, his ear ran into what felt exactly like very cold ballistics gel.

      A second later, he realized that it was gel. Not ballistics gel, but similar in consistency and frigid in temperature. The illusion shattered into a million pieces, ricocheting around the inside of his mind. His teeth chattered; the stuff was cold enough to turn his skin blue. He strained his neck against the substance to see if it was. It looked blue, but then everything else he could see did. Then again, there wasn't much besides his own skin that he could see. The gel wasn't opaque to light, but it was pretty damn close.

      It wasn't opaque to oxygen, either; although his tiny head space should quickly have filled with carbon dioxide, it was clean air. It smelled recycled, however, and had an odd, pungent odor to it.

      So breathing wasn't a problem, and presumably temperature wasn't either. That left food as his main necessity. Doubtless he had been fine asleep, but awake, he would need to get out and get fed sooner or later. Not to mention dressed.

      All of a sudden, he remembered everything. He had been on Dies Irae, but if his surroundings were anything to judge by, he wasn't there anymore. And yet he had gone to sleep there. So, logically, someone had brought him here...and sealed him in freezing cold gel. An odd method of storage, to be sure. And not one he had ever heard of. For the first time, he realized that it might not be human in origin. But in that case, whatever had suddenly appeared around them had also been produced by...

      Aliens? The thought was ludicrous. Aliens could not be hiding on the far side of the moon. If there were aliens, they were very far away from Earth. And yet this gel was not in the least familiar to him.

      His instincts took over. Every cheap piece of sci-fi literature and every space b-movie he had ever seen came back to him. Always one lost astronaut- or whatever- locked in a deadly, outmatched struggle with some monstrous xenomorphic form of life.

      Ridiculously, his subconscious jumped to the conclusion that he was in a meat locker, waiting to be some alien's macabre feast, and he struggled against the gel. It was too heavy, and furthermore, it was molded to his skin. He had no strength to do anything, and no room to do it in.

      Suddenly, there was a clacking sound as of footsteps. Something seemed wrong. The sounds, he realized, were too far apart to be human. It looked like the alien was coming to claim his Fourth of July barbecue a few days late. He listened harder until he became absorbed in the faint, identical sounds. Which was why he was so surprised when a pair of enormous, four fingered hands punctured the gel, grabbed his arms, and dragged him forcibly into a sitting position.

      The light was blinding to him, although it was fairly dim and purple in color. His vision blurred, and he flopped sideways, slipping back into the gel.

      The hands returned. Taking him by the throat, they shook him like a ragdoll, jolting his suddenly aching skull. With a tremendous effort, he twisted to the side and fell four feet to the smooth, cool floor. He pulled himself into a corner, instinctively seeking refuge. He balled into a fetal position, the deck cold against his skin, and looked around the room.

      The light was still painfully bright, but now an impossibly large shadow had partially blocked it out, sparing his eyes. The room's furthest wall was a solid bank of flickering computer screens, all of which had something or other scrolling across them. The room's door was blocked by a shimmering, translucent blue membrane of some kind. It looked like an energy field.

      He tried to cover his eyes, protecting them from the light. The hands quickly came away as he felt a thick, rough layer of stubble beneath them.

      "What time is it?" he asked, his speech slurred through tired lips.

      A voice so deep it made his skeleton vibrate answered him.

      "The four thousand, four hundred and eighty-third cycle of the Eighth Age of Reclamation."

Eighth Age of Reclamation
Covenant Cycle of the Prophets 84483
Rotation 301, Unit 6.3
Covenant Core System Besk-931
Covenant Holy City Humble Piety

      Goran Kur 'Sablikhee watched the creature in the corner slowly collapse into a huddle against the wall. Its mind was presumably overtaxed by the sudden rush of experiences cutting through it, and he could hardly blame it. 'Sankrithee had hardly treated it well, kidnapping them and slapping them into biostatic gel without letting them wake up. Forcing a match with the neural patterns of sleep can cause some undesirable effects, including, but not limited to, hallucination, erroneous sensory perceptions, dementia, and paranoid psychosis, when the subject awakens, he recalled from a treatise he had written. He had seen all of those symptoms, and others, too, far worse. Some he had never seen before. Some, nobody had ever seen before. And, although frail in body, these aliens seemed fairly similar to Sangheili. He shook his head and turned to 'Sankrithee.

      "You should not have taken them while they slept," he reprimanded the Councilor. "You should not, for that matter, have taken them at all. Strange aliens from undeveloped civilizations are none of your business, far less mine."

      It was a sharp comment, and lacked any sort of honorative form, but 'Sankrithee did not notice the aberration. Nor would he have taken action. Gora 'Sablikhee was already indispensable; his unrivaled medical skill and long friendship with the Councilor made him immune to punishment. With the added title of -n Kur, or Mighty Aid, not even the Prophet hierarchs would harm him. As the n'Kur, the chief physician and scientist of the Covenant, he was the holder of a position which combined mystic, personal doctor, and charlatan.

      He was also, out of a debt to 'Sankrithee more than any religious conviction, was a member of the borderline heretical sect known as Perfection in Singularity. A florid name, to be sure, for a florid cult. 'Sankrithee, although few knew it, had founded the cult some fifty thousand years ago as a front for his less legal activities. It was said by the few non cult residents of the worldship that each lay brother of the cult was a trained assassin to do 'Sankrithee's bidding and protect him if necessary.

      'Sablikhee snorted. The old Councilor was quite capable of defending himself, and even if he hadn't been, 'Samallee could have protected him better than anybody else.

      In fact, there was only one Sangheili who had ever lived that could have taken on 'Sankrithee, and he worked for the Councilor. 'Sablikhee shivered, even as he thought of the Silver Hand.

      'Sankrithee spoke slowly, his words measured, as though he were about to lose control of his temper. "But they are my business, Goran, because Ash-Utaris of the Void has brought them to me."

      "You don't believe in Ash-Utaris," 'Sablikhee said flatly. "Nor do you believe in Ash-Ichar, Ash-Voris, Ash-Runyn, Ash-Geien, or any of the other Gods of the Rings."

      "Call it fate, then," the Councilor continued, unperturbed. At any rate, the choice is made. They are my business now. As such, they are your business, also, for you are still my friend and ally. Not to mention, you are sworn in service to me, so you have no choice but to stand by me on this."

      The younger Sangheili polished his viridian armor, if only to give himself a few seconds to think. Many had this problem of not knowing what to say when they were confronted by 'Sankrithee. Even those who had known him for a long time. "It is not a question of my allegiance, Vura. It is a question of safety. These aliens were placed in bioshock while asleep. Their neural patterns may not be normal, or even recognizable, when they wake."

      The Councilor tapped his fingers against his mandibles, and his milky eyes seemed to gleam from within. "Fascinating. This would in fact rewrite their waking neural patterns? How strange, and how astonishingly similar to the Flood infection process. I presume the technologies are related?"

      'Sablikhee shrugged uncertainly. "I could analyze it, of course. Bioshock membranes are grown from protist DNA, of course, so there's nothing to suggest that they are unrelated. An interesting theory. Unfortunately, to put it to the test, I would need a living, or at least very freshly killed Flood specimen. And since you have so far failed to secure this-"

      'Sankrithee snarled, an uncharacteristic display of anger for the usually calm Councilor. "Do not presume, Goran, that you may reprimand me for my unwillingness to indulge your penchant for specimen collection. You are like one of the Governors of Contrition sometimes, always searching for virtue in the things of our Lords."

      The n'Kur said nothing, but the tips of his mandibles paled, and the scales around his eyes contracted in a minute and subtle display of anger. He stared at the Councilor for some time before gestured at the huddled alien. "What do you want me to do with it?"

      'Sankrithee turned and headed for the door of the room, but not before telling him, "Standard medical test. Wake him up afterward; we do not know what sort of interplanetary-contact myths this alien culture might have. Then send him to me."

      Goran frowned. "Are you sure it is wise for me to simply hand him over to you?"

      The Councilor nodded. "You are correct. I will send the Hand for him."

      'Sablikhee resisted the urge to chuckle hysterically. The Hand was going to make the first ever major societal contact with this species. The Silver Hand.

      It would be a wonder if they came back with their sanity. A meeting with the Hand could do that to most people.