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Commander: Treachery
Posted By: Cthulhu117<spartan_eric_271@yahoo.com>
Date: 20 July 2006, 12:29 pm

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A Note:

It has come to my attention that the Halo Graphic Novel reveals Half-Jaw "official" backstory in a story called, if I remember correctly, 'The Final Voyage of the Infinite Sux0r'.

It has also come to my attention that I don't, in fact, give a shit.

'Kay? 'Kay.

Keep reading, or 'Gamsamee will pwn j00 ZoMgWoFfLeS!!!1!!!eleven!!!1!

I have learned to hate all traitors, and there is no disease that I spit on more than treachery.


Ninth Age of Reclamation
Covenant Prophet-Year 97201
Covenant Holy City High Charity
Docking Station Gamma
Two Hours Later

      The instant Half-Jaw's Phantom had safely deposited him on High Charity, the High Commander was assailed by waves of Sangheili. There were even some of the Councillors, Sangheili and Ahlainga alike, swarming around him. Half-Jaw singled out the nearest of the warriors. He was tall and spindly, with pale grey skin and an odd suit of battle armor that was of a similar hue. "You. Tell me what this rabble is here for," he snapped, shoving through the crowd and attempting to avoid the minor Prophets.

      The grey-armored Sangheili removed his odd, angular helmet and tucked it under his arm. "The Prophet of Truth has ordered a slipspace transition to another of the Sacred Rings. He will not say what his reasons are, but I am quite sure that the Prophet of Regret is already there."

      The High Commander clacked his mandibles together in agitation. "The Prophet of Regret was out, searching for a holy world, at last report, correct?"

      The other Sangheili nodded as he attempted to forge a path through the mob. "Until half an hour ago, when he sent the Council a message from the Substance system. He wished the other Hierarchs to 'forgive his premature arrival,' at wherever it was he'd been, as I recall."

      Half-Jaw's mind was racing. Where had Regret been? Truth hadn't specified. A holy world...one that nobody but he knew of? It reeked of a conspiracy.

      He felt the presence of Azathoth, and realized from the stabs of pain in his skull that the construct was expressing a strong negative impulse. "You shouldn't ask where Regret was," the AI said flatly. "You should wonder why he left."

      "Excellency?" The grey-armored Sangheili's query broke into his thoughts. He realized that he was staring blankly into space, and he shook himself, somewhat embarrassed.

      "Do you know why Regret left...wherever he was?" he said, starting to walk again.

      "I asked the Prophet of Truth, but I did not receive an answer, Excellency," the other panted, struggling to keep up with the long-legged commander.

      With a start, the High Commander pulled the other Sangheili around by the arm and glared into his face. "Who are you? You spoke with the Prophet of Truth. You listened to Regret's message. Only a Councillor would be permitted to do such things. But you do not wear a Councillor's armor. In fact," he mused, looking the younger Sangheili up and down, "you're not wearing any type of armor I've seen before. What is your name?"

      The grey-armored Sangheili raised his arm to shoulder level in salute. "I apologize, Excellency. I am Intra 'Mensamee, Machinist and Warrior of the Almighty Covenant. I meant no disrespect. Kindly forgive my lack of etiquette; I am still young and often regarded as...impetuous."

      "You are forgiven," Half-Jaw said absently. "In addition, you are dismissed. Thank you for your time, Machinist 'Mensamee."

      He waited a few seconds until his clan-member was out of earshot, then looked at nothing in particular and ordered Azathoth to retrieve all files in High Charity's central computer on Intra 'Mensamee. The AI was silent for a few seconds, then he spoke in a voice somewhat higher in pitch than was normal for him.

      "He's got an interesting record, you know. Age twenty-eight, has already been Minor, Major and Honor Guard."

      "Honor Guard?" the High Commander interrupted. "The Guard is a lifetime commitment."

      Azathoth continued as though he had not heard the interruption. "At age twenty-seven, he was transferred to Truth's personal guards, then two weeks later he became a 'Machinist'. A 'Machinist' apparently signifies one of the Sangheili who has shown outstanding talent in 'treatment of sacred relics'- I presume that means technological skill- and has therefore been appointed to a special corps of technicians who often work alongside the Huragok. However, much more important than that is his birth record. It's...atypical."

      "How so?" asked Half-Jaw, without much interest in his voice. He broke into his loping stride, a bizarre walk pattern that meant he anybody in the Covenant could recognize him by his walk.

      "He's a somewhat imperfect clone," Azathoth said, and his voice had an unusual timbre to it. Sympathy, perhaps? "A clone of you," the construct whispered. He was silent.

      The High Commander's left hoof suddenly had a great deal of trouble finding the ground again, even with gravity helping out. "Of me?" he asked, uncertain if his hearing was failing. "Azathoth?"

      The AI did not answer him. "Azathoth?" Half-Jaw asked again, loudly enough that a passing Unggoy stared fearfully at him.

      The AI remained silent. The High Commander tried to feel the ancient construct's presence in his mind, but there was nothing there. He leaned against the wall and pondered what he should do. Azathoth could read his feelings and his thoughts to an extraordinary extent. Could he turn that on the AI? He attempted to concentrate on the construct's presence, unsure if he was doing the right thing. As he sat there, trying to concentrate and feeling generally like an idiot, he heard a voice all around him, with such clarity that he gave a start and looked around him. It was repeating a single syllable that Half-Jaw was not familiar with. Judging solely by the intonation, however, it didn't exactly sound like something that one would repeat in pleasant company.

      "Commander!" someone interrupted. The voice was cut off mid syllable, and for a second the High Commander was disoriented, unable to even register that the voice belonged to an Unggoy wearing golden armor with a helmet. One of the Unggoy Patriarchs, here on High Charity? Half-Jaw stifled a chuckle at the sight of the tiny creature attempting to convey the idea of confident pomposity and instead looking like a child dressed in a Zealot's armor. He wrinkled his brow for a second. What was an Unggoy Patriarch doing on a Holy City? Usually they remained on Unggoyek, acting as figureheads to convey the will of the Hierarchs to the Unggoy population.

      "Commander!" the shrill-voiced creature repeated. The High Commander sighed and turned to the diminutive Patriarch.

      "What is it that you wish of me?" he said, taking only a mild interest in the presence of the Patriarch. He still outranked the Unggoy by eleven full levels, so he could address it however it pleased him to.

      "Most Noble Prophets of Truth and Mercy request the pleasure of a meeting with you, High Commander Eraa 'Gamsamee!" the Unggoy said, attempting to sound officious and instead sounding like it would prefer to be sucking on a food-nipple. Which it probably would prefer, knowing the Unggoy.

      Half-Jaw frowned. The Hierarchs had used his name, even though he himself did not use it these days. That meant they wanted to get his attention, which meant that whatever it was, it was urgent. He frowned more deeply, and dismissed the Unggoy. His talk with the Arbiter would have to wait.

      Two shuttle rides and one talk with the Hierarchs later, the High Commander was sprinting towards the hangar bays as fast as was possible by Sangheili. It was ironic, really. He was the one who had killed Regret's predecessor, and here he was, ensuring that Regret was killed by whoever was attacking him. Truth and Mercy both seemed to want Regret dead. Half-Jaw wasn't too fond of the youngest Hierarch either, to be honest, but he wasn't supposed to kill him directly. Once Regret was known to be dead, he was to utterly destroy Regret's location, in order to ensure the death of his murderer, who Truth hoped was the Demon.

      Slowing to a brisk trot, he boarded the Purity in Belief by way of the gravity-lift, announced that he was taking over as acting Ship Master by order of the Hierarchs, although his own authority would have been sufficient, and ordered the fleet and High Charity to jump into Slipspace towards the Substance system. The ship shuddered somewhat, and the bizarre feeling of heaviness that accompanied such a large-scale Slipspace transition pressed on the High Commander. He punched up the holo-display, able to move in the distorted gravity due to years of hard practice, but at present there was little to see due to the absence of most visible light in Slipspace.

      He looked at the transition countdown and steadied himself on the display. When such an enormous mass as High Charity and the thirty-one ships docked there passed through several dimensions one after the other, there was absolutely no pull of gravity for a few seconds until the laws of physics reasserted themselves. Sure enough, his hooves left the deck for a moment, and he enjoyed the weightlessness. He weighed easily two hundred pounds even without the armor, and the battle-suit added another two hundred. It was often physically exhausting to many Sangheili to fight for extended periods of time in the armor, but although Half-Jaw had nearly boundless stamina, he was never exactly comfortable while wearing his suit. He always felt like he was about to fall on his face when his shields were activated.

      Then the moment passed, and he was all business. The Slipspace transition ended in a swirling whirlpool of lavender photons, and High Charity appeared in system, flanked by the largest Covenant fleet since the subduction of the Jiralhanae. 142 flagships, 268 destroyers, 156 battlecruisers and 44 carriers surrounded the Holy City, not to mention at least thirty more capital ships docked on the City itself. It was a fleet to make the humans cower and fall, but at the moment there were no human ships visible in the system. What was visible was another Halo sitting at a 'Askuree point in the system, acting as the symbolic 'circular gateway to salvation' that the Prophets were fond of calling attention to.

      The High Commander glanced over to the screen that was tracking the Prophet of Sincere Regret's locator beacon. He glared at the screen angrily. This would have to be done by hand; he would never be allowed to launch a plasma torpedo at the sacred ring's surface. He keyed open a channel to the Phantom pilots of the fleet. "This is the High Commander. All pilots, move out and input the following coordinates. Standby for entry and troop deployment on my mark." He closed the channel and removed his helmet. He was going to have to think up an excuse for blowing up the temple that Regret seemed to be in. He hated these tasks.

      He thought about the situation for a few seconds, then decided to simply wait for the order from the Hierarchs. After a few seconds he was rewarded by a chime on the comm. The quavery but fierce voice of the Prophet of Mercy broke through. "You are cleared to commence the assault on the Demon, Commander-"

      Even as Half-Jaw reached over to close the channel, a hologram of Truth appeared on the priority holocom. The High Commander had never seen the Hegemon of the Covenant look so agitated. His eyes were blazing, and he was sitting up straight- quite a feat for the Ahlainga, who suffered from racial scoliosis.

      "Cancel the command, 'Gamsamee!" the Hierarch snapped. On the other comm, there was a sharp intake of breath; evidently Mercy had not been informed of this beforehand. "You will stand down, Commander," Truth continued. "Tartarus will handle this...situation."

      Half-Jaw snorted in derision. "That brutish thing? You would trust him with such an operation? I do not presume to question the Prophets, Holy Ones, but quite why the Jiralhanae have been given so many additional responsibilities in this conflict is a mystery to me! They are stronger and fiercer than the Sangheili. That said, they are also stupid, prone to cowardice, and honorless! I would sooner trust the Unggoy, especially as they do not seem to have a role in what, for all intents and purposes, is nothing more than an unwarranted takeover!"

      There was a dead silence over the comm. The Prophet of Mercy gave a soft cough, then the comm cut out. Suspicious, the High Commander pulled up one of his security cameras. Mercy and Tartarus were glancing at Truth, and the younger Prophet made a gesture to the Jiralhanae too fast to see. Half-Jaw was past caring about the fact that he had just insulted the Chieftain's race. He replayed the gesture over and over again in slow motion, unsure if he was misinterpreting it. There was no doubt. It was the kill gesture. Not a sign to kill the transmission, which had already ended. The High Commander had seen that gesture twice before in his life: once when he was ordered to kill the Prophet of Fury, and once, less than an hour ago, when he had been ordered to kill the Prophet of Regret.

      "Halt the Phantoms," he barked, opening a channel to the dropship pilots. "We've been ordered by the highest authority to stand down."

      "Leader!" protested one of the pilots.

      "Stand down, Gods damn you!" the High Commander howled, flecks of saliva flying from his mouth.

      The channel closed immediately. When Half-Jaw was that angry, people tended to vanish in new and painful ways. At Draco IX, he'd vaporized one of his own assault carriers when that ship's Master had made a costly error in judgement. A Phantom would be far less of a loss.

      He watched in what bordered on unbridled fury as a Jiralhanae controlled cruiser soared low across the ring, over what looked like a vast volcanic lake. In the middle, there was an island, or perhaps it only seemed to be an island. Certainly, there was a building of Forerunner design rising from the water. Over this structure, the cruiser lowered itself. The lifesigns of the Prophet of Regret blanked, but the High Commander was oblivious to the flat beep. The cruiser positioned itself just over the structure and activated a gravity lift. But the lift looked as though it had been repolarized, because instead of depositing troops, it started to ripple the water beneath it and crush the structure.

      Half-Jaw mandibles tightened in anger. Nothing deserved to die that way, not even a Demon. Slowly being crushed into a puddle an atom deep was not the most pleasant way to go. He watched the screen, unsure what he was looking for. He turned away, having seen all that was there to be seen of the demolition job, but as he did, he could have sworn he saw a dark dot move quickly over the side of the structure's collapse, standing out against the blinding lavender light of the gravity beam. He stared back at the holoscreen, uncertain if he'd seen it or not.

      "Azathoth?" he asked tentatively. "I want to see the last five seconds of that holovid again, maximum zoom, high quality, frame by frame."

      He heard no answer in the AI's voice. However, about ten seconds later, the holoscreen reset itself. Even though the construct had obeyed his request, the job had taken nearly five times as long as it normally would. Azathoth was doing something else, and whatever it was, it was taking up more than half of his memory space. The High Commander calculated exactly how much memory that was, and then put it from his mind. Anything that big was important enough to be none of his business.

      He tapped a control on the holopanel. A frame appeared on the holoscreen, lingered for three-quarters of a second, and changed jerkily to the next one. Half-Jaw frowned. It was a fairly sloppy edit, although far superior to anything he could have done. Azathoth was concentrating on something else very, very hard. He skimmed through the frames. Then, about three and a half seconds into the clip, he saw a black distortion appear on the holoscreen. He stared at it and scrolled forward a few frames. He had no idea what it was. He clicked forward one more frame and cursed violently.

      The distortion in the vid was the silhouette of a human, spread eagled to maximize the drag in a long, dangerous fall. The Demon, impossible as it seemed, had escaped the demolition of the building.

      Alive? Unlikely. But Demons were tough. If a Sangheili had tried the jump, he would have died instantly on impact, every bone in his body shattered. The Demons, on the other hand, could take a body blow from a Lek'golo with impunity if necessary.

      The Jiralhanae, in their incompetence, had allowed the Demon to escape. The High Commander growled alarmingly. An Unggoy that had just walked into the control room heard him growl and seamlessly turned right back around and walked out.

      Half-Jaw tapped the navicomputer into its quickest mode and entered the coordinates of the top priority docking bay of High Charity. This had better be the right calculation or we'll just show up in the Sanctum of the Hierarchs or something. Which I suppose would at least get some attention.

      He thought about the massive destruction that would occur if the calculations were off, and was surprised by the realization that he honestly didn't care.

      The High Commander's calculations, however, were not wrong. He appeared, exactly three seconds later, in the top-priority docking bay, just outside of the moorings. It was less than a minute later that he was striding towards the Sanctum, 'Mensamee at one shoulder and an unidentifiable Minor at the other. He'd once heard a human soldier refer to several other soldiers who he couldn't identify as 'redshirts'. Half-Jaw had had no idea what he'd meant; any fool could see that their shirts were khaki. But then, humans were hardly renowned for their lucidity.

      They strode meaningfully forward, the High Commander in particular looking like he was out for blood, but all three were somewhat distracted by the portable holoscreens that had been placed on every square inch of wall. The top half contained the Prophet of Truth and the bottom contained a Decree of the Council, authorized by all four hundred and ninety-nine members. The last signature line, where Regret's signature should have been, was blank.

      Half-Jaw stepped onto the elevator leading into the Sanctum antechamber and barely restrained himself from crying out. The Sangheili Honor Guards were surrendering their armor, their polearms and their elaborate headpieces to the Jiralhanae. The feral creatures were fighting over them, and those that received no armor sulked childishly before attempting to win it by force.

      A Councilor was watching the spectacle. As the High Commander stepped closer to him, he could see that it was Ashla 'Jaksamee, his own clan's Councilor. He looked at 'Jaksamee closely. The old Sangheili was stone-faced, but his shoulders were shaking as though he wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry. He noticed Half-Jaw and shook his head sorrowfully. "The Councilors have been voting on whether to resign from the Covenant," he admitted. "I have not joined them. Clan Sam is weak now. Since you left it, there is none to unify the clan. I am too old, too weak myself." His eyes roved on to 'Mensamee. "You, also of Sam, so young, yet already so powerful in the Covenant. Beware of treachery. This seems to be the first step in a larger conspiracy. I would not be surprised if soon the Prophets replaced the Sangheili on the Council with the Jiralhanae. Clan Sam will be their first target. I will be killed, I am sure. So old that nobody will think twice. Then you two, perhaps. But first, they may kill another who has forsaken his clan."

      Half-Jaw's eyes lit up with mingled fear and fascination. 'Jaksamee shook his head again and turned away. Immediately, the High Commander turned toward the Inner Sanctum. He started to walk quickly towards the double doors, but before he was halfway down the antechamber he broke into a flat-out run. His two Sangheili followed, unsure what their leader was so anxious about.

      As they went, an old, grizzled Honor Guard, his skin marred by slashes that could only have come from a Jiralhanae bayonet, watched the High Commander go. He handed his right pauldron to the Jiralhanae in front of him and shook his head. "That one's always hated your race," he muttered, pointing a finger after Half-Jaw. "I was there the day your lot killed his father, you know. Only time I ever shouted at a Hierarch."

      "You disrespected a Hierarch?" the Jiralhanae asked, his contempt blunted slightly by awe.

      The Sangheili did not answer, but raised up his left arm, severed at the elbow. "Don't ever make that mistake, you hear?" he said with a morbid smile.

      Half-Jaw's keen ears heard the statement. He wondered if what he had done and was about to do constituted disrespect. The more cowardly half of him hoped it wasn't. The other half wished it could half-whistle something that a human had once said right before he snapped its neck:

      Dilly, dilly, come and be killed.