Room of Forerunner
Posted By: Dagorath<email@example.com>
Date: 19 January 2006, 1:35 am
Sun was setting on the Amazon. Its last yellow rays pierced the treetops around the river, reflecting on the droplets of water upon their leaves. Each glowed golden, like droplets of liquid topaz. One dripped down onto the moist forest floor, soaking in immediately.
In stark contrast with the green and gold, the Phantom dropship that flew soundlessly into the Amazonian Rainforest was purple, with a great glowing orb of energy near the end. It glided down through the mighty trees into a clearing. The clearing was small enough to escape aerial detection, yet large enough to house an odd-looking pyramid. The stonework was yellowed and cracked, and moss grew upon its sides. Vines snaked up its crumbling face.
Yet there was something unmistakably alien about it. Perhaps it was the odd shape of its angles or perhaps the tiny, waxy plant that grew near its base that looked so different from other Terran plants. Impossible to tell by any other than a human.
Commander Miranda Keyes was one, and she could tell, and she knew that she was in the right place.
The Phantom slowed to a hover above the clearing, to the left of the pyramid. She jumped down first, followed by a medium-height black man with glittering teeth, short black hair, and a well-worn shotgun.
"This is it, Sergeant," she said to the man.
Sergeant Avery Johnson grinned broadly. "Got here at last," he replied.
There was a muffled thud behind them, and a tall alien walked towards them. He was a full head and a half taller than either human and had four mandibles instead of a mouth. He was dressed in ornate silver armour that looked ancient. The air around him crackled.
As six more of his fellows, in newer-looking black armour, came down from the dropship, the Arbiter walked silently towards the pyramid. His eyes glinted as they swept from its crumbled tip to its cracked yet solid base.
"The Ark," he said softly. "There can be no doubt." And he knelt before the pyramid. The other Elites followed suit.
Keyes watched for a while as the Elites prostrated before the pyramid, before giving a tiny cough.
The Arbiter sprang up. "Bring the Relic over," he ordered.
Two of the black-armoured Elites went back onto the dropship, which floated patiently a half metre above the ground, and re-emerged with two halves of what looked like a car engine. It was completely red, with fine blue lines racing over the two halves like questing worms. They set it reverently down.
The Arbiter and Keyes each picked one half up and pushed them together before the pyramid. They fused together soundlessly, and the racing blue lines stopped. As the red colour died, turning the Relic to a plain white, the pyramid simply disappeared into nothing, to reveal a dark abyss where it was before.
They laid the Relic down, and stared at the hole.
Gritting her teeth, Miranda Keyes strode forward and jumped feet first into the aperture.
It was as though she had fallen into a vacuum. There was no whoosh of air, her clothes did not billow. She didn't even feel any sense of gravity or vertigo. It was as though she were standing on a black floor, with black walls around her rushing upwards.
Just like that, the walls stopped moving. Standing in what seemed like mid-air, Keyes found herself staring at a triangular door, much like the ones she had seen on the way to the control room on Delta Halo.
She walked slowly towards it. Behind her, there were the sounds of a light tread as Johnson stopped behind her. Behind the Sergeant, the Arbiter and his guards stood.
She turned back. Johnson was peering around the chamber with his shotgun pointing levelly at wherever he was looking. The Arbiter's eyes darted back and forth as he spun a grey bar in his four-fingered hand. Behind them, the Spec Ops Elites stood at attention, holding a black plasma rifle in each large hand.
The door hissed open.
They faced a long, echoing hall that terminated in a door like the one they had just emerged through. At first, they could see nothing unusual about its plain walls, its towering height, its smooth floor.
It was then that everything flickered to life. Right before their eyes, hundreds of holograms activated. Each was fluorescent blue, semi-transparent busts upon small stone pedestals lined up upon the sides right up to each door.
But it was the nature of the busts that caused their wholesale astonishment. They were Grunts, with long, elongated ears and flared snouts. In the holographic eyes, they saw wisdom and a deep sadness. The eyes did not stare at them; rather, they looked slightly upwards, as though looking at a brighter future than the one that was in store for them.
Beneath each one, there was a single Forerunner rune, of much greater complexity than any Keyes or Johnson or even the Arbiter had seen. Each was graceful and drawn with great skill.
It was the Arbiter who spoke first. "This is the Ark, is it not?" he asked uncertainly. "But, if this is the Ark, then those must be "
"The Forerunners," said Keyes faintly. "The Grunts were the Forerunners."
They gaped in silence at the busts, their minds whirling at the revelation. Arguments and counter-arguments battled in the arena of their minds.
It was Johnson who spoke again after the long silence. "Impossible," he growled. "The Grunts are useless! Cannon fodder! I've killed my share of 'em." He waved his shotgun emphatically.
"Perhaps, the Great Journey
." the Arbiter muttered.
"What in the gods' name is that?" a voice behind them shouted. One of the Spec Ops Elites had spoken unexpectedly. He was pointing with his plasma rifle at an area before them on the floor. Keyes could see fear and a little curiosity on his alien face.
Their eyes traveled over to where he was pointing. "Good God," Keyes whispered.
It was an infection form, moving slowly due to its one hundred thousand year-malnutrition. Most of its tentacles were limp, trailing behind it, but the ones that were still moving carried it as quickly as they could towards the party.
With a flick, the Arbiter ignited his energy sword. He slashed downwards just as the infection form jumped towards his face. It dissected the creature neatly. The pod fell in two halves onto the floor.
"Ma'am," said Johnson, "why do we always seem to run into Flood in dodgy places you lead us to?"
"Look out!" Keyes yelled in reply. Johnson whipped up his shotgun and the barrel smacked into another infection form. It popped, leaving small flakes of skin floating in the still air.
Out of a hundred holes behind the busts, more of the infection forms poured out in an inexorable wave. They scuttled along the walls, leapt upon the floor, and dropped from the ceiling.
The Spec Ops Elites formed a defensive perimeter around the Arbiter and the humans, taking Flood five at a time with their plasma rifles. When the weapons overheated, the Elites used the heat being dumped to burn the infection forms. Meanwhile, Johnson fired into clods of Flood with his shotgun and Keyes sprayed them with her pair of SMGs.
The Arbiter watched as they fought. His sword flickered in the half-light, yet he did not leap into the fray.
Five minutes later, the Elites flung down their depleted plasma rifles and whipped out energy swords. Slashing here and there, they cut swathes through the advancing Flood. Johnson was now whacking the infection forms with his shotgun barrel, having run out of shells, and Keyes was throwing grenades.
Suddenly, the Arbiter leapt into action. "There's no end to them!" he shouted. "We must make it to the door!" He pointed at the far exit.
They ran for it. The Spec Ops Elites loosely ringed the humans as they ran, but the Arbiter forged ahead. Spinning in complex circles, his sword was a whirlwind that shredded infection forms.
One Spec Ops Elite succumbed under the combined weight of scores of the Flood. His fellow next to him grabbed his fallen sword and wielded it in his left hand.
Another one fell. Johnson grabbed the Elite's sword and laughed grimly as he diced the enemy.
They were almost at the door. Suddenly, another black-armoured Elite broke away from the pack and waded into the parasites towards his fallen brethren, slashing all the while. Indifferent to the calls of the Arbiter and the other Spec Ops Elites, he stopped beside his comrades and knelt down, dropping his sword. The Flood closed over him.
The remainder of the party lurched through the doors. As she did so, Keyes could swear that she saw the holograms of the Forerunners turn very slightly towards the centre of the room, where the three Elites were being devoured by the Flood. As the door slid closed, one by one, the holograms deactivated once more.
Rampant speculation? Perhaps. Or perhaps not.