Master Chief Inbound
Posted By: Dagorath<email@example.com>
Date: 3 December 2005, 1:13 pm
The Master Chief sat cross-legged on the floor, hands by his sides and his weapons – two needlers and a battle rifle – on the ground beside him. To all appearances he was sleeping, but while his mind was resting, his eyes darted to and fro with the caution of a scout within the camp of his enemies.
The planet was blossoming into incandescent flames. As bolt after bolt of plasma smashed onto the surface, oceans boiled and land leapt into flames. Volcanoes, roused by the vibrations, spewed forth lava in huge torrents. Smoke mushroomed all over the planet like atomic bombs.
Behind him, the Forerunner ship’s fusion cores hummed gently. His keen ears could hear the heavy footfalls of the Brute Honour Guards, doing endless patrols in the ship’s hull. The Prophet of Truth probably didn’t know of his presence, but the alien was being careful to the point of paranoia. Not that the Master Chief had any intention of engaging the Brutes at this moment in time. He preferred to have a platoon of Marines and some heavy weapons before he attacked towering meat-grinders with grenade-launchers.
The freezing cold fumes billowed out of the cryotube, and the Chief pushed himself slowly out. He stood for a while on the lip, breathing in the recycled air, before hopping lightly down.
He had to do something soon, though. The Prophet had entered Earth space, and he had no idea where they were now. Perhaps Earth was only a waypoint to shake off any pursuers. But he had a feeling that the Prophet had a very good reason for coming here. Possibly the same reason as why Regret had come here earlier.
“SPARTAN-117, you are hereby awarded the Purple Heart for your actions during the Klobicus V Civil War. Your heroic service is highly commendable.”
He had no backup, no Cortana and very little ammunition. He had two clips for his battle rifle and only two more crystal “lumps” for his needlers. They might be sufficient to take down one or two Brutes, but he couldn’t guarantee any more. He didn’t even have any grenades.
“That….is another Halo,” said Cortana matter-of-factly.
The important thing was to keep calm, which was why he was meditating instead of racing through the corridors of the Forerunner ship. He had in fact done a little of that, but it was difficult to evade the Brute guards and it seemed better to keep up the false impression that they were alone on board.
The ship had jumped very quickly, however, with a journey time of around three hours. This was mainly due to the advanced technology of the Forerunners, but he had a feeling that it could go even faster, if Truth understood the controls better or that they were willing to try things out. Some deep-rooted fear of trying to improve the Forerunners’ systems had stopped Covenant technological progress. Perhaps this was the result of some horrible experiment gone wrong, or just some plot of the Prophets to further manipulate their underlings.
He got up heavily. He had only spoken to Lord Hood around fifteen minutes ago. If they were still in Earth space, it meant that the Prophet be flying through the atmosphere by now. If not, they could be anywhere.
In his last dash through the transport funnel onto the ship, the Chief had been thrown into some sort of landing bay, where Truth’s Phantom had been parked. It was still there now, but there was not much point in commandeering it.
There was a doorway at the other end of the dock. He walked towards it – the Forerunner vessel had artificial gravity and so he had no way of telling whether they were in the vicinity of Earth or still in space - and went through a few passages he had explored earlier. Following his mental map, he evaded several patrols of Brutes – at least five Brutes in each group – and reached a high catwalk above the bridge of the vessel. Oddly, it was positioned near the prow of the ship, unlike most Covenant spaceships, where the bridge was nearer the centre.
Concealed in the shadows, he peered down at the bridge below him. The guard around Truth was astoundingly small: only four Brutes wielding Brute Shots stood guard around the wizened alien. There were three patrol groups, which added up to twenty Covenant soldiers in all. That was around the capacity of a Phantom dropship.
Truth was staring at an enormous screen that stretched right around the entire room, sweeping towards a door at one end directly below the Chief. It showed clouds and mist floating past slowly. Suddenly, they left the cloud layer and the screens revealed a beautiful forest, with every shade of green and a blue river flowing through.
“Behold, my children,” said Truth, “the homeworld of the heathens and the resting place of the ancients.”
The Brutes turned their backs to the door and gazed wide-eyed at Earth below them. Truth’s chair bobbed slightly up and down as the ship flew slowly towards the surface. The Chief could see several Longsword fighters swoop past, but they did not engage, probably due to the orders of Lord Hood.
One of the Brutes moved towards a glowing set of holograms near eye level. He raised his armoured fist to tap one of them, but Truth stopped him. “Do not reveal our true alignment yet. I know not why they did not engage, but we shall make use of their ignorance as lengthily as possible.”
The Chief smiled humourlessly. He checked the positions of the three patrol groups. They were in corridors around the bridge, watching out for whatever menace might come - the Chief guessed the Flood, which could have stowed aboard the vessel. He would have ample time to jump down, take down two Brutes, get a Brute Shot and some ammo, and duke it out with the remaining two. Unless, of course, the Prophet had some sort of weapon too, like Regret.
He looked at his weapons once again. The needlers were particularly effective against the Brutes, and he guessed that he could fire at two at the same time with one needler in each hand. At this extreme range it would be difficult but at a slightly closer range it would be fine.
He gauged the distance from the catwalk to where the congregation was. A straight drop of around ten metres, then approximately twenty metres from the ground to the Prophet and his guards.
He walked to the very brink of the catwalk. The ship was much closer to the ground now.
He powered up the shields on his feet to maximum and jumped.
Impacting soundlessly, the Chief looked around. The Brutes and Prophet were still looking at the screen.
He skated forward – the shield under his feet made the ground feel like greased ice – to around five metres from the Brutes. Raising his needlers, his battle rifle slung over his shoulder, he pointed one at each alien’s head.
He fired. A stream of needlers rushed towards each Brute as the other Brutes and Truth turned. He had emptied twenty needles into each of his targets before they fired their first shot.
Wham. One of the Brutes’ grenades smashed onto the Chief’s chest and flung him backwards, taking out his shield in one shot. As he fell, the second grenade whizzed just over the top of his chest. Flinging his arms out, he managed to stop his fall – his abdominal muscles hurt from pulling him upright again – and skated left to flank one of the Brutes.
“Infidel! Heretic! Heathen!” Truth screeched madly.
As the remaining Brutes fired, he crouched quickly and fired a stream of needles into one of the two. The Brutes’ grenades detonated a little way behind him. The needlers homed in, dug deep into its skin, and detonated in a cloud of micro-shards. The corpse fell heavily to the floor.
The Chief was about to engage the final Brute when, with a last scream of “Scum!” the Prophet slammed his withered fist on one of his armrests. The walls glowed and, stepping out of nothingness, five Brutes appeared within the bridge. The five patrolling red contacts twenty metres away previously disappeared and re-emerged three metres away.
Shit. The Prophet seemed to have some kind of teleportational device that transported a patrol of his Brutes to the party.
He stooped and grabbed a fallen Brute Shot and fired rapidly. Two Brutes went down, and then Truth slammed the button again. Another patrol was returned.
The Chief felt a grenade impact on his back that flung him into the arms of one of the Brutes. As the Brute dropped his weapon, grabbed his neck and began to squeeze, Truth pounded the button one last time.
Whoosh. The Chief felt a sudden drop of temperature. Was he dead already? Impossible. Spartans didn’t die. They were just listed as “Missing in Action”.
The Chief looked around. The phrase “Missing from Action” was more appropriate. Somehow, instead of teleporting his last patrol in, Truth had managed to teleport the Chief out. He was now falling at terminal velocity – 10m/s – straight towards what looked like a sprawling city near the edge of the forest.
Training and experience immediately flung his arms out into a spread-eagled position. His battle rifle – still slung on his shoulder – fell beside him.
Despite the altitude, he had a feeling the spire of one of the skyscrapers below seemed to be in the exact right place to impale him.
Alace Fagundes walked steadily towards his car. It had been like this, day in, day out, for five years already. Ever since he gave up his job as a company executive, he had spent the rest of his life living on his savings and trying to galvanise the people of Earth to fight harder against the Covenant.
It was a bit like those Greenpeace fanatics that he hated so much. They were really on the same side, though Greenpeace was putting a lot more emphasis on the “peace” as opposed to the “green” lately. After all, pretty hard to be green when you have a several hundred factories churning out tanks all day.
Peace treaties? Bah. Treaties can’t win wars; treaties can’t save your children.
Every day, he had gotten in his car – an antique Rolls Royce, no less – and went to some town hall or the other all over the country. The responses were very different. Sometimes, the people wept when they heard of the atrocities; sometimes, they looked impassively back, clapped a little at the end, and walked off; sometimes they shook their fists at the sky and yelled: “Why us?”; and sometimes they shouted him down.
Today would probably be no different. This time, however, it was for a much larger audience: the City Council and a large portion of the citizenry of the sprawling metropolis Sao Paulo itself. The speech was to be at the Sao Paulo Grand Town Hall and a lot of political heavyweights were going to be there. Alace had to make a really big dent.
As his Rolls cruised noiselessly through the morning traffic, he shuffled through his notes once more. This one would be similar to every other one, just with twice the energy, twice the flair, twice the power.
He arrived at the Grand Town Hall, which was shaped like an egg standing on its tip. Beside it rose, like jagged teeth, the skyscrapers of Sao Paolo downtown. Everything gave an illusion of power and control, as though there wasn’t an enormous Covenant fleet doing battle with itself and the defenders of Earth fifty kilometres above their heads.
It was ironic that the people listening to his speech today were the people that should be trying to repel the threat in space, not listen to speeches. How feeble humanity truly was, bogged down by bureaucracy and laziness and impotency.
They had him installed on a podium right on time. The corpulent, red-nosed Brazilian officials sat in boxes and the populace sat in seats all around him. He could see some of them chatting with one another, some staring at him avidly, and others darting their eyes calculatingly from his face to other members of the audience.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” he began. “Earth is burning.”
There was a murmur and some loud voices rose in anger, but overall, the audience was listening, attentive.
“Covenant ships are attacking both our orbital defense platforms and our cities. Plasma bolts are searing, right now, into Earth, starting fires and killing many. Our defenses are being slowly devoured in the Covenant’s inexorable wave of destruction. Is there hope we shall stand?
“Every man has his duty. His duty is to give all he can to protect his home, his family, his country, his planet. Whether he be a soldier fighting the aggressor, or a worker labouring on the home front, there is no room for cowardice, for shirking, for inability.
“Think to yourself, what have you done for Earth? What have you done for humanity? What have you done for your friends, your family, the people around you now?”
Air whistled past with a rising shriek. He was getting closer and closer. The buildings were becoming distinct. He could count every window, every aerial, every tiny peering face.
With a small sigh of relief, he fell past the spire that he had so ominously contemplated a few moments before. Down below him, he could see a tall egg-shaped building. Its tip was made of glass and within he could see a mass of dark heads and a platform. A man seemed to be gesturing on a podium somewhere before them.
He was getting closer and closer. The Chief powered up all his safety devices, shield, hydrostatic gel and all, and, for the first time in his life, curled up and cried as he prayed.
“There is still hope,” Alace continued. “It is not yet too late. When you walk out of this room, think, not of what you have done, but of what you can do. Think of how you can help in the fight. How you can help save everyone.
“Look around you. How many of these people do you know? How many of them do you love? Or hate?
“Does it matter? Everyone’s life is at risk here. We must stand united, regardless of ethnicity, gender, wealth, class. Only united can we survive the onslaught.
“We shall be beaten down. We shall die. But, united, Earth shall never fall. We may be left on one foot, our knees, all fours. But, united, we shall always stand up again.”
There was a rending crash. A dark, dense missile smashed through the skylight and slammed into the stage beside the podium. The resultant hole was more than three metres deep. A cloud of dust and small rocks billowed out.
The missile at the bottom stirred after a few seconds. As it pushed itself slowly from the ground on its hands and knees, the congregation could see that it was a man, or what looked like one. Dressed in thick-looking armour that was now blackened and smoking, the figure leaked transparent liquid from apertures all over his armour.
The figure gradually pushed itself onto its knees, before raising first one leg, and then the other, standing up to its full height. It straightened and stood there for a moment, silently. Then the figure climbed slowly out of the hole.
Here’s your chance! Head up, chest out, voice loud!
Alace said once more, leaning towards the microphone, “We shall always stand up again.”
Special thanks to (in alphabetical order): Pooman, SeverianofUrth, Tin Can Man and Veneer.