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Part VII: Extinguished Flame
Posted By: DarkZipper<jackson-lewis@hotmail.com>
Date: 2 January 2008, 11:48 pm

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      Gnarlg's mouth went agape as the door leading to the rest of the facility opened. Behind him stood the Arbiter and other Covenant soldiers, thirsting for his blood. And before him the Flood, in its horrible glory swarmed into the small room he took residence in.
      The small parasites flung themselves at him, attempting to find purchase somewhere on his flesh to make him one of their own: a mindless servant within a multitude of others. And for a moment, as he watched them hungrily edge near him, he wanted to let them take him. If he did it would all be over. His struggles would be left to someone else and he could rest in oblivion…
      But he could not choose that fate. He would not damn himself and his people. He had a duty that could not be forgotten. He removed his plasma rifles from his side, took aim at the lead parasite, and unleashed a steady stream of plasma into their ranks, inching forward.
      Sadly, it was not enough. For every parasite he killed three others took its place. He imagined all hope was lost as the swarm multiplied and continued to surge forward, when the Oracle and three Sentinels swarmed into the room and began pushing back the Flood. As the Sentinels flashed their beams, thinning the numbers of the Flood, the Oracle turned to Gnarlg.
      "It is quite lucky that I found you! You surely would have joined the parasite had I not been here."
      "Yes, thank you Oracle. My thanks are boundless. Now I have another favor to ask of you."
      The quizzical machine cocked its spherical body sideways as it replied, "Anything at all."
      "I need a way for my warriors and me to escape this place. Coming into this facility was a grave mistake, and between the Covenant forces and the parasite we cannot hope to stay alive in this place."
      For a moment Guilty Spark simply hovered there, considering their few options. "There are no ships in this facility that have Slipspace capabilities, but there is a portal on another facility in this planet. Please follow me."
      And with that, the Oracle sped off over the shredded remains of the Flood, flanked by his Sentinels. "Wait," Gnarlg said as he jogged slightly behind the mechanized beings, "you mean there is another facility on this planet and a portal? I was not aware portals existed!"
      "Why yes," Spark said, delighted to be sharing his boundless information. "My creators crafted it so that The Ark would be more accessible from the ring that was here previously. One of your small vessels is located inside one of the other sectors of this facility. If we arrive there in time we will be able to board it, pick up as many of your soldiers as possible, and escape to the portal!"
      Gnarlg almost stopped hearing this, but reminded himself to keep on running. The Oracle was moving at a very quick pace and to lose him would be catastrophic. He had so many questions regarding this new information, but one was the most important. "Oracle, one Seraph can only hold so many of my men."
      Spark was about to give Gnarlg a quick reply when a multitude of the Flood appeared around the next corner, stopping the five of them in their tracks to deal with the dirty things.

      The Arbiter waited in the elevator leading up to the cables that held the facility together. The only way to get the Heretic out of his hiding place was to cut the cables. Then when the instillation began plummeting to the surface of the gas giant he would find the scum and kill him, silencing his lies.
      But for now things were peaceful. It was an odd feeling, sitting in this elevator created years ago. Very little noise came to this elongated chamber at first, but as he ascended the silence began to whither away, replaced by the guttural groans and shouts of the Flood.
      "All my Phantoms are in the air, Arbiter. Go ahead, cut that cable," the Spec Ops Commander said over his radio. He was eager to complete this mission and leave but somehow the Arbiter found that fighting made him feel invincible. And at moments like these, despite his past faults and heresies he felt like a god.
      And as the elevator ended its ascent, as the parasite rushed towards him, begging for his flesh, he broke out of his peaceful feeling, released his energy sword and began the duty at hand, carefully slashing at the Flood as they bounded to him. The way the creatures jumped was incredible. One might spring towards him leagues away and reach him in one leap.
      But he was ready for every single one that crossed his path. Whether they flailed their limbs at him, shot at him, or tried to tear him apart he was able to defeat them. True, the Arbiter was meant to carry out suicide missions, but that did not mean he would go down without a struggle.
Then he came upon the first cable. Crushing an infection form in his one hand, he used the other hand to swipe the blade across the cable, splitting it where the blade had sliced it.
      "That's one!" The Spec Ops Commander exclaimed almost gleefully. "By the Prophets, look at this station list!" Perhaps he was learning to enjoy these moments himself.
      Quickly but carefully, the Arbiter worked his way to the other two cables, each swing of his blade a message of the Covenant to clear the path for the worthy. And as he cut the third cable the facility finally gave way. He felt the greatest rush of his life as he and the installation both began to plummet. Now things were getting interesting!

      "Oh my goodness!" Spark exclaimed as Gnarlg felt a jolt across the facility. "It seems that we are falling."
      "What?" Gnarlg asked in a tone that was angry and scared at the same time.
      "I mean," Spark said as their group inched closer to the hangar, "someone has cut the three cables holding this station here."
      "Delightful." Gnarlg huffed. Likely the Flood became too destructive.
      Just then, he heard the discharging of a sword behind him and the roar of an elite. He was the only one in his own army with a sword, so one of the Covenant's soldiers must have caught up to him.
      "Quickly Oracle," he said as they entered the Flood infested hangar, "leave the Sentinels here to stop the imbecile behind us. We will get to the Seraph in the other part of the facility!"
      "Marvelous!" Spark replied.
      By now Gnarlg could see one of his banshees sitting outside, amidst the rush of gasses and winds flying about the falling station. The oddly shaped purple vehicle had never looked so gracious before! It would be a miracle if but one of his men survived this to help spread the truth of the Forerunners. And he would not mind if that one soldier was him.
      His thoughts were interrupted as he and the Oracle almost crashed into one of the bloated parasites. Sensing their close proximity it began to swell, and it exploded before Gnarlg could react.
      The force knocked him to the ground and reduced his shields to almost nothing. And he was quickly covered with the little beasts. "No, I will not let you monsters be the death of me! Not now, not ever!" He raised his fists as they covered him and began crushing each as it tried to attach to him. It was odd… picking the wretched things off of him was like picking plants out of soil.
Grabbing the last one and tossing it into a wall he slowly raised himself, grabbed his weapons, and rushed outside with the Oracle just as the door behind him leading into the hangar was opening.
      Then panic struck him as he realized there were two different banshees sitting there. Taking one would still leave his pursuer the other to pilot. His only option was to destroy the second one… but he simply did not have the time. By the time he destroyed it the other elite would be upon him and he wanted to avoid fighting an experienced warrior at all costs. Despite his foray with the Flood he still was not a fighter… he was simply good at surviving.
      "Hurry friend," Spark exclaimed, "we do not have much time." Then not waiting for an answer, Spark sped off in the direction of the other hangar.
      "Coming, Oracle." And with that, he leapt into the farthest banshee and was on his way… sort of.
      The air resistance he had to fight to keep up with the station was incredible. Trying to control the craft was like wrestling with one of the hairy and rough skinned Jiralhanee. But despite the difficulty he was able to keep up with the station. And lo and behold, as he struggled with the controls one of his heretic banshees flew up close to him.
      "Brother," he breathed quickly through the radio in the craft, "I am being pursued by one of the Covenant. Please dispose of him and follow me. We are escaping in the Seraph in this hangar." He received no reply. "Brother, respond!"
      The other banshee began firing at him.
      "By the Prophets," he cursed, "is anything not trying to slay me?" He banked to the left as the opposing banshee sped past him, blazing plasma,. Then fighting the air, he turned as his opponent was coming around for another pass. They sped at each other, firing madly, not caring that there was another life inside of the other banshee, only that the life inside of it needed to be destroyed.
      An idea came to him as he neared the other. He reached up, pushed a bright red button on the hologram that was the controls, and his banshee's fuel rod gun activated, sending a blast of green energy searing through the air and obliterating his opponent. The resulting crash was one of the most satisfying things he had ever heard as he sped off towards the other part of the facility.
      As he landed Guilty Spark was floating there, waiting for him. "Tell me, what took you?" he asked as they sped off into the facility.
      "I apologize, Oracle. Some of my kind would prefer oblivion to life and wish to hinder my progress."
      As they ran through the facility they found plenty of parasites blocking their path. Once again he brought out his sword, but Gnarlg found that it was almost drained of energy. "Curses!" he yelled as he slashed an oncoming Flood organism and watched as the blade sputtered and died. All he had left now were his plasma rifles… and of course his small replication devices… but he was saving those for his hunter.
      "This way," the Oracle said, "we are almost to the hangar, and I do not with to lose you." After a few more rounds of Flood and plasma the two of them finally found themselves at the hangar.
      "Good." Gnarlg said happily. He was more than happy to be rid of this place. "Oracle, activate…"
      He would have continued, but the door behind him opened and he heard the heavy footsteps of an elite… or was it Fate?
      "Turn, heretic," a voice behind him said.
      He was at a bit of a disadvantage, so he obliged his blind brother and turned around, only to lay eyes on the Arbiter himself. The warrior was simply glorious. Unlike the usual blue or red armor of most elites, his was a majestic silver with ancient etchings carved onto its surface by the Sanghelli that crafted it eons ago. Any elite standing in this armor looked positively magnificent and, to Gnarlg's great regret, equally deadly.
      "Arbiter. I would rather die by your hands than let the Prophets lead me to slaughter." He still had no intention of dying. Life was still a very precious thing and he was still very scared, but simply knowing that the Prophets sent an Arbiter to do him away made him feel all the more powerful and confident.
      He felt that his days as the Architect of the Covenant had been a lifetime before this. He was a completely different person now. He was wiser, stronger, and enlightened. Not only that, but he was dangerous. The Prophets, the most feared beings of the Covenant had sent the Arbiter, the greatest fighter they had to offer, to silence him. This only made his message and his goal that much more important. Failure was not an option at any cost!
      "Who has taught you these lies?" The Arbiter asked him as others had asked him before. He was about to answer, when the Oracle sprung up out of nowhere. He seemed to love talking to anyone about anything… especially himself. "The Oracle!" he said in awe.
      Spark tilted his circular body, as he was so apt to do and addressed the elite. "Why hello! I am 343 Guilty Spark, Monitor of Installation 04." Gnarlg waited, hoping that the truth would sink into The Arbiter without his prompting. This elite would make an especially helpful ally in his war against the Prophets. Winning him over would renew the hope of his cause.
      "Ask the Oracle about Halo. How the Prophets would sacrifice us all for nothing," Gnarlg said carefully to The Arbiter. He had to make him see… he just had to.
      "More questions? Splendid! I would be happy to assist you," the Oracle replied to no prompting but his own.
Gnarlg took a moment more to stare into the Arbiter's eyes, to look into the workings of his soul. But to Gnarlg's deepest regret, he realized quickly that the truth, the path that must be taken would not reveal itself to this poor fool. He would sadly be doomed with the rest of them. So he quickly took hold of his plasma rifles and started firing at the Arbiter.
      Reacting quickly, the elite in the ceremonial armor quickly found cover as Gnarlg flew up to the top of the Seraph to get a better angle. If he would not see then he was in Gnalrg's way, and this path could have no barriers if it was to be completed.
      "The Elites are blind, Arbiter. . . but I . . . will make them see." With that, he released the orbs that held his copies. The result was incredible. Two exact replicas of him appeared in a small flash of blue light. But these copies were much fiercer. These copies were actual warriors, which was just what he needed.
      Then an idea struck him. Why not escape while the Arbiter fought his replicas. The Oracle could simply make more of them at another time. So as his digital twins moved in for the kill he slinked away, edging his way to the entrance of the Seraph. It was not that he was running away, he was simply preserving his life. He was one of the few who knew the reality of the Covenant's situation. He was among the few who realized the grave mistakes that could be made.
      He quickly found the entrance to the Seraph, but just as he was about to open it the Arbiter, having already taken out his false twins, tackled him to the ground. Feeling his survival instincts take over, Gnarlg punched the Arbiter off of him and rolled away. Instead of standing he simply used his jet pack to lift himself off of the ground, and he unleashed a torrent of blue plasma towards the elite.
      But he too was obstinate in his thirst for his own survival and his adversary's destruction. For even as he was being seared with plasma, the Arbiter brought out his own energy sword, and gave a mighty roar as he leapt up to Gnarlg and swung his crackling blade in a wide horizontal arc.
      As Gnarlg felt the energy cut through him he silently prayed for the blind Covenant and the galaxy that they were about to destroy.