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Ascension: Chapter 10
Posted By: Dragonclaws<nogard@gmail.com>
Date: 19 August 2010, 8:11 am

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The doors slid open, revealing an open walkway on which several Jiralhanae paced. The Arbiter gripped his hammer and strode forward into the mass of enemies, his motion tracker telling him his warriors were following.

When he had reached the end of the walkway, he turned to look across the hold. A Wraith and a Spectre were located on the floor, lined up toward the door. He glanced around at the slight shimmers of light indicating his warriors, and motioned with the hammer for them to spread out.

"…And the Human called out for protection from its false god!" laughed a nearby Jiralhanae loudly.

"Fool!" its partner agreed. "What god would protect a Human?"

The Arbiter lightly clicked his radio, signaling for the Wraith/Lekgolo pair, as he chose his first target. He aimed the Fist at the laughing Jiralhanae, and stroked the trigger line. The blue burst shooting from the weapon brought him temporarily out of camouflage, but it went unnoticed as the beast was shoved off the walkway to land crushed on the floor below.

Its partner looked up at the Heavens alarmed, perhaps pleading for mercy from its sin. The Arbiter laughed at this, and showed it the same mercy the Forerunners would. This time when he fired, the surrounding Jiralhanae saw him. Fortunately, before they could fire, his warriors attacked them from behind.

He glanced away from the battle to see the Wraith and Lekgolo had not yet entered. He activated his radio and quietly spoke to the Sangheili, "Is there a problem?"

"Arbiter," the reply came, "There appears to be no way to open the door from our side."

He cursed his lack of knowledge of capital ships, it had been too long ago he served aboard one. "Be ready," he spoke into the radio, "I shall find a way to open it." He spied a holo-panel beside the large door, and prepared to jump down. He ran through the fighting warriors until he was beside the Wraith, and leaped onto it. He trusted his new armor to absorb the shock of landing, so it came as an unfortunate surprise to find his legs taking all of it.

Perhaps it is due to its Huragok origins? he wondered as he ran toward the panel, aware he was now in full sight. The Huragok, so light of weight, may not require any such protection.

Reaching the panel, he activated it quickly. As the door opened, he turned around, ready to face any Jiralhanae that may have appeared. However, none seemed present on the floor. On the walkways, battles were ending, and the chamber soon became silent. "What is our status?" he called up as the Wraith and Lekgolo entered, now unneeded.

"Arbiter," a Sangheili called, his shield appearing with a shimmer, "One of us has fallen, but none of the Jiralhanae have survived."

"Good," he said, thinking about their next moves, "Come down here through the corridors. Seal the doors as you pass them, and eliminate any enemy you encounter."

"Yes, Arbiter," the Sangheili answered as he and the others moved to obey. Soon, they entered the chamber, and he was hurt to see that one of his warriors had his right arm entirely ripped off. With his energy shield encasing his body, the blood which leaked from the wound covered his whole body, giving the Sangheili a quite gory appearance.

The Covenant was in disarray, making it very unlikely his sacrifice would be catalogued by the Ministry of Glory. No tapestries would be woven, his family would never receive any honor… and most importantly, there were no Forerunners to ensure an equal balance of malice and fortune.

The Arbiter now doubted very strongly in the existence of any of the after-lives of which he had known since birth, meaning that if any of them were slain, there would be no more life for their souls. I must plan very carefully, he reasoned. If any should die in vain, I will have failed.

"Arbiter, the only enemies we encountered were a few Kig-Yar," the same Sangheili that spoke before told him. "I suspect they were sent to investigate the noise created by our battle. When they cease to return, the Jiralhanae shall soon learn of our presence."

Accepting the news, he quickly gave them his orders, "We shall enter the launch bay, open its doors, and summon our brethren. Should any stand in our way, we show them no mercy. However, allowing our reinforcements entry is our top priority. Engage active camouflage."

Akiso Nonu Saba was amazed. After such ages under the oppressive rule of the creatures who dared to call themselves 'Prophets,' it seemed a group of Sangheili was finally revolting. With the fierce warriors as allies, the Lekgolojiri could very possibly overthrow the tyrannical government once and for all.

"Shall we rid ourselves of these worthless fools?" he rumbled to his mate, Etowo Nonu Shichi, lightly jerking his mass head at the brainwashed Sangheili around them in the crowded Phantom.

"Do not be quick to rid ourselves of potential tools, Akiso," Etowo answered craftily. "These warriors may be enemies of our greater goal, but we are all enemies of the Jiralhanae. Let us wait for an opportune moment to present itself before we shake lose our misguided escorts."

"Such is wise," he agreed. As their Phantom flew on, his mind filled with wonderful imagery. Perhaps after realizing we were all deceived, the enslaved races will join together to help create a new world where we shall all be the same. For the first time since civil war broke out, he let out the odor of happiness. Such a wonderful dream.

However, he could tell his mate did not hold such grand thoughts. Her singulars, he smelled, were tightened with stress. He felt sadness on her behalf, but could not properly comfort her in warrior form.

In an attempt to induce her sense of patriotism, he let out a soft rumble echoing the seventh verse of the Eternal Song: "Ever divided, yet awashed with unity, the Lekgolojiri flows free. We are always, with both sorrow and glee, and this We always shall be."

The Arbiter opened the door to the launch bay, and hurried inside. The Jiralhanae that were inside could very well choose to fire on the apparently empty hallway, and he wished to clear the doorway before they did. However, there were only two Kig-Yar nearby, relaxing without their shields. They looked up startled, and the Arbiter quickly crushed their skulls before they could raise an alarm.

Under camouflage, his warriors silently spread out through the bay. It was nearly empty on the bottom level, there were only two Jiralhanae nearby a banshee on the far side of the bay, but there were several others on the second level. Understanding the need for stealth, two Sangheili slipped behind the two Jiralhanae.

"Understandable, brother," one of the beasts was saying. "However, you must put aside your feelings, and trust the Hier…" An energy garrote struck its throat, cutting off the sentence. Its partner was similarly detained, and both soon slumped down to the floor, their necks lightly smoking.

As his warriors carefully propped the corpses against the separating wall in a simulation of life, he realized there was no energy lift in the chamber. Through what was no doubt a misuse of political power, the cruiser design had not been updated for nearly an Age. Without the efficiency the lifts would provide, their task would be extended more than should be necessary, possibly risking their lives. He made a mental note to propose to 'Lafatee they redesign the cruisers at the next available opportunity.

They quietly entered the corridor to take them to the second level, to find it contained three Kig-Yar at its far corner. One noticed the door closing, and held up its shield defensively while speaking to its partners in its harsh language.

The Arbiter hurried across the hall to strike them with the Fist of Rukt. He was able to strike two at once while they huddled together behind their shields, but the last was far enough away to let out a screeching cry, one which echoed in his ears even after he slew its maker.

He aimed the hammer up the hall in preparation for enemy reinforcements, and activated his radio. "Phantom Noble Message," he called softly, "Prepare to deposit the second lance in the aft-port launch bay." No response came. "Noble Message, this is the Arbiter," he tried again.

A Jiralhanae appeared at the end of the hall. "Bloody mercenaries," it muttered before seeing the dead Kig-Yar. As it stopped walking, the Arbiter fired a blast, smashing it against the inter-deck junction column.

"Thanatos!" The Jiralhanae's partner cried out, as it rushed over to the corpse and into the Arbiter's line of fire. Unfortunately, the hammer required a slight pause to regain power, giving the Jiralhanae time to react.

"He was my brother! Filthy rebels!" it screamed as it began to fire its crimson rifle at the same time as the Arbiter fired his hammer. The gravity distortion blast sent it to join its partner, while a stray bolt caught the Arbiter's left arm.

Instead of the mere zap of his body shield, the red plasma burned into the armor directly. "Arg!" he let out as his active camouflage failed. Through the pain, he saw his new armor smoking as it would in direct contact with plasma. Excellent, he thought sarcastically. Once more, I have no shields!

"Arbiter, are you alright?" asked one of his still camouflaged warriors.

"I believe so," he answered. The armor seemed to have done its job even without shielding, although he found the heat quite painful. "My body shield has failed." My fault for accepting untested technology.

"Fear not, Arbiter," the warrior said. "We shall protect you until the Noble Message arrives. That is, I assume you will wish to leave the combat zone while unprotected?"

"I think not," he replied. "My orders are to seize this vessel, and thus I must accompany the unit involved." He gestured at the black column with the two corpses spread around it, "That is an inter-deck junction column, used by Huragok to pass between levels. We must secure one to repair my armor."

He barely had time to finish his order, when two Jiralhanae pairs made their way around the corner. The blurry forms of his warriors sprang in front of him to protect him from the torrent of plasma that soon erupted. He realized he could no longer fire the hammer for fear of catching his fellow Sangheili in its discharge. He could do nothing without closing the distance, and did not dare to emerge into the plasma barrage. Instead, he stepped behind the corner, out of the way and trusting his warriors to finish the battle.

"-biter, …location…" hissed his radio amidst harsh static.

Anxious, he spoke into the radio even as a fierce battle took place mere units away, "Noble Message, repeat your words."

"Ar… we… please… not… us," he managed to hear through the interference.

He tried several more times to communicate, and eventually understood that they were requesting his location. "Aft-port launch bay," he repeated several times until the Phantom pilot appeared to understand.

A Sangheili let out a scream nearby, and the Arbiter tightly gripped the hammer, preparing to use it. Unfortunately, the plasma shot hit the active camouflage controls, leaving him visible to all enemies. He waited behind the corner, ready for whomever that would approach him, be they ally or enemy. He did not have to wait very long, for a blurred section of air soon moved in front of him.

"Arbiter," the Sangheili said, "We have lost three warriors. I am the last of my unit. But fear not," he said again, "We will complete our mission."

It crushed him to think that all three lives had been spent, never to be once more again. But he nodded in affirmation, "The Noble Message is already on its way. We will receive reinforcements, secure a Huragok, and then take this ship into our possession." But he paused before continuing, "Warrior, what is your name?"

"Usbi 'Cutasee, Arbiter," he answered.

"Commander 'Cutasee, know that should you fall in battle today, I will personally ensure your name is recorded in the Ministry of Glory's tapestry," he swore, resting the hammer on the ground so he could lay a hand upon his throat.

"Many thanks, Arbiter," 'Cutasee said. "It has been an honor to serve you."

As one, they began moving up the hall to complete their missions.


Gedeg blinked as he sprang awake. He was amazed at how refreshed he felt from his mere nap; it was as though he had not slept in a lifetime. Remembering his commander, he turned to face Major 'Bepolee, "Yes, Excellency?"

"Unggoy," the mechanic said patronizingly slow, "Watch my Huragok, and make certain it does not leave the room until it completes its duties. Understand?"

Annoyed, he was careful to keep his emotions in check to answer, "Yes, Excellency."

"Good," the Major affirmed, striding outside to leave him with the savant.

He stood alert until the door slid shut, and then moved to inspect the Huragok. It was a fascinating creature, its many tentacles spread over pieces of Lekgolo armor, reworking its structure on minute levels. He wondered what the augmentations were, what could give solid armor an energy shield. He also wondered why he had never thought about that before. Just too tired, I suppose…

He felt strongly within him that it was a sign from the Forerunners that he should wake so clear-headed on the unit in which an Unggoy was blessed. In his youth, his mother had told him all sorts of grand stories of an Unggoy becoming a great warrior, open to the gods in a way no other Unggoy ever could be. When he had heard Jitji's words, telling him of the Arbiter's forgiveness, his mind had gone to the stories. Not just stories, he knew now.

He felt the Forerunners speak to him in their silent voices, and he knew within him that the story was a prophecy. Jitji was now the Arbiter's own aide, just as the character Rajar became the aide of an Honor Guard. He remembered how Rajar then raised an army of Kig-Yar to assault the Quelni leaders, killing a great enemy of the Covenant. He was sure Jitji would soon lead an Unggoy army against the Humans, and his own alertness was good evidence.

For instance, he found it interesting that the Huragok began its work on the top of the Lekgolo armor, when it had earlier begun work from the bottom of the Arbiter's armor. Why would it do that? he wondered, tilting his head.

After examining it for a moment, he realized it was a different Huragok than the first. This one was a slightly darker shade of pink, and had a different pattern of spots on its gas bladders. That explains it.

He continued to watch the Huragok work. Shielded Lekgolo pairs… That sounded incredibly efficient, and he wondered why none had thought to produce such armor before. Surely not from distrust? While there was clear animosity between the races of Lekgolo and Sangheili, there had been no war for over an Age. Surely the Ministry of Glory would not be so stubborn?

He turned as he heard Major 'Bepolee enter, "Greetings, Excellency."

The Major, of course, refrained from returning a greeting, "I see you managed to follow orders this time, and without falling asleep. I suppose I have that to thank the Forerunners… This Huragok is valuable, Unggoy, for it alone knows how to convert armor. If you had let this savant free, it may have become gravely injured. If it did, I would have to punish you, Unggoy. Not all Unggoy are spared, I assure you…"

Not all blessed… "But what of first Huragok, Excellency?" he interrupted the Major's rant. Realizing how the Sangheili would likely react, he cursed his tongue and took a step back.

However, 'Bepolee paused for a heartbeat, before saying in a firm yet less hostile tone, "Stupid Unggoy! Certainly that is the same Huragok. Why would I trust such a precious secret to two?"

"Me no know, Excellency," he said quickly, hoping to avoid his wrath. "Me think it darker, but me stupid…"

"Quite so," the Major snapped. "Leave me, Unggoy. I have no use for a servant that sees things nonexistent."

He bowed his head in shame, "Yes, Excellency." He quickly left the mechanic's room, and headed toward his pit.

It's not fair, he thought. I was sure it was different… But of course, why would he trust the secret to two Huragok? He wouldn't.

The upgrade was likely critical to their victory over the insurgents. And the Arbiter wears it now, perhaps prompting them to search for its source. He had a brief image of Jiralhanae invading their complex, easily defeating the few guards left behind, and shuddered.

He decided to direct his thoughts to something less troubling, and thought instead about Jitji. He could scarcely believe he had once trusted the rumors that Jitji had been possessed by the Humans' evil, but he started wondering if there really was a threat. Could the Humans take over someone's mind, and make them commit treason? If so, would the person possessed realize it? If not, did that mean that one could do evil while believing they were doing good?

He shivered. Somehow, this line of thought was scarier than the thought of a massacre. He started to focus his thoughts elsewhere, but paused. To run from an enemy is cowardly, and may threaten the whole unit. Perhaps if I turn from this terrifying idea, I may likewise threaten everyone around the Humans. He stopped walking in the center of the corridor, and blinked in an attempt to regain his focus.

There could be one evil who believes he is good… How to recognize such a person? He had no idea. He thought back to the rumor, which claimed that the Humans had exuded an evil wind, one which poisoned the minds of those around them, making them as wicked as they are. He blinked, trying to remember if he had ever heard such a story before.

A Major Sangheili strode into the corridor, and he jumped. Fearing a painful scolding, he quickly began walking once more. Sangheili, yes, the rumor was spread by a Sangheili.

He remembered the proud Special Operations Commander speaking to everyone who would listen to him, bristling with criticism of the Arbiter's choice to keep the Humans as servants. The Arbiter…

He gasped within his mask, and the Sangheili gave him a glance before continuing on his way. Gedeg, however, was too preoccupied to give the matter much thought. The Special Operations Sangheili thought the Arbiter had been possessed! He thought… Gedeg shook his head. This was a chance to figure it out.

Okay, what has the Arbiter done? He brought in two Humans, insisting they be left unharmed; he spared Jitji after he had been declared a traitor… He shook his head again. Jitji's statement that he had done what he did in an attempt to feed all Unggoy at the base had been basically confirmed by the last Unggoy he spoke to before beginning his act of treason, and the Arbiter was able to see his innocence. No, he strongly doubted they were evil.

He paused. Maybe I'm looking at this wrong. If I assume the Arbiter is protecting the Humans for a good reason, perhaps binding them somehow, then… Perhaps it was the one who spread the rumor who was possessed. It made sense that the Humans, unable to touch the Arbiter, would hope to inspire insurrection.

Dizzy, he leaned against the wall. He wondered whether to report his findings to 'Bepolee, but decided against it. I don't really know anything, I merely have theories. Besides, he got mad when I claimed to see a different Huragok, maybe this will drive him to striking me. He winced at the thought.

However, now that he thought about it, he did remember the Sangheili actually calm slightly when he brought it up. Yes, I had interrupted the Major's rant, and then he paused and became calmer before responding. He smiled a bit. Maybe he's kinder than he first appeared! But his more rational side thought, Or maybe he was merely confused.

Or maybe it was the Humans' evil powers? He chuckled at the thought. Now I'm getting silly. Why would the Humans possess Major 'Bepolee?

And then it came to him. The Major had given the Arbiter a new suit of armor with a new type of shielding; were he to have succumbed to the evil wind, he may have well placed a bomb within the armor. Should any question it, he could say it was simply part of the new shielding systems. And after the Arbiter dies, they would question the Huragok that put together the armor, so he… He got rid of the Huragok and replaced it with a darker one.

The pieces were all there, and they made sense. Well then… He was fairly amazed he had actually uncovered a conspiracy, for despite his internal debate the thought of his Commander being a traitor seemed quite alien to him.

I must report this, he thought finally. He slowly began walking toward the nearest shaft, hoping to find Major 'Neporee there.

"The Arbiter has called for us," the Phantom pilot informed its troops. "Be ready to serve."

Akiso Nonu Saba tightened his grip on his shield out of reflex. Yes, of course, combat will soon follow. He had nearly forgotten it, so was he caught in fantasy. Equality was a fine dream, but it was not something to be brought forth from mere discourse. No, any great change required blood to be spilled, for the Jiralhanae surely would not listen to reason.

Sensing his discomfort, his mate whispered to him a Covenant battle hymn. He appreciated the gesture, but would have preferred a Lekgolomila chant. All the same, he willed his singulars to calm as he followed the beat of the song.

However, he felt himself tense once more when the Phantom slowed to a stop. But while one Sangheili stepped over to the storage compartments, the others stood still. It seemed combat was not upon them just yet. Just then, a sudden stench assaulted his senses, and he pulled back his mass head in an attempt to rid himself of such an unpleasant odor. He felt his mate behind him stiffen.

"Mate, do you smell that caustic scent?" she asked rather bluntly, something he could understand given the most uncomfortable circumstance.

"Indeed, Etowo, I do," he replied unnecessarily. He twisted his singulars, hoping to bury the scent within him.

"Akiso, I believe these Sangheili may be greater risks than I first believed," she rumbled worriedly.

The Phantom began to move forward. "Warriors, prepare for combat," the pilot declared.

The Sangheili surged toward the gravity lift, and Etowo whispered her concerns to him. His singulars shivered involuntarily as he felt disturbed by her insights. Yes, even as he would gladly chant to the great pool, he felt an envy that his mate had understood the implications on her own. It was times like this that made him wish he were still female.