Ascension: Chapter 11
Posted By: Dragonclaws<email@example.com>
Date: 29 August 2010, 8:29 pm
Kiga 'Oimomee eyed the female Human commander across the room with a glimmer of awe. It was a very odd thing, to have a Human present and treated as though it were a member of the Covenant. Not simply a member, but as high in class as the Sangheili themselves. An odd thing, yes, but not necessarily a bad thing.
He looked away from the Human, as he began his routinely check of the holo-pedestal to see if they could contact the battlenet. Not yet.
He stood up and watched the Human once more. This was a creature from nightmares: an unholy menace that could outwit and destroy Covenant fleets and Forerunner relics. Yet now, it was loyal to them. The strange power of Humanity was on their side, but certainly not without their own wicked desires he was sure
"High Councilor?" the Human asked in its lovely alien tongue, drawing the Sangheili's attention away from his discussion with Ship Master 'Setfethee.
A beautiful creature, he was surprised to find himself think. It bore the smooth, elegant features of a prize female, yet this was contrasted by her shockingly pale skin—the color of death—and flat simian face. Strangely fascinating
"Yes, what is it, Commander?" the High Councilor responded in a poor attempt at capturing the grace of her speech.
"I wish to speak to the Monitor," she replied authoritatively. Even surrounded by Sangheili, the Human retained a sense of control. "I have some more questions for it."
That she could question the holy Oracle
"Very well," the High Councilor answered with a simple nod. "You may enter my chambers." Upon hearing cherished information from the Oracle, the High Councilor had bound it to his personal chambers to prevent it from passing into the hands of the enemy.
"Thank you," she acknowledged, stepping through the doorway with all the tempered grace of an Honor Guard. Her escort, a Major Sangheili from the Eternally Faithful, strode swiftly behind her.
Kiga greatly wished he had been assigned that position. To be able to gaze upon a creature of such eerie beauty for subunits at time would be an incredible privilege. In fact
"High Councilor?" he said nervously. "Perhaps you would allow me to accompany them? Two of us would be more secure than"
"Go," High Councilor 'Lafatee interrupted dismissively.
"Many thanks, Excellency," he said eagerly, moving to join them. Perhaps he could even convince the guard of her elegance
Commander Miranda Keyes walked through the doorway, her guard trailing behind her. She emerged to see a small room, which was apparently the High Councilor's sleeping quarters, for it contained a large cot. In the center stood what appeared to be a small gravity generator, containing the Monitor in its beam; she stepped over to it.
"Oh, hello," it said, acknowledging her presence.
Is this AI self-aware? she wondered. Might it take offense if I'm not polite? "Hello," she said to be safe. "Tell me about the Ark."
"What would you like to know?" it queried, its center pulsing with blue light.
She paused, thinking about what to ask. "Why is it on Earth?"
"I would assume Earth is the name of the planet it rests upon?" the Monitor asked, and she nodded. "The Ark was sent by the Forerunners to find a planet with sufficient conditions to support the Reclaimers. Upon arriving at its destination, the Ark integrated itself fully into the planet's surface to provide a continuing source of food and shelter to the Reclaimers. Would you be interested in the construction history? It has quite a past."
As the AI spoke, she heard another Elite step into the room and speak to her guard in their own language. While she had led the aliens to believe she could understand none of their language, her implants provided her with an incomplete translation of their discussion. "Marvelous beasts, these humans," the newcomer said.
humans are nothing but filth," her guard said. "Do not let their
grip your mind, and ensnare your eyes
Nothing but sin lies within them."
While she was interested in their conversation, she continued speaking to the Monitor to keep up the façade. "No. Thank you," she added as an afterthought. "What does the term 'Reclaimer' mean?" she asked.
It would be mad to even contemplate
" the guard went on as she spoke.
The Monitor simply stared at her for several seconds. Ages longer than any dumb AI would pause. It is self-aware, she decided. Finally, it answered.
"The term 'Reclaimer' is used to describe a host species that has been imbued with the necessary capabilities to perform as successors to the Forerunner legacy." The automation paused before hesitantly asking, "Might I be so bold as to conjecture that the Reclaimers have forgotten their origins?"
Within my depths, I feel a longing
" the newcomer was saying.
"You might say that," she answered, her mind reeling as she tried to understand both conversations. Humanity has been altered by a Forerunner ship? "What was it the Ark did to us?"
"Even this pale female bears
" the newcomer was saying rather approvingly.
"Why, it releases minuscule automations designed to seek out suitable hosts. The automations will then redistribute the host species' brain functions to provide efficient means to receive the generational data necessary to achieve Reclaimer status. Would you like to hear about the conversion methods?"
" the guard hissed.
"No," she shook her head, trying to understand what the AI was saying while still listening to the Elites. "What is this 'generational data'?"
"The generational data contains the neural processes of the Last Pioneers, a group of seven Forerunners holding high administrative positions," the AI said cheerfully. "In order to preserve their existence, the Last Pioneers recorded their memories using an experimental method developed from studying the Flood parasite. If you are indeed without their memories, it appears their attempt has failed."
I understand, yet
" the newcomer argued, seemingly in favor of the future alliance.
"What troubles you? Nothing!" the guard snapped.
Miranda paused to absorb this revelation, deciding to focus entirely on her conversation from now on. Forerunner memories implanted among humanity
But, why would I have their memories?
She had not heard of any kind of Forerunner ship reaching Earth, leading her to suspect it had landed in ancient times. Not even ONI could cover up something like that. "When, approximately, did the Ark reach Earth?"
The AI hummed some ancient tune as it thought, "Well, I have managed to look over some of the data I copied from the dirty spacecraft
Hm, Pillar of Autumn, yes. I would speculate that you would prefer the data delivered in the format of the UNSCDF military calendar?" At her acknowledgement, he went on, "I would then speculate that the Ark arrived on your planet in approximately 100,000 BCE."
Yes, quite ancient
she thought. That was upon the dawn of humanity itself. So why
? "If the Ark landed so long ago, why would I have their memories? The average human lifespan is only 113 years, something you should know from the Autumn's data."
"Well, I have not had time to go over the data properly," the AI objected, sounding offended. "The destruction of Installation 04 left me with only secondary power, and I have been since caught up in the relentless politics of these meddlers
" It flashed its light angrily in the direction of the two Elites behind her, still arguing.
"Alright," she said hastily. "I apologize for my rudeness." She had read a transcript of a conversation between the Monitor and Cortana, in which it had reacted very negatively at Cortana's taunts and insults, and it eventually called a group of Sentinels to kill the Spartan with whom Cortana traveled. While the circumstances were quite different, Miranda could see value in not letting the Monitor becoming emotional.
"Hmm, well," the AI said, calming down. "The generational data was not intended for merely its initial host. Indeed, it was designed to transfer through genetic code to be received by all further descendants. It appears that the memories of my creators failed to transfer
Ho hum." It turned slowly to the side, and appeared to stare off into space.
"You speak of racial memory," she recalled the term from her teachings. "A crude scientific theory from the early 1800s suggesting that an animal hardwires knowledge and experiences into its offspring without need for any actual contact or communication. It has been considered erroneous since Darwinian Theory was accepted by the scientific community in 1859."
"Hmm," the AI acknowledged. "Well, genetic memory may well be absent from your biology, but I do assure you it exists in the biology of the Flood. It is in fact that feature that made them so deadly to the Forerunners."
Amazing, she thought, the impact of this discovery finally settling. This certainly explained odd phrases from the transcript that seemed to imply the Monitor believed SPARTAN-117 was a Forerunner with whom it had spoken to earlier. She had once dismissed the phrases as insane ramblings of a Rampant AI near the end of its life, but now she realized it was likely just confused.
100,000 years ago, she thought while trying hard to focus as the Elites' argument grew louder. Near the dawn of humanity, that was when the Ark had landed.
It's not possible
? she began to wonder with a sense of both awe and fear. The dawn of humanity
"Monitor," she began slowly, "Could it be possible that
that the Ark had something to do with the rise of our species?"
"Quite possible," the AI said cheerfully, entirely unaware of the distress this news had to her. "I would estimate, based on the known factors, a 96% chance that
" the AI stopped in mid-sentence, turning to look behind her.
A slight buzz sliced through the air, warning her of an activated energy sword. She turned around, barely in time to see the red Elite charging toward her with a glowing blade. Certain that her time had come, she thanked God for allowing her to witness as much as she had, to have heard the Monitor tell her all this wondrous information
What God? she then thought hopelessly. The Monitor just said the Forerunners' Ark was responsible for Humanity.
So instead, her thoughts went to her parents. In her mind's eye, she could see her mother and father, alive once more, reading her to sleep. She could hear her father reading Shakespeare, pointing out all the parts with her namesake. And I had really thought we could make this alliance work, she thought sadly, waiting for the end.
The blue Elite jumped in front of her at the last moment, taking most of the blow. However, as the great blade sliced her protector in two, the tips of the sword cut into her chest. And as she fell to the ground screaming in pain, she could think only of the quote: O brave new world that hast such people in it.
Her namesake had been foolish in assuming most foreign people were good-willed, but she had to believe that here there were enough to truly make a difference
When the Human's scream pierced the air, Gerka 'Setfethee was swift to respond. He entered the High Councilor's quarters to find the assigned guard with a drawn sword, the Minor's body severed in two, and Keezz motionless on the ground with red blood pooling around her form.
"It was not my fault, Ship Master," the traitor stammered. "The pilot fool simply leaped in front of me!"
Assessing the situation, 'Setfethee drew his sword and, without a thought, swiftly severed the traitor's arms. He kicked it to the ground, and removed its hooves to prevent it from running. 'Lafatee then strode in, gaping with astonishment at the gory scene.
The once guard glared at them and ironically screamed, "Traitors!"
"What filth attacked that which was under the protection of a High Councilor?" 'Lafatee asked rhetorically.
"You have violated the sacred laws," the traitor responded. "The Forerunners shall banish your souls to the Shadow World for all time!"
Ignoring the banter, 'Setfethee examined Keezz. Thankfully, she still seemed to be breathing. He activated his local radio, "This is 'Setfethee. I require a medical team in here now!"
"The patient has been fully healed," 'Coduree translated for the Huragok. "
I believe that is what it said."
Unusual that the Huragok do not place greater value on people than machinery in their language, the Arbiter thought, examining the newly repaired armor. Noble 'Cutasee had sacrificed his life to help him contact Noble Message, although he never realized the true value of what he was giving up. The Phantom arrived at a crucial moment, when the Arbiter had been surrounded by enemies.
The second lance, made up of thirteen Special Operations Sangheili, including Commander 'Opskitee, and a Lekgolo pair, swiftly slew the Jiralhanae that had threatened him. With their help, they had secured many corridors (with only two deaths), and captured a Huragok as it travelled between levels.
Fortunately, one of the Sangheili under 'Opskitee had some experience speaking to their kind, and had ordered it to repair his armor. "Fire one shot upon me," the Arbiter ordered. "Aim for a non-critical section." It certainly would not do to go into battle without testing the shields.
"Yes, Excellency," 'Coduree said, raising his rifle.
Soon, a bolt of plasma leaped from the rifle to impact against a body shield one subunit away from the Arbiter's arm. He checked his shield status, and saw its current strength was far greater than his usual armor after being shot. A pink glimmer briefly spread around his body, indicating that it was recharging. "Excellent."
They were merely two corridors away from the bridge. They would seize it, kill the alpha Jiralhanae, and then lock down every entrance on the cruiser to simplify their extermination of the vermin. He reached down and grabbed the mighty hammer from where it lay beside him, and raised it into a battle position. "We advance," he ordered.
"A thought, Excellency?" 'Opskitee interrupted. Without waiting for a response, he continued, "A mere Sangheili-Unggoy pairing is hardly the force necessary to repel a team of Jiralhanae. I propose we task several of our warriors to guarding the gravity lift, for if the Jiralhanae advance at our rear, we may soon become overwhelmed."
"You raise a valid point," he admitted. Despite his dislike for the warrior, he did speak with insight. "However, if our party suffers a major split, we may also be overwhelmed." He turned to the warrior 'Naxasee, "You will enter the launch bay and send out a signal, summoning reinforcements. When these forces arrive, instruct them to provide support to the guards as needed."
"Yes, Excellency," 'Naxasee said with a deep bow, quite eager to serve. The warrior left almost at once, lightly bowing his head as he passed his commander.
Is he eager to serve, or to evade death? he wondered suddenly. Cowardice was a sin, reserved for the lesser races alone. However, if there was only one life to be lived, was seeking to preserve it truly sinful? But if there are no gods, does sin in fact exist? he then countered himself.
Yes, he decided after a moment. Whether or not there was divine punishment, there were some things that would violate morality, such as theft and murder
And yet you spared Jitji, a voice inside his head sneered. The Unggoy killed several people outside of duty and yet you spared him. Was it a wrong choice? Should he have upheld Council law?
"Arbiter, is something wrong?" 'Coduree asked.
"No, nothing," he replied, shaking his head. I must focus on the task at hand. He tightened his grip on the hammer. "We shall now advance."
Officer 'Gnaulee entered a code into his handheld pad, and the door soon opened to reveal the hall adjacent to the bridge. Inside was a line of seven Kig-Yar crouched behind their shields, followed by a line of four Jiralhanae, their weapons at the ready. Unlike the Jiralhanae pair on the left, one of these pairs wore not a dress he recognized, but a sleek suit of blue armor reminiscent of a that of a Sangheili.
"Kill the reb" the leftmost Jiralhanae began to shout before the Arbiter fired a blast that sent it and two Kig-Yar flying across the hall, their shields extinguishing.
Its partner let out a bellow as it ran straight at the Arbiter. Several of his warriors fired their plasma salvos upon it, but they could not halt its charge. He swung the hammer at its skull, but the creature managed to partially evade the strike. The hammer crushed the beast's shoulder, but the Jiralhanae's momentum still allowed it to smash into him. Were it not for his enhanced armor, the shield would have been completely wiped out.
Fortunately, the Lekgolo pair, who had remained crouched behind their shields, acted swift and crushed the beast beneath their massive armor. He turned back to the door to see the two remaining Jiralhanae dodging fire while holding up Kig-Yar arm shields; the still-living Kig-Yar struggled futilely to free themselves from their grips.
He charged the hammer, aimed, and fired, killing the Kig-Yar and causing their shields to vaporize. The now vulnerable Jiralhanae dropped their crimson rifles, and unslung grenade launchers from their backs. In close quarters such as these, those weapons could slaughter his warriors. "Sangheili back!" he cried. "Lekgolo forward!"
Quickly vanishing from sight, the Arbiter moved behind the armored giants along with the other Sangheili, also in active camouflage. He whispered commands to the Lekgolo, and they crouched down low and slowly moved forward. When the Jiralhanae began their barrage, the grenades simply bounced off the Lekgolo shields to detonate against the wall, which in turn did nothing to the mighty shields. Indeed, it seemed as though the Jiralhanae had given up, for they soon ceased fire.
However, a strange sound filled the air: whoop-whoop-whoop, and something flew up over the Lekgolo to attach to the ceiling above them. The Arbiter inspected it; it appeared to be a club decorated with spikes, which had penetrated the ceiling's surface to become stuck.
Poor Jiralhanae fools, he thought. Even their club misses.
The club exploded with a barrage of metal spikes, shooting in a conical formation directly into their group. Several of his warriors screamed as they were impaled by the spikes, and the Arbiter ran backwards even as spikes bounced harmlessly off his pink body shield. Then the attack was over and he turned to survey the damage: five of his warriors slain, several more injured.
'Opskitee let out a growl as he removed a spike from his leg, allowing his shield to regenerate.
"What in the name of Prorok
?" the Arbiter swore, trailing off.
"A little gift from the Prophet of Justice," a Jiralhanae called out. "His Eminence has been most generous!"
"Allow us to share!" its partner also called out.
The Arbiter readied his hammer, and when the club rose into sight he opened fire. The gravity distortion blast struck the club, causing it to fly back the way it came to impact upon the far wall. "Hold position," he hissed to the Lekgolo. To his Sangheili warriors he called, "Fall back!"
The club let loose its barrage of spikes, not at them, but toward the Jiralhanae couple. Their screams were most satisfying to hear.
"Are they slain?" warrior 'Ipsosee asked after a moment of silence.
The two Lekgolo colonies began pulsing, and together they rumbled in one voice, more felt than heard, "That the Jiralhanae are dead is certain. No more do their hearts beat. No more do they breathe air. Their bodies now lie silent and still upon the ground."
"Well done, Arbiter," 'Ipsosee congratulated.
"Seal the corridor," he ordered. "Officers 'Ripulee, 'Uhcutee, salvage enemy weapons."
"Yes, Excellency," they said together, obeying at once. The two officers soon gathered arms full of weapons. Several Sangheili traded their drained rifles for the crimson Jiralhanae rifles, and some restocked their grenade belts. However, all chose to discard the weak pistols once carried by Kig-Yar.
"None of the spike weapons remain," 'Ripulee reported. "Both appear to have been once carried by a pair higher in rank than the other."
"It seems some of our fears have been justified," he said. "The High Councilor of Justice has equipped these Jiralhanae with greater weapons than those of other Prophets." This new spike weapon would require him to maintain absolute caution.
As the Sangheili discussed the unknown Jiralhanae grenade, the Nonu Lekgolo spoke rapidly in their subsonic whispers, inaudible to their commanders. "The Jiralhanae are not worthy of our service," Akiso said. "Not only are they brainwashed, they have never preformed M'jakazi
"They may be more useful tools than these Sangheili," Etowo argued. "They are greedy and power hungry, something we can use to our advantage. Unlike the Sangheili, who are bound by strict codes of honor and loyalty, Jiralhanae care only about who in their packs has the most power. If we can speak to the Ship Master, perhaps we can appeal to his desire for power."
"Nonu Lekgolo, by the order of Chieftain Cronus, delegate to the Prophet of Justice, you are to stand down. If you refrain from further assisting the Sangheili rebels, you will be spared. Continue to assist these criminals, and you will be slain," the subsonic message repeated through the walls.
"The Arbiter commands the only resistance force he is essential," Akiso insisted. "They have not preformed M'jakazi. Lekgolomila revolves around the Haramia. Without Haramia, Lekgolojiri has no purpose
"Do not forget Kinaya, mate," Etowo reminded him. "After the Quelni were defeated, we reverted to Kinaya. Even though the Sangheili live, we must revert lest we be swallowed whole. We understood once, and we will again! Revert, mate. Revert."
Akiso paused, thinking it over. It seemed foolish to enter a state of Kinaya in combat form, but his mate was usually right. He began the conversion process.
Ship Master Aeson surveyed the display with a scowl. The filthy rebels infiltrated the cruiser and managed to lock down several corridors using high-level security codes. However, he did have a Sangheili. It had left the secured areas by way of an inter-deck junction column, purposefully seeking them out to surrender.
He turned his gaze back onto the prisoner. The Sangheili specifically requested to speak with him, so his guards had stripped it of its clothing and removed both of its arms to make sure it was safe. It now stood weakly in the corner with an escort on each side, begging for him to merely capture its group of rebels.
"What do you think, Consus?" he asked of his bloodmate. Consus had been a faithful ally to him since they were infants and had selflessly protected him through many a scuffle during their adolescence. When he became of age, rather than take a set of wives like himself, Consus chose instead to bind himself to Aeson through a ritual of blood to insure that they would never be separated.
"It gives us a unique opportunity," Consus answered, studying the Sangheili. He thoughtfully stroked the steel collar marking him as a bloodmate. "Should we allow these Sangheili to live, it could convince other rebels to surrender as well. Such things could earn us high praise from the Chieftain. However, one wonders if rank matters so much with the Great Journey so near in sight. I can certainly think of other things to do with it." With a meaningful nod, he gazed at the Sangheili with eyes filled with lust.
As tasty as the Sangheili looked, it was a point to consider. According to the rebel, this group was led by the Arbiter, a very important political figure among the Sangheili. The Arbiter's death at his hands could well inspire them to fight harder than ever, but if he could have the Arbiter announce the superiority of the Jiralhanae on the battlenet
I may become responsible for the quelling of the rebellion.
"I think I shall accept this offer," he said, thoughtfully rapping a claw against his new battle armor, red as a Prophet's blood, one of many gifts from the next Hierarch. He tilted his head to stare into one of the Sangheili's sideways facing eyes, "Tell me again, 'split-jaw,'" he quoted a popular Human insult, "Of this heresy the Arbiter commits."
"The Arbiter h-has accepted two Humans as a-allies," it began, stuttering slightly, perhaps from loss of blood. "He
They, the Humans, they convinced him, a Ship Master, and a High Councilor, that the Great Journey is a lie, and they now intend to declare war upon the Prophets themselves!"
Behind them, his warriors began laughing derisively. "Make war with the Prophets?" said one. "Any creature that has read the Writ of Union knows well that the Prophets cannot be defeated!"
"You of all creatures should know better than to laugh," the Sangheili growled bitterly. "Were it not for the High Prophet of Regret's own defeat, you vile Brutes would still be lolling in the lower districts!"
Roaring, Aeson grabbed onto the bleeding stubs that were once the prisoner's shoulders, and shook it roughly. "You should learn the value of silence!" He drew his spiker and placed the bayonets against its mandibles just lightly enough to feel its sting. "Tell me of the Arbiter's strengths and weaknesses!"
"H-he has the same body shields that Huragok possess," the prisoner mumbled, trying not to press against the blades. It failed, and purple blood dripped down his hand. "And two Lekgolo that may follow his command over my commander's," it added. "And
He removed the rifle from its mouth and slashed it across the chest, causing it to cry out in pain. "Yes?" he queried, letting the blood drip off the blades and onto the Sangheili's head. "What else?"
"H-he c-c-carries the F-Fist of Rukt, ah, Excellency," the trembling Sangheili got out.
All Jiralhanae on the bridge gave out a terrific snarl, and Aeson bared his teeth even though it could not be seen behind his battle helmet. Consus, however, did not have any such restriction and furiously growled, "Alpha Chieftain Tartarus has been slain!?"
"Bloody rebels!" cried Navigation Officer Neoptolemus. "Damn them all to the sea of shadow! Ship Master, end this traitor's life!"
Aeson, however, hesitated. If Tartarus was dead, then Cronus would soon become Alpha Chieftain
and making it possible that he would be selected to be the next Chieftain under Justice. If he were responsible for ending the rebellion, it would be certain.
I cannot lose this chance. "No," he said. "We will honor this agreement. If the Arbiter does indeed possess the gravity hammer, then we must fight with heavy infantry."
Understanding, Consus turned back to the Sangheili, "Tell us the names of the Lekgolo!"