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Ascension: Chapter 3
Posted By: Dragonclaws<nogard@gmail.com>
Date: 21 September 2006, 11:59 pm

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'Setfethee swung his blade into the last Jiralhanae, slicing him in two. He paused to take a breath as his shield recharged. These Jiralhanae had been stronger than any he had yet faced. They had not only worn the armor of Honor Guards, but had body shields and two had Sangheili swords.

He examined the markings on their armor. Yes, these were the guardians of the Prophet of Justice. Interesting…

"Ship Master!"

'Setfethee quickly regained his senses. 'Opskitee limped toward him from the control room, dark Jiralhanae blood trapped by his body shield dripping down his torso. "'Opskitee, what is our status?" he asked.

"Excellency, 'Gamstikee, 'Hoktapee, 'Akpomee, and 'Segbleimee have all fallen to the Jiralhanae," 'Opskitee reported, solemn. "As have two of the veterans. One lies unmoving but living."

Forerunners have mercy! He cried silently. Must all my Sangheili perish before our lords have their fill?

"Excellency, the Phantom is greatly damaged," 'Opskitee continued. "We have lost both the cannons and the gravity lift. With the Arbiter in his present condition, it is crucial we reach the base as swift as possible."

"Yes, we must not tempt fate," he agreed. "Take the wounded into the Phantom, I shall follow shortly."

'Opskitee began to leave, but stopped. "Excellency, I understand the Arbiter is the Prophets' hand, and his word is to be trusted… However, I wonder if our choice to ally with the Humans may have upset the Forerunners enough that they sought vengeance on us?"

"Enough!" 'Setfethee snapped. "I do not wish to hear any more of this! 'Opskitee, to your task!"

"Yes, Excellency," he answered shortly, moving at once.

After he had left, 'Setfethee sighed. Although he had sworn his life to the Prophets and the Arbiter, he definitely saw truth in 'Opskitee's words. The Prophets say to kill Humans; to disobey the Prophets is heresy. The Forerunners punished heretics. That was the way of it.

Yet, he thought, the Arbiter is the will of the Prophets. The Arbiter now said to ally ourselves with the Humans. Therefore, it is no longer the Prophets' will to kill Humans, he decided finally. The death of six Sangheili was no more than tragic circumstances.

Walking over to the consoles, he activated the communications log. A list of all transmissions scrolled over the display. Excellent. He downloaded the information into his armor and exited the craft. Finding himself hoof-deep in water, he looked around, finding they were in some ancient temple site crafted by the Forerunner.

He felt a pang of sorrow, realizing they had defiled this holy place. He sighed, silently promising the Forerunners he would alert the Prophets of its existence. Utilizing a ramp, he made his way up to the level of the hovering Phantom. Leaping onto the stub of a smashed cannon, he climbed over to the lift opening.

Eito 'Opskitee stood at attention in his perimeter even as the Ship Master piloted the Phantom. After carrying the wounded veteran inside, the Arbiter had helped him lay him flat on the cockpit floor. They had decided it was too probable the Sangheili would fall through the broken lift should he be left in the main chamber.

Ship Master 'Setfethee had harshly berated the pilot for making poorly thought out tactical decisions, insisting that he assume the task for the remainder of the travel. The blue-armored fool now stood with the Arbiter… and the Humans.

Eito clicked his mandibles in disgust. The pilot actually seemed intrigued by the notion of an allegiance, asking them questions in their English. Eito simply could not understand why these people would ever think that Humans, the abominations of the galaxy, could ever be considered to be at the same level as the Sangheili or even the Unggoy.

He had been raised to look upon the Arbiter as a hero, the blade of the Prophets, taking on important tasks to enforce their might. However… it was obvious this Arbiter had made a terrible mistake. There, it has been thought.

To say the Arbiter made mistakes was to say the Prophets made mistakes, the greatest blasphemy. If he was heard uttering it, he would be stripped of his honor and cast into the abyss of space. Yet, would I not suffer a worse fate for declaring a Human equal to a Sangheili?

He bowed his head as he thought on this dilemma. All at once it came to him: The Prophets had made a mistake in trusting the Jiralhanae; the vile beasts were attempting to take over the Covenant and walk the path alone. As hard as it was to comprehend, the Prophets were not flawless when it came to recognizing the evils inherent in other races. Neither, it seemed, was the Arbiter.

He looked back over at the Humans. They had already corrupted the Arbiter and the Ship Master, now they were working on this pilot. He had a vision of Humans ruling the Covenant, forcing their great race into servitude as they alone walked the path. No. He swore to himself, the Prophets, and the Forerunner, that he would do everything in his power to stop it from taking place.

"Arbiter, we have reached our fortification," the Ship Master's voice came suddenly, breaking him out of his thoughts.

"Excellent, Commander," the Arbiter said.

Eito took a breath. Yes, soon the Arbiter would go to the healers and the Humans would be unprotected. He would have to act swiftly and quietly, something a warrior of his class was well prepared for. He felt the Phantom descending and stole another glance at their weapons. A needler and a Kig-Yar's rifle, both useless at close range. Perfect, he thought as they landed.

Jitji stood at the console, watching the image of the heavily damaged Phantom enter the makeshift launch bay. He blinked back his tiredness and was preparing to send a request for Huragok, when a voice behind him snapped suddenly, "Unggoy!"

Startled, Jitji yelped as he turned. A red-armored Sangheili glared at him. This was 'Neporee, he realized, the Commander of the guards. He quickly attempted to regain his composure. "Yes, Excellency?"

"Unggoy, have you prepared any excuse for not alerting us of an approaching Phantom?!" The Sangheili's mandibles spread in anger, and Jitji hastened to reply.

"Excellency, they broadcast sign of Councilor," the Unggoy said meekly, pointing out the signal displayed on the console.

"Worthless!" Spat 'Neporee. "Could not a Jiralhanae manufacture such a signal? Could they not have stolen the code while they murdered half of our Council?! Brainless fool!"

Terrified, Jitji lowered his head and stammered an apology. Continuing to glare at him, the Sangheili said, "I will allow you to live, Unggoy, but you will no longer monitor the entrance; you will now serve with the guarding troops. Now go."

"Thank you, Excellency," Jitji said, leaving quickly.

"Commander, if you wish it," the Arbiter said. "I can carry you out of the Phantom."

They had landed at the bottom of some ancient shaft, which apparently connected to a Forerunner facility repurposed for use by the Sangheili. Although 'Setfethee assured him the entryway was within sight of the Phantom, the Arbiter could see nothing but darkness as he stared down the opening.

"Don't worry," the Human said, "I'll be fine." She stepped over to the hole.

Worried she would be unable to climb safely, the Arbiter offered to hold her weapon. Again she declined and, slipping the needler into her belt, climbed down. Jahnsen was quick to follow. The Arbiter made sure the Oracle would follow him, and then leapt down into the darkness.

Immediately, he could see the outline of a door. Two light markers cast their glow upon it. Wondering how anyone could have ever found such a place, he looked around for the others. After a moment, his eyes found their forms in the shadows.

'Opskitee and 'Oimomee had carried the unconscious Sangheili out of the Phantom. The co-pilot, perhaps not wishing to be near the Humans, had left as soon as 'Setfethee had. The Oracle seemed very distraught at the sight of the aged shaft, now covered in dust and growth.

"How unseemly!" The Oracle exclaimed as it examined the ancient structure. "To think that the Monitor of this Installation would let the constructions reach this horrid condition!"

Another Oracle? A piece of memory flashed through his mind. "Greetings. I am 2401 Penitent Tangent. I am the Monitor of Installation 05."

"Holy Oracle," the Arbiter said, "I have seen this Sacred Ring's Oracle held in the grasp of the Parasite leader."

"A Monitor allowed itself to be captured by a Flood intelligence form? How impossibly thoughtless!" The Oracle fumed. "I suppose I will have to assume the position myself."

The Oracle floated to a section of the decayed wall and fired a fine beam of green energy. The energy burned through the grime, and seemed to flow into the architecture itself.

Could the Oracle be somehow strengthening the structure? he wondered in awe. An instant later, the door opened, and a group of Unggoy led by a Sangheili minor rushed out.

"See?" cried an Unggoy. "Enemies!" The soldier fired a stream of needles at the Humans.

"The Humans are not to be harmed!" He roared at the group. He watched in fear and anticipation as the pink spines neared his allies. He felt relief when they managed to dodge them. Of course, he thought. They must have been trained to avoid such things.

"Hold your fire!" The Sangheili called. "Arbiter! We were not aware it was you! We thought the Jiralhanae had stolen your craft."

"Just allow us entry," he growled, "And tell everyone we have two Humans with us that are not to be harmed in any way."

"Yes, Arbiter," the minor said, quickly leading his Unggoy back inside. Not five seconds later, a red-armored veteran came through the doorway.

"The greatest of apologies, Arbiter," the veteran said, keeping strict eye-contact with him. "When I reviewed your signal, I found no trace of the established entry code and assumed your craft to be hostile. Please, bear me no hatred."

"Your name?" asked the Arbiter.

"Anre 'Neporee," he said.

"'Neporee, of course I understand you defending your base," he said. "However, I find it worrying you did not share this code with your dropships…"

"That was my error," 'Oimomee interrupted, bowing his head in shame. "I was told the entry code by my Commander, Kerp 'Lanukee. Yet when the Ship Master relieved me of my duties, I failed to inform him of its existence."

"Fool…" 'Opskitee muttered under his breath. The Arbiter had to agree with his assessment. Through the battle with the Jiralhanae dropship, they had lost all three cannons and the gravity lift. He had to wonder how much of the damage had been caused by Jiralhanae and not the pilot's inexperience.

Yet… This had been the first Sangheili to show an interest in an alliance with the Humans. Such a warrior could be useful to him. Perhaps he could guard the Humans from trigger-happy Unggoy… or Sangheili… in the future. Deciding to keep an eye on 'Oimomee, he turned his attention back to the veteran.

"Now that we have that cleared up, allow us entry," the Arbiter said. "I must speak with the leaders in this fortification at once."

"Yes, Arbiter," 'Neporee answered. He stood aside so they could enter, allowing his eyes to stray over the Humans. His weight shifted with bemusement as he gazed upon their weapons.

"These Humans are not to be harmed," the Arbiter told him firmly, as he led the group inside. "Whoever tries will face my wrath."

After being demoted to the lowest of ranks, Jitji had joined a group of Unggoy preparing to defend the base from the 'Jiralhanae attackers'. Just as they prepared for a deadly battle, the Sangheili came to inform them there would be no need for their assistance. The occupants of the Phantom had turned out to be none other than the Arbiter and fellow Sangheili.

Angered that he had been demoted heedless of the circumstances, Jitji complained to his new leader, a red-armored Unggoy named Tatat.

"There nothing me can do," Tatat said with sympathy. "You know Sangheili all dislike us. You good soldier, you maybe get rank."

"Hope me live long enough," he said. Tatat nodded.

"Well, if we time, why not take drink at nipple?" Jitji suggested.

Tatat shook his head. "Sangheili have ration. When we ran from ships, we not take much food-drink. Now we only drink one time per unit."

"One?!" Jitji asked in shock. An Unggoy would not live very long on such a diet. "Surely they find/bring food-drink next attack?"

"Me not know," Tatat said gloomily. "Me think they not care we starve."

Despair filled him. To think they were on a Sacred Ring, a symbol of salvation, only to face death from the mere disregard of their superiors. No… Despair steeled into resolve as he found himself saying, "Me not let us starve. Me go on next attack, me make them bring food-drink."