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Ascension: Chapter 4
Posted By: Dragonclaws<nogard@gmail.com>
Date: 6 October 2006, 5:01 am

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Commander Keyes followed the Elite, the 'Arbiter', into the facility with Sergeant Major Johnson at her side. Ignoring the various Elites and Grunts that stared at them, she questioned the Arbiter, "So what happens now?"

The Elite's head swung around on its elongated neck to look down at her. "I will inform the leaders in this base of our alliance and the truths learned from the Oracle," he said in a gruff yet powerful voice. "After, we shall retake a ship from the Brutes so we may reach this 'Ark' and remove the threat of the Sacred Rings."

"Retake?" she asked. "You have no ships under Elite control?"

The Arbiter paused to speak to the gold armored Elite. "We do not," he said finally. "We have been seperated from our greater forces and are unable to communicate. However, we are currently fighting for control of the land surrounding the Zealous Missionary and the Eternally Faithful. Both sit upon the surface of Halo."

"Which one is more accessible?" she asked.

Once more, the Elites exchanged words. "The Zealous Missionary rests on a small island perhaps 50,000 units from here. Most of the Brutes have left to fight on the mainland, leaving it exposed. However, any of our transports would be seen at once, making surprise attacks impossible."

"Units?" she questioned.

"Units of distance," he explained, stretching out his arms to demonstrate.

"About a meter," she said. "What about this Eternally Faithful?"

"198,000 units away," he said. "In a cold mountain pass perhaps 16,000 units from the chamber which once housed the Sacred Icon. According to our reports, their ground forces have been occupied with repelling waves of the parasite. Commander Setfethy," he indicated the gold wearing Elite beside him, "Is the master of the vessel."

"Yes," agreed Commander Setfethy in rough English. "I ran from my ship, leaving the Brutes to the Flood."

The Flood? "It would be best to keep away from the Flood as much as possible," she decided. "The Missionary sounds like our better option."

The Elites clicked their mandibles in what she took to be agreement, although Setfethy seemed somewhat reluctant. She could understand that; to a Commander, their ship was their home of a sort. Ignoring the sudden pangs from abandoning the In Amber Clad, she followed the Elites.

They led them inside a nearby room containing several large chairs obviously built for Elites. Strange rectangular markings covered the floor and at least half of them had scorch marks. A rather foul odor was evident as they sat down on the presented chairs, presumably waiting for the door on the opposite end to open. While she awkwardly sat down immediately, Sergeant Johnson stayed where he stood.

"I'd know that stink anywhere," he said. "This room's been crawling with Flood!"

She stiffened, her hand reaching toward her needler. He was right; it was the smell of Flood. Standing, she drew the weapon, ready for any attack.

The Flood? the Arbiter thought. Yes, I should have identified the smell sooner. He drew the Jiralhanae-made rifles he had attatched to his hips and stood up. The Humans simlarly raised their weapons and stood with their backs toward the Sangheili. Despite everything, he had to marvel at their trust.

"Peace, Arbiter!" 'Setfethee said hastily. "This room is secure; none of the Parasite are present."

"How do you know this?" he asked skeptically, lowering his rifles slightly.

"The Forerunner created this complex to house the Parasite, Arbiter," the Commander explained. "When we found it, many of these rooms contained tanks, imprisoning the Parasite in its lowest form. We were certain our gods left us these as gifts, as weapons to be used. However, we were in great need of space, so we moved the containers into the central shaft to be retrieved at a later time. When we attempted to move the container in this room it broke, spilling its contents to the ground. Ever prepared, we had rifles to purge the Parasite from the room." He guestured at the large scorch marks on the floor. "Arbiter, there are no Flood rampant in the complex. Now, do tell your Humans to lower their weapons!" He finished, looking pointedly at them.

Still digesting the information, he lowered his rifles and translated quickly.

"Have this shaft sealed off," the Human Commander advised him. "No one goes in or out."

He clicked his mandibles in agreement. "It shall be done."

Before anything more could be said, the door opened and thus entered Sangheili High Councilor Kagu 'Lafatee. The Arbiter remembered freeing him from the Jiralhanae prison soon before joining Jahnsen. "My most sincere apologies, Arbiter," he began, but stopped as he saw them with their weapons drawn. "Are you having trouble controling your prisoners?" he asked in a somewhat condescending manner.

"Not at all," he replied calmly. "We merely reacted to the scent of the Parasite. Commander 'Setfethee soon told us of the earlier events. However, I should clairify, these Humans are not prisoners; they are allies."

The High Councilor clicked his mandibles in amusement. "Arbiter, you certainly realize neither of these Humans command a Scarab. We can slay them without delay."

"There is no reason for such an action," he said. "It is my will that these Humans be our allies."

"Is it?" 'Lafatee asked, mandibles pulled back in a questioning look. "Tell me, Arbiter, what use will two Humans have in a war against Jiralhanae?"

The Arbiter guestured to Jahnsen. "This one, Jahnsen, was instrumental in my defeat of Tartarus…"

"You know what I hate?" Jahnsen drawled suddenly, cutting him off. "When people talk about you as if you're not there. Whatever you've got to say about us you say it to our faces, all right?!"

"Jahnsen…" the Human Commander hissed in warning. 'Opskitee growled softly.

"My apologies, Jahnsen," the Arbiter said after a second's thought. "The High Councilor was questioning your value as allies, and I was explaining your assistance in the defeat of Tartarus."

"That so?" Jahnsen said. "Make sure to include the part where you're about to have your skull crushed, and I save the day."

"The Human speaks the truth," he told 'Lafatee, in English for the Humans' benefit. "Tartarus had me at his mercy, and then Jahnsen brought down the his body shield through expert wielding of a Kig-Yar's rifle, allowing me to send plasma throughout the beast's body.

'Lafatee bowed his head slightly, impressed. "And of the female?" he asked, also in English.

"I am Commander Muraandah Keezz of the United Nations Space Command," she introduced herself. "As well as being an adept Naval Officer, I command the frigate In Amber Clad. As for my achievements here, I removed the Index from its sheath; and the Monitor, what you call the Oracle, appears to follow my command."

"It appears I was mistaken," the High Councilor admitted. "Your Humans seem quite in touch with the Forerunners' will. I shall support this alliance, Arbiter… at least until the Prophets hear of it."

"Good," he said. "Because we have more important issues to discuss. I suggest you send for the Oracle."

Jitji stood in line for one of the rooms converted into a methane pit. If Tatat was correct, this was where the Special Operations Unggoy rested. Although he was assigned to a room on the other side of the complex, he was hoping the bored-looking Sangheili minor by the entrance would be too indefferent to care.

He felt himself tire, and blinked several times to ensure he would not fall asleep where he stood. At last, his turn came.

"Name?" asked the Sangheili.

"Jitji," he answered, trying to keep calm.

The Sangheili studied a holographic display mounted on the wall next to him. "You are not assigned here, Unggoy," he said gruffly.

"Yes, Excellency?" he asked, trying to sound surprised. "Me no recall me placement… Excellency, me very low tank. Why not you let me breathe now? Me find own pit after."

The Sangheili growled softly. "Unggoy are always being foolish. We have been betrayed by the Jiralhanae, Yanme'e, and Kig-Yar, forced into hiding… and you forget your methane pit!" He snarled in disgust.

"Forgive me, Excellency," Jitji said, bowing his head. "It not happen twice."

The Sangheili opened the door. "Enter, Unggoy," he hissed.

"Great thanks, Excellency," Jitji said as he entered the airlock. First part done, he thought to himself in relief.

He tapped a control recently attached to the wall, and the poisonous oxygen was sucked from the room through a vent. Another tap and it was soon filled with sweet methane. He removed his tank and mask, setting them on a provided rack, and entered the main chamber.

To his surprise, there was a masked Sangheili in the room… guarding the food-nipple in the center. An unforeseen complication, Jitji thought to himself wearily. Too late to stop now, he decided, walking towards the Unggoy dressed in Special Operations armor farthest from the guard. "Greetings, friend," he said brightly.

"Greetings," the Unggoy responded, somewhat surprised.

"Me name Jitji," he continued on. "Guarding unit."

"Me Lamal," the Unggoy introduced himself. "Special Operations unit."

Jitji glanced at the Sangheili to make certain he was not listening and quietly asked, "Hungry?"

"Me can live on no food for days," Lamal replied stiffly.

Jitji marveled at his stamina, realizing this Unggoy really was one of the best. "You think we can?" he asked.

Lamal looked at him, glanced at the guard, and back to him. "You point?"

Jitji made sure the guard was not paying any attention before answering in a low voice, "There not enough food-drink to feed all Unggoy."

"What you think me do about it?" Lamal said quietly.

"Next attack, they send your unit?" Lamal grunted an affirmative. "When inside enemy base, an Unggoy should find food-drink/make unit bring back."

Lamal scowled. "You know what you ask me do? Me lose all rank, maybe life, if me win!"

"Then me do it," he said. "Give me armor, me be you. Sangheili never know difference." It seemed perfect. The Sangheili never paid enough attention to Unggoy to be able to tell them apart without their armor colorations.

"Maybe Sangheili fooled," Lamal admitted. "But not Unggoy in unit."

"Me convince Unggoy to help," he said confidently. "You not agree?"

Lamal scratched his cheek in thoughtful contemplation. "How we switch?"

"We do it in airlock," Jitji said, having the basic idea planned. "While it filled with methane, we switch armor."

"We not go together," Lamal said after a moment. "You leave room, soon me follow."

He agreed, and after saying his farewells, left for the airlock. Unfortunatly, an Unggoy was currently inside and he had to wait for the methane to fill the chamber before he could enter. Upon entering, he greeted the Unggoy and pretended to examine his air tank while waiting for the other to leave the airlock.

After a few heartbeats, the Unggoy walked into the main chamber. Jitji watched with relief as the doors began to close behind him, then his heart skipped a beat. Lamal was talking to the Sangheili guard.

Has he betrayed me? thought Jitji with horror. His senses came back to him and he knew he must act. He quickly put on his air tank and mask, and then activated the airlock. The Sangheili would have to wait until the airlock filled with methane before he could enter.

Jitji grabbed a pistol left on a shelf and held the trigger down, letting the weapon fill with plasma. He aimed it at the control panel and released. The hologram sparked and faded as the console melted. Now, it would be a good time before the guard would be able to leave the pit. Still, the guard could have some way to communicate to the other Sangheili. He decided to start moving.