Ch. 2 Alligators and Robots- Saving Lizzie
Posted By: Harbringer352<email@example.com>
Date: 7 April 2010, 5:49 pm
"Christ, sorry about that."
It was a huge structure, located on Mar's desolate surface, resembled a massive airport terminal. High-beamed ceilings swooped high above me. I was so lost in thought that I ran into a gargantuan figure dressed in flowing purple robes. What stood out about this character, even among the plethora of curious individuals wandering the space port, was the fact when I bumped into her, her mouth split open in surprise. A Sangheili priestess.
She looked at me before bending over to gather her dropped bag. I stood there in a sort of awe; she was the tallest Sangheili I had ever seen. When she stood up straight, she was easily over eight feet tall, and rippling with muscle. Her intricate robes, deep, Covenant purple, were designed with symbols of her religion. She must be a priestess of the highest order.
I'd realized I was gaping. I frowned and looked away, mumbling an apology. I made to move past her when a huge, clawed hand descended on my shoulder.
I froze, partially out of fear that she would crush my head. She could probably do that. She seemed very strong. Damn, my mind was rambling.
"It's made of metal," she said. "Why?"
I turned around and looked up at her. Her head tilted curiously and she blinked a pair of piercing aquamarine eyes.
"I lost a leg to a Brute during the Human-Covenant War. I was only twenty years old at the time," I said. Her head moved back a fraction of an inch, perhaps out of surprise. She shifted her tree-trunk-thick hooves.
"Many of my kind lost more than just limbs to the Jiralhanae," she said, her low, fluid voice somehow coming over the racket of the space port. "I cannot recall a time where we used metal as a replacement for lost limbs. It seems
I almost snorted at hearing her use the term 'alien'. I shrugged. "It gets the job done," I said. I threw my sling bag over my shoulder and patted my metal leg. "And the ladies like a battle-hardened soldier," I joked.
Her head tilted. "I believe if I met a male of my kind with a metal leg I would fear him. Being made of metal can only be a sign of power. Something to be revered."
I was taken aback by this statement. "Here, I just tend to freak people out."
"I assumed this was the case," she said; her tone was laughing.
I smiled. "I don't believe I've gotten your name yet."
"Lora 'Nikemee, high priestess of the New Covenant Order."
"I'm just Nathan. Nathan Bird. Uh, of the New Mombasa Army Recruitment Human Resources Department."
"A very long title," she said, impressed. "You must be very important."
Grinning, I said, "I wish."
At this point a group of rowdy colonists got in line behind us, ready to board the colony shuttle. One, with straw-colored hair and cheap leather clothes, went out of his way to bump into me; I tumbled forward and landed in Lora's arms. With one hand she propped me up like I weighed nothing more than a doll. Her eyes blazed with blue fire as the rough colonist laughed like a hyena.
"Watch out for the alligator, Robot! It might take your other leg!"
'Robot'? I'd heard that one plenty of times. 'Alligator' wasn't something new, either. I realized this man was like the millions of others, scattered throughout the colonies; hating the Sangheili though we were allies, because of a war their generation had probably never participated in. If there was one thing that got me pissed, it was people calling the Sangheili something other than their respective titles. 'Elite' was a generic term; 'Alligator' was even worse.
"Sangheili," I whispered.
"What was that, Robot?"
"She isn't a 'alligator'. She is a Sangheili."
The other colonists, which I noted were all male, began to get defensive. The straw-colored man's face started to grow red.
"Huh. The Robot can talk!" he scoffed, but his playful tone was gone. He was getting angry. "Defending a damn lizard, too. What is this galaxy coming to?"
Suddenly, there was a thick cracking noise, his face twisted in pain, and he hit the ground with a sickening thud. Standing behind him, like an angel of vengeance, stood an amazonic woman holding a bat. She wore real leather clothes, a wide straw hat with the strings tied around her neck, and iron-toed combat boots. Her caramel-colored skin nearly glowed in the bright, space port lights.
"All aboard!" she barked, elbowing through the crowd of colonists to the shuttle's airlock. She passed through the plastic sheet and into the darkness beyond. The group of colonists, thirty in all, looked at each other in surprise, and quite possibly, awe.
"Well, come on, chickens," said the captain, poking her head out again. Her curly black hair framed her angular face as she grinned, exposing pearly white teeth.
I looked at Lora in surprise. I shrugged dejectedly, and we filed into the colony shuttle.
"Eternal Rookie," I admitted.
Lora blinked. "I have not heard of such a role in the human military," she said, confusedly.
"That's because it isn't a rank," I said. "A Eternal Rookie is a term that opened up around the end of the War. Many people, like myself, joined up in the final years, around the time the Sangheili separated from the Covenant. I was a raw recruit for two months; in that first month, in my first battle, I lost a leg. In the second month, I fought on the Ark out in the ass-end of the galaxy. My platoon was one of the lucky few that made it back to Earth.
"A few weeks passed and all that remained was cleaning up Earth. After a while, my artificial leg became to much of a hassle to fight with, and I was discharged. Hence, I am an Eternal Rookie. I will never fight again."
Lora nodded, and looked out over the small hold.
The shuttle would take us to the main ship, the Phoenix-class Colony Ship Vanguard, which was located at the Kuiper belt. Unfortunately, the shuttle had limited Slipspace capabilities, so we were only able to travel in bursts. Currently, we were passing one of Jupiter's moons, Ganymede.
The hold was fit to bursting with all the civilians. There was crying babies and shouting parents, rough-housing teens near the back, and the infamous straw-haired man. I noticed he was sending Lora some real dirty looks. I couldn't tell if Lora realized the attention, but if she did she gave no show of it.
The shuttle groaned as it moved sideways, avoiding a rogue asteroid. My bag, placed above us in a net, tumbled and landed in my lap. I scowled as the contents spilled across the floor and rolled down the aisle.
Lora's bag dropped as well, but I managed to catch it. I noted the strange, felt-like feel to it, and as I gave it back to her, I asked what it was made of.
"The skin of a Kig-yar assassin," she said coolly. "That tried to kill the Prophet of Regret."
I had no idea how to respond to that.
Instead I covered up my awkwardness and left my seat to gather my things. The shuttle moved violently and I tumbled, hitting the cold metal grating with my chin. Cursing under my breath, I picked up my stuff and hobbled back to my seat.
I noticed my computer-pad was blinking. A little green light blinking repeatedly. I had a new message. Unrolling the micro-polymer substance, I held a palm-sized TacPad that reflexively stayed flat. It still reminded me of those snap-bracelets I used to get Lizzie; you could roll them flat but when you slapped it down on a surface it curled around it.
An email. From Naomi. I read it over. I could feel my face tightening up as I scowled; my mouth finally evolved into a frown.
"What is wrong?" asked Lora, looking down over my shoulder. I glanced up at her and indicated the words on the translucent pad. The in-set lights lit the micro fiber a pale green.
"Friend of mine sent my sister to my aunt's house. I know she's going to send my sis to a mental home, I just know it."
"What ails your sister?"
"Post-traumatic stress syndrome. At least it was. It's changed."
The Sangheili nodded and looked away. "Do you know what caused her this trouble?"
Shouldn't you know what scared her that bad?
The captain's voice came over the intercom. "Uh, folks, strap yourselves in
we're in for some turbulence." Her voice sounded strained.
I noticed the shuttle had stopped. The babies stopped crying. People stopped talking. The lights died, and the engine groaned as it was shut down. We were flying blind.
Lora looked out the window. Her hulking mass seemed to emanate power, and I felt safe around her, for understandable reasons.
I jumped at her voice. I followed her long finger, pointing out the porthole, and watched in disbelief at the black spot advancing on us. It looked like a Prowler, but none of the identifying lights were visible. The only way I could see it was because it blocked out the stars behind it.
This close to home, there was no reason I was so surprised. But they had been getting quite gutsy ever since the end of the War. The UNSC was down on the count, financial-wise and in means of soldiers; we were open for attack, for a civil war.
Nonetheless, the Rebel forces, within their stealthy, stolen Prowler, advanced on my hapless shuttle, only one astronomical unit from our haven.
Lizzie's fearful voice called her brother from his nap on the grassy hillside. The sky had been a whippy gray when he'd fallen asleep; now there was a looming, dark shape in the sky, something huge and ominous.
Nathan stumbled to his feet and chased after Lizzie, who stood on the crown of the hill. She watched him come and kept her pointer finger pointed toward New Mombasa. Nathan looked and gaped.
A titanic shape dived through the clouds and slowed down above the city. Everything seemed dead, nothing seemed right, and then-
"Kids, get inside, now!"
Their father, screaming from the car down on the street. The two teenagers stumbled down the hill, strangely silent, and jumped into the car. The jeep peeled out and sped down the asphalt, leaving only a trail of tire prints and the smell of burning rubber.
Nathan peered out the window, watching as the singular ship sat like a predator, a predator that knew it had the upper hand and only had to wait for the prey to try and defy it. Beside him, Lizzie reached over and grabbed Nathan's hand, squeezing it tight.