Purity: A Halo Novel Pt. 2
Posted By: Jason Rieger
Date: 18 November 2009, 9:18 am
2: CHAPTER ONE
BALAHO, UNNGOY HOME PLANET, 2009
I was standing in pale red mist. The ground was unnaturally hard, scorched. The sky was so thick with low hanging clouds I felt I was under ground. Well, 343 Guilty Spark said that there was a Halo up there somewhere.
"The Halo's just beyond the haze." Cortana spoke within my head. I smiled. It's good to be free of decisions, all I had to focus on was actions. Kinda like marriage…
The gentle breeze of my entry wafted the mist away from me, my view was that I was standing shallow crater, in all directions huddled Grunts- curled up as they do sleeping.
A form brushed beside me and I raised M-90 Shotgun in reflex.
It was Arbiter, he Plasma Rifle now clipped somehow to his waist, striding forward, he booted the closest Grunt. Grey chunks flung into the mist, white spores whorled around Arbiter's foot. Had the Flood done this? Is this a new form of 'infected'?
"Damn mushrooms," spat the Sangheili, an impassive breather over his mandibles. "You can see why the Unggoy sleep where it suits them. Here on Balaho they just drop and blend in. Anyone of these mounds could be a Grunt."
With a field of so many mushrooms I could see why it would be it difficult for an invading army. Never underestimate a Spud.
"Let move, Demon," ordered Arbiter, "we have much ground to travel in little time. I have the co-ordinates to the Elevator… and I hate this murk." He hunched and leapt away, his long legs eating up the ground. He moves fast even for a Whoop Whoop dude!
I pushed my legs, hydraulic joints powering me after him. I switched to infrared vision, eliminating most of the swirling flame-hue mist, reds mixed with oranges and yellows. Avian shapes occasionally drifted over. Swarms of fire flies swirled about, so bright on the infrared scale that they might even be made from fire.
I paused when I saw that Arbiter had stopped in amongst the mushroom, looking down.
I slowly advanced. Something cold on the thermal slithered past, a rock python? Cold enough to be made from rock… I could see a pattern here…
He spoke when I was close. "Demon, look at this Grunt." He prodded a mushroom that look like any other, even in infrared. "We have dissected many of the Unggoy, discovering that the methane, though they need it to survive, is also a narcotic. A hallucinatory, they don't even know reality from fantasy." He scoffed (I really stretched the term 'scoff' when a applying it to a Sangheili.)
"It must amuse you to know that some may see you as the foulest hell-spawn, while others could have seen you as a cute, little fluffy doochok." Again he rumbled that must be a laugh. "Why do you think we abuse them so? We are not so cruel to our lesser, we just need violence to get pass their drug-addled brain."
"Drugs may make the Sangheili bearable but only a lobotomy could make the Brutes tolerable," Cortana quipped.
Arbiter booted a bit harder and the Unggoy flipped on to its side, short legs and arms waving like a tortoise on its back. "Wake up, Grunt, your Master commands it."
The Spud raised its triangular head, blinking its beady little purple eyes. "Hello, friendly milbac tree." The Spud's high pitched voice was as painful as always. "I see you have a berry for me." The Grunt's arm reached out toward the Sangheili. I glanced down to see that Arbiter had a Plasma Grenade in his fist.
"Oh, it's sooo cute, Master Chief," sarcastically pleaded Coratana. "Can we keep him?"
Arbiter shook his head. "You see, Demon, he thinks I'm a tree" chuckled the Elite, squatting down to look at the Unggoy, on this planet it needed no breather covering it mouth. Its mouth was small and what I thought was a tongue was more straw-like as it flicked, tasting the air.
"Oh, by the way, Demon" said Arbiter. "I hope your shields fully charged…"
Grunts started popping up in all directions; this docile Spud must have sent out a warning! Surveying around the mushroom grove I could see a dozen Grunts had srang up, all holding Needles, this could get messy! I jumped left as the multiple Spph! Spph! Spph! sounded as hundreds of slivers of pink seeked towards me. My armour started klaxoning almost immediately as a warning as I slammed my shotgun into the first Spud's face, blue blood spraying as it crumpled.
Arbiter shoved his Plasma Grenade into the traitorous Grunts face, where it stuck. I didn't see the outcome but a felt it. Sangheili must use a weapon once it is drawn, I suppose this applies to grenades, even though he seemed to always have some weapon in his hands…
Pointing the shotgun towards another Grunt I made sure the pellet spread would take out as many 'mushrooms' as possible, not knowing if some Spuds were still pretending. I glanced out at Arbiter, who had both Energy Swords out and charging, dicing the Unggoy in a fury of slashes and cutting a swath through the mushroom as he moved, also eliminating any pretenders.
"Move this way, Demon," the Sangheili bellowed. My armour was blackening from the hits that penetrated my failing shield but none hits have pierced through to my body yet. I turned to follow when a scream made me turn back. Damn, a Suicide Spud was charging, a Plasma Grenade in each hand. Well, if it wants to blow, cop this, and I hurled a Frag at his feet, leaping towards Arbiter as the explosion rocked the earth… well, Balaho… ground.
The Elite let me up to what look like a grove of trees. The mushrooms had stopped and the Grunts had appeared to have given up the chase. The Sangheili had dropped into a crouch, looking around, as I placed my back against a tree.
"I'd be more careful if I was you, Demon," warned Arbiter. I glared at him, a bit put out that he was blaming me for alerting the Grunts when I noticed large, billiard-ball sized fruit hanging from the tree I rested against. They looked somewhat like Plasma Grenades… I jumped back, rolling away from the explosive-strewn tree. Again I heard to rumbling laugh of Arbiter. "Yes, this berries are explosive, absorbing much methane, but they are only explosive enough to break apart the harden ground, to spread their seeds. Until we radiate them with infused plasma they are only a mere Sangheili play toy. They are naturally sticky, the avian puchtah grasp them, use their straw-like mouth to suck to sticky slime coating and drop the remains, spreading the milbac's seeds. Symbioses… like most species."
We rested for a moment, lost in our thoughts.
"What would a Sangheili know about symbioses… they are religious zealot that only exist to obey their Prophets," Cortana remarked.
"But I shouldn't overload your thoughts though," said the Sangheili, breaking the silence. "We're not sure what you're thought capacity is…" Whoop Whoop dude insults? Had we become this trusting? Almost enough to forget that Sangheili are that perfect killing machine, natural Spartans before the genetic modifications. The funniest thing probably to a Sangheili is watching an enemy slowly and terribly die, that or Will Ferrell movies.
We're off and racing again. "We need to get to the fire field," said the Elite, not even panting even at this speed (well, I wasn't either!), but before I could ask what the fire fields were my infrared vision went crazy. The pulsating lights blinded me and I automatically shut down my vision. I could great whooshes and I had my Shotgun out, swinging around for danger, when eventually I could see I saw great pillars of fire jetting up across a field. The Fire Field.
I was just coming to a stop when my legs became entangled. I tried to keep balanced but my legs were ensnared and I fell, slamming into the hard packed ground. Lying on my side I saw thorny brambles entwining around my legs. These brambles had large spiky flowers clumped on them and it looked like these flowers were moving towards me. My vision had now recovered enough to notice that the spiky plants were pink, twinkling like crystals.
Arbiter's hand reached in and tore me from the brambles as the flowers released their pink crystal shards with the miniature sound of Spph! Spph! Spph! Needler flowers!
"Get on your feet and run, Demon," bellowed the Elite.
"Good advice," encouraged Cortana, "you do have me inside here now too!"
As I charged forward I could see the ground forming a bubble in front of me. Arbiter slammed into me knocking me to the side and the ground burst into another jet of flame, shooting into the sky. I keep my feet but I could see smoke steaming off Arbiter's skin. He glared at me and we both kept moving.
"Master Chief and Arbiter," Cortana reported, "I have the Elevator bearing at twelve degrees." We adjusted our bearing without comment; apparently she could broadcast to Arbiter as well.
I could now see the blue field humming on a hillock, ruby hues swirling around it and obscuring the sky, and, I assume, Balaho's Halo. Around the hillock were squatting mushrooms that we both knew were not mushrooms. I checked that my M-90 Shotgun was fully loaded and Arbiter unclipped his Plasma Rifle. Our battle cries could not be translated, more animal then alien, more primitive then species-al.
The first Grunt sprang up to meet my cry, is usual purple-grey carapace was midnight black, its limbs were clumped with Needler-shards, and its back was adorned with sticky Plasma Grenades. I raised my shotgun to blast it but discovered it had tackled my legs; all of its limbs wrapped around me tighter then the brambles. An explosion happens moments later, consuming my force-shields, leaving me vulnerable. The little black Spud was oozing blue blood but it wasn't finished, rolling over me and sticking many of its grenades to my legs and groin. I was seriously screwed and Cortana screamed.
The Plasma Grenades went out, flipping my legs out behind me and over my head and landing on my back.
Arbiter stood over me. "Get up, Fool, they're just berries. I told you they need to be infused with plasma to be effective!" I glanced down, expecting to see my legs gone, but my legs were patched in black spots but intact.
"Get to the Elevator," Arbiter screamed. "What wrong with you, Demon? Getting tangled in the Needlers bracken- the Unngoy don't even harvest them until their fully grown- and now being taken out by a Grunt. By the Prophet, you are not the Demon, the Covent's greatest adversity; you are a mere human, worse then the Flood, the worst parasite in existence!"
Yes, I was having a bit of trouble adjusting to Balaho, but worst then the Flood? I don't think the Sangheili was correct, even though we humans did like to sow our seeds across the universe, we never devoured another race. Commerce is more important then consumption. Why is my mind wandering like this? What am I thinking? I think that last explosion really did something to my head. Evaluating humanity… I'm a soldier! Fight, defend, die… and Cortana thinks the Sangheili are zealots.
"Lift your game," Arbiter yelled into my golden visor, "or I'll going to gut you and leave you for the puchtah to pick clean."
We started charging for the pulsating disc, a shimmering field encircled it, little flecks shot upwards like inverted rain. Unfortunately, it was surrounded by black clad Unngoy, suicidal little buggers.
Switching my M-90 Shotgun for my M4 Assault Rifle I was back in the game. Plucking a Frag Grenade, Arbiter slapped a Plasma Grenade to it side, and I lobbed it. The power of domestic and alien technology can not be underestimated; the blast was beautiful and terrifying. Black Spuds were flung aside as we powered into the Elevator's field, assault rifle strafing and Arbiter has hit Plasma Rifle out, balancing between melting the little guys and not overheat his blaster.
We had reached to apex of the hill, yards from the Elevator's levitation field, when we saw a outlay of brambles. A great hedge had been grown here, bristling with fully grown Needlers. The Needlers' buds all twisted toward us as we crested the hillock, as if they were sentient, and we stopped dead in our tracks, to stunned, and wary, to move.
Garbled voices could be heard behind us as the Unngoy regrouped. We were soon to be surrounded.
"Grenades, Arbiter," I said, taking my three remaining grenades from the sash. Arbiter slopped his three together with mine, making a kind of grenade volleyball. I jumped up, my hydraulics joints throwing me high as I yelled "Spike" and 'spiked' the bundled deep into the hedge.
The detonation coupled with the Needler's shards blasted me out of the sky, tumbling me down the hill, slamming through many black Spuds. Flaying through the air, Arbiter words still stung me, so I tucked my legs up, rotated and stuck out for the ground, landing, sliding then charging forward, M4 out blasting and gun-butt thwacking any Spuds on the hill.
Back on top of the hill, Arbiter was lying flat on his back, stunned from the shockwave. I stood over him and held out my hand. He shook his head, rising without my assistance, muttering things my translator couldn't translate.
"Let's get to the Halo, Demon," Arbiter ordered. "The longer we take the more chance that the Flood has spread." With that we both stood in the centre of the Elevator, looking up as it levitated us through the blood-red mist and clouds…