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Purity: A Halo Novel Pt. 3
Posted By: Jason Rieger<j.rieger@bigpond.com>
Date: 6 December 2009, 5:17 am

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Screaming through space, flying within the Elevator's field, Arbiter and I shot through the hazy ruby clouds of Balaho, to be encased in another set of misty red-hued clouds.
Back on a Halo… I had returned home… It was mind-blowing to think that the technology of the Forerunners was able to encompass a planet's equator with a Halo… the anti-gravity fields that would be needed to be in flux so that it didn't rip the planet apart… we are mere ants to these technological giants… and like ants they didn't care treading on us.
The mist parted and out walked, actually hobbled, an Unggoy. It was dressed in yellow and purple robes, flared at the neck and arms; donned in something of a crown, glittering in pulsating gemstones; and flanked by a dozen or so black clad Spuds, all armed with Needlers. I was really getting tired of Needlers!
"Greetings, Ones-Not-For-Our-Land," said the Unggoy 'king?'
"Sorry, Master Chief," said Cortana, "that's the closest translation I could do… It's not so easy when all these Unggoy are speaking archaic!"
Archaic? What does she mean by that? No time to ask, King Spud was speaking again…
"We greatly thank thee for this new land," regally intoned the king. "We offer our humble selfs to any of your needs for compensation."
"Stupid Grunts," bellowed Arbiter, reaching to draw his Energy Sword, "all we ask is that you die, painfully yet quickly!"
"Arbiter," I said, placing my hand on his arm, knowing that once that that sword was drawn there would be death. He glared at me, I could see him considering killing me as well.
A flash suddenly blossomed from my visor and Cortanta was standing before us all. Clad in her usual tight fitting part-bikini, part-lingerie. Zeroes and ones slid up and down her taut form. I'm not sure if Unggoy have females, I'm not sure of their anatomy, but I'm sure all of them went 'sss-zwing' when they looked at her.
"Greeting esteemed Unggoy," proclaimed Cortana. "Your kind is in terrible danger. A great evil resides on this new land and it is of great import that all Unggoy leave this place before much harm is done."
The King of the Grunts looked down, actually grinding its toe into the ground like a naughty schoolboy. "We have been here several cycles of our land, and many of our kind have not returned. I was hoping that your strange giants had answers."
"These two are my guardians, Master Chief," she intoned towards me, "and a Sangheili. We are here to protect you. Take all you are able and flee, never to return, we will do the rest."
King Spud nodded. He sent he guard off in all directions with curt orders to gather all of his race and return them to the Elevator. So far, so good.
"Let's move, Demon," Arbiter said. The king raised an eyebrow (well, a ridge above its eye) at this title. "I'm aching to kill, if not these Grunts then it must be the Flood. Only, pray to the Prophets, that I can get them before the drone takes me."
Cortana flickered and was gone. She was back inside my head, "The Unggoy declared their kings on the bias of resistance to the hallucinatory effects of the methane gas," chatted Cortana. "With this inclination the race may have bred the trait out of their kind… that is if the Brutes never increased the dosage in the face masks!"

We passed trails of Unggoy peacefully. We got a few surprised expressions, but we continued uninhibited. I could feel the curve of the Halo us we lopped along, the never-ending spinning, the snake that has swallowed its own tail.
The path soon gave way to rubble, first just little rocks but the quite larger until we had to climb over most. Maybe this was a basic method of weeding out the weak of a race so only the strong could continue. The mist had become a dead darken red, flecked with static electricity that played havoc with my sensors.
We found several dead Unggoy with no apparent cause of death, scared to death? We picked up a couple of torches, old medieval style ones with the stick and burning end, off a former Spud. They still burned and gave us slightly better view in the gloom. Better then my weapon's light that just reflected back at me in this mist.
Strange that fire could burn on a methane planet and not set the place on fire. As with the Pillars of Fire, the methane and vapour levels must be balanced so that fire can burn, but not spread… But isn't water vapour made from oxygen and hydrogen, two flammable gases, and with methane added… Shut up! I yelled silently to myself. You're a damn soldier not a chemist! Something was buzzing within my head, calculations and computations were trying to consume my mind… I shut it out and got on with the job.

We eventuality come to a big mound of boulders, dead Unggoy strewn all over its side. This was unusual. When do the Flood waste hosts? What killed them?
On top of the mound was a deep hole, kind of a volcano, a red mist brewing from the maw and rippling out over the sides.
"Well its pains me to say that is as far as I go, Demon," Arbiter cursed. "By the Prophets, if I go any further this Neeka of a drone will withdraw me. Just goes to show, never trust a robot…" He glared at me, looking like he was close to tears… spooky.
I nodded and descended, flaming torch held high.
"Well, just you and me now, Master Chief," purred Cortana. "Alone as last."
Halfway down, a burning missile spun down past me, Arbiter had thrown his torch ahead of me. I looked up; he was a mere shadow on the mound's lip.
Looking down into the pit, Arbiter's torch crackled on a bell door - like on top of a pre-spaceflight submarine, a dome with a round wheel of a handle.
I pushed Arbiter's torch aside and stuck mine in a crack between boulders. Crouching down I placed both hands on the wheel and turned, it creaked open, a light breeze wafted out…
I was suddenly engulfed in flames that shot up the craters hole. I felt like I was standing in an erupting volcano.
"Shut the door," screamed Cortana, "it's bleeding out a high oxygen content." I slammed the bell door and spun the wheel. Something was scrabbling down the rock, without the torchlight it was pitch black in this pit. I raised my Assault Rifle at the hulking figure closing as it formed into Arbiter. He muttered things like "Shut up, Drone" and "The Demon is in trouble" as he descended.
"We're OK, Arbiter," sent Cortana, "just an oxygen flash fire, nothing that would disable the Master Chief."
Arbiter nodded and handed me one of his Energy Swords. "This creates no spark," he said and took my Assault Rifle. "You may keep your Shotgun, it is most effective against the Flood, but do not you it unless you are prepared to die."
With that he began climbing the boulders, still muttering to 343 Guilty Spark via com.

Stomping on all torches so they didn't every have a glowing ember, I reached for the bell-door again. The oxygen must have killed the Grunts. Was it a trap? A mistake? Whatever it was it was a mystery and I didn't bother with mysteries.
Opening the bell-door, I saw a tunnel of flesh. No other way to describe it. Pulsating, pumping, slimy flesh. No hand rails, no ladder.
Taking a deep breath, I stepped over the edge and slid - feeling like a blockage in an American's artery – the thin chute pushing up against me, constricting against me.
The suffocating chute eventually gave way and I was falling in a large cavern. The same flesh-like roof stretched away, curving into walls with gaping holes - that was all I noticed when I hit a bladder: a large heaving bulge, twisted with veins and pus-oozing boils. I was spread-eagle on my back, mixing with the slime and feeling like a Jiralhanae's lunch, watching the little spores swirling in the air, hoping none I my recent scrapes had weakened my suit's seams. One little mite and I could be zombiefied.
The old familiar squirming/plopping noise started. I leaped up, sword humming at the ready.
Clouds of dull balloons wiggled from the holes in the wall. Sickly white heads on creepy tiny legs swarming towards me. I cursed Arbiter, my M4 Assault Rifle would have made mince meat of the little bulbs. An Energy Sword would be useless… I considered the Shotgun, this cavern full of oxygen and a spark would fry these parasitic suckers…
I stood there, watching all direction as the flood of the, eh well, Flood continued, advancing to the bottom of the lump I stood on. Then they stopped, rearing back with their feelers tasting the air. Amassing, waiting, hungering… I stood there on my island with the ocean wanting to leap up and inject it's spawn into my face!
"We need to get deeper into the Halo, Master Chief," Cortana told me. "I can't access any plans so you will have to try one of those holes."
Humph! A mass sloshed out of 'one of those holes'. Several bulbs glued together with little stumpy legs waving. It brake-dance-snake'd towards me. Several others 'humph'ed out of more holes as well, similarly 'snaking' towards me, rising up on their stumpy legs and waddling as they got closer.
They swayed as they waddled; pushing their way through the Flood pods, inching closer until they also stopped at the bladder base. Were they scared of the Energy Sword I was waving back and forth? Are they worried about this bladder I stood on? Don't they like to smell on me?
The mass suddenly shifted, a decision must have been reached. A weight sloshed behind me, I spun to see a pod sack had jumped onto its belly and was swelling. If it blew I knew my shield would be consumed and any attack after that made me a sitting duck.
In a split second the entire Flood came at me like a tsunami, little balloons leaping, more pod sack swelling to blow. 'Stuff you Arbiter' I mentally cursed and switched to shotgun as the bellies burst and the blast struck my shield, klaxons going mad as the alert went into overload. My face was full of wriggling feelers, my back heavy as they sought an opening. I pulled the trigger, a great cone of shredded spore sacks sent little mites whirled thick in the air, followed by a wave of flame feeding back at me. The heat wave hit me and I was falling.

It seemed that I was falling for longer then the floor. The bladder must have burst… I was falling deeper into the Halo. I thrashed to get the little buggers still plastered to me as I struck a fleshy wall, the tunnel was curving. I whipped out the Energy Sword and thrust it in the wall… what could it hurt? It slowed me, though it whined extremely loudly at the power drain, and I eventually ceased my slide.
Staggering with the slope, thrusting my sword into the flesh floor if the slip started again, I found myself at the lip of a drop. Eww… maybe I shouldn't have referred to the tunnel opening as a 'lip'. The mouth – double eww – of the tunnel dropped into a 'larger than the previous cavern' cavern. A glowing lake was beneath me, filling the cavern, bloated Unggoy floated in the sludge… Ahh, there's the missing Spuds.
In the exact centre, approximately, of the cavern was a set of consoles. Metal blades stuck up from the goo, holographic readouts scrolling up and down screens. Between the consoles was a mass, a big lump of cancer with tentacles protruding into the metal surfaces. It twisted around and looked up at me with an Unggoy head – wearing a crown… looks like King Spud never made it to the Elevator.
"DEMON" it hissed at me and the lake of gunk came alive. Unggoy forms started jumping up out of the slime, none could reach me but some were reaching the walls and then scurrying like spiders towards me. I looked back up the fleshy tunnel… 'Could I possibly climb it?' I thought just as a gust of wind came whooshing down the tunnel… something big was coming rushing down the tunnel. Great, a Motivator… I felt like a Wipeout contestant (cheque's in the mail ABC)!
"Those consoles will have the codes and programs to self-destruct the Halo," piped in Cortana. "Get me down there, Master Chief."
I dove into the ooze, Energy Sword first, and instantly claws were raking my MJOLNIR. I thrust my way in the general direction on the Proto-King Spud.
Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Ha! Thrust! I fought my way to the computer terminal through the Grunt-infested muck. I found a smooth metal edge and dragged myself up over the edge and face to face with the Unggoy formerly known as King Spud.
"Master Chief," it slurred. "Demon…" Vivid memories of Captain Keyes assaulted me… The pain and blasphemy the Flood have caused… The disgrace they forced upon Jacob…
Cortana sprung into being. "Won't be a sec, my hero," promised Cortana.
I turned and booted in the head of an ugly climbing up behind me. They would pay; every single little spore would suffer as Captain Keyes did. I no longer had the Energy Sword, lost in the gunk. Good, Shotty time! (All I needed now was to replace one hand with a chainsaw!)
The M90 Shotgun came free into my hands and I pegged one out of the air in mid-leap. The weapon made beautiful music. Click-Boom a dozen times and then the held breath of anticipation as I plugged rounds back in chamber from my belt pouch. (Now, where did that belt pouch come from?)
King Spud just watched nonchalantly, occasionally muttering, but unable to disconnect itself from the terminal.
"Ten minutes 'til self-destruct, Master Chief," warned Cortana. "There's an exit just over your left shoulder. I'll let Arbiter know where to meet us."

The charge was frantic, life balanced on a knife edge, just the way I like it. I threw myself through an open bell door, beating the Flood spawn back, slamming and sealing the door while they were still grasping me. Arbiter stood up behind me and stuck a flaming torch into a several arm at my feet, burning it to ash. I noticed that he didn't have my Assault Rifle but mention it because he just would have thrown away it, being inferior human toys.
"The drone states that infestation of this area poses minimum risk to me" intoned Arbiter. "It has kindly allowed me to reside."
"Six minutes to the Halo tears itself apart. We need to get back to the Balaho's surface so Sparky can transport us," informed Cortana. "You can't be transported from the Halo, Master Chief. It's complicated."
We began to jog back to the Elevator. Coming over a ridge we looked down into the mist, forms were emerging.
"By the Prophets," swore Arbiter. "I know Unggoy breed fast but how many did they have on this Halo?"
About a million infected Unggoy lurched in the blood-red misty valley. Well eight-hundred and seven four thousand odd, but it might well have been a million.
"Uh, Sparky," radioed Cortana. "We may need some assistance…"
"I regret this greatly, Cortana," responded the drone. "The rift that I will open will be unstable, being a bit large then a belt pouch full of shotgun shells you told me send earlier, Cortana. The unstable rift will need to be closed by a large explosion."
"Will the multiple explosions of a Halo blasting the Flood back to the Dark Ages be sufficient?" asked Cortana, I could hear her eyes rolling in her tone.
"Judging from my calculations," replied 343 Guilty Spark, "the destruction of Halo should be sufficient."
A bright light burst before us, a searing pain that didn't cease. My eyes adjusted to see a shape in front of the glare. A M8088 Main Battle Tank, more commonly known as the Scorpion. Its massive 90mm High Velocity Cannon that fire tungsten armour-piercing ballistic-capped rounds at incredible speed and its cuddly 7.62mm AP-T (armour-piercing tracer) medium machine gun. If I was every reincarnated into something non-living, this would be second the list. First place has something to do with Cortana's clothing…

"The main gun's mine, Demon," bagged Arbiter. "If you wanted it you should have spoke up sooner," he chuckled.
I jumped it and linked to driver control, wrapping my hand lovingly around the machinegun's handles. Let's punch it.
We shot forward and my machine gun came to life… maybe not so non-living… and the Flood were cut into very small pieces. Arbiter blasted and the ground, and several Flood parts, flew into the air. We crunched over inert infected as we charged but the stream seemed endless. Every one I shot two more filled it place, they were swarming up the tank. The main cannon had fallen silent. Arbiter had vanished. I linked into the cannon control and blasted, seeing the Elevator out the corner of my eye. I punched an Unggoy zombie that was clawing its way in. Cortana was screaming in my ear. I heard the dreaded phrase 'ten seconds to go' and something about the rift expanded out of control. Bright stars erupted as segments of the Halo began to float away. The Scorpion was being tipped over by a mass of bodies. I was floating free of gravity, using shotgun blasts to propel me towards the purple glow of the faltering Elevator. A strange expanding rift tugged at my legs, stretching like a piece of taffy. The Elevator pulse pulling down, then shutting off and floating me off into space…. Lots of floating… A light pierced my soul…

"Welcome back, Reclaimer," monotoned 343 Guilty Spark. "Let's get to the next planet shall we."
I lay on the black altar in the ever expanding room. I didn't think my legs worked. Luckily my shotgun had gone or I would have made my arms work and had some improvement done to Sparky, mainly reducing him to dust.
My suit had several errors flashing on my visuals. I might be a genetically engineered super-solider but I wasn't Superman. If I was I'd met my kryptonite and gone twelve rounds with it and it had found my glass jaw!
"Please stay still on the table, Reclaimer," ordered Spark. Jolts of static electricity dance up and down my frame. My brain flashed black and blue and red. I drag myself up in panic.
My error messages had vanished. I held up my arms for inspection. My suit was perfect. No claw marks, no plasma burns, no stretch wrinkles from being half dragged through a rift…
"Well, Demon," stated Arbiter, as always sneaky up on me. "Let's go visit the Jackals…"