Halo: Forerunner - Section 3 Ch 36
Posted By: Joshua M. Uda
Date: 7 January 2011, 6:46 am
A brilliant flash shimmered across the chrome surface of the Maridon's body. The outline of his lean and muscular form was accentuated by the protective shell of nano-cells that covered his skin and infused through his flesh. Didact stepped forward and examined the specimen closely, remembering their few brief and violent encounters years earlier.
In truth, the man was an impressive creature. Didact was certain he would have been a significant asset had his conscription process succeeded, but all he could see now was a vile animal, a troublesome parasite, one that had infected the mind of a princess, demented her in some cryptic way. He felt a seething rage, perhaps jealousy, but more. He took a deep breath and focused all his energy to quell the emotions.
"You seem surprised to find him in this condition," said Lithiel accusingly. "What did you expect?"
Didact did not take his eyes from Altus, but considered the Librarian's question carefully. He wasn't sure he knew the answer. What did he expect… to find them frolicking blissfully in some paradise, wrapped in love's embrace? Had jealously truly blinded him to reason? He felt ashamed… for a moment.
"Yes," he answered quietly. "I am surprised, but why should I be?" Didact stepped closer to Lithiel; a dark aura surrounded him. "You are the Adept of the Ark, the Librarian," he continued. "Naturally, you brought him here to fulfill your mandate. And here he is… indexed… just as he should be."
Didact stared deep into Lithiel's eyes, probing her soul for just a glimmer of truth. She stared back blankly, but her eyes could not hide anything from the Executor. He knew her too well. He stepped back, and placed one hand on the control panel, releasing the stasis field. The chrome shell around Altus instantly vaporized into a silver mist, and his body began to drop to the floor. In a single, graceful motion, Didact energized his blade, spun toward the body as it fell, and cut cleanly across the front of Altus' throat, careful to leave the head intact. Crimson blood sprayed in an arcing ribbon behind the bright blade and spattered across Lithiel's bare feet.
She shuddered as the warm blood ran between her feet and the cool, alloy floor plates. Altus opened his eyes in shock, and struggled to cry out. He reached up instinctively to his throat but stopped as his eyes found Lithiel. He reached out to her, his hand glistening red, in sharp contrast to the pallid wash of his face. She said nothing, but watched silently as he closed his eyes and collapsed, lifeless.
Didact observed her reaction intently and smiled. He de-energized his blade, and stepped casually around the dead body toward Lithiel.
"Now," he whispered, "where is Altus?"
Her eyes shot away from the body and narrowed with disdain as they set on the Executor's smug expression. He said nothing, but silently mouthed the word, "Ever."
"The entire pattern has yet to be decoded, but a significant part of the code seems to be offloaded immediately upon expiration of the subject."
"What do you mean by offloaded?"
"Transmitted where? Where does it go?"
"She told me she does not know. I believe her. We don't even know what it is, but it seems to enter unbound space."
"I personally reviewed the results and core data from the entire series. I wouldn't have believed it myself before the array, but we know it is possible. We were simply never able to observe it before. This is unprecedented. I cannot act without further guidance."
"Are you certain this is isolated to the Maridon?"
"Not the Maridon. She will not reveal his location… but now I see why. It is isolated to his genetic sequence."
"She has been working with clones?"
"She has populated an entire world with a test species."
"Yes… of course she has… bring her to Siora."
"She will not leave."
"I understand your restraint, but I must insist."
"It will be done."
"Yes, my lord."
>>Stop Animus record - .29567289-006379>>
"Aren't you finished yet?" asked Lithiel impatiently.
Didact remained motionless as he sat in the lotus position with his eyes closed, his hands outstretched over his knees. He waited a moment longer, and then responded at last.
"You could speak to him yourself… to save time."
He looked up to catch her slight roll of the eyes. He never knew why, but he always found it endearing.
"I never use it," she said shortly. "You know that."
"I don't see why not. You designed it."
Lithiel lowered her head and made an almost imperceptible glance over her shoulder. A sullen expression settled on her face, and Didact thought he even saw a hint of fear.
"I have my reasons," she mumbled.
Didact raised a knee and placed one foot against the ground. He stood from the floor on one leg and then lowered the other gracefully.
"You might want to rethink your aversion," he began. "He has requested your presence on Siora. I will escort you there personally."
Lithiel seemed paralyzed, even more than he had expected. Her eyes went blank, as if she were in a trance. Something was wrong, but he could not make sense of it.
"This project cannot be interrupted," she said in a strangely hollow tone.
"Lithiel, this is not a request," he said quietly.
"Neither is this," she replied. "I will not leave until the work is completed."
Didact stepped closer and examined her carefully. She did not make eye contact, but stared at his chest without blinking.
"Your work will be completed, I assure you, but the Council has taken a particular interest in your findings."
Lithiel laughed suddenly. Didact nearly staggered back at the sound of it. It was not her laugh. He knew her laugh. He loved it, longed for it, but this was something else.
"I am sure they have!" she mocked. "Well, they are not the only ones who have taken… an interest." Didact's eyes narrowed. He clenched his teeth and breathed in steadily.
"At last, the horizon comes into view," she continued emotionless, "and only now do they begin to see what I have known from the beginning. Who will escape the end? Who can survive it?"
Didact's hand did not move, but his muscles tensed in preparation. He visualized the position of his blade against the side of his leg. He would need to move quickly, precisely. A bass tone rumbled through his body.
"I would not try if I were you…"
Didact felt his skin tighten and his hair rise as the words hit the back of his neck with a lazy gust of hot, humid air. Lithiel's eyes rolled back until the whites of her eyes were exposed, and she collapsed to the floor.
"Proteus," whispered Didact.
"Not forgotten after all," growled the low voice.
Didact instantly locked onto the origination point of the voice and slashed blindly across the area as he spun about and launched himself away, landing on his back with an agile roll to his feet. He scanned the chamber intently, his heart racing, but there was nothing. His visor clamped down over his face and locked into place. Neon lines traced every object in the room, and bright readouts displayed sensor hits. He raised his weapon slowly and waited, but his combat armor picked up nothing, cloaked or otherwise, not even trace residuals.
"He is very special, unique, like me…"
Didact nearly jumped as the words entered his mind, much like any other thought transmission, but different, stronger, and agitating in some way. His head began to ache. He moved carefully to Lithiel and looked for exits.
"Would you like to see the results of our work, Executor?"
Didact lifted Lithiel over his shoulder and raised his sword rifle to the firing position.
"Proteus, I order you to stand down and report to the Council immediately. You are derelict in your…"
"I ANSWER TO NO ONE!"
Didact staggered as a stabbing pain tore into his head. His mind seemed to shake violently, and his field of view narrowed as darkness pressed in from the periphery. He stumbled and fell to the ground, struggling to protect Lithiel from the impact. She woke and cried out in pain, grasping at her ears in agony.
"What have you done?" he asked her desperately.
She looked up at him confused as they stood from the ground.
"It's him!" she cried. "Don't try to resist!"
"Don't move!" he hissed.
Didact engaged his cloaking mechanisms, and moved quickly to cover. He raised his weapon and searched the room frantically for target indicators – still nothing.
"I will show you our work, Didact. Lithiel is too modest, and more deceptive than you think."
The lights in the room began to flicker and then went dark. The walls seemed to tremble, and the air filled with a strange chorus of clicks and buzzes. Hundreds of icons appeared on Didact's display. Heat and density readouts were characteristic of biological organisms, yet they were labeled as Forerunner constructs, non-hostile.
"I must admit, the application is crude compared to the innate abilities of the test species. But the soul can be preserved in other ways, and her tool is… quite impressive…"
Lithiel's face filled with horror. She jumped from the ground and screamed in desperation, "Didact! Run!"
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