Halo: Forerunner - Section 3 Ch 37
Posted By: Joshua M. Uda
Date: 4 February 2011, 6:05 am
Pirolith stepped cautiously through the vacillating, blue, energy field that spanned the arched entrance to the command deck. The vast, domed chamber was dark, and the air was thick with an eerie, green haze, flecked with drifting particles of ashen dust. The high-pitched hum of 343's propulsion drive whined as the monitor approached from behind; his metallic voice echoed through the silence.
"I am detecting residual power signatures in a conduit nearby. I should be able to reroute power to the primary command hub. One moment."
Pirolith said nothing, but nodded, and 343 quickly ascended into a small porthole in the ceiling, high in the darkness above. The fleet commander waited anxiously and noted a small red glyph flashing in the lower-right corner of his view, indicating the presence of potentially hazardous atmospheric conditions. He breathed in slowly, picking up the crisp scent of ions in the synthetic air created by his armor. He could only imagine what pungent stench might befit the gangrenous haze surrounding him… only imagine what effects it might have on him… or on the missing officers of the Alorus Maxim.
A static crackling filled the air, and several light panels blinked to life, flickering erratically as they struggled to pull energy from rerouted circuits. One panel immediately caught Pirolith's attention, and he stepped closer to the central surveillance station, leaning in to examine the irresolute holographic image that played in a loop.
The recording was replete with bright glyphs positioned to note various metrics and identify each object in the scene. The cycle began with a sudden flash of orange light, apparently somewhere in a garden district of the ship; the flash briefly illuminated what looked like surrounding vegetation, and the ground was clearly covered in moss. Moments later, two figures materialized, encircled by pulsating rings of golden energy. One figure collapsed immediately to the ground. The other, without hesitation, energized the broad, angular blade of a sword rifle and raised it in an arc above his head in a signature stance that Pirolith had not seen for ages. The ancient gasped involuntarily and cursed beneath his helm before exclaiming quietly, "Didact!"
A second flash illuminated the scene, brighter than the first. The light intensified until the entire image was awash with white light. Then, as the brightness began to fade, dozens of strange creatures surged into view, storming like a tidal wave into a devastating barrier of destruction that poured from Didact's archaic weapon. The Executor stood his ground, annihilating waves of attackers with a succession of alternating blasts and graceful but deadly blows.
"Oh my!" 343 exclaimed as he reemerged from the porthole.
Pirolith did not look away from the recording, but put his hand up to silence the monitor. 343 tilted closer to the hologram and analyzed the glyphs marking each of the twisted assailants as they came into view.
"Curious!" he blurted out.
Pirolith turned abruptly to the monitor.
"What's curious?" he demanded.
343 tilted and elevated himself slightly to look over Pirolith's shoulder at the display.
"All of these creatures share similar features, yet each one carries a unique genetic marker…"
"Is that all?!" interrupted Pirolith angrily as he turned back to the display.
"Hardly!" replied the monitor. "According to these markers, every one of these creatures is an indexed species."
Pirolith froze as 343 finished his statement. He looked to the image and reexamined the creatures carefully, suddenly recognizing, in horror, the distorted yet familiar forms of ancient, vanquished foes.
"No…" he whispered as he read for the first time the glyph marking the collapsed figure – Librarian.
Finally, the surge of attackers subsided, and another blaze of light engulfed the image as the last creature fell to Didact's blade. This time, the brightness did not fade, but it began to strobe rhythmically, creating a disorienting sensation as the motion of the two figures continued in disjointed flashes.
Pirolith struggled to make sense of the scene. Didact lifted the Librarian and began to carry her from view. Suddenly, a swarm of bulbous shapes crested over the dead bodies, tentacles flailing. They bounced wildly in every direction and then burrowed into the heap of flesh.
The bodies twitched and jerked violently. The entire mass seemed to grow in size as twisted limbs burst from the pile of corpses. Then, almost in unison, the aliens began to rise from the ground, staggering only for a moment before lunging in a frenzied rush toward the retreating figures. The scene stopped, and the cycle began to loop again.
"Engineers?!" exclaimed 343.
"What?" asked Pirolith as he checked his weapon systems and scanned the command deck cautiously.
"Those last creatures were marked as synthetic constructs," 343 explained exacerbated, "Huragok!"
"Those were not Huragok!" insisted Pirolith.
"The scanning systems are damaged; however, the probability of a labeling error is…"
"Those were not created by Forerunners!" Pirolith interrupted angrily. He moved quickly to the communications station and checked it for damage. 343 waited a moment before responding passively.
"Very well," he said casually. "If your null hypothesis precludes Huragok, then what are they?"
Pirolith tapped at the controls in frustration and then backed slowly away from the dysfunctional relay panel. He looked behind him at the shipmaster's empty chair and tried to clear his mind long enough to organize his emergent strategy.
"Right now, I'm not interested in what they are," he said quietly, pondering the lifeless calm throughout the ghost ship. "I want to know where they are…"
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