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Halo: Forerunner - Section 1 Ch 21-22
Posted By: Joshua M. Uda<imagine@uvtag.com>
Date: 15 October 2010, 5:52 am

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Chapter Twenty-one
      "Why are we doing this, Trehvo?"
      Kohra looked down on the lifeless body of Admiral Perok as Trehvo worked frantically to remove the deceased officer's uniform from his frozen body. Trehvo did not answer, but glanced briefly at Kohra before returning his focus to Perok. The young woman wasn't much to look at. The dark silhouette of her short and wiry frame stood nervously in the doorway of the medical bay, contrasted against the bright lights that bled in from the hallway.
       "You're blocking my light," Trehvo blurted out, frustrated.
      Kohra bit her upper lip and held her breath. She placed one hand on her hip, shifting her weight deliberately and reached up to grab at the short tufts of orange hair that muddled the top of her head. It wasn't worth the argument, not now. She knew Trehvo wouldn't give up until Perok's flesh turned green and began to fall off his decomposing corpse.
      Trehvo looked up again to the doorway. There was a sudden bustle as two medical technicians rushed into the room, pushing their way past Kohra. She dropped her hand and doubled forward with an angry grunt as one of them jostled her into the wall. Trehvo continued to ignore her and waived the technicians over. They hurried to his side and set to work, checking the Admiral's vital signs and monitoring his temperature.
       "He's thawing too quickly," muttered one of the technicians before looking to Trehvo with a critical glare. "If there's any chance at all, we have to get him into a hyperbaric cryo-chamber now."
       "Go!" Trehvo ordered, "Do it now!"
      The technicians had no time to be gentle. They jumped up and each grabbed one of Perok's wrists before dragging him through the doorway and down the hall toward the stasis unit. Trehvo stayed behind for a moment and watched them leave, his eyes wide with anxiety. He still didn't look to Kohra, but he finally acknowledged her.
       "We are doing this," he began with emotion shaking in his voice, "because there is no one left but him."
      Kohra was puzzled.
       "What are you talking about, Trehvo?" she asked warily.
      He continued to stare out through the empty doorway as if it extended off to some very distant place.
       "Two hours ago, I began receiving broken reports from survivors at Kargot Ruehn…"
       "Survivors!" Kohra interrupted in shock.
      At last Trehvo shifted his eyes to meet her bewildered stare. He seemed to be in shock, but angry somewhere deep inside.
       "General Ornok is dead," he said blankly. "Kargot Ruehn is gone."
      Kohra nearly dropped to the floor as the strength left her knees. Only the weakness of the centripetal gravity field kept her from collapsing.
      Kargot Ruehn was impregnable. It was the Tureen's deepest, most secure fortress, the central command for all Tureen forces, and the last remaining fragment of the Tureen government.
      Kohra closed her eyes tightly and reached up to cup her hands over her ears. It was a subconscious gesture, perhaps to block out the barrage of confusion as she tried to wrap her mind around the situation. Nothing made any sense. Why then had the Forerunners fled? Would they be back? Who would lead? It didn't really seem to matter now. What could they even do to resist?
      Trehvo and his crew were science officers, not soldiers. Their research station had no weapons. Perhaps that was the only reason they had been ignored during the entire conflict. The rest of the Tureen fleet was nothing more now than a bright nebula of atomized matter and drifting debris. Kohra felt hopeless despair, and as Trehvo watched her expression fall, he realized he had a duty to keep up her morale.
       "Hey…" he said softly and waited for Kohra to open her eyes. "This is going to work," he reassured her. "His body was cold enough before he died. It's just some cell damage, maybe some minor neurological… but we've resuscitated people from failed cryo-stasis before… shouldn't be that much different. He's practically in the same condition."
      Kohra stared blankly at Trehvo and listened to the rhythmic heartbeat pounding in her ears. She hadn't heard a single word. Trehvo placed a hand on her shoulder.
       "Kohra," he said kindly, "let's go. They might need our help."
      Our help… she mused to herself. With the fleet and Kargot Ruehn destroyed, Trehvo and Kohra were likely the highest ranking officers in the Tureen government. It seemed ridiculously absurd, but they were in charge now. The future of Alseron was in their hands.
       "All right," she said, "let's go."
      Trehvo nodded and ushered her through the door. He hoped he was right, that Perok could be saved. He wasn't ready for the alternative.


      Pirolith arched his back and twisted gracefully between the forked claws of scorched alloy that jutted out from a fractured bulkhead. His Class-6 combat skin shimmered with a golden glow as it shifted its internal displacement arrays to block passing streams of singularities, catching them like sails in the wind. Navigation was seamlessly integrated through the battle harness on the back of Pirolith's neck, and he moved at will in any direction he desired, flying skillfully through the maelstrom of alloy meteors and debris.
      Despite the extreme maneuverability provided by his armor, Pirolith's heart raced as he strained to maintain his focus and process the onslaught of obstacles. Navigating the debris field was perilous. The slightest lapse in his attention, a single moment of distraction, could send him tumbling into a chain reaction of high-velocity collisions that could take hours to recover from and could leave him battered and disoriented – a perfect target for whatever hidden enemy had destroyed the Alorus Maxim and its crew.
      Pirolith's eyes darted rapidly from side to side as collision warnings flashed into his retinas. There were no escape vectors. He spun 30 degrees off axis, curled into a ball, and felt his shields shudder as three large masses grazed the energy field, blazing past at supersonic speeds. Without hesitation, he stretched out like a rod and jettisoned from his stationary position, spiraling into the narrow channel of empty space behind the largest of the three masses. He accelerated quickly into the wake of the burning chunk of metal as it plowed through a hailstorm of debris, still glowing white-hot from some unknown destructive force.
      It was too close, but he had managed to dodge every obstacle in that onslaught. He wished he had a moment to pause and gather his senses, process the chaos, but there would be no rest until he made it to the other side.
      He increased his velocity and checked the distance and vector to 343. The monitor was still tumbling through the debris field, careening erratically in every direction as it was knocked about from one collision to another. The Ancient cringed with every impact, and hoped 343 was sturdier than he looked. The construct had taken quite a beating, and Pirolith was still struggling to get within reach without taking damage himself.
      Another alarm sounded as a massive asteroid of twisted metal appeared in Pirolith's peripheral view. He prepared to dodge, but then stopped as he realized the enormous mass was on a direct trajectory toward 343. It seemed convenient enough. Pirolith turned about smoothly, repositioned his feet toward what appeared to be a fairly flat section of the irregular surface, and prepared for impact.
      The alarm continued to sound, and collision warnings flashed in his eyes as the heap of metal expanded and filled his entire view. It was much larger and moving faster than Pirolith had anticipated. His stomach leapt and he swallowed hard as his armor accelerated away from the planetoid and began to match velocities. Still, the surface advanced rapidly, and in moments it was upon him.
      He brought one knee up to his chest, stretched his hands downward, and felt a sudden chill as fundamental particle arrays in his armor confined the orbits of every quark in his body, freezing him for a fraction of a second into a state of solid stasis near absolute zero. Without that moment of stasis, the force of the impact would have liquefied him inside his armor, but with every atom of his body securely locked in place, he would survive.
      In the silence of space, the armored suit smashed into the asteroid and sank deeply into the surface before coming to a stop. Gravity fields activated, and fundamental particle currents pressed Pirolith against the asteroid, preventing him from bouncing back into space. He never felt anything. His mass came to equilibrium with the momentum of the asteroid, and as forces settled, his armor released his particles back to their normal velocities.
      Pirolith blinked away the disorientation and reassessed the situation. He could remember nothing from the impact. It was as if he had leapt forward in time. His systems had performed perfectly. He was relieved but he struggled to remember where he was and what he was doing before the impact.
      Suddenly a shower of small objects began to obliterate the surface of the behemoth, drifting section of wreckage. Pirolith rose to his feet, yanked them from the alloy panel, and sprinted across the surface, dodging impacts as he ran.
      More debris blasted the surface in front of him. He growled angrily through his teeth and initiated his weapons systems. It would be much easier to just blast his way across the debris field, but before he could activate the targeting system, his instincts stopped him, and then he began to remember… something was wrong here. There was an enemy.
      High intensity energy plumes in the debris field would almost certainly draw attention. It was too risky. His mind began to clear. He still knew nothing about the enigmatic hostile presence. He didn't know its location or its capabilities. He had to maintain a low profile until he had more information.
      He staggered back from another explosive collision and quickly regained his balance. Then, as the debris cleared from the fresh crater in front of him, he saw that the impact had opened up a passageway into what was left of a ventilation shaft. He rushed forward and lowered himself into the scorched tunnel. The walls shook as debris continued to impact on the surface, but Pirolith was safer now as he worked his way deeper into the wreckage.
      He looked around in the darkness until he reacquired the small icon marking 343. His suit's sensors were still tracking the construct. Distance readouts flashed under the icon and ticked steadily down as the large asteroid plowed through the drifting debris, barreling toward the monitor.
       "Well, this is much easier," thought Pirolith to himself as he settled in for the ride.
      When he was younger, he might have felt slightly ashamed for taking the easy way out, but he was more practical now. He had proven himself enough times in countless conflicts over the ages to learn that he had nothing to prove. The path of least resistance suited him just fine.


      The steady drumbeat of tremors continued to shake Pirolith's makeshift vessel as it plowed toward the outer edges of the debris field. The former Fleet Commander sighed as he pondered the symbolism. This drifting pile of space junk was his flagship now, a ruinous monument to a ruined man. He had fallen completely from the graces of his people; he had betrayed their trust and their mantle. Weakened by his personal loss, he had failed to perform his duties, and now it seemed he could not even successfully find someone to replace him. Yes, a fitting ship indeed.
      Pirolith pursed his lips and sneered in disgust. Now was not the time for self-pity. He had a mission to complete, and a mystery to solve, and perhaps… a danger to confront. Anything that could annihilate a Forerunner destroyer and force an entire battle group to retreat was a grave threat to the entire galaxy.
      Pirolith looked around again at the walls of twisted and scorched metal. At a time like this, the fleet needed a commander, one with great skill. For the moment, he would have to reassume his duties… one last deployment, to safeguard his people, to protect the galaxy.
      Pirolith breathed in deeply, and his posture shifted slightly. He felt larger, stronger, just at the thought of returning to his duties. It was the only life he knew how to live, the only one that made sense. He nodded silently to himself, decisive as ever, and immediately turned his attention to the crisis at hand.
      343's icon was still flashing somewhere in the distance through the alloy walls of the asteroid. The range readout continued to tick down, but the asteroid would still have to plow through leagues of debris before intercepting the monitor.
      Pirolith increased the illumination in his sensory-relay sight and examined the interior of the asteroid. He had descended through the ventilation shaft into a large open space. As the darkness dissipated, he realized he was in someone's living quarters. A quick thought released his gravity field, and his armored form drifted steadily into the center of the room. The structure was warped and distorted, but he soon identified the floor, reoriented himself, and set down gently.
      Something wasn't right. Pirolith walked cautiously over to the doorway and pulled away a wide beam that was wedged against the exit. Not wedged though… propped up… barricaded? The combat skin vanished as cloaking systems activated. Sensors showed no signs of life or motion beyond the barricade.
      Pirolith thought for a moment, and then stretched out his hand toward the door. A stream of white energy wisped off the metal surface and arched into Pirolith's palm. Slowly the door began to disintegrate as the suit's particle array converted the solid matter into energy, pooling it away in reserves. Moments later, the obstacle was clear, and Pirolith stepped silently into the hallway.
      This area was less damaged. It was strange and disorienting, as if the hallway was still part of the Alorus Maxim and not an amputated compartment, drifting in orbit around the ruins of the great destroyer. If Pirolith had not just come from the emptiness of space and the heavily damaged crust of the asteroid, he could almost believe there was an entire ship surrounding this intact section… mostly intact.
      The Fleet Commander noted some scoring along the walls as he continued into the common dining area. Then, he paused and felt a chill crawl up his spine. Motionless, he directed his visual relay to his rear periphery, back at the scorch marks he had just passed. He magnified the image and felt his heart flutter with anticipation.
       "These are not from an explosion," he thought.
      He analyzed the structural integrity of the room, and noted the absence of any breaches in the bulkheads. Pirolith looked back to the blast marks and squinted with chilled disdain.
       "These came from inside!"
      The words had barely passed his lips when a dark, angular figure burst from a service shaft in the corner of the room. Bright lights and shadows danced around the mess hall as the object increased velocity and dove downward toward Pirolith.
      Without hesitation, he wheeled around and swung his left arm, sending a shockwave of distortion slamming though the object. Every lose item in the dining hall was swept away with the blast, instantly thrown from lazy orbit into a tidal wave of clutter that crashed into the far wall and scattered into hundreds of random trajectories.
      The shadowy object emerged from the debris, unharmed. Three free-floating blades spread like flower petals from its spherical center – an energy orb blacked out from the concussion. Pirolith immediately recognized the elite synergy drone and breathed a sigh of relief. If there was one S-drone left, then there must be others. It was the first good thing he had seen in days.
      The Alorus Maxim seemed to have lost all external ship-born defensive and offensive systems, but boarding parties would have little success against the S-drones. These were no ordinary sentinels. The synergy drones were fast, agile, stealthy, and were armed with an almost recklessly powerful energy weapon. Their true strength, however, was their namesake, synergy. They fought tactically in small-unit maneuvers with combined arms. The S-drones could link together in countless configurations for force multiplication, combining and increasing the power of their shields, sensors, and weapons. Alone, they were formidable; in large numbers, they were devastating.
      Pirolith hoped he would find others, that more had survived, but he was almost certain that if one had survived, the enemy had not. The Fleet Commander de-cloaked, powered down his shields, and opened transmission to the stunned S-Drone.
       "Mark friendly unit, first echelon, Fleet Commander Pirolith," he ordered. "Note local transfer of tactical command. Rally to assist." Pirolith smiled, "You're with me now. Report status."
      The S-Drone remained motionless. Pirolith frowned. Perhaps he had caused more damage than he thought. He stepped forward to examine the S-drone, but it lurched back, and the black orb blazed to life with a fiery orange glow. The three bladed wings swept forward like pincers until they were aligned parallel to each other in a triangular formation around the orb. The blades remained stationary, but the bright ball began to track forward along the blades.
      Pirolith cursed; he must have damaged its com relay. His faceplate illuminated and he flashed a direct coded light signal to the S-drone.
       "Stand down! Mark friendly unit, first echelon, Fleet Comma…"
      Blistering heat erupted from the orb and flared around Pirolith's shields as they automatically re-energized. The floor below and the walls behind Pirolith vaporized instantly, and showers of molten beads sprayed in every direction.
      A subtle and terrifying scowl crept slowly onto Pirolith's face. His teeth began to grind together, and his eyes narrowed with anger as he stared directly into the S-drone's recharging orb.
      With a simple twitch in his tensed muscles, his entire frame vanished in a blur and streaked across the room, stopping abruptly within reach of the S-drone. His clenched fist shot forward like lightning and smashed through the orb before it could raise its shields. The construct detonated, and the entire asteroid exploded in a brilliant flash, sending shockwaves through the debris field in all directions.
      The light faded from where the ruined ship had been a moment earlier. There was nothing left… nothing but the striking image of a former Cherub, glistening in the bright armor of a Class-6 battle suit.
      Pirolith noticed his rapid breathing and closed his eyes to calm himself. His rage rarely manifested, but it was not pleasant when it did. He tried to make sense of the incident. Even damaged, a Forerunner construct was supposedly incapable of attacking a Forerunner. There were too many failsafe protocols programmed into every construct on the molecular level. Still, eons of experience had taught the Forerunners one thing above all else, nothing is impossible.
      Pirolith wondered why his sensors had not flagged the S-drone as a recognized object, friendly or hostile. Then, he remembered the constructors. He had set his sensors to ignore all constructs except 343. With that realization, he sent a quick mental command and returned constructs to his geometric and mass identification system. His display flickered for a moment, then responded.
      Pirolith gasped and spun around. His entire view was immediately blanketed with hostile tags. Thousands of S-drones emerged from wreckage in the debris field, their orbs blazing with fiery light; he was surrounded.

Chapter Twenty-Two
      PB.07-00.> This is a most precarious situation. Of course we must do all that is in our power to minimize collateral damage; however, containment cannot be maintained without the full implementation of an asymmetrical offensive, not excluding the discretionary denial of resources.
      LM.04-343.> Absurd! Containment protocols have not been exhausted!
      PB.07-00.> True.
      LM.04-343.> Containment protocols disallow the addition of principles to the targeting ledger!
      PB.07-00.> False.
      LM.04-343.> Elucidate!
      PB.07-00.> Protocols restrict but do not disallow. The Bias protocol supersedes when event trajectory is statistically untenable.
      LM.04-343.> Incomprehension…
      PB.07-00.> Naturally. Improvisation is beyond your classification. There is no established protocol for the trajectory of this scenario. Reactionary forces have been mobilized. Move to assist.
      LM.04-343.> Unconscionable!
      PB.07-00.> Regulate and prepare to receive executable. Transmission follows.

Chapter Twenty-Three

Coming soon...