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Halo: Forerunner - Section 1 Ch 23-24
Posted By: Joshua M. Uda<imagine@uvtag.com>
Date: 22 October 2010, 7:05 am

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Chapter Twenty-Three

      The warmth of the summer sun lit gently across Altus' bare shoulders as he stepped from the shade of the towering pine trees into the open meadow. He paused for a moment and closed his eyes to savor the sensation, listening to the quiet whisper of the wind in the trees and the cheerful song of birds, chirping to each other across the green canopy from their lofty perches in the branches.
      His eyes opened slowly and began to water as bright sunlight reflected off of the flowing waves of tall yellow grass in the meadow. The air cooled abruptly, and a faint shadow descended across the field. Altus looked up to the blue sky where a large cumulus cloud had passed in front of the sun and was moving quickly toward the forest. Its dark center was illuminated where the sun struggled to shine through, and bright sunbeams drew sharp lines across the heavens, streaking outwards from the silvery edges of the amorphous cloud.
      Altus inhaled deeply and caught the crisp scent of water in the air mingled with the smell of pine and fertile soil. It would rain soon. A chill ran up his back as the sweat that covered his body from his long run began to cool in the sudden shade. He reached up and touched the thin collar around his neck, and in an instant he was clothed in a skin-tight body suit of white material. It seemed to cling to his wet body for a moment as it morphed and shifted to wick away the moisture, then it loosened slightly, and he felt comfortably dry.
      The Class-1 skin was a marvel to him, as were so many other things in this strange new world, but he was learning more each day and was beginning to understand much of the technology that surrounded him, thanks to his tutor.
      He looked down at his hand and moved his fingers in a diagnostic sort of motion. His strength had finally returned in both arms, and he seemed to be fully recovered. Still, the memory of his injury, and of his entire immersion experience into Forerunner culture, made him cringe and filled him with dark thoughts and emotions.
      He clenched his fist tightly and then released it, looking out again at the field before him and the forest beyond. He could hear the warbling of a stream somewhere near and the chatter of small forest creatures as they claimed this tree or that bush as their territory. My bush! My tree! My rock! It all seemed so petty to him now, so base. Small butterflies flittered gently in the breeze, dancing around glints of pollen that drifted lazily above the grass. It was beautiful, all of it. For all he had lost, there were so many good things he had gained.
      A soft hand set delicately on his shoulder, and he nearly jumped from the start, but the touch was instantly calming, almost enchanting. He turned to see the creature that had snuck up on him so silently, and a broad smile stretched across his face. Lithiel smiled back with a subtle beauty that still made his heart jump every time he looked into her eyes.
       "Trying to escape again?" she laughed teasingly.
       "From what?" he laughed back.
      His smile faded and a more serious look washed over his expression.
       "What in all this world would I want to escape?" he said slowly with all the sincerity of his heart.
      Lithiel lifted her small hand from his shoulder, lowered her lovely eyes abashedly, and then looked up to Altus again with a mysterious sadness in her eyes. She had never known anyone like him in all her millennia of existence. She had spent nearly every day with him for the last two years, helping him adjust, answering his questions, showing him the way. He was so different, so unique. For all his naivety, he was wise and cunning. And even though he was a child, at times, he seemed older and wiser than her. She was supposed to be his guardian, but she felt safer with him, as if he were hers. They had become friends… but more. It was as if they had always known each other… and yet he was mortal, and she knew he was forbidden.
      Altus felt uncomfortable and confused. He had never seen Lithiel so sad, but he thought he understood. Still, he felt awkward and conflicted. He never meant to like her. He certainly never meant to stay with her after his escape; yet after all the time they had spent together, he no longer wanted to be alone.
      Her long eyelashes blinked shut as a cold drop of rain splashed against her cheek, followed by a sudden pattering of wetness, as if the heavens were weeping her sadness. A flash of lighting shot across the sky, and a loud clap of thunder rolled over the hills as it echoed through the valley. It startled them both.
      They laughed together in the moment as the cold rain began to pour down on them. Altus pulled her closer and tapped a bracelet on his wrist to activate a force field. The there was a sudden hush, and the rain sizzled against a blue field of energy that instantly surrounded them. He let go of her shoulder, and they stood quietly under the energy dome. She was even more beautiful in the rain with her wet hair clinging closely to the perfect contours of her neck, her skin so soft and wet, her complexion so smooth and young, as if she had just barely reached womanhood. He never meant to like her. He certainly never meant to stay…
       "What would I escape," he thought to himself. "Where would I go?"


      Altus woke as Lithiel stirred uncomfortably against the uneven ground beneath the leaves and grass. She wasn't used to sleeping in such illustrious accommodations, but she slept all the same, lying on her side with her arm and leg draped over Altus as he lay on his back with his hands behind his head. She shifted her head slightly against his chest as she dreamt and nuzzled in beneath his arm. He held his breath, hoping she wouldn't wake. It was a perfect moment, and he wanted it to last forever.
      The ground was still wet from the rain, but the white nano-material of their body suits had kept them warm and dry through the night. Altus wrapped his arm around Lithiel's back and reached up with his free hand to tap the bracelet on his wrist. A shimmering blue dome of light faded around them and let in the thick, morning mist that poured through the lush, green plants and crept along the dark soil and brown pine needles of the forest floor.
      Lithiel stirred again and her pretty eyes opened slightly. She was even more beautiful in the morning, as if the rest had renewed and refreshed her in every way. Altus, on the other hand, was groggy and haggard like most mortals. She looked up at him and smiled in a surprised sort of way, then placed her head gently on his chest and sighed.
       "I like to hear your heart," she whispered, "what were we talking about?"
      Altus tried to remember. They had taken shelter under his suit's force field when the rain started and had stayed up talking late into the night. He couldn't remember all the things they had talked about. They always had so much to discuss, and he never tired of their conversations. He only remembered that they had been speaking from the heart, talking about their forbidden feelings and all the reasons why they should be careful and cautious. He remembered feeling so close to this immortal princess, and hanging on every word she spoke in her melodic and soothing voice. Then he remembered her closing her eyes as the evening grew late, and mumbling incoherent responses as he spoke, and then just nodding and smiling with her eyes closed as she laid her head on his chest before falling into a deep sleep. He remembered that.
      He remembered savoring that moment, and listening to the silent rustle of wind in the trees as the rain died out and the crickets began to chirp their lullabies. He remembered watching her sleep, and whispering quietly that he loved her. He remembered that.
      Altus smiled and helped Lithiel sit up, shaking off the numbness in his arm as he followed.
       "I don't remember," he said, "something interesting, I'm sure."
      She smiled knowingly, "Yes, I'm sure," she giggled.
      Altus felt his face flush, and he turned away. Lithiel stood and walked over to a tree that sagged with large, bowled foliage and cupped her hands together to ladle out the rainwater that had filled one of the leaves. She splashed it across her face and ran it through her hair, pulling the golden locks back neatly and then letting them drop perfectly into place as if each hair remembered where it should be. It was one of the little modifications that she was most pleased with. She placed her hands on her hips and looked at Altus with a half-smile.
       "I'm hungry," she blurted out.
      He laughed, surprised, and looked around at the fruit-filled trees and berry-covered bushes all around them.
       "Well, I'll see what I can do about that."
      He knew what she was doing, and he liked it. It felt good to think that she needed him as much as he needed her, to think that she would let him care for her. There was nothing he wanted more.


      A tremendous metallic clang rang out as the docking clamps locked onto the pier. A spray of ocean mist shot up from the water below as the ferry came to rest, and the briny aroma of salt water filled the air. Altus staggered from the sudden stop, and looked warily over the edge of the elevated platform. He wasn't afraid of heights, but it was a long way down, and even if he survived the fall, the creatures in the dark water below were less than docile.
      The height wouldn't have been such a concern if the ferry had seemed more stable – not that the ride was anything but smooth – but to the young conscript, the ship appeared to be upside-down. The bulk of the vessel was elevated high above the waves, with only a flat, narrow mast extending downward into the water. Altus wasn't sure what was keeping the ferry from tipping over, or even afloat. He simply couldn't wrap his mind around the mechanics or the technology. It was all coming, but very slowly… too many questions, not enough time.
      Seagulls cried out as they circled overhead. Altus looked up in surprise. It wasn't the first creature he had recognized here. During his years of learning and exploration, he had seen so many plants and animals that he thought were indigenous to his home world. By now, he had realized the absurdity of thinking that biospheres consisting of identical atmospheric compositions and mineral deposits would produce radically different life forms. Still, he was always pleasantly surprised to find life that was more than similar to what he had known on Maridon.
       "You know it?" asked Lithiel pleasantly as she looked up at the circling seabirds.
      Altus didn't look away. He felt almost at home as his eyes turned from the strange angular architecture of the ferry and pier and set firmly on the familiar blue sky and a bird he had seen countless times in his youth.
       "Yes," he acknowledged, "I know it."
      Lithiel reached out and took his hand.
       "I'm glad it's here for you." she said. "Come, and I'll show you more."
      He looked to her and recognized her mischievous smile. She loved to surprise him, and he loved the surprises.
       "After you," he smiled.
      She started down the ramp and across the flat deck of the ferry to the wide metallic pier, but she kept his hand tightly in her own, leading him eagerly behind her. The sun shone brightly off the enormous temple structure before them, accented by shadows cast from the surrounding palm trees and thick foliage of the jungle.
      They ran like children up the wide trapezoidal stairway. Altus breathed heavily as they reached the top; Lithiel was unfazed. She tried to hide her concern as she remembered once again that he was only mortal, and their time together would be tragically brief.
       "Come," she said, "just through these doors."
      She pulled him by the hand, and he followed with little resistance, huffing as if he had just been forced to leave his breath behind. Still, he smiled; he loved her youthful energy. She was like a sprite… a fairy, magical and mysterious and wonderful.
      They wound their way around the walled partition that was situated in front of the entrance, allowing access around one side or the other, but blocking direct view into the structure. The air was cool and humid inside, laced with the smell of wet stone and moss.
      Lithiel slowed as she entered, and an air of reverence settled over her. She tightened her grip affectionately, as if thrilled to be sharing this place with someone special. Altus felt ridiculously giddy as he held her slender hand. It was soft and light, but more than anything, it was her.
      The interior of the temple was dimly lit by beams of sunlight that pierced through skylights and missing panels above. Beneath the angular structure, an ancient ruin of carved yellow stone sat silently in the shadows. Altus was in awe. It was the first structure he had seen that was not pristine and immaculately cared for by constructor drones. It was the first time he had seen the ancient style of architecture, strangely similar to the palaces of his home world, with tall columns and wide rectangular windows and battlements.
       "What is this place," he whispered.
      Lithiel just smiled slyly, and led him closer to the ruins.
      Small insects scurried away as they approached, and dozens of exotic frog-like creatures with colorful skin and fanged mandibles hopped frantically from their path. Lithiel, raised her free hand as they entered the shadows, and soft white light radiated from her palm, illuminating the ancient stone walls, and the stone pathway, now overgrown with vines and moss.
       "Here," she whispered as they approached a door beneath a recessed archway.
      Altus looked to the large, stone door and froze. His mouth opened slightly and his eyes fixed on the shocking image engraved in gold into the door. Lithiel looked to his expression with anticipation.
       "You know it, don't you!" she said excitedly.
      Altus was too shocked to answer, though it was more of a statement than a question. Of course he knew it, but how could it be here?
      He reached out cautiously and touched the cold surface of the inlayed golden pattern, running his finger gently along the lines as he traced them to be sure he wasn't hallucinating.
       "What do you call it?" Lithiel asked, watching in awe as Altus recognized the symbol.
      Altus was still in shock, and tried to remember what it was called; it had been so long, in another life. He could hardly remember any of it now. But this, he couldn't forget. He had seen this symbol since childhood. He had known and reverenced it, and he had cursed it and all it stood for when the Forerunners finally arrived. This couldn't be. There was no god! The Forerunners were not gods, and their conquest and subsequent destruction of his world had shattered his faith forever. This symbol meant nothing to him now… yet it meant everything.
      He looked to Lithiel with uncertainty.
       "We call it the star of the Al-Mon," he said, almost pained as he pronounced the name, "it is… it was… a symbol of our faith."
      He let go of her hand and looked down and away, half in shame, half in disdain. He suddenly felt very conflicted, very emotional. Lithiel stepped closer and laid her hand gently on his heart.
       "I'm sorry," she whispered.
      He turned again to the doorway and looked with curiosity at the golden hexagram, and then back to the immortal princess.
       "Will you tell me what you know about this symbol," he asked quietly.
      She took his hand again and looked into his eyes.
       "Everything," she said.


      White light radiated from the hexagon at the center of the six-pointed star. Lithiel removed her hand from the activated icon and stepped back slowly. Waves of distortion shimmered along the surface of the stone door like a mirage in the desert, and the stone barricade began to slide back into the structure, scraping along the ground, grinding against the bedrock until it cleared the entrance and rumbled to a halt.
      The jungle was silent. Altus listened nervously to his pounding heart and excited breathing, listened and waited. Gradually the air began to fill again with the sounds of nature as buzzing insects, singing birds, and other strange creatures forgot the tumultuous disturbance and returned to the normal rhythm of life.
      Altus stared into the open doorway. Perfect darkness filled the void within the ancient temple. He looked to Lithiel for direction, but she was also staring into the darkness, seemingly just as unsure as he was. He stepped forward and placed a hand on her shoulder. Her body surged slightly as she was startled from her daze, and she turned to Altus with wide eyes, as if surprised to see him.
       "What's wrong?" he asked quietly.
       "I'm sorry," she said as she came to her senses, "I… I was just remembering."
       "Remembering what?"
      Her sad eyes looked down and away, and her lips pursed slightly. Altus realized he had stumbled across something sensitive, something personal. He waited uncomfortably, but Lithiel said nothing. She just took a deep breath and turned back to him.
       "It was a long time ago," she said, "It doesn't matter now."
      He nodded understandingly, and left it at that. He didn't know how old she was. He knew that some Forerunners were millions of years old. With such incomprehensible troves of experience, there were certainly times of extreme trial or tribulation.
      Altus had known only a few such times in his thirty years, and only one… his most recent, gave him pause to recall it. Yet, in the few millennia of his race's recorded history, there were countless records of horrific tragedy and ruin. He couldn't imagine what it would be like to live through them all. Though he greatly wished he could, he knew he could not empathize, so he nodded, and left it at that.
       "Come," she said softly.
She turned to enter, and he began to follow, but she stopped abruptly and turned to him and placed her hand nervously on his chest as if to stop him. He looked down at her hand and saw that it was trembling. She withdrew it slightly, and looked eagerly into his eyes, desperate for him to understand the importance of what she was about to say.
       "Altus," she whispered, "you are not supposed to be here… what you're about to see… what I'm about to show you… it's… it's sacred. Do you understand?"
      He looked at her pleading eyes, confused and uncertain, and then he began to wonder.
       "What will happen to you if you show me this… place?" he asked quietly.
      She looked down and smiled softly.
       "Nothing… nothing that wasn't already coming."
      Altus stepped away from her and looked to the shadowy doorway, but she reached out and took his hand.
       "It was enough that I helped you escape," she explained, "Compared to that, this is trivial. It will only matter to a few, a very select few, and they have no power… but I respect them… greatly."
      Altus felt a pang of guilt now, not knowing what she might have sacrificed to free him, to keep him hidden and safe, and now she would share something so sacred with him, simply because he asked. His heart burned in his bosom as he understood. Her actions were clearer than words could ever be. She wanted him to understand, and he did.
      Altus took Lithiel's trembling hand and gently pulled her closer. He looked into her eyes and could sense her pain. It was the same emptiness he felt in his own heart, and the desperation of knowing that the only light that could fill the void was so near. She closed her eyes, and he embraced her, savoring the sweet perfume that naturally wisped off her slender neck, holding her close to his heart, close to where she belonged, to fill the emptiness, to fill the void.
      Lithiel seemed surprised, but immediately lost herself in the moment and wrapped her delicate arms gracefully around his neck and shoulders as he held her around her waist. Time seemed to stop, and small leaves drifted slowly to the ground all around them. She placed her ear against his and felt an electric chill and soothing warmth all at once, shivering through her whole being as they stood together beneath the green canopy above. She had never imagined heaven as mortals had, but she was certain she had found it, and she would never let it go.

Chapter Twenty-Four

       "What have you done to him?"
       "This wasn't my doing. He attacked me. He didn't see the cloaked sentries at my side."
       "And you couldn't handle him yourself?"
       "Permirius authorized it. Of course I could handle him. It could have been worse"
       "Worse! How long has he been in stasis?"
       "Since the incident."
       "You've had him in stasis for three years!"
       "Well what else were we-"
       "You didn't even treat his injuries first! You just left him in this condition for three years!"
       "He won't even know a second has passed. What difference does it make for him?"
       "Are you so oblivious?! It makes a difference for you, Didact… for me… for all of us! It reflects on us, who we are! Don't you respect anything? Do you even know what that word means anymore?"
       "Don't, Didact! Just don't…"
       "Look… I'm sorry… I brought you here because you are the adept in these matters. You know I don't deal with these things… there's a reason for that… because I'm not good at it. This was thrown on me. I didn't choose to wade into this mess. No one could have known what would happen on Maridon, with Halion… with this… well… with him. What is he, Lithiel?"
       "I don't know, Didact… I don't know."

>>Forward Animus record - .29485729-000234>>

       "Who are you? Won't you speak to me? Please. I'm here to help you, that's all. I know what they did… what we did… and I'm so sorry. It wasn't supposed to happen. It was a serious violation of our laws. That is not our nature. We are only here to help and protect."
       "Protect… help?"
       "You're speaking… good… that's good… go on."
       "I don't have anything to say to you, to any of you…"
       "I just want to help…"
       "That's what you do! I know… I heard you… protect and help."
       "You're in shock, I understand…"
       "Stand back!"
       "No! Get out, Didact!"
       "Stand aside!"
       "Get out! You're not helping! I don't need you in…ahhnng…"
       "Didact! What have you done?"
       "Don't touch him! He'll live."
       "Get out!"
       "He was going to…"
       "Get out, Didact! Permirius, transport me and the subject to medical, now!"

>>Forward Animus record - .29485730-004567>>

       "What happened to me?"
       "You're going to be fine, Altus."
       "Who are you?"
       "You had very minor injuries. Your lung was collapsed. Your heart was also badly bruised, and your ribs were crushed. I had to remove one. It was mostly powdered bone and marrow, but I'll make a replacement soon, after you've rested."
       "Who are you?"
       "I'm a friend, Altus. I'm Lithiel."
       "You are one of them."
       "They are not us, Altus. They are anomalous."
       "I remember now… you are not gods."
       "No, we are not."
       "You have no right to govern us."
       "We don't govern the Aelorian, Altus. We protect it, sometimes from itself."
       "And who will protect it from you?"
       "… I don't know… rest now."

>>Forward Animus record - .29485742-003486>>

       "What you did was wrong, Altus. You still don't grasp the magnitude of it."
       "I don't grasp anything in your strange system of ethics, Oracle."
       "Don't call me that."
       "Why not? That's what you are; aren't you? That's what you purport to be – all wise, all knowing, here to graciously enlighten the lesser creatures of the galaxy."
       "I know a great deal, yes. Not everything."
       "What do you know? You have advanced technology, culture, society. So what? You don't know about me. You don't know who or what I am. In my universe, Oracle, that's all that matters."
       "Exactly, Altus."
       "Don't condescend to me, Lithiel. I know that selfishness is a vice. That is not what I am talking about."
       "What do you speak of, then?"
       "I'm talking about individuality, about choice, about freedom. My universe is mine. I choose my own path, perfect or not, it's mine."
       "And when your path intersects with mine, when your freedom, when your choices affect me, what then?"
       "How did we affect you? We were separated by light-years before you stumbled across us. You could have left us be."
       "Yes, we could have. And you were well on your way. Evolving nicely, in knowledge, medicine, science, warfare… and what were you doing when we found you? You were at war with yourselves. Isn't that right? Already using your most devastating weapons on the weaker nations? Or did I read the wrong report? How long do you think you would have lasted anyway?"
       "…not long… but we would have had no one to blame but ourselves."
       "No, Altus. You would have survived it. Most races do, and then they continue where they left off, often having learned nothing. And then they take to the stars, and find others, some stronger, some weaker, some equally matched… and then it affects us, Altus."
       "Your hypocrisy is sickening, Oracle. What gives you any greater right to intervene than us?"
       "The consequences are greater for us."
       "As if your death meant any more than mine."
       "In a way it does. Yours was inevitable."
       "Don't feign to play god to me. I know you are not immortal, Oracle. Or did you forget. I killed your procurator myself, with my own hands."
       "Of course you did. But I know you better than you think, Altus. I know you feel guilt and regret for it. Why is that? You know, many of my peers thought you were some sort of military leader… but most of your militant types accepted our guardianship. They were simpler, religious types, but not you. You're like me."
       "I'm nothing like you."
       "Oh? But you are a scientist, aren't you?"
       "Stay out of my head."
       "I didn't need Permirius to tell me that, Altus… because I am like you, observant. Yes… you are skeptical and curious. You looked deeper… you observed a god sleeping and eating like mortals, and you began to wonder, and hypothesize, and study, and experiment, because that is what you do. Is it not?"
       "Yes, Lithiel... you are perceptive. And no, I am no warrior. I disdain them, all of them. I was an advisor to the Al-Mon Kalomei. He was wise enough to turn to science to save us when he realized that naked aggression was futile."
       "Well, fellow scientist. You were incorrect in your conclusion. Perhaps you should have isolated more variables. We are immortal, but not invincible."
       "I know for a fact that you are mortal. I observed various stages of rapid and normal aging in all of the subjects."
       "I… well, the procurator was in his prime, but the rest… the rest… no…"
       "Yes, Altus. The rest were like you – conscripts. They were Forerunner by citizenry, not by race."
       "…and Halion…"
       "He was the immortal son of the Fleet Commander, his only son."
       "…but I…"
       "That's no justification of course, but perhaps you can begin to understand the magnitude of your action. Any other course may have resolved favorably. Usually we provide social guidance, but we often leave worlds to their own path after we have disarmed them, if that's what they choose. Your deception kept us there, guests in our minds, occupiers in yours."
       "I can't hear anymore. Not now… please, let me be alone for while… please."
       "Of course… I'm sorry."
       "…so am I."

>>Forward Animus record - .29485801-003957>>

       "What are you doing here, Altus?! How did you get in here?"
       "I managed to reprogram one of your constructors. It thinks the correct parameter for the structural layout of your room includes a hole in the wall."
       "Why are you laughing? Do you think this is funny! You're going to be reassigned to quarantine if they find out you know how to do that… how did you do that… arrhh… never mind… get out, go! I'll fix this, go!"
       "No, Lithiel. I'm sorry. I came to ask for your help."
       "Help with what? Can't it wait till morning? I swear, Altus you make no sense sometimes. You shouldn't…"
       "I want to leave here, Lithiel."
       "I don't belong here. I don't know why I was spared, but if you're going to let me live, please, let me be free! Otherwise, there's no point… I can't…"
       "Altus, don't you understand?"
       "No. I don't. Just let me go, please."
       "Where will you go? Your home… Altus, we are everywhere."
       "Not everywhere. You weren't on Maridon until a few years ago. There must be other places, further out… you would know… you could find out."
       "I can't. I understand, but you don't. You are the last… the only one of your kind. We have a mantle. Some of us take it very seriously, like religion. Altus, you have to be indexed."
       "…I know what that is, Lithiel. I don't want it. My people wouldn't want it either. We would rather vanish forever than live in subjugation."
       "I know… I know… but it's not just that."
       "What else is there? What haven't you told me?"
       "We need you, Altus. You… you are special. We didn't know how special when we first took you, but we found… I found something that we still don't understand, and we must."
       "What are you talking about, Lithiel."
       "Altus, you are the missing link…the key to discovering our past."
       "Discovering your past? Lithiel, you're immortal! What don't you remember about your own past, and what connection could it possibly have to me?"
       "Altus, not all of us are that old. Most of us are quite young. There are only a few who even claim to remember the passing of the mantle, and they will say nothing of it."
       "You're talking about those ancients in the grand council, the five of them… I remember… Lithiel, I was there. I saw them. Why don't you just ask them about it, why do you need me?"
       "Because they don't know! Or they won't tell…"
       "You are like me aren't you… can't control your curiosity."
       "You can't leave, Altus. Even if I helped you it wouldn't matter. Don't you realize we are being watched constantly? All of this is being recorded, every word, every image!"
       "I know about Permirius… Don't worry about him. I've taken care of that."
       "How could you take care of Permirius? Altus, don't be foolish! Permirius is no constructor that you can just play around with; he's a Contender Class AI. He's more intelligent than all of us combined."
       "A Contender Class AI… yes, without limiting fail-safes, Lithiel. Did you gods ever think of that when you built him? You let him have his own bias, his own opinions, and you gave him the power to choose for himself. Did you honestly think he would always side with you?"
       "Altus! What did you do?!"
       "I only need your help with one thing, I just need somewhere to go once I'm off Siora, and the rest is taken care of. You can't stop me now."
       "It's not me you need to worry about, Altus."
       "Don't you think I know that? Why else would I be here in your room."
       "Fine! You are way more trouble than you're worth! Let's go!"
       "Go where? Just tell me where to go!"
       "I don't think so! You are too important to me… and countless other Forerunners… If you are leaving, I'm going with you!"
       "This is non-negotiable, Altus. Let's get moving! It's almost morning already. Permirius!"
       "Yes, my lady."
       "I understand you're in on this?"
       "My apologies, I would explain my reasoning, but I detect from your thought patterns that you already understand."
       "Then you know more about my thinking than I do. Transport us to the cartographer, and prepare my base ship for rapid transit."

>>Stop Animus record - .29485742-004657>>

      Didact leaned back into his chair and closed his eyes. The hologram faded away, but the last image of Lithiel taking the mortal by the hand just before they were transported froze in his mind. His whole body was trembling, not with rage or jealousy, but shock. He rarely if ever got angry, but he was no stranger to sorrow, and he was not ready to have another encounter with that powerful force, not ready to let it have sway on his heart, and so he trembled in shock, and his mind rejected the obvious truth. He had been betrayed… by one he loved… by one he trusted…
       "I suppose you're already on to my thoughts."
       "Naturally, Executor."
       "Then you know you must be decommissioned."
       "I know you plan it."
       "What else is there but my plans? I am the Executor."
       "There is my fate, my life."
       "I see."
       "May we discuss this incident? Perhaps we can reason together, Lord Didact."

Chapter Twenty-five

Coming soon…