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Whispers of the Fallen: Chapter 3- Deke and Me
Posted By: Pwnocchio<envydryisland@aol.com>
Date: 2 October 2006, 10:44 pm

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Chapter 3: Deke and Me.

      Sergeant Major Johnson cursed under his breath as he left the Master Chief behind him. What the hell had gotten into that bolts-for-brains? The Spartan was too important to humanity's future to be acting this way. He rounded the nearest corner and rubbed his throat, still sore from both the encounter with John as well as the assault from the previous week.

      During the night, he had awoken to a barbed wire noose slipping forcefully over his head, strong arms heaving him out of the bed in his solitary quarters. Before he knew it, he was strung up from a hook that his assailants had fastened to the ceiling, dangling by his legs. Fortunately for him, he had a seven foot tall alien bastard up his sleeve. And a combat knife taped to his inner thigh. The combination proved quite lethal for the three men, unmarked with no dog tags, military tattoos, or even dental records for all he knew. Ghosts. And they wanted him dead- but what else was new? It wasn't the most surprising thing he had run into since Delta Halo. And he was certain it wouldn't be the last.

      He traced the scab that ran the diamater of his neck. It was a good thing the Spartan hadn't reopened the wound, or the meeting would have been that much more unpleasant He was surprised he hadn't, given the man's almost supernatural strength. He was a freak of nature. Or science, depending on how someone looked at it. Either way, he was a freak. That was for damn sure. Not too far of a cry from himself, though. Maybe that's why he liked him so much.

      Even though Cradle was humanity's underground fortress, Johnson couldn't help but feel the tingling sensation that crept up the back of his spine as he walked. The lights stayed off here throughout the majority of the day and the night, in order to help avoid detection from unwanted passers-by who might be searching for electronic signals. The place was fortified enough to avoid being spotted while running its normal day-to-day hardware, but anything that wasn't necessary, particularly UV light, had to go. The result was a dark labrynth during the nighttime hours. If a soldier didn't know where he was going, he was liable to get lost.

      It had been just a month since the return from Delta Halo with the Arbiter and Captain Keyes, and everything had changed. Top brass whispered in the corners with the ONI spooks, ONI spooks were running here and there, other commanding officers were casting him sideways glances... well, come to think of it, maybe not that much had changed at all. Johnson sighed. DIdn't these people realize that they were only days away from facing total annihilation at the hands of a fanatical enemy? And here they were, trapped in this underground box, this network of concrete and metal tunnels, this Cradle- keeping secrets like children on a playground. Perhaps Cradle was more appropriately named than originally intended. A sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. It was almost funny.

      Behind him, he heard the soft, muted sound of padded footsteps. The Sergeant whipped his head around to see absolutely nothing, yet the footsteps lingered. Good, he was safe. "Did you get all that?" he asked into the dark pathways.

      "I heard enough of it, yes," the guttural voice came like a growl from behind him. Before his very eyes, what appeared to be the hallway materialized into the Arbiter, standing several feet above him and taking baby steps to keep pace with the much smaller earthling. Johnson grunted in approval. Apparently Dr. Halsey had improved upon his camo generator as promised. Hopefully he had kept his mouth shut- the good Doctor had a way of gleaming secrets when she would do better to just do her job. She was too smart for her own good.

      "Did we have any other listeners, Deke?" the human commander asked over his shoulder, watching as the Arbiter fell into step beside him. He called him Deke because he couldn't pronounce the elite's damn name. No alias should have so many letters. The Arbiter moaned in what sounded like frustration, though it was still hard for Johnson to decipher the creature's emotions.

      "Yes," the Arbiter replied. "He wore camouflage like my own."

      "Is that so?" the Sergeant inquired, stroking his chin. "So the rats are in the basement with us..."

      "I was unable to apprehend him, I'm afraid," the Arbiter said. "He spotted me before I even moved. Very acute reflexes for a human. Almost like the Demon's."

      Johnson nearly laughed at the mention of Master Chief's nickname. As far as the Covenant were concerned, he was the walking embodiment of all sacrilege and blasphemy. Personally, it made Johnson just a tad jealous. Just a tad. "Hmm, so we still don't know yet who our friend the puppet master is. I'll tell you one thing, though, Deke- when I find him, I'm going to kick his ass. Nobody tries to lynch me without receiving a good and proper ass-kicking."

      "Charming," the former Covenant soldier responded. "So tell me this word... 'Borens'. The word the demon mentioned. What does it mean?"

      "Smoke and mirrors, Deke- smoke and mirrors," Johnson said. "I'll tell you one thing, though. This goes all the way to the top, I'm afraid." They continued down the dimly lit pathway, footsteps sounding in synchronization. To tell the truth, he didn't know how, where, or when John had picked up that "Borens" bit. He would have to investigate that further- if there was even time. All of their planning would come to fruition soon, and there would be no turning back once the hammer fell. They would have to press forward soon- blindly, if need be. The Sergeant Major didn't even know who his enemy was. The only thing that was certain is that he was in Cradle, he was watching, and he had many helpers.

      "So much secrecy," the Arbiter spoke. "And here I thought you humans trusted one another to the death."

      Johnson chuckled. "It's what I've been saying all along, Deke- we are more alike than you know." The Arbiter made a noise that usually indicated a scoff. Elite idiosyncracies were still fuzzy to him, at best. "So now, the million dollar question. Can we trust him?" He had come to respect the alien's uncanny ability to judge character, though it tended to err on the side of too much caution. Still, his first impressions tended to be fairly accurate, when he made it through a conversation without knocking the other person's lights out, that is.

      "It is hard for me to look at the Demon rationally, I admit," the elite answered. "But my soul tells me he is too broken to be of any use to us."

      "He's suffered a great loss, that's for sure," Johnson acknowledged.

      "We have all suffered a great, many losses," the Arbiter said. "I believe this is where the Captain sleeps." They had come to a stop in front of a door labeled "Captain Keyes."

      "So it is." Before Johnson had a chance to knock, the door whipped open, revealing a scantily clad Miranda Keyes.

      "The two of you are louder than a Marathon vessel," she muttered, wiping sleepy eyes. "Are we trying to be stealthy about this, or not? Come on in." She stepped away from the door, sauntering over to a desk piled with papers, the light of a computer screen flickering against the muted gray walls. Scattered about the floor were star charts, books about the Covenant, and most notable, a pile of books about the Ancient Aztec Civilization. Johnson scowled. She really should keep these out of sight.

      "The Demon is useless," the Arbiter growled as he closed the door tentatively. "He is no longer worth our attention."

      "Is that so?" Miranda asked, cocking an eyebrown in the pair's general direction.

      "Don't look at me," Johnson said. "Deke here may be right."

      "Interesting," she said, nodding. "What would you say if I showed you this?" She keyed a combination onto her holographic keyboard, as the processor whirred to life with a quiet hum. Johnson and the Arbiter took a few steps closer to her desk, watching as an image suddenly flashed onto the screen.

      "Is that what I think it is, Miranda?" If she was bothered by him not using her title, she didn't show it. Formalities had disappeared long ago between the three of them. As far as he was concerned, they were all equals in this endeavor. And equally screwed if they messed up.

      "I believe so," the Captain replied. "Gentlemen... Master Chief comes with us." She stood to her feet, making her way slowly to her bed. Without so much as looking in their direction, she pulled the covers up, and rolled towards the opposite wall, leaving them to stare at her backside. "Now if you'll excuse me- I have some beauty rest to catch up on."

      "And what do you want us to do, your highness?" Johnson scoffed. "You do realize that in order for this to work, we need to leave tomorrow night?"

      "Figure out a way before then, Sergeant. I'm sure you and Deke can think of something. Close the door on your way out."

      The two of them exited her quarters, standing silently in the hallway. Now, they had a whole new problem on their hands.