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Whispers of the Fallen: Chapter 6- Why's It Gotta Be Black?
Posted By: Pwnocchio<envydryisland@aol.com>
Date: 27 October 2006, 4:32 am

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Chapter 6: Why's It Gotta be Black?

      Symbols. Symbols on the walls. They were closing in on him from every side. John sprinted down the hallway as fast as his legs would carry him. He could feel stone and dirt underneath his feet, hear the clamour of his boots pounding against the ancient floor. He had to escape.

      I freed myself from bondage. Why can't you?

      Suddenly, a wide chasm opened in the floor beneath him. The Spartan soldier jumped over the gaping maw, opening into a black pit beneath him as he sailed through the air. When his feet hit the other side of the gap, he couldn't believe it. Without missing a beat, he pulled himself upright and began his sprint through the twisting, turning hallways. He had to escape. The walls around him were rumbling now, shaking powdery dust from years of dormancy. It clogged his visor, but he pressed on. Symbols. They were starting to glow a bright yellow as he passed them. What symbols were these? They seemed so familiar to him, but every time he thought he had it the information retreated further into his brain. John tried to clear his head as he ran. The symbols didn't matter. He had to escape.

      The symbols are everything. Look closely...

      John tried to look at them while he ran. The walls were closing in. He was being chased. He was going to be crushed. What were the smybols? He saw a wall of water. Birds. Fire. Giants. Water. Water. Flood.

      "Return to me," an audible voice called from behind the Spartan. "Sleeeeeep..."

      Without warning, he slid into another solid rock wall, this one covered in moving, transparent symbols. The petty officer couldn't make them out, they were rearranging themselves with such speed. He heard footsteps in the darkness, echoing throughout the halls of this place.

      "Return to me."

      "Who are you?" John called out.

      "I am," the void called back, in a voice thin like smoke. "The Sleeper. Return to me, John."

      "Return to you?" he answered. "I don't even know where you are..." The walls began to quake again- the whole structure was trembling with the weight of giant footsteps. Coming in his direction. His vision blurred, rendering the walls unintelligible to him. He had to see who was talking to him. He took a step forward. "Where are you-"

      John didn't have time to finish as enormous hands gripped his throat like a vise. He could feel steel fingertips clamping around his neck, lifting him from the ground, thrusting him against the wall at his back. A Spartan stepped out of the shadows, clad in jet black armor, pressing an eerie visor close to his own. "Follow the symbols!"

      Master Chief gasped, struggling for breath. The black Spartan continued to press him against the stone, harder and harder, until his MJOLNIR armor cracked. It more than cracked. It shattered underneath the weight with which he was being assaulted. It fell off piece by piece, as the rumbling of the walls grew more and more violent. Suddenly, a white light emanated from the other figure, enveloping both of them in its warm glow...

      Fear not. It is I.


      Two and a half months ago, two weeks after the initial Covenant assault against Earth...

      Master Chief's eyes opened widely, his mouth open and sucking in air as fast as possible. It was all he could do to breathe. Above him, a bright hospital light shed its blinding gaze against his eyes, causing them to water. People were rushing about him. Shouting. Talking. Panicked. What was going on? He could barely think straight. Almost separate from his body, he could feel the pieces of his MJOLNIR armor being violently ripped from his limbs.

      "Get that bloody armor off!" someone shouted, a woman with a british accent. He winced in pain as something grabbed at his stomach, yanking forcefully.

      "What is his status?" a male voice rose over the din. Lord Hood.

      "Sir," John tried to say, but his mouth was dry. He tried to roll his tongue around, tried to form a sentence, and tasted blood. What had happened?

      Suddenly, it came back to him. A mission in Kenya. His team, intercepted by a party of brutes. Everyone had been lost. His memory was still fuzzy. He remembered firing round after round from his M6D, felling brutes from a distance as they charged he and his men. Overhead a banshee bore down on them, shredding through their ranks like a hot knife through butter. To his left and right, men hitting the grass, screaming in agony while their bodies were singed and fried from plasma burns. One of the brutes closed in, firing brute shot rounds with wild abandon. Soldiers were torn apart everywhere, their screams filling the African sky. He retrieved his shotgun from his back, pumped it once and blasted a nearby brute almost point blank, leaving a yawning hole in its chest. Several more brutes fell in succession, peppered by his shotgun pellets, decimated by their force. John was one with his weapon, dancing, strafing, rolling, dodging. Brute after brute went down, his shields screaming in protest while he weaved in and out of the swinging bladed brute shots. He had to save his men.... He had to... A blade sliced across his abdomen, spilling his blood over the edges of his metallic suit. John's vision blacked out, spun. he had to save his men...

      A jarring pain brought him back to the present. He gripped the table with his gloved hand, bending its metal as he shouted.

      "He's awake!" One of the nurses shouted. "Sedative!"

      "Master Chief," Lord Hood hovered over him, his wrinkled face looking simultaneously pleased and worried. "You fight through this soldier, these men and women are going to fix you."

      "Pardon me, sir," a woman interrupted, nudging the commander out of John's field of vision. He knew her face well. The short red hair, the green eyes peering down at him...

      "Cassandra," he whispered through bloody lips.

      "It's me, John," she said, bending low to him. He could feel her warm breath on his face. His eyes started to droop. "I need you to hold on, just a few more moments, John." He felt his exposed midsection quiver, felt the blood running down his torso. The sinking sensation came over him of having the walls close in on him...

      "The black Spartan," he said, suddenly. "The black Spartan."

      "What, John?" Cassandra asked, a look of confusion wrinkling her brow.

      "I have to find him!" John shouted. He could feel the Spartan's hands closing over his neck, could hear it's whisper boring in through his ears, surrounding him like a fog. It was suffocating, personal, and was creeping closer every moment.

      Sleeeeeeeeep, it cried.

      "We're losing him," someone shouted.


      And then everything went black.


      One month later...

      John leaned back in his chair, feeling his muscles relax after a long week. Lord Hood had ordered his personal oversight on many recon missions over the last few days, scouting Covenant strength around areas of Africa. The UNSC seemed to carefully be calculating its moves, while the Covenant took their time doing whatever it was they were doing out in the desert near New Mombasa. Or the ruins of New Mombasa, rather. He still found it hard to believe that the once thriving coastal city was now wiped off of the map, all because of Regret's carelessness. Yet another strike towards the Prophets. He had nearly lost his life, then. And the entire In Amber Clad, too. Since then, he couldn't count how many times his life had been in jeopardy. He absentmindedly traced the scar covering his abdomen with a calloused fingertip. So many scars...

      Luckily, he had been able to rationalize his behavior during surgery to Cassandra after regaining consciousness. For some reason, she insisted that this dream had some kind of merit to it, had urged him to let Lord Hood or even Dr. Halsey know that it had happened, but he had politely refused, explaining that it was just his mind playing tricks on him while he was in a fragile state. A near death experience could produce any number of unwanted side effects, the least of which being a hallucination. Still though, he couldn't shake how real the dream had been, or how it had played itself constantly throughout the week during his slumber. A new one had joined in recently, of Cortana, with its own bizarre nuances. He had been fighting in this war too long.

      The Master Chief stared at the message which still flashed on his screen, the one he had been perusing for the last few minutes.

      Why did you never return my letters while you were gone?

      Just curious,

      He ran a hand over the stubble on his hardened jaw, and sighed. Because he couldn't. Because the Covenant were coming. Because he was a soldier. Because... there were any number of reasons to pick from. He was happy that Cassandra had found a place to serve in the UNSC after all that she had been through. She had been on a private escort, a corvette class carrier, ensuring the safety of an anonymous UNSC official's family when they had been hijacked and boarded by Covenant soldiers. She was fortunate to have lived at all. He admired her resolve, and more importantly, appreciated her smile. While some of the other soldiers tended to keep their distance from him, Cassandra had known him since childhood from the SPARTAN program- they treated one another like equals, and like friends. It was enough to keep a man going, particularly with the other Spartans on a mission to Onyx.

      John rested his head against the back of his chair, still glancing at the monitor from time to time. Just a few months prior, after the events of Alpha Halo, he had thought his Spartans all gone and dead. To this day, he was still unsure as to how he was able to get off of that ring in one piece, "knowing" certainly that they had all perished on Reach. Perhaps it had been hope- hope that he might see them again one day. Hope that they had somehow survived, against all odds. That same hope had driven him to a near suicide mission back to Reach to rescue them. He hoped that wherever they were now, they were safe. The Spartan shook his head, sitting up. It never helped to think of what dangers they might be facing. Cassandra always tried to change the subject whenever he started wondering aloud how they were doing. His thoughts drifted back to the woman. Sometimes, he wished that he had met her under different circumstances, but it was never too benificial to dwell on those thoughts for long. Not while the Covenant still occupied Earth. Maybe after the war was done...

      A message light blinked on his monitor then surprisingly, minimizing the blank message he had never typed back to Cassandra. With it, came a picture of Lord Hood, several people behind him rushing frantically in the communications room.

      "Spartan 117," the man said quickly, not waiting for an acknowledgment.

      "Sir?" Master Chief responded.

      "You might want to get down here, and quick."

      "Is something wrong, sir?" John sat up in his chair, quickly throwing a shirt on as he spoke.

      "It's the Spartans on Onyx- they're in trouble."

      John didn't even hear the end of the statement before he had left his room, the door swinging wide open behind him.