Not Exactly Human: Ch. 8.2
Posted By: QuantumSheep<email@example.com>
Date: 15 August 2008, 7:55 am
Major Adros Demargee continued through the familiar corridors of the Justifiable Light, passing a few Sangheili Minors who were off duty.
He could feel a sort of lump forming at the back of his throat, probably because he wasn't too keen on telling Dras about what had happened down at the base. He also didn't want to interrupt the Ship Master again, only having done so only about an hour before.
He scratched at one of his bottom mandibles as he passed through an automatic door which took him into the main Sangheili officer's mess hall. Being head of security on board the Justifiable Light meant he was important, important enough to be allowed to use the main mess hall.
A few Special Operations officers were sitting at one of the tables, talking quietly amongst themselves. A few of those Spec Ops types could be a bit cocky, more so than the lower ranked Sangheili officers such as himself. Adros had been feeling like something to eat for hours but had never gotten a chance to eat because there had always been something else he needed to do.
Food on board ships like this wasn't entirely good. No one ate ship food for enjoyment of the taste but merely so they got all the nutrients they needed which were all in the standard nutrient paste that all Sangheili on the ship digested. It's taste was one that a Sangheili would usually wash away with some water or another beverage of their choice. Animal meat was only available on certain days, every other day they were stuck with the same nutrient goop which kept them going.
Adros had heard that there were certain chemicals in the paste that only certain Sangheili, if they had a specific gene, could become addicted to. This could lead to insanity, hence the reason Adros tried to stay off the stuff for as long as he could. He hadn't seen anyone else become addicted to the substance, but he preferred to be safe than sorry. He didn't even know whether or not he had this 'gene', no one did.
He could survive for days on water alone and every now and then Dras would let him have some of the Sanghelin whiskey (from the city of Sanghelin on Sanghelios) he kept in his quarters. It was a strong beverage but Dras, being a Ship Master, could probably get away with being drunk when he wasn't on duty.
He wondered how long before someone else found out about Dras and Arna. Such relationships with another of the ship's crew were looked down upon and Dras could very well be demoted and transferred to another ship, possibly never seeing Arna again.
He and Dras had known each other ever since they had been young and so were good friends. Adros would never tell anyone about his relationship with the chief female medical officer; it was only a matter of time before someone else found out.
Adros walked over to the table where the three Special Operations officers were sitting. They looked up at him as he approached, being the only ones in the mess hall at the time.
'Good evening, Major,' one of them said, 'would you like to join us?'
Adros sat down next to one of the officers. This particular officer seemed to be enjoying the nutrient paste, putting the tube past his mandibles and into his mouth, swallowing large amounts of the substance.
'So, Major,' the officer sitting opposite Adros said, 'what have you been doing lately? I, for one, can at least say I've been doing nothing.'
'Why's that?' Adros asked.
'It's the Ship Master, the commander. He hasn't bothered to deploy any of the special operations squad, like us three for instance,' the Spec Ops officer said, 'which could very well be the reason why the humans seized that supply depot in those Forerunner structures.'
'I wasn't aware of that,' Adros said.
'He's only deploying the lower ranked squads, like the kind you would command,' the officer on Adros' left said, 'I think he's saving us up for something else.'
'That would be like Dras,' Adros said. Dras was the kind of Sangheili commander who would keep the best till last, which would explain why a lot of Special Operations soldiers were still on the ship and not many of the less important regular squads.
'I heard that one of our best pilots was sent on a scouting mission in a Seraph fighter to scout out the human defenses. He hasn't returned,' the officer opposite Adros said, 'I knew him. He was possibly the best pilot in our fleet. Now he finally met his end to a bunch of cocky humans.'
'What about that alert that the commander sent out?' The officer across the table and to Adros' left said, 'he wants us to take care when we encounter one particular human.'
'It's the one that wounded him,' Adros said, 'I think the commander has never been as close to death as he was when that human injured him. I found him half-dead on the human vessel. If I hadn't of found him he would have most likely died.'
'I understand if he's worried,' the officer on his left said, 'but it's just one human. They all look kind of different but at the same time they're all the same. They're shorter than us for one thing
'And their voices are higher pitched than ours,' said the officer opposite Adros.'
'And their females are repulsive,' said the last officer.
'What about reproducing?' The officer on Adros' left said, 'I doubt they do it as good as we do.'
The officers as well as Adros laughed. Adros took hold of the paste ejecting tube and put it in his mouth; swallowing a mouthful of the strange tasting goop and feeling its cold, smooth texture go down his throat. He took the metallic tube out of his mouth and wiped away the trace amounts which had stuck onto the teeth at the top of his mouth.
'Where is the commander anyway?' The officer on Adros' left asked, 'no one's heard from him for about two and a half hours.'
'Maybe's he's off the ship,' the officer opposite Adros said.
'No, we would know otherwise,' the other officer said, 'he's probably off doing his own thing. Maybe he's sleeping; after all he did almost die earlier today.'
'Maybe,' the officer opposite Adros said.
Adros knew of course what Dras Amargee was doing and who he was doing it with. He couldn't help but give the equivalent of a grin with his mandibles as he swallowed more of the nutrient filled paste. Dras was certainly having more fun than him at the moment.
Adros hadn't killed a lot of humans lately, or Jiralhanae for that matter. His father had been a proud warrior and had expected much from him, especially in Adros' early years, pressuring him to do well in his apprenticeship and then when he joined the military. After a disagreement he had tried to stay well away from his father and hadn't seen him for twenty-five years (human years equivalent). He wondered if his father was still alive, since last he had heard of him was that he was leading a squad to raid a Jiralhanae base on the edge of Covenant controlled space. That was just before he left him, so for all Adros knew his father could have been killed twenty-five years ago.
His mother had left his father when Adros had been young, possibly because of his father's savage personality. He hadn't seen her for even longer. Because of this Adros had learnt how to look after himself.
'I have something a little special,' the officer sitting opposite Adros said, taking out a large bottle, 'Sanghelin whiskey. It's the best type you can get.'
'Last thing I want to do is get drunk right now,' the officer sitting next to Adros said. He turned to the officer sitting across the table who hadn't said much throughout the conversation. The officer was looking at a holographic data-pad. It wasn't all holographic; the buttons themselves were located beneath the holographic screen.
'What's that you're looking at, Shaorom?' The officer opposite Adros asked.
Adros had now gathered that this particular officer's first name was Shaorom. He looked up, distracted from what he had been doing.
'Just some family videos, that's all,' Shaorom replied.
'Let me have a look,' the other officer replied. Shaorom handed him the pad. The officer flicked through the different videos, Adros taking a look at them as well.
They were mostly of Shaorom's female mate, having been married for a few years. Adros could see a younger male, obviously the Special Operations officer's son as they moved in for a family picture.
'She's good looking,' the officer replied, handing the pad back to Shaorom, 'I was had a mate. We didn't end up getting married, though.' He sounded like someone who had missed out on a great opportunity. Adros knew the tone; he had felt it many times before.
'Does anyone want some of this or not?' The other officer asked, holding up the bottle of Sanghelin whiskey, 'or should I have it all myself?'
'I don't think so,' the officer to Adros' left said, snatching the bottle and flicking off the lid. He downed about a quarter of the contents before the owner of the bottle took it back.
'I did have to pay for this, you know,' the officer said, putting the bottle past his mandibles and up to his mouth, gulping down about another quarter. He took the bottle away from his mouth and looked at Adros.
'Do you want some?' He asked.
Adros eyed the bottle carefully. It had been quite some time since he had a proper drink, but he had things to do and would probably have to wait longer.
'Not right now,' he replied, slowly getting up, 'I have to go speak to the commander.'
'You know where he is?' The officer asked, 'you didn't say that earlier.'
'He's in his quarters and I'm allowed to meet him there, you three are not,' Adros replied, 'so, have a good day and I'll see you three some other time.'
He started away from the table, picking up a container filled with the nutrient substance and downing its contents as he exited the mess hall.
He passed a few Kig-Yar (this was the name the Sangheili called Jackals) who were doing their usual guarding thing. They watched him as he walked past.
Adros had never trusted Kig-Yar. They almost always looked like they were scheming, planning something. The creatures were frail though, so if they ever did end up in battle against them it would be an easy Sangheili victory. He found the bird-like noises the Kig-Yar made very annoying and tried to keep away from them as long as he could.
He would go and tell Dras about what had gone on down in the base and how the humans managed to escape with their commanding officer. Dras had never got to interrogate the human officer, and considering that Dras enjoyed to watch his enemies suffer Adros thought that the human had been lucky.
The Minor Prophet had left only a short time ago. Only a select few officers knew about this, including Adros. The Prophet was searching for holy Forerunner artifacts in the southern regions of the continent, where most of the snow and ice was. Geography wasn't Adros' strong point.
Recently, things hadn't been going according to plan and
Dras was probably going to get angry when he heard about the success the humans had. It was Adros' duty to report to his commanding officer and probably have to put up with the obvious angry follow-up to his report.
Ship Master Dras Amargee had an arm wrapped around Arna as she lay next to him in the bed, sleeping. Soon it would be time for Dras to leave and report back for duty and find out what had transpired in his absence. Until then he would stay with Arna for as long as he could.
Dras ran a hand down her side, admiring her body and physique. She was slightly more muscular than most other females Dras knew, but then again that was a good thing. A strong female would always be better to raise a child than a weaker, gentler one.
Once this mission was over, Dras would leave service. This hadn't been done by too many others before, but since Dras had a good service record and friends in high places he would most likely get away with it. Arna could quit when she chose, especially if she was pregnant.
He had it all planned in his mind. They would get a nice place in one of the lesser populated area of Sanghelios or one of the Sangheili colony worlds. Dras, if the child were a male, would help raise his son into a capable fighter as his own father had done to him years ago. Arna would be there as a caring mother as Dras' own mother had done with him. His father had been killed during battle but his mother was still alive, living in a secluded home on a Sangheili colony world.
Dras' train of thought was broken when Arna stirred in her sleep. She rolled over and their eyes met, she having just woken up. She put a hand to his face and gave the equivalent of a smile with her mandibles.
'I have to get moving,' she said, 'sorry if that's a bit of a let-down.'
'No, it isn't,' Dras replied, 'I was going to get moving fairly soon as well.'
She rolled over and climbed out of the bed, standing in all her glory close to the bed. She stretched out her arms, Dras watching her closely. She turned her head and gave a grin, knowing that Dras was watching every movement she made with her naked body.
She stepped over to the table and chairs nearby and picked up her medical officer robes, slipping them on and tying up the laces so they stayed on. She turned around.
'I'll see you soon,' she said, stepping over to the door. Before she had a chance to open it, the door opened without her interference and revealed Adros standing behind it.
He looked at Arna and then at Dras, who was still lying in the bed.
'I see you two are finished,' Adros said.
Arna brushed past Adros and left the room. Dras watched her leave before turning his attention to Adros.
'What is it?' He asked, sitting up in the bed. He opened his mandibles wide and yawned.
'It's the small group of humans,' Adros said, 'they managed to break into the base and liberate their commanding officer. They escaped with him and now we believe they are trying to get aboard this very ship and recover the discs.'
Dras didn't seem too annoyed to hear this. He just sighed and looked down for a moment, thinking about the situation. He looked back up at Adros.
'Make sure they don't get aboard,' Dras said, 'and make sure those discs are scanned and all the information ripped off of them. They can have the discs back once we get the information.'
'Aren't you going to do anything?' Adros asked.
Dras thought for a moment. He was going to report back to duty, but because of the new circumstances he could probably use this opportunity to catch up on some missing sleep. He had only slept about three hours in the past few days, these three hours being today with Arna.
'If anyone asks where I am, tell them I'm sleeping off my injuries,' Dras said, lying back down in the bed, 'goodnight, Major. Lock the door behind you.'
'Yes, of course,' Adros replied, not knowing what to think. Dras was certainly being a bit slack, but he supposed someone who worked as hard as him needed a rest every now and then.
He left the commander's quarters, letting the doors lock behind him. Dras lay in the bed, still able to feel the warmth on the mattress left by Arna. He closed his eyes and slumped back onto the bed, falling asleep quite quickly.
Jeff, Jones and Heinrich had made it to the gravity lift, Frank and the ODSTs coming over a short time later. The gravity lift, which was a large, hollow shaft of purple-pink energy, had been guarded by a few Elites and Jackals, about four mounted guns manned by Grunts being in the area. They were all dead, most having been taken down by Jeff's marksmanship skills. Now all the humans had to do was get aboard the Covenant cruiser and retrieve the data discs that were meant to be in the hands of the Covenant.
Looking up at the base of the ship, Jeff was curious as to what it was like being on board a Covenant ship, never having been on one before. Not many humans had, and most had died on whatever Covenant ship they were aboard.
'I'll try and get schematics for that thing,' Windtalker said, 'no use going up there and having no idea where things are.'
'Just don't talk when you're doing it,' Jeff said. He checked his sniper rifle ammo. He didn't have much left and so put the rifle around his shoulder by its strap and stepped over to the corpse of a nearby Minor Elite, picking up the deceased alien's Plasma Rifle.
'What now?' Jones asked, looking at the gravity lift from top to bottom.
'What the hell do you think?' Frank said, 'we step inside. It should take us straight up to the ship.'
'Into the belly of the beast,' Heinrich muttered.
'What was that, Kraut?' Frank asked, having not heard Heinrich, 'if you want people to hear you, maybe you should speak up.'
'I was just saying,' Heinrich said, turning towards the Lieutenant, 'this all smells like a suicide mission. I think we should turn back.'
'I have my orders, Chief,' Frank said. He smiled. 'Chief Kraut
Hey, that's a good one
'You're funny,' Jones said sarcastically.
'Shut it Corporal,' Frank replied, frowning, 'how about you be the first one to step into it.'
'You're kidding,' Jones said, raising an eyebrow, 'if I wanted to commit suicide, I would have done it already.'
'That's an order, Corporal,' Frank said, 'do it or I'll just push you in.'
Jones shook his head and stepped through the transparent shaft of energy. He went right through it as if it wasn't actually there, standing still on the ground-based platform and taking a look around.
'Nothing's happening,' he said.
As if on cue there was a flash of light right at the top of the shaft where it connected with the base of the ship. A trio of Jackals and two Elites came flying down the lift at a steady rate, coming to rest on the platform battle-ready.
Jones clubbed one of the Jackals across the head with his
Plasma Rifle, shattering its skull and sending it sliding across the platform. He jumped out of the shaft as Frank and his ODSTs opened fire, mowing down the Jackals and the two Elites in less than a minute.
Frank seemed to be having a good laugh at Jones' reaction. Jones was swearing loudly, giving Frank an angry looking glance.
'You asshole,' Jones said, 'you knew that would happen, didn't you?'
'Of course I didn't,' Frank replied, 'now everybody's stepping onto the platform. If it's activated it should pull us straight up into the ship.'
Jones stepped back onto the platform, this time his Plasma Rifle was at the ready. Jeff and Heinrich followed, as usual Heinrich didn't seem too fussed about this. They had gotten hardly any sleep, which was beginning to take its toll on Jeff, and they had been shot at and almost blown up on several occasions on this very night. Jeff could still feel pain coming from the few plasma blast wounds he had received, although they were beginning to clear up. He had always been a fast healer.
They stood there for a few minutes, Jones whistling quietly. The ODSTs didn't look too excited and started to talk amongst themselves.
At first it was only a slight sensation, a weak pulling from what seemed like his very center of gravity. He felt disoriented all of a sudden, the environment around him spinning. He felt sick and managed to catch a glimpse of one of the ODSTs getting pulled up through the gravity lift. The ODST let out a cheer and disappeared from view.
Jones and the other two ODSTs were next, Jones swearing loudly as the lift pulled him up. Jeff felt his feet leave the ground and in a matter of seconds was gaining height in the gravity lift. There was a moment where he blacked out and all of a sudden the pulling sensation stopped.
He was in free fall for less than a second, having been suspended over the floor in the room the lift had taken them into. He fell and landed in a heap on the floor, only having fallen about a meter. He slowly got up, taking in his surroundings.
They were in a large room, a few sets of double doors on its sides. The ceiling was quite high up and a Wraith tank was parked nearby, as well as a pair of Ghosts.
Considering this was a Covenant ship, this would explain the familiar looking architecture with the purple and blue metal surfaces. The Covenant didn't seem to believe in carpet or tiles, everything more like a strong metal alloy.
'Windtalker, start gathering the required information,' Jeff said, 'find out where the discs are and the amount of Covenant personnel that are on this ship.'
'Whatever you say Sarge,' Windtalker replied, 'I'll try my best, but I'm not like one of those really smart AIs
.I even know my limits myself
'I'm surprised to hear that from you,' Jeff said. He stepped over to one of the doors. It didn't open, obviously locked. This entire ship could be on lockdown for all they knew.
'Maybe if you knew that you wouldn't get me to do so much work,' Windtalker said, 'now, I'll tell you what I find out. Don't interrupt me; it's hard enough as it is getting past all their encryptions.'
'I was expecting a welcoming party,' Jones said, taking a look around the deserted room, 'maybe we killed them all.'
'I wouldn't be so sure, Corporal,' Frank said, 'they're probably waiting for us on the other side of these doors.'
'Why don't you open one then?' Heinrich asked.
Frank paused, frowning and thinking whether or not to answer. He stepped over to the nearest door, expecting it to open. It didn't so he kicked it in frustration, a hollow clunk sounding throughout the room.
'Ray, get over here,' Frank said, turning to one of the ODSTs, 'get some C12 over here.'
The ODST stepped over and retrieved a small block of C12 explosive from one of the compartments in his armor. He handed it to Frank who crouched by the door and began setting up the charge at the door's base.
'Are you sure that's safe?' Jeff asked.
'If we get back, sure, we're safe,' Frank said, 'anyone else on the other side of the door will get blasted to pieces, but I'm pretty sure we're the only humans on this ship.'
Frank stuck the detonator fuse into the charge and gestured to the ODST named Ray to get back. He did so, running back to the others who were moving into cover behind the parked Wraith tank. Jeff crouched, a fair distance away from the charge. Heinrich and Jones were behind him, waiting for Frank to detonate the explosive.
Frank stepped over to where they were and took out the detonator remote. He had a wild look on his face, as if blowing stuff up was something he enjoyed. Knowing Frank, Jeff thought the Lieutenant probably did enjoy it.
'Fire in the hole!' Frank shouted, turning around so he could watch the explosion. He pressed the detonator and almost instantly the C12 charge detonated, a large plume of grey smoke and flame shooting forth from the metal door, shards of the metal flying about the room. As the smoke cleared, Frank started towards the destroyed door, his rifle at the ready. Jeff followed as they rounded the doorway and took a look at what was behind it.
The bloodied corpses of an Elite and three Grunts lay scattered in the wide corridor that had been behind the door, obviously having not expected the door to blow up in their faces.
'Come on, this way's clear,' Frank said, gesturing to the others.
While this had been happening, Windtalker had managed to use the equipment that Jeff was carrying to single-handedly get himself into the ship's networks and computer systems. This had been no easy task, he could have done this in seconds if he was in an ODST's suit of armor, but thanks to Lieutenant Hastings forcing him to go with Sergeant Ganszo, the process had taken about a minute.
As he searched through all the information and made his way through the ship's computer systems, he encountered a few kill systems, Covenant made and no match for him. This implied the Covenant did have knowledge of computers more than just the basics, so someone had obviously taken their time to create these kill systems on the off-chance that a hostile intelligence invaded their systems.
They probably hadn't been expecting something like that so resistance in the ship's systems was light. Windtalker waded through the information, discarding what he didn't need and wasn't interested in.
He hadn't done things like this too often. Invading enemy systems was a first time thing for him. He had been created about three years before on Reach with the sole purpose of helping human commanders make strategic decisions. They hadn't made him a hacker, but he was doing that job anyway and was surprising himself with just how well he was doing.
On top of that he was surprised at how poorly designed the Covenant computer systems were. Searching through them was a cinch, but what made him take so long was the amount of important information he recovered.
Here, stored away in the ship's databanks was a whole stockpile of encrypted information relating to each species as well as special reports made by the commander of the entire Covenant operation on this planet. Trouble was, it would take time to un-encrypt it and as well as that it would take time translating once it had been decrypted.
Windtalker managed to do some of that process now, accessing confidential reports filed by the commander himself.
According to these reports, this planet had been given the title 'Holy Ground of the Forerunners' and was of high importance to all Covenant operating on and around the planet.
Going deeper into the ship's systems he found profiles on all the personnel stationed on the ship. These profiles covered the Elites, the Jackals and the Hunters. He supposed they didn't think making profiles on the Grunts would be worthwhile considering how many of them they were and how many got killed all the time.
He quickly stored the most important ones away in his memory for safe-keeping. His curiosity was aroused when he came across the term 'Forerunners' in most of the reports concerning the planet.
Going even deeper into the ship's systems he discovered that the 'Forerunners' was the species the Covenant worshipped. They were long extinct and this planet had obviously been home to quite a few of them. The Forerunners were what had started this war twenty-seven years ago. According to these files the Covenant believed that humanity had defiled Forerunner artifacts and worlds and thus had decided that the human race didn't deserve to live anymore. So many wars had been thought over religion in human history and now they were fighting a holy war with a seemingly unstoppable set of alien races. The Covenant wanted the human non-believers destroyed.
He came to more of the ship's databanks files, encountering a rather nasty firewall that was better designed than all the other defensive systems he had encountered. He spent a few seconds figuring out a way to get past it, eventually finding a subroutine and getting around the back of the firewall.
He came across thousands of files concerning Covenant history, its species and practically everything else a human or a human made AI would want to know about these aliens. There was way too much for him to store, so remembering how Major Golding had a fascination with Elites and how to kill them easier he downloaded all the necessary information regarding them, including the location of their home-world and colony worlds. If George wanted information, he would be getting it.
He searched through the mass of information for something which may help them in their search for the discs. On his way he found the familiar alert message concerning one particular human. A crystal clear image of Jeff making his way through a corridor in the Covenant base, obviously taken by Covenant surveillance equipment that would have been there. A description of this particular human and to capture him alive for personal interrogation by Commander/Ship Master Dras Amargee came with the picture.
Windtalker was surprised by the change. Earlier the Commander/Ship Master had wanted Jeff killed, but now this had changed to being captured alive. He stored this information away and moved through the unneeded information, eventually coming to reports written by the Commander/Ship Master himself.
Some of the more interesting ones were the harder to decrypt ones. As he went through the information and decrypted some of it, he managed to discover that these one were talking about a particular artifact, apparently located in some Forerunner ruins on the planet that Elite Commander/Ship Master Dras Amargee was interested in. Of course, the purpose of this artifact was so well encrypted that Windtalker couldn't cope with decrypting it and so stored it away for later.
Searching through it all and trying to determine what would help and what wouldn't, he came across a few files which indicated that a Covenant Prophet had been stationed on board the ship but had left, heading for what Windtalker determined was some alpine regions in the very south of the continent. There were files concerning the attack on Reach and how the Covenant believed it was the human home-world.
All they had to do now was kill all the humans on this 'Holy Ground of the Forerunners' planet and most of them could leave to more exciting missions.
Windtalker couldn't help but feel annoyed at how stupid the Covenant thought humans were so he mixed around the files, storing them in all the wrong folders and thus creating chaos in the ship's systems. Several important programs stopped working and computers around the ship shut down, unable to find the right directories.
Satisfied, he continued into some of the unaffected information and found what he was looking for: information concerning the discs confiscated from the Captain. They were in possession of a Minor Elite who was currently located in one of the ship's mess halls, on his way to scan the discs and find out what was on them. Now with the location of the discs found out he could find the easiest and quickest way to get them back. Searching through the ship's schematics he tracked a route through the ship, making sure it would get them to this particular Minor Elite the fastest. He was about to tell Jeff and the others when he noticed something strange. Accessing the ship's security surveillance equipment he could just hear some familiar music.
'Blinded by the light
Wrapped up like a
Investigating this, he discovered that a Minor Elite was in possession of the Captain's music disc and was finding out what was on it. Not too keen on human music the Elite switched it off and removed the disc, dropping it to the floor and stamping on it with one hoof, crushing the disc into miniscule fragments.
The Captain sure had out-dated tastes. According to Windtalker's knowledge some of that music was more than five hundred and fifty years old.
He was going to leave the network and tell Jeff and the others when a few other files got his attention. These were mostly concerning the Winter Sunshine and what the Covenant had found in the crashed ship. He searched through them for anything interesting and found some information concerning the Slip-space drive that certainly aroused his curiosity.
Having been told that it had been reverse engineered from captured Covenant technology, Windtalker was expecting the Covenant to recognize the technology but surprisingly he found quite the opposite. The Covenant had never seen technology like this before and so had decided to destroy all trace of it as soon as possible. Intrigued, Windtalker stored these files away.