The Occupation of New Carthage - Prologue
Posted By: RogueDragon1<email@example.com>
Date: 4 April 2014, 11:13 pm
Authors Note: Hi Everyone. I've had the general plan for this story in my head for quite a while. There's a few part's in the general plot that conflict with some of the latest established canon, so before you start reading it I'm going to ask you to forget about everything you've read post Nyland's Ghosts of Onyx (Harvest, The Cole Protocol & the Kilo Five novels.)
Please let me know what you think.
Prologue Camp 77
Location: Covenant occupied human colony New Carthage
Date: 02 / 04 / 2545 (Human Military Calendar)
Human 'Re-settlement' Facility 077
Facility 77 was a death camp. It shimmering energy barrier's stretched outwards for eternity, a fifteen meter high wall of deadly energy that trapped every living soul caught behind it. All humans who entered its cold embrace would die. Some, the weakest, would die quickly. Others would live a longer but still ultimately brief existence, worked to death in the hellish mines beneath the encampment.
Twenty thousand human prisoners lived inside the camp at any one time. Their lives were short and brutal affairs, and throughout the occupation no one had ever survived the camp's harsh lottery for over a month. Sangheili warriors stalked the prison camp, staging mass executions every few days to cull the camp's ever expanding population. From guard towers atop the towering energy pylon's which linked the crackling plasma barriers Kig-yar sniper's picked off stray humans at will with their powerful beam rifles.
Facility 77 may have been a new addition to New Carthage's infrastructure, but it was by no means an anomaly. Dozens of identically constructed facilities dotted the prime continent, and like spoilt children they gorged themselves on a never ending flow of human prisoners, bleeding the occupied city's white. Over the past week alone the death rates in every camp had quadrupled from all causes, and since the first days of the Covenant occupation of New Carthage six months previous, the colony's former population of ninety million had been cut in half.
The soft crunch of snow against the calm night stirred Anderson from his sleep. The barrack block was quite, the enslaved humans snatching the precious few hours of sleep the guards allowed them before dawn brought with it the next hellish day of life in the camp. A handful of prisoners shifted in the darkness. He could hear sobbing and somewhere in the room a prisoner was coughing violently. Human movement inside the camp at night time was punishable by death. The guards demonstrated that on numerous occasions and the perimeter snipers were always looking for movement inside the sealed huts.
Anderson concentrated, doing his best to block out the distractions of the other humans as he listened to the silence outside. Again he heard the soft crunch of snow, heavy footsteps and the course hisses of alien voices. Something was going to happen this very night, he could feel it.
Easing himself from the stale cot Anderson crept towards the closest window, careful to keep his back to the wall. He was almost there when he all but stumbled over a hunched form stooped beneath the plane of alien glass. A small freckled boy no more then ten years of age scowled up at him, his pasty dreadfully thin face flashing upwards in the moon light.
"Alex!" Anderson mouthed, his brow furrowing in anger, "What are you doing?"
"There moving around out there" Alex whispered, his words barely audible in the silence.
"Get back" Anderson hissed, pointing towards the boy's empty cot, "If they catch you, there'll kill you!"
Anderson had been a prisoner of the camp for but a handful of days and Alex had arrived only the morning previous, yet in that short space of time both man and boy were intricately familiar with the harsh rule of the camp. Alex was young and reminded the former UNSC communications officer of his own child, long dead now. He'd sworn to do the best he could to keep the boy alive and safe from harm as long as he could, even if that timeframe could now be measured in a matter of a few brutal days, or hours.
Alex opened his mouth, about to argue his right to stay further. The point was suddenly mute.
The doors to the dormitory smashed open, blasting the human occupants with the whipping winter chill of the blizzard outside. Prisoners stumbled from their cots, raising their hands as if in preparation for a search of the block. Anderson grasped Alex by the arm and navigated his way towards the growing knot of humans clustered about the stacked bunk beds preying the Covenant soldiers would not realize they had been out of their cots. Already between the jostle of shoulders, heads and stinging snowflakes from the outside he could pick out half a dozen towering silhouette's in the doorway, thickly set and at least two feet taller then a man. Elite's.
The aliens stormed into dormitory, rousing the remaining human prisoner's from their beds with guttural hisses and painful kicks. They spread out around the dormitory's edge, herding the humans into the centre as if they had been cattle. Alex glanced up to Anderson, the fear he was no doubt feeling plastered across his pale face. Their eyes locked, Anderson vehemently shaking his head whilst his hand tightened like a vice around the thin boys arm.
That very moment someone else tried what Alex had been about to do. A skeletally thin man made a break for the open door, and was gunned down in a hail of plasma fire. The humans screamed in terror, Anderson grasping hold of Alex's shoulder with his other hand and edging them backwards as the elites surged into the human crowd, dragging three more humans to the fore. Sobbing and pleading for their lives, the prisoners were lined up in front of the entrance and made to kneel. Three elite's formed up behind them, placed the sleek nozzles of their energy weapons to back of the prisoners heads and fired.
Anderson clasped his hand over Alex's eyes, fighting to keep the boy still through his sobs and tears as crimson blood and flesh splashed the barrack block's floor. One of the elites stepped over the bodies, thrusting a powerful arm out into the freezing night.
The order was by no means perfect english, but its meaning was unmistakable. The humans were herded out of their dorm-block, the whipping winds cutting through their thin garbs and into the soft skin beneath.
Anderson stumbled, painfully cutting his toe open on the uneven ground. Boots had long ago become an unheard of luxury in the camp, and like most of the other humans he and Alex were barefoot. Glancing over his shoulder he could see the elites were busily emptying the other dorm blocks beside their own, and together the shambling humans soon formed a pathetic miserable chain of humanity. Anderson watched as some fell to the ground. Those who were too slow to get back up to their feet were mercilessly beaten by the elites until they were left sprawled bloodied and broken on the snow. After the brutal execution no one attempted to run again.
Alex walked beside him, his small hand finding Anderson's and grasping his palm tightly. He no longer had the strength to restrain the boy, and could only hope that for the good of both of them he didn't do anything stupid.
"The Vat's" Alex whispered suddenly, jostling to get a better look over the tightly packed prisoners, "There taking us to the Vat's?"
"No there not" Anderson whispered, his throat now sore in the cold, "The Vat's are the other side of the camp, there leading us round to the main square."
In truth the extermination vats were exactly where Anderson had expected them to end up the moment the door to their dormitory was kicked down. But he had not lied to Alex, they were being herded in the complete opposite direction. The fact that they were moving steadily away from certain death did little to lift his spirit. He had taken careful note of their shepherd's, noting these were not their usual rank and file tormentor's. The camp guard elite's always wore dark blue armour while a handful, their officer cadre perhaps wore red. These elite's were clad in jet black armour, and the appearance of their equipment as a whole seemed more streamlined.
As the human column reached the main square, a parade ground at the edge of the camp where they would be lined up each morning Anderson glimpsed a convoy of parked Covenant hovercraft.
He pushed up on his toes biting down on the pain to get a better look. They were large vehicles, transports, enough for dozens, perhaps hundreds of prisoners.
"What do you see?" Alex asked tugging at his hand.
Anderson bit his lip, muttering a silent prayer.
"Just do what they say, and whatever happens, stay close to me."
Suka' Nakitee watched the human prisoners being herded towards the waiting Shadow and Spectre transports, her gloved claw like hands gripping her Plasma Repeater as she scanned the mass of huddled slaves for any sign of potential troublemakers.
Her fourunit held watch over the main square between the slave pens and the camp's fortified gate whilst the rest of their lance shepherded the humans towards the waiting transport vehicles. At the first hint of resistance the four heavily armour Sangheili could cut the humans down before any of them even reached the camp's perimeter.
The tension between her unit could have been cut with a blade at that moment. It wasn't merely that a full lance of forty Special Operation's Sangheili had been deployed for mere guard duty, and human guard duty at that. Kalu' Texlusee and Zel' Tasolmee glared daggers at the passing humans, as if willing every single one of the shambling figures being herded into that very square to drop into the ever lasting flames of torment there and then. Of all of them Juha' Relusee, the four-unit's commanding officer was the only Sangheili who seemed to be even moderately relaxed as he stood beside her massaging his neck, plasma rifle gripped ready at his hip. Now Nakitee thought about it, in her short time with the Special Operations warriors she had never seen Relusee moved to true anger, even on this Forerunner forsaken world.
"They must be for retaliation" Tasolmee mused, "another mass execution. If we're taking this many prisoners the humans must have taken out a full lance, or perhaps a priestess."
Relusee shook his head, "They wouldn't take them from here. The hostages would be selected from among the local population, greater chance of catching the perpetrators family amongst them."
"And they wouldn't have deployed a full lance of Special Operation warriors for something so mundane" Texlusee seethed, clicking her lower mandibles in evident distaste, "The Jiralhanae, god's even the terrestrial's could handle simple human relocation."
Nakitee inhaled sharply, clenching her mandibles as she did her best to ignore the slight. She knew her new unit was still morning the loss of a fallen brother. For the time being they could only ever see her as an inadequate replacement for one who had likely been as dear to them as a blood kin.
"Their destination is not the execution square" Relusee concluded after a moment's thought, "Though whatever it is the Field Master's have planned for them. They will not doubt soon wish that it was."
They watched impassively as the Special Operations Sangheili began to roughly herd the human prisoners onto the waiting transports. The Shadow troop carrier's they were using were military models elongated along the centre by about a third. Nakitee recognized them from the open countryside of her birth world, though they were normally used to transport cattle.
A minor scuffle broke out among the humans. Nakitee blanched inwardly as she saw a Sangheili officer smack one of the humans youngling's to the ground before clasping the terrified child by its neck and hurtling it into one of the waiting transports. A few dozen rotations ago and such an act may have troubled her. Indeed Nakitee still new of females back home who would have been moved to shock and even tears by the warrior's vicious act, and one of two of them have even tried to intervene on the child's behalf. Her time on this world had quickly quashed any such notions the young warrior had over such matters. A human was a human regardless of age.
From the edge of the square two Sangheili emerged into the midnight gloom. One she recognized as their section's commanding officer, Field Captain Orta' Ikorrandee, and the other
"Forerunner's grace" Tasolmee murmured, "is that not
"Commander Taia' Korequee" Relusee answered.
Nakitee blinked, trying to connect the name to the myriad web of Sangheili officer's across the occupation force. She counted off her unit's immediate superiors and those of the neighbouring cohort's. She paused, counting back and trying to remember if she had missed one when the name suddenly clicked. High Commander Taia' Korequee, the former Master of the military Academy on Sepheria Luminare, the current commander of all Special Operation unit's on Nu Carthage.
"This just got interesting" Tasolmee remarked, rocking back on his heels, "at least we're not the only ones to be freezing our hind's off this night."
The two Sangheili paused by the waiting transports, the other fourunit's beginning to fall in as they were ordered back. Nakitee strained to pick up what they were talking about, but even in the dead of night they were too far away for her to pick up anything. Seemingly at the command of a flick of the Commander's wrist Ikorrandee turned and strode back into the camp, the lance's third fourunit at his heels.
Korequee twisted on his heel and walked towards the centre of the square where the remaining fourunit's were beginning to form up. He paused by the gathered Sangheili, exchanging a few brief words with the officer's, and then he continued on, towards them.
Nakitee glanced nervously towards the rest of her fourunit, thankful for the full fitting combat mask that she hoped would hide the anxiety that must have been plastered over her face. Up close it was easy to see why Korequee was still awed by the lower ranks. A full head taller then the Sangheili around him except perhaps Tasolmee, he was a powerfully built warrior and despite being past his prime possessed a physique that would put a full a generation of younger warrior's to shame.
Korequee drew himself up before their fourunit, looking over each of the Sangheili warriors with his pearl black eyes. His gaze finally settled on Tasolmee. The towering male stood firm, hooves together and back straight.
"Fel' Tasolmee" Korequee mused, scratching at his lower mandibles, "You're still alive I see."
"Not for lack of trying on the human's part" Tasolmee replied in all the demeanour of a grizzled veteran addressing an old comrade rather then a direct superior.
Korequee chuckled softly and shook his head, "nor a few Jiralhanae I would imagine."
Tasolmee shrugged his huge shoulders, "Be it the battlefield, tavern or barracks I do not care where they come at me. As long as it brings no shame on my family or unit, then anyone, be they dumb brutes or nameless vermin are welcome to try."
"Spoken like a true swordsmen of old" Korequee mused before twisting his head back to the Tasolmee's comrades, "and what of my other neophyte's."
"Well enough" Relusee snapped, eyes forward as if he was staring down the lateral prongs of a plasma sword, "missing my bunk around now."
"And no doubt the female in it" Korequee replied, Tasolmee snorted in laughter, pretending he had something in his throat.
"And what of our Academy's highest ranked sharpshooter?" Korequee asked turning towards Texlusee.
"Wondering why in the middle of the night a full special operation's lance is performing a task the Legionnaire's could handle Excellency" Texlusee replied dryly, her voice devoid of even a hint of humour.
"Straight to the point with a knife" Korequee chuckled, "good to see you haven't changed. Unfortunately this is a question I cannot answer."
"Classified on penalty of torture, branding and death?" Tasolmee ventured.
"If only I knew Tasolmee" Korequee replied with a shrug, "If only I knew."
"You did not order this deployment?" Relusee asked. It was the only time Nakitee had sensed genuine surprise in his voice. A deep unease twisted inside her stomach suddenly.
Korequee spread his claws, his grey palms flat. "My orders are to lead the prisoner convoy to an undisclosed military base on the edge of the central plateau which despite be being here for almost a third quarterly cycle I had no idea even existed. Our orders bare the mark of the Provisional Governor, whether or not they come from the Prophet of Penance I cannot say."
"Do you think he's acting without the Hierarch's knowledge?" Tasolmee asked.
"He's a politician Tasolmee" Korequee laughed, clicking his neck with a sharp jolt, "the day they start working together is the day something's terribly wrong. Best stay out of politics, in these times you'll live longer. Now, changing tact."
He clasped his powerful claws together, then produced a data crystal from his waist and threw it towards Tasolmee who snapped it out of the air with starting swiftness.
"We're moving out and your unit is on point, Tasolmee you're driving."
"That's not a good idea" Relusee hissed, ignoring the murderous glare he knew his friend would be directing at him.
"I trust him" Korequee chortled softly, "Kilshree, Texlusee, go and check the route is loaded into the Spectre's neural matrix, best we move now before the humans freeze to death."
"We would be saving the plasma to kill them" Tasolmee replied as he and Texlusee strode of towards the waiting Spectre's, "One way or another."
"And do not get lost" Korequee called after them, "I want to be back a Central Command before sunrise."
With a shrug of his shoulders the Commander turned back towards them, his eyes falling on Nakitee as if he had just seen her for the first time.
"And of course" he chimed, "I had almost forgotten. You are a full unit again, are you not?"
"Yes Excellency" Nakitee replied, her head still bowed in his presence.
"By the God's daughter look up" Korequee scolded, "I cannot be that ugly surely."
Nakitee raised her head, fighting to stifle a grin that pulled at her low mandibles.
"And how are you finding fourunit's latest replacement?" Korequee asked turning back towards Relusee.
"As acceptable a warrior as any who could have been selected" Relusee replied, neither praise nor condemnation detectable in his voice. "She may feel unwelcomed by some, but she is needed. Respectfully my Excellency, the Forerunners would be hard pressed to replace Kilshree."
Korequee nodded, his eyes sombre.
"And what of your own position Nakitee."
"I am honoured to be called upon to serve in the Special Operations Group" Nakitee replied, her voice soft yet firm, "I am not trying to substitute their loss Excellency."
Korequee sighed, clasping a strong claw like hand on Nakitee's shoulder, "Kilshree was a fine warrior my child. He was among the finest our Academy's on Sepheria Luminare ever produced, and he fell in service not just to the Covenant but to his kin, his brothers and sister beside him. Nothing lasts forever Nakitee, not Kilshree, not yourself or your comrades. Not even the human who killed him. He is at peace now, as we all will be one day. There is nothing to replace. Your comrades grieve for their fallen brother but make no mistake, they have accepted you as their sister by blood, as have I."
"Thank you Excellency" Nakitee replied, a boiling warmth rising from between her hearts.
Korequee nodded his head a fraction before twisting back towards the camp, "We will be moving out shortly, preferably before we are all thawed to the ground. I will rejoin you shortly, I must first go and step on the camp commandant's hooves."
With that he turned, striding back over the square and towards the waiting camp guards.
The last of the humans had trickled into the square now and were huddled beside the parked transports, waiting as each armoured Shadow was filled and sealed in turn. Nakitee scanned the milling crowd, wondering just what would become of the deplorable creatures. Her eyes settling on two scrawny human males, an adult and a small youngling.
Something nagged at the edge of her subconscious, drawing her eyes back to the two humans. Suka clenched her mandibles, looking them over once more and then the realization hit her.
"There" she hissed, thrusting a gloved claw like forefinger out towards the two humans.
"There among its kin. It's him!"
Relusee glanced towards her, tilting his head in a quizzical gesture
"You are sure, they all look alike. How can you tell?"
"I know it's him" she replied, "The human must have been scooped up in the last resettlement."
Relusee took her at her word, reaching up to the comm.'s bead is his helm,
"Commander, this is Relusee, we have verification on our target witness. Requesting orders?"
Nakitee waited silently, her claws tightening again around the powerful plasma repeater in her hands.
With a quick nod of his head Relusee acknowledged a command she couldn't hear before snapping up his rifle.
"Understood, moving to intercept target."
The two Sangheili approached the human prisoners, their weapons raised.
They've recognized me. How?
The question screamed inside Anderson's mind as he slowly raised his hands, conscious that one wrong move could see a plasma round punching straight through his chest.
Two towering elites; heavily armoured and carrying viscous looking plasma weapons came straight at them, the thickly piled snow crunching hollowly under their hooves.
"Humane" the leading elite hissed, "Sep Bakra."
Alex huddled closer beside him, doing his best to shield himself from the Covenant soldiers. The small boy was terrified.
How? Anderson repeated in his mind, How can they now I'm resistance!
The first elite, an officer perhaps shouted again sweeping a claw like hand through the air.
Anderson bit his lips, "I'm sorry" he said "I can't understand you."
How long could he last?
How long would it take for them to break him?
Anderson eyed the distant plasma barriers, wondering if it would not be easier just to make a run for it and let them shoot him.
They couldn't torture a corpse, and he wouldn't betray his cell.
The elite moved forward suddenly, thumping his gloved palm into Anderson's chest.
Anderson gasped as if winded, stumbling backwards. Tenuously he lost his grip on Alex's hand.
The second elite, of slightly slimmer build to the first, perhaps a female reached forward snatching Alex's arm in her long talon like fingers.
The boy Anderson realized, There not after me. What could they want this Alex? He's just a child.
Alex glanced towards him imploring, his muscles tensing as if he was preparing to struggle.
Anderson shook his head. Neither of the humans had a choice.
"It's alright Alex" Anderson said, careful to keep his hands where the aliens could see them, "It'll be alright. Go with them and do whatever they ask you to. It'll be OK."
Alex stared at him, tears forming in his wide eyes. He didn't believe a word of it.
As if in reply the second elite, the female took hold of Alex's other shoulder twisting him back towards the rear of the square. Her companion kept his weapon firmly trained on Anderson, the warning unmistakable.
Intervene and you're dead!
Slowly the two elites made their way back towards their own vehicles, the female frogmarching Alex away from the other humans. Before Anderson could see where they were taking him another elite shoved him forward towards the waiting transport.
In no time at all it seemed the last of the humans were loaded into the final alien transport, Anderson almost tripping over the vehicles lip as he was bundled into its cargo hold. Like a great serpent devouring its prey the humans were enclosed in energy field before an armoured shutter sealed them in darkness.
The convoy departed the camp in the dead of night, the individual Shadow transport's and their escorting Spectre's filing out under the watch of curious Kig-yar sniper's and Sangheili camp guards.
Nakitee's fourunit had point, Tasolmee displaying his less then cautious approach to driving. Texlusee as their sharp shooter kept watch with the mounted plasma cannon while Nakitee and Relusee took the conjoined passenger compartments on either side of the vehicle, Nakitee's claw like hand grasping the safety latch whenever Tasolmee banked a corner without feeling the need to brake.
They settled into the long journey, the calm night their only companion. Nakitee shifted uncomfortably in her seat, scanning the embankment either side of the human laid asphalt for any sign of movement, ensuring her plasma repeater could be snapped up to her shoulder at a moments notice.
Facility 77 was on the very edge of main settlements central plateau, far outside the normal boundaries of the main human habitation centre's that had spread across this world. Attacks this far out by the indigenous human resistance forces were rare, but no entirely unheard off.
Nakitee kept one eye on the road and the other on the holo-chronometer on her wrist gauntlet. Unit's quickly melded into a half quarter, but there was still no sign of the military base that was their destination.
Stiffing a yawn at the back of her throat, Nakitee stretched the muscles in her back, trying to judge their position. They had to be far outside the central plateau by now, and they had seen no other contacts on the road since leaving the camp. That in itself was not uncommon, for any form of human motorized transport was forbidden, and a planet wide curfew had been in effect since the Covenant occupation first began. Any humans they encountered on the road would have been shot on site. But they had seen no other Covenant movement either, no patrols and no resupply convoys. The roads were utterly deserted..
At the passing of the second half-quarter, Nakitee was fighting a loosing battle to boredom induced fatigue. She struggled just to keep her eyes open.
Sudden movement on the road ahead snapped Nakitee back to attention. Tasolmee swore as he braked sharply, the convoy skimming to a halt behind them as half a dozen looming figures materialized on the road before them. Pure survival instinct took over the fourunit's actions, Texlusee swivelled the plasma cannon on its mount whilst Tasolmee opened the Spectre's side compartments. Nakitee and Relusee emerged slowly using the opened doors of the Spectre as cover, their weapons trained on the shadowy silhouettes. In the illumination cast by a dozen lancing beams from the convoy Nakitee got a clear glimpse of their welcome party.
They were Sangheili.
Their fellow warriors offered no words of greeting, yet they kept their plasma weapons pointed towards the ground. One of the mysterious warriors stepped forwards and gestured towards the embankment with a wave of his arm. Up close Nakitee could see the Sangheili wore the jet black armour and combat harness of the Special Operation's warriors.
Seemingly in reply to his gesture, a section of trees and undergrowth which crowned the embankment vanished. In its place was a single dirt track which showed all the signs of having been cut through the woodlands very recently.
Not a single word was exchanged. Her plasma repeater still raised, Nakitee glanced back towards Relusee who gestured towards the Spectre. Their weapons still raised, they returned to their seats, Texlusee keeping them covered with the mounted plasma cannon.
Activating the vehicles energy core Tasolmee banked the Spectre into the entrance, the rest of the convoy taking his lead. Their wardens followed them in on foot, waiting until the last Shadow had entered before they reactivated the optical camouflage, the dirt track disappearing from the view of the road as if it had never existed.
Tasolmee edged the Spectre down the path with a restrained caution, his eyes scanning the dark undergrowth on either side of them. Eventually they came to a wide clearing dotted with towering energy pylons.
"Jamming towers" Texlusee commented from behind, "They've shielded this place from orbit."
At the far end of the clearing Nakitee could make out bunkers, bulbous plasma turrets pointed towards the sky and a series of fortified buildings. Already she could see armoured Sangheili warriors emerging from the compound, apparently belonging to same unit they had already encountered.
The convoy pulled to a halt just outside the complex, the Shadow's forming up beside each other in neat tidy ranks as the Special Operations troops dismounted from their vehicles. Nakitee emerged cautiously, the snow crumpling under her hooves as her fellow warriors formed a defensive cordon around the Shadow's, unsure just what was happening.
Taia' Korequee appeared behind their Spectre, seemingly from nowhere. Despite his considerable bulk Nakitee to her shame had not heard him approach.
"Keep the energy core lighted" Korequee said clasping Tasolmee shoulder in a huge claw like hand, "Be ready to move."
"Are they ours?" Tasolmee asked, his hand moving towards the plasma sword at his hip.
Korequee was silent a moment, his eyes surveying the compound. Tentatively he shook his head, "I could account for every Special Operations lance, cohort and brigade currently situated on this world. These are not our kin. Relusee, Nakitee, with me."
Standing tall and fully armed, the two warriors fell in behind their commander as he strode forward.
"Is the target witness secure?" Korequee asked without turning towards them.
"Yes Excellency" Relusee replied coarsely, "sedated and sealed in the Spectre's rear compartment. The human will remain that way until long after we return to Central Command."
"Very good" Korequee replied, his mandibles clenching tightly, "We'll deal with him come sunrise."
Already a small party of five had detached itself from those Sangheili guarding the compound and was making its way towards them. Four were warriors, armed and equipped almost identically to Nakitee's lance, yet curiously she noticed their armour bore no unit marking's, rank's or insignia.
The single remaining Sangheili was taller than the others and clothed in long flowing robes over ceremonial armour and helm. Nakitee recognized the symbol of the Vestal Sisterhood on the Sangheili's breast plate, her mandibles tightening as she realized just what had deployed their unit on behalf the Provisional Governor.
"High Priestess" Korequee concluded, validating Nakitee suspicion as he drew to a halt clasping his hands behind his back."
"Commander" the female replied, her accent clipped and pronounced which indicated connection to an ancient bloodline. "I must thank you for accommodating my request this night."
"Request?" Korequee mused, "Our orders came straight from the Provisional Governor Excellency."
The Priestess chuckled as she folded her arms, the warriors behind her waiting attentively,
"A mere formality Commander, to sweep aside unnecessary delay. You are well aware my position grants me such power."
"As is your right High Priestess, forgive my inquisition" Korequee replied, looking over her accompanying warriors. "Curious. It is well known your wealth is vast, though I was not aware the Vestal Sisterhood had subsidised and furnished its own private military."
The female cocked her head, her hands falling to her hips and for a moment Nakitee feared her Commander had gone one step to far. Rank, lineage nor reputation would be an adequate defence, as a High Priestess she could have had all their heads at the snap of her claws.
Thankfully the priestess seemed not to take offense at Korequee's prying. Subtly she gestured towards her warriors, "Private contractor's commander."
"Retired" added one of the Sangheili, "Fifteen Cycles as a ranger, and another Five within the Honour Guard."
"And handsomely compensated for their discretion" the female continued, "Discretion I must also ask from your warriors. Not a word of what they have witnessed this night can be breathed to others. When they return home each will find a generous sum deposited in their military account, please make them aware that I will not tolerate an abuse of my trust."
"Their mandibles will be sealed" Korequee replied, "I will make sure of it."
The female nodded in acknowledgement, clasping her gauntleted hands together, "My warriors shall take ownership of the human cargo. Your service tonight is almost ended."
Without acknowledging any direct command, two dozen of the Priestess's 'private contractors' swarmed out towards the waiting Shadows. The Special Operation's troops bristled, looking towards their commander for orders but Korequee waived them down. They did not like to surrender their charges to those they did not know, even if said charges were simple vermin. The Priestess's warriors unloaded the humans with a military precision even Korequee would have been proud of, herding the prisoners back towards the compound in a tight shambling file.
"Will my warriors be called upon for their, discretion again Ikarshree."
Nakitee memorized the name, trying to place it with the Priestess's she knew were involved with the occupation. None came to mind.
The Priestess whose name was Ikarshree paused for a moment, considering the question.
"Perhaps" she conceded, "Many more deliveries may be required, and as I have already told you, they must be known only to those who partake. No reports, no words exchanged outside this compound, or punishment will be severe. Do you understand commander?"
"Intricately" Korequee confirmed, watching as the doomed humans prisoners disappeared inside the compound, "What will become of them?"
"Nothing you need be concerned over" Ikarshree cautioned, "After tonight, those humans will never be heard from or seen again. Your warriors are in no danger, my work here has the full sanction of the Prophet of Penance. Any subsequent blame will fall squarely on our shoulders Commander, your warriors discretion shall become their shield if necessary."
"Then I would advise an overshield" Korequee remarked.
Ikarshree chuckled again, "Point taken commander. Now I would suggest your warrior's return to their barracks, I've arranged leave to compensate the time lost from their bunks, discreetly off course."
Korequee nodded solemnly, clicking his mandibles in approval, "There is one other matter. It concerns our target witness, in respect to our special guest."
Nakitee saw the Priestess flinch at the words, her claws curling violently towards her palms for just a moment before she regained her calm composure.
"You have the human in custody?"
"Yes" Korequee replied, "But we cannot discuss such an issue here. You understand off course." There was a hint of smug reprisal in his voice.
Ikarshree paused for a moment, her interest clearly peeked, "Off course Commander" she conceded, "We shall discuss this very matter with him in the Central Spire tomorrow morning. Good day Commander."
With that the High Priestess turned and departed, her guards closing ranks behind her.
Korequee twisted on his heel, Nakitee and Relusee still standing to attention behind him.
"You're best assessment?"
"She's working against the High Council" Relusee answered, "I do not believe Penance nor the Provisional Governor truly understand the nature of her, work."
"Her warriors armour bore no markings or insignia" Nakitee added.
"Exactly" Korequee said, tapping his lower mandibles with a clawed forefinger, "No direct loyalties. The perfect asset for dirty secrets, easily deniable at a moment's notice and easily disposed off if such action is required."
"What should we do?" Relusee asked.
"For now" Korequee replied, "as she commanded. Return to your barrack's, sleep among your brothers and sister guard, and invest your loyalty in those you trust, watch those you do not."
Anderson fought against his fear as best he could, his nails digging unconsciously into the soft skin of his palms. Blood pooled from his clenched fists, dripping down his trouser leg and trickling through the toes of his bloodied feet.
The humans were bracketed, freezing and half blind through the alien compound by the towering saurian like elites. Glancing upwards Anderson glimpsed the guard towers stretching high above the canopy roof, each tower furnished with three or four mounted plasma turrets and manned by no less then half a dozen elites. He had no doubt that they could cut the humans down at the first hint of trouble.
"Where are you taking us?" someone shouted.
If the alien's understood the human's language, they did not reply.
After an agonizingly long forced march, the humans were herded into an enclosed building, its walls providing at least a temporary respite from the howling winds.
Inside they were pushed into a long corridor with multiple sloped passages leading off a main thoroughfare. The humans were sectioned off, a platoon of elites forming a solid wedge across the entrance whilst their companions divided the humans into separate clusters. Anderson was grouped with three others, two men and a young woman. Two elites cordoned them off, herding the four humans towards one of the slopping passages as the other prisoners were driven towards their own cells.
Anderson and his fellow humans were pressed tightly together, the young woman sobbing into her hands.
"Why are you doing this to us?" shouted one of the men.
Again the elites did not respond, however one reached out to wall activating a holo-panel with a quick swish of his claw like hand. A door opened at the edge of the passageway and again Anderson and his little group were forced through, their escorts standing shoulder to shoulder behind them.
The chamber they found themselves in was almost pitch black, the only light coming from the slopped chamber they had just been forced through from.
"What are you going to do to us?" the woman screamed.
The elites raised their weapons, the woman stumbling backwards in fright. The two men surged forward but there was no need for the elites to fire, the doors sliding neatly closed before the humans could reach them and taking that last ray of light with them. Bloodied fists pounded against the smooth Covenant alloy which refused to give way to the terrified humans thumping against them.
"Did they just seal us in?" one of the men shouted.
The woman was still sobbing, her cries coming out in wracked tearful bawling.
"Listen to me" Anderson shouted grasping the woman shoulders, "Your Unharmed, I'm going to get us out of here OK. I'm going to get us all out of here."
In the pitch darkness Anderson was aware that the two men had rejoined them, the humans huddling together in abject terror.
"Listen!" the second man hissed.
"What is it" Anderson whispered, squeezing the woman's shoulder.
His voice was cut off with a gurgling cry, hot blood splashing down Anderson neck and face.
A cold metallic claw like iron talons slashed through his prison tunic and found purchase in the soft flesh beneath. Anderson cried out as he felt his skin break, struggling feebly before his unseen assailant hoisted him into the air and threw him across the room like a rag doll.
Anderson struck the ground hard, feeling the bones in his shoulder and cheek shatter as he tumbled head over heals. Somewhere behind him he could hear the woman screaming before the sound of ripping flesh and bone silenced her for ever.
"Let us out" the remaining prisoner screamed kicking and punching at the door, "let us
Again the same tearing of flesh, a tragically human scream before the man whose name he did not know was torn from the world for ever.
His attacker was behind him. Anderson scrambled to his hands and knees, knowing the unseen assailant would be on him in
A great pressure forced itself down on his calf, driving Anderson back to the ground in agony. He screamed as he felt the thin muscles in his lower leg give way and snap as his attacker's weight arched him back upwards, the torment continuing.
The pressure on his ruined leg eased just a fraction before he felt the top half of his tunic ripped from his body. That cold almost metallic like hand curled about his collar bone, soliciting a gurgled cry from Anderson's lips.
"What do you want" he screamed through his bloodied lips.
There was just silence, a low hiss barely audible his assailants only reply. A moment past a, a few seconds, Anderson dared believe he might live before he felt that searing pain plunging between his shoulder blades.
It was with a started detachment that Anderson watched a single blade of pulsing energy punch straight up through his chest, and as blood poured from his lips and darkness overcame him, he knew that he was dead.
Restricted Communiqué from Colonel Jane Parker to Office of Naval Intelligence Section 1 / 02 / 04 / 2545 (Human Military Calendar)
UNITED NATIONS SPACE COMMAND TRANSMISSION 117586-11
PUBLIC KEY: FILE / PARIS-SPARDA-FALCON-THREE /
FROM: COLONEL JANE PARKER, COMMANDING OFFICER IO RESEARCH BASE GAMMA II / UNSC SERVICE NUMBER: 12852-15965-BQ)
TO: ADMIRAL STANFORTH, UNSC FLEET COMMAND,
REACH NAVAL HQ'S / UNSC SERVICE NUMBER: 00843-86573-GE)
SUBJECT: COVENANT MILITARY OCCUPATION OF NEW CARTHAGE
CLASSIFICATION: RESTRICTED (ONI SECURITY REGULATION)
I can only pray this reaches you, every other channel I've been slamming my head against for the past three days. You remember New Carthage, third largest colony in the Alpha Khan cluster we lost in late 44, it wasn't glassed!
We'd suspected the Covenant of having established a long range supply point for their fleet within this sector since the beginning for 45, we found it. Bastard's have occupied New Carthage, probably had boots planet side ever since it fell but our recent probe's uncovered something else, there are still humans on the colony.
The Covenant have occupied every major city on the central plateau, and by every indication they've enslaved the population. We've identified dozens of concentration facilities based specifically around area's rich in mineral resources. There working the enslaved colonists to death in those camps and replenishing their workforce from the cities and countryside.
I know the fleet is stretched thin, and with the recent losses at Miridem and Tokyo III the resources for an offensive at any level are non-existent but we have to do something, there being exterminated Michael. By all records the infrastructure on New Carthage has collapsed, agriculture, medical service and basic water supply has ceased to exist, the Covenant aren't even trying to feed the colonists. New Carthage had a pre-war population of over ninety million; we estimate the death count to be over forty percent, probably higher and the Covenant aren't discriminating; children are being starved to death. As a mother I can't sit on this and do nothing.
It isn't just the impact on moral this will have if and when it gets out. Any action against the Covenant at New Carthage would have real-term strategic benefits. The colony was rich in selenium and technetium among other elements; we believe like us the Covenant use this in the servicing of their FTL drives. We know the Covenant are consolidating their battle groups beyond the frontier, looking for a beachhead before their final drive into the heart of UNSC space. I'm not privy to ONI's logistic engine's but any ensign now knows that push is going to come before the decade is out, at the end of 53 if were lucky. Sabotaging there supply lines at New Carthage would buy us months, even years before that offensive comes.
I'm not asking for an entire task force. A small well armed insertion team and a single prowler could slip onto New Carthage unnoticed and get the job done. I know the Spartan II's are likely requisitioned by the Admiralty all the way to Christmas year 9999 but even an ODST team would be acceptable. It may give those poor souls on the planet some reprieve and ensure the millions already lost haven't died in vain, please think about it.
UNSC Base Gamma, Io
Col Jane Parker