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Warning- Hitch Hikers may be Escaping Convicts: Chapter Six
Posted By: Spartan 034<zack_034@hotmail.com>
Date: 30 June 2006, 8:05 pm

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      Ship Master Talo' Jamamee eyed the tactical displays in front him with an experienced and methodical eye. Seven of the ships in his battle group were molten slag, and the remaining three were now lost in the broiling chaos. Friend or Foe displays were worthless, as nearly every vessel in the fleet was shooting at each other. For all he knew he was shooting his own ships. His communication displays were filled with reports of uprisings and betrayal. Condensed data from almost every channel of the battlenet scrolled through the air in front of him, telling him of the bloodshed underway. One hologram showed the small three-dimensional image of the rebellion's leader. The brute, called Cruciatus, had proclaimed himself Supreme Commander of the Fleet, claiming he had been blessed by the Prophets to take the position. Talo' damned the beast for his blasphemy. The vermin was trying to rally the lower ranks of the Covenant to obey him, to rise up and overthrow the Sangheili. Jamamee was sure that the squad of Spec-Ops Elites that stood guard on the other side of the control room's blast doors would be enough protection. Not that the zealot needed it. If they fell, he was a master of the energy blade.

      An explosion rocked the deck below the Ship Master's hooves, interrupting the battlenet reports in front of him. A plasma bolt had sunk its way into a lower deck and was boiling through the ship. The casualty reports were still scrolling when Jamamee scowled. Almost all of the crew killed were either Sangheili or Harugok. A pity.


      A dropship swooped in low over the veranda scorching everything that moved in plasma. It's gravlift snapped to life for just a few scant seconds, scooping up the warrior's body, as well as several clinging infection forms, just as it began to fall. The body was passed to the front of the craft, where a pair of Sangheili descended on it. A small blade was produced by one of the pair, which was used to cut the spores off its chest. The writhing masses were dumped in a container where a small flash of light disposed of them. One of the two Sangheili removed the corpse's battered breastplate and placed it in the same receptacle. The other stowed its knife and slowly began to pull the penetrators out of the body, careful not to tear them and leave them inside. With a snarl the body's right hand rose off the deck and curled into a shaking fist, much to the surprise of the medics. 'Inka Tuolumee would not die like this.

      A white clad Elite, an Ultra, ignited his sword. "You will turn back, honored one. No one may enter the control room by order of the Ship Master." The one he addressed reached down and retrieved a plasma sword from his own belt, hidden in the ornate paneling and designs of his armor.

      "I believe I may be exempt…"

      The two Sangheili stared each other down for several seconds before the Ultra backed down. "You may enter." He grunted to the exalted being. The royal passed through the doors into the protected room full of pomp and circumstance. He ignored the poorly hidden stares from the crew as he arrogantly marched up the ramp to the command pedestal.

      "I have vital news for you, excellency." He addressed the Ship Master mockingly. "The Kig-Yar are actively rebelling, as well as the Yanme'e. Many of the squad leaders have been slain. The Unggoy are still loyal, but their allegiance is bound only by fear. The Lekgolo are of course loyal." The zealot turned his gaze on the newcomer with only a faintly hidden expression of disgust.

      "I am aware of those facts." The Ship Master motioned towards Cruciatus's image. "And I have been for some time. It seems we are at war," Talo' stopped before he called his royal guest a fool. "Honorable one." The Aristocrat grunted in acknowledgment. "The instigators are being gathered and dealt with accordingly, as well as any collaborators." Talo' turned back to his displays and continued to monitor the situation. They flickered as the cruiser took another hit.

      The trio of dropships abandoned their attempts to land at the Sanctum of the Hierarchs. It had been completely overrun by thousands of Flood, so many that in some spots it was hard to make out the structure itself. They arched through the sky, exchanging fire with a lone Banshee before turning to advance on the fallen human ship. All contact with the area had been lost; the last reports had screamed of masses of the Parasite swarming from the vessel. Perfect work for Spec-Ops troops.

      The three transports set down on the back of the ship itself, deploying their landing gear and locking themselves down. The Elites used several holes blown open by secondary explosions to enter the vessel.

      The troops split up and advanced through several scarred and crumpled hallways before the first group found evidence of Flood. Cautiously one of the black clad warriors placed a hand on the four-meter growth protruding from the wall. The reaction was heard even outside the ship. "What was that?" an Elite in the command group asked.

      The Leader shifted his head, both trying to get a better view of the dark hallway and to hear better. "Second unit, respond." He tilted his head again. "Second unit, respond." After a quick and somber nod he ordered his troops to advance.

      The Aristocrat was an honorary warrior. His armor was fashioned after ancient designs, and it was in many ways reminiscent of both the Arbiter's adornment and a Sangheili councilor's. A large silver crest extended from the back of his head, engraved with ornamental designs cast in blue. His armor was somewhat thicker than normal, embellishing the small protrusions on his forearms while not appearing too dramatic. The shields built into it were roughly as strong as the Ship Master's, giving him more than adequate protection. As for armaments, he carried the ceremonial energy sword hidden in an interlocking panel on his belt, along with an ancient and ceremonial metal dagger, more of an artifact than a weapon.

      He was a member of the Sangheili's royal clan; it was his ancestors who in the days of the Covenant's infancy had defeated a powerful enemy, its name forgotten but the memory of its destruction still legend to the lower castes. He was one of the last few remaining of his linage, and his seed had not yet been passed on. If he died, it would surely mean the end of the one of the greatest Sangheili clan of all time. On the other hand, the Aristocrat's every step seemed to raise Talo's ire. He pondered these facts as he contemplated killing his unwelcome company. He had stayed his hand once already when the Aristocrat had overridden his command. The results of his meddling had resulted in a pair of 'enemy' capital ships destroyed, as well as the Shining Brilliance avoiding a collision with a devastated frigate, but the pride of a Ship Master was not easily overcome.

      "We must pull out to the other side of the planet. Let our shields recharge. Find out who is loyal." The Aristocrat mused. He looked at Talo' expectantly for a moment before he again went over the zealot's command. "Move us out of this battle. Around to the other side of the planet."

      "Belay that order. We shall stay and fight." Talo' ordered. He turned on the Aristocrat and finally vented his frustrations. "This is not your ship to command. Your linage be damned, I am the master of this vessel." He turned back to his subordinates. "Continue on our course."

      The Aristocrat swatted Talo' upside the head, sending him toppling him off of the platform. The crew, always loyal to the master of the ship, was indifferent. Everyone in the room knew who the better strategist was, and they also knew who was giving out the orders now. "Report." The new master commanded.

      "Ship Master, boarding parties are inbound. Point defense systems are non-operational." One of the crewmen informed the commander. "We will be boarded in thirty units."

      The Aristocrat looked down on the enraged zealot who seethed at the foot of his platform. "Leave my sight, you disgraceful beast." He ordered. Talo' screamed at the noble and drew his sword. "I have no time for this," he sighed before calling the Spec-Ops troops into the room. "Execute this insubordinate filth."

      The Spec-Ops leader reluctantly squared a plasma rifle. "Commander, do not do this." The zealot pleaded. "He is a foo-"his words were cut short by a torrent of plasma. It took all five soldiers two full seconds to penetrate the Ship Master's shields, but only an instant to burn him away.

      "Ship Master, boarding craft are fifteen units away."

      "Deploy all remaining Seraph fighters and make ready for evasive maneuvers." The Aristocrat moved the battlenet reports off of the main view screen and replaced them with a larger display of the maelstrom. He quickly formulated a plan. "Move us toward the shipyards of the city. We will lose the boarders there."

      "Yes excellency."

      " Is that all?" The Ultra asked, remarkably nonchalant.

      "Yes, you me leave now. And take that body with you."

      'Inka groaned as he pulled himself off the floor of the dropship and groggily assessed its surroundings. He took one step towards the back of the craft before he collapsed against the wall, coughing up blood.

      "Mighty one, you must rest. You die if you move." 'Inka snapped the Grunt's neck with a quick backhand to the face. He looked at the remaining three creatures.

      "My weapons, bring me my weapons." He ordered.

      "You should must rest, Hero." 'Inka slowly looked over his shoulder. A Red armored Elite, the co-pilot of the craft, walked up the ramp from the cockpit. "You cannot expect to fight? You armor is not even functional!"

      'Inka gave the Elite a questioning expression. "Hero?"

      "Do you know how many of the Parasite you fell in the Sanctum? Even the Arbiter would be hard pressed match your kills. You may be declared a Zealot when this is over."

      'Inka closed his eyes and remembered. Yes, he had killed many. He remembered the Honor Guard, and his message echoed through his mind. "Maybe I shall…"

      The Shining Brilliance glided just five hundred meters above the surface of High Charity. It gracefully arced to port, avoiding a massive plasma bolt as it impacted the side of the city. Debris and molten slag mushroomed out into space, mixed with it vented atmosphere and hundreds of bodies. The cruiser continued to port, moving down towards the maze of structures that protruded from the bottom of the planetoid. It glided as fast as was safe to travel between several docking spires, some of them dozens of kilometers wide at the base. Hundreds of vessels flashed by in the view screens; some half-completed, some half-destroyed, and some attached with dozens of tubes and gravlifts for refueling. Small puffs of flame erupted over the bow of the cruiser as transport craft shattered over its bow. Engineering pods scattered out of its path only to collide with each other and the surrounding structures. Clouds consisting of thousands of soldiers in vacuum suits swarmed around the docks, the intensity of their fighting mimicking the ship battle around them.

      "Bring us down towards the bottom of the docks." The Royal One ordered. The Brilliance dived 'down' in space. It was forced to stay just meters off the docks, darting to port and starboard when needed to avoid obstacles. Behind it a hundred blue exhaust puffs flared to follow.

      "Ship Master, enemy ships are gaining. We will be overtaken in ten units."

      The Aristocrat touched a node on his helmet and spoke over the intercom. "Warriors, we will be boarded ten units." He paused, and then switched over to the fleet wide battlenet. "If these Brutes wish to dance in our blood, then by the Rings we shall let them! But we shall not let it be easy! No, for on behalf of every Elite that may fall, a hundred more shall rise to take his place! Now rise, Sangheili, rise! Finish the fight!"