Perspective - Reflection, Act I
Posted By: The Meep<email@example.com>
Date: 25 June 2010, 1:40 am
Vtan 'Vishumee - Lance Major, sangheili legionnaire, Primier of Aroka-Vish clan, amputee, and Hero of the Covenant - sat, alone, in pure darkness. He was in a room specially designed to starve the senses: no lights, soundproofed walls, a soft floor, and thoroughly processed air made the small cube perfect for meditation, something Vtan had caught himself doing much more often in the past cycles. His eyes blinked thoughtfully. Ever since the tragedy of Halo, really.
His calmed mind drifted in nothingness, encountering and confronting stray thoughts and soul-staining dilemmas.
Vtan had to admit, he had been intentionally avoiding the topic of Halo, both amongst his peers and in himself. It distressed him. But now his mind brought it up, and there was no avoiding it. Not during meditation.
He had been amongst the graced: he had walked on the ring. He had seen the wonders of the gods with his own mortal eyes, felt their contours and hefted their weight with his vulnerable flesh. He had stood on the edge of a dusty plateau and looked up to see a thin strip of blue, white, and green cutting the sky in half. It was a cut of cloth, an inside-out world. It was beautiful, humbling, and horrifying all at once. When Rtas said that the grace of Halo extended far beyond its power, he had been speaking the truth.
So why did Vtan feel so empty? It wasn't because of Halo's destruction; then he would have felt anger, frustration, loss. But now, as he examined his emotions with a detached mind, he could only find disappointment.
The muted hum of the air filter continued in the background, its white noise helping to keep the mind from conjuring audio hallucinations. Vtan's mind drifted, before once again delving into his soul.
Halo was marvelous, easily one of the most grandiose sights Vtan had ever viewed. And he had seen things that would make the High Council fall to their collective knees and weep tears of awe. But was Halo ascendant? Was it truly a divine vessel? In that instant, Vtan found the source of his inner turmoil. He was underwhelmed.
The ring had been built by mortal hands with utility in mind. It contained nothing that Vtan had not seen before. The Forerunner ruins were the same as those found on other worlds, the artifacts no different. It rotated to provide stability, was lined with barriers to keep the atmosphere from spilling out. Beneath the landscape lay immense tunnels and caverns: storage and transportation, used during the construction but now without a purpose. Despite its size and beauty, Halo was not divine. Not in the least.
The epiphany surprised Vtan. If Halo had been the first Forerunner artifact that the Covenant had found, would they have seen it as a godly creation? He blinked, momentarily stunned by his answer. No. They would not.
Vtan was briefly torn. He feared what he would find if he continued down this line of thought, but wasn't enlightenment always superior to ignorance? Was he committing heresy, or simply taking on religion from a different viewpoint?
His father's voice suddenly leaped, unbidden, from distant memory. Vtan had been young: just old enough to have moved past the how of fighting, and begin studying the why. As the young sangheili had sat on his courtyard's gravel, rubbing his fresh bruises after their latest sparring session, his father had spoken. "Never let blind faith overtake your good sense. Zealotry can be a useful ally in any battle, but always keep your wits about you. Accept nothing, question everything."
Emboldened by his late patron's words, Vtan kept still, allowing himself to sink deeper into the meditative state. He would pursue this to the bitter end.
If Halo was not divine, then why worship it? According to the san 'shyuum, the Forerunners had built the ringworld as a way to ascend their mortality, and become gods. Vtan had willingly believed this since his youth, just like every other member of the Covenant. But, there is a dilemma. If Halo was made to raise them to godhood, why did the Forerunner's store the Flood on the ring? Why were the ruins all for storage and research? What was the purpose of the mass amounts of unused energy stored in Halo's generators - generators which were not connected to a conduit or emitter, but instead massive arrays of turrets? Why was the ring built with functionality and utility placed above grace and worship? Nothing fit.
Now the sangheili was on a path he could not leave. His mind continued at a blistering speed.
Vtan thought of his time on Halo. His lance had been the first to secure the control room after it was discovered. They had remained there, even as the Covenant moved entire armies into the canyon, serving as an elite guard; they were the first line of defense. When human forces had appeared near the control room, Vtan and his lance engaged them first. Then, after the parasite was let loose, he had found himself aboard the Truth and Reconciliation, fighting horrors that should never have existed. It was there he had lost his arm and leg, and it was because of that nightmare that he had been named a Hero of the Covenant.
He realized that despite all its wonder and grace, Halo had brought nothing but death and misery to the Covenant. How many soldiers were killed by the humans? By the Flood? Just how many lives were lost when the ring had been destroyed? Vtan thought of his new limbs. He may have survived, but he didn't escape unscathed. The Council said that the calamity was part of a series of tests, left in place by the Forerunners to ensure only those worthy enough could ascend to godhood. It made sense, but Vtan found once again that something didn't fit.
The air filter stopped, and a faint glow slowly intensified through out the room. His time was up. Vtan awoke from his deep meditation, blinking moisture back into his eyes. He realized both of his hands were clenched. The sangheili relaxed them, and was rewarded with sharp stabs of pain from his cramped muscles.
Usually, his mind would have to catch up and recall what he thought during his meditation. It was two wholly different mental perspectives, and it could be difficult to pursue a line of thought through the transition. But Vtan could remember everything he had been thinking, so . He closed his slack mandibles and placed a hand over his eyes. His faith was shaken, doubts appearing and cracking his formerly impervious wall of religious zealotry.
A shadow crossed his face. Vtan looked up to see Rtas 'Vadumee standing in the doorway. His mandibles were fully healed from the battle aboard the Infinite Succor, but the scars were still swollen and pink. It only made the Commander look more intimidating.
Vtan stood as his superior spoke. "Our attendance at the Fleet Master's trial is mandatory, Vtan." His eyes lost focus and glassed over, then cleared with a blink. Rtas eyed Vtan's new limbs. Like his scarred mandibles, the Lance Major's skin was rippled and pink where the old met the new. The Commander's mandibles tightened critically, but he remained silent.
"Commander," Vtan said, walking towards the door. "During meditation, my thoughts kept returning to Halo." His head lowered, eyes cast downward. Rtas simply waited patiently.
Vtan looked back up, his expression confident and open. "I've found it difficult to see Halo as a boon. All it brought us was death and misery. The Flood. I don't know if this is a passing weakness, or--"
Rtas cut him off by placing his hand on Vtan's shoulder, and nodded. It was an expression of understanding, meant to reassure and embolden. The Commander obviously meant well by it.
Vtan just felt empty.