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Chapter 4: Funeral for a Friend
Posted By: Ace<kevin_jesse2002@yahoo.com>
Date: 11 May 2003, 4:29 AM

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well, the fourth chapter...by the way, just for anyone whose wondering, this series is called Halo: Of War and Childhood...i put it in the first time, but it appears its too long and they just dont use it...just thought yall oughta know

Chapter 4: Funeral for a Friend

August 23, 2555, 1600 Earth Time, UNSC Destroyer The Phoenix

The eerie blackness of space consumed the body of Zack Estevao in its entirety. Every Spartan's eyes followed its path, at first straight, and then tumbling end over end. "Ten-Hut," yelled Captain Mendez, a solemn look on his face. The soldiers stood at full attention. A few minutes later, the Spartans were dismissed, leaving them all to their own thoughts.

Sean stood near the huge view-port, his enhanced vision still showing him Estevao's charred face in exquisite detail. He was no longer crying, at least not physically. Estevao had probably saved at least six fellow Spartans. One life to save six. It seemed like a more than fair trade-off. But why did it feel to Sean that there was no such thing as a fair trade in his business?

Death of one of his own had been something he had been trained to deal with, and prepare for. His original training officer, all the way from when he was only six years old, Petty Officer First Class Max Luther, had always told him that the burden of command was loving each and every one of his subsidiaries, but still being able to send one of them to their death if need be. Estevao hadn't been ordered to his death. He had leapt to it, because he knew it had to be done, and the Master Chief would have willingly dove in front of the Brute's fire if it meant that Estevao could have lived.

"Sean," came a sweet voice from behind him, "it's not your fault." The words the Chief had so desperately wanted—needed to hear from someone, he could not now believe. He turned and looked into her visor, said, "Of course it is Danielle! If not mine then whose? Is it all part of 'God's Plan'?" "Sean," she said again, this time raising her hand to the side of his face, "it's not your fault." He sighed. "I—I know, or at least I think I do. But how else can I explain it?"

She pulled him into an ungainly embrace, their armor hindering them a bit. Sean grasped her hand and pulled her along the dark, silent corridor to the Spartans' barracks, saying nothing. When they reached the door to the barracks, Sean pulled Danielle around I front of him, grasping both her hands. They touched each other's helmeted foreheads together for a few moments, and then she turned and walked through the door. Sean plodded slowly along to his bedroom. When he got there, he stripped off his MJOLNIR armor and went immediately to sleep.

Slik 'Neoloop had watched the funeral detail intently, trying to figure out the meaning for such a thing. These soldiers were great warriors, and commanded respect, but they did not even rank Ship Masters. The Prophets were the only creatures who were paid any reverence in death by the Covenant. 'Neoloop had also gotten as close to the strange display of the two Spartans as possible, making sure his cameras were all well-positioned to capture it all.

He slinked back down a short hallway to the place he had chosen that he believed would afford him some protection from human discovery. He entered a room and quickly jumped up to the vent in the ceiling. Earlier he had found to his extreme pleasure that the system extended nearly throughout the entire ship. By crawling half a mile, he could come to the bridge, the Spartan's barracks, to almost anywhere of significance. He came to a convergence of about sixteen different vents, where he had made his living space.

He lay down on his back and thought back to hours ago when he had just barely escaped death. When he had seen the human ships hovering outside, he had known what would happen when the green-clad warriors got aboard their ships. Leaping to the upper level, he had spared a quick glance back at all the Covenant who were about to die. Not once did he poke his head out of the side hall he had ducked into until the thunderous noises stopped.

That's when the normal Marines had flooded the outpost. They swept any and all remaining Covenant forces out, and had stripped the outpost of weapons, rations, and technology. But curiously, they had also made out with bodies of every representative of the Covenant species. As the primate-soldiers were loading back on to their transport ships, 'Neoloop had been able to slip I amongst them and then hide in the aft-most section. His entire time on the human ship had been filled with the temptation to destroy every last one of them.

His Elite brothers and sisters had all been killed. Dammit, he thought, if only the Zemek had chosen a less inopportune time to wage war against the Covenant. They would have had double the amount of soldiers on board the outpost had they not been so otherwise concerned. If not for the Brutes bolstering their numbers now, they would almost be in trouble. The Brutes would make good foot soldiers as well as field commanders.

Their telepathic abilities had suited them well for this job; they had even been able to make the Indestructibles hold off. The technology they possessed was also magnificent. The maneuvers made possible with their instant shield-burning weapons were more effective than any other tactics had been, especially against the armored humans. The Brutes' only problem was the trance-like state they went into when commanding the troops. Slik 'Neoloop clicked his mandibles, and pondered all of these things during his hourly prayer ritual.

As the black-suited Elite Ziko 'Zamamee plodded down Outpost 95-L corridor F-371, he fumed in his head over the meeting he was about to enter. Alongside him walked the outpost's Minor Prophet's personal assistant Plok 'Hatomee. Ziko greatly disrespected any Elite that wasn't a soldier, and he believed Plok knew it.

But Ziko was not going to the meeting to make any requests of Plok; his business was only with the Prophet who Plok represented. The words of the Prophets are the words of the Gods, Ziko repeated the True Saying over an over in his head, convincing himself that his request was the will of the Gods, so surely the Prophet must allow it. He bustled straight through the waiting room into the Prophet Hall, knowing that his request was more urgent than those of the assorted group sitting impatiently in the cramped room.

Plok, looking flustered at Ziko's arrogance, walked slowly ahead of where Ziko had stopped, turned eloquently, and announced, "The soldier is here." The sounds echoed off the high walls of the dark room. Ziko heard the whirring of the Prophet's hover-chair and two spotlights appeared, one indicating where Ziko was to stand, and the other for Plok. The Prophet would stay in the darkness, a more recent precaution taken in case of mutineer assassins.

The two Elites took their places and the meeting began. "Ziko 'Zamamee," came Plok's voice, "you have requested to take up the work of your father, Zuka 'Zamamee, on a much larger scale. Three hundred human soldiers, each individually responsible for the deaths of hundreds of our soldiers—." "At least a thousand apiece lord," Ziko corrected. He was angry that he had to address Plok in such a manner, but because the Prophet was, for the moment, psychically linked to him, Ziko had no choice, for in essence Plok was the Prophet.

"As it were," the Prophet continued, "your father could not eliminate one armored human-beast, and you expect me to allow you to engage three-hundred of them? What resources would you request of me in order to carry this out?" This was the part that Ziko had been most worried about. He lifted his datapad and read aloud from it: "One frigate with a self-chosen crew of: fifty Indestructibles, one hundred Veteran Domination, ten Shade stationary plasma turrets, twenty Banshees, twenty Ghosts, and ten Shadows."

The look on Plok's face was one of sheer outrage, as Ziko knew his request would be met. "You are insane if you believe that we could afford to spare so many troops from the Zemek war," said Plok. Ziko replied, with as little emotion as possible, "But the Zemek are no longer our biggest threat. We are nearly finished ousting the Zemek from our space, and these armored humans have pushed back our forces along a sector of space, we've lost a third outpost to them just yesterday." "I would be cautious of what you say," this time it was actually Plok talking, with a pompous voice, and a slight smile on his face, "you begin to touch the borders of treason."

Then the Prophet took over again, "It would be advisable to listen to him. I am afraid I cannot allow you to undertake this mission. Dismissed." "Lord," roared Ziko, clicking his mandibles incessantly, "perhaps you should step out of your 'invincible Covenant' outlook, and look at what is truly happening to our race! If these armored humans are not taken care of soon, they will become the doom of our species!"

Growling, Plok drew a blade from a sheath on his hip, and leapt at Ziko, knocking him down. Startled by the non-soldier's action, Ziko was only able to stop the knife bare centimeters from his throat. Strengthened from years of warfare, Ziko slowly turned the knife back towards Plok's neck, till it was touching his jugular. As a bead of blue blood appeared at the knife's tip, Plok suddenly stood up and backed away, wrenching the knife from Ziko's hand, with the strength of the Prophet's mind backing him. He sheathed it, and the Prophet said through him, "I'll allow it. Unlike with your father however, I will be taking precautions ensuring that you do not fail."

"My eternal gratitude, lord," said Ziko, and he pivoted on one foot to leave. He stopped at the door, turned back to Plok, and said, "One more thing: it is my understanding that a single 'Ossoona, a one Slik 'Neoloop, is aboard the ship that the armored humans inhabit. I will require full access to his transmissions." "Granted," said Plok, sending Ziko a look that could burn a hole through a Grunt, and clutching his neck, "dismissed." Ziko exited into the waiting room, for a second savoring his victory.

He walked over to a red-suited Grunt, who became nervous immediately. He asked the Grunt it's name, and it responded, "Lalan, Exalted." The Elite grinned, said, "Today is your lucky day, Lalan. I am feeling most generous. I have decided to allow you to transcend the physical." Before the Grunt could even begin to look startled, Ziko clicked his mandibles, reached up behind the tiny creature's head, and yanked a methane tube out of its life support tank.

The Grunt's eyes bulged, and it fell to the floor, grasping at the flailing tube, barking and wheezing, and twitching convulsively. Finally, it shuddered, clutched its throat tightly enough to spill its own blood, and died. The entire time, every being in the room watched in horror, transfixed by the gruesome sight, except for Ziko, who breathed in the strong scent of the Grunt's blood, sighing in pleasure, and shuddering as he listened to its dying gasps.