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Chapter 6: The Trap
Posted By: Ace<kevin_jesse2002@yahoo.com>
Date: 19 October 2003, 5:38 AM

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Chapter 6: The Trap

Slik 'Neoloop held tightly to a thick metal bar as the Pelican rumbled slightly in its supersonic descent to the planet. He was nearest to the rear exit hatch of the craft, as far away from the stink-humans as possible. Slik had seen them in action only days ago, he did not believe that they could truly be defeated. The one he had attended the funeral of was the only death ever recorded by the Covenant of one of the armored humans, aside from those on planets when they were glassed. After thirty years, one single armored human had been killed in actual combat, and he had died to defend a large group of them. This was not the way the war had been foreseen as going by the Prophets. Everywhere the armored humans showed up, the marines who had only a few moments before been cowering behind rocks, hiding for dear life, were suddenly whipped into a frenzy of action, morale, and bravado. The leadership abilities of these humans were unchallenged by those of even the Supreme Commander. As the Pelican slowed for a landing, Slik prepared himself to leap out before any of the armored humans had even stood up. A slight lurching indicated a put-down, and the door slid open with light hiss. Slik dove out, rolled on the grainy red sand, and stood up next to a rock. He backed himself against it, and relied on his active camo generator and the slight bit of dust storm to hide from the humans view. Looking around, Slik was surprised to see that only four dropships were in the area, only the armored humans were filing out. He had believed that they would be on their way to a main city, to lead in a major assault. This did not appear to be anywhere important. Peeking over the rock, he saw a single shining building amongst the miles of empty red sand. They must believe that something important is here to have diverted the entire team of armored humans to the spot. The observer edged closer to where the leader of the humans was standing, talking to five others. "These are the coordinates the transmission was coming from," he said, "but it seems we would be meeting a bit more resistance if they were defending a Prophet." A Prophet? On-planet? It was impossible. If any human ships were detected inbound for a planet, Prophets were the first to be evacuated. Therefore, Slik came to the conclusion that there were only two possibilities: first, there had been some kind of immense failure in someone's system, or two, the transmission the humans had intercepted had been the bait for a trap. He had had no contact with any of his own kind for over a week, so he had no ideas on what was going on. "Perhaps," said another of the armored humans, "they have decided that discretion would be the better way to avoid an attack on their Prophet." "But they were broadcasting on a completely unguarded freq," replied the first. "If they were truly so desperate to save their leader, then they may well have had good reason to do so." Now Slik knew it was a trap. No Elite would be desperate enough to broadcast on open frequency in order to save a Prophet. Even if the Prophet had been retieved, the Elite would be executed for endangering the leader so. Execution by the Prophet Council was the only death any Elite feared. Their limbs were chained, suspending them in the air. They were left for two days without food, but with minimal water, and after the days had passed, a dead Grunt was hung one foot in front of their face. Most Elites had pride enough that they wouldn't attempt to gain the food. But after two more days, no Elite had the will to stop themselves. They could be found later gnashing, snarling, not caring whether they defecated on themselves, not seeing anything but the food. In their final hours, Grunts taunted the creatures, laughing, delivering blows, weak blows that were magnified a thousand fold by the sheer humiliation in it. In the end, electricity was pumped through the chains, and a plasma sword rammed through their chest cavity. It motivated an Elite never to waver in his obedience or his efficiency. The last time Slik had ever heard of an Elite being executed by the Council was when he was a young child. It did not happen often. So there must be a trap involved. He snuck around the rock and sprinted for the building, wanting this to be the end of his job as an observer.

"Admiral, three plasma torpedoes inbound, first contact in seventeen seconds, MACs, firing in eight seconds," yelled Lieutenant Wallace from the tactical station of the Orca's bridge. "Alright, we'll pull a Keyes' Loop on the bastards, been awhile since they've seen one of them, eh," Admiral Jason Jones replied, "As soon as the MACs are away, and the plasma torps are one second from impact, fire all our bottom emergency thrusters." The emergency thrusters were strategically placed tanks of trihydride tetrazine and hydrogen peroxide. When they mixed, they did so with explosive force, enough force to blow the entire ship onto a completely different course in a matter of milliseconds. The ship's AI, KLJH, had heard the admiral's orders and responded, "Aye aye, sir." Their was a loud boom, marking the exit of the MAC, and another, louder, more resonant boom a few seconds after, and the Admiral was nearly thrown to the deck as the ship shot up forcefully. A single plasma torpedo scraped along shield on the bottom of the ship, and then all three of them began their wide arc to continue burning through space after the Orca. The ship's engine began a maximum burn directly on course for the trio of Covenant frigates. "Give me two hundred percent engine output," Admiral Jones yelled over the intercom to Chief Engineer Eric Dietz, "I don't wanna give the bastards any time to think this over." But it was too late, one Covenant frigate maneuvered out of its tight formation with the other two, but those stayed where they were. Oh well, thought Jones, we'll deal with that ship when we come to it. "Kayell," he yelled, referring to the AI, give me a course correction that will have us missing them by a few meters." "Done," she replied, and began to count down to course correction, "In seven...six...five...four...three...two...one..." The deck tilted upward for a split-second before the compensators boosted. Aft cameras turned on automatically, and there was a flash of light as two plasma torpedoes slammed into one Covenant ship, and the third slammed into the other. The first ship's shields crackled, flared, and died, and the second torpedo immediately slammed into her hull, and a satisfying melting ensued. The second ship took a torpedo, and her shields died. "Wallace," yelled the admiral, "fire Archer missiles at will, and get us facing that third ship!" He paused to take a look at the overall space based tactical board. The blue dots were Human ships, and the red were Covie. He didn't know if it was his imagination, but it seemed that there were a lot more red dots than blue. Every few seconds, dots of either color would disappear, and it looked like the rates were even. But what did the rate matter if the Covies outnumbered them so?

Thirty-five light-years away, on Earth herself, in Earth City, Mozambique in Africa, in the huge Earth Prison, in a tiny cell, a wall screen flashed multiple times in different colors: Daniel Heath, you have been convicted of the crime of murder in the first degree, for the murder of James Millard. Below that, a countdown clock told him that he had thirty-seven minutes and twenty-four seconds before the guards came to carry out his sentence. Heath looked upwards at the mounted camera in the uppermost corner of his cell. He was resigned to the fact that no amount of begging could save his life, and would only lessen people's respect of him. Not that he got much respect anymore. No one was around to give it to him. He had only ever seen any guards' faces once, when he was brought into his cell, and would only see them once more in his lifetime, when he would be taken out. Food was slid in through a four-inch thick slit at the bottom of his door every day, which was sealed when food wasn't coming in or out. A huge cylindrical tower with hundreds of levels contained his tiny cell, which was one of eight on his level. The center of the tower held the elevator guards used daily to bring food to the inmates, and occasionally, like today, bring prisoners to their executions. Execution would not be pretty. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, that's what all the politicians said. And it seemed it worked at least moderately well. This was the only prison left on Earth. Daniel heard the whirring of the elevator at two minutes left on the countdown. He whimpered a bit, but he didn't think the cameras would pick it up. He hoped not. When the elevator stopped at his level, he erased all the emotions from his face. The thick door slid open, revealing two burly guards, one of whom said, "Daniel Heath." It wasn't a question, but Daniel couldn't resist responding, "Sorry, wrong floor, he's two levels up." He crossed the room to the door, feeling vulnerable in his nakedness. "Sorry Heath, you know it has to be done," said one guard solemnly, raising a silver disc with a tiny needle protruding from it. Daniel stifled the look of terror in his eyes, and the guard stepped behind him. He felt the needle pierce the skin on the back of his, it only hurt for a moment, and then he didn't feel anything. It suddenly seemed like a wonderful idea to follow the guards, putting up no resistance. Yes, in fact, it had to be done. Daniel didn't know if he didn't feel the elevator going down or if he just didn't care, but he knew it was going down because all the levels around them were going up. Down? Only one thing important was downstairs. The execution room was down there. But the guards were nice. They were going to set him free. The elevator stopped. They all walked out a big door, into pretty sunlight. The sun was much too bright on Daniel's eyes, and he realized it had been seven months since he had seen the sun, had been outside, had tasted fresh air. It really was beautiful, he thought, there were a few trees, some birds, nice green grass. They didn't overdo it. Maybe they would give him the number of their landscaper when he got his new home. But wait. They weren't heading for the gate. They were heading for the squat silver building only fifty feet from the tower. Fear should have been flooding his body, panic, and perhaps Daniel knew this somewhere in the haze that was his drugged mind. But instead he accepted that they were on their way to check him out of prison. Once they entered the building, the guards had to have their Ids checked, and they scanned Daniel's DNA, to make sure it was really him. After all, they wouldn't want to be releasing a bad guy. They walked into a small room, cameras mounted in each upper corner, and a slab of steel eight feet high in the exact center. Around the other side, four metal clamps were open on the slab. A man in a black suit with a white collar, and who carried a little book, whom Daniel recognized as a priest, stood next to a burly man with a black hood over his head, his arms crossed in front of him. The two guards clamped Daniel to the large steel platform, removed the disc from the back of his neck, and walked out. For a fleeting moment, he wished they hadn't gone, he kind of liked them, but then realized where he was, what was about to happen. He bit back his panic, knowing that the whole thing was being televised, not wanting self-righteous mothers and their children across the world to see the fear in his eyes. The priest walked silently to the front of him, crossing first himself, and then Daniel. He said a short blessing, a simple prayer for deliverance, and Daniel recognized it from when he was a child. Hell, he thought, if the big man can actually give me deliverance, I'll take it. The priest asked solemnly, "Do you have any last words? Remember this is televised worldwide, and you will be remembered for what you say here and now." Daniel had always known that this question would come, and he had stayed up late nights pondering it. How would he like to be remembered? The guy who says something religious, saying that he'd found Jesus in his months of imprisonment, and had repented his sins? Or the guy who said something rude, just to go out with a bang? He had finally decided on a humorous ending. So he said, "One thing to say. More of a request really. Could you tell that guy not to kill me," jerking his head at the hooded man. The priest only nodded, but Daniel saw what he would have sworn was a slight smile in the eyes of the hooded man. The hooded man walked to the wall directly opposite Daniel, and pressed the wall, speaking a few numbers and letters. When he next turned around, he as holding a gun. "James Millard was killed with three bullets," he said, "one to the right elbow, one to the right shoulder, and the final one to the heart. Would you like to be considered for military resuscitation?" Daniel had also spent nights pondering this. Military resuscitation was a fairly new program, whereby the bodies of people who signed up were immediately frozen, cured, and then conscripted. It seemed to Daniel that for him it was a win-win situation. The sweet release of death...or living tomorrow to see the sunshine. "Yes," he managed to choke out. "Fine," said the executioner, raising the gun. A red laser sight wobbled across his body, coming to rest on his right elbow. He closed his eyes, drawing a deep breath as the executioner breathed out, squeezing the trigger. Daniel didn't hear the noise of the gun, only felt the jolt of pain, saw his red blood pumping out, knew he was dying, that that was his life's blood pumping out. It should hurt, shouldn't it? He thought that, but still it did not hurt, and there was no arguing with what he felt. Daniel watched with a degree of impassiveness as the red laser moved swiftly to his shoulder. This time around, he heard the shot, heard bones shattering inside, felt as though a dizziness was coming over him, and knew it must be the loss of blood. Still, though, it didn't hurt. He felt warm liquid on his face, and thought it must be tears. But as it dribbled down his face, into his mouth, he recognized the alkali taste of his own blood. It had splashed up on him from the second bullet. He thought that by now he was numb to the pain, but the third and final shot did hurt. Again, he felt a warm liquid, this time flowing down his leg, but this he knew not to be blood. It was his urine, he had soiled himself, it hurt worse than the bullets when he found out that he had done that. It made him a coward, at least in his eyes. He found that the prospect of a nose-upturned mother somewhere was telling her snot-nosed brat that if he ever did something bad then things like that could happen to him. He might piss himself on global television. It gave him a terrible feeling that he was a coward in everyone's eyes. The last thing that ever graced Daniel's eyes on Earth was the fastest team of medical cryologists anywhere. They unclamped his arms and legs and caught him as he fell forward. His final thought was, very professional. They don't even care about the blood.