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The Seventh Battalion: Prologue
Posted By: Ajax<swordfist14@cox.net>
Date: 2 January 2004, 12:46 AM

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      Starlight whispered across the sleek hull of the craft, dancing on top of shining purple metal. It unwrapped the shroud of darkness that had surrounded the ship, revealing it naked to the universe: a lithe Covenant starship, small, sleek, and alien, yet bristling with weaponry. It had enough firepower to kill a human destroyer, yet it seemed to blend in with the space surrounding it. It was a shark that could both awe with its beauty and terrify with its power, but for all its ferociousness it appeared serene, drifting motionless in space with only a distant hint of its sinister purpose. In fact, only a thoughtful and intelligent observer would realize that it was drifting dead and blind, for every ounce of energy it had possessed had vanished some hours before...

      The elite roared with rage, its razor-sharp mandibles extended and clawing angrily into the air. Jinjin yelped and curled up in a ball on the floor, shuddering like a leaf in a hurricane. The grunt was lost in a world of darkness, for the corridor in which his squad now stood was pitch black. Every light in the ship had gone out a few seconds ago, and in sudden terror Jinjin and several other grunts had panicked and ran right into the back of the elite's legs, causing him to trip and sprawl onto the floor in a most undignified manner. The Jackals, with their powerful eyes, had seen it, and they had laughed hysterically.
      The elite, 'Kantamee, had been humiliated, and he now stood before the grunts, a tower of armor and knotted muscles crisscrossed with veins that threatened to burst with anger.
      "Idiot fools!" he snarled.
      "Please Excellency," Lolon whimpered, "we cannot see..."
      'Kantamee bellowed with disgust and kicked Lolon with all his might. His armored foot cracked right through the grunt's chest armor and sunk deep into his flesh, and poor Lolon flew backwards as if he had been hit with a grenade, smacking against the far wall with the sound of meat hitting metal. Blood and gore sprayed from his broken body, and the grunt thudded to the floor, leaving an iridescent smear on the bulkhead.
      The grunt next to Jinjin, Papat, began to hyperventilate, hysterically sucking in his methane with rapid breaths. Tears streamed from his eyes and his body shook.
      'Kantamee laughed at the sight of the dead grunt. "A sign of your pathetic inferiority." The Jackals sniggered. "Why, even the lowly shield-carriers possess the gift of vision without light." At this they stopped laughing and glowered at him behind his back. The elite felt giddy with power. He was once again in control, 'Kantamee thought. Time to teach the remaining methane-suckers a lesson, and with a smile he was reaching for his plasma rifle when his head exploded.
      Jinjin heard a wet sound and was suddenly covered with a hot liquid. Fear gripped his heart when he recognized the smell of blood. He heard several other soft chirps, accompanied by more wet splashy noises, and then the thuds of something hitting the deck. Bodies, he thought with horror, and in that moment little Jinjin realized he was facing an enemy he couldn't see, and, blind in the darkness and energized with absolute terror, he ran away as fast as he could. But then he tripped over something and felt a sharp pain on his head, and Jinjin knew no more.

      Several black figures moved swiftly away in the darkness, lightly jumping over Covenant carcasses, just as similar things happened in other parts of the ship. Skulls burst and throats were slit as more and more bodies fell to the floor. Panic began to spread throughout the ranks of the Covenant soldiers as the lights didn't come back on. COM calls to other squads weren't answered. Attempts to contact Command received static. Doors were the only things that worked, and those had been deliberately left alone. The figures were wraiths in the night, apparitions that took the shape of the fear of the Covenant soldiers. Squads dropped like flies, for the attack always took them by surprise. Bullets sped from silent guns with deadly precision, slicing through skull and spine and brain like butter. And they never missed.
      The few elites and jackals that weren't killed from behind saw shadows for only an instant, and as they raised their guns to fire slugs would smash into their throats and faces. Death was always faster than their trigger fingers. The grunts were abandoned by their squads to writhe alone in blind terror.

      Ralo 'Raslomee paced silently in the control room of Divine Eye. Consumed by frustration and anger, his hands shook with rage. He clenched them as hard as he could and took a deep breath.
      "Cameras?" he asked.
      He snarled. "I will ask you again, Officer, to make sure I understand this properly. Our security cameras show static. Our communications system is gone, even though the equipment hasn't been destroyed. So we cannot contact outside help. We cannot even get in touch with our own goddamn troops."
      Starship Operations Officer 'Lenomee paused. "That is correct, Excellency."
      "The lights are out. And you cannot get them back on."
      "Correct, Excellency."
"      Our weapons systems are offline, so if a human ship attacks us we are completely defenseless, short of ramming them."
      "Yes, Excellency."
      "We cannot enter Slipspace because our navigation computers are offline. We can't even move, even though our engines are operational, because thanks to the lack of exterior vision we could fly into a sun."
      'Lenomee gulped and swallowed. His mouth was dry. "Y-yes, Excellency."
      A distant explosion reverberated throughout the ship and the thrum of the engines stopped. Another elite sitting at his console said in a small voice, "Uh, sir... our reactor just went offline."
      The bridge was silent.
      'Lenomee watched nervously as the golden-clad commander withdrew a plasma blade hilt and began playing with it. For several moments 'Raslomee was silent, flipping the device in the air and tossing it from hand to hand. 'Lenomee's wide eyes never left the hilt.
      When the ship commander spoke again his voice was quiet and cold, edged with ice. "Now I will ask you one more thing, Officer... How would this be possible if you were doing your job?" With a deep roar, 'Raslomee dashed forward. His left hand gripped 'Lenomee by the throat. He easily lifted the elite high off the ground. The plasma sword ignited with a crackle of white-hot energy. 'Lenomee began to sob but 'Raslomee, with a snort of disgust, clenched his left hand, squeezing the elite's throat to half its former size. 'Lenomee's eyes bulged. 'Raslomee grinned, displaying a crocodile's smile of razor-sharp teeth.
      Then with a sudden violence, he plunged the energy sword deep into 'Lenomee's chest. He screamed as the plasma melted through his body armor and molten metal scorched his skin, the heat of the blade heating his blood to the boiling point. The elite's ribs were sliced in half, his left lung was pierced and collapsed, and the intense heat cauterized and reopened a thousand internal wounds every second. 'Raslomee watched, eyes dancing, with a gruesome smile on his face, as blood bubbled out of 'Lenomee's mouth and his body spasmed in a seizure. Slowly the elite stopped moving and a foul reek filled the command center.
      The Commander retracted the plasma sword and let go of 'Lenomee's throat. What was left of the Elite's smoking body crumpled on the ground. 'Raslomee eyed the remaining bridge officers. Then he bellowed, "Get this ship online or that would be a mercy compared to what I will do to you!"

      Over three-fourths of the ship's passengers had been neutralized. There were only four remaining squads who hadn't been touched. They were still alive because they had intelligent commanders, who had perceived that intruders had invaded the ship and had organized their troops when others panicked. They were also in constant communication with each other. Using fiber-optic cable the figures learned they were all clustered near dead ends, with their backs to the wall and plasma weapons up and ready to fire. A good strategy.
      But it wouldn't be enough.
      One of the figures whispered a word over their COM channel and, simultaneously, four flashbangs were lobbed around corners. Save for the grunts who couldn't see them, the Covenant soldiers did the most natural thing in the world when confronted with a flying object.
      They looked at it. And the flashbangs detonated.
      Brilliant flashes of white light and deep thundering booms swallowed the Covenant squads. The effects were amplified by the fact that for a long while the troop had known nothing but darkness and silence. Pupils that had enlarged to take in all possible light were flooded by light hundreds of times more intense than any they had ever known. When the shadows whirled around their corners the Covenant soldiers were blind and deaf. Some writhed pathetically on the floor. Their eardrums had been shattered. The figures opened fire. And it was all over for the aliens.

      'Raslomee shifted uneasily in his position at the head of the control center. Since his threat the bridge officers had gone into overdrive, desperately doing everything they could to get the systems back online before their Commander got angry again. 'Lenomee's body still smoldered at his feet, and despite the foul stench, 'Raslomee had left him there as an example. The officers had contacted several Engineers. Now they busily worked at service panels, chirping as their tentacles moved rapidly among the wires. Sparks flew as they made preparations to restart the ship's systems. The officers themselves stared at their consoles, pretending to be busy. Everything appeared to be in order.
      But he knew something was wrong. The fact he was unable to contact any of the ship's soldiers reinforced the feeling. Which was why he had hit the alarm for the control center's security. A door had opened into the bridge and a dozen Spec Ops Elites had clambered out of their barracks. They were elite veteran soldiers, towers of rock-hard muscle and armor with clever minds, having fought in a hundred battles and experts with all kinds of weaponry. Four swordsmen had taken position outside the bridge's entrance, a thick blast door 'Raslomee was confident no one could force their way through. He had sent two more to check on the armored storage room adjacent to the bridge. If the Divine Eye's precious cargo was harmed in any way the prophets would have his head. The others, armed with grenades and holy rifles and pistols, had taken position inside the bridge around its perimeter.

      The figures sprinted through the empty dark halls of the starship and advanced towards the control center. The four teams joined together, and as they ran and leaped over dead bodies they put away their stealth gear and unslung heavy weaponry from their backs.
      In less than a minute they reached the hall that bordered on the control center and stopped. They were in a side passage several meters away from the blast door. A fiber-optic cable sneaked around the corner and pointed at the door. It stayed there for a few more seconds, then quietly withdrew.

      Atin 'Jenamee stayed completely still, holding his activated plasma sword at his side. To an outsider the four black-clad elites that stood to the sides of the blast door might have looked like statues. But they were very much alive. Every muscle in 'Jenamee's body was tensed and ready to spring at anyone who approached. His blood sizzled with energy at the thought of combat. Clad in the High Armor of the Special Ops and shielded by Covenant technology, 'Jenamee was a tiger that would slash and maul anyone who came near. He had survived dozens of battles and killed a hundred humans. He willed anyone to attack him, for he was ready. His mandibles extended into what passed as a grin for the elites.
      However, 'Jenamee did not see the barrels of the two sniper rifles that extended around a corner several meters away. Nor did he hear the sound of several safeties being released.

      'Raslomee jumped with sudden surprise when he heard two cracks like lightning. Then there were roars and shouts. Deep booms of human grenades and shrieks of plasma grenades. By this time the bridge crew was staring at the blast door and listening to the sounds of the battle behind it. More cracks and a few booms of human weapons. Grunts and the cackle of plasma swords whistling through the air. Thuds and a howl of pain. A final crack. Silence.
      The bridge was silent as the Elites strained to hear any sound from the guards outside. Nothing. 'Raslomee snarled and withdrew a second plasma sword. He activated them with a crackle, and, with a blade in each hand, he glared daggers at the door and dared anyone to come through. Every Elite in the control center readied their weapons and aimed at the door.

      Unknown to the elites several vent covers in the ceiling were being lifted silently out of their frames and set aside. Fiber-optic cables protruded from the dark holes in the ceiling and slowly spun around. They retracted. A minute passed. Then a whispered word cut once more across a COM channel. Flashbangs were tossed into the control center and a second after they detonated the figures dropped to the floor. And all hell broke loose.
      The eight Spec Ops elites around the outside of the control room roared in pain as their eyes were pummeled with the sudden barrage of light. The figures dropped to the floor without a sound and melted into the shadows.
      The bridge crew, foolishly clustered at their stations, were the first to go. Two figures popped the pins on grenades and waited a second before throwing them at the Elites. Just as the two frags thunked against their shields they detonated. The four aliens were swallowed in fire and blood. One had hit the stomach of the Weapons Officer and tore him in two. His two halves flew away from each other, thudding on the ground with wet fleshy sounds. The other had blown off the head of the Navigations Officer. His headless torso slumped over his station, dripping gore from his neck stump. Shrapnel ripped into the flesh of the other two officers, shredding them apart. Their bodies burned long after they were dead, casting a hellish glow on the dark bridge.
      The black elites began to regain their vision and snarled with rage. The figures hefted Jackhammers. Rockets whooshed from their tubes and screamed towards the aliens. Three elites blew in half when the fireballs slammed into their torsos. Another barely dodged one. The explosion blew out its shields and tossed it a few feet in the air. Then everyone opened fire. The remaining Spec Ops elites screamed battle cries and sprinted towards the figures, unleashing a hail of plasma fire. The shadows, possessed of unnatural grace, dodged, ducked, and flipped out of the way of the plasma. As the elites reached them shotguns boomed and rifles barked. No bullet went unwasted and the elites' shields flickered silver-blue before popping out of existence.
      One figure hefted a long black blade and crash-tackled one of the elites, punching and slashing it. The alien moaned in agony, bones broken and tendons severed. Blood bubbled from wounds all over its body and it began to draw long, shaky breaths. Its death rattle. The figure gripped a submachine gun with its other hand and pointed it at the elite's head. The gun boomed and blood splattered onto the black figure. It turned back to the battle in time to hear the whine of a plasma grenade. A large elite held the orb in its hand, swinging back to throw it. The figure snarled, drew his knife and threw it. The blade flipped through the air and plunged deep into the alien's neck, crushing his windpipe and severing the spinal cord. The elite's eyes bulged and it dropped without a sound, paralyzed. The grenade detonated and the Elite's body vaporized.
      Fire from the other figures had killed all of the elites but one. It wavered unsteadily on its feet, dripping blood from several holes in its chest. Slowly it reached at its belt to draw a plasma grenade. A sniper rifle cracked and its head exploded in a mist of fleshy bits of brain and skull.
      The room was silent. Suddenly an inhuman roar bellowed from the shadows. A gold-clad elite leaped towards them, its face brutally twisted with rage. Its twin plasma blades pulsed ice-blue in the darkness. It brought its two swords together in a slashing motion and a figure dropped in two. Rolling to its feet it lunged at the nearest figure, shouting in its hoarse tongue. It sliced the figure's shotgun in half and rapidly stabbed it several times in the chest. Then the elite kicked it away and the figure slammed into the opposite wall. It turned with a leering grin, dripping with human blood, when two vapor trails lanced towards it and sniper bullets smashed into its head. Its shields barely held and it quickly ducked. It jumped in the thick of the figures so the snipers wouldn't have a shot. Leaning to the side it slashed at a figure. The tip of the blade drew a line across his body armor and the figure flipped backwards.
      One figure sprinted forward. It knew the elite would kill more of his men unless he did something. It shouted "Asshole!" and its shotgun boomed. The elite staggered to the side. Its shields flickered feebly. It turned, livid with rage, and roared in his face, mandibles dripping with saliva. The figure screamed back at him and pulled the trigger once more. Its shields popped. The elite snarled and crash-tackled him. They fell to the floor, his shotgun falling beyond his reach. Its swords descended...and he grabbed its wrists. Muscles strained in his arms as he tried to stop them, but the elite was far stronger than he was. The blades came ever closer to his face. Between them the elite's twisted face leered at him, dripping with the blood of his men. The intense heat of the plasma started to burn his skin. His arms trembled and felt weak.
      Fuck this, he thought, bringing up his legs, and slammed his combat boots into the elite's stomach. It lurched upward, short of breath, and the figure rolled away, springing to his feet. He drew his HE pistol and aimed. The elite dodged away. He shot and the bullet smashed into the elite's shoulder. It roared and came toward him. He held his finger on the trigger and rounds ripped into its chest and shoulders. Bones broke and blood dripped from the holes in its flesh. The gold elite ignored the wounds and screamed at him. It was immensely strong and full of blood-lust. It was like a three-hundred pound rhino, the figure realized, and jumped backwards as one of the blades sliced into his arm, cutting into his flesh.
      The figure grunted and gritted his teeth. As they smashed into each other again, trading and dodging blows and slashes, he heaved for breath. Each time the blades came closer to ending his life. His movements grew slow, sluggish. He was exhausted from fighting. The Commander was in its element, veins pulsing with rage, lusting after his blood. With every blow he grew weaker and the alien grew stronger. He was going to die in less than a minute.
      The elite saw this and grinned, pressing closer so he couldn't escape. The figure barely ducked a mighty slice that took off the tips of his hair. Jesus, he thought. It's time to end this. The figure summoned up all of his strength. The next time the elite's arm came around he grabbed its wrist. His other hand slammed into the elite's elbow, forcing it the wrong way. It snapped and the elite grunted with pain. Its right arm hung useless at its side.
      He kicked the other hand with all his might. His steel-capped combat boot slammed into its knuckles, shattering bone. The elite groaned and the plasma sword fell to the ground, extinguishing with a hiss. He looked into the elite's eyes and smiled. His hands snaked into his belt and withdrew a knife and a frag.
      Quick as lightning he popped the pin and shoved the grenade deep inside the alien's throat. His knife slammed into the bottom of the elite's jaw, the tip protruding out the top of its head, locking its mouth closed. He stared into its eyes and said, "Just die you motherfucker." Then he dropkicked the Commander. The elite flew backwards with a muffled groan and flipped over a console, landing behind it. The grenade boomed and blue blood drenched the console. The figure leaned over the edge and spit on its smoking carcass. "Bastard," he muttered.
      "Aw, man, El-tee. Did you have to do that to him?" someone said.
      The figure grinned.
      The control room was deathly silent. The figures checked every corner.
      "CLEAR!" one shouted.
      "NVGs off, Delta," a figure said. The shadows removed black goggles from their eyes.
      A figure stared at the ceiling. "Now how about those lights, eh, Romulus?"
      There was a loud hum as the ship's systems reactivated. Lights flickered on in the control center, revealing around thirty black-suited Marines, holding guns loosely at their sides. Covenant bodies and gore littered the bridge.
      The control center thrummed with power as the consoles flickered to life and the cameras turned on. Covenant bodies littered the floor on almost every screen. They saw themselves on one screen.
      But one screen was very different from the others. It showed an empty room, save for one thing. A small black sphere, hovering in midair, basked in a purple glow. Shapes and symbols glowed silver in its depths. As they stared at it, it gave off a high-pitched warbling sound. A Sergeant leaned forward. "What the hell is that?"

      The world blurred around him. Harsh light shone into his eyes and he groaned, covering them with his hands. He had the worst headache he had ever had in his life. Jinjin slowly sat up and his head spun. He groaned. Vomit was swelling up his throat. Oh no, he thought, and desperately tried to fight off the nausea. He lost the battle. Quickly he took a deep breath, unclasped his mask, and threw up on the deck. He wiped his mouth with his hand and put his mask back on, taking a long draw of methane.
      He leaned his back against the wall and slowly looked around. What? The lights are back on...He laughed with glee and looked around for his friends. Jinjin screamed when he saw the bodies. Purple and blue blood drenched the floor. He tucked himself into a ball and began shuddering. He suddenly remembered what had happened. Tears streamed down his cheeks, and he felt miserable. Why wasn't he dead? He thought the intruders had shot him in the head...
      Slowly he reached up and felt the top of his head. His stubby fingers touched a giant lump and he yelped with pain. Must have tripped over someone, he thought, and hit my head. The corridor was quiet, and suddenly Jinjin felt afraid. What if the intruders come back here? He turned his radio on. Silence. Suddenly the grunt felt very alone. What if everyone is dead? He started panicking. What do I do? he thought. Run away, a voice in his head answered. Always works. Jinjin nodded to himself.
      He tried to creep silently through the halls so as not to alert the intruders. Then he thought he heard a noise behind him. He screamed, and ran as fast as he could with arms waving in the air behind him. A minute later Jinjin threw himself inside a lifeboat, not noticing that it was different and larger than the others, and frantically closed the door behind him. He stared at the buttons on the display and realized the symbols were of Elite tongue. He had no idea how to make it work. Screw it, he thought, and started pressing buttons. The lights in the lifeboat flickered on and off. A tiny panel opened in the wall, revealing a chilled foodnipple and some snacks. Music starting playing. Jinjin moaned and slammed his fist on the display. The lifeboat pressurized, and undocked from the starship. Jinjin floated into the air. The display chimed and symbols appeared on the display.
      Jinjin closed his eyes and pressed one. The lifeboat began gathering power, and its engines started to roar. He reached for the straps and buckled himself in nervously. He screamed as the lifeboat jumped up and roared away from the starship. Jinjin bounced around in the too big seat. A couple seconds later, a tiny hole opened in space and the lifeboat slipped through.
      Little Jinjin had no way of knowing that in his panic he had chosen 'Raslomee's personal boarding craft, equipped with Slipspace capabilities. Nor did he know he had chosen the button that sent the craft directly towards a small Covenant fleet awaiting the arrival of the Divine Eye and its precious cargo. He didn't even notice the small package in the corner of the lifeboat, containing a memory chip full of copied data from the sphere in the cargo hold.