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The Strive to Survive (Chapter 10: A Secret Revealed)
Posted By: CoLd BlooDed<kwb_419_@hotmail.com>
Date: 29 May 2004, 9:29 PM

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The Strive to Survive (Chapter 10: A Secret Revealed)
0614 Hours, January 14, 2553 (Military Calendar)/ On Ancient Forerunner Ringworld: Halo 07, inside Forerunner structure.

      There was yet another muffled blast from behind them, the light cut into the murkiness of the dim hallway. Heavy, metallic footfalls from the others echoed off the walls in fast tempo, not quickening or softening. They rounded a corner, and another, and another. The Marines were ignoring anything that attempted to attack them; Flood forms jumped over them, the parasites skittered behind, and the Carriers waddled aimlessly. Whenever they got too close, however, then a combat form would be taken down with carefully aimed bursts of fire.
      Where they were heading Jake did not know, but with his hand grasped tightly around Sara's, he did not care. He knew he loved her, somehow.
      The technician looked at the scientist; she looked at him with half-closed eyes. Thin tears trickled down her bloody cheek; she looked away as they jumped over a large pile of charred rubble. The adjacent wall had large chunks of metal missing, and revealed a narrow passage that led vertically. Green blood dribble out of it in masses, the smell gagged Jake and he refocused on what he was doing.
      There was a large intersection ahead where the lights shone bright; everything around it was enveloped in various shades of darkness. The survivors ran forward, hoping to run straight through. An explosion, on the other hand, ripped through the silence and ceased the Marines from getting any farther. They stopped, looked around desperately, and turned left—Flood forms materialized out of the darkness and growled fiercely. Weapons were raised, loaded, and fired.
      Bullets tore through the soldiers, both mutated and human, and impacted the walls behind them.
      "Retreat," the Lieutenant yelled, "Retreat!"
      So they retreated hastily as more shots zipped by them in yellow streaks. Soldiers fell, Carrier forms exploded, infection forms popped, Jake fired blindly into the massive group of Flood while keeping a firm clutch on the scientists hands.
      "We didn't bring enough ammo to kill all these freaks!" screamed a Marine as an infection form drove its penetrator into the soldiers' flesh, a white flash ensued.
      They all turned around, not bothering to return fire, and ran.
      We're heading back to the Control Room, I'm sure of it. Say something. a sudden voice broke into his thoughts, it was his own. Unless you'd rather face that crazed AI again, with his sharpened teeth, distraught laughter, and random sayings—but wait, I'm pretty damn sure you'd like to do that, wouldn't you?
      What's the point?
is no point, just keep your hand on Sara's, run fast, and you'll get out of here alive. I mean—who couldn't with a strategy like that?
      Shut up.

      And the voice stopped. But so did the Marines.
      "What's going on?" asked the technician to no-one in particular.
      "We're back..." Oliver answered distractedly, "right where we started."
      That was impossible, it had to be impossible. This didn't look like anything they had seen before when they reentered the structure.
      A soft, spongy substance clung to the floor, but it spread over the walls and part of the ceiling, glowing a rotten olive green. The matter seemed to come from a gap in the wall, but Jake looked over it carefully. The gap was perfectly square, and the material actually seemed to be growing from it, swelling from it as if it were its source of power.
      But the sad truth was that the malleable green shit was actually getting larger, and if the Marines had taken the time they would've noticed it too.
      Guttural growls resonated from behind them; the el-tee spun around quickly and ordered his men into the control room. "Ignore the AI." he sternly ordered before entering. The soldiers groaned as the spongy material leaked the green blood usually found in Flood under each footstep.
      "Hurry!" Vladimir hissed, but the order didn't influence his troops to move any faster than they already were.
      They moved into the Control Room carefully, slowly, waiting for the enemy to spring on them. Nothing greeted them except the AI, which grinned ferociously and laughed.
      "Back so soon?" inquired Calian thoughtfully; a childish tone roughly traced his voice. "I figured. Guess you just don't learn, hm?"
      "Oh, we do, Calian. It is you who hasn't learned." replied Sergeant Peters in yielding nature, and he held up a device that wasn't recognized among anyone else in the room... excluding the AI.
      "Get away from me with that!" snapped Calian in sudden anguish, "I shall destroy you at once!"
      "Don't even think about it," roguishly said Mike, he spun the lengthy tool around in his right hand, "you're going to listen to what I say and you're not going to complain, are you?"
      The AI's face twitched, if it was possible for an AI to even do that, and the holographic body flashed a soothing orange. The Control Room basked in Calian's glow, and the lips of the artificial intelligence curled into a sly smirk.
      "Fine." he subtly remarked with the evil sneer on his face, "What is it you want?"
      "We—" the Lieutenant began, but was cut off by Calian.
      "Let me guess, eternal life? More power? Sudden prevalence of immortality? Or is it something so simple I could never guess...?"
      The Lieutenant opened his mouth to speak again, but the AI beat him to it.
      "No, don't bother; I already know what you're thinking."
      Bullshit. It's not like a freakin' computer can read minds.
      But with all that's going on, anything can happen.
      Calian turned to him suddenly, Jake's heart jumped into his throat quite suddenly, causing him to sputter. The AI grinned even more.
      "You're right, Jake, anything can happen."
      The technician screamed.

0647 Hours, January 14, 2553 (Military Calendar)/ On Ancient Forerunner Ringworld: Halo 07, inside Forerunner structure in makeshift Control Room.

      Calian enjoyed doing that almost as much as when he had been awakened from his slumber, the slumber that the humans kept on him, but once 747 Authentic Denial woke him, he became much more focused.
      "What is it, Jake?" asked one of the infidels, one of the men he had once served for; but not now, oh no, not now.
      The AI tuned them out and researched the files on "Jake". He scoffed once the folder titled "Jacob Bennitz" appeared, such terms to shorten forenames wasn't proper, or holy. Calian disapproved of that.
      His eyes flowed from one section to the next, his "brain" absorbing each tidbit of info he had missed before. Typical data... born on Earth, went to school, family troubles... but then he stumbled on something interesting. It turned out Jacob Bennitz had saved an entire ship back when Reach had fallen, an entire ship by himself. A spectacular event, for sure, but Calian didn't have time to respect that; no time at all.
      How did he know that? There's no explanation that comes to mind, none at all.
      Get over it, Jake. He can read minds, so what?
      The AI looked up; the volume emitted from Them had been turned down purposefully, but he saw Them arguing among each other. Good.
      Good, because he was successful in scaring the ONI technician, Bennitz, Jake... and that he had created a diversion, but a diversion for what? The plan had escaped his electronic mind, which was odd; AI's were capable of remembering information like that. Something to do with the Process, perhaps? No, he didn't have time to remember. He would have to act now, fast, swiftly, something.
      He turned up the sound, but nothing reached his ears, the ONI dogs were staring at him, but he quickly replayed anything that had been directed to him.
      Yes, they had told him they wanted access to a computer, and with the electromagnetic disabler being waved around by First Sergeant Michael Peters, Calian permitted it.
      But they wouldn't get far in their search, whatever they were searching for, as Calian had created a new plan. Not as well thought of, but one that was capable of taking down the trust within the entire troupe of human soldiers.
      We need to use the code, damnit, beating the fuck out of Colonel Briggs had better been worth it.
      Intriguing. Lieutenant Packs seemed as bloodthirsty as one of the Flood forms, his thoughts certainly showed it. It was interesting how the clever AI had learned how to "read minds", which wasn't really reading minds at all, but reading the neural lace transmissions stuck in the human mind. Everyone in ONI
      (not everyone oh no not everyone)
      had one installed. It wasn't strange. The thoughts would be transmitted from the human to Calian in clear detail and volume, giving the notion that the AI could read minds.
      (the crazy AI oh yes oh yes the little crazy harmful AI)
      And just as one of the restricted ONI consoles winked on in a sudden blue flash, Calian focused on his own train of thought, getting ready to launch his plan into action.
      Technician Jacob Bennitz
      (we'll show him)
      would be punished along with the others, no doubt. But the AI's plan didn't consist of him doing anything, it consisted of a faith between Sara and Jacob. It would damage it entirely, and maybe even have some unexpected changes
      that'd shock him, an AI can't predict everything.
      He could feel the thing that had somehow burrowed into his system, his subroutines, his data stream... and it was unnerving. The thing inside him scared him, and talked when it wanted to in faint whispers, quick, faint whispers.
      (stop pondering stop-stop-stop get to work-work-work)
      Calian obeyed in fear. The thing made him hum robotically, which the AI had no more control over. With every few seconds that passed, a little stream of his subroutines were taken by the thing, slowly but surely. He had agreed, though, he had agreed for this to happen.
      (the Agreement stands)

0651 Hours, January 14, 2553 (Military Calendar)/ On Ancient Forerunner Ringworld: Halo 07, inside Forerunner structure in makeshift Control Room.

      The console's light amiably greeted the Marines, and right away Oliver was typing in commands to access the non-public folders. He scrolled and clicked, scrolled and clicked...
      Ah, there they were.
      The Lieutenant knew what he was doing, obviously, but the sudden smile on his face disappeared, and he frowned. Jake managed to look at the screen over the black silhouettes of helmets. The monitor read

      Licensed Officer Name
      Identification Password and Number

      It all seemed the same to him, passwords; logins, identification passwords and numbers... what was the damn difference?
      "Try the code now," Sergeant Vladimir put in, "it may work."
      So the el-tee pulled out the crumpled piece of paper and read off of it quietly as he typed in the necessary information. Oliver finished quickly, folded the sheet back into his pocket, and examined the screen as a whole document materialized. He gasped.
      "What?" asked Private Cunliffe, Packs nodded towards the screen.
      "Read it yourself kid," the Lieutenant replied angrily, his expression was of shock, and he turned to Sara, but did not say anything.
      She shuffled around as Jake read, and he didn't even notice her distressed sniffling.

      The Office of Naval Intelligence Priority Transmission 14783R-03
      Encryption Code: Red
      Public Key: NA
      From: Vice Admiral Devin Wilson, Headquarters of ONI Research and Excavation.
      To: Colonel Christopher Briggs, associate of Project Beta (officer Identification Number: 27281-353-HRS2175)
      Subject: Objectives required subsequent to settling of Halo Installation 07, factors of probable outcomes additionally supplied.
      Classification: RESTRICTED (ONI Directive)

      /start file/
      Along with the rest of your associates, you've been issued this data containing all the relative information belonging to this mission. Nobody else besides you and the others can read this, so be sure to destroy the data-pad (or at least rid of its contents) before setting off. Attachments, along with some extras that I decided to put in, have been sent along with this file. I hope it will make things clear for why you have been sent to the ringworld.
      We're all lucky that the Spartan came through for us with that data crystal. He opened the tunnel for ONI development and research, we're lucky, yes. So get reading, Colonel, and be sure to dispose of this once you are finished.
      Good luck,

      Jake wondered what the man was talking about, and realized that Brigg's had disobeyed orders and had not deleted the remnants of the datapad. Why, though?
      He returned to the report and read it along with the others, once again unaware that Sara was crying and the AI was humming.

      Objectives list prior to landing
      WARNING: This document is classified to all unauthorized personnel; any reading of this of those who aren't permitted (and discovered) shall be punished in an appropriate matter, based on the reader's interpretation and reputation.
      1. Expand over ringworld: this will be accomplished with the ten Prowlers issued by ONI, as they enter the atmosphere of Installation 07 they will separate and colonize separate sectors of the ring, conveying hundreds of mercenaries, technicians, scientists, and officers to live on this creation from the Forerunners.
      2. Research movement of Flood (underground):scientists will place the motion and thermal trackers after foregrounds have been physically altered for ONI personnel. They will be ordered to record all Flood actions/habits/survival skills.
      3. Release Flood: any of the associates of this project will be exposed to severe risk, injury, or chances of dying once they find where the Flood can enter the facility. With use of explosives (or anything necessary to demolish the obstacle) they will liberate the Flood, retreat, and set a timed barrier which will self-destruct within a certain time-limit.
      4. Study movement of Flood (above ground): record the Flood as they sweep over the ring. But be sure not to fall into peril, or this mission may go into deep danger.
      5. Destroy ringworld or annihilate Flood: the ring will be a very dangerous place once they are released, and that is why you will be ordered to leave the ring once everything is ready to go. You will set charges in every occupied structure, retreat to the Prowlers, contact the necessary ONI officials.

Press ENTER to view additional file attachment.

      The Lieutenant did so, and another screen popped up in front of the others, it was a list of names that worked for the HORE.

      HORE Associates:
      Captain Ryan Corons
      Major Steven Junards
      Colonel Christopher Briggs
      Colonel Trevor Smith
      Lieutenant Tom Arbys
      Scientist James Logons
      Scientist Maxell Teck
      Technician Janice Richards
      Scientist Sara Medds

      The listing went on, but there it was, winking at him, blinking at him. Jakes heart shattered, his mouth curved into an angry snarl, and he turned to the sobbing scientist along with everyone else.
      "What is going on?" he said through gritted teeth, Sara looked at him pleadingly, but it was the AI who answered.
      "Oh, she left out that little detail, did she?" Calian chuckled happily. "Well, it is true; Sara has been working for them all along. Yes, she certainly has been two-faced. Sara Medds, a peaceful scientist, easy-going, loving, but tough at times . . . sure, that's what you wanted us to believe. And Teck was involved in this too, who were you guys trying to fool?"
      The female scientist didn't answer, Jake's eyes bore into hers, fierce, fiery, unforgiving. The AI continued.
      "I sure hope she will be more honest with you; like for what she has done . . . or what she has in store." Calian was staring at Sara, who had her back turned to him. Her face was covered in shadow, but Jake could still hear the small sniffles each time the AI paused. "I'm extremely pleased that you found this out on your own, Lieutenant Oliver Packs, and that I wasn't forced to show you." The holograph smiled sinisterly. "If you don't wish to tell them, Sara, I would be glad to show the events caught on video."
      She tried to say "No!" but the holograph already sent a clear, floating screen which showed inside of the facility, somewhere unknown. Jake watched intently, not wanting to find what Sara had done, but still stared at the display with a growing feeling that something bad was going to happen.
      Something horrible.