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The Tides of War Part 1 "As the Dust Cleared" Chapter 4
Posted By: Corbantis<ssrm3@lvcm.com>
Date: 13 March 2002, 3:16 am

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1200 Hours, August 30, 2552 (Military Calendar) /
Covenant Ship Redemption, Epsilon Eridani System,
Planet Reach, High Orbit

     Supreme War Master T'soll Vorskray stood in the shrine of the gods inside his command ship. The creature he held squirmed in his hand as T'soll prepared the sacrifice to Shai'Kun, the God of war. T'soll knew that the God of war would be most displeased if he did not receive the blood of the Okliufra which is a small, but fierce, reptile that is a deadly hunter on its home world where it is bred for this special ritual. "Ishkorma lo mirsa, si ekka foran mer poriksa codias!" T'soll said the sacred words, which translated to, "Grateful are we, the servants of the Gods of old". T'soll slowly picked up a ceremonial dagger made of ebony out of the ancient lead box that held it, then he held the Okliufra down with one hand on the sacrificial table.
     The table was a large, smooth slab of marble, which slanted slightly toward both edges of the tabletop. It had a circular bowl hollowed out in the middle, and connected to the bowl were twin narrow channels chiseled on opposite sides of the bowl that fed to the edges of the table, where the Okliufra's blood would slowly drift, and from there the blood would drain onto two large, special flames that burned in a bluish-green glow. These holy flames would burn the blood and transport it to the realm of the Gods.
     T'soll raised the dagger above the creature, then he brought it down through the Okliufra's heart. The blade punctured the creature's heart with a sickly squishing noise. The blood welled up slowly out of the hole in the Okliufra's limp body. The green blood of the creature began to pool up in the ceremonial bowl as T'soll removed the dagger from the body of the creature. He cleaned the blade with a cloth, and then he carefully put the dagger back in the metal box. T'soll then stepped back from the platform, and he kneeled down and watched as the blood drifted slowly through the furrows to the edges of the table, where it then began to cascade upon the flames and burn the flames even brighter, as the blood cased the flames to make crackling noises.
     Once the ritual came to an end, the remaining blood dribbling slowly on the flames, T'soll bowed to the Gods respectively, then he turned around and headed for the exit of the shrine. He could hear the priests as they moved in to clean up after the sacred ritual.
     T'soll entered a brightly lit purplish-pink hallway. The door to the shrine promptly shut with a clunk behind him. He turned to his left and made his way down the hallway, which was filled with the various engineers', and technicians' who were floating about working on repairs on his ship.     
     Once the War Master reached a gravity lift, he entered inside. When the doors closed to the lift, T'soll keyed the holo panel for the bridge. The lift activated and it slightly bounced down before it started its ascent toward the bridge. T'soll stretched his stiff back, then he loosened his shoulders. It had been a long day, and he hadn't sat down for quite some time. The lift finally began to slow to its destination, and as it came to a stop, it went slightly higher than it was supposed to before it came back down and aligned with the deck.
     T'soll exited the rectangular lift and moved toward the main part of the bridge. The bridge of his ship is oval shaped with and observation deck toward the front of the bridge were T'soll could watch the carnage as it happened. In the middle of the bridge is a raised platform shaped like half a circle that has a ramp connected to the back of it, this is were the navigation, weapons, and communication stations are located. Two long rectangular "pits" run parallel to both sides of the command platform, this is where ship systems such as engineering, ship deployment and troop deployment as well as other minor systems are monitored. Opposite the gravity lift is the War Master's Ready Room.
     T'soll walked across the deck to his ready room and entered inside. Once the doors closed, the War Master approached his Blackwood desk and sat down on his Darfr leather hide armchair. Ah, so Comfortable! He thought to himself as he reached for the bottom right drawer of the desk. He slowly opened it and retrieved a large tear shaped bottle of Skar'at Tel blood wine, then T'soll promptly popped the cork off the top of the bottle, causing the cork to fall to the floor. The War Master didn't bother to pick up the cork as he sniffed the bittersweet smell of the blood wine. He held it up high, then said "to my victory!" As he brought the open end of the bottle to his mouth and quickly quaffed down a swig of the stuff.
     After slamming the bottle down on the table and wiping the dribbles of blood wine from his four mouth parts, the War Master retrieved the fallen cork, wiped it clean, then put it back in the bottle. Once the bottle was safely back in the desk drawer, he activated his holo-computer, which suspended a flat, rectangular screen, a few centimeters above the emitter on his desk. Just as T'soll was about to access the BATTLE NET to see where he would need to have his armada positioned to destroy even more Humans, his Video Communications Link announced he had a priority red transmission. He activated the Vid-Comm. link.
     "Who Bothers me!!" Growled T'soll into the Vid-Comm. Unfortunately it was not one of his lower Commanders who was contacting him. It was the Prophet of the War Council. "It is I who bothers you... War Master T'soll Vorskray." Said the Prophet, with a slight hint of irritation in his voice. T'soll bowed his head to the Prophet for his impudent tone, then he said, "A thousand apologies most holy one, I did not expect to be contacted by someone of such importance to the Gods." Apparently T'soll saved himself, because to Prophet slightly smiled from the compliment. "Enough of this, War Master. I must get to the reason I called you." The War Master straitened his posture, then asked "what could I do for you, Great one?" "I have some... unsettling information for you," the prophet cocked his eyebrow at T'soll and said, "It concerns your brother, Bre'sadi Vorskray."

1230 Hours, August 30, 2552 (Military Calendar) /
Epsilon Eridani System, Reach UNSC Military Complex,
Planet Reach, Restricted Area (Level B457) - Section Three research facility

     "So, how does the new armor feel? Is it any different from your old suit?" Dr. Halsey's asked Robert. Her voice crackled through his helmet's commlink. "It moves the same as the old suit," He paused, and examined his arm, "I believe the only major modifications to the MJOLNIR system is the enhanced armor and shields."
     After he had donned the new armor enhanced by the ONI scientists, Dr. Halsey had insisted that before he test the suit's capabilities that she run various diagnostics on it to make sure that it wouldn't blow up. Once she was satisfied, Robert had quickly used the fallen debris in the hanger bay as a makeshift obstacle course to test the motor functions of the armor.
     Unfortunately for Spartan 068, there were no changes to these aspects of the suit. Besides the fact that the armor weighed slightly less than his old suit, allowing Robert to jump a small amount higher than he used to, nothing else had been modified from the original MJOLNIR design.
     Once Robert had reentered the laboratory were Dr. Halsey was, she turned her head toward him. "That's good, at least you don't have to adjust to the armor." She said, then she walked over to a computer terminal and started checking a list of what the ONI scientists' had ordered as far as supplies for their research. Just then a rumbling shook the walls of the underground facility.
     The lights flickered on and off, then they came back on. "What was that!" Dr. Halsey said from the sudden shock. "The Covenant probably bombarded the surface enough to create a pretty large crater; we most likely have little time left before they penetrate this hanger." Robert said as he looked around, and spotting a duffel bag, grabbed it and threw it toward Dr. Halsey. She took the bag.
     "What do I do with this?" She asked Robert. "Put anything you think we might need with us when we leave in it." He said as he turned towards the still locked storage lockers next to him. It had a deadbolt lock on it. Robert easily ripped the lock off, then he opened the locker. Inside was a single metal gauntlet. Robert picked it up, examined it, then put it on his right hand. He turned his head back towards were Dr. Halsey was. "Dr. Halsey, did you read anything about ONI making gauntlets for some reason?" He asked, then he waited for a reply. "No, why?" She asked. Robert looked back at his hand and was about to tell Dr. Halsey about the gauntlet, but when he looked back at his hand and arm, the gauntlet was gone. What the... he thought as he examined his forest-green armored hand. "Robert? What are you talking about?" She asked him again. "Nothing ma'am, it's nothing." Robert replied to her.
      He grabbed his MA5B assault rifle from the table he had placed it on and slung it over his shoulder. He pocketed the clips for the weapon as he left the lab. Dr. Halsey was waiting outside. "I took what I needed, oh, and here, take this Robert." She said as she handed him a small, clear cube. It was an AI memory chip. "You remember Deja, I modified her programming so she could help you in combat situations and she also has the latest infiltration software." Robert nodded to Dr. Halsey as he inserted the AI chip into his neural interface. A cool liquid presence flowed into his mind. "Hello Spartan 068, I will help you become more efficient in your tasks." Deja's smooth female voice said to Robert through his helmet's speakers. He had never had an AI in his mind before, and the feeling was quite odd. "Hi, Deja" Robert said into his helmet. He turned toward Dr. Halsey again. "Ma'am, if you are finished we should continue to the Long Sword." "I agree with you fully," Dr. Halsey said as she and Spartan 068 ran towards the interceptor.
     Another explosion, closer this time, shook the hanger hard, and Dr. Halsey and Robert had to brace themselves against the landing strut of the Long Sword. "Deja! Access the Long Sword computer systems and open the landing ramp, now!" Robert yelled as the hanger started to crumble. "Accessing.......... Lowering ramp. I suggest you board now, Chief." Deja said. That was odd, Robert thought. He didn't think she would call him by his rank of Chief Petty Officer. Robert didn't think another moment about it as he and Dr. Halsey boarded the ship and the landing ramp closed with a clunk.
     "Chief, I have initiated preflight systems and warmed up the engines. The ship is ready to launch." Deja's cool voice said to Robert as he strapped himself into the pilot's seat of the craft. Dr. Halsey sat herself in the co-pilot's seat next to Robert. "Here we go, Dr. Halsey." Robert said as he grabbed the controls to the craft. The engines roared to life. The loud rumbling of the ship's engines thundered louder as he adjusted the VTOL settings to get the Long Sword hovering, then he pushed up on the throttle and maneuvered the ship forward, then left around a thick concrete column, toward the main Hanger door that was... closed. He set the craft to VTOL again. "Deja, can you open the main hanger door?" Robert asked, then waited.
     "Negative. The system has shut down due to the attack. I recommend using the weapons on the Long Sword to blast the doors open." "Right." Replied Robert as he thumbed the firing switch's cover on the joystick. Robert pointed the target reticule for the archer missiles at the center of the door. He pressed the firing button with his thumb, sending the high explosive missile at the thick hanger door. They blew apart with a thunderous explosive rumble. Only the edges of the door remained, the rest was scrap metal. He throttled the ship forward, its engines rumbled louder as the ship picked up speed.
     They entered a large winding tunnel that lasted for what seemed like forever. When they reached the end of the tunnel, there were more doors. These doors opened automatically. Finally, Robert thought as he piloted the interceptor through the waterfall covering the "Hidden" entrance to the secret hanger. "Amazing!" Dr. Halsey said as she read the ships radar map, "We are almost on the other side of the planet." Robert looked at her. "Great, but how are we supposed to get off the planet, the covenant ships will surely see us." Dr. Halsey accessed a control panel on the ship's computer and entered a few commands. The Long Sword computer's monotone metallic voice announced, "CLOAK GENERATOR ACTIVE. SENSOR MASKING ACTIVE." Robert checked the computer, then looked at Dr. Halsey again. "That will definitely make escaping much easier." Robert said to Dr. Halsey. She nodded and said, "Now get us out of here, Chief." "Yes ma'am." Robert said.
     He brought the ship into an out system vector, and as he plotted a "random" course into the ship's computer, he could only wonder if he was the last of his kind as the Long Sword interceptor tore a hole into real space and they entered the starless slipstream.