Project Hunter: Chapter 1
Posted By: Dagorath<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 24 February 2005, 11:56 AM
The Great Prophet of Mercy sat back on his ornate golden chair, lay back, propping his spindly legs up on the wide table in front of him. Nearly three hundred years old, Mercy's face was a mass of wrinkles, his dark brown skin losing its vitality. But any assumption of mental degradation is dispersed when one looks into his eyes: full of fire and vigour.
He glanced through the neat pile of kanti paper on his desk. Paper was used since, with the help of embedded microchips, it could easily self-destruct if touched by the wrong hands.
One of the serial numbers caught his eye. MX08. He looked closer at the plain sheet of kanti paper. In the background, unobtrusive yet significant, was a small symbol. It meant very little to most of the Covenant, but to Mercy, it meant the world and everything outside it. He read it with interest.
"Most Honourable Great Prophet of Mercy
Research for the Project has finally finished. After I have discussed one important matter with you we may commence breeding and experimentation. Please allow me the pleasure of your company as soon as possible.
Mercy smiled. The Project is finally under way. He wrote a few lines on another sheet of kanti paper and slipped it into a receptacle on the side of his ornate suspensor chair. It slid in with a hum, a soft vibration, and in a flash it was gone.
The Minor Prophet F'hal watched the activity in a huge chamber inside the Covenant capital city High Charity from a high chair set on a dais. Everything was going to plan, but soon all the scientists and labourers here would be insignificant. Soon all weapons would be insignificant against the Project.
Down on the floor of the stadium, all manner of scientists and other specialists bustled about. Everywhere was the smell of metal being worked, computers humming, and the high-strung emotions of all the workers.
In a large platform near the centre of the chamber, pairs of metal girders suspended on the chamber's power grid/computer mainframe/support infrastructure held sheets of complex alloys. Brutes, the Covenant's labourers (long deemed ineffective for combat due to low intelligence) wielded plasma rifles, followed by diminutive physicists. The Brutes fired on the alloys, producing a range of results. Some glowed red hot, some shattered under the impact, some deflected the bolts, and some even exploded right in the Brutes' faces. They did not flinch, but the scientists all scurried away and made furious scribbles on their senso-pads.
In a deep chamber sunken into the floor, still more scientists were testing new and novelty weapons (one of which was a curious heavy plasma pistol attached to the backside and activated by a tensing of the bowel muscles). However no new breakthroughs seemed to be made. Plasma-based weapons overheated at relatively the same amount as real Covenant plasma weapons; ammunition-based weapons also needed to be reloaded too often. However F'hal could see that the scientists did not despair, a tribute to the Covenant's perseverance.
F'hal had not always been at this rank, of course. Several decades ago, F'hal had been down on his luck. The Prophet race, primarily because of their low military standing and weak physical strength, gained very low status in Covenant society. Except for the Great Prophets, of course, who led the Covenant in all matters. And the Minor Prophets, their assistants.
Mercy had approached F'hal, long ago. "I need a loyal, intelligent helper who I can trust and will, if I am successful, become greater than all the Great Prophets combined", he had said. Who could have refused an offer like that?
While Truth and Regret seemed to have forgotten their Prophet brethren, in F'hal's eyes, Mercy had not. Many times, Mercy had laboured to elevate the status of the Prophets (including a controversial scheme in which a method was used that could use Prophets' brain power to generate energy). He was unsuccessful every time, but fortunately for F'hal the Prophet race was relatively small.
He caught Mercy's eye as a bright and capable Prophet. He had been approached, and he had accepted. "Someday I will call you to help me in a great endeavour", he had said.
Within a few years, diminutive F'hal had been elevated to the rank of Minor Prophet: the rank of Technical Genius and Research Master. With it came status. The entire Covenant, even the proud Elites, respected him. It was all he could ever have hoped for.
Mercy had demanded his payment only two years ago. "Truth and Regret and the Hierarchs of the Councils have threatened my position. I wish to retain my post. I charge you to create for me super-warriors that will protect me. If you succeed, I promise you Great Prophet status and the reality of the Great Journey."
F'hal could not have believed his good luck. What a simple payment!
Things were coming to a head. New weapons were being developed for the super-soldiers; armour was also being researched. With the Prophet's blessing, all would commence.
A small beep; a smooth sheet of kanti slid into the receptacle. Mercy has replied. He read it through twice, and then implemented the self-destruct.
Feeling daring, he sent an encrypted message directly to the computer in Mercy's headdress.
"I will arrive in a few minutes' time. To discuss a final matter for Project...."
F'hal and Mercy had always called it "the Project". For the first time, F'hal would reveal the project name to his mentor.
"To discuss a final matter for Project.... Hunter."
They met in the office of the Prophet of Mercy. Mercy was already at his desk, writing; he seemed to have paid great attention to the ancient art of Balance: the placement of objects so as to maximise the flow of energy and ensure the user's greatest comfort and prosperity. Something that is forbidden by the Holy Book....
Mercy waved F'hal to the opposite side of the desk. He activated his suspensors and floated over.
"Most Noble Prophet of Mercy, please allow me to commence discussion immediately."
Mercy concurred with a slight nod of his wizened head.
As I stated, most initial research is complete and I am ready for the clearing of Research Chamber 1 for the commencement of Project Hunter. However, the question remains: which Covenant race do we use as stock DNA to develop the super-soldier?"
"Why need you ask? The Elites, of course. Strong, intelligent, resourceful. Ideal."
"That is precisely what I think is not our aim, Great One. The Elites are good candidates, true, but they have too much standing in the Council. If members of their species started disappearing, they are going to create a stir. If that happens after the legal clearance of Research Chamber 1, suspicion might point to you, Most Honourable One."
"Very wise. What race do you then recommend, F'hal?"
"The Brutes, Noble One. They are also strong and opportunistic; the intelligence can be increased with genetic engineering. Plus, they have very low standing and little influence."
"Have you checked with the Holy Book? If it infringes on the Laws of Union then I will be most displeased."
"Of course, Great One. If my understanding dissatisfied you, then I will be extremely pleased if you will check on the Laws yourself in your leisure."
Mercy grew suddenly dismissive. "Very well. Is that all?"
"With your blessing, Noble One, I can commence."
Mercy quickly touched the four points of F'hal's skull and breathed over him.
"Thank you, Great Prophet of Mercy," said F'hal.
He exited; Mercy stayed at his desk, swinging his spindly legs.