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The Exchange - Part 1 - Empensa'
Posted By: Dispraiser<dispraiser@netzero.com>
Date: 30 November 2003, 2:49 AM

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The Exchange

01:17 Hours Sunday April 3, 2540
"Maitri Maximum Security Prison", Lunar 4

Part One - Empensa'

      "Goodnight Maitri." A dark voice echoed, unheard, from a silent knoll near a heavily guarded compound.

       The cart growled as I dragged its small mass across the marble hallway. I found it odd that in a maximum security prison with a literally bottomless budget my cart still didn't work right, one of the wheels dragging limp. The water inside splashed to the smooth floor, glowing an odd hue of blue, a result of the pale moon above shining down on the planet. I continued past a few windows down the silent hallway, the sparkling floor indicative of a job well done. It was almost the end of my shift, and almost time to return to a cold home where I would sleep until my daytime job. Coins crashed together in my pocket, a reminder of what I fought for.

       A mop swung happily over my shoulder as I held my palm to a grey panel. A green line traced a path down my palm and beeped in recognition. A cold metal door swung open to reveal another corridor, this one larger. Along the sides of the walls were dozens of cells. Everything in this prison was very odd. Many of the inhabitants of the cells looked alike, and all were very tall. It also seemed that they were very young to be prisoners in a maximum security prison. I was just a janitor though, and it wasn't my job or intention to question the workings of Lunar 4's legal system. As I paced down the hallway two pairs of eyes watched my movements from every cell. The prisoners were oddly quiet tonight, and seemed very tense. I continued emotionlessly along the path, dragging a bucket of muddy water and an ocean of confusion in my mind. Ever since I had started working as a janitor in the prison my mind had been filled with questions. The facility was managed by the UNSC, and was very heavily fortified. I had assumed that it was a military prison, however, all Mathean POWs had been returned fifteen years prior, and the prisoners of this facility appeared to be Arrel, not Mathean. The confusion faded from my mind as I wandered into another calm blue hallway.

       Suddenly the hallway turned a hellish red and a siren shrieked an ominous cry, and I leapt in terror. The mom collapsed to the ground and I began to try to calm myself, though a sudden noise in a quiet night was surprising.

       "Designated Spartan Trainees, report to your assigned defensive posts. This is not a drill. Designated Military Personnel, report to designated barracks." The alarm's automated voice continued to echo. I grew very confused, and soon determined that my mop and bucket could be forgotten. I shuffled backwards into the prison cell area and was alarmed to find that every cell had opened, and the prisoners were grabbing rifles. I considered trying to stop them, but instead decided that I would simply head out of the main prison facility and move to my car as quickly as I could. Most of the prisoners seemed to be congregating into well organized groups of six. They were very well organized. Secretly, I hoped that this was not a prison revolt, though any attempt to rationalize what was happening had failed. What good could possibly come from the prisoners getting rifles?

       I ran to the main entrance to a facility. One of the prisoners pressed their hand against the handprint verification panel, and to my surprise it allowed them through. Instead of questioning what was happening, though, I entered the main lobby and walked to the security desk. A squad of Marines slid a barricade into the center of the lobby, paying no attention to the prisoners. I decided to put my confusion to rest, "Excuse me?" I said to one of the Marines, "Do you know what's going on?"

       "It's an attack. We didn't think ONI would make they're move this soon, but the new breed came out a little early. Who are you? You're not dressed in military uniform. All civilians should have left by now!"

       "Calm down, my shift ended at one, it's one eighteen, I was running a little behind, so I decided to stay and finish my quota."

       "Great, just what we need... Listen, things are going to get very scary, very soon, I need you to get to the barracks where you'll be safe, the last thing this operation needs is someone getting in the way."

       "Why would ONI be attacking a UNSC base?"
"I'm not at liberty to discuss that matter with you."

       The skylights above suddenly exploded inward. A hail of rain followed a horrific monster from the roof. I couldn't tell what the monster was, but I could tell you that it wasn't human, and it sure as hell wasn't Covenant. As I staggered backwards in terror I began to notice the form of the beast. It stood like a beast, not like a man. The creature was around six feet tall, and had thick scales as skin. It appeared to have several rows of razor sharp teeth, and its skin was networked with thick veins that lead to a network of small bumps. Its tail was coated in spikes. I stumbled over something and fell to the ground as the monster's tail swung overhead. The lethal spikes barely missed my head, and hurtled into a nearby Marine wasn't so fortunate as I. They stuck in his head, and half alive he struggled to pull the beast's tail from his head, though it only snapped his body into the air before shaking him from its tail. Instantly the monster was showered with bullets. Crimson blood and gore arched into the air as several hundred bullets struck the beast's chest. It staggered as the gunfire stopped, and I stared in awe as the prisoner's stared at the monster for a few moments. It wavered in the air, looked at its wounds and roared defiantly. The prisoners looked on with terror for another moment before it fell, dead. Before it had even hit the ground there was a large pool of flesh and blood accumulating. I grabbed the dead Marine's rifle and tried holding it. I figured it couldn't get any deadlier for me if I were to carry it. Another one of the monsters crashed through another skylight and howled in anger. That was all it took to convince me to run.

       Only a few seconds later I was outside, and heard the deep rumble of antiaircraft fire. Black explosions dotted the deep blue sky, and prodigious danger followed my every step. A pack of prisoners caught up to my pace, and began to ask me who I was when another one of the monsters leapt from a nearby bush. This one wasn't the same though. The others had looked like dinosaurs, but this one looked a lot like a cheetah. It was golden yellow with black spots, and quickly leapt into one of the prisoner's faces. It snapped for his throat, but he was fast enough to throw his rifle in the way. Despite his best efforts the best dragged him to the ground and began to scratch him with brutal claws. One of the other prisoners kicked the beast in the side, and to my surprise it skipped along the ground for at least a dozen feet, twisting to a stop and rolling to its feet. The feline demon prepared to attack again and tensed to spring through the air. As it began to leap it was intercepted by dozens of bullets. It managed to jump, but fell short of the wounded prisoner on the ground. It died a few moments later. The beast seemed weaker than the first. One of the prisoners knelt by the wounded one, watching with no shock as his wounds sealed themselves and his skin pulled tight to close the wounds. The two barked a series of high pitch squeals before continuing towards the main building of the facility, where I was heading. I stood in awe for a moment and watched as the prisoners, now with supernatural healing abilities, fought monsters that seemed to take the form of a variety of animals. The prisoners got a dozen feet ahead of me as suddenly I felt a strong wind behind my back. Suddenly an annoying buzz filled my ears and a grey fluid arched over my head. The odd foam dropped at one of the convict's feet and instantly he fell to the ground. The wounded inmate struggled against the foam, but it seemed to have hardened into cement. Just as I began to wonder where the mysterious substance had spawned a gigantic insect suddenly flew over my head. The bug was probably ten feet long, and traveled at what must have been at least a hundred miles an hour. It snatched the wounded gunman and another of the inmates. The two struggled to break free as the monster snapped into a steep vertical climb and released the two. They hurtled into the air. As the original bug spun away from the ground and gunfire the two prisoners were snatched by other bugs and dragged into the distant night sky. They faded into the clouds of expended flack shells and the dark void of the night sky.

       The six remaining prisoners continued on heedlessly as if nothing had happened, though they seemed to be paying more attention to the night sky. Quickly, I ran to catch up with the team of prisoners. They weren't running fast, and none seemed to be running anywhere outside of their comfortable pace, but I still couldn't keep up with their formation. Luckily they backed into the entrance to the main facility less than a minute later, and cautiously, lined the walls alongside the door. The leader of the pack smashed the door to the ground. I was particularly amazed because the door was solid steel, and designed to repel breaching charges though he smashed it to the ground in a single kick. A trio of flashlights nervously surveyed the building's entrance as the men prepared to enter the building. The leader charged into the building sweeping the ceilings franticly before signaling for his squad to enter the room. They continued into the room with an equally professional attitude, scanning the area for any immediate threats. I followed them into the room, feeling unusually clumsy after witnessing the sheer perfect grace of their entrance to the facility. Something wasn't normal about these prisoners.

       After they were content that the room was secure the squad leader chirped to his companions, who quickly pulled into a tight defensive formation around me. He opened his mouth and squeaked a series of high pitch noises, expecting a response from me. After he was satisfied that I couldn't reply he spoke in English. "Who are you?"

       "Cody Willard. What's going on?" I mumbled shakily, terrified as an understandable consequence of my prior experiences.

       "The base is under attack."

       "I understood that much! What the hell were those things!?!"

       "They are the AEs."

       "What the hell is an AE?"

       "I will not, or rather cannot tell you all of the details, but what we do know is that they emerged for the first time around ten years ago. The first looked much like a human, but with teeth and claws, a son of ONI. We lost contact with all of our intelligence operatives within a few days. From there we can only piece together what we know. The ones you see outside are the latest of a branch of supersoldiers designed to kill SPARTANS. I am not an officer, so therefore I was only told that when I see one, I will know, and that it is my job to kill it."

       "What? I don't get any of this! ONI is on our side! And what are you talking about an officer, you are a prisoner!"

       The prisoner chuckled, "Not an MP I see. Let me explain something to you. I am not a prisoner. My friends are not prisoners. None of the people you saw in that facility are prisoners. None of the 'prisoners' are human. We are SPARTANS."


       "Still not catching on. We are not prisoners, but act as them to give this facility a legitimate face. Instead, we are the latest line of supersoldiers created to fight the Covenant."

       "What? You're not human?"

       "Got it. Now, we need you to stay calm, and make your way to the bunkers."

       "To hell with that, I'm getting out of here!"

       "Wait!" one of the Spartans yelled as I ran. I paid no attention as gunfire began to crack behind me, the Spartans attempting to destroy another attacking 'AE'. I continued around the corner and ran to the elevator, pressing the up button at least a dozen times. I looked to my left to the hallway that I had come from and saw an AE step around the corner. This was another new breed, apparently, and carried the form of a dog. It was soaked in blood, probably a mixture of other's and its own. It growled as it saw me at the other end of the hallway. I forced a shaky smile back and continued pressing the elevator button. It suddenly began to charge down the hallway. The elevator door slid open accompanying the signature ping of the lift, and I leapt in as soon as possible. I hit the door close button as quickly as I could, but the AE still managed to get its snout in the door. I grabbed my rifle and quickly leveled the sight on the beast's head, clicking the trigger. The rifle clicked uselessly. I fumbled through memories of video games in an attempt to determine the problem, reaching for the safety. I flipped it to single shot, and fired into the beast's face several times. Blood splashed into the elevator, and the monster fell backwards. The door clicked shut and I pressed the four button several times. The fourth floor was the lowest parking garage level. The elevator shook suddenly, a loud thump on the roof. I looked up, confused, as the elevator shook. Suddenly a tail smashed through the ceiling and randomly stabbed in one of the Elevator's corners. I fired into the ceiling, realizing that this was an attack from one of the dinosaur AEs. A horrible shriek spilled from the elevator's roof, and crimson blood dripped from the ceiling. I released the trigger, hoping the beast was dead. For a moment, it appeared as though I had defeated it, but suddenly its tail plunged into the elevator several times, one of the stabs cutting my arm. The wound burned instantly, some kind of sizzling venom dripping from the small wound.

       I tried to fire more, but I was out of ammo. Suddenly the door slid open to the fourth floor, and I rolled out to the feet of four Spartans. One was wounded. Another of the unharmed Spartans was a gorgeous female. The four rushed into the elevator and fired into the ceiling, shredding the elevator's rooftop. "I'm out!" the female said, throwing her rifle aside and drawing a pistol, firing into the ceiling incessantly. Once they were fairly certain the AE was dead they backed away and pressed the sixth floor button on the elevator. The four stepped out to meet me, and ask what was going on.

       "Excuse me, sir, what are you doing here?"

       "I'm Cody Willard, janitor. I was working when these damn monsters started attacking! I'm getting out of here!"

       "Maria," one of the SPARTAN's said, "He's base personnel, should we help him evacuate?"


       "Alright. Phil, Dave, you're point. Maria and I will follow behind you. Take the civilian to where he needs to get to."

       "I want to get to my car. It's a few hundred feet from here, a White SUV."

       "Roger." The Spartans repeated, one by one as they spotted the truck. I couldn't see it from this range.

       The lead SPARTAN that covered our flank with Maria chirped, and the two point Spartans began to shuffle slowly down the hallway. The wounded Spartan had a large, horrible bite mark in its side. The wound hadn't healed itself, and blood covered most of his lower torso. Though he limped, the SPARTAN showed no other signs of pain. A roar echoed through the parking garage and the Spartans stopped moving suddenly. After a few moments had passed they continued to move forward. Around fifty feet from my car an AE leapt from the cars parked alongside the garage. It tacked one of the Spartans, the couple rolling until the AE sprung back into the rows of cars. The wounded SPARTAN, now further destroyed stood. "Maria, Max, get him out of here! We'll hold it off as long as we can!"

       "Alright, we'll drive by here once we get the car. Keep safe."

       "Yes Sir!" The SPARTAN replied. As much as it was heroic of him to hold the AE back for me, I was too terrified to care. I ran almost as fast as the Spartans to the end of the parking garage to my car. I ran to the driver's side and fumbled with my keys. I unlocked the door and told the Spartans to get in. The two jumped the back seats and rolled their windows down to fire from. I accelerated out of the parking spot, screeching to the Spartans that remained. They had disappeared into the ranks of cars. The AE suddenly leapt across the road, and met the hood of my car, twisting and rolling to a stop. It was covered in bloody bullet wounds, but didn't seem to be recovering from gunshots as well as his allies. The body lie, a crumpled ruin, on the ground before the car. A lone Spartan limped from the cars. One of his arms was missing, and he was covered in many long, deep cuts. His skin did it's best to heal him, but it apparently had its limits, as did the AEs, thankfully. He stumbled into the headlights, when another AE suddenly leapt from the row of cars, tackling him with its powerful hind legs. The beast tore through flesh, tendon and bone with ease, and the Spartans shouted to leave him behind. I accelerated suddenly from the parking lot, dropping two floors relatively peacefully. Suddenly the ground trembled. The Spartans ordered me to shut off the car and stay calm and quiet. I was about to ask why when I noticed a large bipedal monster staring into the parking garage. It appeared to be around forty feet tall, and carried the form of a hairless gorilla. It had very skinny arms, which lead to huge hands with large bone spikes. It appeared very angry, but not alerted.

       "Quiet..." the female Spartan, Maria, whispered, "It has very sensitive hearing, and if it hears us we will be destroyed."

       The monster began to turn and walk away as another car deeper in the parking garage activated. The beast suddenly spun and faced the garage.

       "MOVE!" one of the Spartans yelled. I spun the key and the engine whirred, though there was no result. I tried again, and the monster ran closer yet to the car. It began to pivot its hips to throw one of its arms ass the car started. I accelerated away as fast as I could, the hand, larger than a car itself, struck the wall behind me. Shrapnel pelted the car as I drove away and dropped to the first floor. The car accelerated towards the main gate, and I was a pair of huge feet step in front of the small barrier. They straddled the roadway near the entrance. I accelerated swiftly towards them unheeding. AEs of all varieties leapt from cars in the parking lot, though most completely missed the car. One dragged a long, curved claw along my car. The Spartans braced themselves as I got within a dozen yards of the massive AE. Its face dropped down, looking into the bottom floor of the parking garage as I smashed through the thin wood gate. My car leapt through the air, the top hitting the AEs forehead. We landed in a shower of sparks and shattered glass, hurtling between its legs. A fist chased us between his legs, though in doing so, it collapsed in a mountainous heap of flesh. I whooped in success as we crashed through a chain-link fence and into the narrow forest roadway that lead away from the prison, or whatever the hell it was.

      "Good morning, future." A dark voice echoed, unheard, from a silent knoll near a destroyed compound. A sadistic chuckle escaped the hill, as an AE roared atop the facility, victorious.