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Chapter Four - Prelude to Paradise
Posted By: Gordi<gorditio@budweiser.com>
Date: 9 January 2001, 11:53 pm

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My last chapter didn't quite follow the HALO story (as can be easily shown by reading it) as I expected. Please excuse for minor errors as I try to redirect this 'mutha' to collaborate with the rest of the known HALO universe.
İİİİFurthermore, the last chapter was less action oriented than the previous two, and I feel this may have contributed to it's (perceived) lack of appeal - heads up, this chapter isn't necessary for the progression of the story, read and respond at your leisure. Be forewarned, it's more...psychological than most.
İİİİİİİİİİİİİİİİPrelude to Chapter 4 - Paradiso Perduto

Here at last
We shall be free;
the Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure, and in my choice
To reign is worth ambition through in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.

- John Milton

İİİİThe drugs have made him weary, too tired and far removed from reality to realize the catastrophe that is unfolding all around. A smokey haze fills the living quarters and explosions resound through the thick duraluminum walls of Pillar of Autumn. He feels sensations as if they were not connected to his body, rather as if he were hearing an old friend tell a long remembered story. Large, rough hands grab him beneath his arms, and a set of smaller, gentler hands hold his feet. A voice filters down into his barely conscious mind, muffled as if heard through water over a long distance.
İİİİ"C'mon, Alex. We're getting you outta here," he can't recognize who it is, nor does he make any connection to the name Alex, all he can do is hang completely dead while he is awkwardly maneuvered into a waiting wheelchair. Everything is a blur, but the feeling of rapid motion still comes, and as his head rocks from side to side with every twist and turn, he slowly begins to piece together what has happened.
İİİİ"Shuttlecraft bay's are too far..."
İİİİ"We've got to get him out, hold..." the wheelchair stops.
İİİİ"Ok, Cortana says...level 12...let's go."
İİİİ"SHIT SHIT SHIT...HOLD HIM, WE'RE ROLLING!" as the wheelchair is lifted on it's side, and he tumbles out, stopping with a crunch as his face contacts the bulkhead.
İİİİThe detached tunnel vision he has been seeing is gone in an instant, replaced again by the all familiar blackness that more often than not, now heralds the coming of what Alex can only consciously describe as a living dream.
İİİİImages dance past, flashing by at increasing speed until he cannot begin to decipher what they might be. Next come the lights, expanding into thin lines stretching endlessly, arcing behind some unseen horizon. As he watches, they bend and ripple against each other, dissolving amongst the rainbow spectrum like the pattern of waves crisscrossing one another far upon a windswept ocean. The effect is beautiful, and terrifying at the same time, for while he watches, unable to withdraw gaze, the colors draw ever closer, like an unstoppable beast that threatens to drown him amongst its elysian form.
İİİİHe has passed now, through the lights and broken once again into another existence. It is not what he expects.
İİİİPerhaps I should stop expecting then...
İİİİThe world he left was alive, and lush with the hum of some otherworldly organism. A great forest that itself seemed to live and think, even to converse openly in the end with Alex. This world bears no resemblance to the old.
İİİİLooking around he views this new place through a filter of grey; the grass no longer lush and green, rather it has the texture and appearance of volcanic ash, crumbling to his touch and leaving footprints behind wherever he may walk. Raising his head towards the sky, he can see the sun is hidden beneath a bleak shroud of mist, and cloud, it's eerie half light seeping forlornly onto this dusty world. The wind tugs quietly at his jumpsuit, a cold chill that seeps the warmth from his body, echoing rememoration of great pain and loss...and hatred. Quiet whispers ride solemnly on the back of the wind, and he feels suddenly that there are eyes upon his own back. Turning around there is nothing, save a lone obsidian tower rising out of the ground; a dagger pointed towards the silent Heavens. It stands perhaps 500 yards away, no windows, except for two at the very pinnacle, which is slightly larger than the rest of the tower and tapering off to a rounded point at the tip, like something out of a storybook castle.
İİİİJesus Christ, not more...please no more of this. He decides that when, or if he returns to reality then he will immediately inform Dr. Barnes, regardless of the consequences.
İİİİAgain whispers float towards him, louder, but still ominous, their words faintly discernible against the blowing of the wind.
İİİİWelcome back, Lieutenant Treux. The voice drips with nothing less than pure contempt, and something else..far sinister than its' seemingly normal greeting would imply.
İİİİ"I haven't been here, how can you welcome me back?" Silence answers, and after waiting several moments for a reply, he begins to trot briskly towards the black tower some 400 yards distant. With nothing better to occupy his mind while he walks, Alex ponders what put him here in the first place, and the last memory he can recall is sitting in the turret blister of Pillar of Autumn, directing fire for the gunner. Definitely not a precursor to this...this place in which he now finds himself.
İİİİArriving upon the towers doorstep, he wonders if truly it is worth it to discover what resides within the menacing spire. It's walls resemble that of polished steel, save for their black colouring. The trees, the clouds and even Alex himself can be seen within the black walls, reflecting back a distorted mockery of the world around them. Something strange, however: while the clouds on the tower whip across the sky at frightening speeds, a quick glance upwards reveal no motion whatsoever, and no wind can be felt, excepting the quiet whispers that gently ruffle through his hair. Drawing breath, he proceeds through the darkened maw that was once a door.
İİİİImmediately he senses more whispers, echoing down from the chamber at the towers height..no less insidious sounding than they are cryptic.
İİİİWith direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom...remember us not as lost - violent souls...
İİİİShivering with cold and fear, he begins to ascend a long staircase winding it's way to the pinnacle. Light enters through the door, but an ethereal glow pulses throughout the tower..not from the walls, which unlike those on the exterior seem to absorb everything that contacts them, but from the air itself. Climbing slowly, the voices seem to rise with his altitude, carried on an ever growing wind that rises to a howl just beyond the trap door leading to the upper chamber. Pausing briefly to rest, Alex throws all of his weight against the heavy wooden door, hinges groaning in protest for an instant until the spring back with a snap, the door thudding loudly against the hard stone floor. Climbing through the door, Alex is nearly bowled over by shrieking winds that fill the chamber. Voice come at him with a demonic howl, rising and falling to the wail of the wind.
İİİİThe wind whips his face, tugging at the blue SolCore jumpsuit and threatening to bowl him over onto the floor, or worse yet, down to the base of the tower. Sweeping his gaze from side to side reveals the same flat, black feature as the rest of the tower. Directly ahead, resting against the wall, however, lies a black box, it's sides decorated with dark purple writing that Alex cannot decipher.
İİİİBETWEEN CONCEPTION AND CREATION, EMOTION AND RESPONSE FALLS THE SHADOW. The wind howls, and the voices rage as he observes. Crouching even lower, allowing the walls of the tower to partially block the winds rage, Alex moves towards the box, the gale intensifying with each step.
İİİİReaching the box, he draws open the lid. Inside lies what resembles a large butterfly chrysalis, oblong in shape but sticky with a dark brown mucus. It pulses in the wind, and shakes with it's fury. Peering closer, Alex notices the membrane is porous, and a crystalline liquid covers the entire surface. Drawn inexorably forward, Alex reaches his hand out to touch the pulsing mass.İİİİ
İİİİTHE EYES ARE NOT HERE, THERE ARE NO EYES IN THIS VALLEY OF DYING STARS. IN THIS HOLLOW VALLEY, THIS BROKEN JAW OF OUR LOST KINGDOMS. The chrysalis bursts open, and inside is a creature resembling a flea, the size of a large cat with bulging grey eyes and a gaping hole in the top of its head, presumably a mouth. Drawing back, partially of shock, partially of fright, Alex can sense the pure hatred and malice this creature feels for not just him, but all of humanity..perhaps all life in general.
İİİİThe creature watches calmly as the wind rises to new extremes, voices surging, pushing Alex backwards against the stone wall, rolling him quickly towards the gaping window that leads out into nothingness.
İİİİAnd with that, a furious gust of wind retches Alex from the floor and flings him out into the sky, the only noise is the wind screaming in his ears as the ground once more rushes up to greet his face, the creature issuing waves of screaming mirth from the reaches of the tower until the moment Alex strikes the hard earth, everything growing black in an instant.