A New Year's Day, Chapter 8
Posted By: Guilty Spark<email@example.com>
Date: 11 January 2003, 3:58 pm
[February 4, 2558. 1500 hours. Luna II. Unknown location.]
One at a time, Priest's eyes fluttered open. The soft murmur of distant voices. A gnawing pain coursed through his body and mind. He was lying on his back, staring forward in a large, opaque room. He was no longer wearing his helmet. Priest could not tell where ceiling met wall. Where am I? The voices grew louder. Subduing the aching in his neck, he turned his head to the right. Jester. Priest could see his team member lying nearby, motionless. Diamondback and Napalm lay beyond. All motionless. Where's Windows? Swede? Priest lifted his head upward. A hiss. A wet mist began filtering down from above. Almost instantly it formed into a film covering the Spartan from head to toe, adhering him to the table. It clung to him. He could not move, could not breath. Priest began to panic. Seconds became an eternity. He screamed. Suddenly, the film separated over his head. Air. Priest thought he heard his scream vibrate through the room. Echo? Again, he looked to the others. Alive! Jester, Diamondback and Napalm were awake, a flesh-like film covering their bodies except for their faces.
"Jester," called Priest.
"Etau luk t'frau," replied a voice to Priest's left.
Priest turned to look. Windows lay to his left. Three figures stood near Window's feet. Their gaze traveled from Windows to Priest to the other Spartans. They looked human... like the figures they encountered in the tunnel... no armor... robes...
"Dunau ip peshk," called one of the humanoids.
One of the humanoids produced a container. Using some sort of forceps, it reached into the container and extracted what appeared to be some sort of organism. It was about the size of a fist, beige-green in color. Short tentacles protruded from one end. The organism made a faint, repetitious grinding noise.
The humanoids circled Jester, peering over him with the organism still in hand. Jester's eyes were wild with fear. Sweat beaded on his forehead.
"T'frau ip tuuk. Tuuk," said one of the humanoids.
The humanoid holding the organism stooped over Jester. It lowered the creature over Jester's face. Jester grimaced. Screamed. Then, clinched his teeth shut when they attempted to place the organism in his mouth. Using one of its tentacles, the organism secreted fluid on Jester's lips. Instantly, the Spartan screamed in agony. Mouth agape, the organism was plunged into his mouth and released. Jester writhed violently, but the film held him down. He tried to scream, but only a suffocating gurgle erupted. In seconds, Jester lay motionless.
"What the hell? You son-of-a-bitch!" yelled Napalm.
"T'frau ip etau," said one of the humanoids, ignoring Napalm.
The humanoids encircled Priest, ready to repeat the act. An organism was produced. It squirmed in the forceps. Priest squinted his eyes, gritting his teeth. No way, he thought. No way that thing is getting in my mouth. I'm not going down like that. The organism was lowered close to Priest's face. It extended a tentacle to his lips.
A muffled crack. The organism exploded. Fluid and matter splattered across Priest's face. Another crack, followed by two more. Dull thuds sounded around Priest. He looked. Nothing. A voice. "All of you... stay still. Be quiet."
"My God. Master Chief. Is that you?!" cried Windows.
"Shh!" hissed the voice.
Several seconds passed. No movement. No sound. Suddenly, Priest felt the film cut away from his body. Windows, Diamondback and Napalm followed. The Spartans got to their feet. The humanoids lay on the floor, each with a bullet wound to the head. The Master Chief materialized before them. Priest stared in disbelief.
"We're glad to see you," whispered Diamondback.
"I'll second that," affirmed Windows.
Priest turned to Jester. The Spartan lay still. He noticed the tentacles of the organism emerging from Jester's mouth. Priest rushed over, grabbing the organism. It screeched. Priest crushed it in his hand, silencing it forever. Jester remained still.
"We've got to get him back to the Concordia," said Priest.
"Not a chance. He's infected," replied the Master Chief.
"He's one of us."
"Not any longer."
"We're not leaving without him."
"In a few seconds, you'll change your mind."
Jester burst to life. "M'lok! M'lok! Etau meelo dunau!" The film covering Jester's body began to rip against his thrashing.
Moving quickly, the Master Chief stepped over and planted the muzzle of his pistol on Jester's forehand. "Rest in peace, soldier." The pistol fired. Jester slumped back to the table. Blood flowed from beneath his head, covering the once white table.
"Murderer!" shouted Diamondback.
"Savior," replied the Master Chief. "Don't make another sound."
"Who the hell...," began Napalm.
The Master Chief spun and met Napalm face to face. "Not a sound."
"Chief. What's going on?" whispered Priest.
"I'm not sure."
"What are they doing? I mean, what were they doing to us?"
"Not sure about that either. It looked like they were turning you into something. Maybe one of them."
"The Forerunner. Lets go."
The Master Chief moved towards a doorway, pointing to his left. The Spartans saw their weapons and equipment, stacked nearby. They put on their helmets and grabbed their gear. Checking their equipment, they moved to the doorway.
"Do you have active camou?" asked the Master Chief.
"Yes, but it's ineffective. They can see us."
The Master Chief nodded. "We'll have to run silent. You won't be able to see me. Follow me using your motion trackers. Our exit is not far away. A dropship will be waiting to pick us up in twenty minutes. Lets move."
The Spartans activated their camou and left the room. After creeping down several corridors, they broke into an enormous room. They were on a catwalk high above the ground. The ceiling was natural cavern. Space ships sat parked below. Voices. The Spartans halted. Hundreds of humanoids stood below, in formation. Troops. A commander walked about calling out orders. The troops went through various drills. They melee with one another. Some used a shock stick in mock combat. Priest, Windows, Diamondback and Napalm nodded in recognition.
They reached the end of the catwalk. It entered a doorway in the rock wall.
"Go through the doorway and follow the passage to your right. It will bring you out to a familiar tunnel," said the Master Chief. "I'll bring up the rear."
The Spartans followed the passage into the tunnel where they had encountered the Forerunner soldiers before. Diamondback hesitated. A Forerunner stood to their right - only meters away - its back turned to them. Priest motioned her to keep moving. The Master Chief stopped, then crept in close to the Forerunner. He slowly unsheathed his battle knife. It was a slightly curved twelve-inch blade; razor sharp on one side, serrated on the other. The cold steel cast a faint glimmer. The Spartan grabbed the Forerunner from behind. In a split second, the Master Chief locked his left arm around the chin of his victim. Pulled upward and sliced into the Forerunner's neck with the blade. An abrupt gag. Blood poured from the wound. The Forerunner slumped to the ground. The Master Chief materialized.
"Jacob!" cried Diamondback.
The Master Chief grabbed the Forerunner by the hair and tilted its head back. The face shield was up. It was Jacob. The Master Chief released the body and it slumped to the ground. A small metal rod clinked on the rock floor. Jacob's armor was adorned with the same hieroglyphics as the other Forerunners.
"He was no longer one of us," said the Master Chief. "Sleep, Jacob. Sleep."
Shouts from the hangar.
"Go! They heard us."
The Spartans broke into full gallop. They reached the end of the tunnel and rounded the first bend. Windows swore he could hear the faint sound of engines up ahead. A few more meters and they passed the second bend. Light ahead!
They emerged from the rock crevasse, nearly blinded by the light and snowy landscape. Mother Goose hovered about twenty meters away. Several marines beckoning to them from the holding bay.
"Go! Go! Go!" shouted the Master Chief.
The Spartans sprinted and boarded the dropship. Seconds later, they were passing through the gray clouds of Luna II on their way back to the Concordia.