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A New Year's Day, Chapter 9
Posted By: Guilty Spark<guiltyspark@charter.net>
Date: 17 January 2003, 6:16 am

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[February 4, 2558. 1600 hours. Aboard the USNC Concordia orbiting Luna II.]

Halsey, McFarlan, Pasdar and the Master Chief stood in a conference room. A monitor finished displaying video footage of the underground Forerunner facility.
"Good work, Master Chief," said Halsey.
"Good?! I'd say he did a helluva job," added McFarlan.
The Spartan nodded a thank you.
"What happened to Swede?" asked Pasdar.
"He died in a fire fight prior to the capture of Priest's team, but managed to take out two of the Forerunners before he fell," replied the Master Chief.
There was a brief moment of silence, tension in the air.
"Master Chief, why did you kill Jester and Jacob?" asked Pasdar.
"They had been turned."
"Transformed. As the video showed, the Forerunner were using a new variety of Flood spore to infect others... to change them into something else."
"Change them into what? Both Jester and Jacob appeared to be normal."
"I'll answer that, Master Chief," broke in McFarlan. Two monitors began looping video footage. One monitor showed Jester being infected, the other monitor showed the death of Jacob in the tunnel. "You're right, Adrian. They do appear to be normal. But, listen to Jester. What language is he speaking prior to his death? It's certainly not a dialect familiar to mankind. And, look at Jacob's battle suit. It has been altered. The breastplate is inscribed with hieroglyphics - definitely not standard USNC issue. Furthermore, Priest's team recalled the Forerunners wearing battle suits similar to their own, and the Forerunner's faces were undeniably human."
"I'm not sure I follow you," said Halsey.
"The Forerunners are transposing themselves onto hosts, and they are using the Flood to do it." Another moment of deafening silence as everyone in the room tried to grasp what they had just heard. McFarlan continued, "For reasons unknown to us, the Forerunners have taken a special liking to our Spartans. My guess is they consider Spartans durable hosts. But, we are not sure why the Forerunners would want to transpose themselves in the first place."
"How do you know this?" asked Halsey, obviously irritated.
"Joe, I already told you we have been studying the Forerunners since the destruction of the halo device two years ago. Cortana brought back valuable information from the halo's archives. Information that we could not decipher, until recently."
"You mean the Forerunner corpse."
McFarlan flashed a glare at Halsey, then cut his eyes around the room. "Yes," he said reluctantly. "The corpse carried data that acted as a primer for the information provided by Cortana. We learned more about the Forerunners in one month than we had in the previous year."
"How did you get the corpse?" asked Pasdar.
McFarlan looked around the room. The faces staring back at him told him all he needed to know. Contempt. "We recovered it on Luna II about six months ago. He was already dead."
"How did he die?"
"A virus. What we would consider the common cold."

A wet sauna. The air, heavy and warm - vapor forming a protective blanket. Priest and his team sat in relaxation, trying to recover from their ordeal on Luna II.
"I don't trust him," said Diamondback, seething. "How could he kill Jester and Jacob? He didn't even give them a chance."
"Jester and Jacob were gone before he killed them," replied Priest.
"Gone? Who says?"
"You heard Jester. He looked like he was ready to rip our heads off. It wasn't Jester. It was someone else."
"And Jacob?"
"We've gone through this already. They were no longer Spartans, no longer human. Drop it."
"Still, I don't trust him. He's no John 117."
"Well, you better. He's our leader, and he got us off that God-forsaken ice ball. I'll follow the Master Chief into the bowels of Hell."
Napalm and Diamondback looked on, only Windows nodded in approval.

[February 4, 2558. 2200 hours. Aboard the USNC Concordia orbiting Luna II.]

McFarlan sat alone in his quarters, seated at a small desk. A short, narrow lamp gave off a soft cool glow, not enough to cut through the shadows that hung about the room. A near-empty glass of cognac sat beneath the lamp. He was reviewing data on thin monitor built into the desk. It read:

> 02.05.2558:0700 Camp Eagle
> Montgomery, Hal J.; Colonel; Monte's Brigade
> Status: Ogdoad confirmed, Khnum unknown
> Brief: Forerunner using Flood for transport to new host confirmed;
> location of lost Spartans confirmed - minimum 100 head count;
> amassing substantial force confirmed; Forerunner are ready to move
>Order: begin Outbreak

McFarlan reached for the glass of cognac and sat back in his chair. Through a large window, he gazed out at Luna II. He looked down at his glass and finished the cognac, letting it slowly burn its way down his throat. McFarlan set the glass down, closed the monitor to the desktop and stood. He started back out at Luna II. Soon, it will be over, my son, he thought.