Parcel o' Rogues - Part Six - Unlikely Allies
Posted By: Jillybean<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 2 January 2005, 2:38 AM
Parcel o' Rogues
Donnell kept her focus on the readout, remembering her old flight instructor's warning that your eyes are never faster than the computer, no matter how romantic you felt.
The Arbiter was in the carrier bay, weapons at the ready, soon to be facing what seemed to be a certain death.
Kate didn't truly understand his reasons for helping her. Family . . . remembering his daughter . . . yes, these must mean something, but the Arbiter was on par with the Spartans. Simple emotions wouldn't cloud his judgement.
He asked her what she'd been imprisoned for.
And she'd told him.
"Acting outside of your society," the Arbiter looked away, his eyes resting on Fera' Talsamee in her cell.
"ONI are not constrained by law and red tape. My duty, my mission is to see that the Truth does not activate the Halos. I do not think that mission will be fulfilled if we wait around for Lord Hood's permission. I have asked Talsamee. She told me the location of the Ark. We have to move now!"
Still with his gaze on Talsamee, the Arbiter crossed to the workstation. "Duty." He looked to Kate now, and in his eyes she saw a great pain. "Duty, Talsamee, what would we know of that?"
"Leave me be," the female Elite groaned. "That unholy creature tortured me."
"Indeed she did." The Arbiter let Kate's cell open.
"What are you thinking of?" Talsamee screeched. "We were once betrothed, yet you side with this . . . this murderer!"
"Our duty is not to any one individual," the Arbiter stood in front of the Councillor's cell. "Any one individual may be wrong."
"And that is why we have a council," Talsamee pleaded, kneeling before him. "Listen to me, Brother!"
"Our council was ruled by Truth and Truth is wrong . . ."
"And now I believe that Donnell must complete her mission." The Arbiter crouched to meet Talsamee's eyes. "I believe we must stop Truth."
Kate blinked, thumbing the radio.
"The LZ is hot, Arbiter. Are you ready for this?"
"I am indeed."
The dropship lowered to the top of the Mayan temple, its guns laying down covering fire as the sole warrior leapt out.
"Sir," Sergeant Yuko glanced meaningfully at the Master Chief and their Sangheili allies.
"Sergeant, anything you wish to say, can be said here." John knew the marines and the Elites would not gel together cohesively, but this downright hatred of each other was cumbersome. In the small clearing, a bare few clicks from the temple, he and Jalahass had tried to rally their troops.
"We could do this ourselves, sir!" Yuko was furious at the idea. From being called into the heart of the Elite camp by a Spartan, to taking orders from a Sangheili Priestess, nothing had sat well with him.
Jalahass sighed, the noise was impressive coming from her deep set ribcage. "We have been over this, Sergeant Yuko. We could not hope to take the temple, even with our forces combined. We shall offer a distraction while the Master Chief launches an assassination attempt."
"I will not take orders from a filthy son of a bitch like you, Priestess!" Yuko yelled, flinging his hat to the dust and aiming the SMG at her. The twenty odd Elites in the unit leapt to their feet, stopping only as Jalahass raised an elegant four fingered hand.
The Marines watched, unsure, as the Elite stepped closer to their Sergeant. The Master Chief clearly indicated for them to stand down, but the Sergeant showed no signs of doing so.
"Do you know how many of your years I have lived?" Jalahass asked curiously.
"Like I fucking care."
"Ninety two." Jalahass spread her arms, allowing the soldier a clear shot. "Do you know how many children I have?"
"Your spawn will die," Yuko growled, his fingers flexing over the trigger.
"My 'spawn' have," she spoke coldly. "My eldest child, my first son, was killed in the first Sangheili encounter with human kind. I have lost two more sons, though I admit one was lost to the Jackals, who turned on him for food when they were pinned down."
Yuko's aim did not falter, but his eyes slid to the surrounding Elites. This news did not appear to shock them.
"Would you like to know about my daughters?" Jalahass spoke, still quietly. I have three daughters. My eldest lost her life when she failed to pass the First Rites of a Priestess. My second daughter has been married off to some noble and my first grandchild, I do believe, is a boy. I have never seen him. My mate's 'heresy' cost me my freedom and my youngest daughter was killed by my family. To spare them the shame of having a Heretic's child."
"Five less for me to worry about." Yuko laughed, short and crisp. "Do you want to know how I have suffered?"
"No, I do not." Jalahass shook her head. "In my position as Priestess I have sent hundreds, tens of hundreds of Covenant to their deaths because I have read the stars wrongly. Once, in idle conversation, I mentioned that a certain sector of space was blessed for its riches and a Commander took it upon himself to claim it for the Covenant. In my capacity as Priestess I have been your greatest ally and I am tired of it. Kill me if you will."
Finger on the trigger, Yuko didn't hesitate to fire.
The weak shields sprung up, deflecting the stream of bullets.
John batted the gun from Yuko's hands, undoubtedly breaking them. He lifted the Marine by his collar, lowering to speak in his face. Had Yuko seen the expression under the helmet, he would have died from fear.
"Do. Not. Kill. Allies."
"Leave him," Saia' Jalahass ordered. "We have all suffered, and the fault was as much my own. But we must move quickly."
"Agreed," spoke up Yuko's second in command. "Fire Team Alpha, at your service."
"James . . ." a younger Private began, before quickly rethinking his protests. "I mean . . . yes sir!"
Hood stood before the most senior ONI personnel in space.
Behind him, Miranda Keyes was fuming, she appeared ready to take on the entire Covenant armada by herself. The loss of not just one, but two shipboard AIs had galvanized her, turned her into steel.
Had it been Hood, he thought the magnitude of the loss would have crushed him. Miranda came out looking like diamond.
There was an Elite and a Grunt standing behind Hood too, as well as two marines and a medic. An unlikely crew, but the only 'strike team' the Cairo had left on her.
"I apologise greatly for the incompetence of your people," Humphrey Jordan's voice dripped poison onto the deck. It rankled in Hood that there was nothing he could do to force this man to talk.
"Where is she going?" he demanded, trying to avoid balling his fists and punching Jordan in the face.
"Unfortunately, that I do not know." Jordan smiled, spreading his hands in a gesture of honesty. "If I did, I would tell you. She is a rogue agent now."
"ONI never has rogue agents," Miranda grated, stepping forward.
"Commander . . ." Hood warned.
"You gave her a mission and she's acting on it. Where is she going! This concerns all of us!"
"Miranda!" Hood snapped.
The young lady slid backwards, ashamed of herself, and Jordan chuckled away.
The chuckling grated on Hood and he lunged forwards, grabbing Humphrey's throat and pushing him down onto a console.
"If she's rogue, then so am I!"
"Let . . . go!" rasped Jordan.
"No," Hood slammed Jordan's head against the console for good measure. "We don't have a hierarchy anymore, Humphrey. It's back to the ways of the animals. I will kill you if you do not tell me what I need to know."
"I could tell you," 343 Guilty Spark piped up.
Everyone looked up at the floating blue orb, watching him as he hummed and hovered.
Jordan snorted in disbelief.
"Tell us," Hood demanded.
A tiny charge of electricity pulsed from the orb, connecting with the Cairo's data banks. "My, my, you do keep your information unsecured, don't you?"
"Tell us, Spark," Miranda demanded, craning her neck to see him. "What does Kate want with the AI?"
"Likely she is completing her original mission." 343 Guilty Spark snapped the connection closed. "That is interesting, very interesting. Of course . . . I am not surprised, but I find it odd that the genetic traits have manifested themselves so."
"What?" Sarge turned to the others. "What is he going on about?"
"Kate was not a Forerunner as I initially assumed." 343 Guilty Spark descended to their level. "She is, in fact, a clone. Very cunning."
"Shut him up," Jordan growled.
"Keep going," Hood smirked.
"Very well." Pleased, the little orb continued. "The organisation you call ONI found the genetic deposits that were preserved in the Ark. They used them to clone Forerunners."
"Kate was a clone?"
"Oh no!" 343 Guilty Spark pulsed. "Goodness, no! Kate is a refined version of the DNA which I assume leads to her confusion."
"What is he talking about?" Hood turned to Jordan.
"We didn't know, not at first," Jordan grunted. "They have telepathic abilities. The clones."
"She's listening to the beacon," 343 Guilty Spark added. "After completing ONI's mission to stop Truth, I assume she will attempt to contain the Flood and if that is not possible, she will fire the Halos. As for the AI . . . I can only assume she feels she will need them to override whatever Halo she chooses."
"Then the Arbiter . . ." Miranda began. "He wants to fire the Halos too?"
"No!" Spark tittered at the thought. "No, no. She is capable of psychic suggestion. His reasons for helping her are confused at best. It is an interesting turn of events."
"Psychic . . . suggestion?" Miranda asked.
"Of course," Spark laughed at her. "Where did you think the Flood obtained their own abilities from? The Forerunner they consumed of course!"
"Commander," Hood dropped his prey, turning to the small woman. "Leave Earth, take your crew back to Halo 05 and make sure Donnell cannot activate the rings from there."
The Arbiter crouched behind the door frame, his bulk hidden by the altar stand.
There were no fewer than twenty Jackal guards inside . . . most of whom were armed with snipers, but the rest with plasma pistols. He could hear the low growls that he associated with their patrols.
In the corridor behind him there was a clatter and he spun, raising the carbine in his hand as the Spartan rounded the corner, plasma sword at the ready.
"Demon," the Arbiter noted, not willing to lower his weapon.
"You again." The Chief held his hands up, knowing the plasma sword was useless this far away.
Cautiously, the Arbiter lowered the carbine. "I have banded with your Commander Keyes. We have to stop Truth."
"I'm aware of that-" the Chief told him. "I have an Elite friend too. She told me about the Ark."
"So Truth knows what to do with the Ark, this is grave." The Arbiter wracked his brain.
The Chief peered around the doorway and pulled out quickly. "There are a lot of Jackals in there."
"Indeed," the Arbiter eyed his sword. "I could handle that weapon far better than you could."
Flicking the blade away, the Chief handed it over. "I'll take your carbine then."
"I have one of your weapons also . . . I believe it is called the shotgun?"
"Keep it, I have a Brute Shot I much prefer."
The Arbiter shrugged. "Then how shall we do this?"
"Do you believe in luck?" the Chief asked, loading the carbine as he spoke.
The Arbiter glanced at him. "I believe my mate would like you. She also speaks of 'luck'." He touched his hand to the altar. "Shall we?"
The Chief hung back as the Elite charged ahead. He crouched, taking a careful aim and eliminating three snipers before the others cottoned on to his position. The room they were in was a large, circular entrance foyer. John grabbed a overhanging ledge and swung onto it, rolling to hide from the other snipers.
The Arbiter didn't stop moving, cutting a swathe of death as he crossed the floor.
Covering the Elite was John's priority. From his vantage point he took out the remaining snipers, leaping onto the ledge containing the last slippery little Jackal with a plasma beam rifle. He dodged the first shot and the second went wide as the creature panicked.
John drove the butt of his gun into the Jackals skull, cracking it.
"Well fought," the Arbiter grunted. He walked towards the curving door. "This will be the Ark?"
"One way to find out," The Master Chief replied, switching to his Brute shot.
Before they could trigger the door's opening response, the doors hissed and peeled apart, revealing a legion of Brutes.
"Arbiter," the captain laughed. "With the Demon. How very low the wicked have fallen."
"And how very stupid the Brutes still are."
The Chief didn't look, but he knew that was Saia' Jalahass. He could hear the footsteps of the Elite battalion, and even more . . . the lighter footsteps of Marines.
"A stand off," the Arbiter leered at the startled apes before them. "Care to make a wager, Demon?"
The Chief aimed his Brute shot. "I would."
Kate Donnell stood with the Marines on the ledges of the circular reception room. She flung herself to her belly, trusting to the Marines and their new Elite allies to keep her safe as she put the sniper rifle through its paces.
The lead Elite crouched beside her. "Make sure they get through to the control room," she ordered.
Kate didn't reply, refusing to take her attention off the scope. Truth had to be stopped. That was her mission.
A trail of smoke led to the Brute she had just taken out. Next target.
The scope blurred and she felt the tingle she always felt before a kill, that sense of extreme focus when she knew exactly what her target would do before it happened - as though she were in its mind.
"Good shot," the Elite beside her sounded impressed. "Now go, go, " she whispered, not talking to Kate, but to the lone two who were pressing forward.
Kate swallowed. She had known the Arbiter so long . . . but all that time wouldn't be enough if he was stolen from her now.
As the Elite left her side, the feeling receded and Kate forgot about it. In battle she always forgot about the strange tingle.
Truth was secure in the control room, seated by the Ark's massive holographic display.
Even he found the might of the Forerunners difficult to comprehend. The detailed schematic seemed to be intuitive, following his thoughts as it zipped from sector to sector, lighting each of the Sacred Rings in their glory.
"Noble Prophet," Donavin, the new Brute Chieftain approached him.
"Silence!" Truth snarled.
The Brute was cut off as the inner doors were forced open.
"Arbiter!" Truth spun, his jaw dropping as the Sangheili stepped through, sword ablaze . . . and by his side the Demon. "Arbiter . . . what is this?"
"Truth you must not activate the Ark!" The Arbiter took a step forward, lifting his sword in warning as the Brutes looked as though they thought an attack was a good idea.
"Kill him," Truth snarled.
The Chief sprung forward, passing the first Brute as they scattered, unsure which target to eliminate first. He fired a grenade from the Brute shot into the gut of an oncoming ape, finishing him with a cutting blow to his chest.
But for every Brute he took down, two more appeared in his place. John moved quickly, trying to catch a glimpse of what Truth was doing as he dodged killing rampages.
"Demon! Watch yourself!"
John heard the Arbiter's call and he dropped to the ground, rolling as a fuel rod shot burned overhead. He had just so happen to land at the base of the stone parapet that Truth was working on.
His body tensed as he propelled himself upwards, pushing every muscle to bring him closer to the Prophet before the others noticed.
"No!" the Arbiter roared, cut off by a weapons blast.
John reached the Prophet, leaping onto the chair and punching the shield generator.
A huge gorilla-like hand grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and flung him aside. He fell through the air, bouncing off the hard stone, feeling his partially healed body break again.
The Prophet turned to reach for the controls - and a glimmer of smoke seemed to erupt from his head.
Blood spilled and Truth keeled over
Donnell lowered her sniper rifle, dizziness washing over her.
"Get back," the Elite in command hissed, grabbing her arm and dragging her away from the rampaging Brutes.
Kate let herself be pulled away into safety. She touched her breast pocket, where her greatest secret lay . . . two memory cards with captured AI. Not even the Arbiter knew.
Not even Kate truly knew they were there.
John pulled off his helmet and took a deep breath of clean, Earth air. The Covenant remnants outside the temple were being taken care of by the triumphant Marine and Elite coalition.
"The war . . ." one of the Marines looked up at the Arbiter, standing beside the Spartan quite comfortably. "Is it over?"
"No." The Arbiter sighed. "They will regroup. They have suffered major losses here."
"So have we," John reminded him. "Although . . . new allies."
"Indeed," the Arbiter was about to say more, when something caught his eye.
The Elite leader approached them, taking off her helmet.
"Saia . . ."
She paused, "the Prophets told me you were dead." Her hands shook. "They told me . . . they told you had died a Heretic."
The Arbiter stepped forward. "They lied about many things. You were right about that much . . . Priestess."
"Are you admitting you were wrong . . . Arbiter?" Saia' Jalahass' eyes sparkled.
Now standing beside each other, they lowered their foreheads to each others shoulders, and placed the palm of their hands onto the others stomach.
John raised an eyebrow at the discomfort of the other Elites around them, they didn't seem to have any idea of where to look at all.
"Jalahass?" he called. "I didn't know you two knew each other."
"This . . ." Jalahass pulled back from the odd, alien embrace. "This is my mate."