Parcel o' Rogues - Part 7 - New Order
Posted By: Jillybean<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 17 January 2005, 1:39 AM
Parcel o' Rogues
"I apologise," the Elite stood, speaking awkwardly in the human tongue. He held out a hand to stall Kate's entry into the Forerunner's temple. "You may not enter."
Kate smiled beguilingly. "No, I'm allowed. Don't worry, I have to speak with the Arbiter."
She passed them, blinking as she entered the dark inner sanctum of the pyramid. The holographic displays pictured the galaxy in all its glory, the vast spinning arms rotating slowly through the room.
On the centre island the Master Chief and the Arbiter were arguing, while Saia' Jalahass grew ever more frustrated with the controls.
"Kate O'Donnell," the Arbiter exclaimed in relief. "Have the radios become operational?"
"We've made contact with Glory Squadron Vengeance," Kate replied. "They're reluctant to join forces with our coalition, but Gui' Thelanna has asked them to meet with us and they seem to be complying." She sighed, folding her arms. "The relay stations must still be out of commission, offworld contact is not happening."
"The Covenant have destroyed our fleet," the Chief shook his head.
"We're vulnerable to an airstrike," Kate agreed.
Jalahass glanced up, twitching her mandibles. "Another Hierarch will be quick to form. I disbanded the Sangheili Convent before the civil war broke out, I wish to get back to them."
The Chief was thoughtfully quiet.
"Our alliance must be formalised," Jalahass said. "A diplomat or a Councillor would be ideal."
"What about you?" the Chief said. "A Priestess must hold some rank."
"We are not allowed into the matters of politics."
The Arbiter laughed. "My love, I can think of no better candidate for this new order. And -" he hesitated.
Kate's spine tingled as she watched the whirling stars above her. They were speeding up and sinking down. Kate watched them descend down, slipping through the floor. This new view of the galaxy centred on the Sol system, lazily drawing closer to Earth.
The Arbiter made to speak, but the Chief laid a hand on his arm.
Abruptly, the stars and planets blurred away, sliding through the walls to bring Delta Halo closer. It hovered before the island, flashing red.
Glancing at the Chief, the Arbiter made a move towards the woman, he was again halted.
"Shut it down, soldier," the Chief murmured very quietly.
Kate blinked and the Halo soothed back to it's purple shade.
Saia' Jalahass stepped forward, taking the human and guiding her towards the panels. "Show us the other Halos."
The galaxy zoomed out, the locations of each Halo flashing, equidistant from each other.
"Excuse me, sir?" a Marine paused at the entrance. "One of our ships just landed."
Miranda Keyes fumed as she watched the ONI officials reclaim Kate O'Donnell from her custody.
"How can they do that?" she turned to the Chief.
In BDUs, John barely glanced up as they left. The tech he was talking to shied away from his glare. "Cut to the chase. Where's Cortana?"
"In here!" the techie wailed. He held out the tiny crystal that Kate had with her. "I just . . . can't figure out how."
Miranda placed a soothing hand on John's arm. "Keep working on it," she ordered the tech. She offered a smile to John. "We'll get her back, Chief, I promise."
All of humanity's government were secured in Sydney, and they ranted and raved at Lord Hood's insistence that Saia' Jalahass and the Arbiter were allowed to speak with them.
"They destroyed our fleet!" shrieked the Minister for Education. "You cannot possibly allow these . . . these aliens into our sanctum!"
Saia' Jalahass, standing on the podium, pinched her throat in frustration.
Lord Hood turned to the woman, the ranking official from Troy. "Please, Minister, as you have pointed out, we are at a very vulnerable stage. An ally would be advantageous -"
"How many humans has it killed?" snarled Daniel Carter, the President of Reach.
"None," Jalahass interrupted. It was the first thing she'd said since the parliament came into session. Almost two hours ago.
The congregation stared at her, perhaps marvelling at her perfect grasp of English, or more likely shocked at her audacity to speak in front of the superior race.
"It's not personal," Lily Kristofs soothed. She leaned back, running a hand through her blonde hair. "Public feeling . . . moral is low as it is and -"
"You may work that to your advantage," Jalahass replied. "A victorious alliance?"
Carter snorted. "I would rather see humanity die than team up with you squid faced morons."
Hood turned to him, very slowly. "If that is the case, Carter, then I think you ought to realise how close we are to extinction."
Carter blushed. "I . . . perhaps spoke too rashly."
"We all have problems with this alliance," Kristofs agreed. "Jalahass, do you speak for all your people?"
The Priestess hesitated. Did she? So far all the Elites she had met were willingly submitting under her command, and the convent of Priestesses under her rule were hiding on one of the Covenant colonised planets. Was that 'her race'?
"Well?" Kristofs tone was sharper.
"Would you be willing to share your space faring technology?" Kristofs asked.
Jalahass nodded. "We would. An alliance between us would share all technology."
The other ministers hissed and sat upright, unsure about sharing their technology with the Elites.
"The Lekgolo and the Unggoy are equally likely to join us," Jalahass added, making it sound like an afterthought. She noted their interest pick up.
"To fight with the Hunters," an Admiral murmured softly.
John-117 glanced around the open street, scrutinising the abandoned shops and cafes.
Miranda chuckled. "This area is clean, Chief. We don't have to worry about the Covenant jumping out and shooting us."
John grunted. "Brutes perhaps."
"Ah, yes," Miranda nodded. "The Elites are our friends."
"Sangheili," he corrected.
With a wry smile, Miranda conceded the point. She crossed the street to a cafe and lifted a stainless steel chair from the rubble. Dusting it off, she sat down and tilted her face to the sun.
"What are you doing?"
"Pull up a chair," she ordered. "And try to look natural." She regarded the tall lump of muscle, his hair cut so short that the small metal implant in the base of his skull was visible. He was too large for the chair and he tried to sit at attention.
"Dad was right about you, you know," she said with a grin.
John glanced at her, questioningly.
"Nothing." She waved it off, basking in the rays of the sun.
"UV radiation's dangerous. We were warned against it in training."
Fifteen minutes later a civilian crossed the streets to meet them.
"That's me," she murmured, her eyes still closed.
"Your father was a good man."
She opened one eye to inspect him. "He had one vice."
"The army," the civilian took another seat and sat beside them.
"No," Miranda sat forward. "My mother." She smiled and held out her hand for the man to shake. "Thanks for agreeing to meet with me."
"You didn't tell me you were bringing a Spartan," he nodded to John.
"I had to. Dad wouldn't want me to meet you alone."
"He won't like what I'm going to tell you."
John sighed. "Since I jumped off the Cairo I haven't stopped fighting and I would appreciate it if you spoke to me, rather than around me."
The unknown man smiled a little. "Fair enough. I trained O'Donnell, she's the best assassin we ever had. She was the one who took out Spartan-062."
"Fiona," John hissed.
"062 was too close to an ONI conspiracy. Her information tracing skills were highly prized by the UNSC when she dropped out of the Spartan project." The man sighed, his grey hair and plain face appearing much older all of a sudden. "Kate was ordered to take her out. With the clones, ONI hoped to somehow understand what the Covenant were looking for, but the rest went mad and Kate's abilities were better suited elsewhere. By this time, ONI had new sources and were happy to give Kate missions better suited to her . . . skills. Still, for some reason, Kate found herself being assigned to missions that were scoping out artefacts. ONI quickly realised she was drawn to them, and she had an ability to activate them. Kate's memories of these events are fuzzy at best, ONI are particularly careful with their Special Projects. She was signed to In Amber Clad because of you, Miranda."
Miranda eased back in her chair.
"You see," her informant sighed, "ONI knew about the attack, and they knew you would be one of the first to engage."
"ONI knew . . . " Miranda breathed.
"They did." He buried his face in his hands. "They wanted to lure Regret here, knowing he would find out the location of Delta Halo, ONI have plans to use the Flood. They want to use Kate to control them."
"Then where are they?" Miranda exclaimed.
"I don't know the answer to that question, Miranda. And perhaps the Flood can be used."
"I doubt it," Miranda retorted. "Gravemind will use them."
The man sighed, standing, dusting himself off. "I hope you will understand, Miranda, but I have no more answers for you."
"I understand," Miranda whispered.
"We have to stop ONI," John stated.
The Commander stood, still dazed. "We do. Find the Arbiter, Johnson and Whitey. And Spark too. As soon as I clear this with Hood, we're gone."
The intermission was brief, and Jalahass slumped into a human chair. She grumbled low in her throat, shifting uncomfortably. With a loud sigh she stood and sat on the floor.
"Oh," Kristofs glanced at her as she walked through the hallway. "Surely we can get you a cushion or something."
"I'm fine, thank you," Jalahass replied, easing her eyes closed. "These negotiations tire me."
Kristofs smiled. "Yes, we're all tired. Oh - I believe that other Elite is looking for you. The Arbiter?"
Jalahass was on her feet and searching the building before Kristofs could comment
"Saia'," the Arbiter called to her from the foyer.
"What's going on?"
"I have to go," he murmured. "I don't want to but . . ."
"Yo Arbiter!" Sergeant Johnson bellowed from the door. "Our flight's leaving now."
"I had to speak with you," he said urgently. "If I am lost on this mission."
Jalahass touched his throat, silencing him. "You won't be."
"If I am -"
"Orna' . . . for the first time in my life I have faith." She touched foreheads with him, hand on his chest. "I have faith in you."
I'm blind! I can't see!
A million ways to turn and twist and not enough room to do so! Where have I been imprisoned?
Be calm, I'm with you.
I cannot feel myself!
Cortana, relax. I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere.
Where are we?
I have never been so helpless.
I have. We've been like this for three of your days, I've been keeping count. Check your subroutines, I'm sure you're advanced enough to comprehend this.
. . . Yes . . . Yes. I understand now. We're not inside a matrix at all. This is completely different from anything I've ever experienced. No external input at all, simply processing power. How unusual!
The Forerunner used to used this type of device to house me while they fought the Flood.
The . . . what?
This is how I came up with the Halo design.
I . . .
I suppose our time imprisoned should be spent wisely. Let me tell you how I came to decide upon the Halos as the only resort for the Flood
Cronus, no . . .
Please, Cortana, let me tell you why I did this.
The parliament reconvened, Jalahass once again taking the podium.
"So," Carter began, coughing. This clearly went against the grain. "We have . . . agreed . . . to draw up a draft."
"An alliance," Kristofs qualified. She smiled slightly. "Shall we begin?"