The Priestess and the Warrior - First Contact
Posted By: Jillybean<email@example.com>
Date: 24 February 2005, 7:28 PM
The Priestess and the Warrior
Saia' Lyueem peeked her head through the doorway, her eyes fixing on her older brother with delighted glee.
"If Father catches you playing with those he'll eat your mandibles."
Karte' dropped the ceremonial nadier, glaring when he realised it was only his sister. "I'll eat your mandibles if you don't leave me alone."
Snorting, Lyueem skipped through into the communal quarters shared by the family on the Deep Space Cruiser, Grave Leanings. She picked up one of the long, silvery sticks and waved it around.
"Don't touch!" Karte' snatched at them, falling off his perch and landing with a thump on the deck.
"Some warrior you are," Lyueem retorted, dancing away. She crossed her legs and sat down. "I'm telling."
"You're not!" Switching to a different tact, Karte' composed himself and returned the other nadier to its box. "Because I'm telling."
His sister squealed in rage as he dashed through into the corridor, making a beeline for the command centre.
"And where do you think you're going?"
Lyueem rounded a corner in time to see her brother recovering from a collision with the sub-Commander, Rayl' Nahamee.
"Children should not be allowed on the upper decks," Nahamee was saying, lifting Karte' up by the scruff of his neck. "How many more times -"
Lyueem jumped as someone placed a hand on her shoulder, and a deep voice rumbled in her ear, "how many times, Lyueem, do not spy."
Orna' Fulsamee stepped past his daughter and twitched a disgruntled mandible at his second in command. "Do you intend to hold him up there forever, Nahamee?"
"Excellency, you know as well as I-"
"That we are in peaceful space and have seen neither hide nor hair of civilisation in the past three years?" Fulsamee nodded in mock sobriety. "Indeed, we should be prepared for an attack at any moment!"
Setting Karte' down, Nahamee gritted his teeth together. "There is no need to be facetious. Especially in front of lesser ranking officers."
Fulsamee grinned, pulling his son along. "Now who's being facetious. You have command, Nahamee."
"Thanks, Father," Karte' said once they were out of the way.
"You shouldn't be up here, the old wind-bag's right about that much." Fulsamee sighed deeply. "The next uninhabited planet we find, I'm leaving you two there."
"No!" They shrieked, clambering over his gold armour.
"Mother would kill you!"
"High Priestess, Karte'," Lyueem stressed.
"Ah," Fulsamee peeled his daughter away and regarded her at arms length. "I see you still want to become a Priestess."
"Of course," Lyueem wriggled away again, her soft down fur making it difficult to keep a grip on her. "And I want to go back to High Charity before it's too late."
"We'll see," Fulsamee replied.
Karte' dropped to the floor, sneering at his sister. "They only take good children into the convent you know. Like Mother."
A badly contained explosive laugh shook their father, though he explained it as unforeseen decompression.
"Didn't feel anything," Karte' replied, suspicious.
"Have you two left your brother in the cabin?" Fulsamee asked.
Shrugging, Karte' volunteered to go check.
"I thought your Mother had forbidden you to become a Priestess," Fulsamee said to his daughter when they reached the private dining area.
Lyueem frowned, playing with the down on the back of her neck. "She did."
Sitting, Fulsamee removed his helmet and scrubbed at the hot skin on his head. "We're rendezvousing with a mining ship in a cycle. They're heading back for Covenant space."
"Then . . . would you let me return?" Lyueem asked. "The convent won't accept me if I'm over seven years old and I'm nearly six."
"They won't accept you anyway if you can't convince your mother." Fulsamee glanced at the door, checking that his other children had not returned yet. "Lyueem, of all my children, you're the one who reminds me the most of your mother. Karte' is just like my father, and Hara' is clearly aspiring to be a warrior."
Lyueem giggled. Her younger brother could already best both his older siblings in a play fight, and he was quickly learning how to beat Father at Jaheijagaj. "What about Kray'?"
"He's still a baby, I can't tell."
"I want to go back to High Charity, I want to live with Mother there and learn with her." She hesitated when she saw the expression on Fulsamee's face.
"Saia's busy on High Charity, Kray' is being raised by her sister, Saia' Haelaay, and only until he is old enough to join us on ship."
"But I could still learn with her," Lyueem begged. "I want to learn."
"I know you do."
"Hey, Fulsamee!" Lia' Wuanna strode in, dropping two Hatchlings onto the bench. "I think we have pests onboard."
"Not a pest!" Hara' swiped at his honorary uncle, balancing his reach perfectly and connecting with Wuanna's blue armour.
With a grin, Wuanna sat heavily beside him. "If you say so, kiddies. So, what's for eating?"
Nahamee was alone in the control room, save for a single Engineer. The drone was caressing the panels on the Grave Leanings sensor controls, lovingly restoring them after a meteorite storm.
Nahamee watched, fascinated by the diligent care, and he felt almost sorry to see the beast float away.
The Leanings deep sensors kicked in, providing a detailed picture of what was out there. A picture that included an erroneous blip, just at the edge of their sensing capacity.
Some fine tuning revealed the blip to be an artificial construction, made of primitive alloys, and sending out scanning frequencies in a similar pattern to the Leanings. Their range wasn't long enough for the Grave Leanings to have been noticed yet, but Nahamee could pick up the transmissions. There was a selection of binary code, which appeared to be a signature of some type, and a repeating message mixed in with all the scanning frequencies.
The AI translated them, surprisingly easily.
"Deep Space Telemetry Gathering Mission Dock Harvest Ship Gazes Also Yu En Es See Code 34-21-345-2485."
"Uh . . . Excellency," Nahamee's voice quivered over the comm. "You should see this."
All the ranking Sangheili tried to crowd into the Control Room, listening to the repeating message.
Glancing at Wuanna, Fulsamee pushed the rest, tapping out a few commands on the console. The message ceased repeating itself, and the AI made some grammatical translations.
"This is the Gazes Also, a deep space telemetry ship, gathering data. Dock: Harvest. UNSC Code 34-21-345-2485."
"What is it?" asked a younger Sangheili at the back.
"It's a standard tag," Fulsamee replied. "We transmit something similar."
"So they're Covenant?" Another asked.
Wuanna met his old friend's eyes, and shook his head. "No. That's not Covenant."
"You're all dismissed," Fulsamee ordered. Reluctant, but too respectful to disobey, the crowd dispersed.
"Excellency," Nahamee stepped closer, almost trying to exclude Wuanna from their conversation. "If you wish to . . . to retreat for the sake of your children, and the other families on board, I would stand by your decision."
Fulsamee turned on him, lifting his head archly. "Retreat. We know nothing about these . . . these creatures. Except that they have space faring technology. I will not return to our homeworlds until I know exactly what's out there. Do you stand by that decision?"
"Of course," Nahamee stammered.
"Good. Keep us in dark mode and get us closer. Launch a warning beacon, make sure no more of our ships come this way. Oh, and lose all our tags. I don't want to transmit anything that will give us away."
Hara' stared out the porthole to the black expanse, his foot jiggling with excitement.
"Sit at peace, Hara'," Karte' murmured. He stretched, glancing at his sister who was reading.
"Just think! A new member of the Covenant." Hara' turned back to them, his face shining with the thought. "Think what we could learn!"
"Well," Lyueem spoke up, "they'd have to prove themselves first."
"I have a bad feeling about this," was all Karte' would say.
High Charity The Ninth Age of Reclamation.
Saia' Jalahass could barely contain her excitement as she watched the transport pod hover above the landing platform, taking an incredibly long time to decide how to land.
The dignitaries waiting for an explanation about the unusually secretive return, watched on with some distaste as the High Priestess pushed through the crowds to meet the gangplank as it lowered.
Laughing, Jalahass was knocked backwards by her eldest son, quickly joined by the other Hatchlings in an affectionate embrace. "You've grown so big!"
Fulsamee pushed past his children, resting his forehead on Jalahass and placing a hand on her stomach. "I missed you."
"I missed you too, but I didn't expect you back so soon!" Jalahass pulled Hara' up onto her hip, delighted that the proud child didn't try to protest.
"We ran into some trouble," Fulsamee said quietly. He glanced backwards, checking that Wuanna was dealing with the authorities. "And I need you to tell Solitude everything."
"All right, but Solitude has fallen ill and returned to Sangheil." Jalahass broke off as her sister and youngest son approached.
"Kray'!" Fulsamee couldn't have snatched his son away from Haelaay quick enough. He grinned at the gurgling Hatchling and tickled his throat.
"Commander Fulsamee!" Truth's voice boomed out across the docks, escorted by his contingent of faithful Brutes.
Fulsamee leaned closer to Jalahass as he handed their son over. "Lyueem will tell you everything. I trust her, Saia'."
"Good luck." Jalahass watched being escorted away, and ruthlessly squashed the growing sense of dread. "Will you all go with Haelaay?" she asked her children, taking Lyueem's hand. "I have some business to do."
Being treated like a fully grown Sangheili was everything Lyueem could have wished for. She sat primly on the day bed, difficult for one so small, and sipped the stew the Unggoy servants had given her.
Her mothers study, the secluded chambers of the High Priestess in the convent, was decorated with trinkets from every world Jalahass had visited. There were also holograms, picturing moments in Lyueem's life that she remembered well.
"What happened out there?" Jalahass asked. She was dressed casually, and she looked much younger without the heavy headdress weighing her down.
"We were surveying an area, close to the outer arm of the galaxy, and we found a ship."
"A ship?" Jalahass asked, frowning. "That far out?"
"It wasn't Covenant. We stayed and gathered intel."
Suppressing a smile at the use of the slang, Jalahass nodded encouragingly.
"They call themselves 'humans'."
"Your father was right, I must speak with Solitude." Jalahass sighed, leaning forward to bump foreheads with her daughter. "I wish I didn't have to leave you so soon. But I can't take you with me."
"Mother . . . may I ask something?"
"May I join the convent?"
"Oh . .. Lyueem!" Jalahass stood and stalked the floor. "This isn't what I would have chosen for you."
"It's what I want though. The chance to learn. Father agrees with me," she added stubbornly.
"Your Father still doesn't appreciate what it is to be a Priestess." Softening, Jalahass crouched beside her daughter, glancing into the stew bowl. "Eat up. And . . . I'll think about it. If you answer me one question?"
"Yes?" Lyueem practically begged.
"Do you believe in the Forerunner?"
"I . . . I believe in them absolutely," Lyueem replied. "I believe in what they teach."
"Hmm." Seemingly satisfied, Jalahass rubbed at Lyueem's downy head, and left the study.
Hierarch Chambers High Charity The Ninth Age of Reclamation
"Well," Mercy clasped his hands when Fulsamee had left. "The Council is going to have a brilliant time with this one."
"I shall contact Talsamee," Truth agreed, "see if she can't pour oil over troubled waters. We knew this day was coming, Brothers."
"It's about time," Regret hovered forward. "With this we may end the Brute Rebellion."
"Indeed." Truth nodded. "How would you suggest we proceed, Wise Mercy?"
The venerable Prophet thumped the arm of his throne with a fist. "We send out all our troops to engage the Brute Rebellion, and when the Rebellion is weakened, we offer them the chance to surrender."
Shaking his head, Regret signalled to the Kig-Yar. The deaf creature approached, bringing with it a beaker of tea. "The Brutes have held out for too long. They want absolution, Noble Mercy, not surrender."
"Then we give them absolution," Truth said. "We'll launch our assault, led by Hans' Galatash, Sol' Nakaka, Orna' Fulsamee, Sei' Batamee, Hro 'Salee."
Mercy grinned, seeing the method in the madness. "The finest Sangheili the Covenant has to offer."
"And when they have all suffered the tragic loss of war," Regret said slowly, staring out into space. "There will be a void."
"A power vacuum, which we will offer to the Brutes. It will be easy to supplement the Elites." Truth smiled. "Send out those Sangheili still loyal to us to scout out these Human Territories. They are an affront to the Forerunner."
"They are," Mercy stressed. "And they should be dealt with."
Solitude's Home Sangheil The Ninth Age of Reclamation
"So, the last race has been found, as predicted by Hope so many years ago." Solitude reflected on this, forced to use his throne now he had completely lost the use of his legs.
Jalahass followed him through his stately home, accepting a piece of fruit from an Unggoy servant. "In my time as High Priestess I have found it a struggle to reconcile the wishes of the Hierarch with my teachings of the Forerunner. I learn from the bulletins today that these humans were an affront to our Gods."
"Indeed," Solitude said darkly. "Did you also see that all the cruisers are being recalled." He watched Jalahass intently, satisfied when he saw the flash of worry. "I know which Commanders they will give the last assault on the Rebellion to."
"As do I, Solitude." Jalahass stood at the window, looking out on Sangheil. "I've been working so hard to keep the Sangheili together. Still, I see Family, Honour, Trust driven from our lives by the Hierarchs teachings. These things that the Sangheili hold so dear. They ask me how can I justify this."
"What do you say?"
Jalahass glanced down. "I give them some speech about the good of the Covenant."
Solitude turned in his throne, sending his Unggoy away and making sure they were completely alone.
Jalahass sat down on one of the pelts. "I was visiting a bereaved family. They were rich, almost on par with my Lineage, but they were good souls. The Sangheili had just lost his Mate in an unexpected Brute raid on the ship she was travelling in. He had no claim to the money his Mate had in her family, and all they had was sons, so his children could not inherit."
Looking closely, Solitude was surprised to see tears.
"It could so easily have been Orna'. He was cut off from any income, and had no family willing to raise his many sons. He asked me, how could he continue to work without any support at all? And all I could tell him was: send your sons to train as warriors."
"And you realised," Solitude said quietly "that it was all part of Truth's plan."
Jalahass nodded. "With so many of our young training to be warriors, because it is the cheapest way to feed them, I realised we were heading for a war. And the Sangheili are to be on the front line. I realised what it must feel like for an Unggoy mother."
"You can never tell the masses," Solitude grunted in pain as he shifted forward in his seat. "Their pride would not allow themselves to listen."
"So what will show them?" Jalahass asked.
Silently, Solitude conceded that he did not know.
High Charity The Ninth Age of Reclamation
"Galatash!" Jalahass grinned, bumping foreheads with the Sangheili she thought of as a father. "Oh I haven't seen you in so long!" She peeled off her officious headgear and glanced around her large personal quarters in the convent. There were many friends there, Warriors Fulsamee had befriended long ago. They had all been recalled to the Covenant city and they appeared to have settled in her home.
"I'm glad you're back," Fulsamee murmured as he passed, bearing bowls of food.
"So what have you been doing with yourself, Jalahass?" Galatash asked, guiding her to the long, low table. She sat down on the floor, and spied her children in the crowd, delighted to be part of the experience. They were sitting with Wuanna's two children, and a few others that Jalahass recognised from the families that were scattered throughout the room.
"I've been keeping busy." The High Priestess lunged for a passing bowl of stew and sipped it gratefully. "I'm starving. The Smoke may be a fast ship, but she's not the most comfortable."
"Don't speak about the love of my life that way," Fulsamee reprimanded. He squeezed in-between Galatash and 'Salee to sit beside his Mate. "Now did 'Salee tell you about what he and his lovely Mate did last year?"
"Oh, Fulsamee don't you dare!" Screeched 'Salee's lovely Mate from the other end of the table.
"I didn't understand that joke," Lyueem confessed to her friends. They had stolen some food and were sitting some way off from the drunken adults.
"Mother laughed," Karte' said, dubiously.
"Hmmph," snorted Wuanna's eldest daughter. "I think it was rude. Your mother must be rude."
"She is not!"
"My mother looked embarrassed," continued Wuanna's daughter.
Lyueem leapt in front of her brother. "I'll fight you for it," she challenged.
"Girls shouldn't fight," sniffed Wuanna's daughter.
"I do," Lyueem retorted.
"That's because you're really a boy," Hara' mumbled around a mouthful of fruit.
Galatash sat, not entirely steady, revealing a bottle of the purest Prophet Rum that money could buy.
"I was saving this," he revealed. Whipping the cover off the glass, the pearly pink liquid inside glimmered. "For a special occasion."
"Oh don't open it now then," Olapaa said, resting her head on her mate's shoulder.
Wuanna disagreed, elbowing her. "Open it now!"
"Wait, wait!" Galatash held up a hand for silence. "I will open it now. I will. For this special, special occasion." He looked around the room. "We are all family here. I see friends, their Mates, their brothers, their friends. There is not a Sangheili here that I am not proud to know. When we ship out, I will hope to see you all again, but we must trust in the Forerunner for that. May I say now, that I have always adhered to four principles in my life. Freedom. Honour. Love. Truth. I wish these for you all, even if it may seem dark at times."
There was a moments silence as they regarded their drinks.
"To the Covenant," Wuanna said, deeply ironic.
Fulsamee stepped over the sleeping bodies, pulling the blanket with him out onto the balcony.
"Thanks," Jalahass said, wrapping it over her shoulders.
"I used to listen to the old soldiers, when I was younger, and they'd tell me that after this battle they were going home."
Smiling, Jalahass rested her forehead on his. "Did you mock them?"
"Of course. It seems so cruel now."
"Don't worry, the young soldiers under your command will mock you too."
The city sparkled all around them, the tall convent building standing proud in its centre.
Snuggling closer, Jalahass said thoughtfully "you will try to come back in one piece, won't you?"
"I was planning on coming back in three, but if you insist."
"Orna' . . . after this campaign, I'm thinking about resigning."
Jalahass giggled. "I used to be so radical."
Covenant Cruiser Justified Viper Brute Controlled Territories The Ninth Age of Reclamation
"Yes?" Fulsamee glanced up from the report he was drafting. The young Sangheili was hovering nervously at the door to his study, swallowing repeatedly.
"There's a transmission for you. The High Priestess."
"Thank you, reroute it to this office," Fulsamee dismissed him. He finished the sentence regarding the exact death toll from their last glassed planet, and turned to the life size hologram in the centre of the floor.
"Hello, Father," Jalahass said, sounding very annoyed.
"Ah. Saia', love."
Even through lightyears of space, Fulsamee could feel the force of her glare. "Don't you try that with me, Orna' Fulsamee. People are going to start wondering you know. This will be my fifth child."
"My leave coincides with all of them," he grinned. "I checked."
The hologram folded its arms over an already swelling stomach. "Your leave will coincide with your death."
Fulsamee stood, holding his arms out in a gesture of openness. "Odd. I feel healthy enough."
"So, girl or a boy?" Jalahass asked.
"Hmm . . ." Fulsamee stood in front of her. "Boy."
"And the stakes?"
"I'll treat you to dinner."
"Oh, such extravagance. I say girl, and if I win . . . you have to take leave for a year." The hologram leaned forward, closing her eyes as the light show passed through Fulsamee's forehead. "Be safe."
"Excellency?" The young Sangheili stood by the door, flushing orange with shame.
"It's okay," Fulsamee beckoned him in. "My Mate's expecting again."
Taking pity on the confused soul, Fulsamee removed the data pads from his trembling hands and dismissed him. The latest tactical data, involving the location of a Brute stronghold, and the most recent update concerning ship locations.
The console bleeped, and Fulsamee smiled, he knew who it would be.
The holographic display blurred as it worked on the heavily encoded message, before displaying Sei' Batamee.
Spreading his arms, Fulsamee feigned shock. "Batamee! Old friend! What a pleasant surprise!"
"Indeed," Batamee inclined his head, eyes glinting with amusement. "How goes things on the Shaded Justice, old friend?"
With a little snort, Fulsamee explained about Jalahass, and suffered Batamee's laughter.
"Oh, you should watch her, Fulsamee. Far too pretty. I suppose you've seen the latest updates?"
"I have," Fulsamee nodded. He sat down, glancing at the pad once more. "Looks to me like the Vengeful Whisper is only a few days travel from my favourite hunting grounds."
"Yes. A coincidence, don't you think?"
"One I fully intend to take advantage of. How many on the Whisper?"
Batamee thought for a moment. "Ten Glory Squadrons, and two Angel Platoons."
Fulsamee's mandible twitched in appreciation. "I have one Angel Platoon, their numbers are depleted. Thirteen Glory Squadrons though."
"That's plenty." Batamee hid a yawn, reaching for a cup of stew. He sipped, reading something that Fulsamee couldn't see. "If we convene close to the twin stars, their radiation should mask our approach."
"I'll see you there, old friend."
"I look forward to it. To the best Warrior, goes the cut."
"And I can guarantee it will be me."
Soon' Yalahass eyed his commander over the holographic display.
"You seem . . ." Wuanna, the trusted second, confronted the Special Operations leader. "Doubtful."
"Doubtful?" Yalahass repeated, choking a little. A distant relative of Jalahass, Soon' was the commander of Angel Platoon Fire. His white armour depicted a fiery sword on the shoulder, the ornate letters beneath spelling out 'Angel Fire'. "It won't work."
"In your opinion," Fulsamee replied, his eyes fixed on the topographical representation of the planet's surface.
"Fire Platoon is good," Yalahass said. "Not that good."
"Back up will be immediate," Fulsamee consoled. "Earth and Air Platoon's following."
"After you've made the initial insertion I'll follow in the Phantoms with the Squads." Wuanna glanced at Fulsamee, aware that they'd have to do more to sell their battle strategy.
"The Glory from this mission will be . . ." Fulsamee shook his head.
" . . . How much?" Yalahass asked.
Wuanna leaned forward to whisper: "we're talking an audience with the Hierarch."
"At least," Fulsamee added.
Rebel Planet Free Dreamer The Ninth Age of Reclamation
The great lump of fur that heaved its way through the control room was looking for something. It growled to itself as it searched, sex indeterminate, even to a fellow Brute. Haydez was a roughed, battle scarred General who had worked tirelessly for the rebellion. It galled him that they were on the brink of surrendering, there was no reason for it, other than some unfortunate losses.
"Tartarus," he grunted when he reached the artificial cave that served as Tartarus' quarters.
"What?" Once, in battle, Tartarus had been badly burned. His fur had grown back a brilliant white.
"Sir," Haydez grumbled, "our sensors have detected two Covenant Cruisers approaching. We're vastly outgunned."
"What?" Tartarus erupted from his seat, grabbing Haydez by the throat. "But how!?"
"Sir!" Choking, his eyes wide, Haydez tried to claw his way free. "I don't know!"
Flinging him down, Tartarus stalked from the cave, reaching the panicked control room and seeing for himself. He had a fleeting thought that Truth had betrayed him, sent Cruisers to annihilate all the Brutes and not just the ones loyal to the Rebellion, the ones Tartarus had been feeding the Covenant armies.
"Two Cruisers," a reliable veteran informed him. "The Vengeful Whisper commanded by his Excellency Sei' Batamee. It's new, well gunned. The other ship is older and has heavy damage to her port side. The Justified Viper, commanded by-"
"By Orna' Fulsamee." Tartarus' skin tingled, the nerves remembering the cleansing fire. "The Viper suffered an ambush, she was the only ship to escape. On either side."
Snorting, the veteran glanced up at Tartarus. "What should we do?"
Truth wouldn't have sent Orna' Fulsamee to destroy him. No, Fulsamee and Batamee were high ranking officials. They had to have received intel on the Free Dreamer independently of the Hierarchs, and were acting without authorization. Not that they'd need it, they had standing orders to eradicate the Brutes, and in a tactical situation, they outranked many of the Prophet Councillors.
"Bad luck," Tartarus murmured to himself. "If I know Fulsamee he'll throw everything against us. Expect the Orbital Pods to start dropping, but don't waste our fire. Target the Cruisers, keep them from Glassing us for as long as possible."
Wuanna grinned to himself as the purple Phantom sped across the white snow, after losing too many good Warriors to the Brutes in space bound battles, it felt good to be on the ground again.
"Yalahass?" he called over the radio. "Vengeance and Fury Squadrons dropping in now."
"Honour and Glory, Excellency," Yalahass shouted.
Turning to his men, Wuanna lifted his sword. "Honour and Glory!"
Fulsamee watched from the Viper, the blips moving across the display.
"Honour and Glory," he murmured.
Sprinting across the snow, Wuanna felt his lung pulling the cold, thin air into his chest. The cold was extreme, hampering the Grunts considerably. The heat of the energy sword in Wuanna's hand was the only warmth he had, that and the blood pumping through his veins.
Reaching the embankment, he flung himself over the side, driving the sword into the bodies of two Brutes, pressed close together. With a roar, he spun, cleaving the arm off his next attacker, and skewering the Brute behind.
A grenade went off, showering him with ice and snow. Shaking free of the white blanket, he dodged a plasma bolt, only to be hit in the gut by the wrong end of a Brute Shot.
Haydez sneered as he lifted the Warrior up, impaled on the end of his blade. "Sangheili filth," he snorted, shaking the body free.
Sei' Batamee stumbled as the Whisper was rocked by a vicious blast.
"Batamee," Fulsamee's hologram appeared, shaking with interference. "We should Glass the planet now!"
"Fulsamee, no." Batamee gritted his mandibles together. "We don't have the firepower to complete the job."
"We can start it though," Fulsamee glared at his old friend. "We're losing too many, Batamee! I won't lose another soul needlessly."
Silent for a moment, Batamee weighed up the odds. "You're right. Order the evacuation."
The transmission was intercepted by the Brute command centre, and Tartarus merely smiled.
"Get every out of here," he ordered.
"We'll be shot out of orbit," the veteran told him.
"Would you rather stay here?"
Taking a Brute Plasma Rifle, Tartarus hurried down the corridors, meeting Haydez on the return.
"It's going well!" Haydez reported, a feral grin on his face.
"We have to evacuate," Tartarus told him, brushing past. "They're about to Glass us."
"Right -" Haydez froze. "How . . . how did you know?"
"What do you mean?" Tartarus turned to regard him.
"Just that . . . any transmission would be encoded. How would you have intercepted it?"
Tartarus smiled as he saw the suspicion and ultimate realisation cross Haydez face.
"You've betrayed us. You're in league with the Covenant!"
"For a price," Tartarus agreed.
"No!" Haydez couldn't dodge the fiery red blast that killed him, but he was too shocked to even try.
Tartarus walked away.