Sparked and Guilty [H&R 8]
Posted By: Jillybean<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 18 September 2003, 6:09 PM
Halos And Rings
Sparked and Guilty
"Remind me again Cortana. What are we looking for?" Teddy said over the radio. He and the other two marines were following the Chief in their environmental suits, wandering through pitch black abandoned corridors.
"When you'll see it - you'll know." Cortana replied.
"How will I know?" Teddy persisted, touching a floating plasma pistol and sending it spinning. As Halo was now broken into a million little chunks there was no artificial gravity anymore, everything inside this hulk of rock and machinery was preserved from the second the Pillar of Autumn had gone up in smoke.
"Because you'll say 'Cortana, what's this?' and I'll say 'that's what we've been looking for'. Get it Teddy?" Cortana asked.
Daxia was in the cockpit of their commandeered Longsword, Harry sat in the pilots chair, watching her pace the length of the cockpit.
"Come on." He said. "Wouldn't you rather be up here than down there?" He asked, gently taking the Longsword out of the way of a spinning piece of debris. Daxia shot him a dark look.
"I'd rather no one was down there." She said, leaning against the window to look down on the rubble. "But . . ." She trailed off, her hand touching the glass. "I wish I could see it again. Just once. Look it in the eye."
"Cortana to Longsword." Cortana spoke through their radio connection. "Any hostiles up there?"
"No Cortana. Everything's cool. I don't think the Covenant care about the structure anymore." Harry said. Daxia folded her arms and leaned over him to speak to Cortana.
"Any hostiles where you are Cortana?"
"Dust and Echoes." Cortana quoted herself.
The Chief glanced to the inside of his helmet, a habit he'd picked up from having Cortana in there so long. He didn't want to disturb the AI, but he could make out Flood bodies floating up ahead. He knew the spore had survived vacuum packing . . .
"Hold tight marines." He said, levelling his gun at what used to be an elite.
"Oh my God." Bill murmured. "What is that?"
"The Flood?" Daxia asked over the radio, sounding concerned.
"Neutralized." The Chief reassured her. "As dead as a Flood can get. The warriors can't sustain themselves in a vacuum, interesting." He poked it with his gun and send it spinning out of his way.
"Cortana, what's this?" Teddy asked shakily, the Chief turned to look and grinned.
"It's a piece of rubble Teddy." Cortana said dryly. "And no we can't go home."
"Damn, that was my next question." Teddy said, the Chief could just make out a grin beyond Teddy's visor.
"Your signal's getting weaker Chief." Harry was saying. "You're going somewhere that's heavily shielded."
"That means we're getting close." Cortana said.
"Be careful." Daxia whispered, the Chief smiled a little, pleased at her concern.
"We will be." He said, heading in to what appeared to be some sort of lab.
"We've lost them." Harry said to Daxia, watching the woman curse under her breath. "What can go wrong, the thing's deserted?"
"Halo made me look at the Covenant as if they were a kid having a tantrum." Daxia told him. "I'll not underestimate it again."
"Uh- Ring?" Harry said, his attention drawn to a blinking screen. "I think we got company."
"Where are we Cortana?" The Chief asked darkly, looking around a vast room filled with shelves upon shelves.
"I hope I'm wrong." Cortana replied, half to herself.
"Hey Cortana." Teddy said, lifting a vial from one of the shelves. "What's this?" He asked, knowing what she was going to say. If Cortana had a head she would have hung it.
"That's what we were looking for." She said softly.
"Yeah but - what is it?" Annie asked, taking another vial off the shelves. The Chief glanced at the inscriptions, his gloved hand running over them.
"It's almost the map of a human chromosome . . ."
"Almost." Cortana agreed. "It's what we call a Foundation DNA map. What our base ancestors evolved from."
"Cortana." The Chief tried to remain calm. "What. Is. It?"
"The story of our evolution is not as clean cut as we tell it to the school children." Cortana explained. "There are a few gaps, evolutionary leaps that scientists can't explain. Some have theorized that perhaps an alien race, or a God gave humanity a helping hand."
"This one's completely different." Annie said, sending another vial floating towards them.
"That would be a base Jackal map." Cortana said once the Chief had let her see it. "I was right. Damn it."
"Cortana what were you right about?" The Chief pressed.
"The Forerunners are our ancestors. But not just ours, the Covenant's ancestors too. And any life in this galaxy. The Forerunners watched life evolve - but then they made a mistake. They chose a certain race, gave them power beyond the others. The 'helping hand' helped too far. This race grew too strong, enslaving the other races in the galaxy. The Forerunners mourned their loss and engineered a creature so ravenous it would destroy all life. The Flood.
"They released the Flood and it wiped out all life, but not before the Preserver took a sample of each lifeform and hid it in the Halo institutions. Then the Reclaimer activated the Halo's and destroyed everything. The Preserver deployed life again in the galaxy - repopulating it. One day the Forerunners will return, but not if the Flood escape."
"So why do the Covenant call us an affront to their Gods?" Bill asked.
"The Forerunners wanted to warn their 'children' of what would happen, but their messages were too cryptic. We barely understood them to be messages at all, bits of rock and stuff. The Covenant were given a more direct message and they took it the wrong way. We are an affront to their Gods, as far as they know, and their Gods are very real."
The Chief glanced around suddenly, sure he'd heard something in the corridor. He reloaded his gun, just to be on the safe side, and walked towards the doorway.
"Chief?" Annie asked - but the Chief was pushed backwards, sent spinning into the room.
"Ambush!" Teddy shouted as the Sentinels floated in.
"What do we do?" Harry asked, leaned back as Daxia buckled into the pilots seat. She sent the Longsword veering away from the approaching ship, circling around the large hulk of Halo.
"We'll never outrun that!" Harry exclaimed, staring at the unknown ship. "It's moving so fast!"
"I noticed Harry!" Daxia gritted her teeth, bringing the Longsword down to Halo's charred surface. They skimmed the broken land, dodging rocks and flotilla.
"It's not coming down - and it's not firing." Harry said, checking the instruments. "Why isn't it firing?"
"It's not Covenant." Daxia suggested, bringing the Longsword around for another hair raising run of the piece of Halo. The ship above them turned on a dime, coming after them.
"That is unnatural." Daxia muttered, bringing the Longsword closer to the surface.
"Watch it." Harry warned. "We're not as manoeuvrable as they are - what the!" He broke off, shocked as a golden light seemed to spring up around Daxia. He stared as suddenly she disappeared.
Daxia stumbled backwards the second the transporter let her go. In front of her the little blue orb hovered, watching her.
"Welcome." He said in his high pitched voice. "This is quite the surprise, I had not intended to take you at all. But you shall do." He hummed and started to hover down the long silver corridor.
"Wait!" Daxia exclaimed, pulling her pistol. 343 Guilty Spark turned, registering the pistol pointed at him. "You survived a nuclear explosion - so this probably doesn't worry you. But I'm gonna give it a shot." She said.
"That would be very unwise. I would be forced to harm you and I would be guilty of a horrendous crime."
"What?" Daxia was confused and 343 Guilty Spark hummed loudly.
""If I harmed you the Forerunners would be very displeased. As would the Reclaimer. It is not wise to disple-" 343 Guilty Spark was cut short by Daxia's gun firing. The bullet hit the AI, sending him flying. She followed up with two more bullets.
"Who are the Forerunners?" She demanded of the shaken up little construct.
"Well really - I'm quite shocked." He muttered to himself. "How rude." He faced her. "I have defended your installation for years and you go and shoot me."
"Answer my question or I'll shoot you again." Daxia said. "Or worse, I'll get the Chief to shoot you." Her statement seemed to alarm 343 Guilty Spark. He hovered directly in front of her and hummed nervously.
"Who are the Forerunners? I do not understand, why would you ask this question?"
"Humour me." Daxia threatened, cocking the gun.
"You are." 343 Guilty Spark said apologetically. "The Preserver and the Reclaimer are the last of the Forerunners."
"I'm human." Daxia contradicted. 343 Guilty Spark soared into the air.
"Not for long."
"Chief! Chief!" Harry cried as soon as he caught sight of the Chief's signal again. "Chief we got problems up here!"
"There are problems down here too!" Annie yelled. "We need you to pick us up! Daxia, use your magic!"
"That's part of the problem!" Harry yelled angrily. "Daxia's gone! That ship took her!"
A sentinel exploded nearby and the Chief spun around, looking up at the Longsword.
"You'd better have a very good explanation." He gritted. Harry laughed hysterically.
"Look - you think I can land this thing on a floating hunk of rock? I'm up here and you're down there and that's another of our problems."
"Got any more?" Annie asked dryly.
"I'm tracking 343 Guilty Spark, he's definitely nearby." Cortana said. "Hold on Harry, I'll take over the Longsword's systems. Chief, relax. Annie, Bill, Teddy - you guys secure the area."
"Area secure Cortana."
"Excuse me?" Daxia repeated, taking a good few steps back. A Sentinel rounded the corner of the ships corridor, coming from what was obviously the cockpit. It was unlike most Sentinels in that it had a long robotic arm, and a a frightening looking needle attached to that.
"I need to activate the dormant genes in your DNA. It won't hurt. Much." 343 Guilty Spark spoke soothingly.
"You'll have to kill me first." Daxia shot the Sentinel down. 343 Guilty Spark screeched in outrage.
"If that is your opinion I shall simply find another - I hardly think-" The ship shook violently. "What was that?"
"That was smooth." Cortana said appreciatively as the MC clung to the wing of the intruder ship. The jump from the bow of the Longsword to this ship had been risky, but Spartan's had been taught to factor in all sorts of variables - and in space everything was simple. There was your force and the force of everything else - nothing else. No wind, no unexpected terrain - just vacuum.
He pulled himself along to the airlock, taking a quick look at the mechanism.
"Gimme a sec - I'm interfacing with the ship's systems, it's ancient . . . and so advanced! It's capabilities are . . . got it. Door unlocked."
Daxia leapt from the corridor into the cockpit, she slid into a control panel and slammed her hands on the controls, just trying to piss off 343 Guilty Spark. The ship lunged forward and the instrumentation went crazy with bleeping. 343 Guilty Spark struggled to regain his bearings and Daxia took the opportunity to look at what she was doing.
It was not completely unfamiliar to her, she had a nasty suspicion that the airlock had just been unlocked. With a flash of inspiration she slammed the cockpit shut, saving herself from the vacuum of space. The lights changed their sequence and the ship shuddered again, she guessed the airlock had been opened.
"Cortana can you hear me?" She called into her helmet.
"Hold tight Daxia." Cortana replied. "We've met an old friend."
"Give him one for me." Daxia said, looking over the ships systems. There was a small explosion and the ship rocked again.
"Maybe grenades weren't such a good idea." Cortana said as the MC was flung across the cargo hold. He landed roughly and flung the second plasma grenade at 343 Guilty Spark.
"Now really." The AI construct said. "I survived the destruction of Halo, I can survive a simple grenade." He said as the plasma stuck to him. The Chief grinned.
"Who says I wanted to destroy you?" He asked. The force of the plasma explosion sent 343 Guilty Spark rocketing out of the cargo hold.
"Daxia! Close the airlock and lock it down!" Cortana cried.
"Yeah Cortana cause it's really obvious how this whole thing works." Daxia muttered through the radio, nevertheless finding the right controls. "Hold on until the pressure stabilizes."
The cockpit unsealed and Daxia glanced round at the Chief. She grinned.
"You showed up in the nick of time. Again." She said, smiling up at him.
"I'll try to avoid making a habit of it." He said, a gloved hand on her shoulder. She sighed and leaned against his chest, after all she'd been through a little encounter with 343 Guilty Spark could still unnerve her.
"Touching as this reunion is we do have marines and crewmembers aboard the Longsword." Cortana said.
"Bring them on board." Daxia ordered. "This ship's faster and I think I can figure out how to work it. Harry?"
"Yes ma'am?" Harry said over the radio
"We're coming around, prepare for docking procedures."
"Do you think this is a Forerunner ship?" Annie was asking her fellow marines as they lazed in the small, but comfortable crew quarters. Daxia walked past, catching a snippet of their conversation.
"Whatever it is - it's better than the Longsword."
Speaking of, the Longsword was in the cargo hold. It was a tight fit and Daxia had put all her skills to the test getting it in there, but as Cortana had said, the UNSC could not afford to leave a Longsword behind.
In the cockpit Harry was monitoring the ship, though he didn't really understand it yet and with Cortana in the systems there was absolutely no need. She smiled at him.
"Go join the others, I'll take over here." She promised. The Chief looked up from where he was running a diagnostic on the armour. He waited until Harry was gone before speaking.
"Couldn't wait to have the ship all to yourself?" He asked. Daxia ignored him, running her hands over the controls lightly. Cortana appeared from a nearby holo-emitter.
"Beautiful, isn't she?" The AI said softly. "I've never seen anything like it, closest thing was Halo."
"Does she have a name?" Daxia asked, not noticing that the Chief was standing over her shoulder.
"As far as I can tell she's called Avalon. The mythical resting place of King Arthur."
"Coincidence?" Daxia asked. "She's definitely nothing we could build." She glanced at the Chief, he had put a hand on her shoulder and another on her waist, interrupting her awed worship of the ship. "What?" She asked irritably.
"Nothing." John said with a sigh, retreating to the crew quarters. "Mechanics." He muttered under his breath.