Parcel o' Rogues - Part Five - Rampant Justice
Posted By: Jillybean<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 22 December 2004, 11:42 PM
Parcel o' Rogues
It would have destroyed me, the horror of her actions, but for the urgency in them.
Saia' Jalahass beat upon the door with her fists, the crowning helmet falling from her head.
I would have tried to stop her, but for the rage in her.
The High Priestess broke the door to the nursery, demanding of the Grunt maids that she see her first hatched son.
Tradition dictated that our son be held from us, to be displayed at parties and touted for our honour. Our first offspring being a son was a blessing to myself, proving my spirit the stronger. That thought circled in my head as my mate swept the maids aside, storming past Honour Guards and reaching the hatchery.
I followed. I would have apologised, or tried to help the fallen, but it seemed pointless.
I was afraid of her.
I remember to this day that she hadn't seen her son, yet she knew instinctively which one he was. The bundle of legs and arms and neck seemed to respond to her presence, waving and gurgling.
All my doubt washed away when she turned to face me, my son in her arms.
Why, for all our honour, should our children be raised apart from us? Lesser Sangheili would have been allowed to watch over their children. What made a Priestess and a Commander any different?
An overdressed and over hyped Honour Guard lunged forward. I brushed him off with a look. As with all things, Saia' Jalahass was right. Our son belonged with us. Not this crèche for the privileged.
"May we leave now, Excellency?" The Priestess stood in the middle of the carnage she had wrought and asked me if we could part company with the inferior beings.
With an arm around my mate and son, I left the chamber, returning to our own suite on High Charity.
"The Prophets will be furious." Saia' Jalahass set our son on the cot, wrapping one of her formal robes over his form. "They will punish me for this."
"They will not," I spoke of what I did not know. Scripture sprung to mind, words I had always placed my faith in. "'For all Covenant must rely on the Bond between mates. On the blood of our fathers, on the blood of our sons, through great Honour can we travel on our Great Journey'."
She smiled, her eyes hooded. Placing a hand on my ribcage, she leaned closer. "Would that I had your faith, my love."
Mark glanced round as Miranda entered the cockpit of the dropship.
"Ma'am," he saluted. "What can I do for you?"
"Can you fly this ship?" she asked, glancing at the foreign controls.
Surveying the blues and purples, Mark nodded. "Cronus has been teaching me, it's very simple really."
"Excellent," Miranda stepped back, suppressing a sigh. "The moment we are out of slipspace we will engage the enemy. The Arbiter, Sarge and Whitey will drop to Earth, while Cortana, Cronus and myself handle the space side of things."
Miranda stalked the corridors back to the control room. There was a pulled muscle in her shoulder, Graeme Coltrain had advised rest and prescribed a pain killer, but done little else. The pain relief had worn off and the advice was pointless.
Her heart was racing. Now they would finish the Halos once and for all.
And then what?
The nasty little voice at the back of her mind whispered at her. Then what?
The Flood will come for you.
They do not discriminate.
They do not care.
They only devour.
"Nice lady!" Gah-Jin squeaked, turning the corner as she did and bouncing off her.
"I apologise Gah-Jin," she helped the squat alien to his feet. "Are you quite all right?"
Rubbing his back, the Grunt bounced on the his paws, waving merrily. "Me fine, me fine. Lady okay?"
"I'm fine too, thank you," she smiled at him.
"Where you going?"
Unaccustomed to the beguiling honesty of Grunts, Miranda stammered a bit. "To the control room," she managed eventually. "Would you like to accompany me?"
"Yeah yeah yeah!" Happily bouncing alongside, Gah-Jin chatted endlessly the whole way.
On entering, Miranda noticed that Whitey seemed pleased with her new best friend. Whatever confidence he had in the Grunts was lost on her. She was beginning to wonder why they were at all feared in battle, they appeared to be made of rubber and gossip.
"Ten minutes to the drop to normal space," Cronus turned to her. "In the mean time, I wish to speak with your privately."
In the adjacent 'office', Cortana and Cronus both appeared, looking grave.
"That glitch, in the brig systems?" Cortana asked, folding her arms tight across her chest. "Fera' Talsamee's health is deteriorating fast."
"Someone's been hurting her?" Miranda sat on a crate, wondering what someone would gain from that. The Elite had been co-operating with them.
Cronus shook his head. "Torturing her. For information. Cortana and I had to look very carefully for the signs. Whoever it is has an incredible knowledge of AI systems. If it had been only one of us . . ." Cronus shrugged. "Let's just say that it could have gone on for a very long time."
Rubbing her face, Miranda sat straighter. "Have you no idea who this is?"
"I believe," Cortana hesitated, symbols running the length of her body. "I believe we are blessed with the presence of an ONI spook, ma'am."
"I've never seen . . . sneakiness like this," Cronus added. "It fits what I've learned about ONI from Cortana."
"Then . . . who?"
"Kate Donnell." Cortana slumped visibly. "I've checked again and again. She's the only possible . . . logical . . . outcome."
Miranda stood slowly. "I suppose we shall have to ask her then."
"Take care," Cronus warned, his image flickering. "The Arbiter has become attached to Kate. It would be wise to confront her . . . separately?"
The Elite turned, her eyes fixing on the freshly armoured human before her. "John. I hope you could repair your suit?"
The Chief nodded, his helmet bobbing. "I'm going to do recon," he hefted the plasma pistol as he spoke. "You'll hear from me within the hour."
"I'm going with you," the Elite retorted.
John paused, weighing this option in his mind. No. He'd be better to have back-up with the ship.
"This is not your choice John-117," Saia' Jalahass warned. She turned from him, pulling off the robe she wore and sliding a battered set of armour onto her limbs.
The Master Chief shook his head, shoulders slumping as he saw her determination. "Saia' . . ."
"Do not try to stop me," she spun, her gauntleted fist clenching. "We may only have one opportunity to enter the Ark." She stood, the grey armour bristling with static as the shields engaged. "I won't waste it."
The Chief handed her the pistol. "If something happens - I won't be trying to save you. From what you've told me, my primary objective is now the Ark."
She took it and nodded. "Thank you," she whispered. "And you might not want to call me Saia'," she added.
The Chief glanced at her.
"It's . . ." and she grinned. "Extremely intimate, shall we say?"
Keeping a sharp pace throughout the South American rainforest did not deter the Elite on his heels. This pleased him, somewhat perversely. He had hoped to leave her behind . . .
"Hold," he whispered, ducking behind the trunk of a fallen tree.
Saia' Jalahass crouched beside him, gripping her weapon tightly. She was about to speak when the Chief held up a hand to stall her.
A bare twenty yards ahead, two Ghosts started up, their humming almost lost in the sounds of the forest.
"Tartarus is dead."
"Do not speak such Heresy," growled a second Brute voice.
The Chief motioned for Saia' Jalahass to stay where she was, before crawling slowly to the right.
"It is not Heresy, it is only the truth. Truth knows it."
Growling, the second Grunt shifted his Ghost a little away. "Truth is wise, if he has chosen to keep the Ark then it is because he knows Tartarus did not finish his task. The Ark may be used to rectify his failure."
"Perhaps the Demon still stalks us."
In a blur of green, the Master Chief landed on the wing of the Ghost, driving his fist into one Brute's face.
The Brute howled, flailing wildly. His actions nearly upset John, but he used his momentum to drive the Brute out of the seat. In the brief seconds it took to regain control of the Ghost, he found himself rammed by the second.
The Ghost spun in the air, the fluctuations in the terrain too much for the anti-grav cushion to handle. In that moment he was completely vulnerable, needing all he had to fight the Ghost's crazy tumble.
Saia' Jalahass swept up from the ground, batting the Brute shot out of the grounded Brutes hands. As he roared, frenzied, she vaulted over him, sprinting for the gun.
He was coming for her in a screaming rage, as she tumbled to the ground, landing in the dirt.
The Chief had no opportunity to shout a warning as the alien came down on the Elite . . . and was blown backwards by a grenade to the gut.
Panting, Saia' Jalahass held the Brute shot tightly, aiming another grenade at the second Ghost.
"Not bad," John drawled as his Ghost approached.
Her eyes narrowed, before she realised that he was teasing her. "Thank you." She stood, heading towards the second Ghost. "We must be close."
"Closer for the Ghosts," the Chief replied. "Come on, someone will look for them shortly."
Kate hesitated in the corridor, though outwardly she showed no signs.
Halfway to the control room and with no where to turn to, there was definitely someone following her.
She ducked behind the nearest bulkhead, cocking the Magnum and waiting, her breath quiet and regular.
She heard the distinctive clip of a cloven foot, and the soft crackle of a charged Elite shield.
Had Fera' Talsamee somehow escaped?
The Elite was sniffing now, moving slowly. It knew she was close. It was definitely hunting her.
Slowly. Quietly. She wrapped her left hand around her right, giving herself all the support she could. She would only have one shot if the Elite came at her.
It was very close now, close and ready.
She came out low, aiming up at the chestplate of the alien . . . but it was not there. It took her a moment to register the active camouflage, and that was all Whitey needed to stun her.
"Commander?" he called. "I have her."
"Very good," Miranda spoke over the radio. "Take her to the Brig then meet me in the Control Room. We reach Earth in ten minutes."
Miranda Keyes turned as Whitey entered. She nodded at him, casting an uneasy glance towards the Arbiter. He had not yet been informed of Kate's treachery.
"We're coming out of slipspace now, ma'am," Mark murmured. He turned away from the controls. "Earth's a mess . . ."
"Hail Lord Hood," Miranda commanded. She stood, unable to stay seated as Earth was bombed before her.
"There's a lot of ground troops down there," Johnson murmured.
Whitey nodded in agreement. "I worry about your marines. There may be contingents of Elites down there, but I doubt they will join forces readily."
"Who the Hell is this?" Lord Hood demanded, his voice sounding strained.
"Lord Hood? This is Commander Keyes." Miranda glanced at the others. "I'm in command of this ship."
"Keyes . . . I've no time for explanations . . . you are the only human force airborne, they're shooting us out of the sky."
"Sir, we have to get to something called the Ark."
"The Prophets evacuated the ship Master Chief destroyed and landed in South America. Get there and kill them all."
"Aye, sir. We have with us some Elites and Grunts who have switched sides . . ."
The loaded silence did not bode well. "Just. Get there," Hood growled. "This is the end, Commander. You must stop them."
"It's worse than that, sir. If Truth activates the Ark - the Halos will fire."
"Wait -" Whitey turned. His eyes widened in horror. "Where is the Arbiter?"
Kate leapt into the pilots seat of the Phantom. "Thanks for this," she called breathlessly.
"You may want to leave now," the Arbiter shouted back. He fired a few warning shots at Danny Coltrain as the ODST tried to stop their take-off.
"I'm working on that," Kate yelled. She grinned as the controls flared into life. "Close the hatch!"
The Arbiter leaned over her seat as they broke through the docking bay doors. "I hope you know what you're doing."
With a glance up at him, Kate nodded. "Yeah. Me too."
"It looks like the structures on the Sacred Ring," Saia' Jalahass whispered.
The Master Chief was inclined to agree. The huge temple infront of them was certainly imposing. It was made all the more so for the Brutes patrolling its base and the Jackal snipers positioned on its many layers.
"This is . . . unexpected," Saia' Jalahass turned away, she appeared shaken to her core.
"What is it?"
Swallowing, the Priestess stole another glance at the temple. "Earth . . . it was not supposed to be your homeworld. When Regret came here, it was to find the Temple of Sinners, where the location of each Sacred Ring is noted."
Saia' Jalahass shrugged. "As far as I am aware the city was misleading for us. The true Temple was found a little way off in a stone structure much like this one."
"A pyramid," the Master Chief nodded. "I have heard stories that the Egyptians started the Mayan cultures over in South America." Off her look, he explained "you'd be surprised what tactics can come from good historical training."
"The Forerunner used the Sacred Rings to save them from their doomed existence. Except for the Sinners, the Heretics, they were left behind on the Ark to forever suffer."
"To 'forever suffer'."
"We - they believe that the Great Journey bears ones soul to salvation. The Heretics were left behind where they could not follow."
"They survived the Halo firing," the Chief surmised.
"Possibly," Saia' cautioned. "Or they were killed by the blast and their souls were not transported to a higher plane. It is a chance I do not wish to take."
"I take your point," John nodded. "So. All we need to do now is to get in there."
"How dare you speak such blasphemy!"
"Silence," Saia' Jalahass commanded. "You're waking the children."
"I would wake them rather than hear your . . . your Heresy!" I couldn't shout the word. I had to whisper it.
Saia' watched me, her expression one of deep pity. "I only mention it, my love, because I believe it to be true."
I wanted her to stop speaking. I wanted her to pretend she didn't have these thoughts. "You believe in this Heresy?"
Standing gracefully, my mate crossed the large hall easily. Our home planetside was rarely used, and full of expensive trinkets. Our children were not allowed in this hall, but it was not them who were liable to break something now.
"I only say this because I have studied our faith so diligently. I do not believe these humans are a threat to us."
"The council believes differently," I sniffed haughtily.
Laughing, Saia' folded her arms, shaking her head in disbelief. "Don't you think this is difficult for me? I was practising ritual before I could speak, my love. I do not heresy . . . I do not believe I can heresy!"
I was struck with an awful thought. "You haven't spoke of this with anyone else, have you?"
"No!" she exclaimed. "I told you! I trust you!"
"Father?" Karte' Jalahass stood at the door, eyes wide. At ten cycles already, our oldest son was watching our battle with fear.
"Jalahass," Saia snapped. "You are not allowed here."
"Come, son," I crouched, beckoning him forward. As a son he had taken my mates second name, and he had been named Karte' after one of the oldest Arbiters. The Priestesses had awarded the name, not us. Karte' was to be a great warrior one day. For now he was still my son.
"Lyueem and Hara' are awake also," he murmured in my arms, torn between telling on his siblings . . . and letting them join in this rare treat.
"Come out," Saia' Jalahass ordered. Our second son, Hara' Jalahass and our first daughter Saia' Lyueem emerged from the columns. Both were cautious as they approached, circling their mother to reach me.
"You all should be asleep," I chided, smoothing the downy fur on Lyueem's neck.
"Solo' is still asleep," Lyueem pointed out, a little hopefully.
I glanced up at my mate, willing her to smile at the thought of our tiniest child crawling from his cot to see what we were shouting about. She did not.
"You all must go back to sleep," Saia' unfolded her arms and turned from us, leading the way back to the sleeping chambers. The nursemaid, a much younger sister of Saia' was asleep in the nursery. She didn't stir as we replaced the youngest children in their cots and left them.
"One would hope if a Jackal assassin were to appear, Haelaay would be more alert," I drawled, hefting Karte' into a more comfortable cradle.
"Saia' Haelaay begged me for this post," Saia' was growling. She placed her palm on the door to Karte's chambers and stood aside to let me carry him in. "I will speak with my mother about her. I cannot have such carelessness."
"Saia' . . . she's young yet." I crouched to let Karte' down gently. "Will you sleep now?"
"Are you still mad?" Karte' looked between us.
My mate mustered a smile and stooped to cover him with the blankets. "Sleep now, son. In the morning your glory awaits."
"My mother must be spoken with."
I glanced up in surprise. In our chambers, and trying to set the rest of the evening aside, Saia' was still argumentative.
"I won't have Haelaay be so careless with my children." She hesitated, clutching a glass in her hand. "You don't think . . ."
I regretted speaking about Jackal assassins. I didn't think . . . except in my darkest thoughts. The Prophet Solitude was a good friend to me and he had done much to alleviate the fury caused when Regret's brother had been killed. Still . . . the political ripples resonated throughout our lives.
"There was nothing you could have done," Saia' murmured softly. She poured herself a drink. "Do you want one?"
Shaking my head I stood at the window, watching the dawn. Yes there was nothing I could have done, but the loss of a brother was deep one in the Covenant. This war on humanity might ease my heart.
"I still do not believe there is anything to fear from the humans," Saia wrapped an arm around my waist and rested her head on my shoulder.
Smiling, I returned the embrace. "Do you decide whom we march against?"
"When that day comes, I hope you'll remember your faithful mate."
"Perhaps. Why, what has he done for me lately?"
Miranda turned as Graeme pelted into the control room, sweat dripping off his face.
"Ma'am Cortana and Cronus are gone!"
Miranda glanced at the holographic representations on the pedestal before her.
Cronus shrugged. "Unfortunately we are only copies," he told her regretfully. "Our degradation is nearly complete."
"Kate would like to inform you," the not-Cortana added, "that ONI only has what is best for humanity in its interests."
"Where is she going?" snarled Miranda, gripping the pedestal as if she could shake the hologram from its perch.
"I could tell you that," 343 Guilty Spark hummed.
Miranda fixed him with a steely gaze. "Where?"
"She is returning to her kind."
"Her . . ." Miranda glanced at Graeme to see if this made more sense to him. "ONI?"
"The Forerunner," the Oracle replied, greatly confused. "Could you not see it?"
"Stay where you are!"
The Master Chief winced when he heard the Elite growl behind him.
"Take his weapons." Two Grunts came running forward, slowing as they reached the Demon.
"Do no such thing!" Saia' Jalahass pounced from the trees. She skelped one of the Grunts and levelled a furious glare at the scarlet Elite commander before her.
"My Lady," the Elite gasped, bowing before her.
John watched as the Grunts fell over themselves in an attempt to worship the Priestess.
"My Lady, it is not safe here!"
"In case you had not noticed, it is not safe anywhere," Saia' Jalahass repeated dryly. "What is your name?"
"I am Commander Giu' Thelanna, this is my scouting party."
Saia' Jalahass nodded to the two other Elites and the company of Grunts. "Are there more of you?"
"There are. Just over that ridge. We escaped from the cruiser Gentle Steel."
Saia' Jalahass turned to the Master Chief, excitement burning in her eyes. "John this could be our chance."
"I agree," the Master Chief looked up at Giu' Thelanna. "Are there marines close by?"
Hesitantly, Giu' Thelanna confirmed that there was.
"We must join forces if we are to take the Ark," Saia' Jalahass placed a hand on Giu' Thelanna's shoulder. "We must fight with the humans."
"The prophets will not like that . . ." Giu' grinned. "It is an excellent idea."