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Amethyst part 6 - Cross Purposes
Posted By: kr142616
Date: 14 November 2008, 2:39 am

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      The surface of the human world was lit by fire. The sight left Deacon 'Aramee aghast, his mandibles spread wide. Below were ruins of the Forerunners, temples housing a relic of unknown significance and ancient knowledge. Treasures, by all rights.
      And they were burning.
      Not by the clumsy fire of human weapons, either. It was plasma fire. Caused by my own kind.
      "The damn fool!" 'Zharkanee spat, spinning from the cockpit display. "By the Prophets, why would he seek to destroy it?"
      "The signal," the Deacon said numbly. "His Wraiths opened fire when the signal started transmitting."
      "Aye, the signal," 'Zharkanee growled. "But what of it? If it means the humans have it, we can still catch them." The Commander stalked angrily about the troop bay for a moment, then swung his attention back to 'Aramee.
      "We must talk this fool down, Deacon. He seems to favor you. Speak to him." Before the Deacon could reply, 'Zharkanee addressed the copilot. "Open a channel with Field Master 'Qurupee. And shrink the hologram this time. I don't need to see that fool towering above me." The copilot offered an acknowledgement, and the image of the Field Master appeared. He began speaking without preamble:
      "Deacon, you have not acquired the relic?"
      "No, Field Master, we have not yet landed, even," 'Aramee answered.
      "Then it was the humans who activated it," the Field Master said, nodding in satisfaction. "The bombardment will continue."
      The Deacon felt a jolt flow through him. "No, Excellency!" he urged. "You've given us no time. We are winning, and it will be a simple matter to enclose the vermin."
      'Qurupee glared at the Deacon, although the effect was far less imposing now that the hologram was actual size. "Deacon, you of all should know that we cannot risk this falling into the humans' hands. That would be heresy."
      Next to 'Aramee, the Commander barked out a peal of laughter. "Risk? War is risk, Excellency," he said sardonically. "It would be heresy to destroy such a treasure rather than pursue it."
      "You dare question my word, Commander?" 'Qurupee growled, shifting his attention to 'Zharkanee.
      The Commander nodded solemnly. "And you dare to silence the words of our forebears. We shall each receive our just punishments, I am sure." With a swift cutting motion, 'Zharkanee signaled the copilot to terminate the transmission, and in the last instant before the hologram faded, the Deacon caught a glimpse of the Field Master's bewildered countenance.
      "Bastard! Fool!" the Special Operations Commander spat, whirling away from where the hologram had stood. "Dogma has blinded him!"
      "And yet you invoke dogma in continuing our attack," the Deacon replied simply. 'Zharkanee stopped the pacing he had begun and glared at 'Aramee.
      "And what more do you think would stop him than the implications of his own heresy?" The scowl on the Commander's face lessened, and his tone grew less sharp. "We are still nearing the artifact. Will your mission continue as planned?"
      The Deacon found himself surprised by the hot-headed Commander's deference, and took a moment to reply. "If your Elites are willing, then I am, Commander."
      "Excellent!" 'Zharkanee barked, his mandibles spreading in a smile. "Faith has not dulled this one!"
      'Aramee made to reply, when the copilot's voice again broke through the hold. "Commander, Jackal raiders report our scouts are down inside the ruins."
      "Worthy foes," 'Zharkanee muttered in reply. "Then we must hurry."

      What the fuck am I doing here? Jeff Walther thought for at least the tenth time in the past hour. Marines, aliens, bombs, ruins, he thought. What the fuck am I doing here?
      The walls of the old alien ruins shook around them, and no one looked up. Jeff and the marines had been winding through the ruins for the past hour, and the bombing had been a constant since they'd found that weird room twenty minutes ago, since that jackass corporal had swiped that weird alien tech. The bombs were the only sound to punctuate the heavy silence besides the pounding of feet and the occasional comm chatter from the two Echoes.
      I just wanted to find my uncle, to get that crazy bastard off the planet, he thought. He might be dead. Sam might be dead. Fuck, I might be dead. His thoughts flashed back to earlier that morning, waking up in his rundown apartment with his girlfriend, and he was amazed to find that he missed it. He missed that shithole, he missed that dead-end job of his, he missed that shitstain of a life!
      Jeff sighed. Now all that seemed far away, far longer than just a few hours ago.
      "LT's here," one of the Echoes, Four, said over the comm. The other Echo, the woman, Two, held up a hand, not realizing that Jeff had long ago broken their frequency encryption with his comm headset, just another of his uncle's toys.
      "What's up?" the marine corporal, Darin, said aloud, and Jeff chuckled. It felt good to have at least one advantage over the corporal.
      "Our squad," the female Echo—the other had called her Two—said, her voice short. She'd been about as annoyed with Darin and Jeff as they'd been with each other, which was saying something.
      Ahead, another figure, identical to the other Echoes save for its weapon, came into view. It paused, lowering its rifle. "What the fuck is this? Who are these guys?" he said, irritated.
      "Nice to fucking meet you, too," Darin replied, and Jeff felt himself agreeing. As bad as the corporal was, these Echo assholes were worse.
      "You picking up strays, Four?" the new Echo asked, ignoring Darin. "We need to get the shit and get outta here. Can you hear that bombing?" Almost as punctuation to his sentence, the walls around them shook.
      "Sorry Church," Four said unapologetically. "We got the artifact, though. Corporal's got it." The Force Recon marine hooked a thumb over his shoulder to Darin.
      The new Echo gave Darin a second glance, this time with interest—well, Jeff thought he was interested. He couldn't really tell with the helmet.
      "Alright, let's go," the new Echo said abruptly. "Three's got a charge set up to blow us outta here. Entrance is a no-go; we ran into some Jackals."       Without waiting for any confirmation, the new Echo—Jeff was guessing he was One—walked off into the shadows. The other two Echoes followed, and Jeff and Darin faced each other. Jeff knew they were thinking the same thing, despite the marine's faceplate:
      Fucking Echoes.