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The Darkness: An Elite's Tale
Posted By: MadJackal
Date: 18 January 2004, 3:16 AM

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      Squad Master Mehta Melormee ran his hand along the smooth surface of his needler as he stared down a corridor in the Covenant Cruiser Ways of Seeing. Nothing moved among the twisted remains of Teeth and Talons Squad and several Flood combat forms. Blood was smeared across the walls and the floor and pools of dark blood had formed around the intact bodies. Only huge stains of blood and bits of unidentifiable flesh hinted at the existence of bodies that had been blown up or torn apart. Mehta had arrived too late to save Teeth and Talons Squad.
      Mehta Melormee was the commander of Purity of Sight Squad, or had been. He was the sole survivor of what had amounted to the last stand of his squad in the B-1 Docking Bay. Flood combat and infection forms had overwhelmed his squad. In the fierce, but short, battle that had ensued, Mehta had been forced to watch as his teammates fell one by one around him. Elites and Grunts that he had trained with since being accepted into Special Ops. But all their training had not saved them from the sheer number of Flood forms that had attacked them. Mehta had been forced to commence a fighting retreat.
      Upon hearing radio chatter from Teeth and Talons Squad engaging in combat, he had hurried to their position to link up with another squad. But, it seemed that there was no one to link up with. Sighing, Mehta made his way down the hallway, stopping only to police needler crystals from dead Elites in order to replenish his ammo supply. He listened in to the comm. chatter, hoping to find the location of another nearby squad. If he didn't find some allies soon, he was a goner. The Flood were determined to take the ship and they were succeeding.
      As he turned the corner, he heard a sound. Bringing up his needler, Mehta panned the hallway, searching for the source of the sound. There were too many shadows, too many places where things could hide...
      A shape threw itself at him from the shadows. Mehta opened up on the blur of motion with his needler, throwing out more than half of the weapon's twenty-needle capacity at it. The needles tracked the creature, making up for Mehta's hasty aim. The needles stuck into its soft flesh, stabbing through and embedding themselves in its skin. The snarling creature tackled him to the floor. Looking up, Mehta realized that it was a Flood combat form.
      The Flood form was about to strike him with its mutated arm when the needles exploded in a chain reaction that sent thousands of slivers of microshrapnel through the combat form's body. It was torn apart in a spray of thick green blood that splashed across the front of Mehta's armor. The tattered remains of the combat form slumped down over Mehta. Shaking off his disgust, Mehta shoved the corpse off of his body and got to his feet. He looked down at his armor and started to wipe the muck from it.
      The battlenet crackled to life in a burst of static interspersed with the words of a frantic Elite. "...engaging...many Flood here...is Inf...del's Bane Squad is... overwhelmed...need reinforcements at the grav lift now!"
      Mehta tried to raise the Elite on the battlenet but could not do it. The ship's hull or the minerals in the canyons below must have been causing interference. He did catch some replies to the apparent distress call, though. "This is Purity of Soul Squad. We're on our way to the grav lift."
      "Bloody Hands Squad moving to secure grav lift."
      Mehta decided that he had better make his way to the grav lift too. Purity of Soul Squad was a Special Ops unit. Maybe he could link up with them. He got his bearings and set off for the grav lift. He planned to stop by at one of the armories to stock up on grenades and ammo before he got there though. He would need lots of firepower if he intended to join the battle below the ship. There were lots of Flood in the canyons.
      Whoever controlled the grav lift controlled what got on and left the ship. And if the grav lift fell, the Flood would have easy access into the ship. The fighting was heavy enough with the Flood already on board; they didn't need more of them. Mehta sprinted down the corridors, stopping only to help with the occasional firefight, but not lingering too long. Just when he was starting to run low on ammo again, he saw the armory.
      He stepped up to the door and it hissed open. Mehta stepped inside. It was dark inside. The door closed behind him and he waited for his eyes to adjust to the dim lighting. The only light came from a fire in the far corner of the room and the glow of plasma rifles charging on the racks. Mehta stepped cautiously into the room and noticed something more. Dead bodies, Covenant and Flood alike lay in crumpled heaps around the room.
      Mehta didn't like this room one bit. He decided not to linger and get the stuff he came for in the first place. He strode forward to a grenade rack and stocked up on plasma grenades. He found more ammunition for his needler and was about to walk out when he heard a sound from behind a weapons rack. It was a wet squishy sound, like something a decaying corpse would make when it moved, if it could move. But Mehta knew that it was a Flood form. The Flood defied both the laws of life and death. They were both living and dead at the same time. The minds of their victims had been erased, leaving only the body to do the Flood virus's bidding. Mehta had seen it. He had seen what the Flood did to their victims...
      Raising his needler, he backed up against another weapons rack, watching the shadows intently, not wanting to be caught off guard. Suddenly, Flood combat forms burst from hiding all around the room, firing stolen plasma rifles at him. Mehta dived to his right, firing emptying his needler at the oncoming Flood. Two were torn apart by the needles and three more were grievously wounded. But they kept coming. Mehta stumbled into a weapons rack. He dropped his needler and pulled two plasma rifles from the rack and brandished them, firing at multiple targets. The needler's time delay didn't kill the Flood quick enough for the sheer number of them. He needed quick killing power. And the plasma rifles were more than adequate.
      Flood seemed to wither away under the superheated plasma blasts, their flesh melting and falling away. But there were too many. Two Flood leapt at him. He redirected his fire at the two Flood. But his plasma rifles overheated and stopped firing. For the second time in as many units, he was tackled by the abominations. Mehta was slammed against the weapons rack, dislodging a few more plasma rifles, which clattered to the deck around him. Hand-to-hand combat was not how he wanted to fight to Flood. Mehta was very strong, stronger that most Elites, but he could not hope to take on these two Flood with more closing in from all sides.
      He had to level the odds. Fortunately, the tools he needed were right next to him. The combat forms started pummeling him with their mutated arms, which had become nothing more than masses of tentacles. Grunting from the pain, he reached out blindly until his fingers brushed the smooth surface of a plasma rifle. He scooped it up, jammed it against one of the Flood forms, and pulled the trigger. The plasma melted it away but the close range also melted the end of the plasma rifle.
      Cursing his own stupidity, he threw the twitching corpse off of him and grabbed the other combat form. Using all of his strength, he punched the form in the chest again and again. The soft flesh gave way beneath the punishment and crushed the Flood infection form that was living inside of its chest cavity. The form shuddered and died. Another form dived at him, but he was already on his feet and dodged to the left. Spinning around, he reached for another weapons rack and grabbed the first thing that he touched: a plasma sword.
      He activated the blade. It glowed to life, lighting up the area around him enough for him to see the shapes moving in the dark. He turned and slashed in the same motion, slicing the combat form nearest to him completely in half. Blood gushed from the two halves as they collapsed to the deck. But there were more. But Mehta was an expert with the plasma sword. Special Ops training had turned him into a specialist with all of the Covenant weapons.
      Flood rushed in, eager for a kill and a good meal. But they never stood a chance. Mehta killed them as fast as they appeared and soon, the deck around him was piled high with corpses and was stained with thick, green blood. And eventually, there were no more Flood left to kill.
      Mehta sagged to the deck and rested his plasma sword on his knees, catching his breath. Silence descended upon the room, save for the crackling of the flames in the far corner and his hoarse, ragged breath. Mehta deactivated the plasma sword and clipped it to his armor. He drew a fresh plasma rifle from the rack and checked to make sure it was at 100 percent charge. He checked for damage to the rifle and found none. Satisfied, he walked out of that cursed room and back into the hallway. Glancing at his chronometer, he noticed that several units had passed and that it was likely that whatever units had gone to secure the grav lift were already engaging the Flood. He was late and needed to get there fast.
      He jogged down the hallway, careful to conserve his energy, as he could not tell when he might need it. Before long, he stepped into the massive cargo and assembly bay that was the only way for the Flood to gain access to the inside of the ship. He was at the grav lift.
      He looked around and saw that a fierce battle had been fought in the bay. Bodies were scattered all over the deck and multicolored blood was smeared across the walls and deck. He stepped in to the bay, his plasma rifle at the ready. An Elite and two Grunts hailed him. They were not Special Ops troops.
      The Elite spoke up, "I am Karn Lomee, commander of Bloody Hands Squad. We have been assigned to guard the grav lift."
      "I am Mehta Melormee, the sole survivor of Purity of Sight Squad. Where are the rest of your troops?"
      "We arrived first and found that the Flood had used the grav lift to get up into the bay. The Flood must have killed the operators at the lift's controls before they could deactivate the lift. There were a lot of them gathering in the bay. We fought them but took severe casualties. What you see is all that remains of my squad," the Elite said, his voice choking on the last words.
      Mehta nodded, he understood perfectly. He had watched his own squad fall apart around him and knew how that felt. "What about Purity of Soul Squad? I heard that they were coming here."
      "They got here a few units after we arrived and helped us mop up the remaining Flood. They are currently down on the surface, defending the grav lift."
      "Then I shall join them," Mehta said, striding towards the center of the room and the platform he would need to stand on to be transported to the surface.
      "We have orders to deactivate the lift if the situation becomes unsalvageable on the ground," Karn said, his voice full of caution.
      Mehta understood that as well. If it was determined that they could not hold the lift, it would be deactivated to keep the Flood from getting aboard. Any Covenant troops still on the ground would have no way of making it to the relative safety of the ship. The odds of them surviving after that, with no reinforcements and no hope, were almost none.
      "I will go," Mehta said firmly.
      He stepped onto the platform and walked to the center.
      "May the gods favor you, Mehta," Karn said as he ordered a Grunt to trigger the lift.
      Mehta nodded. He was going to need the favor of the gods if he intended to live through this.
      He took one last look around before he felt himself lifted up into the air. Then, he felt the usual dizzying sensation as he was essentially teleported through the ship's hull and into the air outside. He felt another strange sensation, as if he was being pieced back together one molecule at a time. He noticed the twinkling purple aura in the air around him, a direct effect of the grav lift. Then, he shot towards the ground. His plummet slowed until Mehta hung suspended just a few meters off the ground and felt the lift let go of him. He fell to the platform on the ground, identical to the one inside of the ship, and bent his knees to absorb the fall.
      He stood up and looked around him. There was a loose ring of Special Ops Elites around the grav lift, armed to the teeth with plasma rifles and needlers. Special Ops Grunts and Jackals moved about around them, pointing their needlers and plasma pistols into the dark. This was Purity of Soul Squad.
      A Squad Master noticed him. He stepped up and looked Mehta over. "I am Tr' Koshakkee, commander of Purity of Soul Squad. You wear the rank of Squad Master. Where is your squad?"
      "They are dead. I, Mehta Melormee, am the sole survivor of Purity of Sight Squad."
      "Come join us. The fun is just starting," Tr' said, gesturing to the ring of soldiers around them.
      Mehta stepped off of the platform and looked out into the darkness. He could see flashes of tracer fire and the stuttering light of plasma bursts in the darkness of the canyons. "There is another squad out there?" Mehta asked.
      "Yes. That is Infidels' Bane Squad. What you see in front of you is their last stand." Tr' said.
      "Should we not attempt to assist them?" Mehta asked.
      "No. Between us and them is the largest concentration of Flood I have ever seen," Tr' replied, "They cannot be saved by a mere squad. We need at least three squads to break through."
      "Were they not the squad that made that distress call about fifteen units ago?" Mehta asked.
      "Yes. They saw that the Flood had overwhelmed the grav lift from their position farther down the canyon and they called for help. But, I'm afraid that we haven't been able to be much help to them."
      Mehta nodded and looked back at the fighting. It was dying down now. The darkness was broken only by the occasional burst of weapons fire or the rare flash of a grenade explosion.
      "How many do you estimate are out there?" Mehta asked.
      "Hundreds," Tr' replied grimly.
      "We need a Shade gun turret down here," Mehta said to himself.
      Then, he had an idea. He opened a comm. line to Karn Lomee and his Bloody Hands Squad back up in the bay of the ship. "Karn, this is Mehta. If it is not asking too much, we could use a Shade down here. Can you look for one to send down here?" Mehta asked.
      A static filled reply filled his ears. It was the voice of Karn, "It might take a while. I'll send my Grunts to scout around for one, but even if we find one, it might be a while before we can drag it to the lift. I hope you don't need one right now, Mehta."
      "No, but we will soon. I appreciate the help, comrade," Mehta answered.
      "No problem. I'll get back to you to report on any success in the search."
      Mehta looked around him. Fellow Covenant surrounded him and above him was the comforting presence of the Cruiser Ways of Seeing, but somehow, he felt alone. And it was not a good feeling. It chilled him. Maybe combat would take his mind off of the discomforting feeling. He silently willed the Flood to attack the grav lift.
      And they did. "Flood! They're massing in the boulder formations to my right!" an Elite yelled.
      "More from Infidels' Bane Squad's position!" another yelled.
      Mehta grinned. It was a feral grin, one that spoke of hatred and a lust for blood. Mehta had had enough of the Flood. He wanted them all dead. He wanted revenge for all of the innocent souls that they had taken over and destroyed. He wanted revenge for his squad. He wanted revenge for Infidels' Bane Squad and Teeth and Talons Squad. He wanted revenge for all the thousands of Covenant that had been killed so far in the battle to keep the Flood from getting off of Halo. And the only price powerful enough to quench his thirst for revenge was the death of all of the Flood forms in the canyons. Deep down, he doubted that even he could do that, so he settled for the death of just the couple hundred that were in the immediate vicinity.
      All hell broke loose. A storm of projectiles from human weapons and plasma and needles from Covenant ones bombarded the grav lift from all directions. Many of the Grunts were killed in the opening moments as rounds tore through their weak little bodies. The survivors immediately responded, sending a hail of weapons fire into the dark. Mehta could just barely make out the shapes of the Flood combat forms as they moved around in the shadows, their horribly mutilated bodies illuminated by the flash of a grenade or a burst of plasma fire.
      Mehta snapped off a few shots but knew that they were wasted. He needed the Flood to get closer so that he could make sure that his shots were actually hitting something. The storm of weapons fire drove Mehta and the others into the cover of the rocks and boulders surrounding the grav lift, and not a moment too soon. A rocket from one of the human-made rocket launchers slammed into the ground not a meter from where Mehta had been standing, shaking the ground and throwing up dirt and pieces of rock.
      A Grunt screamed as some of the rocket's shrapnel tore through its environmental suit's breathing apparatus. The Grunts breathed methane, not oxygen like the Elites and the others did. Methane poured into the air as the Grunt clutched the hole in the mask. Mehta watched as it suffocated and collapsed to the ground, writhing until it was finally dead.
      Peaking out from behind his boulder, Mehta saw several Flood combat forms charging toward him from the enveloping darkness, their shapes transforming from mere shadows to images of horrible mutations and wounds that would have incapacitated any normal creature, but did not stop the Flood. He saw missing limbs, gaping chest wounds, half shot off faces, and other things that would have him sprawled across the ground, screaming in pain. But the Flood did not feel pain. They truly did defy the laws of life and death.
      Mehta felt a new sensation, a new feeling emerge from deep inside of him. It was a feeling he had not felt for so long that he had almost forgotten what it felt like. It was fear. Another emotion arose to counter it. This one was anger, anger that he could be so cowardly as to feel fear of these abominations. He should want to kill them; he should feel hatred and contempt. And he did, but yet, he knew that there was nothing wrong with his fear. It was natural. And fear could become a potent weapon if it could be mastered. Maybe the fear of being infected would make him fight harder. He sure hoped so.
      Mehta fired his plasma rifle into the lead Flood form. It stumbled and collapsed as the plasma blasts melted away parts of its body. Mehta was just about to switch his fire to another one when the first one struggled to a sitting position, and then started to rise to its feet. Mehta fired again and this time, the Flood stayed down. He continued to fire, careful to fire short controlled bursts to keep the weapon's heat down so that he wouldn't have to worry about it overheating. More Flood fell beneath his accurate and deadly fire, but for every one he killed, two more materialized to take its place.
      From all around him, he heard the sounds of battle. There were screams of pain as his teammates died around him. There was the deafening sound of explosions, the ssnnp ssnnp of bullets kissing the sand, and the whine of plasma as it tore through flesh and rocks. Mehta pulled out one of his twelve plasma grenades, activated it, and threw it into the center of the swarm of Flood coming towards him. It exploded in a blinding white flash that vaporized a few of the combat forms and tore apart some others. In the brief respite that the grenade bought him, Mehta managed to look around. Purity of Soul Squad was being taken apart, one squad member at a time. Blood was running in little streams form the corpses, illuminated by the ghostly shimmer of the grav lift.
      Mehta saw Tr' die. Grievously wounded and overwhelmed by a swarm of the little Flood infection forms, Tr' emitted one last scream of defiance, activated a plasma grenade, attached it to his armor, and stumbled straight at the oncoming swarm of Flood forms. He managed to reach the first Flood forms before the grenade exploded, killing him instantly and taking out two more of the Flood.
      Mehta felt another new emotion: despair. This combined with his fear to make a deadly combination. They were all going to die. There was nothing he could do. He was too weak, to insignificant to stop the Flood. It would take someone with a stronger will to fight, someone with the heart of a hero. Mehta prayed that there was one with such a will, with such a heart, here on Halo. Mehta offered another prayer, this one for the safety and protection of the one who could save the universe from the Flood, if such a one existed. May whatever god you believe in protect you. The universe is counting on it. We all are, Mehta thought.
      Mehta's comm. set crackled to life, "Mehta, Purity of Sight Squad! This is Karn Lomee of Bloody Hands Squad! We've got some presents for you!"
      Looking up, he saw two blurs of motion as they shot down from the lift. Hunters. The huge twelve-foot tall armored Covenant soldiers had just the kind of firepower they needed to stay the Flood onslaught. And another blur came down: a Shade gun turret. The Hunters stepped off of the platform, their massive fuel rod cannons coming to life with a savage fury as they released huge bolts of plasma death at the Flood. Mehta ran towards the lift and the Shade that seemed to be beckoning to him. Grasping its side, he swung himself up and over, into the gunner's seat.
      Mehta got his bearings and started a huge plasma bombardment, sending out a viscous curtain of fire at the abominations. Flood forms literally disintegrated beneath the fire and for a moment, Mehta was filled with hope. But his hopes were crushed as the Flood swarmed into their positions, overwhelming and killing members of Purity of Soul Squad. Flood combat forms used their unnatural strength to leap high into the air, coming down on or near the grav lift. "They're trying to get aboard!" Mehta yelled. He shot one out of the air with the Shade, but there were too many.
      One landed next to him and swung its mutated arm at him, smacking the side of the Shade with its tentacles. It rocked to the side. Mehta was about to shoot the Flood form when it was sucked into the belly of the ship. "Karn, you've got incoming!" Mehta yelled in warning over the battlenet.
      More Flood were getting through their lines and were getting sucked up into the ship. "Can't you hold them off? There are too many in here! I've only got two Grunts left!" Karn answered.
      "I'm sorry Karn. We're fighting a losing battle down here."
      "Take the others and get back into the ship! I'll just deactivate the grav lift!" Karn yelled back.
      Looking around, Mehta saw that there weren't any members of Purity of Soul Squad left to save. One of the Hunters had been killed and the other one was fighting his way back the grav lift, followed by countless Flood forms. Mehta got out of the shade and yelled at the Hunter. "Quickly! Onto the lift! I'll hold them off!"
      He stepped off of the grav lift and into the dark, his plasma rifle blazing. The Hunter moved past him and onto the grav lift. It was sucked up into oblivion. Mehta's plasma rifle overheated. Unable to fire it any longer, he pulled out his plasma sword, which he still had from the armory, and activated it. Uttering an enraged battle cry, he charged right at the Flood.

      Back up in the ship, Karn Lomee watched as the Hunter materialized in the air over the platform, right a group of Flood combat forms. It dropped to the deck, flexing its massive knees to absorb the shock of the fall and began to annihilate the Flood. Karn looked around and did not see Mehta. "Mehta! Why are you still down there?"
      More Flood were materializing in the air over the platform as they used the grav lift to enter the ship. Pretty soon, there would be too many to handle.
      "Deactivate the lift, Karn," came the grim, but determined reply.
      "Do it! Now!" Mehta yelled angrily.
      Karn jumped towards the controls and punched in the series of codes needed to shut down the lift. Two Flood tried to oppose him, but he cut them down with a spread of plasma fire from his rife. Karn's finger hesitated over the last button, and then he pushed it.
      After offering a short prayer for the troops he was condemning to death on the surface, he uttered a separate one for Mehta, "May your soul see paradise, Mehta Melormee..."

      Back on the surface, Mehta stood next to the lift and watched as the sparkling purple aura of the lift faded away into blackness. The darkness overtook him. There was no light now except for the light of his plasma blade. But he had good night vision and could see the Flood closing in on him from every side, eager for a kill.
      Laughing at them, he taunted them, daring them to come and try to kill him. And they did. Mehta fought furiously, his blade cutting down numerous Flood forms. Exhaustion began to take its toll on him as his reactions slowed and less power came behind his slashes and less power emanated from his taunting voice. He threw all of his plasma grenades in a matter of minutes, taking out dozens of Flood, but there were more.
      He blocked a tentacle swing with his left arm and cut a Flood form in half with his right in a spray of dark blood that splattered over his armor. The blood was as black as the darkest night in the dim light of his plasma sword. He struggled to free his left arm form the grasp of the tentacles as he sliced the head off of another Flood form.
      Laughing hysterically, Mehta fell to his knees as a shotgun blast from one of the Flood took down his shields. Another blast tore open his chest and sent him to the ground. Blood oozed from the sucking chest wound as Mehta saw a group of the little infection forms swarm up towards his body, squabbling among each other to decide who would get to infect him and take over his body. One jumped up onto his stomach and moved towards the chest wound, looking insert its tentacles into his spine. "No," Mehta said, and using the last of his strength, he smashed it with his fist. It popped in a mist of dark blood.
      Mehta let his arm fall to the ground as the other infection forms swarmed up over his body. His last vision before one of them tapped his spine was the beautiful night sky above him. His last thought was a strange one. He thought about the human in the special armor that the other humans called Master Chief. Was he the one who could save the universe from the Flood? If so, Mehta would be proud to call this human brother. Mehta's last emotion was also a strange one. He felt peace. He closed his eyes and waited for his soul to be transported to paradise.