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Through Murderous Eyes: An Elite's Tale
Posted By: MadJackal
Date: 18 May 2004, 2:01 AM

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      A harsh beam of crimson light burned its way past Esna Noromee as he ducked behind the cover of the pillar. The laser melted its way into the wall behind him, leaving a charred, smoking gash behind it. Esna leaned back against the pillar, catching his breath. The pack of floating Sentinels continued their laser barrage, carving intricate designs into the other side of the pillar, as if daring Esna to come out. Esna dared.
      He leapt out from behind the pillar, raising his plasma rifle to target the nearest Sentinel. The Sentinel rotated its laser, the menacing red glow of the weapon tracking him like a lethal eye. The Sentinel, as well as the three others near it, opened fire, their deadly accurate lasers converging on him. The lasers hit his shields, causing them to flare up. Esna returned fire. His burst of plasma fire caught the first Sentinel, hammering its own shields until they flickered and then died.
      The Sentinel immediately maneuvered out of the way, trying to retreat behind the relative protection of its comrades. Their lasers swept towards Esna but they could not track him fast enough. He kept firing, ignoring the heat building up in his rifle. Plasma struck the weakened Sentinel, the blasts splashing across its angular armor, melting it and sending molten rivulets dripping to the floor. One of the blasts found its way into the delicate interior of the Sentinel, and it exploded in a ball of flames that fell to the ground.
      Esna ducked behind another pillar, narrowly avoiding two lasers that burned past him, melting paths through the floor. Esna was an Elite in the 15th Combined Arms Strike Team, otherwise known as the Dark Wave. The 15th CAST had taken heavy casualties in its efforts to cleanse the valleys of the Flood. Esna had been separated from his squad when they had been ambushed by a swarm of Flood combat and infection forms. He had been forced to run, chased the whole time by Flood combat forms, until he had reached the circular room he was in now. There, a large group of Sentinels had flown out of the open center area of the room and had proceeded to burn the Flood down. They had ignored Esna at first, but once the Flood were gone, they decided to kill him too.
      Esna had proved very difficult to kill, and he was still alive while only three of them remained. Esna briefly considered trying to nail one with a plasma grenade, whose explosion might take out all three of them, but he only had three grenades left. He decided to destroy them the straightforward way. Esna leaned out from behind the pillar and opened up with his plasma rifle. The bright blue blasts struck a Sentinel, splashing over its shields and causing them to shimmer and flair up. The Sentinels fired back, their lasers splitting his field of vision with their fiery light.
      Squinting past the blinding laser fire, Esna kept up his own fire. One of the Sentinels exploded, the shrapnel and pieces of metal striking the other two Sentinels and causing them to retreat back into the center of the room. Ducking back behind the pillar, Esna breathed a sigh of relief as his shields slowly recharged. He waited until they were back to full, and he stepped out from behind the pillar, tensing for the impact of the lasers. None came.
      He edged toward the door, checking the charge of his plasma rifle. It was at fifty-three percent. It still had enough for another firefight, but he knew he would need a replacement soon. He reached the blood-smeared door. The doorway was littered with the bodies of the Flood combat forms. He decided not to look at their horribly mutated bodies, at the yellowing flesh, the still smoking wounds, at the tentacles that had sprouted from what had been their wrists and forearms...
      They had been Elites like him. Some had been humans, but most had been Elites before they had succumbed to infection. The mutations were a result of the infection. He crouched down next to one of the dead infected Elites and took its plasma rifle. Checking the charge, he saw that it was at seventy-two percent. He discarded his old plasma rifle. The new rifle had been lying in a pool of blood and the sticky substance coated its side. He shook the rifle off and used his armored hand to try and wipe away the remaining thick green blood from the smooth surface of the rifle. He got up and moved for the door. The doors split open and he stepped through.
      Two lasers lashed out from behind him, hitting him in the back. The two Sentinels had come back out from hiding. The doors closed, separating him from the deadly machines and sparing him the brunt of their laser fire. Stepping over the bodies of a few more combat forms, Esna made his way down the ensuing hallway. He followed its winding curves to the next door. The door slid open and Esna burst through, his weapon raised.
      A gust of cold night air chilled him and a light snowfall gave the illusion of peace in the valley that contained the control center of Halo. Esna made for the relative cover of a group of large rocks. Peeking around the rocks, he saw a sight that gave him an immense amount of relief. The control center was still in Covenant hands. And better yet, there was still a sizable defense force. A Wraith mortar tank lay hidden in a stand of snow-covered trees, ready to spring out and destroy any enemies dumb enough to attack the control center. At least three squads worth of Covenant troops paced back and forth at the base of the pyramid structure, whose winding paths led to the top and the control center.
      Looking farther out into the valley, Esna saw that there were some Flood combat forms at the opposite end. He started to move towards the nearest Covenant soldiers when the Wraith came to life, moving out of the cover of the trees. It turned towards the Flood combat forms and fired its huge plasma mortar. Esna watched in awe as the huge comet-like ball of plasma death arced through the sky to slam into the group of Flood combat forms. They didn't stand a chance against the mortar. It hit the ground with a tremendous explosion that shook the ground and vaporized many of them. Others were sent flying into the air, ripped apart in sprays of green blood.
      Esna ran over to a Squad Master in red armor and reported himself, "I am Esna Noromee of the 15th CAST. I was separated from my squad and found my way here."
      "The Dark Wave?" the Squad Master asked, his voice full of awe.
      His reaction was expected, and Esna temporarily basked in the glory of it. The Dark Wave was famed for their skill and tenacity in battle. They were one of the best non-Special Ops units in the Covenant armed forces. Though Esna's blue armor ranked him as a regular Elite, just the fact that he was a member of the Dark Wave made others respect him almost as if he was a Squad Master. His bloodstained armor and his fierce, murderous eyes, amplified by the demonic look of his armor, gave him an air of viciousness.
      "Yes, I am a member of Grim Defiance Squad," Esna answered.

      "None of the Dark Wave are here. Field Master Lozemee might be able to tell you where the nearest Dark Wave troops are."
      "Where is he?" Esna asked.
      "Right over there, by the base of the pyramid."
      Esna saw a tall, imposing Elite wearing the gold armor that went along with his rank. He was also carrying a plasma rifle. Esna strode over to him. "Field Master Lozemee, I presume?"
      "Yes, that's me. Who are you?"
      "Esna Noromee of the Dark Wave. I was separated from my unit and ended up here. I was wondering if you could establish contact with some of the Dark Wave so that I can link up with my unit to continue the fight to cleanse the valleys of the Flood."
      "Sure. Are communications down between you and your squad?" Lozemee asked.
      "No, I don't think so, I just could not establish contact with them over the battlenet."
      "Okay, I'll just--"
      A storm of rifle fire erupted from behind Esna. He spun around and saw Flood forms pouring from the door that he had just come through. A tempest of plasma and bullets from human weapons tore into the Covenant troops by the door, killing several Grunts and Jackals in the opening few seconds. The Squad Master that Esna had talked to threw a grenade, which landed on a combat form in the middle of the group. It exploded in a blinding white flash that killed the combat form and all of the combat forms around it.
      The Squad Master raised his fist into the air and gave a roar of bloodlust as he fired his plasma rifle at the doorway. Suddenly, from the dying flash of the explosion, another Flood combat form rushed out. It was an infected human, and it was carrying one of their rocket launchers. Before the Squad Master could do anything, the combat form fired. The rocket leapt from the launcher, leaving a trail of flame and smoke behind it as it flew straight towards the unfortunate Elite. He tried to dodge it, rolling to the side, but the rocket struck the ground at his feet. The explosion of the 102mm anti-tank rocket took down his shields in an instant, taking with it the lower half of the Elite's body. A spray of dark purple blood settled to the snow all around the Elite's body like a light, misty rain.
      The infected human was met by a storm of plasma fire that blasted through its body. Not feeling the pain, and yet still staggering from the sheer kinetic energy of the weapons fire, the combat form ducked behind a rock while more of its comrades poured from the doorway. While Field Master Lozemee and his troops fired on the charging combat forms, Esna searched for the rocket wielding infected human. It was the biggest threat and needed to be taken out first. He saw a blur of putrefying skin followed by the flash of the rocket launcher as it fired yet another rocket.
      Esna tackled Field Master Lozemee, throwing them both to the ground as the rocket hit the ground not three meters away, the shrapnel striking their shields. They got up, looking around in a daze as Grunts and Jackals around them lay screaming and writhing on the ground in pain. Looking back at the door, Esna saw that more Flood were pouring through the doorway, this time accompanied by infection and carrier forms.
      Field Master Lozemee ordered his troops to start falling back from the door as Esna fired his plasma rifle at one of the bloated carrier forms. The punishment was too much for the carrier form, and it exploded in a cloud of green blood, releasing the infection forms that it had been holding within its putrefying body. The little infection forms flew everywhere, settling to the ground and scurrying towards the nearest Covenant troops. One jumped onto the chest of a wounded Jackal. The Jackal squirmed and tried to knock it off, but it was too late. The infection form inserted its tentacles into its chest, searching for the Jackal's spine. The Jackal screamed in pain as it was paralyzed by the infection form's spores. It stopped moving as the infection form began the takeover process.
      Esna aimed carefully and fired off a burst of plasma fire that caught the Jackal in the side of the head, killing it. Another burst hit the infection form, which popped in a spray of green blood and pieces of its flesh. Esna, Lozemee, and two Grunts started backing up the ramp at the base of the pyramid while the rest of Lozemee's troops started backing farther away across the valley floor. A constant storm of weapons fire tore through the Flood forms, and they dropped quicker than Esna could count. Some got back up, missing arms, parts of their faces, or with gaping chest wounds that would have killed or incapacitated any normal creature. But the Flood weren't normal. They were abominations; they were to be hated.
      They reached the top of the ramp and started shooting over the wall at the Flood below. Suddenly, the infected human appeared again and another rocket blasted its way free towards them. Esna and Lozemee ducked. The rocket hit the pyramid wall behind them. A hail of shrapnel and pieces of stone hit Esna. His shields wavered at a dangerously low level and the insistent beeping in his helmet warned of their impending failure. Esna stayed down, waiting for his shields to recharge. Eventually, they did. He looked around and saw that the Grunts were not so lucky. Both were dead, lying in pools of their own light blue blood.
      Lozemee was already up and firing down the ramp. Esna got up and saw that the Flood had pushed Lozemee's troops away from the bottom of the ramp and several were charging up at them. Esna opened fire, his plasma tearing ragged holes in their flesh. Suddenly, one used its abnormal strength to leap high into the air, coming down in front of Esna. Esna fired his rifle at almost point blank range into the stomach of the combat form. It doubled over at the waist, but rose with its left arm swinging. The arm had mutated so that a mass of tentacles had pushed their way out of its arm. They were incredibly strong, as was demonstrated to Esna when the tentacles hit him. The force of the blow knocked him off of his feet and he fell onto his back. His plasma rifle clattered across the snow-covered stone, out of reach.
      The combat form opened up with its human assault rifle, emptying more than half of the armor-piercing rounds in its magazine into him. The rounds hammered into his shields. Already weakened by the tentacle hit, his shields flickered and died. A few rounds got through to blast through his armor. Grunting with pain, Esna crawled for his plasma rifle. Suddenly, the combat form fell to the ground beside him. Looking up, he saw Field Master Lozemee grinning above him.
      "Thanks for the save," Esna said, clutching his side.
      Blood oozed out over his fingers and started to run down the side of his armor. It did not matter. He had been wounded worse before. He was about to grab his plasma rifle when combat forms started landing all around him. Field Master Lozemee got hit by three of them in rapid succession. The force of the blows sent him over the wall, and he tumbled over the side. Not certain of Lozemee's fate, but more concerned at the moment with his own, Esna rose to his feet. There were five combat forms around him. They rushed towards him.
      Esna had learned hand-to-hand combat in his training, but was not quite sure how to combat such horribly mutated creatures. Still, there were some techniques that seemed to work no matter what they were used on. One came in to swing its tentacles at him. Esna brought his fist back and punched with all of his might. His fist smashed into the bloated chest of the infected Elite, crushing the infection form inside. The Elite collapsed. The Flood came in quick, one wrapping its tentacles around his left arm, keeping him from using it. He lashed out with his right arm, pummeling the combat form's face.
      The Flood form staggered under the blows but did not let go. Esna yanked his arm as hard as he could, and the Flood form's grasp loosened. Esna shoved the combat form in the chest and it fell over the side of the wall, tumbling the short distance back to the valley floor. Another combat form struck him from behind, sending him stumbling forward. Steadying himself on the wall, Esna spun around, sweeping the combat form's feet out from under it. It fell backwards. Another combat form lunged for him. Esna delivered a stunning kick to its chest, collapsing the rib cage and killing the infection form that was living inside. It collapsed, its death spasms cutting swaths in the layer of snow that had settled on the path up the pyramid.
      As Esna prepared to attack another of the combat forms, the one that he had tripped got back up and grabbed him from behind, its unbelievably strong tentacles pinning his arms to his sides. The other combat form started to pummel him with its own tentacles. Esna recoiled under each blow, helpless to do anything as his shields started to fail. He struggled within the viselike grip of the Flood form behind him, but he was unable to release himself.
      Suddenly, a prolonged burst of plasma fire cut into the back of the Flood form that was hitting him. It twisted under the punishment, giving out a death gurgle as it crumpled to the ground. Behind it stood Field Master Lozemee, still alive, but clutching his wounded upper right arm. Dark purple blood stained the bright gold upper arm armor, running in little streams down his forearm and onto his hand. Despite this, Lozemee was grinning.
      Esna, using all of his remaining strength, flipped the Flood form behind him over his back. The viselike grip slackened, and Esna tore himself away from it. Lozemee fired his plasma rifle, and soon, the combat form was dead. All around them, the valley was quiet. Esna looked out over the valley and saw that no combat forms were still moving. Their corpses littered the ground and their blood coated the snow, staining it that sick green color that Esna had come to hate.
      Esna looked at Lozemee and smiled. They had survived a very close encounter with the Flood. Out of the corner of his eye, Esna caught a flash of movement, of yellowing skin, and suddenly, a rocket flew towards them. Esna dodged it, hitting the ground and rolling to get out of the way. He saw Lozemee leap out of the way too, but the rocket hit the wall behind him, and the blast sent him flying over the edge of the wall yet again, his shields flickering and dying. Esna scrambled for his plasma rifle, scooped it up, and uttered a scream of rage. That combat form had to die.
      Esna strode up to the edge of the path, looking out over the wall. He could not see Field Master Lozemee or the combat form. He was about to go down there and kill it outright when it leapt up, right in his face. Esna staggered back in surprise, and the combat form landed in front of him, the menacing barrel of its rocket launcher panning up to face him. Esna realized that the combat form, badly wounded already, was going to sacrifice itself to take out one more Elite. It was going to blow them both into the afterlife.
      Time seemed to slow. Esna lunged forward, his left arm sweeping forward to hit the side of the rocket launcher, knocking it aside. The combat form pulled the trigger and the rocket exploded from the barrel. Esna felt the heat of the rocket as it passed by him, striking the wall behind him with a deafening explosion and showering them with shrapnel and stone. Esna continued his forward drive and tackled the combat form, and together, they tumbled over the edge of the wall.
      They fell, sliding down the sloped side of the pyramid, headed right for the rocks and snow below. Esna jammed his plasma rifle against the combat form's chest and opened fire even as he adjusted himself so that he was on top of the combat form. Blood spurted from the wound his plasma rifle was blasting through the combat form's body. Sparks flew from the shoulder plate of his armor as he slid down, aiming for a particular rock below.
      They hit the rock with stunning force, but the combat form was beneath him and it absorbed most of the impact. The force of their collision with the ground crushed the insides of the combat form, shattering bones and crushing the infection form within. Esna hit and bounced, landing next to the dead combat form, his plasma rifle flying from his grasp. He lay there for a while, listening to the insistent beeping of his armor's low shields warning. Slowly, they recharged.
      He sat up and looked at the mangled body of the dead combat form. Standing up and backing away, he activated a plasma grenade and tossed it on top of the rocket launcher that lay next to it. The glowing grenade stuck to the launcher and a few seconds later, it exploded. The explosion vaporized the launcher and the body of the combat form in a stunning blue-white blast. His justice done, Esna turned and looked back out over the valley.
      Esna heard a groan from behind a rock and watched as Field Master Lozemee rose to his feet, clutching his side. "I think I broke something," he said, rubbing his side and its dented armor.
      Esna did not know why, but he started laughing. Lozemee joined in, their laughter echoing off of the high walls of the pyramid and the stone cliffs of the canyon. Their laughter was drowned out by the roar of a Phantom dropship as it flew in, flaring to a stop at the base of the pyramid. The troop bay doors lowered as the dropship settled to the snow-covered ground. A call came over the battlenet from the pilot, "We need volunteers to help extract Grim Defiance Squad and transport them here. They have been cut off from our troops and need to be evacuated now or they will die."
      Lozemee looked at Esna. "Grim Defiance Squad. That is your squad, no?"
      "Yes. I must join them," Esna said, nodding.
      "May the gods look favorably upon you, Esna Noromee," Lozemee said.
      "Likewise," Esna replied.
      He ran for the waiting dropship, joining a few other Elites who had volunteered. As he fastened himself in his harness, he stared out over the snowy landscape, taking in the sight of the control center for what could possibly be his last time. Esna chuckled, thinking of his squad's name. Grim Defiance. It was ironically appropriate. Esna, all the Covenant troops in the canyons surrounding the control center, and, to a greater extent, all of the Covenant on Halo were staring into the face of death, grim and defiant. The dropship's doors closed and Esna smiled. It was time to go Flood hunting.