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Guerilla: Flashback and Forward
Posted By: Mainevent
Date: 1 April 2005, 2:19 AM

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      There was a dampness about the caves now, a moist breeze that circulated the cavern refreshingly. A small circular patch in the ceiling from where the rock had fallen through revealed the warm bask of the noontime Saharan sun; a warm and comforting wrap that gave a since of security and brought a since of stillness to those encompassed by it. The air currents circulating through the room brought around a serene and almost rhythmical humming noise as the streams moved through narrow crevices and across the multi-textured blue and gray stalactites. The bright green of mosses and lichens shimmered as sun reflected gently off of the accumulated dew beads. The distant chirp of birds who'd made their homes inside of the cave kept the entire structure with a feeling of life uncommon in such Forerunner facilities.
      The majestic Forerunner ship itself sat regally at the center of the enormous earthen bubble like a gigantic pin, ready to burst the tranquility and perfection of the creation without warning. It's rigid gray and black surface was a contrast to the natural beauty of its surroundings, but the ship was oddly beautiful in its own rights. It's pyramidal central body was supported by three thin pillars, each engraved with foreign symbols; symbols which recalled dark and buried secrets from those who learned of the ship's startling secret.
      Shockingly out of place seemed the white-coated laboratory technicians, gray-suited UNSC officials, and shady ONI spooks who'd arrived in the cave. Spartan-117, John, stood in the center of the commotion. He was uncharacteristically out of his bulky green MJOLNIR armor; wearing only his ink-black elastic bodysuit instead. Lately he felt more comfortable without all of the machinery, and there was an odd urgency for freedom the suit couldn't provide. His mind had been filled with an incomprehensible amount of knowledge, and he was trying desperately to make use of everything he'd learned; so as not to fall prey to his predecessors' mistakes.

      "You're shitting me right?"
      "I shit you not."
      "All of this in two days? Impossible."
      "He hasn't slept since he came out of that ship. So far it's been him and Cortana putting it all together. Most of the work has been through cognitive memories the process brought back, but that AI of his has made some amazing leaps as well." ONI Section III Commander Simon Richards approached a small holographic panel on the wall. The pot-bellied gentleman had a jovial air about him, but was renowned by all for his stern nature and iron will. Specialist Edward Nietzsche approached curiously, staring at the small monitor with avid interest. He was the polar opposite of Richards, a thin and cagey little man who was people regarded only for his technical genius.
      "Regenerative plasma weapons, shield systems, dynamic propulsion drives; its all here. And that's just the ship-based weapons platforms!"
      The plump man stared intently at the list. It was all so tempting, and it was all real. Humanity finally had a glimmer of a chance to beat the bastards back. It may be at their own doorstep, but goddamnit they had a chance to actually do something now. His eyes scrolled down the catalog slowly, absorbing everything he could.
      "Regenerative plasma weapons?"
      "Those are my personal favorites. Ship based plasma systems at least three times stronger than what those Covie sons-of-bitches have. But here's the beauty; they can fire continuously for as long as the ship has a functioning reactor."
      "How in the hell-"
      "Cortana cooked up that little marvel. She figured out a way to use the excess heat as a viable energy source. So the gun practically cools and recharges itself. Only a minor energy expenditure to the reactor core; less than half of that required for the MAC cannons."
      "With these two on the job I have a feeling we're gonna be outsourced soon." Nietzsche gave a wry smile and walked over to a suit of personal armor strikingly similar to a Spartan's. The armor was a glossy porcelain color, and shimmered with ripples of energy that cascaded eloquently down the torso. On the arms and legs were small, rectangular panels the color of azure. The helmet seemed to be a mixture of the standard ODST and SPARTAN designs, intermixed and whitened; except for the familiar sparkling blue faceplate. In the center of the faceplate was an awkward, circular targeting reticule that glowed a neon-green that changed to a bloody crimson and baby blue depending on the vision mode required.
      The system had a nonstandard, red body-suit which was sprinkled with intermittent blue squares that occasionally blinked a spectacular lime green. The two scientists walked curiously around the prototype, staring intently at the hard edges and contrasting smooth curves. The weapon as a whole had the appearance of an awkward piece of fine art; something more at home in an exhibit than on the battlefield.
      "Not very...stealthy." Nietzsche commented quietly.
      "I'm sure they'll paint the camo on, it's just the prototype after all."
      Suddenly, a strong hiss of static sizzled the air as the suit slowly phased out of sight. It had completely disappeared, leaving both men with gaping jaws that only hinted at the surprise they were feeling.
      "I think it's stealthy enough." John said with a grin as he approached. His hands were busy wiping off a piece of alien machinery with a greasy red rag. The small, crescent-shaped device had the standard series of indented curving lines and circles that seemingly adorned all Forerunner objects.
      "Yea...that, that'll definitely do." Commander Richards managed to stutter.
      "They don't enhance strength or speed as much as mine, but they'll take a lot harder pounding; at least until I'm upgraded."
      "This is all very impressive soldier. And you're sure that you're feeling alright?"
      "Tired as hell, but otherwise one hundred percent. It's amazing how free I feel now. All of this knowledge. So much that's been hidden from us for all of this time, and now it's ours to harness."
      John turned and strolled towards more of the equipment strewn around the massive hanger bay. Commander Richards was shocked; it was completely out of order for any NCO, but even more so for a SPARTAN. He decided to write it off as fatigue-induced stress; after all the soldier had been working for forty-eight hours straight. Hell, he'd practically saved Humanity; he deserved a little leeway.
      Cortana observed intently from above. She hovered quietly in the glowing light-purple orb John had crafted for her. It seemed almost disturbing to be in this unnatural shell so reminiscent of Guilty Spark's, but she couldn't deny herself the freedom that the mechanism provided her. Perhaps it was the thought of the demented AI that brought around the contemplation of her own "mortality", and the realization that she would one day suffer a similar fate. Her optical array scanned her super-soldier for any abnormalities, but could find none. His pulse, blood pressure, and temperature were all within normal; but she had noted a marked difference in his behavior as of late. Hopefully it was only a side-effect of the sleep deprivation he'd been experiencing.

      The instillation was crumbling violently around him. The once-smooth stone pillars, which had been carved into beautiful replications of the Tu'ral's mightiest warriors and leaders, were now crumbling to dust as the massive supports failed. The Flood were destroying everything precious to the High Council, to Rukt, to Shur Jural, and to the Tu'ral. Their mere presence here meant that all hope was lost.
      The Seed of Purity had been infested with the vile presence of these demonic beasts. The last safe haven outside of the constructs was being ravaged, and Jural was completely helpless. His eyes darted wildly around the complex, searching for his wife and child; but they found neither. Only the mangled bodies of his friends and compatriots met his mournful gaze, and a seething hatred for these disgusting creatures was roiling inside him.
      From a dark corridor came the all-too-familiar sound of the half-dead scraping of Flood feet. Shur's lips formed into a malicious snarl, and his hand moved slowly to his back; gripping the long, heavily-decorated staff. Precious metals and rare gems covered his personal staff, and were arranged into the figures of two large snakes that spiraled up the length of the weapon before encountering each other at each end. The weapon's surface was covered with a thick dust caused by the surrounding battle, masking the gems' normal brilliant reflection dull and bringing about a foreboding sense of lifeless.
      The darkness was all-pervasive, covering everything down the normally sun-filled gala hallway. The irritating scraping noise repeated aggravatingly, and grew louder with each step. Shur Jural's large thumb slowly depressed a circular red gem, activating his weapon. At each end of the staff, from the mouths of the dueling snakes, came large two-pronged plasma blades. From the hellish darkness emerged the wildly probing tentacle of a flood combat form.
      It darted through the air, trying to sense the collective's next victim. The aroma of fresh blood was immediately detected; it had the smell of iron and the mix of minerals comprising blood. It was all so deliciously tempting, so irresistible. The parasite was tempted to resist the bloodlust coursing through its neural cortex, but a deafening plea from thousands of distant brothers all combined to quickly break its will. The host body growled menacingly before making an awkward leap towards the unclaimed presence before it..
[eindent]The Tu'ral warrior dodged the bumbling beast easily, and brought his wrath down quickly upon its exposed back. The rotting flesh sizzled as the plasma seared through the dry, leathery skin and into deep into the bone. There was a startling pop as the spherical parasite dwelling in the rib cage of the fallen Tu'ral exploded from the heat. A tear slowly formed in the hardened Jural's eyes; it couldn't be. He jerked quickly away from the corpse, and began roaring intensely.
      His lips quivered uncontrollably and his silvery-white teeth showed fiercely. He cast a quick glance back to make sure what he'd seen was real, and the pain hurt even worse. Every inch of his body ached; with only erratic, shallow breaths breaking through the heavy sob. His balled fists slammed violently into the marble floor, shattering the stone into thick, craggy pieces.
      The ornate jade bracelet he'd given her on their bonding was hanging loosely around her broken, disfigured wrist. The Amulet of Brathia had cut into the decomposing flesh around the once smooth neck of his wife; its once dazzling beauty now hidden under the dried blood that had caked up around the chain. Only sparse patches of her long, flowing hair remained; it was coarse and matted with dirt and blood as well, but still retained the vibrant glow she'd always been complemented for. The last time he'd seen his bond mate was as she attempted to flee the besieged floating city with their son.
      There would be hell to pay for what the Flood had done here today.

Chamber of Holy Ascension
High Charity

      "Your supreme majesty, I humbly request a postponement of the planned invasion of Earth while my most trusted and loyal emissary is at work." Brotherhood pleaded passionately for Ika, but his words were falling on deaf ears. Mercy stared through his bushy eyelashes at the Noble Prophet before turning to his fellow Hierarchs.
      "You are well aware that our invasion must proceed!" Mercy screamed hoarsely as he slammed his fist onto the armrest of his hovering throne.
      "I could never hope to stall such a glorious endeavor; I am merely requesting that you allow me time to get my informant off of their vile planet."
      "I sincerely empathize with your plight my dear Brotherhood, but to put such an enormous operation on hold after all of this time would be to jeopardize everything we have worked towards. We are at a moment of truth from which we cannot stall; the Humans are weak, and must be eradicated immediately. And no matter how well-trained or loyal a soldier you may have on the Human homeworld, I can personally assure you that many Elites better than he have perished in our righteous crusade. We will proceed with the invasion immediately; do you have another issue the High Council may resolve?" High Prophet Truth spoke as calmly and eloquently as ever; with the appearance of sincere pity in his eyes. His majestic, flowing crimson robes were outlined with gold thread, complimenting the massive ornate headpiece which showcased his status within the Covenant.
      "I have none your highness, and wish to be absolved by your grace and omnipotence high and wise Truth, Mercy, and Regret." Brotherhood knelt prostrate before the mighty council; knowing well that any other motion could get him beheaded.
      "By the wise council of this high court you are hereby absolved." Two gargantuan Brutes, outfitted in the ruby red regal armor of the prestigious Council Guard, immediately approached to escort Brotherhood from the massive room.
      Truth and Mercy rotated slowly in their chairs and floated onto their personal elevator. The two chattered ceaselessly, and took no immediate notice of their compatriot's absence. Regret moved to speak with Brotherhood as he disappeared through the massive doors of the Council Chamber. The Noble Prophet stopped cold as Regret flagged him down with his feeble one-handed gesture. He quietly dismissed the confused Brute guards, and the two Prophets sat alone in the small courtyard leading into the chamber room.
      "I am deeply sorry for what was decided here today," Regret admitted remorsefully.
      "So too am I, he was perhaps my best soldier."
      "As sorry as I am about your loss, there is something I fear to a much greater extent. Truth and Mercy have grown increasingly powerful as of late, and as such have revealed much less of their personal thoughts with me. When they decided to accelerate the attack on the Human planet, they did so without my consent."
      "But that goes against everything the Covenant-," Brotherhood was silenced by Regret's single-handed gesture.
      "Sometimes it is necessary to appear strong when one is not. While I agree whole heartedly that this Human pestilence must be eradicated, this move by my fellow Hierarchs is completely unnecessary. These Humans are surrounded, battered, and broken; but they are not defenseless. Our enemies fight most fiercely when cornered, and that's exactly what these Humans are."
      "Do you believe ulterior motives to be the cause of their awkward actions?"
      "It displeases me greatly to say that I do. I have spent countless units with Truth and Regret, and know well that they would only use such reckless force for something they judge to be of extreme importance. Unfortunately, they only thing either of them deem important is a weapon with which they may vanquish more foes. Whatever these Humans have discovered must have incredible power; power I wish would not fall into their hands."
      "Do you fear a weapon of some sort?"
      "I know not what they search for, but I do know that I fear anything they covet with such passion. That is why I am requesting that you take your fleet to Earth, and find out as much as possible through your informant. Discretion is yours as to the amount of force appropriate should hostilities arise , and I trust your judgment. My fleet shall join yours soon enough."

      John awoke startled from his latest memory. Time seemed much slower now, and he realized his hands were cupped around space. The Forerunner artifact he'd been holding had somehow slipped through his hand. Odd that an object that heavy would bounce that far; it had somehow manage to land quite a few yards away. The Spartan shook off his sudden and strange dementia and headed back over to the fallen piece of metal. He picked the small, crescent-shaped piece of alien metal and headed back to his workstation. Oddly, it was slightly warm to the touch. He wondered what could have caused the sudden and unprovoked change in temperature. No time for pointless curiosity though, he had so much more to do, and so little time to do it.
      Cortana hovered overhead, still shocked by what she'd just witnessed. She replayed the scene over and over, and it was consistent. John stood deathly still, and then...Oh my God, the A.I. thought to herself. Her core programming intensely analyzed the scene once more for any artificial discrepancies, but found none. The replay looped back once more; this time concentrating on the soldier's hands. There was a slightly purple static discharge sparking from his fingertips before the entire region was engulfed in a bright pink energy field, and the object he'd been holding sailed violently into a nearby trashcan-denting it with its impact.
      This was a truly amazing sight! Completely spontaneous creation of electrical emissions from a biological organism. The construct couldn't grasp what could have possibly allowed him the power he'd just absent-mindedly demonstrated, but whatever it was had incalculable potential elsewhere. If John had the ability to create such powerful energy without concentrated effort, she could only imagine the power he'd be able to obtain with a devoted effort. She wasn't sure whether to fear this newfound power or embrace it and bring it to his attention.
      But there was a more pressing matter to attend to. She simultaneously received and analyzed every major UNSC broadcast in-system, and one was particularly concerning. She'd already caught hints of a slip-space rupture earlier, but significantly smaller than most that the Covenant tore through the void. A single text message stood out among the others, and she was amazed it hadn't been picked up by any other source.
      UNSC Blue Bell-Class 3 Frigate- 1342 Hours-Hostile incoming carriers, source transmission enclosed in data burst. Major structural damage, MAC cannons non-operational. Estimated life support failure: two hours. Significant Covenant presence en route. Advise immediate strike force relocation to enclosed coordinates and activation of orbital MAC cannons.
      How had no one picked this up? Cortana quickly rerouted the message to all ships and orbital platforms, as well as to UNSC headquarters in Australia. The Chief's work wouldn't amount to anything if Armageddon arrived early. She had to make sure that didn't happen.