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Affront to a God [Part 2]
Posted By: Mainevent
Date: 17 July 2004, 6:36 PM

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November 17, 2524
Little Slice of Heaven Territory

      Things had gone very well for the colonists. That's what they called themselves now. Piracy had died a ways back, and somehow they had rejoined the Human species. The struggle to survive encouraged people into seeing past their once trivial differences, and into the greater being. They'd renamed the anonymous territory they'd arrived in to something more symbolical, and soothing. But why stop there? They'd also renamed the ring too. Eden. It fit well for what they'd encountered so far. A veritable cornucopia of resources and materials at their disposal.
      Gary Movinkov rolled off of his heavy, burura-down bed with a groan. He was twenty, and didn't feel like working today. There was no point. The city boasted a population of over a thousand now. There were plenty of others who could take his spot as hunter-gatherer, at least for today. But no, his old man had to wake him from his peaceful slumber; a job in itself.
      Patrick, now in his late fifties, smiled at his son from the doorway. Everything he could have hoped for in the universe, and so much more. If only Ariel was still alive to see the perfect specimen they had borne into the world. He reminisced over the years he'd spent with her; the best years of his life. Then, like that, she was gone. Complications during child-birth. Rare, but still an unavoidable risk. Especially outside of normal hospital conditions. Sure, there were midwives and a clinic, but there was nothing they could have done to save her.
      At least Gary had survived. He saw so much of Ariel in him; the nose, the small feet, and his hair. The long, flowing strands of coarse, oily black hair. It grew like a weed, and it seemed to constantly need trimming. But Patrick never forced that. He wouldn't force the boy to get rid of one of the few things that reminded him of her. There had been so much change in the last thirty years on Eden, but that's the advantage you have when you don't have to start from scratch. Everybody already knew what a wheel was.
      A government had been somewhat established on the planet, though it wasn't really a planet. Blackwell was elected to be the first president, but died only ten years after arriving. A miniscule army had been formed, but for what reason. There wasn't even a police force, so what could they possibly need an army for? Everybody had just assumed that they'd need one, in case the UNSC ever arrived. But that was a farce in itself, because if the UNSC did arrive, the thirty soldiers they had wouldn't be able to do a damned thing.
      The time everyone had spent on the topside hadn't been all primitive; two years after landing they'd found a series of underground structures in a nearby swamp land. But Blackwell had given strict orders not to enter them for any reason. It was obviously full of the mechanisms that controlled and operated the machine they lived on, and he wasn't going to take any risks in having some careless interloper or teen screwing with some vital system.
      After his death, that order remained. To a degree. The self-proclaimed science community that had come, changed the rule so that only they were allowed inside of the facility. As though they mysteriously knew what they were doing, while everyone else didn't. It was ludicrous, the scientists could no more understand the symbols of the ring's creators than any of the others. But they said they did, and everyone else was too busy to disagree. Strangely, none of the first expedition inside of the dark, musty tunnels ever returned. So the underground portions of the facility were strictly forbidden.
      But Gary didn't have time to worry about that, he had a job to do. The community was much larger than it originally had been, but it was still quite small. So all of the members of society who could work, did work. That was that. He picked his knit pants off the floor and pulled them on quickly. Two shoes and a shirt later and he was out the door of the building.
      The structure was somewhat odd looking from the outside. The temporary plan of using the blue-beam towers for shelter had slowly turned into a permanent residence. The architects constructed the new apartments around the buildings, and used their heat, light, and energy output to run their equipment. It also didn't hurt that the towers themselves provided an excellent foundation for the buildings to be situated on. So all of the Human buildings were constructed over the beam towers. There seemed to be enough for their needs now, and over time they may expand farther. But for now, the beam towers were home.
      He patted his father on the back and stormed out the door. Three floors later and he was in the sunlight of Baxis, the resident star. It was a warm, bright day. He hated those. Long hours in the scorching heat made hunting more irritable than ever. It didn't help that he hated hunting too. Why'd it have to be his father who was one of the first hunters?

      He brushed past the citizens in the market, and made his way to the hut that contained the hunters' equipment. Spears, bows and arrows, and axes. Gary was a spearman, and very good at what he did. He still held the planet record of the largest kill, a minotaur bull. The beasts weren't usually overtly aggressive, but they weighed over six hundred pounds and were the deadliest creatures the Humans had encountered.
      Something wasn't right though, as he exited the building. His palm covered his eyes as he stared up to the massive bulbous ship. It was incredibly close to the planet, and surrounded by several smaller ships. They must have just arrived, because no one had seen them enter orbit. If this was the UNSC, they had adopted a radically different ship design. These mammoth warships were an eerie luminescent purple, and sparkled along their mid-rift.
      Alarm bells were heard in the distance, and their echoes caught his ear. The militia was being called up for this. But from what he saw, the thirty poorly trained husbands and fathers might as well have just kept farming. They'd never have a chance against a single ship, much less this super-cruiser and it's entourage.
      "Everyone to the underground facilities immediately. Don't take anything you can't carry. Move now!" one of the troops said as he brushed through the stunned crowds.
      Even the birds seemed awed at the sight, as they had stopped crowing. Everything was silent. Or was it just Gary? He turned and looked at everything around him. Men, women, and children were all frantically running for the facilities. But their cries seemed so muffled. His eyes glanced back at the ships. He'd better move too.
      Gary's legs felt light; he couldn't feel his spear. He really hadn't noticed he was running until he was forty paces from where he'd been standing a second ago. The facilities weren't far, a half mile or so. He could easily run that gauntlet. It was what he'd do after that which bothered him. There was nothing he could do. There was nothing any of them could do. Sit and hide in the dark. Hope the boogie man was scared of the dark. In other words, watch everything they'd been building crash to the ground if these intruders felt like destroying it, and be absolutely helpless to stop it.

CCS Light of Truth
Orbiting Great One Artifact

      The Great Prophet of Light sat high on his hovering metallic dais. His draping robes hung near to the floor, but didn't dare touch. His ornate headpiece glittered in the lights ornamenting the dimly lit room. His four hundred Imperial Elite Guard stood at attention on both sides of his walkway. Approaching slowly, with his head lowered, was Field Master 'Zuka Salelmee. He would be heading up the mission to scour the artifact for relics, but requested a meeting with the Great Prophet of Light beforehand. Unusual, unless he had something of importance to discuss. But what could possibly be this important before the landing party had even arrived?
      "Your glorious and holy majesty, we have encountered a rather strange occurrence on the artifact's surface."
      "Which would be?"
      "Our probes uncovered the remains of a ship." 'Zuka said with a halt as he tried to find the proper way to word what he would undoubtedly have to say.
      "The probes uncovered a relic ship?"
      "That is the problem your holiness, it is not a relic at all."
      "Impossible! So there are other...less holy creatures on the artifact?"
      "That is the second subject I wish to speak with you about your majesty. The probes have also discovered an unknown species of what appears to be an intelligent species. Perhaps the ship belongs to them." A hologram of the probes' video hovered before the Prophet.
      They were the size of pennies on the screen, and all scattering. They appeared to be heading for one of the ring's facilities. Unacceptable. These unworthy creatures were defiling the Great Ones' ring. They would have to be removed, immediately. His bony hand rose up from beneath the folds of his robes, and the great hall was deathly silent.
      "You will eradicate this vermin from the Great Ones' artifact immediately. But you are in no way to harm the artifact while doing this. That surely wasn't worthy mentioning, but I want crystal clarity on this."
      "Your majesty, if I may. I don't believe we must so quickly kill these beings bef-"
      The hand rose again, cutting 'Zuka off mid-syllable.
      "You will do this immediately, or face the council. Now leave my sight. That is all." The Prophet turned in his chair and disappeared through the beautiful cloth that covered his personal hallway.
      'Zuka wasn't pleased at all by what had just occurred. He didn't want to needlessly kill these beings. It was obvious that they had simply crashed on the ring. But that was for some reason unholy. But there was no more he could do for them. He had his orders. They were all to die.

      The architecture here was cold and overbearing. The mysterious thrum of ancient machines echoed through the hall. It was unwelcoming, and probably on purpose. He didn't like that at all. Nobody makes a building unwelcoming unless they don't want people to stay. Gary walked nervously around the hallway. The hallway was huge, why were they so close to the exit? Whoever it was that would come to find them, they wouldn't have a hard time.
      He wandered slightly out of sight, and into a small alcove. Nothing but wall. His head peeked out, and when he was sure that the sentry wasn't watching, he jetted to the next inlet.
      They may be too afraid to move down here, but I'm not. I'll just search around and prove that there's nothing to worry about, he thought.
      He moved to the next alcove. The next. Another. One more. He glanced back the way he came. Confident that the guard couldn't possibly see him, he cautiously moved into the hallway. A faint green glow pulsed and beat to the rhythms of the facility. Gary couldn't help but move closer, it was the only way he could head without going back.
      The hallway slowly opened into a gigantic circular room. Hovering weightlessly in the center was a jade-green crystal the size of Gary's hand. It was brilliant. Light cascaded off of it's facets and danced across the room's alien surfaces. The odd hum of invisible machinery suddenly quit, and the metallic click of locking mechanisms failing rattled around him.
      Thousands of miniscule taps echoed from the arches as bulb-shaped creatures clambered down the walls from the tiers above. Gary didn't care to find out if they were hostile or not. His feet were beating down the pathway as fast as they could carry him, but too fast. His mind wasn't used to keeping up with them at this pace. His left foot caught on his right, and he tumbled head first into the pavement. His head slammed into the floor with a thud...then darkness.
      Overhead, a column of orange-white light flashed quickly. Hovering above Gary was a small orb the size of a Human's head and a dozen larger machines. The orb glowed the same hue of green as the crystal, and fluttered around his body. The creatures he had been running from clamored closer to him. The machines overhead fired lasers into their bulbous bodies; popping them like pus filled balloons. But there were too many for their lasers to keep up with. They inched closer and closer to him every second.
      Gary's eyes opened halfway; far enough for him to see his impending doom. Three of the tentacle-covered sacs hopped onto his body, and he felt the sharp sting of their barbs in his skin. The proboscis slithered excruciatingly under his skin. Each move felt like a worm was inching through his body. His hands struggled to grasp their slimy skin, but it was useless. He shivered as his body went icy-cold. One of the tentacles was wrapping itself around his spine, probing into his nervous system.
      He heard a loud hiss, and suddenly felt extremely hot. The ice pulsed through his blood stream though, but slowly melted away. The small creature pulled its tentacle back, and moved on. All three did. The thousands of other bulbs continued on their way, without making noticeable moves in his direction. The orb overhead emitted a brighter aura of green, and the other machines ceased firing their lasers.
      Gary rolled onto his back, and was face to face with the small sphere floating inches above him. It's single "eye" moved up and down his body, and a thin bluish-white beam scanned him from head to toe. It moved back several feet, and rotated on its central point; what Gary took for a confused shrug.
      "Very curious." It spoke perfect English. Amazing. An ancient alien intelligence with the same language lexicon. Gary wasn't a scientist, but he didn't have to be to realize that it was an incredible discovery.
      Gary said nothing.
      "The Flood have completely bypassed you, though you are of an extremely sufficient biomass."
      "Wait, what are the Flood? Who are you?" Gary asked almost intangibly.
      "I am 342 Guilty Spark. I am the monitor of Installation 07."
      "Guilty Spark?"
      "My role as monitor gives me the designation of Guilty Spark. We are the ones responsible for igniting this structure's primary defense mechanisms should the cause arise. There is a Guilty Spark on each of the installations."
      "You mean the rings?"
      "This artificial planet."
      "There's more than one of these?"
      "Why, yes. There are hundreds."
      Gary was astonished. These rings were enormous, and far ahead of Humanity's technological capability. Yet, there was a species out there which had constructed hundreds of them. It was mind-boggling. He watched as the endless stream of small bodies surged towards the crowded facility's entrance. Surely they would be fine; after all, they'd practically ignored him. He rubbed his hand over the hole the tentacle had formed. It had already scabbed? That was extremely fast.
      "And these, these are the Flood?" He pointed to them as they scurried along.
      Simple enough.
      "Well, what do they do?"
      "I am currently unsure. This facility, like the others, was built to house and study them. Certain occurrences arose which required more immediate attention, and so this facility has remained abandoned for ninety three thousand, six hundred and forty-two Earth years."
      "Earth? How do you know about Earth?"
      "The Sentinels," he turned so that his "eye" faced the mechanical guardians hovering close to him, "have combed every inch of your ship's computer database. I must compliment you on the vastness and depth of which you contain your history. It was very entertaining and informative."
      "Thanks, I guess. So you know nothing about them at all?"
      "We know that they are parasitic by nature, and are very capable at adapting and transforming anything of sufficient biomass."
      "Then why didn't they... adapt.... me?"
      "I...I'm not sure. But my scans show that you suffer from a mild radiation poisoning."
      "Radiation poisoning?"
      "Yes. Exposure to a plasma-based radiation. Non-fatal for you, though it may cause peculiarities in your nervous system as you age."
      "Plasma? I've never been exposed to plasma. We don't even have our own energy. We rely on yours."
      "The blue beams. We use them for our power."
      "That would be the source of your radiation. Those towers are plasma excess conduits. They emit a constant stream of super-low radiation. Years of buildup could cause the problems you are experiencing, and would explain why your nervous system is radiated enough for the Flood not to be interested in you."
      "So I shouldn't be affected by the Flood at all then? None of us should?"
      "You have been infected, though the effects you are experiencing are not harmful in nature. The Flood first injects its own cells into the host body, which repair and enhance it's immune system and core structures. They also enhance the host's natural strength and reflexes. These should be the only effects you experience, as a stage two infection was not begun."
      "You're saying that these are the only effects we'll experience? That they'll make us healthier and stronger?"
      "Only those of you who have been exposed to the plasma radiation should be safe from their later stages of infection. I highly doubt the newcomers will be ignored as you were."
      "Newcomers? You mean the ships we saw?"
      "I see you do not know who they are. Odd. They are combing your craft and facilities as though you knew each other."
      A small hologram of the Humanoid creatures winked into view. There were thousands of them. Small, dog-like creatures that hobbled on all fours through the streets of the Human city. Medium-sized bird-like animals walked upright around the perimeter, and he watched a small detachment move into the forests towards the facility. Tall insect looking creatures, with mandibles and small spines on their arms were ransacking the huts.
      Gary watched as alien tanks hovered through the streets, and barreled through the market; the only buildings in town not built around the beam towers. Smaller single passenger hovercraft stormed swiftly towards the tree line. The hologram shifted to the ten ships originally used to bring the colonists to the planet. Enormous blue-armored beasts with spikes covering their backs were guarding them. Dozens of floating sac-like creatures with hundreds of tentacles swarmed over the ships' interior and hull.
      The view shifted again to a tree-top view, and shifted visions. The treetops disappeared and revealed hundreds of mixed troops moving through the foliage towards the facility. They knew where they were, and from what he'd seen, they weren't friendly. Friends didn't bring guns to barbeques.
      "It's been fun Sparky, but I've got to warn the others."
      "I have already requisitioned another group of Sentinels to help with the defense of your friends. The knowledge available from your study would make your deaths unacceptable. They will assist in guarding you as long as possible. It will take time though for my systems to reroute and establish a safe method of transporting such a large group of beings, but when I can, I will move you and your people to safety."
      "Thank you." Gary turned and waded through the Flood spores toward the entrance.
      He wondered what would happen to these aliens if the Flood attacked them. That would be an interesting sight. But right now, he could care less if he saw it. He rounded the small bend and came into view of the mass of huddled and screaming people. Staccato gunfire burped from the militia's weapons. Hundreds of Flood popped at a time. But Gary had seen how many of these things there were, they seemed endless. The bullets were just being eaten up uselessly.
      "Stop firing! Stop!" He screamed at the nearest guard, who came very close to blasting Gary away in the confusion.
      He could see the spores attaching to many of the colonists, and many more moving on after having discovered their imperfection. The guard he was screaming at even had one attached to his leg.
      "Are you insane? Look how many there are?"
      "Exactly. You can't kill them off, and they don't hurt us anyway."
      "How the hell can you know this?"
      Gary turned and lifted up his shirt, revealing the large scabbed region on his back. The guard's eyes darkened in a hazy understanding. He stopped firing.
      "Well, what the hell are we supposed to do?" The man shouted over the bursts of gunfire and screams.
      "Tell the other militia to stop firing, and everyone to let them do what they are here for. They won't hurt us at all. I can explain later. Round up all of the men with guns, I need to talk to you immediately."
      Gary watched as the man ran off and systematically gathered the militia. Some took longer than others to convince to stop firing, but one by one they did. The thirty men all moved into a group around Gary, some rather agitated because they had been moved off of their positions for a meeting with someone who wasn't even a guard. Others agitated because of Flood spores grappling onto a part of their body and probing around inside of them.
      "What is this about Jim?" one asked harshly.
      "Listen to the boy. He says he knows something important."
      "How the hell could he know anything we don't?" a different man asked.
      "I'm not sure Russell, but he has a healed wound from these things, and came from deep inside the facility. So I believe him. Now listen up would you!"
      Gary seized the few seconds of silence to begin his speech.
      "These creatures are called the Flood, and they won't hurt us. I don't have time to go into all of that, it's a long story. There's something much more important right now."
      "What is that?" a deep voice called out from the back of the group. It was Councilor Gerand.
      "The ships we saw outside are alien, and they are heading our way. We have to move deeper inside of the facility now."
      "If the Flood came from down there, why would we go that way?" Gerand asked. The fat, weasel of a man was bothersome. Pat had told him that constantly throughout the few years since Gary had been engaged in politics.
      "Because they won't hurt us. They aren't a problem for us, they're a problem for the aliens. We need to move now though."
      "Maybe we can talk with these aliens, and reason with them. Surely they won't be hostile if we've never met them before." he said hostilely. He was over-confident in his position as figurehead. Gary wouldn't let him win this fight.
      Two-dozen sentinels and Guilty Spark flashed into existence overhead. The guards quickly raised their guns, but Gary yelled for them not to fire.
      "They were sent to protect us. Trust me, we need to move deeper inside the facility."
      "I don't believe you. How do we know you aren't just making this up as it happens?" He was unbelievable. Everything he said was as stupid and poorly conceived as his political career had been.
      "Gary, why aren't your people moving deeper inside of the facility?" Guilty Spark asked as he floated above the circle. Gary's mouth moved into a wry smile. Eat that you fat bastard, he thought.
      The guards had found the one piece of the puzzle they needed for assurance, and moved off to round up the colonists. It was only minutes before the wave of Humans were strolling deeper inside of the facility. Gerand was visibly steaming. He huffed off towards the entrance, after screaming obscenities and yelling about how he would talk them out of it.
      "You'll all see," he'd said before walking away.
      Gary followed the trailing guards inside as well. A thought hit him a half-mile inside the facility. He stopped; he had to go back. They'd need every weapon possible, and he'd forgotten his spear. He told Russell, who grunted and kept walking.