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Affront to a God [Part 3]
Posted By: Mainevent
Date: 18 July 2004, 6:30 PM

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      Field Master 'Zuka and his company of highly-trained soldiers marched to the facility's entrance. There were thousands of small creatures pouring out of it. He had orders to kill the beings inside, and these were obviously coming from inside. A wave of his hand, and all hell broke loose.
      Plasma bolts streamed relentlessly into them. One popped, and six near it followed suit. He fired his plasma pistol into one, and clacked his mandibles in satisfaction as it popped. The torrent of bulbs shifted direction, and began heading towards his men.
      He growled in defiance and primed a plasma grenade; he tossed the sizzling explosive into a group of the fleshy sacks, and roared as the entire group of hundreds erupted into a pus pool. Thousands of plasma bolts collided with the beasts, but they had a seemingly endless supply. 'Zuka meanwhile was running low on battery. A larger, strange looking creature exited the facility. It's arms waved in the air and it made strange noises. It was beckoning to him?
      "Give me cover, and do not shoot that alien," he ordered to his field marshal.
      "What are you going to do, sir?" he asked.
      "I'm going to capture it."
      'Zuka's men concentrated their fire on the wave of spores before him. Tens, hundreds, tens of hundreds; they popped before him. Yet they seemed unchallenged. More were there to pick up the slack. He bounded to the entrance quickly, grabbed the alien by its mid-section, hefted it over his shoulder, and sprinted back to his men.
      He clenched his fist and waved it back toward the alien city. The signal for retreat. His men gave him confused glances.
      "Why are we retreating sir?" another of his Elite warriors asked with the hint of defiance.
      "We can't win this battle, there are far too many of them. I saw thousands, if not millions more of them inside. We may yet return. But for now we must go." 'Zuka glanced over his shoulder at the men fighting behind him. Two Hunters charged up the hill, and were overwhelmed by a wave. Hundreds of Flood spores popped as their razor-sharp spikes bristled and sliced them to pieces. The explosive force dimpled their thick, blue armor and the bond-brothers crumpled lifelessly to the ground. Several spores fought over their bodies.
      To his right he could see his field marshal firing wildly into them. Six jumped onto him. 'Zuka cringed as he watched their tentacles puncture his shields, and sink into his body. Blood squirted onto them, and he wrestled to pull them off. The Elite's mandibles opened in a painfully contorted posture, and he collapsed. The spore attached to him burrowed its way into his chest cavity and disappeared before 'Zuka could shoot it.
      The screams, barks, and roars of falling men around him was a very bad sign. Very, very bad. 'Zuka pivoted and began a sprint for his nearby ghost. An infected grunt waddled by, almost causing the top heavy field master to trip. A definite death. He dropped the alien figure onto the hovercraft carelessly, and jumped onto it. The grav-pods whirred to life as the machine rose three feet into the air. Throttle forward; engines blared. A frantic Jackal ducked under 'Zuka as he hurried out of the battle, but an infected Elite wasn't as lucky.
      He wasn't sure how to feel. He was somewhat angry that he'd killed the Elite as carelessly as he did, but also happy to put him out of his misery. Or was that what the Elite wanted? Maybe he jumped in front of 'Zuka, to end it. The body thudded harshly against the ghost, and was crumpled sickeningly under the chassis. The field master didn't turn to look; only pushed the throttle harder.
      Two units later, he emerged into the alien city they'd ransacked, only to find it completely swarming with the same bastard-creatures. Mangled corpses of Grunts, Elites, Jackals, and Hunters were scattered randomly across the land; several hung limply from building windows. There, what he was looking for, the gravity lift. He snarled and slammed his fist onto the console. It wasn't functioning. He'd have to go for it though.
      The Gods had been with him so far, hopefully they wouldn't blink. He dodged through the passageways of the massive open-air building the aliens called "Market", and ramped up the gravity lift's base. The ghost whipped around to face the swarms of flesh-bulbs clamoring after him. He depressed the trigger and felt the shudders as the plasma bolts streamed into them. The "rat-tat-tat" as they popped was good to hear, but he could only last so long.
      Three leapt for him, but he ducked, and they landed behind. He didn't have time to spin the ghost to face them, they were everywhere. He glanced in time to see them leap for him again, but they weren't going to miss. Their slimy tentacles were already probing for him, but they stopped an inch from his face. The ghost leapt upwards. The gravity lift was on! 'Zuka smacked the devil-beasts hard, sending them flopping wildly into the air, and to a thirty foot fall.
      Those fools better be ready to fight these things off; he realized there were hundreds more of them following under him. The bay doors opened above him. He hovered into the bay, and watched the doors shut. His ghost hovered forward and off of the ramp as shade emplacements opened fire. He turned his head to see the pus-filled spores explode behind him. All of them were destroyed under the heavy barrage; except one. He turned to fire at it, but it skittered into a low vent-shaft before he could line it up. He took a deep breath of relief. He wasn't worried.
      How much could a single spore do anyway?
      "Field Master 'Zuka! The High Prophet of Truth would like to speak with you immediately!" An Imperial Guard informed him with a tone that sent shivers down 'Zuka's spine.
      He followed the guard down the corridors, through the barricade of doors, and into the Council Chambers. It was completely dark, except for a heavy spotlight on him. The Elite guard melted into the shadows behind him. Another light slowly uncovered a Minor Prophet, but he knew the High Prophet was there.
      "Explain this failure immediately!" It screamed at him irately.
      "Failure, your holiness?"
      "You failed to kill these aliens, and have retreated from battle."
      "With all due respect your holiness, the aliens we encountered are not the same as those we watched flee into the facility. I managed to capture one of-"
      "We are aware of that, we are interrogating him now. But your failure and incompetence on the field of battle is the priority here. Your men failed to take the holiest relic we have discovered yet, and now we are unable to send men to it. On top of that you retreated from battle. Therefore by your actions you have lost this relic to us. A most regrettable error on your behalf. The Council finds you guilty of treason, and sentences you to death."
      The light on the Minor Prophet blinked out instantly, and the brawny figure of two Brutes edged into view. He was surrounded. There was no honor in fighting them. 'Zuka deactivated his shields and kneeled down,; prostrate before the Prophets he couldn't see. The Brute grinned maliciously, and lifted his heavy blade above the Elite's head. It sliced through the air, his armor, and body in a quick slice. Field Master Zuka's head rolled lifelessly onto the floor, and his body slumped to the ground in a pool of its own blood.

      Councilor Gerand awoke between the arms of two alien warriors. Their mandibles clacked as they spoke to each other. Pain split through his ribs; he remembered being tossed over the back of one of their vehicles. He must have blacked out from the pain. They stopped at a door, waited for it to part, and dropped him inside.
      He looked up to find another of their large warriors staring at him. It turned away from him, fidgeted with a small device, and then faced him again. It's mandibles moved like the others, but this time it spoke English.
      "Why have you come to this holy relic, and defiled it 'ooman?"
      "We crashed on it. We haven't defiled it."
      "You lie. We have seen your structures on it. You have sent these miserable creatures to fight us, and yet you say you have not defiled it?" The beast glowered at him. It's ivory-white teeth glistened from each jaw.
      "We had to survive! I don't even know what the creatures are. We found them."
      "Yet they did not attack you, but slaughtered us. Desecrated our corpses. And we are to believe you have nothing to do with this?"
      "I promise you, we didn't do it."
      "Very well 'ooman, you've been as useful as I expected."
      It stood upright, and turned toward a second door. Gerand sighed a breath of relief, but was stopped mid-exhale by a plasma bolt through his face. The Elite holstered its weapon, and exited the room. He walked to the Council Chambers, as he'd been instructed to. A spotlight was instantly trained on him, and at the center of the room he could discern the figure of the High Prophet of Truth.
      "Did you learn anything from the Human?" It rasped.
      "No your holiness. He wasn't useful, as expected."
      "No matter, the Engineers gathered enough information from their ships' databases for our needs. We will have revenge for what they have done here. Move our fleet to the following location. We will glass their newest planet, and stem their unholy spread. They will feel the same knife in their side, as they have put in ours."
      "We are to move to this planet they call Harvest?"
      "From records we recovered from their crashed ship, it is the last world they began settling; approximately the time this group arrived and began defiling this most holy of relics. That is unacceptable. If they want to reach out and grab what is rightfully ours, and take it from us, then so be it. We will cut off their fat, greedy fingers...and then their heads! There will be none to oppose the mighty wrath of the Covenant, and even fewer to defile those which the Great Ones left to us."
      A loud and heavy roar of approval erupted from the unseen Elites in the room. The High Prophet of Truth hovered majestically between his men, and towards the control room. He would watch the destruction of the Humans personally.

June 4, 2556
Little Slice of Heaven Territory
Eden Research Facility

      Gary stretched his arm as the Sentinel extracted another blood sample. Guilty Spark had graciously allowed them to stay, as his guest, on Installation 07. They were granted Sentinel protection, but in return they had to donate blood and tissue samples once a year. A more-than-fair trade in their eyes.
      The Flood had undergone a miraculous change, and even seemed to impress Guilty Spark. In the time since their encounters with the mutant, radiated Human DNA, they had adapted to become entirely different creatures. The spores who had come in contact with Gary's group grew arms, legs, and heads. The unused stem-cells they had pulled from the Humans' spines during their short interchange, had been reproduced by the Flood.
      So they began their transformation into the body parts expected by a Human, and spawned a tremendous growth of the Flood into individual, thinking beings. Though not much smarter than a cat, or even in extreme cases a Dolphin, they had completely lost their mindless hunger. Some had been seen hunting in groups, and others were found not only using tools, but making them. Guilty Spark showed him holograms of reproductive sacks, but neither had seen the offspring. The flood were very protective, much like Human parents.
      Gary, in a cooperation between the new Human and Forerunner alliance, had begun a rigorous scientific study. One of each species of Eden's animals was brought to a specially designed structure, and made to live by the plasma radiation. Hopes were that the Flood would ingest, and adapt to these new DNA pools as well.
      Speculations remained that the Flood were actually Human predecessors, but they couldn't prove it. Nobody ever could. Far too many zealots to convert, and others too ignorant to grasp such a broad reaching concept.
      The Council elected a replacement for Councilor Gerand, and after a miniscule debate over his fate, he was eventually forgotten to time. Gary stared at his reflection in the Sentinel's stainless, metallic body. His beard was graying now, and reminded him of his father. Patrick was in his seventies, and as active as he'd ever been. A benefit of the Flood enhancements. Gary was worried that the Flood would come for the children, but they were born with the Flood-Human DNA combination as well. A new, better breed of Human.
      No more disease, no more cancer. It was perfect. Except for one thing, the Covenant. Eden's sensors watched as Harvest burned. Then Sigma Octanus, Reach, and hundreds of other Human worlds. Guilty Spark sent a request for ships capable of helping defend Humanity, and Gary was going to take what he could get.
      He was awed when they arrived. They were incredible. Weapons, propulsion, and shield systems far more advanced than even the Covenant. But so few. The Forerunner didn't believe in interfering with younger species' conflicts. The Flood encounter had swayed their decision a bit, but not too much. They only got two ships; the Forerunner equivalent of cruisers. But they could have easily been Covenant super-carriers for their size.
      If this was all Earth got, so be it. It was better than nothing.
      Reinforcements are on the spoke, he joked to himself. Like their two ships would last very long against the Covenant armada that would be sent to Earth. But anything would help, and these ships were certainly the best equipped to do so. Gary smiled. He was ready to set sail, and win one for the good guys; though he wasn't really sure when the Pirates who'd sworn so vigorously never to befriend the UNSC, became a part of it. But that was ancient history now, they'd evolved above that. To something more. Something better.
      Now was Humanity's time to shine.