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Homeworlds XXIII
Posted By: Mainevent<Billygoat456@comcast.net>
Date: 7 November 2003, 3:24 AM

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      Five carriers, six destroyers, and seven frigates; all staring the human fleet in the eye. None dared fire first, and surprisingly, the Covenant witheld their fire as well. Abigaid sent out a private communique over the private inter-ship channel, a small note scrolling itself onto a miniscule datapad affixed to the Captain's Chair.

      He established the link, and read the message carefully before responding.

>>>Communications Link Established<<<
UNBarbarian:>>Hold Fire, Wait till fired upon. Do not attempt hail.<<
UNBarbarian:>>Whatta you think?<<
BNProphet:>>...Don't know what to anymore<<
BNProphet:>>Perhaps they're sizing us up<<
UNBarbarian:>>Maybe, doubtful. Estimatations?<<
BNProphet:>>A hail. Then it's in the air.<<
UNBarbarian:>>Lemme talk this time. Your manners are horrible.<<
BNProphet:>>Yes sir.<<
>>>Communications Link Severed<<<

      Capulet chuckled to himself. He found it strange that a Jackal was piloting the Covenant vessel they'd just blown to hell. That went against everything he'd been taught, or learned, from past experience. Perhaps a sympathy jesture for the loss of their homeworld, but either way a poor decision. Richard knew why the Elite caste woulnd't let them take high-ranking positions after all.

      The mechanized pod of shimmering purple whales before him sat motionless on the horizon. Adrenaline coarsed through the steel-veined crew, but the moldy stench of sweat was the overwhelming swath that entered his nose. He regretted forgetting deodorant that morning, but it was a minor nuisance now. Boots clinked on the corrugated alien floor and a shallow succession of chirps alerted him to the entrance of yet another person. The silence that followed inched the presumption that it was a Spartan into his mind. Several minutes passed before the overwhelming profile of an armored warlord was parked beside him, the mammoth chestplate easily the size of Capulet's head.

      "Speak." He said, not sarcastically, but with the miniscule hint of annoyance on the tip of his tongue.

      "I only came to watch, sir." Spartan 0110-Shields responded.

      "Spartans never only come to watch. I'm sure you'll have orders soon enough." A thin grin meandered it's way across Shields' lips, and he turned back towards the view screen.

      "Shipwide connection, incoming Covenant hail." Shock and awe filtered through their nervous system as they attempted to comprehend the enormity of what lay before them. The enigmatic and shadow-strewn figure of a curled beast hovered on the panel. The voluminous headpiece nestled on his cranium was brimming with rare gems and glowing from the precious metals it was engraved with. Python-sized ribbons of material fluttered down his back, dragging along the floor behind him. The piece's weight seemed to be contorting his body slowly, pushing his neck down and hideously arching his back. Enormous beady eyes struggled to hold their lids open as it glared at it's enemy.

      "I find it most unlikely that this should be happening. A cease-fire will be honored by your species as we contend with this newfound threat. Should you fail to accept this agreement, your entire caste will be eradicated. Do you accept this proposal?" A heavy voice with scratchy barking noises echoed off of the heavily-paneled walls, the translation devices in their neural implants going to work instantaneously. The seeming lack of diversity amongst humans must have led the Covenant to believe that they were either a weak caste or casteless, another sign of their unorganized primedal splotch on the universe.

      "We will uphold the cease-fire, but you must give our people at least three days to spread the orders."

      "You will have the requested unit. If after that time you fail to uphold the agreement, the attacks will resume with renewed vigor. You will not survive."

      Abigaid was cut off as the Prophet motioned to some offscreen source and the hail was disconnected. Out-of-system vectors removed the looming threat from the human's presence, and Capulet could feel a collective sigh of relief and confusion throughout the command team.

      "Did what I think just happen actually happen, or did I just wake up?" Sahawneh asked running his hands through his thick black hair. His dark-complection reflected like gold in the luminescent room.

      "I think it did, I'm not quite sure myself."

United Nations Head Quarters, New York
Two days later.

      The weight was unbearable as the multitudes of eyes bored simultaneous holes in him. His flesh felt strange, as though he were being eaten alive, pulled apart, and digested all at the same time. Abigaid made a concerted effort to look as respectable as humanly possible before his peers while hastily maneuvering to the podium situated before the "Big Ten". The United States, France, Russia, China, Germany, Japan, Colombia, Antartica, South Africa, and Australia all had their Presidents or Prime Ministers in attendance. The usual consortium of ambassadors was far insufficient for the session.

      "I've read your report on the events that transpired two days ago, and I have to say I'm both amazed and confused. You describe a new creature that seemed to be more powerful than even the elites, is this true?" The Russian President asked under a heavy accent. His english was fluid, but the accent labeled him as unmistakeably Russian.

      "Yes sir. You've no doubt seen the video recordings, so I have no need to tell you what he said or what he looked like, and as of now, you know exactly as much as I do."

      "This new enemy, I've seen the video, it appears powerful enough, but your men handled it well."

      "I woulnd't say well sir. I lost over three-fourths of the Lonswords under my command. Several of our ships were Heavily damaged, and one of the cradles is out of commission. All of that from one ship. The Covenant haven't even given us that much trouble."

      "Do you think that this single ship is responsible for the destruction of Celaco?" The French Prime Minister interrupted.

      "No sir."

      "Do you think that single ship and the loss of the Jackal homeworld is why the Covenant have come to the cease-fire?"

      "No sir, I don't. I believe that a series of other ships are out there, and that they've cause a lot more damage than we've seen. For the Covenant to request, more correctly order, a cease-fire, they must be desperate sir. I never expected them to, and that means more to me than you know. If they've gotten so low that they would do this, than the enemy amongst us is more powerful than we could imagine. The Dawn of Dusk was only a warning I believe. If they had wanted to destroy us, they would have."

      "What are you saying? That these, things, that they are planning something?"

      "The Suncoast, a ship that was being refitted because of an earlier battle, was attacked the most severely of any ship during that battle. They took something that we had sir."

      "What exactly did they take General?"

      "They took a floating artificial intelligence that Captain Richard Capulet encountered while on a routine patrol. We believe that this was the "one of ours" that the new enemy referred to in it's brief contact with us. We also believe that this contact between us was with an artificial intelligence as well, due to the extreme lack of time it used for our response."

      "What do you think they'll use this new AI for?" A familiar voice interjected, breaking the slurry of foreign voices previously pelting him.

      "Possibly to command more ships that they destroy. They could be creating some sort of fleet."

      "Will there be anything else, if not the Assembly will resign and discuss what we've learned today."

      "There is one thing I would like to add, I don't know if it means anything, but our scanners didn't pick them up as mechanical. It picked them up as living. I found that odd."

      "As do I. We've no doubt honored the Covenant request for a cease-fire. Please discuss with your fellow Admirals and Generals a way to defeat this new threat, or I fear we may all be destroyed. You are dismissed."

      Abigaid snapped a salute, was returned the gesture, and turned on his heel. The pin-drop silence that had covered the room moments before suddenly exploding into a frenzy of discussion between the massive crowd of men gathered in the amphitheater. Abigaid ignored them as he exited the heavy bronze doors into the foyer, where he hurriedly plopped down on one of the wooden benches along the wall and sighed. He had gotten out of the frying pan, but had he stepped into the fire?