Posted By: Neo//hack<Hometokell@aol.com>
Date: 6 June 2003, 12:54 AM
"Keep them coming in. I want those three vessels taken to Dock 16. Any ships with damage, great or minor, I want taken into the Third Docking Bay. Understood?"
The mother ship intercom cackled to life. "Understood, sir. I will instruct as such."
The intercom blared its end-transmission signal, then shut off. The silence became a burden once more.
"I'm afraid I don't understand. Halo is gone, the Covenant are gone, the Flood is gone. What more could there be threatening us?"
Commander Morgan gazed upon the incoming vessels. The question came, and he answered it reluctantly.
"It's hard to explain. Physically, Halo no longer exists."
"Yes. The real Halo is gone. But, even now, it remains a great threat to life in the universe."
The Commander sighed. "Like I said, it's hard to explain. Halo, in short, still exists. However, it only exists virtually. Halo is now fully a computer system. I know, it's strange."
"I'm afraid not. What's even stranger is the fact that it still poses an immediate threat to us and every other living creature in the universe."
The officer questioning the Commander shook his head in shock.
"How do you propose we fight it?"
"We're developing a new system to upload soldiers into Halo's program."
"Why does Halo even still exist, even virtually?"
The Commander leaned towards the window overlooking the docking bay. "I believe the Covenant built the Halo program as a sort of back-up to Halo's physical form."
"I agree. I'm not sure how long it will be before we can get inside the system. Halo could be preparing to annihilate everything as we speak."
"If Halo destroys the universe, how can it survive?"
"Halo exists in another dimension now. The computer program that links it to our world is all it takes to destroy us and still manage to keep it alive."
"Get back to the docking bay. I need those ships ready to go."
"All officers maintain current status. All vessels now on board. Repeat, all vessels now on board."
Sparks flew in all directions across the docking bay. Maintenance crews swarmed the vessels, filling and welding the smallest of holes or repairing any wires and mainframe parts. The only vessel that sustained no damage was the 'Serenity'. She had avoided all contact with Covenant machines, programmed hunting systems.
It was now only a matter of time.
"What have we got so far?"
"The area is clean. Radar shows nothing."
The screen was indeed blank. Looking carefully, however, it was noticeable that a small dot was approaching at intensely high speed.
"Wait...what is that?"
A trembling finger traced along the screen, following the indication.
"I'm working on it," came the response. The operator was already urgent as she scanned the projectile.
"It's moving too fast. I can't scan it."
The closest officer did a quick calculation in his head. Then, turning to the operator, he whispered, "It's a bomb. That's the only thing it can be."
The operator's face flushed.
"Try to avoid panicking. Notify the Commander and have the defenses activated. Understand?"
The operator nodded as she reached for her headset switch. "Commander," she said quietly, doing her best to contain her fright and urgency.
"We have an unidentified projectile inbound and closing in at two hundred fifty-five kilometers per second. Calculations show that we will have contact with the projectile in two minutes, thirty seconds."
"Understood. Activate anti-projectile torpedoes. Use whatever is necessary to take that thing out."
The operator activated several hologram panels and set the controls for five torpedoes to be launched. Within seconds, five trails of flame could be observed heading off into the distance, searching for their target.
The crew could only watch as the torpedoes faded into the black void and eventually disappeared from radar limits.
Finally, after approximately twenty seconds, a faint fireball could be seen. A fraction of a second passed before the silent vacuum sucked the flames into eternity. The sound of the explosion never came either, for it met the identical fate.
After a few more seconds, four more explosions could be seen from the windows of the vessel.
The crew cheered, but their shouts of joy were cut short.
An alarm rang, a piercing sound that shattered the mood and turned heads.
"Operator, what do you have?"
The operator furiously checked the screens and panels, changing views and status screens constantly.
"One moment, sir."
She initiated a rapid scan of the area, but was stopped when the alarm stopped blaring at an consistent rate but instead continued at a steady, nonstop rate.
The crew members gazed at the screens, hoping to find the reason for the warning. Nothing came to them.
"Commander, I can't see anything. There's nothing."
"I'll try a ship scan. The problem may be on board."
A quick scan went out, searching through computer systems, defense systems, condition regulation systems, mechanical systems, etc. Every computer system on board was searched.
The waiting officers and crew stared at the screens for the final report. A single word was all that was displayed: PROCESSING.
An automated voice came through. "Upload commenced, scan data collected and processed. Upload complete."
The screens flashed out the information:
COMPUTER SYSTEM: INFECTED.
DEFENSE SYSTEM: INFECTED.
CONDITION REGULATION SYSTEM: INFECTED.
MECHANICAL SYSTEM: INFECTED.
MAINFRAME COMPUTER SYSTEM: INFECTED.
"Operator, what have you got?"
"Commander, scan reports all major systems are infected. Virus unknown."
The Commander was silent for a moment. "Get on it. Find out what it is, then eliminate it. We've got a sick ship to take care of."
The operator launched a second virus scan, which sent a program that checked the virus for certain qualities and purposes. Location of the internal virus also helped.
The scan report came back after a minute or two. The data displayed that no identification was possible.
"Commander, we are unable to identify the virus. It isn't something we've ever known about."
"Can we get the ships out of here yet?"
"Negative, sir. Repairs are still underway."
"The Serenity doesn't have any problems. Get her off this thing and have her report this to the other mother vessels."
"Right away, Commander."
"Have as many people evacuated as possible."
"The lifeboats won't work. The launch mechanisms have been downed due to the virus."
"Get on it."
Another alarm buzzed, doubling the irritating noise. The operator examined the panels, then noticed the flashing message: "MAINFRAME MALFUNCTION: SYSTEM OVERLOAD."
"What does that mean?" questioned one of the mechanics.
The operator sighed. "This thing is going south."
The Commander sighed with satisfaction and a little sorrow as he watched the Serenity disappear into the blackness. His focus was on the fate of that last ship, even as the mother vessel tore apart.
With one last grown, the mainframe destroyed the other systems, and the ship collapsed as she was blown apart from the inside. A bright flash erupted from her and blinded anything in the area.
When the light faded, a new debris field was formed.
It had begun.