The Cost of Vengeance
Posted By: David "Paladin" Huang<email@example.com>
Date: 6 March 2000, 2:25 p.m.
To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste. Deuteronomy 32:35
The man in grey pulled his ragged cloak around himself tighter in an effort to ignore his companions. They were zombies. Dead flesh brought to life. So was he, but at least he wasn't a zombie. Long after their spirits had left them, humanity saw it fit to return these warriors to the battlefield. Warriors. Hah, if only they were. Alongside honorable warriors who had fallen in battle were capitol offense criminals, crazed psychopaths, diseased killers... all lobotomized for your protection. Literally. They were the soldiers that protected the civilian from the vast emptiness of space... so you could sleep at night. Of course, they were still....
The man let out a sigh as he realized he really couldn't complain. Walking alone in the swirling desert during wartime on an alien construct, he was lucky to have been picked up by the "good guys". Even luckier, that he they didn't check his luggage and had to sit in the back with the zombies with no one to ask him annoying question.
But then, he didn't believe in luck.
// Around 777 years ago....//
Light from the lazy summer sunset filtered through the stain glassed window and through the unsettled dust onto Father Guan-Wei Wu. The priest was kneeling down before the crucifix and communing with the King of Kings in an image of peace and serenity. The silence was suddenly shattered by a rude disturbance.
"DAD! DAD! Hey Dad, guess what?!", yelled a youth as he broke into the chapel at full speed. His progress was stopped as he bounced off a plump woman who stepped into the Asian boy's path.
"And, what's all this ruckus about young Sean now?", asked Sister O'Riley in her delightful Irish accent of hers. The boy's birth name was actually Xian, but she pronounced it Shawn when she first met him- because of the similar sound and the Irish "Cian" spelling of Sean- and ever since the nickname stuck. Father Wu ended his prayer, stood up, and turned around to address the excited boy.
"Xian, please don't burst in like that or you're libel to give me a heart attack- hmm, what's this?" Wu lifted his son's chin up so that he could examine his face better. "How did you get this, Son?", he asked addressing the Xian's black eye.
"I ran into a door- uh... knob." But the lie couldn't hold out under his father's penetrating stare. "Which-.. ah, hurt. But the shiner came from those kids in front of Mr. Zhou's grocery store."
"You were fighting?", Wu's eyebrow raised sternly.
"They started it! They were knocking over Mr. Zhou's fruit stands and chasing away his customers. I took care of them, though! I even made Chen-Zen eat some of the fruit he wasted off the ground! You shoulda-"
"You should have not been fighting! You are one of God's children-"
"Didn't Jesus drive out the money changers?"
"But he didn't make them eat their money."
"Didn't Moses make Israel eat the golden calf?"
"Moses also murdered a man... do you want to do that?"
"No, of course not... sorry." Xian should have knew better than to try and use God's Word to argue with his father. Xian looked sorry so his father's voice softened.
"All right then, what's so important?"
"Well, after I helped Mr. Zhou clean up he gave me a coin-"
"Xian!" Xian cut him off before he could scold him about taking other people's money.
"-so that he could show me a trick. Just watch!" The twelve year old took out a large silver coin and carefully set it on the back of his hand. Rolling it between his fingers he got a gasp out of Sister O'Riley.
"That's great Sean!", she said.
"Wait, there's more." Xian snapped his fingers and showed off his hand to display it devoid of a coin. Snapping his fingers again the coin seemed to appear in his other hand. "Cool, huh?"
"Amazing!", she applauded.
"Quite impressive, Son... now how about spending some of that time on your studies? Now go and get cleaned up for supper."
Sister O'Riley walked with Xian a bit and leaned in close so that he could hear her whisper, "I'm glad you gave those hooligans a whupping... need to keep the Fear of God in them, you know? Off, with you then!" She sent him off with a slap to the behind. Turning around, she gave Father Wu the apologetic expression for the stern expression she knew would be there... she was right.
"Linda, I wish you wouldn't encourage him."
"He did right by helping Mr. Zhou... taking on all of those little thugs must have taken courage."
"Perhaps, but I don't like violence. After Xian's mother died I didn't know how I was to raise a boy without all the darker elements of Hong Kong getting to him. I'm lucky I found my calling and joined the Ministry but sometimes I'm concerned about Xian. I don't want him to turn out like my brother."
"He's a good boy, Father Wu. You don't have to worry about him."
"I know, I know. Thanks Linda, I've got to go start dinner."
In the smoke filled noodle shop two patrons in the back stood out no more than any of the other customers. One was a thinnish man with long hair and an unshaven chin while the other was a fat sweaty man with a dirty face... he smeared the soot on his face with a sweaty palm as his friend slurped up another mouthful of noodles. Both were fairly grungy but the thinner one was wearing a wrinkled blue suit that looked like it hadn't been worn in a while.
"So why'd you call me and what's with the fancy duds, Fu?"
"Mmmgh, look at this.", Fu said through a mess of noodles and tossed his grimy and sweaty friend a photo. Ching-Yun looked at the black and white picture of two young men grinning for the camera.
"Yeah, so what?"
"Recognize them?", Fu said, still chomping away.
"No. Should I?"
"One of them. The one the right."
"Hm, no I- wait... Long? Is that Gaun-Yu Long, leader of the Dragon syndicate?"
"Ah, good eye my friend! What about the other man?"
"Dunno, though, they look like they could be brothers."
"Again, another astute observation! Hah ha! You're good at this Ching! Yes you're correct, the other man is Long's brother, Guan-Wei."
"Long has a brother?!"
"Yes, apparently Long's real name is Wu... he changed his name as he was rising through the syndicate. His brother- get this- is a Catholic Priest right here in Hong Kong!"
"How'd you find this out?", Ching-Yun said with urgency in his hushed voice. Fu laughed.
"I was late on my rent and the land lady came around to collect. I was sick and tired of her so I killed her... as I was going through her stuff I found this photo and a letter. I'm no detective but I was smart enough to put two and two together."
"So why you telling me?"
"You've got some connections with the Mao gang right? I want you to tell them I'm gonna off Long's brother for them... to send the Dragons a message. That Mao is number one in Hong Kong!"
"Eh, don't you think that's a little distasteful? I mean, going after family... and a Priest! There are certain rules-"
"Screw the rules! Long is from the old school of rules and honor amongst thieves... Mao has a respect for spunk, moxie, guts- you know. This will clear my debts with them and possibly get me in with Mao. They will need a man who's willing to do the 'distasteful'. I'll be that man!"
"Fine, but I hope you know what you're doing."
"Praying again?", Xian almost sighed as he slumped down next to his father. Guan-Wei turned to his son and smiled. The chapel was lit only by the moonlight through the colored glass. The dance of colored lights would otherwise be eerie as it brought the walls of the chapel alive. But Xian was used to it and thought it make the place look magical at night.
"I never get tired of talking with God, Xian."
"Talking to, Dad."
"I don't hear Him talking back."
"Sure you can... listen carefully. Inside here.", he tapped Xian's heart. "You can hear Him in your heart. The more you listen to Him the easier it becomes, Xian. Never forget that."
"Sure Dad... good night.", said Xian not quite believing.
"Good night Son, I love you." Wu had said that to Xian every day since he was born, so Xian didn't feel awkward, and tonight was no exception. As Xian left, Wu went back to his prayers, thanking the Lord for all his blessings.
Shaukiwan Chapel was in the middle of a dying community. Community probably wasn't even the right word. The Chapel once lay in a residential area serving the local parish. It was a good neighborhood with good people, but as small businesses moved in and turned into larger businesses the bad element moved in with them. The good people left and bad people were there to take their place.
Things got to the point that even the bad people didn't want to spend their time in that neighborhood, leaving it to whatever refuse chose to remain or move in. Through it all, the Holy Cross Chapel remained... what it symbolized contrasting strongly with its decaying environment.
Shaukiwan's unique architecture stood out amongst its broken down environment, surrounded by former commercial buildings and an abandoned warehouse lay to its back. Shaukiwan stood through all the changes and seemed to grey along with the neighborhood. It was on this scene that the grungy man commented on.
"Nice place, you've got here. Heh."
Wu was just finishing up when someone came crashing through the chapel doors. Slightly annoyed, Wu spun around while scolding who he thought to be the intruder.
"Xian! What did I tell you about bursting in here like-" Father Wu's eyes went wide as he was faced with a gunman.
Three rounds dropped Father Wu to the floor with a tragic thump.
"Forgive me Father.", Fu smirked as he made a mock cross.
"NOOOOOOOOOO!!!", screamed Xian who had run in after hearing the shots.
"What the f- you little brat!"
Xian dodged behind a pew and emerged with a fury in his eyes. That look actually put fear into Fu as the boy flew at him.
Xian was shot down in mid-air, falling down hard. Fu kept pulling the trigger of his six-shooter in terror as Xian climbed back to his feet. The small boy showed more courage than Fu dared face. Coughing blood, a roar would have rose from his throat if it could, as he rushed the thug.
As a reflex, Fu knocked the boy away and down for the count... it was too much for Xian. Seeing him prone caused Fu to recompose himself somewhat, but he still felt an inner shame at the fear he had felt at this young boy. Kicking the boy until he was still made him feel a little better. Trembling, he rushed to get away from the scene.
Croaking and gasping, Xian was still fighting for consciousness as he crawled over to the body of his fallen father. His world went dark.
"Let me past!"
"Mr. Long is in a meeting, Mr. Mark. You can't go in!"
"Meeting or not, I'm going to see him now!" Mark pushed past the secretary and glared at the guard until he let him pass. He barged into the office disturbing Long's meeting. The room of serious looking Chinese business men suddenly became silent.
"Mr. Mark, this had better be-"
"Guan-Yu it's about Father Wu." That got Long's attention. "It's serious. Please come right away."
Darkness... then Light.
Xian knew he was on his back and moving. The lights were bright and disorienting. His head was pounding as he could barely make out the what someone was trying to say to him.
"Name? Name? Can you hear me? Name?", someone asked in English.
"Shee...an....", Xian murmured weakly.
"Shawn, right then, good enough. Last name? Last name?", said the English doctor as he scribbled down Xian's name.
"F-Father....", Xian muttered deliriously.
And darkness came once again.
Guan-Yu Long was the ruthless leader of the Dragon syndicate and did not get there by showing mercy, emotion, or weakness... but as he sat next to the lifeless body of his brother, this crime lord broke down and wept.
He was the younger of the two brothers and always the more ill tempered, headstrong, and mischievous of the two and as a result got in a lot more trouble. But his older brother, Guan-Wei, would always look out for him and be there when he was in a tight spot.
And while their different lifestyles forced them the remain apart they always remained loyal to one another. He had kept his distance and changed his name to protect his brother, but in the end it was his fault that Guan-Wei was dead. His fault!
"Who did this, Mark?"
"Word is that a nobody did it trying to get in with Mao."
"I want you to find out who he is. Mao isn't stupid enough to let an idiot like him into his organization. Anyone who admits to murdering family of a syndicate boss is crazy. But I want you to pull strings to get him in. I want blood and this man's blood will not be enough!"
"One more thing... the boy. Where's the boy?"
Xian was alive. Perhaps physically... but inside he felt dead. No, that wasn't true. There was a living flame inside him. A blazing inferno smoldering deep inside his soul. The burning desire for vengeance left the bitter taste of ashes in his mouth.
A large dark man came in, a grim look upon his face... but if Xian didn't know better, he would have swore the man looked like he had been crying. Something about this man was familiar. The man took Xian's chart and looked it over quickly.
"Shawn," he began. Xian would have corrected him but he couldn't will his mouth to move. He hadn't spoken since he came to. "You don't know me... but I've known of you. Guan-Wei- your father- was my brother. I'm your uncle. We've had our- differences... but we've always been there for each other. Family is everything. Anything you need, just ask."
No response. Long looked into the boy's eyes and saw the quiet rage that lay with in. It moved him... at that moment he decided to take this boy in and adopt him. As much as he wanted revenge for himself, he knew it belonged to this boy.
"You felt powerless when that bastard shot your father didn't you?"
That actually seemed to get Xian's attention. The glazed look left his eyes, but the smoldering fury remained. Men less aquatinted with evil would have flinched, but Long soberly nodded to himself... he was right.
"You may have had more heart, courage, goodness, will, spirit- but it all did you no good. In the end, he had more power than you." The words were obviously getting to Xian as he started to tremble slightly. A stream of tears leaked down his face, but his expression didn't change.
"Shawn... I'm different than your father. But I'd like to adopt you right now. If you come with me, I can give you that kind of power. The kind of power to make those who have hurt you pay in blood." Xian knew his uncle spoke the truth. Still grimacing, he bowed his head once in acceptance of this path and closed his eyes... praying for forgiveness.
On that day, Xian Wu died in the hospital after suffering serious trauma from his bullet wound. Sister O'Riley wept and wailed in the ER when a doctor came out to tell her. Sean Long was born that day. Sean had heard Sister O'Riley's mourning and felt strangely unmoved.
Long took Sean from the hospital to his isolated mansion. There were armed men everywhere and it didn't take Sean that long to figure out what his uncle did for a living. He also began to suspect his uncle had something to do with his father's death- violence like that would have never entered the life of a peaceful priest if it weren't for this gangster- but he kept his thoughts to himself. In fact, he was on the mansion grounds for over a week before he spoke to anyone... that person was Mr. Mark.
Mr. Mark was a handsome young man of about twenty years of age. He had no first name and no last name... people simply called him Mark or Mr. Mark to show respect. No one knew where he came from except for Long who had discovered Mark and took him in. As Long's right hand man, Mark was probably the most talented hitman in Hong Kong helping the Dragons become the most feared syndicate on the island. Mark was second only to Long and so people called him the Dragon Prince.
Mark walked into Sean's room and looked at the boy for a moment. He took out a silver flask and unscrewed the cap. The sharply dressed man offered the flask to Sean who made no movement to accept the brew. Mark shrugged and took a swig.
"Your training begins today, Sean. You'll be my student. Just as I learned from Long, you will learn from me... com'on let's drink to our new relationship." Sean shook his head. "Hm, I can't train you if you don't loosen up some! Drink or I'll just come back tomorrow and ask again."
Sean reluctantly took the flask and gulped down the alcohol... and almost instantly began to choke and gasp for air. This went on for a bit when Sean vomited violently all over the hard wood floor.
"Sorry, Mr. Mark.", Sean muttered, finding his voice for the first time in a while. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Mark did not seem to be affected by the sight.
"For what? Puking? Nah, it's good for you! And don't call me Mr. Mark... Elder Brother Mark or just Mark will be fine. I'm not that much older than you and we're family now."
And so began a ten year long relationship during which Mark trained Sean Long to become the most feared hitman in the criminal underworld. Friends and enemies alike would speak of him in hushed tones of respect as his killing skills became legend.
... "A gun is an extension of yourself- much like the men's swords in Feudal Japan- but is still only a tool! Some mean treat their guns like it is their penis! You must learn to know and respect your weapon while still remaining its master. Much like a penis, some men let their guns control them." ... "Stop counting your ammo! Just get a feel for how many shots you're firing! Go by the weight of the gun. Get used to that feeling. Know your weapon." ... "No, no, no! Composure! Look, you were able to frighten the punk who killed your father with anger, but that's because he was a punk. The truly ruthless recognize an angry man as a dumb beast! Icewater must flow through your veins, Sean! Only then will you be able to truly strike fear into the hearts of your enemies. If they fear a man holding a gun, that is one thing... but if they fear the man- gun or no gun- that is power!" ... "Excellent! Good, good! Now, twenty more somersaults! Hey, no groaning! This is to save your life one day. What?! All right, then you can do fifty more somersaults! Hah!" ... "No. Too slow. No. Too slow. No. Too slow. Dammit, if you can't move faster than that I might as well kill you now! Again!" ... "Hah hah! Very nice! You read my every move! You are getting much better, Sean. But you must learn to react to the unexpected- hah! Gotcha! See, you weren't expecting that were you?" ... "Fighting multiple enemies is not much different than fighting one. You must feel, see, and read all your enemies as if they were one body and react accordingly. You will understand what I mean with practice." ...
After nine years of training, Sean Long was ready to be the avenging Angel of Death. While he had learned to act human again- talking and even sometimes laughing- he was still followed by a dark shadow that affected his demeanor. The shadow called out for the blood that it was owed and Sean knew he could not hold his bloodlust back anymore.
//About two centuries later....//
Alexander Mironov's father wanted to be a cosmonaut. Many of his friends wanted to be diplomats or engineers or soldiers. Some thought they would like to be bankers or teachers or even professors. These were all highly patriotic jobs: Mother Russia would be pleased.
But, since the collapse of the former Soviet Union, Russia is no longer the mother she once was. And so Alexander Mironov does not dream of being a cosmonaut, as did his father. Nor does he dream of being an engineer or a soldier. Nor do his friends have those dreams.
"I would like to be a killer," says Alexander flatly.
"But, surely, you are joking, heh heh," says his grandmother. "It is now too crowded a field," she adds, making her own small joke. "Just last year you said you wanted to be a banker, to makes lots of money."
"That was last year," says Alexander. And, yes, he thinks, the field *is* crowded. He has just read that in the past four years there have been 116 attempted killings of bankers in Russia, 79 of which succeeded. There are over 500 documented contract killings a year in his country. It is reported that the killers are very highly paid. Vladimir Kovalenko's uncle is known to be a killer; a member of the famous Russian Mafia. He has a car, membership in the Red Turtle Club, his own apartment, skinny women with blond hair. He is now is Slovakia, where there is much work; there have been 111 killings there in the past nine months.
And so, at least half seriously, Alexander Mironov dreams of being a killer.
// Returning to the Halo....//
"Welcome to Sector Chi, home of the Fighting 44th... or as we like to call ourselves, here- the X-Factor!", Xian's rescuer drawled. Xian chuckled politely at the Greek pun. "Sorry, ya had tah ride with them B-roids... but we were in a hurry to get back and there weren't enough room up front for my pal Scooter and y'alls."
"That's alright, I'm thankful you found me after the attack. Three weeks of wandering alone and I had almost given up hope. You're a Godsend. My name is Xian." He extended his hand which was shook heartily by the marine.
"Glad to be of service. You can call me Smokey. That there's Scooter... he don't talk much." He pointed to a huge marine that grunted in acknowledgement as he helped the Battleroids deploy. One was turned towards Xian as it marched. It stopped, its empty eyes staring through its faceplate in Xian's direction. Smokey went over and kicked the zombie and it continued on its way. "Damn, things malfunctioning with all this sand. Them grits blow'n round here mess up our guns, comms, and all sorts of stuff. The folk inside will tell ya more. Alls I'll say's these Bee-roids... better not screw up when my ass is on the line!"
"Well, Amen to that. Why do you call this Sector Chi?"
"Hey, you're pretty sharp... yeah, I said comms are down and you picked up. Well, I tells ya what- we can boost our comms over the grits and reach the others, only we don't wanna attract no Cows. Turns out most of us made it and they've got a coordinated war going 'gainst the Cows. We're outta the loop wit them grits, though... ain't mean we can't still give'em Hell over here!"
"Gotcha. You know, as great as it is talking to you- considering how lonely as it's been for me- I'm pretty tired and would just like to turn in for a while if that's okay with you. If you could just show me-"
"Sure thing, man- here I am, jabbering ya life away when you're probably beat tah Hell. Follow me, com'on."
// Half a millennia ago....//
Alexy Mironov closed his eyes to help him to focus upon the melody coming through the complementary airline head-phones. Try as he might, Alexander found it impossible to lose himself in the music. Classical music simply did not appeal to him... that annoyed him.
He had spent the better part of his life amassing wealth, riches, and the respect of those who knew his work. But what he lacked was culture and refinement. No matter what he did he never *felt* rich. And while he could play the role- his outward poise didn't reflect the way he hungered to feel affluent.
So when the music failed to stir his soul- when he knew it was *supposed* to- he grew annoyed. Of course, the cultured were not to show their baser emotions so despite an undetectable tightening in his jaw, anyone would think Mironov was quite contently listening to his classical music.
The dangerous Russian man was built like a Russian- blond and square, big and strong. He was wearing a spotless white suit that strongly contrasted his black & bloody career. His profession helped him to acquire his wealth and status but it also stopped him from enjoying it because he ultimately had fell in love with being a savage. Yes, he was a savage because he loved killing. Being a hitman had lead to worldly success but denied him spiritual satisfaction.
Alexy was beginning to feel extremely tense. He looked over to the passenger next to him. It was a middle-aged business man... food for the strong. Upon making eye contact with the business man, his civilian eyes widened and lit up.
"Sir, might I ask for your autograph please?"
"Autograph? Why?", growled the Russian.
"When a celebrity like Dolph Lundgren's simulacrum is sitting next to you, one must ask for an autograph!"
"I'm Russian you idiot... Lundgren was Swedish."
"Of course, you're Russian! Rocky 8 and Red Scorpion's Revenge- man, I've seen all your movies since your construction!"
Alexander looked at the man with disbelief... was it possible to be this stupid? He looked at the man who was smiling dumbly at him, oblivious to the fact the hunter was merely playing with his prey. Mironov looked around some then suddenly smashed the man across the throat with the knife edge of his palm.
The man's eyes flew wide open but Alexy's hand was already tightly clasped around his mouth to stop any raspy last breaths from escaping the dying man's crushed throat. Soon, the man looked liked he was sleeping soundly and by the time anyone realized he was dead the Russian would be long gone. Savage or not, Mironov smiled with genuine satisfaction when the life left that random soul.
// Back on Halo....//
Not all Battleroids were created equal.
At least, not by design. Ideally, Battleroids were identical, mechanical, interchangeable, expendable units. More or less... they were. Gene therapy enhanced muscles, augmentation improved strength and endurance, microchips reinforced the fragile human brain while gaining complete control over the mind, while stasis chambers allowed them to be put away for eternity. Ideally.
Men are born different. All the surgery and augmentation didn't change that. So each one of these walking corpses had a face. An individual face. There was a program to test whether all the faces should altered to looked exactly alike or inhuman, but it proved to have psychologically damaging effects on troops and their morale... in addition to the public outcry against the vandalization of their war heroes. So the military decided to keep have the Battleroids keep their helmets sealed on. Later, when criminals were introduced to the process, barcodes were tattooed on their foreheads while dead soldiers were identified by their dog tags so that they could get the respect they deserved.
Well, as much respect as a walking dead man could get. Most marines found Battleroids downright spooky... as if it was a look into their eternal fate. Stasis made it even worse. Some of these zombies were from centuries ago. They were just as effective today as they were then so the military saw no reason to update their supply of Battleroids... enough of them were killed in battle to cycle them that way. So it was possible to serve next to your great-great grandfather- or worse... your father. But, of course, the military went to great lengths to avoid such disgraces.
Their faces were not their only other individual trait. Their minds were their own. At least, that was the best explanation the military could come up with. Some Battleroids simply performed better than others on the field. Occasionally, an act of unexplained behavior would pop up now and then- leaving a parade line to hug a child, crying out a name, or brain activity during stasis. But that was the exception... a very very small exception. So it was basically ignored and the cost effective disposable warriors know as Battleroids continued to be created and used in combat to this day. These were mere reflexes after all. Brain death was brain death. There had never been an incident of Battleroid mind recovery. No recorded one, at least. Lots of superstition and urban legends but not one documented case.
Battleroid AlxM2223E.18a woke up.
Xian was pretty impressed. The marines of the Fighting 44th had made a makeshift base out of escape pods, storage units, and temporary modules. There were no alien relics, no comfy cave, no civilians, or local flora here. This was a combat outpost pure and simple. As a result, the only had a space on the ground to offer him as a bed. No problem. It also meant that Xian was the first new face they had seen in a long while which made everyone want to talk with him. Problem. Finally, it also meant there was nowhere to hide his luggage... and they wanted to go through it. Big problem.
"I hope you understand, it's not that we don't respect your privacy... it's just that in times of war what you have might be useful to us in ways you can't imagine.", said a diplomatic marine as they prepared to open the contents of Xian's case.
"I understand." He really did, he just wish they really wouldn't.
But, of course... they did.
"That's enough soldier.", the diplomatic one cut his subordinate off. He tried to remain calm, but he had gasped reflexively along with his men and was now cautiously touching his sidearm. One tends to do that when expecting dirty laundry and rations but instead being presented with an arsenal of small arms, explosives, knives, ammunition, and military grade weaponry and equipment. "What *exactly* do you do, mister?"
Xian chuckled nervously while scratching the back of his head.
Well... it could have been worse. Xian explained he was a bounty hunter and xenotracker. He showed his licenses and proved his shooting proficiency. The military items were recovered from a crate he had found after ending up on Halo. They bought it- after grilling him for hours- after all, it was true... more or less. Xian did have real bounty hunter and xenotracking licenses and the items were recovered from a crate... even if that crate happened to be in a marine base at the time.
They confiscated everything military. They took all his explosives. They took his F3 rounds. They took almost all his equipment. They even took his expensive Raven brand optics array. But they were generous. They let him keep his guns- they had enough of their own. They let him keep his computer. They let him keep his swords and knives. They let him keep his arachno-fiber weave body armor with sintered harjel lining. They even let him keep his Faraday Coat... for now. It could have been worse.
No problem... back to basics.
Xian had what he needed. He was going to miss the decaflops his Raven optics would have provided, but they had left him enough. Enough to survive... as he always had. And, of course, he could just steal back anything he lost. Hopefully. Well, tomorrow was another day.
Ugh. What was this stuff? Xian poked the cube of purplish pink substance with his fork causing it to jiggle. It seemed to be some kind of processed meat... maybe. Gelatinous bits of amber goop dripped from its edges. He could make no more excuses, Smokey insisted Xian try his creation. Xian scooped up a chunk and tried his best to smile enthusiastically at the eagerly watching marine. Well... here goes.
"Hey... it- it's actually... decent!"
It tasted somewhat like over seasoned stringy roast beef mixed with canned ham that melted in your mouth. It wasn't good, but it compared pretty well against military MREs. Xian decided to encourage Smokey by taking another healthy bite. While he was still chewing Smokey decided to enlighten him.
"Yeah, that's Smokey's Cov-n-Hippo Hash!"
*PPPBTTTT!!* Xian sprayed the contents of his mouth.
"There's Covenant flesh in that?!"
"Yeah? So what?" Nevermind the fact Greymalkin toxicology reports came back saying Covs were poisonous... eating sentient beings was just disgusting. Smokey, apparently didn't see the problem. "Why'd y'all think I called them Cows? A little Cov tendon for texture ain't gonna hurt ya... 'sides it's mostly hippo."
A mean looking marine and his cadre interrupted Xian's query.
"Appropriate for a shit-eating bounty hunter like yourself."
"Excuse me?", Xian replied calmly. The marine leaned in close.
"You heard me. My little brother was a cop... murdered by a bastard bounty hunter who wanted the bail jumper for himself." The marine spoke through grit teeth. "So you can guess how I feel about bounty hunters. I don't like them." He dug his finger into Xian's chest. Smokey and Scooter started to stand, but Xian motioned for them to sit.
"I'm sorry for your loss."
Oddly, the mean looking marine grinned. A wide toothy grin... that of a predator.
"No. No, you're not... but you will be!" With that, he slugged Xian with a left hook that knocked the Asian man off his seat and onto the ground. This time, Smokey and Scooter jumped to their feet. Smokey was about to make a move when Xian called out.
"Stop! Let him be, Smokey." He rubbed his jaw as he started to get up, but the marine hooked his leg and pushed him back down and kicked Xian in the head.
"Hey, Zombie Rancher... you taking orders from a civilian now?", scoffed the marine, his mates laughing with him.
That was it.
Smokey flew across the table at the lead marine, tackling him to the ground. He got in a few punches before the marine threw Smokey into the air. Scooter, meanwhile, was pinning down two marines while a third attacked him to no effect. The odds weren't too bad... four marines in power-assisted battle armor versus an armorless cowboy and his silent giant friend. Normally, someone would have broken this up a long time ago... but the marines were itching for some entertainment after being caught in a sandstorm for three days.
Scooter and the three other marines were keeping each other busy while Smokey and their leader paired off. All marines were trained in hand to hand combat, after completing the basics, one could advance in various disciplines of their choosing. Apparently, this one knew Muy Thai "kickboxing" as his arms went up to guard his head from roundhouse kicks and his legs took the proper stance. Smokey, didn't seem to know any particular style. Not good.
Smokey charged to grapple, but the marine broke his grip with a circular motion of his arms and a headbutt that knocked Smokey backwards. Muy Thai was a powerful art that relied heavily on toughness and power... inside, battle armor, it was deadly. The marine jabbed the cowboy twice with the speed of a snake, then hit him with a roundhouse that made a sickening *THWACK* against the side of Smokey's head. Scooter, concerned for his friend's welfare, was distracted into letting down his defenses and his three opponents clubbed Scooter into unconsciousness with their battle armor. Amazingly... Smokey got up. Barely.
The marine grabbed him by the collar and forced his back onto the table, his fist drawing back for the final blow.
Smokey ground his Cov-N-Hippo Hash into the marine's face. As the pink and purple meat substance dripped down the marine's face... his outrage looked as if it were enough to cook the food on his face. The punch drunk cowboy had the audacity to smile and tip his imaginary hat in mock salute. As far as the disgraced marine was concerned, Smokey was dead. A power-assisted punch would easily take off this vermin's head. Time to die, cowboy-
The angry marine found himself on his back, looking up the barrel of a gun. Xian had coiled his rappelling wire around the marine's fist and, off guard, he was able to bring him to the ground.
"Had enough?" The marine growled under his breath and refused to answer. Xian looked at his gun. "I suppose it isn't fair to ask you that with this thing pointed at you.", he said as he leaned in close, gun pointed away. The prone marine took a swing at that smug face only to catch air. He let the momentum of his punch carry into a windmill sweep kick, but Xian was already backflipping through the air. The mean looking marine stood against Xian who was pointing a pistol directly at his head. Xian cocked his head sideways and smiled. He spun flipped the pistol as he returned it to its holster.
He assumed a mock Muy Thai stance. It wasn't that he didn't know Muy Thai- he did... once- it just wasn't his martial art of choice. The mockery worked. The marine ignored the defensive nature of Muy Thai and went for a straight right punch. The punch was fast. Xian was faster. He stepped inside the punch and rolled off the marine to his other side in less than a heartbeat. Guess what? Xian was aiming the marine's own sidearm to his head. Xian shrugged apologetically and tossed the weapon aside. He took up a traditional boxing stance and began galloping back and forth with a steady rhythm.
Xian came at the marine in a rush of jabs, hooks, and straights his motions all a blur. The marine's defenses seemed nonexistent and his attacks were easily danced around. Xian switched styles while the marine was reeling from a punch and delivered a flying kick to his face. The marine was still reeling so Xian dashed in and executed a palm thrust technique to the gut that sent the marine flying through the air impossibly.
The marine's friends rushed to charge him but they stopped when Xian stared them down with a raised eyebrow, and shook his head. He launched himself into the air and kicked two of them out cold with a helicopter kick. He landed in a low crouch with his arms spread, which he rotated ceremoniously into Crane Stance. His position would have been laughable had he not just kicked the asses of three battle armored marines. The third goon realized this and retreated as if he had nothing to do with this. He would have stuck his hands in his pockets and whistled had he had pockets.
The response was mostly positive. Cheers went up. Sure, three of their own had got beat by a civilian, but they were known assholes harassing the loveable Smokey and plus it was helluva fight! It was free, besides-
Suddenly, the crowd scattered as if they all had something very important to do elsewhere. This left Xian standing alone amongst four unconscious marines. Just great. A middle-aged marine with his cadre of armed men stared him down hard. Xian looked over to his wounded friend.
"So Smokey... hippos, you say?"
Captain Jephthah had been surprisingly understanding. As a former mercenary, he had come across many situations like this one and so he knew the course of action. He'd let the hot-tempered marine keep a measure of dignity by "punishing" the outsider- Xian and Smokey- to Hippo Hunting. The idea was the keep Xian isolated from the marines for a while, at the same time standing by his own men. To Smokey, it wasn't really punishment at all as it was a nice change of pace from "Zombie Tour".
As soon as the medics finished with Smokey, they set out in a jeep... before their unconscious friends were woken up. During the journey, Smokey refused to give Xian any information about their task. He would simply smile and shake his head saying, "Wall-hugging hippos, man... I say wall-huggin hippos, boy."
Xian found it amazing that the usually loud mouthed cowboy would decide to be so cryptic. Apparently they were going to hunt wall-hugging hippos to be ground up into Smokey's Cov-N-Hippo Hash... at least, that was the best theory Xian could come up with for the moment. They had brought along a few F3 rounds which agreed with Xian's speculation. F3 rounds didn't spoil the meat and could be extracted cleanly in one pull, unlike annoying buckshot or round fragments. Of course, they were terrible for trophy hunting. After all, who wanted to mount game that looked like a peeled orange rind?
They were riding in a modified jeep, optimized for driving across the sands of the desert. No gun turret and extra large tires. The frame had been stripped down to have less armor and more storage space, as well. The jeep hit a dune that allowed the canvas in the back catch air and flip up a bit exposing an inert body. Xian shuddered involuntarily. A zombie.
Hippo hunting typically took three people, apparently, but not important enough to spend the manpower. So Smokey had borrowed the Battleroid that had glitched the day before. Glitching in combat could spell disaster, so apparently hippo hunting didn't involve much risk. Or, at least, low enough risk to chance the use of a defective Battleroid.
The trip was long. They had started out in the morning and it was already close to dusk. Xian had spent the better part of the beginning scanning the skies for Covenant aerial units, paranoid. Back in Greymalkin, Xian had watched the tapes of Covenant aerial assaults against the marines on the Warrens front. But, as nothing appeared in the clear blue sky, Xian relaxed slightly and began to check his rappelling wire for defects.
The 25 meter length was coiled inside the circular guard on the back of his right hand. It had a one-shot launcher and 500 kilogram wrench with an average pulling velocity of half a meter per second. The wire was composed of a micro-filament core with ferro fibrous spring coiled around. The substance used to create artificial muscles was woven into a tight and springy thread which was in turn wrapped around the micro-filament core. This meant that the rappelling wire, which was only half a centimeter in diameter deformed into a flattened ribbon of sorts. The wire, then, could be safely handled or deployed around things without cutting into things. Then... the fun part.
When a current was sent through the ferro fibrous sheath, it contracted around the micro-filament core into wire so thin it blinked in and out of visibility. It still retained all its strength but now was only a few microns across, allowing it to slice through solids with ease. That was always useful. A SmartWire system would have allowed the rappelling wire know when to tighten or let go of objects, as well as making the areas the user touched safe to handle at all times. It would also alert Xian to any flaws or weak points appeared. But the added control a SmartWire system provided came with a cost. More important that monetary concerns was the volume expense... it took up space and would have make his handguard too bulky. Anyways, Xian let every centimeter of the wire occupy him as they journeyed across the desert. As he checked its integrity he noticed the sand was giving way to cracked clay, to dry dirt, and then to limestone. By nightfall... they were there.
The glow of the moon and the Halo arching above was swallowed up by the great maw before them. A deep chasm splitting the earth stretched nearly as far as the eye could see. Looking into the abyss, one could see the moon and archlight reflected blue off the rocky walls fading downwards until all one could see was blackness... and stars. Stars? Smokey gestured to it all as Xian gaped.
"Ain't she a beaut?"
Fire crackled and popped, sending glowing ash into the sky. As the flames licked at night sky, Xian tried to squeeze more information out of Smokey. He owed him. Every question, Smokey responded with a duty Xian could do... checking the equipment, setting up the camp, and building a fire. They didn't need a fire, Smokey just wanted one. Dusty and tired, Xian threw himself down by the fire... it was time for Smokey to pay up.
"Those can't be stars."
"No, they ain't. Them's hippo food. They shine hot'n bright in the night then go cool in the day. The hippos come out after dusk and chomp on 'em before they go on again."
"Are they... plants?"
"Yes. No. Dunno... maybe. They're a lot like green ears of corn when closed, but turn crystal by night. They grow right into the ringworld foundation material."
"This canyon cracks into the foundation material? And the hippos- they live down there?"
"So why don't we get them now?"
// Lamech, you are about to be attacked.//
Or. Maybe he wouldn't.
// Two centuries ago....//
Burning. Everything was burning.
A large mosaic depicting a Saint, shattered and fell to the blazing cathedral floor. The flames, bullet holes, blood, bodies, debris, and shattered glass drew the scene as one where extensive combat had taken place. The wall behind the alter was partially destroyed, revealing a heavy vault behind it. Inside the vault were two men... a blond man in white and a raven-haired man in black. The man in black was cut, shot, and bleeding- barely standing before the pristine man in white. He also had a square patch of white... on his collar.
"A few centuries and here we are again, Sean. Or should I say, *Father* Sean? Wow, I can't believe you created an entire priesthood dedicated towards protecting them." He gestured towards the people in stasis chambers behind the wounded priest. "Very clever. Few things last as long as a religion in culture these days. It worked for about 200 years, too. I had to go to university and become an archeologist just to begin tracking you down. What a waste. To spend all my time in stasis or at near-light speeds just to keep up with you. We're 300 years from where we've started and I've only really lived a fraction of that time. I should have simply stayed in stasis and waited for you to feel safe and let them out. That's how I got here, you know. Because of your carelessness. Thinking you were safe. I've already killed the generation grown from the ones you let out a few years back... and they led me to here."
"Why? Their children never wronged you!"
"Their entire line must pay for what they did to mine! I did not ask to be psychic. Yet, they *used* me to exterminate my kind! Every brother and sister, I never knew, they forced me to kill them!"
"No one forced you to take those contracts! You were a hired killer!"
"Irrelevant! Imagine my horror when I discovered what I had done. Think how I must have felt when I realized that psychic children could have simply took gene therapy- to lead normal lives as they do today. Think what it must have been like to realize that their killers- *THEM*- were psychics themselves!" He accused them under a trembling finger.
"A latent pattern in their genome that wasn't discovered until decades later... they couldn't have known. I'm not condoning what they did, Alexander... but don't you realize these are your brothers and sisters, as well? How can you spill their blood- especially those who had no knowledge of General O'Riley's sins? There's a cost to vengeance, Alexy. This one is too high."
The assassin seemed to relax slightly.
"I don't do it for vengeance, Sean. How do you think I found out they were psychics? A contract was put out on their line, just as they hired me to kill my kin so long ago. I have a job to finish. You should understand that of all people."
"I left that behind many lifetimes ago. You can too. Look, I can pay three times whatever they offer you. The people who put out the contract are probably long dead and you have no reputation to protect in this era."
The man lowered his gun a moment as if considering the proposal, then quickly raised his weapon and shot the priest through the heart. He shrugged apologetically to the dying man.
"Nah, I do it for revenge."
He set up his explosives with a staggered detonation. That way, the stasis generators would be taken out, then the people inside once the fields had dropped. He smiled wickedly and left. The priest managed to get to his feet and lean against the stasis chamber of a beautiful red-haired woman, smearing the blood pumping out of his chest all over the glowing surface.
-God. Christi. No.-
Then the world blew up.
// Returning to the ringworld....//
They were pretty much helpless.
The Covenant aerial unit had taken them completely by surprise. Well, not completely. The Sword had warned Xian a split second before the unit had blown their jeep to Hell by a powerful, white-hot energy bolt. The warning gave Xian time to throw Smokey and himself to the ground- avoiding the flying metal of the jeep. As it circled for another pass, it strafed the ground with a rapid fire energy weapon, forcing the targets below to scramble. Scramble? Scramble where? All that was around was miles of empty desert and a bottomless chasm. Their anti-air missile must have went up with the rest of their jeep leaving them with no effective way to attack the Covenant scout.
They started running for the canyon, as it was better than being completely out in the open. A beam struck Smokey in the shoulder, sending him to the ground. The anti-vehicle weapon had blasted clear through him and discharged an inordinate amount of energy into the marine. His armor, turned hot slag, was running into the wound and searing his flesh. The brave cowboy went into shock. Xian turned back and tried to carry Smokey. StimPaks kicked in and the battle armor's servos helped out, bringing Smokey back to some degree. He leaned on Xian as they made their way to the edge of the canyon. Xian looked over the edge to see nothing but a sheer drop into darkness... not even a rock to rappel from. Their backs against the abyss, this was not good.
The scout came around again, and swept in low with its rapid weapon blazing, probably conserving its high-yield energy bolts for more important targets. Xian watched grimly as the kicked up clay quickly began zeroing in on him and his wounded friend. It flew, nearly parallel to the ground, right at them. Xian could even smell the ozone of the shots lancing through the air near him. Suddenly... a miracle. Battleroid AlxM2223E.18a sat up from the flaming wreckage of the jeep with the anti-air missile on its shoulder, aimed directly at the Covenant vehicle. It fired. The missile streaked through the air, curving towards its target, leaving a vapor trail in the air... and missed.
The adept Covenant pilot managed to dodge the missile at the last second, but this was a smart missile that detonated as long as it was in the proximity of its target- no direct hit necessary. Without a direct hit, however, the aerial unit was only damaged and not destroyed. This meant that they still had a ton of fiery exploding twisted metal hurtling at them at a screaming 200 miles per hour. The fireball was expanding making it impossible to dodge. That made it easier for Xian. Why? Because now he had only one choice.
// Once upon a time....//
"Alexander... you're not an easy person to find."
Alexy looked up from his evening drink to the balcony of his home half a mile in the sky. The winds in a tower this tall would normally suck a person right out of their abode if not for the weather field around the building that kept things comfortable and adjustable for the wealthy. So the black coat of the man standing there flapped only gently in the wind.
"God, Sean. Why don't you just stay in Hell?", the Russian said calmly as he got up slowly. He seemed to not be particularly startled at the sight of a man he had killed twenty years ago. He moved over to his bar to set his drink down.
"It doesn't suit my... partner." Xian said the last word as if it failed to describe what he was trying to say. "Besides, your reservation comes before mine."
"Ah, on that... we will always disagree." Out of nowhere, he drew a sub-machinegun. Xian had two pistols drawn in the same moment. They stood taut in a deadly face off. "You first. I insist."
The two seasoned killers began a ballet in which everything around them seemed to explode into clouds of random fragments and flying debris. Each seemed impossible to hit. Couch stuffing flew, glass shattered, and chunks of wall vaporized. Their weapons seemed to have endless magazines of ammo as they destroyed Alexy's residence. Okay, maybe not endless.
"You gave up the priesthood, Sean? I'm surprised. Don't you believe in God, anymore?", the assassin asked as he caught a breather behind a marble pillar.
"I still believe.", Xian shouted back as he reloaded behind a kitchen counter.
"Then why are you trying to kill me? I thought the cost of vengeance was too high.", Alexy recalled sarcastically.
Oddly... the words actually haunted Xian, however. He tried to respond but found that his mouth refused to form words. A terrible emotion swept over his being, but before he could contemplate it further he Xian heard a sound behind him and automatically jumped up to face it. Slow motion. His sights lined up instantly on... a little girl? The blond-haired girl was in her pajamas, trailing a stuffed animal behind her as she rubbed her sleepy eyes. Xian felt a rush of relief come over him as he didn't reflexively shoot the girl. That feeling was quickly replaced by pain. The instant Xian had popped up with his back exposed to Mironov, he had let loose a hail of armor piercing rounds. Xian's coat and body armor stopped several shots, those that penetrated deformed inside Xian and didn't exit out the front. But a stray shot, flew clean through Xian's coat... and into the girl. Her heart exploded.
As Xian fell to one side, Alexander Mironov's cruel smile of victory turned to wide-eyed terror as the body of his little girl appeared before him. It didn't matter that she was supposed to be at her mother's home this evening. He had killed his baby girl. Right then, the assassin died as his heart burst.
Later. When had Xian returned from the dead.
// The final scene on Halo....//
Though bald and obstructed by half a shattered faceplate, Xian recognized the face.
The undead assassin was holding the unconscious Smokey up by his hair, while holding a jagged piece of metal to his neck. They had survived the fall by sheer chance. A lone sideways growing "star" of hippo feed was all Xian needed to stop their fall with his rappelling rope. Hanging there, however, there was nowhere to go and very quickly, the white-hot crystal melted through his wire sending them plummeting again. The second fall was survivable though. What luck. What luck? Xian didn't believe in luck. They hit where the jeep, Covenant craft, and Battleroid crashed after falling past Xian and Smokey's limp form. By the time Xian recovered from the fall, he found Smokey as the zombie's hostage.
The soul and spirit had left this shell long ago. Yet hatred for the Asian man was so burned into its synapses that it could react this way nearly automatically. Xian drew is pistol and fired in one motion, but the zombie moved fast enough to deflect the shot with its armored shoulder and slit Smokey's throat wide open in one motion. Xian drew his second pistol and fired with both guns blazing. The Battleroid dodged and deflected shots as it flew towards Xian, impossibly fast. It stabbed him in the gut with the piece of jagged metal and struck him with a backfist that sent Xian flying. Literally flying. The zombie was using psychic fighting techniques.
Xian was slammed into the obsidian foundation material and pinned up against it. He could feel his tendons trying to tear themselves from his muscle and bone. He cried out in anguish.
// Lamech. Help him.//
Xian's eyes lit up green while the rest of him darkened in an elusive way. He kicked off the wall at his attacker and engaged him in a flurry of attacks and dodges. His attacks were ineffective against the stronger and faster Battleroid, who merely absorbed Xian's attempts while retaliating with bone crushing hits. Xian heard a rib bone snap. He backflipped away, clutching his side.
It was over.
His eyes glinted as did a nearly invisible thread which was tangled and wrapped all about the clueless zombie. Xian gave a strong tug and the wire sang as it sliced through everything. Alexy's shell fell to the ground in pieces. For some reason, his father's face came to mind.
Xian collapsed and prayed.
Author's Notes ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This story is again sketchy like the one before it. It's more of an outline of what the story I wanted to tell but ran out of time to tell it- this is, after all, a fanfic for the Battleground: Halo fanfiction contest. If I had to do it again with more time, I would have played more on the "immortality" of near-lightspeed travel/stasis versus Xian's immortality in more of a "time travel" based story. I would have shed more light on Lamech, as well. The wall-hugging hippos is just a joke that the frequent visitors of the Halo.bungie.org forum should recognize. I would have written more on Halo, itself, if we had more information and had I not already sketched it in "The Law of Sin & Death"... I fear that these are not very canonical. I would have made the Alexy Battleroid more than a zombie (and that scene mean a bit more) if I wasn't under the deadline, as well... but I have classes all day tomorrow so I must turn it in as is. I apologize for the story compression towards the end, forgive me.
If you have not yet read the first fic in this series and don't wish to know what happened read no further... otherwise, read on!
************** SPOILER ALERT! **************
After the Pillar of Autum is attacked, Xian- a civilian- poses as a research assistant at Greymalkin. Greymalkin is an artificial cave on a mountain, containing alien artifacts that the human scientists (refugees from the colony) try to decipher. Greymalkin was dubbed so by its current leader- Admiral Isaac, a retired warrior who was also a refugee but assumed command of the 77 marines and 147 civilian survivors of this group. Long distance communications disrupted, it was lucky they found survivors in two other camps, dubbed the Warrens (on a desert) and Never Never Land (on an area of rolling green hills), on either side of the Greymalkin mountian ridge.
Xian appears to be more than a mere civilian as he stops a marine from murdering another and then acquires some smuggled F3 rounds from a gunsmith friend. F3 rounds were not your typical military round. FFF stood for Ferro Fibrous Filament.
"Ferro Fibrous" as in the ferro fibrous cables which made up the "muscles" of power armor or cybernetic parts. An electric pulse through a ferro fibrous cable causes it to contract much like an actual muscle would. "Filament" as in the tightly coiled ferro fibrous micro-filaments which would react to a bioelectric pulse by pinwheeling out into a porcupine of stiffened razor wire. The F3 round could be hot-loaded for maximum penetration because the expanding round would use the tango's body as a breaking system. The F3 bullet could pass through glass, sheet metal, bone, and armor... only when it hit something with a pulse would the carnage begin. Imagine molecule thick threads of living wire whipping around your insides, slicing through soft internal organs and passing through bone like butter. A few hundredths of a second later, you've grown a bloody nine-inch pincushion of micro-filaments inside you. When you expire, your bioelectric pulse would go with you and the ferro fibrous filaments would return to their "soft" state. The marines liked to call F3 round victims "Slushies" because of the sound of sloshing flesh as a F3 round was retrieved from the dead... no exit wound, just a flesh bag of mangled meat and liquefied viscera.
Xian then goes off to his bunk to run Halo war simulation on his computer, which has an interface that goes over your eyes and allows one to "goggle in" and be "inside" one's computer. His simulation crashes to the image of an angel, and when he reboots, he finds a much more realistic simulation on his computer that is theoretically impossible. He plays with it through the night until he stops from hearing a voice in his head.
Spooked, he visits a scientist that confirms such a simulation is impossible. He visits his gunsmith friend again, who presents Xian with a finished product Xian had requested earlier. A whip that was serrated with small ceramic composite chevrons at regular intervals. A microtrigger located somewhere on the handle of the whip sent a current through the cables. The ferro fibrous whip contracted locking the light adamantine chevrons together solidly, forming a light meter long saber. The entire device could be coiled neatly into a circular "scabbard". Xian askes his friend to check out the sim, only to find out it is locked out to anyone but himself.
The voice returns and begins to hound Xian with scripture from the Bible. Xian begins to respond in kind and a dialogue begins. The voice continues to refer to Xian as Lamech- a man that had lived 777 years in the Bible- and questions why he has "flesh" and lives as "a goat amongst sheep when thou art a shepherd". Xian manages to end the conversation in his head.
Elsewhere, the two main leaders of Greymalkin- Admiral Isaac and the young Captain Jacob- recieve strange messages from their computers.
Xian is about to share the knowledge he gained from the advanced simulation- which he suspects may be a real-time representation of the battle on Halo- but is stopped by the voice which floods his mind with pain.
Later, the find out Admiral Isaac's daughter- a marine- and her three men, were attacked on their way to one of the other bases. In addition, there was about to be a Covenant base build right above their location meaning that Greymalkin could soon be discovered- and all its civilian life lost.
Xian responds by escaping from Greymalkin and gearing up with the contents of his hidden case....
--- "Off came his clothes as he donned dark arachno-fiber weave body armor with sintered harjel lining. Not as protective as military hard armor, but a hell of a lot more flexible, hardly limiting movement at all. The armor would prevent the penetration of just about any conventional small arms round. The arachno-fiber weave retarded edged-weapon slashes and had an effective energy dispersion rating. It was so effective that most marines wore such armor under their hard suits, minus the harjel lining. The harjel lining provided impact defenses against blunt kinetic attack. The harjel also would patch compromises in armor integrity and sealed open wounds preventing hemorrhage.
Next he strapped on his tactical harness. The combat webbing had an array of munitions and useful devices clipped to it. His two holsters held MarkVI pistols with integral silencers and LAM units. The fully automatic handguns held caseless 50-round magazines of fragmenting armor piercing rounds. Four spare magazines of ammo rounded out the payload on his body. Everything was held down securely and silently. The smart harness would release anything with a gentle tug from a touch of his hand.
Over all of that was a thick but light Faraday Coat. With light layer of arachno-fiber, the long coat provided limited protection. But the coat's main function was to cloak the wearer from detection. It was equipped with sonic dampeners, thermal cloaking, mutable camouflage, and various other mechanisms meant to foil sensors. Full Optical Camo- or "cloaking"- nullified the other measures used to circumvent detection so most Faraday Coats could only alter their pigmentation.
Finally, Xian linked everything up to his computer, which rested in a belt pouch. Instead of using his standard wireless goggle band, he opted to goggle in using Raven brand optics. These high end goggles allowed the wearer to absorb an obscene amount of data through the eyes. Processing and interface were handled through software. The HUD was fully customizable and could display weapons status and targeting, along with armor and health stats. Aiming two guns independently could be done effortlessly. However, all these things could be done with the standard band. Raven optics were extremely delicate sensor arrays. For instance, they could use only sonic or thermal readings to put together an image of Xian's environment.
Actually, the sonic capabilities of the goggles were something to be noted. Electronic hearing protectors made deafening explosions and automatic gunfire reduced to quiet thuds while conversation and the crunch of gravel beneath one's feet was completely audible. All sounds, even inaudible frequencies or amplitudes sonic sounds were run through a filter which determined the importance of the sounds and alerted the user either with a graphical or audible representation of the information. Geared up, goggled in, and armed, Xian shifted his coat to white." ---
A whole lot of action scenes occur.
Xian then falls off a cliff in a downhill hoverbike chase scene. While his body lays broken in two, the voice- which Xian dubs The Sword- talks with him and allows him to become one with her. While joined, he learns how to prevent The Sword from invading his mind and promptly mocks her. Lamech appears to be surfacing some in the conversation and he puts Xian back together.
The Sword's plan to have Admiral Isaac killed off in battle is revealed to Xian, who sets out to save him. Only, Lamech takes Xian over and slays Isaac for his own mysterious reasons, then destroys all the humans and Covenant on top of Greymalkin in a maelstrom of destruction. Only Captain Jacob, the civilians, and a handful of marines safely in the belly of Greymalkin survive.
The story ends with Xian walking into the desert, away from his crimes, but determined to pay them off for eternity if need be.