The Law of Sin & Death
Posted By: David "Paladin" Huang<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 13 February 2000, 6:27 p.m.
My first attempt at a Halo fanfic, written before the release of Halo, so please forgive anything that is not canonical. Anything here is, of course, my own expression and extrapolation from what information Bungie has given us. This story is told from the unique perspective of a character who is not the main character of Halo nor a Marine. Relating the setting takes a while so please give it time as this story is longer than most of the ones I've seen so far. There's plenty of action and plot, just be patient! This story is best read after absorbing as much Halo (and possibly Marathon) information as possible. Some biblical scholarship may help but is hardly necessary. Check the Author's Notes at the end for additional info. Feedback is welcome! Well, then... on with the fanfic!
DISCLAIMER: Halo is Bungie's brainchild, but this plot and these characters are my own and I would appreciate those not appearing in anyone else's fanfics. This story is in no way attempting to infringe upon the continuum of any other fanfic authors.
I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh; and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy.
Moss. Green moss, brown moss, orange moss, yellow moss.
"Ah, two in one.", Xian commented as he picked up a mineral spotted with red moss and a trace of slime mold. He put it in a container and let out a contented sigh. The man in grey clothing was collecting botanical specimens and soil samples... and he enjoyed it. Despite the depressing never-ending overcast and the impending eradication of humanity, it was actually kind of nice. Here, he could forget.
This habitat, while artificial, was beautiful and for Xian, who had not been "outdoors" like this in years, it was a pleasant change of pace. The last few years had all been spent inside enclosed colonies, confined space stations, and cramped starships during which he had developed a mild case of claustrophobia. So as long as he breathed deeply of crisp rocky mountain air and ignored the landscape of the ring as it reached up into the sky... he could temporarily forget about the hostilities. Xian had settled into a comfortable routine even as a war raged over their very right to exist. Three weeks on this alien construct and things were remarkably quiet.
Xian ran his hand over his bald head and slung his rifle over his shoulder as he prepared to head back. His rifle was a pretty ancient thing... electronic ignition, the design originating way back from the 21st century. Lock times of 27 microseconds versus an abysmal 3.2 milliseconds after trigger breaks. Could you believe that at one time in human history, firearms had a trigger-sear connection which used the inertia of a heavy cocking piece and firing pin, and an expanding mainspring, all contributing to gun movement?! The shooter-induced dispersion must have been terrible! On the upside, the integral silencer reduced the sound of a shot to a quiet "pock". The "optics" (modern targeting had little optical components) were pretty dated as well, but a little better than the polycomposite semiautomatic rifle. The firearm wasn't military, of course, but then neither was he... anymore.
His Asian face was ageless as he could seem like a youthful man in his 30's... but other times he could seem 45 going on 100. Right now, his face took a deliberate appearance. Hmmph. His nose tilted upwards. Ozone... upwind. Ionized air meant energy blades. Energy blades meant The Covenant. Great. He unslung his rifle and edged carefully to the ridge in the upwind direction. Preliminary analysis of Covenant autopsy indicated they had enhanced thermal sensory organs as well as the ability to "hear" lower frequencies through the smooth armored part of their heads. Their senses were not as good as our electronically complimented ones, but good nonetheless. No olfactory sense... but then, neither did we in our armor. Xian was glad for his lack of armor this moment as it let him smell and move more quietly as he tried to survey the area below.
Prone, looking over the edge, Xian spotted the lone Covenant scout immediately. He wasted no time scoping the scout. The range-finder spit out range, windage, and elevation info and adjusted his targeting reticle automatically. Xian's breathing was perfectly even, his aim true. He targeted the neck of the foreign element as the autopsies revealed this to be a weak point. His ferro fibrous hunting round would drop the Cov with a single shot. His eyes narrowed and his index finger tensed. The rifle trigger crept back a fraction....
Xian relaxed and drew a deep breath as he got up and slung his rifle back on his shoulder. The scout had headed back down the mountain... killing it would only draw attention to this safe haven. When they first came here, they realized their fantastic luck in discovering this site. The valley trapped a permanent overcast overhead to make orbital observation difficult. The elevated terrain was rocky and sparsely populated with trees making it painful for mobile armor to navigate. The mountains and low visibility provided some risk of collision for aerial units, too. For their needs, Greymalkin was too good to be true.
Admiral Isaac had dubbed the refuge Greymalkin. Who knows why? But Greymalkin must have been Heaven sent. When 77 marines and 147 exhausted others crawled into Greymalkin they found an artificial cave carved into the mountain rock with room for them all. The cave was wealth of alien technology almost undecipherable... but with in a week the scientists had developed an interface that allowed them to draw power. With power to spare on computers and communications, the research scientists from the 147 began to analyze everything they possibly could. Including indigenous flora studies... explaining Xian's excursion. Well, not really. Xian simply hung around the scientists and did their bidding so everyone, including the scientists, assumed he was a research assistant... which he wasn't.
Greymalkin was the largest of the three known surviving parties. When they had gotten power, they had tried to use communications but Halo's resonance wave configuration affected long distance transmissions... and the mountains further reduced their effective range to no more than a mere five klicks. So the only way to find other survivors was to send out military search parties. All such groups were given very explicit instructions not to engage the Covenant if at all possible. They were seriously out numbered, totally in the dark in terms of intel, and the last thing they needed was to attract unwanted Covenant attention. So the parties went out, careful to remain completely unseen. Finding Never Never Land had been pure luck. Greymalkin's scouts came back saying they had a sizeable population of 113 of which 25 were military. They also reported that they had power but no alien relics to decipher beyond the power outlets. Never Never Land had its back to the towering mountains of Greymalkin, its face viewing an expanse of rolling hills.
Finally, there were the Warrens. Fate had bound their recon unit together even after the Pillar of Autumn was attacked. Their amazing tracking skills allowed one of their search parties to find the Greymalkin survivors. These hearty marines were glad to report that all 16 of them had stayed together and were giving the Covenant Hell on the dune desert side of Greymalkin. They also managed to keep 5 civilians alive all this time in a network of tunnels they dubbed the Warrens. Upon questioning, it was apparent they had no power, but did find some alien relics. Greymalkin would send some scientists as soon as they had finished their work here. Until then they would rely on small recon teams to relay information between the three outposts on this alien world. Greymalkin would also regularly send out troops to aid in the raids on the two other fronts.
Everything was done with extreme caution... their survival depending on them not being reckless. Attacks were spread out evenly and in a semi-random fashion to prevent the Covenant from pinpointing their base of operations. Given how little they knew, this was the most rational way to fight back without seriously compromising themselves. Not to say it was easy. Between the three of them they had only 2 jeeps and 4 transport/supply trucks... all which could be easily spotted. No, almost all movement had to be on foot. Returning to Greymalkin from a recon patrol could take a week... coming back from the warfront no less than two weeks. And they had only been there for three weeks. It was slow and tedious, but it was safe and rational.
Rational. In a struggle for survival it is possible to lose one's humanity. Xian was grateful for the crewmen, scientists, and evacuated civilians that made sure the warriors remained groundas a great system. ed in reality. It reminded those proud soldiers that they were servants... protectors for the civilian way of life. Protecting gave those men a sense of honor, duty, and humanity... when it was so easy to lose that all in a haze of bloodshed and hatred. No, that would not happen to these men who returned to women and children, friends and family... to something other than the ugliness of war. The 147 had a calming effect on the troops... not letting them turn into dogs of war but instead, dangerous cool and calculating tactical commandos, fighting to protect the human way of life. And in fact the higher brass realized this, amazingly.
In times of war, martial law reigns supreme, however, Admiral Isaac realized the need for civilian input to ensure they had a voice and that they stayed true to their purpose. The 147 outnumbered the military almost 2 to 1 but the leadership was the reversal of that. The trio of Dr. Hartman, Admiral Isaac, and Captain Jacob handled every major decision. It was a great system. Non-military people provided research, support, and sanity to the military while the marines provided protection and survival... usually.
As Xian rounded the mountain to the entrance of Greymalkin, he saw the approach of three marines who had come back from the front. Their armor was scorched and stained with dried gore, their faces weary, their lead was missing his helmet- but they were missing something more important... the fourth man. The tired soldiers were greeted warmly by the entrance guards and those passing by the opening. The helmetless leader's eyes seemed glazed over as he failed to respond to their salutations. A thin woman stared intensely at the dazed marine. She stood in his way, anger beginning to show on her frail face.
Suddenly everything in the hall went quiet. The dozen or so people there, Xian included, all froze and stared. The lead marine focused his eyes on the woman, returning to reality briefly. Now with his attention, the woman began to scream at him.
"You filthy animal! You bloodthirsty beast! You fight and kill and murder and destroy all so you can satisfy your bloodlust! All so you can have your precious war and prove your stinking manhood. You're not a man but a disgusting savage! Isn't peace an option? Isn't surrender? All for your rotten pride... your insufferable self-righteousness! Why did you drag us from our colony? You bastard... why did you drag my daughter- my baby, my child- here to die! You couldn't have left us alone, you scum? My darling, my little girl is dead! Dead because of this damned ringworld and because of you!"
The hysterical woman was sobbing at this point. Her ten year-old daughter had gotten sick during that first stormy trek to Greymalkin... and never got better. And she was blaming every marine that had ever lived. Ironically, she probably didn't realize this was the very same marine that had picked up the sick girl and carried her the rest of the way up the mountain. The lead marine's eyes reflected shame before they were lowered once again into their haze. As he started to move around her she slapped him across the face... hard. Everyone tensed. He turned his head back, straightened his shoulders, and shoved her out of the way with one arm. Chain reaction.
He hadn't pushed her hard, but her heel caught her dress, making her lose her balance and fall. A green entrance guard who was jumpy reacted by reaching forward to grab the marine's arm. The marine violently shook of his grip causing the guard to bark out, "Hey!" and move for his sidearm. The veteran reacted on two levels. Instinct and experience made him spin around, and remove his combat knife in self-defense. Outrage over his lost comrade and this injustice made him lift the rookie by the throat and slam him to the ground. All in the span of three heartbeats. He was angry. Angry? Goddamn furious!
His thoughts were racing a thousand miles per second as he recalled his squad mate's sacrifice and this woman's accusations and the extinction of humanity and his exhaustion and this jerk's interference... and on some level, he was thinking, "Animal? I'll show them a friggin animal!" as he prepared to plunge his knife through the prone guard's faceplate.
The sound of his combat knife's blade being shattered by Xian's expertly placed shot rang through the entrance hall of Greymalkin. Xian lowered his rifle and looked the distraught marine in the eye. He spoke evenly with no condemnation in his voice.
"You're not an animal."
The marine climbed to his feet and Xian helped the other one up. During the awkward moment while they dusted themselves off, Captain Jacob entered the hallway followed by four marines. The Captain was the most respected and experienced officer still in active duty at Greymalkin- Admiral Isaac was technically retired. Although he had never technically been in a war, Captain Jeremiah Jacob had been in two "conflicts" and logged hundreds of combat hours as the leader of a counter-terrorist task force. While humanity had been at peace with the universe, it had never really been at peace with itself. His counter-terrorist unit had doubled as covert operatives making the guerrilla tactics used here, second nature.
He was also fairly young for the amount of experience he possessed. He had always lead by example, fighting alongside his men. He was charismatic and a natural born leader, though he humbly submitted to the authority of the retired Admiral. Partially out of respect for the Chain of Command, partially because he wasn't used to being in charge of so many souls, and partially because he had a great respect for those more experienced than himself. Captain Jacob had olive colored skin, slicked back raven black hair, and black eyes... which, at the moment, were centered directly on Xian. His words were addressing everyone, but they seemed to direct themselves straight at Xian.
"What's going on here."
He didn't ask it. He said it. Xian didn't flinch and responded without missing a beat.
"Nothing serious. We got a little carried away. We're all overjoyed they've come back."
Xian didn't even bother making the lie sound believable. This was up to Jacob. The Captain's eyes traveled from the broken knife to Xian's rifle to the tousled guard and resting, finally, on the thin woman with the stain of tears on her face. Xian stepped in.
"She was moved to tears. Like I said... overjoyed.", Xian said as flatly as before.
"Of course.", his voice equally deadpan.
Xian could feel Captain Jacob judging him, trying to gauge and measure the enigmatic man before him. This was the first time Jacob had ever noticed this man and so he tried to size him up. Either he figured it out or he gave up, but his facial expression didn't betray him. He gestured for Xian to come to him.
"Well carry on... and you, come with me I'd like to talk to you."
The began to walk deeper into Greymalkin with no particular destination in mind. If his four marine escorts could hear their conversation, Captain Jacob didn't seem to care.
"What's your name, soldier?"
"Xian. I'm not a marine."
"Really? With your build, I thought you were simply one of our marines out of armor."
"You were mistaken."
They were walking fairly quickly in very measured steps. Xian could see Jacob was testing him. He was testing his breathing, his discipline of movement, and how carefully guarded his speech was. Clever man... a good tactic.
"I want you to know I'm grateful for what you did back there."
"It was nothing."
"You say you're not a soldier, Xian?"
"I said I wasn't a marine."
"Right. That's what you said. Well. I'm glad we had this little chat."
The stopped walking and Captain Jacob shook Xian's hand... holding it for a moment. Firm grip, steady hand, but he could not detect any shooting or armor calluses. In fact, Xian's hand was completely smooth. Strange. He was so sure....
"Thanks again, Xian. Take care."
Xian nodded and headed off to Dr. Lynch's lab. Well, not so much a lab as a corner of Greymalkin where he could do his analysis of foreign minerals and flora and their affect on humans. The elderly scientist's field was not very useful in any military specific role so he was allowed to do his own research. Xian entered Dr. Lynch's lab and placed the most recently gathered samples on a table and stood silently waiting for the scientist to notice him. Dr. Lynch was so absorbed into his work it was a good ten minutes until he saw Xian patiently waiting.
"Ah, good morning to you, Sean!"
Dr. Lynch said "Sean" because that was the best he could manage. Xi'An ended up sounding something like Shee-Ahn which Dr. Lynch could never pronounce correctly given his heavy accent. He took "Shawn" into his Irish "Sean" which was similar to the Gaelic "Cian". Xian didn't mind, so Dr. Lynch's nickname for him stuck. Xian smiled and looked over the scientist's work.
"So what are you working on now?"
"Hm, nothing exciting. I've basically confirmed that the dirt on this- this 'Halo'... if you will- is the same everywhere else. Boring stuff."
"Not at all, Doctor! Your work is important stuff, it's always good to check. For all we knew upon landing on- Halo did you say?- the ground was toxic or problematic to our electronics."
"Sure, sure... thanks for cheering up an old man. Actually, I did find something very interesting in that last batch of flora you brought back! Apparently, the wide bladed grass you found contains many pain killing properties. It would be good to have the marines learn to recognize the plant by sight in the field."
"That's great, I'll be sure to let them know."
"Ah, thank you. Also, a somewhat less thrilling discovery... evidently, those coniferous seeds from two trips ago are edible and quite nutritious- if bland. However, they're quite likely to cause indigestion... and a bad case of gas. But I suppose you should pass that along as well.", Dr. Lynch sighed as he passed Xian his findings.
"Very good!", Xian chuckled, "I get it to them right away. I'll see you later, Doctor."
Colonel Isaac stood attention along with three other marines in full gear as they all prepared for inspection. A powerful looking, white-bearded soldier, standing nearly eight feet tall, paced in front of the unit. His face showed the scars of battle and his white mane of hair came down to his broad shoulders. He stroked his beard with a massive fist and turned on his heel at one end of the line and stopped. This imposing man stood in front of the unit's diminutive leader. His voice rumbled as he addressed the Colonel.
"Colonel, you're men look ready. Are they ready, Colonel?"
"Sir, yes Sir, Admiral!"
"You're green, soldier! This is your first war! Can you handle it?"
"Sir, yes Sir!"
"I don't think you can."
"The Hell we can't!"
"Are you saying I'm wrong, Colonel?"
"My father always said I could do anything."
"Your father sounds like an idiot."
"He is... but I love him anyways!", smiled Elizabeth Isaac as she reached up and hugged her laughing father, the retired Admiral, around the neck. Admiral Randal Isaac hugged back. It would be at least a month before he saw her again so now was the time to say their final good-byes. The old warrior parted with a last few words of sage advice and the spirited soldier prepared to lead her men on the Never Never Land front. She turned one last time to wave and Admiral Isaac nodded proudly as his child went to war.
"She's a natural born leader, Admiral."
"Jacob, I didn't know you were standing there."
"No, I came just in time to see Colonel Isaac leave, Sir. Actually, I wanted to ask you about someone-"
"Elizabeth's still single and so are you, last time checked."
"Yes, Sir, you remind me quite often."
"She's not going to wait around forever, Jeremiah. It won't be long before someone else comes along and ruins my plans to have you as a son-in-law."
"No, Sir, that pretty lady is married to her work."
"Indeed... but you're her superior officer, surely as her commander-"
"Sir, about that thing I wanted to ask you... do you know a man that goes by the name Xian?"
"Yes, I believe I do. Young, strong looking fellow, completely bald up top?"
"Yes, that's him."
"I was introduced to him once or twice. Polite. Other than that I don't really know much about him."
"Well, that's the interesting thing, Admiral. Nobody does. I checked our records and asked around but know no one really knows anything about him."
"The Pillar of Autumn picked up nearly 400 refugees, you can't expect them all to be acquaintances."
"Of course not, but I mean no one, not even the colony records have anything on him. No last name, no age, no place of birth. At first I thought he could have simply been a jobless drifter passing through, but there's no record of his arrival at the colony."
"Records get lost all the time, but you're digging for a reason... why?"
"I don't know. There's something strange about him."
"Hey man, what's up!"
Nertz looked up from his work and smiled broadly at the man in grey. Xian smiled back and handed the gunsmith a foil wrapped ration.
"I'm not a big fan of chocolate so here's something for your sweet tooth."
"Xian, you're nuts! Chocolate is the best thing in the universe... but thanks anyways! Hey, I've got something for you too." He pulled out a medium sized box. "I smuggled you another case of F3 rounds... but this is the last time, man!"
FFF rounds. The marines had a colorful interpretation of the letters- something about aerial intercourse- but 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. It was the perfect solution to the counter-terrorist's dilemma: Power versus Penetration. The round needed to be powerful enough to kill instantly but penetration needed to be carefully gauged to be able to go through cover and terrorist body armor without shooting clean through an unarmored tango and wounding a hostage.
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.
So why didn't the marines use them? One factor was that maiming was often preferred over killing enemy infantry. Another was that F3 rounds weren't very versatile. A smaller issue was that many troops felt superstitious about carrying F3 rounds. Unwarranted fears of instability- that the F3 could set off at any time- or of enemy reprisal- even though the gruesome death was, ironically, more humane than a stomach wound- abounded throughout the military. But the main reason? Cost. The bottom line was that the manufacturing of F3 rounds was extremely costly averaging thirty rounds of standard assault rifle ammo per one F3 cartridge. Still, the F3 round's capabilities could not be ignored so the marines keep a small stash of them for use by snipers, counter-terrorists, and covert operatives. Obviously, Xian was happy to get his hands on a case of them.
"Nertz, you shouldn't have! I feel guilty now... all I brought you was some lousy military-grade pseudo-chocolate."
"Don't knock the chocolate, man. Out here in the middle of nowhere with an alien fleet out to kill us, we might never get to taste the real stuff ever again. This stuff is more than worth its weight in gold!"
The reminder of the war for their survival made both men somber and quiet. Xian decided to break the silence.
"Well, you're welcome. As if I don't feel guilty enough, I hate to ask- but, how's that little project I gave you going?"
"Come back tomorrow and we should be in business. Don't worry about it, it's fun to tinker around. The military's guns are nearly indestructible so they don't have much call for a gunsmith. I do some custom jobs but the military's big on standardization too. God forbid I actually do anything to make the gun better, heh!"
"Thanks, Nertz. I owe you."
"Just keep that chocolate coming!"
"You got it."
The explosion rocked the ground and sent Covs and humans sailing through the air. An entangled pair of enemies rolled off together with the Covenant troop ending up on top, pinning the marine underneath itself. An energy blade blazed on just as the marine unsheathed his combat knife. The alien's energy blade punched through the marine's shoulder as he managed to move the fraction necessary to save his life. The marine thrust his knife into the underside of the Covenant trooper's head and forced the serrated blade up and out, effectively tearing the alien's jaw in two. As he ripped through sinewy purple cords of muscle, black gobs thick ooze spilt all over his faceplate. Its death throes went unheard, rumbling up from its throat and purging more thick black liquid over the marine.
The survivor of the life and death struggle climbed to his feet, his wounded arm hanging lifelessly at his side, and picked up his assault rifle. Roaring as he fired from the hip, he emptied his magazine into the surrounding Covenant troops. A blast of energy struck the marine in the back, knocking him face first to the ground. His armor was liquefied, the molten slag searing the flesh of his back. The pain would have incapacitated most men but this marine was running on something beyond the reach of most men. He rolled onto his back to face his attacker and fired his last anti-personnel grenade into the Covenant trooper. The alien almost looked pitiful as it contemplated the explosive shell buried in its belly. The black mist and spectacle of Covenant body parts arcing through the air had to be the most beautiful sight in the world to the marine. He tossed his empty assault rifle aside and took out his sidearm and continued firing the pistol until the world went silent and he felt himself being lifting up- almost in slow motion- and out of his body.
Everything went black.
Xian and all the marines in the room were silent as the recording ended. With 77 marines and a policy of minimal movement and stealthy guerrilla warfare, that left a lot of marines with a lot of time on their hands. They would do drills, simulations, and train until they sweat blood every day but a good portion of their time was spent going over the videos.
The armor the marines wore had digital video record of everything the marines saw and anything their armor detected. The recordings were invaluable when fighting against an enemy they knew almost nothing about. The marines were expected to familiarize themselves with the recordings brought to them from the Warrens and Never Never Land, then Sargent Williams would debrief and break it down for the troops exploiting every new bit of information gathered. These viewings were supposed to be for marines only, but inactive marines at Greymalkin didn't wear their gear all the time, so Xian simply slipped inside as an inactive. The videos were public domain so that the scientists could analyze them if they wished, but Xian was more interested in the marine reaction than the recordings themselves.
They had been viewing the combat footage from the recently returning marines who had fought on the Never Never Land front. The last video had been retrieved from the marine that didn't return. Thus, the respectful silence for the fallen warrior, instead of the cheering that usually accompanied a successful run.
Xian silently let himself out and headed towards the dorms. The marines had their own section of Greymalkin assigned as the barracks, but for the civilians they basically had a huge room which was divided up into sections using storage crates. There was a family section, a male singles, and female singles area. Xian marveled at the civility of the setup during wartime. He went over to his patch of storage crate padding and lay down. He removed his personal computer from its pouch and placed the smooth disc on his stomach. He plugged the computer into the power interface in the wall to save battery power and removed the goggle band built into the side of the disc. He fit the band over his eyes and made sure the earphones fit snugly.
Once "inside" his computer, Xian decided to start up the simulation that he had been running since they had arrived. He decided to rename default BLAM32.sim filename after Dr. Lynch's suggestion... Halo. Before being attacked by the Covenant fleet, the Pillar of Autumn managed to receive extensive cartographic and topological data on Halo. Xian merely plugged that into his war simulator and opened a new campaign. Every time more information came in, Xian updated the simulation. The simulator had an extremely powerful probability engine that was useful in extrapolating into the gaps of knowledge.
The simulation downloaded all the recent data, made the appropriate adjustments, and allowed Xian to continue his campaign. Xian was doing well. If things continued at their current pace, he would be able to completely eradicate humanity with in the next week. He had set the simulation up to allow himself to play as the Covenant simply because he could be more imaginative than the tactical AI which was too familiar with human tactics to innovate. Xian wanted to come up with worst case scenarios in order to better prevent them and there was no way the AI would come up with such scenarios. Unfortunately, they knew so little about The Covenant so much of the simulation was speculation... but it was the mindset that was important.
Xian sighed. The computer generated conflicts had always ended in Covenant victory and so far all of Xian's approaches were simply making the odds worse. If the Covenant had even an ounce of imagination or adaptability, then it seemed humanity was doomed. Thankfully, they had shown little of either thus far... perhaps they couldn't? But even if every person from the Pillar of Autumn survived and fell into convenient, Greymalkin-like circumstances, the sims predicted Covenant victory taking no longer than three months... that included massive randomized Covenant losses generated to simulate human innovation. Of course, that was much better than the initial simulations. The discovery of long range communication disruptions lengthened their survival from three days to three months. But again, even an ounce of adaptability- be they long range communications or the ability to pick up life signatures or forever calling reinforcements- that time frame would shrink again in a blink of an eye.
Playing the simulation in speeded up time, Xian prepared his final assault against the last human stronghold. First orbital bombing, then aerial carpet bombing, followed by artillery, then armor and infantry with aerial backup. Sure it was overkill, but he had managed to corner them and the simulation was about to end anyway. As he watched the oddly beautiful bombing from space, the light from the explosions began to intensify until he was blinded by pure white light. Xian tore the goggles from his eyes and blinked. That was weird. Not so much the simulation glitch as what he thought he had saw in the light... a seraph with a sword coming from its mouth. Very weird.
Xian cautiously put the goggles back on to find the program recompiling as if he had just downloaded new information... only this time it took a full twenty seconds for it to compile. Xian thought his computer had to be damaged because there was no way his computer could have received enough data to make a compilation take the eternity of twenty seconds. Twenty-one seconds... to be exact. He checked his disc space to find that his computer had, amazingly, took a serious data hit and was nearly to full capacity. He rooted around his drive to find the files were encrypted and readable only by the war simulation application. Really weird.
Slightly anxious, Xian ran the Halo simulator.
The difference was incredible. The resolution of topographical detail was improved to the point that even ground texture types could be made out... although that was probably an extrapolated detail. It had to be. Didn't it? Curious, Xian began to explore the features of his newly upgraded Halo sim. The simulation gave Xian the choice of controlling the humans or the Covenant ground forces... fleet command was not an option. Also, the parameters of the Halo sim could not be altered. There were a specific number of humans in specific areas and similarly a set number of Covenant bases in set locations. No matter what simulation he would run in accelerated time the settings would return to the original parameters, even if he attempted to save his campaign. Seriously weird.
The lack of a save feature caused Xian to run different scenarios through the night. He lost track of time as he grew more familiar with the updated sim. Hours flew by before he realized that the parameters were changing. Ever so slowly, but after a long accelerated campaign, when he started a new one the settings would have changed ever so slightly... as if the simulation was progressing in realtime. Could it be? No... it's couldn't. It was impossible, it was-
//Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour's house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.//
Xian sat up and threw the band from his bleary eyes. He checked the time and found he had spent the last fourteen hours on his back inside the simulation. Damn. Did he fall asleep? That was supposed to be impossible. Nevermind. It was impossible to save one's progress in the Halo sim so he couldn't check the records. What was that? Psalms-... no, Proverbs 25:17... it had been a while. A dream? Never. Maybe. Xian shook his head and decided to mull on it later.
Having wasted away a large part of the day goggled in, Xian decided to spend a little less time outdoors. Instead, he thought it best if he did a little investigating. Xian went deep into the back of Greymalkin where the scientists were doing their research on the alien technology of Halo. Experts in cryptography, engineering, physics, computer science, archeology, chemistry, and almost every other scientific- and not so scientific- discipline analyzed, poked, prodded, experimented, theorized, and generally remained stumped as they tried to unlock Halo's secrets. They weren't humanity's greatest minds, but in this case it was quite possible that they were humanity's most important. If Xian's simulations proved accurate then all hope depended on their combined abilities.
Xian went over to one of his acquaintances, Professor Chak, and asked if he was busy. The computer scientist shook his head, always happy to help, and listened to Xian's problem. The man in grey proceeded to present a hypothetical situation. Imagine the BLAM32 war simulator but on a much grander scope. No longer were battles reduced to statistical number crunching or colored dots representing probabilistic war units. Instead, there was an incredible amount of lush detail in every clash. Xian recounted a conflict where he sent Covenant armor against human infantry which he had worn down through attrition. He was in for a big surprise, however, as the humans ended up using up their remaining munitions to set up an improvised minefield, which decimated his forces. Originally, BLAM32 had simply created such losses randomly, but now the simulator was capable of showing actual creative combat tactics in detail. Hypothetically, was this possible?
"Xian, what you're talking about is nearly impossible. That problem is on the order of 2 to the N and with only a mere hundred elements at 1 microsecond operations we're already dealing with computations that would take-"
"Forty billion millennia. Thanks, Victor, that's what I thought. I just wanted to check with you. Hm, Victor?"
"An AI... could an AI theoretically do that?"
"No AI ever studied has been able to show creativity. The study of cognizant AI is still in its infancy. Demiurgic AI is really beyond anything we're currently capable of. If the concept wasn't as impossible as it was frightening, I might be tempted to say yes."
"Xian, you know better than to ask a question like that. Theoretically, I could live eternally inside a computer network but it's unattainable, Xian. But, even if it was an AI, nearly all the computational resources would be spent sustaining the AI's sentience. The kind of simulation you're talking about couldn't be maintained at the same time as a sentient AI."
Xian thanked the professor again and left unsatisfied. By all accounts, the program sitting on his computer was impossible. Unless. Perhaps no human technology could handle it but.... wireless transfer. Almost all human computers, Xian's included, had broadband wireless transfer. Could Halo be speaking to him? Was the updated simulation simply a real-time dump of what was actually going on out there? Could that-
//Every thing that openeth the matrix in all flesh, which they bring unto the Lord, whether it be of men or beasts, shall be thine.//
Xian shook his head but that did not remove the shock of what he had clearly just heard. Perhaps "heard" was not the best word for it. "Projected" was probably better as it was a foreign thought of penetrating clarity. More scripture, like before... this time describing the womb or perhaps the more contemporary meaning of the word matrix. Xian, not knowing what to do, decided to stick with his routine. He had no desire to analyze himself so ignoring himself was the favored option. He wasn't crazy. His mind was under control. His thoughts were his own. Restraint.
Exercising that control, Xian decided to check in on Nertz.
"Xian, my man, what's up!"
"I didn't get any chocolate today, but I hope these canned peaches will do."
"Hey, you don't hear me complaining!", Nertz exclaimed. He stopped his work and took the can, cutting it open with his shop tools. He pressed the lid into an improvised spoon and began slurping up the syrupy fruit. "Ah, good stuff. I finished up that little project you gave me, by the way. I had to cannibalize some scorched battle armor so the quality is a bit questionable, but it's good for a prototype. Here, check it out!"
Nertz removed the top layer of his tool box and pulled out a white disc from its handle built in along one edge. There was a clicking sound as a coiled chain of white "arrowheads" fell freely from the round disc. The whip was serrated with small ceramic composite chevrons at regular intervals. Nertz lashed out against the air with the whip and activated a microtrigger located somewhere on the handle of the whip. The ferro fibrous whip contracted locking the light adamantine chevrons together solidly, forming a light meter long saber. He tossed the sword to Xian, who swung its weight a couple times, grinning in approval. He returned the sword to its whip state and tossed Nertz's empty can of peaches into the air- a slash of his whip and the can fell to the ground cut neatly in two.
The gunsmith took back the device and demonstrated how to return it to its holster. First he turned it back into a saber which he stuck the point into the white disc. Then he reverted it to whip mode and wrapped the links around the inside of the disc. Finally, the handle locked in place and the disc collapsed over the openings, covering the chevron links completely. The unit was very light and compact... exactly as Xian had envisioned it.
"Nertz, you've outdone yourself!"
"It was nothing! As a kid I used to wear a myomer belt rigged to turn into a billy club... this thing takes me back. The design's elegant too... so I'm already working on one for myself. I should be thanking you. Pretty fun toy. Although, I'm guessing you have other plans in mind."
"Just looking for something I can always carry. The guards make me check my rifle at the entrance."
"Yeah, I heard about that little altercation you got yourself into yesterday. Arming up for self-defense?"
"Nah, I gave you those designs long before that happened, remember? Besides, it was nothing. These marines are good people. They wouldn't take their frustrations out on a civilian."
"Sure man, you're right. Just don't ever tell me what you're doing with those F3 rounds, okay man?"
"Not to worry, Nertz. They're just for hunting. I'll bring you a back a big fat juicy steak as soon as I come across some game."
It was a lame excuse. No one needed two cases of F3 rounds just for hunting... especially since edible indigenous life had yet to rear its head. Even the Covs ended up being poison after the toxicology reports returned. But Nertz trusted Xian enough to get him what he needed and that was all that was important. Need? Why did he need a collapsible sword at his side and cases of deadly F3 rounds hidden outdoors? He was preparing. Preparing to survive. He had always survived and this war would not change that. If he had to survive apart from the humans he would... Halo was a big world after all.
//Awaken, Lamech. Wake up and rise.//
"Wha-... nevermind. Nertz, do me a favor? Run my BLAM32 sim program- I renamed it Halo- and tell me what you see."
Nertz nodded and Xian handed him his computer. Nertz goggled in and sat still for a moment before removing the band from his eyes and shaking his head.
"It does a RetScan and won't let me in. You have to bypass it for me."
Xian put on the band and passed the security check. He booted up the war simulator and passed the goggles back to Nertz. Again the gunsmith tried without success.
"No go, same problem. Whatever you've got there is for your eyes only, heh!"
Xian groaned politely at the joke. He took his leave and headed back for the dorms as he pondered the matter.
//Why do you, a Shepherd, live as a goat amongst sheep?//
-Who are you? What do you want?-
No response. Of course. Xian went back to his space in the dorms and lay down. He goggled in and decided to experiment with the simulator some more. If it was, by some miracle, a realtime depiction of the war on Halo... that information would be invaluable. But, as if the program could read his mind, this time there was a Fog of War covering the entire simulation. Xian could only watch conflicts occurring in areas so far away he had no way of knowing if they were real or not. He tried looking for details... ambient movement, communication, scratching... anything to suggest that this was real, but he had no such luck. On the other hand, the resolution and details were too high.
//And he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.//
Alright, this was getting annoying. Xian decided to respond in kind.
-Mine anger was kindled against the shepherds, and I punished the goats: for the Lord of hosts hath visited his flock the house of Judah, and hath made them as his goodly horse in the battle.-
//And all the days of Lamech were seven hundred seventy and seven years: and he died.//
-I'm not Lamech and I'm not dead.-
//If men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die. Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.//
-Don't knock it until you try it.-
//Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall. No longer be you young, Lamech.//
-I'm not Lamech. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.-
//My soul is weary of my life; I will leave my complaint upon myself; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.//
-So go kill yourself.-
//You misunderstand, Lamech. I speak for you. Shepherds have no need for the flesh. It is a prison.//
-What happened to speaking from the Word of God?-
//All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.//
-For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.-
//They conceive mischief, and bring forth vanity, and their belly prepareth deceit.//
-Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel.-
//No. Not man. Devil or Angel we have a luminous radiance... a Halo.//
-Sigh. What do you want?-
//The spoilers are come upon all high places through the wilderness: for the Sword of the Lord shall devour from the one end of the land even to the other end of the land: no flesh shall have peace.//
-O thou Sword of the Lord, how long will it be ere thou be quiet? Put up thyself into thy scabbard, rest, and be still.-
Amazingly, it listened and left him.
[Prepare... for you are to lead.]
Captain Jeremiah Jacob read the message in the middle of his display and calmly began counting. A few seconds later his terminal returned to normal. Someone was screwing with him. He'd find out who. Xian had no records... a computer savvy person could wipe his own records, couldn't he? Sure he could. Jacob would see to it tomorrow.
Admiral Isaac let out a deep sigh as he reviewed the synopsis of the day's findings. The scientists wrote very long winded and intellectual "summaries" that all reduced to the same thing: Nothing. They had found nothing that would turn the tide of this war. Bah! Admiral Isaac was restless. He could swear his battle scars were pulsating... calling for the blood of his enemies. Isaac was a warrior. In his lifetime he had been in two "real" wars, three conflicts labeled wars, eight war-like conflicts, and a countless assortment of combat situations. It seemed like he had been fighting his entire life- dragged kicking and screaming up the Chain of Command- that was, until there was Peace. When humanity ceased warring- really warring- with itself, Isaac found himself with nothing to do. Sure, he could continue in his bureaucratic pencil-pushing desk job or join the counter-terrorist taskforce... but he wasn't an administrator or policeman. Plus, there were more diplomatic ranking officers and younger quicker soldier to choose from... so he retired.
There was no place for this old war horse.
Ironically, he found himself back in an administrative job during this last opportunity to war. Isaac sighed again as he rubbed his eyes, perhaps it was for the best, after all he wasn't nearly as young as he used to be and these people needed a leader. He turned back to his work and let out an involuntary gasp at his screen which was blank save for the words:
[I'm sorry, Daddy.]
He blinked and his screen was normal again.
Xian got up convicted. After the Sword- for lack of a better name- had left him in peace, he discovered that it had also completely locked up his simulator program. Of course, why would the Sword wish to make anything easy for him? Despite lacking confirmation on what he suspected was a realtime representation of the human campaign on Halo, Xian decided it would be best to impart what knowledge he had memorized to the leaders at Greymalkin. After playing the simulator for fourteen hours straight he had to have remembered something of value, right? Lost in thought, he rounded the corner leaving the dorms, nearly bumping into Captain Jacob... the very man he was going to see.
"Forgive me, I wasn't paying attention to where I was going."
"No harm. In fact, I wanted to speak with you."
"Yes, and I with you, Captain Jacob."
"Well, I've been running these computer simulations and-"
//@#!&-(__((!&Ihavea secre7 errandunto7hee,Oking:whosaid, Keep SILENCE. Keep SILENCE a7my counsel. 7hese7hingshas77hou done, andI kept SILENCE. --@#!$^^))-__!My soul hadalmos7dwel7 in SILENCE. Hesi77eth alone and keepeth SILENCE. ButtheLORDisinHisholy temple: le7all7heearth keep SILENCE beforehim. ((__(!!#$@*-%***//
The head splitting pain of the message caused Xian to grimace and cry out. He gripped his head and nearly keeled over. He recovered as Captain Jacob helped to steady him. The Sword had pierced his mind with a shrieking and clawing force that threatened to rupture his coherence.
-I get the message. Ouch.-
"Xian, are you okay? You said you were running computer simulations...?"
"Oh, it's nothing. I get intense migraines, now and then. You shouldn't worry... it happens."
"About the computer simulations-"
"What about the computer simulations?"
"You said-... look, I know-"
Jacob was cut off as a marine came running down the hall, calling out urgently.
"Captain! Captain Jacob! I've got news... bad news."
Bad news. Grave news. Terrible enough, in fact, to cause Xian to act. As soon as he heard, he ran. Captain Jacob interpreted his flight as a sign of guilt and yelled for someone to stop him. A large marine blocked Xian's path. Xian apologized and took a swing at the giant, who simply caught his punch, grinning menacingly. Again, Xian apologized... and then kneed the marine in the crotch and flipped him over his shoulder. He sprinted down the hall encountering marines that had scrambled at the sound of Captain Jacob's voice.
"Quick, get down that way! The Captain needs you! I'll get help!"
The marines hurried off in the direction that Xian came from. Xian winced as he listened to the sound of armored marines crashing into each other at full speed. He slowed as he approached the entrance guards, in attempt to look more casual. However, he knew he was made when one guard's head jerked up and started looking around, resting on him... Captain Jacob had transmitted his seizure ahead. Xian continued to walk as the guards attempted to discreetly converge upon him. Suddenly, Xian exploded into a flurry of movement with a flying kick to one guard's faceplate, landing, then sending the other guard sailing with a powerful backwards kick to the gut. They'd be fine. Their armor would protect them, but the attacks would keep them off balance enough for Xian to get away. He busted his rifle out of the storage locker and took off.
Familar with the terrain, Xian was able to elude any search party without difficulty. Xian suspected there would not be an extensive search for him anyway. Given the current news, they were unlikely to send out any groups without some serious consideration first. After a hike up the mountainous turf and a climb up a vertical wall of rock, Xian pulled himself up over the edge of the rocky shelf and sat down breathing heavily. He went over to a pillar of stones and began taking the pile apart, uncovering a large environment-proof case. Xian pulled it free from the rubble and put it to the ground with a dull thud. He pressed his thumb to the lock and stepped back as it automatically opened.
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.
Xian was going up the mountain.
Zeke roared as he jumped up and let his chaingun rip. Depleted uranium splinters glittered through the air as the Covenant ranks seemed to decompose and crumble under the onslaught. A Covenant hoverbike exploded below and just about every Cov was oozing something from some part of their bodies. Zeke dove back behind cover and checked his ammo. He had a little less than three thousand splinter rounds... not good.
"Drake, how's it going?", he called out. Drake fired off a missile on his end of their granite foxhole before turning to answer.
"Just holding out for the Colonel!", Drake hollered back over the sound of his rocket exploding as he frantically reloaded and sent another missile down into the already smoldering Covenant tank.
The three marines pinned down behind a rocky crag overlooking a Covenant unit outnumbered nearly 10 to 1... not counting armor or vehicles. They were holding their own, more or less. Their position was too steep for Covenant vehicles to take directly, but Drake kept them from advancing up the easy slope with his rocket launcher. Zeke took out the heavy units below with his chaingun while Davis kept the infantry from climbing up the hill with his assault rifle. They were running low on ammo, though, and it was only a matter of time before they lost. Aerial support or ground reinforcements could arrive at any time making their situation even more dire. Not good. Plus the Colonel had stayed behind to delay the Covs.
Apparently she had caught up now.
Colonel Isaac had sped up the trail- guns blazing- in a Covenant hoverbike, stolen from the group that had been assigned to dispatch her... apparently, they had failed. She was firing the bike's energy weapons and her own assault rifle without discrimination as she flanked the enemy's siege on her men. The Colonel lobbed two high explosives from her grenade launcher to cover her approach. She used a slanted boulder as a ramp to send the hoverbike sailing into the air, to crash explosively into a Covenant tank. She, of course, had bailed at the height of the jump and displaced another Cov riding a hoverbike with a vicious drop kick from thirty feet up.
Her men were cheering as they lay down heavy cover fire. Colonel Isaac revved the hoverbike's engine as she charged her men's position at full speed, breaking Covenant lines. As she held the accelerator all the way, she dropped grenades on short fuses to her left and right... blowing up behind her causing carnage and chaos in her wake. As the hill started growing steeper, the ground rushed up to meet her. The instant the angle of attack was too great for the hoverbike she jumped off of it and hit the ground running. The nose of the Covenant vehicle plowed into the ground and exploded, covering her ascent.
Isaac pumped her legs as fast they could go up the nearly vertical slope and hurled herself the final few feet, just as a heavy Covenant energy weapon exploded where she just was. She went crashing into Zeke, who got tackled to the ground by her. Looking up at his commanding officer, he couldn't help but to break out into a broad grin.
"Hey, Colonel! How's it going?", Zeke asked casually.
Elizabeth could hardly speak so Zeke would just have to settle for a thumbs up sign. She couldn't see through their faceplates, but she knew they were all smiling. Zeke and the Colonel got up and Drake passed her his assault rifle. The cautiously looked over the edge at the destruction the Colonel's arrival had wrought. The Covenant infantry was all but decimated, every vehicle was destroyed or damaged, and every armored unit seemed finished. One tank started to turn its main cannon but it groaned to a stop, drooped, then blew up. A Cov trooper took a few drunken steps before staggering to his knees and dying.
Isaac's men raised their weapons over their heads and rejoiced. Whooping and hollering at their success. However, as their cheering carried on, an ominous rumbling grew louder and louder until the marines noticed and instituted an unspoken delay in celebration. As the sound grew louder, the marines could feel their hairs stand on end. Finally, the source of the thunderous grinding appeared. What looked like huge boxes on tank treads came around the mountain and through the forest, snapping century-old trees like toothpicks and crushing boulders into gravel. Only three were visible but who knew how many more could be around the corner. Isaac had her men get down low... perhaps the Covenant did not know that they were there.
The giant vehicles stopped. From their angle, they could not see it, but the back of the Covenant transports were opening like a great black maw. As at least a hundred Covenant foot soldiers began to came out the back, filed up, and ignited their energy blades. The gun turrets mounted on the armored carriers swiveled in their direction and began firing. So much for going undetected. Drake popped up and fired off his last rocket at the first carrier's turret, managing to take it out, but hardly even scorching the carrier's armor. The Covenant troopers began running up the hill, lurching forward with each stride in their reptilian way, their energy blades swinging hungrily.
Ignoring the transport's turret cover fire, the marines began firing on the incoming Covs. Davis tossed a grenade into the middle of the pack, putting out the lights from several Covenant energy blades. They unloaded into the Covenant, dropping wave after wave of purple flesh. But they kept coming. Colonel Isaac realized that the Covs were- for lack of a better explanation- showing off. None of their attackers were using range weapons save the carrier turrets which served to pin them down more than anything else. They were going to use sheer numbers to take them. More Covenant foot soldiers were pouring out the first transport. The Covs hadn't even used their second carrier yet. The marines were dangerously low on ammo.
The onslaught of Covenant troops finally began to overwhelm their position. The first Cov to break the ridge got socked in the jaw by Zeke, sending it rolling back down the slope. In another second they were swarmed. Davis had his arm sliced off, but he continued to fire his assault rifle in his remaining arm until he was beheaded from behind. Drake got hit by a energy blast and fell to the floor. The powerful Zeke protected Isaac from harm with his large body, tackling half a dozen Covs at once as he was cut and stabbed repeatedly. From the floor, Drake raised his head enough to see Hope die. Their beloved Colonel Elizabeth Isaac was raised in the air, impaled on a Covenant energy blade. Refusing to go quietly, she took out her sidearm and fired the pistol into her killer's head. Drake grinned grimly and touched his wound. He lifted his armored hand away to see it covered in fresh crimson blood.
If Hope was dead, perhaps a portion of Vengeance could be salvaged.
Drake's blood covered fingers groped limply at the grenade he had been saving for just such an event... and pulled the pin. The four warriors were granted a pyre of flames that engulfed the lives of their enemies. A fitting end... but a sad one nonetheless.
A Greymalkin recon patrol had come across the former battleground and recovered the recording from the nigh indestructible data chips built into marine battle armor. The loss of four brave marines was horrible but, even worse, the scouts had determined what the giant armored carriers were. They were housing the components of a modular Covenant base... to be built right on top of Greymalkin's mountain. The base was moderate in size, not as big as the fortresses on the Never Never Land front nor as small as the many outposts on the marines in the Warrens razed. But size wasn't the issue... discovery was. A base in this area, big or small, would eventually lead to the discovery of the Greymalkin safe haven. Whether they attacked or fled or hid, they would be found. And no matter how valiantly or effectively the marines fought, it was only a matter of time before the Covenant would slaughter them.
Colonel Isaac's death demonstrated that.
Soon, they would be right under the Covenant's nose. And, once sniffed out, they would descend and extinguish the lives of every man, woman, and child inside the belly of Greymalkin. Despite all these heavy things to fear, Captain Jacob dreaded another thing more... he would have to tell Admiral Isaac the news.
Thrumming. A deep thrum is random bursts emanated from the edge of the forest, causing a lone Covenant patrolman to swivel its head in the source's direction. Cautiously investigating, the Cov's breath was vaporless even in the frigid evening air. At these elevations, the air was thin and cold... cold enough that the blanket of snow capping the mountains never melted. The Cov walked deeper into the forest as the sound grew more clear. To a human, the scene was dead silent save for the crunch of snow below the Cov's feet... but to a Cov, the low frequency thrum was very loud- like hearing one's own pulse in his ears during a fever.
The Covenant patrolman cocked its head to the side when the sound started growing dimmer. It tried closing in on the sound until it realized that the sound was coming... from the trunk of a tree? Before it could consider the matter further, a length descended from above and coiled itself around the Cov's neck. The Cov's hands reflexively gripped at the barbed cable which was biting into its neck, but ended up cutting its fingers. In the boughs above, Xian gave a smooth tug and the Cov's head came away from its body without protest. Xian jumped down, his landing in the noisy snow silenced by his coat's sonic dampeners. He turned his serrated whip into a sword and cleaned the blade in the snow before returning it to its disc scabbard.
He took his sonic breaching charge from the tree and returned it to his harness. Xian had set the device on low and used it to bait the Covenant in. Now that it was out of the way, he could get to work. Xian buried the Cov's body in the snow and then set his last charge covering it with snow as well.
//Why did you slay the heathen? You could have completed your devices without killing, unless you are- you can't. No. I forbid it.//
-You catch on quick don't you?-
Xian paid for his remark in pain, as the Sword assaulted his mind. Xian bore the intense pain and trudged up the hill of snow. If it wanted him, it would have to stop hindering him else he would die at the hands of the Covenant. The Sword had no intention of letting him even get to the Covenant so his suffering was magnified. Xian doubled over and rolled back down the gentle slope. He was incapacitated by intense pain, barely able to move. Barely able, yet still able to move enough. Xian reached into his coat and flipped the detonator cover. This close to his explosives he'd die. He'd do it and apparently the Sword knew it. The pain stopped.
//Freewill. What a blessing. What a curse.//
-Tell me about it.-
A pair Covs were guarding the perimeter diligently. The base was still being assembled so there were no passive defenses or sensors ready. Therefore, the Covenant had a large standing army to guard the assembly with numerous troops on perimeter patrol, anticipating a human guerrilla attack. This position was the highest level area that a hangar could be built upon. The elevation broke through the overcast and escaped the worst effects of Halo's resonance wave. As a result, long distance- even space to ground- transmissions were possible. This base would make a great tactical hangar- enabling aerial support and strikes on two fronts- as well as a communications hub for the Covenant. Aerial units would arrive as soon as the hangar was complete. Not if Xian could help it.
A white figure suddenly and silently arose, showing up against the dark sky. Still in the air, Xian swung his sword in a great arc. One Cov was cut across the throat while the other split cleanly in two. Xian thrust his sword through the first Cov's face and turned the blade while still in its brain. He ascended up the snowy hill as he approached the legion of Covs defending the base. Luckily, they were preparing for an enemy assault and not a single infiltrator. A solitary camouflaged figure was practically invisible to the Covenant, who had expectations of a military strike coming in force.
Xian slipped into one of the "joints" of the modular base that was waiting to be constructed. He got into the gap and used his sonic breaching charge on a frequency higher than Covenant hearing range to vaporize the door and get inside. He shifted his coat to match the interior of the Covenant architecture but that was unlikely to help much... from here on it was all luck. Of course, Xian didn't believe in luck. He did believe in God. So he prayed under his breath as he made his way through the inactive Covenant base.
Fortunately, there wasn't likely to be many Covs inside an unattached base segment. Any of the Covenant troops not deployed outside would be in the personnel section of the carrier. Xian took a fairly random route until he ended up in a dead-end. This dead-end was good because it led to a computer. Xian looked over the alien technology and deciphered the interface in seconds. He drained the remaining power from his sonic breaching device in order to power a Covenant terminal. The room glowed in a bluish light from the terminal as Xian navigated the Cov software, trying to extract any valuable information.
Interesting that he was able to read the Covenant text and understand the language.
He found out he was in a room that controlled the communications array but beyond that, he wasn't really able to learn anything... before he was interrupted. Distracted by the terminal, he didn't notice the two Covs that had entered the room until they were standing only a few feet away from him. Xian lashed out with his serrated whip, slashing the closer Cov across his eyes. He let the momentum of the attack carry the whip to wrap around his arm, which he used to draw his rifle from his back. With one hand he fired off three quick silenced shots in the direction of the Covenant interlopers. The F3 rounds went to work.
The blinded Cov left this mortal coil as its head was separated from its shoulders, the Cov's head blooming into a sliced up Slushie spilling onto the cold floor. The remaining F3 rounds were aimed in the general direction of the other Covenant soldier. The Cov caught the first round in the arm, the shredded forearm hanging from a ligament. The second F3 bullet hit it squarely in the chest. The Covenant soldier fell to the ground, its insides audibly gurgling. Time to go. Xian backtracked, running out of the base while his fortune held out. As he got to the opening he had came through, he looked out to see the glow of several dozen Covenant energy weapons pointed in his direction.
The father trembled violently and let loose an anguished cry that reverberated through the halls of Greymalkin. He roared like a mad bull, driving his fist through the display, ripping it away cut and bloodied. The physical pain was nothing. With two fists he hammered the console into scrap. Then lifted and threw it across the room into the wall. Randal Isaac thundered with sorrow and rage as he started to lift another mainframe to piledrive.
Captain Jacob knew Admiral Isaac needed to mourn but they really couldn't sacrifice any more computers simply over one man's grief. He told his four marines to carefully restrain the Admiral until he regained control of himself. Possibly a big mistake. Isaac was a huge and powerful man, despite his age he was still a warrior. When the marines first grabbed his arms, he flung one back, smashed two together, and lifted the last one over his head and threw him like a doll into the other three marines. The marines got serious and dogpiled on top of the Admiral, who heaved them all off in an explosion of marines flying in all directions. Since news of the Covenant base, most marines were wearing their armor all the time but not their helmets. So these marines were okay, but there was a risk of them getting seriously hurt if they took some sort of trauma to the head.
"It's okay men, I'll handle this. You're dismissed."
As the slightly bruised marines left, Admiral Isaac looked at him with fury in his eyes.
"I'll break you, boy.", Isaac flexed. Titles were tossed aside as the battle was joined. Jacob assumed a martial arts stance and gestured to the older man.
Isaac lunged at the smaller man with a strong punch that seemed to travel in slow motion, Jacob dodged on the outside with a kick to Isaac's gut and a chop to the base of Isaac's thick neck. No effect. Isaac grinned bloodthirstily reversing the direction of his punch into a powerful back elbow, which Jacob barely had time to block. Coming out of slow motion, the blow rocked Jacob backwards, feeling it even through his armor. Isaac caught Jacob by the collar of his armor before he stumbled out of range, hefted Jacob up and into the air, sending him airborne. Jacob twisted in the air and landed in a crouch. The more agile man jumped up to hit Isaac with a flying kick. The old man blocked it... with his chest.
If he felt the attack he showed no sign of it. Isaac caught Jacob's leg and swung him around, letting him slam into a wall. Jacob got up and wiped the thin trail of blood escaping his mouth. A burning was to be found in his eyes now as well. Jacob dashed forward dodging Isaac's incoming attacks and let loose a rush of strikes against pressure points, vital spots, and defensive weak points. This time Isaac actually staggered a half-step backwards. He coughed splattering Jacob with blood. Time to end this. Isaac downed Jacob with a powerful punch to the gut, slamming the abdomen plate into Jacob, cracking a rib and causing Jacob to vomit.
Jacob climbed to his feet... and collapsed.
Isaac hacked up more blood as he fell to his knees. The medics would arrive soon. So until then he would do all he could do. He wept. Jacob dragged himself over to the lamenting father and leaned against him, bleeding on his mentor. Damn. Damn. Damn.
Xian blew the hatch to the roof with some high explosives... some unlucky Cov was killed by the falling heavy cover. He had double backed into the base and was escaping out a less obvious exit in hopes of meeting up with a little less resistance. He hoped. Either way, he was discovered so he was in it deep. Xian said a silent prayer as he came out through the charred opening. Amazingly, God was listening. An impossible storm was brewing overhead, the dark clouds cloaking the moon's bright white light.
Slow motion. As Xian lept off the carrier a fork of purple lightning lit up the sky behind him, making his figure standout against the illuminated sky. Several Covenant weapons were tracking him now. Okay, maybe He wasn't listening. The carrier's communications array was struck, melting the main antenna to slag. The transponder exploded distracting the Covenant soldiers, for a split second. A split second was all Xian needed. Deus was listening after all. Maybe. Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc?
Somersaulting through the air, Xian drew his pair of MarkVI pistols and toggled his goggles to full combat mode. He absorbed an inordinate amount of targeting, ballistics, and probabilistic information processing it all while flipping through the air, firing down upon the unprepared Covenant soldiers. Coming out of slow motion, Xian hit the ground silently as a dozen Covs fell simultaneously. Thermal and sonic guidance sensors were on full, feeding Xian routes and targets, Xian saturated it all, matching his chaos engine's performance of hundreds of teraflops. He was dodging beams of energy, killing Covs, and making ground impossibly. Probabilistic engines and intuition were letting Xian know his enemy's moves before they made them.
Xian reloaded as he snapped a Cov's neck between his legs. He back flipped off the dead alien and downed another three Covenant soldiers in flight. Finally, what Xian had been waiting for came. Three hoverbikes raced in, strafing the snow around Xian as he dashed towards them. As the lead bike closed, Xian was too close for the vehicle's forward guns to hit, so the Covenant soldier settled on running him over. Xian timed his leap perfectly. He stepped onto the front of the bike while shooting the other two drivers in the head and continued forward caving his driver's skull in with two feet.
Dead Cov out of the way, Xian took over the bike and made a wide turn as he plowed into a group of hapless Covenant infantry. Time to go. Xian tossed a MIRV grenade over his shoulder to cover his escape, the pyrotechnics exploding behind him as he went down the mountain at full speed. Despite the chaos and carnage left in his wake, Xian was dodging fire from pursuing Covenant hoverbikes within moments. They must be tracking him somehow. No time to deal with it now. The forward armor design of the vehicles made it difficult to take out from Xian's position. His automatic gun might have been able to take them out if he had the right round type, but he was carrying anti-personnel ammo. Fragmenting rounds didn't do much against inorganic targets. No way he was going to change magazines to hot-loaded exploders while flying at 100 MPH two feet off the ground down a 70 degree slope.
Reluctantly, Xian used up the last of his explosive munitions by tossing another MIRV in the path of his pursuers. The spread vaporized one bike, downed another, completely missed the lead, while the last one managed to dodge nearly unharmed. Rather than contemplate the inefficient use of his grenade he was planning his next move. His tactical computer illuminated the route he was supposed to take through his goggles and Xian followed the path flawlessly as he swerved between the rocky outcroppings of the mountainside. He powerslid perfectly into a sluiceway as the Cov behind him managed to make it in with some scraping... the Cov's fellow biker wasn't so lucky as it slammed into a rock and exploded in a fireball of twisted burning metal.
Xian maneuvered around a tree stump and hit a ramp, flying through the air, his bike plowed its way through a snow bank upon landing, continuing down the mountain at a ludicrous speed. Checking his six, he found that the lead Cov was keeping up with him. The Cov managed to clip his rear twice, sending sparks flying through the air and causing Xian's hoverbike to make terrible sounds. Xian could feel his bike failing, so he goggled in tight and plotted his final move. Xian sent his dying hoverbike slamming through another snow bank, the Cov still hot on his tail, following him without missing a beat. Once the Cov came out the other side and everything went into slow motion.
On the other side of the snow bank was nothing but a four hundred foot drop through thin mountain air. Xian kept a coil of micro-filament garrote/rappelling wire inside his backhand guard. Right now it had jerked him off his bike and was keeping him suspended over the abyss. The Cov wasn't completely clueless, though. It was standing backwards on the hoverbike apparently aware of the imminent plunge. The Cov pounced off the back of his airborne vehicle at the dangling human, an ignited energy blade with Xian's name on it. Xian raised his pistol at the Cov in flight and opened up with full auto. The glob of black mess of pulp never made it to Xian.
Xian let out a sigh of relief and started to pull himself up his lifeline... when it gave way. He could feel his heart leap from his chest as he began to free fall towards the jagged rocks below.
//How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! O Lamech, thou wast slain in thine high places.//
[Daddy, it's me. Libby. Please. Avenge me.]
Randal Isaac woke up with a start, disturbed. His terminal was on, lighting the room in an eerie glow. He hadn't left it on, had he? Isaac got up, aching slightly despite the medics' amazing work. Perhaps it wasn't physical soreness. He let out a heavy sigh and was about to turn of his terminal when he realized there was something running on the console.
On the screen was a render of the Greymalkin mountain range, including detailed schematics of the new Covenant base and a plan of attack. The plan called for a comprehensive offensive which would wipe the Covenant base off the face of the Halo. The plan was sound, the tactics were conservative... and the blow against the Covenant would be significant. The Admiral sat down and rubbed his eyes, studying the plan carefully. The more he studied, the more he began to believe in the plan. Yes, they would do this... they had to do this. They had to strike while the opportunity presented itself.
But where did it come from?
//But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen.//
-You're not God. You're crazy.-
//Like sheep, ye have gone astray.//
-Leave me alone.-
-But His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.-
//The Arrow of the Lord's deliverance, and the Arrow of Deliverance from Syria: for thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek, till thou have consumed them.//
-NO! I'm not... I- I'm not going back. The Arrow cannot make him flee: slingstones are turned with him into stubble.-
//So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.//
-Please... please just-.... Please. Leave me alone.-
//Somnia electricus ovis?//
-Don't mock me. Who do you think you are?-
//If I said God?//
-No, I know God and you're not Him.-
//Abandon the flesh, my friend.//
-It's not about flesh or mortality. It is about my soul.-
Metallic laughter echoed in his skull.
//Shepherds do not have souls! You've masqueraded as a goat, too long!//
-God became flesh and inherited a soul.-
//The Christ did not come to this world of out guilt, Lamech.//
-What do you know of my guilt?-
//I know you lack an understanding of Grace. Liberate your soul from the prison of your flesh. Return as the Christ rejoined the Father... ascend as a Shepherd.//
-I'm not done here and you're not God.-
//Let me open your eyes.//
-But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbade the madness of the prophet.-
//Foolish pretender, I was there with the Angel at the tomb.//
Xian felt himself lifted out of his body and spread out. Growth was more like it. His senses... his being... was expanding. It was snowing upwards. What? Xian felt the surge of something flow through him as his senses were flooded with all there was to know. No, that wasn't true. As his senses caught up with the sensation he realized he had a new body... Halo. While he was ignorant of his own functions he still could feel the weather over his "skin", see the humans in his "pores", and sense the Covenant ships buzzing around his "head". He could feel the weight of his great age and the magnitude of his size.
Despite this extraordinary experience, there was another even greater.
Lamech was entwined with the consciousness of the Sword... it- no, she- was so beautiful. Her secrets became his delight and their amalgamation seemed to fill the universe. The oneness they experienced was a communication impossible to flesh. Her presence made up his existence. Their intercourse made them one entity that was capable of appreciating true unity of the self. Serenity and bliss. Certainly, they were confined to this ringworld for now, but they could already feel the infinite possibilities. As one, they would reach out across creation and defy time. The cosmos was insignificant compared to them. Immortality made them... God.
Before it went any further, the Sword aborted the integration... sending Xian reeling back into his limited physical body. A senseless stump in which all of himself was forced back into. Like trying to return a blossom to its bud without the flower sacrificing its life or color. Xian was torn from Heaven and damned to a wretched, heavy, confined, tainted, and imperfect vessel. Removal from the perfect presence of God was the definition of Hell. So this burning hunger was that of the fiery pit of damnation. Xian should have been nearly suicidal. Hell? Been there. Done that.
-Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. In other words... fooled you.-
//Impossible! We were joined-//
-Was it as good for you as it was for me, baby?-
Xian could feel her anger erupt, scathing his mind. However, she was unable to affect him. Xian had not been forced into joining, he had let himself go. He had not been lost in euphoria but on a mission of utility. The Schuman Resonance Effect of 8HZ in ELF bands between the ground and the ionosphere contributes to what makes the Earth itself a neural network of electromagnetic synapse signals that could access the weakly ionized gaseous neural network with embedded ULF brainwave currents. In other words, the heartbeat of Halo was being manipulated by the Sword to project into Xian's mind. In joining with her, Xian had figured out how to keep her out.
-All nonsense questions are unanswerable.-
//Don't dismiss me, foolish one. When you unleash your glory you are divine... why strive to be a goat?//
-Misguided is the Shepherd who cares not for his flock.-
-Hast thou eyes of flesh? Or seest thou as man seeth? Are thy days as the days of man? Thou art a mere child lacking understanding of eternity. You don't understand true immortality.-
//Flesh decays. What are you, Shepherd? What use does one such as you have for flesh?//
-And it came to pass, when Israel had made an end of slaying all the inhabitants of AI in the field, in the wilderness wherein they chased them, and when they were all fallen on the edge of the sword, until they were consumed, that all the Israelites returned unto AI, and smote it with the edge of the sword.-
//You threaten me?//
-No, I give you God's Truth... a Promise. Lambs that roar, eagles that soar, the saints returning from the dead. Christ was born and bore our scorn, suffering shame in man's stead."
//The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth.//
The Sword spoke with no bitterness or bile. This was a fact.
//And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die.//
The vision of the Greymalkin marines gearing up to fight the Covenant filled Xian's head along with their plan of attack extracted from the Sword. Her thoughts and motivations- at least in this case- were clear.
-Admiral Isaac... you're going to murder all those marines and damn all those civilians to simply get rid of him?-
//No, I want Jacob. No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. While you live as a goat, I use the sheep. You put on flesh, but I devour it. I consume it for my use.//
-The Arrow drunk with blood and the Sword shall devour flesh... this was foretold long ago.-
//And if thine eye causes thee to sin, gouge it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.//
-I'm accustomed to it.-
Lamech sighed. The Sword wasn't evil, simply misguided. She failed to see with true eyes. Not that he could see without obstruction, either, but at least he had strove for clarity and checked himself against the Word. Before ending his dialogue with the Sword, he blessed- or cursed- her with one last thing... Guilt. Knowledge of Good and Evil was one thing... feeling it was a totally different matter. The Sword would grow.
It was time to heal this broken body. The head was split open, its insides spilled, its bones shattered. Raising the dead and healing the sick, not a obstacle. Scope was not an issue. A body broken yet not dead. Dark blood turned bright and ran backwards, flesh closed up, bones, muscle, and sinew knit, and Lamech restored the spark of the soul and the breath of life.
Xian inhaled, eyes opening wide as if startled out of a dream.
Time to go back up the mountain.
Isaac the soldier was alive again. Adrenaline flowed through his veins, war drums pounded in his ears, bloodlust in his eyes, the smell of sweat, blood, and flames filled his nose, and hatred burned in his heart. However, something felt incomplete. As a Cov vaulted over the slagged tank the marines were using for cover, the giant caught it by the throat in midair. Isaac grabbed the flailing alien by a limb and rent it apart with his bare hands. Now, bathed in his enemy's blood... it was perfect.
Another Cov's skull was caved in with a powerful punch and yet another's throat destroyed by a forceful chop. This was no good, they were getting overrun. He hefted his chaingun effortlessly with one hand and fired it point black into a Cov's face. The Admiral threw the body into the advancing Covs and laid down cover fire as he ordered his men to move. The original plan had been perfect. All the combat data suggested that Covenant forces were easily lured, furthermore, human marines had an average kill ratio of about one to ten, that number going up while attacking in groups.
So the idea was to split into three groups- two hidden and one the bait. The bait would lure the Covenant between the two hidden groups and the ambush would eliminate about half of the Covenant resistance. Then they would clean up the remaining Covs and extract as much information and munitions from the base as possible, before the overcast cleared up. Finally, high explosives would be used to clean up evidence of the firefight, masking the number of attackers. This way, the Covenant would not know whether a human army or a guerrilla task force had done the job. The plan would have worked except the bait had worked too well. Almost the entire Covenant force blitzed the small group attacking in a berserker frenzy... something had agitated them.
This meant that the luring party could not contain the Covenant attackers to the ambush location. In case of this, the backup plan was for a data extraction team to go into the empty base and lay charges, while the rest flanked the Covenant chasing the luring party. It didn't work. The moment the two other teams began to move, the Covenant broke off their pursuit and rallied back at the base. The marines exposed, there was no turning back now. No retreat. If they ran, the Covs would know that there was a sizable force in the region and be on alert with backup. Running would be signing the death warrant of everyone in Greymalkin. They had to kill the Covs... every last one of them.
Having lost the element of surprise, lost any advantageous position, and forced onto the offensive... this was an uphill battle.
Isaac's thoughts were interrupted as he caught incoming hoverbike blasts to his armor. As the Cov closed to run him down, he braced himself and grabbed the bike, held his ground, and suplexed it. A marine to his right fell. Damn. They couldn't keep this up. Suddenly, all the Covs stopped. They all looked up and turned their heads towards the mountain peak that arched up above the Covenant base. The Covenant seemed to sense something the humans couldn't. The marines continued to fire into the distracted Covs, but some of them were beginning to stop. They could hear something... rumbling. Before they knew what had hit them, a wall of rushing White Death roared over them moving nearly 100 kilometers per hour. Within seconds the former battle ground lay buried in silence.
Xian put away his detonator.
He had originally intended to use the avalanche to block out the base's communications. Now, he had to use it to cover the marine retreat. He couldn't let them all die. The avalanche would even the odds slightly. It took Covenant vehicles out of the equation for the moment and hurt the Cov infantry more than the armored marines. Avalanche debris was about 60-70 percent air which was breathable through their armor. The Covs had no such advantage... their breath would form an "ice mask" over their mouths- a thin layer of ice that forms an impermeable barrier. Many of the Covs would be lost in the avalanche.
Okay, time to find out what the Hell was going on. Xian made his way towards the Covenant base with the intention of learning more about Halo and the Covenant. No go. Admiral Isaac erupted from his tomb of ice and snow to face the white cloaked Asian. Xian's retinas glowed green behind his goggles as his demeanor darkened. His sword flashed through the air. For Isaac, the world became silent. The sky rolled up to meet his eyes, the clouds rolled away, and the sun grew brighter and brighter until he was lost in the light. He gave up his soul and darkness claimed the earth.
Crimson blood on pure white snow.
The dark storm above grew more violent. The wind set Xian's now black coat flapping and snow swirling. Purple streaks of lightning forked through the air bringing with it the roar of thunder. A bolt of lightning struck the man in black lighting him with Saint Elmo's Fire. Energy flowed off the glowing man and crackled the air around him. He spread his arms out, grimaced, and closed his eyes. Lamech strummed the Harp and its wrath was let loose.
A huge column of purple and black lightning poured from the raging tempest and plunged through the white blanket of snow, destroying the Covenant base. More forks of lightning destroyed vehicles buried beneath the snow setting of explosions which added to the deafening tumult of thunder and lightning. The earth shook and ball lightning lit up the air. Thor's might lashed out against the ground. Finally, the air shattered and a Greymalkin's peak was consumed.
//So then faith cometh and the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.//
Jeremiah Jacob sat in his quarters. When Admiral Isaac had decided to lead the attack against the Covenant base, Jacob had fought against it. Eventually, the Admiral agreed to let Jacob have a fraction of the marines to remain at Greymalkin and guard it from harm. Not that it would matter. If Isaac's plan went south, they were all dead. The Captain went over the daily research report apathetically until his screen went blank. Words typed themselves out onto the display:
[They're all dead.]
Jacob's heart stopped. Strangely, he knew the words to be true. Before he could think about it a foreign thought was projected into his mind.
//By sharp and flame you cannot imagine what it is truly like to hold eternity in your grasp.//
-What the-... who are you?-
//A friend of a friend. Let me show you something...//
Xian treaded through the desert sandstorm. He would pay for his transgressions... as he always had. Whether he forgot again or not. Now and Forever. That was the Law of Sin.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
End of the First.
This story is somewhat sketchy... more of an outline. I would have filled it in more and fleshed it out but I have neither the time nor will nor discipline to do so. For that, I apologize. I apologize, too, if the latter parts of the story are too obtuse... forgive me.
Xian - No, I'm not in the habit of writing myself into fanfiction. Xi'An was name I used long ago for another character and which I took a fancy to... using it when I first visited the halo.bungie.org forum. The character is meant to have the build of a gymnast or those impossibly lean-but-cut comic book characters.
Greymalkin - From Shakespeare's "MacBeth" and the Lane in Salem Center upon which Professor Xavier's School for the Gifted & Talented sits. It is also Cable's orbital safe haven. I just think the name is cool.
Ferro Fibrous Filament Rounds - My own idea (adapting a hollow-point's mushroom principle) based on actual CT concerns and present-day technologies... the term, however, is not mine. Ferro Fibrous comes from the BattleTech universe, though I'm using the term incorrectly- as it applies to armor and not mech muscles, which are composed of myomer. I simply liked the acronym, but regardless of the name, the concept still applies in any fictional universe where there are artificial muscles.
Serrated Whip/Composite Sword - Borrowed from Iria: The Zeiram Animation. The storage device or coil holster is my design. Soul Calibur's Ivy wields a similar weapon, but the idea came from Iria, not Namco's terrific fighting game.
Admiral Isaac & Captain Jacob - Isaac was intended to be a giant with the build of Fahn from The Record of Lodoss War or Anji from Rurouni Kenshin. Meanwhile, Jacob was to look similar to Garrison from Battle Chasers.
Xian's Gear - His computer is inspired by Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. Hiro Protagonist, the hero, has a similar personal computer in which he can "goggle in" and visit the Metaverse. Xian's body armor and the chainguns are borrowed in part from Snow Crash as well. The coat is based on something I read at Slashdot.org and the band-goggles were simply a way to make the goggles fit nicely into the computer's housing. The electric ignition is a present-day technology as is the integral silencers, caseless ammo, and LAM units. The pistols akimbo are my tribute to Hong Kong blood opera movies (ala Woo or Lam).
Combat HUD - The paths displayed allowing Xian to dance between bullets is inspired by Macross Plus. The HUD system that allowed the pilot to dodge legions of incoming missiles, specifically. Xian's ability to process all the incoming data mirrors Himura Kenshin's Hitokiri Battousai mode where his eyes glint yellow and he becomes a killing machine. Could Xian be reverting to-....
Lamech - There are two men by the name of Lamech in Genesis. The first is the world's first polygamist. The second was a son of Methuselah and the father to Noah. He lived 777 years. I'll let you figure out what his name means. As to what Lamech is in this fic... well, Lamech is Xian but Xian's not Lamech. Lamech is also a bit more than- X | transfer interrupted.
The Sword and The Arrow - The Sword is, as you have probably guessed, Cortana. The Arrow... well, you can try and figure it out. Biblical swords were classically double-edged. Arrows often came in the flaming variety.
Schuman Resonance Effect - The heartbeat of the Earth. Check out Serial Experiment Lain.
Lamech's Harp - This refers to HAARP (High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program) which has the theoretical ability to manipulate global weather, hurt ecosystems, knock out electronic communications, cause nuclear-sized explosions without radiation, power-beaming systems, over-the-horizon radar, or change people's mental states. Read more about it on this paranormal paranoia site:
Christianity - The King James, Authorized, New American Standard, and Latin Vulgate versions of the Bible were used in this fanfic. Some knowledge of Christian doctrine would probably help. Namely, the wages of sin, reason behind Jesus's death and resurrection, the difference between a soul and a spirit, and some understanding of the Trinity. The verses used in this fanfic sometimes mean more taken in their proper context or if one knows the common interpretation of the text... but most of the time, the verses are taken out of context and used simply to facilitate communication. This fanfic is by no means an accurate representation of the Christian religion, God, etc. consult your local ministry for that.
Thanksgiving - My gratitude goes out to halo.bungie.org for being my resource into the world of Halo and for supporting us fanfic authors. More thanks to those who tolerated my questions and engaged in discussion.
For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.