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Effusion - Chapter 8: Reciprocity
Posted By: Tursas<tursas@shaw.ca>
Date: 11 May 2002, 12:01 am

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"Will you stay and listen to me for a moment?"
     "I'm needed elsewhere." The Master Chief tried to leave, but the capability eluded him.
     "Now you will have to listen. Time is short, so I will be brief. Each time you teleport, you bring yourself further into slavery to this dimension."
     "How does that work?" A whale of dubious origin floated overhead on the sea of whiteness that stretched everywhere, punctuated only by himself, the man, the chairs they were seated in, and the whale.
     "You will eventually succumb to the power."
     "Soon. But that is not all you need to know. There is something you need to know about Momos..."
     At that moment the Master Chief felt the pull, the blessed pull to a less impossible reality, and left with it.

The gravity rifle was a wonderful thing.
     The Master Chief lined up on the sword-bearing Elite and lightly squeezed the trigger until an infinitesimally small gravity well accelerated out of the front of the weapon. The Elite, not knowing what hit it, fell to the ground with its head a purple mush. The Master Chief lined up on another target.
     It was the culmination of many thousands of years of small-arms research.
     A grunt, dressed in purple, ran with its arms raised in panic through the line-of-sight. The Master Chief acquired this new target and reduced its head to a blue paste.
     It could act as both a sniper and CQB weapon.
     The door to the control room opened and a squad of gold and thermoptically camouflaged Elites poured out; all with swords; all baying for blood.     
     It augmented nicely into the Master Chief's armor support systems. It could detect even the trickiest of camouflages as target blobs.
     The Master Chief lined up on the last in line of their number and squeezed again, then, forgetting about that target entirely, lined up on another, then another, and another...
     It worked on a most curious -- but fundamental -- principal: gravity.
     A Banshee flew overhead. Its driver had no idea where the gunfire was coming from; the Master Chief was too well camouflaged.
     It was an energy weapon, but an energy weapon unlike any other the Master Chief had ever come across. It sliced straight through energy shielding like a knife through water. Its power source was self-charging, allowing for even the most prolonged firefight to end without completely running out of ammunition.
     The Master Chief let the Banshee fly overhead towards the Control Room, then aimed his new favorite weapon at it and squeezed the trigger yet again. The Banshee erupted in a ball of flame and smashed headfirst into the tower in front of the door.
     Gravity was the principal by which it sought its target, gravity was the principal by which it thoroughly pulped its target, gravity was the principal by which it was so steady in the hand. It was quiet; there was no muzzle flash like the shotgun or telltale beam of light like a plasma weapon when it was fired.
     "Ok. Let's move." Cortana chirped in his headset. The ring stretched far overhead on this fresh spring day on installation 07.0032. The trees were in bud, the birds were singing, the city bustled far away with the quiet sounds of civilian energy transports and generators.
     But best of all, this brand of technology was exclusively his.
     It was a good day for killing.

"I think it's time I start to fulfill my end of the bargain." Momos' creepy and altogether otherworldly voice broke the silence of the Master Chief's helmet. "But, in order to do it, I will require your help."
     "What do you mean?" the Master Chief responded with a sense of foreboding.
     "I have been unable to convince my people to fulfill their half of our agreement. As such, I have made the necessary changes to our plan. We will be visiting the home world of the Covenant to leave them with a little gift."
     "What sort of gift?" This was Cortanas jump into the conversation.
     "A gift they would never forget -- if there was anybody left to remember it. A gift their warrior caste would give the total sum of their lives to stop, because if they didn't the Covenant would be essentially wiped out as a race for all time."
     "What sort of gift?" The Master Chief asked. His gut feeling was that the answer would not be to his liking.
     "We will activate their Halo."
     "WHAT?" The Master Chief and Cortana both yelled this at Momos.
     "It is simple, really. All we have to do is simulate a void sequence for the Control Room on the Covenant Halo. Once you lock your organic form in the Control Room, I will initiate the burn that will wipe out every sentient living thing within 25,000 light years. This will effectively eliminate the Covenant and prevent the destruction of the human race."
     "The Covenant have a Halo of their own? Why didn't you tell us this earlier?"
     "It didn't seem important. But you should have known. Where did they come across the symbols on their armor may I ask? The Covenant have been living on their Halo for a very long time. The races that make up their society were originally placed on installation 07 when humanity was still dragging it knuckles. Since then they have overcome their prison and traveled among the stars."
     "It all makes sense now." Cortanas voice was filled with awe. "... That was how they knew about the flood ... That was how they knew so much about Halo... that was where they got their technology from..."
     "Interesting, isn't it?"
     "Wait. Just wait a second. How would it be possible for YOU to initiate the burn?"
     Momos took a second to respond, but when he did, it was with certain firmness. "The Halo will provide its own equipment to perpetuate the burn. What I meant to say was that I would simulate the signal that installation 07 would normally receive from installation 04. I do have transmitters on this ship, you know."
     "Well, now that that is done with..." Cortana said as she tried to curtail any further conversation that might betray her knowledge.
     "I think now is the time for me to ask where you got these transmitters, Momos. What about encryption codes? What about fail-safes? How can you overcome those?"
     Again, Momos took a second to answer. "This ship we are on was not originally a warship of the Rebellion. It was the hub of a fortress world that went missing some time ago."
     "Went missing?"
     "--Do the Forerunner know how to look after their equipment, or don't they?"
     "--What fortress world did you get this hub from, Momos? How could you possibly know all the fail-safes? Did Cortana tell you?"
     "I don't really want to, but perhaps the time has come to explain to you where Momos really came from."

"The information alone won't make killing them any easier," the Master Chief uttered quietly but resolutely. He felt cheated, especially now that he knew the truth.
     "Very true. If they hadn't a Halo of their own, we could simply use the one nearest to their position. Seeing as how they inhabit this installation, you will be very hard pressed to complete your tasks. But complete them you must, otherwise this mission will not succeed."
     "Isn't there another way?" the Master Chief asked.
     "This is the only means we have."
     The Master Chief thought for a long moment about the task he was being asked to perform. This one small in-and-out mission was essentially making the original mission of the Spartans, to capture and hold for ransom the Covenant prophets, obsolete. The proposition was tempting. In exchange for the death of so many humans and their worlds, the Master Chief would singularly wipe out the same and perhaps more on the side of the Covenant. This was not a chance to be turned down. That was certain.
     "Humanity won't be touched?" the Master Chief asked.
     "That is correct." Momos replied. "The center of the Covenant Empire is on the opposite side of the galaxy from Earth. The burn will destroy their core worlds, leaving them without a political center. We suspect the remaining Covenant will then split into their respective races, neutralizing the rest of their military and bringing the civilian population to it knees."
     "Ok, let's do it."

The brilliant plethora of light that had pulsed from the holographic image of the ring floating in the center of the control room subsided, leaving the Master Chief in awe and craving more, regardless of what deadly connotations the lights had.
     "Are we done?"
     "That's it. Everything within 25,000 light years should be dead."
     "Good. And Earth?"
     "Probably just fine."
     "Good. Then let's get the hell outta here."
     "Well that's interesting."
     "A file I just opened explains why the Covenant want to get rid of humanity."
     The Master Chief looked up at the image of Cortana looking down at him. "Why's that?"
     "They knew that the Forerunner put them here to save their race from extinction at the hands of a much stronger race in another galaxy. They also knew that any races other than their own were not supposed to be in this galaxy, but didn't know why. They took this information and warped it into a religious hate of any living thing that didn't originate in this galaxy on a Halo."
     "So the Covenant hates humanity because we didn't start out on a Halo of our own?"
     "That's about right."
     "Uncanny." The Master Chief shook his head as he unplugged Cortana from the holographic control matrix of installation 07.0032. Cortana activated the ring's teleportation grid, shrinking them to an infinitesimal size and floating them away to the outside, where they reappeared only to teleport away again to the Shifty. In that moment, the Master Chief thought again of the old man, this time knowing what the old man had wanted to tell him.