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Hermes Trismegistus, Chapter 12
Posted By: Tursas<tursas@shaw.ca>
Date: 10 October 2001, 4:39 am

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The flames still burned in his mind. He could feel the heat of them on his back and hands. They burned and it never ceased. The heat scorched him, and he fought it with all the powers of his intellect. But out of the fighting he soon felt a new beginning taking shape and saw a new body laying, beckoning to him, upon a table. He entered the body, pulling it about him as one pulls a blanket to stay warm. The burning ceased. He awoke.
     Bob sat up on the table, feeling the million pins shoot out of his body as of old. The experience seemed familiar to him, but the memory of the burning still flashed sharply in his mind and he looked at his hands to see that they were aflame in the eye of his mind. He stared down at them and the flames slowly subsided, flickering and going out, leaving his hands the color of his skin. But he remembered still the others who had burned, whose cries rang shrill in his head, begging to be released from the power of the heat.
     He pushed it away.
     Bob swung his legs over the side of the table and stood up. The room had not changed: the creepers were as green as they ever had been and the beds glowed with the same light and were in the same positions as before. But something was different. He looked down at himself and was surprised to find that he was clothed, as he had left his double; the overalls as bereft of stain as though they were brand new, the socks as clean as though never worn. The belt about his waist felt heavy with the weight of a USP, knife, and magazine pouches. And his left eye was still missing.
     But there were other things as well. In the corner between two beds lay a pile of belts and holsters. He walked to that corner and counted each of them; there were five in all. Five others like himself had woken and left this place -- but they were not he.
     He stood and touched the nearest creeper. It did not talk to him. Nothing did as he walked around the room and touched everything, even the rotting corpse, whose acrid scent still wafted upwards into the heights.
     Beside his own bed he found a small pile of MRE's. They were the same as those he had left on his initial departure, positioned roughly the same way as he had left them the first time he had been here. These he stuffed into his pockets. They would come in handy later if the voice didn't open the box and let him have a new supply.
     He stood and looked about him. Everything around him looked the same, but he felt himself rejuvenated as though he was the phoenix who had burnt and risen from its own ashes again. He smiled at the literal reality of that statement and looked up. No elevator was descending.
     He looked about him again and decided that he would have to climb.
     The gun belt about his waist he did not take off, but he did unbuckle it to slide onto it another holster with pistol, to be worn at the small of the back, and as many magazine pouches as he could fit and stuffed a few more into his pockets for good measure. He checked both USP's to make sure they were in working order and read over the instructions for disassembly and cleaning -- the manuals that were issued to each successive clone of himself were also in a pile in a corner. The knife still hung at his left side and he checked it to make sure it was sharp. He didn't have any body armor, but he now knew that it wouldn't matter as every weapon used by the opposing sides could kill regardless of what one wore. He would worry about getting better weapons later. He took his socks off and stuffed them into one of his pockets.
     Bob jumped up on the nearest table and, hand over hand, began to climb out of the shaft. He had scaled mountains before and figured that as long as the creepers remained solidly rooted in the walls he should have no problems getting out.
     For several hours he worked, in which time the tunnel was put into and came out of a period of darkness. He looked down to the bottom every once in a while to see that it was indeed falling away into the distance. He didn't like the idea of dropping to his death, but somehow he had been brought back to life and figured that it might happen again if he were to die a second time. The voice must have lied about giving the new body old memories.
     Within sight of the top he stopped to rest. The lip of the shaft was now about a hundred feet overhead, and he could see the elevator hovering in the center of the hexagon. He was dead tired after climbing so far, and didn't want to have to face whatever may have been at the top in such a fatigued state, so he sat upon one of the thicker creepers and went to sleep.

He found himself standing atop a hill shrouded in mist. Before him, at the crest of the hill, stood the statue of a lion with the head of a gargoyle, whose contorted face reflected with the luster of cold iron in the serene light of an crisp night. The grass beneath his naked feet tickled with dew. The moon above was covered in fog, but there was light enough to reveal the features around him. Unseen leaves on a vanguard of trees rustled lightly in the wind about him. He was clothed in a light, white robe, which touched the ground and was open at the front so that his chest and below could be seen plainly.
     He drew in a refreshing breath, closing his eyes and feeling his feet lifted from the ground, hovering over it.
     "Did you miss me?" It came as a small voice but one that filled him with joy. He recognized it but did not feel he could put a name to it.
     "Yes. I missed you very much."
     "I've managed to bring you back again. There will be no more sadness, no more anger, no more envy. You are one now."
     A pause.
     "Who are you?"
     "I am your peace of mind, your privacy of thought, your spiritual uniqueness. You. We were given life in the same place and we shall now be able to endure it forever. We were born together, but we were separated, and now we are triumphant. We have won."
     A pause.
     "Do you know what is to happen to us?"
     "I have seen many things on my journeys: I have beholden the fate of nations, the birth of civilizations, the revealing of the light and truth, and the darkness of hate and ignorance. I know what it is we seek, but I also know that it cannot be in a natural state."
     "What do you mean?"
     Bob looked and saw a grand vista open before him. It was the ring, floating in space, between the big yellow planet and the smaller blue moon. It looked and felt as though he was floating in space, but he could breath.
     Bob looked again. The view warped to Earth and then quickly descended to the ground, beside a cracked open storm-sewer. Bob could feel a great amount of heat coming from a crater and scattered piles of rubble two hundred meters away. He looked down into the pipe and saw a man sliding along, facedown in the muck. The body shot upwards.
     He saw another man in a desert, looking as though asleep, with a spear lying parallel to his body. He had an extra pair of shoulders and arms. His body shot upwards too.
     This time, it was one of the big blue Covenant beasts, weaponry lying askew in a puddle of glowing goop. It's body shot into the air.
     "Such is the beginning of those who are chosen." A chill ran down Bob's neck.
     The view was of the Halo again. He was back in the cave, watching himself load the bodies into the elevator. Then he was inside the elevator again, going down with it, watched as the bodies were dumped into a rail car and transported to an underground monstrosity of machinery and force fields. He watched as the bodies were cleaned, some taken apart, piece-by-piece faster than the human eye could see, and then looked on as the parts were melded into new forms. He saw some of himself, some of the Covenant beast, mostly those of a new type of creature. Those not disassembled and reconstituted were simply made operable again and implanted with alien technologies. He watched the bodies transported to different places and saw them given life. His own clones and those of the Covenant were led into contact with their parent races. He watched as the members of those parent races became sick and died. He saw others of the clones killed. "Such is the fate of those who are chosen." No chill ran down his neck. He knew now what he was brought here to do; carting bodies had only been part of the big picture.
     The others that he had seen assaulted the human and Covenant groups who had killed the clones. Their attacks were brutal and inescapable. The true human and Covenant forces were infiltrated by the reanimated fakes and destroyed by them and the others. There were very few who could stand against them.
     "Why are they doing this?"
     "All questions will soon be answered..." The voice sounded faint. His feet touched the ground and his vision was returned to the gargoyle again.
     "Where are you going?"
     "All questions will soon be answered..."
     "Don't leave me here."
     It came as a whisper, "I am with you now and always."
     The clouds overhead began to sprinkle and he stood on the hill for a time, feeling the refreshing waves as they rolled over him and embraced him. The rain washed away the grit of a thousand battles and gave life to new thought and the peace of innocence. The rain thickened and the statue could barely be seen in the downpour. But it was not a cold rain, and he could feel healing taking place in his body and mind.
     He closed his eyes and directed his head upwards to the heavens, which gave new life. The guilt of his felonies could be felt to wash away in a stream from where he stood, leaving his face and chest wet with the precipitation and his soul clean of past crimes.
     Behind his eyelids he saw again for a brief instant the inverted mountain.
     Bob hummed a tune.