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Hermes Trismegistus, Chapter 13
Posted By: Tursas<tursas@shaw.ca>
Date: 17 October 2001, 1:57 am

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He opened his eyes. He was leaning against the wall sitting astride the large creeper. Water dripped from him and onto him from above. He looked up to see the elevator venting several jets of water at its base and the walkway giving off a sheet of precipitation on either side. The rain fell from the top of the shaft, giving life to the plant and supposedly submerging the bottom in water; he couldn't tell.
     The sound of a microphone squealing resounded in his ear.
     "Testing, testing. 1-2-3. Do we have a strong signal?... good. Welcome, friend, to Halo. I'll be your tour guide for this trip. What was that?" there was muffled speaking in the background, "You're telling me we don't have a neural link? I guess we must be on the back-up system then? Is that correct?" more muffled speaking, "Right, then. We seem to have experienced some technical difficulties. We will be communicating to you via the transmitter in your inner ear."
     // Yes! // Bob thought. While he didn't know how to block out the voice from his mind, he knew very well how to focus out the sound in his ears.
     "Is he receiving the signal? You're sure? Hello, there. Hello? It seems the only way you'll be able to talk back to us is to do just that. Can you speak?"
     "Hello, voice. How joo doin'?"
     "Fine, fine. You speak to me as though you know me. Why is that?"
     "I thought you said you would never speak to me again. Why are you talking now?"
     "Oh, shit." More muffled conversation could be heard in the background, and it seemed very heated. "I guess we have experienced another technical glitch. Your name is?"
     "Bob, Bob Smith."
     "And your occupation?"
     "HOLY SHIT!" The line went dead.
     Bob shrugged and stood up on the large vine he had been sitting astride. He started to climb again, working the stiffness of his muscles out as he rose. He soon reached the level of the walkway and elevator -- the rain had stopped by now -- and made his way around the hexagon towards the door.
     Reaching the wall-end of the walkway he stepped with his naked feet onto the ledge and ducked under the large creeper that still hung over the door. He stood and touched his hand to the plate on his face to turn the motion sensor on. Nothing happened.
     // Shit. Not only do they take my eye, but the goddamn motion sensor doesn't work. // There was no point in alerting the voice to his consciousness of the problem. But, then again, maybe the voice knew that the sensor was broken too.
     Bob turned, and ducking under the large creeper, began to scale the wall again.
     As he climbed, he thought. He had come back to life. He hadn't expected to be given a second chance at life -- and now it seemed that it wasn't meant to be -- but now that he had one, he wasn't going to waste his new knowledge and give in to the extermination plan of the makers. This time there would be no running off to the human encampments. No more unnecessary self-imprisonment. No quelling of thought. No following the instructions of the voice unless it was absolutely necessary to survival . However, Bob doubted the voice would allow him to stay at large for too long.

Bob reached the top of the shaft. He looked over to the other side of the pit and then peered over the lip of the wall. Fifty yards away he could see the trees that formed the clearing centered on this pit. Bob scrambled over the rim of the hole and down the side of the grassy hill into a patch of thornbushes. There was no point in intentionally giving away his position to whatever may have been around, but he was glad to be out of the hole.
     Bob tried to ignore the sting of the thorns as he looked about. He turned only his head, trying to see out of the low bushes. His instincts told him not to move.
     Out of the clearing, twenty yards on his right, walked three Covenant of different races. Bob didn't move a muscle. There was something strange about one of them, though. The middle one was walking a small ways before the other two and wasn't dressed in the same blue iridescent armor. The others had their guns trained on it.
     Then Bob saw it; the middle Elite turned its head slightly to the grunt on its right and said something to it which Bob didn't hear. But what it said was not important. It was what was in place of its left eye that was. Bob didn't move a muscle.
     The three walked in their strangely flowing manner towards the low hill. Then something quite unexpected happened. The first Elite began to walk up the hill, and just as the other two reached the rise, it quickly bent its legs and launched itself in a backwards somersault over the heads of the other two. They tracked it with their pistols, but it was too fast. As it came down its arms raked out and caught their guns in wide arcs, sending the pistols flying to its left. It didn't stop on it's legs, however. It continued to fall with a sweeping kick which caught both the grunt and the Jackal off-guard. They fell.
     The rogue Elite continued by curling its leg back in and, after a shoulder roll backwards, came to a forward leaning squat on both legs with one hand touching the ground and the other pointing towards the two (who were still sprawling), as a football lineman might begin a play. The whole series of movements came in what seemed to be one fluid motion.
     The grunt raised its head, in order to ascertain the position of the attacker, and was pounced on by its assailant. Bob heard the crunch as the attackers mandibles clamped down on this grunts neck and broke it with a combined squeezing-wrenching motion.
     The Jackal had awkwardly rolled away, stood and moved backwards a little by this time, pulling from its side a short stick that was just longer than the width of its palm which activated into a long, green, glowing blade of energy. Bob could tell that now was the time to act.
     The brigand Elite rolled off of his kill and stood facing the sword with what looked like hunger in its eyes. He staggered his feet, then waved to the Jackal with his raised arms. It was a taunt.
     But before the armed Jackal could make a move, its brains were blown out by two rounds of .45 ACP. The rogue Elite had seen the attack even before it occurred, and ran into the trees from where it stood. Bob ran after it, both pistols drawn.
     // No thank-you? // Bob thought.
     Through the trees Bob ran, trying to keep a visual connection with the rogue Elite. The twigs and pebbles beneath his feet bit into his skin, causing him to wince a little in pain as he trod over them on his naked feet. He jumped bushes like a vaulter. Greenery whipped by, the Rogue Elite staying ahead with what seemed easy, long-striding movements. Bob was pressed to keep up with it at a full sprint.
     Fifty yards from the clearing, the Elite mounted a rise and then was lost from view with a two-footed jump. Bob slowed, keeping both pistols at the ready and covering the most likely approaches as best he could with only one eye. It had been hard to run through the forest like that; with the motion sensor off-line he couldn't judge distances accurately.
     Bob stopped and listened for a moment to the sounds of the forest. A frog croaked. A bird warbled in the distance. No snapping twigs, no thumping of feet; just pure, unadulterated harmony of the natural inhabitants of this place. He walked towards the hill slowly, trying to keep as good a view of everything as possible. He reached the crest and looked over. It was a sheer drop. The forest ended in a cliff he judged to be forty feet high and continued at the bottom of the rift without pause. The trees at the bottom were tall enough, however, to not see clearly over the rest of the forest. Bob judged the nearest large branch to be ten feet away, though there was no way to be sure. There was no sign of the Rogue Elite.
     Bob looked along the edge of the cliff. To the right it curved away behind the trees, but on the left it seemed to decrease in height enough to perhaps jump from without breaking bones, so Bob walked in that direction, keeping a constant watch on what he could see of the forest floor below.
     He came to the lowest point in the cliff and could see that below there was a thin excuse for a path that led back and forth in switchbacks along the face of the rocks. He followed it down, back and forth, to it's end, which was a ledge about eight feet from the bottom.
     Bob sought a clear landing position in the middle of a patch of small pebbles and gravel, then jumped from the ledge, landing with his back to the forest and in a squat. He spun to a standing position, then lifted one foot from the ground to look at its underside. It was dirty, which was to be expected, and bled in places where bits of twig and gravel poked out of the skin. Bob removed the chunks as best he could and then again with the other foot. He figured that sooner or later he would have to make shoes for himself, if he could remember the best wood for it.
     Bob then unholstered both USPs and walked along the ridge of the cliff back to the last point he had seen the Elite. Nothing. He heard not a sound and none of the branches above looked disturbed. "Amazing," Bob breathed. That any creature could jump a forty feet and survive without breaking any bones -- and be crazy enough to do -- so was a revelation to Bob of the fragility of man.
     But anything that jumped forty feet and landed on semisolid ground would leave an large imprint behind. That would be how Bob would track the beast.
     After a short time searching and remaining alert of his environment, Bob found two large imprints in the ground that seemed to match what Bob thought the Elites feet looked like. The two holes, or rather craters, showed well in the humus of the forest floor. A faint set of tracks set out from the same place further into the forest; Bob followed these.
     Soon, the footprints began to curve to the left and Bob figured the Elite had begun to head back towards the cliff; but he persisted in following the tracks, just to be sure. He was right in his assumption, however. The tracks led right back to the eight foot ledge and then were lost in the gravel. So the Elite had gone right back up again. There was no sign of it on the cliff-side, and it was nowhere to be seen above. The possibility that this was a trap ran through Bob's mind briefly; it was a very real possibility, but there was no other way Bob could get back up the cliff; the lowest branches on the thick trees were a good twenty feet off the ground. Bob decided to stay alert to try to avoid being taken by surprise. He holstered the USPs and tried to find a good handhold in the rock.
     Just as he began to climb, a stone hurtled out of the sky above him. He had no chance to dodge it, it struck him directly on the forehead. He blacked out almost immediately, and by the time he hit the ground, the Rogue Elite was already preparing to descend the rocky face.