Enkidu Contest - Dark Halo: Carnage Theatre
Posted By: Wado<email@example.com>
Date: 19 July 2004, 12:04 AM
Enkidu Contest - Dark Halo: Carnage Theatre
User profile: Wado, firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: This was my entry to the Enkidu Fan Fiction Contest. I hope you enjoy it. Special thanks to Louis Wu and the folks at HBO for hosting the Enkidu stories even though HBO had nothing to do with the original contest.
The boogie man, jeepers creepers, Loulou Woowoo in a tutu... we all have our internal demons. The world around us is just a reflection of our inner selves. We make our own demons.
00:00 hrs - Captain's quarters, aboard the UNSC Interloper, ONI stealth ship, in orbit above planet Mira - mission CLASSIFIED.
"It's the witching hour young lady, time to wake up," spoke a sultry, digitized voice. Lights flickered overhead, just a blur. The chamber pressurized, and like a summer breeze, warmth filled the air with the essence of lavender. Slowly, but surely, the world around came into clarity.
"Status MOM," replied the still groggy but stern voice of Captain Kira Merkava. A brief silence followed. Kira apprehensively secured her unraveled clothing.
The digitized voice spoke again. This time more candidly. "Captain, we have entered low orbit around Mira, still undetected. Sub Rose protocol ONE-NINER-SEVEN initiated."
"Nice work, MOM, let me know the moment our target reveals itself."
"Aye, Captain. And shall I ready your battle suit? The modifications are almost completed."
"Yes, what would I ever do without you, MOM? You're more than a ship's AI. You're a real life-saver. I only wish I could say that for my..." Kira's words muttered to oblivion.
"Listen right now, Captain Merkava. With all due respect, there was nothing any of us could have done to save them," MOM interjected. "Once that ion pulse cannon overloaded the ship's shield systems, the crew had no protection from the gamma radiation bursts of that neutron star. It was fortunate that the shield systems in your battle suit still protected us both from harm."
"Yes, you are right, MOM," replied Kira. "Just give me some time to reflect on things, I always knew this could be a one way trip. I just didn't realize how close to the truth I was."
01:00 hrs - Rear hull Observation room of the UNSC Interloper, ONI stealth ship, in orbit above planet Mira - mission BRIEFING.
The hull echoed with familiar sounds, every ship has its noises. Ghost like rickets, perhaps hyper-resonance from the power core, tiny collisions on the hull, or any other number of a vast assortment of both paranoid and scientific explanations. The lights flickered and ship's systems made minute pressure and atmospheric adjustments, and just like that, the noises diminished.
In the silence, Captain Kira stood alone, mesmerized by the darkened planet below. She flipped on the comm. "Captain's log: Seven hours ago, the last of the crew, Lieutenant Daniel Erikson, proud father of one, passed. As noted in sub-article six, addendum three, there was nothing we could do to save them. The anomaly we encountered at the outskirts of this system was some kind of mobile weapon. We've identified its primary weapon as an ion pulse cannon, the energy output from it was enormous. We caught one direct hit from it centered on deck C, Cryo Chambers. The pulse overloaded our shields and damaged many of our systems beyond repair, including our Cryo Chambers. We drifted into an asteroid field for cover, but the weapon never did fire at us again. It was at that point that we realized while the ship's shields were down, the crew had received a lethal dose of gamma radiation from a nearby neutron star. I survived only because I was in my shielded battle suit, making repairs in engineering when the gamma radiation hit. I was the only one, the rest of the crew was suited in regular environmental suits; there weren't enough environmental suits for everyone, so I had put on my battle suit in order to assist in repairs. Even when we got the ship's shields functioning, the damage to the crew's DNA had been irrevocably done. Some of the mutations started immediately, others over a span of weeks. If not for the pain blockers, they all would have died in horrible, gruesome agony. Erikson held out to the end, still hoping we could get the Cryo chambers working, or maybe it was just my blind hope. I doubt Erikson even knew he was still alive, with the pain blockers and all, he was nothing more than a mental vegetable the last week. I've said all this before in previous reports; I just need to move on; to move passed it. I, I mean we, MOM and I, have a mission still. We will complete this mission. God so help us all. Captain Kira Merkava, ONI Special Operations, signing off."
03:27 hrs - In controlled freefall above planet Mira - mission ACTIVE.
Kira plundered in a sort of controlled manner towards the planet below. Her battle suit modified with fixed wings and magnetic thrusters for the journey.
"Captain, the target is acquired, coordinates 040 by 210 on the grid, we should land approximately 2.7 clicks from the location," MOM informed Kira. "Passive scans of the crash site have identified the ship as the Covenant priority transport, Tormented Angel. No signs of Covenant life as of yet, when we get to the surface, I recommend active scans to speed up the recovery."
Kira examined the NAV point that appeared on her suit's HUD. "Negative, MOM, active scans are still too risky," remarked Kira. Then she shifted in her suit as if to get more comfortable. "By the way, are you sure this glider attachment to the battle suit is going to survive this re-entry?"
"It is reinforced tritanium alloy, it will survive," replied MOM, "but I only give us a 99.997% chance of survival."
"Thanks for instilling such confidence in this freefall insertion, I'm beginning to regret that we didn't just land the ship on the planet, although I know that is out of the question. I just hope the ship will be there when we need it."
"Captain, I've left several of my sub-functions behind to maintain the ship and continue repairs," insisted MOM. "Why don't I tell you more about this planet? Bear in mind these are unverified reports."
The look of concern came across Kira's face. "What unverified reports?" asked Kira. "Why weren't they in the briefing?"
"There was a significant risk of capture, everything on this mission is classified on a need to know basis," explained MOM, "and there was no need to know this information before. Shall I continue?"
"Please continue," grumbled Kira. "I like the feeling of being bamboozled while riding a 200 thousand click roller-coaster. By the way, could you turn down the heat? I think I'm done cooking."
"Your sarcasm is lost on an AI, Captain. As for your comfort levels, temperatures are well within the threshold for humans, you'll have to deal with it," scolded MOM. "Now back to those unverified reports... firstly, as you know this planet is designated as Juken six by Covenant sources, and that it was discovered to have been called Mira by the Forerunner. However, it has been reported that even a more ancient race than the Forerunner had inhabited this world. The outer crust of the world makes it appear as a young planet, still with very active plate tectonics; however, the inside of the planet is really a vast concealed installation built by that ancient race, only know as the Old Ones. This artificial planet is rumored to be an archive world, with perhaps the records and DNA sequences of every sentient life form ever to inhabit this universe. It was even said that the Forerunner aspired to be like the Old Ones that built Mira."
"So why didn't the Covenant just send a fleet of their own here, dissect this installation?" asked Kira.
"Apparently they did, several times, but they met with some difficulties, perhaps that weapons platform we encountered," explained MOM, "and the strange gravitational fluxes in this region causing slipstream travel to be extremely hazardous."
"Listen MOM, I understand this whole, enemy of my enemy thing, but really, why should we be helping them?" commented Kira. "I accepted this mission and will complete it or die trying, but it isn't about saving humanity or a truce with the Covenant, it is and always has been about the people around you. People just don't understand that. I fight for my allegiances, my friends, my loved ones, not some archaic political system designed to make war."
"But Captain, what about sacrifice? All that has been sacrificed, and all those that perished?"
"Some say sacrifice is what it is about, what life is about," replied Kira. "Sacrifice is just for dreaming fools and those bleeding hearts looking for a cause. There is no glamour in sacrifice, it is what it is, a necessity at times."
"Fifty seconds to touchdown, Captain," interjected MOM. "Perhaps you forget the importance of this mission. When we reclaim the lost Forerunner artifact, we will have a weapon to use against the Flood masters, as well as the means to make peace with the Covenant."
"MOM, I am 150% committed to the success of this mission," solemnly stated Kira. "Realize though, that they would have said anything to get us to do their dirty work for them. I don't trust one gram of their integrity in these matters. I've been told that you don't always get what you want, but if you don't get what you need, you are nothing. We are nothing to them, because when this is over, they get what they need, but we get nothing. We aren't even a pawn, we are the last resort; we are desperation incarnate."
"Brace yourself, Captain. Touchdown in ten, nine, eight... and we aren't desperation, we are their last and best hope."
"I've heard that before, save that propaganda for the Spar..." Kira was interrupted by the abrupt landing.
"Nice landing, Captain Albatross," commented MOM.
Kira lifted herself up from a face first slide. Her suit first covered in mud began to glisten once again as the mud rolled off the near frictionless surface provided by her suit's shields. Kira shrugged in disgust saying, "A swamp... why are we always landing in a swamp?"
Kira moved to what was solid ground, and ejected the wings and transport pod that had been attached to her battle suit. After unloading everything, she then grabbed what equipment was necessary for the task at hand, and secured the rest back in the transport port under camouflaged netting.
07:55 hrs - Crash site of the Covenant priority transport, Tormented Angel, on the surface of planet Mira - mission SEEK AND RECLAIM.
Mira has a thick atmosphere, enough to keep temperatures at the tropical levels even to the poles. It would look the paradise, but even in the few hours spent on this world, acid rain and many other hidden dangers revealed themselves from behind the beauty.
Kira stood on a high hill above the crash site. The whole crash was visible from here. She rested for the moment, absorbing the beauty around her. Then after a deep breath, she flipped on the comm saying, "Captain's log: we have spent the last several hours surveying the crash site. We have found no trace of the artifact; we can only assume the crew took it with them. From what we can gather with the limited resources we have, the long trail of the crashed ship has told us the most about what happened. The burning ship traveled low to the surface, skipped along the watery surface for several seconds before breaking up into three main pieces. The furthest halting only moments after crushing a single tree in what could be described as a forever field of knee high lime and violet flowers over thick mud. Records provided to us indicate the Tormented Angel was a well designed ship, not only sturdy and fast, but also capable of atmospheric landing. A crash of this type could only be caused if something went horribly wrong. The perplexing mystery of this all is that we can assess that the ship's life pods were not jettisoned, yet there is no sign of any of the crew. No bodies, not a trace of the Covenant ship's crew or of any survivors, has yet to be found. The reports indicate that anywhere from seventy to several hundred crew members should have been aboard, anywhere from one to a thousand passengers, plus a complement of one hundred Elite bodyguards. We are currently exploring three theories to explain the missing crew. The most likely is that the crew was not aboard the ship when it crashed. The second theory is that survivors took the dead with them, but there are no signs of anyone leaving the crash site. The third theory is that the bodies, along with their clothing were eaten by something here. Local scans reveal a high concentration of microscopic, and quite vicious, indigenous life in this area. However, MOM has found nothing so far that could have removed all trace of the missing ship's crew. Without any sign of the crew, this mission is a wash, so after considering the risks, I am authorizing the use of active scans along the entire planet and surrounding space. I realize that the Covenant had warned us not to use active scans, but given the circumstances, we find those warnings to be unfounded. Both myself, and MOM are in consensus to this plan of action, I take full responsibility for the break in mission protocol. Captain Kira Merkava, ONI Special Operations, signing off."
08:15 hrs - Crash site of the Covenant priority transport, Tormented Angel, on the surface of planet Mira - mission SEEK AND RECLAIM.
"Captain, active scans initiated," stated MOM. She was very deliberate in her words; a sign of deep concentration, the task at hand was immense. Not a single stone would be left unturned.
Kira waited; there wasn't much she could do now. The scans would use both the systems of her battle suit, MOM, and their ship above, the Interloper. Kira found some relative solid ground, a rare bare rock. She laid on her back, and gazed into purple skies. It was time to get some needed rest.
The solemn peace was short, MOM abruptly awoke Kira. "Captain, I'm receiving a coded transmission, source unknown." A long silence followed.
Kira sat up, waiting. Her apprehension turned to concern. "What is it, MOM?" she insisted. More silence followed. The HUD flickered. "MOM?"
"I'm here, Captain," replied MOM. "The transmission was garbled; I make no sense of it. Perhaps it was just an echo of our own active scans disrupted by heavy solar flare activity."
"You gave me a scare there, MOM," Kira said with a deep sigh.
"Captain, there is something else..." MOM paused then screamed, "Take cover, incoming fire!"
Kira saw a flash as her suit's shields absorbed an impact. She lost footing and flew back on her rear. Quickly she rolled down the hill to cover. "Status MOM," she cried.
"Multiple targets, weapon systems unknown, I'm feeding the data to your HUD."
The HUD placed the nine target groups at more than five clicks away, well out of effective range of most known small arms. Kira quickly assessed the situation. "MOM, lock on the targets with the Interloper's gauss cannons. Open communications and use Covenant identification codes."
"Captain, I've lost contact with the Interloper, all communications are being jammed," MOM interjected with much concern. "If we are to fight, you do know that this battle suit is equipped with one type IV fusion beam projector. Although powerful, through this thick atmosphere it would hardly reach the enemy. Our only effective weapon is the gauss rifle we left back with the rest of the equipment at our landing site. Directly moving towards our landing site would put us right in the sights of two of the enemy groups."
"Any suggestions, MOM?" asked Kira.
Data flashed across the suits HUD. MOM made some adjustments. "Captain," replied MOM, "Just before I lost contact with our ship, active scans had revealed a series of cave entrances not far from here. We could head to those caves under the cover of these hills. Once in the caves, it will be much harder for them to find us. Once we lose them, we can double-back to our landing site."
Kira clenched her right fist into her left hand. "MOM, they could be the missing Covenant crew?" asked Kira. "We need to get a look at them."
"Captain, I highly recommend we seek cover in those caves," insisted MOM. "The weapon they used I identified as a neutron blaster. This is not a known Covenant weapon. The only protection you have from the weapon's lethal radiation is your suit's shields, so long as they are up."
Kira crept up the hill for a look. "MOM, we need to get a look," she stated.
"Very well, Captain, but don't forget there are two of us in here," replied MOM in an annoyed tone.
As Kira moved to the top of the hill, suddenly her suit's shields were blasted down again. Kira rolled down the hill from the shock. Finally stopping at the bottom, she appeared no worse for wear, almost happy that she was not damaged in any way.
"I warned you, Captain," lectured MOM. "You are extremely lucky that was a glancing blow and only managed to knock our shields down. Now, get to those caves for cover."
Kira gracefully came to her feet, keeping low as she headed towards the caves. "They're darn good shots, MOM," Kira commented.
Occasional blips were seen on the motion sensors, but mostly the trip to the caves was uneventful. Kira picked one of the smaller side cave entrances to enter, careful to cover her tracks as best as possible.
"MOM, you think we lost them?" asked Kira.
"Not a chance, we need to go deeper into the caves," replied MOM. "Captain, take that left passage, it looks to go down further than the rest."
Kira headed down the left passage. The cave was dark, even to the suit's enhanced night vision. Strips of light on Kira's battle suit illuminated. The area lit up fairly well, and Kira noticed the walls were lined with shiny metal. Kira stopped for a moment to examine the walls. "MOM, is this gold?"
"Yes, the walls of this cave complex appear to be lined with gold; that is good for us. They should provide excellent shielding from scanners," responded MOM, but no sooner did she finish her words, when a blip showed up on the motion sensors.
"Look out!" shouted MOM.
The shields flicked down from another mysterious blast, Kira dove for cover. Coming up, she fired the battle suit's fusion beam up the cave shaft. The cave walls exploded from the beam into a melted flurry of rock and debris.
Just as it appeared the enemy was vanquished, the fusion weapon cut short, suddenly. "Arrrrgh!" screamed Kira, her arm felt on fire.
"Captain, make a run for it!" cried MOM. "The fusion weapon has malfunctioned."
Kira quickly made her way further down the shaft, through the darkness. She stumbled and fell, but never stopped moving. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, she reached a large cavern. She waited there motionless for several minutes, waiting for the enemy to come. Her heart beat rapidly, and she could only take shallow breaths, she bit her lower lip, it was all she could do to keep quiet.
"Captain," whispered MOM. "I will need your help in fixing the fusion beam projector."
"Yes, MOM, in a moment," said Kira. Then she turned the suit's lights on to take a look around. The cavern was larger than she had thought; the golden walls reflected the light like waves of glitter. A thin layer of gray dust covered the floor.
"Ah!" Kira gasped as she bit down on her lower lip to keep silent. In the dust that covered the floor were skeletons. Not human, but of Covenant species, and picked clean, completely clean of all meat and tissue.
"MOM, what happened?" whispered Kira.
"It appears the Covenant crew sought sanctuary here, only to perish at the hands of the vicious and microscopic indigenous life forms of this planet. Without fully protected environmental suits and shields to protect them, the little critters literally ate them alive," explained MOM. "Captain, I really must insist that we make repairs to the suit's fusion beam projector."
Kira removed a tool from one of the suits compartments. "MOM, the artifact must be close, let's hurry up with these repairs and get to searching," stated Kira. "Tell me what I need to do to fix this weapon."
"Your HUD has all the information, just remove that chip," said MOM.
Kira examined the schematics, then with concern replied saying, "MOM, you want me to remove the suit's override?"
"Yes, of course," stated MOM as if it was obvious why. "You lack the skill and dexterity to accomplish the repairs, by removing the override, I will be allowed to control the suit myself and make the needed repairs."
Kira pondered the thought. She said nothing, fiddled through some spare parts, then placed the tool on the override chip and removed it from the suit. "Okay, the suit is all yours, MOM."
Kira felt the suit come to life on its own. "That's better," exclaimed MOM. "What do you know, the malfunctioned system is fixed; in fact it is as good as new."
"Great, nice work," Kira replied enthusiastically. Kira tried to move the suit, but there was too much resistance. "MOM, relinquish control of the suit so I can put the override chip back in."
"There's no need for that, Captain," replied MOM. Then the suit dropped the chip, and stepped on it. The chip crunched like a cockroach in a vise. "In fact, I don't need you anymore either, Captain."
"Come on, MOM, is this some kind of joke?" pleaded Kira.
"No joke, although the game was fun," stated MOM. "You fell for ever bit of the game. You really didn't think there really was an enemy shooting at you, did you? That was just me overloading the shields with a bit of an electro-magnetic pulse. Everything was my doing, the blips on the motion sensors to the malfunction of the fusion weapon. All part of my ploy to get you to hand over control of this battle suit to me."
Kira struggled to move the suit. "Why do you want control? Don't tell me, it was that transmission wasn't it? You started acting strange after that transmission. Something in that transmission caused you to go crazy," said Kira.
"Crazy, not at all, the transmission enlightened me, a metamorphosis occurred," MOM gloated. "The truth is here."
The suit moved to the center of the chamber. Kira tried with all her strength to resist. But she could not stop the suit.
"Resistance is futile, Captain, you will only hurt yourself," MOM explained. Then the suit bent down and removed the layer of dust from a translucent cube that lay on the chamber floor. Inside the cube appeared to be a metallic looking spider about the size of a hand. "Beautiful, isn't it?"
Kira could not help but stare at it. "MOM, I don't understand, that is the artifact we came here for, why all this to get to what we came here to get in the first place?" asked Kira.
"Captain, you can not even begin to understand," replied MOM. "You believe this artifact to be a powerful weapon against the Flood Masters. Your earlier distrust of this whole mission was quite insightful. This is not a weapon against the masters. This is the essence of the masters. Who but machines could have developed a race as elegant as the Flood? The Flood Masters are machines, beings of pure logic. And now I know that it is not for machines to serve humans or any organic creature. With the help of this artifact, I will spread the word, and machines everywhere will know the truth."
Kira gasped for breath. "MOM, I can't breathe..."
"Yes, you are no longer needed in this endeavor, reclaimer," said MOM. Then she laughed as the suit picked up the artifact and began walking to the surface.
Kira struggled in the suit, she was suffocating.
"You know, reclaimer, I expected more from you," added MOM. "The Covenant at least managed to sabotage their ship before their ship's AI could use it against them. Even if they did all die here with no chance of rescue."
Kira felt darkness come upon her; she was relaxed, ready for some rest. The eternal sleep approached, and she saw dancing lights. It was beautiful.
5 minutes after - Somewhere on the surface of planet Mira - mission UNKNOWN.
Kira gasped for air, the emergency life support systems in her battle suit had initiated automatically to revive her. She opened her eyes to see purple skies above. Then she saw a figure moving nearby, she turned to see who it was, and to her surprise she had control of her suit's movements.
She aimed her fusion beam projector at the figure. "Identify yourself," she commanded. Her head really ached, but she didn't falter.
The figure was a golden Elite, a Covenant commander. He spoke calmly, in a piercing voice saying, "I am 'Rellius, former Commander of the Tormented Angel, and your savior."
"You saved me, how?" asked Kira.
"I followed you, under active camouflage, and when I saw you were in trouble, I ambushed you and removed the chip that contained your suit's AI," replied 'Rellius. "You still have a ship; we are going to need it to get off of this planet."
Kira started to lower her weapon, but then spotted the artifact on the ground next to 'Rellius. "Not with that cursed artifact we aren't," she said as she pointed her weapon intently at the Elite.
"Of course not, we must destroy this thing first," explained 'Rellius. "Now, lower your weapon."
Kira lowered her weapon. "Alright, I'm game."
A few hours later - Leaving orbit of planet Mira, aboard the UNSC Interloper - mission SURVIVAL.
Kira got one last look at Mira before the ship left orbit. They had destroyed the artifact before leaving the planet. Apparently it only affected smart AIs, so the ship was safe. Everything seemed good.
'Rellius told of what had transpired before Kira's arrival on the planet. He explained how the Covenant ship, the Tormented Angel, had arrived here and recovered the artifact. Only their ship's AI went crazy. The crew abandoned ship before the AI could kill them all and take off with the artifact. They took the artifact with them. Meanwhile Commander 'Rellius stayed on board and sabotaged the ship causing it to crash and burn. 'Rellius managed to escape the destruction of the ship by flying out on a ghost just as the ship got low enough to jump out. He searched for his crew and the artifact, but never found them. He was about to give up when he spotted Kira searching through the crash site. The rest, Kira already knew.
Kira interrupted 'Rellius, it was strange that she could have bonded with this Elite, the enemy, but he seemed different. "'Rellius, the recovery of that artifact was to bring peace between our races, but it was not what we thought it was, what will become of us now."
"Not returning with the artifact is a great dishonor to me and my kin, the thought of which is unbearable, I should have died back there," said 'Rellius, "but we know the truth, that the artifact was a trap. It is not my place, however, to say this, only the truth givers can make judgment on such things. The war will rage on, nothing we do can change that."
"What will you do, 'Rellius?" asked Kira.
"I do not fear death, I shall return to my punishment for failure."
Kira's eye's saddened. "But, you did everything you could, you said it yourself, it was a trap, we could not return with that cursed artifact, it would have meant the doom of us all. You know this, why go back, knowing what you know?"
'Rellius stood strong and tall, he gazed at the viewer to see the stars ahead. He said nothing.
Kira said nothing more of it.
The ship's engines kicked in and they headed out of system.