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The Cleansing, Parts One and Two
Posted By: Wiley Kimball<Kimballlf@aol.com>
Date: 13 December 2004, 11:33 PM

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The Cleansing, Chapter 1: Sharpening the Swords

Onboard Phantom Dropship
Five Kilometers away from Covenant Holy City, High Charity
Ninth age of Reclamation

      "We're making final approach, Excellency."

      The voice of the lead Phantom's pilot rang loud and clear inside Izna 'Nanammee's helmet. The once well-respect and high-ranking Honor guard Elite was now a heretic. After the Brute uprising, he and his group of followers had fled High Charity and landed on a deserted moon in Installation 05's system, where they had spent the last few days recuperating and preparing to strike back. Then they had learned the Flood had driven the Covenant out of their most holy city.

      Plans changed.

      Now Izna was standing in the troop bay of just one Phantom in a flight of 8, all packed full of the best soldiers Izna could find. In addition to nearly 50 Elites, four of the titanic Hunter pairs also came with them. Izna was hoping to do what the Brutes could not: take back High Charity from the Flood, and in so doing regain the support of the Hierarchs.

      He surveyed the bay. Standing before him was a handpicked force of unprecedented skill. Almost all of these Elites had been either been SpecOps or Honor Guard, so all of them were the best the Covenant had to offer.

      All were bristling with weapons: Carbines, Needlers, Plasma Rifles, Plasma Swords, and Beam Rifles. Several of them also brought Fuel Rod Cannons. The heavy, shoulder-mounted weapons were almost powerful enough to be considered light artillery. A few of the troops even sported the powerful Brute Shot grenade launchers. Extremely effective against groups of enemies, the Brute Shots would be invaluable.

      Izna gripped his own weapon: an ornamental Plasma Sword presented to him when he joined the ranks of the Honor Guards. Slung across his back was a Human weapon, which the Humans referred to as the "Shotgunne". While he usually didn't use the filthy primates primitive weapons, he had seen what these "Shotgunne's" did to Flood combat forms, and he was impressed.

      "Excellency, approaching hanger bay. Get ready."

      "Thank you, Xnay."

      The Phantoms neared the docking bay on the outside of High Charity, extending their triple plasma cannons as they approached. The glided through the shimmering energy fields holding the atmosphere in and came to a hover several meters from the deck.

      "GO! GO! GO!" And with that the Elites jumped down the Grav Lifters and hit the deck. They almost immediately moved to cover all six doors into the bay. Izna moved to the center of the bay, turned, and gave the Phantoms orders to leave the bay and find a way into the main area of the city. He then turned to address his troops.

      "Warriors, today we shall do what the filthy Brutes could not. Today, we take back our Holy City! Today, we shall sweep through High Charity like a divine wind, and let no Flood stand in our path! Today, we shall regain the support of the Holy Ones, and prove that we Elites are the only true Guardians of the Hierarchs! The Flood has consumed our brethren by the thousands, but not today! Today the parasite shall taste naught but fear! Onward, warriors! And know that Paradise awaits, for today is a good day to die!" Izna concluded triumphantly, and returned were the roars of fifty Elite warriors.

      'Nanammee checked his Shotgunne, making sure it was fully loaded, before starting towards the hallways that led into the infestation.

      "Today is a good day to die indeed," he muttered to himself as he prepared to enter the labyrinth.

The Cleansing, Chapter 2: Bad Moon Rising

I see a bad moon a-rising,
I see trouble on the way.
I see earthquakes and lightnin',
I see bad times today.
Don't go 'round tonight,
It's bound to take your life.
There's a bad moon on the rise.

Bad Moon Rising, Creedence Clearwater Revival

      "Move out, let's get inside!" Izna shouted. The Elites attached anti matter charges to the non-functioning doorways that led from the hanger bay into High Charity's outer corridors. The main corridor all the doors fed into went completely around the city, with thousands of corridors branching off of them.

      There was a massive BOOM as the charges were blown. Not surprisingly, the doors held. They had been designed to take punishment. What they couldn't take, however, was a half-ton Hunter slamming against them. The juggernauts easily broke through the doors in their weakened state.

      The stench that greeted the boarding party was horrendous. All the Elites could easily smell the rotting biomass that lay all over the once pristine city. Also, the unmistakable odor associated with the Flood hit them like the Hunters had just hit the doors.

      "Onward, warriors. Let's find a way into the inner city." Izna barked.

      What the warriors found inside was the most gruesome site they had ever seen. Dead and mangled Covenant and Flood were everywhere, and the floor was slick with blood. The soldiers moved through the corridor cautiously, expecting an ambush at any time. Soon, they came upon a dead Honor Guard Brute, pinned to the wall by its own lance. The Flood arm that drove it there was still gripping tightly on.

      "By the Gods. This isn't a city, it's a tomb" One of the Elites commented. There was a dull murmur as many of the Elites said the same thing.

      "Quiet...what was that?" 'Nanammee said.

      "I'm getting a reading on the motion tracker, Excellency." Anon said. "Roughly 200 units down the hall and moving slowly."

      "Only one?"

      "Only one."

      "Spread out, standard formation. Third unit, move up. Lekgolo One, back them up."

      The squad of twelve Elites crept up slowly towards the signal, with a Hunter Pair backing them up. The Elites picked their way through the gore cautiously, expecting an ambush any second.

      "Your Excellency" Anon said quietly, "The signal has stopped..."

      "Are you sure?" Izna replied, leveling his shotgun.

      "Ye- new contacts! 150 units behind us and rapidly closing! By the Forerunners, look at them all!"

      "Dammit! Form up, standard defensive formation! MOVE! NOW!"

      The Elites rushed to take cover behind anything they could, from crates to bulkheads. Leaning around a crate, Izna pointed his Shotgunne straight down the corridors. Soon, he could hear the horrendous screaming of the parasite. He saw the shadows on the curve of the wall, tightened his grip on the gun, ready to squeeze the trigger...

      Then nothing. All that could be heard was the slow beeping of the motion tracker, and the heavy breathing of the Elites. There was dead silence for almost thirty seconds, during which no one moved a muscle.

      "By the Rings.... Excellency...what just happened?" An Elite finally said.

      "I'm not sure, Velo. I'm not sure..."

      "Commander, look at this!" Anon whispered urgently.

      Izna backed up to where Anon was crouching over a dead Elite, mangled almost beyond recognition by the Flood's tentacle whips. Anon reached down and grabbed a gore-smeared data log.

      "Look at this, Excellency. The last entry was dated just cycles ago. I'll be dammed, looks like quite a few soldiers managed to survive. Look at this, the first entry":

      '"The Prophets have abandoned us to our dooms. The parasite has virtually taken over High Charity. The Brutes are crazed, killing anything in site, even each other. Me and a group of about twenty surviving troops have fled to the outer corridors. It is the only safe place now. Many of the Elites are talking about a counter-offensive. Right now all I'm concerned with is surviving so we can make it to the next cycle." ~Reza 'Ulnammee'

      Izna set down his Shotgunne, accessing the next entry.

      '"The parasite knows we're here, and are out in full force. We have fended off almost a dozen attacks already. So far we've lost six of our number to them. Fortunately, we found another group of survivors, thirty strong. We're engaged in running fights with them now, stopping only to rest. The worst part is, I can't access High Charity's network. Something, an entity calling itself "Corrtana", is blocking my access. We have no data about what is going on beyond our small section of corridor. We're in the dark, running in circles around this dammed hallway. Going anywhere further in is suicidal, and I don't know about the integrity of the outer bays. We're stuck here for now. I can only pray to the Forerunners that help arrives. ~R"'

      And another one, only a few cycles later:

      '" The Flood are playing with us, following at a distance, yet coming out of nowhere when we stop moving. Ten more have fallen, and several are mortally wounded. We come across the remains of survivors constantly now. The floor is slick with blood, and the stench is horrible. Even worse, however, is what I've found out only recently. The entity in our networks finally stopped blocking access, and the news is grim. Ninety percent of High Charity is under complete Flood control. The only places that aren't completely controlled are the Drone's section, on the opposite side of the city from us, and the outer ring. Even worse, however, is the fact that a parasite entity is now spreading throughout the city. This massive, tentacled creature, something called "The Gravemind", has set its roots deep in the city. And I've seen the evidence. Wipe the blood off of the walls and you'll see areas of the bulkhead forced out, like huge veins. The floor, the ceiling, the walls. Everywhere we look the tentacles are running under the bulkheads. By the Gods, I hope we find a way out of here. ~R"'

      Izna read on, a growing sense of dread forming. What have I lead us into? Finally, he made it to the last entry.

      '"All is lost. The parasite has won. Only four remain now, myself included. I am mortally wounded, and this will most likely be my last entry. The screaming of both the parasite and my own troops are in my head constantly. I only wish for this nightmare to end. Even now, I sense the parasite drawing near. If you manage to find this, I ask that you inform my family of what has happened to me. Tell them I died in battle. That is my last conscious request before I enter Paradise. Now I must go, the parasite approaches. Farewell. ~Reza 'Ulnammee"'

      Izna sighed heavily, wiped the gore from the pad, and placed it securely inside his armor. He then knelt in honor of the Elite. He looked around, seeing that his warriors were growing edgy. "Warriors, let us move into the inner city, see if we can't learn the magnitude of what we're up against. Plant charges on the doors, we're going in."

      The Elites quickly complied, easily blowing the weakened doors apart. The warriors readied themselves, and then entered the dark hallways. Izna followed.

      Pausing for a second, Izna wiped the blood off of one section of the wall. Surely enough, veins as thick as his neck could be seen running throughout...