The End of a War

Forerunner Chronicles Part Three

A Final Gasp Before the End

An endless universe, expansive and void of light, lay host to the unending flight of a species that no longer gave thought to the meaning of home. Vagabonds and wanderers, this species existed for the sole intent of flight. They fled, from a life that pursued them and wished to do away with them. After so long, the species began to forget their lives from the past. Flight became normalcy; dormancy meant fear. A habitat of metal and space was their home now. Without the lush green lands that they once inhabited the species forgot many things, the smell of air that had not been recycled, the feel of a planet beneath their feet, the dusting of rain as the weather changed, the chill of a morning frost, the exaltation that filled them as the wind whipped through their fields.

Without a natural home, the species had no sense of belonging, and for this species in particular such a feeling was devastating. By losing what they once treasured, the species was forced to adapt and change the way they lived. Many struggled to change, and some latched onto the comforting words that those in positions of authority would pass down to them. Like an animal that tears morsels of flesh from a rotting corpse, they would take these words and devote themselves to the relief and satisfaction that could be garnered. For most there could be no acceptance of this change. They had done nothing wrong, yet they found themselves punished; for merely existing. Many grew angry, at their enemies, at their friends, at themselves. Anger could not last forever though, and for those that could not hold onto that feeling, they became bitter and reproachful of everything. Hatred for their lives, and those around them smoldered within, but it was not hate. Still there were those that could find no solace in anger or acceptance, and they devoted their time to thinking and pondering, wondering how their fate could have become what it now was. With no answers coming to them no matter how hard they pondered, these creatures settled into an existence no different than death. They slept, ate, and drank, but they did not live. Death was what had taken them, yet their bodies remained. A contradiction of existence.

What gave life purpose? This question these creatures did pose to themselves as they continued their endless flight. Thoughts of love, of duty, and of honour filled them. It was then that they did come to understand, that they possessed none of those attributes anymore.

In their sadness and their rage, they wondered how long ago it was that they were cast out from their world. How many years had passed since that night when their existence changed? Why did the memory of that night feel so vague?

They could find no answers, for no one wished to remember what had driven them from their homes. The night when the screams signalled the harbinger of the universe's death. When friend became enemy, and love became hunger and rage.

Who was to blame?

They asked themselves this, they asked but they could give no answer. The truth would destroy them.

For it was they, that were to blame.

--

Tch'enkyu (World of Mourning)

Inotu K'syk (Thirtieth year of the Lost History)

32:45 (Time adjusted for planetary path through solar system)

--

The orbital transport rumbled audibly as it touched down onto the planet's surface, the signal for the passengers that it was safe to stand. The Majal aboard quickly removed the harnesses in place and headed aft for the exit, buzzing with a life that hadn't been seen amongst their people in some time. An oddity it may have seemed, that the arrival upon a planet whose sole purpose was to allow the Majal a time to show their grief, now became a symbol of hope. The ancient monuments, the prayer offerings, and other staples of the planet's long history would now be something that they could latch onto, and observe as a testament to the perseverance of their old way of life.

Fasul was the last Majal to exit the orbital craft, his movements far less hurried than the others. His gaze canvased the surroundings, noting the longstanding temple doors as if reassuring himself that the world was indeed the one he had visited before.

He fell into step behind a family of Majal, who were busy speaking amongst themselves, eager to offer prayers for their loved ones that had passed on. Thousands of Majal were descending on the planet now, eager to revisit a part of their old lives.

For Fasul, there was little emotional attachment given to the planet and the deep societal ties it presented. Sadness and grief were not emotions one could pull up upon a moments notice, and keep hidden away at any time; such a convenient thing did not exist. He had grieved for the better part of three decades, mourning the loss of his mate, his kin, and all who he once called friends. Time could not bridge the chasm within his soul however, and the wounds inflicted upon him stayed open, festering within him as each day passed. There was no grief remaining within him, he was an empty body, a ghost of living flesh that had yet to pass on to the other side.

Tch'enkyu was a planet of lush order. Heavy foliage decorated its many sites, and the facilities built by the Majal ancestors were as wondrous today as they were millennia ago. Comprised of mostly land, the planet was devoid of any wildlife, a byproduct of the minuscule percentage of fresh water deposits. This was inconsequential to the Majal, as they had chosen to ignore the vast majority of the planet, and built their constructs near the northern hemisphere. The development site correlated with the lone source of water that supplied the many canals and waterworks that bled life into the flora of the planet. The weather was incremental, as before the Majal had arrived, the patterns of rain had flooded and destroyed much of the land. Using technology, they assisted the planet in creating an isopiestic system of natural weather. Over several centuries, the planet became stable, and inhabitable enough so that the Majal chose to make the world a stable pillar in their civilization.

Grief, mourning, sadness, regret. They were emotions that the Majal chose to ignore, believing that the only path to proliferation could come through shaking free of the susceptible feelings that lower species could be consumed by. This belief, though deep-rooted within Majal culture, could not be strictly adhered to as pain and suffering could never be avoided. Tragedies occurred, and the need for harmed individuals to vent their pain was prevalent. The Majal were no exception. Thus, Tch'enkyu was born, along with the once a year (going by the typical yearly calendar for the Majal, one year would encompass thirty-seven months) visit to the planet. It became a tradition, over time becoming one of the staples of Majal culture. Millions would traverse to the planet, and for one day they would give in to their emotions.

For all of his adherence to the Majal culture, and the principles set by his ancestors, Fasul felt the need to hide their emotions to be foolish. Though, that way of life was over now. Why should one dwell on the past?

Why dwell on the past?

Monotonous, mechanical, and measured steps carried him through the overarching doorway that signalled as the entrance to the proving grounds. Inside, the inner gardens would lay awaiting, immeasurably beautiful works of nature that decorated the path leading toward the temple residing in the centre.

The mass of Majal moved forward as one entity, each person's goal the same as the next. Though some were enthused, while others were solemn, and others still outspoken yet nervous, they did not yield all the same. Trapped towards the end of this massive swarm of creatures, was Fasul, his head not hung low like some, nor held high like the others. He was staring straight forward, but not determined; he'd seen this planet before, and he knew the pain that it held.

Long ago, in what felt like another lifetime, he had come with Thisbe, his mate, and grieved for his dearly departed son. The superfluous intent of their visit did not grant either grieving Majal respite from their pain, it had merely deepened that grief. To so hotly expose one's emotions, and then gather them up within their chest; it was an exercise in futility. Grieving for too long could be damaging to any creature, but to grieve for so short a time, it would destroy even the strongest of any species. Unfortunately, finding that spot in between could prove to be quite difficult for many, and as Fasul shut out the surrounding world, he could not claim to have ever released his grief.

Floundering for years, season upon season passing by unnoticed, he willingly wasted away his spared life. Blaming those that were no longer among the living for his pain, he left reason behind. The ghosts of his past followed him with every step, clinging to him and pulling his body to the ground, refusing to allow him to move on.

The inner gardens passed, their beauty lingering behind the Majal as they moved, their presence not determining when the flora would expose themselves to the world. For those unfamiliar with the planet, the sudden shift from natural beauty to artificial architecture could be alarming. Sturdy, imposing walls surrounded the centre of the proving grounds, a large gate providing the only entrance to the inner sanctum. As they neared, the mass of Majal found themselves squeezed into a funnel, as the people attempted to enter through the gates.

From his position near the end of the mass entity, Fasul regarded the gates with a sense of hostility. For the Majal, this ancient building was the last refuge of hope. A people that have been cast into the endless space of the universe, forced into a permanent nomadic state, and living with the continuous fear of being endlessly hunted by a species they could not fight, and could barely contain. That this building could still stand, when every other creation of their people had been destroyed, it was enough.

Such optimism served only to anger Fasul, whose understanding of the Majal's state in the universe was far from idealistic. What good could hope do for a doomed people? It would only make the end come that much harder for all.

His reservations aside, Fasul stepped through the gateway nonetheless and found himself before the temple. It was deceiving, its architecture that is, as despite being a temple there was no roof. An open air mausoleum, which seemed a contradiction of sorts. The interior of the temple was constructed with alarming simplicity. Stone walkways were littered about the grassy floor, all leading towards the lone structure inside the temple; which Fasul saw as he entered, was also where all the other Majal were now surrounding. Measuring nearly identical to the Palintheum, the temple (which had never received a name in thousands of years of existence) could house hundreds of thousands of Majal. As it was, the mass that Fasul had been sequestered with were stuck just outside the doors of the temple. The original constructors of the temple may have anticipated such a moment, as the temple was built with alternate exits, located on the east and west sides of the inner temple. After a few minutes, the Majal that surrounded the marker near the far end of the temple, would break off and head for the exits. Even from such a distance, Fasul could hear many in the throes of emotion. Some wept, while others laughed, and still more became enraged, speaking angrily about the state of affairs that brought about this day.

Hours passed, and soon Fasul found himself in front of the structure standing a few feet away from it, much in the same manner as he once had, many years ago. He did not feel grief however, instead he was unmoved. The structure was merely a slab of metal, or perhaps a type of stone, cut into the shape of a symbol, one he did not recognize from any of the writing's that littered the Majal past. The surface was smoothed, and cast reflections back at all those that gazed upon it. In the waning light, Fasul could still make out the words that were etched into it's surface. Words carved by their ancestors, eons ago, when the Majal had little worries. Many called the structure a poem to those that had passed on, while others felt it to be the consoling words meant for those that still lived. There had never been a clear answer, as people would see what they wished to see.

As his eyes roamed over the words, Fasul saw the reflection of himself, and attempted to recall what it had been like when he first read the words:

Ying'kh Ilsun Pakinh (Life is not eternal)

Bak Sunc Mi Ilsun D´meon (Those born are not promised)

Kiln Suo Magin G'in 'Ben (A life that will be long)

Lom Bi Fedm's Mo'chi (Nor an existence)

Kahn Rin Med (Filled with laughter)

Poshi Ilsun Pakinh (Pain is not eternal)

Fet'sun Gol'din Mahgeo Poshi (To give in to pain)

Pak'gin Suhl Bu'o Nehi Goh (Is to give in to fear)

Nehl Endo Link Lo Bei (Let strength guide you)

Maib Suge Vendi Mennai (When our hands cannot)

Cahri Bei Luo Gen'fen (Carry you any further)

Ying'kh Ilsun Pakinh (Life is not eternal)

Poshi Ilsun Pakinh (Pain is not eternal)

Me'lo Sen Gaml De Soh (May your tears fall here)

Bie Mabi Funi Cahri Foh (So they may carry on)

Yon Vo Kahrim Ying'kh (To the next life)

Many who read these words, were reduced to tears, as if they held the power to remove all the grief from a creature in an instant. There were those who read them and found happiness, believing their grief to be nothing more than an illusion; that had now been lifted from their shoulders.

To Fasul, they were words, and nothing more. He read them and felt nothing more than he would have felt reading a warning label near a dangerous section of the ship that was now his home.

It had been a waste of time to come, an inconvenience and nothing more. The desire to return to the city filled him, and Fasul turned to leave, but found his way blocked by the family he had been trailing behind for much of the journey to the temple. It still pained him to see a family, whole and together, somehow surviving through all of the terror. Two mates, a child, and an elder, all together. Fasul waited impatiently for the family to finish their gawking so that they might move and allow him passage.

As if the universe was mocking him, the elder Majal suddenly began to weep, breaking down as if he was constructed of paper. The elder caught himself upon the ground, kneeling before the structure whilst still staring at the requiem for the dead. His family knelt down to aid him, the child asking what had caused him to give out such an emotional outburst. A few concerned moments passed before the elder stood once more, smiling as if embarrassed but not shamed by his tears. He turned and smiled at Fasul apologetically, before patting the small child upon the head.

"I'm sorry if I frightened you," the elder spoke, his voice much stronger than his frail form seemed to suggest, "But I was moved by this monument."

Another one, Fasul thought bitterly. Another fool buying into such empty promises. 'Pain is not eternal'? Pain ends when life ends, to move on from pain is to die. Only our ancestors could be so cold as to think such words might soothe a creature's soul.

"Its a nice poem," the older Majal said, the child's father most likely.

"Not the words you can see," the elder said, shaking his head and smiling before turning back to the monument, "I speak of what you cannot see."

"What do you mean?" the child asked, confused.

"Come closer, I shall whisper it into your ear," the elder said, lowering his head and speaking into the child's ear. The two mates looked at one another in confusion, before the elder pulled back and the child made an exclamation of surprise.

"I didn't see that written! Where is it? I can't see it!" the child shouted excitedly, gazing up at the words he could barely make out.

"A long time ago, when the sole Majal was charged with etching into this stone a discourse that every Majal from then until the end of our people would read and seek comfort from, he inserted his own words, but he did so in a way that only those who looked for them could find them. Words that truly do give joy to those that find them."

"How do you know about it?" the child asked.

"When you are my age, dear child, you will know that there are many things you'll have heard rumoured or whispered throughout your life, and at one moment you may be given the opportunity to discern whether those words were lies or not. Today we have both learnt that some truths still exist."

The elder straightened up, looking away from the monument and then seemingly locking eyes with Fasul.

"There is truth at the beginning, but only if you look for it," the wizened Majal smiled, "I may be old, but my eyes still work, and so shall yours. Look closely."

He then turned away, and stepped off towards the exit, his family in tow, the two mates apologizing quickly to Fasul for their family's rudeness and then leaving. Fasul felt the desire to follow them, but...

The monument was before him again, his body silent and his eyes searching, roaming over the words again and again. What secret lay within them? What possible message could be conveyed that would touch the heart of an elder so quickly?

Only a fool would follow the words of a senile creature, Fasul admonished himself. There could be no words that might give anyone happiness.

Still, his feet remained unmoving, and his eyes continued roving.

A fool, I am.

Thousands flowed by, staring at the monument, taking away what satisfaction they could gleam from the cold, unmoving stone slab. Fasul stood rooted to the spot, hours passing, as light began to leave the temple, and the number of Majal still passing through began to lessen. Many began to observe Fasul with the same looks that they gave the stone slab.

His stoic and silent appearance belayed the hurried pace within his mind as he stirred over the requiem, over and over again. He was intelligent, but with nothing but the mumbled words from the elder, he had no real starting point. Frustration grew within him, and doubt formed as to whether the elder Majal had truly been speaking the truth, and was not simply playing a trick. As he continued his fruitless search, another Majal drew closer to him, far closer than most of the other visitors had dared. Fasul turned to his head in annoyance, and found Gan Ful next to him.

"I thought I had seen you before," the younger Majal spoke with a smile, "I'm pleased to see you took the opportunity to leave the city. Its good to breathe air that is pure, and to feel the natural heat of the universe once again. I'd forgotten what it felt like."

Gan Ful turned to the stone slab and laughed while clapping a hand on Fasul's shoulder.

"Every time I have seen this thing I wonder what was going through the mind of the one who etched those words into the stone. Could they have known that millions would see them, and attempt to draw support from them? Bah, of course the answer is no. Would one be so daring as to insert such an amusing game into the words, were it to become so important?" Gan Ful mused happily to himself.

"Game?" Fasul asked, his jaw tightening.

"The 'Engraver's Secret' is what most of the older generation referred to it. A simple word game, an anagram and nothing more, but it is unknown to many," Gan Ful laughed, "Of course, who would think to look within the words that guide an entire civilization?"

A starting point was suddenly supplied to him, and Fasul was immediately thankful for the first time that Gan Ful had decided to annoy him. The elder had said that the beginning was key, and the hidden phrase was built from the letters of certain words according to Gan Ful. A simple enough deduction was to conclude that the words from the start of each stanza would be the ones that built the new phrase.

A difficult deduction then, to rearrange the letters of all sixteen words into something coherent, with nothing but his mind to work with. Fasul was clever though, and anagrammatic phrases had been a game he'd often play with his children, a way of amusing himself.

Slowly, the phrase was built:

Bikh Yulfm Nest'e Kaib Koln Sohn Hag Kinb Pal Poshin Gin Iloh Ma'kh Gach Riyk Pemi

Once organized into the same format as the rest of the requiem, and connected with the final section, it concluded the work:

Me'lo Sen Gaml De Soh (May your tears fall here)

Bie Mabi Funi Cahri Foh (So they may carry on)

Yon Vo Kahrim Ying'kh (To the next life)

Bikh Yulfm Nest'e Kaib (And reach those who)

Koln Sohn Hag Kinb Pal (Are no longer with us)

Poshin Gin Iloh Ma'kh (Pain is not forever)

Gach Riyk Pemi (But hope is)

"Can hope last forever?" Fasul spoke aloud, to himself.

"What's that?" Gan Ful asked, surprised to hear Fasul speak after such a long silence.

"This is no requiem for the dead," Fasul said painfully, "It is a soliloquy about the living."

Fasul's sudden understanding was muffled, as a heavy, blaring alarm echoed throughout the temple, and across the entire planet of Tch'enkyu. The lingering Majal released a series of surprised shouts, and worried screams.

"Damn!" Gan Ful cursed angrily, "Those blood-thirsty bastards managed to track us!"

"Even here..." Fasul trailed off mournfully, staring at the reddening sky, "They would even desecrate our symbol of peace?"

"Come Fasul! To the transport carriers, we'll get off this planet and allow our warriors to deal with these locusts!" Gan Ful urged, extending his arm to Fasul. Fasul ignored him and instead kept his gaze at the world above the temple. Already one could see the hundreds of ships in the distance, floating thousands of miles away from the planet. How many of their former brothers were aboard those ships?

"We don't have time for this!" Gan Ful shouted angrily. He was frightened, Fasul could tell. For all of his earlier bravado, the thought of facing the Flood, and the Half-Breeds were enough to chill even Gan Ful's delusional mindset.

"We have time for nothing but death," Fasul smiled, calmly, "Our time is up. We've been forgotten in this universe, and now we shall await death. I shall choose how I pass, and I believe that giving my life for this planet...this temple...this monument...this hope, is how I will give up my life."

"Then nothing but a horrific death awaits you."

"So be it," Fasul spoke, "You may leave now Gan Ful. I will not think less of you because of it; in fact I am indebted to you. Without your urgings, I would have never come to this planet."

"Do not place your death on my shoulders," Gan Ful said angrily. His head twisted to the sky, as if checking to see whether the ships dotting the waning light had come any closer.

"If sanity should return, I will delay the transport for as long as I can."

His final comment uttered, Gan Ful turned to flee, exiting the temple along with the last few remaining Majal. The others paid no mind to Fasul as they left. In but a few moments, he was alone within the temple, and after several minutes, he was alone on the planet.

They will likely send in the Flood first, as it has been almost a year since we last met the Half-Breeds, and they will be hungry for the taste of Majal flesh. How long will I be able to hold out? Until nightfall? I would quite dearly wish to see what this world looks like when enclosed in darkness.

The ships in the sky were closer now.

Stepping softly, Fasul wondered briefly whether he would be possessed by the Flood. He'd heard tales whispered throughout the floating city, about the Half-Breeds devouring Majal whilst they still lived, using the Flood to incapacitate them.

Endless echoes accompanied him as he traced a random pattern around the temple floor. He was calm; a fact that seemed absurd. Death awaited him, there could be no uncertainty. The Majal would not send a rescue team, they would not know of his disappearance, no matter how hard Gan Ful may scream it. The Majal would not care, for they knew what Fasul now knew. They were already dead; they existed on borrowed time, trading the lives of countless civilizations, and species on many of the planets within the universe, allowing them to be invaded by the Half-Breeds, in order to buy the Majal time.

What a difference time can make! I once stood in this temple and did not shed a tear over my child, questioning the rhetoric behind my visit. Now I am prepared to give my life for it. An oddity, but perhaps fitting in the end.

A thunderous crash made the temple shudder noticeably.

That would be the Flood capsules. Thousands of infectious forms are spilling out as I walk, and they are all heading for this temple. How foolish of them, to waste such an effort on one individual. I'm flattered.

His body felt light, and his hands trembled slightly. Fear crept into his body, causing him to waver and cast a glance at the entrance to the temple. Searching perhaps, for something to save him. He shook himself free of those false hopes quickly, and turned to look at the monument, the engraved stone that seemed to glow red as the last remnants of light gave the sky a fiery appearance.

More crashes sounded off, this time nearer to the temple. The tremors caused Fasul to lose his footing. As he sat upon the hardened ground, he lost control of his willpower. How many Flood now walked upon the planet, intending to descend upon him? Would he see them coming? Which entrance would they use? Would the Half-Breed walk with them, knowing the planet to be devoid of weapons per their ancestors desire? If they did, would the Half-Breed be a Majal that Fasul once knew?

Vile temptress! The desire to run fills me! But I cannot, what point would that serve? I would suffer an infidel's death! To be hunted down by the Flood, and consumed by the Half-Breed's, while I struggled like an animal fearing death. To give myself to death now, I will no longer be haunted by this universe. Eternal peace, after a moment's agony.

The wind carried with it, the sound of screams. Fasul had heard them once before, during a night long ago. His breath hitched, and he felt ill, memories of Thisbe, and his beloved daughter came to him at once. Had it really been over thirty years since that night?

Suicide then? Is that what I am reduced to? My noble words of giving my life for this temple, they are but a ruse. A cover to conceal that which I know too well. I am tired of living. My life should have ended alongside what was left of my family, but instead, I lived, and for thirty years I have been tormented by my memories. Is this not what I have wished for?

A footstep, the sound was unmistakable. It came from behind Fasul, but trapped within his own fear he could not turn to face the terror that had entered the sacred temple. There was a pause, and more footsteps followed.

The afterlife may spurn me, but I cannot give my life up so quickly! I do not want death! Allow the heavens to laugh at me if they wish; though first send me aid! Anything! Anyone!

The sounds stopped, and an agonizing silence came, just as the light in the sky faded, and the temple was bathed in darkness.

"Well, I certainly didn't expect this."

"You'd think they might have mentioned someone decided to stick around."

"It's the way things always work for us, get sent into certain death, with as little info as possible along with the expectation of glorious success."

The voices did not sound like they belonged to the Half-Breed. Summoning his dwindling courage, Fasul turned his head, and was taken aback by what stood behind him. Seven creatures, covered in some form of armour. They wore helmets that covered their faces, but Fasul could see that they were looking at him.

"Why is he sitting down like that?" one of the armoured creatures asked, "Doesn't he know the Half-Breeds are seconds away from wiping this planet off the face of the universe?"

"Maybe he's injured? Everyone got out of here pretty fast when the alarms went off. I could see someone getting trampled during that chaos."

"What should we do? Those freaks decided to spare the planet a Flood infestation, but they sure as hell sent down a few of their fighters."

"It'll be another twenty minutes before the roaming city is able to jump out of here, we can't go back just because someone was left behind."

"You're so cold-hearted Alanna."

Their words...they spoke the language of the Majal. But they were not Majal.

"What are you?" Fasul asked, disrupting the creatures bantering.

"He can talk," one of the creatures commented, amusement tinting his voice.

"We aren't Half-Breeds, if that makes you feel any better," another spoke, this time with a feminine tone.

"Nor are we fools who stand around talking while our enemy nears our position," an unseen voice spoke, gruffly.

"Our dear leader finally decides to join us," the armoured creature nearest to the entrance spoke, turning and looking out into the darkness. A silhouette emerged, another armoured creature, though the one newly arrived carried with him a tool of some sorts. Fasul did not recognize it.

"Take the Crystal and square it away, we will need it as a backup in case the Half-Breed's do not fall for our bait," the one the others identified as their leader said, handing the tool to one of the other creatures. The leader turned then, and locked eyes with Fasul.

"Why are you here? The rest of your kind has fled, yet you remain?"

"What are you?" Fasul asked once more, "Why do you know of the Majal and the Half-Breed?"

A short bitter laugh emerged from the leader.

"We are your sacrificial lambs! Sent to the slaughter so that your people may survive a little while longer. We are called Reclaimers, and we are all that stands between your people, and the Half-Breed."

A scream erupted from nearby, blood-curdling in length.

"It would appear the time for talk is over," the leader spoke, "Alanna, you and Yuan head for the coordinates in the northern sector. Wander and Lilium, you'll hunker down near the ship in case the Half-Breed decide to try and strand us here. Gein, Usul, and Pendrick, I want you to send the Half-Breed's running toward Alanna and Yuan's positions so we can make sure they won't get off the planet in time. I'll plant the 'Cleanser' in this temple. Keep your eyes on the indicator, when I'm ready, you'll know."

The speech given, the seven others departed, moving at an incredible speed. In an instant Fasul was alone with the leader of the Reclaimers.

"You chose a lucky moment to stay behind," the leader remarked, stepping past Fasul and heading for the monument, "The Half-Breed are starved, and logic is fleeting when they are in this state. They'll give chase to us, but they won't use their ships to burn the planet. They want our flesh to be fresh, I'm sure it tastes much better that way."

"You intend to fight them?" Fasul asked, astonished that any creature could be so foolish.

"Don't be ridiculous!" the Reclaimer scoffed, "The Half-Breeds would tear us apart in moments. We have neither the strength nor the technology that would allow us to adequately fight the Half-Breed on even terms."

"Then you sent the others to their deaths knowingly?"

"We have no interest in fighting fair," the Reclaimer explained, "Idiotic notions of honour and sacrifice have no place within our strategy. Delaying the Half-Breed long enough so your people can retreat is our only goal here tonight. Your superiors have no desire to see us waste our lives. We are a cannon fodder that is best saved until the perfect moment."

"You speak of my people as if you know them well," Fasul pointed out.

"Indeed I do! I was only a child when I and many others like me were abducted. We were raised to be your warriors, and what you see is the result. I know you and your kind very well."

"I have not heard whisper of your existence in all my years," Fasul said. The Reclaimer laughed.

"How well would it sit with you, were you to discover that an inferior species was being cultivated in order to fight the enemy that pursues you through this universe? Desperate times call for unethical methods. Morals and conscience have no place within a war. The innocent have no need to know. That is why you haven't heard of us before."

Screams once again tore through the night, followed by muffled explosions. Fasul cast a weary glance into the darkness, while the Reclaimer clicked his tongue and pulled something free from his waist. It was a cylindrical device, which was then placed upon the base of the monument.

"It would appear the Half-Breed have found Gein and the others," the Reclaimer commented casually as he straightened, "Which means we won't be able to stay here much longer."

"What did you place upon that monument?" Fasul asked sharply.

"A Niobe."

"What is that?"
"A device that will emit an electromagnetic pulse. Its range is large, and it will send the Half-Breed's fleet into disarray for several hours while we make our escape. It will also trap all that remain on this planet, so that when the other device is detonated, they'll be destroyed along with the planet."

"I will not allow that!" Fasul shouted, "This planet cannot be destroyed!"

"Oh? Why is that?" the Reclaimer asked, turning to look at Fasul once more.

"This planet carries the hope of my people, and the memories of our ancestors. I would rather it fall into the hands of the Half-Breed than to see it destroyed recklessly like that."

"Hope? What possible hope could this planet hold for you?"

"I cannot explain it."

The Reclaimer regarded Fasul with a cool stare, before shrugging helplessly and moving towards the fallen Majal.

"Regardless of how you feel, this planet will be destroyed one way or another. Either the Half-Breed shall claim it, and ravage it with the Flood, or we shall destroy it and kill many of the insipid creatures. Did you think your sacrifice would change those facts?"

"I possess no illusions about the fate that awaited me, but knowing that my people have created warriors sufficient for fighting the Half-Breed, I cannot imagine that they would willingly destroy a planet that has meant so much to our people. To make a stand here, rather then continue our endless fleeing, it would at least grant us our right into the afterlife."

"How typical," the Reclaimer said angrily, "Your kind are all alike. So eager to throw away your lives for pitiful things like honour and glory, yet you recoil when the deed is ready to be done. Instead, other civilizations, entire planets with histories spanning millennia, are sacrificed in order for you to survive. Is hypocrisy a requirement when being birthed into your species?"

Fasul blustered, unable to form a retort, he settled for simply climbing to his feet. The Reclaimer watched him for a moment before returning to where he had placed the device earlier.

"Is this slab of metal and stone really worth your life?" the Reclaimer asked, indicating the inscribed message that had moved Fasul previously.

"It is."

Without prompting, the Reclaimer shook his head momentarily, before raising his armoured fist, and crashing it into the stone slab. Fasul was too shocked at the creature's actions to consider the strength that was needed to destroy the monument. Again, the Reclaimer's fist rose, and once more was driven into the only remaining hope the Majal possessed.

"Stop!" Fasul shouted, charging at the Reclaimer. As he neared the Reclaimer struck Fasul across the face with his arm, the blow coming far stronger than Fasul could have ever anticipated.

"Stay on the ground," the Reclaimer ordered, "One such as yourself that wishes for death, has no right to stand while we fight to preserve your life. Your monument is now destroyed, do you still wish for death?"

Fasul could barely hear the Reclaimer, as his ears were ringing audibly from the blow he'd received. His vision began to fade, the last lingering sight to register with him before he fell, would be the monument, smashed upon the ground.

A short time later, Fasul returned to consciousness. He was no longer within the confines of the temple. Muffled voices surrounded him.

"Cyriacus, I had no idea you were so kind. Carrying that Majal all the way back to the ship."

"I would have left him to rot, he jeopardized our mission with his theatrics. Better to let him die than to bring back anything useless."

The staggering weight of his head confused Fasul, until he recalled the strike from the Reclaimer. With a groan he forced his eyes open. A silver bulkhead filled his blurred vision.

"Don't speak so harshly," a nearby voice spoke, "That Majal possessed the courage to fight the Half-Breed by himself. Suicidal though he may be, such strength should not be wasted."

"Always with the dramatics, dear leader," another voice scoffed.

"Our mission was accomplished, and we survived, everything else is inconsequential. I saved this creatures life on my own volition, there is no need for debate. We will link up with the fleeing city in a short while. Relax while you can, the effects of the battle will be taking their toll soon enough."

The voices faded, and Fasul thought himself to be alone until a faded face filled his vision.

"You're awake," the creature said, and Fasul recognized the voice as the Reclaimer that had struck him back in the temple.

"I had not intended to knock you unconscious," the Reclaimer said with some humility, "Its quite troublesome wearing these suits in battle, I often forget how much force I can exert. You have my apologies."

"Has Tch'enkyu fallen to the Half-Breed?" Fasul asked, groaning internally as his head throbbed. Even speaking carried a significant amount of pain.

"It has fallen to no one. It no longer exists," the Reclaimer responded bluntly, "We detonated an explosive that rendered the world inhabitable, and the Half-Breed destroyed it in a blind rage as we fled."

Fasul's eyes slid shut in remorse, his chest aching with grief over the planet's destruction. So much history, destroyed in passing, as if it signified nothing.

"You have an odd attachment to that planet," the Reclaimer commented, "May I inquire as to what that attachment is the result of?"

"You would not understand," Fasul retorted, breathing deeply as he reopened his eyes. The Reclaimer stared down at him with bemusement.

"That I would not understand why someone would be willing to throw their life away for an inanimate object...yes I would most certainly not understand that."

"The planet was the symbol of hope for my people, for myself. We've been reduced to unending flight from a menace that we created, forgoing all of our history and tradition so that we might survive for a short while longer. It was the last remaining ties to our old way of life, of course I would grieve for it's passing."

"That planet was nothing more than its name implies. A planet. Why would you form an emotional bond with something that could not return your feelings, and could never acknowledge what you have given it? It was a memory, nothing more. Hope does not come in the form of a planet."

"Then where shall we go for our hope? You? A warrior that prefers to flee rather than fight?" Fasul asked scathingly. The Reclaimer further aggravated Fasul when he let out a deep laugh at his question.

"Why must you turn to anything else for hope? Are you not alive? Do you not draw breath as we speak? Is that not enough hope for you?" the Reclaimer pursued, "You live! What better hope is that? There are billions of creatures in this universe that have met a fate worse than yours, yet you turn to something as ridiculous as a planet for your inspiration!? What kind of foolhardy creature are you?"

"How could someone gain hope from living like this? Nomads within a universe we once oversaw for millennia."

"Ignorant fool!" the Reclaimer shouted, and his face became reddened, "Did you forget already that you yourselves created this predicament? Why should the universe provide you with anything when you betrayed it and all the creatures it has spawned? Do you sit within your metal city, watching as civilization after civilization, planet after planet are sacrificed to the Half-Breed so that you may live, and offer nothing but your bitter little thoughts upon your own fate!? Are all of your people like this? My warriors fight and die so that your kind live! Draw your hope from that if you must. There are still others that are willing to die so that you may live!"

With his piece said, the Reclaimer stormed off, his face disappearing from Fasul vision, and eventually the sound of his footsteps followed suit.

Silence deafened the room, and Fasul struggled to lift his body. The movement caused his sight to blur once more, and sickness overwhelmed him suddenly. With a groan he fell back, and in a moment consciousness left him once again.

The sound of screaming woke him. Horrible, soul-wrenching screams. They echoed through the ship, eternally worse than the screams of the Half-Breed.

Fear flooded his veins, and Fasul forced himself out of the bunk-head. The sense of sickness filled him as his head moved, but it was far weaker than before. He struggled to hold back his bile, and clung to the walls as he headed for the door to the small quarters he'd been situated in. Outside the door two directions awaited him. His head was pounding, but he could tell the screams were coming from the further end of the hallway, and he directed himself towards them.

The hallway bled into a much larger room, which also had a gravity lift that was activated. The sound of hurried voices were now mixed within the screams, and Fasul felt the cold sickness wash over him again. Stepping into the lift, he experienced the sensation of weightlessness for a few seconds before artificial ground made contact with his feet. The scene awaiting him drew a gasp from the Elder Majal.

The Reclaimers from before were lying upon the deck that the ship they'd travelled in was now settled upon. They'd been stripped of their armoured suits, and were now thrashing wildly, as if they were gripped by some unseen force. Seeing the creatures in the flesh allowed Fasul to observe what they actually looked like. A soft pigment coloured their skin, which appeared to be quite soft. They possessed the same distinguishing sexual organs that the Majal and most other species did, the females adorned with breasts as well. They were not altogether unlike the Majal themselves, at least in regards to genetic makeup.

Surrounding the Reclaimers were several other Majal, each attempting to administer some form of aid to the screaming victims.

"Administer the anaesthetics but for God's sake don't go over the dosage amount!" an authoritative voice shouted off to the side. A wizened Majal stood, arms crossed, watching the horrifying, frenzied scene with not a hint of emotion on his face. As if feeling Fasul's eyes upon him, the Majal looked over and motioned for him to approach.

"Those damn Reclaimers always make a mess of everything," the wizened Majal remarked as Fasul neared, "I didn't expect them to bring back any stragglers."

"What's wrong with them?" Fasul asked. The other Majal had managed to do something that calmed the Reclaimers down, though their bodies still involuntarily twitched violently every few seconds.

"None of your business."

"Considering I was rescued by those creatures, and I now find them to be in catatonic states, I find myself disagreeing with you there," Fasul spoke, his voice like gravel, "Now, what is wrong with them?"

"Figures they'd bring back one of the few of you that still had a backbone," the elder remarked wryly. His mannerisms surprised Fasul. It was Majal custom to speak politely and in a more established prose, but the elder was gruff and crude. He acted as if just by existing Fasul was an annoyance to him.

"I don't know how much you managed to see on Tch'enkyu before fleeing, but do those creatures look like they would be able to go toe-to-toe with a Half-Breed and live to talk about it?" the elder snarled, waving a hand in the general direction of the naked Reclaimers.

As uncultured as he was, the elder did have a point. The Reclaimers appeared weak as they were now, their bodies toned, yet fragile. A Half-Breed could likely tear them apart without a second thought.

"Those suits they were wearing are like a second body. Speed, strength, reflexes, even intelligence; they're all affected by the combat suit. With the suits, they can fight the Half-Breed and survive long enough to kill a few of them, and in this instance with the use of a little strategy, they killed a whole lot of them."

"Incredible," Fasul breathed, "Why haven't we employed them in greater number? We could actually battle the Half-Breed..."

"Such an incredible idea! Surely us poor old fools that sit upon the council that governs our course through this universe, could use such brilliance. Did you already forget what was waiting for you once you decided to come down that lift?" the elder asked sarcastically, "The amount of stress those suits place on the bodies of these Reclaimers is tremendous. The longer they're in them, and the more they fight, the greater the strain. There was a hell of a lot more than eight of these creatures when we first started. Over two-thirds of the subjects break down after being in the suits for longer than a few minutes. These eight are the only ones that have survived. As powerful as they are, against the Half-Breeds' numbers they represent nothing more than a slight resistance. An annoyance at best."

Fasul begrudgingly admitted the Elder had a point. Though it was impossible to know the actual number of Half-Breeds that walked within the universe, their number was far greater than the number of Majal that still lived.

Thirty years of fleeing, and occasional fighting had depleted the Majal, spiritually and physically. There was no talk of eventual victory within the halls of their city, only the look of a race that had given up hope. Submitted to a fate that they could not avoid.

"Why did we turn to this species for protection?" Fasul asked. "Could we have not used our own forces?"

"The Reclaimers possess the ability to evolve further, into something greater than they are now," the wizened Majal spoke, "Our time is nearly up in this universe. No matter what we may do, to strive against the Half-Breed will inevitably prove too costly for the remaining life that persists. So long as we exist, so shall the Half-Breed."
"What do you mean? 'Our time is nearly up'? You make it sound as if..."

Fasul trailed off, as the elder had turned a heated gaze upon him. The smoldering intensity told Fasul that he was pursuing a topic that would be best left alone.

The Reclaimers had been placed upon transportable medical tables, and were being carted off from the docking station. Fasul watched them leave, his mind filled with countless questions about the Reclaimers, the Half-Breed, the war, and the meaning of the elder's words.

"You'll be assigned new quarters," the Elder spoke, "There will be containment protocals enacted, and you will have restrictions placed on where you move throughout this floating city. Anyone that you were in contact with before this day, will be informed that you did not return from Tch'enkyu."

"So I'm now a prisoner?" Fasul asked.

"We are all prisoners. What is one more freedom taken away at this point?" the Elder asked sardonically.

"What will happen to the Reclaimers? Can they possibly be healed?"

"They won't die just yet. Their bodies may appear weak, but their spirit can surpass the limitations of flesh."

The elder left him then, and Fasul was alone. The thought of being a prisoner within the only city left to the Majal did not concern him. He had been a ghost upon the ship for over thirty years, and no one would miss his presence, or notice that he no longer existed. Gan Ful may enquire to his fate, but with a short explanation from those above him, he would accept Fasul's death without another word.

It was the Reclaimers that clouded Fasul's thoughts. They were an intelligent species, capable of learning and understanding the speech of the Majal, and also capable of incredible feats of strength. Adaptive and bipedal, they were a species worth cultivating, and monitoring. Why then, would the Majal willingly use them as fodder for the war against the Half-Breed? Such a course of action went against every grain of foundation that the Majal culture was built upon.

Has desperation given birth to this way of thought?

Worry gnawed at Fasul, his body tense yet unmoving.

Yet he did not give thought nor voice to his earlier desire for death.

--

Who is it that makes the distinction between good and evil? What manner of creature has the judgement to decide when intent changes from innocence and slides into immorality?

There is no one entity that can decide, and there has never existed a situation of true evil, or true goodness. Motives and desire influence everything. It is the majority that decides, but what happens when the majority is kept in the dark? When the decisions for an entire populace are made by a select few? Well-intentions become twisted. Hope changes to hate. The desire for survival clouds a mind from thought. Sacrifice for a greater good becomes commonplace. Since when is sacrifice accepted?

Hubris had overtaken them. They believed themselves to control the universe, and to be the overseers of all life. Arrogance and lust birthed their unfortunate fate. Such that they could not see now that they were the architects of their own destruction.

The exalted status of their previous lives made their new existence that much harder to bear. These creatures that controlled the fate of their people, they were not concerned with their past duties. Caring for the cultivation of the universe, this no longer factored into their decisions. Planets and species were sacrificed, surrendered to their pursuers in order to buy them time to flee. Civilizations fought against the sudden onslaught of an unknown enemy, and ultimately fell under the relentless attack of creatures determined to consume all life.

There has never been a truly altruistic force in the universe, but there has also never been anything truly evil. Even amongst those that saw survival as their only concern, there were those in positions of power and authority that understood. They had sinned by living. Even if they were to run endlessly, there would come a day that they would be caught. There could not be an endless chase. It would end one day.

Knowing their death, these creatures began to seek ways to preserve what remained of the universe. It had been their duty once, after all.

Consultations, ruminations, and finally creations were carried out. In the darkness of space, the plans that would end the lives of the Majal were made.

--

Grifen've (Floating City), Inner Sanctum of the Elders

Yontu K'syk (Fortieth year of the Lost History)

13:64 (Simulated time whilst aboard the Floating City)

--

"So its come to this then has it?"

The room currently holding the few Majal responsible for the governing of their entire species was not as grandiose as one would expect. A small square room with bright lighting that illuminated the plain walls and colourless floor, contained no more than the door leading inside and a table designed for no more than five or six individuals.

"What more could we do? Every conceivable option has been considered, simulated, and rejected. This is the lone plan that would allow this universe some form of survival."

"We will be committing a crime that none shall forget, nor forgive."

"I am ill at ease to think that we would all so quickly jump to the conclusion that our suicide should be the saviour of all living sentients."

The quibbling voices continued their discontent until a lone hand was raised and the attention of those gathered shifted from their fear.

"It is more than understood that this is a plan none would have ever believed might be carried out," spoke the lone voice untouched by panic. "There is however, a genuine consensus that our species has fought this war far longer than we should have ever done so. Countless people have been sacrificed, and we are to blame. Not the Half Breed, nor the Reclaimers. We stand alone in this respect.

"The installations have been constructed for this purpose. Do not delude yourself for one moment and believe that we have deceived our people, or each other. An inevitability has come to pass, and there should be no surprise. We are doing what is right."

A silence passed, and those that spoke of their fears stared helplessly at the cold complexity of the simple tabletop.

"We have committed crimes that no one will forgive, that is indeed correct. This remaining time we have been granted must be spent remembering that we were once the overseer's of this universe, and betrayal took over our actions once fear touched our hearts. This will be the first time in many years that we will once again take up our old mantle. We will act in the best interest of this universe, and not our own self-serving actions. I can think of no greater task that our fallen people can ever hope to accomplish."

The wizened words flowed deep into each of the Majal, and massaged away the halting fear gripping their minds. Slowly their eyes lifted from the table, and they looked one another in the eye for the first time. In the gaze of each Majal, they could see everything that they wished to see in themselves.

One final act to redeem the Majal.

--

Penuy Den (Capula Sector)

Unnamed Planet

Error.

Fasul had never felt the fear that now twisted its way through his limbs, seemingly halting each and every step forward he sought. Short, vicious battles were waged each moment his legs carried him forward as the desire to flee back towards his transport craft flared brightly. Floating high above the ruined city he walked towards was a fleet of ships that looked menacing even from this great distance.

I am walking into the very arms of death, but before I can embrace that caring visage I will be torn apart and mutilated by the Half Breed.

He could not remember how long it had been since Cyriacus had left him. The enraged Reclaimer had raced towards the burning capital, the home of his dead wife and child. There was little commotion amongst the destruction already enacted upon the buildings and countryside. As Fasul had stood and watched for that unknown length of time, he had not seen anything that indicated Cyriacus was carrying out the revenge he had sought.

Though he knew better, Fasul held tightly to the brief hope that Cyriacus still lived, and that the Half Breed were returning to their waiting fleet. No greater wish could have been granted than for him to see his friend once again.

He forced his mind off the looming city, and instead meandered towards the news he had come to deliver to the wife and child of his friend. The Halo Installations were to be fired. The Majal would perish and aside from a small assortment of selected planets and species, all life in the universe would be eradicated. This would result in the Half Breed and the Flood starving. The plague would finally be eliminated.

A great debate had arisen amongst those Majal whom felt they deserved some say in the matter, about which planets and species to save from the undiscerning reach of Halo, and in the end less than a dozen planets were imbued with a Sanctuary. Of those chosen, no greater planet had Fasul striven to save was that of the Reclaimers. Many felt they knew too much, and the Half Breed might find their home world some day. But their service to the Majal was rewarded in the end, and Fasul had been in transit to deliver the news and arrange for the Reclaimer's safe transit home when the Half Breed struck.

The few defences around the planet were eradicated by the superior firepower of the enemy fleet, and before any evacuations could have hoped to begin, the Flood were released. Fasul had managed to remain undetected, and sent word to Cyriacus, who was returning to that very planet after defending some other Majal strongholds in the sector. It was not long before the Reclaimer returned.

Ruined buildings now surrounded Fasul as he stepped inside the city, the lone living Majal left on the entire planet. It was a rare moment, punctuated by the heat and the flames. The silence felt audible as he walked, and his fear grew stronger as he saw the growing signs of the Flood.

Turning down a large street he encountered several Flood infectious forms, but he paid them no mind as they leapt at him, their weak bodies exploding with a sickening squish as they were repelled by his personal energy shielding.

The Flood grew more and more common as he went, until he finally encountered the first signs of the Half Breed. Their sickening twisted moans and guttural growls, the very same he had heard the night his child had been torn apart before his very eyes as she was transformed. The urge to vomit gripped him as his stomach grew heavy. Sweat singed his eyes and the skin along his body tightened.

A fool I am for coming this far! A greater fool I must be for continuing on, and the greatest fool I will always be for not stopping even as the Half Breed loom near.

His thoughts were punctuated as he passed through the lumbering wreckage of several nearby buildings. They were the homes of Majal, and their blood stained upon the ground he walked upon was not unfamiliar to him.

There were perhaps a hundred Half Breed standing only thirty feet from Fasul. He could not say accurately for the road was an incline and he could not see past the main huddled mass of them. They were gathered as if staring intently at something further ahead of them, and even though it could have very well been anything Fasul knew exactly what it was.

My God Cyriacus. I hope that you are with Chrysanthe now.

Fasul did not remain undetected for long, as his scent was quickly picked up by the Half Breed standing along the outlaying circle of Half Breed.

"We missed one!" cried one of the twisted creatures that once looked no different than Fasul.

"It would be a shame to leave a survivor, but I couldn't stand to lose the splendid taste of the Reclaimer to the rancid filth of a Pure Blood."

"There is no need for devouring friend, we will simply tear the insipid cretin apart and let the Flood have him."

The taunts and jeers echoed loudly in Fasul's ears and he fought vainly to stop the trembling that threatened to retain all of his forward movement. After a visible battle he continued on, and the Half Breed became uproarious.

"He walks towards us! The fool cannot wait for his own death."

"The fear in him is so strong that you can smell it, maybe I will have but a little taste of his flesh."

"Do you think he might be delirious, and that to him we appear as the comforting group of friends that we've devoured?"

As he continued forward a lone Half Breed stepped forward and with no hesitation raised his mangled arm and struck Fasul with a great force. The expected result was not reached however, as Fasul's shielding absorbed the strike and the Half Breed was repelled backward, its pock-marked skin scorched where it had touched Fasul.

"The scum is hiding behind a shield!" screamed the Half Breed while it nursed it's wounded limb.

"Then we shall count the number of strikes it takes before we break through, and then we shall see how long it will take until we tear all the skin from his flesh!" cried another.

A group advanced on him, and with their simultaneous blows Fasul was knocked to the ground, his shield collapsing and disappearing with a whimpering flash. As the group prepared to lash again at his prone body, a strong voice cut a swath through the burning air.

"Stop!"

The voice carried a commanding tone that was discernible even through the twisted tongue of the Half Breed, and the group assaulting Fasul recoiled immediately.

Not waiting to see what creature spoke to the gathered monsters, Fasul rose unsteadily to his feet and walked forward, not meeting the gaze of the Half Breed that loomed around him. They stepped away quickly, granting him a sight of what they had all been gathered around. There upon the ground was the armour of a Reclaimer. It was stained with blood both red and black. No sign of the man that once wore the suit remained.

That blood, so simple and unseeming belied the pain it arose. It was the blood of the Majal, the blood of their hope, their hubris, their pain, and their fear. Already dried and flaking, it stood above the armour it rested upon acting as the contrast to that pristine whiteness.

With no pretence of grace Fasul fell upon the spot of a Reclaimer's death, his trembling hands seeking out a piece of the mangled suit. The moment he touched that molded material it was as if the universe had collapsed around him, and there could not be another moment in history. Time stopped, and everything else was lost. All that could reach Fasul was the voice of a friend he had lost.

"You've shamed yourself, and your race Fasul," said the twisted voice of a nearby Half-Breed.

"There are no need for words at this point my old friend," said Enorym, as what passed for a smile graced his twisted face. Fasul, who was at a loss for words regardless, remained silent.

"I had heard rumour that you were still alive. I must admit I held a desire in my heart to see you once again, before the end."

Fasul noticed absently that the other Half-Breed seemed to regard Enorym with something pertaining to respect, or adoration. They had ceased their taunts and promises of violence at the moment of Enorym's speaking. Swallowing past the thick lump in his throat, Fasul found his voice, while still clinging tightly to the remnants of Cyriacus' armor.

"I had not thought it possible for your kind to possess anything resembling a heart."

That same twisted smile fell across Enorym's face.

"Now now, there is no need for any insulting jabs at this point. We are two old friends meeting under interesting circumstances, a rarity amongst our people in these times." Enorym cast a scathing look down at the armour Cyriacus had once worn, now clutched within Fasul's grasp. "You may relinquish that creatures shell, clinging to the past is something that I'm sure you've grown past in these times."

"He was my friend," Fasul said, "And he gave me my life. I will never let go of him."

"I am offering you a rare opportunity Fasul, I hold enough power amongst my kind, that I could protect you, until you have undergone the change to become one of us. This is no simple offer, I am willing to give you life rather than death, surely that is a greater gift than what that creature could ever have given you."

"Protecting what you can, and living with the understanding that death will come when it comes," Fasul smiled sadly, "No one could ever give me more than that. I made my choice many years ago Enorym, and my mind has not changed. I reject everything that you can give me."

"Kill the fool, Enorym!" one of the many other Half-Breed shouted. The outburst was followed by a chorus of similar opinions by the remaining warriors.

"You've thrown away survival then," Enorym said, as the others fell silent, "And I can do no more to protect you. Stay in the past then, and when you pull your head from the sand, you will see that the universe is no more what you remember, and you will die because of it."

"So be it," Fasul spoke, "I will die as I am; die as my family did. I am a Majal, and that will never change."

"I wish I could tell you that you might regret this decision, but I could not utter such a falsity," Enorym said slowly. "You Pure Blood's wish to wipe the universe clean of all its occupants through your precious Halo network. This will be a waste. We've no use for those that will be eliminated by the blast those structures might create. Even this great sacrifice cannot save the Majal."

So the Half Breed knew about the Halo installations, that fact seemed of little consequence to Fasul. Behind the facade that those of higher authority might proclaim, the real purpose of activating Halo was to wipe clean the existence of the Majal.

We have deemed ourselves to be hazards to the universe itself, and for once we shall take up our role as the overseers of a universe. This hazard will be dealt with.

"Leave the fool to wail over his prized pet," Enorym spoke to the gathered throngs of Half Breed. As if a switch had suddenly been flicked the mob turned and dispersed, leaving Enorym standing above the still kneeling Fasul.

A thousand words flew between them suddenly, and in that instance they came to understand each other with greater clarity than when they had both walked the streets of their home world together.

"I can still hear their voices. They will be with me no matter the outcome."

"Goodbye my friend. Perhaps this war will end once the Majal slit their own throats, but I will hold out hope that we might meet once more."

The parting words offered seemed as if they left from both Majal, the fallen and the twisted. Nothing more passed between either, and Fasul was left alone to mourn his saviour and his friend.

--

The abandoned research facility thrummed with the busy activity of scheduled tests and an unchanging source of energy that would continue even as the universe was purged of all its occupants.

Fasul watched stoically from his placement above the prone body that he had once inhabited. The purge from his body had been a simple procedure, and he had felt not even a twinge of pain as his body was rendered directionless. An empty husk that would serve no further purpose and in a short time would have every cell shredded. The installations had yet to fire, but the moment was soon. The remaining Reclaimers were carrying out their final mission.

His mind turned to the child he had delivered to the trembling arms of a Reclaimer upon their home world. The seed of Cyriacus and Chrysanthe had lived through the destruction of a Half Breed army, protected by the sacrifice of her parents. From the burning embers of a crushed city did Fasul retrieve the frightened infant. The pain of losing his friend was numbed at this discovery, for Fasul now possessed a purpose. The child would live, and so would he. The guardian of that child, and of the Reclaimer species.

A tremendous flash of light raced through the research facility, and Fasul watched silently as his body twitched violently for a moment before ceasing to move. It was dead. That witnessed death was the first of an incomprehensible amount.

Fasul sacrificed his mortality for the Reclaimers, the one value he had clung to desperately for so long. He would be their guiding force. They would grow strong, and they would be prepared to fight the Half Breed should they ever meet.

For now, he would wait.

--

Author's Notes: I got this one out pretty quick huh everyone? Sometimes I outdo myself.

Wait please! Don't leave! And please put down that large fillet knife. I beg of you, no killing!

This chapter jumps around quite a bit, its not all happening in the same time frame. Sorry for the jumbledness of everything, but it is Fasul's memories after all. The dude's like a billion years old. He's got quadruple Alzheimers.

Yes, I know this has been an incredibly, indiscernible amount of time. So much has likely happened to all of you, and I assure you I as well have gone through quite a many things (I climbed a mountain). Heck, Halo 3 came out and its time has passed. I don't play video games as much anymore, part of falling in love and moving out with your girlfriend and suddenly being completely independent of everyone you'd once depended on.

Anyhoo, less about me, more about this story. I cannot make any promises, but I want to try and come back. I've written tons of stuff for my own personal works, but always somewhere in the back of my small capricious mind I couldn't forget about this. I honestly think that if I'm ever to move on into the real writing world, I'll have to finish this story once and for all. Once again, I don't know for sure if this is going to happen, but I'm definitely going to try. I can only ask that you all maybe give me one last opportunity to do this.

Let me know how many of you are still around, either in the reviews or on the Bungie forums. Geez I'll try and find that thread to see if it hasn't been deleted yet.

Next Chapter: No more of this Majal/Forerunner garbage. Back to the Arbiter/Aonlum, Cortana, Keyes, Johnson. All those wacky fellas.