Lok drifted in the endless night of sleep. He heard the sounds of battle around him, and was saddened that he could not join his brothers. He felt cold steel reaching to eat his very heart, and he dreamed. He dreamed of armored devils, and bright, blue eyed oracles, of mindless Jiralhanae, and of a single, skilled, honorable Sangheili, willing to give everything for his ancestors. He dreamed of legends, and he dreamed deep.
Deep in the belly of the Covenant cruiser, Sacred Trust, Lok slowly awoke, the blurry world coming into focus a little detail at a time. He was lying face down on a metal table, cushioned with round and square blue pads attached firmly to the bed. It was a medical pod. The walls curved upward, and met in a red light, a scanner keeping track of his vitals. Lok could smell blood, and his side began to ache. He reached down, probing for the wound, but it was gone, only a tender spot remained. He turned his head, sore and stiff from his awkward position. There stood a small, light blue armored Unggoy. It shrank away from his glare, and stammered out its message,
"Take good care of you, master warrior, I did! You are healed now! Knife in you no more! Machines fixed your insides too, so you no scar from bad hurt, and Lord Commander say you are very special now. You must rest so you can see him soon. Sleep now, I give you chems to sleep good, yes?" The creature's nervous blithering made Lok's head ache, either that, or made him realize just how bad his head hurt. He wished he had the strength to reach out and cuff it for its gibbering, but his body only twitched with the effort. The creature got the hint, though, and quickly administered the painkillers and sleep aids. Lok fell into darkness again.
Major Alex Kistler rolled over, and his head bounced against a rock.
"Ow! Geez…what the…" His mind cleared and he began to remember where he was. The Special Forces he commanded, wearing their reinforced black armor, and carrying visored helmets, strolled around him, busy cleaning weapons, cooking food, and catching some sleep. They had barely escaped the compound with their lives, and had been hiding from the Covenant since. That was two days ago. Now, they were just about out of food, and running low on ammunition. It was time to go back.
Alex sat up, rubbing his face with his hands. He turned his head and spit. His troops already knew what they were going to do, and he still had a few hours until it was time to start. Hopefully 84 would return before dark, the Spartan would be really useful in the raid. He wondered what it was that the Spartan did all day, off by himself.
84 strolled through the small mountain pass. He had ambushed another tracking party. This one had been too close to their trail for his liking. The enemy commander was getting smart, either that, or there was someone new in charge. The enemy patrols had gone from wandering aimlessly in circular patterns, to surrounding the area in a 5-mile radius circle, and closing straight in. With their new strategy, it would be much harder to slip through their lines and escape. Would have been much harder, that is, except that he had been randomly ambushing and killing their patrols. The only thing that bugged him about the patrols though, is that he had to kill them with Covenant weapons. He had run out of ammo for his shotgun the first night they escaped, and his SMG had only two magazines. Those were gone within twelve hours. Now he carried a pair of Covenant plasma pistols, nearly confident that they were almost fully charged. He hated their weapons. They reminded him of toys he'd seen back home.
Something about the patrols bugged 84. There were only jackals and grunts in the patrols, and that left a lot of elites and hunters unaccounted for. There had been a Covenant cruiser right above the compound, but that had left this morning. It was probably in orbit, sending word back to their home system. They had to do something soon, or they would run out of options.
Telys was getting mad. The Master Commander was still in his ship. It took a few days to completely strip a human ship of its needed information, and its crew of their information. There had been four or five prisoners from the captured human ship, and the Master Commander had captured them himself. It was humiliating. Despite the fact that he had faced nearly four times as many armed Infidels, he had only one prisoner to speak of, and it was captured by a Phalanx of initiates. He would speak to the human soon. He simply had to wait until its claimer woke. It was dishonorable to harm or abuse the claimed property and trophies of an underling without the underling's permission. He could get the information without permission, of course, but it gave him an excuse to wait. That gave him more time to hunt the survivors. How they had broken through his line, he did not know. Telys vowed, however, not to make that mistake again. His life and honor depended on it.
Lok woke again, this time the world came sharply into focus. He smelled the Unggoy again, but this time, he could make out the pungent aroma of fear. He rolled onto his back and sat up, looking at the soft walls. The floor in a healing pod was separate from t he ships floor, and floated on anti-grav projectors. This allowed the platform to stay steady even if the ship rocks or moves from sudden course changes. It kept the wounded form getting even more injured, or from falling form their beds.
Lok stood up, and looked around himself. His armor hung on a stand near the back, where it should be. His carbine lay directly below it. The little light blue Unggoy, his armor the color of blood, checked its data screen projected in front of it. He guessed it was trying to look busy so he wouldn't hurt it. He didn't need to injure it, and didn't consider himself cruel, so he merely retrieved his armor, donned it, and grabbed his weapon.
"Send to the Master Commander, tell them that their warrior will be seen at their earliest convenience." The Unggoy tapped controls with panicked speed. It looked up.
"Master Commander says eat, and then see him. He says he in battle room, master warrior…" The creature spoke quickly, possibly hoping to rid itself of him sooner. He decided to humor the little beast, and left.
Lok strode to the Nutrition Hall. It was shaped in a circle, with a large glowing dome. Grav chutes led to carious hovering platforms, and alcoves. He was a Sangheili, though, and so was allowed to eat on the ground. He activated one of the dispensers, and it spit out chak. That meant they were still on battle standby, and no decent food could be consumed until they were done. He picked up the green and brown spheres, and walked to one of the tables. It had no chairs, Sangheili stood when they ate. It was patronizing to sit in another Sangheili's presence, unless they were of lesser station than you.
Lok saw that there were several other Sangheili at the eating table. Most wore the black armor of assault troops, or the light gray of ultras. There must have been a battle in space, as he recalled only azure, ivory, and crimson warriors on the drop. He did see a face that he recognized, the only other initiate at the table, shining azure armor worn proudly. Lok walked over and crouched beside Fausla.
"Brother." There was an exchange of nods.
"Brother. Good to see you well again. I have a gift for you." Faulsa stopped chewing his chak, and pulled a small wrapped object from his hip. He handed it to Lok, who put his own chak down to accept.
"I am honored, Fausla." Lok set down the clothed object and peered at it before opening it, trying to imagine what it could be. He noticed the other Sangheili warriors had taken an interest as well, and their eyes pierced him like blades. He reached down and slowly unwrapped the parcel. When he saw what it was, he could not help his mandibles from quivering with pleasure. He picked the sharp, serrated combat knife up in his hand, feeling the soft handgrip in his palm. Faulsa had kept the knife that had been removed from Lok's body, and had given it to him as a trophy.
"And what of the human, brother? Has our Field Master claimed him as prize, or have we been honored with the glory of his capture?"
"No brother, you have been honored with the glory of his capture. Much praise be to your name. The Master Commander will be most generous to you this day, I think. Quickly, eat, as I am sure you have heard his summons."
"I have indeed, Fausla." Lok reached down and picked up his chak. Chak was the standard military provision of the Sangheili. It was poison to Unggoy, and made the Kig-yar sick for cycles on end. The Jiralhanae refused to eat it, period, and the Lokgolo had their own special diet to worry about. He wrapped his mandibles around it, and tore a large piece from the spherical food. His second set of teeth at the back of his mouth space diced the chak into mush, which he then swallowed. Its bitter taste stained his mouth. Luckily, it had no smell to accompany. After devouring his chak, he stood up from his crouch, and gave his fellow warriors their customary head bow. They returned with nods, and he left.
Lok took the central beam transport. It was a green beam of light that ran along the top of the ships insides like the spine of some great animal. It was over a dozen paces wide, and had many small platforms and bridges leading out to it. He walked along one of the bridges, and then stepped into the beam's light. It shot him with tremendous speed across the ship, where he was deposited on another small bridge, in the middle of the mighty vessel. Lok thanked the gods once again for their mighty gifts, as he stepped into the grav chute to be lowered to his destination.
The Master Commander was floating idly in the Combat Command Chamber. The CCC was located at the center of the ship, its heart. It was a spherical room with no gravity. This allowed the commander to float through the space of the large sphere easily. Tiny grav thrusters attached to his waist like a belt assisted in quick movements. In the center of the room, holograms appeared. Currently, a hologram replayed the events from the ground in real-time. It was like a three-dimensional movie, with identification tags, designating names, ranks, vehicle status, targets, events and structures. The Master Commander floated around the large, glowing map, watching the little figures of light dance across it, reenacting the battle. He seemed very interested in a small group of Sangheili in the human's cannon structure. The Master Commander's gold armor shimmered in the light cast from the diorama, rimming his body in an aura of light.
Lok waited patiently. The warrior before him was a veteran of a hundred battles, victor of dozens of duels, and slayer of over a thousand foes. His accomplishments were to be respected and revered, his honor an example to all those of lesser station. Lok lowered his head in customary humility. After what seemed an eternity, the golden Sangheili noticed him waiting.
"Ahh, young warrior, I wish to have a few words with you. Is this your unit here, assaulting the weapon of the Infidels?"
"Yes, your lordship."
"Is this the entrance you used?"
"By your visual records, we determined that this human was present. Is this also correct?" A three dimensional model appeared of the copper colored demon.
"Yes, that is also correct, lord master. May I ask what the importance is of this particular Infidel? He fought nobly, and with great skill, but I heard of little glory accomplished by him."
"Initiate, this is one of their most honored warriors. A Spartan. We heard much of him from the dying voices of his comrades. They honor him with their words. His is the kind that destroyed the sacred ring, and who determined the weak point in our forces. It is his fault that any of the Infidels escaped at all. He has gained much glory from this battle. I am impressed that you fought him, and survived. Few warriors can boast such a feat. Your Uncle was not so fortunate. You have my regards, and promise that he died with honor, and shall not be forgotten. I have learned much of this demon through your vision, and for that I honor you. This to, I honor you for." A second model appeared, this time of the human who Lok had fought, and whom had pierced his side with the dagger now strapped to Lok's waist. "This human knows a great deal about his friends. I will inquire no more from him, though; as such questions would destroy his frail body. You may keep your trophy this day. I hope to see more of you, Lok Duk'amee. When you have rested, report to Templar Zomee. He will see that you return to the surface. I want you to help find these Infidels, and retrieve the holy artifact. Glory and honor, warrior."
"Victory be thy name, Master Commander." Lok dipped his head low, and drifted back out of the Combat Command Chamber. His blood was alive with fire. He had been honored by the Master Commander, and with a little more experience in his heart; he would soon wear the crimson of a veteran. He decided that he could rest on the surface, and so headed straight for the docking bays, eager to see battle again.