Uh... yeah, I know I haven't posted anything in a while, but I go to college now, so it'll likely be this way for a while. But fear not; in return for your good faith, I have a HUGE CHAPTER!
Sirens… beautiful creatures, their electric melody dancing upon the air. They spoke to Matthias as he lay, whispering sweet nothings in his ears. It wasn't his time. Not yet. Tentatively, he flexed his hand. Nothing happened. There was a voice, one that was only too familiar.
"The men who came for you promised that I would make you into soldiers. I'm sorry to disappoint you, but they lied." A gargantuan figure stood before Matthias, clad in emerald armour. "With my help, you will become something far greater than the marines could ever be." Balling his hand into a fist, the knight, Kurt, he said his name was, stepped forwards. "I will make a Spartan from every one of you."
Around him, there was excited murmuring. Hundreds of other children, maybe even a thousand, began to talk, their combined voices so loud that his ears couldn't take it. But Matthias bore the strain; he had to be strong, for his family. The family he no longer had.
There was silence, reverent in its totality. Matthias looked up, and saw his that the man in the magical armour was standing before him.
"What is this?" He gestured towards a bundle of thick brown fur, a teddy, worn ragged, that the boy held in a desperate grip.
"Please don't take him. He's all I have left…"
"Of a dead family. They're gone, Matthias, thanks to the Covenant. But," Kurt place a tender hand on his shoulder, "that doesn't mean you've been abandoned." From behind his back, he produced a flat disk the size of an orange. Enthralled by its flawless chrome finish, Matthias reached out towards Kurt's offering, drawing his hand back when a shimmering column of turquoise appeared at its centre. A figure appeared in the midst of the static, masculine features obvious beneath a ten-gallon hat.
"Hey kid, what's your name?" The sprite had a defiant, yet eerily calm, tone.
"Matthias." He stuttered back, too shocked to articulate properly. There had been an AI on Stratos Altaria, but she had been nothing like this one.
A whirling vortex of faces and figures consumed them all. Screaming, Matthias forced his eyes shut. Then, they flickered open, greeted with darkness. No. More than that. In the shadows, he caught glimpses, obscure figures, running, ducking, disappearing. Though he was sealed in that which was both a prison, and a home, he ran onwards, towards the figures.
Suddenly, he was overtaken by a wave of drowsiness. He fought, pushed it back, but still, he felt his eyes being drawn shut by some irresistible force. They shut, just a moment, and shot wide open once again.
He was back. Back in the graveyard. Back on Solaris Marathon VI.
And everywhere he looked, he could see ghosts. Not fully transparent, nor entirely visible. Apparitions, creeping through dense foliage, moisture dripping from the plants onto their phantom figures, trailing to the spongy earth below.
Matthias immediately joined the spirits, his MJOLNIR Mark VI Scout armour making him all but a memory, like his brethren. For that is all that they were, all that they would ever be. And for this moment, he was one of them.
There, before him, there was a hiss. A Jackal stood, plumage erect, eyes alert, scanning. The jungle rustled, a shadow whispered, and the avian reptile fell silent, neck snapped, carbine falling to his side. Matthias crept forwards and checked the ammunition counter on the weapon. Full. He lifted it, then slung his battle rifle over his shoulder, magnetic force sealing the weapon to his armour. The human weapon may have been more powerful in terms of stopping power, but the carbine was more accurate, fired single, radioactive rounds, and was far quieter.
As he stalked further through the mouldy slush that covered the floor of the rainforest, Matthias came to a complete stop. The ammunition counter on the carbine was full. It should have been close to empty. This outpost was meant to be low on supplies; there was no way that a lowly Jackal would have been given a full weapon.
He pulled a bubble shield generator, a glowing yellow device the size of a grapefruit, from its place at his lower back, and flicked the activation switch. Sharp blades, triggered by gravity, flicked from the end that faced the ground. Several nearby wisps moved closer, but not too close. Then, there was a strange sound unlike any other Matthias had heard, and screaming. Not the scream of any human – an Elite flew through the air above them, ribs and organs hanging loose from its torso.
A howl echoed, one that many of the Spartans recognised immediately and enjoyed immensely. The scream of a Brute, one who was experiencing tremendous pain. One of the gathered Spartans, Carlos G-455, made a half moon across his visor using two fingers; The Spartan equivalent of a smile.
Another howl, then the swish of an energy sword. Silence filled the air as they continued their advance, cautiously checking every contact on their motion tracker, though many were false. Strange wildlife thrived in this swam; tentacled spiders that had attacked several of his soldiers, only to be torn apart themselves, birds with six wings, even slugs which moved faster than he did, all of them made their motion sensors useless.
But, if they were blind, the enemy was, too.
Then, a woman, possibly the eldest of the Spartans here, though she was only eighteen, broke silence.
"We've got angels here, darling." Yui G-146's voice was immensely husky, and something that Matthias found both unwelcome and disturbing.
One of only a handful of Asian recruits, Yui had developed early, even before the forced puberty that the UNSC had put them through, and had developed a huge sexual appetite. And, he knew that she, irrationally, fancied him of all the others.
He was her commanding officer, for god's sake! And, even if he wasn't, after what had happened with Dr. Halsey, he… he could never look at another human being that way again.
But, this was different. There was no lust in her now, only fear. Fear that no marine could have picked; but, Matthias was hardly a mere soldier. Just as a Seraph was hardly a mere angel. It was an angel of death. This was trouble.
"Confirmed. Squad leads prepare to deploy shield devices."
Acknowledgement lights winked on.
For several tense seconds, the Seraphs drew nearer, until they were upon them, plasma tearing the air apart. A single purple ray slashed across the heavens, and the fighters split cleanly in half, molten circuitry glowing white.
"What the hell's going on up there?" He demanded to know how the situation had changed so dramatically.
"That damn lizard's been watching ever him since he got here."
"Their own cruisers are firing on them, sir."
He had no time to react to that comment, for he was sent flying by the blast of a gravity hammer. He hit a tree, and slumped, fortunate to have survived. A Brute chieftain lunged from the scrub and swung again. Camouflage began shorting out; Spartans, now visible, fired upon the beast as they pulled their limp comrades away from danger.
With an angry grunt, Matthias leapt to his feet and stalked towards the ape, making no attempt to remain hidden. It was no use, anyway; the legionnaire skin of his own armour had shorted out, and needed to recharge. His shields, on the other hand, had recharged not long after he hit the ground.
Snarling, the chieftain accepted his challenge, and ran to greet him with a mighty blow. With a strong overarm, Matthias impaled the monster with the bubble shield generator. Sensing that it had become rooted in something, but unable to tell that it was flesh in which it was planted, the generator activated, a matrix of gold hexagons flaring out to form a protective dome.
The Brute continued his swing, enraged and in pain, unaware of the trap that had been set. The hammer hit a tree, and splintered it, letting out a crushing blast of localised gravity. Contained within the spherical energy wall, the blast reflected back into the brute, spraying bloody slush over the bubble. A moment later, the shield collapsed, generator destroyed by the hammer. For what seemed an eternity, rancid offal hung in the air. Then, finally, gravity found the offering and brought it back to ground.
Reeling, head burning, the sounds of battle filtering through the fluid in his ears, Matthias rolled to the side, no respite now, an energy sword slashing at him, crackling static. Another swipe, a downward stroke. Again, he rolled, backwards this time, into the dripping remains of the chieftain; his hand found the Brute's hammer, ready to attack.
It was an Elite, clad in commando armour, elaborate detailing radiant in the murk. His head was cocked, blue neon eye covers glaring into a metallic gold visor.
"They respect each other. More than they respect their troops. More than they respect themselves."
The Elite rushed him, blade humming, only to have his blow knocked aside with a vicious counter. Damn; the hammer was out of charge. That would make things harder than they could have been. Another
swipe, and another block. Pinned beneath the bulk of his opponent, twin slivers of aqua made their way towards his eyes, then stopped; Matthias clutched an armored gauntlet in one hand, a plasma grenade in the other.
"Go ahead." A thick, masculine voice boomed through speakers in the commando's helmet. "My armour will protect me from the explosion. You will not be so lucky."
"Perhaps," the Spartan grimaced as the energy sword slipped further toward his visor, "but it's not for you."
Matthias knocked the sword away with a punch, and threw the grenade to one of his men, who tagged a strafing Banshee. He spun then, landing a kick which cracked the Elite's combat harness and sent him stumbling.
"Impressive." Barely winded, the commando extended his arm; three lightning blue diamonds flared to life, forming a layered shield.
"I try." With movement invisible to the naked eye, Matthias dismantled the hammer, using the handle to parry another blow.
"He tries so hard to protect his family."
Again, he knocked the Commando's energy sword to the side, throwing him back with a hit to the edge of his gauntlet shield.
"Why is it that you risk your own life to save theirs? They are beneath you, pawns to be spent, for victory." The Elite slashed with the edged of his shield, thrusting with his blade. Matthias bought his makeshift staff to his chest, narrowly saving himself from simultaneous decapitation and dismemberment.
"You could never understand. You treasure your sword more than the lives of your brothers." A kick met a punch, buying the Spartan time enough to grasp a rod at his hip, twin prongs flaring to life as he swung out. "A tool is just that, nothing more or less."
"What Family? Who has he got left? Who have any of us have left?"
"You speak, vermin, as though you and your kind have a right to live." Sparks danced on the air, shimmering blue.
"You race is proud and noble, Elite, but hatred has made you blind. You murder in good faith, assured that your loyalty will be rewarded. You will find no salvation on your Great Journey; only cold finality." The ground shook, a beam of liquid amethyst burning the ground beneath an overhead cruiser.
Matthias checked the tactical command console on his heads up display unit; a blue wireframe model of a Spartan clad in SPI armour appeared, then flashed red. A counter materialized, an x followed by a three and two zeroes. He had lost three hundred men in a single blast.
He raised one arm, ready to guard while he lunged with the other, but the commando seemed somehow distracted.
"Righteous Fury, I have not authorized the use of energy projectors." Shipmaster Sesa 'Hara 'Xanthtuumee opened a private channel to the ship overhead. His men were well trained, and loyal beyond reckoning. Even the lowliest of his Grunts would not use such a weapon in jest or error, as those contemptible Jiralhanae barbarians were prone to doing. Something was wrong.
"The Brutes, Shipmaster, they have bought the parasite here!" The reply came through, not alarmed, but surprised.
"The abomination? Surely brother, even they could not be that foolish?"
"Alas, Shipmaster, it is true! Those fools use it as a payload for their boarding craft, no matter the risk to themselves."
'Xanthtuumee gave a disgusted snort, his voice an octave lower than was normal. "Have any of our fleet been compromised, brother?"
"Yes, Shipmaster. Rose of Veracity fell not moments ago. Those who were able to resist the scourge have ridden to ground in their insertion pods. Those that were left behind activated the self destruct. You must move quickly, Shipmaster. Even as you fight, the parasite has you in its grip."
Above them, boarding craft began to flock, some targeting bulbous capital ships, others ignoring these in favor of the more accessible prey below. Each of the lilac jellyfish spiraled awkwardly toward the ground, full reverse, with such force that they buried themselves to the very rim of the exit tubes. Infection forms gushed forth from each, almost a liquid stream of corrupted flesh and bone, chirping as they rushed to sate their hunger.
Matthias G-257 knew what was going to happen as soon as he saw the spores. Tiny yellow organisms, streaming behind the covenant boarding ships. He had only ever seen them once before. Part of a training simulation that Colonel Ackerson had generated based upon footage retrieved from the neural interface of one Wallace A. Jenkins. The flood, when given sufficient biomass to convert, produced spores which indirectly assimilated host organisms. His entire squad had managed to survive the seemingly endless tide of infection forms which first assailed them, only to be gradually subdued by the dancing lights, which were not as innocuous as they appeared.
They took longer to kill, but that didn't make them any less of a danger than the infection forms themselves. Though, unlike infection forms, they did not produce combat forms. Instead, they decomposed their still-living, but now helpless prey, rearranging them into an immobile mass of cancerous flesh, within which the more aggressive infection forms would develop.
Yes, Matthias knew about the flood, and he refused to let any one of his men become a vessel for the horror. Not as long as he had life left in him.
"Calypso 03, do you have NOVA online?"
A moment, one that seemed an eternity, passed before Calypso 03, otherwise known as Fran G-730, responded. "Yessir, detonation countdown set. Retreating to exfiltration craft now."
"Good. All units, primary objective is complete; abort secondary objectives. Disengage, and retreat to exfiltration craft immediately. I am hereby instating Infestation Protocol 2-B."
"The Flood, here?" Fran shuddered, static interspersing her breaths. Silence lingered for a few moments. Then, a new icon appeared on Matthias's HUD, showing that Team Calypso had activated the broad area dispersion attachment on their Hard Sound Rifles. A tactic that Matthias himself had developed; as long as the weapons had power, any of the more delicate flood forms would be destroyed the instant they came within five meters of the user.
"Correct. Activate chameleon shields, and proceed directly to exfiltration craft. Do not allow infection forms to come in contact with you. Do anything you can to prevent the spread of infection. As a precaution, Loki has activated the incineration mechanism within your armour. If you become infected, then you will be destroyed."
Again, there was silence. Fran replied, less nervous now than she had sounded before. "Thank you, sir." Though she would never admit it, Fran knew that Matthias had ordered the failsafe activated out of compassion. She had no want of death, but given a choice between it and infection, to die was the better alternative.
Matthias threw the Commando one final glance. Glass spread from his torso, consuming first his body and then his limbs, until only his visor remained, a Cheshire cat smile. Then it too went, and he was nothing but a memory.
'Xanthtuumee deactivated his energy sword and placed it at his hip, then reared back, twin plasma rifles in hand. Any respect, the little he had once had for the Brutes, was gone. They were slime, of a variety that even the parasite could not compare to. He scanned the darkness, blasting anything that could be a possible threat. Loyalists, parasites, humans… of the three, only the latter deserved true respect. They may be an enemy, one of many, but they were far stronger than they appeared at first glance. Their hidden ability, their true potential, was what made them so admirable.
The human was gone, a ghost in the night. A wise decision, he was forced to admit. It would be better if, for now at least, they focused on the flood.
"Shipmaster, the humans are retreating."
"Ignore them. Concentrate all fire on the Brute ships. Burn, until they burn no more. Destroyers, prevent contact with boarding craft at all costs. The parasite must be contained."
Above him, the sky became a spinning vortex of fire, clouds stained lilac by a ceaseless volley of plasma blasts. Even the atmosphere could not withstand the barrage, smoldering away until only thin ribbons remained. Aurora crackled through the ionised air, arcing from one shred of torn sky to the next.
Leaf litter squelched behind 'Xanthtuumee. He turned; seven of his Elites stood in an arc, gazing at him in an almost curious manner. No. That was not right. They were not his. Not anymore. Their heads hung flaccid, mottled flesh swollen almost beyond recognition, hooked feelers jutting from their wrists.
"So, my brothers; you have fallen." With a series of fluid movements, 'Xanthtuumee cut each of the combat forms with his blade. They remained whole for just a moment, before falling apart. "Allow me to absolve you."
Second only to shipmaster Sesa 'Hara 'Xanthtuumee, Kekwa 'Uharamee kept the destroyer Righteous Fury steady amidst a barrage of plasma torpedos.
"Ignorant beasts. All power to energy projectors. Target primary conduit node." Holoscreens dimmed across the bridge, then shone purple. The flagship of the brute fleet, Ravaging Dedication came to a stop as power to its engine was cut. Explosions tore from the midsection to the rear, before the entire ship disappeared in a plasma storm.
Beneath it, the surface of the planet flared gold. 'Uharamee considered burning the humans as they hid within their shields, but thought better of it. He would not disrespect his orders; they would be spared, for now. He threw a glance towards the luminary that stood, enshrined, in the exact centre of the bridge. The humans were represented, as always, by hundreds of luminations. Tiny glyphs, each with a different shape and meaning. For the humans, there had always been just one. Abomination. But now there were far too many. There had been just over a thousand humans when this battle had started, but now there were over thirty thousand, skittering in all directions, even aboard the flood boarding craft.
But there could be no humans there, only the abomination itself. Distracted, 'Uharamee ordered a torpedo barrage against a cluster of retreating cruisers, then laid his hands upon the luminary. It was a sin, but so too was the civil war, and the prophets had been the ones who ignited the conflict. It was odd that such a glyph should be used to represent both the humans and the flood, considering that they were such dissimilar creatures. With a subtle movement of his finger, 'Uharamee compared the glyphs, and found that they were not as they had been to begin with. One had been tampered with.
The luminary faded, and for a moment 'Uharamee thought he had damaged it. Then, the display changed, a new glyph appeared, representing six hundred and ninety-three of the contacts. Reclamation. No; Reclaimer. In a single, eternal, second, everything changed for Kekwa 'Uharamee.
"Of all the lies of the Prophets…" He opened a channel to his Shipmaster, even as a Brute frigate tried to ram Righteous Fury, a desperate final act. "Shipmaster, the luminary. You must see this, all of this. It... no, we have been wrong, shipmaster, all this time. The humans; they are Reclaimers. They are-" The connection was broken.
A literal flood of infection forms washed over 'Xanthtuumee, wave after endless wave. It had taken only a moment of distraction, and now, the abomination had him.
"No. I will not be shamed. Not now, not ever." Struggling, he pulled a plasma grenade from a storage unit and activated it, unconcerned that it chose to fuse to his torso with an electronic click. That was the plan, after all. A high beep, then blue. Everything so blue. His ribs shattered, but his harness held, and his shield. Just. A final two infection forms jumped at him; the first popped, noxious juice spraying into the air. His shield was gone, an alarm sounding within his helmet. The second creature latched onto his chest, tearing into his flesh with sharp probes. Two sought the same hole, then three, rotating, widening the entrance. At the same time it drew itself in, wrapping a foul tentacle around his spine.
He grabbed at it, just catching its body. He applied pressure, even as it began to slide out of his grip. It disappeared. No. He could feel it inside of him, shuddering in delight. Nothing came. As his mind welcomed oblivion, 'Xanthtuumee saw a crystal figure appear before him. A ghost with an orange smile. He felt hands around his torso.
With every ounce of strength he could garner, the commando spoke, his mandibles only just moving beneath his helmet. "If I must take your hand to escape this plague, then so be it."
And then he was bound to a firm board, so much like his own military-issue bunk that he could not help but sleep.
Matthias saw light. Not the pallid sunlight of his dreams, but true, fluorescent light. Light, for the first time in seventeen relived years. He was flat on his back, held there by solid titanium bands. He was comfortable, even with catheters in his veins, his limbs padded by something without texture. He opened his eyes, fully; a circle sat at the bottom left of his vision, a full blue bar at the top. MJOLNIR.
A tiny blue figure sat on a totem beside him. "We have each other." Loki turned, smiling, no defiance in him. "And that's all we've ever had."
The Spartan cocked his head, pressure building in his skull. An ODST stood beside him, armour covered in Brute blood, new helmet replacing the old. A young woman crouched next to him, move her lips, turned away, almost, then looked back at him. But that wasn't who he was watching.
Lord Terrence Hood spun to face Matthias, hands behind his back. Before he could stop himself, Matthias rose, tore the bolts from his restraints, and saluted. Lord Hood smiled, his teeth almost brown compared to his crisp white dressage. For a moment, Matthias saw the whiteness of a jungle planet being vaporised. Then, he was himself again.
"Welcome back, son.
My mind presents...
Journey of an Apostle
A Halo story
Written by Kieren P. McGovern (AKA Untractable Evocation, or Loki, or Fedaykin Guard).
With thanks to Corey W. Smith (Cylor), The Phiend, and Shawn L. Phillips for their help.
The Halo universe and all characters depicted therein, apart from those of my own creation, are the intellectual property of Bungie Studios, with special license to Microsoft. The (original) characters and situations depicted within this fanfiction are MY intellectual property, and use of these characters without my expressed permission will result in serious action.