Halo 3: Dark Rising
The Short Stories
Prologue, Short Story 3: On My Honor
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United Nations Space Command military log, section 38, subsection 01, date classified.
It is quite amusing to see an Elite attempt to type at a human keyboard. Although I did my best not to laugh out of fear I might cause a diplomatic incident, I'll have to admit, the Arbiter's frustration with our letters was quite comical. In the end, I agreed to type this in on his behalf, seeing as, technically, it would be physically impossible to type with only four digits, two of which being thumbs.
The Arbiter had arrived all the way from Sangheili space to give us a chance at this report. It is quite an honor, really. The Arbiter did so much for us during his time aiding the Master Chief with the Covenant Separatists. In a sense, he is just as much of a war hero to us as he is to his people. With him as the current leader of their forces, he cannot stay long. However, he did stay long enough for us to get an insight about his time with the Covenant and of certain Sangheili matters.
The early history of the Covenant for the Elites began when the Prophets found their homeworld. Originally, the Elites had formed a sort of religion involving Forerunner Artifacts; though they tended to leave them in peace instead of use them for the conquering of other races. When the Prophet race showed up, the Elites stood fast and fought back against them, but the Keyship under the control of the Prophets destroyed much of their forces. In the end, the Elites and the Prophets formed an agreement that eventually was called the Covenant, and became the basis of their religious organization. The Elites would remain by the side of the Prophets, acting as their bodyguards and soldiers, and would remain loyal to their cause. The Prophets stripped the weapons from the Forerunner Keyship so that it could never again be used for such warfare. In the end, it resulted in the Elites becoming the backbone of the Covenant military…something that we humans, later, would learn to hate as much as we appreciate it now.
Not much can be said up until that point. The Covenant conquered different races, usually using the Elites as the main conquerors, and they all sided under one common religious goal. After discovering Harvest, not long after the "taming of the Hunters," the Covenant began to wage war upon the human race, starting with Harvest and continuing from there. However, a lot of this is old news; we already have a number of articles involving those stories, though I paid close attention during our interview and remained polite. It wasn't until the Arbiter came up to a more pressing point that my real attention was captured.
The Covenant Fleet seen during the battle of Delta Halo was only two-thirds of the actual Covenant arsenal. The real big stuff, the "Elites of the Elites," as the Arbiter called them, had been sent out not long after the First Battle of Harvest to continue searching for Forerunner artifacts while the main group focused upon eradicating the human race. According to the Arbiter, that fleet hadn't returned since, though scout ships arriving to and from High Charity reported that most of the members of that group had been busy uncovering extremely potent artifacts of a very ancient origin. Whether they were Forerunner or not was unknown at the time, though everything was kept relatively secret to all but a select few. Amongst those few was a certain Rtas 'Vadum, the Shipmaster of the Shadow of Intent, and the admiral of the Separatist fleet.
This in particular interested me. Why wouldn't the Covenant Fleet attack as a single whole rather than using only two thirds of its power to wipe out the humans? It would have had the potential of causing much more destruction. Though I'd admit that the thought of them not at their full strength was scary enough as it was, the idea of there being at least a third of an army of Covenant Loyalists out there in the galaxy is enough for me to get goose bumps. It means that we have a whole lot of enemies still out there; though why they haven't shown themselves when we are at our weakest is something I can't understand.
The Arbiter mentioned that I should not have to worry. It is likely that, should the Covenant Loyalists find out what happened, they would split up to their respective homeworlds and form anew with their cultures. I doubted that something like that could be possible; the Arbiter wasn't around when we mopped up the Loyalists while he was travelling amongst the recesses of space aboard the ruined hull of the Forward Unto Dawn. However, I will trust his judgment. He seems confident that these Loyalists won't pose a problem in the future.
Why do I still have a bad feeling about it?
-Fleet Admiral Harper, 1st class
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Month unknown, year 2553
Outskirts of Milky Way Galaxy, Slipspace
The galaxy was large enough that most of it could surpass as an endless void. The stars, though close by enough to be forever pulled into the center of gravity by a massive super black hole in the center of the Milky Way, were far enough apart that it would take hundreds of years for even the fastest ships in the galaxy to travel to without the use of faster-than-light technology. It was what led the first race, the Forerunners, to design the means of using Slipspace, a parallel dimension that enables those within it to travel between space and time. With this knowledge, the galaxy was eventually explored by the great Forerunners, who left behind their technologies for other races to follow them.
Amongst those races were the races that made up the Covenant.
While real space was blank and an absolute void, Slipspace was the opposite. Inside it, at that very moment, an armada of sleek, purple and blue starships began making their way to some unknown destination, their features appearing similar to the whales and sharks of Earth. Any one of those ships would have once sparked fear into the minds of the Human race, though peace for the past few years has led man to somewhat forget the menace of the Covenant.
It was too bad for them that the Covenant were more of a reality now than ever before.
Inside of a great Carrier, the Justice of Temptation, were possibly thousands, if not millions, of Covenant Loyalists. They had been gone from known Covenant space for the past decade, and were more than happy to be returning home. Inside, hundreds of Grunts, Hunters, Jackals, and even Elites were more than ready to return to the mighty High Charity space station, and more than eager to continue their great crusade under the might of the Covenant.
Inside, a pair of Elites stared each other down. They stood in a circular sparring ring, each wielding different weapons, and each staring hard into each other's eyes. Neither wore anything save for traditional sparring ceremonial armor, which left their faces and other body parts bare, susceptible to damage from any attack.
Artras 'Vadaree was the elder of the two. His armor was in the color of a dark tinge of blue, a pair of swords strapped to his ceremonial belt while a Plasma Rifle was strapped to his back. His fingers twitched in anticipation. His experience in sparring knew that his opponent would soon attack, and when he did there would be no stopping him.
Baros 'Jarumee wielded a sword as well, but a brute Gravity Hammer was also strapped to his back. Not exactly a choice Elite weapon, though Baros secretly admired Brute ceremonial weaponry. Although it was savage, the technology combined with its spiritual and hierarchal status gave it a kind of aura that made it seem like an honorable weapon. He was the younger of the two sparrers, wearing yellow-green ceremonial armor similar to Artras'. Though he had less experience, he had more confidence in himself and had a greater desire to win over his opponent.
It took only a moment longer before both fighters attacked. Baros brought out his Gravity Hammer and spun it like a baton, while Artras drew his two swords simultaneously, leaping in the air to strike down his younger adversary.
The hammer's hilt was the thing that saved Baros from losing the battle. The two swords struck the metallic weapon hard, though Baros held it steady to keep it from getting loose. With a quick push, Baros tossed Artras aside, pounding the ground hard with his hammer as he did.
The desired effect had been made. Artras was knocked flying, the combined force of Baros' superior strength combined with the shockwave of the Gravity Hammer knocked him easily against the wall of the chamber. One of his swords was knocked away, out of reach. He growled before quickly putting his sword away and drawing his Plasma Rifle, launching a salvo of the stuff at Baros from a distance.
Baros leapt aside, hiding behind a pillar in the room for cover. Thinking quickly, he put the Gravity Hammer away on his back and began clawing his way up the pillar, getting himself as far away from the plasma bolts as he could. Artras had no idea where Baros was, or where he was going, instead continuing to pelt the side of the pillar with plasma as he believed that Baros was still hiding there.
Artras kept his Plasma Rifle pointed at the pillar. As he did, he made his way over to his second sword, picking it up and placing it on his belt. Cursing himself for not having a better battery for the weapon in his hand, he put the Plasma Rifle away and drew both swords, intent on getting the drop on his opponent.
Artras was shocked to find that Baros was no longer behind the pillar. He looked around, attempting to find the younger Elite, though he could not see him anywhere. He almost thought that Baros had given up and had taken the coward's way out, though he knew that it was against the younger Elite's nature to give up on anything.
A snap-hiss above his head drew his attention.
Artras looked up, only to be pinned down as Baros' feet struck his shoulders. It was only his quick actions that brought his free sword arm up to save himself from Baros' attack, who had brought his sword down within striking range of Artras' face. The two of them stared each other down, both relying on all of their strength in an attempt to get a successful attack.
Finally, Artras sighed, moving his head to one side in defeat. Baros cocked his head in confusion. Was this what he thought it meant?
"I yield," the older Elite said, "You are the victor, Baros."
Baros' lower jaws slacked open in amazement, and then he smiled in awe. He had won. He was the sparring victor. He had beaten his opponent, fair and square. He did it!
Baros eased his sword away, stepping aside and allowing the older Elite to stand. Outside, cheers erupted from the stands surrounding the ring as Artras bowed on one knee to the younger Elite, showing all who was the victor in this match. Baros couldn't help but raise his sword in victory. It felt good to win. Sure, it wasn't a good idea to boost one's ego, but it was still a great feeling, knowing you fought your opponent in an honorable match and won in the end.
An elderly Elite stepped down from a series of stairs that formed once the match was declared over. He walked forward, a staff in his hand to keep him balanced, examining the two younger Elites. They both bowed low for the mighty Elite, who wore the armor and garbs of a high councilman. He gave a satisfactory sigh as he looked over the two of them, and then came up to the victor.
"Baros 'Jarumee," the old Elite said, "You have won the match over your sibling. It is a great honor to have defeated one such as him, even if it was hard for you. You have succeeded in earning yourself the rank of Zealot. I am proud of you, young one."
"May the Forerunners smile upon you always, Admiral," Baros said with a smile.
The old Elite looked over at Artras and shook his head sadly.
"Ah, Artras 'Vadaree," he said, "I must say that I am disappointed. You would have made a fine Zealot. Although Baros will possibly succeed as well, you have traits that no Elite his age has…experience. You are wise, though in the end you failed. Know though, for your efforts, I am promoting you to the rank of Ultra for your deeds. You can…guide your sibling in future matters."
"I have done my best, Admiral," Artras bowed his head.
The Admiral smiled at the two Elites. He put his staff on a slot on his back, and then put both hands on the Elites' shoulders. "You both have made me proud this day," he said, "Now, I have two fine officers in my command; perhaps two of the best, given your relations. Both of you have made me proud to consider myself your commander. You are dismissed. May the Forerunners smile upon you always…"
The two Elites pounded their fists to their chests in salute. The Admiral nodded to them both. Taking them to the winner's circle, he took Baros' right hand and held it high in the air. The Grunts, Elites, and other races of the Covenant that had witnessed the battle cheered for Baros. The Elites began chanting Baros' name, letting it ring throughout the ship's halls.
"Baros! 'Jarumee! Baros! 'Jarumee! Baros! 'Jarumee!"
Baros smiled. He had never felt so good in his life. He looked over at his cousin, Artras. The Elite smiled back and bowed, his fist to his chest in salute.
Baros vowed that he would make it up to his nestmate somehow. He owed him, the closest thing he had to a brother, that much. A promotion, maybe. Perhaps even a special service in the ranks. It didn't matter. Now that Baros was a Zealot, he was able to do the impossible in the name of the Covenant. He would lead troops into battle, go head-on in the frays of war. He was sure that promoting skills when they were recognized was in the job description.
Either way…Baros was going to make it up to him.
The carrier, Justice of Temptation, was in an uproar the following week. The great Admiral, one of the five in the fleet, had died during the night. There was a mix-up as to who was going to be his heir/replacement. The old Elite was a sentimental war hero, but even he knew that there was a fine line when it came to selecting a successor. It was just that no one knew who that successor was.
Baros and Artras both stood to attention as the highest ranking Elites gathered together in the central chamber of the tremendous ship; the same hall where they both had their duel, though converted into a grand audience chamber for the very real purpose of selecting a successor for the admiral. The other four admirals had already gathered about, reading a manuscript they had just found in the General's Quarters earlier that day.
"What do you think is going to happen?" Baros asked his cousin as they stood to attention.
"I am unsure," Artras replied, "I am more curious about the source of the Admiral's death. Do you suspect foul play?"
"What kind of talk is that?!"
The two glanced down at a Grunt Deacon, his hands holding a manuscript disc, who was standing next to the two of them.
"What reason would any of us have of killing our mighty Admiral?!" the Grunt said, "Thinking such thoughts is as close to blaspheming as it can come! The Admiral was a great keeper of the word, he would have no reason to be eliminated by his fellow comrades!"
"It is a possibility," Artras said, "Not everyone is as keeping to the word of the Forerunners as you are, deacon."
The Grunt scoffed, but didn't speak further, instead turning his attention to the four Admirals, who looked prepared to speak.
"Warriors of the Covenant," the highest ranking Admiral spoke aloud, "The time has come for us to select a successor to the deceased admiral, Krejii Xar 'Kaginree. According to a manuscript disc, which contains his will, we had found a successor for our Admiral!"
There were some cheers, though they were followed by silence as the great Admiral raised his hands in the air.
"It is a strange decision for his choice," the great Admiral said, "The successor is a warrior of great strength and skill. He is an honorable, and admirable soldier, and he is a proud believer and upholder of the Covenant. However…he is not of the Sangheili race."
There was some shock and murmured discussions amongst the ranks. The troops had never been lead by anyone but Elites. There was no other race that was better at war than the Elites. Who was going to lead them if not a Sangheili?
"For those of you who are curious, this individual is of no kinship to any of you save through the Covenant," the Admiral said, "He is not a San 'Shyuum, nor is he Jiralhanae, and he is not Mgalekgolo. He is not even an Unggoy, for he is none of you. He is a unique individual, described by the former Admiral to be a warrior who comes from an inferior race, but has proven himself worthy from their lowliness. Though the Prophets would look down upon us on this choice, he is, according to the will, a worthy selection of a replacement. Without further ado, I ask that…Annihilation, please come forward."
Everyone gasped as a gate in the wall of the chamber opened. With clanking boots, a figure, hooded and cloaked, his body covered by a powerful exoskeleton, came up to the Admirals. He stepped up to them, bowing down on one knee, his head low in submission to the four leaders of the fleet.
"Arise, Annihilation," the high Admiral said, "Claim your title…"
The figure stood up. Taking the manuscript from the Admiral's hands, he walked up to the platform where the Admiral was first speaking. Raising the will above his head, he shouted out in a voice for all to hear.
"I claim the title of Admiral!" he shouted, "On my honor, I will fulfill my duties, and keep to the Writ of Union! I…am…Annihilation!!!"
Beneath the hood, a visor gleamed golden light as the Admiral gazed into the crowd above, his hands still holding the will. The soldiers silently applauded the rising of the new Admiral, though Baros did not know what to think of it. He knew better than to not applaud, but how could having someone like…him command an army of the Covenant?
He noticed that the Grunt Deacon beside him had fainted.
The Justice of Temptation began to slow in Slipspace, the other vessels behind it doing likewise as their lead ship prepared an exit vector outside into realspace. Several Elite technicians prepared the vessel for the jump, typing upon the symbols on the keyboard with lightning speed.
"Preparing an exit vector," one Elite said, "Coordinates received from High Charity acknowledged. Activating warp drives."
"I cannot wait," one Elite said to a Grunt sitting beside him, "We are finally returning home. I can't wait to see the look on my mate's face…perhaps I can witness my offspring for the first time."
"I wish to return to the core of the station," the Grunt said, "Need to feel the big heat again. Big ship has big heat, but not as big of heat as High Charity."
A Jackal beside the two of them scoffed, turning his beak-like nose away from his station to glance a look at the two technicians.
"What does it matter?" the Jackal said in his bird-like voice, "We'll be leaving anyway. No point getting comfortable."
The Elite and Grunt both glanced menacingly at the Jackal before returning to their respective stations.
"All ships, prepare for jump," the Fleetmaster, a Zealot with shining gold armor, said aloud as he sat upon his shipmaster throne, "Exit vector engage. Prepare to exit to realspace."
"Realspace opened," a technician voiced, "Brace yourselves."
A flash of light lit up the viewscreens of the great Carrier as it exited Slipspace. The screens fazed out for a short while as the fleet began to exit Slipspace at the same time, creating a tremendous hole in Realspace that lit up the black void. The Fleetmaster and the other Elites all gaped as the viewscreens began to materialize the image in front of them, revealing the horrifying sight ahead of them.
"I don't believe it," an Elite said, his hands shaking in his chair as he stared at the viewscreen ahead of them.
"Big explosion, cause big heat," the Grunt said as he gazed at the wreckage, "Too bad not on board."
"Told you not to get comfortable," the Jackal said, though it was obvious that he was also scared.
All eyes of the entire fleet stared in disbelief and sadness as the distorted, flame-wrecked mass that was once a piece of High Charity flew on the outskirts of the galaxy, the only sign of its former fate being in the form of tremendous chunks of dead, brownish green organic matter, which looked as dead as the space station piece it was attached to. Not one of the Covenant Loyalists could believe their eyes as they gazed at the wreckage.
Only one word escaped the lips of the Fleetmaster, who was shuddering in his rage. He slammed his hand on the arm of the throne, gazing at the destroyed wreckage of High Charity in a furious rage.
"Demons," he growled.
Kerian: Covenant Loyalists? Who would have guessed? I wonder what they are going to do next...hmm...
Survivor: I don't like where you are going with this, Kerian...
Kerian: Get over it. You're a Spartan. You're supposed to like this kind of stuff.
Survivor: We're all humans. We have feelings too.
Kerian: Whatever...anyway, now you know the origins of the main antagonists, the Covenant Loyalists. You also just saw the leader of the main group of antagonists, specifically the Warlord (then, Admiral) of Annihilation. I have yet to reveal exactly what he is to anyone, so sit tight and you'll hopefully find out in the future.
Well, that concludes this batch of Short Stories. Until next time, me, out!
Survivor: What'd you do with Darin?
Kerian: Froze him in a block of ice. More to find out in the next chapter of Legacy of the Sages...though that's a different story entirely.