Et voici le quatrième cahpitre! And no, relax, it's not in French. I apologize for the long delay between Chapter III and Chapter IV. You can blame midterms for that. Well, I call this Chapter IV, but it's really more like a continuation of Chapter III. Also, I decided to change the title from "Lost" to "Missing in Action" as it seemed more appropriate; I hope this doesn't upset you. But anyways, here it is. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: The rights to Halo and Dragon Age are owned by 343 Industries and BioWare respectively. I own nothing except for my original character.
Word Count: 4 728
Proof, the Keeper had asked for. Merrill wondered how the Spartan could fulfill the Keeper's request. She thought that his armour and appearance would be sufficient enough. She'd never seen armour like his before. It fastened together so strangely and was of a design that seemed completely foreign to her. And there was also that really peculiar stabbing-himself-in-the-head thing he did with his armour. Merrill had never heard of that before. But apparently those things didn't count, in the Keeper's eyes. So how else could he prove his story, she wondered.
"Would a piece of technology from my universe suffice?" the Spartan asked, "I'm almost certain that this world has no equivalent."
"What kind of technology?" Master Ilen questioned; he was immediately skeptical, Merrill could tell.
"An information-processing device," answered the Spartan.
A what? What's an information-processing device?
"You mean like a book?" Merrill inquired.
"No,' was the Spartan's frank reply. And with that, he reached into the armoured bag he had carried with him and pulled out what appeared to be a small metal box. It was small, with the sides not even the length of a dagger, and was made out of a strange dark grey metal, similar to that of the Spartan's armour. He placed the box on the floor next to him and produced a long cord from his bag with pointy metal prongs on either end; they were the same as the metal prong on that cord from his armour, Merrill realized.
"This is your technology? A box?" retorted Ilen.
The Spartan ignored him and pressed something on the box. It started making a very soft whirring noise and a small circle of light appeared at the top of it. What happened next was quite fascinating! Overtop of the box, a picture appeared that was made entirely out of floating light! The picture was of a bird of prey of some sort, with its wings stretched out and upwards, and in its talons was a ball. In front of the ball was a banner with the letters "UNSC" on it, and beneath this picture the word "initializing" was displayed.
But the picture and the word were just floating in the air! They weren't even written or imposed on something; they just floated there, made out of nothing but light, as far as Merrill could tell!
But more light started appearing. In front of the box a rectangle of blue light sprang into existence, divided up into rows of squares and rectangles. The floating picture had disappeared and in its place there was a large dark blue floating rectangle that curved slightly towards the group at the ends. It was almost the width of the aravel (which was only maybe six feet) and went most of the way to the roof, about four feet. In the centre of the rectangle were new words: "User ID" followed by a white rectangle and under that, "Password" which was followed by a square with a solid circle in it. Underneath all these was a rectangle containing the word "Enter."
The Spartan touched a finger to the first white rectangle and then started moving his fingers through the rectangular row of squares in front of the box. In the User ID rectangle, the number, "79561-49347-S0392" appeared. He then tapped the box containing the circle, which then changed to a solid square, and started talking, seemingly to his memory-box, in some strange, harsh language that Merrill had never heard before. When he was finished, he tapped the box containing the square.
The "Enter" box flared briefly before everything in the curved window-screen disappeared and was replaced by the word "Welcome…" After a second, that too disappeared and a new screen came up; it had symbols and icons all over it – none of which meant anything to Merrill – and in the background was that UNSC image again.
Hahren Paivel and Master Ilen were dumbstruck. Even the Keeper had a look of wonder on her face, which was quite rare as hardly any sights managed to amaze her anymore.
"What is this device, Spartan?" the Keeper queried, "had I not the talents of a mage, I would say it appears as if it functions through magic."
"This is a computer," he answered her, "we use these to manage information; texts, recordings, images, music and more can be stored in these. We also use them for communication."
Merrill was dumbfounded, to say the least. That the Spartan's people could create such a device that could do all these things, and be used to communicate, all without the use of magic was amazing!
"With this, I can show you my memories. Would that constitute sufficient evidence for you?" the Spartan enquired.
"It would," was the Keeper's short reply.
"You can share memories with this?" Merrill asked incredulously, "how?"
"You'll see," was all the Spartan said.
He then picked up the cable he took from the bag and inserted one end into the back of his head, like he had done with his armour. He then slid back a small panel on the box and stuck the other end in there. A second later, new words came up on the display: "New drive detected: Spartan-039-2 Implants. Switch to Neural Interface?" followed by "Yes" and "No". The Spartan tapped "Yes" and immediately the entire display disappeared. It was replaced by a new display of the same size and shape. The row of squares the Spartan was tapping into disappeared as well, replaced by a box containing the words "Manual Holographic Interface"
The new display was quite different from the old one. There was no UNSC picture in the background and the many symbols and icons were gone. Instead, the screen colour was a dark blue and the background consisted of stacked grids of continuously connected hexagons, displayed in such a manner that it resembled a three-dimensional lattice. It sort of reminded Merrill of honeycombs in beehives. The upper left portion of the screen was sectioned off and contained a list of boxes containing words.
"What did you do?" asked Paivel, "what is this 'neural interface'?"
"Now I can control the functions of the computer with my thoughts," the Spartan answered.
As he did so, a box titled "Memories" lit up and the display zoomed in, descending a grid-level. The hexagonal grids on the screen started moving across the screen, almost as if they were being passed over and the screen was searching for something. Merrill also noticed that many of the hexagon cells contained small points of light in them that reminded her stars in the night sky. After a few seconds, the screen's scrolling stopped and focused on one cell that contained a light in it, zooming in and displaying words in the left-hand section of the screen. "Slipspace Anomaly: Arrival at [Thedas], Location Unknown, March 18 2869 CE" the text read.
"Here are some of the recorded memories of the time since my arrival on this world," the Spartan explained, "hopefully this should be sufficient proof of my origins." The hexagonal gridlines and text disappeared as the screen turned black.
When the screen returned to life, it showed a picture of the interior of some metal structure. And the picture moved, it was actually changing right in front of Merrill's eyes. The point of view rotated and turned several times and by the edges of the picture, there could occasionally be seen a pair of arms encased in the same strange black armour that the Spartan wore. And they carried some strange metal object.
And there was sound that accompanied the moving image too! Other people's voices could be heard, as well as the sounds of their boots pounding on the metal surface, and loud crashes and booms and other noises that Merrill had never heard before. It was as if Merrill were experiencing another world through someone else's eyes and ears. It was amazing!
The Spartan (For who else's memories could these be?) made his way through the maze-like metal building, passing other smaller humans dressed in equally strange armour and carrying equally strange looking objects, and passed through strange portals where cracks in the metal wall would form and the panels would slide into the adjacent sections of the wall. It was very strange.
Then the Spartan came to rooms and corridors where humans and these outlandish, monstrous…creatures were fighting each other! There were large creatures, much taller than a man that had fur all over them and arms thicker than a man's head. There were short, dark blue-skinned ones with funny-looking tanks on their backs. And there were yet others with long, thin beak-like faces with shields that looked like they were made of flowing energy.
But they weren't fighting each other with swords or bows either. Instead, the strange objects that both humans and creatures carried made loud noises and shot what appeared to be light or energy at each other; short relatively slow green and blue blobs of light from the creatures, and fast yellowy-white streaks of light from the humans' weapons. And the Spartan's weapon made very little noise and shot no light at all, instead his targets convulsed and little tiny holes appeared in their bodies.
Occasionally the Spartan would dash up to his enemies and pummel them to death with his fists or weapons, or sometimes he'd stab them with his knives, or even throw his knives at them. Or sometimes he would even do that strange turning-into-blurry-invisibility thing and kill the creatures undetected. Despite the Spartan's memory-box not being very loud, a torrent of noise still flooded into the aravel; there were screams and howls, battle cries and the shriek of the dying, from both sides, and the constant roar of weapons being fired. Such fiercely brutal combat was entirely alien to Merrill and she had to admit that she felt quite…unnerved.
After a couple minutes of that, the letters "FFW" appeared near the bottom of the screen and everything moved incredibly fast. Then once the screen showed a large empty room with strange object at the end, the FFW disappeared and the motion returned to normal.
The object was very large, many times larger than a person, and seemed to have projections, almost like wings, Merrill thought, coming out of its sides. It had glass windows that sloped up and back at the front (or, at least she thought it was the front) and a sort of tail-like section at the back. The Spartan walked up to it, opened a strange door of some sort, and walked inside to the front part of the object where he could sit in comfy-looking chairs and see out the windows. He pressed some switches and the panels of the interior of the object lit up with different coloured lights! It was really pretty; she had never seen anything like it before.
Then the object that the Spartan was controlling lifted up off of the ground! Merrill could tell because the ground grew farther away when looking out the front window. And then the ground started rotating downwards, like a giant door of some sort.
But what Merrill saw beneath was one of the most beautiful things she'd ever seen. There appeared to be what she could only describe as a giant marble, just floating there. It had patches of blues and greens and browns with streaks and swirls of white and grey all over it. And all around that magnificent marble was the night sky; that enchanting black emptiness dotted with those beautiful specks of starlight!
But then the Spartan manoeuvred the flying machine around and she could see the metal structure he had come out of above him. It seemed to just be floating there, hanging in the night sky. And it was massive! It was incredibly long and wide and had to be bigger than any building Merrill had ever seen. She didn't even know it was possible to build things on such a large scale.
And all around the floating metal building there were little objects flying around and shooting the same types of energy at each other. When they hit each other, sometimes the flying objects would flash brightly and a bubble of light would envelope them, or sometimes nothing would happen, but most often they would explode, turning into magnificent blue or yellow clouds of flame.
And when the Spartan flew his craft near the end of the metal building, the sky in front of him shimmered and warped and a few sparks flew seemingly out of nowhere, and then there was a bright blue flash and a large orb of blackness rimmed by strange blue light appeared! The same strange blue energy snaked across the surface of the empty black orb in lazy tendrils. Merrill then watched as the Spartan flew his vehicle straight into it!
Then the "FFW" came back onto the screen and everything moved really fast. When the letters went away and everything returned to normal speed, she could see the craft leaving the blackness it entered through another one of those strange holes in the sky. But this time, he appeared to be high up in the sky of some world; she could see mountains and bodies of water far below her. In fact, she could make out a body of water that almost looked like the Waking Sea. And those mountains on the coast looked like they could be the Vimmark Mountains. Was the Spartan in Thedas now?
But something must have gone wrong because the Spartan's flying machine was falling and all the lights had gone out. She watched through his eyes as he attempted to get the strange machine working again, pressing various switches and flipping other switches, with the ground drawing ever nearer. Then she watched as the Spartan left the control area and went back into the empty room with seats. He sat in the one furthest from the control area and a short while later, the machine hit the ground; there was a dreadfully loud noise of metal crunching a breaking and she saw the Spartan slam his head into something and the screen go black.
Then "FFW" came back and the screen showed at an exaggerated rate the Spartan regaining consciousness, sorting himself out and then leaving the crashed machine to explore. When the "FFW" went away and the actions on the screen reverted back to normal speed, Merrill could see armoured men in the forest. The Spartan was low to the ground and moving slowly and silently, apparently to avoid detection from them.
She could also make out what the men were saying, even though they were very far away. They mentioned abducting an elf and taking her back to "holding caves" and selling her later. They were slavers then! Merrill had heard that some humans bought and sold slaves and so the concept wasn't foreign to her, but it was still hard to believe that something like the buying and selling of people as if they were objects actually existed!
Then she saw the Spartan do his invisibility trick again and start killing the slavers. She watched as he relieved one of his weapon and started cutting through the slavers with terrifying speed and ease. When they were all dead, he turned towards the clearing and in the Spartan's field of view, Merrill could see herself! The Spartan seemed to be angling his head downwards quite a bit. Was she really that small? And she could easily see the fear stenciled on her face, plain as day. She looked so tiny and weak. Is that really how she appeared to others? But it was still very fascinating, to be able to see yourself through the eyes of another person.
The screen froze there and the word "pause" flashed near the bottom. Silence filled the aravel as Merrill and the elders processed what they had just witnessed. In Merrill's mind, there could be no doubt that the Spartan was telling the truth. His memory-box alone was amazing and she knew for certain it wasn't just some elaborate form of magic; she felt no magical power emanating from it, which added even more to her amazement. But to actually experience his memories, to see what he saw, almost as if she were inside his head, confirmed it.
"Is that sufficient proof?" the Spartan asked the elders collectively.
"It is," the Keeper responded. But before she could continue, Merrill decided to interject with a torrent of questions.
"Is that really how wars are fought in your world?" she asked, "and what was that massive metal building? How was it just floating there in the sky? And what was that giant marble? It was very pretty."
"That was not a war," the Spartan replied, "it was a single skirmish; our ship was ambushed and boarded. Our wars involve destruction on a far greater scale than what you saw. The metal structure you saw was one of our warships, a frigate. Our vessels don't cross oceans and seas, they traverse the space between worlds. What you referred to as a giant marble was actually one of our many colony worlds. To put it in terms you would understand, I suppose you could say that the frigate was floating in the space beyond the sky. Does that answer your questions?"
Merrill simply nodded, unable to speak as she processed that information. They were able to travel beyond the sky? And that thing was a ship? But what did he mean by "the space between worlds"? Could there actually be other worlds beyond the sky of their world? And the Spartan's people were able to leave their world and find these other worlds? How was that even possible without magic? They must have been really powerful to accomplish all those feats with only technology!
The other elders seemed equally as shocked and surprised by the Spartan's memories and statements as Merrill. The Keeper still seemed to have her wits about her though as she continued to question the Spartan.
"As…convincing as your evidence is," she began "it still does not explain the reasons behind your presence in Thedas, or what your intentions are."
That seemed to give the Spartan pause as he didn't reply immediately. He was once again silent for a few moments as he lost himself in thought. Several seconds later though, he seemed to come up with an answer.
"My arrival here was accidental, an anomaly," he replied, "but I'm most likely stranded in this world; my only goal is to survive in it."
"How are you 'stranded' here? Why can't you return to where you came from?" Hahren Paivel inquired.
"I doubt very much that the technology that permits us to travel between worlds has been developed here," the Spartan answered, "and even if it has, my arrival here was due to an unknown anomaly which cannot be replicated. I am stuck here."
"And what do you mean by 'surviving'?" asked Master Ilen.
"To be stuck on this world means spending the rest of my life here," the Spartan explained, "I need to know how this world works and how its societies function if I'm to survive."
Merrill was still trying to comprehend everything that this man had shown and explained to her. He came from a completely different universe that was devoid of any magic, from a civilization that controlled multiple worlds and possessed technology the likes of which she'd never even imagined were possible. That alone would take a good while to sink in!
But Merrill was also curious about something else. From what the Spartan had described and what he she had seen and heard, his universe was a vastly different place than Thedas. And he was stuck here; he could never go back! What does that feel like to him? How could he be so…calm about it? He didn't even seem the least bit fazed. If anything, he seemed confident, determined. If Merrill were in his place, she'd be terrified!
"Your tale is certainly a fascinating one, Spartan," the Keeper broke the silence, "you may spend the night in our camp while we discuss what you have shown us."
"Thank you, ma'am," replied the Spartan.
"Merrill, please set up a tent for the Spartan and assist him with his needs," she instructed.
"Yes, Keeper," was Merrill's response.
At that point, the Spartan began to gather up his equipment and once again, Merrill watched in fascination. He began by deactivating his memory-box and she watched as the screen disappeared and the various floating lights around the box winked out of existence. The Spartan then removed the cord from his box, which he then replaced in his bag, and pulled the other end out of the back of his head. Merrill was still quite intrigued by it! The idea that his people could interact with their technology using their minds was fascinating. It was almost like blood magic, now that she thought of it. Except, not on people; the controlling-things-with-your-mind part was blood magic-y.
Next, the Spartan began to pull his black bodysuit back over his upper body. Merrill was almost disappointed; his heavily muscled physique was certainly easy on the eyes, but she quickly caught herself. Stop it Merrill, you shouldn't be thinking like that.
Once covered, the Spartan began reattaching the various pieces of his peculiar black armour. His armour also intrigued Merrill; the plates themselves seemed about as thick as armour plates used by the Dalish when they wore plate mail, but due to the shape and layout of the plates, his armour seemed a lot less bulky. The Spartan's movement in his armour also seemed much less restricted and confined. It was all very interesting.
Once the Spartan had reequipped his armour, Merrill rose and led him out of the aravel.
Spartan-039-2 silently followed Merrill out of the aravel. She led him away from the semi-circle of aravels and through the Dalish camp. As before, when he first entered the camp, he was on the receiving end of quite a few stares as many of the clan members stopped what they were doing to either gawk at him, or send him hostile glares. Merrill seemed to be oblivious, or else she didn't care.
After less than a minute of walking, they arrived at a tent situated next to an aravel at the edge of the camp, where the ground sloped sharply upwards, becoming nearly vertical. Merrill then turned to the Spartan.
"This is my tent. Is it alright if I set up yours here?" she asked him, seeming slightly nervous.
"That's fine," answered the Spartan.
The small elf then turned to the aravel and began rummaging inside it. The Spartan watched as she dug out the various items that would eventually form the tent; sheets of canvas, rope, stakes, and various wooden poles were brought out.
"Could I help you?" he inquired of her. Apparently that was an unusual thing to ask, as made evident by the look of surprise that Merrill now wore.
"Oh! That's kind of you to offer. Help would be nice," came her response.
The duo then proceeded to set up the Spartan's tent. Merrill got started, and the Spartan assisted her. Occasionally she would give him instructions, but for most of the process he simply mimicked her actions; observing her actions and comparing them to the shape of the other tents he had seen, he had a fairly decent idea of how to build the tent already. It only took a few minutes for them to erect the tent.
"What do the numbers in your name mean?" she suddenly asked him without any warning or foreshadowing, as she turned to face him.
"It means I'm the thirty-ninth soldier of the second generation of soldiers produced by the Spartan-IV program," he answered her.
"Oh. That's a funny name to have. But don't you have an actual name?" she continued. Spartan-039-2 didn't immediately answer her. He did have a normal name, but it was rarely used. To the majority of UNSC military personnel, he was simply Spartan-039-2; the small few who did know his name were a handful of the other Spartans of his generation.
He was reluctant to share his name with her. But as he thought about it, his reluctance slowly began to diminish. He was in a new world, with no chance to go back to his own universe, and even there he had very few close acquaintances with anyone; he was just a number. But here, it really wouldn't make sense to go by his military name; it would hold no meaning in Thedas. It would also probably be a good idea to start developing acquaintances with people if he was to live here for the rest of his life. And perhaps it would be nice to be viewed as an actual person rather than just a piece of equipment, a nameless killing machine.
But Merrill apparently mistook his hesitance for silent offense.
"I'm so sorry! I just said something incredibly rude, didn't I?" she exclaimed, "I didn't mean to-"
"You weren't offensive," the Spartan cut her off, "my name's Aldric."
"Oh. That's a nice name. Can I call you that? Or would that be ill-mannered of me? It's not impolite to call a human by their name, is it?" Merrill inquired.
"You can call me that, it's fine," he replied, a small half-grin forming, partly to reassure her and partly because her particular brand of nervousness was actually a bit amusing, he thought.
"Oh, um, alright. Is there anything else you need?" she asked.
"No, that's all. Thank you, Merrill," Aldric replied.
"Ok. It's pretty late, I think I'll go to bed now," she told Aldric before she turned for her own tent. But before she entered, she turned back, "and, um, thank you so much, again, for saving me from those people earlier," she flashed him a small, uncertain smile before turning in for the night.
It was quite late, and the sun had been down for a couple hours by now. With nothing else he could do today, Aldric decided he might as well turn in too. He crawled into his recently-erected tent, having to crouch down significantly to fit through its entryway, and took off the armoured backpack, setting it next the bedroll. He didn't bother to remove his armour or actually slide himself into the bedroll, instead just lying down directly on it; his armour's bodysuit and its climate-control functions provided enough cushioning and warmth.
What a strange day Aldric thought. Was this all real? Not just some crazy dream? He was actually in a different universe, a universe with magic and mythical creatures, and no way to get back to the UNSC. He was stuck here. Forever! Could that be right? He honestly had not even the faintest idea of what to do. The UNSC didn't exactly have regulations and protocols for this kind of situation. He may not have shown it in front of the clan's elders, but he was quite uncertain. Sure, he'd stated that his long-term goal was to survive, but wasn't everyone's? What about the short-term? How would he go about integrating into this world? But he managed to shove his uncertainties aside. He was a Spartan-IV super-soldier, and change and uncertainty were a part of his life. He would adapt.
Aldric's thoughts then drifted towards Merrill, the small elf woman. Though the term "woman" seemed out of place as her strong natural curiosity gave her an almost child-like air. But he didn't find it annoying at all, quite the opposite in fact; it was refreshing to meet someone who wasn't intimidated by his stature and appearance. Of course, she seemed nervous occasionally, but from what she said and how she behaved, her uncertainty seemed to be born from her inexperience with non-elves rather than him in particular. Even from the little he had seen, she was certainly an interesting individual.
But it was late, and he hadn't got any sleep since before he retrieved that forerunner crystal. Damn thing. Sure he'd been unconscious when he crashed, but getting knocked out didn't exactly count as rest. Forcing his mind to calm and silence itself, he allowed the gentle pull of sleep to draw him towards oblivion.
You may have noticed this already but if not, I based parts of the appearance of the Spartan's computer off of the terminals in Halo 3. Their design was just so unique and interesting! I wish I had a computer like those terminals. Also, I gave the Spartan's neural interface a greater role. In the Halo universe, we're told that all military personnel have neural implants, and that they all act as IFFs, but beyond this there's not much information. So I took some liberties and got creative. I figured that since it's a neural INTERFACE, it would allow the user to interface with computer systems, as well as performing a few other functions.
Also, I feel like I should point this out: I'm more or less just making this story up as I go. I have a general idea of where the plot is going, but as for the content of individual chapters, I basically just start with some idea that relates to where I want to take this story then start writing, with the chapter taking form as I go. Perhaps this affects the time it takes to write the chapters. But I'm not sure. Either way, I'm very grateful to those of you who haven't lost patience with me.
And, as always, reviews are greatly appreciated. Your opinions and expectations do influence the writing of this story. And of course, praise is a nice motivation :D But only when it's merited. So my thanks to all of you take the time to leave a review!
November 13, 2011, Announcement:
Polling has finished! The results were 7 people for the Spartan getting a weapon and 2 against it, the the Spartan will be getting a gun from his universe at some point soon. Since the question Aldric receiving a weapon has been resolves, I've added a new poll to my profile for you to vote on: I've been unable to decide who I want Hawke to be, but I've narrowed it down to two choices, which I'm letting you vote on. Also, no this story isn't dead, I've just been quite busy lately and haven't had much time to work on it at all. But I do have part of the fifth chapter complete and I AM working on it when I have the time. I have far too many ideas for where to take this story to let it die. So I thank all of you for your patience and I hope you understand.