September 13 2555 2049 hours
Inside Planet Standard IV
Forerunner Service Tunnels/ Flood Hive
SpecOps Major Ryau 'Cinotee [MIA]
Ryau and his latch crept though the muck and puss that made up the floor in this bio-mass covered service tunnel. He was glad that their masks filtered out the smell but felt bad for the humans, who only had a rag over their faces. What smell that did make it though the filters was horrible. Shan slipped on a identical and fell into a pool. Ryau grabbed his shield harness and pulled him up.
“Gods! Its all over me.” Shan smeared the flesh and fluids off his armor.
“Keep quiet.” Ryau whispered and hit him lightly on the side of his head. “The Parasite can hear Shan.”
“Sorry Major.” Shan found his footing again and headed off with the others. The Spartans had point behind Marissa, with Ryau in the back. So far there haven't been any Flood wandering the corridors, which Ryau found strange. The incubator pods pulsed with growing infection forms, they were careful not to bump into them and cause then to pop.
They came to an open trench, the tunnel where the Gondola should be. The tunnel was void of any Flood forms. “I will go check on the Gondola system.” Marissa flew off in to a service vent, leaving them on the ledge, very much like a stereotypical Monitor. There was a loud creak and something heavy dropped to the floor. A few moments later, Marissa hovered back over on top of a Gondola. “There was a pillar that had collapsed across the path.”
“Very well.” Ryau hopped aboard the Gondola and found a stash of auto turrets in a supply container. “If I deploy these, will they fire on us?”
Marissa hovered over and zapped each one with a beam and looked up. “They will now only fire on the signals emitted by Jeaso's Sentinels and the genetic structure of the Flood.”
“Good.” Ryau activated one and placed it on the corner of the Gondola. The Spartans and the Humans set up behind the walls in case anything jumped out at them. Shan and Asau took positions around the Gondola's control room. The Gondola lurched and started rapidly down the corridor. Far down they tunnel the Gondola lurched as the lower or upper strut hit something and caused it to hit the side wall.
“What the Hell was that?” the female army trooper said.
“Flood tentacles, massive. I think we do have a Gravemind down here.” Naki said, she was becoming concerned. “If this infection is too advanced...we may never make it off this planet.”
“We'll get off, the Flood is not a micro organism. We can get out of here.” Ryau said.
“ONI might not allow that... unless there's a way to secure a landing zone, they wont land a ship here.” Spartan A204 said.
“There is a way, my mother made quite a lot of devices that could help in securing an area.” Marissa said. “If we manage to eliminate Jeaso, we can set up on the surface.”
“Sounds good...gods...” Ryau looked where they were arriving now. The platforms and corridors that lined the interior of the barrier wall were gone, smashed and crumpled, all that was left was an empty shell of the wall covered in bio-mass. The Gondola continued to hover though the open space as if the tunnel was all together. A large mound stood in the center of the hole, tentacles spread around its base and up the walls. “I think we found the Gravemind.” Ryau whispered.
Either it didn't see them pass over, it was occupied with something else or it didn't care about them at all, they passed into the other tunnel without incident. Everyone gave a sigh of relief, even Marissa had virtually held her breath. “We're going to come back and take that thing out soon.” Sargent Green said. “Right?”
“Of course. We can not allow the Flood to continue to exist. Ryau, remember that cleansing barrier that Jeaso activated in the Apex lab? This facility has a much larger one that will cleanse the entire facility. He does not have control of it right now, my mother managed to lock him out of it for now and modify it.” Marissa said.
“Then that is something we must do before we get out of here. How thorough is it?” Ryau asked.
“It will wipe any trace of organic material from this facility capable of sustaining the Flood.” Marissa said. “There will be nothing left except for the dirt and fauna..”
“Damn that is thorough.” Spartan A204 said from her position behind a wall.
“Do you know when the infection arrived on this planet? I mean, they weren't here before Humanity settled on the surface,” Naki asked anyone who knew. The humans shrugged, none of them have had contact with the surface for three years.
“Converting to the Human calender I would say is was in February of twenty-five-fifty-three. Surface sensors indicated that a ship crash landed in the planets ocean around that time.” Marissa said.
“I'm just trying to figure something out, but Flood can not use the teleportation system right?” Naki asked.
“No, not unless the system is triggered for them.”
“So unless the flood managed to find one of two relays and Jeaso purposely brought them down here, they found another way in.” Naki concluded.
“The glass was smashed where we came in, up in a hangar.” Corporal Green, Sargent Green's wife, said. Ryau knew that the Army wouldn't normally allow this because of a conflict of interests, but this war was full of exceptions.
“That was from water pressure. And there was not a Flood breach in my sector.” Marissa said. “Oh...my memory may be failing, there could be a maintenance shaft that leads to the surface, somehow my people built this place down here.”
“And you never told us this, why?” Sargent Green said.
“I am over one hundred thousand of your years old Sargent. I-forty-nine doesn't even remember his own name, I don't remember next to nothing of the planet that I grew up on or my father, it's probably nothing but desolate ruins now and he is dead.” Marisa's eye flashed red slightly. “I know you're constructs die after seven years. Even our construct break down after time, and that is all I am now. A construct.” Marissa snapped at him.
Ryau gripped onto a railing as the Gondola began to pick up speed. Marissa noticed and slowed it down again. However the active repulsion engines on the bottom caused much stress on the damaged gondola tunnel, a beam from above snapped and smashed into the Gondola. The lower strut of the Gondola slammed into the floor of the tunnel causing it to tip over.
“Hold on!” Spartan 098 yelled.”
Marissa's sphere hit the roof of the Gondola's cab as it flipped. Ryau braced himself against a pillar and dropped to the ground after the car settled. Naki and the other Sangheili were fine, so were the Humans. Marissa moved out of the cab. “I'm sorry... that was unexpected.” She said.
“It is fine, we are unhurt.” Ryka said. “Please continue showing us the way.”
As they continued down the lower level of the tunnel, Ryau noticed that Asau had a limp. Asau was the only one of his new latch that had not gotten severely injured yet. “Asau, are you alright?” He asked.
“Yes, just a twisted ankle.” She said. “I can handle it.”
“Good.” Ryau followed the group.
The Flood fog began to clear and a large blast door closed behind them. “That should keep the Flood off out backs for a little while.” Marissa said. The Humans removed the cloth from their faces.
“Still doesn't smell any better here.” Mike said.
Marissa ignored his comment and went over to a lift. “We are now will inside Jeaso's desert. This lift will take us down to ground level.”
“What are we waiting for?” Sargent Green moved on to the platform. “Let's go end this.” The Sargent's wife grabbed his arm a pulled him back off the platform.
“You idiot, the lift is coming down.” Seconds later the lift settled on the platform.
“Safety feature, we didn't want anyone falling down the shaft.” Marissa floated into a box on the lift.
Everyone crowded on to lift and it headed down through the inner working of the wall. Bellow the Gondola tunnel there was a nicely decorated glass tunnel following along the rout of the tunnel above. “What's that?” Naki asked.
“That is the foot tunnel.” Marissa asked. “Hasn't been used in millenia ”
“So we have been walking around and fighting in your maintenance tunnels.” Naki said with a nervous laugh. The lift suddenly lurched and stopped for a moment. “What was that?”
“I do not know...” Marissa replied. Then the lift continued down ward. They could hear the wind blowing as they arrived at the specified level. Piles of sand accumulated in the corners and all over the floor.
They followed the wind to a doorway that appeared similar to the one they used to enter the tunnels, only it was half filled with hot sand. It was a nice temperature for Ryau, similar to the summers in Zelso, though the Humans were bothered a bit from the heat. He stepped out into the bright sand, the holographic star shining brightly above the Apex lab. Ancient dead tree trunks lay partially submerged in the sea of sand. According to Marissa, this used to be a lush rainforest until the water systems shut down over four centuries ago.
“Sure wish we had a hog, or some other sort of transport. Wouldn’t matter if it could see us, we stick out like a sore thumb already.” Mike groaned.
“We don't, now shut up.” Sargent Green said. “How far are we from the objective?”
Marissa hovered higher above the dunes to look into the distance. “Roughly a kilometer left.”
“Hasn't he got any patrols?” Spartan A204 said.
“Yes, they've sighted us and reported us. He has this sector heavily surveyed.” Marissa said. “We will wait for nightfall, I will then mask our thermal signature.” He will be blind to us then.”
“Have you been doing that the entire time?” Ryau asked.
“Yes, but hiding thermals does not help prevent actual visual contact.” Marissa responded. “It would get very dark here, perfect for sneaking towards his base of operation.”
“Alright then, let's post the Spartans on the dune and we'll rotate lookouts until nightfall.” Ryau said, he stuck a light stick in the sand so they could send survivors out if they found any. The Spartans nodded and took their posts, falling back into the mode they had when Ryau used to be their leader. The holographic sun began to dim and transition into the moon phase, which then faded out of existence as well.
“Okay, lets move.” Ryau pointed towards the structure bordering the sand and remaining forest. A trio of Super Sentinels patrolled up above the deserts surface. Ryau took notice of many lights sticking out just above the sand around the perimeter of the structure.
Marissa tracked his eyes to the flashing lights. “Guardian towers, in place to keep whatever he captured in, not keeping us out.” She said. “We do need to worry about the Guardian Sentinels.” As she said that a massive shape emerged from the sand a few hundred meters away. Searchlights on its hull activated and it flew off in the other direction in a standard search pattern.
They moved quickly across the sand, avoiding the Sentinel's search lights and small sensor nodes that glowed a bright purple in Ryau's night vision. Strangely there wasn't any resistance or high tech defenses. Ryka was walking out front of the group. He slammed into nothingness with a dull thump. He took a step back and looked at the air in front of him.
“Oh...it has a shield.” Ryka said. “That may explain why there have not been many defenses.”
“Ah, let me just adjust the frequency.” Marissa said and a moment later there was a faint shimmering as the shield deactivated. They ran the final few hundred meters and took shelter along the wall. Marissa sighed behind them. “I can not follow you in there, I need to attend to the Flood infection and my fleet of Sentinels.”
“Very well ma'am.” Sargent Green said. “Find us that way out of here if we can't restore the transport system.”
“I will Sargent.” Marissa said before flying off towards the Apex Labs.
The Humans and Spartans broke off and headed around to the other side of the wall the made up the facility's perimeter. Guardian towers didn't pick them up coming in so Ryau figured either they were offline or they only fired on things leaving the compound. The entire area reminded Ryau of the Halo game map he and Naki had played on the moment that they were sucked into this universe, Sandbox. The door to they had formed up on silently slid open and Endesa and Asau made sure the room was clear.
The door had opened to a long hallway stained in blood. Not of one species but of the Covenant and Human.
“Gods... what happened here.” Endesa muttered.
“They've either tried to escape or he just killed them all...” Shan said. “Might have been both...”
“There aren’t any bodies, either he wanted to keep an unused hallway clean or he had whoever was left clean it up for their own sake.” Naki said as they crept down the corridor. “Maybe he gives them proper burials.”
“When I was here, the looser of the fight would receive a warriors funeral. Even if he tortured and killed us, he allowed us to follow our traditions.” Ryka said.
“So he's not so insane after all...” Shan said with a humph. They headed though the facilities halls, attempting to find a way into the facilities lower levels.
They came into a dark room and the lights flickered on, momentarily blinding their night vision. As the flash cleared Ryau saw groups of Sangheili and other species of the Covenant sleeping along the walls and all over the floor.
“Should we wake them?” Asau whispered.
“Yes, if we don't make it out some how, at least other may.” Ryau said. “Well... here it goes. Everyone wake up!” The piles of soldiers jumped up but then remained facing down, probably assuming that Ryau was Jeaso. “No time for that, get up.” Now they looked confused, a few Sangheili took a glance up at him. Ryau took off his helmet and motioned for the door. “You need to leave now.” With the removal of his helmet, the Sangheili and others stood up.
One in a battered set of Fieldmaster armor stood taller than the rest. “Who are you?”
“SpecOps Major Ryau Cinotee, now follow the doorways to the desert and go to the flashing light in the dunes. We're getting everyone out.”
“My latch, and many others are in other sections of this facility. He has done horrors to us.” The Fieldmaster sighed. “Do not forget about them.”
“We won't now go.” Ryau pointed out the doorway. As they ran by there was the general talk of how they hoped that this wasn't a trick by the evil one and another popular conversation was about how they believed they were actually in Hell and Ryau was a warrior of the Gods sent to rescue them. He counted about seventy Sangheili, Unggoy and Kig 'Yar in the file that left.
“Alright, let's move further down.” Ryau said. Down the next hall was a ramp that went down a few meters. A trio of standard Sentinels flew out of the doorway and opened fire. Naki rolled behind a power conduit and Ryau opened fire from his position behind the door. His captured Sentinel beam burned through the first Sentinel's armor and caused it's core to explode. Endesa threw a plasma grenade and it vaporized the other two.
“They definitely know we're in here now.” Naki said..
The periodic terminal on the wall flashed red and showed images of Sentinels and a line of text that said “Weapon discharge, Sentries inbound.”
They breached another room at the bottom of the ramp that was full of more Covenant members. However these were all awake and watching a Monitor hovering by a small hatch on the wall. Ryau could guess that that was Jeaso. Jeaso was talking to them “Some one has come for you, yet you will not -”
Ryau fired the remaining rounds in his Carbine into the Monitor's Eye. He knew that it wouldn't do much damage but the metal was slightly different than the type that 343 Guilty Spark was made of. The eye cracked and sparks flew out of the casing. Jeaso's eye glowed and fired a powerful blast at Ryau, throwing him against the wall outside the door. Jeaso fired a few more blasts into the crowd and disappeared though the hatch. Asau and Endesa moved ran into the room and started helping the hut and wounded out of the room. Ryau stood up and his radio cracked.
“Major, Sargent- run!...has...porta....omposer...Get out of there!” Her message was garbled by the layers of Forerunner metal above, but Ryau understood the meaning.
“Endesa, Asau. Get out of that room now!” Ryau shouted. A glowing barrier of orange and red light emerged from the wall and moved rapidly across the room. Asau tripped over a discarded helmet and slammed onto the ground. She screamed as the barrier crossed over her lower body and destroyed everything it touched. Her body breaking up into glowing squares and then they too disappearing. She reached up for help and Endesa reached back, but it was too late. She was gone, only a smoldering set of armor and ash remained. Ryau grabbed Endesa to prevent her from sharing the same fate as the glowing hot barrier continued its advance. Others in the room burned and broke down as they made contact with the barrier, unable to escape.
Ryau threw Endesa over his shoulder as she was too shocked to loose her life long friend in such a painful way. They sprinted towards the doorway they had entered. The corridor became smaller as they barrier emerged from the walls on all levels. Shan's remaining arm slid across the surface and burned away before he could correct his path. Everyone they had freed was running towards the same location, the flashing beacon Ryau had placed less than an hour before. The deadly barrier halted at the doorway and Ryau set Endesa down on the sand. Shan's mandibles were clenched tight what remained of his arm glowed white hot.
“By the Gods! What was that!?” Naki shouted. “Asau...she's gone.”
“Did you all get out?! What happened?” Marissa came frantically over the radio.
“What did he have! We lost Asau!” Ryau was disturbed. That was too close for anyone in there.
“He took the portable Composer. A less advanced version of the pods you and Naki were in.” Marissa still sounded worried.
That gave Ryau a little hope that Asau was still around. “So she's still alive? And that looked nothing like a pod. It was like the cleansing barrier he activated in the Apex lab!” Ryau sent her the helmet cam data that was automatically recorded.
“She has been converted basically into a construct. If we ever manage to repair that machine that was to restore us, then she may be recoverable... and he must have combined the two.” Marissa stopped for a moment. “Sargent are you there? Did you make it out in time.”
There was a burst of static on the other end. “Yes we did, all accounted for. We located and freed and group of civies and believe it or not, a Gúta. They say it was an Elite at one time, some how.”
“He's been tampering with that prototype... Major, my mother made another prototype of the MFS Device when she first arrived here to improve upon, but it was stolen centuries ago. What is Gúta?” Marissa said.
“Its a large creature that was native to the planet Reach, I've got no idea how this guy got a hold of a DNA sample.”
“I don't know... fall back to the dune, I'll redirect a gondola to pick you and the survivors up. I've sent in my Sentinels to take out his.” As Marissa said that, thousands of lights came into focus in the sky and descended on Jeaso's Sentinel factories and his stronghold. “I've dedicated all my forces to this, I only hope that it'll be enough.”
Ryau sighed and took off his helmet. They had only rescued a few of the rooms in the stronghold and lost a friend who may or may not be recoverable. Endesa had calmed down, hearing that Asau might still be alive made her feel a bit better. Ryau sat down in the the sand and checked up his suits power reserves. This mission was too much for his recruits, though the entire reason he chose them to come along was because this was supposed to be a diplomatic rescue mission, something to get them out into the universe.
A female Sangheili from one of the rescued rooms came over to Ryau. “Thank you brother, the evil one said that you were coming for us but you would never make it in time.” She bowed her head a bit. “The Gods have blessed your hooves with swiftness as you do your holy duty.”
Ryau didn't tell her how right she was with the Gods blessing, after The Scientist injected that fluid into him before taking the device. He nodded and stood back up. There were a few cries of panic from the wary prisoners as a detachment of Jeaso's Sentinels emerged from the sand a few hundred meters away. Through they were quickly distracted as a large group of Marissa's flew in and attacked. Ryka seemed to find a few Sangheili that he knew and was talking to them as Sargent Green returned with his group of humans. The Covenant survivors went quiet when they saw the massive creature behind the group.
The Gondola floated from above and settled onto the ground, its lower strut forcing its way deep into the sand. They filed the survivors on board and hopped on themselves. Everyone's mood had improved after they learned that Asau was still alive, though it was not as good as it could be as she was in a computer somewhere.
“When do we go get her back?” Endesa asked after they took off again.
“Soon” Ryau said. “Once we get these people to safety and rearmed, we're going back.”
“Good.” Endesa said.
“I'm going to need another arm...” Shan muttered.