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Ascension: Chapter 2
Posted By: Dragonclaws<nogard@gmail.com>
Date: 10 September 2006, 11:24 am

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Sergeant Johnson gripped the rifle as he watched the Elites glare at them; he glared back. Stepping closer to Commander Keyes, he muttered, "So, we've joined the Elites to fight in their rebellion… They don't seem very grateful." This he directed at the nearest Elite. The alien snarled, flexing its mandibles. Real pretty, split-jaw.

"With In Amber Clad taken by the Flood, we need as many friends as we can get." Commander Keyes said, smiling at the surrounding Elites. All this seemed to do was anger them more. Her smile faded. "At least the one in the fancy armor seems committed to our truce," she said as she rested against the Phantom's dark purple wall.

Johnson eyed said Elite as he spoke with the gold-armored Elite on the far side of the cabin. "Yes, ma'am. He's called 'the Arbiter'. I heard the Brutes talk about him. He seems to be some kind of Elite criminal who the Prophets made into a very high-ranking leader."

They watched as the two Elites argued with each other in their alien language, the gold one leaving into what must have been the cockpit. The Arbiter approached what Johnson recognized as a holographic generator on the side of the wall, and ran his hand up and down the side. After a bit of fiddling with it, the Elite left it be.

"Ma'am, what do you propose we do about this 'Ark'?" Johnson asked.

"We'll just have to convince the Elites to take their battle to Earth," Commander Keyes said. "From there, the Monitor should be able to find its location. We will then only need to reach the Ark and disable the Halos."

"Huh," Johnson grunted. "Sounds simple." Like things ever are…

The gold-armored Elite came back into the room and spoke with the Arbiter for a moment, then turned and barked an order. All the Elites, save for the Arbiter, stood at attention. As the Elite addressed his troops, the Arbiter approached the humans.

"We have sighted an Apparition dropship following us from afar," the Arbiter told them, "To ensure that the Brutes do not find our encampment, we will lead it far from our path and then destroy it."

"Ship Master, I have sighted the perfect area for our trap," Kiga 'Oimomee spoke into the radio as he steered the Phantom toward what appeared to be the ruins of an ancient temple. The compound was set in a small valley, with small waterfalls flowing down the sides and into a tower in the center.

"Excellent," the Ship Master's voice came through the speaker. "Proceed to engage the enemy craft."

Kiga reduced the Phantom's speed as he approached the site. He looked at his aft display and laughed as he saw the Jiralhanae dropship slow to match his speed. Loathsome rabble… He flew the Phantom slowly over a small cliff on the side of the temple complex. Just as the Phantom had cleared the top, Kiga moved it down and out of sight of the Apparition. He hovered the craft, waiting. "Steel yourself," he told his co-pilot, 'Tsafonee, who grunted in reply.

Kiga gripped the controls in excitement; never had he done battle in a dropship before. He had been trained primarily as a Shadow driver but after the rebellion began, he had been assigned to ferry troops in Phantoms. Such was his delight when he found himself the pilot of Ship Master 'Setfethee and the Arbiter!

Finally, the Apparition cleared the hill and was directly above them. The Jiralhanae saw them and tried to disengage. Kiga, however, sped after them at once. "Fire!"

His co-pilot acted promptly, spilling plasma fire over the dropship's aft. The enemy, instead of returning fire as Kiga expected, swung around and smashed their starboard troop bay into the Phantom's underbelly. The Phantom shook with the impact. Kiga pulled the craft back hard, feeling the controls vibrate under his hands.

"Status!" He cried.

"Our first and third cannons are offline," 'Tsafonee reported. "The fuel line for the gravity lift has been ruptured; it will be offline shortly."

The Apparition shook off its shattered bay and tilted sideways, revealing an open corridor. In the opening stood a Jiralhanae wielding a sword; the beast shook the weapon tauntingly. Kiga growled; the sword was a sacred weapon of the Sangheili. Thinking about an unworthy Jiralhanae using one filled him with disgust. Just as he gave the order to fire, the Apparition's cannon swiveled around and fired on them.

"We have lost the last cannon," 'Tsafonee reported grimly.

Silently cursing the Jiralhanae, Kiga quickly informed the Ship Master of the current situation. He moved the Phantom out of the Apparition's range, sliding towards a temple structure as it gave chase. To his surprise, the one who answered was not 'Setfethee, but in fact the Arbiter.

"I believe I have a solution," the Arbiter said. "Meet the gravity lift with the opening so that we may do battle with the enemy."

"Yes, Arbiter," Kiga said, following his orders hastily. He moved the craft into position, swinging treacherously close to a building on one side of the temple complex. I hope this does not mean a demotion…

As he collected his crimson rifles, the Arbiter quickly explained the situation to the Humans. "While we are in the troop carrier, you must guard the Oracle and the Sacred Icon. You may wish to further arm yourselves," he said, indicating the weapon storage containers built into the walls.

The alien Commander opened an Unggoy's compartment and, after sifting through the supplies, removed a needler and two crystals. Jahnsen chose four grenades and raised his rifle to a firing position.

The Phantom groaned as it once more made contact with the Apparition. "We are in position, Arbiter," the pilot said.

"Very good, warrior," the Arbiter said into the radio. "Hold as long as possible." He turned to the warriors, "Attack!"

The Arbiter engaged his camouflage, raised his rifles and charged forward. He quickly stopped before reaching the lift, realizing that his camouflage was not on. Putting down a rifle, he ran his hand over the armor's censors more deliberately but with no effect. He realized with a jolt that his body shield was not there either. Tartarus's blow must have dealt more damage than I believed…

He was too important to take such risks. While traditionally an Arbiter would place himself in the greatest of danger, these were very unusual times. Because the Prophets had betrayed the Sangheili, he was needed to inspire courage among the troops. He was also the only Sangheili who knew the truth of the Sacred Rings, the only one who would be able to protect the Humans. Will 'Setfethee continue to accept the Humans as allies if I should die? He did not think so. Despite the Arbiter custom, it would be best for him to wait behind in the Phantom.

"Is there something wrong, Arbiter?" asked Commander 'Setfethee.

Startled out of his thoughts, he realized he had stood there for the past ten seconds. Turning to the Sangheili, he informed them of his circumstances. "I will have to stay here."

"Upon reaching our stronghold, we shall have the Huragok restore it to its full glory," 'Setfethee said. "For now, let us handle the battle." He turned to his Sangheili, "Come, my warriors, let us show these creatures our blades!" The Sangheili disappeared through the lift.

Kiga hissed as the enemy craft slid away from him. Fortunately, the Arbiter's troops had successfully entered the craft, as was evidenced by the dropship ceasing to fire on his Phantom. However, Kiga had a strong suspicion the Arbiter would be angry should he find the connection broken.

I am in enough trouble already, he thought as he chased the Apparition toward the small tower in the center of the complex. An idea formed in his head as he eyed the tower's open roof.

When the Apparition was directly over the opening, Kiga slammed the Phantom down into the enemy dropship, forcing it into the tower. Here the dropship would be effectively contained, unless the Jiralhanae chose to abandon their craft and flee. Kiga hoped they would; then they could be hunted down!

"We have lost the gravity lift," 'Tsafonee said anxiously.

"It matters little," Kiga said with more confidence than he truly had. "It would have lost power regardless. Now that the Apparition is contained, the Arbiter may complete his task."

"…Which is why I simply cannot understand why you meddlers insist on behaving in such primitive…" the Oracle was saying, when the Phantom violently shook, stopping him in midsentence. "Oh dear…"

The sudden sounds of battle filling the air made the Arbiter realize that the Phantom's gravity lift had finally succumbed to the dropship's abuse. "Oracle, do not expose yourself!" he ordered quickly. While it was doubtful these Jiralhanae had any gravity tools strong enough to capture the Oracle, he was not going to take any chances.

Careful, he crept over to the opening and looked through. They appeared to be in a circular chamber of Forerunner build. Below them, the one-winged Apparition lay pinned to the ground, the sounds of frenzied battle still coming from its interior. As he watched, a Jiralhanae emerged from the opening and began to flee from the battle, splashing through a thin layer of water covering the ground.

Suddenly, a particle beam shot out from the Arbiter's right, hitting the beast directly in the head. As the body fell, the Arbiter turned in surprise to see Jahnsen standing at his side. This Human seemed to have a talent for moving unseen and unheard.

"You wield that weapon very well," the Arbiter complemented him, remembering that it was his shots that extinguished Tartarus' enhanced body shield.

"The Reach Naval Academy trains all officers in the use of known Covenant weaponry," Jahnsen explained, sounding pleased.

"When I was a Supreme Commander," the Arbiter said, "I attempted to have a law implemented to have all warriors instructed in the use of Human weaponry and vehicles. I am afraid my request was ignored by the Council." Because I was the heretic who lost the Sacred Ring…

"Well, now that the Covenant has split," Jahnsen said carefully, studying his expression, "I'm sure you'll be able to command these Elites all you want."

"Yes, as Arbiter, all Elites are under my command," the Arbiter asserted. Inwardly he worried the statement would prove to be inaccurate. Seeming satisfied with his response, Jahnsen nodded his head. The Arbiter absently rubbed the Mark of Shame, noticing the sounds of battle had ended.