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Anders and the Arbiter
Posted By: Spartan R41<specter_wulf1987@yahoo.com>
Date: 13 October 2009, 2:17 am

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Chapter 1
February 11, 2531/Covenant Cruiser Pious Expectation

      Ripa 'Moramee, the 17th Arbiter in a glorious line of Arbiters, stood by a currently empty energy cell. The human "Professor Anders" was to be held here, or at least until enough information could be gleaned from her supposed intellect.
      The Arbiter huffed in grim amusement. Even the notion of these vermin holding sentient intelligence made the Sangheili warrior feel blasphemous.
      The doors to the prison slid open. The human female was led by a pair of Majors, their red armor glowing a purplish hue in the dim blue light. They cast the human at the Arbiter's feet, standing at attention.
      Ripa chuckled sadistically as the female struggled to her knees, being kept from standing by the guards. "Do you know why you've been brought here, human?" he asked coldly, turning to examine the tools behind him.
      "You mean why have I been taken unnecessarily?"
      "Silence!" the Arbiter thundered, whirling to face the impudent human. "You will answer in a manner that is relative to the question. Do you know why you are here?" he repeated angrily.
      Ellen glared up at him, carefully choosing her words. "No," she said through gritted teeth, "I don't."
      Ripa chuckled, "Predictable. You humans know only what you're told, you have no intuition. You are here because you chose to interfere with our Great Journey. You trespassed into a holy relic, and somehow your filthy fingerprints made the device react. How?"
      Professor Anders searched her memory in confusion. "The device?" she wondered aloud, "What - "
      "Do not play games, human!" Ripa snarled. He grabbed Ellen by the neck, lifting her pathetic weight off the ground. "The star-chart you activated on your ruin of a planet, how did you awaken it!?"
      Ellen struggled for breath, clawing uselessly at the Elite's armored grip. "I don't… Touched it!" she gasped.
      Ripa tossed her to the floor, scoffing in disgust. "Useless," he growled, "You vermin act yet do not know why. You will be kept here until you decide to show me a useful reason for your pathetic life to continue. Detain her." He snapped to the Elite guards. As he stormed from the room, Anders was roughly shoved into a prison cell, the plasma barrier keeping her secured. Tomorrow Ripa would try again, and every day for as long as it was necessary.
      Next time he would show less mercy.

Chapter 2
February 12, 2531/ Covenant Cruiser Pious Expectation

      Ellen Anders sat huddled in a corner of her prison cell. She had long ago given up testing the barrier for weak spots; the Covenant wouldn't be that naïve.
      She had been captured while gathering data on a destroyed Super Scarab. The Covenant had been building it within a protective plasma dome, presumably to destroy Arcadia.
      Anders had figured out how to crack the plasma dome, yet she couldn't crack this.
      A Grunt waddled over to the plasma cell, carrying a plate of food. Ellen sat up, her brow furrowed in a silent scowl. The squat alien pushed the tray through the barrier – apparently it was a one way portal – and teased the human.
      "You no kill any more Unggoy, do you human?" it squeaked, setting the tray down. The Grunt pulled its hand back through. "You no scare me!" it cackled.
      Ellen set the food, some odd fruit, aside; she would most likely throw it away later. She set the tray down by the barrier, waiting for the Grunt to grab it. This had better work, she thought to herself.
      When the Grunt grabbed the tray, Ellen quickly grabbed its arm. She shoved against the barrier, still holding the now squealing alien. There was a moment of resistance, then Ellen tumbled to the floor, rolling over the hapless Grunt.
      She jumped to her feet, making a break for the door. A plan didn't matter right now – she could hide in a bulkhead and formulate an escape plan more cohesively later. All that mattered right now was getting out.
      The doors to the prison slid open, and Ellen stood face to face with the Arbiter. In the blink of an eye, his hand gripped her throat tightly, lifting her off her feet. "Let me go!" she choked, trying desperately to pry his fingers from her neck.
      The Elite chuckled, "As you wish," he growled, tossing her into an opposing wall.
      Ellen grunted as she saw stars, her vision of the room blurring and doubling. The Arbiter stormed over to the dazed Grunt, snatching it off the floor. "Insolent fool! I should have never placed a Grunt as a guard." He snarled, snapping the helpless Grunt's neck and tossing the corpse aside.
      Ellen moaned weakly as footsteps thundered closer to her. She felt her forehead, her fingers coming away bloody. The Elite grabbed her a second time, pinning her against the wall.
      "Your arrogant defiance is no longer a concern of mine. You will be taken before the Hierarchs, to be interrogated by the Holy Prophet of Regret."
      The Arbiter then head-butted Ellen, her vision darkened as she lapsed into unconsciousness.

(Author's Note: This chapter is a retelling of a cut-scene in Halo Wars. It is not of my concept, though liberties were taken. The cut-scene and dialogue within belong to Ensemble (Robot) Studios.)

Chapter 3
February 13, 2531/ Unknown Location

      Ellen awoke hours later. The sensation was odd; she couldn't touch the ground, and a blue light fully engulfed her. It didn't take her waking mind long to figure out that she was once again in a detaining field, though this one also held her bound and suspended in mid-air.
      She heard discussion in the distance behind her, and she recognized the voice of the Arbiter. An elderly-looking alien – Ellen recognized it as a Prophet from vague Intel and descriptions – moved around the restraint to face her.
      The Prophet sat in a gravity-defying "throne," giving it a more regal and lordly look. "This is her?" it asked in amusement.
      The Arbiter nodded, "Yes, Hierarch. This is the one I observed."
      "Such a frail thing," the Prophet mused, "You would hardly think them a threat," it sneered with a superior air.
      Ironic, Anders thought to herself, When you look just as frail as I, if not more. The Prophet – Anders could only guess this was Regret – was almost sickly-looking. Its limbs and digits were impossibly thin, and its neck was long and fleshy; much resembling an eel. Its head, however, was unusually large – furthering its sickly appearance.
      Rather than point this obvious fact out, anger bubbled to the surface in Ellen's mind. "I demand to know why I'm being held!" she shouted at Regret. The Prophet smirked in further amusement.
      The Arbiter chuckled, drawing Ellen's attention, "Demand?" he asked amusedly.
      "Arbiter," an Elite Zealot interrupted, "A human ship has arrived, and is closing in on the entrance portal."
      The Arbiter suddenly slammed into the Zealot with his shoulder, throwing the Elite to the ground. "Get the Hierarch to High Charity," he snapped as he stormed off, "Intercept that human ship, and destroy it at once!" The human was momentarily forgotten. Ripa would deal with her later – after he destroyed her allies.
      He only hoped that her uses would run thin.

Chapter 4
February 17, 2531/ Covenant Cruiser Pious Expectation

      Ellen Anders once again sat in a prison cell. This time, however, the Covenant had learned. A stack of empty trays were in a corner of her cell, the Jackals now keeping guard over her didn't collect them.
      As she sat in the dim blue light, the words of her former teacher, Dr. Catherine Halsey, echoed in her mind. 'You're reckless, Ellen. That's why you'll always fall short of the mark,' she had scolded.
      'What mark?' Anders argued, 'Your impossible standards? The ridiculous expectations of ONI?'
      Dr. Halsey had simply shaken her head. "You'll never understand what position I'm in, Ellen. Things are more difficult than they have ever been before. My work is now-'
      'Spare me your sob story, Halsey,' Ellen snapped, 'We've all got problems nowadays.'

      Ellen stared at the empty trays in her cell. We've all got problems nowadays… Her own words now danced around her conscience. With a sudden look of fury, Ellen kicked the stack of trays. The foreign metal ovals scattered, several bouncing off the energy-wall.
      A heavy fist pounded the energy-wall, causing it to hiss angrily. "Keep it down in there, vermin!" an Elite snapped, "You'll need that strength before too long, though it will most likely do you no good."
      "Why am I being held?" Anders asked angrily, "I thought you killed us just for the fun of it, why are you taking prisoners now?"
      "You have a much more… purposeful use to us," a softer voice said. Soon the Prophet of Regret floated in front of her cell. "That is, assuming you're still alive. You've no use if you're dead." That ever-present smirk of amusement crawled across the Prophet's lips, and Anders wished that she could slap it right from his face.
      "Why me, then?" she asked, "Why not any human?"
      "You seem to possess a rather extensive knowledge of our lord's creations," the Prophet mused as his chair paced in front of the cell, "You know their purpose, and you hold something that they respond favorably to."
      "I don't know what you're talking about," Ellen said defiantly, rising to her feet, "We just followed wherever-"
      "Wretched creature!" The Prophet shouted, "You activate the star chart on your planet Harvest! Such attempts by any of my holiest servants have been thwarted, yet such an insignificant wretch as yourself was able to call forth the Forerunner's knowledge. How!?"
      Forerunners? Anders pondered the word in confusion. Had there been another human-like species before modern humans? Were they the ones who had left all the artifacts the UNSC had been finding?
      "Answer me, human!" Regret snapped.
      Ellen looked at the Prophet with disdain. "My name is Ellen," she hissed, "and I won't answer until I get moved to a more comfortable cell." She figured that she might as well try to get something out of this prisoner experience.
      Regret sat up straight, a cold look in his eyes. "Sangheili," he ordered the Elite to his right, "accommodate our… guest." The Elite grinned and touched a control pad next to the cell.
      Soon the wall of energy began to move inwards, inching closer towards Anders. "You will tell us how to operate the Forerunner's creations!" Regret thundered.
      "I don't know how it worked!" Ellen shouted, pressing her back to the wall. The energy field hissed and crackled while it scooted the trays forward. "I already told the Arbiter that I just touched it!"
      "Then how would such a holy relic not react to our requests!" Regret snapped angrily, leaning forward with a sneer, "There is something you're hiding, but no matter. We will come to that." He sat back in his throne, leaning on one arm in a quizzical pose. "What of your homeworld? The one that spawned your wretched race?"
      "Wha-?" Ellen stammered in confusion. Earth! She realized, They're searching for it too? Defense of Earth then came to mind. "Arcadia?" She wouldn't have used her home planet before, however it had already been attacked, so defending it was futile.
      The Prophet chuckled. "The planet that we captured you on? We shall return there, perhaps. But do you really expect us to believe that such an insignificant planet is your origin? The Forerunners did not even choose to leave anything of worth there!"
      At this point the energy wall was pressing Anders to the wall, the energy not burning her, but producing something similar to mild sunburn. The Prophet moved closer to the barrier. "Empty ruins, barely of operation! They hardly provided the materials we needed for the Titan Scarab you destroyed!"
      Ellen winced, her eyelids batting as the pressure from the wall increased. She began to see stars, and could barely bring herself to whimper. Soon her body slumped to the side, as much as the barrier would allow, as she passed out.
      "Release the barrier!" the Prophet snapped. As the barrier hissed out of existence he moved out of the cell. A new barrier snapped into place at the opening of the cell, replacing the old one. "Alert me when she awakens, so that we may continue our… Discussion."
      As the Prophet left the prison, the Arbiter approached from the side. "Hierarch," he rumbled, "I should have been there. I could have taken the information from her frail bones within a moment."
      "Force is not needed here, Arbiter," Regret sighed, "She knows valuable information that we need intact. It is imperative not to stress the human's primitive mind, as it might produce information crafted of fear."
      "They fear us all the same!" Ripa growled, "Nothing we do will deter that. Let me interrogate her, and I swear to you, the information we seek will be found!"
      Regret eyed the Arbiter angrily. "You will interrogate her when she revives," he said after a moment, "But Arbiter; take care to keep to the path. I will not tolerate insubordination, least of all from you. Is that understood?"
      "Yes, Holy One," the Arbiter mumbled as he bowed in resignation.
      The Prophet left without another thought, his throne floating onto a gravity elevator, leaving the Arbiter to his thoughts.

(Author's Note: This chapter will contain elements found in a cut-scene and level of the game Halo Wars. It is not of my concept, though liberties were taken. The cut-scene, level and dialogue within belong to Ensemble (Robot) Studios.)

Chapter 5
February 23, 2531/ Covenant Cruiser Pious Expectation

      The Arbiter thundered towards the prisons. The doors slid open, though the Arbiter still waited impatiently for them to allow him through. "Barrier off," he snapped as he approached the human's cell.
      Before the female was able to talk, Ripa grabbed her by the neck and lifted her off the floor. "You will come with me," he growled, giving her no other option. Still the pitiful creature struggled in his grip, desperate for breath.
      He dragged her down the hall, which soon opened into a hangar. Spirit drop-ships hung suspended from the arched ceiling by shimmering blue gravitational fields. Banshees sat docked on landing platforms, their hangars open and awaiting a pilot. Ghosts sat idle on the floor, in perfect working order and ready for coming battles.
      The Arbiter strode past a double line of Honor Guard, heading towards a Spirit that rested just above the ground.
      "Where are you taking me?" Anders demanded, the Arbiter still dragging her behind him.
      He glanced back at her, and then decided to humor the human. "You are to be taken back to the Apex. There your fate will be decided, in view of the glorious Forerunner Archangel fleet. You should count yourself lucky to have such an honor before you die." He chuckled sadistically.
      Anders stared at the Spirit as though it was taking her to her death. Maybe it is, she thought to herself, or maybe he's bluffing. If they didn't need me, I would already be dead. "Where is the Apex at?" she boldly asked.
      The Arbiter looked to the human before chuckling. "I'm not that trusting, human," he growled, "and you are far too inquisitive."
      The last thing Ellen Anders saw was a sliver armored forehead arcing toward hers. Then, there was only the darkness.

      "She has no use!" the Arbiter thundered, slamming a fist into a nearby wall and forcing a dent into it.
      "Calm yourself, Arbiter," the Prophet of Regret sighed, "It may not be clear at first, yet the human may have a use to us in commanding the fleet yet."
      "She has been interrogated several times, she knows nothing!" Ripa snapped, "She has already seen many of our war-machines, spent too much time in our ships-"
      "Many on the field of battle have seen our weapons," Regret calmly retorted.
      "And they have died," the Arbiter growled, "as should the human."
      Regret laid a hand on his brow, glancing to the Spirit that would take them to the Apex. "The human is at the Apex, awaiting judgment. You will go to her, and force her to activate our works. Have her merely touch the orb; if she knows not how to activate it, perhaps our Lords will know what to do with her."
      "But sire," the Arbiter began.
      "I have spoken!" Regret roared, his throne bobbing angrily as he turned to face the Elite. "Do not dare question me again!" He leaned closer to the Arbiter, deadly venom lacing his voice, "A warrior in your troubled position cannot afford to stray from the path, the path represented by my word! I have shown you favor in the past, yet my favor is not infinite. You would do well to remember this, Arbiter."
      The Arbiter bowed, his demeanor shamed though anger shone in his eyes, "Yes, holy one," he responded humbly before turning to the Spirit. He was lifted into the ship as a blue light washed over him, and the ship soon departed to the Apex.

      Anders woke slowly, glancing around. Once again she found herself in a stasis field, suspended in the air. She heard heavy footsteps approaching from behind, and turned as much as the field would allow.
      The Arbiter thundered towards the human, the Prophet's lecture still stinging his pride and sending rage through his veins. One of his Energy Swords was out, and he dragged the weapon beside him. The tip hissed along the metal, adding menace to his already threatening appearance. "Restraints, off!" he snapped, releasing the human.
      Ellen toppled to the ground, landing with a grunt of discomfort. Every ache in her body screamed out, having little time to have healed.
      The Arbiter grabbed her by the back of her neck, pulling her up from the ground and bringing her to his face. He glared angrily at the human, every action after her use had run thin rehearsed in vivid hatred. "Your judgment has waited long enough," he snarled.
      Ripa then moved to the orb, dragging the pathetic human beside him. She struggled weakly, no doubt due to his interrogations. He tossed her to the ground in front of the orb, her body thudding painfully as it hit the metal.
      "Just get it over with!" she defiantly snapped.
      Ripa sneered, grabbing her arm as though it was little more than a twig. The orb instantly began to spin, finally bringing five blue dots to bear. The Arbiter slapped the human's hand to the designated area, and a rumble shook the Apex.
      Ellen gasped as energy shot through her hand, sending a tingle up her arm. She slumped down, knowing that she had some part in a plot that would surely destroy humanity. All I've fought for, all for nothing… Her hand was released, and she let herself fall to the ground.
      Ripa stepped back from the console, unsure of what would come next. Suddenly, a bright blue beam of energy shot up from the orb, lancing the sky above. The Honor Guard behind the Arbiter broke composure, moving to gain a better view of the holy spectacle.
      As the Apex shuddered again, the surrounding Archangel Fleet began to move, spreading their metal wings in preparation for their use.
      Ripa moved away from the panel, satisfaction and zealousness swelling in his chest. "The Ancients have granted us the power to doom your race!" he gloated to the defeated human.
      "Let the deconstruction of our gifts begin!" He triumphantly ordered to his Elites, though none immediately moved to complete the task. They would be made smaller, allowing for easier transport, and then later re-assembled later upon a manufacturing planet. "The majesty of our new fleet will be unparalleled!"
      As the Arbiter gloated, a new sense of determination grew in Ellen. She slowly picked herself up from the ground, glancing around. The surrounding Elites were entirely enthralled with the spectacle, eyes fixed upon the Forerunner ships. Then she spotted it.
      The pad that had previously detained her was no more than five feet from her. There was a chance that it could now be her freedom. Something nagged at her, whispering to her subconscious that it would now free her. Her hand tingled to the point of madness.
      She swiftly stepped onto the pad, the blue parts glowing as she made contact. The Elites still hadn't noticed her. Nothing ventured, she thought. She looked down to the pad, the words forcing themselves from her mouth. "Surface," she commanded. The edge of the pad rose swiftly, distorting her view of the Apex.
      When it fell, a new sight greeted her. She fell to a knee with a grunt, disoriented. She swiftly looked around, taking in her surroundings. Trees now replaced the clouds that had dominated her previous location. Mountains rose in the distance, and lost Forerunner buildings stood like monolithic guardians. "Hmm," Ellen smirked in satisfaction, "That worked out pretty well."
      Suddenly three small animals made their way towards her. They appeared like odd, rotting octopuses, twig-like feelers jutting ahead of their bulbous, sickly green bodies. Something about them put Anders off, and she backed up tentatively. "Or, maybe not," she groaned.
      One of the creatures quickly leapt at her, the Professor reactively flinching away. A thick, viscous fluid spattered Anders as the thing flew backwards with a 'crack!' of nearby gunfire. Two more shots sounded, taking down the other two.
      Ellen turned to look behind her, expecting a Marine squad from the sound of the gun. What met her was quite the opposite.
      Sergeant John Forge stood on the ridge, his MA5B Assault Rifle resting on his shoulder. "Lady, I haven't got all day," he with his ever present smirk, "You wanna be rescued or not?"
      Relief washed over Ellen, and she found herself – oddly enough – thankful to see John's face. He had been a nuisance before, yet Anders had grown to see that he cared greatly for the people under his command, including her. The weight of her wounds suddenly flared back to life, and she sunk to her knees.
      "Here," Forge said as he offered a hand to her, "lemme help you up."
      "I'm fine, thank you," she retorted, though she thankfully took his hand.
      "Don't kid yourself, Doc," he grinned, helping her to the Landing Zone, "I'm sure the Covenant didn't give you a manicure for interrogation."
      A smile briefly tugged at Ellen's lips, fading as the memories of her capture returned. "I've found out something, Sergeant," she said solemnly, remembering the Archangel Fleet, "something bad. Our war against the Covenant just got worse."