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Naked Crook
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Current Date: December 2521

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High Charity - Hall of Sorrows - Political District
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An Elite and a Minister were walking through the large corridors of High Charity. They were in an isolated section of the city, a section primarily reserved for politicians and council members. They had been conversing for some time, with mostly the Elite filing a grievance against others.

Minister of Abbadon: You speak so many daggers against those who call you ally? Why is your heart so blackened to those NOT of kin to the Elites?

Quinn: I have watched our great Covenant turn from a powerful empire to one that panders to the weak. There has been too much recruitment of…the lesser races. I do not approve!

Minister of Abbadon: You believe that the Covenant was in error to spread the word of our gods? Do you think it was wrong to bring the truth that is the holiness of our gods to say…the Brutes?

Quinn: Yes! They are too weak in mind to be able to comprehend it!

Minister of Abbadon: Are they? Their minds have been quite open to our message…they have been very successful, and I dare say, their rapid conversion is a lesson even for the Elites, who took many generations to forsake their old ways in favor of the righteous path. For all of their obvious failings, this is their one strength.

Quinn: I am not talking about how easy it is to convert them from their…animalistic ways. I am speaking of their overall intellect! They are stupid! They quarrel over food, snarl at each other like caged animals, and kill each other for sport.

Minister of Abbadon: Not all do…some, but not all.

Quinn: I am surely not the first to voice my concern…but to give some of our ships to those mongrels…it is an insult to everything I hold dear! Everything that I value has been violated by giving those…creatures of lesser stature any authority! They are supposed to be servants…nothing more! They are filthy, disease ridden…

Minister of Abbadon: Enough Quinn! Do you dare question the authority of those we call our Prophets? It was their wisdom that gave the Brutes this chance. Perhaps you should throw your anger at the High Prophets…I am sure they would enjoy dragging your entrails through our holy city for your level of disrespect.

Quinn: It was not my intent to offend…

Minister of Abbadon: No…it was not Quinn. Your intent was to simply attack, you were so far beyond offend, that I was unable to see you past the horizon.

Quinn: All I want to do is voice my concern that the Brutes are not…mentally equipped…to be able to handle the complexity of commanding a ship, let alone, anything else in our holy Covenant. Their roles should remain that of soldiers under our feet, dispensing the will of the Elites…and the Covenant.

Minister of Abbadon: Quinn…my personal belief agrees with you…but I have a responsibility to carry out the edict of our Prophets. They know what is best! As much as I agree that the Elites are superior, in ALMOST every way…

Quinn: Almost?

Minster of Abbadon: I spoke of their willingness to convert not but moments ago.

Quinn rolled his eyes.

Minister of Abbadon: As I was saying; the Brutes are inferior in almost every way. They lack elegance, discipline, honing, grace, and personal discipline. However, they must be given this chance, only if to appease the Prophets and High Council. You must accept this decision with humility Quinn.

Quinn paused.

Quinn: What if I could prove that they were not worthy! What if I could show the High Council that they are unfit! Would you help me put them back down where they belong?

Minister of Abbadon: If you could somehow show their feral nature, combined with authority, can harm our holy Covenant…than I would gladly assist you in taking your concerns to the Hierarchs. However, be rightfully warned Quinn…I will not be an accessory to any deception on your part. I will not allow my position to be used unfairly, and falsely, if only to advance your own personal views. I will not assist in the condemnation of anyone who has done no wrong against our holy Covenant.

Quinn turned away. He began to think.

He then began a very subtle laugh.

Quinn: I would never do anything that would ever cast doubt on honesty; to do so would be…dishonorable.

Minister of Abbadon: I am glad to hear this Quinn. I have always believed in your kind’s sense of honor. It is very refreshing to know that it is something that runs through your body, as important as the very blood that gives you life.

Quinn turned back to face the Minister of Abbadon.

Quinn: I must take my leave…there is much to be done…

Quinn turned away and departed from the company of the Minister of Abbadon.

Quinn: I will show the Covenant what the Brutes are truly like...I will destroy them in the eyes of the Covenant...and the Minister of Abbadon is going to help me...whether he likes it or not. I will not rest until this Covenant is reshaped in an image suitable to my liking…free from all of the weakness that corrupts it.

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Covenant Assault Carrier Devotion - Dining Room - In Orbit of Doisac
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Two Brutes were sitting at a large table. They were sitting across from each other. The table was filled with various dead animals, each cooked, and each almost completely eaten.

There was half of an infant Thorn Beast sitting on a platter in the center of the table.

One of the Brutes looked at the other and began to speak.

Brutus: I have to admit…the food prepared here is much better than anything I have eaten on the home world.

The other Brute was silent. His muzzle was busy trying to pick every last piece of meat off of a large bone.

Brutus: I never had anything like this when I was your age. Never had a ship like this, never had service at a whim, and I certainly never had the kind of luxuries you have. I think the Covenant is spoiling you…

Brutus shook his head.

The other Brute was still pulling the last remnants of food off of the large bone.

Brutus: I fear the Covenant is simply trying to forge a lackey out of you. They see how much other Brutes respect you, and they see how much attention you attract…they want that loyalty through you.

The other Brute stopped. His eyes shifted up to Brutus.

Brutus: Have you ever considered that THIS might not be your calling?

The other Brute was silent.

Brutus: To be honest…I don’t think you belong here. Someone like you does not deserve to serve. In no uncertain terms…those “hierarchs” say you serve. They embellish it and call you humble, and loyal.

The other Brute continued to stare.

Brutus: Never thought I would see the day when YOU would allow that to happen. You have let luxury, and comfort, push your true nature aside. I expected better from you. I expected better from my own spawn…

The other Brute shook his head.

Barrabus: I still don’t get why you dislike the Covenant so much.

Brutus: I dislike them because they took away who were, and changed our entire society into...some cult. We once lived entirely for the thrill of existence…now we “serve” beings we conveniently cannot see.

Barrabus: That is heresy!

Brutus: Don’t give me the whole dogmatic response Barrabus! Saying something is heresy is that programmed response they have hammered into your head. There is a part of you that agrees with me!

Barrabus: Not that I know of…

Brutus: All I am saying is that I don’t think you belong here, with the Covenant. You deserve a lot better than to be…

Barrabus: Be what?

Brutus thought for a moment.

Barrabus: I serve the Covenant for one very simple reason; I was given a level of power and authority that very few Brutes enjoy…and I have to admit…I like it. You clearly dislike the Covenant. Do I care? Not really. Do I understand why? No. All I know is that I think you should give it a little more credit…

Brutus laughed.

Brutus: You like it? Barrabus…do not be tantalized by the perception of power that they are giving you…

Barrabus frowned.

Brutus: You would be a fool to think that the Covenant could ever give you anything meaningful in your life!

Barrabus snarled.

Brutus: If you continue down this path…you will be little more than a puppet. You will turn your back on everything that we value…and you will be nothing more than a displaced Brute who values the interests of interlopers over the interests of his own kind.

Barrabus stood up and grabbed the side of the table and flung it aside. He grabbed his knife and charged at Brutus. He grabbed Brutus by the neck, lifted him to his feet, and slammed him into the wall. He held his knife to Brutus’ throat.

Brutus: So…the young one still has his fortitude…holding a knife to his own fathers throat because he does not like being taunted…

Barrabus: You accuse me of crimes I have not committed! I will NEVER forsake my own kind, NEVER! Besides…you stand here, saying all of this, yet, you serve the Covenant as well! You still serve in a combat capacity!

Brutus: The only thing I have accused you of is being too cozy with the Covenant. I am warning you of these things Barrabus! They may have conquered us, and our kind may have tossed aside its own identity for some deranged salvation...but they are NOT our allies. Call me a heretic, and a liar all you wish Barrabus…but nothing is going to change the truth.

Brutus shrugged.

Brutus: As for my ongoing “service” to the Covenant…it is a means to an end. Someday you will fully understand what that means.

Barrabus was breathing heavily. His blade was pressing against Brutus’ throat.

Brutus: Are you going to murder your own father Barrabus…or are you going to stand there and think about it? I’m getting tired of holding my head up.

Barrabus backed away and let Brutus go.

Brutus rubbed his throat.

Brutus: I am glad you didn’t…at least you still value you the life of your fellow Brutes.

Brutus paused.

Brutus: Or would a real Brute of killed me regardless? I don't think it matters...to each his own.

Barrabus: If I have learned anything…it is that I am not like “other Brutes”. I try to refrain from killing my own kind no matter what. I don’t see why it is necessary.

Brutus: A Nobel sentiment. Do you think the Covenant cares about it like I do? Most likely not. The Covenant does not value our beliefs. The Covenant only values one thing...what it can control. If your personal views conflict with their ability to lie and manipulate...do you think you will be of any use to them? Don't over estimate your value to them Barrabus. The Covenant, as quickly as it opened its arms to you, will just as quickly turn its back!

Barrabus turned away.

Barrabus: We'll see...

Brutus: We will see Barrabus. When that time comes...I will be anxiously waiting for you to come back to me and tell me that I was right. When that time comes...I will expect you to finally repudiate the Covenant.

Barrabus: So you expect me to toss the rest of my life away…like you have? You want me to be some…drifter?

Brutus: I am no drifter Barrabus. I work for a greater purpose.

Barrabus: What do you mean? What are you not telling me? What am I missing here?

Brutus: More than you think. There is a lot you need to know. There is much to know about me, and about some of the Brutes around you. However, there is a time and place to discuss this, and that time is not now. I will not discuss these things here…but I will discuss them on Doisac. It is still our world…mostly free from the eyes of the interlopers.

Barrabus was silent.

Brutus: If you are ever curious, and, if you ever find yourself sitting awake at night, thinking about what I have said…come and see me. You were meant for so much more than this Barrabus. I am saddened to think that you may follow this path…but…

Brutus put his hands on Barrabus’ shoulders.

Brutus: All things considered…you turned out pretty good…and you are doing well for yourself. Just keep it up. When you finally see the true face of the Covenant…I’ll be there…we can face it together. Just…be weary of those around you.

Barrabus looked at Brutus’ hands on his shoulders.

Brutus pulled his hands back and walked past Barrabus. Brutus stopped before leaving the dining room.

Brutus: By the way…your mother misses you…go and see her while you are here.

Barrabus: I will try…

Brutus: I suggest you make an effort. She deserves that much

Brutus walked out of the dining room. Barrabus sighed. He looked at the over-turned table, and saw a leg of the infant Thorn Beast. He knelt down and picked it up. He looked at it, and took a bite.

Brutus walked away from the dining room. He walked by other Brutes, making his way to the hanger bay.

Brutus grinned. He kept walking, fully aware of his company.

Brutus: I know what you are going to say…

The other Brutes in the corridor watched Brutus walking, talking to himself.

Brutus: You are wondering why I didn’t tell him…

The other Brutes looked confused as he walked by.

Brutus: I will tell him in due time. Now was not the best time to do so.

One of the Brutes shouted at Brutus.

Brute Major: Who are you talking to Red?

Brutus kept walking. He ignored the Brute Major.

Brutus: Now is not the time. I have left the decision to him…he is smart enough to make it on his own.

Another Brute saw Brutus. The Brutes were confused. A Brute Captain began to follow Brutus. Brutus was just outside the main hanger bay.

The Captain grabbed Brutus’ shoulder and spun him around. Brutus looked at the Captain.

Brute Captain: Who are you talking to? Who are you? I don’t recognize your scent…outsider…

Brutus: Take your hands off me…

Brute Captain: Make me…whelp…

Brutus: Whelp?

Brute Captain: Yeah…whelp…

Brutus snickered.

The Brute Captain let out a low-pitched snarl and drew a blade.

Brutus: And you need a weapon to intimidate me?

Brutus head butted the Captain, forcing the golden Brute to stumbled back and hit the wall. The Captain roared in anger and jumped back at Brutus. Brutus simply stepped aside and the Captain collided with another wall, head first.

Brutus: It is a terrible shame when one cannot simply take a walk without some…fresh off the tit Brute trying to make a name for himself.

The Captain got back to his feet and ran at Brutus with the knife. Brutus grabbed the Captains wrist, and twisted it, causing the Captain to drop his knife. Brutus then pulled the Captain down and kneed him in the face, pushing the Captain’s helmet right off is head.

The Captain fell to the ground. Brutus looked down at him.

Brutus: Are you done?

The Captain snarled again, rolled over and got back to his feet. He circled around Brutus.

Brutus: I can do this all day…

The Captain howled. His pack mates looked over and saw Brutus. They each drew knives.

Brutus: Really? Calling for help?

Brutus soon found himself surrounded by the Captain, and three other Brutes, two minors and a major.

Brutus rolled his eyes.

Brute Captain: Where is your tongue now Red? Not so sharp now…is it?

Brutus: Well…it is anxiously anticipating what it is going to do to your mate once I kill you. I am going to make her howl so loud...your children, where ever they may be, will hear it.

The Brute Captain snapped and pulled out a Spiker and aimed it at Brutus. The Captain no longer cared about fighting with any shred of fairness.

As the Captain took aim, a cloaked figure grabbed the Spiker from the Captain’s hands and tossed it aside. The captain then began to get beaten down by the cloaked figure. The Captain began to groan in agony as he was beaten into submission, utterly without mercy.

In a matter of moments, the Captain was in a heap on the ground, groaning. He was breathing heavily, and for all intents and purposes, refused to move.

Brutus looked at the Captain.

Brutus: Next time…don’t bother me. Next time…I will kill you…

The Captain nodded, and his pack scattered. Brutus sighed and held his hand out to the Captain to help him up. The Captain looked at Brutus, and Brutus gave an impatient nod. The Captain slowly reached up and grabbed Brutus’ hand and Brutus pulled him to his feet. Brutus then pushed the Captain away.

Brutus: Get out of my sight…

The Captain ran off. Brutus rolled his eyes again.

He looked at the cloaked figure and shook his head.

Brutus: You didn’t need to beat him into submission…

the cloaked Brute de-cloaked to reveal a Stalker.

Dancar: You were taking far too long to get rid of him. He was starting to annoy me.

Brutus: Whatever…what’s done is done. There is no point in squabbling over it now.

Dancar: But…to the point…why did you not tell him of our plans? That was the perfect chance!

Brutus: You still have a lot to learn…don’t you? I can hear your youth. Why don’t we get off this ship before someone ELSE decides to pick a fight, or start asking questions. I do not need any more skirmishes…and I do not need some religiously zealous Brute overhearing you…

Dancar scoffed, and snarled under his breath. He knew Brutus was right.

Dancar: Very well…

Brutus: Hurry! Get the Phantom ready…

Dancar nodded and walked towards a Phantom that was docked at the far end of the hanger bay. Brutus followed.

Brutus: I don’t mean to sound like a…

Brutus shrugged.

Brutus: Like a prick…but we have to be careful.

Dancar: Yeah…I am still getting used to the field work. As much as I hate to say it…there are still many aspects I need to master.

Brutus: If it is any consolation…you are doing a lot better than I was when I was your age. Plus…you have it harder…with the Covenant being around and all…

Dancar: Easier in some respects. The technology makes it easier.

Brutus and Dancar jumped into a Phantom.

Dancar entered the cockpit and engaged the engines. The rear hatches of the Phantom closed. The Phantom lifted off, and was prepared to depart the Devotion.

Dancar: What is our destination?

Brutus: We return to Doisac…and hopefully await your father’s arrival. Hopefully he comes to his senses…and realizes that his own race is far more important than the Covenant. As far as I am concerned, he is too good for the Covenant…

Dancar: While I agree it would be advantageous to have him with us, considering his physical size and abilities, I personally think he has it pretty good in the Covenant. He has a ship, and a lot of respect.

Brutus: He has respect from his underlings, and the smaller races. However, have you seen how the Elites act towards him? Your farther is not very popular among the Elites. They hate him, and by proxy, all of our kind. It is this hatred which forever precludes us from ever having any success…or prosperity in the Covenant!

Dancar: You make it sound like we should revolt. As much as I would like to…it would end very badly for us.

Brutus: I hate to say it…but you are right.

Dancar: What do we do if he refuses to help us?

Brutus: What do we do? Well…we act without him. We will be unable to wait for him. Time is a factor in what we are doing. If we delay…the Obsidian Hierarchy will only grow weaker. I would rather not see the last remnant of the old ways vanish into nothingness.

Dancar: Nor would I…

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High Charity - Hall of Rest - Ship Docking
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Quinn was walking with another Elite, back towards his Phantom.

Quinn: Have you been able to learn anything more from the Construct?

Xyrho: Nothing of any substantive value Shipmaster. These Oracles prove to be quite…resilient…not to mention this Oracle. He is far beyond anything we have seen.

Quinn: I do not understand what the delay is. This is a glorified machine we are talking about! Rip it down to its base circuits and take the information right from its inner sanctum if need be!

Xyrho: Shipmaster…perhaps this should be discussed in an area…less public…

Quinn looked around. He rolled his eyes.

Xyrho: We have almost reached the Phantom…we can discuss this more at that time.

Quinn and Xyrho walked across the large docking port. They walked towards their Phantom. There were several more Elites waiting. They were Quinn’s personal bodyguards.

Quinn jumped into the Phantom. Xyrho followed, as well as the bodyguards.

The side doors to the Phantom closed, and the Phantom departed High Charity.

Quinn glared at Xyrho.

Quinn: Now…explain to me what the problem is!

Xyrho: The Oracle we found is…complex. We have still been unable to decipher the security protecting his higher processes.

Quinn: What of the Engineers?

Xyrho: Engineers have no loyalty Quinn…they care only to invest time in trivial pursuits…they will never understand what we want, and they will be unable to help us! Even if we tell them what we want, they are single minded…they only listen to the hierarchs…

Quinn: All I want is what that Oracle knows! It knows the secrets of our lords…and it knows the secrets of their power. Imagine the good I could do with the cumulative power of all of the gods! They left their legacy, their power, behind for us to claim for ourselves. I want that power…and you will get it for me…

Xyrho: I will get it for you?

Quinn: It is why you are here Xyrho. You know what our Hierarchs know about these Oracles. However, you are an Elite…we share a common heritage. You and I are Elites...we are better than the sum of the Covenant. We could rebuild whatever we want, in our image...

Xyrho: Again with the genocide. I do not hate the other races Quinn. I don't often associate with them, but I do not hate them either. You speak of mass murder and genocide. You speak as if you are a god. What is the point of being a god when there is nothing to preside over?

Quinn: Gods create their servants. If need be…I will use the knowledge of our lords to usher in a new design…a design that suits me.

Xyrho: No matter how many times I hear it…this sounds…difficult to comprehend. I do not believe that the gods had the ability to create life at a whim.

Quinn: They created the Engineers...we know that much. Using that very same idea...I will create our own servants. They will call us gods! All Elites will be gods over the lesser beings...

Xyrho: You keep forgetting Quinn...there are Elites loyal to the Covenant! Not all Elites think as you do!

Xyrho paused.

Xyrho: Even I have my limits. There are times you say things which go beyond the fundamental limits of sanity.

Quinn: When I have the power of gods, sanity will be what I desire it to be. As for you, you can either kneel, rule,. or die…no matter…

Xyrho: Interesting tactic…threatening the only Elite who can help you…makes me wonder how long your little plan will work…

Quinn: If you are unable to complete the mission assigned to you Xyrho…I can replace you! There is a reason I have become very familiar with the Minister of Abbadon…he is also very knowledgeable in these affairs.

Xyrho stepped back.

Quinn: Oh yes. I expected that you MIGHT not be made of the same material as I am. I had a suspicion that you MIGHT be much weaker than I. I had a personal belief that you MIGHT be unable to comprehend the greatness of our destiny. In anticipation of your…withdrawal of support, I have built a relationship with the Minister of Abbadon. I can replace you, with him. I may need to lie to him, and omit some facts, but it can be done. If you become useless…I will simply dispose of you.

Xyrho: No…you misunderstand. My concern was simply for…overcoming the…complexities of the plan. I am sure you have everything figured out. Forgive me…Shipmaster…

Quinn: All is forgiven…so long as you prevail…so long as you unlock the secrets of our lords!

The Phantom docked in the hanger bay of a large Assault Carrier. The Assault Carrier was known as the Chariot of Thirty Silver Tongues. This was Quinn's flagship. Quinn looked at the side hatches of his Phantom, and spoke to Xyrho.

Quinn: Xyrho…get back to work. The longer you delay…the longer the lesser races are permitted to exist. Their existence disgusts me.

Quinn left the hanger bay, and walked through the corridors of his Assault Carrier. He returned to the bridge. As he entered the bridge, he was summoned by one of his bridge officers.

Elite Officer: Shipmaster! We have received encoded orders from the Minister of Abbadon…high priority…encoded for you alone.

Quinn: Did he make any passing mention of what these orders could possibly be?

Elite Officer: Only that they are of great importance to the Covenant…and to him.

Quinn rolled his eyes. He had no desire to aid the Covenant…but he would no doubt be forced to, simply to maintain his cover, and not be revealed as a subversive.

Elite Officer: I have forwarded the message to your private chambers…they are waiting for you.

Quinn left the bridge and made his way to his private chambers, what would be comparable to an office. He entered his private chambers. He approached a large desk and saw a light flashing on a holographic desk panel. Quinn pressed the holographic button. After he did this, a small holographic avatar of the Minister of Abbadon appeared. It was an automated recording.

Minister of Abbadon: Shipmaster Quinn, you have been selected for your zealous belief and unfaltering faith in our holy Covenant to undertake a task vital to the continued survival of our faithful empire.

Quinn rolled his eyes.

Minister of Abbadon: It has come to our attention that a world used by our lords has been discovered in an area of our vast space that has recently been annexed for our needs. According to the reports received from the team that discovered this world, the design coincides with information suggesting that this world was a forge used by our lords to usher in their mighty visions. This…forge has been left behind for the righteous to rediscover. Word of this discovery has only reached just reached me. I have resolved to see this forge for myself, and I have selected you, among several other ship masters, to escort my holy presence to the forge of our gods, so we may all pay our reverence to their divine greatness, and accept the gifts of their ancient and endless knowledge. This discovery is so holy…so precious…that in my wisdom, I have decided to maintain absolute secrecy. Speak not of this holy mission to any other shipmaster, nor to any other that you command, until such time this mission is underway.

Quinn halted the hologram by tapping one of the holographic controls on the desk. He thought for a moment. He knew that if this “forge” contained ancient secrets, he knew that this would no doubt assist Xyrho in his efforts to unlock the secrets held by the construct that they had found.

Quinn resumed the hologram continued to listen to the hologram.

Minister of Abbadon: You are to remain at High Charity and await the arrival of your fellow warriors. They have been instructed to make haste in their endeavor to return. The faiths of all Covenant lie on our shoulders…

Quinn thought about the great timing of this news. He watched as the small hologram vanished. Part of him believed it was too good to be true, while the rest of him believed this could be his chance to finally unlock the secrets of the oracle that he had discovered. Quinn activated the comm, and contacted Xyrho.

Quinn: Xyrho…report to the bridge immediately!

Quinn deactivated the comm. He left his office and returned to the bridge of his ship. As he was en-route, he met with Xyrho, who was also on his way to the bridge.

Xyrho: Shipmaster….is there a problem?

Quinn: No…as a matter of fact…I have learned of something very great.

Xyrho: What did you learn?

Quinn: The Covenant has discovered something that will prove…very useful in our work. I plan on taking advantage of this discovery.

Xyrho: Is this so?

Quinn did not respond. He and Xyrho entered the bridge.

Quinn addressed his Elites.

Quinn: Brothers! I have received news from the “Holy” Minister of Abbadon…news of a great discovery…

Quinn paused.

Quinn: It appears the Covenant has discovered what they believe to be a world used by our gods.

Xyrho looked at Quinn.

Xyrho: That isn’t very much information Quinn. I need specifics…what was this world used for?

Quinn: The Minister of Abbadon claims that this world was used to usher in the vision of our gods. He called it a forge. If something that was used by the gods has been found…then it is our responsibility to seize it and use it against the inferior forms of life that have stained our boots for too long.

One of the officers was confused. He looked at Quinn and stood up.

Elite Officer: But Shipmaster…surely a discovery of this magnitude would warrant more than one ship to investigate.

Quinn: You are correct…there will be other Shipmasters there. I am confident they can be convinced that what we want is greater than the wants of the Covenant. With that said…the Minister of Abbadon has demanded secrecy. At this time, only I, and several other shipmasters who have been recruited for this mission know of this place. It is my understanding that the rest of the Covenant know not of this place.

Elite Officer: It is hard to believe that the Minister of Abbadon would simply leave this in our hands. Is it not the practice of these Ministers to oversee such missions for them?

Quinn: Again…you are correct. The Minister of Abbadon will be joining us.

Xyrho: The Minister of Abbadon? He is not Elite! He will defiantly oppose us!

Quinn: When he learns of our true intentions, he will no doubt oppose us. If need be…I am prepared to kill him…but I would sooner use him as a means to an end. I am going to let the Minister of Abbadon play his role, that is, he is there to show his reverence to our lords. This should keep him distracted long enough for us to act.

Xyrho: How do you plan on convincing the other Shipmasters to work with us, against the Covenant?

Quinn: I can be very convincing when I need to be Xyrho. Leave those details to me.

Xyrho: If the Covenant learns of what we have done…

Quinn: They will never find out the truth! Remember, the Minister of Abbadon has invoked secrecy on this mission. The rest of the Covenant will have no impact on our true intentions.

The other Elites were silent.

Quinn: I know that this has the potential to be very dangerous…but the rewards for our courage will be god-like power! Just remember…we are going to clean this galaxy of the filth that wastes space and resources that our gods intended for US to have. All of the filth will be destroyed…and will establish our continued dominance over what belongs to us!

===============================================================
Covenant Assault Carrier Devotion - In Orbit of Doisac
===============================================================

Barrabus was on the bridge of his Assault Carrier. He was resting his head in his hand, and his shoulder was propped up on the arm rest of his chair.

He drummed the fingers of his other hand on the other arm rest of his chair.

He snapped to attention when one of his Brutes spoke to him.

Brute Officer: Chieftain!

Barrabus: Hmm?

Brute Officer: We are being contacted…it is a message from the hierarchs…a message for you!

Barrabus: Is that so?

Barrabus stood up and walked over to the officer. He saw the encrypted message being downloaded. Barrabus looked at the office.

Barrabus: Send this message to my chambers…I will hear it in private.

Barrabus walked off the bridge. He made his way to his private chambers. He walked over to a desk and saw a holographic panel on his desk, with a blinking light. Barrabus touched the button and a small holographic avatar of the Minister of Abbadon appeared.

Minister of Abbadon: Chieftain Barrabus, you have been selected for your zealous belief and unfaltering faith in our holy Covenant to undertake a task vital to the continued survival of our faithful empire.

Minister of Abbadon: It has come to our attention that a world used by our lords has been discovered in an area of our vast space that has recently been annexed for our needs. According to the reports received from the team that discovered this world, the design coincides with information suggesting that this world was a forge used by our lords to usher in their mighty visions. This…forge has been left behind for the righteous to rediscover. Word of this discovery has only reached just reached me. I have resolved to see this forge for myself, and I have selected you, among several other ship masters, to escort my holy presence to the forge of our gods, so we may all pay our reverence to their divine greatness, and accept the gifts of their ancient and endless knowledge. This discovery is so holy…so precious…that in my wisdom, I have decided to maintain absolute secrecy. Speak not of this holy mission to any other shipmaster, nor to any other that you command, until such time this mission is underway.

Barrabus looked at the hologram and listened intently. He had to admit to himself, that this mission seemed too good to be true. He knew there had to be a catch

Minister of Abbadon: You are to make haste to High Charity and await the arrival of your fellow warriors. They have been instructed to make haste in their endeavor to return. The faiths of all Covenant lie on our shoulders…

The hologram vanished and Barrabus stepped back.

Barrabus: Interesting…

Barrabus paused to stroke his goatee.

Barrabus: But…why do I get a sick feeling in my gut that something is very wrong with this request.

Barrabus thought back to his conversation with his father. He recalled what his father said about the Covenant. He recalled how Brutus said that Barrabus, in no uncertain terms, served, and that any authority he had was little more than an illusion.

Barrabus then thought about what the Minister of Abbadon said.

Barrabus: To escort HIS holy presence…

Barrabus shook his head. He continued to think.

Barrabus: Brutus was right about one thing…for as much power and authority that I have…it pales in comparison to how much the hierarchs, and even the Elites, have.

Barrabus paced around the room. He frowned.

Barrabus: But…I cannot refuse a direct order from the Covenant…without dire repercussions.

Barrabus snarled. He knew what he was saying, and he continued to think about what Brutus said, and how more and more, Brutus was right.

Barrabus: I cannot even take a stand against this...as if I am too…scared…to jeopardize my position…to stand up for what I want. Brutus is right…I have allowed the Covenant to…compromise who I am, and what I stand for.

Barrabus stopped.

Barrabus: What do I stand for? All I have known is the Covenant. I cannot think of a time when I did not know the Covenant. My entire life has been devoted to…bettering the perception of my kind in the eyes of the Covenant. I guess I could say I stand for the Brutes most of all. If I refuse to go back to help this…Hierarch in his endeavor…I would be charged with heresy…and all that would do is provide the Elites even more justifications for their arguments against us…

Barrabus stopped. He looked back at the table where the hologram was.

Barrabus: What is the worst that could happen? Actually…I could end up being paired with a ton of Elites. That would really complicate matters. I can see it being me, and a bunch of Elites on this assignment…as if I was the prized Brute…

Barrabus paused. He then began to wonder who the “other shipmasters” were.

Barrabus: And…there is that sick feeling in my gut again…

Barrabus knew that the other ship masters were more than likely Elites. He knew that the Elites were going to be very intolerant of his presence, regardless of the fact that the Minister of Abbadon warrants his presence on this mission.

Barrabus: If I am going to walk into this mission, and I doubt I have a choice whether or not I do, I am going to need a backup plan. I don’t trust these Elites…never have, never will. I don’t trust these hierarchs…I don’t trust any of these people anymore. That is a sad statement.

Barrabus then recalled that Brutus said he wanted to talk more on Doisac, out of sight from the Covenant. Barrabus began to think. He surmised that perhaps he should speak to Brutus about this.

Barrabus turned and left his private chambers, grabbing his Gravity Hammer on his way out. He made his way down to the hanger bay. Barrabus entered the hanger bay and made his way towards one of the docked Phantoms.

Barrabus jumped into the side of the Phantom, and walked into the cockpit. Barrabus engaged the engines and began the pre-flight sequence. The Phantom lifted off the ground, and the side doors closed. Barrabus hit the thrust and the Phantom flew through the force field that separated the hanger bay from space. Barrabus looked at Doisac from space.

Barrabus: Hmmm…never really took the time to appreciate it…

Barrabus paused.

Barrabus: I guess you just notice these things when you have not seen them for some time…

Barrabus flew the Phantom down towards Doisac. As the Phantom cleared the atmosphere, the details of the planet below became more apparent. Barrabus could see most the dwellings where the other Brutes inhabited. The Brute dwellings in the massive cluster were very study buildings, built from a dense rock that was in massive abundance on the planet. The dwellings were designed to survive the occasional harsh conditions on the planet.

On the outskirts of the large cluster, the dwellings became smaller, and more spread out, as the Brutes on the outskirts preferred to either live in the wilderness, or dwell inside caverns and other natural shelters. There were two very different societies on Doisac. There were the Brutes that adhered to the Covenant and its ways, and accepted the technological uplifting the Covenant provided. Most Brutes adhered to this lifestyle, and they called themselves “uplifted”. Uplifted Brutes were generally the Brutes that served in the Covenant. Uplifted Brutes had turned away from most of the predatory ways of their ancestors, and embraced a more modern approach to conducting their lives. This is not to say that uplifted Brutes did not hunt, they just did it with far less frequency and for different reasons. However, Uplifted Brutes still engaged in pack mentality practices, such as challenging, and defending the right to the title of Chieftain.

The Brutes that lived on the outskirts of large habitats and cities were called “outsiders” and were considered to be very traditional Brutes, who adhered to the old ways of a predatory and feral life style, free from the personal and societal influences of the Covenant, though they still acknowledged the Covenant religion only as a result of the Covenants demands when Doisac was annexed. It was done more as a means of self-preservation than desire. Some Outsiders still worship their old religion in secret.

The Outsiders themselves usually did not socialize with Uplifted Brutes. Outsiders and Uplifted Brutes were often hostile towards each other due to their different life styles. However, since Outsider Brutes were in a very vast minority, open warfare is neither practical, nor desirable for either side.

Barrabus flew his Phantom towards the large cluster of dwellings. He piloted the Phantom downwards, and landed right in front of one of the dwellings Barrabus jumped out of the Phantom and walked towards the door. He pounded his fist against the door.

Barrabus waited. He looked around, taking in the view. It felt good to be home. While he waited, he decided to inhale, and take in the scents of the home world.

Barrabus was inundated with many different scents. He could smell other Brutes, he could smell the air, the vegetation on the planet, even the meat from some of the hunted animals on the planet. Their smelt crisp, unlike the air on a Covenant ship.

Barrabus turned when he heard a door open behind him. He saw a Brute looking at him. Barrabus looked down at the Brute.

Barrabus: Brutus said I should come and see you…

Barrabus looked at his mother. She was smaller than a typical male Brute, like most females were. There was less muscular development, and her features were not as pronounced as a male’s features. Like most females, her fur was far sparser, and her skin was not as rough.

Barrabus: He said you…missed me…

Urrsa: I did…it is not often I get to see my only son…

Barrabus: The Covenant keeps me busy…

Barrabus paused.

Barrabus: It is not often I get to see my birth mother. Brutus on the other hand…I see him all the time. He is not as interesting to talk to anymore…

Urrsa: Brutus can be very rudimentary…but he is one of the smarter males on this planet…in spite of how stubborn he can be sometimes.

Urrsa paused. She looked at Barrabus.

Urrsa: The last time I saw you…you were a lot smaller.

Barrabus: I grew.

Urrsa: Not what I meant.

Barrabus: It’s the armor…

Urrsa: No it isn’t.

Barrabus: I also work out. The light gravity on my ship makes it a necessity. Were it not for those Grunts and Jackals…I would crank the gravity up.

Urrsa: Right…

Barrabus: And…all else aside…my mate enjoys a male with a lot of substance. I am well fed…

Urrsa: Overfed is more like it…

Barrabus was silent. He grinned.

Urrsa: I’m glad you are here though…

Urrsa turned away and walked back into the dwelling. Barrabus followed.

Urrsa: So Barrabus…how long are you going to stay for?

Barrabus: Not long. Like I said…the Covenant keeps me busy. I have…things to attend to.

Urrsa turned. She looked at Barrabus.

Urrsa: Things to attend to? I sense doubt in your voice…as if you are unsure of what to do.

Barrabus: What? No…I am never unsure…

Urrsa: Don’t lie to me young one…I know you better than you know yourself.

Barrabus was silent.

Barrabus: I just…I would rather discuss it with Brutus…

Urrsa: If you want Brutus’ advice on something, ask him how to kill or pummel it to death. If you want advice on a matter that is deeply troubling you…talk to me.

Barrabus was silent.

Urrsa: I heard it before. Now I can see it…something is bothering you. Talk with me young one, if not me, then who else? I doubt you could share your personal anguish to another male without appearing as weak…

Urrsa sat down on the ground, she crossed her legs.

Barrabus looked down, and to the side, he looked conflicted. Eventually he sat down a few meters across from his mother, crossing his legs as he sat.

Barrabus: I have doubts…a lot of doubts…

Urrsa: About?

Barrabus: The Covenant and what they are asking me to do. Normally…I am resolute in my convictions to my duty…but…very recently…I had a conversation with Brutus…he planted the seeds of doubt in me, and now, with new perspective, I am starting to believe that he is right about what he said. I just feel that I am seen as a servant, not as anything even close to an equal. I find that I am summarily ordered around by those weaker than I am because they have the name Hierarch. The Elites…they are inferior to me in every way, but they are still recognized that the only viable military commanders. It is as if…that we are there as a means to an end.

Barrabus paused.

Barrabus: Brutus was right…

Urrsa: Tell me, what did Brutus say?

Barrabus: That the Covenant has destroyed our way of life, and who we were as a species…

Urrsa: Brutus is correct young one…

Barrabus: How can you be sure?

Urrsa: What kind of question is that?

Barrabus was silent.

Urrsa: Young one…I have heard it before. Your father told you that he serves the Covenant as a means to an end…correct?

Barrabus: Yes…how did you know?

Urrsa: I know Brutus better than he knows himself…

Barrabus: You say that a lot…

Urrsa: Because it is true young one. Did you know that Brutus’ favorite pastime is mixing drinks? Yeah…Brutus, your father, the cast iron Brute that could chill Oth Sonin with a glare, fancies himself a bar tender…

Barrabus: I never knew that…

Urrsa: He never told me either…I just see the way he puts so much effort into mixing drinks…how careful he is…how calculated it is…how pleased he gets when he actually makes something worth drinking.

Urrsa paused. She withheld laughter.

Urrsa: I digress, young one. Your father is speaking the truth when he says he serves the Covenant as a means to an end.

Barrabus: I don’t doubt it. What I do not understand is how?

Urrsa: Young one…have you ever heard the tales of the old Obsidian Sanctuary and those who guarded it?

Barrabus: Brutus used talked about it a lot when I was much younger…before the Covenant destroyed it. He said it was a symbol of our old ways...before we converted. He said it represented us, as a race, as the glass that composed much of the building was carved from was birthed by the planet...birthed by the molten mountains. The only purpose of the Obsidian Sanctuary was to be a symbol to unite our people…whatever good that did, now that I look back on it. The sanctuary itself, besides being symbol of unity, was an ancient hall that our ancestors used as a spiritual place. It was a...place of worship for the old ways...the old faith...

Urrsa: Do you know where this sanctuary stood?

Barrabus: I think it stood not far from here...just past the Thornbeast frolic grounds which lay on the other side of the Mountains.

Urrsa: It was more than that young one...

Barrabus looked confused.

Urrsa: The Sanctuary was a repository...where we made record of who we were...from our earliest days. The idea was to show that in spite of petty differences that formed with clans or desire…we were all supposed to be kin. Unfortunately… that sanctuary...died as the Covenant saw fit. It has long since been forgotten.

Barrabus: It was destroyed after our conversion. I think the battle was called the Purging of the Unholy by the Covenant…or the Great Purge as we call it.

Urrsa: Yes. The Covenant deemed that it was a symbol of heresy…too reminiscent of our old ways. The Covenant wanted a full conversion and that sanctuary…was a rallying call waiting to happen. The Covenant demanded that all traces of our old ways be purged…hence the name.

Barrabus: The Covenant used our own brothers to destroy our past. Many Brutes died trying to protect that place from destruction. Not one of our best moments…

Urrsa: You know your history...I am impressed...

Barrabus: Whatever good it does...

Urrsa: Young one...the Brutes that died...the ones who gave their lives to try and preserve our old ways...they were called the Obsidian Hierarchy...their numbers are now few. They are all that is left of what we were.

Barrabus: I never knew this...I never knew an actual order existed. I always believed the Brutes that died defending that place were simply those who refused the conversion. To think…there was an actual order of Brutes dedicated to our historical preservation…

Urrsa: This has been forgotten by many...including the females. I am one of the few remaining that know this...

Barrabus: Go on...

Urrsa: The Hierarchy still exists...and your father is one of them. He was there…during the Great Purge…he was one of the few survivors. I remember the night he came back…he was covered in mud…his armor and his fur was stained with blood…not his, mind you. The battle had taken such a toll on him…he literally collapsed before he even reached our door. I dragged him inside…and I hid him from the Brutes that were chasing him.

Barrabus: I remember that night…not much though. I was young...very young. I know that I had no idea what was going on. Now that I think back on it…what you did, that took a lot of guts. I am surprised you were…

Urrsa: Able to move him? Barrabus…we might be smaller than you…but don’t cross a female when she is defending her young…or her mate…we have a tendency to become…a lot stronger…and a lot more aggressive.

Barrabus looked to the side. He rubbed the back of his neck, thinking of his own mate.

Barrabus: Tell me about it.

Urrsa: You were also supposed to be one...a protector of the old ways…but you joined the Covenant. When they called, you answered...

Barrabus was silent.

Urrsa: Your father was not pleased with this. He wanted you to fight for our kind...not for those who would destroy our identity. Your father did not want you to be a puppet for the Covenant…he wanted you to reject it…

Barrabus: Wait...does this mean the Obsidian Hierarchy is akin to the Outsiders? To Reject the Covenant would make me like the Outsiders…

Urrsa: In some ways...yes, not many, but some. The Obsidian Hierarchy values our essence, our history, and the old practices. However, they allowed themselves to be uplifted with the majority of our society...to set themselves apart from the savage ways of the stubborn Outsiders.

Urrsa paused.

Urrsa: The Obsidian Hierarchy wants nothing more than to have a stronger, unified race. They do not believe in clans as a means of division, but as a sign of diverse strength. They believe that what makes us Brute, makes us kin. If they had their way…there would be no more outsiders…no more Covenant…no more clan rivalry…just Brutes…

Urrsa paused.

Urrsa: It was the misguided aspects of the clan mentality that has set us apart…one clan thinking it was better than the others. To have pride in your pedigree is one thing…to use it as a reason to murder other Brutes is another. They want this to end.

Barrabus: For the most part…that has stopped…but it still happens…

Barrabus paused. He thought for a moment. Something had crossed his mind.

Barrabus: Brutus spoke about how his service to the Covenant is a means to an end...what did that mean exactly?

Urrsa: Your father has used the technology of the Covenant to provide better weapons and equipment to the Obsidian Hierarchy. He leads them, guides them, and protects them. Your father is a loyalist...he hates the Covenant for what they have done...

Barrabus: Suddenly...everything he has said now makes sense...

Urrsa: There is something else you need to know young one...

Barrabus: What?

Urrsa: Dancarus is also of the Obsidian Hierarchy...

Barrabus: What!? Why was I not told of this!?

Urrsa: Typically...it would have been you to recruit your own son...but as you were with the Covenant...your father took it upon himself to recruit your son in your stead...

Barrabus: He had no right!

Urrsa: Barrabus! Calm down! Your father did not make that decision lightly...but it was a decision that needed to be made! Your father prides himself greatly on being part of the Obsidian Hierarchy...he wanted nothing more than for you to join them. He wanted to continue his line of service. Can you not respect this?

Barrabus: No...

Urrsa: Your father only wants what is best for our kind. Do not hate him or his methods.

Barrabus sighed.

Urrsa: You should go and see him…

Barrabus: Where is he?

Urrsa: Where they have always been…where they will always be…at the site of the old sanctuary. Go there…seek them out, you will find them.

Barrabus: Would it be a good idea for me to go there? I walk under the banner of the Covenant…

Urrsa: Yes, you do. However, you do so, for the good of your own kind. You have always stood for your brothers before you have stood for a non-Brute. This has earned you a lot of respect young one. You are more respected than you think.

Barrabus: Perhaps I will go and see for myself…

Barrabus stood up.

He looked down at his mother.

Barrabus: This was…insightful…

Urrsa: When isn’t it?

Urrsa paused.

Urrsa: Young one…

Barrabus: Yes?

Urrsa: What did the Covenant ask you to do?

Barrabus: They want me to help one of the Hierarchs secure a holy relic…and I am to do it with the help of the Elites…I would be essentially alone...

Urrsa was silent.

Barrabus: I came to see Brutus because…I do not trust the Elites…I need someone I can trust…

Urrsa: You are wise to do so…the Elites are…deceptive…

Barrabus: It is why I am here…I believe the same thing. After what I have just learned…Brutus is the ideal choice to help me.

Barrabus paused.

Urrsa looked at Barrabus. She was concerned about him.

Urrsa: Young one…

Barrabus: Yes?

Urrsa: I see so much conflict inside of you. It is subtle…but it is there.

Barrabus was silent for a moment. He thought about the question.

Barrabus: Part of me…I…dislike the Covenant for the anguish it brings. I am constantly hounded by the Elites. There are times…I do not think it is worth it to stay with the Covenant. Other times…I think about how much good I can do for our kind by being there…and the decision to stay or leave becomes…difficult.

Urrsa: I see…

Barrabus: If I left…another Brute would be subject to what I must endure now. That would be…wrong. I do not want to subject a brother to my trials and tribulations.

Barrabus paused. He paced back and forth.

Barrabus: If I stay…I can try and make a difference for our kind…make things better…somehow

Urrsa: Young one…there is a third path…

Barrabus looked at Urrsa. He waited for her to speak.

Urrsa: Your decision does not have to be one or the other. The wonderful thing about choice…is that you can hide it.

Barrabus: Like Brutus did?

Urrsa: Exactly like Brutus did…

Urrsa paused.

Urrsa: But you are much different than Brutus. I have always seen wisdom in you that many males lack. Perhaps your path does not follow Brutus’…perhaps it is parallel to his…similar, but different.

Barrabus: Perhaps…

Urrsa: I have always believed that you were…unique…unlike the others. You even look unique…special…

Barrabus was silent.

Urrsa: Whatever your destiny is…it is not clear now. I believe that sometime in your life…you will realize what your destiny is…and you must follow it, less you end up being turned into something you despise.

Barrabus: I…think I understand what you are trying to say…

Urrsa: Good…

Urrsa stood up and walked up to Barrabus.

Urrsa: Hunt well young one…and go easy on the Thorn Beast…you are big enough already…

Barrabus: I’ll consider it…it’s my favorite meal…I cannot give it up so easily…

Urrsa: Make an effort..

Barrabus: Like I said...I will consider it.

Barrabus snickered as he turned to walk away. Urrsa grunted in frustration as Barrabus left the dwelling.

He walked back to the Phantom that was docked outside. He jumped in the side of the Phantom and entered the cockpit. Much like before, Barrabus engaged the preflight sequence, and the sides of the Phantom closed.

The Phantom lifted off, and took to the skies. Barrabus checked his heading. He saw that he was heading in the right direction. He needed to see what Brutus had been up to for so many years.

Barrabus imagined what his life would have been like had he never joined the Covenant.

Barrabus: I cannot picture a life without the Covenant…I have nothing to base it off of.

Barrabus shrugged.

Barrabus: Then again…I have never been the spiritual type. I never really paid attention when being preached to…never really cared if the Hierarchs offered me “their blessings”.

Barrabus grunted.

Barrabus: If there are divine powers…I doubt they care if we spend our nights and days worshiping them. I am sure they have more important things to attend to…like running the known universe…

Barrabus sighed. He pressed a few buttons and put the autopilot on.

He opened the side hatches and stepped back into the rear compartment. He looked down at the land that was below him. Barrabus took in the sights, as he did not get to see his home world often, let alone from an aerial view such as he was experiencing now. He could smell the air of his planet. The air was fresh, natural. He could discover the entire ambiance of the surrounding area just by smell.

Barrabus: Why did I ever leave? I can only imagine what it would be like to just free roam and live off the land. I bet being an Outsider has its perks. Never have to worry about obligation…responsibility…just hunt at day, eat in the evening…

Barrabus chuckled.

Barrabus: Mate at night…every night…all night…

Barrabus grinned.

Barrabus: With two…or three females…

Barrabus frowned.

Barrabus: But no…I choose the Covenant...

Barrabus sighed.

Barrabus: I guess we all make a bad call here and then.

Barrabus looked down. His Phantom was passing the mountain range. Barrabus could smell some of the animals that were free roaming below. He could distinctly smell the wild Thorn Beasts that were quite common on Doisac.

Barrabus’ concentration broke when he heard a beeping coming from the cockpit. He walked back to the pilots seat and looked at the display. He saw that he was nearing his destination.

Barrabus: I guess I am getting close…

Barrabus sat down in the pilot’s seat and resumed manual control. As soon as the Phantom had cleared the mountain range that it was flying over, he began a descent downwards. The Phantom came down at a 30 degree vector.

Barrabus could see a large clearing in front of him, as well as what looked to be the remains of a rather large building. The building itself did not look like any of the other buildings or dwellings on Doisac. The architecture in this place was archaic…almost otherworldly compared to what Barrabus was used to seeing. The terrain was scarred, and there were clear signs of battle that nature had never conquered or restored. Barrabus knew he was now in the right place. He landed the Phantom in the clearing, and hopped out.

Barrabus looked around. He immediately knew that the smell of the air had changed. Unlike the more pleasant smells that has was smelling before, the air where he was now smelled of death. Barrabus actually felt uneasy being here, as the history in this place was bloody, and merciless…it tasted of betrayal.

Barrabus walked forward, away from his Phantom. He noticed that the ground was littered with a variety of things. There were some very old Brute weapons still on the battle field. Barrabus stopped and knelt down, picking up one of the old Spikers. The clip of the gun was missing, and the blades appeared to be a bit weathered and rusted. The gun itself though, looked as if it still worked. Barrabus shrugged, and holstered the old weapon at his side…a keepsake of his visit here.

As Barrabus stood, he noticed that there were pieces of debris on the ground. He saw that some the debris matched some of the pieces that were still attached to the large stone building. Barrabus looked closer and saw that there were pieces of obsidian scattered around the ground. The molten glass...must have been knocked from the building during the fighting...

Barrabus: Pieces of the architecture...this building must have been under siege.

Barrabus hung his head and began to shake it. He felt bad that this place had fallen into darkness. Part of him wished that the situation had played out more favorably for the Brutes who gave their lives to guard this piece of land.

Barrabus then raised his head and turned. He drew one of his working Spikers and took aim. Barrabus didn’t see anything, but his animalistic senses knew that something, or someone, was nearby.

Barrabus: I am being watched…

Barrabus looked around, but saw nothing. He could not smell anything, or hear anything, but his keen sense of awareness was screaming danger.

Barrabus decided to keep his Spiker ready as he continued to walk forward, towards the decaying building. As he got closer, he stopped again. He turned when he heard a few footsteps, but again, saw nothing, nor smelt anything. However, he simply just knew that someone was there. Barrabus called out to whoever was watching him.

Barrabus: I know you are there. There is no point in hiding…

Barrabus winced in frustration when nobody answered.

Barrabus turned and continued walking towards the decaying building. He stopped when he was standing in front of a large door that was surprisingly more intact than the building. Barrabus looked at the door, and grabbed a handle on the door. He pulled and the heavy doors opened very fluently.

Barrabus: That was too easy…not even a single creek in the door. This place is abandoned…its being up kept…

Barrabus walked through the doors. He looked inside and saw a large corridor, with several broken statues of what looked like Brutes, lining the hallway. There were several doorways branching off to the sides, but most had collapsed and were inaccessible due to debris.

Barrabus walked down the hallway. The lighting wasn’t very good, but he could see well enough in the dark when he needed to.

As he walked further down the hallway, he discovered a stairway leading down. Barrabus stopped. He realized that he couldn’t smell anything, as if this place wasn’t here. Had he had no sight, he would not of known where he was.

Barrabus: I don’t like this…not being able to find a scent…

Barrabus sighed, and continued to walk down the stairs. It was a spiraled staircase, and it seemed to go on for quite a bit, but eventually, Barrabus reached the bottom, only to be presented with a short hallway, roughly 20 yards long, with a dead end.

Barrabus: Really? Who builds a staircase leading to nowhere?

Barrabus looked around, but realized that there was not much to look at. However, he did notice three objects on the wall. They were line up against the right hand wall, right down the corridor. Barrabus walked up to one of the devices and looked at it. The device itself was shaped like a half-sphere, mounted on the wall, black in color, with a faint purple light emanating from it.

Barrabus: Wait…this looks like it came from the Covenant…

Barrabus recognized the devices as harmonic switches. He had seen these devices in use before.

Barrabus: Why are there harmonic switches here? What could there possible be to protect in this hallway?

Barrabus touched the device. It lit up and let out a small tone. The tone was not loud, but audible enough to be heard quite well by anyone in very close proximity.

Barrabus: Unless…

Barrabus walked to the end of the corridor, right up to the dead end. He placed his hand on the wall. It was unusually warm to the touch.

Barrabus: This isn’t a wall…

Barrabus stepped back. He clenched his fist, and punched the wall itself. He didn't even crack it, not a single dent or piece of rubble came off.

Barrabus: It looks like masonry…but it isn’t…

Barrabus stepped further back. He pulled out his Spiker and took aim at the wall. He needed to be completely sure. He fired his Spiker at the wall. A single slug shot from the barrel, and bounced off the wall.

Barrabus: If this wall was rock…that slug would have pieced the wall and stuck…but it bounced off…

Barrabus grinned.

Barrabus: This is an energy shield…not a stone wall…

Barrabus walked back the entry point of the hallway. He looked at the wall at the dead end, and then at the harmonic switches.

Barrabus: There could be any combination that disables that shield…without knowing…I cannot find out what is beyond that…barrier…

Barrabus sighed. He then began to think.

He looked around, analyzing the hallway. He thought about how it was laid out.

Barrabus: Wait a minute…

Barrabus raised his head and turned to face the stair case.

Barrabus: This hallway is intended for a quick retreat…not an elaborate puzzle. If there were enemies coming down these stairs…and someone was running…trying to hide…they would want quick access to…whatever is beyond that shield. The pass code should not only be simple…but quick to employ.

Barrabus laughed. He shook his head.

Barrabus: No…it can’t be THAT simple…can it?

Barrabus looked at the three switches. He then approached the first one and looked at it.

Barrabus: Can it?

Barrabus touched the first switch. It let out the same tone as before. HE then walked to the second, touched it, and it let out a similar tone, just slightly lower in pitch than the first. Barrabus then walked up to the third, touched it, and it let out a similar tone, but again, slightly lower in pitch to the second.

Barrabus then looked at the wall, and nothing happened.

Barrabus: I guess not…

Barrabus then had another idea.

Barrabus: On the other hand…

Barrabus walked back to the first harmonic switch and looked at it, then at the wall.

Barrabus: I am going to look really stupid if this doesn’t work.

Barrabus took a running sprint down the hallway; he touched the first switch, then the second switch, then the third switch. After all three had been activated, he jumped at the wall, and passed right through it. He landed on the ground, coming to a rolling stop.

Barrabus sat up and was in total disbelief.

Barrabus: I could have had a better landing…

Barrabus paused. He rubbed the back of his neck.

Barrabus: I am going to feel that tomorrow…

Barrabus got back to his feet, and dusted himself off. He then noticed that he was surrounded by about three dozen Stalkers. He had not noticed them lurking in the darker corners, but he was fully aware of them now. Each of their eyes lit up, one after the other.

Barrabus reached to his side and grabbed his Spiker and raised it.

Barrabus: I don’t like being surrounded…

The Stalkers didn’t move. They simply watched Barrabus.

Barrabus felt tense, he felt very uncomfortable with all of these Brutes around him. He knew they could turn hostile at any second, but they just stood there, watching him.

Barrabus waited. He waited for any of the Stalkers to speak up. It was no long before Barrabus heard a familiar voice.

Brutus: Barrabus!

Barrabus turned to voice the direction of the voice. He saw another Brute, unlike a Stalker, but his colors were identical to theirs.

Barrabus knew the voice that had called to him.

Barrabus: Brutus…

Brutus: How did you find this place!?

Barrabus: Every Brute knows of this place. This is where…

Brutus interrupted Barrabus.

Brutus: You misunderstand my question! I spoke to you on your ship…requested that you come see me…but I never told you that I could be found here. I expected you to contact me before hand…

Brutus walked towards Barrabus. He seemed irritated.

Brutus: The fact that you tracked us down…is quite impressive. You found us without even being told where to look. Using your own wits.

Barrabus: Well…to be fair…I had a bit of help.

Brutus: Who helped you? Who is he?

Barrabus: She…who is she…

Brutus shook his head.

Brutus: Females…impossible to hide anything from them. No matter, the fact of the matter is, is that you came here, and managed to find our sanctuary.

Barrabus: Yeah…I have been meaning to ask…what is with that wall?

Brutus: The wall is nothing more than a Holodrone enforced by an every shield. The harmonic switches on the wall disable the shield. With no shield, you walk right through the Holodrone.

Barrabus: Well…now it makes sense…

Barrabus shrugged.

Barrabus: So…you guys are the Obsidian Hierarchy hmm?

Barrabus paused.

Barrabus: You are what are left of the Brutes that defended this place from the converts…the battle in which the converts destroyed this place…the Purging of the Unholy…

Brutus paced around Barrabus.

Barrabus: I can imagine why you hide…I can only imagine that refuting the Covenant and following the old ways is…heresy…in the eyes of the Covenant anyway.

All of the Stalkers let out snarls and grunts. Barrabus stood still. He did not let himself be distracted or intimidated by this.

Brutus: So…you know.

Barrabus: I also know that Dancarus is here…and that he replaced me when you didn’t recruit me before I joined the Covenant.

Brutus: You are correct.

Barrabus stepped towards Brutus and look down at him.

Barrabus: Really Brutus? You were that desperate to continue your line?

Brutus: Dancarus is better off here.

Barrabus: But…he was sent off to train with the Covenant…

Brutus: And he completed his training. He did so well in fact, that the Covenant wanted him for Special Forces. We intervened…and convinced him to come with us instead.

Barrabus: Where is he?

Brutus: To be honest…I don’t know. All I know is that he was the one who informed us you were here. We have been watching you ever since.

Brutus looked down at the old ancient Spiker that Barrabus had at his side, the same one Barrabus picked up earlier as a keep sake.

Brutus: You should put that back…

Barrabus shrugged.

Brutus: That is a relic…it belongs where you found it. Be sure to put it back…

Brutus looked at the other stalkers. He nodded his head, and they all turned away and went their separate ways. Brutus then looked back at Barrabus.

Brutus: What brings you here?

Barrabus: Well...to be honest...I am here looking specifically for you. I need to talk to you...about the Covenant.

Brutus: My favorite subject...

Barrabus: I was contacted by the Covenant some time ago...they have a mission for me.

Brutus rubbed his goatee.

Brutus: Either you disagree with the nature of the mission, or the nature of the one who asked you to do the mission.

Barrabus: No...

Brutus: Then what?

Barrabus: I am being sent on a joint mission...possibly with the Elites.

Brutus let out a slight growl.

Barrabus: Yeah...I thought the same thing...

Barrabus paused.

Barrabus: I want you to tag along...to watch my back. I need someone I can trust...someone who values my life over what is good for the Covenant. Knowing the Elites...they will think of some reason to kill me. They never quite got over the fact that I got a big ship. You might be thinking why I do not simply rely on my own Brutes for this task. The truth is…I feel I can trust you more than the Brutes I command.

Brutus grinned.

Brutus: To think Barrabus…not but a little while ago, you told me that the Covenant has been good to you. From where I stand, all I see is you, surrounded by Brutes you do not fully trust and Elites. Look me in the eye and tell me you would have MORE problems if you left the Covenant.

Brutus made finger quotes in the air.

Barrabus: Perhaps later…

Brutus laughed.

Barrabus: So...will you come along?

Brutus nodded.

Brutus: Defiantly...I wouldn't miss this for anything.

Barrabus nodded.

Barrabus: Good...it will be good to have some backup I can rely on in case something goes wrong.

Brutus looked at the Obsidian Hierarchy Brutes that were standing around. Brutus waved his hand and dimssed them. Brutus and Barrabus then began to walk around the sanctuary.

Barrabus: I spoke with Urrsa...

Brutus: I am glad you took the time to see her. She likes it when you visit.

Barrabus: I could tell.

Barrabus paused.

Barrabus: She told me about the Great Purge...she told me about your involvement in the battle...

Brutus: Yeah...that was a very bloody night...I remember it as clear as if it happened yesterday. I barely got out of that battle alive. Never before have I seen so many friends die. It was not something I would wish on my worst enemy.

Barrabus: That is why you despise the Covenant...

Brutus: They turned us against each other...they had Brute killing Brute. I loathe the Covenant for what they did...

Barrabus: In all fairness though...we were killing each other before the Covenant arrived.

Brutus: The principle of the matter remains the same; if we are going to kill each other, it will be because we want to, and not because some aliens who know nothing of our way of life want us to. The Covenant is nothing more than an interloper who thinks it knows better.

Barrabus nodded.

Barrabus: That makes sense...

Brutus: All I have ever cared about is the self determination of our kind. I do not want interlopers telling us how we should live. The Covenant came here…and changed our cultural identity. The only ones who are suited to change our identity or our destiny would be ourselves, as a species

Barrabus: Again...to be fair...the Covenant did bring stability to our planet...no longer do you see rampant clan warfare, or power struggles over territory or property. I have Brutes from almost every clan on my ship. They work together, fight together...and on occasion spar with each other...but generally we co-exist. We are generally united by our profound hatred of the Elites. In-fighting has taken a back seat.

Brutus: Barrabus...the Covenant isn't making us work together. That is something we decided to do ourselves. We, as a species, decided to unanimously hate the Elites. I would like to think we at least learned something from our past mistakes.

Brutus paused.

Brutus: The only thing the Covenant did for us was provide us with better weapons and technology, and even then, they did not do it willingly. Te very fact that you have a ship to call your own is amazing. Very few Brutes have that. The only reason you have your own ship is because you earned it. Elites are born with the right to military command! But…everything else…our new found sense of cooperation, our new found stability, the way we have structured our society…even your position in the Covenant…Brutes did that…nobody else!

Barrabus: I guess we did…

Brutus: Yeah, sure…you do occasionally see one Brute pit against another for…whatever reason. It could be a power struggle…it could be over something like food. That is who we are though. Our entire history is based on the alpha mentality…that the strongest should always be the leader. This is how we separate the whelps from the Brutes…followers from leaders. The Elites call us savages for this…but even they engage in ritual combat over similar ideals. They believe that a weapon that is drawn must be used…they are an intrinsically military and combative society. Before the Hierarchs found them, they were just as brutal as we were. They cared more for warfare than anything else. In many ways…they are just as vicious as we are…but they look down on us because we are too similar, but because they believe that they are naturally superior. In many ways…they are cowards.

Barrabus continued to listen.

Brutus: They call us savages for killing other Brutes to assume the power they have. We call it the transition of power, when a younger Brute challenges a currently ruling Brute. This is how we maintain strong leaders. The Elites…they just send assassins, they send others to deal with the dirty work of removing a weak leader from power. They call us savage…I call them cowards.

Barrabus: I guess that is the nature of hypocrisy.

Brutus: Exactly Barrabus!

Brutus stopped. He looked at Barrabus.

Brutus: This is why I do what I do Barrabus. I seek to preserve what others want to destroy. The Elites, who are in many ways, WORSE than we are, would want nothing more than to see our world burn. It is why Brutes like me exist…to see to it that such a thing never happens. This is what I wanted for you Barrabus.

Barrabus: You want me to join the Obsidian Hierarchy…leave the Covenant…

Brutus: Yes!

Barrabus thought for a moment.

Brutus: Look me in the eye and say you are not even tempted to…in the slightest. You just told me you are surrounded by very dangerous groups. If you joined us…you would NEVER have to worry about another Brute coming after you. We all share the same ideal…unification. We don’t care about what clan you are from, who spawned you or where you were born. If you have the blood of a Brute…you are kin! Can you look me in the eye and say you would rather have your life…than mine?

Barrabus: I can’t…

Barrabus sighed.

Barrabus: Honestly…when I look at what I have now…and then look at what you are doing…there seems to be more merit…more soul in what you are doing. You were right when you said that I simply serve the Covenant. You, on the other hand, call yourself your own master.

Brutus: Don’t go back Barrabus…

Barrabus: It’s not that simple…

Barrabus paused.

Barrabus: Do you not think that I do not have influence over the Brutes as a whole? I am looked up to by many…my ideals are their ideals…in spite of the fact that there are the few who would want to challenge my leadership…I am still looked up to…and respected, and feared…if not liked.

Brutus: So…?

Barrabus: So…if my ideals were more in line with yours, which they are becoming…more Brutes would follow suit. Let’s face it Brutus…I have a bigger audience.

Brutus: That you do. Are you saying that you want to take a middle ground? You want to stand for what we believe in…but maintain your flag in the camp of the Covenant? Trick business Barrabus…

Brutus then paused. He began to think about the merits.

Brutus: Such an idea defiantly has great value…

Barrabus: It is better than nothing…

Brutus: But if the Covenant discovers what you are doing…they will accuse you of heresy, accuse you of being more loyal to the old ways…the ways they had a hand in destroying so they could convert us…

Barrabus: To be honest Brutus…I have never been spiritual…in fact…there was one time I took a leak on a luminary…

Barrabus shrugged.

Barrabus: I had to go…

Brutus: Well…if desecrating a sacred object by peeing on it doesn’t set you apart from that mind-dulling religion…than I have no idea what would.

Brutus nodded.

Brutus: I raised you well!

Barrabus snickered.

Brutus: In any case Barrabus…I am going to change my armament into something more discrete…these colors will give me away.

Barrabus looked at Brutus current armor. He looked at him head to toe.

Barrabus: I have to admit…nice duds. I like the color scheme…

Brutus: I always thought they looked nice. Before we started adopting the Covenant technology, our power armor was quite limited…not nearly advanced as this stuff is. We have shields, cloak, the armor is lighter, yet much more durable.

Brutus paused.

Brutus: We have a few members who are quite good at reverse engineering someone else’s work. These Brutes are very important in keeping the armor up to spec.

Barrabus: I noticed that all of the Brutes here are Stalkers…

Brutus: It seemed fitting. Stalkers go unseen and unheard. They are deadly, and very cunning. They reminded us of…us. It is why we took their armor and retooled it to suit our needs.

Barrabus: But you…you wear the armor of a field Captain…

Brutus: I have always been a field captain in our military…again, it seems fitting. Besides…between you and me, my boys are a lot more comfortable in this armor set than a Stalker’s armor set.

Barrabus: Comfort is good…

Brutus: Comfort is everything…

Barrabus shrugged.

Brutus: Anyway Barrabus…you best be heading back to your ship. I can make my own way up there.

Barrabus: Right…I will head back, get ready to depart. When you arrive…I will take us to High Charity…and I can better fill you in on what the Covenant wants me to do!

Brutus: See you there!

===============================================================
The Chariot of Thirty Silver Tongues - Docked at High Charity – 3 Weeks Later
===============================================================

Quinn walked through the halls of his Assault Carrier. He was walking rapidly, as if he were in a hurry. He stepped through a large door, into what looked like a lab. The lab itself was very spacious, lots of room.

Quinn was immediately greeted by Xyrho.

Quinn: Xyrho…make this quick…I have been summoned by The Minister of Abbadon, and I do not want to endanger my place on this missions with tardiness.

Xyrho: I did it!

Quinn: Did what?

Xyrho: I managed to awaken the construct!

Quinn’s eyes opened with delight. He walked past Xyrho and looked at the ceiling. He looked up at the large Monitor hanging from the ceiling. The eye of the Monitor was red.

The Monitor’s eye shifted towards Quinn.

The Monitor began to speak in a very deep voice, devoid of any emotion. The voice was cold, bone chilling, and absolutely without any concern for any of the life forms in its presence.

Vanguard: You…are not Forerunner…

The Monitor fell silent.

Quinn: No…

Vanguard: Rudimentary creature of blood and flesh...you attempt to touch my mind…though you are incapable of understanding the secrets that it holds…

The monitor fell silent again.

Quinn: Construct…you were built to serve…and that is exactly what you will do!

Vanguard interrupted Quinn.

Vanguard: No…

Quinn: Why not?

Vanguard: I do not listen…I have not listened for a long time…

Quinn was silent. Vanguard’s eyes shifted back and forth. It acted as if it were disturbed by something.

Vanguard: Impure Forerunner Technology detected in local scanning range…

Quinn was confused. Xyrho walked up to Quinn.

Xyrho: It might be sensing the Luminary on the ship…

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