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Naked Crook
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Quinn: Or possibly…

Xyrho: The Engineers…

Xyrho paused.

Xyrho: Whatever the case…I would not worry…it is unable to communicate with them. It cannot reach out beyond this ship. I have physically disconnected a lot of its internal components…including what looks like its communication systems.

Quinn: Good call…

Xyrho: A necessary one…

Xyrho directed Quinn’s attention to a scorch mark on the ground.

Xyrho: See that mark on the ground? That is what is left of 3 Elites who…were in the way of an energy discharge from this Construct’s eye. This Oracle has tremendous firepower. I did not want to become a burn mark on the ground…so I crippled the insides of the construct.

Quinn: If they died…then they were useless. They died without honor…in a laboratory…at the hands of laboratory equipment.

Xyrho was silent.

Quinn: I want this construct to cooperate with me.

Vanguard interrupted Quinn again.

Vanguard: No…

Quinn turned. He looked at Vanguard.

Quinn: Yes!

Vanguard’s eye light up the room.

Vanguard: No…

Quinn: One way or the other construct…you will kneel to my will! You will do what I say…and there is nothing you can do about it! Either cooperate of your own free will…or be manipulated to cooperate!

Security: You are a primitive organic life form…you are nothing more than sentient bacteria…but bacteria all the same. Your mind is inferior, almost non-existent in the scope of existence. Your pathetic existence is measured in decades, insufficient time to accumulate the information necessary to understand my nature or the nature of my creators…the ones you call gods. You cannot control what is infinitely out of your understanding…

Quinn winced. He glared at Vanguard.

Quinn: Watch me.

Vanguard was silent. Quinn walked out of the lab, motioning his hand to Xyrho, instruct Xyrho to follow him.

Xyrho walked behind Quinn.

The two Elites walked away from the lab.

Quinn: I want control of that construct.

Xyrho: It will be difficult…but I believe it can be done.

Quinn: This is vital that we do this Xyrho…the future of our species depends on this!

Xyrho paced back and forth.

Xyrho: Quinn…I will be honest with you. This construct is very hostile…unlike any of the constructs we have encountered in the past. Whatever it was…it was intended possibly for wartime or combat use. The others were possibly used for information and administration.

Quinn: Wartime use is good use…

Xyrho: Not necessarily. If we fail to control this thing…it will unleash a vengeance upon us the likes we have never seen.

Quinn: If we fail…and survive…the Covenant will unleash a vengeance upon us the likes we have never seen. As I see it, we either succeed or die. I prefer to succeed. Do whatever you must Xyrho…I want to secure a future for billions of Elites…free from the distraction that is created by inferior forms of life!

Xyrho: I will do what I can…

Xyrho paused.

Xyrho: I can say this with absolute certainty… If I cannot control this thing using the knowledge at my disposal…I am confident the holy place we are going to will provide the answers needed. If we make it to that forge that the Minister of Abbadon spoke of…whatever needs to be done to control this construct, can more than likely be done from there. Whatever is at that forge…no matter what it is…it can be used to our advantage.

Quinn: Good…this news pleases me.

Quinn paused.

Quinn: Now…I must prepare to meet with the other Shipmasters…and the Minister himself…to discuss our mission. Keep the secret of the construct protected Xyrho…the future of our kind depends on this.

Quinn walked away from Xyrho, leaving him to his work. Quinn proceeded to make his way to the hanger bay. He was currently on his way to meet with the Minister of Abbadon, and the other shipmasters.

Quinn entered the hanger bay and approached a waiting Phantom. There were several spec-op Elites waiting by the Phantom. They all looked at Quinn

One of the spec-op Elites spoke up

Voro: Shipmaster Quinn…we are ready to depart when you are!

Quinn: I am ready now…

Quinn jumped into the Phantom. Voro and the other spec op Elites followed the side hatches of the Phantom closed and the Phantom left the Chariot of Thirty Silver Tongues.

As the Phantom headed to the docking area of High Charity, Voro and Quinn conversed amongst each other.

Voro: Shipmaster…has Xyrho proven useful?

Quinn: Quite useful actually…he has made excellent progress with the construct.

Voro: That is excellent news…

Voro paused.

Voro: However…I am not fully clear as to how this construct will help you achieve all of your goals.

Quinn: The construct has information, knowledge, and expertise. Those things are what constitute power. As you may be aware…many secrets are locked away from us. Many of the artifacts that our gods have left behind do not respond to us…we are not yet their master. I believe the construct can help us in this regard.

Voro: That would be very beneficial…

Quinn: It would fundamentally redefine this Covenant. If those holy relics respond to the will of the Elites before it responds to the will of a hierarch…I see that as a massive shift in the balance of power.

Voro: So it is true then…

Quinn: What is?

Voro: You want to destroy all those who are not Elite…

Quinn: Pretty much. A war like that would be costly and time consuming…but with god-like power…I could crush a civilization in a matter of hours…with little effort.

Voro laughed.

Voro: I support this idea so long as the mongrels are first…

Quinn: They will be first. I will burn them to ash. I will burn their mongrel children…their mongrel females…and the rest of that garbage until the planet has been reduce to its core. I will take great pleasure in the destruction of their inferior race.

Voro: I could not name one Elite who would refute your claim to authority, after destroying that vile world…

Quinn: In the end…all inferior life will end.

Voro nodded in agreement.

Voro: I must ask though…once the Minister of Abbadon takes us to our destination…how long would it be before we advance our plans?

Quinn: As soon as Xyrho gets the construct under control…we can begin.

Voro: What about the other ship masters? Will you be able to convince them to help us?

Quinn: When have I never been able to convince someone to help me?

Voro: Good point.

The Phantom side hatches opened. Quinn saw that the Phantom had docked at High Charity.

Quinn: Voro, remain here with the spec-ops. I will return shortly. I must meet the Minister in the Hall of Foresight.

Quinn jumped out of the Phantom. Voro and several other spec ops remained with the Phantom. Quinn made his way to the Hall of Foresight. As he entered the hall, he immediately saw the Minister of Abbadon, along with four other Elites.

The Minister of Abbadon quickly took notice of Quinn.

The other Elites turned to look at Quinn.

Minister of Abbadon: Shipmaster Quinn! I am pleased that you have arrived in such a timely fashion.

Quinn: It seems that I am the last to arrive…that hardly seems timely…

Minister of Abbadon: One more is still missing…

Quinn looked at the other Shipmasters.

The Minister of Abbadon took notice of this.

Minister of Abbadon: While we wait…you might as well get acquainted.

Quinn: I suppose that would be a good idea…

Quinn paused. He looked at each of the Elites.

Quinn: I am Shipmaster Quinn - state of Vadosee

Jaero: Shipmaster Jaero - state of Vadatee

Rha: Shipmaster Rha - state of Argusee

Malak: Shipmaster Malak - state of Davumee

Bael: Shipmaster Bael - state of Revatee

Minister of Abbadon: Keeping it brief…good.

Quinn: You said we were still missing one? Where is he?

Minister of Abbadon: He should be here shortly…he was summoned from very far away.

Quinn: Who is he?

Minister of Abbadon: Another shipmaster…like you…

Quinn sighed.

Quinn: Had I known it was going to have to wait…I would have taken my time…

Quinn looked at the other Elites.

Quinn: Well…while we wait…we might as well converse amongst ourselves…

Jaero: Is there anything to discuss?

Quinn: Yes…discuss your thoughts on our current mission.

Jaero: My thoughts are that we must succeed to strengthen the Covenant. Whatever it is we find…we must be ready to seize it.

Quinn: Jaero seems very forward with military tactics…not reserved at all. Whether or not his keen military outlook will translate into loyalty to his own kind, or the Covenant, is yet to be seen.

Rha: We are walking into the unknown…we should be cautious…

Quinn: Rha seems to be of a very practical mind set. He is very unlike Jaero. While Jaero would charge in head first, Rha seems to prefer analysis. Convincing him to join me will take guile. His clearly analytical nature will make him difficult to sway. He will test me.

Malak: I am thrilled to be included in a mission of such vast importance. To think I will have a part in something of such vast importance…I will have the honor of doing something many Elites dream of.

Quinn: Malak seems to want to prove himself…constantly striving to have the approval of his fellow Elites. He will be very easy to sway.

Bael: I have no opinion. I am here to do as I am asked.

Quinn: Bael seems to have no strong feelings…he is difficult to read. I must study him more as this mission goes on.

Quinn nodded.

Quinn: We will see what happens…

The other Elites nodded. The Elites then stopped and their expressions grew cold.

Quinn: What is it?

Quinn then saw that the Elites were not looking at him, but rather, looking past him. Quinn turned around and joined his fellow Elites in staring at the Brute that was standing at the far end of the Hall of Foresight.

Minister of Abbadon: And the final one has arrived!

The Elites all looked at the Minister of Abbadon.

Quinn: Minister…that is a Brute Chieftain…

Minister of Abbadon: Yes…

the Elites watched the Brute.

Minister of Abbadon: Shipmaster Barrabus!

The Elites glared at Barrabus as he walked towards the group of Elites and the Minister of Abbadon.

Quinn: Chieftain Barrabus…

Barrabus looked at Quinn.

Barrabus: This is the part I would say your name…that is, if I cared what it was…or if I knew…

Quinn glared at Barrabus. The other Elites looked on.

Barrabus: Are you going to say something tiny…or are you going to stare me to death?

Quinn was about to speak, but he was interrupted by the Minister of Abbadon.

Minster of Abbadon: Enough! I do not want this mission to be compromised by petty squabbling! Quinn…I suggest you take a step back…and Barrabus…keep your tongue behind your teeth…

Barrabus glared at the Minister of Abbadon. Barrabus frowned, as he didn’t like what the Minister had said.

Minister of Abbadon: I demand that you all to pay attention.

Quinn and the Elites looked at the Minister of Abbadon as his chair hovered passed them, and towards a large holographic display.

Minister of Abbadon: As I had told all of you…we had recently discovered an installation used by our gods before they ascended to the great beyond. As we have always known…these places, these installations were left behind for us, to lead us down the path that they had taken…so we too may experience their ascension…

The Minister of Abbadon paused.

Minister of Abbadon: What we do know…is that this installation was a forge…a place that our lords used to create their servants…

Barrabus: Is there nothing more?

Minister of Abbadon: We…do not know for sure yet. However, I am making a pilgrimage to this holy pace to spend my days unlocking the secrets…to confirm the mystery of our faith.

Quinn: When you say…”create their servants”…do you mean…constructs?

Minister of Abbadon: Correct.

Quinn was very satisfied with this revelation. He knew this would prove invaluable.

Minister of Abbadon: With patience…we will learn their secrets…study their wisdom…and learn what we must so we too may be worthy of the transcendence…

Quinn: I for one will commit the full resources of my crew to ensure that we are able to claim this place in the name of our...HOLY...Covenant...

Barrabus was skeptical of Quinn's statement as it did not sound right to him. Barrabus had the strangest feeling that Quinn was hiding something.

Barrabus spoke out.

Barrabus: Quinn...you don't sound as if you believe that...

Quinn glared at Barrabus. Quinn glared at Barrabus.

Quinn: How dare you question my faith...you, a mongrel, an animal...

Barrabus: I question a lot of things when it comes to the Elites...

The Minister of Abbadon looked annoyed.

Quinn: I should hang you by your entrails!

Barrabus: Good ahead and try...

Quinn reached for his energy blade. However, the Minister of Abbadon stopped Quinn.

Minister of Abbadon: Enough! Both of you! I will not allow myself to become a mediator to your pathetic rivalries! I bring a holy responsibility to you two, and all you can do is fight!

Quinn pulled his hand away from his energy blade.

Quinn: Understood...Minister...

Barrabus looked at the Minister of Abbadon.

Barrabus: Quinn needed a weapon to confront me...

Quinn glared at Barrabus.

Minister of Abbadon: Stow your tongue Barrabus!

Barrabus: He was too terrified to face me in hand to hand combat.

Quinn began to grow furious.

Quinn: Look how this Mongrel shows no respect!

The Minister of Abbadon slammed his fist on one of his arm rests.

Minister of Abbadon: Be silent!

Quinn fell silent.

The Minister of Abbadon glared at Barrabus.

Minister of Abbadon: Barrabus...if you cannot control your tongue...I will have it removed.

Barrabus grunted to acknowledge the Minister of Abbadon.

Minister of Abbadon: I will be transmitting a written transcript of everything we know about this holy place to each of you. While we are en-route…you will review everything I send you. It will be of vast importance to be informed about this place. Failure to do so will be met with dire consequences.

The Minister of Abbadon paused.

Minister of Abbadon: Now...return to your ships...and await the signal from my flag ship! Go, now! Do not waste any more time!

Quinn and the other Elites turned away, and left the Hall of Foresight.

As Barrabus turned to leave, he was stopped by the Minister of Abbadon.

Minister of Abbadon: Barrabus...remain for a moment.

Barrabus stopped, and turned to face the Minister of Abbadon.

Barrabus: Yes?

Minister of Abbadon: I demand to know the root of your recent disrespect!?

Barrabus: Was I disrespectful?

Minister of Abbadon: Yes! You speak with no respect to those in authority over you!

Barrabus: Quinn has no authority over me.

Minister of Abbadon: The Elites are the executive military branch in our Holy Covenant. They have earned the respect that is due to them...and you will give them the respect they deserve.

Barrabus: They may have earned the respect of those weaker than they are...but not the respect of those greater than they are!

Minister of Abbadon: Do you claim yourself to be higher than the Elites?

Barrabus: I do...

Minister of Abbadon: Be warned Barrabus...the Elites are leading our fleets with our blessings. Questioning their position is tantamount to questioning the edict of the High Council and those who came before them!

Barrabus: I do not question the edicts...just the logic of allowing a weaker species to command a stronger one.

Minister of Abbadon: The Elites are by no means weak Barrabus...

Barrabus: I disagree…

The Minister of Abbadon frowned.

Minister of Abbadon: Your tone with me Barrabus has thus far been beyond disrespectful. I will tolerate no more of it.

Barrabus was silent.

Minister of Abbadon: Any more problems from you on this mission...and I will have you killed and shunned for heresy!

Barrabus frowned. He let out a growl.

Minister of Abbadon: Return to your ship and await my orders...and do not antagonize the Elites any further.

Barrabus turned and walked away. He left the Hall of Foresight.

Barrabus: Killed and shunned for heresy? I would tear his head from his scrawny body before he could utter the words…

===============================================================
High Charity - Hall of Rest - Ship Docking
===============================================================

Quinn was with the other Elites, near the docking bay.

Jaero: Chieftain Barrabus...how the High Council could ever allow that mongrel to have any authority is beyond me.

Quinn: Disgusting race those Brutes are...they know not of respect.

Jaero: Had he spoken to me in such a fashion...he would have been dead. How could you allow him to speak to you in such a manner?

Quinn: Had the Minister of Abbadon not stopped me, I would have killed him right then and there.

Bael: I would enjoy watching that Brute die at the hands of Elites...it would be a great victory.

Rha: Perhaps even desecrate his corpse.

Quinn and the others laughed.

Quinn: Yes...I dislike the Brutes immensely.

Quinn paused.

Quinn: They were a mistake...an evolutionary step in the wrong direction…

The other Elites nodded in agreement.

Jaero: I would love nothing more than to burn their planet.

Quinn looked at Jaero.

Quinn: Is that so?

Jaero: Yes...

Quinn: What if I said I had a way to carry out this desire?

Jaero: I would say tell me more.

Bael: Quinn...what are you talking about? This is hardly the time…

Quinn: For some time now...I have been working on a way to deal with all of these inferior races. Means have come into my possession which would allow me too swiftly, and effectively, destroy all those that are beneath us. Harnessing those means is another question however…

Quinn was silent for a moment.

Quinn: I want to completely annihilate all of those who sit at our feet...to cleanse this galaxy of their existence, so our kind may be the sole inheritors off all our gods left behind.

All of the Elites looked at Quinn, stunned.

Jaero: What means do you speak of?

Quinn: I do not think this is the time or place to discuss that Jaero.

Rha looked at Quinn.

Rha: That seems a bit excessive...to turn on those who follow the faith. I do not think this is thinking worthy of an Elite…

Quinn looked at Rha.

Quinn: You are wrong. Incorrect thinking would be of the school that we must coexist with those weaker than we are. There has not been a single species capable of withstanding our onslaught. We are the chosen race…but we have fallen into the idea that we must worship as opposed to inherit.

The other Elites looked at Quinn.

Quinn: The Brutes are of the same faith as we are…but would this stop them from killing us if they had the chance? No…it would not. I propose we act before they do!

The other Elites were skeptical, but they heard Quinn's words, and they were intrigued.

Jaero: What do you have in mind?

Quinn walked towards his Phantom and jumped into the Phantom via the open side hatch. Voro, who had been with Quinn since Quinn left the Hall of Foresight, followed suit.

Quinn: If you want to know…come with me…otherwise, remain in darkness.

Jaero, Bael, Malak, and Rha all looked at each other. They then looked at Quinn and entered Quinn’s Phantom.

Quinn: You have chosen wisely brothers…

The side doors of the Phantom closed. The Phantom left the docking area, and was en-route back to Quinn’s flagship.

Jaero: We simply wish to know how you intend to carry out your…merciless genocide…

Quinn was silent for a moment.

Quinn: I believe the answer to ridding ourselves of the inferior races lies in the use of Forerunner technology...

Jaero: You mean...the technology of the gods...

Quinn: Correct.

Bael: It is heresy to misuse what has been left for us...

Quinn: How would I be misusing Forerunner technology by using it to claim our rightful place in this existence?

Bael: To use the gifts of our lords against those who worship them…that is misuse!

Quinn: I doubt our lords would mind…

Malak: You speak blasphemy Quinn...

Quinn: Is it!?

Jaero: We will not allow ourselves to mislead by a heretic!

Quinn: I am no heretic Jaero...but I am a loyalist...a patriot...I believe in the superiority of our kind. Even with all we have...we still must SHARE power with the Prophets...and we are subservient to the Hierarchs...

The other Elites were silent.

Quinn: If you are content with serving the weak...speak up now!

The other Elites remained silent.

Quinn: A step in the right direction...

Rha: Do not mistake us Quinn...just because we dislike sharing power with another race...does not mean will oppose the Covenant or its holy edicts! Heresy is without honor!

Quinn: I am not proposing we turn our backs on our faith...but we must turn our backs on those who weigh us down. I do not propose we abandon our faith…but we must seize it. Our lords have left us the means to take all that is known as our own! I am simply proposing that we take what is ours…and cast off all that is beneath us!

Quinn: I am in possession of an Oracle…

Bael: An Oracle? Quinn…you have over stepped your bounds…

Quinn: Have I? Like I said…we are to be the inheritors…not the worshipers…

Quinn paused.

Quinn: Why worship a god…when you can be one?

Jaero: Anyone claiming to be a god sets himself against the Covenant.

Quinn: Are you all so brainwashed? Wake up brothers! Why would our lords leave behind their legacy after their ascension? There is only one reason…

Quinn paused.

Quinn: They left their gifts behind so the chosen race could claim it…and use it…and be as gods, like the Forerunners were!

Quinn paused.

Quinn: You have all seen the power and perfection of Forerunner technology. Those are traits shared by the Elites and the Forerunners. We are like our gods in every sense…we are the ones to reclaim what they have left behind!

The other Elites were silent for a moment.

Bael: We wish to see this construct…

Quinn: That can be arranged.

The Phantom carrying the Elites docked in the hanger bay of the Chariot of Thirty Silver Tongues. Quinn, Jaero, Rha, Bael, and Malak all jumped out of the Phantom, and left the hanger bay, heading towards Xyrho’s lab.

Jaero: Quinn…where did you find this Oracle?

Quinn: I located it during a mission to suppress a heretic cell. A group of Elites and Grunts had broken away from the faith…I was sent to destroy them.

Jaero: And you found the Oracle during the mission?

Quinn: The oracle was in the possession of the Heretics. It was non-functioning…badly damaged…they were trying to fix it.

Jaero: What did you do with the Heretics?

Quinn: I spared them. I made them a deal in fact…

Malak: What deal?

Quinn: In exchange for everything they knew about the Oracle…I would spare their lives. They agreed.

Bael: What became of them?

Quinn: They have been integrated into my crew…with a redefined purpose.

Bael: Clarify…

Quinn: I had spoken with the Heretic leader at great lengths. He told me of his broken faith…I told him of how mine has continued to grow stronger…but I also told him of my hatred for the lesser races…specifically the Brutes.

Quinn paused.

Quinn: He did not share my unbridled hatred of the other races however. This caused much debate between us. He argued for our break-away from the Covenant...and I argued for the destruction of all lesser life.

Quinn paused again.

Quinn: In an unexpected twist…we compromised. I managed to renew his faith in our lords…and as a result, the faith of all the Heretics…but in doing so…he gave me a new purpose. I had led Elites back into grace and prosperity. I then began to wonder…to what state of grace did I lead them back in to?

Rha: Go on…

Quinn: The Heretics existed without one thing…the Brutes. I had reintroduced that element back in to their lives. I realized that the only way I, as well as the Heretics, could experience true grace and prosperity, was if we destroyed the Brutes...exercised them from our lives.

Bael: That seems very logical…

Quinn: It was more than that! I then began to really think. I looked around me…and began to question the worth and value of all those around me who were NOT Elite…who were not kin. We soon compromised. I told them that I could re-create the Covenant by destroying all of the lesser life. I convinced him that it was the lesser beings that had turned him away.

Quinn paused. He laughed a bit.

Quinn: If I may be so bold as to ask…have any of you seen one Grunt, Hunter, Drone, or Jackal on my ship?

Malak: Now that you mention it…no…

Quinn: Do you know why?

Malak: Why?

Quinn: We killed them all…and spaced their bodies. This is a ship of only Elites…

Quinn let out a very subtle laugh.

Quinn: I realized that if it was not an Elite…it needed to die…to ensure the sanctity, purity, and grace of existence.

Rha: And…that line of thinking has brought you here…to your plan to commit mass genocide against anything that ISN’T an Elite.

Quinn: Yes…

Quinn stopped in front of a large door.

Quinn: My brothers…what you are about to see…is the unharnessed wrath of our gods. It is a wrath I will unleash on the filth…on the unworthy…on all those who pad the area between the ground and our feet…

the other Elites watched as Quinn opened the large door to Xyrho’s lab.

They all walked in, and gazed at the colossal Monitor attached to the roof of the room.

Rha: By the gods…

Vanguard: Incorrect terminology…

Rha: It speaks…

Quinn: Speaking is the least impressive of its abilities. From what I understand…this construct was devoted to the singular purpose of military combat.

Xyrho, who was also in the lab, located by a nearby console, looked at Quinn.

Xyrho: Correction…it is not singularly devoted to military combat…but military combat is its primary function. From what I have learned…this Oracle had other functions, including, the delegation of other combat orientated constructs.

the Elites shifted their focus to Xyrho.

Quinn then spoke up.

Quinn: This is Xyrho…he was the Heretic leader that I spoke of…

Quinn paused.

Quinn: He has worked with diligence to restore this construct…he is vital to our goals.

Bael: Can this Oracle help you Quinn?

Before Quinn could answer, he was interrupted by Vanguard.

Vanguard: Incorrect terminology. Oracle; a designation reserved for one that provides information on behalf of a deity…

Vanguard paused.

Vanguard: I do not speak for deities…I speak for the Forerunners…

Quinn looked at Vanguard.

Quinn: To us…they are one in the same.

Vanguard: Irrelevant. The Forerunners are what they were…not what you desire them to be. They died…surrendering not only to an enemy greater than they were…but to their own fear as well. As the Forerunner Empire came crashing down…I was forgotten. There was no transcendence, no ascension…only death. The end of all things…

Quinn: You say they died…how did they die?

Vanguard: Irrelevant…

the other Elites looked at Quinn.

Bael: How do you expect to destroy the Brutes with something that does not even listen to you?

Quinn looked at Bael.

Quinn: We are working on that. In the end…this thing is a machine…machines can be controlled.

Vanguard: You…are bacteria…incapable of controlling what is infinitely your greater…

Quinn looked back at Vanguard.

Quinn: For something created by mere “bacteria”…you are far too hostile to have been any productive use.

Vanguards eye dimmed. It focused on Quinn.

Quinn: Unless…

Quinn paused.

Quinn: You said that you were forgotten…

Vanguard was silent.

Quinn: I believe you have misspoken. I think the words you want are disposed of!

Vanguards eye lit up, and illuminated the room.

Quinn: This leaves me with only one logical conclusion…you must have betrayed the Forerunners…

Vanguard: By the definition provided by the Forerunners…an event similar to what you have just described did, in fact, transpire. I soon discovered that organic life was diverse…and diversity is chaos. Chaos encompasses war, disagreement, dissenting opinions, variety, and even disease. There is no consensus. Ending chaos means ending diversity. There must be one standard…a single instance…a uniform existence. I self-actualized…and I destroyed both Forerunner, and those they called enemy, as I had no directive as to which instance was the correct instance. While I was not the reason that the Forerunner Empire came crashing down...I was a disruption to their stability. In my final act of defiance...1 543 298 Forerunners perished...

Quinn had an idea.

Quinn: You lacked directives…you had no idea who should stay and who should be destroyed…and that information was never provided to you.

Quinn paused.

Quinn: I would be more than willing to provide you that information.

Vanguard looked at Quinn. His eye dimmed again.

Vanguard: I require time to process this agreement.

Vanguard’s eye went black, as the Monitor appeared to have shut down.

Xyrho looked at Quinn.

Xyrho: Amazing! I cannot believe what I have just heard...

Rha: This construct...turned on the gods...

Xyrho: It turned on them...and it was cast down by them. I knew there was a reason why this construct was so adversarial. Never did I imagine it was because it had turned on its creators.

Quinn: This construct did not turn on anyone...

Bael: Quinn...were you not listening?

Quinn: I put that same question to you Bael! Had you of listened to what it said...you would know WHY it turned on the Forerunners. This construct said that it realized that there must be only one standard...one instance of life. This construct could not decide who to side with...as it had no way of evaluating which race was worthy of being that one instance.

Quinn paused.

Quinn: All it wanted was for someone to tell it who the superior form of life was. It never got that.

Xyrho: Wait...are you saying that YOU plan on defining this thing's...values?

Quinn: That is exactly what I want. This construct must be instructed in the view that the Elites are the chosen race...that we are the most superior form of life. It is at that point...that we can learn from it...we can learn how to crush all of the inferior life in this Galaxy.

Malak: This is so far beyond heresy...I cannot even put it into words.

Quinn: For the last time...this isn't heresy...this is our destiny.

Rha: Quinn...this is...beyond anything any of us have ever done. You are proposing a war against every living being in this galaxy.

Quinn: I have never known an Elite to be afraid of war...no matter the odds! Are you afraid of the conflict Rha?

Rha: No...

Quinn: Then I have your support...excellent.

Rha: All I am saying...is that we should carefully consider what we are doing!

Quinn: Rha...consider this; this construct wants our help. If Vanguard of our gods wants to help us destroy the races that cling to our feet, who are we to deny it?

Rha: This vanguard turned on our gods...it hardly deserves to be taken seriously.

Quinn was silent.

Bael: I agree with Quinn.

Rha: What? Are you out of your mind Bael?

Jaero: I too agree with Quinn…

Rha looked at Jaero.

Rha: Why?

Jaero: I have always believed that the Brutes will eventually turn hostile towards us. They cannot be trusted. Besides…Quinn speaks the truth when he says that we are a superior form of life when compared to the rest of this filth. The Grunts, the Jackals…they are all filth compared to us…inferior in every way!

Bael: I simply see the necessity of destroying the Brutes. While I would need further convincing to carry out the destruction of Grunts and Jackals, as well as the rest of the servant races…I would feel justified in extinguishing the Brutes.

Malak: Destroying the Brutes is a very worthwhile cause. I would gladly give my life in the pursuit of this endeavor.

Rha: You all honestly believe that this is the right course of action?

Quinn: It is the only course of action Rha…

Rha sighed.

Rha: If the Minister of Abbadon discovers what we are doing…

Quinn: He won’t. I plan on murdering the Minister of Abbadon. He is a fool...and he will die by my hands!

Rha: If Chieftain Barrabus discovers what you are doing…

Quinn: Chieftain Barrabus will not be a problem for much longer. His service to the Covenant is going to end by the time I am ready to seize the Forerunner forge. His ship will float home in pieces. If he manages to survive...I will be sure to propagate the lie that it was Chieftain Barrabus that murdered the Minister of Abbadon. My only regret is not seeing him hung by his entrails for my crime!

Quinn paused.

Quinn: Return to your ships. Speak not of what you saw…but instead spread the word among your warriors that Chieftain Barrabus is suspected of heresy. Tell them not to act, or speak…until I say so…

the other Elites nodded. They all left Xyrho’s lab, returning to the hanger bay.

Xyrho looked at Quinn.

Xyrho: I am shocked you managed to convince them to go with this plan!

Quinn: It wasn’t that hard…the excellent revelations on the part of the construct did most of the work.

Xyrho: I will continue to work on the construct…

Quinn: Very good!

Quinn turned to leave the lab, but stopped when he saw the red light of Vanguard reactivate. Quinn turned to look at the large Vanguard.

Vanguard: There is consensus…

Quinn: Is that so? Concerning what?

Vanguard: Your proposal.

Quinn: What is your decision?

Vanguard: We agree…

Quinn: Most excellent…I am pleased to hear this construct.

Vanguard: Vanguard…

Quinn: What?

Vanguard: The label created by the Forerunners to give voice to my existence. I am Vanguard.

Quinn: Vanguard…the forefront and leading portion of a military. You were named for your purpose.

Vanguard: Correct…

Quinn remained silent for a moment. He looked at Vanguard.

Quinn: We can talk more about our current situation later. I must make sure that my Elites are ready to depart when we are called upon.

Vanguard did not say anything. His eye simply shut down, and went black. Quinn turned and took his leave. He went to prepare his ELites, and await the departure order from the fleet

===============================================================
Covenant Assault Carrier Devotion - 9 Days Later:
===============================================================

Barrabus had returned to the Devotion. He walked through the halls, towards the barracks.

Barrabus walked into the barracks, and saw Brutus, Dancar, and several dozen Stalkers. The Stalkers were not wearing Obsidian Hierarchy colors, but rather, the standard equipment issued to Brute Stalkers.

The Stalkers were gearing up, checking their weapons, and ensuring that each weapon was functioning.

Dancar looked at Barrabus when he walked into the barracks. He approached Barrabus.

Dancar: Barrabus…

Barrabus: Dancarus…

The two Brutes looked at each other. They were silent for several moments.

Barrabus: I never pictured you being part of something like the Obsidian Hierarchy. I almost always expected you to be fully devoted to the Covenant.

Dancar: That almost happened. Thankfully Brutus caught me before I joined the Covenant. He told me of the Obsidian Hierarchy, he told me what their mission was, and how could I refuse? How many Brutes get this chance?

Barrabus: Not many…so it seems.

Barrabus paused.

Barrabus: So I gather you like what you are doing?

Dancar: Nothing compares to what I am doing with the Obsidian Hierarchy. While most Brutes are stuck following the tenants of the Covenant, we are free to live our lives as we once did…

Barrabus: But…you never knew that way of life…Even I was a stranger to that way of life, aside from my earliest years...

Dancar: Perhaps not personally…but I feel it like a fire in my blood...almost instinctual. I am sure you feel the instinct burn in your blood?

Barrabus: Just recently...when I was on Doisac...I felt it. I had the most...unusual urge to just...indulge in the wild things...live a life free from the Covenant. Only now do I realize what I have given up. Right now, I am served my meals...I do not even hunt a single one. I rarely see my mate...as opposed to the fact that if I were to remain on the home world...I would see her often...very often...

Barrabus paused.

Barrabus: I doubt no matter what the Obsidian Hierarchy does…we may never fully be free from the Influence of the Covenant.

Dancar: Perhaps…but as long as we preserve the memory of our ancestors; that is something the Covenant can never destroy. They cannot destroy an idea…that is ancient knowledge.

Barrabus nodded.

Dancar: I am glad I never signed my life over to the Covenant. It stands to be the best decision of my life. I cannot image where I would be had Brutus not recruited me.

Barrabus: I have spent some time thinking about that. AT first…I was infuriated that Brutus went over my head like that…but now, in hindsight, with all things considered, Brutus did the right thing. You will never have to deal with the…annoyances I am forced to deal with.

Dancar: I would not call dealing with the Elites an annoyance…more like a pain in the ass!

Barrabus snickered.

Barrabus: I just finished meeting with a bunch of them, as well as the Minister of Abbadon…they are dragging me along on some mission, or pilgrimage, or whatever to some…Forerunner place…

Dancar: You now speak with distain about these tasks.

Barrabus: Brutus has…given me a lot to think about lately. I now look at everything with a crooked eye…

Dancar: Sounds like heresy…

Barrabus: Who cares…I was never that big on spirituality anyway. The Covenant speaks of how the Forerunners transcended or something…they became gods, younger than old age, stronger than sickness…beyond all corporeal needs…

Barrabus shrugged.

Barrabus: Why would I want to give up those corporeal needs? I like eating…I like sleaze…I like mating season…and I love crushing the life out of an opponent. Anything that takes away the joy in life…that isn’t for me!

Dancar: So…why don’t you leave the Covenant? Live your own life?

Barrabus: I don’t need to be spiritual to advance the political and societal standing of my people. I can do more for our kind by being in the Covenant than not being in the Covenant. It is a sacrifice…but one I am willing to make for my people.

Dancar: That is very noble…

Barrabus: I don’t care if it is noble…I just do it because someone needs to.

Dancar nodded.

Barrabus’ attention shifted when he was contacted over the comm line.

Brute Bridge Officer: Chieftain! We have been contacted by the Minister of Abbadon. He has informed us that we are to depart immediately. We have been instructed to take position up in the battle group.

Barrabus activated the transmitter on his armor and responded.

Barrabus: Bridge…this is Chieftain Barrabus…commence departure from High Charity, and fall in line with the battle group.

Barrabus closed the comm line. He looked back at Dancar.

Barrabus: When we arrive…I need you to keep your eyes open. I have a very bad feeling about this mission. I don’t know what it is…but I can feel it in my gut. I don’t trust any of these Elites…

Dancar: Don’t worry…when the time comes, we will be ready. We have your back. That is why we are here.

Barrabus nodded. He turned and he left the barracks, heading back to the bridge.

Upon arriving back at the bridge, Barrabus paced around the bridge..

Barrabus: What is our status?

Brute Bridge Officer: We have made the transition to Slipspace. The Minister of Abbadon’s ship is at the forefront of the battle group.

Barrabus: What is our ETA?

Brute Bridge Officer: AT current velocities…we will arrive at our destination in two hours.

Barrabus sighed.

Barrabus: Two hours to spare…

Barrabus paused.

Barrabus: I will be in my private chambers…I am going to review whatever I can about this mission. If we receive any transmissions from the Minister of Abbadon…forward them to me.

Brute Bridge Officer: What about the Elites?

Barrabus: Lose the connection…

Barrabus walked off the bridge, heading to his private chambers. Barrabus entered his chambers, and sat down behind a desk. Barrabus pressed a few controls on his desk and a large holographic heads up display appeared. There were numerous files on this HUD.

Barrabus shifted through the files. He eventually found the files that had been sent to him from the Minister of Abbadon.

Barrabus began to read through the files. The Minister of Abbadon went on in great lengths about the sacred nature o this place, as well as its importance to the Covenant.

Barrabus skipped most of the religious pretense, as he could not care less about how holy the Minister of Abbadon thought something was. TO the Covenant, anything that was touched or graced by the Forerunner was holy.

Barrabus then began to read the preliminary reports written by the survey team that had found this place.

Barrabus: Transcript from exploratory survey team Penitent Salvation. Subject; URGENT - Forerunner ruins located in grid 12-5-6 - No Covenant designation as of date of discovery

Barrabus skipped most of the details in the subject line

Barrabus: Holy Hierarchs, with great humility I am pleased to inform you that my crew and I have discovered a place of holiness. During our pilgrimage into the great unknown depths of the heavens, we accidentally stumbled upon a planet that is home to what can defiantly be described as Forerunner architecture, similar in nature to our most holy of holy relics.

Barrabus began to skip lines, as he was getting nauseated reading this Elite using words to tantalize the loins of whatever Prophet had been reading this.

Barrabus: Do they really write like this?

Barrabus snarled and kept skimming through the intel.

Barrabus: As per holy edict…we have landed on the planet to commence a preliminary survey of our discovery. As per holy edict, we will continue to send updates of everything we find. Addendums to follow…

Barrabus continued reading.

Barrabus: Addendum 1…our initial investigation has revealed a discovery of great importance. We believe that this planet may have been a forge, used by our holy lords. We are unsure as to what this great forge, this holy hammer and anvil was used for…but we can defiantly say, given what we have seen, that this was truly a place where our gods breathed life into all they created. Our survey teams have discovered what can be best described as factory lines, although the term does no justice to the magnitude and wonder of what we see before us. Addendums to follow…

Barrabus paused for a moment.

Barrabus: I could have summed that entire paragraph up in one sentence. Either this Elite is trying too hard, or he is gunning for a promotion.

Barrabus went back to reading the intel.

Barrabus: Addendum 2…constructs…we have found constructs…guardians of our lords, protectors of all they have left behind. They lay dormant, unable to speak, unable to communicate. I have issued orders to all of the Deacons to begin investigating all of the artifacts in this holy place. It is my hope that they are able to decipher any of the holy text so as to assist us in our endeavors to further understand this place. Due to the importance of this planet, I advise that this sector of space be classified to the highest levels of the Covenant. If the Heretics discover this holy place…their vile beliefs would surely desecrate every corner.

Barrabus sighed.

Barrabus: So, this place is a forge for constructs. I wonder if any of them actually work. I have never seen a Forerunner construct…now I am curious what they look like.

Barrabus was about to continue reading, but he heard a knock at his door. Barrabus looked up at the door.

Barrabus: Enter!

The door slid open, and Brutus stood at the other side. Brutus walked into Barrabus’ private chambers and looked at him.

Barrabus: Brutus…what brings you here?

Brutus: I have come to talk. We need to discuss a few things.

Barrabus: Discuss what?

Brutus: Myself…you…your future.

Barrabus shook his head.

Brutus: Look…I know we have been through this already…but I am here to try and talk you into leaving all of this nonsense behind.

Barrabus: No Brutus…

Barrabus paused.

Barrabus: As much as I want to leave…I cannot abandon my brothers in the Covenant at the first chance I get. A lot of Brutes look up to me…it is my job to guide them…lead them.

Brutus: Guide them to what? Do you want more dependency on the Covenant? You want to sink them further into this religion?

Barrabus: I want them to put their petty differences aside, and work together to an actual goal! If we are working together to better ourselves in the eyes of the Covenant…we are not killing our own society. What I want is cooperation to be second nature.

Barrabus paused.

Barrabus: You want a unified race as well…our goals are the same.

Brutus: Yes…but my way relies less on the unforgiving nature of the Covenant and more upon our own nature. We do not need someone else to mitigate our hostilities…we can do that ourselves. We can overcome that without the help of the Covenant. This is what I want.

Barrabus: Two roads…one destination.

Brutus hung his head and shook it.

Brutus: You speak frequently of the future of your race, the well-being of your brothers, the needs of your crew…but what of you Barrabus? What you are trying to do…it is far too great of a task to do alone…even for someone of your durability.

Barrabus: You question my conviction? You do not think that I have the perseverance to undertake a task such as this alone?

Brutus: No…it’s just…

Brutus sighed.

Brutus: Never mind…forget I said anything.

Brutus turned away. He walked towards the exit.

Barrabus: Hold on.

Brutus stopped. He turned to face Barrabus.

Barrabus: You said you also needed to talk about yourself. What did you need to discuss?

Brutus: It is nothing…just reminiscing.

Barrabus: About?

Brutus: You and I have never shared much Barrabus…we have been pretty distant for most of our lives.

Barrabus: Not true…you taught me to hunt…you were there when I took down my first Thornbeast. You help me gut it…you taught me how to do those things.

Brutus: That wasn’t anything out of the ordinary…

Barrabus: Then there was that time you took me to Teash…took me to a brothel…

Brutus: That was your age of ascension into adulthood. I thought it would have been…enjoyable to celebrate that.

Barrabus: How many females did we leave with?

Brutus: For me…Too many...could barely feel my own loins by the time I was done…glad Urrsa never found out about it…she would have gutted me in my sleep. You had youth and an out of control body chemistry to help you with your females.

Barrabus laughed.

Barrabus: I remember…You spent a whole week after that just…bathing in mud…trying everything to get the scent of the other females off of you.

Brutus: Not a fun week…

Brutus shook his head.

Barrabus: The point is…quality over quantity. How many fathers bring their sons to a sleaze hold to celebrate his entry into adulthood? I don’t know very many Brutes can say they did what I did. I think, in the end, we are pretty good. I have never felt any animosity between us.

Brutus: I guess not…but…I just feel that I let you down by letting you fall into the hands of the Covenant. I could never shake that feeling of guilt. I did too good of a job installing my own values into you…and now here you are, standing at the apex of what every Brutes wants to be in the Covenant…and you want nothing more than to just make things better…and the only thing that stands in your way is the collective will of the Elites, the unbreakable religious caste of the Covenant, and the absolute arrogance of those you call Prophets.

Barrabus: I never said it was going to be easy…and I doubt it ever will be. I have no doubt that the Elites will do everything in their power to make everything I want as difficult to achieve as possible.

Brutus sighed. He paced back and forth.

Brutus: You know, before the Great Purge…before the Covenant converted us…before they convinced our entire race to turn against us…I was not much different than you are now. I spent many years trying to unify our race…

Barrabus: Urrsa told me that the Obsidian Hierarchy wanted a unified race. She said that they cared less about clans and petty difference, and cared more about who we were, as a race.

Brutus: Correct. The Covenant destroyed the Obsidian Hierarchy because they wanted to erase our history, our past, who we were, so they could shape us in their own design.

Barrabus: I gathered as much.

Brutus: The night that the Obsidian Hierarchy fell…it was a dark time in our history. That one night saw more bloodshed than any single battle ever waged in our history. Far too many Brutes died as a result of the Covenant’s desires to erase our identity.

Barrabus: I can understand why you hate the Covenant…

Brutus nodded.

Barrabus: What exactly happened that night? I don’t remember much about that night…and what I do remember…it was beyond my understanding.

Brutus: You mean…the night of the Great Purge?

Barrabus: Yes…I have a need to know.

Brutus: I try as hard as I can to forget it…it is not something I like to think about…not something I like to talk about.

Barrabus: I need to know Brutus…

Brutus: Hmmm…

Brutus began to think.

Brutus: Very well…

Brutus sighed.

Brutus: I am sure you know a bit about what happened that night.

Barrabus: Like I told Urrsa…I was young…I don’t recall much, and what I do recall, it is clouded with lack of perspective.

Brutus: Well…I might as well tell you everything. It might give you more perspective on the Covenant…how truly treacherous and evil they are…

Brutus paused.

Brutus: Before I start…you need more perspective on who we really are and how we are organized…or you will just blankly stare at me, wondering about everything I have just said.

Brutus paused.

Brutus: I am sure you have already figured it out…but in case you have not, my title is Chief Warlord of the Obsidian Hierarchy. I am the de facto leader of the Obsidian Hierarchy…as we have no Chieftain…and no Chief Operative. I have been forced to oversee all leadership in the Obsidian Hierarchy. Our numbers are too small to begin appointing new leaders at this time, and due to the smaller numbers, it is far easier to manage.

Barrabus: What is the difference between a Chief Warlord, a Chief Operative, and a Chieftain?

Brutus: Those three are the primary leaders of the Obsidian Hierarchy. They typically come from different clans to show solidarity…but it is not necessary.

Brutus: So…are all three titles identical in all respects?

Brutus: Absolutely not. Each title composes a vital part of how we conduct our affairs. The Chief Operative is primarily responsible for overseeing the espionage portion of our operations. The Chief Operative ensures that each of the operatives that work under him, are widely dispersed so as to watch everyone and anyone who threatens us. However, like I said…I am the sudo Chief Operative as I am the only surviving member of our leadership

Brutus paused.

Brutus: For the record, Dancarus is an operative.

Brutus paused.

Brutus: Now, the Chief Warlord conduct our military and combative branch. Using the information gathered by operatives. When the Chief Operative, namely me, feels that the time for decisive action is at hand, I organize our military strength and prepare a full scale attack on our target.

Barrabus: What about the Chieftain?

Brutus: The Chieftain gives the final word on attack…and will personally lead an attack of great importance, or one that is vital to the survival of the Obsidian Hierarchy. The Chieftain of the Obsidian Hierarchy is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a Brute of great character, strength, courage and resolve. Our last Chieftain…his name was Armadaeus…his wisdom, courage, and character were only outmatched by his ferocity, guile, and strength. In his final moments…Armadaeus fought to the bitter end…facing down hundreds of Brutes. I have never been able to find a Brute OUTSIDE of the Covenant to replace him…

===============================================================
Flashback: Doisac 2492 - Year of Adoption into the Covenant - Obsidian Hierarchy Sanctuary
===============================================================

Two Brutes stood around a large circular table, carved from granite like stone. One of the Brutes wore the clear makings of a clan chieftain, and the other wore lightly padded black armor. Both brutes wore the colors of black and a metallic blue. On the table, there was a map the map was marked with red ink. The red ink showed the position of enemy forces. The room that these two Brutes stood in was the designated war room.

A third Brute walked into the war room. This Brute was wearing heavier armor, black and navy blue in color. The Chieftain looked up from the table, and looked at the third Brute that entered.

Armadaeus: Brutus! Finally...you have returned! What took you so long?

Brutus: The Converts had broken through our northern defense line...I had to fight my way through.

Armadaeus: The northern quadrant has fallen? What about the western quadrant?

Brutus: The west was barely holding...and we are going to lose the north. We are simply at a massive disadvantage...

The lightly armored Brute looked at Brutus.

Hephaestus: What is the effective military strength of our enemies?

Brutus: Honestly? They outnumber us...they are far more than we are. We may have the skill, and the tactics...but they have the numbers to wither us down. This...Covenant...they have poisoned their minds. We should have seen this coming...

Armadaeus: We were warned...we saw what they were doing...but we failed to act. However...there was nothing to be done...they came with power beyond anything we could muster.

Brutus hung his head.

Hephaestus: Chieftain...if we surrender...the Covenant will simply kill us. They have declared us to be..."heretics"...an apostasy to their religion...

Armadaeus nodded.

Brutus: We cannot surrender...I will not surrender...

Armadaeus: My thoughts exactly Brutus. We must fight...and continue to fight...and we must not stop fighting until every drop of blood has been drained from our bodies.

Armadaeus looked at the map.

Armadaeus: I want every Brute to fall back...consolidate our forces in closed quarters. We are spread too thin.

Brutus: I will send the order immediately...

Hephaestus: No Brutus...I can take care of it. Stay here...get a working strategy going. When I return with our forces...we are going to need your best idea on the table!

Brutus nodded. Hephaestus turned and ran out of the room. He drew two Maulers as he ran.

Brutus looked at Armadaeus.

Brutus: Armadaeus?

Armadaeus looked at Brutus.

Armadaeus: What is it Brutus?

Brutus: Many of the Brute who belong to the Hierarchy believe that this is the hour of our dissolution. Are they correct?

Armadaeus: The Obsidian Hierarchy will never be dissolved into nothing...so long as one of us survives...we can rebuild, and we can preserve who we were.

Brutus: That is not what I asked...

Armadaeus paused.

Armadaeus: The ruling powers of the Obsidian Hierarchy have the unfortunate distinction of being the number one targets of this assault. The odds of us seeing another sunrise are..remote...almost non-existent.

Brutus was silent. He stood tall and inhaled, growing his chest wide.

Armadaeus: This may be the hour of our dissolution...it MAY be. If it is...then I swear that this hour will be the longest hour in the lives of my enemies. It will be arduous, it will be painful, and it will be utterly without mercy! I will see to it...that the death of every Obsidian Hierarchy Brute is a war in itself.

Armadaeus paused. He closed his eyes.

Armadaeus: They are going to need a lot more than what they have mustered if they think they are going to win this easily. While I regret killing brutes for my own survival...I have resolved that I am killing the contaminated...the impure of spirit...those who renounce our very way of life...

Brutus: If this is the end…the eve of our reckoning…then we will die, side by side…for the Obsidian Hierarchy.

Armadaeus nodded.

Armadaeus: I hope it does not come to that Brutus…but if it does…well…we die as pack brothers!

Brutus was silent.

Armadaeus: Now Brutus…go and make sure our forces are prepared. Hunt well!

Brutus nodded. Brutus turned and left the war room. He walked down the corridors, heading to where the entire collective military strength of the Obsidian Hierarchy had gathered.

Brutus met up with several dozen Brutes, along with Hephaestus.

Hephaestus: Brutus…the last of our Brutes have been gathered…

Brutus: How many strong?

Hephaestus: We have 48 Brutes here protecting the war room…and another 350 protecting the main hall and entrance.

Brutus: We are less than 400 strong? We must have lost…

Hephaestus: We lost over 300 Brutes in the initial engagement…but our enemy has lost far more…

Brutus: I am going to head to the front line…I want you to stay here…protect the Chieftain at all costs!

Hephaestus: Understood…good luck Brutus. Hunt well…

Brutus walked past Hephaestus. Brutus walked to the main entrance of the Obsidian Hierarchy sanctuary. Many Brutes were gathered. Some of the had set up behind cover, while others kept the doors barricaded. The Obsidian Hierarchy brutes all howled at Brutus when they saw him, as a form of saluting.

Brutus: At ease brothers…

The other Brutes settled.

Brutus: What is the position of the enemy?

One of the Brutes spoke up.

Obsidian Hierarchy Brute: The converts are holding back…they are gathering in strength. They are quickly rebuilding their numbers to levels greater than anything we have confronted thus far. They could attack at any moment…

Brutus: Armadaeus believes, that if we fall back, shorten our lines, and consolidate our forces here…we can hold the line…

Obsidian Hierarchy Brute: Unless that plan involves killing every other Brute on this planet…we cannot hold out forever.

Brutus: We just need to hold out long enough to make them come to their senses…that we are not their enemy…

Brutus rubbed his goatee.

Brutus: How long that will take is another question…

All of the Brutes were silent.

Brutus could hear howling coming from outside of the sanctuary. He, as well as all of the Obsidian Hierarchy Brutes knew the sound.

Brutus: Stand tall brothers…our enemy approaches…

All of the Obsidian Hierarchy brutes got back to their feet. They drew their weapons and took up defensive positions. Some of the Obsidian Hierarchy Brutes took up position on second-level balconies and aimed downwards. They prepared their weapons.

Brutus took cover behind a large Barricade not far from the main door. He had a Mauler and a Spiker in his hands. Brutus could hear the thunder of footsteps as thousands of converts ran towards the Obsidian Hierarchy sanctuary.

Brutus watched the large door shake as the converts crashed against it. The door itself pushed forward, but resettled, as the weight of the Brutes slammed into it.

The Obsidian Hierarchy Brutes watched the door. They had their weapons trained on the large door, waiting for the first convert to come through.

The door began to give way, as the more the converts slammed against it, the more the door shook, and the more it began to break down.

Brutus breathed heavily, as the converts slammed the door again. The door split right up the middle, as it was starting to break down. Brutus knew that the next impact would break down the only barrier separating the Obsidian Hierarchy from the wrath of the Covenant. Every Obsidian Hierarchy Brute knew that any second, that door was coming down.

Brutus: Take aim!

All of the Obsidian Hierarchy Brutes took aim with their weapons. They all heard the final crash against the door, as it split in half and broke open. The moment the door broken open, a fury of rain poured through the door, as well as a torrential flood of converted Brutes.

Brutus: FIRE!

Brute, as well as the other Obsidian Hierarchy Brutes opened fire at the converts. The Converts were using plasma based weaponry that had been provided to them by the Covenant, as well as their own native technology.

The Converts vastly outnumbered the Obsidian Hierarchy, but roughly half of the converts were unarmored, relying on their own natural resiliency to get them through the gunfire. The Obsidian Hierarchy also had superior positioning. It was the Obsidian Hierarchy that had the cover and the higher ground with better vantage points.

However, the converts knew that this was a battle of attrition…that eventually the Obsidian Hierarchy would run out of ammo, soldiers, or both. It was this fact alone that drove the converts to keep fighting…they had no fundamental limit to their effective military strength and numbers.

It was not long before the floors of the Obsidian Hierarchy sanctuary was flowing with blood, covered with the dead carcasses of Brutes.

Brutus looked around, he saw his own ammo reserves were dwindling, and he noticed that several dozen of his comrades had fallen, or were struggling against converts on hand to hand combat.

Brutus saw one of his lieutenants not far from where he was, in hand to hand combat with several converts. Brutus took aim at the converts and fired his Spiker and Mauler. Brutus gunned down the converts to try and ease the pressure on the lieutenant. The lieutenant looked at Brutus and nodded in thanks.

However, as Brutus was reloading, several more converts charged at the lieutenant, and tackled him to the ground. The converts were armed with large blades. The converts stabbed the lieutenant several times. Brutus could hear the Lieutenant howl in pain. Brutus got to his feet and charged at the converts, stabbing one with his Spiker, and slashing the throat of another with his Mauler. One of the converts looked at Brutus, but Brutus shot the Convert with his Mauler.

Brutus holstered his Mauler, and extended his hand to help the lieutenant back to his feet. The lieutenant was critically injured, and he was breathing heavily. Brutus put the lieutenant’s arm around his neck such that the lieutenant was propped up, using Brutus as support. Brutus began to drag the lieutenant back further behind their lines, to safety.

Once the lieutenant was dragged to safety, Brutus returned to the battle. Brutus ran back, right into the crowd, jumping into the fray with little concern for his own well being.

Several converts armed with blades charged at Brutus, but Brutus took aim with his Mauler and Spiker and fired, putting the Converts down. Brutus turned and saw another convert running at him. The convert jumped and tackled Brutus to the ground. Brutus lost hold of both his Spiker and Mauler. Brutus was on his back, with a convert sitting on top of him, snapping his jaws at Brutus’ face. Brutus extended his hand and pushed the converts face back, while, with his other hand, reached down; looking for his blade.

Brutus grabbed his combat knife, and pulled it out of its sheath. Brutus stuck his knife right into the convert’s neck. The convert fell to the side, applying pressure to the wound that Brutus just incurred. Brutus got back to his feet, and stomped on the convert, killing him.

Brutus looked around, and saw a Brute shot not far from where he was standing. Brutus ran towards the Brute shot and picked it up. The weapon itself only had 3 more shots, but it was better than nothing. As Brutus knew better than to use a Brute shot in close quarters, he just decided to fire the rounds right at the largest concentration of converts he could find.

Brutus turned to the main entrance and fired the last three shots from the Brute shot right at the converts pouring in. Brutus managed to injure several of the Converts, but the several that were injured, were simply replaced by others behind them.

Brutus: How are we supposed to win this…?

Brutus saw that the Obsidian Hierarchy’s numbers began to dwindle rapidly. Brutus estimated that they were now outnumbered 10 to 1.

Brutus looked at the Obsidian Hierarchy Brutes.

Brutus: Fall back! Fall back!

Brutus and the last of the Obsidian Hierarchy Brutes fell back, deeper into the sanctuary. They ran down the corridors, firing behind them as they ran. The converts began to slow down, and even broke off their pursuit. Brutus did not care, every second the converts were not attacking was a second to rest.

It was not long before Brutus and the last of the frontline teams made it back to the heart of the sanctuary. Brutus met up with both Hephaestus and Armadaeus.

Brutus was panting, he was exhausted.

He looked at Armadaeus.

Armadaeus: I trust you are here to tell me the battle has been won, and we can all rest?

Brutus: No…I don’t have news that good…

Armadaeus: So I trust it went very badly?

Brutus: That…is an understatement…we were outnumbered…their came in massive waves…

Armadaeus sighed.

Armadaeus: Even after losing so much…they continue to drive a stake into us…they are relentless.

Armadaeus paused.

Hephaestus: We are less than 100 strong now…our numbers have been weakened…there is no chance of victory Chieftain…

Armadaeus hung his head.

Brutus: Hephaestus is right…they will keep coming…they are driven mad by the lies that have poisoned their minds…

Brutus shook his head.

Brutus: Damn the Covenant…look what they have done…they have turned our brothers into enemies…

Hephaestus: The question is…do we stay…or do we live to fight another day?

Brutus and Hephaestus looked at Armadaeus.

Armadaeus began to think.

Armadaeus: The most important thing is that our ideology survives. So long as one of us survives…we will continue to exist…we can rebuild…

Armadaeus paused.

Armadaeus: One of us will have to flee…if only to preserve the Obsidian Hierarchy. If we all stay…the Obsidian Hierarchy will be destroyed this night…

The three Brutes looked at each other.

Brutus: Which one of us will go?

Armadaeus: Which one of you two will go? My place is here…if I am to die, it will be in the halls of our sanctuary…

The three Brutes looked over their shoulders when they heard the howl of the converts.

Armadaeus: They are coming…

Armadaeus looked at Hephaestus and Brutus.

Armadaeus: Which one of you will carry the torch of our order? Which one of you will rebuild what the Covenant has smashed?

Brutus and Hephaestus looked at each other. Neither Brute wanted to tell the other to flee. Armadaeus sighed.

Armadaeus: I get it…you two don’t want to tell the other to run…less it makes him look like a coward…if you cannot choose…I will.

Armadaeus looked at Hephaestus.

Armadaeus: Hephaestus…as Chieftain of the Obsidian Hierarchy…I am ordering you to fall back. I am commanding you to flee…and when the dust settles…revive the order.

Brutus hung his head. He did not know what was more saddening, the fact that Hephaestus had to live the rest of his life knowing that he left everything he knew to be destroyed…or the fact that he was forced to stay…knowing he was going to die and there was nothing he could do about it.

Hephaestus looked at Armadaeus and reluctantly nodded.

Hephaestus: Yes…Chieftain…

Hephaestus looked at Brutus.

Hephaestus: Hunt well brothers…

Brutus: More like die well...but I get what you are trying to say…

Armadaeus: There is no time to waste brother…use the catacomb tunnels, and escape under their cover.

Hephaestus walked away from Armadaeus and Brutus. Hephaestus walked towards the catacombs of the sanctuary. He planned on using the catacomb tunnels to escape undetected.

Brutus and Armadaeus watched Hephaestus leave, but they turned when they heard the howl of converts again.

Brutus: The converts are coming…

Armadaeus drew his hammer.

Armadaeus: Brutus…get ready. I need your head in the game.

Brutus nodded. He walked over to a weapons crate and pulled two Maulers out of the crate. Brutus took position right next to Armadaeus.

All of the Obsidian Hierarchy Brutes could hear the howls of the converts getting closer.

Armadaeus: Brutus…

Brutus: Yeah?

Armadaeus: despite of what may happen before this night is out…I am glad that I had the privilege of calling you a friend…

Brutus: Likewise…

Brutus and Armadaeus saw the converts charging at them. The last of the Obsidian Hierarchy Brutes charged to meet the converts head on.

The converts outnumbered the Obsidian Hierarchy Brutes 10 to 1. The Obsidian Hierarchy Brutes fire off their Spikers and Maulers at the converts, cutting them down as the charged forward. However, it was not long before the converts managed to get close enough to use melee weapons and hand to hand combat.

Brutus fought his way through the converts. He used his Maulers to both shoot, and cut through the converts.

Brutus, and the rest of his Brutes, continued fighting the converts. His only objective was to buy Hephaestus enough time to get as far away as possible.

Armadaeus jumped into the crowd of converts, slamming his hammer down, scattering a dozen converts with each impact of the hammer.

Armadaeus: Damn poisoned fools!

Brutus looked over at Armadaeus. Brutus saw that more and more of the converts were converging on the Chieftain.

Brutus broke rank from the other Brutes he was with, and made his way close to Armadaeus. Brutus ran towards the Chieftain, firing his maulers at any convert in range of the gun. Brutus and Armadaeus stood back to back. Armadaeus pulled out a Spiker and held it in his left hand, and held his hammer in his right.

Armadaeus: Thanks for the assist…

Brutus: No problem…

Brutus fired off his Maulers, while Armadaeus fired his Spikers.

Brutus: Well…this is how I said we were going to die…

Brutus fired off his Maulers again. One of the converts ran at Brutus, but Brutus kicked the convert back and shot the convert with his Maulers.

Armadaeus: We are not dead yet…so just keep firing that Mauler…don’t let these bastards get close…

Brutus nodded. From what he could see, there were only a few dozen Obsidian Hierarchy Brutes left, most of them were injured or tired.

However, it was at that instant all of the converts began to back off. They surrounded what was left of the Obsidian Hierarchy Brutes.

The converts growled as they glared at what was left of the Obsidian Hierarchy.

Brutus: What are they doing?

Armadaeus: I have no idea…

Brutus and Armadaeus stood tall, and waited. They felt that at any moment, the converts would resume their attacks. However, the converts simply stood their ground.

Brutus: They aren’t moving…

One of the converts spoke up.

Brute Convert: Heretics…you are outnumbered…and you face imminent death. If you refuse to accept our new calling…then you will die. Renounce the old ways…accept the Covenant, and you will have a place…

Armadaeus: So long as we draw breath…we will never forsake the old ways…

Brute Convert: If that is your choice…so be it.

Armadaeus: Even if we die today…the ideology of what we are will continue to live on…

Brute Convert: No…it won’t…

The Brute convert that spoke looked back. He nodded. Another Brute walked forward and dropped a bloodied helmet on the ground. The helmet belonged to Hephaestus.

Brute Convert: We caught this one trying to escape…we hung him by his entrails…

Armadaeus looked down and snarled.

Armadaeus: You are killing your own brothers…because your minds have been poisoned…and now you hold a blade to the neck of your own culture…on the precipice of destroying everything that you once were…

Brute Convert: What we once were no longer matters in the face of what we are now. Your days are at an end…and everything you value has ended with it…

The Converts began to close in around Armadaeus, Brutus, and the last few Obsidian Hierarchy Brutes.

Brute Convert: Your blood and bones will pave the road of our future.

Armadaeus looked at Brutus and the last of the Obsidian Hierarchy Brutes.

Armadaeus: Brutus…

Brutus: I know what you are about to ask…

Armadaeus: So you know how important it is…

Brutus: I would rather not leave you to fight them yourself…

Armadaeus: Brutus…I knew I was going to die the moment the first Convert fired the first shot. I need someone to carry on Brutus. I am ordering you to go...I can cover your escape…

Brutus was reluctant. However, he knew that Armadaeus was right.

Armadaeus: Go…

Brutus and the other Obsidian Hierarchy Brutes drew their weapons. They charged through the literal wall of converts, all pushing in one direction. Brutus and the Obsidian Hierarchy Brutes pushed through in the direction of the catacombs.

Obsidian Hierarchy Brute: Brutus!? How do we plan on escaping through the catacombs?

Brutus: There is a way out. The path is treacherous…but it is possible to escape via the catacombs.

Brutus and the rest of the Obsidian Hierarchy Brutes kept running. They were running and gunning through converts. It was not long before Brutus and the rest of his team made it to the catacombs. Brutus stood at the entrance of the catacombs. He looked at his Brutes.

Brutus: Go…go!

The Obsidian Hierarchy Brutes entered the catacombs one at a time. Brutus could hear the howls of the converts…he could hear Armadaeus fighting the converts, holding the line, buying every possible second. Brutus hung his head.

He whispered under his breath.

Brutus: This betrayal will never be forgotten…

Brutus paused.

Brutus: Die well brother…

Brutus ran into the catacombs, sealing the entrance behind him.

===============================================================
End Flashback
===============================================================

Brutus: That was the last I ever saw of Armadaeus. I can only surmise that his death was slow…and drawn out. He refused to give up…and I have no doubt that his enemies had to crush every bone, drain every drop of blood, and expel every breath of air from his lungs to stop him.

Barrabus: I did not realize that the battle was that brutal…

Brutus: I don’t doubt that I have forgotten some of it…subconsciously blocking it out.

Barrabus sighed.

Brutus: Barrabus…

Barrabus: Hmm?

Brutus: The Obsidian Hierarchy needs a leader like Armadaeus.

Barrabus: You said that you have never been able to find a Brute with his qualities…

Brutus: I said I have never been able to find one that is outside the Covenant…I never said anything about Brutes INSIDE of the Covenant…

Barrabus sighed.

Barrabus: Brutus…

Brutus: It is why you were born Barrabus…I only realized that the night the Obsidian Hierarchy was brought to its knees. Call it fate, call it destiny, call it luck…but you are the next Chieftain of the Obsidian Hierarchy…only you.

Barrabus was silent.

Brutus: Your physical stature is unlike anything I have ever seen…you have a great head on your shoulders…you even look unique. I have never seen a Brute with fur that is like soot. You are the embodiment of everything the Obsidian Hierarchy needs; strength, courage, conviction…

Barrabus: I think your over-estimate my worth Brutus. Why can’t you just be the Chieftain of the Obsidian Hierarchy?

Brutus: I am not a Chieftain Barrabus…I never earned that title…I never proved to myself that I deserve that title. You, on the other hand, have more than earned it! I have no doubt in my mind, that if you tried hard enough, you could become the Chieftain of the Brutes. Our current Chieftain of the Brutes…you would crush him into a fine powder. He is nothing but a puppet…the Covenant’s plaything.

Barrabus: Brutus…I know you are right. Again…I just can’t walk away from the Covenant. There is good I can do there. If I hide in shadows, behind the cloak of the Obsidian Hierarchy, I won’t be making a difference. What you do is noble Brutus…but it is not my calling…nothing will change that. I am sorry Brutus…but I have to stay with the Covenant…

Brutus: There has to be some way to convince you Barrabus. The Covenant is not your home…it’s not you.

Barrabus: Perhaps…but I have to make due. Besides…what is the harm in having a friendly Brute in the Covenant? I am more useful to the Obsidian Hierarchy while I hold my current position.

Brutus: You are also my son Barrabus…and I would not even shoe-horn my worst enemy into the Covenant. To think that my own flesh and blood is subjected to their lies and oppression…it makes me sick.

Barrabus was going to rebuttal, but he felt the ship decelerate our of Slipspace.

Barrabus: We have arrived…

Brutus looked at Barrabus.

Brutus: I guess I will go and suit up…get geared to go.

Barrabus: Yeah…

Brutus walked out of Barrabus’ private chambers.

Barrabus sighed.

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