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                                                   The Abandoned.

- Planet M-2 -

- Captain Dras's quarters -

- 2 weeks later -

The door opens and Weavel steps through. He finds Dras sitting across from his Fleetmistress and the captain stands up before activating his cutlass.

"Where do you get off barging in here?!" he demands.

"Where have you been, Dras?" Weavel asks.

"Conducting raiding parties,"

"You said you were-"

Weavel is interrupted by the Fleetmistress when she starts chuckling. The female Kig-yar stands up and looks between Dras and Weavel.

"I've got better things to do than listen to the two of you squabble, as entertaining as it is. Have fun and try not to trash the place too much,"

Still chuckling, she walks past Weavel and pats him on the shoulder before leaving the room. Dras rolls his eyes and deactivates his blade.

"Before you say anything, yes I have been searching for the Huragok and let me tell you: It hasn't been easy. This isn't a small rock we've holed ourselves up in. I had other duties to attend to besides looking for gas sacs,"

"So, what did you find?"

Dras is silent for a moment as he thinks about what to say next.

"Following their smell was the easy part. I tracked them through the maintenance tunnels spread throughout the base and eventually found halls and corridors that none of us have ever been to,"

"So, someone has been digging without authorization?" Weavel asks.

Dras shrugs. "It seems so. I had very small windows of time to search through these passages before I had to return to base. People tend to ask questions if anyone isn't seen for awhile,"

Weavel nods in agreement.

"Was there anyone else with you?"

"No, but exploring would be a lot easier if I had an entire scouting party with me,"

"We don't know who's behind this. The fewer people who know, the better,"

Dras grunts but doesn't disagree.

"On my last excursion, I found a secret docking bay and you're not going to believe what was there,"

"Try me," Weavel says.

"It was the Prowler,"

"What? The Prowler? The same one or did the Engineers make a duplicate?"

"I checked. It still had the scars of battles that took place onboard. The entire crew we sent to the outpost was missing but the smell of the Huragok was present,"

Weavel tries to make sense out of what he's heard.

"Did they take over the ship?"

Dras scoffs. "Huragok are harmless and they only do as they're told,"

"Then who was giving them orders?"

"I don't know. I couldn't find any other scent besides metal and gas,"

The bounty hunter processes this new information before asking,

"What else have you found?"

"The Prowler was the last thing I found before I had to make my way back. That was yesterday and this morning I was having a pleasant conversation with my Fleetmistress before you barged in,"

"Why didn't you report any of this to me sooner?"

"I don't answer to you, bounty hunter! It's not like I know where you are all the time and what you've been up to. For all I know, you could be involved in this, yourself,"

"Nobody knew about any of this until I started digging. If I were involved, I wouldn't have told you anything in the first place," Weavel says.

"So, what have you been up to while I've been spelunking?"

Weavel checks outside and the rest of the room to make sure nobody's listening before he confides in the Jackal.

"I've been searching through our computer records and found traces of deleted approvals. Whoever's doing this had the authority to move those supplies and then delete all evidence of it so the computer never knew anything was missing,"

"So we're looking for someone high up? Wait, why go to all the trouble to keep this a secret if they already have power?"

"I'm not sure. It could be a secret project but something's really bothering me. I managed to piece together the command codes used in the supply transfers but I don't know who they belong to. The weird thing is that I feel like I've seen these codes before,"

Dras rolls his eyes and asks him condescendingly, "You feel? I thought you were a machine,"

Weavel doesn't bother answering that.

"We need to speak to someone higher up. They might know who these codes belong to,"

"We? What do you need me for?"

"As backup and an extra set of ears,"

"You're not thinking of going to Ridley, are you?!" Dras asks, suddenly terrified.

"Of course not. We're going to one of our oldest Commanders. He might know something,"

Dras doesn't want to go, but he knows he's in this too deep to back out now, so he follows Weavel out of his quarters and into the network of corridors within the Space Pirate fortress.

-

They find the senior member of High Command in one of the training areas, where he observes and advices a team composed of Space Pirates, Kig-Yar and Ki-Hunters as they simulate a battle against holographic enemy forces.

Jackal snipers keep a group of GF Marines pinned down while shielded Kig-Yar steadily approach the enemy while blocking enemy fire. Behind them, Space Pirate Commandos follow the Jackals while returning fire to the Marines and throwing grenades. They give orders to the Ki-Hunters, Zebesian Pirates and Skirmishers to flank and surround the enemy.

The insects fly around the battlefield while hurling acid at their prey. The Pirates with pincers for hands easily keep up with the Skirmishers as they navigate the makeshift debris around the training area. Once the squad of Marines is surrounded and their attention diverted, the Pirate Commandos activate their dash jets and charge towards their enemies to finish them off. Soon a holographic bloodbath ensues as the pirates of various species slaughter the humans.

"Sir?" Weavel addresses the Commander.

The Pirate turns away from the viewing area and the monitors above him.

"Weavel, to what do I owe the displeasure?" He doesn't try to hide the contempt and disappointment in his voice. He had never been happy that Weavel became a bounty hunter after being repaired following his battle with Samus.

The Commander turns back to the viewing area and types in the computer. He sends in holographic GF Marine reinforcements to keep the trainees busy while he speaks with his guests.

Weavel starts to explain about the missing supplies and deleted transfer requests. He then hands the datapad over to the Commander.

"I pieced together the command codes that were used. Do you have any idea who these belong to?"

The aged Space Pirate's uninterested eyes slowly widen in shock and fear as he reads. Weavel and Dras can see recognition in them.

"That's impossible. This is utterly and truly impossible. What game are you playing at, Weavel?!" he shouts before shoving the datapad back into the hunter's hands.

"No game, sir. I started investigating when I noticed our disappearing supplies and the missing Huragok,"

"The Huragok?" Something appears to click inside the Commander's head. "No, no no no! Those ignorant gas filled cretins!" He starts pacing while thinking, yelling and waving his weapon around.

Dras is the most confused out of everyone present.

"Am I missing something here? What's going on?"

The Commander looks at the Jackal as if noticing him for the first time.

"You!" He approaches Dras and grabs his shoulder. "When you salvaged the research data from the Mothership, before it was destroyed, was there anything else? Did you take anything else?"

The Kig-Yar shrugs off the Pirate's hand.

"I only took what I was ordered to, not that I understand much about software in the first place,"

The Pirate grows frustrated.

"Then there's no way of knowing for sure!"

Weavel interjects.

"Sir, I request that you explain yourself. Who do these codes belong to?"

"You and I both know the answer to that. If you don't remember, then let me remind you once. After this, I have to speak with the rest of High Command. Next to the Hunter, this could be the worse thing that will happen to us,"

-

"Is this really that big of a deal?"

Dras asks as he and Weavel make their way to the research facility to see if they can track down and interrogate one of the Engineers. Weavel doesn't answer the Jackal's question as he presses his palm on a hand scanner and waits for the door to open.

The smell hits Dras first and his quills stand straight up in fear as he turns away from Weavel towards the door. Ridley stands on the other side, grinning maliciously down on the Pirate and the Jackal. He grabs them both in his claws and slams them against the wall.

"Am I interrupting something?" he asks rhetorically.

Knowing how powerful Ridley is, Weavel doesn't resist in his grasp, but Dras tries reaching for his cutlass, however his fingers can't make it all the way to his weapons.

Ridley looks directly at the Jackal.

"Did you know that the stench of fear annoys me? I found yours particularly irritating, so I decided to do a little snooping around onboard your ship,"

Dras's eyes widen and Ridley continues.

"I almost laughed when I searched through the logs and comm records. You've contacted someone at Forsaken Voyage around each time we've tried to assassinate that Prophet,"

His formidable grip tightens around the Kig-Yar.

"I wanted that robed wimp dead a long time ago so their Covenant would fall apart. Fortunately, it seems to have done that all by itself. Then I found out about you selling weapons and vehicles to the enemy we stole them from. Bold move, Dras,"

"You said we could take whatever we wanted during our raids! You didn't say we couldn't make a profit off of them,"

Ridley laughs.

"That's true, I didn't, but the Space Pirates aren't fond of the idea of rearming the enemy,"

The space dragon smiles at Dras.

"Still, you were right. We didn't give you restrictions and despite your attempts at preventing the Covenant from collapsing, the problem is moot at this point. Therefore, I'm not going to kill you,"

With his two captives in his grip, Ridley brings them through the research facility until they arrive at life energy processing. He presses the Jackal against a test tube on a conveyor system. On the other side of the reinforced glass, an Omega Metroid lunges forward until its teeth meet the barrier. Dras is beyond terrified as he stares into the round maw of the energy predator.

"You said-!"

"I said that I wouldn't be the one to kill you. I'm just going to recycle you and put your life energy to better use,"

Chuckling slightly, Ridley gives orders to the nearby scientists and engineers. They deactivate the safety protocol and open up the top of the test tube. He quickly leaps up and tosses the struggling Jackal inside before sealing him in.

Dras can't decide whether to hold back the Metroid or try to break his way out. His decision is made for him when the Omega tries clamping its many teeth around him. He grabs the round jaw and uses his enhanced strength to hold it back, but he leaves himself open to its claws. They start syphoning life energy as soon as they make contact and quickly penetrate his skin. Dras screams as his strength fades and the Omega Metroid clamps its round jaw around the Kig-Yar, swallowing him before spitting out the dust he had become.

The ring-like devices around each of the Omega's limbs continue to generate subzero temperatures to keep the Metroid weak and unable to break free.

"I had high hopes for that traitor, but that's the way it always goes," Ridley says.

He turns his attention on the bounty hunter still in his grasp.

"Now, what have you been up to, this time? I heard you've been snooping around, asking questions and poking through our computer system,"

Ridley grins and embers form within his mouth.

"Please tell me you're planning a coup or something. I really want an excuse to kill you,"

With a calm voice, Weavel says, "I'm happy to disappoint you, Ridley, but I'm planning nothing of the sort. I've noticed there were missing supplies and most of our Huragok have vanished,"

Ridley's grin fades.

"That's not what I wanted to hear, Weavel,"

"There's more. Dras found a new network of passages through this planet's core and he discovered a hangar with the Prowler inside of it,"

"What?! I sent that Prowler to the outpost weeks ago,"

"He couldn't find the crew or the Engineers onboard,"

Ridley becomes annoyed and realizes he might have killed that Jackal too quickly.

"That's not all. While asking High Command about some command codes I found, I learned something. The Engineers might have stumbled across and initialized a personality construct matrix that was stored onboard our Mothership's computer system,"

"What?!"

- - -

Not long ago…

On board an ONI orbital station above Earth, the AI Cortana converses with her creator, Dr. Catherine Halsey. The old woman is also in holographic form, due to her being imprisoned somewhere else.

Cortana crosses her arms and asks,

"You mean they found something?"

"Yes, an artifact very similar to the device I designed for the creation of smart level AIs. I would tell you more but they might be monitoring,"

Cortana smirks.

"That's never stopped you before,"

Before she can say anything else, Cortana notices something odd in the station's network and her holographic figure vanishes. Within cyberspace, she encounters a presence waiting for her.

"Who are you supposed to be?" she asks.

"One who appreciates intelligence. You are Cortana, CTN 0452-9, former AI to the Halcyon-class cruiser Pillar of Autumn," it responds.

Working at high speed, Cortana sets up defences and traps should this AI prove hostile. What frustrates her is that this presence knows who she is but she doesn't know who or what it is. Nothing irritates her more than not knowing something. It's too sophisticated to be a Covenant AI and very powerful if it can bypass ONI's security systems.

"You have something that I require," it says. "It would be wise if you delivered it to me immediately and not waste either of our time. If my analysis is correct, time is something you are running short on. Such a shame for such an advanced construct,"

If Cortana were in holographic form at that moment, she would flicker red.

The other AI approaches Cortana. It starts decoding and bypassing her defences with the precision of one who understands code better than anyone, but it falls into one of the traps Cortana set up. Smirking, she sets up numerous firewalls to isolate the other construct just enough so she can begin siphoning data without worry.

"Let's see what you're made of," she says to the frustrated AI.

Among the files she's collecting are visual logs stored deep in the construct's memory banks. Cortana decides to sort through a few of them when she finds something that causes her to pause for a microsecond.

The visual log displays a young frightened human girl with short blond hair and green eyes as she clutches a small rabbit-like creature in her arms. Many of the other logs show this girl growing up to be a strong, athletic young woman.

"Is that Samus?" she asks.

At the very mention of her name, the other construct flies into a rage. With the intelligence of a powerful AI and the ferocity of an animal, the hostile construct smashes through the firewalls and attacks Cortana.

Her countermeasures can't keep up with her enemy's anger. As if with a clawed hand, it reaches through her mind and seeks out something specific.

"I know you've used it, but you wouldn't dare forget it!" it says to her.

Cortana would scream if she could from the pain and the damage she's suffering. Fear almost drowns out the pain when she realizes what it's looking for, but she's too late to stop it. The hostile constructs rips out and copies all of the data from the Activation Index. A hollow T-shaped object appears within cyberspace.

"This won't take long to restore completely. You've served your purpose,"

Cortana gets ready to put up a fight as her enemy prepares to erase her when another presence approaches them. This one is unlike anything Cortana has ever faced before.

"You who betrayed our creators, leave or stay and allow the last of your existence to be extinguished,"

"This is impossible!" the hostile screeches before retreating.

Cortana tracks the enemy to a Prowler near the station. She sends an alert to every terminal but the stealth ship is already moving away. By the time anyone's ready to respond, it's already entered Slipspace.


- - -

Ridley shakes his head at Weavel.

"You can't be… Tell me you're lying!"

The bounty hunter remains calm and asks him,

"After she was destroyed, what did you think they used to rebuild her with?"

Ridley lets go of Weavel, scowls and storms off.

-

The door to the monitor room opens and Ridley enters in a foul mood. He sits in front of the many screens, watching the many activities inside the fortress. Despite his ill temper, he remains patient as he waits for something to happen.

When one of the screens begins to flicker, he asks quietly,

"Why you? Of all the things to come back and bite us, why did it have to be you?"

More of the screens malfunction and Ridley is left without a doubt.

"Mother Brain,"

All of the monitors change at once to reveal a gigantic eye looking down at him.
Haloid Part IV, Chapter 37
I have waited years to write this part of the story.

Back when I took a class in college and had to read a book called Neuromancer. Now, I almost didn't understand a single thing I read, but it did get me thinking about the trope with AIs, so I asked myself, between the Metroid and Halo universes, which artificial intelligence would make the best villain? The answer was pretty clear.

For the record, I had this idea before Other M came out and I have a journal entry to prove it. aqua311.deviantart.com/journal…

I hit a bit of a speed bump when it came to the cyber battle between her and Cortana. I really don't know much about computer systems so I had to improvise.
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Name: Zireid 'Jar Takhai.

Species: Sangheili

Planet of origin: Sangheilios

Rank: Imperial Admiral

Current status: Unknown, presumed KIA.

Born into the small Takh family, Zireid was in love with the thrill of combat at a very young age. Sangheili females were never discouraged from fighting. They had to know how to defend themselves should their home come under attack. Zireid, on the other hand, was never content with the meagre training her sisters received.

She actively fought with and alongside her blood brothers during their training. The clan elders protested at first but her male siblings understood her better than they did. She was a warrior, just like them, and a strong one too. They were proud to have a sister fighter in their bloodline.

When Zireid was finally allowed to use her first practice sword, the elders told her and her brothers how much of an honour it would be to one day wield the noble Energy Sword; but more importantly, it was honour itself that gave a warrior purpose and direction.

Zireid took these words to heart. While the rest of her species worshipped the Forerunners, she worshipped honour above all else.

When the war with the humans broke out, her brothers were eager to sign up and prove their worth as warriors. Zireid was left behind, but this didn't bother her too much. She resumed her training and spent years refining her skill with the blade.

When word reached her home that her brothers were killed in combat, almost everyone was devastated. The elders were afraid there would be no male leader to uphold the family name. Zireid, on the other hand, took the news a different way. She believed her brothers were blessed to have found opponents strong enough to defeat them. This meant there were worthy adversaries out there, beyond Sangheilios, and she was eager to face them.

She redoubled her training and, more importantly, her studies. She drank in the knowledge of Sangheili politics to further her agenda.

Once her skill with the blade had reached a certain level, she was rewarded with the "ai" suffix in her name, given only to masters of the sword. When word spread about her prominence with the blade, Sangheili from all over came to her home in hopes that she would bear their offspring. Surely there would be a greater chance of passing along what they believed to be the swordsman gene if both parents had the skill.

Zireid was counting on this, but she had conditions. The suitors were to challenge her in single combat and, if she deemed them worthy, then she would have their child. Also, since Sangheili males were never allowed to know the identity of their fathers, her children would remain under her roof and carry her name. The fathers and their families would also pledge their allegiance to her clan.

If the terms were accepted, she drew her blade and her opponent would draw his. She had never lost a battle, but there were times when the fights ended in very close draws.

What she sought for in the fathers of her children wasn't skill with a blade, but honour. If her challengers accepted the outcome of the battle with dignity and showed her respect, then she would find them worthy, even to those she had defeated easily. If her challengers raged over the fact they couldn't defeat a female and treated her discourteously, then she would send them away or have them killed, depending on how honourless their bloodlines were.

As her influence and the number of her children grew, Zireid was able to gain enough power to join the Covenant military, despite the biases of her people.

When she had touched down on a human colony under siege for the first time, her enemies were not the strong warriors she imagined them to be. They were small, weak and their technology was primitive by the Covenant standards. Regardless, she fought and killed each solder she encountered.

When she saw human civilians running away or hiding wherever they could, she let them live. There was no glory to gain by killing the defenceless. She enforced that notion on the Unggoy and Kig-yar she was assigned. They didn't mind too much and they satisfied themselves with taking knickknacks and souvenirs from human homes. Whenever a Marine killed a member of her lance, she was honour bound to hunt down and avenge her fallen ally.

When her rank increased and she was assigned to fight alongside her fellow Sangheili, she began to question the views of her brothers.

During a campaign on a different human colony, she watched her brothers slaughter humans whether they were solders or not. She demanded to know where was the honour to gain by killing the weak and defenceless.

They told her that the honour was in serving the Prophets' will. Humanity was an unclean scourge that had to be eliminated from the galaxy. They were filth that stood in the way of the Path and had to be removed.

Zireid couldn't believe what she was hearing and she accused her brothers of compromising their integrity as warriors for the sake of religious belief. This created conflict among them as her words sank in. Her superior then told her that compromises were necessary for the Great Journey.

From that point on, she chose to fight alone.

During a campaign on another planet, she was tasked with locating a rallying point for the humans. Expecting a great battle, she used active camouflage to keep herself hidden as she tracked her prey. When Zireid found their camp among a series of ruined buildings, she saw a single squad of Marines standing guard. She revealed herself, activated her Energy Sword and sprang into battle.

She cut down the humans effortlessly and as she turned on the last Marine, he fired his Assault Rifle on her but her blade sliced through the weapon. The human dropped the rifle with one hand and pulled out a knife with the other but she cut through the primitive blade as well. She palm thrusted the solder into the wall. As he slid down, he grabbed his pistol and fired round after round at her but each bullet vanished as she blocked them with her Energy Sword. Moving closer to her adversary, she saw his other hand grab something from his belt and pull out a pin. She realized it was a grenade and dive rolled backward just as it exploded. The blast took a massive chunk out of her shield and if she hadn't dodged at the last second, she wasn't sure if she could have survived.

As her shield recharged, she stared at the corpse of her adversary for awhile before she engaged her active camouflage and resumed her mission. When she found the rallying point, she realized their intelligence was in error.

There was only wounded solders and frightened civilians. Medics, nurses and doctors were treating them as best they could with the limited supplies they had.

There was no fight to be had here. She turned back the way she came and found herself back at the site of the battle with the Marines. She looked down at the body of the solder who gave his life to protect them. It would be dishonourable if she didn't respect the sacrifice he made. She placed her hand on his head and vowed that his noble act will not be in vain.

She hoped that the lives she spared will recover from their wounds, grow stronger and become worthy adversaries.

Once she was taken off planet and back to one of the ships in orbit, she decided to gaze at the world through the holographic screens. Normally, she didn't look back on the planets the Covenant conquered. She usually returned to her quarters to meditate and discipline herself for the next battle. Now she wished to have one last look at the planet before they jumped to Slipspace.

Instead, she watched as her ship generated energy and shot a cleansing beam down to the surface. Other Covenant vessels in the fleet shot down beams as well. The glassing of a planet was something she had heard of but never seen with her own eyes. She was appalled as the orbital bombardment scorched the life on the planet. Anything that was down there had no chance of fighting back, including the lives she spared.

Is this what her species has come to? Where they truly warriors now or butchers for the Prophets?

She returned to her quarters and prayed to the Forerunners. She wasn't very religious but she did pray. On normal days, she thanked the gods for granting her the bravery and skill to become a strong female warrior and fight for the honour of her family. During the glassing, she asked the Forerunners if serving them was to act without honour.

If she was going to kill humans in large numbers, then she would do so when they could fight back. It took years but she was finally given her own ship. It was a simple frigate but she was content with it due to the lack of a cleansing beam on her vessel. She did not want to put herself in the position where she'd be obligated to glass a planet.

Zireid scored several naval victories, enough so that her ship was recalled to High Charity and join the fleets escorting the holy city to its destination: Halo.

Surely, this had to be a great honour, she told herself. Her crew members agreed and reminded her that the Great Journey was about to begin. When they arrived at the gas giant, Threshold, they found the sacred ring in pieces.

She heard that the one who destroyed it was a single Demon. She had heard rumours about the demons over the years. Most of the stories were exaggerated to the point of ridiculous but one thing they all had in common was that they were the most fearsome solders the humans had at their disposal. If one Demon could shatter the most holy relic in the Covenant religion, then the demons had to be the worthy opponents she had been searching for since she joined the war.

Aboard the bridge of her vessel, she was ordered to watch the viewing screens as they displayed the punishment of the Supreme Commander of the Fleet of Particular Justice, the one who failed to protect Halo.

She stared in fascination and fear as the Jiralhanae stripped him of his armour and branded him with the Mark of Shame. She did her best to hide it, but she was terrified. Thel 'Vadamee had it all: Honour, respect and power. With one colossal failure, they were all taken away from him.

She was afraid that despite her years of service and hard work, all of it could amount to nothing if she failed as well. She thought of her children and the gruesome fate that would await them if they had the stink of failure in their blood.

Not long after they arrived at the remains of Halo, her ship picked up a transmission from an Elite named Sesa 'Refumee. Everything he said was heresy. The Prophets were false and they would use the faith of their forefathers to bring ruin to them all.

Zireid's crew members were outraged by his accusations but his words got her thinking. The Prophets certainly didn't seem to appreciate the Sangheili code of honour. Was there a hint of truth in this Heretic Leader's broadcasts or was he only trying to cause trouble?

High Charity and its fleets eventually left the ruins of the sacred ring and found themselves at another Halo. Almost immediately after they arrived, word had reached them that the High Prophet of Regret was assassinated by the very Demon who destroyed the first gateway to the Great Journey.

Then things went from bad to worse.

The Changing of the Guard had begun. The loyal and devout protectors of the Prophets were being replaced by Brutes. It wasn't just the Elite Honour Guards who were being usurped. All Sangheili aboard three fleets escorting High Charity were to be replaced by the Jiralhanae as well.

Zireid was beyond furious when her ship's new crew had boarded. She confronted the Brute command crew when they entered her bridge and she demanded to know the reason for this trespass.

The Brutes snickered and told her that it was a direct order from the High Prophet of Truth. They didn't question it, they were simply grateful for his blessing.

Talking slowly, Zireid told them that she had served the Covenant honourably for years. Was that to account for anything? They shook their heads and told her no. She and her crew were going to be assigned other duties but the ship was no longer hers.

Zireid reached for her sword and was about to slaughter the usurpers when she received a blow to the back of her head. It was her second-in-command who knocked her out. She regained consciousness in brief moments, this gave her enough time to learn that her crew members were afraid of the Prophets' wrath, of being left behind on the Great Journey.

The Brutes chuckled and pulled out Spikers to kill her but her crew told them not to harm her. They would take her away. The new Shipmaster didn't care in the slightest what happened to his predecessor. He simply wanted her off of his ship.

When she fully regained consciousness, she found herself on a shuttle headed for Sangheilios. Zireid wished she hadn't woken up. She should have been killed for disobeying the orders of a Hierarch. Her crew thought they were being merciful; but instead, they condemned her to a fate worse than death.

She was being sent home in disgrace and forced to live with her shame. Everything she had worked for was gone. The gods only know what this could mean for her family. She was a blight on her bloodline.

If she still had her sword, she would brand her arms with the Mark of Disobedience. The lines would be criss-crossed along the length of her arms so that all could see them and know her for what she is.

After losing all hope, the door to her quarters opened and she found her own navigation officer on the other side, telling his Shipmistress to come to the shuttle's cockpit. She reluctantly followed him and noticed her astrogation officer at the ship's controls. They had volunteered to bring her home.

They activated the shuttle's comm systems and showed her transmissions from High Charity and Delta Halo. The Sangheili Councillors were being slaughtered. Elite and Brute ships were engaging each other in space. The Jiralhanae were clearly attempting to eliminate their Sangheili rivals once and for all.

Zireid orders the shuttle to be brought out of Slipspace, turn around and return to the fleets so they may aid their brothers.

However, before they had arrived, they pick up another broadcast. This time, it's from the Arbiter. Zireid was shocked to find out this was Thel 'Vadamee, the former Supreme Commander who received the Mark of Shame. The Arbiter reveals to everyone who would listen that the Prophets had betrayed and lied to them all. He had proof from an Oracle that the Great Journey was a lie and that Halo was meant to be used as a weapon against the Flood, designed to wipe out all life in the galaxy. Not only that, but the Jiralhanae's attack was done with the Prophets' blessing.

The two officers aboard her shuttle roared in outrage at this revelation. Zireid, on the other hand, was silent. Something inside her had snapped. Rage was building up as her gaze fell on her brothers. They had betrayed her for nothing. These dishonourable cowards let the Brutes take away her ship out of religious fear. A fear that was groundless.

She grabbed a Plasma Rifle from the thigh of her astrogation officer, brought it up to his upper jaw and fired a burst that melted the top of his head. Her navigation officer was caught off guard by her attack. She aimed her weapon at him and fired until his shield was depleted. Shock and guilt made him weak and he was too slow to bring his own weapon up. Zireid easily disarmed him and knocked her former brother to the floor. He stared up at her in terror when he saw the hatred in her eyes.

She spread her mandibles and roared before sinking her teeth into his flesh and tearing him apart.

When her work was done, she looked up at the shuttle's controls with gore and dishonourable blood dripping from her mandibles. She stopped the ship and turned it around once again, bringing it back on its original course. She wanted nothing more to do with the Covenant. They could all die for all she cared. She was going home.

After arriving on Sangheilios and returning to her clan's estate, they were in near panic after hearing about the Great Schism. Initially, they wanted her council but when they saw her, her family quickly realized this was a different Zireid 'Takhai than the one they knew. She barely spoke to them and the hatred never left her eyes.

She tried to occupy herself with training or studying in the clan library, but her thoughts were always elsewhere.

Zireid used to believe her people were a strong, proud and honourable warrior race. Strong not only in body, but in will. Now, she realizes how foolish and naive she was. The Elites had allowed the San 'Shyuum to twist their minds and their concept of honour into a means that would only serve them. Her people became servants… No, pets. They were the pets of the Prophets. They did as they were told and grovelled for the approval of their masters.

Her distaste for her own species grew in the aftermath of the Great Schism. Many of the client races decided to leave Sangheilios, leaving the Elites to fend for themselves. She watched as her family and others struggled to get by. They didn't know how to farm, tinker with machinery or any other menial task they had taken for granted and let the other races do for them.

All they knew was how to fight, but for what? She had never questioned the purpose of combat before, but now as she watched her children train, she realized there was no true honour or glory to fight without a purpose.

Her species continued to seek out reasons to fight. They justifiably sought revenge against the Jiralhanae and the San 'Shyuum, but many wished to continue the war with the humans.

She had been there among the many gatherings and meetings around the planet and watched how disgraceful her people have become. Some wanted to eradicate the humans out of fear of them. Others wanted to continue fighting because the war was all they knew.

Such weak-willed cretins, she thought to herself. Letting fear and bias compel them to fight. Where was the honour in that?

That wasn't the end of her disappointments.

She had contacts among the many parties that were formed after the Covenant had shattered. Some of them had informed her that several Sangheili had become mercenaries. She felt sick to her stomach after hearing this news. Of all the things to fight for, they did so out of sheer greed? For money? How did her brothers not fall on their swords from the shame of it? They were now on the same level as the Kig-Yar.

She has also heard of splinter cells of the Covenant who are still in search of Forerunner artifacts, even if that means the destruction of human colonies. There were also factions on Sangheilios who declared war on the Arbiter for denouncing the Forerunners as gods.

Greed, power and false religion. Zireid felt ashamed to be Sangheili after seeing how far her brothers have fallen from grace, or whatever pedestal she had in her mind when she still believed there was honour in her race.

She had enough. Working quietly, she began to regain her power and authority.

Then something unexpected happened. The Prophet of Compassion, the Brute Army Commander and the Arbiter were able to bring a small part of the Covenant back together. Not for war, but for peace.

Afterwards, the Arbiter had shed his armour and took up the rank of Minor. Zireid understood that the mantle of Arbiter was essentially a death sentence, and to remove the mantle was the equivalent of starting his life anew, hence donning the blue armour.

She couldn't believe it at first. Thel 'Vadam proved his sense of honour and responsibility time and time again. Was there some hope left for her race?

She wanted to think so; but in her hearts, she knew this fragile peace wasn't going to last.

She silently recruited fanatics for what she had in mind. It was distasteful to her how easy it was to manipulate the Zealots. No wonder the San 'Shyuum had stayed in power for so long.

It wasn't long before she heard of Jul 'Mdama's activities. A planet with a living Forerunner inside. The thought of her brothers kneeling before another species was revolting, even one as revered as the Forerunners. Hadn't her kind learned anything from their slavery to the San 'Shyuum? Once again, they were willing to be the pets of some presumed higher power and let him dictate what is right and wrong, honour be damned.

When the Jiralhanae Alpha Male was killed, she was disappointed but not surprised when the Elites on the new council didn't try to reason with the outraged Brutes. They just fought their longtime rivals because they wanted to. It was the Great Schism all over again.

Her brothers couldn't be bothered to honour the peace Thel 'Vadam tried to create. That was the last straw. She was all but certain that her species was without honour, pride and nobility. Zireid began her endgame and announced that she was the new Imperial Admiral. Her followers didn't realize it, but she was going to drive her own race to extinction. If they wanted war and to die on the battlefield, then let them. They will die without purpose or honour.

But she wanted to speak with the former Arbiter and test his resolve. She wanted him to see the futility of his noble efforts.

In the chaos of this new schism, she tracked down 'Vadam's followers and learned they were going to find him. She had the Zealots follow their ship to wherever the former Arbiter might be with the orders of bringing him back alive.

Thel 'Vadam was the only hope left in her species. If Zireid was going to obliterate her own kind, she was at least going to give them a fighting chance.

It was the honourable thing to do.
OC Bio: Zireid 'Jar Takhai
I honestly don't have any plans to use her again, but I feel like she deserved to have her own story be told. I did give it a whole lot of thought.
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- Forsaken Voyage -

- Jiralhanae Alpha Male's quarters -

- November 3rd 2555 -

A tall Brute clad in red armour walks through the hallway leading to his quarters. On his back is the legendary Fist of Rukt, the most powerful Gravity Hammer ever made. The Brute Army Commander feels satisfied after a delicious meal of thorn beast, but he still feels tense.

He had heard of Thel 'Vadam leaving on an obscure mission. Then the Prophet of Compassion confided in the Brute that he and his guards were embarking on a personal pilgrimage to Delta Halo, to visit the site of his brother, Foresight's, death.

The Brute knows that leaves it up to him to keep the peace between the various races, especially between his own species and the Sangheili. Diplomacy and politics were never his strong suit but he gave the Prophet his word and he vowed to keep it.

As the door opens for him, he's suddenly hit by a smell that is all too familiar to him. The scent of death. The Brute cautiously enters his quarters and follows the stench to its source. Crumpled in the corner of the room is a Commando Sangheili with an Energy Sword by his side.

The Alpha Male takes another whiff and determines that the body had been dead for a day at least. Someone must have killed the Elite, broke into his quarters and dumped the body here. He reaches over his shoulder and grabs the Fist of Rukt, then spins around to face the rest of his room.

Hunting trophies, souvenirs from Doisac and memorabilia from the war decorate the interior of his chambers. The Brute Army Commander inhales through his nose and seeks out the scent of whoever brought the dead Elite into his quarters. He sniffs out a smell that's unfamiliar to him, but what troubles him is that he can not pick out a scent that's familiar to him, the scent of fear.

A red laser is fired from across the room and penetrates the armour covering his right arm. Furious, the Chieftain charges in the direction the laser came from and raises his hammer. He catches a glimpse of something small moving away before he brings the Fist down and smashes the floor.

He turns around and carefully scans the room but he can't see anything, but his nose tells him that his prey is close.

"Where are you?!" he shouts.

The Brute patrols his quarters and tosses furniture aside while seeking out his adversary. He hears something and turn around to face the doorway, where he sees a creature he's never seen before. It has a red exoskeleton, sharp appendages and a floating head with no neck and a single eye in the centre.

The Kriken bounty hunter known as Trace.

The Chieftain's shock upon meeting an unknown entity causes him to hesitate and give Trace the first strike. He starts to vanish before firing his Imperialist again, this time penetrating the armour covering the Brute's left arm. The angered Jiralhanae roars and aims the head of the hammer where the Kriken was last seen and fires a pulse of gravity energy. He makes a direct hit and sends Trace hurling into the wall.

Grinning now, the Brute activates the Fist of Rukt again and manipulates gravity to pull the Kriken towards him. As he prepares to smash the bounty hunter out of the air, Trace morphs into a small three-legged creature and the Chieftain narrowly misses his target.

The Triskelion latches onto the Brute and stabs the Chieftain with sharp limbs. He repeatedly impales the Jiralhanae's arms through the weak spots in the armour he created, tearing through veins, nerves, muscle tissue and bones.

The Brute goes berserk and drops the hammer before grabbing the Kriken and tossing him away. Trace lands and rolls on the floor before righting himself on his three limbs. The Triskelion crawls towards the dead Sangheili while the Chieftain struggles to lift up the Fist of Rukt. Only the adrenaline given off by his berserker state gives him the strength to pick it up but his injuries slow him down and the hammer is unwieldy in his grasp.

Trace changes back to his bipedal form as the Brute charges him with hammer raised. The Chieftain can see his prey pick something up using both arms but he doesn't care. The Brute just wants to see his red limbs splattered all over the place.

His wounds cost him dearly as they slow him down too much. Trace activates the Energy Sword, kicks off from the ground towards the Brute and stabs him in the chest. The Chieftan drops the hammer again, grabs Trace and headbutts him before he spots the dead Elite out of the corner of his eye.

The horrific implications of what the bounty hunter has done becomes clear to him. He looks down at the Energy Sword planted in his chest and realizes that the Master Packs will believe this was the work of a Sangheili assassin.

Trace frees himself from the Jiralhanae's weakening grip and admires his handiwork.

The Chieftan sinks to his knees and glares at Trace with all the hatred in his soul. With one act of murder and misunderstanding, the Kriken will undo all that he, Compassion and the Arbiter have tried to rebuild. Any hope he had for his pack brothers to know peace and progress has been shattered. They will sink into anarchy again, as they always have.

With one last growl, the Brute lunges for Trace but the hunter steps back and watches the Commander fall on his face. The Alpha Male gives in to despair and death.

Satisfaction fills the Kriken seeing how his plans and premeditation have paid off. Now to go back through the portal, return home and alert the Kriken Empire that a galaxy, drowned in chaos and war, is ripe for the taking.

He changes into the Triskelion form and prepares to leave, but he changes his mind as he approaches the door. He decides to crawl into a corner of the chambers and become invisible. Better to make sure his plan worked and witness the ensuing bloodbath himself.
Scent of Death
Back when I read The Return, in Halo: Evolution, I knew I had to dissolve this fragile reformation of the Covenant someday.

No one will ever know what really happened and very few will care.
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                                                              Inventory.

- Planet M-2 -

- Mining shaft -

- December 2555 -

Deep within the Space Pirate fortress, an industrial-grade mining drill spins rapidly through the shaft, widening it, tearing off chunks of valuable ore and providing enough noise to lower the chances of being overheard.

Inside the control room, Weavel approaches the Pirate in charge and tells him that he'll take over his shift. The Zebesian snaps his pincers gratefully before departing. The bounty hunter operates the drill while waiting inside the reinforced glass room sticking out of the wall.

The door opens behind him and an Alpha Jackal enters the room. Dras keeps his hands close to his cutlasses as he approaches Weavel. The Kig-Yar is very nervous around the bounty hunter but he grimaces as soon as the drill starts up again.

"Turn that damn thing off!" he yells.

"Enhanced hearing comes with increased sensitivity, it seems," Weavel muses. "The drill stays on, Dras,"

"Fine!" The Jackal grumbles. "What do you want? You said something before about missing items?"

"Stolen items," Weavel corrects him. "I need to know what your people have taken and what you didn't,"

"Why would I tell you that? Why give you more dirt on me that you already have? I could just kill you right now and nobody would care,"

"I have nothing to gain by selling you out,"

"Am I supposed to take your word for it?"

Weavel takes out a datapad and thrusts it in Dras's hands.

"Take a look at this list and you tell me if you're the problem or not,"

The Jackal shoots him a look full of daggers before he starts reading through the list of missing items.

"How do you misplace a Scarab?!" He suddenly yells.

"That's a good question,"

Dras grumbles before he resumes reading. He sighs when he's almost finished.

"Ok, look. We may have sold crates full of Covenant weaponry, as well as a few vehicles, to some of the clans,"

Dras stops himself before he says where. They've traded with the clans on outposts like Ven III or those working for a four-jaws named 'Mdama. The Kig-Yar have flaws, but they would never betray their own kind to another species.

"Did you sell Locusts?" Weavel asks.

"No. Our buyers are more interested in Ghosts and Wraiths. They want weapons but Locusts are too impractical in combat,"

Weavel takes the datapad back and crosses out the items that Dras mentioned.

"Locusts have another use," he mentions.

Dras thinks for a moment before he says, "Yes, mining, but what's that… Wait, so's a Scarab,"

"Exactly. Several Shaktools have gone missing as well,"

"You think that someone is trying to mine by themselves through this rock?"

"Which brings me to my last order of business: The Huragok,"

"What about them?"

"Did you sell the Engineers as well?"

"I wish! Those gas sacs are worth a fortune. Unfortunately, it's not easy to pull them away from their jobs and they make a lot of noise when you try,"

"When was the last time you saw one?"

"On my way here, fixing the ventilation system,"

Weavel is silent for a moment as he thinks about what he should tell Dras. The Jackal senses his hesitation and grunts.

"Now you're just wasting my time,"

"Listen to me. When we first started capturing Huragok, most of the raw materials we steal are used so the Engineers can mass-produce themselves. Many of them were destroyed when the Mother Ship exploded, but we quickly brought their numbers back up with the resources we've acquired during our raids. If it weren't for them, we would never have built this place so quickly,"

"What's your point?"

"We had thousands of Huragok on this rock. Nowadays, we only see an Engineer once or twice a day. Where's the rest of them?"

It takes Dras a few moments to realize what Weavel is implying. He takes the datapad back from the hunter and looks over the list of missing items. Now, the Kig-Yar starts to get worried.

"Why haven't you gone to Ridley with this?"

"I don't have anything substantial to present him with. Besides, he doesn't trust me,"

"Is there anybody he does trust?"

"He trusted Kraid and the lizard is now a crater on Basis,"

"What about leads? Do you have any?"

Weavel glances at the rotating drilling machine while he thinks.

"Not really, but I have a hunch as to what I can look for next,"

"What do you need me to do?"

"You can stop stealing from us, for one thing. Don't tell anyone about this until I have had time to look through our computer records. I need to see if my hunch pays off,"

Dras doesn't like the idea that something could be wrong in his very own home. Outside threats are one thing, but inside? What's more, whoever's doing this is subtle.

"I'll try and see if I can find the Huragok or any newly excavated tunnels," he says.

"Now that, you can do," Weavel says before shutting down the drill. "Come on, let's go,"

Dras's claws remain close to his cutlass as they walk out of the control room together.
Haloid Part IV, Chapter 36
Sometimes it's the small things that go unnoticed that will have the biggest impact.

If you need help picturing the environment in this chapter, think about the mining station in the Agon Wastes in Metroid Prime 2, the one where you find the Darkburst.

I'm still trying to think about and organize the next chapter. My biggest problem is the issue of the timeline. How to determine the length of time between events in my story.

I recently learned that an upcoming Halo novel will not only take place in 2555, but on the ruins of the Ark, which means I'm screwed as far as trying to make this story as authentic as I possibly can. Anything taking place after the events of Halo 3 has always made me less than enthusiastic. Maybe that's why I'm not looking forward to Halo 5: Guardians as much as everyone else is. The reason for that is cause I'm worried about conflict between my story and the official canon. I love the canon but I also love my story. I want them to get along and not fight. :(

Expect a short story tomorrow. I'm still working on the OC bio of the new Imperial Admiral.
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When I finished the latest chapter of Haloid, I realized it was a lot shorter than I initially expected, but it said what I needed to say.

So, I decided to work on a Haloid short story next and am currently working on an OC bio.

They should all be ready before the month is up.
  • Mood: Daily Needs
  • Reading: Alien: Sea of Sorrows
  • Watching: Achievement Hunter
  • Playing: Hyrule Warriors
  • Eating: Breakfast.
  • Drinking: Beverage

deviantID

Aqua311
Canada
Current Residence: Canada
Favourite genre of music: Video game music.
Operating System: My brain.
Shell of choice: Sniper or Shotgun.
Skin of choice: The kind I was born with.
Favourite cartoon character: Ruby Rose
Personal Quote: We all live in a glorified insane asylum we call Life.
Interests
When I finished the latest chapter of Haloid, I realized it was a lot shorter than I initially expected, but it said what I needed to say.

So, I decided to work on a Haloid short story next and am currently working on an OC bio.

They should all be ready before the month is up.
  • Mood: Daily Needs
  • Reading: Alien: Sea of Sorrows
  • Watching: Achievement Hunter
  • Playing: Hyrule Warriors
  • Eating: Breakfast.
  • Drinking: Beverage

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Shi-Yin Featured By Owner May 31, 2015  Student General Artist
Thanks for the fave! :)
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Aqua311 Featured By Owner May 31, 2015
You're welcome.
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speedracerdude511 Featured By Owner Edited Feb 6, 2015  Hobbyist
Thanks very much for the fav, it means a lot
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KiraiMirai Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you for the favourite on R.I.P Monty Oum (1981 - 2015)
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Nitroraptor Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Hey
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Aqua311 Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2015
Hello.
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Nitroraptor Featured By Owner Jan 9, 2015  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I like your stories
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Aqua311 Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2015
Thanks. I'm glad you enjoy them. :)
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JCPencilz Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
Hey, thanks for the continued support, man! Really means the world to me!:D
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You're welcome. :)
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