|This article, The Hunted/Prologue, was written by IndyRevolution. Please do not edit this fiction without the writer's permission.|
(Alright, so this is the prologue for my upcoming RP. Sorry if it's rather long, but I wanted to establish my villain well. Oh yeah, there's also this (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1YlJKb-QNf1Y6RLHjAPWbS4Wv5qV-5AJn01FaDFJtBBw/edit), which is the start of this setting done by me, Shiv, and Sev on the IRC. You can read that if you want, but it isn't strictly necessary. Be warned, it's unfinished and unedited. If you're interested, or you wanna give feedback, or you have questions, please lemme know on the talk page. I will make an official sign-up page soon, but I would still love to flesh out the setting with you guys.)
A flash of colors washed over Raj, violently and suddenly. He stumbled out of the open cryotube, falling on his fours and resisting the urge to vomit. He brought himself to his feet, taking in the surroundings. Everything was black, for the most part, with a red tint. Emergency lights flashed, and an alarm blared.
“You awake, sir?”
Raj stood, seeing a trio of Navy technicians standing You alright, sir?” Raj turned to the sound of the voice. A trio of technicians stood by, one of them holding a two-handed jaw tool in his mouth. Raj spoke.
“What’s going on?” The technician with the tool spoke. “The ship came to a stop before we completed the jump. We got...spat out, somewhere. Power got cut with it, and so did the cryotubes. But the power in this section crapped itself, didn’t wake you up.”
A second technician, this one female, stepped forward. “So we figured we’d do it ourselves.” She motioned to the technician’s power tool. Raj nodded. “How long has it been since the ship stopped.”
The technicians looked to each other, then back to the Spartan. He waited for a response. The third spoke up. “We...don’t know, sir. Hell, our pods were isolated from the rest. We figured, we’d uh, be safest wherever you were.” He grinned sheepishly.
Raj nodded, taking hold of the situation. They were stranded at some unknown location in the galaxy, possibly having been followed by Covenant, and were currently dead in the water with nowhere to go. He decided to contact the ship's AI, Alfred, to see if he had had a read on what the hell was going on. He opened up his COM. “Alfred, come in. What's happening?”
No response. He tried again.
“Alfred, come in. We're sitting ducks here, we need to know what's going on.”
Nothing. He tried a final time.
“Alfred, we need-”
“We are the sum of all our sins, Master Raj. Only via utopia will we be free of that. Please, leave me be. I am busy saving us all.”
The COM was silent once again.
“Alfred? Alfred, come in.”
Nothing. Raj sighed. Alfred had sounded distant, like a voice from a dream. Had he been going rampant? If Raj remembered correctly, he was far too young for that. This was something else….
The technicians stared at Raj, waiting for an answer. He looked back to them. “So we have no power, no AI, no idea where we are or the shape the other crew members are in. Great…” There was silence for several moments as Raj thought, and then stepped forward. “Well, our first priority is getting into contact with the rest of the crew. We need to-”
The order was cut off as the door nearest to them exploded.
Raj was closest and took the brunt of it, flying back several feet. In the air, he caught hold of the situation, flipping himself and landing on his feet. He stood back up.
The man with the power tool was lying in a pool of blood, a large piece of shrapnel lodged through his chest. His eyes were wide. The woman was kneeled over, screaming, clutching at her chest. The third man rushed to her, trying to help.
And then, through the door, came the glow of an energy sword. Raj reacted with a reflex, jumping to move in between the Elite and the technicians. He drew his combat knife and stared at the Elite. Blood red armor and eyes stared back at him. He heard a laugh as it stepped into the room, blue light clashing against the red. It spoke, long and mocking. “Demon…” Raj considered jumping at it, but more figures stepped through the door. Three elites, dressed in red like the first, though they lacked his ornaments. Jackals stepped in, forming a semicircle around the humans. They growled and laughed, banging their weapons against their shields and clacking their teeth.The technicians were whimpering and clinging to each other. Behind the Elites, Raj could see more figures in the hallway. No way out.
Raj weighed his options. He could attack the Elite outright. Assuming he could even bring down what seemed to be a Zealot commander with a dinky combat knife, the other Elites would bring him down. If, by some miracle, he managed to take all of them down, that still left the Jackals, which had him surrounded, and whatever was outside… and assuming he survived, there was still the obvious problem: the technicians wouldn’t. Whether by a sword or needles or plasma bolts or blood loss, there was no possible way for them to survive the battle. But that left one question -why hadn't it attacked? What was it waiting for? Raj decided to stall for time. He hadn't ever conversed with one of the things before, but he decided now was as good as any.
“What do you want?”
“Your head,” it spat back.
Blunt. At least he understood its motivations now.
“So...what exactly are you waiting for?”
The Elite laughed, throaty and deep. “This feels...unfair.” It was Raj's turn to chuckle.
“Unfair? What exactly were you expecting?”
“A fight. A good fight. Something to test my mettle. When I hunt Spartans, I expect to fight Spartans.” The words sent guilt down Raj’s gut. The Covies had come because of him and Harald. Not much other reason to chase a measly frigate. He decided to press his luck, see if he could get an estimate of their forces.
“Do you plan to take us all by yourself, then?”
The Elite laughed yet again. “Trying to press me? Sneaky. I figured you were just metal and orders, and yet here you are trying your hand at espionage. It is…amusing.” There was a silence. “My cruiser has been modified and bloated to hold my armies. The only reason I didn't wipe your ship from existence with plasma is because I dare not risk harming the holy site - and because I want your heads.”
“Holy site?” If there was any significant body nearby, they could evacuate the ship, find somewhere to regroup, and fight back.
“The installation… I dare not describe it to you. Your ears are not worthy.”
Raj snorted. He got the feeling he had pressed the Elite as far as he could. Not much left now…Raj had to think quickly.
“I want to make a deal.”
Another laugh. “I don't respond to groveling.” His eyes narrowed. They burned red, like hellfire.
“I'm not groveling, I'm gonna give you what you want.”
“A duel. To the death. Winner takes the other’s head.”
The Elite grinned, or at least that was what Raj guessed it was doing with its mouth. “I assume that isn't all you want.”
“If I win, your men let us move. I have wounded, surely you can respect that.”
“I do not.” The Elite stepped forward. “But...allow me to posit my own terms.”
The Elite spoke, and it became clear to Raj that it was speaking into its COMMS. “If I am struck down here, you are to evacuate our forces and leave this system. We will not warn the Hierarchy of our discovery, and we will spare the Frigate. We will never return here.” There was a pause, and the Elite spoke again. “Do not question me, runt, lest I remind you of your place! My word is final. If he kills me, you leave.” He turned and stared at the Spartan, the fire back in his eyes. “But if he dies, you hunt them down to a man. Exterminate them with prejudice. Are we understood?” It took a moment for Raj to realize the Elite was talking to him. He nodded. Truth be told, the Elite’s terms scared him more than anything else. He was confident, as if he had done this before. Had Raj stepped into a trap?
No, he was a Spartan. As skilled as the alien could be, he couldn't be a match for an armed Spartan in CQC.
The Elite stepped forward. The technicians moved as far away as they could, the woman leaving a small trail of blood behind her. He lowered his Sword, carving a small pattern in the ground without looking. Some sort of symbol. Another Elite tossed an item to Raj without warning. His reflexes caught it before he could think. A sword. Raj activated it, giving a few mock slashes to reacquaint himself with it. It had been a while since he had had to use one of these. He stood at the ready. The Elite had moved over to where the dead technician lay, though he was still staring at Raj. Slowly, he trailed his sword across the man’s gut. His intestines began to flow out. Raj heard one of the technicians vomit behind him, and another wailed. The damn thing was taunting him, trying to get him to move first.
The Spartan jumped forward, slashing at the Elite with all his force. The Elite dodged sideways, using his free hand to smack Raj sideways. The force of the blow took Raj by surprise, and he struggled to keep his balance for a moment. As soon as he was back on his feet, the Elite lunged at him, and Raj barely managed to lift his sword to deflect the blow. Then came another blow, and another, and Raj was on the defensive, desperately deflecting blows as he backed up further and further, trying to keep his balance. The blows kept coming, and Raj felt the force of each and every one - it felt like fighting a tank. He had to change the situation, and fast. Raj began to telegraph his blocks, moving slower and more methodically, and the Elite responded by putting more force into each blow in an attempt to break through. The Elite raised its sword in an arc, coming down hard- and then Raj stepped in. He brought his sword up, swinging for the Elite's head in an attempted decapitation. The Elite responded quickly, dodging with unnatural speed, but Raj still felt resistance as the blade came down, and spun away, turning to face the Elite. He saw the results of his strike. The Elite's shields had been broken, and he stood there, clutching at his jaw. Raj spied what he first thought was some sort of worm-but then he saw the teeth. The Elite's mandible lay there, in a pool of purple blood. The Elite clutched at his jaw with his free hand, whimpering and moaning in pain. His back was turned to the Spartan. Raj grinned. Now was his chance. He didn't know if attacking a wounded opponent was a disqualification in their culture, but he honestly didn't give a shit. He needed to end this, now. Raj lunged like a bullet fired from a gun, his full force put into the upcoming blow. He aimed to impale the Elite through the back, end the fight then and there.
The Elite's arm shot out and caught him by the throat.
A ruse. Of course it had been a ruse. Raj cursed himself internally for falling for it. Raj brought his sword up, attempting to sever the Elite's arm. The Elite reacted, slamming Raj onto the ground, the floor denting beneath him. Raj got onto to his fours, attempting to raise himself, but he felt the Elite's hoof slam down onto him, forcing him back down into the floor. It creaked and molded beneath him, and he felt his armor begin to fold into his. He winced as he felt a rib crack. With all of his force, he pushed back up, throwing the Elite off and jumping to his feet. He moved to raise his sword, but another slash cut across his view. Raj’s blade blinked out of existence and fell to the floor in two pieces. The Elite swung again, and Raj ducked, drawing his knife. He began to circle around the Zealot, looking for an opening. The Elite eyed him down, staring at him with murderous intent. There was no obvious weakness to his used, and the Elite knew it.
Raj charged, jumping forward. The Elite’s shields were back up, so he aimed for the next most obvious target- the sword. He lodged the knife straight through the hilt, and it blinked out of existence. The Elite growled and and grabbed the Spartan by the torso, throwing him back. Raj landed on his feet, and reached for his spare knife. Before he could reach it, the Elite charged him, slamming into him with the force of Warthog. Raj went flying back into the open cryopod. The Elite slammed a fist towards him. Raj moved out of the way, but the Elite grabbed him by the helmet with its free hand, pulling him forward and throwing him down. Raj moved to get back up, but the Zealot brought his fists down on his back. He watched his HUD show his visors deplete to half, then to zero. His shields broke with an audible pop. Raj rolled away, jumping back up. He drew his spare knife, smaller than the last. The Zealot laughed, and jerked his right arm. A large blue blade emerged from an opening on his wrist. He raised it, and pointed it at the Spartan.
Both the Spartan and the Elite charged at once. Raj dodged the Elite’s first swing, driving a fist into the Elite’s torso. The Elite swung again, and Raj dodged, swinging another fist into his side. Again, and again, and again, he swung his fists into the Elite, until finally, it’s shields broke. The Elite raised its fists and roared, and Raj seized his chance. He raised his knife and drove it into the Elite’s chest. The knife angled perfectly, driving straight down through the Elite’s armor. He felt it drive all the way into flesh, and purple began to seep out from the wound. Raj twisted the blade until the handle broke.
The Zealot grabbed him by his hands and looked down. The knife had had no effect on him. His eyes widened as his mouth twisted. “Are you done?” His voice was mocking and cruel now. Raj suddenly realized that he had been holding back before. He began to move his feet, but the Elite was faster, lifting him by his hands over his own head and slamming him down like a ragdoll. Raj’s shields took the brunt of the blow, but as soon as he could move, the Elite brought his arm down, attempting to impale him through the chest. Raj caught the Elite’s arm, but the Elite brought a foot down on his helmet. His shields broke. Raj kicked his feet up, sliding backwards through the Elite’s legs. He jumped up, slamming his fists into the Elite’s exposed back, but the Zealot simply shrugged them off, turning to face the Spartan. What followed was a flurry of blows from the Elite, swinging his dagger with unmatchable speed. Raj ducked and dodged over and over, but the flow was relentless. Then came the blow. Raj had been backed up into the technician’s body. Even though he hadn’t had to look, he still had had to make a mental note not to trip over him. And then the Elite swung, faster than any time before. Raj watched as the dagger cut through his arm before he had a chance to pull it away. Raj stared at the searing stump that was previously his arm. The Elite stood too, staring and admiring his handiwork. Before the pain could truly register, Raj felt sheer rage, something he hadn't felt in a long time. He lashed out with his remaining hand, driving across the Elite's head. The reaction was instantaneous, as the Elite grabbed him by the arm and pulled him forward, driving a hoof into his left leg. Raj felt a *pop*, and then searing pain. He fell to his knees, and the Elite drove a fist into his head. His visor exploded outwards, exposing his face to the world. Raj drove his remaining fist towards the Elite in a desperate attempt to fight back. The Elite matched his shot, forming a fist and driving the dagger straight down Raj's hand. He brought a claw up and slashed, removing Raj’s chestpiece with a single swipe. Raj pulled his fist away, stumbling backwards in an attempt to escape the Zealot.
It was no use. The Zealot brought a hoof down on Raj's broken leg, and the Spartan felt the armor collapse, and then his flesh, and then his bone. The Zealot raised his dagger. Raj raised his arms to deflect the blow. The Zealot brought the dagger down, and pieces of Raj's arms fell into his lap. The burning electric sensations from multiple points in his body all urged him to scream, but he resisted it. If nothing else, he wouldn't give the Elite that.
The Elite drove the blade through Raj's open chest. It came through the whole way, bursting out of his back. The Zealot growled contentedly. Through the pain and blood, Raj felt slightly amused. Years and years and years of fighting, dropping scores of Covenant at his feet, only to die like this, to some random split-lip in some dark room on a dead ship. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great either.
“Some demon...I trust your comrade will fold just as easily.” Fuck, he knew about Harald. Raj tasted copper as blood began to pour from his mouth, enough to start leaking from the open hole where his visor used to be, but he brought himself to speak.
“You...don’t know him. He’s gonna...gut you….”
The Elite grunted. It seemed amused, more than anything else. “Doubtful.” He brought his dagger down across the Spartan’s neck. The first blow only went partially through his neck, so the Elite pulled back, and struck again. It went farther. Again, he struck, and again, and again, until the Spartan’s head rolled off of his shoulders. The Elite walked to it and grabbed it, holding it up and inspecting it. The whole room was silent. He turned it over in his hands as if it was a tool, staring at it. He reached into the bottom, squeezing. Blood and flesh poured from the open visor. In his hand, he held up the head of the Spartan, letting the helmet drop to the floor.
“For years, we have lived in fear of these “demons.” We have spun myths and tales of their exploits, treated them as if they were reapers of steel and iron.” He turned to his men, lifting the head into the air. “Well, look here. In my hand, I hold flesh and blood and bone. Beneath their armor, That is all they are. Flesh and blood! Nothing more! Flesh and blood!” His men erupted into a horrific chorus of shouts, cheers, growls, and pounds, working into a frenzy as he held the head up for them all to see. The Elites raised their hands and cheered in a chorus, and the Jackals banged their weapons against their shields and squawked. The Elite took the head, closing his hand around around. There was an audible *crunch*, and the room was silent once again as the Elite let bone and brains seep through his fingers. He turned and pointed to the technicians, who were hiding behind a crate in a corner of the room.
“Flesh and blood.”
The male technician grabbed a pipe from the wall and held it out in front of him, standing in front of the injured woman, but it didn’t slow the Jackals down. The ripped forward, jumping over to the pair in several hungry strides. The humans screamed and screamed and screamed until their organs weren’t connected enough to scream anymore, and the Jackals raised their beaks, dripping bits of gore and bone. The Zealot looked on and grinned.
“Flesh and blood…” He turned to the rest of his men.
“HUNT THE REST DOWN!”