Chapter 8: Fool Hearty
Location: Main Ice chamber
It had been many hours since Chackrol’s last beating and in that time the cold and his injuries had stiffened his battered, aching body. It was hard to breathe, as his breath would get painfully stuck in his chest whenever he tried to inhale too deep. They must have broken or fractured a few of his ribs and the fleshy side of his face was so swollen to a point it forced his eye shut. Good thing the other side of his face was mostly made of metal so that wasn’t as damaged, not that it mattered.
But my oh my, did he feel like a busted ripe fruit, he couldn’t even remember when he last ate, in fact he couldn’t remember what day it was. He hoped he didn’t have lasting brain damage. At least the ice wall he was clamped to numbed his aching body, though even that was starting to hurt, stabbing his dulled senses with microscopic needles.
“Why won’t they just kill me already?” Chackrol thought to himself, as he clenched and unclenched his hands in an attempt to get blood flowing in them again and stave off the need to piss. “It’s not like I’m actually any use to these idiots, I’m just the one mapping and recording everything. It’s what I was good at… back then.” His mind drifted for a bit, thinking back to a much more violent time, filled with fire, pain and the screams of all those he helped glass to…
Just then he heard someone coming and he steeled himself. “Ah more fun time, how nice.” He mused to himself, as he cracked his neck in anticipation.
He was expecting to see three big Sangheili walk in with a tray of fancy gadgets to torture him with and listen to them casually gossip while they inflicted pain, but what approached him instead was a short looking Sangheili in even crappier looking armour than the others. It looked like it was made out of bits and pieces of other armours all strapped together haphazardly with leather strips and cloth.
His skin was an odd colour though, not brown, grey or even black, like you would expect from Sangheili. His skin was pale, almost white with faint black stripes going along the exposed skin on his left arm, neck, legs and face. His eyes where also an odd colour, a pure icy blue and was that… fur poking out from under his helmet, elbow and ankle joints in his rig?
It suddenly all made sense to Chackrol now, when the stout Sangheili came closer and he managed a small grin. “Well, what have we here? You’re a bit far from home, little Ashen, but I guess you would feel fine here, in this frozen wasteland?”
He stepped into the light and Chackrol’s suspicions were confirmed. He was indeed an Ashen one, a sub-species of Sangheili that dwelled in the deepest and coldest region of Sangheilious, a region so cold and hostile that the Sangheili living there adapted to its environment, evolving patches fur and hair to stave off the bitter cold. Yes, even the males had fur or hair. It also made their skin pale, bodies shorter but sturdier than most other Sangheili races and a resistance to the elements that could make a Vadam drip with envy. But it was rare to see one so far from their home in the Ever Frost, since their culture was very tribal based and didn’t care much for outside politics.
The Ashen stopped just in front of Chackrol and appeared to have something in his hand. It was food and water, to Chackrol’s surprise. “I’m surprised your deranged mind can even recognize what a Sangheili looks like, never mind telling the difference in race.”
“Ah, so he’s a biter.” Chackrol taunted, “I’ll admit I haven’t been around my own kind in a long time… what with being banished from my clan and all, but it has been an age since I last saw an Ashen.” He also noted that this Ashen looked a little fresh faced, the skin around his eyes too smooth and baby like. “Say, when did raiders start brining children into their ranks? Not enough real men with power left in the galaxy these days or is there no warrior’s code anymore? Whatever the case, makes me glad I’m not a part of it anymore.”
“Hey, I’m not a kid!” The Ashen growled, as he pointed at himself in an aggressive manner. “I am a true warrior, I’ve killed countless enemies and I’m very skilled with a…”
“Bla, bla, bla…” Chackrol mocked, with his numb hands miming his words. “LOOK AT ME, I’M A TRUE WARRIOR, I’M SO AMASING AT BEING UP OWN BOWLS AND BOASTING ABOUT BLA, BLA, BLA.” Chackrol snorted and sneerned at the youngster. “You, and every other bull-headed fool has said the exact same thing and can you guess where they’re all now?”
“Hey, I’m not...”
“They’re all dead, they’re corpses now a part of the worlds they helped burn!”
“Why you vile old…”
“Oh give it a rest Teal’c.” Another voice spoke up and Chackrol was caught off guard by how smooth and elegant it was. Another figure emerged from the shadows and Chackrol was stunned by what he saw. It was another Ashen with the same markings and colour of the boy’s but this one was female of the same age.
She moved with an elegant yet arrogant manner, as she walked right up beside the one called Teal’c and gave him a judging frown. “He doesn’t care for your man talk, you’re just playing right into his little mind game and making you look like a fool.”
“Natti, you’re the one that’s making me look like a fool.” Teal’c complained, getting a little violet faced. “I don’t need you getting involved in everything I do.”
“I wouldn’t need to if you just used that head of yours, for once in your life instead of what’s down here.” Natti spat, thumping his groin with her armoured hand, making him bend over in torment. She wore about as much as the boy, but with a little more re-enforcement here and there, mostly on her hands.
“I didn’t ask you to come along, you chose to follow me.” Teal’c snapped back, baring his teeth at her.
“Only to keep your foolish hide from getting killed!” She yelled at him, baring her own razor sharp teeth. “I would have been much happier staying home and helping Mother, but no you had to go out and seek meaningless glory.”
“May I say something?” Chackrol tried to get their attention, but they were too focused on their bickering to notice him.
Teal’c gestured angrily at what Chackrol could only guess was his Sister and snarled at her. “Mother said I wasn’t strong enough to be a warrior, she said I was untested. So here I am, proving her wrong!”
Natti, butt heads with her Brother and snarled back. “The only thing you’ve proven is how much of a moron you really are!”
“Children, children!” Chackrol calmly interrupted, or tried to.
Teal’c laughed, “Oh, that’s rich coming from you. All you ever do is suck up to her, being Mommy’s good little girl.”
Natti pulled a knife from a slot in her shoulder guard and levelled it with her Brother’s face. “Say that to me one more time and we’ll see who’s the better warrior!”
“HEY!” Chackrol yelled.
“WHAT?!” They both yelled in unison.
Chackrol tried his best to smile and seem casual. “Listen, as much as your… sibling rivalry amuses me, I got one question to ask.” His tone became a little more stern now, as he looked each of them in the eye. “Was joining these band of cut-throats your in depth decision, or were you fooled with tails of grandeur, glory and adventure?”
“What’s it to you?” Teal’c sneered.
Chackrol smiled again. “Oh nothing really, it’s just so I can judge if you two are normal idiots or the special kind.”
Natti looked as if she was about to retort, when Teal’c beat her to the punch. “I know what I’m… we’re doing!” Teal’c stated in a flustered way. “I’m proud of what I do, fighting to protect other’s from scum like you is a worthy goal!”
“Is that what you believe?” Chackrol wasn’t smiling anymore and shook his head slowly, as he felt pity for the youngster. “You’re a bigger fool than I expected.”
Just when he was about to react again, a deep, rumbling voice interrupted. “What do you think you are doing, whelp?” Chackrol recognized the newcomer instantly, as General Cano strut his massive armoured form into the small space. “You were only to feed it, not talk to it.”
The youngsters stood at attention and Teal’c tried to explain. “My Lord, I was merely…”
He didn’t get a chance, when Cano back-handed him across the face so hard he fell flat on his back, dropping everything with him with a loud clatter of metal. “Did I tell you to speak? Don’t you dare try to…”
Just then, Natti jumped in his way and squared up to him, teeth bared and knife in hand. “Leave my brother alone o-or I’ll...”
“Or you’ll what?” Cano loomed over her, looking straight down on her puny form, like a giant ready to crush a rat under heel. They stayed like that for a few seconds, with Natti hissing and having her knife just a few inches from his throat. But after a moment or two, Cano eased up and chuckled. “You got spirit, girl and for that, I’ll let it slide.” She was about to turn to help her brother when Cano grabbed her arm and pulled her close. “But don’t think for a second you’re getting off free. I expect something in return. You get me?” Natti looked so afraid, but she nodded anyway.
With a snort, he released her with a rough shove, making her fall to her knees beside her brother. She looked up at him, with venom in her glare and with her dazed brother’s arm over her shoulder they hurried away. “You make me sick.” Chackrol spat, glaring at the monster in front of him. “Beating up younglings and taking advantage of their ignorance. You have no morals, no honour.”
“They need to learn their place, as will you.” Cano sneered, as he moved a bit closer to him.
“Is that so?” Chackrol’s fists were now clenched and he looked Cano in the eye. “How bout you take these chains off and we’ll see about that?”
For a moment Chackrol actually thought he was going to do it, he could see the temptation in his red eyes. But then Cano just laughed and Chackrol frowned. “Good try, but my tactics aren’t as brutish as you think.” He had something in his hand, a small disc shaped device that seemed puny in his large fingers. “You like to think of yourself as a, funny guy, huh?”
“Finally starting to realise my talent? Please, you’re making me blush.” Chackrol snorted.
Cano smiled and leaned a little closer. “I like to think of myself as a funny guy too. In fact, I got something here that will be a real knee slapper.”
He hovered the device in front of Chackrol’s face and pressed its centre. Suddenly a Holo-vid began to play and he wasn’t sure what he was looking at. The image showed, at first an empty tunnel with only a pallet of wood on one wall. But the image was bobbing and that’s when Chackrol realised he was watching the footage from a helmet recording, as a Sangheili hand appeared and reached out to the pallet. He moved it aside and was now looking down a tight crawl space and at it’s end, was a lone door.
“Anything seem, familiar?” Cano asked, as he fast-forwards the recording to a part where a Sangheili squad were arming high-energy breach charges. Then the footage jumps forward and Chackrol is mortified when he watches the Squad of Sangheili, begin butchering Kig Yar. It didn’t even look like a fight, more like a slaughter, as the recording freezes and on the screen was a Kig Yar frozen mid scream with an energy sword just about to cut him in half.
There was no emotion in Chackrol’s face, but his eyes betrayed his pain, as he just stared at the holo-image, speechless.
“I don’t know about you…” Cano gave Chackrol a pat on the shoulder and chuckled. “But I find this comedy gold, a show for all the family to enjoy.” He laughed and tucked away the device in a slot in his armour. Cano noticed that Chackrol was un-characteristically quiet and leaned closer. “What? I thought you enjoyed a good laugh.”
“Oh, we’ll see who’s laughing by the end of this.” Chackrol stated in a low tone, looking him square in the eye now. “And you better hope for your sake, they don’t take these chains off.”
“We’ll see Ratbag, we’ll see.”
Location: Ice tunnels, near Kig Yar hidout
It had been some time since they last engaged these Sangheili bandits and now Sil, Neaola with her brothers and Uncle Jack stealthily moved through the dark tunnels of the ice mine.
Uncle Jack was up front as always, with Neaola right behind him, while Sil hung back with Neaola’s brothers. Her M7 SMG had completely run dry in her last firefight, so she had her M6D sidearm out with her flashlight, keeping the beam pointed at their feet so as not to trip on anything and keep their position as covert as possible.
Her hands still ached from the freezer burns she received from the coolant pipes and the adrenalin from the explosion they set off earlier had worn off, making her feel weary. But it wasn’t anything she couldn’t managed, after all she had suffered worse.
Still didn’t make it any better to deal with, but she could still use a gun at least, so she guessed it wasn’t too much of a bother. However, it was too quiet for Sil’s liking, as she preferred to be surrounded by the sounds of noisy engines and crappy ventilation to all this eerie silence, only broken by the slight groan of ice all around them.
She wondered if the ice around them was hollow, that an ocean of icy death was just waiting to slip through the cracks, flood the tunnel and send them all to a watery grave.
She needed to distract herself, something to keep her mind off other things that threatened to creep into her fatigued mind, she couldn’t even remember how long it had been since she last slept, or had anything to drink. She glanced at Char and then Raskal and figured a little conversation could ease her mind. “So, how long have you been doing this?” She randomly asked the two brothers and they seemed startled by the sudden question.
“What? You talking to us?” Char asked, glancing at his younger brother.
Sil looked at him like he just spilled her favourite drink and rolled her eyes. “No, I’m obviously talking to the invisible man next to you. Yes, I’m talking to you.”
They were taken aback by her brash sarcasm and gave her glum looks. “You don’t have to be so rude about it.” Raskal stated, not impressed.
Sil just realised her slip-up and grimaced. “Dang it, sorry, I just get very loose with my words when I’m stressed out. I didn’t mean to sound like a...”
Char smirked and leaned on her shoulder like he was a casual friend. “Ah we’re only messing, with ya, we get it. With all that’s happened here, getting hunted down like vermin, getting shot at and to top it off losing a sleava ton of money in the process, yeah we’re all bit on edge.”
Sil’s face lit up a bit and maybe felt a bit flustered too. “Oh, that’s good to know I guess.”
“As for your question…” Raskal chimed in, “You mean this job or what we do in general?”
“What you do in general.” Sil confirmed. “But your job here mostly.”
“Ah well…” Char began, “Ever since the Great War ended, we Roscals had to make a living somehow and Merc work was kinda dry at the time, so we signed on as a work force for hire.”
“Work force for hire?” Sil raised one side of her brow in confusion but was intrigued. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of something like that.”
“It’s like mercenary work but without the shooting.” Raskal added. “We get mostly hired by independent enterprises who want to conduct big construction projects and they need staff to do it, so we sell our willingness to work long hours and pull heavy duty to get the best jobs.”
“Huh, that’s quite impressive.” Sil mused, liking the idea of it and pictured herself with a blowtorch, working on a power conduct in a bustling place full of engineering opportunities. She let herself smile at the thought. “I’d love to do something like that.”
“Really?” Raskal cocked his head to one side. “But I assumed you were some hardcore Merc type, giving what we saw you pull off.”
Sil was slightly surprised by that comment. She glanced to the back of her Uncle’s head, who was looking down the dark tunnel as they walked and she looked to the ground. “Well, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t be doing stuff like this, but strings attached and stuff, you know?”
They both nodded in understanding, getting what she meant and Sil continued. “I’ve always wanted to do engineering work that I’d actually get paid for. It’s a passion of mine you see, so I’d really love to know how you get into that line of work.”
“Hmmm…” Char hummed, looking to be in deep thought. “Tell you what, slick, when we get out of this hellhole I’d be more than happy to tell you all about how you can get into that sort of work, work you’ll actually get paid for.”
“I’ll hold you to that then.” Sil stated with a sly wink.
“I’m curious though.” Char suddenly changed the topic. “What’s a Spartan and a Sangheili chick such as yourself, doing together out here at the rear end of the galaxy? Are you…joined?”
Sil took a moment to process what he meant, but when she did, her green eyes went wide in disgust. “EW no, he’s my Uncle not… the other thing, gross.”
“Oh…” Char went awkwardly silent, as he pondered his error in judgement. “My bad, I thought… you know what, I never asked and we just started talking about our job here.”
“Yes, let’s stick with that.” Sil nodded with an un-amused expression on her mandibles.
He went on about how they’d been hired by Kala Van for this big hush, hush project to unearth or in this case, deice some massive object deep beneath this planet’s icy crust and how long they’d been at it.
“A whole year?!” Sil was astonished. “God, you really meant what you said about working overtime, that’s quite the task, considering the conditions you’ve had to live in.”
“It wasn’t all that bad.” Raskal spoke up, sounding fond of his work but his tone changed. “But it’s all gone to hell now, no thanks to those Sangheili trash.” He then realised who he was talking to and lowered his head to Sil. “Uh… no offence to you though, you’re pleasant compered to… them.”
“It’s alright.” Sil sighed. “I don’t even know much about Sangheili anyway, since I’ve never met one till today.”
“What?” Raskal was taken aback. “You… don’t know anything about your own kind, nothing?”
Sil shrugged. “Only the stories I’ve been told by my Uncle and a few others I’ve met in my travels, that they killed countless Humans all for this thing called, The Great Journey. I thought it was all make believe, just tall tails to scare me when I was younger, but from what I’ve witnessed today, I’m not so sure now.”
“How old are you, exactly?” Raskal asked, utterly shocked as he looked to his Brother.
“I just turned 16 yesterday, had a party with my Kig Yar compdrays... if you can count poker as a party.”
“And, who raised you?” Char added.
“I was raised by Uncle Jack and a few others that were Kig Yar and mostly Human. So you could say my Uncle is more like a Father to me than anything else.”
“That means, if my math is right, you were six years old by the end of the war.” Char mused. “Huh, you are one fascinating individual, Miss?”
“Sil.” She answered, holstering her weapon to hold out her hand for a shake.
Char nodded and shook her hand, seeming to recognize the gesture. “Yes, Sil. Glad you and your Uncle came when you did, that was a close call back there.”
“My pleasure.” Sil smiled and looked to Raskal. “Oh and sorry about the whole, knife to your neck thing.”
He shrugged. “Eh, next time, maybe be a bit more gentle, I think you shaved a few of my scales off.”
Raskal chirped happily, making Sil grin in embarrassment. “Well, I was in a dangerous situation and I thought I might get shot, but I’ll try to remember that next time.”
Jackson could hear everything going on behind him and huffed in amusement. Sil could befriend anyone, even in the most dire of situations. It was a good skill to have one he wished he had. Would come in handy right about now, but making friends wasn’t apart of his training back in the Gen III boot camp on Onyx. No, he was just trained how to be a living weapon and to hate aliens, nothing more.
What would his instructor say if he could see him now, working with aliens and one of them being like a daughter to him? “What would you say Mendes?” He muttered. “Would you be, disappointed? Call me, traitor?”
“You say something, human?”
Jackson was brought out of his musing and looked at Neaola. She was giving him a look at said she was sceptical. He just looked away from her and kept his eyes on the tunnel ahead.
“No.” He answered bluntly.
Neaola, didn’t sound convinced. “You were muttering.”
Jackson frowned but didn’t take his attention off the darkness in front of him. “So what? Why do you care?”
“I don’t.” She stated as bluntly as he had. “Just, odd is all. Speaking of, how did you and her end up together?”
“Why is this suddenly about Sil?” He asked in a very stern tone, glancing just slightly at Neaola. She couldn’t see his expression do to the helmet, but the slight tilt of his head was enough for her to know she got his attention.
Neaola looked amused by his reaction and looked un-concerned. “It’s not, but it can if you wish.”
Jackson was un-amused. “Go ask her yourself.”
“Touchy.” Neaola huffed in amusement. “Fine, then do tell me this. Did Kala tell you just to find out why the comms were down, or did she also give you any special orders, in the event you did find survivors?”
Jackson detected the threat behind her words and wasn’t surprised of her suspicions. He would be suspicious too. “Relax, the Comms were all we were sent to deal with. No shady stuff, no stabbing anyone in the back if that’s what you were worried about.”
Neaola looked at him for a moment as they walked, then looked away and seemed to relax a bit. “Just checking, when it comes to Kala you can never be too careful.”
Jackson was glad she couldn’t see his face in that moment. Didn’t want her suspect a thing she didn’t need to. “No argument there.” He stated, knowing full well how she felt.
She huffed in enjoyment and pointed ahead. “It’s not much to go now, we’re almost to the hid out.”
“Nice.” Char groaned. “I could use a rest.”
“Nonsense.” Neaola chirped, sounding offended. “Once Father see’s we have a Spartan here, he will change his…mind…”
They stopped at a junction and Neaola stared down one tunnel. Jackson looked in that direction, plasma repeater at the ready. “What? You see something?” His headlight wasn’t strong enough to shoo the darkness away, but Neaola had perfect nightvision and could see deep into the black.
“That’s the back of the hide out.” She said in a distant way and she swayed toward it. “It’s…oh no.”
She broke off into a sprint so fast, Jackson barely reacted till a second later. “Wait!”
They ran after her till they reached a hole in the wall. The hole was ragged and melting, covering the ground in a blanket of water. Neaola stood in the water, staring at the blackness beyond the breach and then moved in. Jackson tried to stop her but she was already out of his reach as her siblings followed. He and Sil hung back though, as Sil shone her light on the water and stopped breathing.
She had a fear of water, even if it was shallow water it always provoked this kind of reaction. Shaky breath, sweat, trembling and 100mile stare, she was doing all of these and Jackson had to distract her. “Hey, Sil?” She wasn’t responding, so he snapped his gloved fingers and the sound they made brought her out of her trance.
“Huh?” Sil breathed, looking a little dazed.
He put a hand on her shoulder. “It’s alright, it won’t hurt you.” She looked away, embarrassed. “You can give it a shot, I’ll be right beside you.”
“Sorry, Uncle. But…I just…” She gestured to the water, curling up her fingers in silent frustration.
“It’s fine. You can stay here, if you want.” He pointed to the darkness behind him. “I’ll be just over there. Ok?” Sil paused, but then nodded without a word. “Watch our backs and tell me if you see anything.” She nodded again and then turned to face the tunnel.
Jackson moved slowly into the darkness and into the room beyond. To this day he still couldn’t figure out why she was so freaked out by bodies of water, but try as he might he couldn’t get her to shake it. He guessed there are just some things we have to overcome ourselves, he hopes Sil will one day get over her fear in time.
The water was deeper than he thought, as it came up to his knees. Good thing Sil stayed in the tunnel, she would have had a heart attack in here. Just then something bumped his leg and when he looked down a dismembered head floated against his leg, almost giving him a heart attack. As he flashed his light around, he saw more dead bodies floating in the water, all of them Kig Yar.
“Shit.” He muttered to himself, as he noticed the water was now a deep purple. “They did a real number in here.” He found Neaola and her Brothers, all standing in front of something attached to the far wall. When he shone his light on it, his blood went cold. Strung up on the wall was a dead T’vaoan, with his innards hanging out, his dead eyes vacant of any life.
Neaola was shaking and she was breathing heavily while her Brothers comforted her. “Friend of yours?” Jackson asked bluntly. Sil would have hit him for that, but he was never very good at the sympathy card. He couldn’t help it.
Char looked to him and Jackson saw the hate in his eyes. “Uncle.” He said through grinding teeth. “He was our Uncle, Tark was his name.”
“I’m sorry for your loss.” Jackson said in as genuine a tone as he could manage.
“I couldn’t find Father.” Raskal stated to Neaola, his voice shaky with concern. “He’s not with the rest.”
“I think I know, where he might be.” Neaola stated in a dead pan voice, as she reached out to her Uncle’s body and pulled something out of his beak. It was a small disc shaped device, stained with Kig Yar blood. “Looks like someone left a message.” She stated drily, as she pressed its centre and a deep, unpleasant voice began to speak.
“I know you are listening to this message, Scale-head. We have your leader and few other survivors down in the main Ice chamber of this mine. I want you and your remaining kin to come here and offer yourselves for judgment. If you do not, we will start killing the prisoners one by one with every hour that passes without your showing. Come un-armed and if you make this easy, I might spare…a few of you. You don’t have much choice in the matter so do choose with wisdom in mind.”
The voice then took on a more condescending tone. “Oh, and one more thing. You made it so easy to find your little nest, you really should have been more careful with your surroundings. You never know when a Sangheili in camouflage is just watching you creek out of a hole in the wall.” Neaola’s eyes went wide with shock and clenched her teeth, gripping the device hard. “That’s right, the carnage you see before you, that’s all you, Scale-head. You’re sloppy, arrogant and…”
Before more could be said, Jackson ripped the device out of Neaola’s grasp and crushed it in his gloved fist, shutting it up for good. She turned on him with a growl. “What do you think you are doing?!” She spat, her voice on the verge of breaking.
“He’s toying with you, trying to get under your skin.” Jackson stated, as he let the remains splash into the blood stained water. He continued. “Breaking down isn’t going to help anyone at this point, you need to stay on track and focus.”
“It’s all over human, didn’t yo hear the message.” She was beginning to crumble, beginning to babble her words and lose balance. “I did this, I led them right here and let them butcher my family. If I wasn’t blinded by my need to save Chackrol, the others, they would have…”
“Neaola, don’t do this.” Char wrapped his arms around her, giving her support. “You didn’t do this, you couldn’t have seen this coming.”
“I was so blind, if I hadn’t let my feelings for Chackrol cloud my judgment…If I had listened to Father…”
“No, Sister we were all blind, Father included. We all underestimated the enemy and we paid for it. But we can’t give up, Father wouldn’t want that.”
“Your Brothers are right.” Jackson affirmed. “And if you listened closely to the recording, the Sangheili only mentioned you and your Brothers. He said nothing about me and Sil.”
They all turned to Jackson and Neaola’s eyes lit up with a realisation. “That’s…that’s right, they don’t.” She suddenly pulled herself together and cleared her eyes. “They have no idea you’re even here and that means…that means we can use this to our advantage.”
“Now you’re thinking like me.” Jackson mused. “We play our cards right, they won’t know what hit ‘em, but we’re not doing this without a plan. You got any maps of the mine we could use? One we can take with us?”
“Yes, yes we do!” Char stated with haste.
“Right, I’ll get Sil.” Jackson was about to turn away, when Neaola spoke up.
Jackson looked back at Neaola and tilted his head, puzzled. “Why what?”
“Why the change of heart? I thought you wanted to leave as soon as possible?”
Jackson thought about that for a moment, tapping a finger on the frame of his repeater. He then shrugged. “I do, but I don’t have much choice now, enemies all around us and they’ve probably got all exits covered. The way I see it, we only got one shot at this, hit ‘em where they least expect it.” He nodded in Sil’s direction. “And…she’d never let me hear the end of it if I didn’t help.”
He turned away and sloshed his way out of the destroyed room, to find Sil sitting in a corner. She was watching the dark tunnel, till she saw Jackson’s head light and stood quickly. “What’s going on? Where’s the rest of the Kig Yar?”
“Captured and a few are dead.” Jackson stated simply, as he stood next to her and watched the tunnel with her.
Sil’s face turned grim and her emerald eyes moved quickly in hasty thought. “Oh god, w-we have to do something a-and don’t think you can convince me we can’t ‘cause I won’t hear it!”
“Relax.” Jackson lifted one open hand to tell her to slow down. “We’re going to help them get out of this, don’t you worried about that.”
“Oh, then…uh…good.” She seemed a bit surprised by this that she stopped talked for a moment and looked lost for words.
“Weren’t expecting that, were you?” Jackson asked in a slight teasing tone.
Sil shook her head slowly. “No, no I was not.”
After another moment of silence, Jackson decided to level with her, quite literally when he crouched down to her size. He took off his Spartan helmet and let her see his face. His expression was plain, but his eyes looked to the floor and when he spoke, he spoke with a measure of neutrality. “Look, I know we’ve had our different opinions on what should or should not be done here.” She looked at him with a look that said ‘yeah, what of it?’ and he continued.
“But, even if I strongly disagree, we’re all stuck together now and we need to work as a team if we all want to get out of here in one piece.”
“Dose that mean you’re admitting you were being a jerk and that you’re going to try and be a bit nicer?” Sil asked, her words dripping with sass and she crossed her arms.
Jackson rolled his eyes and smirked a little. “What I’m asking for, is to admit we said some things we, probably shouldn’t have said and move past it all.”
“Mmhm.” Sil gave him a look that said she wasn’t completely satisfied and Jackson sighed.
With a groan, Jackson rolled his eyes again and sighed. “Look, I was an ass ok. So, truce?” He lifted a hand up and offered it to her.
She looked at his hand, then back at his face and back again. Finally, she took his hand in her’s and they shook on it. “Guess I was a little bit of an ass too.” She smiled a wicked smile. “But don’t think for a second I’m gunna let you live this down, as the day I got you to admit you were an ass.”
“Don’t get clever.” Jackson warned, but in a light hearted manner. “We got us some Kig Yar to save and to teach these Pirates a lesson.”
Location: Main Ice Chamber
Soran coughed and sputtered, as he and the surviving Kig Yar under his charge were drabbed until they were thrown to the ground and sorted into a neat row. One of his eyes was missing, burned to nothing at the edge of a Sangheili blade and he could feel many breaks in his old bones, mostly his ribs.
He and the others were bound with grav-shackles, something that not even a Jerohanie could break. They were forced to their knees and made to stay that way. If they tried to shift or change posture, they got the butt of a rifle either in the gut or the side of the head. Normally such blows would kill his kind, Kig Yar’s bones were brittle and it wouldn’t take much to shatter them. So the fact they hadn’t, just showed how restrained these lot were, strange for Sangheili.
He looked around with his one good eye, and realised he was in the main Ice chamber. It looked the same as he left it, save the Sangheili trash littering it and wondered where Chackrol was. His pondering was interrupted, when two different looking Sangheili in fancy armour came and walked right up to them. One was covered in gold, scared armour and the other wore a kind of armour Soran had never seen before. It was silver with blue markings and a sleek head dress that kind of reminded him of an Ultra’s head dress, yet shorter.
Soran assumed he was the boss, given no other Sangheili wore a similar rig and he had an air of authority about him that Soran knew all too well. “Typical Sangheili arrogance.” He spat in the leader’s direction. “Strutting around in your fancy armour, thinking you own the ground you walk on.”
One of the lesser Sangheili was about to butt him in the face for that when the leader put up a hand to stop him. “Now, now, all he has is words, small meaningless words.” The leader mocked, as he walked right up to Soran and looked down on him. “And, it will take a lot more than mere words alone to offend me.”
“Good for you.” Soran sneered, as spitting blood. “Guess I’ll have to try harder then. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here, so pardon my Human when I ask who the fuck are you?!”
The one in the silver armour tilted his head to one side, as if pondering. Then he chuckled and that caught tye olf Kig Yar off guard. “You don’t seem to value your own life very much, do you?” He removed his head dress and Soran got a good look at his face. He had tanned pale skin, deep green eyes and a scar that started at his chin and went down the rest of his throat and out of sight under his armour.
He smiled and had a level of confidence that showed in his gaze. “I think I could grow to like you, Old One. My name is Ral M’handow, a former Marshal to Jul M’dama’s military. Though he’s dead now and his military gone. So I guess you could call us Pirates, I prefer opportunist myself but you can’t get everything you ask for.”
“Gee, that was quite a mouthful. You got anything else you want to add or are you going to tauter me more with your self pandering?”
Ral held out a hand to the gold one. “Cano, your sidearm, if you please.” The one called Cano, hande Ral his plasma pistol and he knelt down to Soran’s level and pressed the nose of the weapon to the side of Soran’s skull.
It felt warm and cold against his skin and he could hear the hum of its core within. But it did not phase him, as he just stared at the Sangheili’s deep green eyes.
Ral moved the weapon away and tilted his head slightly to one side. “You don’t fear death, do you old one?” Soran frowned, and it hurt like hell, but he didn’t care, he said nothing to this Sangheili trash. Ral chuckled. “You know, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a Kig Yar with marks like yours. You know, the ones only human weapons can make. You’re a war veteran, I can tell. It’s in the way you hold yourself, even now. I can respect that. You must have seen and done a lot in your time, given your age which in Kig Yar years must be very old indeed.”
“I’m 40.” Soran sneered “Not that old, yet.”
“But old enough, enough to not care about someone putting a gun to your head and threaten to pull the trigger. No, you’ve lived too long to be threatened by death. But these other, younger Kig Yar? Now that’s different.
He stood, gave the weapon back Cano and he began pointing the weapon at the other Kig Yar. They gasped, as its mussel moved from head to head. Ral kept his eyes locked with Soran’s as he continued. “See, they haven’t lived long and fulfilling lives, unlike you. They still have so much to see, stories still to be told, lives still to be lived. It be a shame, for their time to be ended so…suddenly. You get me?”
Soran looked to his crew and they to him. He saw the fear in their eyes, something he felt sting deep down. He clenched his jaw and asked behind, gritted teeth. “What do you want?”
Ral raised his eyebrows in what looked like satisfaction, as he gestured to the chamber around them. “What I want, is to know what you are digging for and why you are trying so hard to hide it from me.”
Soran knew he couldn’t tell him what they were trying to reach the risk of what he would do if he did find it was too high. But he had to say something, so he tried to bluff. “Hide? There’s nothing down here to hide, we’re all just simply mining the ice here to ship off and sell to growing settlements. You know what it’s like, space is a harsh place and clean drinking water is a valued resource to a lot of merchants. So, we got nothing down here that would be worth the effort you went through just to take this place. In other words, all this death was for nothing but frozen water.”
Ral, was silent for a long moment, as his gaze looked around the chamber and then back to Soran. “If you were to tell that story to any other lesser Pirate, you would most likely get away with it. But you see, I’m no such Pirate.” Cano aimed the weapon in his hand at the other Kig Yar and kept his aim moving along their line as Ral continued to speak.
“See, there’s a flaw with your story. You say you’re mining the ice for water and from the looks of it, you’ve been at it for a while. Yet, I don’t see any containers that would hold such a thing, with the only exception being the one you and your crew have been using for yourselves. Also, why would you mine an ice planet all the way out on the edge of uncharted space? So in other words, Old One… You are full of sleava.”
The pistol’s aim fell on a Kig Yar at random and Cano pulled the trigger. The miner didn’t even get a chance to gasp in shock, as the back of his head burst like a rotten blister and slumped to the icy ground with a smoking hole in his forehead. Soran stared in shock and anger, at what Ral had let happen, finally fixing his only eye on the Sangheili.
“You oversized scumbag!” He shouted, blood and spit flying from his jaws in rage. “I told you, we got nothing down here for you to…’
He shot another, their body thrashing through its death spasms till it finally lay still, blood pooling around the wound in the Kig Yar’s head.
He said nothing to Ral, as the Sangheili brought his attention back on the fuming Kig Yar and gave him an emotionless glare. When he spoke again, he had lost that humble charm in his tone, replacing it with one of stern resolve.
“I’m starting to loose my patience, Old One. If you don’t start cooperating soon, I won’t even wait for the Scale Head to show” He snarled. “I’ll just let my men kill the rest till only you are left.”
Soran looked into Ral’s deep yet fiery green eyes, then looked at the surviving members of his crew with the other Sangheili waiting around them, weapons ready and in that moment, he felt his spirit go to hell. He couldn’t let Ral know, it was too risky and the others didn’t really know what they were mining for, just to mine to a point. With a shake of his head, he closed his eye and lowered himself till his snout just touched the surface of the icy ground.
And that’s when the shooting continued and Soran flinched with each shot, and as the screams peeked and fell, a single tear ran down his ravaged face.