"The war has been terrible. Many soldiers left their homes and families to fight for our world, going far from Earth to destroy the destructive Halo weapons. They fought to protect our planet and many others from annihilation at the hands of the fanatical Covenant. The Halo war is finally over, but not without a cost. Many soldiers never came back. They died for their families, their homes, and their world. May we never forget their sacrifice."
The Master Chief was a colossal ship. In a time of crisis, it could be used as a base unto itself. There was a storehouse for ammunition, a medical station for the wounded, even a makeshift kitchen for emergencies. Of course, it also had rooms for the living occupants.
Link had sat down at the far end of the room Lara had escorted him to. There was nothing unusual about the room (unlike the ship itself); it looked like a regular meeting place. There was nothing on the walls except a few closed windows and a small talking screen in the corner. There were seats all around the room, and a table that was big enough for six people.
"First of all," a fat man on the screen was saying, "They said that these 'Halo' weapons were designed to 'eradicate all life in the galaxy' to starve a parasite. That is so stupid!"
A man in a grey bodysuit was watching that screen rather intently. He wore a long bandana that nearly covered his eyes and had stubble on his chin he never bothered to shave. He occasionally cast a rather contemptuous glance at Link, muttering. He seemed to be someone who cast contemptuous glances at everyone.
"Overkill on a colossal scale! And somehow, the 'Master Cheif' was able to detonate one without killing everything! How does that work? Simple, it doesn't. Not if these weapons were as powerful as they say they were!"
The man beside him never looked at Link…he was more interested in what was on the computer he was working on. Although his eyes may have been shifting under those glasses he wore. He wore a curious bulky orange and black armor with what appeared to be an upside-down 'Y' on the chest. Small devices on his belt beeped and flickered occasionally.
"Here's the facts…Nobody with half a mind would make weapons like the halos to kill a bug. There is just no way. What more, how could 1 soldier defeat the entire covenant? Again, no way. So what does that tell us about the 'halo wars'?"
"Snake, change the channel." Lara warned.
"I like this show." The man in the grey bodysuit replied under his breath.
The fat man continued. "The government gained marshal power and had us sink money into a war against this alleged 'Covenant'. The so-called 'coalition' took power with ease in the middle of this crisis, it's painfully obvious that it was all pre-meditated!"
"Snake, change the channel." Lara demanded. "He'll be here soon." Snake didn't seem to hear her.
"The entire battle was an elaborate scam, worked out with the 'Covenant, to have this all-encompassing government coalition take power! I'll admit, they put a lot of work into it. The memorial that they've moved, the well-coordinated attacks, the-"
The fat man never finished. A small burst of plasma shot from behind where Link was and destroyed the screen before anyone could blink. Link took a brief look at the sparking, broken mess that was once a television, and then turned around to where that blast had come from.
Holding a smoking purple gun and looking very irritated was a creature unlike anything Link had ever seen. It stood seven feet tall, and had muscles that could pick anyone up and break them in two. It had a lizard's scales, and hands with three long and powerful fingers. It wore silver armor that had strange alien symbols carved into it, almost making it look sacred. The creature's eyes glared at where the screen had been.
"I did try to warn him, Arbiter." Lara noted.
Arbiter let out a sigh. He had a lizard's face, but his mouth opened up in four parts, like fleshy insect mandibles. He put down his plasma rifle and holstered it into a pocket in his armor. As he was doing so, his eyes fell on Link.
Link sensed it would be a good idea to be quiet.
Arbiter seemed unimpressed. "So," he said in a deep voice. "You are the Hylian? Link?" Link nodded.
Arbiter took the bow and arrows Link had brought along and turned them around in his hand. Snake let out a snort on the other side of the room. Arbiter gave the arrows a strange look before setting them down. He then picked up the scabbard that held Link's sword, looking at it closely before unsheathing the sword. "Such primitive weapons…" he muttered as he held the sword in his hands. He then spoke directly to Link. "Our benefactors specifically requested you be brought along into this group, but I have doubts on how useful you will actually…"
Suddenly he stopped. He had been holding the blade of the sword lightly in one of his hands, and a small twitch of pain got his attention. He looked at his hand. A trickle of greenish blood was coming from a small line in his hand.
Link's primitive sword had cut him with little effort. Arbiter gave a puzzled look at the mark in his tough skin, the gauge that told him his shield was working normally, the blade that had cut him, and the owner of that blade.
Arbiter looked very hard at Link before sheathing the sword. "Regardless. Let me make something very clear, Link. I am the commander of this league, the leader. You answer to ME now. If I command you to stay, you stay. If I tell you to fight, you fight. You go where I tell you, do as I order, and you do NOT disobey me. Is that clear, boy?"
Link was silent.
"Is that clear? Do you understand?"
Link answered. "Yes, sir."
Something resembling a smirk came onto Arbiter's face. "So you can speak. How refreshing." Arbiter cast a glance at the man in the glasses as he said this. Then he gave the scabbard back to Link.
He turned to the others. "We will be arriving in Silent Hill in a few moments. Lara, Snake, Gordon, you come with me. We will pick up this last 'member' quickly and professionally." He turned to Link. "You stay here."
Link remembered what Arbiter said. He imagined that was what he said to every person here. Everyone except for the man in the glasses (Gordon, Link guessed) said something to the like of 'Yes, sir.'
Bebeep. A noise from the helmet Arbiter wore told him something important.
"How long has been since I have been on this planet? Ten years have passed on this world while I was on my own, trying to repair our shattered worlds in the wake of the war's end. And what is it I see when I return here? The memorial me and Lord Hood erected for those who fell in the battle has been moved, and these…insects…are out in force claiming the war was pre-meditated, in their words! That it was some conspiracy to drain them of their currency or force them accept the new coalition…Damn them all! I hold nothing against the soldiers who wish to think no more of the fight and go on with their lives, their courage and sacrifices deserve no less. But at the very least, can these worms realize that humans died for their ungrateful…If I see this insect I've been hearing all over these televisions screens, I will kill him. So he knows what those warriors went through for his miserable life."
-Thel 'Vadum, Arbiter
An old, unremarkable and well used car waited outside Nookingtons.
Casey got Jimi's food at another store, but she hadn't forgotten the way that creep of a salesman had threw her out even when she was 'respectable'. Casey wasn't one to forget an insult.
Of course, she wouldn't burglarize the store or smash the windows with Mindy's car. Nook didn't deserve to have his store discredited because of one lousy replacement salesman. No, this was between her and that skinny jerk.
Casey drummed the wheel as Jimi snored beside her. It was almost closing time, which was pretty late. But that salesman would come out sooner or later…
And then the fun would begin.
The red-haired salesman, still smiling, walked out of the store, being sure to lock it up behind him. He stopped for a second, as if taking in the late-night air. Then he walked to his own car, a green-colored one, and drove off.
Seemingly unaware that he was promptly followed by another car.
"I still can't believe I let Laura drag me back here! Silent Hill, hell on earth last time I was here. But she begged me, and I finally had to cave in…brought my shotgun anyway. And what do you know? It's a normal town, a tourist resort. More than a little quiet, but otherwise, not a monster in sight. Just like when me and Mary came…I guess it's normal for me now I've gotten over her death."
Arbiter looked at the town from the window. The fog was thick around the place, almost obscuring the run-down buildings and the barbed-wire fences surrounding them. From the information he had been given, several 'incidents' had labeled Silent Hill unsafe, and the entire area was closed off to the public. The official statement why? 'Too many people disappearing', more or less.
Rtas was beside him. Rtas Vadumee was a fellow soldier almost from the beginning, and the closest thing Arbiter could call 'friend'. He was a Sangheili like Arbiter, but with white armor, and the left side of his mouth was torn off. Lara couldn't help but wonder how he could speak normally.
"It is good to be doing what we specialize in, Arbiter." Rtas noted out of the blue. "I was growing weary of that diplomatic nightmare on our world."
"True." Arbiter acknowledged. "But neither of us have done missions like these. With…soldiers like these." He motioned to Lara, Snake and Gordon. They didn't seem to notice the conversation.
"They are professional soldiers. I can tell." Rtas replied.
"It is not just them. The woman we're answering to back at our base…that boy with the arrows and sword…" Arbiter glanced at the cut on his hand. "And now this…target we're seeking here."
"I have not seen our quarry yet."
Arbiter handed Rtas' a picture of their target. Rtas looked at it carefully.
"This should prove to be interesting." He noted as the ship touched down.
"Trash, huh Daddy? Is that what I was? Is that why you kicked me out after Mom died? I'm nothing but trash, never gonna amount to anything? Huh? Well, look at me now, pop. I'm a musician, the friggin' goddess of rock!! Everyone talks about me, everyone knows my face, everyone loves my music...yah, that 'garbage' you hated. Mom was right. And you were wrong-oh. I ain't trash. And NOBODY'S gonna call me trash again. Certainly not you."
Casey was winging it as far as 'messing up' the salesman. She wasn't sure herself what she would do…her standby was usually a roundhouse punch or a severed fuel line in the car. But when she saw the house the salesman was driving towards, another idea came to mind.
It was huge…a green mansion. What replacement salesman lived in digs like this? There were windows arranged in two rows…and two large windows above the door that looked almost like glaring eyes.
The salesman's car drove through the gate and stopped by the place. Casey fell back and parked out of sight. She roused Jimi awake. "C'mon, wake up now Jimi. I got an idea."
The security at the gate wasn't as much as Casey would expect. A video camera placed by the gate with a lock that did not look very expensive was all that stood between her and the target's house.
"Target practice." she whispered to Jimi. The Pikachu complied.
A single bolt of electricity was enough to reduce the camera to a sputtering cylinder that wouldn't rat on them anytime soon. Another thunderbolt and the door swung open, easy as anything.
Casey smirked. What cheap security! This would be a breeze. Still, Casey was smart enough to cover her face with a ski mask and hide Jimi's recognizable tattoos with a custom-made shirt and mask. The two burglars slunk into the yard and sneaked towards the back door, quiet as mice.
This would be a simple revenge. Get in, grab something the creep valued, and get out. The first step, of course was to get in.
So they went inside.
"God in heaven…I'm, I'm walking through the town looking for Laura who ran off again, and in an alleyway I see…that monster…the red pyramid thing, knife and all…he completely ignored me but…Why is it still here?! I never should have come back here…I found Laura. She was in the bowling alley…alive and well, thank God, asked me what took me so long…We're in Brahms now. Drove the whole night…I am never going back there. Pyramid Head. Still in Silent Hill. How can it be?"
Arbiter, Rtas, Lara, Snake, Gordon and several backup soldiers walked off the ship, looking around. Rtas was in charge of the support soldiers, which included humans, Sangheili and a few Therianths. One of them, an orange fox, made an observation. "Sure is quiet."
"We are aware, McCloud. Stay on your guard, all of you."
Weapons at the ready, the group walked through Silent Hill. The fog made it nearly impossible to see more than a few meters in front of them. They could see the vague outline of decrepit buildings and a road that had seen rain, snow, and blood over many years.
Lara tapped the comm.-link on her ear. "Douglas? Do you read?"
"Loud and clear."
"Talk to me. Anything we should know about this town?"
"Nothin' much you haven't read from the reports. Cult activity, murders, accidents, disappearances. There is one thing though…"
"Halt!" A sharp order from Arbiter cut the conversation short. Everyone stopped the minute he made the command. There was a dead silence.
"What is it?" Snake muttered.
"Something is moving towards us." Arbiter looked at the red dots on his small radar screen. "A large group. Slowly. Ready yourselves."
At first, no-one saw anything through the fog. Then a quiet shuffling and thumping confirmed Arbiter's suspicions. Shadows began to materialize out of the fog, walking slowly and surely towards the group. It was a legion.
"Are you friend or foe?" Arbiter demanded. No-one in the shadowed group answered. They just kept walking forward. More like slumping…
Gordon brought out a powerful flashlight from his belt and turned it on. The leader of the group coming towards them was visible.
It was not a pretty picture. A uniform that would've once been a soldiers hung tattered and ragged over what was left of its wearer. The creature looked like something that had died, or should have died, a long time ago. It was a human, with empty eye sockets and skin so rotten the bottom half of his jaw had just fallen off. Claw-like fingers erupted from a rotted hand. A few of his insides were visible from the holes in his wretched uniform. A pan of the crowd revealed similar monstrosities. Most were humanlike creatures, some bore a resemblance to Therianth corpses and a few were Sangheili…things. Some had missing limbs, others looked like a straightjacket had been made of their own flesh. They snarled and made indescribable noises at the light as they lumbered towards the group.
"I'm going to guess they're foes." Lara remarked.
Arbiter didn't disagree. "Fire at will."
And they did. Soldiers picked up their firearms and blasted at the creatures. The human soldiers and therianths had standard firearms that peppered the monsters with bullets. Sangheilis melted what hadn't been killed already with their plasma pistols and rifles.
The fox McCloud glanced over at Gordon. The silent scientist with the glasses had whirled out a bulky gun unlike anything McCloud had ever seen before. He turned it on, and a metal pole that had been lying out on the street sped towards the gun, stopping suddenly to hover in front. Then, the pole shot straight out at full speed towards one of the creatures, felling it almost instantly.
Lara reopened her conversation with Douglas. "We're attacking zombies, Mr. Cartland. Does this have anything to do with that 'one thing'?"
Douglas made a noise of agreement on the other side of the link. "I've been told this town is somehow able t' recreate nightmares. Bad dreams, memories, guilt, sins…it somehow feeds off them and gives them life, makin' flesh and blood monsters to torment whatever unlucky soul come here."
"Is that so? Well then, I would say this town isn't really trying right now."
All of the creatures were dead. A few let out some cries of pain before joining their fellow monstrosities. The army lowered their weapons. That was easy.
One particularly reckless soldier from Rtas' group snorted and walked towards the corpses. "Is that it? Huh!"
Rtas tried to stop him. "Come back here, we do not know…"
"Hah!" The soldier kicked at the things they had just killed. "If there's more like this, no problem! Hahaha!" The careless soldier raised his cry to the city. "Bring it on!"
He was quickly answered.
Out of the shadows erupted the biggest blade any of the soldiers had seen. Before the group could blink, the reckless fool was run through by what appeared to be a butcher's knife that was almost as big as the soldier himself. The blade's bearer materialized out of the shadows to shove the dead soldier off his rusted knife with his foot.
The monster was a huge man. It seemed to be almost taller than Arbiter or Rtas. His powerful chest was bare, and he was wearing a long robe with multiple belts holding it up. On his head was a huge, blood-red helmet shaped like a pyramid, with the point coming down in the centre of his chest. His arms, robe, knife and helmet were splattered with blood, as if he had worn them to a slaughterhouse and never bothered to clean them.
McCloud pointed wide-eyed at the thing. "Is…that…?"
"Our target." Arbiter answered.