Pariahs and Peacemakers

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Twenty Seven

The city below was deathly quiet. Too quiet. Only a few skycars graced the skyline as Keeto looked down from his apartment. Productivity had come to a halt after the Senate’s ruling on humanity. Most of the Humans had honoured the request of their now disposed leader and not caused any trouble. Until the Forerunner had ordered his execution. Now martial law had been instigated and that sat well enough with the Guardian. His ego was still raw from having Alexander Wilhelm slip through his claws and the Director of Senate Security was said to be furious. Keeto had decided to cool off before facing the punishment for his failure. He was on the open plan roof garden of his apartment when something seemed off. The skycars had begun to blur into a mass, not the neat vectors they should have been on. Then they started to fade as if getting further away, falling. Falling. Flashes of light burst as skycars hit buildings and each other. The calm of dusk had been shattered. Keeto watched no longer as he straddled the bench and bolted inside, slamming into the door’s protective shield as his home locked down. He didn’t have time to nurse his shoulder or question what was going on as he acted on instinct and threw himself through the window, balling up to protect himself from injury. It locked down as well, only seconds after. The rest of the buildings around him had similar protection suites which had also energised. Had the Humans gone with a cyber-attack in retaliation or was the lockdown initiated by the Senate in an attempt to protect its citizens against whatever was happening below. Screams and shouts for help filled the once peaceful air as occupants were terrified by a place they should have felt safe in. He could do nothing to help but he knew Senate Security Headquarters would be the place for answers and they could probably do with all the hands they could get. The problem was, Senate Security was a few hundred locked down levels below.

Keeto landed heavily as his legs gave way. The skycar he’d ridden atop of slammed into the ground throwing up all manner of debris that skittered off the heliport to cause more damage on the levels below. Before Keeto could get his bearings two rounds bounced off of his armour’s shield which he responded to by rolling into cover behind the decorative fountain in front of Senate Security’s lobby. It was definitely cyberterrorism as the security mechs had lost all ability to identify friend or foe. Their skeletal frame wasn’t imposing, especially once compared with Keeto’s bulk, but they travelled in numbers and stood freely in harm’s way. An enemy without fear is a very dangerous enemy indeed Keeto told himself as he rolled out and took the two robots down in one fell swoop with a blade in hand. He retrieved their Predator sidearms and scavenged the additional ammunition. Now he was armed he had a workable situation which was in his favour. He crept into the lobby which was completely gutted, the clerk stationed there, the one who Keeto had never talked to, lay slumped in his seat impaled by glass shards. The Guardian moved up the primary stairway. Nothing challenged his presence but nothing greeted him either. That was until he reached the waiting area at the top, he had a pile of wasted mechs for company. As he got closer he saw a shimmer out of the corner of his eye that bounded over cover toward him. Keeto dropped to a battle stance prepared for what might come next. All around him figures de-cloaked but he was allowed a moment’s reprieve. Director Halto Al’Ku, dressed in a variant of Guardian armour, moved through his men to meet the newly emergent Guardian. “Settle down, Keeto,” he ordered as Keeto instinctively patted his right fist against his left peck twice in a sign of respect for his superior. “I am disappointed in your failure to keep the Human President on this planet. I sent you there with one objective to follow.”

“I wished to avoid another multi-racial incident, sir,” Keeto shot back more defensively than he had intended.

“Well, we’ve got one now,” the Director admitted darkly.

“So it is the Humans?”

“Ha! If the gods had been so merciful. The Votheen.” A dead weight stirred in Keeto’s gut. He had been naive, he had assumed Engevaal would have had more time. “One of their AIs is in the system and has shut us out. The Oracle is compromised.”

“What does the Senate have to say of this?”

“Complete disarray since the last session. The fools are looking out for themselves and not their people. Even Arkan is being more than just his characteristically stubborn self.” Keeto held his tongue despite the slander of the Forerunner’s good name. It just so happened that Keeto tended to agree with Arkan on most things and soiling his name like Halto had just done could be seen as treacherous. Al’Ku was much his senior however so out of respect he let the comment pass. “We take the initiative, Guardian. We believe the alien AI is based within the core of the Oracle so we are going to shut it down. Can I count on you this time?” Halto questioned more out of challenge than want of actually asking.

“You can or the blood of my ancestors be tainted.”

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