Halo: Evolutions Volume II: Essential Tales of the Halo Universe

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9780765366955: Halo: Evolutions Volume II: Essential Tales of the Halo Universe

The original Halo: Evolutions, split into two volumes. This volume contains stories by:

Tessa Kum & Jeff VanderMeer
Kevin Grace
Robt McLees
Karen Traviss
Fred Van Lente

When humanity expanded beyond the safety of Earth to new stars and horizons, they never dreamed what dangers they would encounter there. When the alien juggernaut known as the Covenant declared holy war upon the fragile human empire, millions of lives were lost-but, millions of heroes rose to the challenge. In such a far-reaching conflict, not many of the stories of these heroes, both human and alien, have a chance to become legend. This collection holds eleven stories that dive into the depths of the vast Halo universe, not only from the perspective of those who fought and died to save humanity, but also those who vowed to wipe humanity out of existence.

Included in this volume you'll find the stories of:

* A high-ranking prophet musing on the catastrophic last days of the Covenant Spartan: Team Black, who discover that the Covenant's politics might be more deadly than their military might

* The terrors of survival in the aftermath of a Flood infection

* The Master Chief struggling with his own humanity as he battles through war-torn New Mombassa

* The insatiable appetite of the Gravemind as it claws its way through Cortana's tortured consciousness

* An existential Elite, in the aftermath of the Human-Covenant War, returning to the site of his greatest victory as he deals with his worst defeat

* And new to this volume, the last confessions of a Prophet in "Wages of Sin"

"Sinopsis" puede pertenecer a otra edición de este libro.

About the Author:

This volume contains stories by:
Tessa Kum & Jeff VanderMeer
Kevin Grace
Robt McLees
Karen Traviss
Fred Van Lente

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

BLUNT INSTRUMENTS
FRED VAN LENTE
 
ONE
 
Fireteam Spartan: Black’s objective was not difficult to locate. All one had to do was look for the enormous pinkish-purple plume of energy spearing out of the horizon on the colony world Verge. They bled silently through ten square kilometers of heavily fortified enemy anti-aircraft positions toward the perpetually shining beam until at last they reached the remains of Ciudad de Arias.
This city had been among the hardest hit in the initial Covenant assault a few months prior. The buildings leaned and listed on their foundations like beaten boxers right before a climactic keel to the mat. It took Black-Four a few minutes to identify an apartment tower that looked stable enough for them to scale without it collapsing beneath their feet.
Once they reached the penthouse, they passed stencils of pandas and koalas still visible on the charred walls as they entered what they assumed had been a child’s room. They lay down on their bellies and looked out through the vacant holes where windows once were.
Their massive target drifted about five blocks away, casually knocking over fire-gutted husks into clouds of rubble. Thanks to their untranslatable and unpronounceable Covenant name, FLEETCOM simply dubbed the enormous machines “Beacons.” Nearly fifty stories tall and five city blocks wide, the Beacon looked to the Spartans’ eyes like a perfectly symmetrical beehive floating atop four antigravity stilts. Out of its gaping lower orifice swarmed a buzzing cloud of Yanme’e, the glittering, winged insectoids humans called Drones. Clicking and screeching and hissing and squealing in a teeth-gritting cacophony, the swarm tore deep below Verge’s surface with handheld antigravity grapplers that yanked up great chunks of regolith. The Drones flew back up and deposited the rocks inside the Beacon’s hollow, irradiant heart, where the helium-3 inside them would be extracted and converted into pure fusion power. The energy was then projected skyward, focused in the form of a massive purple beam erupting from the Beacon’s summit. A weblike constellation of Covenant satellites orbiting Verge transmitted the power to the fleet blockading the colonies on Tribute, in the Epsilon Eridani system.
Like every other colony world’s, Verge’s helium-3 deposits had been trapped in the second mantle laid down over her original, natural exosphere during the spallation-heavy terraforming process. The Beacon would drift from continent to continent, gathering and extracting all the He-3 it could, until Verge was picked clean, a few weeks from now. Then the machine and its crew would be drawn up into a battle cruiser so the Covenant could glass the planet from space.
Unless, of course, Spartan: Black blew the godforsaken thing to kingdom come first, cutting off the primary fuel source to the fleet blockading Tribute and giving the colonists there a fighting chance.
Which was exactly what they planned to do.
“What do we see, people?” Black-One asked. Befitting their highly classified status as an unconventional warfare (UW) unit, Spartan: Black’s ebony armor had been created as skunkwork prototypes in a top secret parallel development lab in Seongnam, United Korea; as such, MJOLNIR: Black boasted a few variant design elements and enhancements completely different from the standard-issue combat exoskeleton. Its HUD magnification, for example, was much greater than the standard Mark V or VI, with a field of view of nearly five thousand meters. From this distance, Spartan: Black could zoom in on the support troops milling beneath the antigrav “feet” of the Beacon and see them as clearly as if they had been standing across the street.
“Two Hunters per pylon,” Black-Two said, noting the stooped, spiny-armored behemoths. Each creature’s right arm terminated in a gun barrel studded with luminescent green power rods. “Armed with standard assault cannon.”
“Complemented by two—no, three—Jackals at each corner,” Black-Three added.
The spiky-crowned, beaked aliens carried, in addition to plasma pistols holstered at their sides, some kind of long pole made of a translucent purple-pink crystalline material. Occasionally, a Drone would flit away from the larger swarm in a confused, almost drunken fashion, and a couple of Jackals would descend on it with a shriek, stabbing the stray in the neck, where it wore a translucent reddish-orange collar. The bugger quaked spasmodically with pain, clutching the collar with its front claws; it could take only a thrust or two from the Jackals and the resulting seizures before it fell dutifully back with the swarm and resumed whatever task it had abandoned.
“Jackals aren’t just security,” Four said. “They’re also management.”
“Very nice to meet you,” Two said. “I look forward to killing you.”
No one said anything for almost five minutes. They just watched the enemy work.
Finally, Three said, “Hunters and Jackals—they’re just another day at the office. I mean, I can kill Tree-Turkeys in my sleep. And Can-o’-Worms are something you can sink your teeth into. But the buggers—how many are there?”
“I’ve got a hundred, a hundred fifty so far,” Four said. “But I’m not sure ... some I may have counted twice. They’re moving pretty fast down there.”
“One-fifty ... Jesus,” Three said. “How are the buggers going to react when we bring the hammer down? Can they use those grappler things as weapons? What kind of intel do we have on their tactics and behavior?”
“We have jack,” said Two, the fireteam’s intelligence officer. “Covenant’s rarely deployed them as combatants.”
“Jesus,” Three muttered again, shaking his head. “I hate surprises.”
“If it was easy, they wouldn’t call us heroes,” One drawled.
“I’d prefer a pat on the back,” Three said. “But I gotta be alive for that.”
“Two,” One said, “find us a room in the interior where we can mull this over and catch some Z’s without being seen from the street.”
“Copy that, Chief.” Black-Two backed out on her stomach until she reached the nursery’s doorway, then got up into a crouch and made her way quickly but cautiously through the rest of the penthouse. She determined that what was left of the kitchen had no good sightlines to the perimeter and prepared to return and tell One but was stopped by a fluttering, flapping sound from a doorway on the north side of the room.
She pressed her back against the wall and peered around the doorway. She was looking into a ruined family room, a flatscreen lying facedown and shattered on a carpet littered with tempered glass that once filled floor-to-ceiling windows. On the ground beside a sofa blackened and bloated by fire and the elements, a solitary Yanme’e Drone twitched his wings spasmodically.
Two put both hands on the assault rifle hanging from her shoulder and silently lined up a shot at the crown of the bugger’s walnut-shaped head. Something seemed off about the creature, though. She didn’t pull the trigger.
Two realized the Drone was on his back, pulsing the hinged armored plates that covered his wings over and over again in a futile attempt to flip himself over onto his belly. Two could now see that all four of his lower legs had been cut off and cauterized at the stumps. His two remaining arms didn’t have joints that allowed him to reach behind and push himself upright.
Two watched him struggle for twenty seconds more. Then she emerged from behind the doorway and took several slow strides over to where the Drone lay. His orange, half-egg eyes were fixed at the ceiling and didn’t register her approach.
Still covering the insectoid with the rifle, Two tucked one foot under the creature’s body and kicked him up and over. He began frantically beating his wings to stay upright while hopping up and down on the end of his abdomen. The bugger was human sized, and they were now practically eye to eye. Two took a step back and made sure the Drone was staring down the barrel of the AR.
Holding the gun steady with one hand, she flexed her other elbow in such a way that a compartment sprang open along the left forearm of the skunkware MJOLNIR. A wand computer with a microphone, speakers, a digital ink keyboard, and every scrap of linguistics data United Nations Space Command had gathered on the languages of Covenant races popped out of the compartment and slid into her palm.
“Identify yourself and your purpose,” Two said sternly, and waited for the Interrogator, as ONI had christened the device, to translate and broadcast the question in Yanme’e.
The icon of a rotating circle appeared on the Interrogator’s display, indicating it was working. After only a few seconds, the device emitted a faint series of clicks and screeches in a pitiful attempt to mimic Yanme’e speech. Two had little faith in it succeeding. Sure enough, a moment later, its display flashed: “Untranslatable.” Two cursed under her breath. Not enough was known about the damn buggers to make even that simple demand intelligible.
With his head cocked quizzically, the Drone watched as Black-Two tried to rephrase the question a couple of different ways so that the Interrogator might translate, but no avail.
Then the creature made an unmistakable gesture, extending one claw in her direction, then curling his digits rapidly toward himself: Give.
Black-Two frowned. What little intel ONI had on the Drones suggested they had an instinctive faculty for technology. Cautiously, she handed the Interrogator over. There seemed little harm in it. A cord attached the device to her forearm to supply it with power and data...

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