Glass - Chapter 1
Date: 31 March 2010, 4:31 pm
A short story which will span but a few chapters. Here's the first chapter. Enjoy.
Such a beautiful planet. It is a shame we must reduce it to ashes, Fleetmaster Hamil'ee pondered sadly, staring down from the Eternal Retribution's wide observation deck at the planet of Verity, which spun slowly on its axis, blissfully unaware that it would soon be reduced to mere, worthless glass.
The mountainous ranges which sprawled so greatly across the planets surface, coupled with the sheer amount of deciduous forests and the sparkling, almost crystal clear sea reminded Hamil'ee of beloved Sangheilios. He hadn't joined the glorious Covenant army for this. Never for this.
With a strange combination of both a frustrated growl and a depressed sigh, Hamil'ee turned around. The Sangheili Fleetmaster's heart nearly stopped when he saw the Minor Prophet of Dissertation calmly observing him, ancient and revered face set in an expression of contemplativeness.
"Holy one," Hamil'ee recovered, sinking down to one knee in acknowledgement of the Minor Prophet's presence. Even the lowliest Prophet was placed in higher esteem than a Sangheili Fleetmaster, such was the way of the Covenant.
"Rise, Hamil'ee. Is the Fleet of Honourable Observation ready for what must be done?" Dissertation queried, moving his gravity manipulating chair slightly above Hamil'ee's head. Prophets could be very egotistical and insecure at times, always seeking higher dominance over others. Gravely, Hamil'ee nodded his head.
"We are ready to carry out our Lords' wishes, Holy one. Do you wish me to give the order to start the Orbital Bombardment?"
As soon as he said it, Hamil'ee winced, not a moment before Dissertation's eyes flared with an intimidating fire.
"Heresy, Fleetmaster! You know as well as I that it is forbidden in the most express of terms to glass such a majestic object as an entire planet without performing the required sermons and rituals!" the Prophet boomed, his scolding voice prompting Hamil'ee to drop to his knees.
"Forgive me Holy one, I lost my head in the sweet roar of victory. I shall prepare a shuttle and a century of my finest guard to take you planetside where you can perform the rituals, if that will further your goals," he placated, not making eye contact. Hamil'ee knew a single word from the Prophet could have him dragged away in chains.
"You are forgiven Sangheili. Prepare the shuttle and guards at once, and have them wait in the docking bay. I must gather my relics." Dissertation turned around haughtily, moving at a steady pace to leave the observation deck. Hamil'ee let out a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding.
Suddenly, a shimmer appeared to the left of the Fleetmaster, for the smallest fraction of a second. It might have been nothing, but Hamil'ee didn't take chances.
He lashed out, seemingly at thin air, yet his arm encountered something rather solid where it shouldn't have. Dissertation spun around in surprise as a human knife soared past his unprotected head and flew past the space where he had been about to move.
Hamil'ee grasped the human spy he had just exposed by the neck, hoisting the small creature into the air. Human cloaking technology was inefficient, but worked to some extent. Still, at times it tended to fail for a few dooming milliseconds, allowing the person the user was spying on to get a glimpse of what hid in the shadows.
There was no doubt that the human had been standing, listening throughout the Prophet and Sangheili's entire conversation. Quite how it had managed to infiltrate the ship was a mystery, but Hamil'ee had a feeling he'd be flaying more than a few sentries later today.
"Did it manage to contact its brethren?" Dissertation whispered, his once confident voice reduced to a mere squeak. The human spy was grasping futilely at Hamil'ee's powerful hand, which was perseveringly squeezing upon the fragile barbarian's neck. Its eyes were wide.
The Sangheili Fleetmaster ripped the spy's armour off with his free hand, revealing a small, blipping object embedded within the camouflage object. A human transmitter.
"It would seem so," Hamil'ee breathed, exerting a great deal more force into his fatal grip. The human's struggling suddenly stopped, and the body which the Sangheili held fell limp. With a noise of disdain, Hamil'ee allowed the spy to tumble to the floor.
Calming himself, Dissertation wiped a hand across his sweating face, making sounds of disappointment.
"I must hurry with my sermon then. I expect you to find and punish those who let this filth," the Prophet indicated the human corpse, which was face down on the floor, "into my presence."
Hamil'ee nodded, before starting forward and stopping the hurrying Prophet.
"Holy one, are you sure it is wise to carry on with this endeavor? The humans on the other end of that transmitter might know you are coming," the Sangheili warned. Dissertation shook free of Hamil'ee's grasp with staggering confidence.
"No human shall prevent the Forerunner's work from being done. Do not dare give the order to fire until I have finished my sermon Fleetmaster, or you will be sorry."
The Prophet then opened the door leading out into a wide corridor of the ship. Anxious, Hamil'ee called after him.
"But Holy one, what if you should...die?" he persisted. Dissertation's reply was determined and fierce.
"You will not give the order to fire unless I have finished my sermon Fleetmaster, lest you covet abandonment and severance from the Journey."
Immediately, Hamil'ee held his tongue. Abandonment? Any Sangheili would rather die than risk that terrible fate. Placing his trust fully in the Minor Prophet, Hamil'ee moved to a communications console and gave the order for a shuttle and guards to be prepared for Dissertation.
Following that, he also gave the order for every sentry currently active and awake to be summoned to his rooms. Hamil'ee then drew out his energy sword, and knew deep in his heart that at least one sentry, or possibly all would have to die for this gross neglect.
* * * * * * * * * *
Lieutenant Edward Maynard was too compassionate, it had been said. It was one of the reasons why he hadn't risen above his current rank, despite having served in the UNSC army for decades. There was no room for compassion in a war like this.
Where other officers would shoot a captive Covenant soldier in the head without a moment's hesitation, he'd take it into custody and treat it civilly. These aliens weren't monsters, even if a lot of them seemed that way. Many of them, especially the poor Grunts, were just forced to fight and a lot of the time surrendered when pressured.
Maynard had been on the verge of a court martial many a time due to his leniency. He'd had plenty of people psycho-analyze him, but they'd found no mental problems; he was just a compassionate man.
Still, this didn't mean he put aliens before human life. Not in the slightest. He'd killed many Covenant soldiers, and whilst he may not have enjoyed doing it, each time had been for a good cause. It was only when the situation was completely under control that Maynard would show mercy.
This wasn't one of those situations. The Lieutenant looked at his platoon, which had been cut down from sixty men and women to only fifteen. They were all tired, depressed, and eager to leave what they thought as a doomed planet. The extraction shuttle was due in an hour. It wouldn't wait around either. They'd reached the LZ, and no-one was willing to leave.
This factor made Maynard slightly apprehensive about what he was going to tell his soldiers. He'd already decided this was going to be a strictly voluntary mission. If he tried to order his people to do this, then it was likely he'd have an open mutiny on his hands.
The spy's report had come from a few moments ago. The ONI Infiltration and Reconnaissance specialists didn't to be called spies, but Maynard and pretty much every single other soldier did so anyway. With the report had come hope.
"What is it sir?" Maynard's troop sergeant asked him wearily, eyes dropping and dark with a lack of sleep. Maynard looked around the small, pitiful camp. They daren't risk a fire, due to the fact that roaming Banshee patrols might see it. Verity was owned by the Covenant. Any UNSC resistance was divided and beaten. The world was dark, as a result of the sheer amount of Covenant vessels above, casting ominous shadows on the planet's surface. 'Hopeless' was a word coursing through every trooper's mind.
Still, their guns still worked. Which meant they could still fight.
"I just received the latest ONI Recon report," Maynard began tentatively, addressing all his soldiers. "An interesting development has arisen."
The tired, haggard men and women of the 22nd Verity platoon rose, looking at him with a mixture of dread and disbelief.
"Whatever this 'development' is, another platoon can handle it," one of his corporals replied angrily. His words were accompanied by a chorus of tired agreements. Maynard frowned.
"There is no other platoon corporal," Maynard explained exasperatedly, "and even if there is, I doubt they got the full message. I barely received it all before it cut out, and we were the closest to its origin."
His words were met with silence, and it was evident that his soldiers wanted him to continue. Maynard replayed the spy's message through his helmet's speakers. He explain the significance, and ended with an ultimatum.
"We've got a chance to save our home, troopers," he said with an air of finality, picking up his MA2B. "The ONI spy managed to slip a tracer upon the Prophet's person before he was found. If we find this Prophet, and kill him before he finishes his sermon, then the Covenant can't glass Verity."
"The Covenant'll just bring in another Prophet within a few days," one of the privates in his platoon objected. "What's the point?"
Maynard smiled for the first time in weeks.
"Those few days might be all the time the 4th Fleet needs to arrive private. And then our angels will swoop in and wipe the Covenant out. Even if they don't, thousands more civilians will be able to evacuate in that time."
"With all due respect sir, screw you. I'm not risking my life for a bunch of strangers who will probably die anyway. I'm staying here, and waiting for extraction. You can either accept that, or shoot me," his troop sergeant protested, standing with his arms fanned out as if he was daring Maynard to go through with the act.
"This is a volunteer operation sergeant. I won't force anyone to accompany me. However, I will say this; there are people on this colony trusting us to do our job, to save them. If you won't do that, well, why are you even a part of my platoon?" Maynard appealed to the humane nature of his soldiers. He saw a mixed bag of emotions on their faces. The most predominant one was fear.
"Well I'm staying put. And if anyone else has any sense, they will to," the troop sergeant stubbornly continued, seating his behind on a stool to emphasise his words. Maynard nodded icily.
"If that's your choice, then fine. Who's coming with me?"
Several others sat down, siding with the troop sergeant, provoking despair in Maynard. His fears were alleviated however, when the majority of his platoon moved to his side.
"We're with you sir," a young corporal by the name of Erik told him gravely. Maynard smiled.
"Thank you. It's heartening to see that at least some people haven't forgotten what it is to be human." The Lieutenant shot looks at the cowards staying behind which could have cut through the scaly hide of an Elite. They held his gaze for a moment, before staring down at the floor in shame. Even so, they made no effort to move.
Six were staying, nine were coming with him. Ten brave soldiers against the entire Covenant occupation on this planet. A suicide mission, but one which might just save Verity.
"When do we leave sir?" Corporal Erik questioned, giving him a tired smile. Maynard rammed his helmet upon his head.
"Immediately. We've got a date with a Prophet troopers, and showing up late would be a terrible first impression. You ready to kill some Covies?"