Posted By: Cthulhu117<email@example.com>
Date: 12 January 2006, 9:07 pm
The more of them you kill this year, the less you will have to kill next year...the more I see...the more sure I am that they all have to be killed.
-U.S. General William T. Sherman
Ninth Age of Reclamation
Derelict Jiralhanae Shipyard Hagja Prime
Jiralhanae Warship Massacre
On any other day, the Jiralhanae would simply have stormed the Sangheili and torn them apart. But the wielder of the Fist of Rukt was not to be trifled with. The Honor Guards aimed their Carbines. The Zealots ignited their Energy Swords with a silver flash. Orna leveled his Plasma Rifles at the Jiralhanae hordes. Eraa menaced his antagonists with the hammer as the Sangheili started to spread out across the room.
For a moment, Eraa stared into Orthrys's dark eyes. The general was unable to meet the young Sangheili's gaze. His fierce glare wavered for an instant.
Then Bracktanus gave a war howl and fired his grenade launcher at the Zealots. 'Lakturee dove to the left and 'Gajturee leapt to the right as the grenade bounced on the floor. The explosive bounced again, this time off the wall, and struck 'Lakturee in the back.
Before another move could be made, the Jiralhanae filled the room.
It was absolute and total chaos, a melee of screaming and howling and roaring. The perpetual spitting of the Carbines echoed eerily. The energy blades hissed as they tore through air and flesh and bone alike. Orna's plasma rifles overheated, venting hot gas everywhere. He thrust them into a Jiralhanae's face, killing the beast. Eraa swung the Fist left and right, killing a Jiralhanae with each powerful strike. Truth screeched as a grenade bounced off the wall and passed within inches of his head. There was a loud hum as Truth raised his energy protection field. It provided the distraction that Eraa needed. He charged the Fist of Rukt and released a pulse that knocked everyone in the room flat. Orthrys's voice gave a howl that sounded like 'Retreat!' The Jiralhanae thought so, because they charged from the room and out of sight, leaving only their dead.
Eraa took a moment to catch his breath and his bearings. The room was in a mess. Blackish blood stained every inch of the chamber. Bodies littered the place. 'Lakturee's corpse was among them. The Honor Guards held useless and empty Carbines. 'Gajturee's Energy Sword was out of charge. Eraa threw his Particle Beam Rifle aside. It would only slow him down, and was useless for close-range fighting.
The two Honor Guards drew their Energy Swords and crossed the wreckage of the room to close the doors that their assailants had come through. Eraa noted that Bracktanus was among the fallen Jiralhanae, 'Lakturee's energy blade still transfixing him. He allowed himself a grim smile of satisfaction.
Orna picked up his Plasma Rifles with a bitter laugh and dropped them again. The polymer had melted. Apparently the cooling systems had been damaged when he struck an enemy with the weapons. He picked up a grenade launcher that Bracktanus had dropped. One of the Honor Guards gave a growl of disgust. 'You would use the filthy, defiled weapons of these...animals?'
'Let's put it this way, my friend. It's better than being dead.' Eraa almost laughed, but thought better of it.
The Honor Guard, however, did not share 'Gamsamee's sense of humor. 'You will address me as Lord, Minor. Be wary of what you speak.'
Eraa knew that Orna was furious, partly at himself for forgetting his manners in the presence of a Hierarch, and partly because the Honor Guard was being so haughty about it. However, anger was defeated by a desire to impress the Prophet, and Orna said in a subdued voice, 'Yes, Lord. I apologize for my error. I ask your forgiveness.'
'And I give it to you, Minor,' the gruff Shield of the Prophets said. 'Some day you may meet one who is even less forgiving than I. For that day, you must always remember etiquette, despite any discomfort you may have with it, or risk considerable denigration.'
The Honor Guard turned to leave through the door they had entered the room by, and gave a howl of fury. Blocking the passage was some kind of energy barrier. 'Gajturee struck at it, and the field pushed him back, knocking him off his feet.
The other Honor Guard cursed and held a whispered conference with his comrade. Then the pair of guards opened one of the doors and called to the others. Before anyone could move, Eraa had strode across the room and hissed at the guard, 'You can't take a Hierarch in there, Lord. It's bad enough that we should go, but with him we'll be encumbered, slowed down, and limited to a straight path. Furthermore, he'll be killed by the first stray projectile that comes along.'
'I know,' spat the Guard, 'but what would you have me do? Leave him here? No? Well, unless you have a better plan, he's coming with.'
But Eraa had a plan ready, and he wasn't about to be deterred. 'Have him teleport himself back to the shuttle, Lord. He'll leave and head back to the Mercy and Righteousness if we don't arrive in a cycle.'
The Honor Guard considered this for a few seconds. Then he gave a quiet laugh. 'That's a good idea, I have to admit. The only problem is that I don't think he knows how to pilot a shuttle. But if we don't arrive there in an cycle, he'll probably be dead by then anyway. We'll do it.'
The Guard walked over and spoke to Truth, who had gone very pale. The Hierarch nodded, and then he disappeared in a ripple of golden light. 'Gajturee picked up his fallen brother's energy blade, and the five Sangheili started forward. Before they did, however, Eraa had one last thing to say to the Guard. 'May I ask who you are, Lord?'
There was something that could have been a smile on the tall Honor Guard's face. 'You may. I am Dava 'Vansamee. I became an Honor Guard almost twenty years ago, leaving my wife Najaka and our twin sons, Eraa and Orna. I do not know what has become of them since, but it seems to me that they would be warriors by now- almost your age. Does that answer your question?'
And without waiting for a response, while Eraa was still too astonished to say anything, his father swept past him and headed into the Jiralhanae ship. 'Gajturee led the party with Eraa at his shoulder, with the Honor Guards just behind him. Then Orna brought up the rear as five lightly armed Sangheili made their way into the belly of the beast.
A few units later, Eraa was starting to think that the ship's corridors simply looped back on themselves, never turning or changing. They had made their way through endless, dim passageways swarming with the Jiralhanae that were heavily armed and on the alert for any Sangheili. Eraa, thanks to his gravity hammer, was unhurt. Orna had a deep shrapnel cut on his thigh, however, and 'Vansamee had a gash on his face from the bayonet of the Jiralhanae grenade launcher. Eraa had been meaning to tell 'Vansamee the truth, but he had not had a spare unit in which to speak to the guard.
It was not really so bad, Eraa mused, that they were on the Massacre. The Jiralhanae flagship had evidently been designed to be easily defensible in the case of boarders. There was plenty of cover, weapon racks every few feet, and nowhere that the Jiralhanae could mass.
The problem, he thought as the Zealot beckoned them to run, was that there were quite enough Jiralhanae to mass if they got the chance. The other problem, although he didn't want to say anything to the Zealot, was that they did not know a good way back to the hangar bay from where they were. His further thought was forestalled as he came around a corner and literally ran into a trio of Jiralhanae.
It was hard to tell who was more surprised. The apelike beast leapt back with a profane exclamation. Eraa, more by accident than design, lunged out with the Fist of Rukt. The Jiralhanae captain fell over backwards with an ominous crunch. Orna leapt forward and drove the blade of his grenade launcher into the captain before he could rise. 'Gajturee swung his Energy Sword twice, severing a minor's head. The third Jiralhanae threw its grenade launcher aside, gave a howl, and swung hard at 'Vansamee with an armored fist. The Honor Guard gave a hiss of pain, but his shields absorbed the impact. The second strike took out his shields. The third made his armor buckle and his ribcage crunch. Before the berserking Jiralhanae could swing again, the energy blades of 'Vansamee and 'Gajturee passed through him simultaneously. The creature fell with a cowardly scream.
Now they sprinted all-out. A door in front of them slid open and a Jiralhanae warrior stepped through. Eraa, the Fist forgotten, lowered his shoulder and charged into the enemy. The ape fell unconscious. The Sangheili did not even bother to stab him; they simply ran by.
Eraa's breath came in sharp gasps. He could run and he could fight, but he could not do both at once for a long amount of time. As he panted for air, he heard a jubilant shout from the Zealot who led them. An open doorway in front of them revealed an elevator. Or rather, a shaft. 'Gajturee gave a shout of surprise as he nearly fell into the deep, cylindrical pit. Eraa grabbed the Sangheili by the loose skin at the nape of his neck, saving him from the fall. 'Vansamee's voice was hollow as Orna locked the door behind them.
'Now what?' he groaned.
However, the same despair was not evident in the voice of the Zealot. 'Look, in the middle of the shaft,' he shouted, 'there is a thin gravity-lift, used to keep the elevator up. If we can jump into that, we won't fall- or at least we'll fall slower.'
'I know there's nothing for this,' the other Honor Guard moaned, 'but that happens to be a ten foot jump. It's hard to get up enough speed in such a short hallway. Besides, overshoot and you plummet. It can't be done.'
'It can be done,' the Zealot said coolly, 'and I'm going to go first.'
With that, he backed up to the wall, took a sprint towards the shaft, and flipped into a jump. The gravity beam caught him, and he started to slowly descend. It was some time before they heard his voice from the bottom.
'Let's go!' came 'Gajturee's voice. 'I'm on the top floor of the hangar. I can see the shuttle from here! Hurry down!'
Eraa threw the Fist of Rukt aside. It was useless now. It would only weigh him down.
The other Honor Guard gave something that could have been a whimper. He had turned distinctly blue, his grayish skin tinged with an unhealthy pallor.
Orna shoved the older Sangheili roughly out of the way and took a running jump. They heard him gasp slightly as he overshot the gravity lift, then luckily pulled himself back in by shifting his weight. He dropped slowly.
The Honor Guard was scared almost out of his wits. He twice balked at the edge of the shaft, then finally mustered his courage and made a feeble leap that nonetheless was sufficient to carry him into the grav-lift. They could hear him calling on the gods for protection all the way to the bottom.
'Vansamee prepared to jump. He backed to the wall. As he prepared to charge, there was a crashing sound from behind him. The Jiralhanae were bashing the door. By the looks of it, they would be through in a unit or so. 'Vansamee gave a grim smile and drew his energy blade. 'Hurry, Minor. Jump while I hold these beasts off.'
'No,' Eraa panted.
'Vansamee actually turned around in surprise. A much lower-ranking officer had disobeyed his orders. That just didn't happen among the Covenant. Eraa spoke with confidence and conviction.
'You are the ranking officer. You take priority. Go. I will sacrifice my life. I'm much less valuable than you are.'
He didn't know why he didn't add Father to the end of that last sentence. Maybe it was for the sake of shortness, but he could make the word come.
The pounding on the door intensified. It would burst open in seconds, flooding the narrow passage with Jiralhanae warriors. 'Vansamee was apoplectic in rage. 'I order you to go, Minor!'
Eraa had to shout to make himself heard above the din. 'You go!'
Eraa was strong for a Sangheili of his age. He could overpower any three others in a fight. But he had never known that this strength came from his father. 'Vansamee picked him up by the neck and flung him backwards down the hall, into the shaft and through the gravity beam. Eraa fell with a graceful slowness which did not match his furious howling. Orna and the others were waiting for him at the shaft's bottom. He had hardly hit the ground before he turned to the control panel and tried to reverse the beam.
Orna grabbed him and tried to pull him away. 'You can't go back up there! The Jiralhanae have broken the doors. He doesn't have a chance in hell.'
Eraa was far stronger than his brother. It took the help of the Zealot and the other Guard to restrain him. Even that was a stretch. His lanky arms flailed dangerously. His barely intelligible shouts added to the confusion. 'I can't- I have to go back- I didn't tell him- that's him, you idiots- get off me- I have to- He's my- I have to tell him- dammit, Orna, you know what I'm- let me go- LET ME GO-'
He struck Orna in the stomach, causing him to fall back. He pulled the Honor Guard's ornate headdress off and clouted him in the face with it. 'Gajturee held on as long as he could, then pulled out his Energy Sword and struck him on the base of his skull with the hilt. Eraa collapsed soundlessly.
Far above them, in a hallway near an empty elevator shaft, a hallway crusted with dark gore, a hallway of death and pain, knelt a Sangheili. His elaborate ceremonial armor was unrecognizably battered. Countless gashes, burns and bruises adorned his rangy frame. His energy blade's hilt lay by him, broken in two and devoid of charge. When the door had broken, the Jiralhanae had come in a pack of several dozen. He had slashed until the sword deactivated. Then he had battered away with the hilt until it broke. Only then did he pick up the heathen beasts' grenade launchers. He had killed every one of them.
He remembered his life, a life wasted in the protection of a creature not worth protecting. He remembered the day he had met Najaka Irdak. The day they had been bonded. The day she had shown him his sons. He had named the elder Orna, meaning the brave, and the younger Eraa, the fierce.
Eraa. He thought of the son he had hardly known. He thought of the young Minor, the one who would not leave. He fell forward, his torn muscles unable to keep him upright. As he lay there, his face on the blood-coated deckplates, he knew. The young minors had seemed like brothers. Truly they were the bravest and fiercest young Sangheili he had ever known. Ever would know.
Never did another being walk in that corridor. But if they had done so, they would have seen countless fallen Jiralhanae and one old Sangheili, the bravest of the brave and the mightiest of the mighty. The father of Eraa 'Gamsamee and Orna 'Fulsamee. The Sangheili who died with the knowledge that he had saved his sons.
Orna settled into the pilot's seat on the shuttle. Truth had been shaking and terrified when they arrived at the ship. 'Where's 'Vansamee! What happened? We have to go-'
With uncharacteristic fury, the Honor Guard had whirled upon the Prophet he was sworn to defend and bellowed 'Shut your mouth! 'Vansamee sacrificed himself all because you wanted to talk! A Zealot lies dead back there, and an Honor Guard has joined him in the Great Journey. You have done this. Your insane attempt to negotiate with these creatures would better have resulted in your death than those of two great warriors. What possessed you to try and speak to such things? Brutes I name them, for they are brutal and feral. We should have destroyed them immediately.'
Truth had been too indignant to say a word. The Guard had angrily turned his back on the Hierarch. The Zealot refused to acknowledge Truth's presence, only paying attention to Orna's piloting as he lifted the ship up and out of the hangar. In the back part of the ship, Eraa sat alone, stone-faced and silent. He could not believe that the parent he had known for so short a time was already gone.
He had still not spoken a word by the time the shuttle pulled into the hangar of the Mercy and Righteousness.