A Demon Never Dies-II of III
Posted By: Cthulhu117<email@example.com>
Date: 20 April 2007, 1:21 am
A Demon Never Dies
Glory is like a circle in the water,
Which never ceaseth to enlarge itself,
Till by broad spreading it disperse to nought.
Ninth Age of Reclamation
Covenant Holy City Clear Morality
Second Hanging Gardens
The meditation gardens of Clear Morality were disturbingly quiet. Zara feared another ambush, but she did not voice her concerns. She just stayed close to cover. If there was an ambush, the Demons would die first.
They had been attacked twice more by Jiralhanae—Brutes, as the Demons called them—as they progressed through the central tower. The first time, they had been bunched up near a gravity lift, and one of the Unggoy had been killed by the spike weapons before they could take order. One of the Demons had ducked out of cover for a second, scooped up the fallen fuel rod cannon and emptied it into the Jiralhanae ranks, regardless of the shrapnel and explosions that washed over its shields. Amazingly, the tactic had worked. Only one Jiralhanae survived, which Zara sidestepped and bisected with her energy sword.
The Demons, she had to admit, really were remarkable warriors. She would have given anything to have their energy shields. The Demons could survive two grenades in the chest, although the second would give them a lot of residual impact.
More than that, though, they had a bizarre ability to cover one another. Whenever one of them was getting overwhelmed, they would shout to one another in their own language. Immediately, regardless of what was attacking them, they would turn and open fire on the enemies of their teammate. It was a novel, if slightly inglorious, method of combat. If they always fought like this, she could see where the story that they never died came from.
In truth, Zara was coming to see why the three of them had thought they could taken on two Sangheili, four Unggoy and an insane Lekgolo. The leader, the one called "Jay-zonn", was disturbingly good with an energy sword. He had no training, but that was precisely what made him so dangerous. The Jiralhanae came at him expecting him to use 'Venkanee's Defense or 'Gsunaree's Riposte, and instead, he simply dodged their attack and impaled them. As long as the sword didn't start to wear down its magnetic field, he would be effectively invulnerable. Unless he met a berserker, that is. Zara knew from experience that anything, no matter how skilled, would die if it tried to use an energy sword on a berserk Jiralhanae.
But now, there was no trace of berserkers. Or anything else besides them, which meant that there was something. This was too quiet, and the only way Jiralhanae were this quiet was when they were—
Her shields imploded with more force then she thought was possible. She sank to her knees, pain spreading in waves across her torso. The one impression that was imprinted in her mind as she fell forward onto the dirt was that whatever had hit her shields was purple.
She lay on the ground for a long time. Her shields slowly regenerated in a wave of blue sparks, but the pain did not go away. Everything was soft, quiet, and indistinct. She thought she heard one of the Demons rasping an order to his team, and could feel rather than hear the strangely light metal on-metal footsteps of one of them. But everything else blurred into one long stream of faint color and noise.
It was quite some time before she heard someone next to her. She tried to move her head to the side, to see who it was, but the rasping voice was enough to go by. It was the one they called "Jay-zonn", and he seemed to be arguing with Naf. She made an effort to hear what he was saying.
"Leave her here," the Demon said harshly. "She's dead or dying. The Jackal snipers are too good. Nobody survives a shot to the heart from a particle beam rifle, and we can't afford to drag a corpse around."
"You are as ignorant as you are cowardly, Demon," the Sangheili snarled. "Unlike you frail humans, we Sangheili have two hearts, and neither of them are near where she was shot. She's not badly wounded." Zara felt him kneel beside her, and was intensely grateful for his confidence.
Another of the Demons chuckled. This one had a marginally smoother voice. She guessed it was still male, but not Jay-zonn. "Frail, Elite? Want me to show you how frail I am?"
"Quiet," Jay-zonn rasped. "We don't need another war on our hands. Listen, Elite. You slow us down enough already. Add one nearly-dead officer and we'll never make it to the reactor room. If you keep her, we abandon you. That simple."
'Tefedee snorted in disgust. "Do not speak so rashly, Demon. You cannot use something as complex as a self-destruct mechanism. You cannot even speak our language."
"We don't need any self-destruct mechanisms," the third Demon said, "to use this."
Zara was vaguely aware that the Demon had let something fall to the ground. Naf picked it up. "Fascinating, yet crude," he said, an air of well disguised surprise in his voice. "We moved past this kind of technology millennia ago."
"That'll set you back a few millennia if you keep fiddling with it," the second Demon snapped. "Put the damn thing down. It's an ERINYES tactical nuke, not a plasma grenade."
"Suit yourself, Demon," Naf said sullenly, dropping the explosive. Zara grunted as it hit the floor close to her, sending painful reverberations through her head.
"She is alive, then," the third Demon said. "Odd. Very resilient. I wouldn't be too surprised for a Spartan to survive a beam rifle shot, but an Elite..."
Naf ignored them, bending down and pulling Zara into a sitting position. "Major, are you badly wounded?"
Zara coughed for several seconds before she was able to talk. When she did, she spoke in human, hoping the Demons could hear. "Yes. I mean, no. I am not injured as badly as I..." she coughed for a few seconds. "I think my lung was...punctured. I can fight, nonetheless."
The Demons shifted from foot to foot.
Jason didn't need this. He'd seen men in battle more wounded than this and live, but he'd seen a hell of a lot more be less wounded and die. This stupid Elite was already as good as dead, whether her lung was punctured or not. She had no grasp of tactics; she was naturally very athletic and strong, but she had no skill as a soldier. It was sloppy, and she'd been both sloppy and naive to walk out in the open at the head of her formation in an unsecured area like that. He felt sorry for her—no sorrier than for the dozens or even hundreds of humans she'd doubtless killed in her life—but sorry nonetheless. It was a miserable way to die.
Amazingly, with the argumentative Minor's help, the fool was actually getting up. Even more amazingly, she was speaking, despite the trail of blood dripping slowly from the end of one of her mandibles. "Demon!" she snarled, a remarkable amount of authority and imperiousness still in her voice given her injury. "Tell me why they call you immortal!"
"Excellency," the Minor grumbled in his own language, "do not—"
Jason wondered how she knew about the Spartan MIA Protocol. Then again, ONI were very careful that nobody ever saw a Spartan go down, even on their own side. It was no wonder that most of the Covenant had never seen a Spartan die. And that qualifier, in the minds of such a primitive group of races as the Covenant, might well be felt as immortality.
"We become immortal, excellency, because we are not foolish. We do not walk neatly through the middle of unsecured, sniper-infested areas so as to attract fire. Unfortunately, you fall somewhere," he searched for the words, "outside this criterion, so if you'll excuse me, we'll continue."
She grabbed his forearm. Her grip was iron-like, but he could feel the weakness under it. He had no doubts that a single powerful twist could snap her wrist, but he refrained from removing her, or even telling her to get off. "What is it, excellency?"
She drew close to him and whispered, "You know as well as I do that I have little time to live."
"Your point being?" he returned, careful to keep his voice expressionless.
"They say a Demon never dies," she breathed.
"Get to the point," he said flatly.
"We will all die together," she replied. "And when we die, we will be immortal. All of us. And you will see the truth about the Sangheili."
Jason laughed. This was not his ironic, bleak chuckle. This was the laugh he only ever let anything hear once, generally right before he killed it. This was how he responded to pleas for mercy. How he had responded for nearly twenty years.
"I think, Elite," he said, "that you'll find immortality only lasts for a fraction of a second before you evaporate into a cloud of superheated gas riding a nuclear shockwave."
"No," she answered, her voice becoming more and more hoarse. "Immortality lasts until everything ends. That is its nature."
Jason whispered one last sentence and walked away. Gray Team followed him, and the aliens followed them.
But Zara stood there until the rest of the group was nearly out of sight.
Then she slowly moved her energy sword from her hip, where it contrasted heavily with her dark armor, to her back, where it was invisible against her standard-issue gray bodysuit.
Then she, too, followed after them.
She knew she had probably killed herself by taking that sniper shot, but it had been necessary to find out the secret behind the Demons' undying existences. And now she had no further need to for them, except the bomb they carried.