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Dies Irae- IV
Posted By: Cthulhu117<azathoth117@gmail.com>
Date: 17 May 2007, 9:53 pm

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Eighth Age of Reclamation
Covenant Cycle of the Prophets 84483
Rotation 301, Unit 8.2
Covenant Core System Besk-931
Covenant Holy City Humble Piety

      There had been a time when the Silver Hand had been on first-name terms with Goran Kur 'Sablikhee.

      These times, however, had ended roughly twenty thousand cycles ago, in the Ages of Conflict. This was when the Silver Hand had lost his name.

      He couldn't remember it now. The Sangheili body was extremely resilient, but the mind less so. Some things, however, were forgotten because nobody wanted to remember them.

      The Silver Hand's original name was one such thing.

      He made no noise as he stalked through Humble Piety's corridors. The worldship was usually bustling with life, no matter the time of rotation, but the crowds had a habit of avoiding the Silver Hand. Most people did.

      Goran Kur 'Sablikhee, however, was not such a person.

      The n'kur was at the other end of the corridor, walking towards him. He did not slow his pace, nor did he acknowledge the Hand's presence at all.

      In fact, it was only when the Hand stood still, blocking his path, that 'Sablikhee came to a halt and spoke, his voice mocking yet calm.

      "Doing chores for the Master, Hand?"

      The Hand could have sensed the slight and taken offense once. Now, he nodded slightly and gestured at the body that 'Sablikhee had slung over his shoulder. "That is the outsider, is it not?"

      "It is," 'Sablikhee said.

      "You will give it to me," the Hand said, his voice without the slightest trace of inflection.

      'Sablikhee did not move.

      "Did you not hear?" the Hand asked blithely.

      'Sablikhee's eyes narrowed briefly, and he looked like he was about to refuse outright, but then he shrugged, unslung the unconscious alien from his shoulder, and carefully released it to the Hand's grip. "So be it," he said. "Remember, Hand, you are to treat him—and the other aliens—with the utmost respect. Treat them as you would treat your own offspring."

      The Hand's odor became a bit more musky, indicating that he, for some reason, found this funny. "Of course, n'Kur. As I would treat my own offspring."

      If 'Sablikhee had not known better, he would have said the Hand was smiling.

      When Chun-Sung Kim awoke again, he realized that he was very cold. He also realized that he was sitting in a long, high-ceilinged room with the other members of his crew, who seemed to be still unconscious. He also realized that there was an alien staring him in the face.

      He screamed, a half-choked sound that made no sense and was too quickly chopped away by his throat, and scrambled back. The alien was hideous, a birdlike monster, smaller and slighter than him. Repulsive growths marked its dirty, scale-like skin. It cocked its head slightly and made a hissing trill. It stepped towards him.

      Kim looked about for something he could use as a weapon, but there didn't seem to be anything. Even worse, there was nowhere to run. There was only one door, probably locked, and some kind of barrier made of blue light obstructed it.

      He jumped at the creature, wrestling it to the ground. It was surprisingly lightweight, almost fragile. He tried to strike it in the stomach, to drive the wind out of it, but he was weaker than he thought, and his punch became a halfhearted slap to the skull.

      The creature, despite its flimsy appearance, was quite strong. It lashed out with its claws, and scored a deep hit on his left bicep. Three parallel lines of oozing blood. From the stinging sensation, it seemed entirely possible that the claws had some kind of toxin on them.

      Panic gave him strength. He screamed incoherently and charged the alien. It raised its claws, trying to hit him in the eyes, but he lowered his head, striking it a direct blow to the chest. The alien was lifted off its feet, hitting the wall. The breath whooshed audibly out of its skinny chest. It hit the wall at a bit of an angle and slid down.

      Kim wiped his mouth, hoping that there wasn't much blood coming out of it.

      The alien rose. It had something in its hand. It didn't look like a gun, but Kim didn't want to be on the receiving end of anything that glowed that brightly.

      He flung himself to the side. The air behind him sizzled, and a blob of green light hit the wall to his right.

      The alien snarled and aimed again.

      A human hand grabbed the back of its head. The alien squawked in panic, but the grip was too strong for it to dislodge. It brought up its energy gun.

      Then the back of its head twisted to the side for a second and exploded in a starburst of violet blood. Pugh let the limp corpse fall and spat on it.

      Kim rolled on to his back. "What did you do?"

      Pugh swallowed. Kim noticed that his voice lost a lot of its Southern accent when he was agitated. In fact, Pugh sounded almost British. "I squeezed the base of the skull until the sides caved in. Easy."

      "Where the hell did you learn how to do that?" Kim groaned.

      He never heard Pugh's answer. Next to him, Bryant woke up and scratched his head. His eyes snapped to the splatter of blood on the floor. "Holy shit, boss. I miss something while I was out?"

      Even as he spoke, the door slid open. Light bloomed out of the opening, pure white, so bright that they had to look away.

      And then a shadow blocked out the light.

      It was hard to tell what exactly it was, but it looked more or less human. Except it was wasp-waisted, hunched...and easily ten feet tall.

      The Silver Hand walked through the door, flanked by a pair of Minor Domo warriors. One bent to check the Kig-Yar. "It is dead, Hand. The skull is crushed."

      The Hand shook his head in disbelief. "They killed an armed Kig-Yar by crushing its skull? After sixty rotations in bioshock? By Ash-Ilios, if only the others are this dangerous...tell the Master. Immediately."

      The Minor saluted. "Of course, Hand. And, well..."

      The Hand cut him off impatiently. "You wish to know if they will be punished? They, outsiders, infidels, daring to raise their hand against a holy warrior of the sacred Covenant?"

      The Minor nodded, grateful that the Hand understood his meaning, yet unwilling to look the Hand in the face.

      The Hand came closer to smiling than any other living being had ever seen him do. "If you ever threaten these infidels, Minor, it is you who will be punished. I will see to it. I will carry it out."

      "But surely 'Sankrithee would never sanction-"

      "Let me tell you, 'Allikkee," the other Minor put it nervously, "that 'Sankrithee would never even know. And if he did, it would scarcely matter. The Hand is very valuable to him."

      The younger Minor muttered something sullenly. Though he stubbornly refused to smile, the Hand's mandibles crept open in delight. "You are valuable? Tell me, Minor, can you crush your enemies into singularities simply by thinking about it?"

      The Minor shook his head.

      "Then perhaps you are not so valuable as you seem to believe," the Hand said calmly.

      Kim looked at the giant aliens arguing in their barking, snarling language. The two ones in blue armor seemed to be cowed by the tall one, the one whose armor shone from within with a silver light. They spoke to him quietly, never looking at his face.

      The silver one turned, and Kim saw his eyes. They were very strange: flat, dead-looking, black and liquid. A small swirl of gray-white in the center of each eye seemed to be a pupil. There were other things to see: the thick gray scales, the four jaws with no chin, the strange horse-like legs and hooves. But the eyes sucked you in. Somehow they were almost pleasant to look into, like you could fall asleep by staring into them. Hypnotic, almost.

      It dropped into a crouch besides him. Even in a squat, it was still over five feet tall, and it could probably kill him anyway.

      He cleared his throat. "Um. Hello? Hello?"

      "Yeah, because of course they know English, dumbass," Pugh said with a laugh. Kim noted that Pugh's accent was quickly re-asserting itself. "This ain't Star Trek."

      "Pugh, shut up," Kim whispered, turning away from the alien. "I have to try and communicate. I don't want to start a war because I insulted his goddamn mother by mistake."

      "So stop fuckin' talking!" Pugh snapped. "The more you say, the more likely you are to say something wrong." He mimicked Kim in a singsong voice. "Hello? Hello?"

      "Be quiet, please," the alien intoned in a smooth bass. "I'd rather you didn't try to insult one another anymore. You will have to get along with one another for quite some time. Follow me. Now. No talking."

      Kim glared at Pugh. The mechanic shrugged. "Hey, you didn't think they spoke English either."

      "No talking," the alien said, more firmly. "Wake the others up."

      Kim thought about asking why, but the alien's sheer bulk made him think better of it. "Pugh, Bryant, help me out here, will you?"

      The two nodded and started to shake the remainder of the crew awake. Kim took a quick head count. It looked as though all twenty-four were still there. And it certainly seemed that they were all in perfect health. He glanced at Pugh, surprised.

      "Your arm. Wasn't it broken?"

      "Hey, boss. I'm a hell of a lot more surprised than you are."

      "No talking," the alien said yet again, this time with what sounded like an impatient edge to its voice. "Now. You have all woken?"

      The crew of Dies Irae nodded tiredly as one person, many of them seeming almost drowsy. "Good," the alien said. "You will follow me. All of you. You will walk in three lines of eight each. You will be silent and orderly. You will not attempt to escape or deviate from your course. If you violate any of these rules, you will be killed. Do I make my meaning clear?"

      The crew nodded again. "Good," said the alien. "Move, now. On your feet."

      The crew obeyed, organizing themselves slowly into three lines. What else was there to do?

      The Unggoy was freshly killed; it was still dribbling lukewarm cyan blood from the gaping tears around its body. Only the whip-like tentacles of the gibbering thing that ran around the perimeter of the room could have inflicted such an awful wound.

      'Sankrithee sighed and turned away from the force field. His pet project was getting close to completion, but it was still, clinically speaking, a failure. It required a tremendous amount of food; throwing in condemned offenders every two hours was barely enough to satisfy it. Nonetheless, it was nearing completion.

      Soon, Goran would see that they didn't need to procure a specimen. They could make their own.

      'Sankrithee nearly smiled, but then put the thought from his mind.

      He had guests to greet.