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Taker of Life, Giver of Death part X - Only Mortal
Posted By: Ian Barnes<panzerschreck15@netscape.net>
Date: 17 September 2002, 10:38 pm

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    Zerr sat almost motionless aboard his flagship, the Hro-Et-Hada. Hewatched as the small, grayish pinpoints near Earth slowly grew larger, takingthe shape of UNSC ships. Zerr smiled. His forces outnumbered the UNSC almost two to one. They would not last long.
    Zerr’s flagship drifted towards the back of the fleet, while the other warships advanced forward to meet the defending ships. Turning his gaze towards a holo-panel, Zerr could observe which UNSC ships were targeted. Several werenot yet. Placing his finger on a virtual representation of his flagship, Zerrdragged it onto an untargeted UNSC vessel. A red line sprung into place. Zerrrepeated the procedure once more, targeting a second UNSC vessel.
    Turning to his War master, Zerr spoke in a harsh tone, the blood lustin his voice obvious.
    “Niuva, fire when ready.”
    “Yes, M’Lord.” Turning away, Niuva picked up a COM unit and activatedit.
    “All ships. Fire at will. Engage the enemy!”
    Instants later, the collective engines of the Covenant fleet exploded to life, and the ships raced forward towards their goal. On every ship, plasma began amassing on the bow. Then, seemingly in unison, every Covenant warship, including Zerr’s flagship, unleashed an enormous barrage of plasma.
    Hundreds of tendrils stretched through space, reaching towards their intended targets. The UNSC retaliated in kind, launching thousands of tons of molten metal towards the Covenant fleet. Three dozen Orbital Guns flared to life, propelling immense rounds through space which desecrated Covenant ships on contact.
    As the UNSC ships prepared for the nearing onslaught of plasma, their emergency thrusters activated, pushing dozens of UNSC ships out of the way of incoming plasma. Many ships were struck by at least one plasma blast. Shieldsflickered and disappeared. Dozens of UNSC ships were struck a second time,melting them away or cleaving them in half. Several of the orbital guns werestruck multiple times, boiling them down into an immense cloud of metallicdust.
    But the UNSC’s MAC rounds flew straight. All of the ships and orbital guns had fired, launching over three hundred MAC rounds into space. Driven through space at one tenth the speed of light, they slammed into Covenant ships with incredible force. Many shots missed, but many more connected. Hundredsof Covenant ships were left without shields, vulnerable to a second barragefrom the Orbital guns seconds later.
    After the first minute of the battle, over a hundred Covenant shipswere either crippled or destroyed. Almost a fourth of the UNSC fleet laysilent, venting atmosphere and spinning into the moon’s gravity.
    Observing the carnage, Zerr turned solemnly to his War master.
    “Advance this ship and prepare to engage the enemy.”
    Niuva nodded as he accelerated the flagship into the heart of the battle. Again, the Covenant ships opened fire with plasma torpedoes. But now, the ships were close enough to make effective use of their pulse lasers. Blue flashes streaked forth across space, slamming into UNSC ships, burning massive holes into their armor. Many ships began to list, venting atmosphere and spinningout of control before a plasma torpedo finished them off.
    Once again, UNSC ships unloaded a salvo of MAC rounds which sliced through many Covenant ships The Orbital Cannons continued to launch massive projectiles almost every ten seconds.
    The Hro-Et-Hada sped directly into the midst of the enemy fleet, smashing into several smaller vessels, snapping them in half like twigs. Its speed unmatched, Zerr’s flagship streaked through the bulk of the enemy fleet, headingstraight for the line of Orbital guns. Once in range, the Hro-Et-Hada openedfire with pulse lasers and plasma torpedoes. Both weapons were targeted atthe bane of Covenant ships. The space surrounding the guns lit up, flashing blue, red and green as pulse lasers and plasma slammed into the Orbitals. Gigantic plumes of red flame shot out from all directions as the guns buckled and collapsed on themselves before being reduced to metallic clouds.
    Several more Covenant cruisers joined in Zerr’s endeavor to rid Earth of its Orbital guns. The UNSC fleet was too preoccupied with staying alive to protect the guns.
    As the Hro-Et-Hada bore down on the last remaining MAC gun, it unleashed a salvo of pulse lasers. The blue-green beams peppered the hull of the gun, slicing through it. Supports collapsed and hull armor was vaporized. To ensure its destruction, Zerr ordered that the gun be overrun. Seconds later, the Hro-Et-Hada slammed into the remaining fragments of the Orbital. Chunks of the mighty weapon spun off into space in all directions, some collided with preexisting wreckages already spinning through space. The Hro-Et-Hada accelerated upwards and away from the battle, several smaller cruisers following a hundred kilometers off its stern.
    Zerr grinned and turned toward his War Master.
    “Niuva, order a retreat back to the moon. I wish to regroup.”
    Niuva nodded and barked several orders into his COM.
    As the Hro-Et-Hada made its way back toward the moon, an immense jolt shook the ship, then seconds later another jolt rocked the ship and Zerr wasthrown to the ground. Rising, Zerr demanded an explanation.
    “Master, shields are down, activating secondary generator!”
    As quickly as the shields had dropped, they were restored as the secondary generator burned out. Switching to an aft view screen, Zerr identified his attacker. A UNSC cruiser, large and quite fast. Zooming in, Zerr examined the ship’s name: Athens.
    The Hro-Et-Hada continued to flee towards the moon with the Athens in tow. The UNSC ship couldn’t be outrun in time. Zerr feared the worst and began to say several rites for his crew and himself. Then suddenly, without warning, the Athens slowed, and began to spin, venting atmosphere from several locations. After the cruiser had spun halfway around, it was clearly visible that the latter half of the Athens had been melted away. The aft section wascharred, and the ship was trailing behind it an immense cloud of metallic dust.
    As the Athens slowly drifted away, floating off into space uncontrollably, two Covenant cruisers came into view. Zerr and the entire bridge crew let out a sigh of relief.
    “Niuva, take note of those two ships, their captains are to be commended for their valiant efforts. God looks upon us kindly this day.”
    “Of course, M’Lord.”
    The Hro-Et-Hada sped quickly and silently back towards the moon, where it was rejoined by 250 more Covenant ships. Zerr looked out of the battlefield. Covenant and UNSC hulks floated everywhere. Many carcasses were bent, cracked, or broken in half. Dozens of ships spun helplessly off into space with no hope of rescue. Many more ships had been reduced to chunks of debris or clouds of molten metal. The Warlord even noticed several Covenant and UNSC ships tethered together in a deathly embrace. The impact most likely killed everyone on board.
    For Zerr, it was difficult to tell which ships of the UNSC were still combat-effective. They sat motionless among a gargantuan graveyard of friend and foe alike. He was able to estimate about fifty remaining ships.
    The battle will soon be over. Victory gives us its favor today.
    Zerr ordered the advance of the fleet back towards Earth. Engines flared to life as the plasma drives of the Covenant fleet were powered up. The fleet looked like a swarm of sharks bearing down on its helpless prey. Plasma launchers and pulse laser turrets warmed as they neared their target, racing ever closer to their fate. Large flares could be seen in the distance as MAC rounds exploded out of their barrels and were hurled towards their targets. Several dozen Covenant ships exploded into fragments. Shards flew everywhere as the burning hulks were dragged into the moon’s gravity.
    The Covenant fleet retaliated with a salvo of plasma and pulse lasers. Torpedoes slammed into UNSC vessels, downing their shields and leaving them helpless. Pulse lasers fired throughout. They seemed to burn through space itself as they perforated dozens of UNSC ships with holes. Blue plasma laced the gray warriors with searing openings. Fury missiles exploded in their pods,and UNSC ships erupted from the inside out. Debris flew in all directions, slamming into other undamaged vessels, ripping large holes into their hulls.
    Several UNSC vessels began to melt and sag, folding over as they drifted into another ship, destroying both and fusing both wrecks together.
    On another ship, its fusion reactor detonated, vaporizing everything in a 200 km radius. Several of the remaining UNSC ships as well as many destroyed ships disappeared from view in a flash of blinding light. Almost a minute later, a shock wave washed over the Covenant fleet. Zerr and his bridge crew were hurled to the ground as an EMP decimated all the shields on any surrounding ships. Dragging himself to his feet, Zerr looked around. No one was harmed. He had won. Peering out a viewport, the victorious warlord observed the damage he had dealt.
    Over 600 hundred ships had been lost, Covenant and Human. Zerr didn’t care to estimate the loss of life. It was a truly morose sight. Wreckages floated everywhere. Debris was scattered across hundreds of cubic kilometers of space. Great clouds of metal hung motionless as a silent tribute to those who went quickly and painlessly. For a single instant, Zerr felt a twinge of remorse for all those he had slaughtered mercilessly, either by his own hand, or his word. But the feeling  passed quickly as a new feeling entered his shadowy mind. A feeling of joy, of relief. He had attained a feeling ofsupreme omnipotence. He knew the answer to his question that had plagued himfor so long.
    He had accomplished victory, but it meant so much more. The impending battle below on Earth was now a known outcome.  No one could stop him. The realization of this opened the flood gates of his mind. Nothing was hidden from him any longer. It was as if this outcome had been a barrier preventing his learning of all things.
    Eons of knowledge, stretching both forward and backward into time, found their way into Zerr’s mind. He became over encumbered with the thoughts of a trillion beings, those who had been, those who were, and those who were yet to come.
    He saw all that he had sought, and all that he had yet to search for. All at once he knew everything. He finally understood the reasons behind theHoly Jihad which started over 300 years earlier. He understood who Raluandd was, as well as the Forerunner, and the connection between the two.
    All of this in a single instant.
    It was immediately after that, did the Warlord Zerr, ruler of the known universe, transcend the levels between a mere mortal and a god. He understood. He had cheated death for many years. But he realized why there must be life, and why in turn, there must be death. The reason for life and the reason fordeath were the same thing and yet entirely different. The knowledge of whatwould come to be when Earth was invaded ventured into his mind. But he coulddo nothing about it. His time in life had ended, but his time in death wasonly just beginning.
    And as that thought ended, so did Zerr’s life. His eyes rolled to the back of his head, and his body fell to deck and lay limp. He had discovered the purpose in life was to prolong death, and with death, prolong life.
    Niuva whirled as he heard his supreme commander hit the deck with an echoing thump. Rushing forward, he reached for a pulse. But there was nothing except a horrid calm. Kneeling at Zerr’s side, Niuva said a solemn prayer for his departed master before rising to address the grief-stricken command crew, as well as the remaining fleet.
    Rising from his crouch, the War master of the Covenant armies marchedlethargically to a COM unit.
    “Attention Brothers of the Covenant. Although it is somber news, itis my god-given duty to report this catastrophe to you. Warlord Zerr, Devourer of Worlds, Savior of the Covenant, lies dead. Dead by-”
    Niuva paused. He could feel his heart drop into his stomach as he delivered this news. Who would lead them now? Should he blame Zerr’s death on the Humans? Doing otherwise would only demoralize the armies. Niuva continued.
    “Warlord Zerr, our fearless ruler, lies dead by the Devil’s hand! We must act now, and strike down those who would challenge our rule!”
    A resounding cheer washed over the bridge of Zerr’s flagship, as well as through the COM. Niuva smiled, and stared off into space for several moments. The fleet was currently organizing itself into position for a salute to their departed master. Niuva slowly turned toward the bridge crew, and ordered thatZerr’s body be taken away for now.
    Turning back toward space just in time to see the 200 plasma torpedosalute, Niuva felt a chill come over him.
    I can’t believe he’s actually gone.
    But then the War master smiled, his mouth took the shape of a devilish grin as a new realization entered his head. He was the Master now. A single battle remained which could not be lost, and then he was the ruler of the Known Universe. Covenant everywhere would bow to him.
    Niuva no longer felt any sadness for the events of only minutes earlieras a feeling of power washed over and through him.
    Turning to an officer near him, Niuva barked out several orders.
    “Commence the attack on Earth. And prepare my shuttle. I intend on goingdown to the surface myself.”
    The officer punched in several commands on his console, and secondslater, fifteen Covenant assault carriers erupted from Slip space, and thousands of drop ships streaked downwards toward Earth.