Taker of Life, Giver of Death Part XI - Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust
Posted By: Ian Barnes<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 31 October 2002, 1:49 am
Niuva, Overlord of the massed Covenant armies, held on to a railingin front of him with an iron grip. The shuttle had begun entering Earth’satmosphere seconds earlier, and every creak, thump, or jolt made Niuva’sheart leap into his throat. It was one of the most horrifying descents theElite had ever made. While most were smooth and uneventful, this one wasdecidedly not.
Surface-to-air missiles exploded all around, spraying shards of shrapnel into the shuttle’s shields. Peering out a window, Niuva observed massive battlesin the skies. Covenant Seraphs streaked in and out of the dropship formationstrying to provide cover. The nimble Seraphs managed to destroy most incomingmissiles, but many hit their targets. Several Medium Troop Transports explodedinto flames and crumbled in mid-air, then spiraled downward and slammed intothe ground. Niuva clenched his fist in anger. Each MTT carried several hundredtroops.
In the distance, Niuva observed an incoming enemy squadron of fighter-interceptors. The defending Seraphs took note immediately and broke formation to engage the enemy. As the two forces clashed, purple plasma and plumes of flame lit up the afternoon sky. Super-heated plasma slammed into the fighters, liquifying them before they plunged thousands of feet to their destruction.
Likewise, Fury missiles streaked everywhere, pulverizing the small,agile Covenant craft on impact. For several minutes, the two sides battleduntil the Covenant remained. Afterwards, the Seraphs rejoined the cumbersomedropships on their descent. Niuva peered out the window and looked belowat the designated landing zone. It seemed to be lethargically rising up tomeet him.
As their altitude decreased, more and more detail could be seen. At2000 feet, the Human postions could be seen. Trenches had been dug and foxholes constructed. Mobile artillery had been positioned behind their lines. Niuva used his keen eyes to spot camouflaged tents, which obviously covered vehicles of some sort.
The whir of the shuttle’s engines began to slow as the shuttle hovered only several feet off the ground. Niuva checked his shields, and the power level on his plasma rifle. After finding everything to be in working order, Niuva gave the command.
The door of the shuttle hissed and slid open. Rushing outside, Niuva was followed by several of his best soldiers. Hundreds of drop ships were scattered about the field, discharging troops at an incredible rate. As dropships emptied, they retreated several hundred yards and formed a long line. In theirplace, more drop ships arrived and disgorged even more troops.
Then, as the flood of troops subsided, the purpose for the line ofdropships could be seen by the enemy. Hundreds of cloaked ships appeared.Ennormous vehicle transports. Each ship could carry a huge regimen of troopsand vehicles. Thousands more troops poured out of these ships, as well asWraiths, Ghosts, Shadows and Banshees.
Dozens of Wraiths took up position behind the massive line of trooptransports. The Wraith cannon fired in an arch, while Human artillery didnot, thus protecting the Wraiths from artillery, while still allowing themto fire. Elites raced toward Ghosts, Shadows or Banshees, and powered themon. Banshees took to the sky, streaking towards the enemy lines.
The Ghosts and Shadows hummed as they lifted off the ground and sped toward the enemy lines. In the distance, Niuva spotted dozens of human vehicles behind driven forward. Each was manned by three soldiers clad in black armor. One commandeered the vehicle, while one rode in a side seat, and the third manned a large automatic weapon in the rear of the vehicle.
The one-seated Ghosts sprayed plasma toward the enemy lines, and atthe approaching Human vehicles, known as Warthogs. The Shadows sported adevastating punch. A plasma turret rested in the rear of the craft, whichcould rotate 360 degrees. The side seat contained a mounted fuel rod gunfor added destruction. In battle, it was deadly.
Seconds later, a full scale battle was underway. The Wraiths pumpedout plasma rounds which were hurled at the enemy trenches. The Human artillery returned fire, targeting the stationary dropships in an attempt to have a shot at the Covenant mortar tanks. Niuva, and his small group of his best troops raced forward through the field. Thousands of other Elites did the same.
Several bullets glanced off Niuva’s shields, and his shields flickered, but remained intact. A Human grenade whizzed past his head and landed several meters behind him. With his quick reflexes, Niuva dove out of harms way, rollingas he landed and coming to his feet without even seeming to break stride.His nearby comrades were not so lucky. The grenade exploded in the midstof them, launching them through the air and hitting the ground with a thud.While their shields were damaged, the Elites remained unharmed. They quicklyrose and continued the charge. Niuva jumped sideways as an Elite runningnext to him slumped to the ground. A white contrail could be seen, originatingfrom several hundred yards away.
One of the Human Warthogs turned and raced toward a group of Elitesto the right of Niuva. Quickly searching for cover, the Warmaster dove behind a bush. The Warthog grew closer, and fired lanced from its weapon, tearing through the squad of Elites.
Fighting on impulse, Niuva detached a grenade from his belt, activated it, and hurled it at the Warthog as it roared past by. The glowing grenade attached itself to the rear of the vehicle, before exploding in a ball of blue plasma. The Warthog broke in half, and landed in a smoldering heap twenty meters away. The three passengers were hurled from the vehicle, and only onesurvived the explosion. Niuva raced over to find the soldier laying on theground, almost unconsciousness. Bringing his weapon to bear, Niuva unleashed several bursts of plasma into the fallen warrior before bringing his rifle down on the human’s head. Black armor cracked and a sickening crunch could be heard from inside the helmet.
Satisifed that his target was dead, Niuva raced back towards the heartof the battle.
A squadron of three Banshees shrieked over the heads of the Human trenches. Blue plasma raked the entrenched men, and green fuel rod blasts screamed downward,vaporizing troops on contact. The screams of marines could be heard hundredsof meters away. Warthogs, Ghosts and Shadows darted among one another, sprayingmolten lead and plasma everywhere.
Niuva arrived back at the most intense fighting just in time to seea Warthog being chased by a Shadow. Bullets exploded from the turret of the Human vehicle, tearing through the driver of the Shadow. The vehicle deactivated and fell to the ground where the purplish-craft lay helplessly. The two other passengers attempted to exit the craft, but were stopped in their tracks. A muffled thump could be heard as a marine discharged a rocket which threw itself into the stationary Shadow, obliterating it into millions of fragments.
Niuva witnessed the shooter and took careful aim. Squeezing the activation grip on his rifle, one flash of blue streaked across the battlefield, hitting the marine square in the forehead. Dying instantly, the marine fell to the ground. Overhead, fluctuating blue contrails arched downward onto Human forces. Human artillery exploded into shards which sliced through ranks of marines.
Niuva continued to sprint across the battlefield toward the enemy lines. Bullets ricocheted off his shields and zipped past his face. Blue plasma streakedin the other direction, melting armor and flesh alike. Banshees continuedto strafe the enemy lines while the Covenant Ghosts and Shadows mopped upany remaining Human Warthogs. As the combined Covenant army, vehicles andtroops, advanced toward the enemy lines, dozens of autocannons erupted fromconcealed positions.
They opened fire, shredding through entire squads of Elites as theyran for cover. The immense noise caused by the guns muffled any screams that were made. Changing targets, the autocannons ripped through the armor plating on the Covenant vehicles. Multiple vehicles were reduced to scrap metal in a matter of seconds. Lying flat on his stomach, Niuva flinched every time a round from the cannons whizzed past his ear. Hundreds of other Elites did the same.
Finally, the autocannons depleted their ammunition stores and fellsilent. Niuva rose and began the charge again. Of the hundreds of vehicleswhich began the battle, only several remained, the Wraiths. And they werenow unuseable as Niuva and his forces neared the enemy. Finally, Niuva’smile long journey from the dropships ended and he reached the trenches. Hundredsof Covenant Elites were only seconds behind him. In the trenches were dozensof men covered from head to toe in matte black armor.
Springing into the trench, Niuva brought his gun to bear. Blue flashed from the end of his gun and sprayed into his foes. Bullets pinged off his shields and they weakened. Niuva continued to fire, mowing down several men before he was forced to hide to recharge his shields. Detaching a grenade from his belt and hurling it down the trench, several marines attempted to dodge out of the way, giving Niuva time to duck into a small cubby in the trench wall.
Niuva took several seconds to compose himself before he was surprised from behind by one of the black-armored warriors. The warrior swung with hiswepon which connected with Niuva’s head. Reeling from the blow, the Warmaster shook his head and fired three blasts into the warrior’s shields. The shields flickered and disappeared. Niuva followed his attack with a sidekick to the soldier’s mid-section. The marine flew backwards five meters and quickly roseto his feet.
Priming a grenade, the marine hurled it at Niuva’s feet. It detonated and launched the Elite into the trench wall, leaving him dazed. The marine followed his attack will a barrage of automatic weapons fire which downed Niuva’s shields. One bullet made it through and penetrated Niuva’s armor. He screamed in agony as the bullet ripped through his side and fired off severalmore shots of plasma into the marine. They connected with the man’s stomachand dropped him to one knee. Niuva again attempted to fire but his gun couldonly fizzle and sputter. Glancing at his gun’s battery charge, it read zero.The number rang through his head like a death toll. For an instant, he couldnot think of what to do. Then, in a blur, he pulled two cylindrical itemsfrom his belt. They were about seven inches in length, and were a shiny,metallic blue.
Gripping them both tightly, a ten-inch blue blade sprung up from each cylinder. The marine was frantically trying to reload his weapon as Niuva bore down on him with dual plasma knives.
Swinging with his left, then his right, Niuva tore through the marines armor easily. The blue beams sliced horizontally across his chest, leaving gaping holes in the black armor. The dying marine fell to his knees and began to fall forward. Raising his arm upward, Niuva drove one of the blades home into the marine’s back. The human soldier stopped breathing and crumpled tothe ground.
Niuva climed up out of the trench and observed the battle. Everything turned to a state of slow motion as the Elite spun in a full circle. Hundreds of smoldering wrecks littered the battlefield. Smoke spewed from their ashes and rose hundreds of meters into the air. Fires spread across the battlefield, creating walls of flame and smoke which made it impossible to see more than a few hundred yards. Bodies of Human and Covenant alike covered the ground as far as he could see. They lay in tattered heaps, mere shadows of their former glory. Many were battered and twisted, barely resembling their former shapes. Many others were perforated with holes or horribly burned, smoke risingfrom the corpses.
Niuva watched in awe at the carnage that had been wrought upon thisland. For a moment, he stopped breathing, stopped thinking, and only watched.He watched fire lance across the field and strike down the soldiers he sought to destroy, as well as those he wished to protect. The hiss of plasma and the crackle of weapons fire filled the air, accompanied by screams not far behind.
Bullets continued to ricochet off his shields and shouts filled theair. But everything seemed distant and muffled. The Warmaster continued tosurvey the battle when he spied a squad of Elites being pinned down by alarge group of black-armored marines. Niuva’s temper flared and his adrenalinespiked. The fighting was almost 100 meters away, but he covered the distancein several seconds.
As Niuva neared, he observed there to be six Humans. Reaching backwith his right arm, Niuva hurled one of his plasma blades at the nearestmarine. A loud hum filled the air as the blade streaked towards its target.The marine heard and turned just in time to watch the blue knife implantitself in his chest. The soldier fell to the ground without a sound.
The Elite continued to charge straight into the heart of the enemy.As he passed by the fallen marine, Niuva ripped his second blade from themarine’s chest and approached his second victim. The marine turned to hisattacker just in time and saw the blue blades being thrust towards him. Themarine leapt backwards to avoid the swing, but Niuva’s atack still connected.It slashed through the marine’s gun, cleaving it in half and rendering ituseless.
The Patriot threw a punch with his left, but the Elite was too swift. Dropping the knife from his right hand, Niuva grasped the marine’s left and twisted. Bones snapped as the soldier’s arm was twisted into an unnatural position. Then, using his free hand which still contained a knife, Niuva drovethe blade into the marine’s stomach and upwards into the chest cavity. Theheat burned away the fragile lungs and the man ceased to breathe. Withdrawing the weapon, Niuva was struck from behind with an assault rifle. The force of the blow knocked him to the ground and his shields died. The Warmaster had the metallic flavor of blood fill his mouth as it ran out of his nostrils.
Quickly rising, Niuva lashed out with his foot and kicked the marine’s weapon away. The Human retaliated with a punch to the stomach which knocked the Elite back several meters and dented his chest armor. Removing a plasma pistol steapped to his waist in a blur, Niuva fired off several blasts into the marine. The Human’s shields disappeared and the Elite threw a kick into the marine’s kneecap. Bones snapped and ligaments tore as the knee reversed its position and pointed out backwards. The Human fell to the ground screaming in agony as Niuva rose, and pumped a dozen more blasts of super-heated plasma into the writhing marine. The Elites who had been pinned down observed that their attacking force had been halved in a matter of seconds.
They rose and charged forward to help eliminate the remaining threePatriots. The three remaining soldiers were helpless, and quickly fell undera hail of plasma fire. For the moments, things died down in Niuva’s currentarea. The battle still raged in other parts of the field, but most enemyforces in the vicinity had been eliminated. Welcoming the current lull, Niuvalocated a fallen Elite and policed its weapon, checking to see if it hadany charge left. Holding it in his left, Niuva then discarded his plasmapistol, as well as one of his plasma knives. He returned the second knifeto his belt and moved off in the direction of the nearest fighting. The smallcontingent of Elites followed closely behind him.
In the distance, a small troop of marines, ten of them, advanced across the field. Niuva and his men were behind them and to the left. If they were quick, the Marines would never see them coming. Charging forward at breakneck speed, Niuva attacked. As he neared the first Marine, he leaped fifteen meters through the air, and landed straight on top of the marine. The soldier fell face forward, a plasma knife imbedded up to the hilt in the man’s back.
Seconds later, the other Elites arrived and opened fire. Niuva stooped and tore the plasma knife from the dead marine’s back. Plasma and lead flew back and forth, tearing into shields and flesh alike. Multiple combatants fell under heavy fire. Niuva slammed into the next marine with his shoulder. The Patriot was hurled backwards and crashed into the ground. He attempted to rise but the Covenant Warmaster was already on top of him. A brutal backhand from Niuva broke away the entire face plate on the man’s helmet. The Patriot tried to scramble away, but Niuva fired off several bolts of plasma into theback of the man’s head. Metal liquified and flesh roasted as the man droppeddead.
Looking around him, Niuva observed that only one marine remained, as well as another Elite. The two were currently engaged in a close-quarters battle in which Niuva chose not to intervene. Although the Warmaster did notrealize it, the marine near him was in fact the Patriot General, David Brothers.
The two enemies exchanged blows, each time a kick or a punch denting some piece of the armor. The Elite threw a punch with his left hand, followed immediately by a swipe with its plasma rifle in its right hand. The Patriot ducked the punch, but was knocked to the ground by the second blow. The Elite walked towards the downed Patriot, just close enough for Brothers to lash out with his leg and impact the Elite’s midsection. The Covenant warrior flewbackwards five meters and lay on the ground stunned for several seconds. Brothershopped to his feet and withdrew a pistol from his belt, then deactivated thesafety.
The Elite groggily rose to its feet, just before Brothers started firing. The alien dove to its left and rolled, avoiding several of the shots before one tore through its ankle. The Elite let out an aguished scream as it collapsed to the ground, waiting mere moments before its life ended. Brothers’ pistol, being empty, was hurled to the ground.
The remaining Human looked up, observing the remaining Elite. For several seconds, the two sat motionless, waitching their foes, searching for a weakness. In the blink of an eye, Brothers leaped at Niuva, bearing him to the ground. Several punches pounded into Niuva’s helmet, leaving dents in the armor. TheWarmaster managed to squirm away, retaliating with a sidekick to Brothers’ stomach. The black armor crumpled like a tin can as the marine was tossed to the ground.
Seizing the opportunity, Niuva reached to his belt and the plasma knife flared to life. The hum of the blue blade was all that the two heard. The screams, explosions and gunfire around them were blocked out. Niuva tossed the knife from his left hand to his right, then back again. For several seconds Niuva did that, before lunging at Brothers, changing his knife hand in mid-strike. He hoped to catch Brothers off guard, but the marine was not easily fooled.
Brothers dropped to one knee, striking Niuva with an uppercut to the chest as the Elite sailed over him. The force of the punch spun Niuva 180 degrees, causing him to land on his back with a loud groan. The plasma knife flew from his hand and deactivated as it hit the ground. Brothers spun around, searching for his pistol. Niuva had flown almost ten meters, and still lay groggily on the ground. Then the Patriot found it, almost completely buried under dirt. He removed it from its resting place and checked on Niuva, he was just starting to stir. Turning around, Brothers retrieved a fresh clip of ammo, and slapped it into place, cocking the weapon.
As he turned back around, he met the Elite he had knocked out onlyseconds earlier. Niuva bore down on the marine, delivering two punches toBrothers’ stomach, and a third to his face before Brothers fell to the ground.Niuva frantically searched the ground for a weapon, and found a plasma riflenear the body of a fallen Elite. As he stooped to retrieve it, Brothers flung himself at Niuva, and they both collapsed to the ground.
The two fought for control for several moments before they sepratedand rose to their feet. Both Human and Elite looked each other over for several moments, composing themselves. Out of the corner of his eye, Niuva spotted the metallic glint of his plasma knife laying imbedded in the soil. Niuva began to try to edge closer to the weapon’s resting place when an explosion rocked the surrounding area, and both soldiers were flung at the ground. Bothwere instantly back on their feet, but in the confusion, Niuva scrambled towardshis weapon, and held his position.
Brothers slowly edged closer and closer to his opponent before charging at full speed, shoulder lowered. A mistake. Niuva sidestepped and dropped to one knee, obtaining his fallen weapon and thusting it into his enemy’s chest as Brothers struggled to adjust himself to Niuva’s movement. The Patriot collided with the ground, clutching his chest and breathing in short, raspy breaths. The Elite examined the wound from a couple meters away. He tried desperately to recall his Human anatomy. Finally, he decided that the blade had been driven downwards, through a lung and into the liver. He turned and walked away, convinced his enemy would die shortly.
Niuva examined the battlefield. Gunfire still filled the air, but it was considerably less than before. Squads of Elites ran rampant, mopping upthe remaining Human forces with little or no resistance. Niuva partook inthe operation, hunting down small platoons of men hunkered down inside foxholes,or simply fleeing for their lives. A handful of Humans attempted to surrenderand plead for their lives. Their pleas were never heard.
Finally, almost thirty minutes later, the gunfire ceased, and Niuvaslowly spun around, looking at the carnage which had ensued for no more thantwo hours. Thousands had died, hundreds lay wounded or dying. The CovenantWarmaster chuckled to himself. He had won. Certainly, there would be smallerbattles scattered throughout the planet, which could now be easily won. Butthe victory at hand was the deathblow. The Humans no longer stood a chance.
For the next month, Niuva and his forces slowly removed any, and all opposition on Earth. Thousands of cities burned into the night, leaving behind heaps of rubble and a sky full of ash. Billions died, few remained purposely alive. Many humans fled, hiding in dank caves or amidst dark forests. They were all eventually hunted down.
Niuva marched then on Washington, thousands of soldiers in tow, andin a satire, gave an address on the steps of the Capitol Building. His armies lay silent for the first time in weeks as their leader spoke.
“Friends! Three hundred years of waiting has finally reaped its rewards! The Devils are on the verge of extinction, and we, the dominant race, rule supreme! Although our leader, the great and powerful Warlord Zerr lies dead, his deeds and thoughts shall be remembered throughout all time! But let this not be a time for grieving. Let this be a joyous occasion, for while your previous ruler is no more, I shall take his place, and make us more powerful than any one being can imagine!”
Cheers flooded the streets in approval. Niuva took a deep breath beforecontinuing.
“I wish to inform you all of what I plan to do now that we have conquered all.” The crowd became silent. Niuva pulled up a holographic display and punchedin a few commands.
“This, my subjects, is an object that was found over three hundredyears ago, during the Old Rule. It is an extremely complex device. Our scientists currently have very little understanding of its function, design, etc. It lay in a constant orbit between a gas giant, and its moon. Unfortunately, during the waning years of the Old Rule, it was destroyed in a battle with the Devils. Since then, all information detailing this object has been hidden, shown only by Zerr to myself and a select few. Up to this point, we have triedextensively to locate another, but have failed.
“This is the task that is being appointed to all of us. We must find another of these devices so that we may study and experiment with it. But more importantly, discover the makers of this object, and attempt to contact them.”
Then, in the blink of an eye, the holograph vanished, and the mysterious AI, Raluandd appeared, sitting atop his binary-covered steed. It spoke.
“I’m afraid that is not possible.” A Covenant Elite reached to disconnect the power source and lightning lanced from Raluandd’s fingers into the soldier. The Elite fell silent instantly and Raluandd continued.
“Your master was finally able to comprehend their mysteries. Observe his demise! You think you can do better? But Alas, ‘tis impossible to find them anyway. They are the all knowing who are not known, the all-seeing who cannot be seen, and capable of anything you can perceive while remaining untouchable.”
Niuva stood silently, awestruck at the command a simple AI wielded.No, not simple. An extremely complex being. The AI continued.
“And furthermore, my masters are indeed displeased. It seems theirexperiment, several billion years in the making, has been ruined by you,scum. And my, when my masters are displeased, they can be most malevolenttowards others.”
Niuva stared, amazed. He sat in a state of fear, amusement and rage. He looked out at his troops, trying to develop some sort of statement, but he found nothing.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk,” said Raluandd, shaking his head. “Your time is butnumbered, and I control the speed of the clock.” The AI chuckled. Then, theAI began mumbling to himself. “15 billion...... 5 billion to here......eh.....maybe it would work in time. Yes! Yes, I believe it would! My masters can always start the experiment over, plenty of time. Of course, sadly, the current experimentneeds to be scrapped. But of course, They already know that, they actuallydecided several minutes ago. I’d love to stay and watch, but unfortunately, I have to go.”
And at that, the AI disappeared as a beam of blue light shot into the atmosphere. Wherever it was going, it was traveling at the speed of light, if not faster. Niuva was just looking back at his troops when the ground beganto quake. Hundreds of Elites were thrown to the ground, while many more screamedand ran in a terrified panic. Niuva simply sat and stared, waiting to seewhat would happen.
Several minutes later, the shaking stopped, and everything became eerily silent. Then, a blinding green light washed over everything, and Niuva began to get hotter and the air felt almost electrified. Seconds later, an unimagineable pain washed over everyone. Then, no one remained. The galaxy was effectively, cleanly and efficiently cleansed. And so, They were the creators and destroyers, wiping clean the atrocities of the last five billion years.