The Iron Hands of the Prophets (Part 1)
Posted By: MadJackal
Date: 28 February 2004, 7:19 PM
Three hundred years before the Covenant crusade against the human race, there existed an elite military unit comprised of the best and most loyal warriors from across the Covenant territories. This unit was formed to act as the personal honor guard of the Prophets. This unit was known as the Iron Hands. Unlike other Covenant military units, every single Iron Hand warrior wore pure silver armor except for their commander, who wore black armor. Respected and feared throughout Covenant controlled space, these bodyguards of the Prophets were fanatically loyal, not just to the Prophets, but to the gods themselves.
But the Prophets were corrupt and the Iron Hand commander, an Elite named Sritha Summakee, realized this. Convinced that the Prophets had strayed from the true will of the gods and that they were leading the Covenant away from the path they were destined to take, Sritha managed to persuade the other Iron Hands that immediate action was required. In a bloody coup, the Iron Hands took many of the Prophets hostage and killed others in an attempt to show the Covenant people what the Prophets had done.
Sritha said that rule would be given back to the Prophets once they saw the error of their ways. But the military had a different idea. In a series of brutal engagements in which thousands of Covenant soldiers were killed, the military managed to push the Iron Hands from all of the Covenant worlds except for one: Eden. Eden was a backwater world, of no real importance, except for the presence of a fortress complex built into the mountains. The real importance of Eden was the presence of the remaining Iron Hands and their Prophet hostages.
Unable to bombard the fortress into dust from space for fear of killing the Prophets, the Covenant military was forced to lay siege to the fortress. In a speech that was broadcast across every channel of the battlenet, Sritha spoke the words that would never leave the memories of those who had fought there, "We will fight to the last soldier, and when we are dead, the gods will call upon our damned souls to rise and speak horrible curses at the enemy!" The battle lasted for twenty-one days. More Covenant died in those twenty-one days than in the rest of the campaign to destroy the Iron Hands. Eventually, by sheer numbers, the military was able to defeat the Iron Hands, killing every last one of them. Many of the Prophet hostages were killed by the Iron Hands before the soldiers could get to them, but in the end, enough Prophets were saved to take back power and reinstate peace and order in the Covenant realm.
The Prophets decided that they had to rid the Covenant territories of the "evil" that was the traitorous Iron Hands. In one of the bloodiest purges in the history of the Covenant, the Prophets ordered that the name of the unit was to be cast out forever, the names of every Iron Hand soldier were erased from the annals of Covenant literature, their entire families murdered and all mention of the coup erased from history databases. It was as if the Iron Hands had never existed. Things quieted down, and the people started to forget.
Due to the need for bodyguards for the Prophets, a new organization was formed called the Elite Protectors. These Elites were chosen for their skill like the Iron Hands had been, but the most important quality that was needed for the Protectors was blind loyalty to the Prophets and no one else.
Three hundred years later, when the crusade against humanity began, one warrior would rise, and the spirits of the Iron Hands would rise with him...
Three hundred years before the Crusade (2225 by the Human Military Calendar)/
A city on the Covenant capitol world
Nora Summakee ran through the crowded streets, holding her baby son in her arms. She was the wife of Sritha Summakee. She had heard of his death through the propaganda of the Prophets. She also knew that there were soldiers searching for the family of the Iron Hand soldiers to murder them. She had seen one of her friends murdered because she was the sister of one of the Iron Hands in her husband's squad. It was only a matter of time before they found her. She was carrying her ID chip, as required by law, and it would give her and her innocent son away.
Squinting to see farther down the street, she saw a patrol of Covenant soldiers stopping people and asking for their IDs. Looking behind her, she saw yet another patrol moving forward, combing the crowd for Iron Hand relatives. She felt the sinking feeling of despair as she looked around, trying to find a way out, a place to run. There was nowhere to go. She saw another mother and her child pass by her. She was a poor Elite, as made obvious by her ragged clothing. She might be susceptible to money. And Nora had plenty of money.
Nora grabbed her by the arm. She stopped and looked at Nora, confused. "Hey, I'll give you two hundred work credits if you will agree to exchange ID chips with me," Nora said, ashamed at what she was about to do.
"Two hundred? Not enough," she answered.
"Two hundred fifty. I need to make the trade now. Don't worry. You won't get in trouble. I just need another ID for something," Nora whispered nervously.
The other Elite eyed her suspiciously, but the idea of having two hundred fifty work credits was too much for her. That much money could feed her for three months. "I'll take it. Here, take the chip," she said.
They exchanged chips and Nora handed over the money. Pocketing the money, the other Elite disappeared into the crowd. Nora looked at the data chip. Her new name was Forna Nomee. Nora turned and walked down the street until she was stopped by one of the Covenant soldiers, a tall blue-armored Elite. He asked for her ID chip. She gave it to him. He started to scan it. Nora prayed that he did not recognize her. Satisfied, the Elite handed the chip back and waved her on.
Hurrying away with her son in her arms, she heard a scream behind her. Turning, she saw the mother that she had exchanged chips with surrounded by Covenant soldiers. Their eyes met, both realizing the shame and horror of what Nora had done. She tried to run from the guards, but they raised their rifles and opened fire. A hail of weapons fire tore through her, sending her to the ground, right in the middle of the street, killing both her and her child.
Nora looked away. She continued on, not looking back. She had done what she and her son needed to survive, nothing more.
The Crusade (2532 by the Human Military Calendar)/
The Human colony of New Beginning
Field Master Soka Nomee looked out over the battlefield. His vision was obscured by smoke from several burning vehicles, human and Covenant alike. Bodies were strewn across the barren landscape, lifeless, their dead eyes staring into the eternity of the sky. Blood stained the dirt and ran lazily in little streams from torn and tattered corpses. The battle for New Beginning was over. This had been the last stand of the humans. They had sold themselves dearly, as evidenced by the burning remains of six Covenant Wraith mortar tanks, as opposed to the shattered hulks of two of the human Scorpion tanks.
Soka Nomee let this sight remind him of the cost of victory. He knew that the humans would claim the lives of many more Covenant soldiers before the Crusade was completed. The Covenant were winning, but the price was a heavy one. The Prophets had declared that the humans were an affront to the gods and that they must be destroyed. The Covenant had blindly followed the Prophets, entering into the genocidal campaign known as the Crusade.
A call came out from behind Soka, "Field Master! A data disk for you, sir!"
Soka turned and took the disk from the runner and thanked him. The runner bowed low, maintaining eye contact as he backed away. Though his rank deserved great respect, Soka found the runner's behavior odd. The way the runner looked at him as he turned and disappeared into the smoke reminded Soka of someone who knew something that everyone else did not. And whatever that secret was, the runner found it slightly amusing. This bothered Soka, but he put it out of his mind. He had to get back to his base to review the disk.
He made his way over to his personal Ghost rapid attack vehicle, stepping over the twisted remains of two Marines and some Grunts. He mounted the Ghost and stomped down on the pedals, speeding off into the distance.
Soka watched the landscape rush by as he gunned the engines of the Ghost, reveling in the speed. It was dangerous to push a Ghost to its top speeds, as an accident could send him flying from the Ghost and would most likely kill him. He did not care. He had been plagued by a longing deep down inside of him all of his life. He longed for purpose; he longed to know his destiny. He wanted to become what he was meant to be. No matter how much he meditated or how much he rose within the ranks of the Covenant military, he couldn't shake that feeling that he was not going where he was meant to go.
So he did dangerous things, risky things, such as speeding across rough terrain at the top speed of his Ghost. He had always been known for his risky gambles. He had demonstrated his willingness to charge into battle, weapon blazing, without any concern whatsoever for his own life. This had earned him many promotions. Now he was a Field Master, in command of the entire 17th Special Operations Combined Arms Strike Team.
The field headquarters emerged over the horizon. The Covenant would be pulling out soon in preparation for the glassing of the planet that was going to take place in a matter of hours. The base was full of activity as Grunts and Jackals moved equipment into waiting Phantom dropships for transport. Slowing down so as not to make it look like he was in a hurry, Soka pulled up in front of the headquarters and dismounted from his Ghost. He walked up to the front doors, which where guarded by a pair of motionless Elites. Nodding to the Elites, Soka walked inside.
Soka made his way to his private quarters. He entered his code into the keypad by the door and it hissed open. He stepped into the dimly lit room and waited for the door to close behind him. He sat down at a table in the center of the room and retrieved the data disk. He inserted it into a reader mounted on the table. A hologram flickered to life over the table, displaying a symbol unknown to him. Normally, if a message were from another commander, the symbol would be of the unit that the commander represented.
The symbol was of an armored fist thrust into the air, surrounded by an aura of light. The armor that covered the hand was shimmering silver. Curious, Soka minimized the message for the time being and ran a database check on the symbol. After running through the symbols of every military unit in the Covenant military, the computer came back with zero matches.
Soka frowned. That couldn't be right. Perhaps it was a new unit, one that had not yet been added to the databases. Soka brought the message back up and the room was once again filled with the ghostly silver aura of the symbol. Soka continued the message. The symbol disappeared and was replaced by a single line of text. It read: 'Become who you were meant to be, Soka Summakee.'
Confused and startled, Soka almost took the data disk from the reader right then and there. It was obviously a mistake. The runner had delivered the disk to the wrong Soka. But there weren't any other Sokas on New Beginning. It didn't make sense. Overcome by curiosity, Soka continued the message. More text appeared:
'After you have secured yourself on the Invisible Truth, know that we will be meeting with you during the plasma bombardment. Stay in your quarters so that we will know where to find you. This is important. We hold the truth about you and your destiny. We wish to share it with you.'
Now, Soka was about ready to report this to the Prophet aboard the cruiser Invisible Truth. Soka was assigned to the Truth, and it was his duty to alert the Prophet to strange happenings aboard the ship. But something stopped him. He stared at the line about his destiny. Perhaps it was worth seeing what all of this was about. He would make sure that he was in his quarters when they arrived. He always carried a plasma sword with him wherever he went, and he was well known in the Special Forces for his skill with the weapon. He could use it if things went bad. If things turned out good, then he would benefit.
He continued the message, and the symbol reappeared. It signaled the end of the message. The hologram dimmed into nothingness. The disk popped out of the reader. When Soka went to reach for it, the disk suddenly heated up. Soka drew his hand back and watched as the disk heated itself to such a temperature that the chip inside melted. Soka knew what had just happened. It was a self-destruct device, designed to eliminate all traces of the message inside. The heat had fused the disk to the reader, breaking both pieces of machinery.
Soka cursed. He stood and started packing his things for the trip back to the Invisible Truth. Though slightly annoyed at the message, Soka knew that he would find out what was behind all of this soon enough. All he had to do was wait.
To Be Continued