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The Iron Hands of the Prophets (Part 2): Secrets
Posted By: MadJackal
Date: 3 March 2004, 1:18 AM

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The Crusade (2532 by the Human Military Calendar)/
Aboard the warship Invisible Truth above the Human Colony New Beginning
In preparation for bombardment of the planet

      Soka Nomee sat in his private quarters aboard the Cruiser Invisible Truth, facing the door. His deactivated plasma sword lay on the table in front of him. He kept his right arm on the table so that he would be able to snatch it and activate it in a split second if his visitors were to be hostile.
      He felt the barely noticeable movements of the cruiser as it positioned itself to join the rest of the fleet in the glassing of New Beginning. After landing on planet and killing all of the human soldiers and a large number of their civilians, Covenant troops had pulled off the planet back to the warships in orbit. Now they were going to bombard the planet with their naval class weapons. Their warships' plasma weapons were designed to melt and blast the largest of warships from existence and their power was now about to be unleashed on New Beginning. When they were done with it, New Beginning would be nothing more than a burning hell where no sane creature would ever even think about living.
      Soka had watched the first bombardments of the Crusade, but he had stopped going to the bridge to watch. Somehow, it sickened him to see it. He knew that he should hate these humans and should enjoy watching their colonies burn, but he didn't. While others took pleasure in massacring their civilians, Soka took no pleasure in it. He felt honored to fight human soldiers and to witness their valiant last stands and to push back their brave attempts to breach his lines. But he did not tell anyone that. It could be considered heresy by the Prophets.
      There was a knock at the door. Soka tapped a holographic control panel twice with his right hand, and the door hissed open. A Field Master and five regular Elites strode in. The doors closed behind them. The five Elites behind the Field Master bowed deeply. The Field Master merely nodded. Soka gestured for them to rise and asked, "Where you the ones who gave me the message?"
      Soka knew it to be true, for one of the Elites standing behind the Field Master was the runner who had delivered it. "Yes, Soka, we are the ones who sent you that message."
      Soka gestured to the seats around the room and the six Elites sat in a rough semicircle around his desk. "What have you come to tell me?"
      "I am Field Master Noka Nomenee. I knew your father," the Field Master said.
      Now that he thought about it, Noka seemed older than most Elites. The Elite seemed much older than him. "You knew my father? That's not surprising. Many people knew him," Soka said.
      "Yes. Your father was a very distinguished warrior. But few really knew the truth about him. Not even his own son knew who he was." Noka said, observing Soka for a response.
      "How dare you! He was my father! How could I not know him?" Soka snarled, jumping to his feet, his hand hovering over his plasma sword.
      Noka held up his hand. "Hear us out. We have a long story to tell you. Maybe then you will understand."
      Soka sat down and glared at the Elites. "Well?" he said.
      Noka went through the entire story of the Iron Hands, from their formation and their role as bodyguards of the Prophets to their coup led by their commander, Sritha Summakee. Convinced that the Prophets had become corrupt and were no longer following the path laid out for the Covenant by the gods, Sritha managed to convince all of the Iron Hands to follow him in his coup. Noka described how they took a large number of the Prophets hostage and how the military grew enraged and devoted their entire strength to killing the Iron Hands. The battles raged across the Covenant Empire as the Iron Hands were pushed off of all the Covenant worlds except for one: Eden.
      The surviving Iron Hands and their Prophet hostages holed up in their underground fortress beneath the mountains of Eden. They sold themselves as dearly as they could, but eventually, every last one of them was killed. Many Prophets died, but the military managed to save many others. Rule was restored to the Prophets. They ordered the execution of every person related to the Iron Hands, saying that their disloyalty had most surely been passed on to their offspring. What resulted was a series of brutal executions of their entire families and all of their children.
      All except for one mother and her child. She was Nora Summakee, Sritha's wife. How she managed to get away was still a mystery. The military thought that they had killed her, but they had been wrong, dead wrong. Nora had assumed the name Nomee and passed on the truth of their heritage to her son. He told no one. His mother told him all about the Iron Hands and how his father had died for a great and honorable cause. After Nora died, her son had a single child, another son. He had then passed this on to his son and so on until Soka's father. Soka's father had never told him, deciding that the secret would be too much of a burden on his young son. Instead, he had entrusted the secret to his closest friend, Noka Nomenee, the Field Master that sat before Soka.
      "And why did he entrust this secret to you instead of me?" Soka asked.
      "He was afraid of the burden it would place on your shoulders, like I told you before. He trusted me, because I owe him my life. He saved me from certain death on sixteen separate occasions. Now, I return the favor."
      "And why do you tell me this now?" Soka asked.
      "Because your father told me another thing. If I viewed the time to be right, I was to inform you. If you were not ready, then, I was to let the secret die. But there is one small problem, Soka. Your father made me believe in the Iron Hand cause. Here we are, engaging in a brutal genocidal campaign with fanatical eagerness, sending millions of our brethren to die on human worlds merely because the Prophets said that the gods were disgusted with the humans. I don't think that the Prophets are listening completely to the Gods. I think that they are bending their will for their own benefit. We must stop this now, before it becomes too late."
      "You mean that you want me to take up the banner of the Iron Hands and lead a rebellion? And we do this to save the human race? That sounds a bit foolish to me," Soka said warily.
      "Search your heart, you know that what I have told you is true. It is your destiny. We are not only doing this for the sake of a few humans, we are doing this to save the millions of Covenant soldiers who will die in this war. The Prophets are driven by hidden motives, and I suspect by greed. You know that to be true. I see the emotions playing over your face. I would hate to see the youth of our generations sacrificed on the alter of greed." Noka said.
      "You are taking a risk, Noka. What would you do if I said no and went to inform the Prophet aboard this ship about your plans?" Soka said, testing him.
      "We would try to stop you. And even if you did turn us in, we would reveal your true heritage to them, and they would confirm it through your very own DNA, the DNA of your fathers. They would execute you on the spot. While most of the Covenant have started to forget the Iron Hands, the Prophets have not."
      "You are correct. And who are these Elites with you?" Soka said.
      "These are my most trusted friends. They too know about the plot. Soka, I have many loyal troops aboard this ship who would be willing to die for you and the cause."
      "So what are you suggesting? Are you saying that you and your troops are going to follow me against the entire Covenant Empire? Where would we start? How could we hope to succeed?" Soka said.
      "Eden," Noka whispered.
      "Eden? How would we get there? I am no Ship Master, and I have never heard of Eden before today," Soka asked.
      "We will take over this ship and take the Prophet hostage. I know where Eden is. I have been there before. I followed a group of mercenary bandits out there and annihilated them early in my career. It is cursed soil, home to none except for the occasional band of outlaws and dark caste members lucky enough to stumble upon it." Noka said.
      Soka chuckled. "Ironic isn't it. If we were to end up going there, we could be nothing but members of the dark caste as well."

      Outside the protection of the Invisible Truth, the fleet started a plasma bombardment. It was highly coordinated and very efficient. They fired in a crisscrossing pattern that filled the space between the ships and the surface with the harsh light of plasma blasts. Every square centimeter of New Beginning would be glassed. The clouds burned away under the savage bombardment and the oceans evaporated under the heat. Rock ran like water and was soon turned to glass.
      Inside the safety of the ship, Noka and his comrades continued to persuade Soka that the Iron Hand cause was right. Soka found himself believing and soon, he agreed to take his rightful place at the head of the new rebellion. By the end of their conversation, Soka was as fanatical about the cause as his ancestor Sritha had been. They had concocted a plan to take over the ship. All they had to do was wait for the right moment to strike.
      Beneath them, New Beginning burned.

      Field Master Soka Summakee strode onto the bridge in his resplendent gold armor. He was still getting used to his real name, but he liked it. Somehow, it fit him. Soka was pleased now. He had purpose; he had discovered his destiny. He was to lead a rebellion to restore the Covenant society to its former glory. By forcing the Prophets to follow the gods instead of their greed, he would save Covenant society from going astray, led by power hungry Prophets. Not all of the Prophets were serving themselves. Some remained true to the wisdom of the gods, that was made obvious by their actions. But many were corrupt. He would force the corrupt Prophets to see it his way, or die.
      He looked around and saw his friend, Ship Master Ruka Ronee, standing on the raised platform in the center of the bridge, observing the fleet as it moved away from New Beginning and prepared for the jump into Slipspace. Next to him, was the Prophet Ronu, the Prophet that was traveling on this ship in order to observe the fighting. Ronu was a brutal Prophet, known for his fondness of using execution as a punishment. Ronu was a very powerful Prophet, and everyone both feared and respected him. But Soka felt neither fear nor respect for this Prophet. Soon, Soka would be holding all the power.
      Soka walked onto the platform and nodded to his friend, Ruka. Noka had told him that Ruka was not part of their conspiracy, but that he could be turned easily. But until then, Soka would have to be wary of him. Ronu was staring intently at one of the screens that displayed the ruins of New Beginning. Soka looked at the Prophet, sitting high in his floating chair. He wore a tall headpiece made of metal and decorated with amber panels. His eyes glowed green and were filled with malicious intent. Ronu was a corrupt Prophet.
      Looking around the room again, Soka saw some of the guards starting intently at him. They were most likely some of Noka's loyal troops. Good, he would need them to pull this off.
      "Soka, my friend. What brings you to the bridge?" Ruka asked.
      "Nothing, I just wanted to be present when the ship goes into Slipspace," Soka answered.
      The Prophet turned to look at another screen, exposing his back to Soka. Now was the time. In one swift movement, Soka pulled out his sword, activated it, and grabbed the Prophet from behind, pulling him closer to him. Soka put the glowing energy blade to the Prophet's neck and said, "If anyone fires, Ronu dies."
      Guards leveled their plasma rifles at him, but none opened fire. Soka's friend, Ruka, stared in shock and horror, not believing what he was seeing. One Elite took a step forward, but was stopped when another guard raised his plasma rifle and pointed it at his head. More guards turned and aimed at their comrades. These were Noka's men.
      "Put down your weapons. Do it! Now!" Soka yelled.
      They reluctantly obeyed, all except for Noka's soldiers. They policed the weapons from the ground. One of the doors hissed open, and Noka burst into the room, followed by an entire squad of rebels. They rounded up all of the guards and marched them out, towards the brig. Soka released the Prophet. Noka came up and led the Prophet away as well. Surrounded by rebels, Ruka looked around, ready to fight his way out. "Don't even think about it, Ruka. We need you to take us through Slipspace to these coordinates," Soka said, tossing him a data stick.
      "Why should I help you?" he growled, glaring at Soka as he snatched the data stick out of the air.
      "Please. You trust me, don't you? I know what I am doing. This is important. I can't explain now. Just get us there," Soka responded.
      Ruka looked confused. Soka had just threatened to harm a Prophet. That was a crime punishable by death. But yet, Ruka did trust Soka. They had been friends for many years. But, what Soka had just done was so horrible that Ruka was wary. But he had no choice. If he did not do it, they'd simply find someone else. "Alright. I'll do it. I hope I won't end up regretting this," he said.
      "Trust me, Ruka. You won't," Soka replied.

      One by one, the Covenant ships in the system jumped into Slipspace. Pinpricks of light appeared around the ships. Space split, and they disappeared. The Invisible Truth was the last to jump, but it was going to a different place than the rest of the fleet. It was going to Eden, the site of the last stand of the Iron Hands.

To Be Continued