Guerilla: Who needs enemies...
Posted By: Mainevent
Date: 5 May 2005, 12:15 AM
The high, vaulted ceilings brought a dark and ominous feel to the dimly lit Council of Judgment. For hundreds of years the hierarchs had dispensed their will upon those unfortunate enough to be brought here, and for hundreds of years innocent and guilty alike met their cruel punishments with silent acceptance. Honor and pride flowed through the veins of the Covenant, and formed a bond that held the myriad of member species together with an unspoken brutality. A brutality eagerly prescribed by the centuries old Prophet hierarchs; those ancient magistrates none dared to question. Truth, Mercy, and Regret sat high upon their massive cylindrical dais, surrounded by the Honor Guard who had protected through the centuries.
Numbering in the hundreds, the ruby and pearl colored armor of the Honor Guard shimmered in the dim pink light of the room. They stood rigidly at attention; their enormous ceremonial spears creating a sea of sharp teal blades that curved towards the heavens. They obeyed their orders with thoughtless zeal, squandering no time with trivial bickering and living only to serve their high lords. On this day, like many others, an accused heretic sat timidly on the cold gray metallic floor. The Noble Prophet of Brotherhood prostrated himself before his superiors, and recited the chant of forgiveness before their holy graces.
Truth was situated slightly above his companions, and conveyed a sense of strength and omnipotence with a power all his own. An ornate golden headdress, sparkling with majestic blue and purple precious stones, sat imposingly atop his regal personage. His sweeping maroon robe flowed beneath his bony, worn flesh and covered the weakness that was a hierarch. The thin strips of flesh he knew as lips parted to reveal sharp and pearly teeth that appeared able to tear his prey to pieces.
"My dear and noble Brotherhood, I am surprised disturbed that you must be in our presence at this grand council. You have been accused of negligent incompetence and failure to adequately perform your duties, resulting in the meaningless and drastic loss of life. Are you aware that your premature and rash actions have cost our great fleets sixty of their best ships?"
Mercy smiled wryly at the pitiful wretch sprawled below him. He knew very well that Regret and this miserable, traitorous being had conspired against his fellow hierarchs, and relished every moment leading up to the sentencing. He'd always been strangely pleasured by the sight of physical torture, but never before had those on trial conspired to cause him physical pain. It was ludicrous really, to suspect that there were those in the Covenant who would wish malice and ill will against one as beloved as himself. This wasn't a matter of sick pleasure any longer, it was a matter of pride and revenge; he would never let Brotherhood leave this chamber alive.
"I am well aware of my folly your excellencies. Through my lapse of judgment I have caused the untold deaths of many brave and valiant warriors under my command, and I accept full responsibility for my egregious errors. I humbly request that the wise and judicious council show mercy and forgiveness for this tragic mistake."
"This mistake has cost us an entire fleet!" Regret rasped with a shaky finger, "he must be severely punished for what can only be an act of heresy."
The Prophet of Regret's voice spat fire. Brotherhood stared at the blue-robed figure straining under the weight of his ornate, emerald-studded headdress with a mixture of confusion and resent. Who are you to scream heresy? Were you not the one who suggested, nay, ordered me to attack the human planet? And now you betray me to this bloodthirsty council, which will surely have my head. If anyone should be screaming heretic, it is I. A lump formed in his narrow throat, swallowing his breath and closing the room in about him.
Mercy sat smugly to Truth's right, covered in plush green tapestry and wearing a headdress that sparkled with the glory and perfection of a thousand star-shaped diamonds. His brooding silence meant certain death; for Truth was renowned throughout the Covenant for his eagerness to pronounce a verdict of death, and Mercy always followed. Brotherhood's shallow whisper couldn't provide the baritone voice of reason needed to breech this hall of tormented echoes. The walls pulsated with the souls of a thousand heretics and screamed: Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! The beaten and dishonored Prophet lowered his head in shame as he awaited Truth's last words, and the council's final decision.
"Your actions have caused untold and inmeasurable suffering to the families of those under your command, " Truth began with his rehearsed and altogether staged somberness, "but your actions have not been in vain. Through your error comes opportunity and knowledge unavailable to us before. We've seen what the despicable and weak human forces have for their defense, and are better able to prepare ourselves before attacking. We are also fully aware that the humans have discovered the artifact we so hoped to retrieve, and because of this we will advance our plans for the invasion of their wretched planet. Though your incompetence has cost us a fleet, it has saved innumerable ships from a similar fate."
Regret's head jerked quickly to Truth and Mercy shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Truth pretended not to notice their obvious surprise. The traitorous hierarch's blood was ice in his veings. Brotherhood couldn't live, he would bring everything to light. The accusations, the attack; he knew it all. What are you doing? Declare him guilty!, he screamed inside. His eyes darted angrily between Truth and Brotherhood, screaming a thousand curses and cutting into Truth. He balled his tiny fist into a tight not and said nothing.
"And although you have shown incompetence in your duties, you have shown compassion as well, and for this I vote in your favor."
"I cannot allow this heretic to leave unpunished! He has destroyed our fleet and betrayed the Covenant; he must die! Guilty!" Regret screamed with a slam of his fist.
Mercy twitched unconsciously as he debated the decision. He desperately wanted Regret dead, but Truth had voted against that course of action. Did he actually plan on letting this heretic live, or was there something else behind it? He faced the pleasant smile of Truth, whose eyes nodded quietly with the decision. Mercy took a nervous swallow and blinked.
"Th, the council," he stuttered, "the council finds you innocent." He licked his parched lips after he'd forced the words out.. Had he really just pronounced one of the few truly guilty to go free? There was visible shock on Brotherhood's face; he nodded silently and was escorted from the room by two of the statue guardians that protected these hallowed halls.
Regret scoffed loudly and left quickly down the tubular private elevator that exited into his private quarters. Truth disappeared into the hierarchs chambers, with Mercy following closely behind. He knew exactly what his compatriot wanted; to know why he'd allowed Brotherhood to live.
"Why did you vote-"
"Innocent?" Truth interrupted.
"Because, my dear Mercy, if Brotherhood was dead, he couldn't kill Regret."
"Kill Regret," Mercy repeated with exclamation, "you know very well that Brotherhood will never kill Regret."
"Of course he wouldn't, not of his own will. But with the evidence he'll leave behind we'll have to sentence him to death."
"This is ludicrous. We have more than sufficient evidence to try and execute both of them now!"
"What would you have me do? Declare a hierarch fallible. And then what? If one hierarch is capable of erring, then all are. No! He will die after a scornful Brotherhood exacts a bloody and tragic revenge against those who sentenced him, only to be struck down before brutally ending our lives."
Mercy sat silently, digesting what he'd learned.
"Of course there will be a dramatic and mournful funeral, and he will be given a far more glamorous procession than he ever deserved."
"And the Conclave?"
"We'll dismiss the Conclave altogether."
Mercy nodded quietly as he processed the plan. The Conclave required the majority of living hierarchs to agree before halting the election of replacement hierarchs. Of the original seven hierarchs, only three remained; the others having died mysterious and shadowy deaths, most often at reported hands of a rogue and vengeful assassin or during a particularly fierce battle. There hadn't been a Conclave called in three centuries because the ruling hierarchs always expected to outlive the others, and always halted their fateful meeting with the futile dreams of becoming the singular and all powerful leader of the Covenant.
"I have much to attend to in my chambers, a squabble between a Sanghelli noble and a minor prophet has led to a bloody feud. I'll speak with you later dear friend."
"May peace be with you brother."
The two Prophets nodded gently before going their separate ways.
Truth entered his chamber and ordered the portal locked. He approached his window with arms folded neatly across his chest, and a grin across his lips. His plan was full-proof. Regret out of the way, the Conclave dismissed, and the unfortunate demise of Mercy during the invasion of the human homeworld; why that would leave only one hierarch to govern the Covenant. He shook his head mockingly.
"My fellow brothers. Though an enormous burden, I, your humble Truth, will do the best I can to ensure the future of our glorious enterprise is brighter and more prosperous than ever before."
He smiled maniacally and waved to the multitudes of imaginary onlookers sitting in the tiers outside his window; all cheering and applauding the ascension of their grand and glorious leader.
Ika 'Aslumee sat uncomfortably on the hard human material. He snarled contemptuously at his situation. The humans hadn't shown him anything since he'd been separated from the Demon nearly a cycle ago. Everything on this ship was either gray, white, or an ugly green color; he missed the soothing purple shimmer of Covenant ships. Luckily the ones left to guard this area had left when the alarms began, but the white-armored Elite doubted that was good. He'd already tried to lay down, but it was useless. His legs and head dangled oddly off of the short, square piece of cloth attached to the wall.
He sat on the floor and stretched out uncomfortably; a sharp pain jutting into his lower back. Taking off his armor would feel much better, but he didn't dare remove his lifeline in this alien atmosphere. The Elite's eyes closed momentarily, but were quickly jerked open by a fierce rumbling noise. He sat up energetically, and was suddenly in the dark. His insect-like eyes quickly adjusted, scanning the cell around him as though it were fully lit.
A thin slit of light caught his immediate attention. The electronically sealed locks were disengaged from the apparent power outage. Such unreliable ships these humans have. No wonder they fall so easily to our might. His thick hands grabbed the heavy, metal door and he pulled it to the left with a grunt. He stepped silently out, glancing down the halls in search of guards. A brilliant flash of white-light blurred his vision as the ship's power was rerouted and restored. There was a scream nearby as the hands of a human also trying to escape were caught by the re-engaging doors.
Ika took a step over and wedged his fingers into the crack, and kicking his leg onto a nearby wall for support. Every muscle and fiber in his body strained as he fought the stubborn machinery. Motors creaked and groaned as they struggled to do their duty. He glanced down to see the wounded human trying to help as well. Even with its mangled and bloody hands it continued to grasp onto the door and fight for freedom.
The faint smell of smoke and fire filled the tiny slits he knew as nostrils before the portal completely opened. The tired and hurt creature below him breathed heavily, eyes closed and clutching its hands to its chest. Although he towered above them in both size and strength, he envied the humans for their courage and willpower. He gently hefted the body up and held it close to him as he headed towards an exit. Luckily, their civilization used a universal system of icons to represent certain common items; one of which he'd learned to be the medical facility. They acquainted him with that particular portion of human life well when he'd first arrived; scanning and charting everything they could. They wanted to know what made him tick.
Military personnel scattered quietly between stations, all wearing the standard, fitted jumpsuits protocol required. He walked slowly, deliberately through the hallway trying to attract as little attention as possible for an eight foot tall, white-clad alien. One of the humans stopped dead, staring in horror at the behemoth before him.
"Elp eem," he beckoned in broken English while holding the body out from his own, "elp eem."
The man's eyes darted between Ika and the Marine as he slowly realized the situation. A low groan from the wounded soldier attracted the white-coated human's attention to the man's hands. He pointed to Ika and then to himself, before nodding down the hallway. The sterile white floors were scuffed from the shuffle of Marines, but luckily none had shown themselves.
A nearby technician stood, mouth agape, staring at the sight of an Elite carrying a wounded human behind a doctor. The doctor whispered something into the technicians ear, and the boy moved slowly back to his workstation. A red cross was painted on the wall ahead. Three guards turned a corner at the far end of the hall, each armed and ready with their weapons.
"Put him down squid face!" One of the soldiers yelled.
Ika looked for the doctor, but he'd disappeared. He turned to find the technician gone as well. The human's body dropped limply as the Elite used it for a shield. The eerie scraping of his hoof-like feet on the floor was accompanied only by the clank of his enemies' boots. One of the Marines raised his rifle to his shoulder and fired a burst, striking the wounded Marine in the chest. The man let out a weak grunt before going limp and buckling to the floor. The white-armored beast was fully exposed in the narrow corridor. The terrifying sound of his death echoed down the tight hallway and reached his ears before the bullets.
His unshielded body absorbed the impacts poorly, jerking him from side to side as each round lodged itself in his leathery skin. They broke into fiery shards and sliced through his midsection. He roared in anger and pain before collapsing to his knees and falling over. Dark purple blood oozed across his mandibles and pooled out of his numerous wounds. A shallow wheeze gurgled from his collapsing air sacs one last time before a thin and final gasp ended his life.
The guards approached carefully with their guns trained on the hulking body of the Elite. They encircled the beast and stared at it with morbid curiosity.
"What the hell do we say about Richards?"
"Obviously that Elite wounded him during the power outage and was forcing him to show the way to the hangars. Lucky for him we were patrolling here just in time to find that Elite shoving Richards down this hall. We ordered them to stop, but unfortunately it didn't end there. That alien bastard grabbed him and charged us. We had no choice but to open fire." Staff Sergeant Niccolo Paretti stared at the body and gave a small shrug..
Niccolo had had a grudge against Richards since boot camp. The bastard had gotten him KP duty six times, and made him the joke of the entire class. Paretti swore then that he'd get that rat bastard back, and the corners of his mouth betrayed the psychopathic glee the sight of the man's death had brought. Slick and Charlie were standing several feet away, both looking quite pale. Charlie looked more so, and was covering his mouth with his arm to smother the smell of blood.
"That was wrong man. That was wrong. What if they don't believe us?"
"They'll believe us. Because the good doctor here saw everything."
"Don't make me do this Nicky."
"Are you saying you saw something different Petey?"
"I ain't saying nothing like that Nicky, I'm just saying; I'd prefer if you didn't mention me. That's all."
The temperamental Italian turned, took off his helmet, and ran his hand through his curly black hair. His eyes were fire and he muttered something under his breath. He kicked the floor angrily and turned back to face his friends.
"Alright. I won't mention ya unless I have to. Okay? But you better as hell not chicken out if we need you."
"Oh of course not Nicky," the man stepped up cautiously, "you know I wouldn't do nothin' like that. I got your back."
"That's good Pete. That's real good. Now fix this shit up, it has to look right. Slick and me are going to go file the report with the ex-oh. Charlie, you stay here and help Doc with it."
The two Marines walked off down the hallway towards the elevator leading to the Marine's onboard headquarters. Charlie and the doctor watched them disappear around a corner before staring unhappily at the two corpses sprawled in the hall.
His eyes darted between the two men as they walked over to the bodies and positioned them with visible displeasure. The young Marine had lied about his age to the recruiter, but at this point in the war everyone looked the other way. He was surprised they hadn't lowered the recruitment age to seventeen already. Luckily, he was given a menial job as a technician; a nice, no frills position he didn't have to work too hard at. Everything had changed though. He thought he'd died when he first saw the giant Covenant warrior coming down the hall, but he was never prepared for what just happened.
The doctor had whispered those words to him before it had all happened, but he'd panicked and hidden in the small maintenance shaft that ran along the base of corridor four A. Before he'd watched the four Marines cover up their hideous crime. Before he knew what he had to do.