Titans (Part 4)
Posted By: Mr Bill Jr V<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 21 October 2004, 3:59 PM
When Herrscher opened his eyes, he was gazing up into the eyes of a man some years his junior. Immediately he realized the man was wearing the uniform of the ship's medical staff. The captain sat upright, heedless to the protests of both his head, and the medic. He quickly absorbed his surroundings: the bridge's quartz paneling was gone, that much was obvious, replaced by closed emergency bulkheads doors. Half of the bridge, the section housing weapons and navigations had been utterly destroyed by the quartz-plasma shower that had flowed freely through the bridge during its zero gravity state. There was blood everywhere. The ship's guns were silenced, that much he could tell by the lack of motion in the deck. Someone was walking about with a Geiger counter- watching as radiation levels surged.
Herrscher looked to the medic. "Am I all right?" he queried. The medic nodded back, and spoke some words about lung damage and increased radiation exposure, but none of his words seemed immediately urgent, or completely worrisome. Across from him, the body of commodore Alexander had been draped, and placed alongside the recovered bodies of those junior officers who had died. By his count, Herrscher figured some half of the bridge crew had been killed. Those still alive were being tended to by medical staff. Then it hit the captain.
"What's happening?" he asked of the medic. His response was less then adequate. The captain looked about the bridge for his observations officer but could find the women nowhere. In exasperation, he stood and turned to walk from the bridge. His footsteps fell struggling in eternity.
Herrscher activated his communicator, which seemed to still be functioning despite the beating it had no doubt received from the sudden radiation burst. "This is captain Maximilian Herrscher," he spoke, and was relieved to hear his voice enhanced by the ship's speakers as he walked. "I need a bridge crew to meet me at the secondary bridge, and get a damage report."
He walked, passing engineers and other personal, none of whom seemed to understand what was happening. Up ahead, as he walked through an open bulkhead he saw his gunnery officer, running with a report in hand. Herrscher called to the man, and tried as best he could to run, but found the attempt fleeting; his lungs burned with the simple effort of walking.
"What can you tell me?" he asked, as the man recognized his captain. The gunnery officer looked to his report and began to speak.
"Sir, we've just pulled out of the debris field," Herrscher nodded at hearing this- not as much time had elapsed as he had predicted, "the fleet stands at ourselves and a few light ships ranging from civilian to Eighth fleet in origin."
"And the armada?" enquired the captain, referring to the Fourteenth fleet. The gunnery officer looked back to his repot. "Nothing as of yet, sir."
Herrscher turned, heading into the secondary bridge. The room was small, dimly lit. The bridge crew stood at some seven men and women, a skeleton crew for managing such a ship as the Titan. Herrscher saluted those assembled briefly, before taking his seat at the head of the room. Indeed, through the single quartz wall he could see the debris field they had fought so hard to escape. The vast scale of it took a moment to register in relation to Delirium proper some twenty-five thousand kilometers away.
Then, as he watched the alien hulls fade into the distance- watched as their frames fell darkened across Delirium's light- silent thunder rained from the horizon of the planet. The gun's of the Fourteenth fleet spoke with furry, and the space before him lit up in a great nuclear glow.
Herrscher's eyes squeezed closed against the light and in that moment he knew victory....
Lana looked to the space above her and watched the burning debris of a hundred starships fall....
The hull of the Titan reared up and burned. Paint melted away as the side of the ship was scorched by intense heat and waves of radiation. Metal fragments of the hull melted and slid clean off, flung into space in goblets of liquid steel. The ship's gravity failed as her engines cut out. Ion engines stopped spinning as the power reserves drained. Herrscher had no time to think, let alone shout orders. The nuclear shockwave burst and rolled over the battleship. A moment. Terror. The quartz windshield exploded, throwing Herrscher backwards. Crystal fragments met and paused, then flung themselves outwards in rapid decompression. A dozen bodies fell to the abyss....
Lana, hidden beneath the hull of the Painted Sky, watched with awe at the sight before her. The corvette melted away into streams of liquid metals, her thin hull ruptured at a thousand points. Above her further, behind the infinite expanse of the battleship Titan, huge sections of hull and debris melted and vanished. The ion core exposed itself after a moment, then ruptured. End to end the ship crackled and separated. Things seemed, at that moment, to pause. Nuclear light eclipsed the glowing of Majoris, only in turn to be silhouetted by the resulting exposed fusion as the Titan's ion inhibitor core melted. For a moment- that instant- Lana saw no shadows. There was only light. The alien's were gone, scorched from Delirium by the Fourteenth fleet's volley, but in turn so was Lana's world. She and everything around her was coming to an end.
The Titan vaporized. Flame licked about and engulfed Lana's vision and everything around her burned....
I'm only the messenger.
Fall, fall further.
On an open plane of water infinite and forever, Lana found herself sitting. A man stood over her, flight uniform leaving no reminder.
"You ask who I am?" he spoke simply.
Lana's eyes looked up to the figure above her.
"I am Damuis, immortal spirit of your present. I am a traveler." He paused for a moment, eyes searching the blanketed horizon nostalgically. He stopped and crouched down beside Lana, leaving himself at her level.
Lana looked down to the water below her and, removing her gloves, ran a finger over the water's surface. It was icy to the touch, yet visibly shimmering as though Caribbean in nature and state.
"What's happening?" Lana asked, standing.
Damuis smiled, rising from his crouching position to look Lana in the eye. "I asked someone that same question a long time ago, and they were kind enough to provide no answer, but rather let me discover for myself."
Damuis turned back to face Lana, energy in his eyes. Damuis' smile widened, and Lana could feel something approaching from the distance.
Damuis looked away, up to the empty sky above him.
The soldier stepped off the eternal plane. Lana saw it happen, saw him as he watched behind his-self as the water receded and vanished forever, lost in what could only be time. It was something he could never articulate, traveling from impossibility to immortality. Yet, it was somehow akin to falling. For endless space he felt it, the beginning of his journey.
He took the final step into nothingness and fell. Darkness enveloping around him, and pulling him down. His body went limp, there was no need to resist. And then everything rushed away. Lana stood empty, then, after a moment, felt herself falling- falling with him....
She was immortal. She had stood against time, space, the galaxy. She had seen worlds end, planets die, and stars extinguish. She had seen the spirits, the angels, and the Ring. The Ring, oh, that construct of simple genius. Yes, she had seen it with her own eyes, beheld the stars over their pale hue of silver and wrought iron. She had been there by her own will, and, should she have ordered it, she could have stopped it all. Her mind, pulling apart time, would have thrown the whole human race back: from the Ring, from her world, and from the stars themselves. She would stand upon the planet, her planet, named for her sun, and her soil would be virgin once again. Yet... though her will would strive ultimately to tell otherwise, she did nothing. She was a fool, and she knew it.
She fell further. Deeper.
It was no dream.
He waited, long after everything was said and done, long after the stars and he were alone. And it was just as he said it would be. Crystal, perfect, silent once more. And as he could retell history itself, he placed himself upon that world's golden shore, lit by a pale sun, and watched the water sit still. This was long his dream, since coming to that planet. It is a spirit's mind that wants nothing more then perfect still.
Calm like the waters of Vega, calm like the ether between stars, his soul would see itself back where he had begun his journey, on a plane of endless water. He would see himself then, with all his faces: the face of man who watched his home burn; the face of man who did nothing to stop what he could easily have; and the face of a man who had lost hope. Why, only when the infinity of time had crushed his soul, did he realize this he could not know. But there, upon that beach, when all the lights of the sky had finally gone out, it struck him all the same. That sudden realization of what he had allowed. What he had done.
I've been watching you.
I've been watching everything, be it the end or the beginning or the apex. I've been here all along. I've always been here. A few peddling words, if you so please? An excuse for these ears? Oh horror to hear such things as I have seen. Blinded should you be as a witness. Oedipus took his own sight, and what horror had he been placid witness to? Fervor and dreams. His hands grasped away, clutching emptiness, that which he could never reconcile. So what of these men we have known? Giants who once spoke immortal words and lived for greater means, all gone and far now. Would you know of Socrates, gone and dead? 'Took his own life a the cusp of a glass, drugged with passionate flame. Oh, horror to tell on. Ghosts who walked our world these past days. And who are you to dare stir their memories? You of fallen resolve. What of Alexander would you ask? Of Caesar would you tempt with hindsight, or Nero with forethought? Might you whisper behind the back of Achilles, blowing words of delusion? Folly, for blown dust answers no questions, as you speak ever false. Oh yes, I know you far better then you could ever imagine. You read of Homer, read of Napoleon, read of Voltaire. You scatter their thoughts and arrange them again, then proclaim your truth and righteous mind.
But where you have read falsehoods, I have seen time immortal. I have stood with Scipio over the dunes of Carthage. I have rode with Henry into muddied hell. I have spoken no words at the oration of Pilot. I, who have seen all this, know far better then you. So I say no words, and judge no thoughts, but rather stand humble as sails billow or swords fall. You who would speak ill of Nelson's command know precious little of what words can twist unto yourself at the sight of horror. I, who stood upon the galley deck of the Victory as Nelson sprawled empty handed as Montcalm at Quebec could utter no speech. Oh, to see what had been travesty then and again resurrected whole knew the power of thornned words. Tennyson's brigade barreled unto a breach- yet their glory vaunted no victory. The light horse died hand in saber, and to follow the charge, one cannot but think back- oh so far back- to an ill lit room of feminine décor scattered over by plum and slithering asp. Bare breasted maiden dies while I yearn to travel away, farther then ever before, only to another hell. Woodstock burning as Egyptian incense flavors sacrament and open stars ply through forested world anew. Babylonian tongues greet my sight while quieted warriors sleep off another escaping soul. Mighty fur trees billow the licking flames of the Temple of The Moon. Cannon thunders upright as air flaunts and ground is torn. Cossacks ride through swathes of grain as Polacks meet their fate pistol in sword. Beaches bathed bright in blooded depth while metal hulks lay rusting and burned. Noblemen leading Oriental slaves to African deaths, the tales of Marathon still fresh in their minds. Quieted Frenchmen kill in awe, as the Ocean's newly opened.
I was on the Pinta. I wept with Kubla. I argued with Isabella and murdered with Cortana. I was there, we were all gathered and seamless. And you? You are just their shadow.
Lana wept. The Spirit held her.
"Now go," he spoke, one immortal being to another.
"What do you want me to do?" she managed between falling tears.
"What I could never do," he began, "I want you to change everything."
Lana's hands clutched deeper against Damuis' body. "Yes. I can. I will."
Damuis smiled. "I know. Now go."
Lana threw her arms wide.
Caught by a blanket and drawn into the blankness all around her. She smiled with the last of her energy, as she felt everything change....
Quartz burst outwards... then fell back in together. Steel twisted... then straightened. Plasma struck... then retreated. Time rolled ever onwards... then skipped backwards. A man died... then rose to his feet.
When Herrscher opened his eyes, he was gazing up into the eyes of a man some years his junior... Herrscher could hardly understand what the man was saying- he must have been knocked unconscious- the man was shouting something but Herrscher could not comprehend it. Suddenly the man was pushed aside and a hand extended to Herrscher's aide. The German grasped the strong hand and pulled himself to his feet. He found himself standing side by side with Alexander, his admiral. The bridge shone as though freshly polished. Each officer and crewmen walked with an imperial grace- nothing Herrscher had witnessed before.
The captain gripped a hand rail at his side, leaning onto it painfully.
"Not so much drink perhaps next time," joked Alexander. Herrscher smiled, oddly aware that something was out of place. It took him a moment to realize that one of the ships, which had been positioned so perfectly in the windshield a moment ago, before he blacked out, was gone. It had most likely been destroyed, but still....
"Sir, we've just pulled out of the debris field," shouted one of the junior officers. Alexander nodded his approval. Herrscher was hit with a sudden wave of déjà vu but found it passing quickly. Alexander smiled to the ship's captain, his grin near ear to ear.
"We've done it, Max," he spoke in quieted tones, but was hardly able to conceal his glee. "We've done it," he repeated again. Herrscher nodded, beginning to understand.
"Pull back by three-thousand kilometers, if you please," instructed Alexander. Herrscher's eyes narrowed, his expression conveying concern to the commodore. "We don't want to get hit by the shockwave now do we, Max?" spoke Alexander in recognition of the captain's confusion.
"Of course," replied Herrscher, the thought so obvious now.
"The Fourteenth is requesting orders, sir," spoke the operations officer, her voice calm. Alexander nodded. "Tell them to fire at will". Herrscher turned away from the windshield and squinted as the guns of the Fourteenth fleet lit up the blackness. The Covenant fleet, leading and still headed straight for Delirium proper, would be wholly caught in the ensuing fireball.
The day was theirs.
Guns fired and flame swept the alien fleet apart. There was a moment of respite as the nuclear shockwave reached out and brushed harmlessly against the Titan's hull. Vibrations ran through the battleship, and cheers went up from the victorious crew.
One of the lower echelon officers spoke something that the commodore did not quite hear. Herrscher, briefly caught by another wave confusion, leaned closer to the man and listened, then turned to speak to the commodore. "Admiral, the Fourteenth congratulates us on this victory." Alexander smiled his thanks, and signaled for a response to be sent.
Herrscher was certain he had said those very words before, perhaps less then an hour ago. He shook his head, but the feeling remained. It felt for all the world as though he was not actually acting and choosing, but rather reacting to something predetermined. Alexander walked down from the bridges' floor, coming to stand at Maximilian's side.
"Something wrong?" he enquired. Herrscher turned away from the admiral, and looked out through the windshield. Only humanity remained. Delirium, and the ship's of Earth.
"No," finished the captain, "everything's perfect." He had survived where all those tens of thousands had fallen. He had prevailed so that he could make a final difference. The captain turned his gaze down to the planet below him. He would never let them fall again.
"Orders, admiral?" requested his navigation's officer.
Herrscher smiled, facing Alexander at his side. Looking to the Fourteenth fleet, now re-assembling around the Titan, the admiral sighed deeply. It was time to change. Time to save his people and his world. Time for the beginning of the end.
"Nil Desperandum," whispered Alexander, his eyes glowing with radiant fire. The Battle of Reach was distant history. The Battle of Halo just a rumor, and the Battle of Delirium was yet to be written in the history books. But there was one last battle to win, and he would be there for it....
"Set course for Earth," was all he need speak.
Sun streamed through Venetian blinds, over warm fawned plants. Ocean licked at sunlit beach through open window. Birds fluttered from another room as the smell of cooking bread rose subtly. Warm air billowed through open windows, curtains blowing. A man's voice echoed from the kitchen, tender and harmonic. Pillows embraced a young women, her hair twittered about a strewn bed. She blinked and woke, smiling.