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Preacher of Death
Posted By: Walker<joebob@hotmail.com>
Date: 17 September 2003, 10:50 PM

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      Reverend Hawthorne prayed silently, his head bowed towards the large, gleaming cross mounted at the head of the chapel. He prayed for the Marines fighting outside, that they might meet their deaths with courage or live with honor. He prayed for the families of the fallen, that they might find condolence in the fact that God and Jesus had brought their souls into heaven and hugged them to their hearts. He prayed for the children, that they might be strong in this time of crisis, and that they might live on to see a brighter day. Lastly he prayed for himself, old Reverend Hawthorne, with the hopes that God would see him through this carnage and guide him on to preach from his podium once more the teachings of Jesus.
      There was a moan over to his left, and Reverend Hawthorne parted his clasped hands and looked in the direction from which it had come. One of the three marines, holding his entrails in with two hands, cried out from his delirium a name. The Reverend failed to catch what it was. "Mother," the soldier cried again, and the Reverend walked over to him.
      He put a hand over the Marine's forehead. It was hot to the touch, and sweat cascaded down his face. Blood had welled up around the place where he sat, staining the carpet red. Hawthorne was sorely grieved that he had no supplies to treat his wounds with, and took the man's pulse. It was slowing... he would die soon.
      "Hey, Preacher," the other living Marine called. His upper body was crested with reddish-brown burns, his hair melted to the surface of his skin. He held tightly an MA7B battle rifle in one hand and an M6D pistol in the other, held across his chest. Interesting items to bring to church.
      "Can you put in a good word for me? I was never much on communion with the Lord. I've done some things I'm not too proud of in my life, and I'd take it kindly if you'd act as a liaison between me and the Almighty. Maybe Jesus will look down on me more kindly," he said, smiling slightly. His face was immediately wiped clean from the pain of movement.
      "Of course," Hawthorne said. He went to it.
      He asked that the Lord have mercy on the spirit of the wounded soldier. He had endured so much for his fellow man, and sacrificed safety and contentment for pain and suffering that God's children might survive. In a way, it was like Jesus in Gethsemane and on the cross at Calvary. This man was a good Christian. He had accepted Jesus into his heart. No more could be asked of him, for it was a late hour in his time.
      When Hawthorne opened his eyes, there was no sound of breathing in the room save his own. He looked to the two last Marines. The more severely wounded one's hand had slipped off of his belly, and his entrails had spilled out. No cry of pain, no more murmuring. He was gone.
      The other marine was slumped over on his side, his back to Reverend Hawthorne. There were two bullet holes in his back, around his spine. One seemed to have nicked the heart. Of all that he had endured, the soldier had finally been bested by friendly fire. Hawthorne wept a single tear.
      The sound of battle was growing much louder outside. Screams could be heard. The heavy rattle of automatic fire rang through the air, and the pulsing of plasma weapons vibrated to his ears. One of the stained-glass windows was shot out, scattering pieces over the bodies of the three Marines. The roar of Banshees came to his ears as they tore through the sky, strafing retreating human troops with their plasma cannons. Doors came crashing down as Covenant troops broke into the church. The battle was at the Lord's doorstep.
      What should he do? He considered hiding—that would only buy him a few minutes at most. Running was not an option, for he was sure there were Covenant troops just outside the chapel. He could hear the voices, and he could hear the footsteps of Covenant marauders as they tore down the hallways of the church. He looked to the Marine who had asked him to pray.
      His weapons lay beside him. Two extra clips were strapped to the right side of the battle rifle's stock, and the pistol was fully loaded. A belt of five fragmentation grenades hung loosely from the Marine's shoulder. Reverend Hawthorne hesitated, his hand hovering above the battle rifle. He was a man of God. Was such a man to kill?
      Yes, of course. David slew Goliath, did he not? He grabbed the rifle and the pistol, then the belt of grenades, and dragged them up to the podium. He cocked the MA7B and rested it on the top of the podium, covering both side entrances into the chapel. The footsteps were getting closer...
      A squad of Grunts broke through the left door, and he raked them with the battle rifle. They turned as they fell, one of them managing to dive to the left and avoid his fire. He brought his needler up—
      Hawthorne gave him a three round burst. The smoke cleared, and the rear section of the chapel was pasted with blue blood.
      Two Jackals went slowly through the doorway, their shields up. Behind them were six more Grunts. Hawthorne squeezed a shot in between their shields, but it only grazed one of the Jackals and pissed him off. The Grunts opened fire, and Reverend Hawthorne ducked and rolled. The tops of his hair were singed, and the smell invaded his nose. What to do now? He couldn't shoot, they would get him. He picked up a grenade, cringed as shots came again, pulled the pin and lobbed it over his shoulder.
      Shrapnel exploded everywhere, showering him. Also with the shrapnel came gobs of blue and green blood, splattering his black suit. He snapped back up with the rifle, and picked off the two moaning and spastic Jackals with headshots. They were stilled.
      Now fire rained down on him from almost every direction. A shieldless Elite crashed through a window, and brought his plasma rifle up to bear. Hawthorne couldn't swing his rifle around fast enough, so he grabbed the pistol and shot the Elite from the hip twice in the central mass and three more times in the face. It fell, spurting blood.
      Two more followed him in, and he finished them off with a pistol. He lobbed two more grenades at the back of the chapel, tearing down the cannon fodder the Covenant had sent in as vanguards.
      They were swarming in now. Hawthorne shot his last pistol round into an Elite, then swung around his rifle and fired from the hip, bringing him down. A plasma shot tore through his underarm, leaving it hanging by muscle and sinew. He screamed and fell on his back, firing his battle rifle until it was empty.
      He fumbled with the weapon, trying to reload it with one hand. Covenant troops charged up, and a Jackal kicked the rifle out of his grasp. He swung his shield around and batted Reverend Hawthorne in the face, jamming his nose in. Blood flowed freely down his chin.
      A Grunt who had picked up a human pistol shot two holes in his chest. He coughed up blood, and doubled over, rolling onto the ground and spitting blood everywhere. Low-ranking Covenant pounded on him, shooting off his limbs and torturing him slowly. They were like a mad mob that had abandoned all military training and simply unleashed their raw animal violence.
      They cheered ferociously, fighting with each other for turns to bash his skull with their weapons. They cut at him with pieces of glass, and spit orange saliva on his torn body. He was, somehow, still alive when an Elite roared into the room, stepping unceremoniously over the bodies of his fallen comrades. He fired several needler rounds into the air, and they exploded, rendering the room silent.
      He shoved his needler into the arms of a Grunt who stood, terrified, in his path, and shoved him aside. The Elite palmed the hilt of a plasma sword that had been clipped to his side and powered it up. The blade hummed and hissed as he swung it through the air, and brought it slowly down to Hawthorne's neck.
      In one clean swipe, he beheaded the Reverend.
      "All of you fools, this way! There are other humans to exterminate!" the Elite shouted, and the Covenant exited en bloc the chapel. As he left, a Grunt picked up Hawthorne's head, and examined it closely. One of his comrades came and pulled him back toward the group, warning that the Elite had a bad temper. The Grunt dropped the head, and it rolled down the steps to the rows of pews. The Grunts were gone.
      Forty-seven bodies, four of them human, lay in the Lord's house, lifeless and bloody. The planet was glassed two hours later, and the chapel was destroyed, along with the rest of the church and the rest of the planet. The Covenant did not manage to track the retreating fleet. The major objectiveof the UNSC forces there, the rescue of the planet's colonists, had been accomplished. A minor victory, the UNSC said, because of this. A million bodies, civilian, military, and child, fried by the pulse lasers of Covenant warships, said otherwise.