Scavenger Chapter Two: Into the Darkness
Posted By: WONDERLIBERTARIAN<email@example.com>
Date: 31 January 2005, 10:13 AM
NOTE: Sorry for the delay, I had to restructure the overall plot of the series (notice a new series title) without causing inconsistencies with what I already wrote (remembered why I hate writing serieses). Took a lot of editing to get this acceptable.
"Most High Admirals," I nod my grey armored head in reverence and they nod in return.
The smooth metallic purple walls of the ship glitter as it floats above this planet, whatever planet it is, my ship's records could not recognize its mystical emerald surface, but then again my ships navigational records are better used to the planets of the humans than to our own Empire.
"Delhormee, we have heard that you were quite disrespectful to our envoy."
My mandibles part in amusement, "There was a misunderstanding."
Admiral Ghan'Forgholdee is in the front, his flesh is deeply scarred with the marks of many campaigns, "'I've long since stopped caring about my race,' I believe is the way you put it, Delhormee."
"I was forgotten and abandoned, do you expect my forgiveness? Do you expect the scars to disappear? Do you stand before me and proclaim that it is my duty to forget every knife that was driven into my back? For I did not come here to hear such drivel."
Ghan'Forgholdee's mandibles arch downwards in a frown, "Delhormee, how can we be expected to ask your assistance if we cannot trust you?"
"Trust? Allow me to lecture you on trust. There are only a handful in the galaxy who could recognize me anymore, half of them are in this room, and it has become obvious that one of them is selling the secret of who I am. You cannot trust me?"
The room falls silent as diplomacy's silent and subtle options are examined by the Admirals, "If you cannot trust us then why offer your help?"
"I do not offer any help, Admiral, I only ask for help as I pursue a vengeance I am due."
The Admirals collectively frown and glance at each other nervously the silent moments creep by as they each seek out a consensus, there are no words, only darting, frightened eyes, "Hryle'Delhormee," Forgholdee looks into my eyes, "We can offer such help."
"Good," the Admiral's frown disappears in the warmth of a satisfied smile, "Then There is a Jiralhanae that we wish to help you murder."
"He has recently replaced Tartarus as their sole leader, he calls himself Sisyphus."
Sisyphus. My mandibles part in a grin of their own.
"Consider him dead."
The Arbiter appears behind me, "Will the Admirals be done with our guest then? I would like to share a few words with him."
Forgholdee smiles, waving towards me with his hand, "Certainly, Arbiter, as you wish."
The Arbiter walks with a more confident stride than I expected, a less shamed expression than I might have thought, the rumors of his fall have been much exaggerated, but then, so were the rumors of my own fall.
The Arbiter leads and I follow close behind, the only sound is the slight breaths that seep from our mandibles.
The door opens in front of the Arbiter as he advances the conquering hero.
"My ancient friend, I fear that you do not know what you have promised."
"Only my vengeance, Arbiter, do not fear for me."
The Arbiter sits down behind a thick metallic desk, he indicates another chair for me, "The Admirals know full well that this is a suicide mission, this is why they send you, you cannot be trusted, they might have dared to trust you before but with the words you offered their envoy?"
"I am hardly gifted with prophecy, Arbiter, I never knew it would matter."
The Arbiter shakes his head, "Of all the people not to plan ahead, not to leave every eventuality planned for."
"I made an error, and the Admirals will trust me again when I bring them Sisyphus' head."
"And how do you intend to accomplish that?"
"It will be simple."
"Hryle'Delhormee, you carry quite a price on your head, those who recognize you will attack, and you hope to bring death to the most highly guarded Jiralhanae on High Charity. This is a suicide mission, and this fight is not your own. For your own sake, my friend, leave this planet and leave this fight, I will supply your ship. I beg you to hide."
My head bobs agreeably, "Truly this fight that you have found is not my own, I have no sympathies with your wars of honor, but I have my own fight, and it is a war of vengeance, if your Admirals will give me a fistful of men to fight that war then what care I of their motives?"
"And those who seek your scalp?"
"Most half believe me dead, few will recognize me."
The Arbiter's head is shaking, "I remember a more cautious soldier."
"You remember a soldier, Arbiter. I am nothing but a shadow, a vengeful shadow."
A vengeful shadow, my mandibles clench for a moment, the Arbiter sees them, he knows much of subtlety.
"Very well, Hryle'Delhormee, have your execution."
I sleep at nights, and in the dreams that each sleep guards there are memories.
I remember a younger man, his father tall and proud with many medals from many victories. Parades welcome this type, and they will not shun a chance to have their glory seen. Such as him will press upon their sons many a discipline, Such as him will pray for their sons to repeat their own lives.
And such a son is destined by his father to enter the Army.
There are not many pacifists in our Race, it is almost a Human idea such as Freedom, but somewhere in our Covenant, amid the cracks in the fašade, we live in silence. Ironic that such silence is necessary when the very Covenant was formed in the name of peace, but irony defines our age with the same deft strokes with which it defined the ages before us.
I remember the training, the brutal work of the body, I remember the application to SpecOps. I remember every glorious star that watched with care my rise.
I remember Harvest.
"Sir, over here, the relic."
I was a commander already, and had my own squad to lead, there are only a handful of positions above a commander of a SpecOps Squad, and to them alone I payed reverence.
The relic was beautiful, luminous, its deeply ingrained crystals glowed already in my eyes, "Excellent work, stow it and prepare to extract."
We were in the middle of a Human city, its building's stone walls beginning to crumble under our assault, there were bodies all around. Left from before; my own team was not so sloppy as to shed blood. I leaned down to the Human face.
"I can never be sorry enough," I remember the whisper as it slipped from my breathless mandibles.
"Sir?" one of the soldiers looks to me.
"Nothing of importance."
They heard me, I can realize now, but even then my eyes were filled with the hope that perhaps they hadn't.
"The glassing is scheduled in only a few moments, we haven't long before we must leave this cesspool."
They nodded to their commander, whatever madness the dead human had instilled in him forgotten.
We started to file out of the room, the Active Camo flickering on when I saw it, when it captured my eyes.
Perhaps the troubles began earlier, when the Hierarchs had chosen to ensure that SpecOps commanders should be able to navigate the language of the humans, perhaps it was the ghosts of the humans hoping to survive in this one short volume, perhaps it was simply a mystic aura that surrounded this book as it sat alone on the shelf.
This single book sat alone, its title mystic, its slender pages enthralling. Such moments as I remember this to be will cause us to wonder about destiny, and how direct a hand she takes in our lives.
I reached out to it and shoved it into my own bag, praying that none of my soldiers noticed the invisible hand reaching to the book.
Thar'Domee was once a member of the Honor Guard, Till'Coraee was another SpecOps commander, a soldier whose career had only begun to rise when the war began to change, when the crusade prepared to collapse, the other six of my soldiers carry less prestige, "We have been entrusted with a sacred mission, my fellow soldiers."
They nod agreeably, they want to fight back as much as I do. There are wars fought over one great slight, and such wars can never last, but this is a war fought for the sake of a billion tiny wounds. This is a war fought by each of us, this is a noble fight.
"Sisyphus will be found on High Charity, likely near to the Hierarchs themselves, insertion will be problematic, extraction will be almost impossible. I refuse to let one of you die, but my loyalty to you comes at a cost; I need for each of you to be the best.
"This will not be a simple task by even my own measure, this will require the greatest discipline that can be provided, this will require every prayer that the Gods will receive."
They nod in return, it's easy to nod.
The speakers inform us that we have left slipspace, may the Gods have mercy, our time has come.
"We will be boarding the Graceful Conqueror, we will engage Active Camouflage and we will remain in the shadows. The boarding party will be outnumbered, the Brutes will beat them off, they will cheer with victory and we will remain silently behind. Our operatives tell us that the Conqueror is scheduled for maintenance on High Charity, and at that time we will leave the ship and begin the hunt.
"After disembarking the rendezvous coordinates will be sent to you, we will meet there and proceed directly to Sisyphus' residence. We strike at night, kill the Jiralhanae and leave the rest alive, steal a ship and jump out."
They each nod, it's easy to nod, if anyone should know the ease of nodding, then it is I. They've heard this a thousand times, but I never leave room for error. The ship shudders as the boarding rams jab themselves into the Conqueror
I flick my Active Camo on as I hurry forwards, through the boarding rams and fast.
There are other soldiers taking the fall here so that I can do this, so that I can get my revenge, there will be careers forever sullied by the defeat we've arranged for ourselves on this boarding run, but if I do the damage expected of me to the Jiralhanae cause it will all be worth it.
The others might be around me, they might not be. They might have been ordered to pull it back, and the Admirals might just be trying to tie up a loose end in me, but that wouldn't bother me, I know who I am. I know what I can do, and this mission will be accomplished. I am a very dangerous person.
I smile as I remember the older days as the Jiralhanae ship takes me in, there were prophecies about me once. I am a very dangerous person.
Plasma flashes across the deck, boiling the air and singing the hair on the backs of the Jiralhanae who swing their brutish weapons at my fellow Sangheili. We are already outnumbered, and even more pour into the breached rooms as I watch, pausing for a moment in the boarding ram.
I have to hope that I can make it out of here, the Jiralhanae stand at nearly every exit, burning slabs of plasma fly through the air around me as I duck narrowly between them.
There is a ventilation shaft on the other side of the room, the Jiralhanae need far more air to sate their lungs than my own race, their ships are filled with such massive shafts, my foot moves a step onwards.
I shudder to a stop in front of a massive Jiralhanae, his breath thick and dirty. I pause for a moment as he squints his horrid little eyes, forcing them to give him everything they have, forcing every glimmer into meaning in his crude mind.
My breath stops. His hand is reaching out towards me. I back away even though I know it's too late, he will touch me in a moment.
The sword appears suddenly in his gut, and he collapses to the ground, a Sangheili warrior standing over the carcass. I frown to realize that this warrior's career would forever be stained with this defeat, if he survived.
The warriors eyes linger over me for a moment, as though he might see me, but even if he does the battle beckons to him, and he cannot deny its allure.
I toss a grenade, it's blue glow invisible in the heat of the battle to blow open a ventilation shaft, I can tell from halfway across the room that it is barely big enough to fit into.
Forwards I crawl. Into the darkness.