A Different Kind of Demon
This world was once called Sanghelios.
"Was" is the key word there. And "once" I suppose. But the point is, I don't know if it still is called Sanghelios. I don't know if it can really be called a world. Because while it still performs its celestial dance, while it's still a piece of matter bathed in the light of three larger pieces of matter that radiate light and heat, "world" feels too generous a term. Because everything that once made it Sanghelios, no longer stands. It was once arid, but now it's pure desert. Once it had life of sorts, now the only life is myself. A lone figure, trudging through the sand, the wind in my face, my tunic billowing in the breeze. In fact, as I reach the crest of the rise, the only sign that life once existed on this world is the ruined keep before me. Half submerged by the sand. Entirely submerged by time.
I walk towards it.
Time means little to me. Come to think of it, little means anything to me. The last thing I can remember clearly is Lh'owon. Durandal's words. The trih xeem. Lh'owon's star going nova, its light eclipsing the glow of every other star in the sky. After that, it's just a dream. Or dreams. Filled with words such as Tycho…W'rkncacnter…destiny…I feel like I died a thousand times, yet still live. I feel like I live, yet am not alive. I feel I can hear Durandal's words in my ears, or Leela's, but it's always sand. Always time. Always dreams infringing upon reality. And my reality is, I'm alone in this universe. Deposited on a dead world whose registry I only know from the vylae ship I hijacked. I suppose the only reason I'm here is to affirm that death and finality is indeed possible.
So I trudge forward, the suns beating down on me. All potential prisons. All jailors. All jesters, laughing at the jack of the deck. Yearning for the sound of a joker. Yearning for a respite from the heat. Which, as I enter the keep, I achieve.
I take off my hood. I used to wear a helmet, but it feels…I don't know, 'wrong,' somehow. I want to see the world as it is. Not through streams of data. If I need my helmet, or pistol, I'll use them. If not, I'll use my own eyes, currently adjusting to the gloom of the keep. Beholding the signs of battle – dried blood, bullet holes, no bodies though. Like a tomb. But I've seen so much, it may as well be my home. I feel a sense of togetherness, as if I'm but one more corpse added to the grave. Or museum. Because there's history here. And I move over to it.
A ship, above the world. One of many bombarding it. I get out my pistol and used an attached light to illuminate the symbols. An entire wall taken up of them. The same ship. The same planet, which I presume is Sanghelios. The same carnage repeated over and over. Infinitely. Like Tau Ceti. The pattern I fit into. Understand. Don't understand. Don't…can't…
Infinity. The symbols repeat themselves into infinity. Broken only by the sound of breathing behind me. Broken only by a hissing sound. Broken only by a yell, a charge that I side-step.
I behold the creature. It reminds me of a pfhor, but only in as much that that it's eager to engage me in close quarters. Apart from that, it's completely different. Two eyes, two hands, two feet. A bulky, saurian build. A glowing sword. One that's thrust at me. One I side-step and bring my fists down, breaking the creature's sword arm. It howls. To finish the job, I shoot it in the stomach. It howls, and falls down, purple blood pouring out of its stomach.
I kill easily. I once denied it, but denial is as nothing before gods, and AIs who seek to reach that status. I kill. It's what I do. I fear it's what I was made for. And this world and its people are dead. What will one more death mean? What will one more murder mean? The universe doesn't care about such trivialities. But the creature does. And as it yells at me, as I put on my helmet and activate the translation software, I see why.
I stand there. Murderer. That's true. I'm past caring about that though.
"You…you came to finish the job! You drench this world in our blood, and yet you want more!"
"Finish the job?" I ask. "I just got here."
"Lies!" It points a hand at the wall behind me. "More! Always more of you! Demons all!"
I deactivate the software and turn around. More like me? Like what? The other cyborgs? Those who perished? For a moment, I feel a sense of pity for the creature. Is it the last of its kind? If so, I can sympathize. And I as I approach the wall, I can see why it calls me "demon." Or at least hates me. Because the story has continued. The ship once repeated infinitely has dispatched smaller ships. Dozens, deploying hundreds of humanoid soldiers. Warriors. Demons. Culling the people of this world.
Are these my thoughts? Or another's? Sometimes I feel I'm still being guided by Leela. Sometimes I can hear Durandal's laughter ringing in my ears. Sometimes…sometimes I think of Tycho, but fail to recall exactly what occurred. Dreams break into reality just as surely as I broke into this keep. And thinking about that, I turn around to face the creature. Dying. Nearly dead. Another death the universe doesn't care about.
"I didn't do this," I said.
"I'm not a demon. You can believe otherwise if it brings you comfort in the hereafter."
The creature spits, blood hitting the stone floor. The last gasp of a dying individual of a dead race, who once lived on a now dead planet.
"Demon…" it whispers. "If not demon, what are you?" It spits again. "What are you?"
I sigh. I turn around.
"What are you?!"
I keep walking. Memories. Maybe not mine. Mars. Tau Ceti. Lh'owon. W'rkncacnter.
"What are you?!"
Battles fought and lost. Dances of death a thousand times. The pattern. Outside it. Destiny.
"Tell me! What are you?!"
I close my eyes as I feel sand touch my skin. So like Mars…
And I speak – "I wish I knew."
And I keep walking. Out to the sand. Beneath the glare of the suns.
Dead world. Dead species. Death. Demons.
As per my usual approach of doing crossovers based on similarities between medias, what sparked this one was the question of "if sangheili call Spartans demons, would they use the same term for the Mjolnir cyborgs and/or Guardians? I ended up cutting the Destiny aspect from the story though - probably because I was reading Dune at the time. Lone figure trudging through the desert and all that, sandworms notwithstanding.