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Prologue

In 2550, the Covenant Empire had laid siege to Humanity for over 25 years in a genocidal campaign. Hope for humanity remained dim through the years of continuous fighting as world fell. There came to be one response to the enemy known as the Covenant, SPARTAN programs. One program known as the SPARTAN-III program was in its third training cycle, preparing Gamma Company for their deployments against the Covenant Empire.

What remained of Alpha and Beta Company conducted missions to honor their fallen brother and sisters. A team known as Red Team participated in some of the most ambitious raids the UNSC had drafted to stop the Covenant. Under the command of Lieutenant Oriana-A058, the team operated on the fault line between Covenant and UNSC controlled space. The Category-2 team only meant that they were the survivors of their company, destined to carry our missions to fight the battles their comrades did not live to see.

The Office of Naval Intelligence located a supply station being built over a moon named Juniper IV. The raid itself looked like a textbook SPARTAN-III program deployment, but no company was there to answer the call. The UNSC needed to prevent the construction of the supply station, not for the UNSC but the sake of humanity's survival. For Lieutenant Oriana-A058, she grew accustomed to the final desperation raids to keep Humanity in the fight.

Chapter I

06:03 Local Time - 03/11/2550 - UNSC Swiftsure - FLEETCOM Sector Three

Replacements for a Category-2 team came from various assignments such as Headhunters, Recon, Solo operatives, other Cat-2 teams, and time-based missions that required a SPARTAN’s skillset. The most recent replacement came from the Headhunters following a mission that went wrong in 2549. Petty Officer Third Class Samuel-B256 was a graduate of the SPARTAN-III Beta Company program but did not graduate with his peers as the others did.

In 2542, he was pulled from the main company and transferred to another location to become a Headhunter. The missions he took were often suicidal, it was safe to say that the Office of Naval Intelligence was not going to see him again. But he defied the odds as a Headhunter and continued to deploy as one for four years following his graduation in 2545. But all good things came to an end and walking a tightrope between life and death sure had its consequences.

It was called Operation: URGENT TEMPEST; the operation was considered a standard demolition and sabotage mission for Samuel-B256. Deployed behind Covenant lines, he successfully stalled the development of plasma to be used in combat but at the cost of his teammate Petty Officer Third Class Mathilda-B080. As a result of his failure and return to the UNSC, he was reassigned to a Non-Company Team named Red Team. The team had no choice but to accept Samuel-B256 due to their need of SPARTANs.

Samuel-B256 was considered to be an extremely valuable SPARTAN due to his skillset of being specialized in both Intelligence and Operations. All of the SPARTANs in Red Team were put into three categories, sniper, assaulters and, demolition. Not one of the seven SPARTANs had both Intelligence and Operations background, something Red Team desperately needed and received.

Chief Petty Officer Draven-A284 and Petty Officer First Class Emilia-A049 also found Samuel-B256 to host several other skills that ranged from long-range tracking, demolition, sabotage, and a linguistics background. Headhunters were required to have a variety of skills to survive since there was no one coming to get them, which meant they needed to know how to handle every possible situation. For once, the leadership of Red Team was happy to have someone like Samuel-B256 on their team.

Despite Samuel’s wealth of knowledge and background, he had to prove himself to the other members of Red Team, including his Beta Company peers. All of those within Red Team were pulled out of Beta Company before Operation: TORPEDO and fought numerous campaigns with their comrades. Others came from different Non-Company Teams that disbanded due to the destruction of a team during a battle. Samuel had to prove himself to his peers to showcase he wasn’t a special case and pulled from the company, Headhunters who joined Category-2 teams were considered to be rare and short-lived since they often returned to ONI for another assignment.

The Beta Company members of Red Team were able to single out Samuel with relative ease since he did not wear MJOLNIR Mark IV Powered Assault Armor, but instead the Semi-Powered Infiltration Mark II Armor. He was looked down upon because he didn’t have the chance to receive a MJOLNIR suit due to the shortage, making him look more like an outcast than with the team. But Samuel’s SPI’s Operator Variant came with a prototype energy shield, a specialized BIOS, VISR, and a prototype variant of active camouflage. While MJOLNIR still had its appeal, Samuel preferred his SPI armor due to it being tailored to him.

While Beta Company worked on breaking Samuel, the Alpha Company members met to discuss their upcoming operation. The commander of Red Team, Oriana-A058 met with her Operations Officer to learn more and prepare her team for what they were getting themselves into. The UNSC Army Major named Clayton Frommenwiler knew Red Team fairly well and built a strong relationship with Oriana to ensure her that she wasn’t going to get a complete suicide mission.

Red Team was one of the many units that SPECWAR Group Three handled. Specialized in Direct Action and Special Reconnaissance, the team was formed shortly after the destruction of Alpha Company at Operation: PROMETHEUS due to Lieutenant Commander Kurt Ambrose pulling select SPARTANs with specific skills out. For the majority of the team’s history, it deployed with Unified Special Warfare Command in a Special Warfare Group ran by the UNSC Army and under the command of Oriana-A058.

Being assigned under SPECWARCOM Group Three meant that Red Team operated predominately on the ground and alongside Unified Ground Command elements. Rarely did they deploy with Naval Special Warfare Command but an element of the Group was ordered to assist a NAVSPECWAR operation. SPARTANs became a resource many commanders fought to keep in their wheelhouse as a means to stop the enemy. NAVSPECWAR had the SPARTAN-II and pieces of the SPARTAN-III program. For Oriana, Samuel, and Red Team, it meant they were working with Orbital Drop Shock Troops instead of Rangers.

Each NCT assigned under the group had a different deployment than what they did with their peers in SPARTAN-III program. Red Team was one of the oldest units under the group and Oriana made sure to keep the team running. Not only was Red Team the tip of the spear, they were also often the first response to the fight against the Covenant if they were planetside when WINTER CONTINGENCY was declared. The duty to carry out missions against a Covenant Landing Force was often suicidal and those who didn’t survive were replaced.

Aboard the UNSC Swiftsure, Samuel sat in his room and read the ONI Intelligence Report about Juniper IV for the second time. He continued to scan the vague report for anything about force and fleet size while identifying any of the major players at the potential battlefield. Not much came of it the second time around, he let out a defeated sigh and placed the tablet down on his bed. It had been four months since his failure during URGENT TEMPEST and three weeks since he joined Red Team.

He heard the bunk above him rustle and watched a head pop over the ledge. Samuel saw Petty Officer Second Class Isaac-B302 blink twice before stretching. “How are you doing down their Headhunter?” He gave his usual smile as Samuel rolled his eyes. “You know, if I had a credit for every time you read that Intelligence Report, I could buy you a MJOLNIR Suit.”

Of all of the Betas on Red Team, Samuel found Isaac to be the nicest one of the mix. The Communications Specialist knew how to work every radio that the UNSC had in its arsenal, it made him an extremely valuable asset on the battlefield since he knew how to call in Close Air Support and direct Fire Missions.

“Save the money, upgrade your own suit instead.” Samuel remained defiant to keep his SPI armor and rolled his eyes at Isaac’s seventh attempt to make him jealous about the MJOLNIR suits. “I got what I need to live out there.”

Isaac frowned at Samuel, he needed to develop better techniques to convince him. “What if I get that Lieutenant, Junior Grade on the bridge to go on a date with you? Would that convince you to at least get a MJOLNIR suit?” Isaac smirked at him as he glared back at him.

The Junior Navigation Officer that smiled at Samuel during a break while Red Team on the branch was only caught by Isaac. Ever since that incident, Isaac teased him about her to an extent where Samuel threw an empty ordnance pod at him. After Isaac checked out of the ship’s Sick Bay, he agreed to not bring it back up with Draven since he kept the team in line. Last thing Red Team needed was going into battle down a SPARTAN because of innocent teasing going too far.

Samuel sat up on his bunk and stretched out as Isaac hopped down from the top. “Alright, if you can convince the Lieutenant, Junior Grade to go on a date with me. I’ll put in a request for the MJOLNIR Mark IV PAA.” He responded with a flat voice, knowing that Isaac had no chance to hype him up for the Lieutenant, Junior Grade on the bridge.

The two shared a mutual handshake to seal the bet since neither of them had any credits to bet with. It was unfortunate that their training did not encompass financial management and savings, but a SPARTAN never had any bills to pay so the problem never arose. Most of the time they got credits from the Rangers or ODSTs to go buy something on the base since all the SPARTANs had were their armor, weapons, and missions.

While Samuel went to the restroom and fixed up his hair, Isaac read the Intelligence Report on Samuel’s bed to gather any other information since reading material was light in the room. Samuel fixed his black trousers over his full-body tech suit and pulled on a black quarter zip shirt that had the UNSC and Navy insignia. There was no name or rank on the shirt as well as a planet flag from where he was born, it was all heavily classified by UNSC Personnel Command, ONI Section Two and, Section Three.

Isaac watched the tablet light up with a sensitive topic warning on the screen, he rolled his eyes and opened it to see what it was. “Hey, we got a meeting in the TOC. Omar wants us there in fifteen minutes.” He informed Samuel while watching him slip his assault boots on. “Looks like you just may get your feet wet here before ONI inhales you back into their abyss of backdoors.”

Samuel didn’t respond to the remark, he rather be back with ONI since they were able to go offensive more than defensive. Cat-2 missions were mostly responses to an attack, very rarely where they the one causing an attack against the Covenant. ONI gave SPARTANs the missions and tools to stall and shut down Covenant advances, that was not often the case with SPECWAR Group THREE.

Isaac wore the same clothing as Samuel except had an Army insignia and not a Navy. He had spent nearly all of his SPARTAN deployments with the UNSC Army. Also, Isaac had the chance to pick his quarter zip color and went with the Army’s Woodland camouflage pattern so he stuck out more the rest of the team that wore the standard black color.

The two made their way out into the narrow hallway that was dimly lit for the crew to sleep in-between their shifts. Isaac led the way to the Tactical Operations Center of the ship, claiming his superior knowledge of the ship and using shortcuts to get their faster. They never did, but Isaac knew he was helping Samuel avoid the constant harassment from the other Betas. Even he was getting tired of it and decided to do something about it.

On the way, Samuel stopped to stare out in the darkness of space amidst the chaos. It made him think for the brief moment where he would be if he didn’t agree to join the SPARTAN-III program. Probably with an adopted family or still in the orphanage, the military might be the one way for him to get out and see the Orion Arm. Or maybe be attending a liberal arts university and attaining a degree while forgetting about the whole Human-Covenant War till it affected him again. Yet, Samuel chose the life to become a SPARTAN and be the tip of the spear in the fight against the Covenant.

“C’mon. We don’t have all day.” Isaac spoke and snapped Samuel out of his thoughts.

The two continued on their way to the TOC, not wanting to leave Oriana and Draven waiting. Samuel theorized an ODST Lieutenant Colonel, the commander of the UNSC Swiftsure and Major Frommenwiler was going to brief Red Team on the situation at hand. All Red Team wanted was another mission, they didn’t like sitting around and passing time. The same went for Samuel since he wanted to rebound back from his failure.

Taking the lift down to the TOC, Isaac noticed Petty Officer Second Class Tucker-B069 before Samuel did. Tucker was known in Red Team for being a conspiracy theorist, talented assaulter, and always complaining. If anyone was going to complain about not getting enough kills, it was going to be Tucker. He also spent his time harassing Samuel and seeing if the replacement Headhunter lived up to his title.

Tucker turned to see Samuel and Isaac walking towards him. “Hey Sam, how are your parents doing?” The light-hearted tone from him was ignored by Samuel while Isaac shot him a glare.

The two brushed by one of the assaulters of Red Team, he transferred after doing deep reconnaissance missions for Naval Special Weapons and a few tours with Baron Team in SPECWAR Group Three. He had his hands in the NCTs for a bit, it ultimately helped him survive Operation: TORPEDO. Still, Tucker held himself higher since he already had missions with the team under his belt.

Samuel then noticed Petty Officer Second Class Riley-B192 who was another replacement. She was a close friend and training partner to Tucker during their time in Beta Company as well, both of them were pulled at the same time and served in the same missions. Samuel did not find Riley to be a bad individual, unless he had to deal with her and Tucker at the same time.

Heading down the final hallway, the Betas joined the Alphas who were waiting for the rest of the party to arrive. Alpha Company, among the Beta personnel felt that they had conducted honorable missions till their death but felt like they were superior. The only difference between Alpha and Beta was that those who remained of Alpha Company had far more war-fighting experience than any other Beta.

Oriana-A058, Draven-A284, Omar-A442, and Emilia-A049 made up the original form that consisted of Red Team. The newest Alpha Company addition came in 2545, Petty Officer First Class Lynn-A392, a Beta Company Weapons and Tactics Instructor. Samuel did not enjoy the fact that his former instructor was his teammate. But the relationship he built with Lynn let her vouch for his skills on numerous occasions since she never saw him again after 2542 till recently.

Tucker proceeded to introduce his new conspiracy theory. “I been thinking, you know SPI makes you celibate, right?” Both the members of Alpha and Beta Company looked at Tucker.

“You believed Onyx was flat for a long time. How did you pass the initial screening?” Isaac responded to the absurd theory.

Draven walked away from his peers and over to Tucker. “If I hear another one of your conspiracy theories, I will make you do a Trial by Fire on your own.” He watched Tucker straighten up and nod accordingly to what was being proposed. “Good. Also, just because you have the ability to talk does not make you intelligent.”

The last thing that any other SPARTAN-III wanted to do was another Trial by Fire. Each trial put a SPARTAN candidate under an immense amount of stress and broke many candidates. The two-week long trial never had a set date and the instructors had the option to impose them whenever the company got out of line. Tucker knew he hated those trials even with a team. To do one with experienced combat SPARTANs and alone was on his top three fears in life. Right behind getting killed by a Yanme'e and losing his spot on Red Team.

Out of everyone on Red Team, no one dared to mess with Draven. Considered Chief Frankiln Mendez Jr., the team chief never put up with anything that didn’t adhere to the mission. Not only a master breacher, he became Oriana’s number two during their training on Onyx and distinguished himself among his peers for being someone who never backed down from fights. It was argued that Draven should’ve been the one to become an officer, but he turned it down repeatedly.

“Draven, take it easy for once.” Oriana spoke as Draven rolled his eyes at her. “Get the kids over here, the officers are on the way.”

The Betas moved over to the Alphas and stood around their end of the table as an ODST Lieutenant Colonel arrived with the Marine Expeditionary Brigade Commander, Vice Admiral Berlin Tursk along with the Captain of the UNSC Swiftsure and, Major Clayton Frommenwiler from SPECWAR Group Three. Either it was going to be another safety brief or they got a mission, regardless it looked like Red Team had been called into the Headmaster’s office.

It didn’t matter the rank of the individual because if they didn’t have the security clearance, then they were not allowed to meet with a SPARTAN. Those who were qualified to have such a clearance went through extensive background checks by ONI Section Zero then approved for the clearance. Commanding such units took longer but ONI had their specific reasons to keep the SPARTAN programs behind closed doors. Anything that leaked about a program could be beneficial to the enemy and put the UNSC at a greater disadvantage than they were already at. People like Vice Admiral Berlin Tursk were one of the few who had such clearance.

Vice Admiral Berlin Tursk made a name for himself during the Battle of Miridem and its system. After the battle, UNSC Naval Command and Fleet Command deployed him to Meridian in 2546 to oversee space operations. He repelled the Covenant’s initial invasion in 2549 then received orders from Fleet Command to go after the Covenant.

The UNSC Swiftsure was the command vessel for Vice Admiral Tursk and flagship of the Meridian Defense Fleet. Due to the change of command, the ship then became the flagship for a FLEETCOM Task Force named Task Force Ghostrider. Consisting of 53 other ships and a Prowler Watch Group, the Task Force became one of many for the UNSC in their space battle against the Covenant.

For Samuel, it felt uneasy to him since he never been in a briefing that had so many people. Only his handler and maybe an assistant joined the meeting, it kept things simple and short compared to the number of officers he had before him. Hands were going to be tied behind his back before the mission was even launched, Samuel knew it as well as the rest of Red Team.

Chapter II

07:13 Local Time - 03/11/2550 - UNSC Swiftsure - FLEETCOM Sector Three

The MEB Commander, a one-star General spent time as an ODST and knew the capabilities of the unit. She also knew second-hand accounts of what the SPARTANS were able to do as well. Samuel listened to her speak about Task Force Marauder, a Combined Navy, Marine Corps, and Army force to Observe, Detect, Identify, and Neutralize Covenant forces. The UNSC Navy and Task Force Ghostrider focused on Observe and Detect while Task Force Marauder Identified and Neutralized. The warfighting doctrine came from SPECWARCOM University – Mars in 2549 and been working relatively well. ODIN Task Forces utilized NCTs in their ability to be deployed alongside non-augmented units to take out Covenant infrastructure so the genocide of Humanity was slowed down.

The intelligence gathered on a moon as Juniper IV was coming from a Section One Advance Force Operation Unit mixed with ODST Reconnaissance Marines. For the past two weeks, they intercepted radio transmissions and studied enemy fleet movements to determine why their probes detected scout ships. It became obvious to them once they started seeing the construction of a military supply station to support operations in FLEETCOM Sector Three. It was becoming a reality that the supply station must not come online, no matter the cost. Oriana and the senior members of Red Team attended daily briefings to gather more information on how to deal with the problem, the rest were kept in the dark.

The perk of Juniper IV, was that it orbited a planet that hadn’t been terraformed yet by the UEG. The moon itself had an extremely light atmosphere and a 91.31% gravitational force, giving the ground force the ability to move faster. No doubt were the Covenant making the moon’s surface more livable so they could put their troops somewhere else besides the ship and supply station. The recon unit also reported that it was a Sangheili-led force, so it meant that the Covenant wanted to ensure their supply station was not messed up.

“Red Team is in charge of the destruction of the supply station, we’re going to get an element inside to detonate a nuclear warhead. We don’t need to get to the central sector of the station, we only need to get in and hit it hard.” The ODST Lieutenant Colonel spoke with a certain feeling of success. “I’ll have the 37th Shock Troops Battalion provide a Quick Reaction Force alongside elements from the 54th Marine Regiment to be a force multiplier if you get in a bad situation. But don’t expect it to come right away, it’s a tough pill to swallow but you all been through worse.”

Samuel didn’t enjoy that since they had the option to have a QRF but couldn’t depend on it. It seemed like Red Team was going to be on their own.

Vice Admiral Tursk looked at the SPARTANs then at the rest of the group. “In the event of a failure of a successful detonation on the supply station, Task Force Ghostrider will attempt to destroy it with the fleet. We hope it doesn’t come to that, but we will do that.” The Admiral knew he didn’t want to make such a decision and hoped the SPARTANs were going to get the job done.

“Who will be the element to infiltrate the supply station with the nuclear warhead?” The MEB Commander asked as she turned her eyes towards Oriana.

Oriana had not selected the two to infiltrate into the supply station, it was the only decision she had not made yet. She had the two in her mind but refused to tell those around her due to their attempts to try and talk her out of it.

“It’ll be SPARTAN-A284 and SPARTAN-B256 ma’am.” She replied to the MEB Commander.

Draven looked at Samuel for a second then back at Oriana, he knew he was leading the second element but not infiltrating the supply station. Oriana selected him since he passed the Weapons of Mass Destruction Course on Onyx and handled all nuclear warheads for Red Team during their deployments. The only thing that probably stunned Draven was the fact that he was deploying with Samuel and not someone else.

Oriana picked Samuel due to his background of demolition and sabotage, he got a crash course on the WMD Course at Onyx but never used the skillset in the field. Samuel and Draven were the two most capable SPARTANs in handling a nuclear warhead out of everyone else on Red Team. It happened to be that the new person was being paired with the team chief.

“We’ll need you to send them to the armory where we will give them a nuclear warhead to deploy before deploying to Juniper IV.” The MEB Commander noted as she continued to figure out the rest of the matters at hand. “I’ll have to meet with my command staff to iron out the remaining details of our deployment.” She gave a salute to the staff and made her way out of the room.

Left with the ODST Lieutenant Colonel, Major Frommenwiler, Captain of the Swiftsure and Vice Admiral Tursk, Oriana discussed her side of what was going to happen. “We’ll split into two elements. I’ll lead Red-01 with six SPARTANs while Red-02 is led by SPARTAN-A284. Red-01 will provide support for Red-02 then establish a link-up position with elements from the MEB and ODSTs. Regardless of where Red-02 burst out of, we’ll be able to grab them before the Covenant have a chance to do anything.” Oriana looked at the table and her notes while glancing at Clayton to see him reassure the plan.

“What do you think Major? You’re the Operations Officer for the kids here.” The Naval Captain didn’t hide the fact he viewed the SPARTAN-III program as something odd compared to the S-II Program. “Do you believe Red-02 will be able to take out the station?”

Clayton didn’t enjoy the Captain’s remarks about his SPARTANs. “The question is Captain, not if Red-02 2ill be able to take out the base and whether the kids will be ready. The question is, will you be ready?”

Samuel smiled at that remark from Clayton, it was nice to see an officer stick up for a SPARTAN team, especially one that was of a younger caliber. The Captain furrowed his brow at the Major due to the disrespectful comment but was silently told to back off as Vice Admiral Tursk tapped his shoulder.

“Gentlemen, this is not the place to have this discussion.” He looked at the Captain first. “Do not underestimate the SPARTANs. And do not make another comment about their capabilities until you see them in action.” He then turned to the Major. “Focus on getting your team ready, do not rile up my crew in the meantime.”

Both the Captain and Major replied with a yes sir while the ODST Lieutenant Colonel said his final remarks and left. Clayton let all of Red Team go expect for Oriana, Draven, and Samuel; where he ordered them to his room to discuss the situation.

Samuel fell in behind Draven as they made their way out of the TOC, his first mission with an NCT seemed to be an interesting one under special circumstances. It felt like he was going to be in his element after all.

Clayton opened a door and let the SPARTANs into the room. Samuel took note of the mess and how the Major lived his life. He watched Clayton sit down in a chair as Draven made room on a desk lacking structural integrity and Oriana sat on the bed while Samuel leaned on the door frame.

“What’s the roster for Red-01 and Red-02 O?” Clayton looked at Oriana as he sipped tea. “We never ironed out that side of the mission.”

“I’ll take Omar, Lynn, Tucker, Riley, and Isaac with Red-01. Draven will take Emilia and Samuel on Red-02.” She glanced at Draven to see him nod with approval. “I want Emilia to cover them to the best of her ability so they can get in with the least amount of contact.”

Clayton looked over at Draven and Samuel, he knew a lot more about Draven than Samuel. Partially because of the fact that Samuel’s file was one page with enough black ink to let him figure out that he did some covert work.

“What about you Samuel? What do you think about this mission and you going in with Draven?” He focused on the newest member of Red Team.

Samuel stood up straight. “It’s a good shot sir.”

There was a silence for a minute, Clayton was hoping to hear more than it being a good shot. It was common for SPARTANs to struggle in communicating with people outside of their group. He shot a concerned glance to Oriana then looked back at Samuel.

“Well, I appreciate your enthusiasm. I need to talk some things over with Oriana and we’ll be ready to go.” Draven took the cue to drag Samuel out of the room so the two had their alone time.

He watched Samuel salute the Major then pulled him out after Clayton acknowledged him. Draven needed to take some time to smooth out Samuel since he had been stuck around ONI officers for too long. He knew Clayton joined SPECWARCOM as an Operations Officer to put his hands in his pocket and not get yelled at by some power-bent Lieutenant Colonel.

Once out in the hallway, the two made their way back to their own section of the ship known as SPARTAN Section. The crew of the ship spotted the SPARTANs easily they were blinding pale and too tall.

“Sam, you know you can relax around Clayton. He’s not one to grade you on a salute and knock you down a rank because you didn’t acknowledge his class ring.” Samuel only replied with a grunt of approval at least. “And be a little more creative with your responses at times. You may not get far when you talk like a dumb AI about every situation.” He heard Samuel give another grunt of approval. “You won’t have to deal with Tucker on your first mission.”

Samuel glanced up at Draven then gave a small smile. “He’ll complain the whole way back that he didn’t get to blow up the station.”

“Most likely.”

They reached a lift and took it down to their Section where the rest of Red Team spent their time when they weren’t locked in the rooms. Lynn maintained all of Red Team’s weapons, Omar and Isaac worked on innovating communication gear while the rest spent their time arguing about topics that ranged from philosophy to the worst instructor on Onyx. The only one not to be found was Emilia, Red Team’s sniper and recon specialist.

Petty Officer First Class Emilia-A049 was considered the magician of the team. She spent her time writing poems and recited them during a battle to keep her head off the battle along with those they had lost. Many of the shots that she hit were considered impossible until people saw the HUD camera footage. Since joining Red Team, she cemented herself as one of the top snipers in SPECWAR Group Three. During times outside of cyro, she stayed in her room to write poems. That’s where Draven expected to find her.

“I’m going to meet with the MEB Commander’s staff to see when we need to meet with them. Don’t get in trouble.” Draven watched Samuel nod and walked out of SPARTAN Section.

While the rest of Red Team screwed around, Oriana and Clayton finalized their plans for the Battle of Juniper IV.

“How do you feel about this?” Clayton stared at Oriana as he waited for her response.

She thought long and hard about the mission, all the benefits while analyzing the problems made her think differently about the situation. Red Team was going to blow up a Covenant supply station, it seemed like a suicide mission. But there were so many other missions which could’ve ended disastrous but didn’t due to the team.

“I don’t know. I think we will be ok, but it seems like a gamble at this point where we can’t think too much.” Oriana sighed as Clayton continued to sip his tea. “We’ll win, one way or another. The cost will determine the victory.”

In the short months, they had been working together, Clayton knew how Oriana thought and ways to anticipate her reactions to certain parts of planning. He knew how to handle everything she couldn’t ensure the team was prepared for any mission.

“Per usual. We can’t win the war by power and overwhelming them so we must use tactics and strategy to draw it out till they are unable to go anymore.” Clayton responded to Oriana’s remark about the battle.

Oriana didn’t enjoy how easily Clayton was able to think in numbers. “And how long will that strategy take? The unconventional warfare strategies work but come at the cost of massive civilian causalities and that is something I want to avoid. The Covenant do not care about whether they kill a UNSC soldier or a civilian, they want our species gone.”

“Which means we ought to strike them in their own territory to draw away support, we’ll most likely resort to a kinetic solution since non-kinetic does not work against religious zealots. Hopefully we can develop that solution soon.” Clayton watched Oriana as he finished his sentence.

Both of them often searched for ways to end the Human-Covenant War, but ONI struggled to find any Covenant worlds with a significant population. The option to nuke the colony was a good one, but nothing had been made yet to be classified a planet-killer. If the UNSC showcased the ability to strike Covenant homeworlds, things would drastically change since the UNSC had a leg up with Artificial Intelligence. Electronics Warfare with AI came about in the later years of the Insurrection and proved to be extremely effective in concealing human colony locations from the Covenant.

“Anyways, I need to get back down to the Section. If anything comes up, give me a ring.” She smiled at him as she stood up.

Clayton walked her to the door and Oriana stepped out into the hallway, she pushed the Battle of Juniper IV out of her quickly. The last thing she wanted to do was dwell on a battle. Making her way to the Section, she passed by crew members who stared at her in awe while others went on their way. Down in the Section, she saw the team doing their own thing and made her way to her room where Emilia sat at a desk.

“Good talk with your boyfriend?” Emilia looked up from her notebook to take a break from writing a poem.

Oriana glared at Emilia. “Never going to let that go, will you?”

“You two smile at each other, that’s pretty much dating.”

The last thing Oriana wanted on her mind was Emilia teasing her about the close friendship she has with Clayton. But it became the one thing that drove her mind away from the Battle of Juniper IV. As much as she hated the topic, it was helping her keep things under control.

“It’s called appreciation of one another.”

Emilia smirked at Oriana and she had to retrace what she said. “Not like that! Please get your mind off that! No!”

Both of them turned to the knock on the door and Emilia got up to open it and see Draven. He made his way into the room and sat on the desk to see what Emilia was doing as Oriana laid down on the top bunk.

“Sam and I have a date with the armory tomorrow at 08:00 to get ourselves a present. It should be a HAVOK or a FURY, but this is a supply station so we should theoretically get a HAVOK. But we’ll most likely get a FURY.” Draven glanced over at Emilia then up to Oriana. “We may not destroy the supply station, but we can make it inoperable.”

Oriana let the information sink in, she much rather have a HAVOK to do more damage but a well-placed FURY could do the job as well. Whatever they got; it became imperative that the infiltration team got into the right position to destroy or disable the station. She had full faith in Draven to accomplish the mission and she expected Sam to play an important role as well.

Draven crossed his arms and leaned back against the wall as he spoke. “Also, you and I are meeting with the MEB and ODST Staff later to discuss what we’re going to do. Clayton will be there to put down the vultures wanting to pick a fight with you.” He got off the desk and stretched. “Anyways, I am going to police the idiots and make sure they don’t space each other. If you need me, you know where to find me.”

He made his way out of the room and headed towards the common area. Emilia picked up right where she left off.

“He knows.” She smiled and turned back to writing her poem.

Oriana was not happy with Emilia sticking with the Clayton theory, she shouldn’t have told her about him at all. At least Emilia didn’t tell Tucker, the last thing she needed was the loudmouth of the team discussing that. ONI would catch wind and send Oriana back to get reconditioned while also losing her team, that was something she couldn’t afford.

Samuel studied Draven as he walked back into the room and sat with Omar, the news of having a FURY or HAVOK was not shocking to him. The UNSC Nuclear Arsenal was starting to run bare to the point where they started using older nuclear warheads that had been decommissioned for use. The desperate attempts to stop the Covenant became more clear to UNSC Leadership, but civilians remained unaware of how much danger they were in.

Chapter III

18:48 Local Time - 03/11/2550 - Station of Unlimited Fortitude

Fleet Master Kyzo ‘Sakamee stared into the abyss of space from the Station of Unlimited Fortitude, he was tasked by the Ministry of Resolution to oversee a staging area for the Covenant military to use in its war against Humanity. With the Silent Witnesses Fleet acting as security, Kyzo did not have doubt in his mind he wouldn’t be able to have the station online within a few days.

The Vice Minister of the Ministry of Resolution sought an audience with the Fleet Master not too long ago to see the progress of the supply station. Kyzo reported with confidence that he was ahead of schedule and offered to invade into Humanity Space to take out the world his brothers in another fleet failed to accomplish. The request was denied, too many times had a staging area been set up only to be wiped out by Humanity. Learning from the previous mistakes, the Ministry took no risks against another surprise attack.

In the previous attacks, Humanity deployed demons to take down such staging areas. The arrival of the Silent Shadow put his mind at ease, knowing that there were capable fighters to combat the demons of humanity. But he still wondered how many of the demons were left since at the two sites that were attacked, the demons were killed in masses. Regardless of the demons, Kyzo needed to focus on the supply station to give the Covenant the fighting capability it requires to continue the Great Journey against Humanity.

To ensure that there was no surprise attack by Humanity, Kyzo dispatched the Silent Shadow and elements of his fleet to patrol the star system. He ordered the Silent Shadow to search for positions they would set up in, letting them seek out any devices or enemies that were located in the system.

“Fleet Master, First Blade Officer Syra ‘Losumai wishes to meet with you.” Kyzo gave a nod and the Major walked to let the Blademaster into the room.

Syra ‘Losumai needed no introduction among his fellow brothers, the leader of the Silent Shadow detachment became a legend through his many slaying of demons. Having thirteen confirmed kills as a Blademaster cemented him as an icon among his people back on Hseduros. His patience and tactical brilliance allowed him to be assigned some of the most crucial missions within the Ministry of Resolution. Both Kyzo and Syra worked together in the opening of the war to take down Human worlds and gather information on the next target, they were considered to be excellent officers for the Covenant.

“Fleet Master, we have located a UNSC Military Team. They pose no threat to us, but it seems like they are the forward element to something much larger.” He spoke with the sole intent to inform.

Kyzo’s hunch proved to be right, he was being watched by the UNSC and the location of his station had been located. There was no doubt in his mind that the UNSC was planning to take down his station. He knew this time the UNSC had the potential to attack compared to previous times where the Covenant were caught off guard.

Kyzo turned to see Syra standing next to him and looking out into space. “Seems our prediction was right, the UNSC has a skill in identifying our stations,” Kyzo spoke.

“They shouldn’t have a chance to defeat us this time. Though, we should seek an audience with the Vice Minister for the sake of what we should do. I doubt the Council will come to a decision in time for us to react to the news we send to them.” Syra replied to Kyzo.

The Prophets and Council was the bane of the Covenant’s military capabilities, they slowed down the military campaign to glass planets and not pursue the fleeing military ships. Both Kyzo and Syra disagreed with the idea of targeting civilians to battle against the UNSC, they were warfighters and sought glory against a formidable foe. Civilians who refused to fight were not battles Kyzo and Syra enjoyed fighting in the quest of glory.

“What do you want to do?” Syra questioned as he saw Kyzo take a breath.

The question itself lingered in Kyzo’s mind; he knew what he wanted to do. This plan was never going to be approved by the Vice Minister and he would interject his plan to gloat about having a successful battle against the Covenant without ever being at the battlefield.

“I will make them think the station is the principal target, then flank them with the fleet. We’ll lay mines based on slipspace routes and send a message to nearby units to not come near until the battle has been completed.” Kyzo spoke as he continued to brainstorm.

He was tempted to bypass the Vice Minister and go straight to the Minister to get what he needed to succeed. There was no doubt in his mind that the Vice Minister wanted to usurp the Minister from his position to wage a more offensive war with the Jiralhanae. The rumors were confirmed through a fellow member on the council, but none wanted it to grow too much to have a mutiny. Since the confirmation, Sangheili commanders have been using their political power to keep the Jiralhanae at bay and those who advocate for them becoming the center of the war as well.

Syra took in the idea and added his pieces. “There will be SPARTANs in this battle. I can deploy my unit to take them down. We can also use Rangers to infiltrate their ships, but usher caution since they might self-destruct. The General will be able to deal with whatever forces are thrown at them, he has the experience.” He added.

Kyzo took the idea from him and felt the situation needed to be explained to the Minister. He hoped the Minister would see his intentions and give him the free will of taking charge of the battle. If things did not go to plan, Kyzo would be surely prosecuted for his crimes and taken out of command for not following the correct chain of command.

He remembered a lesson from the War College he attended by one of his teachers. Any battle commander could be another with sheer force, very few can beat with tactics. The honor that came from defeating an enemy with tactics and strategy came to be far more respected than those who earned it through strength. He knew he had the advantage with the supply station, strength, and technology, the only unknown would be how the enemies were going to react. Humanity never reacted the same way to any situation.

“You should see to your troops; I will contact someone I trust to see how to navigate this situation,” Kyzo spoke.

Syra gave an understanding nod and escorted himself out of the room. Kyzo knew the Council of Masters would be a good place to start but he also had the option to reach a Sangheili High Councilor who he met previously. His mind turned to trust the Council of Masters due to their oversight and guidance on the establishment of the supply station. But he decided to contact the High Councilor and see what his thoughts were on both the Minister and Vice Minister. Depending on what would be said, it would determine how Syra reacted to the situation.

The San’Shyuum were no strangers to corrupting great Sangheili commanders to keep the species at bay and subservient to their command. The Sangheili was not a subservient species, but the San’Shyuum continued to write history in their favor, it was what led them to pursue their interest in making the Jiralhanae the first choice as a warfighting unit in the coming years. The Sangheili were looking to take powerful positions and the San’Shyuum needed to create ways to prevent the chance from ever becoming reality.

Taking his time to compose his letter, Kyzo chose his words carefully to get a good assessment of his situation and what were his options. In times that Kyzo found himself in, he needed to pick the best choice when there was no good choice. The critical decisions he needed to make often made himself known as an excellent Fleet Master among his peers since he did what was right for his soldiers.

After sending the message, he called for his staff to meet and discuss the possible attack by the UNSC in the coming days. Kyzo took a general inventory of his fleet and supply station to gauge a general number of what could be done. Minefields would play a way into forcing the enemy down desired paths or force them to spend countless hours clearing the way through only to be met with a reaction force. His offensive shipmasters would enjoy striking the UNSC Navy ships down while the defensive shipmasters protected the supply station and the rear of the offensive ships.

He knew the General was going to spread out his troops and give the navy the chance to use bombing strategies to inflict causalities. If many UNSC troops deployed onto the moon below, the ability to use orbital bombing was going to get away faster than they wanted. Kyzo also thought about the usage of the Thanolekgolo, but he only wanted to use the tactic if everything else failed.

The Thanolekgolo was known to be the most dangerous Lekgolo metacolony due to its ability to destroy. Stories from the legendary Taming of the Lekgolo about the Thanolekgolo brought fear into some of the most seasoned Sangheili the Covenant had in their command. To have one in Kyzo’s arsenal of weapons gave him another idea on how to tackle the UNSC threat.

The General with his staff and the shipmasters arrived not long after. The group moved to a holo table to discuss the problem.

The General was briefed on the situation by Syra not too long ago. “I propose an idea for how to handle the UNSC ground forces.” He spoke and stepped forward with a servant. “We put our troops close to the supply station on adjacent planets, asteroids, and moons using the fleets to push the UNSC towards my troops.” He spoke and showcased the plan on the table. “They’ll be forced to split up, fight on many fronts and we will be able to capitalize on their confusion.”

Many of the shipmasters agreed with the idea, trusting the General in his ability to command the Legions to combat the UNSC ground forces.

“And if they do not go in the way we wish?” A Shipmistress spoke as she studied the plan. “There must be a strong enough force for us to defend here while also having strong units on the adjacent planets. It would not be good for us to lose our flanks so easily for them to establish bases and call for more support.”

The lead defensive commander brought up a good point, the General took the question as a sign to reinforce his plan. “We will use our fast-moving units to keep the enemy engaged as they try to establish positions. The slow-moving units will remain on a ship and prepared to launch once the enemy engages. If they do not attack, another ship will move in to coordinate a pick up and move to support wherever they are needed.” He spoke with confidence.

“That’s bringing our support ships close to the frontlines, we must usher caution.” One Shipmaster spoke. “Though, our defensive ships and fighters can handle the incoming enemy with ease. I support this decision.” He heard multiple voices of agreement.

Kyzo took in the situation before him, it was going to be a ship deployment for the ground force. It was not going to be a planetary battle that allowed the Covenant to have the upper hand against the UNSC yet again. The establishment of anti-air weapons along with his premier space and air fighting corps would destroy their ability to launch an effective ground war. UNSC ships had a limited amount of ammunition and needed every shot to take down Covenant ships, splitting it between ground and space was doom for them.

“What shall we do about SPARTANs, if they’re deployed?” The Shipmistress spoke again, questioning to ensure the General’s plan fits every scenario.

He enjoyed being tested by her. “We will use the Silent Shadow along with lances to quickly take them down before anything detrimental can happen. We did the same at the shipping yard and we can do the same here.” He replied.

The General was no stranger to the SPARTANs, he was one of the many that led a counter-offensive on the K7-49 Shipping Yard which led to the demise of a SPARTAN force. His usage of maneuver warfare with vehicles earned him a title as an innovator to break through lines and win crucial battles for the Covenant.

“And for the Fleet?” Kyzo spoke as he saw the General finish the last piece of his general plan.

The lead offensive shipmaster stepped forward and brought up the system view. “We’ll use minefields to direct them towards us and we’ll use our ships to pull them closer to the desired planets the General sets upon. Once they begin deploying, we will attack them from the sides to set up crossfires and force them to abandon their ground troops. We will push them back to where they either flee out of the system or into the minefield.” He received a collection voice of agreement from his peers.

“And if this doesn’t go according to plan?” Kyzo looked at the shipmaster as he spoke.

“Then we shall regroup around the supply station and engage out to break through their lines, cut down the weak sides and rotate our ships in a way where we can maintain effective fire to take down their ships.” The Shipmaster spoke with confidence.

No other shipmaster in the Silent Witnesses had more confirmed kills than the lead offensive shipmaster. His lightning-fast attacks made him well known throughout the Fleet as an electrifying element to the morale of the troops.

“Now, defense.” Kyzo stared at the Shipmistress.

“Our priority is the defense of the supply ships and the station. We will act as a shield for retreating and damaged offensive ships as well. With that, we will primarily provide support first then engage when called upon.” She replied to Kyzo and looked at the other shipmasters to see their approval.

Kyzo let the room fall silent after hearing the plans from all the leading officers, he knew their capabilities well enough since he handpicked them. They did not need to prove themselves to him at the time, they proved themselves to their fellow shipmasters. Upcoming battles like such allowed them to maintain the nature of being a great Sangheili warrior.

“That is all,” Kyzo spoke.

He watched his staff leave the room as he stood at the holo table by himself and looked at the battle sphere. Studying the routes, he knew what he would take to exploit the defenses his officers discussed. Kyzo knew the UNSC was going to come in with their type of attack and throw all of the planning he had done, out the window.

“Fleet Master, you have a message from the Councilor.” His servant spoke and left quickly.

The message contained a coded message that both the Minister and Vice Minister were to not be trusted. Kyzo felt he knew the answer to that inquiry before sending it and needed confirmation. His decision to not inform the Ministry would surely cause a rift and have him be listed as a traitor. A Silent Shadow Fleet or else would come to kill him quickly. It meant that he needed to prepare for a two-front battle.

Kyzo did not enjoy the idea of having politics dictate his decision to conduct combat, High Charity and the Ministries were not always on his side to launch counter-offensives against the enemy. He often thought about the importance of the war and why the Covenant did not open to negotiations earlier on before conducting hostilities.

“Fleet Master, might I have a word?” The Shipmistress spoke as he placed the message down on the table.

“Go ahead Shipmistress.” He replied.

“I take it the Prophets and Ministers do not know of the developing situation since we have not had a hand tied behind our back yet.” She spoke and stood near the holo table. “Shall I prepare for defensive countermeasures against the other enemy we will meet? It will most likely be Jiralhanae so we can deal with them easily, but it will be after.” She stared at him.

He knew what she meant with after, the stain on their family’s name and honor for being traitors. The struggle to find supplies and keep morale high against something like the Covenant. He knew he could get help from his homeworld for a time until the Covenant learned. Almost all capable warfighting units of the Covenant were deployed, leaving commanders who were not battle-tested to protect many supply stations deep in Covenant territory.

“Yes, prepare for the aftermath of this battle. We can use the warning about a minefield deployment to delay the deployment of another enemy quickly unless they wish to charge right into their death.” He replied to her.

“Very well then, I will see to our efforts to protect the system and delay enemy involvement.” She replied and made her way out of the room once again.

Kyzo watched back into space and prepared himself for the decision to battle the UNSC one last time. He knew he wasn’t going to take the fight to them for quite some time. Kyzo wanted to make it his best battle in recent memory with his fellow brothers and sister.

Chapter IV

17:34 Local Time - 03/13/2550 - UNSC Swiftsure - FLEETCOM Sector Three

Samuel walked behind Draven towards the MEB’s Staff Center to discuss the employment of a nuclear warhead device in the Covenant supply station. The team voted for Draven to carry and arm the nuclear warhead, they had the most trust in him since he had four successful arming and detonations. Samuel was going to provide support, lead Draven in then out, and assure nothing happened in-between. The discussion wasn’t long, and Samuel focused on the task given to him by his commanding officer, support, and security.

Once inside of the center, the two SPARTANs took note of the Command and Control staff of the MEB then walked over to the Commander to discuss the plan. It was for the best of them since most of the staff stopped working to look at them. Samuel paid no attention to them, it seemed to be too much staff for one command, he knew everyone in his chain-of-command since it was extremely small, the MEB staff looked like a chaotic mess.

“In here.” The MEB Commander called from her office.

The two SPARTANs walked in to see a Major and a Master Gunnery Sergeant standing next to the Deputy Commander of the MEB, a Colonel. All of these people here were to see what the SPARTANs planned to do with a nuclear warhead device.

Draven wasted no time. “What is the armament we are working with?” He asked.

“A Fury.” The Colonel replied.

Of all things, a Fury Tactical Nuclear Weapon was the last thing they wanted to have. It was classified as a Medium Fusion Destructive Device that looked like a nuclear grenade. It could take out the station if it was strategically placed. Samuel knew the stakes for the mission grew once learning about the Fury.

Draven understood. “Better than nothing. The plan is to use a Prowler from the Watch Group to infiltrate the area, evade the sensors, create an opportunity to use Falcon Wings to HAHO, and descend onto the moon and move in.” He looked at the staff and they weren’t blown away.

Samuel originally came up with the plan, he had enough experience with freefall and airborne procedures to convince Draven on the idea. The High-Altitude High Opening allowed them to navigate right on top of the enemy and be extremely hard targets to hit.

“Falcon Wings?” The Master Guns questioned. “You want to use Falcon Wings to descend onto the moon in a HAHO jump?”

“Yes sir,” Draven replied.

The Master Guns stared back at the SPARTANs confused. He understood and liked the Prowler idea, but the insertion seemed to have too many red flags for him.

“Master Guns, they are here to inform us of their plan. They are not here to discuss their plan and offer any suggestions. If you have a problem, please discuss it with Major Frommenwiler.” The Colonel spoke evenly, preventing the Master Guns from derailing the conversation to discussing tactics. “Please continue Chief Petty Officer.”

Draven looked back at Samuel then at the staff. “We’ll then infiltrate the area, plant the nuke and detonate it to destroy the station or render it inoperable for the Covenant. We’ll meet up with our team, SPIE exfil and we’ll be back.”

The Special Patrol Insertion/Extraction would be conducted by Prowlers or Pelicans, depending on whatever was available. The MEB had to deal with their own deployment and ensuring they had enough to get down quickly enough but also off as well. They weren’t going to SPIE off the planet like the SPARTANs, Oriana knew that, and she planned to assist the MEB.

“Let’s hope that does the job.” The MEB Commander commented to the Colonel. “Thank you SPARTANs, my Deputy will escort you to the Armory so you can receive the Fury.” She stood and gave a quick salute. “May God be with you.” She commented as the SPARTANs saluted her.

Samuel followed Draven, the Colonel, and the Master Guns down to the armory. They made their way through sections of the ship that Samuel never saw before and took note of the endless ways to run through the corridor. Reaching an elevator, they took it down three levels and opened to a room with a few Marines and a handful of Armory Officers.

“Hey, check it out.” One Marine commented to his friend. “We got them this time.”

The other Marine peeked over her shoulder and Samuel swore she was as old as he was. It didn’t sit well with him because he knew that the Marine was going to be in a worse position than him. Seeing the young faces that looked as old as him only pushed him further to try and protect them from the Covenant.

She looked back at her friend. “They look like kids.” She muttered quietly.

“Can you give us some space please?” The Colonel asked quietly as he watched the two Marines snap at attention.

“Yes sir!” They made their way out of the room.

It grew quiet again as the four stepped forward to the table, the Chief Warrant Officer took out the case and placed it on the table for the others to see. The Warrant Officer opened it to display the Fury nuclear weapon and made Samuel’s mouth dry. He had read about nuclear warheads and played with simulations, but the real warhead made his stomach turn.

“The code to arm is 1-9-5-3-6-7. The code to abort is 3-5-1-6-7-0.” The Warrant Officer spoke as he handed them to the Colonel. “Trust this device in the correct hands of the individual to carry out the mission to detonate this against the enemy.” He spoke calmly then looked at the two SPARTANs. “I suppose it’s you two who are handling the deployment and detonation of this device.” He saw two heads nod yes.

The UNSC was entrusting a seventeen and twenty-five-year-old SPARTAN in detonating a Weapon of Mass Destruction, the idea made Samuel think about how desperate the UNSC was in the fight against the Covenant. Samuel then saw his new toy, the modified Falcon Wing outfitted for Draven’s MJOLNIR and his SPI. The Chief Warrant Officer placed them on the table and Draven gave Samuel a look to carry both of them.

“Remember the codes and kill as many as you can.” The Chief Warrant Officer said.

The Colonel closed the case, locked it, then handed it to Draven to carry back. Samuel picked up the two Falcon Wings and waited behind as Draven and the Colonel shared words.

Draven turned and looked at Samuel. “Let’s go.” He spoke and Samuel followed him out.

They made their way to the elevator and rode it up back to the level where SPARTAN Section was. The Fury was being transported to their own armory along with the Falcon Wings, the movements were being watched by Navy and Marine Corps Security Teams aboard the ship.

“We have a meeting with Clayton after we drop this off. I’ll grab Emilia while you put the Falcon Wings by our suits.” Draven spoke evenly as he informed Sam.

Emilia picked up her wing earlier and was already informed on what the team was doing. It would’ve been pointless to drag her along. Samuel theorized it would be when he met the Prowler Commander and discuss their jump point.

“Got it.” Samuel replied and the two walked out of the lift.

Making their way into Section, they met with their own Armory Officer and placed their equipment into her hands till their deployment. Unlike the rest of Red Team, Draven, Emilia, and Samuel were due to deploy within the next day. Draven left to grab Emilia while Samuel watched the Armory Officer place his wing by his suit.

He then made his way out to meet with Draven and Emilia, the trio then headed off to Clayton’s office yet again. The meetings with the Major started to grow tiresome for Samuel since he had to constantly receive developing information. He wasn’t used to the planning inside of Red Team and it annoyed him that he had to adapt.

It didn’t take long for Samuel to make it to Clayton’s room, the rest of the team let him know they were present.

“We’re going to Hangar 02.” Clayton spoke, informing the team. “We’re going to meet the Prowler Team you’ll be departing with.”

Samuel started growing tired of the routine, walk to a specific section of the ship and talk with people. Repeat the process till deployment then do it all over again. Clayton added some fun along about discussing things outside of the military which gave Sam an idea of what life was like during the war.

Reaching the Hangar, Samuel looked at the Eclipse-class Prowler and felt excited. He loved Prowlers and how they played a pivotal role in the war. They weren’t the strongest or the fastest, but they had the right tools to get the job done and screw with the Covenant. The sight of the sleek beast never got old to him.

“You’re deploying from an Eclipse-Class Prowler named Unto Breach which will infiltrate you into the area then extract you.” Clayton said.

The Prowler Commander, a Lieutenant Commander, and his Deputy made their way over to talk with the SPARTANs.

“Looks like we’re the ones transporting you into combat.” The Prowler Commander said coldly.

Clayton knew the commander had a serious sense of duty instilled into him. But he also knew that the Commander had deployed SPARTAN units during the Battle of Miridem in 2544. Vice Admiral Tursk knew who he wanted to command the Watch Group and made no mistake to call upon one he worked with before.

“Seems to be that way.” Draven responded evenly. “Do you need us to go over anything with you before we deploy?”

Since Clayton forwarded the plans of what Red Team was doing, the Prowler crew knew what they needed to do. They had the flight plan from the Navy and were prepared to launch for whenever the time came. Along with the plans from the Army and Navy, the Prowler needed to scout minefields and disable them to ensure the fleet was not caught in one. One Prowler from the Watch Group was returning with the Recon Unit while cycling another in. Often times the Prowler conducted battlefield reconnaissance which gave the Vice Admiral the critical information he needed.

The Prowler Commander shook his head no before replying. “No. If anything does come up on your end, be sure to report to me and Clayton so we can adapt. For the most part, we should be good to go, only thing we might have to do differently is find a minefield is and tag it, so we and the fleet don’t hit it.”

The idea of going into a system without encountering contact seemed to grow rare for the UNSC. But laying mines in a system where a valuable station resided seemed to be standard operating procedures for the Covenant. The element of surprise gave both sides the ability to miscalculate a pre-planned maneuver, so the UNSC were the ones attacking and needed to make the right decision. Sam was glad he was not an Astronavigation Officer to perform such a decisive decision. “We’ll be ready whenever you are.” Draven responded and saluted the Prowler Commander.

The commander returned a salute and talked with Clayton, Draven and Emilia went back to the section while Samuel stayed to look at Unto Breach. The Deputy Commander broke away and made his way over to Samuel to see what interested the SPARTAN. He read the name tag to see Wagner and the rank of Lieutenant on his collar.

“She looks good, eh?” Wagner spoke and glanced up at Samuel. “Done three missions and we have all came back together. She’s done some great work.”

“That’s good to hear, hopefully, we’ll keep the streak going for you.” He replied.

Wagner seemed a little bit at ease after seeing the SPARTAN not go all formal on him. It is a great change of pace for the kids since they can break out of the military shell every once in a while.

“You’re doing a freefall jump to reach the objective, correct?” Wagner watched Samuel nod yes. “How many of those have you done as a team?”

Samuel did not know the answer to that question, he never asked about the qualification of the team in airborne capabilities. He did know he had to argue for the airborne option strong since Draven and Emilia picked other options well before settling on airborne.

Samuel shrugged his shoulders before speaking. “First for me here.”

“How many have you done yourself?” Wagner asked.

Samuel looked down at the Lieutenant then back at ship. “Enough to know that we can accomplish this.” He said quietly before seeing Clayton wave at him. “I need to head back, see you later Lieutenant.”

“Likewise.” He called out and made his way over to the Prowler Commander.

Samuel walked to meet with Clayton and the two rode to their floor. They didn’t say anything to one another for the time. Clayton did not want to grow too attached to Samuel since the SPARTAN had the prospect of dying. It became a rule of his ever since he watched too many SPARTANs and his friends die in combat, he closed himself off for the sake of his sanity.

On the other end, Samuel didn’t want to talk to his commanding officer. He found him to be someone that didn’t take his job as seriously as the others. ONI officers compared to the Army officer was something that drove Samuel to try and get back into the Headhunters or onto a reconnaissance assignment. The days of talking with people, discussing strategies and tactics were driving him insane. He needed to be in the field.

With only 24 hours before launch, Samuel knew he had to get his mind right and prepare for getting back into his SPI suit for combat. The last time he wore it was in 2549 after the fatal failure of Operation: URGENT TEMPEST. He conducted his handful of training exercises with the team, but it never matched the intensity of being hunted by the Covenant.

“See you in the morning.” Clayton said before turning to his room.

Samuel offered no response and headed to his room. He needed to get his mind right along with the rest of the tech for his SPI. The Watershed Division team assigned to Samuel was to assist him with getting his armor on along with making sure all the software and hardware worked. The last thing he needed was a malfunction in battle.

Oriana watched as Samuel made his way over to the armory and returned to talking with Omar about their plan. With Draven, Sam, and Emilia going in first, she needed to make sure that the rest of Red had their back if anything went south. With an airborne drop, it gave Oriana the chance to land with a Pelican or Prowler to dismount and proceed on foot since the airborne team was going to draw attention. With the hope of taking out AA turrets, more UNSC units could deploy without the fear of getting shot down so easily.

The rest of the plan really depended on what happened to the supply station. If the nuke detonated, then they were going to move out and redeploy to support the MEB or go in as a team and destroy the station. Either way, the station was going to be taken down. With the station down, Oriana coordinated with the ODST Battalion Commander to support the exfil of the MEB and whatever units deployed.

“This is going to be pretty.” Omar muttered as he stared at the plans. “Then again, everything we do isn’t pretty.”

Oriana took note of his comment, they needed to redeploy to support the MEB. Either they borrowed Covenant vehicles or utilized an SPIE extraction method. She had a specific rule in place to not use air and space assets to deploy into combat, but this seemed to be the one time that rule was broken. She hoped to keep on the ground and not have to use the Prowlers or Pelicans.

“You’re right about that. Let’s hope Sam doesn’t shoot us any more airborne ops. I can’t remember the last time I did a jump. How he convinced Draven, I have no idea.” She said while thinking out loud.

“Didn’t you push Draven out the Pelican one time?” Omar arched an eyebrow and glanced at her.

Oriana refused to look at him. “He needed encouragement to get to the ground, I helped him.”

“Let’s hope Sam doesn’t have to do the same thing you did to Draven.” Omar replied.

Not many of the members in Red Team found passion in doing airborne jumps. Emilia was the other who was avid about it to a point where she went through the airborne school back on Onyx. At least Draven had someone to talk to without looking like a fool in front of Sam. Again, Red Team had to improvise and adapt to find a way to win.

Chapter V

05:39 Local Time - 03/13/2550 - UNSC Swiftsure - FLEETCOM Sector Three

Samuel checked and double-checked his Falcon Wing before boarding Unto Breach. Alongside his SPI and wing, he carried a MA5K Carbine, an M6C sidearm, two M9 fragmentation grenades, six magazines for his carbine, and three for his sidearm. The active camouflage and shield test went perfect and he was ready. Draven and Emilia followed behind in their MJOLNIR armor, Draven had an MA5B Assault Rifle and Emilia kept her SRS99-AM Sniper Rifle close by.

The Fury was kept in the left hand of Draven and would be placed on his back during transportation to the site. Samuel was taking point, Draven was in the middle, and Emilia took up the rear; that was the patrol. Spending the last three hours studying the drop zone, Samuel knew he was ready to launch.

The flight to Juniper IV and its system was about sixteen hours. It was surprising to see how close the UNSC was to the Covenant. It continued to prove that astronavigation and astro-intelligence were hard for every species. Samuel didn’t complain, he liked being close to the Covenant since it got him into the action faster.

Draven finished making Team and Tactical Communication channels, he uploaded the topography of Juniper IV marked with the drop zone and supply station. Samuel cycled through the information and organized it on his end to be easier to pull up and communicate.

“I assume we are all set?” Draven asked over TEAMCOM.

He received two green winks on his HUD and led the team onto Unto Breach. Oriana and Clayton stood a distance away as they watched the element of Red Team deploy before the rest of the force. Oriana did not enjoy watching members of her team go without her, but she knew it had to be done.

Draven informed the Prowler Commander they were ready to go and the crew started their launch sequence. Departing from the UNSC Swiftsure took time and effort to ensure the Prowler did not hit anything on the way out and were clear to do a slipspace jump without any problems. Good Prowler Commanders knew how to shorten down the time, Samuel hoped the Commander knew his ways about UNSC Naval Interstellar Procedures.

“I hate this part.” Emilia commented after hearing the green light for the Prowler to launch.

The Prowler launched from its bay and into the blackness of space, surrounded by Naval Ships and fighter squadrons doing combat simulation drills. Samuel glanced out the window to see no planet in sight.

“Ensign, please turn on the gravity.” The Deputy Commander commented.

The Ensign replied before flipping the switch. “Copy Lieutenant.”

Samuel watched as everything fell back to the ground and rested, the gravity for the Prowler was the same as on Juniper IV. It gave him the chance to get used to the field before stepping off the Prowler or ship. He reminded himself to take a few days off after, spacewalk was not something he wanted to have while training.

“We have 16 hours till we reach the system.” Lieutenant Wagner called out. “Let’s prepare for the slipspace jump.”

Red Team listened to the Prowler crew as they responded to each request of confirmation by Lieutenant Wagner. The ship’s AI informed the commander of his electronics warfare capability along with anything else picked up in the sweep. Samuel watched as the ships around him grew more distant, it became Standard Operating Procedures for Prowlers to jump further away.

The further Samuel got away from the fleet, he felt safer. Commands and shackles came off, no more Oriana, Clayton, Tursk, and all those other officers. Decentralized command became a blessing that remained in the UNSC.

“Control, we are green for a slipspace jump.” The Prowler Commander said. “See you in a few.”

He glanced at the flight officer who already put the ship into slipspace. Samuel stared out of his visor and at Draven, he realized that Draven remained an anonymous figure to him along with the rest of the Alpha Company members. He learned a little about Alpha Company from Lynn but never met a field operator till a few months back.

“What was Alpha like?” Samuel asked.

Draven and Emilia looked at one another before turning to Samuel.

“Probably the same as Beta.” Draven responded. “We had a shorter training time which resulted in some mistakes and the ultimate destruction of the company during PROMETHEUS. I’m sure you learned that.” Draven continued while staring at Samuel.

He responded with a head nod. “Something along those lines. What were the deployments like?”

“You never been on a company deployment?” Emilia asked.

“Headhunters don’t do company deployments, I got taken out before we deployed.” Samuel responded.

The revelation that Samuel was a Headhunter didn’t surprise the two. Not many SPARTANs came through Red Team with the background he had so it made them theorize he served on a different NCT. Other clues came with his planning procedures, kit, and quiet nature. Samuel seemed to act a lot like Jun-A266, a sniper assigned to another NCT who previously did tours as a Headhunter.

“Alpha deployments were interesting to say since we surpassed all the expectations set for us. Senior Command didn’t expect us to last long because we were kids. Turned out to be that we were a mean bunch of kids.” Draven spoke while glancing at Emilia.

“All together, we did very good for our situation. It was only going to be a matter of time before the company fell in combat. We needed better training on unit cohesion, conducting operations, and performing missions in a decentralized command format. We studied the failure of PROMETHEUS and those were the three we came up with after a while.” Emilia added on.

The two remembered watching the footage on how the Covenant hunted their friends, the Silent Shadow perfected their science and were extremely successful in destroying Alpha’s ground morale. Since the Covenant took prisoners and a SPARTAN never surrendered, both sides fought till the fall of the SPARTANs. ONI remained determined that there were still some Alphas that survived and were taken to be experimented on. As absurd as the claim sounded, it didn’t seem impossible since they weren’t vaporized like Beta Company.

“How did you end up here?” Draven asked.

Samuel sighed before talking. “Did a mission in Covenant space, lost my teammate to the Silent Shadow. ONI reassigned me to the SPARTAN-III Program for another mission and Red Team came up first. Here I am.”

The summary gave Draven the idea to not pursue further, the mission was still fresh in Sam’s mind. The life of a Headhunter was short, and the train ride remained chaotic. Being personal assassins for a Section Three Operations Officer were back-to-back missions that took up to a year to possibly complete and the officer did not expect to see the SPARTANs back.

There was no relationship between Samuel and his Operations Officer, he was a tool to help advance an ONI officer’s career and slow down threats from developing further. Only at the end did he feel cared for by his officer for his failure and loss of his teammate.

“I’m sorry about your teammate.” Emilia said.

Samuel nodded. “So am I.”

It stayed quiet between the three for a long time, Samuel didn’t know where to push the conversation next since his mind drifted back to the time with his Headhunter partner. Putting that friendship into words for Draven and Emilia was something he didn’t want to do. Samuel still struggled with accepting her death even though he blew her up to prevent the enemy from using her body for experiments.

The sixteen-hour flight to Juniper IV started turning dreadful by the minute for Samuel.


“Approaching the jump point.” Samuel called out on TEAMCOM as he leaned out the bay and looked at the moon’s surface. “Drop zone looks good.”

Using his HUD to zoom in and enhance the ground, there were no enemies. The number of ships on patrol was considered the norm to him, they were operating in Covenant occupied territory. The supply station was not far off from where they were dropping, and Samuel knew they needed something bigger than a Fury to take it down.

“What’s the status SPARTAN?” Lieutenant Wagner asked.

“Drop zone looks good, jump point looks good.” Samuel relayed back.

Draven finished checking his Falcon Wing for the second time in the past minute, Emilia nudged him to relax. Hard for the SPARTAN who hated airborne deployments and was tasked with carrying the nuke.

“Mute yourself so you don’t fill the channel with screams.” Emilia quipped as she waited for Samuel to finish scouting their jump.

“Just make sure I don’t blackout.” Draven replied seriously.

It didn’t take long for Samuel to realize that Draven showed the tell-tale signs of airborne anxiety. He didn’t know the fear drew from when Draven was evacuating from a planet and watched his parents fall to the planet’s surface.

Samuel pushed himself back into the bay and walked over to the team. “We’re good to go. I’ll lead us out and we’ll link up in the air. Remember Draven, do not torpedo yourself.” Samuel got a nod from Draven. “You’re going to be fine, we got you.”

Samuel changed his channel again. “Lieutenant, we’re good to go. Put us over the jump point and we’ll be on our way.”

“On it.” He replied quickly.

The Prowler made slight adjustments and moved over the jump point; Samuel checked his MA5K stuck to his chest along with the rest of his gear. He turned to check Draven and Emilia, giving them a thumbs up by the time the Prowler reached the jump point. Double-checking his math, Samuel knew they were going to fall towards the moon and not drift aimlessly through space.

“We’re in position.” The Prowler commander said over the channel. “Good luck.”

With Samuel’s HUD having all green lights, he led the team to the end of the bay door and stared down at the surface. Leaning forward, he began falling towards the moon with his arms at a 90-degree angle with his legs spread and bent at the knees. The rest of the team followed closely behind.

“Red Team is away, we’re tracking.” Lieutenant Wagner called out as he watched the tracker.

Falling, Samuel checked his HUD to see how far off they were and made adjustments. He looked back down at the surface to see it coming at him at a normal rate. He checked the status of Draven and Emilia to see they were still green light and were.

“Link up.” Samuel said over the channel.

Each SPARTAN turned, both Emilia and Samuel helped Draven and he gave a thumbs up. Their speed began to pick up more and was entering terminal velocity.

“In 1,000 meters, we’re going to break off then deploy our wings 500 meters later.” Samuel said.

Both replied with a green wink. No one dared to comment during the time they were falling into a combat zone, even in Covenant territory. The Prowler Team watched as the SPARTANs fell with no issues so far, both the Prowler Commander and Lieutenant Wagner were ready to act if anything did go wrong.

The 1,000-meter mark on Samuel’s screen turned red. “Break.” He said over the TEAMCOM.

The team broke off from one another and waited for his signal to pull their chute. They haven’t been in the air long, but it remained slow to them due to their augmentations. The SPARTAN Reaction Time became a blessing in disguise for airborne operations since it gave people more time to execute their tasks.

“Pull.” Came the next word from Samuel.

Emilia pulled and felt herself jerk up hard; Draven pulled felt a slight jerk then a jam. He kept falling while Samuel assessed the situation. Moving to Draven, Samuel recognized that the wing was packed wrong and untangled the pieces for a successful deployment of Draven’s wing. After Draven’s successful pull, Samuel pulled his and the team began their descent down to the moon.

Lieutenant Wagner took a long breath. “They’re all deployed and heading to the drop zone.”

“That certainly added some flare to the insertion.” One officer commented.

Each member of the team reached the drop zone, Samuel discarded his wingsuit and powered his shield before drawing his MA5K Carbine. Emilia and Draven checked their gear then saw the green wink from Samuel then replied with their own.

Draven joined the channel with the Prowler Commander. “Ultra 01, this is Faker 02. We’re on the ground proceeding to our objective.”

“Copy that, have a nice walk Faker 02.” The Prowler Commander responded before leaving the channel.

Samuel looked at Draven then back at the surface of the moon. The gravity was going to be different compared to the Prowler if they stayed too long, they needed to move fast. Emilia continued to scan the area ahead of them to see nothing with her sniper rifle, she had an effective range of about 1,000 meters since bullet drop and wind speed were going to be very different for her. Moon combat missions often turned to be a nightmarish or another routine colony mission.

“Alright, let’s move. The fleet is due to arrive in about four hours and we have a two-hour hike ahead of us.” Draven said as he pulled up his TACCOM channel, one that housed the maps. “Sam, lead us out.” He said once entering back into TEAMCOM.

“Wilco.” Samuel responded.

He stared at the nav point before standing up and heading towards the marked location. The route took them through a canyon to protect them from Covenant sensors and ambushes then close to the base camp. The sheer size of the supply station remained the easiest end goal the three team members saw. If they ever got lost, all they had to do was look up and walk towards the station.

Temperatures on the moon were not as barbaric as others, it dipped slightly below freezing in the dark patches and hovered over 30 Celsius in the sunlit areas. The Covenant had terraformed the moon to a point where they had an atmosphere to sustain a fighting force, another blessing in disguise for the UNSC.

Covenant starships glided by slowly as they ran their patrols. Samuel was thankful he wasn’t going to be on the receiving end of that barrage, the ground war was at least fair for both sides.

“Patrol, 1 o’clock about 1,000 meters out.” Emilia called out over TEAMCOM.

Samuel took note of the enemy and broke into a jog to move the team into the canyon ASAP. They didn’t need their position blown so early, the operation hinged on their success, whether he liked it or not.

“Double time.” Draven replied after the jog.

The team broke into running, Samuel lead the team forward and watched as their distance to the patrol closed in. Once inside the canyon, they were good for a time unless there were more traps and sensors. Emilia kept her eye on the patrol, noting the Sangheili, Kig-Yar, and Unggoy personnel.

Draven watched Emilia glance up then back down at the canyon. “We’ll be good.” She said.

“They’re moving fast. Looks like that patrol spooked them a little.” An Intelligence Officer commented.

Wagner brushed the comment off. “Better safe than sorry at this point.” He replied.

Samuel saw the entrance of the canyon then stopped as fast as he could. The Type 21 Covenant Proximity Mine stuck out like a sore thumb; the canyon was rigged.

Chapter VI

21:59 Local Time - 03/13/2550 - Juniper IV - FLEETCOM Sector Three

“Ultra 01, this is Faker 09. Moving to Plan B.” Samuel said over SECNET.

SECNET, known as Secure Network, was the one communication channel the UNSC had to communicate with each other that had the highest level of encryption. Samuel turned to the right and moved outside of the canyon and into the shade rather than into the sunlight. Draven and Emilia followed closely behind, noting that Samuel plotted the course in case the canyon was impossible to pass through.

“Copy that Faker 09, moving to Plan B.” Lieutenant Wagner replied over the channel.

Samuel switched his channel to TACCOM and looked through his notes on Plan B, seeing what needed to be done. Flipping back to TEAMCOM, Samuel used hand signals to move out and continue their trek across the moon. The detour would add time, Red Team needed to make up for it.

“Patrol has a few vehicles we can use to pick up some time.” Emilia said as Red Team continued moving. “Two Type-46 Spectres and a Type-29 Shadow.” She followed up with and marked them on TACCOM.

Spectres were considered to be patrol vehicles that the Sangheili used for reconnaissance and unconventional warfare. They moved fast, packed firepower, and had a rich history of destroying troops from behind. Shadows were the Covenant’s fast-moving troop transports, they moved troops across the battlefield without having to be lifted into the air.

Samuel knew the two Spectres would help a great deal in their battle if things got thick. Using the enemy’s vehicles would also play a factor in letting them slip by some targets without having to waste ammo.

“Draven, what do you think about snagging those vechs?” Samuel took a knee and looked back at him.

Draven looked at Emilia then Samuel. “Doesn’t hurt. Just need to make sure we don’t alert the patrol.” He replied.

“Rog, let’s go shopping.” Samuel said.

He checked TACCOM again to see where the vehicles were and where he stood. It was a small patrol, but they needed to make sure they weren’t spotted before the encounter.

“Warden-01, this is Faker-09. We’re going to take the two Spectres and mark them with IFF sensors so you don’t bomb us when the boats arrive.” Samuel said over SECNET.

IFF stood for Identification Friend or Foe, placing them onto stolen Covenant tech allowed for them to not get bombed by a trigger-happy Weapons Officer on a Naval ship.

Warden-01 was the ONI Recon Team Leader who been acting as a forward observer for the UNSC Navy. Whatever he marked, was going to get attacked, the last thing Samuel needed was a blue on blue incident.

“Copy that Faker-09, we’ll keep an eye out. Have a good one.” He replied before leaving the channel.

Samuel nodded at Draven and they moved out, Lieutenant Wagner understood the situation and relayed it to the commanding officer. They didn’t want to cause a blue on blue incident either.

Red Team closed their distance to the Covenant patrol, wanting to get the jump early so they weren’t behind schedule. The team had their hands-on handling of Covenant technology through simulators that were created by helmet footage. The training helped to an extent, Samuel remembered the first time he sat in a Type-32 Ghost and nearly crashed it into a tree.

“Let’s move on them sooner than later Sam.” Draven said once he saw Samuel rejoin TEAMCOM.

“Rog, on it.” Samuel replied.


The Covenant unit looked like a serious threat to the success of Red Team’s mission. Samuel waited patiently for his active camo to deploy before crossing the open field to engage the enemies. Emilia set up near a series of rocks to conceal her body and Draven next to Samuel.

“Ready up.” Draven said over TEAMCOM.

Samuel pushed close to the patrol with his active camo engaged as Emilia trained her rifle on the highest-ranking Sangheili. Draven moved close and hid behind a rock, waiting for Samuel and Emilia to execute on his command.

“Ready.” Emilia replied.

Samuel replied with a green wink since he was five meters from the enemy.

“Execute.”

The head of the Sangheili warrior exploded before anyone had an idea from where the shot came from. Another shot hit another Sangheili and took his arm off, Emilia was getting good target practice. Samuel engaged a group of Unggoy with his MA5K Carbine and put them down before they called for help. One Sangheili attempted to board a Spectre turret but was killed before he made it to the top by Draven. Both Samuel and Draven turned to deal with the rest of the enemies.

Close quarters combat was art more than a science for SPARTANs, the two used their enhanced vision to slowdown time in their mind to put down enemies. The surface of the moon became decorated with corpses, spent rounds, blood, and war. Samuel pulled his tomahawk out of an Unggoy’s skull and reloaded his M6C sidearm while Draven finished putting two rounds into the head of a Kig-Yar.

Contact with the enemy lasted less than one-minute, Red Team destroyed the opposition without taking a shot by using stealth and surprise.

“All clear.” Emilia said over TEAMCOM.

Samuel looked for the closest Sangheili warrior and began hacking away at his neck. Draven watched as Samuel beheaded the Sangheili. Draven remembered having that hatred towards the enemy, it only clouded his judgment for the rest of Red Team.

“Sam, is that necessary?” He asked in a private channel.

“Yes.” He replied simply.

Draven decided to not push it and wait for Emilia to return. They needed to figure out what vehicles to take and what to do with the bodies. Draven knew they were going to be thrown into the canyon to delay the investigation of the missing patrol.

He made his way over to three dead Kig-Yar to remove their point defense gauntlet shields to use for other purposes.

“Sam, here.” Draven said as he tossed one to him.

He placed it on his left wrist and gave it a test, seeing the blue shield ignite. Content with it, Samuel turned it off and went back to beheading the Sangheili.

Draven remembered how he felt when he learned that his peers were killed in PROMETHEUS. All of Red Team made it a personal vendetta to mutilate the bodies of their enemies in a response. Some teams resorted to public display while Red kept theirs under the rug. The Alphas of Red Team let the Betas do the same thing for a short period but ordered it to cease.

They were the enemies that killed their parents, not one SPARTAN wanted to treat the enemy with respect. Adding on top that their comrades were killed by the same group only led them to hate the Covenant more. No SPARTAN in Red Team said no to a mission against the Covenant, all of the members wanted to eliminate the species at whatever cost.

Emilia linked back up and glanced at Draven. “Seems like someone did a little work after.” She said while looking at the beheaded Sangheili.

“We were the same way after PROMETHEUS.” Draven replied. “Besides, we need to figure out what to do with them. The canyon can be the best bet since we can throw the bodies there, but that will take time.”

Samuel linked back up with Draven and Emilia to see what the plan was. He finished his redecoration of the Sangheili corpse and placed his tomahawk back in its holder.

“Do we have the time for the canyon? We still need to figure out how to work the vehicles. Plus, the longer we stand out in the sun, the better the chance we will be spotted.” Samuel said as he flipped the safety switch on his rifle on.

Draven looked around, then at the Spectres. Someone spotting them from orbit was a possibility if they stayed out too long.

“Leave the bodies, let’s get the Spectres rolling.” Draven concluded over TEAMCOM.

Samuel nodded and made his way over to a Spectre, Covenant technology was considered to be the most complex technology the UNSC came across. He remembered whoever said that on Onyx was an idiot.

He studied the controls and remembered his training, the dashboard looked like a smattering of scribbles. Sitting in the driver seat, Samuel felt weird being in a Covenant vehicle. But he found joy in the fact he was going to use Covenant technology to kill Covenant soldiers.

“Stupid thing.” Draven grunted over TEAMCOM as he tapped random buttons. “Piece of garbage.”

Samuel closed his eyes, opened them, and picked one thing to touch on the dashboard, pressed, and nothing happened. He sighed and resorted to touching every possible button possible to get the Spectre up and running.

The vehicle lifted off the ground and the thrusters came to life, Samuel let out a breath of relief while Draven punched the dashboard in frustration. The Covenant knew how to build durable vehicles since the screen didn’t break.

“I got mine up and running.” Samuel said on TEAMCOM.

Emilia looked at Samuel then at Draven. She could see that he was annoyed that Samuel got it up and running.

“Let me get a hang of this thing.” He said next.

He grasped the controls and turned it gently then picked up speed. Slowing back down to prevent motion sickness, he moved back and forth then gave the team a green wink on their HUD.

“We’re good to go.” He said.

Draven made his way over and slapped an IFF tag on the side, making the black piece stick out like a sore thumb on the purple body. Emilia made her way to the gunner position and slid her sniper rifle in-between Samuel and Draven, taking Draven’s rifle and Draven taking Samuel’s.

“Warden 01, this is Faker 02. We have attached an IFF tag to our Spectre, can you confirm our IFF tag?” Draven said over SECNET.

The ONI Recon Team Leader looked through his advanced H-165 Forward Observer Module thanks to a Watershed Division team and picked up the friendly IFF tag.

“Faker 02, we got you. Marked as friendly.” The ONI officer said.

“Copy that, thanks for the heads up.” Draven replied.

Draven used a hand signal for Samuel to move out, the FURY sat between his legs and Samuel edged the vehicle forward. Dipping back into the dark side of the moon, Red Team disappeared. Unto Breach followed the tracker across Juniper IV and kept a close eye on the activity of the team. They still had a large window of operational time between when they jumped and when the rest of the task force joined them.

Samuel activated his night vision to see better, his SPI was proving to be extremely useful compared to the rest of Red Team’s MJOLNIR. Draven kept the MA5K trained on the left side and Samuel kept his M6C handy in case a situation grew sticky. Emilia manned the turret and knew the capability of it since she watched it mow down UNSC soldiers no older than her too many times.

“What rank did you graduate in your vehicle class on Onyx?” Draven asked.

Samuel glanced at him then back at the station. “I never took it, been hands-on training.” He replied.

“What happened the first time?” Draven followed up.

“I crashed it into a wall, got out before it exploded.” Samuel said.

“And since then?” Emilia asked.

“So far, I’m doing pretty ok.” Samuel replied.

Draven realized it was Samuel’s second time driving a Covenant vehicle and it annoyed him more. Many people on Red Team considered him to be an expert on Covenant vehicles since he used a Type-26 Assault Gun Carriage to take down a Covenant unit. He decided to swallow his ego and accept Samuel’s capability to handle things, after all, he came from the Headhunters. He wouldn’t be one if he wasn’t able to handle such situations.

Chapter VII

06:01 Local Time - 03/14/2550 - Guardian of Faith

A Jiralhanae Fleet was ordered to take down Kyzo, his decision to go against the Covenant put his life and anyone else who followed him, on the line. Of course, the Jiralhanae were coming to kill a Fleet Master. The Covenant wanted to push that species into the forefront of their campaign against Humanity. The only problem was that they were sending an incapable fighting force to fight a veteran Fleet Master. The Jiralhanae were going to enter the system, but they were not going to leave.

“You have been a disgrace to the Covenant! I will ensure you will be labeled the greatest traitor among your species!” The Vice Minister screamed.

Kyzo remained steady. “Your words are a nonexistent threat, slave. I will see to your destruction.”

“Your words of blasphemy will cost you your children’s lives! You will not live a day without looking over your shoulder!”

Kyzo brushed the insults off, he had no children and refused to marry. He was considered an outcast by his House so there was no reason for him to go back. It was certain that an Executioner would pay a visit and use a family member to pay for Kyzo’s crimes.

He sat up in his chair. “Send your best Slave.”

He terminated the communication and turned to his subordinate, the commander of the defensive fleet.

“Prepare for a two-front battle.” Kyzo spoke.

“Making the fight even today I suppose.” The shipmistress said as she made her way off his bridge.

Kyzo waited patiently and needed to decide his next move. Surely the UNSC was coming and he was going to have the upperhand. The Jiralhanae were going to arrive as well, they relied on brute strength to win their battles. He knew everyone in his fleet was more than capable of commanding the destruction of both military fleets. He needed to balance his strength against the two enemies.

The arrival of the Jiralhanae fleet came well before the UNSC, Kyzo dispatched his forces to deal with the fight. The enemy prepared to take down the Station of Unlimited Fortitude due to its importance to the traitors but failed to realize that it was not operational. The simple tactic of making the station look online forced the Jiralhanae shipmasters in pursuing its destruction.

“The Shipmistress should be engaging the enemy forces momentarily.” The Communications Officer said.

“Very well, tell her to not spare one ship.” Kyzo responded.

Kyzo kept in the back of his head about the importance of the UNSC arrival and the danger it was going to propose to his battle. The Shipmistress wasted no time deploying her destroyers to wipe out the enemy’s main destroyers. Her tactics were considered abnormal. She deployed fighters to prevent ground troops from reaching the surface of the moon.

The Covenant Fleet got stuck in minefields and ambushed, then attempted an attack on the station and were forced back. They were in the middle of another attack and the Shipmistress remained in combat with the enemy.

To call it a battle would be an insult, Kyzo watched as the Shipmistress dismantled the enemy’s attack and responded with her own counterattack. She pushed her troops to their limit in every fight. She didn’t want to disappoint Kyzo since he trusted her with the ability to dismantle a Covenant Fleet.

The Ministry of Preservation was deploying their nearby assets to hunt down the traitorous Silent Witnesses until the Ministry of Resolution deployed a Silent Shadow Fleet. The War stretched the Covenant’s ability to respond to traitors like Kyzo, something he was taking full advantage of.

“Status report.” Kyzo said while looking at his comms officer.

“Fleet Master, the fleet is in excellent condition. One destroyer has been damaged and is being pulled back from the lines. The Shipmistress requests a replacement.” The comm officer responded.

“Give her one of ours, we will not be in the fight yet.” Kyzo spoke.

Kyzo remained uncertain about where Syra’s allegiance lined in the midst of the chaos. He had no idea if the Silent Shadow Commander joined him or became his enemy. It was standard for such individuals like Syra to not disclose his own ties. Whether that be with the Covenant, his Kaidon or to Kyzo. It was the one reason Syra remained on the moon’s surface and not aboard a ship.

“Syra’s status?” He asked.

“Hasn’t changed.” Came the quick reply from the comms officer.

Kyzo mulled over the deployment of Syra, the Jiralhanae were not going to last long under siege from the Silent Shadow. He also thought about using Syra’s hate against the Jiralhanae to distract him from the UNSC invasion.

“Have Syra engage the Jiralhanae, I do not want them to have a fighting chance on the ground. And have the General do what he thinks is fit.” He said finally.

It didn’t take long for the Silent Shadow to get up and running, they been waiting for some going into battle for some time. The General also wanted to mark his name in history as well for being a great commander against the Covenant.

A Mechanized unit joined the Silent Shadow and moved towards confirmed Covenant positions on Juniper IV, the drop pods made swift work of establishing a force on the ground. The fighters worked relentlessly to shoot down as many drop pods to help the ground battle but were only able to do so much.

Syra watched as the drop pods slammed into the moon, his targets stood before him. His hatred towards the Jiralhanae made him push his unit further to go after the enemy. He already slain the Zealot group attached to the Fleet to prevent an uprising, he needed to prove himself to the Fleet Master again.

“Brutes in sight.” The Second Blade Officer said.

“Prepare for combat.” Syra responded.

Activating the cloaks on their Type-46 Spectres, the Silent Shadow led a flank against the landing party while the mechanized unit drew the attention. His time at a War Institution on High Charity taught him the valuable lessons of special warfare and how to beat an enemy who knew their tactics.

The Comms Officer finished receiving an update on the augmented force. “Mechanized Unit is in position.”

Syra watched as the drop party began to setup their position.

“Tell them to move in. We’ll flank them momentarily.” He said.

While Syra prepared to engage the Jiralhanae, Kyzo learned of a UNSC presence on the moon’s surface. Movement sensors picked up a Covenant vehicle nearby and alerted the Fleet’s Intelligence Force of the situation. The notification of movement in the sector led Kyzo to suspect the UNSC were close.

The erratic nature of the vehicle and a quick scan confirmed Kyzo’s suspicion, SPARTANs. The UNSC sent their finest warriors to conduct a mission against him. A piece of him felt honored for having SPARTANs attack him and his Fleet, not often did he have a chance to go against a formidable foe. The arrival of the SPARTANs also indicated the UNSC was nearby, a far better match than the Jiralhanae. Humanity’s strength came from their unpredictability and refusal to quit.

Kyzo found himself in a dilemma, the Silent Shadow was his premier SPARTAN-hunting group and the Zealot Group was killed. If the Silent Shadow engaged the Jiralhanae, there was no way for Syra to be pulled out and intercept the SPARTAN team in time.

He ordered the other fleet to be ready for battle, the UNSC was coming.

Chapter VIII

11:22 Local Time - 03/14/2550 - Juniper IV - FLEETCOM Sector Three

The minimal security around the base of the target was taken care of easily by Emilia and Samuel, Draven worked on securing an optimal location to transport and detonate the nuclear warhead. Samuel watched as Draven continued to search for a way then discovered a supply gravity lift to push his package aboard. The only problem was that it was turned off.

“Have you tried kicking it?” Emilia asked over TEAMCOM.

Draven wanted to flip her off but decided not and gave it a soft nudge with his foot. Nothing happened, he kicked it again then dented the purple lift. It powered on and he knew Emilia was going to tell him about her solution.

“Smashing doesn’t work for everything, but it did this time.” She said.

Samuel glanced at the dent in the gravity lift and returned to looking for any contacts that weren’t taken out. He didn’t trust the sensors he had, not after what happened to him on his previous mission.

Draven found a supply crate to place the nuke in and pushed it towards the gravity lift. He stared down at the nuclear warhead, then looked at his visor to thumb in the detonation code. Deploying a nuclear device came with a heavy price for the individual itself, they were playing God to an extent.

It only became clear that the UNSC was growing desperate as SPARTAN teams deployed with nuclear warheads more often than before.

“You’re clear.” Samuel said.

Draven thumbed in the number sequence and waited to press start, he pushed the crate closer to the gravity lift. The last thing he needed to do was waste more time with an armed nuclear warhead. But no one thought about the ethics of deploying a nuclear warhead in Red Team, they wanted Covenant troops dead.

After pressing start and watching the timer count down, Draven pushed the crate into the gravity lift and watched it float up towards the station.

“Let’s get out of here.” Samuel said as the crate continued to float up. “I don’t want to be around when that thing goes off.”

Emilia focused on a patrol moving towards the gravity lift, it wasn’t a normal patrol since it held two Sangheili and a gaggle of Unggoy. Usually, the patrols had a bit more diversity.

Draven took the yellow wink from Emilia as a sign of caution nearby and motioned Samuel to move out of the base.

“Patrol, let’s move.” Draven said to Samuel. He watched as Samuel got the Spectre up and running, then moved to jump into the vehicle.

Emilia kept a close eye as Red got out of the area and made their way to her, she made sure there was no one else coming to sneak up on the overwatch position as well. The recent news from the Prowler command was also on her mind.

Covenant forces never fought each other, not when there was a supply station in the area. It made her wonder if there was something going on to act as a decoy. The Prowler continued to monitor the situation and noted that the defensive fleet was in the process of decimating the offensive fleet. A debate must’ve been held to discuss if it was even right to put the UNSC Navy against the defensive Covenant Fleet.

Emilia knew that the decisions were being made from lightyears away, commands had to think in a way to win that they never thought before. ONI did the same thing with the SPARTAN-III programs and the suicide missions. Others included Headhunter missions like Samuel took on in Covenant space. There was no way he should’ve came back.

Draven flipped through is comm channels to SECNET to inform the ONI and Prowler Team about the nuclear warhead deployment. “FURY is deployed, we are exiting the blast radius.” He said calmly.

“Good work. Update us when you’re ready to leave.” Wagner replied.

Samuel glanced at Draven then back across the dark side of the moon, there wasn’t much to see. The darkness of a moon’s surface proved to be vicious to a human’s body but Samuel was more worried about suffering from space walk.

Reaching Emilia’s position, she packed up her equipment and made her way down to the Spectre. They were only an hour away till the arrival of the UNSC Fleet, hopefully. The Navy only came on time or too late, very rarely did they ever arrive early.

“Oh, heads up. The Covenant is fighting each other up there and on the other side of the moon. The fleet we’re attacking is annihilating.” Emilia said over TEAMCOM, she knew they were listening but decided to offer no input on the situation yet.

Samuel caught two red blips on his motion sensor as did Draven, the two glanced around and caused Emilia to prepare for a fight.

“Contact, three o’clock.” He said evenly. A wall of plasma fire erupted on Samuel’s side of the Spectre and he pushed the vehicle out of the kill zone while activating his wrist shield.

Samuel realized he was in a bad situation, with a nuke deployed, the Prowler was not able to extract the team. Who knew how many Covenant forces were on their tail.

“Ultra 01, this is Faker 02, troops in contact.” Draven relayed.

“Copy that Faker 02, we advise you to escape and evade. We can’t do much till that nuke goes off.” Lieutenant Wagner replied.

Samuel continued evasive action across the moon, the Prowler tracked their actions. Covenant vehicles were close in pursuit and refused to let them out of sight. He needed to lose the tail on a surface that had no good hiding spots.

“Think of something fast, they’re closing in on us.” Emilia said.

Samuel glanced at the timer on the nuke then looked at Draven. “We’re heading back into the blast zone.” He replied.

Draven and Emilia looked at him then back at the supply station they placed a nuke at. “Are you sure?” She said in a worried tone.

“Do you have a better idea?”

Outrunning the Covenant was not going to be an option and the UNSC were not around to provide immediate support. The Prowler had no option to extract due to the dangers of a shockwave blast and it would compromise their position to the Covenant starships nearby. All they could do was watch Red Team get chased by the Covenant.

Lieutenant Wagner watched as the force grew and studied the situation. “That’s a company size force going after them.” He muttered to himself.

Samuel dragged the enemies into the blast zone, he hated being shot at. Draven kept a close eye on the timer as Samuel weaved around craters and dodged plasma fire while Emilia returned fire. With a minute left, they needed to get into position to sustain a blast.

“Sam, we need to get ready for the blast.” Draven said urgently.

“We don’t have the time. I can’t find a place to put down without exposing us. We’ll have to eat it.” He replied.

Draven shook his head and grabbed the MA5K to take down one enemy in a vehicle as Emilia tore into it with her own mounted weapon.

He took a final breath and looked at Samuel. “Ultra 01, this is Faker 02. We cannot find a sustainable spot to hunker down in.” Draven said. “We’ll see you in a bit.”

By the time the comm channel went silent, Samuel watched as a blinding light struck across the moon’s surface. The successful detonation tore a hole into the supply station and threw the debris wherever.

“Contact!” Emilia yelled as she ducked down from her turret.

The shockwave came with the force of hurricane winds on Jupiter, smashing into the Spectre and sending the SPARTANs flying. Covenant troops nearby went flying as well while the shockwave pushed itself across the surface.

Samuel tumbled across the surface and reached for anything to grab onto to stop rolling. The spinning made him feel like his stomach was going to eject out of his mouth. He swiftly grabbed a rock ledge and felt himself slow down.

After a series of groans and grunts, Samuel looked around at the moon’s surface then at his armor. He looked like a cinnamon cookie in the way the moon dust covered his suit. He wiped his visor clean and found himself staring at a Sangheili who was thrown around by the blast as well. Both jumped to their feet as fast as they could while being disoriented by the blast.

“Demon!” A Sangheili yelled as he ignited his energy sword.

Samuel wasted little time in drawing his tomahawk in his right hand along with a knife in his left. The two combatants were covered in sediment the surface had. Steadying his hands, Samuel watched his vision narrow on the Sangheili’s sword swing, dodged it and swung his tomahawk into his enemy’s neck. Seeing his right arm being covered in the blood of his enemy, he slammed the knife into the back of the skull and watched as the life drained from his enemy.

“Sitrep Sam.” Draven said over TEAMCOM.

He replied with a green wink and began checking his M6C sidearm.

The amount of sediment made him think of a possible jam and needed to pick up a new gun. Draven looked at the MA5K that jammed on him and wanted to throw it into space. Only Emilia had the operational UNSC weapon, her sniper rifle was protected.

Lieutenant Wagner watched as Red Team regrouped and received a new line of communication from Warden 01. “Sitrep Warden 01.”

“They punched a mean hole into that supply station. It’ll be out of operation for a while.” Came the reply. “They’re ready for pick-up.”

Lieutenant Wagner took a breath, the mission was completed.

“Ultra 01, be advised, we’re seeing movement around the supply station. Whatever it is, it’s big.”

Lieutenant Wagner had no chance to analyze the situation since the UNSC Swiftsure arrived to the system with its Task Force. “Ghostrider 00 on station, hope we aren’t too late to the party.” The BattleNet echoed with the comment from Admiral Tursk.

Samuel looked up to see the Covenant starships moving back and looked at Draven. “That’s not good.”

Draven looked up at the retreating starships then at Samuel. The Covenant never retreat, not even ones who were going against each other. They didn’t have to wait long to hear Lieutenant Wagner.

“Red 02, overdose. I repeat overdose.”

Samuel knew what overdose meant, escape and evade to the pickup point. Covenant forces screamed across the surface from the dark side of the moon and Samuel turned to a loud screech to see a Thanolekgolo emerging from its lair.

“Oh fuck! Move!” Draven screamed into TEAMCOM. “Sam, move your ass! We gotta go!”

The large wormlike creature shot into the air and vanished into the sky, Red had no idea what they were looking at. Samuel grabbed a Type-31 Needle Rifle off a dead body and watched as Type-25 Rapid Assault Vehicles sped onto their location. The Jiralhanae decided to dance with Red Team after all.

Pushing to a crater, they organized themselves for the second while the Thanolekgolo searched for a prey. Its sensory data sent it hurling towards the Jiralhanae force moving on the SPARTANs.

“Rave, we need a danger close fire mission.” Samuel said while gripping the needler. “And we need it right now.”

“No shit Sam!” He screamed back at him. “Emilia, move. We’ll cover you as you fallback.”

She said nothing and made her way out of the hole while Samuel and Draven laid down covering fire. Their plasma and needler fire were laughable to what the Covenant was pouring onto them. Banshees and other air support units from the Covenant began circling onto the team’s position.

“Why does the Covenant always get the good things?!” Emilia called out over the channel.

“I don’t know! Return fire, retreat, and we’ll discuss this shit later!” Draven screamed back over the channel.

There was no time to think, the UNSC force saw what was happening on the ground. They witnessed a lifeform at a haunting size destroy the targeted supply station in minutes and made its way towards the Jiralhanae.

Oriana surveyed the situation from the hangar and declared Red Team to deploy within the minute. Every member knew what they were doing, to get their fellow SPARTANs out of harm’s way. The situation was sticky, but she knew she was going to pull her team out.

“We need to get on the ground now, get fast-movers to support the team and get them out. Any questions?” She said while looking at the team.

The team remained silent, their family was in combat and they needed help. Oriana wasn’t going to stand by. She knew all too well how that dance ended.

“Good, get ready.” She concluded and made her way to a Prowler that carried a M12 Chain gun warthog for protection and one M831 Troop Transport. The other carried another Chain gun Warthog.

Samuel returned fire and watched a Needle shard tear through the skull of a Jiralhanae fighter, the body fell to the ground and he moved back while Draven and Emilia covered their position.

“Where’s our support?” Samuel asked. “We need that fire mission now!”

“I’m working on it! Take out those apes in the meantime.” Draven replied quickly.

Emilia and Samuel continued to retreat as Draven kept in contact with Lieutenant Wagner. “I need immediate support. MAC strike danger close! Marking my position with an IFF.”

Lieutenant Wagner relayed the coordinates to a command starship in the Task Force. “I need this ASAP.” He said.

The Weapons Officer looked over the coordinates and scratched her head. “This is right on top of them.”

“I know. They’re coming from the ground, they need it ASAP. Coordinate with Warden 01 and he’ll walk you on target.” Lieutenant Wagner said after cutting the comm channel, he needed to focus on the task at hand.

Samuel heard another loud roar from the worm and watched it barrel towards him and the rest of the fighting force on the moon. “If I died on Ealen IV, I wouldn’t be on this shithole moon and looking at that thing.” He muttered to himself.

Grabbing an incendiary grenade off a dead Jiralhanae, he kept it nearby in case one of those worms got too close to comfort for him. Things didn’t seem to be getting better anytime soon.

Chapter IX

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