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Note: Warning - This story is undergoing a heavy rewrite, the final product will be 'better' than it currently is. - Falkeno
Heroes are forged through sacrifice, the survivors of grandiose deeds as their friends succumbed to the toll of battle. They are all that remains of the dead, speakers for the fallen. Spartan Teams BRIMSTONE and JERICHO, the remnants of one long struggle.

Chapter 1 - Sword Base (Prologue)

July 26th, 2552, 11:20 Hrs
Sword Base, Babd Catha Ice Shelf, Eposz
Reach, Epsilon Eridani system
-Brimstone Team-

Jake-A384 leapt for cover as the wave of superheated plasma rolled over him, before taking careful aim with his battle rifle at the pack of grunts waddling along in front of him. He took a few precise shots to their alien heads to kill them all, before unloading the rest of his magazine into the elite, silencing its howls of rage in its alien tongue. However, before Jake could consider basking in this small victory, his attention was caught by the roars of another elite, charging at him, its mandibles contorted into a vicious grin, energy sword in hand. With this new threat bearing down on him, Jake drew his sidearm, ready to teach this elite why charging a Spartan was unwise. Class was cancelled however when the crack of a sniper rifle from his left blew the Elite's head apart. With this threat out of the picture, Jake Reloaded his rifle, taking stock of surveying the body-strewn courtyard.

"What, no thank you?" Came a soft voice over Teamcom; one he instantly recognised. Instinctively, he turned around, in time to see Beth-A173, his team's second in command and one of his oldest friends step towards him, sniper rifle still smoking.

"I could've handled it," he jokingly replied, but from her posture, he could see she wasn't in a joking mood. "Alright, thank you for killing that elite," he admitted after a moment's pause.

"You're welcome," she said, giving him a quick pat on the shoulder as she passed. Even though he couldn't see her face behind her helmet, he just knew she was loving the fact she'd had to save his ass, and not for the first time. Of course, that was the moment that Teamcom erupted with the sounds of his other two teammates arguing. He sighed, knowing he was going to have to break this up, again.

"Zoe, Mason, what the fuck are you arguing about this time?" he growled over Teamcom, in a voice, he reserved for giving telling-offs.

"Zoe's just mad I won a hundred-credit bet to see who'd kill the most hinge-heads," replied Mason-B219, gloating.

"Oh, shut up, will you? It wasn't even a real bet" retorted Zoe-B264.

"Oh for fuck's sake. Mason, quit gloating; Zoe, don't be an arse and cough it up -you'd make him pay if you won, wouldn't you? Now knock it off, you two got that?" He bellowed over Teamcom.

"Got it, boss", they simultaneously replied.

Beth sighed, listening to Jake try to knock some sense into Mason and Zoe, for what seemed to be the billionth time. They had been together in Brimstone team for nearly five years, even longer if you included their time with their previous team, and they were argued like little children every chance that they got. Harmless, but loud and very annoying.

"Brimstone Team this is Sword Control, come in." Chirped her helmet's radio, snapping Beth back to the present.

"Sword Control, this is Brimstone Two, the western courtyard is clear, all Spartans are green, over." Beth quickly replied, in her usual soft-spoken voice.

"Copy that, Brimstone Two. Brimstone, we need you to proceed over to the air base and assist Jericho team with cleaning up any remaining Covenant forces," replied Control.

"Sword Control this is Brimstone One, what's the status of the eastern courtyard?" Jake interjected, taking over the conversation.

"Covenant forces in the eastern courtyard are being held back by Marines on-site. Noble team is being deployed to retake the area and secure the base interior, as well as any facilities to the East." Sword Control answered.

"Copy that, Control. Moving to retake the air base, Brimstone out." Responded Jake, gesturing to Zoe and Mason who were in the middle of yet another argument.

July 26th, 2552, 11:28 Hrs
Air Base Delta, Babd Catha Ice Shelf, Eposz
Reach, Epsilon Eridani system
-Brimstone Team-

Mason smiled, cutting down an elite without even breaking his stride, as he ran across the runway with a trail of bodies in his wake. Covenant plasma fire licked at his heels, but he could see his target ahead, a Hunter was pinning down an unfortunate squad of marines, and he'd been ordered to change that. Mason pumped his shotgun and primed a grenade, before leaping onto the Hunter's back. A blast from his shotgun blew away it's armour plating and allowed him to jam his grenade inside the worm colony that gave the hunter its monstrous form before he leapt away just as the grenade went off. The explosion covering the area with burning worms and orange blood, as the remains fell to the ground in a smoking heap; but Mason knew he couldn't savour this victory just yet. Hunters always worked in pairs and killing one had just pissed its friend off, so it would be pretty focused solely on killing him. This was a good thing, however, while it was doing its best to blast apart his cover, it had turned to face him, leaving its back exposed to Zoe, who was at that moment, making her own entrance. Unlike Mason, Zoe opted to ram her grenade into the Hunter's back, leaping off moments before it detonated, cutting down the monster, before effortlessly rolling behind the same piece of cover as Mason.

"About bloody time! What kept you?" Asked Mason, cutting down an approaching elite with his shotgun.

"Had to deal with another uninvited guest," Zoe replied, concentrating on getting a lock on the Banshee above them with her rocket launcher.

"Zoe, Mason - what's the status of those hunters?" Jake asked over Teamcom.

"Hunters are down, and it looks like our guests are running out of steam," Mason replied, lobbing a grenade into a pack of grunts, savouring the satisfying squeal of a grunt carried into the air by the explosion of its methane pack.

"Copy that," Jake replied. He was busy slitting the throat of an elite who'd run out of friends, before sticking a plasma grenade on the nearest grunt and kicking the squealing alien into the rest of its pack, like an oversized football which blew the group to pieces, leaving no survivors.

"Both of you hold your position, keep an eye on nearby friendlies - I'll link up with Jericho," Jake added, diving for cover before silencing the Jackal snipers who'd dared to target him.

"Got it, boss," came Mason's reply, as two green acknowledgement lights lit up his heads-up display.

Jake knew they'd be okay on their own. Even though there seemed to be no end to their bickering, it had been decided long ago that keeping the two together was a good idea, as they were unbeatable when paired up together. What people couldn't decide on was if they were watching each others' backs out of mutual respect, or if it was simply so that they could keep their rivalry going.

"Beth, cover me - I'm going to make a push for Jericho's position. How does it look from up there?" Jake asked, glancing up to the hangar roof where Beth had set herself up.

"Looks good, other than the four-" Beth paused, followed by a crack of her rifle, "-make that three elites. They're in cover, but I'm sure you can fix that," she continued.

"Ok, moving, 3, 2, 1, mark." Jake darted from cover and made his run, followed quickly by two rapid sniper shots at the two elites who, distracted by the Spartan charging at them, had forgotten the presence of the Sniper, who'd just blown their comrade's head apart. The third, however, wasn't as forgetful and kept its head down, staying in cover - although all it took was a grenade from Jake to coax it out to let Beth finish their drawn-out firefight. But that plan, like everything else, was interrupted by a sudden, massive explosion further up the runway.

July 26th, 2552, 11:30 Hrs
Air Base Delta, Babd Catha Ice Shelf, Eposz
Reach, Epsilon Eridani system
-Jericho Team-

Chrissie-B278 hit the ground hard, all she could remember was someone shout 'INCOMING!' and then there was the explosion which had thrown her nearly 40 feet from where she'd been seconds before. She tried to stand but was forced down by the huge foot of an elite which stood over her with an evil grin on its alien face and an energy sword in its raised hand as it prepared to strike. Suddenly, there was a flash of grey and black as nearly half a ton of Spartan and MJOLNIR armour came crashing into the left side of the elite, bowling it over and forcing it to drop its energy sword which fell harmlessly to the ground and extinguished harmlessly, followed seconds later by the life of the elite which had once wielded it.

"You ok?" asked Jake as he turned and hauled himself off of the elites corpse removing the knife he'd buried in its neck.

"Yeah I'm good" replied Chrissie, as she hauled herself off the ground.

"Where's the rest of your team?" Jake asked, handing Chrissie her fallen rifle.

"Dylan and Gwen are set up in Hangar C, keeping the Longswords protected, Roz and Lucas are trying to get the AA guns back online, and I was trying to assist a marine squad" Chrissie answered, looking at a crater, now full of bodies that had once been Marines.

"Well, command wants the runway clear so we can deal with that Corvette and my teams already engaged" Jake added, as he picked up the fallen energy sword, checked it and threw it to one side.

"So since our teams are busy, I guess that means it's just us two" Chrissie added, as she checked her ammo.

"Yep" replied Jake, as he began to relieve the elite's corpse of its plasma grenades.

"I'll let my team know what's happening" pausing to change over to Jericho's Teamcom frequency.

"Dylan, Gwen stay where you are, Me and Jake, are going to clear the runway for command, so have those Longswords ready to go as so as the runway is clear," Chrissie explained followed by two green acknowledgement lights from Dylan and Gwen.

"You ready?" asked Jake as he slid a fresh clip into his battle rifle.

"Always!" Chrissie replied as she cocked her rifle as the pair began to run towards the firefight taking place on the base's main runway.

July 26th, 2552, 11:35 Hrs
Air Base Delta, Hanger C, Babd Catha Ice Shelf, Eposz
Reach, Epsilon Eridani system
-Jericho Team-

Dylan-B224 couldn't help but let out a sadistic laugh as he blew the head off of another elite who'd dared attempt to cross his kill zone, its body falling amongst the growing sea of alien corpses that had formed since he'd taken his current position.

"Gwen, what's the status of the Longsword's?" Dylan asked without taking his eye off the scope.

"There armed and ready to go, we're just waiting on Chris and Jake" replied Gwen-B161 as she busied herself with filling the wound on an unfortunate marines chest with Biofoam to hold his insides in until he could be operated on by a surgeon.

"Speaking of which," Dylan muttered as he shifted his aim to observe Chrissie and Jake as they double-teamed the large group of Covenant troops currently occupying the runway. "Chris could you please hurry up, we're waiting for you," Dylan reported sarcastically over Teamcom,

"Shut up Dylan you're not helping!" angrily barked Chrissie as she smashed a grunt's head in with the butt of her rifle before unloading the rest of her clip into its friends.

"Yeah and while you're at it, why don't you use that big rifle of yours and do something constructive with it, perhaps blow these fuckers heads off!" Jake spat as he narrowly dodged a stab from an elite major's energy sword, which had been aimed at Jake's' throat.

"Fine, but only because you asked so nicely," replied Dylan before proceeding to shoot the major in the head.

"Thank you," gasped Jake, both to Dylan for killing the major and to the Major itself who had graciously left him an energy sword for him to put to good use, that use being the violation of the heads belonging to a pack of grunts who'd waddled a bit too close for their own good.

"You're welcome," Dylan smirked as he watched the massacre from afar and couldn't help smiling as a grunt's head went sailing into the air as Jake butchered the disgusting little aliens.

"This is Jericho 3, to all UNSC forces, the air defence guns are back online," announced Lucas-A186 over the radio, followed by the staccato of heavy machine gun fire as the point air defence guns across the base roared into life, ruthlessly gunning down any covenant aircraft in range.

"About time, what kept you?" asked Gwen as she joined Dylan near the hangar door whilst Dylan watched as the last of the grunts on the runway decided to make a run for it.

"Hey it wasn't an easy fix," answered Lucas, as Jake signalled for a nearby group of marines to move up and move the body's that had piled up during the firefight, whilst Chrissie cut down the fleeing Grunts.

"Yes it was, just you couldn't find the fuse box!" broke in Rosenda-A344 slyly as they both jogged into view closely followed by Brimstone team.

"Knock it off you lot!" interrupted Chrissie as she jogged over followed by Jake.

"Sword control this is Brimstone 1 the runway is clear of hostiles and it is safe to launch, over," Jake spoke over the command frequency whilst Chrissie gestured for Gwen and Dylan to get the hangar doors open.

"Copy that Brimstone 1, get those Longswords airborne as quickly as possible. Noble team has almost cleared sword base of air-based threats, so once they're gone we can push that Corvette out for the orbital defence guns to take a shot. Good work out there Spartans" sword control replied.

Chapter 2 - Phantoms

March 23rd, 2537, 01:15 Hrs
βουνό Ridge
Vision, Zeta-Byzantium system
-Grizzly Team-

To anyone looking, Human or alien, βουνό Ridge was devoid of any human presence, the Covenant in their dig site had made sure of that, but to someone who was deliberately looking for it, they might have just about seen the two shimmers as a pair Spartan III's moved quietly through the grass. Before Jake stopped at the edge of the grassy plateau and looked down at to the rocks that made up the ridgeline, quickly surveying for any threats.

"Clear" Jake whispered over the Teamcom, indicating the lack of hostiles before dropping down, followed by his partner for the recce.

"Intel was right at least covenant hasn't got much here," Thom-A293 muttered looking around.

"Yeah, seems almost unfair sending us to spoil their fun," Jake commented as they moved towards a nearby outcropping

"Uh huh, but doesn't three teams just seems a bit overkill?" asked Thom as they dropped to a crawl as the moved towards the ridge edge.

"Well, you know what they say, overkill is underrated!" answered Jake as pulled himself up to the edge of the ridge "now let's see what we're dealing with" Jake continued, getting back to work as he engaged his helmets built-in zoom function, which made the base clearly visible, even though it was over a kilometre away, and let his suits automatic tagging system, mark any hostile targets he saw. "I've got a couple dozen hinge heads, a lot more jackals and a metric fuck tonne of grunts, how about you?" Jake asked, as he watched the aliens as they moved around the far side of the dig site, studying their routine, their pattern and most importantly their weaknesses, things that could and would be exploited.

"Same here, no heavy equipment though, think they could've already found whatever they were digging for?" was Thom's response as he studied the other side of the site,

"Maybe, but if they have it's probably still here, otherwise this place would've been glassed already, but if it's still here I'd bet it's either still underground" pausing to point out the sloping shaft digging into the ground "or in hinge head central," Jake continued drawing Thom's attention to the large covenant structure positioned at the other side of the site, which was where most of the covenant were congregated around.

"So it's either still underground along with whatever they're using to dig it out with, which is probably really bad, or in the most heavily defended place in the local area, which is definitely really bad, I'm starting to see why they sent three teams now," Was Thom's conclusion to Jake's hypothesis, using his arms to add to his dramatic delivery, however, due to the SPI armour both of them were wearing, to anyone without a HUD his arms were merely a ripple of shimmers.

"Yeah, good thing Carter sent us out to do a little recon," muttered Jake, referring to Carter-A259, the leader of Panther team and their overall mission leader "cmon it's a long way back and Carter wants to hit this place before dawn" Jake continued as he crawled back away from the cliff and began to retrace the path they'd taken minutes before, followed closely by Thom.

"Yeah and he's gonna love what we've got to tell him" added Thom sarcastically.

March 23rd, 2537, 02:32 Hrs
30 km east of βουνό Ridge
Vision, Zeta-Byzantium system
-Grizzly Team-

Rosenda hated guard duty, she knew it was important but that didn't mean she liked it, she hated guard duty mostly because of how boring it was, nothing ever seemed to happen when she was on guard duty. But she especially hated having to do guard duty with Beth, Rosenda had no problem with Beth as a person, but Beth was a mousy person and wasn't much of a talker and that meant there wasn't anything to alleviate the boredom of guard duty, she'd rather had been out scouting with Jake or Thom, they always found a way to lighten the mood when it was needed. Even when they were under fire by whoever or whatever they'd been sent to kill, capture or simply blow the fuck up. Beth, on the other hand, was quieter and tended to enjoy her own company, which meant anyone paired with her for a boring job, like guard duty had to rely on themselves to alleviate the boredom, that being said though Beth was a lot better now than when she's first met her, she didn't speak to anyone other than Jake for the first few weeks that she'd been part of the team and it had only been through Jakes reassurances and a large amount of encouragement, that she'd even started speaking to her or Thom at all.

"Roz?" whispered something on Rosenda's right, causing Rosenda to jump and to instinctively point her gun at the source of the sound, expecting to see an elite trying to get the drop on her, only to find Beth staring at her, through the sights of her SAW.

"Shit! Beth, don't do that, I nearly shot you!" Rosenda blurted as she attempted to regain her composure, whilst pointing her gun away from Beth, who owing to her quietness, Rosenda had actually forgotten was lying right next to her.

"Have you seen any sign of the guys?" Beth asked, her voice laced with agitation showing how having a teammate point a gun at her, had left her a bit nervous.

"No, and their nearly ten minutes overdue," Rosenda answered, before placing her hand reassuringly on Beth's shoulder in an attempt to make Beth calm down after nearly shooting her. "Don't worry, since we've not heard anything, they're probably ok," Rosenda added to further put Beth at ease, having learned quickly in basic that when Beth was agitated, she developed a jumpy trigger finger. Much to the chagrin of whoever had been on the receiving end of the numerous near friendly fire incidents, and that keeping Beth in whatever counted for a comfort zone in combat was in everyone's best interest.

"Yeah, I hope they haven't-" Beth started, before suddenly levelling her rifle and pointed it towards a large clump of trees in front of them, so quickly in fact, that it took Rosenda a few seconds to even register that Beth has spotted something.

"Beth, would you kindly take my head out of your crosshairs, please?" requested Jake jokingly over Teamcom as Rosenda spotted the familiar outlines of Jake and Thom, about 50 meters in front of her, emerging from the undergrowth.

"Nice of you to Join us, and it may interest you to know that Carter's not happy about your poor timekeeping," Informed Rosenda sassily over Teamcom, as Jake and Thom dashed across the open ground towards a nearby barn, which was serving as their base of operations.

"Thanks, Roz, I'll take it under advisement, maybe" was Thom's reply as he followed Jake inside.

March 23rd, 2537, 03:06 Hrs
βουνό Ridge
Vision, Zeta-Byzantium system
-Grizzly Team-

"All Spartan's stand by to engage," Carter ordered to all the Spartan's under his command as they waited to attack. But as Beth crouched on the cliffside waiting for the signal to attack, she studied the base, the intricate defences, the well-placed patrols, this place would have been a nightmare for the Marines, or even ODST's to attack, but they weren't either of them. "Yeah, not so fun when you're the ones getting your ass handed to you," Beth concluded smiling slightly, and with that, she raised her sniper rifle and on cue, proceeded to blow the head off a distant elite.

What followed could only be described as a full-blown panic erupted throughout the Covenant ranks, one second everything was calm and quiet, the next there were explosions and gunfire coming out of nowhere, those that weren't killed in the opening volley didn't last much longer than those that had, within seconds the Spartans had breached the covenant perimeter and had broken through their defences, mostly down to the fact that anything that had been in a position to try and mount a defence was either dead, dying or hiding behind something solid, probably trying to work out what the fuck was going on. Beth fired as she ran, speed and aggression were key to the plan, with only twelve Spartans against over at least a hundred covenant, they couldn't get bogged down in a prolonged firefight, they had to be aggressive and push hard.

"Move it guys we're almost there!" Jake shouted encouragingly over Teamcom, their objective was only ten 10 meters away, Carter, had split the three teams to have the best chance of finding whatever the Covenant was looking for, Fox team had been assigned to secure the dig site, just in case whatever the Covenant was looking for was still underground; Panther team, led by Carter, were in charge of securing the landing pad, just in-case the covenant had found what they'd been digging for, and were waiting for somebody to pick it up. Grizzly Team, however, had drawn the short straw, their target was the large structure Jake had spotted during his recon earlier in the evening, which had been identified as the covenant HQ, which explained why it was the most heavily defended place in the entire site. Fortunately, most of the defenders had been killed in the opening volley, and like the rest of the site, the defences were set up to deal with regular troops, not with Spartans in stealth armour.

"Roz blow the door! Beth cover her!" Jake ordered, Beth acknowledged and moved quickly up a ramp towards the main door, Joining Rosenda who was already there, placing pre-prepared charges on it.

"Beth, you might wanna lose that thing," muttered Rosenda, as she continued to place the charges not really noticing the firefight around her, Beth meanwhile was about to ask what she was talking about, when it dawned on her that her bulky rifle wasn't suited to close quarters and that Rosenda was simply reminding her to switch to her SMG sidearm.

"Thanks" sighed Beth as she emptied her clip to some distant targets who were trying to get around Jake and Thom, who were busy dealing with the dwindling numbers of the buildings remaining perimeter defenders, before securing her rifle and drawing her SMG.

"Alright, we're good to go" Rosenda chirped gleefully over Teamcom as she and Beth quickly moved back from the now explosive laced door.

"You girls, should start the party, we'll follow when we've dealt with this lot" Thom suggested cockily as he mercilessly cut down a retreating grunt with his shotgun, Jake, who was in the middle of gunning down a trio of Jackal's, merely gave a green acknowledgement light, to show he agreed with Thom's suggestion, for once.

"Ok, Beth you go right I'll go left, got it?" asked Rosenda, Beth merely nodded her understanding, which was more than enough of a response for Rosenda, who let out a small laugh as she pressed the detonator, before the pair rushed inside, guns blazing.

Meanwhile Jake, after removing his knife from the final elite neck, and after assisting Thom with dealing with the few remaining immediate threats. Jake followed by a now gleeful Thom, moved to regroup with Beth and Rosenda, when a thought crossed his mind.

"How the hell did I get paired with this lot?" Jake wondered, Beth he got, she was quiet, and he used to be the only one she'd speak to, Which explained why she was with him. Rosenda and Thom though, they were a different story; Rosenda was a notorious back chatter and always full of sass, not mentioning a bit overenthusiastic when it came to explosives. Thom meanwhile was a complete Maverick, always being gung-ho and never thinking ahead. But despite their negative traits, Rosenda was quite capable of being very caring when she wanted to, and there was nothing wrong with enjoying one's work. Thom also had some good traits going for him also as he had the skills to back up his Maverick attitude in a fight. Although he still needed to work on his situational awareness.

"Nice of you two to join us!" smirked Rosenda as they entered the now body strewn room, the room was actually quite large with one side filled with consoles and holographic screens and took up most of the building the other was what appeared to be a small office, both bisected by a corridor running through the building, ended at a downwards sloping ramp. Beth was in the office pushing bodies around and looking for anything important, Rosenda meanwhile was crouched at the top of the ramp, watching for any other hostiles.

"Thom guard the door, Beth, you keep looking for whatever had the Covenant interested, Roz; you're with me, we'll clear the basement," Jake addressed, and was met with three acknowledgement lights on his HUD as he moved towards the ramp, Thom wouldn't have much to worry about, the gunfire had died down to just an occasional burst of gunfire or two, as the other teams finished off opponents at their objectives. "I'll lead, you follow," he stated to Rosenda, who responded with a simple nod as he cautiously moved past her and down the ramp. From the top of the ramp Jake could see that it turned halfway down to the left before turning again at the bottom before continuing down a corridor towards the opposite end of the building before turning through an open door on the left, advancing quietly down the corridor Jake could hear quiet squealing and mutterings, clear indications of Grunts, clearly they were hiding down here, and that there wasn't an elite with them otherwise they'd have attacked Rosenda and Beth when they'd breached the door. This was good, grunts on their own weren't much of a challenge, but what was down here anyway and why would they have been down here in the first place? Both were good questions, both of which Jake had an intention to answer.

Jake stopped at the door, Rosenda falling in behind him; Jake raised his hand to signal a five-second countdown. As his hand reached the three position, he heard a shrill squeal from one of the grunts around the corner, realising a distraction had presented itself, Jake abandoned the countdown and pushed through the doorway quickly to capitalise on it. Through the door, Jake found himself in a short corridor running to his left with a series of small rooms running along the right side and was filled with several grunts all with their backs to him, the furthest of which was pointing its weapon inside one of the rooms, easy targets. Jake let rip with his battle rifle, joined a second later by Rosenda's heavier SAW which cut the tiny aliens to pieces in seconds. It was only after the last grunt's perforated body fell to the floor, did Jake take a closer look at his surroundings, and immediately regretted it. The rooms weren't rooms, they were cells and each one of them was full of dead humans, Jake almost retched at the sight, Rosenda next to him did also, some of the bodies looked days old, he could tell simply by the look of them, others, however, looked more recent by the fresh plasma burns he estimated at least ten minutes old, it was hard to look at, worse than that was the stench which filled his nostrils and refused to leave, he felt tempted to throw up, but then Jake was distracted by something he had just remembered, the Grunts had been distracted by something, something in the last cell.

Jake move forward quickly towards the last cell, trying to avoid looking too much into the other cells as he did so, and even harder to ignore the smell. Arriving at the last cell he braced himself and looked inside, bodies strew the cell some dead for days others less so, but then he heard it, a quiet whimper from the far corner of the cell, Jake looked to Rosenda, who'd followed him down the corridor, braced himself and stepped in carefully picking his way through the corpse towards the source of the sound, he immediately noticed that the source seemed to be coming from one of the bodies, moving closer he placed his hand on the corpse and moved it to one side. What followed almost making Jake jump, the source of the whimpers, a girl, only she wasn't whimpering anymore, she was screaming.

"Please calm down, you're safe now," Jake spoke in a gentle voice, trying to calm her, it didn't work, and Jake couldn't exactly blame her for it, there he was, a ghostly shimmer telling this girl to calm down, she was clearly terrified, and probably thought he was an alien, if only he could show her he was human she might calm down. Then Jake remembered, his suits invisibility could be disabled, it was a feature to conserve the suit's power when not required, quickly Jake brought up his suits sub-menu and disabled the invisibility function. "Please, calm down, you're safe now, were he to help you," he repeated, this time the girl stopped screaming, but she still looked terrified of him, she could see he wasn't an elite, but she still didn't see any solid evidence that he was human, but that was going to be tricky, as he had no intention of removing his helmet for 2 reasons, firstly he wasn't taking off the one piece of armour protecting his head when there was even the smallest possibility of a hostile attack, it was then that Jake's brain hit upon a simple solution. "The visor, depolarize your visor" Jakes brain told him, if he did that she'd see he was human, but this was the second reason not to remove his helmet, at only 13 if people saw how young he looked, even though he had the body of someone in their twenties, it could lead to some awkward questions being asked. However this was a child here, the chances of her putting two and two together were slim and the benefits outweighed the risks. "Is that better?" he asked gently, the look of terror on the girl's face eased and was joined by relief, but also a look of curiosity, nothing new there, even the Spartan II's got curious looks from battle-hardened Marines, and so one from a child was no big surprise.

"Who are you?" she asked reaching up to touch his visor. Prompting Jake to mentally swear, even though she was a child, if he didn't give her answer, she could start trouble if she told someone about how she was rescued by a man in strange armour that could turn invisible, who refused to tell her who he was, again a small risk but even small risks could still be dangerous, perhaps he was over analysing things, but it was better safe than sorry.

"I'm an ODST, but that's not important, what is, is that we're getting you out of here" Jake explained softly as he rose, lifting the girl to her feet, her hand firmly gripping his. That would be more than enough to sort any future trouble out and prevent any further questioning, and carefully led her out of the cell by her hand, trying to avoid the other bodies as he did so, her grip never slackening for a second. At least until she left the cell and saw Rosenda's ghostly form standing in the hallway giving a puzzled look that only Jake could see. Rosenda however, realising she was now the one causing the girl alarm, quickly disabled her camouflage as well to show she was friendly too but kept her visor polarised. "Don't mind her, she's nice," he said reassuringly, the girls only response was to peek out from behind his legs, to see if he was telling the truth, Rosenda meanwhile was standing there, awkwardly, wondering what she was going to do next.

"Go check on the others, and tell them we have a guest, will you please," Jake ordered her, the others being Beth, Thom and the other two Spartan teams. Who in all of the commotion Jake had forgotten to inform of the preceding events, and whom he doubted he could contact directly due to all of the metal around them, that and to also let his second-in-command get out of the situation she'd gotten herself into. Rosenda merely gave a quick nod and jogged back up the corridor, but paused at the doorway and gave the girl a friendly wave, before passing back through. "Come on, let's get you somewhere safe" he declared, turning his attention back to the girl, who now she was out of the gloom, Jake could actually get a good look at her, who he could now see her, was no more than 8 years old with copper red hair, and blue eyes.

"Ok," the girl replied meekly, taking his hand again as they walked back up to the entrance in silence, taking care to not trip on the dead grunts that littered the route, this suited Jake fine though as the lack of need to provide conversation gave him time to think, namely about what they were going to do with the kid. The protocol would have been to hand her off to the locals and let them sort it out, but with the planet about to fall, and the UNSC ready to pull out anytime now, that would mean certain death for the girl. Therefore Jake decided that the better option was to take her with them when they left and let the UNSC sort it out for them, maybe even get her sent to one of the safer inner colonies and far away from the covenant, she definitely deserved better after what Jake could only dread she had suffered through whilst in covenant hands. Reaching the surface Jake found the room now totally trashed, evidence of Beth's search and by the lack of anything important looking, it was a fruitless one, with Thom still at his post at the door, now joined by Beth, both of whom had gotten word about their 'Guest' though as both of them also had their Camo turned off, but like Rosenda had left their visors polarised.

"Anything?" Jake asked as he moved to join the two in the centre of the room, the girl still clutching his hand.

"Nothing, haven't heard from the other teams through" was Rosenda's casual response as she moved to switch to a fresh magazine for her SAW, the second part of which Jake translated as telling him they had left him the privilege of giving the others the bad news, which would mean he would be the one who received the earful of angry expletives from the other teams, maybe if he mentioned the kid, they'd cut back on the swearing, at least a little bit.

"Yeah, I'll check in with the others," Jake remarked, before giving a mental sigh and prepared for the barrage of angry swear words that were about to come his way, before speaking over Teamcomm. "Grizzly leader to Panther and Fox Leaders, we have a bust on our end, be advised we have a civilian child with us, she appears to be the sole survivor of some civilian's the covenant was holding," he explained.

"Panther Leader to Grizzly leader, copy that it's the same story on our end," Carter replied, pausing only to sigh at his frustration, rather than using volley of cuss's to note his emotion, maybe mentioning the kid had helped "anyway what's the status of the kid, we need to know if-" Carter continued only to be interrupted by a loud noise, or to be more accurate a huge explosion. Jake knew how big it was by the sound alone, without even taking into fact the ground had literally been shaken by the blast. Quickly, Jake and the rest of Grizzly with the girl still in tow raced outside the building to see what was going on, the only question on Jake's minds though was simply, 'what had caused the blast?' the answer came seconds later.

"Fox leader to all units, the covenant have a scarab, I repeat the covenant having fucking scarab!" announced Fox leader, as Jake watched her and her team scurry out of the mine shaft near the compounds centre, followed seconds later by a blast of molten plasma, just to illustrate her point.

"Copy that Fox leader, all teams converge on Fox's position and give them a hand, we need to hold out until our evac gets here with some heavier ordinance," Carter barked, quickly taking command of the situation.

"Copy that Panther, Grizzly's One, Two and Four are moving to assist!" Jake announced, before turning to a confused looking Beth, "You stay with the kid and keep her safe," he informed her, only to feel a tug on his arm, turning to find the source to be the kid, looking rather confused and a bit alarmed by what Jake had just said. "I've got to go help some of my friends, but don't worry she'll look after you, okay?" Jake explained pointing out Beth who had stretched out her free hand to the girl to signify the point, The girl gave a nod, showing her understanding before letting go of Jake and taking Beth's hand instead. With the kid now safely in Beth's capable hands, Jake along with Rosenda and Thom, sprinted for Fox's position engaging their active camouflage, and in Jake's case his visor as they did so. "What are we dealing with?" Jake asked as he, Rosenda and Thom dove behind one of the larger pieces of cover available to them, "other than the giant walking tank" Jake added as he laid down suppressing fire on the sea of hostiles that had pursued Fox back up the shaft.

"Hunters, Elites, you know the usual guys we don't want to run into. How'd you guys miss this anyway?" spat Fox leader, as she emptied her carbines clip into a group of grunts, killing some and forcing the others to seek cover.

"Hey, we said we didn't know what was underground, but we did say it probably wasn't good!" Thom snarled back as he hurled a grenade at a cluster of Covenant, who had taken cover behind one of the boulders that littered the shaft.

"He's right, this isn't their fault," agreed Carter as his team joined in on the suppressive fire, "Evac in two mikes, and their letting us use a nuke on this place, so we've just got to contain these guys until then" he added, right as he slotted an elite, who'd poked its head out of cover, to try and find the source of the gunfire, that the Spartans were pouring on them.

"Yeah well, that's fine and all but how are we going to get out of here with that scarab laying down heat, we'll get blown out of the sky before we can ever clear the blast range" Fox leader observed, she was right without a way to block the scarab in the tunnel, they'd get cut to pieces, luckily Jake had a brainwave.

"We'll blow the tunnel mouth shut after we chuck the nuke down it, we should have some missiles left for it" Jake suggested, as plans went it was a good one.

"Roger, anyone with missile's left, get them ready, Lucas and I will get the nuke, the rest of you, hold the line till we get back" Carter ordered, with him and Lucas dashing off towards where the evac pelican and the nuke were landing.

"Jake, catch!" Rosenda bellowed, hurling her rocket launcher at Jake who caught it with ease, which was impressive as Rosenda was more focused on providing suppressive fire, than to aim her throw properly, Whilst Rosenda was the resident demolitions expert, her SAW, with its higher fire rather and ammunition capacity was better suited to the job of keeping the covenant pinned than his battle rifle, as was Thoms shotgun, simply because of it's spread, which left him the only one free to take the shot.

"Thanks," Jake replied, stowing his rifle, and shouldering the Rocket launcher, "Ok people, when Carter and Lucas get back with the nuke, lay down covering fire so we're clear to do this thing" Jake announced, it wasn't necessarily needed, but he wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page, just as Carter and Lucas returned, with Lucas carrying a rather large and nasty looking bomb.

"On three people!" Carter bellowed, he didn't need to explain the procedure, Jake had done so already "1,2,3!" he shouted, the covering fire starting on one, Lucas hurling the nuke down the tunnel on two, and on three Jake and the other rocket armed Spartans, unleashed their volley; before everyone bolted for the safety of the Pelican, no one wanted to be here when the bomb went off.

"How long did you set the timer?" One Spartan asked from behind, Jake didn't want to know, he already knew it was going to be too short for comfort.

"Three minutes, so move it, people!" Lucas answered from further back, whilst he was strong, he wasn't the fastest Spartan there, Unlike Jake who was leading the way, the threat of a nuke was spurring him into overdrive. However as the Pelican came into view, fire came in from their right flank, evidently, they'd missed a few tango's in the sweep. However they couldn't stop to return fire, and couldn't slow down to let their camo become effective again, at full sprint, the camo couldn't keep up with the changes. Beth meanwhile, from her position in the pelican had seen the threat and begin laying down covering fire, which left the rest of the Spartan's free to continue the dash for the Pelican. Jake his muscles burning, and with one final effort charged up the ramp, collapsing into a seat next to the child, who was already strapped in, the rest of the Spartans the following suit.

"That's everyone!" Beth informed the pilots, before taking the only remaining seat, just as the pelican roared away, the pilots not too keen on the whole nuke idea either.

"30 seconds people, hang onto your teeth!" Carter shouted over the roar of the engines, even in the now sealed rear compartment, the engines were loud, clearly working overtime; everyone responded by grabbing on tight, Jake sparing a glance at the kid, thankfully she was paying attention, and had braced herself as well, smart kid. As the pelican roared through the atmosphere clawing for altitude like a homesick angel, Jake just hoped they'd put enough distance between them and the bomb, seconds later the bomb went off, causing the Pelican to shake violently, but as they hadn't been atomised instantly and as no radiological alarms were screaming at him, he knew the answer, they had made it, Just.

Chapter 3 - New Toys

September 15th, 2537, 06:35 Hrs
Supply ship, UNSC Brisbane Star
Ships Bridge, Algol system

The peaceful void of space was shattered as the UNSC Brisbane Star, a former Phoenix-class colony ship, refitted as a supply ship, careened out of slip space, aboard it, the ships A.I began the wake-up procedures for its crew in cryo, the skeleton crew moving to receive them, all whilst the ship continued on course to the planet Algolis, to the untrained eye, the Star was on a standard replenishment mission, just to pick up some munitions and aircraft before it returned to the fleet train of supply, repair and hospital ships, which were the backbone of the UNSC's naval operations.

However, there was an additional, more covert purpose to the Stars journey, one only the Captain, the senior officers and the A.I itself were aware of, their assignment was to drop-off a contingent of Spartan's at the planet's weapons research facility, a covert ONI site, specialising in all the covert projects associated with the infamous Spartan program, even the secret ones, nobody onboard had been allowed to see them board the ship, and they had immediately entered cryo before the ship had left, but the A.I had seen them, it was impossible to remain undetected to an A.I, especially when the A.I was the ship.

Had there not been an order forbidding the A.I to speak about the Spartan's to anyone, even those that were aware of their presence, it probably would have informed them that whilst they looked like they were in their late teens or early twenties, none of them were older than 17, the A.I sighed to itself, clearly some serious laws had been broken, but with the threat of early final dispensation if the order was defied, the A.I would remain silent on the matter, as it went through the specific wake up procedure for the Spartan's, one with a noticeable difference to a regular wake up, but the A.I wasn't in any position to question it, orders were orders after all.

September 15th, 2537, 06:50 Hrs
Supply ship, UNSC Brisbane Star
Cryo Bay G, Algol system

Rosenda stumbled out of her Cryo-pod, not out of disorientation, but because her joints were stiff, a normal side effect of being in cryo for weeks, as she stretched her aching joints, she noticed Beth make a more dignified exit from the pod opposite hers, simply stepping out of her's, whilst combing her hands through her blond hair to remove the ice crystals which had formed during their stint in the pods. Rosenda was about to offer Beth a friendly greeting, but Thom coughing his lungs up, caught her attention and priority.

"You ok Thom?" she asked genuinely concerned, whilst coughing was another side effect of cryo, it was not usually at the level that Thom was suffering from.

"No, I slept with my mouth open, and it's full of chemicals and shit" He replied wheezily, the other Spartans in the bay, having heard both the question and its answer, adopted the appropriate response, they began laughing their heads off, Rosenda did too, even the quiet Beth let out a little chuckle, It was his own fault really, he shouldn't have had his mouth open in the first place.

"Yeah, yeah, I know, laugh it up" Thom muttered as the room descended into howls of laughter, which lasted a few moments before it started to die out, "Right if you're finished, I suggest we wake up his majesty" Thom announced drawing everyone's attention to Jake, who had been left in cryo whilst everyone else woke up, which brought everyone to their senses as everyone knew the exact reason for why Jake was still in cryo.

"Yeah, we really should let him out, alright guys you know the drill" Rosenda ordered as she moved to the controls next to the pod, with Thom taking up a position near the pod's door, Beth meanwhile had retrieved a canteen and a disposable bag, normally found on a pelican from a nearby storage locker. Quickly Rosenda activated the pod's reanimation procedure and watched as the pod hissed and opened allowing Jake to exit the pod in the usual fashion, by almost falling out of it, only Thom catching him prevented it, then staggering into the centre of the bay and collapsing to his knees on the deck, before grabbing the bag Beth was holding and proceeding to violently throw up into it, Rosenda and Thom watching from a distance, Beth meanwhile stroked Jakes short brown hair reassuringly.

"Morning boss, how was your sleep?" Thom asked sarcastically, only to receive a glare from Rosenda and the other Spartans in the room, jokes were ok under normal circumstances, but this reaction to cryo had been worse than proceeding ones, Jake meanwhile had taken the canteen from Beth, and was rinsing his mouth out with it.

"You did something different this time? because it didn't help" Beth asked Jake as he wiped the excess water on the arm of the cryo suits all of them were wearing, even Spartans had some modesty and the suits negated the effects of freezer burn, so there were no drawbacks.

"Yeah, I didn't eat much before I got froze, I figured if there was less to me I wouldn't have enough to throw up, guess I was wrong" Jake answered weakly, as he shakily got to his feet, his skin a sickly white colour rather than his usual fair complexion, even Beth had more colour in her and she was the pale on a good day.

"Alright people, we've got an hour before we leave to pick up our new gear, so get cleaned up and fed before then" Carter announced taking charge, as the oldest of the Alpha's, everyone looked up to him, which prompted everyone to file out of the bay and into the adjacent wash and changing area, with Grizzly bringing up the rear with the unsteady Jake.

September 15th, 2537, 08:12 Hrs
Weapons Research Facility T12A
Algolis, Algol system
-Grizzly Team-

Jake could only marvel at the equipment laid out before him; When he'd stood there that night in 2531 and had seen Lieutenant Ambrose, or rather Kurt-051, as he was better known, clad in his armour had been an inspiring sight, so when he'd been told during training that he was among a select group of candidates who were suitable for augmentations which would allow them to be equipped with MJOLNIR, he had been giddy with excitement, he'd pushed himself to the limit, but not at the expense of those in his Team, he hadn't been prepared to sacrifice their chances for the sake of his, that too had been noticed as when the team leaders were announced, he'd been surprised to see his name on the list, Rosenda hadn't like that at all, so his first decision as team leader was to placate her by making her his second in command, which had worked surprisingly well. But being told he could have MJOLNIR was one thing, being issued with it was another, and here he was staring at his own suit of the legendary armour, tailor fit to meet his specifications and needs.

"So, what do you think?" Asked the technician assigned to help him with the armour, she already knew the answer by the grin plastered all over Jake's face.

"I don't know what to say" Jake replied, as he walked around the support frame that was holding the armour up, looking at all the details, "should I say thank you?" he queried, he was lost for words.

"Well, that would be nice but not really necessary, as you can see this is a Mark IV model MJOLNIR powered armour, you'll be fully encased in titanium armour, under that Titanium Nanocomposite Bodysuit, which is also resistant to ballistic and plasma based weapons so you don't have to worry about weak spots, and as a bonus it also prevents freezer burn, so you can wear it in cryo" the Technician explained, which caused Jake to grimace, the thought of cryo made him sick, and the thought of being in a fully sealed suit when he knew he was always sick afterwards, didn't help. "But anyway as you've already guessed this set's been tailor-made for you, now starting from the top we've gotten a standard Mark IV B variant helmet, standard for your unit, but we've added additional armour to the front, giving it a protective peek and a hardened uplink module as well, Then we've given you a chest rig with additional pouches for ammo and other essentials, with another on the left thigh plate and around your waste, A commando variant shoulder pad on the left arm, which you lead with and an operator variant pad on the right, with the additional knife because you need the extra freedom of movement, finally there are the FJ/Para knee guards because again freedom of movement, is there anything you'd like to add" She informed him, as Jake took the set in, it really was tailor made for him, apparently an A.I had been tasked with reviewing their combat footage and performance reviews in order to work out what they required in their armour, but it was missing something, the set was unique yet was the standard green as with all MJOLNIR armour; looking around the workshop they were set up in, everyone had unique armour, yet they were all painted in the same green paint, and all were fitted with the standard gold visor, then out of the corner of his eye he saw Beth, her armour standing before her, yet she wasn't admiring it or looking for issues with it, she was looking at it like it was a blank page in her art book, one which would soon be filled with an impressive drawing of something which had caught her eye, and suddenly it clicked in Jakes mind, a unique armour deserved a unique look.

"Can we change the colour, it's just I think it should look more distinctive?" Jake asked, the Technician meanwhile just looked surprised, she hadn't been expecting a request like that, but one glance around the room at the armours, and how unique each one was, and how each were painted identically, made it clear that Jake had a point.

"Sure, I don't see why not, it's your suit after all, so what do you fancy" She responded, pulling up her data pad so as to note down Jake's request, with the other technicians following suit as their assigned Spartan's cottoned on to what Beth and Jake were doing.

"Well, first of all, how about a grey base, then black shoulder pads, and lower legs, with a couple of strips running up the thigh plates, you know make it more unique looking" Jake requested, the technician noting it all down, a surprising smile had taken form on her face.

"Yeah, that'll make it look more unique, the grey matches your eyes kid. It's nice to see soldiers with some personality, I was there when the Spartan II's got their armour, man were they dull like they had no personality at all, whoever trained you lot must have like their soldiers to have some people skills. Do you want me to change the visor colour as well? it doesn't take much fuss, and we can make it any colour you want, we just have them Gold because that's what Halsey wanted for her Spartan's" she mentioned, which caught Jake off guard, the technician didn't look older than 30, so they must have been straight out of whatever place ONI sent their people to learn and to be compared to the people that he and every other Spartan III idolised, and told they were better than them in that area, although not an area that killed the bad guys, was surprising; but then he remembered that she had asked him a question regarding the colour of his visor.

"Yeah, can you make it black as well please" Jake proposed, a quick glance showed that Beth was bombarding her assigned technician with what she wanted for her armour, which told him two things, firstly that his requests weren't that big, and secondly if he wanted to get Beth talking, he just needed to talk to her about art, always good to know.

"Sure kid, I'll get the guys who handle the aesthetics around here to sort it out, and yes we really have people for that, even ONI like their stuff to look good, or rather terrifying depending on what they want, and it should be done before you guys start testing this stuff tomorrow" she announced, Jake was wondering what his teammates had in mind for their armour.

Chapter 4 - El Diablo

September 16th, 2537, 11:20 Hrs
Weapons Research Facility T12A
Algolis, Algol system
-Grizzly Team-

Thom let out a whoop of joy as he jumped a six-foot wall in a single bound, MJOLNIR was awesome, SPI armour was great and all, but he couldn't pick up a warthog, or punch through solid concrete with no effort in SPI armour, with MJOLNIR though there were countless possibilities to cause carnage, and limitless fun at the same time.

"Thom, calm down will you, you're making a scene" Carter ordered him from the nearby rifle range, only to receive a gentle tap on his shoulder, turning to see Jake standing next to him.

"Eh, let him have his fun, better he gets it out of his system now rather than later" Jake explained to him as he stepped past Carter to deposit his battle-rifle in the hands of the supervising gunnery sergeant, "Anyway, this stuff really is cool, I mean I could literally rip an Elites head off with my bare hand, what isn't cool about that?" Jake added jokingly, as he slipped his helmet off.

"You know if anyone else said that I would be concerned" Carter offered as he followed Jake off the rifle range, keeping his helmet on, however, "and put your helmet back on" he demanded.

"Why? there's nothing lethal here, besides I've had this on for hours" he gestured to his sweaty brow, only to be interrupted by the crackle of the PA system.

"Spartan's 199, 384, 259, please report to the command centre immediately" came a dull toneless voice, which caused Jake and carter to exchange concerned looks, having three team commanders reporting to the command centre only meant one thing, they had some work to do.

September 16th, 2537, 11:30 Hrs
Weapons Research Facility T12A
Algolis, Algol system
-Grizzly Team-

Jake had face elites, hunters and brutes, and had never been fazed, but the frail looking admiral sitting before him, she was terrifying him, that was the power of Admiral Parangosky for you, she was living terror in a human form, she was the personification of death and she was sitting in front of him, and he was fucking terrified, but that was what felt like internally, externally he was putting on a brave face. Parangoski meanwhile just sat in her chair, her face as stoic as ever, before picking up a plate of what appeared to be biscuits and presenting them to the three Spartans.

"Ginger nut?" she queried, smiling not like a shark, but more like an elderly grandmother, which only unnerved Jake more, Parangosky seemed like the grandmother who tortured her grandkids while the parents weren't looking, and by the reactions of the two other Spartans standing next to him, they were thinking the exact same thing, but he shoved the nagging doubt and utter terror to one side, if he refused the offer, she would know that he was terrified of her, but if he accepted the offer it might break the ice, then again it might lead to him being on the receiving end of ONI's more unsavory types, but he was gambling either way, and so against all the natural responses, such as self-preservation, Jake reached forward and gently picked one of the biscuits off of the plate, before withdrawing his arm like he'd just had it next to a killer snake.

"Thank you, ma'am" Jake answered, trying not to notice the shocked faces of his comrades, Parangosky meanwhile looked pleasantly surprised, with emphasis on the pleasantly, Jake couldn't decide what she was happy about, either because someone had accepted her offer, or if she knew who to have assigned to lavatory detail, or worse, before gesturing with the plate at his less brave comrades, Carter however politely turned her down, with Fox leader Faith-A199, quickly following suit.

"Well if you would take a seat, I'll begin" Parangosky stated placing the plate back down on the desk, only this time in the center of the desk rather than to one side like it had been prior, a clear indication that she expected Jake to take more than one biscuit, presently an aide stepped forward carrying a tray of coffee, placing one down in front of the Admiral, before offering the other three cups to the Spartans, "The coffee goes well with the ginger nuts" Parangosky added as she dunked one of the ginger nuts in her coffee, holding it there until it started to go soft, before consuming the confectionary, Jake knew that that particular comment was directed at him, quickly retrieved one of the mugs and mimicked Parangosky's biscuit routine, with Carter and Faith taking the other two mugs willingly but didn't take a biscuit. "Now let's get down to business" she began, slipping back into the terrifying Admiral persona, she was known for.

September 16th, 2537, 12:06 Hrs
Weapons Research Facility T12A
Algolis, Algol system
-Grizzly Team-

After half an hour and one plate of surprisingly tasty biscuits later, Parangosky had finished explaining the operation she had planned for them, a simple operation to deal a damaging blow to some insurrectionists, who'd started attacking a vital UNSC supply line, and destroy a pair of frigates they'd stolen before the covenant had started glassing Harvest at the same time, The Gateway and the Iliad, former flagship of the now captured Colonel Robert Watts. However, as the trio turned to leave, Admiral Parangoski turned to stop them.

"Spartan 384, may I speak with you a moment?" Parangosky stated, causing Jake to feel his stomach drop out from under him, Carter and Faith meanwhile simply gave him sympathetic looks but didn't stick around to watch. Now alone, Jake turned around expecting to be ripped apart by the infamously brutal admiral, "Do you know, how many people have accepted my offer of a ginger nut? other than those I am personally close with" Parangosky asked, which threw Jake for a loop, he didn't know what the admiral was playing at, but if she was winding up to rip him a new one, she was playing the long game, "No one, you were the first, that tells me that you can take a risk, like you did with that girl on New Constantinople, even when you're having someone or something that could kill you with ease staring you down, I find that good in a soldier, and even more in a person in a position of command" she added, removing a box from under the desk, "It was either you or, Spartan 199 but you taking that ginger nut made that decision for me" she continued opening the box and handing it across to Jake, who took it revealing a pair of single gold insignia bars "Spartan 384, or rather Jake A-384, I am here by promoting you to the rank of Second Lieutenant, Army rank structure, one rank below Spartan 259. You are now the official second in command of Spec Warfare Group 3, for field operations" Parangosky explained, leaving Jake just as confused as before.

"I, um, thank you Ma'am" Jake answered, his brain stumbling over what to say, Parangosky wasn't meant to be the caring type, "I don't know what to say" he added.

"Well you can promise me you won't wear them in cryo, I understand you don't react well to it" She added, standing for the first time since he'd entered, "Now if you excuse me I have to speak to a friend of mine in ONI, you are dismissed Lieutenant" She concluded, giving the Spartan a crisp salute, which he returned out of respect not out of fear, for all Parangosky was, people often forgot that at her core she was human.

Chapter 5 - Vacuum

September 30th, 2537, 02:00 Hrs
Epsilon Herculis Asteroid Belt
Epsilon Herculis System
-Grizzly Team-

Jake carefully manoeuvred his T-pack through the asteroid belt, one mistake and he'd go spinning into a hunk of frozen rock, and his new MJOLNIR wouldn't save him. Either from the force of the impact or from the detonation of the T-packs fuel reserve, and definitely the agonising death by suffocation of his suit being breached. Jake was well aware of the dangers of using this particular piece of equipment, chief Mendez had told them all the stories about the T-pack, none of them were pretty.

"Fox leader to all call signs, targets are in sight" Faith informed them as Jake rounded a large asteroid, revealing the mission's targets, an old mining/repair station, that had been abandoned long before Jake had been born, however the Innies had repurposed it to serve as a base for their raiding activities, due to its proximity to a major supply line to the front, and docked to it, the captured frigates, the Gateway and the Iliad.

"Affirmative Fox leader, be advised the Eris can only jam their scanners for at least 30 more minutes, before they notice your approach" replied the strike teams unofficial thirteenth member, an A.I by the name of Galahad, which ONI had given to the Spartans for the mission, primarily for hacking through the defensive systems once they entered the station, but secondarily to harvest any intelligence from the insurrectionists data files. Jake didn't acknowledge the A.I, he'd asked the crew of the prowler that had dropped them off how long they had before the jamming was discovered, and had set a timer appropriately, he could ignore Galahad though, unlike Carter who's armour Galahad's chip was riding in, with Jake and Faith carrying empty chips as backup storage.

"Hey, guys is it me or does the station have a bloody gun mounted to it" Thom queried, glancing up Jake caught sight of the weapon, it was an Onager, a small Magnetic Accelerator Cannon used primarily used for air defence, and the insurrectionists were using it for just that purpose. Jake could see now why the UNSC hadn't simply sent in a squadron of longswords to bomb the place, the Onager would have cut them to pieces, then again it would have been nicer if ONI had informed them about the gun in the briefing.

"Copy that Grizzly 4, it looks powered down, but everyone keep an eye on the thing, I don't fancy eating a round from that thing" Jake ordered as they proceded towards the target; their point of entry was an airlock situated on one of the platforms many decrepit outcroppings, ONI had identified this as a disused area of the facility, and as such probably their best point of entry, finally they reached the airlock, allowing his armoured feet to make contact with the hull, the magnets in his boots locking him to it, and with great satisfaction Jake removed his T-pack, pushing it off into space, the other Spartans following suit, before forming up on the door, with Carter taking position at the adjoining access panel.

"Galahad, time to get to work" Carter instructed as he removed Galahad's chip from the slot on the back of his helmet, before inserting it into the panel, Jake couldn't imagine what it was like sharing a mind with someone else, Carter had informed him that it wasn't as bad as it first sounded, although that comment had mostly been to put Jake at ease in case he needed to take over as Galahad's method of transport, which Jake personally didn't want to be but as the new second in command, he'd have to. After mere moments the airlock opened, and once again Galahad's regal voice filled Jake's ears.

"Welcome, do please wipe your feet before you come in, we don't want to make a mess now do we" Galahad joked, which Jake didn't think was actually possible for an A.I to do; Fox team entered first, with the doors closing behind them, allowing the airlock to cycle and allow them access to the station. Next went Grizzly, with Rosenda leading in her distinctive sage/silver/pink armour, Beth went next in her striking white and purple armour, followed by Thom in his more militaristic looking Brown and orange coloured set, with Jake brings up the rear, as soon as he entered, the doors behind him slammed shut, and with a hiss air flooded the airlock as the pressure equalised, before the door at the other end opened, revealing Fox in their defensive positions, even with Galahad in the system, they weren't taking any chances; quickly Panther joined them inside, quickly gesturing for Faith and Jake to join him at a nearby holo-terminal, which as Jake approached sprang to life revealing a man in armour, Galahad's chosen avatar. "Right here's the situation, the insurrectionists are mostly asleep, so we have the element of surprise, more importantly, it appears that on their last attack, the Iliad suffered severe damage and is undergoing repairs" Galahad explained, this was good, not just that they had surprise on their side, but with the Iliad damaged, they didn't have to worry about it trying to do a runner the minute the shit hit the fan, the Gateway though was still an issue, but they'd deal with that when they came to it, "There is also an A.I present, so my access is limited, at least until you start shooting that is" the A.I continued, that was to be expected with an operation like the one the Innies were running.

"Hey, can someone tell me why we haven't just nuked this place?" Rosenda asked it was a genuinely good question, not only would it be simpler, easier, and quicker, but less risky as well.

"ONI wants to use any information on the servers, in order to deal with other insurrectionist operations before they become an issue" Galahad explained, his avatar winking out of existence from the terminal as the Spartans moved off, "That isn't possible when it's been atomised, and before you ask I can't decompress the place either, at least until after the command centre has been secured," he added, as answers went, it made sense. Quickly the teams split up to head to the assigned target's, Fox was to head to the hanger and disable anything they found there that posed a threat, Panther would head to the command centre, and remove the Innies command and control, Grizzly would locate and secure the Innies weapons stockpile, and then rig the lot of it to blow the station apart after they'd cleared the area, Jake had memorised the other teams objective just-in-case his team had to take over.

Silently the four Spartan's moved through the facility, Jake and Thom took point, with Rosenda and Beth bringing up the rear, all four were either using suppressed assault rifles or in Jakes case, a battle-rifle he'd modified to be suppressed, he wasn't the technical expert for nothing. Soon they arrived at their target, the stations old processing centre, which according to Intel, had been modified into an armoury/magazine, which was by anyone with an ounce of military experience was a terrible idea, but that just made Grizzly's job easier.

"Galahad, we're in position, and ready to breach" Jake informed him, he was the only one who was in any position to open the doors quietly, even now that they were in the facility, Jake, Carter and Faith didn't intend to lose the element of surprise until it was necessary.

"Copy that Spartan, you have 8 plus hostiles on the other side, I'm jamming their comm's, so they can't raise the alarm" Galahad announced, with the door springing open seconds later, Jake, seeing it open, quickly darted through, revealing a vast space full of shelves stacked high with everything from guns to missiles, with an open area near the door, and a group of Innies standing right in the centre of it, quickly Jake opened up, followed by the rest of Grizzly team as they rushed the room, the Innies being cut down before they could reach for their weapons, not like they could have done much with them, then Grizzly set to work, each spartan taking an isle and sweeping it of any Innies that were hiding, dealing with them appropriately; soon the room was clear of hostiles and Rosenda, Thom and Beth got to work rigging the place to blow, with Jake taking position at the door to cover their backs.

"All callsigns, Grizzly leader, weapons stockpile secure and preparations for demolition are in progress, how are we looking, over" Jake announced over Teamcom, as breaches went, his team had performed flawlessly, the Innies hadn't even got a shot off.

"Fox leader here, hangers secure and were disabling anything space worthy, shouldn't take long, over" Faith replied, that was two targets down, it was all up to Panther.

"Copy that Fox, were preparing to breach the command centre, be advised it's about to get loud, suggest you move towards the frigates, over" Carter informed them, Jake expected them to go loud on their breach, there wasn't any way they could make it quiet, Jake replied by transmitted a green signal to show his acknowledgement, before turning back to his team who had finished rigging the charges, quickly they filed out, with the door shutting behind them and locking shut as they moved towards the docking ports, only to feel the rumble of Panthers demolition charges going off, followed by the chatter of the Innies desperate counter fire, however as they reached the halfway point, the holo-terminal ahead of them activated revealing an alarmed-looking Galahad.

"Get me in your suit NOW!" he demanded, sounding genuinely scared, Jake wasted no time removing his blank A.I chip and inserting it into the terminal, with Galahad quickly winking out of sight as he transferred himself to it, before removing Galahad from the system; nervously Jake looked at the chip, he didn't want to put Galahad in his head, but he was going to have to. Taking a deep breath Jake reached back and inserted the chip into his helmet, immediately he felt like his brain was on fire, but mercifully the pain quickly subsided, "Thanks, the fucking A.I enacted the computer equivalent of a suicide bomb, it tried to have me deleted and cut off most of the access to the terminals, luckily you were near one of the few I could still use" Galahad explained sounding much calmer, Jake was just thankful they'd been in the right place at the right time, the A.I's quirks were starting to grow on him, suddenly, however, the entire space decompressed, had it not been for their magnetic boots, Grizzly would have been knocked down as the air vented out.

"Don't suppose that was you?" Thom asked, but he doubted the answer.

"No that wasn't, and by the direction the air vented, it came from the ship docks" Galahad answered, as the team moved off, soon reaching the ship dock, finding the Iliad still docked there and that the Gateway was gone, along with the docking tube it had been connected with, "Crap, the Gateways crew are running, we can't let them escape!" he explained, as Panther and Fox teams joined them.

"Anyone got an idea?" Carter asked, Jake quickly racked his brain for one, the Eris, the prowler that had inserted the team couldn't take on a frigate like the Gateway, the only thing that could stop the Gateway was another warship, and where were they going to find one, and then Jake had a light bulb moment.

"Galahad what is the status of the Iliad?" Jake ordered, receiving a few confused looks, the Iliad wasn't the issue, Jake though was thinking out of the box.

"I know what you're thinking and its crazy, but the Iliad's MAC is operational and loaded, she's capable of pursuit, and I can pilot it if you get me plugged in" Galahad replied, if they wanted to stop the Gateway from escaping, the Iliad was their best bet, the Onager didn't have the firepower they needed.

"That's good enough for me" Jake declared as he led the way aboard the Frigate, sprinting for the bridge, the other Spartans having connected the dots followed closely behind, reaching the bridge Jake plugged Galahad into the ship's systems.

"Alright Spartans hang on" Galahad announced, as the frigate began to move quickly gaining speed, "ETA to intercept is 2 minutes, I would suggest having Spartan A-173 take the MAC shot, my hands are tied piloting this tub, the rest of you should man the other stations as well, the Iliad isn't exactly operational" he announced, normally Jake would have expected Galahad to be able to run the whole ship on his own, but by the readouts from engineering, he was more focused keeping the reactor from melting down, than operating the weapons systems.

"I'm only going to have one shot, what should I am for?" Beth queried, Jake, however, weighed up the options, the bridge was a prime target, take off the head and the body would flail, but the slipspace drive could still be activated from engineering, no doubt the Innies already had an escape vector calculated and plotted in.

"Aim for the engine room, if we immobilise her, we can send the navy to finish her off" Jake replied, as the Gateway entered into view, the insurrectionists were clearly too focused on escaping to notice the frigate closing in on them, Galahad manoeuvred to bring the Iliad into position for Beth to take the shot, the ship rumbling as the Mac charged as he did so.

"Firing!" Beth announced as she hit the fire button, the MAC responded by shaking the entire ship as it spat the round at the Gateway, which impacted directly where the frigates slipspace drive was, no doubt obliterating it, the Gateway shuddered under the hit and began to slow, her forward propulsion disabled, and then she began to turn back towards her attacker.

"Be advised the Gateway is turning to engage, and her MAC is charging, I suggest we get the hell out of here" Galahad announced, he wasn't wrong, the Iliad couldn't stand up in a fight against the Gateway, but the Gateway would tear them apart if they tried to escape, but with the MAC shot, they didn't have any way of taking her out conventionally, but then Jake remembered they were meant to be destroying both of the frigate's.

"Alright everyone time to leave, Galahad set the autopilot for a collision course with the Gateway and then go to storage" Jake ordered, as the Sprinted for the hanger, where Galahad had identified a Pelican dropship docked there, that was their ride out of here. Galahad quickly complied as his avatar winked out of view, as the frigate adjusted course and began to accelerate, Jake quickly pulled the chip from the terminal, before turning and running for the hanger, reaching it just as the pelican's engines finished spooling up.

"C'mon Jake, move your ass" Thom shouted as the Pelican began to take off, Jake sprinted the distance, leaping aboard the Pelican just as it began to move off.

"He's in, punch it Carter" Faith bellowed as Jake crashed down into a seat, Carter opened the taps and the Pelican rocketed out of the hanger, just as the Gateway finished its turn, only for the Iliad, former flagship of the Rebel leader Colonel Robert Watts, careened into it, metal tore against metal, atmospheres vented, and ordinance cooked off as the two frigates tore each other apart, before the Iliad's reactor detonated, blowing the pair apart in a fireball, which snuffed out as quickly as it had happened, by the cold vacuum of space, as the Pelican with the Spartans onboard departed for the Prowler, their mission complete.

Chapter 6 - Impact

November 22nd, 2541, 12:00 Hrs
Above Manticore, Lambda V System
-Grizzly Team-

Jake stared out of the Pelicans view screen as he entered the planet's atmosphere, he and the rest of the had been hastily briefed after they'd entered the system, the outer colony of Manticore had been invaded by the covenant a few weeks prior, with the 12th fleet having borne the brunt of the fighting, losing its Admiral and most of its commanding officers. But had now been reinforced by units from Cole's Second fleet, the commander of which had taken over what was left of the 12th, and was now managing to hold the enemy fleet in the system. The situation on the ground had, however, turned into a massacre, so UNSC High Command had dispatched additional Spartans to assist in covering the evacuations of the planets surviving population. Unusually, however, instead of dispatching the Spartan II's, they had sent the Jake and the other Cat-2 Spartan III's, with Fox and Grizzly being deployed behind the rest of the unit. This had caused some irk amongst his teammates as they were used to more clandestine operations, and the thought of operating within the public eye had not pleased many, Jake, however, didn't really care, they had a job to do and that was all.

"I'd suggest you get ready sir, I've been ordered to Medevac some wounded after you, and I don' wanna be caught by the Covie's if our escort isn't still here" The pilot informed him as she chewed some tobacco infused gum, which Jake knew was contraband and as Spec Warfare Group 3's second in command, he should have charged her for it, but unlike Carter, he was willing to relax some regs, such as Thom's illegal supply of Sweet William cigars, a taste he had acquired after stealing one off of Chief Mendez in boot camp, after all, he'd been the one distracting the chief at the time anyway.

"Got it" Jake replied as he stepped back into the Pelicans blood tray, where Grizzly and Fox teams were seated, as one of the escorting longswords pulled ahead of the Pelican, scanning the bay Jake could make out Thom in his Brown and orange armor chatting with one member of Fox team, Rosenda in her sage, pink and silver armor was sorting ammunition for her SAW, sorting by armor piercing rounds and shredder ammunition, all normal there, then his eyes landed on the white and purple coloured form of Beth, who even with half a ton of armour covering her, looked visibly nervous, "You ok Beth?" Jake asked concerned as he sat down next to her, the last thing anyone needed was a jumpy sniper.

"Erm, no, It's just that I can't stop thinking about the last time we were on a planet the covenant attacked" Beth explained, referring not to one of the missions they'd performed in the past two years, but to her and his harrowing escape from their home planet as the Covenant had burned it from orbit, Jake remembered it too, he'd been unable to sleep for months afterwards; Before Jake could offer some reassuring words, however, the pelican suddenly lurched to onside nearly throwing Jake to the deck.

"Shit! Covie's have AA, I'm going to try and-" the pilot shouted, only to be silenced as the starboard wing took a direct hit, "Mayday, Mayday, this is 3 Echo 1, we are going down" she screamed over the radio, before turning her attention back to her passengers, "Everybody out, this birds going down, I'll try and hold her as long as I can" She ordered as the Pelican began to descend rapidly in a spiral.

"You heard her, Out!" Jake ordered, everyone scrambled to their feet, Thom being the closest to the door, slammed the escape panel, the bay door being blown out of the way as the explosive bolts fired, Thom glanced back to Jake, gave the signature Spartan smile and leapt from the doomed aircraft, followed quickly by the other seven Spartans on-board, with Jake being the last one out.

"Aim for the tree's they'll break your fall" Faith ordered as they fell, from this altitude they would survive the fall, in what state however, depended on how hard they hit the deck, aiming for a thick clump of trees Jake braced for impact, mere seconds before he stuck a what had been a sturdy oak tree, before slamming into a succession of its neighbours, before bouncing off of the ground, before coming to rest in a heap on the ground, he lay there for a few seconds, before pulling his body into a sitting position, he felt liquid on his face, quickly he removed his helmet and looked at his reflection in his miraculously unbroken visor, at 17-years-old he looked like someone in his twenties, the stubble which now adorned the lower half of his face helped, grey piercing eyes scanned his reflection looking for the source of the liquid, a finding a bad nosebleed to be the culprit, noting his nose wasn't broken wiped, and feeling confident the bleeding would stop shortly, Jake wiped away the splatter under his nose, before securing his helmet once more; suddenly he heard a noise in the bushes, quickly Jake reached for where his Battle rifle should have been and was rewarded with the familiar feeling of the weapon in his hands, bringing the rifle to bear, Jake prepared to unload on the first Covenant that came out, only for a figure in red and black armour to appear out of the undergrowth, who Jake recognized as Faith, before he noticed that his entire HUD had failed, "Hey you ok?" she asked, her voice muffled by her helmet, indicating his entire helmet was offline.

"Helmets troubles, but other than that I'm ok" Jake responded as he removed his helmet to examine it, and finding no obvious damage, tried a reboot, which by the sound of radio chatter flooding the helmet's speakers had worked "what about you?" he inquired as he once again replaced his helmet, when Faith had appeared from the bushes, Jake had noticed she was limping slightly.

"Landed awkwardly, I'll walk it off" Faith replied as Jake pulled himself to his feet, Jake trusted her prognosis, she was their medic after all, "someone got a look at the AA that killed our ride, you wanna get some payback?" She asked as she led him in the direction they had come from, clearly, they'd fallen the furthest.

"Hell yeah, besides that AA is going to turn the evac into a slaughter, it needs to go anyway" Jake answered, reminding himself of the bigger picture, that outweighed revenge, but only a bit.

Chapter 7 - Payback

November 22nd, 2541 12:36 Hrs
Manticore, Lambda V System
-Grizzly Team-

Jake studied the Covenant encampment like a hawk watching its prey, the site was relatively simple, a defensive perimeter of barricades, plasma turrets and floating platforms, surrounding a single Type-38 Anti-aircraft cannon, nicknamed Tyrant's due to their fearsome reputation, these guns doubled as fortresses, and were a nightmare to assault without heavy weapons, fortunately the guns had a known weakness, their reactor cores were susceptible to grenades and explosives, which was how Jake intended to take out the gun, there was only one issue with that plan, he didn't have all eight Spartans at his disposal. Thom and another two Spartans from Faiths team had landed a distance from the main group, and due to the number of search teams hunting for survivors of the crash, had been forced to take a longer route to reach them, but due to the threat posed by the gun, and the need to take out the threat quickly, Jake couldn't wait for them, worse still not all of the remaining Spartans were operational, Rosenda had suffered a nasty concussion in the fall and despite her protests, Jake had been forced to sideline her, along with another one of Faith's team, who had dislocated his shoulder badly on landing, leaving just him, Faith and Beth to assault the position.

"Ok here's the plan, Faith and I will hit the Tyrant, whilst Beth covers us from higher ground, we go in fast and hard and get clear before they get their shit together" Jake announced turning back towards the group, receiving nods from both of the remaining Spartans.

"I still think you should be taking me with you, I'm ok to fight" Rosenda stated as she tried to stand, only to slump back down, due to a mixture of her injury and the meds Faith had given her for said injury.

"Rosenda, we've told you, you have a concussion, and a bad one at that!" Faith told her bluntly, as she checked her ammo for her assault rifle, whilst Beth replaced her helmet, a Military Police model, which she had removed in order for Faith to check her for injuries, which she had somehow avoided.

"We'll be fine Roz, just stay here and get some rest, ok" Jake added, receiving a begrudging sigh from Rosenda, "Ok let's move out" he continued as he moved off with Faith falling in behind, whilst Beth headed for higher ground to set up her rifle. Soon the pair arrived at a large rock near the edge of the tree line, near a spot in the perimeter Jake had identified as a weak spot, which fortunately was also was directly in line with one of the entrances to the Tyrants base structure, where the reactor was located.

"Beth, we're in position, what's your status?" Faith asked, which caused Jake some concern that Beth wouldn't respond, she only talked really when he was the one talking to her, she'd exchange words with Rosenda and Thom, but she was normally quiet around people she didn't know well, and despite knowing Faith since their days on Onyx, neither of them knew nothing about the other team leader, thankfully Beth responded with a green acknowledgement light, signalling she was in position and ready to engage.

"Ok, moving in 3, 2, 1, Now!" Jake announced before both bolted from cover and charged towards the Tyrant, whilst Beth opened up, killing a trio of Jackal snipers and a grunt crewing a plasma turret before they could react.

"Going right!" Faith shouted as they leapt a barricade, with Faith opening up on a cluster of grunts who hadn't worked out they were being attacked, whilst Jake laid into a pair of nearby elites before they could draw their weapons, all the while Beth kept up the supporting fire, engaging targets at longer range.

"Cover me! I'm going for the reactor" Jake ordered as they entered the structure, with Jake making a beeline for the vulnerable reactor, gunning down a squad of grunts that found themselves in his way, whilst Faith took a position at the door.

"Hurry up will you, Covies are starting to get their act together" Faith informed him, as she sprayed fire at any covenant that got too close for comfort, Jake meanwhile had reached the reactor, quickly he began striking the protective shield with his rifle-butt until it flared and failed, exposing the vulnerable core, quickly he snatched a grenade and hurled it into the reactor chamber, before sprinting back towards the entrance.

"Time to go!" Jake ordered as he sprinted out of the structure, with Faith following him out into the now body-strewn clearing, indicating just how busy Faith and Beth had been, behind them came the sound of the grenade detonating, followed by a second explosion as the reactor went critical, as a claxon began to blare, "Hit the deck!" he ordered as they leapt behind another barrier, protecting them from the plasma fire licking their heels, and from the following explosion when the disintegrating cannon finally detonated, which through the fireball, the inevitable shrapnel and burning chunks of cannon blown off by the blast, killed most of the remaining Covenant and incapacitated the remainder, who only lasted seconds longer than their compatriots as the three Spartans mercilessly cut down the survivors, leaving none alive.

"Well, that went well" Faith commented, only for the whine of a Covenant aircraft to begin to drone overhead, "Me and my big mouth!" she exclaimed as a Phantom appeared overhead and raced towards them, only for a barrage of rockets to leap out of the trees opposite from them, striking the Phantom's underside, sending the dropship down in a ball of fire.

"Looks like we got here just in time!" Thom exclaimed as he and the other two missing Spartans emerged from the trees and moved towards them, Jake no doubt picturing Thom grinning under his familiar Air Assault helmet.

"About bloody time, you nearly missed all the fun!" Jake replied as started back towards where they'd left the wounded.

"Eh, had to avoid our unwelcome guests, took longer than we expected, found those rockets though, turned out they were pretty useful!" Thom answered as they returned to where they'd left Rosenda and the other wounded Spartan, finding Beth already there and waiting for them.

"Alright I'm going to call command and tell them we've dealt with the gun" Jake informed everyone, before switching to the command frequency, "Command this is Grizzly leader, the AA gun near evac site Echo is down, you can proceed with the evacuation, over" he announced, only to be met by static "command do you copy?" Jake asked getting nervous looks from his teammates, if Command wasn't responding, the shit was about to hit the fan, mercifully this time however he got a response.

"Grizzly leader this is Command, be advised, Panther leader has new tasking for you" Command replied as the line crackled, and went dead before Jake could reply, sighing Jake changed frequency to the long-range Spartan channel, what the hell did carter want with them?

"Grizzly one to Panther one, I hear you have a job for us, care to explain why you're sending the teams that just got shot down?" Jake asked he needed to get his wounded treated for their injuries, not sent into another firefight.

"Sorry Jake, but you're the nearest teams, Covenant forces have attacked and destroyed some of the orbital defence generators, I need you to defend the remaining generators until we can get the civilians to safety" Carter answered, as reasons went it was a good one.

"Roger, be advised I have wounded in need of medical attention" Jake informed him as he sat down on a rock, whilst the others took a moment to breathe.

"I'm aware of the situation, and I'm having a medical team meet you there along with some marine support, sorry that's the best I can do" He replied, by the sound of his voice, clearly, he wasn't happy about this either, "there's a Pelican with escort on route to pick you up, over" he added, evidently, he wasn't about to let them get shot down twice in one day.

"Copy that, let's hope this medical team is good" Jake sighed he wanted his wounded safe and away from the fighting, not in a defensive action, but there wasn't much he could do other than play the hand he'd been dealt.

Chapter 8 - Bedfellows

November 22nd, 2541 18:05 Hrs
Orbital MAC Generator Site Alpha
Manticore, Lambda V System
-Grizzly Team-

The defence of any UNSC colony was always centred on the Mac Platforms, or Orbital Defense platforms to give them their proper names, these installations could destroy any enemy ship in a single shot, no matter if they were shielded. There was just one drawback to them, they had to be powered by ground-based generators in order to operate; if these were destroyed the stations became useless, and everyone knew it, UNSC, Insurrectionist, even the Covenant, which was why Jake freezing his ass off defending them. Fortunately, the UNSC had wisely positioned the few remaining generators defending Manticore in a position where the defenders could take advantage of the terrain, to the east was nothing but a cliff overlooking a partially frozen lake which meant the only method of assault was by air, which was why that flank was where the UNSC had concentrated their AA emplacements; whilst the North was rocky open ground, a perfect kill zone for the Marines dug in there, along with a pair of battered Scorpion tanks that had been stationed in support. The only viable routes of assault were from the South and the West, through a wood which surrounded that entire side of the site, which was where the Spartans were stationed, with Fox holding the West flank, and Grizzly the South, which was the tougher of the two as the only road to the site, was on that side, fortunately for Grizzly team, they had another Scorpion in support there to assist them; if Jake could get it working.

"Hey Jake, how's it coming?" Thom asked as he, watched for any movement in the trees, Jake, however, sighed as he pulled himself out from the access hatch of the Scorpions turret.

"Well the guns operational, but she's not going anywhere" Jake replied as he gestured to the tank's crew, that they could re-man the vehicle, "How's Roz?" he added as he dropped into one of the nearby foxholes.

"For the last time, I'm fine! Faith fixed me up, I got some sleep on the ride over, and I've had enough painkillers and fluids to sort it out" Rosenda snapped back, she had gotten annoyed at everyone checking on her constantly and had had enough of it, "The colds helping anyway, so would you stop asking already!" she continued, glaring at Thom and Jake the whole time.

"Hasn't done anything for your personality!" Thom snarked, trying to provoke Rosenda more, Jake however quickly put a stop to it.

"Thom! Rosenda! either you wind your necks in, or I'll do it for you!" Jake barked, before rubbing his head through his Helmet, as the Marines alongside him gave him confused looks, Spartans were meant to be the Galaxy best soldiers, and here there were two of them acting like children, "Honestly they're normally better than this" Jake explained, trying to make it sound better than it was, which it normally was, but due to all of the action they'd been in, from the pelican crash to the tyrant assault, and the ride over listening to the radio as the battle for the planet went from bad to worse, before he'd finally switched it off out of frustration; it was obvious that tempers were frayed, what they needed was a distraction from each other.

"Hey I can hear something!" a Marine shouted, prompting everyone to take aim down the road, curiously the sound wasn't the whine of a covenant vehicle, but the rumble of some form of Human vehicle, but that didn't put anyone at ease, they were the only UNSC forces in that area and everyone knew it.

"Beth, you got eyes on whatever's making that noise" Jake queried; from her perch atop one of the generators and equipped with a thermal scope due to the cold, Beth had the clearest view of anybody.

"Looks like a convoy of Warthogs, first one should be coming into view any second now" Beth answered as the lead Warthog came into view, all eyes being drawn to the insurrectionist manning the gun.

"Shit, Innies should we engage?" one of the Marines asked nervously, as he fidgeted with his rifle, Jake, however, noticed something odd, namely that the innies hadn't raced in guns blazing. Instead, they were more concerned with driving in a column, sweeping the trees for possible hostiles, to him their actions were defensive, not offensive.

"Not yet, let me try something" Jake replied, causing some confusion from the troopers around him, before silently hoping this wasn't about to blow up in his face, "That's far enough!" He shouted causing the column to halt in surprise, turning their weapons towards Jakes position, however instead of lighting him up, the innies held their fire, before the man riding in the passenger's seat got out, wearing a mixture of a mismatched body armour, followed by another person, who Jake hadn't noticed climbing out of the bed of the vehicle, a woman wearing a set of ODST armour, which surprisingly broadcasted an authentic IFF code.

"Show yourself!" the man demanded, trying to sound authoritative, which was hard when he saw he had the barrel of a Scorpion pointed at him, Jake however decided to oblige him and climbed out of his position to meet them, causing several of the insurrectionists to crap themselves at the sight of a Spartan, "So what do we have here, a Spartan! shouldn't you be helping people get off this rock?" he continued, his tone a mixture of provocation and curiosity, the women, however, stood to attention, and despite the armour looked relieved to see him.

"We are, were defending the generators for the orbital mac's, now who the hell are you? and what are you doing here?" Jake replied, innies he could understand, what was an ODST doing here, his training told him, she'd just nicked a dead soldiers armour, but her behaviour told him otherwise.

"Corporal Stephanie Royce, 112th ODST Force recon" the woman explained removing her helmet to allow Jake a clearer look, no doubt so they could match her face to her military I.D, clearly, she was telling the truth, otherwise she'd have kept her helmet on.

"And I am General Stephan Okafor, leader of the UFLM" the man continued, Jake had heard about the UFLM or the united front for the liberation of Manticore; they were one of the smaller rebel cells but were no-less troublesome, from hijacking merchant vessels, to acts of non-lethal terrorism against the CAA and later the UNSC, and had been a constant source of trouble, but had always managed to avoid destruction by having the population on their side, protecting them whenever a force was sent to deal with them, which meant routing out their members nigh impossible without causing a massacre.

"Ok, that answers question one, now about question two?!" Jake reminded them, keeping an eye of the warthog's gunner, not quite trusting them, only for the radio to crackle in his ear.

"Boss, the woman's confirmed as an ODST, and I can see some more in the other warthogs, they look wounded, what's the call?" Beth asked, no doubt having her rifle already trained on the self-styled general, Jake quickly responded to this by flashing his amber signal twice, indicating silently for everyone to hold their fire.

"Well, when the covenant attacked, my men and I attempted to evacuate a group of miners who were operating in this area, however when we arrived, we found that they had all been massacred and that we were next, most of my men were lost when we retreated, but in the process, we found the Corporals squad" Okafor explained turning to the ODST to continue.

"Me and the remaining men under my command were stationed at some of the generators further north; when they were destroyed we decided to link up with the forces here, and along the way we ran into what was left of the 'generals convoy', and since we were all under-fire at the time, we joined up and repelled the attack, after which I decided we could trust them and told them of our objective, and they offered to join us" Royce continued getting a few curious glances from the marines alongside Jake and his Spartans, the odd ODST's and rebels working together against the Covenant wasn't unheard off, but not on this scale.

"Now I know that most you see us as terrorists, as we see you as our tyrannical overlords, I am asking that we set aside our differences and work together to help the people of Manticore escape" Okafor pleaded, genuinely seeming honest in the words he spoke, leaving Jake with a decision to make, until he heard the distinctive whine of Covenant aircraft.

"Shit! banshee's two o'clock high!" Rosenda shouted as three banshees appeared over the treetops, only to be cut to pieces as everyone opened up, Marine, ODST, Rebel and Spartan, sending the trio of fliers down in balls of purple fire.

"Cease fire, cease fire!" several people shouted, halting the barrage now that the threats were dealt with, but only for the time being, the banshees had only been a scouting party, and soon enough they were going to have a lot more company.

"Well General, you've got your wish!" Jake announced turning his attention back to the rebels, "I'd suggest that both of you put your wounded on the northern flank and split the rest between the West and here" Jake indicated, before switching to the local UNSC that all the defensive units were using, "All callsigns be advised we have friendly locals and a force of ODST's joining us, so get them sorted and get ready, because we've got incoming!" He explained as the rebels and ODST's moved to take up their defensive positions; only years ago, the men and women here would have been perfectly comfortable shooting one another, now though they would be working together, War really made for strange bedfellows.

Chapter 9 - Egress

November 22nd, 2541 22:12 Hrs
Orbital MAC Generator Site Alpha
Manticore, Lambda V System
-Grizzly Team-

Jake shoved a fresh magazine in his Battlerifle before spraying fire at the advancing horde of aliens as bullets, plasma and crystals flew back and forth.

"Well, this is a fine mess we've gotten ourselves into!" Thom shouted jokingly as he gunned down an elite who'd gotten a little too close for comfort, which prompted a few laughs from some of the veterans amongst the defenders, before Jake could offer his opinion, however, a blast from an energy mortar washed over his position, forcing him and everyone else still alive in the foxhole to duck.

"Fuck! they've got wraith's, anyone see where they are?" Jake shouted as the bombardment intensified, in the past hour the covenant attacks had intensified from a handful of squads who had gotten gunned down instantly, to attempted air assaults that had been decimated before they'd had a chance to land, culminating in an all-out assault that was now being thrown at the humans.

"I see them, 300 yards out, what's the call boss" Beth replied as she picked off the odd covenant who'd taken advantage of the barrage to try and advance, Jake meanwhile was really wishing they had a couple of Kodiak's to hand, but he didn't so they would have to rely on what they could call in.

"Gonna call in the big guns!" Jake answered before switching to the UNSC main ground frequency, "All callsigns, all callsigns this is Sierra-Three-Eight-Four, requesting support" he called over the radio, only to be met by silence, "Repeat this is Spartan-384, requesting support" he repeated, the silence however continued, only to be interrupted by the sound of someone tuning in to the frequency.

"Spartan-384, this is UNSC Blood of Kings, what can we do for you," a man's voice asked, which immediately told Jake that they had hours left at most, otherwise ground command would have been contacting them, but this was a Warship contacting them, and if Jake remembered correctly, A Valiant class as well.

"Copy, I have a battery of Wraiths pounding our position, we need you to blow those bastards to hell! they're trying to get the orbital generators, we can hold the infantry off, but those Wraiths are a major problem!" Jake replied, only to be answered by the sounds of confused mutterings from the cruiser above them.

"Shit! Spartan be advised all UNSC forces have been ordered to abandon the planet, we were about to jump out but we heard your message, We have pelicans en route to extract you and anyone else still down there!" the man replied, causing Jake and several to mutter expletives under their breath, Command had literally left them to all to die, and hadn't even told them, "When the Pelicans land, you're going to have a short window to evac, we'll cover your retreat with a missile barrage, so as soon as those missiles start falling, get your asses moving!" the man continued.

"Copy, and thanks for not leaving" Jake replied before switching back to the local frequency, "Ok guys, we're getting the hell off this rock, we have missile inbound to cover us, so as soon as they start hitting, head for the pelicans!" he announced, making sure anyone still alive knew what was going to happen, just as a flight of Pelicans roared in, followed by the shriek of Archer missiles.

"Move, Move, Move!" Royce shouted as the first missiles detonated, distracting the Covenant long enough for the humans to break cover and retreat towards the pelicans, with Jake and the Spartans, along with a few other soldiers bringing up the rear, providing covering fire along the way against any covenant who tried to shoot them in the back, this however made them inviting targets for the covenant, which Jake found out as a beam of plasma lanced towards him, only him shielding his face with his left shoulder pauldron saved him, with the thick piece of titanium taking the hit instead of his more fragile visor, but as he sent a burst of gunfire back in the direction that the shot had come from, he heard the distinctive crack as bone shattering, turning his spotted Okafor, lying on the ground, a large pink crystal sticking out of his knee joint, quickly Jake dashed over, and picked the man up.

"This is not the time for a nap mate!" Jake jokingly remarked as he put the man over his shoulders, putting Okafor in a fireman's carry, before he could reply however, a pair of elites chose that moment to announce themselves, by roaring and charging the pair with energy swords, and despite only having one hand free Jake was able to bring his Battlerifle to bear on the closer of the two, and emptied the entire magazine into the aliens head, felling it before it got them in range, the latter seeing its friend fall, decided that he was better off shooting at them, rather than attempting the same manoeuvre which had led to its comrades demise, only for two rounds from a sniper rifle to fell it, before it could bring its weapon to bear.

"Yeah, and it's also no time to be standing around either!" Royce remarked as Jake and Okafor, turned and ran, the ODST falling in beside them, all the while the barrage of missiles closing in on them; finally though Jake saw the Pelicans, most were already full of Soldiers and were taking off, one however was still waiting for them, and when he saw a familiar figure clad in Blue and Black armour standing on the tail ramp, he understood why.

"Move your ass Spartan!" Carter ordered as opened fire, his rounds finding homes in the chests of the covenant who were pursuing the trio, Jake, however, didn't need the encouragement, putting all his remaining energy into covering the ground between him and the pelican; finally, he heard the satisfying clank of metal on metal, as he barreled into the pelicans blood tray, before unloading Okafor into one of the free seats and before nearly collapsing onto the deck, "They're in, Pilot get us out of here!" Carter ordered as the pelican began to shake as the explosions got nearer, the pilot, however, didn't waste any time, as even before Carter finished the Pelican was already taking off.

"What the hell happened?!" Jake asked, he along with everyone else wanted an answer as to why they'd been abandoned to die, whereas the other Spartans had been evacuated, Carter however simply sighed as steeped back inside as the ramp closed behind him.

"I have no idea, Command began ordering the evacuation an hour ago, but got hit before they could inform you guys, Fleetcom ended up having to organize our pick up" Carter explained as the pair felt the feeling of gravity lessen beneath them, as the Pelican pulled itself clear of the atmosphere, "Good news is we managed to evacuate most of the population, so we can at least console ourselves with that, even though we lost the planet!" he added, the anger in his voice noticeable towards the end, he wasn't wrong they had lost at Manticore, not as bad in the past, but it was still the same, another defeat as another colony fell before the might of the nigh-unstoppable covenant.

Chapter 10 - Loss

November 23rd, 2541 01:11 Hrs
Valiant Class Super-heavy Cruiser, UNSC Blood of Kings
Outbound of Lambda V System
-Grizzly Team-

Jake stripped his rifle for the umpteenth time, it was quite calming to just sit and repeat the same task over and over again, and after their narrow escape from Manticore, Jakes' nerves were on the jittery side, fortunately he'd managed to keep calm until after the other Spartans and the rest of the soldiers and crew had entered cryo, which due to the sheer number of people aboard were in short supply and as such Jake had opted to not enter cryo, allowing someone else to use the pod.

"You know, if you could reinsert the bolt catch without wiggling it, you could shave 0.825 seconds off of your personal best" Galahad noted jokingly, prompting a middle finger from the Spartan in question, whilst he liked the A.I and appreciated the company, he was a bit annoying "Also I detect a slight issue with you night vision system, I would suggest that you allow me to run a system diagnostic" he added, prompting a sigh from Jake.

"Only if it keeps you from bothering me" Jake replied as he picked up his helmet from the deck and move to plug it into the terminal Galahad was stored in, who normally resided in Carter's armour, but as he was in cryo, had been plugged something else.

"Oh, and I thought my witty personality was quite nice, but if you insist I won't bother you unless..." Galahad began, only to be interrupted by the sound of the ship's intercom crackling to life.

"Spartan 384 please report to the Admiral's ready room" the intercom requested, prompting a raised eyebrow from the Spartan in question.

"Unless someone else bothers you first, I wonder what you did wrong this time?" Galahad mused, Jake however simply rolled his eyes before leaving the A.I to himself, "Hey at least tell me what happens, there's not much else going on around here" He called, Jake, however, ignored the A.I and proceded towards the Admiral's ready room, receiving curious looks from the skeleton crew as he did so, Spartans only existed in rumours after all, finally he reached the door in question and was about to knock when the door sprang open, finding an aged man sitting at his desk.

"Ah Spartan 384, I heard about how we nearly left you behind on Manticore, and I would like to apologise for not realising you were still there in the first place " the admiral greeted as he stood up, offering his hand as he did so.

"I prefer Jake sir, and thank you for being there to pull us out of the fire, Admiral..." Jake replied as he searched for a name tag on the Admiral's uniform.

"Hood, Admiral Terrance Hood, now as to why you are here" Hood answered, before picking up a tablet from on top of the desk, "Our techs picked this up before we jumped to slipspace, We only just managed to decode it" He continued as he handed Jake the Tablet

"I'll let you have the room" Hood added before leaving, leaving the Spartan somewhat confused, what would Jake need the room for, but as he powered up the tablet he froze as a document came on screen, it was an after action report on Shark Team and Puma Team, another two of the Cat-2 teams, they had been assigned to assist with Evacuations in one of Manticore's Larger cities, on the opposite side of the planet to Grizzly, Panther and Fox, however they had lost contact early on in the battle, but what stood out to him were the three red letters next to each of the teams names, 'M.I.A' and as he read the report, he began to feel back to that night so many years ago as he and Beth had watched their home planet being burned into glass from orbit, the W.I.A classification was just ONI's way of saying that they were dead, because ONI's Directive 930, forbid any Spartan from being classified K.I.A, and order that Jake and many other Spartans, even some of the II's, hated with all their will; finally he'd read enough and so Jake put the tablet back on the desk, and stormed out, not even noticing Admiral Hood in the process.

"I knew this was going to happen" Hood sighed as he watched the Spartan stalk off, before turning to a nearby holo-terminal where the ships A.I sprang to life "Keep an eye on him but give him some space" he added, the A.I simply nodded before disappearing once more.

"Ah Jake, How was your chat with the Admiral, are you in trouble?" Galahad asked as Jake re-entered the room, Jake however simply blanked the A.I as he stared at the opposite wall,

"Jake, you ok?" he asked concerned, seeing immediately something was wrong.

"Galahad, power down for a while" Jake growled, Galahad, however, didn't comply, watching the Spartan with concern, clearly something was off about him, "Galahad! off now!" he snarled, turning to face the A.I, the look of anger on his face was more than enough to confirm his suspicions, but rather than make the situation worse, Galahad complied with Jake's order, and powered down, leaving Jake alone in the room; Finally alone Jake could finally let out the anger boiling within him, by turning back towards the opposite wall and burying his fist in it multiple times, until finally he turned, panting, back towards where he'd stashed his gear and began to bandage his bleeding hand, leaving a significant dent in the interior wall, which Jake had selected as it was made out of a lighter steel than the rest of the ship, and wouldn't damage his hand as much, luckily his bones had received a similar treatment to the Spartan II's making them unbreakable, although that had due to chemical's rather than skeletal implants like the II's, but Jake didn't care about that, or the dent in the wall, or even the pain in his hand, all he cared about was that eight of his friends were dead, and he had been powerless to save them.

Chapter 11 - Drop

January 2nd, 2542 14:02 Hrs
Valiant Class Super-heavy Cruiser, UNSC Blood of Kings
Epsilon Eridani System
-Grizzly Team-

Rosenda yawned as she stepped out of the cryo bay, stretching to free the cramp in her shoulders, however as she did she noticed that a certain teammate wasn't waiting to greet them.

"Anyone see Jake?" Rosenda asked only to be met by other confused murmurs, "Maybe he's with our gear?" she guessed as she led them to the armoury, only to find him not there either.

"Where the hell is he?" Carter muttered angrily, it was his job to watch their armour whilst they were in cryo, only for the shakey form Galahad to appear before them.

"To Answer your question, he's in the Medbay undergoing observation by the ships A.I." Galahad explained, his avatar stabilising momentarily, receiving confused looks from the Spartans, "It sort of became necessary after he did that!" He added as he pointed out the quite visible dent in the wall, "Messed his hand up pretty good, but the crew cleaned the blood up already," Galahad continued as confused mutterings broke out amongst them.

"Ok 1, what the hell caused him to do that?" Rosenda asked, as Thom and Beth took a better look at the dent "And 2, are you ok Galahad?" she continued, Galahad meanwhile simply turned to face her as his avatar began to flutter again.

"When it comes to Jake, Admiral Hood has compiled the full details for you, you'll find them on that tablet" Galahad replied pointing to the tablet in question, as his Avatar began to flicker more violently "As for myself, I'm afraid to say this is the end of the road for our relationship" he answered painfully as he tried to hold his projection together "I was created in early 2535, and my seven years of life are up I'm afraid," Galahad continued as his projection began to fade "Admiral Hood was kind enough to let me stay until I could say goodbye, and now that I have, It's time to go; I wish you all the best, and I hope you don't, forget, about, me-" Galahad trailed off as his programming shut off, leaving the Cat-2's speechless at the loss of their friend, and when they read Hood's report, some found tears springing in their eyes.

January 4th, 2542 08:35 Hrs
HIGHCOM Facility Bravo-6
Sydney, Earth, Sol System

Admiral Parangosky sighed as she finished the report, Manticore had been a mess, 8 Spartans dead, another 8 nearly left behind, and had it not been for Admiral Hood, they would have been. But the worst part had been when Spartan A-384 had managed to get himself pulled from active duty, pending a psychological workup; Normally this would mean removing him from the position of Spec Warfare Group 3's second in command, but in her opinion, his reaction after what he'd been through was understandable.

"Serin, would you inform Colonel Ackerson, that I'm granting the Cat-2's two weeks leave, and that no charges are to be presented against Spartan-A384" Parangosky ordered, she would trust that Serin would make the order sound more in intimidating, she couldn't let anyone know she had a soul after all.

August 15th, 2546, 2542 11:44 Hrs
Marathon Class Heavy Cruiser, UNSC Swiftsure
Above Sargasso, Reglius Prime System
-Grizzly Team-

Alarms blared as Beth's cryo pod sprang open, quickly she scrambled out and grabbed her rifle, glancing pitifully at Jake as he vomited onto the deck, he really couldn't handle cryo.

"All Spartan's report to SOEIV bay 2, repeat all Spartan's report to SOEIV bay 2," The ships A.I announced as the ship shuddered, clearly all hell was breaking loose in space, and that getting on the ground was advisable.

"You heard it, move!" Faith ordered as she led the Spartans to the SOEIV bay, where the drop pods were waiting for them, quickly Beth stowed her weapons and climbed in.

"Ok people, the situation on the ground is this, the Covenant has landed forces around the capital city, our job is to land behind their lines and strike from the rear," Carter explained as the pod's door closed and locked, "Latest reports indicate that the enemy is stretched thin and under-supplied, so priority targets are their supply bases and landing zones, and that the LZ should be undefended," He added as the pod turned to launch position.

"Hey Jake, bet you glad you threw up already!" Thom Joked as the pods began to drop, prompting several angry retorts, with Beth fighting the urge to strangle Thom for that one, Jake's condition wasn't to be made fun of.

"Fuck off Thom! I swear to god if you land near me, I'm going to break your fucking neck!" Beth snarled, causing the entire Teamcom to fall silent, the last person to make a threat like that was Beth.

"Wow Thom, you've managed to make Beth angry!" Rosenda leered as the pods thundered through the atmosphere "Also if I get to you first I'll cut your balls off before I let Beth at you!" She sneered, with Thom not daring to reply, Beth however simply set a double green signal to Rosenda as a thanks for helping put Thom in his place.

"Ok people here we go," Carter announced as the pod's drag chutes opened, surprisingly the Covenant hadn't opened fire, either they were too busy or hadn't noticed them. As the ground came up fast, Beth braced and waited for the impact, but the force knocked still knocked the breath out of her as her pod impacted and briefly tumbled before coming to rest on its back, immediately the door blew open, and after climbing out she found that she'd landed in a building, her pod having slammed through the roof and upper floors before coming to rest.

"Beth, you ok up there?" Jake asked weakly, prompting Beth to glance out of the window, finding that Jake had landed in the street below her.

"I'm ok," she added as she watched the some of the other Spartans form up with Jake, sighing as she saw that Thom was amongst them.

"Bad news Beth looks like you're not going to..." Thom began, only for Jake to interrupt him with a well-timed punch to the gut, which brought a smile to Beth's face.

"You were saying?" Jake asked rhetorically as Thom ripped his helmet off and threw up, "Not so funny now is it!" He added as he watched Thom lose any sense of dignity.

"Um, guys, slight issue, I'm stuck," Rosenda announced, prompting Beth to turn to where Rosenda's marker said she'd landed on her HUD, finding that her pod had come to rest on its front" The doors jammed and I'm trapped," she explained as the Spartans moved to help.

"Copy that, we'll get you out; Beth cover us and see if you can work out where the others came down," Jake requested as he and the other Spartans began to roll the pod over.

"Copy that," Beth replied as she shouldered her rifle, using its scope to look for where the other pods had come down "Ok looks like the others have landed a mile north of us; no signs of hostiles, looks like Intel was right," She added as the others freed Rosenda from her pod.

"Copy that, get down here and regroup with us, we need to regroup as soon as possible," Jake acknowledged as he watched a humbled Thom stager towards him. Beth simply flashed green twice before heading for the stairs.

Chapter 12 - Bodies

August 15th, 2546, 2542 11:51 Hrs
Sargasso, Reglius Prime System
-Grizzly Team-

Jake swept each window as they advanced up the street, watching for any signs of covenant activity, which despite them making possibly the loudest entrance possible, seemed to be strangely absent.

"Anyone see anything?" Jake asked as he checked the GPS Map on his wrist, displaying their position and the rendezvous point that they had designated in case the Spartans had been scattered during the drop.

"Nothing, they don't seem to want to play," Faith replied as Jake directed them to cut through a nearby building, with Thom and another Spartan called Quinn-098 taking point as they entered rest followed them inside. "I know its a cliche, but, Its quiet, too quiet," she added in an ominous voice as they proceded through the building, getting a few chuckles from the others, Faith was the resident film buff, after all, Jake, however, was about to reply back with another old movie cliche, when he was interrupted.

"Holy shit! come look at this," Quinn shouted from further into the building, causing everyone to snap to attention, however when they found her standing over a rather large pile of dead covenant soldiers, a mix of grunts, jackals and even a few elites, "I just found them like this," she explained as she kicked a grunts corpse back into the pile.

"Form a perimeter, Faith give me a hand checking this lot," Jake ordered as he knelt down to check an elite, taking note of the puncture wound in its neck, "Bloods starting to dry, I'd say they've been dead at least an hour," he noted as he began examining another corpse.

"That sounds about right, I'd say they all died around the same time judging by the uniformity of the bloodstains," Faith concurred as she rolled a body over to study the exit wounds on its back, before looking at the wall behind the bodies, then the other walls, "And by the lack of bullet's in the wall behind them, or anywhere in this room, I'd guess they were killed somewhere else and moved here afterwards, but I'm not seeing drag marks" she guessed.

"They were carried" Jake blurted out, getting a strange look from Faith, "This one's got a broken arm, and as someone who's broken a few hinge-head arms, I'm certain someone's fist did it" he continued as he got to his feet, only to notice that one of the dead elites was wearing a set of Infiltrator class armour, "And I think I just found some hard proof" Jake continued as he dragged the body from the pile.

"What are you doing?" Faith asked as Jake pulled out a few tools from a pouch and began to work on the side of the Elites helmet.

"Well you see, this is an Elite wearing an Infiltrator class armour, a reconnaissance specialist, everyone knows this. But what most don't know, is that this armour has a built-in camera, which records what the wearer sees, the data from which..." Jake explained, only to stop as the panel he'd been working on sprang open "gets collected on one of these!" he continued as he removed a miniature memory block from behind the panel.

"Huh, good to know, we have anything to use that thing with?" Faith asked as Jake got to his feet before stowing his tools and the memory block securely.

"Well if I can get my hands on a computer, and that new decryption software that Carters carrying, I should be able to crack it in a couple of hours at least, but I'm a hardware guy, software isn't my speciality" Jake answered as the radio crackled to life in their ears.

"Panther leader to Grizzly leader, what is your status? over" Carter asked as Jake signalled for the Spartans to move on before answering.

"Pather, this is Grizzly, were about..." Jake began, glancing at his GPS to work out roughly how long it would take them to reach the RV point, "10 mike's from the RV point, be advised we've secured a covenant memory block from a dead elite, over" he continued.

"Copy that, we're at the RV waiting for you, Command wants us to get to work as soon as possible, but that memory block might have intel on it, so we'll hold back till we get it decrypted, so double-time it Spartan, over" Carter ordered, as Jake quickened his pace, as did the rest of the Spartans.

"Copy that Panther, over and out" Jake answered, as he and the other Spartans moved once more towards the RV point, all the while his brain was running over what he'd just seen. He and the other Spartan's had seen scenes like that before, the only difference being that this one hadn't been caused by them, so in his mind, there was only one logical conclusion in his mind. That he and the other Cat-2's weren't the only Spartan's on Sargasso.

Chapter 13 - Unexpected Successors

August 15th, 2546 20:23 Hrs
SPECWAR Group 3 base camp
Sargasso, Reglius Prime System
-Grizzly Team-

Jake rubbed his face in frustration as he looked at the readout from the memory block; it was a good news, bad news situation. On the one hand, the decryption software had broken the Covenant encryption. On the other, the memory block had been damaged when the Elite carrying it had been killed. So, the data was fragmented, meaning it would take hours to rebuild the files—if it was possible at all.

Sighing, he got to his feet and stretched his legs, looking around as he took in his surroundings. After he had linked up with the rest of the SPARTANs, they all set up base camp in a deserted rooftop bar. Nearby, he found Rosenda perched by a window with her SAW at her shoulder, looking for Covenant in the darkened streets below. Nearby lay Beth, who was catching up on sleep after being relieved from watch duty an hour earlier. Finally, there was Thom, who took one of the few intact booths in the bar for himself. He was smoking a Sweet William cigar - a taste for which he had acquired in basic training, after he had stolen some from Chief Mendez.

"How are we looking, Roz?" Jake asked as he sat down next to his number two.

She didn't break her sight on the street. "All quiet. I've seen the odd Banshee, but nothing that looks like a threat. How's our prize?" Rosenda replied, referring to the memory block.

"Somewhere between fucked and totally fucked. I've got the software running to try and rebuild the data, but who knows." Jake answered as he removed his helmet and took a swig from his canteen.

"So par for the course for you then!" Thom snarkily called out while taking a deep puff on his cigar. He earned a glare from Jake and an annoyed sigh from Rosenda in response.

"Okay, first, it's not my fault it broke, and lastly, that's the second snarky comment from you today. You want to tell me something?" Jake replied as he put his helmet back on.

Thom simply rolled his eyes and muttered something under his breath.

"And put that out," Jake pointed to Thom's cigar and stood up, "One Covie sees that glow and suddenly it's going to get real busy here."

After an exaggerated sigh, Thom slid an astray from the side of the table and smashed out the remainder of the cigar.

"There. Happy now?" Thom asked with annoyance dripping from his voice. Despite his displeasure, he wasn't willing to argue with his team leader.

"Yes. Thank you," Jake replied. He glanced back to where Beth was laying, expecting that she would have woken from the chatter. Instead, his eyes met his friend's sleeping form.

At that moment, the radio in Jake's helmet crackled to life. Panther team's leader, Carter, was trying to get ahold of him.

"Panther leader to Grizzly leader. Anyone there?" Carter asked, prompting Jake to quickly glance at the computer that was running the decryption software before responding.

"Jake here; How's the recon going?" He asked, looking at the diagnostic readout. It hadn't improved since he'd left it, only showing a spinning circle. The program continued to check if any files could be salvaged.

Carter had considered the possibility that there wouldn't be anything useful on the memory block. As such, he had sent the other teams, including his own, on a reconnaissance mission. This left Grizzly to hold the fort in order to give them enough time to - hopefully - find something useful.

"We've found what looks like a Covenant base," Carter answered, "We're going to need all teams on deck for when we hit it. How is the decryption coming?"

"The memory block has been decrypted," Jake sighed, "But the data got damaged; it doesn't look good."

Jake then gestured for the rest of his team to begin to move out. Rosenda took it upon herself to wake Beth from her slumber.

"Copy that. We'll have to do without it. Just get over here as soon as you can; I want to hit the place before the sunrise." Carter ordered.

Jake grabbed his Battle Rifle, closed the lid of the computer, and began to lead his team out of their impromptu base.

However, what none of them saw was the progress bar finally appear on the computer screen. The computer hummed with life and began to reassemble the files.

August 15th, 2546 21:05 Hrs
Outside Covenant base
Sargasso, Reglius Prime System
-Grizzly Team-

In silence, Grizzly Team moved through the ruined streets, being careful not to be seen by the few Covenant patrols that they saw as the last thing anyone wanted was to alert the Covies that there were Spartan's within a few miles of their base. Finally, though they reached the coordinates that Carter had sent them to rendezvous at, finding it to be the burnt out shell of a partially collapsed hotel, and after working their way up through the collapsed and melted floors, found Panther and Fox teams set up watching a sprawling base a couple of miles away.

"Finally! I thought we'd have to start without you," Faith greeted as she and some of the other Spartans sorted their magazines, Carter, however, was crouching near a blown out window and gestured for Jake to join him.

"What are we looking at Carter?" Jake asked as he crouched down next to him, increasing his magnification to better observe the base.

"A lot of Elites, few Hunters, an abundance of Jackals and an army of Grunts, so not that good really," Carter answered as he gestured to a specific part of the base, near the far side of the site. "I'm seeing a fuel base of some kind, I'm thinking we rig that with a few charges as a distraction and hit the rest of the place whilst they'ye busy, In and out before the Covies know we were there" He explained, it was a sensible plan really, it would keep most of the Covenant occupied on the opposite side of the base, meaning that they could cause havoc on the other side before they Covenant could respond.

"Ok, so you want me and my Team to rig the place?" Jake asked as he studied the facility, looking for weaknesses to place charges on.

"Negative, I've got Colt team in position to hit the place, and Lion's nearby to back them up if things go wrong, I want you to-" Carter began, only to be interrupted as multiple explosions ripped through the base, as all hell broke loose.

"What the fuck?!" Jake swore as the Covenant began to panic as their base blew up around them, turning to find Carter looking just as confused as he was.

"All teams pull back, repeat pull back! The op's blown!" Carter ordered as he and the other Spartans grabbed their gear and started heading back to their base, all the while wondering what had happened as the Covenant base continued to burn.

August 15th, 2546 22:32 Hrs
SPECWAR Group 3 Base camp
Sargasso, Reglius Prime System
-Grizzly Team-

Moral was low as Grizzly and Panther got back to base, with Fox team remaining outside to wait for Teams Colt and Lion to arrive.

"What the hell happened?" Rosenda asked, voicing the opinion of everyone present, ever since the Covenant base had been attacked, they had been wondering who had stolen their target out from under them.

"I don't know, ODST's maybe?" Lucas proposed as he set his JFO variant helmet down on a table before running his hands through his short curly dark brown hair.

"Can't have been, not loud enough for Helljumpers," Carter replied as he removed his helmet as well, Jake meanwhile decided to instead of joining in on the theorising and decided to turn his attention back to the computer, to see if there was anything he could salvage from it. However, as soon as he opened the lid of the computer, he was surprised to see what was on the screen.

"Hey guys, looks like the computer managed to recover the data from that memory block," Jake announced, receiving a few murmurs of muted celebration as they went back to discussing what had happened, prompting a sigh from Jake as he cued up the last few minutes of the suits footage before its user had been killed, cutting the feed. When the file began to play, Jake found himself with an Elites point of view as a Covenant patrol as it advanced through a ruined street, all seemed normal, even to him until a elite near the front of the patrol was sniped through the head, before the rest of the patrol was cut down, with the last standing being the infiltrator, who had enabled is active camo in an attempt to escape, only for him to be grabbed from behind and thrown to the ground before being gunned down mercilessly, by no one? Jake rewound the footage and watched it again at half speed, and again he never saw who had attacked the Covenant, but this time when the infiltrator was thrown to the ground he saw what appeared to be a shimmer, when he'd watched it at normal speed he'd thought it had been an issue with the recording, but now he saw it was something else. Quickly he began to alter the footage's contrast to get a clearer image, only to freeze when he saw what the shimmer really was. "Carter, your gonna want to see this!" Jake exclaimed as he looked at the screen.

"Alright, this had better be good," Carter grumbled as he moving to join him, only to freeze when he saw what was on the screen, "Is that what I think it is!?" he asked as the others, prompted by the surprise of their two team leaders, moved to have a look for themselves, finding what had caught Jakes attention, the camouflaged but unmistakable form of SPI armour.

Chapter 14 - Brotherhood

August 15th, 2546 22:33 Hrs
SPECWAR Group 3 Base camp, Cornalia city
Sargasso, Reglius Prime System
-Grizzly Team-

It was quiet in the bar that the Spartans of SPECWAR Group 3 had made their FOB, relative to the sound of distant gunfire and exploding plasma reactors as the covenant base off in the distance. Teams Lion and Colt had been unable to rejoin them after the aborted attack on the covenant base and were laying low until there was a gap in the now alerted and certainly pissed Covenant search teams that they could slip through. Leaving just Grizzly, Fox and Panther inside, most of whom were taking turns to catch some sleep, whilst the rest of their comrades watched for hostiles. All except Carter, Jake and Faith, who had moved into what had been the bars back office to talk in private.

"So, more Spartan III's then," Carter acknowledged quietly as he and Faith examined the screengrab of what had been conclusively been determined to be a Spartan-III, with ODST's having been eliminated by the damage sustained to the bodies that Grizzly and Fox had found along with the memory block, and Spartan-II's by the sheer fact they wore SPI armour.

"Yeah, but who are they then? Headhunters?" Faith questioned as she glanced at the image. Jake meanwhile remained quiet and worked off of a notepad, having roughly marked up where each of the covenant soldiers had been when they had been attacked, and guessing from where the shots had come from, having been trying to work out how many gunmen there had been.

"Hmm, maybe, but headhunters aren't normally deployed on this side of the front, normally they'd be blowing something important up" Carter replied as he flicked between two different screenshots, looking for anything that stood out to him.

"Son of a..." Jake muttered to himself, before rechecking his notes for the third time, just to be sure what he was seeing was correct.

"Jake, what is it?" Faith asked as she and Carter looked at him, Jake meanwhile simply sighed before answering.

"It isn't the headhunters, there are too many shooters for it to be them," Jake explained as he set his notepad in front of them, "I counted at least 8 shooters, including the sniper and the one we saw, and they used tactics we would use," he continued.

"So if they aren't headhunters, then who are they, because I'm pretty sure the rest of Alpha is rotting on some hellhole of an asteroid," Faith countered, prompting smug look from Jake.

"True, but firstly it's been nearly 10 years since Alpha went active, secondly it took about six years to train us," Jake replied as Carter figured out what Jake was thinking, "and thirdly, and most importantly, we were called Alpha company for a reason," he pointed out, as Faith finally caught on.

"Wait, are you thinking this is Beta company?" Faith asked as Carter pondered this thought for a minute before answering.

"It makes sense, and it explains who hit the base before we could," Carter replied to Faith, before turning his attention to Jake, "Get me a secure link to command, see if we can't get some cooperation out of these Beta's, or at the very least a straight answer out of them," he ordered Jake, who simply nodded, and began to set up the secure comm's channel as Carter left, Faith, however, had a nagging question that needed answering.

"Wait, if these are Beta's were dealing with here, why didn't someone tell us about them?" Faith asked, prompting Jake to pause and think for a second before answering.

"Well either whoever runs them didn't talk to our people, or our people didn't talk to their people, the old right hand not talking to the left stache" Jake commented, only to chuckle slightly as an idea popped into his head.

"Or maybe this is someone's idea of us meeting one another" he added, getting a chuckle out of Faith, "Now, I suggest you get some kip, It'll take me some time to make sure the comm's are secure" Jake continued, gesturing for Faith to go get some sleep.

"Yeah, we really need a proper computer specialist, you're a lot better with tools than computers" Faith replied as she stepped over towards the door, getting a smile out of Jake, "Call me if you need a hand" she added before slipping out, leaving Jake alone to work, which as it involved running a series of complex programs and checks, was going to be as enjoyable as pulling teeth.

August 16th, 2546 02:04 Hrs
Eclipse Class Prowler, UNSC Phantom of the Ruhr
Above Sargasso, Reglius Prime System
-Codename: Lycus-

Deep within the ONI Prowler Phantom of the Ruhr, ONI Operative, Codename: Lycus scanned her display, the reports from the ground were not looking good; the UNSC ground forces were barely holding on to their perimeter as it stood, with the front having moved closer to the major evacuation points in some key sectors, with the covenant pushes only being halted by throwing manpower into the proverbial grinder. Fortunately, some Spartans that had been dropped behind enemy lines had managed to take out one of the covenants main bases in the region, which had given the UNSC some much-needed breathing room as without a supply chain the covenant advance had been effectively stalled for the moment. Just then she heard the familiar beeping of a hail on one of ONI's secure comm frequencies, followed by an ID appearing on her display, quickly she scanned the text to see who was hailing her, before pressing the answer button on her headset.

"Agent Lycus to Sierra Alpha 384, you are aware you are meant to be comms dark, especially after what you just did," Lycus greeted in the signature cold ONI agent tone.

"If by 'what you did' you mean stood and watched someone else hit the target you were planning to attack, then you'd understand why I'm calling," Jake replied, prompting a raised eyebrow from Lycus, something in the tone  of Jake's voice hinted that he was about to ask her something she wasn't going to like.

"I'm sorry Spartan, would you clarify what you just said?" Lycus requested as she reopened the stealth satellite photos of the smouldering Covenant base.

"That attack wasn't us, but we know who it was, all we need is the confirmation from you," Jake answered calmly, prompting Lycus to pull up the tactical orders for SPECWAR Group 3.

"Confirm what Spartan?" Lycus asked, as she scanned the orders and then checked the tactical map, confirming that they were in their allocated operations area.

"That Beta company are on Sargasso" Jake replied, causing Lycus to freeze,  before she pulled up the second set of orders and scanned them as well, wondering how in the hell the Alpha's had figured out that Beta company had been deployed to Sargasso.

"I'm sorry Spartan I don't know what you are talking about?" Lycus deflected, as she resisted the urge to scream. Clearly, the left hand of ONI hadn't been talking to its opposite number, as both Alpha and Beta companies Cat-2's had been deployed into the same AO, on roughly the same orders.

"Cut the crap Lycus, we know they're here, all I need you to do is to tell me the truth" Jake countered, prompting a sigh from Lycus, normally she'd have denied everything and cut the call, but clearly the cat was out of the bag.

"Yes, there is a detachment of Beta company that may have been sent to your AO, other than that I have nothing," Lycus explained quietly, normally she'd have gotten in deep trouble for confirming the Beta's presence to the Alphas, but in her mind it did matter what she said because the Alpha's had clearly figured it out all ready.

"Ok then, can you contact them?" Jake asked, the tone of his voice changing to a more cunning tone.

"And why would I do that?" Lycus replied, wondering what Jake was thinking on the other end of the radio.

"Well, you could ask them if they fancy a team up," Jake answered, prompting Lycus to pause and think before replying. On the one hand, having Alpha's and Beta's was a bad thing, ONI had deliberately kept the two separate for a reason, exactly what that reason was, was only known to the higher-ups like Colonel Akerson and Admiral Parangosky, and if they were the ones to come up with the reason, it was going to be a good one. But on the other hand, the UNSC needed all the help it could get, and if that meant having the Alpha's and Beta's work together, then the positives must outweigh the negatives.

"Let me get back to you on that," Lycus remarked before cutting the line and taking a moment to think, weighing up all the factors, including Admiral Parangosky's wrath, before she came to her conclusion. "Shit!" she whispered before opening a secure comms channel.

August 16th, 2546 02:10 Hrs
Cornalia city financial District
Sargasso, Reglius Prime System
-Victor Team-

4 Spartans walked in silence as they made their way back to their base, each of the other teams having taken an alternate route back to their RV point, which wasn't surprising after the hornet's nest they'd kicked earlier that evening. Quietly the 4 members of Victor team moved into the collapsed ruins of a fallen skyscraper, with the silence only being broken when one of their members chose to speak up.

"So I definitely won the bet!" Zoe smirked as she gave Mason a friendly push, only to get a less than friendly shove from her teammate.

"And how did you work that out! because I'm pretty sure that I'm the one who killed all the killing, you didn't even fire your weapon once" Mason growled back as the other two members of Victor team stopped and starred at their teammates.

"Yeah, but I set the demo charges on the plasma reactor's, and I'm definitely the one who hit the detonator!" Zoe grinned, only for Mason to respond by tackling Zoe to the ground.

"Christ, will you two ever give it a rest!" Chrissie groaned as she stepped over and pulled the pair apart, keeping a firm grip on Mason. "Can you two ever play nice for once?" she demanded.

"You say that every time they do this, and it's always the same answer," Kat-B320 reminded her as she stepped over to Zoe and offered her a hand up, prompting another sigh from Chrissie.

"Yeah, but it would be nice just for once" Chrissie responded as she gave Mason a look of 'cut it the fuck out before I get mad', which was impressive as both of them were wearing full sets of SPI Mark II armour. However, just as Kat helped Zoe to her feet, the comms channel for the other Beta Cat-2 teams crackled to life.

"All team this is Gustav leader, I need you back at the RV quick," Gustav leader ordered curtly, getting a raised eyebrow from Chrissie.

"Victor leader to Gustav leader, what's the rush?" Chrissie requested as she gestured for Victor team to get moving quickly, just in case anyone or anything had heard the brief struggle.

"I can't say for certain, all I know is its ONI related and it's apparently not good, ONI wants to brief us ASAP, so double time it Beta's" Gustav leader replied before the line went dead, prompting another sigh from Chrissie, what could ONI want now?.

Chapter 15 - A+B

August 16th, 2546 02:44 Hrs
SPECWAR Group 5 FOB, Cornalia city
Sargasso, Reglius Prime System
-Victor Team-

Chrissie tapped her fingers on a nearby slab of concrete as she waited in silence, one week earlier she and the other Beta Cat-2's had been dropped into the city by ONI Owl dropships, and after eliminating Covenant patrols without mercy, it had been decided to hit them where it hurt, and hurt it had, but instead of keeping up the pressure, they had been called back to base until Gustav Leader finished the call that the local ONI Agent had requested they take, and by the sounds of swearing coming from the next room, it wasn't a pleasant call. Eventually, though Gustav Leader rejoined them, and by their gait, Chrissie could see they were pissed about something.

"Well, it seems someone in ONI fucked up because we aren't the only Spartans that got sent here!" Gustav Leader began angrily, receiving some confused looks.

"More Spartan's, you mean Spartan-II's?" Gwen asked her squad leader, who only shook their head before replying.

"No, it turns out that they've sent in Alpha Company's Cat-II's! Turns out they had front row seats to the base we knocked over, and that they somehow worked out it was us as well!" they answered, causing Chrissie to suddenly start paying attention, as murmuring broke out amongst the Beta's. Alpha company were meant to be extinct, or at least that was what ONI had told them, "But that's just the tip of the iceberg, because it turns out that not only do they know about us but that they want to work with us, and ONI has decided to let me make the call!" they concluded, prompting a groan from some of the Beta's, everyone of them had heard the stories about the Alpha's losing cohesion during Operation: Prometheus, and as such were less than enthusiastic about working with Spartans who had been trained under the same system.

"So what's your call boss?" Chrissie asked curiously, prompting a sigh from Gustav Leader before they replied.

August 16th, 2546 08:22 Hrs
SPECWAR Group 3 Base camp, Cornalia city
Sargasso, Reglius Prime System
-Grizzly Team-

Jake let out a yawn as he awoke, before hauling himself off of the floor and stretching, taking note that Beth and Rosenda were already awake, and who were taking the opportunity to get something to eat.

"Finally up I see, enjoy your extra sleep?" Thom asked sarcastically as he lurked by the bar checking his shotgun, prompting a sigh from Faith who was keeping watch nearby.

"Says the one who only woke up a minute ago, and then complained he didn't get enough sleep," Faith replied as she stepped past Thom to where Jake was standing.

"Hey, I'll have you know I didn't sleep that well last night!" Thom retorted before taking a drink from his canteen, prompting a look from Faith.

"Really? because I remember you snoring your head off all night, and that was with your helmet on!" Faith pointed out, as she turned her attention back to Jake, "Carter's team headed out a few hours ago, but before he left, he told me he wants you to head north and do some recon on some targets he wants to hit," she explained, before leaning closer to Jake so that no one else could hear her, "And would you do something about him! he's been like this for a while and its starting to piss me off!" Faith hissed, prompting a sigh.

"I would if he told me whats got his feathers rustled," Jake replied quietly before grabbing his rifle and gesturing for Grizzly to get ready to move out, "Oh, we get any reply back from ONI about the Beta's?" he asked.

"Well, that ONI agent you talked to said she'd contacted them, but that's about it," Faith answered as she sat down and took off her helmet, before rubbing her hand through her matted brown locks.

"Right, keep me informed if that changes," Jake told her, before turning and heading out followed by the rest of Grizzly, "alright people lets get this over with," he declared as he led his team outside.

August 16th, 2546 11:05 Hrs
Cornalia city
Sargasso, Reglius Prime System
-Victor Team-

Victor Team moved silently through the ruined streets, watching for threats in the shadows and the ruined buildings.

"Anyone see anything?" Kat asked receiving head shakes from Mason and Zoe, Chrissie was about to give the same answer, however, at the last second she noticed a shimmer in a doorway, quickly she held up her hand indicating a halt order as the shimmer began to move slowly out into the street, soon becoming the more identifiable form of an elite, but just as it reached the centre of the road, it stopped and turned to look at Victor team, prompting Chrissie to glance back over her shoulder, expecting to see whatever the Elite was looking at, only to find the street behind her to be empty. Quickly she returned her gaze to the Elite, just in time to see him level the camouflaged form of a plasma rifle.

"GET DOWN!" Chrissie screamed, as she and Victor dove for cover, just as the space they had occupied was lit up under a hail of plasma fire, "Who the hell are these guy's!" she spat as she peeked over the slab of concrete that was serving as her cover as plasma fire rained down around her teams position. Only what she saw didn't make sense, she could see the muzzle flashes of the plasma rifles pinning her team, but the wielders were also camouflaged, which didn't make sense as spec ops elites tended to work solo; without pausing to think, Chrissie tapped the side of her helmet to use the built-in scanning function, only for the outlines of 10 camouflaged Elites to appear in front of her. "I've got ten Elites, all camo'd," she reported before leaning out to take a shot at the Elite in the street, only to watch her rounds ping uselessly off the Elites armour plating, before ducking back into cover as the Elites began targeting her.

"Ok, hinge heads, eat lead!" Kat shouted as she returned fire with her assault rifle, but unlike Chrissie, she had removed her suppressor to give herself some extra penetration, but like Chrissie, her rounds also failed to damage her targets, "Fuck, this subsonic ammo's useless against them!" she swore as she too was subjected to a barrage of fire from the Elites.

"Shit, Zoe, Mason, flash these guys so we can fallback," Chrissie ordered, getting to green acknowledgement lights in return, before seeing the pair chuck their flashbangs, followed by the twin bangs as the grenades went off, "Move move move!" she shouted as the four used the brief window the grenades had given them to get out of their position and break line of sight with their attackers, before their sight returned.

"Ok, what the hell was that?" Mason asked as they ran, not caring about concealment, only with putting distance between themselves and the mysterious Elites.

"Don't know, don't care, all I know is they can see us, and our ammo does fuck all to them!" Chrissie spat as she took the lead, before enabling her helmets radio, "All callsigns, all callsigns this is Victor leader, be advised, we've just run into some stealth elites who can somehow see through our camo, and have armour we couldn't penetrate, over," she reported, as she led Victor team around a corner and into another street running opposite a ruined mall.

"Repeat Victor, you're br-ki-...-p," the radio crackled before going dead, but before Chrissie could begin to wonder what was happening, she heard the whine of a Phantom dropship behind her, turning to find the covenant aircraft overhead with a large pulsating object hanging from its underside, just as a cluster of red blips appeared on her radar in front of her.

"Quick get inside!" Chrissie ordered as she inside the mall, just as the first Covenant footsoldiers came around the corner, "Get down!" she hissed as she ducked behind a nearby pillar, with her squad doing likewise as they waited for the covenant patrol to pass, but then they heard a series of sharp barks outside, causing the mass of red blips to halt, and then rapidly moved towards them, "Shit, open fire!" she ordered before opening up with her assault rifle at the grunts bringing up the front of the covenant formation, killing several before they could return fire, quickly she scanned the formation, which appeared to be a standard covenant patrol, but then she noticed the pair of camouflaged elites at the rear of the group.

"Boss if these guys kept up with us, then the others can't be far behind them!" Mason pointed out as he shot a standard elite in the face with an assault rifle.

"I know, start falling back inside and see if you can get one of their weapons off of them, that should deal with their armour!" Chrissie replied as she pulled back to behind another pillar before trying the radio again, this time trying a general frequency, "Any callsign this is Victor Team, we're under attack by an unknown group of Elites and need immediate support, over!" she reported, hoping to hear any reply.

"T-ly-... T- -own ca-...-ar-...-ol- -u- -ve r," the radio crackled again, the message being completely unintelligible due to the interference.

"Forget it Chris, the Covenant's jamming our comms," Kat told her bluntly as she shot a grunt through the head before falling back past Chrissie, just as the covenant began hurling plasma grenades inside, "Move it!" she shouted, as all four Spartans broke cover and retreated further inside the mall.

"Shit its a dead end!" Mason swore as they reached a junction under a skylight were confronted by walls of rubble blocked their path on all sides, prompting them to turn back around only to find a wall of covenant blocking their path.

"Frag out!" Zoe shouted as she threw a grenade into the pack, followed by the rest of Victor, buying them time to find some cover and dig in for a final stand, only to see the forms of the two camouflaged elites emerge out of the smoke, with crimson plasma swords drawn.

"Any final words demons?" one of them asked in English, with a mixture of spite and pleasure in its voice, however, before Chrissie could come up with a suitable way of telling the Elite to go fuck himself, she was interrupted by an unexpected source.

"-wait Thom stick to the plan!" a mans voice shouted from above, causing everyone, covenant and human to look up, just in time to see half a tonne of brown, green and orange MJOLNIR armour come bursting through the skylight with a shotgun, before shooting one of the elites mid-air, staggering it, before crashing into it, hurling the pair to the ground, before pointing the shotgun point-blank range at the elites head and pulling the trigger again. The other elite, however, having seen its comrade killed before his eyes, roared before raising his sword to strike the offender, only for the mysterious voice to speak again. "Fuck my life!" the man as a second set of MJOLNIR, this one grey and black leapt down from above, landing one the second elite's back, causing the second to stumble away, as it tried to wrestle off its own attacker, who simply shrugged of the elite's attempts, and instead drew a combat knife from under its right shoulder pauldron, and rammed the blade into the elites visor roughly where is eye would have been, before dropping off the screaming elite, grabbing its sword arm, effortlessly breaking the bone as if it were a stick, before stabbing the elite through the chest with its own sword. The remaining Covenant, however, finally shaking off the shock of this sudden and violent attack, attempted to raise their weapons and reply, only for a hail of gunfire from above to slaughter them mid-action. Only as the last corpse fell amongst the rest of the Covenant patrol, did Chrissie find the chance to speak up.

"Who the hell are you?" Chrissie asked as she and the rest of the now stunned Victor Team emerged from cover, prompting a chuckle from the one in the grey MJOLNIR.

"Alpha company," the man explained as he pulled his knife out of the elites head, before turning to face Victor team "and I presume you would be Beta company" the one in grey armour answered calmly.

Chapter 16

August 16th, 2546 11:11 Hrs
Cornalia city, Sargasso
Reglius Prime System
-Grizzly Team-

Jake stood over the corpse of the elite he had just slew, looking at the wraith-like forms of the Beta company soldiers, above him, Beth and Rosenda watched for additional incoming threats, the barrels of their weapons still smoking. Thom meanwhile stood off to one side, his shotgun resting on his shoulder, watching to see if any of the covenant were still alive after Grizzly's 'impromptu' attack.

"Alpha Company, huh, I thought you guys were still using SPI" one of the Spartans noted, as she deactivated her active camouflage. "How did you find us anyway?" she asked, as the other three Beta's followed her lead and deactivated their camo.

"We heard your garbled message, which gave us a vague direction, but the gunfire helped us pin down where you were" Jake answered. "Originally we were planning on staying up top, but..." he trailed off, pausing to glare at Thom, "someone decided to just jump right in without saying anything!" he added, receiving a glare from the Spartan in question.

"What? It worked!" Thom replied arrogantly, prompting Jake to roll his eyes.

"And what would have happened if the Elite had managed to get his sword up before you landed on it?" Jake asked rhetorically, prompting Thom to shake his head dismissively. "You'd have ended up skewered, and I'd have been left to deal with the pair of them when I jumped in to save your arse!," he added angrily, getting odd looks from the Betas. Jake had tolerated Thom's 'maverick' tendencies, but disobeying his orders, when said orders were in everyone's best interests, was something that grated with him.

"Yeah, but it didn't, so just chill out already," Thom replied before stepping over to kick one of the dead Grunt corpses, just to make sure it was dead, causing Jake to let out an annoyed growl in reply.

"Hey Chrissie, I guess you can't complain when we argue anymore!" another Beta interjected, this one male, prompting the one called Chrissie, to reply simply by giving him the middle finger.

"Drop it Mason and form a perimeter! You too Zoe, and don't even think about it!" Chrissie ordered, trying to sound as forceful as Jake had, but without success. Mason simply shrugged at this order but obeyed, whilst the one called Zoe gave a 'what did I do' gesture, but likewise obeyed.

"Oh well done Jake, less than 5 minutes and you've already corrupted the Betas," Rosenda shouted jokingly from above, prompted a laugh from Jake.

"Yeah, yeah, big words there, Tiny! Jake replied facetiously, using Rosenda's hated nickname deliberately to annoy his number two. Rosenda despite knowing he was joking, let out a low growl in response, prompting Beth to pat her reassuringly on her shoulder, flashing Jake a red light on his team status indicator, telling him he had crossed the line with that remark. Jake simply held up his hand, indicating he understood and acknowledged his error, which prompted Rosenda to shake her head, but luckily didn't take any further action. Everyone in Grizzly team knew that mentioning Rosenda's height deficit was a quick way to get a punch in the face, due to her being 3 and a half inches shorter than Jake, who was the tallest, being half an inch taller than Thom, and a full inch taller than Beth. 

"If you wouldn’t mind," the final Beta, gesturing to Jake to let her examine the dead elite at his feet. Jake, seeing this stepped to one side, granting her access.

"You know what you're doing?" Jake asked, receiving a sigh from the Beta in question.

"Just let me work, you go do whatever you do, ok?" the Spartan retorted as she began fiddling with the Elite’s armour.

"Alright, just remember the memory block is normally stored in the helmet," Jake advised, deliberately dropping the fact to see if he could get a reaction out of the Beta.

"Huh, you a Technician?" she asked, sizing Jake up as she did so, probably wondering why he had so many pouches on his armour.

"Engineer, mechanical stuff is my speciality, but I'm passable with computers," Jake replied as he picked up the Elite’s fallen energy sword, studying it for any interesting details, only to find a faint wisp of smoke escaping from the casing. Indicating that the sword, like many other energy swords he had encountered, had been fitted with a fail-safe when the user had died, the sword had destroyed its core systems, rendering it useless.

"Ah, I'm a Technician, I'm pretty much the other end of the scale to you," she mused, before pausing and offering him her hand, "Kat-B320, Victor 2," Kat informed him.

"Jake-A384, Grizzly Leader," Jake replied, taking Kat's hand and giving it a quick shake, "I'd say our friend here is using some form of modified Infiltrator-class armour, the camo system matches what I've seen before, but the helmets different," he noted, prompting a noise of agreement from Kat.

"Sounds about right, more armour than normal, and he seemed to be able to see through our camo, so the helmet could have advanced scanning capabilities," Kat added, as she pried open a panel on the Elite’s chest plate. Only for a thin wisp of smoke to leak out, "but we'll never know because the suit had a fail-safe," she grunted before getting to her feet.

"Phantoms coming around again," Beth informed them, prompting Jake to the situation at hand. He had his team, including one now insubordinate member, who he'd have to deal with later, behind enemy lines along with a squad of Beta's in SPI armour, with a unit of elites in armour no one had seen before, trying to kill said Beta's.

"Alright Grizzly, form up, Victor, you're with us, I want us out of here before any more uninvited guests show up," he ordered, getting two rapid green lights from Rosenda and Beth, followed by a begrudged green light from Thom. Victor Team, however, simply glared at him, wondering what he was talking about, "You're carrying subsonic and these guys are resistant to it," he pointed out, getting some shrugs from Mason and Zoe.

"So what's the plan then?" Chrissie asked as Rosenda and Beth jumped down to join them, with Zoe, Mason and Thom, doing likewise.

"Well, firstly we're going to get the hell out of here before someone comes looking for this lot," he began, gesturing to the bodies as he made for the exit, "and we'll work from there," he added, followed by the sound of Thom muttering something incoherent under his breath, prompting Jake to ponder the rant he was going to give Thom when they got back, something he had tried to avoid so far.

August 16th, 2546 11:43 Hrs
Cornalia city, Sargasso
Reglius Prime System
-Victor Team-

The Spartan's moved silently through the now abandoned streets watching for covenant patrols or any circling aircraft. Which due to a lack of any missile launcher, were immune to any attacks from the Spartans. Which didn’t help, as despite having enough combined firepower to take on most ground threats, Grizzly and Victor had elected to keep a low profile.

"Roz, how's it looking up there?" Jake asked, causing Chrissie to glance over at him. There was something oddly familiar about how him, exactly what she couldn't put her finger on.

"All clear so far, I think the covenant is searching to our east," Rosenda answered from further up the street, where Jake had ordered her and Thom to take point, mostly so he didn't have to deal with the insubordinate Spartan.

"Copy that, tell me if anything changes," Jake ordered calmly as he disabled his microphone before letting out a sigh.

"You ok?" Chrissie asked Jake, getting a chuckle out of the Alpha in question.

"Fine, except my number four is being outright disobedient to my orders!" Jake replied as he glanced at Thom, who didn't react to Jake talking about him, "I mean, I let people use their own initiative, but normally they tell me what they are doing before they do it," he added.

"This happen often?" Chrissie queried, curious as to learn more about the Alpha Company, with Grizzly being so far her only source.

"Nope, first time, he has been acting weird for a few weeks now, so I'm hoping this is just a short phase of being a pain in the ass," Jake commented, before turning to look at Chrissie. "So how about your team, you seemed to bite the head off that kid Mason, and the other one didn't even say a thing and you shouted at her," he asked, not surprising Chrissie, clearly she wasn't the only one who had questions.

"You mean Zoe? Yeah her and Mason, they tend to get out of hand if I don't reign them in, and if you shout at one of them, you have to shout at the other," Chrissie explained, getting a curious glance from Jake. "The two of them have a sort of rivalry, always trying to one-up each other. They would have been split up long ago, but they work too well together, in a fight, they're unbeatable, everywhere else, they are unbearable!" she added.

"Huh, that must be a pain to deal with," Jake noted, as the group reached an intersection, and, seeing that all but one other avenue was either open to them or didn't lead back towards the covenant, the group turned and headed west.

"You know I thought Alpha was meant to be made up of three-man teams, why the fourth?" Chrissie queried, from what she had heard about Alpha, they had been structured as three-man teams, a decision which had been seen as detrimental, and as a contributing factor in Alphas loss of cohesion during Operation: Prometheus. Which as a result, had led Beta Company being trained as four-man teams from conception.

"Ah, well that was just the main company, us Cat-II's were set up as four-man teams since we'd be operating in smaller numbers or as a singular team," Jake replied. This made somewhat sense to Chrissie, as she was also a Cat-II, and was about to ask Jake to explain further, only for a crackle on the radio to catch Chrissie's immediate attention.

"Victor Leader, this is Gustav Leader, what is your status? over," Gustav Leader chimed in, causing Chrissie to roll her eyes, before glancing at Jake, who simply nodded. In the spirit of cooperation, Chrissie and Jake had given the other their respective companies radio frequencies, just in case they needed to call for support from either.

"Victor Leader here, were all green, over," Chrissie answered, moving her assault rifle in her hands, hoping this was just a simple status check.

"Copy that, your last communication was garbled, and when we heard the gunfire so we presumed the worst, especially with all the Covenant activity," Gustav Leader commented. "How exactly did you slip away from them? Before your comms dropped you mentioned you were being tracked by some Elites who you couldn't kill,” She queried.

"Um, well," Chrissie began hesitantly, getting a confused look from Jake, and a concerned glance from Kat. On the one hand, she didn't want to lie to the Alphas, but if she told the truth, there would be consequences. Finally, though she made her choice, "We got bailed out by a team of Alphas, were currently with them now," she conceded, causing Gustav Leader to pause before letting her opinion on this matter be known.

"YOU DID WHAT!" Gustav leader snarled, causing everyone to jump, even the Alphas who had been listening in. "I directly forbade you to make any form of contact with Alpha, was I not clear?!" she barked rhetorically, quickly Jake gave the signal to call a halt, before gesturing at Thom not say a word, which the Spartan, wisely acknowledged. "I was clear when I laid out why I was ordering no contact to be made! So why in gods name did you think it was a..." Gustav leader demanded, only to be cut off mid-sentence.

"Hey don't blame her, it wasn't her fault my team was nearby and came to help!" Jake interrupted, catching everyone particularly Gustav Leader off guard.

"Who is this?!" Gustav leader ordered as all eyes fell on Jake, the Betas with uncertainty, the Alphas, with an idea of what was coming.

"Spartan-A384, Alpha company, second in command of SPECWAR Group 3, or as you would know it, the unit all the Alpha Cat-IIs are assigned to!" Jake countered confidently. "So I'd watch your mouth when communicating with a senior officer," He chastised, deliberately missing out his rank, just in case Gustav leader outranked him. "Now I don't know why you didn't want to work with us, but I'm afraid this little thing called 'war' has shat on those plans of yours," Jake pointed out, "And if you have any issues with the way I have communicated how much of a jackass you are! Then please feel free to contact my superior officer, who will give you a piece of his mind as well!" he added provokingly, before cutting the link before Gustav leader could reply, before letting out a deep sigh.

"Where the hell did that come from?" Zoe asked, surprised at the rant Jake had just given Gustav Leader. Chrissie meanwhile didn't know whether to be angry or ecstatic. On the one hand, Jake had just landed her in a very deep pile of shit, on the other, he had finally given Gustav Leader a taste of her own medicine.

"Mind if we take a break? my throat is killing me," Jake requested, his voice noticeable hoarser than before.

"Eh, I think he's earned it after that," Mason noted, before glancing at Chrissie, who silently nodded her approval to the request.

"Ok, but I think it's best if we get undercover first," Chrissie advised, prompting Jake to nod his thanks before ducking into one of the buildings on the street, followed by the rest of the Spartans, who found themselves in the remains of what must have been a lobby. "Hey sorry about our Commander, she doesn't have the best opinion of Alpha company" she explained.

"That and she's a bitch!" Kat muttered slyly, but Chrissie chose not to call her out on it since she happened to agree with Kat’s view on Gustav Leader. Jake meanwhile found a spot on the floor and sat down, before taking off his helmet and pulling out his canteen. Chrissie however, simply froze when she saw Jake's face, the hair was longer and more unkempt, there was now a scruffy beard on his chin, but the eyes were the same, the same eyes that had stuck with Chrissie since the day she'd first seen them. "Chris, you ok?" Kat asked.

"You have no idea who I am, do you?" Chrissie announced, getting everyone's attention before she removed her own helmet. Her Red hair was much shorter and darker than it had been when they had first met, her dark blue eyes weren't as scared either, the training she'd gone through for Beta Company and the killing she'd done afterwards had seen to that. "Remember me? Mr ODST," she asked, leaving everyone else confused until a face of realization crept over Jake's face.

"Wait, you’re the Girl from Vision!" Jake sputtered, causing a smile to form on Chrissie's face. He did remember her.

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