Prologue: Why Are We Here?

The brightness hit Jared-091's eyes like a sledgehammer, adding pain to an already splitting headache. The SPARTAN groaned and clutched his temples in the vain hope of making the pain go away, aware that there were others about him in this florescent white room, jostling and chattering and making all sorts of other noises that only added to his agony.

After a few moments spent like this, the pain began to recede and Jared was able to cast his gaze about the room to take in the impossible surroundings.

He was surrounded by what seemed like every known species in the galaxy and then some. There were Brutes, Elites, and Grunts, a Forerunner Monitor, and several other creatures that Jared couldn't identify off the top of his head. And then there were humans all over the place in all shapes and sizes. From where he was standing Jared could see plenty of SPARTANs like himself in MJOLNIR armor, at least three SPARTAN-IIIs, some marines, and some that were dressed in outlandish, non-military garb.

But this is impossible, he reassured himself. No one can get all these people in the same room without everything collapsing into an all-out brawl. Since no one's killing each other than this must be nothing more than a really strange dream.

But as the odd scene continued to unfold before him, Jared began to feel that this was all, no matter how bizarre and improbable, quite real. All of the others in the room seemed to be as confused as he was, something that might explain why there was no fighting yet. His gaze was suddenly seized and held by a massive scaled creature with enormous wings. It looked, Jared numbly decided, like a dragon that he had seen in picture books when he was a kid.

Jared thought that nothing would ever be able to command more attention than the dragon thing, but he was proven wrong when some invisible force seemed to jerk his head towards the one raised area of the entire circular room. There was a man standing there, and Jared was surprised that he hadn't noticed him before.

The man appeared to be just like any other businessman one might find on Earth or one of the colonies. He wore a pressed grey suit with a maroon tie and carried an ordinary briefcase at his side. But there was something about him, some feeling or presence that emanated from his simple figure that seemed to warn against underestimating him.

The noise fell silent as quickly as if someone had pressed the mute button on a remote control. Everyone was looking at the man with their own unique blend of fear, curiosity, and anger.

The man cleared his throat and began to speak, his voice echoing around the featureless room as if he were talking into a microphone.

"Well then," he said, his voice calm and silky. "I suppose I should begin by welcoming you all here and congratulating you on being selected for a very special occasion. You have all been selected to compete in the greatest game known to sentient beings: survival."

He looked about him as if expecting cheers or applause, and when none came he seemed to give a tiny shrug. "You have all been chosen for your unique skills and talents, things that you will find extremely helpful in the days to come. I have brought you from your own universe to my own in order to pit you against each other in a war in which there are innumerable combatants but ultimately only one victor." A smile crossed the man's lips before vanishing. "In plainer terms, you will find yourselves in a completely enclosed area in which you will proceed to do nothing but kill each other until only one of you is left alive."

Everyone in the room stood stock still. Some were gaping at the man in utter disbelief while others seemed afraid, angry, or in a few cases excited. Finally, a man wearing the uniform of an ODST asked, "So what's in it for us? Why should we do what you want us to do?"

Another faint smile. "You will do this for two reasons. The first is that the one who wins will be rewarded with eternal life. The second is that if you do not, then I will activate the devices that have been implanted in each of your heads and kill you all."

Jared's hand shot up to his forehead. I guess that explains the headache.

"Um..." said a frightened and uncertain voice. All eyes turned to look at one of the SPARTAN-IIIs, who shrank back and looked as if he wanted to dig a hole and bury himself.

One of the man's eyebrows rose. "Yes?"

"Well, uh, how can you, y'know, do that? Take us from a different universe and put stuff in our heads and give us eternal life?"

"Because I can. It really is best for your sanity if you don't examine my story too closely. I have powers beyond your wildest imagination."

He turned back to all the others. "Oh, I nearly forgot. I must advise you to refrain from attempting to kill any of your fellows just yet; you will not succeed. That will begin presently when you find yourselves in a place quite different from this room. Before I leave you to make my final preparations, are there any questions?"

A stunned silence followed the question. It was quite a lot for everyone to take in on such short notice.

"Splendid!" said the man. "I wish you all the best of luck in the competition." A ring of gold enveloped him and he vanished from the podium.

Jared might have been confused, but he was not so confused that he let all of his SPARTAN training fall by the wayside. He began scanning the crowd again, searching for people who might prove to be allies.

The man strolled down a featureless hallway towards a door that would lead to a private control room where he would be able to monitor everything that took place in the second wave of the "Survival of the Fittest" program. As he walked, he turned to a floating green Monitor that hovered at his side.

"I take it my introduction was satisfactory?" he asked mildly. "I am hoping to live up to the standard you set during the first wave."

"It got the point across quite well," responded the Monitor. "While I am slightly apprehensive about a few of the changes you made to the original program, I am sure you will receive the same good results that I did."

"Well," the man commented. "It will make our superiors happy to have another high-rated season. The last one netted them quite a good deal of money and they're expecting the same from this one..."

Episode 1: In The Beginning...

Day 1

SPARTAN-G024, Joshua, landed in an undignified heap on a ground covered in fallen leaves and tree branched. Scrambling to his feet, he noticed an MA5K lying nearby. As he picked it up, he realized that several clips for it had managed to become clipped to his armor in the places where he usually kept them. Further examination revealed that he was also in the possession of a combat knife and two grenades.

That's weird, he thought. I didn't have any of these back in that room. He could clearly remember that he had been slightly jarred by the fact that he was unarmed in a room full of potential enemies with only his SPI armor to protect him. All the other UNSC soldiers he had seen had been similarly unarmed; come to think of it, no one had had weapons when that man in the business suit was speaking to them.

Joshua remembered exactly what it was that the man had said with a jolt and brought his newfound weapon to bear, scanning the area around him. He was in some sort of forest, with common Earth-trees all around him. Ah hell, he thought bitterly. I'm stuck somewhere that's probably filled with people who'll kill me if they run into me and the damn foliage is blocking my vision. He'd have to get to higher ground ASAP.

Moving out into the forest, Joshua continued scanning for any signs of life besides his own. The trees were eerily quiet, devoid of the noise of birds or other animals. The effect was quite demoralizing, but Joshua had been trained to deal with such stressful emotions and shoved the noise - or lack thereof - into the back of his mind and focused on his vision instead. It was this decision that nearly cost him his life.

If the wolf-like creature that had been sneaking up behind him had waited just a second longer to activate the energy chainsaw it was carrying, Joshua would have been torn apart by its shining blades. Instead, the SPARTAN-III was able to dive to the side at the sudden noise, and the alien's blade slashed a thick tree branch in half. Furious at its mistake, the creature lunged after the SPARTAN and made another slash at his chest. This time, however, Joshua slipped under the whirring blade, brought his own weapon to bear, and put half a clip into his opponent's canine head. It was dead before it had a chance to register the pain.

Joshua looked down at the corpse, his chest heaving. It was now official: he was scared. He had just come as close to death as he had ever done before, and from what he had seen in that room, this was just the beginning. Add that to the anger he felt at being forced to come hear and his years of training and one had a very lethal combination. With only a grimace inside his helmet to express his feelings, Joshua began to move out again.

In the branches above him, Jetru 'Refumee readied an Energy Sword and prepared to drop down onto his unsuspecting target.

Yen 'Vadum dodged through the trees, hot on the heels of the Sanghelli she had just caught a glimpse of before he had vanished off into the forest. She didn't intend to hurt him, but the older-looking Sanghelli didn't know that. He probably thought she was a Jiralhanae or a Demon, out to kill him like the strange human had been talking about in that strange room. Yen wanted to call out, but all of her breath was concentrated on running fast enough so as not to lose her quarry.

Eventually, the Sanghelli she was pursuing leapt down into a sunlit clearing, obviously preparing to meet his attacker. As Yen burst out of the trees after him, he activated an Energy Sword and thrust it at her midsection. Drawing her own blade, Yen managed a desperate parry that locked both swords together and gave her a good look at her target, who just so happened to be...


"Yen? What are you doing here? And why have you grown so much?"

Yen continued to stare at her father in disbelief. "But... you're dead! I watched you die!"

Wyrda cocked his head, confused. "I don't know what you are talking about. When I saw you last, you were just a small child. Now you're almost a full adult! What happened to you?"

Yen opened her mouth to respond, but she was cut off by a sudden burst of carbine bullets that impacted on her shields and caused them to flare. Both Sanghelli spun to see a single SPARTAN advancing on them with a carbine held at the ready. With a nod to his daughter, Wyrda pulled a Needler from his leg and advanced to meet the SPARTAN, firing as he did so. Yen watched in awe as he avoided the Demon's attacks, dodging and rolling until his enemy had exhausted the carbine's clip. As the Demon cursed and fumbled for his SMG, Wyrda fired a clutch of needles that blasted through the enemy's shields and lodged in his torso. They remained there for a moment before exploding and blowing the human in half.

Turning back to his daughter, Wyrda motioned for her to follow. "I suppose it no longer matters as to how we came to be here. We must cooperate as true Sanghelli if we are to survive. May I have the pleasure of your company?"

With a smile, Yen moved after her father. "I would be honored."

Jared examined his Battle Rifle and Sniper Rifle, both of which he had discovered close by upon his sudden arrival in the forest. Pretty convenient that I also had ammunition and grenades on me, he mused. Ever since that man had finished his little speech, Jared's mind had been racing in an effort to formulate a plan. He had no intention of playing the man's little game and actively seeking to kill everyone else he encountered; right now his goal was to assemble as many UNSC soldiers as he could in an effort to withstand the attacks from the other, more hostile creatures he had seen in that room. They would have to eliminate all traces of opposition before they could move on to their real objective: figuring out what the hell was going on here.

But I'll also have to deal with the idiots who took him seriously, Jared thought to himself. There were always those naive - and selfish - enough to strike out on their own at the cost of the group. How can they trust that nutcase back there? he thought with a sense of stunned awe. Some people were so gullible.

A sudden rustling in the surrounding bushes caused Jared to snap back into reality. Bringing his Battle Rifle up to aim at the source of the noise, Jared curled his armored finger around the trigger... but froze when he heard the snap of the twig and the sound of a human voice as it yelped in surprise and fear.

Creeping forward, Jared reached his free arm out into the bush, found a solid handhold, and pulled a small SPARTAN-III out and onto the ground.

"OhmyGodpleasedon'tkillmeIdon'twannadieohGod!" the S-III yelped in terror. Jared released him and backed off, hoping that a little breathing room would allow his find to calm down. The smaller soldier got up into a crouch, his entire body seeming tensed to flee at the first sign of danger.

"I don't want to hurt you," Jared assured the S-III. "We need to join forces if we're going to survive."

The S-III still looked wary. "Why should I trust you?" he asked, beginning to crawl backwards on his hands and knees.

Jared sighed, then sprang forward and pressed his Battle Rifle to the S-III's head. His captive gave a small whimper and went limp with fright. "Because I could kill you right now and not bother with tricking you first," Jared explained. "We're both with the UNSC, we should be working together rather than trying to kill each other." Releasing the S-III, the S-II shouldered his BR and retrieved his sniper rifle. "Do you have a weapon?"

The S-III hesitated, then pointed back into the bushes. "Uh, I dropped it back there."

"Go get it."

Jared's new companion scurried away and, to Jared's genuine surprise, actually returned, an MA5K in his hands. Jared nodded at the S-III and decided that he needed to develop some sort of understanding with him if he wanted to get anything accomplished. Removing his helmet, Jared motioned for the S-III to do the same. "You got a name?"

The S-III tugged his SPI helmet off, revealing himself to be a boy of about twelve or thirteen. "Yeah. It's Simon, sir."

Christ, are S-III's really that young "Mine's Jared, but you can call me "sir" if it makes you feel better." It wasn't that good of a start. Jared had been hoping to find some experienced soldiers, not a panicky kid who looked as if he'd sooner run away then fight. Besides, he wasn't a natural leader. He'd thought that the people he found would be able to look out for themselves rather than having to constantly look to him for guidance. Take what life gives you, he told himself. At least you aren't alone anymore.

"My name's Alexis," rang out a female voice behind him. Both Jared and Simon turned to see a SPARTAN-II striding towards them. "Mind if I join you?"

Thank God. "Not at all," replied Jared. "You fit to fight?"

The SPARTAN hefted the Battle Rifle she was carrying. "I'm more of a pilot than a ground-pounder, but I can carry my weight with this."

Jared nodded. "Well, the plan is to find as many UNSC forces we can and band together." He put his hemet back on. "We should move out now."

Alexis nodded. "I got your back."

The three SPARTANs headed off into the forest, with the S-IIs in front and Simon straggling along in the rear. For the briefest of moments, a look of calculation crossed his face, as if he were analyzing his companions for something. Then the look was hidden from view by his helmet as he slipped it back onto his head and continued to trail after the SPARTANs.

Novus ducked behind a tree and readied his Thorn Rifle. In front of him,Jugan Nautrix readied his weapon for another shot. That shot never became, because Novus dodged back out and fired his rifle into the Machina's head. An armor-piercing bullet tore through Jugan's frame and sent him sprawling to the forest floor, where he lay inert and unmoving.

Not even pausing to reload, Novus sprinted to the next bit of cover and checked the surrounding area. With no more enemies in sight, the Jiralhanae moved on, being sure to check his surroundings for any unwelcome changes.

Joshua McCallan checked the two ODSTs behind him, Iota Seven and Thirteen. "You got my back?"

Both gave him a thumbs up signal, and the Lieutenant advanced with his Battle Rifle at the ready. The woods were too damn thick to see through, so the three of them would have to rely on each other if they were to have any hope of making it through without being ambushed.

They had made it about half a mile when Irv Cogdill, Marc Rakken, and Jeremy Patterson emerged from the shrubbery in full ODST gear with their weapons held above their heads.

"Thank God," breathed Irv. "More friendlies."

Joshua nodded. "The feeling's mutual," he assured the newcomers. "Wanna join us?"

Rakken nodded. "We're with you all the way. So long as you aren't trying to kill us or anything."

Joshua's mind turned to the thing that had been bothering him since he had arrived here. "You seen another ODST? LT like me, but female? Name of Mary Lynn?"

"Sorry, but you guys are the first people we've encountered," Rakken answered ruefully. "But with more of us, we should be able to find more people, right?"

"Uh... guys?" Irv broke in with a trembling voice. "You might want to look up..."

All heads turned skyward to see Nogard perched in a large tree above them. The creature grinned and revealed a mouthful of razorsharp teeth.

Joshua took a step backward. "Just run!" he ordered his companions, and then all of the ODSTs were dashing off into the woods as Nogard swooped down upon them. Iota Thirteen screamed in terror and then in pain as he tripped over a tree branch and Nogard descended on him, crushing his back under one taloned claw. Seeing her comrade helpless, Iota Seven sprayed the monster with a hail of bullets from her weapon that did nothing but bounce off his scales. Nogard leapt up then, flying towards the ODST as she reloaded and seizing her in one claw. With the other, he gripped her torso and ripped her in half, spraying blood all over his front. Discarding the two lifeless pieces, Nogard turned back to Iota Thirteen as he tried to crawl away.

His agonized screams were loud enough to be heard by his companions as they ran for their lives.

SPARTAN-G214, Wisp, saw the Elite leap down at the unsuspecting SPARTAN-III with his energy sword raised high. Wisp brought his assault rifle up and opened fire, catching the Elite in mid-air and knocking him into a tree. The other S-III, now alerted to the threat, joined in and together they overloaded the Elite's energy shield and riddled him with bullet holes.

Wisp jogged up to Joshua. "Glad to see another guy from Gamma," he said.

"Likewise," returned Joshua in a shaky voice. "Your the friendliest sight I've had all day. Thanks for the assist."

"I'm sure you'd do the same for me," said Wisp. "We should probably get a move on before more people show up and try to kill us."

Both SPARTANs reloaded before jogging off into the trees and making sure to check each other's backs.

SPARTAN-C007 jumped to the side, allowing the Grunt’s spray of plasma to shoot harmlessly by him. Drawing his assault rifle, he dropped the Grunt with a single sustained burst.

Hearing someone approach behind him, he whirled to see Blukuto raising a Gravity Hammer to crush him. There was no time to dodge it...

... so C007 ducked in as the hammer fell and impacted on the ground behind him, depleting a quarter of his shields. Pressing the assault rifle to an unarmored portion of Blukuto’s flank, he emptied the remainder of his clip into the chieftain.

Blukuto howled and collapsed as his legs gave way beneath him. Swiftly reloading, C007 leapt onto the helpless Brute’s chest and fired a burst into the creature’s chin. Jumping nimbly away from the corpse, C007 dashed off into the surrounding foliage.

Several miles from the forest, in a large city complex that had yet to be discovered by any of the others, the AI known as Venator marveled in the way that the urban area’s computer network was laid out, enabling him to control all manner of construction equipment and security systems. It was almost as if someone had wanted him to set up residence here...

With the AI equivalent of a shrug, he settled down to wait. It was only a matter of time before someone came along to be killed.

SPARTAN-110 bent low as he watched the Grunt examine something on the forest floor. After determining that there were no other immediate threat’s in the vicinity, he leapt up and shot the Grunt in the back. As the corpse fell, he stepped up to see what it was that had caught the alien’s eye. Seeing nothing but what looked like a computer chip, he turned to leave.


Startled by the familiar voice, the SPARTAN turned back to the computer chip. A small female hologram emerged from its surface. “Allison?”

“I’m glad you showed up when you did,” the AI told him gratefully. “I was beginning to think I’d never see a familiar face again.”

Scooping the computer chip up, Jeffery inserted it into his helmet. “At least now I’ll have someone to talk to,” he muttered before continuing on his way.

Jared looked his band over with satisfaction. Ever since encountering Simon and Alexis, he had managed to find three other SPARTANs, all clad in MJOLNIR armor: SPARTAN-K012, SPARTAN-007, and SPARTAN-037. The last of these might not seem to be useful in combat, but Jared knew that his skills as a medic would come in handy. And since he knew that there were plenty more SPARTANs around, there was no doubt that they were more who would be willing to join him.

“We’ll rest there for the night,” he told his followers, indicating a series of caves near a large mountain. “No fires, so use your helmets’ night vision if you’re on watch. I’ll take first watch.”

The group moved onward in silence.

Wyrda grinned as he observed the Sanghelli that had joined him preparing to make camp for the night. He and Yen had been joined by five others, all completely Sanghelli except for the hybrid Ameigh Broley. With these numbers they would be able to overpower any of the others here.

“Sleep well,” he ordered. “Tomorrow heralds the beginning of the real fight.’’

Removed and aloof from all that was happening in the forest, the man sat in his office and observed the contestants through the various screens arrayed before him.

“Yes indeed,” he murmured in response to Wyrda’s declaration. “Tomorrow the fun will truly begin.”

Episode 2: The Fun Truly Begins

Night had fallen over the entire forest, and with it came a stillness that seemed to blanket the trees much more effectively than the darkness ever could. The combatants had spent the better part of their first day in a state of constant alert, ever vigilant for the enemies they knew were out there, waiting for them to let down their guard. The coming of darkness just meant that the possibility of attack was even more present in their minds; unfortunately, most of them were too tired to remain watchful. Those lucky enough to have found allies were able to rest in relative safety. Those that had not been so fortunate were forced to search harder for potential places to sleep, and even then they had to worry about being butchered as they lay helpless.

Fortunately for the many fighters who were going solo, almost everyone had been too worn out from their first day to attempt to ambush any sleepers during the night. Almost everyone was resting in the cool darkness. Almost everyone.

Rasputin Volveneuk was one of the few beings who were enterprising enough to fight back their fatigue in the hopes of thinning out their competition when they couldn’t resist or fight back. Clambering as quietly as he could through the foliage, he gripped his energy machetes as his fingers rested on their activation switches.

“Ahhh...” he breathed as the night vision supplied by his goggles pierced through the cloak of darkness and picked out a young female ODST with her helmet off. She was slumped with her back to him against a log and seemed to be resting uneasily.

“Pretty little thing, aren’t you?” Rasputin whispered as he moved softly forwards. It was always hard to decide how to kill someone. There were so many ways one could do it, so many possibilities... He could slash her head off, or maybe stab her through the heart with both machetes. A slit throat would make the least amount of noise, but Rasputin had always disliked the way that felt on his wrists.

He was only a few meters from her now, and had decided to go for the decapitating stroke. Raising one machete off to the side, he put more pressure on the activation stud as he advanced the short distance. As soon as he was in range, Rasputin activated the machete and brought it down in a sweeping arc towards the target’s neck...

A brilliant blue energy sword appeared from nowhere and blocked the oncoming blade, stopping it mere inches from the ODST’s neck. Startled by the noise, she spun and tried to bring her assault rifle to bear, but a frustrated Rasputin aimed a kick to the side that sent the weapon spiraling off into the woods before turning to face his opponent.

“I do not wish to harm you,” Gutak ‘Cyandenee told him softly. “But I will not allow you to harm her either.”

Rasputin sneered at the Sanghelli and activated his other machete, slashing at his opponent’s belly. Gutak leapt back with a curse and attempted to disarm Rasputin with a flick of his sword. Only the human’s tight grip prevented one of his machetes from being torn from his hands.

Making to back away, Rasputin then feinted to the side before lunging back towards Gutak’s front, hoping to keep his foe off balance. He would have to kill this one quickly, before the female could retrieve her assault rifle and gun him down. As Gutak tried to block the first machete, Rasputin’s second blade sprang from nowhere and lopped off Gutak’s sword arm.

As the Sanghelli snarled with pain and attempted to staunch the purple blood that seeped from what had once been his right arm. With a mocking grin, Rasputin sidestepped and brought both machetes up for a decapitating stroke. If he hadn’t caught the ODST’s movement out of the corner of his eye, her assault rifle burst would have killed him instantly. But instead he managed to roll to the side at the last second, the bullets passing by him and through the space that he had just occupied.

With the ODST charging forward and undoubtedly searching for another opening to take a shot at him, Rasputin had no choice to retreat. “Later gorgeous,” he sneered at the ODST before leaping off into the woods and disappearing into the night.

Mary Lynn reloaded with a groan of frustration before turning to the wounded Gutak. “Thanks,” she told him as she tugged some bandages from her first aid kit. “I’d have been dead if you hadn’t shown up.”

“And I would have perished if you had not returned the favor,” replied the Sanghelli. “I’m sure you would have done no less if you had been in my position.”

Wrapping the bandages around Gutak’s stump, Mary nodded to her rescuer. “We should probably stick together,” she said. “We’ll be able to watch each other’s backs that way.”

Gutak nodded. “That is acceptable.” He bent down and peeled his energy sword from his severed arm with his left hand. “I can manage even with my wounds. We had best move, before our attacker returns.”

Not far from them, SPARTANs C044 (Jake) and C117 (Kirsty) stood back to back, scanning the surrounding forest with their weapons.

“Are you sure you heard something?” Jake demanded. “I think you just woke us up over nothing.”

“I’m sure of it!” Kirsty insisted. “Something’s out there, and it’s probably not friendly.”

Jake gazed down the scope of his battle rifle, his helmet’s night vision feature compensating for the darkness. He knew better than to dismiss a teammate’s intuition, but he could neither see nor hear anything at all.

“Well, since we’re both awake now we’d better move,” he sighed. “If there’s something out there, then it might try to ambush us and we can take it out then.”

As the two SPARTANs began to edge towards the nearest of the trees surrounding their little clearing, a dark shape burst from some bushes on the left and came barreling towards them, gravity hammer held high.

“Shit!” Jake snarled. “Scatter and open fire!”

The SPARTANs blazed way at the Jiralhanae Lokstok as they dodged in both directions, spreading out their fire as they maximized the amount of targets he had to reach with his hammer. Confused by the unexpected maneuver, the chieftain hesitated for a moment as bullets pinged off his protective armor. With no time to draw his carbine, Lokstok instead chose to attack the one with the faster firing weapon.

Kirsty emptied a clip of her assault rifle into Lokstok as he charged her, drawing blood but failing to even slow the powerful Jiralhanae. With one swing of his hammer, Lokstok sent the SPARTAN flying into the nearest tree, blowing it in half as her body passed clean through it.

With a bellow of rage, Jake finished his clip and drew his sidearm as he threw a grenade at Lokstok. Dropping the gravity hammer, Lokstok activated both of the energy gauntlets attached to his wrist and leapt at his remaining opponent, slashing the pistol in half as the grenade exploded harmlessly behind him.

With a desperate lunge, Jake punched Lokstok in the gut and caused him to stumble back, wheezing as the breath was driven from his lungs. But the swing had left Jake open, and Lokstok managed to ignore his pain long enough to stab Jake in the chest with one of the gauntlets.

Taking a deep breath, Lokstok managed to breathe again. Grinning savagely at Jake, he brought the other gauntlet in for the kill.

Kirsty, wounded and unconscious in the woods nearby, wasn’t awake to see her teammate die.

Lokstok dropped the corpse and retrieved his gravity hammer from where it had fallen. Bellowing a cry of challenge to any others who might hear it, he bounded off into the woods in search of more prey.

Day 2

Dawn broke over the forest as the first edges of sun appeared over the high peak of the vast mountain that stretched upward over the forest. Rays of warmth began to pool down through the trees and onto the forest floor. Years of military habituation caused Jared to rise without being woken by the sentry on duty. Glancing around the cave, he saw four other SPARTANs asleep in their armor. Looking towards the cave entrance, he saw the S-III, Simon, crouched besides the cave’s mouth, his MA5K gripped before him.

Seeing Jared rise, Simon nodded to him as he approached.

“So...” Simon began with a glance outside the cave. With the S-III’s face covered by his helmet and no past experiences to speak of, Jared couldn’t tell what Simon’s emotional state was. “Are you still the leader and everything?”

“I suppose so,” Jared replied. He didn’t like it, but everyone seemed to think that because he had been responsible for their formation that he should be the one in charge.

“Uh...” Now there was definitely a trace of anxiety in Simon’s voice. “What are you, uh, planning to do?”

“Get as many people from the UNSC together as I can and find a way out of here, just like I told you all yesterday.” Jared paused. “Do you have an issue with that plan?”

Simon shrugged. “Look, so long as no one’s trying to kill me then I don’t care whose side I’m on.”

Those were odd words for a UNSC soldier, but Jared wasn’t able to voice his surprise. The others, undoubtedly affected by the same military clock that he was, were beginning to rise, gathering their weapons together as they prepared to move out.

“Eat a ration bar before you leave,” he advised them. “We’ve probably got a long day ahead of us.”

Wyrda bent over what appeared to be a Sanghelli arm. During the night, Ameigh had woken him in order to report that she had heard noises coming from over here, but he had deemed it too risky to investigate. Now he was beginning to feel sorry that he hadn’t sent someone to scope out the situation.

“It must have been a fierce battle,” Ameigh commented as he stood back up. “If someone lost a limb, then they must have been fighting at close range.”

“But there are human bullet casings over here,” said Ftch ‘Ynoiee from where he was standing. “The limb was cut to precisely to have been torn off by weapon fire.”

Examining the bloodstains that seemed to have come from the arm, Yen murmured, “They were able to tend to the wound before they left here. And if it was such a brutal fight, then why aren’t there any bodies?”

“One of the combatants must have disengaged after the arm was cut off,” Wyrda murmured. “Judging from the lack of a blood trail, it must have been the human.”

“There are some Sanghelli prints going off in this direction,” observed Yen. “There are some others beside it, but they are too light to make out. Might they be Unggoy? Or Kig-Yar?”

Wyrda stood up. “It could be either, but we will find out soon enough.” He motioned to the Sanghelli under his command. “Come,” he ordered. “Somewhere out there is a Sanghelli missing an arm. We must find him and render what aid we can.”

Together, the Sanghelli vanished into the forest.

A burst of weapon fire tore through the log behind which Eaite ‘Oodatee was taking cover.

“It’s a human!” he told his companion, Stye ‘Ahsudee. “Quickly! Check to see if it’s a Demon!”

Stye poked his head over the log, took a small hit to his shields, and crouched back down. “No,” he reported. “It’s just a normal one.”

The firing stopped as Jon Harper ducked behind a tree to reload.

“Quickly then,” ordered Eaite. “Now!”

Both Sanghelli vaulted over the log and charged forward. Eaite fired his carbine when he saw that one of the human’s legs was exposed. The shot made contact and Jon collapsed with a gasp of pain. Struggling to crawl away, Harper fired his sidearm as Eaite came into view. He failed to penetrate the Sanghelli’s shields and Eaite dispatched him with a shot to the head.

As Stye arrived, Eaite nodded to him and began to reload his weapon. Just then, another attacker fired and several pink needles flew into Stye’s chest. His shields managed to absorb most of the impact and explosion, but the remainder of the blast was sufficient to blow the Sanghelli back into a nearby tree. Eaite could see blood on his friends chest, but was unable to fully analyze the wound as he dove for cover in order to avoid a similar fate.

The Unggoy that had shot Stye, Grutto, squealed with delight at his good fortune and reloaded. But before he could hurl a plasma grenade over at Eaite’s position, a sudden hail of bullets reduced him to a blood-smeared corpse. From where he was crouched, William Gorman reloaded his weapon and scanned for where Eaite had vanished to.

Seeing Stye attempting to push his intestines back into his chest, William took aim and finished off the dying warrior. With a bellow of rage, Eaite lunged from the bushes he had been using as cover while he snuck up on the armored marine. William attempted to bring his weapon around, but Eaite was too fast for him. William’s helmeted head tumbled away into the bushes as the rest of his body collapsed onto the ground.

Crouching over his dead friend, Eaite shook his head with remorse. But there was nothing he could do for Stye besides recite a brief prayer for the dead over him. With that finished, Eaite got to his feet and moved on.

It took them the better part of the morning, but Jared and his group managed to climb a good distance up the mountain. Out before them stretched the forest... but there were other things too.

“Am I seeing things right?” asked SPARTAN-037. “Is that a desert? Right next the friggin’ forest?”

“Is that even possible?” pondered SPARTAN-007. “I mean, look at it! There’s no space between the forest and the desert. It’s like the forest just stops and turns into desert!”

Further away. beyond the desert, the group could see the tall buildings of a city, and a little further east was what appeared to be a small swamp. To the west was a large lake, and further south was a large mountain that seemed to have the right proportions of a volcano. Even further south was an enormous mountain, larger than even the the chain of ones that the group had climbed.

“It’s almost as if someone just put them all down,” muttered Simon. “Like they were setting something up and didn’t care about proper geography.”

“Well, if we take what that guy back in that room said as true, then this entire place should be artificial,” said Jared.

“But that begs the question: why the hell are we here?” replied Alexis-109. “I mean, what’s the point of having us all here, killing each other like this?”

“No time to worry about that,” Jared said. “We need to focus on getting more people together, finding more allies.”

As if some cosmic force had heard his words and had decided to mock them, a dark figure dropped from a rock above them. Before it could land, a burst of flame appeared from its flapping robes and engulfed SPARTAN-007, tearing down his shields and sticking to his armor. As the screaming SPARTAN dropped to his knees, a sword emerged from the folds of the figure’s robes and decapitated him.

The others managed to bring their weapons to bear, but were too shocked to open fire. Looking around at the barrels pointed at him, the figure lowered its sword and bowed low.

“I apologize. I was afraid and unsure if you were friends or foes. If you intend to kill me, do so now, but if not then allow me to join you.”

ATHENIAN-000 placed his sword back in his robe and stood at ease, waiting for a decision to be made. He readied his flamethrower in case things turned ugly, but was confident that he would be accepted by this band. They had just lost a member after all, which made them that much more ready to take on new - and powerful - allies.

Jared was following a similar process to the ATHENIAN, and finally nodded. “Alright,” he said. “You’re with us now.”

Simon started forward. “He just killed one of us! Now we’re supposed to trust him?”

Jared raised a hand. “We need people, especially now that we’ve lost someone.”

The ATHENIAN nodded. “As I said before, I was confused and worried. I regret my actions deeply, but when I did them I was doing what I thought to be necessary.”

With a nod, Jared motioned to his group. “Let’s move a bit further along the mountain. So long as we look out for any more people, we should do okay.”

As the rest of the group headed off, Simon hung back for a moment to look at the charred pieces of 007. With a shake of his head, he headed off after the others.

“Oh, you have gotta be friggin’ kidding me!” exclaimed Irv Cogdill. “You expect me to believe this desert start rights were the forest ends?!”

Joshua McCallan examined the sandy ground before them. “It looks like that, so we’ll just have to go with it for now.” He held his battle rifle a little tighter. “Let’s head out. The sooner we start, the sooner we’ll be out of the desert.” The forest was getting too hectic, too dangerous. As much as he wanted to find Mary, he had to put the men under his command first.

A sudden movement from behind startled the ODSTs, and together they all turned to see Aaron Davids emerge from the forest at a run. Davids made a flying leap, aimed his foot in a kick that would shatter the spine of whoever he hit... and crumpled under a hail of bullets.

With that business out of the way, the soldiers began to move into the sandy desert.

Jacob Stavros could hardly believe his luck. As a trained pilot rather than an infantryman, he had been afraid that he would be unable to defend himself from the other fighters. But he had discovered, to his amazement, a fully functional Hornet sitting in a small clearing in the forest. After carefully checking it for traps, he had climbed aboard and was now roaming the skies, searching the ground for any signs of life.

He was wondering about why the Hornet had been there to begin with when a shape took off from the nearby mountain and came flying in a straight line towards him. Maneuvering the Hornet into position directly in front of the oncoming object, Stavros saw the dragon-like Nogard coming towards him at breakneck speed.

“You wanna play chicken, do ya?” he murmured. Thumbing the Hornet’s firing stud, he sent two missiles screaming towards Nogard. “Play with these.”

The missiles collided with Nogard, exploding and sending him tumbling towards the mountain’s rocky ledge. He struck it and fell, dazed and wounded, towards the distant forest below.

Jacob would have liked nothing better than to go ensure that the creature was dead, but he was worried that the sudden explosion of violence in the sky would attract too much attention from any enemies on the ground. Bearing a grin of triumph on his face, he sped up and wheeled around the mountain.

“Hmm,” murmured the man as he sat alone in the office. “The results so far are promising, but the forest is too big. It’s too difficult for the contestants too find each other.”

He glanced down at the keyboard on the desk and placed his finger on a single button. Pushing it, he looked back at the displays before him. It was time to herd the contestants to new parts of the arena.

ATHENIAN-000 glanced back at his new companions, then at the forest below. “Quite a long drop,” he observed. “We should either go back down or get to a more secure location. I fear that this path we are traveling is far too exposed.”

“No,” said a voice quietly from behind him. “I think we’re fine right here, actually.”

A pistol shot rang out and a burst of blood exploded from the back of the ATHENIAN’s head. Without so much as a cry of pain, the robed warrior toppled over and tumbled down the mountain towards the distant treetops. Jared whirled to see Simon re-holstering his sidearm.

What the hell are you doing?!” he snarled, bringing his battle rifle up partway.

“Making sure he can’t kill us in our sleep,” the S-III shot back. “Did you honestly expect me to trust him after he knowingly killed a SPARTAN and then offered to be our buddy? Are you SPARTAN-IIs really that gullible?”

Jared could see the logic in Simon’s reasoning, but he was still clinging to the reasoning that had made him accept the ATHENIAN as part of the group. “Now we’re down a man permanently! We could have used his skills to help us!”

“Well, I’m sure we could have appreciated those skills while he stabbed us in the back-” Simon began, but SPARTAN-K012 interrupted.

“Does anyone else here that rumbling?” he asked.

All of the SPARTANs looked up in time to see a veritable wall of boulders come bouncing and rolling down the mountain’s steep slope. “COVER!” Jared screamed as the rocks drew near.

To Jacob Stavros in his Hornet, it appeared that the top of the mountain was disintegrating. Rocks poured down the slope and towards the forest, leaving nothing behind but empty space.

Muttering a prayer of sympathy for those caught by the rockslide, Jacob gunned his engines and made for what he hoped was a safer airspace.

At the base of the mountain, Beth Hedges was searching desperately for a SPARTAN that she could have sworn she had seen mere seconds ago. Before she could find him, the SPARTAN Anomaly appeared behind her and fired, blowing her brains across a nearby tree.

The SPARTAN Anomaly felt the rumbling then, and turned to see the rockslide. He tried to run, but by then the boulders were almost on top of him, crushing any trees in their path. He made it about ten yards before a particularly large rock plummeted down on him and crushed him into a bloody pulp.

Novus felt the landslide as well, and had the good sense to flee from the sea of crushing rocks. As he ran, SPARTAN-078G lunged from nowhere, slamming Novus against a tree and raising a weapon to finish him off.

Thinking quickly, Novus dodged to the side and escaped the SPARTAN’s grasp. Firing his Nailer Rifle into 078G’s chest, he knocked the SPARTAN backwards and onto the ground. Novus fled again, but 078G was not so lucky. Struggling to get up, he was not able to stand before a wave of stones buried him completely.

The combatants could all feel the landslide now, and the forest was filled with running beings, all of them determined to escape the deathtrap that the forest had become. But their fears were not completely true. The boulders failed to completely permeate the forest, and ceased to be a hazard before they had even overtaken half of the forest. But the landslide’s objective had been achieved. Enough combatants had been driven out of the forest so as to make things that much more interesting for the man’s cameras.

Jared glanced around at the three other people taking shelter with him in the outcropping. Its stone walls had managed to force the oncoming boulders to pass overhead, leaving them safe and unharmed.

“Okay, that proves that this place isn’t natural,” said SPARTAN-037. “That was not a natural occurrence.”

“Well no shit,” muttered Jared. He looked over at Simon, the only other one left besides Alexis. SPARTAN-K012 was missing; Jared hadn’t seen him die, but K012’s odds out there couldn’t have been good.

Jared was still angry over the way Simon had betrayed the ATHENIAN, but such feelings would only slow him down even more.

“I guess we’re sleeping in a cave again tonight,” he told his two companions. “I’ll take first watch again.”

Episode 3: Love conquers all

Agent 2994 surveyed the area in which he had ended up in. He had been wondering around this Island or whatever is was; for over 3 hours. He had his Sniper and his Battle Rifle. He was used to operating alone, but this was just insane. A group of people; surviving on an Island and killing each other for fun. It just didn’t sit well with him. But then again. Who was he to argue? He enjoyed killing. And this was going to be his first ‘’real’’ challenge. He quickly began to move into the jungle.

He moved from tree to tree with Liquid Grace. He spotted a ridge which looked like a good place to hide and snipe. He quickly and quietly set up. He placed down his sniper; and hugged the butt of it. Placing it gently under his helmet.

2994 quickly eyed down his Scope. He quickly spotted a group of ODSTs. ‘’Hmmm, This should be easy.’’ Apollo thought. He was slowly squeezing the trigger when, the barrel of his sniper exploded. “Holy shit!” Apollo screamed. He quickly got up and swung round his battle rifle. He had just eyed down the scope when a second round impacted just below the knee. If not for his armour and his augmented bones. He almost certainly would have lost his leg.

Apollo scanned the back of the Forrest with his Battle Rifle. He was being reckless now. He should have been able to stop the sniper before; he found him. He was a SPARTAN Assassin for God’s sake! Apollo certain the forest was clear at the moment; he moved in. His speed impaired, by the bullet lodged in his knee. He would need to get that out.

Mary Lynn - now holding a Sniper she had found- walked side by side with the Elite who had saved her. Gutak ‘Cyandee. She was a little apprehensive about travelling with an Alien. She occasionally thought about killing him. But that wasn’t fair was it? He has saved her. Then again, he was a former enemy, and he was probably thinking the same thing. She looked down at her sniper. Again. She noticed her finger was hovering over the trigger. ‘’God dammit Mary! Do it!’’ The voice inside her kept screaming. She finally steeled herself for what needed to be done. She stopped for a minute. Shouldered her sniper and prepared to fire. “I’m sorry. But I want to see my Fiancée again.” She slowly squeezed the trigger. The bullet exited just below the Elites head. Blood and gore splattered everywhere. She walked over the Elite, he was still alive. If only just.

“I’m sorry, but I just don’t trust you.” Mary said while bending down to be kneeling just above him. “Thanks for saving me,” she finished. She then pulled out her pistol aimed it at his head. And fired. He was dead. Mary walked away, not feeling any pity or remorse. She walked; now even more cautious, as she had no one to cover her. She was careful to check every little corner and every little ledge encase she spotted a sniper. She was getting paranoid. She had missed the Rockslide luckily. She prayed that Josh hadn’t been caught up in it. If he died, she would end up in a deep depression and would probably kill herself. But there was no point in thinking about this just at this moment in time.

She saw something glisten in the distance; something like a sniper scope. She dropped quickly. She placed the stock of the sniper just below her head. She placed the Crosshairs over the targets head. She stopped her breathing. She placed her finger on the trigger. She squeezed it slowly…The bullet fired was fired for the sniper. For some unknown reason; it ended up going up through the barrel of the enemy’s sniper. Mary hesitated unsure weather or not her opponent was dead or alive.

When she saw her opponent get up. She fired again, this time it hit her opponent in the leg; lodging it’s self in the knee. ‘’Dammit!’’ She cursed to herself. She got up; knowing that it would be rather foolish to stay in the same place. She ran to the edge of the forest -which was only 1 klick away- and was surprised to find it desert.

“What the hell…?” She whispered under her breath. What made it even more weird was the fact that there was a perfectly good warthog sitting there. ‘’Hmmm, this could come in handy,’’ she thought. She got in and drove off into the distance.

SPARTAN-024 or Padráig had been on his own for two days straight, he hadn’t seen anyone. Friendly or hostile. He held his MA5B loosely, not really caring: as nothing had troubled him and he was happy for the break of sorts. He saw a movement in the forest. He quickly turned, and fired a 5 round burst into the forest. A shield flared.

“Whoa Spartan!” The voice said.

“Doran…?” Padráig asked.

“The one and only baby,” Doran replied.

“My God,” Padráig began, “boy am I glad to see a friendly face. And a fellow Class Two no less.”

Doran finally emerged from the forest. Carrying two covenant weapons. A needler in his hand, and a Brute Shot swung over his back.

“Jesus Doran, what is it with you and Covenant weaponry?”

“They are so smooth and sexy like.”

“Jesus, there is so many things wrong with you man.”

“And? At least during a raid I didn’t burst out in song…Oh wait, that was me…Shut up!”

“Come on man. Lets just get out of here.”

Doran and Padráig moved from the area into a slightly rocky-mountainous area. Doran stumbled over a small-medium sized rock.

“Hahahahah!” Padráig laughed. “How the hell did you become a SPARTAN?”

“I dunno, I slept with Emily? Naw, that sounds wrong. She was Ginger! Wasn’t she?”

“I have two things wrong with that Doran. One. You were six when you first met her. And two. You don’t think much do you?”

“I only think when I have too.”

“Why oh why did they make you Maroon’s leader?”

“I slept with Meagn…?”

“Idiot.” Padráig silently mumbled.

“Anyway, I see movement ahead.” Doran said while squinting in his helmet.

“OK, stay near me.” Padráig said while looking up the hill and then turned to Doran: “And for God’s sake, don’t start singing! I hated that mission!”

“Yessir.” Doran said, then said to himself: “That family don’t seem so familiar, and my enemies know my name. And if you hear me tap on your window, better get on yer knees and prey panic is on the way.”

“Jesus Doran! Did you not hear me!”


“God I always get the idiot detail.”

“Could be worse, I could be Inbred.” “Dear God I think you are.”

Padráig and Doran moved up the steep mountainous slope. A ‘’bang!’’ sounded, and impacted just behind them.

“Wait…That was a purposeful miss.” Padráig mused. “I have an idea.”

Padráig whistled into the com the seven noted tune Déjá had taught him on Reach. He whistled again and waited…

Jared stepped out of the Cave and began to take his watch. This had been quite a journey for him. He shouldered his Sniper and began to eye down the scope. Two figures were climbing the mountain towards him and his small band of SPARTANs. ’’Hmmm, they look like SPARTANs…’’ Jared aimed behind them: inbetween one of there legs. He slowly and methodically squeezed the trigger. There was no margin for error here. The bullet fired and impacted right were Jared wanted it to go.

“Perfect…” Jared said with a smile.

A familiar tune whistled threw his helmet com. Just then, Jared was the most pleased he had been since this whole affair started. He keyed the com and replied: “Oly Oly Oxen Free. We are all out in the free, we are all free.”

“Oh thank God!” The unknown SPARTAN replied. “Who are you?”

“SPARTAN-091,” Jared replied.

“Who? There was no SPARTAN-091 in my unit…Unless you are a Class I?”

“Yep, officially MIA.” Jared added with a laugh.

“Anyway, we are coming up. Make sure you have some of that delicious tea and toast you Class I’s have.”

“Will do.” Jared laughed again.

Jared kept his eye on the SPARTANs as they made there ascent.

“Behind you!” The SPARTAN he had been talking to yelled.

Jared turned, and saw Agent 2994 jump at him. Jared side stepped and slammed the butt of the sniper into the Agent’s leg. The Agent reeled as it hit his wounded leg. Apollo lunged at Jared this time knocking him over. Apollo began pounding his fists upon the SPARTANs face and chest. Apollo was about to deliver another blow when Apollo fell in a hail of gunfire. Simon and Alexis had heard the fight and came out to help. Apollo attempted to get up again when, his chest and face were blown apart by Needler shards.

“What’s with the Covenant weaponry?” Simon asked.

“Long story. Don’t ask.” Padráig answered. He then turned to Jared: “I assume you are SPARTAN-091. I ask permission to join your party.”

“Permission granted. Welcome aboard.”

Doran had finally managed to get to the top after killing Agent 2994.

“Bloody hell mate, you nearly blew me balls off! Padráig just looked at Jared and shrugged.

Mary had been driving in the Warthog for the better part of an hour and had seen no one in this vast desert. She spotted two small black dots in the distance and then accelerated towards them Hoping and preying one of them was Joshua. She skidded the warthog in front of them, got out and took off her helmet.

“Mary?” Joshua said. He then took off his helmet and ran towards Mary. The both embraced for a moment and then kissed each other.

“Oh my God, I have missed you so much! I thought you were dead!” Mary screamed.

“Don’t worry, I wasn’t going to die before saying Hi to you, hon.”

Mary smiled and kissed Josh again.

“Anyway, I have a ‘Hog, lets use it.”

Josh, Irv and Mary climbed in the Driver, Gunner and passenger seat respectively. This hell just got a whole lot better. Now with Mary by his side Joshua could go on, and fight again and again. Aslong as he had her, he could do anything. As love conquers all.

Episode 4: Deja Vú

Out in the ruined jungle, ruble lied everywhere, perfectly still. Perfectly still in all save one spot that is....
In one spot, a scaly clawed hand burst forth, followed soon by the rest of the beast known as Nogard. The ancient Precursor experiment looked around, searching for the Human in the VTOL that had attacked him prior to the avalanche. Not seeing his prey, Nogard roared and took flight, speeding through the air as fast as his wings would carry him.
However, he soon found himself to not be alone. As he flew, he began to hear a humming, which quickly grew towards a roar. Realizing it was behind him, Nogard abruptly did a 180, only have to quickly dodge as several missiles flew past him. Watching for a moment to see whether or not they'd double back, Nogard quickly saw that they were, so he took off, flying as fast as he could to try and escape the missiles. However, as he was flying, the missile's owner rose in the air in front of him, bashing him from below.
The silver-blue frame of Calanis Baladot rose into the air, the Machina shaking off the impact with Nogard. The beast had been harder than he'd expected. Watching he saw, his first three missiles doubling back, so he quickly fired two more at Nogard to cause confusion and allow easier hits.
Nogard was crafty though. Seeing them coming, he flew at Calanis, the missiles coming at him in front and behind. As he closed in, he dodged the first at the last second, causing it to collide into one of the tailing missiles: the resulting explosion, however, knocked him off course, just enough so that he hit the second forward missile. Dropping, the two tailing missiles missed him, but Calanis quickly added three more missiles and gunfire to the mix. Nogard reacted quickly, slicing one missile as he dodged it so that it spun off and exploded. Then, he charged Calanis: the gunfire increased, and as Nogard loop-di-looped to avoid the missiles he grabbed on and three it at Calanis; Calanis dodged it, but as he did Nogard barreled forward, slicing Calanis badly as he passed. In the monetary distraction, the missiles hit Calanis, practically obliterating the Machina's frame: as the remaining pieces fell, Nogard swooped down, grabbing the still intact head and chest, and before Calanis' still working optics he punched into the brain container and crunched.
With that, Nogard let the dead frame fall to the ground and flew off, searching for Stavros and his Hornet.

The blackness faded to light as James-K012 at last regained consciousness. For a minute he could not recall what had happened, then he remembered the avalanche and how he'd become split off from the other Spartans.
James listened for a minute: no rumbling, or even gunfire. Deciding it safe, he tried to get up, only to have an intense pain shoot throughout his whole body when he barely moved: carefully looking down, James saw the cause to be several boulders that had landed on his left arm and leg, crushing the lower arm and whole leg badly. Even if he could manage to sit up so that he could reach the boulders, he could never move them alone.
So, James decided on a dangerous plan: he called for help. It was risky, but what else could he do? He yelled and yelled, but it seemed no one would come; laying his head back, he tried to think of something else he might could do, but to no avail.
However, he then heard noises from nearby. Turning to look, he also saw his Assault Rifle nearby; having second thoughts about his plan, he reached, stretching as far as he could, and managed to just barely grab it, but it was knocked away from his instead. Left to face his fate unarmed, he turned to see the being that he'd heard appear: a friendly, it was Human, clad in an armor that looked like some sort of heavy ODST armor or light MJOLNIR.
"Hey, over here!", yelled James
The marine's helmeted head swivelled and looked at James, and he then quickly ran over. "Looks like you could use a hand pretty bad", said the stranger"
"Sure could", said James, "Help me lift these boulders, would you?"
Together, James and the soldier began pushing, and soon the boulders were off him. Attempting to stand, James found he could only barely walk; almost falling over, the marine caught him and helped him to walk.
"Thanks", said James, "So, who are you anyways?"
"I'm Master Sergeant Edwin Davis", replied the marine
"Davis, eh?", said James, "Heh, small world; my last name's Davis too." Together, the two continued along for quite a while, across the avalanche ruins and into the remaining jungles, heading for the grassy plains and city complex they'd seen in the distance. However, as they progressed into the jungle, they continually thought they were hearing something: they did not realize until too late that they were right.
The attack was swift and sudden. The Human pilot jumped from the surrounding underbrush quickly, not having made a sound beforehand: the man crashed straight into Edwin, beating him with his fists with a fury unknown. Edwin retaliated, punching the pilot in the jaw hard enough to send him sprawling back, and then Edwin picked him up off the ground and began punching him repeatedly in the face. Kicking Edwin in the groin, the pilot broke free and made a jab into Edwin's kidney.
The pilot, however, quickly rolled to the side as James recovered and fired at him; however, the pilot was much quicker than the wounded Spartan and so he managed to maneuver behind him and knock him out. Grabbing the Assault Rifle, he quickly ran twoards Edwin and attempted to shoot the badly beaten Marine, only to have the tables quickly turned as Edwin grabbed and twisted the man's arm, threw him to the ground and took the rifle, preparing to shoot.
"Go ahead and kill me", said the pilot, "At least then I'll see my son again"
Edwin prepared to fire, but something about the man looked familiar. He didn't have long to ponder it thought, as in that moment of hesitation he was tackled by another man, in a similar suit of body armor as himself.
"Don't do it!", yelled the man, "Not again!" But as he screamed, his familiar voice begging, pleading, James-K012 bashed him in the head; as light went to black, the man fell, his helmet rolling off, revealing the face of the former leader of Team Alpha, James Davis. Both Edwin and the marine looked on in horror, the first yelling "son!", the latter "Dad!" As he faded, James Davis looked at the pilot and said, "Samuel, meet your grandfather" Then he passed, the deja vu he'd sensed coming to pass in a slightly different fashion.
Edwin looked up from his dead son to the pilot. The pilot asked, "Are you Edwin Davis?" When Edwin nodded his head yes, the pilot said, "Sir, I'm Samuel Albert Davis. That man was James Davis, my father.... and I believe you're my grandfather"
While Edwin looked on in confusion, James-K012 came up and said, "Samuel Albert Davis?" Samuel looked at him, nodding. "Well then.... that would make you my father.... and I saw you die!"
Together, the three stood there in complete and utter confusion, unsure what to say or do.

Mark Rakken and Jeremy Patterson ran through what was left of the jungle, ever ready in case something else should appear: first Nogard's massacre, then the landslide; what next?
Almost as if to answer their thoughts, they heard footsteps nearby in the woods. Readying their weapons, they waited, uttering silent prayers that they'd survive: when at last the figure came out from the trees, they breathed a sigh of relief as they saw a Spartan.
"Oh, thank goodness, a Spartan", said Mark
Sure enough, out from the trees stepped a Spartan-II, Jeffrey-110; not only that, but behind him came two Spartan-IV's, one leaning against the other.
Jeffrey raised his gun at the two marines. "Who are you?", he asked.
"I'm Jeremy Patterson, this is Mark Rakken", said Jeremy, "What about you and your friends?"
Jeffrey relaxed and lowered the gun. "I'm Jeffrey-110, a Spartan-II. These two are Joe-C007 and Kirsty-C117, both say they're S-IV's; Kirsty was wounded by a Brute that killed his partner too, so we've tracking: wouldn't have happened to see it, would you?"
"Sorry, we've been a little busy running for our lives and trying to avoid trouble ever since that dragon-thing murdered our group; little hard to see a Brute when that's going on." Mark very quickly thought over the increased survival chances with three Spartans around. "Mind if we stick together?"
"Fine by me", said Jeffrey. Together the new group of five continued on, soon engouh finding the edge of the forest, and not far beyond it, a city.
"What do you make of this Allison?", Jeffrey asked his AI companion
"I'm not sure: scans indicate no life signs within the city, so that's good, plus there appears to be a vehicle depot on the far side."
"Well then, let's go"
"And yet....", began Allison
"The city's design is what gets me: the buildings are placed unnaturally, almost in a tactically planned fashion, not to mention that many appear to be copies of others and some have a design scheme that's hundreds of years old"
"Well, we were told this place was artificial", said Jeffrey
"But that artificial? It just seems too much"
Jeffrey did not reply, but instead lead the group into the city. Once they had penetrated to nearly the middle though, Allison cried "Stop!"
"What?", asked Mark
"I'm picking up transmissions and power readings all over the place, too many to count" Allison paused, analyzing the data. "There's an AI in the city's matrix, and it's no friendly! We're caught in a trap!"
Just as Allison said this, a nearby construction crane sprang to life, its' wrecking ball swinging towards Jeffrey: he dodged, only for it to hit and kill Kirsty-C117, squashing her into a wall which collapsed on impact. Enough damaged was done to the building by the impact that immediately it began to sollapse, sending the others scurrying for cover.
"Look out!", Jeremy yelled at Mark as a forklift charged towards him. Mark ran toward a pile of rubble as quick as he could, hoping to be safe there, but found it to be a temporary respite as the forklift began to break down the rubble with repeated rams. But just as Mark thought himself done for, he heard gunshots: looking out, Jeremy had blown the tires and then disconnected the engine: waving his hand, the two quickly ran off, attempting to rejoin the others while staying safe.
Joe-C007 ran as fast he could, the two Cyclops Exoskeletons chasing him remarkably fast, considering their size. Jumping through a window into a building, he'd hoped to slow them down, but the Cyclops simply burst through the wall entirely. Still running, now towards the stairs, Joe activated two Plasma Grenades he'd grabbed earlier and threw them at one of the Cyclops: when it exploded, the exoskeleton was mere pieces.
Joe ran up the stairs, fast as he could, hearing noise below him. When he reached the roof, he saw and hear nothing, and thought himself safe.... until the Cyclops tore through the rooftop and climbed up to face him. Opening fire, his Assault Rifle rounds pinged off harmlessly; considering jumping from the building momentarily, Joe decided that he'd meet his fate with his fists. However, as the Cyclops closed in, it was suddenly obliterated by a large laser: looking for the source, Joe saw a Forerunner Monitor coming towards him.
"Thanks", said Joe
"You are most welcome Reclaimer", said the Monitor, "I am 16807 Rampant Geer: how may I be of service?"
"Killing whatever AI gremlin is is the city matrix would be highly appreciated"
"Well of course Reclaimer, I would be most pleased to assist"
Joe watched as the Monitor quickly took off, then turned himself and headed back down to the ground. Rampant Geer flew quickly, scanning the city complex to try and find the matrix's main server source, blasting away any security systems, construction equipment or anything that attempted to stop him. At last, he found the server, and managed to break through the "primitive" security measures and, entering the main server room, Rampant Geer was immediately met with a towering image of Venator, the monitoring screens that filled up the walls reflecting his massive form.
“I offer you a chance to leave now, construct, or be terminated”, said Venator
“I will aid the Reclaimers, which means your removal”, said Geer
“So be it”. With that, Venator had all the security defenses open fire on Geer, who's shields held for mere seconds: at the same time, Geer charged and fired his laser at the server. Neither had calculated for the other's destruction defenses: when both were destroyed, both set off large, individual explosions that – together with the building's own explosive booby traps – destroyed an entire city block, leaving nothing behind.
The Spartans and Marines all saw the explosion, and heading there the group was safely reformed sans the KIA Kirsty. But, not only did they see the explosions, but so did many of the other island inhabitants, and they now knew where to head for kills

Ameigh and Wyrda led the group of Sangheili along the path, trying to find their wounded Sangheili brother, but with little luck; though they had been joined by three more Sangheili, Iso 'Vadun, Jemsal 'Emvadson and Ssfa 'Jcoree, they had not found the Sangheili they sought.
“So, tell me brother”, said Ameigh to Wyrda, “If you are so prominent a warrior, why is it that I – Ameigh Broley, the former Holy Commander of the Covenant, and one of the greatest warriors in the United Sangheili Republic – have not heard of you?”
“Because I am not from your time”, replied Wyrda
“What do you mean?”, asked Ameigh, “Is this some foul joke? If not mine, then what time are you from?”
“The Humans call my time the year 3,000 AD”
“Impossible! It is merely 2618”
“Do not speak to me of impossible!”, said Wyrda, “This place is not natural. My daughter, Yen, was a child when I left her shortly ago, yet here she is, a grown warrior that claims to have seen my death!”
Ameigh was about to make a reply when they heard noise from nearby. The three newest Sangheili to join the group stepped forward some, making their weapons readily accessible should they need them, but not drawing them yet. All seven of the Sangheili waited, and waited, and at last they began to imagine they'd heard things....
Until suddenly, a tall Sangheili warrior clad in green and gold armor and bearing two Energy Swords jumped out of the foliage, jumping towards Ameigh. Ameigh rolled ot the side, quickly drawing her Energy Sabres and throwing them up just in time to block an incoming attack. Parrying the blow and attempting to stab her opponent, Ameigh at last saw his familiar face: the face of her former friend and student, Dyr 'Jar Refos.
Continuing to exchange blows, Ameigh asked, "Why do you fight me, old friend?"
"This is a lie!", Dyr shouted, "We are a lie! None of this is real; I come to deliver your from this false and torturous existence."
Jemsal, a good friend and student of Ameigh's while she led the first Lance of Unrelenting Reparation, attempted to jump in and assist Ameigh; her swift and powerful "No" kept Jemsal from this personal fight
"I know this place is not natural, Refos; I saw Jemsal die, and yet he lives! But, could it not be that this is our second life in Paradise? A chance to prove our worth and skill?"
"This is not Paradise, Ameigh!", yelled an infuriated Refos as he attacked more furiously, backing her towards an impassible cluster of trees, "This is the Shadow World!"
Ameigh, desperate to escape the trap, turned and ran up the trees, somersaulting off them and over Refos' head. As Refos turned, Ameigh stabbed him with both her Sabres: he fell to the ground, dying.
"May you find peace, brother", said Ameigh; she turned to leave, but stopped as Refos spoke.
"We've been here before", he said faintly
"What?", asked Ameigh
"We've been here before, on this island, in this world. You killed me."
"What foolishness do you speak, brother?", Ameigh asked again, a cold ball forming in her stomach
"I was deluded, yet you told me this was all false. I did not listen, and you were forced to kill me"
Ameigh grabbed the dying warrior and lifted him off the ground. "Cease your lies!"
"You tried to save me", Dyr continued, coughing, blood spurting out, "Now I have returned the favor" And with that, Dyr 'Jar Refos passed.
"Ameigh?", said Jemsal, walking up, "Ameigh, are you alright?"
Ameigh set Dyr's body on the ground, leaning it against a tree. "Yes, youngling", said Ameigh, slightly uneasy now, as a chilling state of deja vu and confusion set in, "Come, we should go"
Together, the group moved on, yet Wyrda noticed Ameigh was noticeably quiet and seemed very much distracted; however, as none had heard the warriors' conversation, Wyrda was left to wonder pointlessly.

Novus ran, ran as fast as he could, trying to escape the terror of the forest. At last, he succeeded, bursting forth into the large plains. However, he was not along, as not far off he saw another intimidating Jiralhanae: none other than Chieftain of the Jiralhanae Marius.
Novus looked around, hoping to find a place where he could hide, as he had no wish to fight one of the Jiralhanae's greatest warriors. However, he saw no hiding places, and before Novus could decide what to do he was spotted by Marius, who charged at him. Novus readied himself: he had merely a Nailer Rifle and two Spikers, while Marius had a Gravity Hammer; he was horribly outmatched.
Suddenly though, Marius was tackled, brought to the ground by a new assailant: as Novus looked, he saw it to be Keilus, a Covenant Remnant War Chieftain. Though Marius was tall, strong and armed with a Gravity Hammer, Keilus was smaller, quicker and armed with a Plasma Axe, and would have the advantage could he outmaneuver the elder Chieftain.
Marius and Keilus rolled together, the two struggling against one another, but while Marius had great difficulty in attacking, Keilus punched quickly and furiously, his Iron Knuckles digging out deep gashes. However, their rolling at last brought them against a hillock of dirt and rock, and here the two stopped rolling and the tables turned: Marius, now able to get his bearings, grabbed Keilus' head with one hand and punched him with the other, sending the smaller Jiralhanae flying.
Keilus tried to right himself quickly, recover from the blow he'd been given, but he was not quick enough, for before he could he felt a massive, powerful crunch on his mid-section as Marius brought down his Gravity Hammer. However, before Marius could attack again, he was attacked, pummeled by a massive Jiralhanae, larger than himself even: pulling out a small Energy Dagger he carried with him, Marius stabbed into the behemoth's stomach several times, but to little avail. As Gargantuanus punched Marius several times, a beleaguered Marius retaliated with his Gravity Hammer, hitting the Brute in the head and knocking him to the ground.
Novus, watching, made a move to ready his Spikers, but was spooked as a large hand grabbed his shoulder, accompanied by a voice that said "No". Looking, he saw the tall, silver-coated Jiralhanae Chieftain Lokstok; "Let them fight", he said, "To cull the weak one"
Marius attempted to crush Gargantuanus' head with his Gravity Hammer, but the other Brute grabbed it and then knocked Marius to the ground, preparing to crush im. But, just before he could, his head fell off, decapitated by Keilus with his Plasma Axe. Marius, thankful, nodded at Keilus, then noticed Lokstok and Novus; walking towards them, he yelled "Do even of you wish to fight?" Both came a negative reply. "Then come", said Marius, and the four walked off to the city.

Hidden well in a cave of sorts formed by the landslide, Draekus Damon entered the final stages of his transfomation. Ever since he'd first arrived, Draekus had known his goal: the destruction of Nogard to exact vengeance. After wandering through the jungle for some time, he'd found what he'd needed: Nogard's DNA.
Now at last, as he devoured his last Plainsfierian NutriPack, he neared the transformation's completion after many long hours of work. Slowly, the wings finished, becoming hard and taunt; a tail grew out, the leathery flesh covering it; the claws on his hands extended, as well as talons growing on his feet; Draekus' head changed drastically, changing from a Human with slightly lizard qualities to a lizard with slightly Human qualities, with the skin hardening, a snout growing, and his horns elongating.
Draekus looked at himself: he was not a perfect copy of Nogard, but he was sufficiently transformed. He did not think about the fact that his BBC's DNA stores had been empty upon arrival on the island, nor did he think about the fact that the Necros cyborg he knew was fully flesh-and-blood now. All Draekus knew was that vengeance was in his grasp, and he intended to have it.
Bursting from the cave and taking flight, Draekus began his search for Nogard

The Man stood in his small room, looking at the monitoring screens. The Monitor that had taken care of the previous season had stayed to observe how well he could manage, and now he floated up, saying "I see you failed to completely purge the program"
"So?", said the Man, "Only two small instances of deja vu in the program so far"
"It could have major repercussions on the rest of it, possibly destroy the fabric of the data matrix"
"I doubt so: last time they discovered the truth and the matrix stayed together fine...."
"You've made changes since then", interrupted the Monitor
"....and in the end it made for a much more interesting season", continued the Man, talking over the Monitor, "And in defense of my changes, the review of the avalanche was quite good, thank you"
The Monitor was silent a moment, then he said "I suppose we'll just have to see what happens, won't we?"
"Yes", said the Man, "We'll just have to see"

Episode 5: Desert Foxes, Desert Rats

SPARTAN-064 shook his head as he observed the ruined city block around him. Something had definitely gone down here, something big, but he couldn’t tell what exactly that had been.

After a two days of wandering aimlessly through the seemingly endless desert, he had chanced upon this oddly placed city and the aftermath of what appeared to have been a large battle. Chunks of obliterated concrete and metal littered a large, scorched crater that was obviously the result of some large explosion.

Bending down, 064 pulled a piece of twisted and fused metal from the ground. At first it appeared to be nothing more than another useless hunk of nothing, but upon closer inspection 064 could tell from a few tell-tale markings that it was the remnants of a piece of MJOLNIR armor.

So another SPARTAN fought here... 064 thought pensively. He had no way of knowing if they had emerged victorious from the battle or if they had succumbed to the weapon one of the other “contestants”. His long range communications were dead, and his short range ones weren’t picking up any local communications chatter.

Suddenly, a sudden flurry of Carbine shots impacting against his rear shields put an end to 064’s pondering. Diving to the side, he rolled over to see Rysp’ Arculee reloading his Carbine.

Bringing his Battle Rifle to bear, 064 pumped three bursts into Arculee’s shields as he scrambled to his feet. With a curse in Sanghelli, Arculee sprinted for the cover of a nearby building and vanished into an open doorway. 064 ran after him, reloading his rifle as he did so.

A few seconds later, he cautiously rounded the corner of the doorway. Afraid that a plasma grenade might suddenly appear from nowhere to end his life, the SPARTAN activated his helmet’s flashlight and scanned the room’s dark interior. What he saw made his jaw drop.

Arculee’s headless body lay in a pool of its own blood as its head rolled uselessly in another part of the room. As 064 rapidly checked the rest of the room, he saw no signs of anyone else. Something had somehow killed the Elite and then vanished without a trace.

Thoroughly spooked, 064 fled the building and only stopped when he had reached the outskirts of the city. Turning back to see if he was being followed, the SPARTAN headed off in the direction of the distant volcano.

It was better to face the unknown than to face whatever could have done that.

Back in the room containing Arculee’s decapitated corpse, a human dropped down from the network of pipes that clung to the ceiling. Wiping purple blood off of one of his energy machetes, Rasputin Volveneuk grinned. It had taken him quite a while to get a kill in, and he had been starting to feel depressed. Now that he’d managed to kill something, he felt much better.

Resheathing the machete, Rasputin tugged his shotgun off of his back and jogged out into the city.

SPARTAN-G002 took cover behind a tree as blue plasma bolts whizzed around it. Behind him lay the open expanses of the desert and whatever lay beyond it, and he had been racing for it just moments before. But now he was pinned down by a grey armored Elite that had only just missed shooting him in the back of the head as he ran past.

A few meters away, Icsa ‘Fniasee ceased firing and readied both his Energy Sword and a plasma grenade. Hurling it towards the tree where G002 had taken cover, he waited for it to detonate before charging.

G002, forced away from the tree by the explosion, had less than a second to see Icsa bearing down on him. Bringing his shotgun up, he fired once and struck the Elite’s shoulder, nearly tearing one of its arms off. As Icsa howled with pain, the S-III fired another blast at close range that turned his opponent’s head into a purple mist.

Scrambling to his feet, G002 thumbed two more shells into the shotgun’s receiver and turned to go.

Suddenly, something fell on his back and knocked him to the ground. Before he could cry out, a tentacled arm wrapped around his helmet’s visor and began to pull. The Flood creature known only as “Zombie Jesus” howled as it strained to rip the SPARTAN’s head off.

A sudden barrage of bullets tore the creature to pieces and destroyed the infection form within it. Turning to see who his saviors were, G002 watched as Wisp-G214 and Joshua-G024 emerged from the forest.

“Are you all right?” Wisp asked G002 as he got to his feet.

“Yeah,” the S-III said, his voice unsteady. “What was that thing?”

Joshua shrugged. “At this point it really doesn’t matter. Let’s just get out of here.”

G002 nodded. “The best thing I can think of is to find out what’s on the other side of this desert.”


With that, all three S-IIIs began to head out into the wastes before them. Just then, a flurry of plasma and Needler rounds tore through the air around them. Whirling around, the SPARTANs saw a large group of Elites taking up cover positions behind them.

Wyrda ‘Vadum gestured imperiously at the SPARTANs. “Kill them!”

At that, Iso ‘Vadun, Jemsal ‘Emvadson, and Ssfa ‘Jcoree charged forwards, firing wildly. Meanwhile, Wyrda, Ameigh, Yen, and the others held their positions and lay down a vicious covering fire with their own weapons.

The trio fell back, leaving the forest and stepping onto the desert’s sandy surface.

“Fighting retreat!” Wisp yelled as he ran backwards and fired his weapon at the same time. “We’ll just have to stay alive until we get to a better position!”

“Then we’d better find it fast,” Joshua returned as he and G006 copied Wisp’s actions. “We can’t outrun these guys forever.”

Lieutenant Nathan Vatz crouched low, his boots sinking into the sands that made up the dune he had taken cover behind. Turning to his companion, the Marine gestured at the empty wastes around them.

“You think anyone’s out here?” he asked Gunnery Sergeant Phynn Garland, who was scanning the surrounding area with his sniper rifle.

“If they are, then I can’t see them...” Garland muttered as he continued his observations. “I think we should just keep moving until we get to that city we saw.”

Suddenly, Garland’s head jerked.

“What is it?” Vatz demanded, worried that the sergeant had been hit by something.

“I see three guys in some weird body armor,” Garland gasped. “And they’re being chased by a shitload of Elites!”

Vatz turned in the direction Garland was facing and did indeed see a small group of figures being pursued by a larger group. He closed his eyes for a moment, weighing his decisions carefully. It would be better to just leave the humans to the Elites in the hopes that the aliens would not discover his and Garland’s position. However...

Vatz couldn’t stand by while fellow soldiers were slaughtered. He nodded to Garland. “Engage the Elites. Nail as many of ‘em as you can!”

Garland gave a small nod, sighted in on one red-armored Elite, and pulled the trigger. One hundred yards away, Iso ‘Vadun’s brains were blown out the back of his helmet.

Vatz scrambled to the top of the dune and waved wildly at the three humans. “Hey!” he bellowed. “Over here! We’re human!”

As the SPARTAN-IIIs sprinted for the dune, Vatz opened fire with his assault rifle, shooting indiscriminately at the approaching Elites. Beside him, Garland continued firing with his sniper rifle.

Wyrda nodded to Ameigh and Yen. “Have everyone scatter and converge on the enemy!”

The Elites dispersed, spreading out in a broad semi-circle around the dune. As the SPARTAN-IIIs began to mount the slope, a plasma bolt from Yen’s rifle caught G002 in the back of his leg and sent him tumbling to the ground. Wisp and Joshua both turned to help him, but that meant that Vatz and Garland had no support against the Elites, who were now coming in from all sides.

Jemsal ‘Emvadson reached the bottom of the dune first. Tossing his plasma rifle aside, the Zealot activated his energy sword and charged towards the three S-IIIs. Tugging a sidearm from his leg armor, G002 pulled the trigger as fast as he could. The rounds simply bounced off of Jemsal’s shields, but they served as a warning for the other two, how whirled and shot the Elite to pieces with their submachine guns.

Seeing one of their number die, the rest of the Elites ceased advancing and instead poured fire into the dune from where they were. A shot from Ameigh’s gravity rifle caught G002 in the visor as Wisp and Joshua tried to haul him to safety. Blood spurted from the cracked faceplate, and the other S-IIIs knew that he was dead.

Dropping their comrade, the two remaining SPARTANs retreated to where Vatz and Garland had taken cover.

“Shit!” Wisp snarled as his weapon’s clip emptied. “I’m down to my last mag!”

Joshua checked his own weapon. “I’m on my last mag,” he commented drily.

Vatz let out a string of curse words. “We’ll have to retreat,” he told the others. “Find some better cover and-” A plasma bolt struck him in the head before he could finish.

From where he was standing, Wyrda saw the Marine die. “Advance!” he ordered. “Finish them off!”

As the remaining Elites charged forwards, Ameigh gestured to Yen. “Follow me!” she commanded and, keeping her gravity rifle ready, sprinted around the side of the dune to flank the remaining humans. Yen hesitated, then followed after the hybrid swordmistress.

It looked absolutely hopeless. As Joshua ran out of ammunition and tugged out his own sidearm, Garland looked despairingly at the last clip for his sniper rifle. Beside him, Wisp hurled a grenade at one of the Elites, but his target only dove out of the blast radius.

Ameigh and Yen rounded the dune and charged forwards. Reacting to their sudden appearance, Joshua readied a grenade while firing wildly at the approaching Ameigh, who lashed out with her sword and severed the hand holding the pistol. Seeing her blade rapidly approaching his chest, Joshua lunged forward, impaling himself but also knocking Ameigh off balance.

As Ameigh and the dying S-III tumbled down the slope, Yen lunged forward with her own sword. Garland spun to see her towering over him and brought his sniper rifle around to face her. With a scream of terror, he unloaded his last shot into the Elite’s chest.

The round punched through Yen’s shields and struck her in the abdomen. Yen staggered for a moment, then tumbled down the side towards where Ameigh was struggling to extricate herself from Joshua’s corpse.

Seeing his daughter fall, Wyrda let out a shriek of rage. Bounding up the slope, he slashed at Garland and decapitated him in one stroke.

Wisp’s weapon ran out of bullets just as Ssfa ‘Jcoree reached the top as well. Both Wyrda and Ssfa rounded on the remaining human.

A sudden flurry of battle rifle bursts caught Ssfa in the head, bringing down his shields and killing him in seconds. Both Wisp and Wyrda turned to see SPARTAN-064 striding towards the dune.

With a snarl, Wyrda prepared to kill Wisp, but Ameigh’s voice broke through his rage. “Wyrda!” she called. “Yen’s still alive!”

There was no other choice. Wyrda retreated to where Ameigh was supporting the wounded Yen. “Retreat!” the Elite emperor bellowed, but it was too late. There were no more Elites left to hear him. As 064 reached where Whisp lay and helped him to his feet, the three surviving Elites vanished into the desert, leaving the bodies of their comrades behind.

Episode 6: The City and the Mountain

Nogard was becoming increasingly frustrated as he searched for the miserable VTOL that had caused him so much pain. After close to a day of nonstop flight, he had only rested briefly before continuing in his self-appointed quest of vengeance. Now he was back at the remains of the mountain that still towered over the shattered forest.

He could always give up the search and once again attack prey indiscriminately, but Nogard could not allow the coward who hid behind a windshield and pushed buttons to deliver death escape justice. He would find the pathetic wretch and tear him limb from limb.

Angrily, Nogard took flight and continued his search.

Jared-091 scanned the morning sky with his sniper rifle and motioned to the others behind him. “Looks clear. Let’s move out and head through the desert.”

Behind him SPARTAN-024 looked dubiously towards the forest below. “Hard to know what exactly’s waiting for us,” he commented.

“Its better than hanging around here,” interjected SPARTAN-083. “I prefer a straight fight to just waiting for another one of those landslides to come and kill us.”

As Jared and those behind him advanced, there was a sudden hiss of static on their radios. Moments later, Jacob Stavros’s voice crackled into their ears.

“SPARTANs?” the pilot asked in amazement. “Are you all really SPARTANs?”

Jared turned his sniper rifle and, gazing through its scope, saw a Hornet VTOL hovering above the mountain. Opening a link to the pilot, he replied, “Roger that. You need a hand with anything?”

Inside his cockpit, Stavros laughed and shook his head. “Negative, I’ve only had one enemy contact and I took him out pretty easily. Say, I saw a few more SPARTANs and a couple Marines down in the forest earlier. If you want, I can get into contact with them and tell them where to meet you all.”

Jared nodded. “Sounds good.”

Stavros manipulated the controls in his Hornet and angled around the mountain and out of sight. Jared turned to the group that seemed to have made him its leader and nodded. “Well, let’s keep it moving then.”

“We should move out,” Jeremy Patterson told the other three humans who were taking shelter in the small office building with him. “I don’t want to be around here when more guys show up to investigate that explosion.”

Mark Rakken, seated calmly on an overturned filing cabinet as he polished his helmet, turned to look at his fellow ODST. “What we should do, sergeant,” the captain said coldly. “Is exactly what you seem so keen on avoiding. I think it’s been made clear that this thing will only end when there’s no one left to kill. Running will only make this whole mess more complicated.”

“Oh, you have got to be shitting me!” Patterson spat with disgust. “I can’t believe you’re actually pulling rank on me!”

“If we let go of the chain of command then we might as well let go of all of our training as well,” Rakken returned. “We’re staying here and taking on whoever’s stupid enough to try and kill us.”

Off in another corner of the room, SPARTAN-C007 started to say something, but stopped when the others turned to look at him. “It’s nothing,” he muttered, not wishing to bring up the unpleasant fact that this battle would continue to go on until only one of them was left alive. It would be a bad idea to sow the seeds of possible discord at a time like this.

Jeffrey-110 turned his head from where he stood at the room’s window, covering the streets below with his assault rifle. “Captain,” he said, addressing Rakken. “That creature you said that you and the other ODSTs encountered. What was it like?”

Both Rakken and Patterson shivered at the unpleasant memory of Nogard. “I don’t know how to describe it,” the captain muttered uneasily. “It was like some sort of dinosaur or something.”

“More like a dragon,” Patterson interjected. “It had some big-ass wings.”

“Whatever it was,” Rakken continued, “it didn’t seem hurt at all by normal bullets. I don’t think we’ve got the ordinance to take it out if it shows up.”

“Then let’s hope it doesn’t,” said C007. “And if it does, let’s just take cover until it goes away.”

“Agreed,” said Rakken, thinking back to the fates of Iotas Seven and Thirteen.

Suddenly, Jeffery tensed. “Heads up,” he whispered softly. “We’ve got guests: four Bravo Kilos inbound.”

Lokstok stared up at the building before him and grinned. “They’re in that one. I can smell them.”

Beside him, Novus frowned uncertainly. “I do as well,” he rumbled. “But I can smell other things as well. There’s another human hiding here somewhere, and there’s Sanghelli blood on the air.”

With a laugh, Lokstok hefted his gravity hammer playfully. “Worry about them later,” he told the younger Jiralhanae. “Right now the only thing you should be thinking about is killing the Demons in that building.”

Hearing the title for the hated SPARTANs, Marius and Keilus jogged over to where Lokstok and Novus were standing. “Demons?” Marius demanded. “Are you sure?”

Lokstok nodded and grinned. “It’s their armor,” he explained. “It’s got it’s own smell, and I can definitely smell it coming from two different places in that building. There’s a couple other humans there too, but who cares about them?”

In the time and place that Marius and Keilus came from, the UNSC were their allies. However, the Demons still held a special place in the horror stories told to young cubs, and this was definitely not a time in which intergalactic politics were a priority. “Well, let’s kill them then,” Keilus growled, tugging out his energy axe and pistol. “There’s no sense standing around here making a target of ourselves.”

Marius eyed the building thoughtfully. “Wait,” he told the others. “I have a plan.”

“I’m the only one with a battle rifle,” Jeremy Patterson muttered uneasily. SPARTANs 110 and C007 both wielded standard assault rifles, and Mark Rakken carried a suppressed M7 submachine gun.

Below them, the Brutes seemed to have split up. Two, both carrying gravity hammers, were approaching the building’s entrance warily. The other two had vanished into the city.

“Do they know our positions?” Rakken asked, faceless behind his ODST helmet.

“I think they can smell us in here,” Patterson replied as he continued to observe the Brutes. “But they can’t know our full strength or they wouldn’t have split up like they just did.”

“Captain,” SPARTAN-110 interjected. “Mind if I make a suggestion?”

“Go ahead,” replied Rakken, who was more than ready to have some suggestions thrown his way. “We’ll head a little lower in the building,” SPARTAN-110 said, gesturing towards himself and C007. “The two of us will deal with those two Brutes while you support Sergeant Patterson as he monitors the street.”

Rakken considered this. He didn’t like the idea of splitting up, but it seemed like the best option. Besides, these SPARTANs would be more than capable of handling a couple of Brutes.

The ODST nodded. “Go ahead and do it,” he told the SPARTANs. “We’ll radio you if those other two show up again.”

Lokstok advanced cautiously through the building’s darkened hallway. His keen senses of smell and hearing were being strained to their maximum potential as he fought to ensure that the enemy he was supposed to be ambushing did not turn the tables on him and set up an ambush of their own.

He wished that he could still see Marius, but the other Jiralhanae had vanished down another corridor several minutes ago. Now, all that Lokstok could hear was his own stifled breathing.

Suddenly, he heard a dull grating sound, that ceased as quickly as it had begun. Narrowing his eyes and squinting into the darkness, Lokstok tightened his grip on the gravity hammer and continued onwards.

Just as he was preparing to turn the next corner, a grenade landed at his feet with a thud. Snarling in surprise, Lokstok kicked it back, but not quickly enough to evade the blast entirely. A burst of shrapnel and flame burnt through the wall, leaving its surface scorched and cracked, while Lokstok himself was thrown to the ground.

SPARTAN-C007 rounded the corner and opened fire on the prostrate Brute. His assault rifle rounds buried themselves deep into Lokstok’s deep flesh.

With a howl of pain and fury, Lostok seized the gravity hammer from where it lay beside him and lashed out with it. C007 leapt nimbly out of the way, and the massive weapon buried its head in the already damaged wall. Lokstok used the handle to pull himself upright, but the hammer was too thickly embedded in the wall.

Before Lokstok could continue in his efforts to free his weapon, C007 retreated down the hallway, firing as he did so. The furious Brute charged after him, activating both of his energy gauntlets as he did so. Hearing his magazine run empty, C007 dropped the assault rifle and drew his sidearm in one fluid motion. By this point, however, Lokstok was already on top of him.

The Brute slashed downwards with his left gauntlet, but C007 blocked the oncoming arm with his free hand and fired his pistol into Lokstok’s chest. With a howl of fury, Lokstok brought his other gauntlet in, aiming at the SPARTAN’s faceplate.

C007 tried to disengage, but only succeeded in shifting his body enough so that the blade struck him in the shoulder. Blood spurted from the wound as Lokstok pressed downwards, sinking his blade even deeper.

With a desperate cry, C007 lashed out with one of his legs, pushing his opponent away. As he did so, Lokstok managed to attack with his left wrist blade again and sliced C007’s sidearm in half. Forced back by the strength of the SPARTAN’s kick, Lokstok fought to regain his balance.

Relying on years of training to ignore the searing pain in his still-bleeding shoulder, C007 bent down and seized his assault rifle, fumbling on his belt for another ammunition clip. But now Lokstok was attacking him again, slashing through his armor and deep into his chest.

C007 fell back, gasping for air as his lungs filled with blood. With a manic grin, Lokstok hauled him upright with one hand and, with a grunt of effort, tore C007’s wounded arm off.

The dying SPARTAN tried to scream, but he could no longer even summon enough air for that final expression of pain. Lokstok let him tumble to the ground and he lay there, blood pouring from the stump of his shoulder and his chest.

Lokstok glared down contemptuously at the wheezing C007 and then, with a huff of contempt, stalked away to retrieve his gravity hammer. His many wounds were burning with agony, but the Brute simply shoved the pain into a small corner of his mind and focused solely on the task at hand. He hoped that Marius’s plan was succeeding.

Behind him, C007 gave a last strangled gasp and died, his corpse lying still in a pool of its own blood.

Marius sprinted down the hallway, holding his gravity hammer high. Its sparking head scraped against the ceiling, leaving many spiderwebs of cracks in its wake. He had just heard some scattered assault rifle fire coming from somewhere else inside the building, which meant that Lokstok had already engaged the enemy. He could smell something up ahead, and he was certain that it was a Demon.

From behind the barricade that he had constructed from desks and filing cabinets, SPARTAN-110 heard the chieftain approach. Leveling his assault rifle, he hurled a grenade over his makeshift barrier and fired away into the darkness.

The grenade bounced at Marius’s feet, but he passed over it so quickly that it only exploded harmlessly in his wake. The sudden flurry of bullets were not as ineffective, however, and a few managed to pierce his power armor and draw blood.

SPARTAN-110 reloaded and retreated moments before Marius reached the barricade and simply ran through it, knocking objects out of his way as he single mindedly charged the SPARTAN.

110 kept firing. “Allison,” he barked to his AI, “are you picking up anything from C007?”

“Negative,” Allison replied. “I’m not getting any reading from him at all.”

110 cursed, and then cursed again when he felt his back run up against a wall. As he began to sidestep, Marius reached him.

The Brute swept his gravity hammer at the SPARTAN, who ducked. The hammer struck the wall behind him with such force that it blew it apart, revealing the city outside. 110 fired up at his opponent, wounding him several more times.

Marius hit the SPARTAN with the handle of his hammer, depleting his shields and knocking him to the ground. Kicking his helpless enemy in the chest, Marius pinned him to the ground with his foot and raised his hammer for the finishing blow.

110 weakly lifted his sidearm and fired into the leg that kept him trapped. As Marius reflexively convulsed with pain, the SPARTAN rolled to his feet and tried to run.

With a single massive fist, Marius reached forwards and seized the SPARTAN’s helmet. Grunting with the effort, he squeezed his fist closed, crushing 110’s head within the helmet.

But Allison, in a last gesture of defiance, overrode the MJOLNIR armor’s safety protocols and activated the suit’s auto-destruct sequence. The blast consumed Marius and a good chunk of the building, sending body parts and rubble to the ground below.

Mark Rakken and Jeremy Patterson felt the explosion as it rocked the floor beneath their feet.

“What the hell was that?” Patterson exclaimed, abandoning his observation of the streets.

“I don’t know,” replied Rakken from where he stood covering the door. “But it probably isn’t good. Any sign of those other Brutes?”

“Negative,” Jeremy said, frowning inside his helmet. “Where could they-”

Suddenly, Keilus appeared in the doorway, a pistol in one hand and his plasma axe in the other. With a yell of surprise, Rakken started to fire with his SMG, but Keilus’s armor simply deflected the bullets. Shooting Rakken in the chest, Keilus knocked him aside and charged towards Patterson. The other ODST fired at the oncoming Brute with his Battle Rifle, but was unable to kill him before Keilus pinned him to the window ledge with his pistol arm. With a brutal grin, Keilus raised his plasma axe.

Jeremy closed his eyes and waited for the end.

There was a sudden burst of suppressed SMG fire, and Keilus jerked in surprise. His eyes went blank and he slid to the floor with a thump. Jeremy opened his eyes and looked down at the Brute. The bullets had torn into an unprotected spot in his neck, killing him instantly.

From where he lay, Rakken coughed weakly and lowered his SMG. Patterson moved to help him, but before he could Novus burst into the room, blazing away with his Nailer Rifle. Both ODSTs screamed as the weapon’s rounds ripped through their flesh and tore them to pieces, leaving both of their bodies in blood-soaked heaps on the ground.

Novus lowered his rifle and glanced at Keilus’s corpse. He had let his eager companion charge in blindly in order to expose the enemy’s strength, but he hadn’t expected the enemy to be able to kill him so quickly.

“I apologize, brother,” he murmured to Keilus. “I didn’t mean to use you like that.”

The two of them had followed Marius’s guidance and entered the building through a back entrance. While Marius and Lokstok had drawn the enemy’s attention, Novus and Keilus had made their way up to the room where Lokstok had initially smelled the humans.

Novus heard a noise behind him and turned to see Lokstok leaning on his gravity hammer in the doorway. Blood was still seeping from the wounds inflicted by C007.

“I heard your weapon,” Lokstok gasped in explanation. “Before that I killed one of the Demons in a hallway below us.”

“Where is Chieftain Marius?” Novus asked, shouldering the Pinner Rifle.

“Dead,” Lokstok replied. “It seems that the blast a few moments ago killed both him and the Demon he was fighting.”

Both Brutes stood in silence for several moments. Then Novus stepped forwards and extended a hand. “We should find another building to take cover in for now,” he said. “Come, let me help you with your wounds.”

Lokstok raised his eyebrows. “Aren’t you going to kill me? I won’t get any more vulnerable than I am now.”

“No,” Novus responded grimly. “I have already been responsible for the death of one of our brethren today. I won’t kill another while he is wounded.”

“Very... noble of you,” observed Lokstok. “Well, I suppose that I don’t have any other option but to accept your help.” He allowed Novus to help him sit down, leaning his back against the wall.

“We mustn’t linger here,” Novus said, tugging some medical supplies from his armor. “Once you can walk again, we’ll have to keep moving.”

Lokstok said nothing, and instead closed his eyes while Novus treated his wounds. He was unsure of what to do now. He had been planning to kill the smaller Brute ever since he had realized that Marius was no more, but now he owed his life to that same Brute. This situation would require some thought...

Far away from the city, above the rubble strewn forest, Nogard had sighted his prey. The Hornet was hovering beside the mountain, oblivious to his presence. Soaring forwards, Nogard folded his wings and dove towards the small VTOL.

Although shocked to see the creature he had thought to be dead, Stavros reacted quickly. Maneuvering his Hornet around, he fired two missiles at the oncoming creature, the same way he had defeated it before. But this time Nogard was prepared for this.

Curving his body, he soared to one side and the missiles streaked past him. Opening his wings again, the Precursor closed the distance between himself and the Hornet and landed on it, weighing it down.

Screaming in terror, Stavros jerked his throttle, spinning the Hornet in an attempt to shake Nogard off. The Precursor rammed one clawed arm into the VTOL’s cockpit, hoping to kill the pilot inside.

A desperate Stavros opened fire with his craft’s machine guns. The bullets failed to penetrate Nogard’s armored body, but they did knock him from his precarious perch on the Hornet.

As Nogard fell away, fighting to regain altitude, Stavros struggled to bring his still-spinning Hornet under control. Turning his head to the side, he saw the grey rock face of the mountain rushing up to meet him. His mouth opened to scream...

There are some who feel that technology can somehow surpass and dominate nature through sheer power. They are wrong. Nature will always be the ultimate force in the universe because it is inexorable, unstoppable, and all-encompassing. The laws of physics are always on its side.

Jacob Stavros’s advanced, expensive Hornet struck the mountain. The missiles that remained in it ignited and exploded, causing the ammunition and fuel to go up as well. The entire VTOL was consumed in a ball of fire that scorched the rocks black and sent small fragments of metal in all directions.

Nogard watched the whole thing with a feeling of intense satisfaction. This moment of triumph over an enemy he had spent the past twenty four hours hunting lasted for all of fifteen seconds. Then he was on the move again, searching for more prey.

SPARTAN-091 stopped, allowing his fellow SPARTANs to pass him by. His keen senses, honed by years of practice and training, had picked up the distant explosion of Stavros’s Hornet. Frowning inside his helmet, he opened a channel to the pilot.

“You in the Hornet,” he said into his radio. “Did you see that explosion just now? What caused it?”

There was no response but the crackling of static.

With his frown deepening, 091 unslung his sniper rifle. Whatever was going on, he wanted to be ready.

“What’s wrong?” Asked a small voice at his elbow. Jared turned and saw the small figure of Simon-G294 standing by his side, looking up at the sky.

“Nothing,” replied the SPARTAN-II as he turned back towards the rest of the group as they trekked down the mountain. “Just be ready for trouble.”

Draekus Damon had seen the explosion from afar, and had flown closer to investigate. Now he rested his eyes on his target: Nogard.

The Precursor creature had alighted on an outcropping on the mountain and seemed to be observing a group of SPARTANs as they made their way down a small path. He was obviously about to ambush them... but Draekus would ensure that the monster never killed again.

Nogard launched himself towards the SPARTANs while Draekus sped forwards to save them. None of them were aware of what was about to happen, but five seconds later they were all quite painfully aware of what was going on.

And a little while after that realization, quite a few of them were dead.

Season discontinued

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