Layla-B101, also known by the callsign of BLUEBELL, was a SPARTAN-III Commando of Beta Company, serving in the secretive Headhunters unit for many years during the Human-Covenant War. Having survived the glassing of her planet, Layla was eventually recruited into the program at a young age and was noted for having exceptional qualities among the recruits for Beta Company. After completing more than two specially assigned training missions, she was taken away from her peers in Beta Company, along with several others, and placed into a special training facility on the far side of Onyx, where they underwent a rigorous physical and mental training regime that would see them broken into separate teams after three months. After the selection process was completed, Layla was paired with Grantley-B130,after they were found to be the highest matching pair within the Headhunter Unit.
Following their augmentations in 2541, the Headhunters were put through another two years of supervised field exercises on Onyx until they were ready to be dispatched into combat. Layla and the other Headhunters were first deployed in early 2541, being assigned with Grantley on various deep-cover missions behind enemy lines. In spite of several losses over the years, the Headhunters remained active throughout the war, Layla and Grantley being one of the best teams within the unit, with a knack for both infiltration and evasion while sabotaging Covenant structures behind enemy lines. It is for this reason that the Covenant began deploying Sangheili SpecOps teams to eliminate the Spartan threat, leading to several deaths amongst the unit, though the pair were able to defeat their would-be ambushers on more than one occasion. In 2546, while on a mission to sabotage a Covenant refuelling station, Layla was forced to stay behind after a thruster malfunction, urging her partner to escape while she faced certain death against a vastly superior foe.
Instead of dying in combat, Layla she was captured by the enemy and brought her back to Sangheilios, where she was held in secret captivity for a number of years. While on the planet, the young Spartan endured years of torture and humiliation at the hands of her captor. It was not until 2551 that she escaped with the help of a sympathetic Sangheili, stowing aboard a Covenant warship and eventually landing on the planet of Yusaris II during an invasion, where she was found by a group of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers and picked up by ONI. Following months of rehabilitation, she was eventually cleared for duty around the time of the Fall of Reach, though she only participated in fighting on the nearby planet of Tribute. and killed the Shipmaster responsible for her captivity before escaping the system. For the remainder of the Human-Covenant War, Layla remained on Earth, fighting against the Covenant when they invaded. Once peace had been officially declared, she was eventually placed in Fireteam Thor, a group of Spartans who would be sent against the toughest targets ONI could find for them.
Layla Farkas was born on the outer colony world of Prospect, on April 14th, 2533. The colony was known for it's great prosperity, Layla's parents being quite wealthy. As such, the first few years of her life were spent living in luxury, being given whatever she wished for. This was not to last, however, as in 2537, shortly after her fourth birthday, the Covenant attacked the Colony, alien infantry massacring civilians as they invaded the capital with little resistance. While heading to the spaceport, Layla's parents were gunned down by a Sangheili warrior, who was about to turn his attention to the little girl before a large metallic pod struck the city street metres away.
Once the doors had sprung off, a figure stepped out and, after a brief fight, was able to bring down the alien with multiple shotgun blasts. The man introduced himself to the little girl as an ODST, and offered to take her to safety. Still in shock over the sudden death of her parents, she accepted and travelled with him to the spaceport, the trooper defending her from enemies all the way. Once they had reached the relative safety of the port, which was still defended by UNSC forces, the man removed his helmet and introduced himself properly to Layla as Henry McNair, calming her down as she cried. Eventually, McNair placed Layla on an evacuation ship, waving her a goodbye before heading off into the fray. Though only four years old at the time, Layla never forgot the profound impact that day had on her, and resolved to be just as strong as the trooper who saved her.
Layla spent several months in an orphanage on an inner colony world, mourning the deaths of her parents and interacting with few others. While in the orphanage, she ended up getting into several fights, still being used to getting what she wanted and being perceived as rude and bossy by the other children. This came to a head when she ended up fighting with another girl, Catherine, who was a few years older than her. Though the fight was broken up, the two of them had beaten each other almost senseless. After being forced to spend several days in isolation to think about what they had done, Layla and Catherine apologised, and soon became good friends, the former seeing the latter as a sort of big sister.
In 2539, Layla and many others at the orphanage were given the opportunity to get their revenge on the Covenant, agents from the Office of Naval Intelligence interviewing various children and encouraging them to join up. She accepted, and was brought to Onyx along with 417 others to begin the intense training that would forge them into Spartans.
On Onyx, Layla strived to be the best, becoming heavily competitive with the other trainees and often acting alone in training exercises without the help of her team mates. Though it quickly became clear that she was more skilled than the others, her team would constantly do poorly as a whole, leading to a few heated arguments before Lieutenant Commander Kurt Ambrose stepped in and spoke to Layla about the value of cooperation. As she had done with Catherine, Layla apologised to her team and they quickly began to get along better, their overall performance improving.
After half a year of training, Layla, along with nearly two dozen others who had been marked out for having exceptional skill were offered the chance to participate in 'advanced training missions' elsewhere on Onyx. However, this would separate them from the rest of Beta Company. Being given a single day to consider the offer, Layla asked Catherine, now better known as 'Kat' within the company, for advice, not wanting to be separated from her and the rest of Beta for the sake of being put into another unit. Rather than convince her to stay, Kat encouraged Layla to go for it, stating that such chances should never be passed up.
Layla joined the other candidates in these special missions, which were designed to be much more dangerous and difficult than even the regular SPARTAN-III training, leading to several injuries among the participants even on the first day. It was during these missions that Layla first met Grantley-B130, who saved her from a sentry gun's TTR rounds and pulled her into cover while several others flanked and destroyed the machine. Though initially annoyed at the other trainee for saving her out of some kind of personal pride, the two became friends over the next few days as they underwent more training missions, most of which ending in many trainees being 'killed'. It was after surviving two fiendishly difficult ones that washed out many applicants, Layla and the survivors were given the news that they would be transported to another training facility on Onyx for further training, being taken away from Beta Company for good.
Before leaving Camp Currahee, Layla bid farewell to Kat and her friends in Team Foxtrot, handing over command to Tom-B292. That night, she and the other trainees were transported across Onyx to a new training facility, where it was announced that they would be part of a new SPARTAN Operations group, codenamed 'Headhunter'. From there the candidates went through seven months of supervised field exercises, during which data was compiled in order to pair each person with someone suitable. Unsurprisingly, Layla ended up being paired with Grantley, having a match rating exceeding 95%. The next six months were spent in real-world wartime insertions, giving the young Spartans a taste of combat for the first time, albeit from behind enemy lines.
In 2541, along with the rest of the SPARTAN-III Beta Company, the seventeen Headhunters that made up the complete program underwent a series of augmentations that would transform them into Spartans, giving massive boosts to their speed, strength and dexterity. Barely a month after augmentation procedures were completed, the six Headhunter teams were dispatched to their first missions, with the intent of causing as much havoc behind enemy lines as possible.
After departing Onyx for the last time, Layla and the Headhunters were put to work for ONI, being given the latest and most advanced gear for their missions. Layla and Grantley became a nigh-unstoppable pair while on missions, inflicting extensive damage to various enemy installations and performing over a dozen successful assassination missions on enemy commanders in various theatres of war, all while remaining in the shadows. The two of them were able to turn the tide of many ground battles from behind the scenes, though like the rest of the SPARTAN-III Project, their actions were never officially documented and acknowledged publicly.
For several years, the Headhunter project proved to be a great success, even with only a handful of operators being active at one time. Layla and Grantley in particular were known to be some of the more lethal operators, both being known for their brutality against the enemy, which was excessive even by SPARTAN standards. While Grantley would cripple enemies before finishing them off, Layla had a penchant for using her combat knife in battle, on Elites in particular. This did not, however, impede their success on the battlefield, but gave the Spartans a reputation amongst the Covenant forces who found their supply lines and bases destroyed afterwards, leading to teams of Sangheili being formed for the specific task of hunting down the Spartans.
In 2545, Layla and Grantley encountered one of these teams while on a mission to destroy a Covenant hydro-processing facility. Layla would have been killed had it not been for Grantley, who had his newly developed VISR technology active, allowing him to take out the first enemy and warn Layla before the Spartans were surrounded. Realising that the poorly-guarded facility had been a trap, the pair managed to escape after a close encounter with Sur 'Ranakee, an Elite SpecOps leader. Though the facility was destroyed after they escaped, the fact that the Covenant were now laying traps for them disturbed Layla somewhat. Even more so when she found out that four other headhunters had been killed in similar ambushes while on missions, though one pair, Jonah and Roland, had obliterated their attackers and the surrounding area at the cost of their own lives.
Following this, the remaining Headhunters were forced to act much more cautiously while on missions; while they were sent out on some of the most dangerous operations, each member was deemed more valuable than an average SPARTAN-III. Later that year, Layla received word of the pyrrhic victory during Operation: TORPEDO, which had led to the near-annihilation of Beta Company. This came as a shock to her, having seemingly lost her entire family again, including Kat (Layla being unaware of her transfer some time before the mission). During this time, Grantley comforted his grieving partner a great deal and helped her get over their deaths by making her focus her anger on the Covenant, the young woman becoming much more violent as a result.
By the age of thirteen, in 2546, Layla's kill count had amounted to more than that of a company of regular soldiers, with an exemplary service record to match, possible mental issues notwithstanding. Like many of the child soldiers recruited for the SPARTAN-III Program, Layla had an unnaturally high level of aggression and exhibited signs of antisocial behaviour while not speaking to her peers within the unit. This, however, was seen as nothing out of the ordinary by the ONI agents constantly updating and reviewing her file after each mission. The one person who seemed able to keep Layla in check was Grantley, whose calm nature counteracted his partner's violent one.
In July of that year, Layla would participate in her last mission as a Headhunter. She and Grantley were dispatched to a remote Covenant station with orders to destroy it, slowing down the enemy advance into the inner colonies. The pair were inserted via a Black Cat-class subprowler, and managed to board the station successfully, having less than half an hour to infiltrate the station and destroy it before the oxygen supplies both in their SPI suits and tanks ran out. They would then have to exfiltrate to a nearby prowler using their thruster packs and leave the system after detonating the explosives before any Covenant ships could take notice.
Though this was a difficult mission, even by Headhunter standards, Layla and Grantley boarded the station with little difficulty, and after silently eliminating a nearby security team, set out for the main reactor room. As Grantley planted the C-12 charges, an alarm was inadvertently triggered by Layla. The two of them were able to flee for some distance before strike teams, exclusively made up of Sangheili, attacked the Spartans. During the brief melee, an energy sword sliced Layla's thruster pack, which she threw off before it exploded. Fleeing to their insertion point, the Headhunters faced the problem of Layla not being able to escape.
With only a brief moment of hesitation, Layla offered to stay behind while Grantley escaped to the Prowler. After he took off, the young SPARTAN-III attempted to take down as many elites as she could before dying. Though she did indeed kill over a dozen enemies, when their leader, a gold-clad Officer, overpowered Layla in close combat. Instead of killing her, the Sangheili decided to take the supersoldier as his prisoner prisoner. Though this surprised the troops under his command, they did not interfere as Layla was knocked unconscious and brought to his personal dropship. The charges that had been set on the reactors had been disarmed, making the mission being a failure for the Headhunters and prompting a costly open assault several weeks later. When Layla awoke, she was being held in the prison block of a Covenant capital ship, which set a course for her captor's homeworld, Sanghelios.
Prisoner of War
Imprisoned within an enemy keep on an alien planet, Layla had very little chance of escaping. Her captor, a lesser Kaidon named Deyad 'Marakee, had decided to keep her alive as both a trophy and a pet while the galactic genocide of humanity continued. The SPARTAN-III was kept in ample conditions within the keep, as Marakee wished to keep her alive and well for the time being. As the only English-speaking Sangheili there, the Kaidon was the only person Layla spoke to for some time, his frequent returns to battle leaving her isolated and alone.
Years passed, Layla living out her existence within the confines of the Keep's dungeon. She never gave up hope, however. On more than one occasion, Sangheili from the keep had attempted to kill or cripple the Spartan, whom they saw as little more than a child. These attempts usually ended badly for her tormentors, there being several deaths on one occasion when she was able to grab the handle of an energy sword. Impressed by the tenacity of his prize, Marakee allowed Layla to spar with others on occasion, those defeated by the human in single combat being disgraced. It was on the fourth year of her imprisonment that Layla met Rora 'Marak, a young and talented warrior within the keep. The two were evenly matched in sparring, neither one managing to get a vital hit, often fighting until both participants were exhausted and made to stop. He was the single Sangheili whom the Spartan could not beat in single combat.
As the months passed, frequent sparring sessions with Rora led to a mutual respect between the two, leading to many rumours spreading around the Keep that they had become friends. When the Kaidon returned, he was surprised to see how the young Spartan, once regarded as little more than a pet and plaything, had come to be regarded with some amount of respect and even fear by some of the Sangheili there. Enraged, he personally executed several who he saw as too friendly to Layla before almost killing her. She spent several months recuperating, all illusions of the near-normalcy that years in the Keep had given her gone. By the year 2551, Layla finally put a plan in motion to escape Sanghelios for good.
After weeks of meticulous planning, memorising patrol routes and possible breakout points, Layla made her final attempt at leaving her prison. During the night, she was able to slip out of her cell, having tricked the guard into leaving it unlocked. From there, she made it to the Keep's armoury, taking an energy sword and plasma rifle before coming face to face with Rora 'Marak. The two clashed in silence for some time, unable to best each other. Eventually, he conceded that she was a worthy opponent, deciding to assist in her escape. While he acquired a Revenant, Layla would use a cluster of plasma grenades to destroy a section of the keep to divert attention away from them.
However, Rora was unaware of how badly Layla wished for revenge. Sneaking into the Keep's living quarters, she massacred dozens of Sangheili in minutes, including many women and children, before escaping. Rora was unaware of this as they escaped on the Revenant, fleeing far from the Keep towards a nearby port, where a CCS-Class Battlecruiser was currently docked. It wasn't long before the vengeful Marakee clan began to pursue the escapees, this time with the intent of killing the absent Kaidon's pet for her crimes.
It was not until they reached the port that Layla revealed her actions to Rora, leading to another fight. This time, however, the SPARTAN-III was able to gain the upper hand, wounding but not killing her accomplice and escaping onto a cargo container bound for the ship. When the others did arrive, they confronted Rora, who in a fit of rage killed a dozen members of his own clan before making his escape, being branded as a heretic and traitor for helping Layla. Shortly after, the ship departed Sanghelios with their human stowaway hidden in the cargo hold. Layla was able to break out of her container with ease, ready to do anything to survive the trip home.
Aboard the supercarrier, Layla quickly expended the meagre supplies she had packed, forcing her to venture out to forage for food. The Spartan, in an almost feral state, killed and ate several Unggoy to survive, keeping to the lower decks of the ship where she would not be discovered. It was around this time that she encountered a group of Huragok, or Engineers, who were responsible for most of the upkeep around the ship. Establishing some form of communication, Layla was able to obtain edible food from the creatures, who also hid her from passing patrols searching for the lost Unggoy.
After some time, the Battlecruiser arrived alongside a small Covenant fleet above Yusaris II, an inner colony world that soon came under attack. While a fleet of UNSC ships engaged the Covenant, Layla saw this as a perfect opportunity to escape, gaining access to the upper decks while searching for a way out. Using a stolen plasma rifle, she was able to shoot her way past any resistance until she came across the launch bay, which dozens of Orbital Insertion Pods were located. After taking down a Sangheili warrior, Layla stole his pod and, despite the unfamiliar controls, was able to launch, heading straight for the besieged planet's surface.
Layla's pod hit the ground in the middle of one of the planet's jungles, not far from the frontlines. Wearing only basic garments, she got away as fast as she could, before spotting a Covenant patrol heading her way. Not possessing the armour and physical fitness that she had as a Headhunter, Layla evaded them, hiding in a tree for some time before giving a pursuit, a half-charged rifle as her only weapon. Eventually, she caught up to the alien soldiers, who were engaged in a vicious firefight with a Marine fireteam. Sneaking up behind the distracted lance, Layla mowed several down in a stream of plasma fire before attacking, much to the bewilderment of the Marines. As they moved up, they discovered the SPARTAN-III repeatedly stabbing a Sangheili Officer in the neck with it's own energy dagger.
Believing her to be little more than a civilian, the Marines took Layla back to an outpost, where they discussed what to do with her, being so far from the nearest spaceport or refugee camp. Layla, who had been given a spare pair of fatigues to wear, overheard one suggesting that they abandon her and regroup with their company. Frightened and wary, the near-rabid Spartan slipped outside, and stabbed one of the Marines on guard to death. Then, taking his weapon, she proceeded to gun down each and every member of the fireteam, hijacking their warthog and heading in the direction of a besieged human city.
Upon arriving in the city, which had become a warzone, Layla abandoned the warthog and began to creep through enemy lines, avoiding UNSC and Covenant troops alike. Managing to reach the top of a building, she spied Marine Pelicans heading in from what she assumed was the spaceport, and began to make her way over there. Using the escape and evasion skills that she had learned years before, Layla was able to go unspotted for some time, until she eventually reached the UNSC staging area by the Spaceport. While making a dash for cover, however, she was spotted by a group of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, who pursued her for some time, falling back slightly when she fired at them.
Taking up a position in a bombed-out building, Layla prepared to ambush the advancing troopers, until she herself was caught off-guard by one. A struggle ensued, the unusually strong girl in combat fatigues being able to match the armoured ODST in close combat until his squad arrived, surrounding her. Seeing no way out, Layla, who had not spoken to another human being in five years, finally broke down, sobbing before her captors. Their leader waved the others off, and removed his helmet, introducing himself as Gunnery Sergeant Ash Mitchell. The trooper's friendly nature reminded her of McNair, who had saved her life after her parents had been killed. The two spoke for some time before Layla allowed herself to be handcuffed, and brought back to the UNSC outpost.
After some basic DNA and service record testing, the Office of Naval Intelligence was informed that one of their top-secret SPARTAN-III's had turned up after years of being presumed as Killed in Action. Layla was taken offworld as a new UNSC Battlegroup arrived, pushing forward and decimating the Covenant fleet. After some time, she was taken to Reach for questioning over her ordeal, and possible reinstatement as a soldier.
For months, Layla was subjected to a mix of rehabilitative and interrogative procedures by the agents, explaining her story of capture, escape and survival to those holding her. During this time, she exhibited several aggressive outbursts, injuring many until she was incarcerated. Weighing up her instability as a result of her years of torment to her usefulness as a SPARTAN-III, it was eventually decided that she would be re-trained and put into action again as soon as possible. However, she would be put in as a lone operator, now lacking the skills to operate efficiently in a partnership or as a team. Layla would work to slowly regain her former strength and refined her skills, regaining many things that she had lost during her capture on Sanghelios. During her retraining period she was stationed on Reach, where Grantley-B130 was sent in to assist her. Overjoyed at meeting her old friend despite his immense guilt over being forced to abandon her, Layla bore Grantley no hard feelings and relished the chance to spar against a genuinely skilled partner. During this time, she told him about Rora 'Marak - something she had hidden even from ONI's interrogators - and his hand in her escape, though she asserted that all Sangheili deserved to die for their monstrous actions, something her Headhunter partner agreed with.
After many months, she was finally introduced to the MJOLNIR Mark V armour, a significant improvement to her old SPI suit. It took some time for Layla to get used to the new armour, installing several small upgrades before putting in a sepcial request for a MJOLNIR-compatible ODST helmet as she had done in her Headhunter days. With no current assignment, Layla was assigned to participante in the experimental Sabre Program, which was designed to give the UNSC a capable space superiority fighter. Though she had little experience in piloting a spacecraft, she took to it with great enthusiasm and after weeks of simulations was introduced to the craft itself. During her time there she met with fellow Beta Company survivor Leandra-B031, though the two did not get on particularly well due to their conflicting attitudes; Layla believed Leandra to be a stuck-up snob while the other Spartan saw her as mentally unfit for duty. Nonetheless, they worked together in several training exercises before fielding their Sabres against the Mamore Insurrection alongside SPARTAN-B312, who departed mid-operation on secret orders while Layla and Leandra destroyed rebel forces in the planet's orbit. Following this mission, Layla was moved to the Epsilon Eridani system and stationed in a military base on Tribute to await further orders.
When the Covenant invaded the Epsilon Eridani System in August of 2552, its main target was Reach, the UNSC's largest military world outside the Sol System. However, this did stop them from launching invasions of other colony worlds in the system. Chief among these was Tribute, with its sprawling urban metropolises and industrial zones being prime targets for the Covenant military. With the majority of local Spartan assets situated on Reach, Layla was one of the few supersoldiers able to defend the colony world and assist in covering the mass civilian evacuation.
Within minutes of arriving, Layla ran into a Covenant patrol on the outskirts of Casbah. For the first time in years she was armed and in a position of power against her foe on the ground, and relished in slaughtering them, her MJOLNIR suit making the battle so much easier than it had been years before. Quickly finishing off her first foes and eager to find more, Layla wandered Casbah's streets, picking off patrols until she received a distress signal from a trapped Orbital Drop Shock Trooper team nearby. They had been evacuating a large group of schoolchildren before being pinned down in a building by Covenant forces. Recognising a voice over the COM, the Spartan raced towards their location and promptly dispatched the attackers, driving the rest back singlehandedly. The surviving troopers and the civilians approached their rescuer, their leader identifying as none other than the now-Master Sergeant Ash Mitchell.
Layla quickly revealed her identity to a shocked Mitchell, and offered to escort their group to the spaceport, working to fend off Covenant infantry. Her general attitude and near-sadistic glee in killing worried the others, who moved as quickly as they could while she focused on the enemy, making it to the spaceport before being pinned down once again by Kig-Yar snipers. Swiftly heading away, Layla moved to outflank them while they were preoccupied with the ODST's and civilians, allowing the squad's marksman to kill several before she mowed down the rest, allowing them safe passage into the waiting transport ships, their mission a success.
Shortly afterwards, Layla accompanied the same ODST unit on a dangerous mission to attack a Covenant battlecruiser heading for a densely populated city. Utilising a single YSS-1000 Sabre Fighter, Layla managed to attack and board the ship after destroying several gun batteries, and opened the hangar doors to give the boarding teams entry. The ODST's were able to make it aboard, fiercely fighting along the corridors as they made their way towards the bridge. Layla and her surviving comrades were able to carve a path through enemy forces and gain access to the battlecruiser's bridge, guarded by a number of veteran Sangheili and a familiar Shipmaster, Deyad 'Marakee.
The sight of her former captor and tormentor attempting to escape drove Layla into a frenzy, slaughtering most of the bridge crew herself before finally cornering the Shipmaster. 'Marakee fought desperately against the Spartan, but was eventually outmatched and wounded, Layla breaking his sword arm and putting several bullets into each of his legs. With the bridge now secure, Layla ordered the ODST's to leave her while she interrogated her prisoner. Once they had gone, she brutally beat the crippled Sangheili for his actions, asking if he remembered her. 'Marakee spat defiance in her face, only to have his throat slowly cut by the Spartan's knife after being tortured for some time.
With the target of her revenge finally dead, Layla planet a HAVOK tactical nuke on what remained of 'Marakee's corpse, and left with the ODST's in a Pelican. The destruction of the Battlecruiser bought the civilians in the city of Casbah more time to escape, though the battle ended in a defeat for the UNSC. Over 90% of the UNSC forces defending Tribute had been wiped out, the remainder escaping via slipspace as the neighbouring planet of Reach fell as well. After a few days of random slipspace jumps to lose any potential Covenant pursuers, Layla's ship fled to Earth, where most of the UNSC's forces were preparing for a final stand.
Shortly after her arrival on Earth, Layla was taken to PILLAR Base and outfitted with the new MJOLNIR Mark VI armour. As an attack on Earth was almost a certainty at this point, she and the few Spartans left were placed across the planet to defend strategic positions in case of an invasion. When the attack finally came, Layla was stationed in Germany with strict orders to defend the Beweglichkeitsrüstungsysteme, an important research facility responsible for the production of several MJOLNIR armour variants. In October, the Covenant finally launched an all-out attack on the Sol System, leading an invasion of Earth in the process.
After several days of battle Layla and the survivors were joined by the SPARTAN-III Team Tanto, whose members managed to turn the tide and drive off the invading Covenant force. Once the facility was secured, Layla was given command of the younger Spartans as they were redeployed to California to assist in the defence of several cities. Layla and Team Tanto would fight on Earth for the remainder of the war, eliminating pockets of alien resistance. In December they were responsible for clearing out a Jiralhanae-led force from Mars, an operation that despite being successful left Jeung-G212 dead. His loss had a profound effect on the already-damaged Spartan, Layla being forced into another psychiatric evaluation shortly after. It was decided for a second time that she could not be part of a proper Spartan team due to her being extremely volatile and prone to outbursts.
In April 2553, shortly after the end of the war, Layla was reassigned to a Spartan unit under the direct command of ONI instead of joining the SPARTAN-IV Program. This was done largely to keep the surviving SPARTAN-III's a secret from the public; the UNSC could not afford to deal with the backlash if it was discovered that three companies of augmented child soldiers were created during the war. It soon became clear that Layla had become slightly unbalanced by her years in captivity, displaying levels of brutality and aggression that bordered on sadism when it came to combating opponents which disturbed her Spartan teammates. After an altercation in mid-2552 with fellow Beta Company survivor Violet-B039, she was temporarily barred from working alongside other Spartans and sent to pursue targets alone. Following a mission in 2554 the Spartan was reprimanded for the prolonged torture and death of a valuable captured Insurrectionist that almost led to a complete discharge from military service. Afraid that ONI wanted her dead, Layla killed several agents before being captured and imprisoned.
After spending four months in ONI's Midnight Facility, Layla was released on the orders of Captain Frederick King, a high-ranking agent and head of the BRUTUS division. While Layla was certainly volatile and dangerous, her SPARTAN-III augmentations and skills made her too valuable to simply lock away. To keep her in line, King formed Fireteam Thor, an effort to keep overly-aggressive or troubled Spartans in line with dangerous missions. While initially wary of such a project, Layla took the opportunity she was given to return to the battlefield, albeit against human Insurrectionists and Covenant remnants rather than the full might of the Covenant military. She was taken to Mars, where she met with Hank-136 and Mordecai-G138, her team mates. To the surprise of ONI, the trio got on well together and were soon operating in the field as ONI's attack dogs against rebels and dissidents across the colonies.
Thor proved to be an incredibly effective fighting force despite their wildly differing personalities. Hank's leadership often kept Layla in check and Mordecai properly motivated as they travelled from location to location, striking at enemy outposts on the frontier. While ONI kept them on a short leash, Layla relished in the constant activity and genuinely began to bond with her comrades over time. Her handlers were sure to keep the Spartan far away from any allied Swords of Sanghelios detachments, knowing full well that Layla despised the race with a passion and could not be trusted on joint operations.
In 2555, Thor were among several Spartan teams brought back to Earth in the aftermath of a shocking terrorist attack, which had left dozens dead and had resulted in the theft of a massively destructive NOVA bomb. While most of the details were kept secret from the public, Layla and the others were informed that the mastermind had been a treacherous ONI agent named John Verensky. With few leads, ONI was dispatching multiple teams to far-off systems, utilising their full surveillance network to locate the bomb before it was too late. It was around this time that she contacted Grantley, who had been reassigned to Shrike Team and was present on Earth during the attack. It turned out that his team were being given the best leads regarding Verensky's whereabouts, with Thor as reinforcements in case something went horribly wrong.
On December 10th, Layla received news that Grantley and several other SPARTAN-III's had perished during Operation: CAUTERIZE, which had seen Verensky killed and the NOVA reclaimed. With Hank's permission, she attended his funeral several days later, horribly upset over losing the single person in the galaxy she felt any connection to. Now feeling totally alone, Layla chose to simply dedicate herself to her work, concentrating only on the next mission. Two new Spartans, Julian-G209 and May-G210, were reassigned to Thor at the end of 2555; the pair had been on Grantley's team and spoke highly of him, though Layla found herself irrationally disliking them out of a misplaced belief that they had let her friend die. After two months, her handlers began to notice this and approached her with a tentative offer to work alongside an ONI agent undercover for some time. She accepted, and was taken to Mars to meet with her new partner.
Upon her arrival at Helios Station, an ONI facility in Mars' orbit, Layla was introduced to Alexander Redford. While initially unimpressed with the middle-aged ONI agent, whom she saw as something of a snob, the Spartan was given limited access to his service record and saw that he had been directly involved in dismantling dozens of Insurrectionist groups over a course of thirty years and decided to give him a chance as her partner. For their first mission, the pair were dispatched to Ursa IV with orders to wipe out a cadre of smugglers transporting stolen Covenant weaponry into the Inner Colonies. Layla and Redford argued at first, with the Spartan desiring a frontal assault while he wished to quietly infiltrate the enemy base first to evaluate their numbers and force strength. Eventually a compromise was reached and the Spartan took up a position overlooking the smuggler's hideout - an abandoned warehouse within an industrial area - and prepared to move in at the first sign of trouble. While Redford was successful in gaining access to the building, he was spotted by a guard and was forced to defend himself, starting a protracted firefight.
Layla moved in after hearing gunfire and smashed through the roof, taking the smugglers by surprise. Well-armed though they were, Layla's foes were no match for a fully-armoured Spartan and were slaughtered in minutes, with some attempting to flee towards a nearby shuttle. After ripping open a crate of stolen munitions, Layla opened fire with a fuel rod gun and blew the ship to smithereens. The resulting explosion consumed much of the warehouse and destroyed the stolen weapons, forcing Layla and Redford to swiftly retreat towards their own ship. While the ONI agent berated her destructive nature and she criticised him for getting caught, they would eventually agree that they had completed their mission successfully, even if there was nothing left to recover. Upon their return, Layla and Redford were officially made partners and would conduct all operations together for the foreseeable future. While the SPARTAN-III missed being part of Fireteam Thor, she slowly began to warm up to Redford as they set off into the rebuilding Outer Colonies to continue their work.
In March of 2556, Layla and Redford were dispatched to the Andesian capital of Noctus, where it was rumoured that a large-scale arms deal was about to take place between several Insurrectionist groups. Working with a number of other ONI agents, they were almost prepared to launch their raid when a sudden rebel ambush caught them off-guard. Quickly donning her MJOLNIR suit, Layla was able to kill her attackers and worked alongside Redford and their surviving allies to stage a ruthless counter-attack. During her time on Andesia, Layla discovered that one of the rebel faction's primary enforcers was none other than Ash Mitchell, who had fallen from grace after participating in a massacre on Circumstance a month prior. Unsure if she could kill him if it came down to it, Layla was relieved to never encounter Mitchell during their mission and glad to hear that he had narrowly escaped capture as the criminal syndicates and Insurrectionist groups were torn apart by UNSC forces.
Following their mostly-successful operation on Andesia, the Spartan and her companion would continue to operate throughout the colonies, getting along well in spite of their wildly differing personalities, with Layla starting to see the venerable and childless ONI agent as something resembling a father figure. In September, shortly after dismantling a rebel group on Talitsa, the pair were summoned by Captain Frederick King for a special assignment. For the first time, Layla would go undercover while Redford operated behind the scenes in preparation for Operation: GLASS HOUSE, a massive counter-insurgency mission on Emerald Cove. Posing as a civilian engineer named 'Elizabeth Shaw', Layla was placed aboard a damaged vessel and dispatched to the planet, having supposedly survived an attack by Kig-Yar pirates.
To her surprise, the denizens of Emerald Cove's only settlement, Avalon, bought her story and took her in without many questions. In spite of her physique and scars that might have marked her out as a Spartan out of armour, Avalon's leader Isabelle Marshall took a liking to 'Elizabeth' and treated the newcomer well, showing her around the steadily growing settlement and giving her a place to stay. It was during this time that Layla first met Amanda Wade, who seemed to be their military commander. As Wade mistrusted her, Layla avoided the woman as much as possible, though she kept track of her frequent departures, waiting for a moment to strike.
Layla would wait until Amanda departed with the majority of Avalon's armed forces to signal ONI via a hidden transmitter. As King had informed her during the mission briefing, the Spartan's goal was to infiltrate the rebel-run settlement and move into a position where she could deactivate its defences. As an invasion force sped towards Avalon, she moved into the main server room and swiftly shut down the colony's vital anti-aircraft array. Layla was then confronted by Isabelle and several guards, though she was able to easily kill them, mocking Isabelle as she choked her to death. As ONI forces descended to destroy Avalon, Layla fled the settlement, diving into the nearby ocean and swimming down the coast to a waiting extraction vehicle.
While happy that her part of the operation had gone off without any issues, Layla grew worried as she was not contacted for almost a week after Avalon's fall. Eventually, Alexander Redford informed her that while the settlement had been destroyed, some of its key personnel had escaped, prompting a widespread manhunt. Worse still, they had been able to leak footage of what seemed like an unprovoked attack by the Office of Naval Intelligence to stir up more unrest from the civilian populace. While this mattered little to Layla, she then discovered that Frederick King had been grievously wounded after visiting a prisoner taken during the assault and though alive, was completely comatose. As BRUTUS had no leader, Redford had been given an official promotion, which effectively ended his partnership with Layla. While outwardly flippant at first, she eventually admitted to having enjoyed working with Redford and refused to partner up with another BRUTUS agent. With nowhere else to go, Layla was sent back to Fireteam Thor, where she promised to get along better with her team mates.
Return to Thor
Layla's return to her old team was met with a mixed reception from the other Spartans, who while appreciating her combat prowess had grown tired of her unpredictability in the field. Nonetheless, she soon settled back into her old role in Thor and accompanied them on several counter-terrorism operations in the Inner Colonies. Her time working with Redford had taught her the virtue of restraint, however, and no problems were reported to her superiors by Hank-136. After several months operating from a repurposed Prowler, Thor were suddenly given orders to join up with the UNSC's Sixth Fleet, and were stationed aboard the UNSC Caspian in preparation for what seemed to be an important military operation. It was here that she briefly met Admiral Lin Zhi, who informed the Spartans that they would be joining them in an operation to retake the long-abandoned colony of Madrigal.
With news of a massive Insurrectionist stronghold built into a secluded area of the glassed planet that had taken down a UNSC Destroyer, Thor would be needed to strike at the heart of enemy territory once the fleet arrived and had orders to capture or kill any high-ranking rebels there. Shortly before the operation commenced, Layla reunited with the now-Captain Alexander Redford, who had sent several operatives to Madrigal beforehand and personally requested Thor's assistance for a sensitive mission. As it turned out, a cache of nuclear weapons dating back to the days of the Insurrection had been uncovered in a buried military bunker on Madrigal's surface, and the Spartans were needed to retrieve it before it fell into enemy hands. The moment the Sixth Fleet arrived in the 23 Librae system, Thor were dispatched in an Owl insertion craft, landing in the midst of a massive dust storm where a number of Insurrectionist forces already seemed to be fighting each other.
Layla soon broke off from the rest of Thor, gunning down over a dozen of the disoriented rebel fighters as she made her way towards a nearby Yacht. On the way, the Spartan was surprised to encounter Amanda Wade, the rebel leader who had narrowly escaped Avalon's destruction.Though she intended to kill Wade, Layla was stopped by Ash Mitchell, who recognised her distinctive ODST-based MJOLNIR suit. Though Layla knew her old saviour was wanted across UEG space as a terrorist, she refused to kill him and even agreed to help him escape, disconnecting from Thor's TEAMCOM channel to ignore further orders as she escorted the pair of them to the ship. En-route, they encountered a young rebel who launched a futile attack on Layla before she swiftly killed him and another companion, allowing Wade and Mitchell to board the Yacht.
With the battle coming to a close, Layla boarded the ship to find rebel leader Carlos Driscol dead at Wade's hand. Before departing, the Spartan took the time to inform her that she was 'Elizabeth Shaw', the refugee who had killed Isabelle Marshall and left Avalon defenceless against ONI's assault the previous year, leading to the settlement's destruction. On a whim, she then shot Wade twice in the gut, leaving her in Mitchell's hands before disembarking the ship shortly before it escaped from Madrigal. Fireteam Thor made short work of the remaining rebel forces, while the Sixth Fleet mopped up any potential threats and seized the independent city on the surface. The Spartans soon recovered the cache of nuclear weapons and returned to the UNSC Caspian to be debriefed, with Layla claiming that she had killed Carlos Driscol before his men escaped with the man's corpse. Before they left the system, Thor discovered that one of the nuclear warheads was missing from storage, and reported this to their superiors. Two days later, Layla and the rest of her team would be dispatched once again to hunt down the missing device and retrieve it at any cost.
With the only possible culprits for the nuclear weapon's theft being the pair who had escaped in Driscol's Yacht, Thor were assigned
to a Winter-class prowler and sent after their stolen ship. Worried that they would kill Mitchell, Layla continued to be evasive when questioned about what she saw on Madrigal and feigned surprise when Wade and Mitchell were made prime suspects after a sweep of Wade's destroyed freighter and the surrounding areas did not uncover their corpses. Progress was slow for several weeks, though once ONI's spies caught sight of the ship on Herschel Thor was contacted and missed the fugitives by hours when they arrived. After complaining to Hank that this lengthy pursuit was a waste of time for Spartans when their talents were needed elsewhere, Layla convinced their leader to contact Commander Cuaron with a reassignment request until Wade and Mitchell were properly located. This was accepted, and though she was initially relieved Layla knew that it would only be a matter of time before they were sent back on the hunt. Though they continued to operate well for over a year, Layla's constant clashes with May and Julian would eventually contribute to the former's desertion in September of 2558. Though she was willing to pursue the rogue Spartan, Layla was held back by her colleagues, who were under orders to stay put while the matter was investigated by a different team.
Shortly after May's disappearance, Thor found themselves on the stolen nuke's trail again, though it had fallen into the hands of a Frieden terrorist named Wuyi Xiong. After a series of raids, during which Layla and her comrades systematically dismantled Xiong's organisation across several colonies, the Spartans tracked the man down to a mansion on Herschel, interrupting a meeting between the terrorist and Isaac Kenner. Layla and Mordecai then rappelled down the side of the building and burst into Kenner's office, killing Xiong and securing the missing nuclear warhead as Hank charged in through the front door. Though Kenner was thought to have been a simple accomplice, the Spartans discovered that the businessman was in fact wanted by the Office of Naval Intelligence for perpetrating the rcently-fought Imperial War, and took him into custody.
A few weeks following their operation on Herschel, Julian went AWOL, just as Layla had predicted. While he had clearly gone off alone to track down May, Thor's superiors treated his actions as a defection and dispatched the other Spartans after their former comrades within a few days. Julian proved hard to find, though with less of a head-start than May the other Spartans picked up his trail within a few weeks on worlds he'd visited in the past. Using his service record against him, Thor managed to pinpoint where Julian would end up next and sprung a trap for him on New Albion, a sparsely-populated colony once home to a sizeable rebel base. Ignoring Hank's orders to capture Julian and the missing Spartan's own admittance that he would surrender if confronted, Layla first destroyed Julian's ship with a brick of C-12 before chasing him into the hydroelectric plant once used by the URF. A vicious battle ensued, and though Layla had the edge in terms of equipment and vigour she underestimated the enhanced augmentations received by Julian and the rest of Gamma Company, which provoked him into a berserk state when pushed and allowed him to gain the upper hand against her. Layla would have died were it not for the intervention of Hank, who choked Julian into unconsciousness and ordered him brought back to the ship. Though she expected help from her teammates after sustaining several knife and gunshot wounds, Layla was instead knocked out by the furious SPARTAN-II, who put her in binders as well as they returned to their transport craft.
When Layla awoke she was told by Hank that her constant insubordination had become a genuine problem for Thor, and that he wanted her charged and potentially returned to the Midnight Facility for at least a year until she learned some discipline. This angered and terrified Layla, who fought against her bonds to no avail as Hank tried to make contact with the UNSC. However, the Spartans would receive nothing in response to their hails, and after staying put on Mordecai's advice soon learned of a galaxy-wide attack on mankind by a new AI-led faction known as the Created. With the Sol system apparently taken and no base to return to, Hank had Layla and Julian freed and reinstated into Thor to help combat this new threat as they sought out any UNSC forces to link up with. Though her knowledge of leaders beyond their immediate superiors in ONI was limited, Layla suggested that they seek out Admiral Lin Zhi, whom they had met above Madrigal the previous year. With few options, Thor then set course for the Zhi's last known location over Concord.
As a SPARTAN-III Headhunter, Layla was expected to cause as much damage as possible behind enemy lines. As such, she was well-versed in a variety of weapons and explosive devices, both human and Covenant. These skills would come in handy time and time again on her missions as she and her partner sabotaged various enemy bases. Explosives, and causing explosions, would always be something of a trademark for Layla, to whom the term 'collateral damage' would simply be a collection of meaningless syllables.
Like many Spartans, Layla was also proficient in unarmed and close quarters combat. In her early career she rarely needed her combat knife in battle, using it only when necessary to eliminate enemy guards. During her imprisonment on Sangheilios, she became very adept at melee combat with blades and other objects. Her captor would often have her fight against much larger opponents, usually captured criminals, for his amusement. Layla quickly learned that she could turn a fight her way in spite of an enemy's size and brute strength. Her skills with a knife greatly improved following her eventual escape, and were eventually put to good use when she finally had her captor cornered and at her mercy.
It was not only Layla's combat skills that were notable. Though she was known for her volatile personality, she made a surprisingly good undercover agent while working for the Office of Naval Intelligence. Combining her Spartan speed and strength with the intelligence and espionage skills of an undercover operative suited Layla for a time, something that pleased her superiors to the point of pairing her with Alexander Redford, a long-serving agent with a similar history of lethality.
"Even among that group of defects, Layla's the most volatile. So long as we've got bad guys to point her at, we can keep her under control."
―Commander Abbas Cuaron
Like all SPARTAN-III's, Layla was forced to deal with the harsh reality of life at a very young age as she witnessed her parents being gunned down in front of her. This gave her a deep loathing for the Covenant, Sangheili in general, and it was this hatred that got her straight into Beta Company in the first place. Years as a prisoner only intensified this hatred for their alien foe, though she oddly found herself respecting some aspects of Sangheili culture during her imprisonment. Following her escape and return to the UNSC, Layla was soon found to be rather unstable and aggressive towards others, while remaining polite and passive at other moments. While some ONI members considered having her terminated, Layla's status as a Spartan made her an indispensable asset on the battlefield in spite of her nature. She had also become very mistrustful of just about everyone she met including her handlers, two of them being killed by her for insulting the Spartan.
Layla would often adopt the persona of a rather sweet, naive woman while undercover, or occasionally towards other ONI agents. She would often playfully mock those working alongside her in order to provoke a response, though she found few reactions worth a conversation over, save those with Alexander Redford, whom she gained some deal of respect for. In truth, Layla was a deeply damaged and lonely individual from her brutal childhood to her years in captivity and often vented her frustrations in bouts of violence. Aside from Grantley, who was killed in 2555, she had no friends, most of Beta Company either dead or missing by the end of the war. Oddly for a Spartan, Layla had a great deal of respect for Orbital Drop Shock Troopers in spite of the grudge some carried against her brethren. This largely stemmed from the fact that she had been saved by one both as a child and later in life and was reflected in her choice of ODST-styled helmets in the field; she made use of a modified one as a Headhunter and a MJOLNIR-compatible helmet for several years.