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This project, Ghosts In the Machine, has either been cancelled, completed, or is totally inactive. Please refrain from editing or attempting to join it. Thank you.


GHOSTS IN THE MACHINE


TheRift feature
"Doubt is a weapon more deadly than any gun or warship."

Outline

WARNING
Read ALL the content below before you join. Or else.


Rules

Joining

If this RP caught your attention and you want to take part in it, leave me a message and I'll consider it based on your skills of writing. I will most likely let you in, if you do not fall under any of these categories:

  1. Disregarding canon-friendliness and grammar.
  2. Gaining three civility warnings or a temporary block.
  3. Vandalizing articles on the wiki.

You can either inform me of any of these yourself, or I can find out myself. If it's the former, there's a chance I will still allow you to participate if your issues on this site aren't too serious and are amendable. If it's the latter, then you will most definitely not be permitted. If I invited you myself to take part in the RP, then you've already passed the first test. Needless to say, that can be subject to change should you create any problems for us or anyone else on Halo Fanon.

Logging

Once it's confirmed that you're to contribute to this RP, then please follow the instructions below.

If you're going to create a new character(s), make an article for them and write out a decent-length that has details on each one. You can do this while the RP is ongoing, so you don't have to wait until it's finished before you participate in the RP.

If you want to use your existing characters, ask me for details on the time frame and circumstances of the RP. You can use as many of your characters as you want, but don't list too many or else you'll find it hard to keep track of it all. Note that this RP takes place in the year 2559, and will span over approximately 1 month. Once you're clear on which of your characters you can use, add them to the same list. You don't necessarily have to write about the events in this RP for your existing characters, although if you can put it in a parallel-universe or even the same universe, that's fine too. Just don't forget to use {{Era|AAO}} if you're intending to do so. However, do not place your characters into an AAO template box, unless you're actually part of AAO.

You can pick up to five main characters in total. You can use as many minor characters as you want, and you don't have to list them; again, as long as you can keep track of them all, it's up to you. Once you have decided on your characters, do the following:

  1. List your name, along with your characters, beneath the "Logged Operators" section.
  2. Check the RP for updates. You can add this page to your watchlist by clicking "Follow" in the blue ribbon at the bottom left (unless it already says "Following").

Roleplay

You must obey the following regulations during the RP:

  1. Proofread your work before you submit it. Using the preview button is a good habit to develop on this site.
  2. There are no limits to how violent you can make your part of the RP, however, avoid making your section more description than it is story.
  3. If you're intending to use someone else's character in your part of the RP as a major role, please consult the user who signed as that character. Even if it's a minor role, I suggest you talk to them about it so as to avoid putting them out of character.
  4. Ask any questions you have on the discussion page. If I don't respond after a long period of time, inform me on my talk page.
  5. Minimum length for a post is 250 words, or three paragraphs.
  6. Sign the end of your post with ~~~~ or your own custom non-bubble box signature, then lay out a new section for the next user. For example, if you're writing under ===1===, put ===2=== at the bottom of your post.

Also take note of the following:

  1. Each part of the RP will consist of 8 to 10 posts. You do not have to make a post in every part, but there is a first-come, first-served policy for the sake of keeping the RP going at a fair speed.
  2. To keep things organized, I may ask you questions about your post to ensure that relevance is maintained. You can make your posts however interesting you want, as long as you don't go against or move too far from the story that's established at the beginning of each part.
  3. I may change parts of your work for reasons you may or may not know about, but it's only if things are seriously out of place. If I spot a smaller problem, I'll leave you a message and tell you to change it (tell, not ask).

Logged Operators (Open)

Sona 'Demal

CommanderTony

  • Lieutenant William Cairns — Also known as SPARTAN-B101 or as "DIGGER". Cairns is an Australian-Terran Spartan Headhunter who currently serves with the Naval Special Warfare Development Group within the Human Inner Colonies.

SPARTAN-118

RichardRHunt

  • Buchanan Brown - Survived the Fall of New Vegas during the Human-Covenant War. Jack of all trades, and independent mercenary.
  • Vivian Singh - Captain of the Lucky 38, a tramp freighter. She is also Robert House's enforcer, the enigmatic owner of Massive Dynamic.
  • Stanley Mundy - Former member of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion of the UNSC Marine Corps, now works independently as a mercenary.
  • Dane S. Steward - Captain of the Mojave Express, a tramp freighter, usually docked at New Vegas City. Known for his socially inappropriate behavior.
  • Victor Mason - Engineer, known for his ability to craft just about anything. This includes his invention of a hovering camera ball, which he refers to as an "Eyebot".
  • Stewart Butler - Former UNSC Field Medic, excellent battlefield surgeon. Now works as a Freelance doctor, helping those who are unwilling to seek medical aid or physicians.


EpsilonIndi

Chen-179

Actene

  • LTJG Jake-G294--Squad leader for the now-infamous Team Jian, Jake and his single remaining subordinate, Ralph-G299, have been repurposed at their own request into a Headhunter team.
  • WO Ralph-G299--The only surviving member of Team Jian aside from Jake-G293, Ralph underwent specialized Headhunter training alongside his last remaining friend and is now operational and under the command of UNSC Navy Special Warfare Command.
  • Ro'nin--Cast out of his family's keep for a heinous crime, this disgraced Sangheili abandoned whatever old titles he once possessed and took up one he learned from human criminals in the galactic underground. Having lost all respect for Sangheili culture, he fights for any side regardless of creed or doctrine and does not care if a cause is just or noble so long as it pays him for his services.
  • The Four Preserving Swords--A group of four young Sangheili warriors who have devoted themselves to the Fallen cause in the name of overthrowing a government they see as corrupt and preventing humans from becoming influential on Sanghelios. They lead the irregular militia known as the Sons of the Preserving Blade.

Stel' Vadam

  • Field Master Stel 'Vadam--An experienced warrior and uncle to Autel 'Vadam, Stel 'Vadam is a veteran of the Human-Covenant War and served as Autel's mentor when he was young. Stel has now been reassigned to combat the threat of the Fallen. He is known for his considerable authority and for the scars his endured during the Human-Covenant War - one of the most-well known being his robotic prosthetic left arm.

Lordofmonsterisland

  • Zealot Jemsal 'Emvadson - Leader of the Lance of Unrelenting Reparation, Jemsal is currently dealing with the threat of the Fallen on Sangheilios while Holy Commander Ameigh Broley continues dealing with external threats.
  • Ultra Quris 'Nephtyr - An experienced special operations warrior and former member of the Lance of Unrelenting Reparation, Quris is a key member in the fight against Sangheili separatist movements that has been reassigned back to Sangheilios to deal with the rising Fallen threat.
  • Master Chief Petty Officer Riker-012 - A SPARTAN-II supersoldier that has been a Leonidan operator for the course of his career, Riker-012 has been deployed specially by ONI to support the current SPARTAN detachment.
  • Sergeant Perseus Jackson - A sergeant of the Marine Corps, Perseus "Percy" Jackson and his ODST Squad are being deployed alongside a small contingent of UNSC forces to aid in the defense of Sangheilios.
  • Chief Petty Officer Ryder-326 - A member of the second generation of JAVELIN, Ryder-326 has been rerouted to Sangheilios for two purposes: to aid in keeping the Fallen at bay, and to ensure that Kedar-198 does not become involved in the conflict.
  • Kedar-198 - A rogue JAVELIN-II operator, Kedar-198 left the UNSC for unknown reasons, and has since aided numerous rebel movements and mercenary outfits, wreaking havoc across UNSC space wherever possible. His actions against the Sangheili post-war have strained relationships, and it is possible that he intends to aggravate the situation on Sangheilios.

Pikapi

Rozh

Therider

  • Marcus Cell-A man of action and not of words, Marcus fought uprisings on Earth during the Human-Covenant War. This, however, is no ordinary rebellion...
  • Tiger Cell- A small squad lead by Marcus Cell and was fundamental in fighting the Covenant in North America during the Battle of Earth. Now they join their former enemies, the Sangheili, to put down a rebellion...

Another Poetic Spartan

  • First Lieutenant Justin-057 UNSC- A SPARTAN-II supersoldier well renowned for his skills and accomplishments during the Human-Covenant War, Justin had spent most of his career going solo, preferring to be alone due to several incidents resulting in the death of several of his beloved comrades. Finding himself on all fronts, Justin had learned to be self-reliant, although he would come to the aide of allied forces whenever needed, risking his very life to ensure their well being. Justin-057 is currently in cryosleep for unknown reasons but will be awakened to support the SPARTAN detachment in their battle against the rising Fallen. *(Character in use by Sona, SPARTAN-118, and Another Poetic Spartan)
  • Ultra Cotoal 'Turlik, IUSO - An experienced warrior that once had the chance to fight alongside one of the hated Demons, Cotoal is a veteran of the Human-Covenant War that formerly commanded the now disbanded Alliance Team, being deemed a maverick for his actions but was eventually hailed as one of several heroes of the war. Although well composed and commanding, Cotoal has a penchant for fighting and when reassigned to combat the rising Fallen threat, he approached with glee and fervor.

Rangerkid51

  • Master Chief Petty Officer Benjamin-B314, UNSCDF- A SPARTAN-III supersoldier, and one of the only known surviving members of Beta Company, Ben-B314, has, in his own words, been "dragged through hellfire and brimstone more times than I can count". He has narrowly evaded death three times during his career, and yet has still come back to fight for the Human race, being heralded as one of the most underrated heroes of the Human-Covenant War. After the end of the war, Ben split his time between cryosleep, liberating worlds that were controlled by the Covenant Loyalists, and operating for ONI. But now, with the Fallen on the UNSC's doorstep, Ben faces one of his greatest challenges to date, and he gets caught in the throes of a Sangheili conspiracy that goes far deeper than anyone knows.....
  • Adal 'Myram, High General of Sangheilios - The former High General of the entire Covenant, as well as a longtime friend and cohort of Arbiter Thel 'Vadam, and one of the last living members of the House of Myram, Adal is a vaunted veteran of the Human-Covenant War. After fighting alongside his Sangheili bretheran as a member of the Covenant Separatists, Adal was appointed the High General of Sangheilios as well as one of the Sangheili's ambassadors to the UNSC, but has mostly stayed away from combat since the end of the war. However, with the rise of the Fallen, all that is about to change.......

TehSpartan

  • Utas Ryam, Spec Ops Sangheili- Utas Ryam is a Sangheli of few words. One of the most skilled Spec Ops Sangheili he is currently battling the Fallen on Sangheilios.

Introduction

The Fallen is widely regarded as enemies and a tension is present on Sanghelios. They threaten war upon their own species, their own blood, their own brothers. There is no choice; the aid of the humans must be found. But whether their intentions are honourable or not is yet to be seen, and the thinly built trust that they made may sever, and bring the two species back on opposite ends of the fight.

Prologue

Sangheili Minor Taszar 'Vadam moved quickly, evading the energy bolts that flew past him. He retaliated by firing his Plasma Rifle at his opponent, taking a few shots on his shields. He closed in, punching the enemy had on the shoulder, breaking the bone. As the other Sangheili dropped his weapon and moved to retaliate with his working arm, the minor domo lashed out swiftly with his leg, causing his opponent to lose his balance. The separatist managed to remain standing, but looked up just in time to see the young Sangheili cracking his weapon over his head. The assailant fell back and crumpled.

Taszar made sure the enemy was dead, and paused for a moment to think. How much longer would this war drag on? For six years, this conflict had been spreading throughout Sanghelios and other nearby systems. Many Sangheili had objected openly to their truce with the humans after the defeat of the Covenant Loyalists and their treacherous leaders the San'Shyuum, and created a rebel group called "The Fallen". Their belief had been that they had fallen from honour by taking the side of the humans, and although they were no believers of the delusive Great Journey, circumstances turned what should have been a triumphant return from the war to a bitter disagreement. After months of tense political dispute and suspicious activities from the Fallen, war erupted on Sanghelios. The protesters were unusually well-organized, and friends turned unexpectedly on each other. The conflicts were long and bloody, and although the original Fallen leader, Atsu 'Hidal had been killed three years ago, it was rumoured there was another one operating in secrecy. And now, although he hated the war greatly from the day he joined the battles, the fighting itself did not bother Taszar unduly. Killing another Sangheili was the same as any other foe, if there was a good reason.

Taszar swore as he saw more Fallen charging him. Where were those reinforcements that were supposed to be here? He couldn't take them all on his own. Unfortunately, the Sangheili were spread thin trying to hold down the separatist forces, and soldiers were being sent to and fro to wherever was needed most. Anyone put in a squad were most likely to be in a heavy skirmish, and would be lucky to have a leader rallying them. It looked like was alone for the time being, and there was nothing for it but to take them all out.

Opening fire, the young Sangheili cut down one of the separatists with a sustained burst, grimacing as he noticed his own shields were depleted. There was no time to take cover. Drawing a plasma pistol, he melted the head of a second with an overcharged shot. Raising his rifle again, he fired rapidly on the last enemy, but didn't manage to take him down before the gun overheated too and vented blue steam.

Taszar dropped his weapons, preparing to deal with the separatist with his own hands. The assailant's mandibles parted in a nasty smile as he aimed at the young Sangheili, but didn't move more than two steps before he screamed and jerked upward. Two energy blades appeared in his chest. The Fallen fell (Taszar smiled grimly at the irony), and another Sangheili appeared out of the air. It was his friend, Zehr'tul 'Sumai.

"There are more enemies coming," the stealth soldier said, handing him his rifle back. "I managed to slow them down, but they seem to have something of importance in these facilities, because they keep sending soldiers to take this area back."

"Do you have a plan?" Taszar asked.

"Our reinforcements are almost here. They are coming by foot. Something shot their dropship down."

The Fallen were becoming increasingly resourceful, and their threat was heavier than ever. This war had to end soon.

"We should go," Zehr'tul said, turning around. "Tico 'Serul says he will hold the Fallen away from this area until he finds what they are trying to keep us away from. The Arbiter has a suspicion as to what it is. We are being ordered to destroy the hidden anti-aircraft cannons so that our Phantoms can make their way through here."

Tico 'Serul was one of the most renowned Special Operations Officers in the military. The fact that the Arbiter wanted a massive force placed here, a fairly large commando squad no less, meant that there was a good chance something of importance was around here.

"You should see how many units are being pulled over here," Zehr'tul said, reading his mind. "The battle here should be over soon."

Over? Taszar thought, following him down the street. Were it so easy.


Autel 'Vadam entered the Keep, carefully cradling a series of bundles in his arms. Usually the symbols and images engraved into the wall would interest him whenever he moved up or down the stairs, but today his mind was elsewhere. It had been for a while now. Upon reaching the fourth level, he easily found her room, and opened the door.

"Autel?" a voice called. "Is that you?"

"Yes, Cyla," he replied, entering. "I have returned." He handed the bundles over to her, and wiped the perspiration off his face.

Cyla sat up in bed, leaning against the wall. "Was there any trouble?" she asked, unwrapping the bundles, and looking at them.

"No. No one ventures here, and there is not much they would want from us." His calm demeanour tensed as he heard the sound of the main door opening and closing. Drawing a plasma pistol, he said, "Remain here."

The Vadam Keep was emptier than usual, because a lot of the soldiers were fighting the separatists, and the younglings and elderly were kept out of danger. He had long disapproved of the decision, although it had been ordered for everyone on Sanghelios. He himself felt there was little honour in abandoning one's Keep, which was not only a home but a representation of who any Sangheili was. But it was pointed out that the Fallen, despite their claims, did not always abide by their honour, and it wouldn't be put past them to slaughter those unable to defend themselves.

It could be a Vadam returning from the State, the albino Sangheili thought. But these days, it never hurt to be careful.

Autel silently padded down the stairs, pistol ready, but relaxed when he saw who it was. An exhausted-looking Sangheili was making his way towards the stairs. He wore a grey-coloured armour, with ancient symbols and patterns etched upon it. It was the Arbiter, Thel 'Vadam.

"How was your day, father?" Autel asked.

"Not good," Thel replied wearily. "The Fallen are causing more trouble, and I am not sure we can keep them down much longer." Thel had taken a political position on Sanghelios, and was trying to negotiate terms with the separatists.

"What about their leader?" Autel said, as they made their way up the stairs.

"We still do not know who it is. He refuses to meet directly."

"We are certain there is a leader, then?"

"Yes, but we cannot sense his intentions. He makes his moves very carefully." Thel looked slightly frustrated. "What have you discovered?"

"We have found more traitors among the families," Autel said. "Nadi 'Andal has also been recently acquitted following suspicions of assisting the Fallen. He claims he was set up by the Vadum family."

Thel frowned. The young Sangheili knew he was thinking about Fleet Master Rtas 'Vadum, whose honour would never lead him to betray them to the Fallen. But perhaps his family was not necessarily the same way. However, the Arbiter's expression faded into a slight smile when they reached Cyla's room.

"Greetings, Arbiter," she said, gently laying the bundles on the bed. "Please, come in."

The two Sangheili entered, and as Autel sat down beside his father, Thel said, "Congratulations. How many?"

"Three," Cyla said, looking down fondly at the sleeping newborns. "Two males, one female."

"I had just returned from the mountaintop," Autel said. "I was about to take them to the temple for the final blessing."

Thel examined each of the baby Sangheili. "Their appearances seem to be normal," he observed. The newborns were slumbering peacefully, looking completely untroubled. The female shifted as she awoke, yawned, and opened her eyes. The Arbiter inhaled sharply. Her irises were the same colour as Autel's. White, with a hint of red in them. Naturally piercing.

"That will not be a problem," Autel said. "No one in the Keep will know." After newborns were blessed, the males were kept in the Keep, while the females were sent into the State, along with the mother.

The doctor entered the room, holding a container. "Cyla, I must administer to you one last dose of the strengthening solution." Thel stood up, placed his fingers to his chest in the "best of luck" gesture, and left the room.

Autel stood up too. "I will return soon," he said. Cyla nodded, and said, "I will prepare to leave." Sangheili females lost a lot of blood upon giving birth, and she had spent the last few units trying to recover it. They quickly embraced, and he picked up the newborns gently and left the room.

Autel walked down the steps of the keep carrying the three tiny bundles. He was a father. The thought had been in his mind all morning, but it still filled him with a great joy. He knew that the males would never know that he was their ancestor when they became older, but he would be able to watch over them and ensure they became great warriors.

Thel had looked worried when he saw the female's eyes. He himself had been thinking about it more than once. It was one of the many signs that would mark her as different as she become older, no doubt. But perhaps it was also an indication of something special about her. He had seen Cyla's far-away look when she gazed on her daughter. He could never tell what she was thinking when she looked like that.

Autel's hooves clicked on the stone as he reached the bottom of the stairs. He spun as he heard a rustling, saw a flash of armour and ducked. Without giving time to pause, he left the newborns on the ground as he rose again, activating his Energy Sword. It was strange that there were intruders inside the Keep at this time, but long-time experience had taught him to remain alive during the moment of crisis and find the answers later.

Air whistled behind him, and he spun and blocked the energy staff. With a twist of his wrist he destroyed the weapon. Another twist, and his attacker's head flew off.

More of the Fallen rushed out of the other rooms, each of them carrying armfuls of bundles. With a horrible realization of what they were doing, he looked down, and saw that the bundles no longer lay at his feet. In the doorway, a Sangheili was holding them. His children.

The separatists were running out of the keep, and Autel gave chase. He cut down as many of them as he could, but kept his eyes on the one trailing behind. Leaping through the air, he drove his energy blades deep into his back.

The rest of the enemies were gone. Pulling his weapon out of the dead Sangheili, he looked down and realized that there were not three bundles, but two. Looking them over, he realized that they were not his children. Slowly and carefully, he headed back towards the Keep, picking up all the newborns he could find. Fortunately, none of them were hurt, but he felt hollow inside. His own offspring were gone. Taken.


Cyla jerked up as she heard a mighty roar, and the sound of an Energy Sword activating. She knew something was wrong.

The doctor looked up. "Is there a problem, Excellency?"

Cyla twisted to look out the window, where many Sangheili were running down the path, with Autel running after them, cutting them down. "What has happened?"

She watched Autel disappear down the path for a moment, and headed back inside holding something. There was the sound of urgent conversation downstairs, and after several minutes, he entered the room, holding a deactivated Energy Sword. His normally pale eyes were a deep shade of crimson, and his mandibles were bared in anger.

His hands trembling, he placed the weapon back on his side. Breathing erratically, he looked at Cyla slowly and said softly, "They have taken them." His expression held great pain.

The doctor awkwardly left the room, and a moment later, Cyla felt tears running down her face. She cried out in despair and squeezed her eyes shut, feeling Autel's arms around her. She could almost feel his sadness. Cyla tried to stop her weeping, but could not, and wished that her hearts would stop beating.

Part One

Lieutenant Commander Felix Martel paced the floor back and forth, thinking. He was dimly aware that the Independent Crusader entered Slipspace, but he couldn't help but feel that it wasn't quick enough.

"Are you certain that the transmission reached Zeta-9?" he asked. Cortana's hologram flickered on at a nearby pedestal. She still seemed different after she had been modified by the Forerunner technicians. She had opted to remain without a physical form, but had a tinge of silver to her purple-blue image. But she didn't seem as obstructed by memory space anymore, which could only be an improvement.

"No, I'm not certain," Cortana replied. "Once a COM probe is sent through Slipspace it is impossible to track down. Even with our developing technology it'll still be decades before we figure out how. But I'm ninety-three point six four percent certain the transition was successful, and a ninety-one point two seven percent chance of exit without anomaly."

One thing never changed about her though. She was still as smart-mouthed as ever.

"Thank you," the Spartan officer said dryly. Out of the corner of his eye he saw John's helmet twitch slightly, behind which he was sure held a knowing smile. No doubt the Chief had received many of Cortana's cynical comments before. The senior Spartan decided to sit down instead.

Assembled around the room were the other Spartans. Blue and Grey Team of the SPARTAN-IIs, and Beta Company and Team Sabre of the SPARTAN-IIIs. If Ezekiel received the transmission, he would have gathered Team Katana to meet them at Zeta-9.

Felix thought back to the message. It seemed odd that the proud, honourable Sangheili would do something like wage wars upon themselves. He knew what caused it, and felt a slight twinge of guilt for the Sangheili. They still remained allies to the UNSC, even after the separatists threatened war.

"How long until we arrive?" he asked.

"You're rather jumpy," Cortana said, but decided to give an answer. "Including our first exit to pick up the others, we will reenter normal space at Sanghelios in fifteen hours."

The Spartan's hands tightened. Fifteen hours was such a long time. And he owed a favour to the species that had pulled him out of dead space and saved Earth, twice.

"Relax," the AI advised. "With our old engines it would have taken us days."

The Lieutenant Commander sighed. She was right. They were headed for Sanghelios at maximum speed, and there was nothing he could really do about it to get there faster. He had to accept that and put it out of his mind, like any other Spartan.

It was difficult, because he wasn't a Spartan. Not really. He hadn't been trained like everyone else, and only the Forerunner chemicals injected into his body kept him alive through the past three years. Still, he decided to distract himself by examining the upgraded weapons. Despite the newly claimed Forerunner weapons and intelligence, the UNSC had not wanted to overkill their tech with ultra-powerful weapons, as such objects could cause problems if there was ever trouble for humanity again (if the Insurrection were reformed, to say, or perhaps a greater threat). And seeing what had happened on Sanghelios, Felix didn't really blame them.

The senior Spartan surveyed the team. He had found and gathered the survivors of the supersoldiers in 2556, and they had been through a lot since then. The UNSC must have understood the urgency of the situation, because sending every Spartan they had was a bit much for most ops. Then again, it wasn't like they had anything to do at Earth anyway.

Blue Team were the most well-known SPARTAN-IIs alive. Lieutenant Frederic-104 was the leading officer, although he cared a bit too much about his subordinates. Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy John-117 was probably the most known of his team, after his accomplishments on Installations 04, 05, and the Ark (although Cortana often liked to call it "luck"). Although Fred outranked him, he held that air of leadership about him. Petty Officers Kelly-087 and Linda-058 were almost complete opposites. Kelly liked cracking jokes, preferred close range combat and worked well with anything that fired full automatic. Linda was often quiet, had a serious, almost cold personality, and posted as a sharpshooter unless ordered otherwise. However, to say that Linda was just a sniper was like saying a Warthog was just a car, or the UNSC was just a group of soldiers.

Grey Team were trained under the same class as Blue Team, but were more discreet. Petty Officers Jai-006 and Adriana-111 were a bit more on the loose side than most Spartans, and their pilot Mike perhaps a bit too much so. They had not seen as much action as most SPARTAN-IIs over the course of their career, but that was not to say they were incompetent. The Lieutenant Commander had found out just how much he could trust them in 2556.

Tom-B292 and Lucy-B091 were the senior SPARTAN-IIIs. Although their combat strategies were similar to one another, Felix had never heard Lucy say a word. He knew that she wasn't merely quiet. Not even Linda kept such a long stretch of silence in the three years he knew her. Something was obviously wrong with her ability to speak, but he didn't want to ask if she wasn't willing to tell. Then again, she never told anyone anything.

Ash, Olivia, and Mark were the Gamma Company SPARTAN-IIIs, under Team Sabre. They were a bit rough around the edges, but worked well as a team, and had proven their worth in combat. Team Katana was no different.

Ezekiel-254 was a Class II SPARTAN-II. He was given the rank of Lieutenant a few years ago, to train what was rumoured to be a fifth company of SPARTAN-IIIs, Delta Company. The Lieutenant Commander knew that Delta Company had never been trained, but there were a few hundred SPARTAN-IIIs from Gamma Company Missing in Action. No one could find them yet, but with the UNSC's new technology, it would not be long. He had also recently been regrouped with his teammate, Lieutenant Hannah-201.

Add them to the other Spartans being pulled out of low-level ops, and we've got pretty impressive numbers. It was good considering the fact that they were thought to be wiped out in 2553. It wasn't often that so many of them were placed on a single op, but right now, the Insurrection and other rebel forces posed a minimum threat, so the UNSC was glad to put the Spartans somewhere where they weren't just sitting on their asses. Now that they were all being pulled back into action, they could do a heck lot of damage on any enemy, and Felix was glad they were here. And pretty soon, so would the Sangheili.

1

Autel kept pace with the Fallen without difficulty, making not even the slightest noise from his hooves. He kept his eyes on the separatist, and knew that Fira was behind him. If he looked away for a moment, they could lose the enemy. It had taken them long enough to find him in the first place.

He knew that the Fallen would most likely notice the active camouflage he and Fira were using as well should he turn around, as all Sangheili were trained to enhance their already sharp vision. But for the moment, it kept them a bit less conspicuous.

Autel could make out the vague outline of a sack hefted over the Sangheili's back, and felt repulsed. Never had the Fallen resorted to such immoral methods of war. When they were formed during the first Age of Amendment, their leader Atsu 'Hidal was ruthless, but kept his faction within the bounds of honour and never declared war on the Sangheili. The new leader, whoever it was, didn't have a problem with going to any lengths to achieve his goals. The sight of seeing the younglings being kidnapped to provoke the families tempted him to free the newborns he was sure was inside. But if they waited, it was more likely they would find all of them.

After many subunits, the Fallen arrived at an aircraft factory, and slipped inside. Autel blinked. Hidden in plain sight. It wasn't even abandoned. Just how much control over Sanghelios did the separatists possess?

Autel hefted a Plasma Repeater. Fira took his Needle Rifle off his back. They entered before the doors closed, and—

Thick, white powder sprayed them. Alarms rang through the factory. Autel swore as he realized that they didn't even take the time to check for security. They must have tripped a scanner.

He hadn't been thinking straight since his newborns were kidnapped. Without telling anyone, he found Fira, who agreed to help him. Apparently several newborns from his family were stolen as well, although the latter currently had no offspring of his own.

After many units of searching, they had spotted a blur moving quickly down the street. Sometimes stealth made you an obvious target. After following it for all day through various states, the separatist never realized he was being followed. And after the painstaking trail, their chance at stealth was just squandered by the single mistake.

Fallen rushed in, firing at them. The powder had coated them completely, rendering the camouflage useless. Autel tried to take down as many as he could, but knew they would not last long. There was also no way around them. He and Fira started to back up, but more Fallen blocked the exits. They were trapped.

Autel clenched his fists around his weapon. Everything had gone wrong. Now there was nothing for it but to fight to the death. He primed a plasma grenade and was about to throw it when an explosion tore the main door open. Dozens of Sangheili rushed in, firing at once. In a single heartbeat, the tables were turned, and soon the Fallen in the room were eliminated.

Autel wiped some of the powder off his face, and gaped in surprise. "How did they know we were here?"

Fira smiled. "I tend to think ahead, my friend. And I found many willing to help me."

Autel saw his step-brother approach them and hand them cleaning units. "You look even paler than usual," he teased. Autel returned the smile, grateful that they had been there.

Fira was conversing with a silver-armoured Sangheili. Autel knew that the Ultra was Fira's older cousin.

"This is where they have taken them?" he asked.

"I think so, Sona," Fira replied, activating the cleaning unit and watching it restore his armour back to its original crimson, "although there may also be other locations they hide in."

"Then we shall find the scum responsible for this and wring out their innards until they reveal the truth to us," the Ultra growled.

Autel was surprised. He knew that Sona 'Demal was a formidable warrior, but was also known for his lack of unnecessary aggression. He had never heard him speak with such venom in his voice. Then again, the Fallen had committed a great sin, and in addition abducted twenty-one newborns from the Demal line.

Autel checked that his armour was free of powder, and re-entered invisibility. Fira did the same. "We shall investigate," he said. "If you remain here, the Fallen may think they held you up." A moment later, another door opened, and more Fallen entered.

"Fire!" Sona ordered, and the Sangheili engaged the separatists. Autel and Fira moved through several empty rooms, and found a gravity lift in a parallel hallway, heading for the top floor. They stepped into it, and caught glimpses of the rooms they passed containing what looked like weapons and supplies clustered around magnetic containers and gravity belts. Autel heard a pipe explode below him as plasma melted a tube on the first level. He got a glimpse of fuel spilling all over the floor before they reached the top and were thrown out of the lift.

They were in a docking bay, where ships were launched after construction. The testing passages were removed, and a stealth corvette parked below the exit. Groups of Fallen were taking opaque sacks and loading them onto the corvette.

One of the sacks moved, and a separatist held up a can of tranquilizer. Facing away from the opening, he sprayed into the sack. The movements stopped.

Another Sangheili stood at the base of the corvette's gravity lift. He was obviously in command. "Hurry," he snapped. "It will not be long before they find us." He turned to one of the Fallen. "Have the reinforcements been sent?"

"Yes, Excellency," he replied.

"Then deactivate the gravity lifts," he said. The Fallen complied, and the lift dimmed and shut down.

There was something familiar about his voice. Autel realized who it was.

"Isto 'Vadum," he whispered. Isto was infamous for his brutality, and had a well-known rivalry with Fleet Master Rtas 'Vadum. Although he was widely suspected to be a part of the Fallen, nothing had ever been proven. Until now. It was possible he could even be the leader of the Fallen.

"What is our plan?" Fira asked. "Sona and his squad cannot reach us."

"We should enter the ship," Autel said. "Perhaps we can disable it. Then we will reactivate the gravity lifts and convince Isto to surrender."

"I do not think he will surrender," Fira remarked, but they moved for the ship. They would have to slip past Isto, but there was no other option.

A Fallen carried three sacks and approached the gravity lift. "These are the last ones," he said, "and the storage facilities are full."

"We shall carry them ourselves then," Isto said. He grabbed one of the sacks and moved for the gravity lift.

There was a thud as the sack swung around and hit Fira in the shoulder. Isto's eyes flashed. He dropped the sack, pulled a concussion rifle out, and fired.

Autel moved to help him, but his friend made a subtle gesture as he retaliated. It was their signal for "don't wait for me". He was obviously willing to give up his life for the newborns. Without allowing himself to hesitate, the former moved around them. He had to disable the ship. With any luck, the separatist would assume Fira was alone.

Autel ran for the lift, but the other Fallen fired at Fira. The bolts connected with Autel's armour, and his camouflage vanished.

Fira was returning fire, but Isto moved very quickly. He lashed out, catching Autel across the gullet with his rifle. He fell back, and plasma fire ripped around him. He accidentally let go of his gun, and saw it fall down the deactivated gravity lift.

"Get aboard the ship!" Isto shouted. "I shall deal with them." Fira's needle rifle clicked empty, and he grabbed the Fallen in a chokehold. Isto flipped him over his back and sent him sprawling to the ground. He activated an Energy Sword, and was about to finish him, when Autel ran forward and slide-tackled him. He grabbed for the Energy Sword, and Fira found Isto's rifle.

The Fallen leader stood up, backing towards the corvette's gravity lift. Autel lunged at him, but Isto ducked, knocking him on his front with a kick. Fira aimed the rifle at him.

Isto saw the sack he dropped lying a few feet away. He couldn't get to it now. Smiling maliciously, he activated a plasma grenade, and threw it at the sack.

Without hesitation, Fira stepped in front of the grenade. The explosive adhered to his chest, and he moved fast, away from the sack so the explosion would not harm the newborns. There was no fear in his eyes.

Autel turned away as he saw the blue-white explosion consume his friend, and saw Isto running for the gravity lift. With a roar of fury, he threw the Energy Sword at Isto. One of the blades stuck into the Fallen's side, and he flinched, but disappeared up the gravity lift. The corvette lifted up and flew out of the hangar, flying up and out of the atmosphere.

Autel ran to Fira, who was lying in a pool of his own blood. He looked around, feeling completely helpless, not knowing what to do. Then he stood up, and ran for the main controls. Autel reactivated the gravity lift, and Sangheili soldiers began rushing up. Sona approached him, and knelt beside his cousin. His eyes looked over the numerous open wounds upon Fira's body, and the remains of his armour stained purple. He was silent.

Taszar opened the sack, checking over the newborns inside. There were a dozen unconscious newborns, and he checked to make sure they were alright.

Autel turned back to Sona, who still did not speak. Finally, he said grimly, "He will live."

I cannot say the same for that traitor, he thought. He watched as Sona gingerly lifted Fira, and headed back down the lift. He followed the squad out of the factory.

50px-Vena.png Sonasaurus | Talk Contribs

2

Jackson fired his magnum at the terrorist as he fired back. The bullet penetrated Jackson’s armour and caused him to stumble over a rock. Another SPARTAN fired back, the terrorist fell with clean shots through his body. The SPARTAN held their hand to Jackson. Hesitant, Jackson depolarized his visor and grabbed the SPARTAN’s hand.

“Haha. Whats up, Rochelle? There’s nothing you cannot do.” Jackson said.

“Well. I definitely cannot destroy a Covenant Supercarrier.” The two laughed and walked away from a huge pile of dead humans.

The SPARTANs approached a UNSC Fox artillery surrounded by UNSC troopers. They were walking everywhere and pointing their weapons at nearby rooftops. The IIIs entered the artillery and stood behind a seat.

“Sir!” The SPARTANs saluted.

The seat turned around. A man stood up in front of Jackson and Rochelle. This green Mark V armour was rusted and almost covered in bullet holes. On the side of their helmet held the tag Stryker-B120. Jackson lowered his head to Stryker’s helmet.

“Nice to see you back so soon, Jackson. Rochelle. Alright back to work. The Pakistani nuclear missile base in underground. Literally. The Navy had attempted a strike from a Orbital platform to do the work. Unfortunately, Pakistan have a tight lid on what they’re cooking.”

“Why don’t you glass it?” Rochelle said.

“You took the words out of my mouth. Remember that supercarrier that kept stalking us during the Fall of Reach?”

“The Liberate Advocate?” Jackson answered.

“Yeah. That thing is coming into action. Our job: We have to destroy all those Onager cannons positioned around the border of nearly the entire facility. They’re illegal and deadly; that's why we have a fox cannon.”

Jackson leaned forward towards Stryker “Did you just say Onagers?”

Stryker turned back to him “Yes. They would tear up a normal Fox of course but they’re almost useless against shields. We’ll have Engineer support inside, they’ll provide a stronger shield system. As for you two and Santos. You’re going in for some air support in some Magpie fighters. Good luck, SPARTANs.”

Stryker turned and returned to tapping controls in the Fox. Jackson and Rochelle walked out to an almost destroyed building west of the Fox. They jumped the building and slowly approached a SPARTAN lying down on the rooftop with another trooper.

“Three man squad. Six klicks from our position. Four man three clicks behind.” The trooper said. Jackson and Rochelle stopped and observed. “I bet I can take them all out.” Santos remarked. The trooper turned his head to her. “Oh really?” “Yeah.” “In exchange for what?” the trooper said.

“A punch in the face.” The trooper looked at her in disbelief.

“A punch in the face? Really?”

“Punching a SPARTAN in the face is a pretty big deal, leatherneck.” She replied.

“Right. On my mark.” Jackson stood like a statue and kept watching. “Three. Two. One. Mark!”

The snipers fired simultaneously. Santos’ bullet went straight through two of the group’s head while the trooper killed one.

“Aw come on!” The trooper complained.

“You’re hogging all the fun!”

Santos giggled and kept her eye through her scope. The final four man squad arrived to the scene and checked the dead group’s pulse. Santos tightened her grip and didn’t breathe. She was so focused and was determined to give the trooper a back hander.

“Mark.” She whispered.

Again the snipers traded sounds. Santos killed three of the men already as the trooper kept missing. Jackson side stepped and kicked Santos’ rifle. The trooper got the shot. Santos’ fists slammed the ground.

“Shit!”

The trooper giggled and raised his hand, ready to punch Santos’ on the shoulder. Unexpectedly, the sniping SPARTAN swiped the trooper to the wall. Santos stood up and began shoving Jackson to a wall. Rochelle giggled as Santos held Jackson up on the rest of the remaining wall . “This ain’t a game, Jackson!” she yelled.

Jackson, in shock, pushed her away. However, Santos’ foot slammed Jackson, knocking him into the wall.

“Me, You and Jackson are going sky-high while Stryker is destroying Onager cannons.” Rochelle said.

“Onagers?”

“That's exactly what I said when I heard.” Jackson said, still holding his stomach in agony.

“Don’t worry, we’re using Magpies. We have to wait for a Covenant supercarrier. Come.” Rochelle gestured her hand to Santos’. The two female SPARTANs left Jackson and the trooper on the rooftop, still overwhelmed by the pain Santos caused.

“Don’t worry. You get used to it.” The trooper said to Jackson as he still clutched his arm against the wall.

Nanosoldier

3

{{Time stamp|Four and a half hours ago Lieutenant Leonardo "Leo" Simmons (UNSC Navy) peered down the iron sights of his SM6C service handgun, adjusting the weapons positioning until the sights were trained at the center mass of his target, before pulling the weapons' trigger three times in rapid succession, readjusting his aim quickly and efficiently between every shot. The slide locked back, the twelve round magazine depleted of 12.7mm x 40mm ammunition; the other nine expended previously to the last set of three. The Lieutenant was currently inside the range, just outside the armory; shooting at a paper target a good twenty meters away. The officer ejected the depleted magazine, slammed a full magazine into the receiver, and released the slide with a clack. He engaged the safety on the side of the weapon, manually checked it, and slid the weapon back on his holster.

As a investigator within the Office of Investigations (OI), he was authorized to carry a sidearm, as well as possessing the right to arrest uniformed personnel and civilians alike for violating UNSC laws and statures. Not that he'd arrested anyone recently, being stationed aboard the UNSC Heroes All - an Injunction-class Cruiser stationed in the Home Fleet. A crappy assignment in his new line of work.

In fact, ever since he'd testified against a certain ONI officer following the Battle of Sydney, every assignment he'd had received had been a shitty posting. ONI had to be harboring a grudge, for the officer in question escaped indictment - and because Simmons had received a Naval battlefield commission from the very same person, and expelled from Naval Intelligence, back into Special Operations Command. Leo had been an ODST Gunnery Sergeant before his commission - but following the end of the Human-Covenant War, Orbit Drop Shock Troopers were somewhat useless, being garrisoned planet side. Thus resulted in Leo lodging a request for transfer into the Office of Investigations - more commonly referred to as "oh-eye" - to become an investigator. However, he really did not investigate much up to this point in his career, besides minor crimes on ship and a couple of homicides.

He exited the range, sealing the hatch behind him, and made his way through the titanium corridors of the Heroes All, returning to the OI Office, amidships.

Yet another boring day, he thought in dismay, before he took a seat behind his desk, and checked his AS2549 Portable Computer for new messages. He was often surprised to find he had received any mail at all from anyone (given the amount of ONI "censoring" on his mail), so the Lieutenant was more than a little surprised (with a little dread tossed in) to see a immediate transfer order to ONI Section 1 for a "special assignment". Also attached were immediate orders authorizing a shuttle to ferry him to an awaiting Frigate.

This cannot be good, he thought sullenly.

Rainbow_Dash.pngRainbow Dash (Talk)(Contribs)  

4

Ralph-G299 grunted as he hauled himself off the bunk in the NAVSPECWAR barracks room, his stiff body protesting over his sudden departure from the nap he'd just awoken from. He felt a tiny gleam of satisfaction as he stretched and felt the bones in his genetically augmented limbs snap into their proper places under his skin. The satisfaction was accompanied by a greater sense of relief as he reached out and activated the chiming communicator that had drawn him out of his slumber; it had rescued him from a particularly unpleasant dream.

He flicked the communicator on while cricking his neck. There was no need for any sort of formalities here; only one person ever called him on this.

"Yup," he said into the communicator's speaker, stifling a yawn as he did so. "What's goin' on, Jake?"

The voice of Jake-G293, his immediate superior and sole remaining squad mate crackled back at him over the speaker. As usual, it managed to be as clipped and devoid of emotion as humanly possible. "Ralph. You up?"

"If I weren't, I wouldn't be talkin' to ya," Ralph drawled sleepily. "What's the deal?"

Jake's response immediately snapped him out of his funk. "We've got marching orders again. Looks big this time. Get your gear sorted and report to the briefing room by 0730."

"Roger that." Ralph considered adding some extra quip in his reply just to see if he could rile up Jake, but he decided against it. Nothing ever got Jake wound up, be it whatever enemy they were ordered to kill or Ralph's own consistent insubordination. He just didn't get angry anymore, or at least not like he'd used to back when it wasn't just the two of them left in Team Jian. Before Terrence and Mary. Before Cassandra. Before Simon.

Shutting off the communicator, Ralph checked the timepiece strapped to his bare arm. 0630. He had an hour before he needed to report to briefing. Plenty of time to get a little self-indulgence in, so long as he wasn't interrupted. The news that he and Jake would be back in the field, back where they belonged, had filled his body with a faint tingle of excitement, but the pleasant feeling was already dying away and being replaced by the tense, quivering sensation that always haunted him when he was away from the action. And with the lull of sleep still lingering in the back of his mind, he needed to do something to ease his nerves.

Fortunately, he knew just what to do.

Sitting back down on the bed, he scratched his exposed armpits with a deliberate intensity. All he ever really wore in the barracks was a stained and faded undershirt and a pair of equally frayed briefs. Most of his fellow SPARTAN-IIIs, male and female alike, called him piggish, but Jake never said a word about it. He, like Ralph himself, just didn't give a shit, which was the way Ralph liked it.

He cricked his neck again and popped his knuckles, momentarily alleviating the tension that coursed through his body. He needed to run, damn it, to get up and throw some punches and shoot some hostiles. Every moment that he wasn't doing that was a moment wasted in Ralph's opinion, and the thought of all that constantly wasted time made him want to scream with frustration. He needed an outlet and he needed one now.

Licking his lips in anticipation, he reached under his cot's pillow and retrieved the M6 sidearm he kept under it at all times when not in the field. The weapon's grip--worn completely smooth by his constant attentions--felt cool and comforting in his palm, its cold metal clashing wonderfully with his hot hand. With a practiced ease, Ralph ejected its clip to make sure that it was loaded, then replaced it and ran a single finger down the barrel until it slid down onto the weapon's safety catch and flicked it off. He checked around him carefully for surveillance equipment of any kind. Spartans like himself considered it their duty in life to make it as hard as possible for their Office of Naval Intelligence handlers to monitor them, and the ONI boys had learned that the best way to avoid thousands of credits worth of equipment damage was to avoid putting cameras in Spartan barracks at all. Still, it never hurt to be careful.

Especially with what Ralph was about to do.

If he were somehow monitored doing this, he'd be buried in so many investigations and psych evaluations that he'd have no choice but to snap and kill a few people just so that all those psychologists and analysts had something real to investigate.

Confident that there was no one and nothing around to observe him, Ralph cricked his neck one last time before raising the M6 and resting its barrel on his temple. He let out a sigh of pure satisfaction as all the tension flowed out of his body and was replaced with a feeling of intense, almost ecstatic, calm. His finger curled around the trigger, and everything was at peace in the universe of Ralph-G299.

Now everything was just as it should be. There was nothing standing between him and oblivion except the immeasurably tiny sliver of air that rested between his finger and the M6's trigger. He was looking death in the face and Death was looking right back, daring him to slip up or lose control. All it would take was one loud noise, one startled grunt from someone walking in on him, and his enhanced reactions would force him to flinch and press down on the trigger. A distant part of him wondered if he would even feel the pistol's recoil in his wrist before a chunk of lead was propelled through his brain, but most of him wasn't even in the room anymore...

He was resting on the roof of a low building, his armored body covered by a thin sheet of camouflage foil that hopefully rendered him undetectable to the Insurrectionist soldiers that milled around on the ground below him. There was a sniper rifle in his hands, and he was gazing down it's scope through his helmet's Heads Up Display interface, his eyes scanning the view for the moment when his target would come into view. Then he'd need to neutralize him with a single shot and make his getaway into the surrounding woodlands while Jake lit up the other side of the Insurrectionist compound to cover his escape. One false move, one missed shot, and their mission would be compromised. And a compromised mission could easily lead to one or both of their deaths... This was the real world, the one that Ralph really and truly lived in. Back in the barracks or in transit to an assignment, he was little more than a shadow, a meaningless speck amidst the immense bulk of space. But out here, he was the author of his own fate and the fates of dozens and possibly hundreds of others. The hunt. The chase. The fights. That was what Ralph lived for, what he had been trained and raised to live for since he was less than seven years old. That was his reality, not the reality invented by a collection of faceless, uniformed goons who had given him a number and made him just one amongst hundreds of other Spartans.

But now there was an undercurrent of discomfort amidst all the adrenaline, one that made him frown and open his eyes and realize that he wasn't actually in those woods. No, he was simply sitting on a cot in a small, drab barracks room and he was in briefs and an undershirt holding a gun to his own head. Something had ruined the illusion this time, and with a surge of sudden disgust he threw the weapon down on the bed and leapt to his feet. It had been his dream, his miserable dream that had snuck in and messed things up for him this time, and he channeled his burst of loathing with a blindingly fast punch that left a dent in the metal wall. Ignoring the shooting pain in his knuckles he bent over and got to work checking his gear.

Goddamn you, Terrence and Mary. Goddamn you for dying. You too, Cassandra. And Simon. Why couldn't you have just stayed dead, huh? Why'd you have to come back and fuck everything up?

He sincerely hoped that Jake was right about whatever they were about to be briefed on. This had better be something big.

He needed it to be.

Actene: If This Is To End In Fire, Then We'll Burn Together

5

Stryker held his hands tightly around the Fox's steering wheel. The ramp outside slammed onto the Fox's hull. The Engineers behind Stryker were simultaneously attaching wires to different monitors. Stryker continued making calculations on the dashboard in front of him as the Fox began to slowly move. A voice spoke to him through the dashboard.

"Fox online. Engines online. Weapon systems offline. Would you like to enable weapon systems?" It asked.

"Yes." Stryker said. Another portion of the Fox's dashboard lit up as the Fox started to drive over large humps. One of the Huragok bumped into the other as the explosive vehicle kept bumping. After driving approximately 6 klicks from the temporary base the fox was dropped off, one of the Engineers came up to Stryker and tapped him on the shoulder with it's tentacle as the other pointed to an unnoticed area of the dashboard. Surrounding the Fox was a dozen hostile targets of Pakistani descent. Suddenly, the shield flared up. The multiple turrets stationed of the Fox fired at the terrorists. Stryker slammed his foot on the pedal and the Fox broke through dozens of nearly destroyed buildings. As Stryker kept taking heat, a gigantic skyscraper stood in front of him. Confident, Stryker smashed through the building like a gigantic stack of dominoes. The Fox leaped out and landed. Following the Fox's jump, a beam of light streaked past the Fox like a bullet as it impacted the building. The Onager cannon glared at the Fox with it's charging gun. The Fox raised it's cannon and fired. The Onager exploded like a firework.

Stryker turned the Fox and started driving a long dirt highway as the many Magpie fighters took flight and battled the Pelicans and Hornets overhead. Stryker kept holding the pedal as the Fox ran over countless bodies of anti UNSC resistance. The explosive rounds of the Fox's secondary cannon blew holes in the ruined buildings on the way. Suddenly, the ground rocked and trembled. A gigantic hole in the ground above the aerial battle opened. A large missile-like structure made it's descent to space. Three of the Magpies above took chase and followed the missile into atmosphere. The missile shot straight past a UNSC Marathon-class cruiser as the three Magpies docked in. A large slipspace portal opened wide as a gigantic Sangheili ship went through and fired it's plasma torpedoes at the missile. A large explosion rocked the sky and the enemy aircraft in the sky began to fall. The supercarrier was simultaneously fired at by the remaining Onager cannons until their demise at the powerful, unstoppable carrier. The Marathon-class entered the slipspace portal the carrier had came from. The Fox's radio transmission crackled.

"Humans. We require you help at our homeworld. The Fallen have risen! Something had come with us in our escape." the shipmaster said.

"Commander Damion. We have no time to assist in your homeworld, we have just stopped a nuclear missile from attacking the US. We need to help civilians." a colonel said. The radio crackled energy again until a more familiar voice spoke.

"This is Lieutenant Commander Jackson-A104 of Special Warfare group Three. The UNSC Marathon-class cruiser Invictus had just entered Supreme Commander Cedul's portal. Shanghai is under attack by basically their own fleet. They call themselves 'The Fallen'. We require immediate support." the radio said. Stryker stopped the vehicle as a black colored Phantom dropship fired and flipped the Fox over while the Huragok were distracted. Stryker flew out of his seat and rocked around in the Fox. The next moment the Fox stopped, the Huragok were dead and Stryker had landed out of the Fox. The Phantom hovered above him as he was levitating above to the Phantom. Swiftly, the Magpies pursuing the Phantom was no match to the modified flying vehicle as it just sped to the portal as it began to close.

Nanosoldier

6

4 hours ago


Lieutenant Commander Issac Cawthorn watched silently as the Sangheili walked into the operation centre, flanked by half a dozen Marine guards. Their wary eyes were trained on the aliens. One might think they were simply vigilant from a passing glance, but Cawthorn could see the whiteness of their knuckles that clutched their MA5s, and the stiff-shouldered posture that would certainly not be ideal in a combat situation. Not to mention the fact that the Sangheili were easily two heads taller than them. All in all, the Marines don't make for intimidation very well.

Cawthorn maintained his outward casual demeanour; he was one of only two commissioned officers currently in the room, but the Sangheili didn't need to know that. He was standing directly above and behind them on the second level, hidden in a shadow, no less. They wouldn't see him unless they knew he was there. Like most of the technicians in the ops centre, they would assume the only person they'd be addressing was—

"Welcome to Eagle's Nest, Sangheili," said Fleet Admiral Terrence Hood. His voice held no trace of hostility, but Cawthorn caught the frosty hint that wasn't associated with even military discipline.

The alien leader, armoured in silver-white, made no efforts to feign politeness. "Admiral. We require your help, immediately."

Despite himself, Cawthorn leaned forward slightly, interested. This was certainly uncharacteristic for Sangheili. None of the usual show of pride and honour. Something big must have happened. Careful not to miss a single word, he reached up to his uniform lapels and activated the camera folded underneath. Perhaps an investigation will be necessary later.

"What is it you need from us?" Lord Hood asked in the same quiet voice.

The Sangheili leader handed him a elliptical magenta device. The Admiral read it briefly, his eyes flickering back and forth across the holographic screen. He didn't say anything.

"The message was from the Arbiter himself," the alien said. A few of the technicians in the room glanced up involuntarily. "He believes that it is necessary for us to seek your military."

Hood was still silent, his eyes still. Cawthorn knew that he was thinking hard. But the Sangheili obviously thought otherwise.

"There is not much time," the leader said, almost impatiently. "Our ship is in orbit awaiting departure, and we will need as many of your forces as you can spare."

"I don't know," said Hood at last. "We're a bit busy at the moment."

"Do you mean to refuse us?" the silver-armoured alien asked, his voice raising slightly. "After our agreement during the Schism? We had come to your aid when you were under threat of the Forerunners, and now you do are saying that you would turn us away."

The tension was rising in the room. The Marines shifted their feet. Cawthorn could see a few of the technicians surreptitiously reaching for their sidearms. He himself had an M6 magnum strapped to his side, but knew better than to give away his position should something break out in the room. There's more than enough personnel in the room. I don't need to get involved.

Hood met the Sangheili's eyes for the first time. "I'm not saying anything of the sort. It's just that your arrival was unexpected, and we need to think about something like this, and at such short notice, it could take a while—"

"Listen, Admiral," the leader said, with a bite in his voice now. "We did not journey all the way from Sanghelios just so you would leave us to deal with this crisis. Our newborns are being kidnapped as we speak. The Fallen think in ways completely different from ours, so we cannot hope to overcome them on our own."

"Alright," Hood said, casting a warning glance around the room. The more curious personnel that had caught the end of the conversation looked back to their screens. Turning to one of the technicians next to him, he said, "Inform Commander Montrose that he needs to ready his frigate, and locate SPARTAN-116. Tell him to rally the Spartans—"

"You do not have a lot of Spartans at your disposal," the Sangheili remarked.

The Admiral sighed. "Our Marines are dealing with something else at the moment. I don't think your allies will find them very helpful anyway." The statement sounded almost accusing. Before the alien could respond, however, Hood added, "You will bring your ship into the frigate. We have recently improved our Slipspace drives, so the return trip will be faster."

Cawthorn caught the slightest of huffs from the Sangheili. But he responded, "Very well. We will wait aboard our ship." Without another word, they turned around and walking out of the ops centre, cutting between the Marines that were standing behind them. As Hood began giving out more orders, Cawthorn switched off the camera before silently walking up to the railing that overlooked the room below. The Admiral immediately looked up and spotted him. Without a word, he disappeared into the stairwell, closing the door below him.

Cawthorn moved back into the shadows as Hood reached the top of the stairs. "Looks like our...session will have to be put on hold, Admiral," he said.

"I'll wait," Hood replied. "I assume you heard everything."

"Yes. I think I'll send someone along to get a good view of what's happening."

The Admiral scowled. "The Sangheili want Spartans. This isn't going to be much of a cloak-and-dagger operation."

Cawthorn gave a thin smile. "Don't worry about that, Admiral. I know what I'm doing."

"If you want a full report, you can always interrogate the Spartans after the mission," Hood said tersely.

"You know I don't trust SPARTAN-116, sir. And he's got more of a grip on those Spartans than I'd like." Cawthorn walked past him, making for the second-floor exit.

I know just the right person for this job. It's about time he woke up.


Justin-057 writhed erratically, banging his fists on the layer of glass that covered him. He felt twin lances of pain shoot down his wrists, but ignored them as he struggled to free himself. Where am I? What's going on? He wanted to open his eyes, but couldn't—

He heard a hiss; he felt a spray of air on his face, and the next thing he knew, he tumbled out of whatever he was trapped in and onto a cold floor. He heard shouting in the room, and tried to stand up, but felt someone grab his arm. He tried to pull away, but couldn't summon his strength.

Something sharp pierced his forearm, but it wasn't painful. It was...it was a syringe.

Okay. Now open your eyes.

Justin opened his eyes. He was lying in a room, but it didn't look alien. He was in a human facility. That was good, that meant he wasn't—

He felt the grip on his arm loosen. "Okay, now that we've got you calmed down, can you listen to me?"

He looked round at the speaker. A uniformed man was staring at him. In one hand was a syringe. UNSC Navy, right? Good, I remember that. Justin stood up stiffly, feeling as if his joints were made of wood. Still, he managed to hold himself straight, looming a head over the technician.

"Alright, you've been in cryo a long time," the cryo said. "It's normal if you can't remember everything at first. It'll come back to you."

He handed Justin a Navy uniform that was folded on a nearby table. As he got dressed, the memories began to form in his mind again. The Covenant, Reach, Earth, and—

"Where am I?" he asked. At least, that was what he tried to say. Instead, he gave a violent cough and spat something slimy onto the floor. What is that...?

The technician didn't look the least bit alarmed. "I was wondering where that ended up...at least you got it out of your throat. Now, if you would come with me."

Justin's mind was teeming with questions, but he decided not to ask them right now. This guy probably doesn't have the answers.

The tech led him out of the cryo chamber and down a hall. They reached a lift. "Get in," he said. "There's someone waiting to debrief you at the top."

The Spartan gave him a curt nod, and stepped in. The doors slid shut behind him, and he felt a subtle shift as it moved downward. As he waited in silence, he took deep breaths, trying to piece together his recollections. What had happened? How long have I been in cryo?

After standing in the lift for three minutes, Justin began to wonder how far down he was going. Am I on a ship or in a base? I don't even know if I'm going underground.

Just then, the doors slid open. He began to step out, but someone was already waiting for him there.

A black-uniformed man was standing just outside the lift, standing straight with his hands behind his back. On each of his shoulders were a single star and silver bar.

Justin wasn't familiar with the insignia. Did the UNSC change them a while back? But he was fairly certain that the man was an officer. So he raised his hand to salute.

"No need for that," the officer said. "I'd like to have a word with you, SPARTAN-057. One-on-one."

Puzzled, he lowered his hand. He decided to ask a question. "Who are you, sir?"

"Lieutenant Commander Isaac Cawthorn. Follow me. I have a mission for you."

This guy has ONI written all over him, Justin thought as he walked down the dark hallway with Cawthorn. He didn't know whether he was nervous about this meeting; ONI always had a way of making everything feel shifty. But then again, it would be good to be a part of the UNSC again, carrying out his duties as a Spartan.

50px-Vena.png Sonasaurus | Talk Contribs

7

UNSC Frigate: The Show Goes On, Sanghelios geosynchronous orbit SPARTAN-D340

Ryu boarded his Pelican, admiring the art work that he had painted on the nose of the transport, It resembeled an enemy from a ancient eight-bit video game, that in turn resembled a bullet. He snapped back into reality and reminded himself of task at hand, prepping the craft for flight. He had heard that Fallen were kidnapping Elite infants, but he didn't understand why. Again he forced himself to focus. Then he noticed Chen still wasn't here, he sighed, Chen had always been somewhat insubordinate, but nothing serious ever happened to him.

"Sonia? Do me a favor and punch Chen in the jaw."Ryu said. Five minutes later, and Chen was not only up, but fully armored.

"Morinin." Chen just glared at him from beneath his EVA helmet, as he boarded the Pelican.

"We're headed for the Vadam Keep, reports of heavy fighting around there, assume they could use our help.

"Flying headlong into a fight? Doesn't seem like your style, Ryu." Sonia commented. Ryu ignored it. His eyes widened, a barrage of fuel rod was headed his way. He pulled hard to the left on his flight stick and tapped a few buttons, a few seconds later and the Pelican swerved hard to the left and slowly faded away. Several Heavy Needler rounds were apparently unfazed by the ruse contiued to follow the craft. He dove and weaved between a pair of rock spires as the Needler rounds impacted the rock. Ryu exhaled for the first time during the whole exchange. His RADAR displayed that a trio of Banshees were on his six. He swerved to dodge the plasma bolts and fuel rods attempting to shoot him down.

"Ryu, what's with the fancy flying?! I'm getting airs-oof!!" Chen demanded, as he was swept off his feet by the force of the turn.

"Shut up, sit your ass down, and let me focus!!" Ryu was now visibly sweating, he did a one hundred eighty degree turn and opened up with the 70 Mike Mike chaingun mounted beneath his cockpit and unleashed the transport's payload of ANVIL ASM missiles, none of the Ground Support Aircraft survived the barrage.

"I'm setting you guy down behind the keep, Chen, get on the HMG, cover Sonia as she gets out" Ryu ordered

War does not determine who is right, only who is left 17:08, May 19, 2011 (UTC)

8

Marcus checked his SMG's. He had been told this was a simple uprising, that he was to take a small recon team to take care of it. Marcus knew this wasn't an average uprising. He fought down rebellions on Earth, and fought against and with Sangheili warriors before. This time, however, he was a commanding officer and was leading his squad in this mission. There was Rob, the computer expert;Tyler, the resident chatterbox and medic; Jenn, the team's sniper; and Jimmy, the strongest and the CCC expert. When Marcus found the group waiting by the Pelican, he heard Tyler calling, "Marcus!"

Marcus grinned. These were his friends, who have been with him since the Human-Covenant War. He knew when to have Tyler shut up, or to have Jimmy have to separate Tyler and Rob when they argued, or when to just let things flow.

"I heard they're kidnapping Elite babies." Tyler whispered as Marcus walked over,"They stole the relatives of the Arbiter."

Marcus remained stone cold. He thought this was going to ber an easy job. Now, however, things just got complicated. This isn't part of a simple uprising. This was an act of war.

"Squad, get your guns," Marcus said, "We need to be ready for the on-coming storm."

---It's all here, black and white, clear as crystal. 18:36, May 20, 2011 (UTC)

9

Buchanan Brown woke up with blurry vision. He soon realized he was in an unknown location. "Good, you're awake" said an unknown voice.

Buchanan Brown attempted to stand up. However as hard as he tried, the best he was able to do was sit up.

"Don't worry, the drugs we gave you are temporary." said the voice, which he realized was coming from a person sitting at his bedside.

"What did you do to me?" murmured Buchanan.

"I saved your life." the voice was now coming from a bald man, 50s or 60s. "You were shot in the head. You are obviously suffering from short-term amnesia.

Buchanan Brown attempted to stand up.

"Don't get up quite yet. I still have to administer some tests" said the man.

Nevertheless, Buchanan stood up. "Who are you?" asked Buchanan.

"I'm Doc Butler." answered the man. "I already know who you are, Buchanan. Welcome back to the Mojave Express, Mr. Brown, we'll be landing at MacAslan spaceport, soon."

"Wait? MacAslan as in New Vegas?" asked Buchanan frantically.

"Indeed," said Doc Butler. "Is there a problem with that?"

"Yes... there is a very big problem." said Buchanan fearfully. "You should've left me for dead, seeing as your medical handy work will have been for nothing."

"Why's that?" asked Doc Butler.

"Oh a little thing to do with me being on Robert House's fucking hit list." Cried Buchanan. "And as we know, whatever the richest man in the colonies wants, the richest man in the colonies gets. He wants a planet. He gets New Vegas."

"You can stay on the freighter while it's landed here in New Vegas, then we take up and go to Banda." assured Butler. "However this is my stop, you'll have to take up staying on the Freighter with the Captain.

"And who might that be?" asked Buchanan.

"Dane Steward." answered a bearded man walking into the hold. "Or you can just call me Stu, after my middle name."

10

Southern Military District, Chicago Industrial Zone, Earth 7:00 PM


MCPO Ben-B314 slowly began to relax as he pulled up to the Brandes-DeVille Apartment Complex in the Chicago Industrial Zone. While Texoma was being rebuilt, he had relocated here. And he was doing fine in his semi-retirement.

He left his mind drift as his stripped-down Civillian Warthog pulled to a total stop in front of the complex. For the past three years he had become the head trainer of the SABRE Program, which was reinstituted in 2555 by Fleet Admiral Cole and General of the Air Force Randy McPherson. Research facilities had been opened up all across the Colonies, and Ben's track record as a pilot spoke for itself, so he'd been named the head trainer of the facility on terra firma.

So McPherson and Cole awoke him from cryo-sleep and he'd been training Marine, Navy, and Air Force recruits how to use the Sabre. He enjoyed it, but missed the thrill of being an active soldier. He knew not when he would ever be called back into active duty, if ever, but he would be ready. But, for know, he'd continue to take the ball and roll with it.

Ever since the end of the Human-Covenant War in 2553, Ben spent his time between liberating Covenant Loyalist-controlled worlds, leading the campaign to rebuild the Commonwealth of Texoma, and peacefully napping in cryo. Some would consider that instability, but he had seen more unstability in the last 5 years than most would see in a lifetime, so he'd become used to it. If anything, it drove him.

He exited his 'Hog and quietly strolled towards his apartment. His wasn't very far into the complex, maybe 17 feet, then upstairs. Before continuing on, he pulled out a small, palm-sized data module that had been modified to play music files, designed to looked like the "iPod" of the 21st century. He put the earbuds in his ears and turned it on. The song "Chaos" by his flip music band, The Four Horsemen, began to play.

Like many marines, Ben had a liking for flip music, and in his spare time, he formed a band called The Four Horsemen. He didn't have much time to play nowadays but he always got the band back together whenever he did. They had become relatively popular and even did some tours....and had already made 4 studio albums. He had music from all four of them on the module.

He ascended the stairs and reached his door, Number A114.....when he noticed something strange. The door was unlocked. He never left the door unlocked. He pushed the door open a crack. It was dark.

Something isn't right here.... Ben thought. He reflexively reached for the M6 Sidearm holstered in his belt. He rarely fired it, 'cuz nowadays he didn't need to, but being a SPARTAN, he knew he needed to be prepared for anything.

Slowly, he edged into the apartment, the sidearm raised. The room was still dark as he looked around. He heard a rustling noise come from another room, his bedroom probably. He flipped on the lightswitch. The living room was vacant.

Ben slowly moved towards his bedroom door. It was slightly ajar, and that room was dark too. But as he listened closer, he heard more rustling sounds. There's definately something going on in there. he thought. He kicked open the door, flipped on the lights, and prepared to unload every round of the pistol. But he stopped himself just in time when he saw who was standing in there.

A thin, dark-haired, goateed man wearing glasses and an ONI uniform stood there, a smirk on his face. "Hello, ANTIOCH."

"WILL 'O THE WISP?" asked Ben. This man was an ONI operative, or a spook, as they were often called, known simply as Codename: WILL 'O THE WISP (although Ben often called him WILL.) He had been a longtime associate of Ben's during the War and had served as Ben's commanding officer a few times during his tour of duty with ONI Section 1. The last time he'd seen him face-to-face was in 2551, when he was introduced to the SABRE Program for the first time. Since then, in typical ONI fashion, he'd lost all contact with him. Yet now, here he was.

"What are you doing here? You realize you're breaking and entering, right?" Ben asked WILL, and the ONI operative nodded. "Come now, SPARTAN-B314, you of all people should know that some rules don't apply to ONI in emergency situations." Ben rolled his eyes. "So, tell me....what are you doing here."

The smile vanished from WILL's face. And in that moment, Ben knew there was something going on. Something big.

"We need you again, Spartan." the operative told him. "Now. That's why I've gone to such great lengths to find you. We need to leave as soon as possible. I have a prowler in orbit ready as soon as its convenient. There's a lot to talk about....."


UNSC Niagra Falls, Geosynchronous Orbit Above Earth 1 hour later

Ben and WILL O' THE WISP walked towards the bridge of the prowler Niagra Falls. Ben was anxious. He wondered what this was all about. He had a feeling it wouldn't be good.

"WILL, what's going on here?" Ben blurted out for what felt like the millionth time.

"Be patient." replied the ONI operative.

Soon enough they got to the bridge. When they crossed the threshold, a dozen bridge officers looked up from what they were doing. One stepped forth. "He's in his quarters. He's expecting you." WILL nodded. "Thanks." Then he turned to Ben. "Follow me." He led Ben to a small door on the bridge.

It appeared to be a spacious office, but only a portion of it was lit. Even the desk appeared to be partially in shadow. Ben couldn't tell if there was someone sitting at it or not. That is, not until he heard a voice come from the shadows.

"Loosen up, Sierra. You look too nervous to be a Spartan."

Ben knew that voice, and a moment later, its owner emerged from the shadows. It was none other than Rear Admiral Peter Longstreet.

"Well, hello, Old Timer." Ben said good naturedly to his good friend and former commanding officer. Longstreet cracked a grin. "Same old guy, ain't you, Ben? Sit down." Longstreet pulled up another chair. Ben took it and sat down in front of the desk. He did the same to WILL O' THE WISP, but the ONI spook politely declined and moved into the shadows near the door.

"So....why am I here?" Ben asked Longstreet.

Longstreet paused a moment before continuing. "We have trouble. Big trouble. On Sangheilios. War is about to erupt there in a big way."

Ben raised an eyebrow. "Really? The Sangheili? Trouble in paradise?"

Longstreet snickered slightly. "Literally. They're about to go to war with each other."

Ben was dumbfounded. A Sangheili Civil War? He said nothing however, as he wanted to know more.

"Have you heard of the separatist group known as the Fallen?" Ben nodded. “I have heard about them, but all I know about them is that they were a very outspoken Sangheili separatist group, not ones to actually go to war.”

“Then you know as much as we do.” Longstreet replied. “All we know NOW is that they need our assistance, but at the moment, we are racing to face a deadly enemy that we barely know anything about. So....I have an expert with me.” Longstreet nodded to a corner of the room, still in the shadows. “And someone who I know you are familiar with, Ben.” In his peripheral vision, Ben saw someone tall and very slender emerge from the shadows and stand next to the Rear Admiral. And Ben noticed with a shock who it was....

“Greetings, Spartan.” said High General Adal ‘Myram.

Ben had a long history with Adal. This Sangheili had served as the High General of the Covenant during the Fall of Reach.....during Ben’s time with Noble Team....and after the Pillar of Autumn escaped, it was Adal’s forces that surrounded him, alone in the ruins of Aszod.....and Adal himself that rammed his Energy Sword through Ben’s chest, almost killing him. However, in the same year, when the Sangheili broke away from the Covenant during the Siege of Earth, it was Adal who rescued an unconscious Ben from a Loyalist supercarrier spearheading the attack on Mexico during the Battles of Mexico City, Guadalajara, and Cancun from orbit after Ben had disabled its reactor...and was planning on going down with the ship. He had almost been responsible for Ben's death, but had also risked his own life to save Ben's.

"It has been along time, Adal." Ben replied.

"You two can catch up, later, we're burnin' daylight." replied Longstreet. "General, tell us about the Fallen."

Adal sighed heavily before continuing. "The Fallen are, as you know, a group of radical extremist Sangheili. They were first formed not long after the Great War ended. They were comprised of Sangheili who disliked the Alliance with Humans. For many years, the Fallen were led in secret by an Sangheili named Atsu 'Hidal. But rescently, they have apparently come under new leadership, and they've come out in the open. There have been conflicts erupting all over Sangheilios."

"It sounds like hell." said WILL O' THE WISP, who'd been silent the whole time.

Adal nodded solemnly. "But there's more." he went on. "We've rescently learned that the Fallen have....." Adal forced himself to say the next sentance. ".....been kidnapping Sangheili newborns."

Ben recoiled. "That is sick." he replied with disgust. Adal hung his head in shame, as if it was his own fault. Longstreet looked as if his mother had just been murdered. Even WILL O' THE WISP made a face as if he had a bad taste in his mouth.

"The Fallen have reached new lows for Sangheili. They have besmirched any type of honor they had left." Adal said, a venom now in his voice. "Even newborns from the Arbiter's own keep have been taken....."

"If this is their first step, then what could possibly be next?" asked Ben.

"That is why we are going." replied Longstreet. "And why we need you, Ben. Sangheilios is about to be catapulted into the longest, bloodiest, most brutal and gruesome conflict it's ever faced....but they don't need to do it alone. ONI's pulling all its resources for this one, Ben. We're gonna hit the Fallen before they hit us. And you're our man to do it. You and Adal."

"I will, indeed, be partners with you on this one, Spartan. You will need my knowledge of Sangheilios." Ben nodded.

The Rear Admiral opened his mouth, but Ben cut him off. "No need to ask, Pete: I'm in."

Longstreet raised an eyebrow. "I wasn't going to ask that, Spartan....not yet. Do you think that you and Adal are the only ones I've recruited? Step this way." Longstreet stood up and pressed a few buttons on a hidden console somewhere on his desk. A light came up on the left side of the room, revealing a door. No....not just a door. A lift.

The door hissed open. Two very tall figures, clad it MJOLNIR armor variants but without helmets, stepped out. For a moment, Ben didn't recognize either of them. But after a moment the one nearest him said, "'Sup Ben?".

Ben burst into a huge grin, lept up out of his seat, and embraced his brother Leon. "Leon! Where ya been, bro?" Leon smiled. "Oh, around." Ben turned to the other man, Darius. "And Darry! Good to see you too, man!" Ben fist bumped both of them, then turned to Longstreet, "So you got us and Adal for your team in this mission? I like your thinking, Pete."

"Hold on." said Longstreet. "There's still one more." They all turned to the lift. And slowly, the lift opened again: another figure in green MJOLNIR armor (the SCOUT variant, Ben noticed) and a Sniper Rifle slung across his back emerged, and looked very familiar to Ben. And, in a burst of recognition, Ben knew who it was.

"Jun?!" Ben blurted out.

Jun-A266 turned towards Ben, and slowly took off his helmet. It was Jun. And he look exactly the same.

"Six." he said. "Or....Ben, I should say. It has been a long time."

Ben paused. That was the first time that Jun had ever called him by his true name. The two former teammates walked towards each other.

"I thought you were dead." Ben said.

"I thought you were dead too." replied Jun.

"Well, it looks like we're the only ones of Noble who aren't dead." Ben said solemnly.

"This new mission would be the best way to honor their memory." stated Jun.

"Well said, SPARTAN-A266." said Longstreet. "This is your new team."

"Spartans." said Adal. "I am Adal 'Myram, High General of Sangheilios, and I'm your partner for this mission." The others greeeted him politely.

Ben turned to face Darius and Leon. "Remember during the War when we jokingly called ourselves 'The Dragoons'? Well, looks like The Dragoons are back in business."

"Literally." added Longstreet.

Everyone looked at Longstreet. He continued, "You are officially known as the Dragoons."

No one spoke for a full minute. Then Darius blurted out "Cool!" And Everyone agreed.

Longstreet turned to face them all. "Better get some sleep, everyone. We've got a long road ahead of us."

Only the strongest will survive. Lead me to heaven when we die. I am the shadow on the wall. I am the one who will save us all. May 20, 2011 (UTC)

Part Two

Autel entered Cyla's room, where Urei 'Cazal was speaking to his sister. She was still ill, and answered quietly. Hearing him enter, he squeezed her hand gently, and turned. "So this is what the Fallen's proclaimed honour has led them to, Autel 'Vadam."

"Isto preaches hypocrisy," Autel said. "He would feel no shame in killing newborns, and would have done so if there were no one of veneration to stop him. Long have I disagreed with the Fallen's motives, but they have always stood by their beliefs with the honour they say they hold."

"See the effect he has struck upon us. Our offspring hold no guilt, yet they are the victims; the mothers spilled no blood, and being deprived of their children they become haunted; and those in the military will have no intention of stepping down, they will vow revenge and try harder to overcome the Fallen. Isto is a fool, and one day he will see judgement."

Autel approached Cyla. "I must go now. The humans will be here soon, and I swear that I will find them, no matter how long it takes, I will bring our children back." He stood up, looked at Urei, and clenched his fist over his chest, which was returned. He quickly left the Keep and ran down the mountainside.

So much had happened over the last few days, and everything was becoming more turmoiled. Thel was still trying to negotiate with the Fallen, and was trying to hold down the fact that they were now at war. But soon everyone would know anyway, and at the moment, it was best for the Arbiter to feign ignorance as to what was really going on while the matters were attended to inconspicuously.

When he reached the Demal Keep, an elder allowed him to enter, and he headed for the medical facility. Sona was striding impatiently up and down the hall, while Zehr'tul and Taszar stood by a pillar, conversing quietly. The subject of their conversation was obviously Isto 'Vadum. Fira had been in surgery for hours now, and nothing had been heard.

Presently the door slid open, and a blood-soaked Sangheili and a Huragok floated out. As both approached Autel, Sona, Zehr'tul, and Taszar walked over to hear the discourse.

The Huragok started whistling and gibbering, and the Sangheili translated.

"Fira 'Demal has sustained major burns to most of his body, and almost half his organs are dead or failing. One of his hearts was destroyed. He will require a lot of blood and several transplants. He has a slim chance of survival, but he's in a coma, so he won't bleed quite as much from his reduced heart rate."

This was not necessarily bad news. His friend had a sliver of a chance to survive, but he had already survived the explosion of a plasma grenade. Maybe he could beat the odds twice.

"Thank you."

The Sangheili surgeon nodded, and the Huragok twittered, then both reentered the room to continue the work.

Autel slumped into a seat, drained of energy. He didn't know whether to return to fighting the Fallen or help track Isto's corvette to what it was right now. Perhaps everything would be sorted when the humans arrived.

Footsteps reached his ears, and everyone turned to stare down the hall.

Autel looked up and saw three humans in luminescent green armour approaching him.

The front most one spoke first. "Autel?"

Autel stood, the sight of the supersoldiers stirring hope in his mind. "Thank you for coming." Now, maybe we can strike back.


Maria Esquival worried about her son. She couldn't help it. He worked for the UNSC, as an ODST on the now slightly clearer front lines. Every day she feared that today would be the day, and she'd open the door to find two Marines there, holding the UNSC flag. She remembered the day the Covenant came to Earth, and not long after found out that her husband had been killed. She didn't want to lose her son the same way.

She finished her shopping, paid for the groceries, and went home. Maria lived on a pension from years of work in civic sociology, occasionally contracting out for the UNSC to establish colonies. Under her guidance, colonies had flourished.

All for the UNSC.

Her car glided slowly into her driveway, and she stepped out of the vehicle. Maria popped the trunk and took the bags out and carried them into the house. Putting the groceries away, she closed the refrigerator door and the lights went out.

A gigantic hand clamped over her mouth, and she was lifted in the air, kicking and struggling, turned to face her attacker. An Elite had a hold on her. His armour, however, was very odd for the alien.

It seemed to be a throwback to the human middle aged eras. It had many overlapping white plates that were made to slide easily over each other, but it obviously had incredible technology behind it. She could almost feel the shield around the Elite's armour. His helmet covered his head. The eyepieces were slanted, made to inspire fear in his enemies. It was doing a pretty good job of it, too. An Energy Sword sprang to life, the light from it throwing shadows throughout her kitchen.

The Elite clicked its mandibles, and spoke through a translator.

"If you scream for help, you die, human!"


"What do you want?" Were the first words out of Maria's mouth when the Elites tore the gag out.

The leader, one who called himself Isto, stood on the other side of her table, his mask slung over his shoulder.

"I want you to remember what you used to fight for. Do you remember your time in..." He thought for a moment. "The Rubble?"

She glared into his eyes. Was that what this was about? The UNSC were allies with the Sangheili now, were they rooting out anyone with traces to the Insurrection?

"Of course, but I'm not even an Innie. I used to live on Mad—"

He cut her off. "That has nothing to do with it! We want your talents, in order to strike a blow to the UNSC and Separatists at once."

"I'm not sure—"

"Remember what you wanted? You wanted to work with the Covenant, you knew that we were the right ones, that the UNSC is the tyrannical regime!"

Maria's gaze faltered, then hardened again. "But those Jackals betrayed us! They were set to slit our throats!"

"The Kig-Yar can never be trusted! It is in their blood to be treacherous! But I, as a Sangheili of the Covenant, and a Fallen, give you my word and honour that I cannot betray you. Remember why you hated the UNSC. Where has your fire gone?"

"What are you doing here?"

He told her about the kidnapping of the Sangheili newborns, and his plan to lure the Sangheili to Earth. Maria tried to pull away.

"I won't help you do this!" she said. "We're allies now! What honour is there in kidnapping children?" She shuddered. "I can't believe you would do this to your own species!"

Isto's grip tightened, and placed the Sword in front of her face. "If you do not do as I say, I will kill you."

There was steel in her eyes. "Then kill me. I won't help you do this."

He was surprised, and a bit impressed. This human had as much honour as any Sangheili.

Isto's pondered for a moment. His mandibles parted in a nasty smile. "If you do not help me, I will kill your son."

Maria seemed to be struggling with herself. "You—"

"Honour comes at a price!" he said. "You were willing to pay that price, and I am too! Now you will do as I say, or you will watch me kill everyone you care about in front of your eyes. Starting with your son."

She looked frustrated as she looked away from his eyes. At last, she said, "What do you want me to do?"

Isto 'Vadum smiled, and explained the plan. He was amused by her looks of repugnance.

"Remember," he said. "Speak of this to no one. If you do, I will find out."

"You don't have to tell me that," Maria said with a spark of defiance. "But I'll warn you now that this won't work out for anyone, least of all you." The fire suddenly left her eyes, to be replaced with dejection. With a sigh, she and left the kitchen.

1

Norsak 'Zaremee reclined into his crystal zinc throne, sighing as he attentively examined the roasted, cooled, purple Ontaan waiting in his right palm. Upon confirming that it would do, he swiftly sunk his teeth into the tangy delicacy. He didn't allow his mind time to consider how rare such fruit were, and how greatly they were desired by lower Sangheili. Obligated to live up to his egocentric nature, he merely grazed the fruit's outer layers, tossing the undesirables to a platinum tray waiting on the far opposite of the grand hall.

'Zaremee tiredly watched as one of his personal culinarians entered the room to fetch the fruit and dispose of it. His gaze anxiously shifted towards the unexpected visitor, who had apparently been escorted. He quickly recognized this officer as a Field Marshall. After minutes of reverent pacing towards his majesty, the Sangheili began,

"Master, we have received word from our Special Operations Officer Autel 'Vadam that Human reinforcements have arrived."

"That is good news. ." Norsak exclaimed. The messenger was silent. "I will leave the managing their support to him."

"Yes, sir." stated the messenger before leaving. Pikapi Sig|text=A quick post to let y'all know I'm here...

2

3

The Fallen's leadership might have focused on broader schemes of kidnapping and other intrigues designed to bring the Sangheili government to its knees, but it still needed local commanders to focus on the smaller picture and maintain the fighting that raged across Sanghelios every day. It was this fighting that prevented the Sangheili military from devoting its full might to tearing the rebel organization apart from its roots and instead forced it to devote countless warriors and resources to respond to Fallen attacks and to defend against even more attacks that seemed capable of springing up in any one of Sanghelios's provinces. The local commanders themselves were a mixed bag of guerilla leaders, conventional warriors, espionage coordinators, and even concealed clan leaders all united under their goal of freeing the Sangheili from any threat of human influence.

Cosu 'Zandan, Kaidon of the Zandan keep, happened to be one of the latter type of local commanders, and Ro'nin despised him for it.

As the Sangheili mercenary strode as quickly as he could through one of the Zandan keep's many gardens, he fought back the urge to tear out his energy sword and hack the nearby shrubs--each one painstakingly nurtured and sculpted into ridiculously complicated patterns and formations--down to size. This entire keep, with its lavishly furnished halls and richly-garbed inhabitants, was one massive monument to needless decadence and yet another symbol of all that Ro'nin had come to despise about his people's culture.

No amount of money, he thought to himself, casting a scornful eye on a pair of females gossiping in an adjacent garden. Should have been worth coming back to this miserable planet.

But the more he reminded himself of that, the more he realized that it was as transparent as the countless displays of wealth and power flaunted everywhere in this keep. Without the Fallen's employ here, he'd be stuck on some backwater colony world working as an enforcer for the Syndicate or some small-time local criminals. For all his practiced disdain for the world he had grown up on, Ro'nin knew that he would never be able to deny his species' innate need to fight real battles against real opponents. And while he was in no way adverse to selling his services to the highest bidder, he was still repulsed by the notion of butchering thugs to help line some drug smuggler's already bulging pockets.

Of course, serving as the attack dog for a bean-counting coward like Cosu was almost equally stomach-turning.

Looking around at the Zandan keep, one might have never guessed that it was a crucial focal point for one of the largest and most successful Fallen operations on the planet. There wasn't a single warrior in sight and, apart from a small practice yard used for practicing swordplay, there was very little in the way of security for the keep at all. Clan members and their servants were everywhere, working in the gardens or performing other activities that struck Ro'nin as too inane for words. He wondered how an entire clan could manage to pull off something as treacherous as making their keep a hub for rebel war parties. It seemed that they all shared Cosu's devious genes along with his name.

The keep was situated on a large hill that was surrounded by farmland. There in the fields the less well-off members of the Sangheili race toiled to bring food to keeps and villages across Sanghelios--and money to the Zandan keep's coffers. While it was true that the plantation workers were assisted by some of the most advanced agricultural equipment in the galaxy they still lived lives of mindless drudgery that Ro'nin didn't envy in the slightest. But at least they did real work for their living. Cosu and his clan just seemed to sit back and make sure that they got all the profit that was their due.

Ro'nin ignored the rest of the clan members and servants and quickened his pace. He wasn't in a hurry to see his paymaster, oh no. He was just anxious to get this tedious meeting over with and get back to his real work.

Cosu's office was a small building located at the center of the garden. Ro'nin was sure that there was a more secure working area indoors but he figured that if Cosu had spent so much to furnish his gardens than he might as well enjoy it as often as possible. He crossed the office's threshold--there was no door--and found himself standing in the Zandan kaidon's work space.

"I do wish you'd wait to enter, mercenary," Cosu commented without looking up. He was seated in a comfortable-looking hover-chair before a desk that seemed to be one massive holo-screen. He declined to use Ro'nin's assumed name, as he always did, but Ro'nin had quickly gotten used to that particular insult. There was no point in nurturing petty annoyances when there was so much more about Cosu that he could despise.

"We're both busy people," Ro'nin noted, burying his disgust under a front of practiced scorn. "I have a war to fight and you have your... finances to contemplate." He lingered over the word finances, hoping that Cosu was at least somewhat aware of how much he despised his profession.

But Cosu did not give Ro'nin the satisfaction of rising to the bait. "Indeed," he replied, giving him a cursory glance before returning his eyes to his desk. "Though I would prefer it if you would leave those warlike trappings of yours back on the battlefield when you come here. I'd hate for rumors to get out that mercenaries such as yourself could gain entrance to this keep."

If Ro'nin had his way, he would never have had to come here at all. A cursory meeting such as this would have been easily handled by a long distance conversation with holograms, but Cosu seemed to enjoy lording it over his underlings. Sometimes Ro'nin wondered if Cosu's fellow Fallen found him quite as repulsive as he did.

He inclined his head in a mocking gesture of deference and removed his helmet. "You'll have to forgive my shabby fashion sense," he said, indicating the battered armor he wore along with the panoply of weapons attached to its surface. "We can't all be as appearance conscious as someone important like you."

Cosu ignored the jab, but Ro'nin knew he was fuming inside. The Fallen commander would have dismissed him ages ago were it not for his prodigious skill on the battlefield. Even someone with as big an ego as Cosu was smart enough to know not to cut someone like Ro'nin loose. He was a fearsome warrior and he was smart enough to lead regular Fallen warriors into combat. He also had a savage reputation that was well-known enough to inspire plenty of fear in the enemy. Such assets were hard to come by. But Ro'nin had long ago promised himself that if the day ever came when Cosu finally decided to terminate his contract that he would make sure to leave a few parting gifts of his own. Potentially lethal ones.

"Why did you kill those farmers yesterday?" Cosu asked, thankfully getting right to the point. "Our cause has enough ugly rumors about it swirling around without you gallivanting around and inciting my warriors to butcher villagers."

Ro'nin bristled at the accusation. It was all too easy for Cosu to play the honorable warrior from his comfortable seat in the keep. He didn't spend his time hiding from government Phantoms and Banshees. And while Ro'nin had no particular love of the Fallen's lofty goals, he did admire their warriors for toughing it out in the wilderness. Those were the Sangheili he didn't mind associating and fighting with.

"We paid them to let us use their fields for shelter," he explained coldly. "They sold us out to the military. Ten of your warriors died because of them."

"It's still no justification for murder," said Cosu primly.

"Would you have preferred we razed their entire village?" Ro'nin had executed the two farmers personally. There was no point in issuing ruthless orders if you didn't have the nerve to carry it out yourself. "That might have set your profit margins back for a little bit. You wouldn't have liked that very much either."

Cosu's mandibles parted in a mixed expression of annoyance and contempt. "I fail to understand your comparison."

"We need to make examples of people who betray us, or they'll keep doing it. We warned them what would happen if they turned on us, then we paid them for their services. They still turned us in. So now they're dead and the price we pay for the use of farm fields has gone up. I don' think there's much incentive to help the military out now."

He saw Cosu's foul little mind ticking away, trying to find something wrong with his logic. If Ro'nin had actually given a damn about whether or not the Fallen got what they wanted, he might have tracked down whoever was above his client in the chain of command and asking why the bean counter was so important. He had a vague idea that Cosu and the Zandans in general were good at tracking down information for the Fallen, but since all he really cared about was staying alive and getting paid, it really didn't matter to him in the slightest.

Unable to fault Ro'nin this time, Cosu gestured at him dismissively. "Just don't do it again."

"If the other farmers stay smart and don't give me a reason to, I won't. Anything else?"

"Keep the warriors on their same patrol and attack patterns. But tell the Ultras to keep those young swordsmen and their friends in line. Those..." he paused here, trying to recall the name.

"The Four Preserving Swords?" Ro'nin suggested. "That body count of theirs just keeps getting bigger, doesn't it?"

"They get too aggressive with their attacks. And they're making a name for themselves with the enemy. If they don't lessen their attacks, they'll be liable to bring the whole Sangheili military down on this area. That 'Refum boy especially..."

Ro'nin snorted, wondering if Cosu had even the slightest idea of how one won wars like this. "Well, we wouldn't want that, would we? Some stray plasma bolts might singe this lovely keep."

Now that got to him. Cosu stood from his chair, parting the long sleeves of his expensive robes and glaring up at Ro'nin with what he must have thought was authoritative anger.

"You overstep yourself, mercenary," he said coldly. "Don't think that you're so valuable that I can't discipline you. And bear in mind that I'm not as merciful as Roni 'Visag."

This was the first time Cosu had ever managed to say anything that actually worried Ro'nin, and he hated the bean counter all the more for it. He shouldn't have been surprised, but it still came as a shock that someone had actually traced him back to his old keep. But he managed to keep his calm and simply smiled at Cosu so as not to show him the fury his remark had kindled within him. "So my secret's out, eh?" he said, fighting the urge to shoot Cosu dead then and there.

"Indeed it is." The smug satisfaction in Cosu's voice killed any kind of authority he might have wielded over Ro'nin with his revalation. He thought he was some kind of great and noble lord, but he was really just a self-important landlord. "I know what kind of sen-rat you are. You killed your own uncle in cold blood on nothing more than a whim. Don't go thinking that you'll ever be fit to talk back to me in my own keep."

Ro'nin needed to leave now before he really did kill Cosu. So he re-donned his helmet and smiled down at his client. "Interesting animals, sen-rats. You ever try keeping one as a pet?"

Cosu's eyes narrowed in confusion. "Of course not. Filthy little animals. Most savage."

"But if you did, and the you didn't feed it, would you be surprised if it bit you?"

"No, I suppose not."

"Then feed me well, Cosu." Ro'nin turned to leave. "Feed me well."

4

Field Master Stel 'Vadam looked over at the desert of Sangheilos, his forces in the distant battling the Fallen. Stel was inside the Phantom, sending his men to the east to attack a Fallen base that had been recently discovered by his recon teams. The Phantom pilot called Stel to the pilot seat, showing him that Stel's army had penetrated the massive fortresses' walls, making their way into the monstrosity. Gazing at the tactical map, Stel's mandibles parted into a smirk, knowing that the Fallen base would soon be crushed. He went to the back of the Phantom as the compartment opened up to show a line of Wraiths, ready to fire their plasma cannons at the enemy fortress. Stel gave a single to them, and a few seconds later, they beamed up and fired. As the plasma flew over the sky, it slowly dropped towards the fortress. However, just before the first few charges hit, a sudden blueish aura appeared over the top of the fortress. This meant a shield spire was active inside it. The charges decimated as they hit the barrier, harmlessly. Stel went back up to the pilot seat. "Can you zoom in on the fortress? Things look bad." As the tactical map zoomed in on the monstrosity set up on a desert ridge, he noticed that his forces were being beaten down. As the last of his soldiers fell, Stel's head slowly loomed down, knowing that his army had failed. He looked back up.

"Take us in. Nice and stealthily."


Kick car
Stellar Elite — Whenever I think up of ideas, that car is symbolic for my brain
TALK CONTRIBUTIONS — Wednesday, August 5 2020 (Pacific Standard Time)
Just a quick post to show you my hiatus has been blown to pieces.



5

Chen got on the Pelicans rear mounted Heavy Machine Gun, the minutes the door fully lowered, he let loose a torrent of 12.7 rounds onto the unsuspecting Sangheili below, the apparent leader got a majority of the rounds, easily overloading his shields and then searing into the alien's flesh. After the death of their leader, the squad of Fallen rushed to find cover, some didn't even get close to their destination.

"Go! I'll cover you!!" Chen yelled as he suppressed the enemy. Sonia gave him a worried look.

"Are you crazy?! There has to be at least three dozen bat-shit crazy Elites down there!! If I'm going your coming with me!" Sonia replied over the sound of bullets hitting the ground.

"Boss-man's orders, don't worry, it ain't so bad, I'm sure we've seen worse." Chen said with a slight smirk. Sonia sighed as she hopped out of the transport. Chen continued to provide fire support, downing enemy shields while Sonia got close enough to deal the killing blow.

Ryu landed the pelican behind the rock spires and rejoined the rest of his team.

"Area's secure, anything else, boss-man?" Chen asked.

"Any allied Elites should be held up in the keep, linking up with them should be our best bet at liberating it" Ryu ordered. Chen nodded and readied his LASER in response.

"Where's Sonia?" Ryu inquired. A Sangheili, wearing the armor of a Zealot emerged inches behind Ryu. A trio of shotgun blasts were heard behind him. The Zealot froze and a second later hit the dirt dead.

"You owe me for that" Sonia said, slightly out of breath. War does not determine who is right, only who is left 21:33, May 25, 2011 (UTC)


6

Tyr 'Katram waited. He went over Isto's orders in his head one more time.

He does not live in Vadum Keep anymore, not since when I came to power. But I have rescently learned that he has been sneaking back into the keep and stealing documents of mine. Pretty soon he will want to run off to Earth to warn the UNSC and give them all that information. He must not do that. Kill him.

Tyr put a hand on the hilt of his modified energy sword. He had killed many with it. And it was ready to serve the Fallen as he was.

Several years into the 9th Age of Reclamation, when Tyr was much younger, he had served the Covenant's Grand Army. But then, not long ago, the Great Schism tore the Covenant apart, and his fellow Sangheili, his bretheran....he shuddered to think about those who betrayed them....alligned themselves with the humans.

Cowards, Tyr found himself thinking, and he was right. Thel 'Vadam and his followers had crawled off into the dark, given up....they just didn't admit it. Tyr abandoned them, yet he didn't return to the Loyalists either, fearing the wrath of the manic Prophet of Truth. He became a freelance bounty hunter. The profession suited him well.

At the end of the Great War, Tyr was approached by Isto 'Vadum, a member of the Fallen. Relishing the prospect of striking against their traitorous breatheran, Tyr accepted, and soon became Atsu 'Hidal's personal assassin. But not long ago, Isto was wise enough to see that Atsu was growing stagnant in leading the Fallen. And so, Isto purchased Tyr's services and had him do away with Atsu. Now, he served Isto. And The Fallen was stronger than ever.

Tyr pulled his mind back to reality and continued to spy on the Vadum Keep. Crouched low in the underbrush that sat on the border of the forest sitting near the keep, Tyr was well hidden. Slowly, he felt his hand drop down on his other weapon, a plasma rifle holstered at his side.

A moment later, he saw movement. Tyr scrambled to keep himself hidden. A Wraith tank pulled up to the door of the keep. Tyr's excitement soon turned to frustration; the tank had parked itself in front of the door, making it impossible to directly see if someone was coming in or out.

But a moment later, his query was answered when the tank turned around a moment later and zoomed off. Quickly, Tyr climbed into his Ghost and began to follow the tank as discreetly and subtlely as he could.

For nearly 30 minutes he tailed the tank, until they stopped at what appeared to be a miniature, old-looking ship-breaking complex.

It must be the Vadum Keep's personal shuttle-loading station thought Tyr. The tank came to a stop near one of three landing platforms. Slowly, someone lifted themself out of the tank. As Tyr got a good look, he saw an elderly Sangheili moving towards the platform.

Found you thought Tyr malevolantly. That was his target.

The older Sangheili shuffled gingerly towards the platform. Tyr remained hidden, making sure his active camo was on, and slowly followed the Sangheili.

His target was acting jittery; he kept looking over his shoulder as if expecting someone to follow him. But he knew he could not. The old fool, Tyr thought.

He was not in the middle of the platform and took something from his belt: it was a somewhat outdated-looking Plasma Pistol. He lifted it above his head and charged it, then fired it. The bolt launched into the air and exploded when it was a certain height above the platform.

Tyr was confused for a moment. Why had the Sangheili fired? It made no sense....until a shimmering shape appeared into being, solidifying in what appeared to be a cross between an enlarged Spirit dropship and a miniature human frigate. It took him a moment to realize that it was an ugly, dull-blue, battered-looking freighter. The pistol had apparenly been modified to act as a flare gun. A ramp opened up into what appeared to be the ship's cockpit. The Sangheili walked towards it, looked over his shoulder one more time, and ascended the ramp. The hatch then closed.

As the ship turned around, preparing to take off, Tyr took a great leap and grabbed onto the cargo hold. He took his energy sword and activated it silenced fusion cutter ability. The cargo hold flipped open, and if the fusion cutter had done its job properly, the freighter's single occupant would have no idea that anything was wrong.

Reveling in his triumph, Tyr slipped into the freighter.

7

It was only after Jake and Ralph had been kitted and airlifted to the ship that would take them to wherever the hell they were headed--a light frigate called the Nelson's Pride--that they were directed to a small briefing room and introduced to their latest handler.

He was an ONI man, and Ralph hated him on sight.

Ralph's own stubborn prejudices about dealing with non-Spartans aside, he had always disliked the intelligence officers who assigned and directed the missions he and his brother and sister Spartans carried out. They were always so intrusive, managing to know things about you that they should never have been privy too while betraying next to nothing about themselves. And plenty of them had the nerve to assign you next to impossible missions, sit the assignment out from the safety of a command center, and then have the nerve to nitpick when the job wasn't done as perfectly as they would have liked. Not that he minded difficult and risky assignments, but as far as Ralph was concerned, if you weren't out there in the field taking the risks than you didn't have the right to complain about it.

To make matters worse, the man was strikingly handsome. Even with a head of hair that had gone gray far before its time, his face had a smooth, almost feminine quality to it. The hair itself had bangs that fell down either side of his head, framing that elegant face in a style that was definitely against regulations but one that an intelligence officer could probably get away with. The only blemish that Ralph could see was a thin scar that ran down the left side of his face and ended at the edge of his left eyebrow, but it was just as likely to have come from surgery as to have come from a combat injury.

Maybe the surgery was to give him those good looks, Ralph thought scornfully. He hoped that this would be one of the officers who just pointed them at the target and let them go from there. He wasn't sure he could handle having to deal with this guy at all times in the field.

But he still wore the insignia of a commander and that still carried weight, even with Spartan Headhunters. Both Jake and Ralph came to attention and brought their armored hands up to their helmets in a salute, though Ralph's was slower to come up and lasted for only a few seconds before he released it.

"Yuri Rosch," the officer said by way of introduction. "Section three."

He indicated the empty metal chairs that faced the glowing briefing screen. "Take a seat and we'll get going."

He spoke in a clipped, formal tone, his eyes--like the eyes of of all ONI agents--hard and unfeeling.

The two Spartans complied, settling their Semi Powered Infiltration armored frames into the chairs. Most Spartans would have also taken this as a cue to remove their helmets as well, but Jake and Ralph preferred to keep theirs on. It was a private gesture that set them apart from outsiders and allowed them to exchange comments in private. They had lost so much over the years that they weren't about to sacrifice their last remaining bond just to make some ONI spook feel more comfortable.

If Rosch noticed the snub, then he didn't show it. Instead, he lifted a small remote and brought several lines of text scrolling up onto the screen behind him. Ralph didn't even bother to read it; it was all just a bunch of ONI bullshit about "eyes only" and "sensitive information."

"Headhunter Team Mu," Rosch began, and Ralph curled his lip in distaste. He and Jake would always consider themselves to be Team Jian, their original squad name, but ONI had discarded that title after they'd gone through the extra headhunter training and given them that personality-free designation instead.

"You are hereby placed under my direct command until further notice," Rosch continued. "You will report directly to me and keep all information that I give you to yourselves unless instructed to do otherwise. Is that clear?"

"Sir," Jake and Ralph chanted in practiced unison. "Yes, sir."

Rosch nodded and his cold demeanor seemed to lessen, if only by a fraction. "If we have that understood, then we can get to the real business. Have either of you been informed of our destination?"

"Sir," said Jake, speaking for them both. "No sir."

Pressing a button on the remote, Rosch indicated the screen as the image of a large, red-tinged planet swam into view. Blue lakes and oceans dotted its surface, sitting in stark contrast with the clay-colored land masses.

"This is Sanghelios," Rosch explained. "Homeworld of the Sangheili."

Ralph felt his breath catch in his throat. "We're going there?" he asked sharply. "Is it war?"

Rosch raised an eyebrow but didn't mention Ralph's breach of protocol. Jake, however, tilted his helmet ever so slightly and moved his hand a centimeter towards Ralph's. The gesture might have been inscrutable to an outsider, but to a Spartan like Ralph it was clear: Watch it.

"No," replied Rosch, but there was a faint twinge of something that might have been called disappointment in his voice. "The aliens remain our allies. However, a task force was formed less than a day ago with the intention of providing military aid for their standing government against the separatist movement known as the Fallen. I trust you know who they are?"

Jake and Ralph nodded. The political goings-on of other species was now a sizable component of the regular briefings they were given on current events.

"Any questions on the culture of the species we're dealing with here?"

Neither of them said anything. That had been another critical part of their post-war education.

But something had kindled Ralph's interest and he raised a casual arm. Through the private communication channel within their helmets, Jake muttered, "Ralph, don't say anything stupid..."

Ignoring Jake, Ralph too Rosch's appraising expression as a cue to speak. "Sorry, sir, I think I misheard you. We're going to go in and help the Elites?"

Most commanders would have reprimanded him for using the slang for the warrior species used during the war, but Rosch didn't so much as cock an eyebrow. Ralph's respect for the man rose slightly. He'd seen too many friends die at the Elites' hands to ever be able to refer to them by their "appropriate" name.

"That is exactly the task force's intent," replied Rosch. "I thought you might have caught wind up the operation, seeing as a large portion of the task force consists of Spartan operatives."

The two headhunters exchanged a sidelong glance that was made expressionless by their helmets. Jake turned back to the commander. "We don't talk to the others much, sir."

That, thought Ralph, was the understatement of the century. The two Jian survivors had had next to no contact with their fellows since the operation at the Actenia asteroid field. That was when Cassandra had gone missing... and the fact that Simon-G294 had become a traitor was revealed. The fact that the traitor had come from Jake's team--coupled with Jake's own defeat at Simon's hands--had been seen as unforgivable by many of their SPARTAN-III comrades and he and Ralph had become the Spartan equivalent of social outcasts. Sometimes Ralph didn't know who to be more angry at: Simon or the other Spartans.

Rosch shrugged. "That may be the task force's objective, but it isn't ours."

Now it was Jake's turn to voice his confusion. "Than what is our objective, sir?"

Rosch thumbed the remote. "Allow me to introduce you to Operation: Stratego," he said as the name scrolled across Sanghelios's red surface. "At this point I'm obligated to remind you that none of what we say here must ever leave this room unless I deem it necessary. As far as the three of us are concerned, this briefing never happened."

So this was a black operation. "That explains why they waited to brief us for so long," Ralph muttered into the private channel.

Jake didn't respond and instead addressed Rosch. "What's our alibi here, sir?"

Rosch nodded approvingly. "Officially, the two of you are being taken to Sanghelios to join the other Spartans in the task force," he said. "But if all goes well, neither of you will ever make contact with them."

He clicked the remote, bringing the image of an unarmored Elite onto the screen. He was shorter than what Ralph was used to with Elites and wore what looked like a set of elaborate robes.

"Cosu 'Zandan," Rosch explained. "Kaidon and clan leader of the Zandan keep. If this op were attached to the regular task force, we have reason to believe that he's a fairly high ranking Fallen commander. However, there's no solid evidence to support that and from what our intelligence sources tell us, the Elite military has already decided that he has nothing to do with the movement. Officially, he's just a very wealthy clan leader who just happens to have one of the highest levels of Fallen activity in his territory."

He shrugged again. "But that isn't our concern. What we're after is the Syndicate."

Ralph knew exactly what Rosch was talking about. The Syndicate was a massive criminal organization that had sprang into underworld prominence after the war, dominating every aspect of the illegal markets, from drug smuggling to arms dealing. The local governments had long since given up trying to put it down and in some areas ONI was classifying it alongside Insurrectionist groups. Any opportunity to stymy the Syndicate would be seized by any one of ONI's divisions.

"Let me guess," he said shrewdly, smirking behind his helmet at Jake's exasperated sigh. "This Cosu guy's working for the Syndicate and the rebels, right?"

"Precisely," said Rosch. All of Ralph's usual barbs were failing to phase him in the slightest; perhaps there was more to him than Ralph had first guessed. "If the Elite government uncovers his treachery, they'll most likely interrogate him about the Fallen and then have him executed. We'll never learn anything about the Syndicate if they get to him, so it's your job to gain entry to his keep and abduct him."

A live retrieval op in an area that was probably crawling with hostiles where there'd be no chance of blending into the civilian population and a very good chance that the legitimate Elite government would be none too pleased to find human commandos legging it through the countryside in the hopes of abducting one of their own. There weren't enough contingency plans in the universe to cover the amount of things that could go wrong, and Ralph relished the idea of it.

"You'll be provided maps of the operational area," Roch continued. "You'll be issued with plasma-based weaponry as well. No UNSC-manufactured equipment outside of your armor will be provided. If you are detected or captured by the government, no attempt to rescue you will be made. At best, we'll call the two of you rogues and have you retrieved by out authorities, at worst, they'll decide to try you themselves and then no one can say what'll happen to you."

Ralph nodded approvingly, but Jake was still concerned. "Sir, this will most likely bring us into contact with civilians as well as Fallen. What's the protocol for dealing with noncombatants?"

"Avoid civilian casualties if possible," replied Rosch, but he didn't seem too concerned with the idea of a few dead Sangheili civilians. "But remember that capturing Cosu is a top priority. Don't let anything get in the way of that objective."

"Even if it means compromising secrecy, sir?" Jake asked cautiously, clearly less enthusiastic about the mission than Ralph was.

It took Rosch several seconds to respond. Finally, he nodded. "Off the record," he said, his tone less formal. "I'll tell you right now that anything goes if it means getting Cosu in alive. The information we could get from him could save countless human lives from both the Syndicate and the Insurrectionists who benefit from its activities. If a few alien civilians need to die for that, then that's a price I'm more than willing to pay."

It seemed that, despite his first impressions, Rosch was Ralph's kind of officer after all. He reached up and removed his helmet, showing the officer his face. "Looking forward to this, sir," he said with a sincerity that he couldn't remember using with any other non-Spartan officer. "We won't let you down."

Rosch nodded. "I've seen your records. Team Mu has a one hundred percent mission completion record, and I'm sure you won't let this op destroy your record."

At the sound of the hated team name, Ralph grimaced again. This time, Rosch was able to see the expression.

"Something bothering you?" he asked.

Surprisingly, it was Jake who broke into the conversation just then. "It's the name, sir," he said, removing his own helmet. "We've always hated it."

The commander raised his eyebrows. "Oh?" he said, though there was no trace of a reprimand in his tone. "Which do you prefer?"

"Jian," the Headhunters said in unison. They looked at each other and allowed themselves a sheepish grin.

"It was our original team name, sir," Jake admitted to Rosch. "We've always missed having it."

Ralph could have been imagining things, but he thought he saw the barest hint of a smile flicker across the officer's face.

"I can arrange for your team name to be changed back to that," he said after a moment of thought. "The logistics men won't like it, but they've always made allowances for special forces."

He shook his head and saluted them. "Good luck, Team Jian. I'll see you both on the other side." Actene: If This Is To End In Fire, Then We'll Burn Together

8

Sona 'Demal saw the UNSC aircraft dropping in on Sanghelios. There were being deployed from half a dozen of their battle ships in high orbit. He exchanged glances with Taszar and Zehr'tul, who had also spotted the ships. He turned to look at Autel, who was sitting nearby, staring blankly at the floor. Sona wanted to say something, but didn't know what. He didn't want to see Fira's bloody body sprawled in the medical facility. He resisted the urge to slam his fist into the wall. First the newborns, now this... He had to do something to get his mind off his cousin's precarious condition. Anything.

As if summoned by his thoughts, three Spartans entered the room at that moment. Autel immediately stood up, a sudden glimmer of hope in his eyes.

The lead Spartan greeted him. "Autel," he said.

The albino spoke for the first time in hours. "Thank you for coming."

Sona walked over to them, with Taszar and Zehr'tul behind him. The lead Spartan turned to him. "The Arbiter told me to come here. Are you the kaidon of this keep?"

He nodded. "I am."

"I'm SPARTAN-116. This is SPARTAN-057 and SPARTAN-192." There was something in his voice that suggested something wasn't right. But he didn't say anything other than, "We'd like to have a quick word with all of you before we get into combat."

Sona nodded. "Of course." As Autel and the others followed the Spartans out of the medical facility, he looked back one last time at Fira.

"Rest well, cousin," Sona said quietly. Then he followed with some reluctance.


"So are you going to tell me why Justin was assigned specifically with us, sir?" SPARTAN-192 asked over the private COM.

Felix sighed inwardly. Oscar had a tendency to ask questions at the worst time. His eyes flickered towards SPARTAN-057, the movement invisible to them behind his visor. "I don't know, Warrant Officer," he replied. "And right now isn't the best time to discuss it."

To be honest, he had been caught off guard by the unexpected assignment. As the commanding officer of every Spartan in the UNSC, he had never been placed officially on any teams, and usually worked with a lot of different Spartans. But it looked like someone in ONI was going out of their way to put someone next to him. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. Something like this happening was bound to catch ONI's attention. Question is though, what do they want with me? Are they expecting me to do something wrong on this operation?

Whatever it was, it was obvious why they picked Justin. The Spartan had been frozen in cryo for years after the Human-Covenant war; Felix had never even known about him before yesterday, so Justin could follow orders without feeling doubts while blending in. It would look like that to an outsider, at least. But I don't think I'll make it easy for ONI.

He glanced at Justin again. They had talked briefly before being deployed; the Spartan was a good soldier, and obviously had no idea what was going on any more than Felix did. Maybe I can get him on my side. One less thing to worry about.

They entered one of the Demal keep's rooms; it wasn't large, but there was a rectangular table in the centre with several chairs. There were half a dozen ODSTs and a single Navy officer sitting around it. The Navy officer stood up when the Spartans and Sangheili entered, but Felix waved him down. "We'll talk in here, Lieutenant Simmons. We'll be heading out soon anyway."

"Aye, sir," the Lieutenant sat down again. The four Sangheili took their seats, but Justin and Oscar remained standing by the door. Felix gave Simmons a nod, who stood up as well and walked to the front of the table, so that he could see everyone.

50px-Vena.png Sonasaurus | Talk Contribs

9

Lieutenant Leonardo Simmons gulped, looking about the conference at the collection of ODSTs, SPARTANs, and Sangheili. He counted more SPARTANs in the room than he had ever even seen before, and probably the highest concentration of high-ranking Sangheili figures he had yet observed.

After being shuttled aboard the frigate UNSC Battleaxe, the vessel slipped away from Earth, bound for Sanghelios. Upon arrival, a mere 18 hours later, he had been transferred to the Independent Crusader, greeted by some asshole of an ONI Lieutenant, given a TACPAD, and ordered to prepare a presentation to special operations forces. Then he was carted down here, shoved into this briefing room, and told to do the presentation! Why the hell was he, of all people, briefing a room full of Special Forces operators? He was a logistician and an OI investigator - not some ONI analyst!

"My name is Lieutenant Leonardo Simmons. I am doing the situation report with information from ONI," the officer began, somewhat nervously. "We understand that the Sangheili has recently engaged in open warfare against the Fallen. As per the third article of the Interspecies Union charter, the UNSC has called us here to provide assistance to Sangheili forces. And given recent developments, namely the abduction of Sangheili newborns, we have decided to take greater measures in terms of retaliation; not necessarily with firepower, but tactically. The current UNSC commanding officer has implemented a strategy in which -"

"In which UNSC Special Forces are deployed in order to remove major Fallen strength, following which the Sangheili can begin mop up operations."

Leo whirled about, a mixed bag of emotions welling up within him; none of them good. Fury, annoyance, and quite a bit of fear, with just a hint of hate mixed in.

Behind him was Lieutenant Commander Isaac Cawthorn, of the UNSC Office of Naval Intelligence. His former boss. The officer who commissioned him. The officer he had witnessed murder not just a few Marine and Navy personnel to "maintain order". The very same officer he had testified against following the Battle of Sydney - only to be acquitted. Leo saw the tall and lanky looking down on him, a nasty grin on his face.

"Miss me, Lieutenant?" he asked darkly.

The Lieutenant looked at the floor, studying his black boots. How the fuck did he end up here with this nutjob of an officer!? Cawthorn had sworn to kill him the next time they met - so why was he still alive?

"Not at all, 'sir ' ," the junior officer replied quietly.

Rainbow_Dash.pngRainbow Dash (Talk)(Contribs)  

10

"Sierras! Get up here! On the double!" barked Rear Admiral Longstreet on the Niagra Falls COM channel. After a few minutes, all four SPARTANs and Adal 'Myram were in Longstreet's office.

The four SPARTANs briefly saluted, then relaxed. "What is it, Admiral?" asked Jun-A266.

"We have established contact with one of our contacts at Sangheilios...or, more likely, just left from Sangheilios." Longstreet replied. "I've just received a COM message from a Sangheili freighter called The Pride of Sangheilios to establish contact immidiately. There's an elder Sangheili, named Raiza 'Vadum, who has some useful information for us."

Adal turned to look at the Rear Admiral. "Raiza is the great uncle of Isto 'Vadum, who we believe to possibly be the current leader of the Fallen, as well as one of the elders of Vadum Keep." said Adal He was extremely outspoken against the Fallen until he was injured in a skirmish with the keep itself....and was rumored to have been thrown out of the keep by Isto himself." Ben noticed that as Adal spoke those last words, his fists clenched together, as if the combined thoughts of Raiza 'Vadum's bravery was honourable, but Isto's treatment of his own flesh and blood was disgusting.

Longstreet pressed several buttons on the keypad on his desk, and a screen lowered down from the ceiling. "It might take several minutes to establish contact; the freighter is, obviously, still very far away."

The screen fuzzed with static, but after a few moments, an aged-looking Elite appeared on the screen. Although he was sitting down on the bridge of his frieghter, it was obvious that he was very old. He was hunched over, his eyes were milkily white, his hands gnarled with age. Yet he carried himself as an induvidual whose resolve was unbreaking. This, Ben had to guess, was Raiza 'Vadum.

"Ahh...you must be the induviduals that Adal told me of." said Raiza. He spoke in a deep, gravelly voice. "I am Raiza 'Vadum."

"I'm glad you were able to contact us." replied Longstreet. "You realize you are taking a great personal risk at contacting us."

"I would take a million risks to see the Fallen finished." said Raiza. Adal smiled. "Well said."

"Indeed." agreed Longstreet. "Now, Raiza...what do you know?"

Raiza cleared his throat before speaking again. "I mustn't be long on this message....I don't know who else might be listening...but I have several pieces of valuable information that you can use." said Raiza. "Here is what you need to know."

"As I'm sure Adal has told you, the Fallen have kidnapped hundreds of Sangheili newborns." They all nodded. Ben involuntarily shuddered.

"Well, from what I have been able to pilfer from the Vadum Keep - ", he paused, as if the thought of acting like a common street thief repulsed him, " - Isto has tentative plans to take the newborns to Earth."

Longstreet looked confused. "Why? What would the purpose of that be?" he asked.

"I cannot be sure." replied Raiza. "But it seems that Isto wants to turn us - as in the Sangheili who are allied with the UNSC - agasint Earth, for his plans seems to include implying that the UNSC's alliance was a ruse to begin with and wanted to use the Sangheili'a own children to form some sort of private army to use against us, then as the Sangheili and UNSC are fighintg, the Fallen will swoop in and take advantage, crush their weakened enemies, and take over Sangheilios."

"So....this appers to be the general plan?" asled Longstreet.

"I believe so. But the inner workings of it are still a mystery. " replied Raiza with a definate air of finality. "Thankfully, I still have contacts on Sangheilios. They should be in touch sometme soon with more information."

INCOMPLETE

Part Three

"We have discovered something of great importance in the State of Pyron," said Special Operations Officer Tico 'Serul over the COM. "Taszar was correct, the Fallen were hiding something of great importance here."

"What was it, Excellency?" Autel asked. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw that his squad had arrived at the factory.

"Navigation charts. The Fallen are planning something outside the system. We are not sure yet, the maps are not complete, but 'Oltem says there should be another part of it at the factory you are approaching."

"We're here. Are there any leads to where I could find it?"

"The Fallen use a coding pattern. I will send it to you now, you will understand when you see it."

Autel beckoned to the squad to take positions around the entrance. If the Fallen were still here, they would be taken by surprise this time. The factory had looked inactive from the outside, but it could be a ruse. Making sure everyone was ready, he entered first, weapon raised. He looked around, and saw—

No one was here. The factory seemed to be completely abandoned. The squad entered, looking around the various rooms. The facility was empty, at least on the first level.

It was likely that the part of the map was gone too, but now that they were here, it would be worth looking around. It was possible there was something else to find inside.

"Split up into twos," he ordered. "Search the factory. Tell me if you find something."

Most of the Sangheili approached the gravity lift, which was deactivated. He tried to get it working. The power didn't respond, and the battery processor was removed. It seemed the Fallen had shut everything down after leaving.

Autel frowned. They could go back outside, call 'Pyron to take them to the top floor, and make their way down, but the Fallen would no doubt notice. Looking up the tube that wrapped around the gravity lift, he could see that it was too smooth to ascend, with or without climbing tools.

"Major, we have found something!" one of the Sangheili said, walking out of another room and holding a storage device and an empty sack. The former turned to see.

"It was placed inside the bag," the minor explained. "It might have been left behind by accident." He gave the storage device to the albino Sangheili, who examined it.

"This could be important," Autel said. "We should take this back to the Special Operations facility and see if we can access the data. Maybe—"

An explosion rocked the factory. The squad immediately raised their weapons, looking around. "That explosion came from above..."

A Sangheili with a jetpack flew down the lift, followed by others. Seeing the device in his hand, he shouted, "The dishonourables have the plans! They must not leave here alive!" As a dozen Fallen appeared from the lift, Autel stored the device and opened fire. The room didn't have a particularly high ceiling, so the separatists' jetpacks didn't do them a lot of good. But they surrounded the squad on all sides, and he couldn't help but feel frustrated. It was the second time he had walked into a trap at this very facility. This time, there was no way out.

"Target them one at a time," Autel ordered. If they could punch a hole in the Fallen's circle, then maybe they could escape...

A second explosion was heard from overhead, followed by two more. The metal in the roof began to fold. The Fallen seemed caught off guard. Maybe the first explosion hadn't been caused by them, maybe someone saw them enter the factory. Turning to see the exit, he made a straight run towards the door, followed by his squad. Enemy fire made contact on their armour, but a fifth explosion blew the ceiling in, burying the Fallen in hot metal as his team made it out.

Autel turned to see the upper levels of the factory enveloped in blue flames, and it began to collapse from the top. Some civilians nearby had stopped in alarm to see, but the albino Sangheili was looking at the door. There were a few of the Fallen that would have been able to make it out alive, but no one burst out the door after them.

They know they cannot stop us, he thought. Perhaps they thought death was preferable to failure. Despite their many acts of atrocity, the separatists were still Sangheili, and Sangheili stuck to honour until the very end. Turning to his squad, he said, "We should meet 'Pyron somewhere we will not be noticed." As they moved out, he contacted the Special Operations facility.

"What is it, 'Vadam?" Commander Tono 'Kamul asked.

"We have found something in the factory, Excellency," Autel replied. "I think it is of great importance to the Fallen, they tried very hard to stop us. We are returning to the facility soon."

When the squad reached the abandoned building 'Pyron had told them to get to, the squad boarded his dropship, and it lifted into the air and back to the military base. Autel remembered how startled the Fallen were upon hearing the explosions inside the building. He wondered who it was that helped them.

1

The word spread.

It passed from the mandibles of frantic messengers to the communications operators of isolated detachments. Local commanders distributed it to their troops, who then promptly made sure that the locals that they relied on for secrecy and support heard it as well. The appalling news spread and carried throughout the ranks of the Fallen across Sanghelios, and wherever it went it left shock and fury in its wake.

The dishonored vermin that controlled traitor government had abandoned honor entirely and done exactly what the Fallen had feared they would do since the moment the Great Schism had ended. They had abandoned the pride and virtues of the Sangheili entirely and chosen instead to debase themselves before the very aliens that the Fallen had devoted themselves to protecting Sanghelios from. Now, as if the very nightmares of the Fallen warriors had become a reality, human warships orbited their beloved homeworld while the alien warriors defiled its surface with their primitive footsteps.

But the crimes of the dishonored did not end there. As if bringing ordinary humans to threaten the homeworld was not enough, the traitors had enlisted the aid of the unnatural fiends that had brought death to thousands of brave warriors on the battlefields of the great war before the Schism.

Demons had been brought to Sanghelios.

This was a crime beyond imagining, a betrayal that could not be expressed with words alone.

No, it could only be answered with punishment.

And the Sons of the Preserving Blade were eager to mete it out.

Nearly fifty of the Fallen-aligned irregulars had lain in wait for a full column of government warriors, several files strong. And at a signal from their leaders, they leapt from hiding and brought their righteous fury down upon the miserable traitors who dared think of themselves as Sangheili.

Now the surrounding foothills were filled with the whine of plasma fire and the hum of energy swords. The traitors had been caught completely by surprise and the Sons were taking full advantage of their disarray. Plasma cannon emplacements mounted at the top of hills and in the midst of tree branches rained blue fire down on exposed government troops while other Sons picked off more with small arms fire. Those traitors that did manage to strike up a passable defense were focused on and cut to pieces by the coordinated maneuvers of the militia warriors.

The Sons were not traditional Fallen warriors and as such did not wear the color pattern of the Fallen regulars. Instead, these were younger Sangheili who had been drawn from the keeps and villages where they had been raised and trained by the tales brought by Fallen warriors of the government's treachery and the imminent threat the humans posed to the Sangheili independence, identity, and very way of life. Coming from all walks of life, these students and farmers turned warriors had been united under the banner of defending Sanghelios from alien invasion and ensuring that it was ruled by those who truly had the best interests of the Sangheili people at heart.

The Sons, alight with their own passionate brand of idealism, could not condone some of the actions taken by the most extreme Fallen and thus chose not to submit completely to the separatists' authority. Instead, they acted of their own accord, each one of them clad in patchwork uniforms of robes and armor. Though shabby in appearance, they more than made up for that deficiency through zeal for their cause and a practiced efficiency in combat that was evident in their rapid movements around the encircled government warriors.

But the traitors were overcoming their shock now, and several Major Domos had stepped in to calm their Minor subordinates and coordinating an effective defense against the ambushing Sons. Assembling into a solid formation, they met the Sons' attack with withering fire of their own that brought down several of the militia warriors and sent many more retreating back into the hills.

The government warriors, relieved of the constant plasma bombardment, began to slowly advance towards a more defensible position in the nearby woods.

And then a furious roar split the air.

The warriors whirled to see a thin young warrior clad in dark armor sprinting towards them with his energy sword drawn. A ways behind him ran another sword-wielder and several more Sons brandishing plasma rifles.

The government warriors tried to shift their fire onto these new targets, but by the time they brought their weapons to bear it was too late. The young warrior crashed into their formation, whirling and slashing with his energy sword in a savage, beautiful dance of death. He cut down three minors before the rest could even attempt to stop him, and he tore straight into the heart of the formation, bearing down on the Major who seemed to have assumed command of the surviving warriors.

One Minor sprang between the two of them, bringing his energy gauntlets up to defend against the youth's furious assault, but the dark-armored warrior slashed upwards through his shields and armor and sent the Minor's corpse tumbling to the ground in a spurt of purple blood. The Major drew his own sword in a flash of blue energy and the two locked blades for a single moment of pure fury. Then the Major struck again and the young warrior parried, then slashed under his opponent's defenses and cut him down.

By this time the other Sons had reached the battle and were overwhelming the shattered formation, but the youth ignored his comrades and pressed on, slashing his way through the remaining warriors and sending the rest fleeing in disarray before his solitary onslaught. The Sons behind him shot several down with their plasma rifles as they tried to flee. One of the retreating warriors threw down his weapons and raised his palms at the young warrior in a sign of surrender. The youth cut him down quickly, mercifully ending his life before others witnessed his disgrace.

The sounds of fighting ended abruptly, leaving only smoke and the smell of plasma and blood in the air. The Sons of the Preserving Blade stood victorious amongst the corpses of the traitors; none of the government warriors had been left alive.

The youth crouched down in the bloody grass while his comrades canvassed the area for weapons and armor they could salvage from the battle. While they would take what useful equipment they could, they would leave the corpses of friend and foe alike where they lay so that the government troops who would almost certainly arrive at the scene would see the cost of their treachery.

The second sword-wielder approached the dark armored youth. Like his comrade and the vast majority of the Sons, he was young, barely considered an adult by Sangheili standards, but the rigors of constant fighting had honed their skills until they were a frighteningly lethal fighting force.

Reaching the crouching youth, the militia warrior tugged off his helmet and gazed wearily at the carnage around them.

"We lost five of ours this time," he said quietly. His comrade did not seem to register the news of the losses as he continued to crouch amidst the corpses of their enemies. "When will it end, Shinsu? When will they realize their error?"

"When the scum who lead them have been punished for what they've done to our people," the first youth, Shinsu, said in a hard, bitter voice. "When we've killed them and burned their keeps to the ground. That's when this will all end."

The second warrior, a youth named Zura, laid a hand on Shinsu's shoulder. "The fighting's getting to you," he said quietly. "Let's pull back for today."

Shinsu shrugged off the hand and stood. His head rose a little higher than Zura's as he surveyed the rest of their militia as they regrouped amidst the bodies of the dead. "We keep pressing on," he said firmly. "These filth brought humans and Demons to this planet. We're not going to answer that with just one ambush."

There was a murmur of assent from the surrounding militia.

Zura sighed. "Very well. But once the others report in, we need to pull back. Remember what Ro'nin said--"

"That honorless sell-sword can talk all he wants," growled Shinsu, stalking away. Zura strode after him. "If he doesn't want us in this area then we'll find someone who does. I'm not letting up just because that mercenary's paymaster worries that will bring too many of the enemy down on his head."

"The enemy has reason to want vengeance too," Zura reminded his friend. "You have to have heard the news about the infants."

"I heard," replied Shinsu, his gait slowing. "I don't approve, but what they did to answer it... unforgivable."

"Plenty of powerful families were affected," Zura said. "Even the Vadam keep wasn't spared..."

He stopped himself, but it was too late. Hearing the hated name, Shinsu snapped his head around to face him. "The Vadams suffered from the abductions?"

"Yes, and--"

"Good."

Shinsu 'Refum, son of Sesa 'Refum and last survivor of the Refum clan, strode away again and the rest of the Sons, Zura included, fell into step behind him. There was work to be done. Vengeance to be carried out. And while the warriors fought under Shinsu and Zura, two of the Sons' Four Preserving Swords, were leading them, than nothing could stand in their way. Actene: If This Is To End In Fire, Then We'll Burn Together

2

"How dare they defile my home," thought Utas Ryam silently. The Phantom Glorious Morning coasted silently over the land scape of The State of Ryam. It carried Utas and his team of fifteen Spec. Ops Elites towards their target, a rouge Sangheili who called himself "Ro'nin". He was the local field commander for the Fallen in The State of Ryam. " How could he live such an honor less life," pondered Utas. "Utas" a rough voice shattered the quiet " are you sure you are ready for this type of mission?" The voice belonged to Oras Vadam the commander of the team. " Yes excellency," Utas replied, he refused to show any kind of weakness.

"We have almost reached our location," spoke the pilot of the Phantom. Just then a great rumbling shook the Phantom." We have been hit by a Fuel Rod Cannon," shouted the pilot,"it has damaged the anti gravity systems we are going down!"

" Brace for impact," roared Oras.

Utas grabbed the wall of the Phantom just as it tore against the ground beneath them. The Phantom turned over several times, and then was still.

Utas crawled out and manged to say " the Fallen knew we were coming ... someone betrayed us." " When I find that traitor I will rip the flesh from his bones!" shouted one of the Sangheili. Oras was still, he asked " What is the casualty report?" "The pilot is dead excellency, that is all."

"The pilot and one more," said a disembodied voice. Just then an Energy Sword appeared and quick as a flash the head of a Sangheili was on the ground.

"It an ambush" roared Oras

"DECEITFUL COWARDS," roared Utas

Oras shouted into his communicator to the frigate Underlying Truth which was orbiting above them. " Underlying Truth are you there?"" Underlying Truth do you copy."

"By the gods they're jamming our communications," shouted Oras. Utas tensed " If only it was easy." He wondered if that bastard Ro'nin was laughing right now.--TehSpartan 22:15, May 30, 2011 (UTC)

3

Ro'nin clicked his mandibles disinterestedly as he watched a file of white-armored Fallen warriors approach the downed Phantom with their plasma repeaters held cautiously at the ready. They hadn't seen anything move within the crashed dropship since someone had activated an energy sword within its troop bay; Ro'nin suspected that whoever had done that was the informant who had reported the mission and its objective to Cosu, who had in turn sent Ro'nin and a detachment of Fallen to deal with it.

Idiot, he thought coldly. He didn't know which was the stupider move: arranging an ambush for the dropship you happened to be on or revealing your betrayal to a troop bay full of angry special operations warriors. Either way, their informant was probably dead now, which left Ro'nin with no way of telling what was going on within the confines of the smoking Phantom.

Two warriors, both toting large fuel rod cannons on their shoulders, stepped up to flank him. It had been their shots that had taken down the Phantom. "Should we shoot?" one of them asked, indicating the silent Phantom. "Best not to take any chances."

"I agree," Ro'nin conceded. "But your friends seem to have other ideas." Indeed, the other Fallen warriors seemed determined to reach the Phantom personally and risk fighting their opponents at close range. A fusillade of fuel rods could take out the Phantom, but it would also take half of his strike team with it.

While Ro'nin didn't really care if the Fallen were ready to throw their lives away in empty gestures of graciousness, he did care that he was about to take on a team of special operations Sangheili with just twenty-odd Fallen regulars to back him up. Factoring in that this particular team was targeting him personally and he had a rather dangerous situation on his hands. It was a good thing he had a small wing of Banshees and a Phantom standing by outside of the surrounding forest just in case things got too hectic.

"Let's hurry this up, shall we?" he muttered. Even if his team was jamming the enemy's communications, it wouldn't be long before someone noticed the Phantom's disappearance and sent reinforcements to investigate. Furthermore, the special forces commander in that Phantom was, if Ro'nin's information was correct, a warrior by the name of Oras 'Vadam. Ro'nin knew him by reputation for being a fierce and skillful leader in tight situations such as this. It would be a mistake to take chances with him.

He touched a small button on his armor's neck-piece that amplified his voice and allowed it to carry to the warriors trapped in the Phantom. "You there in the dropship!" he called, signaling his Fallen companions to cease their advance. A few heeded him but most carried on, too caught up in the thrill of fighting a cornered enemy to take notice of him. "We have you surrounded! This is your only chance to surrender; I suggest you take it. You won't be getting that offer from anyone else."

The forest was silent for several moments after his pronouncement as if even the plants and animals around them were considering the offer. Then a pair of lit plasma grenades soared out of the Phantom's darkened troop bay and latched onto two of the warriors who'd continued their advance on the dropship. The grenades detonated before their victims could react, blasting the two Fallen from existence and catching several more in the scorching force of their detonation. The wounded Fallen screamed and tried to retreat as a hail of plasma fire burst from the troop bay and cut them down.

Ro'nin switched off the voice amplifier. "I'll take that as no," he muttered, gesturing to his remaining warriors.

"Well?" he demanded. "What are you waiting for? Start shooting!" Actene: If This Is To End In Fire, Then We'll Burn Together

4

Sonia was still tense, after the encounter with that particular Sangheili, she was more on edge then normal. She had never been inside a Sangheili Keep before, and she was pretty certain that it wasn't supposed to be this quiet. It was obvious that the others were also tense. Ryu's trigger finger seemed twitchy and Chen lagged behind, LASER at the ready. A loud crash followed by Needle Rifle, Plasma Repeater and Rifle fire reached their ears.

"Possible contacts third room on the right" Ryu informed. The two took cover on opposite sides of the door with Ryu taking point. He motioned at Chen, who nodded and shattered the door with the back of his LASER. A Lance or so of presumably Vadam soldiers were pinned down behind a series of office desks and chairs, by three Lances of Fallen and a hostile Shadow. Within the second, a harsh bright red beam of light tore through the Shadow, killing it's occupants instantly.

"Shadow's down and out!!" Chen shouted. Sonia used the awe of the instant destruction of the enemy's vehicle to her advantage, firing her Rocket Launcher at the lead Lance, blowing the members to pieces, literally. Ryu drew his Needler and fired into a Fallen solider standing clsoe to his comrade, he let the needles fly and narrowly jumped out of the way of a Plasma Grenade explosion. The needles reached their target, killing the Fallen and his compatriot with a supercombine explosion. Chen-179 00:26, June 4, 2011 (UTC)


5

Utas looked out at the scene before him. Several Fallen warriors were approaching their downed Phantom. They had killed the traitor who had killed one of their brothers quickly but this was different, these were elite Fallen soldiers. Utas and Oras each primed a Plasma Grenade and tossed them at two Fallen. They were annihilated however their position had been revealed. Suddenly Ro'nin and the rest of the Fallen appeared out of the treeline firing rapidly. Utas drew his Plasma Repeater and fired at Ro'nin however the scum rolled out of the way. Utas heard a scream and noticed the maimed corpse of one of his brother's fall to the ground, obviously the work of a Fuel Rod Cannon. He looked up and saw two Fallen armed with Fuel Rod Cannons firing into the fray. He charged towards them firing his Repeater felling one by surprise.

However, the other quickly noticed him and fired a shot at Utas. He dropped to avoid the Fuel Rod however like a flash the Fallen, who's armor obviously signified him as a Major Domo, was on Utas like a flash. The Fallen Major Domo let his Fuel Rod fall to the ground and ignited his Energy Dagger." You will pay the ultimate price for bringing the Human scum onto this world," he hissed shoving the Dagger towards Utas's head. Utas quickly grabbed the Fallen's arm and kicked the Fallen in his chest. Pulling hard he heard a pop as the Fallen's right arm popped out of it socket and for the first time noticed the small jamming device attached to the Major Domo's arm. Utas ripped the Dagger out of the Fallen's hand and plunged it into the jammer. The Fallen screamed as tongues of flame from the jammer moved up his arm and onto his chest. Utas dived away just as the flames now covering the Fallen leaped onto the discarded Fuel Rod causing a massive explosion. Oras still trying to contact Underlying Truth let out a sigh of exaltation as contact was regained and he contacted the frigate. " Underlying Truth this is Oras 'Vadam the Fallen have ambushed us, by the gods send support."

"Hail Oras Vadam this is Underlying Truth we are sending ground forces to assist."

Utas noticed Ro'nin take a step back from the fray as if to signal something. Then Utas heard the humming of gravity propulsion, Banshees. Utas called out to Oras in warning but Oras was preoccupied in single Energy Sword combat with Ro'nin. Utas dived just as the first wave of Plasma hit the forest.--TehSpartan 00:16, June 4, 2011 (UTC)

6

Ro'nin grinned as the Banshees strafed the downed Phantom, along with the special operations warriors still taking cover within its wreckage. Two of the warriors were caught in the stream of beams from incoming fliers and were cut to pieces in an instant. A third leapt clear of the Phantom only to take a fuel rod blast from one of the Banshees and simply ceased to exist in a flash of blinding green light.

With his remaining troops locked in combat with what was left of the special operations team, Ro'nin fixed his attention on his opponent. This Oras 'Vadam, if he had guessed correctly at the identity of his assailant, was good with a blade, to be certain; even with all his years of experience and training at the hands of master swordsmen, Ro'nin was struggling to keep up with his attacks. And with his jammer destroyed, he'd need to end this fight quickly before this entire forest was inundated with loyalist warriors.

He flicked his wrist up, parrying a blow from Oras just before it could strike his shields. They eyed each other across the locked and crackling blades.

"You traitor," Oras growled, his voice strained from the effort of keeping Ro'nin's blade in place. "Leading these fools... killing your own kind..."

"Oh, save the lecture," Ro'nin spat back disgustedly. Pulling his blade back, he dodged Oras's next strike and lashed out with an overhead chop that bypassed the special operations commander's sword and soared down at his head. At the last moment, Oras brought his left arm up and caught Ro'nin's blade with his energy gauntlet.

"You have to... give a damn..." Ro'nin continued, grunting from the effort as he beat Oras back with blow after blow. "About a something... before you can betray it. I gave up on this miserable planet a hell of a long time ago."

With a last strike, he sent Oras careening backwards into a tree. He lunged in for the killing blow, but Oras sidestepped and launched into a series of strikes that forced Ro'nin back several steps.

"If you don't care about this place," Oras snarled furiously, moving in again with his blade. "Then why are you fighting with the Fallen?"

"Because I'm a mercenary," Ro'nin sneered as another series of plasma shots from the Banshees tore through the forest. "It's what I do."

With a bark of disgusted rage, Oras attacked with a renewed vigor that nearly overwhelmed Ro'nin's hasty defense. "You mean you do all this for money?" he demanded furiously. "You're killing my warriors for pay?"

"Pretty much," Ro'nin admitted casually, regaining his composure in time to beat aside the last of Oras's offensive and struck back with his own attacks. "Would you prefer it if I lied and told you I believed in all the nonsense these Fallen like to spout?"

Oras struck Ro'nin at neck height, clearly trying to decapitate him. But the Sangheili mercenary caught the attack with his own blade and, with a decisive flick of his wrist, disarmed the commander. Oras tried to activate both of his energy gauntlets to defend himself, but Ro'nin kicked him in the chest and laid him out flat on his back. Before Oras could scramble to his feet, Ro'nin leapt forward and stood over him, bringing his sword up for a killing blow.

"Nothing personal," he quipped at the downed commander.

Just then, he heard the voice of one of his fallen calling out to him through the chaos of the skirmish. "Sir, more incom--hurk!"

Ro'nin whirled in time to see another of the special operations warriors, the one who had killed his jamming officer, cut down the Fallen Minor who had just tried to alert him and come straight at him with an energy sword.

Snarling in frustration, Ro'nin leapt away from Oras and brought his blade up to meet this new attack. Why can't things ever go smoothly? he wondered dejectedly, partially listening for the dreaded sound of inbound Phantoms that he knew would be coming at any moment. Actene: If This Is To End In Fire, Then We'll Burn Together

7

Utas lunged at Ro'nin Energy Sword ignited. He would not let this bastard get away that easy. He knew, to use a human phrase, that the cavalry was on it's way. The Spec Ops team had the upper hand.

Ro'nin raised his blade at the last second, denying Utas the pleasure of sinking his blade into his skull. However during that pause Oras lashed out carving a gash on Ro'nin side. Ro'nin let out a roar of rage and instead of attacking Oras leaped on Utas in a full body tackle knocking both combatants to the ground.

Ro'nin picked up Utas's head in his hands and smashed to the ground repeatedly. Utas felt his grip grow weaker with every blow. He was dimly aware of a stream of purple blood now flowing from his forehead. He felt himself go limp and prepared to meet his ancestors..

However, just as Utas felt his life begin to ebb away a figure knocked Ro'nin off of him. It was Oras. " You really think I would let him kill you that easily," he said." Be prepared" Utas said in response "he's coming again"

Ro'nin grabbed a second energy sword charged Utas and Oras. He slashed with both of his blades however he could not break the two Sangheili's defenses.

"My payment is useless if I'm not alive to take it," Utas heard Ro'nin say. He broke away from the battle just as the Banshees came again to take another pass. "Get Down," roared Oras has the Fuel Rod struck the trees.

" We need to do something about these Banshees," said Oras.

"I'm on it," Utas replied.

He grabbed the Plasma Pistol slung along his side and charged it to full power. He waited a moment and then fired at an inbound Banshee. The shifting mass of green plasma struck the flier frying it's controls, sending it spiraling down into the forest. It smashed into a tree igniting it and the trees around it.

"It should be easy to flush out the remaining Fallen now,"said Utas.

"Were it so easy," Quoted Oras.--TehSpartan 12:33, June 4, 2011 (UTC)

8

Every eye was on the Naval officer as he began the debriefing. Justin and Oscar were standing perfectly still, but Felix could see that some of the Sangheili were particularly eager about getting into the fight as soon as possible.

"My name is Lieutenant Leonardo Simmons," the Naval officer began, somewhat nervously. "I am doing the situation report with information from ONI. We understand that the Sangheili has recently engaged in open warfare against the Fallen. As per the third article of the Interspecies Union charter, the UNSC has called us here to provide assistance to Sangheili forces. And given recent developments, namely the abduction of Sangheili newborns, we have decided to take greater measures in terms of retaliation; not necessarily with firepower, but tactically. The current UNSC commanding officer has implemented a strategy in which—"

"In which UNSC Special Forces are deployed in order to remove major Fallen strength, following which the Sangheili can begin mop up operations."

Simmons immediately stiffened and spun around as a black-uniformed officer stepped into view from behind him. Felix had already seen him lurking nearby, but had assumed that he was with the Lieutenant. Judging from the barely concealed hostility in their expressions however, it was clear that this wasn't so. This guy is definitely ONI. I'm sure I've seen him before...

The ONI officer's lips were moving now, but Felix could hear the words his said under his breath. "Miss me, Lieutenant?"

"Not at all, 'sir'," Simmons replied quietly.

The others were becoming curious now. Oscar, who was never great at hiding his emotions, shifted slightly. Felix could tell that he was about to say something, and he gave the Warrant Officer the slightest of nudges. Oscar turned to look at him but remained silent.

The senior Spartan turned his attention to Justin. To anyone else, it would appear that the NCO was outwardly unchanged, but his fingers were twitching slightly, and even though the visor was pointing away from the two officers, Felix could see that he was watching them with a sort of unease. Justin knows something. He might be involved with this ONI officer.

The Sangheili were also watching the two officers, some looking confused. Autel turned to Felix with an inquisitive look on his face.

The entire exchange hadn't taken longer than a few seconds, but the Spartan officer decided that he would say something to keep the briefing going. He would have to ask the questions later.

But just then, the ONI officer continued, "Lieutenant Commander Isaac Cawthorn, Office of Naval Intelligence. I'm just here to observe and get intel for my report. Now, if you don't mind, I'll be doing the rest of the debriefing. You may take a seat, Lieutenant Simmons."

Anger flashed across Simmons' face. Not because his report got cut short, Felix realized. These two have history.

The tension in the room never quite disappeared as the debriefing continued. There was something about the way Cawthorn spoke that kept everyone else quiet, taking in every word. Felix observed Simmons as he listened to the ONI officer; the Lieutenant's anger quickly disappeared, to be replaced by a nervousness that he was hiding well. His eyes kept flickering to and from Cawthorn, and his fingers were tightened, not far from the pistol strapped to his side. Ex-Marine, I'm guessing. What had happened between them?

"You should move out as quickly as you can to intercept them in time," Cawthorn said. "I'll inform you if we receive more intel, but this is all we know for now."

Felix, who had been listening to the entire debriefing, ran through what he heard in his head. I doubt that very much, he thought with a hint of dark humour as the Spartans moved to leave the room, with the Sangheili following behind.

Before he turned to exit the room as well, he decided to address Cawthorn directly. "You and the Lieutenant will be staying here?" he asked.

"I'll be heading back to my ship shortly," the ONI officer replied. "In the meantime, I have...matters to sort out with Lieutenant Simmons. I'll contact you if there's something I need to tell you, Spartan."

Felix gave a nod, and glanced at Simmons, who was also looking at him. He gave the Lieutenant a subtle hand gesture that said, "Good luck". He wasn't sure if Simmons understood it as such, but the Naval officer nodded too nonetheless.

We haven't even gotten to fighting the enemy yet, and we're already at each others' throats, the senior Spartan thought as he walked out of the room.

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9

Ro'nin crouched behind a grove of trees, listening intently as the sounds of battle echoed through the forest. With at least one of the three Banshees down and enemy reinforcements that could arrive at any moment, he was certain that the government forces would be busy mopping up any surviving elements of his ambush team who'd been stupid enough to stay behind to keep up the fight. Gripping his plasma repeater tightly, he turned to the only member of the team who'd come with him when he'd retreated, a young Fallen Minor who watched him expectantly.

"What now, sir?" the survivor asked. "Do we go back and continue the fight?"

Ro'nin snorted and gestured in the direction that the sound of plasma fire was coming from. "Be my guest," he replied cooly. "Just don't expect me to be to be coming with you."

The young warrior looked nervously into the forest and didn't move. Perhaps he was smarter than Ro'nin had given him credit for.

In spite of all is contempt for his species's culture and way of life, Ro'nin could understand the craving of the Fallen warriors for the massive, open engagements where warriors fought each other with honesty and honor, as stupid as he thought those concepts were. Fights like the one he'd had with those special operations troopers were the ones he lived for, the ones he'd been raised and trained to fight. That was a warrior's work, not terrorizing farmers who didn't have the guts to stand up for themselves.

And if he'd been a real Fallen commander rather than a mercenary sell-sword hired to do the Zandan clan's dirty work, he might have continued the fight. With just a quick order on his communicator he could have hundreds, if not thousands of Fallen warriors descending on the forest to fight for days against the government forces. He could have waged bloody war until the forest had been burned down by all the plasma shots and the ground was covered in shattered vehicles and limp corpses. He could have done all that and more, but in the end it wouldn't matter because that wasn't how you won a war against a superior force. The Fallen leadership might have understood that, but their local commanders certainly did not.

Besides, this force had come looking to kill one specific person: him. He'd already given them ample opportunity to take his life and he wasn't going to give them anymore. At the end of the day, a longer battle would mean nothing to him if it cost him his life in the process.

He gestured to the young warrior. "Come on," he growled, standing up and striding calmly off into the forest. "We're leaving."

The warrior hesitated for only a moment before wordlessly falling into step behind him. Ro'nin made a note of that; he'd need to find out this warrior's name and perhaps even see to it that he was promoted. Much as Ro'nin didn't care about whether the Fallen succeeded or not, he did like to see some intelligence in the warriors under his command.

He raised his wrist communicator and spoke into it as he walked. "We're pulling out," he said to the officer on the other end. "Try to scrape some Banshee squadrons together and have them give any incoming Phantoms some trouble. If you can get some of those mobile anti-air units, those Wraiths with the fuel rod guns, into safe positions, have them open up as well."

He paused to think before adding, "And I wouldn't mind if you tried burning down the forest once I'm clear of it."

Deactivating the communicator without waiting for a reply, Ro'nin continued walking, the sounds of battle growing fainter and fainter behind him. This was how you won a war like this: you dangled bait in front of the enemy, then yanked it away when they lunged for it, leaving them with no prize and only a pile of dead Sangheili to show for it. If he'd cared about the Fallen cause in the slightest, he would have made sure that other commanders understood this as well as he did.

Crouched on a small hill, Shinsu 'Refum surveyed the crowd of murmuring Sangheili below him and couldn't help but feel invigorated by the sight of them all. After nearly two days of non-stop ambushes to avenge the dishonor the government had brought upon Sanghelios by inviting humans to come fight its battles for it, the Sons of the Preserving Blade had come together once again. They had lost warriors in the ambushes, but they'd gained even more with the dozens of new recruits who had come flocking to their cause after hearing of the shame that the government had inflicted upon their homeworld. Now, gathered as one, the Sons numbered nearly five hundred strong, all of them warriors and all of them ready to fight to their last breath to defend the honor and safety of their homeworld.

He heard footsteps behind him and knew from their steady gait that it was Zura without having to turn around. "Still no word from Ro'nin," his friend reported. "The local Fallen warriors aren't planning anything, but Hija thinks he can talk a few of them into coordinating more strikes with us."

"Glad to hear it," Shinsu muttered darkly. "You'd think that with all their talk of defending the homeworld that the Fallen would be doing more to answer this outrage. If they all did what we were doing, we'd have the traitors on the run in no time!"

"Or we'd all be killed," replied Zura evenly. "We get away with all our attacks because we're small. And even still, it's only a matter of time before they send more troops after us."

"Let them come," Shinsu growled back. "They can send every warrior they have and it wouldn't matter. I'd be happy even if the Arbiter himself came to face us, because then I could begin the destruction of his clan with him, just like he started the destruction of mine with my father."

Zura chuckled evenly. "Even with all that prowess of yours, you're still as big a dreamer as Eni is."

He paused. "Eni's gone off by himself, by the way. Hija said something about him careening around the state in a Ghost his detachment captured. I'm sure he's out having the time of his life."

Shinsu shook his head but didn't comment on the report. The Four Preserving Blades that led the Sons--himself, Zura, Hija, and Eni--were as close friends as Sangheili warriors could be. They had sworn oaths to live and die by each others' sides as they fought to save their people from further disgrace and humiliation, and for all his dreams of vengeance and hatred, Shinsu wasn't sure he could put even revenge before his loyalty to his friends and to the Sons.

"Anyway, Hija says its best to give everyone a few days to rest up," Zura continued. "We'll induct the newest volunteers and decide on our next targets in the morning."

Shinsu rose. "Fine. All see you then."

"Where are you going now?"

Striding down the hill, Shinsu turned back to Zura. "I'm going to meditate tonight. I'd rather not be disturbed."

He left without another word. Friends and companions were excellent things, but sometimes solitude was a warrior's best ally. Shinsu knew that in spite of all his doubts and bonds, when the time finally came for him to walk the path of vengeance he'd be doing it alone.

And he knew that this was for the best. Actene: If This Is To End In Fire, Then We'll Burn Together

10

Cotoal 'Turlikee, standing anxiously near the wall, quietly observed the proceedings slowly taking place in the briefing room, noticing the obvious discontent the two Humans displayed for each other. Seeing that the proceedings might not go nowhere, Cotoal turned his attention towards the SPARTANS standing near them, unmoving and at the ready. He clicked his mandibles when he observed one of them that seemed vaguely familiar. The color of the armour was familiar as well as the various scuffs and scratches found throughout the armour.

"I've seen that SPARTAN before. But where?" Cotoal thought to himself, observing the silent figure for any slight movement.

One of his companions nudged him out of his thoughts, pointing at the two officers. The briefing was well underway but he continued to not pay attention, seeing that he could merely ask someone else for details. All that was on his mind was that strikingly familiar SPARTAN.

After sometime had passed, the briefing eventually ended. As the personnel started to leave the room, including the two officers and SPARTANs, Cotoal decided to stay, intent on mulling over what had just happened and that one SPARTAN.

His hands loose on his sides, the Sanghelli left the room, unaware of what was about to take place. "This will turn out to be fun turn of events. I know it."

(/)___(\) [/\Otaku of Halo Fanon/\]

Part Four

"The coding is tricky," Kei 'Oltem said, frowning at the device being held by the energy bonds. He had been asked to be brought back to the facility because he was the best Sangheili they had at understanding technological things. He worked at the terminal, reading the holographic screen. "It is odd how the Fallen would be so negligent as to leave this behind," he said. "I don't suppose they checked the sacks when they left—"

"They were in a hurry," Autel said, looking at the screen as well. "You said there was something of significance at the factory, and we knew that they were there, so they had to find another place to run their operations. I don't think this held the navigation charts, because they would not have left without it if they noticed it was missing. But this may give us some leads."

"We have no time to talk," said 'Kamul sternly. "Have you hacked into the device?"

"Almost," 'Oltem said. "I have reprogrammed the coding sequence to allow my entry past the security lock. Now I need to bypass the secondary authorization barrier to allow me into the mainstream layers of data."

The Commander frowned. "You what?"

The former sighed. "I 'stuck my hoof in the door', so it won't lock on me again. Now I need to pry it open so I can get through." Something flashed on his screen, and he looked down in surprise.

"I've cracked the code. I must have been lucky, it was estimated that in another seven subunits—"

"What does it say?" 'Kamul asked, cutting across him. 'Oltem scanning the newly projected words, and frowned. "That can't be right." Reading one of the sentences again, he turned to Autel.

"Where are the humans?"

"Still fighting," he replied, surprised. "They are being sent to many parts of Sanghelios, why?"

The former waved him over. "Read this."


"What do you think it is?" asked PFC Alana Borengo, sitting in the passenger seat of the Warthog, her sniper rifle resting in her lap. She ignored the look of alarm that flitted across the face of a civilian as they sped past his car.

"Dunno," replied Lance Corporal Bail, making a sharp turn to follow the LRV in front of him. "All Reynolds said was that we traced it to this district here."

The ODSTs were driving through the edge of Murcia. A few hours ago, there had been a report of unusual activity around the less-frequently used area, namely a series of trucks with dark-tinted windows seemed to be moving something around the area. Their CO had been annoyed when they had been called in.

"This is at most some drugs shipment," he said. "Call in the local police department if you really think it's worth pestering them about."

The MPD had said that several officers had investigated, and went missing not long after. They had tried to find intel on the area, but nothing turned up. So now the squad was making their way to try and find a lead to what the trucks were being used for. Coming in with a convoy of Warthogs isn't exactly stealthy, Raphael Cortez thought, who was standing on the back of the jeep and clutching the turret. But obviously the multiple investigations would have caught the anonymous enemies' attention already. But whatever it was couldn't be too hard to take care of, nothing on Earth would pose a serious threat to the UNSC. Nothing on Earth...

It was then that the Corporal remembered the strange Elite, Isto. What was it about the him that unnerved him so much? There was certainly something not right about him, and Raphael wondered if the alien had anything to do with these disappearances. Surely not, it wouldn't be like the Sangheili to be so secretive.

The Warthog in front of them turned off the road and onto a dirt path. It stopped, and Master Sergeant Joshua Reynolds and two other ODSTs climbed out of the driver seat. Bail braked as well, bringing their vehicle to a halt. Cortez got off with Bail and Borengo, and approached their CO. Behind them, the rest of the squad was piled onto a single TT Warthog, which pulled up behind them. The eight Helljumpers, six of which had been seated tightly on the back of the transport vehicle, disembarked as well, and quickly regrouped.

"Alright, boys and girls," Reynolds said. "Let's get this over with. The Murcia Police Department says that one of their officers had come here minutes prior to his disappearance. We'll do some snooping, see what we can find out, and if it gets hot, call in the Warthogs to cover our exit. In the meantime, we'll see how quiet we can keep this. Bail, Erikson, Cortez, Berthold, stay with the vehicles, we'll call you if we need you. Everyone else, make teams of two, and move out."

Bail got back onto his Warthog, and Cortez climbed onto the back again. As the team moved out, the Corporal looked around. The dirt road extended into a cluster of trees, where the ten ODSTs were disappearing into. It was going to be a long wait. Most likely nothing was going to happen...

1

"Bail, Erikson! Get over to our position, double time!" Reynolds shouted sharply over the COM. The two Helljumpers quickly started their engines, and seeing the Sergeant's location on their long-range detectors, floored the Warthogs and drove down the dirt road. Cortez hung on tightly to the turret as they drove down the bumpy track. He could hear the sound of the second M12 jostling behind them.

After a long time, the sound of gunfire reached his ears. The Corporal saw the squad firing their weapons everywhere. Nothing was firing in return, but he thought he could make out movement. Aiming at where he thought they were, he fired the turret. Automatic machine gun fire ripped into the trees, but he heard no screams of pain or anything that indicated his shots had found their mark. However, Reynolds ordered, "Troopers, fall back!" The ODSTs on foot were running back down the dirt road, although nothing was stopping them. After making sure the team were out of range, Bail turned the Warthog around and followed Erikson after them.

Cortez's mind was racing. What was it that Reynolds had found? The Sergeant was too busy to explain, but it seemed to be worse than an enemy like the Covenant.

"Shit!" Bail yelled, turning the Warthog sharply. The vehicle, which had been going at top speed, raised dirt as its tires scraped across the road. The jeep flipped over, and he felt the Lance Corporal grab him. The two ODSTs hit the ground, and as the LRV rolled away from them, it exploded unexpectedly.

"Just spotted it stuck on the side of the vehicle," Bail panted, picking up his weapon. "Some kind of explosive, really hard to see."

Raphael found his weapon too. He tried to contact the others on the COM, but received only static. "There's something interfering with our communications," he said.

"Great. Guess we'll have to walk back?"

"Afraid so. Watch your back, though. I have a bad feeling about this."


"Hey, Cortez," Bail said suddenly. "What's that?"

Raphael followed the direction of his gaze. There was just the green on green of the trees, but he could make out a faint grey-ish colour. It was possibly artificial.

"Let's take a look." Weapons still raised, the two ODSTs moved silently through the forest, and came closer to the grey thing. As their view of it became unobstructed, the Corporal could see that it was a building. It was very old, and being unfamiliar with this part of Murcia, he couldn't imagine what it could be. It was possible it was just an abandoned place used long ago, but something odd was going on in this forest, undoubtedly. It didn't hurt to check.

They circled the structure, and found a door. It was locked.

"Wait one," Bail said, pulling out a charge. "You might want to step back, Corporal." He set it to the door, activated it, and stepped back.

The charge detonated, blowing the door open. The Helljumpers moved in, sweeping the room with their rifles. But it was unoccupied. There were a series of empty cells, closed off by rusty bars. It looked like a storage facility rather than a prison.

"Look, what are these?" the Lance Corporal said, pointing at some unmarked black boxes. They were perfectly cubical, and unlike everything else in the room, they were new. Still watching the door, Raphael kept his weapon ready while Bail tried to open the boxes. There were no seams on the boxes, and even with tools or blunt force, there was no way to open them.

"Take some video logs," he advised, "and let's get back to the others."


"You couldn't tell what they were?" asked Captain Bruce Outlaw, pausing the video log.

"No, sir," Reynolds replied. "They didn't fire shots or anything. We couldn't tell what they were attacking us with, but it didn't leave traces. We didn't make any hits either."

The ODST officer frowned. "Casualties?"

"None, sir. It seemed they didn't kill us because they wanted to keep their identity hidden."

Outlaw looked back to the video log, and played it for the sixth time, pausing at certain points. "You're firing between these trees here," he said. "But these cameras couldn't pick up what they were?"

"I tried thermal too, sir. Nothing. But I'm sure whatever these things are, they're not human."

"Very well," the Captain said. "We'll come back to this." Turning to Bail, he said, "Now, you said you found some boxes inside an abandoned storage facility?"

"Yes, sir," the Lance Corporal said, handing the video chip over. "We couldn't determine the location of the facility, because there was some interference on our gear. We've left some markers though, we could go back later."

"Good," Outlaw said, looking at the video. He froze it when the camera pointed at one of the black boxes directly. Looking at them carefully, he asked, "This is strange." He paused. "Wait a minute..." Switching to the audio controls, he filtered out some of the sounds, and increased the volume. The ODSTs strained to listen. There was a faint murmuring issuing from the boxes.

"Scans couldn't penetrate the boxes, Captain," Bail explained. "But we certainly didn't hear that."

The officer looked troubled. "Very well," he said, "We'll see what we can make of this. Troopers, you're dismissed."

As they left, Raphael wondered again if Isto had something to do with this unusual turn of events. But there seemed to be no evidence suggesting something like that, and since the UNSC knew he was here anyway, it wouldn't do much good to make accusations.

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2

Utas watched has the Phantoms from Underlying Truth emerged from from the sky. They were to set up a forward operating base in this forest to counter all Fallen actions in The State of Ryam. Utas however, was not focused upon the landing operation. He thought were upon the mercenary Ro'nin who had escaped the skirmish here and was responsible for the deaths of many of his comrades. His mind raced with the many things Utas would like to do with Ro'nin if he ever came across him. But there was no time for that now."Utas, over here," a voice shouted. It was Utas's CO Oras Vadam. Utas paced towards Oras where he saw two UNSC Pelicans awaiting him. Utas gasped at the figure who disembarked the Pelican. A Demon! "Utas Ryam I am Spartan Chen-D303 me and my team have been assigned to escort you and your team to Vadam Keep." The demon said. Utas shrugged and stepped onto the Pelican. Oras raised he mandibles in an expression that seemed to be a smile. He had been away from home for far too long.--TehSpartan 19:13, June 18, 2011 (UTC)


3

"Are you quite certain?" Zura snapped at the scout. "No word from him at all?"

The warrior--one of dozens that the Sons of the Preserving Blade had scattered across the State of Ryam and into several neighboring states--lowered his head regretfully. "I spent three days traveling amongst the warriors he commands and heard the same thing from all of them: no word's been heard from Ro'nin since he sortied out to ambush a troop of special operations warriors. News from the warriors who survived the battle says he survived, but there's been no sign of him since."

Zura waved a dismissal to the scout, who bowed low and retreated. This news was less than welcome. While the Sons despised the mercenary for his complete lack of honor and his refusal to make full use of the thousands of Fallen warriors who ultimately fell under his command, they were not alone in admiring his skill as both a fighter and a tactician. If he had fallen in battle or been captured, than the traitors in the government had scored a sore blow against the Fallen and their allies, namely the Sons.

"This pushes our plans back," Zura told his companions, disappointment evident in his voice. "Without him, we have no guarantee all of his warriors will join us once this battle begins."

"You're giving that coward too much credit," replied Hij 'Saka calmly. The lanky Sangheili, another one of the Sons' feared Four Preserving Swords. Dozens of enemy warriors had fallen at his hand, and amongst the Sons the only one who could match him in swordsmanship was Shinsu. "Without him to stay their hands, his unit commanders will jump to answer our call to arms. He kept them on a leash for too long; they won't be able to resist a move like this."

Zura and Hij stood together on one side of a large hologram, which had been set up under a clump of trees amidst the Sons' current encampment. The hologram displayed a massive map of the State of Ryam, as well as its border and vassal states. Minuscule icons dotted the map, indicating the troop movements of both Fallen and government warriors, the locations of keeps and their surrounding villages, and most importantly the defensive details of those keeps and villages. The Sons had worked long and hard bringing all that data together, collaborating heavily with Fallen spies as they worked to gather enough strength for the daring assault they were now preparing for.

On the other side of the hologram, Shinsu crossed his arms and stared down at the map, his face impassive. His dark armor--which had already begun to earn him the nickname of "Black Knight"--was still marked by the cuts and dents it had received during the Sons' last operation, the string of revenge ambushes against government troops for their tainting of the homeworld with human aid. His mandibles moved silently as he scanned the names and numbers of the various Fallen units that had agreed to join the Sons in the battle that was to come.

"Even so," Zura continued ruefully. "We might have been able to buy his loyalty, secured his services with the promise of the treasures these keeps will bear within them. His skills would have been useful."

Shinsu's head snapped up. "Careful, Zura," he admonished. "Just because our enemies have sacrificed honor..." He let his words trailed off, their meaning clear.

"Don't lecture me about honor," Zura shot back. "I'm just doing everything I can to ensure that this attack doesn't spell the end for our cause."

"Even if every last one of us falls out there," Shinsu said gravely. "The things we fight for will live on in the souls of those who still remember our people's old pride."

And he believed that, just as he believed in everything the Sons were fighting for and more. Everything aside from the part about them all dying. Because Shinsu knew, deep within his hearts, that even though he would never run or show any other form of cowardice on the battlefield, that he would survive regardless of what happened to his friends and followers. He had to. He was destined to survive, to keep the Refum clan alive and wreak vengeance on the Vadams for all that they had done to his bloodline.

Beside Shinsu, the final member of the Swords laughed merrily. "You're always so grim, Shinsu," chortled Gin 'Visan. "Everything will go great tomorrow, trust me."

"I'd rather trust a methane-starved Unggoy," muttered Zura from across the way.

Gin waved a dismissive hand at his friend. "Don't you worry about me," he said cheerfully. "Just keep the sky open for me to dance around in and we'll be fine."

For all his joking and light-hearted comments, Gin was lethal in a Banshee. He'd shot down entire squadrons of enemy fliers by himself, which was why he was in charge of the small air force that the Sons had managed to scrape together from salvaged and stolen Banshees and Phantoms. But once the planned battle commenced, with the addition of literally hundreds of Fallen fliers Gin would have much more competition for his targets. They'd be the first line of defense against government reinforcements once things got going on the ground.

And there would be plenty going on down below as well.

Zura cast his gaze about the other three Swords. "If you all are sure that Ro'nin's disappearance won't affect his troops' willingness to join us, then we won't wait," he announced. In spite of his earlier doubts, his voice was firm. "Are we in agreement?"

The others murmured their assent.

"Then tonight may be the last time we meet like this," Zura continued. "The other Sons already have their orders, and the plan has been transmitted to those Fallen who have agreed to join us. With this assault we will show the Sangheili people that those who oppose the human infiltration of our homeworld do not need to stoop to kidnapping the young. We will face our enemies on the field of battle in an open fight, and when word of our deeds spreads across this planet, thousands more will rally to join the Fallen cause."

Hij stepped forward. "The keeps in these states have benefited far too much from the false government's dealings with the humans. They are amongst the most prosperous on the planet, and they must pay for their ill-gotten gains."

Shinsu snorted and turned away. "Pretty words. Let's see you put them to use once this operation starts." Actene: If This Is To End In Fire, Then We'll Burn Together

4

Ryu was more on edge than usual,

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