|0856 Hours, December 3rd, 2550
Omega Group Facility Three, Endrin, Olmara System
Pain. That was the first thing Jack felt.
His eyes opened slowly. From what he could tell, he was being suspended in some kind of tank. Numerous wires were attached to his ruined form. Then it all came flooding back. Jack. That's my name. He had no surname, no family, nothing. Just a name and a number. Eighty-Five. It had meant something once, years ago.
The Rebellion. His fight.
The Array. His battle.
Marco. His failure.
Jack could recall every moment of the fight with perfect clarity. How they had fought on the rocky plains where his ship had crashed, blows and counter-blows traded in perfect sequence, the simultaneous, visor shattering punches that had staggered the two of them back. Meeting face to face.
It had been twenty five years since their last meeting. Jack had been much younger, but no less determined. No less filled with rage for his captors. Marco had been weak, foolish. His best friend had been brainwashed into staying, fighting for a lost cause. Somehow, Jack had always known that they would meet again.
Marco's face was scarred from decades of war. There was dark stubble under his chin and that same defiant look he had met Jack with all those years before, on Earth. His eyes, those piercing green eyes, stared unblinkingly at him, reflecting his foe.
Jack saw himself in those eyes. His face, contorted into an inhuman snarl of anger, his manic eyes staring straight back. For the first time in his life, despite all of his achievements, his kills and his conquests, Jack was afraid, not of his enemy, but of himself.
In those eyes, for that split second, he saw the monster he had become, the lunacy and the absolute destruction that he had wrought upon himself. He should have surrendered at that moment, made amends with his brothers and joined them, to fight as a Spartan for humanity, the future that had been created for him when he had been abducted as a child.
It was only a second. One moment of doubt in a lifetime of certainties.
Instead, he lunged forward, dived headfirst into the madness. They had fought on anyway, in silence. They had trained together, knew each others every strength and weakness. Jack was the cunning one, the perceptive one. Always had been. A quick glance showed him a weapon lying in the dirt beside the armoured, unconscious body of another former friend. Marco was stronger, both physically and mentally. The only chink in his psyche had been removed before Jack's 'departure'.
He had dived for the pistol, rolling before spinning round to level it. Marco was already there, and they were back to fists. That was when it hit him. He just didn't have it. No matter what he did, what move he played against his old friend, Marco would be stronger. He always had been. This angered Jack more than anything. A swift kick knocked Marco to the ground. He knew he wouldn't hit him, but aimed the weapon all the same.
Then, high above him, the last nine years of his life burst into flame. A cursory glance upwards told him that, and something broke inside him. Not for the first time in his life, Jack ran.
He had followed the falling fire for hours, to the rocky heights where it had crashed. No pursuit. Panic. Loss. Emotions flooded through him. He was confused, staggering about the twisted metal as more rained down around him. He had wept. Wept?! Aimlessly he wandered, until something gave way. It was not, thankfully, his sanity. What had once been a piece of titanium battleplate, weakened by the fall through the atmosphere and the subsequent impact, broke under the weight of his stolen MJOLNIR armour.
Darkness. Everything was broken. Fire did little to illuminate the nothingness that surrounded him. Suddenly, he felt a strange feeling of separation. Looking down, another falling piece of metal had severed the lower part of his body, just above the legs. That hurt. He had screamed and screamed until the blissful blackness had taken him.
Ah, the pain. Which brought him back to his present moment, suspended motionless in a gel-filled tube, the only sounds being barely audible mechanical motors from his extremities as tiny pieces of metal were affixed to him. Where was he? Is this hell? he wondered.
"He's alive." A voice. He could barely open his eyes, but it sounded Human.
Jack tried to open his mouth, but no sounds emerged. A heavy breathing device had been clamped over it. Who was that?
"Please try to remain calm, Jack. Your body is being rebuilt."
He remained still. Strong though he might have been, Jack was utterly helpless right now. He could just make out the whirring of machines nearly, and muffled talking outside his tank.
"We're attaching the communicator now. It should allow you to speak."
Jack felt something attach itself to his neck, and he spoke. "Where am I?"
"In our laboratory. You gave us quite the shock when you fell through he old mineshaft."
It was a man's voice. Judging by the accent he was probably from Reach or Schönheit. Something slid over his eyes, allowing him to open them in the tank. Through the cloudy liquid he could see the white-coated man standing nearby.
"What are you doing to me?"
"Rebuilding you," the scientist replied. "We've been at it a few weeks now. Some of us thought you wouldn't pull through after losing your lower half, but it seems that your body just didn't want to die."
Had be not been almost completely immobile, Jack would've cracked a smile at that. He remembered the fire and the pain after his defeat; the momentary madness that had took him. He wouldn't succumb to that again.
"Who are you people?" His voice was barely above a whisper.
"I am Simon Petrovich, leader of the Omega Group. We are the best and brightest minds in the United Rebel Front."
Odd. In over twenty years of working for the URF Jack had never even heard of such a group. The fact that they had such an extensive laboratory on the planet his Hephaestus Array orbited was too perfect to be a coincidence. Chances were that the site had been chosen for precisely that reason; even his comrades kept secrets from him.
"When can I go?"
"Go?" Jack couldn't make out his face, but he had a feeling that Petrovich was smiling. "You will go when I allow you to go, Colonel Jack. Once we finish rebuilding your body, you will be our finest weapon. A tool of destruction to be set against the UNSC."
A tool. He was eerily reminded of his life in the UNSC and his training as a Spartan a lifetime ago. He left because they would use him as an instrument to crush rebellion, just like his brothers and sisters in SIGMA. All these years down the line, the URF would use him the same way. He had no way of escaping, no way of running away now. One side would imprison or kill him, and the other would do the same if he tried to betray them. What reason would he have to fight?
Petrovich spoke over the communicator once more. "Oh, and don't think you can run off again when we're done with you, Jack. I took the liberty of installing a killswitch for the cybernetics keeping you alive, just in case. You belong to me now."
Now he felt truly frightened. It was a similar feeling to the one he had when he fought with his former best friend as the ruins of his array crashed down to the planet. He had no choice now. Jack thought back to what had caused all this, what had led him to his horrific position.
Who refused to come with you when you needed him? Who spent years destroying every project you made for the URF? Who defeated you?
If he wished to work for the UNSC, then Jack would work to destroy it. To destroy him. His mind was finally made up. Petrovich had his tool of destruction. Somewhere in his mind, the tiny piece of regret and remorse, the fear and the vulnerability, his humanity, all those emotions that had been conjured up in that second of looking into those green eyes, were crushed.
In that chamber deep beneath the scarred surface of Endrin, all that remained of the Spartan named Jack-085 died. Forever.