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2315 Hours, May 14th, 2525

SIGMA Facility, United Republic of North America, Earth


"Doctor Roe, we're closing down sector five for the night, is there anything you need?"

"No Sergeant, that will be all."

"Got it, closing sector five, subjects are locked up tight."

The Sergeant turned off his COM and watched the metal grille slide down before moving on to the next one. He yawned, more from boredom than tiredness. Since Roe and the other labcoats had brought those kids back from the Hopeful, things had been quiet around the base. Some of the others were even looking forward to getting back to 'war games' with the young recruits, if only for a chance to beat the little bastards. Another Marine rounded the corner, a shock baton hanging from his belt.

"Locking 'em up for the night, Sarge?"

"Yeah, just got bay four to go, that's where they're keeping the kids while they recover."

"The freaks, you mean?"

"Don't call 'em that. Poor bastards didn't have any choice about this."

"Heh, neither did we. All this classified shit for nine goddamned years, man."

"Mack said we'd be reassigned soon, Brooks, so stow the bellyaching for now."

"Yeah, I hear ya, sir."

The two Marines strode down the brightly lit corridor at a steady pace, heading for the entrance to sector four. None of the soldiers on site liked going in there. It was where the 'recruits' lived. Dozens of broken limbs and humiliations on mock battlefields had brought most of Whiskey Company to despise the children. Before the Sergeant could reach for the lockdown button, two figures darted out from the corridor, stopping before them.

"Sergeant Reed," spoke a brown-haired man, towering over the Marine. "Locking up for the night?"

Reed glanced at the number on the trainee's shirt. They were forbidden to call them by their names. "You know the rules, 85. Lights out at nine, get back to your barracks."

"We're not going back, Sergeant. Let us pass."

Reed frowned, one hand instinctively reaching for his shock baton. They never disobeyed orders outside of combat training. Trainee 126 was with 085, leaning casually on a nearby wall. A chill crept up the man's spine as a sudden feeling of danger crept into him.

"085, 126, I order you to-"

It was over before he could react. 085 moved in a flash, and had him pinned to the wall with one arm. Brooks had been kicked across the room by 126 and lay comatose on the floor. Looking at the man before him, Reed could see marks across his forearms and neck. What the hell did they do to you? Smirking at the unconscious guard, 085 turned to face the Sergeant, smiling.

"Still calling us by numbers, eh Sarge?" He leant in close, smiling. "My name is Jack."

Then everything went dark.


"Well, that was easier than expected." Jack glanced down at the Sergeant's unconscious body. "We'd better go."

Ahmad-126 took the shock baton from Brooks' belt and gave it an experimental swing before nodding to his partner. They had been waiting for this day for so many years. This would be their only chance. The pair ran down the corridor, following familiar signs that would lead them to the exit.

"You think they've noticed yet?" Ahmad asked, keeping an eye out for more guards.

"They will if we don't get the hell out of here, and fast!"

The pair of them reached the canteen before the alarm finally sounded, blaring through the hallways of the facility as red lights shone around them. Jack swore under his breath as a trio of guards rounded the corner, swinging batons. They weren't going down without a fight.

"085, 126, this is your only warning, surrender now!" One of them carried a tranquilliser pistol.

Ahmad snorted, and effortlessly lifted up a table designed to fit ten people before flinging it at them. They scattered, just long enough for Jack to be upon them with his own baton. It was strange to see his raw strength; the operation had done so much to change him. A single punch cracked a man's ribs and sent him flying into a wall, while a lazy swing with the baton broke the arm of another. They were far, far too slow to even pose a threat. It was over in seconds.

Ahmad ran over, having blocked off another door with a table. "Are they dead?"

"Probably."

"I suppose this is necessary, Jack."

"Yeah, it is."

Jack wondered if their fellow Spartans were awake by now, perhaps they were being sent against the pair of them right now. They smashed their way into a security station, incapacitating the guard and taking control in an instant. Checking the cameras, more than half the base was active now, and heading right for them. One showed three hulking figures sprinting down a corridor, pistols in hand. Jack hesitated for a moment before turning back to the task at hand. I'm not turning back. Not now.

Ahmad tossed him a pistol. It was fully loaded with live rounds. They'd have to get serious if they wanted freedom. It was the only way. Jack led his comrade away, following the signs that would lead them to the hangar bay and their ticket away from SIGMA, the UNSC and Doctor Roe. Skidding round a corner, a figure came into view, emerging from a side room. Jack raised his pistol already raised, but stopped when he realised who it was.

"Marco!"

Jack's best friend looked at him in surprise, hand clutching a sidearm of his own. Ahmad approached him warily, though Jack wasn't worried. In fact, of all their fellow Spartans, he was the best one they could have encountered.

"Jack, Ahmad. I was looking for you."

"Yeah, you and everyone else." Jack smiled.

"Look, this is serious, Roe's pissed off beyond belief at what you've done."

"Oh, and I'm supposed to give a shit? This is it, buddy. We're leaving."

"What?" Marco seemed genuinely surprised by this. "You can't leave, we're needed-"

"-as Roe's pets," Jack finished for him. "This is the moment we've been waiting for, Marco. We're stronger and faster than any of them, we can have our freedom now!"

Marco looked at him, sadness reflected in his green eyes. "Jack, you're one of the best we have. We need you here, with the team."

"But we don't need this." Panic began to seep into Jack. He'd need Marco out there. Ahmad was a good guy, but the two of them had been friends since day one. "What about Elena, huh? She's dead, Marco. Are you going to stay with them now?"

"Don't talk about her." Marco's voice was deadly serious. Jack took a small step back as he continued. "I'm not escaping with you, Jack. We've got a responsibility now, a future."

"What? Roe hates you, Marco. You were always his least favourite, even after all these years. You don't have a responsibility to him or anyone!"

Marco stepped aside, allowing Jack and Ahmad to pass. "Jack, just go," he said plainly. The pair of escapees walked past their friend towards freedom. Before he rounded the corridor, Jack turned back and shouted, shaking with rage.

"You're a coward, Marco! A goddamn coward! After all they've done to us, you think that we should honestly be fighting for them?! We're leaving, and you can't stop us. Nobody can."

Marco-025 shrugged, and sat down against a wall as his friend ran off.

Jack was still furious by the time they had reached the primary hangar bay. It was empty, though there was still a Pelican dropship in the second bay. A few hapless guards and DI's had tried to stop them, only to be gunned down. Jack had caught a glimpse of two others, probably Kane-099 and Amy-133, running past, though they hadn't spotted the runaways. As they approached the door to bay two, it slid open, half a dozen guards stepping out, closely followed by a man they both recognised.

"Boys, you've gone far enough."

"Is that so, sir?"

"Jack, stand down."

Lieutenant Colonel Richard Mack Senior stood before the two, wearing his familiar cap and uniform. A shock baton hung from his belt. He regarded the pair of them with a look of disappointment and sadness as his men approached. Jack hesitated to move with Mack staring them down. As their trainer, he had taught both of them almost everything they knew.

"No, sir," he replied, realising that he was still instinctively addressing him in a formal manner. "We're leaving, please stand aside."

Mack shook his head, and nodded. His guards lunged forward, swinging their electrified weapons. Jack and Ahmad moved instinctively, dodging blows and striking out at the men, snapping bones and cracking skulls with well-timed blasts. As he turned away from one opponent, Jack felt something impact his side and fell back as pain coursed through him. Mack was already on him, attacking with a surprising amount of speed for his age. Jack fought back, his injury slowing him down slightly as he tried to throttle the old man.

"Jack, Ahmad!"

Oh, shit.

Fenn-145 strode through the doors behind them, accompanied by several guards armed with tranq-pistols. This was bad. Ahmad tried to launch a kick at Fenn, only to be swiftly countered and sent flying back. Jack knew they couldn't beat him. For all these years, SPARTAN-145 had remained at the top of the leaderboards for a reason; even Jack couldn't catch up to him in training. They had to go, and quickly. As Ahmad recovered, he dodged and grabbed Mack, pulling him into a chokehold as a hostage. Fenn wouldn't dare to move forward if it meant harming the man, but if they killed him then nothing would stop their friend from beating them to death.

"Get back, now! I'll kill him if you come any closer!"

Jack and Ahmad edged towards the door into bay two. When they were close enough, he pushed Mack forward and dived through before the guards could open fire. Ahmad smashed the control panel, jamming it shut. It wouldn't hold them for long, but they had enough time to get out. Running into the hangar, Jack smiled at the sight of a single Pelican dropship sitting there, ramp lowered. He'd gone through the flight sims enough times to know how to work one.

"This is it, my friend." He patted Ahmad on the back. "Freedom."

They clambered aboard and raised the ramp. Jack took his place in the pilot's seat and powered up the dropship, making preparations for their escape. The base was still on alert, and they hadn't opened the hangar doors. Not that they would be a problem. Ahmad sat in the co-pilot's seat, and took control of the weapon systems. Two missiles later, and they had a hole wide enough to fit through.

Ahmad laughed as they rocketed forward, rising far above the SIGMA facility. "We did it, Jack! We're out!"

"Not yet we aren't," replied his friend, keeping an eye on the tracker as they sped away.

This is it. No turning back now, no more obeying orders or having to work for those bastards after all they've done to us. Let Marco and the others play lapdog, but I won't. I'm not just some number, not a piece of equipment for use.

Jack frowned, leaning forward in the cockpit. Any feelings of doubt or regret seemed to be washed away by the wave of anger that swept over him. The UNSC had used him and all the others as experiments, and now nearly half of his friends were dead. He clenched his fist, glancing at the surgical scars that criss-crossed his arms. The UNSC had made him strong, but at the same time turned him and the others into freaks of nature. He couldn't forgive them for what they had done, he wouldn't.

I want revenge.

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