|2046 Hours, October 26th, 2558
Quincy, Outer Colonies
"How're we doing?"
"I'm pretty sure they'll smell us coming at this rate."
As he pulled his armoured boot from a sludge-filled hole, Ronald Klein began to truly miss civilisation. The three Spartans of Fireteam Horus had slowly been picking their way through the swamp for over five hours now, inching towards their destination in near-total darkness. Even before its temporary abandonment during the war, hardly any of Quincy had been thoroughly explored, leaving vast stretches of land totally unspoiled. Gnarled trees surrounded them, stretching out of the knee-deep waters at odd angles towards the starry sky. Ahead of Klein, a Spartan in mud-splattered blue armour held up a hand and they halted.
"Got something on the long-range."
Immediately, the trio knelt down slightly, keeping their weapons raised.
"They wouldn't be this far out," muttered Rita Skala, the team's pilot. A holographic display flashed up above her submachine gun, tracking something as she inched forward. "Left, five hundred metres."
The Spartans froze as a shape moved in the distance, splashing slowly through the swampy waters. A four-legged, shaggy beast lumbered nearby, sniffing the air. A pair of long tusks jutted from its head, which regarded the trio with vague interest for a few moments before moving on. Ahead of them, Molly Heyes lowered her heavy-duty railgun.
"Yimor," she explained. "They're harmless if you don't bother them."
When the way was clear they swiftly moved on, continuing their journey north. Fireteam Horus stopped as the swamp began to slope upwards, giving way to slightly drier marshlands. Klein activated his TACMAP, and a grid flashed up over his HUD displaying the surrounding area. Their target zone - a long-abandoned archaeological dig occupied by renegade Covenant troops - was just a few miles away, just outside the marsh.
"Activity's not changed," he swiped a finger and the map disappeared. "They've not detected us."
"Lucky us," replied Skala. "Plan of attack?"
"Det-charge for distraction while Heyes and I infiltrate. Once we take out the AA's, call in the Jackrabbit."
She nodded, and turned to find Horus' third member shaking some small creature off her armoured leg and crushing it underfoot. Heyes looked up towards them, brushing more mud from her gauntlets.
Skala and Klein turned and set off with her in tow, moving as quickly as they dared as the marshy ground gave way to a vast rocky slope. Despite the near-total darkness, the group remained surefooted as they began to ascend clambering towards the summit. A purplish glow lit up the precipice ahead, guttural alien voices carrying over the night air towards the Spartans. Klein drew his DMR and began to crawl, edging towards the top while his teammates spread out. A few feet from the top, he slipped a tiny fiber-optic cable out of his gauntlet and snaked it over, bringing up a feed over his HUD.
"Okay, we've got-"
Suddenly, a tremor shook the ground around them, rumbling across the nearby valley. Klein's feed picked up dozens of aliens - Sangheili, Unggoy and Kig-Yar - dashing across the partly-uncovered digsite ahead of them and through a metal door seemingly built right into the cliffside.
"What the hell was that?" asked Skala, checking her weapon.
As the Spartans watched and listened, the translation software built into their MJOLNIR helmets picked up a few words amid the alien shouting below. Amid the barked orders to retreat and sqeaked prayers from fleeing Unggoy, one word scrolled past time and time again.