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Relevance: Redux by Omega 505

Relevance: Redux (Chapter 1+Prologue)
Date: 28 March 2009, 3:09 am

Relevance: Prologue, In the Face of War
Pvt. R. Hunter
Military date,

Private Richard Hunter stared blankly out at the drab green landscape. The cargo Warthog jostled as it hit another pothole when it came around another corner of the old dirt road. Alpha IV had been a UNSC military base of operations since late 2510, and it had seen little action since. He sighed and stared at the driver, an older major.

"Why the hell do we always end up on recon?" He said with a tinge of annoyance in his voice. "Does command have a grudge against us, or do we just suck that bad?"

"Bah, I don't know," the older man said, pausing to veer around a corner. "But someone sure has something against us. Remember sewer patrol last week?" He sighed and shook his head, "I don't know why they even send us out here. The Covenant hasn't been seen in this sector for months. I mean, why would they? This backwater dirt hole isn't even noticeable without us here, let alone with all the debris we send up. It looks like garbage dump."

"Stow it marines, you know the C.O. checks those tapes." A taller man with dark hair leaned up from the back seats. "We haven't got a damn choice whether we're out here or not."

Hunter laughed, the situation was bleak, but what else could you do? He turned his attention out of the windshield into the forest ahead of them. He noticed something moving up the road. "Stop the jeep, I think I see something."

The Warthog slowed to a halt as Hunter levered himself on the side of the vehicle. He brought a pair of combat binoculars to his eyes and looked up the road where he saw the object. A large blue creature lumbered slowly up the road, large plates covered its sides and grass hung loosely out of its mouth. He laughed to himself and turned to the driver again.

"It's one of those damn Tataglas. Pull up, it'll move when we get…" He paused, staring past the driver into the forest. A green glow formed, getting brighter fast. "Get out of the car, now!"

The men threw themselves from the warthog as a ball of superheated plasma impacted it. The metal melted into a puddle, pooling under what was left of the vehicle. Hunter spun, facing the attacker. A large blue creature stomped out of the forest and onto the road. Spikes ran down its back and a large plate was attached to one arm. Attached to the other arm was a grey cylinder, the tip glowing a bright green. It stood a good 12 feet tall and didn't look like it would fall very easily.

The creature lifted its plated arm and smashed it into the Warthog, sending it rolling into the forest. Hunter stood, intent on getting away from it. He spun around, looking for the other men. They were gone, to where, he didn't know. The creature roared, the sound muffled for lack of a mouth. Hunter turned and ran, running as far into the forest as he could. His leg tangled in the undergrowth and he tumbled over. A large weight rolled him over. He looked up at the creature, studying its features in the last moments of his life. The last thing Private Richard Hunter ever saw was a large metallic foot coming down toward his head.

The war had come to Alpha IV…

Recording terminated
Reason unknown ?KIA?
Video transmitted to closest UNSC vessel
Target found
File sent to: UNSC Frigate Relevance


Chapter 1: As Duty Calls
UNSC Relevance
Slipspace En route to Alpha IV
Date Classified Zulu-Tango-Bravo
Deck A, Forward Command

Captain James Adam Cane strode hurriedly down the corridor toward the bridge. His graying hair was un-kept, standing defiantly on end. His uniform was buttoned one button too high, making it look awkward. His ship, the frigate UNSC Relevance was on its way back to Earth for some long needed shore leave. Midway the ship was redirected by command. The Covenant had attacked Alpha IV, and Relevance was the closest ship at the time. The crew was defrosted and everyone scrambled to get to their stations before exiting slipspace.

Cane punched some keys next to a large metal door. It slid slowly open and Cane went through, stepping onto the bridge. The Lieutenant on the bridge snapped into a salute, stating "Captain on deck." The other men and women raised and saluted. He smiled, this crew would do anything he told them to, scheduled leave or not.

"At ease, get back to your stations. " They all went back to work without question or hesitation.

Suddenly the bridge was filled with a disembodied female voice. "Good Morning Captain, would you like me to brief you now or when you get settled in?"

Cane shook his head, "Good Morning Salina." Salina, the ships onboard AI, materialized on the holopad next to the captain's station. "I suppose now would be fine."

Salina's avatar nodded, flicking her eyes about as she went through routine ship systems. Her avatar was not unlike other AI's, simple face, welcoming smile, and the way she held herself implied confidence, but something about her set her apart from others. She had been with Cane since he took command of Relevance, so there was somewhat of an attachment issue.

"So, inform me why I have to tell my crew why they will not be spending the next few months home with their families? I've got men who haven't seen land in years." Relevance had been active for three years now without a break, longer than most ships in the fleet, but when the ship is setup for long-term reconnaissance there isn't much time for leave.

"Alright Captain. Nine hours ago, Alpha IV was taken by the Covenant. A level seven security broadcast was sent out to all ships within range. Apparently the crews stationed on the base found something, and the Covenant wants it. Last year, an archeological team stumbled upon Forerunner ruins. Within the ruins was a stone, codenamed Artifact-67. The team just recently broke the code, they're coordinates to a Forerunner world."

"So? What does that have to do with my crew?" Cane was impatient, it was the usual ploy by command to keep them out of home space. "If the Covenant attacked, then they just glassed the world right? Usual strategy, lose on the ground, bombard from space, what is there to find but a destroyed world?"

Salina shook her head, "The circumstances of the breakthrough merit immediate reconnaissance. If the artifact still exists, we are to find it and return it to UNSC hands. Relevance is to be the first vessel to the coordinates listed on the artifact, direct orders." She directed Cane's attention to a small pad next to the display. "Command has complied with an extension of pay for all crew aboard, your bravery will not go unrewarded."

Cane sighed, leaning heavily on the control panel. The men needed the money, but it was the principle that bothered him. Command has kept Relevance out in space for three years now, denying requests for leave, and coming up with new 'missions' for them to carry out, always taking them farther away from the core worlds.

He pinched the bridge of his nose when a younger ensign called out, "Ten minutes to destination sir." He waved the ensign away and looked back to Salina.

"What are they trying to do to us?"

Salina blinked, "Sir?"

"Three years, it has been three years since we've been to a UNSC controlled planet. They expect us to jump when they say to. We're all human, Salina, and we can't keep going like this." Cane shook his head, "I don't know if I can tell them that we're not going to Earth. I can't keep lying to them and telling them that we'll go there next time. These people have families, friends, siblings, they need to be home, not floating out in space wondering when the next threat is going to try to kill them. I don't know Salina, I just don't know anymore."

"Captain, I if I may?" Cane nodded at her. She nodded back and began, "The men and women would follow you to the end of the universe and back. They would stare death in the face for you sir. Look in the eyes of any crewmen on this ship, and you will see admiration, respect, and a sense of duty to their people. Your crew is not here for themselves, they're here for humanity sir, and if you want to question their faith in you, then you question your faith in yourself. Respectfully sir, you need to trust these people."

The ensign at the helm stood, clapping. Soon the entire bridge was filled with applause, at that point, Cane knew his crew would follow him, he knew where he had to go, and what he had to do. Alpha IV would not be taken by the Covenant, not while the Relevance still had one rusty bolt holding her together. This was humanity's fight.

"Sir, we're about to exit slipspace," the ensign reported.

"Good, let's get this fight over with and get home." Cane lifted himself up and gripped the railing in front of the observation booth. The blurring effect of slipspace cooled and stars shined in space. A large mostly blue planet sat directly ahead of the ship. Water covered most of the planet, but a large, lone continent sat in the planet's center. One moon orbited Alpha IV, Cybern wasn't to terribly big, but it commanded respect. None of these aspects drew Canes gaze. His sight was already locked on the Covenant armada that orbited the planet.

He turned to Salina, "How many ships?"

"One moment…"

"I said how many!?" Cane's breath was ragged, his legs almost shaking.

Salina hesitated, "Approximately forty ships sir, mostly CCS class, but there is at least one carrier in the battle group."

"Forty ships? Command can't expect us to get in there, it's suicide. Have they spotted us yet?"

Salina hesitated a second more, "No, we are well out of range of their sensors. The only reason we can see them is because of the light off the planet sir. Strange, there seems to be a concentration of vessels around a larger vessel. Analyzing, there is a large unidentified Covenant ship, if I had to guess, a command vessel. Based off its size and its visible hangers, it could possibly hold two to three more CCS class ships."

Cane froze for a second, weighing his options. "Salina, what courses of action do we have?"

She thought for a moment, sizing probabilities. "We have the greatest chance of success if we land our soldiers on the far side of the planet. If Relevance stays dark she shouldn't be seen. Would you like me to plot a course captain?"

Cane let out a short weak laugh, "What other options do we have? Plot the course Salina, I have some people to address."

"Yessir, plotting course and firing up engines now."

Cane left the bridge and headed to the hangers where his men were assembled. What ever he did, Relevance was in the long run now, and boy was it going to be long.


Alpha IV
Dark side
Pelican Drop Ship 113
Insertion area A-4

Blake Conner hung low in the Pelican's bay. His combat armor felt heavy and awkward after the usual medical get-up he wore. Field medics didn't get deployed too often, usually they were stationed aboard the ship dealing with wounded. He shrugged, setting the plates in a more comfortable position. Not more then three hours ago he was imagining seeing his wife again, sitting on the beach relaxing for a change. But it all changed when Salina gave the briefs. Captain Cane said that the mission was for the sake of humanity. Right.

Conner looked around at the squad he was shadowing. The men looked young, too young. Most of them, he figured, were barely out of boot, all assigned to Relevance because of the lack of combat she saw. He laughed to himself, trying to figure out how he ended up stationed here. An older man sat in the corner, Corporal Hendricks, he led the squad. Hendricks was ex-ODST, demoted after a bizarre incident that led to the failure of the mission, sticking him on the new recruits on Relevance. He was just another lost soldier trying to help in any way possible. The idea boggled him, why was he stationed here, he hadn't done anything to get there.

He sighed, and then turned to look back out the hatch at the sea pulsing below. Dark memories fill the corners of his mind. He suppressed them, not wanting to dissect the darker parts of his psyche. One thought popped up, pulling itself from his suppression, growing in the opened space. Flashes of a struggling soldier on a surgical table flew past his mind. Before they could impress themselves the radio started screaming out. Plasma light up the night sky in brilliant colors of green and blue.

The pilot turned to the back, "Marines, you may want to close that hatch, I'm expecting company." Conner pressed some keys next to the hatch and it slid up into place. "Damn, they're every where. Strap yourselves in, we're coming in hot." The pelican banked hard left as another salvo light up the sky around the drop ship.

The radio screamed even louder, "We've lost Bravos two and three, and we don't even know where Epsilon is. We need longswords captain, before these fighters tear us apart."

Salina was the one who answered, a job usually reserved for the captain. Conner made a mental note of it, but continued listening.

"Affirmative, squadrons two through eight have been dispatched to your location Bravo, Give'em hell." Salina sounded distant, almost uncaring, ending in another mental footnote.

"Roger that Salina, see ya when we get home. Leave the front door open for us, and the lights on. Bravo out." The pilot switched back to concentrating on avoiding the next salvo instead of what the radio was saying.

"How did they know we were coming?" Conner thought aloud.

The marine next to him looked pale, but answered. "Who cares, I just want to land." He turned and threw up into the spillway in the floor as the Pelican spun to avoid a stray shot.

The Corporal stood as best he could and addressed the men. "Marines, hold your lunch and listen up. We've been thrown into the fire boys, most of us won't make it back to the ship alive. This fight isn't about you anymore, it's about what we stand for. We stand for what? Freedom? Humanity? No, this is about much more, this is about the green men, the green is what we are. We are the rejects from across our space, and we have a chance to stand up and do something that matters. Now who's with me?" The marines cheered the corporal on, not for what he was saying, but for what they knew was going to happen. They knew they were probably going to die, but they were going to enjoy every last damned minute of it. Conner almost smiled, but frosted his emotions before they took control.

The pilot piped in again, "Uh, marines? I hope you all buckled in. We've got a bug problem." Conner hadn't ever seen a Scarab, he hoped he'd never have to, but fate had thoughts of otherwise. The pilot lifted the receiver for the radio. "This is Echo-113, we need immediate assistance. Any longsword still in the area, we've got a scarab within the landing zone. Immediate support would be much appreciated." She turned back to the marines, "Last warning, buckle in now, I'm going evasive."

The massive Covenant tank tilted its head up, tracking the Pelican as it made its way closer. The 'eye' started glowing green as the metal plate surrounding it opened. A lance of green plasma hurled itself toward the ship at remarkable speed. Suddenly a missile burst into its side, tilting the vehicle, toppling it. A longsword fighter blasted over the landscape. A new voice filled the cockpit. "Heh, he wasn't so tough. Good luck to you 113, Echelon-4 out."

"Appreciate it Echelon, I'll see you when we get…" The pilot was cut off as the partially thrown beam impacted the pelican's right wing. Smoke billowed from the engine, trailing behind the ship. "Dammit, they still clipped me. We'll have to talk later Echelon. Salina, this is Echo-113, we are going down, I repeat, we are going down." She turned to the marines one last time, "Brace yourselves, it's going to be a rough landing."

Conner watched out the view port as smoke continued to pour out of the wing. The pelican's nose angled down then started to spin wildly. Someone screamed. The world tilted and spun as the crippled bird plummeted toward the ground. Finally, darkness ensued with peaceful bliss. It all seemed to stop at once, and the world was quiet.

6 Years Ago
Sol System
Old New York

Conner wasn't very old when the men came. They informed his family about the war, telling them that the UNSC needed every one they could get, so they took his father. 10 years later they were back again. Conner was ready for them, he knew what they wanted, and he wasn't going to leave his family because some airhead told him so.

It was cold when they came, winter had just set in on the streets of old Manhattan and the trees were bare. His mother spotted them first. She turned to Conner, who was watching TV at the time.

"Do you remember what I told you son? About what to do when the men came again?" He nodded, turning to his younger sister who was just coming down the bedroom hall. "Go, I'll keep 'em here as long as I can. You get yourself and your sister as far from here as possible, don't ever look back. I don't want to see you two end up like your father." Conner asked why he had to take his sister. "Because, you know that she will follow you no matter where you go. Now leave, I'll call you when it's safe again."

Conner rushed his sister, Kara, out the door and into the family's small sedan. He talked to her in a hushed tone, "Hurry, get in the back and lay on the floor until I tell you. Don't worry, it'll all be alright." He got in the driver side and started the car. As he backed out the men on the porch started running to the car. He swerved into the street and pulled away as fast as he dared.

After a few minutes of driving, he told Kara she could get up. It wasn't far to where they were going, but it would be a long time before they could get there. The drafters didn't give up too easily on dodgers. His job, a doctor, gave them enough money to stay at a motel for the night.

They shared the room's one bed and slept in their clothing. Conner couldn't settle his mind long enough to sleep. He knew that this was his fault in some way. He went along with his mothers plan because he was afraid to face what's really out there, or was he? He couldn't keep his thoughts straight. Late that night Kara rolled and faced him, "Are we ever going to be able to go home again?"

Conner shook his head, "I honestly don't know, I hope so. Go back to sleep, you need it more then I do."

The morning met them no different. Conner drove most of the way, trying to keep his concentration in one place. It wasn't long before they reached the border. Kara smiled, "We're almost there Blake, just a while longer and we won't have to worry." He slowed the car and pulled off to the side, the border in sight. Kara frowned, "What are you doing?" She asked, frustration in her tone.

"Do you remember when dad left?"

She shook her head, "No, what does he have to…"

"I do," he interrupted, frowning slightly. "He told me that I should look out for you, and to not be sad that he was gone. He told me that one day I would have to go too, that I would have to serve. I didn't want to believe it, but I knew it was my responsibility to fight for us. Kara, I need to do this." He turned the car around and headed back toward home.

"No," Kara cried out, tears starting, "I'm not going to let you go like dad, you're all I have besides mom Blake. I need you."

It was a tense drive back, neither siblings talked to each other. They pulled into their driveway, their mother running out. "Why are you back, you know they'll take you." She was crying too. He stared at him grimly. "Your father had that same look on his face when he left. I just thought I could keep you out of trouble." She sobbed, looking over her shoulder. Two men in dress fatigues were crossing the lawn to the house.

They approached him, papers in hand, a loose smile on their face. "We have some things to discuss son, it would be easier if you just came with us."

That day Blake L. Conner was drafted into the UNSC Marine Corps. Three years later, Conner was placed aboard Relevance after his attempt to see his sister, who joined the Corps a month after he did, while under direct orders to do otherwise.

Surface of Alpha IV
Wreck site of Echo-113
Two and a half Clicks from LZ
Three and a half hours later

Conner slowly opened his eyes and looked at his surroundings. "Strange," he laughed to himself, "Why is the pelican upside down?" Images of the crash flashed through his mind, the faces of the soldiers burned into his head. He groaned, and levered himself up onto an elbow. He tried to stand, pain lancing through his back. Slowly he got into a sitting position. He checked himself over, nothing broken. His ears were ringing, and his head ached, he thought he might have a concussion, but didn't worry too much. Pressing his back against the bulkhead, he slowly raised himself to his feet.

He arched his back, cracking his spine and relieving some tension. Stooping again, he lifted an M6D magnum and hooked it to his belt. Quickly he snapped his head up and listened, thinking he heard something. The wind swept through the bay, whistling among the wreck. Shaking his head, he went back to salvaging what he could from the pelican. Again he froze. An odd squeaky sound drew him to the mouth of the bay.

The Pelican rested close to the middle of a clearing. Trees lined the edges of the area and Conner thought he could see a road out to the west. Standing over a body not ten feet from the wreck were a pair of Jackals. The bird like creatures stooped over the body, greedily ripping at the flesh of the man's gut. Conner felt sick, the man was the marine who sat next to him on the flight. He didn't know if the man was alive when the Jackals found him, but Conner hoped he was.

Reaching down for the pistol, he swept it up and sighted the nearest one. The Jackal's head sat in the middle of Conner's crosshair when he yelled, "Hey, why don't you try something fresher." Hating himself for not coming up with something better, Conner sighted again and pulled the trigger. There was a loud clatter, but no gunshot. He looked down and saw the empty clip on the floor. The Jackals screamed, igniting their wrist shields, the energy hummed and sizzled in the air. Conner scrambled back into the pelican as they bounded toward him.

He slid, turned, and slammed keys, sending the thick blast door down into place. The Jackals slammed into the door, beating on it with their curved pistols. Conner leaned against the wall and slid down into a crouch. A little red light flashed on the door controls with 'Emergency Release' written on it. Conner's face light up and he pressed the button. Smoke filled the bay as the bolts holding the door up exploded, letting the door fall freely to the ground crushing the Jackals underneath it.

Conner cheered in triumph, walking out into the clearing to check for other Covenant. As he passed the smashed creatures he felt obliged to 'relive' them of their weapons. He clipped a few plasma grenades to his belt and hefted the odd pistol. It was nothing compared to an MA5B, but it would have to do. He checked the dead marine for ammo, trying not to be sick. Being a medic helped, but nothing prepares someone for something like reaching into the pockets of the dead man you just sat next to not five minutes ago. He found a clip for his M6D and a frag grenade.

The edge of the clearing was covered in underbrush, bushes and twigs lay scattered around the bases of the trees. Conner figured that the road was his best bet, and headed west. A long dirt road snaked its way between larger trees and rocks. He hadn't hiked for long when he felt something out of place. The twigs on the side of the road seemed to bend, back and forth. The attack came from the left, two camouflaged Elites charged him, hitting him over the back of his head. The peaceful darkness filled him once more.

Relevance: Redux (Chapter 2)
Date: 3 June 2009, 11:42 pm

Chapter 2: No Bad, Just Ugly
Surface of Alpha IV
Wreck site of Bravo-243
20 miles from Base XI
3 hours after landing

Private Paul M. Archer slowly cleared the numbness from his head. He was slightly aware of pressure to his left, another marine leaned over him, waving a hand in front of his face. "Hey sarge, I think he's awake." The cold metal of the pelican drop bay seared his hands as he lifted himself into a sitting position, blinking to clear his vision. A middle aged man with short cut hair and average features sat across from him. "Well heya, nice of you to join us all for this glorious flight."

Archer smiled, "Shove it Linon, I bet you couldn't take deck plating to the head without passing out." Private Jeffery Linon smirked, a look that was alien after the past few hours. "Uhg, so why are we still in the pelican? Shouldn't we be out there taking the base, or is this somehow more important?" Linon smirked again, giving one of the other men a jagged look. "What are you smiling at?"

"Oh, nothing. We just can't go anywhere because our brilliant pilot thought it wise to land us in the middle of the freaking forest," Linon jeered, giving the pilot a mock glare, but it was enough.

The pilot jumped up, hissing at the man, "At least you're alive, you owe me that much. You could have been one of them," he motioned toward the cockpit where the radio poured a constant report of the dead or missing.

"We might as well have been, can't do much from up he…" The pilot swung right, landing a blow to Linon's jaw, and two marines jumped and restrained him.

Archer took the moment to glance out the rear of the bay. Green light bathed the edges of the opening, giving it a pleasant tone. Brown added a subtle mute to the feeling, but balanced out overall. It would have been pleasing, almost relaxing were it not for the fifty foot drop. The Pelican rested in the upper canopy of the planets dense forest, swaying slightly with the breeze, or so he thought.

"If you think they're so much better off," the pilot spat, "then why don't you jump down and join'em, do us all a favor." Linon just smiled cockily back at him, not wavering, the side of his face was turning an ugly shade of blue.

Sergeant Haravez stepped between the men, "Now is not the time for petty squabbling. Right now, we need to figure a way out of here, and the arguing is not helping. You two need to learn that…"

"Uh, sir?" Archer cut in, "I think you should hold on to something."

The Sergeant looked flustered, "Now why would I do tha…" Metal screeched and grinded as the Pelican slid free of the tree that was holding it. The ship cleared the fifty feet in seconds, impacting the ground nose first. The force compacted the nose, killing the copilot who was unlucky enough to be at the radio. The Pelican groaned again, tilting and landing upside down next to the tree. Archer couldn't help but slam his head against the bulkhead for the second time that evening.


UNSC Relevance
Command Deck
2 hours in

Captain Cane paced the bridge, inspecting his crew. He pivoted slowly and pressed a key on his command console. Salina dissolved into figure, giving him an odd look.

"Can I help you captain? I think there are some other things to be done at the moment, respectfully sir." She frowned at him, looking him once over. "You look like you should be doing something else as well, when was the last time you've slept captain?"

Cane sighed, rubbing his eyes with his thumb and index finger. He honestly didn't know the last time he'd had a full nights sleep. Every time he attempted to, his mind would keep him awake with thoughts of the soldiers he sent to their deaths each day. He shook his head clearing the thoughts. "It doesn't matter Salina, I just wanted the numbers. Did any of them make it to the rendezvous point?"

She nodded, concern heavy on the motion. "Alpha Team made it safely sir, I'm still waiting on Bravo and Echo, but I assume most of them are still alive. I have confirmed DIA (Destroyed In Action) on Echoes 113 and 247, but the other ships have yet to report in or be reported sir. Is that all?"

Cane nodded, "Yes, but can you patch me through to Alpha before you go?"

"Yes sir, calling Alpha." She gave him one more glance, and then her form vanished from the console.

The captain stared warily at the com, waiting for Alpha to call in. It was five minutes before they did. "Sir, this is Corporal Lance reporting sir. We're pinned down, Covenant forces have us locked down under some boulders sir." Gunfire erupted in the back ground, only to be silenced by a sizzling scream. "We're going to be overrun, where's that backup, sir? Where's Echo and Bravo?"

"Corporal, where's your CO, shouldn't Lieutenant Hawes be calling in?" Cane edged closer to the panel, trying to keep the sound muted.

"He can't sir, his group was hit first sir… I'm afraid he's dead." The marine's voice was tense, fear heavy on his breath.

Cane thought for a second, "How come you didn't call in earlier Corporal?"

"We couldn't sir, the Covenant were jamming our signal. We blew that one up real good though. I don't know how long we can…" The com ended in abrupt static, the jamming device must have been replaced. Cane slammed his fist against the console, calling up Salina again.

"How fast can we call up Gamma and Beta? Those men need back up."

"I don't know sir but…"

"No, no buts, no what ifs, just give me an estimate." Cane's emotions took hold, his hands shaking.

"Sir this is important…"

"No, nothing is more important then getting those men their back-up." Cane slammed his fist into the console again. "An I damn well intend to give it to them."

"But Captain…" she stammered, trying to get all of what she had to say out.

"What? What is more important then helping those men kill the Covenant before they kill them?"

"How about a Slipspace rupture off the starboard bow?" She smiled lightly at the captain's reaction.

"Ensign," He said, almost yelling, "Change course, get that MAC pointed directly into that rupture. I don't want anything jumping on us while we're distracted." Cane gripped the railing as the ship turned toward the opening. "Salina, can we tell what's coming through?"

Salina paused, "Yes, two large ships, I can't tell the class sir."

"Charge the MAC, prepare to fire. Slag that thing before it gets a chance to…"

"Wait Captain," Salina interrupted, "They're contacting us…"

"What? Patch it through, console sound only."

Static streamed from the console, along with some garbled words. "…is the… Pearl Harbor… SC… forces…"

"Give me a moment," Salina said, "I'll see if I can clean it up."

The message flowed again, much clearer. "This is the UNSC Pearl Harbor calling any UNSC forces, we're here to help." Two large ships appeared in front of Relevance, a carrier and one of the UNSC's larger cruisers.

"Uh captain, one more problem. The slipspace rupture seems to have attracted more attention then expected. A Covenant destroyer is rounding the crest of the planet sir, ETA is ten minutes." Her voice extended to external ship wide communications. "All hands, report to battle stations. Prepare to repel Covenant boarders. This is not a drill, scramble longsword squadrons to intercept boarding vessels. The battle for Alpha IV has officially started."

10 Years ago

"My God… what have I done…?" Paul Archer looked down at his blood soaked shirt, turning his hands over under a faucet. Blood rushed down his fingers and into the drain, he didn't even know if it was his anymore. His starch white dress suit was stained scarlet, running in puddles down into the drain. The cold shower felt good, but his mind was restless, going over what happened that night over and over…

Five hours earlier

Susan Mikulski, she was beautiful that night, a silken gown of pink draped gently over her, accenting the curves of her waist. Archer drew his eyes away and looked into her eyes. Deep emerald stared back, pushing a light smile out of her mouth. Archer flinched, coaxing a laugh.

"What's the matter Paul?" She joked, pressing against his side. "You never saw a woman before?"

Archer swallowed hard, trying to keep his emotions in check. "You look lovely tonight Susan." He blushed… unable to stop it anymore.

She winked, "Come on Paul, we haven't even left yet." They stood on the sidewalk in front of Susan's apartment. The daylight had long gone, and the local nightlife was just arousing to go about their nightly routines. Gangs of teens romped the streets looking for a bar or club they could get drunk in before their parents realized they were gone. The sky glistened with stars brighter on most other planets. This part of town didn't have streetlights, so the stars cast eerie shadows across the pavement.

Archer waved away the sense of admiration and centered his attention back on Susan. He gathered up as much strength as he possibly could. "So, where do you want to go tonight?"

Susan shrugged and gave him a sad look. "I don't know, maybe we could go uptown and sit down at a fancy restaurant or something."

Archer smirked, they had made the plans and the reservations weeks ago. Château D'esprit Léger, Home of Light Spirit, the fanciest restaurant Reach had to offer. It was one of those places where you could only get in if you made your reservations years ago, or knew the right people. Archer happened to know one such person, and they now had reservations for tonight.

Archer took Susan's hand and led her down the street toward the place, taxis didn't run this late out here. It was a long walk, almost half an hour, before they saw D'esprit Léger, the windows emitting a warm glow in the cold night. Archer pulled Susan faster into the open door, just as rain started to fall. A short, stocky man who looked like he had too many problems sat crooked on a stool at the entrance. His face transformed when Archer and Susan came through the door.

"Ah… 'Ello monsieur, do you have a reservation?" Archer nodded, ignoring the man's horrid accent. "Yes, and your name monsieur?"

"Ah Archer… table for two at seven o'clock?" Archer waited impatiently while the man dug through some papers, looking for the reservation list.

"Oui, oui come with me, your table is this way monsieur. My apologies for the wait." Archer nodded, then, taking Susan's hand, followed the man to the far side of the room where a booth was set up next to one of the windows. The man informed them, in horrible French, that the waiter would be with them shortly.

The night progressed as usual, with light conversation and a full meal. "Will that be all monsieur?" the waiter asked as he cleared away empty plate. Archer nodded, and reached into his pocket for some cash to pay the man. The waiter shook his head, "Your meals have been taken care of, courtesy of Mr. Heredrac."

Heredrac was Archer's 'one such person.' He was a friend of the family, and gave away the reservations on a whim. Archer made a note to thank him later. He rose, took Susan by the arm and they began the journey back to her apartment. By now the sky was as dark as it was going to get. Susan pushed closer to him as the walked slowly down the sidewalk, passing in front of an alley. The usual nightlife had cleared away, making the dark all the more fear able. Archer didn't even notice the man following them.

The man sprinted the ten feet between them and pressed a pistol into Archers back. "Give me everything in you pockets, or I shoot you and the lady." Archer swallowed, thinking his next move through. Susan had frozen next to him, gripping his arm tighter. Archer tried to buy time, pulling his arm from her and reaching into his pocket. He then spun, grabbing the pistol and wrestling the man to the ground. The next few moments felt like hours. Archer reached out fro the weapon, trying to free the assailants grip on it.

At one point Susan screamed… and then the gun went off. Archer froze in shock, trying to figure out what just happened. The gunman took the chance, pulled him self up and ran, leaving the gun in Archer's hands. Archer spun slowly, trying to make sense of what he saw. Susan was lying on the ground, crimson spreading from a hole blown into her chest. Archer ran over, lifting her up, blood staining his hands. He yelled up at the sky… not knowing what else to do.

Two hours later

Archer had somehow found his way home. His mind cluttered and unable to process what was going on. He took a shower, clothes and all, rinsing Her blood off of his hands. And hour later, three men showed up at his door. "Paul Mathew Archer?" Archer nodded, not quite understanding. "You are under arrest for the murder of Susan Mikulski, you have the right to remain silent…"

Archer was convicted of murder, the only prints on the gun being his. He was sentenced to life in prison. A year later, Archer was conscripted into the UNSC, as soldiers were running short. He was stationed aboard the UNSC Relevance, never truly understanding the pain he had to go through, and the life he could have had.

Alpha IV
17 Hours in
Base XI

"Can't we just eat it?"

"No, it knows where the artifact is, we will keep it alive, for now."

"But my stomach pains me, and its flesh smells fresh, and bloodied."

"Touch it and you'll find your head at your feet."

A grunting sound reverberated through the concrete room. "Yes, field master."

Conner's head spun as his mind was torn back into reality. He blinked and looked around the room. It was a military bunker. Supply crates lined one wall and monitors filled another. A simple metal door lay on the floor nearby, ripped off its hinges. He blinked again, clearing the haze from his vision. A Jackal stood next to the opening where the door used to be, plasma pistol level with his head. Through the opening Conner saw a larger inset steel door blocking the way out.

As his mind cleared he noticed the pressure on either side of him. Two Elites gripped him by the arm and were holding him up. Another Elite stood two feet away, staring right at him. Conner grunted.

The Elite stiffened, its golden plate armor clicking together. "Ah," It said, coming closer to Conner. "It's awake, now we can begin." It came even closer, standing inches away. "Where is the artifact?"

Conner stared dumbly at the Elite. "I have no freaking clue what you're talking about."

The creature laughed, "Really? I believe otherwise human. Tell us, and we'll make your death quick." Conner just stared blankly at the Elite. "Very well." It walked over to the Jackal and grabbed the guard's pistol. It turned and fired a shot near Conner's feet. The plasma boiled the concrete, searing Conner's boots, pants, and legs.

The Elite laughed again as Conner cried out in pain. "Last chance human, where is the…" The lights flicked out. There were muffled explosions as the metal door was blasted inward. Boot-falls filled the room and gunfire assaulted the silence. Conner felt the two Elites next to him slump and fall over. The Jackal screamed, but was cut short with a quick burst.

The lights flashed back on. Three ODSTs stood ominously in the room, Assault Rifles trained on the three limp forms lying across the floor. Conner laughed slightly, "Where the hell did you guys come from?" Relevance wasn't outfitted for orbital deployment.

The ODST nearest him almost jumped, she didn't expect survivors. "Uhh… Corporal Ellen Hawks, Gamma Company, UNSC Pearl Harbor. We're here to get the artifact before the battle in space goes sour."

Conner almost laughed, "Private Blake Conner, Bravo Company, UNSC Relevance. Sour?" And quickly he added, "Ma'am."

"You know, bad, downhill? We all fucking blow up? That's sour." Hawks smiled, she had a nice smile for someone who had seen as much as she had. She looked over Conner's leg, "You seem fine, but it'll hurt like hell for a while." She noticed the medical cross on Conner's chest-plate. "You're a medic? We have some wounded who need help, do you know where the infirmary is?" He started to ask why when he realized that his gear was gone. Hawks pointed down a hall, "Straight that way, second right, third door on the left. And move it, I don't know how long they can last out."

Conner nodded and said, "Yes Ma'am," then limped down the hallway. "Second right, third door on the left," he muttered as he turned, heading down another corridor. He found the door, a red medic cross was crudely painted on the frosted glass window. He heard some cluttering inside. Quickly he reached out and grabbed a pipe wrench that was lying on the ground next to some tools nearby. He lifted the wrench and slowly opened the door. The last thing he saw before passing out was a wooden bat flying out of the darkness into his forehead.

He crumpled to the floor, sounds filled his ears, "Oh my god, I'm so sorry. I thought you were one of… Blake?" And then he slipped yet again into unconsciousness.


New Manila
4 Years Earlier

Her name was Kara Conner. She was sixteen when Blake left, now she is eighteen, making her one of the youngest members of Gamma Company. She was strong, fast, sharp, and they welcomed her into the squad. They were her new family, until one day, Kara Conner vanished under mysterious conditions. Soon after, Gamma squad was retrained under their own recommendation as ODSTs. They never saw Kara Conner again.

"Kara? Hey Kara, you still with us?" Kara Conner jumped at the unexpected noise. She looked hazily around the cramped conference room. People were packed in and were beginning to filter out of the door on the far side of the room.

"Well?" She turned and looked into the face of her only friend, Carcey Hanford. "Are we going to lunch or what? The five foot blonde tapped her foot impatiently.

"Yeah, yeah, just give me a second." She looked down and saw a stack of binders lying at her feet. The CO had just gotten through another report on the 'importance of severe secrecy.' ONI had some odd ways of covering up, some many that they had to have a seminar monthly to remind the employees of what each and every one did. She sighed and muttered, "How did I get myself into this."

Carcey looked at her, "What was that?"

Kara shook her head slowly, remembering the seminar rule #1, 'you are not who you seem.' "Oh, it was nothing. Where were we going?"

Carcey put her finger to her chin thoughtfully, "I don't know, I thought food sounded good this millennia." She smiled wryly at Kara, who smiled back and nodded. "If only you could get your stuff picked up faster then these people can clear out." She looked menacingly at the crowded door and frowned. "They have no sense of urgency, a girl's got to eat isn't she?"

Kara laughed and picked up the binders, then stood up and straightened her khaki slacks. They made for the door and exited the building into the bustle of city life. A man behind them yelled over the roar of the crowd. "Hey, Ms. Pierce?" Kara cringed at the name. ONI picked it out for her, it never felt quite right. She turned around and saw man waving from the door of the office building. She remembered him from the seminar, Jeffery. He jogged down the walkway and stopped in front of the pair. "Whoa, you forgot this Ms. Pierce." He handed her a yellow binder and smiled broadly.

Carcey stepped between them, "Shove off Linon, she's not your type anyway."

Jeffery Linon took a step back and just kept smiling, "I was just doing Ms. Pierce a favor, nothing more. You don't have to get defensive Carcey." Carcey smiled lightly at him, then turned, grabbed Kara's arm, and pulled her down the street. Linon watched silently and shook his head as they tuned a corner. Kara smiled back down the street until she was out of sight.

"What the heck is up with you? Do you know what he does?" Kara stared blankly a Carcey. They had made it back to the ONI dormitories and were sitting on the floor of Kara's small living room. She shook her head. "He's a player Kara, he doesn't want anything serious. I did you a favor."

"This isn't my binder…" Kara stared at the yellow binder, wondering what it contained. Carefully she peeled the cover back and looked over the contents. Inside were a data pad and some data chips. She plugged in the first one and looked over the pad. It was a list of UNSC personnel, all who seemed to have prior records of misconduct. In another chip was a read-out on a UNSC Frigate. She looked over the list of supplies, enough to support entire armies for almost ten years. In the last chip was a simple message, one that would haunt Kara for the rest of her life. 'Find them, bring them here.'

Carcey read the message over Kara's shoulder, "Find who?" Kara opened the list of names again. At the top was 'Archer, Paul M.', the list continued on and on. She stopped at 'Haravez, Kyle R.' "Who are these people?" Carcey asked, leaning closer to examine the list."

"I don't know, but I guess I have to find them…"

Seven Months later

Kara stared at herself in the mirror behind the bar counter. The bags under her eyes were new, but she couldn't tell anymore. The list slowly dwindled with the first month, and now she only needed a few more people. She was here to get one more. Captain Cane, James A. The man sat in the back corner of the bar counter sipping out of a rather large glass. His grey fatigues were awry and his hair was greatly disheveled. Kara made her way to him and sat on a stool next to him.

Cane started to mumble, "…So they finally came for me? Who you from, HighCom? Or are you one of ONI's spooks?" He let out a slight laugh, "Hell, at this point it wouldn't surprise me if you were from the URF, or even the freaking Covenant."

Kara smiled, trying to stay friendly. "No, I'm here to ask you for some services, Captain." She pushed a folder across the counter. "I want to give you a ship and crew captain. Your previous… record shall be expunged and your pay will be increased dramatically."

Cane looked up with a spark of genuine interest in his eyes, "Sounds too good Lieutenant. What's the catch?"

She shook her head, "There is not catch Captain. You will have command of your own vessel. You report directly to me. Your ship leaves in a few months, we'll see you then."

Cane felt a little remorse, after what had happened to his last ship, he never thought he would be put in a commanding position again. "What's her name Lieutenant?"

"Hmm?" Kara looked at him thoughtfully. "Um, Relevance, I think. It's been so long since I've been over the details."

"Is that one of those ONI code names?" Cane looked right back at the young lieutenant who had just given him a second chance, and he knew nothing about her.

"No, I picked it out myself. She's in the docks on Reach. I expect you there in two months to oversee the final construction." Cane nodded blankly at her, still absorbing the situation. "All the information you'll need is in that packet, including crew manifest and a booking for a flight to Reach. I'll see you then, Captain." She bowed slightly and made for the door.

"What, no guard to make sure I come?" Cane was joking, but Kara turned around anyway.

"No captain, no guards. We know you'll come on your own." And with that she left the captain at the bar to divulge his thoughts.

Three Month Later

"You did a great job, I admit that even I couldn't have gotten all those people together in one place." Kara sat idly back in and old office chair. Her apartment hadn't changed much in the last year, but it was cluttered beyond belief. She stretched and waved here hand over a holographic display. A small figure appeared on top, with a simple face, and welcoming smile.

"You couldn't do much right now Salina," Kara leaned back, pushing her hair out of her eyes. "You can barely tie your holographic shoelaces let alone run a warship. It's going to take months to get you up to…" Her computer chirped as a camera feed demanded attention. A face appeared in a window on the screen. Captain Cane smiled broadly at attention. "Captain, what do you want at this hour?"

"Sorry to disturb you Ma'am, but there's a man here who claims to know you. He insists that you come down right away."

"Down to the docks Captain?" Cane nodded. Kara frowned slightly, sighing. "Who is he, I shouldn't have to go down there until the final month of construction."

Another man walked into view of the camera, his plain face stood out next to the Captain's wizened setting. He smiled at the sight of her, "Hi Kara, I thought I'd find you here."

She gasped, "Blake?"

End of Chapter 2

Relevance:Redux (Chapter III)
Date: 10 September 2009, 2:07 am

Chapter 3: At the Edge of Night
Surface of Alpha IV
10 miles from Base XI
Present Day
17 Hours in

Fire, that's all there was, Fire and glass. Light from the sky fell steadily down on the planet, blanketing the once green landscape. The planet burned, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Soldiers desperately cried out in the darkness as they were engulfed. A moon hung in the sky defiantly, eclipsed by fields of destruction. They were all doomed, there would be nothing left to tell the story, to warn Earth. Nothing but glass and ashes. Suddenly a voice cut through the bleak image, different then the cries of pain. It called, loud, clear, and beautiful in the dark. Two figures stood eclipsed on a hillside, one in the arms of the other. The voice sounded again, clearer. A phrase that would haunt the listener for the rest of his life, "I forgive you…"

"Hey… are you going to get up or not? I've had to drag your fat ass this far already."

Private Paul Archer slowly came back from the foreboding images. He shook his head slowly, trying to wipe his mind of the memory. He looked up and stared at the familiar grin. "Uhg, what happened?"

Linon's grin widened, "You passed out again. I swear they taught us something in boot about 'how to not pass out when crashing,' but I could be wrong."

"I meant what happened after the crash, and I'll remember that." Archer stretched and stood up. "Where's sarge?"

Linon put a finger to his chin and tried to look thoughtful. "You know, I'm not sure. I fell behind dragging your lifeless body for the last ten miles." He smiled quickly as Archer began to move towards him. "But if I had to guess, he would be just ahead in the clearing where the rendezvous is supposed to be."

Archer shook his head again, and then headed toward the clearing. He had some things to think about.


3 years earlier
Epsilon Training Facility

Corporal Ellen Hawks braced herself in the drop pod. Ten seconds ago she was comfortably stretched out across a bunk on the UNSC Half Way There before a drill was called. Two hundred ODST's were hot dropped from the ship into unknown territory. They weren't even told what they were going to do, but that was part of the job.
"Alright marines," The screen inside her pod flickered and a helmet centered it's self in the picture. "Welcome to Epsilon, this will be your final test. Beta Platoon is down there, and they've been waiting for a rematch after Bravo beat their arses all the way back to Earth. In your pod should be a rifle of your usual preference, when you hit planet side, regroup with you squads and move to the marked location on your Heads Up Display. There will be a marker there, pick it up and return it to the rendezvous point. This should be a cake walk for you hell jumpers, good luck, command out."

Hawks switched on her own comm. "Alright Gamma, use the usual pattern. Patterson, you're up front, James take rear. I don't know what Beta has in store for us, but I don't want you all running in there half cocked. Thirty seconds to impact, prepare to defend your position until the rest of the squad can get to you. Good Luck." Acknowledgment lights blinked across her display, four in all.

Patterson, James, Kinsley, and Pork made up Gamma squad under Hawks. They were the top ranked ODST squad on the ship, and all expectations were turned to them. This mission had to go off without a hitch.

A timer in the corner of Hawks display ticked down to the second of impact. The pod slammed into the ground, creating a small crater around it. Hawks blew the hatch of and immediately darted for the nearest cover. She watched as Patterson, James, and Kinsley all made their way to her position. So far there was no enemy fire. Suddenly Pork's indicator flashed red. The squad instantly changed direction and moved toward their comrade.

It didn't take long to find him. Pork lay clumsily hanging out of his pod. Bright florescent green was splattered across his chest. He'd been hit. Hawks flicked on her comm. "Pork, are you alright?" He didn't answer, but moved his arm slightly to gesture toward the marker. He'd been shot, his armor had locked up to simulate the numbing effect of being hit by a bullet. Pork wasn't going anywhere. Hawks shook her head and gestured into the trees. Gamma followed her orders and moved out.

The clearing was blank. The entire forest shook with gunfire, but the clearing was blank. Planted in the center was a plain steel pole with a red flag hanging from the top. It was too easy. "Hey Kinsley, you see anything?"

"Negative Corporal, nothing yet. You think they all ran after the other squads?"

"Nah, they know us too well to leave it completely unguarded." James shifted to get a better view. "Theirs something we're missing."

"Well, no harm no foal," Patterson said, moving to stand. "I'm going for it." Before Hawks could say anything, Patterson was off and sprinting into the clearing. The air buzzed as two forms shot from above the trees.

"Shit," Kinsley said, raising his sniper rifle to get a better view. "MAKO drones, two of them. Nasty things, Patterson doesn't stand a chance."

"Can you get a shot?" Hawks said quickly, trying to think of a way to save Patterson from humiliation.

"I can get one…"

"Well do it!" Kinsley sighted one of the drones and fired. The pellet struck the shell and the drone veered off, now 'destroyed'. The second drone swooped in on Patterson, firing at the defenseless marine. Then it too swerved off and flew away. "Nice shot Kinsley."

"But I didn't shoot Corporal, Ma'am. I couldn't even sight it."

"Then who…" Pork's status light flickered amber and green. "Well I'll be, down but not out aye Pork?" The light continued to blink. "Grab the flag Patterson, let's get the hell out of here."

Two days later

"I'd like to congratulate you again for you victory corporal. You and you team did a stunning job."

"Thank you commander." Hawks stood on board the Ares IV station above Reach. Commander John Collins stood next to her. "I couldn't have done it without my team sir."

"Of course, and that's why I'd like to reassign your squad Corporal. I want you on the Pearl Harbor."

"The Pearl Harbor sir? I thought she was decommissioned ages ago."

"Oh, she was. But we reactivated her, retrofitted with the latest gear and equipment. She needs a good squad onboard to keep the place in one piece. Are you up for it?"

"Of course sir. We're ready to go anywhere you need us sir." She turned and stared out into space through a large window. Just beyond it a large ship floated by, obviously old and repaired many times. Painted across the side in large black lettering was the words UNSC Pearl Harbor. She muttered, "I just don't know if she's up to the task…"

Present Day
Alpha IV
UNSC Relevance

James Cane stared out the forward view screen at the carnage surrounding his vessel. The battle had started not more then an hour before, and already the space above Alpha IV was filled with fire and scrap. The three UNSC ships had easily dispatched the first Covenant vessel, it hadn't raised its shields. The second ship crested the planet with shields up and weapons blazing. The UNSC Hanford was obliterated in the first wave of fire. Pearl Harbor and Relevance covered Pelicans and Longswords making their way back from the Hanford as Seraph fighters strafed the wreckage. Thousands of navy and air force personal were killed aboard the ship. Hundreds more were killed by fighters.

That was half an hour ago. The two remaining UNSC vessels fended off the Covenant ship, giving them some time to recover. Or so they thought. Cane took the chance to get some well needed rest. Minutes later he was called once again to the bridge. Now he stared out at the wreck of the Hanford as the camera panned slowly, centering on the UNSC Pearl Harbor. He turned to his consol.

"Salina?" He pressed a button on the board and Salina appeared on the arm of his chair. She'd been hard pressed since the battle started, and her avatar was starting to show it. Her hair was disheveled and her face showed worry.

Her voice was also tired, "Yes captain?"

"Why was I called to the bridge?"

"I'm not sure captain," She turned slightly and gestured at the communications station. "Captain Breshel on the Pearl Harbor called you sir."

Cane sighed slightly and hesitated. He wasn't sure he wanted to hear what the other captain had to say. "Put it on, Salina." Captain Breshel appeared on a small screen inlaid into Cane's seat. He nodded slightly. "Yes Breshel, what do you need?"

"I'm sorry to call captain, but we've had some… difficulties. During the last wave we took on some boarders. We've done our best to repel them, but their gaining ground. We think their up to something, all their progress has been away from key control points, including the bridge and engineering."

Cane rubbed his chin lightly, realizing he hadn't shaved in weeks. "Then where are they heading captain?"

"For all intents and purposes, we assume they are heading towards the center of the…" The screen cut to sudden static.

"Salina, what the hell happened?" Cane stood up and moved to the glass of the bridge gallery.

Salina paused and turned to him, "I'm not sure captain, their communication just cut, I can't determine a source… wait, I think you should see this sir." The usually blank screen cut to an exterior view of the Pearl Harbor.

"What do you want me to…?" Before Cane could finish his sentence, Pearl Harbor started splitting at the seams. Flames shot out the ports as the ship was rent in two. Then, before seconds had passed, the ship exploded in a brilliant flash of blue and crimson. The UNSC Pearl Harbor had been destroyed.

Cane stared dumbfounded at the debris drifting away from the epicenter of the blast. "Status report! I want to know what just happened to that ship!"

"Captain," Salina gestured to a data pad. "Pre-diagnostics reports show that the blast originated somewhere near the center of the vessel. The signature looks like some kind of plasma based explosive device."

"A bomb?"

"Correct sir, I assume the Covenant brought it on board with their boarding parties. I took the liberty to scan our own vessel for such a device. There was one inside one of the pods that breached our hull, but it was expelled when we repelled the boarders, sir."

Cane relaxed slightly, "Any word from command on those reinforcements?"

Salina shook her head, "Negative sir, command can't spend anymore ships on a rescue mission."

"Then contact the ground teams and scramble Pelicans." Cane sat down slowly and tried to relax. "Tell them to finish up quickly, or find another way home…"

Surface of Alpha IV
10 miles from Base XI
18 hours in

Paul Archer paused slightly to stare up at the night sky. The stars were briefly dwarfed by a blaring light that quickly disappeared. He shook his head and wrote it off as a slight concussion and kept moving deeper into the clearing. Archer found Sergeant Haravez leaning against the melted wreck of a warthog. The clearing was littered with bodies and debris, both friend and foe alike. A haze of unease covered the landscape as a light mist rolled across the corpses.

Sergeant Haravez sat slumped forward on the wreckage of a Warthog. The vehicle's tires had melted to the ground, and the mounted gun on back was nothing but a heap of slag. As Archer neared the sergeant, he noticed a corpsman lying face down in the mud not two feet away from where Haravez was sitting. He reached down and rolled the man over, checking his ID tag. He didn't know the corpsman personally, but made an effort to remember the man's face. It wasn't worth dieing in this war if there was no one to remember what you had died for.

Haravez noticed what Archer was doing and sighed. "You notice anything strange about how he died, private?" Archer looked back at the body, studying it closely. He almost jumped when he saw the bullet holes.

"Wait…" he stammered, "you mean…?"

Haravez nodded, "Yes, he died from friendly fire. I don't know what the hell is going on here, but it doesn't feel right. Many of these bodies seem to have been killed by allies. I don't want to know what must have happened to these men, in order to push them over the edge. Something horrible happened here…"

Suddenly the radio in the Warthog sputtered to life. Captain Cane's voice came over the intercom, echoing over their personal radios. "This is Captain Cane, the Pearl Harbor and the Hanford have been destroyed. We're giving you three hours to get what you need and get the hell out of there. Pelicans will begin lifting anyone they can up to the ship in that time. We are sending marked areas where the drop ships will pick up. Good luck marines, we'll all need it."

The clearing light up suddenly with a green light on Archer's tactical scanner. He turned to Haravez just as Linon came jogging up. Haravez shook his head slowly, "I guess we hold the LZ. I hope those Pelicans don't wait the whole three hours to come get us, who knows what's out there waiting." The wind picked up and whipped through the trees, clearing away the mist and revealing more bodies, hundreds of them, some not even from Relevance.

For once Linon was silent. Archer stuttered uneasily, "I guess we found the science crew… What the hell happened here…?"

Alpha IV
Base XI
Analysis Lab 7
48 Hours ago

Sara Harsen poured over the object lying on her examination table. The medium sized stone tablet had just come in from the excavation site less then a mile north of the base. It was made of solid onyx, just like the rest of the ruins, but strange etchings flowed across the surface of the artifact, not even metaphorically, the writing actually flowed like water across the rock face.

The instant the rock hit the table, Sara was translating the text. They didn't know much of the forerunner language, but from what little she could decipher came great knowledge. Two words stood out among the rest, the words "shield," "sword," and "ring" were repeated many times over, as well as "ship" and "war." But none of these were unusual, what was unusual was the string of numbers that followed each word. She'd found them almost two days ago, and still could not make sense of the combinations.

She sighed heavily, drawing the attention of her lab partner Joseph. Joseph was younger then Sara by two years. He served in the UNSC navy before becoming and archeologist to get away from war. He stared at her critically before saying anything. "What's wrong, figured out that translation yet?"

Sara shook her head, "No, these numbers just don't make any sense. There's no pattern at all, it looks like they just picked random numbers and wrote them down." She passed the paper to Joseph, "See if you can make anything out of this."

He looked at it for less then a minute. "It's a set of coordinates. Each word represents a planet, and the numbers are astral coordinates. This is a map." He passed the paper back to a shocked Sara. He eyed her carefully, "What?"

"How did you figure that out, I've been staring at these things for two days, where were you then?" Joseph smiled slightly.

"Here, let me see the artifact…" He reached over and grabbed the stone lightly, lifting it up. Suddenly he froze, his eyes wide and dilated. The artifact fell from his hands. And hit the table surprisingly light.

Suddenly, he lifted and examination lamp off the table and swung for Sara's head. She moved just in time to miss the blunt of the blow, but it came down hard on her shoulder, breaking it. She cried out, the movement caused the strap camera to fall from her head. Joseph just stared off into space as he brought the lamp down again, and again. Then, he grabbed the stone, put it in a drawer, and left the room like nothing happened.

Alpha IV
Base XI
Analysis Lab 7
Present day

Kara Conner removed the tape from the player on the examination table. The Marines around her stood silently, shocked at what they had just seen. Blake was the first one to speak up. "What the hell happened here?"

Kara shook her head slowly, she had seen the tape before, arriving on the planet shortly after the incident occurred. "No one knows what happened, that was less then a day before the Covenant attacked. The science crews began going mad, killing each other for no apparent reason. After they killed someone, they'd return to work like nothing happened. I found the artifact tucked away where Joseph left it. It's boxed and ready to take up to your ship. We just have to make it to an LZ and get out of here."

Hawks turned to the squad. "You heard her, let's get moving. We have less then an hour to gather everything we need and get out of here. Move Marines." The room scattered to work, leaving Hawks, Blake and Kara alone. They stood silently for some time before stirring again. Blake turned to his sister as Hawks suddenly realized the awkwardness and left the room.

He smiled softly and hugged her. "I thought you were gone Kara. I thought I'd never see you again after what I did."

Kara smiled back, "Sorry I hit you with a bat." They both laughed lightly and stood there for a moment longer. "We should get going. There's still plenty to pack up before the pelican get here."

Blake nodded, and they both left the room to help the rest of the Marines.

Alpha IV
Original Rendezvous Point
19 Hours in
Present Day

"There's nothing we can do here… Nothing at all we could do to help these people." Paul Archer stooped and looked at the ground, realizing that he was standing on someone's hand. He pushed the thought to the far back of his mind and moved to where the Sergeant was sitting.

Just as he sat, the radio began spouting as the Pelicans came within range. That was when it all went to hell. Plasma lit up the sky as hundreds of Seraph fighter-bombers flocked towards the incoming drop-ships. Most were destroyed instantly, others crashed to the ground engulfed in flames. The radio fizzled out as the fighters jammed the radio. Then a bright light began on the horizon as a shadow crept across the sky. This was the end, and all Private Paul Archer could do was watch, and wait.

UNSC Relevance
20 Hours in
Present Day
[Warning: Tape is about to expire]

"What's the status on the FTL?" Captain Cane turned to his helmsman.

The ensign shook his head in disbelief, "Only ten percent sir, I didn't expect we would be leaving any time soon."

Cane slammed his fist into the console. "Dammit, what are our options Salina?"

"Nothing sir," the AI manifested at the command console, "We should begin Admiral Cole's Protocol and prepare for the worst sir." She shook her head, a calculated movement. "We don't stand a chance against that many fighters." She paused for a second before continuing, "A Covenant CCS class cruiser has just crested the planet sir, they're glassing the surface."

Cane sat down slowly, considering what he had just heard. "Salina, is it possible to jump Relevance just enough to put her inside that cruiser?" Salina stood for a second before nodding slowly. "Alright, begin the calculations. We pull this off and it will buy the ground teams more time. Patch me through to open communications. Let the bastards listen if they care to."

"Alright captain, the comm. is open." Salina dissolved back into the panel to give Cane some room.

"This is Captain James Cane, of the UNSC Relevance to all surviving human forces. Relevance is about to be over come, and our FTL drive is far from charged. There is no chance for escape, not for any of us. I have a plan, it should buy the ground team extra time to get that artifact off this planet. Good luck to you all, and may luck give a damn. To the crew of the Relevance, we knew the risk we were taking when we undertook this mission. Lifeboats are positioned on every deck, you will not be judged if you choose now to use them. We will not survive this next fight, I know this. If you choose to leave, then return to Earth and tell them what happened here today. Tell them of the lives lost to defend their people. Tell them what happened here, so that all may know who we were." He paused, waiting for the sound of the escape pods ejecting, but no one moved. No one onboard the UNSC Relevance made a sound.

Cane smiled and turned the radio off. It would be the last thing he remembered as Captain of the Relevance. The loyalty of his crew would live on.

Alpha IV
Base XI: Outside
Present Day
[Warning: Tape is about to expire]

Corporal Ellen Hawks held the binoculars to her eyes. The night sky was clear enough to see Relevance as the fighters descended on their pray. Flares of plasma light up portions of the ship as armor plating was melted away. The rest of the squad stared up as Relevance blinked out, and the looming Covenant cruiser burst into flames. Some cheered, others cried out. Yet others still couldn't absorb what had just happened. Kara Conner wiped a lone tear running down her cheek before turning to her brother and collapsing into his arms. The battle for Alpha IV was over, but the war for the artifact had just begun.

[End of Tape: Record Stored]