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Fan Fiction

Through the eyes of Six by Firerwolf

Noble Actual
Date: 13 August 2011, 2:31 am

July 24, 2552, 07:28 Hours

Shar sat in the warthog, staring down at her ODST helmet. She felt the eyes of her driver glancing over at her every once in a while. He'd tried to start a conversation a couple times but had never really said anything that led to her replying. After a while, he'd just given up. Still, he kept looking over at her. Was it really that odd to see a Spartan without their helmet on, or was he just not used to being so close to a Spartan? It didn't really matter to her; she was used to being stared at. As long as the driver wasn't so distracted that he hit something, he could look all he liked.

Shar was more focused on the reflection she saw in the brilliant blue visor of her helmet. The color of the reflective surface tinted everything blue, and she had to admit she liked it. She'd always liked the color blue and if it were at all a good idea, which it wasn't for her work, she would wear blue armor. She was meant for stealth though, which meant not being seen. Black just made it easier. She did like the blue tint that seemed to accent the sleek lines of the rounded helmet. She wondered for a moment why she liked blue so much. She just always had. She remembered happy blue eyes smiling at her, and blue sheets on her parent's bed.

Cold eyes stared back at her from the reflection in the helmet, the eyes of a killer. That was all she really was any more. She was a killer, out to kill every last Covenant that got in her way. She didn't mind it—the only other option that she'd had was to be a refuge and leave it to someone else to save humanity. That wasn't the life for her. She had soldier blood flowing through her veins. Since the moment she'd hit that grunt with a rock she knew that fighting the Covenant was all she was going to do. She was going to kill them, make them pay for her dead family, every single last one.

Shar absently reached up and ran her gloved fingers over the scar along her neck. The mark splashed along her neck all the way up onto her right cheek. It was just one scar added to a large collection that only seemed to grow with each battle. Most of them she could hide, and her armor made it easy. The slash mark across her back from an energy sword still hurt at times and the large scar on her left thigh from a needler exploding ached if she ran for too long. The others were only reminders of the battles she'd fought, of the victories and all the planets that she'd tried to save but couldn't.

Shar was nothing like the child she had once been. Her happiness had gone with her planet and she found nothing but determination for victory. She never even found joy in her wins. Even if she killed the Covenant on the ground, she still saw so many humans dying, those she wanted to protect. She was only thankful that she'd never seen a planet glassed. She wasn't sure how she would take seeing a planet destroyed.

Her driver said something about their destination and Shar looked up, seeing the building up ahead. She looked back down, once more taking in the visor that was her face to so many. She flipped the helmet over and slipped it over her head. The suit sealed together with a hiss. She looked up at the falcons as they passed overhead and made their way to the camp. They landed only seconds before the warthog eased to a stop. Shar stood up and moved out of the vehicle. She heard the engine spring to life as the driver moved off.

Shar looked around the camp. It was pretty simple. A couple buildings and the two falcons. She made her way around one of the air transports and moved toward the building to meet up with her team. The familiar voice of Colonel Holland could be heard as she approached.

"Contact with Visegrad Relay was lost last night. All signals flatlined at twenty-six hundred hours." The deep authoritative voice was familiar to Shar. She felt oddly out of place in a team. She had been trained, and deployed in the field, as a single unit, sometimes only attached to marines for short periods of time.

Shar spotted a green-armored soldier sitting to the side. She noticed the odd tattoo on the left side of his face and neck. He was absently inserting rounds into a sniper rifle magazine. He must be the recon of the team. Always good to have a sniper on the team. She felt his eyes track her as she moved toward the building.

"I responded with trooper fire teams, which since have been declared MIA." Shar frowned at the Colonel's words. Missing troopers? Insurrectionists were possible, but she found it odd that they would be able to take out troopers.

"And now you're sending us in." The voice that spoke was strong and deep, but not as deep as the Colonel's. The words still carried an edge of power and leadership to them. There was something in the tone that made Shar feel more at ease, more confident, though she wasn't sure what.

"The Office of Naval Intelligence believes deployment of a Spartan team is a gross misallocation of valuable resources. I disagree." Shar couldn't help but smile behind her visor. The Colonel had never been a big fan of ONI, or all their red tape. He'd never been very careful about hiding his dislike either.

Shar moved into the building, spotting a soldier sitting to the side. The carved skull on the faceplate of his EVA helmet drew her attention first. He sat sharpening a Kukri on his shoulder pauldron—a good use of equipment such as the expensive body armor. Shar stopped as an arm moved in her way. The first thing she noticed is that it was metal. She felt suddenly very aware of her own metal limb. It wasn't often that she met someone that had an arm like her. Shar turned her attention to the Spartan attached to the arm and she recognized the woman right way. The memory of standing over her and threatening her flashed through her mind. Catherine, a fellow Beta Spartan. If Kat remembered Shar, she didn't show it. It was likely that she wouldn't. Shar had never really been close to anyone from Beta Company. She was vaguely aware, and jealous, that Kat wore blue armor. She actually liked the light shade of the color that the Lieutenant Commander had chosen.

Kat turned to a figure also in blue armor, but a darker blue. "Commander."

The man turned around to face Shar. She knew right away that he was the leader of the team. He looked every bit the part. His features were strong, only one scar along his cheek. Even his armor seemed to scream that he was the leader. Another figure sat to the side and stared at her. Shar recognized him right away and was a bit worried that he would recognize her. It was Jorge, a Spartan II that she had worked with in the past. His armor seemed to be twice as large as all the other Spartans and he looked to be more machine than man.

"So that's our new number six." Jorge's voice seemed intrigued, but if he remembered her, his tone didn't give it away. Shar supposed it was better that he didn't remember her.

Shar took a step forward, as though to show that he was correct. She was their new Noble Six. It wasn't a position that she was thrilled about, but any chance to fight was a chance to make a difference, so she'd get used to it.

"Kat, you read her file?" the EVA helmeted Spartan asked.

"Only the parts that weren't covered in black ink." Shar knew that Kat might be lying. The woman's ability to get into any information was legendary among the Beta Company. Shar had no doubt that Kat had read every word of her file. Though from the way that Kat spoke she didn't remember training with Shar. Did no one remember her?

Carter seemed uninterested in the conversation, though an exhale that Shar barely noticed hinted that he too didn't believe Kat. He turned back to the screen. "Anyone claim responsibility, sir?"

"ONI thinks it might be local Insurrectionists." Shar scowled at the idea of Insurrectionists on Reach. It was a military planet—the people owed all they had to the UNSC. It would be illogical for them to fight against it. "Five months ago, they pulled a similar job on Harmony. Hit a relay to take out our eyes and ears, and then stole two freighters from dry-dock. That cannot happen here. Reach is too damn important. I want that relay back online, Noble One."

Shar stiffened at the mention of Harmony. It had once been her home and she knew that the UNSC had been using it as a place to hide away damaged ships after fights with the Covenant. She banished the thoughts of her fallen home to the back of her mind. The Colonel was right. Reach was too important. She needed to keep her head in the game.

"Sir, consider it done," Carter replied.

"Then I'll see you on the other side. Holland out." The connection cut and the Spartans started to move. Jorge and Emile stood up while Carter picked up his helmet.

Carter turned around, setting his full attention on Shar. "Lieutenant."

"Commander, Sir." Shar stood a bit at ease. There was something intimidating yet friendly about the Commander that Shar had to admire.

Jorge and Emile started to move toward the door joining up with Kat at the exit. "I'm Carter, Noble Team's leader." She was already well aware of this but knew better then to comment. "That's Kat, Noble Two." So then Catherine was his second in command. She had to admit it seemed right. Though Shar honestly hoped that Carter paid more attention to her then her team in Beta Company had. "Emile and Jorge, Four and Five." Shar made a note of the EVA-helmeted Spartan's name. She already knew Jorge, knew that he was good in combat. "You're riding with me, Noble Six." For a moment Shar wasn't sure who he was talking to. She remembered that she was now Six. That would take some getting used to.

The Spartans moved out of the building, Emile, Kat, and Jorge making their way to one Falcon while Carter lead Shar. He slipped on his helmet as they moved down the stairs. "I'm not gonna lie to you, Lieutenant. You're stepping into some shoes the rest of the squad would rather leave unfilled." Shar felt a bit of dread. She was new to being on a team, and on top of that the team didn't want her there. She wondered for a moment what had happened to make them want to keep the spot vacant. Shar followed Carter to the second falcon where the green-armored Spartan, scout helmet now securely on, was waiting.

Shar climbed into the falcon as Carter continued. "Me, I'm just happy to have Noble back up to full strength. Just one thing. I've seen your file. Even the parts the ONI censors didn't want me to. I'm glad to have your skill set, but we're a team. That lone wolf stuff stays behind, clear?"

Great, first day on the team and she was being lectured. She could work as a team if she needed to; she just worked better on her own. She wasn't going to argue, though. Something Carter made her unwilling to argue. "Got it, sir." She sat down in her seat and waited for them to take off.

The green-armored soldier turned and Shar noticed the identification tag which marked him as Jun. Short and sweet, an easy name to remember. "Welcome to Reach." The sniper's voice had an accent that Shar was unfamiliar with. She simply nodded to him as the falcon took off. This was definitely going to be an adventure.

Winter Contingency
Date: 26 August 2011, 2:33 pm

Shar sat back in the falcon, watching as the cliff sides passed them. She had to admit that Reach was a beautiful planet.

"Listen up, Noble Team." Shar's attention snapped to Carter in front of her as he briefed the team. "We're looking at a downed relay outpost, fifty klicks from Visegrad. We're going to introduce ourselves to whoever took it out, then Kat's going to get it back online." Shar noted that he was staring across the way at the other falcon.

"Just get me under the hood, Commander." There was no doubt in Kat's mind that she could get it done with ease. It was evident in her calm tone and speech. Shar couldn't help but smile slightly. If there was anyone that could manipulate tech with ease it was Kat.

"Sir, why would Rebels want to cut off Reach from the rest of the colonies?" Jorge's question was a good one. Sure Innies might not like the UNSC, but keeping Reach in contact with the rest of the fleet kept them safe from worrying about the Covenant. It wasn't very logical.

"You get a chance, maybe you can ask them, Jorge." Carter's answer wasn't really an answer. It didn't give any concrete understanding or ease the question for Shar's mind now that it was there.

"Commander, we just lost our signal with HQ." Kat fiddled with a datapad in her hand.

Carter turned to look in her direction. "Back up Channels?"

"Searching." There was a pause before Kat continued. "Nada. Can't say what's jamming us." Her arms went a bit limp, helpless to do much of anything about it.

"You heard her." Carter's voice was hard and cold, ready for a fight. "Dead zone confirmed. Command will not be keeping us company this trip."

"I'm lonely already." Shar smirked at Emile's words. The EVA-helmeted Spartan definitely had a way with timing.

The falcons eased in above the relay station. "Shoot down attempts are likely, so keep your distance." Carter warned the pilot.

"Yes, sir." There was something in the pilot's voice that made Shar sure he was glad he wasn't going to be forced to get too close. Might be still green, fresh out of boot for all she knew.

"There's the communications outpost." Jorge's words brought Shar's attention to the sky where she saw the large outline of the satellite dish that indicated their destination.

"Reading a distress beacon," Kat alerted them. Shar looked down toward what appeared to be a warthog on fire where a nav marker appeared, indicating she was 72 meters away from the beacon.

"Could be the missing troopers. Let's check it out." Carter didn't sound like he believed even his own words. The falcons angled and slowly started to descend. "Put us down on the bluffs."

The falcons did as they were ordered and they moved to the top of the bluffs where there was enough room for both to land.

Carter turned toward the sniper Spartan. "Jun, I want your eyes in the sky."

"Sir." Jun's tone made it obvious he was often in the skies above rather than on the ground with the team. Shar couldn't imagine being like that. She loved to kill her enemies on the ground, get up close and personal and make sure every single one suffered.

The falcons landed and Carter stood, jumping out of the falcon. "Let's go, Six." Shar got up and exited the falcon, landing beside the Commander. "All right, Noble Team, spread out, watch the approach." Carter motioned the falcons to move off and the team to head down the bluffs. Kat did one quick check over her arm and the team was off.

Shar moved off, running straight through the gardens that covered the area around her. She didn't know exactly what they were growing but they looked like red tinted lettuce to her. She spotted Emile as he quickly climbed a large rock, taking part as lookout. Shar stopped long enough to let Carter and Kat take the lead ahead of her. She forgot, she had forgotten—she had a team, she couldn't run off on her own.

"Structure Point 3-4, looks clear from this angle." Emile leapt down from the large rock, easily landing on his feet.

"Distress beacon is coming from just south of her, Commander. We're close." Kat took the lead ahead of Carter as they ran down the hillsides. Shar cut down along the ledges that had been made so more gardens could be cultivated. She reached the location of the beacon and swept the area, finding nothing.

Emile landed on the ground near the burning warthog, moving over to a broken-up pile of wood as Kat and Carter arrived. Kat stood behind him, watching as he grabbed something from the debris. "Found the beacon." Emile picked up the brightly-colored item and tossed it over his shoulder.

Kat easily caught it, examining the beacon. Carter glanced over to her, tearing his gaze from the burning warthog. "Make out any ID?"

Kat looked it over for any markings, "Negative, but it's military." She dropped the beacon to the ground.

"So where are the troopers?" It took a moment for Shar to recognize the voice of Jorge. She had thought he'd be on the ground with them but she'd almost forgotten he was part of the team at all at this point.

"Why are we not seeing explosive residue?" Leave it up to Kat to find a question that Shar wasn't sure she wanted to know the answer to. There was a burning warthog, and she didn't want to think of what else besides explosives could cause it to catch fire.

"Noble Three, can you confirm any 'ex residue in the area?" Shar took a fraction of a second to realize that Carter was talking to Jun. She really needed to get used to this.

"Hmm." Jun paused for a moment, likely checking some sort of equipment. "Negative, sir."

It was not the answer that Shar wanted to hear. Then Emile spoke what she was sure they were all thinking. "Plasma, maybe."

"Can't be. Not on Reach." Shar didn't want to admit it, but she hoped Jorge was right. The idea of the Covenant here, it was unsettling.

"There's a lot of blood on the ground." Emile was staring at the concrete, studying the red splatters.

"All right, Noble, looks like there's nothing here. Let's move on." Carter's words were all that Shar needed. She took off in the only direction that seemed to lead anywhere.

"Smoke at the next structure, Boss." Kat's words were followed by some sort of bird screeching close to Shar.

"Circle west and check it out. Noble Team: you have permission to engage, but be selective. We don't need to telegraph our presence." Shar had to admit that Carter was right. Luckily, she had plenty of skill in not telegraphing where she was.

Two ostrich-like birds ran out of the brush. Shar punched each one of them, figuring better safe than sorry. Emile ran past her and glanced back. She could swear he was smirking at her. Shar fell into line behind them as they moved toward the structure. The path wound around the back of the structure, to a large drop off. Shar put the realization of how long a fall it was to the back of her mind. She moved past Emile and up a set of stairs.

"Noble Six, move into the house. Go in quiet. Right behind you." Shar moved into the building, checking through the darkness but finding not even a hint of movement. She stopped and waited for Carter and Kat to move ahead of her before they all made their way out of the broken front of the building.

"Noble Leader, I'm seeing heat-sigs in the structure ahead." Jun's warning came just as Jorge moved toward them from where his falcon had dropped him and a door slid open.

A man moved out of the house, hands up and dressed in civilian clothing. He said something in a language that Shar didn't recognize. She only knew it was the native tongue of the area.

"Move! On your knees, now!" Emile kept his shotgun steady on them as the man flinched back.

The man said something quickly in the native language and Jorge seemed to relax a little. "They're not rebels, they're farmers. Look at them."

Shar stayed in her position in front of the broken doorway while Kat watched the main gate and Carter turned to watch the bridge, which led away. "Ask him what they're doing here." Carter didn't sound as convinced as Jorge that they were not rebels.

Jorge relayed the message. Shar hadn't known he could speak the language. The farmer replied and Jorge translated. "Hiding, sir. Neighbors were attacked last night." Shar wondered what they'd been attacked by. "He heard screams, gunfire. It stopped around sunrise." The man choked out one last thing. To Shar, even not understanding the words, she could tell the man was heartbroken. "He says something in the fields…killed his son."

"Something?" Carter sound unsettled by the wording. It caught Shar's attention as well.

"Commander, be advised. I'm reading heat signatures in the structure directly east from our position. Over." Jun's voice sounded a bit hurried.

"Copy that." Carter turned to Jorge. "Get them back inside."

Jorge shouted something to the farmers in the native tongue and they all moved back into the building. Kat and Carter took off toward the building, Shar once more falling into line behind them. "Noble team, double time it." Carter started to sprint forward.

Shar activated the override that Kat had built into all of their suits and took off after Noble One and Two. They reached the structure in a few seconds and Carter moved inside. Shar and Kat stood in the doorway, looking at the scene before them.

"Damn…" Shar had to agree with Carter as she took in the scene before them. There were four dead civilians up against what looked to be palettes of bags of mulch. What really caught her eye was a pair of troopers. One sat on the ground, dead, and leaning against some sort of container. The other was hanging on the wall on a set of hooks that were usually used for tools.

"Fill me in, Commander, what are you seeing? Over." It was obvious that Jun was frustrated he couldn't see inside of the building.

Carter's posture became slumped and his voice echoed a hint of regret that he couldn't save them. "We've got military casualties, two of the missing troopers." He knelt down before the bodies, examining the scene closer. "Looks like they were interrogated… It's messy." That was one word for it for sure.

Carter checked the hallway ahead and Shar moved in. She found one more civilian slumped over against some railing at the end of a ramp. She wondered what had killed all of them. She moved further in and something echoed as it hit the roof.

"Movement. Watch your motion trackers." Carter's words brought Shar's attention to her tracker. It showed a single contact, above them.

Shar moved out into the courtyard and looked up just in time to see a sleek small figure leap skillfully through the sky. "What the hell was that?" Shar echoed Emile's question in her mind. She didn't recognize the glimpse, but she was sure it wasn't human.

"Jun, you see anything?" Carter's voice was quiet, trying not to give away their position.

There was a pause before Jun replied. "Negative. Thermal's clean." Shar didn't care if the thermals were clean, she knew that she saw something. Carter and Shar moved into the building and Shar moved ahead. "Boss, I see movement, outside your structure!" Shar turned and spotted it, a skirmisher, needle rifle in hand on the room outside.

"Noble Two, move up to the west. We're about to be flanked," Carter ordered.

Shar fired and a single round from her pistol tore through the alien's head, dropping it. Jorge let out a sound of surprise and Emile cursed. Jorge shouted the one word that was burning now in Shar's mind. "Covenant."

Memories of all her previous engagements with the alien juggernaut flashed through her mind; finding out her father had died, and her mother's death. It lit the flame inside her that could only be extinguished by the blood of her enemies. "Contact, contact! Spartans, assist!" Carter's voice pulled her out of her memories. Shar broke the window as Carter took a step back to get a better view of the situation. "They're heading into the basement. Move down to the lower levels!"

Shar didn't need to be told twice. She moved through a doorway with Kat on her heels. She only stopped long enough to grab a couple grenades before moving down the stairs. She lobbed a grenade and it killed two of the skirmishers. Shar hung back and fired at the skirmishers as Kat and Carter made their way down the stairs. She hit one of the skirmishers with a headshot before moving after the Commander.

"Banshees! Heads up, Charlie One!" The pilot sounded surprised, but oddly calm as he moved into aerial combat with the alien enemy.

Shar moved to stand beside Carter and Kat, shooting into the grunts that were milling around the area, shooting wildly. She shot a couple before just running forward and slamming her fist or gun into whatever got close enough. She killed two grunts and a skirmisher before turning to find a single skirmisher trying to run off. She aimed and fired, putting a shot through the vulture-like head. She then turned to face the final grunt, moving forward and cracking its skull open with the butt of her gun.

"Noble Leader, enemy dropships inbound!" Jun warned. Great, more Covies to slaughter.

"Falcon moving to assist." The pilot didn't sound stressed and there seemed to be nothing in the sky. She felt a bit more comfortable now knowing that their rides could handle themselves.

Shar moved toward where the ships were landing and spotted a pair of grunts. Two fast shots and both of them were down. The team moved down toward the bridge. Shar hung back a bit and took aim as the grunts started to move toward them. She took down one of them and the second jumped up onto a concrete barrier right before Kat. The Lieutenant Commander fired and the alien dropped.

The team advanced and Shar moved up along the east, firing at whatever got in her way. She spotted a pair of skirmishers and, knowing they would be a bigger issue, concentrated on one of them. She fired and shots hit the alien in the side and shoulder. Shar tossed a grenade and it bounced a bit before going off, taking out the alien. Shar swapped out her magazine and moved back. She moved around the area to make her way up the west side of the enemy's ranks. She fired at a group of grunts and soon only a single skirmisher was left. She raced forward and slammed her elbow into the alien's neck, killing it.

"Stand down, Noble, stand down. Contacts neutralized." Carter's words were all that Shar needed to snap herself back to where she was. She hadn't even thought about the fact that there were other Spartans around when she'd attacked.

"Contacts? It's the damn Covenant." Jorge sounded particularly upset about the development.

"Cheer up, big man: this whole valley just turned into a free-fire zone." Shar had to admit she liked the way that Emile thought. That was the bright side. That and that they'd get to kill more Covenant.

"Kat, we've got to warn Holland. I need you at that relay outpost now." The Commander's words were forceful, leaving no chance for argument, which Shar was fairly certain he often got from the Beta company Spartan.

"Boss, I'm showing more activity to the east!" Shar scanned the area, turning east at Jun's warning.

"Copy that, Jun, we're on it. Six, you've got point." Shar grinned at Carter's command. She'd get to be first into the fight. Shar raced forward across a shallow river and spotted a group of grunts. She fired, each shot taking down an enemy.

"Might not be all of them, stay sharp." Shar followed the Spartan II and his words were quickly made true as a trio of ultra-ranked elites appeared, running toward them.

Shar tossed a plasma grenade and got lucky, sticking it to the heel of one of the elites. It exploded and Shar fired a single shot, killing the seven-foot-tall alien. The remaining two fired on Emile and Kat. One smacked its plasma rifle against Emile's skull, stunning him. It tried to kick at him but the Spartan ducked down.

Shar used it as her chance to move up to the distracted second elite and hit it, taking down its energy shield. She followed it up quickly by slamming her second fist into its chest, feeling bone break as it fell to the ground. Shar turned her attention to the last elite. Together, she, Kat, and Emile took it down with combined fire.

A falcon landed and Jun's voice crackled over the radio. "Commander, I'm seeing more hostile activity to the northeast."

"Emile, you're with Kat. Six and I will run interference on the ground. We'll meet you at the outpost. Get to work, Noble." At the orders Shar fell into line behind Carter.

Shar, Jorge, and Carter made their way to an abandoned work vehicle. Jorge climbed onto the back, setting his turret up so he could swing it around and fire at enemies, while Carter moved into the passenger seat. Shar hit the accelerator and they bounced off along the road. They moved through a pack of moa before Carter announced that there were contacts ahead. Shar didn't stop, splattering one of the skirmishers ahead of them against the hood of the car.

She sped the car on, passing a second pair of skirmishers, only stopping when they reached a building and Jun announced that he was picking up heat signatures. Shar jumped out of the vehicle and moved toward the structure. She spotted a trio of grunts. Three shots and they were down. A skirmisher appeared to her right and she fired once, killing it but revealing a minor elite behind it at the top of some stairs. She tossed a grenade and the blue ball landed near the top of the stairs. It went off and she moved forward. It took three shots from her pistol and some fire from Shar's right from either Carter or Jorge, she wasn't sure which, before it fell. Shar then moved across the area to the grunts that were running for their lives. She killed each one of them.

Carter announced that they were clear and the trio moved back to their transport. They took off down the road and once more Shar slammed the car into one of a pair of skirmishers. They passed a group of grunts before finding another pair of skirmishers and splattering one more.

"Noble Leader, I'm picking up a distress signal," Jun warned.

A voice filled Shar's ear, an unfamiliar and slightly frightened voice. "Mayday! Three Charlie Six, does anyone read? We are attacked by Covenant forces. The Covenant is on Reach. I repeat: The Covenant is on Reach!"

Shar spotted a Covenant troop transport and gunned it toward where it seemed to be landing. "The troopers?" Shar wanted to reach back and smack Jorge at that moment. Who else did it sound like it was?

"Let's move, Six. We've got to find the source of that distress call." There was a determination in Carter's words that Shar had to admit she liked. Maybe he was remembering those interrogated troopers, determined to protect these ones.

"No disrespect, but don't we have better things to do than round up strays?" Shar couldn't really believe the words that Jun had said. Since when were other troopers strays?

"We don't leave people behind. You see those troopers, you let me know." Just as Carter finished his words the car moved over a hill and a group of soldiers became visible. "Noble Three, we've located the trooper squad. Request immediate evac. My coordinates."

"Solid copy, Commander. Recalling Falcon Charlie 2. Hold that evac position."

Shar moved out of the vehicle and slunk back into the building the troopers were using as their rally point. She took aim and fired at the Covenant that were firing toward the troopers. She was deliberate with her shots, being sure to make each one count. She ran out of pistol ammunition and grabbed a DMR from the ground, her favorite weapon. She killed off the last of the grunts.

"Noble Leader, be advised: I have visual on inbound Covenant dropships."

"Evac transport, keep your distance! Six, hold this position. Clear an LZ." Carter didn't have to tell Shar twice. She moved back into the structure a bit for cover.

"Spartans? Corporal Travis, Three Charlie, sir. It's the Covenant." The trooper sounded shaken, whether by the Covenant or seeing a Spartan, Shar wasn't sure.

"We know Corporal. Let's get you out of here." Carter was calm and the words seemed to ease away the fears of some of the soldiers.

A soldier shouted about an incoming dropship which was soon followed by Jun warning them as well. Shar moved out of cover and opened fire with her assault rifle. She took out several grunts before moving back as a second dropship appeared and she took cover while its turret blasted the ground. Shar. She cleared the west side of the field first, taking out the officer elite before turning to focus on the ultra elite. Shar exhausted an entire clip of ammunition into the alien before its shield finally fell and her fist connected with the side of its skull, breaking bone. She checked the area and found it clear.

"Transport, LZ is clear. Move in for evac." Carter moved away from the structure and out into the open.

"Affirmative. Transport inbound." The two falcons appeared and the Spartan piled up into one of them.

Carter radioed Kat. "Noble Two, sit-rep."

There was a moment's pause before Kat replied. "We're at the relay outpost. Door's locked. Mechanism's been flash-fused." She sounded frustrated.

"Can you beat it?" Shar was surprised by Carter's question. When was there ever a bit of technology that Kat couldn't beat?

"I'll dial up my torch, cut a way through. Going to take some time." Now her annoyance was obvious, though Shar guessed it was partially due to the questioning of her abilities.

"Okay." The word was a bit quiet out of the Commander. He must have known she was insulted. "We're en route to your location." Shar faced forward, but glanced at the two men across from her. It was more amusing for her as Jorge was obviously so much taller than Carter, even sitting down. Was there really that much of a difference between the first and second generation of Spartans?

Shar caught a red dot on her motion tracker and turned toward it, searching for an enemy, but finding nothing. She spotted their target ahead. "We're approaching the com outpost." The pilot sounded slightly nervous once more.

"Drop us in the courtyard," Carter ordered.

"LZ's a little hot, sir." The pilot was definitely scared.

"Put her down, pilot. Six, break's over." Carter shifted in his seat and the falcon finally landed. The Spartans piled out and moved down the ramp. Shar opened fire, clearing out the area before moving to where Kat was crouched. Carter stood behind her with Emile to his right.

"How we doing, Kat?" Carter seemed impatient. This wasn't the best place to have to defend.

"Taking a little longer then I hoped, Commander. I've cut about halfway through the door." Kat was calm and cool, as Shar should have expected. She was elbow deep in tech, the woman's loved hobby.

Emile shouted that there were more contacts. "Hold them off until Kat can hack the controls." A dropship appeared and there was only a moment of hesitation from Carter before he followed Emile out into the courtyard to meet the enemy. Jorge fired into the sky as the ship dropped down. A group of grunts with an elite minor were dropped down from one side. Shar took aim and easily took down the grunts. With some extra fire from Jorge they made quick work of the elite as well. She took care of the remaining two grunts that were making their way down the ramp toward her location.

Shar moved back and grabbed a bit of extra ammunition from a rack of DMRs on the wall before moving back to the doorway where she spotted a second dropship. It dropped jackals and she opened fire, having a bit of trouble before falling into the rhythm of shooting the foot and then the head as they shouted in pain, giving the opening. She'd taken out most of the grunts when another elite minor appeared.

Shar opened fire on the alien. "Kat?" Carter questioned.

"Just about…there! We're in!" The triumph was clear in her voice.

"Everybody inside! Go, go, go!" Carter moved through the doorway followed by Jorge and Emile. Shar moved to the door and took out the elite minor before the large metal closed. She heard the bolts slide into place as the door locked behind them. Shar clicked on her night vision and moved to the other doorway in the room. It opened and Shar moved in. She checked the area, making a few turns and finding a body on the ground.

"Noble Six, search that body." It was an order, and something felt odd about it having come from Kat. Shar didn't argue or fight it, she moved to the body.

Shar stood beside the body, looking up as Carter spoke. "Where's the rest of your unit?" There was a living trooper.

"We got split. I don't think they…It sounded bad on the comms." Shar bit her lip. It was always hard knowing that your fellow soldiers were likely dead.

Shar knelt down and started to search the body. "All right, Corporal, stay put. We'll get you a combat surgeon." It surprised Shar just a bit how calm and soothing that Carter could be at times. It was likely that the trooper wouldn't make it, but she was sure at that moment he believed he would.

Shar moved the body and something fell out of its jacket. "Damn." Shar looked up at Kat's back. "Plasma damage."

Shar reached down and grabbed the data module. She held it up to the Lieutenant Commander. "Found something." Knowing Kat, the new find out be enough to take her mind off the damage.

"I'll take that, Six." Kat snatched the module from Shar's hand. "Not your domain."

"I've got a live one over here." The announcement caused them all to turn toward Jorge. He was pulling a young woman out of the shadows. "Come on, out you come." The woman banged her fist against Jorge's chest plate and shouted something in the native language. "It's all right, we're not going to hurt you." Shar had to admit it didn't look that way. A walking tank pulling her forcefully out of the shadows.

"Jorge." Carter's tone was warning.

"I've got her." Jorge set down his machine gun and grabbed the woman by the arms. "Keep still and I'll release you." The woman said something quietly which Shar didn't understand.

Jorge stiffened and an elite dropped from above. An energy sword flared to life and it swung. Jorge ducked, pulling the woman down with him. The elite then turned to the rest of Noble Team while two more elites appeared.

"What's your status, over?" Emile sounded panicked, though Shar guessed it was more because he was missing the fight.

"We've been engaged!" Carter opened fire as the elite charged them. It swung at Kat but Carter moved, pulling her down and protecting her. Shar opened fire on the elite, hoping to get its attention. It charged toward her, knocking Shar to the ground.

"Bad guy coming out!" Carter warned.

One of the lower-class elites appeared over Shar and grabbed her, pulling back its bladed arm to strike. She held it off, fist slamming into the side of its head. The elite roared, spreading its mandibles. Carter's foot stuck the elite's side and it rolled off of Shar. The alien scooted back as its shield flared. The alien turned and ran. Carter kicked an assault rifle across the floor and Shar grabbed it. It only had seven shots left but the elite didn't need to know that. She aimed it at the pair of elites who were using the trooper as a human shield.

"That tango blew past me. Permission to pursue?" Emile was obviously itching to go after it.

"Negative Four, stay on the entrance. Two, handle her." Kat nodded and moved back to the woman. "Five and Six, clear the hole." Shar reloaded her weapon and moved forward, Jorge behind her. She turned to watch as the Spartan II shut the door on them. She wanted to make a joke about how it was old times, but she wasn't allowed to talk about those times. Damn black ink.

Shar grabbed a DMR from the wall and watched as Jorge tossed a flare. A zealot appeared and Shar concentrated fire on it. Before she could break through it slipped behind some boxes for cover. Jorge moved forward, concentrating on the smaller aliens. The elite moved out of cover and Shar fired, one shot to finish it's shield and a second through the head to kill it. She then focused fully on the smaller aliens with Jorge. Shar tossed a grenade, taking out two of the jackals, easily taking out the last one and the remaining grunts.

They cleared the next area just as easily, making their way down the hallway and killing the four grunts that were standing around. She moved down a ramp, Jorge behind her. "There's more. Flush 'em out, I've got you covered." Oddly, she didn't feel very covered at the moment, despite Jorge's words.

Shar took aim and, as the grunts moved out of the doorway, took each out with a headshot. She looked down into the gap between the two areas and smiled as she spotted an old friend. Shar jumped down and quickly dropped her assault rifle in favor of the shotgun that was on the ground beside a fallen soldier. She turned and made her way up the stairs, toward her target. An elite raced toward her, sword in hand. She waited and then moved forward, firing once and taking down the elite's shield. It roared in anger and she fired a second time, sending the corpse flying back. Shar spotted a few fallen civilians in the room before moving in.

"Kat needs you to reset a junction. Do it and get back up here." Shar spotted what Carter was referring to and quickly reset it.


Kat unscrewed the access panel and forcefully pulled it from its place. "How long?" Carter was leaning to the side, trying to look inside.

Kat reached into the wires and pulled out several parts of it. "Question of my life. If the question is when will this station be back online," she looked back at Carter. "Two weeks, earliest. This is plasma damage. All major uplink components are fried."

Carter leaned in closer. "Two minutes is too long."

"Which is why I'm splicing into the main overland bundle to get you a direct line to Colonel Holland." Kat knew that he didn't really understand what she was doing, using simple terms to make it a bit more understandable. She glanced back at the Commander who was hovering over her shoulder. "You're in my light, Commander." Her tone was slightly scolding.

Carter took a step back turning to Jorge. "Find out what she knows." The order was short and sharp. Shar smiled to herself. Someone didn't like being scolded.

Jorge moved over to the girl and knelt down. His hand touched her shoulder and she shrugged it off. Emile chuckled to himself. "What's your name? Do you live around here?" Shar watched Jorge as he questioned the woman. It was odd, he was more tank then most of them but seemed more gentle most of the time. He had proven to be very friendly back when she'd last worked with him. Jorge removed his helmet, something Shar found very odd. To show your face to a civilian was never anything that Shar could approve of. Other military, maybe, but not civilian.

Jorge said something in the native tongue and the only thing that Shar understood was the Spartan II's name. Shar only half listened to the conversation. She'd never been big on small talk. The only thing she really got from it was that the woman was the daughter of the dead man.

Emile turned to Six. "Big man forgets what he is sometimes." Shar had to agree with him. A Spartan was a Spartan, and Jorge was acting more like a regular soldier then a Spartan at the moment.

Jorge moved up beside Emile and feinted as though he were about to strike him. "She just lost her father." Jorge's words were ice in the air. He turned to Carter relaxed. "She needs a full psychiatric workup."

"She's not the only one," Emile snapped.

Jorge turned to argue back but Carter stopped them. "Lock it down, both of you! Get her on her feet…the body stays here."

"Thank you, sir." Jorge turned and passed Emile, shooting him a glare. Shar got the feeling this wasn't a fight that was new to them. Jorge moved over to the woman and helped her to her feet.

"Signal. It's patchy, but it's there." Kat stood up and Noble Team started to leave. Jun took the lead with Jorge and the woman behind him, Emile following close behind the pair.

"I'll take it." Carter reached up, removing his helmet.

Kat shifted her weight onto her right leg, leaning a bit toward Carter. "Best not touch anything. You wouldn't want to ground this place." Shar glanced back at them. Leave it to Kat to get in one more jab about how she was better at something then her Commander. She always did have a bit of a problem with authority.

Carter watched them leave before he moved to the terminal. "I'm barely getting you. What's your situation?" The voice of the Colonel filtered through the radio. Even as she walked away Shar could hear them.

"Colonel, this is Noble One. There are no rebels. The Covenant are on Reach. Acknowledge?" Carter's voice enforced how serious the situation was.

"Come Again, Noble One? Did you say Covenant?" The officer sounded surprised.

"Affirmative. It's the WINTER CONTINGENCY."

ONI Sword Base
Date: 11 September 2011, 3:56 am

Sword Base, Babd Catha Ice Shelf, Eposz

July 26, 2552, 11:26 Hours

Shar shifted uncomfortably in the falcon. She didn't like being inactive, just sitting around. She stared out the side of the craft at the moon, still trying to hide down under the horizon. The large sphere was slightly shrouded in the light of the sun and the cloud cover around the distant mountains. It all looked so calm and peaceful, but Shar knew better. They were on their way to combat where there was no calm and peaceful, only noisy and dangerous.

Shar glanced around the, first at Jorge who was staring down, seeming to be a bit uneasy. As she understood, he was from Reach, or at least he felt he was. She was never sure if the Spartan IIs were actually from Reach, or just felt it was their home. Either way, she knew it was important to him anyway and he was obviously nervous. Shar turned her attention to Kat. The Lieutenant Commander slipped the data module into her datapad and got to work. Shar didn't know exactly what she was doing, but she was fairly certain she was accessing the data, by force if needed. Shar had nothing to do, and just sat there, DMR loosely in hand.

The radio crackled to life and the voice of Sword Control filled Shar's helmet. "Be advised, Kilo-three-three and Kilo-three-four, your current LZ is too hot."

Shar glanced toward the other falcon where Carter was. "Roger that. Dot, standby to receive and respond." He sounded moderately annoyed; likely he had to change their plans a bit, but he could easily adapt. Kat had told her that Carter could think quick on his feet, and that his plans were solid. So far Shar had to agree.

A sweet female voice filled Shar's ears though there was a slightly robotic tint to her voice that gave away that it was an AI. "Yes, Commander…coordinates received. Initiate immediate course correction." The AI had been assigned to give orders to Noble Team. Shar didn't really know what to think of her. She hadn't really worked with AI often, but she did have a bit of a like for dumb AI. Dot, as the AI was called, had been pleasant and helpful, so as a result Shar was sort of starting to like her. "The Office of Naval Intelligence Sword Base is presently under siege from a corvette-class Covenant vessel." Shar glanced out of the side of the falcon where she could see the deadly alien cruiser hanging in the air. She'd seen them so many times before, though she still remembered that first time. The first time they had been so frightening, but now she was cold to the sight of them. "Due to the sensitive nature of this facility, use of orbital rounds has been, for the moment, prohibited." Shar frowned at that news. ONI was always so protective, but how many people would die because they were afraid to risk anything? How many marines' blood would soak the ground to destroy that cruiser? "Regrettably, my efforts to obtain relevant data on enemy forces have been unsuccessful." Shar didn't mind the lack of information. She was used to working with limited information, as little as 'there are enemies and you have to kill them'. "However, current defensive forces are insufficient. ONI has requested Team Noble's direct intervention to help secure Sword base." So they already had soldiers trying to defend the base. How bad was it that Spartans needed to be called in?

The falcons turned quickly as they neared their objective and Sword base came into view. "All right people, we're stuck with that ship for the time being. Let's focus on the hostile infantry—give those troopers a hand." Now that was something that Shar could get behind. She liked helping to lessen the amount of casualties.

The falcons swooped in over the courtyard and Shar spotted the troopers trying to fight back elites and jackals. Damn, this wasn't going to be too easy. She was snapped back to the task at hand. "Kat, Six—you're out here. Jorge, Emile—you're next, get prepped."

Shar looked to Kat, who prepared her pistol and readied to jump out. "Let's move, Lieutenant." Shar readied her DMR and in one fluid motion both Kat and Shar leapt from the falcon as it made a quick pass. They hit the ground and Shar glanced back to see their falcon already rising quickly away. Shar turned her attention back to the battle that lay ahead of her. She was ready for the fight, ready to remove the Covenant once more from human land. She felt the blood heat up in her veins and felt her heart start to beat a bit faster. The adrenaline was now pumping, and it wouldn't until every last Covenant was dead and that corvette was blown out of the sky.

Kat moved ahead as Shar lifted her DMR. The Lieutenant Commander crouched down as she moved forward. "Kat, Six: Push back the attack on Sword Base, find out what we're dealing with." Seemed reasonable. Mission: Find out what forces there were and take them out. That was the kind of mission Shar liked.

"Roger that, we're your strike team," Kat said. Shar took aim as a group of four grunts moved around concrete barriers. She took down the first three easily with headshots but the fourth turned to run. She shot it once in the back, causing it to falter and giving her the perfect chance to put a round through its head.

Sword Control once more echoed through her radio. "Spartans, hostiles north." Shar moved into action. She moved up the west side ramp to have a higher point of view on her enemies and hopefully more cover.

Kat swapped out to her battle rifle, ready for a longer distance fight. "Let's knock some heads, Lieutenant!" Her voice was eager and a smile tugged at her lips. The two Spartans looked at each other for a fraction of a second, not long enough that anyone else would notice and exchanged unspoken words.

Let's knock some heads. The words echoed through Beta Company training, though it had been more often used by the female Spartans. They always used it when they were being set in missions against washed-out Alpha Company Spartans. It was a Beta way of them declaring that they would win, and prove that they were better than any Spartans before them. Shar supposed it was perfect for the situation. It was just the two of them, two female Beta Spartans, and they'd show the male Alpha Spartans, and the Spartan II, what Beta Company was made of.

Kat fell into line a bit behind Shar as she moved up the ramp. Shar reached the top and looked along the distance of the catwalk that lined the side of the base. There was only a single jackal with its back turned to her. With how they walked, Shar had to shoot it once in the back in order to get it to turn enough for her to shoot it again, the round punching through the bird-like alien's throat. There was a blast near Shar and her shields lowered slightly, enough to get her attention. She moved under a solid awning that led to the bridge connecting the West and East catwalks. The phantom passed overhead, moving to the most northern part of the catwalk.

Shar turned her attention to the troops already on the ground, as the phantom was no longer in a position it could fire on her. She did as she'd been trained to do and targeted the elites first. She spotted an officer surrounded by a group of jackals. They were taking cover behind a set of four deployable shields that had been set up in a semi-circle. She'd just gotten its shields down when a second officer moved up the side ramp and appeared right before her. Kat opened fire and the elite's shields flared. Shar tossed a grenade toward the enemy and it detonated behind the alien, weakening the shields further until Shar shot it once, dropping the shields. One last time put a round through its forehead.

Shar moved toward the ramp where a jackal was moving up to try to get away from the fire of the troopers. Shar shot it once, hitting in the shoulder, but it spun around putting the round shield between the Spartan and jackal. Shar moved forward, slamming the butt of her gun into the shield, overloading it and causing it to shut down. She then leveled her rifle and fired and it fell.

"You've got enemy contacts, Spartans." The words of Sword Control pulled Shar back to the troops below. She moved back to where she had been and spotted the brilliant white armor of an ultra elite. She opened fire, being careful to keep the shots centered on the alien's head as best she could as it would lower the shield faster. She had to duck behind cover a few times as the jackals and grunts tried to fire on them and disrupted her from her target. Finally she saw the familiar pop of the energy shield go down and after quickly swapping out her empty clip for a new one, Shar took aim and put a bullet through the ultra's skull. The remaining minor and officer elite backpedaled to cover.

Shar moved a bit down the catwalk toward her target and saw the officer trying to crouch behind one of the concrete barriers. It was a bit silly as the alien was too large and stood out a foot over the cover even when fully crouched. She had fired a few shots, causing the officer to move to better cover, when plasma hit her from the left. She turned and found the minor elite running toward her. Shar opened fire. The first five shots took down the shield and the final shot tore through the alien's stomach and it fell. Shar quickly moved down the ramp to a jackal. The alien was stunned for a moment, until Shar's elbow hit its skull, caving it in.

The officer elite finally jumped out of cover, giving Shar a chance to attack. Unfortunately she'd exhausted her clip and had to reload. The elite was just about to fire when Kat came in from Shar's right, firing and causing the elite to move to cover once more. Shar took the chance to reload. Once she had a full clip she moved forward, spotting a couple of jackals. With ease, she slipped into the foot then head combo, killing both of the enemies. She then turned her attention to the elite. She moved around the collection of items the Covenant had been using as cover and found the officer, still being fired on by Kat. Shar only had to fire once before the shield dropped. The elite charged forward, too fast for Shar to aim and she instead instinctively stuck out, punching the alien in the throat, crushing its wind pipe. She turned to her left and found a single jackal slowly moving, as though it didn't know what to do. She shot its foot and it cried out in pain, giving Shar the chance to slam her fist into its chest, killing it. Shar inwardly cursed. She was out of DMR ammunition and had to switch out to her battle rifle.

Kat and Shar started to make their way down the northern ramp which led to a large set of doors when four skirmishers appeared. Shar opened fire with her rifle, cutting down the first one easily. She set her sights on the next one, exhausting her clip into its chest until it fell. The last two were standing side by side at the bottom of the ramp and Shar raced forward, quickly grabbing the opposite sides of each of the skirmisher's skulls and slamming them together.

"All clear." At Kat's words Shar took a moment to wipe the blood and bits of brain from her hands, and reload her rifle. "Noble Two to Sword Control: courtyard is clear, over." Shar continued to move down the ramp and quickly jumped over the concrete barriers that separated her from the familiar metal and cautionary lines of yellow and black. Something felt secure about how it reminded her of a UNSC ships. Metal walls, floor, and ceiling, cautionary lines, and as she could see it, a trio of ordnance packs.

"Head to the main gate to the east, I'll brief you as you go." Shar nearly snorted at Sword Controls' command. She was already there, and Kat was right behind her. Shar moved straight to the ordnance packs, eager to see what they might be. She stopped when she spotted a slightly unfamiliar device. It wasn't that she hadn't seen it, just that she didn't see it often.

Apparently Kat had a similar feeling. "Sword Control, I see a Target Locator. Any artillery support in the area?" Shar glanced back at the Lieutenant Commander and Kat nodded that she could have it. Shar quickly grabbed full DMR ammunition from one crate and dropped her battle rifle to grab the target locater. She remembered being taught about these back in training, though they'd been told it was unlikely they would really get to use them.

"Limited, but we'll prioritize whatever you need, ma'am." Shar grinned at the words from Control. That meant that it would actually work. She couldn't wait to find something to unleash hell on.

Shar moved forward but stopped as she reached the final pack. She could hear the large metal doors opening before her but she had eyes only for the equipment before her. She quickly grabbed the device and worked on hooking it up. All Spartans had been taught the quick and easy instillation and it only took her a second. Sadly she wouldn't be able to access the safety overrides that Kat had built into her suit which allowed her to run for short distances quickly. It was worth it, though, as she loved this equipment.

Shar moved out of the structure and into the clear night and sandy brown grass. She wondered if that grass was dead, or if that was just the natural color. She was pulled out of her thoughts as a slightly worried voice came over the COM. "3 Echo 57 heading back to base, but we got enemy tangos on our six. How copy?"

Shar spotted the burning warthog and wondered how the driver could see anything with how damaged his vehicle was. That was when she spotted the shot coming from the south, in front of the troopers. Without thinking Shar took aim with the target locater. By the time she'd tagged the wraith she looked to the warthog and found it tumbling to a stop, a burning wreck. Shar watched as the fire started to fall and the first wraith was destroyed. The second slid, trying to get an angle on the troopers, but moved into the blast radius, destroying both vehicles. She'd heard it said that eye for an eye leaves us all blind, but two wraith tanks and the four aliens on board seemed like worth it to make up for the two marines who had just been killed.

Shar swapped out to her DMR and took aim on a minor elite that was running toward her with a trio of grunts. Four good shots and its shields were down. Two shots to the chest and it tumbled back, lifeless. The grunts pulled out grenades, ready to go suicidal but with a few quick shots they were down. The armed grenades soared into the air and landing nearby, detonating far away from the human soldiers.

"Pelican inbound with transport, Six." Shar looked up to the sky as the pelican eased in, dropping down a Warthog, gunner already hanging on tight to the rear turret. Shar moved to the driver's side and jumped in, looking over the controls quickly until Kat got into the passenger's seat.

"The old Farragut Station has its own comms array, that should bring us back online with command. Airview Base has an anti-air-battery that will help clear the skies," Sword Control informed them.

"AA-gun is to the west, comms array to the east. Let's roll." Kat eased back in her seat, scanning the area for danger. Shar turned the car and headed toward the west. Kat nodded. "I agree, go for the gun."

The warthog bounced over the landscape. They reached the top of the hill to see three grunts and two ghosts waiting for them. Shar grumbled; she didn't have time for this. Rather than sit around and wait for the gunner to be able to kill them, she gunned it. The warthog crashed into a ghost causing the metal to dent and the controls to spark. The fire that erupted from it was enough to send the pilot grunt flying from the seat. Shar moved out of their view and the ghosts seemed not to want to give chase.

"I'm picking up a power source. We're close to the AA gun." Kat gripped her rifle a bit tighter and was at the ready.

The warthog moved over the next hill and Shar caught sight of the gun. There were two other structures nearby it, but what caught her eye was slight movement. Covenant. She sped forward, crossing a small shallow lake and making a pass of the gun to give the gunner a chance to take out some grunts. An elite darted out toward her and Shar turned, trying to get out of the way, but the warthog bounced and flipped. The three occupants were thrown clear of the vehicle. Shar quickly forced herself to get up from where she'd fallen, DMR at the ready, and she took aim at the officer elite who had caused her to crash. She prepared to fire but found herself being assaulted by a minor who moved out from behind the gun. She quickly dispatched the minor while the trooper pulled himself together and, with combined fire from Kat, took out the officer. There was a group of three grunts standing at the entry way to one of the structures and Shar opened fire, felling them with headshots. She noticed a marked enemy above her on her motion tracker and prepared for whatever it was.

Shar moved out of the side door and up the stairs toward whatever was on the roof. She found herself faced with an ultra elite. It swung and the alien's concussion rifle hit her, but not without her own fist hitting the side of the elite's face. They both backed away from each other but Shar was quicker to fire, taking down the elite's shields and shooting it in the head. She quickly activated the AA gun and moved over to a box of DMR ammunition to stock up. The Gun opened fire on a nearby phantom and Shar jumped down from the roof, quickly dispatching the grunts who were still standing around, who were not exactly sure what to do with no leader. That was when she spotted the shadow.

The AA gun had turned and was firing on a spirit dropship which had come in over the rocky walls around them. Shar watched as the sides opened and four grunts with two special operations elites dropped out. Shar moved around the gun and took aim. She opened fire on the special operation elites who tried to move to cover behind the warthog. Shar vaguely wondered who had flipped it back over. What the elites weren't counting on was Kat to get on the gun. She opened fire and cut down the shields of one elite, allowing Shar to shoot through its dome helmet. Kat then got off of the hog as the second elite tried to move around and attack her. Shar took a quick moment to dispatch the grunts, killing each with a swift shot to the head. After all, grunts were made to be shot in the head.

Shar looked over to see the special-ops elite manning the gun on the warthog. It released it though as Kat had moved close enough to the vehicle that it couldn't shoot at her. Shar ran in and with some helping fire from Kat dropped the elite's shieldn giving Shar an opening to shoot it through the throat.

Kat got back onto the Warthog's gun. "Neutralize those vehicles, now."

Shar tuned, having not actually realized that there were any vehicles, but she spotted them soon enough. Two ghosts piloted by grunts. Kat drew their fire while Shar ran forward. One of them broke off and moved directly toward Shar. The next few seconds were pure instinct. She dropped her DMR and grabbed a plasma pistol, quickly charging it up. The ghost moved past her and she fired. A ball of brilliant green light hit the ghost and sparks of blue electricity ran over it as the vehicle lost power. Without hesitation Shar ran forward, grabbing onto the vehicle. She climbed up on the hood and kicked, her foot connecting with the skull of the grunt. It went flying and with ease and practice Shar jumped, turning in air and landed perfectly in the pilot's seat. She turned to face the second ghost and opened fire just as the grunt did. The two ghosts charged forward, but Shar's was in better shape. As they hit, bits and pieces flew from the enemy ghost, including its pilot. Shar abandoned her own ghost as the trooper shouted that they were clear.

She then quickly moved back, dropping the plasma pistol to retrieve her DMR. It felt good to have human weaponry in her hand again. "Nice work, Spartans. Get to Farrgut Station and get that comms array up and running." Sword Control was really starting to get on Shar's nerves. She knew what she was supposed to do. What they'd been told wasn't an either or, it was a which one first.

Shar moved to their hog and frowned as she looked at the beat up vehicle. It might not last them long if they came under bad fire. She glanced over to her left and saw the pelican dropping in. "Spartans, this is Sword Control. Thought you could use some mobile firepower." Sword Control must have been able to read Shar's thoughts, because at the sight of the new hog Shar felt less like hating them.

"Always. Take that hog, Six." Kat ran toward the hog along with Shar. Once more Shar got into the driver's seat and Kat in the passenger's. There was already an eager marine manning the gun. The warthog roared to life as Shar moved over the landscape. She moved down a hill to where two ghosts were waiting. Once more she simply passed them by, braking hard as she made a sharp turn. There was a spirit dropping in and she was trying to avoid being hit by it.

She managed to point in the right direction and moved up the hill. At the top she found a set of structures. If seen from above they would look like two parts of a circle. They looked so old, yet she knew there was working comms in there. She supposed it was a good place to hide tech, no one would expect it.

Shar moved along a ridge to the west of the buildings and got out. She heard a sound, one she hadn't heard in a while. "Let's search the area for a generator switch." The Spartan IIIs jumped out of the hog and moved up onto a pile of rocks to look down. The revenant hovered below, looking for a target. Shar switched out to her target locater and took aim. She tagged the front of the revenant and waited. Fire fell from the sky but there was a distinct movement behind it. How had the revenant survived, it wasn't anywhere near where the shots had fallen now. Shar took aim again, this time tagging the side fin of the revenant. She swapped out to her DMR and opened fire to try to keep it distracted long enough that it would hold still.

Shar moved along the ridge and caught sight of Covenant forces. She'd clear out as many as she could before she moved in. She opened fire and quickly took out the two sniper jackals and a group of grunts that were walking about. She spotted a minor elite move into the structure but she couldn't get a good angle. That was when she saw the officer come up. She fired fast and steady, taking out its shields and neutralizing it fast. Shar moved along the back of the southern structure and took out several grunts quickly before trying to make her way around a large rock to the minor elite she knew was hiding there. She had just killed it when a second one appeared which she put down just as quickly.

"There it is." Kat had spotted it through the window and Shar moved in. She found a large lever and quickly pulled it. The generators hummed to life and steam poured from them. At least they had power. "Okay, generators up and running. Find that comms array, should be up high." Shar looked back at Kat and she looked away. Shar smiled slightly to herself. It had been a long time since she'd heard Kat give orders, and how things had gone the last time they'd been on a mission together, Shar had never expected her to give orders again. Rather than poke fun at her or be upset Shar just nodded and moved out of the structure. She looked across the way and realized that the other building was taller. That would be where it was.

She moved out to the edge of building where she saw a sniper rifle leaning up against a poorly-constructed wall. She was never so thankful that the Covenant refused to touch human weapons. She spotted the spirit dropping in and prepared herself. The sides opened and skirmishers poured from the left side. Shar took aim and fired, dispatching three of them with headshots right away before scanning the area. She killed one more on the ground and spotted one jumping up, which she shot as soon as it landed. Really their skill at jumping was impressive. The alien had jumped at least two stories. She scanned the area, waiting for any more to jump up, but instead found a grunt moving up the stairs. She shot and its brains went flying.

Shar heard noise to her left. "I'm engaging." Kat opened fire, shooting down. Shar moved to her side and stopped the skirmisher below. At this distance, battle rifles weren't very useful. Shar almost make a crack about how she should use the pistol but didn't. That was still a bit of a touchy subject, and if she did it would give away who she was, and she wasn't sure if she wanted to give Kat any hints. Instead Shar fired, killing the alien with a headshot before returning her attention to the roof across from them where a grunt now stood, seeming to not understand what had killed its comrade. Shar fired and it fell, brains splattered behind it. She did a quick sweep before she dropped her DMR and grabbed the sniper rifle. She really did love them.

Shar quickly moved across and made her way up the stairs of the north building. There was nothing on the first level but as she reached the top of the stairs to the second level she found a completely unaware grunt. She moved up behind it. One hand grabbed the back of its head, the other the mask on its front, and she twisted quickly, hearing that satisfying snap and the body fell to the ground. Damn that felt good.

Shar made her way up the last set of stairs to the roof where she found her objective. She hit a few buttons on the controls and a high pitched sound filled the air as the comms came on line. Shar moved down the stairs to make her way back to where Kat was.

"You did it Six, comms array up and running." Kat was still across the way, establishing a connection with command. Shar in the meantime passed a window and caught a glimpse of something inside. She moved around the wall and through the doorway to find a fallen marine, rocket launcher at his feet. Just what she wanted. She quickly grabbed it and dropped her target locater.

She was just moving out of the room when Carter's voice filled her ear. "Noble Strike, this is Noble Leader. Get back to Sword Base ASAP." He sounded like he was occupied with something else, though he was trying to give them his full attention while he gave orders.

Shar spotted the pelican that was moving in and she moved toward it. She jumped down from the second story onto some rocks and then to the ground. "On our way, Commander. Six, let's go." Once more Shar thought of making a joke or tease, but she wouldn't dare. She felt more at ease, knowing that Kat was the same gutsy strong willed fighter that she had been back during training, just with a better leader, rather than the lost and injured woman she'd seen before they split up during CARTWHEEL.

The pelican dropped a hog and this time Shar forced the marine to get off of the back. Kat took the wheel while the marine got in the passenger seat. Shar grabbed the gun, her favorite form of hog gun, the gauss cannon. "Good work, Spartans. Return to Sword Base, the rest of your team is inbound, imminent." The words from Sword Control made Shar wonder. What had the Alpha Spartans been up to while they were doing all of this? The warthog moved over the land and as they passed along a stone road beside the water a revenant appeared. Shar fired three times and the vehicle was down. Why didn't they have gauss cannons that could be used by soldiers on the ground, without a hog?

Carter's voice cut her off from wondering more. "Noble, be advised: Covenant corvette moving into position. Kat, Six, get here quick. We need you inside." Kat floored the vehicle and they sped around a turn and up a hill. Shar grinned at the Lieutenant Commander's sudden enthusiasm. That was the spirit she liked.

They crested the top of the hill and Shar spotted their enemies. She fired at a ghost but the angle was wrong and it bounced off the ground. The second shot got it. She fired at a minor and it was a miracle that his body stayed in one piece as he went flying. Kat drove forward and Shar caught sight of a revenant. She opened fire and after a few careful shots it was down, gone up in a ball of blue and purple fire. The second revenant started to flee and Shar had hit it twice when a more imminent threat arrived, an officer elite. She swung the gun around and the round tore through the elite's chest. Shar turned just in time to see the revenant trying to make a run for them. She fired and it exploded into brilliant fire.

Kat drove the hog up to the gate and Shar got out. She hit the controls and the large metal doors opened. Shar moved back to the warthog and just as she settled into the driver's seat she heard Jun's voice, sounding a bit annoyed. "We're stalled in the tower atrium. Kat, where are you?"

"Opening the gate now." Shar moved the warthog through the gate and toward whatever may be ahead.

Shar could only take the gauss hog to the other side of the gate. There, a full line of concrete barriers stood in her way. That was far enough for her, though. She stopped the vehicle and the glimmer of orange officer armor appeared in the side of her vision. She moved to the back of the cannon and opened fire. The first round found the center of the elite and it went flying. Still, grunts and jackals poured down the ramp after it. Shar wasn't sure how many there were, as one round would tear through one grunt and kill the one behind it. She fired at any movement until there was none.

Shar jumped from the back of the warthog and moved after Kat who was already halfway up. Shar moved up the left side and jumped up onto the stone barrier that covered that side. She made her way almost to the top when she saw grunt moving with its back turned to her. With no desire to waste rocket or sniper ammunition on the grunt she dropped down and ran toward it. She moved along behind a shield and the grunt turned to head back, giving her the perfect chance. The grunt didn't see the butt of the sniper rifle coming, but the minor elite that was to Shar's right did. It opened fire and Shar moved behind cover. Kat and a female marine soon joined them. They opened fire and Shar moved around the right. She moved around the elite's cover where it was crouching, but it spotted her. She ran forward and it tried to move away so it could fire. Shar didn't give it a chance, slamming the butt of her gun into its chest. This downed its shields. The elite roared in anger and Shar took her chance. With ease and practice, she moved behind the elite and pulled out her knife. Before it could react, Shar was on the elite's back, knife securely in her right hand. Her left hand gripped tight to the elite's body armor and she pushed off of the elite's leg, getting some height before she stabbed down. The blade sank into the elite's throat and it let out a gurgle before its legs gave out. Shar pulled her blade free and moved away.

It was then that she spotted a bigger threat. The familiar green glow of hunters were down below, inside of the base. She zoomed in with her sniper rifle and took aim at the exposed worms of the hunter's back. She took two shots before it turned toward her to fight back. She dodged one blast, but the beast left its neck exposed enough that a third round tore through the worms there and it fell. Shar turned her attention to the second hunter, once more taking aim at the exposed back. She had let off two shots when the hunter quickly moved. Her next two shots missed by only centimeters and she cursed as she swapped out her mag. She took aim again, the hunter distracted by a pair of marines trying to take cover from it. The next two shots found the hunter's back and it fell into a heap of armor and dead eel aliens. She used her last two rounds to take out a pair of grunts that were walking about. Shar was contemplating using her rocket launcher when she spotted a familiar sight up above. She moved up the side ramp to the area above the garage and she found a sniper rifle leaning up against the wall. She quickly grabbed it and all the ammunition that was there with it. She then jumped back down to where Kat and the marine were waiting for her. Shar readied her rocket launcher and the officer that was waiting moved out.

Shar fired once, the elite rolling out of the way, but her second shot hit the ground at the elite's feet, sending it flying. "Let's get to the atrium. We have to go through the elevator, Lieutenant. Take it." Shar moved forward as she reloaded her rocket launcher. They moved into the elevator and Shar hit the controls to go down.

"Corvette's hitting this base hard." Emile seemed unsettled. Likely he just wasn't a fan of not being able to do anything.

Kat shook her head unhappily. "Where's our orbital support? Got to be four platforms that can take it out with a single MAC round." Shar had to agree. Where was the support they needed? They needed that cruiser gone.

The door to the elevator slid open and a prerecorded voice fluttered down from the speakers above. "Welcome to the Office of Naval Intelligence. An ONI representative will meet you shortly."

"I doubt that very much," Kat muttered.

Shar moved in and spotted an officer elite at the end of the hallway. She fired with the rocket launcher and the elite dodged, causing it to detonate on the wall behind it. Shar aimed again, this time hitting a small incline toward where the elite stood. The blast was enough and the elite went flying. Shar quickly dropped the empty rocket launcher for a battle rifle and moved to the right side. Three grunts were running toward her, plasma grenades in hand. She fired, cutting down the first one, which caused its grenades to fly into the air. They hit the ground and detonated, killing the other two.

Shar moved along the illuminated walkway and the voice once more echoed in the hallway. "Thank you, Lieutenant. You have been cleared for access." Shar wondered how it knew who she was, or why it had cleared her rather than Kat.

Shar moved to the end of the security office where a door started to slid open for them. "Getting close." Jun sounded worried, at least it meant that they were close to the team. Noble Comms had connected to them as soon as the door had started to open. The parts of the door slipped open and Shar moved into the atrium.

"Taking enemy fire." Jorge was firing steadily toward an elite who was darting back and forward about halfway down the atrium while four jackals stood between them. Shar tossed two plasma grenades, each landing between the feet of the jackals, sending them all flying. Shar then opened fire on the minor elite.

"Six, head upstairs and assist Emile. Jorge, make sure she gets there," Carter ordered.

"Count on it." Jorge nodded to his leader. Shar took off at a full run, the three other members of Noble team falling into line behind her. She moved up a side ramp to where a marine was firing on some jackal snipers.

Shar moved across the bridge up to the next level, where she spotted a grunt going through a doorway. She opened fire and it fell, but she caught sight of three more grunts moving toward her. She tossed a frag grenade but it bounced between them, and she was still too close. She then remembered that she had her soul mate. Shar fell to one knee, her fist punching down to the ground and the heavy ultra shield of her beloved armor lock snapped on as the grenade went off. One grunt ran, but the other two were sent into the air by the blast. Shar snapped off her armor lock and spun, slamming her rifle into the third grunt's head and killing it. Plasma flew past her side and she turned to find a single grunt standing in another doorway. Shar opened fire and the grunt quickly fell. She then turned her attention to moving forward.

"Corvette's gonna eat this base apart. What's the situation, Noble?" Sword Control was actually starting to sound nervous.

"Can't do this on my own! Need another Spartan up here!" Emile let out a grunt of frustration and Shar wondered exactly what he was doing up there.

She ran into the next room and spotted an officer elite at the end of the hallway leading to the next bridge up. She tossed a frag grenade but it detonated, taking down only the elite's shield. Shar then tossed a plasma grenade. By some luck it suck to the leg of the elite and it tried to charge, only making it half way down the hallway before the sticky explosive detonated, killing it.

"Six, get to the top floor and assist Emile." Shar wanted to make some comment back, tell him that she was working on it, but she didn't feel comfortable enough to actually do such a thing.

Shar moved on to the bridge, where yet another officer appeared with two sniper jackals on its heels. Shar tossed a second plasma grenade, and this time it made a long arc and she just barely caught sight of the blue glowing ball sticking to the helmet of the officer before it detonated. Definitely one of her best throws. Shar ran forward, battle rifle blazing, and without much real armor the sniper jackals were cut down easily.

She moved around to where a group of marines were firing on grunts across the way and quickly swapped out her battle rifle for a DMR. She collected one more marine before she moved to the next engagement. She rounded a corner to find a jackal being fired on by a pair of marines. She opened fire, quickly knocking the jackal back and taking it down with two shots. She then turned to her left where an officer was firing. Six shots and its shields were down, the elite backpedaling to get away, but the seventh shot tore through its skull as it reached the top of the stairs. Still two jackals stood at the top of the stairs ready for combat. She used the toe head method on the first but the second backed up enough that she had to shoot it in the foot and slam the butt of her gun into its skull to kill it. Two more jackals appeared to her left, red shields flaring. Shar tossed a grenade and it landed between them. The jackals moved far enough forward that it detonated.

Shar quickly cleared out the break room of the three grunts who seemed not really prepared for her when she went charging in. Three quick shots and they were down, allowing Shar to focus on getting across the final bridge. She was just about to cross when she noticed something out of the corner of her eye, a general elite. She decided to take care of him at a long range, opening fire with her sniper rifle. She got off three rounds, taking out its shields before it returned fire, causing her to have to move back to cover for a moment. Once the shots from the concussion rifle had stopped, Shar took aim, placing the final round through the elite's skull.

She then made her way across the bridge where Jorge was already waiting for her. The lights had been knocked out and screens had fallen to the floor. The area looked like a disaster zone. Shar moved along the hallway toward her final destination and the building shook under her.

"Commander, this base won't survive another salvo from that corvette. Kill those banshees." Sword Control sounded impatient and Shar had never wanted to slap him more. It wasn't like this was easy work all the time. She dropped her DMR and grabbed a nearby rocket launcher, ready to assist.

She made her way through the doorway to find two jackals, one with a blue shield and one with a red. One well-placed grenade between them took out both enemies. This area was a true disaster zone. The corvette had blasted a hole in the side of the base and banshee fliers milled about outside.

"About time." Emile sounded annoyed, but also relieved at the same time. Shar immediately started to take aim at the banshees, allowing her rocket launcher to lock on before firing. She'd taken out one when a phantom appeared, its turret causing her to have to move into cover. She pulled out her sniper rifle ready for whatever it would drop, but she saw nothing.

Shar instead focused her attention on the phantom itself. Three rockets across its bow and the transport blew into little bits, which made Shar as happy as a school girl on the inside. She took out another banshee with her final rocket. She fired two more rockets, taking out two more banshees, and Emile took out the final one. Shar stood at the edge of the gaping hole, looking out at the corvette still hanging in the air.

"That's the way we get it done, Spartan!" Emile shouted in relief.

"Noble Team, Longswords are inbound and ready to push. Orbital defense is standing by to take the shot." Shar was never so happy to hear Sword Control say anything so far that day.

A pair of the sleek ships zoomed overhead in pursuit of the corvette. Shar glanced to the left where she saw Emile drop his rocket launcher before jumping down. She turned her full attention to the corvette and the two much smaller ships flying after it. They'd gotten a good distance away before the longswords banked to the right and moved away from the alien craft. A second later a shot fell from the sky, hitting the corvette amidships before it hit the water below. Shar watched the corvette start to fall toward the planet.

"Beautiful, ain't it." Shar turned to look over to Jorge as he came up on her right. "Someone should take a picture." Shar had to agree. It was almost beautiful, and she'd have to say it would look good on a pro-UNSC poster. The Spartan II moved up to her side and placed an arm on her shoulder. "Nice work by the way."

Shar shrugged. "I aim to please." Her voice almost felt foreign in her own mouth. Had it been that long since she'd spoken? She hadn't had need to. She let the discomfort slip away as it always did after long bouts of silence.

The two were staring at the still burning corvette when Carter came over the radio. "Five, Six, get down to the science wing. Doctor Halsey wants a debrief and command's saying we're all hers."

Jorge turned so that his back was facing Shar, tapping his fingers against the side of his helmet. "Repeat, sounded like you said Halsey." The reaction was odd to Shar. Who was this woman, and how did Jorge know her?

"I did." Carter didn't sound as happy about the news. More along the lines of frustrated.

"Copy that, on our way." Jorge turned off his radio and Shar tuned to follow the larger Spartan. "Don't need command to tell me. Been all hers half me life." Shar walked alongside the larger Spartan not understanding what exactly he was talking about.

Shar and Jorge made their way to the science wing where the rest of Noble was already gathered. Jun and Emile stood to one side while Carter stood only inches away from a blue-tinted wall of solid blast-proof glass. Kat stood a bit back to Carter's left, and glanced over at the pair as they entered.

A rather agitated female voice echoed through the room, likely being transmitted by a radio so that they could hear the woman standing on the other side of the glass. "I requested your assistance, Commander and do not need a report on events that occur on my own doorstep." Shar already didn't like the tone that this woman was taking with Carter. She acted like she was an admiral talking to a private. "What I do require is a detailed account of your previous engagement—" The woman stopped, looking past Carter to Shar and Jorge. Shar could now see the woman clearly. She looked like she was in her middle years of life, though Shar couldn't be quite sure with the odd tint caused by the glass. She wore a heavy winter coat, short ear-length hair, and Shar could see the wrinkles that were forming on the woman's face. "Jorge, it's been too long."

Jorge removed his helmet and nodded to the woman. "Ma'am." The word was quiet and respectful.

"What have you done with my armor?" Halsey sounded annoyed by the idea of Jorge's upgrades to his suit.

"Just some…additions I've made." Shar could almost swear that he sounded like a child trying to justify the reason why he's painted flames on the side of his new red wagon. It was odd to hear a seven-foot-tall killing machine sound like a child at all, let alone one that had to justify himself.

"Indeed." Halsey seemed to brush it off, turning her attention back to Carter. "Visegrad Relay. Its data center was home to one of my xeno-archaeologists, Professor Laszlo Sorvad. Perhaps you could shed some light on his death." There was no emotion to Halsey's voice, just the cold voice of a woman who wanted to get to the point and fast. It felt odd to Shar that a gentle man like Jorge would have any connection to a woman like this who showed no remorse over a fallen collogue.

Carter replied with just as formal of a tone. "If he was a civilian male in his mid-sixties, he died with a Covenant energy sword to his abdomen."

"Elites then." Halsey seemed intrigued, like they'd finally gotten her attention.

"They engaged us as well. It was just, uh, just after we found your scientist's daughter, ma'am." Jorge seemed nervous as he spoke, and hesitant to speak again of the girl they'd found. He was shifting nervously and Jun and Emile shared a glance. Shar actually felt a bit left out. "She was hiding in the—"

Halsey cut Jorge off and the Spartan seemed surprised. "Irrelevant." The word was so cold. How easily she tossed aside someone who had lost her family seemed a bit odd to Shar. Then again, she was section 3 and they weren't known for having hearts. "The elites, tell me more about them." She was fully focused on the leadership aliens.

Jorge snapped back into a soldier attitude. His words were confident and clear. "Three, zealot class. One got by us. The leader, from the looks of him."

"Zealot? You're certain?" This news seemed to excite and worry the doctor all at once.

"Their armor configuration matched," Jorge answered.

"Shield strength, too." Shar felt odd talking in front of the woman but at the moment it felt more like Halsey was treating Jorge as though he were the only soldier in the room.

"I gave the order not to pursue." Carter snapped Halsey's attention back to him, reminding her that he was the one in charge. "Our primary objective was to get the station's relay back online."

"Your primary objective? Commander are you a puppet or a Spartan?" The words were scolding and the team looked surprised by such a comment. Emile and Jun looked at the woman, not understanding why she was taking such a tone. Shar noticed a slight twitch in Kat's expression, showing her anger at the woman daring to ask such a thing. None of them seemed pleased to hear a civilian taking a tone like that with their leader. Shar herself felt a bit of resentment toward it. Carter had been a good leader, and she'd agreed with his decisions at the relay station.

"Ma'am?" Carter let his displeasure seep into the word.

Doctor Halsey ignored all of this, going on as though she hadn't just created a room full of unhappy Spartans. "There are those at ONI, myself included, who believe the Covenant dispatch elite advance teams to hunt down artifacts of value to their religion." Shar had never heard this information before, though ONI did keep things to themselves. "Survivor accounts suggest such teams are small, nimble, and almost always zealot-class. No doubt they came to the station for the abundance of ONI excavation data sorted there." The woman's tone became harsher, as though the next words placed full blame on the Commander for whatever might happened. "And you let them get away."

Carter didn't hide that he didn't like blame being put on him, particularly for information he didn't have. "Data retrieval was not a command directive. Even had we known, we had other, more urgent matters to attend to."

"Like warning the planet," Kat muttered. Carter glanced toward her and seemed to relax a bit as he realized his team agreed with him.

Halsey took a step over toward an item transfer container before turning back to Carter. "Professor Sorvad's final entry in the field notes made reference to 'a latchkey discovery.'" At this Halsey looked down a bit. "Latchkey…not a word he would use lightly." The words had an undertone of frustration and slight agitation. It suddenly turned lighter, as though she had the upper hand once more. "So let's hope the data module your Lieutenant Commander stole contains it." She looked toward Kat.

Kat looked to the side and down as though trying to hide from the facts. "Kat?" Carter turned to her but his tone let on that he was used to this kind of thing happening.

Kat shifted her helmet to under her left arm and Halsey spoke. "Before you ask, I was alerted the moment you attempted to access its contents, as I am with any unauthorized tap." Halsey slid the container forward through the glass. Kat moved forward and dropped the data module in the container. Shar could see Kat staring at the woman, not willing to back down. She didn't look intimidated or beaten, just like it wasn't a big deal.

Halsey returned the gaze. "That data is classified Tier One." Halsey pulled the container back toward her. "I could send you to the brig for interfering with my work."

Whether out of loyalty, agitation, or just not liking his soldiers being threatened, Carter stepped forward, his voice starting out stern. "Maybe you'd like to join her." Kat looked over at him, seeming to be surprised by the anger that slightly tinted his voice.

"I'm sorry?" Doctor Halsey sounded surprised that anyone would dare threaten her.

Carter's voice calmed once more, the reaction for Halsey having given him the upper hand. "We're currently under emergency planetary directive, WINTER CONTINGENCY. I'm sure you're familiar with the punishment for civilian interference with a Spartan deployment." Shar suddenly understood why the anger was gone. He didn't need it, he had logic and orders backing him and Halsey couldn't fight those.

"Are you threatening me, Commander?" She sounded surprised that anyone would dare make such a threat to her and all the more annoyed since she couldn't fight it.

Carter's voice was light and causal as he replied. "Just making a reading suggestion, ma'am." Carter turned and started to walk out of the room, Kat falling into line behind him. "Let's move, Noble Team." Carter and Kat moved out before Jun and Emile fell into line behind them.

Jorge hesitated for a moment. "Ma'am."

Halsey wasn't paying full attention. She was examining the module for any damage or problems. "That…will be all, Jorge." Her voice was distant, as though she wasn't really putting any thoughts into the words.

Shar turned and moved out of the room, Jorge following behind her.

Date: 27 September 2011, 5:21 am

The moon was almost completely waned in the sky above. Just a sliver of silver light spreading over the lands, giving it a slightly beautiful tint, like the midnight scene out of a movie. The calm serenity of the night was broken by the hum of Covenant engines. A phantom passed by slowly, searchlight traveling lazily over the rock wall.

There was slight movement ahead of Shar as soon as the phantom had passed. Jun stood up from where he was hiding behind a medium-sized rock. He looked so at home in the darkness, sniper rifle in his hands. She wondered how often he was sent on night missions like this. She knew that he was used to them; it was why she had been more than pleased to be put on one, with Kat in charge none the less.

Kat being in charge actually was a bit unsettling to Shar. She could still remember the female Spartan before the wreckage of the wraith and banshee, vowing to never lead again. It brought up a bit of doubt in Shar's mind. Was Kat really able to lead a mission after all of that? Or maybe it had really been that long since she'd last seen her teammate.

Shar snapped back to her task as she saw the slight nod from Jun. Shar stood up from where she was hiding. The two started to move forward, Shar's eyes traveling back and forward from the wide open sky to one side and her feet to be sure she didn't fall. She was silent as she walked, not even the sound of grass under her feet reaching the air.

The silence was broken, at least inside of Shar's helmet, as Jun radioed in. "Recon Team Bravo Reporting in: Three and Six in position." Shar really was getting used to being called by a number. It still felt odd at times. She did have a name after all, but no one ever seemed to use it, except for Kat but she'd only used it while they were on their own, and that was only after Shar had reminded her what her name was. "Starting to get crowded up here, Kat." Jun didn't sound pleased at the last statement.

Shar's gaze turned out toward the open expanse, checking for phantoms before she crossed a small gap. She risked a glance down and regretted it. They were very high up and there was nothing but rocks below. If she even slipped up a little it would be the death of her.

"Then we're closing in. Report any Covenant structures or devices. Direct action may be necessary." Shar was surprised by the calm in Kat's voice as she gave out orders. All doubt in the Lieutenant's mind of Kat's ability to lead the op vanished. What had happened in the past seemed to be just that now. Something from the past that no longer weighed down the Lieutenant Commander. Shar smiled slightly at that. She was glad to know that Kat hadn't given up as she'd said she would. The memories of the false snipers on the cliff flashed in Shar's mind. Yeah, she was definitely glad that Kat hadn't lost it.

"Copy that." There was a click as Jun turned off his radio, followed shortly by a light chuckle from the sniper. "When Kat runs an op, direct action is always necessary." There was amusement in Jun's voice. Shar wondered if he saw that as a good or bad thing. Personally she'd never been against direct action; it usually meant more dead Covenant, which she wanted.

Jun pulled out something from his chest plate. Shar recognized it right away as a magazine of sniper rounds. "Here." Shar took the rounds from him before he continued. "You may need these. High-velocity, armor-piercing. They'll take the hat off an elite at two thousand yards." There was an odd tone to Jun's voice. Somewhere between excitement and joking. "And they ain't cheap." Jun moved further along the cliff, partially climbing a rock. "I'll be in touch." Without another word he climbed up.

Shar turned her attention away from him. She supposed he preferred to be up high. Personally, even with a sniper rifle, she'd like to be down a bit further, somewhere where there was more maneuverability. She slid down the side of the rock face. It was something she'd done before and she found it easy on this particular surface. As she neared the bottom Shar pushed off, landing a distance away from the wall.

She hit the ground and flicked on her night vision. The eerie green glow covered the landscape around her. It was quiet, almost too quiet. Shar moved forward, easily seeing the dark in the light of her night vision.

Kat's voice broke the silence. "Recon Bravo, the sector ahead is dark to electronic surveillance." Even though she wasn't in the area Kat's speech was quiet, only enough for them to be able to hear her.

"Covenant can block our instruments?" Jun sounded surprised by this information. Shar had seen it plenty of times, so she didn't understand why it was that Jun was not already aware.

"So it would seem, and Command wants to know what they're hiding." Kat's voice told Shar that she also wanted to know. Shar was quite curious herself.

She moved up around a corner and spotted a lone minor elite staring off into the distance. "Elite. He's yours. Do it quiet."

Shar would have told him to shut up, that she knew how to kill an elite and that she needed to be quiet, but she wouldn't risk it. Making more noise then was needed would only put them at risk. She set her sights on the elite, moving up silently behind it. Her fist connected with the elite's back before she slashed her knife along its back. Its head swung back toward her and she stabbed the knife forward, stabbing it into the base of the elite's skull, dragging it back and to the ground. She pulled her knife from the corpse and slid it back into her chest plate before turning her attention away.

A grunt had been woken by the noise and had now turned to run. It ran to another grunt, waking it as well. She raced after them. They needed to be silenced before they woke any others. The second grunt tossed a grenade, but Shar sidestepped, moving forward and slamming the butt of her sniper rifle into its head. The first grunt was trying to backtrack but before it could, she took one step toward it and slammed her left elbow into the back of its head, cracking its skull.

Shar moved along the cliff until she came to a structure. It looked similar to the ones she'd seen all over the planet. The buildings looked like they were all part of a series of rings or circles, but were cut up into three sections. One was a small structure on the north side which Shar couldn't see every well. On the east side was a crescent-shaped building that seemed to be a garage of some kind, forklifts sitting at the ready inside of it. On the roof, two special ops elites stood around, scanning the skies above. To the west was a large two-story structure, a large silo on the southern end of it. A minor elite stood gazing up at the stars on the railing of the second level. In the center was a small structure about seven feet high, two generators housed inside with electrical lines running to all of the buildings. A couple grunts were sleeping by the generator while others wandered around the area.

Rain poured down while lightning cut through the air, soon followed by the crash of thunder. Hopefully the weather would be able to conceal her presence enough for her to do some damage. Shar moved a bit closer and got a better angle. She zoomed in and carefully took aim. A shot rang out and the minor elite's brains went flying through the air. She then took aim on the grunts, easily taking down two of them in quick succession.

"Firing!" Jun's shots started to join Shar's as she cut down enemies.

She next took aim at the eastern building, taking down one special ops elite as it tried to hide behind a spool of heavy wire on the roof. She took out three grunts around the area before she swapped out her mag and moved to a better position.

The sound of Covenant engines filled the air but she ignored them, taking aim at an officer elite. With a quick shot, a round found its skull and the lifeless body flew through the air. She took aim at the last remaining special ops elite, but just as she fired, it jumped down from its perch and ran across the roof. She tried to wait for it to come out but, feeling that she didn't want to give it a chance to regroup, she started to move along the cliff to get a better view.

"Incoming, looks like you really pissed them off." Jun's voice was cold, as was common with snipers, not that Jun didn't always sound cold. Shar spotted what he was talking about. A phantom hung on the southern end of the area, letting out troops.

"Recon Bravo to Noble Two, stand by for contact report." Shar could have slapped Jun for choosing this moment to make his report. She would have to take care of these enemies while he reported in.

Shar took aim at the special op elite on the roof as Kat answered. "Standing by to copy, over."

"We have eyes on multiple hostiles patrolling a settlement. This what we're looking for, Kat?" Jun didn't seem to believe that it was, and Shar had to agree.

A shot echoed through the air as the special ops elite fell. Three more shots followed as Shar took out a group of grunts that had been dropped off.

"Negative, too small, you're not in the dark zone yet." Her voice was cool as she gave out the orders, not a hint of doubt in her analysis, not that Shar saw a flaw in it either. "Engage at your own discretion, but keep moving."

"Already engaged," Jun informed.

Shar killed two grunts quickly, followed by putting a round through the head of the officer elite with them. She then moved around to get a view of the inner circle of the area. She killed one last grunt before swapping out her mag. She fired on a jackal but it moved and the shield bounced the shot away. Shar instead turned her attention to the grunts in the back, taking the pair out quickly. She fired on a jackal, the round breaking through the shield to the bird-like alien's skull. She then swept the area, looking for a better angle on the shielded aliens, taking a quick shot through the head of a minor elite. Where did those ones keep coming from?

Shar was taking aim on a jackal when she started to hear the screaming of a grunt. The thing was that she didn't see any grunts around. She was sure she'd taken all of them out, but the sound was growing louder and louder.

"What the…Ah?" Jun's words were odd and Shar was just about to turn around when she started to hear shots. There was a large blast behind her. A burnt grunt body hit the ground in front of her and she bit back a cry of pain as the blast depleted her shield and the skin below her armor heated and burned a bit. She stepped back from the edge, taking a moment to let her shield recharge as she reoriented herself. Where had that grunt come from? She would have snapped at Jun for not having had her back but she didn't. She was sniping, meaning no noise from her at all, only a few deep breaths as she regained her composure.

Jun moved up to join her as she took aim once more. She could feel his eyes on her for just a second but she ignored them. She was only a little burnt, not like it was anything new. Tired of waiting she ran jumped down the hill, switching out to her pistol. She moved into the northern structure and spotted a jackal just as it was leaving. She fired twice, the first nicking it and the second missing. She ran forward and the jackal reappeared in the doorway. One swift smack of the butt of her pistol and it crumpled to the ground.

Shar moved through the area, making sure it was clear, before she moved around the back to the west side building. On her motion tracker she noticed Jun following, just barely in range. Shar moved into the structure, switching back to her sniper rifle as she spotted a large water tower in the center of the new area. There must have been something with this planet and circles or rings as it seemed many of their buildings were shaped that way.

Shar took aim at a railing halfway up the water tower. If she were a sniper that was where she would go. She tried to stay focused but the burns were a distraction. She spotted a medical kit on the wall and grabbed it, carefully moving back into the structure a bit as she riffled through it. She found a bit of painkillers and, although she hated the things, injected it into her system. The pain eased away and she focused once more on their mission.

Jun had already moved up the stairs to the west and Shar followed after him. "Hostile fire on my position. Covering fire." Shar moved through the structure toward the closest door. "I lost visual." Shar scanned the area herself and saw nothing. She moved out into the middle of the area and toward the base of the water tower. She moved around the southern side where she found a pair of grunts. She fired, but the round missed. Damn, this was why she hated medication. It tended to blur a soldier's skills. She took a step back as their shots hit her and her shield drained to half strength. She tossed a grenade and it went off, killing one of the grunts.

Shar moved back, allowing her shield to recharge before she moved back toward the south side. She took out one grunt quickly, then slowly moved forward. She spotted a foot and as she moved she realized it was that of an elite, one that wasn't paying attention. Her round found its head, quickly followed by taking out the grunt in front of it. She took a step back as fire from a plasma turret hit her. Shar had vaguely spotted one other elite and grunt before she moved to cover, carefully inching out to find the grunt manning the turret. One shot to the alien's head and the turret fell limply. She then turned her attention down to where an ultra elite stood. She fired once but it just barely skimmed the elite's cover.

Shar moved, but so did the ultra. It moved down and she fired, the seven-foot-tall alien's shields flaring as the round hit it. It moved to cover and she moved as well, shooting it in the shoulder. The elite stepped back, gripping his shoulder in pain. She stepped back and quickly changed magazines before she moved back out. She fired again and this shot hit the side of the elite's chest. It fell to the ground, dead.

Shar carefully moved forward, being sure not to make too much motion to be spotted. She kept an eye on the southwest part of the building. She spotted a new grunt manning the turret and quickly sniped it before she continued to move. She spotted something on her motion tracker and swapped out to her pistol. Just as she did the turret opened fire; another grunt must have been at the waiting. She switched back to her sniper rifle and fired, sending the grunt tumbling from his post.

She then switched back to her pistol before moving into the southern building. She downed the two grunts inside with headshots before moving out the other side. She moved out of the building and turned to the southeast.

"Aw, this just got more interesting." Shar guessed that Jun was talking about the Covenant that were coming up the pass. Shar wasn't sure where Jun was, she hadn't been sure where he was since they'd started this mission. She was just going to stay focused. She sniped the grunt but after seeing she only had 13 more shots left, swapped out to her pistol for the jackal. She hit it in the hand first, and when it fell back, she shot it in the head.

Shar slowly moved forward, expecting more enemies as she heard the sound of phantoms ahead. She was surprised, though, to hear the roars of something much larger. Jun moved forward and spotted the cause of the sound first. "Eyes open, major target inbound." She came up behind Jun and found him couched near a rock. The sound of labored breathing filled the air.

Shar spotted the large creatures, larger than any Covenant that she'd seen. They were about the size of a full phantom, but she was sure they weren't Covenant. In fact, from what she could tell, they were attacking the Covenant. She moved a bit forward and realized that there wasn't one, but two of them. Shar opened fire with her pistol but the creatures didn't even seem to realize they'd been hit. She moved up to a higher point above some rock to watch for a moment. Whatever Covenant had been in the area were dead, and the creatures were still pissed.

Shar opened fire on one of them, knowing that they weren't going to get through without killing them. "This one is mine." Shar rolled her eyes as Jun spoke. He really couldn't shut up. The beast turned around and roared as Jun started to shot it with the sniper rifle. "Don't worry, I have a bullet for each of you." Shar could have slapped him for that one.

The beast charged forward as both Shar and Jun shot at it. It roared and after Shar emptied her clip into it, the beast finally fell. With the other dead, the second one started to notice. It moved toward them, its odd jumping gallop causing the ground to shake. It reached the base of the rock that Shar was standing on and roared. The sheer force of its roar sent her sliding back, but she moved to stay on top. The beast then turned to Jun, presenting its back to Shar. She shot at it with her pistol, trying to protect her teammate.

The shots seemed to be having no effect so Shar grabbed a plasma grenade and tossed. It stuck to the left hip of the beast, though it didn't seem to notice, too enraged to care about having something stuck to it. The explosive went off and with one last roar the beast died.

"Kat, pick any of that up?" Jun sounded still slightly rattled from how close it had gotten to him.

Shar turned her attention to the sky and the phantom that was now moving away. "Affirmative, Recon Bravo. It's an indigenous creature, called Guta." Always trust Kat to have the information, not matter how obscure it was. Though the size of the beasts, with how large Jorge was, made Shar wonder if living on Reach just naturally made you larger.

Shar and Jun started moving across the open space, Shar dropping her nearly spent pistol for a needler rifle. "Six, there's a trail up ahead, through the rocks. Let's take it." Shar moved after him, glancing back at the fallen beasts. She felt a bit bad about having killed them. She supposed they were just two more innocent casualties of war.

Jun took the lead and Shar followed behind him. They made their way down what Shar could only guess might have once been a river. On either side of the valley there were higher areas with railing, but no stairs. Shar jumped down into the bottom of the valley after Jun. They ran through a group of Moa who all took off in different directions. Shar let them be, figuring she'd killed enough of the ecosystem for one night.

Gunfire crackled through the air. It was a familiar sound. Jun spoke what Shar was thinking. "Gunfire. Magnums, security side-arms. Standard issue." That was the only sound she could think of it being.

They moved through a cave and came to what seemed to be a pumping station. Shar looked down at the scene below, frowning. The main part of the station was a circle, and on the south and west side were a set of buildings that once more looked like chunks of larger rings. To the east was a bridge that led toward a large gate. To the south and west, behind the building, were three massive pumps, larger than anything that Shar had seen for such purposes. Around all of that, and around the northern and western part of the facility, there was water, not too deep in most places, but at least a foot.

On the facility side of the water there were elites and Jackals running about. They were firing on what looked to be a group of civilians. None of the civilians wore armor, and Shar was certain that if she and Jun didn't act, the civilians would be dead in a matter of minutes. Without even thinking, Shar took aim with her needler rifle and fired. She focused on the leader, an officer elite. It tried to duck and dodge but Shar kept her aim steady. After a number of shots lodged in the elite's chest it burst into a shower of pink shards.

"Noble Two, we're at some sort of pump station. Got eyes on civilian, I'm thinking more local militia. They've engaged hostiles." Jun didn't move, didn't lift his rifle to fire, as though he wasn't sure yet if they should help them.

Shar crouched down and switched to her sniper rifle. "Move to assist. They may have intel we need." The orders seemed cold as Shar heard them. She had never expected Kat to be willing to only see a person as a source of information.

A phantom eased in to drop off more troops and Shar watched it, being sure to watch what came out. "You heard her, Six. Keep those civilians alive." Once more Shar wanted to hit him, telling that while he had been standing around she'd already been doing that, but she didn't. She could have even pulled rank on him, told him to stop ordering her around, but she instead remained focused.

Shar tracked a minor and officer elite as they moved along the west building. "Give us a hand! Bastards just keep coming." The civilian's voice was strained, and Shar wondered if he was injured, or just frustrated by the difficulty of fighting the Covenant. Most local militia didn't realize how strong the Covenant was.

Shar waited patiently, remaining silent and finally the two elites came to a stop. She targeted the officer first and then the minor, putting a round through each of their heads. She looked to the roof of the building and spotted a pair of skirmishers. She switched to her needler rifle, having found it more affective against the agile aliens. Shar took aim and placed her shots carefully, though it was hard with them darting back and forward. The first fell to a headshot after a moment. She swapped out her magazine and moved a bit down the hill. She took aim again at the skirmishers but they ran about to quickly for her to shoot. She shot here and there at the other enemies, hoping to at least weaken them for the militia. She emptied the magazine and switched to her sniper rifle.

Shar was patient, choosing the right moment and firing, sending one jackal flying into the air. She then moved down to where the militia had gathered. She took out a pair of grunts and heard one of the militia say that it was safe over by her. She scowled. She reminded herself that she had to keep them alive, and that punching one of them for using her as cover would probably kill them. She decided instead to ignore his words. She took out a jackal in the center and then a skirmisher on the south building roof.

"Oh man, we're going to get killed doing this." Shar could almost hear the man shaking in his boots. Having people who were scared wasn't going to help her with keeping them alive. She'd have to be sure they stayed back or she'd end up with four dead civilians and no information.

Shar moved toward the center, crossing the water and dropping her needler rifle for a plasma rifle as she realized she only had three shot left. She moved through the area, looking for enemies. What she found was better, sort of. She found a dead civilian—that was the bad part—but beside him was a DMR. She dropped the plasma rifle and picked up her old friend. It felt good to have the rifle in her hand again. She turned back down the bridge and moved to where the militia had joined up with Jun around some cases.

The leader of the militia group spoke up. "Little more action then we're used to. You Spartans are good in a fight." He seemed very relieved to have their help. Though that was common for the arrival of a Spartan.

"What are you doing here? Whole area's supposed to be evacuated." Jun was taking control of the situation, so Shar moved over to where she spotted some equipment. She quickly detached her sprint ability and swapped it for the bubble shield generator.

"Didn't like leaving it to someone else to protect our home." Shar couldn't fault the militia men for that. She wouldn't have wanted to leave New Harmony for someone else to protect, if she hadn't been a child at the time. Though she felt the same way about Onyx. She wouldn't want to leave it to someone else to protect the place where she had trained, her second home. "So we came back, for this." The cases opened to reveal a battle rifle, a DMR, a rocket launcher, and a sniper rifle. "We have 'em hidden all over the territory." Shar was at least glad that the man was being honest with them. What he was admitting to was a crime, but here he was openly telling them. It was good to know she wouldn't have to use force to get information from them.

"You know this stuff is stolen." There was a light tone to Jun's voice.

"What? You going to arrest me?" The militia man seemed to have no issue with challenging Jun on that. Really there was no way they could.

"No." Shar could almost see the smile on Jun's face as he spoke. "Gonna steal it back."

Shar heard the familiar whine of Covenant engines and she searched the sky. "Another drop ship coming in." Jun's words snapped Shar's attention to where he was looking. A phantom was moving up the south side. It eased in to hover over the opening of a channel that allowed water to flow under the west side building to the northern part of the facility. Shar quickly took out the grunt turret gunner on the side, watching the body fall to the water below.

The sides eased open and two elites followed by four jackals poured out. Shar fired, taking out one jackal before it could even leave the ship. She then moved along the side of the west building, switching to her DMR. The militia had gathered there and she joined them. While they all stayed back she moved a bit down the winding ramp and spotted the officer elite and a jackal standing in the water. She shot the jackal's foot, quickly shooting it in the head a fraction of a second later. She backed up as the phantom turned, allowing the second turret to fire at her.

As she moved toward the south building she spotted a minor elite and opened fire. It turned towards her and started to back up. She followed it, keeping her aim steady on it. "Heads up, phantom coming in." Shar cursed silently at Jun's announcement. She dispatched the minor and turned to her left to find an officer. She opened fire and quickly killed it as well.

Shar circled back around, swapping out her mag as she came up on a jackal. She fired and shots from the militia on the top of the western roof helped to take out the alien. Shar moved back toward the center, looking for the phantom. "We got company." Shar ignored Jun this time. She could hear the engines, she knew they had company.

Shar spotted the phantom as it moved along to the eastern side between the bridge and the gate. She switched to her sniper rifle, ready for anything. She sniped the turret on one side as the doors opened. Grunts poured out and she took aim at the gathered group. She fired twice, taking out two before the turret opened fire on her, having turned so the second could shoot at her.

Shar moved to cover, switching to her DMR. She moved back out, taking aim at the grunts as they made their way down toward the water to go straight to the group. Shar opened fire, killing three of them in quick succession. She killed two more a moment later. She moved back a bit, swapping out her mag, and then stepping out, dispatching the last grunt.

"Here they come, here they come." The frenzied voice of the militia soldier filled the air.

"More inbound." Jun was calm and collected, so different from the militia soldiers. It was a surprise to Shar to see such a gap in training, and skill.

The phantom crossed overhead and without thinking, Shar slammed her fist to the ground, creating a bubble shield around her. She stood in it until the phantom had moved over to the north side, where the militia had started out taking cover. She moved into the center of the facility and found herself faced with an elite. For a few seconds they did an odd sort of combat dance, both trying to keep distance, while still keeping their aim. Shar moved to avoid the blasts of the concussion rifle, while the elite was trying to keep its shields intact. In the end Shar won, the elite crumpling to the ground.

She then set her sights on the newly dropped off enemies. The jackal shields made them easy to spot. She made a quick pattern of her foot head technique on one jackal, but was forced to once more put up a bubble shield as the phantom moved to leave. It had drained her shields and she stood under the bubble shield, allowing her energy shield to recharge and let the phantom leave. As soon as the blasts had stopped she moved out from cover. She took aim at the jackals. She spotted a minor elite but let it go for a moment. She instead focused on each of the jackals, hitting foot then face with bullets.

When she finished she moved around to the back of the west building. She could hear the militia panicking and then a triumphant cry from Jun. "Yeah, I got it."

Shar moved back to the center, moving over to the cases and trying to decide if she wanted to take one of the other weapons. While she decided she listened to the others talk. "Nothing here but the lake." Jun sounded confused. There was no reason the Covenant would want a lake, so it was a bit perplexing.

"Road leads to a hydro-electric plant, but the gate doesn't work." From the sound of it the militia man had gotten used to it just not working. She supposed that they were used to not replacing or being able to repair things.

"Alternate route?" Jun asked.

Shar moved over to the equipment, now she could feel some of the men watching her. She tossed away her bubble shield generator and smiled behind her visor as she snapped her armor lock into place on her suit. DMR, sniper rifle, and armor lock. Yeah, she was feeling good. She turned her attention back to the conversation, deciding that she might be needed.

"We use the riverbed to smuggle rations, weapons…" They moved over across the bridge as the man spoke.

"Basically anything the UNSC considers contraband," Jun finished.

"Basically." Shar was a bit surprised by how easily the man admitted they were smuggling contraband. He wasn't even ashamed or trying to hide it.

"Show us." Jun's voice was serious and they started to move off, Shar following behind the militia as they lead the way.

The group moved along the ramp that ran away from the pump station. Jun took the lead of the civilians "There's the riverbed, Six. Let's see where it goes."

Shar supposed that it really was their only course of action. It was basically the only pathway away from the pump station without a boat. She moved along it surprised to find a few light sticks placed along the way. She took the lead, switching to her DMR. In this area they'd only meet up with close quarter-combat.

"Where does this riverbed lead?" It was a good question, though Shar was wondering why it had taken Jun so long to ask it.

"Straight to the hydro plant." Shar was glad to hear the militia man's voice much calmer than it had been. Whatever fear there had been from fighting the Covenant was gone, for now. "We dammed this river up forty-five years ago. Plant powers every settlement in the territory." This man seemed to know a lot. "Shame if it all gets wasted."

"Doing what we can." Jun's voice held a hint of sorrow. She was sure this wasn't the first time he'd seen people's homes and livelihoods being threatened by the Covenant, though she knew how that sort of thing usually ended. With a planet of glass lands and burnt skies.

Shar heard the growing sound of Covenant engines. She looked up to the sky and spotted the ship. "Hold up. Covie dropship, take cover." Shar moved below a rock arch that crossed the riverbed. She looked up, wondering if at one time the water had been high enough that it had been used by civilians to cross the stream.

She was pulled out of those thoughts by Jun. "Okay, we're clear. Let's move."

Shar continued to move down the dry riverbed, following the lights to lead her way. She supposed either the Covenant had put them there for their soldiers, or the militia had to aid their smuggling of contraband. Right now, it really didn't matter to her.

She continued on until they came upon the power station. It was to the southeast of the path they'd taken. The path continued on along the east to a bridge that spanned the wide valley between the path and the plant. Everything was circular, as she expected, though it seemed to be one with the mountain. The plant was built into three levels. On the south side of the area stood the power plant, reaching high into the sky above all the other buildings. Electrical lines spread across its roof along structures and then went every which way down to the buildings and disappeared off across the rock walls around it. Just north of the main plant was a ring of concrete that rose up a story into the air. Shar could see an opening on the north side of the ring to allow water to flow through and fall into the valley below. There were buildings built into the east and west side of the inner ring and another building further back to the southeast.

What really caught Shar's attention was the non-human structure just to the northeast of the ring. In Covenant fashion the structure was sleek, rounded, not straight-cut edges like most of the human structures. The structure stood on three thick legs, turrets set up between each of the legs. The structure reached up into the sky. Halfway up there was a circle of metal, though Shar couldn't figure out the purpose. Near the top, the structure was broken apart, though still the top hung in the air. A beam of light wavered in the air, originating from the center of the structure. The light held what looked to be a three lobed metal device in the air. What it was all for, she wasn't exactly sure. Periodically, a pulse would go up the light and spread over the three leaves, causing a cascade of violet light to spread forth as though creating a great dome.

"Kat, are you seeing this?" Jun seemed a bit stunned by the device, not that she could blame him. How had the Covenant put that there without them realizing? "Covenant structure, kind of a big pylon. Heavily fortified."

That was an understatement. There were elites walking about the area, sleeping grunts, jackals, and even grunts sleeping on the structure, ready to man the turrets. She wasn't sure yet how they would deal with it. After all, she still hoped to keep the militia troopers safe, if she could.

"That's the source of our dark zone," Kat informed them.

"Okay, consider it gone." Jun seemed pleased at the idea of blowing up the structure, though Shar could guess that a good number of ONI spooks would love to get their hands on it.

"Negative, stick a remote det charge on it. Command's planning something big." From the way Kat spoke, Shar guessed she didn't know exactly what they were planning, and as usual didn't like that. "They say that pylon dies at dawn."

Shar couldn't think of a good reason why they weren't destroying it now, unless they were hoping to have the element of surprise. Destroying it now would alert the Covenant that they knew where they were. Whatever it was, she wasn't going to question it. Command gave orders, and she followed them, so stay it would.

The group moved along path toward the bridge, stopping behind a large rock. "We going to blow it?" The militia man seemed excited at the idea of blowing it up, though she supposed they hardly ever blew up something as large as that structure, or got to see the beauty to the destruction of Covenant weapons. It wasn't just the fact the enemy was losing something of theirs, but Shar honestly saw a sort of beauty in the multitude of colors that blossomed forth from an exploding Covenant item.

"We're gonna clear the area, and I'm gonna plant a remote det charge. You want to provide some cover, go right ahead." It was obvious from Jun's tone he no longer saw a need for the militia to be with them. He no longer seemed to even care if they survived.

Shar moved ahead of the others, staying silent and picking her moment right. The officer elite on the bridge had his back to her. She struck out, slamming into the elite's back. It stunned him just long enough for her to grab the back of his helmet and pull herself up. She put one foot on the backward facing knee of his right leg and the other on his left hip, rising up enough to grab the front of his head with her right hand. One quick jerk and she heard the elite's spine snap under the force. Unfortunately, there had been a grunt at the elite's feet.

The death gurgle of the elite, and the sound of its body hitting the ground, woke the grunts. They jumped up in surprise. She beat down the first one before taking aim with her DMR and downing the other two on the bridge as they tried to run away. She then turned her attention to a grunt moving toward her, spewing needler rounds at her as it moved. One quick shot and it too fell to the ground.

"Don't let up." The voice was right beside her and Shar realized that the militia were moving in to help. She appreciated their enthusiasm, but they were likely to get themselves all killed. She took aim at the closest turret and after a few shots the grunt there fell to the ground. Shar turned and ran toward the pylon, hearing a triumphant cry from the militia as they killed one of the turret grunts. She used the grav lift up to the turret level and was surprised to find that they had killed the remaining gunner. She turned her attention to the ground, firing at a grunt before plasma shots hit her.

Shar moved around behind the structure's inner spire to avoid the elites. She switched to her sniper rifle and took aim. The first shot hit one of the minors in the chest and the second shot finished it with a bullet to the skull. The second elite moved to cover. She waited for a moment to see if it would come back, but it didn't. She turned her aim toward the ground, and the jackals approaching; that was then she spotted the elite move back out of cover. Shar fired at it, the first shot skimming its throat and the second shattering its helmet.

She jumped down from the pylon and moved up some stairs to the concrete ring, looking for anything to shoot. Not spotting anything she headed down a ramp toward the main plant. She found a group of grunts outside which she finished off easily. Jun and one of the milita soldiers joined her. They moved up the stairs, where a trio of grunts walked out, quickly taken out by a few precise shots. Shar rounded the corner to go into the building and found herself faced with an officer elite. It cursed something in its alien language and the group opened fire. The officer's shields dropped and Shar slammed her elbow into its chest. The force sent it flying back and it fell limply to the ground. They moved into the plant and, after being sure it was clear, Shar moved out the other side, quickly killing a jackal and skirmisher.

"All clear, Six." Jun ran past her and moved towards the pylon. "This is gonna take a minute, so keep your eyes peeled. Shar ran after him as they both moved down to the pylon.

As if on cue a phantom rose up into the sky, moving over to the side of the bridge closest to them. Shar moved to cover and waited to see what it would drop on them. "Big trouble here, we got big targets coming." Shar had to agree as the massive aliens hit the ground. Hunters, not what she had expected. She certainly didn't have the firepower needed for those.

Thinking fast, Shar decided to improvise. She took aim at a forklift near the two hunters. Two shots and it went up into flames, causing the massive walking tanks to stumble back. She threw a grenade, but it didn't seem to do much. The militia soldiers joined her in firing on it, though she was using her DMR for now. Shar sidestepped a shot from the closest hunter and switched to her sniper rifle. She put six shots into the first hunter before it finally fell. She put the last of her shots into the second hunter, but it stood strong. She switched to her DMR and as Shar ran forward, fired at whatever weak spot she could find. When she was close enough she tossed a sticky grenade. The blue explosive stuck to the alien's stomach, and detonated, though it only seemed to damage the armor, removing it from the alien's back but not killing it. She continued to move closer, hoping to be able to stay behind it, but she moved too close and it turned around. The hunter swung itself forward, and the aliens' head connected with Shar's chest, sending her stumbling back. Before it could reorient itself Shar's feet moved on instinct, carrying her around and away from the hunter a bit. She tossed her last grenade and it stuck to the hunter's chest plate. It went off and in a brilliant light swallowed up the hunter, leaving behind nothing but charred armor and eels.

Shar moved back toward the group, trying to catch her breath as she realized she only had two shots left in her DMR. She started to move through the facility, looking for ammunition or a new weapon.

"Recon Bravo to Noble Two, charge in place," Jun reported.

"Somewhere inconspicuous, I hope." Kat was sounding eager. She must have been a bit worried about how long it had taken them to clear the area.

"Stuck it inside the pylon's power supply." Jun sounded a bit too pleased with his placement.

Kat didn't sound impressed. "All right. Keep pushing into the dark zone. Command wants to know what the Covenant are hiding." Shar wondered how much of it was Command and how much of it was her.

Shar grabbed a plasma pistol, dropping off her DMR as she didn't think she'd be finding any more rounds for it. It would have to do for now, until she could find rounds for some other, better, weapon.

"There's a gate to the southeast of the power plant." Jun moved away from the pylon, joining the militia soldiers.

"Copy. Uploading security codes to you now." Shar wondered if Kat had been given the codes, or simply stole them. She supposed it didn't matter to her. It was better not to ask how Kat got, or knew, things.

Shar moved over to the gate and waited with the others while Jun typed in the code. "Okay, got 'em. Unlocking the gate." The doors started to slide open and Shar prepared for whatever was on the other side.

"Recon Bravo, you're heading into the dark zone now." Shar supposed that was Kat's way of saying she wasn't going to be able to give then any real heads up.

"Understood." Jun moved through the gate after Shar. "Phantom, a little too close for comfort."

Shar charged the troops that were dropped off. She fired wildly with her plasma pistol and in a matter of seconds they were all dead. She smirked behind her visor. Even with the worse weapon in the Covenant arsenal they didn't stand a chance against her.

Shar ducked down as plasma fire filled the air. She got a glimpse of the cause before she moved to cover. A shade was stationed up ahead and was firing at her. The rest of the group moved forward while Shar took a step back. She spotted a case and opened it, finding twenty rounds of sniper rifle ammunition inside. Shar took aim and sniped the gunner from the turret. She waited for a moment, to see if any other alien would be fool enough to get into it. When none did she moved forward to join the others, still keeping an eye on the turret. An elite popped out a bit ahead of them but was downed a second later as her shot found its temple.

They moved forward, finding a second shade which she quickly sniped as well. A second grunt manned it and she cleared it as well. She downed one more grunt and heard the roars of elites.

The high pitched whine of banshee engines sounded above them. "Lotta air traffic around here, Six. I think we're getting warm." Jun moved ahead of her while she looked up toward the sky for a moment, spotting the trail of banshees.

Shar turned her attention back to the battle, grabbing an assault rifle for her plasma pistol. Just in time as she moved around the rock and spotted a minor elite. She opened fire. Its shields fell and it tried to run but she chased after it, finally downing it. She turned to spot two jackals that fired on her. She tossed a grenade and it killed one, causing the other to fall back. Before she could fire again heat splashed over her. An overcharged shot from a jackal took down her shield and fire from a third shade turret hit her. Shar ran back feeling her body burn as she struggled to get out of the way of the turret.

Shar moved back the way she'd come and leaned up against a wall. "What, you don't like my cooking?" Shar frowned at Jun's comment. She wasn't sure if he'd said it to her or someone else, but he really needed to learn to shut up on missions like this.

Shar moved back to where she'd first started, grabbing some more ammunition before she tried to decide what to do. Unfortunately the others had followed her, and brought an elite in tow. She fired, killing it, and cursing them for having followed her. Setting the pain aside Shar moved onward.

She sniped a jackal and carefully peeked out, taking out the third turret before it spotted her. She cursed as fire from the second turret hit her and she quickly fired, blowing up the entire shade. She finished off the jackal below and moved to cover as officer fired on her.

She moved forward, sniping a grunt before it could man the third shade again. She waited, and the officer finally showed, allowing her to snipe it in the head. She sniped one more grunt and officer before she finally cleared the area.

"Noble Two, we have eyes on at least one Covenant ship." Jun sounded scared, or agitated, she couldn't exactly tell which.

"Solid copy. Don't stop now." Kat must have known something. What more did they need to know about other than there was a Covenant ship?

Shar moved forward and they found a small gap that opened up to look over the larger area. Shar and Jun moved down to their stomachs, crawling forward slowly. What Shar saw made her blood run cold. The area ahead was tinted blues and purples, likely from all the artificial Covenant light. There was not just one Covenant ship, but several, including AA guns on the ground, which she knew well.

"Jackpot," Jun whispered.

Shar finally found her voice, speaking for the first time on the mission. "Transmitting visual."

"You seeing this, Kat?" There was an air of disbelief in his voice.

"Confirmed. Receiving Noble Three and Noble Six's live visual of a Covenant strike force." There was an air of fear in Kat's voice. Shar didn't blame her. It was a lot of Covenant force, and it was all on Feach. It wasn't a few little phantoms of troops. It was much more.

"That's no strike force, it's an invading army. If we're gonna smother this thing, we need to go in hard and fast." There was a bit of panic to Jun's voice.

"Agreed. All recon teams disengage and fall back. Sun will be up in a few hours...and it's going to be a very busy day."