The Bright Green Dot: Beware of Cat
Posted By: 4642 Elitist Bastard<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 10 July 2009, 10:37 am
4. Beware of Cat
Friday, 13 October, 2552
Andrew Crespo Base, Crisium, Luna
The Chief went straight into cryo the next morning, and I thought that was the last I would see of him: doubly so after the Pillar of Autumn dropped out of Slipspace within range of something that could have come straight out of a fantastical science-fiction novel.
But, by some equally unusual twist of fate, we escaped. I managed to escape from the Autumn just after it landed, and managed to grab a Pelican to get off the ring just as the general emergency broadcast came on.
And now, I was sat in Crespo Base, doing admin. There was something strangely therapeutic about shuffling numbers and words around to please Lord Hood back on Cairo Station... but at the same time, it was mind-numbingly boring.
I checked the clock. 16:33. I'd done my ten hours' worth of work. Time to clock out.
Sleepily, I saved the work I'd been doing back to the server, stood up, and waited for my left leg to catch up with the right. I'd been up since six in the morning.
Nonchalantly, I checked my chatter. One message from Carrie. Will be a bit late home... sorry, love you x
I stowed it back in my pocket and headed for the exit. The atrium of the lobby area reverberated with low-level muttering, and I just managed to distill the words, "hey, sexy" in a voice that was probably too randy for its own good, directed to somebody else.
There was a name we gave to women like that at the base. Mommy.
I looked around. The woman was young, small, and smothered in fake tan and was quickly rushing away, as fast as was allowed by the Moon's reduced gravity, and giggling. The man she'd uttered the unsolicited chat-up line to stopped for a moment, a confused look on his face.
The Master Chief.
"Hey, Chief!" I called, and his head snapped around to face me, stoic and unreadable as ever. His hair was now a little more even, and I noticed a new scar on his neck. He was, again, dressed in undersized standard-issue combat pants and T-shirt, with boots that looked too small for the legs that sank into them.
"Nice to see you again," I said, checking my watch. Carrie had said she would be home late... so I wasn't exactly in a rush.
"How did you get off Halo?" he asked.
"SSH!" I hissed. The Chief's eyes widened, and he clapped his hand to his mouth.
"Follow me," I said, quietly, heading for one of the private rooms. I stuck my card into the authenticator.
"First language, nationality, name"
"International English, American, Floyd, Christopher R, twenty-five twenty-five oh nine oh seven, Lieutenant, Junior Grade."
"What is your mother's maiden name?"
"Andrea Boudica Couper," I muttered, irritably.
"Please state the length of the booking."
A loud beep emitted from the door, and the latch unlocked.
"Shit... that was a close one," I said, "officially, 'Halo' is a Covenant refitting station, like the Unyielding Heirophant."
The Chief sat down, and remained silent. He looked truly embarrassed by the monumental slip-up he'd just made.
"Don't worry, Chief," I said, warmly, "we've all cocked up like that in the past."
He sat up straight in the chair, and took a deep breath.
"Sorry... anyway, how did you get off Halo?"
"Did Cortana not tell you?"
"Put simply, when you'd commandeered the Ascendant Justice, she noticed us in a Pelican, hailed us, and sent us a Covenant bird that was Slipspace capable. Then we went to deep space and rendezvoused with another ship, the Silberg, who took us home."
"Who do you mean by 'us'?"
"Sergeant Stacker, Corporal Lovik, Private Dubbo and Lieutenant Anna Kurayado"
I was interrupted by a loud clattering from above, and I looked up into the ventilation ducts. Two small, green eyes peered out at me.
"Damn cat..." I muttered under my breath, standing on the seat and releasing it, and gently pulling the cat down from the ventilation ducts. She always enjoyed slinking off into the service tunnels from the cattery, for reasons that I would probably never fathom. Maybe there was an abundance of mice up there.
"Oh, and madam here was on the Pelican, too. Hiding. In a spacesuit, weren't you?"
The Chief stood, and came slightly closer as I sat Jonesy on my arm and gave her a rub behind the ears. She looked at the Chief, and examined him a little closer.
"I think she's forgiven you for frightening her off," I said, a grin creeping on to my face. She gave a quiet chirp.
Gently, the Chief brought a large, clumsy hand forward, and hesitantly started stroking the cat on the back of her head. She closed her eyes and lifted her nose in approval, and purred loudly.
I gingerly unloaded her into the Chief's arms, returned the lid to the ventilation shaft, and stood down from the table.
"Chief... I'd better be going."
"She'll be fine. She'll make her way back to the cattery when she's bored of you."
He looked up from the cat, slightly confused.
"I don't... think I'm a cat person."
"You are now," I grinned, digging my chatter out again and replying to Carrie's message, "you don't generally get much choice in the matter."
He looked down at Jonesy again, and she chirped again. She'd taken quite a bit more of a liking to him this time around.
"How long are you here for, Chief?"
"Just for the next day," he said, as the cat rubbed her nose against his fingernail.
"Where are you going after that?"
"Straight back to Cairo Station, I think," he said, quietly.
"Well, then... I'll see you around."
He looked up from Jonesy again.
I put the phone back in my pocket, and lifted the cat on to the coffee table. She stretched and started licking her arm as I took the Chief's hand in my own and shook it genially.
"It's been nice knowing you, Chief," I smiled, "and good luck."
He tightened his grip slightly, and reciprocated. His lips curled upwards and curved into what was unmistakably a smile: a wide, content, natural smile that somehow seemed... unusual for him.
I patted him on the upper arm, and left the room as he picked Jonesy up again and gently started rubbing her behind the ear.
Monday, 17 January, 2557
6:00 AM UTC (night-time on the Pacific Coast)
Municipal Library, New San Francisco
I looked up from the stuff I was packing away to see a middle-aged man, Asian in descent, walking towards me. The illusion of age was not helped by the fact that he seemed rather slow on his feet.
"Yes... sir? Can I help you?"
"I think you can," the man said. He seemed well-spoken and had an enunciated English accent.
I pulled up a chair and allowed him to sit down. He didn't look like the typical teenage fanboy who would come to book signings.
"So... how can I help you, Mr..."
"My name is Dr. Fhajad Chandra, I work at MIT."
The penny dropped.
"Ah..." I said, shaking his hand, "Dr. Chandra... it's nice to meet you. Finally."
"Have we met before?" he asked.
"No... however, you did design the orbital insertion pod that was Slipspace capable, didn't you?"
"I did assist in some of the design work..."
"Let me tell you now, it doesn't work."
Dr. Chandra chuckled, and sat up straighter in his chair.
"I've known that for some time. But anyway... I was slightly more interested in this."
Seemingly from nowhere, he pulled a hardback copy of The Eye of the Storm out and opened it to the credits page.
This book is dedicated to the memory of Master Chief SPARTAN-117.
I didn't know you for long, but I know you deserved better.
Jonesy sends her love. -CRF
"I'm intrigued by the dedication," Chandra said, "you knew the Master Chief."
"Well... yes, I did..." I said, searching my memory, "and, if I'm right, he said he used to work with you at one point."
"He did indeed," Chandra said, casting a furtive look around the library. The floor was empty, apart from a single Elite student who was examining the section on Earth cuisine, with what appeared to be a look of disgust.
"Anyway... the reason I knew the Chief was that I actually used to be a Spartan."
I raised my eyebrows.
"You used to be a Spartan?"
"It's a long story," Chandra said, standing up. "We must talk about this, one day... come for lunch. I live in London, that's around half an hour by sub-orbital ferry."
"OK, then. Next Friday? Not this Friday coming, but..."
"Sounds good to me... here's my address," he said, scribbling it down on a piece of paper and detaching it from his notepad, "let's say one in the afternoon."
"Great." I took the piece of paper, stuffed it in my pocket, and shook Dr. Chandra's hand again. "I'll see you next week."
"It's nice to see you, Mr. Floyd," he said, smiling, before turning around and heading for the elevator.