Countdown to Zero
Posted By: Aaron Burgess<email@example.com>
Date: 25 August 2008, 9:30 pm
COUNTDOWN TO ZERO
Inside a Covenant Remnant Space Station, April 27, 2553.
"But this doesn't make any sense. Why would the Covenant destroy their own signal?" Solipsil asked.
"I don't know. But this isn't their style. They like a straightforward method. A double bluff isn't like them." Atin, Zeta 1, replied.
"Well, at any rate, the decryption is done. Lets get out of here, Atin."
"Agreed." Atin got out his Com link.
"'Come in, Char. You read me?'
'I read you, Chief. What's up?' replied Zeta 3, Charlotte, the squad sniper and tech specialist.
"We're done here, but the Covie system's trashed. Were on our way back."
'Copy that. We're waiting." Solipsil stopped.
"Chief, I got something. Something that a normal scan wouldn't pick up."
"What is it?" Atin asked.
"Its a footprint. From a UNSC system! Thats impossible. We were the only ones here."
Atin looked confused. "Maybe not. Run a full scan. Find out where that footprint came from."
"Right. Scanning................what? Impossible! Impossible!"
"What? Whats going on?"
"I'm blocked out! That can't happen with a UNSC system! I have full access!"
"That doesn't matter. Break in. No matter what the cost."
"Right. Working.........I'm in. What? I don't recognize that routing code."
"The ones that hacked the system must have trashed it. But they didn't tell us. The signal is from ONI. From a group I've never heard of. Section Zero."
Atin entered the bridge of the UNSC Supercruiser Stonewall. Among the bridge crew was Charlotte. As she looked up at him, she said,
"Welcome back. Everything go normally?" Atin smiled.
"Nothing goes normally. But we found something strange. You're familiar with ONI?" Charlotte furrowed her brow. "Not as well as some people. They're Military Intelligence. That's all I know." "Well, you know that there is Section One. They handle enemy force deployments and technology. Then there is Section Two. They are military propaganda. After that is Section Three. They run the secret projects, like NavSpecWar. But I bet you haven't heard of a Section Zero."
Atin nodded. "I just found out. They trashed the Covie system."
"How? I thought that their system is unbreakable."
"So did we. But there are two things that don't make sense. First, they locked Solipsil out when she has access to all systems. Second, why would they do the job, and then send someone else to do it again?"
"I don't know, maybe to cover their tracks? But either way, this doesn't sound g-"
Just then, the NAV Officer yelled, "Slipspace rupture! Incoming enemy ships! Tracking one, no, five, no, twenty-two, wait, seventy-eight ships! Vectors everywhere!"
The UNSC Enforcer-Class Supercruiser was a powerful ship. A damn powerful ship. With over
80 turrets on the front hull alone, and a Super-MAC cannon under the main section, it was a warhorse. But not even this powerhouse could destroy 78 mixed Covenant ships.
On the bridge, Atin and Charlotte looked at the ships with disbelief.
"S-Sir? Orders, Sir?" The NAV Officer asked shakily.
Atin looked at the situation. It was possible, but there wasn't enough time. Just then, a voice came on the COM.
"This is Sangheili Ship Master Ntah 'Vhrom. We have been trailing the Jirhanalie for a number of days, ans it looks like you could use our assistance."
"Very appricatied, Ship Master. I have a plan. But we will need you to distract them."
"Right. I hope you know what you are doing. Weapons! Charge all plasma turrets! Full power to shields!"
"All right people, I want you to load one of our escape salons with all the nukes we got! Transfer power to kinetic shields and Shaw-Fujikawa engines."
Charlotte raised her eyes with surprise. "What!? You can't be serious! If we detonate a nuke, it will take down our Super MAC for 24 hours!"
"I know. But the nukes are the main part of my plan. You heard me. Get to it!"
"Ship Master, you're gonna want to charge your slipspace generator if you want to survive. And transfer power to shields and slipspace. Nothing else. Copy that?"
"Yes, I receive. What exactly are you planning?"
"To blow all of those Brute forces to hell."
Charlotte yelled, "All of the nukes are in salon 2-B. Ready to jettison salon."
Atin turned to the viewscreen. The Elite forces were really giving the Brutes hell. They can still maneuver while giving power to the shields.
"All right. Lets do it. Ship Master, get out of here. Thanks for your help."
"Right. Best of luck, human."
"Target the flagship of the fleet. Charge the Super MAC and remove safeties on Archer Missiles pods A1 through P20."
Charlotte raised her eyebrows. "Thats a whole lot of missiles."
" 120 pods, to be exact."
Each pod contained 20 missiles. With 120 pods, that would add up to 2,400 missiles.
The NAV Officer turned and said, "Safeties removed. Archer Missile pods A1 through F20 armed and ready to fire. Super MAC charged and ready to fire. Covenant Flagship is an Assault Carrier. Targeting weakest spot on its hull. Targeted. Ready to Fire."
Atin nodded. "Good. Link firing of Missiles and MAC. Ready. Fire." The lights flickered and went out. The entire ship shuddered and the MAC slug shot forward. At the same time, three hundred and twenty missiles launched and streaked toward the enemy flagship. The MAC shot impacted and blew through the shields and half the hull. The Archers went through the hole in the ship and a series of explosions followed. The explosions tore through the ship until the missiles impacted the reactor core and the ship was destroyed in a violent explosion.
"Now, lets finish this. Jettison the escape salon. Jump-heat the slipspace converters."
Charlotte checked the status. "Done and done, sir. Ready to fire. Oh, and if you were wanting to check on your salon from hell, I just launched a recon drone."
"Very good, Char. Activate Shaw-Fujikawa engine!"
As the Supercruiser entered Slipspace, the feed from the drone filled the screen.
"Status on the nukes?"
"Ready to fire, sir. Giving you detonation codes. All set."
"Right. Got it." Atin looked at the red button that could disintegrate dozens of enemy ships.
"Time to die, Brutes." Atin closed his eyes and pressed the button. A beep confirmed the
detonation. The feed from the drone showed an instant hellhole. A white flash filled the screen. When it disappeared, the display showed only 4 ships intact, with 3 of them missing part of their hull.
"Very good, crew. Now lets head home."
Charlotte looked at Atin. "Now what, we just go home?"
"No. We have a job to do. To reveal Section Zero and find out what they intend to do. This is just the beginning."
Planet Draala, Hersher System
"Zeta 4, what's your status?"
"Arming bomb now. Running into some hostile trouble. Nothing I can't handle."
"Copy that. I'm falling back to RV point Gamma. There's multiple waves of hostiles. You got 5 minutes before I have to fall back again."
"I got it. Good luck."
Copy that. Zeta 2, Over and out."
The arming timer on the HAVOK Nuclear Warhead was counting down agonizingly slow. Zeta 4, Kami, let out a grunt of disgust as she picked up her M90A Shotgun and blasted a Brute back onto it's partner's back. The Brute snarled and charged. Kami just had enough time to pump the shotty and blast the Brute's head off. "Gotcha." she said as she tossed a grenade and killed the other Brute. She checked the bomb , and smiled as she saw that it was now armed. "Zeta 4 here, bomb's armed."
Zeta 2, Nikki, hung from a steel cord, wielding a MA5C Assault Rifle. She dropped a grenade and let loose a burst of lead from her AR. One fell, but it seemed like every one she killed, 2 more took it's place. "Zeta 2 here. I'm falling back to RV Delta. Copy that, Zeta 4?"
"No need, Zeta 2. I'm done here. Lets get out of this dar'yaim."
Agreed, Zeta 4." Nikki let her cord release and sprinted to the team's Longsword. As Kami came aboard, Nikki activated the power plant on the fighter. Kami strapped in, and the Longsword rose into the air and rocketed into the sky. Nikki took off her helmet. "Thats endex. Good job. Lets go home."
The UNSC HighCom building in Washington D.C. was filled with people who weren't intimidated easily. But the way Atin and Charlotte were walking through the building with faces of angry determination made everyone move out of his way. When they finally reached the elevator that would take them to Atin's office, Charlotte said "All right, so whats the plan?"
"Well, first, we need to get the squad rounded up. Then we can brief them on Section Zero." The elevator dinged, and the door opened to reveal the Office of the Chief of Special Operations. For an office, it was enormous. On the floor there was the Emblem of the UNSC. Behind the desk, there was a huge window, displaying the City of Washington D.C. Atin walked to the desk and put Solipsil's data chip into the holopanel. Her figure appeared on the desk.
"Solipsil, run a full system search on anything relating to Section Zero."
Solipsil was an experiment put on by ONI Section Three to see what would happen if an AI was allowed to go rampant and not be destroyed. Solipsil was put in a controlled environment and allowed to do anything she wanted to do. Eventually, she went rampant. After more studying, she went stable. She was the first stable, rampant AI ever. With that, her loyalty to the UNSC was not hardwired any more. She was assigned to Atin's squad partly because she hacked the UNSC Mainframe, and eventually she grew to be one of the squad. She trusted Atin with her life, and would allow no one except for Atin to carry her in MJOLNIR armor.
"There's not much. No good leads. But I didn't think that it would be this easy. Just a scan wouldn't uncover much. Hey, Kami and Nikki are back." The elevator dinged, and two SPARTANs walked in. "Hey. Welcome back." Atin said.
"Good to be back." Kami replied. "That last op wasn't that easy."
Solipsil appeared on the holopanel. "So, the whole Zeta Squad is back together again. Good. Because we have something important to talk about."
"And what's that?" Nikki inquired.
"Well, I suppose I should start with the mission that Atin and I were on. We were assigned with intercepting a Covenant signal from the source: a small Covenant space station. The mission went on smoothly until we got to the comm center. I got into the system to discover that the entire system was totally destroyed."
"Totally destroyed? Like, the data was wiped or something?" Nikki asked.
"Exactly. Nothing was there. Except for a very well hidden footprint. A UNSC footprint. Upon closer scanning, I found out that it's origin was ONI. From a group called Section Zero. Thats all I found. We decided to leave and return to the ship. After that, we were attacked from 78 Covenant capital ships. Luckily, we were assisted from a Sangheili heavy warship. We were able to destroy most of the enemy ships."
"So why would ONI do a mission, and then do it again?"
"We are thinking that they wanted to cover their tracks. But for what, we're not sure. Thats what we are trying to figure out. However, we really have no leads."
"So what do we do? Search for leads?"
Atin considered for a second, then said, "Tread carefully on this one, squad. You all know how ONI can be. If they want you out of the picture, they take you out. As for their mission, we still don't know what they want, but even though they are still UNSC, don't trust them."
The squad looked at each other, and as one, said "Got it."
It was a beautiful day in the city of Trivert, on the planet Alpha Centauri 4. The sky was blue, the birds were singing, and Thomas Riverto wished that he didn't have to go to his job so he could stare at this perfect vista for the rest of the day. But, he had to earn his pay, which meant that he had to go to his job at the HoloVid Theater. The traffic was always horrible, he had to leave a whole hour early, even though the Theater was not that far from his house. When he finally got there, he was only 5 minutes late. But that didn't stop his boss from chewing out his ass for what seemed like the 50th time. After he got done with that, the day went so slow he could have sworn the clock was broken. But after he came back from his lunch break, he got a great idea. He would take everything that was of value at his office, and never come back. He was almost done cleaning out the cubicle when he found the old MA2B rifle that he got from his brother in the UNSC because there was heavy gang activity at night. His gut feeling told him to take it. He found 5 clips of ammo, plus the clip in the rifle already. He got in his car, and wished that he never had to go back to work again.
"Just my luck. Stuck in rush hour again. Damn." The expressway was packed with cars going 5
MPH. Thomas was considering just laying on his horn when he heard an enormous BOOM!! He looked up and saw what looked like a huge slab of metal appearing from space. Once again, he had a gut feeling. It told him to take the MA2B. He grabbed the gun, and left his car. He saw....something coming. It looked like a ship. Then, it started firing things out of it's hull. One of them was coming his way. Then, suddenly, he recognized it. A UNSC Archer Missile. He jumped off the expressway seconds before it exploded in a ball of fire. His first reaction was to get to his family. He had no idea why the UNSC would attack one of its own colonies, but right now he didn't care. The only thing that mattered was escape.
UNSC Office of the Military Director
"All right. Heres the plan. Me and Char will go down and infiltrate the city and slot any hostiles there are, while Kami and Nikki stay in the ship and destroy the hostile warship. Clear?"
The squad, all in unison, yelled "Clear!"
"Good. Lets go."
On board the UNSC Stonewall, Atin and Char, in their MJOLNIR armor, were boarding the ODST drop pod that would ship them to the city the fastest, but not necessarily safest, way.
"You ready, Char?"
"Affirmative, sir. I'm set."
Atin smiled. During normal times, Charlotte was the happiest member of Zeta Squad. Always the one with the jokes. But during an op, she turned pure military discipline. He remembered when he first met her. Atin was leading an evac of a school in some backwater planet far away. She was scared, just like all of them. However, he saw he hardness in her eyes. So he went over to her and asked if she wanted a chance to get even. She eagerly replied yes. So, they went to the back of the lead evac Elephant and he gave her his personal BR55 HB-SR for target practice. To his surprise, her eyes were almost the same vision as his, so the highly modified Battle Rifle needed no adjustments. She was such a good shot, he let her keep the rifle. Ever since, she had clung to that rifle and became an artist with it. She was better with that than a certified sniper with a sniper rifle. She could take a hostile down at twice the Battle Rifle's maximum range. She was excellent. She was-
"Sir, you there?" Char asked.
"Yeah. I'm here. How are you? Nervous?"
"Nervous? You kidding? Remember the free fall drop? Where you only have your armor for protection, and the only thrust you have is the explosive decompression and a small maneuvering thruster. This is going to be a piece of cake."
"Ha! I guess you're right. Ok, lets do this. All set?"
"All set. I'm ready."
"Copy that." "Drop command, this is Zeta 1. Drop in 5 seconds."
The pod separated from the ship with a loud BANG! and Atin and Charlotte's pods were blasted down to the surface and hit the pavement. All of a sudden, Atin's training kicked in and he grabbed his new BR55 HB-SR rifle and ran to the nearest building, knowing that Char would be close behind. Only when he reached the bombed out building did he see the ship. That was a Chameleon-class Prowler. One of the biggest stealth ships in the UNSC. And that was the confirmed hostile ship. Suddenly, two things clicked. Either the prowler was captured by the Covenant, or ONI was responsible for the attack. Damn, what he wouldn't give for Will and his tank to be here.
"Sir, advise that we get farther inside so we will have a good line of sight and the element of surprise."
"Agreed. Lead the way." Atin opened a two-way channel between him and Char. That way, he could talk to her without turning on his radio every time. However, he could hear everything, including her every breath. But, in a way, that in itself was comforting. It was an easy way to make sure that she was still alive, at least. When they found a safe floor, they were just sitting down when they were attacked.
"Transfer power to weapons and kinetic shields!" Nikki yelled to the Bridge crew aboard the Stonewall.
"Power to weapons and kinetic shields, aye. Charging up Super MAC."
"Good. Also, arm Archer pods A1 through D15." Nikki was sure that the other ship was a Chameleon-class Prowler, but it was still the designated enemy target.
The Prowler suddenly opened fire with 15 missiles. However, the Stonewall's shields held.
"Well, that answers that question." The prowler was hostile. Now is the time to attack.
"Ready Archer pods, then fire MAC on my mark."
Thomas Riverto held his MA2B with a white-knuckled grip. The enemy troops were here. Although there were only two of them, there was only one of him. And, they had armor. But this gun was a UNSC rifle. The ammo was certified. It should pierce that armor. This is the time. Ready, now!
Thomas leapt from his hiding spot, and suddenly, the troops that were sitting, were now standing with their rifles trained on his head. He opened fire with his MA2B, and got the shock of his life when the rounds looked like they just splashed over their armor. With that, he know he was about to die.
"Hold fire! It's a civvie! Take him alive!" Atin barked. As his shields flashed, he tackled the civilian and knocked his gun down. He put the civvie in a arm lock and opened audio channel. "Who are you? What is your name? Why did you try to attack us?" the civvie just looked at him with wide eyes and said, "Why should I tell you? Why didn't you kill me like you killed everyone else?"
"Oh. I get it. You think I'm with them. No, we're with the good guys. The other ship. Now who are you?"
The civilian looked out the blown window and saw the Stonewall."You- oh, thats a relief. I thought I was dead. My name is Thomas Riverto. Who are those people that are killing everybody?"
"I don't know. Thats what we are trying to figure out. Come with us. We need to leave the city. It is completely lost. Our only option is to bomb the city. Come on. Lets go."
"Umm..ok. I'm coming."
Atin, Char, and Thomas walked to the edge of the city and into the jungle.
Charlotte stopped and said, "Go on. Ill make a hole here and provide sniper cover."
"All right. Good luck, Char. Be careful."
"I always am."
When Atin and Thomas were about a half-mile from where they were, Atin suddenly had a bad feeling.
Almost instantly, Charlotte's voice bursted on the com. "Ambush! I'm hit! Ahhh!!................."
"Char!? Char!? Can you hear me? Come in Char! Come in! Char!!"
"That's it. I'm going back. Thomas, you stay."
Atin sprinted back to Char's position when he saw his motion tracker flicker. Just then, he saw 4 human figures materialize out of thin air, rifles pointed directly at him. He immediately opened fire and in what seemed like no time, all 4 of them were dead. He finally reached Char's still armor. "Char, talk to me. Come on. Char. Give me a sign here. Come on, Char. Please." He opened a diagnostic and sighed with relief. The new armor system damn near saved her life. "Command. Armor System Liquid Metal Crystal Unlock." Charlotte's armor relaxed. He brought up TEAMBIO. She was breathing, had a strong pulse, but was just unconscious. He called Thomas over and radioed a Pelican for pickup.
"Lock on to enemy! Ready Archer Missiles on my command!" Nikki ordered.
The NAV officer shouted "Impacts on port decks LP5 to LP7! Shields holding. Archer missiles locked and ready to fire on your command. Super MAC is charged up and ready."
"Good. Link the firing systems so the missiles get there 4 seconds before the MAC."
The NAV officer typed quickly. "Done. All set."
Nikki reached for the red button. "Let's end this." She pushed the button. Instantly, she heard rapid missiles streaming for the prowler. When they impacted, they created a wall of smoke around the enemy ship. A second later, the power flickered and went out, and there was a huge BOOM!!!!!! Followed by what looked like a bolt of red-hot lightning that crashed into the prowler. The MAC round went straight through, pierced the reactor core, and exited through the other side. The hostile prowler listed, and fell to the city. The reactor went critical, and the ship exploded. When the smoke cleared, all that remained of the city was a crater.
"What's Atin's and Char's status?"
Another bridge member said "In a Pelican, en route to the Stonewall."
"Good." Nikki and Kami went to the hangar where Atin's Pelican was, and they found Atin carrying Char, who wasn't moving. "What-what happened?" Kami asked.
"An ambush. Whoever did it had active camouflage. Come on. Ill explain everything in the MedBay." When they got to the Medical ward, Atin hooked Char to the medical diagnostic machine. She had a strong pulse, good heartbeat, no internal bleeding, but she also had a broken arm, a fractured leg, and a cracked wrist, along with multiple contusions that were from her getting knocked against her stiff armor.
"All right, shes fine, but not in any shape to fight anytime soon. But first of all, I should explain what happened with her armor, because I'm sure you are both curious." Both Nikki and Kami nodded. "All right. The MJOLNIR armor, as you know is fitted with a Metal Liquid-Solid Crystal that gives us increased reflexes and decreased reaction time. However, in the event of an emergency, the armor can, more or less, command the ML-SC to change to a solid crystal and harden, thereby protecting the Spartan from further injury of bullet, or plasma, or explosive. But the Spartan's body gets thrown around a lot inside the immobile armor. That is what saved her life."
"Wow. Thats insane. So what ambushed her?"
"Thats just it. The explosive that made the armor stiffen up was an M9 Frag Grenade. Also, they shot very unusual 8mm rounds at her. It wasn't friendly fire. My guess? Section Zero."
Kami looked at Atin, confused. "But why?" Kami asked. "Why just attack a city? And with a ship thats not even certified for war. It was a stealth ship. Not a warship. This doesn't make sense."
"None of this makes sense. Any of it. But we got a civvie that said that the invaders rounded almost all of the citizens in a very large building, then just bombed the building. Killed them all. Why? Maybe just to distract us. But I gotta say, for ONI, they're pretty sloppy. But, at any rate, the mission is complete. We should head back and get Char to a hospital."
Inside a UNSC Hospital
Atin, Kami, and Nikki all sat around Charlotte's hospital bed. She would be fine, but she was still unconscious. And worse, with the injuries she sustained, she would be out of action for a while.
"We need a new strategy." Nikki said. "This isn't working. If we keep this up, Section Zero will accomplish what they want to do before we know what hit us."
Atin held his hands up to his mouth. "I agree. We have to get to work. But I don't think we should leave Char here. We should take turns staying here."
Kami nodded. "Ok. Atin, you want to take the first shift?"
"Sure. Ill stay for 6 hours, then Nikki, then you, Kami."
Nikki and Kami stood. "Good luck. See you in 6 hours."
"Bye." Left with nothing to do, and with the sedatives still in Charlotte's system, Atin nodded off.
"Cover that side! Send reinforcements to the west bunker!"
"Hostiles reported in the city center! Hundreds of Brutes! They're murdering the civilian population!"
"Fires reported in all corridors! We can't hold the Command Post!"
"Fall back! Everybody fall back!"
"What the hell? Somethings going on with that artifact near Voi!"
"What? What's going on with it?"
"I don't know! The Forerunner ship shot a beam of light, and now there's a big portal or something! The ships are going through it."
"That isn't important. Concentrate on the mission. That's all that matters-uhhh...ugg...ahh.
"LT? Shit! Brutes in the CP! Code Red! Code Re-Ahh!
"Fall back! Everybody fall back! LT? Lieutenant Atin! Come on!!"
"I'm gonna settle this score. Kill these Brutes. Will, hold them off for a couple more seconds. We can't let the Covenant take this CP, Jon. You know that. Ok, charges are set. Let's get out of here!"
Atin woke up with a jolt. "Damn. Not this again." Will. He missed Will. Every time after a mission, he'd want to go into space just to stare at the stars. He loved space almost as much as Atin. He looked up at Char, and she stirred. Her eyes opened, and she looked around. "Welcome back." He said. "We were worried about you."
"What happened? The mission. It felt like I was hit with a frag grenade."
"You were. It was human forces. An ambush."
"But how? I didn't see them."
"They used Active Camouflage Technology."
"So it wasn't the Insurrection."
"No. We are thinking it was Section Zero."
"Huh. Wouldn't surprise me."
A nurse entered, and, surprised to see Char awake, said, "You should be getting plenty of bed rest. You should be asleep right now."
Atin nodded. "Yes,you should. The morphine you are on will wear off soon. I need to contact the rest of the squad."
Charlotte didn't look content. "You should find another soldier to take my place until I get better. If this is Section Zero, you will need a full squad."
"Yeah. You'll need all the help you can get. Ill be back in action in a few weeks."
"All right. See you soon. Bye."
Atin was at the end of his line. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, on Section Zero. The tech room was going as fast as it can, and even Solipsil couldn't find anything.
"Bingo! Gotcha!" Solipsil said with excitement!"
Atin looked up. "What did you find out?"
"Proof that this is Section Zero that attacked Trivert. I found the same routing code from the Covie station as the Prowler that attacked Trivert."
"So we now know that it is Section Zero."
"Exactly. So what now?"
"Well, we need a replacement squad member for a while. We'll start with that. And I know just the person."
"Good. You do that, and we'll try to get some troops together to help us with Section Zero."
Atin nodded and left.
In Orbit above Planet Tempest, Arcturus System
"I don't like the look of this place." Solipsil said.
"Neither do I. But this is the place that the new squad member is." Atin replied.
When Atin's ship touched down, there was immediately a guard on station.
"Identification now, sir."
"I am Commander Spartan 38. Here to get Lt. Commander Jon Williams.
"Um, yes sir. This way, please."
"No way. It can't be you, Atin?" Jon said as he saw Atin.
"Is that the way you talk to your superior officers, Jon?"
Jon saw the Commander insignia on Atin's uniform. "My apologies, sir for not identifying your rank!"
"It's all right. I have a proposition for you. Now, I'm not going to lie to you. I need a replacement squad member because one of my squad got ambushed by some people who have super effective technology ambushed her, and now she's in the hospital."
Jon put his face in his hands and laughed out loud. "You know how stupid that sounds?"
"Yes I do. But you're the only one who can do it. What do you say?'
"You think I'd turn down an offer to do SpecOps with you? Of course Ill do it. But it's not up to me. You're gonna have to talk to my CO."
"Don't worry about it. I get my orders directly from the Brass. This is NavSpecWar. We can get pretty much anything we want." Atin walked to the CO's office and opened the door.
"Hello, Commander. I am Major Caldwell. What can I do for you?"
" I hate to say this, Major, but I'd like one of your soldiers. Lt. Commander Williams."
"Ah, he's one of my best soldiers. But what's the story with him? He's a soldier, a damn good one, but he's in the Navy. What's the story?"
"Well, it's a long story. To be brief, he's in NavSpecWar. Naval Special Warfare. They use the Naval Command Structure, but they're trained for SpecOps warfare. They're the best."
"I see. Well, fill out the transfer papers and he's all yours."
"Thank you, Major. Goodbye."
Atin walked back to Jon's area and said, "Good news. You're now Zeta 5. Gongrats."
"Sweet. So I'm NavSpecWar again. In the best squad in the whole UNSC, getting the best tech, weapons, and training. So who's the enemy?"
Atin laughed out loud. "Whats so funny?" Jon asked.
"The enemy? ONI."
"Thats right. ONI Section Zero. They were behind the attack on Trivert. And that was just a diversion. Who knows what their real objective is. So, you still in?"
"Of course. "
"Good. Pack your things. We leave immediately."
"Copy that. Give me 10 minutes."
"Right. Good to have you back."
"This is strange. I don't like it." Solipsil looked worried. And when a super-powerful, rampant AI looked worried, it wasn't good.
"What did you find?" Kami asked.
"Coordinates. Star maps, and the travel time for Sigma Octanus IV. Also, refrences to the Deep-Space Artifact that the Apocalypso found. Both had something to do with the Forerunner. This isn't good. Section Zero's going to play with fire and get us all burned if they play with the Forerunner artifacts."
"How many security checkpoints do we have to pass?" Jon asked.
"Just one more. Then, an elevator ride."
When Atin and Jon finally got to the Control Room, they were both getting annoyed. Jon had to register himself at all 10 security checkpoints. But they were finally there.
"Ok, here we are." Atin opened a tall vault.
"Wow." Jon said when he saw what was in the vault.
"This is MJOLNIR Mark VI armor. It has been calibrated to allow normal, unaugmented humans to operate it without the armor overpowering them."
"You serious? Normal humans can wear Spartan armor now?"
"Well, yes. But this calibration is extremely expensive. We only have a few of them available."
"Still, thats insane."
"Yeah, it is. Lets get you fitted."
"All right, team." Solipsil said. "With the data I gathered from Charlotte's suit, and the analysis from Jon's skills, I devised a new training program. We are going to train longer, harder, and better. It's gonna be the worst training yet, but we are going to be ready. For anything."
"Is she always like this?" Jon asked Atin quietly.
"Not usually. She just likes being in control."
Solipsil's training pushed the squad to it's limit. With it, they got to know Jon and be able to work with him better. But he still didn't replace Char.
"So, what was Charlotte? In the team?" Jon asked.
"She was the team sniper and medic." Atin replied.
"Oh, a sniper. What rifle did she use? The SRS99D? Or the C Variant? Cause I still know people who use the C Variant. They say the higher rate of fire makes up for the decreased accuracy, but I like the D Variant, even though it has increased recoil. What do you think?"
Atin looked impressed. "Well, I do like the D Variant. But Char didn't use either. She used a custom BR55 HB-SR."
"What? A sniper that didn't use a sniper rifle? Hmm.....interesting. She must be good with it."
"She was great. The best shot I know with the BR55."
"What is the BR55 HB-SR? What does that stand for?
"It stands for Heavy Barrel-Special Release. The heavy barrel reduces recoil and increases accuracy. But the Special Release? That means that every part of the rifle has been improved and modified. Only a couple have been made."
"Wow. So how did Charlotte get one?"
"Well, it was mine, but I gave it to her after I found out how good a shot she was. She and I have almost the same eyes, so the optics didn't need any adjustments. She loves that weapon."
"You ever wonder why she loves it?" Nikki asked as she walked in.
"I don't know. Shoot." Atin replied.
"Well, here she is, a girl going to a school in a backwater planet, with nothing exiting going on, and suddenly, it's attacked, and a War Hero comes along and gives her a custom rifle and enlists her in the best squad in the whole UNSC. She idolizes you."
"Hmm..thats an interesting viewpoint."
Jon cut in. "Wait, so what rifle do you have now that you gave yours to Char?"
"Oh, I got another one. I have connections. But it wasn't easy. And it wasn't cheap."
"I guess not. But thats the price you have to pay for a powerful weapon."
Suddenly, an alarm klaxon blared. Solipsil appeared on the holopanel.
"You're not going to like this. A new Section Zero attack."
"Where?" Atin asked.
"Earth. The Skyview Facility."
"Damn. Damn! No!"
"Yeah. Sorry. But the good news? Most of the Civilians have been moved to the facility below. They're safe for now."
Jon looked confused. "Isn't Skyview just a school?"
"Well, it is, but under that, there's a UNSC Command Facility. They must have known that. But to me, Kami, and Nikki, it's personal. All three of us went there at school. Squad!"
At once, the squad shouted, "Sir!"
"Suit up! We're going down there to stop the Section Zero attack on Skyview!"
"Sir! Yes Sir!"
On board the UNSC Stonewall, en route to Skyview Facility.
"Ok, here's the plan." Atin said. "We don't know if Section Zero managed to take control of the AAA, so we have to go in the fastest way possible."
"Oh no, you're not saying what I think you're saying." Nikki said.
"Sorry, but it's the only way."
Jon looked confused. "What's the only way?"
Atin smiled. "Orbital drop."
"With drop pods?"
"Afraid not. We need to maneuver if they have AAA set up."
"We're going to drop. Out of orbit. With only MJOLNIR armor?"
"Yep. That's about right."
"Damn. Thats just crazy."
"You're right. Let's go."
Kami said, "Will we finally get a chance to use our modifications?"
"Maybe. Depends on the situation."
Jon looked confused for a split-second. "What kind of mods did you guys put on your armor?"
Atin replied, "Well, a couple things, actually. First-"
The intercom turned on. "Approaching Earth. All personnel lock down systems. Go to General Quarters."
Nikki, Kami, and Jon stood up. "All right, lets do it."
Atin stood and opened a reinforced case. "One more thing. ONI wanted us to try out a new weapon. A human version of the Covenant beam rifle." Atin opened the case and took out a rifle with a white stock and black barrel. "It has a removable barrel extension for close range fights. It has double the penetration of a Battle Rifle, and a modified scope. The only problem? It's not quiet at all. Pretty loud. And it's bright. Not much of a sniper weapon. But it's our job to test this out and reply back to Section Three about it. There's one for each of us."
Jon looked at it and appeared impressed. "Wow. So we actually managed to replicate Covenant technology."
"Thats right. Maybe we can even make starship shields as powerful as the Covenant's someday."
A voice on the intercom said, "ETA to Earth in 5 minutes. Zeta Squad, to Hangar Bay 5, please."
"Well, I guess that's our cue. Let's get to it."
"So, where's the drop bay?" Jon asked.
"This is it. When we get to orbit, the hangar door will open and we will get sucked out by the explosive decompression. We will have only a maneuvering thruster and a de-burn thruster for when we get in the atmosphere. We will also have a weapon holder for the new Beam Rifle. That is attached to the thruster carapace."
"All right. I guess you're serious about this. Lets get going then."
Atin opened 4 full length lockers and took out 4 black, bulky objects. He also took out a smaller plate with latches that hold weapons in place during the orbital burn. He attached the bulky part to the back of his armor and it latched on like a magnet. The same happened with the smaller plate. He attached it to the front of his armor and it stuck. Then, two shoulder straps and two side straps came out of the back plate and attached themselves to the front. "There. Thrusters on the rear plate, weapon holder on the front." He attached the Beam Rifle to the front plate and pushed it down. A click confirmed that it was locked. "Once you are inside the atmosphere, a green light will appear on your HUD. That is the signal to activate the de-burn thrusters. When you are 100 feet from the ground, there will be a red light. That is the signal to grab your weapon, and dump the pack. Clear?"
As one, the squad yelled "Sir! Yes Sir!"
"Good. Suit up. We drop in 3 minutes."
The intercom activated. "We have arrived at Earth. Zeta Squad Drop 2 minutes and counting."
Atin's voice came on the Squad's armor. "All right, squad. Just relax and everything will be ok."
"Zeta Squad Drop 1 minute and counting."
"This is it. It's time to take back the Skyview facility."
"30 seconds and counting."
A timer appeared on Atin's HUD. The digital numbers seemed like they were counting too slow.
"20 seconds and counting."
Atin looked at the TEAMBIO. All three squad member's heart rates were above normal, but not dangerously high. That was a good sign.
"10 seconds and counting."
Atin found that his heart rate was going up. No matter how many times he did this, dropping from a starship to the planet below always seemed like a damn stupid idea.
The digital numbers on Atin's HUD reached the single digits.
Then, the hangar bay opened almost instantly. The squad were sucked out of the hangar and tumbled out in space. "Squad! Fire maneuvering thrusters to align yourselves with the course!" Atin activated the thrusters and found himself tumbling again. He worked the thrusters again and straightened out. With a slight turn of his head, he saw that the other squad members were headed to the planet on a good course. A green light shined on in his HUD, and Atin switched on the de-burn thrusters. There was a bone-jarring jolt as the thrusters activated. He switched on a channel to the squad. "How's it going, squad?"
Nikki was the first to report in. "Going good, sir. How are you?"
Atin smiled at the fact that Nikki was able to talk like it was a normal day when they were barreling through the atmosphere.
Kami reported next. "Green, sir."
Jon reported last. "Little bumpy, but good. Nice view."
"Good. We're getting close to the 100 ft. mark. Once you impact, sprint to the building. Don't forget to take your beam rifle. Good luck."
A red light flashed on Atin's HUD. He detached the rifle from his armor, and, before he could detach his thruster pack, a bullet flew dangerously close to his thruster pack. He activated the scope and found a single human figure on the roof. He took aim, and pulled the trigger. The rifle shot a thin, pink beam with a loud woosh. Through the scope, he saw the beam go straight through the figure's chest, and the figure fell. Atin smiled with the knowing that the new beam rifle was a success. He unlatched his thruster pack and threw it off. Then, he and the rest of the squad landed on the pavement. To a viewer from the school, it must have looked like 4 meteors landed in the parking lot. Once he landed, Atin sprinted to the school. To the squad, he yelled, "I'm going onto the second floor! Squad, you go to the first and meet me in the main office!"
4 soldiers taking an entire hostile building, fortified with an unknown number of hostile troops, seemed unbelievable. But they were Spartans. The unbelievable was normal for them.
Truth be told, Kami was worried about her friends. She knew that Atin and Nikki were too, but being the newest member of Zeta Squad, she hadn't learned to be as....detached, as they were. But, if she let this get in her way, this mission would not last long, and she couldn't be an asset to her team if she wasn't focused. She just had to keep an eye out for the active camo that they used on Char. Hopefully, she wouldn't need to use the modification that she installed in her armor. Kami watched Atin jump up the stairs and go up to the second floor, while she sprinted with the other 2 squad members to the entrance. She watched Nikki break down the glass, and guessed that surprise had been thrown out the window. Now that she thought about it, there was really nothing normal about 3 people in full body armor in a school. She smiled to herself, but just as she was beginning to feel good about the mission, she was shot at from nowhere and her shields flickered to ¾th.
Atin jumped up to the stairs that would take him to the second floor. He ran up to the second story balcony, and did a somersault through the glass and came up running. He stopped behind a brick pillar and looked for any hostiles. There was no way that nobody heard that. He looked around for the slight shimmer of light that meant active camo. Then, he remembered a trick that he learned when facing Brute Stalkers. "Team, switch to thermal imaging. Their AC generates heat. Look for that."
He only hoped that the team heard him. He turned on his thermal filter on his HUD, and found two extreme heat signatures where, in normal vision, there was nothing. He took aim with his beam rifle, and fired. The beam shot forward with a loud thewwwww and the heat signature fell with a loud scream. "Damn. There goes the element of surprise. Oh well, I didn't think it would last." He took aim at the other, and this time, he aimed at the head. He pulled the trigger, and the soldier was killed instantly. With that, he shot forward and leapt past the railing and landed on the first floor.
Jon always liked a straight-up fight where you could actually see your enemies. Not this. He hated this. The squad was forced to take cover, and whatever weapons they used were perfect with active camo. They had almost no flash, and the soldiers were moving position constantly. Also, it seemed that they were jamming communications, because the only way that he could talk to the others was through short-range directed single beam transmissions. Atin was out of range. This was going to be a massacre if it continued. Just then, a pink beam went through the air, and a scream penetrated the air. A figure materialized out if thin air and fell to the ground, dead. Atin ran to cover beside Jon. "Didn't you hear me? The active camo generates heat. Use your thermals." Atin said.
"No. Our communications have been jammed. Only short ranged comlink works."
"Oh, well, that complicates things a bit. But I have an idea. Squad! Harden Electronics! Prepare for shield drain!"
Nikki spoke up. "What are you planning?"
Atin took out a steel cylinder with blue details.
Nikki sounded impressed. "Gotcha. Go ahead."
Atin threw the EMP Grenade towards the outlines of the Section Zero soldiers. When it detonated, a blue flash filled the entire school. Atin rebooted his MJOLNIR software and when he could see again, the Zero soldiers were disorientated. Atin took this chance to strike. He yelled to Jon, "Cover me! I'm gonna take one alive!" Jon turned and replied, "You got it!" Atin lunged at one of the Zero soldiers and knocked his rifle down, put him in an arm lock, and put his other arm close to the Zero's throat. Out of Atin's gauntlet, a blade sprang out. The soldier's eyes widened.
Jon asked, "Is that the modification you were talking about?"
"One of 'em." Atin turned the soldier to face the other one. To his surprise, the free soldier fired on his ally! Atin was forced to turn to shield the captive soldier and take the bullet. His shields flared, and Atin yelled to Nikki, "Sis! Take him alive!" Atin threw the soldier to Nikki, and she shoved him in a corner and pushed a button on her gauntlet. A blue bolt was fired from her gauntlet and it expanded and covered the captive. Jon asked Nikki, "What was that you just did?"
Nikki replied, "ElectroMagnetic Net gun. My modification."
Atin lunged for the gun that he knocked out of the captive's hands. He shouldered it and shot the other Zero soldier. "All right, squad. It looks like that's all there is for now. Let's go down to the facility below and start an interrogation."
In elevator to Skyview Facility, Earth
"The surveillance tells us that the civilians were evacuated when Section Zero attacked. Unfortunately, some were shot, but only one has been confirmed dead." The elevator slowed to a stop and the doors opened. In the control room of the facility, some UNSC Junior Officers were hard at work on the various computers. The squad carried the prisoner into an empty room. Atin took off his helmet. "All right. Kami, Nikki, go find your friends. It's about time you two see them." Nikki and Kami thanked Atin and left. Atin stopped, and said, "Kami, wait."
Kami stopped and turned. "Yes, Sir?"
"Tell Eric and Maryellen I said hi."
"Yes Sir!" Kami left.
"Ok, Jon. Let's start on this. Get the info out of him, no matter the cost."
Jon nodded. "Got it." Atin and Jon entered the room with the prisoner.
"So, let's get something understood. If you tell us what we want to know, this will end very well. If you don't, it will end very badly. Do you understand?" Atin put on his polite, dangerous voice.
The prisoner just smiled. "You're not going to get anything out of me."
"We'll just see about that."
Two hours. And still, the prisoner hadn't talked. Atin was getting seriously pissed. "Ok, once again, what is your goal?" The prisoner spat in his face. Jon recoiled visibly. Atin just looked annoyed. He picked up the Section Zero rifle. It was a little bit longer than the BR55, not as tall, also. "This is a very good weapon, you know that?" The prisoner just scowled. "Good weight, good balance," Atin looked through the scope. "Very good scope. Semi-Automatic 8mm rounds, am I right? Very nice." Atin aimed the gun at the prisoner's foot and shot. "Little recoil. Very nice." Atin remarked. "All right! I'll talk!" The prisoner cried. "I'll say that you are never going to stop us!" He started laughing uncontrollably. Atin leveled the rifle at his head. He fired. "We need someone to clean up this mess." The intercom activated, and a voice said, "Spartan 38, you have a video call. Atin looked at Jon, confused, and left for the Control Room. When he got to the main monitor, an image of a man, about in his early 30s, with a cold face and dark eyes. Atin took an instant dislike to him.
The man on the monitor said in a formal accent, "Hello. For us to continue this conversation, tell everyone to leave. I will talk to only you." Atin silently cursed. "Everyone, leave us. I'll get you when this is over."
After everyone but Atin left, the mystery man said, "Very well. My name is Axton Masanus. I am the leader of the group known as Section Zero."
"What!? You're in charge of Section Zero? Give me one reason why I shouldn't disconnect this link right now."
"Because I have information that you might want. You see, you have become a pest in the eyes of Section Zero. You have interfered with our plans too many times. So I have a proposition for you. Join us, Atin. You could become a real asset to Section Zero."
"Join Section Zero? Screw you. Why don't you tell me why you attacked Trivert and here, and why you trashed the Covenant space station system."
"Ah. Well, we needed some information from the Covenant system. Regarding here, it is to show you what happens when you cross Section Zero. As for Trivert, some people just need to learn their place in the Galaxy."
"You sick bastard. I'd never join you!"
"I figured you would say that. So I will give you another chance to reconsider. But before you give me your answer, you should know that I control a Tactical Nuclear Weapon from my starship orbiting Earth. If you do not give me the answer that I am looking for, I will destroy you and everyone else in that facility of yours."
Atin considered for a couple of seconds, then smiled. "Bite me."
Masanus grinned ever so slightly. "Very well then. Die." The channel closed. Atin called in all the engineers. "We got a bit of a problem here. I met the Section Zero boss. And, somehow, I might have said something that could have possibly offended him somewhat. So now, there's a Nuke incoming."
Jon smiled. "So, you got a plan?"
"Yeah. I do. Align the last resort."
The lead engineer responded, "Mass Driver charging."
Jon raised his eyebrows. "Mass Driver?"
Atin nodded. "Correct. There is a Mass Driver in the facility. If we fire it, it might detonate the nuke while it is still in the air. However, it is under the school. So, it will make a big hole. Still, we need a very, very lucky shot. Status?"
"75% charged. Targeting. Locked on. It looks like it will hit the nuke directly. Alert! Slipspace rupture! It looks like Masanus' ship got away."
Atin stared at the nuke. "That doesn't matter. There will be other times. Ready Mass Driver. Set?"
"Set! Ready to fire!"
Atin yelled, "Fire!"
The whole facility shook as the Driver fired. The image of the Nuke approaching showed the Driver slug getting closer......closer.....and......smash!!! the slug slammed into the nuke and, the nuke detonated in midair.
Atin relaxed. "Good job. Now, radio the Stonewall. It's time to evac all of these people."
"So what do you think?" Nikki asked Atin. The evacuation of all the civilians was going smoothly. At this rate, they would all be evaced in two hours.
"I think that we have enough information to bring this to Lord Hood. Maybe he'll give us some support."
Nikki nodded. "If anyone would help us, it's him. How fast do you think you can see him?"
"I'm the Chief of Special Operations. I think that would yield some authority. In the meantime, we should help out with the evacuation. It might make this go a little bit faster."
With as many students that the school above Skyview Facility had, the UNSC Personnel arranged the students into groups based on their grades. The evacuation Pelicans had been hard pressed to get all the students out, so Atin had commanded 2 squadrons of Longswords and a squad of Shortswords to help them. Atin went over to the nearest evac group and spoke to the UNSC Officer in charge. "How are the civvies doing, Sergeant?"
The Sergeant saluted and said, "They're all really calm. Thats a good thing. And they're all cooperating very well."
"Good. I'm going to assign some more personnel to you when they're done unloading all the necessary parts."
"Thank you, sir."
When the last Pelican was almost done loading, Atin rounded up the squad. "Well, here's what Nikki and I have. I'm going to take this to Lord Hood, and try to get some more ships. We can't handle this with the Stonewall alone, and I don't want to tell anyone else about this until Hood knows."
"Why don't you just get some ships from Section Three? They should give you some ships. You're the Chief of SpecOps." Jon said.
"Well, this could go into the field I'm worst in. Politics. This could be the largest UNSC internal breakdown ever. We don't want many people to know about this."
"I guess you're right. We should head to the Pelican now."
UNSC HighCom Building, Washington D.C.
Back in Washington D.C., Atin and the squad headed to the Office of the Chief of Special Operations. Atin sat in his chair and inserted Solipsil's chip into the system. "Solipsil, try to get me an appointment with Lord Hood as soon as possible."
"I can get you in in 30 minutes, Chief."
"That soon? All right, that'll work. Thank you. Squad, while I'm gone, I want you to help Solipsil try to intercept Section Zero's transmissions. See if you can find anything out."
"Yes sir." Nikki replied.
Atin walked back to the elevator and went one floor higher. Even one floor higher, Atin still needed an appointment. When he got to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, he immediately saluted to Lord Terrance Hood. "Sir! Commander Spartan 38, reporting sir!"
Hood saluted. "At ease, Commander. What did you want to tell me?"
Atin tilted his head slightly. "Well, sir, we have a breach in security. A big one."
"Commander, if you could, cut through the crap. Tell me straight. What did you need to make a private appointment to tell me?"
"Permission to speak freely, sir?"
Atin nodded. "Well, let me start out with the mission to Covenant Station 42-Alpha. When I put Solipsil into the system, we found that the information we were tasked to retrieve had already been destroyed, along with the entire memory system wiped, with the exception of a UNSC footprint."
"Are you sure it belonged to the UNSC?"
"Absolutely, sir. Attempts to identify it led to the discovery of ONI Section Zero."
Lord Hood shook his head. "Impossible. There is no Section Zero. We would know about it."
"At first, I thought so too. That is why I did not include it in my mission log. Also, if I know anything about ONI, they like to keep things secretive. Maybe it was a secret weapons program. However, that brings me to my next point. You are aware of the attack on the city Trivert?"
"Of course. No one knows who attacked, but you destroyed the attacking ship, correct?"
"Yes sir. We did. But the attacker looked extremely simalir to a UNSC Chameleon-Class Prowler. However, we did destroy it after it opened fire on us. After the attack, Solipsil identified the same routing code connecting Section Zero to the attacking Prowler."
Hood looked uncomfortable. "So is it possible that there is a Section of ONI that we don't even know about?"
"If there is, they cut off from ONI some time ago. They also seem to work independently from the UNSC. And, as I learned, against it too. They were behind the attack on Skyview Facility in Montana."
"How do you know?" Hood asked.
"I had the....displeasure of meeting it's leader. An Axton Masanus."
"Hold on. I'll check on the database. Yes. There was a Colonel Axton Masanus in the UNSC. He went missing during the fall of Coral. It says that he was involved in some shady activities, but not enough to warrant a full search."
"Interesting. Yes, the picture on the file matches. He asked me to join Section Zero, and when I declined as politely as possible," Hood smiled and almost laughed. "he launched a Nuke at us. We were able to destroy it with a Mass Driver shot. Also, you might want to know that Solipsil learned that they have been researching Forerunner artifacts, like the crystal on Reach and the Sigma Octanus IV Stone. We don't know if this is relating to their plan, but we do know that they must have a central plan. Because of this, I am asking you to add some ships to my fleet, and also to have outfit those ships with more weapons, both conventional and nuclear."
Lord Hood nodded. "Your request is granted. If you need anything else, just tell me. I will rearrange any plans I have to see you. Good luck on this."
Atin sauleted. "Thank you, sir. Will do, sir."
When Atin returned to his office, Nikki said, "Atin! We found it! Section Zero's headquarters!"
Atin ran to the desk. "Really? You found it? Where?"
"It's on Tasur IV. A volcanic planet. A real..vacation."
"All right. We're going there. Load up. Also, we received some new ships. Destroyers and frigates. We need time for them to get set up. In the mean time, I think I'll go see how Charlotte's doing.
"That's a good idea." Kami said. "Tell her we said hi."
Atin nodded. "Will do." After that, he left.
Nikki sat in Atin's chair. "Ok, lets go to the shipyard and see how those new ships are doing."
Atin knocked on Char's door and entered. "How are you?" He asked.
Charlotte smiled when she saw him. "I'm doing better. Still sore as hell, though. I'll be back on my feet in 3 weeks."
Atin smiled. "Thats good to hear. We found Zero's headquarters. We're assaulting it tomorrow. With any luck, Section Zero will be wiped from the face of the galaxy by 2100 tomorrow."
"Cheers for that."
"Got that right." Just then, Atin's comlink rang. "Atin!" Nikki said over the link. "You gotta come and see the new ships!"
Atin sighed and told Char, "I'm sorry. I gotta go."
She smiled. "It's all right. Go kick some ass."
"You know it."
At the shipyard orbiting Earth, Atin walked to the level that his 20 new ships were waiting at. When he got up to the level, his mouth dropped. "Impressive, aren't they?" Nikki walked up to him. "Very. What kind of modifications do they have?" Atin asked.
"Well, to start with, the frigates have extensive upgrades to the engines, allowing them to increase speed by another 70% in a pinch. The Archer pods have been increased to 20 missiles per pod, and the Titanium-A plating has been added to. Also, the autoturrets have had new loading systems added, increasing their rate of fire, and entirely new turrets have been added also."
"Wow. Very nice. And the destroyers?"
Nikki nodded. "The Archer pods have been increased to 25 missiles per pod. It has pods A through F with 10 pods per letter. The armor has been added to, and turrets have been added. The MAC system has also been upgraded, with the charging time dramatically decreased."
"Wow. Thats amazing. 7 destroyers, 13 frigates. Thats doing pretty good, considering that ships are tight with the war just ended."
Nikki was very happy with the new improvements with the ships. "Yeah. And with the mods, they would be even harder pressed."
"I agree. Well, lets get back to the Stonewall. We need to get our weapons in order."
"What do you think? AR or SMG?" Nikki asked Atin in the armory of the Stonewall.
"AR has better range, and it's also good in CQC. If we get into mid-range, we're gonna need better accuracy than the SMG." Atin replied. Nikki picked up an AR and put into her weapons tray.
"Someone's gonna need a sniper. I'll let Jon handle that. He's pretty good. And Kami should take along a shotty." He picked up a M90A and placed it on Kami's weapon tray. "I'll take along my BR55 HB-SR. And also, I think I'll take a Spiker too." Humanity had a surplus of Brute weapons after the war, and ammo wasn't scarce.
"All right, I think we're ready. Lets go kick Section Zero's ass."
On board UNSC Supercruiser Stonewall
This was great. Atin now had a fleet to combat Section Zero with. Battlegroup Stonewall. Excellent. After they transitioned to slipspace, Atin switched on the intercom so all of the Battlegroup could hear. "Fleet, you have been chosen for a great honor. You will destroy a secret subcell of ONI that has gone rampant and are attacking the UNSC. If you are lucky, this mission will have never happened. No one will know that this went on. But you will know that you saved the UNSC. Good luck. Now, when we get to the planet, form a blockade around Zero's headquarters and start shelling the area around it from orbit. Zeta squad will infiltrate the complex and kill the leader, take the main data, and get out of there. After that, we will commence the Orbital Bombardment."
"ETA to Tasur IV?"
Nikki, who was manning the NAV station, replied, "42 minutes to arrival. We should go down to the launch bay and load up. How are we getting down there?"
"The easy way. Dropship."
In the launch bay, the squad was forming up next to a special prototype heavy attack gunship.
"Ok, everyone, grab your weapons and suit up. We go out there in 5."
Jon looked at the gunship. "This thing looks powerful. What kind of weapons?"
Atin patted the ship approvingly. "Dual machine chin machine guns, unique pulse laser turrets, two on the body, two on the wings. And, finally, new energy shrouded missiles. The energy pierces armor, then the missile detonates inside. A major improvement. However, don't hold your breath about this replacing the Pelican. It's way too expensive, and a special variant has to be deployed in order to transport vehicles. So the trusty Pelican is still the standard."
"We have arrived at the world of Tasur IV. Zeta squad, please launch. All ships, prepare for Orbital Bombardment."
Atin stood and placed his BR on his back. "You ready, squad?"
The squad stood, and said, "Ready."
"Then lets go."
The dropship wasn't very cramped, but the pre-mission jitters still made Atin feel like the cabin was smaller than it was. When the dropship reached the facility, it skimmed the ceiling until it found a good landing spot close to the center. The squad jumped off the side and they reached the door. "Damn. Locked." Nikki said. The dropship pilot spoke up. "Clear the area! I'm gonna blast the door!" When everyone was clear, the gunship shot a pair of missiles at the door. The door, along with the room behind it, was blasted to bits. "Much appreciated, pilot." The squad sprinted into the totaled room and kicked the back door in. In the following hallway, there was a computer terminal. Atin inserted Solipsil's chip into the terminal. "All right, I'm in. But I can't reach the encrypted files. I have to be in the control room to do that. But I can close all doors except for the ones leading to the control room for you guys. Also, I can reroute all Section Zero forces to another part of the facility so they won't bother you. Come on, lets go to the control room. It's not far." They continued along until they reached an elevator. "This should take us to the control room." Kami said. "It's nice to finally have an easy mission. And no hostiles to boot. This'll be easy."
Atin replied, "It's easy. Maybe too easy. A gunship coming in, and blowing a door is too hard to miss. They must have seen us. I don't like this. But we need to get the data we came for." Atin took Solipsil out of the terminal and back into his helmet. They entered the elevator, and it went down. "Ok, squad, take positions. There are likely to be guards, but I don't think that they will use their Active Camo. Take positions, ready." The door opened, and the squad ran out, killing the guards and the computer personnel. When the smoke had cleared, Atin put Solipsil's chip in the central computer system.
"Solipsil, see if you can uncover their plan. Find out what they're doing."
Solipsil sounded frustrated. "There's a lot of kill systems raining down on me, hang on, I'll block their systems. Ok, lets see. Plan. Ok, got it. Its an encrypted file. Opening. What? They're not serious! They can't be! The war is over! Damn it!"
"Solipsil, what is going on in there? What is their plan?"
Solipsil sounded worried. "Section Zero is planning to activate Halo."
Atin looked at the squad for a second. "Are you serious? Halo? Why?"
"Because they think that the Brutes will attack us again. So this is a kind of double-knockout. But this is crazy!"
"We have to stop them. Whatever it takes. Where are they now?"
Solipsil replied, "They already left, but they're going to take the whole Halo under their control before they fire it. That should buy us some time. Also, they are going to stop at another planet and uncover some supplies of some sort. I think we should go back to Earth, ask for a fleet from Lord Hood, and stop the firing of Halo once and for all."
Kami shook her head. "But we don't even know what Halo they're going to."
Atin said, "Yes we do. Delta Halo. Substance system. It's the only Halo that we know the Coordinates to. Solipsil, lets get out of here." Atin retrieved the chip and inserted it into his armor. They sprinted to the busted door, and radioed the gunship. When they were picked up, they saw the ships in space destroy Section Zero's headquarters with multiple MAC shots.
"This is going to be a challenge."
UNSC HighCom Building, Washington D.C.
Atin strode into Lord Hood's office and didn't even salute. "Sir, we have a problem."
Hood looked at him. "Well, it had better be a big one, Commander."
Atin cleared his throat. "Sir, Section Zero is going to activate Halo. Kill all of us because they don't think we can survive another attack by the Brutes."
Hood buried his face into his hands. "Damn. I figured that they would do something stupid like that. All right, I'll give you all the ships I can manage. I will ensure that they will be ready by 0800 tomorrow. Do you need anything else?"
Atin looked down. "Besides a miracle, sir? Nothing. But I do wish that John was here. He would know what to do."
"We all wish that the Master Chief was here. But I am relying on you. One last thing."
Atin looked. "Sir?"
"Give them hell."
Atin entered the squad's bunk. "All right, we're gonna get some more ships by 0800, then we strike. Any questions?"
The squad chuckled slightly. "No sir." Nikki said.
"Ok, then. Get some sleep. Tomorrow's gonna be a long day."
Atin would be stupid if he thought that the squad would be able to sleep on a night like this. He couldn't even sleep. So he went down to the training room and began a training session in hand to hand combat. "Solipsil, create 7 hostiles for me, please." 7 holograms of soldiers appeared, and surrounded Atin. He rolled, and threw one soldier onto another. Two down. He kicked another, viper-quick, and he disappeared. He lunged at another, and took him down. The others all fared the same. When he was done, he took a deep breath.
Kami started clapping. "Good job. Bravo."
Atin looked up. "Can't sleep?"
"No. I don't think anyone can."
Atin walked up to her. "Walk with me."
They were walking alone a wide window, with the beautiful vista of stars in space outside.
Kami stopped. "Are you sure we can do this?"
Atin looked at her. "Do what?"
"Stop Section Zero. I mean, they have nothing to lose. Their ultimate goal is mass suicide. They will just fling themselves at us. And we have everything to lose..."
"This is going to be hard. But we have something that they don't. The future. And comrades. And each other."
Kami looked at Atin. "I can't say I'm not a little scared."
"I'm a little scared too. It's natural. But we can face it together."
Kami smiled. "Thanks."
Atin put his hand on Kami's shoulder and smiled at her. "Get some sleep, Kam'ika."
"Atin. Wake up. It's 0500." Solipsil's voice stirred Atin from his sleep. But he still felt like his head was in a fog. "Jon. Wake up. Wake up, Jon. Damn." Atin threw a magazine at him. "Suit up. We leave in a few hours."
Jon got up, but he was still groggily. "Wha-whats going on?" He looked at the magazine Atin threw at him. "12 mil by 40? You keep your special M6C under your pillow?"
"I figured that having an M6G would be overkill for personal defense in a bunk."
"Yeah, and you wouldn't want anyone to think that you overkill things. So, give me a sitrep."
Atin looked annoyed. "We're getting ready to suit up. The new ships are already ready. 50 of them. 30 frigates, 18 destroyers, and 2 carriers. The Stonewall is almost ready too."
Jon instantly woke up. "So this is it, isn't it? Where Section Zero makes it's final stand?"
"Yep. Where we hold the line, and push them back into hell."
Jon smiled. "Good. It's time to end this."
When Atin and Jon made it onto the bridge, a couple of the crew, including Nikki was there. "Good morning. I was beginning to wonder about you." Nikki said, not looking up from her station.
"Sorry," Atin replied. "Some of us had a bit of a late start." he said, tilting his head to Jon.
"But where do we stand?" Atin walked over to the Command Chair.
Nikki turned to face him. "All Archers have been filled, MAC system verified. Kinetic Shields at 100%, and engine shakedown has been completed. All other ships reporting ready for combat. We're ready as soon as you give the signal."
Atin nodded approvingly. "Very good. Have all crew report to General Quarters. I'd like to get under way ASAP."
Kami walked into the bridge. "Good morning." Atin told her when she walked in.
"Good morning." She still looked a little shaky, but she had that hard determination in her eyes. She was ready for anything.
Atin turned on the intercom. "Today is the day we turn the enemy back. If Section Zero wants to activate Halo, they have to go through us to do so. And that will not happen. This is the time."
Nikki, at the NAV console, said, "All ships reporting ready for slipspace transition. Initiating countdown. 10 seconds and counting."
Atin stood by the Command Chair. His mind was still clouded with....something. It wasn't right. It felt like they were walking into something. But, they were ready for pretty much anything. There was no running anymore. It was time for offense.
Before he knew it, the timer to slipspace transition went from 1 to 0. Atin felt the usual feeling of nausea and the fleet traveled into the 11 nondimensions of slipspace.
"A leader must be ready to send soldiers under his command to their deaths.
Duty. Honor and self-sacrifice. Death does not diminish these qualities in a soldier."
On board UNSC Supercruiser Stonewall
Atin snapped out of it, and the cloud that was in his mind evaporated instantly. "Nikki. ETA to Delta Halo?"
Nikki looked at Atin. "15 minutes. Give or take 5." Slipspace travel always bent the temporal flow. That wasn't all, but Atin didn't want to remember the principles of Slipstream Space.
"Tell the ships to go to general quarters. I want to be ready."
Nikki nodded. "Copy that. Damn. Atin! Coming out of Slipspace in 15 seconds!"
The space around Delta Halo rippled and shot out light that was caused by the Chrenkov Radiation made by the nukes aboard the ships. The Battlegroup Stonewall finally landed in the trap that Section Zero set. They would be destroyed.
"Exiting slipspace in 5. 4. 3. 2. 1."
The ships transitioned to realspace and the stars shone, with a blue planet in the background. By the planet, there was a ring the size of a moon.
"Halo. Always makes you stare." Atin couldn't help but feel amazed. Such size. Such deadly power. The power to kill all life. "Huh? What's this?"
On closer inspection of the ringworld, Atin saw specks of light. He zoomed in, and those specks became strange objects, looking almost like whales in the sea. It was a shape that had been burned into Atin's mind.
Covenant Capital Ships. CCS-Class Battleships, Destroyers, Frigates, and even two massive Assault Carriers.
A huge fleet. Massive. Damn. It would take a human fleet double the size of this one to be on even ground with them.
On Atin's monitor, a Brute Cheiftain clad in golden armor appeared. "I am Salumus. We have been instructed by the Guardian of the Great Journey to destroy you. The Guardian will send us on the Journey after we dispose of you. Die, humans."
"Damn! Ambush!" Atin pounded his fists on the control panel. "All hands, Battlestations! Group targets and fire at will!" To Kami, the gunnery officer, he said, "Charge the Super MAC. Double shot."
Kami looked at Atin with worry."Atin, you know that charging a double shot will take energy from kinetic shields."
Atin nodded. "Kinetic shields aren't worth crap against those energy and plasma weapons. We need a double shot." To Nikki, he said, "Find out what ship is the flagship. I want to find that Chieftain."
"Sir, flagship identified. Those Brutes are complacent about their ships. We should fix that."
Atin smiled. "Agreed. Super MAC?"
Kami said, "Charged and ready!"
The entire Supercruiser shuddered, the lights went out, and twin bolts of red hot lightning shot out and impacted the Assault Carrier, and the feed from the Chieftain's bridge immediately turned to static. The Flagship's nose crumpled with the impact of the first slug, and the second slug went clean through, and gutted the ship. It exploded violently and sent two other ships tumbling.
Right after that, all of the other ships opened fire in a huge wave of plasma.
Atin yelled over the intercom, "Evade! Get away now!"
The plasma rolled over the UNSC ships. Most of them boiled away in an instant. After the plasma dissipated, only 17 ships remained. "Status! What's the Stonewall's status?"
Nikki replied, "The Stonewall was lucky. Only minor hits. No hull breaches. Remaining friendly ships are mixed. Some are god, some are lucky to be intact."
"Damn." Atin snarled.
"Incoming message! You want to take it?"
It might be Brutes, rubbing it in, but then again, it might not. "I'll take it."
The Command Panel lit up, and a commanding voice said, "This is Sangheili Ship Master Rtas 'Vadum. We have come to assist you in stopping the Ring from firing. Let us handle those beasts."
A hole in slipspace appeared, and a huge fleet of Covenant ships appeared and shot lances of plasma at the Brute ships. The Elites' plasma was much more effective than the Brutes because a leaked signal from the AI Cortana taught the Elites how to maximize their plasma by compressing it into a needle thin lance. The Elites' wisely kept this secret to themselves, and that helped them in the war.
"Ha! Eat it, Brutes!" Jon yelled.
"Wait. We're not through yet." Atin leaned forward. The Brute ships started glowing. The built-up plasma shot, but not at the Elites. The plasma streamed straight toward the Stonewall.
Atin snarled, "Damn! Evasive Maneuvers!" But it was too late. The plasma shot forward and impacted the rear part of the Supercruiser and boiled the armor away.
Nikki yelled, "Engines damaged! Reactor level skyrocketing! Going critical in 4 minutes! The Stonewall's going down!"
Atin bowed his head. "Damn. Kami! Man the Damage Control! Jon! You're on weapons!"
Kami ran over to the Damage Control Console, something that was never used before.
"Jon. It's time. The Stonewall's doomed. There's nothing we can do to stop that. But we can give them her parting gift. Arm Archer missile pods A1 through Z20.
All of the bridge crew felt their mouths drop. Row A had 20 pods. 1 pod had 20 high-explosive missiles. 26 rows, with 20 pods each, each pod having 20 missiles, added up to 10,400 missiles. A hell of a parting gift.
Jon smiled. "One last resort, coming up!"
"Last resort?" Kami asked. On Atin's console, a red touch button appeared. Above it read, Burning Bigbang. Atin smiled as he pressed the button. A man-made hellhole that was also Stonewall's dying breath.
On board the Assault Carrier Shadow of Intent, Sangheili Ship Master Rtas 'Vadum was having his hands full with the Brute fleet. He turned his head just in time to see what looked like the human lead ship exploding.
The Weapons engineer stared at the smoke, and felt his jaw mandibles go slack. "Has it been hit?"
Rtas felt confident in the Humans. They were light-years behind the Covenant, and yet, they had still given them hell. The smoke around the ship started clearing, and he saw that the ship was intact, and the explosion was really thousands of their ballistic missiles. Enough to destroy 20 Brute ships. Rtas felt good that he was now the humans' ally, rather than their enemy.
"Missiles launched!" Jon yelled. Atin felt himself smiling at the sight of over 10,000 missiles shooting towards the hostile ships. But then, he realized that he almost forgot what he had to do.
"Nikki! Give me 150% thrust straight to Delta Halo! I'm going to put her down right on top of Section Zero."
Nikki looked at Atin, astonished. "Aye, sir. Reactor skyrocketing. Critical in 30 seconds. 20 seconds. 10 seconds. 5."
Atin yelled hurriedly, "Shutdown engine now! Vent coolant! Shut down the reactor completely!"
Shutting down a Nuclear Reactor completely is the final blow to a ship. It takes all of the power away and kills the ship. This was it. The Stonewall was doomed.
"Reactor temperature going down. Stabilizing. Power lost." Going down.
The Stonewall plummeted into the artificial atmosphere of Delta Halo with a loud scream. Atin tried to find a safe plain to set her down on. The supercruiser smashed into a soft rock butte, shattered it, and landed in a valley below. The stern section was trashed and mangled, but the bow section managed to emerge in good shape.
"All right, troops. Grab a weapon, suit up, and lets get away from this wreck, cause it'll be a signal flare to hostile troops." Atin stood from the Command console and pressed what Commanding Officers call the Final Button. The database was wiped, and all systems were shutdown permanently. The squad grabbed their weapons and latched them on to the back of their armor. "Let's go, Zeta."
Near Ruins of UNSC Stonewall
It had been at least 5 miles that they had walked. Some of the Naval personnel had gotten very tired and slowed down. Atin didn't blame them. On his HUD, a symbol indicated that Kami had initiated a two-way communication. "Sir, these Naval personnel will slow us down. Do we really need them?"
"Well, the Stonewall will be a signal flare to any Section Zero forces. And who knows, with Brutes in space, there might be Brutes on the ground, too. If we leave them, they'll be easy pickings. I guess we'll just have to put up with them."
Kami groaned. "I guess you're right." Just then, one of the bridge crew that had been, only a moment ago, whining about how bad his feet hurt, fell with a scream. Atin thought that he had fell, but then, his gut told him one thing. Sniper. "Sniper! Get down!" Atin yelled to everybody. Then, a figure appeared on the top of the cliff. "I got him!" Jon said as he leveled his sniper rifle and shot. The figure fell down. It was a Section Zero Elite Soldier. "You shouldn't have done that." A voice said. Hundreds of humans and Brutes appeared on both sides of the cliff. "You are surrounded. Surrender, and we will make your deaths quick. There is no hope for survival."
On the two-way comlink, Atin told Kami," Damn. Well, we could fight. We might get out of it, but all of the crew will die. What do you think?"
"I just don't know. We should pretend to surrender, then hope that they come down here to slaughter us. Then we strike."
Atin smiled. "Good plan." On the outside audio, he yelled, "We surrender. We accept that we are now Prisoners of War."
Nikki came on his comlink. "You have a plan?" Atin said, "Just go with it."
The Section Zero Lead came down with 20 of his Elite Troops. His uniform identified him as the Section Zero Left Hand, Gilad Toger. As he came up to one of the bridge crew with a knife, Atin heard a very familiar high-pitched triple crack. Toger's head bursted with blood and he fell, dead. The squad leapt into action and killed the Elite troopers. Then, Atin looked at the squad's savior. The helmet was as familiar as his own. His comlink flashed, and a screamingly familiar voice said to the whole squad, "You need some help, Zeta?" It was Charlotte's voice.
"Char!" Kami yelled.
"Yeah!" Nikki yelled after that.
"Good to have you back, Char." Atin said.
"Damn. You brought a whole fleet?" Char had really pulled out all the stops. She had brought 30 ships, all of them, destroyers, carriers, and even some mighty cruisers.
"Yep. I even persuaded Lord Hood to let me have the Ironclad for awhile."
"Damn. That's one good cruiser. What about land troops?" Atin felt bad about not giving Char the welcome back attention she deserved, but this was a battlefield.
"I brought 2 tank brigades, along with 4 squads of Warthogs. And the commander of the 1st tank brigade is someone you might know." Then, Atin's friend and former comrade, Will walked in. "I don't damn well believe it. Good to see you, Will."
Will looked like there was nothing he'd like to do but get some payback on those Brutes. "Same to you. Looks like you could use my help. Luckily, Char ran into me and persuaded me to come help."
Atin nodded. "Did you bring your special weapon?"
Will smiled. "You know it." He brought in a custom Scorpion tank, customized with two main cannons and four machine guns.
"All right, here's the plan. There are 3 phase pulse generators that allow Halo to fire deep into space. If we destroy all 3 of them, then Halo can't fire. Kami, Nikki, Char, I'll leave that to you. Will, take your brigades and engage the land forces outside the Control Room. Jon and I will infiltrate the Control Room and stop Section Zero once and for all. To get there, we'll each use a squad of Longswords that Char brought. Everyone clear? Good. The UNSC is relying on us. We can do this. Trust your comrades, and they will trust you. You will not fall back. You will not stop pushing forward. We will destroy Section Zero! Kote!" Atin put his hands out and everybody joined in. Then, Atin's radar flickered and he brought his rifle up to see a metal sphere floating towards the squad.
"Please don't shoot. I mean you no harm. I am 2401 Penitent Tangent. I am the Monitor of Instillation 05. I require your assistance. These meddlers are trying to activate this installation with no reason. The compound mind has left and been destroyed and the Sentinels have contained the Flood. There is no reason to activate this installation. You must assist me in stopping this atrocity."
Atin put his gun down. "That is our plan. You can go with me. I'm going to go to the Control Room and kill the one who's trying to activate this Halo."
Tangent bobbed up and down. "Excellent! I will leave the bloodshed to you and your comrades."
Atin nodded. "All right, squad. Board your Longswords, and form up. We go to the first Phase Pulse Generator first." Atin and Jon entered the Command Longsword, followed by Penitent Tangent.
"Ok, Jon. This is it." Atin said as he punched the controls that started the Longsword. It rose in the air, and shot through the air, followed by 4 squadrons. They reached the first door that lead to the Phase Pulse Generator. "Nikki, first one's yours. Good luck." Nikki's squad peeled off from the main group and landed on the platform. The small cloud of Longswords then reached the second door. "Char, your turn. Give them hell." Once they left the second door, a Longsword reported in. "Sir, Tank brigade is almost at the wall of hostiles." When the squads reached the third door, they immediately started taking fire. "Kami! Get in that generator room! We'll hold them off!" Kami's Longsword made a shaky landing and she sprinted through the door. "Ok, they're in. Squad! Punch it to the Control Room!" The valley opened and there was the Control Room embedded in a rock formation. Below the formation, there were about 30 Wraith heavy tanks taking fire from Will's brigade. Just then, 2 Anti Air turrets shot at the Longswords. They quickly fell, and Atin's and Jon's started taking heavy fire. Atin punched it and it landed near the Control Room door. Atin and Jon sprinted into the opening and saw that the antechamber was totally ruined. "Damn. But this doesn't look new. Maybe there was a past skirmish." Atin remarked. "Maybe, but we need to get in that firing chamber." Atin and Jon ran through the wreckage and into the Core room, where they took fire from Axton Masanus, who had the Index on his belt, and his Right-Hand man.
Nikki ran into the hallway near the first Generator. She used hand signals to tell her squad to sneak in quietly. She sneaked in, found a hiding spot, and threw a grenade. It blew, and she leapt and shot the remaining Zero soldiers. "According to Solipsil's data, I just have to walk in and that will destabilize it." She reluctantly stepped closer to it and she heard a loud bang and her shields drained. She tried to pull back, felt some suction, and fell back. "Generator number one destabilized. Mission accomplished."
Charlotte was ready for some payback for the ambush that she fell victim to. She backed into the door, motioned for the troops to follow, and went through, shooting wildly with her BR55 HB-SR. She felt her shooting arm recoil back, but felt no pain. She jumped and threw a grenade, rolled, and then ran through the blast, not even feeling it. She kicked the last trooper and shot him in the head. "Thats for the ambush." She walked into the generator and it destabilized. She went to her squad leader and was about to commend him when he said, "Ma'am! You're hit! Get a medic!" Char looked down at her arm and blood was leaking out. She grabbed a tube of Biofoam from the medic that ran in and inserted it into the wound. She would be fine, and the mission was accomplished.
Kami slowly walked into the generator room with her troops. However, her mind was in a fog as she hid and took aim. She opened fire and rolled to cover. She was taking the troops one at a time, so she didn't see the trooper sneak up on her from behind. All she felt was the kick that he gave her, looked back, and saw the barrel of a rifle in her face. She rolled, swept the ground and tripped the soldier to the ground. She leveled the shotgun at the soldier and shot. Once all the hostiles were down, she stepped into the generator and destabilized it. "All right. Good job, men. Mission Accomplished."
Will's tank brigade was doing very good against the Wraith tanks, espically because Will's Scorpion was armed with two main cannons. He trailed a Ghost and blasted it when a Wraith mortar blew up close to his tank. He swiveled his turret and shot both cannons at it, causing it to explode violently. Just then, his radar alerted him that there was a Seraph fighter incoming with a plasma charge. He kicked open the hatch and grabbed some weapons just in time to jump out of the tank before it was blasted by the charge. "Damn. Those bastards owe me a new tank." He said as he aimed two rocket launchers at the Seraph. He fired, and two rockets, followed by two more, impacted the fighter and it exploded. He dropped the launchers and pulled out two SMGs. He shot at the ground troops surrounding him and jumped on another tank. The battle was almost over. Atin and Jon had better kill that Section Zero soon.
Atin and Jon were under fire from Masanus and his Right-Hand man, Exun Otuer. They leapt from cover and Atin shot at Masanus as Jon fought Otuer. The shots just bounced of Masanus. "Foolish little pest! Do you honestly think you are the only one who has a shield generator?" He said as he shot at Atin. The rounds went straight through his shields and hit the armor plating, denting it. He found Masanus' shield generator, a glowing box on his belt. He shot with his BR55 HB-SR as fast as he could at the box. The ammo counter flashed from 06 to 03 as he drained Axton's shields, then he used his last 3 rounds to shoot the generator. It blew in a shower of sparks. He glance at Jon, who also seemed to be out of ammo, who was in hand-to-hand combat with Otuer. Atin parried with his rifle, and Axton kicked him down and aimed the shield-piercing rifle right at Atin's faceplate. He pulled the trigger, and the rifle shot.
Will was leading the battle from on top of a tank, shooting hostiles, and routing the hostile troops. He had seen Atin and Jon infiltrate the Control Room, and now, all there was left to do was stall for time while Atin stopped the firing of Delta Halo. Will jumped as the tank he was in exploded. He jumped in a Warthog that had taken a hit, and gunned it, ramming a Wraith. He jumped behind it and tore off the protective cover. He punched the cover, and ripped out the power limiter. The Wraith's mortar cannon exploded and plasma spewed everywhere. He looked around, and saw that was the last tank. Without their Wraiths, the battle was won.
Atin opened his eyes, and everything was black. His eyes adjusted to the darkness, and he saw that his HUD had been disabled. There was a large crack through his visor, and, right in the middle of it, inches from his face, was a lead bullet. Atin jumped away, and tore off his helmet. He looked at the front, and the bullet had become stuck in his visor. "Now that's what I call lucky." Atin said. He dropped to one knee, and a section of his thigh plate popped out and a handle came out. He grabbed it, unsheathed the combat knife, and made a vicious strike at Masanus. He blocked the hit with his rifle and aimed it at Atin. "You don't scare me. I know you're out of ammo too." Atin taunted.
"How do you know?" Masanus said.
"Cause if you weren't, I'd be dead now." Atin said as he slashed again. Out of his eye, he saw Jon go down to an EMP burst, and the Section Zero Right-Hand was about to finish him off when Atin swept across his chest, slicing it open. He stuck the knife in Otuer's stomach, and roughly pulled it out. He lunged at Masanus again, and they fought for what must have felt like 10 minutes. Atin made a grab for the Index, and Axton made a downward strike at Atin. But the grab was only a feint, and Atin stepped back on his other foot, pushing it farther than it was supposed to go, felt it dislocate, then relocate as he got back on two feet. He kicked Axton's head with his left foot, and Axton fell to the right, right where Atin stabbed the combat knife with his right hand. The knife went in Axton's chest half an inch. Atin rolled with the knife, and when he hit the ground, dug the knife into Masanus' chest, killing him instantly.
Atin removed the Combat Knife from Masanus, and put it back in the thigh compartment. Just then, 2401 Penitent Tangent floated in. "Excellent. The meddlers have been disposed of. Commendable work, Reclaimer." He floated close to a terminal, and a hologram of the Halo ring and a sphere in the middle of it appeared. "What's that?" Atin asked as he walked close to the terminal. "A verification that this installation has not been harmed by the meddlers. Also, a verification that the Flood is still contained." Atin pointed to the small sphere in the middle. It was protected by many tiny specks. "What is that?" Tangent bobbed up and down. "That is the Shield World that is directly connected to this installation's firing mechanism. If this installation is activated, then a compressed slipspace portal opens, leading to the sharpened edge of the shield. Presently, there are 10 humans located in the Shield. They are safe there." Atin nodded. "Can I free them from here?"
"Apologies. Protocol dictates that a Shield cannot be unsealed from a Sword installation."
"That makes sense." Atin ran over to Jon, just as he was stirring from unconsciousness. He gave Jon a hand up, then said, "Mission Accomplished." Then, Atin passed out.
"Welcome back." Kami said as Atin woke up. He looked around, and saw that her eyes were sparkling with something. "Hey. How are you?"
Kami smiled. "Good. The mission was a complete success. Section Zero is destroyed."
"Very good job." Atin looked around. Nikki was at a computer console, Char was pacing by the door, Jon was sitting in a chair, and Will was staring out a window. Atin got up, and walked left to Nikki. "Hey, you're up. We were really worried about you. Some of us more than others." Her eyes moved slightly to the right. "Where are we?" Atin asked.
"In the medical bay of the Marathon-Class Cruiser Ironclad. The flagship of Char's fleet. The Elites almost completely destroyed the Brute fleet by the time she got there. Shipmaster 'Vadum told me to send you his regards."
Atin smiled. "Good. So, I trust that that Section Zero has been completely destroyed?"
"Good. Thank you." Atin walked over to Char, who was wearing a sling on her right arm. "Good to have you back, Char. And what the hell do you think you're doing out of your hospital bed?" Atin said with a smile.
Char thought for a moment. "Last time I looked, I was saving your ass. Sir." She said jokingly.
"Good to have you back."
"Thanks for helping us out." Atin said to Will.
"Anytime. And I guess I owe you one for getting me back in active duty."
I'll remember that sometime." Atin said.
Jon spoke up. "So I guess that their time just ran to Zero."
"Oh, my God." Atin and Will said, shaking their heads.
Later, Atin and Kami walked up to the observation deck.
Atin told Kami, "You know, officially, this never happened. Any of it. There was no Section Zero."
Kami nodded. "I know. No one will know what happened. Except for us. That's the life of a SpecOps soldier, isn't it?"
"Yeah. It is. It's a shame, but that's the way it is. But we have our squad."
"We do. And I'm glad that I have such an awesome squad. But where do we go now?"
Atin looked out into the space. "We can really go anywhere. The war is over. We've had a gold rush of new technologies. We have new Elite allies. This is a period of Reconstruction for the UNSC, but it's also a period of new opportunities." Atin looked at Kami. Then they both looked outside into the infinite space.