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Fan Fiction

Limits of Trust
Posted By: Aaron Burgess<gaspartan1138@yahoo.com>
Date: 1 October 2008, 2:24 am

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Chapter 1: Reville

"Honor. Selfless action, and unbelievable courage against all odds. You are truly one of the best assets in the UNSC. In light of this, you are awarded the UNSC Colonial Cross, Medal of Honor, and Medal of Valor. Congratulations, Captain Spartan 38." Lord Hood pinned the Colonial Cross, the highest award ever given, to Atin's uniform. Atin had just been given a promotion, also. So had all of the other members of Zeta Squad after the events regarding Section Zero and Delta Halo.. Everyone had been given the Colonial Cross, and Charlotte had been given 2 Purple Hearts for her injuries.
"Now, I expect that Zeta Squad give even greater results in the future. Dismissed." Hood saluted, and Zeta Squad snapped to attention and saluted, also.
The award ceremony had to take place in a secret location because of the top secret conditions of the mission to stop Section Zero. When the squad left, they stopped in the lobby, and sat down.
"Well, we have about 2 days to get some R&R. Now, I don't care what you do, just get back here in 2 days by 0500 hours." Atin said.
"Well, it's about time that we got some appreciation. 2 whole days, huh?" Char asked sarcastically.
"Yeah, but you can take some more time off if you get shot again. What do you think?" Kami, now a Lieutenant Commander, replied.
"Uh..no thanks. I'm happy with 2 days." Char, also a Lieutenant Commander, said.
"Well, do what you want. Squad, dismissed." Atin ordered.

"So, what are you gonna do on your leave, Atin?" Kami inquired. They were in Washington D.C. at about 2 A.M. The UNSC always had weird times for everything. The ceremony had started at 8 P.M., and had let out at about 1. They had roamed the huge city, which was still alive with activity even at this hour, for half an hour.
"I don't know. I'll probably take one day off, and the other getting ready for the next mission." Atin replied.
"Wow, that's not very exiting. But, I guess having a day to get ready is better than having an hour." Kami said as the two walked by an alley. A stray man walked forward, and Atin could see that he had a knife. He opened his coat, exposing the M6G pistol he kept inside it, and the man backed off. "I'm worried that having 6 squad members might slow us down. Jon is a good soldier, as is Will, but 6 squad members is a big number. However, it might be nice to have some more firepower." Atin was saying as they got to the Zeta Squad bunker. Atin walked Kami to her room, and said, "Good night, Kam'ika." She smiled.

"You're back late. I was just going to send a search party for you." Will, a Lieutenant Colonel, remarked as Atin walked into the bunk.
"Oh yeah, the capital of the UNSC is a dangerous place. But we did almost get mugged."
"One more chump thinks he can take you down with a knife? Before he knows it, he'll be bleeding from a slice caused by his own knife. That's a bladesmaster for you."
Atin stopped putting away things from his pocket. "It seems like so long ago when I was certified a Spartan Bladesmaster. But it was only 2 years." Atin looked at the clock. "Damn. It's already 2:30. We need to get up at 0600 again. I'm turning in."

Chapter 2: Discovery

"Atin. Wake up." Atin heard Solipsil's voice before he was awake. "Don't you have a snooze button?" He asked groggily.
"Very funny. And, in case you were wondering, it's only 0400. Lord Hood has an urgent message for you." With that, Atin was instantly awake. He got up, and walked to the computer.
Lord Hood appeared on the screen, and Atin said, "Sir! My apologies for making you wait on me, sir."
Hood chuckled. "It's alright, Captain. I want you to have a look at this." An image appeared on the screen. It looked like a temple. "What exactly am I looking at, sir?" Atin asked.
"We're not sure, but we think that it's a Forerunner structure."
Atin's eyes grew wide. "In that case, I would like to have the squad go there immediately."
Hood nodded. "I was expecting that. You know that you're throwing away you're vacation time. But, I'll have the Ironclad ready."

The squad had gathered in the Zeta Squad lobby in under 15 minutes, even though it was 4:20 in the morning. They all had dark circles under their eyes, but Atin could tell that they could leap into action at a second's notice.
"Sir, Zeta 2 reporting for duty. And, if I may speak freely, what the hell are we doing this early in the morning?" Nikki, now a Commander, asked.
Atin stood with tired eyes as he said, "We have identified a possible Forerunner temple. I would like to infiltrate it and see if it has anything to do with the Array, or Shields." After hearing that, the squad stood a little straighter. "Anyone interested?" Everyone raised their hand. Atin smiled. "Good. Then lets go. The Ironclad's waiting."

On board the UNSC Cruiser Ironclad, Atin stood at the bridge. They were in Slipspace, en route to the deserted planet. About 1 hour to go. They were making good time. Atin was starting to think about what may lie in the abandoned Forerunner temple. With the Forerunner, anything was possible. They had flourished in the Milky Way for centuries, until a galactic parasite, known as the Flood, invaded their Empire. The Flood penetrated any organic body, and burrowed into their chest cavity, where they take command of the host body. Over time, the combat form mutates into a carrier form, where more infection forms grow and escape. They were the perfect parasite. As they kill, they grow. And as they grow, they kill. Eventually, the Flood evolved into a horrific intelligent form, known as the Gravemind. The Flood, now sentient, attacked the Forerunners until the mighty Forerunner Empire was reduced to a couple planets. The Forerunners created 7 ringworlds, which they called the Halo Array, which was possible of killing all life with enough biomass to contain the Flood, including all of the Flood forms, including the Gravemind. With that done, they formulated a way to have life go on afterwards. The Halos would kill all life in the galaxy, so the Forerunners created a new installation called the Ark, which was able to activate all the Halos, and placed it outside the Halo's range. They then took any and all sentient life, including humans, to the Ark, and activated Halo and destroyed the Flood.
"Atin?" Atin's concentration broke. He turned, and Char was standing behind him.
"What's up, Char?" He asked.
"Well, um..." Char looked uncomfortable, and Atin knew that she was going to ask something important. Char mustered up her confidence, and said, "Please take me as your apprentice."
Atin was taken aback. "Apprentice? As what?"
"As a swordsman. I already know long range combat, so now I want to know close range. Please."
Atin smiled at her. "Are you prepared for a long and grueling training?"
Char nodded. "I am, sir. I will do anything you ask, follow your every command."
"Then I will take you as my apprentice."
Char instantly looked relived. "Thank you! Very much! But we better get ready to get on the way."
Atin looked at the time. Almost 15 minutes to go. "Right. Lets get on down to the launch bay."

Atin and Char walked into the hangar, and there was only one Pelican dropship in the whole bay. Atin looked at it and said, "So I guess we're taking this one?" Jon, now a Commander, told Atin, "No, we're taking invisible one." Atin nodded, and picked up his BR, but his gut told him to also take an AR, too. The squad boarded the Pelican and the lights dimmed. Atin felt the dropship lurch free of the Cruiser, and drop down to the surface of the planet. In the cabin, a red light turned on. "Red light. Get ready!" Atin barked. Then, the red light turned green. "Green light! Go! Go! Go!" He said as the door opened. The squad ran out of the Pelican and into the entrance to the Forerunner temple.

The inside of the temple was drastically different from the outside. While the outside looked worn and decayed, the inside was constructed out of the same Forerunner alloy as Delta Halo. It was also perfectly tidy, like it was constructed a month ago. The squad had to turn on their lights to see. After walking for an hour, they reached a dead end. "Well, damn!" Will exclaimed. "That's it?" Atin looked down at the wall and saw that it had an imprint on it. Something in his head told him to place his palm on it. When he did, the wall lifted up and reveled an inner corridor. "Well, on we go." Atin said. They walked into the corridor, and the wall fell. The whole hidden corridor dropped, and in an instant, the elevator was falling rapidly. When it finally stopped, the wall lifted again. In the distance, there was what looked like a terminal. The 6-person squad cautiously walked up to it, and a very loud voice yelled, "Reclaimer detected! Storage facility unlocked. Warning! Cont-" The voice cut to static, and the terminal dropped. A door appeared in the wall, and it opened. Atin looked to the squad and said, "Well, this is it. We know that there is something in there. Now, we find out." The squad nodded, and they walked in. When they all got inside the room, the door closed. A light appeared, and a pedestal raised up. On it were 6 gauntlets. Atin walked up to one of them. It looked like it would fit on his arm. It had a blocky compartment on the outside of it, and in that compartment, it looked like something could come out of it. Atin reached forward, and the gauntlet floated up and lunged forward onto Atin's forearm and locked. Atin stepped back, and tried to pull it off. It wouldn't budge. Nikki stepped up to Atin and told him, "Whatever it is, I don't think it's coming off. But it doesn't look harmful. I suggest that each squad member take one." Atin considered for a moment, and nodded. "Right. Squad, help yourself." Nikki reached for a gauntlet with a rounded top on it. Char took one with a long tube attached to it. Kami got one with a large, round attachment. Jon took one with a very big sphere on it, and Will took a gauntlet with two storage tanks and one nozzle connecting both.
"Ok, mission accomplished. Now lets get out of here." Atin told the squad. But, just as they were leaving, he had a very bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. The pedestal dropped and fell, the light flickered, and the wall started to crack. As Atin watched this happen, he just knew what was going to come out of the wall. "Squad! Get out of here! Now!" He yelled, and the squad sprinted for the elevator. When they got there, Atin turned around and saw the wall shatter and thousands of little blob-like things flew out and slithered to the squad. Atin triggered the elevator and the door fell with a bang. As the elevator rose, Kami spoke up. "What were those things?" She asked. Atin swallowed, and explained, "Those things were Flood infection forms. Some of them must have survived the Halo fire somehow." The squad was silent for a moment, then Char said, "So what do we do?"
Atin looked down. "There's only one thing we can do.

Chapter 3: Extermination

The elevator slowed down to a halt, and the door opened to a wave of infection forms. They tried to attach themselves to Atin, but they just popped against his shield. The squad sprinted for the exit, but two lumbering hulks walked out and tried to smash their huge arms against Atin. He sidestepped, grabbed his AR, and unloaded on the beasts. "Squad! Open fire on their heads!" The hulks were a special kind of Flood called Pure forms, and they could smash a fully armored Spartan if struck. Atin fired until his clip was empty, and he ducked from a horizontal swipe. Kami blasted it in the mouth with her shotgun. It fell, but was still moving. The squad ran outside, and the desert sand had started to sink from the collapsing temple. He called in the Pelican, and as it was coming, it fell under fire from Flood Pure ranged forms. The pilot had just enough time to open the hatch, and have the squad jump in before blasting away.

The squad jumped out of the hatch into the Ironclad's hangar bay. Atin immediately got on the COMlink to the bridge. "I am ordering a shipwide lockdown. Nobody is to leave the ship, under any circumstances. I will be on the bridge shortly." On the bridge, Atin looked at the planet. He zoomed in, and saw that the area where the temple was located, was completely infested with Flood. He reached for the communications console, and typed in a secret code. A strong, prideful voice came on. "Yes? What is it?" The voice said. "We need you. Bring the cavalry." Atin replied, and then he killed the link. He walked back to the command screen, and saw that Kami's eyes were worried. Atin put his hand on her shoulder and said, "It's all right. We got an ace up our sleeve for this one."
They watched the Flood spread across the planet for half an hour, when the Navigation officer called out, "Slipspace rupture! Incoming ships!" Atin and Kami looked out the viewport and saw 50 Covenant capital ships emerge from Slipspace. Atin picked up the COMlink and heard the voice say, "This is Fleet Master Rtas 'Vadum. Fall back, and we will commence plasma bombardment. The planet will be glassed."

The Elites had been at it for at least 3 hours, and the entire surface of the planet was on fire. Nothing could survive that. Within days, the atmosphere would dissipate, and the planet would become a barren, desolate, ball of glass. "Spartan, We have finished. You may return to Earth now, if you desire." Atin clicked the COMlink, and said, "Can you post one ship here to monitor the planet?"
"Of course. We have it under control."
Atin nodded. "All right. Thank you, Fleet Master. Goodbye." Atin inputed the coordinates for Earth and the cruiser transitioned to Slipspace. Atin turned to the squad, and said, "Now we can finally return home and find out what is so important about these gauntlets.

Chapter 4: Fresh Blood

"This figures. Out of the office for one day and they find some way to put a pile of work on my desk." Atin grumbled as he went through the files on the desk of the Chief of Special Operations.
"Well, what do you expect? We can't just go and do anything we want." Nikki said as she was going through the database, looking for any information on the Forerunner gauntlets.
Atin found a file and opened it. "It's another one about the Insurrection. I don't know what we're gonna do about it. We can't legally do anything unless it's confirmed to be the United Rebel Front again. Anything else is just terrorist attacks."
Nikki turned to look at him. "Well, the URF could be anywhere and claim to be just Insurrectionists. That's the problem. Unless we have a good, solid lead, all we can do is step up local security."
Atin closed the file. He was looking at another one when his COMlink went off. He checked it, and the text said "Gather Zeta Squad 1 through 4 and come to my office." It was from Lord Hood. Atin looked at Nikki. "Why does he want to see us all of the time? Is he getting lonely?" Nikki laughed. "Just don't say that to his face, or he'll court martial you."

Atin, Nikki, Char, and Kami walked into Lord Hood's office. In there was another person. Lord Hood spoke before Zeta Squad could even salute. "Squad, this is Commander Robert Graves. He has proven himself countless times, and he is a valuable soldier."
Atin looked at the soldier. He looked like he could but up a fight. "Sir, if I may ask, why are we here?"
Hood folded his hands. "Robert is the newest member of Zeta Squad."
Nikki immediately shouted out, "But we don't need a 7th member!"
Hood looked at her. "5th member. Jon was dismissed as a Zeta Squad member when Charlotte was released from the hospital. And Will was never a member of Zeta Squad, even though he is a good soldier."
The squad looked like they had been struck. Atin said, "Have him report to Zeta Squad bunker. But I want to speak to you personally." Hood nodded, and motioned for Robert to leave. The rest of the squad left also. "Why did you do that? You know that we can complete our mission best when we are able to do what we want."
Hood put his hands up to his face. "I know that. I know that better than anyone. However, I was overruled. I voted against it. But the Security Council wanted to put another squad member in. Be wary of him, but also make him a part of the squad. That's all I can ask. I have an opening mission for you. We have evidence of a URF base somewhere in a forest. I want you to go there and make it disappear."

Atin walked into the Zeta Squad bunk. Robert, the new guy, was sitting on one of the chairs. "Sir, what are we doing?" he said as Atin walked past him. "Get ready. We're shipping out in 30 minutes." Atin replied as he walked into his bunk. He got on his COMlink and called Will and Jon. When they arrived at the lobby, he spoke to the entire squad, all 7 of them. "This is Commander Robert Graves. He is the 7th member of Zeta Squad. I don't give a damn what Hood says, we are a team. Now, get ready. We have found a rebel base and we're gonna do what we do best. Explosive relocation." The squad chuckled. "Will, good news. You're getting a new tank." Will smiled."Get ready, squad."

"You ready, Char? Don't hold back." Atin said as he formed a fighting stance. The Ironclad was about 4 hours from planet Victoria, the site of the URF base.
"Ready." Char said, almost trance-like, as she readied her practice knife. It was a modified humbler stun baton. It wouldn't leave any permanent damage, but it would hurt like hell for an hour after touching it. The clock on the wall dinged, and the two soldiers lunged at each other. Char tried a horizontal strike, and Atin blocked it. He then jumped behind her and was going to execute a powerful vertical lunge when Char turned and brought up her knife to block, but, at the last second, Atin jumped backward and used all of his strength to lunge forward and whip the practice knife across Char's midsection. She fell, and he helped her up. "Now I know why they call you a bladesmaster." Char grumbled as she got shakily to her feet. "Sorry. But you did good. A few things to work on, but otherwise very sharp." Char clutched her stomach, and winced. Even for a Spartan, the stun batons really got to someone. But, if she was a normal person, she would be rolling around in pain right now.
"Right. Lets do it again." Char said as she grated her teeth. Atin just smiled. "I'm afraid not. You need enough time to recover before we try it again. You need to be at your top. We'll try again after the mission."
Char picked up her practice knife and sheathed it. "Why is the new guy here? We don't need him. Won't he just slow us down?"
Atin twirled his knife and sheathed it in one motion. "Hood said that the Security Council all voted on it. Apparently, they want to make sure that Zeta Squad is completing our missions the way they want."
"So, in other words, they want Robert to spy on us." Char said.
"I guess so. Keep your eye on him, but don't look you're keeping an eye on him." Atin said.
"Umm...Roger that." Char said.
Atin walked up to the bridge, Char following closely behind. "Status, crewman?" Atin said to the NAV officer. "Sir, ETA to rebel planet is 30 minutes. Give or take 15, of course. Advise you get your team to the Pelican soon, because I don't know what the hostile count is. Might be rough." Atin nodded, then looked at the viewscreen. Planet Victoria had once been the location of a major URF, or United Rebel Federation, base that Spartan Blue Team had razed. There probably wasn't just one base there, either. This might be the big one they were looking for. Atin opened his COMlink to the squad. "Zeta 1 to all Zeta Squad members. Report to the hangar by 0730. This is it, squad. Lets go."

Chapter 5: Infiltration

"5 to ground, I repeat, 5 to ground! Get ready, Zeta. Good luck!" The pilot said as the Pelican dropped into the atmosphere. The Ironclad had done its job perfectly. It had exited Slipspace and dropped the Pelican before the Innies could even blink. Inside the cabin, the 7 members of Zeta squad all looked ice cold on the outside, but on Atin's TEAMBIO monitor, their pulses were racing. All except for Robert, the new guy. Either he had ice in his blood, or something was up. "Robert, whats up? Nervous?" Atin said.
"No sir. This isn't my first op with the Insurrection. I'm ready. You can count on me to get the job done." Robert replied. Atin was impressed. "All right. Let's see what you can do." He replied. The hatch opened, and Atin took his Battle Rifle from the rack and placed it on his back, and it stuck with a metallic snap. Nikki grabbed a Shotgun and an AR, Char, her BR and a pistol, Kami, her Shotgun, Will, his Rocket launcher, Jon, an AR, and Robert grabbed a Sniper Rifle. 7 soldiers. They were ready. The Pelican lowered until it was hovering just above the ground. "Bang out, Spartans! Good luck!" Zeta Squad jumped out of the Pelican and Atin surveyed the area. The whole area of land where the base was supposed to be looked like it had been in a landslide. The plot of land that Zeta was on had lush, green trees and bushes, but the next two areas were barren, separated by 20-foot cliffs. However, the second plot's edge was what looked like at least a 500-foot drop onto sharp rocks below. The squad took cover and Char spied through her BR's scope. "Sir, I have 4 soldiers emerging from a hatch in the first plot. Want to go for it?" Atin looked through his own BR. "Yeah. Lets go. Squad! Fall out!" And Zeta Squad mobilized into action.
Atin jumped down to the second plot of land and did a barrel roll when he landed. He sighted through his BR's scope and took down one of the soldiers. As he looked at the second, he saw that Char had already taken one down, and they both shot at once, and all of the Insurrectionists were down. The squad sprinted to the hatch. Atin opened it and the whole squad jumped in.
Zeta squad fell through the hatch into the base. Immediately, Atin and Char locked their BR's at their shoulders, and advanced forward slowly. "Did you forget about me?" Solipsil asked Atin. "No, of course not. It's not like you're in my head or anything. Can you get us a map of this mini-hellhole?" Atin and Char rounded a corner and shot 2 guards before they could raise the alarm. Char sighed with relief. "Yeah, I got a map. To level this place, you'll need to put 5 different charges in strategic locations. I'll highlight the positions on your HUD. Atin looked at the map and discovered that this base was much smaller than he thought. "Why in the hell would they need so many guards and defenses for a base this size?"Nikki asked Atin over the COM. "I'm not sure. But all the same, lets do what we do best, squad. We need to split up into 5 teams. Char, you're with me. We can work best at long range. Kami, you're with Robert. Everyone else, you're on your own. Place a charge in your location, radio back to me, and meet up right here when you're done. Keep radio silence until you place the charge. I'll link them all to one detonator. Good luck, squad."

Atin kicked down a door and let loose a hail of bullets that dropped 4 guards before Char even got in. "Hey, that's not fair. If you're gonna break the rules, then we won't keep score." Char complained. "What about you getting that one 5 minutes ago? I should have got that." Atin rebuked. "It doesn't count unless you call it." Char said. "Aww, bullshit. Fine, then we won't keep score." Atin said as he nudged her playfully. They edged their way into another room, and took positions, ready to fire, but there was nobody there. Atin consulted his map. They were close to the main power generator now, and everything was going along smoothly. Atin sliced the next door's computer and opened it, and looked at the power generator. It was absolutely massive, much bigger than what was needed to power a facility this size, unless they were testing something that required that much power. Atin walked to the generator's shell and placed the det charge. He activated it, and linked it to his personal detonator. He saw that 2 other charges had already been activated. "It's done. Lets get out of here, k?" Atin said to Char. She nodded. "Nikki to Atin. Charge set." Nikki's terse message got through, as did Will's, Jon's and Kami's. "That's everybody. Good." Atin should have felt relieved, but he didn't. An uneasy lump was forming in the pit of his stomach, and he didn't like it. Atin and Char arrived at the RV point, where Nikki and Will were waiting. "Only Jon, Kami, and Robert now, right?" Atin asked, and Nikki nodded. Jon walked up to the squad and greeted Atin in the traditional way, by hitting each other's forearms together. Atin was about to ask Kami why she was late, when he got a flash in his head. Just then, Kami's voice filled Atin's helmet. "Atin, We've got a problem here! They're all over us!" Her voice was gone as fast as it appeared. Atin looked at the rest of the squad to see if they heard what he did. Judging by their reactions, they had. He looked for Kami's Friend or Foe tag on his HUD, and saw that she was elevating to the surface. "Come on. There's no time! We gotta go!" Atin yelled as he ascended the stairs to the surface.

Chapter 6: The Shot

Atin kicked open the hatch, and bursted through. He looked around, and saw a group of people on the last plot of earth. He jumped down, followed by the rest of Zeta Squad. What Atin saw next was painfully clear. A senior URF officer was holding Robert's sniper rifle, aiming straight at Kami's head. She was kneeling on the ground, with her hands on her head, right next to the cliff that led to the abyss below. Robert was bound together with cables that could hold a Scorpion tank in place. Atin knew what those sniper rifles could do, and it wasn't good. A URF soldier walked up to the squad and took their weapons. The squad handed them over because they didn't want to know what would happen if they didn't.
"Zeta Squad. I always wanted to meet you like this. I am the second-in-command of the United Rebel Front. I am Charles Smith."
Atin barely controlled his anger and worry. "Let my teammates go. Now. It's over. Your base is finished. You have lost. Let them go, and we will work something out. Please."
Smith looked pleased. "No, I know I will die. However, the URF will live on." He signaled to the soldier holding Robert, and he took Robert away. Smith continued. "You do not know how happy I am to have killed a soldier of the famous Zeta Squad. I will live on in URF history when we defeat the UNSC!" In Atin's helmet, Kami said, "Atin. Don't worry about me. I'll be fine, no matter what happens. Whatever happens. Remember that, At'ika." That hit Atin hard. He knew what was about to happen before it happened. "Kam'ika!" He screamed to Kami. Smith laughed manically, then shot her.

Atin felt numb. He wanted his eyes to be lying to him, and he was furious that they weren't. He saw Kami fall from the cliff into the abyss below, and he couldn't feel anything. The only thing that mattered was that that son of a bitch died. Atin charged at him, sprinting with all of his might. He felt a strange tingling on his right forearm, and it intensified, like something giving off energy. It felt familiar, exactly like the feeling Atin got when he looked at Forerunner symbols. Suddenly, the power pulsed, and out of the gauntlet came three blades, one from the top, and one from each side. They locked in place around Atin's wrist, and surrounded themselves with blue energy. Atin charged up to Smith, and slammed the blades into his abdomen. The blades went right through, and exited out his back. Atin pulled the blades out, and Smith fell. He had a look of satisfaction on his face. Atin slammed the blades into his face, also. The blades went through flesh, bone, and rock just like a combat knife through butter. Atin pulled it out, and screamed at the top of his lungs. "No! No no no no no! No!" He yelled. He fell to his knees. "I promise. I promise you, Kam'ika, you will be avenged." He got up, turned to the squad, and said, "I'm going down. To get her." Just then, Lord Hood's voice came on Atin's COM. "Spartan, get out of there. Now." Atin had had it. "No. I'm going down there. I lost one of my best soldiers down there." Damn. He said it. That made it real. "Atin, get out. That is a direct order." Atin ignored him. He got his grappling hook ready. His COM opened again. This time, it was Nikki. "At'ika, please. Come on. Once we get out, we're gonna level the base, and then they're gonna saturate bomb the whole area. I don't know if they will wait for us or not." Atin turned, and saw a Pelican hovering near. Nikki walked over to him, and she put her hand on his shoulder. "Please, little brother, come on." Atin had one look back to the cliff, and then followed Nikki to the Pelican. It lifted, and Atin triggered the charge. The three plots of land vaporized instantly. The explosion was huge. Atin looked up, and saw multiple squadrons of Longswords approaching. Each one let loose 50 bombs, and the entire expansion of land was engulfed in a massive eruption of fire and smoke. Kami's funeral pyre. Atin closed the Pelican's hatch, and reminded himself that the mission must come first. It was the life of a soldier. Hood's voice came on Atin's helmet. "I'm sorry, Atin. I really am. I couldn't stop those Longswords if I tried. Are you still battle ready?" Atin sat down, and his mind was made up. When his task was completed, then he would mourn Kami's death. Now was the time for vengeance. "Fit to Fight, sir." He said, back to his normal self. On his TEAMBIO, he saw that Nikki's pulse slowed slightly. She was relieved. So was Atin. "Your mission is to retrieve Robert from the URF. Good luck, Spartan." As Hood's voice dimmed out, Atin stood and looked at the explosion that had now engulfed the nearby trees on fire. He turned away from it, and faced the squad, not looking back.

Chapter 7: Refocus

"Atin, are you all right?" Nikki asked, cautious. Atin snapped back to reality. "Yeah. I'm fine. Never better." Atin said bitterly. Nikki recoiled slightly. "I'm just trying to help." Nikki replied. Atin instantly felt bad. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have snapped at you." Nikki patted him on the shoulder. "It's ok. If you need anything, just ask." She said. Atin nodded and walked over to the computer console. They were about 3 hours from Earth. "Squad!" Atin barked, back to himself again. "When we get back to Earth, you have 12 hours of free time, because that's how long I'm giving the Ironclad to reload and rearm. Get some sleep. Dismissed."
Atin walked into the training room, clad in full armor. 10 robotic soldiers came into view, and Atin searched deep down for that familiar feeling he got from Forerunner artifacts. He looked down at the gauntlet, and the blades sprang out again and hummed with their blue energy. He lunged at on e of the soldiers and sliced it clean through, jumped to the second and impaled it in the chest. The rest aimed their clunky, old rifles at Atin, and he crouched and was about to roll, when he felt a subtle change in the energy that the gauntlet was giving off. The top and bottom blades rotated to half position and an energy shield popped in place. The bullets bounced right off, and Atin jumped and tried to manipulate the gauntlet, and visualized the gauntlet in combat mode, and the blades rotated back around his wrist, and Atin swung and destroyed the rest of the test dummies. He visualized the blades going back into the gauntlet, and they rotated back into the gauntlet. He kneeled down, and exhaled. His workout was over for today. He had to get ready to leave. As he was walking down the hall, he saw a marine and his friend, both on leave and wearing their dress uniforms. One of them got his friend's attention, and said, "Hey. Check it out. That's one of Zeta Squad. Heard one of them got slotted." His friend whistled, and replied, "So they finally found out that they're not invincible?" That was it. Atin had had it with insults to his squad. He faced the soldier, and activated his gauntlet. The blades rotated and locked half an inch from the soldier's face. "Listen. You try one minute in our position. You'll be dead before you can say 'oops.' So I think you should show your superiors some respect, don't you think?" Atin could see the sweat forming on the young soldier's forehead. "Yes sir. Sorry sir." He hastily replied. Atin deactivated the gauntlet and walked on.

"I need a report on the Ironclad's systems." Nikki said as she walked into the bridge. "Ma'am, all systems are good to go. All Archer missiles filled, reactor at 100%." Nikki nodded, satisfied. She heard another set of footsteps approaching, and she turned. Atin strode up, all military precision now, and looked at her. "We ready? I have Robert's coordinates." Nikki replied, "All set. Everything is ready for a full on assault, if need be." Atin sat down in the command chair, and smiled. "Let's hope not. The system we're going to is the Charybdis IX system. I'd like to jump to the edge of the system, and once we leave the ship, have it jump to a nearby system, so that we can have some space." Atin punched in codes on the arm of the command chair, then looked at Nikki. "Sounds good. We gonna have a panic button or what?" Atin nodded. He opened a link to all of Zeta Squad. "All set, Zeta?" He received positive acknowledgment lights from Char, Will, and Jon. He pushed a final button, and the Cruiser jumped to Slipspace.

Chapter 8: Payback

"Exiting Slipspace in 5...4...3...2...1..now." The Ironclad tore through Slipspace and returned to normal space. Atin peered through the viewport and saw a huge asteroid field. "Well, it's a damn good thing that we have Robert's coordinates, right?" Atin asked Nikki. "Yeah. So, ready to go?" She replied. Atin got out of the command chair, and nodded at her.

"Squad, suit up. Let's get ready to move." Atin ordered as he walked into the hangar. He looked over his squad. Nikki, Char, Jon, and Will. A five member squad. That should be enough. At least, he hoped so. This was it. Atin was ready for a little payback. He walked into the cabin of the Pelican, and the squad followed him. As the Pelican cleared the cruiser, Atin opened a link to the Ironclad's bridge. "All right, people. Phase 1 complete. Jump to a nearby system, and wait for orders, over." The Ironclad jumped to Slipspace, and left the Pelican in the blackness of space. It flashed its engines once, and then shut them off, relying on their drift speed to get them there. "Zeta, ETA to asteroid is 1 hour and 7 minutes." Atin unhooked his straps and started to float around the cabin. He checked his HUD, and applied Robert's tracking point to his radar. He felt tired, and floated over to Nikki. "Wake me when we get there, ok?" He asked her, and then he fell asleep.

"Atin, we're almost there." Nikki said. Atin instantly woke up, and floated over to the viewport on the Pelican's hatch. The dropship shuddered, and the pilot spoke up. "Zeta squad, this is as close as I can get you guys. You'll need to free float to the asteroid from here. Good luck." The hatch opened, and the squad floated out of the Pelican, and out into the open space. "Squad, ETA is in 7 minutes. Prepare for impact, and look like space dust." Atin took a deep breath as the asteroid got bigger and bigger. Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, Atin hit the asteroid. It knocked the breath out of him, but he was there. He looked around, and all 4 other squad members were crawling to him. "Once we get in, I want radio silence. Be as stealthy as you can." He crawled to an airlock hatch, and placed a breaching charge on it. It exploded with a silent bang, and air shot out of it. Atin jumped through, and the squad followed. He landed, and shouldered his BR. No one was there. Atin ran over to an airlock, and gestured the squad to follow. They entered, and Atin inserted Solipsil into a terminal. "All right. I'm in. I'll put NAV markers on your HUD, and comply with your radio silence order." Atin initiated the airlock, and the squad moved forward. He kicked open a door, and shot 4 Innie guards. Zeta Squad had landed.

"Head's up, Squad. We're close." The squad had been wandering through the asteroid for going on 4 hours now. Atin walked to a terminal, and held out his data chip for Solipsil to come back. When he inserted the chip back into his helmet, he felt the familiar feeling of coldness. The squad breached another door, and were faced with a 5-forked room. Atin looked to the squad. "Well, I guess we split up. If you find an exit or a clue, radio in and we'll come running." Atin took the first one, and walked in to the hallway that followed.

"Damn. Nothing. No sign of Robert." Atin grumbled as he walked into yet another room. Suddenly, the door slammed shut behind him, and the ceiling shattered. Innies started coming in like a floodgate had opened. Atin activated his gauntlet and lunged at one of them. He sliced a hostile clean open, and then, he started to get backed into a corner. He was forced to switch to shield mode, and he rolled to the middle of the room. Just then, he realized that the frontal assault was a trap. From behind, someone shot him, and everything went black.

Nikki carefully entered a room, and saw the trap before she could walk into it. She laughed at the poor concealing skills of the Innies. At that instant, she knew that she had underestimated the URF. The floor crumbled beneath her, and she fell into a room below. Nikki looked up, into the room she was in before, and saw 5 rockets barreling to her. She crouched, and felt a strange, familiar energy from the gauntlet on her wrist. She looked down, and golden energy surrounded her. She felt the rocket impact, and explode, but the new, golden, energy formed a shield around her. She tried to imagine the shield disappear, and it did. She reactivated it, and deactivated it. Nikki was just about to contemplate how to get back to the room above her, when everything went black.

Char looked at her motion tracker, and saw a faint red dot on it. She saw another behind her, and knew that she was walking into a trap. She felt some kind of energy on her wrist, and the gauntlet started glowing. Something started coming out of it, and it floated behind her and latched on to her back. She worked around, trying to get it off, but it wouldn't budge. The long, cylindrical tube opened into 4 legs, and they wrapped around her back. Another blip on her motion tracker, and Char knew that she would have to make the thing on her back wait for later. She saw an Innie in the hallway, and shot him down. Before she could turn and get the one behind her, the thing on her back shot it with an energy beam. She was amazed, and she tried to control it. When she tried to make it retract, it folded back into the gauntlet. She realized that instant that that was a very bad idea. Before she knew it, everything went black.

Jon was having a hell of a time fighting Innies from a distance. All he had was his Assault Rifle, and that wasn't really a long range rifle. His gauntlet started emitting a familiar energy, and Jon aimed it at the Innies, hoping that something would happen. Just then, a grappling hook shot forward, and he rode it to the other side of the chasm. He sighted an Innie, and shot the hook at him. It impacted, and electrical energy traveled along the chain and right into the hostile soldier. He fell, still shaking, and Jon turned around to face another. But there was another guard behind him, and he aimed his rifle at Jon. He fired, and everything went black.

Will knew something was wrong. He cut his way through at least thirty Innies, and he gets to a dead end. He had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach, and he didn't like it. The gauntlet on his right wrist, easily the largest among the squad, started to glow red. He started to knock on it, and it stopped. Just then, the door he went through exploded and Innies swarmed in. He aimed his gauntlet at them, and a glowing orb shot out and impacted the soldiers. It exploded in a burst of flame that lingered on the ground. He lobbed another orb at some soldiers, and it exploded in a chilling mist that froze the soldiers solid. He was having fun with the weapon, so much fun, that he didn't see the one guard that hadn't been killed aim a gun at him and shoot. Everything went black.

Chapter 9: Revelation

Atin opened his eyes, and they adjusted to his HUD. He tried to move his head, but couldn't. He couldn't move any part of his body. He looked around with his eyes, and saw that all of the squad was here, apparently unconscious or unable to move like him. His right arm was in a position right behind his neck. Someone walked up to him and slammed an iron fist into his stomach. Atin tried to hit him back, but couldn't. Then, the one who hit him talked. "So, come to rescue your squadmate, have you?" It was Robert's voice. He pulled Atin's head up, something only someone with MJOLNIR armor could do. Then, the one clad in armor took his helmet off, and it was indeed Robert. "I should thank you. For walking right into my little trap. I didn't need to do anything."
Atin couldn't believe what he was hearing. "You led us on....all along?" Robert laughed manically. "Of course! I led you everywhere. I led you to Section Zero. To the Covenant Space Station. I needed you to get rid of them for me, because if they activated Halo, that would ruin everybody's plans, wouldn't it? And, most importantly, I led you to planet Victoria and the base. Pity that girl didn't make it. I actually liked her."
Atin's eyes were narrowing with anger, and the hopelessness that his armor was immobile. "Who are you?" He asked.
"I am General Robert Graves, the son of General Howard Graves, leader of the United Rebel Front." Robert walked over to a drawer and took out a metal cylinder. It was the hilt of a Covenant Energy Sword. He walked over to Atin, and held up the sword to Atin's neck. "And I will be the one who killed you." He said. Atin willed his right hand to move to his helmet, and it did. He felt a small plug in his helmet, which he recognized as an anti-magnetic plug. He was just about to try to pull it out, but Jon pulled his out first. Jon lunged at Robert, and smashed his grappling hook into Robert's leg. Robert kicked off the hook before the lightning could touch him. Robert grabbed an anti-magnetic gun and shot Jon. He fell, his armor stiff. "Take him away! I'll deal with him after I kill these pathetic worms." Atin had his hands on the plug, and he was trying to pull it out when Robert walked up to Atin with the sword. Just as Robert swung, Atin pulled the plug out. He rolled, and activated his gauntlet. Robert swung again, and Atin parried. Robert took out the magnetic gun, and Atin cut it in half. He swung, and Robert leapt out of the way and into an elevator. "I'm very sorry that you won't live to see out grand plan come to fruition, but I'm afraid you've overstayed your welcome. Guards, kill them." Robert said as the elevator door closed. Atin turned on the guards and sliced both of them open. He rushed to Nikki and pulled out her magnetic plug. She rushed to Char, and Atin pulled Will's plug out. The squad got up, and Atin looked at the view screen and cursed.
"Damn. They're on their way. We better go. I see an escape pod bay nearby. We'll go for that." Atin said as he took out a det pack. He placed it on the viewscreen and set it. "Jon, come in. Jon?" Atin asked over his COM. "Atin, get out of there. I stole a Longsword and I'm getting out of here. Don't worry about me." Atin looked at the squad and they nodded, indicating that they heard. Atin kicked the door down, and ran into the escape pod. When everyone was in, he triggered the ignition. The pod blasted from the asteroid, and into space. "Where to, sir? The panic button won't work, and we only have a limited amount of air." Nikki said. "Just take us to the nearest habitable planet." Atin replied. The pod jumped to Slipspace...........And reemerged in less than a minute. It barreled down on a yellow planet, and crashed in the sands.

Chapter 10: Stranded

Atin kicked the door of the pod open. He poked his head out, and looked at the new environment. All he could see were sands, miles of them, in all directions. "Nikki, any idea where we are?" He asked. Nikki shook her head no. "I had to deactivate all power systems when we exited Slipspace. They're offline permanently now. Sorry, Boss." Atin jumped out of the pod and had his helmet scan the air. When it said it was breathable, he took his helmet off and took a deep breath. "Well, squad?" He said, smiling. "Looks like we're stuck here. Might as well make the best of it." Nikki, Char, and Will climbed out of the pod and looked around. "You think we should look for some kind of shelter? We don't know how hot it gets here." Will said. "Will's right, sir. And the pod's trashed, so we should start looking right away." Char added. Atin looked at Nikki. "What do you think? How much rations does everybody have?" Nikki climbed back into the pod, and came back out, shaking her head. "Not much, sir. Enough food for the whole squad for 4 days. We could recycle our water, and that would last us about a week. I don't know what we'll so after that, though." Atin looked at the sands that stretched out forever. "I guess we get started walking."

"Come on! Come at me!" Atin yelled as Char lunged at him, combat knife in hand. He dodged it, and spun. Atin tried to stab his own knife into her thigh, but she was getting quick. She jumped out of the way, and locked knives with Atin. The two each tried to overpower the other, but ultimately, Atin had the advantage. He slugged her, and put his knife to Char's throat. "I win. Good try, though." He said as he held out a hand for her to get up. "Am I getting better?" She asked cautiously. "Oh yeah. You're learning almost as fast as I did." Char handed Atin her knife, and Atin sheathed it. They had been traveling the sands for 2 days now, and it was about to get dark again. Atin silently cursed under his breath. There was something intimidating about the night here. Atin took a drink from his water canister and winced. Even though the techs said that the recycled water was as pure as a spring, it still tasted horrible. And, from a personal standpoint, he just didn't like to think that he was drinking water again and again. "Sir, can I ask you a question?" Char said. She took her helmet off, and Atin could see that she had something on her mind. "Sure. What's up?" Char considered for a moment, and asked him, "In your training, what was your instructor like?" Atin thought back to his days before the augmentation. "Well, at first, everyone hated Chief Mendez. He was always brutal to us. Making us excersize until our muscles ached, and if we fell, he would zap us and tell us to get back up." When Atin saw that Char looked horrified, he went on. "But eventually, we all looked up to him. Nothing could hurt him. We all saw him get hit, bones broken, tore up, but he never shed a tear. Except for one day. It was the day for Spartan augmentation. I was special among the Spartans in that I got to skip the Catalytic Thyroid Implant. Anyway, after it was done, almost half of the Spartans died. At the funeral ceremony, nobody but me saw it apparently, but I saw a tear going down his cheek." Char took a moment to let that sink in, and then she said, "Wow. That's wild. I would never thought that-" Before she could finish what she was saying, Atin put his hand on her shoulder. She immediately stopped. Atin gave an almost silent signal, and Nikki ran over. Will woke up, and grabbed his rifle. The squad knelt down, and searched the sands. "What do you see, sir?" Nikki asked. They had all been trained to never question orders, but nobody could see what Atin could. Just then, The sand erupted beneath them. Over 20 soldiers jumped up, surrounding them. Before Zeta Squad could fire, one of them spoke. "Do not shoot. We don't want to hurt you. Our leader wants to see you." Atin didn't let his guard down. "Are you part of the URF?" The soldier seemed offended by that. "We are neither URF or UNSC. We live here." Atin looked at the squad, and, given the size and strength of the soldiers surrounding them, they didn't have much choice. Atin stood, and followed them. "Sir, what do you think? Should we trust them?" Nikki asked. She was the first one to follow Atin, and the rest of the squad wasn't far behind. "The way things are, I don't think we have much of a choice. I guess we have to go with them, for the time being." The squad followed the group of soldiers to one mound of sand that looked a bit off color, even in the dark sky. The leader of the band of soldiers reached down and pulled a chain up, revealing a trap door. "You go down there." He told Atin. Atin reluctantly went down the ladder, the squad following him, until they got to a small room. Only the leader of the soldiers came down. He opened a door, and it led to a long hallway. The squad followed, and at the end of the hallway, a door led to a large room with one person in it. He was in his 60s, but Atin could tell that he was a warrior. His face was strewn with scars, and he had the distinctive tall, proud, stature of a warrior. "Welcome, warriors. This is my hidden city." He opened a curtain, and Atin looked out the window. A huge city had been carved into the underground rock. It stretched for at least a mile. "Welcome, Spartans." The old man said.

Chapter 11: Allies

"Who are you? Rebels?" Atin asked. The old man just laughed. "No, we're not rebels. We're not UNSC, either. We just don't want anything to do with the war. But, before we get into all that, I should introduce myself. I'm Mirto. Weird name, huh?" Mirto laughed. On Atin's closed helmet COM, he asked Nikki, "You think that they have just a touch of cabin fever?" She laughed. "Sir, might I ask why you brought us down here?" Atin asked. "Well, after seeing you and your student practicing, I knew that you could help us. I told you that we didn't want anything to do with the war. We also don't want the war here. We just want one of you to win so things can be peaceful again. You know how to bring down the URF, don't you?" Mirto asked. Atin looked out the window. "I know who the leader is. And I know where their main base of operations is. Why haven't you gone to space yet? Your city could be in real trouble if its attacked." Mirto gave a hearty laugh. "We have a fleet of spaceships ready in case we need to evacuate to our rendezvous point." Atin turned to face him. "So you can help us get back to Earth?" He asked. "Well, the ships we have are made for mass transport. Big ones. We can make a small one, hell, we even have one under construction. But you have to promise one thing. Take those bastards down." Atin nodded. "Gotcha."

Atin followed Mirto into a large room where the hull of a medium-sized ship was. He whistled when he saw the large cannon on the front. "She's not pretty, but she'll get you to Earth for sure. I think she'll be done in a couple of days." Mirto said, looking at the ship. "Want a look inside?" He asked. "Please." Atin replied. They walked to a hatch, and Mirto opened it. When they got to the bridge, Atin looked at the systems that were working, and the ones that had to be placed in. "It's all done. Except for a few things." Atin remarked. "Why are you giving this to us?" He added. "Because I know that you four have to power to end this war. You four can bring us peace. And the answer lies on your wrist." Atin looked down at the gauntlet on his wrist. "What do you know about this thing?" Atin asked him, curious. "A lot more than you might think." Mirto said, mysteriously. "Like? Can you start by telling me where you got this information?" Atin was starting to get a little uncomfortable here. "I'll tell you in due time. But you have to master it more."

"Good to see you, sir!" Nikki told Atin as he walked into the room that Mirto had let them stay in for the time being. "It's good to see you too, Nikki." Atin said. Truth was, Atin was exhausted. All he wanted was a good night sleep and a hot shower. "I'm guessing you should turn in early, Atin." Mirto said. Atin turned, and said, with a strange look in his eye, "You want to fight me, don't you, Mirto?" Atin asked. Mirto laughed heavily. "You guessed correct, Captain." Mirto replied. They walked into an open room, and Mirto took off his overshirt to reveal a heavy plate of alloy covering his chest. Atin took out his combat knife, and Mirto took a long dagger out of a sheath in his jacket pocket. They took ready positions, and in the sidelines, Char asked Nikki, "Should we be worried? We don't know anything about this guy." Nikki replied back, "No, I think Atin can handle someone like him. It'll be tough though." Char looked at Nikki with surprise. "But he's easily 60 years old!" Char exclaimed. "I know." Nikki said.

Atin had the eyes of a hawk. He could see when someone was about to make their move. He studied Mirto for the slight slouch that was followed by a viscous lunge. Before Atin knew it, and without any warning, Mirto was barreling to Atin. He dodged the first slice, and blocked the second. Atin rolled, and, to his surprise, was hit with a counter-blow. Atin jumped, and spun behind Mirto. Atin stabbed the knife into Mirto's armor plate, and, about a second later, Mirto jabbed his knife into Atin's weak spot in his armor. They stayed in that position for a couple of seconds, and then they both fell, laughing. "I guess you got me. That's something that hasn't happened in a long time." Mirto admitted. "I was certified the Bladesmaster for my group of Spartans." Atin said. "Maybe you should have tole me that before I challenged you." Mirto said. "At any rate, get some sleep. You four have a big day tomorrow." He added.

Chapter 12: Liftoff

Atin opened his eyes peacefully for the first time in what seemed like weeks. He got up, and walked over to the window. The artificial lighting of the city was dimmed to simulate daybreak. He walked downstairs to the lobby, where the desk clerk was waiting for him. "Oh, Mr. Atin. Mirto wants you to meet him in the hangar when you can." Atin nodded. "Thank you. I'll go there now."

"Good to see you, A." Mirto said as Atin walked in. The ship was easily half the size of a UNSC Frigate. "Why are you giving us a ship this size? I'd hate to cause you any trouble." Atin said. "Trouble? Not at all! We already have more than enough ships to get everything out of here if needed. And the ships this size are just decoy ships. If there is a full on assault on the city, we send these ships out first. Some of them are loaded with explosives, some are just empty ships. We're just fueling our emergency fleet." Mirto said. "Wow. Well, I thank you for this." Atin said. "Are you sure that we can work this bucket with only 4 people?" Atin added. "Well, your AI should be able to handle most of the critical systems, but you'll need one person at the controls at all times to handle the less important stuff. That answer your question?" Mirto asked. "Yeah, that pretty much covers it." Atin replied. He COMmed Nikki to wake her up, but he got her voice instead. "Sir, we're on our way to your location. We've got everything ready." Atin smiled, satisfied. "Excellent work, Nikki." Atin walked into the ship, and looked around the bridge. "Go ahead. Sit in the Command Seat." Mirto said, right behind him. Atin sat down and looked at the systems activated. "Say, Atin. What's your last name?" Mirto asked. Atin stopped what he was doing and concentrated. He hadn't had to remember that since he had been taken for Spartan training. "I'm sorry. I can't remember." Atin admitted. "That's all right. It doesn't matter." Mirto said. Nikki, Char and Will walked into the bridge. "Sir, Zeta Squad reporting for duty." Nikki said. "You'll be fine. Keep in touch with us, all right?" Mirto said. "Don't worry. We know who our allies are. We'll keep in contact often." Atin replied.

"All right. Lets do this. Squad! Take positions." Atin ordered. He inserted Solipsil's data chip into the ship's port. The squad each sat down at a chair, Nikki at copilot, Char at Navigations, and Will at Weapons. "Now, I need you to do something for me." Mirto told them over the intercom. "You need to go absolutely silent until you get to the edge of the system. We don't want anyone to find us out here. Copy?" Atin nodded as he activated systems and flipped switches. "We copy. No one'll know we were here." Atin replied. "System check." He went on. "Engines!"
"Crew systems!"
"Check." Atin sighed. "All right. I think we're ready to go. Mirto, can you give us a countdown?" Atin asked. "Right here. Goodbye, Zeta Squad." A countdown appeared on Atin's console. Then, the ceiling started shaking and a metal sheet moved, exposing the daylight. The countdown was at T minus 30 seconds until launch. At 20 seconds, Atin took a deep breath. He looked at Nikki, and then at the rest of the squad. "Here we go." He said as the timer counted down from 10. Atin's heart pulsed.






When the timer hit Zero, the ship lurched, and smoke filled the room. The ship started to accelerate, and then fly out of the hole and into the atmosphere. Nikki was looking at the speed indicator. "We've exceeded the escape velocity." She said. "Good. All right, squad. Just sit back and enjoy the ride." Atin said. The atmosphere started getting darker as they were getting farther from the ground. It became pitch black after they exited the atmosphere, and Solipsil said, "We have 5 minutes until we leave the system. Where to, squad?" Atin considered for a moment. "Take us to the Epsilon Eridani system." He said. Nikki looked at him with astonishment. "Sir? Reach?" She asked. "Yep. Planet Reach. If we drop right to Earth in an unidentified system, they'll probably open fire on us. There's got to be a salvageable ship in orbit above Reach, and the system's occupied by the Elites. Besides, we can put this ship down there, and have a sort of last resort if we ever need it." Nikki nodded. "That make sense. Good thinking, sir." Atin smiled, then turned to Solipsil. "Soli, set course for the planet Reach."


The ship, which Atin had named the Nighthawk, had been in Slipspace for about 3 hours, and would arrive at Reach in another 7. Atin was at the Command chair, and Nikki was at the co-command chair. Char, at the Nav chair, was struggling to stay awake. "Char, if you're so tired, then just go turn in." Atin told her. She snapped awake, then her eyes started to close again. "No sir. I'm fine. I can stay awake for another hour." As she said this, she finally fell asleep. "I'll take her to her quarters." Atin said. Nikki looked like she had something on her mind. "Sir, you didn't trust Robert, did you?" Atin stopped. "No. I didn't. You know, back in Spartan training, they told us that you should keep your distance from other soldiers, even other Spartans." Atin started. "We were the best. We were trained to follow every single order, learn from every single lesson that we got. We learned from that lesson, too. We learned that even the instructors can be wrong." He finished. Nikki smiled with inspiration. "So naturally, every single Spartan got that lesson wrong. And the funny thing was, it wasn't Chief Mendez that taught us that lesson. He sure threw a fit about it. When Command told him that he should be ashamed that we failed the lesson, he said that he was proud of us. Maybe that's why we're the best. Because we're closer to one another than regular grunts." Atin said as he picked Char up and took her to her quarters. "You should get some sleep also. You'll need it. Good night." Atin told Nikki.

"Zeta Squad, ETA to Reach is 1 hour." Solipsil told the squad, who all gathered in the bridge. "All right, squad. This is our first stop in the trip to Earth. That bastard Robert tried to kill us on two different times, but we'll teach him that you shouldn't mess with Zeta Squad." Atin told the squad. "Sir. This isn't over, is it?" She asked. "No. It isn't. Not by a long shot." Atin replied. He stood, and shouldered his BR. The squad stood and took out their weapons, too. Atin barked, "Zeta Squad! Lock and Load!"