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This Is Our Land - Chapter 5
Posted By: Carson Woo<chinamancarson@yahoo.com.hk>
Date: 18 July 2011, 12:07 pm

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The country is so beautiful, where so many heroes had devoted their lives into it. Sorry that the Qin Emperor or the Han Wu Emperor lacks a sense for literacy; while the founders of the Tang and Song dynasties came short in style. The great man, Genghis Khan, only knew how to shoot eagles with an arrow. The past is past. To see real heroes, look around you.

Qinyuanchun - Snow (沁园春•雪), 1936
--- Mao Zedong, Former CPC Chairman

Chapter 5 - Farthest Outpost

Master Chief John - 117
Lieutenant JG Fred - 104
Civilian Consultant Doctor Catherine Halsey
Chief Petty Officer Linda - 058

August 11th, 2559, 0007 Hours (Military Calendar)
Abroad Berger Class Escape Pod, Breaking Orbit Of Onyx

John slowly woke up. His blurred vision cleared, and he saw Linda, Fred and Doctor Halsey, clearly unconscious, on the floor. His stomach shifted as he discovered that they were in an escape pod with advanced technology. Soon, he felt that the pod was rising.

He contacted the base, Sparta, but got no response except static. A few moments after that, he felt that something was not right in his mind. Something he couldn't tell, but he knew it was important to him, and it might be fatal to him if he lost it.

Suddenly, he knew what was going on...

Cortana was gone.

As John bashed the heavy armor of the escape pod for the seventh time, Fred woke up and helped Doctor Halsey and Linda up on their feet. "Give it up, Chief," Fred sighed. John turned around, and was relived to find out that his friends and... his mother like figure, now awake.

Fred knew the Chief would ask questions, so he spoke first, "We must stay calm, and find a way out of here before those... things kill us." he realized that Cortana was absent, so he added, "and Cortana."

John felt a shiver up his spine after imagining Cortana's data chip reduced to ashes, and the AI totally destroyed. He managed to hide his thoughts, though, and that helped him to remain in control, or at least pretend to be.

The Chief inspected the armor plating around the pod. Its size was much smaller now, because the aliens spilt the pod into several rooms to avoid communications between the humans, John presumed. The Chief told his roommates' his thoughts. They all agreed.

Doctor Halsey frowned. "If that's the case," the doctor knocked the armor plating, "we should be able to reach the others, by...." Halsey halted, searching for the right word. "Breaking through this armor, then we can find out who is attacking us." Halsey finished, then without waiting for an answer, she went to find her laptop.

"I won't advise that, Doctor," Fred argued, "We can't be sure that besides us is another room, or just vacuum. You will be at risk if the plan goes wrong."

Doctor Halsey forced a weak smile, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained," she said, "that's Anders' trademark phrase. My, my, that's more than 24 years since I last saw her."

"Anders, ma'am?" John asked, "who is she?"

Linda glanced at Doctor Halsey. "It's the women with the highest IQ, isn't it. I remember that she is your student, Doctor." Fred and John traded surprised looks. Halsey was a genius, they don't believe that anyone can be smarter than her, especially one of her students.

"Highest IQ born after 2500," Doctor Halsey added, "and she was my student. She knew about you SPARTANs, and went away after arguing with me over that. She must be at least 45 years old by now. Was my best student. Is still my best student."

Halsey finally found her laptop, but her micro AI, Jerrod, was gone. She winced, and put the computer away. "I wonder where is the Spirit Of Fire is. Whatever, let's just wait here. Fred is right."

She stared at the left side of the pod. "Even Anders will be wrong. Stubborn as hell." 

The Doctor smiled, and went back for her laptop.


Civilian Consultant Ellen Anders
Captain James G. Cutter
Petty Officer SC Douglas - 042
Petty Officer SC Alice - 130
Petty Officer SC Jerome - 092
UNSC AI 'Serina'

February 1st, 2532, 1323 Hours (Ship's Time)
August 11th, 2559, 2355 Hours (Military Calendar)
Aboard UNSC Spirit Of Fire, In Orbit Of Unknown World

"Captain, something has happened."

Captain James Gregory Cutter, commander of the UNSC Spirit Of Fire, was awakened from a horrible nightmare, in a cryogenic tube. Quick unfreeze caused some problems but he managed to hold himself. He quickly jogged past Cryogenic Room 3, then 4,then 5, finally reaching the elevator. 

The Captain dressed himself while a bot delivered his clothing. He put on his hat, holstered his sidearm, then punched the button for C Deck, where the bridge was located. As the elevator rose, Cutter contacted Serina, the ship's AI, when he felt the ship tumbled.

The Spirit Of Fire's Captain was awakened six months ago, seven months since the shield world problem. Serina detected a slipspace hole. Before they can avoid it, the ship was pulled inside. Cutter went back to cryogenic sleep, leaving Serina to monitor the situation.

The Captain held a railing and stabilized himself. "Serina, report!" Cutter keyed the nearest intercom and barked into it. He knew when that tumbling happened, the ship was exiting slipspace. That is nearly impossible, because the ship lost it Faster Than Light, or FTL engine, during the battle in the shield world.

"Captain, we're being pulled out of slipspace. Reason unknown." Serina answered, "scanning. We are close to UNSC controlled space. Matching. Our current position is inside the Zeta Doradus system, near a planet named Onyx. Curious, I can't access the files on this planet. It seems to be... ONI."

Cutter didn't care about ONI or some secret planet. His mission was to save the crew and the ship, protect the data, then return to UNSC controlled space with the data on the shield world. "Unfreeze the crew. Get the Spartans and Anders up to the bridge as soon as possible. Scan for possible threats. " Cutter ordered as he exited the elevator.

"Already working on it sir," the AI replied. "Wait. I've detected a slipspace bubble surrounding the planet." The intercom buzzed. "Uh... Captain, you better come and take a look. The planet is not a planet anymore. According to my database, the appearance is the same with the shield world."

Cutter shivered. He and his men deserved medals and promotions, not another battle with those parasites. The whole crew would probably go nuts after knowing this. "Don't unfreeze the crew except the Spartans, Professor Anders and the bridge personnel. Hold position, and I want a comprehensive report on my console," the Captain told Serina.

"Aye,aye, Captain."

Cutter pressed in the password, and the heavy blast doors of the bridge opened for its Captain. "Direct the telescope on that planet, Serina." Cutter ordered as he entered the bridge. He sat on his commander's chair, and read the report Serina prepared. 

Serina's hologram winked to life on a holopad. "Captain, please look at the main viewport. Also, Threat sensors registered 275.. Correction, 312 of those Sentinel inbound towards the ship. Their light are blue, and this means no trouble. Yet."

A shocked James Cutter raised his head. On the main viewport was a sphere made with Sentinels, and surrounded by trillions of Sentinels. He was about to experience a heart attack, when his training kicked in.

"Shocked, is not something to be shameful of as a Commander. Don't know what to do, is something you should be shameful of. Do anything that you think it's right. Do not wait for your opponents to launch the first strike." 

Cutter remembered what his tutor told him and his classmates during the first day at OCS on Luna. Captain Robertson told him many skills, which most were useful in combat. The Robertson Maneuver taught by Captain Robertson even saved his life in combat for countless times. A shame that Hood put Robertson in OCS. A great tactician wasted.

"New heading one-eight-zero by one-eight-two, give me 80% speed and charge the MAC. Arm the Archer pods, ready pods A1 through A7 and fire on my command. Arm the AA and Point Defense guns. Tell the pilots  to prepare the Longswords for close air combat."

"Aye sir."

Cutter calmed himself down. The bridge crew began to fill in empty chairs. He heard whispers between the stations, and was worried about the crew in losing morale, when heavy footsteps told the Captain that the Spartans had arrived. Before the doors closed, Professor Ellen Anders entered too.

The Spartans saluted Cutter and the Captain returned them. "Professor," Cutter asked, "can you tell me what is that thing?"

Before the Professor looked at the viewport and answer with a shocked face, Serina cut in. "The slipspace bubble surrounding Onyx collapsed. I'm detecting two slipspace ruptures, one inbound and one outbound." She announced with her calm voice.

"Cameras on both ruptures." Cutter barked. The viewport spilt into two screens, one showing 3 Scorpion Tank-sized pods traveling into a hole, while a UNSC Super Carrier exited another hole. The surprised crew asked each other questions, and Cutter told Serina, "Match the ship with the database."

Serina complied. On the secondary viewport, a Sentinel's blueprint turned into a Super Carrier named Everest. The ship was battered, and two Point Defense guns were gone. 

"Admiral Preston Cole commanding, the UNSC Everest, constructed during the Insurrection Wars, but a superior ship compared to other UNSC ships with a 1-2 odds against Covenant frigates."

Although stunned, Captain Cutter held his nerves. "Lieutenant James, open a channel to the Everest. I need a secured channel feed on UNSC E-Band."

"Aye..Aye, sir!"

The shocked Lieutenant typed in commands, then Admiral Preston Cole appeared on the secondary viewport. "Captain Cutter?" Cole growled with a rather annoying tone. "You mind telling me why the Spirit Of Fire is here? You're MIA.." he checked his ship's clock, "13 years ago, Captain."

"13 years, sir?" Cutter asked, clearly not understanding what the Admiral told him, "It's 13 months since Arcadia, not 13 years, Admiral. It's there a mistake?"

Cole turned around. He checked with the Everest's AI, Watchmaker, then growled again, "Captain, it is April 18th, 2544, 13 years after the Covenant's first visit to Arcadia. You better explain why it's 2532 now, Cutter."

Cutter was almost furious now. He was about to explode at his superior when Serina informed him, "Captain, the pods are about to enter slipspace. I've detected at least 15 life forms inside, and half of them are confirmed human."

The Captain didn't care about arguing with Cole anymore. He personally slammed the button on Lieutenant James' console to terminate the contact with the Everest, then told Serina, 

"Flank speed, Serina! Follow those pods into slipspace. Full thruster power and deploy Plasma Rockets. Tell Cole to either follow us, conduct a jump, or continue to wander in nowhere."

A rather harsh suggestion to his superior, but the AI complied anyway. "Aye, aye, Captain. Massage away. New heading 232 by 239 confirmed, bulkheads sealed, blast doors closed, slipspace ready."

Cutter replied with a slight nod. "Professor," he told Anders, "can you work with Serina and try to find out who are in the pods? Especially those life forms not confirmed human."

"I'm on it, Captain," Anders replied as she exited the bridge and went to her lab on the observation deck. Cutter noticed that the three Spartans seem to be bored, and decided to give them something to do.

"Spartans, go to the cryogenic rooms and punch the release button for every cryogenic pods. Take a short break after that, then go to Engineering and take several engineers with you then go to the Armory. The techs will assemble a few new weapons for you to test."

"Yes sir," the leader of Red Team, Jerome - 092, answered. His team saluted, then left the bridge. Cutter sighed, and sat on his command chair.

"Serina, status report."

On the ship's status screen, all windows closed. "Entered slipspace, Captain. The pods are followed with slipspace probes. The ship is undamaged and fully operational. I wonder, why aren't the Sentinels following us?"

"Let's focus, Serina. I hope Cole followed us, or I'll be court martial  once we get back to Earth." Luckily, the Everest did followed the Spirit, but Cole was angered, and denied any communications for the whole slipspace journey.

However, unknown to Cutter and Cole, another ship followed they into slipspace. On board was another Spartan.


[O3-76920-10266-8257-76902] [ARMORED SPECIAL OPERATIONS]


August 5th, 2559, 1827 hours
Aboard UGOH Fortress-Class Super Carrier, Armory 12B
In Orbit Of Charum Hakkor

In the five years after recovering from coma, Kurt was treated as a guest on board the Super Carrier. He was accompanied by Thchestron, who told him about the aliens and their history. He learnt a lot about these aliens who turned out to be Kurt's ancestors.

Thchestron told Kurt a lot about his race, and gave Kurt his notebook, a data pad, contained details of his race's history.

In about 150,000 B.C., a race named the Precursors reached a technology level of Tier 0, a celling for technology. They created the Forerunners, who stood up against their creators and destroying them. Many species evolved in the galaxy, but none can be par with the Forerunners, let alone defeating them.

Until one day, the humans appeared on the stage. They were born on Earth, and the Forerunners viewed them as their successors. The humans evolved, and spread out in the Orion Arm to escape Forerunner control. They built colonies, and soon they were par with the Forerunners. 

They met the Prophets, and fought them. At last, an alliance was formed. Some hundreds years later, a spaceship crashed on a human planet. The ship contained lots of powders. These powders can make the humans' and the Prophets' pets' appearance better, and soon, it flowed into the black market.

These powders infected the pets. The powders are the Flood, a parasite. Systems are infected, and in need of new worlds, the humans desperately invaded others. They won easily, but lost even more worlds. Soon, they reached Forerunner territories.

The Forerunner worlds were invaded. The Forerunners declared war on the humans, and Humanity was forced to fight a two front war. Finally, at the cost of one third of their population, the Prophets and Humans drove the Flood out. However, the Forerunner fought the weakened alliance, and the Prophets surrendered. 

At the last world of Humanity, Charum Hakkor, the two sides fought for fifty years, until Humanity was defeated. They were exiled to they home world, and down graded. Unknown to the Forerunners, some humans with technology par with the Forerunners, remained.

These humans remained in a safe house, until the Forerunners fired the Halos. They were safe, and came back to rebuild Charum Hakkor. They've learnt a lesson, and only stayed in Charum Hakkor's system, until a scout came. They've known that they children survived, and thus sent scouts all over the galaxy, and one, reached the Sol system, but it was destroyed, for unknown reasons. Because of that, the Humans abandoned their search.

The scout found Kurt, and save him. They've detected other humans, but cannot reach them due to a blockade set up by the Forerunners to avoid others to reach Onyx's core.

The Human's council debated to either try to break the blockade or not. After five years, they've finally decided.

The council decided to sent Kurt. Therefore, Thchestron fetched Kurt and led him to his new armor in order to complete the mission.

"Commander," Thchestron led Kurt into an Armory that contain several advanced weapons and an armor that greatly resembled a SPI Armor. "Here's your new armor, an advanced type of your current one, named Semi-Powered Assault Armor M. II, graded Grade 15, just suitable for your mission."

"What mission?" Kurt halted and asked. "I haven't agreed to go on any missions.

Thchestron seemed to knew that he leaked some secret. "Nothing," he forced a smile, "you will know soon. Commander Laionum'ss will brief you at once after you have tested your armor."

Kurt said nothing, but he remained alert. These humans could kill him or capture him easily. But he will not go down without a fight. Even without a MJLONIR, Kurt was convinced that a Spartan can manage to grab an alien as a hostage, then get off.

As they entered a testing room with robots all over the place but without aliens monitoring them, Thchestron instructed Kurt to stand into a beam of gold light in order to equip the Spartan with the SPA. Kurt did as told reluctantly.

Once he stepped into the beam. The gold light flashed and suddenly, he discovered that he body, arms and legs were armored. A robot held his helmet, which Kurt accepted and put on. Thchestron flipped a switch. The HUD came up, and Kurt inspected himself and the SPA Armor.

The HUD was green in color, and later Kurt was told that the green HUDs were exclusively used by Special Operations commandos. It showed his motion tracker, grenades, shield meter, health monitors, a Tactical Map, a compass, NAV points and weapons. 

The armor was green, similar to the one Thchestron was wearing. The appearance was similar to a MJLONIR. A Thruster Pack, or T-PACK, was located on his back. 

"The armor suits you," Thchestron observed. "Try moving around now. If you have any question or the armor is not working, I'll be over there," he pointed at a desk, "after you're done, meet me there. I'll take you to the other stations for further tests."

Kurt nodded. He walked around, and felt that the armor was A - Okay. He was glad to have a advanced armor. That may help in fighting the Covenant, he thought. Kurt decided that he was ready, and went to meet Thchestron.

Thchestron stood up. "You're ready. Good. Follow me to the next test. I will test your targeting sensors, shield recharging system and motion tracker."

The alien walked to a door, and placed his palm on a DNA reader. The reader beeped, but the door remained closed. A male voice inside the room said something that sounded like Latin, which Kurt didn't understand. Thchestron discovered that problem and told Kurt after he replied the voice, "Turn on your translator program," the human instructed. "the switch is inside your chest storage. The second button from the left. Turn it..."

Thchestron consulted his computer inside his armor. "Five times. That will be your language." Kurt did as told, and was rewarded by a reply of the voice's line in English.

"Welcome to the Testing Room, Lieutenant. Bring the recruit in. I'd like to speak with him."

Kurt hated to be called as a recruit. He called his Spartan-IIIs like this for 21 years. It sounded like that Doctor Halsey was talking to him. He didn't believe that anyone can call him a recruit. He entered the room, though, without showing much discontent.

"Ah, the recruit," the voice belonged to a armored human sitting behind a desk. He seemed to be a man with too much pride. He was tall, standing 2.2 meters, Kurt estimated. Thchestron saluted the man with respect and said, "Commander."

"That would be all, Lieutenant. Get back back to your post." the human said without returning the Lieutenant's salute and even not looking into Thchestron's eyes. The Lieutenant didn't seem to mind, though. Thchestron saluted again, then left the room. The doors closed behind him.

"So, recruit," the human 
started, "I'm Commander Hekaludo Keishirm Skenjs Laionum'ss, commander of the Armored Special Operations Division. State your name and rank, recruit. I was told that you're saved on a Forerunner Installation where you decided to die with your enemies while badly injured in order to save your comrades. Respectable, but reckless."

Kurt had enough.

Kurt sat on a chair, "Commander Kurt Ambrose. Same rank with you."

Laionum'ss seemed to be surprised. His face dimmed and he apologized for his disrespect. Then, he briefed Kurt on his mission. At first, Kurt didn't cared about it, but when he heard of Onyx, he jumped.

"Onyx?" Kurt shouted. "How did you know?"

"Scanning your brain, of course."

"What!? Never mind."

Kurt sat down, and he was anxious. He cut Laionum'ss off. "When do we leave?" he asked.

"5 days later." the human replied. "If you know about what to do, get yourself ready. We will dust off exactly 5 days later. Lieutenant Thchestron will get your weapons ready. Dismissed."

Although Laionum'ss told someone with a same rank 'dismissed', Kurt didn't cared.

He will meet his Spartans.

He will meet his fellow Spartans.