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You Know My Name: 3 of 3:
Posted By: (ENS) Rabid_Gallagher<rabid_masterchief@hotmail.com>
Date: 27 March 2008, 10:55 pm

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      "Colonel, we are in orbit."
      Gallagher turned his head towards the viewscreen, his eyes blinking in rapid succession to confirm what he saw. He saw Earth; North America was in view, and the Britain Isles were easily too, along with Africa and South America. He saw the black space around it, and the bright Sun's rays shining into the view port. The Moon was passing over the other side, most likely Asia, and the huge MAC Stations loomed over the Earth like a system of shields. The Elite Deck Officers stopped what they were doing, giving themselves time to view the humans' homeworld. The Shipmaster, Rtas' Vadum, leaned forward as he himself viewed the planet; it reminded him much of Sanghelios, and he allowed himself a grin.
      The Elite Fleet, consisting of the Shadow of Intent plus numerous other vessels, loomed some distance away from the planet. No other ships accompanied the Elite fleet as it slowly loomed forward towards Earth. On the bridge, Colonel Robert Gallagher smiled as he saw the homeworld he loved: It was such a sight after the engagement and Hell they went through, not only by themselves but with their new comrades in arms.
      "Shipmaster! Communication from one of the platforms."
      "Colonel. You are the highest ranking human on board. Would you like to receive the call?"
      "I'll take it."
      Rtas stared at the human Colonel, who stood with a bit of pride within his stance. But the aged Elite also saw the slight sadness in the steps towards the secondary view screen. He understood why Humanity was what it was: They fought on and on, but even when sadness and hurt begot them, they didn't stop. He stared, even still, at the lean human. He was compelled to ask him why he looked like an Elite mourning the loss of a brood wife.
      "This is UNSCDF Control Station Memphis, calling to unident…"
      "Control Station Memphis, this is Colonel Robert Gallagher, ONI Identification Red Alpha."
      "I need more than a code for identification, otherwise we will begin fi---"
      "Control Station, this is the UNSC Heavy Cruiser
United States, Admiral Hood in command. I can verify Colonel Gallagher's identity. Stand down."
      "Are you humans always so cautious?" Rtas' voice carried easily through the Command Bridge, causing Gallagher to turn his head over his shoulder. The Sanghelli Fleet Major, Oana Berius, quickly breathed in air into his lungs, as if Gallagher had committed a sacrilegious offense. The aged Colonel quickly pivoted around on his feet, turning so his body was now facing the Shipmaster, his actual fatigued uniform in front of Rtas. He saw the bloody marks, one or two holes, a large plasma burn score on the leg, and numerous other marks of combat. The two commanding officers saw the damage that the Brutes did to the Colonel during the Ark operation, and he nodded.
      "I did not mean to make any offense, Shipmaster."
      "It is forgiven." The Shipmaster said, and he fully knew well that it wasn't. To speak with your back turned towards one of such rank in Sanghelli culture can be likened to spiting on someone's face within human culture.
      "War does this to people. Makes people more and more…afraid. We humans have always been afraid of dying."
      So the human's a philosopher too.
      "Colonel! I trust your mission was complete?"
      "Yes, sir. The mission is complete. Truth is dead, and we have a presumed guess that the Flood was wiped out as well."
      "I'll hear the rest at the debriefing, because right now that sure isn't comforting to hear. Where is Commander Keyes?"
      The Colonel looked over to Rtas for a brief second, his head slowly arching towards the Shipmaster, before it looked back at the image of Lord Hood.
      "She didn't make it."
      He only saw Lord Hood's face reflect the same sadness Gallagher gave to Rtas. The Sanghelli Shipmaster stared at Gallagher and Hood's transaction of words, the rest of the Elites having nothing else to do but watch.
      "Alright, Colonel. I'll see you here on the Cairo. Hood out." The voice of their commanding officer, who had been identified as Admiral Hood, spoke in a low tone as he looked somewhere else for a brief moment. The screen faded into darkness, the human Colonel turning around to face Rtas again.
      "My men will leave your ship, Shipmaster. It was an honor to fight by your side."
      Rtas guarded this human's gaze for a long moment, as if time had stopped for the two warriors, locked in a struggle for infinity with a single gaze. Rtas studied the human's face, once regarded as ugly and easily noticeable, but he never saw what he was being shown now: compassion, caring, even a form of family love that he had never seen outside of Elite culture. His eyes held a hard quality, something he had only seen from humans on the heat of battle. The emotion he was putting forth was something that, before meeting Keyes and other humans, Rtas thought only existed within Sanghelli.
      He nodded.
      "I will never forget the sacrifice you and your brethren made for this Galaxy, Colonel. You lost many a great human in this war, and the Sanghelli know this. We will, beginning on this vessel, remind our own brethren what humanity did here." Rtas spoke with a low growl, but a respectable one. The rest of the Sanghelli bridge staff stood up, slammed their hand on their chest, and pointed it straight out from them as they yelled out a cry of victory.
      They were giving honor due at the planet Earth.

      "Plah-toon! A-ten…huu!" Gunnery Sergeant William Reynolds bellowed into the cargo bay of the Shadow of Intent, the platoon of infantry at his command stood at the position of attention in military-drill precision. Each of them had some sort of medical bandage or gauze or plaster holding on, showing off their wounds to the rest of the bay. Even Reynolds, with his shoulder wound, seemed like he had seen worse in his days as a soldier than the wound he had received on two accounts, thanks to the Covenant. The only one who appeared not to get wounded at all was the Lieutenant, which was a disgraceful sign.
      Reynolds about-faced, bringing up his hand to a salute, right in front of the Lieutenant.
      "Sir, 1st Platoon standing by to board the Pelican, sir!"
      "Very well!" He said, a big voice adopted his vocal chords for this occasion, and Reynolds gave a faux smile, before he performed another about-face.
      The smile dropped.
      "Platoon! When I give you the command to fall out, fall out and proceed onto Pelican Alpha Three Eight Zero. Platoon, fall-out!"
      The platoon all took two steps back.
      "Aye, aye, sir!"
      Reynolds fell to a limp-stance, his body relaxing in a standing position, turning around to face the Lieutenant.
      "Well, sir?"
      "I'm just savoring the moment. Before I get decommissioned." He said, looking over towards the command staff on the far side that was in consul with the Shipmaster and a few of his aides. Reynolds raised an eyebrow at the Lieutenant; he had the appearance of being tired and lame, as if the Galaxy was already too much on his earthly shoulders.
      "Hell, Sergeant, you saw it out there. I'm not fit to lead soldiers into battle. You did most, if not all, of the commanding out there. I know I'm going to be set down on the backburner and probably hold a desk job. No action, no glory, just to fade away as a footnote in military history as a combat lieutenant here. That'll probably be the extent of my history. I fought here, but that will be it. You? You've fought all over the Galaxy, and history remembers soldiers like you." His eyes seemed to hold that sad quality that Reynolds still holds; but unlike the Sergeant's the Lieutenant's eyes held the intelligence and understanding that he was terrible, and that his life as a military commander could now be measured in seconds.
      He could see the sadness of that acknowledgement in his eyes, standing tall but his heart wounded. A straight gaze but a lucid face, a hearty voice but now almost silent.
      "I've been a terrible leader. I've lead from the rear, and I didn't do a good job at that either. I know I was a terrible leader, the men known I was one, and you definitely knew I was a terrible leader…
      "Well, Sergeant, let's go. I want to get home as much as you do."

      The main control station of the Cairo remained the same as it was when Truth launched his attack: damaged stations and boards, plus the hanging ceiling attire, gave it a haggered look. The main stations on the far side, a wall behind them instead of the 'space glass', were worse off because of the fact that they weren't even working anymore. A ceiling holding shaft had fallen in the middle, and they had to evacuate to the Auxiliary Bridge to continue battle operations.
      Admiral Hood stood right in the middle of that same bridge, his back towards that wall, hands clasped behind his back as he waited for the group of individuals to informally debrief him on what happened at the Ark. His stance, less tight than what he usually put on, seemed very relax but a quality held him down. His eyes were closed, a pair of teeth biting down on the lower lip almost to the point of breaking, before his mouth let his lip go. His head turned towards the view plates, showing data that Hood had some idea of what it was talking about. Supply orders, unit commanders and their current place of residence…
      He took another look at the list, and sighed with another bout of sadness. There was, before the Prophet of Regret had attacked, thirty two Marine and fifty six Navy officers on board and stationed on the Cairo. Now, there were a total of five Marine officers and two Navy midshipmen left from that entire compliment. Truth had made sure of that. Now he was one of the last few remaining members of HIGHCOM left in the entire UNSC. He, the highest ranking, had outlived most of his junior officers, save Harper and Romanov.
      The old commander's eyes turned towards an Admiral's coat, with the female cover marked accordingly and the rank in a bag in the cover's upper ring holder.
      He had to turn his eyes away.
      A voice rang out, snapping his head back towards the door. It was Colonel Robert Gallagher, looking as much haggered as the Admiral did right now, but his walk was more pronounced. That sadness quality held him down more than it did Hood, and he had an idea of why. But, like any good officer, he kept it to himself instead of talking about it in front of Master Gunnery Sergeant Peter Stacker and Gunnery Sergeant William James Reynolds. The two Sergeants were right behind the Colonel, both of them walking with that quality within their faces and steps that all of the mission operatives seemingly held.
      They entered in behind the Colonel with a stiff stance, but their eyes told it all.
      "Good to see you, Colonel. Sergeants." He said, giving a curt nod in their direction. Pete nodded back, snapping to a modified position of parade rest, while his comrade merely snapped to a full parade rest in front of the Admiral.
      "What happened to Keyes?"
      "She was attempting to save Sergeant Major Johnson, but she was killed." Gallagher spoke, staring straight at Hood. They made eye contact, but the sadness in Hood's eyes was the same holding within Gallagher. Hood lost a loyal commander. Gallagher lost a friend.
      "What happened to the Chief?"
      Hood turned his head towards Reynolds, who was staring at him with a panther's gaze. Hood knew why too, he had the same look when he had asked the man who extracted the Arbiter from the Atlantic Ocean.
      "He didn't make it."
      Stacker had a neutral look, but Gallagher had his mouth minutely ajar, his eyes giving out disbelief at Hood's words. The aged Colonel looked back around, as if he was going to see the Chief spring up from behind a control station and everything would be okay then. But, as he saw, it didn't happen.
      "He was in the cargo bay of the Dawn and he activated the engines to escape the destruction of the Ark. But, the Arbiter never saw him again. He was the only survivor after you and the Marines left."
      "Wait, Sergeant Johnson didn't make it?"
      "I'm afraid not."
      Stacker's face mirrored Gallagher's, just a few moments before, a mix of surprise and realization.
      "Not a lot of good men made it out of there alive, Colonel. I've asked ONI and some scientific groups to help try to reactivate the Ark portal, but don't hold your breath Robert. Do you at least have the body of Keyes?"
      Gallagher nodded, but his lips stiffened.
      "Then we'll conduct a burial later. For the time being, I'll talk to Section II and see if I can get some sort of memorial up somewhere. We all need something like that. For now, you can leave Colonel. I have to talk to Sergeants Reynolds and Stacker."
      Gallagher snapped to the position of attention, his right hand folding in and centering next to his eyebrow, a perfect hand salute. The Admiral reciprocated, snapping up in the same manner and giving him a salute. Gallagher dropped back his hand down to attention, and after that he stepped off with his left foot, walking away from Hood and the two Marines with a purpose.
      Hood directed his attention back to the Marines.
      "Stacker, Reynolds. I have two things for you." He spoke quietly, his hands melting into his white jacket's pockets with a purpose, pulling out two slim medal cases. Reynolds inwardly sighed, he didn't want these trinkets of war. He didn't know about Stacker, but for Reynolds these things lost their value, especially after Eridanus.
      He opened both, displaying the Medal of Honor.
      "Colonel Gallagher recommended both of you for the appointment, and I accepted." He said, slipping one of the cases under his left armpit as his hands took the first Medal of Honor and unfurled it. Opened, Hood placed it around the younger Sergeant's neck with a smile on his face, one of the first he's cracked since the Colonel stood in front of him.
      He took the other box, opened it, and repeated the same steps for Sergeant Stacker. For Stacker, however, he only gave him the medal to be worn on the uniform, a bronze star pricked into the soft, blue fabric. He saluted them both, and dropped it quickly. The two Marines saluted back, and they both turned to leave. Hood tapped Sergeant Stacker's shoulder, getting the Marine's attention before he left. Reynolds left, leaving the ODST there with the highest ranking officer that Humanity has left.
      "You have another thing, Pete…" Hood said, taking out a twin pair of datachips from his pocket from a sequin pouch in his pocket.
      "Don't activate them until you get home."
      "Home, sir?"
      "You and Renyolds are on a one week furlough to Earth. I suggest you spend it wisely, Stacker, because you got work to do when you get back."

      William Reynolds stood outside his home.
      The cold Montana air was a refreshing thing, hitting his face like actual wind, causing his eyes to close for a mere moment but his heart sore up high, a smile on his face. He was in his dress uniform, his shoes hitting dirted gravel, his black and red uniform's curtails slowly picking up with the wind. William sighed as his eyes slowly paced over the home that he bought, the home that he spent a lot of time in, the home that his family once lived in and bore him a life.
      "Home, sweet home."
      William picked up his green duffel bag and slung the monstrous thing over his shoulder by the strap, the smile now fading as he realized who used to live here before he left for the War. He shook his head quickly and took more steps towards the home that he had so many memories within. His eyes drifted to the window, the place where he spent a lot of time as it rained outside. The door came into view, where their dog used to dart in and out with the younger Reynolds after playing outside.
      He sighed, that smile still locked onto his face.
      His dress shoes creased around the entrance hole to the shoe itself, like normal drill shoes, as he took more and more steps. His gaze sharpened as he finally closed to the distance to the door. He took his hands, outstretched it, and made a move to open it as the sunlight hit him in full glory. The door opened, but not to his hand! Quickly, he made a move for…
      A woman was standing in his doorway.
      She had long, straight hair; coming down to her shoulders and trickling downwards. It was fixed upon her head like angel hair; soft and alluring to the eye, and even more subtly smooth when stroked. Her face caught him in mid-action, the tanned skin oddly matching her flaming red hair in a flash. Beauty marked the woman of his dreams like a high-class painting, ever so transfixing. Her green eyes had a simple look to them, but eye shadow and slicked-up eyebrows gave her a beauty that only few in William James Reynold's life could match. His eyes gazed into her pupils, and longed for them to view him as he was to her. Her pink lips matched her long-sleeve sweater, and her blue jeans gave a home-town feeling to her, a quality that William remembered in the little town of Field Valley, Montana. She obviously waited for him by the door, but her action caught him completely by surprise; such so, he stood still for what seemed like eons before he opened his mouth first.
      He was still distracted: the wind had picked up and her hair was now bistling in the currents of air.
      "Mary, I…"
      "Bill, come in. You'll get cold."
      With a bit of curiosity, the Marine Gunnery Sergeant followed his ex-wife into the hallway. The hallway was a light orange, matching the pearly white siding of doors and open walkways and parts of other objects within that corridor to the lower floor. Mary, however, stopped nearby and turned around. She had another look in her eyes: determination. Bill could remember the look well enough, especially from all of the arguments they had.
      "I never sent in the divorce papers."
      That stunned William. He couldn't even open his mouth in defense to that, all he did was breathe in the air around the house. Even the aroma was the same! The honeydew and marshmallow mixture of his house swelled up into his nose and let him forget about the love of his life for one brief moment. One small, little, and seemingly everlasting moment.
      "Even after all of the lies, all of the arguments, and all of the hatred that we both spoke to each other before you left, I still never could bring myself to sign those papers and give them to the judge. I still love you, William Reynolds. I always did."
      The Marine continued to stare, a forlorn gaze now gone.
      "And nothing will change that."
      Not even William knows what happened next. He only remembered his hand letting go of his baggage and closing the distance between him and Mary within the blink of an eye. His mind was off; the only thought was the love of his life still saying she loved him, even after all of the trouble they went through. His hands cupped her face, bringing her into him, his lips meeting her's in a glorious, releasing moment.
      They fell into it, like a fantasy, or a dream.

      Pete Stacker sat at the bar.
      The Minnesota bar Lumberjack had the dim light settings on, and music slowly played through the speakers in the ceiling, a low and soulful tune. They were on the outskirts of the mega city, the last bit of farmland in the United States zone. He was sitting by himself at the very corner end of the bar, two glasses in front of him empty of liquid. A third was in his hands, the brim to his lips, his tongue tasting the tough brew and not agreeing with his throat. The latter readily accepted the drink down into his stomach, and Stacker agreed with it.
      Tonight, he was drinking to select people.
      The first glass of beer was to Avery, the hardened Marine who fought in the first engagements of the Covenant War. The second was to Commander Keyes, and that was the only one so far that he took it down slow. He remembered a lot about her, and Avery especially, but the third one was to one he only met recently.
      Corpsman Tara Gardner.
      He closed his eyes…
      "Gardner, get your ass over here! I'm losing him!"
      "On my way…Wait, Pete! Sniper!"

      He opened them.
      He never saw someone take a shot for someone else. He never saw that; even in the ODSTs, he never did see someone willingly use their body as a shield against plasma in the Covenant War. He was surprised to see it from a Corpsman, especially her.
      It was then he realized, after he put down the third beer, that he was drinking to her memory because her life was wasted on his.
      She reminded him too much of his wife.
      He could feel Rebecca against him again, but he hated that feeling. It was soft, caressing, a fingertip to his skin caused shivers to run up his spine. His eyes closed again, seeing her face flash across his mind, causing his teeth to bite down on his lower lip. He then felt the fingers of three children wrap around his leg. First came Mariah's, then William's, and then finally Isabella's little tiny fingers. Just like he remembered them.
      They were cold now, ashes on a dead world.
      The only member of his family to escape that planet was his oldest daughter, Mariah, and since that battle they were worse for wear. Mariah still hasn't bothered to speak to her own father since then, and Pete has been worse for wear.
      It was one thing to smile during combat and say things, but it is another to do the same outside of when it is most needed.
      "Bartender, another round."
      The bald-headed bartender, a mean looking fellow, nodded and pulled his glass closer, filling up the small drink holder up to the brim with liquid. Pete took the glass in his crusted hands, defined as man's hands, and let the liquid flow down his throat. He coughed, hard, feeling some of the liquid going down his windpipe.
      "I figured you were here." A female voice spoke up, largely young, with a hint of an accent that told Pete she had family in Virginia. He turned his head backwards, his body following, only to gaze on the face of his only child left. She didn't acknowledge him at first, only sitting next to him and ordered a light drink.
      He saw how she looked.
      Light brown hair, accompanied by the Stacker swagger, gave the haggered beauty a similar forlorn look to her body. No make-up, no lipstick, just her sitting at a bar with her father and the bartender, almost near closing time. Pete opened his mouth first.
      "What the hell are you doing in Minnesota?"
      "Same question I'm asking you."
      A silence crept over the two.
      "I got one more mission, then I'm out. I'm going to get back to what's important in my life."
      "Can I trust you, Dad?"
      Another silence.
      "Or will you let us die like you did on that damn world?"
      "That's not fair, Mariah. And you damn well know it."
      One more silence.
      "How about we drink here, and decide where to go from there?"
      Stacker looked down at his drink, then back to his mature daughter, then smiled as he took a swig.
      The bartender shook his head, and continued to clean a glass.

      Colonel Gallagher was sitting down in front of Lord Hood, in the confines of the Cairo's briefing room. The Marine was only a foot away from the current highest ranking officer in the entirety of the United Nations Space Command's fleet. The Colonel did not know why he was called to see Hood, but he only knew that it had to be bad.
      Around him, outside the huge MAC station, the weapons platform was beginning to come back to a normality that Robert expected from the UNSC: Marines patrolled the corridors and Naval personnel worked at their stations with diligence. He could attribute his knowledge of this by the severity of Hood's eyes: they were not as droopy as they would be if he was still solely in command.
      He knew too well the work of pulling two or more hats.
      "Glad you're here, Robert, because I got a problem."
      "I'm happy to help, Lord Hood."
      "Bull." Admiral Hood smiled at Gallagher, but he dropped it slowly as he took out a small bag full of data, chips and data-plates held within its sequin structure. Hood took out one that had a long red tag wrapped around it, giving its code level and ALEPH signature.
      He pressed it into a data receiver.
      "What're you looking at right now is the planet of Hades Secundus, the second planet in the Cerberus system. This planet has been compromised, along with Hades Prime. The remaining commander officer, Colonel Dobbs, is the commanding officer of a bunch of computer geeks, and we have one ship left."
      "I thought the 1st Fleet was there to protect our interests there?"
      "I pulled those ships away after the Second attack."
      "You didn't leave anything?"
      "Two Halcyon-class cruisers that were updated and one Marathon-class Destroyer, plus a Frigate. The Frigate,Forlorn Hope, is the last remaining loyal vessel there in the system."
      Gallagher's eyes sharpened to pinpricks.
      "How many men went rogue?"
      "About two battalions' worth of men."
      "Are you kidding?! After this goddamn war the Insurrectionists decide to start up again!?"
      "Idiotic, but understandable."
      Gallagher regarded Hood for a moment, realizing what he just said, but the thought was pressed back into his mind.
      "Well, regardless, we need to put a stop to it. I'll assemble my men, and I'll get rolling."
      Hood smiled back.
      "I like your enthusiasm, Robert, but that's already been taken care of. I need three of your best men, because they're mixing with two Spartans and four ODSTs. I want Luke on this operation, because HIGHCOM's looking at him."
      Gallagher looked away.
      "So they want us to handle some militia scum?"
      "We can't have a public incident. All they want is for their leader to get the point, if you know what I mean. This operation is in your hands, Robert, along with oh seventy one's."
      Gallagher raised an eyebrow, but dropped it once he identified the number as a Spartan identification number. All major Committee members knew that sort of information, especially when their work detailed that kind of operations where the numbers come up.
      "You got two weeks to prepare. Then I proceed with the operation."