They're Random, Baby!

Fan Fiction

Posted By: Firerwolf<triss2008@yahoo.com>
Date: 27 September 2011, 5:21 am

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The moon was almost completely waned in the sky above. Just a sliver of silver light spreading over the lands, giving it a slightly beautiful tint, like the midnight scene out of a movie. The calm serenity of the night was broken by the hum of Covenant engines. A phantom passed by slowly, searchlight traveling lazily over the rock wall.

There was slight movement ahead of Shar as soon as the phantom had passed. Jun stood up from where he was hiding behind a medium-sized rock. He looked so at home in the darkness, sniper rifle in his hands. She wondered how often he was sent on night missions like this. She knew that he was used to them; it was why she had been more than pleased to be put on one, with Kat in charge none the less.

Kat being in charge actually was a bit unsettling to Shar. She could still remember the female Spartan before the wreckage of the wraith and banshee, vowing to never lead again. It brought up a bit of doubt in Shar's mind. Was Kat really able to lead a mission after all of that? Or maybe it had really been that long since she'd last seen her teammate.

Shar snapped back to her task as she saw the slight nod from Jun. Shar stood up from where she was hiding. The two started to move forward, Shar's eyes traveling back and forward from the wide open sky to one side and her feet to be sure she didn't fall. She was silent as she walked, not even the sound of grass under her feet reaching the air.

The silence was broken, at least inside of Shar's helmet, as Jun radioed in. "Recon Team Bravo Reporting in: Three and Six in position." Shar really was getting used to being called by a number. It still felt odd at times. She did have a name after all, but no one ever seemed to use it, except for Kat but she'd only used it while they were on their own, and that was only after Shar had reminded her what her name was. "Starting to get crowded up here, Kat." Jun didn't sound pleased at the last statement.

Shar's gaze turned out toward the open expanse, checking for phantoms before she crossed a small gap. She risked a glance down and regretted it. They were very high up and there was nothing but rocks below. If she even slipped up a little it would be the death of her.

"Then we're closing in. Report any Covenant structures or devices. Direct action may be necessary." Shar was surprised by the calm in Kat's voice as she gave out orders. All doubt in the Lieutenant's mind of Kat's ability to lead the op vanished. What had happened in the past seemed to be just that now. Something from the past that no longer weighed down the Lieutenant Commander. Shar smiled slightly at that. She was glad to know that Kat hadn't given up as she'd said she would. The memories of the false snipers on the cliff flashed in Shar's mind. Yeah, she was definitely glad that Kat hadn't lost it.

"Copy that." There was a click as Jun turned off his radio, followed shortly by a light chuckle from the sniper. "When Kat runs an op, direct action is always necessary." There was amusement in Jun's voice. Shar wondered if he saw that as a good or bad thing. Personally she'd never been against direct action; it usually meant more dead Covenant, which she wanted.

Jun pulled out something from his chest plate. Shar recognized it right away as a magazine of sniper rounds. "Here." Shar took the rounds from him before he continued. "You may need these. High-velocity, armor-piercing. They'll take the hat off an elite at two thousand yards." There was an odd tone to Jun's voice. Somewhere between excitement and joking. "And they ain't cheap." Jun moved further along the cliff, partially climbing a rock. "I'll be in touch." Without another word he climbed up.

Shar turned her attention away from him. She supposed he preferred to be up high. Personally, even with a sniper rifle, she'd like to be down a bit further, somewhere where there was more maneuverability. She slid down the side of the rock face. It was something she'd done before and she found it easy on this particular surface. As she neared the bottom Shar pushed off, landing a distance away from the wall.

She hit the ground and flicked on her night vision. The eerie green glow covered the landscape around her. It was quiet, almost too quiet. Shar moved forward, easily seeing the dark in the light of her night vision.

Kat's voice broke the silence. "Recon Bravo, the sector ahead is dark to electronic surveillance." Even though she wasn't in the area Kat's speech was quiet, only enough for them to be able to hear her.

"Covenant can block our instruments?" Jun sounded surprised by this information. Shar had seen it plenty of times, so she didn't understand why it was that Jun was not already aware.

"So it would seem, and Command wants to know what they're hiding." Kat's voice told Shar that she also wanted to know. Shar was quite curious herself.

She moved up around a corner and spotted a lone minor elite staring off into the distance. "Elite. He's yours. Do it quiet."

Shar would have told him to shut up, that she knew how to kill an elite and that she needed to be quiet, but she wouldn't risk it. Making more noise then was needed would only put them at risk. She set her sights on the elite, moving up silently behind it. Her fist connected with the elite's back before she slashed her knife along its back. Its head swung back toward her and she stabbed the knife forward, stabbing it into the base of the elite's skull, dragging it back and to the ground. She pulled her knife from the corpse and slid it back into her chest plate before turning her attention away.

A grunt had been woken by the noise and had now turned to run. It ran to another grunt, waking it as well. She raced after them. They needed to be silenced before they woke any others. The second grunt tossed a grenade, but Shar sidestepped, moving forward and slamming the butt of her sniper rifle into its head. The first grunt was trying to backtrack but before it could, she took one step toward it and slammed her left elbow into the back of its head, cracking its skull.

Shar moved along the cliff until she came to a structure. It looked similar to the ones she'd seen all over the planet. The buildings looked like they were all part of a series of rings or circles, but were cut up into three sections. One was a small structure on the north side which Shar couldn't see every well. On the east side was a crescent-shaped building that seemed to be a garage of some kind, forklifts sitting at the ready inside of it. On the roof, two special ops elites stood around, scanning the skies above. To the west was a large two-story structure, a large silo on the southern end of it. A minor elite stood gazing up at the stars on the railing of the second level. In the center was a small structure about seven feet high, two generators housed inside with electrical lines running to all of the buildings. A couple grunts were sleeping by the generator while others wandered around the area.

Rain poured down while lightning cut through the air, soon followed by the crash of thunder. Hopefully the weather would be able to conceal her presence enough for her to do some damage. Shar moved a bit closer and got a better angle. She zoomed in and carefully took aim. A shot rang out and the minor elite's brains went flying through the air. She then took aim on the grunts, easily taking down two of them in quick succession.

"Firing!" Jun's shots started to join Shar's as she cut down enemies.

She next took aim at the eastern building, taking down one special ops elite as it tried to hide behind a spool of heavy wire on the roof. She took out three grunts around the area before she swapped out her mag and moved to a better position.

The sound of Covenant engines filled the air but she ignored them, taking aim at an officer elite. With a quick shot, a round found its skull and the lifeless body flew through the air. She took aim at the last remaining special ops elite, but just as she fired, it jumped down from its perch and ran across the roof. She tried to wait for it to come out but, feeling that she didn't want to give it a chance to regroup, she started to move along the cliff to get a better view.

"Incoming, looks like you really pissed them off." Jun's voice was cold, as was common with snipers, not that Jun didn't always sound cold. Shar spotted what he was talking about. A phantom hung on the southern end of the area, letting out troops.

"Recon Bravo to Noble Two, stand by for contact report." Shar could have slapped Jun for choosing this moment to make his report. She would have to take care of these enemies while he reported in.

Shar took aim at the special op elite on the roof as Kat answered. "Standing by to copy, over."

"We have eyes on multiple hostiles patrolling a settlement. This what we're looking for, Kat?" Jun didn't seem to believe that it was, and Shar had to agree.

A shot echoed through the air as the special ops elite fell. Three more shots followed as Shar took out a group of grunts that had been dropped off.

"Negative, too small, you're not in the dark zone yet." Her voice was cool as she gave out the orders, not a hint of doubt in her analysis, not that Shar saw a flaw in it either. "Engage at your own discretion, but keep moving."

"Already engaged," Jun informed.

Shar killed two grunts quickly, followed by putting a round through the head of the officer elite with them. She then moved around to get a view of the inner circle of the area. She killed one last grunt before swapping out her mag. She fired on a jackal but it moved and the shield bounced the shot away. Shar instead turned her attention to the grunts in the back, taking the pair out quickly. She fired on a jackal, the round breaking through the shield to the bird-like alien's skull. She then swept the area, looking for a better angle on the shielded aliens, taking a quick shot through the head of a minor elite. Where did those ones keep coming from?

Shar was taking aim on a jackal when she started to hear the screaming of a grunt. The thing was that she didn't see any grunts around. She was sure she'd taken all of them out, but the sound was growing louder and louder.

"What the…Ah?" Jun's words were odd and Shar was just about to turn around when she started to hear shots. There was a large blast behind her. A burnt grunt body hit the ground in front of her and she bit back a cry of pain as the blast depleted her shield and the skin below her armor heated and burned a bit. She stepped back from the edge, taking a moment to let her shield recharge as she reoriented herself. Where had that grunt come from? She would have snapped at Jun for not having had her back but she didn't. She was sniping, meaning no noise from her at all, only a few deep breaths as she regained her composure.

Jun moved up to join her as she took aim once more. She could feel his eyes on her for just a second but she ignored them. She was only a little burnt, not like it was anything new. Tired of waiting she ran jumped down the hill, switching out to her pistol. She moved into the northern structure and spotted a jackal just as it was leaving. She fired twice, the first nicking it and the second missing. She ran forward and the jackal reappeared in the doorway. One swift smack of the butt of her pistol and it crumpled to the ground.

Shar moved through the area, making sure it was clear, before she moved around the back to the west side building. On her motion tracker she noticed Jun following, just barely in range. Shar moved into the structure, switching back to her sniper rifle as she spotted a large water tower in the center of the new area. There must have been something with this planet and circles or rings as it seemed many of their buildings were shaped that way.

Shar took aim at a railing halfway up the water tower. If she were a sniper that was where she would go. She tried to stay focused but the burns were a distraction. She spotted a medical kit on the wall and grabbed it, carefully moving back into the structure a bit as she riffled through it. She found a bit of painkillers and, although she hated the things, injected it into her system. The pain eased away and she focused once more on their mission.

Jun had already moved up the stairs to the west and Shar followed after him. "Hostile fire on my position. Covering fire." Shar moved through the structure toward the closest door. "I lost visual." Shar scanned the area herself and saw nothing. She moved out into the middle of the area and toward the base of the water tower. She moved around the southern side where she found a pair of grunts. She fired, but the round missed. Damn, this was why she hated medication. It tended to blur a soldier's skills. She took a step back as their shots hit her and her shield drained to half strength. She tossed a grenade and it went off, killing one of the grunts.

Shar moved back, allowing her shield to recharge before she moved back toward the south side. She took out one grunt quickly, then slowly moved forward. She spotted a foot and as she moved she realized it was that of an elite, one that wasn't paying attention. Her round found its head, quickly followed by taking out the grunt in front of it. She took a step back as fire from a plasma turret hit her. Shar had vaguely spotted one other elite and grunt before she moved to cover, carefully inching out to find the grunt manning the turret. One shot to the alien's head and the turret fell limply. She then turned her attention down to where an ultra elite stood. She fired once but it just barely skimmed the elite's cover.

Shar moved, but so did the ultra. It moved down and she fired, the seven-foot-tall alien's shields flaring as the round hit it. It moved to cover and she moved as well, shooting it in the shoulder. The elite stepped back, gripping his shoulder in pain. She stepped back and quickly changed magazines before she moved back out. She fired again and this shot hit the side of the elite's chest. It fell to the ground, dead.

Shar carefully moved forward, being sure not to make too much motion to be spotted. She kept an eye on the southwest part of the building. She spotted a new grunt manning the turret and quickly sniped it before she continued to move. She spotted something on her motion tracker and swapped out to her pistol. Just as she did the turret opened fire; another grunt must have been at the waiting. She switched back to her sniper rifle and fired, sending the grunt tumbling from his post.

She then switched back to her pistol before moving into the southern building. She downed the two grunts inside with headshots before moving out the other side. She moved out of the building and turned to the southeast.

"Aw, this just got more interesting." Shar guessed that Jun was talking about the Covenant that were coming up the pass. Shar wasn't sure where Jun was, she hadn't been sure where he was since they'd started this mission. She was just going to stay focused. She sniped the grunt but after seeing she only had 13 more shots left, swapped out to her pistol for the jackal. She hit it in the hand first, and when it fell back, she shot it in the head.

Shar slowly moved forward, expecting more enemies as she heard the sound of phantoms ahead. She was surprised, though, to hear the roars of something much larger. Jun moved forward and spotted the cause of the sound first. "Eyes open, major target inbound." She came up behind Jun and found him couched near a rock. The sound of labored breathing filled the air.

Shar spotted the large creatures, larger than any Covenant that she'd seen. They were about the size of a full phantom, but she was sure they weren't Covenant. In fact, from what she could tell, they were attacking the Covenant. She moved a bit forward and realized that there wasn't one, but two of them. Shar opened fire with her pistol but the creatures didn't even seem to realize they'd been hit. She moved up to a higher point above some rock to watch for a moment. Whatever Covenant had been in the area were dead, and the creatures were still pissed.

Shar opened fire on one of them, knowing that they weren't going to get through without killing them. "This one is mine." Shar rolled her eyes as Jun spoke. He really couldn't shut up. The beast turned around and roared as Jun started to shot it with the sniper rifle. "Don't worry, I have a bullet for each of you." Shar could have slapped him for that one.

The beast charged forward as both Shar and Jun shot at it. It roared and after Shar emptied her clip into it, the beast finally fell. With the other dead, the second one started to notice. It moved toward them, its odd jumping gallop causing the ground to shake. It reached the base of the rock that Shar was standing on and roared. The sheer force of its roar sent her sliding back, but she moved to stay on top. The beast then turned to Jun, presenting its back to Shar. She shot at it with her pistol, trying to protect her teammate.

The shots seemed to be having no effect so Shar grabbed a plasma grenade and tossed. It stuck to the left hip of the beast, though it didn't seem to notice, too enraged to care about having something stuck to it. The explosive went off and with one last roar the beast died.

"Kat, pick any of that up?" Jun sounded still slightly rattled from how close it had gotten to him.

Shar turned her attention to the sky and the phantom that was now moving away. "Affirmative, Recon Bravo. It's an indigenous creature, called Guta." Always trust Kat to have the information, not matter how obscure it was. Though the size of the beasts, with how large Jorge was, made Shar wonder if living on Reach just naturally made you larger.

Shar and Jun started moving across the open space, Shar dropping her nearly spent pistol for a needler rifle. "Six, there's a trail up ahead, through the rocks. Let's take it." Shar moved after him, glancing back at the fallen beasts. She felt a bit bad about having killed them. She supposed they were just two more innocent casualties of war.

Jun took the lead and Shar followed behind him. They made their way down what Shar could only guess might have once been a river. On either side of the valley there were higher areas with railing, but no stairs. Shar jumped down into the bottom of the valley after Jun. They ran through a group of Moa who all took off in different directions. Shar let them be, figuring she'd killed enough of the ecosystem for one night.

Gunfire crackled through the air. It was a familiar sound. Jun spoke what Shar was thinking. "Gunfire. Magnums, security side-arms. Standard issue." That was the only sound she could think of it being.

They moved through a cave and came to what seemed to be a pumping station. Shar looked down at the scene below, frowning. The main part of the station was a circle, and on the south and west side were a set of buildings that once more looked like chunks of larger rings. To the east was a bridge that led toward a large gate. To the south and west, behind the building, were three massive pumps, larger than anything that Shar had seen for such purposes. Around all of that, and around the northern and western part of the facility, there was water, not too deep in most places, but at least a foot.

On the facility side of the water there were elites and Jackals running about. They were firing on what looked to be a group of civilians. None of the civilians wore armor, and Shar was certain that if she and Jun didn't act, the civilians would be dead in a matter of minutes. Without even thinking, Shar took aim with her needler rifle and fired. She focused on the leader, an officer elite. It tried to duck and dodge but Shar kept her aim steady. After a number of shots lodged in the elite's chest it burst into a shower of pink shards.

"Noble Two, we're at some sort of pump station. Got eyes on civilian, I'm thinking more local militia. They've engaged hostiles." Jun didn't move, didn't lift his rifle to fire, as though he wasn't sure yet if they should help them.

Shar crouched down and switched to her sniper rifle. "Move to assist. They may have intel we need." The orders seemed cold as Shar heard them. She had never expected Kat to be willing to only see a person as a source of information.

A phantom eased in to drop off more troops and Shar watched it, being sure to watch what came out. "You heard her, Six. Keep those civilians alive." Once more Shar wanted to hit him, telling that while he had been standing around she'd already been doing that, but she didn't. She could have even pulled rank on him, told him to stop ordering her around, but she instead remained focused.

Shar tracked a minor and officer elite as they moved along the west building. "Give us a hand! Bastards just keep coming." The civilian's voice was strained, and Shar wondered if he was injured, or just frustrated by the difficulty of fighting the Covenant. Most local militia didn't realize how strong the Covenant was.

Shar waited patiently, remaining silent and finally the two elites came to a stop. She targeted the officer first and then the minor, putting a round through each of their heads. She looked to the roof of the building and spotted a pair of skirmishers. She switched to her needler rifle, having found it more affective against the agile aliens. Shar took aim and placed her shots carefully, though it was hard with them darting back and forward. The first fell to a headshot after a moment. She swapped out her magazine and moved a bit down the hill. She took aim again at the skirmishers but they ran about to quickly for her to shoot. She shot here and there at the other enemies, hoping to at least weaken them for the militia. She emptied the magazine and switched to her sniper rifle.

Shar was patient, choosing the right moment and firing, sending one jackal flying into the air. She then moved down to where the militia had gathered. She took out a pair of grunts and heard one of the militia say that it was safe over by her. She scowled. She reminded herself that she had to keep them alive, and that punching one of them for using her as cover would probably kill them. She decided instead to ignore his words. She took out a jackal in the center and then a skirmisher on the south building roof.

"Oh man, we're going to get killed doing this." Shar could almost hear the man shaking in his boots. Having people who were scared wasn't going to help her with keeping them alive. She'd have to be sure they stayed back or she'd end up with four dead civilians and no information.

Shar moved toward the center, crossing the water and dropping her needler rifle for a plasma rifle as she realized she only had three shot left. She moved through the area, looking for enemies. What she found was better, sort of. She found a dead civilian—that was the bad part—but beside him was a DMR. She dropped the plasma rifle and picked up her old friend. It felt good to have the rifle in her hand again. She turned back down the bridge and moved to where the militia had joined up with Jun around some cases.

The leader of the militia group spoke up. "Little more action then we're used to. You Spartans are good in a fight." He seemed very relieved to have their help. Though that was common for the arrival of a Spartan.

"What are you doing here? Whole area's supposed to be evacuated." Jun was taking control of the situation, so Shar moved over to where she spotted some equipment. She quickly detached her sprint ability and swapped it for the bubble shield generator.

"Didn't like leaving it to someone else to protect our home." Shar couldn't fault the militia men for that. She wouldn't have wanted to leave New Harmony for someone else to protect, if she hadn't been a child at the time. Though she felt the same way about Onyx. She wouldn't want to leave it to someone else to protect the place where she had trained, her second home. "So we came back, for this." The cases opened to reveal a battle rifle, a DMR, a rocket launcher, and a sniper rifle. "We have 'em hidden all over the territory." Shar was at least glad that the man was being honest with them. What he was admitting to was a crime, but here he was openly telling them. It was good to know she wouldn't have to use force to get information from them.

"You know this stuff is stolen." There was a light tone to Jun's voice.

"What? You going to arrest me?" The militia man seemed to have no issue with challenging Jun on that. Really there was no way they could.

"No." Shar could almost see the smile on Jun's face as he spoke. "Gonna steal it back."

Shar heard the familiar whine of Covenant engines and she searched the sky. "Another drop ship coming in." Jun's words snapped Shar's attention to where he was looking. A phantom was moving up the south side. It eased in to hover over the opening of a channel that allowed water to flow under the west side building to the northern part of the facility. Shar quickly took out the grunt turret gunner on the side, watching the body fall to the water below.

The sides eased open and two elites followed by four jackals poured out. Shar fired, taking out one jackal before it could even leave the ship. She then moved along the side of the west building, switching to her DMR. The militia had gathered there and she joined them. While they all stayed back she moved a bit down the winding ramp and spotted the officer elite and a jackal standing in the water. She shot the jackal's foot, quickly shooting it in the head a fraction of a second later. She backed up as the phantom turned, allowing the second turret to fire at her.

As she moved toward the south building she spotted a minor elite and opened fire. It turned towards her and started to back up. She followed it, keeping her aim steady on it. "Heads up, phantom coming in." Shar cursed silently at Jun's announcement. She dispatched the minor and turned to her left to find an officer. She opened fire and quickly killed it as well.

Shar circled back around, swapping out her mag as she came up on a jackal. She fired and shots from the militia on the top of the western roof helped to take out the alien. Shar moved back toward the center, looking for the phantom. "We got company." Shar ignored Jun this time. She could hear the engines, she knew they had company.

Shar spotted the phantom as it moved along to the eastern side between the bridge and the gate. She switched to her sniper rifle, ready for anything. She sniped the turret on one side as the doors opened. Grunts poured out and she took aim at the gathered group. She fired twice, taking out two before the turret opened fire on her, having turned so the second could shoot at her.

Shar moved to cover, switching to her DMR. She moved back out, taking aim at the grunts as they made their way down toward the water to go straight to the group. Shar opened fire, killing three of them in quick succession. She killed two more a moment later. She moved back a bit, swapping out her mag, and then stepping out, dispatching the last grunt.

"Here they come, here they come." The frenzied voice of the militia soldier filled the air.

"More inbound." Jun was calm and collected, so different from the militia soldiers. It was a surprise to Shar to see such a gap in training, and skill.

The phantom crossed overhead and without thinking, Shar slammed her fist to the ground, creating a bubble shield around her. She stood in it until the phantom had moved over to the north side, where the militia had started out taking cover. She moved into the center of the facility and found herself faced with an elite. For a few seconds they did an odd sort of combat dance, both trying to keep distance, while still keeping their aim. Shar moved to avoid the blasts of the concussion rifle, while the elite was trying to keep its shields intact. In the end Shar won, the elite crumpling to the ground.

She then set her sights on the newly dropped off enemies. The jackal shields made them easy to spot. She made a quick pattern of her foot head technique on one jackal, but was forced to once more put up a bubble shield as the phantom moved to leave. It had drained her shields and she stood under the bubble shield, allowing her energy shield to recharge and let the phantom leave. As soon as the blasts had stopped she moved out from cover. She took aim at the jackals. She spotted a minor elite but let it go for a moment. She instead focused on each of the jackals, hitting foot then face with bullets.

When she finished she moved around to the back of the west building. She could hear the militia panicking and then a triumphant cry from Jun. "Yeah, I got it."

Shar moved back to the center, moving over to the cases and trying to decide if she wanted to take one of the other weapons. While she decided she listened to the others talk. "Nothing here but the lake." Jun sounded confused. There was no reason the Covenant would want a lake, so it was a bit perplexing.

"Road leads to a hydro-electric plant, but the gate doesn't work." From the sound of it the militia man had gotten used to it just not working. She supposed that they were used to not replacing or being able to repair things.

"Alternate route?" Jun asked.

Shar moved over to the equipment, now she could feel some of the men watching her. She tossed away her bubble shield generator and smiled behind her visor as she snapped her armor lock into place on her suit. DMR, sniper rifle, and armor lock. Yeah, she was feeling good. She turned her attention back to the conversation, deciding that she might be needed.

"We use the riverbed to smuggle rations, weapons…" They moved over across the bridge as the man spoke.

"Basically anything the UNSC considers contraband," Jun finished.

"Basically." Shar was a bit surprised by how easily the man admitted they were smuggling contraband. He wasn't even ashamed or trying to hide it.

"Show us." Jun's voice was serious and they started to move off, Shar following behind the militia as they lead the way.

The group moved along the ramp that ran away from the pump station. Jun took the lead of the civilians "There's the riverbed, Six. Let's see where it goes."

Shar supposed that it really was their only course of action. It was basically the only pathway away from the pump station without a boat. She moved along it surprised to find a few light sticks placed along the way. She took the lead, switching to her DMR. In this area they'd only meet up with close quarter-combat.

"Where does this riverbed lead?" It was a good question, though Shar was wondering why it had taken Jun so long to ask it.

"Straight to the hydro plant." Shar was glad to hear the militia man's voice much calmer than it had been. Whatever fear there had been from fighting the Covenant was gone, for now. "We dammed this river up forty-five years ago. Plant powers every settlement in the territory." This man seemed to know a lot. "Shame if it all gets wasted."

"Doing what we can." Jun's voice held a hint of sorrow. She was sure this wasn't the first time he'd seen people's homes and livelihoods being threatened by the Covenant, though she knew how that sort of thing usually ended. With a planet of glass lands and burnt skies.

Shar heard the growing sound of Covenant engines. She looked up to the sky and spotted the ship. "Hold up. Covie dropship, take cover." Shar moved below a rock arch that crossed the riverbed. She looked up, wondering if at one time the water had been high enough that it had been used by civilians to cross the stream.

She was pulled out of those thoughts by Jun. "Okay, we're clear. Let's move."

Shar continued to move down the dry riverbed, following the lights to lead her way. She supposed either the Covenant had put them there for their soldiers, or the militia had to aid their smuggling of contraband. Right now, it really didn't matter to her.

She continued on until they came upon the power station. It was to the southeast of the path they'd taken. The path continued on along the east to a bridge that spanned the wide valley between the path and the plant. Everything was circular, as she expected, though it seemed to be one with the mountain. The plant was built into three levels. On the south side of the area stood the power plant, reaching high into the sky above all the other buildings. Electrical lines spread across its roof along structures and then went every which way down to the buildings and disappeared off across the rock walls around it. Just north of the main plant was a ring of concrete that rose up a story into the air. Shar could see an opening on the north side of the ring to allow water to flow through and fall into the valley below. There were buildings built into the east and west side of the inner ring and another building further back to the southeast.

What really caught Shar's attention was the non-human structure just to the northeast of the ring. In Covenant fashion the structure was sleek, rounded, not straight-cut edges like most of the human structures. The structure stood on three thick legs, turrets set up between each of the legs. The structure reached up into the sky. Halfway up there was a circle of metal, though Shar couldn't figure out the purpose. Near the top, the structure was broken apart, though still the top hung in the air. A beam of light wavered in the air, originating from the center of the structure. The light held what looked to be a three lobed metal device in the air. What it was all for, she wasn't exactly sure. Periodically, a pulse would go up the light and spread over the three leaves, causing a cascade of violet light to spread forth as though creating a great dome.

"Kat, are you seeing this?" Jun seemed a bit stunned by the device, not that she could blame him. How had the Covenant put that there without them realizing? "Covenant structure, kind of a big pylon. Heavily fortified."

That was an understatement. There were elites walking about the area, sleeping grunts, jackals, and even grunts sleeping on the structure, ready to man the turrets. She wasn't sure yet how they would deal with it. After all, she still hoped to keep the militia troopers safe, if she could.

"That's the source of our dark zone," Kat informed them.

"Okay, consider it gone." Jun seemed pleased at the idea of blowing up the structure, though Shar could guess that a good number of ONI spooks would love to get their hands on it.

"Negative, stick a remote det charge on it. Command's planning something big." From the way Kat spoke, Shar guessed she didn't know exactly what they were planning, and as usual didn't like that. "They say that pylon dies at dawn."

Shar couldn't think of a good reason why they weren't destroying it now, unless they were hoping to have the element of surprise. Destroying it now would alert the Covenant that they knew where they were. Whatever it was, she wasn't going to question it. Command gave orders, and she followed them, so stay it would.

The group moved along path toward the bridge, stopping behind a large rock. "We going to blow it?" The militia man seemed excited at the idea of blowing it up, though she supposed they hardly ever blew up something as large as that structure, or got to see the beauty to the destruction of Covenant weapons. It wasn't just the fact the enemy was losing something of theirs, but Shar honestly saw a sort of beauty in the multitude of colors that blossomed forth from an exploding Covenant item.

"We're gonna clear the area, and I'm gonna plant a remote det charge. You want to provide some cover, go right ahead." It was obvious from Jun's tone he no longer saw a need for the militia to be with them. He no longer seemed to even care if they survived.

Shar moved ahead of the others, staying silent and picking her moment right. The officer elite on the bridge had his back to her. She struck out, slamming into the elite's back. It stunned him just long enough for her to grab the back of his helmet and pull herself up. She put one foot on the backward facing knee of his right leg and the other on his left hip, rising up enough to grab the front of his head with her right hand. One quick jerk and she heard the elite's spine snap under the force. Unfortunately, there had been a grunt at the elite's feet.

The death gurgle of the elite, and the sound of its body hitting the ground, woke the grunts. They jumped up in surprise. She beat down the first one before taking aim with her DMR and downing the other two on the bridge as they tried to run away. She then turned her attention to a grunt moving toward her, spewing needler rounds at her as it moved. One quick shot and it too fell to the ground.

"Don't let up." The voice was right beside her and Shar realized that the militia were moving in to help. She appreciated their enthusiasm, but they were likely to get themselves all killed. She took aim at the closest turret and after a few shots the grunt there fell to the ground. Shar turned and ran toward the pylon, hearing a triumphant cry from the militia as they killed one of the turret grunts. She used the grav lift up to the turret level and was surprised to find that they had killed the remaining gunner. She turned her attention to the ground, firing at a grunt before plasma shots hit her.

Shar moved around behind the structure's inner spire to avoid the elites. She switched to her sniper rifle and took aim. The first shot hit one of the minors in the chest and the second shot finished it with a bullet to the skull. The second elite moved to cover. She waited for a moment to see if it would come back, but it didn't. She turned her aim toward the ground, and the jackals approaching; that was then she spotted the elite move back out of cover. Shar fired at it, the first shot skimming its throat and the second shattering its helmet.

She jumped down from the pylon and moved up some stairs to the concrete ring, looking for anything to shoot. Not spotting anything she headed down a ramp toward the main plant. She found a group of grunts outside which she finished off easily. Jun and one of the milita soldiers joined her. They moved up the stairs, where a trio of grunts walked out, quickly taken out by a few precise shots. Shar rounded the corner to go into the building and found herself faced with an officer elite. It cursed something in its alien language and the group opened fire. The officer's shields dropped and Shar slammed her elbow into its chest. The force sent it flying back and it fell limply to the ground. They moved into the plant and, after being sure it was clear, Shar moved out the other side, quickly killing a jackal and skirmisher.

"All clear, Six." Jun ran past her and moved towards the pylon. "This is gonna take a minute, so keep your eyes peeled. Shar ran after him as they both moved down to the pylon.

As if on cue a phantom rose up into the sky, moving over to the side of the bridge closest to them. Shar moved to cover and waited to see what it would drop on them. "Big trouble here, we got big targets coming." Shar had to agree as the massive aliens hit the ground. Hunters, not what she had expected. She certainly didn't have the firepower needed for those.

Thinking fast, Shar decided to improvise. She took aim at a forklift near the two hunters. Two shots and it went up into flames, causing the massive walking tanks to stumble back. She threw a grenade, but it didn't seem to do much. The militia soldiers joined her in firing on it, though she was using her DMR for now. Shar sidestepped a shot from the closest hunter and switched to her sniper rifle. She put six shots into the first hunter before it finally fell. She put the last of her shots into the second hunter, but it stood strong. She switched to her DMR and as Shar ran forward, fired at whatever weak spot she could find. When she was close enough she tossed a sticky grenade. The blue explosive stuck to the alien's stomach, and detonated, though it only seemed to damage the armor, removing it from the alien's back but not killing it. She continued to move closer, hoping to be able to stay behind it, but she moved too close and it turned around. The hunter swung itself forward, and the aliens' head connected with Shar's chest, sending her stumbling back. Before it could reorient itself Shar's feet moved on instinct, carrying her around and away from the hunter a bit. She tossed her last grenade and it stuck to the hunter's chest plate. It went off and in a brilliant light swallowed up the hunter, leaving behind nothing but charred armor and eels.

Shar moved back toward the group, trying to catch her breath as she realized she only had two shots left in her DMR. She started to move through the facility, looking for ammunition or a new weapon.

"Recon Bravo to Noble Two, charge in place," Jun reported.

"Somewhere inconspicuous, I hope." Kat was sounding eager. She must have been a bit worried about how long it had taken them to clear the area.

"Stuck it inside the pylon's power supply." Jun sounded a bit too pleased with his placement.

Kat didn't sound impressed. "All right. Keep pushing into the dark zone. Command wants to know what the Covenant are hiding." Shar wondered how much of it was Command and how much of it was her.

Shar grabbed a plasma pistol, dropping off her DMR as she didn't think she'd be finding any more rounds for it. It would have to do for now, until she could find rounds for some other, better, weapon.

"There's a gate to the southeast of the power plant." Jun moved away from the pylon, joining the militia soldiers.

"Copy. Uploading security codes to you now." Shar wondered if Kat had been given the codes, or simply stole them. She supposed it didn't matter to her. It was better not to ask how Kat got, or knew, things.

Shar moved over to the gate and waited with the others while Jun typed in the code. "Okay, got 'em. Unlocking the gate." The doors started to slide open and Shar prepared for whatever was on the other side.

"Recon Bravo, you're heading into the dark zone now." Shar supposed that was Kat's way of saying she wasn't going to be able to give then any real heads up.

"Understood." Jun moved through the gate after Shar. "Phantom, a little too close for comfort."

Shar charged the troops that were dropped off. She fired wildly with her plasma pistol and in a matter of seconds they were all dead. She smirked behind her visor. Even with the worse weapon in the Covenant arsenal they didn't stand a chance against her.

Shar ducked down as plasma fire filled the air. She got a glimpse of the cause before she moved to cover. A shade was stationed up ahead and was firing at her. The rest of the group moved forward while Shar took a step back. She spotted a case and opened it, finding twenty rounds of sniper rifle ammunition inside. Shar took aim and sniped the gunner from the turret. She waited for a moment, to see if any other alien would be fool enough to get into it. When none did she moved forward to join the others, still keeping an eye on the turret. An elite popped out a bit ahead of them but was downed a second later as her shot found its temple.

They moved forward, finding a second shade which she quickly sniped as well. A second grunt manned it and she cleared it as well. She downed one more grunt and heard the roars of elites.

The high pitched whine of banshee engines sounded above them. "Lotta air traffic around here, Six. I think we're getting warm." Jun moved ahead of her while she looked up toward the sky for a moment, spotting the trail of banshees.

Shar turned her attention back to the battle, grabbing an assault rifle for her plasma pistol. Just in time as she moved around the rock and spotted a minor elite. She opened fire. Its shields fell and it tried to run but she chased after it, finally downing it. She turned to spot two jackals that fired on her. She tossed a grenade and it killed one, causing the other to fall back. Before she could fire again heat splashed over her. An overcharged shot from a jackal took down her shield and fire from a third shade turret hit her. Shar ran back feeling her body burn as she struggled to get out of the way of the turret.

Shar moved back the way she'd come and leaned up against a wall. "What, you don't like my cooking?" Shar frowned at Jun's comment. She wasn't sure if he'd said it to her or someone else, but he really needed to learn to shut up on missions like this.

Shar moved back to where she'd first started, grabbing some more ammunition before she tried to decide what to do. Unfortunately the others had followed her, and brought an elite in tow. She fired, killing it, and cursing them for having followed her. Setting the pain aside Shar moved onward.

She sniped a jackal and carefully peeked out, taking out the third turret before it spotted her. She cursed as fire from the second turret hit her and she quickly fired, blowing up the entire shade. She finished off the jackal below and moved to cover as officer fired on her.

She moved forward, sniping a grunt before it could man the third shade again. She waited, and the officer finally showed, allowing her to snipe it in the head. She sniped one more grunt and officer before she finally cleared the area.

"Noble Two, we have eyes on at least one Covenant ship." Jun sounded scared, or agitated, she couldn't exactly tell which.

"Solid copy. Don't stop now." Kat must have known something. What more did they need to know about other than there was a Covenant ship?

Shar moved forward and they found a small gap that opened up to look over the larger area. Shar and Jun moved down to their stomachs, crawling forward slowly. What Shar saw made her blood run cold. The area ahead was tinted blues and purples, likely from all the artificial Covenant light. There was not just one Covenant ship, but several, including AA guns on the ground, which she knew well.

"Jackpot," Jun whispered.

Shar finally found her voice, speaking for the first time on the mission. "Transmitting visual."

"You seeing this, Kat?" There was an air of disbelief in his voice.

"Confirmed. Receiving Noble Three and Noble Six's live visual of a Covenant strike force." There was an air of fear in Kat's voice. Shar didn't blame her. It was a lot of Covenant force, and it was all on Feach. It wasn't a few little phantoms of troops. It was much more.

"That's no strike force, it's an invading army. If we're gonna smother this thing, we need to go in hard and fast." There was a bit of panic to Jun's voice.

"Agreed. All recon teams disengage and fall back. Sun will be up in a few hours...and it's going to be a very busy day."