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Attack on Installation 06, part 13
Posted By: Jake Trommer<wedgefan@comcast.net>
Date: 28 September 2008, 12:08 am

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Attack on Installation 06
Chapter 11
1330 Hours, July 09, 2553 (Military Calendar)
Tharidanis System, Installation 06

      The forest through which the Marine/ODST retrieval platoon trekked was both lush and forbidding. Strange half-wolf, half-dog creatures had attacked the platoon during the first part of their march, but the hail of bullets from one of the two ODST squads had dissuaded them from making any more attacks. They now simply shadowed the platoon, their eyes forming twin malevolent lanterns in the dark, dank brush.
      On point for the platoon was Corporal Chips Dubbo, one of two still-living survivors of the Battle of Installation 04, and an experienced scout. In front of him was Installation 06's Monitor, 16807 Repetant Instigator; the Monitor had volunteered to guide the Marines to where the Master Chief was allegedly being kept in stasis, but no one trusted the hovering AI. Avery Johnson's death was still fresh in their minds.
      Leading the rest of the platoon was Master Gunnery Sergeant Pete Stacker, veteran of all three Forerunner installation campaigns, and a seasoned warrior. Stacker had never been one for jungle warfare; it reminded him too much of the escape from the Flood Containment Facility on the first Halo. "Dubbo, how much further?"
      "Gunny, I'm following the Monitor. When he stops, I'll let you know."
      "Sorry, Corporal. This just reminds me of...you know."
      "Gunny, I'm the only member of Fireteam Charlie still amongst the living. Believe me, I know."
      Staff Sergeant Jon Salko, the platoon sergeant, sidled up next to Stacker. "Gunny, those wolf-things are getting closer."
      "I think they're getting their nerve back, Gunny. Permission to open fire?"
      Stacker set his jaw. "Take out one or two, conserve your ammo."
      "Copy, Gunny. Corporal Reed! Light those wolves up!"
      The Marine Corporal nodded, hefted his battle rifle, and sprayed several bursts at the pack, eliciting yelps from the hapless predators. "They won't bother us for a while, Staff Sergeant."
      Dubbo's voice suddenly crackled over Stacker's headset. "Gunny, the Monitor's stopped. We're in front of a facility of some sort."
      "Hold position, Dubbo," replied Stacker. "We're on our way."
      The platoon charged ahead, and came to an abrupt halt forty meters later. The building that Repetant Instigator had halted in front of was squad and angular. An upside-down-V-shaped entranceway yawned open like the maw of some mythical beast.
      Stacker had seen more than enough of this kind of building during his tenure on Installation 04. He'd lost more than half his men at one.
      It was a Flood Containment Facility.
      Repetant Instigator, unaware of Stacker's consternation, came bobbing up. "This is where the Reclaimer is being kept."
      Stacker gaped. "With the Flood? Are you insane?"
      "No, I am not rampant. Study of the Flood at this facility was discontinued after the Installation 05 outbreak; all specimens were purged. Study was instead conducted on other biologicals, like the canine predators of this forest."
      Staff Sergeant Salko, standing next to Stacker, shook his head. "And you're positive there's no Flood inside?"
      Repetant Instigator made a movement that, had he had a neck and a body, could have been considered a nod. "All security systems confirm that there are no Flood specimens of anykind within."
      Stacker nodded. "Let's go, then."


      The interior of the biological containment facility was grim, and oppressively cold, ostensibly to preserve biological material. The well-lit hallways couldn't disguise the telltale signs of Flood occupation: green ichor stuck to the walls, tendrils festooned the floor, and here and there, a partially decomposed combat form body of unknown origin. Surveying the latter, Stacker noticed it looked remarkably humanoid. "Hey, Robot!"
      With a distinct air of exasperation, Repetant Instigator swivelled to face the Gunny. "Yes, Reclaimer?"
      "What the hell did that Flood take over?"
      The Monitor directed its eye at the body. "That would appear to have once been one of my makers. Unfortunate. That is a rather unpleasant way to cease existence."
      Stacker blinked. A Forerunner body, even one in this sort of condition, was an incredible find. "Jon," he said, addressing his platoon sergeant. "Grab some pics with your helmet cam. ONI's spooks will want to see this."
      "Aye aye, Gunny."
      The retrieval platoon continued to push into the facility, making their way over bodies, both Flood and the burned-out hulks of Sentinels. "Gunny, this place is giving me the creeps," said Salko.
      Dubbo shook his head. "I'm more curious as to why there's so many unlocked doors in a place that no one's supposed to have been in for a hundred thousand years."
      Stacker gritted his teeth. "Cut the chatter, gents. Lightbulb, how far are we from the Chief?"
      "He's down one sublevel from here, Reclaimer," replied the Monitor, either missing or ignoring the derogatory nickname for his kind.
      Stacker nodded. "Take point, Dubbo. Everyone, grab your shotguns."
      Repetant Instigator approached a door, and swivelled to face the Marines. "The facility where the Reclaimer is being kept is secured. I will open it for you." Thus saying, the Monitor faced the door and fired some kind of blue beam at the lock. The two halves opened with a mechanical hiss.
      "Enter, Reclaimers," said the Monitor.
      Stacker looked at the platoon. "Salko, Dubbo, on me. Everyone else, hold down this entrance."
      The three Marines followed the Monitor into the room...and promptly stopped in amazement.
      The room was dim, with only several blue lights providing illumination. On the wall were several devices shaped like the cryopods seen on almost every single UNSC ship, and inside the pods...
      The olive-drab MJOLNIR armor had been etched into Stacker's memory ever since Installation 04, but not even memory could have prepared him for seeing the Chief like this. Humanity's best warrior could have been sleeping; he was laying in the pod in what approximated a position of attention, green-armored hands at his sides, an MA5C rifle across his back.
      16807 Repetant Instigator drifted forward to approach the stasis unit's control panel. "Shall I begin, Reclaimer?" asked the Monitor.
      Stacker's mouth felt dry. "Yeah. Do it."
      The blue beam once again shot out from the Monitor's eye, and lights flickered across the panel. The stasis unit suddenly hissed, and it split open. Stacker motioned for Dubbo and Salko to cover him, and approached the pod.
      "Chief? Master Chief, Sir? Can you hear me?"
      A faint click sounded from the Chief's helmet. Stacker stepped back, unsure of what it meant.
      A loud, horrific wail issued forth from the Master Chief, a loud, raw expulsion of pain and sheer, mind-numbing loss.
      "Sir?" said Stacker, "Sir, it's OK, we're friendlies."
      The Chief made no reply, a loud gasping noise came from his armor, and he gave another shout, a name this time: "Cortana? Cortana? CORTANA!"
      "Sir, for fuck's sake, calm down, we're friendlies! It's me, Gunny Stacker!"
      It seemed to have worked. The Chief's breathing grew slow and regular, and with a grunt, he hefted himself to his feet. The visor of the MJOLNIR's helmet swivelled, taking in Stacker, Dubbo, Salko, and Repetent Instigator.
      The Chief inhaled sharply, unslung his MA5C assault rifle, let out a yell, and opened fire.