[Open: Audio Log Transcript and .Aud File]
Unknown (X-1): Hello.
Private (SF117): Meet me at the barn.
Unknown (X-1): A barn in the woods?
Private (SF117): The red one down the road.
Unknown (X-1): Good to hear from you again. Is it cold out?
Private (SF117): You should wear a jacket and gloves.
Unknown (X-1): I'll see if I can find them lying around here somewhere. Should I bring anything else?
Private (SF117): A hammer and nails.
Unknown (X-1): Expecting work.
Private (SF117): There are a few things I have to touch up. Goodbye. [Connection Severed]
Unknown (X-1): [Connection Severed]
[Close: Audio Log Transcript and .Aud File]
[Open: C: Program Files/MilDat/Index/Classified/Barn.dat]
The Barn, as it was known by those who used it, is the nickname for a disused nuclear fallout shelter located approximately fifty miles from the city of Diamond Rock on the UN Governed colony world Barren. With thick, reinforced walls designed to provide shelter from moderate nuclear damage, it provided a safe haven in the event nuclear arms were used, while providing a temporary protection from the deadly radioactive fallout. It was commonly used as a safe house by special forces groups working on the planet. Today, having not been used since the Human-Covenant War's beginning, it is in a state of serious disrepair, and has become all but forgotten by most military engineers as a relic of the backwater pirate conflicts of the past. The site itself can be recognized only by the single metal door jutting out of the dusty, desert surroundings.
Click for Picture
[Close: C: Program Files/MilDat/Index/Classified/Barn.dat]
Jacket and gloves, he thought to himself as he unlocked the heavy beige locker. The large, intimidating lock's turn handle rotated smoothly downward before stopping with an audible click. Fred pulled on the fire-resistant, titanium plates that served as doors. Inside of the almost completely blast resistant container was the polished green exoskeleton he'd worn countless times before. But not lately. Lately there hadn't been a need to. One of the reasons John's call was so strange. But orders were orders, and he wouldn't neglect them or ask nosy and personal questions; not yet.
Hammer and nails, he whispered to himself as he grabbed the large black duffel bag. It unzipped easily for the rudimentary quick inspection: two clips of pistol ammunition, two clips of battle rifle ammunition, two clips of assault rifle ammunition, a high explosive magazine, an incendiary magazine, two M6C Magnum pistols, and one deconstructed BR55 Battle Rifle. The soldier glanced at the weapons racks and rolled three fragmentation grenades into the bag for good measure. Heavy metallic thuds accompanied the drab, tan explosives as they crashed into the pile of weapons and ammunition.
His thickly callused hands slid through the curly brown and gray locks that had sprouted up over the last few months. He thought about getting it trimmed before the meeting, but decided that he actually somewhat liked the slightly longer hairstyle. Fred tossed the bag against the doorway to his small, UNSC paid-for apartment in the City Center 17 urban megalopolis. The television in the living room was on, nearly muted, but still highly audible to his enhanced eardrums.
"Reports confirm that the alleged biological contamination and infection of the recently declassified Hyperion Research Facilities are indeed," the handsome reporter with the thick, neatly trimmed mustache began, "false."
"I highly doubt that," Fred smirked to himself while peeling a ripe apple and watching the monitor from his too-small kitchen.
"Officials have said that the report has been under a meticulous investigation since it was first revealed earlier this month by an unknown source. The Commission for Internal Affairs released a statement early today with its findings, in which it stated 'we have carefully analyzed the information presented, and through rigorous investigation have found no substantial evidence to confirm either the existence of a biological threat at the research facilities or anything resembling a massive failure of the security systems in place at the location'."
"How convenient," he said while taking a bite of the genetically modified fruit before spitting it out and trashing it. The high-protein version never settled well with him, and had a slightly fishy aftertaste that lasted for hours.
"In other news, the disappearance of two rogue special forces soldiers and their commanding officer has gained wider attention in the last few weeks. General Patterson and his two subordinates, as you may remember, were reported to be absent without leave earlier last month, and military officials believe that these men and women have become disgruntled and highly dangerous. They are suspected to be plotting upcoming terrorist bombings against UNSC forces in the region as part of their suspected 'peace dementia' following the Human-Covenant war. If you see these people, authorities advise you to lock your doors and dial--." Fred switched the news off, angrily resenting the constant stream of lies and misinformation spewing from the government-owned media outlet. Section Two had really gotten themselves together after the war, and had become one of the most powerful of the Office of Naval Intelligence's branches; surpassing even the legendary Section Three for fame, or infamy, in the last few years.
"How are you feeling?" John asked carefully as he watched Linda lying half-awake under the bed sheets. She thought she saw what could be a sparkle in his eye, but it passed quickly and any hint of joy he may have had transformed quickly back into the perpetual sadness she had seen. She missed the old John, the one she remembered from training. He'd changed after the war, all of them had, but recently John seemed more edgy than usual. Granted, they had been labeled dangers to society and were being hunted almost endlessly, but that was almost continual during the war, and had never phased him before.
"I've told you John, I'm feeling fine. You should know that; you're practically hardwired into me." Linda responded playfully.
"That's why I'm worried." He said solemnly, moving into the bathroom. Partly to get cleaned up, and partly to keep Linda from seeing any emotions he might not be strong enough to contain.
"You, worried? That's new."
"I'm serious. There could be dangerous unintended consequences from these things, and I don't want to see you hurt. I've saved you twice; don't make me do it a third time."
Do you honestly mistrust my intentions John? The symbiote queried neurally.
Well? Well. So you don't trust my intentions.
I didn't say that.
You were thinking it, and you can't say that you weren't.
I know what I was thinking damnit. Its not that I don't trust you; I'm just not sure of all of, all of this right now.
I have done nothing but help you John, and you know that.
I know, and I'm grateful--
Unusual way to show it.
Blame it on the training.
That's a new one John.
So you two are double-teaming me now?
I never said I was on a side.
A loud, rattling buzz broke their conversation immediately. It was the bunker's doorbell, but there should have been a warning long before anyone reached it. Something was terribly wrong. Linda quickly rolled out of bed, and John couldn't help but notice the scars that marred her otherwise beautiful, creamy body. She half-jumped into a full-body suit, zipping the navy blue material up from naval to collar bone. He tossed her a loaded pistol and pumped his shotgun once to chamber a round. He slipped a small, wireless headset over his right ear and began moving into the security room.
"Yes John, I'm here."
"What happened to the perimeter alarms?"
"Nothing; they're still intact."
"Anything on the cameras?"
"See for yourself."
John entered the squat gray room covered in monitors and computer terminals. He glanced at the nine displays arranged along the far wall. They were ordered in a single neat row slightly above his head. All were blanketed in a grainy white sea of static. He rolled around to check the perimeter sensors-- all fully functioning and active.
Suddenly, the room went completely dark. A crimson red security light, running on emergency batteries, flickered to life overhead. Others followed suit throughout the building; a series of energetic pops resonated through the air as each one activated. The Spartan instinctively slid a finger over barrel-mounted flashligh; the light illuminated a three meter wide circle directly ahead.
"They're good--," Cortana quipped quietly.
"One way in, hope they see the mines." He grinned to himself before flipping a small red wall-mounted switch nearby. In front of the only door into the building six thin red lasers cut a deadly perimeter for anyone attempting to break in.
"Position?" He asked into the small microphone dangling loosely near his lips.
"Entrance. It's clear. Get up here." Linda responded.
"On my way."
The dash through the short, winding staircase and through the main quarters took approximately twenty seconds. He took a crouching walk and moved into position behind one of the large, titanium barricades usually found on UNSC ships. It was four meters high and thick enough to take anything but a tank blast; a problem rarely encountered onboard spaceships. How the hell did they find us, he asked himself.
Silence. An unsettling nothingness encompassed the entire black universe he existed in. Time ticked slowly on, but there was nothing. Minutes passed as tension grew. John took a quick glance at Linda, but she'd moved. She was gone, and he was alone. Being alone had never frightened him before, nor had being outnumbered. But he felt an unsettling quiver in the pit of his stomach. Perhaps it was the darkness, maybe he was finally losing his edge.
There was a metallic clank somewhere behind him. Linda moving into position. The air was suddenly freezing. Wispy white clouds curled into the air with every breath he took. Up and into the darkness.
Suddenly, he felt the cold, hard metal of a gun barrel at the base of his skull. A gentle whisper in his ear, "Boom." His muscles tensed, but he didn't move. He was frozen.
"Boom yourself, stranger." Linda said as she pointed her S2AM at the intruder's head. The thin beam of light from her flashlight illuminated the figure holding his weapon to John's head. Fred grinned and dropped his weapon, and she lowered hers. John's body went slack, and he fell backwards, out of his crouch onto his back.
"Getting old John," Fred asked jokingly.
"Getting something," he responded.
"How the hell did you get in here?" Linda asked, impressed.
"Vent shaft two hundred meters out from the main doorway."
One-Seventeen shook his head. How did I miss that?
"So," Fred said enthusiastically, "who do we get to kill?"
John and Linda glanced at each other and smiled.
"Let me tell you all about it," Linda replied eagerly.
[NETWORK ERROR: FAILURE]
[System Query: Network 314-Secure]
[408 Error: Network Not Found ]
[Accessing: Central Power Grid- Barren, Diamond City, 40516-1441]
[Power Failure Detected- Unknown Location]
[Location Reclassified- Barn]
Damn-- kicked off. Well, this is quite a predicament.
[Incoming Probe Spike Detected]
[Probe Spike Deflected-- Tracer Routine Activated]
[Incoming Message- .txt]
Well, well, well. You're back for more?
[Message Trace: AI 1045-CAL: Caliph]
After such a warm and inviting welcome last time, how could I resist?