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RtR: Part 1
Posted By: Maya Tamika<krazykookoobird@gmail.com>
Date: 14 May 2011, 6:56 pm

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      The space outside the ship was so quiet. To someone outside, it would seem so quiet it was loud, but that wasn't possible, and inside the ship, there was nothing but an almost constant, yet organised, rumble of voices and commands. The year was 2955 and a lot had changed since the war against the Covenant over 500 years ago. Captain Rick Carter stood at the front view port, watching the Covenant ships move silently by. The Flood, too, had been eliminated, but only recently had reports come back that one system had been infected. They now needed to either cure the infection, the job of the Elites, or destroy all the planets. Quarantine wasn't an option. They had already tried that. Tried, and failed. Captain Carter's only regret was that he didn't have a Spartan to do the dirty work. That was what they had been trained for, and his ancestor, Captain Keyes, had taken advantage of that. That was the true reason behind this alliance. The Spartans, one Spartan in particular, had formed an alliance with an Elite, someone they called the Arbiter, and that had allowed for the rest of the Covenant to be convinced, once the Prophets died. They had worked together from then on, working on destroying the Covenant, which was more dangerous alone than any of their armies, but they were willing to risk it if it meant safety for both humans and Covenant.
      As the ships sailed past, Carter waited for them to make the jump to light speed. His second in command, Deborah Gonzalez, a beautiful, young, 31 year old girl with roots from Latin America back on earth, punched numbers into the console in front of her. Suddenly, she stopped, and looked at Carter, though he didn't notice. She turned back to the console and punched in a few more numbers, than glanced at him again, "Sir, we have something on the scanners." She reported.
      Without turning, since this wasn't very uncommon, Carter said, "You know what to do, Deb."
      "But sir, this is different. It's big. Very big." Deb replied.
      "How big?" Carter asked. This was a little unusual; Deb usually didn't report things like this.
      "Almost like, the stern of a ship, an old one." Deb reported.
      Carter turned to her, "An old ship?"
      "Yes sir," She saluted, "Coming into view in the front view port now. If it is a ship, it was once one of ours."
      Carter turned back to the view port. Sure enough, the stern of an old ship floated by. It was definitely one of theirs once, but the design was no longer in use.
      "Deb, get a tractor beam on that ship. I want it in here, now."
      "Yes, sir."
      A soft sound coming from the communication panel just to his left told Carter someone was hailing his ship. He opened the channel, "Yes?"
      "Are you still planning on coming, Captain?" The husky voice of an Elite answered.
      "I'm afraid not. We've found something. Can you come over here? I think you might want to see this."
      The Elite grunted and affirmative reply and the call ended.
      "The ship is coming on board now, sir." Deb reported.
      "Good work, Deb. Let's go find out what's on that ship."
      Deb nodded and signalled to someone to take over her position until she returned. They she turned and followed Carter toward the docking bay.

      The ship was only a few meters from where they waited for the Elite to arrive. When he did, he brought two others with him, another Elite, probably his second in command, and a Grunt, a short, cowardly thing that couldn't breath the air in the ship, and so wore a type of alien gas mask wherever he went. They greeted each other and headed over to the broken end of the ship.
      It was broken off completely. It had once been attached to the front of a ship, but wasn't any longer.       Carter could figure out what happened. With the technology they had during the time when this ship would have been built, it was possible, even likely, that the hyperdrive wasn't as good as the modern ones, and accidentally cut off the stern of the ship. There were many such stories in the past of that kind of thing happening, but way out here? That would have had to been during the time when Captain Keyes' daughter, Miranda, and the Sergeant Johnson had worked together to achieve the alliance, back in the time of the Spartans. The evidence on the ship itself confirmed that.
      Carter walked forward, Deb just behind and the Elite and his men following. They ventured into the ship. The first door they found was sealed, naturally, to keep the air inside, but they had no trouble breaking through the old security systems and passing into the room beyond. It was large, and with different stations, probably for testing different armour systems on the Spartans, in different places throughout it. But what really caught Carter's eye were the few large, human sized tubes that he recognised to be what were called cryo-tubes. The glass had darkened with age so it was impossible to see into them. He walked over to them and looked around. A foul, musty smell had filled the air. Before he knew what was happening, one of the Elites had pushed him back and had his weapon pointed at something wriggling on the floor just behind the cryo-tubes. He shot and the thing stopped wriggling. Carter carefully pulled out his own pistol and walked slowly over to the thing. He immediately recognised the grotesque form of someone infected by the Flood. He backed away slowly, aware that there were probably more. Deb had followed his lead and drawn her own pistol, and the Elites and Grunt also had their plasma weapons at the ready. Carter noticed the panel that opened the cryo-tubes was still operational.
"Deb, get those cryo-tubes open." He commanded.
      "Sir I don't think-"
      "Now, Deb." He said in his no-nonsense voice.
      Deb gingerly stepped up to the controls and began pushing buttons, "Sir, one of the cryo-tubes has someone in it. There are still signs of life, and I think I can wake him."
      "Do it." Carter said.
      "Yes, sir." Deb replied hesitantly. She began punching in buttons, and soon, the "whoosh" of the cryo-tube seal being broken was heard, and one of the cryo-tubes began to open.

      Do you remember this? It happened before. But last time, it was different. The familiar voice sounded in his head, as it hadn't for so long. Exactly how long, he didn't know, but he was glad to hear her again. He felt as though he was waking up from a long sleep. His limbs felt stiff and his head felt heavy. Wake up, sleepy head! Her voice teased, I can tell you're sleepy! She laughed.
      Slowly, his eyes began to open. His eyelids felt like lead. He tried to talk, but found that he was unable to move his lips. He looked around. He could feel the soft padding of the cryo-tube and heard the seal being broken. The light outside his helmet was bright; piercingly bright, and it took his eyes a painfully long time to adjust to it.       Finally! Can you hear me, Chief? She asked.
      He groaned, unable to do anything else with his weak body. It was enough. Good. Someone found us. She reported.
      His breathing became regular and strength began returning to his body. Once his eyes had adjusted, he saw the cryo-tube just passing over his head. It must not have been such a long time after all. It only took seconds for the tube to open fully. Unless it hadn't opened for a long time, which he knew as well as she did that that was highly possible.
      "Sir, I think he's awake!" The voice was definitely feminine, and seemed to be coming to him from across a great distance.
      Come on, Chief. Up and at 'em! He began testing his limbs, wriggling his fingers and toes, and found that he could, at least fairly easily. Next, he tried opening his mouth and realised he could do that, too, so he tried speaking.
      "Cortana?" He asked weakly. Yes, I'm here, Chief. Her voice was still there. It was a welcome sound and he was glad he was able to recover her from High Charity.
      "Sir, I think he just said something." The feminine voice said again. It seemed closer now, like from behind a closed door.
      "Do you know what?" A masculine voice asked.
      "Captain Keyes?" The Chief asked. He knew that was impossible. Keyes had been killed, but that voice…
      "Something about a curtain, and just now something about keys, I think."
      He tested out his arms. They moved fine, though they moved somewhat stiffly. It didn't matter; he'd loosen up quickly.
      "He's moving, sir!" That feminine voice.
      "It looks like a…Spartan." The deep voice came from one of the other three figures in the room, two tall and one very short.
      "Arbiter?" He asked in a stronger voice. The voice had sounded like the Arbiter's.
      Chief, can you climb out of the cryo-tube? Cortana asked.
      He moved one leg forward ever so slightly and put his arms on the edges of the tube so he could push himself up. As he did so, he heard the Arbiter's voice again, "He's trying to come out of the tube."
      This seemed like common knowledge to him. Of course he was. What? Did whoever these people were expect him to lie in there all day?
      Easy, Chief. It's been a long time. Cortana's voice sounded solider.
      "How long?" He asked.
      I'll tell you later. She replied.
He moved his other foot to the edge of the cryo-tube and with one final push, was no longer leaning against the back edge. He stood on the edge of the tube, keeping his shaky balance by holding onto the edges. For the first time, he got a good look at the people standing around him. The woman was at the panel. She had long, dark hair, tied up in a ponytail to keep it out of her way. Next to her was a human man. Short, grey hair marked his age and his uniform marked his status; obviously captain of this ship. There were also two Elites and a Grunt, but he realised that neither of the Elites was the Arbiter. He could tell from their armour.
      He dropped to the ground and nearly fell on his stiff, unbalanced legs. The captain caught and steadied him, then backed away.
      Five hundred. Cortana said.
      "What?" He replied.
      "I didn't say anything." The captain said. The Chief stared at him, confused for a minute, before realising that he had no radio on him, and couldn't hear Cortana.
      It's been five hundred years. Welcome to the future. His eyes widened behind his dark visor.
      "I'm Captain Rick Carter of the UNSC Flight of Purge. Welcome aboard."
      "Thank you." He replied in his deep voice, "What year is it?"
      "2955." The captain said, slightly confused.
      Told you. Cortana gloated.
      An idea struck him, "Cortana, can't you make your voice audible for everyone to hear using my armour?" He asked.
      He heard a click and a somewhat annoying, high pitched but short-lived sound.
      "Yes." Cortana's voice said.
      The five in the room were slightly confused for a minute, before one of the Elites stepped forward, "You know about the Arbiter, and you carry the one known as 'Cortana'. Could you be the one the Prophets once called 'Demon' who nearly destroyed High Charity?"
      The Chief looked at him. He was obviously the leader of the Covenant team, "Yes."
      The Elites grunted their approval, Carter looked taken aback and the woman gasped, putting her hands over her mouth and nose.
      "But," the Chief began, "High Charity was defeated."
      "Well, we thought so. But recently, the Flood has infected an area close to Reach, and we think it may have infected the planet itself." Deb explained.
      "Reach?" The Chief asked.
      "Come to the bridge, and we'll explain everything." Carter said, turning and leading the way.
      The Chief recovered his balance remarkably fast. He was tall, taller than the captain, but not as tall as the Elites, and wore dark green armour. As they walked, Carter, true to his word, explained what had happened since the death of Miranda Keyes and Sergeant Johnson the most accurately he could. The Chief listened quietly, but Cortana asked the occasional question. The crew stopped and saluted as their captain walked by, but all the Chief got were strange stares and admiring whispers.
      When they reached the bridge, the Chief removed a small card from his helmet and asked if there was anywhere he could insert it. Carter gestured to a cylindrical tube next to Deb's station. There hadn't been any AI's on the ship before, but there were still many in use, so the ships were made properly equipped to have one. The Chief walked to the tube and inserted the card. He pushed a few buttons and within seconds, the translucent, blue, feminine looking form of Cortana appeared on top of the cylinder.
      "The Flood is on Reach…Chief? You want to do this again?" She asked.
      "Neither the Arbiter nor I were excited about going to war with the Flood." The replied.
      "So you don't want to. But you still will."
      "What makes you say that?"
      " 'The fate of humanity rests in your hands!' Sound familiar?"
      The Chief grunted his disapproval at Cortana's comment, but knew she was right.
      Carter realised that the conversation had ended and turned to a crewmember, "Take the Chief to targeting and shields. Don't worry about the weapons diagnostics. I get the feeling he knows what he's doing."
      "Yes, sir." The crewmember saluted, then turned to the Chief, "Please follow me, sir."
      "Cortana, stay on the bridge for now." The Chief said.
      "Sure, Chief." She replied as he followed the crewmember off the bridge.
      "How did you get here?" Carter asked as Deb returned to her panel.
      "We had returned to the ship after destroying High Charity, or we thought it was destroyed, and the ship didn't make it through the portal, so I sealed the Chief in the cryo-tube to make sure he survived. He didn't have any objections at the time, but I think that if he went back now, he would change his mind. I wouldn't blame him. Being in a cryo-tube for five hundred years isn't exactly a wonderful experience." Cortana explained.
      "How is he still alive after five hundred years?" Carter asked.
      "Captain, we need to continue if we're going to get to Reach before the Flood take it over." The head Elite reported.
      "Of course, go ahead back to your ship. We'll follow once you make the jump." Carter said.
      The Elite nodded and headed toward the docking bay.
      "After what happened to Reach last time…but that wasn't even the Flood." Cortana expressed her thoughts out loud.
      "You didn't answer my question. How did the Chief survive for five hundred years?" Carter prompted.
Cortana shook her head, "To be entirely honest with you, Captain, I don't know. I only expected us to be in there for a few years. I thought someone would find us. I didn't expect it to take this long."
      A few minutes later, the Chief was back on the bridge and the Covenant fleet was moving into position to jump to Reach.
      As soon as they had made the jump, Carter began moving his fleet into position behind the Covenant fleet,       "I hope you're checked out to destroy the Flood, Chief." He said.
      "I wouldn't worry about that." Cortana answered.
      It wasn't long before they dropped in above Reach. Smaller ships were dispatched to go down to the planet's surface. After they entered Reach's atmosphere, Pelicans were sent in further with the troops on them. One of the pelicans had the Master Chief, suited up and ready to go, with Cortana safely aboard his armour.
      The Pelican dropped them off with five men at the base of a beautiful snowy mountain. They were given directions to take the two Warthogs given to them and head away from the mountain's base toward a city that was believed to have been infected. They began driving away, but soon, Cortana stopped them, "Look, Chief! Do you see that?" The Chief stopped the Warthog and got out. There was something lying on the grass just ahead of them. As the Chief approached, he saw that it was a helmet, worn and cracked. It looked like a Spartan helmet. He walked over and picked it up. The visor was broken, and all the records were shattered. There was no way for him to be able to tell what had happened to this Spartan, but Cortana seemed to know.
      "Six." Was all she said.
      The Chief knew a lot about Cortana's time on Reach, and how it had been the Noble team, a group of six Spartans, each chosen for their exceptional talents, who had brought her to Captain Keyes on the Pillar of Autumn, who had later delivered her to him. Since then, they had travelled together through thick and thin, through war and peace, and through everything that came their way. They had survived and now, five hundred years later, they were alive, and back on Reach to do what they had been trained to do: fight. And win.