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Relevance:Redux (Chapter III)
Posted By: Omega 505<omega505@ymail.com>
Date: 10 September 2009, 2:07 am


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Chapter 3: At the Edge of Night
Surface of Alpha IV
10 miles from Base XI
Present Day
17 Hours in

Fire, that's all there was, Fire and glass. Light from the sky fell steadily down on the planet, blanketing the once green landscape. The planet burned, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Soldiers desperately cried out in the darkness as they were engulfed. A moon hung in the sky defiantly, eclipsed by fields of destruction. They were all doomed, there would be nothing left to tell the story, to warn Earth. Nothing but glass and ashes. Suddenly a voice cut through the bleak image, different then the cries of pain. It called, loud, clear, and beautiful in the dark. Two figures stood eclipsed on a hillside, one in the arms of the other. The voice sounded again, clearer. A phrase that would haunt the listener for the rest of his life, "I forgive you…"

"Hey… are you going to get up or not? I've had to drag your fat ass this far already."

Private Paul Archer slowly came back from the foreboding images. He shook his head slowly, trying to wipe his mind of the memory. He looked up and stared at the familiar grin. "Uhg, what happened?"

Linon's grin widened, "You passed out again. I swear they taught us something in boot about 'how to not pass out when crashing,' but I could be wrong."

"I meant what happened after the crash, and I'll remember that." Archer stretched and stood up. "Where's sarge?"

Linon put a finger to his chin and tried to look thoughtful. "You know, I'm not sure. I fell behind dragging your lifeless body for the last ten miles." He smiled quickly as Archer began to move towards him. "But if I had to guess, he would be just ahead in the clearing where the rendezvous is supposed to be."

Archer shook his head again, and then headed toward the clearing. He had some things to think about.

_____________________________________

3 years earlier
Reach
Epsilon Training Facility

Corporal Ellen Hawks braced herself in the drop pod. Ten seconds ago she was comfortably stretched out across a bunk on the UNSC Half Way There before a drill was called. Two hundred ODST's were hot dropped from the ship into unknown territory. They weren't even told what they were going to do, but that was part of the job.
"Alright marines," The screen inside her pod flickered and a helmet centered it's self in the picture. "Welcome to Epsilon, this will be your final test. Beta Platoon is down there, and they've been waiting for a rematch after Bravo beat their arses all the way back to Earth. In your pod should be a rifle of your usual preference, when you hit planet side, regroup with you squads and move to the marked location on your Heads Up Display. There will be a marker there, pick it up and return it to the rendezvous point. This should be a cake walk for you hell jumpers, good luck, command out."

Hawks switched on her own comm. "Alright Gamma, use the usual pattern. Patterson, you're up front, James take rear. I don't know what Beta has in store for us, but I don't want you all running in there half cocked. Thirty seconds to impact, prepare to defend your position until the rest of the squad can get to you. Good Luck." Acknowledgment lights blinked across her display, four in all.

Patterson, James, Kinsley, and Pork made up Gamma squad under Hawks. They were the top ranked ODST squad on the ship, and all expectations were turned to them. This mission had to go off without a hitch.

A timer in the corner of Hawks display ticked down to the second of impact. The pod slammed into the ground, creating a small crater around it. Hawks blew the hatch of and immediately darted for the nearest cover. She watched as Patterson, James, and Kinsley all made their way to her position. So far there was no enemy fire. Suddenly Pork's indicator flashed red. The squad instantly changed direction and moved toward their comrade.

It didn't take long to find him. Pork lay clumsily hanging out of his pod. Bright florescent green was splattered across his chest. He'd been hit. Hawks flicked on her comm. "Pork, are you alright?" He didn't answer, but moved his arm slightly to gesture toward the marker. He'd been shot, his armor had locked up to simulate the numbing effect of being hit by a bullet. Pork wasn't going anywhere. Hawks shook her head and gestured into the trees. Gamma followed her orders and moved out.

The clearing was blank. The entire forest shook with gunfire, but the clearing was blank. Planted in the center was a plain steel pole with a red flag hanging from the top. It was too easy. "Hey Kinsley, you see anything?"

"Negative Corporal, nothing yet. You think they all ran after the other squads?"

"Nah, they know us too well to leave it completely unguarded." James shifted to get a better view. "Theirs something we're missing."

"Well, no harm no foal," Patterson said, moving to stand. "I'm going for it." Before Hawks could say anything, Patterson was off and sprinting into the clearing. The air buzzed as two forms shot from above the trees.

"Shit," Kinsley said, raising his sniper rifle to get a better view. "MAKO drones, two of them. Nasty things, Patterson doesn't stand a chance."

"Can you get a shot?" Hawks said quickly, trying to think of a way to save Patterson from humiliation.

"I can get one…"

"Well do it!" Kinsley sighted one of the drones and fired. The pellet struck the shell and the drone veered off, now 'destroyed'. The second drone swooped in on Patterson, firing at the defenseless marine. Then it too swerved off and flew away. "Nice shot Kinsley."

"But I didn't shoot Corporal, Ma'am. I couldn't even sight it."

"Then who…" Pork's status light flickered amber and green. "Well I'll be, down but not out aye Pork?" The light continued to blink. "Grab the flag Patterson, let's get the hell out of here."

Two days later

"I'd like to congratulate you again for you victory corporal. You and you team did a stunning job."

"Thank you commander." Hawks stood on board the Ares IV station above Reach. Commander John Collins stood next to her. "I couldn't have done it without my team sir."

"Of course, and that's why I'd like to reassign your squad Corporal. I want you on the Pearl Harbor."

"The Pearl Harbor sir? I thought she was decommissioned ages ago."

"Oh, she was. But we reactivated her, retrofitted with the latest gear and equipment. She needs a good squad onboard to keep the place in one piece. Are you up for it?"

"Of course sir. We're ready to go anywhere you need us sir." She turned and stared out into space through a large window. Just beyond it a large ship floated by, obviously old and repaired many times. Painted across the side in large black lettering was the words UNSC Pearl Harbor. She muttered, "I just don't know if she's up to the task…"
_____________________________________

Present Day
Alpha IV
UNSC Relevance

James Cane stared out the forward view screen at the carnage surrounding his vessel. The battle had started not more then an hour before, and already the space above Alpha IV was filled with fire and scrap. The three UNSC ships had easily dispatched the first Covenant vessel, it hadn't raised its shields. The second ship crested the planet with shields up and weapons blazing. The UNSC Hanford was obliterated in the first wave of fire. Pearl Harbor and Relevance covered Pelicans and Longswords making their way back from the Hanford as Seraph fighters strafed the wreckage. Thousands of navy and air force personal were killed aboard the ship. Hundreds more were killed by fighters.

That was half an hour ago. The two remaining UNSC vessels fended off the Covenant ship, giving them some time to recover. Or so they thought. Cane took the chance to get some well needed rest. Minutes later he was called once again to the bridge. Now he stared out at the wreck of the Hanford as the camera panned slowly, centering on the UNSC Pearl Harbor. He turned to his consol.

"Salina?" He pressed a button on the board and Salina appeared on the arm of his chair. She'd been hard pressed since the battle started, and her avatar was starting to show it. Her hair was disheveled and her face showed worry.

Her voice was also tired, "Yes captain?"

"Why was I called to the bridge?"

"I'm not sure captain," She turned slightly and gestured at the communications station. "Captain Breshel on the Pearl Harbor called you sir."

Cane sighed slightly and hesitated. He wasn't sure he wanted to hear what the other captain had to say. "Put it on, Salina." Captain Breshel appeared on a small screen inlaid into Cane's seat. He nodded slightly. "Yes Breshel, what do you need?"

"I'm sorry to call captain, but we've had some… difficulties. During the last wave we took on some boarders. We've done our best to repel them, but their gaining ground. We think their up to something, all their progress has been away from key control points, including the bridge and engineering."

Cane rubbed his chin lightly, realizing he hadn't shaved in weeks. "Then where are they heading captain?"

"For all intents and purposes, we assume they are heading towards the center of the…" The screen cut to sudden static.

"Salina, what the hell happened?" Cane stood up and moved to the glass of the bridge gallery.

Salina paused and turned to him, "I'm not sure captain, their communication just cut, I can't determine a source… wait, I think you should see this sir." The usually blank screen cut to an exterior view of the Pearl Harbor.

"What do you want me to…?" Before Cane could finish his sentence, Pearl Harbor started splitting at the seams. Flames shot out the ports as the ship was rent in two. Then, before seconds had passed, the ship exploded in a brilliant flash of blue and crimson. The UNSC Pearl Harbor had been destroyed.

Cane stared dumbfounded at the debris drifting away from the epicenter of the blast. "Status report! I want to know what just happened to that ship!"

"Captain," Salina gestured to a data pad. "Pre-diagnostics reports show that the blast originated somewhere near the center of the vessel. The signature looks like some kind of plasma based explosive device."

"A bomb?"

"Correct sir, I assume the Covenant brought it on board with their boarding parties. I took the liberty to scan our own vessel for such a device. There was one inside one of the pods that breached our hull, but it was expelled when we repelled the boarders, sir."

Cane relaxed slightly, "Any word from command on those reinforcements?"

Salina shook her head, "Negative sir, command can't spend anymore ships on a rescue mission."

"Then contact the ground teams and scramble Pelicans." Cane sat down slowly and tried to relax. "Tell them to finish up quickly, or find another way home…"

_____________________________________
Surface of Alpha IV
10 miles from Base XI
18 hours in

Paul Archer paused slightly to stare up at the night sky. The stars were briefly dwarfed by a blaring light that quickly disappeared. He shook his head and wrote it off as a slight concussion and kept moving deeper into the clearing. Archer found Sergeant Haravez leaning against the melted wreck of a warthog. The clearing was littered with bodies and debris, both friend and foe alike. A haze of unease covered the landscape as a light mist rolled across the corpses.

Sergeant Haravez sat slumped forward on the wreckage of a Warthog. The vehicle's tires had melted to the ground, and the mounted gun on back was nothing but a heap of slag. As Archer neared the sergeant, he noticed a corpsman lying face down in the mud not two feet away from where Haravez was sitting. He reached down and rolled the man over, checking his ID tag. He didn't know the corpsman personally, but made an effort to remember the man's face. It wasn't worth dieing in this war if there was no one to remember what you had died for.

Haravez noticed what Archer was doing and sighed. "You notice anything strange about how he died, private?" Archer looked back at the body, studying it closely. He almost jumped when he saw the bullet holes.

"Wait…" he stammered, "you mean…?"

Haravez nodded, "Yes, he died from friendly fire. I don't know what the hell is going on here, but it doesn't feel right. Many of these bodies seem to have been killed by allies. I don't want to know what must have happened to these men, in order to push them over the edge. Something horrible happened here…"

Suddenly the radio in the Warthog sputtered to life. Captain Cane's voice came over the intercom, echoing over their personal radios. "This is Captain Cane, the Pearl Harbor and the Hanford have been destroyed. We're giving you three hours to get what you need and get the hell out of there. Pelicans will begin lifting anyone they can up to the ship in that time. We are sending marked areas where the drop ships will pick up. Good luck marines, we'll all need it."

The clearing light up suddenly with a green light on Archer's tactical scanner. He turned to Haravez just as Linon came jogging up. Haravez shook his head slowly, "I guess we hold the LZ. I hope those Pelicans don't wait the whole three hours to come get us, who knows what's out there waiting." The wind picked up and whipped through the trees, clearing away the mist and revealing more bodies, hundreds of them, some not even from Relevance.

For once Linon was silent. Archer stuttered uneasily, "I guess we found the science crew… What the hell happened here…?"

_____________________________________
Alpha IV
Base XI
Analysis Lab 7
48 Hours ago

Sara Harsen poured over the object lying on her examination table. The medium sized stone tablet had just come in from the excavation site less then a mile north of the base. It was made of solid onyx, just like the rest of the ruins, but strange etchings flowed across the surface of the artifact, not even metaphorically, the writing actually flowed like water across the rock face.

The instant the rock hit the table, Sara was translating the text. They didn't know much of the forerunner language, but from what little she could decipher came great knowledge. Two words stood out among the rest, the words "shield," "sword," and "ring" were repeated many times over, as well as "ship" and "war." But none of these were unusual, what was unusual was the string of numbers that followed each word. She'd found them almost two days ago, and still could not make sense of the combinations.

She sighed heavily, drawing the attention of her lab partner Joseph. Joseph was younger then Sara by two years. He served in the UNSC navy before becoming and archeologist to get away from war. He stared at her critically before saying anything. "What's wrong, figured out that translation yet?"

Sara shook her head, "No, these numbers just don't make any sense. There's no pattern at all, it looks like they just picked random numbers and wrote them down." She passed the paper to Joseph, "See if you can make anything out of this."

He looked at it for less then a minute. "It's a set of coordinates. Each word represents a planet, and the numbers are astral coordinates. This is a map." He passed the paper back to a shocked Sara. He eyed her carefully, "What?"

"How did you figure that out, I've been staring at these things for two days, where were you then?" Joseph smiled slightly.

"Here, let me see the artifact…" He reached over and grabbed the stone lightly, lifting it up. Suddenly he froze, his eyes wide and dilated. The artifact fell from his hands. And hit the table surprisingly light.

Suddenly, he lifted and examination lamp off the table and swung for Sara's head. She moved just in time to miss the blunt of the blow, but it came down hard on her shoulder, breaking it. She cried out, the movement caused the strap camera to fall from her head. Joseph just stared off into space as he brought the lamp down again, and again. Then, he grabbed the stone, put it in a drawer, and left the room like nothing happened.

_____________________________________
Alpha IV
Base XI
Analysis Lab 7
Present day

Kara Conner removed the tape from the player on the examination table. The Marines around her stood silently, shocked at what they had just seen. Blake was the first one to speak up. "What the hell happened here?"

Kara shook her head slowly, she had seen the tape before, arriving on the planet shortly after the incident occurred. "No one knows what happened, that was less then a day before the Covenant attacked. The science crews began going mad, killing each other for no apparent reason. After they killed someone, they'd return to work like nothing happened. I found the artifact tucked away where Joseph left it. It's boxed and ready to take up to your ship. We just have to make it to an LZ and get out of here."

Hawks turned to the squad. "You heard her, let's get moving. We have less then an hour to gather everything we need and get out of here. Move Marines." The room scattered to work, leaving Hawks, Blake and Kara alone. They stood silently for some time before stirring again. Blake turned to his sister as Hawks suddenly realized the awkwardness and left the room.

He smiled softly and hugged her. "I thought you were gone Kara. I thought I'd never see you again after what I did."

Kara smiled back, "Sorry I hit you with a bat." They both laughed lightly and stood there for a moment longer. "We should get going. There's still plenty to pack up before the pelican get here."

Blake nodded, and they both left the room to help the rest of the Marines.

_____________________________________
Alpha IV
Original Rendezvous Point
19 Hours in
Present Day

"There's nothing we can do here… Nothing at all we could do to help these people." Paul Archer stooped and looked at the ground, realizing that he was standing on someone's hand. He pushed the thought to the far back of his mind and moved to where the Sergeant was sitting.

Just as he sat, the radio began spouting as the Pelicans came within range. That was when it all went to hell. Plasma lit up the sky as hundreds of Seraph fighter-bombers flocked towards the incoming drop-ships. Most were destroyed instantly, others crashed to the ground engulfed in flames. The radio fizzled out as the fighters jammed the radio. Then a bright light began on the horizon as a shadow crept across the sky. This was the end, and all Private Paul Archer could do was watch, and wait.

_____________________________________
UNSC Relevance
20 Hours in
Present Day
[Warning: Tape is about to expire]

"What's the status on the FTL?" Captain Cane turned to his helmsman.

The ensign shook his head in disbelief, "Only ten percent sir, I didn't expect we would be leaving any time soon."

Cane slammed his fist into the console. "Dammit, what are our options Salina?"

"Nothing sir," the AI manifested at the command console, "We should begin Admiral Cole's Protocol and prepare for the worst sir." She shook her head, a calculated movement. "We don't stand a chance against that many fighters." She paused for a second before continuing, "A Covenant CCS class cruiser has just crested the planet sir, they're glassing the surface."

Cane sat down slowly, considering what he had just heard. "Salina, is it possible to jump Relevance just enough to put her inside that cruiser?" Salina stood for a second before nodding slowly. "Alright, begin the calculations. We pull this off and it will buy the ground teams more time. Patch me through to open communications. Let the bastards listen if they care to."

"Alright captain, the comm. is open." Salina dissolved back into the panel to give Cane some room.

"This is Captain James Cane, of the UNSC Relevance to all surviving human forces. Relevance is about to be over come, and our FTL drive is far from charged. There is no chance for escape, not for any of us. I have a plan, it should buy the ground team extra time to get that artifact off this planet. Good luck to you all, and may luck give a damn. To the crew of the Relevance, we knew the risk we were taking when we undertook this mission. Lifeboats are positioned on every deck, you will not be judged if you choose now to use them. We will not survive this next fight, I know this. If you choose to leave, then return to Earth and tell them what happened here today. Tell them of the lives lost to defend their people. Tell them what happened here, so that all may know who we were." He paused, waiting for the sound of the escape pods ejecting, but no one moved. No one onboard the UNSC Relevance made a sound.

Cane smiled and turned the radio off. It would be the last thing he remembered as Captain of the Relevance. The loyalty of his crew would live on.

_____________________________________
Alpha IV
Base XI: Outside
Present Day
[Warning: Tape is about to expire]

Corporal Ellen Hawks held the binoculars to her eyes. The night sky was clear enough to see Relevance as the fighters descended on their pray. Flares of plasma light up portions of the ship as armor plating was melted away. The rest of the squad stared up as Relevance blinked out, and the looming Covenant cruiser burst into flames. Some cheered, others cried out. Yet others still couldn't absorb what had just happened. Kara Conner wiped a lone tear running down her cheek before turning to her brother and collapsing into his arms. The battle for Alpha IV was over, but the war for the artifact had just begun.

[End of Tape: Record Stored]
[Closing…]





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