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Fan Fiction

Not Exactly Human Ch. 7 Pt. 2: Complication
Posted By: QuantumSheep<jasnash@optusnet.com.au>
Date: 23 July 2008, 10:37 pm

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Jeff was caught off guard when Corporal Jackson shouted this from behind. He was caught even more off guard when a plasma mortar blast landed a few meters to his left. He felt its heat wash over him, the shockwave knocking him over and leaving him sprawled amongst the grass.

Coughing up some dirt he had breathed in when he fell, he rolled onto his back and put his rifle up to the ready, jumping back up onto his feet. A Covenant Wraith tank was at the other end of the clearing they were in, now having fired another mortar. A group consisting of a few Grunts and two Elites was standing near it, their weapons firing at the group of humans.

Plasma flew past Jeff as he dived behind a boulder, the plasma mortar landing where he had just stood. The blast was close enough to throw him off balance. He clenched his teeth and could feel blood in his mouth. He realized he must have bitten his tongue, although he didn't feel any pain there.

He looked back at the group. Heinrich was crouched, firing towards the Covenant soldiers.

Things had been going fine since their last encounter and were at the fringes of the Covenant base, purple metal walls impeding their progress. There would be an entrance and that would have to be close by since they had almost gone right around the entire base, which lay nestled by a cliff-side, part of it going into a jagged rocky mountain.
This obviously meant the Covenant had been on this planet longer than first thought, the ancient structures on it probably important to them. From what Jeff had gathered the structures were possibly thousands of years old and were definitely not Covenant. They were important to the Covenant and were possibly part of their religion, considering that was what started the war in the first place.

Jones and the Corporal were crouched among the grass behind him, trying to lay low. The remaining marines, now about four of them, were scattering, another plasma mortar landing nearby and throwing up a large amount of dirt.

He looked towards the Wraith. The Covenant was well alerted to the presence of the humans by now and had obviously called in the big guns, which meant Wraith tanks.

Jeff knew his squad weren't equipped to take on enemy tanks, but there was always a way around these things. He could try to get on the tank but that was dangerous. Not only did the Wraith tanks have devastating plasma mortars, they also had plasma cannons to defend against infantry that came a bit too close.

'Jones, Corporal, cover me!' Jeff shouted, 'make sure that tank doesn't pay attention to me!'

'Don't tell me you're going all gung-ho on this one,' Jones said, 'because one day you're going to get yourself killed.'

'Just do it!' Jeff replied, 'is it that hard?'


'Then start covering me! Same goes with you Heinrich!'

Heinrich looked up, a mortar landing some distance behind him. He totally ignored it.

'What?' He asked, having not heard Jeff.

'Cover me so I can get to the tank,' Jeff said.

Heinrich nodded and resumed firing, cutting down a few of the Grunts.

A marine was hit in the neck with a plasma bolt and fell, ending up sprawled close to Jeff. He gazed down at the dead marine and shook his head. Things were beginning to get bad for the squad.

Heinrich, Jones and Corporal Jackson had begun laying down suppressive fire towards the tank and the nearby troops. Jeff started for some nearby trees and undergrowth, using them as cover as plasma bolts landed in the ground near him as he moved. He ignored most of the shots and started along the left flank of the tank.
The Wraith tank hadn't turned in his direction so he was safe from it at the moment.

He went low in the undergrowth, almost bumping into a crimson armoured Elite which had been crouched amongst the bushes and shrubs.

It wasn't ready for him either and seemed to take a moment to register the fact that there was a human right near him.

Jeff used this moment to get up and club the Elite across the chest with the butt of his sniper rifle. The alien stepped back, its shield flaring. Jeff hit it again with the butt of his rifle, this time on the head. The alien's shield failed and Jeff pressed the barrel of the rifle into the Elite's stomach and fired.

The Elite dropped to the ground. The Wraith tank was still firing at the other squad members so Jeff continued along the left flank, coming around the back of the tank and the Covenant soldiers.

He gunned down a few of the Grunts with some well placed sniper rifle shots before he slung his sniper rifle back over his shoulder and started towards the tank, climbing onto its back and noticing there was a sort of purple metal grating there.

The pilot of the tank didn't seem to realize he was on the vehicle and so didn't move much at all.

Reaching for his equipment belt Jeff took off his last grenade and started feeling along the edges of the grating, looking for a gap which he could use to rip it off. There wasn't much in the way of a gap between the tank's armor and the grating so he un-holstered the Turnwell Colt pistol and started using the hilt of it to bash the grating.

It was working and gradually it dented enough of it to reach into a newly created gap and rip off the grating, letting it fall to the ground below and revealing a heap of glowing pipes and metal. There seemed to be a thin layer of armor between him and the interior of the tank where the pilot was so he dropped a grenade into the back and jumped off the tank.

The grenade detonated and sent pieces of purple metal flying. Looking behind as he got up, Jeff saw that a large ragged hole had been torn in the back of the tank, the pilot, an Elite, visible slumped against its seat, the alien's armor scorched and bloodied. A thick plume of black smoke was wafting out of the tank and Jeff coughed when he breathed some of the smoke in.

Satisfied that the tank was destroyed, Jeff turned his attention to the remaining Covenant troops, which now consisted of mostly Grunts.
His squad moved across the clearing, gunning down the remaining Grunts. Jeff regrouped with them near the purple metal wall which went around the compound. There was another natural passage which went past some jagged rocky areas and along the wall, possibly leading to an entrance. Hopefully it wouldn't be heavily guarded.
Including himself, their group now only consisted of five people, including Jones, Heinrich, Corporal Jackson and a marine with 'PFC. Watkins' printed on the tag on his uniform. Five humans against a heck of a lot of Covenant didn't sound like good odds, but there was no point quitting now. They were almost in the Covenant base and close to the Captain.

Jeff started down the passage, the group following, as they continued past the wall. The passage went straight into the rocky areas and they had to climb over the rough terrain before ending up in another large area, this time with some scattered trees and small stream of water passing through it. Taking a closer look, Jeff noticed that this water stream seemed to be going into the base, grating at either end of the stream where it entered the rock. It could mean that the water went straight into the base and this could be used as a means to get into the base, although it would mean getting wet.

Here, there seemed to be a gate in the wall guarded by a small guard booth where a single Major Elite was, standing in the booth looking a bit bored. There was another two Elites outside the guardhouse, standing near the gate.

Making sure the rest of the area was clear; Jeff signalled his group to stop. He started to move through the overgrown grass and undergrowth, making sure the Elites didn't notice him. He found a good position on a small ledge on the edge of the area and went prone, able to get a straight clean shot at each of the Elites.

He went for the one in the guardhouse first, gunning the alien down. The Elite didn't even have its personal shield activated so it went down in a single shot which passed through its head. The other two ran for cover, now aware that there was a sniper somewhere. Jeff managed to fire two successive shots at one of them before it went behind the guardhouse, taking the Elite down.

The other Elite crouched behind a boulder, leaning out from cover to look for the sniper every now and then. When the alien finally did notice Jeff it leaned around the boulder and fired a quick volley of shots before going back into cover.

Jeff signalled to the rest of the squad to go around the other side and flush out the Elite from cover.

Jones, Heinrich, Corporal Jackson and PFC Watkins came out of hiding and went around the other side of where the Elite was hiding, using combined rifle fire to mow the alien down. Once it was down, Jeff got up and reloaded his sniper rifle, running over to the gate.

This was not the main gate by the look of it, more like a secondary side gate. That would mean there wouldn't be a lot of guards behind it, but judging from all the noise he and his squad had been making there was a chance the entire base had been alerted.
In the guardhouse was a set of holographic panels. Stepping into the small guardhouse and examining the panels, Jeff had a feeling that the most obvious one would be the one to open the gate. He fiddled for a few seconds and heard a satisfying clanking metal sound behind him as the gate slowly slid open, revealing a small grassy area behind it, a few Covenant structures behind it. These looked more like garages than the main base itself, but stepping through the open gateway Jeff could see the rest of the base, most of it in the side of a rocky cliff. Everything would have to have connecting corridors, which would make more sense. He hoped his assumption was correct when he signalled to the squad to follow him into one of the large garage-like structure. Rather than a sliding metal door like garages Jeff knew, this garage had a purple-pink transparent force field.
Behind it he could make out a few parked Wraith tanks and Ghosts. He looked around the outside area and managed to catch a glimpse of the Jackal sniper on the rooftop nearby before it fired. He rolled out of the way as a pink energy beam narrowly missed connecting with his head.

'Sniper!' Corporal Jackson shouted. Rifle fire filled the air for a few seconds as the rest of the squad opened fire, ripping the Jackal to shreds. Its body fell off the roof and landed with a sickening crunching sound on the ground.

Jeff watched as the force field of the garage deactivated and a large group of Grunts, being lead by two Minor Elites, came running out. He was standing close to the garage's main entrance and so was the first one they fired at.

He slipped behind a Covenant crate, taking out the Turnwell Colt pistol and leaning around the crate. The squad had already taken down a few of the Grunts but as usual, the Elites were the most troublesome, taking cover behind vehicles parked in the garage. Jeff had no grenades left, so he couldn't flush them out.

'Sergeant, I'm running out of ammo!' Corporal Jackson shouted from nearby, 'we all are!'

'Don't tell me,' Jeff replied, 'just pick up a Covenant weapon and use it!'

The Corporal nodded, also managing to catch a glimpse of an armed plasma grenade which landed in the dirt about a meter to his right. He dived in the opposite direction, only just avoiding the following incinerating blast.

Jeff went over to the garage entrance and went behind the wall near the open main door, leaning around it and firing at the nearest Elite. The Elite was in cover and the shots merely connected with the crate it had gone behind. The Elite leaned around the crate and fired back. This was getting nowhere since they were both in cover.

Jeff ran into the garage, taking a second or two to take in the interior. There were catwalks above as well as a door on the ground floor which seemed to lead into a long corridor. It had the typical Covenant design of purple-blue metals. There was a large door to his left which appeared to be locked.

As soon as Jeff entered the garage both the Elites came out of cover and fired. He dived to the floor and slid across it from his momentum, at the same time gunning down one of the Elites with his Colt pistol.

He stopped to reload, got up and went behind a parked Wraith tank. He moved around the tank until the Elite crouched behind the other Wraith tank was right in view. The alien saw him and turned around, opening fire. Jeff managed to avoid getting hit by most of it but a shot hit him in the left leg, the armor plating there metal away. He felt a burning sensation as the blast burned through the armor, but he ignored it and returned fire.

The Elite's shield flared the alien charged. Jeff sidestepped, giving him a chance to react to the Elite's charge. He clubbed the Elite in the back as it charged towards him, sidestepping again and watching as the alien roared in anger. Jeff ducked to avoid the Elite's return attack, which was a swing of the hand holding the Plasma Rifle. He pressed the Colt pistol in the Elite's stomach and fired, again and again. With each shot the Elite stumbled backwards, its shield flickering until after the third the shield failed and the next shot spurted dark purple blood onto Jeff's right arm.

The blood stunk like fresh tar, but he ignored it and kept firing, again and again until his magazine was empty. The Elite clutched at the massive wounds in its stomach and stumbled backwards, falling into a heap on the floor. Jeff got up and wiped most of the dark purple blood off his sleeve, some of it getting stuck on his fingers. He didn't like the smell too much.

Everything in the garage had gone quiet except for the faint whirr being made by some out of sight machinery. He looked back at the squad, now moving into the garage. Jones gave him the thumbs up for no apparent reason, giving a grin. Jeff just nodded in response.

Jeff started towards the door leading into the corridor ahead but his attention was diverted when the large double doors to his left began to slide open. Standing behind him was something which started his heart on a faster beat. He reloaded his Colt pistol and put up a hand to tell the others to stay where they were.

A pair of Covenant Hunters came through the doors. They were large, hunched over aliens coming in about eight feet tall in their battle state, but when standing upright were about twelve feet tall. On their right arm was an attached Fuel Rod Cannon, their left arm covered with a large almost impenetrable shield. On their backs were razor sharp porcupine style spikes. The Hunters were mainly blue, with orange eels making up their stomach area and neck area.
Apparently it was some sort of symbiotic relationship between the eels and the rest of the alien, but Jeff wasn't too sure and wasn't entirely worried about that right now.

He hadn't had much experience with Hunters before and the few times he had were situations which resulted in the deaths of quite a number of people, be it civilian or military. He knew their weak points were the exposed orange eel regions, but the Hunters usually had these covered up and getting behind a Covenant Hunter was no easy task.

'You keep their attention,' Jeff shouted, 'I'll try and get behind them.'
'You really come up with good plans, you know that?' Jones replied sarcastically, 'they're so hard to carry out.'

Jeff didn't reply, diving behind a Wraith tank as one of the Hunter's Fuel Rod Cannons fired, a large green blast of energy flying across the room and landing in front of the Wraith tank. A large green explosion followed, burning a hole through the metal in the floor and leaving a mess of melted metal.

The squad opened fire, starting to move around unpredictably to avoid the incoming fire.

Jeff started around the Hunters as the pair of them trudged into the room, one of them turning its attention to Jeff. It started towards him, hunched behind its metal shield as its Fuel Rod Cannon glowed brightly with energy.

Jeff had to dive onto the floor as a Fuel Rod Cannon blast flew overhead. It exploded a few meters behind him, making the floor vibrate.

He crawled forwards within a few meters of the Hunter. It stood up and swung with its shielded arm, Jeff rolling off to one side to avoid the somewhat slow but otherwise devastating blow.

It gave him the chance to get a shot at the orange eel region that made up the Hunter's lower torso. He fired the Turnwell Colt pistol three times in succession, sending bright orange blood spurting forwards, a few eels squirming about in the mess. The Hunter roared and Jeff got up, backing away from another shielded arm swing. He fell backwards over a parked Ghost and the Hunter stood over him, about to bring the shield down on him. He pressed his pistol into its stomach and fired three more times. The Hunter tensed and fell forwards, almost landing on top of him.

Jeff came out from underneath it and saw that the other Hunter, thoroughly busy fighting Jones and the others hadn't noticed what Jeff had done to its Hunter buddy. When it caught a glimpse of its fallen mate the Hunter roared and started charging towards Corporal Jackson, who managed to roll out of the way and come behind the Hunter.

The Corporal held down the trigger on his assault rifle, a continuous spray of bullets flying forwards and impacting with the Hunter's exposed orange regions, orange blood spurting out. The Corporal was screaming loudly, nothing in particular but shouting
incomprehensible words which were getting drowned out by the sound of the assault rifle firing. When the rifle's magazine ran empty the Corporal still lay where he was, trigger held down and only receiving a continuous clicking sound in response. He was still shouting profanities at the now dead Hunter as well.

'Calm the fuck down, man,' Jones said, walking over to him, 'it's dead.'

The Corporal let go of his rifle's trigger and looked up at Jones.

'Well…yeah, right,' the Corporal said, sounding a little surprised. He got up and took a look at the Hunter's corpse. Satisfied, he gave it a light kick in the side.

'We're moving on,' Jeff said, not caring much for the Corporal's outburst. He took a look at his squad, at Jones, Heinrich, the Corporal and then PFC Watkins. They didn't look very tired, and he realized he had been the one to do most of the work. That was usually the case for him anyway. Not that it mattered; he enjoyed doing what he did.

Captain Bob Turnwell was being held on his feet by two Minor Elites, one on each side of him as the Elite Major in front of him punched him again and again in the face, every now and then pausing to say something in the Covenant dialect. This was language Bob knew nothing about, and being as dazed as he was he was too busy staring at all the pretty lights that seemed to be floating above him.

He had woken up half an hour after he had been knocked out and for most of his time as a prisoner since then he had been locked up in a bare cell, a transparent purple-pink force-field the only thing preventing his escape. They had been kind enough to give him a small purple bucket-like container so he could finally relieve himself without making too much of a mess in the cell. For toilet paper he had used the tissues he had kept in his pocket.

He wasn't in much of a state to answer the Elite Major as it punched him again. Thinking about it but unable to do very well at this since his head hurt so much, he realized he could feel several loose teeth. Well, shit happens, he thought as the Major punched him again.

It had been like this for the last ten minutes, five minutes after they had taken him out of his cell to a small room with a table and chair in it. Of course, these were Covenant tables and chairs and were made out of the usual purple-blue metal the Covenant seemed to favour. The seat was fitted to seat an Elite but no one was sitting in it at all. Instead, the table had been pushed out of the way to allow room for the punching session that was now taking place.

Why the Covenant had even bothered to capture him was unknown to him, but the Captain did have a slight idea since every now and then the Elite Major would actually speak English and mention something about his commander. It had been the Commander's idea by the sound of it and Bob really wanted to talk to this Commander. He gathered that this Commander Elite character was the kind that enjoyed torturing prisoners.

'The discs, human,' the Major Elite said, standing taller than Bob and looking down at him, 'what is on them?'

'Wha…' Bob managed to say, tasting blood in his mouth. He coughed, a large amount of saliva mixed with blood landing on the floor in front of him.

'Is the location of human worlds on the discs?' the Major Elite asked, its deep voice sounding slightly forced due to the foreign language it was speaking, 'don't lie, we'll be checking them soon enough.'

'Then why don't you?'

The Major Elite paused for a moment before answering.

'The Ship Master has them in his possession and he hasn't reported in for a few units,' the Major Elite replied.

'Then why don't you go to Hell?' Bob said, smiling in his half-dazed state, 'since he's obviously done a runner.'

This remark ended up with Bob receiving another punch to his already battered face. The Elite then kicked him in the stomach and Bob followed up with the kick by spewing up all over the floor in front of him.

'Tell me more about your ship, the Winter Sunshine,' the Major Elite said, 'why is it so different than other human ships?'

Bob laughed.

'Because you're one ugly mother fucker,' Bob replied. He suffered another kick to the guts which made him feel like he was going throw up his intestines. He laughed to himself when he remembered that wasn't possible.

'You are not helping human,' the Major Elite said, 'the only thing preventing me from killing you right now is the Commander's orders. He wants you alive. We all want to know why the human ship has our technology aboard it. Are you humans taking our superior weaponry for yourselves?'

'What the hell do you think?' Bob replied.

The Major Elite was about to punch him again but restrained itself. Instead it turned around and muttered an order to both of the Minors that were holding Bob up. They dropped him and Bob fell forwards onto the floor, almost getting his face in his own spew. He coughed and gagged and watched as the Major Elite and both the Minors left the room, the door closing and locking behind them.

That went well, Bob thought.

He laughed to himself when he remembered they had the discs packed full of false data. The star coordinates on those discs would lead them straight into a large sun on the border of UNSC space.
He fell forwards and into unconsciousness when his injuries finally caught up with him.

Major Adros Demargee stepped out of the interrogation room, his hands not sore at all from what he had been doing to the human. Things hadn't been going right today, not even the human commander's capture. If it weren't for Dras Amargee, Adros would have killed the human commander by now. Dras just wanted to make sure the human was alright if anything went wrong with the discs that the human had been found carrying.

Thing was, Dras hadn't been seen on both the Justifiable Light and in the base for a few hours and it wasn't like him to just disappear like that without telling anyone. His quarters were locked shut and could only be accessed by the Ship Master himself unless Adros found the override codes, wherever they were. If Dras had been in his quarters for a few hours, what could he be doing? Whatever it was, Dras had the discs with him and Adros needed to find him to find the discs.

Adros made his way through the base, the two Minors that had been with him going back to their posts. He came into the base's command center and found Special Operations Commander Deranth Ursalamee standing by the main command station in the center of the room.

The Spec Ops Commander was in the recognizable white armor that all Spec Ops Commanders wore. The Commander sported a scar down one side of his face, the weapon causing it almost having hit his right eye. Luckily it hadn't and the Commander's vision was not impaired.

Deranth was in charge of the planet's operations and was the usual age for a Special Operations Commander. Underneath the dark blue eye coverings he wore were amber eyes. Only knowing him slightly, Adros had read the Sangheili officer's records and had found that the officer came from a broken family, his father having been killed in battle at an early age. His mother had been killed by Jiralhanae shortly after. This had shaped the Sangheili into a ruthless officer who had a dark sense of humour.

Deranth glanced behind him as Adros entered the room. He turned around and walked over to the Major.

'More technology like our own has been found in the human vessel,' Deranth said, 'however; their Slip-space drive is definitely not ours. It is more unstable and technologically advanced. I suggest we destroy all trace of it. The humans may not have another.'

Adros, being in charge of most of the lower ranked troops, would be second-in-command for the base since Deranth was in charge. He then had a say in what went on around the base. If the humans had developed technology superior to theirs they would have to destroy it. Adros knew taking it for themselves would be an affront to their Forerunner gods.

'I agree with you on that point, Commander,' Adros said. He paused. 'I interrogated the human commander. He hasn't given me much of a straight answer and has suffered for it.'

'Is he dead?'

'No, but is close to that,' Adros replied.

'We should just kill him, regardless what the Ship Master says,' Deranth said, 'the human's of no use.'

'That would be disobeying a direct order,' Adros said, 'if the Ship Master, who is now in charge of all the operations on the planet, wants the human commander alive we will leave him alive. Doesn't mean we can't bring him close to death.'

Deranth didn't seem too happy that he was now under command of someone else. He had gotten too used to being in charge of the entire planet's operations.

'Where is the Ship Master?' Deranth asked, 'he was meant to meet me an hour ago but he hasn't come.'

'I'm going to take another look on the Justifiable Light soon,' Adros said, 'he has the important data discs we found on the human.'

Before Deranth could say something a Minor Elite stepped into the command center, walking over to Deranth. He was clutching a bleeding wound in his right arm and was breathing heavily.

'A small group of humans have breached the perimeter, Commander,' the Minor said, 'my squad leader told me to alert you. The humans are currently moving through the base's West Wing garages.'

Deranth took in the information, thinking about what should be done. He turned to the Sangheili personnel in the command center.

'I want every available troop to intercept the humans,' Deranth ordered, turning to Adros, 'the humans cannot be allowed to find their commander. Adros, you better find the Ship Master so we can find out what's on those discs.'

'Yes Commander,' Adros said, bowing his head slightly before exiting the room. As he proceeded through the corridors to the outdoor gravity lift, an alarm sounded and blue lights started flashing around the base. He wondered how small the group of humans was and how it could have possibly made its way into the base. Must be some very persistent and skilled humans in the group or must be a fairly large group. Or even both. Either way Adros wasn't in the mood for a fight. He had other things to do.

Dras Amargee opened his eyes and lay staring at the ceiling of his quarters for a few minutes. Arna lay next to him, her head resting on his shoulder, fast asleep.

She looked so beautiful, especially when she slept. Dras put a hand to her face and couldn't help but stare at her beautiful features. She shifted in her sleep and made a noise, nothing in particular, just a sleep noise.

All female Sangheili had slightly lighter skin than the males and hers was a lighter shade of brown, tinged with purple from the colour of her blood. Dras had the darker brown skin that most males had.
He looked over at the screen on the wall nearby and saw that a few hours had passed. His sudden disappearance would begin to get noticed and he had already missed a meeting with the Special Operations Officer down in the base.

He should get going, but he would have liked to have stayed with Arna a little longer. There was nothing stopping him from doing so, except he didn't want anyone he didn't trust finding out about him and Arna. It would look bad and they would be forced apart. He would probably be demoted a few ranks as well.

Arna shifted again and, lying on her side, opened one eye. She looked directly at Dras, giving the equivalent of a smile with her mandibles. She moved closer to him and put an arm across his chest.

'You sure know how to have a good time,' she said.

Dras smiled with his mandibles as well and shifted on his side so he was facing her.

'I…I can't stay for much longer,' he said, 'I have to get down to the base. Others may have noticed my disappearance.'
Arna didn't seem too worried about this and ran a hand down his chest.

'So soon?' She said. She moved even closer, gently knocking Dras back onto his back.
'Yes, I'm sorry if I let you down,' Dras replied, smiling as she shifted so she was mostly on top of him, 'I'm just afraid we'll be found out…'

'We won't,' she said, leaning forwards. She locked her mandibles with his in a kiss and Dras could feel his hearts beating faster as she ran a hand on his side. She stopped kissing and put her face in front of his, making sure their eyes met.

'I wouldn't be so worried,' she said, 'about getting caught. The doors are locked and everyone who knows me thinks I'm down on the planet.'
Dras was about to start enjoying himself again when a familiar irritating beeping sound filled the room. Arna looked around, trying to find the source, taking herself off Dras and sitting up in the bed.

'What's that?' She asked.
Dras sat up and could see a red light on the panel near the door flash. He climbed out of the bed and walked over to the door. Realizing he had nothing on he grabbed Arna's medical robes which were lying on a chair nearby and slipped them on. They were tight in places but would do if it was who he thought it was trying to get in with the override codes for the door's security systems.

He pressed a few keys on the holographic panel and the door slid only partly open, allowing him to stand in the small gap and talk to the Elite Major standing behind the door without revealing most of the room.

Adros was standing there, looking only slightly surprised. The beeping noise stopped and the Major took a look at the Ship Master.

'So you were in your quarters all this time,' Adros said, 'I should have known.' He gave a strange look when he saw what Dras was wearing.

'May I ask what you're doing in those robes?' Adros asked.

'No,' Dras replied. He paused when he noticed that Adros was trying to look past him and into the room.

'Hiding something, commander?' Adros asked, 'since medical robes are usually not what someone like you would wear.'

'What do you want?' Dras asked, getting annoyed, 'how did you get past the security locks on the door anyway?'

'The override codes you gave me a while ago just in case there was an emergency and you were locked up in your quarters like you were now,' Adros replied, 'I misplaced them but managed to find them in my barracks.'

'Is there an emergency?' Dras asked, 'otherwise you can leave me alone. I'll be out soon, anyway.'

'There is an emergency down in the base,' Adros said, 'a small group of humans has made their way past the base's outer defences and is most likely after their commander. Deranth has things under control, although we've lost a lot of troops.'

'Tell me, is the human who wounded me amongst the group?' Dras asked, remembering the human male that almost killed him.

'I don't know,' Adros answered, 'but I can ask Deranth if you wish.'

'That won't be necessary,' Dras said, 'is that all you interrupted me for?'

'No, I need the discs that are in your possession, the ones that were confiscated from the human commander,' Adros said, 'I'm planning to have them scanned and the information on them translated.'

Dras remembered the discs and looked behind him, smiling with his mandibles at Arna who was lying in the bed, watching him from behind. The discs were on a small bench in the corner of the room. He walked over and grabbed them, turning around to find Adros looking into the room.

'Is this what you've been doing?' He asked, seeing Arna lying in the bed.

Dras walked back over to the Major and handed him the discs.

'I know I can trust you,' Dras said, 'you are not to tell anyone about Arna and I, is that clear?'

'I wasn't going to tell anyone anyway, Dras,' Adros replied, 'you think I haven't noticed the time you've spent in the medical bay? I doubt you were there for check-ups.'

He glanced past Dras at Arna.

'She is quite good looking,' Adros said. He looked at Dras and took a step away from the door. 'Goodbye Dras, I'll see you when you actually leave your quarters.'

Adros walked away, Dras closing and locking the door as he went. Slipping out of the robes and letting them drop to the floor, he climbed back into the bed with Arna.

'You took a while getting rid of him,' Arna said, shifting close to Dras. Before he could reply she had already pushed him on his back and had begun to kiss him. She moved on top of him and Dras embraced her, pulling her head down closer to his. He could once more feel the warmth of her body against his and the beating of her hearts against his. Between him and Arna, things couldn't be better.

Jeff had lead the squad through some corridors and Covenant garages, the design of the interior typical Covenant, with purple-blue metals and hardly any straight corners, usually all curved and sleek looking. It was definitely a lot different than human design, thankfully, since Jeff didn't like the idea of seeing this kind of architecture on Earth.

Jones and Heinrich were walking behind him. Jones didn't look too excited and he only had one spare magazine left for his AK rifle. Heinrich had already put his away, picking up a Plasma Rifle off of a dead Elite that had been in the first garage.

PFC Watkins was close behind Jeff while Corporal Jackson was watching the back, a Needler in each hand. He was sweating and Jeff had begun to notice it was a bit too warm in the interior of the base. Maybe the Covenant aliens liked it this warm, although maybe the weather systems were just malfunctioning. It could be a combination of both.

He had wanted some relief from the hot humid environment outside and judging from the way things were inside the base he wouldn't be getting much relief. Out of all the planets they could have ended up on, it had to be one that was mostly hot humid jungle. Jeff was kind of used to it, coming from New Mombasa, a city on Earth in Africa that was mostly hot all the time. He didn't know about the rest of the squad though.

Jones didn't seem to mind, neither did Watkins. Heinrich didn't look too comfortable though, and being of German descent he was probably used to colder environments and the environment of a UNSC cruiser, usually a nice twenty-one degrees Celsius. Corporal Jackson didn't seem too worried about the temperature, and was busy gazing around the purple-blue walled metal corridor, making sure no Covenant aliens came up behind them.

They hadn't come too far from the first garage, encountering a few small groups of Jackals and Grunts since the fight with the Hunters. They had passed through a few more Covenant garages and were now making their way through a maze of corridors which were going through the underground regions of the base. The Captain would most likely be in a detention block or interrogation room and those would be close to the command center, which would mean a lot of enemies would be in the way.

The corridor joined into the side of another one, which meant they could either go left or right. Looking to the left Jeff spotted a pair of Jackals on patrol, their backs turned as they headed away from him.
He took both of them down with a few quick, accurate shots from the Turnwell Colt pistol he had in his right hand. His S2 AM sniper rifle was slung over his shoulder, too impractical to use in narrow, close-quarters spaces. It would come in handy if he ever got far enough away from an Elite though.

Heading off to the right, the corridor came to an automatic door. As the group approached it, there was a loud xylophone style chime noise and the door slid open, behind it what looked to be another Covenant garage, this one only one floor and thus had no overhead catwalks which could pose a threat since enemies could have been positioned on them.

A Minor Elite and a group of Grunts were scattered throughout the garage, only a pair of Wraith tanks parked in this one. They didn't notice Jeff and the group enter at first until a Grunt standing nearby happened to turn around. The Grunt shouted and opened fire with its Needler. Jeff shot it clean through the head with his pistol, running behind one of the Wraith tanks. The rest of the group scattered throughout the garage.

He watched as Corporal Jackson unleashed a massive volley of Needler shards from both Needlers. The pink crystals homed in on a nearby Grunt, making the alien stumbled back as they got embedded in it. Following the crystals getting embedded there was a large pink explosion as they all went off at once, blasting the Grunt apart and sending chunks of fluorescent blue blood splattering across the floor and nearby walls.

He reloaded both Needlers, ducking behind a large Covenant metal crate.

Jones was standing behind a pillar which went up to the ceiling; Watkins crouched behind a crate near him. Heinrich was running over to the other parked Wraith tank, plasma bolts flying past him. He dived behind the Wraith tank as a Grunt came round it. He opened fire with his Plasma Rifle, taking the Grunt down.

Jeff leaned around the side of the Wraith, spotting the Minor Elite that was heading for the tank Heinrich was taking cover behind. Jeff fired his pistol at the Elite, the alien's shield flaring. It turned around and returned fire with its Plasma Rifle, plasma scorching the armor on the Wraith tank. The Elite strafed to the right to get a better angle to fire at Jeff.

Jeff kept firing his pistol, pausing in between each shot for a second or two to make sure the recoil didn't bounce the next one up and off target.

The Elite stumbled back as its shield failed and a shot hit it in the chest. It roared and started charging towards Jeff, firing its Plasma Rifle.

The lower ranked Elites tended to do this if you were close enough, possibly because they weren't as experienced as the higher ranked Elites. Jeff fired his pistol again at the charging Elite but the trigger squeeze was meant by an all too familiar clicking sound. Eight rounds were all the pistol could hold so maybe he should count his shots next time.

He ejected the spent magazine and was about to slip in a new one when he felt a sudden blunt pain in his chest as the Elite swung and connected there. He was knocked over by the blow and slightly winded, his pistol sliding across the floor without a magazine in it.

The Elite stood over him now, preparing to strike another blow when there was a sudden spray of dark purple blood as several rifle rounds connected with its side. The Elite fell off to the other side, Jones standing nearby with a smoking AK rifle.

'How many times do I have to save yo' ass?' Jones asked.

Jeff got up and picked up the pistol, loading it with a fresh magazine. He was almost out of ammunition for it. It was the Captain's and the Captain would be getting it back when they found him.

He holstered the pistol and picked up the dead Elite's Plasma Rifle. It still had an almost full battery by the look of it.

Taking a look around the room and seeing that the group of Covenant soldiers in it had been taken down, Jeff saw a set of double doors at the end of the garage. He directed the group towards them and took one last look around the garage before following the group into the corridor himself.

They followed it, passing several locked doors. The ones that opened only went into empty rooms such as storage and computer rooms.
They encountered a few small groups of Grunts and Jackals which were easily eliminated before coming into a large room which appeared to be a hang-out area of some sort. A large group of Elites were scattered around the room, even more Grunts in the room as well.

Jeff directed his group to one side of the room as the large amount of enemies turned their attention to them. Jeff dived behind what looked to be a table built for Elites which seem to have several long metallic tubes sticking out of it. Plasma bolts zipped past at painfully close distances.

Jeff mowed down a few nearby Grunts with his Plasma Rifle. Counting the Elites, there were three Minors and two Majors and the Majors had taken cover, their attention diverted to other members of Jeff's group.

Jeff picked up a plasma grenade that one of the Grunts had dropped, just in time to suffer from another blow from an Elite, this time from behind. He hadn't noticed the Minor Elite sneak up on him in the confusion of the firefight. He knew you should always keep your wits about you in the middle of a firefight like this one, but every now and then something like this happened.

Jeff fell forwards, tasting blood in his mouth. He couldn't feel any broken bones, but he had always been like that. He had never broken a bone in his life, no matter how hard he got hit. Which seemed to amaze any doctor that checked up on him, but he just pinned it on a mixture of luck, natural ability, exercise and a good diet.

Jeff got up, rolling off to one side to avoid the Elite's next attack. A Grunt ran into view in front of him. He fired a volley of Plasma Rifle bolts, taking it down and burning large holes in the Grunt's weak armor.

He glanced behind and saw the Elite about to strike him again. Jeff turned around so he was on his back and fired, the plasma bolts depleting the Elite's shield. They burned through its armor and purple blood spurted out onto Jeff as his Plasma Rifle overheating. The Elite stumbled backwards and fell to the floor.

Jeff got back up onto his feet, plasma bolts coming from an enemy off to his right. He turned around and saw a Major Elite having stepped out of cover. Plasma scorched his chest armor plating and he could feel his skin burning underneath. Ignoring the pain he armed the plasma grenade and threw it towards the Elite.

Plasma grenades had the amazing ability to determine strategic targets from non-strategic targets, sticking to enemy troops and vehicles but not to walls and trees. This particular plasma grenade stuck itself on the chest of the Elite.

The alien shouted in surprise, starting a charge in Jeff's direction only to be incinerated by the blue-white explosion that the grenade created when it detonated. The Elite's scorched, charred and mainly burnt away corpse ended up on the floor a few meters away.

Jeff noticed that the other two Minor Elites had been brought down by Jones and the others. The last Elite in the room, a Major, was busy trying to swing at Corporal Jackson who had gone too close to the Elite. He was avoiding the alien's powerful attacks but Jeff watched as one of the attacks connected with the Corporal's right arm and sent both his Needlers flying out of his hands and sliding along the floor. Jones was standing nearby and opened fire with his Plasma Rifle, depleting the Elite's shield and getting its attention. The Corporal dropped to the floor clutching his right arm and writhing in pain.

Jeff began firing at the Elite, cutting it down in a volley of plasma fire. As the Elite fell Jeff ran over to the fallen Corporal. The remaining Grunts were cowering now and Heinrich and Watkins easily took care of them.

'My arm…it's broken,' the Corporal said, 'and it really hurts.' He sat up, clutching his arm. Looking at it Jeff couldn't see any outside damage, so it was most likely fractured on the inside.

'Jeff, I saw you get hit by that Elite, why do you look alright?' The Corporal asked, 'I get hit once and my arm breaks while you get hit a few times and nothing's broken.'

'It's just the way I am, I guess,' Jeff replied. He didn't really think much about this. He sometimes saw people suffer from the same attacks as him but he always ended up less damaged.

'Bullshit,' the Corporal said.

Heinrich walked over, followed by Jones and Watkins.

'What happened?' Heinrich asked.

'My arm's broken, that's what,' the Corporal replied, 'I can hardly move it.'

Heinrich frowned and then bent down so he was level with the Corporal.

'I'll just make a sling for it, you can still use your left arm,' Heinrich said.

Jeff felt a tap on his left shoulder and turned around to see Jones standing behind him.

'Jeff, come take a look at this,' Jones said, pointing over to one of the large tables, 'I don't know what to make of it.'

Jeff followed him over to one of the tables. Jones walked over to one of the flexible metal tubes and grabbed it, pulling at it. More of it came out of the table. On it was a small trigger which he pressed, a strange looking blue gel-like goo coming out.

'What is this stuff?' He asked, putting some on his hand and smelling it, 'it smells kind of weird.'

Jeff gave it some thought for a moment. Seeing that this room looked like some kind of mess hall for Elites, he gathered that the goo and the tubes was for the Elites themselves. Considering animal meat wouldn't be readily available for troops these tubes probably released a substance containing all the needed nutrients that an Elite needed. They looked like something an Elite was stick in its mouth past its mandibles anyway.

'Must be for the Elites,' Jeff said, 'proper food isn't readily available so they swallow this nutrient filled goo.'

'It's worse than the stuff we get on our ships,' Jones said.

Jeff looked around and then towards the others.

'If this is a mess hall, then we must be getting close to the more important parts of the base,' Jeff said, 'that means we're close to the Captain. The base can't be that big anyway.'

Once Corporal Jackson had his broken arm in a makeshift sling they continued through more corridors, encountering a few groups of Grunts and Jackals. Eventually they came into a corridor lined with doors that had about five meters of space in between them. Stepping towards one, Jeff walked to the small holographic panel next to it. It would be worth checking out what was in these rooms, so he started pressing random keys on the panel when there was a familiar chime noise as the door slid open. Behind nit was a room with several large bunks and a pair of Minor Elites standing in the room.

Jeff and his group gunned them down before they had a chance to activate their personal shields. These rooms were obviously barracks of some sort and so opening anymore of them wouldn't be too smart considering there would definitely be enemies in them. Jeff shut the door and led the group through the corridors, taking out any small patrols they came across before they came into a large room, holographic panels on most of the walls.

Several Jackals and three Minor Elites were in this computer room. Jeff managed to gun down two of the Jackals as he ran down the room, looking for cover. There was hardly any, only a few large seats positioned near some of the holographic panels.

Jones armed a fragmentation grenade and threw it towards the Jackals. Some managed to jump away from it in time while others were tossed around the room like rag-dolls.
Corporal Jackson was holding a Needler in his one good hand, managing to get several crystals into a pair of Jackals that had part of them showing through their shields. They were blown away in large pink explosions, the Elites, with no available cover, began to charge towards the nearest human.

PFC Watkins was one of those humans, suffering a blow to the head which sent him sliding across the floor, his neck broken by the look of it. Jeff fired his Plasma Rifle, taking down one of the Elite's shields. He waited for the weapon to cool down as the Elite turned around and began to shoot at him, Jeff rolling out of the way.

Jones and Heinrich fired their weapons at the Elite when its back was turned to them, taking the alien down. The remaining Elite was rolling out of the way of most of the weapons fire that was directed towards it.

A door on the other side of the room slid open and a Major Elite flanked by orange and red armored Grunts entered. They scattered when they saw the humans in the room.

Jeff took down the Minor Elite and turned his attention to the Grunts, one of them taking out a plasma grenade and arming it, throwing it in his general direction. He dived and rolled out of its way, the grenade detonating and shaking the floor beneath him, leaving a large scorch mark on the floor where the grenade had gone off.

Jeff watched as a few of the Grunts were brought down. He ran to his left a little, clubbing a Grunt across the head, caving in the little alien's skull. He dropped a few more Grunts with his Plasma Rifle, the rifle starting to irregularly fire and sputter as if struggling to keep itself going. Realizing its battery must be getting flat he threw the rifle on the floor and picked up a dead Grunt's Plasma Pistol. These weaker but still reliable plasma weapons could be overcharged to fire a much more powerful and slightly homing shot, and Jeff did just that, holding down the trigger and making sure the weapon vibrated in his hands, glowing with green plasma energy.

He let the trigger go and a large, trailing and sizzling shot of green plasma sped across the room, colliding with the Major Elite on the other side and totally depleting the Elite's personal shield. The alien stumbled back, burning green plasma eating its way through its armour's breast plate. Once the burning stopped the Elite started firing its Plasma Rifle, a bolt hitting Jeff in the stomach.

Jeff stumbled backwards, feeling a painful burning sensation where the plasma hit. He ignored most of it, quickly firing several shots from his Plasma Pistol. The Elite fell to its knees, struggling to get up.

Jeff stepped over and kicked the Elite in the chest, making it fall on its back. He pressed the firing end of the Plasma Pistol against its helmeted head and fired, purple blood spurting out as the Elite suffered a major headache.

Satisfied that the alien was most definitely dead, he directed his group to the door. They were definitely close to the command center now and quite surprisingly it was the next room, a large room which featured a slightly raised platform in the center, three of its sides taken up by holographic panels. A white armored Elite stood on the platform, Grunts and Jackals scattered around the room. A few other lower ranked Elites were in the room as well and all of the aliens turned their heads towards the humans.

Jeff un-slung his sniper rifle from his back as plasma fire seemingly filled the air. He crouched, took a deep breath and ignored everything else that was going on around him. Jones was running to take cover behind a pillar, Heinrich crouching behind a crate. Corporal Jackson seemed to have a sudden brainwave, taking out two fragmentation grenades with his one good hand. He pulled out the pins in both and charged towards the nearest groups of Elites.

What followed next was an explosion double the size of your usual fragmentation grenade explosion. There was nothing left of the Corporal but the Elites in and around the explosion weren't looking too good either. Some lay dead with limbs missing while one or two were struggling to get up, bloodied and hurt.

Jeff zoomed in with the sniper rifle scope on the nearest pair of Elites, the last remaining ones in the room excluding the white armored one which had activated an energy sword. Jeff fired a few quick shots, bringing the Elites down.

He got up and clubbed a Jackal as it was about to bring up its shield. It fell, dead, and Jeff swung around to face another Jackal, doing the same to that one.

Soon enough there were only a few straggler Grunts left. The white armored Elite came running down the platform, heading straight for Jeff. Jones and Heinrich opened fire, bullets glancing off its shield but the remaining Grunts turned their attention to the pair and thus Jeff was left without any help for the time being, Jones and Heinrich now busy trying to take down the remaining Grunts.

The white armored Elite, now holding in its right hand the two pronged blue, shimmering blade of an energy sword didn't give Jeff much of a chance to ready himself.

The Elite swung the energy sword, Jeff ducking below the attack. The sword came down again, this time slicing Jeff's sniper rifle in half. Dropping the now useless weapon Jeff rolled off to one side, kicking with his right leg and getting the Elite across both legs. The alien stumbled backwards, regaining its balance and bringing the sword down again in a ground attack, sticking it into the floor only inches away from Jeff's face. The Elite pulled it out but Jeff kicked again, this time getting the Elite in the crotch, right between the legs. The Elite stumbled backwards, groaning in some pain.

Jeff got up and reached for his Colt pistol but the Elite had already recovered and had charged Jeff again, knocking him over and bringing the sword only inches away from his face.

Grabbing the Elite's sword wielding hand he kept it held up there, both of them struggling to get the advantage. The sword came even closer but all of a sudden the Elite's shield flared.

Looking to his left, Jeff could see Jones standing a few meters away, firing a Plasma Rifle. The Elite stood up and started towards Jones, but Jeff put out a leg and tripped the alien up, making it let go of its plasma sword. The sword deactivated and the handle went sliding across the floor.

Jeff put out a hand and grabbed it, activating it and jumping back up on his feet. The Elite was starting to get up but Jeff just came up behind it and bought the sword down, burning through its shield easily.

The Elite howled in pain as half of its left arm was sliced off by the blade. Jeff plunged the sword into its back, impaling it on the floor. Leaving it there, he turned to Jones and Heinrich.

'Jesus,' Jones said, looking at the way the Elite had been killed, 'that's nasty.'

'Heinrich, could you hack into their systems and try and locate the Captain?' Jeff asked, stepping over to the Elite's corpse and taking the alien's helmet off. He put it with the others he was carrying.

'It would take a while, I don't exactly carry the needed equipment with me,' Heinrich replied, 'do you want me to try?'

That's when a familiar voice, sounding faint but audible, came flowing down a nearby corridor.

'Hello? I've been hearing noise out there! If there's anybody out there, I've been locked up in here!'

'That's definitely the Captain,' Jones said, 'no need to hack into any systems.'

Jeff, Jones and Heinrich started down the corridor as the Captain's shouts got louder. They eventually came to a door and it was quite clear that the Captain was in the room behind it. Jeff fiddled with the control panel for about half a minute before he found the right set of keys and the door slid open.

The Captain was standing in the corner of what looked to be an interrogation room with a table and chair. His face was bruised and he had a few cuts. As well as that he was dirty but he seemed to be smiling.

'I knew someone would come and rescue me,' Captain Bob Turnwell said, 'but I was expecting more than three people to raid a Covenant base.'

'Everyone else in our group is dead,' Jones said, frowning, 'and you don't look too good yourself.'

'I wouldn't worry too much about my injuries,' Bob said, stepping towards the three of them, 'they're only slight. They roughed me up, asking me questions about the Winter Sunshine's Slip-space technology and why our ship was so different to others they had encountered. We were all told that our ship's new technology was reverse engineered from Covenant technology, right?'

'Yeah, so?' Jeff asked.

'They seemed surprised by how advanced it was. I really don't get it…If it's from their technology than they would know it when they see it. They obviously didn't…'

'We're here to rescue you, Captain,' Heinrich said, interrupting, 'not discuss technology. Are you going to come with us or not?'

'Sure I will,' Bob said, 'although I'm surprised they wanted me alive in the first place.'

Jeff took out the Turnwell Colt pistol and held it out to Bob.

'I believe this is yours?' Jeff said.

Bob smiled and took the pistol checking its magazine and pulling the slider back.

'I knew you would look after it,' Bob said, 'any ammo left?'

'Not here, but there would be some back at base camp,' Jeff said.

'Base camp?'

'Major Golding and his ODSTs managed to capture a Covenant supply station in some ancient structures. It's base camp now, although everyone calls it "Camp Golding",' Jones said.

'Well, have you guys got an escape plan?' Bob asked, 'since I do.'

'You do?' Jones asked, raising an eyebrow.

Bob stepped out into the corridor and looked around.

'When I first woke up after being captured, mainly because an alien bastard snuck up on me and knocked me out,' Bob said, 'I was being herded out of a drop-ship in a hangar nearby. Considering you've killed a lot of them already I would say they're on their way to us. We should get to the hangar, since it leads straight outside. There's an armoury down the corridor, so we should stock up on weapons there.'

Jeff, Jones and Heinrich followed the Captain down the corridor, encountering a small group of Grunts that were easily taken care of. Going through a door, they entered a large room where racks of Covenant weapons lined the walls, holding Plasma Rifle, Plasma Pistols, Covenant Carbines, Needlers, Fuel Rod Cannons, plasma grenades and Particle Beam Rifles. The Captain grabbed a Covenant Carbine as well as some ammunition for it. Jeff grabbed a fresh Plasma Rifle and so did Jones and Heinrich.

'Just follow me,' Bob said, 'I know my way around some of this base. The hangar isn't too far away; I think it's past their artillery and through some garages.'

Jeff, Jones and Heinrich began following the Captain down the corridors, taking out the few small groups of Grunts and Jackals they encountered. They came to a large room which had a massive gun tower in the center which was jutting out of a large square hole in the ceiling, obviously a means of defence. There were two Minor Elites standing near the base of the gun, Grunts and Jackals scattered around the room.

The four humans scattered, bringing down a few of the Grunts and Jackals. The Elites opened fire as well as a few of the remaining Grunts and Jackals.

Jeff swept his Plasma Rifle along a small group of Grunts, taking them down. He ducked behind a Covenant crate as a few sets of doors along the left of the room opened, a few groups, each consisting of some Grunts and Jackals being led by either a Minor or Major Elite.

Jones ran past, ducking behind a crate and arming a fragmentation grenade. He let it cook for a few seconds before throwing it, the grenade going off mid-air right in between the pair of Minor Elites ahead. Both Elites were sent flying in opposite directions as the other.
The large room was filled with Covenant crates, most carrying ammunition for the gun tower. This gave Jeff and the group plenty of cover, but it also gave their enemies cover as well.

Stepping around some crates he was in the line of fire from a Major Elite and some Grunts. Mowing down the Grunts, his Plasma Rifle overheated. The Major Elite opened fire, causing Jeff to step back behind a crate for cover. He waited for his Plasma Rifle to cool down, and when it did he leaned around the side of the crate and opened fire at the Elite.

The Plasma Rifles had the slight ability to stun targets with their, so the Elite stumbled back from the amount of plasma fire it was taking, giving Jeff a chance to finish it off.

Bob came into view ahead, firing his rifle at an out of view target. He turned around and waved at Jeff.

'Come on, we're moving on!' Bob shouted.

Jeff ran over to him, finding Jones and Heinrich with him as well. They followed the Captain through a set of doors at the end of the room, killing any Covenant soldiers that got in their way. Plasma fire was coming from behind but they continued through some corridors, arriving in another gun tower room. This one was slightly larger and had crates scattered around the tower.

More of the other doors opened and Elites, Grunts and Jackals came in. Moving through the room, Jeff, Bob, Jones and Heinrich fought they way to the other side as yet more Covenant soldiers came out of the other doors.

Bob directed them over to one particular door, entering some more corridors. They almost ran into a pair of Minor Elites that had been heading down the corridor.

Jeff opened fire with his plasma rifle as did everyone else, the combined fire bringing down the Elites quite easily. The group continued through the corridors as they twisted and turned through the base.

'The hangar should be around here somewhere,' Bob said. They came to another door which opened as they approached into a large, open room with a large bay force field that deactivated as they entered, a Covenant drop-ship releasing itself from one of the docking clamps on the ceiling and flying out of the hangar.

The outside area was a small cleared piece of land right next to the cliff. Jeff could see a way around the base out there, along some narrow ledges that looked like a false step could send you falling to your death.

An Elite and some Grunts were up ahead, and to Jeff's left he could see some Jackals and another two Elites. Jones and Heinrich ran for cover behind some crates as the aliens opened fire. Bob stood where he was, mowing down a few of the Grunts with his Covenant Carbine before ducking behind a pillar.

Jeff went forward, moving behind some crates. He saw a few Grunts off to his right, green plasma bolts hitting the crates he was close to. He shot them down with his Plasma Rifle, turning to his left and seeing one of the Minor Elites step out from around some crates. He opened fire, taking down the Elite's personal shield. Pausing so his Plasma Rifle could cool down he resumed firing before the Elite had chance to fire back.

'Let's get outside!' Bob shouted from somewhere behind him.

Jeff started making his way to the open bay exit, gunning down a pair of Jackals that came into view. He could see some Grunts and Elites on a walkway above, firing down somewhat inaccurately at him and the others. He fired back, but the Plasma Rifle was too inaccurate at that range to do any major damage.

Jeff felt relieved to feel dirt underneath his feet again as he stepped outside, now able to feel the cold night air. Jones and Heinrich followed and after about thirty seconds Bob came out of the hangar as well. They started away from the bay, arriving at the narrow ledges that went along the face of the cliff.

'Looks like we're going to have to move along here,' Bob said, 'once we're a fair distance away we'll call for pick-up.'

Jeff was the first one to step on the narrow ledge, taking a glance down at what looked like a four hundred meter drop. Forest was down below as well as what looked to be some small ancient structures, a river running through the forest. He wasn't exactly good with heights. Sure, he was able to go on board a ship but being right next to a possible death-drop made him feel uneasy.

He looked back at the others. They didn't seem to be having much of a problem with the cliff and the possible fall. Looking ahead Jeff could see the ledge came to a forested area which ran down a gentle hill.

Once they had gone along the ledge and made it onto the forested plain, Jeff whipped out his radio and tried to receive a signal. They were too close to the base but Jeff could see a possible pick-up zone down the hill by a small lake.

'This is Sergeant First Class Jeff Ganszo, does anyone read, over? Blackbird, this is Sergeant—'

'I'm reading you,' came the reply, 'this is Pelican Blackbird 4B77. You ready for pick-up?'

'About half a kilometre ahead of our current position is a nice enough looking area to pick us up from,' Jeff said, 'we're on our way there now.'

'Roger that. Sergeant, there's been a change of plan. I have to drop off some men, since there's been a bit of a complication.'

Jeff was surprised to hear this. Jones, Heinrich and Bob couldn't hear what the person on the other end of the signal was saying, but they all seemed to see that something was wrong by the look he gave.

'What complication?' Jeff asked.

'You have to stay down there. You'll be told more by the guys I'm dropping off.'

The radio went silent and Jeff swore under his breath. He just wanted to get some sleep.

'What's the matter?' Jones asked, 'something's gone wrong, hasn't it?'

'There's been a complication and the three of us has to stay down here. The Captain, yeah, he'll get picked up.'

They started down the hill towards the lake, arriving there just as a Pelican was descending along the lake's banks. A few men in ODST armor jumped out while one not in the armor followed, a familiar Lieutenant.

'Well if it isn't the crazy Sergeant!' Lieutenant Frank Hastings exclaimed, 'looks like we're stuck together for this one.'

Bob had climbed into the back of the Pelican and it was starting to take off. If he had remained only for a few more seconds he could have stopped the next mission from occurring.

'Sergeant, there's been a complication,' Frank said as his four ODSTs spread out. Jones and Heinrich were standing near Jeff, not too keen on doing anymore work.

'What complication?' Jeff asked, 'because I'm really not in the mood for more fighting.'

Frank stepped forward and prodded a finger into Jeff's chest.

'Apparently the Captain had some rather important discs on him,' Frank said, 'and the Covenant confiscated them and now they're apparently up on that ship.' He pointed past Jeff towards the distant Covenant cruiser that was hovering close to the base.

'You're kidding,' Jeff said. This was beginning to look like a suicide mission.

'No, I'm not,' Frank replied, 'the discs are on that ship and may have the location of Earth on them. To make our job of finding them a lot easier I've brought that AI, Windtalker, along.'

He held out the familiar computer card. Jeff reluctantly took it.
'I haven't got the systems for it,' Jeff said, 'I didn't bring the Aswalt helmet.'

'It doesn't matter, since I brought this,' Frank said, holding up what looked to be a belt with some sort of metal box on it. He handed it to Jeff.

'This belt is for you to wear and to put that AI in,' Frank said, 'it'll link directly to your neural interface thanks to these little spiky things that go in the base of your spine.' He pointed at a few small metal needles that were hanging by a few cables from the belt.

'I don't want that AI in my head again,' Jeff said, 'it was bad enough last time.'

'I'm giving you an order,' Frank said, 'you're going to have to carry that AI around with you. I could always make one of my ODST squad-mates put him in their armor, but when I heard you were here I thought I would give you the privilege.'

Jeff shook his head. He put the belt on; making sure the metal box was on the side. There was a shimmer as the belt activated, scanning his entire body. Almost immediately it found out where the base of his spine was and the small spikes inserted themselves in the right spot. It hardly hurt, but he didn't exactly like the idea.

'Is that all?' Jeff asked, 'do you want me to tap dance for you as well?'
Frank paused to think about this for a moment.

'Maybe another time, Sergeant,' Frank said, 'but we have to get aboard that ship, the Justice Lighter or some other shit, stupid name…'

'It's the Justifiable Light, sir,' one of the ODSTs said.

'Yeah, who cares,' Frank replied, 'we have to get aboard and find the discs. Sergeant, your two friends are coming with us. You obey my orders, even if it means you'll probably get killed.'

'Don't push your luck, ass-hole,' Jones said.

'Shut the fuck up, Corporal,' Frank said, 'we're going and I'm leading this mission.'

'Then we're sure to all get killed,' Jones said.

'Again, Corporal,' Frank said, stepping over to Jones, 'just shut the fuck up. We're going, whether any of you like it or not.'