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Not Exactly Human Ch. 8: The Justifiable Light
Posted By: QuantumSheep<jasnash@optusnet.com.au>
Date: 27 July 2008, 11:24 pm

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Note: Hope this ain't too long for you folks. What follows is the first bit of the eighth chapter (I split it into a three bits) although it does seem more fragmented now. The actual chapter in its original incarnation was about 21, 000 words long.

Time passed since landing according to Major George Golding's Mission Clock: 3: 42: 27.67

Major George Golding had fallen asleep, leaning forwards onto his desk, drooling onto some papers that he had been reading before he had dozed off.

Private First Class (Medic) Alan Reynolds was standing nearby, having had entered the large room that the Major used as an office only a few minutes ago. He had seen that the Major was fast asleep and was afraid to wake up since the Major might very well grab the large pistol that lay on the desk with him and fire off a shot. That particular shot could very well hit the medic. The Major was like that, always alert, even if he was fast asleep. Knowing the Major enough, Alan reckoned he was probably dreaming about killing Covenant soldiers, of course in much easier than real life circumstances.

Alan approached the sleeping Major, noticing that the hairs on the Major's thick moustache were bristling every time he breathed out. He could probably get some of the other guys in here and they could start playing a little improvised game: they would bet money to see if they could touch the Major's moustache without him noticing. That could always waste away an hour or two, at least until the Major awoke.

He wasn't in here to play games though; rather Alan had something important to tell the Major. It was concerning the Elite they had found half-dead near the crashed Seraph fighter in the jungles near base camp. Major Golding would be glad to hear something on the Elite they recovered, and for one thing the alien was alive and locked up in a makeshift 'cage' with electrified bars.

Alan took a look at the Major and tried to figure out a way to wake him up without making the Major wake up in enough surprise to grab the pistol.

He started behind the Major, putting a hand on his shoulder and shaking him gently.

'Sir…are you awake, sir?'

George sat up in his seat, making Alan jump back a pace with surprise. George grabbed the pistol on the desk with his right hand and looked around the room, trying to find who had disturbed his slumber. He turned around with the pistol raised and his cowboy style hat back on his head.

'Holy shit Private, you scared the crap out of me,' George said, lowering the pistol, 'I could've shot you.'

'I know,' Alan replied, 'that's why I woke you from behind.'

'Yeah, whatever,' George replied, putting the pistol back on the desk. The pistol was that "Ol' Painless" gun he loved so much. He had found more ammunition for it in supply crates taken from escape pods and Pelicans after they had all landed.

'If you woke me up, it better be for good reason,' George said, 'otherwise I'm going to get really pissed off.'

'Major, I've patched up that Elite we found near that crashed Seraph fighter. It's locked up and under guard if you're wondering,' Alan said.

George frowned.

'So what?' He said, 'if I was sleeping, you don't wake me up. Next time, don't wake me up unless the place is under attack or something.'

'Yes sir,' Alan said, nodding. The Major didn't seem too happy about his interrupted sleep.

'What time is it?' George asked, looking at his watch. He shook his head. 'Crap, it's still in Reach time. How long do days last on this planet?'

'One of our technicians thinks a day plus a night, so a full day-and-night cycle, is about twenty-nine hours.'

'That means more time to sleep, but also more time to work,' George said, 'I don't think I can get used to these long days.'

'Sir, about the Elite…'

'Yeah, about that,' George said, 'you think you could give me the brief on his injuries? I'm curious to find out what kind of anatomy they have.'

'Hence the autopsy you want?'

'Yes, the autopsy,' George said, 'we're short on medical staff and since you're not up to the job I think I might get that German guy to do it…What's is name, Hommel or something?'

'I think it's Rommel, sir,' Alan replied.

'Yeah, that's the one,' George said, slowly standing up. 'You see, I have this plan, you know. A master plan, even if I do say so myself.'

'Keep going,' Alan said, knowing it would be just better to agree with everything the Major said. He was ambitious but knew his boundaries, the Major did.

'Well, if we can create some sort of bio weapon, right,' George said, using his hands in typical conversation gestures to emphasize what he was saying, 'like some kind of virus, one that hurts Elites and possibly one for each of the other species, maybe we could release it on board one of their ships. I heard their medical facilities aren't all that flash and so they wouldn't be able to stop it. I say it's better than fighting them.'

'Biological warfare's a bit inhumane, don't you think?' Alan asked, beginning to see what the Major was getting at, 'you know, like Anthrax. That stuff was banned back in the 23rd Century along with a whole load of other stuff like it because it was considered way too inhuman.'

'Have you been living under a rock for the past twenty-seven years?' George asked, 'it's the Covenant we're talking about. A bunch of fanatical, religious, destructive, ugly mother fucking aliens that want to kill every single last human. I don't think it's inhuman if we kill them off with some sort of virus. Like I said, we could release it onto one of their ships. They could end up taking it back to their home-world and we could finish them off when they're weak. You realize how much time this would save?'

Alan paused for a moment. The Major did have a point. They could end the war easily if they had working biological weapons which affected the Covenant.

'That's why you want the autopsy done, so you can create some sort of Elite killing virus?' Alan asked, 'then we can get to work on the other species.'

'Elites more so, though,' George said, 'they're the most dangerous. We'll save the Grunts till last.'

'If a virus was made, would you take all the credit?'

'I'm a modest man,' George replied. He seemed to notice Alan's change of expression. He shook his head and chuckled. 'Okay, I'm not so much a modest man but I wouldn't take all the credit. I don't know shit about medicine, I would just organize what would be done with the virus and what tests would be done, all that stuff. I did come up with the idea, though.'

'Are you going to come with me to interrogate the Elite or what?' Alan asked, 'I don't want to stand here all night discussing viruses with you.'

'Hell, we could even test this virus on that Elite,' George said, 'that would be good for a bit of fun, wouldn't it?'

'You're sick,' Alan said. The Major did seem to have a strange sense of humour.

'No, I haven't even got a cold,' George replied, 'so, are you going to show me to this Elite or not?'

Alan started out of the room, George following.

'So, just how exactly is our alien friend locked up?' George asked as they started down some steps, taking them down into a large room in the ancient structure. Here, several bunks had been set up, marines fast asleep in some. A few groups of marines were sitting at tables a fair distance away from the sleeping personnel, most playing poker.

'We recovered some metal sheets. We shut off a large enough area for the prisoner and we're running an electrical current through the sheeting, creating a sort of electrified cage,' Alan replied.

They walked past a group of marines sitting around a table playing poker. One of them turned to the Major as they walked past.

'You want to join us in a game, sir?' The marine asked.

'Not right now,' George replied.

He followed Alan through some ancient automatic doors before they came into a fairly large room. Two marines with the old BR36 Battle Rifles, un-scoped versions, were standing near a sort of cell, with glass and metal walls. There was only a large mat on the floor and a metal bench inside the cell, the Elite sitting on the floor, lying against the bench. For all it was worth the alien looked tired, George noticing that it's armor breast-plate had been taken off, bandages covering up the wounds it had received. It looked to be asleep, and seeing that the Elite was asleep George felt like sleeping as well.

'So, you want to bring out the prisoner?' Alan asked.

'Of course I do, otherwise I wouldn't have come here,' George replied. Alan nodded to the two guards, one of them walking over to a small generator that was humming nearby. The marine pulled a lever, obviously shutting off the electrical current that was going through the material. The other reached over to a handle on the makeshift cell and pulled, opening one section of it.

The two of them walked in, one of them prodding the Elite with the end of his rifle.

'Rise and shine ugly,' the marine said, 'someone wants to talk with you.'

The Elite shifted where it lay and opened its eyes. It didn't look too happy. A fanatical religious alien race probably made it out that death was better than capture. Well, George wasn't about to give this Elite the liberty of death.

One of the guards kicked the Elite in the side. It didn't look like a very powerful kick but was enough to get the Elite to get up.

The alien stepped out of the cell, giving George a menacing glance. George was completely unfazed. The Elite was at their mercy now, and by looking at what was in its cell Alan had made sure there was nothing in there that it could use to kill itself with.

'Sit him on that crate over there,' George told the two marines, pointing to a metal crate that was in the room nearby and which used to contain M19 SSM rockets.

The marines directed the Elite to sit down on the crate. It simply walked over and sat down, looking at the floor.

'What if it tries to make a run for it?' One of the marines asked.

'It won't,' George replied, 'it knows it can't possibly take us all on and survive.'

George pulled up a crate and sat opposite the Elite. It looked at him, and they were practically face-to-face. Alan was standing behind him while the two marines were standing far back just in case the Elite decided to attack the humans.

'Well, I've never had the chance to speak with one of you guys,' George said. The Elite just stared for a few seconds before glancing around the room.

'Can you understand me?' George asked, 'I know some of you guys can. Like maybe some of you guys went to special English classes of something. Just answer my questions since you ain't getting out of here.

'Maybe you want to die, since maybe having been captured is "dishonourable". Well, none of us are going to kill you. You make a run for it and you'll get capped full of stun rounds before you can say "whiskey". Well, maybe not before you can say that word, and I doubt that's the kind of thing you would say…'

'Major, what are you doing?' Alan asked, 'are you questioning the Elite or having a nice conversation with it?'

'He's not answering, so I'm trying to get him to answer,' the Major replied, glancing behind at Alan. He turned back to the Elite.

'You are a "he", aren't you?' George asked, 'we could always check but that would be embarrassing for you, no doubt.'

The Elite just looked at the ground, obviously with other things on its mind.

George got up and grabbed the Elite by one side of its quadruple hinged mouth. He brought its head up so they were looking at each other eye-to-eye.

'You better start answering since I might just blow your fucking balls off, if you have any,' George said, his eyes wide with anger and frustration.

'We want the alien alive, remember?' Alan said from behind.

'I know, just let me do my job,' George replied, not even turning around so he was actually facing the medic.

'Your threats mean nothing to me human,' the Elite said in its deep, inhuman masculine voice.

'That's better,' George said, releasing his grip on the Elite and sitting back down. George had almost immediately calmed down; now back to his usual calm self.

'So, let me get this straight, ugly,' George said. He paused. 'Can I call you ugly? You sure as hell are.'

'Your insults also mean nothing to me,' the Elite replied, 'I would prefer to die.'

George got up and turned to Alan.

'Medic, give me your pistol,' George said.


'Give me it and that's an order,' George said, beginning to sound angry again.

'Okay, sir,' Alan replied, taking out his M6D pistol and handing it to the Major.

George pulled the slider back and swivelled around, putting the firing end of the gun against the Elite's crotch.

'Now, any intelligent species would know that losing what makes you who you are is too much to bear,' George said, 'now, are you willing to take that chance?'

The Elite glared at him but George could see in its eyes, now missing the dark eye covers that most Elites wore; revealing amber eyes with a snake-like pupil running down the center that losing what made the Elite who it was probably wouldn't be such a good thing.

'Tell me why you were flying around here in your fancy-pants Seraph fighter. Did we finally blow up all your Banshees?' George asked, taking on a menacing tone.

'I was on a scouting mission,' the Elite replied, no noticeable changes in its tone of voice, 'and as for our Banshees, we still have enough to kill every single human on this planet.'

'Don't think killing all of us is going to be that easy,' George replied, 'ever since the day you destroyed Harvest, you've put yourselves in some deep shit. You may have killed millions, possibly a few billion, of us, but one day we're all just going to whoop your asses so badly you won't be able to recover. We're going to win this war, this war that you ugly fuckers started. My brother was on Jericho VII when you bastards blew it up, so don't think I'm going to give you any lee-way.'

The Elite had listened to everything George had said but didn't seem to care much.

'Your species deserves to be wiped from existence,' the Elite said, 'defiling holy structures such as this one with your unclean footsteps.'

'So, you want us all dead because we're vandals?' George said. He laughed. 'That's pathetic. You really should think about why you're fighting us.'

George sat back down on the crate, taking the pistol away from the Elite's crotch.

'Do you have a name?' George asked, 'I'm sure you would.'

'Iporo Qualomee,' the Elite replied, 'I suppose you have a name as well? You call us "Elites", I know that.'

'Elites? I call you guys "ugly fucking assholes", because that's what you are. I'm sure all you Elites get a kick out of killing humans, because I sure get a kick out of killing you guys. I suppose your species has a proper name, something stupid sounding I suppose?'

'I would never tell human vermin the name of our glorious race,' Iporo said.

'Glorious? Maybe. But you ain't going to get much glory, especially when I blow your baby maker off, if you have one. I'm still not sure. Your voices wouldn't be so deep if you didn't have one,' George said.
He pressed the firing end of the pistol against the Elite's crotch again.

'Answer my questions,' George said, 'otherwise your girlfriend won't be having much fun anymore. You won't be having much fun anymore, either.'

'The name of our race is Sangheili ,' the Elite replied, shaking its head as if it was surprised with itself.

'What kind of stupid assed name is that?' George said, laughing. He turned around to Alan and the two marines. 'You hear that? Elites are called "Sangheili". Sounds really fucked up, doesn't it?'

'So what?' Alan asked.

'Why do you always have to ruin my fun?' George asked, frowning. He turned back to the Elite.

'Well, Iporo, if you don't mind me calling you that, you said you were on a scouting mission. What were you scouting?'

'This base,' Iporo replied, not sounding too keen on answering. The Elite could tell George wasn't afraid to carry out his threats.

'Wait a minute, just stop there,' George said. He turned around and looked at Alan.

'Get me a paper and pen, would ya?' He asked.

'A what?'

'A paper and pen, and that's an order,' George said.

Alan nodded and walked over to a desk in the corner of the room, taking up a small notepad and a pen. This was an old fashioned style of writing but they were short on the more modern ways of taking notes and had to resort to the centuries old technique of 'writing'.

Alan came back with the notepad and biro, handing it to George. He took it and turned to face the Elite once more.

'So, your name is Iporo Qualomee, right?' George asked, 'how do you spell that?'

'I'm not familiar with the word "spell",' Iporo answered.

'Well, that's a lot of help,' George said, figuring he should just write down how he thought it was spelt. Hence, he wrote down Name of Prisoner: Iporro Qualomme.

'The name of your race is Sangheili, yeah, am I right?' George asked.

'What have I told you? Do you humans have bad memories?' Iporo said.

'You watch what comes out of that mouth of yours…I mean jaws…No, hole…Yeah, that mouth of yours…' George said, trying to determine whether or not he could describe the Elite as having a proper 'mouth'. On the notepad he wrote down Species: Elite, proper name Sanghilly or something along those lines.

'You were scouting the base,' George said, 'what for?'

'You humans took control of an important food supply depot which brings food and equipment to the base where we're keeping your commander,' Iporo answered, 'I was sent to scout out your defenses and troop positions.'

'So, you guys are planning a counter-attack?' George asked, 'wow, how original. This information will come in handy.'

'You seem to be enjoying yourself,' Iporo said, 'what kind of human are you?'

'Well, for one thing, I've never spoken to an Elite before. Previous times I've had to kill them before they killed me. As for what kind of human I am, I'm one of the ones that hates the Covenant and, like I said, gets a kick out of killing you bastards,' George said.

'Do you humans have names?' Iporo asked, 'although it would disgust me if you did.'

'Prepare to feel disgusted then,' George said, 'since my name is George Golding. I'm ranked as a Major, a rather high rank in the army. I'm an ODST.'

'A Major? You must be commanding everyone else here,' Iporo said.

'Very good, you seem to know a lot about human beings,' George said, beginning to sound like a psychiatrist, although he was making a joke out of it, 'and as a matter of fact I do boss everyone else here around. That includes you now, since you're now an official prisoner of the United Nations Space Command. I hope you enjoy the time you spend with us.'

'I don't think I will,' Iporo replied, looking down at the floor again.

'Is that a sense of humour you got there, Iporo?' George asked, 'because if it is maybe you Sangheili aren't all that dull, boring and annoying after all. I would enjoy myself if I killed you right now, but there wouldn't be any point. You won't be going anywhere for a while when you're staying with us. Tell me, what's the name of your Commander? Who's running this show? Maybe if I ever meet him I could whup his ass.'

'Ever since you humans arrived, Ship Master Dras Amargee is our commander.'

'Dras Amargee?' George asked, raising an eyebrow, 'I suppose you can't spell that out for me?'

George wrote Covenant Commander: Definitely an Elite, name Drars Armerjee.

'So, where is he now? I suddenly want to take this bastard out,' George said.

'I'm not sure,' Iporo said, 'he would be on board our flagship.'

'Which is?' George asked, raising his eyebrows and leaning forwards.

'What do you plan to do about this Commander Elite, sir?' Alan asked.

'Take him out,' George replied, glancing back at Alan, 'you know what they say…'

'No I don't.'

'They say "cut off the head and the body will fall". If we take out their Commander we could very well make the job of securing this planet a heck of a lot easier,' George said. He looked back Iporo.

'Your flagship. What is it?' George asked.

'The Justifiable Light,' Iporo answered.

George grinned when he realized that was the very ship where he had sent Frank and his squad to recover the data discs from the Covenant, the data discs that had been taken from the Captain when he had been captured. His happiness suddenly went when he remembered they had no means of communication with the squad and so couldn't tell them about the Commander Elite. Maybe if they were lucky they could take him out.

'So, when is this counter-attack anyway?' George said, 'do you know?'

'It would have been postponed since I have not returned from my scouting mission,' Iporo said, 'what else to you want to know? I'm getting tired of this interrogation.'

'I'm not,' George replied, giving a grin that made him look like a maniac.

He paused. The Elite looked kind of bored, not too happy that it had been captured alive.

'Let me just ask a question that's been bugging me for quite some time,' George said, his grin fading, 'it's about us. Humanity. Do you guys know the location of our home-world?'

'Major…' Alan said, but was interrupted.

'What? It's a question.'

'We haven't destroyed your home-world yet?' Iporo asked, lifting his head up from looking at the ground and towards George, 'how many planets does your species have?'

'That's all the answer I needed,' George said, taking some more notes, 'it's not like I'm going to tell you the location of our home-world. I don't even know the coordinates anyway. None of us do. It's all stored away in our computers.

'I have a few more questions, starting with details on the inner workings of the Covenant,' George said, 'like, do you guys have decent medical facilities or do you die from easily fixed wounds?'

'Do I have to answer anymore questions?' Iporo asked, 'I'm tired and hungry.'

'Of course you have to answer my questions,' George said, 'otherwise I'll just blow something of yours off and you'll end up regretting not answering my questions. So tell me about Covenant medical facilities.'

'I feel like a traitor,' Iporo said, looking down at the floor again.

'You are a traitor, that's why,' George replied, grinning, 'now, about your medical facilities…'

'Our medical facilities are enough to help us with serious wounds,' Iporo said, shaking his head again as if he couldn't believe he was answering the questions of a human, 'I've seen your human ones. They are far better, but you humans aren't the kind who would prefer to die in battle…'

'I would love to die in a hail of bullets,' George said, 'or plasma. It's better than dying of old age, I can tell you that.'

'Really?' Alan asked from behind.

'Shut up, Private,' George replied. Alan went quiet.

'You see, ugly, not all humans are the same,' George said, 'all of us are different. I suppose it's the same with your species as well. Does your, like, government or whatever put on human propaganda? Do you all think we're brutal, savage animals?'

Iporo didn't answer right away. He looked like he was thinking about his reply.

'You humans are savage animals,' Iporo replied.

'I knew it!' George exclaimed, 'man, I'm smart! Sometimes I even surprise myself.' He paused. 'Humans can be savage if they want to, and since your guys are killing us off, we deserve to be savage. We need to survive, and I can guarantee you that your Covenant buddies won't ever destroy the human race. There will always be some of us left, no matter what happens. Even if you blow up our home planet, there will be some of us left. If I ever live through this war, I'll be moving to a small planet with my wife and we're going to live out our last days there in nice, quiet seclusion. This means that if the human home-world is ever destroyed, you'll still have me and my wife to deal with.'

'You are a strange human,' Iporo said, 'you seem to be enjoying questioning me. You also seem to be a bit overconfident…I've also gathered that maybe you would be a worthy opponent in a battle…'
George raised an eyebrow.

'Of course I'm a worthy opponent!' He exclaimed, 'you would need fifty Elites just to even out the odds when fighting me!'

'You're crazy Major,' Alan said.

'What did I tell you before?' George asked, turning around.


'Shut the hell up, Private Alan,' George said.

He turned back to Iporo.

'I'm almost finished with you,' George said, 'I'm running out of stuff to ask you, anyway. Tell me, what's the name of your home-world? Even better, where is it?'

Iporo didn't answer. Instead he stood up and looked down at the seated Major.

'You are a coward, human Major,' Iporo said, 'and no matter what you threaten me with, I would never disclose information about the Sangheili home-world to you.'

'That's a shame,' George said, shaking his head. He got up and, since the Elite was at least two feet taller than him; he had to look up so they were (nearly) face-to-face.

He raised the pistol and done one sharp strike below the belt with the hilt of the weapon. The Elite stumbled backwards, breathing heavily.

'Lock him up,' George said, 'I'll come back when I want to speak with him again. Just one final question, Iporo.'

Iporo looked at him, the hate visible in the alien's eyes.

'Does your girlfriend travel with you?' George asked, smiling.
Iporo didn't answer.

'Okay, if that's the way it's going to be,' George said, 'I'll just find out myself. Lock him away, boys.'

The two marines stepped forwards, both of them stepping behind the Elite and pressing the firing ends of their rifles into his back. They forced the Elite back into the 'cell', closing and the door behind him. One of the marines reactivated the electrical current.

George turned around and took one final look at Iporo, who was standing in his cell. George waved and grinned.

'Have fun in there,' he said. He turned around, Alan coming up alongside him.

'What did you mean by that last question?' Alan asked.

'About his girlfriend?' George asked.

'Yeah, that one.'

George paused.

'If our prisoner isn't going to answer questions, maybe we could get a hold of his lady friend and you know, threaten to kill her or something.'

'Major, I doubt Elite females even travel into a battle zone with their male friends,' Alan said, 'what made you think of that?'

'I've just been watching too many movies, that's all,' George replied, 'although Windtalker could probably get a hold of any information we need about the Covenant personnel stationed on this planet.'

'So you're actually going to get him to check up on the female Covenant personnel?'

'Damn right,' George said, 'but since he's with Frank and his men, we're going to have to wait.'

'What do we do with the prisoner now?'

'I don't know. Just feed him and give him water. How about you give him some of that left over pizza the chef made? I'm sure he would love that,' George replied, obviously with some slight idea that an Elite wouldn't enjoy pizza. He stopped near the exit of the room.
'Now if you excuse me, I have to get some sleep. Don't wake me up unless it's something really important.'

'How will I know that it's important?' Alan asked.

'You'll know,' George said, 'goodnight, Private.'

He walked out of the room, leaving Alan standing there thinking about what had just gone on.

'Why is it I'm always stuck with you?'

Once more Windtalker was literally in Jeff's mind and once more Jeff tried to ignore him. It wasn't easy, since whenever the AI spoke it was as if its voice was sounding right throughout his mind. He didn't like it, and what made it even worse was that sometimes Windtalker didn't know when to shut up.

'You know, have you read the manual for this AI carrier belt?' Windtalker asked, 'they're the precursor to the armor systems. I would prefer to be in the armor of one of those ODSTs rather than someone like you.'

'Well, I would prefer it if you just shut up,' Jeff said, 'even better, maybe you should get out of my mind.'

'It's not my fault I'm in your head,' Windtalker said, 'you can blame the Lieutenant for that. I've gathered that he doesn't like you very much.'

'He can't let things go, that's all,' Jeff said. They were standing about three hundred meters from where the Pelican had arrived. Frank was standing nearby, a cigarette in his mouth and a small stream of grey smoke coming out of its end. Part of Jeff hoped a Covenant sniper spotted the light coming from the end of the cigarette and blasted a hole through the Lieutenant's skull.

Jones was standing with Heinrich a few meters behind Jeff. They were in a thick forested area, the Covenant hangar still visible. The base seemed to be on high alert, several Banshees circling around it. None had spotted them yet.

'What did you do to him?' Windtalker.

'To who?'

'The Lieutenant. What did you do to him?'

Jeff rolled his eyes. He had gotten tired of telling people about what he did to the Lieutenant a long time ago.

'Eighteen years ago. He was just a Private then. So was I. We got into a fight,' Jeff said, trying to make the story as short as possible.

'A fight? About what?'

'Why don't you know this?' Jeff asked, 'don't you read the files on all of us?'

'Only the important ones. All the confidential bits as well. I've read yours.'

'Really? What did it say?'

'Well, all the high command guys think you're unstable,' Windtalker said, 'they don't like the way you go into a firefight by yourself with all guns blazing. They also don't take too kindly to relationships with squad members.'

'Oh, so you know about Elise…' Jeff said, 'that's not something I want to talk about right now…'

'Is that why you left the ODSTs and became a regular marine?' Windtalker asked, 'you couldn't take the loss of her too well…'

'How about we work on the task at hand and talking about this crap some other time?' Jeff asked.

'Well, what I was saying about these AI carrier belts before…have you read the manual?'

'No,' Jeff replied. If he had known about this 'complication' in the mission he would have made sure he had had a decent excuse to get him out of having Windtalker in his head.

'Apparently prolonged use can lead to nervous system disorders,' Windtalker said, 'so if I were you, I would want to take this thing out of the base of my spine soon enough.'

'This is half the problem with you,' Jeff said, 'you don't know when to shut up.'

'You want me to shut up?' Windtalker said, 'I'm the one who has to help you organic meat-bags find these stupid discs.'

Usually if an AI was calling humans 'organic meat-bags' that wasn't a good sign. Maybe Windtalker was going rampant. After all he was only a combat AI.

'Organic meat-bags? That's a bit strange, coming out of you,' Jeff said.

'Jeff, how about you stop talking to yourself?' Jones said from behind, stepping over to him.

Jeff was the only person who could hear Windtalker speak unless the AI was using the radios. It wasn't, it was talking directly into his mind. He would be glad when he could return to base camp and take the damn AI out of his mind.

'It's the AI,' Jeff said, 'it won't shut up.'

'Yeah, maybe that's one thing,' Jones said, 'but I heard those belts can lead to…'

'Nervous system disorders?' Jeff said, finishing Jones' sentence.

'No, man, that wasn't what I was going to say,' Jones said.

'What were you going to say?'

'Well, I heard those belts can lead to impotency.'

Jeff raised an eyebrow.


'It's just something I heard, anyway.'

Jones laughed. He seemed to think it was funny.

'Have you begun to notice how everyone's going all reckless and stuff ever since we landed on this damn planet?' Jones asked.

'Yeah, so?'

'So, just because there isn't any government here or cranky old Admiral, everyone's taking it to be an invitation to do what they want. Especially Frank. I think he's planning something.'

'You do?' Jeff asked. He hadn't noticed anything different about Frank. It didn't look like he was planning anything. Frank wasn't the scheming type.

'When we first arrived at base camp I caught him talking to Windtalker,' Jones said, 'something about "Covenant commanders" or some shit. Windtalker didn't seem to have a good answer.'

'What he was asking me,' Windtalker said, only so Jeff could hear him, 'was he wanted to know if I could find out who's running the show on the Covenant side. I said it would take me some time. I don't know why he wanted to know.'

'Windtalker just told me that Frank was asking him about who's commanding the Covenant on this planet,' Jeff told Jones, 'why would he want to know that?'

'All I know is that he's planning something, I'm sure of it,' Jones said, 'just look at him, standing there smoking and staring through the forest. He's thinking.'

'I didn't know the Lieutenant was capable of that,' Windtalker said.

'Shut up,' Jeff replied.

'Why you telling me to shut up for?' Jones asked.

Jeff shook his head. Things were all screwed up now thanks to the Lieutenant.

'I'm telling Windtalker to shut up. He made a joke, something I thought was impossible with second rate AIs,' Jeff said.

'Yeah, very funny,' Windtalker said sarcastically, 'you do realize I'm in your mind you know. I can probably figure out what you're thinking if I tried hard enough. Just a matter of working out what each brain-wave and neural message is.'

'Did it occur to you that we haven't actually done anything for the past fifteen minutes?' Jones said, looking around.

'At least we're getting a bit of a break,' Jeff said. Frank was still staring through the forest, gently puffing away on his cigarette. He looked like he was deep in thought.

One of the ODSTs, this one Frank had sent to scout out the immediate area, came running out of some nearby undergrowth. He stopped near Frank.

'There's a few mounted guns through that pass over there,' the ODST said, pointing off to the left, 'and the base of the ship looks to be about a kilometre away. I don't see anyway aboard unless we fly or something.'

'Did you notice the suspicious transparent shaft of blue energy coming out of the center of the ship's base?' Frank asked, 'if you didn't you must be stupider than I first thought.'

'Well, ah…' The ODST laughed, sounding a little put off his game, 'I saw it, although what is it?'

'You idiot, it's the ship's gravity lift,' Frank said, 'we get on board using it.'

'Gravity lift?' Heinrich asked, hearing what they were talking about, 'you can't seriously be expecting that thing to activate just by itself when we step into it.'

'Well, unless you have a better idea Kraut,' Frank said, looking back at Heinrich, 'since I don't.'

'Kraut?' Jeff said, raising an eyebrow, 'that's a bit of an out-dated

'Did I say you could talk?' Frank said, sounding annoyed, 'because I don't remember doing that. Maybe you should only speak when spoken to.'

'Frank, I have a feeling you're going to get us all into something way too deep to get out of,' Jeff said, 'there's only seven of us and possibly a few hundred Covenant soldiers on board that ship. I already exhausted myself in the base so you can't seriously expect me, Heinrich and Jones to do that well attacking a Covenant cruiser.'

'Well, without you three there would be only four of us,' Frank said, 'and the odds would be even more stacked against us. Besides, I'm sure you know how to handle yourself.'

'Just what exactly are we looking for again?' Jones asked, 'you didn't exactly tell us much about why we have to get aboard the Covenant cruiser.'

Frank took the cigarette out of his mouth, dropping it onto the ground and crushing it into the dirt with his right foot, smothering the flame.

'The Captain had some data discs on him, don't know why and neither did the Major,' Frank said, 'the Covenant has taken the discs aboard the cruiser. We brought Windtalker along so that way he can pinpoint their location once we're aboard.'

'So we're here just because the Covenant has these discs?' Jones said, 'that's all? What's so important that's on the discs?'

'Possibly the location of Earth for one,' Frank said, 'other than that we don't know. We have to get them nonetheless, that way once we have them we can find out what's on them.'

'You don't sound so sure about the location of Earth part,' Jeff said, 'are you sure that could be on the discs?'

'If I say it is, and then it probably is,' Frank said, smiling, 'now we'll move out. There's mounted guns up ahead, so the Sergeant and his two best friends can take the left flank. You should try and find some higher ground while we draw their fire. It shouldn't be that difficult.'

Frank and the ODST readied their weapons and went down at a low run. Jeff, Jones and Heinrich followed, noticing the natural pass ahead that wound through the valley. They went along to its left, making sure to stay low in the undergrowth.

Jeff could see what looked to be a small Covenant encampment, three plasma mounted guns set up in the passage, making sure that every front angle was covered by at least one of the mounted guns.
Frank and his three ODSTs stopped in some bushes nearby. Covenant searchlights, one positioned close to each mounted gun, were scanning along the area. They had large beams and it would be easy to get caught in the glare of one.

Frank was carrying a sniper rifle as well as his assault rifle. He un-slung the sniper rifle from around his back and threw it at Jeff.

'I know you have a good eye, Sergeant,' he said, 'so why don't you take down the gunners while we draw their fire?'

Jeff caught the sniper rifle with his right hand.

'Whatever you say, Lieutenant,' he replied.

He moved back over to Jones and Heinrich.

'I see a way up along the side,' Heinrich said, pointing over to a narrow passage of rock heading up along the side of the pass, 'we should head up there. That way their guns won't be able to reach us.'

'You sure about that?' Jeff asked, 'it looks to me they probably will.'

'Frank said he'll draw their fire, so why don't we just head up there,' Heinrich said.

'I wouldn't believe everything Lieutenant Hastings says,' Jeff replied, 'but we may as well get on with the job. Let's go.'

Jeff started towards the natural ledge, Heinrich and Jones following. Frank and his three ODSTs were moving forwards towards the edge of where the forest stops, having been cleared by the Covenant.

Jeff stopped by some boulders and a lone, gnarly looking tree. Jones stopped behind him, Heinrich coming up alongside Jeff.

'We just wait till the Lieutenant starts shooting, I suppose,' Heinrich said.

'Did you notice that he called you "Kraut" earlier on?' Jones asked Heinrich, 'I haven't heard anyone say that for years.'

'So what?' Heinrich replied, 'it's not like I care, anyway.'

There was the sound of rifle fire nearby and Jeff saw the personal shield of one of the Elites on patrol down below flicker. The alien made a surprised roar and the plasma cannons opened fire, a continuous stream of plasma bolts shooting forth across the cleared area. The guns were ripping the bushes and trees apart.

'Go on, cap one of the gunners,' Jones said.

Jeff took aim through the sniper rifle's scope, zooming in and bringing the head of one of the Grunt's into his sights. He fired, the Grunt's head exploding in a large spurt of bright blue fluorescent blood.

He moved his attention to the next gunner, repeating the headshot before he came to the last gunner, again shooting the Grunt through the head.

Frank and his ODSTs started moving forwards out of cover, the Elites and Jackals left in the area opening fire. Jeff took aim at one of the three Elites, this one a Minor, and fired. The Elite suffered a fatal head-wound and fell.

He moved his aim to one of the other Elites, getting it with a single headshot. He repeated the process once more on the last remaining Elite, taking it down and leaving only the Jackals alive. Frank and his ODST squad quickly took care of the irritating bird-like aliens with their frustrating shields, Frank and his squad throwing a few well placed grenades to finish off the aliens.

Up ahead from around a corner in the passage a group consisting of a Major Elite and a few Grunts came running into view, the Grunts scattering throughout the area. The Elite was dual wielding Plasma Rifles and opened fire with a ripping volley of plasma bolts.

One of the ODSTs was caught in the fire, his armor taking the full brunt of it. Jeff still had trouble believing that the armor itself regenerated, but watching the ODST he could see some of the holes scorched through the armor had begun to fill up, the armor repairing itself right before his eyes. If the Winter Sunshine had been the only ship carrying this kind of technology, they would have to get some of it back to Earth so it could still be manufactured. This technology would be highly useful in future battles if they ever got it back to Earth.

Jeff zoomed in on the Major Elite and got the alien's head in his sights. He fired, the Elite's shield failing as part of its head exploded, dark purple blood spraying outwards. The Elite dropped to the ground abruptly.

He reloaded his sniper rifle as the ODSTs opened fire with their rifles, cutting down the Grunts which had already began to run away.
Seeing that no more enemies had come their way, Jeff, Jones and Heinrich jumped down from the ledge and regrouped with Frank and his ODSTs. Again Frank had seemingly taken up smoking on the spot, taking out a small package of cigarettes and placing the end of one in his mouth. He held it in the corner of his mouth while he looked around, determining what they should do next.

'The ship shouldn't be all that far now,' Frank said, lighting the end of the cigarette. He hadn't been one to smoke before but since a lot of the officers on the Winter Sunshine had, there was a large amount of un-used cigarettes at base camp. Smoking wasn't as dangerous as it used to be, especially with the cure for cancer and the fact you could get a new set of lungs grown for you.

'Jeff, you take point,' Frank said, glancing at Jeff. He puffed on the cigarette lightly, blowing smoke rings from his mouth, 'you snipe a few of the bastards before everyone else moves in. You're the only marksman here.'

'Whatever you say,' Jeff replied.

'You're actually a marksman?' Windtalker asked.

'Didn't I tell you to keep your mouth shut?' Jeff said as he started down the passage, 'only speak when spoken to. You're only a combat AI and you should be following orders.'

'Yeah, I am a combat AI,' Windtalker said, 'but are you capable of single-handedly hacking into the…'

'How about you just shut up?'

Windtalker went silent. Anymore out of the AI and Jeff would probably remove him from his nervous system.

Jeff made his way around the corner in the pass, coming to a slight decrease in height in the ground, below a pair of Covenant mounted guns and a group of a few Elites and Jackals. They were a fair distance away and so Jeff's arrival wasn't noticed.

Looking past them he could see a lake and some forest, probably with more Covenant patrols in it. He took position behind some nearby bushes, crouching down into a comfortable position and raising the sniper rifle, looking through its scope and taking aim at one of the Grunts manning one of the mounted guns.

He squeezed the trigger, the sound of the shot ringing out throughout the large canyon. The Grunt's head exploded and the two Elites and four Jackals grouped behind the guns scattered, unaware of where the shot had come from.

Jeff took down the other gunner with an accurate head-shot. One of the Covenant soldiers must have spotted him since a large amount of plasma suppressing fire headed his way, scorching holes in the ground near his feet.

He went prone, making himself a smaller target. He had the sniper rifle so he had the advantage of accuracy and power. He rolled to the left, moving behind the small cluster of dry bushes. He could still feel the plasma he copped in the stomach burning, the armor he had been wearing having taken most of the shot. He realized he hadn't washed himself for quite a while, able to feel the dirt and grime on his face, legs and arms. Once he got back to base camp he would clean himself up, although he doubted there were any showers back at Camp Golding.

He took aim through the scope again, this time targeting a Major Elite that was opening fire with its Plasma Rifle. They didn't seem to know exactly where he was, so plasma was flying about practically everywhere else but where he lay.

He squeezed the trigger, blasting a large hole through the Elite's throat. The Elite fell, crumpling into a heap on the ground. Jeff took aim at one of the nearby Jackals, aware of several sets of footsteps behind him.

'Don't fuck it up,' a familiar voice said, Jeff's concentration broken as he squeezed the S2 AM's trigger. The shot went wide about five inches to the right of the Jackal, Jeff turning around to see who it was.

'I told you not to fuck it up,' Frank said as he came up behind Jeff, the ODSTs, Jones and Heinrich following.

'I had that one,' Jeff said, green and blue plasma fire flying overhead. Frank and the others crouched down.

'The ship's gravity lift is through the forest,' an ODST said, 'we're getting under the ship now.'

Jeff looked up. They were almost underneath the Covenant cruiser, the Justifiable Light. Most of the lights that Jeff could see on it were blue, typical of the Covenant. They seemed to have an affinity with purple and blue.

The ODSTs opened fire with their rifles, cutting a swathe through the remaining Jackals, the last Elite, a blue armored Minor, taking cover behind a boulder.

'Circle round and take that bastard out,' Frank ordered his ODSTs.
The ODSTS moved down towards where the group of Covenant soldiers had been, moving around the boulder and emptying several rounds into the Elite, letting it drop to the ground, smearing dark purple blood across the boulder.

Jeff got up and loaded a fresh magazine into his S2 AM. He went down with the other ODSTs, Frank following as well as Jones and Heinrich.

'Through this forest we should find another passage to where the gravity lift is,' the ODST who had scouted earlier said, 'so we're not too far now.'

'How well guarded is it?' Frank asked.

'I'm not sure, but we'll find out,' the ODST said.