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Fan Fiction

The Last Ranger: First Flight
Posted By: QuantumSheep<jasnash@optusnet.com.au>
Date: 3 September 2008, 12:13 am

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Sol Relative Time: November 25th, 2550

How long had it been now? It had been mid September when he had arrived here and then it had been difficult, being forced to run every day, march almost every night and get put through other fitness exercises during the course of the day. Now things seemed easier, Tershelee seemed less of a petty tyrant and more of a commander who made sense. Jeras missed home, but then again, everybody else did as well. He hadn't been able to speak to Ariana ever since he got here, the communications rig was still disabled and he doubted it would be finished being fixed anytime soon.

Lying in his top bunk, he had with him the rubber ball he had spent so much time with bouncing around back in his apartment on High Charity. He threw it towards the ceiling, caught it as it came down and repeated the process. It was the only slightly interesting thing he had to do in the early mornings, and he had woken up before everyone else. He could hear Kenas snoring loudly on the bunk below him while Sesha was lying with one arm and one leg hanging off of the side of the bed.

Jeras grinned; everyone else was asleep, which meant he could do anything he wanted as long as it wasn't too loud. Catching the blue rubber ball one last time, he climbed off of his bunk and went over to his locker by the wall. Bending over, he flipped it open, putting away the ball and rummaging through what little personal belongings he had inside. He found what he was looking for: the bottles of whiskey he had "purchased" from a guard weeks ago. He hadn't yet gotten a chance to actually drink any of it and looking at the chronometer on the wall he noticed he had a good hour to go before everyone else needed to wake up. Grabbing one of the bottles, he flipped off the cap and began to down the surprisingly strong tasting contents.

It felt good, after all this time. As he stood there gulping down the cheap liquor he realized just how much he had missed it. He tasted good, better than what he had had back on High Charity and regardless of what side effects it had, he quickly finished one bottle, throwing it back into his locker with a loud [i[clunk!

Picking up and opening another one, he was in the process of drinking it when he heard movement behind him. Turning around, he saw a sleepy looking Sesha standing behind him, yawning quietly as he watched what Jeras was doing.

"You're up early," he said, stretching his arms, "I thought I heard something…"

He paused, Jeras standing there with a partially empty bottle of whiskey in one hand. Sesha hadn't seemed to notice it just yet, although as he stood there his eyes fixed onto the bottle and then he looked back towards Jeras.

"Is that what I think it is?" Sesha asked.

Jeras had no idea what to say so he simply nodded in response. Sesha walked over and snatched the bottle from Jeras' right hand, taking a close look to it.

"Do you really like this cheap liquor?" Sesha asked, "I thought it was supposed to taste horrible…"

"It…it isn't bad," Jeras replied, grinning nervously.

Sesha frowned but that frown quickly disappeared as he put the bottle past his mandibles and began to drink. He finished off what was left in the bottle, belching loudly. He coughed as if the taste had only just registered in his mouth.

"That tastes disgusting," Sesha said, handing the now empty bottle to Jeras, "how can you like this beverage? And why would you be up before everybody else drinking it?"

He paused for a moment and Jeras knew what he would say, which was something Jeras hated being called.

"You're an alcoholic," Sesha said bluntly, "I should have been able to tell…The smell on your breath on the shuttle here."

Jeras frowned, clenching one fist as Sesha went on. He hated it when people started "assuming" things about him.

"You never seemed the type Jeras," Sesha said, "I would think you knew better. We're being trained to be the most elite branch of military and yet you still want to drink and ruin your chances of even staying in the training course? What were you thinking?"

Jeras remained silent. He hoped no one else would wake up, although he could see through the corner of his eye that Kenas was slowly sitting up.

"What's going on?" He asked, yawning, "I keep hearing voices…" He turned to the two of them and frowned.

"Are you two trying to wake everybody up?" Kenas asked, having not noticed the serious expression on Sesha's face, "just get back to sleep. We still have some time before Tershelee comes barging inside…"
Sesha glanced at him and then back at Jeras.

"Jeras has been drinking," Sesha said, "which I think isn't the smartest thing he could be doing…"

"What would you know?" Jeras said suddenly, getting Sesha's full attention, "you're only nineteen and you have no parents. You can't think that by telling me what's wrong and what's right that I will actually listen. You don't know anything, you stupid orphan…"

Sesha took a deep breath, as if Jeras had offended him somehow. He probably had, but he really didn't care. He doubted Sesha could do much in retaliation.

Rather than stand there breathing slowly, Sesha took a step closer to Jeras. He could see in the young Sangheili's eyes a sudden fury and so Jeras wasn't prepared for the punch he received across the face which knocked him clean onto the floor.

Slightly dazed and seeing stars, Jeras lay on the floor for a minute, Sesha stepping over and looking down at him. Jeras' mandibles ached painfully and he couldn't focus properly and so just lay where he was, moving about as his head began throbbing.

"Sesha, what are you doing?" Kenas asked, getting out of his bed, "you can't do that…"

Sesha pushed Kenas away and then proceeded to kick Jeras in the ribs. For someone three years younger than Jeras it hurt far more than he expected and Jeras found himself winded slightly and Sesha went on to kick him again and again, quickly following up with a kick to the groin.

Jeras yelled loudly when that happened, although his head did stop throbbing and he could focus properly again. As Sesha came in for another kick he grabbed the teenager's leg and used it to fling him over himself and into the nearby bunk. There was a large thud as Sesha's head connected with the metal railing on the corner of the bunk and somewhat surprisingly Sesha didn't get back up.

By this time everyone else in the barracks had woken up and were gradually crowding around the little brawl that had taken place. They seemed disappointed that it was over so soon and one of the trainees, Lears, went over to the motionless Sesha, checking his pulse.

"He is only unconscious," Lears said, turning to Jeras he he got up, who was holding his aching groin, "what happened?"

"What happened?" Jeras repeated more so because he was angry and in pain, "nothing happened. It was just a minor disagreement, that's all. I am sure Kenas would agree."

Kenas looked taken off guard.

"What?" He said, as if he had no idea what Jeras was talking about. He
paused and then realized what Jeras meant. "Yes, I mean, I know what happened. Sesha was…uh…"

"Sesha fell over," Jeras lied, "thankfully he's alright." He paused, noticing how most of the trainees were looking at him with doubtful expressions. "It was a playful brawl and he fell over. So…"

"So, I hope you're all satisfied," Kenas said, "maybe you should all just get back to sleep. We will put Sesha back in his bunk, he'll be fine by sunrise."

Some of the trainees looked satisfied with the explanation and started heading off to their bunks. Lears stood where he was for a minute, looking unsure of whether to believe Jeras and Kenas. He seemed to nod to himself and went back to his bunk.

Jeras glanced at Kenas, who just shrugged. No point telling them what really happened, that would probably just make things worse. Jeras walked over to the unconscious Kenas and grabbed him from under the arms, lifting him up and finding him surprisingly heavy. He carefully slid the young trainee back into his bunk and put the sheets over him in an effort to make it look like he had had an undisturbed sleep.

Once this was done, Jeras turned to Kenas, who was climbing back into his bunk. He didn't seem to care too much about it now and Jeras thought better than to start discussing what had just happened with him. It was best to see how everything was in the morning.

Jeras climbed back up into his top bunk and lay there for about half an hour, unable to get to sleep. He wasn't the kind who simply fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow, he often had to wait an hour before he drifted off. It depended how much was going on inside his head and right now he couldn't stop thinking about Ariana and how homesick he was. He was sure they would get time off soon, they were all progressing well in their training. Tershelee would let them off for a while, or at the very least Shasa would.

When he did drift off to sleep he was soon woken up again, this time it was brighter, a few hours having passed and the sun having risen. Tershelee had barged into the barracks and had begun barking orders at them in his usual manner.

"Get up and get into your armour!" Tershelee shouted as the trainees awoke, "there will be no morning run today. Rather, we have something special planned for all of you. You have ten minutes to be out in the open field in the centre of this base or there will be trouble!"

Some of the trainees made their typical cannot-be-bothered groaning noises. Jeras opened his eyes and sat up, climbing out of his bunk and checking on Sesha.

The young Sangheili seemed surprised to see him standing by his bunk, slowly opening his eyes and looking up at Jeras. He looked confused, as if he didn't know where he was.

"Jeras…What do you want?" Sesha asked, yawning. He paused and took a look around the barracks as the other trainees were changing into their regulation armour and began heading outside.

"Somehow…I know who you are," Sesha said, turning back to Jeras, "but I don't know where I am. Could you…help me out? I don't feel too good and my head hurts…"

Jeras had a feeling that Sesha had some sort of concussion, which would only make matters worse since he wouldn't be able to train with everyone else properly. Jeras helped Sesha out of his bunk and told him to get into his armour, although he had trouble opening his locker, spending about three minutes fiddling with the locks on it.

While Sesha slowly and somewhat dazedly got dressed, Jeras began doing the same. Kenas was ready and had left, Jeras and Sesha being the only two left in the barracks. He found himself having to help Sesha get dressed into his armour and once that was done the pair headed outside.

Jeras was slightly thankful that Sesha couldn't remember what had happened to him the night before otherwise Sesha would probably want nothing to do with him. The last thing Jeras needed was to lose a friend because of some stupid fight they got into a few hours ago. He found himself having to help Sesha find his way through the base since he was having a fair amount of trouble navigating correctly through the familiar exterior areas of the military installation.

The trainees had gathered by the obstacle course on a large section of gravel left for marching purposes. Jeras and Sesha joined the others who were standing in a disorganized semi-circle around Tershelee. The Commander looked especially annoyed and beside him, on his right, was a hovering cart carrying several suits of armour and what looked to be jetpacks. Jeras had a feeling about what they were going to do. He had studied the datapad Kenas had given him enough to know what those items were.

The trainees fell silent as Tershelee began shouting at them in his usual tone.

"Silence! All of you!" Tershelee barked. He regarded each of them with an intimidating stare, noticing how Sesha looked unsteady on his hooves. He paused and looked at the young recruit, frowning.

"Are you feeling alright, engineer?" Tershelee asked, "you look unsteady on your feet." Sesha looked towards him, obviously taken off guard.

"I…I am fine, sir," Sesha said, "I just have a headache."

Tershelee nodded.

"Don't allow that headache to interfere with your training," Tershelee said in an easier tone of voice.

"Yes sir," Sesha replied and Tershelee continued, turning his attention back to the group in general.

"Today is the day you will receive your Ranger's equipment," Tershelee said, "upon wearing it, you will become official Rangers! You will be shown as the most highly skilled unit in the whole of the Covenant military!

"However, you will not earn properly such a status until you have been trained in how to operate the equipment and how to use it in the dangerous vacuum of space. You will still be Rangers, but you will not be 'true' Rangers until you have proven yourself as being able to efficiently handle the equipment.

"Each suit of armour is catered for the wearer. We have made sure each suit of Ranger's armour will fit the wearer comfortably as well as protect them properly, having used the information contained in all of your files."

Tershelee paused, taking a look at some of the reactions on the faces of the trainees. Some of them looked excited, others were simply taking it neutrally. Sesha seemed to be staring off into space but Tershelee either didn't notice or didn't care, possibly a bit of both.

Jeras felt excited in some way, he was glad he had gotten this far and would actually become a Ranger. He couldn't wait to tell his mother about this, to prove to her that her son could actually amount to something. He felt proud and so stood listening attentively, waiting for the Commander to continue.

Major Shasa came from Jeras' right, obviously having been late for the group gathering. Tershelee acknowledged his arrival by nodding towards the Major before barking at the trainees to salute him as he stopped by the cart. The trainees saluted and the Major acknowledged them before putting them at ease.

Tershelee continued as he had earlier.

"I will call each of your names out in turn and you will step forward to receive your armour and your flight pack. You will be expected to get used to wearing the armour and using its systems such as the heads up display. Getting used to wearing the armour involves sleeping in it, training in it and doing practically everything else you do in it. Using the toilet is an exception, though."

This hadn't been meant as a joke, Tershelee keeping his stern expression, some of the trainees having been about to laugh aloud but quickly changed their minds and fell silent.

Tershelee retrieved a datapad from a compartment in his armour and held it up.

"The list is in alphabetical order, seeing as that was the most logical way," he said, before he started calling out the names of trainees. Each trainee received their own specially made suit of fully sealed armour as well as a sealed helmet and flight pack.

Jeras was called up eventually and he stepped forward, Tershelee grabbing a suit of armour hanging off the cart labelled with Jeras' name. He handed it over to him, followed by the sealed helmet and flight pack. All of these items were his responsibility now, and he did have a decent idea of how to use them.

His and Shasa's eyes met. The Major grinned and tapped him on the shoulder, whispering to him.

"I knew you would get through," Shasa said, "however, there is still a long way to go."

Jeras nodded, the Major was right. The main physical training was nearly over and ahead of him was training involving the Ranger's equipment, which would probably be tricky but now he was confident enough that he would make it through. How hard could it be?

Stepping back out to the rest of the group, the remaining trainees received their equipment before Tershelee put away the datapad and told Shasa to get rid of the hover cart. The Major obliged and dragged the cart behind him as he disappeared round a nearby building.

"You will all get changed into your new armour," Tershelee said, turning back to face the group, "you can do it out here, getting changed will not involve complete nudity. Simply take off your current armour and put this on in its place. No under-suit removal needed."

Jeras and the others got started immediately, although Sesha seemed to have trouble with his. Jeras was forced to help the teenager get out of his current orange armour and into his new, mostly blue, Ranger's armour. However, Sesha's armour had orange shoulder pads, signifying that he was an engineer.

Looking towards Relina, he could see she had chrome shoulder pads, obviously signifying she was a medic. Any other specialized trainees were likewise, Jeras receiving a suit of armour with purple shoulder pads, signifying that he was a squad leader. Most of the other received regular blue armour, though.

One thing Jeras noticed about the armour while getting changed was that it was bulky and heavy with several layers of under-suit connected to it. This was for obvious protection from the harsh environment of space and the small sized pieces of space debris that came with it.

It fit snugly, which was a bonus. Moving around in it seemed sluggish and required more effort than usual, but he was sure that he would get used to it. Looking around at some of the other trainees he could see that they were thinking the same thing, moving their arms and legs in an effort to get accustomed to the new armour.

"Helmets as well," Tershelee said, "put them on and switch on your heads up displays. The display will show you any tactical information needed. It should not be too difficult to determine what it is showing you. Remember, you will still receive oxygen from the outside, you just won't be able to hear anything outside your helmet. There is a mechanism at the neck of your armour which will seal the helmet to the rest of the suit. Do not switch that on, without an oxygen supply you will suffocate."

Jeras slowly slipped on the enclosed helmet, which fit snugly against his mandibles, allowing a little bit of room to move them. His field of vision was only slightly limited, the helmet had been built in such a way it nearly didn't impede his vision, although he could see the edges of the visor and could hear his own breath inside. He couldn't hear anything outside of his helmet and so fiddling with the helmet some more he found the switch for the heads up display. Lines of information and circles appeared in his vision, circles changing them to outline important objects in front of him, mainly Tershelee. A small series of bars and numbers appeared on the Commander, showing his range, rank and vital signs. Everything was as it should have been and turning to face the other trainees, he could see each of their vitals and their names.

At the bottom of the display were some colour coded bars and numbers showing his vitals. He was happy to see that he was in the all clear with nothing wrong with him (he hadn't expected there to be). The displays were intelligent enough only to outline living things such as the trainees, although he doubted it would outline every living thing, only the important ones. No use highlighting a patch of grass or something else along those lines, he thought.

He could see the others were trying to get used to the display and the armour as well. Kenas took a few steps forward before falling over which made a few others near him laugh. It was hard to tell what he was thinking, Jeras couldn't see his face through the helmet although the heads up display was telling him it was Kenas.

Tershelee was watching each of them and satisfied at how they were going he started speaking again.

"When Major Shasa returns he will commence the first stage of training with the equipment. I have things to do, which is why I cannot oversee the training personally," Tershelee said, Shasa coming back from around the side of a nearby building. The Major nodded when Tershelee said his name and stood before the Rangers, grinning when he saw how uncoordinated some of them were while wearing the armour. Tershelee saluted and turned around before walking away, disappearing from view.

Shasa frowned.

"Take off your helmets, all of you," he said, the new Rangers obliging. Jeras glanced around at the others, noticing that many of them looked relieved to be out of the claustrophobia inducing helmets. Relina certainly seemed the most relieved and Jeras took this as a hint that she may very well be claustrophobic, although he wasn't too sure…

"There is no need to wear them," Shasa said, "you all look better without them on anyway."

He paused, making sure everyone was listening to him.

"First things first: you should all put on your flight packs, they will attach easily to the backs of your armour, you might need some help from someone else, though," he said. Jeras picked up the rather heavy flight pack and turned to Sesha, who was standing behind him.

"You need help?" The engineer asked, "I do."

Jeras noticed the others were helping each other out with attaching the packs to their armour. He nodded and Sesha easily attached the pack onto his back, Jeras doing the same for him. He suddenly felt a little heavy on the back and so weighted himself forwards a little bit so he wouldn't topple over.

"Your flight packs contain your oxygen supplies and the needed jets to propel you at an often quick velocity through the near weightlessness of space. You can also use them in a planet's atmosphere, but as such will not operate at full speed," Shasa explained, "there are four power cells in the pack. You carry two extra, as spares. The pack itself requires two to operate at minimum efficiency, four to operate at maximum efficiency. It is your job to change power packs whenever needed, as well as check them before and after a mission. They last for several hours but sometimes they can simply stop working without any warning."

Some of the Rangers muttered quietly amongst themselves. Stop working without any warning? That didn't sound very reliable and Jeras couldn't help but feel a slight pang of nervousness.

"Your armour also comes with standard personal shields. These will recharge whenever they stop absorbing damage, but it will take a number of seconds to do so. In combat, every second is vital, so once your shields are down be sure to head for cover. Sometimes this won't be possible, but it is up to you to look after yourself, as well as any other allies who may be with you.

"Every Ranger looks out for one another. That is something you will all learn to do and I have had the pleasure in selecting squad leaders based on what I've been seeing in each of you for the past seven to eight weeks."

Jeras figured that by his armour he was most definitely one of these selected squad leaders. Shasa looked towards him.

"Jeras Kallonmee, you are squad leader of first squad," Shasa said, some of the Rangers clapping and shouting encouragement upon hearing this. Kenas stepped over and patted him on the back.

"I knew you could do it," he said. Jeras nodded, feeling a little embarrassed but otherwise proud of himself.

"Congratulations, Jeras," Shasa said.

"Thank you, sir," Jeras replied. He didn't know what else to say but one thing was for sure: his mother would be proud, and he was certain Ariana would be as well.

"First squad will consist of the following Rangers," Shasa said, pausing for effect before continuing. Jeras had a feeling he already knew who would be in the squad but he listened on anyway.

"Lears Telashkee," Shasa said. Jeras nodded, Lears was a competent Sangheili about the same age as himself who would probably prove to be an invaluable squad member. He was also the most by-the-book of the lot of them and would always follow orders, no matter what happened.

"Relina Heleness," Shasa said. Relina stepped over to where Jeras stood and Lears soon followed. Soon enough their whole squad would be standing there, apart from the crowd.

It made sense to have a combat medic in the squad, even if they were female. Turning around, he saw Kenas take a step behind Relina, placing a hand on her waist as the pair moved closer, not enough to be noticeable to anyone else but just enough so that they could touch each other if they wanted to.

"Kenas Krakonimee," Shasa continued. Kenas nodded and Jeras felt good to have a close friend in the squad with him, he had a feeling they would work well together.

"Sesha Qualemee," Shasa went on, "congratulations, you made it."
Sesha took a step towards Jeras and planted a hand firmly on his shoulder.

"I think you should apologize," he whispered as Sesha began reading out the names of other squads.

Jeras felt his hearts skip a beat.

"Apologize about what?"

"About before," Sesha said, frowning.

"You remember?" Jeras was a little surprised but he was sure their little fight was well over. It was obvious Sesha's short term memory had returned.

"Now I do," Sesha said, "so, are you going to apologize?"

Jeras turned around to face the nineteen year old, who was looking a bit annoyed.

"Yes, yes I will," Jeras said. Yes, he would apologize, just as long as Sesha promised that he wouldn't try telling Jeras how to live his life. If there was one thing he hated the most, it was other Sangheili telling him how to live his life. Coming from Ariana it was alright, but from Sesha and any other males…it really, really annoyed him.

Commander Strex Tershelee had lied to the new Rangers. Rather than actually have important matters to attend to, Tershelee had in fact lied about what he had to do just so he and a pair of base guards could search the barracks of the trainees, attempting to find any contraband material.

They were in luck considering plenty of the trainees had contraband items, mostly consisting of pornography holographs. Searching the barracks of first and second squad, Tershelee gained some sort of grim satisfaction rummaging through the lockers of each of the new Rangers, finding large amounts of pornography and stolen items such as food (obviously taken from the mess hall).

It made sense that each of the Rangers had locked their lockers but Tershelee, being in charge of the whole training program, had the master code which could open every locker in every barracks in the base. While his two accompanying guards began collecting all the contraband items and placing them into a single crate Tershelee moved onto the next set of lockers, opening each of them and rummaging through the contents.

Surprisingly enough he didn't find much in one of the lockers except for a few holographs of a young female Sangheili standing with what looked to be that squad leader, Jeras Kallonmee. However, stored underneath the photo was a datapad, one that didn't look like anything important at first until he started looking through the information stored on it.

The datapad detailed everything needed to be known about the Ranger's equipment such as the flight pad and armour. This would have given Jeras a rather unfair advantage over everyone else and taking up the datapad, Tershelee decided that he wouldn't be punishing Jeras. No, it wasn't necessarily his fault. For all he knew, someone could have planted it in the locker.

Jeras had been as uncertain as everyone else when they had been putting on the armour, so he doubted that the young Sangheili had even read what was on the datapad.

Who could have given it to him? He spent a moment thinking about it before he realized: it could only have been the Major, he had always been playing favourites with Jeras and his friends.

Personally, Tershelee had only liked Major Shasa as a fellow officer, not as a proper friend. He had always thought the Major was far too easy-going, this was after all, a training camp. They had to harden the young, useless Sangheili males and females so that they would be ready for the rigours of combat. They weren't supposed to have an easy time here but Shasa was obviously trying to give Jeras and his friends an easier time than all the other recruits. He would have to speak to the Major about this.

Other than that he would be sure the recruits would be surprised to find a lot of their personal items moved and all of the contraband ones gone. He would have to speak with them when they got back, which shouldn't be too long from now.

He waited around, noticing with some amusement the pair of guards with him had begun to look through the many pornographic images they had found in the lockers of the new Rangers. About ten minutes later the Sangheili staying in this barracks began to return. They seemed relieved to be inside again until they saw Tershelee and stopped, saluting and standing to attention.

Jeras was one of them. Tershelee glared at him before holding up the datapad, noticing how the young Sangheili suddenly looked nervous.

"I had the courtesy of searching through each of your lockers," Tershelee said with a smirk. He took a glance behind him at the two guards, snatching one of the inappropriate holo images off of one of the guards and holding it out for the Rangers to see.

"It seems some of you do not understand that when you are in the military of our glorious Covenant, you cannot spend your nights in the barracks looking at pornographic images. As well as that," Tershelee continued, pausing and picking up a can of sliced fruit, "you cannot steal food from the mess hall.

"I have taken note of all the lockers and which ones contained contraband material. That means each owner will spend at least twelve hours on latrine duty."

There were a few moans from some of the Rangers. Jeras looked relieved that he wasn't one of them.

"While Jeras, for having a datapad containing information to give you an unfair advantage, you will be spending a whole week cleaning our toilets," Tershelee said, throwing Jeras the datapad. He caught it and frowned, obviously not looking forward to a week of toilet cleaning.

Tershelee paused, noticing that many of the Rangers looked either nervous or miserable. Which was good, nervousness kept them alert and being miserable showed him that he was doing his job of hardening them up right.

"Kenas, I am afraid we found the highest amount of inappropriate images in your locker," Tershelee said. Some of the Rangers laughed, Kenas simply shifted uncomfortably where he stood.

"And Sesha, you had the most stolen food," Tershelee said. Sesha simply nodded while some of the others laughed. The Commander was enjoying embarrassing them in front of everybody else, it would teach them not to keep contraband in their lockers, or at least hide it better next time. Either way, it meant Tershelee was doing his job.

"I must leave now and speak with the Major," Tershelee said, "you are all at ease. Make sure that the next time I come in to check your lockers I will find nothing that is disallowed here at this camp."

The Rangers nodded before breaking up and heading their own separate ways. Tershelee turned to the two guards who were still looking through the images they had found.

"Keep the food," Tershelee told them, "destroy everything else."

The pair of guards looked surprised.


"Yes, really," Tershelee said, "do you seriously enjoy looking at that kind of thing?"

"Who wouldn't?" The other guard replied. Tershelee simply rolled his eyes, turned around and left the guards to do their own thing, just as long as they got rid of it.

Heading outside, he saw the Major heading back to his quarters and so picked up his pace so he drew up alongside the Major, holding out the datapad for him to see it.

Shasa glanced at it while he was walking and suddenly stopped.

"You know what this is, don't you?" Tershelee asked, stopping as well. They stood alongside the administrative building of the camp and unfortunately there was no shade so a rather harsh sun bore down on them where they stood. Shasa squinted in the bright sunlight, facing the Commander.

"Jeras and his friends have potential, Commander," Shasa said, getting straight to the point, "I thought I would give them a bit of help."
Tershelee sighed.

"You're not denying it?"

"It would be useless if I tried denying it," Shasa said, "so, I gave a group of our best trainees a datapad containing helpful information. So what? It would merely accelerate their training to become Rangers, would it not?"

Tershelee frowned. Shasa did make a good point, but he had still done something wrong and being Commander, Tershelee had to do something about it.

"You gave them an unfair advantage," Tershelee explained, "they probably did not even read it, but I do not know that, do I?"

Shasa shrugged.


"So, you still done something wrong, Major," Tershelee said, "so I am afraid I will have to punish you, somehow." He paused for a moment before pointing over to the entrance to the mess hall to their right. "I am demoting you to two week's mess hall duty."

Shasa gave a look of surprise.

"Mess hall duty?"

"Yes, that's what I said," Tershelee replied, prodding Shasa in the stomach in an intimidating fashion, "I hope you are a good cook, Major. You will report to the mess hall at sunrise tomorrow and I expect you to have some sort of breakfast in mind to make for our hungry trainees."

Major Shasa sighed, shook his head and walked away. Tershelee felt good about himself, it would be rather amusing to see the Major trying to cook. He doubted Shasa could cook, but that was just what he thought. He would see whether or not if his assumption was correct tomorrow morning.


Jeras had been waiting in the queue the next morning in the mess hall, waiting to receive something to eat, hopefully half decent this time, when he had made it to the front of the queue only to find Major Shasa standing behind the counter, apron on as he dished out this morning's breakfast.


Jeras paused for a moment, not sure what he should say. Shasa just looked at him and rolled his eyes.

"You're on mess hall duty?" Jeras asked.

"Yes, yes I am," Shasa said, "and you probably know why…"

Jeras thought for a moment and then nodded.

"I suppose I do," Jeras said, "same reason I'm cleaning the toilets later on today. Do you think Tershelee is trying to put us down or something?"

Shasa shrugged and slid Jeras a tray of the day's breakfast, which looked like something Jeras had expected to eat on Sanghelios. Luxury food almost, and he realized that Shasa was probably a better cook than most others here.

"Well, looking at what you're making, I hope you're the head cook for a long time," Jeras said, taking the tray and smiling at the Major. Shasa didn't look too amused and simply called out for the next person in the queue to come forward.

Walking over to the table where Kenas, Sesha, Relina and Lears were sitting, Jeras sat himself down and began to eat. Kenas and the others were happily talking and Jeras was enjoying his breakfast when a familiar figure walked over and stopped next to Jeras. The others at the table fell silent when they saw who it was, although Jeras couldn't care less and kept eating.

"Enjoying your meal?"

Jeras looked up and smiled at the annoyed looking Sirilas.

"Yes, why do you ask?"

Sirilas didn't reply verbally, rather she pulled the tray away and sent it clattering onto the floor, food spilling out and creating quite a mess. Jeras took a deep breath in order to avoid a violent outburst and stood up, staring straight into the female's eyes.

"Why did you do that?" Jeras asked, noticing that everyone in the mess hall was looking at the two of them.

"I know you won't hit me, that's why," Sirilas said, poking him in the stomach playfully, "you still like me too much."

"I'm not dishonourable enough to hit a female, if that is what you're thinking," Jeras replied, "so, could you just leave me alone?"

Sirilas frowned and started to walk away, turning around as she did to say one last thing.

"One day Jeras, you will come crawling back to me. I'm sure of it. Until then, you just have to put up with me annoying you," Sirilas said as she took a seat at a nearby table with a few other females.

Jeras calmly sat himself down, noticing that Kenas was laughing.

"What's so funny?" Jeras asked, "she just ruined my breakfast."

"So what?" Kenas asked, "I thought it was amusing. She really thinks you're into her."

Jeras paused for a moment, realizing that he did still feel some attraction towards her.

"Maybe I am," Jeras replied, "just not as much as I was in the past."

Sol Relative Time: January 19th, 2551

The interior of the drop-ship seemed small and confined, claustrophobic even. The noise was that of several Sangheili speaking at the same time, although Jeras wasn't really one of them.

If there was one thing he was worried about, it was what they were going to do in the next few minutes. After a couple of months training, getting used to the Ranger's equipment and getting prepared for the physically gruelling nature of staying alive in the vacuum of space, they would be about to go on their first proper space walk.

Major Shasa stood at the front of the drop-ship, dressed in crimson Ranger's armour. He held his helmet tucked under his left arm and held onto a hand-hold in the ceiling with his right hand.

Jeras was sitting next to Kenas as he usually would, with Sesha on his other side. Relina sat across from them, sitting in silence as the ship flew into position.

They had been told it would be a simple space walk, seeing as it would be their first time in the vacuum of space. They had been warned about the dangers such as their suit's systems failing or the suit itself getting breached for whatever reason which had cast a somewhat dim light on the whole situation.

Jeras felt the drop-ship come to a gradual stop, positioning itself in orbit around LX77-C. Another thing Jeras and the others had been told was that if they were in space, it was a good idea not to look up or down for that matter, unless they were on the hull of spacecraft. One could very easily lose their orientation if they looked up at the infinite mass of stars and dark matter.

Jeras could feel his hearts pounding in his chest and he figured he wasn't the only one who felt this nervous. Some of the other Rangers were quiet and subdued while others were talking happily amongst themselves like normal.

Once again, Jeras found himself doubting why he should even be here but before he could ponder on these thoughts anymore, Shasa interrupted his thinking by barking out orders.

"Rangers, stand up!"

Jeras glanced around, saw the others were standing up and so followed suit.

"Helmets on!"

Jeras obeyed orders, slipping on his helmet and sealing it to the rest of the suit. Oxygen then began pumping into the helmet from the life support pack on his back.

"It's a simple space walk today," Shasa said, not shouting this time, "You'll see when you're out there a cruiser a fair distance away. There is one hangar that is open which your target is. Simply fly there and once your hooves are planted firmly on the floor of the hangar, you would have become official Rangers. You'll depart one at a time.

"Remember, it is not a race. It is merely a training run. If something does happen to you and you are unable to complete the space walk a ship will come round and pick you up. However, I am fairly certain all of you will be able to complete this space walk."

Many of the Rangers nodded in acknowledgement of the Major's words. Jeras switched on his tactical display as did many of the other Rangers. The lights inside the cabin dimmed as the side doors opened, the cabin itself depressurizing without much of a vacuum being created.

The Rangers stood in single file, Shasa sending one out at a time. It wasn't long before Jeras was at the door and looking outside, he could see the sand coloured, cloudy white sphere of LX77-C as a backdrop to the whole space walk. He scanned the empty space for the cruiser, his tactical display highlighting the purple-blue figure of it. It was at least a kilometre away, nestled in orbit around the planet.

Looking up, contrary to what he had been told not to do, he saw a vast panorama of stars as well as the distant blue sphere of the gas giant that LX77-C was close to. He gulped, feeling some slight weightlessness the closer he came to the door, his hooves slowly lifting off of the floor.
Shasa roughly pushed him out of the door and for a brief moment Jeras went floating out of control into the weightless void before he steadied himself with a quick burst from his flight pack, coming to a stop about twenty metres away from the drop ship.

Surprisingly enough, chunks of what looked to be mostly space junk such as ship debris lay in his path to the cruiser. This must have been something extra Tershelee had decided to add, using any unneeded chunks of ship parts they could find. It wouldn't be difficult to navigate through the mess but it would take time.

Ahead, Jeras could see other Rangers navigating through the mess and so boosting ahead with his flight pack he started the process of finding his way through the field of debris.

His helmet radio flicked into life as he started flying his way through the space junk, his mind on the task ahead.
"My flight pack's not working! I can't move!"

He ignored the cries and shouts from the unlucky Ranger and kept pushing and flying his way through the space junk, watching as other Rangers around him did the same. He ignored the feeling of vertigo he was getting from looking around both up and down and kept flying, his hearts pounding in his chest.

For a moment he thought it all seemed so tranquil, with the stars all around him and the radio now silent. Looking up once more, he paused to register just who serene the starry backdrop was before continuing.
Reaching the cruiser, he easily glided his way into the hangar, finding that he was the seventh Ranger to arrive. Others soon followed and the further he went into the hangar the more the artificial gravity pushed him down before someone must have flicked a switch to turn on the gravity outright.

He found himself being pushed down fro a moment, suddenly a lot heavier than he had been minutes ago. Adjusting to what was the normal amount of gravity; he quickly took off his helmet and surveyed the scene around him. The others had returned save for the unlucky one that was being picked up by the drop ship. Many of them were pleased they had made it although Jeras was just relieved to be out of the vacuum.

Shasa came out of the crowd and approached him, having been the first Ranger into the hangar. He had a smile on his face as he patted Jeras on the shoulder.

"That was your first time," Shasa said, "next time it won't be so easy. What do you think?"

"About what, sir?"

Shasa sighed.

"About the spacewalk."

Jeras paused. It hadn't been too difficult, but in a combat situation things would have been a lot more complicated.

"It was…"

Shasa waited patiently for an answer.

"I prefer walking on solid ground, sir," Jeras replied truthfully. Shasa simply chuckled before changing his tone to a more serious one.

"You've all been assigned quarters on this vessel until this part of the training is completed, which won't be for a few weeks."

Jeras looked around at the purple-blue metallic interior of the hangar, empty of ships but full of Rangers. He didn't know what to think of living on the ship, but he guessed he would make up his mind soon enough.

"Another thing," Shasa said, managing a slight smile, "in a few weeks you will be allowed two weeks leave to the place of your choice. Arrangements will be made to take you there and get you back, hopefully not making you late."

Jeras looked up.


"Yes, a well deserved break from your training, that's what," Shasa said, "where do you think you'll be going?"

He knew exactly where he would be going and exactly what he would be doing. He hadn't seen Ariana for months and he hoped she hadn't gone off with some other male, as was the typical fashion of females that were left alone for long periods of time.

"Back to High Charity," Jeras replied, "I have someone there…"

"So do I," Shasa replied, "so, I think we will be catching the same transport there, don't you agree?"

Jeras sat on a bench by a side wall in the training room, watching as a rather new activity took place before him. It was the males against females energy blade fighting, using harmless holographic blades which were programmed to hurt, not kill.

Jeras had been looking forward to their upcoming leave and had been looking forward to seeing Ariana again. Hopefully she would be just as pleased to see him as he was of her.

Kenas was up next in the one-on-one duels and not so coincidentally he was up against Relina. She seemed to enjoy the thought of beating him, smiling as he stepped out onto the training mat. She struck a fighting pose and Kenas did the same.

The fight went on for about ten minutes as their energy blades clashed, one blocking the other's attacks, parrying and forcing each other to the edges of the duelling square. Then they would make a comeback and force the opponent back into the centre of the square, the fight continuing, going on like this for quite some time until Kenas only slightly stepped out of the ring.

Sirilas had been standing close by and so was the one to announce his loss. Kenas, defeated, gave the holographic sword to Lears, the next male into the duelling square and sat down next to Jeras.

"I can't believe it," Kenas said bluntly, "she beat me! How?"

Jeras shrugged.

"You're just not that good, I guess."

Kenas playfully punched him in the arm and laughed.

"Maybe you should go in next?"

"Maybe I should…"

Jeras laughed, watching how easily Lears beat the exhausted Relina. She stepped out, handed the sword over to Sirilas and the next fight began. Surprisingly, Sirilas easily knocked down Lears, forcing the holographic sword into his chest until he couldn't take the pain anymore. Defeated, he stood up and looked around for the next participant.

Kenas pushed Jeras out of his seat and walked him over to the edge of the duelling square. The last person he wanted to fight was Sirilas but before he could protest someone had forced the handle of the blade into his right hand.

"Go on Jeras, you can beat her," Kenas said, patting him on the back before pushing him into the duelling square. Before Jeras could get ready, Sirilas lunged towards him, the blade narrowly missing his chest as Jeras sidestepped the attack.

He turned around before his opponent could recover from the attack and swung his blade. She turned around and deflected the blow, pushing Jeras' right arm out of her way as she lunged forward again. Jeras felt the heat of the blade near his stomach but used his right leg to kick Sirilas in the stomach, knocking her over.

Some of the spectators cheered loudly after seeing this and looking down at Sirilas she certainly looked angry and partially winded from the kick. Jeras paused and held out his left hand to help her out. Rather than the expected reaction, Sirilas jumped back up onto her hooves and swung at his extended arm. The blade went through it painfully and Jeras brought it back, holding his sword back out in a defensive position.

What followed was a barrage of swings and strikes which Jeras tried his best to block. She didn't let up and within a minute he was on the edge of the duelling square on the verge of stepping out and losing. There was a brief slowdown in her attacks which Jeras took advantage off, stepping forwards and planting one hoof near her and held her as he forced her over his extended hoof, making her land painfully on the floor.

Lying on the ground, Sirilas looked up at him, angry and exhausted. She had expended so much effort trying to beat him and it seemed she couldn't go on.

"You should calm down, Sirilas—"

She grabbed one of his legs and used it to bring him down with her. Within seconds Jeras was down on the floor and Sirilas was back up, doing the same thing she did to Lears and sticking her holographic energy sword deep into his chest.

The pain was excruciating and Jeras groaned loudly. She expected him to give up and he wouldn't have, until he realized he was partially out of the square and Sirilas was causing him unnecessary pain.

"That will be enough, thank you," a familiar voice called from the doorway. Heads turned and the figure of Major Shasa entered the room, stepping over to Sirilas and taking the blade from her hand, deactivating it. The pain in Jeras' chest suddenly disappeared and he slowly sat up.

"You should do that to an enemy in the field, Sirilas, not to one of your comrades," Shasa said. Sirilas just turned around and went to sit down on one of the benches at the side of the room. She looked furious and Jeras realized that if Shasa hadn't come into the room Sirilas would have kept inflicting unnecessary pain on him.

"You should be careful of females, Jeras," Shasa said, smiling, "they can get quite ferocious."