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The Marine, the Rebel and the Sangheili: R&R
Posted By: QuantumSheep<quantumsheep@optusnet.com.au>
Date: 5 November 2008, 7:34 am

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Sol Relative Time: April 16th, 2526

There was a faint beeping sound, not too loud but not too soft either, loud enough for him to hear it and arouse him from sleep but not loud enough to get on his nerves.

Groaning after realizing he actually had to get up and start yet another day aboard the ship, he decided he would stay in bed a little while longer, to see how long it would be before somebody came into the barracks and quite literally had to drag him out of bed. He could hear the others waking up but didn't bother looking, keeping his eyes closed in the hopes he would drift back off to sleep. The beeping had ceased, someone having been intelligent enough to switch off the alarm on the computer clock by the door.

He had only been on the Relinquished Light for about two weeks, having come fresh out of basic training back home on Sanghelios. It had been three months of intensive training to make him reach peak fitness and strength and he was quite pleased with the result, noticing how muscular he was now. Usually females went for big, strong males but this wasn't the reason why he had joined up.

For one thing, a war had recently started against an alien race and wars often guaranteed that if you were in the army you would see some sort of action. He wouldn't have joined up even because of this, firmly believing he would have a better life as a civilian worker, helping others and living an easy life.

His father would never have let him do this, though. From an early age he had made it clear to his two sons that he wanted them to be more like him, a high ranking officer in the military who was well-respected. This was why Arla had joined up, not because he had wanted to but because he had been made to.

His brother was two years older than him and was in an entirely different infantry unit. It had been almost two years since Arla had last seen him, although his father kept making it out that his brother was doing better than him, that maybe he should try and be as good as him. Arla didn't care; he just wished his father would quit concentrating on the one son and give equal time to both as well as Arla's younger sister. Their mother was far more caring, being sure to not play favourites with her children, giving them all equal time. She and Arla's father would often argue, nothing too bad but still quite irritating to listen to as his mother would make it out to her husband that he was neglecting his children. Which often lead to Arla's father leaving for days on end, just to get away from his wife.

Arla knew very well that things at home weren't going too well but if worse came to worse; he would choose to stay with his mother until he got himself a home of his own. Right now though, he would have to put up with a full, year long tour of duty on board the Covenant cruiser Relinquished Light. He doubted he would be getting into any battles; the war against this alien race, the Humans as they were commonly known as, was only in its infancy. Hardly anything had happened since the first engagement with them, which had been in the latter half of last year.

According to the Prophets, the Humans had defiled their fair share of ancient relics and had to be punished. Like most other Sangheili, Arla had been subjected to the beliefs of the Covenant and was a believer, just like everyone else. If he wasn't a believer he would be executed for heresy, which was one reason he chose to go along with the beliefs about the Great Journey and so forth.

Rolling around in his bunk, he did finally open his eyes, seeing that the eleven others in the barracks were getting out of bed (most were, at least). According to the chronometer on the wall it was about morning, the usual wake-up time for active forces posted on board a ship. He really didn't feel like waking up, having gotten hardly any sleep the previous night. It had just been a rough night for him, especially since some of the other Minors in this barracks had decided to spend hours talking about whatever came to their minds.

Putting the sheets over his head to block out the lights and the increasing amounts of noise, he closed his eyes again, trying to will himself back to sleep. It took a few minutes before he felt it was working, until an unexpected voice filtered through the sheets.

"Arla, are you awake?"

Opening his eyes, his attempt to fall back asleep ruined, he stuck his head out from underneath the sheets, opening his mandibles wide, yawning loudly.

"I will take that as a yes."

The voice was coming from the bunk underneath Arla, since he had chosen the top bunk, giving him a good view of the whole barracks. Looking over the edge of his bed and down at the bunk below, he could see another Minor, wide awake and lying on his back, looking up at Arla with the equivalent of a smile on his mandibles. He had somewhat striking emerald green eyes, a rarity in males and was one of the most business-minded of the squad of Minors, always obeying orders.

"I'm trying to get to sleep," Arla said, "I didn't get much of it last night…"

"Why not?"

"I'm not sure, but some of the others were up talking quite a bit last night. Telling them to be quiet doesn't really work."

There was a slight chuckle from the Minor below him. Arla lay back on his bed, now wide awake thanks to his friend lying on the bed below his. Some of the other Minors were already dressed into their dark blue suits of armour and were leaving to head down to the nearby mess hall. There usually wasn't much decent food available, although breakfasts were usually alright, at least in Arla's opinion they were.

He remembered that there was meant to be something happening today, although he hadn't been paying too much attention while the Major, who lead their squad, had been telling them about upcoming events. Maybe Rtas would know, so taking a look back down at his friend lying on the bunk bed beneath him he thought he would strike up some conversation.

"Is there something happening today?" Arla asked, "I can't remember if there was or not…"

"You don't pay much attention, do you?" Rtas asked, looking up at him.

"Why? Is there something going on today?"

Rtas chuckled again; he tended to do that, even if something wasn't all that funny.

"We're being allowed time off on a supply world today," Rtas asked, "We're probably in orbit now, I would think."

Arla suddenly remembered. They would be stopping off for a few days so the ship could be restocked for an upcoming operation, whatever that may be.

"A supply world?"

"A large supply depot is located on the planet, surrounded by some settlements," Rtas asked, "apparently we'll be involved in some sort of upcoming operation recovering ancient relics, so we're getting restocked on supplies here." He paused, clicking his left mandibles. "You weren't listening to the Major when he was talking with us yesterday, were you?"

Arla gave a mandible shrug.

"I thought as much," Rtas said in response, "you've never really been a good listener. I'm surprised you got this far in the military."

"I'm a Minor, like you," Arla said, frowning, "we're not very far in the military at all."

One thing the army had been good for was to introduce Arla to new people and make friends with people he would have otherwise never bothered with. Rtas was often a quiet Sangheili, about the same age as Arla at only twenty-two years. Rtas seemed more a by-the-book type of soldier, always showing the right respect to his superiors unlike some others in their squad, who didn't seem to care. He would follow his orders to the letter and seemed a more gentle type of Sangheili, much like Arla, which might explain they had become friends so easily.

"What are we going to do down on the planet's surface?" Arla asked, "I can't really think of anything…"

"We can just take time off; after all, it does get quite dull aboard this ship," Rtas replied, "We might even be able to meet some females if we're lucky."

"There are some posted aboard this ship…"

"Which we hardly ever see since they're posted on the other side of the cruiser," Rtas interjected, sighing, "and probably for obvious reasons as well. They don't want us mingling with them; it might decrease our efficiency on the battlefield."

Arla laughed. Efficiency on the battlefield? It sounded like something the Major told him.

"The Major told me that," Rtas added, certifying Arla's assumption, "Women can make a very good distraction."

Arla nodded, taking another look around the barracks. They were the only ones still inside the room, everyone else having gotten dressed and left. Maybe Arla should do the same, he thought, but then he thought against it. A little longer lying in bed wouldn't do anybody harm.

"Have you ever had a girlfriend Arla?" Rtas asked, getting Arla's attention. Arla hadn't been expecting an abrupt question such as that and so was uncertain on what to say.

"Well…I…I can't say that I have," Arla replied honestly, "why?"

"Merely asking," Rtas replied.

"What about you?"

"Same as you," Rtas said, "I never really tried getting one. I'm sure I will now, but before I was just…I was just too lazy, I guess."
Arla nodded. He had never really given the idea much thought but being in his early twenties he still had the raging hormones he had had to put up with through his adolescence, the urge to reproduce, just like all males had.

Sitting up in his bunk, he decided he would finally get ready for the day ahead. He was about to climb out of his bunk when the doors of the barracks slid open, a tall, crimson armoured Sangheili with a scar down his left mandibles stepping into the room. He was a typical battle-hardened Major, put in charge of a squad of Minors who had never been in combat before. It was his job to make sure they survived.

Major Kalara 'Texelemee had fought against rogue Jiralhanae and had received his scar from an energy sword being wielded by one of the brutes. He was a surprisingly easy going Major unlike some of the other, much tougher Majors that were posted on board the ship. Kalara had a bit of a sense of humour and was obviously surprised to see Arla and Rtas were still in their respective bunks.

"What are you two doing?" He asked, sounding a little surprised, "I expect to find every member of my squad up and out of bed before I come in to check this room. Do you two think you are special enough for that not to apply to you?"

Arla turned to the Major, and saluted.

"No, sir," he said, "I was just getting out of bed now."

"What about your friend?"

"I was just about to do the same, sir," Rtas said, sitting up. The Major shook his head.

"I've already told the others this, but since you two weren't there and lying in bed I'll have to tell you here," Kalara said, sounding a little annoyed, "once you two have eaten, you are to meet me in drop-ship hangar seven. Is that clear?"

"Yes sir!" Rtas and Arla replied together in unison. They exchanged glances just before the Major turned around, exiting the room.

Arla and Rtas made their beds, got into their standard-issue dark blue Minor's armour and started out into the purple-blue metal corridors of the ship. Being morning there weren't many personnel out of their quarters except for those with early morning shifts, which included some Sangheili ship guards which Arla and Rtas passed by. The pair was mostly silent as they walked the corridors of the ship, arriving in the large mess hall where numerous Sangheili of differing ranks sat at tables, talking and eating.

Stepping over to the food dispensers and grabbing a tray each, Arla and Rtas went to each dispenser, receiving rather peculiar tasting nutrient paste, some animal meat and a small bottle of water, fresh from the ship's storage tanks. Arla knew that if it was fresh from the ship's storage tanks it was going to taste stale and dusty.

Sitting down with the rest of their squad, Arla started on the paste, spooning it into his mouth with the cutlery provided, almost gagging at the taste. Did the people who made this stuff really think anybody would eat it?

On Arla's right was Rtas, who sat fiddling with his spoon, sticking it into the grey nutrient paste, not in the mood to even taste it. On Arla's left sat Sysha 'Relismee, a twenty-one year old member of the squad who prided himself on the fact that he had spent some "good, quality time" with one of the female nurses posted on board the ship the other week. Arla was surprised at how someone like Sysha, who was always trying to be funny but usually failed, had ended up in the army. He was intelligent but never took anything seriously, often annoying the Major who had, on numerous times, requested that Sysha be removed from the squad but had never actually had that request fulfilled.

"I'm fairly certain I could shoot the wings off some sort of winged insect with one of those Kig-Yar beam weapons," Sysha said to the Minor sitting across from him, "and from quite a distance as well."

The Minor siting across from him, Terlas Lytanemee, was the self-titled "sharpshooter" of the group, although there was no official position in Sangheili squads. It was always thought that marksmanship was a bit of a cowardly tactic, shooting an enemy from a long distance, sometimes without them even knowing about the shooter's presence.
Terlas had been trained to shoot by his father, a skilled marksman who had often received ridicule for using such a "cowardly" tactic. It looked like Terlas would become as skilled as his father and was still a bit unconfident in his shooting expertise.

"I doubt it Sysha," Terlas said casually, "you couldn't hit the side of a Wraith tank with a beam rifle."

Sysha frowned, looking a little annoyed. Another thing Sysha was well known in the squad for was being a bit overconfident, occasionally referred to as "cocky".

"I could defeat you in a shooting competition anytime I felt like it," Sysha said.

"Do you feel like it now?" Terlas asked, sounding a little sarcastic.

"No," Sysha asked, suddenly with subdued confidence. He looked towards the marksman of the group and shook his head. "I prefer going up close rather than shooting someone from a mile away. So close, in fact, that sometimes blood gets all over you…"

"And ruin a perfectly good set of armour?" Terlas laughed, "I doubt you would want to do that, after all, there is a chance you will be the one getting killed, not your opponent."

"Could you two stop this pointless arguing?" The Minor sitting next to Sysha said, "It isn't helping anyone. Just eat your breakfast."

"Eat this?" Sysha sounded surprised, sticking a hand into the nutrient paste and sniffing it, "really Kesa, I thought you were smarter than that, considering that this food is disgusting."

Kesa 'Refulemee frowned, rolling his orange eyes at Sysha's stupidity. Kesa was the one member of the squad that was often at ends with Sysha's so-called "humour" and often enjoyed arguing with the young, reckless Sangheili.

"I am smarter than that," Kesa replied, sounding unamused, "So maybe you should just be quiet and let everyone eat in peace. Not many people are interested in whether or not you can shoot the wings off an insect with a beam rifle."

"I'm interested, Kesa, and that's what matters," Sysha continued, "so maybe you should be quiet and let me talk."

Kesa wasn't really listening, instead, he was looking at Arla, who was face down in his tray, breathing heavily. Rtas noticed this as well and took the plate of meat from his friend's tray and shovelled it into his own plate.

"Is he asleep?" Kesa asked, Sysha taking a look at the sleeping Arla. Rtas nodded and started eating his friend's meat while the others went quiet.

"He must be tired," Kesa said, "although, that is understandable. I doubt anybody could have fallen asleep while you," he looked at Sysha, "wouldn't be quiet last night."

"I am a talkative person," Sysha replied.

"You don't need to do it when everybody else is falling asleep," Kesa said, "so take that into account the next time you decide to keep everybody up."

About half an hour later the squad of twelve Minors had gathered in one of the ship's many drop-ship bays, standing to attention in a line while the Major stood before them, looking at each of them in turn. Arla was awake, although he felt dreadfully tired, making sure he tried to not show it. He didn't want everybody else thinking he was weak or something else along those lines.

Through the shimmering blue, but transparent, force field that blocked the hangar entrance/exit where drop-ships flew in and out of, Arla could see the desert coloured sphere of the world they were in orbit of and he could see the silhouettes of many other Covenant ships, both civilian and military, in orbit as well. It looked to him to be a very important supply world although even from here he couldn't see the lights of cities and towns.

"I am sure you all know why you are here," the Major said, as he walked up and down the line of Minors, "if you don't, maybe you should pay more attention.

"I have managed to get this whole squad about two days leave on the planet below. You have all been working hard and it will be some relaxation before you go on your first mission."

First mission? Arla had no idea about any "first mission". He suddenly felt nervous, unsure of what to think. Hopefully it wouldn't be anything too dangerous, and glancing around at the others he could tell that most of them were thinking the same sort of thing.

"Don't look like that," the Major said, sounding pleased with himself, "you will get plenty of warning about what it will involve and where it will occur. Until that day you are free to do what you like in the settlement on the planet's surface.

"There is plenty to do, I have heard. The town itself has been built around a major set of landing pads and supply depots, which means while you are all having a good time this ship's personnel will be loading transports up with supplies. Be glad I didn't assign you to help them do that."

"May I ask a question, sir?"

All heads turned to look at Sysha who had been the one to speak. The Major knew all too well about Sysha and his somewhat annoying personality, so it was very likely the young Sangheili would be asking a stupid question.

"Are there many females down in the settlement?"
There were a few subdued laughs from some of the other Minors. The Major shook his head, almost having given up hope with getting Sysha disciplined.

"I am certain there are plenty," the Major said. He paused, waiting for the effect of Sysha's question to wear off. "I am also certain that there might be a few high ranking Sangheili officers spending some time in the settlement, so it is recommended you do your best not to annoy them. The last thing we need is a brawl with some Special Operations troops."

Some of the squad members nodded. Arla stood trying to figure out what sort of mission they were going to be sent on, whether or not it would be something dangerous. It probably wasn't, after all, they were only Minors but he also kind of hoped it wasn't something dull, like guarding Forerunner artefacts or something.

"I will be going down to the settlement myself," the Major continued, "simply for some time off."

He turned around and gestured towards the Phantom parked nearby, waiting inside the hangar.

"You are free to go aboard," the Major said.

Arla and the others made their way aboard the Phantom, sitting themselves down inside the craft. Sysha, as usual, started up conversation as the Major stepped on board and the rear entrance closed shut.

"I know exactly what I'm going do to when I go down there," Sysha said, grinning.

"Let me guess," Kesa said as the Phantom began to take off, "something to do with women?"

Sysha nodded.

"As usual, Kesa, you guess correctly."

Later that day…

The settlement had turned out to be a somewhat subdued little community with its fair share of pilots, soldiers and a mix of Covenant species to top things off. No buildings were higher than ten stories and most were apartments of some kind, with many restaurants and bars as well as a few of the lesser known places where someone would go to get entertained in some way.

The squad was staying in some apartments in the more residential part of the settlement where most of the Sangheili population lived. There were a few bars and restaurants here and there, as well as plenty of other soldiers taking time off. Sangheili weren't the only species here; there were Unggoy and Kig-Yar as well as some Jiralhanae, although they tended to keep to themselves.

Most buildings were constructed from a typical grey metal/stone hybrid and the roads themselves were grey with the adequate markings on them, not that traffic was very heavy. There were only a few civilian Spectres on the roads at any given time, most of the population preferring to walk seeing as it wasn't too far from any given point in the town. Ships of all sorts flew overhead, although there was nothing too big buzzing around in the clear blue sky, only some transports and civilian craft.

Sitting at a set of seats and tables outside a less populated bar run by an elderly Sangheili who didn't say much, Arla, Rtas, Terlas, Kesa and Sysha wasted what little time they had on the world by drinking and talking. Arla wasn't afraid of drinking alcohol and after a few drinks was feeling a little woozy himself, although Sysha seemed to be the one drinking the most, using his drunken personality to annoy other customers.

They had only been in the town for a few hours, the Major having told them where they would be staying before leaving them do to as they pleased. It seemed they weren't the only ones from the Relinquished Light taking time off, Arla recognized members of other squads from the ship hanging around in various places nearby.

One thing this town wasn't short of were women, the younger ones walking by tem, obviously in a bid to get their attention and to get a good look at the rowdy young male soldiers who had nothing better to do. Arla didn't really say much to any female that actually engaged their group in conversation, Sysha being the one to get their attention, always trying whatever he could think of to get them to talk to him. He seemed to have succeeded in one instance since a young looking Sangheili female in dull blue robes sat on his lap, an arm wrapped around his neck as the pair carelessly downed the alcohol, talking quietly, the female giggling occasionally. Arla could probably make a good guess at what he was saying to her.

Kesa sat quietly, having drunk the least of the group, preferring to drink water instead. He was the one to break the temporary silence that had befallen the group a minute or so earlier.

"Who knows the time?"

Terlas looked at him, an uncertain expression crossing his face.

"I left my chronometer in my apartment…"

Sysha looked up, shaking his head. He didn't think much about this matter of knowing what the time was.

"Who cares about the time?" Sysha asked, "Just have fun. This could be the only chance we get for a while."

"Who's your friend?" Rtas asked, looking up his plate of half-finished meat, turning to Sysha and the female that was sitting sideways on his lap. The pair looked at him, Sysha smiling.

"Someone he met today, I would presume," Kesa interjected, "I doubt he even knows her name…"

Sysha looked aghast at this statement. Shaking his head, he downed the last of his current bottle of whiskey and gave Kesa an annoyed look.

"Of course I know her name!" Sysha exclaimed, "it is…" He trailed off, proving that Kesa's assumption had been correct. Whispering to his female friend, Sysha received the reply he needed to answer the question.

"Her name is Jilira," he said, "and she only arrived on this planet yesterday."

"How old is she?" Kesa asked, looking unconvinced.

Sysha paused to think about this for a moment.

"How old are you?" He whispered to her again, getting the equally quiet reply. Nodding, he looked back up at Kesa, confident he could get his friend to stop with the questions.

"She is nineteen, which would make her bordering on full adulthood," Sysha replied, "why do you ask?"

"I was thinking, maybe she was too young for you," Kesa said casually, "because I am fairly certain about what you two intend on doing…"

Sysha looked aghast once more, although this time it was less convincing. His female friend merely giggled, her right hand going down onto his thigh.

"How dare you guess such a thing!" Sysha exclaimed, although it was obvious he was putting this little act on for laughs, overreacting. His free hand had gone down to the hand Jirilas had put on his thigh and the pair eyed each other carefully. Arla could see from where he was sitting that they were very interested in each other, Sysha having proved that he was a bit of a womanizer, pulling in the females like this. First that nurse back on the ship, now this innocent young girl who probably didn't know better.

"Don't act stupid, Sysha," Kesa said, unamused, "we all know what you're after…"

Sysha shrugged, helped his female friend off his lap and stood up, taking her hand.

"I really think you should stop annoying me so much," Sysha said, starting for the door of the apartment building, close to the bar they were sitting outside of, "I can tell you're jealous…"

Kesa shook his head, still in his calm and collected manner. He turned to Sysha, who was about to step into the apartment building with Jirilas, who was giggling quietly.

"I'm not jealous Sysha, I'm certain about that," Kesa said, "why would I be jealous of someone like you, who treats women as mere objects?"

Sysha turned his back, not bothering to answer. Jirilas didn't look like she cared too much about what Kesa had said, following her new boyfriend into the apartment building, the door closing behind them.
Kesa turned back to look at Arla, Terlas and Rtas, clicking his bottom mandibles in a shrug-type manner.

"How did someone like him get into the military?" Kesa asked, looking a little bewildered, "I'm surprised that incompetent fool got through basic training."

"He's not as incompetent as you might think," Rtas said, getting Kesa to look at him with some uncertainty, "I trained with him. He's determined when he wants to be, and he was determined during the whole of training. I think now that he's in the military as a proper soldier he's become a bit lazy, using his position to attract females."

"Women tend to go for men in armour," Terlas added, "it's a proven fact."

Kesa looked at him strange.

"And how would you know that?"

"I read it somewhere," Terlas replied, "although, I don't remember where…" He trailed off, attempting to remember where he had read this "fact".

Arla sat quietly, deciding to slow down on his intake of alcohol, finishing his current bottle and sitting back in his seat. The weather on this part of the planet was somewhat temperate, often never too hot or too cold. Right now it was warm, a cool breeze blowing through the streets and between the buildings. Arla looked up at the dark blue sky, noticing that some dark grey clouds were forming a fair way away, indicating that there might be rain coming to town some time later on.
He failed to notice the figure walk up behind him until it had tapped him on the shoulder, speaking down to him.

"What are you doing here, Arla?"

Arla turned around, looking up from where he sat at the young female that had come up behind him. He was surprised to see how it was, recognizing the voice and the light blue eyes.

"Yelina?" He asked, unsure of what to make of the encounter.

"Do you know her, Arla?" Kesa asked, "it looks like she knows you."
Rtas looked up from his drinking, glancing at Arla. A frown formed on his face, as if annoyed about something.

"You told me you never had a girlfriend…"

"That's because I'm his sister," the female said, cutting Rtas off mid-sentence. She looked over at him, the pair exchanging glances before Yelina turned back to look down at her brother.

"Are you going to answer the question?" She sounded annoyed, in her typical fashion. She had always been one against small talk, preferring to get to the point of something, such as why her brother was here on the planet.

"It has been, how long?" She began, frowning, "six months? You left without any warning, father dragging you with him to the recruitment office?"

"Did that bother you?" Arla asked. Getting on the receiving end of his sister's annoyance was never such a good thing. Even if she was only twenty, she could be quite stubborn and yell if she didn't get her own way. In other words she was very determined but very short-tempered.

"Not really," she replied, reverting to a calm sense of mind, "but, are you at least going to explain what you're doing here? I never expected to find you in an insignificant settlement such as this…"

Arla could be asking her what she was doing here, but he thought he would be better off answering her questions first. Smiling weakly, he turned his seat around so he was facing her and one thing he noticed were the insignia on her dark blue robes, held together with yellow sashes.

"You finally became a nurse, I see?" Arla asked.

"You could tell by the insignia, couldn't you?" She asked, but didn't wait for an answer from him before continuing, "So, yes, I did become a nurse. Not that you would really care, I think…"

"Of course I care!" Arla exclaimed, "You are family, after all. It would be wrong for me not to care…"

Yelina didn't look too convinced. After all these years of being neglected by her father she had grown to distrust men, even if they were family.

"Even if you did, it would not make a difference," she said. She pulled up a chair, sitting herself down close to Rtas, much to the Minor's surprise.

"Again, maybe you should answer my original question?" She asked, "And then maybe you can ask me…"

"You didn't even say hello," Arla said.

"I'm your sister. Do I need to say hello?"

Arla shrugged. He hadn't realized how annoying his sister was, having forgotten all about her personality during the six months he had spent without seeing her.

"It is preferable if you greet me, just like anybody else would," Arla said.

His sister rolled her eyes, giving in to his minor demand.

"Hello," she said half-heartedly.

"Good afternoon, Yelina, it's been quite a while, hasn't it?" Arla asked smiling. His sister didn't look too amused, so Arla dropped the upbeat attitude and decided to answer her question.

"I and the rest of my squad are here on leave," he explained, "maybe you would like to get introduced to some of my friends?"

Without her consent he started the introductions anyway. He gestured to Rtas and she turned to look at him. The pair smiled at each other nervously, which was something Yelina would never really do unless, well, it was all speculation at this point, Arla knew that…But he couldn't help but notice how Yelina acted when she sat near Rtas, even having sat next to him. There had been plenty of empty seats around but she had chosen to sit next to him out of everyone else. She hadn't even sat next to her own brother!

"My friend, Rtas, is sitting closest to you," Arla said. He turned to Kesa. "That's Kesa, he's quite a nice guy when you get to know him."
Kesa nodded to Yelina but she ignored him. She also ignored Terlas whom Arla introduced next.

After the introductions were complete Arla turned to face his sister once more, now in a slightly better mood than he had been earlier. Maybe it was the alcohol, he wasn't sure.

"Maybe you would like to tell me why you are here?" He asked his sister. Rtas said something to her, quietly, and she replied. Now that he looked at the pair of them, he could see they were engaged in a quiet little conversation, Yelina having not heard Arla's question.

"Yelina? Are you listening?"

His sister turned around, Rtas falling silent. He looked a little disappointed at how their conversation had been interrupted but didn't complain.
"What is it?"

"Why are you here?" Arla rephrased the question, Yelina shrugging in response.

"I was stationed to the hospital here," she replied, "it's only a small one, not many patients, which makes my job easier. Which means I'm not complaining."

Arla frowned.

"How long have you been on this planet?"

She gave an annoyed look.

"I do not count the days I spend here, as if I was sitting in a prison cell, so I wouldn't know," she replied, "but I think it's been about, say, three months? Why?"

Three months and he hadn't known about it? Arla was surprised at the very least and realized that this proved how distant their family was getting, special thanks to their father.

"How's our parents going?" Arla asked, although he doubted things were going too well.

"Father had left a week before I left," Yelina said, "I think he won't be coming back for a while. I also think he has other women, he would have to if he was gone for that long. Why?"

She didn't sound too concerned. Sure, their father was a bit of a self-centred, egotistic male but even so, he was their father. Arla tried contemplating what effect being left alone was having on their mother. The last time Arla had been at home his mother had seemed to have a much more sour personality, as if agitated or annoyed about something.

"How do you know our father has other women?" Arla asked.

"I don't know, I just guessed…"
Arla felt slightly relieved to hear it had been a simple guess by his sister. If their father did have other women, things at home would just get worse.
"This is all Ryla's fault, you do realize that?" Yelina said.

Rtas looked up, interested in the conversation all of a sudden.

"Who's Ryla?"

Arla turned to him.

"Ryla is our older brother," Arla said, "he's always away from home for some reason, and sometimes I doubt the truthfulness of those reasons…"

"He's a liar, to be exact," Yelina said, "He hasn't seen our parents ever since he joined up with your lot two years ago. He's becoming almost as bad as our father…He always makes up excuses, never even tries contacting our parents. I think it's affecting our mother, she wasn't herself sometime before I left."

Arla would have to get in contact with his mother, just to see if she was alright. He could see that their family was gradually becoming more and more distant and if he didn't do something soon it could very well tear apart. That was the last thing he needed, a torn up family.

"I'll get in contact with our mother as soon as I can," Arla said. He paused, contemplating what he should say next.

"Maybe I'll take your sister into the bar, she seems to have some time on her hands," Rtas suddenly said. Yelina didn't object to this and Arla didn't have much choice but to say yes. After all, he could tell the pair were interested in each other in some way. "I would just…well, I would like to get to know her better…"

"I think Rtas has a crush on your sister," Kesa said bluntly, not even looking up from what he was drinking. Rtas' face flushed purple but he managed to keep his cool.

"Well, I think going into the bar with Arla's lovely sister is better than staying out here with a bunch of morons like you," Rtas said. He nodded to Yelina and the pair headed towards the entrance to the bar nearby, which sat on a street corner. The elderly Sangheili behind the bar's counter nodded as they entered.

Arla sat thinking about all of what his sister had said, about home and their parents. He could feel the worry inside him, the thoughts about home firmly stuck on his mind. He couldn't push them aside now, they would be stuck there for quite a while. So much, in fact, he doubted he would be able to get to sleep.

"Who wants me to buy them another drink?" Kesa asked, having spent most of the conversation drinking. He certainly sounded like he had been drinking, slurring most of his words as he spoke. Terlas looked up and nodded, he wanted another drink and wasn't about to turn them down if they were being bought by somebody else. It took a moment for Arla to decide on what he should do, telling his friend to buy him one as well. Better to get drunk and fall asleep easier than to not get any sleep at all.

"You seem less of an idiot than the others," the blue-eyed female said as they sat down, Rtas feeling a pang of nervousness. He had never really spoken one-on-one with a female before, excluding family members.

As soon as he had seen Yelina, Arla's sister, the one thing that he had been thinking about was getting to know her better. She was pretty and if he was lucky, he could use his friendship with Arla to get closer to her. So far it had worked, he had managed to convince her to have a drink with him in the bar while Arla had been trying to talk with her.

To Rtas, it sounded like Arla's family life wasn't going to well. His friend had vaguely mentioned his father's neglect and his older brother's habit of staying away from home as much as he could, but preferred not to talk about it much.

"Which ones are the idiots?" Rtas asked, unable to help but grin. Arla's sister certainly seemed the no-nonsense type, tough even. Unless it was just an act to ward of annoying males, although he couldn't really tell.
The bar they were in was quite empty, save for the others sitting outside and a pair of Kig-Yar sitting at a table in the far corner, talking in their bird-like native tongue.

"I don't like Kesa, or Terlas," Yelina said, shifting on the bar stool she was sitting on. She frowned, trying to find a comfortable position.
"These stools aren't very comfortable…"

"Do they have to be?"

She gave a mandible-shrug, indicating that she didn't particularly care. Turning to the elderly Sangheili bartender she caught his attention, about to order a drink when Rtas interrupted her.

"If you want something, I'll pay for it," he said. She looked a little amused at her new friend's generosity but let him buy her what she wanted.

"What don't you like about Kesa?" Rtas asked; he was interested to find out what she thought of the others. At least she hadn't said anything negative about him, which was a bit of a bonus.

"He is too calm and he drinks too much," she said, contradicting her comment on Kesa's drinking by downing half of the bottle of ale she had ordered.

"What about Terlas?"

"I just don't like him," she said, finishing off her bottle without even wincing at the strong taste. Slamming the empty bottle back down on the bench she took a moment to wipe some residue that had gathered on the insides of her mandibles using a napkin, although Rtas took it from her and began wiping her mandibles with it himself.

"Thank you," Yelina said, smiling. Rtas scrunched up the napkin and left it on the bench, feeling a bit pleased with himself. They were silent for a moment before Rtas decided to break the silence.

"What about Arla?" Rtas asked.

"Arla?" She shook her head, chuckling. "He's my brother, what do you want me to say about him?"

"I don't know…"

"Neither do I," she said, cutting him off. She stopped laughing and the pair stared at each other for a moment, Yelina taking a good look at her new friend, Rtas feeling a little nervous about it. She was trying to figure him out, he could tell, trying to determine whether she liked him or not, whether he was worth her time.

"Tell me Rtas," she said, smiling, "what compelled you to bring me in here, just so you and I could have a drink together? I'm sure there's more to it than just that."

Rtas was unsure of what to say, about to start talking but losing track of his words so all that game out was the first syllable of an undetermined word. Yelina looked at him, an amused expression on her face.

"You like me, don't you?"

Rtas didn't know what to say.

"Don't bother answering, I can tell," she said, "I'm an excellent judge of people, and you're fairly easy to read."


She laughed, Rtas laughing with her even though he wasn't sure what was funny.

"I wouldn't worry about it," she said reassuringly. She paused, letting Rtas feel comfortable again.

"I have to say, I do like you Rtas," she said, "how long are you on leave here?"

"We're leaving the day after tomorrow," Rtas replied, feeling a little flushed after her comment, hoping she didn't notice how his face had gone purple.

"Is that all?" She sounded disappointed, although she quickly changed her tone, "well, maybe before then we will get to spend some more time together. I like your company."

Rtas heard himself laughing, more so because he hadn't expected her to say that, although he hadn't wanted to laugh. She just smiled and stood up, Rtas following suit.

"I have to go, otherwise I'll be late for my shift," she said, glancing at the chronometer she wore around her wrist and looking back up at him.

"Maybe I could walk you to where you need to be…"

"I wouldn't bother, Rtas," she said, "There is very little chance I'll get attacked by anyone, besides, if I do, I always make sure I have a blade with me."

Rtas was a little surprised to hear this.

"You carry a blade?"

She nodded, not too troubled by the fact.

"Just a standard energy knife, nothing too fancy," she said. They were both silent after this, once more she spent a few seconds admiring his features, their eyes meeting. Her striking light blue eyes were what got most of his attention and he inexplicably felt himself leaning forward slightly, enough for her to notice.

Rather than tell him to back off she stepped forward and planted her mandibles with his, Rtas gripping her sides as they embraced and kissed. He put a hand to her waist, the other going through an opening in her robes, putting a hand to her abdomen, feeling her smooth skin and the beating of her hearts. His own heart-rate had shot up and he could feel a trace of excitement shoot through him, but this euphoria ended when she pulled away from his grip, smiling weakly.

"I…I have to go now," she said, Rtas uncertain of what to say. He did manage to say goodbye as she turned around and headed out of the bar, as if embarrassed by what had just happened.

Disappointed, Rtas sat back down on his stool, noticing how the elderly Sangheili bartender had been watching with slight interest. Rtas looked at him and the old man chuckled.

"Would you like another drink?" He asked. Rtas nodded, busy thinking about whether he would actually see Yelina again or that would be the first and last time he would be seeing her during his stay in town. Somehow he doubted that would be the last of her he would be seeing, but until then he could spend his time drinking.

"Where's Sysha?"

Hours later the squad had gathered in a large living area which was connected to their apartments, being on the seventh floor of the apartment building. The large suite also came with two bathrooms and a kitchen, although there was a lack of a dining area for some odd reason. Arla figured the designers of the rooms had actually run out of space to fit a dining area, so the living room doubled as a sort of dining area, although that meant dropped bits of food tended to ruin the furniture and get stuck in the carpet.

Major Kalara stood in front of the seated squad members, a datapad in hand, having called everyone here for not so much a meeting but a gathering. The one squad member that was missing was Sysha, who was probably still in his apartment with that newfound girlfriend of his. Of course, nobody was going to tell Kalara that.

Rtas had been strangely quiet ever since he had left the bar, Arla having noticed how Yelina had left looking a bit flustered. He could gather that something had happened between the two but he couldn't work out what. He didn't particularly care at this time, his head swimming a little after all the alcohol he had digested, unable to focus too well on the one thing. Kalara kept shifting in and out of focus where he stood while he trying to get an answer from everyone else about Sysha's whereabouts.

"Maybe someone should check his room, sir?" Kesa suggested, Kalara looking annoyed at how he hadn't thought of this earlier. He turned to Arla.

"Arla, go and find Sysha," Kalara said, "I prefer it if everyone was here before I started. There have been a few complications concerning the upcoming mission…"

"What is actually going to happen in this mission?" One of the Minors, Kylessa, asked. Kylessa was one of the more quiet, but more inquisitive, of the Minors in the squad, always asking questions but otherwise not having too much of an input.

"I will be telling you that once Sysha arrives," Kalara said, "I specifically called all of you here so I could tell you what's going to happen, as well as tell you about a few other things…" He trailed off, turning back to Arla.

"What are you waiting for?" He asked the young Minor, "Find Sysha."
The Major sounded a little annoyed at the delay so Arla stood up, done his best in order to get focused and started for Sysha's room, which was at the end of a short hallway which the living room broke off into.
Standing by the door for a moment, Arla couldn't hear anything in the room beyond. Knocking on the door, he didn't get a response, so trying the panel next to it he found the door to be unlocked, allowing it to slide open and reveal the dimly lit bedroom beyond.


There was some movement on the bed as a weary looking Sysha sat up. As he did so, the large set of bumps under the sheets next to him shifted and there was the sound of a rather tired female groaning. Sysha saw who it was standing in the doorway and smiled.

"Arla, what is it?" He asked.

"The Major wants you out in the living area in the next few minutes," Arla said, noticing Jirilas, the female from earlier that day, stick her head out from underneath the sheets and look towards him.

"He does? What for?"

"He's telling us about the upcoming mission," Arla said, "so I would recommend you get dressed, get your girlfriend to leave and come out here before the Major gets more annoyed."

Sysha nodded, understanding his little predicament. Looking down at Jirilas, he gave her a smile but got straight to the point.

"I'm sorry, my sweet," he said, "but you are going to have to leave."
Arla didn't bother waiting around, he simply closed the door and went back out to where the others were waiting. The Major glared at him for an answer to whether Sysha would be coming out or not.

"He will be out in a few minutes," Arla said, sitting back down. They had to wait about five minutes before Jirilas came out, dressed in her robes and trying not to look at the Major, who seemed to be annoyed. She exited the apartment, seconds before Sysha came out of his room, dressed in his armour and acting as if nothing had happened.

"Did I miss anything?" He asked as he sat himself down in a seat behind Arla. The Major shook his head in his usual fashion, not bothering to answer. Instead, he got straight to the point.

"Now that everyone is here," he said, "I can finally begin to tell you about the little operation that we will be part of in the next few days. Before I begin, there is someone I would like to introduce." He paused, gesturing towards the kitchen door.

"You can come out now!" He exclaimed.

It was a surprise to see a young looking female in the robes of a medical officer emerge after opening the door, taking a look at each Minor in turn. Arla's eyes met with hers, she smiled but he looked away shyly, not having had expected this.

Looking back at her he could see she must have only been about twenty or twenty-one, seeing that she wasn't a full medical officer but a combat medic (the insignia on the uniform wasn't too different). Some of the other Minors seemed interested in her presence, although when he looked at her their eyes met again, Arla unable to help but smile. Her emerald green eyes were what kept getting his attention for they were beautiful and bright.

"She has been assigned as our combat medic," Kalara said, "and none of you try and…well, flirt with her; that's because she has been told that getting involved with any one of you will make her get a transfer."

He paused, allowing her to sit down in an empty chair close to him.

"Her name is Lirana, she's only new to her job so she might be a bit nervous. She's not only for us but for the other three squads which will be assigned to our operating area in the upcoming mission. Each squad does have its own medic but it doesn't matter if we mix the squads up a little," Kalara explained, "she is actually my…" He trailed off, trying to remember how she was related to him. "She is my brother's daughter, and since my brother knew about my posting he decided to send her here to be put under my supervision. I just had to go to a spaceport in town today and pick her up."

Lirana sat quietly, looking at the young squad of males in front of her. Arla couldn't help but stare at her, admiring her slender frame from where he sat. This must have been the first time in his life he had felt some genuine attraction to a woman, although he doubted he would get very far with it. She was their medic after all and as Kalara had said, a transfer was what she would get if she got intimately involved with any of them."

"Now to get on with the mission details," Kalara said, putting away the datapad he had been holding which most likely contained information regarding the mission, "it seems for your first proper assignment, you and three other squads from the Relinquished Light will be travelling to a world on the very edges of Covenant space. It isn't populated from what we can tell, so it should be a very simple matter of finding what we've been assigned to search for."

"And what's that?" Kesa asked.

"We've been assigned as the advance landing party for an operation concerning Forerunner relics, some very important artefacts to be more exact, that have come to the attention of one of the Prophets," Kalara said, "all we have to do is find the area where the Forerunner structure is believed to be, secure it and wait for the excavation team."
There were some unimpressed scoffs from some of the Minors. Arla didn't like the sound of it, to him it seemed to be a rather uninteresting mission which would be, most probably, a waste of time.

"Is that it?" He asked.

"As far as I've been told, that's it," Kalara said. He didn't sound too pleased with it himself. "I know how it sounds, how it's a rather dull guard mission, but there may be promotions in it for all of you. After all, one of the Hierarchs themselves wanted us to organize the expedition."

There was a brief silence, Lirana busy taking a good look at her fingers and then her uniforms, trying to see if there were any noticeable creases.

"I gather the Relinquished Light will be the only ship sent?" Kesa asked. Kalara nodded in reply.

"You gather correctly, Kesa," Kalara said, "there shouldn't be any sort of enemy presence of the world, but we have been told to be on the lookout for survivors of a transport ship that crashed there many years ago."

He paused, realized his little mistake in what he had just said.

"Not survivors, but descendents," Kalara said, "apparently, about two hundred years ago, a Sangheili vessel carrying about fifty settlers disappeared in that region of space. It is very likely that if there were survivors they would have built some sort of camp on the world and tried to live out their lives as best they could. If this is the case we may very well find descendents of these settlers, although that is unlikely."

"Unlikely, sir?" Arla asked. Kalara didn't sound too sure of what he was saying himself but was obviously obligated to say it.

"It is a desert world," the Major explained, "with no visible sources of water. It will be very hot on the surface, which is why I doubt there were any survivors of this long ago ship crash. Those that would have survived probably perished in the harsh conditions of the planet."

"It Sounds like a nice place," Sysha said. Kalara just frowned at the young Minor before continuing.

"That is all for now," the Major said, "you'll learn more on the way there. In the meantime, be sure to make Lirana feel at home. I'm sure she would like to get to know some of you."

Lirana looked up, gave a shy smile to the Minors, her eyes meeting with Arla's once more. The Minor had decided he would talk to her before any of the others did, so as the Major turned around and left the room, he stood up, walked towards her and invited her to come and have a drink with him at the bar on the ground floor, the very one Arla and his friends had been sitting outside of earlier. Lirana, to him, seemed like a nice enough female, although she was quite shy. Rtas did decide to accompany them as well, although Arla did notice how solemn Rtas seemed.

The elevator trip down to the ground floor was uneventful, although Arla did manage to introduce himself to her. Lirana did introduce herself, sounding a bit nervous while doing it.

Arla didn't know it right now, but tonight for him would be another long night, spending hours at the bar until late, talking with the squad's new medic. The pair would fall asleep in the bar, their heads resting on the bench in front of them, only to find that morning was mere hours away.

Note: Sorry about chapter length, I just didn't think cutting this in half did any good for its flow. Other than that, I hope you enjoyed it!