Quarantine 0 -- Chapter 2: Research Team Alpha Nine
Posted By: The Meep<HaloFanatic101@yahoo,com>
Date: 13 October 2006, 3:55 am
Chapter 2: Research Team "Alpha Nine"
Dr. Rogen Rodriguez was walking down a tantalizingly familiar suburban street on his home planet of Prosperity. He looked down at his lean, fit body steadily sauntering along on the road. Rogen saw that he was clothed in a yellow pull-over shirt and a pair of tan floater pants. His pricy Dulax self-shape shoes so popular on Prosperity whispered every time they landed on the alloy road.
Rogen looked around himself, taking in his surroundings. The suburban street he was on went straight as an arrow into the horizon, row upon row of identical white houses laid at perfect intervals along its side. The road was completely barren, no Levs on it in sight. Even the lane stripes were missing. The houses showed no signs of life either.
Some of the garages on the houses had Levs in them; others had Cars. Rogen wondered where the others were. He soon found that a minor concern as he looked into the sky. The Suns, Glaris and Fenix, were out and shining brightly at opposite ends of their binary orbits. The sky was devoid of clouds, as if the glory of the dual stars had chased them away, evaporated them right from the sky. Yet, Rogen didn't feel warm, cool, or the slightest bit uncomfortable. It felt as if he was a child wrapped in a thick blanket on Christmas morning with the heat out: perfectly happy and comfortable, content in every imaginable way.
Rogen briefly thought that he was in Heaven, and that he had crossed over, his death forgotten. He closed his eyes and breathed in deeply taking in the odorless yet somehow sweet air. As his closed, he briefly wondered where he was walking to, but his legs felt detached, as if he was just clinging on the body and sensing through its senses.
He opened his eyes, fully intent on receiving the full splendor of his world. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Instead of opening his eyes to the beautiful day, he opened them to a dark, disturbed night. The clouds roiled unnaturally above and spat lightning down onto Prosperity. The houses around him still were white and identical, although none of Levs remained, except one that was halfway onto the road, its windows smashed, MagLev panels cracked, and doors ajar.
Rogen became curious as to where his happy world went but his thoughts were cut short as a loud roaring filled the air. Rogen watched with fascinated horror as a large burning UNSC frigate blew through the clouds and raced for the ground. Pieces of it began breaking off and scattered on sloped trajectories away from the ship. It seemed many miles away, but Rogen felt that too close. He closed his eyes as if hoping it would take him away.
In a way it did, because when he opened them again, the roaring was gone, and so was the frigate. The houses around him, however, were devastated and burning from fallout debris from the frigate. Some pieces were still falling, making frightening whistling noises.
Rogen closed his eyes and opened them again. The whistling had abruptly stopped and the sky was no longer churning, but was instead a flat, unbroken overcast. He looked around himself and suddenly realized with a start he had been walking throughout the entire ordeal, as if his body didn't care what was happening around him and was only intent on going wherever it was headed. He had distinctly remembered telling his legs to stop when he saw the falling frigate, but it appears that they had just kept on going.
Rogen was confused. How could his body not only move on its own, but also ignore his commands? And how had he gone from watching the UNSC frigate fall to Prosperity to experiencing the aftermath of its impact instantaneously? It seemed that whenever he blinked his ey-
A sudden scream pierced his ears and broke his train of thought. Rogen quickly swiveled his head to a nearby house. Another scream rent the air and Rogen watched as the door slid open and a frantic woman ran out, her face hidden by her hair. She was running down the driveway yelling for help when a green plasma blob slammed into her leg. It burned through flesh and bone and effectively amputated the lower part of calf. She fell to the ground sobbing as a Grunt emerged from the open doorway, yelping excitedly.
She looked up and Rogen finally realized who she was: his girlfriend, Slefa. She saw him too and started pleading between sobs for help "Help me Rogen! Help me! Please, o god, HELP ME!" Rogen prepared to dive tackle the Grunt and save his girlfriend, but found that his legs wouldn't respond to his commands but instead kept on walking. He suddenly felt alienated from his body, as if he didn't belong there and it didn't want him there. As if he was just looking through its eyes but nothing else.
Rogen could do nothing as he watched the Grunt walk up to Slefa and shoot her head off with his plasma pistol. Then it grabbed her by her remaining ankle and dragged her corpse up the driveway and back into the house. Rogan's eyes welled with tears and he opened his mouth to scream at his loss, his uselessness, his failure.
Rogen snapped opened his eyes and sat straight up in his bunk only for his head to meet the metal ceiling, cutting short his yell. A thick thump resounded as he fell back into the make-shift bed, his head already throbbing with pain.
"FUCKING A!" he screamed clutching the already large lump on his hairline. He swung his feet out of the bunk and planted them on the cool floor, sitting up more carefully this time, his head in his hands.
Rogen continued muttering curses as he looked down at his shaking and sweat covered body. He closed his eyes and tried to banish the nightmare from his mind without success. He opened his eyes again and tenderly felt the large welt on his head, wincing. Rogen grabbed his antique watch off the floor and groaned. He had only gotten three hours of sleep after serving as a medical back-up during the night assault.
He stood up out of bed and suddenly felt dizzy, partly from the dream and partly from the possible concussion on his head. He put his hand to the wall and leaned against it. After a couple of minutes, Rogen slid his naked body to the floor and banged the wall twice, activating the portable sticky lights on the ceiling. The bright lights came on and he winced from the sudden intensity of the artificial light on his pupils. After his eyes adjusted, he looked around the room, grumbling about his bad luck getting stuck here.
The room was a small affair; Rogen thought it possibly was once used as a storage place by whoever built it. It was a perfect cube, 5 X 5 X 5 feet and was completely featureless. Rogen had to crouch to fit in it; he swore to seek revenge on whoever put a 6' 4" man in this room. The Navy Engineers had put in a crude water filtration device that was used as a toilet, sink, and water supply. He never used it except to go to the bathroom because, as he thought it, no matter how pure the water is that comes out of there, you're still drinking from the toilet. Rogen prefers Public Facilities.
He muttered a few other choice swears concerning his head and went back to the bunk. He bent down and shuffled for his bag underneath it. He grabbed a pair of boxers and put them on. Next he pulled out a small disk, about the size and dimensions of the center hole in a CD, and pressed it together between his fingers. The device emitted a small (beep) and synthesized female voice came on. "Please pre--," but it didn't finish because Rogen squeezed it twice to activate the audio recording feature.
He cleared his voice and began "This is Rogen Entin Rodriguez recording," a brief pause as he tried to remember the date and entry number, "recording Psych Entry Number 33 on September 21, 2552. Tonight, I had another, uh, another Invasion Dream. This one was much more vivid than past ones and much worse. In it, as usual, I was in my hometown, Ethorn Village, on Prosperity and it was the most beautiful, no, the most heavenly day I had ever seen. I was walking down the middle of my street, except it was much larger, and was wearing one of my favorite outfits. I closed my eyes and opened them and suddenly everything changed. It looked like, like that night. That horrible night on July 12th, 2542. The boiling clouds, the falling frigate, Slefa. Instead of being held in captivity and watching her killed, I was walking along the road by her house. I tried to help her, I really did, but my legs wouldn't move. I, she, the Grunt." He stopped, overwhelmed by the guilt and anger he felt in her death. "Screw this!" he yelled and hurled the disc at the wall in anger but it bounced off and landed, unharmed, onto the floor.
"Recording over. Please repeat the name of the recording for use in later retrieval," the pre-recorded voice announced.
Rogen went over to it and yelled "SCREW YOU!" into the receiver. The device replied by claiming that the name was already taken and to replace it with another one.
Rogen sighed; the yelling and guilt trip wasn't helping his head; it had actually developed a headache now. He sighed, shrugged back his remorse away from his mind, and wrote off the dream as unimportant. He returned to his bunk and searched for some clothing. He had taken nothing but what was in his pockets when he abandoned the Autumn which was only the recorder and a picture of his girlfriend, Jefna. He had to wear the same torn and practically destroyed clothes for the first day but got allotted several garments that were salvaged from the Autumn. The first shirt he pulled out was a yellow pull-over. Rogen stared at it for a moment before tossing it across the room.
After ten minutes, he was freshly shaved, dressed, and combed (he was allowed longish hair since he was a Civilian specialist, not Military) and had also popped a Caffeine Pill to help him wake up. Rogen removed a fold-up from his pocket and glanced at his welt. Fortunately, he had combed his hair so the bangs would lay over it, hiding it from the casual eye.
He stood up, remembering to duck before hitting his head on the low ceiling, and exited his literal cubical into a wide tall hallway. Rogen looked around and decided to look for Jefna before visiting the infirmary.
Dr. Jefna Long-Turner mumbled groggily as she started to wake up, her body clock still set to Navy time. She checked a wall mounted clock to find that she had only been asleep for two hours after her medical duty with Rogen. She wanted to sleep in a little longer, but her stomach growled, her bladder was full, and her mouth was dry.
Jefna sat on the edge of the bed, dressed only in her underwear, the base being too warm for normal sleepwear. She was a short, Asian woman in her early twenties with a slim face, shoulder length black hair, and a pretty face to boot. Her almond eyes and thin lips only complimented her fine looks. Jefna's dark skinned body was small and looked rather fragile, as if made of china.
Jefna shook her head rapidly, trying to wake up her exhausted body. She got up and looked around at the other bunks in the room. All were neat and empty; their normal occupants were either working double-shift after the battle, injured, or dead. The only reason why she was there was because she was a civilian and not used to the rigors of military life. The Sergeant in charge of the medical section had let her and Rogen go after two hours of duty.
Now, both of them were technically "off duty" but, in reality, they were considered to be "on call" by their superiors and were often called on to perform menial duties. This, of course, didn't go over too well with the civilians (mainly Alien Archeologists who were to research any Covenant material obtained during Operation: PROPHET) who were used to research and studies, not using elbow grease.
Jefna walked over to the only toilet in the women's sleeping area and did her business. She looked in the mirror that was precariously stuck to the wall and saw her new face. Not her normal face, but one with exhaustion lines and bags under the eyes that had a haunted look in them after the horrors she had seen since the abandoning of the Autumn.
Jefna pulled her personal bag out from under bunk and took out the only clothing in there: a set of military fatigues that were a little too big on her small frame. She sighed, wondering what she was thinking in accepting her assignment in Operation: PROPHET. She wearily changed her underwear and put on the fatigues before popping a couple of Caffeine Pills and heading for the Mess.
Jefna exited the large room to enter a hallway where she followed the recently posted signs to the designated cafeteria. After two wrong turns, the fault of misplaced signs, and a strange encounter with two captive Grunts and their protector/guard (several marines liked to secretly beat captive Covenant when no one was looking), she finally arrived in the Mess Hall, a rectangular room with a lot of floor space but only a seven and a half foot ceiling.
She looked around the room at the assortment of people eating there. All were Marines in their off-duty fatigues, probably sneaking in a quick snack before sack time. The only seats in the room were taken and everyone else had to find a clean piece of floor. She noticed how uncomfortable it looked, with the grooves, designs, and all.
"Today's menu: MREs and ring world water," she muttered to herself unenthusiastically. She heard a hissing as the doors behind her closed and she involuntarily started. God, my nerves are shot, my body is deprived, and I'm stuck on a giant planet-size ring with a few other people and a whole shitload of Covenant. She nodded; the description suited her situation pretty well.
Jefna got into line and received her MRE. The young woman went over to a corner and situated herself on the ground. The grooves and bumps were annoying but she ignored her discomfort. Jefna peeled off the Feather Plastic coating and grabbed the utensils located within. She was about to start eating when she noticed two burly Marines in front of her, grinning.
One nodded to the other and said "Well, it looks like a civvy decided to take our spot, eh Nik? Let's make sure she's comfortable." He grinned wider and showed an incomplete set of teeth.
The other chortled unpleasantly. "Yeah Marce, lets make her comfortable."
By this time, Rogen had navigated the seemingly endless maze of metal passageways until he arrived at the entrance to the Mess. He stopped in front of the small, squat portal, struggling to remember what passages he had taken to arrive there. Rogen couldn't concentrate with his throbbing head and decided he could always ask for directions on the way back.
The tall man walked up to the door as ancient machinery whirred and the ages old metal fell back from the center. There was a hiss as the metal slid into their slots in the wall. Rogen waited for the door to completely open before walking through. When inside, the door slid shut again behind him. Rogen scanned the Mess Hall for Jefna and located her sitting in the far corner with two Marines standing over her.
Rogen walked closer and watched as Jefna stood up and one of the Marines, the taller of the two, shoved her against the wall. He sped up his walk into a run and shoved the tall Marine away from Jefna.
"Hey! Why don't you pick on someone who can actually defend herself?" Rogen yelled at the two Marines. His hand found Jefna and pushed her back away from the two Marines. The two Marines, both with the single stripe of a PFC, looked stunned that a civilian could interfere with enlisted personnel.
The taller one, Marce, quickly recovered. He glanced back at Nik and returned his gaze to Rogen. He stepped forward and said "Hey, you right civvy. We shouldn't be roughing little Ms. Asian Beauty here. Nik and I will just go find another spot to eat and leave you too alone. Shake on it, civvy?"
Rogen looked at Marce suspiciously. That was way too easy. Marine's, or Marine's like this guy here, don't just leave like that Rogen thought. Marce shook his hand up and down a few times. "How 'bout it, civvy?"
Rogen decided to see what would happen and gripped the hand. Big mistake. Marce smiled, showing his missing teeth. He brought his free hand into a fist and slammed it into Rogen's stomach hard, very hard. Rogen let go of the hand and grabbed his stomach as his lungs expelled their in a massive OOF. He fell against the wall and slid down it onto the ground coughing and struggling for breath.
Jefna stepped forward and screamed at them. Nik just shoved her back.
"And don't you ever! Don't you ever think that a civvy can tell a Marine what to do!" Marce yelled before leaving a parting gift of saliva on the civilian's back. Rogen, who had, in the single hour since he had woken up, a guilt nightmare, slammed his head into the ceiling, has a splitting headache, and now just got sucker-punched by a cocky Marine, lost his temper and felt a burning ire deep inside of him against Marce and Nik.
Rogen stood up after finally regaining his breath. He raised his fists, standing solidly like a statue. He noticed that Marine's had already turned around and were leaving. The pain in his abdomen and head were gone as he said "Where do you think you're going? Didn't they teach you how to fight at Boot?"
Marce and Nik turned around to look at Rogen. Marce scoffed, "You've got to be kidding me. Haven't you learned your lesson yet?"
Rogen smiled and said "I'm a slow learner." He bent his knees slightly and put more weight on his toes. All of his training as a kid kicked in. He remembered his classes in Universal Martial Arts and all of the techniques he learned.
"Hun Ju Sij Kin," Rogen muttered under his breath to concentrate himself. He watched as the Marines grinned and laughed, remarking on how this was going to be easy.
Nik struck first. He ran up to Rogen and used his momentum to carry his fist forward, aiming for Rogen's head. Rogen predicted his move and ducked into a crouching position as Nik's fist swung through open air. His momentum, without a counterforce, carried him forward so that his head was above Rogen. Rogen then used his bunched legs to launch himself upward and slam the top of his head into Nik's jaw.
The impact brought a wave of pain throughout Rogen's head, but the effects were far worse on Nik.
When Rogen's head hit Nik's, his mouth had been slightly open, and his tongue was in the front of his mouth. The force of the blow had slammed his jaw together, severing the tip of his tongue and jolting his neck. The collision dazed Nik, that is until he slammed his head on the floor falling down.
Rogen shook his head to relieve a little of the pain and looked up to see that Marce had unsheathed his combat knife and was now advancing on him with it. Instead of waiting for Marce to make his move with a superior weapon, Rogen surprised him by tackling him around the waist and throwing him to the floor.
As they were lying on the ground, Rogen on the top and Marce on the bottom, the former slammed his elbow down onto Marce's inside wrist, where the Anti-Brachial vein is, and hit a pressure point. Marce yelled in pain as his body lost touch with his hand. The nerves in his wrist overloaded and caused the hand to spasm long enough for the knife to fall from his grasp.
Rogen knocked the knife away before Marce could grab it. Even though Rogen's victory would be assured if he had grabbed it, it would be unfair. Instead, he slammed his fists into Marce's temples, hoping to incapacitate him. The attack didn't have the desired effect. Marce curled up his legs and put his feet onto Rogen's stomach and pushed. Rogen lost his grip on Marce and almost fell backwards, but stopped his fall by putting his hand on the wall behind him.
The loss of his grapple on Marce put Rogen at a severe disadvantage: Marce was physically stronger and tougher than him. Rogen didn't have any time to contemplate his situation when Marce got back up and moved closer, fists up. Rogen pushed off the wall and also lifted his fists.
Marce threw the first punch and Rogen dodged it. The next one hit Rogen's arm and was deflected. The next blow came from Rogen who landed it on Marce's stomach followed quickly by the Civilian scissoring his fists into Marce's sides, right below the ribs. This winded the Marine, who lowered his defenses briefly as he clutched his bruised sides. This was exactly what Rogen had been hoping for.
He leaped forward, grabbed the back of Marce's head and brought it down on his rising knee. This resulted in a sickly crack as Marce's nose broke. He let out a groan and slumped to the floor, unconscious.
Jefna had watched the fight from where Nik had pushed her. She had been worried when Rogen hadn't gotten up immediately. Once he did and had challenged the Marine's to a fight, she knew he would be fine. Jefna had seen her boyfriend fight hand-to-hand before; he always won. She watched with a detached curiosity as he first knocked Nik down quickly followed by Marce.
After the fight, Rogen went over to Marce's combat knife. He picked it up and twirled it on his fingers, careful not to nick himself. Then he went over to grab the sheath from Marce's prone form. After he had sheathed the knife, he gave Mare and Nik and few hearty kicks and returned to Jefna.
Rogen hooked Jefna's arm in his and proceeded to walk through the circle of Marine's that had gathered to watch the fight. All gave him room to pass, and all respected this strange Civilian who had challenged the Gird brothers and survived.
Rogen led Jefna over to the MRE line and grabbed two of them after checking to make sure they were ready. He leaned in closer to Jefna and said "Why don't we eat somewhere outside the Mess instead of hanging around for Dumb and Dumber to wake up." Jefna nodded, wanting to avoid any more confrontations.
The couple headed out of the cafeteria through the iris door and headed up a moderately sloping ramp to the surface. They exited the underground complex somewhere between the firing range and the buildings. It was still dark outside and the area was illuminated by artificial lights.
They went over to a large rock near the edge of the cliff and sat there, eating their MREs. They talked about old times and good memories, of old friends and past worlds and they found refuge from the chaos of the past three days in those three minutes they spent eating on the rock.
During this time, Rogen told Jefna about his dream and about the rude awakening he had.
"You should go check that out at the infirmary," Jefna commented on the now sizable swelling on Rogen's hairline. "You might have gotten a concussion."
"I doubt it, you have to hit your head pretty hard for that."
"Well, you did, didn't you? I mean, from what I've heard, you whacked yourself hard"
"Jefna, the hardest part of your head is the upper forehead. It may look bad, but it's probably nothing."
She nodded in silent agreement. Suddenly, she stood up and pointed toward the far end of the ring. Rogen looked up at the magnificent sloping construct to where she was pointing. Both had gotten used to the strangeness of the ring world's geography and no longer experienced vertigo when looking at it.
But what Rogen saw was even more magnificent than then the ring world: the ring world's dawn. The sun was just rising over the "horizon" and the couple watched as its light poked past the large Gas Giant obscuring half the sky. It was like watching an eclipse undo itself. The sun gradually grew larger and soon couldn't be looked directly at. Dawn had come to Halo.
After the glory of the "sunrise", and the couple had taken a seat again, Jefna decided to bring up a new topic. "Rogen?" she said, looking at him.
"Have you heard about what their doing with the Civilian Scientists that were aboard the Autumn?"
He shook his head. "Nope., nothing. Please, do tell."
"Well, I heard that they're actually putting us to good use for once. They've started assigning us to research teams to examine the origins, purpose, and meaning of this, this thing," Jefna said, throwing her arms around her at the ring.
"Well, that's all good and dandy, but what about the Covenant? I heard that this ring world is pretty significant to them. I don't think they'll let us "defile" and "perpetrate" this holy place of theirs. Aren't we going to get an escort or something?" He thought for a moment. "Anyway, it doesn't seem to have any purpose, it's just, just here. So maybe a research team would be good for finding information on this thing that we can use when," he paused, a look of sorrow flickered across his face, "if we get back to Earth."
Jefna also frowned. The prospect of dying on this ring didn't sound too good. She had always dreamt of passing on in a nice warm bed, not a giant alien artifact. "Well, they are giving us escorts when the teams go out. Anyway, I'd rather take my chances out there actually doing something rather than doing whatever the Military won't do around here. They're also placing these assignments as low priority, they've been dishing out these assignments over the PA. The researchers don't even know where they're going. The pilots just drop them off somwhere and tell them when and where to be to get a ride home."
Rogen opened his mouth and was about to ask why he hadn't heard any of these announcements when static crackled over the quickly assembled PA system. A rough male voice came over the channel and started reading off assignments.
He was about to turn off the PA when a crinkling of paper could be heard as someone handed him a last message.
"Ahem, it seems as though, despite last night's attack, Major Silva still wants to keep research teams going."
Jefna looked over at Rogen and gave him an I-told-you-so look.
The announcer continued. "The following people will be designated 'Research Team Alpha Nine' as of 0430 hours and relieved from this designation upon return to Alpha Base. Corporal Ni Wong, Private First Class Jeskil Penn, Civilian Specialist Michelle Tiefa, Dr. Rogen Rodriguez, and Dr. Jefna A. Long-Turner report to Pelican Pad 9 for rendezvous with Pelican Echo 121. You will receive specific details to your assignment aboard the Pelican."
Jefna looked at Rogen and said "What are the chances
that we got chosen after just talking about it?" Rogen said, finishing her sentence.
"Uh-huh," she agreed, nodding.
"Well, lets not just sit here all day like a bunch of Grunts in a supermarket," Rogen said, quoting the popular Holo, Covenant Danger? Yeah Right. "It's 0420 hours now!"
They got up, reluctantly leaving the staggering view behind them. Along the way, Rogen, without looking at Jefna, said "Hey, wasn't that AT Libra Bravo aboard 121 as well?"
"Yeah, you're right, they are. You know, I just realized something. I remember, when we were at the medical building after the battle last night, we treated two people form that squad. One was Helios, I remember that. Who was the other one?"
Rogen thought for a second. "Jundson! That's it. Sergeant Jundson. They were treated for minor cuts and bruises. Got knocked down by the exploding Pelican, if I recall correctly. I guess it wasn't too serious, if their going on a mission five hours later."
By this time they had reached the Pelican Pads. Some were occupied, others were empty, and one still had the remains of the burned out Pelican from the previous night. They saw Pelican 121 and headed right for it. Both Jefna and Rogen were completely unaware the horrors that this simple Pelican would carry them to. They looked around at Alpha Base one last time, before boarding the Pelican.
To be continued