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Shattered Skies - Chapter 4
Posted By: Webbo227<webbo128@hotmail.co.uk>
Date: 27 November 2008, 4:58 pm

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Shattered Skies

Chapter 4

      The cold mists of the morning rolled down the soldier's neck, as he navigated his way through the monstrous foliage of Mondcano IV. Freelance 227 felt like a different person since he ventured from the isolation cells he was trapped in on the desolate planet, which he had called home for an untold amount of years, and was now rushing through neon blue bushes and hurtling through time-weakened branches. But this different person was brand new, and the memories, which he treasured so dearly, were stripped away from him like pages ripped from a book. Shaking the lonesome feeling that creeped into his skin, the soldier raced ahead to the source of the disturbance that ran across his emerald visor in orange lettering, "COVENANT ACTIVITY, MONDCANO IV, RIGBILA SECTOR, IMMEDIATE RESPONSE REQUIRED." That was one thing that the mysterious soldier would never forget. Covenant.

      It was strange for him at first, flitting about past tree trunk to tree trunk, to experience such an overwhelming advancement to his ability. While not immediately visible to him, he could feel the responses flash to his mind quicker than before, react to the nocturnal avian creatures that plagued the forest like a vicious disease and dodge their mindless flight, and listen to the melody of the alluring forest over the under-worked heartbeat that pumped blood at an alarming rate.

      An opening; forests gave way to a vacated clearing that only boulders and twigs seemed occupied. The freelancer's stomach started to clench, and he wondered if it was a sign to stay cautious, but immediately realized that he was starving from the food that he had been refrained from due to his cold sleep. It didn't cause a problem to his performance yet, and when he succeeded with his mission, he would signal for any forces that were unknowingly following him to extract him from the ghostly planet.

      His eyes narrowed and the visor responded giving him a 3X zoom from his normal vision, which allowed him to see into the center of the field. There was no mistaking that something was hidden from his vantage point shrouded in the earth-like bushes that dotted the area amongst towering trunks. Edges of the land were distorted and stretched as though looking through broken glass, and the mists did not penetrate the clear dome that encased most of the field. Armed with his fully loaded BR55HB SR Battle Rifle, his ten spare magazines of spare ammunition, six fragmentation grenades, and two confiscated Type-1 "Plasma Grenades" that were being observed by scientists in the small weapons chamber, 227 was ready to start a one-sided fight. That was his last thought on the matter, as he froze in mid-action and slumped to the floor, conciousness fleeing from his shivering body, his last thoughts being the voice that echoed through him. Again. And again. And…

      Mutterings stirred him from his uncontrolled slumber, and he was greeted by a pitch-black room that seemed to be never ending in the eyes of the tired soldier. Voices rattled on speakers that were placed in disorienating places that confused his rattled mind.

      "Er…ah, excuse me sir! Please don't try to move, you've been through a lot…a hell of a lot. We'll put the lights on a gradual power-up, your skin would react to the shock of these lights."

      As soon as the broadcast ended, the dark room came to life, chasing the shadows into the corners until they melted into the light. Slowly, the lights grew and shone from the polished walls, startling his eyes from the shock of pure light, that seemed to be lost from the planet he was snatched from. The words of the young man floated through his mind, how he had been called sir; no one had ever called him sir before, but of course he couldn't remember if that was the case. The freelancer rose from the flat panel bed he was resting on, and looked at the bare, scarred flesh that enveloped his body. It was pale, so pale that he was convinved he would vanish if he continued to deteriorate like this. Scratches and large scars tattooed his arms and his chest was abundant with stitches. They didn't hurt, and the flesh had healed around them, leading him to believe that they weren't recent. He was loosely clothed and he was without his armor, giving him the feeling that he was defenseless against these people. By the time he had assessed the damage that his body had taken, the light was at full power and were beaming down on him like sunlight.

      Two men walked in through the shining doorway, one, a doctor, carried a clipboard in one hand and a steel ballpoint pen in the other. The other man was not a medical expert. He wore the standardized uniform for active duty upon a UNSC vessel that everyone wore, and bore the insignia of an commander on his chest. The two whispered to one another for a moment, and afterwards the commander walked over to the woken patient.

      "How are you? My name is James King, Commander of the UNSC frigate "Triumphant". May I ask for your name?"

      The freelancer opened his mouth to speak, but all that came out was a rasping croak. His vocal chords had not been used since his previous training excersise, and were serving of little use in their current state. Swallowing, he tried again to respond but failed to do more than "I". James shook his head apologetically.

      "I apologize, I was too eager to ask for your co-operation, when you have been through so much already."

      He looked to the doctor and asked for the soldier's medical condition. When the doctor responded with an enthusiastic response on his health, he turned back and sighed.

      "I'll be brief," he started, "I have no idea why you're still here, and to be honest, I don't care. You're part of the UNSC whether you like it or not, so if you have any objections to what I say, there's nothing you can do about it." He paused and strolled casually around the room, giving the freelancer a chance to look at the officer more carefully.

      His face was tired from months of unyielding battles, evident in the small dark circles that surrounded his eyes. His blonde hair was slightly longer than regulation length that threatened to cover his left eye. But his stare was piercing. Blue eyes seemed to burn through the soldier, and even though he knew that in a straight fight he could snap his neck in two, he felt threatened and afraid by the authority that he wielded. Mandatory grey uniform was worn smartly and his black shoes smiled at him with glaring brightness.

      "I don't mean to be rude, after all I don't know you. But I did know the innocent people that your buddies slaughtered all those years ago. I suppose that could be why I find the need to detest your guts."

      The freelancer looked at him puzzled at his message. His peers were ruthless, but they were filled with pride and noble intentions. Killing the people they had fought to protect was not something they would ever dream of. He mustered the power to his voice, struggling to shape the chords into audiable words, but as before only crackles of dying words managed to part his parched lips.

      "But as it happens, this mistake could turn out to work in our favor. The Covenant are on the run, and they are desperate for an advantage."

      Eyes snapped apart, his mind working feverishly. "The Covenant were on the run?", he thought. How long had he been asleep? Why was he not woken? Floods of thought drowned out whatever James had to say as he lay there in disbelief.

      "…collpased a digger on the planet you were on. They weren't digging their graves. They were looking for something. So when you've recovered, I'm sending you down there to find out their false ace in the hole. I hope we got that into perspective soldier."

      Striding to the door, he bid goodbye to the doctor and slid through the opaque door of light, only to return a few seconds later. "Son, we have no idea what your name is. We have no files and little records. I hope you have a name to go by, because the Marines won't like "227" for long." Seconds dragged as his mind started to work again, searching through his blanked memories, searching. After a full minute, he returned with no trace of his life.

      "I see. Then for now, until we find evidence otherwise, you can be identified as…" he typed into a grey tablet which beeped at different intervals. "…Jack Prowler. I will sort out all the paperwork Jack. I hope you won't begrudge me for my arrogance, but you probably will."

      As he turned to leave, the timid yet amplified voice rose in the speakers, "Mister Prowler?" The freelancer turned around. Already this new name stuck to him, even though he was aware this wasn't his true name. "We received a package from a transport carrier only moments ago. Something salvaged from your previous base of operations." This was a surprise. Jack had scoured the entire base for any adavtageous equipment that lay scattered here and there. It must have been something critically important to have been specially carried from the planet. "Could you come to Docking Bay Gamma please?"
Wandering around the frigate was a strange experience for Jack; even though he had no idea how to reach "Docking Bay Gamma", he saw this as a perfect oppourtunity to keep in line with the shifted reality he had woken to. Turning right as he exited "Medical Chamber C", he found himself travelling down a dimly lit corridor, light entering only by the sleepy star that Mondcano IV orbited. The first noticable landmark was the bridge, a multitude of computers were positioned around the captain's chair, currently vacant, and hummed as the connected keyboards transmitted the data that the whizzing hands of the lieutenants typed in. No-one took time to notice the ghostly monster that stood above them, more pressing work had to be done then wonder why a medical patient had started to stalk the corridors.

      Doorway after doorway. Passing the Shaw-Fujikawa translight system that bore essential to slipspace travel, watching the cautious engineers through the reflective panel, as alpha and beta particles were being emitted by the engine. Looking in on the weapons storage and the personnel that carried the ship's "Archer" missles and inserted them carefully into the slots, as a "Shiva" nuclear warhead was carefully loaded as well. Turning to leave he noticed a renevated room that had been transformed into a minaturized firing range, loaded with a limited amount of weaponry, mainly M6 pistols and M7 Caseless Sub-Machineguns. Marines, fresh out of training, honed their skills on the Covenant shaped targets at the far end of the room, with many missing their marks or scraping the lower leg. One of them had a pistol in his right hand, focused down its sights and fired five shots in quick succession, three of them penetrating a Brute's cranium, the other two landing in its windpipe. People started to applaud him briefly then resumed their miserable attempts at a gunfight. Jack stared on, again with no-one watching him, asking himself how the war had ended with men such as these as the backbone of Earth and all her colonies. Jack closed his eyes and shook his head. On opening them however, a magnum was pressing against his head, barrel threatening to blow off the side of his head and his delicate brain within.

      "I could kill you right now, just squeeze the barrel and redeem the lives of everyone. Finish the pathetic excuse of salvation and wake everyone to cold facts. You were created by good to cut out the evil. And their attempts at a better life brought pain and suffering for the families that had to bury the mutilated carcasses of the hopeful."

      Jack turned around slowly, no rash movements as they could be his last, and confronted the man in the face. Even though the amber light of the training room proved to be his only shred of light, he could not make out the face of the vengeful warrior. He had a deep voice, strained by the anger that would not subside inside of him, and the barrel of the magnum was still warm from when it was previously fired, but at whom?

      "But orders are orders, and I have to let the false hope cling to innocence once more and tear it to pieces. Here's hoping that you have a pleasant time being digested by a starved Grunt." And with that he walked away, blending seamlessly into the cold empty space that surrounded and engulfed him.

      Confused for the millionth time in such a small time, Jack found the collosal, expanded docking bays that created the underbelly of the frigate and the masses of polished war-machines and carriers, that were most ultimately, destined for a life of brief moments before being left as a smouldering pile of semi melted metal. "Albatrosses" were being loaded and unloaded with supplies, orange suited men walked bristly from each aisle, checking that each piece of machinery was in utmost condition. Oil stained the air, as dotted around were half a dozen mechanics worked their hardest to fix from a broken "Warthog"s shattered gearbox and the gauss turret, that hung feebly from its shredded, fixed position, to a "Pelican" that looked fine from one end, but on the flipside, revealed to be missing it's right wing. "Scorpion" tanks were being hosed down with high pressure hoses, trying to remove months of battle hardened mud from the matt-black treads, and "Hornets" were being stripped of battered 50mm chainguns, and replaced with gleaming missle launchers. A bunch of men were whispering to one another, risking a glance at the white soldier that could have layed in the snow for years on end without so much as trace of him being found. Eventually one of the men stepped forward, head down averting his gaze.

      "Mister…er…Prowler? We…I…they," he waved his hand in the general direction of the different coated men, "recovered something that the UNSC gave special clearence for. Apparently, whatever task force you're from, never got to use this stuff. Don't know why." Jack huffed, hardly daring to believe that word had not spread of the psychotic loony that bounced from the corridors, murdering anyone who so much as whimpers in his presence.

      "It's in that container over there," he continued, "We can have it moved to you're a more private area if you like…"

      Jack stared at the man, the soldiers, and the tanks that invited him ever so closer to the battlefield once more, and nodded, walking over towards the container and peered inside at the immaculate armor, coloured a heavenly white over dreary steel. But by the end of this, his first day to his new life. It would be painted with violet blood of the cowards, and the lava like substance from the towering Hunters.