A New Year's Day, Chapter 7
Posted By: Guilty Spark<email@example.com>
Date: 7 January 2003, 5:43 am
[February 4, 2558. 1415 hours. Luna II. LZ Sierra.]
Lt. Commander Pasdar and a lone Spartan stood in the open belly of Mother Goose, hovering in a small clearing between two rocky crags.
"Master Chief, this is it," shouted Pasdar above the whine of the dropship's engines. She pointed towards a crevasse in the wall of rock looming before them and continued, "Priest's team tracked a couple of aliens - probably Covenant elites - into that cave. We lost contact after they went inside. Commo. Homing beacons. Everything. It's probably the rock acting as a buffer. You'll be on your own."
"I'm used to working alone."
"I know you are, but no heroics. We're not interested in losing another soldier. Locate Priest's team and report back here by 1545 hours."
"You're not giving me much time to enjoy the scenery."
Pasdar smiled. "How does the battle suit feel?"
"Lighter than what I'm used to."
"Well, it offers at least twice the protection of the current suits. The lighter weight should improve your mobility. The shielding is slightly improved. And, the active camou is superior. It continuously re-modulates to prevent detection, but it draws power from your shielding."
"How long does it last?"
"About three hours... give or take a few minutes."
"After that, I'm visible with no shielding."
"That's right. You're visible with no shielding."
The Master Chief nodded. He shook hands with Pasdar, then activated his camou. She watched as the Spartan quickly vanished, blending in perfectly with his surroundings. Pasdar heard a faint clang and knew the Spartan was gone.
After a few minutes of walking, the Master Chief rounded a turn and stopped. The crevasse had become a cave. He noted what appeared to be a band of Covenant hieroglyphics embedded in the stone, running wall to wall. He checked his motion tracker. Nothing. The Spartan continued on until he rounded another bend. Up ahead - nearly a hundred meters away - was a doorway leading into a room. Slowly the Master Chief crept forward, hugging the wall and sticking to shadows. He paused every ten meters to watch and listen. When he neared the doorway, he a fire fight had taken place there earlier. His eyes traced the carbon scoring from wall to wall. An M33, he thought. Priest's team. They laid down a continuous arc of fire. Must have been surrounded. The Spartans eyes settled on the blood-stained floor. The blood had dried dark brown, nearly matching a natural stone color. Priest's team is minus one. He noted two more stains nearby. Maybe three.
The Master Chief reached the doorway and peered into the room. It was a large hangar with no visible opening. Several small ships were parked. The Spartan noted the resemblance to the ship the Concordia had encountered the day before. He froze against the wall. From behind, two figures approached. The Master Chief slowly drew his pistol. His eyes cut to the side to watch the oncoming threat. They were within twenty meters. The Spartan silently released the safety on the pistol. A bullet was already loaded in the chamber. Fifteen meters away. He could clearly see them now. Humanoid, not Covenant. Spartans? Part of Priest's team? The Master Chief almost called to them, then the hieroglyphics on their battle suits caught his attention. What the hell is going on here, he asked himself. Ten meters away. He drew his pistol up to release his first shots just below the visor at the humanoids' throats. He glanced left and right - no one else was around. Five meters. The humanoids appeared to be unarmed other than some sort of short metal rod each of them carried. They passed by him without notice and entered the hangar. The damn camou actually works, he thought. Buy the techs a round when you get back. Hell, buy them two rounds.
The humanoids worked their way across the hangar, disappearing through a doorway on the far side. The Master Chief noticed another doorway nearby to his right, to his left was some sort of lift. He took the nearby doorway.
[February 4, 2558. 1445 hours. Aboard the USNC Concordia orbiting Luna II.]
"Damn! He's early," muttered Halsey.
Through a nearby airlock, emerged Colonel McFarlan. "Joe, good to see you."
"Oh, cut the formalities. We've known each other too long."
Halsey relaxed. "Hello, Bryce. It's been awhile. What brings you to the Concordia?"
McFarlan smiled and shook his head. "Straight to business, huh?"
"Where can we talk in private?"
"Come with me."
Halsey and McFarlan entered a large, dark conference room.
"Lights," Halsey ordered. The conference room came to life. Lights flickered on and a bank of monitors sprung to life. Data flowed across the screens providing various bits of real-time information about the Concordia, her systems and her crew.
"Joe, I know it's unusual for me to..."
"Sir, please get to the point of why you're here."
"Calm down, Joe. Calm..."
"It's a little hard to calm down. In the last forty-eight hours, we lost Hawkins' team, we faced a Covenant battle group and encountered a new alien species claiming to be the Forerunners. And, I have a feeling Fleet knows what's going on, but is refusing to let me in on it." Sweat began forming on Halsey's forehead.
"You know as well as I that sometimes we have to operate in the dark. We can only focus on the goals set before us. Joe, you know..."
"Bullshit, Bryce! Why send the Concordia out here to watch a piece of ice that has no apparent strategic value? If Luna II is nothing more than a listening post, then why send down a recon team? Why not just use stat probes? Why are the Covenant so damn interested in Luna II?" Halsey paused, unclinched his teeth, then continued, "Bryce, if you know something..."
"Is that an order from captain to colonel?"
"Take it ever how you wish. How about we call Admiral Stanrich? I'm sure he would take interest in this."
"Who do you think sent me here?"
Halsey's eyes widened.
"Okay, Joe. Around nine months ago, we received intelligence that the Covenant were heavily bombarding Luna II. No one knew why. USNC had no forces on Luna II. They seemed ready to glass the planet. It never got that far. Something stopped them cold. We weren't sure what was going on, so we put our piece into play. USNC began sending in expeditionary forces to investigate Luna II and harass the Covenant. It wasn't long before a team witnessed the Covenant getting their asses handed to them by another alien species." McFarlan broke into a broad smile. "Joe, we think this species is indeed the Forerunners."
"How can you be so sure?"
McFarlan paused. "Lieutenant Wallace?"
A voice came back across the intercom, "Yes, sir?"
"Please bring in the casket."
The doors to the conference opened. Four men wheeled in a large cylindrical container. They rested the container nearby then left the room.
McFarlan walked over to the cylinder. "If I open this, then you will be one of few who have witnessed its contents. You will be sworn to complete secrecy. Are you in?"
"Of course," replied Halsey eager to see the contents but having a sense that he knew what lay inside.
McFarlan tapped a keypad on the base of the container. The doors of the container slid open. A light emanated from within the tube revealing a humanoid figure floating in a suspension fluid.
"What the hell..."
"A Forerunner, Joe."
"It looks like..."
"A man. We noticed. There are a few minor differences in its physiology compared to humans. Most notably in the brain. Differences we would consider evolutionary."
Halsey moved closer to the container peering intently at the figure within.
"A recon team discovered his body." McFarlan continued, "We have been studying him for over five months."
"Like I said, they share much the same physiology with mankind. Look at this." McFarlan held up part of a battle suit.
"The breast plate to a Mark V. So what?"
Halsey saw it. Hieroglyphics. "Covenant writing?"
"Looks like it, doesn't it. It's Forerunner writing. We have deciphered little of it, but we are pretty sure the Covenant are emulating their writing. Why? We don't know. Could be part of their worship of the Forerunner."
"Worship? You said the Covenant were fighting with the Forerunners."
"Indeed. The deciphered writing leads us to believe the Covenant have an odd belief system. They worship those more powerful than themselves, such as the Forerunners. They aspire to be like the Forerunners."
"What happens if they succeed?"
"Then, the Covenant will probably treat them the same way they treat us. If it gets to that point, then... lets just hope it doesn't get there."
"Okay, what happened to him? How did you get your hands on this body?"
"I knew you would ask."