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Castaways part 2
Posted By: jameson9101322<jameson9101322@gmail.com>
Date: 21 July 2009, 5:14 am

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Halo: Castaways log02

The terrain was almost exactly like it had been on the Ark, which was almost exactly like it had been on the Halos, which was almost exactly like it had been on Earth. The grass was green, the trees were tall and strong, the sky was blue with wisps of white cloud and white warm sun glowed peacefully over the land.

Still there was one obvious difference between HK-154 and his previous locations. That was the sound, or more accurately, the lack there of. The Master Chief puzzled at this for a moment over the white noise of Cortana's constant chattering. There was typically a natural ambience in forests; the chirp of birds, the buzzing of insects, perhaps the bark or howl of some native mammal prowling in the distance, but when he and the Arbiter fired the Ring back at the Ark, the white light of supposedly divine purification had killed all the local critters for what could have been hundreds of worlds. Earth was not in range at the time, nor, the Chief assumed, were any of the covenant homeworlds, but this planet had been, and the silence was unsettling.

He refocused his attention back to his in-house companion, who was in the middle of a long stream of statistics. " – which makes it relatively similar to Earth in respect to tilt and rotation, which therefore also equalizes the pull of gravity up to a variation of 1.4 percent. Soil samples I conclude suffer slight differences, the chemical makeup of the topsoil shows a different mixture of natural minerals, but everything checks out for healthy human consumption. The vegetation here might even be more nutritious for you than Earth produce! You will have to give me a taste analysis when the time comes for that, but at least you won't go hungry, right?"


"Unfortunately the atmosphere does not have the proper balance of oxygen to other elements so it's not safe for you to breathe, but the good news is that the elements are there in varying amounts. I'm working on a filtration system for your armor that will be able to translate the HK-154 atmosphere into breathable reserves for you to recycle. That way your tanks won't run empty in case we're stuck here a long time. If it works, I'll also be able to draw up design specs for an area-filter so perhaps you can eat the aforementioned flora without holding your breath."

"That sounds convenient."

"It will be." She answered. "I'm very much looking forward to that taste analysis."

The Chief rolled his eyes behind his visor. "And tracking it all the way down I'm sure."

Her reply was a little too anxious. "Yes, that too."

"I'm not a source of entertainment for you, Cortana." He said. "I know you've been lonely, but think twice before you use me as a guinea pig for your mad-scientist food studies."

"I'd never put you in any danger, Chief!" Cortana reassured him. "I'm just curious about what would happen that's all."

"If our luck improves it will give me super powers and let me fly around."

Cortana chuckled in his head. "You're lucky, but not THAT lucky."

They walked through the wooded glade along a free-flowing natural stream. Cortana had located what most likely was a waterfall somewhere in this area. If the fall was strong enough, it would be an excellent place to set up a waterwheel or something for charging batteries. While this would have been ideal, the state of the stream was not looking favorable. If there was a powerful waterfall in the area, it most definitely was not feeding this flow.

He noticed Cortana was still talking. "ONI dismissed this quadrant years ago as low priority, even before the war with the Covenant. There was nothing unique about it and it was too far from Alpha Quadrant to colonize. I wonder if we would have made it here if we were left on our own to expand. Imagine. A future where humankind has covered the entire galaxy!"

"Manifest Destiny at its best." The Chief noted. "We've terra-formed worse places than this. Although it'd need a better name than Heck A-Hundred and Fifty Four."

"Maybe after something in History or Earth Mythology." Cortana offered. "Mankind does love to name things symbolically from the past."

The SPARTAN shrugged in his MJOLNIR armor. "Or after some scientist or his mother."

The stream led them out of the forest toward a steep bluff. A thin waterfall was pattering down from the plateau above like a flickering silver chain from the sky. The faucet-like falls emptied into a pond and then into their stream. The Chief stared up the waterfall with disappointment. "This won't do us much good."

"You're right." Cortana agreed. "We'll just have to keep looking."

He turned and headed along the bluffs. There was a fairly substantial ice cap on the mountains above, perhaps their hydro-kinetic power source was near by. Suddenly he stopped. Trough the trees to the left he spotted a shape not native to a forest.

Cortana spotted it too. "Is that –?"

"It has to be."

It was a cabin, as small and quaint as any fairytale. The Chief cased the area around it, looking for signs of life he knew would not be there. The building was made of stone with a shingled wooden roof and delicate landscaping. A well sat nearby, but closer examination proved it to be more of a set piece than a functioning mechanism. The Chief looked down at it from above, standing nearly a foot and a half taller than the point of its tiny little roof. "I guess this means there was intelligent life on this planet."

"I guess so." Cortana agreed. She sounded distracted. "I'm picking up something weird, Chief. Some kind of a signal. I hadn't noticed it until now. Move closer to the house."

He was already on his way. The door to the building gave the Chief a sense of proportion. He was tall for a human, but this door only came to chest level on him and was rounded along the top in what he had the feeling was a specific brand of alien architecture. The frame was shaped like an Omega as were all the windows along the walls. The peak of the roof was nearly twelve feet high and at the very top was a fixed weathervane and what looked to be a radio antenna. Cortana focused tightly on that.

"The signal, Chief. It's transmitting to that receptor."

"Could there still be people alive?" The Chief asked.

"Highly unlikely." She replied. "Climb up there and fix the antenna, I want to put my ears on."

"Hah, right." The Chief said dryly. "I don't think so."

"What's the matter?" Cortana asked. "It's not like you're trespassing. You won't be bothering anyone and no one will see you if you look ridiculous. Now climb."

He hung his head in defeat, secured his Assault Rifle across his back and jumped up onto the roof. His heavily plated food went straight through the weak shingles like a pit-trap and sent him tumbling into the structure. He landed on his side in an ornate glass table with bits of roof debris showering down on top of him.

He closed his eyes and let his helmet clunk against the metal table leg. "Why do I listen to you?"

"Did I tell you to jump?"

He shoved his way back to his feet, bits of splintered wood falling from chinks in his armor like pine needles. The architecture style thankfully encouraged high-vaulted ceilings, and the Chief could rise to full height without restraint. He looked up through the skylight he'd just made. "Not a soul alive to care, yet somehow I'm still embarrassed."

"I've got it on record by the way." Cortana smirked.

"I hate you sometimes."

She brushed him off and threw up a nav point. He turned to follow her direction. "By the wall, Chief. The antenna seems to be connected to that terminal. Check it out."

He headed toward the terminal, which was little more than a screen and a couple buttons on the wall, and knelt down to take a look. Cortana mulled the situation over. "Turn it on." He paused to understand the controls. She misinterpreted his action. "Please?"

"You feeling guilty about ordering me around?" He asked, switching the screen on.

"I don't know. Perhaps that's it." She answered. "I just got you back, I don't want you to be mad at me."

He watched the little screen flicker to life with various alien dots and lines that both did and did not remind him of covenant shorthand. "You seem more human than usual lately, Cortana."

She'd become fixated with the 'Welcome Screen'. "It's a dialect of one of the Covenant languages. More specifically the Unggoy."

He sounded more shocked than he intended. "Grunts?"

"Seems that way. This is an unusual place for them to live though. The Unggoy homeworld is an icebox covered in methane gas. This is far too temperate and, frankly, cute for Grunts."

"A relative perhaps?"

"Probably." She said. "Maybe distant. Or maybe something like a trading partner. Close interactions with the Unggoy would foster the development of similar written language."

"Why do I get the feeling that these people probably thought it up first." The Chief thought. He recalled clubbing over a hundred of these little triangle-shaped aliens while they were asleep at their posts.

"From what I can tell they called this planet Kgorr, or at least this country Kgorr, or maybe the people living in this house Kgorr. It's hard to understand by this simple message. Wait. Scroll down." The Chief punched a button and the screen changed. Cortana huffed. "You pressed the menu button. Wait." Her voice sounded like she'd found the edge of some great discovery, he could feel her icy presence running rapid calculations in the back of his head. "Chief there's a city! Close by! A big one!"

"How close?"

"About seven kilometers latitudinal East." She replied. "Chief, if there is a fully functioning city on this planet, they would have food, water, power – everything we could need!" She triangulated the distance and put up a new navigation point. "Perhaps you really ARE that lucky."