Galaxy 07 - Part 10 - Exiled
Posted By: Jillybean<email@example.com>
Date: 3 May 2004, 8:29 PM
AN: Long absence, so here's a rundown of what happened previously. After destroying the galaxy by firing the Halos, the Forerunners kidnapped some specimens of all Covenant and human species. Daxia and John led an escape plan and used the Forerunner technology to return to their galaxy (Galaxy 07). Returning to the colonized Halos they helped forge a Covenant-Human alliance, which has not been met with great enthusiasm. Cortana's program degradation was directly leading to John's ill-health so Cortana downloaded her memory into Halsey's daughter (Aislinn's foster daughter). For unknown reasons, Cortana kicked Daxia out of the colonized Halo and left her to fend for herself.
For Ishe' Manatee there was no choice. He left the Halo, following Daxia with more than a few of his Covenant allies. He stood in cockpit of the Avalon waiting for Daxia or John to talk. John was the only human Daxia had allowed to follow her, and even then it had been at John's insistence.
From the cargo bay emerged a blue armoured Elite named Lilo' Maya. "How long now?"
Daxia's blond curls shifted a fraction as she checked the chronometer. "Three days."
"Ah," the blue Elite turned his mandibles in Ishe's direction. He expressed his equivalent of discomfort and returned to the cargo bay.
Ishe' Manatee settled himself down for a long wait.
John trained with the Covenant in the cargo bay, enjoying the challenge of their superior strength and agility. It helped take his mind off Cortana.
He had betrayed Cortana. For whatever reasons, the AI had chosen to exile Daxia from the military, forced her away from all she knew. Cortana said that it had been because Daxia consistently disobeyed orders . . . but John knew that couldn't be right. Cortana and Daxia had been friends. Yes they had had minor disagreements but that didn't ratify this sort of treatment.
And Cortana was not pleased with him.
"Don't. That's an order, Spartan."
"You're wrong, Cortana."
"I am not wrong!"
The memory broke John's concentration and he stumbled, falling from the high beam. Ishe' Manatee leapt to catch him.
"Is everything okay, John 117?"
"Yeah," John snapped, pulling away. He brushed past the other Covenant, finding himself in his quarters. He lay on the bunk, his head aching. That wasn't unusual nowadays.
He tried to drift off to sleep, but the constant dull thud against his skull made it impossible. Images of Cortana in little Tana's body kept flitting around inside his head.
Cortana stood, in the body of a child, with a knife in her hands.
Daxia lay dead and bleeding on the ice.
"She just wouldn't follow orders," Cortana tutted. She stooped to wipe the blade on the soft, white snow. Her blue eyes flickered up to meet John's. "Don't worry. I'm sure the Forerunner will return to help her."
"What have you done?" John gasped.
"She didn't do anything. You let it happen," Aislinn said from beside him. She was thin and haggard. "You bastard, you killed my baby. My little girl." Her cool, impassive delivery did more to spook John than the words or the deed. "And now you'll let my sister die. Damn, you must really love my family."
"I didn't do anything!" John gritted his teeth, grabbing Aislinn's arms. The woman disappeared in a gust of wind.
"John?" Cortana croaked from the snow. "I don't feel well . . ." She stared at her hands, shaking.
"Poor child has some sort of virus," Halsey deduced. She raised an eyebrow at John's surprise. "Did you think I was gone from your life, Spartan?"
"I . . ." John frowned. "I don't know what I thought."
"That's a shame, John. That's a shame." Halsey shook her head, walking off into the snow.
John sat up, fully awake.
Daxia was perched at the end of the bed, watching him. "You didn't hear me come in."
John said nothing, sweating from the nightmare.
She shook her head and stood, pacing the length of the short cabin. "You're not well, I shouldn't have let you come."
"I'm fit for duty."
"I don't care about duty! John!" Daxia leaned against the far wall, shutting her eyes.
"I'm fine," John swung his legs over the side of the bunk. "I just keep having these dreams."
"What about?" Daxia swallowed her trepidation and asked.
". . . You. Dying, mostly."
"Cheery," Daxia said dryly, humour returned.
John mustered a smile. It became easier when Daxia crouched, taking his hands.
"I'll take it as a compliment," she murmured.
John nodded. "How long till we reach Earth?"
"Hours yet." Daxia climbed onto the bunk and curled her legs under her, leaning on his shoulder. "Time for some rest."
John put his arm around her shoulders and leaned back against the bulkhead. "Are you okay?"
Daxia was thoughtful for a while. "I wonder if we should have taken Aislinn and Wallace and baby John." She shivered. "And Mary and the marines and . . ."
"You couldn't take them all with you," John murmured. "We don't even know if Earth's viable."
"I know, I know," Daxia replied. "But I miss her so much." Daxia dosed eventually, her breathing slowed and her shivers stopped.
John couldn't sleep.
The Avalon descended into Earth's atmosphere. The radiation wave that the Halos had emitted had irradiated all biomass, but left Earth's buildings standing. The dust that covered Earth's surface was enough to remind the landing party just how bad things had got in this Galaxy.
In their full enviro suits John and Daxia trekked through the snow that covered the Siberian bunkers.
"Hold here," John called to her. He crouched and started to wipe away at the snow, picking through a thin layer of ice to a concealed control panel.
"They must have used this recently," Daxia's voice crackled over the radio. "Or there would have been more ice."
John nodded, flipping the hatch open and entering his code.
Hydraulics hissed and the snow around them shook. A door opened in the snow and the long passage down into the Siberian bunkers was revealed.
"I guess that means there's something left . . ." Daxia said.
"Here's hoping." John led the way down the long corridor. It was wide enough for Pelicans to fly through, with some manoeuvring. The two humans made the long walk, listening to the hatch close behind them.
Fluorescent lighting followed them deep into the bowels of the Earth.
"Welcome," the grey AI in front of them was vaguely familiar.
"Duskins?" John asked.
The AI appeared surprised. "Indeed. Please, follow me. We'll have to scrub you down before we let you in. We are very pleased to see you." He led them to a Decontamination Unit. Humans in enviro suits hosed them down and then sent them through a bio-field.
"You can remove your suits now," Duskins said to them.
Daxia pulled off her helmet, stepping out of the suit.
"Ah! Commander Ring, excellent to see you again! And SPARTAN-117." Duskins looked pleased with himself. "You were presumed lost with the fleet."
"Well there was a change of plans. Who's in charge here?" John asked.
"I am." From the Observation Room entered a short, thin man. He had been an Admiral of the UNSC fleet. "Admiral Kraus, good to see you two. No doubt you both have some stories."
"Yes we do," Daxia said. "But it's good to see a friendly face."
Kraus suddenly grinned. "Yes it sure is."