A Really Big Ring, Just What I Always Wanted [H&R 11]
Posted By: Jillybean<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 25 September 2003, 7:01 PM
Halos and Rings
A Really Big Ring, Just What I Always Wanted
"You've got to save me!" Cortana wailed. Daxia grinned at her co-pilot and brought the Pelican down to pick up the marines in South Africa. "This co-ordinating business is driving me nuts! Do you have any idea how . . . how boring these other AI's are!"
"What do you want me to do Cortana?" Daxia asked through her laughter. O'Flynn giggled.
"Storm the place and take me away?" Cortana asked hopefully.
"Hey is that Cortana?" The sergeant of this particularly company asked, leaning forward to hear the radio better. Daxia nodded. "Hey Cortana! How's it going?" The sergeant called cheerily.
"Just fine Sarge. Though I'm bored out of my mind!" Cortana added darkly, for Daxia's benefit.
"Oh Cortana - this is for earth." Daxia said sincerely, slapping at O'Flynn to stop her laughing. "This is what you have to do." She said, but then she broke down into giggles.
"You want propaganda?" Cortana asked. "I have a list of lines to tell doomed Pelican pilots - wanna hear some?"
"You're alright Cortana." Lara O'Flynn said. "Hang on a sec, we have some enemy fire from below, we'll be taking the long way around."
"Copy that." Cortana replied. Daxia steered the Pelican further away.
"Is it really all that bad Cortana?" She asked sympathetically.
"Yeah." Cortana said.
"I'll drop by as soon as I can." Daxia promised. "You get me the clearance and I'll be at your location in my next free shift. Don't say I'm not good to you."
"Would I ever?" Cortana asked.
Siberia was always cold, but today Daxia really shivered. Working in Africa always brought home just how cold Siberia really was. The regulars in the bunkers nodded to her as she walked the corridors - she visited Cortana often.
She was allowed into Cortana's 'room' a large holographic emitter that had some of the basic controls for modifying Cortana's program. There was more than one AI housed in that room, in fact there were several - but Cortana was right. They were all as dull as dishwater. Cortana appeared the second Daxia entered.
"Daxia!" She cried cheerily. "How are you?"
"I'm good." Daxia admitted, looking up at the indigo and lilac AI that stood infront of her. "I'm . . . coping. Lara's been great, I know you've been trying to keep us posted together."
"Least I could do." Cortana said. She tipped her head thoughtfully. "You know - there are rumblings round abouts here."
"Rumblings?" Daxia repeated.
Beside them Mitra flickered into view. She glared at Cortana and the younger AI sighed irritatedly.
"Nothing you need to worry about Lieutenant." Mitra said. Daxia had been promoted to lieutenant after returning Cortana, two long months ago.
"I beg to differ." Cortana said.
"I WILL overrule you Cortana." Mitra warned. "Don't make me do that Cortana."
"Stick around though." Cortana said to Daxia, the lieutenant smiled and nodded.
"I will Cortana. So - what do you want to know about?"
The crew quarters in Siberia were vast and mixed. There were long racks of bunks that the marines were often herded into. There were more private quarters that the brass had the good sense not to assign anyone to. The old adage about love and war held true, private quarters were in much demand. Daxia was walking through them right now, trying not to think about her last time in one of these rooms.
She got to the barracks and found her assigned bunk. The quiet chatter of marines soothed her to sleep.
And as always she woke up to the noise of Flood. She jerked awake, breathing heavily.
"You okay lieutenant?" Asked a nearby marine. She nodded, heading for the showers. She wasn't 'okay' exactly, but it was normal for her.
The call to Governor Mitchell's office was a surprise. Especially when Cortana and General Henderson was there too. She entered and stood to attention, sneaking a glance at Cortana.
"Please." Mitchell waved her to the spare seat in the room. "Sit down lieutenant." He waited until she was seated to continue. "How do you think the war is going, Daxia? May I call you Daxia?"
"Uh - yes. Sir." Daxia said. She frowned as she thought about the second question. "I'm not sure I see enough of the overall picture to comment on the war, sir." She said. The general laughed and clapped her on the shoulder.
"You're a good girl." He said. "But don't bullshit us. What do you really think?"
"I think we're losing sir." Daxia replied with blunt honesty. "Our marines are tired - we're all starting to lose hope. There are hardly enough civilians left to repopulate the colonies anyway. If we don't do something soon there are going to be big problems."
Mitchell stood from his desk and paced worriedly.
"You see lieutenant - that is our conclusion too. Now we, the uh 'Brass' - as those in the field call us - have thought of a solution."
"Really sir?" Daxia couldn't help sounding sceptical.
"Yes . . . we have liaised with Cortana and we believe we know the location of another Halo."
Daxia glared at Cortana who shrugged.
"What?" The AI asked.
"The Halos are not a solution to anything." Daxia said coldly. Cortana shook her head.
"Hear us out Daxia."
"You see lieutenant, with your knowledge of both the Halos and the Flood - and your proven tactical ability, we think you would be a perfect candidate to lead an expedition to the nearest Halo." The general said to her. "With two warships-"
"Two!" Daxia exclaimed, there was no way the fleet could spare that many! They had to be pulling her leg.
"We think it's the bare minimum that should be allowed on such a dangerous mission." The general told her. "We are taking this very seriously Ring. We need to do two things. Firstly: Secure the Halo and establish a base on it. Secondly: Transport as many civilians as possible to our new base."
"This is crazy." Daxia said.
"As *Commander* of such a mission, you would be privvy to all our information." Mitchell said.
"You can't bribe me with a promotion." Daxia snarled.
"You got the promotion Daxia because, despite what you think, we know everything you've sacrificed for this war. You got the promotion because we know you can handle it." Mitchell told her calmly. "We need someone with first hand knowledge of the Flood."
"Even if we get past the Covenant and find that the Covenant don't have a presence on the Halo - we still have to contend with the monitor there." Daxia pointed out. She turned to Cortana. "You can't seriously be endorsing this? Can you?"
"The Halos are a paradise." Cortana said. "And earth physically can't sustain humanity for much longer. They are fortress's. A Halo could support a selection of humans, ones that could farm and produce weapons, vehicles - everything we so desperately we need. It's going to be difficult Daxia, but we really don't have another option."
"If - and I do mean if - I took the mission." Daxia said. "I'd want my sister to be on one of the transports out of here."
"That would be done." Mitchell agreed calmly. "And Cortana would be, of course, with you every step of the way."
"Then - who would be my Captain?" Daxia asked.
"There would be two captains, and although you rank below them - they would answer to you." The general told her. Daxia exhaled shakily.
"Let me look at the mission specs - in detail and-"
"I'm afraid you'd be confirming the mission specs." Mitchell told her. "In brief and in detail."
"Shit." Daxia murmured. "You guys really are desperate, aren't you?"
"Yes." Was Mitchell's reply.
"Then I'll do it." Daxia said.
"Assume that all Halos are built the same." Daxia instructed Cortana, removing her jacket and hanging it on the back of the chair. The small office she had been given to use was almost taken up with everything that had been found out about the Flood and Halos - which went to show that the office was very small indeed. Now dressed in UNSC standard issue tank top, khaki's and boots she paced the room.
"It would be best to get me into the Control Room as quickly as possible." Cortana suggested. "From there I could likely attack the monitor of that particular Halo. I've learned a lot since the last one, I could probably put my mind to hacking the codes."
"There's a lot of 'probably' in there." Daxia said.
The newly made Commander ran her hands through her hair [which was needing cut] and thought about how best to tackle the problem.
"Most of the offensive we found on Halo was Covenant -right?" Daxia asked. "This other Halo, do you think they've found it?"
"I don't know." Cortana replied, then she looked up - suddenly sparked. "But I imagine the Avalon does! It's a Forerunner ship, it should have data about the Halo's - shouldn't it?"
"Start hacking." Daxia ordered.
"Yes ma'am." Cortana said with a grin.
The Chief was starting to get bored. There was only so long one could be in a tiny life-pod and not be bored. He had put all his energy into working out and battle strategy, but the tiny confines of the pod were starting to weigh him down.
What more could he do? Apart from star-gazing endlessly. The meagre rations in the life-pod, though capable of sustaining him if he was careful, were about as appetizing as the soup he had been given on the Forerunner ship.
Why hadn't he just stolen the Camelot? That would have been a much better idea. Imagine the expression on Daxia's face if he came back with a ship like that!
He missed her. He missed Cortana. He missed humans. He missed things outside this goddamned pod.
At least soon he would be coming into Covenant controlled territory - then he might be able to hijack a faster - and bigger - ship.
"This is Captain Tyler and this is Captain Lewis. They will be in command of the Nightwing and the Gauntlet respectively." General Henderson introduced her to two men in their mid-fifties. Tyler had ebony skin and a warm smile, he shook Daxia's hand, gripping it firmly.
"Pleased to make your acquaintance Commander." He said in a thickly Australian accent. Daxia smiled.
"You too Captain Tyler." She said, turning to Lewis. Lewis had the sort of calm, quiet confidence that made him instantly attractive. He shook her hand too.
"Commander." He said politely.
"And these are the sergeants in charge of the marines." Henderson waved his hand over the row of eight sergeants. Daxia nodded at each of them. "Do you want to give your debrief now?" Henderson asked. Daxia nodded again.
"Yes I do."
"Gentlemen!" She called as she stood in front of them all. "I don't know what it is you think you've signed on for - but rest assured - this will be like nothing you've ever faced. And I'm not just talking about working with Cortana." She added with the trademark humour that made the marines fall in love with her.
"Hey." Cortana grinned.
"We are talking about an evac mission on the biggest scale." Daxia continued. "Not only that but we got scary fucking zombies - one wrong move and we are all dead. Not just us, not just humans - but all of us." She walked up and down the line of men. "You need to do what I tell you. When I tell you. Cortana and I will try to keep you informed of any situation - but if we say 'jump' - you don't ask how high - you just do it. Do I make myself clear?"
"Sir! Yes sir!" The marine sergeants called effectively. Tyler grinned at her.
"When d'ya want my job?" He asked.
"We leave at 06:00 hours." She told them. "We're making a few blind jumps to try and loose the Covenant before we get there - the Covvies haven't found the Halo yet, and I'll be damned if we lead them there."
"Hey Lara." Daxia caught up with O'Flynn in the mess hall. "Ready to leave tomorrow?"
"Yeah." Lara said, spooning some noodles in her mouth. "So get you Commander, giving out debriefs and everything. I might get jealous."
"Shut up." Daxia grinned. "Listen - thanks for agreeing to come along."
"Hey you can't do it without me." Lara winked. "I've saved your butt more times than you can count. Besides, going to a Halo? After all you told me about it?" She softened the sarcasm with a smile. "I wouldn't let you do this alone."
"You're so sweet." Daxia drawled. "You should catch some sleep though, we've got a long mission ahead of us."
"Plenty of time to sleep when you're dead." Lara replied. "I'm getting me some of that marine booty before we leave."
Daxia did what she was not supposed to do - she went outside. It was dangerous, she could freeze to death, she could be shot, she could have fallen down a crevice and no one would have known. But she did it.
She wanted to see stars.
The cold night air showed her tiny diamonds glistening in the deep navy sky, occasionally a brighter one would catch her eye - probably a ship or something. She exhaled and watched her breath mist up. This was probably the first time since Halo she had actually sought to be alone, but there was something she had to do.
"This is so crazy." She murmured, laughing a little. "But if you can hear me, please - help me out here. I'm so scared." She looked back up at the stars and retreated inside the base.
"He's here!" A little grunt wailed just before the Chief slammed his gun into the back of it's neck. He fired off a round at the nearest Elite and finished it off with two uppercuts.
"They're everywhere!" Another grunt shouted, the Chief swung around, flinging a grenade at the approaching elites. He jumped into the fast little Covenant shuttle, turning and cleaning up the few remaining jackals with some rounds from his Needler.
The Covenant shuttle took to the air.