Home Is Where The Halo Is [H&R12]
Posted By: Jillybean<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 30 September 2003, 3:12 PM
Halos and Rings
AN: I am aware Banshee's don't work any poorer in the snow - I took artistic license
Home Is Where The Halo Is
"Thought you'd want to see this." Captain Tyler said as Daxia walked onto the bridge. She was groggy from the cryogenics - but the sight in front of her was like a bucket of ice-cold water.
"Isn't it beautiful?" Cortana said, appearing in the holo-emitter. Daxia couldn't stop the tiny smile that crept over her face.
"It is." She admitted. The Halo twirled lazily in front of the Nightwing and Gauntlet, it's waters gleamed underneath them, it's mountains stood proudly reaching to space, the cold mechanical underside was the only hint of danger.
"I thought it would be smaller." Lewis mused from the COM channel on the Gauntlet. Cortana met Daxia's eyes for a second and the commander turned to the pilot.
"Bring us closer, see if you can get us inside the circumference."
"Is that wise?" The pilot asked, nevertheless doing what he was told. Daxia nodded, folding her arms against the chill in the air.
"It's the safest place to be. The Halo has few defence systems other than it's main firing mechanism." She explained.
"Sir, yes sir." The pilot said.
"The Gauntlet is matching our path." Cortana reported. "Fiveson has all systems monitored, he reports nothing out of the ordinary."
"Good." Daxia turned to the captain. "We have to hit hard and fast if we want to get the upper hand, let's get the marines ready."
"Uh huh! That's what I'm talking about!"
"Smells like Paree in ze mornin!"
"Aye but without the stench o' Covenant shite mate."
Daxia listened to the various reactions of the marines, she looked around the high Halo ground they had landed on. She had seen this area only briefly, it had been Foehammer who had run the drops in this area last time.
"Fiveson, how are the ship scans coming along?" She asked the AI still in space, loading her assault rifle.
"It looks as though this Halo follows the original schematics - roughly." Fiveson sounded a little doubtful. "The terrain has many natural changes, however, all the main structures are within acceptable parameters."
"So watch out for any surprises." Daxia said. Cortana's chip was safely hugged in her jacket pocket - but they had no way to talk to her until they got to the control room.
"There's nothing here." Annie ran up to Daxia and the sergeant to report. "No Covenant, no Sentinels - we don't even see a monitor."
"Right. Secure the area, once it's secure then head to the swamps. Secure that area - but do not, I repeat, do not under any circumstances enter the installations." Daxia told the sergeant. She headed for the Avalon, sitting patiently on the ground.
"Everything good?" O'Flynn asked from inside. Daxia nodded, climbing into the pilots seat.
"Yup. Fire Team Alpha, come in Fire Team Alpha." She opened a com.
"This is Fire Team Alpha. We have the area secured. No hostiles."
"We're on our way Fire Team Alpha, be prepared for hostiles." Daxia lifted the Avalon into the air and started her skimming the Halo surface. Below them they saw groups of marines working to secure Halo. Though against what threat - Daxia dreaded to think.
"I got a bad feeling about this." O'Flynn murmured as they reached the snowy ground. "Are the weather systems malfunctioning?"
"No." Daxia murmured. "Cortana thinks it's because most of the machinery is stored here. It's cooler - helps the computers work. It also plays Hell on a Banshee engine."
"Huh. Cool." O'Flynn landed them in a large canyon. "This place is amazing." She said, getting out as the marines rushed to meet them.
"No hostiles detected ma'am." One of the sergeants told her. Sergeant Deck was the other sergeant in the area but he was keeping a look out on the pyramid structure that coated the canyon's side. Daxia nodded, tugging her helmet down a little tighter against the chill.
"We'll soon fix that." She said. "O'Flynn - keep the Avalon warm, we might need a quick evac. Sergeant Klaus, I want some of your men to stay out here and guard the Avalon, the rest of us are going in."
The marines opened each of the doors to the control room easily, there was no Sentinels to stop them. And Halo looked all the more alien for the absence of the Covenant.
Daxia held her rifle at the ready as the final door slid open, revealing the glass Halo control room.
"Jesus." A marine beside her murmured. "This is place is so whack." The marines filtered in to the room, checking everywhere. Daxia headed straight for the control panel, inserting Cortana's chip.
"Feels so good to be home!" Cortana flared into life above them, glowing pink, then red - then back to her purple. The red in her eyes did not fade. "Oh. This. Is. Glorious!"
"Cortana." Daxia said softly. The AI brought herself back under control with an affected cough and a wink at the marines. Daxia was not so easily reassured - Cortana liked the Halos too much for her liking.
"Okay . . ." Cortana concentrated for a minute. "Very interesting," she opened her eyes and focussed on Daxia. "Good news, or bad news?" She asked.
"Bad news first." Daxia said.
"The bad news is that the Monitor knows we're here and has sent Sentinels to investigate. A marine opened fire and the Sentinels have assumed a position of hostility."
"You there." Daxia waved at a marine. "Get back outside, warn everyone." She turned back to Cortana. "And the good news?"
"There are no Flood on this ring. 30, 000 years ago there was a minor disaster and the monitor had to destroy the few Flood specimens he had."
"No Flood?" Daxia asked.
"Not so much as a . . .. uh . . . .hair." Cortana replied.
"Move out!" The sergeant had them moving forward while Daxia warned them to be careful.
"To better understand this Halos systems I'd need the Index." Cortana said to the commander who nodded.
"All in good time Cortana, first we secure the Halo - then we worry about the Index." She said. She had no intention of giving Cortana said index, she was pretty sure the AI could manage without it until she adapted to the freedom Halo gave her. Right now Cortana was just a little too crazy - like a colt that had been in the stable too long and was suddenly let out to pasture.
Daxia's grandparents had raised mustangs on one of Saturn's moons. She remembered them tell the story of when they all got up on a ship and moved away - a big carrier with only their son, a stallion and two mares. That was they could afford to take with them. Once they got to the terra formed moon they plotted out a piece of land and started to work for their living.
Daxia's father had met a nice young girl on a nearby ranch and they had moved into the city, both eager to escape their families 'farming roots'. Daxia's parents hadn't cared for stories of chasing stray mustangs into the paddock, or fighting off crashed pirates. Daxia had treasured the trips to her grandparents - riding the big old mare, the only surviving member of the three horses that had been transported all that way.
A little girl, carefree in the light of Saturn's glowing rings. She hadn't known that the sober men who took the long drive to the ranch were there to tell her grandparents the terrible news. Her parents had been killed on their holiday cruise, her parents had been shot out of the sky by pirates. Daxia hadn't understood then why she and her little sister were never going back to the big flat in the city - she had been kinda pleased. Apart from losing all her friends, she had fun on the ranch. She went to a new school and was there as her little sister took her first wobbling steps. She remembered one day asking grams - 'where's mam?' And really only then did she discover her parents had waved her away for the last time.
"Well. This is a surprise!" A marine shouted as the Master Chief ducked around a fallen block of concrete. He turned his shoulder to get a decent shot at the Covenant before them.
"Sorry for firing at you sir!" An aussie shouted. "We thoughts you were Covvie in that ship."
"Understood solider!" The Chief eased the young mans mind. "Where's our base?"
"We don't got many of those anymore!" The aussie laughed as if it was some marvellous joke.
"Well let's evac to the nearest one." The Chief shouted back. "We're pinned down here, there's nothing more we can do."
"No - you don't understand." The aussie waved his hand at the seven marines that were firing back at the Covenant. "We're all that's left of three squads. Nowadays we drop into a Covvie area; fight for a bit and if there's any survivors: we hide. It's the only way to keep them from our cities."
"You mean for the last four months you've made no progress?" The Chief asked incredulously. The aussie grinned.
"Hey Chief - for the last four months they've started pulling the best marines out. Earth is lost. Get used to it." He said. "Besides, I thought you were dead."
"What did your drill sergeant always tell you?" The Chief asked, trying to come to terms with the fact that Earth was lost.
"To expect the unexpected?" The aussie asked, remembering long forgotten days through a mist.
"Exactly." The Chief flung himself over the concrete and into the fray.
Siberia was as he remembered it. Cold, cold and again - cold. He debriefed quickly, explaining that the monitor was trying to find suitable candidates to be the Reclaimer and Preserver. He said that he had stalled 343 Guilty Spark's progress on this front, but he didn't know for how long. General Henderson found this report satisfactory and told him to freshen up - he'd be briefed on the situation at 23:00 hours.
John took a shower - which was the height of luxury for a man who'd spent four months in a confined space. Then he went to the gym and ran for two hours.
Feeling more relaxed, he began to think about other things beyond his training and mission. Where was Daxia? Where was Cortana? He tried to open a channel to Cortana, but Mitra told him Cortana was no longer on earth. The rest of that information was classifed.
"And before you ask Spartan-117, Commander Ring is no longer on earth either. That information is also classified."
So John went back to the gym.
"This place stinks." A marine expressed his opinion for all to hear. Daxia smirked, looking through the Flood containment area she had come to the same conclusion. Rotting Flood was not a pleasant odour.
"It smells of - how you say? Ze stench of a London sewer." The French one said, Jean-Pierre if Daxia remembered correctly.
"Heard that mate." The British marine said, he grinned at Daxia as he stopped to pull a cigar from his jacket pocket. He offered it to Daxia, grinning when she refused. "All the more for me love."
"Don't light up." Daxia ordered.
"I am a marine darlin'." He told her, sticking the cigar in his mouth. "But there's nothing here anyway." He said, looking around. "The name's Ben, don't laugh. Better name than old Bob over there."
"Daxia." Daxia shook Ben's hand. "Nice to meet you."
"Bloody marvellous to meet you." Ben said with a grin. Daxia laughed a little and turned to face the approaching sergeant.
"All areas secure ma'am. What do we do now?" He asked. Daxia opened a channel to Cortana.
"What's our status Cortana?"
"Fire Team Bravo took out the monitor, 420 Guilty Spark if you want to know. He's been sealed into an empty missile and shot off into space since he seems to be indestructible and also able to tap into the transporter system. With no other AI's the Sentinels have started listening to me. I'm working on the Halo systems - but they're massive, it'd go much faster if I had an Index."
"Cortana . . ."
"I know I know I know." The AI said impatiently. "Colt. Stable. Field. You've told me the analogy twice now."
"Just so long as you know."
"I suggest getting the base camps set up in all the strong holds. I've directed the shipboard AI's to keep scanning the surrounding space but there's nothing coming. We should move on to phase 2 - prepare the ground for civilians."
"You heard the lady." Daxia said to them.
"Right! Move out!" The sergeant said, he paused, looking at Daxia. "Ma'am, may I make a suggestion?"
"Certainly sergeant." Daxia said.
"This place may be safe but I know me and the other men'd be a whole lot happier if you had a bodyguard or two. Just to be on the safe side." The sergeant added. Daxia smirked a little.
"Who did you have in mind?" She asked, deciding to be pleased that they'd shown so much concern.
"Jean-Pierre and I volunteer." Ben said quickly. The sergeant nodded and pointed to them both.
"Watch the lady." He said, moving out. Daxia rolled her eyes and headed for O'Flynn and the Avalon, her new pets tailing her.
"Ah - John." Governor Mitchell smiled when the Spartan entered his office. "Take a seat John."
"Yes sir. Thank you sir." John sat down. Mitchell turned a big smile at him.
"It is wonderful to see you alive John, absolutely marvellous. We had feared you were lost." Mitchell smiled darkly. "I'm sure Commander Ring will be very pleased."
John wondered if he was abnormal - that his first thought in relation to Daxia was not always sex. He understood that the Catalytic Thyroid Implant all Spartans had been given also reduced the sex drive, but surely not that much?
"I'm pleased too." He said, drawing another big smile from Mitchell.
"Yes - however in your absence you will have noticed that earth is no longer a secure location for our civilians. Commander Ring is currently heading a mission to another Halo-"
"Another Halo? Daxia?" John snapped, suddenly concerned. "Which Halo? How many re-inforcements, I must insist Governor that I-"
"John." The Governor said sharply, calling the Spartan reluctantly to order. "We have received a coded transmission from Cortana - all is going well. They are currently setting up a military base there, but also a place for civilians to live. We've already selected which civilians will be transported to Halo. You will be accompanying those ships. Understood Spartan?"
"In the mean time - earth needs you."
John had once learned a lesson about what three options were open to you if you faced an enemy greater than you:
Charge them - they were pinned down, they could not.
Surrender - he'd die first.
Retreat - surely there had to be a better place to retreat to?
Under the night sky and the dull glow from the bluish planet this Halo orbited, the marines finally stopped 'unpacking' as they called it. They gathered around camp-fires and entertained themselves with songs and stories and they ate the rations softened with boiled Halo water.
The marines were already referring to Halo as 'home' - it was a strange thing for Daxia to witness. They were almost as devoted to the machine they'd landed on two days ago as they were to their own planet. She wondered if she could ever adapt to calling a Halo 'home'. The rising curve of her landscape in the distance was an image that had haunted her dreams - would she ever find as reassuring as the marines did?
"We used to shoot rats back home on Eridani." A marine was saying. "But of course- the rats blew up a whole lot easier than the Covenant do."
"You are so full of shit Ernie." O'Flynn laughed heartily. "With your aim - no way you know how a rat blows up!" They all laughed, even Daxia. She spent time with the marines and pilots because she felt more at home with their laughter and rations - than with the captains and their full meals up on the ships.
"Oh bite me Lara." Ernie replied.
"She really will you know." Daxia warned, getting another laugh. O'Flynn licked her lips saucily. The conversation lulled as everyone looked mournfully down at their empty bowls.
"I wonder if there's any wildlife around here." Ben said, looking over his shoulder as if he expected to see a rabbit. Daxia shrugged.
"Dunno - but it's not that difficult to acclimate new animals to new places." She said. "My grandparents did it with some mustangs on Saturn."
"Ah - an Inner world girl, are ya?" Ernie asked, with the contempt that all outer colonists had for those who had stayed in Sol's system. Daxia smiled and nodded.
"Born and bred."
"Hey - we're all human now." Ben said softly. "We all bleed red, I think we've spilt enough to prove it."
"Not any more we're not." O'Flynn spoke up. "We're Halo-ers."
"That's right!" Ernie punched the air. "Haloers!"
"That is - how you say? Ringers perhaps would be better?" Jean-Pierre suggested. Ernie stared at him as if he'd just worked out how to make an inner system jump through slipstream.
"Ringers." O'Flynn. "Yeah - I like that. Got a ring to it." She winked at Daxia who in return shoved her co-pilot off the log she was sitting on.
"So why'd ya leave Saturn?" Ben asked after some more silence. Daxia thought about it. How to explain the lazy days of summer and the joy she found in fixing the pieces of equipment around the barn? How to explain the way she had coasted through life until one day when someone suggested the UNSC. She thought it had been a professor. It seemed to be a good idea, between her and Aislinn, she had always been the orderly sister with the good marks. The UNSC had been the automatic suggestion and she had done as she was told. Then there was the Covenant and everything changed.
"Just did." She answered and Ben nodded.
"Yeah - I think that's how all of us got here." He said, gazing at the stars. "We just did." They all had stories, they all had pain - they'd all seen a Glassed world by now. They just did.
Cortana brought her holographic presence into view when Daxia entered with her two body-guards. She smiled down at the commander, folding her arms.
"Decided to pay me a visit at last?" She asked, grinning with Daxia.
"I could just march right back out you know-" Daxia suggested, looking as if she was about to do just that. "Thought you'd like to know that all our bases are now operational and ready for civilian populators." She cocked her head a little. "You might want to check up on the progress of the Civilian carriers."
"I've been doing that regularly for the past month." Cortana said. "They're moving slowly, taking great care to avoid all Covenant. They should be here within . . . say the next five weeks?"
"Excellent." The commander was grinning wildly, Cortana began to get suspicious.
"What . . . "
"Got a present for you." Daxia revealed the Index from her pocket and tossed it around. Cortana actually squealed with glee. "Captains Lewis, Tyler and myself discussed this at great length - but we think you handled the Halo system responsibly. We're giving it to you." She said, inserting it into a control panel. Cortana gleamed green and red, finally relaxing back into indigo.
"Thank you Daxia." She said. "Thank you so much."
"You're welcome." Daxia said, turning back out of the Control Room.
"Here they come." The Lieutenant on the bridge of the Gauntlet said. Daxia took a deep breath, seeing the ships grow in size as they approached the Halo. There was a large refitted Science vessel to carry all the young and intelligent civilians that Halo could possibly support. She was flanked by two warships - it was the best and brightest on the civilian carrier - they could not afford to loose them.
"Let's get the welcome mat out." Lewis said.
Commander Daxia Ring stood in front of the civilians in the large bay of the science vessel. They all watched her intently, the had been told they were being relocated - but apart from that they had no idea what to expect. Army brutality? Barracks and slave labour? Perhaps - but only if they choose to see it that way.
"You have all been allocated a drop ship number. After being dropped in your designated area a marine will show you to your barracks. The quarters aren't that comfortable yet - but that's what you're there to do. Craftsmen will be briefed on what we need from you, while those with no specific purpose" [read people who had connections or women that were to be used to produce more cannon fodder] "will have to get started in the kitchens. Trust me, we're hungry." She gestured to the marines that flanked her. "Any questions?" She asked, she would be prepared to answer as many as they had.
"I have one - what do we call ourselves?" Aislinn asked. "I mean, all the colonists have a name to stick to themselves - what's ours?" Her comments raised a grumble of agreement from the others. Colonists always had names.
"The colony is Halo." Daxia said. "You guys are the -"
"Uh I hate to contradict Commander." Ben spoke up. "The colony is Halo, yeah. But you guys are called Haloers, the marines who are the strike force are the Ringers."
"I see." Daxia grinned a little. "Any further questions."
"What do we do if the Covenant find us?" Asked a burly looking man. Daxia nodded a little.
"Good question. The location of this Halo is as closely guarded as the location of earth was. The Cole Protocol still exists. However, Halo is far more defensible than earth, you'll receive further instructions from your Area Leader once you land."
"I have a question. What about earth? Is that it lost forever?" Asked another. Daxia snorted incredulously.
"We have not given up. This isn't even a retreat." She lied. "This is a colonization of Halo - there are still a great many civilians on earth and in some of the few other colonies in the Sol system. Earth is still our headquarters, the marines still fight. Anything else?" She asked. There were no more questions, everyone was mulling over what they had learned.
"Then move out." Daxia ordered. She watched them file to their dropships and be given their orders. Some would have to wait until later, some were lucky enough to be leaving now. It was organized chaos in front of her.
"Are we heading down to the surface?" Ben asked as he and Jean-Pierre fell in line behind her. She shook her head, heading for the Avalon.
"We're on drop duty." She said.
"As usual." Someone had sneaked up behind her and the marines. Both marines swung around, their assault rifles ready to be fired.
"Not a good idea." John-117 warned them. Daxia could only stare - it was him alright, military buzz cut on the brown hair, piercing blue eyes to stare her down. There was even a long scar on his arm where the Brutes had ripped it open in the Jupiter system.
"That healed fast." She found herself saying. John shrugged.
"Forerunner technology." He replied. The marines were beginning to stand down, reassured only slightly by the fact Daxia seemed to know the Spartan. She recalled herself and gestured to them both.
"Uh - this is Ben and Jean-Pierre. Ben, Jean-Pierre meet John-117 . . . a Spartan."
"Thought you were all dead mate." Ben said, shaking his hand. Jean-Pierre rolled his eyes.
"It's ze British optimism." He said, shaking John's hand. Daxia nodded slowly, then without further thought flung herself into the Spartan's embrace. They kissed and John set her down, smiling a little.
"Where's Cortana?" He asked. Daxia grinned.
Where do you think?" She asked. "And when she sees you she is going to go right through you. We thought you were dead." She punched his chest as hard as she could, though he probably didn't feel it.
"A Spartan. Cool." Ben was falling in line behind her again as she headed for the Avalon. He turned to Jean-Pierre. "Think she knows him?"
"Ze British ave no sense of romance." Jean-Pierre muttered under his breath. He climbed into the Avalon and started to take a check of all on board. "And John is there? No?" He added, looking to the cockpit.
"He's here." Daxia confirmed, grinning again. John looked out at the Halo's surface, his face calm. There was a tiny flicker of doubt in his eyes. Daxia smiled.
"Don't worry." She said softly. "It's secure. Trust me."
John did not reply, but she didn't take offence as they left the docking bay - heading for home.