(Camera: Scene opens with a first person view of combat. The soldier runs down a spacious corridor, strange metalic panels pulse and shimmer on his right. He stops suddenly, ducking and weaving to his left as he spins to face an opponent. His combat shotgun comes up and lobs 5 rounds into 5 targets, droping each with a well placed shot to the midsection. His external helmet light flickers on for a moment, illuminating the grotesque features of the attackers. It pans across the carnage, following his gun as it searches for prey. Satisfied that the creatures are indeed dead, he turns and runs from the aftermath, chasing after a small blue light that hovers in the distance.
Pan out. A large circular room is filled with technicians, each absorbed in a deluge of information. Many are reviewing the information gathered by the Master Cheif's suit sensors and cameras through full-immersion headsets. Others scan quickly through the data retrived by Cortana, Covenant ship blueprints scroll across their terminals, key areas of the vessel's makeup flashing frantically.
Camera moves up and out, into a control center. Screens litter the wall, remote cameras monitoring the process from on high.)
Dark figure: "What have you learned so far?"
Commander: "Simple question, too bad the answer isn't. We've learned tons about the Covenant. Weapons details, ship schematics, force deployment strategies, religious correlation to tactics and communication. Where we are stuggling is with the other things. Pieces of the puzzle that don't match with anything we've seen so far."
The commander pointed to one of the monitors, on it a team of technicians picked over the remains of a Sentinel, carefully removing each piece of the complex machine for study. A scientist placed one of the pieces on a observation pad. It immediatly began pulsing dully, a nearby guard watched it carefully, hand moving to his sidearm in anticipation.
"The Forerunner group of aliens, for instance. All that remains of the race itself seems to be their automatons, watching over the house till the builders come home...The Covenant have probably run into them before, but we can't be sure of that. Cortana thinks that much of the Covenant technology has been copied or scavenged from their artifacts, which only makes matters worse."
Dark figure: "What are they."
Commander: "We're not sure on that one either, and not much can be concluded from the information we have. The translation for their name means 'the ones who came before', so Cortana coined the name 'Forerunner' - which seems to coincide with the Covenant translation. We have no idea about their apearance, but we have some ideas...but those are nothing more than theory. They were obviously highly advanced, as they were able to construct the ringworld, and everything on it; including what you see there" pointing to the screen.
The man pondered for a moment, finally nodding to himself. He stepped up to one of the monitors, tapping it's surface with his finger.
"What about him. I'm very interested in the events on Halo, but that stuff is best left for the techies. My main concern is our current op and the future of this war...and he is central to the future of this war. What is he going to be doing now that he's back?"
Commander: "His mission, of course. He will be leading the assault on the covenant holding facility."
The shadowy man smirked to himself. He pulled out his closed com device and keyed in the access codes. This mission was going to be dangerous. In all likelyhood, the casualties would be high - and there was no garauntee that the principal goal wasn't already compromised...but if their was any chance of success, the Spartan would find it. He always had.
(Camera centers on the monitor that the man is looking at. A soldier is surrounded by enginieers and med techs, two AI holograms wander about the scene, directing the actions of the technicians. He stands perfectly still in a black skinsuit, arms and legs outstreched, a living version of Da'Vinci's famous proportional man. Silver-White armor is fitted about his person, starting with the lower legs and fore-arms, and working towards the torso.
Camera resolves to real-time in the room. It orbits the scene from a moderate distance, slowly circling the melding of man with machine.)
The final pieces are all fitted, but the figure is immobile; a statue of a god, dominating the room but powerless to move in it. The technicians are silent now. Even the AI's have stopped talking, their perfectionist drives overshadowed by their own intrest in the outcome.
A single technician walks up to the frozen Spartan, his arms cradling a black cylinder - blue pinpricks of light sparkling about it's surface. He carefully fits it into a space in the back of the suit, and walks away as it retracts into the armored core.
The pieces of the new Mjolnir suddenly snap into place, pressure clasps and magnetic retainers clicking and hissing; custom fitting the suit around the chief.
A second technician comes up next to the chief, a thick fiberoptic link in his hands. He walks up to the armor, it's articulation points glowing a frosty white. Carefully, he attaches the port to a jack on the Cheif's helmet.
[Camera tilts left and zooms in on the chief, flaring to white. We see as the chief sees, technicians waiting for his signal to move. Heads-up-displays come online, one by one. A diagnostic display begins checking through the suit systems, the scene changing as it progresses through the list.]
Cortana: "Hmmmmm, glad to see that they upgraded this thing, the old one was getting stuffy. So, what do you want to know chief? What the mission plan is, what our chances are..."
Chief: "What's new about the suit?"
Cortana: "Good choice. Give me a moment to...damn! Tricky little bastards. I can't tell you that right now, that information is locked up pretty hard. I've never seen a security system this complicated before, time for me to earn my keep...try asking one of the technicians."
The suit finished the checklist. A moment passed, and then the words 'Boot complete - Motor locks released' appeared in the HUD.
The Master Chief hesitated to move, what if they had increased the suit speed...he could cause some serious damage. He slowly rotated, testing the new suit. He speeded up, finally performing some quick slashes before settling in. The chief spoke through the external mic.
Chief: "Ok, the suit speed seems the same. Whats different about the new armor, besides the color."
Technician: "Many things, the color being a complex part of them. For one, the suit speed is faster, but only when you need it to be. Your running speed is higher, and you can jump a bit higher, due to some improvements on the leg motors. We have seemed to reach the law of diminishing returns however, therefore suit speed upgrades will be hardly noticable in future models... unless we do a complete redesign"
Second Technician: "Luckily, there are many other aspects of the suit that can be upgraded. Your motion sensors have been improved, for instance. When there are no targets in range, it will automatically expand to a 25m range. But as targets aproach, it will colapse in to give you more precision. It's much more flexible, and should be usefull in combat"
First Technician: "Yes. We have also modifyed it so that special items can appear in the tracker display. NAV points for instance, are represented by a orange arrow. Empty vehcials are represented with a open blue circle, suit enhancers like those used by the covenant are white spots, and so on. With some work on the behalf of your AI, you could even have a map overlay, we've tried to open up possibilites for you."
Cheif: "Interesting. What about the suit color? The silver will be extremely visible durring the day, and will reflect muzzle flash at night. Can it be painted?"
Third technician: Smiling "Better. What silver color are you reffering to, Master Chief?"
The Chief held up his arm to show the technician, surely he could see the suit's color. He froze in amazement. The armor that was a platinum silver only a moment before was suddenly dull grey, tinted with white on the side that faced the ceiling lamps.
"We could not reproduce the active-camoflauge effect used by the Covenant forces without compromising your shield stregnth. So we did the next best thing, reactive plating. The external plates of your suit do their best to match the wavelegnth of the visible light that strikes it. It's not perfect, but it will allow you to move unseen at medium and long ranges."
Med tech : "We had them program it to turn white when you shut it down, makes it easier to see any external damage so we can make repairs in the field"
Master chief: "What else has changed?"
Technician in orange bio-suit: "There are a thousand and one minor improvements, and a handfull of major ones. You'll need to learn the rest as you go along, we just don't have the time to explain them to you, Cortana should be able to help you with most of them"
Master Chief: "Ok. What about weapons?"
"Thats not our department...but you have a few new toys to fight with. Head to the firing range to see what the military boys cooked up for you."
Master Chief: "Yes sir."
"And Chief...good luck on the mission."
The chief snapped off a salute, waited for the tech to return the gesture, then turned and made his way aft.
The ship was massive. From outside, it looked like just another UNSC Destroyer. In fact, the only noticable difference was the external lighting - and unless he got up real close, he couldn't see the improvements. But Cortana had shown him what they had done with the latest line of ships. There had been major improvements, some of which were not available for view through UNSC net, only through private channels. For one thing, all new vessels had some form of the PoA's fusion supercharger, even the dropships had been upgraded.
Many of the new line ships had been constructed with a reciprocating MAC cannon, capable of firing eight shots before reloading. They were like huge revolvers within the ships, spining and firing at unprecendented speeds. The NavSpecWep department had chosen that configuration because it would offer more redundancy, and safety, than a straight-loader combination. Furthermore, loading times would be cut down by an incredible ammount. Letting the new ships pour relentless amounts of firepower at the covenant, stopping for only a few seconds to reload.
The new MAC rounds were something else. They were called A-MAC's, or Advanced MAC rounds. They came in many flavors, but the most potent was the Penetrating Detonator or PD round. It was a fusion bomb, wrapped in a U(d)-238 -Tungsten encased shell. It also had a special, computer-controlled shielding system like that of the Mjolnir. Basically, it would match it's shield output harmonics to that of the targeted vessel. When it reached the shield, it would pass straight through it, slipping by as if it wasn't even there. Then it would pulverize through much of the Covenant ship, burrowing deep before engulfing the ship in a nuclear aftermath.
These were only a handfull of the changes that had occured in the month that had passed. It had taken 12 days to get to Halo from Reach, they had fought for roughly 7 days on the ringworld, and they spent another 14 days returning to earth on a random vector. Much had changed since Reach.
He had reached the firing range. Five soldiers were unloading three round bursts from their assault rifles at holographic targets down range. Bullets pinged off a steel shield at the back of the range and down into a trap. He walked up to the nearest commanding officer and asked to be shown the new armaments for the mission. The man walked over to a woman in a blue jumpsuit, talked for a moment, then returned.
"Ok sir. Were going to move them boys over there out, and open the range so you can test the new weapons. I trust you've done high-engergy weapons testing before, so we are gonna leave you to your own devices. We can give you any help you need through the PA system."
He lead the master chief over to where the woman was standing, introducing them.
"Master Cheif sir, this is Ms. Habber. She's a civilian weapon's expert we hired to help with the design of some prototype guns, and she's the only memeber of the team who had the time to come here and help you get aquainted."
The Master Chief held out his hand, which she tentatively grasped and shook. She smiled sheepishly.
"Sorry Master Chief, it's not everyday you get to shake hands with a seven foot tall man in powered armor, that could rip your hand straight out of it's socket without too much effort. come over to this weapons locker and I'll show you around."
They walked over to a large weapons locker that had been secured to the wall. It was a dusty blue color, and had warning labels all over it's surface. It appeared especially heavy, probably shielded for security and safety reasons. She pulled a small print pad from the handle of the locker, gave it her thumb, and watched it retract. A few seconds later the locker opened, there were many test weapons, all looked equally well constructed.
She instructed the Chief to pull out a gun wrapped in a black bag.
"That is the M-104. It fires 20mm He rounds at a rate of 30r/sec. It has 6 rotating barrels in a Gatling configuration, and weighs just over 35lbs."
The Master Cheif slowly pulled the cannon from its protective case. It was small for a weapon of such power, only a few inches longer than the combat shotgun, but it was much thicker. He picked over it's surface, checking inter-locks and making sure all the parts were correctly aligned. Halfway through he noticed a small fold-out screen on the left side of the weapon. He opened it and pressed the 'Startup' button, nothing happened.
"The gun is powered using the same system as your helmet brights. So you need to power it using this link, which should connect on your belt jack. We intened this weapon to be used on a mount, or by the Spartans...but we've made adjustments so that your average G.I. can wield one. Because of their backpack's low output power, they can only sustain a fire rate of 20r/sec, and only for short bursts."
The cheif quickly took the armored cable and ran it into his belt's power jack. The flip-out screen lit up with a view of the firing range. Moments later, a new popup appeared in his HUD, showing a targeting recticle and vectoring lines.
"The flipscreen will display taget information and condition, and will auto-adjust depending on the environment. If you are in foggy or ice conditions, it will switch to infra-red readout. If you are in nightcombat, it will switch to a light-enhancing filter. Underwater it will use your motion sensors to give a target, etc."
She waved to the range controllers, signalling them to start the program. Then she grabbed her pack and ran out of the room.
The Cheif finished checking out the gun. Satisfied with it's condition, he snapped a 100 round drum into position, below and to the right near the chamber. He hefted it to his shoulder, made sure that the targeting was aligned, and closed the screen.
A stationary target appeared, sliding down from the roof. The Cheif immediatly squeezed off a 12 round burst, pulverizing the left side of the target before it could even lock into place. He adjusted his suit sight, and let out another blast. 9 rounds this time, cutting a large slice out of the center. The aim was good, but it would suck ammunition too fast - he would need to be conservative.
A second target flew out from the right side of the range, and the internal lighting went out. The Cheif instinctively ducked and rolled towards the side of the room, firing in the dark at the last position of the drone.
"Use the weapon's display sir!"
Right. He flipped out the screen, it switched to NV mode and gave him a motion vector que on the target. He used the lines to lead his shot, sending 16 rounds at the little ball, most splashing against the rear panel of the range - but a few caught the drone target and killed it.
He got to his feet, and a dense mist began to settle in the room, dim lighting causing the fog to glow and obscure his view. Another target lept out from the range, and this time the screen changed to infrared tracking. The ball target drone was cold, but the room air was much warmer, making it appear as a light blue streak - clearly visible in his sights. Another burst, the ball disintegrated.
"Ok Chief, nice work, time to move on to the others. We'll give you more time to practice after we're done." The PA squaked.
The other weapons were likewise impressive, nothing terribly new, but impressive none the less. The S-33 flamethrower, origionally part of the Spartan's arsenal but recalled for technical problems. It used a special magnetic induction chamber to compress an internal hydrogen flame to near-plasma quality, before spitting it out under pressure. Short range, but engulfing and deadly.
Another simple weapon, the machete. It had a edge of pure diamond, and with the force he could exert, would prove fast and deadly. It's short range was made up for by it's lethality and it's stealth.
A new addition to the marine arsenal was the MP-17 machine pistol. It's rounds were rocket assisted, made of depleted uranium and a ceramic compound. They were designed to fragment upon contact with a solid surface, creating a hail of pelets to pelt the enemy. It's good rate of fire and special properties made it perfect for close-quarters combat.
The others were more complex, more object specific, and therefore harder to use correctly. A proximity mine, designed around a IFF decoder. Marines and civilians could walk right over it and never hear a beep, as long as they had a human neural net or ID tage, they were fine. But if the little demon sensed movement from something else...boom. A 10M radius of fire and shrap, and a heavy slug launched skyward. If a Covie flew a bit too low, he and his ship would take a hit. It would be dangerous on a world with too much animal life, but that could be compensated for.
There was also an EMP gun. It fired a small sphere of heavilly charged metal and explosives. When it struck a target, it would creat a 5m x 5m web of magnetic disturbance. They had fired it at a ghost in the equipment bay, it spun out of control, tilting and speeding in circles before automatically shutting down and restarting. It would be an amazing weapon against vehicals, and could help soften up shielded elites...but if it were to be used too close to his own position, bad things would happen.
The final weapon he saw was the M-49 autogun. It's strange turret-like shape allowed the barrel to move freely as it tracked targets. It's light ammunition was compensated for by it's ability to hit targets succesfully at medium range, and its good 10r/sec fire rate. What was more, at longer distances the smartlink scope allowed him to use it as a machine sniper rifle. It's only drawbacks were that it couldn't be straight-aimed very easily, it's precarious reloading time, and the difficulty he had with using it as a melee. Besides those hangups, it was a gracefull weapon that would be a great help when fighting multiple fast-moving targets.
Cortana's voice suddenly cut in on his thoughts. "I think I found a way in Chief, though I'm not sure how long it'll last. I still can't break into the information on the suit, but I found somethings that should intrest you."
Chief: "Go ahead"
"Well, first off there's the information about the latest line of ships in the UNSC. Through the actions of ONI Admiral Anderson, all ships now entering service have been completely upgraded with top of the line systems. Active shielding, A-MAC cannon, supercharged reactors, Artificial Gravity - the works."
Cheif: "Ok, but we already suspected that. What else, what about the mission."
Cortana: "That's where it gets interesting. From what I've gathered, this may mark the turning point in this war. Recon and patrol missions have found a Covenant prisoner holding facility on the planet Alef 3 in the Beta Tucanae star system. They think that the Spartans and Dr. Halsey may be held there. The mission objective is to rescue them, without undue casualties, and return home for a counter-offensive position. I assume that your origional mission plan would be resumed at that time."
Cheif: "I thought the Covenant never took prisoners, why is there any reason to assume they are still alive if they were taken."
Cortana: "Covenant research indicates to me that no prisoners can be killed without higher command authority. Since the mainstay of the Reach fleet was destroyed at Halo, that command for this sector is missing. Therefore, they must wait for orders concerning the prisoners, before they can be executed. Which is why we must move quickly."
Chief: "When? How much time do we have to prepare?"
The room began to shift suddenly, the ship was coming about. The yellow warning lights lit up the room he was in, casting green shadows around the quarters. His armor began shifting to compensate, colors alternating between green and dark yellow.
Cortana: "Right now. Shaw-Fujikawa drive ramping up, vector randomized for a dead zone. Ships are joining us...I count 12 total, plus some cloaked corvettes that are docked to their surfaces."
A moment passed, the ship was accelerating out system now, nuclear fires forcing the ship along. People were scrambling in the distance, making for their bunks, or a cryo bay.
Cortana : "I'd make for Cryo-D1, near the command section cheif...wait. I'm picking up something on the ships scanners, there is a convoy heading from the moon's surface...Nav database indicates the asteroid belt as a local dest. Give me a moment to patch in."
The Chief sprinted down the halway, lept up a ladder, and slowly waded through the throng of Marines moving about. The day's events had been fast, even for him. It was a lot of information to soak up, and he still had questions from his last battle.
Cortana: "I can't get details, but something's going on. Something BIG, whatever it is, it seems to need tons of resources. The're building something out there chief, and they made sure it stays hidden in the field."
The Chief saluted a med officer in Cryo D's control room, punching in the details for his cryo-sleep capsule. He gave the chief a thumbs up, and the Spartan slid down the ladder into the Bay floor. A pod slid down from it's armored case in the roof, opening through a veil of mist, inviting the Chief to it's dreamless sleep. He stepped in, letting his suit auto adjust for the cold-storage procedure, a small pinprick released a metabolic affector drug into his arm. As the drugs entered his bloodstream, his thoughts began to slow and fade.
"Here we go again"
(Camera: Third person view of the chief's cryo pod closing and retracting into the roof. A technician walks up, taps a few commands into the pod control pannel and waves to the other technicians in the viewing room.
Camera cuts out, deep space. Earth is a small blue orb in the distance, a crescent of silver light reflecting off it's great oceans. There are ships everywhere. A huge ship is flanked by two smaller vessels, small fighter craft can be seen moving for it's landing bays. The carrier and it's escort begin to move suddenly, making a bee-line for some forsaken corner of the universe.
Other ships can be seen leaving too. The Master Chief's destroyer crosses in front of the camera, green flickers streaking across it's hull as the Trans-light drive comes online. All the ships are taking different courses, but their destination is the same.
Camera continues to pull out. Something blots out the top of the screen in darkness. As the view moves up, we see that it is a small ship - stealth obvious in it's design. It watches the scene for a moment longer, then it's engines flare; white flame driving the ship towards home. The battle has begun.)