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Finishing what you started, Part One
Posted By: LeAtHeRnEcK<dave@calotta.com>
Date: 29 March 2002, 5:52 pm

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"Chief, look."
     Master Chief Petty Officer SPARTAN John-117 took a look out of the portside window, and saw the pieces of the ring he had just destroyed, Halo, glowing in the darkness of space. He hung his head and thought of all the UNSC Marines who had lost their lives because he destroyed the ring. He wondered if those lives had been spent, or wasted.
     "Don't worry about it, you did what you had to do to complete the mission.," commented Cortana, the Master Chief's AI construct, who was normally integrated into his armor, except at this time she was piloting the Longsword Interceptor that the two had escaped Halo in.
     "Cortana, where are we going?"
     "I wish I could tell you. I'm currently scanning through the spatial locations that I have stored, to try and find a planet that the Covenant haven't glassed yet. I'm having a tough time because all this radioactive debris is blocking a good deal of the signal in this region."
     "Take your time."
     "I always do."
     "Got it! We'll head towards Sigma Octanus Four, but since out Slipstream generators were damaged in the explosion, traveling through normal space at this speed would take us over 685 standard years to reach it. If it's OK by you, I'm going to send a distress signal towards that region, and hope that a ship that can make a Slipstream jump will pick it up. In it, I'll include that we're on this ship; maybe it will make recovering us more of a priority."
     John cringed when he heard "Sigma Octanus Four." He instantly recalled the battle that he had there just a few months ago. He had discovered two new Covenant species during that time: The Hunters, and a scientist type of Covenant, who showed extreme intelligence. He also thought about the 300,000 civilians that those bastards had slaughtered there. They had also taken the lives of nearly a thousand Marines stationed there. He still blamed the Admiralty for those losses, because they had sent in multiple platoons of Marines into enemy controlled territory where they had no satellite recon. Either way, it was still good to be going back to UNSC controlled space, away from the Covenant, away from the Flood, and away from the Monitor.
     "OK Cortana, send the distress signal."
     "Already sent Chief. I wasn't going to wait for your OK. We might as well be dead in space; with the Slipstream generators down, we can't monitor that dimension to see if any Covenant are going to make a precise jump and flatten us like a bug."
     John knew that she was right, but it aggravated him when she went ahead and made decisions on her own, especially ones that could endanger them. John thought that she should have to have all decisions like that approved by him, because he felt that he was infinitely more important to the human race than she was; He was a human supersoldier, she was an AI construct. She could be replaced, he couldn't. Either way there was nothing he could do about it, so he stopped thinking about it, and began to clean out his M90 shotgun. This very weapon had taken the lives of thousands of Covenant and countless Flood. While he was cleaning out the inside of the barrel, Cortana interrupted him.
     "Chief, I'm picking up an encrypted signal coming from the Sigma Octanus system. Its encryption scheme is more advanced than a normal transmission. It may take me some time to decode it." After a few minutes, Cortana informed the Chief that she was finished, and that she was going to put the transmission on screen.

United Nations Space Command Emergency Priority Order 098965D-5
Encryption Code: Black
Public Key: None
From: NavSpecWep, Section Three
To: Master Chief Petty Officer SPARTAN John-117, Advanced AI Construct Cortana
Subject: Orders
Classification: SECRET, EYES ONLY (BGX Directive)

/start file/

Your distress signal was received. However, you two are not on your way to Sigma Octanus Four. Your new destination is Reach. We are dispatching a ship as I am writing this to come get you two. You will be debriefed on the ship, as you two have your work cut out for you when you get here. I know what you two both think you know, but Reach was not completely destroyed. Congratulations on your success, but don't gloat. Your next mission will require your full attention, and determination.

/end file/

     "Cortana, find out whatever you can about Reach. I want to know what is left of it, and more importantly, who. In the meantime, I'm going to get some sleep. I wish that there was a cryo tube, but this is a fighter, not meant for long journeys. Don't wake me unless absolutely necessary." The Master Chief proceeded to remove his upper body armor, and place it on the bulkhead next to his helmet. He reclined in the pilot's chair, and dozed off, half expecting to be awakened by Cortana with something urgent.
     Five standard days later, the UNSC frigate Aztec pulled out of Slipstream, 250,000 kilometers from the Longsword's position.
     Master Chief, this is the Aztec. We are here to rendezvous with you, and return you to Reach. We are initiating out grabber.
     Sir? Grabber?
     Yes. It's much like a tractor beam, invented about a standard month before Reach came under attack. We were one of the first ships to receive it. If you would just please let the Longsword glide, and don't touch the controls.
     Yes, sir!
     In ten minutes, the Chief was on the bridge of the Aztec, speaking with the Captain. "Master Chief, welcome aboard. Congratulations on the Halo campaign. Word of it has spread throughout the fleet, sending a morale boost throughout. We now need you to debrief. Please follow me."
     The Captain led John through a series of corridors, and through multiple high security checkpoints, until the reached a circular room. Inside it, to John's surprise, were no high ranking intelligence officers. Instead, there was a table sized computer, with a chair next to it.
     "Please sit in the chair."
     John sat down, and the Captain connected something to his neural interface in the back of his neck.
     "This machine can extract what you saw, and thought, while during battle, but to an extent. It mainly will extract the tactics you used, and your opinions on certain subjects. We will then use a separate machine to watch all of your battlefield recordings, to get a look at what happened. If there is something we need that is not provided here, you will be called for a traditional debriefing."
     John then felt a liquid cool presence in his mind, the same he felt when Cortana was in his suit. Within two minutes, the Captain told him the procedure was done, and suggested John be checked out by the doctors onboard, just to make sure he was OK. John obliged, and when he was done with the checkup, he went into cryo sleep.
     After what felt like only a second to John, his Camar-class frigate had arrived in the Reach system. John went through the cryo wakeup procedure, and proceeded to the bridge. When Reach came into view, John was astonished. The entire planet, which used to be a lush, tropical place, had been turned into a desert. He wondered how anything could have survived the Covenant attack. He then remembered that almost all of the most important military installations were deep underground, probably deep enough survive the huge balls of plasma that were fired at the planet. As the Aztec approached the planet, John saw something unbelievable. Part of the planet seemed to actually open up, to accept the ship. When they got inside, John marveled at what he saw. On one side, there was a shipbuilding operation, which took up about half of the space. On the other half, he saw a military complex. It had all of the components of the complex that was on the surface.
     "Cortana, why didn't you tell me about this?"
     "Apparently, it's been hidden. I searched for the entire time you were in cryo sleep for anything about Reach, but I couldn't find anything. They must've wanted to make sure nobody found out about it - that way, if the Covenant glassed the planet, they wouldn't have any way of knowing that they didn't really accomplish what they wanted to."
     A few minutes later, the Master Chief was off the Aztec, and he saw a face he thought he would never see again: Doctor Halsey.
     "Good to see you again Chief, but we have no time for catching up. You have to finish the mission you set out to start on the Pillar of Autumn. To do this, we have some new people we would like you to meet: The second squad of Spartan II's."