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Halo: Stealth Combat Evolved: Part 1-Chapter 1
Posted By: Mind_Affecting_Parasite
Date: 26 July 2004, 1:05 AM

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       The two dropships glided smoothly into the welllit hangar on the Lambert space station. One was a standard Pelican, and it's engines would have thundered, had there been atmosphere in the docking bay. The second dropship was modified specifically for the Splinter Cell project. Replacing the "Pelican" designation was the name "Owl"; the name was the subject of debate between several personnel, as not being "cool enough" for the job. However, the name summed up the aerial vehicle's abilities.
       Unlike the standard Pelican dropships the three Owls that had been produced were heavily modified for the specialized missions three particular Spartan soldiers embarked upon. The engines, for starters, were modified to contain heat and noise as much as possible; so that the ship would be less noticeable on approach. The ship itself was slightly more narrow, having sleeker body. Frame components were also replaced and modified to lighten the dropship; make it more maneuverable. Also, the wings were slightly less stubby, and could rotate more easily and at greater angles. To aid further to navigational capability, a Class C military AI had been installed.
       The vessel's skin was composed of materials to block and absorb as much sensor energy as possible; and what couldn't be absorbed would be ricocheted off at an oblique angle, making the sensor assembly that had broadcasted the signal in the first place unable to capture the return signal. Along with the sophisticated imaging gear, the craft was well suited to its purpose. The combined systems had been tested, and had preformed extremely well during missions. Some people had begun thinking about implementing some of the technology into other dropships, but the proposal was deemed to costly to be efficient.

       The two ships spun around, making the necessary maneuvers in the space the pilots had available. Staff Sergeant Smith and Sergeant Look, the two pilots, let up on their controls as the docking clamps attached themselves to the two small vessels, and the gravity of the spinning station settled the two ships' frames.
       As docking bay doors slid together, a hissing sound started to become audible as the atmosphere was pumped back into the hangar. When the green lights flashed on, the hangar staff filed into the bay. Technical crew quickly began looking over the two small ships, first cleaning them up from their last mission and preparing them for the next. None of the crew in the hangar gave a look in the direction of the troop compartment door, dropping open, in the rear of the Owl. The Crew Chief and Tech came out first, carrying their belongings. While the pilot and copilot made sure everything was in order in the cockpit, the three large figures in the back readied their gear to be unloaded.
       "So when's the last time you heard from her?" asked Paul, one of the Techs, looking at the soldier next to him with his hazel eyes.
       PFC Henson continued to walk alongside the Tech, he had been asked to help loading gear onto the robotic dolly following him and the Tech. "The last time I contacted her was six months ago," Jerry Henson replied with a rough sigh, he was tiring of the conversation.
       "That has to suck, eh?" Paul whistled to keep the dolly following.
       "It sucks horse cock."
       The Tech chuckled lightly as the metal door opened before him, revealing the hangar.
       "So when do you get to see her again?" asked Paul.
       Henson gave the Tech a quizzical look, tinted with frustration, bordering on anger. "Who the hell knows."
       "Guess till the next transport gets sent out here, eh?"
       "Fuck yeah, but it's not up to me. It's for my damn COs to decide."
       Paul shrugged as he and his ODST companion stopped just shy of the open troop bay of the dropship. Three soldiers were carrying boxes towards the two men.
       "Make sure this gets to the 'Spartan Armory'," the female of the three ordered, as she and the slightly smaller man slid the crates they carried onto the bottom level of the cart.
       Private Henson's reply was a curt nod, but the woman wasn't looking at him to notice. She was already moving another two crates to the unloading ramp. The third member of the trio set his double-load on the top of the dolly without a word, a look or a gesture. As the three were still getting another load of crates, the pilot and copilot from the cockpit walked past all five of the present people and headed towards a lift. Apparently, they were eager to get to their quarters.
       Paul would have addressed one of them, out of curiosity and his social nature, but the Spartans' outfits were devoid of insignia of any kind. Paul was slightly disappointed, he had always wanted to see what a real live Spartan was like. Sure, the Tech was a bit nervous around the seven-foot figures, maybe even a little scared; but he still would like to meat one in conversation. Oh well, he thought. Maybe another time.

       Within thirty more seconds, all of the crates were loaded up. The three Spartans watched the slow moving robotic dolly being led away by the Tech and Marine, before looking briefly at each other and taking their first steps, in the last week, into the Lambert space station.
       They walked in triangle formation through the bay, and towards a lift. The two Marine MPs stiffened as the Spartans walked past them and into the open elevator. For three people of such size, the several person lift was fairly cramped. Even as the doors of the lift closed and the elevator started upward, the soldiers barely relaxed. Debriefings could be as harrowing as the missions themselves.

       Commander Williams sat calmly in the amphitheater styled briefing room. This room was small, only meant for a certain amount of project personnel at a time. It was divided into four main sections. One, where the Lieutenant Commander was seated, was for Commanding Officers who were currently involved in the project; there were twenty-five seats. Another section was for the civilian members of the project, there were also twenty-five seats there as well. A third section was for the three Spartans, and only three seats were in that section. Finally, the last section was for presentation purposes, there was room for a few people to stand behind the one-person podium, positioned next to the hologram projector and view screen.
       The room was quiet and empty for the time being though. Williams had been ordered to report to the briefing room by Commodore Ford, as the fleet had arrived. The other members of the meeting would be reporting shortly.
       But since Brent liked to keep tabs on station operations, he pressed the communications button to the "Bridge."
       "Lieutenant Lust," he addressed.
       "Yes sir?" Michelle Lust responded.
       "What is the progress of Commodore Ford?"
       There was a brief pause. "Commodore Ford and the rest of the ship commanders are on the station, en route to the Beta Project Briefing Room."
       "And the fleet?"
       "Starting into patrol routes in-system, sir."
       "Very well, Lieutenant," Williams replied. "Keep me posted on any major events, Commander Williams out."
       Brent licked his lips and swallowed, before letting out a deep breath. He then returned to a book he had brought with him. It was titled The Enemy Within, the author's name was actually a pen name: MAP. Commander Williams was only just finishing chapter thirteen.

       The Lieutenant Commander had only finished another page and a half before he heard the main doors begin to open. He quickly stowed his book in the seat-side storage compartment and stood. He prepared himself to salute, but didn't need to when the doors parted fully. It was the small team of Spartans that walked through the door, still in their combat suits. While they weren't in MJOLNIR armor, Brent had seen the spectacle before, they were still excellent examples of the SPARTAN-II project. The black suits that the three Spartans of the project wore were designed to function like the part of MJOLNIR Mark V armor that was under the hard outer shell.
       The three stopped a few feet past the door and snapped off a crisp salute.
       Commander Williams returned the salute. "Spartans," he greeted. "Commodore Ford is still on his way."
       "Of course, sir," the forward most Spartan replied, known to Brent as Chief Petty Officer, Spartan-096.
       The three resumed their walk, as the door slid back shut, and proceeded to their seats. No sooner had Williams sat back down, the main door again signaled it was opening.
       The group of eight was met by four saluting Navy men.
       "At ease," Commodore Ford replied as his hand fell from his returned salute.
       "Welcome back, Sir," greeted Williams.
       "It's damn well and good to be back, Commander," Ford's voice was not hostile, but Brent could tell the man was upset.
       The seven others behind Ford walked passed him as the Commodore made his way to the podium. Five of the other ship commanders were Captains, but two were only Commanders. None the less, the seven who had followed Ford in quickly took their seats. It was only fifty-seven seconds until seven of the scientists were in their seats, and the meeting was officially started.
       "Well people, this is going to be one of those unpleasant debriefings, but it has to be done," started Commodore Ford. "We lost good men today. Twelve ships worth of good men and women, and an entire colonized planet."
       The room was uncomfortably quite, each person present silently mourning the loss in some way.
       Ford continued. "The Spartan team was successful in their planet-bound operations, but as we all know, what is allowed to happen on the ground is all determined by what happens in orbit. While the Away Team Alpha-" the Commodore looked at the three Spartans "-was planet side, our fleet was taking care of the Covenant fleet currently assaulting the planet. When we had arrived, there were five Covenant ships already orbiting the planet, having already engaged and crippled the two ships who had made the call for reinforcements.
       "We sent in ATA to assess the situation before we made a major offensive. A single Covenant Cruiser was at the bottom of the gravity well, hovering a couple-hundred meters above one of the larger cities. ATA's objective was to set off an alarm within the vessel to draw as many Covenant troops back in before they set off explosives to destroy the gravity lift of the vessel. Once that was done, we hoped that the Covenant ship would attempt to lift off for a search of her interior and repairs. We had planned, if the ship lifted off, to have ATA set off a tactical nuclear device within the ship."
       One of the lead scientists had raised a hand, after Ford had paused for a moment. "Yes Dr. Chang?"
       The doctor removed his glasses and looked up from the small screen in the right arm of his chair. "How would our Spartans have escaped?"
       "I was about to explain," answered the Commodore. "As I was saying, the Spartans were to plant the device and escape the Covenant vessel. To do this, they were either to attempt to steal a Covenant dropship or Banshees to fly out, or they were equipped with parachutes to make a HALO jump back to the planet's surface."
       Ford paused, typing a command into the podium controls. The lights dimmed and the view screen flared to life.
       "As you can see," the Commodore said, commentating the video clip. It was an enhanced zoom of a Covenant ship rising through the atmosphere of Heilos from over a city. Within a few seconds, an explosion blossomed on the lower starboard side of the ship. It was contained for a split second by the shields, which had apparently just been activated, before blasting through the remaining part of the vessel. "That part of the plan was successful. Are next plan depended on the rest of the Covenant fleet. We expected that this distraction would lure some of the fleet into the atmosphere of the planet, and into the gravity well. With that done, the ships couldn't have effectively fought back when we attacked."
       The video zipped forward, to the image of two Covenant ships descending into the atmosphere, with a third hovering above them, but staying in orbit. Ford went on, "We assumed correctly, and so we made our move. It went very well at first, we managed to send the flaming wreckage of the two planet-bound ships through the atmosphere, but we lost two of our ships fighting off the other three Covenant vessels.
       "We won that battle. But, either due to a call for reinforcements or bad timing on our part, several more Covenant vessels appeared in system. My fleet wasn't expecting bogies to pop out of Slipspace behind them, and to we were unprepared for the threat. The enemy fleet managed to get off a volley of plasma fire before we could fire. It all went downhill from there."
       Pauline Wesson pressed a button on her arm chair.
       "Yes, Dr. Wesson?" asked Ford.
       "Weren't you concerned with collateral damage from two Covenant warships crashing to the surface of the colony?" she responded, her face troubled, almost angry with the Commodores already-made decision. "Or a nuclear device above the surface?!"
       Commodore Ford sighed. "Yes, I was aware the there was a high risk of collateral damage from the ships on their way through the atmosphere. But I had thought a large portion of the ships would have disintegrated on the way down. I was correct, and not much remained to reach the surface-"
       Pauline interrupted, "Even a small portion of debris would cause damage when impacting at over mach-one."
       "I am aware of that," replied Ford, almost visibly disturbed my the woman's reaction.
       "What about over-penetrating MAC rounds?"
       Ford dropped his head slightly, not breaking eye-contact with whom he was speaking. "One round did hit one of the ships that was unshielded in a relatively thin spot. It did pass through the ship, and one would assume-with accuracy-that it did reach the surface."
       "Traveling at more than thirty-six-thousand feet-per-second," added Pauline, without request.
       The Commodore responded as if he hadn't heard her comment. "As for the nuclear explosion, ATA was instructed not to detonate the weapon until the Covenant vessel had risen to a safe altitude. Far enough so that the explosion would not directly damage the city."
       "What about indirectly?" Pauline posed another question. "What about falling radioactive debris? And the EMP? While the tactical nuclear device used was designed to be as clean as possible, there is still an EMP. The collateral damage caused is unacceptable for this type of operation."
       Ford's head snapped up from looking over the data screen, only viewable by him. "Well it doesn't really matter now, does it?!" the Commodore was bordering on losing his temper, but he was better than that, trained to stop such emotional impulses, and so calmed himself.
       "What happened next?" passively asked a man by the name, Dr. Freeman. He understood that his colleague was becoming aggravating.
       The calmed Commodore stood straighter, beginning to speak again, as he recalled the event.

(Author/Story Note: I know this is not very combat or action filled at the moment, but stay with me. Part 1 is mainly about developing the plot and characters, getting you in the mood and setting for the rest of the series.)