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Halo: Stealth Combat Evolved: Part 1-Chapter 4
Posted By: Mind_Affecting_Parasite<pbplayer_24@yahoo.com>
Date: 15 August 2004, 8:43 PM

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      "Are you alright?" asked Cassie, walking along side Michael.
       "Yeah, I'm fine," he answered with a sigh. "But I'm starting to wonder if there is more to a mission than completing the objective. Does that always mean that you succeeded?"
       Raul was walking behind his teammates, listening but not speaking.
       Cassie answered the question. "We won. We did what we were ordered to do. What more could have been done?"
       Michael thought for a moment, staring at the deck plates passing under his feet. "I just don't feel right that we couldn't save the colony."
       "We can't fight against a Covenant fleet," put in Raul.
       Cassie's features deepened, showing she felt similarly to the situation. "We can't win every battle, I suppose."
       Michael didn't like to doubt his orders, or think about the moral implications of what resulted from his team's missions. But sometimes . . . it was hard not to let it slip into his thoughts. The Spartan consciously tried to suppress his thoughts as he and his two cohorts neared the elevators. He was a soldier, not a mission analyst. "We can only do our duty," Michael offered as an answer to his own question, his neutral features firm.
       The three Spartans stopped in front of the elevator door. It was apparent that this one was occupied, and was already headed in the opposite direction that they needed to. They stepped to the side and activated the other elevator. All the while, the four Marine MPs looked calm, but their eyes displayed a trace of apprehension, laced with dislike. The three figures stepping inside the lift weren't as frightening without MJOLNIR armor, but someone who stood nearly a head taller than you could be intimidating.
       Michael resumed his thoughts inside the enclosed space. He remembered Jerico VII. On the ground, Michael had killed the enemy without remorse, slaughtering every one he came across. It didn't matter though, what happened on the ground was always governed by the battle above. Spartans were ground soldiers, fighting with something beneath their feet, and air to breath; they couldn't be as efficient in vacuum.
       The female of the three let her face show she knew how her team leader felt, sensing his tension. Raul could hide his emotions with ease around everyone-except his brothers and sisters. He wouldn't shed a tear, or get out of control; he wouldn't get anywhere near an emotional outburst, but Raul still let the slight changes in his face tell what he felt. All of the Spartans felt for each other, saw their comrades as siblings. The most solemn of the three stood leaning in the corner, his face barely thawing out of its hard expression. Michael was the most serious in combat, and around everyone he kept a straight face. Even Spartans had feelings though, no matter what anyone else thought.
       As the elevator doors opened, and the cold silence that had built up faded, the atmosphere became much more relaxing. Now the three were safe in a guarded space station, remote and secret. There wasn't a danger here. All of the Spartans pushed the negative feelings out of their thoughts. It was sometimes good to think over such things, but dwelling on the past, and what couldn't be changed, didn't help anyone. Michael pushed the small worries and questions from his mind; black or white, win or loose, and he and his team had won.

       Dr. Cynthia Pick examined the black suits hanging on stands in front of her. Cables were linked to the suits' computers, running diagnostics. The female doctor squinted at the black material making up the assemblies. It was dark, not jet black, but dark. The overhead lights didn't fully illuminate all the surfaces either. Had the suits been made reflective, a simple sweep of a light or flicker of a spark would have lit up the wearer. The design that had been chosen, however, had dictated that the materials used could not reflect light or sensor energy; they even absorbed some light energy, to an extent.
       The places where the body suits were even remotely dirty were the knees and outer arm areas, as well as on the elbows and parts of the whole front side. It must have been from crawling on the ground, Cynthia conjectured. As a stealth unit, the team had most likely laid flat their stomachs during the recent mission. One suit also had blood on it, only a small amount though; it was barely visible on the left chest area, from an Elite. Dr. Pick shivered at the thought. She had no problem with cleaning or preparing gear, and helping develop new technology for the project; but deep down, she was afraid of the aliens whom the Spartans fought against.
       "Cynthia?" asked Dr. Keith Shoeman. He was the lead scientist is the technological field of things for the Splinter Cell project. He stood across the room, in front of some new prototypes for the three project Spartans. The man was aging, his light-brown hair fading to grey.
       The woman that had been addressed realized she was staring off, and snapped herself back to mental focus. "I'm fine Keith."
       Dr. Shoeman looked back at her through his bifocals for a couple seconds, before turning his head back towards his task and leaning over his work.
       The suits would be cleaned later, right now it was Cynthia's job to make sure that every aspect of them was still working to the peak of their abilities. The other gear that was part of the suits had been taken off, some of it was sitting on a table against a nearby wall. Dr. Pick looked over the diagnostics on the small view screens next to her, and walked over to the other pieces of equipment.
       The first items she began to look over were the three helmets. They were same color as the suits that they accompanied on missions, and even had the same light-absorption effect. Unlike the helmets that the Marines wore, the three Spartan helmets were much more compact, and lacked the boom mounted mike the standard helmet came equipped with. At the thickest point, the outside surface of the helmets were only and inch from the head of the wearer. The material was a flexible polymer, designed to be extremely heat resistant; the material was infused with a reactive element that conducted heat and energy very well under combat conditions. Aiding in the process, a grid of strips, made of the same material, helped direct the captured energy through to an energy dissipater. It had been tested and proved to work well against plasmatic head shots. The strips also helped to absorb impact energy, spreading the force over much more than the point of impact, lessening the hit that the person within the helmet would take.
       Another difference between these helmets and standard Marine headgear was the face. The suits had to have the ability to be sealed, so the helmets covered the whole head, front and back. Over the mouth was a compact respirator, giving the lips their space, but keeping all know air born toxins and chemicals out of the wearers lungs. The visor was a nice feature as well. It was a ceramic material, fully transparent, but maintained a light flexibility. Nice gear, but the woman looking over it would never wear it. Cynthia was claustrophobic, and didn't like things that enclosed her face.

       In four hours, Dr. Pick was finished with her post-mission involvement. She took a quick look around and made her way to the door. Just as she reached it, it slid open, and a figure walked in from the other side. It was another scientist, John Hall. He was a newer addition to the project team; having just come in one month previous. The man was fairly young, taller than her at six-foot, and had just enough muscle and bulk to not be skinny. He had his ear-length wavy brown hair parted neatly down the center, the foremost tucked behind the young scientist's ears. John looked like he came from a wealthy family, just the way he acted and walked. The kid was not very serious though, not in a casual setting. Even with a white lab coat on, he still was wearing his necklace, and the dark hair on his lower lip was around half a centimeter long.
       "Good evening Ms. Pick," he greeted, his sharp blue eyes sparkling, accenting his charming smile.
       Cynthia had long since grown immune to such things. "John," was the only reply she offered, only letting a faint smile flicker across her face.
       He moved to the side, trying to be a gentleman, and waved his hand through the air, gesturing for his female colleague to go on by. She glanced back at him, her eyes showing no particular emotion, looking like orbs of ice. Cynthia walked past him, feeling his eyes on her back. Nice to have another admirer, she thought with a sarcastic edge.
       John was indeed busy watching her walk down the hall, looking her over. Good lookin' chick, he thought, nice body. Dr. Hall, as he was officially called, had a single year on Ms. Pick; himself being twenty-nine. Both were young, assistant scientists, but both were real bright, too. John wasn't here for the same field as Cynthia; though, he was a weapons specialist. The former Marine had gone through his training and done a couple years of service, but had decided that the armed forces weren't for him. He still had a desire to serve his race; however, so he decided to used his smarts in a different manner. The boy had already gone to college, for a Engineering major, taken ROTC there and entered the military as a Second Lieutenant; after he had gotten out of the Marines, he stayed with the UNSC as a scientist, and the rest was history.
       "Pretty little thing isn't she?" Dr. Shoeman asked from across the room, noticing his young male assistant was watching Cynthia Pick.
       The answer didn't answer for two seconds. "Foxy," John commented as an answer, as the woman continued around a corner, and the lab doors slid shut.
       "Be careful kid, she'll rip your heart out and tear it into little pieces," the older man across the room replied.
       John knew what his elder was referring to; Cynthia could be quite frigid. John decided to answer on that note, "I'd like a chance to thaw her out."
       Keith chuckled, "I've seen a few guys thinking like you try. And they got shot clean down."
       "Yeah?" John turned to see Dr. Shoeman looking into his eyes, with a friendly look on his face. "I've dated worse."
       "I'd like to see her happy, but she doesn't often trust youngsters such as yourself. Especially newcomers."
       "I didn't notice."
       "I'll be honest, John. Cynthia is in need of a caring man who she can love. I just don't know if she'll ever let anyone get close enough for that."
       "Why?" John walked around the three black suits between him and Keith, he was curious. "Did something happen to her or something?"
       Dr. Shoeman finally put his work down, turning his body and full attention to Dr. Hall. "Yes, but it's not the right time or place to talk about it, son."
       John wasn't willing to give up so easily. "No really, what's she been through?"
       "Take a hint, Hall," Keith's face became serious. "I don't want to see that girl get hurt. Guys like you seem not to know how to really treat a lady. All your lustful thinking and what not, some of you fellows need to wizen up a bit."
       John was surprised with the reaction he had evoked. He might be persistent, but this particular guy wasn't stupid, "Sorry, I didn't mean to pry."
       "It's fine, you're curious and a little inexperienced, just let things come with time," Dr. Shoeman replied, he relized he had gotten slightly frustrated. "Don't try to make things happen when they don't need or want to."
       "So, what'cha workin' on?" John asked after several seconds of silence, changing the subject.
       "Ring Airfoil Projectiles," Keith turned back down to look at his work station.
       "The Shield Disruption prototype?"
       "Yup. We've only just started analyzing this Covenant Elite combat armor; it'll take a couple days to get the frequency right, and to modify the circuitry."
       John recalled the previous prototype. "And you had just gotten the other ones down," he reminded.
       "But those only used a shifting frequency technique. Now, with something to base the frequency on, we can narrow down the exact range that the Covenant shields work off of, the round will be much more effective."
       Dr. Hall had only been added to the project roster in time to observe the final stages of the old Shield Disruption Ring Airfoil projectiles. They emitted a signal that was intended to counteract the frequency of the Elite shields. The energy shields operate with their own frequency; and if a frequency exactly opposite of it is projected, the shields were rendered useless, as long as they were submitted to the counteracting frequency. Previously, the technique that had been used to accomplish this before was short-range-broadcast fluctuating range of frequencies in the general vicinity of the exact opposite range of the active shields. It worked, but only for a brief moment, making the time requirements tricky to work with in combat situations. Some thought that the airfoils drained the shields, but all the opposing frequency really did was make the shields "go away", canceled them out.
       This brought another thought to Hall's mind, "What about the Electrical Discharge projectiles? I know I helped draw up plans for some new prototypes... but I assume the access to the shield technology changed that?"
       Dr. Shoeman looked up at John for a moment, then pushing a control to his left. A holographic display sprung up in front of John. "Most certainly."
       The younger scientist scanned the readout floating in front of him. "This looks a lot more powerful than the current models, even what we started testing."
       "They are, they have to be. We modified them to not only deliver a shock, but to short out any electrical field they come in contact with; as long as the current doesn't blow the circuit."
       "Does that include energy shielding?"
       Dr. Shoeman smiled. "Sure does, son. A little less stealthy, but if we can get it right, it should short out, or at least drain, the shield's systems. Plus, we're not sure, but it could transfer the shock to whatever happens to be inside the shield."
       John continued to look at the digital diagram, nodding in satisfaction.
       "The lead scientists and doctors, including myself, had a meeting after the mission debriefing this morning," Keith answered an obvious question. "We came up with a lot of questions and ideas."
       "Well," John said, looking away from the hologram and at the smiling man beside him. "Looks like I have some work to do."

       Elizabeth Shanks couldn't slam the door, she couldn't even lock it, but she could close it in her husband's face.
       "Oh, come on baby," pleaded Dick.
       "Just go on and keep on sweet talkin' her!" Elizabeth shouted from the showers of her particular barracks.
       Dick Shanks was honestly shocked by his spouse's reaction, he wasn't sure what to say to convince her. "Libby!" he shouted after her, through the closed door. "Please can we just talk 'bout dis? I know what it must seem like, but-"
       "Quit acting like such a dick!"
       Normally the man to whom the comment was directed to would have made a pun about that last statement, but this husband knew his wife well enough to not make stupid remarks when she was upset. "Briana is just my new squad CO," Dick persisted, trying to reason with a pissed off woman. "Staff Sergeant Wagner, she just got moved . . . er, transferred from da Neptune. I swear!"
       The woman standing in front of the entrance of the barracks looked shocked, maybe a little stunned. "Maybe I should go Corporal," she offered.
       Dick dropped his arms to his side with a slap, shaking his head with a sigh. "I hate for you to have dis bad a start with her," he replied. "She can be a real doll when you get to know her."
       "I'm sure Corporal, but I really should be going. I need to talk to Sergeant Michaels anyway."
       "Yeah, I guess you're right. I'll have to calm her down a bit, introduce you later."
       Briana Wagner smiled lightly, attaching not even a trace of emotion that could be taken the wrong way. She was nearly as confused as Corporal Shanks. "She's just in a bad mood, give her some space. That attitude will cool off in a little bit. I'm a woman too you know, and we can all be that way sometimes," the Caucasian woman offered in a consoling manner.
       Dick pressed his large lips together in frustration, still worried and confused. "Alright, normally coming by would've been a good thing, normally da rest of the crew is here, but most of dem are probably already headed to da mess."
       "I'll see you later Corporal," Briana turned and opened the door, but then stopped. "By the way, who's squad is your wife under?"
       "Neal Farragut."
       Briana turned fully back around to face Dick. "Sergeant Farragut?"
       "Yeah," Corporal Shanks replied. "You know him?"
       "Personally. We're friends from basic."
       "Cool, maybe dat'll give you and Libby sometin' to talk about."
       Sergeant Wagner backed through the door. "Carry on Corporal," Briana replied, dismissing herself, and turning on her heal.
       Dick watched the back of her black haired head as she turned right and headed down the hall. He shook his own head as the door automatically shut behind his new commanding officer and refocused on a different woman. Elizabeth Shanks, his wife for eight years. The husband of the pair was truly in wonderment about why his spouse had gotten so upset with him just talking with another woman.
       The man sat down on the nearest bed, resting his elbows on his knees and his head on his two fists. Maybe it had been his nature, maybe he had gone to far. He had always been bad at discerning a clear line between dos and don'ts. His flirtatious nature had gotten him in trouble in the past.

       Dick had five minutes to think about what he could have done wrong, and what to say to his wife when she came out, before the door to the showers opened. Libby stood there for a second, glaring at her husband with a dull intensity, before walking to her bunk an lying down. Her ten-centimeter-long hair was matted in thin locks against her dark-skinned head; obviously she had decided to actually take a shower, for whatever reason. From the look on her face, she didn't really know what else to do. The man watching her from another bunk decided to make his move.
       He began with a deep sigh, "Libby, can we talk about me and Sergeant Wagner?"
       Elizabeth didn't offer a verbal reply, but the way she at least made eye contact with the party speaking to her acknowledged that she was willing to listen.
       "We were just talking, honest," he started his explanation. "She's my squad's new CO, and she figured she might meet all of us in a more peaceful place than jumpin' in with us in combat."
       "A looker?" Libby offered the question in a slightly accusing fashion.
       "You know, I really didn't concern myself with dat. There's only one woman I need to be feeling dat way 'bout."
       Libby's face softened a notch, but she still wasn't content.
       "I was flirting again wasn't I?" asked Dick, trying to get some kind of conversation out of her.
       "I suppose it's a habit for you," Libby turned her head and looked in another direction.
       "It might be hard to believe right now, but I don't mean it seriously at all when I do it."
       That caught enough attention to get Elizabeth's head facing towards Dick's again.
       "It just how I talk to women in casual situations."
       Libby's face suddenly softened, thinking about the kind of reaction she had displayed. Maybe she had overreacted, maybe she should have trusted her husband more with some random other woman. Dick might have been a bit of a player, maybe even overly flirtatious, but his wife knew where her husband's heart was. Eight years; she should know him by now. But this damn war . . .
       "I was in a shitty mood," she began with a sigh. "Assumption got the best of me."
       "Briana didn't think you made an ass of yourself," Dick let slip out before he realized he had thought it.
       "I'll have to talk to her later."
       "We all have bad moods," but only women have PMS, he didn't add. "I'm goin' to get some grub."
       Libby moved only her eyes as Dick stood up, her face displaying her answer to his discreet question.
       "See you later, babe."