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Halo: Stealth Combat Evolved: Part 2: Chapter 7
Posted By: Mind_Affecting_Parasite<pbplayer_24@yahoo.com>
Date: 2 October 2004, 8:03 PM

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Part 2: The Calm Of The Sea

Chapter 7: Red Sky In The Morning

1900 hours (Standard Time), August 28, 2552 (Military Calender)
UNSC Space Station Lambert

Main Officer's Meeting Chamber

       "So, where do we plan to go next?" asked Commander Grant, seated next to the end of the table. "Will we go back to the Lestos system?"
       "In my opinion it wouldn't be practical at the moment, Roy," replied another officer, Captain Williams. All of the surviving officers sat around the large ovular table in the Officers Meeting Chamber. New plans needed to be made, and there was much to think about after the events that had transpired. "Go to take back a decimated planet?"
       "We don't leave people behind," put in Captain Locke. "What if there are survivors? There could be people stranded out in space. Can you even bare the thought of dying like that?"
       "I'm afraid I agree with Captain Williams for now," a voice boomed from the other end of the table. It was Commodore Ford.
       "Why can't we take back that system, sir?" asked Captain Marker, confused at his CO's response. "Our men fought and died for that system, and the least we can do is-"
       Ford held up his hand, silencing the Captain. "I'm sorry, I really am; but we just cannot afford to return to Heilos. There may be some survivors, but by now they have probably already been found by the Covenant.
       "To be honest, we don't have the resources to go back. We would just be spending more lives; and that is something that I cannot bring myself to do."
       "What purpose does a dead planet serve us anyway?" said Captain Williams, his voice void of emotion.
       "So those Covenant bastards can't have it!" growled Locke, pounding a fist on the table's surface.
       The Commodore gave him a corrective look. "That will be enough, Captain Locke."
       "I would like to know the answer to my first question," continued Grant, seemingly unfazed. "Where to next?"
       Ford watched as all of the men seated around the table composed themselves, knowing real business did need to be attended to. "Our options are running low in this part of space, gentlemen."
       "Sir, if I may, perhaps we could take a short leave here," suggested Commander Yen. "All of the men are tired from the attack and battle efforts."
       Some of the men smiled at the thought of a few days rest; others frowned at the Commander's attempt to get out of his normal duty and operations.
       "As much as I would like that myself, I'm afraid that is not an option to us either," was the Commodore's reply. "Every day we sit and wait is another that the Covenant have to attack or advance towards another Human held planetary system.
       "I am also concerned with keeping the project going. We need to remain conscious of the need of training and real field exercises."
       "With all due respect, sir," began Commander Grant. "Are the Spartans really making a difference? Or are we just wasting our time with them?"
       "I believe they are, Commander," responded Ford, almost defensively. "And it is not just for the sake of them. They acquire more Covenant technology every time they return from a mission. They also have been responsible for many adaptations and improvements in our weapons and equipment."
       "But will it do any good?" pressed Grant. "Will this new tech really make a difference in time? You know as well as I that the Covenant forces have continued to press inward towards more of the inner colonies; and Earth."
       The Commodore's face became sour, his tone serious, grave, and slightly aggravated at the same time. "I don't need to be reminded of the Covenant's progress, Commander. This war is bad enough as it is without bitching from the likes of you. We all have to believe that there is something worth fighting for, and it is, and will be, worth it. Is that clear?"
       Grant sank back into his chair, surprised by his CO's direct rebuke of his opinions. "Perfectly sir," he mumbled back.
       "Good; I don't want anymore of those negative comments from you, or-" Ford looked around the table. "-From anyone else. We have real things to worry about right here, and right now."
       The tense atmosphere changed as the lights dimmed and a star map appeared on the wall.
       "Now," started the Commodore. "We have a couple options to consider for our next operation. Any good ideas? I want to here them."

Observation Room B-3, Medical Section

       "How's our subject?" inquired Dr. Schneider, looking over a digital information pad.
       The other doctor looked up from the displayed readings. "So far, so good," she replied. "It is alive and well so far. Doesn't look very pleased to be here, but I wouldn't be either in its position."
       Both medical professionals looked down through the thick glass window at the lone occupant of the adjacent room.
       "How are the readings off of the thing?" asked Schneider, making a couple notes and stepping to the side of his colleague.
       "Similar to any living thing you could find. But, of course, seeing what kind of creature it is, we have a few differences."
       The other doctor, Sheila Reins, swivelled a nearby monitor to face in a more convenient angle. "Like heart rate, metabolism, EEG, organ function and placement, and that kind of thing."
       Manny Schneider inadvertently flashed his eyes over the wires and tubes hanging from, some of them implanted in, the alien specimen on the medical bed a few feet below in the containment chamber.
       "Well, it was awake a good part of yesterday, and this morning; but it conked out a couple hours ago. We've been feeding it intravenously, but it would be good for it to ingest some foodon its own. We all would prefer some interaction; start to build a foundation upon which to communicate with it."
       Schneider nodded, licking his dry lips. "We have translation software."
       "True," said Sheila. "But the trouble will be getting it to talk at all."
       "As much as I would like to steer clear of it, I don't think that the military commanders of this station would have any problem using torture to interrogate it."
       "Yeah," a sigh. "I know."
       Both doctors looked again towards the large creature lain out on the medical table. Wires were carefully placed over the alien's body; their purpose to gain data on the electrical signals emitted by nerves and brain tissue. Then there were the tubes that were strung around; some were providing the Prisoner of War with hydration, others with liquified nutrients, and still others were placed where thought best to take care of any waste products. If nothing else, the Humans would now have a specimen to learn anatomy off of.
       "Bet the tech team is having a good time with everything that it came in with, eh?" remarked Manny. He was an older man, his once beach-blonde hair turning silver with the years. His title was Doctor, but not only from his status as a MD. He had gone for a doctorate majoring in Human Anatomy and minored in Biology. Plenty of knowledge to examine a foreign species, but it was still an interesting thought. "A full set of armor; I heard it was intact?"
       Sheila checked yet a few more readings and let herself focus on something other than her work for a moment. "That's the rumor; not much gets confirmed around here though. We have a lot to learn; not just about their technology either. Remember the Heart Beat Detection Device brought up at our last big briefing?"
       Dr. Schneider took a couple seconds to remember. "Yes, I believe so. A good idea; I could only imagine how incredibly useful that would be in the field."
       "Well, that thing there-" she pointed at the large form in the other room. "-Could be the key to make it work much more efficiently. I'm not sure how much you know about how it was supposed to work, but, having a live heart to measure does wonders to make things more accurate."
       "If I'm not mistaken-I've done some work with similar devices in the past-it works by keeping track of the steady pulse of the heart beat along with the electromagnetic field it emits. But, like I said, I've only done work with prototypes in the past."
       "Well, you're right on. That's the basic principle that the things are suppose to work off of. 'Cept, the problem is that in the past we have never had the real thing to calibrate our equipment to; but now..."
       "I see your point."
       "Well, I will personally be very interested to read how it preforms in the field if we get an operational prototype for the project team."
       "Most certainly."
       A low beep came over the speakers, catching the two doctor's attention immediately. With a quick look over the various screens scattered about, displaying the various pieces of medical data of the alien creature in the form of digital lines, numbers, and graphs, the source of the alert was located. It wasn't an emergency, but it was important. Just a few meters away, now clothed in a thin cloth gown, laying face up on a medical bed, the restraints attached firmly over strategic areas; a Covenant Elite warrior was just waking up from its rest cycle, once again finding itself in a strange environment.
       Some calls were made, more systems were brought on line, and several people aboard the Human space station moved quickly to converge in the observation room. There was an alien present, an there were many things to be done.

2113 hours (Standard Time), August 29, 2552 (Military Calendar)
Palestine System, Surface of Caucus IV, Conifer Mountain Military Complex

Indoor Base Firing Range A-2

       Muzzle flashes strobed through the air, and spend casings dropped to the ground in slow, graceful spinning motions. Bolts slid explosively back and forth as triggers were pulled; arms and shoulders vibrating from each bullet-let-fly.
       It was just about a normal practice session in the firing range, soldiers testing their skills or trying to top their friends' personal bests. This session was slightly different than most; however, for this time, new weapons were being handled and put through their paces. All the shooters present enjoyed every moment of the improved sighting, efficiency, and punch of their new firearms.

       Corporal Campbell watched as the last round of his triple-burst completed the hole in the thin target's forehead. He lowered his weapon and punched the control set to bring his target back to his firing station. While the bullet-ridden human-form shape started moving, the Corporal looked over his weapon.
       As an ODST, Lance Campbell had dealt with many weapons in the past; during training and on the battlefield. Most of them had been great allies, proving to be durable, easy to use, and a regular tool; the new Battle Rifle seemed to be starting out in the same fashion.
       With a slightly longer barrel, sighting rail with scope, and higher caliber bullets, the freshly shipped firearms were looking good; Lance was already in love. He was a Marine, and a highly skilled one at that. He knew when a weapon was good and when it was bad; whether it would preform and pull through in battle, and he was confident his new favorite weapon would do just that.
       It was certainly an improvement to the, formerly, standard MA5B Assault Rifles. With more accuracy and much more versatility on the field. It might not fire at fifteen-rounds-a-second, but, its other advantages more than made up for that slight inconvenience.
       While Lance enjoyed the high fire rates of the Assault Rifles and Sub Machine Guns, he was a marksman at heart. So, the sole fact that the new standard issue ODST rifle had a four-times power scope attached gave him chills. Now he could sight in and casually pick the head off of just about any target-moving or not. This he had just assured himself of with two full magazines of the new weapon's ammunition.
       Rifles and pistols still cracked and spat bullets around him, but Campbell wasn't fazed. The target finally came to a stop at the front of the soldier's station. With a quick release of the ruined material, the old stiff paper dropped into a receptacle. Within seconds, a new mass of bullet-ready plastic was ready to be used for shooting practice. This one was distinctly different from the previous generic target, made of a denser material, and a more solid shape.
       With another button-press, another track was in motion. This time it wasn't a rifle of any kind that was to be used against the half-mannequin; it was time for another one of the Corporal's favorite toys.
       A solid recoil smacked against Lance's palm, sending a shockwave up his braced arms. This other new weapon was a winner as well. More heavy shots rocketed from the barrel of the relatively small firearm, impacting devastatingly into the target downrange. Hardened slugs pushed through the polymer like it was no more than gel, sending soft fragments into the protective shield lining the rear of the room.
       As the bottom half of the second ruined target hung from only a few strands of structural material, Corporal Campbell hit the familiar target return switch.
       He had found his favorite sidearm this day as well. This pistol was a beauty; thirty-percent larger than a standard M6D HE Pistol, and the rounds were as equally massive. A magnum, Lance noticed, and a powerful one at that. He wondered how much stopping power it would have against a Grunt, plenty to knock it dead with a head shot; but what about the energy-shield wearing Elites? It would be an interesting thing to find out when the time came; but Campbell didn't want that chance to come anymore than the next man. In fact, as much as he enjoyed the new weapons, he wished he would never have to test them.
       Of course, with all such thoughts came a sinking feeling that somehow, the Corporal's wish would be quick to reverse itself.

UNSC Destroyer Moscow, in orbit around Caucus IV, Command Deck

       The space around the Palestine system was quiet, void of surprises or anything to cause worry. This made all the bridge personnel lax about their duties. Everyone moved slowly, precisely, but without motivation. They had yet to be attacked at this place by anyone. Be they foolish rebels or a fleet of Covenant ships.
       That last thought sent a chill up and down Commander Brights' spine. The lazy command station of his ship was just what he liked. He actually enjoyed being able to float about, not having to put much thought into the possibility of an attack.
       To him, it seemed like the enemy had just overlooked the system he called home. Brights paused to look over the message that just came in from the small Slipspace monitoring station around the perimeter of the system. No anomalies, was the report's primary statement. Continuing standard scans.
       With the new information, the CO of the Moscow let himself relax even further.
       "Lieutenant McCallister," he addressed.
       The navigation officer swivelled in her seat, greeting her Commander with a smile. "Yes, sir?"
       "You have the bridge," Brights replied. "I'll be going to my quarters. I am not to be disturbed unless an emergency arises."
       "Understood, sir. Aye."
       The Commander nodded, pleased with the response, and walked off of the command deck and into his personal quarters a short distance away. For him, it was just another uneventful day.