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Halo: Stealth Combat Evolved: Part 2-Chapter 8
Posted By: Mind_Affecting_Parasite<pbplayer_24@yahoo.com>
Date: 24 October 2004, 2:41 AM

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Part 2: The Calm Of The Sea

Chapter 8: Storm On The Horizon

2302 hours (Standard Time), August 28, 2552 (Military Calendar)
UNSC Space Station Lambert

Observation Room B-3, Medical Section

       The large alien form looked extremely odd in a Human medical gown; its form pressing against the thin material. The sleeves barely covered the shoulders of the beast, the largest sized garment not big enough for the creature. At present, the captured Elite was sitting - or rather reclining - upright in its bed. It didn't look happy.
       "Hello, sir," started a newcomer to the current "interrogation" game. "I am First Lieutenant Adam Jordan of the United Nations Space Command, from the Office of Naval Intelligence. I am here to tell you that you have the rights of a Prisoner of War and will be treated with the utmost respect and care while you stay with us in our facilities."
       The Human's cordial smile was met by a menacing stare, the creature keeping its dark-black eyes focused on the other prominent figure in the room. The glowering expression was punctuated only by an occasional growl or gurgling sound. Subject-E3 sat still, its muscles occasionally tensing against the restraints; it had tried three times already to break free, unsuccessful on every account. The occupants of this station were smart enough to have gone over every precaution.
       Lieutenant Jordan looked back with a undeterred, yet still passive, expression on his face to keep himself in control of the situation; gazing back with his clear, calm, and sharp blue eyes, sparkling like emeralds in the overhead flourescent lights. He had been taught that when questioning an enemy prisoner, first give them respect; for most likely they had been told they would have been treated harshly. Giving them a kind appearance often softened tongues and loosened wills; but this was apparently not the case with the alien, it sat composed and aggravated across the room. "We have food for you, and you are free to request for whatever you may require within our limits," the translation device took a brief moment to convert the languages, before again emitting an odd combination of guttural sounds. "Do you understand me, sir?"
       The Elite's response to the question was a loud snarl and an opening of the mandibles; obviously a sign of aggression. It was almost like dealing with an indignant child with the mind of an animal. Since the beginning of the second communication attempt, the alien's skin had darkened, from a placid mottled dark-blue to a purple-black hue. Elite, S-E3, was obviously becoming increasingly aggravated by the second.
       Adam sighed, venting his frustration. While training to be an ONI officer, he had experienced much better results from Human subjects; these Covenant types were proving to be a totally different book altogether. While he knew that the enemy soldier was part of an elite class, and had trained to fight; no knowledge was known on the rank or duties of the scoundrel, preventing any kind of personal connection. "Thank you for your time, sir. We will come again to speak with you," he waved his hand and a male nurse entered the room, carrying a tray of food. The Naval officer stood, delivered a respectful nod to his "patient", pairing it with a meaningful smile, and proceeded in exiting the room.

       "No luck, Lieutenant?" asked Commodore Ford, glancing briefly at the younger man. He stood in an erect posture in front of the observation window, a cup in one of his hands, his arms crossed. The nurse had just sat down next to Subject-E3.
       "I've had better luck with stone walls, sir," replied Jordan with a shake of the head. "I just don't think it wants to talk to any of us. And I could tell it was almost offended by our 'use' of its language."
       "Well, we'll just have to give the thing thinking time," Ford took a loud sip from his mug, a steaming cup of mint tea. The aroma had been filling the room for ten minutes.
       "Actually, sir," Adam said, facing his superior. "From the doctors' observations, it is apparently a 'him.'"
       "Oh? The sucker has balls then, eh?"
       The lieutenant smiled at the light humor. "In a manner of speaking. It's actually quite interesting to see what these aliens actually have in means of reproductive systems. Surprisingly, things look similar enough to our own. On this male at least."
       A growl and anger filled stare caused the man attempting to feed the Elite back away; his apprehension visible on his face. He looked up at the talking pair and shook his head. The Commodore pushed his lips together and moved them higher up his face, displaying his thinking process; he nodded to the MD currently manning the observation room.
       "Come on out Devon, it looks like he'll be eating by tube again tonight," the observing doctor's voice said over the speakers in the bare adjacent room.
       "No problem there," the nurse replied.
       "When will we continue?" asked Adam, offering the Commodore a seat.
       Ford let his weight sink into the supportive piece of furniture. "Soon, I should think. We need to keep trying, that is for sure. This is a major opportunity to gain intelligence from an enemy."
       "That's what us 'spooks' are for, sir. We specialize in making these types of things sing."
       "Not much of a canary, though, Lieutenant."
       Jordan finally sat down into a chair of his own. "True, true. What about interrogation? Where are we drawing the line here? After all, he isn't Human."
       "Our POWs have their rights, alien or not, son. But, we may have to resort to that type of tactic," another drink from the navy-blue cup. "It will prove to be a challenge, though. The way I have seen these things fight - from mission reports anyway - they would die rather than give us a chirp."
       "I think that we may just give it a little more time. We know the thing, excuse me, he is intelligent; we have seen how they can react on the field. It is logical to assume that given no option, maybe he'll figure out he has a better chance with us."
       "To a life of imprisonment?"
       "Maybe so, but he doesn't know that," a look at the scowling Elite. "Like I said: time, we need some time."
       "I will go with that for now, Lieutenant," Ford took a deep breath, letting it out slowly in thought. "For now, though, let's keep working on the stuff that came with it."
       "Aye, sir."
       "Good," the Commodore stood and walked towards the exit of the room. "Good luck with it."

Secondary Project Personnel Meeting Chamber

       Doctor Shoeman fiddled with the remote-control for a brief moment, ironically still not fully accustomed to the controls. The button was soon found and the screen over the wall hummed to life. "Well, let's get this meeting started," he said, looking over the few others in the room. Those present included Cynthia Pick, Manny Schneider, Pauline Wesson, John Hall, and the three project Spartans. "Since the fleet returned from the previous mission, we have accomplished a few things. These improvements and upgrades will be very helpful in the field, and it is best that we all are accustomed to them before they are issued."
       The previously bland light-blue image faded into a three-dimensional display of the newly acquired set of Covenant armor. Everyone present perked up at the subject matter.
       "Currently, efforts are being made to extract information from the captured alien specimen; however, meanwhile, some of us have been working on understanding further the systems that compose the shielding mechanisms of the armor that was brought back by our Spartans," the doctor continued. "As most, if not all, of you know, several of the developments we have been working towards were hinging on a further understanding of these systems. We still don't know everything, but we have gotten the systems working, and have been able to run several tests and diagnostics. As we already knew, they do run off of a specific frequency to operate; but now, we have that frequency."
       Next to the suspended representation of alien armor, a series of graphs and active displays sprung up; showing the many setting that made the delicate systems operable.
       Doctor Shoeman went on, "This means, of course, that the Shield Busters will work with much more efficiency. Eventually, this could enable us to add a disruption system within a set of MJOLNIR armor, but this would be long term. Also, a couple of the projectiles that the Spartans use will also be affected by this new technological intelligence. The Ring Airfoil Projectiles will have disruption circuitry incorporated in them, like before, but again, to a much more effective degree; knocking out enemy shields for a moment from somewhat of a distance. The Electrical Discharge Projectiles will also be improved on this new technology. Now-" he looked at the three Spartan soldiers present. "-They will work against enemy shields; even through them."
       The holographic display again changed to other items, these being the aforementioned pieces of combat gear. Through all this, the three project field operatives sat quiet and still, listening intently.
       "This is not all, though. It may seem like a lot for a single meeting, but with all the things we received, I, personally, cannot help but be excited. Doctor Schneider please."
       The other man stood and walked to the side of the screen, letting his colleague take a seat.
       "As Keith already stated, we are in the process of getting anything we can from the alien now in our possession. Even still, merely the body functions of the creature have already aided us in yet another development," Manny Schneider explained. "As many of you are aware, the medical team had been working with the technological team involving Covenant tech on the station. One of the many things we have been working on is a device t o make it easier for a special operations team to detect and located an enemy with more than their eyes and at a considerable distance.
       "The way we have to gain this ability presently is with a new device designed to located and track a heart. Since the heart emits a unique electromagnetic field we have something to track different species or even individuals. We currently are calling the device the Heart Based Life Tracking System, HBLTS, or as one of the younger assistance of mine dubbed it, the "Beat Finder." Regardless of the devices name, it operates on two primary actions of the heart to locate a living body.
       "The aforementioned electromagnetic field is the main factor, since it can be tracked with electric systems to a high degree. Also, the rhythm of the heartbeat itself will be trackable with sensitive acoustic monitors, calibrated to sense the aural - plus the air born shockwave - of each contraction of the heart. Now, while we do not know the exact electromagnetic field that every species of Covenant heart creates, we can still locate these signals with great accuracy."
       An MRI of an Elite appeared on the holographic display, turning transparent for the audience to view in detail. It rotated slowly in the air, readings and a smaller representation of the device over to the side.
       Schneider continued, "We have an advantage now, though. Since we have a living heart to monitor and collect data off of, we can set the system to recognize the distinct heart-signal of an Elite. But, not only will the system display alien heartbeats, it will display all other heartbeats that it picks up. This includes, of course, Human hearts. This will give our field operatives that use this system the improved ability to distinguish friend from foe in a cluttered battlefield. Also, seeing as our particular team relies on stealth and extreme coordination, this will help them to maintain a knowledge of the status of any particular team member at any time. You can know how stressed a team member or enemy is, as well as be informed when they really die. This will virtually eliminate the possibility of an enemy tricking you into believing they are dead when they are not.
       "Now, as for how this new system will display it's information-" a mock image from a Heads Up Display sprung to life on the display, with lined labels pointing to every detail. "-Instead of trying showing the new data in a new display, all of us agreed that the best place to incorporate the data would be in the motion tracking display. The contacts that were previously blurred an non-solidified will be with great clarity. The new system will discreetly distinguish between friend-or-foe, as well as what species, or at least side, an unknown contact is on. This means that if you have any question over the species of something approaching you that may be a friendly, you now have a better means of finding out.
       "So, the display will still show when a contact is in motion. But, instead of fading out when the motion stops, it will continue to show up from its pulsing heart and electromagnetic field. We have worked out all the major display types to indicate to you every possible piece of information, but you-" he looked at each of the Spartans. "-Will ultimately be responsible for deciding which display and setup of the systems you will prefer.
       "Unfortunately, without triangulation, even this system can't tell you exactly where a heartbeat is coming from. It can give you a very accurate direction bearing, and fair estimation, from signal strength, of the distance, so each registered contact in the estimated area will be considered as a possible source of the signal. This means, that if you are in a very busy battlefield, the system may not be of great use; the exception being in finding a friendly soldier in the mass of enemy. Now, the problem with exact coordinates and location of a contact can be solved with proper coordination and planning, as well as strategy. Since there are three team members that often work in close proximity, you can use a form of triangulation to zero in on a contact. If two - or more - people with this system are arranged in a particular fashion, the radio - or suit-to-suit digital communications - can be used to coordinate the two persons' systems to help increase the accuracy of this system.
       "This is all currently in a stage of testing; soon to be field-testing. So, the next mission that our team is sent on, will be the true test of these systems. And, if I am correct, that operation is planned to occur fairly soon."

Station Commander's Quarters, Command Deck

       "When's the briefing?" asked Commander Williams, from his leather-clad chair. Two cups of liquor sat on the desk before him.
       Commodore Ford downed the last of his small serving of the alcoholic beverage and looked back up at the Lambert's CO. "Tomorrow morning; o'-seven-hundred hours."
       "And it's pretty close, too."
       "As was discussed in the briefing," Ford leaned back in his own chair, opposite that of Williams'. "We need to check out the system. The last ship to go in there was for supplies, and they never really check up on anything; just unload and head back. Besides, we could use it as a launch to another operation, or check on any reports of recent attacks or news. That is one disadvantage of stationing in a remote sector in a secluded space station: news always comes late."
       "I hear you, sir. But, let me just confirm this for myself; how many ships are you leaving behind to watch the space here?"
       "Ah, we did not really cover that in the meeting did we? Well, I need as many ships as I can, and the next convoy scheduled to come out here isn't for another month or so. I'll leave you with three-quarters the usual reserve."
       The smell of cigar smoke tickled Brent's nose, still hanging around from the occasions that Commodore Ford smoked the things in this office. It wasn't a bad smell, just a little odd to the younger officer's senses; the Lieutenant Commander didn't smoke.
       "That's six, sir," he said, not comfortable with the low number; even though it was only down by two.
       "I can do math, Commander. But, I could use them. My fleet took a lot of damage this last mission, and I want my total number up to at least ten. The damaged ships are still being finished up on the Cradles."
       Williams was almost still surprised that two of the large refit vessels were even out in this system. They were large, ungainly, and of almost no use in combat, but they were necessary. If a ship became crippled or injured in space combat, something had to fix her up. The Cradles were the only things that could do the job effectively out in this part of space.
       "I am heading back to my own quarters now, son. If you can handle the bridge, which I know you can; I'm off to get the rest I have been lacking for a week now," the Commodore said, closing the conversation.
       "Yes, sir. Everything is under control. And, I have fortunately had plenty of sleep for a while now."
       "Good night, Commander."
       "See you tomorrow, sir."

0327 hours (Standard Time), August 29, 2552 (Military Calendar)
Palestine System, UNSC Space Station Herold, controlled system orbit

Command/Primary Operations Deck

       The usually quiet rooms and halls of the Slipspace monitoring station were jolted awake as the alarm claxons buzzed into every crew member's eardrums. All hands jumped from their present tasks - playing a game of cards, watching an out-of-date movie, getting regular sleep - and wondered what the emergency was. Several bodies ran through strobing-red halls, trying not to run into each other.
       Was it just a drill? was the question running through all the non-command personnel's minds.
       "Repeat: all hands to station. Possible enemy contact. This is not a drill; repeat: this is not a drill," the electronically synthesized voice blared over the speakers. One question answered.
       But with the answer came a whole slew of other questions: Was it the Covenant? Were they going to attack? Was anybody going to live to see their question's answered? All this and more sped through men and women's minds, along with all the drilled operational procedures that they rapidly put to practice.

       "Where was the last contact?" questioned Commander Parson, his hands gripping the back of his Slipspace Monitoring Sation officer's chair tightly.
       "Alpha probe put it fairly distant, still waiting for a signal from the Beta probe," reported the Ensign. "Should I send out a retrieval drone, or dispatch another probe?"
       Parson sighed, his face contorted in worry. He had read all the reports on all other Covenant attacks from the Slipspace monitoring stations. While the aliens were starting to use different tactics, in this case, they were becoming predictable. This frightened the young and inexperienced commander of the Herold to the core.
       "Scan local space, make sure that-"
       "Sir!" shouted the Navigation officer. "I'm getting a contact at bearing one-eight-six."
       The Commander released the chair of his other officer and took a shaky step towards the main view screen. "On main display."
       An initially dark image flashed onto the display screen, showing nothing special. That was, until motes of green light faded into existence, replacing the black of space with a hellish glow. Soon, five blue-purple ships had appeared one-thousand kilometers from the UNSC station.
       Eric Parson felt his legs begin to buckle. He was faced directly with death, and he didn't know what to do. The five ships apposing him were powering up.
       "Orders sir?" asked the calm voice of the Communications officer.
       Eric shook his head free of his terror, he knew his duty. "Start a message to Caucus Four, and initiate the Cole Protocol," he said, beads of nervous perspiration building up on his skin, before looking to his Engineering officer. "Lieutenant: prepare the reactor for a self-destruct sequence."
       The room grew still for a second, all eyes on the Commander. Then, as if an electric shock had struck every one of the Command Deck personnel, all the officers got to work. This was a grave situation, and they all knew that the fate of the main planet in the system was laid on their shoulders. It was their lives, or the lives of millions. None of them could look away from the comparison.
       On the display, the enemy ships' engines flared blue, pushing the masses closer. Lateral lines of red plasma started to form, and the first bits of alien electronic intrusion started its attempt at hacking the Human systems.