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The Trials of a Displaced Master Chief Chapter 1: Ritchie
Posted By: stan<stantrl@yahoo.com>
Date: 6 December 2003, 1:32 AM

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      Sunlight streamed through the open window, illuminating a million tiny particles of dust as it reached across the filthy room. Bottles were strewn across the floor amongst containers of takeout Chinese and old pizza boxes. A handle of Captain Morgan rum lay bottoms up in the sink, and a strong odor of rotting food, stale beer, and dirty socks hung over the area.

      Sitting amongst the trash, snoring loudly was a tall lanky man dressed in a badly worn Adidas jogging suit with matching shoes and headband. His hair was long and hung over his eyes, as was the fashion of the times. The man's name was Richard Smeltz, but to his friends he was Ritchie.

      Suddenly, the muffled voice of a news radio weatherman drifted up from under a large pile of laundry. Ritchie awoke with a start, and began slapping at the dirty clothes. The weatherman, determined to complete his daily forecast, would not be defeated that quickly and continued to drone on about a low pressure system that was settling over the area. Finally, Ritchie stood slowly, walked over to the pile of clothes, and extracted the offending clock radio. With a grunt he hurled it across the room where it shattered on the jagged edge of a kitchen counter. With the disturbance taken care of, he collapsed into the laundry pile and quickly fell asleep.

      A short while later, a loud banging roused him once again from his alcohol induced coma. Ritchie whined, yawned, rolled over, and feel asleep again. After a moment the knocking returned; this time louder and more persistent. Ritchie, realizing that like the clock, he would have to take care of this loud interruption if he wished to sleep any longer, stood and walked on shaking legs to the door. As he reached the door and laid his hand on the deadbolt, the knocking ceased abruptly. From behind the door Ritchie heard the unmistakable sound of a pistol's slide being pulled back and released. Without any further encouragement, he jumped quickly from the door.

      Fully alert now, Ritchie bounded through the discarded food containers and empty bottles that served as the rooms only furnishings to the kitchen. There, he opened a cupboard above the sink, reached up, and pulled a large semi-automatic pistol from it's hiding place behind a false back in the cabinet. Emboldened by the heft of the gun in his hand, he crossed the room once again and, with considerably more caution, approached the door. When he had made it halfway across the room, the knocking noise began again. This time the sound was less a polite, but urgent, knock but more the sound of someone pounding on the door with a large object. Ritchie froze, scanned the room for any cover he could utilize and, finding none, dropped to a knee with his gun aimed at the door.

      Suddenly the door gave way around the deadbolt and flew inward banging loudly against the wall. Standing in the doorframe was the biggest man Ritchie had ever seen. At least he thought it was a man. From what he could tell the figure stood at least 8 feet tall and was clad in what looked like futuristic green armor. As Ritchie sat open mouth gaping in shock at the monstrous aberration in front of him, a conversation he had had earlier in the week with an friend of his suddenly came back to him.

      He had been eating dinner with his friend Eddie Nine Toes when conversation changed to Ritchie's current business associate Alfredo Maluchi. According to Eddie, Maluchi had a new enforcer on hire, and while that wasn't too interesting in itself, the rumors about the man where. Apparently, from what Eddie could gather, the man (if you could call him a man) had shown up one day about 4 months ago at the main offices of Maluchi Macaroni Importers, the headquarters of Alfredo Maluchi's wide ranging and powerful crime syndicate. Within weeks the Green Giant, as he was soon being called, was roaming the streets cleaning up any problems that Maluchi sent his way.

      At the time Ritchie wasn't sure if he could trust everything that Eddie had told him, but from what he was seeing he was now sure ol' Nine Toes wasn't lying. In any case, the thing standing in his doorway was not something you wanted to have over for Sunday dinner, and was best dealt with, Ritchie figured, with a few rounds from his semi-auto. Ritchie drew the gun, aimed at what he thought was the weakest looking part of the armor, and fired. To his amazement every round he shot bounced off the man and ricocheted harmless around the room.

      The giant intruder, now surrounded by a slowly fading golden glow, stepped into the room, raised his pistol, and blew off Riche Smeltz gun hand clean off.

      Ritchie fell to the floor clutching what was left of his demolished left hand to his chest, all the while screeching in a voice that was 3 octaves higher than what a man should produce. The green clad man quickly scanned the room for any other threats, and then walked casually over to where Ritchie now lay whimpering in a fetal position on the floor. He reached down, grabbed Ritchie by the arm and effortlessly dragged him to a standing position.

      "Don't fall over again, I need to ask you some questions and I don't want you passing out before I'm finished." The man spoke in a low, gruff voice.

      Ritchie let out a quiet whimper, but stayed on his feet.

      "Good. Now, first off, do you know who I am? I know who you are and I feel we should be properly introduced before we continue."

      "You, you shot my hand off." Ritchie replied. "YOU FUCKING SHOT MY FUCKING HAND OFF."

      "You're right, I did. But it's not that bad. I mean, yeah you'll lose some blood but you'll live. However, if you don't answer my questions, then my next shot is going to be aimed a little bit lower. Got it?"

      Ritchie shuddered and let out another small groan, but nodded his head.

      "Good. Now, I'll ask again: Do you know who I am?"

      "Yes. Er, no. I mean, I've heard of you ok?"

      "Well then, I should introduce myself. It's only polite." Replied the Green Giant. "My name's John. Most people call me the Master Chief. That was my rank, before in the military, but we don't need to get into that. I am what you could call a tracker. I find things. And right now I'm looking for something that belongs to my employer and I have reason to believe that it is in your custody. Am I right in thinking that?"

      "Look man, John, or chief, whatever. I don't know what you're talking about, I've got nothing alright."

      "Ritchie, I don't believe you I think you are lying."

      "I'm not, really, I've got nothing." Ritchie whined. "Look around man, I don't even got furniture."

      The Master Chief saw that at least the man was being truthful about that; besides the trash the place was empty. Even so, the Chief knew the package had to be here. Somewhere. He had done his homework, and as yet he had never failed a test.

      "Cortana" Asked the Chief in a low voice.

      "Yes?" A woman's voice answered.

      "Do a scan of the room. See if there is anything matching our package."

      "Affirmative, initiating scan now."

      Ritchie watched in confusion as the big, green, gun-toting son of a bitch stood there in his living room talking to himself. Ritchie knew he must be losing a lot of blood, but he didn't think he was imagining things. He figured the only explanation was the guy had some sort of internal radio in that big visored helmet of his.

      "Scan complete. I found an anomaly that fits the profile of our package." Announced Cortana, "It's located in the kitchen in the cupboard above the sink."

      "Got it." Replied the Master Chief as he stepped around Ritchie into the kitchen. When he reached the cupboard and looked inside, he found it to be empty.

      "The cupboard is empty Cortana, are you sure it's here?"

      "Yes, I can see that it's empty but I'm sure that it's there. There must be a hidden compartment, try the back."

      The Master Chief tapped along the back wall of the cupboard with the butt of his pistol and was rewarded with a hollow thud. He felt along the edge of the panel with his fingers until he found a small crack. He wedged his gloved fingers in to the crack and pried. The entire back wall of the cabinet popped off revealing a small hidden compartment about the same size as the empty cupboard. Currently the compartment was filled with stacks of dirty bills, a small bag containing a white substance the Chief guessed to be cocaine, and a medium sized black attaché case.

      The Chief grabbed the case and set it on the counter. He dialed in the combination that had been given him by his boss, and was pleased to find that ol' Ritchie One Hand hadn't changed the combo as the case popped open.

      "It's here Cortana, let's go."

      "What about our friend in the living room?"

      "I think Ritchie has been living in this shit hole long enough don't you? I figure he deserves a move up, or down as the case may be." The Chief replied grimly.

      In the living room Ritchie watched as the guy calling himself the Master Chief located his hidden stash and pulled out the brief case. He knew that his time was limited and that if he didn't act now he'd soon be dead. After hearing the conclusion of the Chiefs seemingly one-sided conversation, Ritchie knew he had to make a break for it.

      He made his move while the Chief was still in the kitchen with his back to the living room. As the Chief closed up the case, he made his way slowly towards the still open door. His instincts screamed for him to move more quickly, to run for the door, but he didn't want to accidentally kick over an empty beer bottle and betray his escape. He had made it across the room to the door when a large, cold hand grasped him by the shoulder and, seemingly with out effort, lifted him off his feet. Before he was fully aware of what was happening, Ritchie felt himself flying across the room. He slammed into the far wall and slumped down into a crumpled ball.

      Drawing his pistol, the Master Chief watched as Ritchie slowly tried to right himself. He strode across the room and leveled his pistol at Ritchie's now bleeding head.

      "Where you going Ritchie?" He asked. "If you were headed over to the macaroni shop to offer your apologies to Mr. Maluchi, I can save you the effort. He doesn't accept apologies, and neither do I."

      With that, he cocked his weapon and fired.

      Now that matter was out of the way, the Master Chief knew he had to move quickly. It was only a matter of time before somebody called the cops to come investigate the gunfire. He made his way quickly around the room canvassing it for the two casings from the rounds he had fired. Though he had only been a criminal for a few months, he knew a few things about covering his tracks.

      Satisfied that any lawmen investigated the murder would find no clues as to who killed Ritchie Smeltz, the Master Chief exited the room. As he made his way down the stairwell too the parking garage below, Cortana spoke up.

      "Chief, I'm really getting tired of this job." She said.

      "We've been over this Cortana, we need the money. And really, can you think of anything else an 8-foot cyborg can do without attracting attention? Because if so I'm all ears, I'm not too thrilled with this line of work either."

      "No, I know. It's just, we should be killing Covenant not street thugs." She replied. "We should be thinking of a way to get back home."

      "Again, we've been through this. The fact is we're stuck here and you know it. I mean, look around you; it's 1981. 1981! Where you want to go is 500 years into the future! Look, I still don't know how we got here, but the reality is that we are here and that is just something we are going to have to deal with." Replied the Master Chief with a sigh. "The Covenant is no longer our problem. Survival is."

      "Fine. Fine, I agree it is. For now. But we don't belong here and sooner or later somebody is going to notice that. We've got to get back home and I think I know a way."

      "Fine. But tell me on the way, because pretty soon this place is going to be crawling with cops."

      With that the Master Chief slid into the drivers seat of his massive Cadillac sedan, put the car in gear, and drove out of the garage.