They're Random, Baby!

Fan Fiction

Blue 4 by firerwolf

Blue 4 Prologue
Date: 21 February 2013, 2:11 am

The land was desolate and broken, nothing but glass where no life was fit to live. The land was impossible to recognize, possibly any of the many glassed planets. A cold wind rushed over the land and Kelly wrapped her arms around herself. She sat on the hard ground, staring out at the death and destruction before her. This was the legacy of the war, what was left behind by a quarter of a century of fighting.

Kelly curled up a bit more as the cold soaked into her bones. She wished that she had her armor, something to keep the cold out. She felt something rest on her shoulders and she was wrapped in warmth. Kelly reached up to her shoulder and she felt the cloth of the blanket. She looked back and could see him standing behind her. "Thanks." He smiled and she held a hand out to him. He shook his head and Kelly frowned. "Sit with me."

He shook his head again, taking a step back. Kelly stood up, turning toward him. He took a few more steps back and Kelly just watched him. She didn't know why he was leaving her. "I know you'll find me. Just wake up."

Kelly's eyes slowly opened, awoken by a familiar voice. "Commander, I believe you'll want to hear this." The voice echoed, each bounce back ranging in gender and pitch. "Commander, wake up."

Kelly groaned. "I'm getting up. What do you want me to hear?" Kelly sat up on her bed, not very happy to be awake.

Kelly recognized the female voice as it played. It had been almost five years since she'd heard it but she'd know it anywhere. "Forward Unto Dawn. Requesting immediate exac. Survivors aboard. Prioritization code: victor zero five dash three dash Sierra zero one one seven."

Kelly sprang out of her bed and moved and a moment later was standing beside the holotank beside her quarter's door. "Play it again, Sapphire." The message repeated and Kelly grinned. A distress call from the Forward Unto Dawn, saying there were survivors, and the call sign one one seven. "When do we head into slip space?"

The holotank flared to life and the ball of light that was the smart AI Sapphire appeared. Its echoing voice was ever calm, if not disorienting. "Crew is preparing for slip space at the moment, Commander." Sapphire shifted and Kelly could see what looked to be hints of several faces made of a sort of crystal material through the light. Sapphire was like no AI Kelly had ever met. While most had a clear understanding of what they wanted to be, Sapphire always seemed to Kelly like an AI that was caught between genders and the choice of a human avatar or abstract form. At first its ever changing voice had been hard to handle, but after a month of working together her headaches from the echoes had gone away.

"What about the Spartans? When are we set to go into cryo?" Kelly couldn't help her excitement.

"The Spartan IIs are set to go into cryo in thirty," Sapphire reported.

Kelly groaned. Once more things were not moving at her preferred speed. John had always told her that the world couldn't keep up with her pace and she'd never realized how right he was until he wasn't around to fill the time it took for the world to catch up. There was a knock at her door. "It's open," she called so the person could hear her.

The door slid open and Fred stepped in. "From the look on your face you've heard the news." Fred smiled slightly, glad to see Kelly smiling. She hadn't been smiling much in the last four years.

"You mean do I know that we've found John? Yes, I know. Sapphire played the message for me." Kelly smiled in the direction of the holotank. "First time it's woke me for something worth my time."

"I am not sure if you meant that as an insult, but it is my duty to ensure you are informed of all pertinent information and do receive orders." The AI grew brighter for a moment and then eased back to its normal brightness. It was one of the few human-like things Sapphire did. Its voice was always flat but it seemed unable to prevent the changes in brightness and color that showed emotion.

"It's not you I'm insulting, Sapphire. This is just the first time in a while it's felt like this is a Spartan mission," Kelly explained. She turned to look at Fred. "Upset you didn't get to break the news to me yourself?"

Fred shook his head. "I came here to make sure you didn't get your hopes up too high. The voice is Cortana's, but who knows how long it has been playing, if he's actually on the Dawn or if it's an attempt of a rampant AI to try to be saved." Kelly's fist slammed into his shoulder. "Ow!"

"Don't you dare say anything like that, Fred. You and I both know John and I can't believe you would dare doubt that he's alive and on that ship." Kelly glared art him, her hands balled into fists.

"Calm down, Kelly. I just don't want you to be disappointed. One of two things is going to happen. Either we go there and John is on the ship and we rescue him, or he isn't there and our hopes get crushed. Better to go in as a pessimist in this case," Fred reasoned.

Kelly shook her head but relaxed. "No, I know he's there, waiting to be found. We are going to find him." There wasn't a single doubt in Kelly's mind that John would be there, that they would find him. It was beyond her understanding that Fred could doubt that.

"How can you be so sure?" Fred asked.

Kelly frowned at him. "You know why." Fred knew full well not to question her on this. He shouldn't have even asked that question knowing the bond she had with John.

Fred sighed, giving up on trying to convince her. "All right, let's head down to the cryo bay. I know you're probably jumping out of your skin to get moving."

"Everyone just moves too slow," Kelly complained. "If they could just move as fast as me we'd already be there."

"We'll sadly the rest of us weren't gifted with your speed." Fred stepped out of the room and Kelly followed. "We'll just have to settle for as fast as Infinity can get us there."

"Not fast enough," Kelly muttered. They walked in silence to the large cryobay. It could hold hundreds of pods, each assigned to a specific crew member. With the size of Infinity's crew this was just one of several. They were usually split up by what part of the ship a person worked or lived in. The one the Spartans were assigned to was filled with technicians, officers, and a lot of Spartan IVs. The two Spartans headed to the deck that held the pods that were assigned to them about halfway up the wall of cyro pods.

Linda was already waiting along the catwalk to the pods, leaning against the railing with her arms crossed over her chest. "Surprised you aren't sprinting here," the sniper teased. "Promise that when we find him you two keep it PG."

Kelly smirked at her friend. "No promises, I'm going to try my hardest though not to hug him." At least Linda wasn't being a pessimist like Fred. After so many years of hoping to find the Master Chief Kelly needed all the support for her hope that she could get.

"Just warn me ahead of time. I don't want to see such disgusting shows of affection." Linda smiled and fell into step with them toward the pods. To Spartans just a simple hug was like two normal soldiers having sex in public. Even an open smile was considered an obscene thing to do with non-Spartans around.

They reached the technician and Kelly let Fred take the lead. She wasn't comfortable with non-Spartan IIs seeing how happy she was, and if she talked she was sure she wouldn't be able to hide it. "Spartans zero-five-eight, zero-eight-seven, and one-zero-four, reporting for cryostaysis."

The technician typed in some things on his terminal and nodded. "All right, they're all set for you."

Fred nodded to the man and moved over to the cryo pod. The Spartans all stripped and moved to their respective pods. Kelly took deep breaths, waiting for the chemicals to take effect and knock her out. Her eyes closed and she relaxed in the pod, relieved to know they'd finally be bringing John home.

Blue 4 Chapter 1
Date: 21 February 2013, 2:18 am

Kelly took in a deep breath as the chemicals worked their way out of her system. The hatch opened and she leaned forward, coughing up the clear liquid that supplied nutrients while in cryo. Infinity would be coming out of slip space soon and the crew was being awoken to prepare. Once her lungs were clear of the mucus-like liquid, Kelly made a quick pass through the showers before she grabbed her clothing and got dressed into the black under layer of her armor. Fred and Linda joined her a couple seconds later, Fred still coughing up a little of the liquid. Kelly was already off down the catwalk before they even got dressed.

The line of armor stations was a bustle of activity, gearing up the Spartan IVs. Officers shouted orders at their soldiers and carts of weapons were being pushed around so that people could grab their combat gear. Kelly moved to one that wasn't being used, the one that was specifically set up for the more advanced and expensive Mark VII armor that the Spartan IIs wore. While the Spartan IVs used armor that was designed by private companies, the Spartan IIs were still given armor created and perfected by the brilliant minds at ONI. Kelly moved into the center of the ring and held her arms out.

"Would you like an update?" Sapphire offered.

"Tell me the news." The ring rose up and started to assemble the armor around Kelly as she stood. Once the arms were armored up she took a step back, allowing the boots to be brought up from the floor. She stepped into them and stood as the rest of the armor was put into place.

The AI's avatar appeared at a holotank to the side of the machine. It's color fluctuated in a steady rhythm as it always did when giving a clear report, like it was keeping time as it spoke to pace itself. "We don't know much other than the signal. The probe that we'd sent there, that received the message, has been destroyed. It should be assumed that there will be hostiles as soon as we've exited slip space. The Captain's plan is to find the signal, retrieve whatever we can, and if possible clear out enemies. These locations point to a Forerunner world so it is uncertain if the enemy is a known type or will be something we have not yet found."

The mechanical arms put Kelly's chest plate in place and it connected to the power pack. "Right, because with Forerunner nothing should be ruled out." Kelly stopped the machine from putting her helmet on. She grabbed it from the robotic arms and slipped it on herself. "So, be ready to come out of slip space and be blown out of the sky." Kelly moved over to the terminal that Sapphire's avatar hovered over. The avatar vanished as she pulled out the chip and slotted it into her helmet.

"The Captain has not yet ordered deployments but I am sure you and the Spartan IIs will be sent in." Sapphire's voice echoed more in Kelly's helmet but she'd grown used to the ever changing voice. When she'd first received the AI she couldn't listen to it inside her helmet for more than a couple minutes. It was Spartan instinct to adapt, to survive with what you were given, even if that was an AI with a disorienting voice.

"If he doesn't send me out with the rabbits again." It wasn't that Kelly didn't like being deployed with her personally trained soldiers, but they could handle themselves and if they found John she wasn't sure how badly whatever actions she took would reflect on their opinion of her. She didn't really want to find out.

"The rabbits have been deployed three times with perfect reports after their missions. The Captain is aware that they can stand on their own." Sapphire was right. The rabbits had been excellent in combat without Kelly leading their every step from the field. Hopefully the Captain would keep that in mind.

Kelly watched as Fred and Linda armored up, each in their specialized armor. Linda had attachments that allowed her to carry extra sniper ammunition and snipe from distances that would blow any soldiers mind, particularly if they were the ones in her scope. Fred's armor had heavier plating and was designed to help deflect close quarter attacks. Even Kelly's armor was different. Rather than heavier plating hers was cut down to save weight and allow her to reach higher speeds. The plating had also been curved and made sleeker for better aerodynamics.

"So what does the ball of light say our orders are?" Linda asked. She never called Sapphire by its name. Kelly was never sure if it was out of jealousy, as Kelly had been given an AI and she hadn't, or if she simply didn't like Sapphire.

"No orders yet. We should be coming out of slip space soon, though. I'm sure we'll get them soon." Kelly turned her attention to the Spartan IVs that were suiting up. She could spot the soldiers of her team from the demon rabbit insignia painted on their armor, the same on her shoulder and chest armor. The only difference was their rabbits were on fire, hers simply had a Roman numeral two behind it. It was really instinct that she went looking for them, checked to see they weren't screwing around. After all, she'd trained them for their duty so it was her reputation on the line with whatever actions they took.

"Commander, the Spartan IIs are being ordered to report to the bridge," Sapphire reported.

"See, orders. Thank you, Sapphire." Kelly turned and walked through the crowded area. Soldiers of all kinds moved out of the way for Spartan IVs but even IVs parted like a sea for Spartan IIs.

The Spartans arrived at the wide bridge of the Infinity. The Captain was busy but his first officer, Commander Lasky moved over to meet them. "Glad you made it. Figured you three were the people who most deserved to be here when we exit slip space."

Kelly didn't really know Lasky. He was a good soldier, and a good leader, at least that was what the reports showed. Kelly remembered him as a surviving cadet but she didn't really remember much about the man himself. She remembered that he risked his life, allowing John to kill a hunter without having to take it on in one-on-one combat and probably had saved the Master Chief's life by doing so. It was a good enough reason for Kelly to like the man without much question.

"How much do we know?" Fred asked.

"Not much really. We have the distress call and something destroyed our probe. We assume hostiles but we don't know what kind," Lasky explained. "Other than that we're flying in blind."

The Spartans moved over to the holotank that was the main command console for the ship. Here Infinity could give them detailed images of whatever they might need to view. Hopefully it would give them a good look at the enemy as soon as they were out of slip space.

The Captain glanced toward the Spartans but didn't really acknowledge them. Kelly was neutral about Del Rio. He was a stable Captain, not into heroics which fit with the ship. Infinity was the pride of humanity, expensive and powerful. You didn't put a ship like that in the hands of a Captain like Keyes. He'd been a daredevil and had damaged every ship he'd received in attempts to defeat the Covenant. That sort of attitude didn't work for a ship like Infinity. Del Rio was certainly a Captain that wouldn't do such wild maneuvers. Not that Infinity could pull off anything fancy due to its size. It was built for power not maneuverability.

"Sir, exiting slip space," a bridge officer announced. The screens, which had all only shown the black of slip space flashed and the nothing was replaced by a planet hanging in space.

"Where's whatever shot down the probe?" Lasky asked. Kelly noted that he turned to the Spartans for answers, not the Captain.

"The planet might have been the source of what shot down our probe. If it's Forerunner it might have defense systems. For all we know the probe was drifting toward it and it has systems to simply keep things from impacting it," Fred reasoned.

"Try to get me a lock on the distress signal," Del Rio ordered. The holotank before him started to map the planet. Kelly frowned, spotting odd parts of the planet that looked wrong to her. She tried to remember as much as she could about Onyx but nothing seemed to match what she was seeing on this planet.

"Sir, the signal is faint but it seems to be coming from inside the planet," a bridge officer reported. "Somewhere near the core."

"Take us in a bit closer to the planet. Let's see if we can get a clear uplink to the signal," the Captain ordered. The officers snapped to action and the ship started toward the planet. Del Rio hit a button on the controls. "UNSC Forward unto Dawn, this is UNSC Infinity. We are receiving your signal. It's faint but we are reading that you are in the center of the planet. Infinity is moving in to attempt to improve the connection." The Captain released the button and took a step away from the holotank, looking to the main screens.

"Breathe," Fred whispered over the COMM. Kelly let out a breath that she didn't know she'd been holding. If they hadn't been on the bridge in front of a lot of people Kelly would have hit him for the comment. At least he didn't say 'I told you so', yet.

Kelly looked to Lasky and he seemed worried, maybe a bit disappointed. Kelly had to admit she felt the same. She'd thought that they'd come out, find the Forward unto Dawn and grab John. There didn't seem to be anything at all orbiting the planet, and Kelly didn't understand how the signal had gotten to the center of the planet. Something felt wrong about it. Why would John have gone to the center? If it was a shield world maybe he had gone into a form of cryo and was waiting for them in the heart of the planet.

Del Rio was silent as the planet slowly grew larger and larger in the screen. "Spartans, I want you to prepare to deploy to the planet. If we can't make contact we'll have to send in teams to find out what we can, to locate the signal."

The Spartan IIs all snapped to attention. "Yes, sir." They all turned and made their way off of the bridge to head to the hangers. It was a long walk and many people used some form of motorized transportation as it took too long to walk the distance.

The Spartans were silent for a few minutes as they walked before Fred turned to Kelly. "Do you still think he's down there, in that planet?"

Kelly thought about it and then threw out all her thoughts and just focused on what her instincts told her. "Yes, I think he's there. But something still feels wrong about all of this. I don't know what it is, but something isn't right. It doesn't matter though. We haven't come this far to hesitate in saving John."

"I'm with her," Linda spoke up. "I didn't like the look of that scan, something was wrong with it, but we can't back down now. If he is in there, we'd never forgive ourselves for not going and getting him."

"I'm not disagreeing. If John is in there we have to find him and get him out. Just wanted to be sure that you still had your energy. You should sprint ahead and get a pelican ready for us. Stock it up with ammunition for Covenant and Flood. We should be prepared for anything." Fred moved to the side to allow Kelly a clear path.

Kelly knew what he was doing. Giving her a chance to busy herself and move at her own pace. Kelly nodded and started to run. She darted out of the way of slower soldiers. It was nice to be sprinting at her own pace, not slowed to a walk and just waiting on the world around her. It was a little bit of control that she could have at a time when she felt like she had none.

Kelly reached the hanger and looked over the choice of pelicans. "Sapphire, find me one that's not claimed and tag it as ours." Kelly moved over to the weapons and started to grab whatever they might need. Shotguns, assault rifles, DMRs, the case that held Linda's personal sniper rifle, and a couple Spartan lasers. She put all the weapons on one electronic trolley and turned toward the line of pelicans. A nav marker showed up over the pelican that Sapphire had tagged for them. She pushed the trolley over to it and started to unload the gear. She had just put away the last of the ammunition when Fred stepped onto the rear of the pelican.

"We don't have orders yet to take off, but Infinity is nearing the planet almost enough to deploy the pelicans." Fred moved up toward the cockpit and took a seat in the pilot's chair.

"I know, if we had been given orders Sapphire would have alerted me and the pelican would be ready to get flying," Kelly pointed out. She looked back as Linda walked onto the pelican. Kelly pointed to the sniper rifle case and Linda nodded, acknowledging the weapon. "We're prepared for Covenant, from grunts to Wraiths, and Flood." Kelly moved over and took a seat. The only thing left to do was wait.

There was a sudden jolt and Kelly was almost forced out of her seat. She caught herself with one of the safety straps and looked around, seeking any explanation. "Sapphire, what's going on?"

"The Infinity is being pulled toward the planet. They are attempting to escape its pull but my calculations show that we will not be able to. Wait." Kelly stood from her seat and looked to Fred who was looking to her for answers. "Something is happening on the planet."

"Sapphire, give us a view of what's happening on our HUDs." Kelly frowned as the image of the planet showed up in her vision. She could see the planet growing closer and closer, and something odd was breaking apart on its surface.

"Commander, we are being drawn into the planet," Sapphire informed her.

"Just great," Kelly muttered, moving out of the pelican to help try to secure down whatever crates or machines might be dangerous if things got rougher. Kelly was fairly sure that this ride wasn't going to get any smoother, but she just hoped that once they were in the planet they would be able to get control and prevent a crash. If they could then they'd be one step closer to finding John and then they'd only have to worry about a way out. There was still a nagging feeling at the back of Kelly's mind that something was wrong but she pushed that thought aside for now and focused instead on securing down ammunition crates.

Blue 4 Chapter 2
Date: 21 February 2013, 2:27 am

Kelly groaned and looked around. A pelican was lying on the hanger floor, banged up but overall still in good shape. Kelly was lying on her stomach and was pinned to the ground by something. She had been helping secure people into place as the collision alarms had sounded. When the ship had hit ground Kelly had not yet secured herself. She put her hands on the floor and pushed up. The metal shifted on her and she moved her arm so that it would slide down. Kelly put one hand back against what she now realized was a part of a longsword wing. She pushed it to the side and stood, looking around the hanger. A couple Spartan IVs had come loose from their security straps. The few crates that hadn't been secured down fully were lying on the hanger floor.

"Sapphire, update," Kelly ordered. She moved over to a couple of the Spartan IVs that were undoing their restraints. "Merant, help people get out of their security straps and check for wounded. Smith, go check the pelican and see if it's still operational." The two Hell Rabbits snapped to action and Kelly looked around, searching for the other Spartan IIs. Fred was helping remove a crate that had trapped a few members of the crew and Linda was organizing the medical teams that were checking for injuries.

"Infinity has crashed inside the Forerunner world. The ship is damaged and there seems to be an unidentified craft heading toward us," Sapphire reported. "There are also unidentified signals in the nearby area."

"Has the Captain issued any orders?" Kelly moved over to one of the crates and pushed it to the side. "Exactly how much damage has been done?"

"A bit but it isn't what is keeping us down. What caused the ship to crash and is keeping us in place is the unidentified craft and the planet's gravity well." Static washed over Kelly's HUD and then it snapped back to normal. "It seems that the craft is scanning the ships systems. I have had to separate myself from its databases in order to prevent myself from being scanned as well."

"Why would it be scanning the ship?" Kelly moved out of the way of a medical team. "Sapphire, give me a visual of the object." A black ball showed up in her vision and she frowned. The bottom looked like it had clean cracks that glowed an orange-red like lava. "What is that thing?"

"I cannot be sure. Commander, the Captain is putting together a team to try to scout the gravity well's location. I am guessing that you would like yourself to be placed with that team?" The AI's voice was flat but Kelly knew that it was teasing her. At least she no longer had to ask the AI if it was messing with her.

"Yes, make sure all the Spartan IIs are on that team. Tell them we already had a pelican ready to go. Do you know who's going to be leading the mission?" Kelly moved over to the pelican that the Spartans had already loaded. She set to putting the weapons and ammunition back into place and securing them down.

"Commander Lasky is leading the mission. Commander Palmer is also going to be present with a group of Spartan IVs. They have accepted your offer and have assigned the Spartan IIs to the mission," the AI reported.

"Thank you Sapphire." Kelly switched onto the team COM. "We've got a mission, Spartans. Captain wants the location of the gravity well that's keeping us in place scouted, and we've volunteered to help them out."

The other two Spartans rejoined her in the pelican. "Who else is coming with us?" Fred asked as he grabbed one of the Spartan lasers and put it in its place.

"Lasky's leading the mission and Palmer's bringing a squad of Spartan IVs." Linda looked toward her and they both had the same thought. Why would they need Spartan IVs if they had three Spartan IIs. One Spartan II was as good as a company of Spartan IVs. "There's also an odd craft outside that's keeping us in place. I don't know what the Captain has planned for that, but it's not a part of the mission."

"Are we sure that craft won't just shoot us down?" Fred moved to the pilot's seat once more and did the preflight checks. "I'd like to prevent having to jump from another pelican."

"The Captain is planning to have the Infinity hold off the attack while providing cover for your pelican," Sapphire interjected. "I cannot confirm if they will be able to handle it though, as I have no assessment of the unidentified sphere outside the ship."

"So then be ready to be shot down and forced to land," Fred grumbled. Kelly didn't blame him. The last time they'd had to drop out of a crashing pelican almost half the Spartans with them had been killed by the impact. It was also the fight that had seen their home glassed.

Kelly moved to the rear of the pelican and looked out. There were Spartan IVs and marines heading to several other pelicans which she guessed were going to be heading out with them. She spotted Palmer and Lasky heading toward their pelican. They stopped at the base of the pelican's ramp and Palmer turned back to talk to a couple Spartan IVs. Lasky walked up the ramp and stopped beside Kelly.

"You know this is my first time going on a mission with you guys. Hopefully I live up to expectations." Lasky smiled moved into the pelican. Kelly made a note that he didn't have any armor so they'd have to protect him and keep him away from the main combat if they had to. "Oh, and they're sending out some other pelicans with marines and Spartan IVs." Kelly nodded, acknowledging that her guess had been correct.

Palmer moved up the ramp and Kelly nodded to the woman. The Commander of the Spartan IVs, as usual, wore no helmet and Kelly was starting to wonder if she even owned one. Still, Kelly liked the woman. Sure she was harsh on the Spartan IVs sometimes, expected them to get the job done without excuses, and do whatever she told them to do, but Kelly saw no problem with that. The Spartan IIs had always been expected to get the job done no matter what, so it was logical to expect the same from the Spartan IVs. Palmer wasn't the easiest woman to like, though. After twelve tours during the Human-Covenant war she was allowed to be a bit unimpressed by the Spartan IIs, at least on the outside. Palmer may have been cold and distant toward the Spartan IIs but she was that way with everyone. She'd never been outright vicious or cruel. She let the Spartan IIs be, which was the most respectful thing she could have done. She treated the Spartan IIs like they already knew what to do, didn't need the nagging.

Kelly watched as the Spartan IVs boarded the pelican, not recognizing most of them. With so many soldiers Kelly didn't know most of them, really only the hell rabbits. They took their seats and Kelly moved to one of the empty seats. The Spartan IVs all looked to the floor of the pelican, not daring to look up at the Spartan IIs. It was odd to Kelly that even though they were Spartans they still managed to make the Spartan IIs seem different. She still felt like they didn't accept the Spartan IIs as the same as them, as though they were still freaks.

Palmer was relaxed as ever. She'd dealt enough with Spartan IIs that she didn't feel uncomfortable. "So, how exactly are we going to do this? We've just got to get the coordinates and head back to the Infinity for a proper attack, right?"

"That's the plan. We don't know what's out there and hopefully the Infinity will be able to give us cover." Lasky seemed much more nervous than Palmer. Kelly wasn't sure if it was because of the mission or the Spartan IIs. "Should be just a clean-cut mission."

The pelican shifted and Kelly knew that they were being put on the launch track. The pelican suddenly shot forward and it gained speed as it left the Infinity. Kelly just sat back and waited for them to reach the location. "Sapphire, can you use the pelican's systems to scan the area. Maybe give us an idea of what might be out there."

"I am checking COM channels. I am getting Covenant signals so there are some Covenant here. I am also finding another signal that I can't quite identify. It matches no known pattern," Sapphire explained. "I will continue to monitor it. I will try also to crack the unknown signal."

"I suppose that's the best I can hope for," Kelly muttered. There wasn't much else that she could do. The one problem with being on a pelican or ship was that there was basically no control. She would have preferred heading out in warthogs, at least then she would have some control, and that was what she needed. Her mind turned to John, wondering if they would still have the chance to save him before they tried to leave the planet. She still wanted to find him, at least find out what happened to him. None of them had been there when he'd gone through the portal, to the Ark, and she wanted to know.

"Hostile fire," Sapphire announced. The pelican shook and Kelly grabbed a bar above her to keep from being thrown from the seat.

"Our wing's been hit. We have to land," Fred announced. The pelican shifted to the side and Kelly could feel that they were losing altitude. She held on tight as they darted this way and that. The pelican hit the ground and Kelly was nearly forced out of her seat. The dust settled and Kelly looked around. A couple of the Spartans had come out of their seats but Palmer had at least kept Lasky from being tossed around. She was fairly sure that they could just leave Lasky mainly under Palmer's protection and he'd be fine.

Kelly grabbed one of the battle rifles and the shotguns and then moved to the back of the pelican. The rest of the Spartans were grabbing their gear and getting ready. "Find some cover," Kelly instructed. "I'll scout out a space where we can take more permanent shelter." Kelly waited until the ramp was down before she moved out into the jungle. No one voiced any objections so she set out at a brisk jog.

The soft moss under her feet made it a bit harder to move quickly but she was able to compensate after so many years of combat and scouting. She wound through the trees and darted around rocks and roots. She spotted a tree that wound up and connected with more trees. She moved for it and could run up the tree trunk. She stopped as something appeared on her motion tracker. She raised her battle rifle and swept the area. There was a bit of movement and Kelly saw what it was. The thing wasn't natural, she was sure of that. It looked to be made of a shining silver metal and the joints of the metal parts were the same glowing orange-red. Its body resembled that of a salamander or gecko, but its head was just a pair of pincers. It turned toward her and it fired some sort of glowing shots. Kelly dodged the fire, aimed, and shot. The three round burst hit its head and the thing fell apart.

Kelly moved up the tree and looked down at the pieces that were lying on the forest floor below. "Sapphire, what was that thing?" She raised her rifle and zoomed in. As she had expected it was all smooth and without seams.

"I cannot identify the creature but I have sent the video of the encounter back to the other Spartans. Commander Lasky would like you to return to the pelican," Sapphire explained.

Kelly looked back toward where she'd come and then looked back up the trees. "I will if I find more," Kelly decided. She started back up the tree and winding roots. The entire place seemed all connected and she could get up pretty high. She continued to go up, moving from tree to tree and finally reaching a metal opening that lead into a large room. She stopped outside of it and glanced into the open passage. It was a medium hall that was about three meters tall and about ten meters wide. She glanced around at the columns, searching for more of the odd enemies. "Sapphire, tell them I think I've found a good shelter."

"Commander, you need to head back to the pelican." Kelly frowned at Lasky's voice. She'd found shelter, she didn't need to head back to the pelican.

"I've found shelter, Commander. This place is large enough for all the recon teams to take shelter in. Have you made contact with the other pelicans?" She moved through the hall, searching for any enemies.

"The other pelicans were all shot down. There are wounded and casualties from the other pelicans and a few of our crew is injured," Lasky reported.

"Sapphire, give them a nav marker for this location. I'm going to look around for any way to secure a door or something." Kelly started to move through the structure, moving along the walls and looking for any sort of controls.

"Commander-" The rest of what Lasky said was lost as there was a flash of light beside Kelly. She turned to face it as the light spread and a humanish-looking unnatural enemy appeared. Kelly raised her rifle and fired, the rounds hitting the enemy's personal energy shield. The thing fired a weapon and Kelly darted out of the way as the shots hit the wall behind her. She fired until she saw the energy shield shatter away from the thing. It tucked it's legs together and pointed its arms straight down and the same light that had caused it to appear worked in reverse and it vanished.

Kelly looked around the room trying to figure out where it went. "Commander Lasky, I've made contact with another hostile. It fled but they are dangerous." There wasn't a response over the COMs before there were two flashes of light and two of the large enemies appeared. Kelly fired and moved out of the way of their shots, trying to take them out. She ducked behind a column and reloaded her battle rifle before popping back out. There was now only one of the enemies. She fired on it and the enemy returned the fire.

There was a flurry of movement to Kelly's side and she turned just in time to see one of the large enemies raising a blade. Kelly moved and stopped it, her hand gripping the creature's wrist. She grabbed the metallic arm tight and then kicked out. Her fist slammed into the enemy's torso and the arm came free. She spun the arm in her grip and ran forward, stabbing forward with the blade. It pierced the mechanical foe and the two both disintegrated into small bits of bright hot metal that vanished.

The second enemy collided with Kelly, pinning her to the wall. Its helmet split open revealing a burning, partially transparent, flaming skull. Its jaw opened wide in a scream. Kelly's fist moved forward, punching toward the skull. The thing backed off enough that it released Kelly. She moved forward, her hand gripping the back of the enemy's skull and put her feet against its torso. She pushed with her feet and the head snapped clean from the torso. Both pieces disintegrated.

Kelly looked around the room and spotted a series of lights. She crossed the rooms to the controls and looked them over. "Which one is the 'close doors' button?"

Kelly turned toward the entrance, battle rifle at the ready, but stopped as she realized that the new arrivals were Spartans. "Kelly, what happened? Lasky said he lost contact with you." Fred moved over toward her and then looked around.

Kelly waited until all of the Spartans were through the doors and then hit the symbol that was indicated on her HUD. The doors slid close, sealing them in. "Everything's fine. I was just finding shelter for us all and clearing it of all enemies."

"All right, get the radio up and working, I want a distress call out to the Infinity," Lasky ordered. One of Spartans moved to the task and started to work with a radio. Lasky looked to Kelly and frowned. Maybe he was upset she had ignored his orders, or maybe he had actually been worried about her when he'd lost contact. "If we're going to get out of here we'll need a space that's big enough for an LZ."

"Sir, we have more incoming friendlies," a Spartan IV announced. "They say they have wounded."

Kelly looked to the rear of the structure and frowned at the opening into the jungle. "Sir, we have a hole in the rear of the building. Enemies could come through it." Kelly was sure that they could just teleport in like the large ones had.

Lasky nodded, acknowledging the information. "We'll have to post spotters back there to ensure we aren't flanked. You wouldn't happen to want to volunteer for that as well? You're the only one that's seen the enemies here."

"Yes, sir," Kelly nodded and moved toward the rear tunnel. She looked back as she realized that Linda was following her. "He doesn't trust me to follow orders, does he?" Linda shook her head just a little bit. The two moved along the tunnel until they found what seemed to be an opening. They both fell to their stomachs and crawled forward.

Ahead of them was a large area, large enough that several pelicans could easily land in it. "I think we just found a possible LZ," Linda muttered. Kelly agreed but frowned as she spotted the grunts and jackals milling about the area.

"Commander Lasky, we have sights on a suitable clearing that could be used as a landing area for pelicans," Kelly reported. "It's crawling with Covenant, though."

"Understood, we're still trying to make contact with Infinity. We've almost got the radio working and the rest of the friendly forces are arriving. Keep an eye on the Covenant there but don't engage." There was a hint of hesitation in Lasky's voice.

"Understood sir, we'll keep our distance." Kelly switched off the COM and looked around. She motioned to some roots that lead up to a rim around the area. "We can climb up there and keep an eye on these guys." Linda flashed a green light and the two female Spartans climbed the trees up to the layer. Kelly lay down on one of the thick trunks of a tree and set her battle rifle in place. She made sure to keep an eye on her motion tracker in case any of those mechanical enemies showed up. They both settled in to watch the Covenant and wait for their next orders.

Blue 4 Chapter 3
Date: 21 February 2013, 2:39 am

Kelly watched as the phantom hovered over the flat area and the Covenant troops all boarded. "Where are they going?" She didn't understand why it was that the Covenant would leave the area. She did know that Sapphire was monitoring their chatter.

"I've been studying their COMs and they seem to be organizing. They are often making references to something called the 'Didact', but I don't have any context for this term. They seem to claim that their orders are coming from whatever the 'Didact' is." Kelly didn't need to see the AI's avatar to know it was annoyed. Sapphire never liked missing information.

"Spartans, we've got the coordinates for the gravity well. We made contact with Infinity and are going to need a landing zone to evac our wounded and casualties. I'm sending you some assistance to help find us a place big enough." Kelly couldn't help but think there was a bit of excitement to Lasky's voice. She frowned, not understanding why he would be happy about something like this.

"I've got eyes on something," Linda announced. "Looks like one of those lizard-like machines that you found earlier but with spikes on its back."

"From the data I have gathered these things are referred to as Prometheans. The small ones seem to be called crawlers and the large ones knights. There is also a reference to something called a watcher but I have yet to identify one."

Kelly spotted a familiar flash of light and one of the knights appeared. "Those big ones will be a problem. They have shields and can teleport." Kelly moved back from her sentry position and slid down the tree trunk. "We should get more ammunition for our weapons. I don't know how much it takes of those to kill one of those things."

"I'll keep an eye on them. You go get us some more ammunition. I don't think I want to be caught unprepared against one of those things." Kelly flashed a green acknowledgment light to Linda and headed off down the jungle path toward the shelter the Spartans were using.

Kelly stopped as she spotted two friendly dots on her motion tracker. "Don't kill me," she muttered over the COM. She moved to the center of the path so that they would spot her easily. She was slightly curious as to who Fred had brought with him.

One of the dots stayed put and Kelly spotted Fred as he moved around a corner. "Why are you heading back?" he asked. "There's no landing zone back there."

"I was heading back to get more ammunition. There are Prometheans up ahead, and since I have yet to use bullets to kill one so we have no idea if we have enough ammunition," Kelly explained. "Figured more wouldn't hurt."

"That's reasonable. I'll head back for ammunition. You stay here." Fred didn't let her question his decision before he turned and walked off. Kelly scowled, not liking him just deciding things without even giving her a chance. She noted that he stopped for a moment beside the other dot before he moved on.

The second dot moved forward and Kelly didn't pay it much attention. She supposed it was probably a Spartan IV that Palmer sent to make it look like the Spartan IIs weren't doing it all on their own. Her gaze turned toward the trees around them, not exactly convinced that the small crawlers wouldn't still find a way to get to them or that the knights wouldn't teleport back to attack them. She wondered if they'd hold a grudge against her for killing two of their own.

"Kelly?" Kelly spun around at the voice and was met by the sight she'd been waiting four years for. His armor was more bulky then she remembered, but maybe he'd been forced to do some on the move repairs with less advanced equipment. None of them had been there so she didn't know for sure. He stood with an assault rifle held loosely in his hand, only feet away, but she couldn't seem to cross the distance.

"Commander, your vital signs have gone erratic. Is everything all right?" Sapphire's voice was like nails on a chalkboard in Kelly's ears. It wasn't the voice she wanted to hear at that moment.

"Sapphire, I've waited quiet a long time for this. Can you just be quite unless it's an emergency?" Kelly didn't bother waiting for the AI to respond. It would stay silent as she'd requested. She took a deep breath and forced her body to move forward. She raised her hand up and swiped her fingers across his visor in a Spartan smile. She smiled behind her visor, letting her fingers linger for just a fraction of a second longer than usual. "John."

John didn't move, didn't speak, just stood and watched her for several grueling seconds. Kelly didn't understand, didn't know why he didn't seem to be happy to see her. His hand finally rose and swiped over her visor, returning the smile. "When we get the chance, you'll have to tell me what happened to you." Kelly nodded, understanding what he meant. The last time she'd seen him she was just going to Halsey for a medical treatment for the burns that had covered most of her body, and instead had been kidnapped by the doctor. Kelly doubted that anyone had the time to inform him of Onyx or the events there.

"When we clear the landing zone there should be some time on the trip back to fill you in a bit," Kelly offered. She turned back toward where Linda was keeping watch. "We should probably stick to business. We're going to work our way ahead to a landing zone to evac the wounded. We have Prometheans ahead and we don't know where the Covenant forces have gone."

John moved to stand beside Kelly and she could feel his hand touching hers lightly. It was just hanging loosely at his side but the touch meant so much more to a Spartan II than any other soldier could understand. "Do you know what kind of Prometheans are ahead?"

"Knights and crawlers, at least so far." Kelly shifted a bit so her shoulder armor touched his. "I sent Fred back to get more ammunition. I haven't killed a knight yet with bullets so I had no idea if we had enough."

"A knight takes about as much ammunition as a strong elite." John looked toward their touching shoulders but didn't acknowledge it further. "Crawlers are easy but watchers should be targeted first. They can provide shields for knights and crawlers."

"I thought you said you were going to keep it PG." Kelly looked back at Fred as he approached them from behind. Kelly frowned at him from behind her visor. "I got you that extra ammunition." Kelly noted that he held it out to the hand that was touching John's.

Kelly reluctantly moved away from John and took the ammunition, storing it away. "Come on, the longer we wait the more forces might show up."

"We have friendlies heading toward us...make that fleeing toward us. How many sniper shots do you think it will take to kill one of those knights?" Linda asked.

"Well John says that they are the equivalent of a strong elite, so if you get headshots I would say two shots. One for shields one to brain them," Kelly answered.

"John? He's here?" Linda's voice was a mix of surprise and excitement. It was the most emotion that Kelly had heard from the other woman in years. "So you've already reunited with him? Then I missed you two groping each other. How bad was it, Fred?" Kelly stopped herself from betting annoyed with them. They were sort of ruining things with their teasing.

"It was bad. They were touching hands, and shoulders," Fred answered.

"Ew, get a room," Linda teased. Kelly checked the channel and was glad to see that John wasn't on the same team channel yet. She hadn't realized that she'd been speaking to him through their helmet speakers instead of the radio. There were two cracks of sniper rounds. "Yeah, two headshots does the trick."

"Don't' stay still, Linda. They can teleport up to where you are." Kelly turned and started to jog down the path. "Sapphire, include John in on the team COM."

"Am I allowed to talk now?" the AI asked. It was being a smartass but Kelly ignored it. She didn't mind it so she didn't call Sapphire out on the habit. "He's been included."

"How many soldiers do we have under attack?" Kelly ran a bit faster as she heard the sound of assault rifle fire. "What sort of enemy forces?"

"Five marines pinned down at the watch area the Spartan IVs sadly put up and we've got two of the big guys and half a dozen of the lizard things. One of the big ones spit something out of its back. Not that pleasant of a thing to watch," Linda reported. "I'm heading down to meet you three."

The Spartan IIs reached the end of the path and found the five marines huddled behind the sandbags of the watch post. Kelly raced forward, raising her battle rifle. "Sapphire, inform the Commander that there will be more wounded coming in."

"Understood Commander, they have been informed and are ready to receive the wounded," Sapphire announced. "Monitoring for any further friendly forces."

The Spartans raced forward toward the marines to give them cover. Kelly fired with her battle rifle at the closest crawler which had a marine pinned behind the sandbags. The shots collided with the creatures head and it fell apart. She moved ahead of the soldier to give him cover and glanced around at what artillery the Spartan IVs had set up. She spotted one weapon that might come in handy against the larger enemies.

"Chief, grab the rail gun," Kelly ordered. She ignored the odd feeling of giving John an order and focused on one of the crawlers that were charging her. "Sapphire, mark." She knew that the AI would know she meant for it to mark the rail gun for John. The UNSC hadn't had the weapon back during the war so he likely wouldn't recognize it.

Kelly scowled as a blue light shield appeared before the knight she was firing on. She looked up to the odd bug-like enemy with what seemed to be wheels for wings. "Target the fliers first," Fred ordered. Kelly raised her sights and fired on the watchers.

It was minuscule but there was a second of hesitation from John before he too turned his shots to the flying enemy. "Sapphire, light up the friend or foe tags." It would be the quickest way to inform John of why there was more than one Spartan giving orders.

The Spartans pushed forward, taking out the watchers first and then targeting the knights. "I've got something odd up ahead. It looks like a…" Linda didn't finish. Kelly moved ahead and looked up the hill ahead of them. She spotted what it was that Linda had seen. The thing looked like a seed on its side and she could see that it was starting to glow. "I think it's a turret."

"John, use the rail gun," Kelly ordered. She ducked behind a rock and she watched him take cover beside him. He looked down at the weapon and then toward Kelly. She knew him well enough to know that John was asking for instructions. "Just hold the trigger, when the charge is full release the trigger and it will fire."

John nodded, moved out from behind the rock. Her raised the gun and a couple seconds later fired. "Turret's down," Linda announced. "We've got more machine guns set up ahead. Don't know what they were thinking when they placed those."

Kelly moved around the rock and moved forward, taking out a few more crawlers before they reached the top of the hill. She looked over to John as he moved to a terminal and removed a chip from his helmet. A purple ball of light appeared and Kelly knew what he'd done, and that it was a bad idea.

"These doors open up into a cave system large enough for an LZ," Cortana announced. There was a bit of static in Kelly's helmet and she could tell that it was Sapphire showing annoyance with another AI trying to communicate with the suits. "Hold them off long enough for me to open the doors."

"Take the turrets," Kelly ordered. She moved to the middle turret, Fred took the turret to her right, and John took the one closest to the terminal on her left. The first of the knights appeared and with the combined fire of Fred and Kelly was gone only seconds later. They controlled the bursts they used against the crawlers and used heavy fire against the knights.

The crawlers came in waves but the knights would come in pairs and were more cunning. They would duck behind cover and teleport away when their shields were gone. Kelly was focusing fire on one knight as a second flashed forward in a near blur. She backed up, her grip still tight on the turret, wrenching it free from its stand. She spun to face the knight and continued to fire until it disintegrated like all the others.

"Cortana, how far are we?" John turned his aim to a pair of crawlers that were trying to jump toward him. The jump really only made them easier targets and Kelly didn't understand why they did it.

The reply that came back from Cortana was fuzzy and sounded distant. "You do your job and I'll do mine, okay?" It was like she was shouting through glass, distant but her anger was obvious. Kelly didn't need to know anything more than what she'd just heard to understand how damaged the Smart AI was. They cleared out a couple more knights before Cortana finally spoke again. "Got it, passageways unlocked. Come and get me."

Kelly knew she should have but she didn't stop him from going over and retrieving the damaged AI. For now it would be better to keep it with them. Proper UNSC protocol demanded that she couldn't just be left behind for the enemy. John retrieved the AI and it almost scared Kelly to let him put it back in his armor. There was no telling what kind of damage a rampant AI could do. "Sapphire, keep Cortana in the suit, out of the systems of Infinity."

The doors slid open and the Spartans moved inside. They walked through the single cave, keeping an eye out for any Promethean enemies. Kelly glanced back to John and could see from the way he was moving, the movement of his head, that he was talking to the AI. She waited until he was finished before she stopped and he came to a stop as well. "Next time, we don't use Cortana. We'll use Sapphire." Kelly's voice was stern like she used with the Hell Rabbits when they were in training.

She made it clear that it was an order and that it wasn't acceptable to defy that order.

John watched her for a moment before he spoke. "Is Sapphire safe to use?" There was doubt in his voice and it stung. He doubted her judgment and he was obviously too connected to the AI to see how big of a problem it was. It hurt to know he cared more about the AI than he trusted her judgment.

Kelly decided not to dignify the question with a response. She turned and marched down the cave. She'd deal with Cortana later, for now they had an LZ to clear.

Blue 4 Chapter 4
Date: 21 February 2013, 2:47 am

The Spartans moved through the cave and Kelly brought them to a halt several meters from the cave entrance. She inched forward, scanning the area for enemies. She frowned as she spotted a knight motioning directions to a group of grunts. "We've got knights directing Covenant troops ahead," she reported.

"Why don't the bad guys ever work against each other," Fred muttered. "What kind of enemies?"

"The Covenant fought the Flood on Halo," John interjected. The Spartan IIs were silent for a moment, each one focusing in that moment on their regrets for not having been there to help. "And me if I got too close," he added.

Kelly pushed her regret aside focusing on the current situation. She had many things she wanted to voice to him when she got the chance, her regrets being part of it. "There are a couple knights, but mainly grunts and jackals."

"How should we do this?" Linda asked. Kelly made her way back to the others and wasn't surprised to find that Linda had fallen back to old habits and was looking to John. Odd to think that after all these years it would be so easy to fall back into old habits. It had been two years since Kelly had been promoted and been able to give other Spartan IIs orders. Though she was sure that it wouldn't be long after they got off this rock that someone promoted John to Captain and they all started taking orders from him again. There was something that made Kelly feel a bit bitter about that. Sure, what John had done was amazing but any Spartan would have done it. Maybe she was just annoyed that she knew how easily they'd all flock to him and give him whatever recognition they could When she and the other Spartan IIs had needed to work so hard to even become officers, let alone Commanders, in a blink of an eye an Admiral trying to get good press would promote John just to be able to have a photo-op with a legendary Spartan.

When Fred didn't speak up Kelly decided to take charge and do what she did best. As her soldiers had put it once, she'd 'run around the battlefield like an idiot.' "John, give me the rail gun." She held out her hand and was happy to note that he handed it over without hesitation. She frowned as she realized it wasn't reloaded. Kelly cut the radio channel down to just her and John. "Why didn't you reload? Don't tell me you can pick up a Forerunner weapon and know how to shoot and reload it but you can't reload a human weapon," Kelly teased.

"Didn't get a chance." John's voice was flat and Kelly wasn't sure if he had missed that she was teasing or just didn't feel like it. "Why do you need it?" He was dead serious but there was a hint of concern, unsure of what she had planned.

Kelly switched back to the team channel and gave orders. "I'm going to jackrabbit the knight on the far side. Fred, there's a knight near the mouth of the cave you can easily knife. Linda, John, take out the jackals then we'll clear out the grunts." Three lights flashed, a millisecond of hesitation from one but she ignored it. She reloaded the rail gun and moved back toward the mouth of the cave.

The Spartans moved forward and Kelly crouched, preparing to run. She checked that Fred was ready before she took off at a brisk pace. Not full speed but close to it, just slow enough the knight near the entrance would spot her. She made a beeline for the farthest knight and charged the rail gun. When she reached the other side of the area it was charged and she only had to point and release. The projectile slammed into the knight and it broke apart as the shot punctured through the metal and blasted out the back. She could hear shots from battle rifles behind her and the cries of jackals as they fell. She dodged to the side as she heard beam rifle shots try to catch her.

"Sniper!" Cortana's shout caused static over Kelly's radio. The stats on her HUD went fuzzy for a second before clearing and returning to normal.

"What's going on with the system?" Linda asked.

"The Master Chief's AI is trying to crack through my communication setup. It shouldn't happen again as I have improved and strengthened the system. There is also a phantom heading your way," Sapphire warned. "Ma'am, I'm not quite sure what the AI is trying to do. There is no reason it should be trying to break through my protection for the radio frequencies."

"Noted Sapphire, just keep them strong." Kelly made a few quick jumps and landed on the ridge beside the sniper. It only had time to let out a squawk before Kelly swung the rail gun like a bat and smashed the bird-like alien against the rock wall. "More orders from the Didact?"

"I'm surprised the Didact has managed to unify these Covenant so easily," Cortana observed. "Phantom!" the AI shouted. Kelly wasn't sure how John put up with Cortana shouting in his ear like that.

Kelly was already moving along the ridge after having spotted the phantom coming in, not to mention the large arrow on her HUD. "Sapphire, have I ever told you how thankful I am you're quiet?" Kelly peeked out as the sides of the phantoms opened and Covenant dropped out.

"You have at least one working eye, you can see enemies for yourself," Sapphire stated. "I only inform you of what has not yet been seen or what can't be seen."

"Slaughter house," Fred announced. Kelly knew what he meant, she'd heard plenty of Demon Fists call out the plan when working with the Rabbits. She sprinted back to the rock and moved in the way of John as he headed around his cover. She held up a hand and John stopped obediently.

"What are you doing?" Cortana demanded. Kelly ignored the comment and waited until she heard two sniper shots before lowering her hand. "You've given the Covenant time to flank us!" From the fact there was no reaction from John Kelly guessed the AI had only talked to her.

"Headshot grunts," she instructed before grabbing her battle rifle and moving around the cover. She came out just in time to find a grunt fleeing toward them. One burst and the small alien crumpled to the ground.

Kelly looked over to see Fred moving across the field, energy sword in hand. Linda had shot the original owner down with two rounds allowing Fred to do what he did best, wreak havoc at close range. He moved to a couple of jackals, motions precise and fluent. His foot moved so his toes were behind the closest jackal's shield and he slid his foot across the ground, forcing the shield out of the way. The blade struck forward through the enemy's chest in a clean kill. Fred pulled the blade free and before the body could hit the ground he kicked it toward the second jackal. The impact caused the second jackal's shield to be knocked to the side enough that with one clean strike the jackal was cut in two.

The Spartans mopped up the remaining grunts and secured the area. "Commander Lasky, area is clear," John reported.

"This is Captain Del Rio. Infinity is under attack. All forces are to return to defend the ship." The signal was a bit faint but the message was clear. The ship was under attack and it was bad enough they needed everyone on hand.

"We've got a pelican inbound for you," Lasky announced. "Hop on and head to the ship. We'll catch up."

Kelly looked up as the pelican descended and moved toward it. John followed behind her as they moved for the LZ. He sped up enough to walk beside her, a conscious move that allowed his hand to brush hers every couple steps. He looked to the rail gun on her back. "Why haven't you reloaded?"

Kelly was a bit surprised by the question. He was obviously echoing her tease from earlier but it was just unusual for him. "I think it makes a better cudgel," Kelly answered.

The pelican landed and Kelly moved around to the back as the ramp lowered and she boarded. She took a seat and wasn't that surprised when John sat down beside her out of habit. What did surprise her was that he moved his leg so their knees were touching. Fred sat across from her and Linda beside him. The rear of the pelican closed and they took off.

"What's the chain of command here?" John finally asked, looking around at the others. "Whose commands do I follow above whose?"

"There isn't really one person in charge, John." Fred answered. "We don't usually work together in the field any more. This is the first time in months we've even all been on Infinity. That's only because we knew this was a Forerunner location."

"I don't think the original plan was to deploy us as Blue Team, though, rather with our companies. Guess you got lucky, again." Linda looked to John and Kelly knew she was smiling. John had always been lucky and maybe his luck had been the reason why Blue had been sent out as a team this time. Maybe it was even what had caused Kelly to go back for ammunition which allowed her to meet up with John before they moved on. Either way, things were the way they were, and luck in the past didn't mean there would be luck in the future.

"The best way to deal with all of us giving orders is to just follow them as they come," Fred advised. "Though if I give you an order and Kelly tells you not to go, listen to her. Sapphire has likely picked up something I don't know about."

"Sure, that's why he should listen to Kelly first," Linda muttered. "It's not at all because once they get out of that armor we won't want to go near her room for at least a week."

John nodded but ignored Linda. He turned to Kelly a bit hesitantly. "Is your AI safe?" The question annoyed Kelly a bit, but at least his hesitation made it clear that he knew the question was going to annoy her. She couldn't believe he'd think she'd go walking around with bad equipment. She set aside that annoyance as she at least got the feeling that this time the question was more out of concern than defensiveness like before. "It doesn't sound like it's in better shape than Cortana."

Kelly was going to correct him but Sapphire beat her to it. "I have only been in service for two years. The way I speak is of my own choosing not caused by rampancy," Sapphire explained.

"The day Sapphire speaks in one voice is the day I delete it and requisition a new one." Kelly had never been shy about destroying Sapphire when the time came and the AI never took offense. John turned his gaze to the floor and they sat in silence for a moment. "What is the Didact?"

John turned to look to her, visibly a bit more tense than he was a moment ago. "The Didact is a Forerunner. It controls the Prometheans and is leading the Covenant now. The large sphere that's scanning Infinity is his ship."

Kelly considered the information. She didn't know what to think of a living Forerunner. That wasn't really something that seemed possible. "For now we focus on defending Infinity. Doesn't matter if there's a live Forerunner if we lose our ride out of here."

The Spartans slipped into silence and Kelly wondered how far away they were from Infinity. She was about to ask Sapphire when John spoke up. "What have I missed?"

Kelly waited for Fred or Linda to speak up but realized he was only talking to her. She looked over to him and frowned. "The war, the Covenant, or us Spartans? I don't think we have time on this ride for all three."

John took a moment to decide which choice. "Tell me what I've missed in your life." His leg shifted just a bit to push against her knee.

Kelly smiled, deciding where to start. "Well, Doctor Halsey took me to a planet called Onyx. It's a shield world like this place. We got there and I found out about the Spartan IIIs. I'll explain them to you later but for now it doesn't matter. The Covenant showed up and then the sentinels of the planet started to attack us, and we eventually took shelter inside the planet. We were in there for a few weeks, stuck inside some sort of slip space bubble, all while months passed on the outside of the planet. We were eventually found and brought out, only to find that the war was already over...and you were gone. But we kept moving forward. We beat down some rebellions. Later we started working with the Spartan IV project, and eventually I started the Hell Rabbits - a group that hits enemies hard and fast, then gets gone. I became a Commander in about two years, after both Linda and Fred but the Hell Rabbits are always growing and are out in the field on their own now."

There was silence for a moment before John spoke. "You have your own company of specially trained rabbits?" Kelly nodded. "You trained them yourself?" She nodded again. There was a pause before John spoke again. "Can we make sure they're the ones backing us up?"

Kelly smiled at the vote of confidence. "When we get onto the ship and away from combat, I'm going to hug you so tight." Her hand moved over and brushed his lightly.

"Ma'am, I have some things you'll wish to be informed of. First, the others are currently engaged in a conversation in which they are joking about your open affection with the Master Chief and comparing it to public sex. I would advise that you refrain from excessive physical contact." Kelly frowned at the information but otherwise ignored it. "Second, we are nearing Infinity and there are ground troops already engaged. They're fours and they could likely use your help." The AI probably wasn't trying to insult the IVs, but it had. It might have just meant that the IVs were just overrun by enemies, or pinned down by a tank for all they knew.

"All right, enough catching up and jokes about other people's 'sexual activities' in public. We've got Covenant and Prometheans to kill." Kelly stood and the others stood as well and they prepared to repel the attack on Infinity.

Blue 4 Chapter 5
Date: 2 March 2013, 2:57 am

The rear of the pelican opened as it neared the ground. The Spartans all stood at the ready, weapons in hand. As soon as it was low enough they moved forward as one unit. No orders, no words, just gunfire as they cleared out a group of grunts and jackals that were attacking the Spartan IVs near the landing zone. They were easy and Kelly enjoyed Blue Team working together like the old days. It only took the four Spartans a few seconds to clear out the enemies.

Kelly looked over the area, nodding to the Spartan IVs who all seemed to stare at John. She couldn't blame him. He stuck out like a sore thumb in his odd armor. Kelly spotted a tank and looked around for the other things he needed. She grinned as she found it. "Who's up for a little Rabbit-hog?"

"I call gunning," Linda moved toward the Warthog's turret. Kelly watched as Fred moved toward the tank as well to take the turret position.

"You'll have to tell me what a Rabbit-hog is," John pointed out. "You keep using all these terms and I don't know what any of them are."

"You'll learn them all, John. We've just been running these plans with our teams for some time." Kelly completely understood that it would be difficult for a trained soldier to come in and find out that things had changed a lot.

"You have a lot to catch me up on about that," John glanced toward the Spartan IVs. "I do want to know more about these companies you keep talking about. Though you should tell me the plan first."

"The story about the companies is a long one, so you'll have to wait till we've repelled the attack on Infinity. Rabbit-hog is when you get in that tank, I get in the hog, and lure vehicle toward the tank so you can blow them up," Kelly explained. "Hell Rabbits do it all the time with other units. Covenant is particularly stupid enough to fall for it."

"That seems dangerous," John glanced toward the tank then back to Kelly. "If you met a wraith it could destroy you and Linda with one hit. Is there no safer plan?"

"Let her go get herself killed." Cortana's voice broke as she hissed out the words.

"Cortana!" John tensed just a bit, Kelly knew it was more because he was worried then mad at the AI. He looked to Kelly, maybe worried about how she would react to the AI's words.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean that." There was regret in Cortana's voice though Kelly wasn't sure how much she trusted it. Maybe it was just because her AI couldn't lie to her that way; make its voice sound however it wanted. So much of AIs could just be a lie it was why she got along with Sapphire. The AI didn't try to make her feel a way, only involuntary actions gave away emotion and that never really affected Kelly much.

John slung his rifle over his back and it attached to his back. "I've got your back, Kelly. I trust to you be able to avoid any wraiths. Just keep your ears open." John turned and moved toward the tank to do his part. Kelly smiled behind her visor, happy to have his trust. She turned and moved to the driver's seat of the warthog.

Kelly hit the gas and they started to move over toward Infinity. The jeep bounced over the uneven ground. Linda opened fire on a pair of grunts. Kelly swerved to the side as a pair of ghosts sped toward them. She spun the jeep around and headed back toward the tank that was nearing. She moved out of the way at the last moment and the tank fired. The ghost behind her exploded. She moved around the back of the tank and saw the second vehicle be blown apart.

"Fred, I think I've found my partner for Rabbit-hog. You're officially fired," Kelly moved back on down the path to find more enemies.

"You were partnered with Fred?" There was a hint of something to John's voice but Kelly wouldn't dare assume that it was jealousy. Though that was her best guess.

"Only when blue team was around for Rabbit-hog, which honestly is only in training." Kelly moved the warthog around so that Linda could easily fire on a pack of jackals. "Got to work with what you've got."

"I Think I should be insulted," Fred muttered. "Could you leave something for me to shoot or should I just take a nap?"

"Sniper tower," Kelly announced. She sped up and passed by it, knowing that John would be able to hit it easily. Linda fired on a group of jackals at the base of the sniper tower to keep them pinned down. Kelly heard the shot and the sniper tower explode into debris. Kelly swerved to the side and barely missed a ghost as it rounded a corner. "Ghost heading your way." She moved out of the way of a second one and sped past them. She hit the brakes hard and spun the wheel as she spotted the alien tank. "Wraith!"

The wraith turned toward them and Kelly hit the gas to try to move out of the way, keep it from getting a shot. The lines of her HUD went fuzzy and her HUD went dark. "Sapphire!" There was no reply but she gunned the gas. Kelly reached up and tore the helmet from her head, tossing it to the floor of the passenger's side. She looked around and spotted the Wraith as it fired. It hit just a few feet away from the warthog. Kelly spun the wheel to head back the way they'd gone and avoid the fire from the plasma turret. The controls on the warthog went dead as an overcharged shot from a plasma pistol hit their vehicle. Shots from the plasma turrets splashed over the side of the hog and Kelly was hit twice on her arm by the fire. Without her helmet her shields were down and plasma burned the metal of her armor and her skin below.

"Out!" Linda shouted as she jumped down from the warthog's gun. Kelly grabbed her helmet and jumped out of the passenger's side of the warthog. She rolled when she hit the ground and sprang to her feet. The ghost turned toward them and Kelly charged it. She boarded the ghost and slammed her helmet into the grunt's skull, causing the body to fly from the vehicle and allow her to take the alien's place. Kelly placed her helmet in her lap and hit sped off in the ghost away from the wraith.

Kelly gunned it toward the tank and moved around the back, stopping a few meters behind it. She watched as the tank fired and the wraith erupted into fire. Kelly slipped her helmet back on to check the systems. Her HUD came back to life and everything seemed fine. "Sapphire, what happened?"

What surprised her was a small screen with Cortana's avatar appeared. "I'm sorry, that was my fault. I didn't mean to shut your system down. I didn't think it would do that." Kelly didn't know if the words were honest but they sounded that way. Kelly was fairly sure though at this point that the AI was rampant enough she couldn't really fake those sort of things. "I didn't want to put the strain on John's suit and I thought yours could handle it."

Kelly checked over her HUD and saw that everything was fine. She checked Linda's bio-stats and saw that they were still strong so she was fine. "How much damage would it have done to John's system?"

"It would have knocked it out for at least several minutes. Yours was back up and running in ten seconds," Cortana informed her.

Kelly sighed and activated the ghost again. "Then I guess it's fine." Kelly would have rather had her system taken down where she could take off her helmet freely unlike inside the tank. Besides it was better to have the tank operator to cover you than only a warthog when a wraith was involved. Kelly hit the radio. "How's the warthog?"

"It's been destroyed. Distracted the wraith long enough for it to be taken care of," Fred reported. "You all right? You fell out of contact."

"Small problem with the equipment. I think it had something to do with Sapphire's attempts to crack the Forerunner signals." It was a lie but she knew John was listening and she didn't want him to know what had really happen. "Not a problem. Linda can snipe from the tank and I'll run rabbit in the ghost."

"No," John asserted. "Defend the rear of the tank and we'll move forward." Kelly thought of arguing, of telling him he couldn't order her but she didn't. She knew he'd been worried about her being hit by a wraith and after having verified his fears she supposed she shouldn't push it now. Not to mention she didn't want to risk being in a ghost and having her system go out again.

"I've got your six," she finally agreed reluctantly. "Sapphire, have you had any luck with that Forerunner communication tap?" She moved behind the tank and kept an eye out but there wasn't really much of a threat in a situation like this. John would be able to see all enemies ahead and would easily be able to clear them out. The likelihood that anything would be able to attack from behind was minimal.

"No luck with trying to crack it. I also do not appreciate being blamed for the actions of another AI," Sapphire added. "I have reworked the system's capacity load so that if the other AI does that again it won't cause the system to shut down."

"Thank you, Sapphire." As long as it didn't shut down her systems she was willing to take the blow from Cortana rather than have John's systems go down. Kelly watched John's back as he moved forward along the path though it was as uneventful on her end as she had expected. She could hear the sounds of ghost and wraiths being hit and eventually they moved down a ramp toward a large elevator that would care the tank up into the ship. Kelly abandoned her ghost at this point and climbed aboard the tank, taking her place on the cover of one of the treads.

The tank rose up into Infinity and Kelly looked over to see that there were Covenant inside. John opened fire on them with the tank, blasting away the hunters Kelly sat back and just enjoyed watching John as he fired on the Covenant. She slid down from her position and looked over the area, making sure there weren't any crawlers hiding. There was nothing.

"Spartans this is Captain Del Rio. Lasky radioed and told me about the extra you picked up. At least that's one mission done. Now we need to focus on the satellite that's attacking us. It's taken down our defenses and is still scanning our systems. We need it removed." Del Rio's voice was obviously annoyed.

"Can we break the connection?" Fred asked.

"The main connection is on the upper hall. There's a maintenance causeway nearby. Take the Mantis docked inside. You'll need the extra fire power." With that the communication shut off.

"What's a Mantis?" John moved out of the tank and moved over to Kelly as Fred and Linda approached her. They stared to move toward the passage that was indicated on their HUD.

"It's a robotic suit with rocket and machine gun arms," Fred informed him. "I'll take it since Linda doesn't like the lack of accuracy, it's too slow for Kelly, and you have no idea how to work one."

John nodded and they moved into the passage. Kelly hung back and John stayed beside her, allowing Fred to move forward and hit the controls. The Mantis rose up and Fred climbed in. "That's a Mantis," Kelly informed him. She looked around the area and moved down a side ramp. "I've got rocket launchers down here." She grabbed both of them and moved back to Linda and John, passing one to John. "We'll cover his back." John nodded and took the weapon.

The Spartans stood back as Fred moved the Mantis forward and fired on the hanger door to the passage, breaking it open. Once the doors had been blown apart Fred moved the Mantis down the ramp. The Spartans followed as it walked and fired on Covenant that were milling around the area. Linda made a motion and pointed toward a catwalk that ran along the upper edge of the pathway. Kelly nodded and they moved over to it.

The Spartans hung back a bit and allowed Fred to do his thing, using the Mantis to clear the passageway. The mech was easily powerful enough to take care of anything that got in its way so the Spartans were more looking back down the way they'd come. "I got an update from Kelly about what she's been doing. How have you been, Linda?"

Linda stared down the scope of her sniper rifle, focusing on the path behind Fred. "Much the same as Kelly, except without the pining. Stuck in Onyx, found, the whole thing with the retirement and forcing our way back in. Now I've got my assassination sniper teams that I train."

Kelly inwardly cursed, knowing that she hadn't told John about exactly what had happened with the Spartan IV project. John turned toward Kelly and she sighed. "I'll explain it to you later."

"Short version is: having the fact you're a six year old kidnap victim that only ever knows being a soldier looks bad for the program. Luckily if you show them you've got something they can't pass up, you can keep yourself around." Linda turned and moved down the catwalk, following the Mantis.

John continued to stare at Kelly and she knew he was asking for an explanation. "We get that thing off our hull first, and then I'll tell you about it." Kelly didn't really want to think about that time, but she'd explain it to him if he wanted. She preferred to think of the UNSC as the loyal group who wanted her to survive like she'd been told, not the organization that had treated them like a problem at that time.

They just followed the Mantis until it reached an elevator to get to the outer hull of the ship. The Spartans jumped down and joined Fred on the elevator. "You enjoy that thing way too much," Linda remarked.

"I do enjoy the Mantis," Fred agreed. "At least I have more etiquette than the IVs."

"Spartans, it's Lasky," Kelly was at least glad to hear the Commander's voice. He seemed to be fine if not in combat mode.

"Go commander," Fred replied shifting the Mantis a bit so that it was turned back toward the door that would open up into the outer hull.

"We've identified several Covenant jamming devices on the outer hull," he informed them. "It's most likely what's keeping the Infinity systems off line. Take them out so we can get our COMMs back on line."

"We're on it, commander," Fred reported. "I'll take care of one if you three can take care of the others," Fred proposed. "Hope you didn't waste any shots."

"How could we have? You didn't even leave us something to shoot," Kelly shot back. She moved to the door and readied her launcher. It slid open and they moved forward down the passageway. She could see John out of the corner of her eye, moving with her and she made sure to stay at a pace he could match. The door to the outer hull opened and Kelly looked out at the space. There were defense cannons and she could see the jammers set near each. She took aim and fired, the rocket streaking through the air and slamming into the jammer. She fired a second rocket and it did the trick, causing the device to explode into fire. She moved out of the way and the Mantis moved forward to take out the middle jammer. The third and final jammer was already destroyed by the times he looked over.

Kelly and John reloaded and there were four shots from Linda and an elite and two jackals fell. Kelly switched out to her battle rifle and focused on the jackals and grunts down below. "Jammers down," Sapphire announced. Kelly looked up to see the defense guns move and target a series of Phantoms that were coming in. Fred took aim at banshees and the Spartans moved to attack the troops that disembarked from the phantom.

"The rate at which that thing is scanning our systems just doubled. I think they know what you're up to," Del Rio informed them.

"Only a few more minutes," Cortana announced. Kelly had just started to ignore it, though the bit of static on her HUD was annoying. She fired on the grunts and jackals as they came into her sights.

The Spartans cleared the area out before Del Rio finally radioed them again. "Captain Del Rio to Blue team, we're reading MAC network back on line but our EM relays are malfunctioning. You'll have to initiate the link manually."

Kelly moved toward the controls, sweeping the area for anything that might still be around to attack them. Fred climbed out of the Mantis and they stood beside the controls. John hit the panel and the main MAC gun before them fired, hitting the Didact's ship. The sphere backed away and sped off over the lands.

The Spartans stood and Kelly didn't really listen to announcement that things were clear. She didn't understand how a Forerunner could be pushed back so easily. They made the Halos, the Ark, and this world. Something about it all just felt wrong to her.

"You want to catch me up?" John asked. Kelly looked to him and sighed. Kelly nodded and they turned, heading back into the ship.