They're Random, Baby!

Fan Fiction

LORC: Beginnings Act 1 Pt 6 and 7
Posted By: HWPD<Disaster.nick@gmail.com>
Date: 11 December 2015, 10:12 pm

Read/Post Comments

Part 6
Far Beyond Provocation
Twenty-Fourth Solar Cycle, 118 Cycles: 9th Age of Reclamation [July 28, 2552: 1321]
Varo, State of Zelso. Sanghelios
Ryau 'Cinotee [Project Leau Subject 01/04]

Ryau gripped the side of the old sea-going landing craft. According to its pilot, the boat was a relic from ancient ground-side battles. Ryau was surprised it still ran, but from what he had seen and read recently about Sangheili technology, it was built to last.

The boat slammed through a wave and water splashed through one of the portholes. The day was not one of the clear and sunny evenings he had experienced over the last two weeks. The dark clouds had moved in the night before and brought the rain and wind with them. Ryau's cover story was that he was just re-entering active military service after serving as a lab assistant on the battlecruiser he had arrived on with Naki. All he needed was an approved refresher course to 'retake' his position.

Their objective was to secure a power core that was taking the place of a Forerunner artifact. They were headed for the island off the coast of Varo that Naki had pointed out to Ryau when they had first arrived. They had been told that the power core was located inside a structure on top of the island's mountain, guarded by a variety of the Military Academy's trainers. He looked at the others in the landing bay. Naki was in her green armor and stood there like she had done this countless times before. The other two were fresh Recruits, their only training came from their families and their armor was a matte gray, devoid of any rank.

The landing craft slid up the beach and came to a stop. Ryau's ACI booted up and alerted him to the start of the exercise. A ramp on the side of the craft slid down and waves washed inside. "Move to the trees, let's go!" Ryau ordered.

The small team dashed out of the landing craft, heading for the band of trees and ferns that hugged the cliff wall. A particle beam sliced through the air, narrowly missing one of the recruits and sending a fistful of sand into the air. Stun rounds shot from the cliff top and peppered the ground all around them. Ryau pulled one of the Recruits out of the way of another particle beam. "We need to get below their sight line!" He tore through branches and slammed against the base of the cliff. Slowly, the firing ceased.

"They have the entire ridge line guarded, Excellency!" One of the Recruits said, his voice wavering. It occurred to Ryau that this exercise may affect their training as well.

"I can see that, Recruit." Ryau had not gotten a chance to learn their names before they were placed in the landing craft together. Their identification tags had not yet been set up as well, all that was displayed on Ryau's combat interface was SpecOps Recruit.

"How are we going to reach the objective, they must have all entrances guarded," the other added. He seemed much calmer than his comrade.

Ryau though for a moment, he had been training on the islands for the last two weeks. He took out his data-pad and brought up a tactical map of the area that he had downloaded the night before. Ryau traced a path from their approximate position, around the cliff. "At the end of this island, there are a series of bridges that connect to the others. Since they are so far away, they're likely unguarded. We can use them to go up an alternative path and hit the objective." He sighed and left the map open. "It will take longer, but I suspect that they think we would charge right in."

"Ah, I see. Excellent plan, Excellency." The calmer Recruit said.

Naki just nodded and smiled. "Lets get moving, we need to finish this before Joori sets." She nodded up at the third bright spot in the sky.

They moved quickly, the sound of the storm masking any sounds they made. The ridgeline disappeared into the forest and their path continued on. Ryau's motion tracker was a mess of movement from the wind. However, a cluster of dots moved together, about to cross in front of them before disappearing off the radar. Ryau put his fist up, momentarily forgetting that he was not leading a group of Humans. Naki caught the signal and stopped to ask what it meant, but the jumpy Recruit slammed into her fell forward and hit the ground. Upon impact, her training rifle discharged. The bolt struck a figure in active camouflage square in the face.

The jumpy Recruit suddenly started to fire randomly into the forest. "They know where we are!"

Ryau clenched his mandibles and started to fire in the direction he had seen the dots the moment before. The wind and rain made finding the camouflaged Trainers easier. All they had to do was look for the areas where raindrops splashed on nothing. "Keep moving, don't stand still!" Ryau ordered, shifting position every few moments to dodge incoming fire.

Naki pushed herself out of a pool of water and joined in the firefight. Eventually the Trainers ceased firing back and Ryau ordered his group to hold their fire. They had either won that battle or the enemy was just regrouping for a second go.

Ryau walked up to the Trainer they had shot first. "Nice shot, Naki." Ryau chuckled.

"Thank you, I shoot my best while falling," Naki returned with a laugh.

The two Recruits were unharmed and awaiting further orders. Ryau walked over and pressed his finger against the chest of the jumpy Recruit. "You need to control yourself. If they had not known our position before, they do now. You put us all in danger of failing this mission." Ryau sighed and tried to get into character. "You are a Sangheili, you are training to become SpecOps. Act like it."

The Recruit shamefully bowed his head. "Understood, Excellency."

"Now let's move on, we've wasted enough time already." Ryau pointed in the direction they were heading. The small team marched through the dense temperate forest. In the dimming light, a blue glow appeared through the trees. An energy shield blocked an opening in the ridge that lead up to the top. A cable snaked from the center to a control panel barely hidden behind a fern. The whole set up was likely a trap.

Ryau waved them on and continued on to the bridges that crossed the turbulent waters. It took a bit of time, but they managed to island hop around any of the trap-barricades and slip past any of the trainer patrols. "Its unlikely that they have an overly large group of trainers to use as opponents." Ryau thought as they moved quietly up the main island's hillside.

Through the trees up ahead, there was a wide clearing, the top of the hill. Auto-turrets surrounded a building that mimicked a Forerunner structure. It very well could have actually been a Forerunner structure, Ryau couldn't tell.

"I don't recognize that turret model," Ryau said.

"Sir," the calm Recruit said. "Those are Type-91 training turrets. They target and fire on color differences in their field of vision."

"Hmm..." Ryau thought for a moment. "Naki, your armor is the most like the forest. Do you think you can sneak around and power them down?"

"Yes, I'll head on in." She nodded and disappeared into the trees. Ryau caught a glimpse of her dashing across the open field. She slipped through a doorway and a few moments later, the turrets folded into stand-by mode. "Turret systems offline," Naki radioed. "I had to take down a few guards, hurry across."

Ryau and the two Recruits sprinted across the field. A patrol came around the side of the building and stopped when they noticed the turrets were off link. Ryau had taken cover behind one of the turret stands and the Recruits had just dropped where they were. The rain dribbled off his helmet as he remained still and waited for a good moment to strike.

There was a flash of lightning in the distance, and a moment later the roar of thunder rolled across the ocean. There was a series of green flashes and the three Trainers froze and fell to the ground.

Ryau and the Recruits hurried through the doors and went deeper into the structure. Ryau stepped over a group of Trainers that Naki had neutralized. "What most of these warrior types do not seem to realize is that the SpecOps portion of my rank means that I have been fully trained in special operations." Naki huffed as she leaned against the wall. "The vault is up ahead." She lead them down the corridor. "Either we took out most of them earlier, or they are planning something. I have not seen another since I took down those three."

Ryau turned and pointed at the Recruits. "Head back and guard our exit. If anything comes up, let me know. "

"Yes sir," they replied in unison. The two quickly turned around and hurried back to the door.

The room up ahead was behind a semi-transparent door. Ryau could see the core sitting on a pedestal inside. He looked down at the door controls and noted that they were locked. "Naki, think you can get through this?"

"Of course. You know if this was an actual recovery mission, I would have operational authority." Naki knelt down and went to work on the controls.

"Good to know," Ryau replied. A moment later the door clocked and slid open.

Suddenly, the lights turned red and a low drone sounded through the halls. Ryau hurried in and pulled the core from the pedestal. The sound of gunfire echoed down the corridor and one of the recruits came over the radio.

"Sir, a Trainer lance just came out of the forest, we have them pinned... Wait, there's another one. Sir we are being surrounded!" they said.

"Hold on, we'll be there soon." Ryau hefted the core and charged down the hallway. When he arrived , the two Recruits were taking turns firing out the door.

"Sir, there are three lances outside. We've taken down two Trainers but they have us pinned down as well," the calm Recruit said.

"What color is their armor?" Ryau asked, eyeing the turrets out of the corner of the doorway.

"Standard crimson," the calm Recruit replied.

"Perfect. Naki, reactivate those turrets."

"Got it." Naki moved over to the purple control station and soon the turrets folded out. They opened fire on the clashing Trainers, quickly making short work of the opposition. Once the shooting stopped, Naki shut them back down.

"Alright, you." Ryau pointed to the jumpy Recruit. "Run out to the tree line, tell us if its clear."

"And if it is not?" the Recruit asked slowly.

"Then we will be able to tell," Ryau chuckled. "Now go."

The Recruit sprinted across the open field and safely made it across. Ryau sent the calm Recruit and Naki across next. When they made it across, Ryau placed the core under his arm and ran out after them. Halfway across, there was a burst of training rounds. Ryau dove and avoided them, the core bounced and rolled against a tree. Naki emerged from the trees and provided enough cover fire for Ryau to make it across without getting hit.

"Thanks." Ryau looked to Naki and grabbed the core from beside the tree. "Which way to the extraction point?"

"On the top of the hill," Naki said, pointing up to highest point on the island.

They ran through the forest alongside the road to the top. As they approached, Ryau could hear the sound of a Covenant Spirit. They reached the top and the Spirit opened its side hatch. Ryau had Naki and the Recruits board first, throwing the core aboard with them. When they were all safely aboard, he too hauled himself in. The hatches closed and the Spirit pulled away into the rain.

Ryau nodded to the Recruits and followed Naki's lead, taking a seat on a pullout bench. The Ultra, Zeik 'Carunmee, came into their prong. "Good work 'Cinotee. Everyone, when we land return your weapons to the crates. You will receive further orders afterwards."

The Spirit landed back at the military academy. Ryau and Naki hopped out and returned their weapons to a crate sitting nearby.

The Recruits headed back to their common room while Zeik took Ryau and Naki into another part of the base. They walked into a meeting room and the door locked. The lights in the room brightened and Zeik moved behind a table. "This will not take long. We just needed to be in a secure location to speak about you."

"I understand," Ryau said.

"You did well. That was expected because of your past as a Demon." Zeik paused. "You will be receiving deployment orders by tomorrow. Honestly though, you have already been assigned to an Officer. We were just waiting for your authorization to go through."

"Thank you… Ultra," Ryau said, not knowing what to call him.

"You may call me Zeik when in private, Ultra or 'Carunmee in public, Ryau," Zeik said. "And that is all, you two are free to go." Zeik dismissed them and the pair walked off the base.

That night, Naki took him to one of the smaller towns along the coast called Cleavete. It was drastically smaller than Varo, and home to a thriving fish market. However Naki took him to one of the more expensive restaurants since he successfully passed his 'training.' The restaurant was located on one of the hills just outside town and specialized in food from further inland. When they entered, the smell of cooking meat and diced vegetables filled Ryau's nostrils. It had been quite a while since he had smelled that.

Once they were seated, Naki looked over the menu. "I would recommend trying the boiled Colo, or minced Muka on a bed of Akla."

"Colo sounds interesting." Ryau said.

They ordered by inputting their order number into a holographic console at the center of the table. The food itself, came from the ceiling and arrived by a mini grav-lift onto their table. Ryau nodded, impressed.
The boiled Colo came in a bowl with something that tasted like green onions. Naki gave him a quick rundown of how to have Sangheili soup, he took a scoop of shredded Colo and broth and poured it onto his tongue and down his throat.

Once they finished with the restaurant, they took the bus back to Varo and stopped off at the tavern for a few drinks with the factory workers. Honestly however, Ryau didn't know why he was celebrating anything. He would be deployed against his own, forced to fight. He knew it would be all over in just a few more months. "Live to fight another day," Ryau mumbled to himself.

Ryau awoke the next morning in the small bed. Sunlight barely shown through the hexagonal window. The view was nice, the bay full of fog. He could have been anywhere in the universe at that moment. He had to take in the little things, it was one way he found to deal with the stress of war.

Ryau sighed and walked through the hall to Naki's kitchen. He got himself a glass of water and looked out at the forest on the other side of the house. A shifting mosaic of colors and lights moved along one of the walls. There was a pulsing white dot that did not move with the rest. Curious, Ryau reached out and tapped the dot. The lights shifted and formed the screen of a computer terminal. "Wow," Ryau muttered.

A square light blinked, his name was projected underneath it. Ryau pressed the square with his finger, but quickly pulled it away as there was a burning sensation. The words Identity Confirmed flashed and a message appeared.

T cinotee.zpdn.cmn.s
F cmdm.cmn.hc
Deployment orders Enclosed.

SpecOps Major Ryau 'Cinotee[ee] request back into active duty approved.
Transfer from Covenant Special Sciences Ministry to Special Operations Division approved.
Lance leader is SpecOps Officer D`rok 'Tallaham. Ship assignment Leveling Strength. Your shuttle assignment is Phantom 225 piloted by Meko 'Vekamee leaving evening of the Twenty-Fourth Solar Cycle, 121 Cycles. Standard mission types include artifact recovery for CSSM and specialized combat assignments.

-Covenant Deployment Ministry-

He didn't hear Naki come in. She leaned onto his shoulder. "So you have been assigned to D`rok's lance," Naki said. "If I said I was surprised I would be lying."

"Who is he?" Ryau asked. "Do you know him?"

"Well, a bit. He's the one that volunteered to bring you up from Standard. And from what I've heard, he pulled you out of a tree."

"Er… well what is he like? Should I be worried about him?"

"No, you shouldn't. From what little time I've had to get to know him, he seemed to be alright."

"Hmm, okay. I hope things will get along alright," Ryau said. "Will you be coming along?"

"Yes, I was assigned to be your monitor. I am to be assigned to whatever lance you are." Naki read over the message again. "Oh, that is during the Inspirational March, we should get your armor polished."

"What's the Inspirational March?" Ryau asked.

"The Inspirational March is like... a veterans parade," Naki said. "It will just be more difficult to get across the city at that time."

"Any other things I should know before this?"

"Something about D`rok. I think it may be why they assigned you to him. His records show that he does not particularly like killing Humans. He will if he has to, but… yeah," Naki said. "Let's go, we may need more armor polish."

On the day of the Inspirational march, Ryau and Naki traversed the city through the festivities. Strange music played on drums rumbled through the streets. It was almost like tribal music. Just under the sound of drums, Ryau could hear the constant crunch of armor as the local Sangheili Legions marched through the streets. There was a break between groups and traffic was allowed to proceed across the parade route.

At the next street, they were stopped by the back side of the parade. The state's defense force was marching by, most of which was female, as the male members were also part of the legions. A group of large vehicles Ryau had never seen before rolled behind them. They had wheels, eight of them. They were long and had a turret little different from the one found on an Anti-Air Wraith.

"What are those?" Ryau asked.

"Oh, those are an old model of personnel carriers. They're never used by the Covenant Military, they are regarded as obsolete now. Only the Home Guard utilizes them."

"Huh, that explains why I haven't seen any in the war," Ryau said.

They made it across the city, through the suburbs and then into the dense forest. When they arrived at the Spaceport, Naki dropped Ryau off at the main terminal. "We got through the city much more easily than I thought we would. I'll go load the Phantom with my equipment and call you when we are ready to go," she said.

"Alright, I'll wait here until then." Ryau walked over to a bench in the Spaceport's courtyard and took a seat.

He spent his time trying to identify what covenant military vehicles inspired the civilian model and vice versa. A SpecOps officer walked out of the stairwell that lead down to the underground parking structure. Ryau looked down at his data-pad to see if Naki had messaged him yet. The rapid clap of sandals on the paving stones caused Ryau to look up. A small girl was running for the Officer. The girl ran up and hugged the Officer's leg, then proceed to hide behind him. She was clearly scared.

Ryau glanced over to where the little girl had come from and what must have been her parents were close behind.

"Careless woman! I told you to hold her." the male barked loudly at the woman that followed him.

"What seems to be the problem, Major?" the Officer asked as the two stepped in front of him.

"Not that it is of your concern, but my mate is too imprudent to control her child!" the Major barked.

"Nihn, please..." the woman begged.

"S`hea I said silence!" the Major shouted, raising his hand into the air.

The Officer acted quickly and grabbed the Major's wrist before he could slap his wife. The small crowd of onlookers murmured as tensions heightened. Ryau stood up from the bench to assist if it was needed, he could see other members of the crowd doing the same.

The Major looked over to the Officer that now stood beside him with fire in his eyes. "How dare you stop my actions against my mate?!" the Major screamed.

"I will not allow you to beat this woman shamefully. So yes, I do interfere," the Officer said.

"Let go of my wrist," the Major growled.

"There are two options for you. You can stop this childish behavior, or judging by your current actions, you wish to fight," the Officer warned. The Major tugged at his arm and angrily stared at the Officer's eyes. "Do not look at me in that manner unless you want to fight. You will lose, I guarantee it."

One of the crowd members brought the Major's wife and daughter out of the way. Another went to alert the Spaceport's security staff before the altercation could spiral out of control.

A few silent moments had passed. The silence was interrupted by a series of bleeps from Ryau's pocket. The Officer and Major glanced over and their grips weakened. The Major took the opportunity to twist free and go for his Plasma rifle on his hip. However, before the Major could get the weapon off the magnetic clip, the Officer had already drawn and activated his Energy sword in a loud hiss.

"A drawn weapon demands blood!" the Major yelled. "It is unlawful to draw a weapon in public!"

"Unless with intent of defense, and you drew first!" the Officer countered, twisting the blade into a more comfortable position.

"You restricted my wrist!"

"You were about to commit an unlawful assault on a woman!"

"What does it matter!? It is my right as the husband!" the Major shouted back.

"It matters in the courts of Zelso. You are not in your backwards state, Major. Stand down," the Officer stated firmly.

The Major pondered what the Officer had said only for a moment, but before either took the situation a step further, the Spaceport's security forces arrived on the scene. Their Carbines raised at both, they quickly moved in. "Stand down, warriors!" one of them ordered.

The Officer calmly deactivated his sword. The Major took a bit more time to lower his weapon, the Security team took control of the situation and took statements from both the Major and the Officer, as well as a few of the others standing around. Ryau was not asked.

After it was cleared up, the Major was taken away in restraints. Ryau saw the Officer walk over to the Major's wife and daughter. He knelt down to the little girl and gave her a small necklace from his hip pocket. Ryau could see that it was the Forerunner glyph of hope, there had been a small section on common forerunner symbols in the data-packet Naki had given him for his cover story.

When the Officer moved on, Ryau headed for the entrance. He checked his data-pad, sure enough, Naki had messaged him that the Phantom was ready to depart. He didn't hear the Officer calling his name.

"Major 'Cinotee," the Officer said, walking up beside Ryau.

"Uhh... Yes?" Ryau responded, not sure how the Officer knew his name.

"Ryau 'Cinotee, that is your name, correct?" The Officer asked.

"Yes, Officer. How did you know?" Ryau replied.

The Officer chuckled lightly. "I am the one who recruited you," he said.

"Oh, Sir. You are D`rok Tallaham," Ryau said, walking a bit straighter now that he realized he was in the presence of his new commanding officer. "Its good to meet you."

D`rok nodded and they passed through the security checkpoint. Once they made it to the Phantom, D`rok allowed Ryau on first. They had to stand near the front because the rear was loaded with Naki's supplies. "What is all this..." D`rok mumbled. The doors sealed and the Phantom lifted off.

"Ah there you are Ryau, you took longer than I thought." Naki said, walking out of the cockpit.

"Yeah... there was a situation outside..." Ryau trailed off. He caught a glimpse of their pilot. The Pilot had an emblem on the back of his armor. It appeared to be a mandibled dragon blowing fire, and also seemed to have three eyes on a side.

"Hmm, well I see you have met D`rok already," she said, turning towards D`rok. "How are you doing?"

"I am fine... What are you doing here, what is all this?" he asked.

"I am assigned with Ryau," Naki said. "That is all my equipment."

"You are assigned for what?" D`rok asked.

"He is testing our new Assisted Combat Interface," Naki said. "I need to make sure it works correctly."

"But don't you work in biology?" D`rok seemed confused.

"No, while I specialize in Forerunner sciences, I am well versed in the other sections too. Field testing our new military hardware is also in my list of skills," Naki corrected him.

D`rok rolled his eyes. "Gods, are you going to just follow him around and carry things for him too?"

"I can fight. My rank is not just a title, I have been fully trained as SpecOps." Naki frowned.

"Yes," he laughed. "But why are you not with the Rangers? You clearly shoot better while falling, Naki."

"Wha... Oh, you saw that." Naki looked past D`rok's head and blushed a bit. "I was only making a joke, but I think you understand that,"

"I just heard it from a little bird." D`rok smiled. "Whatever you say, Scientist."

D`rok and Naki took a seat. Ryau sat down next to Naki and they talked a bit about the new Assisted Combat Interface that was installed in his armor for the rest of the flight.

"The system should have a better ability to sync with human systems, should you come into contact with any." Naki said, also an enhanced weapon battery monitor. Low light mode is included and it can be customized with your left wrist control pad." Naki said.

"So essentially its like a Heads Up Display." Ryau asked.

"Exactly, ACI is just our version of that." Naki nodded, taking another small data-chip out of one of her pockets. "This is the instructional presentation, it should help."

Ryau took the chip and plugged it into his data-pad. "Alright, I'll look into it when I get a chance."

The Phantom glided into the hangar of the DDS-Class Carrier Leveling Strength and settled in one of the landing cradles. The doors opened and a team of Unggoy hangar attendants waddled in to assist Naki with her cargo. Ryau and D`rok debarked the Phantom and waited a moment on the platform.

"I will meet you in my cabin later, we'll run a system diagnostic and check its status," Naki said to Ryau.

"Alright, see you then," Ryau said.

"Ryau, follow me," D`rok took Ryau to one of the ship's cafeterias and went back into one of the open lounge rooms. D`rok had Ryau enter first and locked the door behind them. Ryau looked over at D`rok, who gave him a sharp glare.

"Sit down." D`rok ordered.

Ryau complied and sat in the padded chair on one side of the table. "Oh shit, what is this about..." Ryau thought. D`rok casually tossed a data-pad onto the table. "What is it, Excellency?" Ryau chose his words based on how Naki had said to address superior officers.

"First off. Do not call me glorifying names. I will not hear it." D`rok snarled at the thought.

"Very well, sir. What should I call you?"

"You will address me only by my name; D`rok 'Tallaham. You used it before, so I know you know it." He said, pacing back around his side of the table.

"The entire name?" Ryau asked.

"If it makes you feel better, yes." D`rok chuckled.

"Understood, D`rok." Ryau grumbled.

"Now..." D`rok sat down in his seat across from Ryau and just stared for a few moments. Ryau could tell that D`rok was appearing overly intimidating, trying to get an idea of who and what Ryau was. "What makes me want you to follow my orders?" He smirked.

"Well..." Ryau started, he sat forward in his chair, to appear more professional. "Based off your comment to Naki, you saw the video of my reintegration skirmish. Or, you were one of the Trainers that we eliminated."

"That does not answer my question, Ryau. Now tell me, what makes me want you to be under my command?"

Ryau leaned back again. "You tell me, you accepted me already."

"Good answer, but do not be stupid. I know you are smart enough to answer the question," D`rok said.

"Well..." Ryau thought aloud. "I'm intelligent, good in combat.."

"And?" D`rok motioned for Ryau to go on.

"You know I am someone you can trust." Ryau said.
D`rok frowned. "Correction, youth. You assume I trust you, I do not. However, your first answer was correct." He smiled again and chuckled. "What is the best mistake that you have made in your career?"

Ryau had to think, the cover story he had gotten did not cover any mistakes or many exact moments. "Great... As a Spartan there was that one time I was nearly been vaporized by a Hunter's, no Mgalekgolo's, fuel rod cannon, but that would raise too many questions." Ryau thought.. "I do not... remember."

D`rok stared coldly at Ryau "What do you expect of me?"

"For you to be a good leader." Ryau said.

"Is that by my appearance, or are you just trying to avoid my questioning?"

"Naki shared your service record with me. I say that from experience leading a squad as well." Ryau said.

"Hmm..." He seemed slightly annoyed by something. "Does she openly share my file with everyone?"

Ryau shrugged. "She thought it necessary that I know whose command I was being placed under. I don't know if she shared it with anyone else."

D`rok sat there for a moment, then spoke softer. "What I meant... was how do you expect me to act." He sat forward. "Do you expect someone who is emotionally attached to his squad? Someone who perhaps does not care whether his followers survive? That is what I meant."

"Considering the manner you're speaking, that you're attached to the squad. But more so the members that have been around far longer. I am the new guy, so you're not entirely sure about me." Ryau sighed.

"Hmmm. Could you do something for me?" D`rok asked.

"If I can." Ryau did not know where this was going.

"I want you to look at me carefully... Disregard the file as if you know nothing about me. What can you tell about me. What do you read from my appearance." D`rok asked.

Ryau glanced over D`rok sitting across from him. "Your rank shows that you're experienced, the scar along your eye says that you've had a few close calls, maybe from the earlier, more reckless yea- solar cycles." Ryau gulped, he had just slipped up.

"Okay. Anything else?" D`rok motioned for Ryau to continue.

"The way you handled the Major at the spaceport says you've got a strong sense of morality." Ryau added. "You clean armor shows that you're neat, clean. You're sitting straight, instead of the hunched over posture many warriors seem to get from the combat stance, maybe an effort not to conform to standard operating procedure?"

"Hmm... Decent enough. Good observations." He stopped, "Are you multilingual? I heard you almost said 'years' a few moments ago."

Ryau froze and quickly thought of a way to cover his mistake. "Erm... Yes, I... have been working with the Covenant Special Sciences Ministry, required learning."

"That is alright. How much of the Humans language do you know?"

Ryau mentally sighed "I can translate verbal and written script near instantly."

"Very nice... Very useful... Also hard to come by.
Usually we will have warriors carry translator units."

Ryau nodded. "Is there anything else?"

"No, that is all. Welcome to Far Beyond Provocation, 'Cinotee. You will now need to go to Special Operations room G18." He stood, "Now let's go, it is a long walk and I would like everyone to have all of their belongings strapped down before we jump off."

"Alright, glad to be part of it." Ryau lied. D`rok left the room and disappearance out of the cafe. Ryau sighed and stood from his seat. He was not sure what he had gotten himself into. Heading out of lounge room, the cafe attendants were securing tables and chairs for the slipspace jump.

He walked out to a computer terminal and checked where G18 was on board the carrier. The path suggested had him taking the the personnel lift that ran lateral to the ship's spine. The nearest access point was just down the corridor. He should be to the room in no time at all.

Part 7
Twenty-Fourth Solar Cycle, 120 Cycle: 9th Age of Reclamation [July 30, 2552: 0150]
Covenant DDS-Class Carrier Leveling Strength: Fleet of Particular Justice [Reinforce and Resupply Fleet]
SpecOps Major Ryau 'Cinotee

Ryau walked over to the doorway that lead into the personnel lift. Beside the door, a holographic panel appeared with instructions for first-time users. The personnel lift was a series of gravity conveyors and grav-lifts that ran along the ships spine, and had exits at major areas. Ryau had not seen one when he was aboard a Corvette back when he was a Spartan, so he assumed that they were only on larger vessels.

He glanced at the instructions, and punched in his destination on a separate control console. The screen beckoned him to place his palm on the top of the console for an identity check. The machine made a whirring sound and he felt a pinch, like when he had accessed the deployment orders on Naki's console the day before. The system cross-referenced the composition of his blood to the one that it had on file and bleeped. The doors to the lift opened and a glowing cyan path of energy appeared before him. He took a cautious step forward and was whisked away into the bowels of the ship.

As he was rapidly moving through the corridor, other members of the Covenant came in and out of the various outlets of the ship. However, soon he began to slow and stop behind a group of Kig'Yar Snipers. Up ahead, two Huragok were attempting to remove an Unggoy that had fallen through one of the service shafts from the deck above. If the Unggoy had stopped squirming, then the Huragok would have had him out of there in just a few moments. After a few moments passed, the way was clear and they were allowed to continue on to their destinations.

The lift deposited him in a double hallway lined with various doors. Deck G was the location of all the Special Operations prep rooms. Ryau wandered down the corridor until he arrived at the room D`rok had told him to go to. The door was locked, the edges glowing a bright red. Ryau raised his hand and knocked on the plating.
The door flashed white and slid open. D`rok stood on the other side at the controls. "'Cinotee," he said.

"D`rok," Ryau responded in kind.

D`rok motioned him to come inside to room. "Did you get lost?" he asked.

"No, an… Unggoy fell into the personnel lift. The path was blocked for a bit." Ryau said.

D`rok motioned around the room. "Welcome to Far Beyond Provocation's private common room. There is a bathroom right there." He nodded to a small stall built into the wall. "Across from that is my private quarters. This is the main bunk area, you may keep the bunk, or if you want, I can find a heightened quality of bedding for you."

"Actually, I believe I have been assigned to a cabin with Science Major 'Cimutee." Ryau said.

"Oh... I was not aware of this." D`rok shook his head. Ryau pulled out his data-pad and double checked his room assignment. Sure enough, it was the same room as Naki's. He showed it to D`rok. "Well... if the lady becomes that of annoyance... you are more than welcome to join us in here," he chuckled.

There was a steady silence for a moment before Ryau spoke up. "She said to meet her there after the slipspace jump, so..."

"Alright... well let's have you meet the rest of the kill team then…" D`rok turned and headed into the main bunk area and Ryau followed. Two more Sangheili were moving bunks around to make more space. D`rok pointed to the taller brown skinned Sangheili. "Ryau, this is K`an 'Retmaree, the lance's second in command." The two working with the bunk stopped what they were doing as soon as they were addressed. "The smaller one is Sig, the third in command. Watch out for K`an, he gets a bit nippy at times. He does not like to baby sit."

"Understood," Ryau nodded.

"Do you two need help?" D`rok asked them.

"Well, we just want to open up the bunk area so we could put in a table... and maybe a couch…" K`an said.

"Why are we really doing this again?" Sig glanced over to K`an.

"So we can look at female sports articles in complete comfort," K`an replied with a grin.
Sig sighed and rolled his eyes. "Whatever, K`an... Do what you will with the space. That is your thing, not mine"

"Maybe we could fashion a pole from one of the bunk supports? We might persuade females to dance in here for us too." K`an said. Sig just grumbled and looked agitated. "And if you wish to go sit in the corner on your data-pad... I am sure that D`rok and... erm…? whatever this newcomer's name is would happily join." K`an waved over to Ryau, having missed D`rok say his name.

D`rok sighed and pointed to the ring snugly set on his secondary index finger. "K`an, I am engaged, remember?"

"Oh yeah, I forgot that you finally got tied down." K`an said, rather sarcastically, causing D`rok to roll his eyes.

D`rok looked over to Ryau. "They will grow on you eventually. Do you have any questions or concerns?"

Ryau looked around at the three other Sangheili, remembering the last time he had seen his Spartan squad. "No, not really. But they are nothing like the group I was with before..." He sighed.

"Well, I have to get some things taken care of. Go ahead and meet them, alright?" D`rok said.

"Where should I put my things?" Ryau asked before he left.

"For now, set them right in the corner of the bunk area." D`rok turned and left, walking into his private quarters.

Ryau nodded and placed his bags down in the corner. Sig walked over and asked Ryau a question. "So, where are you from?"

"I'm from Varo," Ryau said.

"Oh me too!" Sig smiled widely. "What part?"

Ryau had to pause for a moment and remember the districts for Varo, where Naki had said his records showed. "Old Cerva, around the nature preserve."

"Oh… I am from Downtown originally." Sig said. "My name is Sig 'Valhamee."

"Ryau 'Cinotee, good to meet you." Ryau said with a slight smile.

"Hey, when you two are done getting off on each other, I could use some help here." K`an butted in.

"Excuse me?" Ryau said. "I don't understand that." Honestly Ryau understood exactly what he said, but he was confused as to why a sangheili would use it.

"Making love! Trading Feelings! Mouthing each others genitals! Whatever you call it, finish it up and help me with this." K`an barked.

Sig and Ryau sighed and went to help K`an with the bunks. "Do not mind him... He gets upset when I have others to talk to." Sig said.

They moved a few of the unused bunks against one of the free walls. It seemed to Ryau that this room was meant for a much larger group of warriors than the four Sangheili of Far Beyond Provocation. Once the final bunk was moved K`an looked to Ryau. "Hey, kid... If you survive the tour, I'll give you his number so you can get together and start a family." He was referring to Sig.

"I am no child." Ryau said.

"If you say so, kid." K`an said.

"Excuse him, he and D`rok are from the south. So they may talk differently, especially K`an. He is from so far south, it's nearly backwards." Sig laughed.

"Ah! Do not speak of my beautiful home that way! You self-enlightened northerner," K`an said throwing up his hands.

"Come on Ryau, the renovation is finished. Let me take you somewhere away from him. Shall I buy you a drink?" Sig said, turning away from the bunks.

"Sure, that would be fine."

"Come." Sig headed out the door before K`an could say anything, and Ryau followed quickly behind. They walked down the corridor, following signs leading to a cafe. "I have been with D`rok and the, erm, idiot for many solar cycles now. I have no idea how we have managed to continue the same path unsplit. It is nice though... the two are like fathers…" He paused for a moment and blinked. "Well... older brothers to me. I do not think that there is anything that will kill them off… although D`rok being engaged now might be interesting." Sig trailed off. "K`an drinks himself to capacity as soon as he leaves tour and stays that way until the day he must leave for action again… I am sorry for my rambling" He sighed.

"Hmm, I'd say I understand if I could, but those that I called my brothers were nothing like you three." Ryau looked down at the floor as they walked. "I don't think I'll ever see them again, so I might as well start getting used to you."

"What do you speak of? Or would you rather not say?" Sig asked.

"We were a lot more... reserved, even in private. It was from one battle to the next, not much time between them. I don't know where they are now, or even if they are alive... My… erm... transfer was very sudden." He replied.

"I think the lack of reserved mannerisms in private is the only thing that keeps the two going. Who wishes to be just an emotionless drone…"

Ryau sighed, "It wasn't really our choice… sure, we weren't silent, but again, we were nothing like you all."

"Honestly, they grow on you after awhile... They can be fun." Sig said. They arrived at the cafe called 'Beemo's' and stood around the ordering table. "What would you like to drink Ryau?"

Ryau shrugged. "Whatever's plain and simple."

Sig ordered a pair of drinks that he called Etolia. They took a seat at a table, and an Unggoy waiter delivered two cups. Sig took the cups and handed one to Ryau. The drink was creamy and tasted vaguely like coffee. Ryau liked it and took another sip. Sig sipped the drink and smiled widely. "I do simply love these drinks. Do you know what they are called? Have you ever had one before?"

" No, I haven't... I actually never had a drink until a few months ago" Ryau said, taking another sip.

"Never had ... a drink? This… This is it not alcoholic, Ryau." Sig blushed slightly. "I am not one for much alcohol."

"Hmm, well then…" Ryau looked down at the foamy beverage.

"Is that what you were expecting?" Sig asked.

"Usually that's what it means to get a drink, in the sense that you gave," Ryau said.

"Oh... I am sorry for misleading you, Ryau."

"It's fine." Ryau shrugged and took another sip.

"Well, what do you think of it?"

"It's good, I like it."

"I am glad you like it." Sig paused and looked past the edge of the booth.

Ryau turned and saw that he must have been looking at a single Major passing by. He raised an eye ridge, and noticed Sig had a weird look and strange smile. A bit confused, Ryau spoke up. "Er… when are we due to enter slipspace? D`rok acted like we were about to jump."

Sig looked back to Ryau. "It should be soon... I would give it another minute or two."

Almost immediately after that, the ship's PA system activated. "Attention. Slipspace transition in five…" Once the countdown was completed, there was a quiet rumble and bit of static built in the air. There was an irregular, uneasy feeling, which passed quickly.

The Device on his wrist crackled a bit, barely noticeable. "First time in a Covie ship entering slipspace, they are a bit different."Ryau thought. "Hmm, well, I really should get to that meeting with Naki. Thanks for the drink, Sig."

"You are very welcome! Safe travels to you." Sig waved.

Ryau stood up from the table and headed out. "I'll probably be around in the room sometime, later, Sig." He walked down the corridor, back towards the personnel lifts.

Riding along through the system, he was pulled into an offshoot and went up through a tube. The ride was a lot less eventful than his last, he didn't even see any others along the route. The private quarters were located around the core of the ship, near the bridge. Ryau assumed that was because many of the ship's crew members were assigned their own cabins. He was deposited onto a platform and the door slid open.

Ryau checked the console on the wall for Naki's room, and found that it was just around the next corner. He walked over and noticed the door was open. A Sangheili in gold armor, a Zealot, was standing in the room.

"Shipmaster, there are many Forerunner artifacts on board, any one of them could interfere with our transition into slipspace. But I assure you, that there is nothing to worry about."

"The technicians are worried that this interference will damage our drive. I believe you understand how bad that could be." The Shipmaster crossed his arms.

"These fluctuations have been recorded before and there are no recorded damages to any of the other slipspace drives." Naki said. "You have my word that these are harmless."

"Very well, Science Major Cimutee. I will trust your expert opinion over that of the engine teams." The Shipmaster nodded. "However, if something happens I will be sure to hold you responsible."

"Understood, Shipmaster." Naki bowed.

"I appreciate the counsel, Science Major. If you detect anything else, I will be on the bridge." The Shipmaster turned to leave. As he walked out, Ryau gave the Sangheili salute. The Shipmaster nodded and walked past. "Major," he acknowledged.

Ryau walked in and closed the door. Naki looked away from her computer console and glanced to Ryau. "The only piece of Forerunner technology active is the one on your wrist right now..."

"What's going on?" Ryau asked.

"Oh, the sensors picked up some unusual interference with the slipspace drive. It is harmless honestly, but it did not occur last time we transported the Device... Perhaps it is because this is the first time it has been activated." Naki smiled and moved off the subject. "So how are the others?"

"Oh... umm. They're going to be hard to get used to, but I think I can handle it. One of them, Sig, took me to one of the cafes on board for a drink."

"Hmm, that's good. If you can integrate with a squad well, the Hierarchs should be pleased. Perhaps allowing you to leave combat duties." Naki said.

"That would be good. Though I'm sure I'll get use to them, no problem at all." Ryau said, looking around the cabin. There were two rooms set off this central entry way, one for him and one for Naki. "What was it that you needed to see me for?" He asked. His thoughts began to wander, fantasies of them being together again. "I have to keep things focused, if we can make it to the end of the war, then we can start thinking about the future." He thought, shaking his head slightly to clear his thoughts.

"I need to run some tests to see how your changes have taken. Naki walked into his part of the cabin. "Please, take a seat on your bed."

Ryau nodded and say down. He waited patiently as Naki ran all sorts of devices over his body. She eventually removed the Device from from his forearm guard and removed its back casing. The backside was a maze of circuitry and boxes of unknown purpose. They all would have contact with his skin through openings in his body suit.

Nestled in the center was a glowing blue glyph, Ryau guessed it was Forerunner in origin. He pointed to it. "What does that mean?"

"We... don't actually know. It was found at all the locations where information on the Device were found. I would assume it was a manufacturing mark, perhaps even the creators personal seal." Naki said, barely glancing up from her data-pad. Quickly she detached the Device and reassembled its casing. "Now let's see how you are healing. Armor off, remove your body suit as well."

Ryau nodded and removed his clothing. Sangheili combat gear was much easier to remove than a set of MJOLNIR armor. Back on Sanghelios he had been busy training and learning proper Sangheili combat techniques. Naki kept taking him out across the city to learn the culture that had been forced upon him.

His older scars were still all over his body, only now light and dark gray to match his hide. They had transferred onto his new skin, which no longer felt so new. He glanced to his left and saw that his entire left side was covered in dark burns and nicks. Ryau had no memory of where they came from. He had hardly ever bothered to really look over himself, everything that he needed was either the same as when he was human or in a place that wasn't covered by clothing. Where he changed clothes, there had been no mirror to see himself.

Naki poked and prodded the dark scar tissue with instruments. "Healing seems to be proceeding on track, a bit faster than we were expecting but I attribute that to the Device."

"What happened there?" Ryau asked. "I don't remember getting this."

"Uhm... you were heavily injured when D`rok brought you up. The Unggoy almost scored a direct hit on you and half of your armor had adhered to your left side. We had to operate to remove it, which proved to be a challenge. The medical staff had never touched a Human before." Naki set her tools in their case and brushed herself off. "Well that's all I had to do. Want to get something to eat?"

"Sure, that would be good." Ryau said.

Ryau awoke the next morning to a beeping data-pad on the small bedside shelf. He reached out and pulled it over. A message from D`rok was blinking on the screen. Ryau sat up and looked at the message.

"Meet me in Armory G-Two."

Ryau typed out his response. "Why." The response was near instantaneous.

"Because I wish to further evaluate you."

"Uhg..." Ryau groaned and got off the bed and suited up in the clothing uniform he had been issued alongside his armor. He headed out of the room and took the personnel lift back over to G deck. The armory was just the second room on the deck. D`rok stood by a rack of sparring sticks in his armor.

"Good morning, 'Cinotee" D`rok said, in his hands was a container that resembled a thermos.

"Morning, D`rok." Ryau nodded.

"Would you like some Cofea?" He poured the contents of the canister into two cups. Ryau remembered that Cofea was the Sangheili version of Human coffee, the names were pronounced so similarly that Ryau thought something had to be at play here. "Perhaps D`rok knows about what I am... and he's testing me"

D`rok picked up the cup and offered it to him.

"Sure," Ryau accepted the cup and took a sip. It was a bit bitter but fine.

"I am sorry for the sudden meeting." He looked down at his data-pad. "But this is mainly for your convenience..."

"Alright?" Ryau said. "What are we doing?"

"What is your preferred loadout?" He asked.

"Usually ranged weapons, rifles." Ryau replied, he had assumed that Naki and Zeik had put his information into
the system. "Depends on what is available on the ship."

"Hmmm." His finger went down the list on his data-pad. "This ship has the Type-31 Needle Rifle and a very limited stock of Type-51 Carbines. If you had to select one to have, which would it be."
"The Carbine is preferred."

D`rok shifted his stance and typed something out. "I'm sorry those are no longer available... What is your second choice?"

"The Needle rifle then."

"I highly recommend that all in my team carry a sidearm. However, it is not required." D`rok said, noting down Ryau's choice of rifle. "Would you rather the Type-25 Plasma Rifle or Type-33 Needler?"

Ryau thought for a moment. "The Plasma Rifle."

"Alright, wait here." D`rok walked behind the weapons booth and retrieved a case. He placed the case on the table beside the target range and handed Ryau the Needle Rifle that was inside. "Show me what you can do."

Ryau spent the next hour firing at targets with near perfect accuracy. He had been trained to be one of the best humanity could make. None of that skill came from the augmentations. D`rok was impressed and noted some things down in his data-pad again. Then walked over to a sparring circle on the other side of the Armory and began to remove his armor.

"We're sparring?" Ryau asked, walking over.

"Yes, do you have an issue with this?" D`rok pulled off the last piece of his armor.

"No." Ryau simply said.

D`rok picked one of the sparring sticks off the rack and handed it to Ryau. "Have you done this before?"

"There were some small sparring segments in the refresher course I took before returning to military duty," Ryau said, looking over the wooden stick. It was nearly as long as he was tall, and a red ribbon was tied to the end.

"Well... in case you don't remember; Knock me down and you get a point, if my sticks leaves my hands it is a draw... rules apply to you as well."

"Understood," Ryau said.

The two moved to the starting positions on each side of the ring. A moment passed and D`rok barked, "Start."
Ryau and D`rok began to dance slowly around the ring. Every time Ryau attempted to move into a better position, D`rok would follow and counter the new point of attack. Their sticks snapped together, striking back and forth. Ryau began to quickly run through scenarios in his mind. He knew D`rok was a very experienced warrior, and that he wasn't a brute, he was a strategist. The spar would be difficult and he would have to take advantage of openings.

Ryau tested D`rok's position once again with a short, quick charge. D`rok swung swiftly and brought his staff to Ryau's forearm. Ryau bounced back away and growled as he clutched his arm for a few moments. The lack of armor allowed the full force of the stick to smack the bone.

"Are you alright?" D`rok asked, concerned.

"Yes, yes I am, D`rok" Ryau growled again, as he clenched his mandibles together.

"Are you sure? Would you like to quit?"

"No." Ryau shook his wrist and quickly returned to the starting position. Once again, Ryau watched D`rok closely.

"Alright, ready, start." D`rok said and the two once again began the dance.

Ryau altered his strategy, moving onto the defensive instead. He continued to study D`rok's movements, and let him get comfortable in the cycle they were in. After several long and tense moments, Ryau figured out what he should do.

Ryau made a quick dash at D`rok like he had in the last round. As Ryau expected, D`rok countered in the same way, bringing the stick down towards Ryau's arm. He quickly pulled his arm back once D`rok had fully committed to his swing. Ryau the opening and rotated his torso to move his back fist into striking distance on his opponent's face. He saw D`rok suddenly realize his mistake.

Ryau's fist, still gripping the staff, collided with the center of D`rok's face. The power behind the strike sent D`rok off balance and down to the ground. D`rok was thrown back on his ass, clear out of the sparring ring. When he hit the deck, he lost his grip on his stick. He threw his hands to his face and clutched his muzzle. Groaning on the ground and rocking a bit.

"Are you alright, D`rok?" Ryau asked mimicking what D`rok had said earlier.

D`rok just sat there for a minute. "I… is your hand okay?" He pulled his hands away from his face, a bit of blood dribbled out of his left nostril. There was some on his hands too.

"My hand doesn't matter, you're bleeding." Ryau said.

"Your detective skills are quite remarkable as well." D`rok chuckled and wiped the blood from his face. He remained on the ground and took a moment to rest. "Ryau... I have not been hit like that in years... He grunted and spit on the floor. "...I don't think K`an has even hit me like that before." Ryau let out an amused chuckle and D`rok slowly lifted himself up. He walked over to a table and used a towel to wipe himself clean. "Am still good looking?" He gave a sarcastic smile.

Ryau shrugged. "I guess so."

D`rok sighed, "Do you have any questions?"

"No, I don't."

"Okay... Well feel free to come into the room and join the rest of the squad in the barracks. If K`an gives you any trouble just either tell me or flat out tell him off. If you need me for anything else I will be here for awhile... I might head to the N'vek's Grill in the ship plaza... Hmm, other than that I will probably be in the barracks." He collected his data-pad and began to type out a new entry. "You are free to go... I will make sure your loadout is ready for you in the armory."

"Okay, thank you." Ryau nodded and placed his stick back on the rack. He headed out of the Armory and went back to bed in Naki's cabin.