August 30, 2552 20:00 Hours, Aszod, Eposz, Planet Reach

Mike B312, the last member of Noble Team standing on Reach, watched the sky for some time after the Pillar of Autumn left orbit. His job was done but now what?

The rain had stopped and despite the late hour it became light behind the banks of thick clouds. Two Banshees zoomed past, uninterested in his presence and carried on to another area. For a moment Mike thought he'd been forgotten and was merely left stranded on the planet. But then a Phantom approached the Spartan's position followed by another and then another. No, he'd not been forgotten, the Covenant was massing to finish once and for all the human nuisance that had stopped them on so many occasions during their invasion of the planet.

Mike sighed heavily as he moved away from the platform and his fallen brother preparing for what he knew was going to be his final battle. He began to recall his experiences during the fight for Reach. Had it only been a month? He couldn't believe he'd only arrived on July 24th.

A lot can change in a month, he thought to himself.

Certainly it was more than had changed in the last ten years. He'd been reunited with his friend Kat from training, he'd earned a place on Noble Team, he'd met Mandy and so many others. Then there was Natalia.

He shook his head, as if to clear out all the conflicting thoughts. Could he survive? Alone? No way. The quick-thinking man realized the Covenant had decided long ago to take Reach and no single man- make that no single Spartan -could stop them. He'd fought long and hard and gave Reach his all to achieve this point. He'd fight to the end but he finally realized he owed Reach nothing. He owed the UNSC nothing and finally it dawned on him- he owed the Nantz family legacy nothing. His efforts, his alone, would live on in the annals of history, just like his forefather had done. Hell, people might even sing his praises for centuries to come, if humanity lasted that long.

Be the Lone Wolf if you desire, a small voice whispered in his ear, and fight for all you can, but you know this is not a battle you can win. It's time to say goodbye.

"I'll make you all proud," Mike said to himself, as he checked the ammo count on his weapon. He'd take the fight to the relentless invader one last time.

Travelling out into the remnants of the sprawling Sinovet Ship Breaking Complex he began to pass the bodies of troopers that had given their lives to hold the facility.

Why should things be any different for me than for any of them? Mike thought to himself, as he paused to stock up on ammo and grenades. There's no happy ending for any of us.

The Spartan pushed out further as more Covenant dropships flew in to disgorge their contents in the distance. Yea, I'm nothing special, he thought, just like all these others, but strangely that gave him comfort. He was like the others. He was a soldier, serving his country and his people, despite all that had been done to him and all he had done.

Then Mike froze.

He saw several bodies that were bigger and armored differently from the others. "Are those Spartans?" Mike asked himself.

There was no opportunity to investigate as several plasma rounds sizzled in, two hitting him full on. Led by three Elites, a group of Grunts came screaming in to finish off the Lone Wolf. All thoughts left his mind as he went into combat mode.

Throwing a grenade and then following up with a stream of fire from his Assault Rifle, Mike took down the first Sangheili, disrupting the attack of the Unggoy in the process. He pushed right through them, spraying fire as he went not to damage but to disrupt. Another grenade stopped the waddling attackers from reforming while he charged in to beat one of the howling Elites down with the butt end of his weapon. The third one fired and hit him with his Plasma Pistol but they were only glancing blows which Mike's shield absorbed.

The Spartan didn't stop, bulling in again but this time coming in low and driving his shoulder into the mid-section of the Sangheili. With a whoosh of air the taller Elite doubled over allowing Mike to drive his rifle butt into the back of the warrior's head, stoving in its skull.

Yet another section of Grunts and Elites joined the fight just as Mike had finished the first one off, followed by another larger group. Mike emptied his Assault Rifle so switched out for the DMR he carried. Firing controlled bursts and moving he was again able to disrupt the cohesion of the assault against him but he was also starting to take more hits and he watched his shields start to drop precariously.

Several more direct hits and the alarm claxon went off. Mike retreated, popping a Drop Shield to recover within but he couldn't wait, more were massing so he rushed out and re-entered the fray.

But there were too many.

Again his shield drained and before he could recharge a salvo of fire hit him. The Plasma formed and began to cause degeneration to his armor. The Lone Wolf killed more than he could count, the number didn't matter anymore, but still they came. His shield couldn't regenerate and so he felt the sizzling sting of the plasma burn through his armor and sear his skin. His helmet held but a small crack appeared in the visor. Mike knew the situation was getting desperate so he again popped a Drop Shield to give himself a breather.

Then on a high arcing trajectory a Plasma Mortar round landed by the shield, disrupting it. A Wraith had entered just as Mike took fire from several flying Covenant aircraft. It seemed like everyone was joining the party now. But there was a cost to entry and despite the increased hits he was taking he made them pay the price in full. Grunts fell by the dozens, Elites fell as well.

Fortunately for Mike as his weapon ran out there were others around from fallen brothers who were almost reaching out from the grave to assist in this final desperate fight. He honored their memories by killing more of the cursed invaders.

But there were just too many.

Mike continued to fight ferociously holding on for as long as possible but he armor continued to be degenerated. A second, larger, crack appeared in his visor as the continued salvos of plasma splashed all over him. But he fought on, throwing grenades, beating aside all comers but inevitability was against him. Steadily being penned in with lessening room to maneuver, the Covenant attackers seeking blood revenge on the Spartan confined him in with the sheer weight of numbers. Their fire was relentless, irregardless of casualties to their own side from missed shots. They had the singular purpose of destroying this man.

The Spartan's shield went down for the last time and his armor was

breeched. The alarm claxon went off as his MJOLNIR armor's environmental system failed. Unable to breathe in the vacuum sealed helmet Mike ripped it off and tossed it to aside continuing to fight.

Confident this was the Spartan's last stand the most powerful of the Elite's aligned against him waved off the Grunts and lesser Sangheili, each wanting the glory of this one last kill.

But there was still some fight left in Mike-B312.

An Elite charged in at Mike, firing a plasma rifle but the Spartan met the attack, standing tall and shredding the warrior with a sustained burst from his assault rifle. A golden-armored Sangheili General moved in for the attack from behind hoping to skewer Mike with an energy sword. Instead Noble Six deflected the sizzling blow and knocking the Elite to the ground he killed it with several precise rounds from his pistol.

But there were just too many of the motivated attackers.

Mike was hit by a concentrated barrage of plasma fire, staggering him. Wounded and bleeding, he still managed to stay standing. Holding his Assault Rifle at the hip in the right hand and the pistol in the left, Noble Six continued to fight not only for his team but for all who lost their lives in the futile effort to save Reach, killing a Sangheili Minor and Major before another white-armored Ultra bull rushed into the gap, knocking the Spartan roughly to the ground.

An Elite Zealot claimed the kill. Waving the others off the warrior raised his Energy Sword preparing to stab the downed Noble Six. But Mike had another plan so kicked the Elite away with a hard thrust, knocking the Energy Sword out of the Zealot's hand. The Ultra who'd first knocked Mike to the rocky ground pounced on the Spartan. Mike managed to elbow the Ultra in the jaw. The Zealot recovered and came right back in deftly drawing its Energy Dagger, and finally stabbed him deep into the chest. Mike howled in pain and the anguish of defeat just as a stealth-armored SpecOps Sangheili came to stand over him, the tips of its Energy Sword only inches from his face.

Mike closed his eyes and prepared for what was to come. He was calm and ready to cross through the dark gates to the next part of his journey. In some ways he looked forward to it. No longer would he have to answer to those who would use him for his own gain, no longer would his heart ache at the thoughts of Natalia and what could have been, no longer would he even have to be confused about Mandy and the affection she'd expressed which had only made things more complicated, and no more would he have to live with the Nantz family legacy. No, he was ready to go.

The SpecOps Elite raised the Energy Sword quickly; screaming in triumph when the sharp crack of a Sniper Rifle ripped through the air followed by another in short order. The Zealot flopped to the ground, its maw ripped open by the round that had gone through it as did the Spec Ops Sangheili, killed by a similar head shot. The whine of an inbound Pelican could be heard above the din only for a moment before the sound of its 70mm chin mounted Chain Gun opening fire overwhelmed the din.

Mike was near unconscious from loss of blood from his multiple wounds when he saw a pair of armored boots out of his hazy eyes. A cool feeling began to fill his body as a canister of Biofoam was inserted into the receptacle in his armor.

"Come on Six, let's get you out of here," a vaguely familiar voice seemed to call him from a distance as the pain and confusion of the moment overwhelmed him as he slipped into unconsciousness.

Mike regained consciousness some time later finding himself lying on the metal deck of a Pelican flying as fast as it could. Rubbing his eyes and shaking his head to regain his faculties he sat up, still wobbly and his eyes focused on the bald head of Jun, reloading one of his Sniper Rifle magazines with 14.5x114mm ammo.

"How you doing, Six?" the cerebral sniper asked, a sparkle in his eyes.

"Hurts like hell," Mike grunted.

"At least you're alive."

All at once, like a high speed data upload, it all clicked for Mike. "Hey, how'd you know where to find me?"

Jun chuckled. "Ran into a cute medic and a Master Sergeant who looked like he should be holding a box of donuts not a shotgun at the last extraction point left on the planet. Hopefully it'll still be there when we get back cause we're cutting it close."

"But…," Mike was still confused and increasingly groggy.

"They said you might need an extract since you'd likely never go off on the Autumn."

"Did it get away?" Mike asked, eyes closed, willing that the team's last sacrifice would not be for nothing.

"Yea, apparently it jumped but who knows where," Jun answered.

Mike breathed a sigh of relief. It's wasn't all for nothing. Still, the cost had been high. "Emile's dead. So is Commander Carter," he declared, informing his teammate of recent developments.

"I figured that," the sniper responded without emotion.

"Did the cute medic make it off the planet?" Mike asked, now wanting to find out about Mandy.

"She did. Also said to pass on a message: she said to look her up when you have a minute," Jun reported. "What's that all about?"

Mike couldn't help but smile despite his physical and emotional pain. He closed his eyes and leaned back onto the side wall of the drop ship. "It's a long story."

"We got time, dude," Jun replied, interest peaked at the strange conversation during this last stand. "Oh, and when we get off planet, there's someone who wants to talk to you."

The Pelican did make it with all of five minutes to spare before the last transport lifted off from the lost planet of Reach. What once had been a crown jewel of the UNSC was now completely lost but for Mike Nantz, it was not all lost. Though he'd suffered and lost those he'd come to love he'd lost something he'd been trying to shed for years- the legacy that had driven him to fight as the Lone Wolf. From now on he'd blaze a new legacy, one of his own making. Taking out the battered Congressional Medal of Honor from his ancestor given to him by his father that he'd carried for years he couldn't help but smile. Despite the seemingly bleak future for humanity his was now one he'd craft if he lived long enough to experience it. The thought hung with him as he fell again into unconsciousness.