Disclaimer: I own no franchise mentioned in this work. Halo belongs to 343, Overwatch belongs to Blizzard.
Guest: The WidowxTracer tag is on the story mate. It's a plot point I enjoy, and thus it is there.
Sorry for the delay on this one, got bogged down with a peculiar ailment called life. How vexing.
The first tremor went unnoticed, passing through the structure of the ship without incident. Automatic processes logged the anomaly down as a slipspace current, unworthy of notice for the AI currently running the ship. In different sections of the vessel lay two warriors, each exhausted from the battle they had just returned from, each ignorant of the event. The unexpected guest aboard was similarly unaware, still unconscious from the torture of being trapped in the slipstream.
It was the second tremor that got the attention of Cortana, a small alert popping up on one of the bridge consoles. There were no blaring alarms, no flashing lights or any other such silly nonsense. It was merely a single window, meant to alert the crew to a possible issue. Almost instantly the AI on board the Dawn was running diagnostics, simple programs to find any problems while her attention stayed affixed to whatever else she had been running.
Shortly thereafter a third tremor raced through the vessel, slightly stronger than before but still undetectable by most humans. The Chief was not most humans, and as such was alert within moments of the slight vibration. A quick glance at his clock told him that it had been thirteen hours and twenty-six minutes since he had closed his eyes, a long rest for a Spartan. Feeling significantly recovered from battle, the warrior stood from his position on the floor of the barracks. Looking to the occupied bed, he noticed that the girl had had a fitful rest from the blanket tangled around her.
Satisfied that she would not present a threat, he began to make his way towards the barracks exit. Before he could leave, however, another vibration shook the ship, rattling the empty bed frames around him. "Cortana?" he asked into the silent room, knowing that the AI was always around. If she wasn't already reporting to him then she hadn't noticed he was awake, which meant that she was devoting the significant processing power of the Dawn's computer elsewhere.
It took a few seconds for her to answer, an unusually long time for her. "The slipstream distortions are beginning to buffet the ship. I can keep us stable for a bit, but if this continues we'll have to either manually drop out of slipspace or be torn apart."
A quick nod was all the acknowledgement that the Spartan gave Cortana, knowing that she was busy with more important matters. With a speed born of practiced precision, Chief bound the human pilot to the bed with combat straps designed precisely for preventing shifting during turbulence. Although usually used for nonessential personnel in combat maneuvers, it would still work to prevent the girl from being flung if the ship began to experience truly significant forces.
With that completed, he turned and made his way back to the bridge, hurrying his pace as the judders began to pick up in both frequency and force. As he reached the helm, the Chief noted that the Arbiter was already present and working on a console. Cortana's form sprung into existence on the central pedestal as the Chief joined the Sangheili at the controls. While the Arbiter knew what he was doing theoretically, actually implementing corrections to help pilot the ship proved to be significantly more difficult due to the human technology.
Chief set to helping Cortana directly pilot the Dawn while the Arbiter input Covenant slipspace calculations that weren't in Cortana's databanks. As their effort continued, the ship shook around them, each jerk from the slipstream becoming more pronounced. Aside from the violent shaking that they fought against, all else was calm on the bridge. Silence reigned as both warriors dutifully maintained their posts as best they could while Cortana secluded herself amongst the slipspace calculations she was feeding to Chief's console.
This was broken as Cortana spoke, "Slipspace drive is reaching its capacity for corrections." She said nothing else, knowing that the two at the helm needed to maintain concentration.
Several more seconds passed before an alarm split the air, drawing the attention of the Arbiter. A few awkward pokes at the screen and the alarm ceased as a diagram of the ship appeared on his screen. He quickly reported, "Structural integrity warning, significant displacement of unsecured assets."
"Deal with it later. We need to drop out now, Chief," Cortana responded. A grunt was the Spartan's only response, his hands flying across the pilot's console faster than anyone other than a Spartan could follow.
It was only a short time and much shaking later that an automated message played across the Dawn's intercom system, "All crew, prepare for slipspace exit." The two warriors on the bridge both looked through the bridge viewport at this, their hands paused in whatever operations they had been doing. Even though both beings had seen it many times before, the sight of the slipstream fading away to be replaced by a canvas of stars was still mesmerizing.
The Forward Unto Dawn emerged from the turbulent slipstream in a surprisingly smooth exit. Within seconds various sensor readings were appearing all about the bridge, monitors lighting up as information poured in. Before either warrior could return to their consoles to begin processing that information, however, Cortana suddenly drew their attention by bringing up a video feed on the main bridge viewscreen.
"Temporal distortion in the main barracks," the AI explained. The feed showed the still unknown girl in the bed, although her form was no longer stable. While the blanket and straps still held her to the bed and covered her, her face was visibly shifting between solid and incorporeal. As the slipspace portal finished closing behind the UNSC frigate, the girl disappeared completely, letting the blankets and harness float down to the mattress unhindered by the body they had secured.
The Arbiter's deep voice was the first to ask, "What of her fate, construct?"
"Considering she only disappeared once the portal itself closed, it's possible that she survived. As I mentioned before, the UNSC knows next to nothing on this subject," the AI responded.
Chief interrupted before the AI could begin speculating, "Where are we?" His mind was already diving into the tactics and logistics required for their situation, distracting him from yet another human casualty he could not prevent.
Knowing exactly what her Spartan was doing but acknowledging that it was useless to worry about the girl at this point, Cortana closed the video window and brought up the expanding sensor analysis of the system. With that done, she went back to lecture mode, "It appears that we've emerged in the human home system for this, eh, 'universe', let's call it. From what details I've gathered so far, it appears we are currently positioned between the Earth and the Moon, at an angle of thirty-seven degrees off the rotational axis of the planet."
An image taken from one of the cameras on the outer hull came up on the main viewscreen. In it, several large scars on the gray surface of the Moon were highlighted. The AI continued, "From the organized nature of these markings, it appears that humanity has successfully attempted lunar colonization, although I'm detecting no activity from the surface to confirm the success of the project." The screen changed once more, this time to the instantly recognizable surface of Earth. "A contrast to that hypothesis, however, is that there's a noticeable lack of artificial satellites in orbit, although the Dawn is picking up significant concentrations of debris in a decaying orbit," she finished.
"Communications?" the Chief asked.
Cortana put her hand to her ear for a moment, as if listening closely to something before responding, "There are whispers, nothing intelligible, however. If we were to move closer it might be possible to enter geosynchronous orbit without being detected by the few operational stations. This would also allow me to access some form of information network if it exists."
"Do it." Cortana nodded as the Spartan turned back around to continue analysing the data that was appearing on his console. The Arbiter contented himself with watching the planet below grow larger through the bridge windows, having only seen the human homeworld with the plethora of UNSC defenses in orbit.
"Dropping into orbit above thirty-three, fifty-one, fifty-four South by one-fifty-one, twelve, thirty-four East, inbound vector at six i, eight j, two k, burning at five kilometers a second to enter a standard tundra orbit on UNSC Bravo-6 ground track. Inclination of six three point four degrees to establish an apogee dwell between the Australian mainland and circling above Japan. Orbital perturbation analysis indicates that this is an exact match to UNSC calculations," Cortana reported.
While the extent of the Arbiter's english skills did not cover orbital mechanics, his time as a Covenant fleetmaster allowed him to understand the basics of what the AI reported, if not the specific details. Chief, being trained in piloting large vessels, knew and understood exactly what each term meant. Cortana quickly threw an image of their planned orbit up onto the viewscreen for the Sangheili's sake, their current location and path along with surrounding objects all displayed.
Glancing at the figure-8 path drawn on the surface of the planet to represent their ground track, the Arbiter asked, "Why this specific route?"
Cortana glanced at the Chief for approval to reveal that information. Seeing him tilt his head in silent acquiescence, she explained, "It's one of several standard pre-flight plans for all UNSC vessels entering the Sol system. The Australian Outback contains several massive UNSC ground-side shipyards as well as large-scale mining operations. Sydney, the largest city on the continent, is also the main debriefing post of all inbound UNSC assets."
"Observation of large population and industrial concentrations in UNSC history?" the Sangheili leader asked, his tactical mind already working several steps ahead.
The AI smirked and responded, "Got it in one."
Several minutes passed in silence as the Forward Unto Dawn flew through the void, the planet slowly shifting outside the windows as Cortana rolled the Dawn to have the ship oriented down towards the continent below.
"Approximately five minutes to establish orbit. Beginning to monitor communications networks, historical records indicate that IEEE 802.15.7 specifications should be picking up in use at this time. Utilizing the LLC 802.2 OSI model, I should be able to access some basic data systems to begin a tactical analysis of the situation." Chief vaguely recognized the organization structures that Cortana was spouting off as archaic systems communications protocols, but his education in such systems was limited to modern UNSC data retrieval methods.
In keeping with his record of forethought, the Sangheili asked, "What are our operational assets and tactical necessities construct?"
A list popped up beside the AI's figure, displaying each combat and operational asset that the Dawn had on board. She began, "When we left to the Ark, the ship was stocked to the brim with everything that could fit. Pelicans, Scorpions, Warthogs, Mongooses, ammunition, weapons, all the combat pieces that would be necessary for short-term, heavy fighting. From the stocks that were loaded, we still possess three pelicans, two Scorpions, two gauss hogs, a gun hog, and five mongooses. As for weapons, there are plenty, both Covenant and human in origin, along with ammunition for Covenant models from the Shadow of Intent. The only munitions the Dawn does not have an excess stock of is StS orbital armaments, though there are plenty of point-defense slugs for ground engagements. There are MAC rounds and various UNSC self-propelled missiles, but a great many were used in the battle above the Ark and I would prefer to not revert to orbital bombardment just yet"
The asset directory then switched from military equipment to the subsistence items and the amount listed in kilograms. It was obviously instantly that this was going to be their main prohibitor on any operations, seeing as the list was extraordinarily short. Cortana confirmed this as she continued, "While we could probably defeat any army on the planet below by giving the Caveman here his pick of the clubs, any long term engagements are out of the question as it is. We are not stocked for a prolonged mission and are already dangerously low on medical supplies, rations, and other necessities. I'd prefer to stay up here until we figure out what the situation is on the ground and find a solution to return home, but we do not have that luxury."
"We drop in the city," the Chief stated, picking up his MA5C from where he had set it while working at the helm and sheathing in on his back.
Cortana glared at him and responded, "Yes that's the plan, though it will be hard to execute if you go charging around like a barbarian with a new stick to wave around."
"No hostile contacts?" the Chief asked, obviously concentrated on the mission at hand but with a lighter tone to show that he accepted the AI's tease. He meant it as a mere comment to began the operation briefing but at the huff from the blue avatar his head shifted to look directly at her form.
"If that ever happens, you'll be the first to know. For now, there's a situation developing on the western edge of the city, apparently located near an outer industrial zone," she informed them. Once more the projection before them changed, this time into an overhead view of the city below with a large sector on the western edge highlighted in dark red against the standard UNSC blue light.
"Why should we involve ourselves in their disputes?" asked the Arbiter.
Cortana sighed and explained, "Standard UNSC contact protocol dictates that any vessel that discovers a possibly sentient species should report directly to HIGHCOM and stay on station to observe until the proper UEG personnel can be mustered or until further orders are received. Any UNSC vessel stranded without communications is to make contact only if necessary for survival and drop a beacon to await rescue. If contact is made, all UNSC personnel are to make every effort possible to enforce the position of the UEG so long as it does not compromise security measures integral to UNSC information."
"A political move to secure support from a foreign power."
"However distasteful that may sound, yes. Engaging in combat as first contact may not be the best way to meet and greet, but standing by while civilians are slaughtered would be even worse. Save the people and we could be able to set up a beneficial exchange for supplies and other materials. If we discover a solution to return home in their territory, entering with their permssion would make asset retrieval much easier," she told them.
"Tell me, construct, how do we know we would assist the correct state?" the Sangheili asked. Chief merely listened to the conversation while scanning through the information that Cortana was diverting to his HUD. Communication transcripts silently answered the Arbiter's question for the Spartan. According to the transmissions that were being received, the attackers were some unorganized group called 'Junkers' that originated from somewhere to the west in the Australian Outback. The reports indicated a widespread attack across much of the area, along with a general confusion as to how they had broken through the military forces stationed on the edge of what they called 'The Wasteland'. He could deduce that the Wasteland was the Outback, although why they were calling it that was unknown to them until Cortana could obtain information pertaining to it.
The AI finished explaining the same thing to the Arbiter, who afterwards only asked, "Would my presence strengthen our position?"
"They'd find out eventually, might as well introduce you along with all the rest." With a nod in response, the Arbiter headed off the bridge and towards the dropship bays on the side of the Dawn. The Chief took a second to pull Cortana's chip from the pedestal before following behind the sangheili warrior.
After dropping by the Arbiter's selected quarters for his T-51 Carbine, the two warriors made their way to the port dropship bay. Shortly thereafter they exited the UNSC ship, the massive bay doors closing behind them as Cortana locked down the ship for security reasons. Before them lay the entire planet, the vast expanse of land and water taking up the entire cockpit window as the Chief directed their dropship straight towards the continent below.
As they descended, Cortana briefed them on the drop zone, "Current reports indicate a push along the Western Motorway by hostile forces. The Australian Defence Force is trying to send supplies and troops to assist but their line against the rest of these attackers needs to be held. Currently the ADF is busy holding off several thousand more attackers on their frontlines, a distraction that let a small force slip through. Local police, ill equipped for full-scale combat, have set up chokepoints to attempt to concentrate the attackers into a manageable area. We will be dropping straight onto the front lines to assist a besieged officer barricade that is trying to hold the Motorway."
"Hostile objectives?" Chief asked.
"Unknown, although from their movement it's something further in towards the heart of the city. After breaking through the ADF's lines in the western wasteland, they've stuck closely to the main roads, moving rapidly from the border of the New South Wales state towards the city. All infrastructure along the route has been devastated, but the attackers haven't spread out towards any civilian establishment not directly on their route. Several hundred of these Junkers have made it into the area and while the local authorities are holding their ground, they are taking unsustainable casualties."
The Spartan nodded as she finished, keeping his sight affixed to the western edge of the continent as they cleared the mesosphere without incident. Even from their position miles up in the stratosphere it was possible to see the trail of destruction left in the wake of the attacking junkers. Clouds of fumes from several towns were slowly dissipating as the plumes rose into the cloud layer. While the city below was still visible with no smoke to clog the air, it was obvious that the western edge had suffered significant damage and was starting to burn.
Once more those inside the dropship were quiet, watching as they approached the city in almost literal free-fall. Ever so often the view would turn as Cortana calculated precision adjustments to their course. As they came to within two kilometers over the city, shown by the dashboard altimeter, Chief began to gently pull the Pelican out of it's dive, levelling off to blast over the cityscape at 300 meters a second while holding steady at an altitude of half a kilometer.
It was obvious as they approached the ongoing battle that help was desperately needed. Buildings all throughout the sector were in flames, along with a great many already in ruins upon the ground. Short range radio communications were picked up by the pelican's communication suite, many calling for medical staff or warning those around them. Chief reached over and flicked off the radio, silencing the calls of distress to allow the two warriors to assess the situation as it was.
Within seconds the Pelican arrived above the main scene of fighting, causing many heads to turn and look. Without more than a cursory glance Chief analyzed the situation, categorized threats, and determined a course of action. The highway below was crowded with both officers and what must be the 'Junkers'. Authorities were taking cover behind a shoddy barricade of cars, cement dividers, and sandbags as bullets whistled across from enemy lines.
Calling the enemy organized, however, would be a bit of a stretch. What consisted of the enemy lines in this case was a horde of what looked to be around seventy attackers garbed in what Chief could only assume was some sort of metal. Each plate was haphazardly held together with the others by strips of cloth and buckled straps. From the small number of bodies already littering the road, it was probably safe to assume that these plates could stop small arms fire.
Done with his observation, he rose from the pilot's seat to follow the Arbiter to the back of the dropship. Chief didn't have to say anything for Cortana to take command of the Pelican, their synchrony evident as the craft didn't waver from the transfer.
The Arbiter glanced back when the Spartan entered the troop bay before directing his gaze onto the landscape below as the back of the craft opened. Still concealed from the sight of those below, the two warriors drew their respective weapons and prepared to drop directly into the fray. The metal deck that support them vibrated as the chaingun on the chin of the Pelican fired a barrage to give them covering fire.
A roar split the air as the Arbiter led the way into battle, leaping out of the hatch of the Pelican. He dropped straight down towards the mismatched combatants, his energy sword flashing as it activated. A hail of gunshots answered the warcry, quickly followed by screaming as several attackers found themselves several limbs poorer. Chief followed after the Sangheili, the drop of over thirty meters not a concern for him. As he fell, the Pelican's engines roared above as Cortana directed the dropship to land behind the police line.
One of the scrap-clad assailants was unlucky enough to be under the Spartan as he landed. The result of a half a tonne of Spartan landing on the relatively unarmored junker was not pretty in the slightest. A loud crack could be heard above the battle around them as the Chief's boot collided with the back of the man's skull. His neck bent and snapped at the sudden added weight before dragging the rest of his body with him to the ground.
As his head reached the ground, it was suddenly compressed between the foot above and the ground below. With a sound like crunching eggshells, his skull and everything inside burst outwards as it was flattened. The Spartan's other foot landed on metal plate covering the back of the junker, denting it and crushing the chest cavity beneath. Several civilian enforcers looked on in horror as this occurred, not used to such brutality. Before they could fully process what had just happened, the Chief shot off towards the closest target, already engaged in a combat mindset.
The Junkers, distracted as they were by the Arbiter's attack, did not notice the Spartan approaching their backs. It was the last mistake they would ever make as within seconds the Chief was upon them. Of the four targets, two were armed with nothing more than crude melee weapons that were of no threat to a Sangheili with an energy sword. The other two were carrying firearms, one with an assault rifle of some sort and the second wielding what looked to be a very crude pistol. Chief quickly assigned priorities to each target, going for the one with the rifle first. A mere thought and Chief's own rifle was aimed at the charging man's head.
The first round from the MA5C entered the man's skull just above where his spine ended, traveling through the intervening flesh to exit just under his eye socket. As his flimsy metal mask reverberated with the sound of the bullet embedding itself in the soft metal before punching through, the next two rounds were already let loose. Though he never got the chance to feel it, the junker's body still twitched as the rounds entered his back and traveled through his heart before exiting his chest in twin spurts of gore.
His pistol-wielding comrade was just turning his head to look why his buddy had fallen when the Spartan got a lock on his head. The man's eyes were widening in shock as he saw his deceased friend when the first bullet exited the UNSC-made chamber. His vision was creeping across the space behind him as he turned, trying to find who had fired the shots. As the blurry shape of a person came into his peripheral, the first round made contact, entering through his temple and killing him instantly.
With both possible threats already down, the Spartan turned his attention to the oblivious melee junkers. Both were still charging towards the Arbiter, who in turn was charging away from them and at the junkers that were taking shots at the Sangheili from behind cover. Several smoking pieces of corpses were left behind the warrior's path, most with missing limbs or torsos with twin puncture wounds from the dual blades of an energy sword. Knowing that the Sangheili could deal with the armed combatants, Chief decided to conserve ammunition and simply sprinted towards his two remaining targets.
Within moments he was hurtling through the battle at almost fifty kilometers an hour. As the debris-filled road flashed by, Chief idly noted the Arbiter taking cover behind one of the cement dividers and a burnt out car as the sangheili's shields sparked and began to recharge from the intense firefight. Turning his attention back to his own targets, Chief aimed for the one holding a metal bat.
A mass of Spartan moving far faster than it had any right to slammed into the man, sending his torso flying forwards at the sudden acceleration. His limbs splayed out as his brain automatically tried to balance his body. As his spine was broken on impact from the forces exerted on it, he could do nothing as his forward momentum was brought to a sudden halt when Chief grabbed his arm. His chances of survival already at none, the dislocation of his shoulder along with the pulverizing of his forearm as the Spartan tightened his grip only served to cause his screams to be even louder as the pain began registering in his mind.
Ignoring the wails, Chief grabbed the improvised club the man had been wielding and ripped it out of his feeble hands. At this point the other melee user had noted the massive green giant next to him. Willfully oblivious to the fact that he was by and far out matched, the junker gave a shout and brought his piece of rebar to bear as he went on the attack.
Metal met much, much stronger resistance as the crude weapon vibrated painfully in the attacker's hands, producing a dull ringing noise as it bounced harmlessly off the Spartan's energy shields. Panic filled the junker's eyes as he looked up into the unamused golden visor and realized that he had just made his last mistake. Faster than his opponent could possibly follow, Chief brought the bat back and swung it straight at the head of his assailant with one hand.
A loud *CLUNK* echoed off the bat as it made contact with the junker's head, snapping it to the side and breaking his neck while simultaneously severely denting the Chief's literal club. At the odd sound, the junkers who had been firing at the Arbiter along with the sangheili himself turned to look at the scene, taking in the seven-foot tall armored tank holding an assault rifle in one hand and a bent baseball bat in the other. A strip of cloth hung from the Chief's left shoulder from when he had made bodily contact with the original owner of the bat.
Ignoring the attention, Chief resumed the battle by hurling the metal club end over end through the air. Before it had made contact with its unlucky victim, the Spartan was already moving once more, his rifle raised and his visor lighting up targets. With that, the battle continued, the Arbiter letting out another warcry as he continued his cooking-by-way-of-sword spree. Behind their now secure barricades, protected from spray fire by several riot shields, the Sydney police watched on as these new warriors tore through the attacking junkers with ease.
Unheard by anyone but the Spartan himself, Cortana teased, "When I said the barbarian could use his club, I didn't mean he go out and find a literal club." Allowing a slight smile through at the words, Chief continued his job, quickly and efficiently working with the Arbiter to clear the immediate area of hostiles.
Within minutes the original force of junkers had been annihilated to the single digits. The last few surviving attackers, seeing that hope was lost, turned to escape the blade of Thel's energy sword and the Spartan's bullets. The Arbiter sheathed his energy sword and drew his T-51 to keep his prey from escaping. With a palpable sense of disdain for the cowardice of running from a fight, he gunned down the retreating junkers, his aim true as the radioactive rounds punched through chests and heads, leaving gaping holes in their wake.
Their mission to defend the main front accomplished, the two warriors made their way back to the police line. As they approached, they noticed the officers concentrated around the Pelican that had landed behind their lines after the Chief and Arbiter had deployed. Their attention was drawn to the two soldiers as their heavy footsteps alerted the assembled crowd to their return. Frightened gazes drifted between the spartan and sangheili, the traumatized gazes lingering on the Arbiter before continuing to the remains of the junkers that had been attacking them. Chief had seen plenty of those expressions from the desperate civilians on besieged planets during the Covenant war. With that familiar mentality for talking to survivors, he approached the officers as the Arbiter dropped behind the Spartan to let him do the talking.