Dusk and dust. Rust spires and withered plants. White snow carried by a biting cold that cut through flesh and bone alike amidst the decaying remnants of what had at one point been among the greatest gems of human achievement since enigmatic white orb, called the Traveler by the humans it graced, came to Earth. The fact it was called Old Russia was a fit of intrigue that either lead to confusion or bitter, perhaps even maddening laughter depending on your disposition. In a way Old did indeed define it disturbingly well. Here was where the old and long dead ancestors built their colony ships and watched the stars. Here was where their great old monuments rusted and withered. Here was where hundreds of thousands of people died in a vain attempt to flee the Darkness. What had killed them was lost in time, but it had been swift to the point of being almost instantaneous. Rusted red cars served as open coffins for the thousands upon thousands of families and individuals who tried and fail to outrun The Darkness. Whatever happened here left a lingering taint in the soil and in the air. There were no living things present. No squatters or settlers. No animals or birds. Even insect life had left this place long ago. All that remained was the long dead and the artifacts of the Golden Age.
From time to time the dead land would feel the footsteps of living souls in search of bounty. Fallen scavengers looking for tech relics to add to their piles and prestige. Human scavengers from The City or the few independent settlements looking for weapons, ships, or anything to help increase their survival in those Post-Collapse war zone of a solar system. Beneath the soil the Hive slumbered and waited for their dark gods to awake them, occasionally rousing to kill and consume any looter who delved too greedily and too deep. And once in a long while, a Ghost would come looking for a Guardian.
The Machine's Motes, as the Fallen knew them best, came here more often than one might think. They were always drawn to battlefields above all else. Places where barbarism and the crudest and most evil of impulses came over humans as The Darkness snuffed out the Traveller's Light, either directly or through its many servants and slaves, and there had been much suffering near the ancient Cosmodrome. Today another Ghost flittered through the wastelands of Old Russia like a humming bird in a garden. It scanned the myriad of skeletons in search for that special Spark that defined a Guardian. What criteria was needed to become one of the Risen champions of the long dead Traveler was unknown even to the Ghosts. This was partly the reason why some Ghosts would take centuries of searching across all the worlds that were touched by the Traveler and colonized by humanity.
Such was the case for this particular Ghost. For the five hundred years, eleven months, two days, seven hours, five minutes, and sixteen seconds since the Traveler died and created its Ghosts it had searched for its Guardian. In its long search it had gone from Earth to Mars to Venus and back to Earth again, following an invisible breadcrumb trail that weaved through the inner planets in a seemingly pointless looping and winding path. In its long search the Ghost had seen the sites of ancient battles between humanity and the Darkness. It had seen the new battlefields that were fought between humans and between humans and the aliens who had flocked to this carrion system after the Traveler died. It had traversed the crumbling spires and broken cities of the Golden Age, and as it did so it looked for its Guardian.
With a great anxiousness in its movements, this Ghost searched the outskirts of the Cosmodrome. The Spark of Light, the beacon of its Guardian, was growing stronger and stronger. Its cyclopean eye and every passive and active sensor in its tiny body could taste the Guardian's Spark. It was so close. It scanned every skeleton and every body it found, but still nothing. When it did find its Guardian it was almost too good to be true. If it had tears it would have wept for joy as its nigh arcane systems resurrected the Guardian.
The sonic boom of a spacecraft entering the atmosphere stole away the Ghost's attention. Its eye looked skyward and it saw half of a starship plummeting towards the Cosmodrome. Such occurrences were not that uncommon. If anything, it had been a regular event for the Post-Fall Earth as the twisted remains of the Golden Age's space faring relics' decaying orbits brought them into the atmosphere. What made this different was two-fold. First, the Ghost's sensors saw that it matched no known designs of the Golden Age or the various aliens in Sol. Second, it was broadcasting an automated distress call.
"Mayday mayday mayday! This is UNSC FFG201, Forward Unto Dawn to any UNSC or UEG stations. I am declaring an emergency and requesting immediate evac and medical aid. Survivors onboard! Prioritization Code Victor Zero Five Dash Sierra Zero One One Seven! Repeat, this is UNSC AI Cortana on UNSC FFG201, Forward Unto Dawn, to any stations reading! I am declaring an emergency!"
The Ghost followed the wrecked starship's descent. It soared over the cosmodrome and clipped one of the ancient colony ships, sending it toppling to the ground. It landed with a resounding, earth shaking crash that would draw the attention of every scavenger and marauder within a hundred miles or more. The Ghost zoomed towards the crash site with all the speed its little body could muster, leaving its former prospective Guardian behind. The fallen warrior had a powerful Spark, like a torch in a dark room. From the crashing starship, this UNSC Forward Unto Dawn, was a Spark that shown like the galactic core in the endless black sea of space.
Following the Ghost was the Fallen scouts who had been tracking it. Captain Rahn, leader of the House of Devils vanguard in this Machine forsaken wasteland, had been hoping to take the Mote and present it to Sepiks Prime himself. Now he intended to claim the human warship as well as the Mote. Such a collection of prizes would mark his path to become the Kell of Devils. With a war cry it lead the mad charge for the Forward Unto Dawn.
Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 was dreaming in cryo-sleep as his frigate plummeted through the air and crashed into the Cosmodrome. In his dream he was standing in the field again. The same field he dreamed of just before being awoken aboard the Pillar of Dawn above a curious ring construct known only as Halo. He was a young boy again. The brash and violent youth who had impressed Doctor Halsey and a then Lieutenant Jacob Keyes. Doctor Halsey was standing there again. She was wearing that same sun dress she'd worn all those years ago, but her features were ancient and worn. Her long black hair was as white as fresh snow and she looked so very tired. Yet her eyes still possessed that sharp and biting intelligence that created the Spartan II program that saved humanity against all odds from ONI and the Covenant. She looked proudly at him. John tried to walk towards her but found his legs rooted to the ground. Doctor Halsey shook her head. Tears fell down her weathered face and she mouthed words that John couldn't read. Inky black tendrils cropped out of the soil and wrapped themselves around John's legs, dragging him down into a pool of blackness at his feet that seemed to consume any light that touched it. He tried to scream and found his lungs empty of air as his head disappeared into the Darkness.
"Chief? Chief wake up! Wake up Chief!"
John took in a sharp, gulping breath as he was abruptly pulled out of cryo-sleep. The flash thawing made his skin tingle unpleasantly but he was otherwise fine. Fine physically anyway. His blood pressure was dangerously high and his danger instincts were screaming at him to run, find cover, grab a weapons, and survive. It took a great deal of discipline to not smash his way out of the cryo-pod and roll behind the nearest available cover.
"Chief!" Cortana's voice said. "Calm down! You've been out for a while."
Her words were like cold water over a blistering burn. He forced his heart rate to slow to normal levels and looked about his surroundings. He was still on the Dawn, locked inside the cryo tube he'd climbed into after destroying the Ark and the Flood. Frozen, congealed ice filled the corners of the room and miscellaneous objects were thrown haphazardly around. There was nobody else here but him and Cortana's blue, doll-sized avatar standing on the AI tank he'd slotted her into just before entering cryo.
"Why did you wake me?" he asked.
Cortana's profile appeared in the corner of his HUD. She crossed her arms and smiled at him with what looked like relief in her holographic eyes. Behind that relief, though, was still great unease. "We're back on Earth, Chief, but something's wrong. I'm not getting any UNSC signals. I'm not getting anything even human! All civilian and military channels are dead. All I'm getting are alien signals."
She shook her head. "Chief, I have a very bad feeling about this. Give me a moment to reboot your systems."
"How long was I out?" he asked her.
"Four years to the second," she answered. That unsettled the Chief. Cortana was not an AI for hyperbole or such crude sarcasm.
"How did we get back? Did you repair the slipspace drive?"
"No. I was in low power mode when every warning system I put in place lit up. By the time I woke up we were entering Earth's atmosphere. Best guess I have is that some freak slipspace portal opened and dropped us here."
"That can't be coincidence."
Cortana gave him an agreeing nod as the cryo-pod opened. He stepped out in a heartbeat and approached the AI pedestal. He asked, "Ready to get back into it?"
She smiled again, this one much wider and beaming utter and complete joy. "Thought you'd never asked.
Chief felt the unnatural chill settle in his brain as Cortana's data crystal chip was slotted into his helmet. It was oddly reassuring. Like he'd been made whole again.
"We need to find a working comms unit," Cortana told him. "The Dawn's comms systems were smashed to pieces by the crash. Ship's manifest says that there should still be a few pelicans in the hangar bay. We can use its comms to check again for any UNSC signals or fly to the nearest base. During reentry I determined we were landing in the Eastern Europe. Closest UNSC base should be the Baikonur Cosmodrome."
"Should be," Chief echoed as he grabbed his MA5D, checked the action and chambered a round, then made his way out of the cryo-chamber. As he advanced he ventured an idea. "Maybe the planet was evacuated?"
"I hope not," Cortana admitted. "We didn't exactly have a lot of places to evacuate too. I don't want to think about what could have forced the UNSC to abandon Earth."
A dark thought entered John's mind. Had the Gravemind left some Flood forms on Earth as a backup in case it died on the Ark? Or did what was left of the Covenant come back to finish the job?
"Chief," Cortana abruptly spoke up, "I'm detecting a lot of alien chatter. Intrusion alarms are going off on the upper decks. I think it's safe to assume we've been boarded."
An explosion that sounded awfully like breaching charges shook the hull. They were close, too. The edges of his motion tracker were suddenly blotted with blue, unknown dots.
"I think we should avoid contact for now," Cortana opined.
He agreed, asking, "What's the quickest route to the hangar bay?"
"There's a service elevator nearby. Go down two decks and we'll be right next door to them."
Chief booked it to the elevator and pried the doors open. He climbed down the shaft until he found the floor he wanted. The door was open and he was about to swing down when he heard the sound of angry alien chatter on the other side. They were definitely not Covenant. His suit's translation software had no record of it. He was struck in a rare moment of indecision as he wondered what to do. On the one hand, these aliens were the first sapient beings they'd encountered on this apparently abandoned Earth. It was entirely possible that they were non-hostile and had found the Sol System abandoned. On the other, that relied entirely on many ideal scenarios. Almost half a century of genocidal war and hard one instinct told the Spartan that it wasn't very likely.
"I'll see if I can plot another route," Cortana began to say. "I don't think we wan- Hey wait!"
Chief swung himself down and landed at the lip of the elevator. He hit the deck with a loud, metallic thud but otherwise took no hostile action. Three aliens were standing nearby swung about and drew weapons on him. They were humanoid with four arms and strange, glowing eyes. They had spindly builds that were encased in slapped together, form fitting armor. The closest was armed with a pair of short bladed cutlasses and two strange looking pistols. The other two were armed with rifles that looked as shabby as their armor. The alien armed with the cutlasses lunged at John, aiming for his throat. The Chief sidestepped and grabbed the alien's arms, using its own momentum to throw it into the elevator shaft. The other two opened fire with their rifles, draining his shields to its last fifth before he could shoulder his assault rifle and put them down with two quick, controlled bursts.
"Well I guess that settles if they're hostile," Cortana deadpanned. As the Chief looked over the dead aliens she noted. "I'm not seeing any Covenant markings. I think it's safe to assume these guys are new."
"Do you think they're why Earth is abandoned?" Chief asked.
"Maybe," she admitted. "Doubt it, though. Looks like we've got a bunch of pirates than some new alien empire. Let's get to the hangar and get out of here before more of them show up."
"Agreed," Chief accented, though he wondered where they would go. If Earth really was abandoned and these aliens were the new owners, would anywhere be safe? How had they managed to set up shop on Earth, hell in the heart of human space, like this? He was forced to agree with Cortana that these guys were not a new Covenant, and as badly bloodied the UNSC was there was no way that they could have been driven off the homeworld like this.
Too many questions and no answers to be found. It like was Installation 04 all over again, but this time it was just him and Cortana.
"Contact!" Cortana yelled as they burst into the Dawn's hangar bay. "Lots of contact!"
Chief slid into cover behind a forklift as the two dozen aliens in the hangar bay stopped their looting and opened fire. He leaned out of cover long enough to fire a burst of 7.62x51mm Full Metal Jacket Armor-Piercing rounds into the head apparatus of the closest alien and duck back as it collapsed to the deck plating. He was already considering where to run next when what could only be some kind of stick grenade landed next to him. He had enough time to give it a powerful kick before it exploded. He caught the edges of an electrical explosion that drained his shields and froze the servos in his armor. In his helmet's speakers he heard Cortana scream like a wounded animal.
"Cortana!" he yelled. There was no answer. An icy spike of fear cut deep in the old Spartan as his suit reasserted its control.
"Cortana! Are you okay?" He yelled again as he scooted from cover to cover, firing suppressive bursts at the aliens that always felled on with the unerring accuracy of a Spartan II. The aliens held nothing back. Semi-guided munitions nipped at his shields while more of those shock grenades exploded just behind him. As he ejected his third spent mag and slammed the last one home he took a precious moment to order his suit to run a diagnostic on Cortana's status. Then he ran it again when it gave him the wrong answer.
It said again that there was no crystal memory chip in his system anymore.
All thoughts of survival escape melted from John's mind. Finding the UNSC or any humans at all was no longer a priority. In fact he was barely cognisant at all as his brain seemed to partially shut down, leaving only the soldier's instinct left and a powerful drive to kill every alien bastard on this planet.
Spartan 117 rolled out of cover and assumed a kneeling position. He fired four controlled burst into four of the remaining aliens. When his assault rifle clicked dry he tossed it aside and sprinted at the enemy, combat knife in hand. His shield failed and he felt his armor penetrated. Warning popped in his HUD feed telling him he was taking massive internal damage.
He didn't care.
His knife was slick with alien blood, killing with every slice and cut. The alien foot soldiers fell like autumn leaves caught in a hurricane's winds until only one was left.
Captain Rahn appraised this green armored warrior warily. It had slaughtered his whole contingent in a span of seconds. It was badly wounded but it didn't slow down. If anything it became deadlier with every wound. Halfway sliced a Vandal's head off with its knife, breaking the blade as it caught on part of the headpiece. It just threw the broken weapon away and charged at him, ignoring the shock and wire rifles off the dead Devils in favor of just charging at him like a madman.
The emerald hide monster was on him in a moment, leaping impossibly high in the air and body slamming the Fallen Captain to the deck plating. Rahn stabbed all four of his shock blades into the demon's chest. Even the toughest Guardian would have died by now. Yet this human wrapped its armored hands around Rahn's throat and squeezed until a sickening pop sounded.
Master Chief did not let go willingly as the alien's neck broke. He felt a numbing cold fill his body and his mind growing weaker every second. He felt no pain as the massive internal damage his body had taken caught up with him. Even if he had all the bio-foam in the UNSC and the best surgeons, there was no coming back from this. His vision went dark and his body went limp. At long last he'd run out of luck, and his mouth tasted ashen despite the blood pooling in it. As his mind slipped into the cold sleep his mind focused on one last duty.
I'm sorry, Cortana. I wasn't strong enough. I couldn't save you.
The Ghost eventually caught up with the crashed ship and entered through the hole in its side the Fallen had blown into it. It dropped its stealth field as it saw the carnage. Twenty four Fallen dead, including a Captain. Atop the Fallen officer was a humanoid wearing a foreign green armor. The Ghost scanned the limp body and confirmed it was a human, but its armor was completely alien.
Still, its Spark shown as bright as a star so close. Ghost immediately set to work reviving its Guardian. To its great surprise it took more effort and Light than expected. Much more. As if…
"Wha-what?" Ghost stammered as it saw its handiwork. "That wasn't supposed to happen!"
John felt like he was dreaming again. He was standing in that field again. This time as he was. Standing his full eight feet tall with shaved head and skin marked with age and battle wounds from a thousand and one battles. Yet he felt fresh and alien in his own body. He hadn't felt this way since after he'd undergone the genetic augmentations that had changed him from peak human into a Spartan. He saw Doctor Halsey smiling at him, but now she was young again. Probably early to mid thirties and wearing an odd blue armored suit.
"John," she said. "Wake up."
He closed his eyes as if to blink, then found his eyelids extraordinarily heavy.
"John! Wake up John! Wake up!"
His eyes shot open and he saw Doctor Halsey kneeling over him in the hangar bay of the Dawn. She looked distraught and frightened with tears welling in her eyes.
"Doctor Halsey?" He asked in a weak voice.
She stammered a sniffle and smiled down. "Not exactly," she said.
Cortana, now in human form and wearing the exact same armor as Dr. Halsey was in his dream, helped in up to sitting. He ordered his suit to run a diagnostic. All of the battle damage was repaired. His wounds were healed. In fact it was as if he was never injured, but he was still in the Dawn's hangar bay and his mission clock said it had only been seven seconds since he has suffered critical life support failure.
"That's a long story," she told him. She gestured and he followed her hand. Floating off to the side was a tiny robot staring at him.
"Well this is unexpected," it said in a painfully familiar voice.
"Guilty Spark?" Chief asked.
"No," it replied. "I'm a Ghost. Your Ghost. Well, both of yours, apparently."
The three of them stared at eachother for a long time before Chief asked, "Would someone explain to me what's going on?"
AN: So, while working on my other story I was smacked with a strong case of writer's block. In a fit of pique, I tried writing a few words for a Halo/Destiny crossover that's been bugging me for a while. This is pretty much all I've got to share, because the rest of what I have is just Chief and Cortana poking holes in Destiny's thin and watery paste of a story.
Exo Stranger: "I don't even have time to explain why I don't have time to explain."
Cortana: "Who talks like this? Nobody talks like this! What is wrong with this dimension?"
Master Chief: Stares stoically and impassively at the very well endowed fembot.
Since I blew through this and ended up dehydrated and grumpy as a fish with its tank being tapped by a horde of Ritalin addled school kids, I figure I'd share the fruits of my labor with you all.
Also, I haven't read the grimoire cards and played maybe 5 hours of Destiny 1 (including cut-scenes for the main story and Taken King) with no intention of touching Destiny 2. So if I get some canon wrong you can take it up with the complaint department in the Vault of Glass. The friendly time warping, reality jumping kill bots will help you settle your problem so fast it'd be like you never existed at all. V: