Section 0-1: A Risk of Rain


The Woman with only One Equal

The Lone Wolf

It was in the process of killing dozens of aliens, with gunfire and plasma bolts around, that a stray shot had given someone the death sentence, not by hitting flesh, but rather hitting a slipspace drive.

The indicator comes up as red, the firing mechanism fried. Any notion that this could be left to automation thrown out the airlock along with any hope that this war would've ended anytime soon. The hulking beast of a man, clad in armor worth about as much as the bomb before him, had been displeasured, but accepting. Someone needed to pull the trigger, and he was designed and raised to be an expendable asset.

Though anyone with a death wish would've thought the same, that their death would've meant something more than sacrifice, no matter how useful it ended up being. For here he was, over his homeworld. One of the very few of his flock, if not the only one, who could've said that they at least remained where they were born.

He counted his lucky stars in that way. Funny, he thought internally. It was usually John that had been the one who was lucky. Lucky meant that he had made it, somehow, in the life that was given to him, 41 years of age. 41 was enough, if this was how it was going to be.

"So, it's going to be like that…"

He smacked the side of the interface device with his gloved hand, the sound of metal reverberating lightly as he turned to see the only person who had survived the firefight to protect this hunk of technology.

Even at a six foot nine, she wasn't as tall as him. Even with the bio augmentations and the armor, there was a "generational" difference between her and him. Still, they stood as equals in and so he spoke frankly to her.

"Well, I've got good news and bad news." The Spartan III, listening, tilted her helmet clad head at the Spartan II. "The bird took some fire and our thruster gimble is toast, which means the only way off this slag heap, is gravity."

"And the good news?" She finally spoke. Her voice was husky, leaning on low, but still distinctly feminine.

The man grimaced behind his helmet. "That was the good news."

A female robotic voice in both their heads spoke up through their armor's audio system. "At current velocity, fifty three seconds to interdict."

The AI wasn't about to be one of the last voices he heard, Jorge decided, sliding off his helmet, showing a face not many, either alien or human, would've ever seen. Scars, gruff facial hair, a jaw line beaten too many times by explosives and the fists of aliens that were as enigma to humanity now as they had been for decades. The helmets that they wore had become so much a part of their identity, that those that wore them made a language shared between them all, expressing what their absent faces could not.

A rugged face, manly, seen this war dragged on too long and in the wrong direction. The helmet clattered at his feet, no use, no need.

"Bad news is, timer's fried. I'm going to have to fire it manually."

"That's a one way trip." There was urgency behind her voice that was almost as if she was asking him if he knew what he was saying.

"We all make it sooner or later." Spoken like a person who had been on death's doorstep and peered in too many times before inviting himself in. "Better get going Six, they're going to need you down there."

He went for his dog tags. Due to the nature of his existence, they only showed two things, the rest punched Xs. His name was Jorge, and his service number was horrifyingly less than the number of casualties in this war, civilians and participants. He would've yanked it from his neck, given it to the new Spartan before him, and signed away his death for a meaningful sacrifice to beat back an invasion of his home. He wanted to go out like this. He would've.

"Jorge." "Six" spoke, punctuation in her voice. "This shouldn't be your last fight. You're more of a Spartan than me. If I die the UNSC just loses a bad follow up act."

She was a mass production model; an imitation, of the beast before her. Desperate times called for desperate measures, and so they found people like her to fill in the shoes of those that came before her. There was a reason the casualty rates for Spartan III operations often were 100%.

"I've gotten too old, Six, too attached. Too human. Halsey never designed us for this. This was what we were made to do." A tired man. Tired they were all. "Look at my face." He ran his hand across his face. "Please, let me have this victory. Reach has been good to me."

He wasn't a coward, this Six knew. But there was pleading in his voice that came from the very depths of humanity, from a man who had been in the thick of it and saw no end to the abyss.

"I wish I could Jorge. But you know it's not your call. Your true mission lies ahead, in taking this fight to the Covenant with the rest of the Spartan IIs. This is what I was made for Jorge."

Noble Six. That was the title she was given for the duration of her stay on Reach. She had no name (none that weren't platitudes, reasonably), just code names and designations meant for command to make it easier to order her places and push her and whatever unit she was in around the map, around the stars. "Hyper Lethal" Is what the ONI Spooks designated in her file, she knew. A title shared with a Spartan II whom she never knew and, in some small part of her mind, figured was a propaganda play. She came to be a Spartan III because she wanted to kill Covenant, and so if it meant that this was how she was going to go out, by practical, efficient reasoning between her and Jorge, she too was okay dying today.

"Don't deny me this, Six." Jorge reached his hand, to hoist her up, but Six shuffled back in her armor, hand also out to stop that movement.

"I won't deny you a future, Jorge. To see Reach after this war. An after you will help bring. You were made to win this war. I'm here to die in it."

"Thirty seconds to end point." The AI in both their heads had reminded them again.

Two Spartans stood, wanting to be the one to die today, both unmoving, both unwilling.

"Six…" Jorge said breathlessly. It was her chains that were broken, her dog tags coming into her hand.

All she could do in response was hurriedly scurry for his helmet, shoving it into his chest along with her dog tags as she assumed the position in front of the bomb. "Go Jorge! Go Home!" She didn't even look at him, but the decision was made in that instance. It was the difference in training between the IIs and the IIIs, and even by Spartan standards, one was made to understand that being expendable was a privilege, and going out with a bang was the best thing they could all hope for.

If she did look, she would've seen the pain written on Jorge's face: for him to witness another dead Noble Six, another dead Noble, another dead Spartan. Time, indeed, had gone too long for him. It never got easy, but he got used to it as his helmet slid on again.

"Besides," she regarded him for the last time, hands white knuckled beneath her armored grip against the slipspace drive and its jury rigged arming device in the boot of the Pelican. She hoped he was too far away and already out the hangar to hear, but he had stayed till the last second, not wanting to fight a Spartan for the right to die today. "Spartans never die."

Whether it was for herself, or for him, Jorge understood in a solemn nod. "Make it count."

The small blip of an energy barrier parting as Jorge slipped out of that alien ship was the cue Six needed to know that Jorge did the right thing and left her. A breath she was holding behind her helmet was let go, filling the filters, letting go every grievance she had within her as she faced her own finality. She'd been this close before, and now she was going there willingly as she gave Jorge time to get out of range.

"Fifteen seconds to end point."

If she were more stoic, more a romantic, she would've taken off her helmet, looked out of the hangar and looked upon Reach once more. To see one last jewel of humanity before she extinguished herself.

"Auntie Dot?" She breathed, teeth shaking, leg jittering, eyes closed as her fingers drifted to the buttons she needed to press to ignite this Trojan horse.

The AI in her head answered obediently. "Yes, Noble Six?"

"If there's anything left of my body, make sure they bury me on New Jerusalem."

"Noted. Five seconds to end point."

She breathed in, breathed out, opened her eyes and saw it all ready. She was ready to step over. She smiled, barring her teeth like fangs from a wolf about to eat.

The abyss had come out and swallowed her, and then she saw the light.

ODST 11282-31220-JD

The man who would have become known as

The Rookie

A flip of the coin decided his fate. It was either be transferred to the UNSC Chares, or the UNSC Savannah. He chose heads, and thus a few months ago he came to be deployed on the Savannah in station over Reach awaiting orders for new offensives (unlikely) or fast responses to colonies under siege.

He never thought he'd end up deploying on Reach: humanity's fortress world, a skip away from Earth. He never thought he'd also be boarding a Covenant ship that was to be used as a Trojan horse to blow up a Super Carrier, a suicide mission that would've ended the seemingly endless fighting groundside. He'd been dropped from in his pod at least five times since the Winter Contingency was called.

Quite frankly the last two weeks had been surprising to him, but he was one of the Corps' best, if only by association with the group he was in. He wasn't green (no ODST ever is), but he had no reason to survive the Elite standing over him, all four jaws open with teeth bared and an energy sword about to halve him as its foot clamped down on one leg of his. If he moved for his M6S Pistol, the Elite would've chopped off the last few seconds it had given him to gloat over the kill that it was about to perform, and he wanted those seconds. So, he did nothing, held his breath, and only wished to die with both his eyes open shooting daggers at his killer.

He didn't talk much. Didn't need to. He was strong, so he could afford to be silent. Though in his mind, he figured that maybe final words were due in this situation, perhaps.

He didn't even finish the final quip in his mind before the ship lurched, a blinding flash of black and white encompassing them both as the hallway they were in, adorned with dead ODSTs and other Covenant, vibrated as if coming apart.

It was a surprise the Elite was knocked off balance, and the trapped man seized the element and went for his pistol. The huge alien with its blue combat armor had tried to balance on one leg in the shifting and wobbling of the world around them, the groans of that of textbook instability, but the ODST had made it to his feet and swept the Elite, knocking the energy sword out of its hands by liberally applying 12.7 millimeter rounds to its forearms, its shields breaking and giving way to the metal and flesh. The pop of the shield was the sound like harmony in that ever chaotic world, and it only took a few steps back for the ODST to activate the aim assist built into the VISR of his helmet and aim right between the eyes of that alien son of a bitch.

Somewhere between then and the time it took the ship to stop feeling like it was shaking apart, there was another dead Elite on the floor and one extra bullet casing along with it: the lone survivor of that fight unbelieving, letting go of the breath he didn't know he was holding and nearly vomiting in his helmet, hands and pistol at his knees before twirling around and checking to see if no one was behind him.

No one was friendly or otherwise. Scattered up and down that hallway, mundane, yet eerie, the blinking green lights along the corridor lighting it up brightly, if not unkindly.

He let out a breath again as his nerves got the better of him: the regret of being alive still. It was an exhale that sounded of a curse: "God dammit."

No time to mourn when deep in enemy territory, and that little tasking to secure the hallways to the main hangar of that Covenant frigate was complete. They were all dead… then again, so would he. This was more or less a suicide mission if he didn't get out in time.

His M7S submachine gun was again in his hand, tossed asides by the now dead Elite as he quickly grabbed ammo from his dead compatriots. No use to them, despite how wrong it felt to pick from the dead. This was his fifth squad, unfortunately.

This time he would be able to grab all their dog tags, however. He would give the dead that at least. They deserved at least that in this war, making time, albeit seconds, to take the metal slices into his dump pouch as he ran back to what he hoped was a Pelican to deliver him from this place.

She thought the shaking was her personal journey into the Afterlife, and, more specifically, Hell if the transition was any indication. Six wasn't that much bothered by it after she ended up on her back, spread eagle, letting it come as laughter passed by her throat.

That's what she convinced herself this was: that she would be fully coherent as she went to Hell, and she would be herself there. Though even as she accepted her fate, the thrashing about stopped, leaving her eyes closed in the middle of hangar, on her back, left to the familiar silence of a ship in space.

It wasn't nothingness, and, as she opened her eyes and saw the same purple steel that adorned all Covenant ships, the afterlife was either a cruel joke or this, indeed, was her coffin.

A roomy coffin at least, though that wasn't the case either, not when she got her senses back together and thought coherently again, back from the line between life and death again. The dead Covenant were still there, methane still leaking from the Grunts and their tanks, Elites still bleeding purple and blues, some even alive (if barely). The slipspace drive had gone off, looking at it still going, still very much operating as it does if it was in the middle of-

Six looked out the window, standing up, breathing returning to normal as her rifle returned to idle in her hands.

She didn't blip out of existence. Neither her nor the frigate, nor, perhaps, as she looked up at what the hangar doors provided her for sight, a good chunk of the Super Carrier. They and all that was caught in the slipspace bubble, were in slipspace.

For Reach, it meant that the Super Carrier was still destroyed, severed, the objective of Operation Upper Cut fulfilled. For her, however, it left her in a boat with no paddle, going down a river unknown. She confirmed that as she ran back to the slipspace drive. She knew enough about this sort of tech to decipher whatever the displays showed her. There was no heed designed to the destination, no Nav computer hooked up to it. They just were in Slipspace for as long as the Drive was capable of sustaining it. According to the readings: several hours.

That's all that this had become now: a slipspace trip to the unknown. Perhaps with no destination the drive would blink them all out of existence. Perhaps it would drop them exactly where they left off: over Reach. But, regardless, it meant, for now, she was alive, and that was a pleasant surprise to the Spartan.

But for the person that was the Spartan… Underneath that armor, the body suit, the years of training and augmentation, was a person who wanted to become who she was now. Underneath that body suit ran a thin gold chain and an old religious symbol: a wheel.

"One of these days it'll happen. I promise Ma'."

Perhaps she spoke with great timing as the chime of one of the doors of the Covenant ship opened on the other side of the hangar, the Spartan getting to the Pelican and going prone, using it as cover and a firing position.

No chitter chatter of Grunts, no sniffing by the Jackals, grunting by Hunters and Brutes or the language of the Elites. Maybe active camouflage as the door opened and revealed a-


Black armor, a helmet almost like hers, a grey stripe down the center of the entire affair to denote his squad. His SMG was raised, scanning the hangar as he emerged from the second level entrance, using the cover left behind from the dead Covenant as a point to cover. He kicked a dead Elite out of the way for room, it flopping off the platform with a crunch, he hoping the sound would draw out any he couldn't see through his scope and VISR.

What he got was the almost pleasant sound of a whistle. From her time with Spartan IIs, she learned a language that not even her generation of Spartans had come across. Even a whistle, as generic as it was, was enough to denote humanity. Covenant species that were seen on the field had no lips after all, aside from the Brutes, but they were dumb enough to never catch on.

The whistling caught the attention of the ODST, the man snapping his sight, red dot from his laser designator tracking to the Pelican. He whistled back in the same ascending and descending tone.

Six took a knee, going to the back landing gear of the Pelican, revealing herself and using her left hand to signal to the ODST to bring it in. A raised thumb was given in response as the ODST made way fast, making it over bodies of dead, human and otherwise.

There was more than half a foot difference between the two as they finally met, but looking up to people was what this particular ODST always did in a way, so he was used to it.

"Are you…" Six spoke hushed, as if there was anyone else.

Unfortunately, there wasn't, the ODST slowly shaking his head, the jingle in his dump pouch that of chains and dog tags.

"I'm sorry." She spoke empathetically. A data link was made denoting a tactical connection, the HUD in her helmet pinged as his name came up, both in the corner next to her motion tracker and over his head with an arrow: PFC J.D. Vital signs: green.

"JD, right?" His last name was long enough that it couldn't be given an easy on the tongue moniker. As were the quirks of the heads up display software.

Barely a word grunt came out of him with a nod, a finger pointed to the slipspace drive, only to drop as he looked out and saw what Six did. "It went off. This Pelican is dead in the water, and the Sabres are no factor. I had to set it off manually… I thought I'd… we'd die."

They were both people of action. Actions, not words, and it showed as they both stood there before what they assumed was a ticking time bomb, now a loose horse taking them… somewhere.

Still, at least Six could talk business, and right now the fact that this ODST, JD, was here, meant that either rides to hell were communal or, more likely, they weren't dead. "You good Marine?"

The ODST looked her up and down, his own HUD establishing a data link with her and putting the three letter word that designated her team placement on that Spartan team: SIX.

Perhaps, in the back of his head, he thought it rude that she had detonated, or rather, activated this device without even giving him a chance to get off. Then again, his odds of surviving such an incursion hadn't been high in the first place.

There was supposed bad blood between ODSTs and Spartans, but they weren't sitting on that now, not when they were at war. They weren't even that type of people to partake in that kind of grievance anyway in their branches. It was the first time either had talked to one another however. An ODST to a Spartan and vice versa, and this was it. It wasn't in the middle of combat, sharing tactical information or following/giving orders… it was here, in a Covenant ship, confused about what was happening to them.

The ODST nodded, preferring silence. It was an odd thing. In her experience Marines never shut up when around Spartans, speaking of one thing of admiration or a jeer or another. Six knew better sometimes. Sometimes silence was a sentence. Beta Company of the Spartan IIIs was survived by her, and two other Spartans, one of them robbed of her voice by psychological damage. He tipped his chin at her, depolarizing his VISR with a fizz.

Perhaps he had suffered the same in this long war she rationalized, holding his gaze behind her own helmet, unrevealing her face.

Hazel eyes. A face the spoke to a skeptic. A face out of film noir framed by a space age helmet meant for extraterrestrial combat.

She didn't depolarize her helmet, the ODST straightened his mouth into a line, honestly not expecting much.

"Yeah," she responded to his original chin tip. "I'm fine."

He gestured to the pack on his back: He was team Medic… was, lack of a team making that so.

He kept looking to the drive and to the slipspace outside, the caught debris of the Covenant Super Carrier hovering around them, reminding him that this ship whole was still in flight, still operating, still fully operational. Even the Savannah was still in for the ride, despite how it was nothing more than a wreck. They'd become a mobile graveyard somehow, Banshees, Sabres and Seraphs floating amongst a number of other tidbits of debris from the battle.

"We still got hostiles?" The ODST finally croaked out, his voice younger, but not old. Masculine, but not deep. An old American accent, just like her. His voice spoke with a quietness that perhaps led Six to believe it was underused, a rare trait in an occupation where yelling was the default tone of speech, but it was understood. Six shook her head, the ODST polarizing his VISR again.

"Probably. This ship still has lower sections. Did the ODST teams seal them off?" With enough welding, for the time being, yes. He nodded. They both looked at the humming drive, whirring its electric magic around them. It was a hard locked system, and even Covenant slipspace drives operated on the same principle, any surviving crew that came across this would've known to touch it would've been even more suicidal.

The Pelican came loaded for bear, weapons and supplies still within its cargo space, still waiting to be used. They would find their use. There was a shotgun magnetically attached to the back of her armor, it beckoned into her hands as she did the motions to retrieve it, replacing it with the Designated Marksman Rifle. With a judicious pump she had loaded it, thumbing in shells from her belt kit to top it off. She always preferred it when the opportunity presented itself. For close encounters.

"The drive will run for a few hours. Up until it runs out of charge. I think we should deal with sealing off the rest of the ship from the bridge."

There was no vocal complaint, not as the ODST carefully took the dog tags from his belt pouch, leaving them in the Pelican as he dropped the mag in his SMG, only to replace it promptly. He did the same with his pistol, press checking the round before holstering, one of the weapon cases opened up. BR55, a Battle Rifle. Probably from the Navy's stock, not available to the Noble Team, if only because they fell under the UNSC Army.

He'd use this weapon before, it was a good rifle, bursts of three and accuracy he could control with precision. Saved his life a campaign ago, in the jungles of Persei. That was back when he was just a grunt, before a Helljumper. Normally you started out as an ODST from day one in the Corps, however there were exceptions to be made. He was an exception.

"You green?" His answer to her question was the racking of the bolt.

The magazines went into his kit as the rifle was attached to his pack, ready and waiting, more than likely to be used. Killing Covenant wasn't easy, but there's a repetition to it, and often it included more ammo than he was able to carry.

Doing that was better than just waiting after all, and he wasn't about to play cards with a Spartan who didn't even show her face. No cryo to go into, and he wasn't about to waste meds, putting himself to sleep.

A Grunt corpse had been nearby, it still twitching its death throes, providing one last item that he often found handy. He popped the U shaped item with familiarity, popping the heat sink to check its charge and health. Plasma Pistols were as common in this galaxy as oxygen and stupidity.

With a stern nod, the ODST was ready, returning the question to her as she cradled her own weapon ready.

"JD?" She asked a question. Was it okay to use that to call for him?

He nodded again, pointing toward a hangar door toward the front of the ship, one Six had just gone down minutes before. He tilted his head before holding a fist up to her, SMG cradled in his right. He shook it three times in a fist before opening it up with a show of index and middle finger, going flat afterwards, and then back to a fist.

Six understood after a moment, holding her own fist up as the two synchronized a pump, and then three.

She drew an index and her middle finger, and JD kept his fist.

Rock-Paper-Scissors for who took point, a ritual amongst Special Forces.

Six's luck was holding up today, she thought to herself. With a breathy sigh and a subtle shake of the head, the two stacked up against the door of the hangar, and went in, JD on point, ODST and Spartan.

The halls were still bloody, still fresh and sizzling from the firefight that Six took on to go through the ship toward the Bridge originally. So, they walked like predators, trained killers, a hunch in their back and their sight translated through optics and guns.

"How about… Six? Is Six, okay?" He let it out, finally, stepping over the bodies of the dead slowly, trying to lower his sound imprint.

She was never given the option to say otherwise, she realized, but she was stuck with this man for a time now, and so he deserved an answer to that at least. "Sure." Was all she said. It was enough for now.

The bridge was as much as a remainder of a firefight as the last time Six was there a whopping ten or so minutes prior. It was time long enough for the reinforcements that the shipmaster desperately called for to finally arrive somehow. And just like their shipmaster, they fell victim to the same general reason as to why the bridge had fallen in the first place: they came from behind.

The ever-increasing pitch of a Plasma bolt being generated alerted the three Elites at the helm, trying to figure out their current status. Said bolt was let loose without warning. The Elites stood at separate stations, and the card of the left most, red armored Elite was drawn as it was caught in a half turn, dual plasma rifles almost brought to snap at the source of the sound. The green energy blast had hit the Elite dead center of the back with a burning that went through to its flesh through its armor. That wasn't what was important however, not when its shields shattered and brought its head to give a clear sight picture to the DMR aiming right at it.

The large marksman round had a loud, punching report in the close quarters, echoing harshly, but it was not as harsh as the steel punching through helmet and skull, the Elite locking up and then falling like a sack to the floor to join their shipmaster. The pure chaos it brought wasn't even the worst that had happened in that space today as JD dashed to one of the bridge's struts to take cover behind, Six pushing forward with the assurance of her armor and meeting the blue bolts of the plasma rifles halfway. The gold flashes of her shield taking some glancing blows of the shots glittered, a feeling she was used to as she felt the numbed impacts in her ceramic-covered bones. She more than returned the favor as she saw the green bolt of Plasma, another charged shot from JD, fly out again to the Elites.

The Elites were more tactical than that however, four plasma rifles between them and kicking up an energized storm toward the two humans.

"Wort wort wort!" Was the decipherable part of their chatter from the Elites, having split off to their own struts for cover as Six charged, emptying her DMR to meet the opposite side of one of the struts an Elite took cover on, shooting across to deny the other Elite an angle to light her up.

JD saw the predicament, dropping the Plasma Pistol as Six made her play, her DMR clicking empty, mag dropped and replaced with another in a flash. The Elite who shared the strut with her on the other side heard the click, both did, but the one who was able to get shots on Six was met with the purple metal shrapnel of SMG rounds hitting near its face, putting it back behind cover. Again, he had stacked up on Six, hand on her back as they went back to back, facing either direction to cover the Elites they had pinned down.


A grenade was in Six's hand for barely a second before she threw it behind the strut, the Elite crying in surprise before rushing out to avoid the blast. The ODST had reached back and tore the shotgun off without thinking, the blast of the grenade shocking through the room as an Elite, dazed, shields pulsing in damage, had remerged on his side.

He pushed toward it from cover, reaching out those last few feet with an 8 gauge shotgun blast that painted the large windows of the bridge both purple and black, gelatinous pieces joined as JD threw the shotgun back at Six's back, the gun sticking as she pressed on the remaining Elite. He was going to join her as bullets started flying, however the Elite threw plasma bolts back, pushing back as shield hits were exchanged, a stray shot landing at the floor before JD as he basically jumped to put his hip on one of the bridge's console, angling shots with his SMG to pepper the Elite as Six finally broke both its shields and hers. The DMR clicked empty again as she reached her hand back and got the shotgun, shoving it into the gut of her target.

One of the doors to the bridge popped up smoothly as JD shouldered his Battle Rifle, twisting around and not seeing the shotgun blast followed by the sound of wet slamming against alien metal. The death cries that followed held no secret as to how Six was handling the situation with the remaining Elite.

A typical squad of Covenant infantry piled through, Grunts, Jackals, an Elite leading them only to witness an ODST and a Spartan make work of three of the premier warriors that were sent here to find out what was happening in the Bridge.

Seven infantry, so more than manageable as Six took behind a deployable cover left behind from the prior assault on this bridge, turning back around to where they had just been half a minute ago with a snap of his aim and a snap of his trigger finger. The rhythmic three gunshots from each pull of the Battle Rifle's trigger had been a well-rehearsed dance to JD, especially when two Grunts bit the dust with a bullet through their skulls before the doors behind them closed, the Jackals lighting up Six and the cover, the shield wall turning red as he backed off a returned to the other strut, taking the places of the Elites they'd just flushed out.

Six had primed another frag grenade, throwing it into the crowd as they dispersed from it, the echoing boom and crack that came from it throwing a Jackal with its energy shield somewhere else in the room in multiple pieces. Anyone who had tried to break left had met the peppering of the ODST with his battle rifle, catching Grunts and the lone Elite either taken out or bogged down as bullets bounced off shields.

Another crack, another pump of the shotgun and the sound of a methane tank exploding with the head of a Grunt followed as Six met the group point blank. She was just far enough away as she homed in on the lone Elite, JD expertly taking out anything else around her as a shotgun blast flew out. It only broke the Elite's shields as it tried to bring its two Plasma Rifles to bear, firing wildly in her direction, but in a blur one of them had cracked apart in electricity and plasma charge, thrown to the ground by Six's hand as she came back around with the shotgun butt ready. The amount of speed behind each physical strike was breath taking, the sound of the very air around them being moved as she swept her elbow across the head of the Elite almost as painful as the shrill sound of a metal blade sliding out of her chest holster.

In the move the Elite had thrown its claws at her head, but she had backpedaled as JD peppered the Elite's side, bare of shields, SMG rounds going into flesh as its left arm went limp as it was torn up. The Elite cried out from its very throat in pain, nothing else to be done as Six had the knife in her right hand to only slit it across the throat of the Elite. An ODST boot had met the squelch of its torn up side, sending it to the floor as he went past the body to secure the hallway, making sure no one else came through.

The Elite was still kicking, literally, its two cannon sized legs seizing up, catching Six's midsection and stopping her from diving on the Elite. There was nothing the Elite could do as instead Six squeezed herself in the gap between the two legs, shearing them off their very joints as she dislocated them like a wishbone, only to dive through into the very chest of the Elite.

A few more Grunts had come stumbling through the hallway, only to meet JD's gunfire, the man taking cover by the frame of the door and sending rounds downrange only to result in ribbons of flesh and more dark blood painting the ship.

The Elite had given out after an appropriate amount of twisting by Six's blade, going slack jawed as JD emptied his gun and took cover back behind the door safely. Six's magnum went out as she sheared the knife out of the Elite's body, sending a few pistol shots down range into the chunky bodies of Grunts and Jackals that came to meet them.

They were silent in combat, JD waiting for the metallic click of her pistol to ring out before she dived out of the way behind him, opening up back down the hall as a Plasma Grenade was primed and thrown down. The controls for the door were on that side, so after a quick punch it was sealed as the whine of a grenade going off came with the screams of aliens.

The concussive pumps that hit the door of multiple grenades going off in a chain reaction was a sweet relief.

Six had squeezed JD's shoulder, dashing off toward the bridge consoles, hoping her rudimentary knowledge of Covenant systems would be enough to seal what she needed.

The holographic displays and consoles were visual enough for Six to lead all doors that hadn't given them a pathway to the bridge and the hangar sealed as if there was a hull breach. The extra hydraulic sealing was enough to have given JD comfort to back off, walking backwards, until he felt Six's hand on his back again in a pat.

No condescending comment, no congratulations of being able to fight with a Spartan and keep up. Just business as usual. They both could appreciate that as JD held his gun at idle and faced the Spartan again.

She had beckoned with fingers to him, drawing him over to the console. All gibberish to him, but he figured Six had it well in hand.

"I think I was able to trick the doors to the lower sections into thinking there was an atmospheric breach here, sealing the doors."

That was good.

"It might eject our sections out into space when we're out of slipspace though. It can't do it while."

That wasn't.

The ODST looked his gear up and down. The battle dress he had been issued for this mission had been EVA capable. Bulkier than standard gear, but this was technically the baseline uniform for ODSTs. It wasn't exactly light or the most maneuverable, but it was as intended. Kept him alive, based on the plasma singing along his shoulders.

With a few more ambiguous finagling with the console, the display that was set across the main viewing window of the bridge came out, a camera view of where the Sabres had landed. Jackals had gotten up there it seemed, picking apart the machinery in their own EVA suits.

"You spec'd for engineering work?" It was odd, she noticed, with this ODST. Usually, she was the silent one. To talk so much went against her nature. He shook his head, opening up his hand to her in a questioning gesture. "In a UNSC dry dock, yeah. Not here."

Off to the side a view of the hangar, and the Pelican with the drive, was on. Still there. Still safe. Still running. Transportation was nice to have.

He shook his pack again, making sure it was still there. It was all medical stuff, denoted by the faded white cross on it. Covenant made no care to the white cross and what it meant back in the day, so all it served to do for him was give him a bigger target on his back. "What's the deal with the Pelican?" he finally spoke.

"Thruster Gimbals are out. If we brute force enough power it might throw us back to manual control in the cockpit, but we can't as long as the Drive is still hooked up to it."

He nodded behind his helmet thoughtfully, understanding. It was mechanical at least, not something too endowed in the computer programming and all that. He wanted to be a simple worker in the Corps at first, IT and all that. Turned out he was crap at the logic and instead thrown, during his first deployment, into a Pelican with an MA5 and told to act as cannon fodder in some hopeless mission. Turns out his talents lay in the more physical aspects of the Corps. Brute force was how he made it this far, and he could, perhaps, understand enough to make the Pelican work out. With help that is.

"Need help?"

Six was almost taken off guard by the question.

Help was something she wasn't offered, wasn't expected to have. Most of the time she declined if it was an option. Sure, she'd been attached to units, different Spartan teams, along with assets to help her complete whatever objective her commanding officers had led her toward, but in the end, she was good with nothing but herself, and she tended to operate the best that way. She was, in a word, a loner. There was a saying: "Go Alone if you want to go Fast. Go Together if you want to go Far."

In this war, far was a fantasy. In the back of the heads of those fighting this war, who had survived longer than perhaps 80% of the UNSC group forces, they knew far was just holding off the inevitable of a lost war and a completed genocide. She did more damage when alone, and that was what mattered.

So, slowly, she nodded her helmet. "Sure."

It was JD that tapped her shoulder this time, going back to the doors to the hangars and leading the way.

Slipspace technology was a cornerstone of both the UNSC and the Covenant: the ability to traverse space being what had made the two powers what they were: space faring. They colonized, they transported, they traded, and they lived and die by their access and utilization of slip space to carry themselves amongst the stars. To the average UNSC defense system, the signs of a slipspace rupture about to open up was, in the case of Covenant attack, alarming, but well detectable for at least a good few seconds before the bubble opened up and whatever god forsaken fleet on the other end came through. Otherwise, it was a very perceptible way to gauge slipspace traffic and civilian activity.

Whatever context would've decided what a slipspace reading would've garnered among those observing however was for those who knew what slipspace was; depended on who was grounded by the rules of science that allowed for such mode of transport.

And that was why, given the oddity of the readings to the uninitiated, and due to the fault that the Slipspace Drive that the UNSC had rigged to take out the Covenant Super Carrier over Reach was very much a rush job, there had been a massive displacement of the spacetime fabric that had promptly created an odd effect on the planes of reality itself. Without a destination solution, nothing could've been sure, the drive broadcasting its effects across universes without regard, barreling through existences without regard and leaving traces, hooks, in random spaces. It wasn't anything that would've been picked up by the sensors of a standard cruiser of the Systems Alliance and be deemed dangerous. Especially in a universe where FTL travel was instead defined by mass manipulation and fields generated by ancient devices afloat in space.

This, assuming, a ship from that universe would encounter the latent effects of a slipspace entry that was, possibly, would only ever be seen in another.

The plan itself, Operation Uppercut, was a one-in-a-million shot. Though that's the funny thing about it. A shot was taken, and it had to land somewhere.

"Daniels! Donnelly!" Came the hurried voice of Captain Shaw of the SSV Perugia, the bridge of the cruiser in chaos as the ship drifted in the shadow of the planet Altis. He yelled out to his most reliable engineers currently attending the engine room. "Get me a sitrep! We need our engines going or else we're going to be in atmosphere in the next five minutes!"

The planet Altis was one of the rare worlds deemed highly attractive for humans to take over, skirting the edge of the Attican Traverse. Its waters were as blue as those on Earth, and, although perhaps not as gifted with as much land as the human homeworld, there was enough to support a very healthy colony which would hopefully become a major stronghold for the Alliance, and therefore, humanity. That being said a cruiser entering the system with no propulsion would be a lethal disaster, regardless of how pristine the mostly Mediterranean world was.

A Scottish voice broke through the comms as the captain in his chair held onto the grips for dear life. "I'm checking all of the input flow from the reactor to the engines, but we've got nothing! I'm gonna keep searching!"

A woman's voice broke through next as the crew member at the helm of the Perugia tried to at least stabilize the ship in worst scenario of a re-entry, any view outside of the ship was digitally sent through all the monitors and control consoles, and the blue stared at them rather menacingly closer. "The eezo capacitors are still going! It should be still feeding to the ship but it's like all the eezo is frozen in place! Our mass is 1:1 right now! I'm trying a manual injection from our cores! Stand by!"

"Mayday, mayday! This is the SSV Perugia to all Alliance elements on this net! We have lost Mass Effect fields and propulsion and are going down over Altis! Transmitting all coordinates!"

The comm's chief was losing his mind, but the Perugia was a special crew. They'd seen combat before with spacers and pirates, Batarians in particular, so damned it all, the captain personally thought, if this was how they were going to go out.

The cruisers were always giant coffins, he figured, but they'd never thought it this literal as the ship continued to tumble, ever closer, to the planet.

There was more oil and grease on JD's armor than Covenant blood, and he couldn't quite tell if he was okay with that. Regardless, Six had gotten the worse bargain, but it was only because she had the strength. She had basically gotten right on top of the right back thruster of the Pelican as Six manually held the stick in the cockpit down for a maneuver involving that thruster.

Six, with gracious use of her weight after a jump, slammed down on the Pelican's thruster, causing it to crack, but to finally break free from its stagnation caused by a Plasma bolt hitting it in just the right place.

The maneuver had put her on her ass, tumbling off and to the hangar floor, but with a few extra grunts up in the cockpit, JD had control of both thruster gimbals again. It was stiff, and he wasn't a pilot, but he took the ODST training and knew enough to pilot… that is if he needed to.

She groaned with a muted sound that came out of her mouth as she sat up, looking through the bay of the Pelican and past the Drive to look for her ODST. He had given a thumbs up, and she returned it as he got out.

One or two straggling groups had made it to the hangar somehow, but that had been within the first hour, the sound of distant banging of the other occupiers of the ship still signifying that they had been alive but blocked off from Six and JD. Those two groups had been easy enough to deal with, and after that had been around three hours of breaking out the Pelican guidebook tucked underneath the seat and trying to find a way to get the thruster gimbals to resume movement without drawing power away from the Drive.

In that time then, they hadn't shared too much of a word that hadn't been quoting sections from said guidebook. Up until then. "We might make it yet." She said, meeting JD halfway, the man sitting on the lip of the bay as his gaze at the drive drew Six's.

She knew what he was wondering, going to the rigged up indicators. A lump in her throat sunk to her stomach in some uneasy anticipation.

"Seven minutes." She spoke, taking in a breath as she did a field check of her armor. She was lucky, one of the rare Spartan IIIs to be issued and augmented for field operations with MJOLNIR. She probably could've made it from orbit to Reach with an entry pack if she took Jorge's wish and flew with it. Nothing was wrong with it as far as she could feel with her gauntlets and gloved hands. "I'll pilot." She referred to the cockpit as she started gathering gear in the back, feeling around for the release of the drive.

Out of the corner of her eye she had seen JD shake his head, however.

Their helmets locked gazes, and somehow, he knew that she raised her eyebrow behind her black tinted visor. An odd choice of color he realized then. He had seen ONI spooks on missions with MJLONIR spec helmets, and those colors often meant specific functions. Even then, from publicity vids of Spartans, he had never seen a black visor. When helmets had been the face of the Spartans, her face was one that was… scary perhaps, like that of a hunter: eyes peering from the black.

"You guys do everything, don't you?" JD said behind his own helmet, a little sarcasm, a little relief.

"I aim to please." She said in some snark, self-pride, but knowingness. There was an image to the Spartans, and although she exhumed it, she wasn't who the human race thought of as a whole when it came to the Spartans. But that was a battle she would have with herself, and not toward the man before her, asking questions, impressed by her. Still, it took her a minute of going through her motions, loading guns and ammo and supplies into the back to realize that it was a compliment as he continued to sit there, looking at the drive. "Thank you."

The ODST nodded at her kindly, waving, as if to say there was no need.

His entire body ended up waving as the ship lurched suddenly, taking to the Pelican's landing gear. The magnetic pump of Six's boots activating resounded as she turned her head to outside at the bleak darkness of slipspace. She'd never seen it blink like a rainbow before, blink like a prism as the drive beside her started winding to a higher pitch.

She'd recognize this sort of shaking before, the minutiae that only she was able to pick up after so many drugs had been pumped into her and her very genes were modified. It was the feeling of leaving slipspace. Usually, it was a feeling that took no more than a second to carry out, when the ships dropped out of slip space, but this felt wrong, as if the process was being elongated like a violin string being played too long. They were in for a ride, and seatbelts weren't going to do squat.

JD had been holding onto the landing gear for stability, but he had lost his hold as Six took him in one hand, only to throw him into the back, with the same stroke dropping the drive to the floor from the Pelican's clamps to the floor with a thud.

If everything was fine and okay, Six would've jammed the thrusters as soon as she saw stars appear. She would've thrown the thrusters into full overdrive and bolted out into real space.

They would've made it out of that suicide mission unscathed, to fight another day, if the Covenant frigate that they had so graciously borrowed for the attack didn't split in half at the very second they appeared back in real space, and threw the Pelican around the hangar like every single other item that hadn't been bolted down in it.

It was the fact that Altis was on the border of the Attican Traverse that spurred the response of several other cruisers to the mayday calls of the SSV Perugia: It had been the frontlines of the conflict with the Batarians, a ruthless species who had perhaps given mankind a further black eye in their expansions into the galaxy. The slavers who came for the humans of Mindoir subjected them to atrocities that very much fueled a part of the Alliance which called for wariness toward any species who hadn't come from Earth: xenophobes given a reason to stand firm amongst the stars and kill the filth that dare perform transgression against mankind.

Two other Alliance cruisers and a few civilian freighters nearby had come to the assistance of the Perugia about twenty seconds too late, but just soon enough to watch a brilliant pair of engineers onboard perform a miracle by performing a hard reset of the Eezo drives and the engines and see the Perugia stabilize just as it was skirting atmosphere.

Captain Shaw had been clutching at the very fabric of his uniform as he sat back down in his chair, the rest of the bridge crew somewhere between relief, ecstasy, and coming down from the highest of highs.

Still, the forty-year-old, olive skinned man had been through his fair share of highs and knew soon enough what to do when his ship was about to become Altis's largest boat. "Someone give me a sitrep of what the hell just happened!"

"This is SSV Constantine to Perugia. How copy."

"Perugia to Constantine, systems are normalized and assuming ascent pattern. Advise all cruisers to scan immediate area for any Mass Effect field related anomalies."

"Vladivostok here. Scanning along all tri-band frequencies. Advise you to cover the rest. All freighters with area scans rated for Alpha Red-tier observations and up, we'd appreciate the help."

"Roger Vladivostok. This is Casablanca-3, we saw the ship drop. We're relaying its path it came into the planet with and out. I reckon we oughta steer clear."

The chatter between ships was normalizing as breaths were taken back in, only to be replaced by the tension that came. Was it a Batarian trap? Some sort of test of a weapon that disabled ships for easy pickings? The scanning personnel had reported back automatically. No signs of any ships in the area that hadn't been Alliance.

Shaw's cap had still been reeking of sweat, but regardless, he kept it on as he scanned the bridge, able to pick out the sectors around the ship from the consoles around him and his crew. One console in particular got his attention as he sprung from his seat.

"There!" He pointed with his finger. The woman that was at the console had thought the same, too focused to report anything at first. He talked aloud, the comms picking up his voice regardless. "This is the Perugia to all friendlies, concentrate on these coordinates."

If Alliance ships of that design had windows, they might've seen the cosmic sparkle, almost like static, form like a ball expanding and expanding until it reaches the size of a small moon. Its radius was big enough to reach out and touch some of the responding ships, but no damage came, nothing happened. Not until that ball receded upon itself and, in a flash that blinded every eye, sensor, and train of thought for a moment, spit up an impossibility.

It was as if an entire battle had been transported into the upper orbit of Altis, a ball of war. Perhaps battle wasn't the best descriptor as much as it had been the results of a battle: debris of grey, mechanical, clunky nature floating amongst parts of hues and purples that shone so distinctly differently that there was no question as to the fact there were two sides of it. There were the remains of one blocky space faring construct: an almost y shaped block, cast in grey and black with a world and a bird of prey on it. Along with it, and more monstrously, what seemed to be an entire mountain of just pure, purple machinery: a honeycomb chunk of something that was very much not whole, eclipsing every single ship that was there with a dark shadow, ominous, signs of where it had been cut off from whatever it belonged to still red hot. Distinctly in the shadow of that giant chunk of debris, cast in a pale pinkish white shade, was another ship: the one that seemed the most put together. It looked like a sea creature, the way light shone off of it like that of a lizard, its skin-like armor awash with almost alien color. A leviathan almost, unknowable, ungodly.

The shape of it was almost like that of the Asari and their more curved design language, but it was distinctly different, and whether the fact that its bulb like body had split in half horizontally along its skeletal like structure was intentional wasn't quite perceptible.

It was a lot to take in, and it hadn't helped that it had come upon them, almost right on top of them all. Maybe the computers would've had a better chance at fully analyzing it all, but all those details were ignored as, more promptly, all hell broke loose across the bridges of all present.

"What the Hell?! Where did that debris field come from!?"

"LADAR scans say we've got energy readings coming from within it!"

"This is the Constantine! All ships get clear from it!"

The most pressing piece of debris had been the monstrous chunk of… something that had measured nearly thirteen kilometers long, clipped, and three kilometers tall. A monument to something beyond their reasoning, and beyond their scope of knowledge. It was maddening.

"By God!" One of the crew members of the Perugia yelled out as Captain Shaw held his mouth agape. "It's bigger than Arcturus Station!" The seat of Alliance power had been dwarfed just by casual observation alone.

The largest ship in all of the Council Races had been the dreadnought currently tasked with protection of the seat of Galactic Power. Destiny Ascension, for all its power, all its might and mass, had been eclipsed by a chunk of debris.

They wouldn't know it precisely, but it was the remains of ship, that much they could guess. Its entire midsection had been taken and promptly brought along for the ride, and, despite not being identified by any Alliance sensors, what the sensors did pick up had been vital, if not horrifying:

"Scans are reading it as a space station?!" Even the crewman didn't believe it, but the algorithms came up as that. "Designate the largest piece of debris as Alpha! TACOM is designating the rest of the notable debris shortly!" The Perugia had been quickly ascending from Altis from its fall, however now it had to contend with an ever-expanding debris field, the smaller chunks of it like dust in the cosmic wind, caught by the planet's gravity and ever so slowly being sunk down in the same way the Perugia was.

"Someone contact the Altis Planetary Government! Tell them to hunker down because they've got stuff coming down right on top of them! Get Admiral Hackett on the line!" Shaw had taken back command as he rounded his bridge, checking each and every screen he could to take it all in as complete radio chaos erupted.

"What?! Life signs?!"

"Does anyone have positive confirmation on any of the markings or makeup of any debris?! Batarian? Krogan? Vorcha?! Turian?! Anything?!"

For each half answer came five more questions, and in the span of the minute and a half since the Perugia had regained power, they were thrown into the thick of it as the debris field was marked up and designated for pieces of interest in a situation that was becoming more and more dynamic.

"Everyone get clear! Smaller pieces are coming down!"

"Wait, wait. We've got life signs on Alpha?!" Shaw yelled across the bridge to his scanners.

"Affirmative! We've got bio readings on Alpha and Delta!"


Delta had been the intact, kilometer long purple ship in the shadow of it all and to every gradually volume stabilizing voice in the room confirming as such, it was still active. Hell, a lot of it was still active. Just looking at how Alpha pulsed with energy, the honeycomb like structures within it still very much lights on. And if people looked closer, they would've seen the thousands that got taken on the ride: saved by the placement of energy shields that prevented complete venting, peering through and seeing that they hadn't been over Reach.

Perhaps, in different circumstances, those who survived aboard Alpha would've immediately went back to duty stations after reappearing in real space, and open up on what weapon stations were left on whoever was around them. A battle would've broken out, a First Contact battle like no other seen throughout that galaxy, between humans and a misplaced floating city full of genocidal, religious aliens with an unlikely pair thrown in the middle of it. Given the disparity between them, technology wise, it would've been something to see, even with a ship that had been missing its head and ass.

Gravity seemed to have its plan however as the entire mass of Alpha fell victim to the gravity of Altis.

What followed next was a landfall unseen in the history of that Galaxy ever since a previous cycle of galactic destruction, yet to be known by those who had existed at the time. A million million pieces of debris come down on the waters, burning up in atmosphere if their mass wasn't enough to survive re-entry.

The reports from the weather station on Altis, the colony only having one main city, had spoken to this:

A risk of rain.

The System Alliance cruisers led by the SSV Perugia had the situation well in hand. The early days of the space travel for humanity and the cluttering up of space lanes had led to some such landfalls in the past, so there was a routine to this: tracking the larger pieces down and clearing any zones of impact for any civilians and bystanders. This was anything but routine, however.

"Communication from Arcturus Station Captain." Perugia's Comm Chief spoke aloud to alert Shaw. The man nodded in response. "It's Admiral Hackett."

"Put him through." Captain Shaw promptly ordered. He was still busy looking over the systems console and the sensor chief, tracking each and every piece of debris that was of note.

Admiral Steven Hackett was a man who officers never argued having guidance by, so Captain Shaw didn't think of what kind of goat rodeo he had gotten himself into now with who many in the Alliance considered the head of their Navy calling in directly. A legend of a grassroots naval officer, and Shaw was glad that someone with a higher pay grade was on this case as well.

"Captain Shaw, Hackett here. Sit rep?" That mature, gravelly voice came through.

Shaw took a moment to take it all in himself again into a quick enough response, eyes glazing over with the sensor data and the predicted land fall paths. "We've got multiple unknowns who've just appeared in system over Altis. All of them are being read as disabled but their mass and size means that they're going to get sucked into atmosphere before we can get an analysis on them. We're tracking them down and deploying QRF Marines to any prominent sites to try and contain any survivors."

"Are you saying we've got people still alive in these things?"

"We're sending you the telemetry now, but we do have bio signs in some of the wreckage. Judging on the size and descent angle of the largest piece of debris designated as Alpha, we will presume survivors."

"We have a read on how many then?"

Yes. They did. The numbers didn't make sense, however.

"Negative sir, too much interference." Was the answer Shaw gave.

Being in the heat of what was, in some way, a combat situation, a first contact perhaps, there was something overriding their awe of what they were seeing. The debris had beautiful, curved lines and artisanship that the Asari might've approved of. Most of all however it had been Alpha and its leviathan like size that dwarfed the colony, the ships, menacing the crewmen of the Alliance ships responding into combat alert.

"FTL test of some species we haven't seen yet?" One of the bridge crew of the Perugia opened aloud to the floor.

"Let's keep speculation down lieutenant." Shaw responded, turning back to speak to the air and thus Hackett. "What's our play here Admiral?"

There were a few, strained moments of silence, electronic noises from the various computers and consoles tracking the disaster happening before them unceasing. Finally, the Admiral spoke. "Secure the planet, Captain, I'm leading a detachment of the Fifth Fleet toward you now. Until then, keep a hand on it."

"Affirmative Admiral."

"Hackett out."

Outside the viewports one might've seen the first splashdowns of the many pieces of debris that began to pour on the blue oceans and islands of Altis below. Some disappeared with barely a notice, others coming down, and hitting the surface hard. In the chaos of all this, pieces of Alpha shed off as gravity dragged it down, screaming and tearing. If one had noticed, they might've seen a hangar door of Alpha sheer off and throw itself into the frigate sized Delta's engine block, sending it downward, spinning, its passengers of two humans and whoever else remained going first.

She wondered if Jorge had the right idea, just jumping out of the hangar and back toward Reach. She wasn't trained to do as such, but her armor was designed for re-entry. It would've probably been a smoother ride, having reappeared above that oceanic world for a fraction of a second before everything went to shit. It meant that they did re-emerge in real space and, given her situation, she might've lived to fight another day.

That was before the ship started shaking apart, and her Pelican thrown out of the hangar on its way down to said planet. She didn't lie to herself, not when almost none of the control surfaces were responding and the ODST in the cargo bay had desperately closed up the hatch as he simply held onto dear life, making his way up to the cockpit as all he saw was blue.

He had had drops smoother than this!

Six had been grunting as she tried to take control of the stick, but to not avail as all she got was rudimentary left or right that was barely making a dent in the fact that they were currently going through atmosphere in the wake of the Covenant corvette. She was a pilot, among the most natural among the Spartans, but she could not fight when she had nothing to work with.


"What?!" His voice wasn't used to yelling but he did. The two seat configuration of the Pelican had left him behind and a little up behind her. The seating configuration gave JD a good look at Six almost sheering off the control stick with her bare hands. It was a delicate balance between that and not breaking it given her strength.

"Hop down here and wedge this with your foot!"

"Drag me down there!"

In free fall and in a spin if he hadn't had his ass in the seat, he would've been at threat at being thrown against the glass of the cockpit. Six's grip strength had said otherwise, dragging him down as he braced himself against the back of her seat and the stick between her legs, wedging hard up and to the right to try and at least match the direction of the spinning to stabilize.

Six had squirmed her way out of the cockpit and into the bay holding onto the left wall of it as she herself was threatened to be thrown.

That was her intention however as she lined up her body, her mass, weight and all to just where she needed it. All nine hundred pounds of her. With the right type of push, it violently nudged the Pelican in the right direction as JD felt the cue in the steel around him. He had assumed her seat as the Pelican quit spinning, starting to enter atmosphere, the howling of reentry around them. Six had reappeared as fast as she left, leaving a dent in the interior.

"You know how to fly?!"

"A bit!" JD pitched the Pelican's nose up, slowing the descent gradually as the monitors and warning indicators around them blared.

Six's hands flipped to the switches to address them all about the cockpit. "We don't have enough power in our thrusters to get a good ascent pattern."

They were crashing then as they found themselves deep in a cloud layer, the clouds around them evaporating given the heat of re-entry. One spared look up and the Ardent Prayer was hot on their heels coming down. White surrounded them but not for long as droplets of water violently streaked up their panes.

"We need to clear that thing's impact." Six spoke aloud, more than obvious to JD as he had looked over the fuel reserves. The logic of what he was about to do was the same with the booster assisted drop pods for those especially obtuse landings.

"Grab your stick, find us a landing spot. I'm burning the fuel we got to punt us outta range."

She had affirmed with a loud grunt, finding the co-pilot stick and grasping it. "I have it."

JD let go, the Pelican shifting for just another jerk before Six resumed their fall. JD's idea was more or less just exploding the fuel in the tanks and venting the force out through their thrusters. Dangerous, yes, but it was a play for life, and he had no other good ideas. Six had trusted him though, as he trusted himself. This wasn't the first time he had fallen from orbit.

"Once we break cloud cover tell me if you've got a target! Else I'm just gonna punch this thing!"

The clouds were cleared before he had even finished speaking, terminal velocity carrying them through to meet with that watery surface too fast. The same could be said for Six, however. Einstein said, in lay terms, that time was relative to the observer. Six had lived several lifetimes by the way of her augmentations as a Spartan. The way her genealogy had changed, the neurons of her brain, the cells of her system, it all gave her a gift. When the bullets fly, the explosions rock worlds, and the survival of the human race was at hand, the pain was what resonated through them all like recoil from a gun: quick, fleeting, teeth cracking and bone breaking. Six held onto that split-moment feeling, that iota of infinity, and lived lives every moment in time. "Spartan Time", a Spartan II coined. One of her mentors told her that. Lieutenant Commander Ambrose would be proud.

In the corner of her eye: A blip of land, a horse shoe shaped piece of beach that would have to make a landing area. She had jerked the Pelican's bearing that way and JD got the message, seeing the same.

With little other options or time to make consider anything else, they went in.

"Sir we just had an object make a controlled descent originating from Delta. Design seems to match the language used in object Charlie." One of the officers on the Perugia's bridge noted.

"To my console." Shaw ordered, the screen connected to his captain's chair rerunning the telemetry of that object falling like debris before making a clearly controlled flight away from the downward fall of object Delta. The scans were through too. Instead of the clean lines of the largest objects there and the monstrosity, this was more... angular, brown, to say the least. This wasn't a simple accident, and that object, to Shaw's trained eyes, looked of a war bird. The cockpit at least seemed accommodated to pilots that were human sized, as did the bay door. "Are we sure we have no identification from any of the archives? A guess about what these things are?"

There wasn't a differing answer on the bridge: No.

But what that means meant another chapter in history. If it was not known, it was new. If it was not recognized by the Council, they were-

The protocol was clear.

"Begin preparations for First Contact procedures. We'll wait on Hackett to make that call."

"Aye sir."

There were more pressing things anyway given a human colony had been down there and within the range of effect for any touch down. They were lucky the Altis colony had been in mid-day with its 23 hour cycles. "I want all Marines on deck and deployed ASAP. We need to link up with the Altis colony and then start coordinating our response to this thing from the ground. There's going to be survivors. I want to coordinate this effort before it gets out of hand."

"Aye Captain." The officer went to ping the Marines stationed on the ship.

"All Marines, get to your ready stations and prepare for deployment ASAP. You'll be briefed on the way down to Altis."

"This is TACOMM to all Marine Actuals, this is a large-scale SAR and Disaster Relief Op. Given anomalous and unknown contacts advise to be loaded for bear."

The bridge crew had done their job and Shaw was proud of that, but still it wasn't enough. Not as the hundred thousand pieces of debris all started to slowly, slowly drag down and begin the show. "What other Alliance ships are in the system?"

A voice shouted out from another station. "SSV Constantine, SSV Vladivostok, and the SSV Seoul are all on station. We have two civilian freighters in the area as well. Sir the captains of the other ships have deferred actions to you."

Shaw would've sworn, but he didn't disparage him. No. That came later, curling his fist along the arm of his chair. "We can't let those two freighters leave for operational security. Have the Seoul intercept and lock down and when they're done deploying any ground assets, they have to assist deployments from Vladivostok and Constantine. We need all hands-on deck."

"Aye Captain."

A bridge in full swing was a beautiful thing of organization and routine. It spoke to professionalism even against the unknown. "I also need a read on any other Alliance assets in the area. Even with whatever Hackett brings this might get out of hand. Hail any in this sector and have them redirect."

One of the comm chiefs had turned to his neighbor on the console over. "We have any idea on any assets in this area?"

The other officer had taken only a second to think before nodding, getting the right frequency. "This is the SSV Perugia to the SSV Tesla. I repeat, this is SSV Perugia, hailing for Captain Hynes and Commander Ryder."

In ODST training, recruits had been drilled to perform drops that would've broken weaker men with nothing but their two feet. In the field all you had, in the end, was your body, and so if an ODST was told to drop, they'd drop with but themselves. That's why when he woke up his body shot up in the crooked cargo space of the Pelican, a huge gash opened up in its side as he felt the pain course through his body with a groan. The very fact that there was pain was good however, especially when he ran his hands up and down his own body and didn't feel anything too out of place.

Before he could check on the pilot, however, she had pretty much fallen out of the askew seat of the Pelican and into the boot with him. A glance at the cockpit had shown they were in some sort of sandy plain, the sound of peaceful ocean around them making it known they had hit their target, whatever that meant.

The tell-tale sound of the biofoam in Six's armor being spread throughout her pains was heard by the ODST as she rose to her feet, collapsing onto the wall as her labored panting echoed throughout that dark hold.

Further away: the sound of debris exploding and scattered pieces of ships making planet fall surrounded them, hitting water, the world swallowing them if they couldn't float.

His training kicked in, the part of training that had him liable to check Six's armor for any intrusions or lacerations.

"I'm fine!" She swatted him away. He was only a little offended, but nothing stopped him from finding his SMG and feeling around in the dark for the cargo door of the Pelican. He had found it, pressed it, but the mechanical whirring and the slight creaking of the cargo door was unsatisfactory. It left Six to take a running start, her right foot leading, planting itself on the door and it being sheared open by her kick. She tumbled out with the momentum, onto her stomach, but she had risen again with an angry groan, only for her to ball a fist and hit her side like an ape. The pain meant she was alive.

So, it was true: the strength of the Spartans, bending metal like paper and giving JD his way out as he peered out with through his sights.

A beach was not a bad place to crash, all things considered. The sand beneath his boots was soft and inviting as he took his first steps out, Six following close after, guns raised and scanning their surroundings, her free hand dragging weapon cases out as the bright light that took them all was adjusted to. Bright blue and white sand, behind them: that small jungle that inhabited this horse shaped island.

It was the roaring sound above them that broke them out of their short visitation of paradise.

Today just wouldn't let up.

From the edge of space, the view of the numerous pieces of debris hitting the ground had been like stones in a pond. Of course, down planetside each time a piece of debris that hadn't burnt up in atmosphere hit tidal waves had been made. Tsunami grade. Any island in its way would've been awash with the salty waters of Altis as if it had been a storm, despite the crystal blue skies. If there was anyone alive on those ships going down, a water landing would have been preferred to hard ground, however if it had been ground at least their impacts would've been more self-contained.

"We tracked that unidentified object down here. About the size of one of our Makos, a little bigger. It made a controlled landing, and we tracked two life signs disembark. They're humans." The sensor crewman that had been tracking that particular object had Captain Shaw right over his shoulder, breathing down his neck, but it was understandable.

"Keep an eye on them. We don't need them disappearing while we track the rest of this."

"Might be hard sir. In the next sixty seconds that frigate sized object is going to come down in two pieces, close enough to make a splash."

Shaw turned around to the comm chief. "Is Altis Colonial HQ updated on the situation?!"

"Aye sir! They're hunkering in place."

"Tell them to open up their landing pads for both evacuation and to act as a staging point. We need Marines on the ground to start ground operations immediately! What's our status on reinforcements?"

"SSV Tesla is dropping in less than ten minutes and the Seoul has started prepping their shuttles. What're the orders?"

Shaw had returned to his chair and opened up all frequencies. "This is Captain Shaw of the SSV Perugia to all Marine Fireteams currently deploying. You'll be getting communique from your COs regarding information but generally the plan is this: establish a perimeter around the crash sites. If there are survivors, and there might very well be, if they are not identified the protocol is clear: First Contact. Do not engage unless fired upon. Captain Shaw out."

First contact. Those words were wet with history and responsibility, but the crew was given no time to think of it as they felt the very metal around them creak.

If gravity was given a sound, it was the sound like a stomach, bowels rumbling and groaning. It permeated throughout the metal of the Perugia as soon as Shaw had finished his orders. The entire bridge crew had tried to find a place to handhold as again, the ship shifted and groaned.

"Alpha is going down. I repeat, the planet has her. Her mass is messing up our drives!"

"Make adjustments!"

The ship rattled again violently, but his engineers and con officers were able to take hold of it again as the ship righted. Shaw's cap had been far and away off in some corner of the Bridge as it had been thrown off of him, his white knuckled grip on his chair not letting up as those that had been thrown onto the floor had gotten up and back to their stations.

Why was a ship this large ever made? How was it made? Were there more? Questions that went past Shaw's head as the visual feed on Alpha remained and showed its slow descent down into the planet. Perhaps he feared the answers he would be given as he felt the Perugia lurch upwards to regain altitude. The old saying rung true in diplomacy now as it did centuries ago. It was a saying respected by mankind's first extraterrestrial enemies, and one that gave mankind a bite despite its only recent emergence on the galaxy wide political field. Though it was a saying that came back to haunt them now:

Speak softly and carry a big stick.

The stick that was hurtling toward Alpha was beyond any measure that was comprehensible by the metrics of shipbuilding as Shaw knew it, and any philosophy that came with it. It was in the back of his mind that he feared, just as the Alliance had come to hover over this, whoever owned this ship might come looking for it with an example of this wreck that hadn't been burning.

"We have hundreds of contacts jettisoning from the ship! Kodiak size and smaller!"

Shaw had made a sound come out of his throat that was of surprise and fear. Forget worrying about who owned this ship. Worry about the ship itself.

"Escape pods?!" The visual view of Alpha had seen it gradually, almost hopping up in defiance of its inevitable pull down. The underside of Alpha, concentrated on unidentifiable circles made in its hull, glowed blue each time it happened, allowing more waves upon waves of escape pods and objects to jettison.

Usze 'Tahamee had before in his long-storied career as a Special Ops Commando under the command of Rtas Vadumee been offered a spot among the Covenant Honor Guard. They were the Elites tasked with protecting the Prophets themselves at the Holy City. An honor and a privilege, clearly, but it had its caveats. Usze very much knew that it would've kept him off the frontline, fighting the heretical humans, and he'd would've been engrossed instead with a ceremonial position. So, he declined, and not once did he ever regret that decision. Even today as he had made his way down the remaining hallways of A Long Night of Solace, explosions and decompressions happening elsewhere on that massive ship reverberating through the hull.

He had a destination however, unlike the Unggoy or the Kig-Yar who scampered about panicking. At least the Jiralhanae kept them in line by murdering those who were overly panicking. It'd been a half an hour or so since communication was lost with the stern and bow of the Super Carrier. Information relayed by the Huragok, and their translators were sparse, but the Bridge had been lost in the UNSC attack: cut off by the slip space bubble. The Shipmaster was gone along with the entire command staff.

Usze had burst into the secondary bridge, left for only emergencies or training on the CSO-Class. To say that this had only been an emergency seemed to be underselling it, however. He had brought an entire procession of his comrades, and they were given no extra answers about the situation.

The lighting of the ship had been dismal, flickering at sporadic intervals, the three-tiered bridge also sparking and damaged, but still usable.

Only a meager four Sangheili had been trying desperately to manage the affair.

"Is this what's left of the command staff?!" Usze ground out, unbelieving.

One of them had taken the upper tiered command platform, frantically trying to assess and contain the damage. He had barely any time to address Usze. In the lighting the Spec Ops soldier could see now that the Elite had been way over his head, he was only ranked as Minor judging by his armor, mostly likely the secondary shift crew for the bridge.

"No other bridge staff had come yet and it's been nearly an hour! We're all that's left until we get a headcount from all sections!"

Usze hadn't been an Officer in the Spec Ops division for long. He had remained where he had been for three tours because he craved the combat, the action, to test and hone his skills. Rank was rank however, and the hierarchy was the reason why a dozen of fellow Spec Ops members followed him.

"Do we have any indications of any of the command staff surviving? The Prophet?"

"Our onboard sensors are going haywire, and our processors are hung up trying to calculate our positions. We're not able to ascertain where we are!"

A Huragok had floated up from the recessed sections of the bridge, speaking to a Sangheili in its tones and chirps, with the flick of one of its tentacles. "Use the troop transporter's gravity lift to keep us in orbit! Our gravity generators are barely holding up as is!" The Sangheili translator responded.

The impromptu captain had almost hacked in disbelief. "That'll burn out our reactor with the force that we need to-"

The entire ship had shifted down, the entirety of those present up off their feet and halfway to the ceiling before what remained of the ship's repulsors turned back on. Distantly an Unggoy screamed for its mother. "Make it so!" The Elite revised, on the floor and quickly getting back up.

Usze had picked himself up from the ground as he waved out to his comrades that had followed him. "Go! Man the stations!" They had no training, but an educated guess was better than no hands at all. Usze had ran to the captain's platform, looking over the diagnostics that had been on the holographic screens.

It was as bad as the rumors had been: 90% of Engineering and Power-related sections had been cut off at the rear. The entire front of the ship had been lost as well, accounting for the Command Staff and spiritual sections as mandated by the Covenant hierarchy. What had been left was the chunk in the middle: the entirety of troop and crew accommodations.

The humans never had enough intel to guess the capacity of a CSO-Class carrier, but if they had they would've made these targets to be taken out by any number of suicidal methods. These ships carried the Covenant Empire where High Charity couldn't, and thus carried with it that weight. A weight that everyone, all those ill-prepared Sangheili, felt now.

A Long Night of Solace, or rather, what was left of it, also felt of it as the electric whine of the transporter energy grid going into overdrive to keep it afloat, also felt that weight of gravity.

"Did anyone else get caught with us? Ardent Prayer? Blue Heaven? Willful Tangent?"

"Unknown! Sensors are scrambled!"

"Then open up the visual feed!" Look out a window. That was the gist of what Usze said, and, surprisingly, it did them well as they saw multiple ships around them and not engaging. They were grey white with blue streaks, angular and boxy, and significantly smaller than most other human capital ships that would dare take on even a wreck this close. Unlike them, however, they were very much clearly active.

"Those ship designs. They remind me of our Lords designs. Could they be-?" One of them had whispered aloud.

"What're you talking about?" It was a drastic thought, surely, one knocked away by the sound of a larger energy conduit going up in sparks somewhere else on the ship followed by the emergency warnings on the consoles. "Scan them!"

At least the ship to ship sensors were still active, and they were powerful enough to read back familiar data. "Humans!" The sensor operator called out. "They're human, but their ships are displaying anomalous readings."

"Like what? What trickery are the humans up to?"

"These ships, we can't get proper displacement or mass readings on them and their make-up."

Usze's eyes narrowed at them, they were blocky like most the uncultured humans, their designs always robust, if not primitive. These ships however, if they were human, they were… different. It was only then he realized something that everyone else had forgotten at that moment: they were the enemy. They were the enemy and not the drastic status of their ship.

"Do we engage?" One of the sergeants asked.

"Who's the ranking officer here?"

The warriors who came with Usze had known who to look at: Usze himself. Many of them weren't his own, merely those among him who saw his dark crimson armor and recognized it as a mark of distinction. Though what that meant was that he was an Officer of the Special Operations. Far higher than anyone there, even the surviving bridge officers.

Usze felt the eyes bore into his armor, the back of his head, his very being. He more than anyone would've chosen to engage, but something was… off, regarding the designs of those ships flying.

None of the humans had ever used such designs, and he'd seen his fair share in this campaign alone. Nonetheless, he thumbed over the holographic console, showing weapons stations. Several of the crew had remained at their posts defiantly but diverting any power to weapons would be suicide. "We cannot."

"I concur with the Major Tahamee." Her name was Seylu Karonee, and her low voice drew the attention of the substitute bridge crew as they were to her. There was something of a half cape on her, as was customary for Sangheili matriarchs traditionally. What little culture the Covenant let the Sangheili have bleed into its military operations was often items overlooked or non-disruptive of the procedure of military conduct. Karonee was a Shipmaster, but not the Shipmaster of a Long Night of Solace. Her wings had been clipped.

"Shipmistress! We'd though you already transferred back to the Blood of Union."

Her CCS-class battlecruiser had been one of Solace's many support ships, and she had been the leader of that support group.

She nodded fiercely, half cape flowing her an arm movement. "Ardent Prayer was to ferry me back. Clearly things have changed."

She was smaller than a typical Sangheili warrior, as was true for most of the females of their species, her skin shades lighter, however she was an example of one of the few Sangheili shipmistresses that existed in the Covenant. Her bloodline was endowed with Sangheili history. Once, long ago, before the Covenant, her family had a son who had been named Arbiter: a title of great importance to the Sangheili in forging their history. Now was not so in the Ages of Reclamation, but regardless, there was great military history to her blood as well.

Usze felt the weight of that blood even, and the Tahamee family was respected highly for a merchant family.

"You seemed to have taken command Major." Her fast stride had betrayed the gracefulness of her uniform, but this was no time to stand on formalities as she approached Usze on the command deck. He nodded.

"Protocol is clear. You have it, Shipmistress." He, with an ounce of formality, bowed out.

That was her intention in a fierce nod as she went to work. A Long Night of Solace was by far bigger than her CCS, but the analytics and data collection were the same, along with the general controls. Her hands glided and flew over the holographic controls, getting what she needed as, somehow, her presence alone stopped the echoing and scream of metal around them to stop momentarily, or at least, be suppressed.

"Who here is actual bridge crew?" She yelled down a tier on the bridge. A meek few raised their hands. "Good enough." She looked into Usze's orange eyes. "I remember you from updates regarding Commander Vadumee's force composition. You shared much of his distinction during your training. Your initiative surely brings you here today."

Now wasn't the time to retread his resume, but Usze could do little as the Fleet Master spoke to him. "I wished only to contact the command structure." he said promptly. "The BattleNet is down, and communications are down throughout the ship. I needed to know where me and my Elites could work best."

She looked over the interim bridge hands. "A dozen Spec Ops personnel? I don't know what you expected to do given the magnitude of this situation, but I have to say I'm impressed." She didn't give him the time of day as she continued to fly through the control prompts, directing systems and personnel all by the wave of her frantic hands. Even then, however her tone was cool, measured. "Thank you for bringing your Elites."

"Your orders then, Shipmistress?" Usze stood as straight as he could in the chaos.

"Hold on." A diagram of the ship came up on the projections. Only a third of the ship had been left, the front and aft blazed red by the diagram unsurprisingly. "The only propulsion we have is our maneuvering manipulators, and even then, they were not meant to keep us stable. We also hardly have enough power to sustain the gravity lifts."

She looked down to one of the Huragok in the command channel sections of the bridge, its luminous tentacles reaching deep and in to try and rectify some situation. The Huragok wouldn't tell them, all they did was make it work, and no Sangheili there had any real technical know-how of the Covenant systems operated. That was by design of the Covenant, the Sangheili warriors and commanders, but not grunts and technicians. Subservience by the Prophets was of course, holy, by the Writ of Union.

"We'd have to sacrifice life support in the Unggoy sections first however." Usze suggested without lapse.

"Unacceptable." She answered swiftly. "That only buys us minutes."

Usze tilted his head at her aggressively. "Then what would you have us do? Let our remaining fusion cores run themselves out and then plunge?"

"In a manner of speaking yes. It's an inevitability." The Spec Ops Elite was flabbergasted as a visual on the remaining time on the reactors was displayed. No time at all. "Flying is, of course, a form of falling Major Tahamee. We shall fall graceful as possible then! Transfer power to auxiliaries."

"You're giving up?" Usze thought her mad. "If we hit the planet, we'll dig the ship right into the crust!"

She shook her head at Usze's ignorance. "We cannot dictate our circumstances, only our reactions." She said simply, going through her unsaid plans as control panel by control panel she flipped through. More systems than her cruiser, but then again, A Long Night of Solace was over twenty times the size of her CCS-Class Battlecruiser.

Usze was young. Among the youngest of the Special Operations in all of the Covenant. His brashness resonated as he raised his tone, stepping and leaning in toward the Shipmistress with the intent to disrupt. On a normal day Usze would've been struck across the face, stripped of rank and standing because of it. These were extra ordinary times however, and even Karonee knew that.

"We have several million souls onboard." He pleaded, he reminded. As was the troop capacity of a CSO-Class. It was not a ship meant to invade planets. It was meant to invade galactic empires. A million of each of the Covenant member races came aboard A Long Night of Solace to invade that human planet Reach. Families, entire blood lines, nations and clans. Their survival was more than tactical. It was necessary to the sanity of those onboard.

She paused, looked him in the eye. All he got was a scowl. "Shut down the reactors. Let us fall."

"What?!" Usze yelled aloud.

Karonee was not hesitant in her orders. "This ship has survived war and the darkness of space. It shall survive impact with the planet if we use the troop transporters to soften the descent."

"And what of us?!"

"Move everyone you can to the upper decks. If not that, then have them jettison by any means. Fighters, Phantoms, Spirits, even escape pods."

"This is madness, we have to recollect and coordinate damage control while we're still-"

"Major" Karonee had reached out and grabbed the shoulders of Usze's harness, staying his thoughts and keeping his jaws closed. "You are the only remaining officer from the Spec Ops Corps left on this ship. Everyone else was either in the cut off sections or deployed on the planet. You are responsible to save the lives of your unit and their associates as best you can. If you wish to coordinate a response, coordinate the evacuation. That's an order."

Usze's pupils expanded, breath lost, a world put on him. "I'm the only one left?"

"Yes. Now go. They're relying on you. I will not have someone questioning my decisions in this time."

To be given responsibility of your own was a way to distract from the responsibilities of other people. Was Usze Tahamee the last Spec Ops officer on board? Probably not, Shipmistress Karonee had rationally thought. Still, he was the only one with the head to try and find a command structure and take hold of the situation, and if that was the case, he might've well been the only one.

Dealing with an evacuation of the lower decks wasn't particularly in the purview of his training, his talents as a Spec Ops Commando, but he had his orders as he passed along the messages, making way down the labyrinth of the Solace. The whole of the CSO-class had been bigger than the moon over the planet of his birth, and when it was filled for the sake of war, it carried more people than Sangheili could breed over a generation, but he carried the words of the Shipmistress, and no one argued as the rush up was had.

The giant vehicle platforms for the armored divisions had been moving at a brisk pace, it having brought along not only the Wraiths and Ghosts by the hundreds, but also the crew complement who were evacuating. The sound in that cavernous room was eerie, chaotic. The only other time it had gotten to this activity level is if troops were being recalled before a glassing of a planet was had. Then again, no CSO-Class ship in the Covenant had ever been destroyed in combat, and the procedure and response were less than practiced.

The Mgalekgolo hadn't been particularly happy at having their entire colony within the ship moving at once, but they didn't have a choice. That was how kindly Usze put it as the Hunter let out what counted as a grunt and took off with its bond brother. In that vehicle bay Usze had his hands full, and the Unggoy in all of their panicking hadn't helped. The Kig-Yar seemed just about ready to start salvaging their own ships and the Brutes about to tear them apart for it. At least the Scarabs had a way of moving the crowds along as the emergency sirens continued to emanate.

"This is the last one?" Usze asked the Sangheili Major in charge of the vehicle bay.

He nodded. "All Scarabs are accounted for and moved toward the upper levels. We're trying to save as much as we can but we're running out of space."

Usze nodded urgently, reassuring the Deck Chief. "Don't worry about the vehicles, the lives of our men take upmost importance."

"Even the Unggoy?" The Deck Chief snickered, allowing himself one moment of snark in a place that threatened to give away and let them be victim to space and gravity any moment now.

"As is the word of the Shipmistress."

The Deck Chief snorted. "You don't seem like you agree." He caught Usze's scorn in it.

The buzz of the Yanme'e swarm above evacuating had drowned out any response Usze could've given back, so all he did was nod and move off.

It had helped that the lower levels had played host to most of the hangar decks, final preparations being made to jettison off the entire fleet of shuttles and transports to temporarily hold onto gear and personnel as Solace fell. Most of the Banshee and Seraphs had been lost in the Slipspace rupture that took the command and engine sections with it, but some remained in the hangar decks here for repairs.

Deeper still the Solace went, and deeper still Usze would go.

In one door way a mess of debris had clogged up any way into it, but as the space emptied out Usze had heard the ringing, the howling, almost having just run past it and disregarded it. The compassion of Elites was not understated in terms of battle, but empathy as the humans understood it? A weakness in some regards, but Usze had weaknesses as any living being did. When he heard the screams, the cries for help, he abided. Lighting the energy daggers in his suit's gauntlets he started chopping through metal.

They were touching atmosphere now and the Solace was not happy with it as pieces along the bottom deck began dropping off according to the readings, taken by gravity and the extra strain of the energy couplings coursing through the hull and putting that stress on them. It'd been a scant thirty minutes since Usze had left, and it felt as if nothing at all.

The Solace had been dipping down for a while now, and the ships in the distance hadn't done much anything yet to talk among themselves. It wasn't a human frequency and code they were using, the Shipmistress noticed. She alone had any real time on a bridge of a capital ship during engagements with the humans, and thus she knew their codes and the breaking techniques. What had amazed her in her ten year career on the bridge of a ship as its Shipmistress, and ten years before that as an officer, she did not need to do the usual code breaking protocols to pierce the UNSC net.

Even the simplest colonies of man had ships and procedure in response to them.

Something was wrong, and it was said in the stars as she looked past the visuals of the ships.

There was not enough processing power to be redirected to astrometrics, though she had theory…

A theory in her head knocked off as Solace buckled again.

"We don't have much more power after this! I don't think we can keep the troop transporters or our repulsors!" A bridge crewman had cried out. Hopefully she had bought enough time for evacuations.

She had taken a kneel, holding her fists to the floor and steadying herself as she awaited the inevitable. The secondary bridge had been high enough to not get swallowed, however the shockwave would reverb throughout surely. "Let the transporters burn out. Brace for impact."

The hole in the floor was nothing he couldn't jump over, but the debris and clatter of bodies and steel had been more detrimental to his process. The hole, however, gave him pause to marvel at the below: he was still in space with beautiful blue below, clouds separating atmosphere from space. If he had been trader like his family's bloodline expected him to be, he might've held more regards to the arts and beauty. That wasn't how he turned out, however.

Usze hadn't known what to think of abandoning his family's roots of being traders among the Sangheili, however he had known he had made a better soldier for the Covenant than peddling raw materials back and forth among the clans.

It was a fact a motley collection of survivors who had been trapped behind steel and debris had appreciated to find that Usze had been their savior as he had come across that ship section's brig. No humans yet this campaign, only the unrulier Kig-Yar, and they had been pacified with the fact that the entire ship had been falling apart.

"Where's the warden? Usze had pulled aside some fallen paneling, unable to be reached by those stuck in the brig. The door had been jammed and the source of it had been out of reach by those trapped on the other side. In one heave the door had been opened and the dark interior of the brig was revealed, its cells already opened up and all the Covenant species within roaring to get out.

One of the Elite Minors charged with guard detail had answered, shuffling past Grunts trying to claw their way out as the way opened and Usze threw debris asides. "He was off duty when this mess happened. Me and the guards were the only ones left," he said urgently, but thankful as that sliding door was finally thrown open.

The dozens trapped had fled past Usze to higher ground. "What're the orders?"

"To evacuate to the upper levels and brace for impact."

"We're going down?!" The Elite Minor had seemed unbelieving.

Usze nodded solemnly. "The only thing we can do is get ourselves prepared."

"It's true then? We've been trapped here for two hours now, and we've lost contact with engineering and the bridge."

Decapitated and without their own ass, what the Elite had inquired was the polite way of saying such. The Kig-Yar had basically thrown themselves ahead of the Unggoy there as they clambered forward, making short work of the gap that Usze had passed over. The smaller squat creatures had no hope to make it.

Usze motioned for the Sangheili and Jiralhanae there to follow. "Orders are to preserve as many as we can." Even when he was speaking to save them the Unggoy had been skittish and fearful of any words that came out of Usze's mouth. His armor and position served him well for influence. The one that he picked up screamed loud before it was tossed across the gap. "Take one and assist."

Some of the Jiralhanae laughed. The Unggoy being their play things had made this not the first time they been thrown by the Jiralhanae. They wouldn't complain either way, not when they had been saved from the obstacle of a hole, running to safety.

The next few minutes were that of Grunts being thrown, and, barring one or two missed shots, all of them had made it over, and those independently capable of making it over had started to do so.

"Is this the last accessible point in this section?" Usze asked of the Sangheili there. They had all nodded in affirmative, making the leap over the hole. Usze had thought it prudent for one last run down before he had left, even with the words of the subordinates. If the Solace were to go down, this section would surely be drowned in water and rendered inaccessible. Several of the more confident Elites had stayed and waited for his return, but the several extra minutes that Usze had allotted to making sure no one was left behind would ensure that he was going to be one himself.

The ship groaned again as a great electronic breath was taken in by the Solace, felt in its corridors and vents, and then all at once: a heave like it was unwound. Everyone again on the ship had been thrown in some way upwards toward the ceilings, the g-forces of the final drop being taken from the Solace felt as metal screamed and those pieces of the ship already at hazard of simply falling off did so.

And with them had been anyone unlucky enough to be near them.

The hole in that hallway had widened and taken several of the Sangheili with it, and those that were lucky enough to find their footing again could only do this and scream at Usze further down that corridor:

"We have to go now!"

Those that dared had ran off to find him as the rest made their now even more perilous jump.

Regardless of if they were alien or not, hostile or peaceful, malevolent or otherwise, Shaw's ship had been close enough to the Solace on its way down to be able to garner a glimpse of how it fell. More tragically: how those who had fallen through gaps in the ship had fallen first through. To see hundreds of individuals fall planet side, burning on the way down through re-entry, it gave him pause in that chaos.

"Poor S-oh-Bs." His XO had given her comment quietly as the bridge burned the image of that giant wreck, the size of one of the Relays, fall into the planet.

It was violent and a disaster yet, but in the quiet of space, framed by their viewing screens and ports, it fell almost, almost-

"Softly." Shaw had said under his breath.

It took Usze double the time to get back as it had for him to leave, but that was understandable seeing as the ship was shaking itself apart as it fell. Internally he had damned the Shipmistress for now just sacrificing the Grunts and their relevant sections to keep power to repulsors and their makeshift gravity lifting.

As he hit the wall, balance unsteady, he had seen the Sangheili that had been so foolishly concerned with him down the hallway.

"Major!" They cried. He had waved them back down.


Dodging pieces of exposed wiring and coolant they knew what it had been like when the world was falling apart now, doing nothing to help them as the door to the safety of the path to the upper decks was seen in down a hall that now seemed too long to make it as the alarm klaxons burned themselves out in their incessant screeching.

The legs of a typical Sangheili had been strong, but not all were equal as they came to that hole at break neck speed and, for a split second before they were forced to make the running jump over, saw a planet that had been too close and the remaining external shields hold on for dear life against the re-entry forces.

It was a distraction too much for some as they stumbled, choked, and came up short to the hole, their heads or chests banging against the ledge as gravity dragged them out screaming.

A split second challenge that Usze would be the last to try as he tightened his fist and put as much strength into his calves as he could. A handful of Sangheili that had made it over looked back as one foot left the floor.

Usze held his breath and flew.

He didn't fly, but he threw himself.

When the top of his body hit the gap, his claws dug into steel. Below him: the planet, fast approaching.


The draw of gravity itself felt like Solace was gonna drag him down first to the planet if he let go, a death he wouldn't choose over battle. With one scream he had hauled himself up and over the ledge again.

"Just go! Run!" He waved out his arms as they all ran that same direction with such a sheer will to survive. The world was shaking apart and they were at its heel, however if they could just make it past the bulkhead, they would be shielded from impact relatively safe enough.

He ran. He ran as fast as he could, but he couldn't run faster than the Solace could fall.

The big crunch that encompassed his reality was like the big crunch that would've ended the universe, it buckled his feet, buckled the walls, and a million things broke at once as Usze hit the floor, only to be thrown up to the ceiling. He didn't know if he screamed, if he yelled in pain, but he willed himself onto his feet as the pain in his head numbed his hearing. He looked forward to the door.

They had made it!

"Major Tahamee!"

It had been becoming more and more likely that he wouldn't as the survivors looked to him and pointed behind him as the doors automatically shut on them.

It came as storms do, wet and heavy, without warning. It came through the floors though, not the roof. And if not the roof, the hallway itself as every battle Usze had fought in blazed through his memory as a wall of water came at him like a Ghost boosting through human cover. He was face to face with it and the only reason he hadn't been smashed and drowned was because of the same systems that kept the exposed sections of Solace with a breathable atmosphere:

A blue shield had kept the water walled off for him to make it to the door. Distinctly he felt the tilt of the ship as its motions slid into place, presumably onto the planet, sparks coming from the circuitry peppering his skin, his body hitting the door.

"Damn!" He said aloud, fist into the door once.

He knew what had happened. The ship's automatic response to a hull breach was to cordon the section, and he had been trapped behind it.

Suddenly the banging started from the other side. Those that made it banging on the door desperately.

The force of water was different than the emptiness of space. He heard the hissing, the seizing, the coming short circuit of the shield that blocked the tide from him. He didn't even have enough time to make peace with himself properly.

"Go! I am lost!"

"No, we're going to try to find a way around just hold o-!" He drowned out their pleading as he stepped in front of the door. If they tried to retrieve him, they would be met with death, for his sake, and no Sangheili would ever let that be the case. On his honor he knew what to do as he traced the creases of the door with his rifle.

He let the Plasma Rifle's caster weld the door shut, his back to it as he stared into the abyss past the shield. He heard the groan of nature come at him from beyond before the first waves piled ceaselessly into that hallway, straining the shield more and more as its blue turned to pink, then to red.

For Usze, he closed his eyes as the flood of ocean water came gushing at him and awaited his Great Journey.

The Perugia was still organizing the first of the Marine teams to touch down as Alpha had hit the water at a velocity that was preferable by all parties, which is to say it didn't hit the water hard enough to erupt something in the planet's crust.

The Alliance had never observed an object of this mass hit the planet in any capacity, they also, certainly, had never seen an object at all make the descent it could. Whoever was the captain, or whatever staff that was left in control of it, they would be commended for their efforts. The ocean around it had evacuated on a massive scale, only to rush immediately back in as Alpha found the floor of that body of water. For as large as it was, it barely looked like it got its feet wet.

It didn't take long for all those flight capable contacts they had seen take off from it earlier reconvene on the top surface of it to deposit what they held within. Whoever these aliens were, they had training, had procedures, and as much of an emergency as this was, they knew how to deal with it to a measure by themselves. Escape pods had been picked up by shuttles of their own, thousands and thousands deposited into the sea as wreckage and debris kept falling and falling, impacting the waves like hail.

For the meanwhile all Shaw could do was look on and see it all unfold before him. Waiting was the worst part, as they said. The Perugia's systems rang out again. The blips on their sensor IFF had pinged that a new battlegroup had emerged out of the nearby relay.

"IFF flags as the Fifth Fleet… we're receiving hails from Admiral Hackett." One bridge operator reported.

"Put him on."

Shaw and Hackett had come from the academy, same class. They knew each other on an acquaintance level, by name, and had definitely known each other during the First Contact War, but Shaw had always known that Hackett would be far and away the one who would helm the Alliance at some point and not him. It was better that way. He enjoyed captaining a ship where crew and captain were more intimate by the degree of having less of a rank difference.

It was with that Hackett was all business as vid comms were opened up to Shaw's console and saw Hackett in his own captain's chair.

"Captain Shaw, any updates?"

He bit his lip. "That large debris designated Alpha has just touched down. We're monitoring seismic and ocean activity in response. Holding off on putting our teams down there until it passes."

Hackett nodded. "And Altis?"

"Nothing that the colony hasn't already prepped for. Storm shelters and above ground evacuation points on their buildings are all set and ready to go. Colony had a fair amount of people, but they should be good."

"That's good Captain. I'm assigning all troop and ground-based operations to you while I handle communications and organizations star bound."

"What's the prerogative then?"

"Minimize damage to the colony and secure any assets we have down there. After that once we make physical contact, we play it by ear."

"Just keep the Council off my ass Admiral. I don't need no Turians coming in behind us."

"We'll try. Hackett out."

As the comm line was dropped another carrier appeared just behind the Fifth Fleet as they all made their way to orbit around Altis.

"SSV Tesla is dropping in behind the Fifth Fleet." Shaw had been updated as to why the Tesla had been called. Gossip around the comm net had always been rife with high profile assets and where they were stationed. The carrier Tesla had carried one of the first N7 Operatives: a man who had been a pioneer and knew what First Contact was.

Shaw nodded fiercely. "Open up a line to Commander Ryder."

The Comm Chief nodded. "This is Perugia Actual hailing Commander Ryder via Captain Hynes."

"To my screen when it happens." Shaw had ordered. Moments later it had happened on his captain's console.

He was the physical manifestation of a raven, sleek black hair slicked back, eyes piercing, yet tired, his face covered by a greying, yet oddly trimmed beard. His face was sunken in as one does when facing nothing but the stars, and just a general murmur of his circumstances as of current from any who knew him gave anyone pause of empathy.

"You called for me Captain?"

"I have orders for you."

He raised an eyebrow. "I didn't think you had the clearance to dictate an N7 operative's orders."

"No, Commander, but I think this situation warrants your presence." Alec Ryder was a man many would be liable to mistake as having a stick up his ass. No. In truth it was the entire tree trunk. Shaw was right however as he stood his ground against the N7 on the view screen. "We need you down there, coordinating a forward response to this. Someone of your caliber can be trusted, correct?"

He nodded, but not without reservations. "Nothing a Marine Officer couldn't do Captain Shaw."

"If these were Turians, sure, but this is something out of our league."

Ryder had nodded roughly. "We were briefed by the Fifth Fleet coming in, but still, requesting an N7 might be out of touch for something as delicate as this."

The graduates of the Interplanetary Combatives Training program had been known as the N7s. Among its alums had been a who's who of human history in space and the First Contact War. Beaten by training, and cut into combat, the N7s were all heroes in some way shape or form, and the one that Shaw called upon one of the N7s that had first stepped through the Charon Relay what seemed like a lifetime ago.

He was a staunch man, slapped on the wrists for many a thing: most of all his questions into the artificial intelligences, but he hadn't been forced out of the Alliance yet, and Shaw knew him by name. Ryder's eyes wandered, corner of his mouth frowning. Every part of his being yearned for the thrill, the ability to be out there.

"Besides, I thought you were the N7 that was always big on being the first one out there, pioneering and all that."

There was another scowl, a twitch of his eye. Shaw was right. There was a reason he had already been in his armor.

The sensor chief in charge of tracking two humans that had made it planetside from the wrecks had appeared by Shaw, awaiting his attention.

Thankfully Ryder hadn't been too hard to get going. "Assign me some men and I'll have the First Response teams make First Contact by the book. If it comes down to fighting, I'll play hardball."

"You'll get what you need. Shaw out."

Only a second after Ryder's comms had gone out Shaw turned to the waiting staffer.

"We've been able get a reliable reading the two humans that came from this mess. We should be able to keep track of them until they're recovered."

"Right. Break the perimeter only when it relates to them. We need to secure them before they get lost in this mess. Task Ryder and a fireteam to it."

"Aye captain."

A digital representation of the wave kicked up was displayed, slowly eking its way toward the two humans.

Six's armor had weighed something of a ton on its own. She could only guess that she weighed like a small anchor, but it gave her little comfort as they saw the wall of water approach them as they hunkered in place, having seen A Long Night of Solace fall before them and hit water. They both took pleasure in seeing a Covenant ship fall surely, but none had ever seen one hit water, especially none this big. Hindsight was 20/20 however, and it wasn't surprising that a giant tsunami was coming at them from the displacement that the supercarrier offered.

She heard sputtering behind her, JD twitching and frantically looking around for some sort of cover. She had allowed herself for one second to question the man's mental capabilities, as if he hadn't been good with words, but she disparaged herself for even thinking like that. Death like this wasn't something anyone was expected to know how to face.

There had been a massive white rock deposited on the beach from some time in the past, obviously having not moved in centuries. It, perhaps, would not move for this: that wave less than a minute out.

"Hey! Follow my lead."

He nodded fiercely as he caught her gaze, running toward that same massive boulder, feeling for his battle belt's dispensation for metal rope ODSTs used to rappel. She had also the same equipment on her own battle belt, offering one end to JD.

"Hold." He did.

She ran around the boulder as fast as she could, the sound of roaring waves approaching as JD refused to look at it. When Six rounded once she took the rope end from JD and tied it secure around her waist, taking his own rope and doing the same to him. Bound by a rope, they were connected by hooks and knots as she motioned to her back. JD got the message, she facing toward the wave as she felt his arms wrap around her midsection and hold on tight.

If their suits had been spec'd for EVA work, their suits would be able to take similar underwater environments just as well. That's the best they could do as both JD and Six closed their eyes and held their breaths as the wet roar shadowed over them all and then crashed.

He didn't feel the wetness, thankfully, but he felt the pull, the pressure, the unimaginable push and pull of the thundering of waves come over them. It knocked him off his feet regardless of his own strength, Six becoming the pole as he became the flag in the aquatic wind.

Six herself, she weathered it well, her shields having no reason to break or her armor any reason to fail as she stood like a statue as the first wave came over them and the island, sinking them both underwater. Faintly in her ear she could hear JD grunting, his hands trying to claw into whatever handhold he could in her Mjolnir armor.

Today was never going to be an easy day, however. Not when, out of the blue of the ocean barreling towards her in the wave and current, was an Elite struggling to keep its composure in the tsunami, unable to see that he was going to ram into Six and JD. For all the talk of Elites being related to squids given their mouths, the last thought that ran by both of their minds was that, in some way, they were going to swim with the fishes.

The impact was hard enough to break her shields, and as they were carried with the current as the boulder, for all its size and weight, tipped over and did away with the tautness of Six's knot. Tied up in their odd three-man swim, kicked off of her anchor that was a rock, she never missed an opportunity to gut a vulnerable Elite as they flew through water.

Getting washed up on a distant beach wasn't even the end of their plight that day, Six and JD clawing their way through wet sand, the blood-stained knife of Six's staining the white sand. She'd been busy underwater gutting any Covenant that drifted anywhere near her and JD, and it had been a fair bit. When the Ardent Prayer went down it spewed out all of its surviving crew into the water. As the currents came and went, depositing the two soldiers on the beach, it carried the crew of the Ardent Prayer as well, washed up by the dozen on that beach head as Six and JD had their bearings returned to them, their rifles and weapons magnetized to their pack and armor, still there, and in their hands as they took hold of their situation.

Like seaweed on any other ill managed beach, the debris on the one they were on was numerous, mostly organic, and coming to same as them as they stood on wet ground and saw how outnumbered they truly were as the sky continued to fall around them.

The coughing and hacking of the Elites and Brutes that hadn't drowned filled the air as they came back to life, sprawled out in the sand as they looked up and saw two humans standing over them all. A few dozen to two, and the warrior instinct of the Elites and Brutes came back to them before Six and JD could fully process what kind of shit show they'd just been thrown in.

Two grenades had been in Six's hands before JD could react, raising his M7 at the closest Elite, hacking up water and sand from its throat. Six had smacked the bore down however, lobbing two grenades into the biggest clump of targets. "Run!"

A Brute howled out at the two standing humans, only to get drowned out by the explosions of frag grenades picking Covenant apart, those two humans dashing for the tree line just barely before the plasma and spike rifle fire started again in a slow but building pace.

The grenade explosions had sent bodies flying as plasma grenades caught in the blast also ignited in a chain reaction, exploding up and down the beach and painting the sands purple and dark red.

Too many, however. Too many to properly engage with what ammo they had. Too in over their head as the ghostly sound of a Covenant Phantom blew over their head, the mechanical sound of its turret tracking the tree line. Their eyes had looked up at it: revealing the background that a bright blue sky did nothing to hide.

This ship was intended to invade Reach. Now what remained of it would come down to this planet, only two soldiers left to face them down as far as they were concerned.

The very wave that brought them here and spread remains of the Pelican with them, including their weapon cases: one of them hung in the trees above Six. She had rattled the trunk hard as it collapsed onto the ground, a ranger green mass of metal and electronics come pouring out. It was in her hands and over her shoulders before Six ID'd what it was.

"Bound and cover after this! We'll keep pulling back until overrun!"

JD nodded, and that was enough for Six as she aimed through her VISR with the weapon on her shoulder, a thin red laser coming out of its bore right through the very cockpit section of the Phantom. The low delay, the sound of JD opening fire with his silenced SMG, what kicked off their supposed final fight was the roar of a red laser erupting from the weapon, right through the head of the Phantom.

Another Covenant ship had hit the waters that day in a crash, and it wouldn't be the last as the jungle around them danced with enemy fire directed at them.

"Go!" Six had yelled at him. He had dashed off directly straight, ignoring the Phantoms flying above them obviously going to try and flank. He found his cover in the form of a raised sandy mound.

He hadn't enjoyed using his voice in combat that much. He was either usually alone or had enough other ODSTs to never necessitate communication from him. All he did was listen to orders and carry them out. His voice was getting tired because of it, but he wouldn't stand on his personal preferences in a firefight. "Set!"

She had come to him faster than he thought possible, the speed of her run betraying his own eyes as she made the same run from the beach in a third of the time he had. The Spartan Laser had been dropped in the dash close enough, but it didn't come with her as she made it to cover with him.

She had jumped over and onto her back, throwing the empty magazine of her AR into the forest away from them and slamming in a new one, charging handle slapped mercilessly. Overhead they heard the sound of Phantoms and Spirits, but they had done much to disguise the sound of other shuttles: blue and white painted ones that had blazed over them all to overview the area.

They drew air into their lungs as their VISRs went alight, red silhouettes by the dozens past the tree line. More than they could take on and expect to survive. Despite this JD had reloaded his SMG, peering down the gun's short-range scope and steeling himself. Six heard his teeth grit behind his visor. He was an ODST alright, Six had considered for a moment. Quieter than most, but an ODST.

He didn't need to die here.

JD felt a gloved fist rock against his shoulder, taking a glance at Six.

"Keep going, try to find an exfil or a way to get some help." He opened his palm toward her, tilting his head sharply. "Don't worry about me, I'm expendable anyway."

He hadn't known why he did it, but he had grabbed her forearm urgently, a blue tac pad welded onto a bracer beneath his finger tips as he touched. A dozen different messages: Don't go. It's not worth it. You're gonna get killed.

"I'll be fine."

What her move had been had surprised JD as she, about to pounce over, faded into a see-through glimmer: to the inattentive she was invisible. He had seen this once from the intelligence footage. Only the most spookish of ONI agents had access to this kind of technology, derived from the Covenant's active camouflage used to get the jump on grunts such as him. To see a Spartan use it was… disconcerting.

The impressions left in the dirt had revealed she had moved out of their cover, leaving the ODST alone as he held his breath and fought with himself, taking off against his better instincts into that seemingly endless jungle.

It didn't take more than one look back to decide he had made the wrong decision to run.

Admiral Hackett had been no stranger to situations that would throw history on its head. The only reason why he had known that was the case here was because he felt that same pit in his stomach as the first time his ship had arrived over Shanxi during the Turian invasion. Nothing could really prepare him for an unidentified alien species getting caught up in what was clearly a ship bound catastrophe, having to face planetfall on their own.

What only heightened the danger was the fact that hundreds of contacts that had emerged from Object Alpha had followed it down and started deploying on top of the ship. Any of them there could see that the aliens were running their own search and rescue op, but they were too distracted by the fact that, from orbit, visual scans had very much confirmed that these aliens had been something no one before had seen. Not only one type, but at least a handful. Furry bipedal beasts, predator like aliens with their jaws split in two like squids, short, squat servants seemingly with contraptions around their harnesses leading to their mouths… Too many to comprehend, too many to know. Never in the galaxy's history had this many new species been contacted at once.

"We've discovered a coalition perhaps, Admiral." The SSV Kilimanjaro had been one of the Alliance's handful of Dreadnoughts as allotted by the Citadel, and as that, it was Hackett's flagship, heading the Fifth Fleet. It brought along a substantial part of that fleet that had just split off from a Turian fleet regarding defense exercises, and, it was needed. The Kilimanjaro, though a dreadnought and the largest ship in the Alliance fleet, was still out sized by Alpha by a measure of at least a hundred and fifty time by almost every metric.

The observation came from a deep voice. The flow of a Londoner, but an American accent. It was an eloquent voice from a sturdy man. Hackett turned around to the dark-skinned man. "Is that so Captain Anderson?"

They knew each other by name before the exercises, but they had established a more amicable relationship given plans in the future. Plans that were to be put in motion no more than two weeks in the future.

He nodded in his blue officer uniform, his face pitted from age and combat. They were both veterans of the last first contact war.

"Turians and the Volus, Salarians and the Krogan, the entire Council and the Citadel itself. It would not be wrong to assume that several species we haven't discovered yet have already formed their own pacts without our intervention. It's only natural. And here we are on what looks likely to be the worst day of their lives."

Maybe such a union would explain the might of that debris and what it implied. Only via cooperation would anyone be able to make something so great.

Anderson stirred, thinking more why than what. "Do you think this is all of them? That they're like the Quarians? A space nomadic species without a home planet... Why else would they have something this massive?"

Hackett held a finger to his chin, looking over the tactical map displayed on one of the bigger screens of the Kilimanjaro's bridge. The Kodiaks from all the Marine divisions had been about to make landings and establish operating bases, the perimeter soon to be made. "I'm more concerned if this is a warship or not. And based on some of the battle scoring on the debris still in orbit, I suspect it is so."

Anderson tightened his jaw. "If I just survived my ship crashing, I wouldn't be too welcoming on a massive number of unknown shuttles coming overhead."

"That means we'd have to signal intent."

The wish they had more time, that they could've come across these individuals in different circumstances, it floated between every human there. But there wasn't fear, not that many years after they had been introduced to the galactic community. There was caution, aversion, yes, but not fear just with meeting a new species. Where the fear came from was what same unknown that once perpetrated the Turians in the first battles with them.

There was a procedure, and the Council would have to be alerted. Any questions or real diplomatic attempt made by a specialized crew or figurehead that were trained to be envoys to the different xeno cultures would have to be put on the wayside as the Systems Alliance Navy was on deck.

"Let's make the call. Comm chief, transmit on all frequencies, and send off a standby to the Council."

"As if they would speak any language we know." Anderson had been more than wise to say.

Hackett had given the admiral version of a shrug as he nodded. "No but it's more for the record, for us, than them. Everything else comes later with diplomats on the ground."

The comm chief had made the necessary arrangements, opening up the transmission to all frequencies that could be possibly used by any communication device. "Aye sir. On your go."

Every ship captain who had patrolled the Attican Traverse had been briefed with a package and a script that they would deliver to any new space faring species they would potentially come across in the natural course of events of a patrol that went off the beaten path. It was a good package too, analogous to the famous Golden Record that had set off into the universe at large out into the interstellar medium. This was not the time to transmit that however, and, as they would soon discover, it would not be needed. Not when the Covenant was already so familiar with a human species that the context of a first contact package was made obsolete, and actually a security concern. Not when First Contact was imbued in the midst of a tragedy.

So, Hackett improvised.

"This is Admiral Steven Hackett of the Systems Alliance, representative body of the Human Race. On behalf of humanity, we will offer any assistance we can to you given the circumstances in the hopes of peaceful and productive diplomatic communications between our people. We are deploying shuttles to you now to assist in your relief efforts if allowed and will be waiting for your response. Be warned that any hostilities will be answered with an appropriate amount of force. We are capable of defending ourselves in the case of hostilities, however humanity hopes that it will not come to that. If you can understand and have received our message, broadcast on any open frequency. We will eagerly await your response. This message shall repeat."

There was a tilt to the secondary bridge of A Long Night of Solace, but at least it hadn't been on fire or, otherwise, vaporized with all of its occupants. Rudimentary power had still been on even to pick up and broadcast that human voice through the bridge. Some of the crew had a few bruises here or there, but they survived. That meant there was still a command structure to follow and a common structure to give orders out to.

"… Do? Do these humans not know who we are?" A lone voice from one of the Sangheili.

"I want all of transports ferrying men to deposit them on top of the ship and start damage control and-" Shipmistress Karonee heard the whisperings of the crew. The thought had always been on her mind, but who they were weren't as important as what they were doing as hundreds of shuttles were launched from their ships, the voice of a human male warning them of it. "It is a possibility."

"But how?! We've been at war with them for nearly thirty years! Surely you jest."

Karonee narrowed her eyes at the waveform of the message on one of her remaining screens, running it back as the message continued to transmit.

"This is Admiral Steven Hackett of the Systems Alliance , representative body of the Human Race ."

She was not an old Elite. She had found herself in service a decade after the crusade had begun, and by that time she had heard of the human's diplomatic attempts to achieve a communication with their Covenant. It was heretical to even answer back, and eventually their "UNSC" had learned to not even bother. Now however, for it to be attempted again, with a name she'd never heard before "Systems Alliance", it gave her pause to consider a course of action. It came to her quickly.

"Form a perimeter, but do not press the attack. Something's wrong here and engaging with an enemy who has superiority in orbit will not get us out of here alive. Make it clear that we will not be condescended upon."

"The humans are deploying forces quick though, they might've already gotten the drop on survivors already blown out of our effective range!"

She tsked. "I'm not saying to not shoot back. We just have to choose our battles."

With one swipe of her hands A Long Night of Solace got her orders, and the war machine roared back to life.

The Marine fireteam of Jaeger 3-2 had flown over the small island which had been unusually alight with activity. The report of gunfire and explosions coming from it drawing notice from the Marines. With one flight over the onboard sensors of the Kodiak saw the reason why.

"TACOM this is Jaeger 3-2 we've got hostilities confirmed. We have eyes on two humanoids and a feck all bunch of aliens. They are engaged in active combat."

"Do you have an ID on the makeup of the hostiles?"

"Negative TACOM. They match no species in Citadel space, I repeat, they do not match any known species."

A silence had come across the bridges of the 5th Fleet. The flagship of the 5th, the one which Hackett himself personally came on, was quiet in preparation for the Admiral to make do with that information. That this simple day of escalation upon escalation surmounted in yet another day of history for the galaxy. He nodded over to the tactical command on the bridge, a stern look in his eye.

"Lock down the system. No one in or out until Admiralty says otherwise. We are in First Contact."

And humanity used to think that the stars were dead…

The TACOM chief nodded as the entire crew of the bridge shifted priorities and remembered their training, their own history: a First Contact War had happened once before, and here they were not to make the mistake again. The Turians had taught them better.

"Roger that Jaeger 3-2. This is Perugia Actual to all combat units this net, do not engage unless fired upon. This is a first contact situation. I repeat, first contact protocols are a-go, first contact ROE is in effect."

Hackett heard the radio chatter take up all the sound in the room: of a war room gone to war. He turned over to Anderson. "Suit up. You have command of Tesla's Marines, I want a GHQ set up in the colony ASAP. I've have a feeling we're going to need to have a place on planet to contain this all."

Anderson had been skeptical of Hackett's immediate military pull: to start landing on planet and setting up for a prolonged operation as if they had been the ones invading Shanxi, but his doubts had been washed away as the sound of panic and screams came from the comms.

Flying over the mass of Alpha, Alliance shuttles saw the top deck of it gleamed with an off white, purple hued metal, the spinal section of it a dark mess of superstructure that, when the pilots looked closer, saw the scattering of the aliens below and all of the equipment that they had dredged up. Too late did they realize that AA emplacements were being set up.

"What?! Incoming fire! Evasive maneuvers!"

In another lifetime, in another time and place, in another story and reality, the Systems Alliance might've known the wrath of the Covenant at full bore just as the UNSC did, and in that they might've tasted what genocide really was at a galactic level. The galactic genocide that would come for all of them, however, was not that one. But there, on a barely colonized planet, a blue gem amongst the stars, the Systems Alliance got a taste of what that war might've been.

Plasma Fire scorched the skies as the shuttles all took evasive maneuvers finding their way down, some shots hitting home, sending the unlucky few hurtling downwards as enemy fire touched upon them all.

Fire erupted from the pockets of survivors who had been thrown from the wreckage and saw only unfamiliar shuttles come down upon them, fire erupted from the remaining weapon stations of Alpha, from handheld rifles and entrenched ship to ship cannons, Alpha had come down upon a lagoon, and so most of it remained above water.

The taste of the Human-Covenant War that came as Alliance Marines hit the deck and started deploying to forward operation bases to contain these new arrivals was a taste unlike anything they'd ever encountered. Overwhelming, unknown, a near dozen new alien species seen for the first time in that galaxy, and all of them coming to fight against them.

And with them all: a man and woman who knew how to fight them all.

On her stomach she had scurried back into the foliage toward the Covenant, her active camouflage shimmering until she settled herself at the base of a tree, eyes glued to her motion tracker, 25-meter radii around her. A dozen different contacts of Covenant, still wet and heavy and confused, but having a bearing: her death. Several meter spread between each of them. Grunts, Elites, Jackals, the occasional Brute interlaced. Spreading and searching with weapons in hands as they all used their primal senses to snap at the air and try to pick up any whiff of her.

A Grunt cried out as they came parallel to her, unseeing her from the corner of their eyes with her being actively camouflaged and still. The Grunt pointed out at the mound that she and JD took cover behind, rushing up proudly with a Plasma Pistol drawn, leading the pack to it and peering over, seeing their imprints.

They spoke in their alien language, knowing that they had just been missed, rallying on that mount and looking at the direction JD had gone. She was closer than they had anticipated though, especially as she slowly raised herself and decloaked, finding the spine of a Brute presented to her a few steps away. Her knife did the rest of the work as the Brute howled before being silenced, the Brute Shot grenade launcher it carried swiped away by Six as it fell. As the rest of the group turned it was too late. Shrapnel and high explosive fragmentation had been laid at their feet as they were burned away in fire and grenades, bodies flying as one Elite tried to charge her, only for her to bring the rear of the weapon to bear and swipe it across the neck of the Elite.

There wasn't much left after that as Spartan Time kicked in again for Six, hearing the discharge of a Plasma Pistol fly toward her. She dived back behind the cover, her Assault Rifle in her hands again as she heard sand and dirt turn to glass from the miss. More had been coming, and a Grunt was on point this time. Unluckily for it she had pointed out its orange armor from the foliage, opening up in a burst of fire before again pushing forward, the Grunt crying out as its methane tank was pierced, only to have its head drilled through by bullet.

She was a wolf in her environment, turning back on her active camouflage module attached to her armor and seeing the enemy falsely fire where she had been. It gave her enough time to set up for another shot as a pack of Jackals pushed, their shields pushing back foliage. It was a process that repeated itself over the next sparse few minutes, she getting shots where she could, not staying her feet. The bodies had piled up, her blade wetted with red and purples, casings piling along the ground as she lost herself in combat. Lost herself in her instincts given to her by the Spartan Program. To kill Covenant was what she was made to do and that's what she did as she returned to coherence sometime later: an Elite trying to find better cover, having lost track of her in the combat.

Her HUD blinked red, ammo indicators showing that what she had was low. That was why her AR had been in her non-dominant hand and she felt the momentum of a run toward the Elite. She saw no reason to deviate as she felt the warm shocks of plasma rounds bouncing off her.

She had ran into the Elite, her shields glittering, and like a monkey raised herself onto its back and neck only to let her knife dig deep and out. She was in her element, five feet apart from an enemy. It brews chaos and she lived in it, and she trusted JD to find a way out or, at least, some help.

Until then she could keep herself busy, her boot over a Brute's back and, for good measure, breaking its spine. She'd done this so much it was second nature to her.

The pride in her work was something that she alone had among the Spartans. Where others saw it as a burden placed on them by circumstance, she saw it as something integral to her, and she stood there over the dead and appreciated her work. The ONI censors had in her file contemplated whether or not, if she was allowed back into a civilian life, she would've been able to conform: to exist without finding trouble and then brutalizing it. The decision that it was best to send her on ops to kill her was enough, and although Six hadn't known of this prerogative by ONI whenever they had hands on with her, she lived for it. Her arrogance would've killed her as a surviving Elite peered out of cover and opened fire.

The plasma shots bounced off her shields as she picked up her Assault Rifle again, slamming in a new mag, bringing it to bear at the walking silver Elite, breaking its shields as she dumped the mag into it, bullets breaking into its torso and through its neck as it fell.

The sound of an Energy Sword popping behind her filled her ears. She immediately threw her shoulder toward the sound, finding the hard body of an Elite and breaking its shields as she heard the sound of flesh on metal, then threw it to the ground: It was JD, having taken the Elite by its midsection and on its back. His pistol came out and put a bullet in its head while it was on the ground.

Plasma shots again from the tree line, hitting Six and her quickly weakening shields as JD took cover behind her, only to emerge and unload toward the source of fire as Six reloaded her AR. Another flurry of blue plasma flew over their heads, Six going to return fire when JD could not. Together two bodies of Elites slumped out of their cover, but more remained.

They were more than willing to oblige.

Usze hadn't remembered the last time he had been immersed. His kind, once, given their evolution, was paired with the ancient seas of Sanghelios, rough waters and seafaring being once, at a point in their ancient history, one bound by waves and storms. Usze wasn't a part of that generation however as he had scrambled for air and to get the damnable salty taste of grit and sand out of his mouth as his body found itself drawn to a beach.

Breath was never so sweet, and the Great Journey eluded him this day as the waters had carried him, miraculously, from A Long Night of Solace and outwards toward a beach. He had scanned left and right and forward, bodies, not drowned. They had been killed by gunfire and explosives. His waterlogged senses returned to him as he damned fate that there had been no cover, but as he took his bearing, he realized that this was only what was left in the wake of a different storm.

His ear canals were cleared with a smack to his head, his rifle held at his hip as he heard the drone of Phantoms and Spirits above. The evacuation efforts had gone well apparently, looking back he had been presented with a site he had never thought he'd be alive to see:

A CSO-Class carrier downed seemingly kilometers away. A monument to the transgressions of the heretical humans.

His claws closed in a fist as he realized that there were more survivors around him, in fact, there had been troops staring down the forest and looking into it as he realized what he was hearing in the distance: gunfire.

Around him dozens of his brothers, spiting up water, and eventually rising as Unggoy and Kig-Yar accrued around them naturally.

"What is this fighting?" Usze asked urgently, turning over other Elites and checking them for wounds. It'd be a shame if they bled from planetfall, for the battle was ahead of them.

"A Demon and her Imp!" One of the Unggoy Minors had scratched out.

"A Demon?! Here?!" Phantoms and Spirits had found them at that beach, troops slowly being deposited and reconvening, ready for a fight.

The Spartans were known by very little other names by the Covenant. The iron clad monsters of man that alone were able to challenge the Covenant. How many of his brothers had been killed because of them? Lives lost, missions failed, the rug slid out from under them because of the Demons. As they had learned from their time over that human world of Reach, apparently it had been their home, for the Demons they encountered there had fought far more horrifically, far worse than any time in the past they had been encountered.

He felt the wetness of cold steel in his grip, his sword unhooked from his armor.

He had waited all his life for this.

The way flesh sizzled after being exposed to a plasma bolt was something JD never had to see until he held down a Plasma Pistol's charge and held it to the face of a Jackal, basically melting its face off as he used his other hand to melt a group of grunts with his SMG.

A loud crunch, the crack, of a Jiralhanae skull being split in two by the jaw was provided by Six as she had a boot down the Brute's mouth and two Spikers in her hand, peppering the fire around them as they both clicked empty.

JD had dropped his SMG entirely as Six picked him up and threw him behind cover, the danger being a plasma grenade he hadn't seen. Their world was an ever-encompassing jungle with the occasional alien trespasser, and it both ran them ragged as the mere seconds of combat lull allowed them time to give them heavy breaths.

"You good?!" She raggedly said, both on their back in that decline that provided them cover in that jungle. All he did was cock his pistol in response, peering up and over and getting a bolt from a needle rifle ricochet in front of him for his efforts.

She was good with her hands, her knife, the tools that didn't require gunpowder and a rifle. She'd forgotten when the weapon in her hand was only left as a knife and her instincts took over, going from Covenant to Covenant in the brush and slitting throats, arteries, and tearing ribbons into flesh. She was in her element and, if it hadn't been for the property of her shields sizzling away any foreign organic matter, she would've been coated in blood.

JD on the other hand had been more pragmatic as he peaked again, emptying his pistol mag as he heard a Brute cry out in pain in the forest, the magazine dropped a reloaded with one of his few spare. As he did Six had shuffled over, grabbing his belt only to replace the empty pistol magazine holders with her own stock of pistol ammo. He needed it more than her.

His VISR silhouetted what it could, but a firing line was forming, and their backs were against the wall: the sheer cliff behind them and the Covenant to their front. Still if they were going to kick the bucket it'd be in this traditional way and not done in by FTL fuckery.

A plasma bolt had bit through JD's torso and armor, he getting knocked down back into cover as he handed the pistol back to Six in pain. She took it firing precisely back at the rampant fire above them as he regained his breath, the burn of the shot settling. Anything to distract himself he realized. He looked up to her. Words could distract him from the pain as he dropped his pack with a quick release, fumbling for his biofoam dispenser and smearing his palm, reaching that palm through the layers of BDU and armor to smear where it burned.

Thankfully his armor was designed to cut down on the heat, the energy of a plasma bolt hitting dead center. It dissipated throughout but it hurt like hell. If more shots had hit him, it'd have been over, but he was lucky then.

"So, is it true?" When he spoke Six flinched for only a second, not expecting him to talk.

"What?" She asked back, an Elite trying to step forward from its foliage cover only to have five shots emptied into it, ending its life. His breaths were rapid, grunting through the pain.

"Spartans never die?"

Two Needler rounds stuck to her shield barrier, fragmenting as her entire form flared golden, ducking back down and handing off the pistol back JD, his breathing normalized.

"I didn't." She snapped back quietly, reminding them, for a small moment, of the mission that brought them here.

The slide on the pistol was locked back as he felt for another mag, thankfully there was one. What ammo he did have however wouldn't last him long, and if he were to make a play toward a dropped weapon, he might've just shot himself.

"Not so fast." He pushed underneath his breath, looking over cover again for his SMG. He still had ammo for it and damned if he didn't want it back.

Six was already on it as two radically different grenades were in her hands. She'd been using a Brute Spike Grenade as a club for the last few minutes to ample effect based on how… wet its head had been. Its time was up however as she had hooked a frag grenade onto its spikes and thrown it out into the crowd.

The way hot metal and the sheer irony of Brutes getting torn up by their own weapons was always a pleasure to see by any UNSC infantryman, but it was a sight that they could not have as the return intensified as debris from the amplified blast rained back on them.

A chunk of debris had landed on JD's head, the man panicking for a moment before realizing what it was: a Plasma Pistol.

He popped the cover to the heating coils, checking to see if it was still good. Ready to good it was in his hands, Six patting his shoulder once before pointing to his battle belt and two containers that gleamed of orange. He knew what to do immediately.

Their lack of verbal communication, and yet abundance of communication, spoke to something inherent to both of them. Either by training or by torture via this war, they spoke a language of actions, not words. No words could be spared as a gleaming silver Elite broke through the tree line, its face bleeding from the shrapnel of the Brute Spike Grenade. An energy sword in its hand had been alive and ready for the blood of men. Still the two troopers in question charged out and over as JD had held the trigger of his Plasma Pistol.

The charged plasma bolt flew, hitting the silver Elite, sparks flying as its shields dissipated. Six had made the dash for it as JD appeared up from his cover and squared his feet, aiming not with his smart link, but his eyes. The three shots rang out and its helmet was pierced, plasma bolts tracking Six as she had taken the limp Elite's body on its way down and used it as a meat shield, her hands gripping the handle of the energy sword.

JD had dashed up as fire was drawn on Six, going to his belt, feeling for two lukewarm cylinders of napalm like fluid he had taken from a Brute minutes ago. Brute Incendiary Grenades were always volatile, dangerous to use, but dangerous was what they needed and dangerous was what he was going to do as he ran to the forest with one grenade in hand and the other around his pistol. He was lobbing this one deep, running right back to the tree line.

It would've been the end of him as the glass breaking sound of another energy sword popping was heard right in front of him, the hand that lit it just held out and ready for JD to throw himself upon it. JD's momentum was too strong, too fast. Six was faster on the draw however as another energy sword was thrown at it, knocking it out of JD's way as he fell onto his ass.

"Light it JD!" Six had screamed out as he saw fully who had almost killed him: a crimson armored Elite. He had gotten back on his feet as he littered said Elite with shots from his pistol, throwing the firebomb into the forest, backing up until Six had tapped his shoulder, throwing the remaining firebomb.

The fire was fast, napalm, or whatever equivalent that the Covenant had created, did wonders on the ample amount of foliage offered there. The fire started fast, started hard, and with the way the more alien shapes had danced around it had quickly spread to those who had used that same trees for cover. Six had recovered a Plasma Rifle as she and JD cautiously backed up from the tree line, snapping to their right when a figure on fire emerged from it: They felt sorry for the Brutes and their naturally furry bodies. It meant the worst for them as they burned, and the pair wasn't willing to waste ammo on mercy.

One by one Covenant had burst from the tree line, on fire, no threat, shields being broken and flesh sizzling. Still despite this enemy fire had broken through the flame, causing the ODST and Spartan to take a knee and minimize their forms, firing back through the flames. For two with their backs against the walls they had managed okay.

One Elite had the mettle to break through their efforts however: like an acrobat it had leapt through the flames and diving right in front of the pair too fast for any of them to react appropriately.

It was the same Crimson Elite.

Six was quick on the draw, her knife out, going down to stab the Elite before it took to its feet again, but it anticipated this. A quick slash of its sword came too close to her midsection as JD moved around and forward, making sure no other enemy capitalized on the Elite's push.

The fire had only intensified as JD's hand found his M7 on the ground, scooping it, taking a knee and firing through the kicked-up flames. Flesh was torn up by his rounds if they hadn't been scorched, leaves and wood catching fire as, for a moment, he allowed himself to look behind him. A round house kick from Six had been delivered to the Elite's jaw, but that was returned only in kind with an arm, smacked across her head.

Stumbling back Six had spit up on the inside of her helmet, feeling a tooth loose, but it was no matter, her knife changing hands, changing stance.

"Don't worry about me! Keep our 12 o'clock covered!" She spit out, barely coherent as the Elite stood on its two legs after slacking its jaw back straight, the Spartan and it rotating around themselves like gladiators in the pit.

Every piece of his body wanted to do otherwise, but he abided as he brought his M7S to the crook of his shoulder and kept firing into the flames and into bodies past that.

The sound of an energy sword being ignited behind him had made JD, with all his might, to turn around and look, but he kept his sector covered as he had used his feet to shove a Spiker into arm's reach.

There was something special to Six that had made her the way she was. Hyper Lethal was right. How she attained that however…

Spartans never die. They were made. Trained to fight dirty, to fight an unfair fight. Unusual tactics, sheer willpower and overwhelming strength. Every fight an asymmetric one, and, by all means possible, made by any form to be in the Spartan's favor. These were rules that Six had followed ever since she had donned that armor. She was capable of, horrifyingly though, something more.

Sangheili were a warrior race at their core. Evolution gifted them with lean, almost royally held bodies meant for warfare and combat. Predators from birth, and fluid and graceful with every step they took. There was a reason why they were called Elites by the UNSC: this one especially so as Six viewed through her visor, arms up and braced, yet hands open like claws.

Taller than her. Least by a foot, as per usual. A dark maroon, the color of blood... Covenant Spec Ops. She recognized them before on missions that took her to Covenant facilities where HVTs were common. It was the longest she had ever stared, eye to eye, with a Sangheili, this close. Usually, she had a shotgun or at least a gun to deal with the alien, but all she had was her knife.

The Elite lunged, sword out, aimed for Six's head as she peddled back, waiting for the Elite to stretch its reach out. It did not, however, too trained to let it be open for an attack like that as it also pulled back, stepping to the side and holding the blade horizontal and stepping forward again, slashing out.

She ducked underneath the swing, seizing the outstretched arm, and holding it over her back. A curled fist came into her midsection, but her free arm with its knife slashed down on the punching arm's skin, cutting through the Elite's under suit and drawing blood.

Rolling over and still in pain Six fell onto her back, dragging the Elite with her and throwing it over her back. Still, however, the sword would not be let go by it.

She had let go after she heard the Elite lose the breath in its lungs, trying to mount him with the intent to pummel. It would not let that be as its other hand lashed out with a wrist mounted energy dagger in his armor. Rolling over he had grabbed Six by her midsection, holding her up with one hand as its hand reached back, ready to stab through her with the sword.

Her legs reached up, kicking into the armor plates of his torso as it was sent back, she finding the ground again on her two feet. She did a quick glance around.

JD was still firing into the forest and keeping the rest at bay, her discarded, but still partially charged Spartan Laser a few feet away.

As she was turned away legs came to kick into her head again, sending her stumbling back as she felt her nose inundate with blood. She tasted the iron in her mouth as she used the tumble to track closer to the Spartan Laser. The vibrating, sizzling sound of the energy sword nearing her in a slash was heard as Spartan Time kicked in again, her body throwing itself away as she dived away from a slash, spinning on her heels again with her knife and fists out.

They rotated around each other, the Elite breathing hard in its combat state, both hands coming to grip the handle of the energy sword as he readied for a lunge, arms pulled back and next to its head. If the energy sword was horns, it was like a bull.

Naturally Six had charged first, surprising the Crimson Elite as it also charged the few meters between them. She was smaller than him, his sword angled down as they met in the middle. His size betrayed him as the natural curvature of his aim played into Six's duck, coming underneath his outstretched arms as he charged.

Her knife and arm came up, wedging into the palm of the Elite, fingers unraveling off the Energy Sword as she hooked it with the knife and threw it into the forest. In the flash of bloody pain, the Elite had closed its eyes, winced, and left itself open for Six to rise, bringing and uppercut to the Elite's head and putting him on his back.

Six thought the fight done with that as she retreated away to the Spartan Laser. For a moment, she thought of what name this Elite had. The Elites themselves knew of the basic English that had become UNSC standard just by pure battle pragmatics alone: being able to hear and read the enemy's callouts and captured intelligence, but if she guessed if she gave the Elite time to speak before it died it would probably just spout incoherent Sangheili curses at her.

She guessed wrong, however. Usze Tahamee might've very well died on his back by her hand, but he'd do it with dignity, and he'd go down fighting still. She scooped up the Spartan Laser as Usze raised himself up, winds barely recovered, but lost again as a block of weaponized metal and electronics slammed against his head and sent him back down.

The trigger was held through the swing to charge up the laser, Usze knocked onto his back as Six aimed the Spartan Laser right down onto him. His legs reached out with all their might and reach, weapon's aim off, the weight of his force sending it aimed right at the sky as it fired its shot out into the forever of space, and then back down into the forest as it landed on the ground.

She bellowed a scream in anger and frustration, knife in her hands again and diving as she collapsed upon him. Her arms were caught by the Elite, saving him from death for a few seconds more as they fought each other with the very edges of their strength, the blade inching closer and closer to flesh, concentration on staying alive on both of their minds. Slowly, slowly, the blade was lowered. Slowly, slowly, Usze forced all of his strength into the grip of one hand only as the other struggled to go at her neck.

Six held the knife across the Elite's snout, pressing down, breaking skin, but not enough strength to push all the way through. On the flipside the energy dagger from Usze's wrists had been flared at her neck. That would've been the end for them both, but brute force had intervened. It manifested in the boot of an unknown soldier, followed by more.

Moments earlier JD's SMG had just run out of ammo as a Brute reared its burnt head out of the fiery tree line, roaring at him and ready to charge. Not enough time to reload, and his sidearm was out. He didn't expect some sort of blue energy wave to swipe in front of him and the forest, throwing the Brute like a ragdoll along with the rest of the Covenant in the tree line. It put out the fire too, and when he looked to see who it was, he saw troopers, humans, but none like that he'd ever seen. One of those troopers had his hands alight with blue flame.

JD had already been on his knees, these strange human soldiers came to them, guns raised from an angle that they got the jump on both the Covenant and them.

Insurrectionists? The ODST thought. It was fair. But usually, they just dressed in fatigues stolen from the UNSC or in civilian clothes. The shuttle that they came in on, and there were more coming, hadn't been any he had seen before.

He wasn't given the chance to look as two soldiers kicked his weapons away, only to handcuff him, helmet to the floor.

They had a lot more trouble with the Elite and the Spartan, however. Not as she stood up, even with rifles pointed at her, and looked at the Elite who had now been feet away. She touched upon her throat, feeling the plasma singing from the blade that nearly went in. The Elite had done the same with its face, feeling the cross mark on his nose and drawing away with blood. The two held their gaze, even as the soldiers around them pointed their guns and yelled at them to get down.

Usze was perplexed however, the humans were aiming their guns even at the demon. Was she not one of their champions?

"Get down on your knees!"

One of the soldiers went to kick Six's leg in to get her on her knees, she only paying attention to them in the peripheral, but it didn't give. All that that served to do was crunch the boot of the soldier as she herself, willingly, got on her knees. "Spartan B-312. Lieutenant Gul. Are we still in UNSC space?"

She towered over the men, staring them down at least a head taller. It was as if she was talking gibberish she noticed, their bewilderment behind their helmets taken in by her senses as she saw armor and equipment unlike, she'd ever seen before. More specifically she had been more concerned as to why they hadn't put a bullet in the back of the Elite that still stood across from her.

"I said get down on your knees!" One of the humans said in an English that was very much her own.

If her eyes were to be seen past her visor, they would've spelled disbelief. She could've killed everyone in a six-foot radius around her and yet… They didn't know.

A muffled voice from behind her. It was JD. "Comply, Six." A rifle to the back of his head as she saw him, face first, on the ground, cuffed. "This ain't our territory."

Whether he meant UNSC or otherwise, she understood why he spoke up. He wasn't dying on her part. Before the Elite had the same time to fully take in the situation steel, magnetic, blocky cuffs were around his legs as his hands were immediately bound, brought to the floor as Six conceded and kneeled.

"The Hell are you wearing? Are you a mech?" One of the soldiers asked her, point blank. She didn't answer. JD did, however.

"She's human." he said quickly, transferring thoughts over while he was still able to speak. "Who are you?!"

"We're System Alliance Marines, of course," The captain of the group said as if there was any other option. "And you're being held until further notice until we can find out what the Hell you guys did."

She looked at the captain, and then a black armored trooper that seemed so unimpressed with the battle around them. No cool was lost, and she saw the smug scowl on his face past his greying shave. Across the heart of his armor: N7.

It went against her mortal instinct, to sit there and let pairs and pairs of bracers tie her arms and legs together, behind her back, but the same was being done for the Elite across from them, the Marines all going to the bodies of the Covenant around them and looking them over, wide eyed.

The ODST's helmet was torn off him, revealing his face, breathing in unfiltered air as he was hauled up. Dirty and unkept hair sticky with sweat and grime, a dirty light brown. His eyes were unprepared to see the same happening to the Spartan before him, for it was never something he could considered to ever be done. They locked her like a statue with all the restraints, and so she could do nothing as they found the pressure latch on her helmet and raised it up and out. ODSTs and Spartans alike had sometimes preferred to wear flame retardant balaclavas, even beneath their helmets. Six was one of said people. Now, however JD, and the Marines that came from them from this "System Alliance" could see her eyes in the thin gap of fabric that revealed some of her face: they were strikingly blue, unnaturally.

"Christ. Her eyes are as blue as an Asari's ass captain." One of the soldiers responded crudely before the sound of Plasma fire, unfamiliar to them, but familiar to the two UNSC personnel, had racked out in the distance.

Usze had squirmed and tried to shove him off, but the bindings had been too tight as the Marines looked down upon him like a caught prey. Bewilderment was within their faces. On the way to these two humans, they had come across their handiwork. Bodies and bodies of the dead, almost as varied as those species already known to the Council: bullet casings left behind, an unusual sight in that day of age for them. It spoke to primitive forms of warfare in regard to firearms, and seeing those done in by knife and dagger, something was indeed very primitive about the armored soldiers. The squid-jawed alien was massive: the body of a fighter that took five Marines to settle.

"Go! Get them onto the shuttle!" The man in black walked over to Six, towering over her in her moment of weakness and restraint. He reached out, grabbing her shoulder and walking her up, only to stop at the Elite and do the same as she heard other these other "System Alliance" Marines go into the forest and deal with the Covenant as they did them. This greying man had the mettle to take two unknowns into his hand and forcibly walk them through the forest. She could find respect in that, but it didn't help their situation or their understanding thereof. She craned her head back, looking for JD. She was thankful that he was in her tracks following her, but his gaze was instead focused on the Elite that was being brought with them. He was not the first to note the pure seething aura between both of them, but that was why the man in black, this N7, put himself in between them as they emerged into a clearing: It was a makeshift LZ as, above, hundreds of other Systems Alliance shuttles came down on them as Phantoms and Spirits were forced down.

It wasn't the relief or help that the two UNSC soldiers wanted or needed, but it's what they had to deal with as the high of combat was replaced with the unease of the unknown. At least for JD that is, Six keeping her eyes locked with the Elite.

The Marines saw the electricity between the Elite and the robot-like Spartan, how they were both frothing at the mouth, bleeding from what cuts they had. Literally they had heard the growls and the snarls from both the alien and her. They both wanted each other dead in a way that none had ever seen before.

"Jesus what the Hell is that?"

"Is that what a Geth looks like?"

"Look at its mouth!"

The Marines yet to move out all had their hushed and whispered comments as they saw something far too momentous, far too alien to understand at a glance. They all would eventually know what it was like to see what Covenant looked like up close in the following hours.

The blue Kodiak shuttle was their destination as JD, Six, and Usze were thrown in with ample Marine guard, the N7 still sitting between Six and the Elite.

When the doors sealed, they both had thrown themselves at each other, regardless of their bindings. It took them all and the ODST to restrain them.

A/N: A story for fun, addressing problems I have with other Mass Effect x Halo crossovers. More on this when we finish out the intro section. Some things to take note now: a few cheeky things I've done upfront, most namely how I wrote out Six's final stand from Reach, only to have JD save her bum.

See you in a bit.

Edit 04-07-2023: Hello from the future! I've returned to chapter one in order to give it a small little grammar and editing pass.