Eve of Fate

Chapter 12: Retaliation

The Master Chief looked over the map of the city once more. This was actually the third map they've used up in the last week or so, this one nearing the end of its life. Red marks, writing, and small notes covered almost every square inch of it.

It took only a week of planning and coordination, and another to gather supplies. What had began as just a suggestion by Foley now turned into the final preparations for the largest assault by Fist-Alpha to date.

Their target was the arcology, the centre of Covenant power on Earth. If they were successful in taking it, the result would be an all out victory for humanity over their greatest enemy.

Walking out of the command centre, the Master Chief made his way to the assembly area, connected right to the tunnel that doubled as their entrance and exit. Due to space limitations with the base itself, any amount of space anywhere was used to house and distribute equipment.

Tables were set up all around with weapons and ammunition covering them. The soldiers grabbed whatever they could and moved out, walking down the long tunnel to their positions. Those doing so were covered head to toe in heavy combat armour, and carried an almost inordinate amount of ammunition and weaponry. Those moving out were to be attacking the arcology head on, and they needed all they could take.

"Are your snipers in position, Rhineland?" the Master Chief asked as he walked up to Rhineland, who was sitting next to a crate cleaning his rifle.

"Yep, and we've got clear line-of-sight all the way to the arcology" the sniper replied. Rhineland's sniper division was already deployed, providing intelligence for the attack force. They would also be ready to provide sniper fire when the attack commenced.

Amongst the crowds of soldiers, Foley and Stacker squeezed through and walked up to the Spartan and Rhineland. Both Stacker and Foley were leading the attack, but only Stacker remained at base. Foley wanted to join the fight as well, and there wasn't any method of convincing him otherwise.

"Are both of you ready for this?" Foley asked, his voice laced with anticipation for the fight to come.

"I was 'ready' a week ago," Rhineland replied. He then loaded a magazine and cocked his sniper rifle. "Now, I'm beyond ready."

The preparations continued, until the base was occupied only by a handful of soldiers. There were only two dozen of them, excluding the Master Chief and Foley, as well as the command staff. They gathered in the tunnel for the final preparations and last reviews of the mission.

They had gone over the plan hundreds of times by now, making sure that everything had to go in order and according to time. The attack would begin by the two dozen, including the Master Chief and Foley, infiltrating the arcology using the Covenant waste disposal vehicles, dubbed 'shit wagons' by the soldiers. Thanks to the maps and design schematics, as well as being able to sneak remote cameras into the arcology, Fist-Alpha knew what to expect once inside.

After the infiltration, they were to plant C-10 explosive charges on a trio of generators located underground, as well as directly below the Covenant defensive lines around the outside of the arcology. The generators powered a series of automated plasma guns that would otherwise prevent any type of attack from the outside. It was imperative that the guns were to be taken offline – the rest of the Fist-Alpha, as well as an entire army of civilians and others dedicated to the mission, would be torn to pieces.

Once the explosives were planted, their next objective was a central communications terminal. The terminal was a hub for all Covenant communications between their commanding personnel at the arcology and everything else around Earth and back at their home world. When they reached it, they were to upload a virus using the terminal. The virus was a creation of Cortana, meticulously pieced together using coding she was able to improvise with. Given the circumstances, it seemed impossible to do such a task, but Cortana still came out on top. Her virus, when sent to the other Covenant ships, would disable their shielding and internal systems, thus rendering them unable to launch Phantoms or Banshees, or to deploy troops. It would provide at least an hour or two of which the attacking force could then overpower the Covenant forces at the arcology.

The objective was the capital ship stationed over the arcology. The plan was to take the ship, and use it against the other disabled Covenant vessels orbiting the planet. After that, the city and the rest of the planet would be under complete human control.

The plan sounded easy, but there was still much more to consider. The arcology was guarded by legions of Covenant soldiers, in particular, the generators and the communications terminal. The first part required stealth, which was why only two dozen were selected. The soldiers weren't concerned – they had all the silenced weapons necessary and were veterans in the fight against the Covenant forces.

But there was also the consideration about the virus, whether or not it would upload correctly. While the combat was best left to the hands of the soldiers and the Master Chief himself, the responsibility of the virus was left to Cortana.

It troubled the Master Chief quite a lot.

It would mean bringing Cortana into the battle and escorting her into the fight. He had already tried to convince Cortana not to go, but she wouldn't let herself be persuaded. They needed the virus, and if something went wrong, she would be there to fix it and get it working. Her reasoning made sense, but the Master Chief didn't want to endanger her.

He walked past the assembled soldiers and towards the changing rooms. It was empty inside, with the exception of one. As he walked in, the Master Chief spotted Cortana. She was disrobed, and was in the process of sliding on a pair of combat fatigues. Her small, diminutive, and slender frame looked most inappropriate to fight a battle with. When Cortana finished, she turned around and smiled at the Spartan.

"You're here to convince me not to go again, right Chief?"

"Are you sure about going?" the Master Chief asked. "There going to be a lot of Covenant on the inside, and I don't want you to get caught in the firefight."

"Chief, if I don't go, and something goes wrong with the virus the entire mission will be for nothing. What if something goes wrong? What if the virus doesn't upload, what if the Covenant put in another layer of security? You'll need me there if that happens."

The Master Chief hated her argument – because it made sense. There was the chance something would go wrong inside, and she needed to be there. Cortana was firm on her stance, and there wasn't anything to argue to get her to do otherwise.

"Chief, can you help me?" she asked, pointing towards the bulky combat armour and protective equipment next to her. The Spartan nodded.

The Master Chief picked up the armour and helped to fit it onto Cortana. He was careful to use only a fraction of his strength to secure it onto her body, or else be faced with the possibility of squeezing Cortana to death. The process seemed quite awkward, but the Master Chief finished up and helped Cortana for only a moment as she slipped into the outer 'protection' suit.

The protection suit was a development made for the purpose of infiltrating the arcology using the waste disposal vehicles. It was essentially an armoured hazmat suit, fitted with layers of protective material and plating. While it capable of protection against plasma, its primary purpose was to protect the user during the infiltration. The soldiers weren't so sure about sitting knee deep in it, due to both their dignity and their general health.

After helping Cortana to put the suit on, she then pulled another layer over top of that. It was an expandable outer layer, to be taken off and discarded once inside. Seeing how after the infiltration in the storage tank of waste disposal vehicle the suit would be covered in residue, the outer layer would then be taken off, leaving the soldiers with clean, and especially odour free, equipment.

"You're ready" the Master Chief told Cortana, who finished by tying her hair up in a ponytail.

"Wait, Chief, you ought to put this on" Cortana then said, lifting up an outer layer like the one she had over top of her suit.

"Don't worry, my MJOLNIR should be able to hold, and the shielding will keep the material off the plates."

Cortana then giggled as she continued to press the layer at the Master Chief's chest.

"It'll keep the shit off you, but not the smell, and frankly, I want you to be at least presentable after we're done in there."

"Oh, right."

Cortana then helped the Master Chief into the layer. It was quick, but something inside the Master Chief felt awkward. Being around Cortana was still going to take some getting used to. After they finished up, the pair walked out of the changing room. As they walked along, the Master Chief spotted a figure walking out of a hallway and towards them.

"Here to wish us good luck, Connor?" Cortana asked, smiling at the teenager.

Connor remained silent for a moment as he eyed Cortana in the suit. The Master Chief had heard very little out of Connor ever since the retreat from the apartment and to the Fist-Alpha base. He was almost a ghost now, lingering around old and impossible memories. The Spartan knew of Connor's resistance to the war and the fighting, and having him here was somewhat abrogating to the fighting effort.

"Connor?" Cortana asked again.

"You shouldn't go."

If the Master Chief, Stacker, and Foley's initial reaction to Cortana's decision was simple shock, Connor's reaction was outrage. Words couldn't even describe how hard he had tried to tell Cortana that she couldn't go. He pleaded with her endlessly, but nothing could be done.

"Hey, what's the hold up?" Foley asked impatiently as he walked up to the group, nothing that it was comprised of Cortana, the Master Chief, and Connor. He was already ready to go, all dressed in his protective gear and outer layers.

"Can't you get Cathy to stay?" Connor asked Foley. Foley responded by shrugging his shoulders.

"She's not staying, that's for sure. Besides, we might need her inside, so I don't have much of a problem with her going."

Connor narrowed his eyes angrily at Foley.

"So you want her to go? You want her to go into a war zone and get shot at? Aren't you thinking anything at all about her safety?"

"Hey, guess what kid?" Foley replied, his tone of voice steadily growing more agitated. "Do you have any idea why we're doing out there, any idea why we go out and fight? We've got a war waging out there, and we need everybody we could to win, and if you've got a problem with it, you'd might as well sod off, get your whining ass out of our base and be on your way.

"Otherwise, I suggest you either shut up or pick up a weapon and stand a post."

Connor remained silent, while Foley angrily glared at him. They both hated each other and frequently exchanged jabs and insults. In this new meeting, Foley got the better of Connor, who then turned around and left.

"Good luck, Cathy" he said, his voice barely a whisper, just before he left.

"Wait, Connor!" Cortana cried out, trying to get him to understand.

"Leave him, Cortana, he'll ease off in a bit," Foley said, stopping her. "Come on, the guys are ready."

The Master Chief put a hand on Cortana's shoulder, coaxing her to let Connor be and continue with the mission. She stepped away and met with the others as they gathered their weapons and ammunition.

The Master Chief picked up his Battle Rifle, fitted with a silencer and grenade launcher, as well as an SMG, also grabbing ammunition, grenades, and shotgun shells for the launcher. At his belt he clipped on the Covenant energy sword. The Master Chief felt he might possibly need it while inside the arcology.

"Locked and loaded!" a soldier yelled as he cocked his weapon.

Foley grabbed an SMG fitted with a silencer and holographic sighting module, as well as an M90 shotgun with the stock sawed off. The other soldiers carried a wide variety of weapons, mostly silenced, as well as a handful of heavier weapons to be used when the infiltration part was complete. All their weapons were sealed inside plastic bags, to protect and cover them during the ride into the arcology.

Cortana equipped for herself an SMG and an M6C sidearm, both fitted with silencers. Unlike the other soldiers, she lacked the physical strength to carry a full combat load, but then again, she was going in as a non-combatant, there only to supervise the delivery of the virus. In addition to her load out, she also carried a PDA.

Other equipment was also carried – spare ammo, ropes, the explosives, all the rest – and divided up between the teams. Some of the other soldiers had PDA's with them as well for navigation and translation, and a pair of soldiers carried the virus on theirs.

"Alright, we're set to go" Foley said, as he finished double checking his weapons.

As they prepared to leave, Stacker came out of the command centre with his cadre of supporting individuals. The look in his eyes was feigned – he didn't want to think about Cortana going with them into battle.

"I'll keep in touch and provide any tactical data via Cathy's PDA," he said, keeping to his duty as intelligence and command. "We've got the first shit wagon in-bound, fifteen minutes."

Stacker paused for a moment, looking at the assembled group of soldiers about to embark on a mission so daring and so crucial to the future of humanity.

"I would normally say 'good luck,' but luck doesn't have anything to do with this," Stacker then said. He paused again, as though trying to remember the faces of all those about to go into battle.

"Do us all one favour: give 'em hell."

Rhineland moved along the streets with around a dozen others following him. They entered in the back of a building and quickly made it to the upper levels of the building, where several others were already set up. Sniper rifles were set up on their bipods along with camouflage nets and boxes of ammunition.

The sun was just setting in the far distance. Its rays of orange and yellow light gave way to the end of the day and into the process of night. For the soldiers, it was the end of an era, the end of an occupation that has cost them so many lives.

"What's the news?" Rhineland asked the first soldier he spotted. The soldier was crouched behind a slab of concrete with a spotter's scope in hand, looking out towards the arcology.

"Nothing new so far," he reported. "The Covies are fortified, as usual."

Raising a pair of binoculars, Rhineland looked across at the Covenant defensive lines set up around the arcology. The giant four sided pyramidal structure was built on top of a platform that stood at least thirty meters high. Its actual height was disguised by the long sloping ramp that stretched from the peak of the platform to the actual ground. Along the ramp were at least four layers of obstructions, small walls, and Covenant defensive lines. In front of the ramp, as well as in the areas in between the peak of the ramp and the arcology were even more defensive lines.

Due to the shape of the pyramid, there were four sides of which the attack would concentrate on, all corresponding to the cardinal directions. Each of the four sides of the arcology was actually its own building, an aerial view from the top would have offered a distinctive view of the plus sign shaped path, with each quadrant being each section of the arcology. In the centre of the path that divided the separate buildings of the arcology was a gravity lift that was connected with the Covenant capital ship above them. Fist-Alpha had pulled together practically everybody in the city and now had an army able to encircle the entire structure. In addition to the four sides of attack, there were the four teams of snipers to cover each side. Rhineland was on the North side, and other teams waited in the other three direction.

The magnitude of Covenant troops patrolling the defensive lines wasn't the problem. Rhineland adjusted his binoculars and took noticed of the network of Covenant plasma guns and turrets, mixtures of retrofitted Shade turrets and some of the newer plasma cannons. The automated guns would easily make short work of any attack on the arcology.

"Rhineland, we've spotted around a dozen Ghosts circling the area, as well as a few Spectres and four Wraiths."

The Covenant had deployed a small group of vehicles to help protect the area. It wasn't a lot, but the rotating patrol of vehicles would be a threat later on. His stomach churned for a moment. Rhineland realized again that this attack was going to be big, and they were going to met heavy resistance. There wasn't going to be an easy way out – they just had to fight harder to win.

"All snipers - check ammo and rifles, and mark targets," Rhineland softly ordered over his radio. "Do not open fire until we can verify that the Master Chief and his entry team have succeeded."

Rhineland's trigger finger twitched as he picked up his rifle. He swapped off the scope in favour of one fitted with night vision, for this mission. Peering out at the arcology, he almost couldn't wait until the attack would begin.

There wasn't a method of describing how the inside of the Covenant waste disposal vehicle actually smelt like. Then again, there were the simple and more direct words.

"This thing smells like shit" a soldier complained.

"That's the fifth time you've said that" Foley replied.

The Master Chief said nothing as he sat still. The inside of the disposal vehicle was cramped and the hull was quite thin. The structure was surprisingly strong, but it took only a few seconds with a welding arc to rip a doorway open on the hull. Now, they simply sat inside and waited.

"We're fifty metres from the arcology" Cortana reported as she checked her PDA.

The soldiers inside got anxious. Some tapped on their weapons, while others peered around the disposal vehicle in a desperate attempt to wade off their anxiety.

"This is the closest I've ever gotten to it," a soldier then said, his voice shaking. "The closest any of us have ever without being shot at by the guns."

The Master Chief rested a hand on the soldier to calm him down.

"We'll be fine. We'll be inside before you know it. Just calm down and don't think about it."

The soldier calmed down for a moment. The others took heed of the Master Chief's advice. Other than the commanders, such as Stacker, or the soldiers like Rhineland or Foley, the soldiers viewed the Master Chief as an older mentor and hero. It was the Spartan's presence that gave them hope and strength to continue fighting.

Looking over to Cortana, sitting opposite of him, the Master Chief hoped she was going to be alright. Unlike the others, she was practically oblivious to where they were heading into. Cortana sat modestly, her gaze locked onto the glowing screen of her PDA. Behind the blue reflection of Cortana's helmet visor, the Master Chief could not make out her icy blue eyes.

She had certainly come a long way from an AI construct to human.

Minutes passed as the disposal vehicle rolled along uneventfully. It was the hardest part of the mission – the long wait. The usual silence was then broken by Cortana's voice.

"We're in."

She pressed a series of buttons on her PDA, switching to the external cameras they had fitted on the disposal vehicle just before they got on. The screen on her PDA changed, evident by the flash of colours reflecting off Cortana's helmet.

"What are we seeing?" Foley asked, shuffling closer to Cortana.

"Covenant patrols inside the arcology." Cortana tiled the screen enough so Foley could see. She then pressed another button, and a new video stream appeared on the Master Chief's heads-up-display. A small team, consisting of an Elite with a pair of Jackals and multiple Grunts lazily strolled along.

"How many?" a soldier asked, hoping for the best.

"A lot," Cortana replied. "A hell of a lot of Covenant."

A few curses disheartened moans were heard throughout the disposal vehicle. Foley angrily waved a hand, shutting the soldiers up for good. They were inside the arcology now, and they needed to be silent.

The disposal vehicle was moving down a long and wide tunnel. Originally, it was a sewer tunnel for the arcology, meant to transfer waste and garbage to a disposal site of some sort far from the structure. High above, along the sides of the tunnel were various levels of walkways with Covenant soldiers on patrol. Their motions suggested they were not too pleased to be stationed in this section of the arcology.

"This is just the entrance, the interior underground should be less guarded" Cortana said, reassuring the soldiers.

The disposal vehicle dragged along. It was a nearly undetermined amount of time before it rolled to a stop. The vehicle shuddered as it slowed down, and then dropped to the ground, its anti-gravitational generators shutting down. The soldiers sighed with relief, knowing that they could now leave the smelly and grimy vehicle.

"It's clear outside" Cortana reported.

Foley pointed a finger towards the entrance they ripped open. A soldier removed the plate of metal and slid out, the others quickly following. The Master Chief was the second last to leave, just in front of Cortana.

The area was dark, and there was very little space to move around in. The disposal vehicle had parked itself inside a small lot, where machinery then hooked up to the top of it. This was the disposal area, where the waste was redirected to the vehicles and loaded there until ready for transport.

"We're clear."

The group of soldiers began to move, putting distance between themselves and the confines of the disposal area. Cortana pulled up a series of maps and diagrams on her PDA and highlighted the path for them. They moved onwards, until they were at least three or four floors above the disposal area.

"We're here – generators are farther into the arcology," Cortana pointed out. "And the service tunnels under the Covenant defensive lines are in the opposite direction."

As she reported the directions of their objectives, the soldiers stripped off the first layers of their suits and stashed them away out of sight and smell. They then removed their weapons from the plastic wraps and readied them. The Master Chief did so as well, and Cortana was able to set her PDA down for long enough to do the same.

The soldiers looked almost like softer, miniature and fluffier versions of the Master Chief, complete with full sized helmets and armour. They needed as much protection necessary while inside the arcology. Some of the soldiers, particularly Foley, as well as Cortana, opted not to wear a helmet. Whether it was for the sake of convenience as it was for Cortana, or simply bravado in Foley's case, the Master Chief could not tell.

"Are the service tunnels guarded?" Foley asked, checking his SMG's magazine.

"No, they're empty as far as I can tell" Cortana replied, quickly checking her PDA.

Foley rounded up and ordered six soldiers to move down the service tunnels. They all had their maps, and they knew where to plant the charges.

"You guys take the tunnels and plant your charges, the Chief, myself, Cortana, and the others will take the generators. Meet back at rally point 2 when you're done."

The soldiers said nothing, instead nodding and proceeding along with their work. There were four teams of six at work now – three planting charges at the generators, and one to disrupt the Covenant defensive lines.

"Lead the way Cortana" Foley said.

Updating the map on her PDA, Cortana picked out the best path and oriented herself towards it.

"Follow me."

"Please, be careful! The computer systems are quite fragile!"

'Jeryima raised his hands and screamed in worry as the Grunts lifted the large and heavy computer devices from the compartments of the Shadow troop transports. The machines were vital for the extraction of data from the Compendium, but they were also infamously fragile.

"Careful now! See? It isn't too hard" he said happily as the Grunts succeeded in lifting the first of the machines and began to slowly move it towards the base camp.

"Why do you care so much? They are just giant pieces of computers that we could have flown in if needed."

Turning around, 'Jeryima almost collapsed as he was met with the sight of 'Yuteryi and his mechanical eye. The former commander stood next to him, his arms folded over his chest and his plasma rifle hung low on his chest. If 'Jeryima was to guess, he was not having a great time.

"Yes, but we would still be required to carry the machines deep into the Compendium to seek out the Forerunner's knowledge," 'Jeryima replied. "So there isn't much difference, except having them here and now."

'Yuteryi did nothing but grunt as he moved along. The human sun had set in the distance moments ago, leaving only artificial lights to brighten the surroundings of the Covenant base camp. He had actually spent the last parts of the day in his newly established quarters, and only came out now to 'help' supervise the moving of the heavier equipment.

It wasn't more of help, than it was 'Yuteryi trying to find something to do. Every moment that has passed since his dismissal was agitating him more and more. He yearned to be with his troops, to be in command of warriors, and to be fighting – and defeating – the human insurgents.

Instead, he was supervising alongside an Abnormal at a place he would really care less about.

'Yuteryi walked around the base camp. It was of an uneven shape with large barracks and personal quarters strewn about, built around an entrance the mining vehicles had made, leading to the apparent location of The Compendium. There was a sizable amount of soldiers stationed at the base camp, but in the end, it was mostly inhabited by the Engineers and the others working to excavate the site.

"'Yuteryi, come quick!" 'Jeryima called enthusiastically for the warrior. "The entrance to The Compendium has been opened!"

It wasn't like 'Yuteryi had another choice. He probably had to go anyways. Following the smaller Abnormal through the rest of the camp, 'Yuteryi then came upon where the entrance was made. To his shock, it was much…bigger than he had originally imagined.

The wide, gaping maw that was its doorway was large, large enough to fit several Wraith mortar tanks side by side and on top of each other and still have room for troops to move about. The fact that it was also buried underground, and the area surrounding it was carved away into a gentle sloping cone dipping towards the entrance made it only appear larger.

"Isn't that fascinating?" 'Jeryima asked, admiring the ruins. "To know that a civilization had constructed such a structure, and left it here to be found!"

For the first time in a long time, 'Yuteryi found himself agreeing. It certainly was an amazing piece of work. It reminded him of his youth, when he used to enjoy reading about the various excavations made on Forerunner buildings. In some degree, 'Yuteryi at his youth was probably no different from the Abnormal that currently stood next to him.

"By the Gods, can you see the distinct ziggurat construction of the entrance frame? They are constructed exactly according to the Perfected Ratio! Look at the carvings that adore the sides of the walls – etched into the material at exactly the same degree as all other Forerunner carvings have been in the past!"

On second thought, 'Yuteryi wasn't the same as 'Jeryima – at all, at any specific time in the past.

The entrance was already opened, evident by the crews already down by the entry, and machinery was being moved inside. The two Elites joined the crews at the base of the excavation site and began to slowly enter into the structure.

"Can you smell the air, 'Yuteryi?" 'Jeryima asked, inhaling. "It is quite hard to believe that this same air we are breathing is several ages old, and was also breathed by the same individuals that built this structure. It is like walking back in time!"

'Yuteryi threw a look at the Abnormal, not the usual threatening gaze, but instead, a confused, 'are you out of your mind?' look. It was really no wonder the Abnormals were viewed upon with such spite – they truly were stupid.

Once inside, the Engineers began to spread out, with teams of Grunts and Jackals close by. 'Jeryima went off, amidst his babbling, to help aid in the excavation. 'Yuteryi walked off alone. He felt he needed some time for himself. What better way to get it, other than to walk alone into an alien structure?

As he strolled along, he switched on his eye's light amplification mode and examined his surroundings, the darkness of the inside cloaking the details of the interior. Sadly, the details were minimal. Nothing adorned the walls, nothing was laid upon on the ground – there was absolutely nothing inside the Compendium.

This was a waste of time.

Suddenly, something appeared on 'Yuteryi's display. Something was moving. He had barely any time to react before he had caught full sight of it. Something emerged from the floor but scant metres in front of him. As it fully came into sight, he realized it was a new doorway. It was emerged almost seamlessly from the smooth floor.

'Yuteryi activated another vision mode, peering through the floor and into the areas beyond where he was. It led deeper into the Compendium, for sure.

"Over here, I have found something!" 'Yuteryi shouted as he turned to face the others.

Only, they weren't there anymore.

'Yuteryi looked around in shock. He didn't walk that far, did he? The entrance was practically right behind him, as well as all the others. Now, he was surrounded only by the darkness. He carefully armed his plasma rifle and checked the area. There had to be some type of logical explanation for this. As 'Yuteryi looked back at the new doorway that appeared from the floor, he then recoiled back in shock.

There was a human in the Compendium!

'Yuteryi had only looked upon the new figure for but a brief moment, but the small shape and frame suggested this one was human. Raising his plasma rifle, he slowly walked down through the doorway and into the new level beneath it. Strangely, the human was no longer in sight. Switching vision modes, 'Yuteryi was shocked yet again to find that there was nothing. It was as though there had been nothing there just prior.

Was 'Yuteryi simply imagining it? Was there really a human?

'Yuteryi quietly cursed at himself. Perhaps it was just his now overactive imagination. But still, the billowing white robes this human wore seemed simply too real to be just a product of his imagination. Turning around, 'Yuteryi found himself in shock yet again.

The opening was gone.

He was trapped.

Foley was the first to exit the tunnel, followed by another soldier and then the Master Chief. Exiting through the now opened grating, the soldiers scanned their area for hostiles.


Cortana crawled out after them, quickly pulling out her PDA to confirm their location.

"Out the door and down the hall to our left" she reported.

The two dozen had split into four teams of six – one headed for the service tunnels to plant their charges beneath the Covenant defensive lines, and the last three would each take one of the three primary generators.

Foley, the Master Chief, and Cortana were all on one team, and they had tracked down their generator. The interior of the arcology was guarded to a lesser degree than what was originally anticipated. The guards they had encountered so far were almost too easy to subdue.

When they reached the door, Foley and another soldier were the first to enter. The generator room was large – both wide and tall. A single walkway circled around the walls of the room, with the generator in the middle. The generator itself was Covenant in design, brought in possibly at the same time as when the Covenant occupied the city.

"Clear, no guards inside the generator room."

"This is too easy," a soldier commented, looking around in degrees of confusion and fear. "Something's wrong, the Covies are probably waiting for us, or something."

Cortana checked her PDA once more, pulling up relevant information and floor plans. There wasn't anything she could use, but she was reassuring, at least.

"If I had to guess, they may be on rotating patrols, and if so, we've got to hurry."

Foley nodded, and pointed towards the railing at the edge of the walkway. A pair of soldiers went forward and dropped the ropes in place and secured them in place. They then slung their weapons over their back and rappelled down them. Foley also joined them, taking with him his share of the explosives to set in place. This left the Master Chief, Cortana, and another soldier to watch over them.

"I've got a transmission from the other teams," Cortana reported again from her PDA. "They've reached their targets and are planting their charges as planned. The latest news from Stacker also suggests that the attacking forces are ready. The only thing they're waiting for is us."

"That's good, we're right on time then" the Master Chief replied.

Down below, Foley and the two others were at work attaching the C-10 shaped charges onto the generator's coolant pumps. When they detonated, the lack of coolant being supplied to the generator would eventually force it to destabilize, and from there, they would detonate themselves.

"We're almost done, just a few more minutes" Foley reported.

Suddenly, the Master Chief then picked up something on his motion sensor. There was a squad of Covenant approaching their way.

"We've got Covenant, incoming!" the Master Chief warned.

"We can't afford to be spotted, we've got to hide!" Cortana urged. If they were spotted, the entire mission would result in failure.

It was easier said than done, however. There was no place to hide, especially in the generator room. Looking over the edge, the Master Chief only saw one possible spot.

"Down the ropes and under the catwalk" the Master Chief ordered.

The catwalks were reinforced and strengthened quite a fair bit. It made sense – it was a long way down from the top to the very bottom, and the catwalks needed to be able to support great amounts of weight. The Master Chief helped Cortana and the other soldier over and onto the ropes before he got on. They then moved underneath the catwalks and clung onto the supports, also moving the ropes there and out of sight.

They had barely gotten into position and managed to warn Foley and the others down below when the doors opened and the sounds of footsteps echoed in the room.

"I can see an Elite with a whole bunch of little Grunts," Foley reported via radio from his view at the bottom of the room. "They're fanning out, standard patrolling positions."

"What's your status Foley? Are all the charges planted yet?" the Master Chief asked.

"We've got one more. Should we hold off until they're gone?"

"Negative, Foley," Cortana replied, cutting into the transmission. "We've got to get the last charge planted as soon as possible. It's risky, but somebody will have to do it."

It was a hard call, but it needed to be done. Speed was of the essence for the operation, and they needed to plant the explosive. Down below, the Master Chief could see Foley moving up the side of the generator and fixing on the explosive charge.

"Almost…there…got it!"

Foley waved a hand to the Master Chief. They were done. Now it was up to them to get to the rendezvous and link up with the others.


Foley swore as he struggled to get off from the generator. In between his struggling, he had gotten stuck, and he had dropped his SMG. The solid clatter of the weapon slamming against the hard ground echoed throughout the entire generator room. The Elite up at the catwalks looked over the edge of the railing, trying to find the source of the sound.

"He's moving around," another soldier reported, his voice getting frantic. "Christ, he'll find you if you stay there!"

"I'm stuck, I can't move!" Foley struggled. His protection suit was punctured and was caught on a section of the generator. There was no way he would be able to get off in time before the Elite would spot him. If the Elite saw him, and radioed in for help, the entire mission was in jeopardy.

"Everybody, stay put," the Master Chief said as he moved into position. "I'm going to take the Elite out."

The other soldiers paused to try and comprehend what the Spartan was going to do, but only Cortana spoke out about it.

"Chief, are you crazy?"

"We've got no choice, it's either that Elite find Foley, or we can at least buy some time and try to salvage the mission."

The slow footsteps of the Elite sounded as the alien warrior passed over the Master Chief's position. The Master Chief waited until the Elite was past him before he got up and over the railing. As soon as he got onto the catwalk, the Master Chief moved quickly. The Spartan lunged forward and tackled the Elite, moving to the side as he did. His movement threw the Elite off balance towards the railing, their combined weight tearing through it and dragging them down below. The Elite cried out in surprise, while the Master Chief quickly threw a jab at its head. In midair, the Master Chief quickly concentrated his shields to his front, in order to take the brunt of the impact.

They both landed with a thick thud, with the sounds of bone crushing mixed in as well. The Elite squirmed only for a moment before it ceased all activity, a combination of the Master Chief's weight and his fist silencing the alien. His shields drained down to a quarter from the impact, but otherwise, he was fine.

The grunts were chattering and barking rapidly above them. Were they compromised? Were they going to have to call off the attack? The Master Chief quickly moved away and hid, hoping that it wasn't too late.

"Prepare to open fire, on my mark-"

"Wait, hold up, Chief!" Cortana interrupted.

The Master Chief looked up, noticing Cortana making hand signals to him, while pointing up above. The Grunts were moving and shouting at each other from above, but they eventually calmed down and resumed their patrol.

"What's going on? Cortana, explain."

"The Grunts don't care – as far as they're concerned, the Elite fell" Cortana explained.

"Are you sure?"

There was then a burst of static in the Master Chief's helmet, followed by an audio feed.

"Where is leader!"

"Leader is dead! Leader is dead! Report to command!"

"Don't bother – leader fell, see, see?"


"Me no care about leader! Should have pushed him off myself!"

"Hah, big blue leader thinks he so smart – he falls!"

The audio feed then cut, leaving the Master Chief to the silence inside his helmet.

"Cortana, am I hearing exactly what I think I'm hearing?"

"You are," Cortana replied. "The Grunts don't care enough to raise an alarm, so we're safe."

It was reassuring, but the Master Chief was left in a state of absolute bewilderment. How could the Grunts not care about their leader being killed? Why would they shrug it off, as though it meant nothing?

Was the Covenant falling apart? Did their thirty-five year occupation of Earth have even greater side affects on their chain of command?

It was barely a second later before Foley ran up beside the Master Chief, panting and swearing quietly in the process. The Spartan was almost surprised to find that Foley had gotten rid of the protection suit, and was crouching next to him clad in his basic combat armour. He had found and now carried his customized SMG, and his sawed off shotgun was slung at his side.

"Foley, your suit…"

"Cut my way out of it," Foley grumbled. "Bitch got stuck on the generator."

Taking a good look at the side of the generator, the Master Chief could see the remains of Foley's protection suit. A jagged piece of metal had pierced the side of it and it prohibited any movement short of ripping it apart in the process.

"Without your suit, you'll take more damage."

"Yeah, but without my suit, I'm not sweating like nuts or a fat target for the Covies to shoot at" Foley corrected.

The Master Chief had to give credit to Foley – given the amount of fighting they would be expecting, Foley was awfully brave to be taking his suit off.

"How do we get out of here?" Foley asked.

"We can start by taking out the Grunts and getting to the rally point," the Master Chief said. "Fire on three…"

The Master Chief stopped when he saw Cortana waving to him from her position above. She pointed towards the far side of the generator room, and from there, the Master Chief could see the figures of the other two soldiers waving back.

"Foley, Chief, we found a tunnel opening, over here," one of the soldiers reported. "We've got it open, and it looks good."

A tunnel entrance? Why had they not noticed it before?

"Cortana, can that that tunnel get us to the rally point?"

"Hold on, I'll check" Cortana replied, pulling out her PDA.

Seconds passed by as Cortana inquired the maps.

"Hey, they do reach the rally point." Cortana's voice was shocked, but pleasantly surprised. "They're sewer lines, intended to transfer sewage from the inhabitants of the arcology to the outside or to processing, but since the Covenant have occupied the building, they don't use them."

"What about the rally point?"

"That's the best part," Cortana continued, her voice cheerful. "There's a ladder deeper into the tunnel that leads directly to the rally point. Our rally point was placed inside an abandoned storage room close to the communications terminal, and it has a sewer grate that leads into the sew line. Funny, I never noticed it."

A sewer line? It was good news. The Master Chief couldn't help but be amused that even Cortana, a meticulous planner and thinker, missed a minor detail on a map. Within moments, Cortana and the other soldier repelled down and everybody gathered and moved through the entrance and through the sewers. The sewers were tight and cramped, but on the plus side, they didn't smell as bad as the Covenant waste disposal vehicle. The Master Chief and Foley took point, with Cortana close by and the others following.

"Man, if I had three dollars for each time I had to walk through a damn sewer line" a soldier commented, several minutes after entering.

"Three dollars? Three cents and I'm loaded!"

The Master Chief then held up a fist, signalling for everybody to stop. They had stopped right outside of T junction in the tunnel.

"What's wrong?" Foley asked, readying his SMG.

"Listen, there's somebody else in the tunnel."

The Master Chief could hear it. It sounded like footsteps, at least ten people, or more. As soon as he made his report, everybody took a step back and hit the wall. The others readied their weapons and kept them trained at the end of the junction.

"I thought the Covenant didn't patrol the sewers" a soldier said fearfully.

"I said the Covenant didn't use the sewers" Cortana reassured, much to the discomfort of the other soldiers.

"Quiet down" the Master Chief ordered, as he flicked the safety off his Battle Rifle.

The footsteps then got closer and closer. Every increase in sound signified the shortening distance between them and the Master Chief's team. Everybody remained silent, but in their minds, they were shaken. Could the six of them stand a chance against at least double their number?

The Master Chief listened closely to the footsteps. As he did, he swore, he could hear something else as well. It sounded like voices. The Spartan focused in on the talking, trying to figure out what they were saying. Curiously, it sounded as though he understood what they were saying.

"It was from over here, I swear!"

"Are you stupid, Murphy? I don't hear anything. Covies don't even patrol the sewers."

"That's coming from the same guy who thinks Napoleon won Waterloo. There was something over there, I swear!"

"Hey, hey, hey, he technically won, not Wellington, Napoleon."

"Are you two retards done yet? We've got to haul ass to the rally point! The first team is already there."

"What about the Chief and Foley's?"

"We'll wait for those guys. Listen, with the exception of them, the other group is done so we've all got to get our asses to the rally point."

The Master Chief then realized who they were. He held up a hand and waved forward, telling the others to ease up. The Spartan then opened up a line with the soldiers.

"This is the Master Chief, hold fire."

"What? Chief, where are you?"

Waving a hand, the Master Chief and the others emerged from their hiding spot, much to the shock and surprise of the patrolling soldiers.

"What? How? Huh?" one of the soldiers blabbered on.

"Jesus, you scared the hell out of us Chief," another soldier commented. He was the same soldier who had insisted on searching the tunnels. "You guys were really there, right?"

"Hey, you guys also found a tunnel?" the third soldier, the same one who was berating the other two earlier, finally asked, smiling.

"Also?" Foley asked, noticing a shift in the soldier's tone of voice.

"We were en route to the generator when one of these two idiots got our group lost," he explained, shaking his fist at the two soldiers while emphasizing the last bit. "They found a sewer or tunnel entrance, and turns out, it led straight to generator, and it also turns out, all the other guys found them."

"Everybody else?" Foley asked, somewhat shocked.

The soldier nodded.

"Yeah, everybody; the other group taking the other generator, and the guys planting the charges," the soldier continued. "They're at the rally point waiting for us and we were just heading there when these two idiots thought they heard something, so our group split up, one went to the rally point, and we three went around looking like idiots for whatever they thought they heard."

The soldier playfully hit the back of one of the two soldier's helmets.

"Yeah, these tunnels are great," one of the soldiers said. "They run everywhere and it sure beat the hell out of repelling down the side of the railings."

"Couldn't you have wondered what would have happened if some Grunts strolled in while we were there? We would have had to hide under the damn catwalk, or maybe tackle them over the railing – hey, what's with the long faces? And hey, where's your suit Foley?"

Behind the Master Chief, Foley, Cortana, and the other soldiers had gloomy faces. Cortana, especially, refused to answer.

"Shut up" Foley finally said, breaking the silence, as he marched on.

As they moved along, the Master Chief connected to the other soldiers.

"This is the Master Chief, what's your status?"

"We're operational, Chief, all charges have been planted and are ready to go boom when you give the order," a soldier from the other end of the radio reported. "Also, the teams rigging explosives below the defensive lines have found structural weaknesses in the ramp. They're saying it's possible, given the amount of C-10 they're using, that they can tear it up pretty good, and even make a few entry points for the boys outside."

"That's good to hear. Hang tight, we're in bound."

The three soldiers led the way to the rally point, and from there, they rendezvoused with the other soldiers. The rally point was situated inside of a medium sized storage room. The area was cramped, especially for twenty-four fully armed soldiers, but there was just enough space to squeeze through, and enough space for Cortana to get out her PDA.

"Alright, down the hall to the right, a left, straight ahead, and another left," Cortana began. "That will bring us to the room holding the communications terminal."

"We already scouted it out," one of the soldiers near the entrance of the storage room reported. "We've got a problem – there's a reinforced door leading in, with a few Elites operating the door at a security station at all times."

A reinforced door meant trouble. Also, the mention of a team of Elites watching the entry also meant trouble.

"Any idea how to get past that door?" the Master Chief asked.

There was a near unanimous shrugging of shoulders and mutters of 'No' amongst the soldiers.

"We could go back, pick up some of the C-10 we used below the defensive lines and use it on the door" a soldier suggested.

"Might work, but that door does look pretty damn reinforced from what I saw" a soldier buried away in the corner replied.

"We'd have to take all the explosives from the defensive lines if we were to even try to crack it," Cortana said, removing all thoughts of using explosives to open the door. "Besides, we do that and we'd get half the Covenant army on our tails even before we get the virus planted."

A wave of silence went out around the soldiers. They needed to get inside the communications station.

"What's the time?" a soldier then asked.

"Quarter after one" came the response, followed by several sighs. It was late, many of them usually slept at this time, and to be on a mission of such a level seemed surreal.

"Another two minutes before another of those guys will come across, I think – hey, wait a minute, wait a minute."

All eyes then turned to the soldiers near the front of the room, the ones who had planted the charges under the defensive lines. One of them checked their watch, and they all looked at each other in disbelief.

"There's a way in! Every ten minutes or so, some Elite, one of those big, high ranking ones with the helmets, comes by and goes to the communications room!" the soldier said, his voice excited and frantic. "The guys inside check him, and then they open the door…"

"So all we need to do is wait for one of those guys to come, let him and the others open the door, drop them, and we're in." Foley finished the rest of the sentence.

It was a logically sound plan. The Master Chief raised his rifle and moved towards the front of the room.

"I need eight guys with me and Cortana. We're going to get in one way or the other."

Cortana squeezed through, and the group of eight that included Foley, came as well. They then opened the door and left the rally point, following the directions Cortana gave them. Creeping along, they had come to hallway just before the left turn, which would bring them to the entry to the communications room. The hallway was conveniently wide and had various crates and material stacked about – perfect cover. The door located left down the hallway to the communications room was extremely well reinforced, as the Master Chief observed. It was no different from one of the doors off of a Covenant battlecruiser, its curved and metallic purple design at a stark contrast to the dull beige and grey of the concrete walls.

"That last time, we saw one of them Elites walking in from the right side and across" one of the soldiers pointed out.

"Let's go over this one more time," the Master Chief said, finalizing their plan of action. "We'll wait for the Elite and let him get to the doorway. As soon as the door opens, we open fire. As soon as the Elite, and the first few guards are down, we move in and secure the communications station. Everybody else will follow after we gain control, understood?"

Several affirmative replies sounded off from the others waiting in the hallway.

"We've got movement!" Foley reported, waving a hand and getting behind cover. "Quiet down, and wait for the go!"

The excess material in the hallway provided a decent amount of cover. Given the limited lighting, the Master Chief, Cortana, Foley, and the seven others were practically invisible. The slow footsteps of the Elite got louder and louder, and eventually, the alien warrior came into view. The Elite was almost no different from the others, except his armour was highly ornate and coloured in a shiny silver. The most distinctive part of the warrior was its helmet, a large and wide brimmed helm with a facemask that almost reminded the Master Chief of the ancient Greek hoplites.

"It's a Councillor," Cortana whispered. "The political leaders and heads within the Covenant. This is one of the few times one has even been seen."

Foley then made a slashing motion with his hand, ordering Cortana to quiet down. Luckily, the Councillor had not noticed anything, and continued its path down the hallway. The Councillor didn't carry any visible weapons, but the Master Chief thought he could make out the shape of an energy sword on its hip. At best, the Councillor had to be a skilled close quarter's fighter.

"He's at the door" one of the soldiers reported.

Foley made a motion with his hands towards the hallway. A trio of soldiers, as well as the Master Chief himself, moved further into the hallway, but still remained hidden. All of them carried Battle Rifles, the best bet for being able to hit both the Councillor and whoever was inside the communications room. Down the hallway, the Councillor made motions with his hands and began speaking, possibly to the Elites at the other end.

"Stand by…" the Master Chief said quietly.

The Councillor spoke some more down by the door.

"Stand by…"

The Master Chief flicked the safety off on his Battle Rifle. The others either did the same, or had done so earlier.

The door at the end of the hallway then opened.

"Go, go, go!"

In an instant, the Master Chief and the three others had raised their Battle Rifles and fired. The bursts of 9.5x40mm rounds left the muzzles of the silencers with thick muffled snaps. The first few slashed through the Councillors back, probably piercing its lungs and spinal cord. The next few caught the Elites inside the communications room by surprise. The tight and accurately fired bursts tore through their armour and spilled purple blood and gore.


The Master Chief and the others ceased fire as Foley led the charge with the remainder of the group following. Foley leapt first into the communications room and let loose a fully automatic spray from his SMG, the long burst sounding more like a string of inaudible clicks. As soon as Foley and the others were able to secure a foothold inside, the Master Chief, Cortana, and the others moved in.

The inside of the communications room was cramped and dark, and in several places it looked as though the Covenant attempted to redecorate in Covenant décor. The ceiling was high, and extended further up into this section of the arcology. In the centre of the room was the main objective – the Covenant communications terminal. It was a large piece of machinery with holographic displays and keypads spread out around it, and on top of the terminal was a boom that extended up to the ceiling, and probably branched off elsewhere on top of the arcology.

"Secure, we're good!"

"Close the doors and get somebody working on that terminal, now!" Foley barked.

The communications room had two other doors, in addition to the one they came in from, but only one security station that monitored all doors. The security station was right next to the entry. One of the soldiers began working there, and had locked the doors shut. During this, a pair of soldiers began working to upload the virus using the terminal. While Cortana could have done it herself, she had to remain close to the Master Chief for her safety.

The room itself would be difficult to defend. There was little or no cover available, with the exception of a few crates and the communications terminal itself. Worse, there were the three entrances into it. They would be easily surrounded in the event of a fight.

"Doors, secure."

"What about the ceiling?" one of the soldiers standing next to the terminal asked, looking up into it. "Can the Covies come in from above?"

"Not sure," Cortana replied, remaining next to the Master Chief. "I wouldn't say no, so keep on guard."

In another corner, a group of soldiers dragged the bodies of the fallen Elites out of the way. The Master Chief did his part of help, dragging two corpses at a time, one in each hand. Foley did so as well, but only carried one.

"I was actually scared for a bit," one of the soldiers securing the bodies commented. "But taking these guys down was easier than planting the explosives."

"Of course it was," Foley said, plopping a body on top of another. "These guys didn't even turn their shields on. Lazy bastards probably didn't think we were going to hit them here."

It was true. The bursts from their Battle Rifles took down the Councillor and the other Elites without any struggle. Within the span of a few minutes, they had cleared all the bodies out of the way and had established a perimeter around the area.

"Uh, Chief, Foley, we've got one…no, two, problems" one of the soldiers at the terminal reported.

The Master Chief walked over to the two soldiers operating the terminal.

"We can't upload the virus; something's preventing us from doing that."

It was the report that everybody did not want to hear. The virus was the key to the mission, and if it could not be used, it was bad news. Cortana quickly got up to the terminal.

"That's what you have me for," she said as she took over the task of getting the virus to upload. "Give me a few minutes."

Cortana then began her work. As she did, one of the soldiers originally working on it scratched the back of his head nervously.

"Uh, yeah, second problem – the Covies are getting suspicious and they're sending a team to investigate. We don't have a few minutes."

Not being able to upload the virus was bad enough. This new revelation was something the soldiers definitely did not want to hear.

"Make sure those doors are sealed!" Foley barked. "I need at least six guys on each door – let's move!"

Everybody in the communications room moved out and held their positions. Others ran forward and fixed fragmentation grenades in front of the doors with thin wire. It would at least provide some help with taking down the first wave of resistance. Almost all of the soldiers, including the Master Chief and Foley, unfixed their silencers – at this point, they didn't need them.

"What's happening out there?" Foley quickly took a look around at the positioning of the soldiers. "What's going on? Somebody talk to me!"

"I've got a visual on the first team – eight Elites, reinforced by Jackals and Grunts, incoming, at the entry!" a soldier at the security station shouted back.

The six soldiers watching the entry were reinforced by several others, including Foley. The Master Chief stood in between them and the terminal, where Cortana was at work.

"Status, Cortana?"

"I'm working as fast as I can," she replied impatiently. "I can bypass the security systems, but I need time."

"We ain't got time!" Foley shouted angrily.

"Hey, patience…is…a…virtue!" Cortana shouted back angrily.

One of the soldiers watching the entry then turned his head around towards the terminal.

"Patience doesn't block plasma!"

Cortana angrily muttered something beneath her breath, something which the Master Chief couldn't identify. Her fingers were a blur as they rapidly flashed over her PDA and the Covenant terminal. Could Cortana break the Covenant security systems in time? Could she do so before the Covenant troops arrive?

The Master Chief had no doubt she could do that. All she needed was time.

"They're outside the door! They're pinging us. I'll try and buy us some time."

The soldier began to press several buttons at the security station, aided by the software in his PDA. The displays quickly flashed, and faded.

"I managed to convince them there's a door and communications problem, but I'm not sure if they're buying it."

"How far are we, Cortana?" Foley demanded.

"I need thirty seconds!"

"Uh, guys, I'm seeing several other teams getting to the other doors…and the guys at the entry have just pulled out some explosives!"

"Get clear of the door! Everybody stand your ground and hold the area!" Foley barked, waving his arms off towards the other doors.

The soldiers split themselves off and covered all of the doors equally. The Master Chief double-checked his Battle Rifle, making sure he had at least a shotgun shell loaded inside its grenade launcher, and that its magazine was in. It was in this brief moment of anticipation and fear that the soldiers readied themselves. It was the final moment of peace and serenity the soldiers would feel, moments before going into battle.

"I'm ready! Let's do this!"

"Rock on! I'm ready!"


"Ready! What about you?"

The soldiers sounded off their readiness. It was the final check, to make sure everybody was prepared for the encounter. It also served the purpose of getting the minds of the soldiers psyched for the impending battle.

"Cortana?" the Master Chief asked again.


The door leading into the entry then detonated. The force and heat from the Covenant door breaching explosive was strong – so much, that even the Master Chief could feel the heat of it. An Elite then charged through, plasma rifle in hand.

The sound of the grenade's pin being pulled as the Elite's hoof tripped the wire was almost completely silent.

The sound of the grenade, however, was not.

"Go!" Foley shouted, just as the Elite was blown to bits by the grenade.

They all opened fire. The first of the Covenant entry teams were cut down as they charged in. The Master Chief fired burst after burst at the now opened doorway, watching as Grunts were cut down almost instantly.

"Frag, out!"

A soldier armed a grenade and tossed it through the doorway. The grenade detonated with an ear-splitting bang five seconds later, spilling gore and blood throughout the hallway. Behind the soldiers, the other two doors then blew open. Covenant troops then charged through, tripping the fragmentation grenades rigged at the entrance.

"Rear doors have been breached!" Foley barked overtop of the sound of the grenades detonating, pointing towards them. Most of the soldiers turned around and met the new arrivals.

"Cortana, status?" The Master Chief looked towards her as he swapped out a magazine.

"Done!" Cortana yelled in triumph. "The virus has been uploaded, and it's taking affect."

"Blow the generators, and then blow the defences!" Foley ordered. One of the other soldiers grabbed hold of the detonators, armed them, and detonated the planted explosives in that order.

In the distance there was a long string of rumbles, so powerful the soldiers inside the communications room could also feel them.

"Let's see…automated guns are offline." Cortana smiled as she reported the new development to the others.

"It's up to everybody else now."

Rhineland was keeping watching over the arcology when he heard the first rumble. It didn't feel right, but it felt like something.

Following it was a thunderous roar, flying debris, and smoke. He, as well as all the others knew exactly what it meant.

"Light 'em up!" he barked, with hooting and laughing following.

It was barely a split second before sniper rifles sounded off and high velocity rifle rounds left the muzzles of their barrels with distinct cracks.

"Top of the ramp, plasma cannon, two Elites!" one of the spotter shouted.

"They're mine!" Rhineland yelled as he got into position.

The former-ODST raised his rifle and spotted the plasma cannon that was being manned by the two Elites. The procedures for sniping and targeting flashed through Rhineland's head in an instant. He quietly squeezed the trigger, and watched as the first Elite's head disappeared with a spark and a cloud of purple gore. The other looked at its fallen brother, and then around for whoever did it.

Rhineland squeezed the trigger again. Same result – only there were two bodies now.

"Keep up the fire," Rhineland ordered. "Watch for snipers and gunners at the arcology."

He sent the same order to the other units. The long vapour trails were difficult to see in the night, but Rhineland could hear them.

"Rhineland to Stacker, Rhineland to Stacker – send the order. It's game time."

Elias nearly bit his own tongue off when he heard the explosions.

He and the other soldiers, both part of Fist-Alpha and the civilian force, were sitting inside a building almost right next to the arcology. They had at least a hundred metres to run in order to reach even the start of the ramp, but they were fairly close.

They were close enough to see the ramp suddenly detonate, throwing debris, rock, and unfortunate Covenant soldiers into the air.

The explosion wasn't just powerful – it was the biggest and most destructive thing Elias had ever seen. His bones and teeth rattled inside his body, at risk of shattering inside of him. The force of the explosion was so thick and so strong, Elias could have sworn he would have been thrown back another mile had he not been sitting down and casually holding the edge of an open window.

"There's the signal! Let's roll!"

There was then a distant, yet sharp whistle from one of the commanders in the back of the room. At the moment, everybody inside the building stood up and charged. In that moment, pandemonium and insanity took over. Elias could barely breathe from the excitement as more than a thousand soldiers charged out of the building, and several others around it. They were tasked with taking the north

Machinegun fire chattered above their heads, thick volumes of bullets filling the air and impacting against the side of the arcology. They had set up a pair of M247 .30 calibre machineguns on the roof, as well as with a LAAG salvaged from an unusable Warthog. The three guns were raining down an impressive number of rounds at the arcology.

The long bursts of tracers lit up the dark night sky above them. Their long lines of fire were replied to by the Covenant plasma cannons. The side of the arcology almost lit up as numerous manned plasma cannons lit up and fired at the incoming wave.

Everything was a blur. Elias could barely see as the thick waves of soldiers continued to move. As he got closer to the ramp, he then noticed the lines were thinning. Elias took a brief glance at the ground, and immediately noticed the dead and dying bodies of the soldiers.

"Let's move, let's move!"

The numbers of fallen soldiers increased as he got closer and closer, and so did the sounds of plasma cannons. Somewhere in between the charging wave, a soldier raised an improvised rocket launcher and fired, the rocket impacting and detonating against a hardened post at the side of the arcology. Sporadic gunfire erupted every often from the soldiers. Suddenly, the man in front of Elias fell back. Elias caught him, and found himself kneeling on the ground with somebody in his arms.

The soldier was middle aged, older than Elias. Without looking at the section of burnt flesh at his neck, Elias could already tell - he was dead.

Elias stared into the dead solder's eyes for a nanosecond before he dropped the body and continued to run. Through the thinning ranks of soldiers, Elias could see the base of the ramp, and the twisted pieces of concrete resulting from the detonation. In one final push, Elias sprinted forward and leapt, taking cover being the concrete.

Several other soldiers lined up next to him, hiding as much behind the concrete as possible. Others farther down the line hid behind a set of hastily constructed 'shields', giant curved pieces of salvaged material to provide cover from enemy fire.

"Elias, here!"

The others shouted from down the line, signalling that they've arrived safely. Periodically, soldiers got up out of cover and began firing at the Covenant positions. They had to quickly get back down, or be cut down by bursts of plasma.

"We've got several plasma cannons above us! Where the hell's the sniper cover?" a soldier demanded, getting back down just as a rapid stream of plasma passed over him.

A series of long vapour trails extended over their heads. Rhineland and his snipers were providing cover, but there seemed to be too many Covenant and too many plasma cannons for them to pick off. Green flares erupted from the sides of the arcology and hit the incoming human wave, resulting in dismembered limbs and panic.

"Ah, shit, they've got fuel rods up there!"

Fuel rod cannons – the Covenant equivalent of rocket launchers. Peering up for a second, Elias could see a long section of window where several plasma cannons and a few Grunts carrying the dreaded explosive weapons were stationed. He got up for a minute and fired a burst from his Battle Rifle. He could see one of the Grunts topple over as the bullets hit their mark. Elias then got back down as plasma sprayed over his position.

"Stacker, this is north face, we're pinned down, I repeat, pinned down!" a soldier next to Elias, one of the local commanders leading part of the operation, reported over his radio.

The soldier had gotten up, a small, seemingly innocent move, and had promptly gotten his head shot off by a needle thin burst of plasma. A Jackal sniper has made at least its first kill of the night from its position. The radio the soldier had just before fell to the ground, which Elias grabbed and picked up.

"Connelly, are you there? We missed your last transmission. Connelly?"

"Stacker, this is Elias," Elias said. "Connelly's dead. We're on the north face, and we're pinned down by sniper and plasma cannon fire. They keep reinforcing!"

There was a near minute long pause as his report was probably being analyzed by Stacker and the others back at command.

"Copy that, Elias. We're sending this to Rhineland. Hold on, we're going to get more intel from the others and try to figure a way through."

It was easier said than done. The arcology was bristling with plasma cannons. Even when the automated guns were down, the remaining number of guns and the legions of Covenant soldiers still made the assault next to impossible.

As Elias waited, several soldiers rolled in next to him.

"Where's Connelly?" one of them asked.

"There." Elias pointed to the corpse lying just a metre down from their position. "Who's in charge now?"

The soldier looked down at the body, then to Elias.

"I think you are. Any idea what we're going to do now?"

Elias was afraid of that answer. If it was true, he was now responsible for a large section of soldiers assaulting a nigh-invulnerable Covenant stronghold.

"How are the other faces doing?" he inquired, hoping to find something to help.

"I think we're all in the same boat," one of the soldiers weakly replied. "The guys at the south face found a giant hole the charges made and are trying to get inside, but everywhere else, it's all the same."

It wasn't enough – even if they could make a hole and crawl through, they needed to take the arcology. Elias needed a break of some sort – something to break then tension, some sign that the assault was at least working…

"East side has broken through!"

Everybody on the north face looked over to the east; soldiers from that side were running up the ramp, past the concrete lines of cover and up towards the arcology. Had they really broken through?

"Stacker, this is Elias, the east side has broken through." Elias couldn't think of what to do. He hoped at least Stacker knew something.

"Elias, that foothold cannot fall, you understand me? Separate the north face and get one section to reinforce the east face and keep it under our control. We can then relieve the pressure from the north and hopefully get them up there."

"Got it, Stacker, we'll hold it."

Elias then pointed over to the east, and directed the soldiers over there.

"Get at least half of the guys on the north to go for the east face. We've got to hold that position and not let the Covies take it back."

"Got it, Elias. Come on everybody, to the east!"

Elias got up and followed, and as did a large section of the force on the north face. When they reached the east side, Elias spotted the massive number of dead and wounded covering the ramp. The people on the east side had charged up the ramp and had taken their foothold by attrition.

"Get those shields and advance up the ramp" Elias ordered, pointing towards the various shields that stood all around the concrete line. They were going to use them while advancing up to the arcology as cover, so they'd at least reach the building without being shot at during the run.

"I need a few guys to also gather weapons and ammo and get them up to the arcology."

With that, the force grabbed the shields and charged, while a few stayed behind to salvage munitions. Elias stayed with them, picking up several clips from a dead soldier. As he sat down behind a piece of concrete, his stomach contracted and he threw up. The sheer number of dead and dying and the feeling that he had to now take command was still new to him, and it left him quite shaken.

He only hoped they'd make it out of this one alive.

"West face is reporting fifty percent causalities."

"Order Flynn to send a few Warthogs to the west face to pick up the wounded and get them back to the field hospital."

"Got it, Stacker."

"South face has made contact with Covenant forces inside the arcology."

"Tell them to press the attack, and send a few others through that hole they found."

Just before the attack began, Stacker felt almost embarrassed. He was old, could barely use a weapon now, and was sitting in a dimly lit 'command' room far from the battle, free of the blood and the carnage that the men at the arcology would face. Currently, the command room was anywhere far from calm – the other command staff scrambled around, sending radio transmissions and updating the locations of the attack force on their maps.

Elias had reported that the east face had broken through, and Stacker had ordered him to split the north force to maintain the foothold at the east face. The south face was lucky enough to have found a hole made by the charges the Master Chief's entry group had planted and were moving in through that. Otherwise, everywhere else was in the same condition – pinned down, wounded, but still fighting.

It was a mess over at the arcology, but that foothold at the east face was their only hope in an otherwise dreadful attack.

"Where's Cathy?"

Connor was present in the command room next to Stacker. He looked at the map with a grim demeanour, worried over the well-being of Cortana.

"She's inside with the Master Chief. They're fine."

Stacker had to sugar-coat the story. While she, the Master Chief, and Foley were fine, their group wasn't. They were under heavy attack by Covenant forces, had lost six men already with several others wounded, and were running low on ammo. Stacker sent an order to hurry the assault from the faces, but it meant nothing – trying to rush the attack would only mean more soldiers would get lost in the process.

"Stacker, we've lost the eastern sniper team!"

Stacker looked over at the staff member who reported that. Rhineland's sniper teams were essential for the attack, and to lose a team would be bad news.

"What happened?"

"We've got scattered reports that a task force of Covenant vehicles are sweeping through the area and they were able to take out the eastern sniper team."

"Are they all gone?"

The staff member looked at Stacker grimly.

"All KIA, Stacker."

It was bad news. Stacker immediately got on the radio and contacted Rhineland's north face sniper team. He needed to warn him, and maybe even relocate him.

"Rhineland, the east sniper team has been eliminated and you might have Covenant armour rolling towards the other positions, and yours soon."

Rhineland had heard and seen the distant explosion just as Stacker reported it.

"East group is gone, Rhineland!" one of his snipers reported, only solidifying the loss of the sniper team.

Judging from the distinct shape and sound of the plasma that the east side's sniper team was engulfed in, it had to be a Wraith, one of the four they had spotted before the attack started.

"Heads up, I've spotted three Spectres and a Wraith, closing in on our position!"

Everybody at the post froze. As though losing the east side sniper team wasn't bad enough.

"Grab as much ammo and you can and get your asses out of here!" Rhineland barked.

There was a flurry of activity as the snipers picked up as many clips as they could carry and began to pile out of the room. As they did so, the building shook violently.

"The Wraith is sighting us, and I think he's getting closer…"

Rhineland and the last of the snipers finally got out, just as the room they once occupied was consumed by a blue ball of plasma. Outside the room in the hallway just adjacent, Rhineland and the others waited.

"How many rockets do we have?" he asked. All the sniper teams carried a lot of weapons and ammo and even a few explosive weapons, 'just in case.'


Rhineland pointed towards the door. One of the snipers brought out the rocket launcher and moved into position. They were using the same improvised rocket launchers Fist-Alpha was able to put together. The crudely constructed tubes were disposable one-shot weapons, but they were valuable against armoured targets.


Rhineland and the others got a safe distance away just as the sniper fired, the rocket leaving the tube, with an explosion a matter of seconds later.

"I managed to get one of the Spectres. I can't see the Wraith anymore" the sniper reported when he rejoined the others.

"He's probably moved back out into cover," Rhineland predicted. "We've got to take that thing out."

With Rhineland leading, the snipers moved out and got to the ground floor of the building. While they were geared more towards long range combat, several of the snipers had SMG's and shotguns handy.

"The remaining two Spectres are right outside" a sniper reported.

"I need five guys to stay here and pick the drivers and others at my signal," Rhineland ordered, his voice barely above a whisper. "We'll circle around, find the Wraith and take it out."

The five staying behind took up their positions, while Rhineland led the others. They exited the building via the rear alleyway and moved down the street. They reached a turn and another open alleyway when they spotted the Wraith lumbering by.

"We've spotted the Wraith," Rhineland reported via his radio. "Got a lock on the Covies?"

"Roger that, waiting for your go."

Rhineland waved forward, a pair of snipers moving forward with the rocket launchers over their shoulders. They were so far undetected, with the rear of the Wraith facing their direction. Peering around the corner, Rhineland confirmed the location of the Wraith. It was now far enough. He made an 'attack' signal with his hand.

The two snipers popped out of the alleyway and fired, the two rockets impacting the rear of the Wraith, which lifted up into the air and then back down, now a useless and lifeless hulk.

"Go!" Rhineland barked, signalling the go.

There were a set of snaps farther down the street.

"Eight bodies on the sidewalk."

"Good work," Rhineland commended as he and the others moved in and rejoined the others.

"We're done here. We've got to make for the arcology and help out with the attack."

"There isn't enough seats for all of us to go," one of the snipers said as he pulled a dead Grunt out of the side seat. "Rhineland, you and the others go, I'll stay behind with four others and provide any sniper cover or recon where needed."

"Got it, good hunting" Rhineland replied.

The sniper and the four others began to move out to find another building to watch from.

"Good luck to you guys."

Rhineland hopped onto the side seat on the lead Spectre and the two vehicles were off, ferrying the eight snipers to the arcology.

"Rhineland to Stacker, we're relocating – Wraith took out our post. We're moving in towards the arcology now."

"Acknowledged, Rhineland. We're issuing a warning to the other teams to be on the lookout for Covenant vehicles, and we're sending a heads-up to Elias about your arrival."

"Copy, we'll be there in five."

"North side has broken through!"

A cheer went out amongst the soldiers. Elias himself found himself hollering. The pressure they had established from the east side had helped enough to let enough soldiers make their way up the ramp and breach the arcology.

Elias stayed on the east side of the ramp and was helping to direct teams towards the arcology. So far, it was working. The north-eastern arcology building was now almost entirely under human control. The east side had paid dearly in order to take the building, but the reward was worth it. The south side of the arcology was also being pressured by soldiers who had gotten into the building via the underground tunnels, and they had technically breached the arcology already.

The west side was in the worst shape. Almost no progress was made there, but they were being relieved by the forces making progress on the north and south faces.

"Elias, be advised, Rhineland and a team of snipers are moving towards your position now" Stacker reported. Elias had heard the news that the eastern sniper team was taken out and that Rhineland had to relocate. It wasn't bad news, since he knew Rhineland was a great soldier.

"Got it, the more the merrier" Elias replied.

Sure enough, Rhineland had eventually arrived. Elias was freaked out for a moment when he spotted a pair of Spectres, but when he noticed it was being piloted by human soldiers, he smiled.

"Need help?" Rhineland asked almost casually as he got off the vehicle and got down next to Elias. The other snipers did so as well, while a few others stayed in the other Spectre.

"We need all we can get."

Plasma then sprayed around the section of concrete cover that Elias was crouching behind. When it stopped, Rhineland raised his rifle and fired a pair of rounds up into the arcology. Elias could do nothing but watch in awe as he picked off the gunners with ease.

"Come on, let's get up there" he said.

Before Elias could move, he then spotted a convoy of Warthogs driving up to their location. Three of them split off, while the others circled around, the gunners manning the LAAG chain guns kept their sights on the arcology. The driver of the lead Warthog disembarked and got down next to Elias and Rhineland. Elias recognized him – Flynn, the same guy who was driving the Warthog the same day they had taken out the Covenant vehicle depots.

"How many wounded do you have here?" he asked frantically.

"They're down there, by the base of the ramp." Elias pointed towards the location. "There's more up at the arcology entrance and at the inside."

"Do you guys have any reinforcements?" Rhineland asked, noticing the number of Warthogs.

"A few, but we're getting them in," Flynn replied, directing the others to picked up the wounded. "Our primary objective is to get the wounded back to the field hospital."

Elias could see some of the soldiers carrying the wounded to the back of Warthogs. The backs of those Warthogs were without their guns, and the addition space allowed at least half a dozen wounded soldiers to lie down in.

"You're doing a good job, Flynn" Elias complimented, patting Flynn's shoulder.

"Wraiths, incoming!"

Elias and Rhineland looked off to the source of the cry, and instantly picked out a pair of Wraiths rolling towards the ramp. The lead mortar tank fired its long blob of plasma, with Elias helpless as it impacted somewhere by the north face.

"Ah, shit!" Flynn cried out. "Take cover!"

"Get the wounded back to the field hospital, on the double," Rhineland ordered. "Elias, how many rockets do you have?"

Elias pointed towards a bizarrely neat pile they had stashed away at the base, at least a dozen tubes.

"Get those launchers and follow me" Rhineland said, waving a hand.

"Get moving!" the former-ODST shouted at the snipers piloting the other Spectre. "Draw their fire, and we'll take them out!"

Elias and the other snipers picked up the launchers and got onto the Spectre, cramming them into as much space as possible on the small Covenant vehicle. Once on board, Elias sat down in the side seat while Rhineland got into the driver's seat.

"What's your plan?" Elias asked nervously.

"We're going to circle around, and when we get a clear shot, take it!"

Up ahead, the first Spectre sped around, the gunner taking pot shots at the heavily armoured tank. Their fire drew the first Wraith in their direction and gave chase. Rhineland manoeuvred the alien vehicle behind the tank. Their position was perfectly in place.

"Take the shot, Elias!"

Rhineland didn't need to tell Elias twice. Elias had the rocket launcher over his shoulder and fired. The rocket hit its mark, shaking the armoured vehicle with its impact. Elias tossed the spent tube over the side of the vehicle and shouldered another, taking yet another shot. The second rocket hit the tank, and the entire vehicle detonated in an angry blue and yellow explosion complete with twisted metal pieces flying off as the tank fell to the ground, motionless.

"Behind us, the second tank!"

"Hold on!" Rhineland shouted, as he hit the controls.

The Spectre stopped and strafed left, so hard, had Elias not been holding on, he would have fallen out. Next to them, a blue ball of plasma hit the ground where the Spectre was just sitting at. Rhineland then spun the vehicle around and continued on.

Elias pulled out another rocket launcher and fired, the rocket scoring a direct hit on the tank.

"Have you driven one of these things before?" Elias asked, noting how smooth Rhineland was controlling the vehicle.

"Me? Nah, it's my first time" Rhineland replied.

Elias wasn't sure whether to be surprised, or simply scared.

"Ghosts, incoming!" the sniper in the other side seat warned, firing off several shots.

Elias spotted at least ten or twelve of the small, nimble alien vehicles speeding towards them. The gunner reoriented the gun and began firing, the rapid string of plasma chipping away at one of the first Ghost, and then destroying the rest of it.

"We've got get out of here, they're going to run circles around us!" the gunner shouted as more Ghosts continued towards them. The gunner continued to keep up the first, taking down another pair. The other Spectre came back around and was helping to keep the Ghosts off their vehicle.

Rhineland looked around, noting the positioning of the Wraith and the Ghosts around them. He then moved forward, hitting the vehicle's boost in the process. Elias looked on in horror as he realized Rhineland was going straight for the Wraith.

"Hold onto something!"

The Spectre hit the curved side of the Wraith. The added speed of the Spectre and the upwards curved shape of the Wraith's side lifted the vehicle into the air. Elias felt his stomach float, and resisted the urge to scream in fear. While in midair, Rhineland turned the vehicle around, the nose facing the Wraith. The Spectre then hit the ground, the base of the vehicle scraping against dirt and pieces of concrete before the boosted gravity propulsion drive lifted it back into the air.

Elias was hyperventilating. He was not expecting to go flying into the air, not today at least. In between his moment of shock, he realized they were right behind the Wraith, with Rhineland pulling the vehicle back to a safe distance. Elias lifted a rocket launcher and fired. The Covenant mortar tank detonated in a blue and yellow plume of smoke.

"Nice hit, Elias!" Rhineland commented. They had taken two Wraiths down.

"Rhineland, look out!"

Everybody on board looked around to the left side of the Spectre in fear. There was another mortar tank, and it was driving straight towards them.

"Brace yourselves!"

The front of the tank impacted against the Spectre, pushing it forward while jerking around the occupants. The small plasma cannons on the Wraith then opened fire. The gunner and sniper in the left seat cried out, taking the most of the hits. Rhineland also cried out, a shot striking his arm. Elias was somehow shielded from all of this, which struck even more fear into him. His friends were being shot at, and only he was safe.

The Spectre slowly turned to face it, and as soon as Elias had a good shot, he fired another rocket, watching as it impacted and tore off the hatch of the tank.

"Get out, get out!" Rhineland shouted, hopping off the vehicle.

Elias did the same, hitting the ground hard, but he looked on in worry as the other two didn't. The gunner hung dead at the gun, while the sniper at the side seat struggled to get out. The mortar tank then belched blue plasma, and had reduced the Spectre to a smouldering wreck.

The tank then continued forward. Elias slowly got off the ground, still feeling the affects of the hard landing. Some distance away from his, Rhineland slowly got up as well. His arm looked pretty bad, but he was still alive.

As for the other two in the Spectre…

Elias angrily swore out at the Wraith. He picked his Battle Rifle off the ground and charged straight for it. There wasn't a way for Elias to describe his anger – that Covenant son-of-a-bitch had wounded the two soldiers and then killed them. He continued to run towards the tank. Rhineland shouted something at him, but Elias paid no attention.

He hopped onto the tank from the rear and clung on. He slowly got onto the side and made his way towards the hatch. He had blown it off with the first rocket, and he knew it was now open. As soon as he was there, he readied his rifle.

"Surprise, bitch!"

The Elite piloting the vehicle looked up at Elias in shock, not anticipating Elias to have gotten onto the tank. Elias opened fire, watching as the bursts from his rifle knocked off the Elite's shields and then pieced its armour. The Elite was helpless during the process, and eventually slumped dead at the controls, the tank's propulsion systems stopping in the process as well.

Plasma then lashed out at the tank's hull. The Ghosts had seen Elias on the tank. He tried to find someplace to hide, someplace to regroup. He then looked at the open hatch of the tank.

Slinging his rifle over his shoulder, he pulled the Elite's heavy corpse out of the vehicle and rudely plopped it over the side. He then got inside. The inside was large, designed for an Elite, which resulted in the seat and controls being too large for Elias. The 360 degree holographic view came to life as well as with the controls. Looking in, Elias tried pressing whatever button he could. The tank then lifted into the air. With his left hand on the controls, Elias moved the tank around, and the controls on his right appeared to control the mortar.

He repositioned the gun and fired, the mortar belching a ball of plasma and engulfing a pair of Ghosts.

Elias then smiled.

"Time to kick ass!" he yelled.

He moved the tank forward and spotted a trio of Ghost harassing the other Spectre. He aimed the mortar and released a shot, watching as two were caught in the blast and the third was thrown off crashing into a wall. He continued on, making his way to the west, where he spotted the last of the Ghosts trying to finish off the already hurt attack force.

Elias fired another round, and then another, watching as the Ghosts detonated in blue bursts, with their pilots lying dead in their seats. It was payback for the two snipers killed at the Spectre. He could hear the wounded soldiers cheering him on. It brought a smile to Elias's face, knowing he was doing something right.

Plasma then sprayed against his tank. The Covenant manning the plasma cannons facing the west side were firing on him now. Elias reoriented the tank and aimed the plasma mortar. He fired a shot, watching as it impacted against the side of the arcology, taking the cannon and several others with it.

Looking around, Elias then spotted something. It was an Elite, still standing after being shot at. The Elite was injured, probably a broken leg. Elias then noticed it had a plasma grenade clutched in its hands. He tried to find the controls for the plasma cannons on the top of the tank. Elias was too close to use the mortar. He looked on in confusion over the various muttons and controls. He reoriented the tank and pressed one, hoping it would do something.

The tank then jerked forward as its boost jets fired. Elias then watched on in morbid curiosity as the front of the tank clipped the Elite and continued forward. Elias swore the Elite was bent forward in a rather painful looking position, its spine snapped and broken. It was enough at least to warrant a cheer and a humorously appropriate painful groan from the wounded soldiers watching on.

In the 360 degree view, Elias then realized the plasma grenade had been activated. He drove away, but the grenade detonated right under him. The displays flashed red and the controls stopped working. The tank was finished.

Elias got out of the tank, with those able to walk from the west face coming out to aid him. Elias wasn't wounded, but he was still shaken nonetheless. The adrenaline was still with him, his heart beating a thousand beats a second. What had just happened before, Elias could barely recall on. He was just very angry, and then he did a lot of things.

"You're alright, Elias?" a soldier asked, Elias then realizing it was Rhineland. His arm looked better now, only burnt by the plasma cannon.

"Yeah" Elias replied weakly.

Rhineland looked over at the tank and the path of destruction Elias had made.

"Was that your first time driving that?"

"Hell no, but I hope it won't be my last."

Rhineland patted Elias's shoulder, while the other soldiers helped the two to cover. As they did, another convoy of Warthogs pulled up to the west face. Flynn got out of the lead Warthog and up to their position. He looked on in confusion as he spotted both Rhineland and Elias yet again.

"Dear God, are you two following me?" he asked.

"We get places" Elias replied.

"Get the wounded ready to move!" he shouted, both at the soldiers operating out of the Warthogs and the wounded soldiers on the ground.

"Word just came in from Stacker," Flynn continued. "All buildings of the arcology facing the north and east sides have been taken. The only building still left is that one, on the south-western corner."

"That one?" Rhineland asked, pointing towards the corner of the arcology.

"Yeah, that one," Flynn continued. "The communications terminal happens to be in there as well, which is where the Master Chief, Cortana, and Foley are at."

Upon hearing the names, Elias felt grateful. They had made this entire operation possible. But they were still caught in a place swarming with Covenant.

"We've got get inside and help them" Elias said.

"Agreed." Rhineland loaded a fresh clip into his sniper rifle and waved forward.

"Everybody not injured or can still hold a gun, follow me!"

Surprisingly, most of the soldiers, wounded or not, on the west face got up and followed Rhineland and Elias as they circled around to the east side. At the entrance to the path separating the south-east and north-east buildings, a ragged and beat up squad of soldiers held watch. Directly in front of them was the gravity lift, and littering it were the corpses of various Elites, Jackals, and Grunts, with even a few Hunters and Brutes. The squad had a pair of .30 calibre machine guns facing towards the lift, and a few of Rhineland's snipers were there as well.

"Come on, saddle up!" Rhineland ordered. "We've got to take the last building."

"Resistance is heaviest from that one I hear" a soldier reported. He was wounded in various places, his skin blacked from various impacts.

"We got this far already," Elias said, laughing. "Let's finish the job."


The same soldier who had insisted that he heard a noise in the tunnel, and later found the Master Chief and Foley's team, had toppled over as plasma struck his lifeless body. He had taken multiple hits to the point he had only one good arm to shoot his Battle Rifle.

He was the thirteenth soldier to have fallen inside the communications room.

"God damn it!" Foley swore, jamming another magazine into his SMG. "Keep up the fire!"

There were only eleven left, which included Foley, the Master Chief, and Cortana, and of those twelve, only half were still not wounded. The Master Chief was running dangerously low on ammunition for his Battle Rifle. He had already expended all ammunition for his SMG, and was on the last few shotgun shells and 20mm grenades for his grenade launcher.

The Spartan finished firing a burst through an Elite's neck when he back bumped up against somebody else. He turned around for a brief second, noticing he had bumped into Cortana. She was not wounded yet, but she kept up the fight. She fired her SMG down one of the two rear doors, quickly reloading as he emptied her clip.

"Last mag!" Cortana shouted.

Cortana was holding out better than the Master Chief had anticipated. She was determined and had a strong will, and even in the midst of dying team mates and impossible odds, she was still holding out.

Plasma then lashed across the Master Chief's shields. He spun around and fired a pair of bursts, downing a pair of Grunts. A Jackal appeared in the doorway, using its shield as cover for more Grunts to move in. The Master Chief unloaded the spent shotgun shell in his Battle Rifle's grenade launcher, loaded in a 20mm grenade, and fired. The small explosive landed at the Jackal's feet, and blew apart the gaunt alien and the others in the tight hallway.

Bodies littered the communications room, both human and Covenant. The soldiers wearing the protection suits had survived and fought through the thickest of the fighting and had taken a lot of Covenant down with them. They had proudly done their duty to humanity.

"Screw you!"

Foley emptied his clip into an Elite. Just as the magazine clicked empty, more Covenant continue to pour through the rear entrances. With no time to reload, Foley pulled out his shotgun and fired, swearing and cursing in the process.

Foley was the most determined of them all, filled with so much spite and anger which he had directly almost entirely towards eliminating the Covenant. Without his protection suit, he had taken a ridiculous amount of fire, but with his skin charred and burnt, he only pushed harder.

His repeated shots from his shotgun only cut down more and more Covenant rushing into the room. The remaining soldiers helped out as well, but none could match Foley's rage.

"Where are you? Where're you sons-of-bitches at?"

Foley looked around at the entrances, deranged and ready for more. Looking around, the Master Chief noticed it as well. For the first time since the attack begun, the area was calm and quiet.

"Did they stop?" a soldier asked as he looked around.

It almost appeared as though the Covenant had stopped. The Master Chief took the moment of peace to reload his weapon and load a new shotgun shell into his launcher. Just then, several thin glowing ropes slithered down from the ceiling, an area Covenant troops had yet to be pouring out of.

"Above us!" the Master Chief warned, raising his Battle Rifle.

"Shit!" one of the soldiers cursed, pointing his SMG to the ceiling.

"Come on, you bastards!" Foley screamed.

The ropes then jerked around. There were then several distorted blurs that ran around the room – cloaked Elites. The Master Chief couldn't tell how many there were, but several floating energy swords then appeared. The Master Chief fired, his first burst catching the Elite by the throat, who fell to the ground writhing in pain. Its black armour suggested they were SpecOps Elites, some of the deadliest in the Covenant military might. More energy swords appeared and danced about. The Master Chief continued to fire and remained weary of their energy swords. He had taken down three, but even more continued to rappel into the room. One then appeared behind a soldier firing his SMG.

"Get down!"

Too late – the Elite activated its sword and sliced through the soldier, making him the fourteenth causality. Foley, who had witnessed the soldier being sliced in half, let loose with his shotgun, finishing off the Elite with a close range shot. A pair of Elites then surrounded him, their blades flicking dangerously close to the soldier. Foley lashed out with his shotgun, hitting the side of the cloaked Elite's head with the butt of his shotgun before letting loose a shot. The other cloaked Elite swung its blade, narrowly missing Foley. He got down and rolled out of the way, picking up a fallen plasma rifle in the process. Foley then let loose a long fully automatic spray with the Covenant energy weapon, dropping the Elite in a matter of seconds.

"Die, die, die!" Foley screamed, firing until the weapon overheated.

The Master Chief aimed for a pair of floating swords rushing towards him, cutting down a pair of Elites. Just out of the corner of his eye, the Master Chief spotted Cortana, her back to the communications terminal, with five swords dancing in front of her. She fired the leftovers of her clip into one, and had expended the last of her ammunition, but could not finish off the Elite


The Master Chief aimed and tried to fire, only to find that he was empty. He had no time to reload. He fired the shotgun shell, watching an Elite get blown apart in a cloud of purple gore. Dropping his Battle Rifle, the Master Chief unclipped his energy sword, activating it with a flick of a wrist. Although they were cloaked, the Elites seemed to look in shock over the sight of a Spartan carrying an energy sword.

The Master Chief charged, stabbing an Elite in the chest with the sword and whipping it out and slashing through another. The third Elite lunged forward, hoping to catch the Spartan off guard. The Master Chief spotted its distortion and sidestepped, whipping his sword out and watching as the Elite practically lunged into it. He then swung downwards with his sword and the Elite dropped dead to the ground.

The last Elite then charged straight at the Master Chief. He stepped back, the tip of the Elite's sword just scraping the Spartan's shields. Suddenly, a gunshot rang out, and the Elite dropped to the ground, blood flowing from its head. Cortana stood there, panting, with her M6C pistol in hand. She smiled at the Master Chief, before turning around and continuing to shoot.

By Foley's side, four more of the original team had fallen to the Elite's energy swords, leaving only the Master Chief, Foley, Cortana, and three wounded soldiers. Foley quickly reloaded his shotgun and was screaming for more. His calls were answered as a sizable group of Covenant ran through the entry.

The group consisted of scattered Elites of varying ranks as well as the usual underlings. All of them were suddenly cut down by rapid gunfire from outside in the hallway.

"Chief? Cortana?"

Rhineland then came running through the door, sniper rifle in hand, as did a weary looking Elias and a team of beat-up looking soldiers. The Master Chief sighed in relief that they had arrived. Foley, on the other hand, started to laugh.

"You guys missed the party!"

"I'll say" Elias commented, looking around at the sheer number of fallen Covenant. He then walked over to the fallen soldiers and checked them, looking on in sadness.

"Is the arcology secure?" Cortana asked Rhineland.

"Pretty much," Rhineland replied. "We've got a few remainders in this section, but we've got all the rest."

The entire arcology was practically under human control. The mission was a success, and a huge one for humanity. The Master Chief smiled inside his helmet. They had lost many lives, but they had done it right today.

"We're not done yet," Foley then said, receiving more ammo from the newly arriving soldiers. "We've still got to take the ship."

The infiltration was done; the securing of the arcology was pretty much done; now it was up to the final part, the capture of the Covenant capital ship.

"Those still able to fight, with me," the Master Chief said as he picked up some more ammunition for his weapons. "We've got a ship to capture."

The remaining soldiers from the infiltration kept going. They were wounded, but they wanted to keep going. Rhineland, Foley, Elias, and all the newcomers opted to go.

"Cortana, Stacker wants you back at base," Rhineland said, stopping Cortana from going. "We've got a team inbound that'll escort you back."

The Master Chief could see the visible disappointment in her eyes, but she knew her part of the attack was done. Her help could be easily given via radio from here on out.

"Good luck inside, all of you," she said. "Chief, please come back in one piece, alright?"

The Master Chief put a hand on her shoulder. He didn't want to leave her, but he knew at least she was going to be safe. During the fighting, the Master Chief suddenly felt closer to Cortana than before.

"I'm a Spartan, what can possibly go wrong?"

"Don't worry about him," Foley said, stepping in. "I'll watch his armoured ass."

"You better."

The team was then off, exiting the communications room and getting down to the gravity lift. Once there, they met with a larger force and prepared to move in for the final stretch. There were at least forty soldiers now, carrying a wide mix of weapons. Their load-outs ranged from short ranged SMG's to even the improvised rocket launchers and .30 calibre machine guns. They got onto the platform of the gravity lift, and in seconds, they were brought into the belly of the beast.

"Fan out! Secure the area!"

The landing bay was surprisingly empty, but the soldiers knew better. Within seconds, the doors opened and Elites came charging out. The soldiers carrying the machine guns dropped down and began firing, cutting down the first of the Elites. The Master Chief loaded a grenade into his launcher and fired, taking down another pair. The thick sounds of gunfire filled the landing bay and within seconds, had come to an eerie stop as all counterattacking force was wiped out.

"All clear!"

"No it ain't clear!" Foley shouted back. "I've got a feeling here!"

A large set of doors then opened, and two pairs of Hunters walked out. Worse, there were Brutes behind them, running out on all fours and ready to rip a human soldier to pieces. Rhineland had his sniper rifle in their direction within milliseconds and had squeezed off a round. One of the Hunters dropped dead to the ground. The others lowered their stances to protect their weak spots. The fuel rod cannons on their arms then charged up in an angry green glow.

"Get clear! Take cover!"

The soldiers opened fire yet again, and so did the Hunters, their fuel rod cannons firing out across the room. The cries of fallen soldiers could be heard all around. They were taking casualties, and would take more. The Brutes leapt out and engaged the human forces. One of the soldiers emptied his SMG out into a Brute, but the giant alien continued, grabbed the soldier by his arms and pulled, the soldier screaming in agony.

The Master Chief loaded a shotgun shell into his launcher and fired, catching a Brute in the face. He then pulled out his energy sword and sliced through the ape-like alien. A trio of Brutes charged straight at him, each of them fighting for a chance to fight the armoured human. Behind them, one of the Hunters charged up its fuel rod cannon and fired. The Master Chief immediately got out of the way as the shot blew the three Brutes into steamy bits of flesh.

On top of a discarded Covenant crate, a pair of soldiers manned a machine gun and rained fire at the Covenant force, while another in a far corner shouted for his team mates to get clear while he fired a rocket at one of the Hunters.

"Are we clear now?" a soldier asked, after the last Hunter fell to the ground, its armour clanking together in a noisy pile.

"Foley's down!"

The Master Chief ran over to Foley, who was lying and writhing on the ground. He moved, trying to get back to his feet, but was kept grounded due to his wounds.

"He's hurt bad," Elias said. "We'll get the medics."

"Screw the medics! I'm fine!" Foley yelled in defiance. "I can walk, I can walk, damn it! Did anybody get that Hunter? Son-of-a-bitch, cocksucker thought he could beat me with its shield!"

As hard as Foley tried to get back up, he was far too wounded to keep moving. At best, he could only flounder from his place on the ground.

"We'll keep going from here, Foley," the Master Chief said, lightly patting Foley's shoulder. "You can rest now - you've done well today."

More reinforcements appeared inside the ship, and a small number of them stayed with Foley, while everybody else moved on with the Master Chief and Rhineland on point.

"Chief, are you inside the ship?"

It was Cortana. She was determined to help, one way or the other. Whether it meant carrying another weapon or giving tactical data via the radio, she was there.

"We're inside. The construction is different from a battlecruiser, so we might need some directions."

"Don't worry; I'm going to upload a map to you. It should be fairly accurate, and I've marked out the location of the bridge."

A map then flashed inside the Master Chief's helmet. It had picked out a good path through the ship, past the shuttle bays and vehicle storage, and then to the bridge.

"Good. Is there any chance the Covenant will try to disable the ship?"

"Probably, but they won't be able to self detonate the ship for sure. The virus has taken most of their primary systems, other than the gravity lift, offline, so even if they blow the coolant pumps or find a way to magically create the equivalent of a plasma torpedo out of thin air, they won't be able to manage."

That was actually reassuring, if not in Cortana's usual good humour. The Master Chief led the way, following Cortana's directions. They had met mild resistance aboard the ship, mainly scattered teams of Elites, but nothing they would struggle against.

They had reached the shuttle bay when they were caught out in the open by several plasma cannons and a large number of Covenant reinforcements. The walkway on a capital ship, especially this one, was much longer and wider, two hundred metres long at minimum by twenty or thirty metres wide. Unused Banshees and dropships floated in their sections of the shuttle bay just beside the walkway, being of little use due to Cortana's virus disabling all control over the openings of the shuttle bay. Various crates littered the long stretch of walkway, which provided ample cover for all the soldiers on the attack.

"There's so many of them!" Elias cried out as he reloaded his Battle Rifle. "They're like god damned ants, or something!"

"Of course, this is all they've got left to hold the ship," Rhineland explained, getting back up and firing a set of shots. "We get past them, and we've pretty much taken the ship."

The Covenant line was ragged and hastily organized. Behind them was the door that would lead closer to the bridge. The Master Chief set his rifle down and turned one of the crates over horizontally and signalled for the soldiers carrying the machine guns. They ran forth and set their weapons up, letting loose a long string of fire towards the Covenant position. Down at the other end, Grunts carrying fuel rod cannons returned fire, one of their shots landing in between a squad of soldiers.

"Man down! Man down!"

"Want to return the favour?" Rhineland asked a soldier heaving a rocket launcher over his shoulder. He didn't have to reply – the soldier got up and fired a shot, watching as it decorated the walls with alien blood and steaming bits of flesh.

The Master Chief loaded another grenade in his launcher and fired, the grenade connecting with an Elite's midsection. He then tossed in a pair of fragmentation grenades, watching as the Covenant lines were torn up by the many explosions.

"Let's go, let's go!"

Several soldiers ran forward a short distance and stopped, falling to the ground and lying prone. As they did, the soldiers with the machine guns did the same, running up and dropping prone where they continued to fire.

"Coming through!"

Bit by bit, the soldiers advanced in small squads, leapfrogging up the walkway. They didn't stop where there was cover, instead they simply advanced and continued to shoot; an overly aggressive manoeuvre. The Master Chief and Elias charged up the walkway, past a pair of soldiers operating a machine gun, and fell prone, and then fired bursts into the Covenant lines. The Master Chief loaded another grenade into his grenade launcher and fired, landing it between several Jackals and a Grunt.

Loud snaps echoed inside the shuttle bay – Rhineland and a couple of snipers stayed back, picking off targets of opportunity from afar.

"Coming through!"

More squads advanced up the walkway under the cover of fire from the others. They closer they came, the Covenant line seemed to shrink back bit by bit. One of the squads that just advanced fired a pair of rockets at the Covenant line.

"Coming through!"

The soldiers with the machine guns stopped at a fallen crate, where they quickly reloaded and kept up the fire. From their position, they were unstoppable. The Elites tried to encourage their underlings and comrades to keep fighting, perhaps even make a charge of their own, but the volume of fire kept them at bay, and all attempts were cut short but a metre from their lines.

"Come on, let's waste these bastards!" One of the soldiers waved forward and yelled, prompting more to charge forward.

By now, the human squads were advancing by tens of metres, dropping down and providing suppressive fire for the others to advance. They were now more than half the distance of the walkway across the shuttle bay. The Covenant defensive line was being pushed farther back, some even retreating past the door. The Master Chief pulled out a frag grenade and just as the door at the very end opened, he threw it, landing it just inside as the doors closed. Other soldiers tossed grenades, cutting the defensive line down even further.

The Grunts broke rank and fled. Some of the Jackals stayed behind, but even they couldn't remain in place for long. Eventually, only a handful of determined Elites were all that was left of the line. They held on stalwartly, but there was little for them for fight for at this point. There was no chance of a victory for them.

"Let's do this!"

In one final push, the remaining Covenant defensive line was broken. The Master Chief was the first through. The Spartan had slung his Battle Rifle and charged with the Covenant energy sword in hand. He leapt up from a crate into the air, and came down with his blade over top of an Elite's head. Another kept the fire on the shielded Spartan with its plasma rifle. The Master Chief charged straight for the alien warrior and impaled the Elite's chest with the sword.

The others were cut down by a rapid close quarter's fury of SMG and Battle Rifle rounds.

The rest was quite easy from there. Past the door, the surviving Grunts cowered in fear from the human attack force. Occasionally, a Jackal and a few Grunts fired back, but found themselves dead within fractions of a second. The attack force had then reached their objective – the bridge.

"Clear, the ship is ours."

"Get to work on those computers" the Master Chief ordered.

"Cortana, we're at the bridge" the Spartan reported.

"Excellent work Chief. Now, let's get to work. First, I need you to open a connection with the base. I should be able to help direct the others on what to do."

Walking up to the controls, the Master Chief pressed the appropriate buttons as Cortana and his translators suggested. It wasn't long before the connection was made.

"Alright, I'm in. I need soldiers at these stations" Cortana voice was projected over the intercom.

Several lights flashed at the stations, and soldiers ran forward to man them. Cortana then directed them on what buttons to press in order to deactivate the affects of the virus on the ship. Suddenly, the doors opened, and almost every weapon on the bridge was pointed in that direction. Foley, as well as with the other reinforcements, stood dumbstruck at the door.

"Do I look like a blue alien bastard to you idiots?"

There was a moment of silence, followed by laughter as the soldiers thought about his question.

"Are you alright, Foley? Shouldn't you be staying at the landing bay?" the Master Chief asked.

"Don't try to talk him out of it," one of the soldiers said simply, as Foley put his arms around the soldier's shoulders and over another. "He didn't want to miss this moment, even if it meant us carrying his ass over here."

The Master Chief understood. Foley was a hell of a soldier. He didn't deserve to miss the climax of the retaliation. As Foley was being helped to the floor, the Master Chief walked up to the soldiers lying down against the wall. Of them, Elias was there, as was Rhineland, talking to the younger soldiers. The soldiers, looking barely over the age of seventeen, were visibly shaking.

"Is this for real?" one of them asked. "Did we actually do it?"

"We did," Elias reassured. "We came, we saw, we kicked ass."

"Just breathe it in, son," Rhineland said. "And savour it – this is what victory smells like."

Looking out at the soldiers, the Master Chief could see warriors in them. They started as teenagers with barely a cause, and here they are – soldiers, having bested humanity's greatest enemy. Elias was just like them at one point – he was now a strong and fully capable soldier. Rhineland was somebody who was broken by the war – he was now a leader and a role model. Foley – was Foley. He started as a soldier and here, he was a soldier and an exceptional one as well.

Cortana…the Master Chief wondered about how much she had changed. She was no longer merely a voice in his head – she was something almost completely different, and completely superior, even to him.

"Guns are online, and torpedoes are armed!" a soldier yelled in triumph.

"We're set, Chief," Cortana said, her voice anxious and barely able to hold in her joy. "We need to drop the shields and from there we can begin. I've highlighted the control on the monitor. Would you like to do the honours?"


The Master Chief walked up to the control panel and pressed a highlighted control.

"Fire at will."

With that, a cheer went out amongst the soldiers.

The Covenant assault carrier, a capital ship named the Eternal Reverence, lit up. The sides glowed angrily and then shot out in thin streaks. Plasma torpedoes, one of the most deadly weapons available on any Covenant war vessel. Once, they were the harbinger of doom for the UNSC fleet.

Now, their original wielders would face the very same destruction.

The first of the torpedoes found its way to its target – a Covenant CCS-class battlcruiser, no different from any that comprised of a large number of the Covenant war machine. The crew on board struggled to get their ship back to operational status, courtesy of a virus that got onto their ship and disabled their primary systems. They then realized there was a plasma torpedo heading straight their way.

There was no way out. There was no way for them to dodge the shot, nor to intercept or return fire.

The torpedo burned through the vessel, neatly bisecting its hull. All creatures on board the ship had less than three seconds to make peace with their gods before they were vaporized by plasma.

The battlecruiser was first blood. Then came another ship, and then another, and another.

The Covenant armada, responsible for wiping out the last of humanity's defences and for glassing numerous colony worlds and murdering billions of human lives, was no more.

Down below at the arcology, the thousands of soldiers who took part in the retaliation watched on as the plasma fired from the ship. It began with one soldier raising his weapon and cheering, and then another, and another. A single cry went out amongst the survivors, unscathed and wounded alike, a single cry that ended the long night. It was a victorious cry that carried on for miles, as the night passed on into the day.

In the distance the sun was rising. It was the dawn of a new day.

The cheers continued to sound all throughout the bridge. The soldiers were keeping a kill count of the ships being downed by each of the shots of plasma. Each time it jumped, they cheered out. The only thing they were missing to make it a real celebration was beer.

"Damn, I'd be pretty pissed off if I woke up now" a soldier said, chuckling as he watched on, still unable to believe that they actually did it.

It was no dream, however. It was reality – they had defeated the Covenant.

"Stacker, Cortana, and the rest of the command staff wishes to pass on their congratulations," Rhineland said, putting his radio down. "There're on their way to the arcology as we speak. This is it people – this is what we've fought and bled for."

"It's over, Chief," Cortana's beautiful voice drifted into his helmet. "We've won."

It was over. Humanity had won their battle.

"No, this victory is merely the start of a new struggle."

The Master Chief heard a new voice. He looked around the bridge, trying to find where it came from. It sounded feminine, but not like Cortana. The Spartan looking around the bridge caught the attention of all the soldiers.

"Chief, you're alright?" Foley asked.

"Did you guys hear somebody earlier?" he asked, receiving only shrugging shoulders and puzzled faces from the others.

"They cannot hear me, Reclaimer. I am but one voice, with but one ear to speak to."

The Master Chief continued to look around, until he realized it was not on the bridge, but inside his helmet.

"Cortana, are you hearing anything from my helmet speakers?"

"What? I'm not picking hearing anything else. What's going on, Chief?"

"I would hate to remove one as deserving as yourself from your celebrations, but time is short. The Eve of Fate approaches, and your time as come, Reclaimer."

There was then a bright flash of yellow light, catching the attention of all the soldiers on the bridge. The light enveloped the shape of the Master Chief, and in a quick flash, he was gone. The Master Chief, the last of the Spartans, and the hero of humanity and of the retaliation, had disappeared into thin air.

End Note: Just as a friendly comparison, the old chapter of 'Retaliation' was a mere 13 pages on Microsoft Word. Thirteen pages. On MS Word, the rewritten REDUX chapter came out to be 54 pages.

Fifty-four pages. 5-4. 54. It is by far the longest written document I have yet to write - 54 pages. It took a hell of a long time, due to schoolwork and a whole multitude of problems not limited to a massive writer's block the size of the Northwest Territory before they split part of it to make Nunavut (by the way, late Happy Canada Day to all Canadian readers! Also, early Happy Independence Day for all American readers!), and high school Physics. At the time of finishing this monster, I have been out of school for a little more than a week, following final exams. I took a brief moment of time to play World of Warcraft, which started and ended quite quickly, and in between writing this, I also started a new fanfiction series over at the Love Hina section (don't ask...).

It came out to be so long because I put more depth into the retaliation. A lot more. It isn't a matter of taking a gravity lift - there's the initial infiltration, the transmitting of the virus, the attack, the individual parts of the attack, where I focused on Elias and Rhineland a bit more - those turned out to be a hell of a lot of fun to write, and then the final push. I also put a bit in about 'Yuteryi, but that's just a small segment.

So, after stopping with games and MMO's, I sat down, drank a pair of Starbucks frappuccinos (delicious, by the way), and just typed for an entire day. I had up until page 30 when I started, and in a few hours, driven by caffeine, Saving Private Ryan (watched the opening scene four times already), Black Hawk Down (watched it three times the past week), Bravo Two Zero (British movie staring Sean Bean, based on the true story of an SAS patrol in Iraq - this movie turned out to be the biggest inspiration in this chapter. If you've watched this movie, you can probably see the inspirations in my action segments), and by multiple mosquito bites gotten after standing outside in my backyard for a mere five minutes (nasty little buggers), I had typed twenty-four (24) pages.

Well, I need to rest my back and neck for a bit. I'll work on the next chapter to as much of my ability, and keep with my new series as well. Turns out, I found a way to temporarily reduce writer's block - I start with one fanfic, keep writing until I can't, then switch over, and I keep writing until I can't, and by then I can go back to writing Eve of Fate. Anybody familiar with Love Hina, give me a review if you can, or if you have time.

Otherwise, thank you for reading, and I'll see everybody next chapter.