The Angel's Halo
Author's Note: Okay, so this is my second Halo fic I've ever written, but hey, the first one's a crap romance and I don't feel like typing it all into the computer, as it's hand-written. So yeah. If I owned Halo, I'd be a rich lady, but seeing as I don't, I don't wanna claim it. All original characters copyright to me . . . but I wish I had the Arbiter. He's nifty!
"Got your back!"
"What! Hey! What did we say about the rocket launcher!"
"First come, first serve!"
"Awww, dangit! Hey, you! No sniping! That one was mine!"
"Then kill him before I do!"
"Blasted Elite . . ."
"Come and get me, freaks!"
Willow watched the young recruits on the simulations, shaking her head. She'd seen the front lines, she's seen the ground-battles, and that was not how most of the conversation sounded. More like wordless screams and curses that their mothers would have smacked them for. She looked to her left, starting, then remembering to salute as she didn't know his rank yet. "Sir!"
"At ease," the elder, if not higher, officer said in an almost-gravelly voice. He nodded with his chin to the kids in the four-AI-run simulation with amusement. "They suck."
Willow chuckled. "No kidding. Wait 'til they see their grades."
He smirked slightly, walking out of the shadows. Then the twenty-something woman saw that his skin was unnaturally white. Being completely Irish, she had inherited the white-white skin of her ancestors with the flaming red curly hair and clear blue eyes, but . . . he was . . . it was almost as if . . . No. Way. She continued watching the newbies, but aimed her question at the officer in his off-duty garb. "Might you be a Spartan, sir?"
"What tipped you off?"
"You're whiter than I am. I'm the lightest on this station."
He watched her from the corner of his eye. "How would you know?"
"We got bored," she replied, amusement edging around her voice.
John, Spartan-117, looked down at her fully. "Bored."
"Yeah. Of course, that came after every other competition was exhausted once we finished building this useful hunk of metal."
He released a rare chuckle. "So can I put these kids on their toes?"
"How so, sir?"
"Up the amount of Covenant to ten times the amount of Grunts, three times the Elites and Jackals, then add in two sets of Hunters. Real fighting conditions."
"You want them to wet themselves, sir? They've never even heard of Hunters, never mind seen one. You know that anyone who isn't in the military thinks that there are only three species."
"There's more than just that," John replied, letting his eyes catch hers and hold them. "Engineers, and two new species into the Covenant: Brutes and some insect-thing that ONI just called Drones. And there are some hints that there are more just waiting to be entered into the fight."
"I take it that it's now supposed to be general info around here."
She called up one of her AI working on the simulation. "Keaton, you heard the Master Chief. Set these kids on their toes, see how they deal with it. Spread the word."
"Ma'am," came the calm, almost-amused reply.
And then chaos entered the equation. Another person walked into the room, and she heard the distinctive scowling voice of a man whom she had not yet had the pleasure of meeting. He wasn't as high on the ranking as her, but both of them saluted, each really more attentive towards how the recruits were dealing with more Grunts, Jackals and Elites than they could handle. He gave a satisfied grunt. "Good. That's the way to teach brats like them."
The rocket-launcher was soon depleted. She tsk-ed, sighing. "That went too quickly."
"Hey! Watch it!"
"Get outta me sights, then!"
"Blasted . . . I can't get a view!"
"Who threw that grenade! It nearly hit me!"
And the first set of Hunters entered.
Havoc ensued, and Willow sighed. "Keaton, Kenisha, Demetra, Agni, freeze simulation." She looked at the two battle-scored soldiers beside her. "If you two would like to help me show the them how three can defeat a number that fifteen has obvious trouble with . . . ?"
"Where's the door?" the larger man asked.
She entered, whistling piercingly. "All right, you sorry lot! Against the back wall! You raunchy, dull-witted, no-good boot-lickers, you should know how to fight an enemy of these numbers! Hey! You! I said, against the back wall! Did you just make me repeat myself? Drop and do ten, kid! Now!"
They hastened to obey, all standing to attention but the unfortunate boy who was slow in responding. John and the Sarge had chosen two weapons each, along with four grenades; two frags, two plasma. Willow did the same, her battle-rifle at her right side, a sub-machine gun in her right hand. She picked up a fallen plasma rifle in her left, then looked at the other two with her, nodding. "Resume simulation."
The Hunters burst into charges, coming straight at them. John sped to one side of them, Willow and Johnson to the other, both men firing at the unprotected orange sides and backs, while Willow covered them, taking out an Elite and two Jackals, dropping the plasma rifle to lob a frag behind some oncoming Grunts. They blew into the air, spinning like tops. A plasma grenade soon followed the frag, this time sticking on an Elite's head and imploding just when he had ran near another Elite.
Gunfire from either side of her caused her to start firing, short, controlled bursts of the SMG at Grunts before ducking back behind a crate and reloading, grabbing her plasma rifle and spinning to take out a few more Jackals and an Elite before the next two Hunters came out. She dropped the SMG, switching the rifle to her right hand and grabbing for the perfect spherical plasma grenade.
John glanced at her briefly, and she nodded. Johnson would have their back.
She looked at the Hunter coming straight at her, and then dodged around to her left, priming the grenade and sticking it to the Covenant's back before leaping behind another large crate, melee-ing a Jackal that had unfortunately had wanted to catch its breath.
A blue-white light signified that the Hunter had indeed met its demise, soon followed by the second Hunter's gurgling howl as it "died."
"Halt simulation!" Willow barked, waiting until all the noise stopped. She stood, still wary, knowing that sometime the AIs liked to fool around, shooting at the kids. They were smart this time. Didn't want to get the senior officers angry, and didn't want to face the fiery wrath of the trainer. Good. Very good. They were learning. She looked at the two men, then at the recruits, indicating one of them by eye-contact. "You. What were you all doing wrong?"
"Watching each other's back?"
"No, you were doing that. And letting them know that you were doing so. Drop and give me ten. Address senior officers as 'sir' or 'ma'am.' You've been through basic!" She chose another unlucky recruit. "What were you doing wrong?"
"Because those two monsters came outta nowhere, ma'am."
"That's right. And what should you never do on a battlefield?"
"Right." She indicated the two men with her. "Both here know what they were doing because they knew what they were up against. They've been in the front lines, and if any of you are lucky enough to be fighting alongside Sergeant Johnson or the Master Chief, be sure that you don't screw up and disgrace your training and your species. Get out, get showered, and be ready for inspection. Move!"
Johnson chuckled. "Looks like they like you, ma'am."
"Gag me. They're all too young."
"Oh, really? And how old would you be, then?"
"Old enough to be your adult child," she retorted. "And fully half your age, sir."
"Aw, now don't be nasty like that . . ."
The Spartan shook his head, smiling slightly. "You're giving the kids a hard time."
Willow nodded. "I'm going on an a recon mission in three hours. Their new trainer is here, and he's been watching me work with them. This was their last class with me."
"So where will the mission take you?" Johnson asked. "Or is that saying too much?"
She looked at both men, sizing them up, wondering how they would react. "Halo."
"Suicide," the Spartan snorted. "The place is teeming with Covenant. There's no chance that you'd get around them undetected."
Willow nodded sadly. "That's why I'm the only one being sent. I'm not supposed to come back."
"You're willingly letting the those motherless wastes of breath take you! Do you know what nearly happened to Keyes!" Johnson hissed.
"Yes, I know. I know all about their torture routines, I know about their new additions into their troops, but there's only one real reason why I'm the one who volunteered."
"You what!" both men said hoarsely.
She nodded, then replied in a completely different language, one that wasn't human.
"That's the Elite's language."
"Yeap. We can speak their lingo with some difficulty, but they can't speak ours."
John saw the determination, albeit a frightened determination, in the woman's eyes. "You're a brave kid to be taking this on."
She smiled. "Yes, but at least I got a chance to see two of the UNSC's heroes before I left." The smile turned sad as she turned her face towards the deathly-white man. "And I got the chance of a lifetime, talking with the one man who I have always wished I could have met face-to-face."
John felt an uncharacteristic pang in his chest, the type of feeling he got before things turned horribly wrong. Swallowing, he saluted her wordlessly. She returned the salute, turned on her heel, and was gone. Spartan-117 looked to the sergeant, who sighed and looked away from the taller man. "If she gets killed, well, damn. I guess that I can only say I wish she was older."
"For a date?" John snorted.
Johnson shook his head. "No. So that I could have had her in my command group. She would've made one helluva field-leader."
John shook his head. "No. She would have made any Spartan jealous of her ability to face what she suspects is death, and most certainly isn't favorable conditions, with a determination to see things through. If she were born maybe fifteen years earlier, she'd have been picked for the Spartan program."
"So is said Spartan jealous?"
"No. I . . . blast. I pity her. If she lives . . ."
"If, Chief. If."
John nodded, changing the subject. "So about that ceremony . . . ?"
"Fine. I'll wear my dress uniform."
"You'd better. That hunk-o'-junk suit you usually lug around ain't no good anymore."
"I told you I'm getting a replacement . . ."
Willow taken off in the Longsword, careening though the blackness of space to get away from the Orbital Defense Grid before turning into slipspace. And it was time now to reenter the normal realm. She did so, seeing the curved, burning parts of a circle, as well as the Covenant ships swarming all over them. Pretending that she was trying to keep a low profile, she wove in and out of debris, knowing that all friend-or-foe tags would mark her immediately. And then . . .
They got her.
She took her hands off of the controls, glad now that she had reduced all weaponry to burning globs of slag before taking off. Her viewport changed from the star-ridden blackness of space to that of the inside of a Covenant ship, Jackals and Grunts bristling with weaponry, a few Elites among them. And a rather large albino Brute in the back, watching in slight interest.
Blast, but he's ugly, was the first thought that passed through Willow's mind. Better not let him know that. He looks too dangerous for me to handle.
The rear hatch blew open, and three Elites stalked in. Willow held her hands up above her head and stood, turning to face them. The lead one was missing half of his left double-jaw, decked out in iridescent white armor, the other two in black. He walked up to her cautiously, leaning closer to click his remaining mandibles slightly. Willow swallowed, but didn't move a muscle. Something was odd about this Elite. Very odd indeed. Very familiar, too.
"Silence. She's coming with me to the Hierarchs. Bring her."
The two Elites hastened to obey, each taking one arm and following their leader. As they passed the large Brute, he chuckled, leering towards her. "She smells nice, for a human. I hope they'll allow me to play."
The Elites ignored him, as Willow tried hard to do.
She knew it would be hard.