0322 hours, 10.19.2552 (Military Calendar)/Planet Earth; Oregon, America; Fernandez residence.

"I'm telling you," Vita insisted, tears beginning to come out of her eyes, "If the U.E.G. would just apologize to the Covenant…"

"Apologize?" Miguel cried, outraged. "For what? Existing in the universe?" He couldn't believe his own daughter had become a raving xenophile. He was sure it was due to the group of freaks she called friends; near half of them were Neo-Koslovics, for God's sake.

"For encroaching on their sacred land, dad," the young girl answered. "There have been numerous studies suggesting the presence of alien ruins on Harvest," she continued, sounding as though she was quoting an edu-screen. "That combined with the extremely zealous religious references in their transmissions implies they were just defending their territory."

"They extinguished three million human lives in a matter of days and launched an invasion of all of our colonies," he seethed, angry he even had to debate this. "They have long since repaid any 'crime' we may have done to them. Have you forgotten their greeting: 'Your destruction is the will of the gods, and we are their instrument'? They are cold-hearted murderers, and I won't have my own child talking about them as though they're human beings! From now on, you're not to speak with those wacko friends of yours."

"But, dad!" she started to say, but he cut her off.

"No buts. This is for your own good," he began to say.

"My own good? What the hell are you talking about?" she interrupted, glaring at him with anger. "The Covenant is a culturally rich and diverse group of species, and the UNSC has been doing their best to destroy them. What do you really know about them? Most of the news waves you can't trust 'cause ONI tweaked them in favor of their own agenda, and they've done the same with all of the media! If you look at all the facts, you can see hints of what ONI doesn't want you to know!"

"Oh, and what is that?" he asked, rolling his eyes. What lunacy these people come up with! "Is Minister Dunn secretly in love with a Grunt?"

"No! The Covenant is not halfway as bad as the government would like us to believe," she cried. "There is evidence that they may have interacted with humanity a hundred thousand years ago! They gave us superior technology, which we selfishly used to make war on one another, until we destroyed the continent of Atlantis…"

Fortunately for his rapidly dying temper, a sudden blackout interrupted her nutty ramblings. Trying to calm down as his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he noticed Vita's computer was on – operating on its reserve power. This was good, it was not like the ten-second blackout a few days ago that shutdown every piece of technology all over the goddamn planet.

Now, that, he had to admit, was a SNAFU. He wasn't cleared to know exactly what had happened, being only a blue-level tech-specialist, but all of the higher-ups were freaking out about it. Ms. Schovajsa had hinted that the traitor Standish, who was on trial for the murder of an ONI agent, had something to do with it. Whatever it was, he hoped the higher-ups would calm down before it impacted his pay.

"You see?" Vita cried hysterically. "ONI's testing some kind of weapon somewhere, and not telling us what's going on…"

Sighing, he indicated the lit holotank, "It's not the same as last time. See? Things are still on." He tapped the surface of the tank to activate the avatar. To his great displeasure, the PA appeared in the form of a Covenant Elite.

"Zee-Tan Personal Assistant," the avatar intoned in the slow deep voice used by the Elites. The long head on its snake-like neck bowed respectfully.

He scowled at the PA, "'Zee-Tan', explain the power malfunction."

The Elite avatar tilted its head back so it would have been looking directly up, "Examining…"

A nearby beep told him Vita had activated her chatter. He could dimly see her face as she held up the device to look at the screen. "Well, the grid is still there," she said flatly. "Last time, it vanished."

"Yeah," he agreed, taking in and letting out a deep breath. "This malfunction's different." It's okay, he told himself. We will be able to resolve this. There has to be some way of proving the Covenant's evil to her…

"Malfunction detected," the Elite-shaped avatar interrupted his thoughts. "Power failure has occurred at point of origin. The Nakahara Power Plant has ceased to transfer electricity and has vanished from the grid."

"Vanished," he repeated. "What does that mean? Rhetorical," he told the AI as it started to answer.

"Zee-Tan, please engage back-up lighting systems," Vita said softly.

"Yes, Excellency," the AI responded as red lights began to glow from the ceiling, revealing his daughter's tear-streaked face.

He sighed and stepped over to her. "Now, honey, I'm the last person who wants to see you upset. But you must realize that evil does exist in this world, and our government is not the source. The Covenant is bloodthirsty and everyone would just be better off if they can be wiped out."

"You don't understand," she shook her head. She started to explain exactly what he didn't understand, when her chatter began beeping. Before he could say anything, Vita answered it. "Hello? Murphy, this isn't a good time… What? You're kidding! What does it…?"

He pulled the chatter away from her before she could continue, "Excuse me, young lady, but we were having a conversation here!" He raised the chatter to his ear and snapped, "Murphy, this is a bad time!"

"But, sir," Murphy tried to argue, "There is a giant dragon—"

He hung up before the man (Miguel supposed he could have been an Aussie from his accent) explained his astrological mumbo jumbo. Honestly, he couldn't understand why anyone would believe in the supernatural when the universe was fascinating enough without fairy tales. I guess it has something to do with the need some people have to believe in government cover-ups. Both, obviously, were rubbish.

Her chatter beeped. He glanced at the display to see that an image file had been sent, and paused to read the return ID. "'Society of the Ancients'? What is that rubbish?"

"It's an institution dedicated to uncovering the truth," she muttered, her voice giving the impression this was an oft-repeated phrase. "Out of place artifacts, evidence of ONI conspiracies… even the Spartans."

"The Spartans," he sighed. Before he could get into anything more, he was interrupted by the AI.

"Attention!"

He turned to see that Zee-Tan had transformed into the standard emblem of the U.E.G., and now spoke with the voice of David Dunn, Earth Minister of Information.

"All civilians within ten miles of the Oregon nuclear power plant are advised to retreat to Vancouver at once. Repeat: All civilians…"

"What the hell?" The power plant? What's happening, a meltdown? He took a step toward the hologram.

Vita suddenly rushed for the door, snatching the chatter from his hand as she passed.

"Vita!" Swearing under his breath, he turned from the display and started after her, when his own chatter began to beep. He sighed and flipped open his compact to read a text message from ONI. "Urgent… Presence requested immediately… Schovajsa."

What do they want me for? His expertise lay only in biology, useful in consultation regarding bioterrorism, but surely whatever incident occurring at the Nakahara power plant had nothing to do with biology; did it? An Insurrectionist attack? he wondered suddenly. With a bioterror threat?

Slipping his chatter back in his pocket, he went in search of his daughter. However, the house was empty, her bike gone. "Damn that girl," he sighed, sending her a voice message urging her to meet him in Vancouver, to which she made no reply.

He could text the CPA announcing a runaway—at the age of 12, Vita was still considered a child—but he knew that would only infuriate her more. As Minister Dunn hadn't ordered them out of the state so much as 'requested', he figured there wasn't significant need for alarm as far as bioterror threats go.

For now, he would just go to work. ONI would fill him in on the rest. Well, everything he needed to know, anyway.

7-7-7-7

0340 hours, 10.19.2552 (Military Calendar)/Planet Earth; Oregon, America; north-south highway.

Vita watched the heavy traffic as it sped by. Thousands of people were obeying the government, heading to Washington. She, however, was one of the few independent enough to seek out the truth herself.

She saw what was really there, what ONI was so desperately covering up. A man at the power plant took an image of it and published it on the grid. ONI worked fast to take it down, but SOTA managed to get a copy of it.

A dragon. It made her giddy to think about it. A real dragon, a Western draken, had risen from the Pacific Ocean and made an appearance at a power plant. The spiritual implications alone were staggering, to say nothing about science…

Her thoughts were interrupted by a sudden thunder. Only, it wasn't thunder. She turned and looked up at the sky.

An oblong grey object sped through the blackness above her: a battleship. Vita swallowed as the implications became clear. The UNSC was going to fight the dragon…

As the ship shrank smaller and smaller, she realized her missed opportunity. While the ship was still visible, she raised her chatter and took a video recording. She sent the file to SOTA.


Author's Note:

Oh, goodness gracious. Finally! I've had a monstrous writer's block over this thing for over four years. Finally, I write something!