Well it's been a long time since I've uploaded anything but here is my third story. I actually starting writing this as two separate pieces of fiction, the first long before I even began Prisoner of War. It is a little different and fragmented because I've written it over such a long amount of time. Also I feel I must note this is set in an alternative universe, it is my first story concerning the Spartans directly but is not an actual account of what happens (you'll see what I mean in the third chapter). Some may not like the themes shown throughout but there will always be those who resist orders.

Harsh Grip

The waning sun hid behind the thunderous clouds high above. Heavy rain fell upon all below the unearthly sky, the dim light streaked with intense flashes of lightning, the boom echoing out upon the wide valley.

Nestled closely together, a small village lay in the heart of this monstrous storm, the low, squat buildings built for such downpours, yet the slate grey roofs seemed to sag under the constant rain and depression.

Another vein of fire ripped down the sky, a lone silhouette outlined high in the heavens, a tiny blip compared to the rolling clouds above it. The spot moved wildly in the ferocious winds, plunging downward like a stone rolled off a cliff, it would climb once more to avoid the pine fields stretching from the steep edges of the valley walls to the meandering river coursing through the centre, its ever increasing contents surging between jagged rocks.

The small village lay asleep, the many windows barred against the wind, the fires burning within to stave of the cold. The doors bolted to deter the woodland creatures that sought refuge and food in this ungodly place.

The sky erupted once more, its devilish tongue striking out to hit the blip that passed below its nose. This time the lightning struck home, the sonic boom combined with the eruption of man-made fuels. The blip began to descend into chaos.

-

Ray Calloway slumped against the grimy bar before him, one hand clutching a cheap bear, the other placed atop his longhaired head. For all intents and purposes he was dead, the only indication of life the rhythmic rise and fall of his back; this was a man who drank too much too fast too often.

The haggard looking bartender moved slowly along towards this heap of a man, serving the few others who had come out to the pub on this godforsaken night. Not that he particularly cared; they were paying customers, seeking shelter from the elements and wives.

"Want another one?" he asked the mass of hair and deerskin coat in front of him. Ray merely shook his half-full bottle above his head.

"You gonna' be alright to walk home?" Mike asked, leaning towards his most common customer. Finally Ray surfaced, taking a long swig from the brown glass, before placing it down upon the wood. Empty.

"I thought I was home," he said in a rough deep voice, holding out the empty bottle. His unshaven face could have been considered beautiful compared to the few other men in this village, if he made half an effort. But Ray didn't. He couldn't care about himself. Instead he worked at a lumberyard, felling trees all day, drinking for as long as he could at night until unconsciousness overtook him and he left the harsh reality of life. He used to have a wife, but now they simply shared a home and bank account. He slept on the sofa each night, TV dinners for supper.

"I'm gonna have to start limiting your intake," Mike joked back, an almost fatherly gaze on his face as he looked down.

"I pay my tab and don't cause trouble," Ray replied simply, looking out the window at the forest beyond where he spent each day.

"You know what I mean Ray."

"You know why I do this Mike."

"Go home buddy, sleep with Melissa. It must have been a long time since you felt a woman next to your skin. She misses you, every time I see her I can tell."

"I… can't," Ray said, dropping his head into his outstretched hands.

"Life goes on," Mike said tenderly, patting Ray on the shoulder. "What happened, it was… terrible. But you have to go on."

"I can't," Ray whispered inconsolably, "You have no idea what it's like. I go home and I look in Melissa's eyes and all I see is… him. I can never go on, not without my boy."

Mike quietly set down Rays' next bear, before patting him on the shoulder once more and moving away to his next charge. Bringing the cold glass to his lips Ray slowly drank the numbing liquid within, his gaze focused outside the window, but his mind still as cold as ever.

In the distance a lone speck appeared against the backdrop of lightning, Ray's mind worked furiously to overcome the effects of the alcohol as he watched the small object plummet through the sky. Abruptly a fork of lightning clipped the object, the entire rear section erupting into a ball of flame. Ray's mind seemed to awaken from his stupor as he watched the craft dive into the forest, a ball of burning light.

-

The wreckage was strewn throughout the northern territories of the forest. The small craft had plunged at such a steep angle that it had bounced three times before sliding across the rain-slicked ground. The young saplings had snapped from the force of the impact, setting off a chain reaction of falling wood. Ignited fuel ran atop the puddles of water, a steady patchwork of fire bringing the surrounding trees to a macabre light.

The powerful flashlights carried by the townsfolk cast circles of brilliant white light upon the debris littered ground. The dozen men moved quickly through the churning mud. A large section of a wing lay embedded in a thick tree trunk, sheared off during the crash. Everywhere scraps of debris lay haphazardly, some nothing more than a sheet of matte grey metal, others emblazoned with text and emblems.

"Hey Gaz, this one here says UNSC!" one man shouted to the leader of the group, waving a piece of the craft above his head, his light splashing across it at an obtuse angle, illuminating the four letters.

"Dam fleet," a couple of the men murmured at this enlightenment. These men were not radical resistance freedom fighters, they were however glad to be away from the main colonies of human population. There was no military presence on this planet, there was barely even a police force and half of that was out here tonight; three men.

"Keep looking," the leader shouted back from the front of the pack. His torch beam swung side to side, scanning for anything and everything. Passing the largest plume of smoke, which rose high into the sky, he found what he was looking for.

The UNSC Longsword is a very advanced machine, however it follows some very old, yet reliable design principles. Mainly the fact that the centre body is designed to stay intact and cushion whatever is inside it while the outside has many 'crumple zones' designed to take the force of a collision. It was a testament to the engineers' skills that while the wings and practically everything else had broken loose, the main cockpit and crew sections remained structurally sound, if not for a few unfastened items scattered about.

The rear hatch fell away at the pull of an emergency lever. Inside the craft was dark, weapons and ammunition lay piled towards the right hand side as the ship was resting at a peculiar angle. Moving forwards, shotgun resting upon torch, Garry Newell peered into the cockpit and lay back against the bulkhead.

-

Greenwich is only a small village, twenty homes, church, school for the children, a pub for the adults and then an assortment of small businesses. The closest hospital is three days drive away in the biggest city on the planet, which only has a population of thirty thousand people. As such the local villagers depend upon the small surgery nestled away in their midst. Doctor Kate Alexandria is the only truly medically qualified person there, but her two assistants had spent numerous hours practising under her guidance. It was one of these, Martin Koori who examined the teenage pilot in the cockpit of the ship.

The boy couldn't of been more than fourteen looking at the tell tale signs of aging and puberty, and yet he could have been an eighteen year old Olympic athlete with the toned physique on display. The muscled arms and chest were covered in minor lacerations and bruises, but otherwise the sole pilot was in peek physical condition. Moving down though Koori saw the boys' legs and winced. His right shin was badly damaged from a fallen control panel. Apparently the engineers had underestimated the amount of energy released when a metal object fell to the ground at super sonic velocities. Blood flowed slowly from the wound and the white of a bone could be seen below. Moving closer, Koori placed his fingertips against the child's neck and felt a strong pulse despite what he had been through.

Moving back, Martin talked quickly with Garry, updating him on the survivors' condition and how they would have to move him. Happy with the preparations the leader was making Koori leaned back into the cockpit. And felt cold steel press against his neck. The boy was awake and fully conscious; how! Martin's mind worked furiously trying to comprehend what he was feeling more than seeing. He spluttered trying to speak out, but the weapon was pressed harder against his sweating skin.

"Don't shout and I won't harm you," the boy said coldly without emotion, before removing the weapon from the doctors' neck and placing it on his lap, still aimed squarely at Martin, who simply slumped backwards without so much as a murmur. Something in the child's voice and demeanour sent shivers up Martin's spine, it sounded colder than any winter he had lived through. He looked up at the boy.

"Good. Now, explain what's happening."

Koori gazed confounded by the child's apparent lack of pain and emotion. For a moment he just gawped stupidly like a baby until the boy hit his leg with the pistol. Yelping with pain Martin grabbed hold of his throbbing shin.

"Your name," the boy suggested.

"Koori. Mart… Martin Koori. Doctor Martin Koori," he managed to sputter out, correcting himself each time.

"Where are we?" the boy asked looking out through the cracked glass for a split second.

"The North Territories, 'bout three miles north of Greenwich."

"So I'm here," the boy said slowly, to himself.

"Where… Where are you from?" Martin asked, curiosity overcoming his sense of survival. One look from the boy told him he had made a mistake, instantly silencing any further questions he might have had.

"I'm looking for someone," the child said slowly, his gaze returning to Martins' once more. "Ray Calloway."

Koori let his mouth sag open in surprise that this child knew a member of the community, but sense came back to him in time to answer before another blow from the pistol.

"He lives here," Martin answered slowly, "But why would you want to find him?"

"That is not your concern," the child answered quickly, "Can you take me to him?"

"Well yeah, but your in no condition to move, we've got to get a splint on that leg, then stretcher you back. It's about a mile to the road, then two miles of bumpy track. It's gonna be a while."

Finishing this the boy smiled towards Martin, before pulling his damaged leg out from under the console, followed by his second. If he felt any pain he didn't show it, not even a wince. Unlike Koori who, although he had seen and performed many operations, had never witnessed such brutal self-treatment. Reaching down the boy wrapped his hands around the damaged leg and felt it quickly, from top to bottom.

"The bone doesn't feel broken, possibly a hairline fracture though. Superficial flesh wound. You got any antiseptics and bandages?" he asked looking up at Koori who instantly sprang to his medical kit.

Passing the small vile of liquid and a thick roll of bandages he watched in morbid fascination as the child poured the vile into the wound, not cringing at all from the stinging pain, before wrapping his leg in the white roll.

Then, before Koori's very eyes, the boy stood up and walked out of the cockpit without so much as a limp. Following quickly Martin stood beside the boy in the pouring rain outside the Pelican. A few of the search party members walked towards them quickly, curiosity, shock and amazement etched over their faces in equal amounts.

"I thought you said he needed a god-dam stretcher," Garry shouted out, rushing forwards, pushing past the other men.

"He just…" Martin stammered, looking at the child next to him that stood an even six feet.

"What! Got up and walked out," Garry laughed sarcastically, followed by his compatriots.

"Yes."

The entire group fell silent at this revelation. The whole time the boy had remained soundless, constantly looking around, almost sizing up each man before him.

"He wants to see Calloway," Martin continued, stepping towards Garry.

"He asked for him by name?" the leader inquired quietly, so that the child couldn't overhear him in the rain.

"Yes."

"What for?"

"No Idea."

"Is he dangerous?" Garry asked almost silently. Looking back over his shoulder, Martin watched the child stand perfectly erect. The rain was quickly soaking into the military jumpsuit he wore; yet he made no motion of becoming cold or uncomfortable.

"He pulled a gun on me…"

"What!" Garry almost screeched into Martin's ear.

"Will you listen," Koori said, returning to face his leader, "He pulled a gun on me, but put it away almost as quickly. It was like he was making sure I wasn't an enemy or something."

"What kind of new recruit gets a weapon and hijacks a ship?" Garry asked incredulously.

"If I know the current UNSC regs, you have to be eighteen to get in. Gaz, this kid here is twelve, at the most."

Stepping back, Garry stared disbelievingly at the military youngling before him.

"This just got a whole lot weirder," he said slowly.

"Also, he's been in this for a while. The scars on his body, at least the ones I saw, they're not recent and I know kids play rough, but this…" Martin let the silence fall between them, the only sound the continuous fall of rain and crackle of dying fire. Motioning towards one of the other law enforcement officers, Garry spoke in a hushed whisper.

"I want him detained, be careful, we don't know what he wants or what he's done."

The man nodded, proceeding towards the child who had not moved a muscle the whole time.

"What are you going to do with him then Gaz?" Koori questioned rhetorically.

"I have no idea," he replied honestly, "Probably send a message to UNSC command, get him moved out as quickly as possible."

Behind them a sudden splash penetrated the rains gushing sounds. Spinning around Koori watched a sodden officer pull himself up from the ground. Above him the kid stood stock still, watching the officer and every other man with a furious gaze.

"What the hell do you think you're doing!" Garry shouted out, moving towards the sole figure. Not speaking, the boy brought his hands forwards and showed the handcuffs hanging from one wrist.

"Maybe he didn't make it clear. You. Are. Under. Arrest," Garry shouted once over the rain.

Turning to look at Koori the boy smiled, before stepping backwards into the shadows created by the Longsword. Instantly the men brought their torches to bear, training them on the opening. Nothing.

The sides of the ship were in darkness, the fires were dying down. The only sources of light were the few torch beams. They had lost him. Spreading out, the search party hunted furiously for their prey. Watching the retreating backs, Koori sat under the shelter of the Pelican. Looking down at his clasped hands he let out a slow sigh.

Something wasn't right. The ship, the kid, his age, and now him asking to see Ray. Martin quietly mopped his wet hair out of his eyes and started back for town.

-

The morning sky brought with it light, the most useful ally for a hunter. The search party still moved through the woods, yet the boy had not even been glimpsed since his disappearing act.

Returning to town, Garry Newell knew he had a serious problem. A renegade child, dressed like a military soldier was running loose in the forests, looking for a well know family that had been through hardships only eight years ago.

Pulling to a stop outside Ray Calloway's house, Newell was sure he would still be at home. For one it was a Sunday. And number two; Ray was at the pub every night. Knocking furiously on the wooden door, Garry waited impatiently for the occupants within to rise. The sun was only just coming over the horizon, the dark clouds still omnipresent.

Knocking again, he heard movement within. Soon the door clicked open and Melissa Calloway stood before him, dressed in a silk nightgown. No one in this town used safety chains on doors; it was a small village, no viscous axe murderers here. Newell hoped that was still true.

"Garry…" Melissa half mumbled, wiping the sleep from the corner of her eyes.

"I'm sorry to wake you so early Mel, but… is Ray home. I need to speak to him urgently."

"Sure, sure," she said, stepping back to allow Garry into the house. Walking in, he found himself in the usual type of house for this village. Simple living room, kitchen, bathroom, two bedrooms upstairs. With a sense of regret he realised one of them would be empty. Lying on the cosy sofa, Ray slept peacefully, or as peacefully as a man with his past could.

Moving towards him Melissa roughly shook him from his slumber, before asking Garry if he would like coffee. Accepting the offer she walked off towards the kitchen. Newell sat down on an armchair adjacent to the sofa, glancing around the room again. The fireplace was lined with pictures of a once happy family, three members, now two separate parents. Ray rolled off the sofa and cursed softly as he sat back up. His gaze slowly focused on Garry and he cursed again.

"I didn't do it," he said in the usual groggy morning type of voice, extenuated by the alcohol still in his blood stream.

"Guilty conscience?" Garry joked back.

"Mel," Ray called out loudly, "You offer our guest some coffee?"

"Already on its way," she said, poking her head into the room.

"Ehh," Ray muttered in defeat, leaning back on the sofa.

"Want me to start?" Garry asked, moving forwards.

Ray merely nodded, before taking two aspirins from a bottle next to the sofa and swallowing them dry.

"I'm guessing you saw the ship crash last night?"

"So that's what it was."

"Yep. Anyway, we found one person on board, he was alive and not badly hurt."

"Good, good," Ray simply responded.

"He asked to see you Ray. He asked for you by name."

"What the hell," Ray whispered slowly, "where is he now. I want to see him."

Garry almost recoiled at the sudden action before accepting the steaming mug from Mel who had returned to join them. "We lost him, he got away from us. Don't worry though we're searching for him."

"Why? Why would anyone come looking for me?" Ray questioned, to no one and everyone at once.

"I don't know at this moment. But don't worry Ray. I'm going to have your house guarded 24/7. No one will be able to get to you."

"Can the guard move to the pub? If I'm going to be staying in one place, then I'd be happiest there."

Garry smiled at how Ray could have such a humorous outlook even under the prospect of a mad axe wielding madman running around the forests looking for him.

"Sorry Ray, you're staying home and sober until we catch this bastard."

"He hurt one of yours?" Ray questioned.

"Nothing major, more hurt pride than bones."

"You catch him, you let me know immediately."

"Will do," Garry said, standing up, sipping his warm coffee, "Sorry I can't finish this Mel, but I gotta' run."

"No problem," she said sweetly before taking the cup from his hands.

"Matt will be on first guard duty. I'm going to send him here when I get back to the station."

"Sure," Ray said simply, looking up from the sofa, "Tell him to bring a six pack."

Smiling, Garry walked out the front door, Mel shutting it behind him. The shadows around his eyes were nothing compared to the shadow approaching the rear of the house.

-

The day wore on slowly. The grey sky turned deep crimson, then deeper black. The previous nights rain returned in heavier and heavier waves. Soon the already waterlogged ground squelched under foot, instantly churning paths to rivers of mud.

Matt Locke stayed his eight hour shift before been relieved by another officer, glad to be out of the rain he ran home as quickly as he could. Within the wooden walls Ray Calloway passed the time by watching re-runs of terrible drama programs on the small television in the living room. Melanie went about her usual business before leaving to go to a 'girls night' she had been invited to. Leaving a TV dinner in the microwave she waved goodbye to her once husband before shutting the front door and leaving Ray alone.

By eight o'clock boredom had set in fully and Ray was prepared to rip out his eyes just to have something to do. He had never realised how bad TV or the dinners that accompanied it were.

Pushing the plastic plate off his lap he leant forwards to grab the remote, when he moved back though he was not alone. The stranger stood in the doorway to the kitchen, silhouetted by the lighting outside. He hadn't made a sound, not even stepping on one of the creaky floorboards littered throughout the house.

"So you're the one they're after," Ray said, using the remote to turn the TV off.

The shadow stood motionless, the light reflecting off the smooth metal barrel of the pistol that was currently aimed at the floor. With an almost mechanical motion the body slid forwards, the wash from the small lamps in the room bringing the torso and lower body into clear view.

"What's your name?" Ray asked, amused by the stone-faced silence.

"Sam 51," the darkness said back to him.

"What the hell kind of name is that?" Ray exclaimed, setting the small remote control back down on the table before him.

"An ID, my name before that was Samuel Becker."

"Ok," Calloway said slowly, confused by this curious behaviour.

"You had a son," the darkness said slowly, at this Ray stood up sharply to better face this demon.

"How do you know about me and my family?" he asked roughly, his hands balling into fists. But the shadow only stood firm, not a single muscle twitched.

"He was taken from you six years ago."

"Bull shit!" Ray exclaimed at this, his whole body trembling with rage from suppressed memories, "My son died and you have no right to come into my house and say these things."

The shadow's head moved slowly to look at the gun held in the illuminated hand.

"Your son died from an unknown cause," the shadow whispered, the words lined with a sense of truth and power now. Ray felt his rage melt into fear, how could this person possibly know this.

"He would of taken about six months to die. His mind went first, by the end he didn't recognise you, then he couldn't walk or talk. After a while his body just gave up, no medical reason."

"I… I…" Ray stammered uncontrollably, "How could you…"

The darkness fell away as the boy stepped forwards once more, his scarred face seemed to hold no emotion, yet his grey eyes almost begged for trust.

"Mr Calloway, your son did not die, he was kidnapped, taken away to be put through horrible things. I met Jamie, because the same thing happened to me."

The old man fell back into the armchair to his side, his hands working their way up to his face. Soft sobs echoed out beneath the worn skin.

"Mr Calloway, Jamie wanted me to tell you everything. He wanted me to tell you why he could never come home and what happened to him. But only if you wanted to listen."

The hands fell away as Ray regained his composure. He had to know the truth. If only to bring a finality to his minds agony.

"Tell me Sam, tell me what became of my son."