Disclaimer: I can only dream….

Ironic Trust

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Chapter one: First Contact

Loren trekked through the woods with her team, sweating profusely under her burdensome armor. Her assault rifle felt heavy in her hands, and Commander Johnson's long strides did not falter. It seemed like hours since their Pelican had dropped them in this godforsaken jungle, yet when she checked her watch, barely fifteen minutes had passed. Now, after several months of training, she still hadn't seen a single enemy Covenant.

"Commander Johnson," her helmet radio crackled, "Master Chief jumped from the Forerunners ship."

"Yeah, what about it?" Johnson stopped and wiped his dark brow with the back of his hand.

"He was two kilometers above the ground."

Johnson swore, the first look of anxiety Loren had ever seen flashing over his face. "Two kilometers …?"

"He landed just north of your area, but he hasn't checked in," the voice continued. "Plainly, I'm worried."

"We'll find him," Johnson said. He lit one of his ever present cigarettes. "Johnson out." For a second, he stood silently, thoughtfully puffing on the cigarette. In one motion, he dropped it and ground it under his boot. "Where's the Arbiter?"

The air beside Loren moved, and she jumped and stepped quickly back. A soldier beside her, Mark, she noted darkly, snickered.

"I am here," a deep, disembodied voice spoke.

Loren glared at the shifting air for a moment before glancing away. The way the Arbiter could make himself invisible was downright creepy.

"Listen," Johnson began, and then interrupted himself irritably. "Make yourself visible; I don't like talking to thin air."

The Arbiter obeyed wordlessly, materializing into his towering seven foot height.

"When we find him, stay back," Johnson continued. "I don't want him pasting you before I can tell him not to."

The Arbiter snorted but said nothing, swiftly vanishing back into nothingness.

"All right, soldiers," Johnson said, clicking the safety off his assault rife, "Fan out north, and find the Chief, and keep an eye out for Covenant. Loren, you stay with me. The rest off you, stay in seeing distance of one another. Mark, stick with the Arbiter."

"Permission to speak, sir," Mark piped up.

"Permission granted," Johnson said.

"How can I stay with him when I can't see him?"

Johnson sighed and glanced in the direction of the Arbiter.

The Arbiter growled and reappeared. "I do not like being a watcher of your inexperienced."

"Fine, then," Johnson replied with annoyance. "He can come with me if you're going to act like a grouch."

The Arbiter turned and stalked away, muttering, "Humans."

Mark glanced between him and Johnson in momentary confusion.

The Arbiter glanced back at him impatiently. "Come, boy."

With a microscopic shrug, Mark followed.

The group split up, and Loren found herself struggling once again to keep up with Johnson's long strides.

"Have you ever met the Master Chief?" Johnson asked her as he slung his rife over his back and hacked through a patch of vines with his machete.

She shook her head, eyes roving about as she watched for any sign of Covenant presence. "No, sir, but I've seen him several times from a distance." She hesitated then continued. "Everyone that I've talked with who has worked with him seems to idolize him. Is he really that good?"

"Yep," Johnson said. He sheathed the knife and grabbed his assault rife again. His face darkened. "For the sakes of all of us on Earth, we'd better hope he didn't . The Arbiter's good, but without Master Chief, I doubt his ability to give us the aid we need."

"Why did he jump from the Forerunner ship?" Loren asked, still doubtful that anyone so highly esteemed could do something so stupid.

"I have no idea," he said with a frown. "I wonder what in the blazes caused him to jump at two kilometers."

"Commander, we've found him." It was Mark, and he sounded unusually subdued.

"How is he?" Johnson demanded. "Where are you?"

"We're two hundred meters north of you, sir," came the reply.

"I'll be there in a minute," Johnson said. "Come on, Loren." He broke into a jog, and Loren forced her tired legs to follow.

They reached the spot before the rest of the team, and as promptly as they appeared, the Arbiter vanished. Mark, sitting on the ground with a compact laptop before him, started as the imposing figure at his side abruptly disappeared, and Loren was about to pay him back for his snicker, when she saw Master Chief. He lay immovable on the ground, green armored arms held bizarrely up in the air. His face was covered by his helmet, and the trees above reflected on the gold tinted visor.

"Report," Johnson asked, concern filling his face as he leaned over him.

"His armor's locked," Mark replied, hitting a few random keys. "But the gel layer seemed to take a good deal of the fall."

Johnson touched something on Master Chief's helmet, and the Spartan's arms sank down to his sides.

"I'm afraid it doesn't look too good, sir," Mark admitted.

Johnson said nothing, but leaned in close and studied Master Chief's visor carefully, another cigarette somehow finding its way to his lips. The rest of the team filed into the area silently.

Finally, he reached forward and pulled something small and thin, almost like a computer chip, from the back of Master Chief's helmet. He rocked back on his heels and stood. Turning to a soldier, he ordered, "Send for heavy transport, we aren't leaving him here."

"No," Loren's head snapped around as Master Chief reached up and grasped Johnson's arm, "you're not."

Johnson's face lit up, and he helped Master Chief stand. "Crazy fool!" he exclaimed. "Why do you always jump? Someday you'll land on something as stubborn as you are, and I don't do bits and pieces."

Master Chief did not reply, but reached for the computer chip in Johnson's hand.

Johnson handed it over, his face growing abruptly serious again. "Chief," he asked softly, "where's Cortana?"

"She remained behind," the Spartan replied his tone quiet. He slipped the chip back into his helmet.

Out of the corner of her eye, Loren saw the gel like section of air move as the Arbiter shifted his position.

Master Chief froze. Suddenly, he grabbed Johnson's pistol from his holster and, shoving the commander aside, sprang forward with a dexterity that seemed to be beyond someone with his stature and armor.

Apparently, it took the Arbiter by surprise also, for he only had time to make himself perceptible as Master Chief's pistol rested on his neck.

"Wait, Chief!" Johnson shouted. "The Arbiter's with us!"

The pistol did not move. Master Chief's expressionless visor stared up at the Arbiter's face, tension rippling through the air. The Arbiter stood motionless, almost as if he wished the other would pull the trigger, his gaze locked with the Chief's.

"Take it easy," Johnson said, his voice sharp. "We have enough to worry about without you two trying to kill each other."

"If only it were so easy," the Arbiter hissed as Master Chief reluctantly lowered the pistol. The menace in his voice caused a shiver to run down Loren's spine.

Johnson held an assault rife out to Master Chief. "Come on, we have a job to do."

Master Chief snatched it from him, his whole posture radiating resentment and hostility. His gaze never left the Arbiter.

The Arbiter calmly loaded his carbine and stood waiting for orders.

In his normal silence, Master Chief turned and ran into the forest.

"Come on," Johnson gestured at the soldiers and Arbiter and followed the Chief.

"Wheesh!" Mark muttered as he fell into step beside Loren. "I wonder what made those two such great friends."

Loren said nothing, but concentrated on breathing and wondering how she had ever thought Johnson walked fast. She could see Master Chief ahead of her through the underbrush, running easily over the rough terrain and holding his weighty assault rife as if it was a plastic toy.

The Arbiter loped a short distance behind him, contenting to remain visible. He evidently didn't want to make Master Chief feel more threatened than he already was. Though the Arbiter's face was mostly hidden by his armor, it seemed to Loren that he seemed continuously depressed. She wondered what had happened to make him this way; she knew it was not normal for an Elite, for all the others she had seen seemed full of energy and passion. If Master Chief had pointed a pistol at one of them, she was sure he would have been attacked on the spot. She just hoped that the Arbiter wasn't waiting to deal his revenge in secret.

Busy with her speculations, she didn't notice that the others had stopped and almost plowed into another Marine from behind. He threw her an amused glance, but before he could speak, Johnson called back in a hushed tone, "Covenant ahead."

Master Chief lifted his rifle and continued forward into a canyon, Arbiter at his side. They disappeared from sight and loud firing broke out.

"Loren, Mark, stay by me," Johnson called. "Let's kill us some Covenant, soldiers!"

The Marines cheered and charged forward after the Chief. They rounded a bend into a full blown battle. Grunts screamed and ran, brutes yelled, and Master Chief walked calmly through it all, the rapid sputtering of his rifle only pausing when he reloaded. The Arbiter waded through a group of petrified grunts, swinging his energy sword with reckless abandon.

"Loren, to your left!" Johnson yelled.

Loren spun around and reflectively fired as a jackal stepped into sight from behind a rock. The bullets caught the jackal with its shield down and blood flew. A grunt ran into her line of fire, firing its needler sporadically. She pulled the trigger again, and felt the weapon shake as it shot forth the projectiles of death. The bullets blew off the grunt's methane tank, and the grunt screamed as it fought against the oxygen invading its lungs. Loren emptied the rest of her clip into the grunt and stopped to reload.

"Watch it, Loren!" Mark gestured behind her frantically.

She twisted around to see a brute rise up behind her, a bloodied brute spiker in each hand. It stepped toward her laughing evilly, as she frenetically fumbled for her pistol.

"Taste death, helpless one," it leered, and pulled the trigger. Something shoved her hard into the ground, and the Arbiter sprang in front of her, his shield absorbing the brute spikes. He snarled as his shield gave out, and a spike punctured his armored gauntlet. Leaping forward, he slammed his sword into startled brute and jerked the brute spike out.

He turned back to her. "Never face one direction for too long, young one."

"Thanks," she managed, leaning back against a rock, trembling violently.

He clicked his mandibles in some strange alien gesture and turned back to the fight.

Mark clambered down some moss covered rocks to her side. "Are you okay?" he asked breathlessly. "I thought you were gone."

"Yes," she answered unsteadily, picking up her assault rife and shoving in a fresh clip. "I'm fine, thanks to the Arbiter."

At that moment, Johnson appeared. "You alright, Loren? Good. Hurry up," he continued in one breath. "We're gonna get lifted to a new area. Chief and the Arbiter will take half the team and keep pushing back the brutes. We'll land a couple kilometers west of here and hit them from behind. We have to clear a landing zone. Stay close."

They broke into a jog and crossed a small stream, ducking an occasional stray projectile as the fight raged on ahead of them. They came upon the marines as the team was brought to a standstill. A Covenant Phantom swept low and deposited a fresh group of brutes and grunts below the falls. Master Chief stood knee deep in the river directly above the waterfall, his battle rife rattling off short, controlled bursts as he fired down into the Covenant reinforcements.

To Loren's left, a brute stormed through the trees, grav hammer in hand, after the Arbiter who was picked off enemy snipers with his carbine. Adrenaline surged through Loren's veins, and she leaped after the brute, holding fire lest it activate its impenetrable shield. The Arbiter spun around as the brute entered the range of his radar and reached for his sword.

Roaring, the brute lifted the hammer high, as Loren scrambled over the last rock and smashed her rifle into the brute's back armor with all her might. The brute staggered and turned to face its new enemy. Loren shoved her assault rife up into its face. "Farewell, ugly," she sneered, and emptied the clip.

Wiping the blue blood off her face, she looked up at the Arbiter. "Someone once told me never to face one direction for too long."

Something that could have been a smile passed over the Elite's armored face. "I stand corrected."

She grinned. "Keep killing those snipes – I'll cover your back."

Nodding, the Arbiter raised the carbine and snapped off another jackal sniper.

Loren spun to face the other direction and reloaded. She clipped the methane tank off another grunt and tossed a grenade after a brute. She smiled tightly as the grenade exploded and sent the brute's body sailing through the air.

And then it was over.

Marines tended each others wounds and walked about, searching the casualties for the seriously injured. Any Covenant who showed signs of life was ruthlessly killed.

Throwing the Arbiter a farewell salute, Loren jogged over to where Johnson stood talking with someone on his helmet radio. "Loren Freswell reporting, sir."

He glanced up at her and raised his eyebrows, as if amused at what he saw. "Good," he said with his usual briskness. "Pelican's gonna be here in a few minutes. Mark's over there."

She saluted, a wave of post battle weariness striking her as the adrenaline rush trickled away. Walking over to where Mark sat with his back against a rock, she sank down beside him on the grass.

He looked at her and whistled, fishing a cloth out of his pocket. "Next time you shoot a brute at point blank range, try turning your face away."

She took the cloth and wiped her face with a sigh. "Point taken."

He glanced at her, a sparkled of admiration in his eyes. "That was brave, chasing that grav brute. You returned the favor and saved the Arbiter."

Loren snorted. "Oh, he could have handled it just fine." She leaned back against the rock and closed her eyes. "What I would give right now for a hot shower and a soft bed."

"And real food," Mark added.

"Yeah, that too," she murmured.

A roar overhead jerked her from her exhaustion.

"Pelican," Johnson shouted. "Load up!"

Loren forced herself to her feet and followed Mark down around the waterfall as the Pelican hovered over a massive cliff. Climbing into the ship, she plopped down in a seat. Mark sat down beside her and they fastened their seat belts. There were too many marines for seats, and five, including Johnson, remained standing, hanging onto handrails above their heads.

The pelican lifted off, as Master Chief and the Arbiter disappeared back into the jungle, still maintaining a respectful distance from each other.

Loren let the hum of the pelican lull her to sleep as they flew low over the tree tops, but scarcely had she surrendered to her weariness when something striking the craft and Johnson's voice woke her.

"Evasive! Go evasive!"

"I can't." Loren heard panic in the pilot's tone. "The controls are frozen."

Tree limbs snapped against the bottom of the craft, and the faces of the Marines paled.

"Hold on!" Johnson yelled. "Prepare for crash landing."

The pelican nosed down and crashed through the trees, banging its occupants from side to side. The was a sharp jolt and Loren's head snapped back against the seat, sending all into blackness.

A/N: Well, first try at Halo. Sorry that the dialogue does not match the game completely. I was too lazy to play the first mission repeatedly until I learned it by heart. I'll try to post the second chapter in three days or so. It also might depend on how many reviews I get. Hint, hint. ;-)