Author's Notes: GUESS WHO'S BACK!!! lol. No, seriously though, I apologize for the delay. This took considerably longer than I thought because I wanted to have the first few chapters done in advance, and I've been unbelievably busy since school let out (job-hunting, mostly), so...yeah. That being said, couple of things:

1. If this story at all interests you, I would sincerely suggest that you suffer through Zulu Company: The Last Stand first. Granted, I'm sure you COULD read though this having not read it, but you're going to wonder who in God's green Earth these people are, why I keep referring to an Assault Carrier, and why any leader would put up with Ezekiel Veron for more than two seconds. Like I said, you don't HAVE to...but it is recommended, and I can't be responsible for anything you don't understand if you haven't, lol. Now, if you HAVE, and I still sound like an idiot, then feel free to yell at me. ;)

2. Thank you to all who reviewed the Ending Credits at the end of The Last Stand. lol, I won't address them here, since I'm trying to have a "clean slate" so to speak, but if you have questions or comments, the same rules as before apply: ASK AWAY! lol.

3. I realize that this Prologue is freakin' ENORMOUS. I apologize. I had a LOT of information that I needed to get stated before I got into the story, and this was the only good way to do it. I've tried to break it up into pieces so that it's easier to process, but I'm afraid it's still a LOT to take in. That being said, don't worry if you don't remember each and every date or the exact details of the events, as long as you get the basic concept and understand where Zulu is NOW. Thanks all for your patience, in advance.

4. For anyone who cares, some progress was recently made on the whole "submitting The Last Stand to Bungie" front. Actually, ironically, it was my mother who made a connection between book companies and Microsoft (who, as of some time ago, now owns the rights to Halo, for anyone who didn't know). That being said, I have the company printed out along with their submission guidelines and I'm currently prepping The Last Stand for submission. You can submit the first 10,000 words (which sucks for me, since...well, the end was what I was truly proud of). So, for those of you who wanted me to at least try and submit it: there you go. :) We're working on it (and by "we", of course I mean myself and Samson00, since I haven't let him off my non-existant payroll just yet).

And, for those who DIDN'T want me to submit it...sorry, you and I were BOTH outvoted. ;)

Thanks for your patience, everyone! I hope the Prologue, while wordy, at least gets you hooked and gives me a few readers for the first chapter, to be posted toward the end of this week or the very beginning of the next.

Without additional statements from me: it's with much pleasure that I introduce to you all...

ZULU COMPANY: HELL ON EARTH


Prologue:

The world has changed since the end of the Human-Covenant War in March of 2553. What was once a site of hope and the rebuilding of a home has been tainted, stained in ways that it can never recover from. The date is July 7, 2553, more than four months after the conclusion of the Great War, and the Earth has become a very different place.

Humanity has been exiled from the planet, lest the Parasite should take them all. Their starships are still lightly-armed, at best, being repaired at space stations and orbital docks all over the galaxy. But it is a race against time. The Flood are confined to Earth…but for how long?

What began as a seemingly-small threat – a sudden warning – quickly progressed into an unstoppable assault on the birthplace of humanity.


How did it start? That's the simple part.

On April 21, the UNSC Destroyer Cerberus emerged from Slipspace in the Sol system, near Mars. Those on Earth attempted to make contact, but quickly discovered that the ship was no longer under human control.

The Cerberus had fallen to the Flood.

Immediately, a full attack was ordered, and the planet's Orbital Defense Platforms shredded the Destroyer in minutes. And those on Earth wondered if they had seen the last of the Parasite.

But the answer came swiftly. In eight days, six Flood-controlled ships made themselves visible, just outside the range of the Magnetic Accelerator Cannons. With no major starships appropriately armed for combat, the UNSC was forced to sit and wait, watching the ominous vessels in the distance as they bolstered their forces. And in the distance they remained, watching…and waiting.

And for three days, the world stood still.

It was May 2 when the stalemate was broken. One of the former-Covenant vessels initiated a Slipspace jump and vanished from space, reappearing inside the Earth's atmosphere, above the German city of Berlin. It promptly crashed into the heavily-populated area, and the infestation started.

The UNSC wasted no time. A squadron of Longsword bombers were called, all of them armed with HAVOK Nuclear Warheads. In less than one hour, the entire city – and the surrounding area – had been reduced to a barren wasteland. Nothing remained but craters and ash to mark the passing of the once-great capital.

But the problem had been solved. The Flood had been stopped.

For the moment.

Two days later, on the fourth day of the month, the Flood struck again, this time in full force. Three of the remaining ships – two UNSC Frigates and a Covenant CCS – jumped into the atmosphere above three of the Earth's most important cities. London, England; Sydney, Australia; and New York City were hit at the exact same time in the middle of the night. Even as the three infested ships touched down, the remaining pair in space flew straight toward the planet.

And while that pair would never come close to slipping by the MAC Guns, they would get close enough to release almost two-dozen dropships – both UNSC and Covenant – that would crash into various places on the planet and begin the infections of over a dozen countries on four continents.


In hindsight, one could say that those leading the UNSC were fools in their tactical approach to the Flood's major attack. But, at the time, no one, even those who had seen the Parasite's powers before, believed that those few short hours would matter.

The first order in response to the attack was a full-scale evacuation of the planet that would take place over the next seven to eight days, depending on the severity of the infestation that would inevitably follow the initial strikes. In addition to this, some argued for the immediate heavy bombing of the three major cities. Others countered that the value of these three areas outweighed the importance of an immediate, "rushed" assault.

Finally, an answer was decided. Due to the tactical and symbolic importance of the three major cities that the Flood chose to assault, Lord Hood and the highest ranking officials in Earth's government elected to attempt a quarantine of the area around New York City and also of the one surrounding London (HIGHCOM in Sydney was to be defended with a more offensive approach). Their goal was to first confine the Parasite to the cities, and then strategically eliminate them with the very best the UNSC had to offer.

This plan was a complete and utter disaster.

In less than one full hour, the Flood – somehow – had breached the areas around each metropolis and spread into nearby cities and towns. By the time the Longswords were instructed to drop HAVOK Nuclear Warheads on London and NYC, the damage was irreversible. The plague had begun.

Sydney, Australia, was a similar failure. Countless soldiers were called to the gates of HIGHCOM to defend Earth's most important tactical organization. They fought valiantly and for days, but to no avail. Eventually, even HIGHCOM would fall to the Flood's relentless assault.

And the wars were not limited to Earth's largest cities. The dropships that had landed and started their own infections were serving their purpose with similar success. With armies numbering in the tens-of-thousands, the Flood strategically attacked the power plants that gave energy to the Orbital Defense Platforms. Instead of destroying them, however, they conquered them and began to assimilate themselves into the electronic systems.

On May 9, 2553, the UNSC initiated the Lifeboat Protocol, which gave all repairs on spacecrafts a 72-hour window to be space-worthy. Any ship that would be incapable of leaving the atmosphere in the next three days was called to be immediately and totally destroyed. In addition, the procedure ordered that any vessel in danger of capture by the Flood was to initiate its self-destruct sequence.

By May 11, the Flood's infestation had extended to nearly every country on the planet and their numbers were estimated to have easily made it into the billions – and still growing swiftly. It was at this point that those leading humanity first came to grips with the notion that the Earth was completely under the Flood's control.

The next day, the provisions of the Lifeboat Protocol expired and all UNSC ships were called to evacuate any ranking personnel and as many civilians as the craft could hold. Complete memory-wipes of sensitive data were performed and massive carpet-bombings of the Earth's major cities commenced in humanity's last hours on its home planet.


And it was on this day that the three members of Zulu Company still on Earth were called to duty once again. Samuel King and Ezekiel Veron had been called upon earlier to return to the military hospital in Madagascar where they would meet with Blaine Everson, whose surgeries had finally been completed. Now, however, they were to return to the fight.

The nearby island of Zanzibar, home to half-a-dozen government complexes and research buildings, had just had its own infestation begin, as a Flood-controlled Pelican dropship slipped through defenses and crashed into the area surrounding a base of the Office of Naval Intelligence. The primary purpose of this base was the study and engineering of Covenant technologies, and the highest-ranking operatives deemed it "too important" to evacuate immediately.

Zulu Company was called in to slow the Flood's progress on the island long enough for the operatives inside the base to copy their data, clear it, and evacuate. And at first, it appeared that they would do precisely that.

But as they learned on the Assault Carrier, against the Flood, nothing stays positive for long.

The Parasite found a leak into the facility in the form of a drainage tunnel, and a single Infection Form inside the base soon reduced Zulu's seemingly-impenetrable wall into a useless barrier with enemies on both sides. With the situation impossible to rectify and a HAVOK-armed Longsword called in to finish the fight, Zulu was ordered to leave the island by any means necessary.

With no time to evacuate personnel and the Flood's numbers growing at every turn, the trio of Spartans retreated to the outer rim of the complex, where they discovered a Covenant vehicle depot that housed a Ghost, two Brute Choppers, and a Separatist Phantom. After a short debate, the Choppers were attached to the dropship and the Spartans abandoned the complex, leaving the island burning behind them.

At this point, nearly every UNSC-controlled starship has been called to leave the planet, and the members of Zulu Company are forced to make a choice. HIGHCOM has long-since fallen to the Flood, and communications from Lord Hood and other ranking officers has ceased completely. In fact, the only messages that either Demon or Gael can pick up come from the island of Mahé, where civilians are struggling to fend off their own infestation and secure an extraction point.

So, with no available orders, the three Spartans flew toward the island's capital, Victoria. They landed the Phantom outside the city and stormed in, only vaguely aware of the Hell that they had entered into. The city's population of well over one-hundred-thousand had been all but completely overwhelmed by the Flood. Within five minutes, the Spartans came to the realization that the city simply could not be saved.

It was at this point that Samuel gave a new order: to give up on the protecting the city and search for survivors. The Spartans split up and took whoever they could, pulling them away from the quickly-deteriorating capital city. Of the twenty-six that were found, only five managed to escape the city with them.

One of these revealed himself to be an ex-ONI operative, Joel Miedema. He informed Zulu Company that he had been part of the attack on the Forerunner Dreadnought, stationed in an ONI Prowler. Then he informed them of something more important; something that, soon after, would save their lives.

The Prowler that he had served on had been hit by Covenant Anti-Air Guns on the way out of New Mombasa and had crash-landed on Silhouette Island, roughly twenty kilometers northwest of Mahé. But it had been repaired almost to working condition, and would do everything typical of such a ship…except for leaving the atmosphere or initiating a Slipspace jump.

At the time, it meant very little.

Fifteen minutes later, Demon picked up a communication from the UNSC fleet. It informed the Spartans – and anyone else listening – that there would be no more evacuation runs. The Flood had finally taken control of the Orbital Defense Platforms, and were making the final adjustments before turning them on their UNSC creators that were still in orbit around the planet. It was Lord Hood's voice that personally apologized to those still on the ground for his failure to prevent this assault, and his failure to respond to it in with the best approach.


With nowhere to turn and with no help to speak of, Zulu Company took the Separatist Phantom, activated the cloaking technology, and brought the survivors to Silhouette Island. They quickly located the downed Prowler, investigated the surrounding area, and set up inside the hundred-and-fifty-meter-long vessel.

The Spartans soon realized how lucky they truly were. The crashed ship had a working reactor and computer system, ablative coating and electronic countermeasures that made it all but invisible both to computers and to overhead aircrafts, enough food to last for just under two weeks, and a pressurized interior, which would be invaluable when the Flood began to alter the atmosphere.

At first, they waited. They waited on someone to come and glass or bomb the areas where the Flood were thickest and then to come and evacuate them from the now-damned planet. In about a week, food started to become scarce, and drastic measures had to be taken. The electronic countermeasures were removed from the Prowler (with instruction from Demon and Gael) and reapplied to the Phantom dropship. Now cloaked and electronically invisible, the vehicle was the perfect stealth vessel.

The first of what would become routine food-runs occurred on May 19, when Samuel, Blaine, and Zeke took the Separatist dropship to the island of Mahé, landed it in the heavily-wooded interior, and invaded the city of Victoria in the dead of night. They were fortunate enough to find a Troop Transport Warthog, which they packed to the brim with food and supplies and brought back to the Phantom.

And they returned to Silhouette, 'Hog and all.

Fourteen days later, with the Prowler locked down and the Spartans fairly secure in their hidden location, Samuel made a decision to investigate the African coast and to search for additional survivors. On the second day of June, Blaine took him to the island of Zanzibar in the Phantom and dropped him off with the knowledge that, if and when the brown-armored Spartan needed a ride, he would use Gael to let him know.


It is now July 7, 2553. Samuel has been gone from Silhouette Island for thirty-five days and has not tried to send word to the remaining Spartans of his location or his condition. No attempt at contact has been made by the UNSC to the ground below and no ships have entered Earth's space in well over a month.

But that is about to change.

Zulu Company – on the verge of collapse – will be forced to reunite, and while their motives will differ, their goals will be much the same. Strained and at the breaking point, they will venture out into the Flood-controlled Hell that Earth has become and fight to survive. They will wage war with the Parasite in the places where it lives and thrives most.

And, while they are no longer fighting under the UNSC or for those that rank above them, some things never change. The same Spartans from Earth's last stand against the Covenant will return, and they will stop at nothing to cleanse the infestation and eliminate the galaxy's greatest threat, even if they must burn the Earth to ash in order to do it.


Author's Notes: Ah, it's me. You knew there'd be something at the end. ;)

Not much to say though. Apologies again for the wordiness. Just know that it was necessary, I PROMISE you. If it wasn't, I wouldn't have done it (I don't type to hear my fingers crack, you know. :) hehe). I do hope to hear from at least a few people, though I doubt too many will pick this up right off the bat, since it doesn't quite have the reputation of The Last Stand (something about 719 reviews or 397,000 words...).

Still, if you do, whether you're a new reader or someone who was with me throughout all of the The Last Stand, I encourage and ask you to leave me your feedback, and rest assured that my practices from the first book remain the same: I answer all reviews to the best of my ability, no matter how short (or LONG, lol). I like in-depth thoughts; I like short statements that are to-the-point and easy to read. Please, if it's on your mind, I would love to hear it. And, if it's negative...I got tough skin. Trust me, Gormanuyai will grill me harder than any of you. ;)

Thanks all! Enjoy your week! It's great to be back to posting!

- Raptor