A/N: Cryosleep Deactivated
Welcome back to the land of the living, story.

Chapter 8

Retaliation

Aboard the UNSC listening post, seven soldiers gathered to discuss strategy. Of these, only three were actually aboard the station; Lieutenant Kerrigan, Kate, and Sam. The other four were there via holopressece, projected on the stations holotable that, until minutes ago, had been used for negotiations. Arranged upon it were Captain Keyes, Christian, Juliet, and Penny.

The Republic's representatives were not there. The moment Sam had intercepted the E-Band signal, she'd reported it to Kerrigan, and negotiations had been put on pause. General Kenobi had graciously given the UNSC personnel some privacy "to deal with their own situation without interference", and was now inside his gunship with the rest of his delegation, updating his comrades on the change of events.

"So, what's the situation?" Keyes asked.

"Trouble," Kerrigan explained. "We just received a message across UNSC E-Band. Sam?"

"Got it, ma'am." Sam stepped forward, and pressed her palm against the surface of the holotable. The message she had picked up started playing for all present over the table's speakers. It was static filled, and extremely quiet, but the words were all too understandable.

"-NSC personnel hearing this, listen up; this is Pacifica Defense Command. A bunch of ships just dropped in system and slagged our space elevator and a shit-load of weather satellites. They aren't Covies; repeat, not Covenant. They're dropping-"

A long burst of static made the next part of the call unintelligible. It cleared seconds later. "-some kinda...robots. All ships in any Epsilon system and further out, get your asses over here ASAP! We can't hold our forever! Papa Delta Charlie, over and out."

The message ended. Sam glanced up, checking the reactions of her superiors.

Kate was neutral, though Sam wasn't a hundred percent sure what her CO was thinking due to her polarized full-face visor.

Keyes, Kerrigan, and Christian were all easier to read, lacking helmets. There were minor differences, but mostly what was on their faces was anger. Juliet and Penny, being AI's, were also neutral.

"Wonder who made that call," Kerrigan noted. "He didn't sound like a soldier."

"He probably wasn't." Juliet chimed in. "There's no real UNSC military presence in the Pacifica system. There hasn't been one their since before they were first attacked in 2529."

"They didn't need our help. They said so themselves and proved it." Keyes added. "Especially during the invasion. We know how THAT went for the Covenant…"

The group nodded, faces grim. Every one of them had seen data regarding the Battle of Pacifica. The mountains of dead Covenant corpses, the executions of captured Elites before jeering crowds of citizens, the obliteration of corvettes and frigates by entire buildings refitted as MAC guns, the "Grunt Hunt", where almost a thousand Grunts were rounded up, stripped of their gear, and let loose in a forest as game…things that would have made the pre-war UNSC send a battlefleet to deal with the situation and capture those responsible for trial, but was simply ignored by a government that had more important things to deal with at the moment and (some said) were secretly glad to see the Covenant get whats-for.

Christian seemed the deepest in thought. This wasn't surprising. He'd been born on Pacifica. It was his home. Rumor had it that he himself had taken part in the Grunt Hunt, but no solid info had come to light.

"Whether they need help or not isn't the question." Keyes stated, breaking Sam from her thoughts. "They're a UNSC colony. We have to help them. No questions asked."

The group nodded again; those were the laws of the land laid down by the newly-updated UNSC colonial charter.

"So how exactly do we go about helping them?" Christian asked. "Without leaving ourselves open to a surprise attack by these Republic guys, obviously."

"You still don't trust them, Christian?" Penny asked, cocking her avatar's head sideways. The Spartan shrugged.

"Do you?" He replied.

"Christian's got the right idea." Keyes interrupted. "And I've got a way to do it."

Instantly, everyone else in the group turned to look at her.

"HIGHCOM just sent me a new set of orders. They've authorized me to put together a small force based around the Reach to find out more about the CIS."

"The Reach?" Kate asked, surprised. "Isn't she technically still undergoing testing?"

"Not anymore. HIGHCOM considers this little skirmish to be the final shakedown run. As of now, the UNSC Reach is fully operational and ready for combat duty. And we're going to take her straight into the heart of whatever is happening at Pacifica and stab it with her."

"Maybe we'll get to run over a ship like the Infinity did over Requiem…" Christian noted to himself.

"Sounds like a sound plan, ma'am." Kerrigan crossed her arms and strode away from the table. "Any complaints, Spartan's?" She asked.

All the supersoldiers present shook their heads.

"It's decided then." Keyes concluded, leaning back in her chair once again and lacing her fingers together. "Go tell General Kenobi, would you?"

"With pleasure." Kerrigan made a motion to Sam, who quickly left the room to go retrieve the Republic General. They returned moments later.

"You've got a solution? He asked mildly. Kerrigan gave a small tic of a nod.

"Yes. I hope you don't mind, but we need to implement it as quickly as possible. I apologize for the interruption of our negotiations-"

"No problem at all." Kenobi waved his hand dismissively, then gave Kerrigan a soft smile. "It's quite refreshing to NOT be interrupted by being shot at for once. I look forward to continuing this chat."

He walked forward and stuck out his hand to Kerrigan. "Until next time then, Lieutenant? I believe you have a colony to save."

"Until next time, General." Kerrigan shook Kenobi's hand firmly. Though Sam couldn't be sure, she could have sworn she saw a smile tug at the spook's face.

For some reason, Sam found herself taking a picture of the handshake with her helmet's camera. There was something monumental about that event.

For better or worse, everything was going to change. That much was obvious.

Without further words, the meeting ended and the two groups departed, the Republic aboard their LAAT, the UNSC aboard their Pelican. In minutes, the station was dark and lifeless, just as it had been before Sam had come there.

Aboard the UNSC Kelly, Captain Keyes glanced over at Christian, who was standing at attention beside her, as he had been during the whole strategy discussion. The Spartan-IV was looking out the viewport before her, blue eyes unmoving. He seemed lost in thought, the only movement in his whole body the scratching of the back of his neck. The skin there was discolored, an angry-looking red as opposed to the deathly-pale coloration that covered the rest of his body. It was rougher as well, the flesh forming angry bumps and pits, like a bad burn. It looked, to Keyes, like something had tried to force itself under the Spartan's skin.

"You think they'll try anything stupid, ma'am?" Christian asked quietly, actually startling the Captain somewhat. She covered it up with a mask of impassiveness.

"No. I don't think they want to risk the chance of an alliance. They certainly need the help, if what General Kenobi said is true."

"But you don't trust them." The Spartan said this as fact, not a question. Keyes gave a small tic of a nod.

"Of course not. At least, not fully."

The Spartan grumbled and nodded in agreement.

"Then what are your orders, ma'am?"

"Get your team packed up and ready for transfer to the Reach. The moment the negotiation team is back on board, I want you both ready for a hot drop. We don't know what we'll be facing when we arrive at Pacifica."

"Understood. Anything else?"

"Not for now. I'll update you when I have something to update you with. Dismissed."

"Yes ma'am!" Christian saluted, then spun about-face and walked out.

Keyes watched him go, mind unintentionally wandering to memories of the last soldier she'd commanded bearing the rank of Master Chief. Her spine tingled where her vertebrae had been replaced.

She shoved the memories aside, then turned to Juliet, who had been overseeing the unpacking and decryption of the data Penny had taken from the CIS frigate.

"Get me a secure line to the Prowler Dusk," she ordered.

Juliet complied with a nod, still engrossed in the reams of data she was examining. A screen came into existence on Keyes's right. It showed static for a moment, then a view of a pale man sitting in the darkened bridge of a UNSC Prowler.

"Captain." He said quietly. That was the thing about Prowler drivers; even when they weren't doing intel gathering, they acted like they were.

"Commander Lash." Keyes greeted. "I hope I haven't caught you at a bad time."

"Not at all, ma'am." Lash replied, flashing a quick, secretive smile. "The Dusk is running a full capacity and ready for tasking."

"Excellent." Keyes quickly brought up a compressed data file on the Pacifica system and ordered Juliet to send it to the Dusk with a wave of her hand. "I need you to scout this system. Standard in-and-out run. Get me what intel you can on what's going down in it."

"I figured you might be sending us in at some point." Lash turned to his navigator, who was in the chair next to him on the small bridge. After a quick discussion that Keyes couldn't hear, he turned back. "Slipspace capacitors are at 100% and astronav is green. We're ready to transition."

Keyes nodded in response.

"On your go, then." She ordered. "But do it quietly, if you please."

"Affirmative. Prepping for stealth Slipspace jump. Dusk, over and out."

The screen went dead, and Keyes shifted her attention to the tactical map on one of the other hanging holographic displays. On it, the small blip representing the Dusk turned from it's holding position behind the main fleet and blinked out of existence.

Keyes watched it disappear, then sat back in her seat to wait.

Christian walked purposely down the halls of the Kelly, habitually returning the salutes of the few enlisted personnel he met on the way.

He had a pretty good idea where he was going. Alpha Team, like all Spartan squads, had post-deployment rituals and habits.

Theirs, specifically, was to go to the ship's gymnasium and work off any left-over energy from the mission on the equipment there. That, at least, was what was supposed to happen. Normally though, it was only Hester, Echo, and Christian himself who fully worked out. The rest of the group socialized and did light exercise, though this was "Spartan" light, not "human" light.

He took a right and entered the gym, pausing to take in the smells. Sweat, mats, cleaning fluid, and leather treatments. Like most UNSC gyms.

Christian glanced to the left, quickly spotting his team. They were in their standards places, as he'd expected.

Coraline, Kelly, and Matt were relaxing, the latter too currently sitting on the former's back as she did push-ups on the floor. Matt was apparently reading from a thick book, his soft voice echoing off the roof.

Hester and Echo, in the mean time, were doing a sparring drill off to the right, arms and legs moving blurringly fast, a seamless dance of strikes, defects, dodges, blocks and hooks.

Christian joined them, grabbing a near-by pull-up bar and hauling his chin up over it one-handed.

"Hey...Christian...nice to...see you...made it." Coraline noted, speaking at the peak of every push up. Christian grunted in response.

Matt paused in his reading and turned to look at his CO. Unlike most Spartan-IV's, Matt looked like he'd stepped out of a UNSC recruitment poster; a "pretty boy Spartan", as he'd been dubbed by some of his unit mates. Brown hair, brown eyes, handsome face, and not a single scar. That last detail had more to do with the fact he'd been one of the rare Spartans deployed with the UNSC Air Force until he was reassigned and spent most of his time flying instead of fighting.

"So, we got new tasking, boss?" He asked.

Christian nodded to him and kept doing pull-ups, thinking over what he wanted to say to them as he did. The strain helped clear his mind, let him think more efficiently. Matt waited patiently; like the rest of Alpha, he knew to let Christian do his workout. He went back to reading for Kelly and Coraline.

"...they came at me, groaning and moaning and dragging huge fleshy tentacles behind them, like whatever had turned them to combat forms had gone wrong inside them. It took me a moment to recognize the face of the leader; Justine Beiber, heir to the Beiber musical fortune. And I assume those behind her were her groupies and bodyguards.

The Sarge yelled to "open fire, damn it!" And for the first time that day, I didn't feel regret as I pulled my shotgun's trigger and filled the air with globs of green, pulsing flesh. The world was better off without the Beibers."

The word's sent shivers up Christian's spine. Combat form...that could only mean one thing.

He stopped and closed the book, apparently done with the chapter.

"What're you reading?" Christian asked quietly.

"Hell on Earth; The Cleansing of New Mombasa." Matt explained.

"The one by Colonel Chips Dubbo?

"The same. Autographed too." Matt nodded.
"I met him once. Nice guy. Interesting accent. Worked with General Stacker too." Christian dropped to the ground and stretched out his hands. "Course, he was only a Private First Class then...but he's still a tough SOB."
Matt nodded in agreement and stood up, followed by Kelly.

Ironically, Kelly looked nothing like her namesake, the incredibly fast Spartan-II who'd been recovered from inside the Onyx Shield World just after the end of the Human-Covenant War five years earlier. She actually looked more like the other great Spartan sniper, Linda. Red hair, green eyes, incredible cool-headedness. The reason she had her name was that her namesake had saved Kelly's father during the evacuation of the Colburo Acadamy of Military Sciences, and so Kelly had been named in her honor, ironically becoming a Spartan herself in later life. She was also the only member of Alpha Team who knew her last name; Vickers.

Christian nodded, both in acknowledgment of Matt's comment and Kelly and Coraline's existences. Kelly fell forward and landed in push-up position, and Matt and Coraline climbed onto her back without hesitation.

Christian glanced over at Hester and Echo, watching them spar.

It was mesmerizing. Both Spartans were fast by S-IV standards, even outside of their armor. As if that wasn't deadly enough, Hester had received knife-fight instruction from the Spartan-II Fred, greatest blademaster of the UNSC, and Echo (after acquiring her energy sword) had trained with some of the greatest of the Elite swordmasters, including Thel' Vadum, the Arbiter himself.

As Christian watched, Echo struck low, catching Hester's leg and flipping her onto her back. Hester landed with a grunt, and Echo stepped back, wiping her face.

Her eyes locked with Christian's, and once again Alpha's CO found himself frozen solid.

Nothing, NOTHING, got to him like Echo's features did. It wasn't that she was PRETTY. He was a Spartan. They didn't DO pretty.

But...something always made his breath catch. Perhaps it was her hair; unlike every other Spartan, Echo's hair was almost pure white, like an albino's. Even when she had hair (a rare occurrence) it looked like she was bald. Or her eyes, which, despite what science said, weren't red like an albino's. They were green, the same color as a Plasma Pistol overcharge just before it left the gun and smacked into something.

And, of course, there was her perpetual silence.

Echo moved, breaking eye contact and reaching down to help Hester to her feet. The downed Spartan was smiling; their sparing was all in good fun.

"Nice leg sweep." She noted, wiping her face. Echo nodded, silent as she always was. She pointed at Christian, and Hester followed her finger. Seeing Christian, she snapped to attention.

"MASTER CHEIF ON DECK!"

Instinctively, the other four Spartans snapped up straight as well. Christian waved them down.

"At ease." He said. "Everyone still in one piece?"

"More or less." Coraline grunted. "We have a new assignment, I hope?"

"Of course." Christian took a seat on a bench press to begin his briefing.

"As you already know, we recently received a distress call across the UNSC E-Band. We've tracked its source; the Pacifica system. We're being deployed aboard the Reach to investigate what the hell is going on, and possibly intervene."

"Guess your going home then." Matt noted.

"Pacifica..." Hester muttered. "Isn't that were the Infinity was last reported?"

Christian shrugged. "You tell me. You're the tech master."

Hester reached into her pants pocket and pulled out a datapad. After a few moments of scrolling, she found what she was looking for.

"Yep. Solid confirmation; high level flash communication from Vice Admiral Serin Osman to Captain Thomas Lasky, UNSC Infinity. Divert to Pacifica system immediately for rearmament and refueling."

"Refueling?" Matt noted from Kelly's back. The girl had dropped down again and was doing more pushups. "Since when does the Infinity need to refuel? The damn thing made it to Requiem and back all by itself, TWICE...she's built to be self-sustaining isn't she?"

"How the HELL do you refuel a near six-kilometer long ship anyway?" Coraline asked.

"How do you know so much about it?" Christian queried. Even now, five years after the vessel's launch, the majority of the information about the UNSC Infinity was considered classified. The only reasons Christian knew as much as he did was because he'd been aboard it for training and a live-fire deployment with S-IV Fireteam Majestic and that Admiral Osman, the recently-appointed head of the Office of Naval Intelligence and replacement for Vice Admiral "Murderous Margaret" Paragosky, had been more open than her mentor when it came to sharing information with Spartans. She WAS one, after all...technically.

"Same as you; Spartan clearance." Hester said, straight-faced. Christian left it at that; he didn't really want to know what his second-in-command got up to in her free time.

"Something tells me that ain't the whole picture...aren't all of the washout first-run S-IV's onboard her?" Coraline noted.

"Yeah, Crimson and Majestic and those guys." Matt agreed.

"Last time I checked. What's left of em, anyway." Hester noted, shaking her head.

"Never send a Spec Ops trooper to do a Spartan's job, even if they ARE augmented and given powered armor." Kelly noted.

This statement brought nods from the five other Spartans. There were very few things that the Spartan-IV's thought of as "pathetic" that weren't enemies, but the first Spartan-IV group counted. One of Paragosky's last projects before her "retirement", the original Spartan-IV's had been "cleaner" than the other Spartans. Their recruits were volunteers from the Special Forces units of the UNSC, retrained, re-armored, and augmented. The hope had been that they'd be the "production version" of the Spartan-II's. Unfortunately...the had proven LESS useful than hoped. They had served well during the re-contact with Spartan-117 and the discovery of Requiem, the resulting missions six months after the New Phoenix incident and the problems that had followed...but even during the Requiem conflict their tactical effectiveness had declined as the soldiers were shown to simply not be able to handle the stress and the dangers they faced. Bravado and comradary would only get you so far. A lifetime of training (some would say indoctrination) was needed to handle what a Spartan went through. And these men didn't have it.

So they send us.

The sound of Echo's hand moving brought everyone's attention to her. She looked back, then repeated the motion so everyone could see what she'd said.

"Precisely." Hester noted, grinning. "How much you want to be ONI KNEW what was going on and tried to take care of it QUIETLY with the S-IV's on the Infinity."

"Ain't worth betting on." Matt noted with a snort. "Guess we have to clean up the mess."

"If we do, then we'll do it." Christian said authoritatively. "No matter what caused it, or whatever string-pulling ONI might have done. There's still a colony, a UNSC colony, under attack by an enemy force. And we are going to help them."

That was never in doubt, Echo signed. The rest of Alpha echoed their agreements.

"Then armor up. We deploy in three hours."

Christian stood, saluted his team, and left the gym.

"Ma'am, she's back!" The officer at Communications called to Keyes. The Captain blinked, having partially fallen asleep in her command seat while she waited for news. Now she was fully awake, adrenaline surging through her.

"The Dusk?"

"Yes ma'am! Commander Lash is transmitting his recon data as we speak!"

"Juliet, handle it." Keyes ordered. The AI nodded, pressing her hands to her radio headset.

"Checking clarity...decompressing...done. All data secure and compiling." She paused, cocking her head. "Strange...this isn't enteirly recon data."

"Explain." Keyes probed.

"There's a high-level message in here as well...classified your eyes only. How quaint."

"Put it on screen for me."

"Done."

The holographic display before Keyes's eyes flaired to life once more, presenting a rather short message, obviously created hurridly using a standard civilian message system rather than the standard UNSC offical one. Something worrying, considering it's origin...

To: Cpt. Miranda Keyes, CO, UNSC Kelly

From: Osman

Subject: Pacifica

Keyes;

Get there. Do it NOW. That's a direct order. Take the Reach and whatever S-Class ships you have. I'll clear the tape for you, just get it done.

We've got Tier 1 assets on the ground that need extraction. We both know who.

Make it fast.

And that was all.

"Juliet; can you confirm this is real?" She asked, frowning slightly.

"Affirmative. It was encoded using top-clearance ONI protocols."

"Then we have our orders." Keyes said, sitting up straighter. She turned to the Communications officer.

"Contact Reach and Aurthur. Tell her to prep for immediate slipspace jump to Pacifica. Then spin up our drives and get us there."

"Yes ma'am!" The Comm officer grabbed his headset and sent out the call, typing away at his consul at the same time, verifying that his message was received and understood.

Keyes sat back in her chair and looked out at the stars. Had this happened before the events of the Ark, she would have crossed her fingers that she was making the right choice.

But she'd long ago stopped believing in luck.

The three Jedi, the clones from the diplomatic meeting, and Admiral Yularen were observing the Resolute's tactical board when the UNSC ships jumped out of the system.

"And there they go. Seems Kerrigan was as good as her word." Kenobi muttered, stroking his beard in thought. "How refreshing to actually meet someone who's SOMEWHAT trustworthy."

"SOMEWHAT's the keyword here." Anakin replied, joining him. "I don't like this. That Captain Keyes you mentioned seemed...unstable."

"If you're worried about a possible sneak attack on us, I doubt THAT fleet would be enacting it. Their jump direction is about as far away from any friendly outposts as possible." Yularen added from the tactical table. "I believe General Kenobi is right. They're leaving to aid their colony."

"They'd better." Anakin muttered darkly. Kenobi gave him a hard glance and looked like he was about ready to tell off his former padawan, but he was interrupted by Rex, who was at the communication consul, chatting with the clone there.

"New orders." He said. "Looks like we're heading to...Coruscant. The Chancellor and the Council BOTH want your reports on this."

"Oh goodie, MORE time to clean my dee-ce." Waxer noted quietly.

"Lock it down." Cody barked instinctively, even though they weren't in combat. It was a stress reaction; everyone was feeling it. The Jedi could almost TASTE the emotion in the air, like lightning about to strike the ground or the ozone-like effluvia that followed intense blaster firefights.

"Wait, scratch that!" Rex amended. "Just got an update. Looks hurried. Says we're to redirect to a point a couple lightyears from here." He blinked, looking puzzled. "Looks like Intelligence found the source of that transmission from earlier. In Wild Space it looks like."

"Why am I not surprised?" Anakin noted quietly, crossing his arms. "Its ALWAYS Wild Space."

"Certainly more room out there for secrets..." Obi-Wan agreed. "Still, I am most curious about what Dooku was sending droids out here for. The message mentioned an excavation..."

"Well that can't be good." Ahsoka noted, joining them. She looked better after a quick nap and a shower.

"Not at all." Obi-Wan agreed once again. They all knew what the LAST thing Dooku had dug up had lead too...

"So, I assume we're heading out?"

"Unless you'd rather stay here and watch empty space." A small smile tilted the edges of Kenobi's beard up. Anakin smiled back.

"Admiral, get us there." He ordered. Yularen nodded, shouted some orders, and the three Venator-class Destroyers jumped into the other-dimension of hyperspace.

The door of the Reach's armor bay slid open with a metallic hiss and the sound of metal doors locking open. Through it stepped all of Alpha Team, stripped down to their armor undersuits, every one of them smiling.

Christian joined them. They had reasons to be smiling.

Finally, after all this time; they were ditching their outdated armor and receiving full-on MJLONIR GEN2. Just like they SHOULD have had all this time, if the original batch of S-IV's hadn't taken them all for themselves.

He glanced around the bay, watching as techs scurried about, hauling crates labeled with warnings and security codes on hovering dollies and six cats-cradle like armor assembly machines descended from the ceiling.

Those machines gave Christian the shivers every time he looked at them. The multi-segmented arms reminded him of a spider gone wrong.

He drove his feelings down deep and stepped forward, checking the digital displays on the machines. Each bore the number of the Spartan that would use it. His, unsurprisingly, was first in line, followed by Hester's, then Kelly's and so on down.

After a glance back at his team, he stepped towards the machine with his number. Nearly in lock-step, the other five Spartans stepped up to their own machines and slid into the feet and hand-holds situated there.

One of the armor techs came over, face covered in a mask with a filter and a clean-suit. The assembly process had to be as clean as possible, which was why Christian and the rest of Alpha all now had nearly-shaved hair.

"Right, all Spartans accounted for and secured," she called to the machine operator, most likely Juliet. "Begin assembly."

With a mechanical wirr, the machines sprang to life, spidery arms flexing and adjusting as they found their proper positions. Armor plates rose from inside the base of the machines, and they were retrieved and moved into the proper positions for attachement to the undersuits Alpha wore.

As the assembally commenced, the tech checked over a data pad in her hand, making sure the right soldier got the right armor.

"Christian-122, leader. War Master."

Nice, Christian thought. War Master was a good gear set; made by Lethbridge Industrial, it was designed to aid in any combat possibility. A true multi-purpous armor. Just what Christian liked.

"Hester-027, electronics and mechanics. Engineer."

That made plenty of sense to Christian, and the smile on Hester's face made it clear she was happy with it as well. He wondered if she would get the Drop Recon tactical package. That could prove useful in the field, now that Spartans actually HAD logistical support on pretty much every mission.

"Kelly-113, sniper. Recon."

Another huge surprise there…well, a bit more surprising that she hadn't been given Scout. Then again, Kelly wasn't really much of a SCOUT after all. She did aggressive recon if she did anything.

"Coraline-011, demolitions. EOD."

This elicited a "hell yes!" from Coraline and a massive grin from the tattooed girl. Of COURSE she would get Explosive Ordinance Disposal gear…

"Matthew-303, pilot. Operator."

Another sound choice. Matt wasn't just a pilot, he was a master of most vehicles. The augmented capabilities of the Operator armor (and the Wheelman safety-override mod) would be useful to say the least.

"Echo-419. Close Quarters Battle. Venator."

The heads of the other five Spartans swiveled to look at Echo, at the far end of the line. She was grinning as wide as Coraline had been, but on her face it looked almost maniacal.

Christian found himself shivering. Echo had been a deadly CQB fighter in her old gear. Armed with Venator and it's built-in advantages (and, possibly, the Stealth mod originally intended for the now-defunct Wetwork armor set) she could become even MORE lethal. Ultra-hyper-lethal even.

Alpha Team's leader felt like he should say something, but he was suddenly tilted backwards slightly as the assembly machines commenced with the real work.

First came the chest and back plates, sealing together across his chest and locking in place. Then the arm and leg greaves, cycled into their popper positions by large drills. And, finally, the helmet, sliding down over his head with a smooth hiss.

He glanced around through the slopped, angular visor of the War Master helmet, unable to notice the skull-like structure of it from inside. Good, he'd been slightly worried that the structure of the visor would impede his vision. No such thing here it seemed. It didn't even really feel like he was wearing a helmet, except for the HUD hanging in front of him. Not much data right now, no surprise. There wasn't much data he needed to know.

The machines backed off, letting Christian step forward and get the fell for his new armor. Like all the other suits he'd worn, it fit him like a glove. He clenched his fists, moved his arms and legs, threw a couple punches and a kick. The armor responded smoothly. Oh it felt GOOD.

"Oh now this, this I LIKE." Coraline noted, stepping from her own machine and examining her own armor. The separate eye-pieces of her visor made her look intimidating, as if the EOD helmet was her face.

"Yeah, this ain't half bad," Matt agreed as he joined them. "I can't WAIT to fly something in this!"

"You'll get your chance soon enough probably." Christian noted. "We're dropping into a fight aren't we?"

"The perfect place to test out new toys." Kelly said, obviously grinning under her helmet.

Echo finally joined them, hands at the side of her helmet, adjusting it. If Coraline's helmet had looked intimidating, Echo's looked horrifying. All angular, with twin V-shaped white visors and an almost shark-like sleekness. Everything about it said "predator". Befitting its name; "Venator" was Latin for "Hunter".

Echo the Hunter. THAT had a nice ring to it.
I'm ready, she signed, flashing her status light green to compliment it.
Christian's grin grew under his helmet.
"Then lets not wait any longer."
He turned to the armor tech.
"Tell the Captain we're ready."
The tech nodded, a smile obviously under her clean mask as she relayed the message.
Moments later, the great bulk of the Reach with the Kelly and the Arthur tucked to her side like remoras to a shark, turned and accelerated away from the station, ripping open a hole in space and time.