Yeah, the original plan was to have this out yesterday, but I was babysitting my niece all day yesterday. My sister came home at around 8:30, I decided to unwind with some TV, and before I knew it, it was already a quarter to ten. Walking to the McDonald's by the gas station (which is also a truck stop) in the middle of the night did not strike me as a wise idea. Just as well, as a thunderstorm showed up about an hour later.

Still, I was able to crank this out just one week after the last one, which is still pretty damn good for me. How did I do it so quick?

By making it short. Like, way short. By the time I was done I was like "wow, this is really short by my standards." Hopefully though, this will turn out to be one of those quality quantity type things.

….

1857 Hours, March 21st, 2683

Synthetic Insights Office, Noveria

Pax System, Horse Head Nebula

Qui'in's office pass worked perfectly, allowing the Master Chief access. The Spartan walked into what appeared more like a two-story apartment suite then an office. Directly in front of him was a room, to his right were a few large bookshelves and beyond those were the stairs leading up to the second floor balcony above.

Of course, he only noticed that after he noticed all the ERCS guards who all trained their eyes on him the moment he walked in. "Freeze!" one of the guards, a Human woman said. "Han'Shan security! This office is sealed."

"And why's that?" Chief asked, even though he already knew. He was already assessing his situation; it didn't look too good. Guards were walking over from the bookshelves, and he could see more stationed on the balcony already pointing their rifles at him. His motion detector also noted four more guards positioning themselves behind him. The opening shots weren't even fired yet, and he was already surrounded.

"The administrator's orders. Lorik Qui'in is under investigation." the guard replied. "First and last warning, Spectre. Leave. Now." she darkly added.

"I know Chok is paying you all to shake this place down." Chief stated. The guard's expression changed from a tough-as-nails corporate cop to a five-year-old child who just got caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

"Well well well. Look who it is." said a familiar voice. The Chief turned towards the source. It was Sergeant Stirling, the security officer who 'greeted' him and Blue Team earlier at the dock. Trailing behind were six Kig-Yar Skirmishers, armed with plasma SMGs. "I don't think you're supposed to be here, Spectre."

"I think we both knew I was gonna stick my nose somewhere." Chief countered.

"This isn't good." Cortana privately commented. "I'm detecting shield overload programs on some of these guys. Factor in that they've got you surrounded and Stirling is a biotic with attitude problems, and this could be a tough one."

Tough indeed, but the Master Chief had gotten out of tougher spots than this. He glanced around at the guards some more without moving his head, making it look like he was still staring Stirling down. He noted how a few of the guards looked….antzy. One on the balcony was having trouble keeping his rifle steady. He saw a bead of sweat on the foreheads of one of the Human guards.

All I'm saying is that you're a very scary person. You should take advantage of that more often.

A devil of an idea suddenly popped into the Spartan's head.

"I'm going to be honest with you, Stirling." Chief said. "The evidence you and your thugs are looking for? I need it for my mission. In the interest of expedience, I'd rather just grab it and be on my way. So here's the deal; you all stand down and let me grab what I came for, and I'll forget to mention the names and faces of everyone here."

"And if we refuse?" Stirling asked.

"Then I kill you and everyone else in this room." Chief said without missing a beat. Stirling chuckled harshly.

"Yeah right." she said.

The Master Chief took a look around at the other guards, this time being open about breaking eye contact with Stirling. "You all know who I am, right?" he asked. "Come on, the Humans and Kig-Yar here at least know who I am. The rest of you have probably seen at least one documentary about me on the history channel or something. Master Chief Petty Officer Spartan 117? Humanity's Greatest Hero? Any of this ringing any bells?"

He turned towards a Kig-Yar guard. "This guy knows who I am." he said as he gestured to him.

"Er, what?" the Kig-Yar asked.

"You do know who I am, right?" he asked the guard himself. "You know how many Kig-Yar like you I've killed over the course of my career?" he paused, noted that the jackal was suddenly a little more nervous, and scoffed. "Look at you. You don't even have an energy shield. You don't stand a chance."

He turned to the rest of the guards. "I am the Master Chief. I have fought in more than two hundred ground engagements against the Covenant and have earned every single major service medal except the Prisoner of War Medallion. I destroyed Halo Installation 04, in doing so destroying the Flood, a millennia-old race of parasites that turn sentient beings like you and me into walking Lovecraft short stories. Oh, and I blew up the surrounding Covenant fleet along with it. I then went on to fight the Flood a few more times, on two more Halo installations. Well, one more. Not sure if Installation 04B counts as being separate from the original 04. Bottom-line, I basically ended the threat of the Flood once and for all when I destroyed 04B and 00, aka the Ark. But not before destroying the Covenant once and for all too. Actually, scratch that, I can't really take credit for that. Arbiter Thel 'Vadam killed the Prophet of Truth, not me, I just blew up a couple of scarab tanks that were in his way."

He paused. "And then I was frozen for over a hundred years, and lo and behold, here I stand before you. Not a week after I was unfrozen did the Geth suddenly decide to begin a campaign of genocide against the Human race. Just my luck, right? So I repelled a Geth invasion on Eden Prime, defusing nukes that were going to blow up the colony. Then the Citadel Council made me a Spectre so I could apprehend, or failing that, eliminate the leader of the Geth. I'd tell you his name, but it's classified to anyone lacking the proper clearance. My hunt has led me across the Attican Traverse, fighting Geth, Krogan mercenaries, Asari Commandos, brute pirates, even encountered the Flood again on one planet, believe it or not. Again, classified information, really I shouldn't even be mentioning it to you, but I'm trying to get a point across here."

He stood up even straighter, if such a thing was possible for a Spartan. "That point being; I am the Master Chief. Last Spartan. First Human Spectre. Super-soldier. Fighting machine. So before you all start firing your weapons, I want you to ask yourselves, and I mean really ask yourselves; can a dozen or so of rent-a-cops really succeed where the Covenant, the Flood, and the Geth all failed?"

The guards began exchanging nervous glances between one another, much to Stirling's chagrin. "Oh come on!" she snarled. "You mean you all actually believe that 'Last Spartan' crap the Alliance has been pedaling? He's not the Master Chief! He's just some guy in a suit!"

A few of the guards were backing away from the Chief. They weren't so sure of Stirling's claim. Stirling rolled her eyes. "Oh fine." she said as her biotic aura flared up and she walked up to the Chief. "Watch. I'll smack him around - "

*THWACK*

With her arms at her sides and her face unprotected, she was a perfect target. The Chief struck Stirling right in the forehead with an open-palm strike with the force of a semi truck slamming on the breaks. Not enough to be lethal, but enough to give the sergeant a minor concussion. The biotic stood there, dazed for a second, before promptly passing out.

The guards stared at the limp body of their biotic commanding officer, visibly shocked judging from their bulging eyes. They all then turned towards the Master Chief. "Anyone else feeling confidant?" he asked.

The guards responded by immediately running towards the exit to the office. About half of them made it before the elevator filled up. As the elevator descended, the rest of the guards took defensive positions at the end of the entrance hall and pointed their guns at the Chief. "Don't come any closer or we'll shoot! We mean it!" one of the guards nervously yelled, his voice breaking a little, while another furiously pounded the elevator call button.

With that distraction out of the way, the Chief proceeded to look for Qui'in's personal computer, taking his time in doing so. By the time he found the computer and downloaded the evidence, the second elevator arrived and every last guard was gone. Stirling was beginning to rise to her feet. She actually impressed the Spartan with how quickly she recovered from the blow. She moaned in pain as she cradled her forehead.

The Chief then lightly smacked her in the back of the head with the butt of his pistol, knocking her out again. He calmly knelt over her body, bound her with her own cuffs, confiscated her biotic amp, and headed for the elevator.

The Chief was surprised again to find Chok's secretary, Gianna Parasinni, waiting for him outside the elevator. "Master Chief." she greeted. "Several dozen ERCS guards were seen leaving the Synthetic Insights office en masse, with Sergeant Kaira Stirling notably missing. Would you know anything about it?"

"….Maybe." he replied.

"…..Smartass, huh?" she said. Just like that, the sweet tone of the secretary was gone. In its place was something harder, with more edge, and strangely familiar to the Master Chief. "That's fine. I can work with that. Meet me in the hotel bar, before you talk to Qui'in. I'll be waiting."

With that, the secretary turned on her heels and walked away. The Chief should've seen this part coming. Parasinni had wanted something from the Chief from the very beginning, and now it was time to lay all the cards out on the table. The Spartan was actually relieved in a way. He was getting tired of being in the dark.

He checked the mission clock. Blue Team was already set to rendezvous in the hotel bar in less than fifteen minutes. Soon, everyone would get an answer. "Cortana, give everyone a heads-up if you haven't already. And send them a detailed report of everything that happened so far."

"Aye aye, Master Chief." Cortana replied.

….

Wrex barked out a laugh as soon as he entered the Chief's line of sight. "You sent an entire platoon of Chok's thugs running out of the office with their tails between their legs!" he blurted out.

"I just decided to follow your advice; take advantage of how scary I can be." Chief modestly replied.

"Alright, now that we're all here, can we go find out what Parasinni wants now?" Garrus asked as he nodded to the secretary sitting at a table having a drink. Chief nodded and winked green, wordlessly ordering Blue Team to follow. Parasinni noticed them approaching and stood up. Suddenly, the Master Chief recognized her aura. The subtle rigidness with which she now carried herself, back straight and chin slightly raised. The way she walked over to meet him. These signs were invisible to the naked eye, but plain as day to someone who had been a soldier literally his whole life. He knew exactly what Parasinni was now.

"Allow me to re-introduce myself." Parasinni began. She then, to the surprise of everyone but the Master Chief, saluted. "Agent Parasinni, Office of Naval Intelligence Section-One, Undercover Branch."

Chief returned the salute. "Ma'am."

"At ease, soldier." Parasinni replied as she relaxed.

"What's ONI doing here?" Kaidan asked.

"Here's something about the evidence that Qui'in probably didn't tell you. It's big. REAL big." Parasinni began. "Have you looked at the evidence? Did you know what Chok did, exactly, back when he was a merc in the 60's?" The Chief shook his head. "Scan the evidence. Look for the word 'Pheiros.'" she ordered.

"Already on it Chief." Cortana privately commented. "…Oh my God. Chief…..the Pheiros Incident back in 2667…..that was Chok. He and his old mercenary outfit snuck into the shipping yard and sabotaged the Prodition themselves."

Chief stiffened at this. "Are you sure?" he asked.

"The mission logs, the money movements, the hiring contracts, it's all here." Cortana replied. "He essentially master-minded the whole thing."

"Chok was responsible for the Pheiros Incident?" Chief asked Parasinni.

"Eeeeyup." The undercover ONI agent replied as she folded her arms.

The implications behind this were huge. Chief knew the story behind the Pheiros Incident. Back when the slipspace debate was still up in the air, the Alliance helped the Turian Hierarchy build its first slipspace-capable ship, the Prodition. It was officially tested in orbit over Pheiros, a well-developed Hierarchy colony world. It successfully jumped into slipspace…..but never jumped back out. The incident definitively ended the debate in the Hierarchy's favor. Though sabotage was long rumored, there had never been any solid evidence. Until now.

"Chok sabotaged the Prodition." Chief said. "He's the reason the Alliance was stripped of slipspace technology. He threw our entire species under a bus. Why?" Chok was already on the Chief's shit-list for obstructing the mission. Now, he wanted to see the jackal tried and executed.

"Same reason jackals do anything; for the money." Parasinni replied. "Chok knew that if slipspace was illegal, the Alliance would have no choice but to turn to Noveria to research it without pissing off the Council. Which meant that the Noveria Development Corporation would be free to charge the Alliance a king's ransom for the right to conduct slipspace research here."

The Chief was absolutely seething at this point. "We can't let him get away with this." he said.

"We don't intend to." Parasinni replied. "ONI has known that Chok was the culprit for a while, but we could never get solid proof. I've been undercover for six months trying to find some."

"And now you have." Garrus said.

"No. That would be Qui'in. Which is the problem." Parasinni said. "I knew you could deal with Chok's thugs no problem, Chief. But now I need you to convince Qui'in to testify before a Council court. With his evidence, we can nail this bastard. The hope then will be that, once they see the Pheiros Incident was no accident, the Turians will finally wake up and realize that slipspace isn't an inherently dangerous technology and we can finally make some progress in legalizing it."

"Qui'in's right over there, you know." Kaidan pointed out as he pointed a thumb over his shoulder to the old Turian sitting at the other side of the bar. "Why don't you convince him yourself?"

Parasinni turned to Kaidan. "I'm Chok's secretary. You think he'd believe me? That he'd meet me in some dark alley with his evidence?" She turned back to the Chief. "You're the only one who can convince him, because you're the only one he can trust in this scenario."

Parasinni walked a little closer to the Chief. "Additionally, I know you need a garage pass to get to Peak 15. In helping ONI with this matter, you will not only score a huge political victory for the Alliance, but I'll personally see to it that you get a pass so you can complete your own mission on this ice ball."

"I'll convince him, ma'am." Chief replied with a nod. "If I may ask, is there anything about Peak 15 you can tell me that you couldn't tell me before?"

"Probably." Parasinni replied. "Shoot."

"Do you know why Benezia's here?" Chief asked.

"Something to do with Peak 15, as I've already told you. She arrived after we received their Code Omega; automated warning of a containment breach. She came with an escort of Asari Commandos. They took the last shuttle up to Peak 15 with a load of crates."

"What's the SOP for a Code Omega?" Chief asked.

"Code Omega is a terminal breach of safety protocols. No one goes up until the crew sends an all-clear." Parasinni explained.

"And if an all-clear is never sent?" Chief asked.

"The NDC executive board votes on whether or not to destroy the facility. One antimatter warhead from the orbital battle stations vaporizes all contaminants." Parasinni replied.

"Do you know how long we would have until the board decides to bomb Peak 15?" Chief asked.

"Hard to say." Parasinni said with a helpless shrug. "They like to argue with each other. Usually takes a while to reach a vote. Thing is, the Code Omega was received days ago and we still haven't received an all-clear yet. Executive board's probably close to a final decision by now. Once Chok is in custody, I'll stall them however I can, but whatever you wind up doing on Peak 15, you'd better do it quick."

"What about the crates that Benezia had?" Chief asked. "What's inside them?"

"No idea. The commandos wouldn't let anyone near them. They seemed heavy though." Parasinni said. "Sorry, but that's all I've got. No one knows what's going on up there."

"Thank you." Chief said. "I'll do what I can to convince Qui'in."

"You know where I work. Come talk to me once you know if he'll play ball." Parasinni said. She then downed the last of her lager and turned to leave the bar.

Chief turned to the rest of Blue Team. "Wait here. I'll go talk to Qui'in." On that, he walked towards Qui'in's table.

"Always a pleasure, Spectre." Qui'in greeted as the Chief approached his table. "Any news on that matter I asked you to look into?"

"You never told me just what Chok exactly did." Chief replied. "Were you planning on telling me that Chok was responsible for the Pheiros Incident?"

"….I didn't think that was any of your business." Qui'in warily replied.

"Well it is now." Chief said. "An undercover ONI agent who's been investigating Chok told me everything. She says we need your testimony to help bring Chok to justice."

Qui'in huffed. "Now that you have my property, you want to dictate how I use it? I know what ONI wants to do; they want to crucify Chok for all the galaxy to see. He'll be tried by the highest courts in Palaven, possibly even the Citadel Council themselves." he shook his head. "I have no interest in a public spectacle. Especially not one of that magnitude."

Chief grimaced under his helmet. He gazed through his visor into the old Turian's eyes and saw a stubborn old alien that wasn't about to budge on this easily. He wished convincing Qui'in to testify was as easy as convincing all those ERCS guards to just get out of the Spartan's way.

The trick is often to use a little charm. You'd be surprised at how many people can be swayed by a polite suggestion or an appeal to their ego.

"…..Where did you serve?" Chief asked.

"I beg your pardon?" Qui'in asked.

"You're a Turian. Every Turian serves or has served in the military." Chief said. "So where did you serve? Army? Navy?"

"What does that have anything to do with this?" Qui'in demanded.

"Just humor me for a minute." Chief asked.

"…..Computer specialist, on the Poryxian, a Hierarchy Cruiser and a well-built one at that." Qui'in replied. "I mostly crunched numbers and made sure all the computer systems performed adequately."

"How many tours did you pull?" Chief asked.

"Only one; patrolling the borders of the Attican Traverse, and it was a fairly peaceful tour by the Traverse's standards." Qui'in explained. "I'm not like you, if that's what you're thinking. I wasn't a marine or a fighter pilot. I was a techie who toiled away in server rooms. The rest of the navy nicknamed us 'giblons,' creatures from ancient Turian folklore who typically spend a lot of time underground and turn to stone if ever exposed to the sun. My point is that I've never been on the front lines. I've never been a hero."

"And yet, here you are." Chief replied. "You've uncovered evidence of Chok's crimes, against your people no less. You could be a hero to your people by bringing a man who destroyed an entire ship and killed an entire crew to justice."

Qui'in paused, seeming to think about it for a couple of seconds. Then shook his head. "My employers rely on the good will of the executive board to work here." he feebly said.

"To hell with your employers." Chief replied. "I'm not talking to Lorik Qui'in, manager of the Synthetic Insights Noveria Office. I'm talking to Lorik Qui'in, Turian. Your people pride themselves on keeping the peace, enforcing order, and seeking out justice across the galaxy. By refusing to testify against a war criminal just because you're worried about losing your job, you're turning a blind eye to everything your species stands for. Do you really wanna do that?"

Qui'in was silent for a time. Then, he sighed. "You're going to keep pushing me on this until I say yes, aren't you?"

"That's my plan." Chief replied.

Qui'in huffed. "Dirty tactic, playing on a Turian's patriotism to get what you want out of him. All right, I'll testify. Go make whatever arrangements you need with your contact. I will wait here."

Chief saluted Qui'in, much to the Turian's surprise. "From one soldier to another, thank you for helping with my mission and meeting out justice for fallen comrades."

Qui'in returned the salute, less than enthusiastically. "Yes, yes, 'Victory at Any Cost' and what-not." he said before downing the last of his drink.

"Spartan." Parasinni formally greeted the Master Chief as he and Blue Team entered her office. "Is Qui'in in?"

"It took some convincing, but he's agreed to testify." Chief replied.

Parasinni smiled from ear to ear. "Perfect." she said. "I'll take that evidence for safe transport. You did a hell of a thing today, Chief."

"My day's not over yet." Chief said as he handed Parasinni the OSD. "I still have a matriarch to find."

"Right." Parasinni said as she gave the Spartan the garage pass. "Be careful up there. Now if you'll excuse me, I have an arrest to make. Wish I had time to change into something easy to move in. I hate skirts."

With that, Parasinni turned around and headed into Chok's office to make the arrest. Chief held up the garage pass to his visor. "Finally." Wrex said. "Maybe now we can actually go kill something."

"I learned a bit about Peak 15 from chatting up one of the mechanics over in the garage." Ashley said. "Apparently, Peak 15's always been kinda shady. Factor in that it's run by a company that Saren's heavily invested in, and it looks like we'll be stepping into something real nasty."

"Don't forget about Benezia and the Commandos." Cortana added. "Your new armor is supposed to be more biotic-resistant, right Chief? Looks like it's about to take the ultimate test."

"Everyone knows the drill." Chief said.

"Stay alert." Garrus finished the Spartan's statement for him. At this point in the campaign against Saren and his Geth, those two words had been all but drilled into the brains of Blue Team. Chief smiled. Ashley was probably right in that whatever was waiting for the Spartan on Peak 15 couldn't be good, but with a team like this at his command, a team that he trusted and trusted him in return, he felt confidant that he could handle whatever fate threw at him.

It was then that Blue Team heard the office door open again. Out came Parasinni, trying to drag a cuffed Chok out of his office. Emphasis on 'trying,' as the Kig-Yar wasn't going quietly. "THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!" he crowed. "DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHO I AM?! I AM ERK CHOK! I PRACTICALLY BUILT THIS PLACE! I'LL SEE THAT YOU NEVER WORK IN THIS SECTOR AGAIN!"

"Jesus." Parasinni hissed as she winced. "You have the right to remain silent. For the sake of my eardrums, please exercise it."

"YOU!" Chok snarled as he lunged at the Master Chief, barely constrained by Parasinni tugging on his cuffs. "YOU DID THIS TO ME YOU LAPDOG!" he howled. Even without the energy shield or plasmas pistol, Chok looked like he was trying to maul the Chief, just like the savage cannibals he killed by the dozens back in the Human-Covenant War. It made him wonder whether the Kig-Yar have truly changed their ways, or have simply learned to hide their true nature better.

"I AM PRIVY TO MANY OF THE GALAXY'S MOST CLOSELY GUARDED SECRETS!" Chok continued to rant at the Chief. "I EVEN KNOW YOURS, JOHN-117!"

Being referred to by his real name, a name that Chok had no business calling him, made the Spartan bristle. "I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE! THE PUBLIC DOESN'T KNOW, BUT I KNOW HOW THE UNSC REALLY CREATED YOU! WHAT THEY DID TO YOU!"

"Okay, that's it." Parasinni growled as she reached into her pocket for something.

"DO YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MAN AND A MACHINE?!" Chok demanded. "A MAN CHOOSES! A MACHINE OBEYS! THE UNSC DIDN'T WANT A MAN, SO THEY BUILT A MACHINE!"

Before Chok could rant further Parasinni pulled out some kind of strap. She looped it around Chok's beak and pulled it tight, effectively gagging the jackal. With that done, she pushed the Kig-Yar along. "See you around the galaxy, Master Chief." she said as she passed Blue Team with her perp in tow. "I owe you a beer." The two of them then exited, leaving Blue Team alone in the office.

Tali turned towards the Chief. "What was Chok going on about?" she asked. "About men and machines?"

"….No idea." Chief replied with a shrug.

"Benezia and her Commandos have been up at Peak 15 for a few days now." Cortana said, bringing the team's focus back to the mission. "Assuming they're still alive, it's possible that they might have been spending some of that time fortifying their position."

"Fortifying?" Liara asked.

"Saren knows we're hot on his heels." Cortana stated. "It makes sense that he'd have Benezia make preparations in case we showed up."

"If she has been fortifying, Peak 15 must be practically a fortress by now." Ashley commented. "We might need the heavy weapons back on the Normandy."

"I dunno." Kaidan said. "We're talking about a lab here. Narrow hallways, possibly volatile chemicals around, doesn't seem like a good idea to bring along the heavy ordinance."

"We compromise." Chief stated. "Wrex, head back to the Normandy and grab the SAW, Sticky Detonator, and the railgun. Leave the plasma launcher and nonlinear rifle. Once you've got everything, meet the rest of the team at the garage."

"Can do." Wrex replied while walking out of the office. The rest of the Blue Team followed him out, marching towards the garage as the Krogan split off and headed back to the dock.

"'No idea,' huh?" Cortana asked John via a private channel.

"There are some things I can never tell anyone." John replied. "You know that as well as I do."

"Whatever you say, John." Cortana replied.

…..

Major Danielle Ackerson marched down the stark-white hallways of ONI HQ, wearing her dress blacks. She was wearing her dress blacks because she was about to meet with Admiral Angus McCallister for a very important meeting. She had received a communique from McCallister's office on Earth, requesting her presence as soon as she was able to see him. It didn't actually say what the meeting would be about, but when the Head of ONI tells you to come see him, it's never because he just wants to talk over a bit of lunch.

After navigating the labyrinthine hallways, she finally arrived at what seemed to be a waiting room. Standing between her and the doorway was a holographic projection that was easily ten feet tall; so tall that his head almost 'touched' the ceiling. It took the form of a medieval knight with his claymore was planted firmly in the floor. It was McCallister's personal AI assistant, Gallahad. "Major Ackerson." the titanic hologram greeted in a voice with a deep bass. "The admiral has been expecting you. However, you must wait a moment. The admiral is currently receiving a high-priority communique."

"Acknowledged, Gallahad." Ackerson replied. While she liked to think that patience was one of her strengths, one of the few areas where she didn't like waiting was whenever someone made her wait to speak with them, as though whatever they were dealing with at the moment was more important than talking to her. Still, this was McCallister. Whether she liked it or not, whatever he was doing right now was more important than her in all likelihood.

"The admiral is done." Gallahad said about twenty seconds later. The massive hologram pulled his sword out of the ground and stepped aside, as though Ackerson couldn't just simply walk through him. "You may proceed." he said. Ackerson walked through the doorway into McCallister's office. For someone so high up the Alliance chain of command, McCallister's office was quite small. In front of her was a desk where the admiral himself sat as well as three chairs in front of it. Behind him was a fish-tank that took up most of the back wall, where all manner of saltwater life resided. On each side wall was a different painting; the one on the left depicted the Fall of Reach, the other on the right depicted the Battle of Voi.

McCallister sat in his chair, looking as though he had never been busy with anything, despite Gallahad's words. He looked like he had been waiting for Ackerson all day. He nodded to the chair in the middle, which Ackerson took. "Sorry I made you wait a bit, Dani." McCallister began.

"Major Ackerson, sir." Ackerson replied.

"Right. Major." McCallister said as he winced. McCallister had been an old friend of Danielle's father, meaning that Danielle had known the admiral since her early childhood. Referring to her as that childish nickname she carried throughout grade school was still a bad habit he had yet to break. "Anyway, sorry about making you wait. But as Gallahad told you, I had just received an important communique. Remember Lieutenant Parasinni?"

"Section-One undercover agent working the Chok case, yes." Ackerson stated from memory. "What about her?"

McCallister smiled. "We got him. We got the son of a bitch."

"She's found evidence?" Ackerson asked.

"And someone willing to testify against the damned jackal." McCallister said. "She even made the arrest not more than half an hour ago. He's currently being held by Han'Shan security, awaiting pick-up by ONI."

"I didn't think she'd find anything conclusive this soon." Ackerson stated. "How did she do it?"

"That's the kicker. Parasinni was able to do it all with the Master Chief's help." McCallister revealed. "He found the evidence, secured it, and even convinced a credible witness to testify against Chok. And now, it sounds like the Chief is on his way to apprehend Saren's primary accomplice herself, Matriarch Benezia, who is now confirmed to be on Noveria." he chuckled. "First Horridus, then Chok, and now Benezia's next. I have to admit, that lad has been on a roll lately."

"Well, after his failure on Eletania, he'd better be." Ackerson noted.

"Actually, it's a funny thing that I received an update on the Chief's activities right before talking to you." McCallister began. "He's actually the reason why I summoned you here today."

"The Master Chief, sir?" Ackerson asked.

"Aye." McCallister replied. "He's not just the Last Spartan you know. He's also the First Human Spectre. Too many people remember the former, but forget the latter. As our first Spectre, he's our horse in this race, and we've got a lot of money riding on him. Which is why it's important to make sure he's healthy and strong."

The admiral then opened a drawer beneath his desk and started rifling through the various data pads inside. "The Master Chief has been a Spectre for almost a month now. He's about due for a proper performance review, and I think you're the best person to complete that review."

Ackerson arced her eyebrow. "All due respect sir, but did you really just drag me, my ship and my soldiers all the way to Earth just to tell me that I'm going to do a performance review?" She was aware that she could be reprimanded for being that fresh with such a high-ranking Alliance admiral, but her informal relationship with 'Uncle Angus' allowed her to get away with the occasional smart remark.

"Two things Dani. First off, none of the sass." McCallister sternly said with a finger pointed at her. "Second, make no mistake, this is not an ordinary performance review." Evidently finding the data pad he was looking for, he placed the pad in question on the desk and slid it over to Ackerson's side. She picked it up and read the first few lines of text.

"….This is Spartan-117's complete profile." Ackerson said, her face as stoically neutral as ever. However, the slight widening of her eyes betrayed her amazement that she had been handed a document that only the absolute highest-ranked ONI officials could freely access.

"Everything's on there, including the stuff that's normally blacked out. It even has his most recent accomplishments and activities in the last month on record there." McCallister explained. "In order to give the Master Chief a real performance review, you have to understand him inside and out. As you might have guessed, I had to pull a few strings to grant you the clearance to read the whole thing."

The admiral paused for a second. "I should warn ya, Dani. There are things that people don't know about John-117 and the other Spartans. Things that people will never know so long as ONI has a say in it. Things that not even you know. But you're about to find out. Some of that document's contents may….disturb you a bit."

"You know me, sir." Danielle said as she looked up from the data pad and back to McCallister. "Nothing short of the Apocalypse can truly disturb me. I'll be reading this in the waiting room. Though before I begin, I do have one more question sir."

"Aye?" McCallister asked.

"The Master Chief is a Spectre." Ackerson said. "He's effectively above the rules of every galactic government and military, including us. What makes you think he'll even agree to to a performance review by ONI? He could easily say no."

McCallister gave Danielle a devil of a grin. "Oh, he won't say no to us. He can't say no to us" he nodded to the data pad in Danielle's hands. "You'll find out why soon enough."

Danielle paused, unsure of what McCallister meant by 'can't say no,' but she knew there was only one way to find out. She stood up and saluted. "I should have the whole thing read in two hours, sir."

"Naturally." McCallister replied, knowing that Danielle was a fast reader. "Dismissed." he added. On that note, Danielle left McCallister's office. She took a seat in a nearby chair next to a plant in the waiting room and began reading the complete profile of John-117.

Codex Entry (Aliens - Non-Council Races): KIG-YAR: CULTURE

Since Kig-Yar clans first began plundering one another's settlements during Eayn's iron age, mercantilism has dictated much of the species' mindset and society. Acts that are considered unethical, if not outright illegal, amongst other species are regularly practiced amongst the Kig-Yar. Soldiers will loot the bodies of their fallen comrades after battle, not just ammunition but personal valuables as well. Political sabotage is par for the course in the higher ranks of Confederacy leadership. In general, Kig-Yar society encourages individuals to put one's own needs ahead of the group.

It is for these reasons that, out of the three Council races, Kig-Yar typically experience the most friction with the Turians. Nearly completely opposite of Kig-Yar society, Turian society revolves around civil service, specifically putting the needs of others ahead of the needs of the self. This has lead many Kig-Yar to view Turians with scorn, often referring to them as socialists (even though the term is inaccurate to describe Turian culture and government). The fact that their longtime economic rivals the Volus are a client race of the Hierarchy does nothing to ease these tensions.

This is not to say that dealing and interacting with Kig-Yar is unpleasant. In fact, it's been said that you will never find a species more open to cooperation, provided of course you have the money for it. Kig-Yar will not hesitate to engage in mutually beneficial arrangements with any outside party, provided the monetary rewards for doing so is sufficient. They are even able to work with Turians and Volus, species they normally see as cultural and economic rivals respectively, in the name of profit.

Similar to Salarians, Kig-Yar society is matriarchal in structure, with females holding most of the political power on Eayn. This is also reflected in their mating habits. While females will have several males for mates, a male is typically expected to have only one mate, staying loyal to the female for as long as she tolerates him.

One of the most controversial aspects of Kig-Yar culture is cannibalism. During the Human-Covenant War, instances of Kig-Yar eating the flesh of fallen Humans, and even of allied races such as Sangheili, was well-documented. However, this too is a consequence of an extremely mercantile society. The Kig-Yar believe that, sentient being or not, perfectly edible meat should not go to waste. While they have long since abandoned the cannibalization of other sentient races (primarily to save face in the galactic community), they will still routinely eat their own dead. A Kig-Yar funeral is typically also a banquet as well, one where refusing to sample the flesh of the deceased is considered an insult against the deceased's grieving loved ones.

..

Fun fact: the last bit with Major Ackerson was originally supposed to be the intro scene to the next chapter. But as I said, this chapter was already way too short by my standards, so I felt like I had to pad it out SOMEHOW. So I decided to include it here. Not a biggie, as I feel that it functions just as well at the tail-end of this chapter. The next chapter will see Blue Team finally heading up to Peak 15.