Disclaimer: "Halo", "Halo: Reach" and all related content belongs to Bungie (though Microsoft owns the rights, far as I know). I do not work for either company – the closest I'll ever get to owning any of their Halo stuff is buying their games. Any similarities between this and other Halo: Reach fics are completely unintentional – despite elements of Akatsuki Leader13's work being found in the first two chapters or so. My apologies again for stepping on your toes, my fellow writer – let the record show that I meant no offense.
A/N: The damn muse is taking me all over the place... first delve into Halo: Reach fanfiction; or Halo fics in general, for that matter. The plot bunnies won't leave me alone after reading those Noble Six tributes, so here I am with my effort. To any fans of my other fics, bear with me – this had to be written.
As per the norm with my work, some creative liberties will be taken – that is the point of fanfiction, after all – due to rather mild inconsistencies found between "Halo: Reach" and the novel Fall of Reach, and just because this is my damn take on things.
For those who care for such things, here are my Noble Six/B312's armor specs as of current posting date:
Helmet: ODST CBRN/HUL
Utility: Tactical/Hard Case
Emblem: Maroon/Silver Dog-Tags over steel-colored shield
Primary Color: Maroon
Secondary Color: Steel
"My" Six is female; her name will be given in this chapter, and there will be romance for her – eventually. It wouldn't be a Noble Mission if it were easy, after all.
Here's to you, Bungie – for leaving the Halo legacy with a bang.
Halo Reach: Noble Legacy
Chapter 1: Departure and Discovery, Survival and Selection
"You'll have your window, sir." – Emile-A239
"Good luck to you, Spartan." – Captain Jacob Keyes, "Halo: Reach"
(Aszod Ship Breaking Yards, Reach, 1800 hrs, August 30th 2552)
"Emile, behind you!" Noble Six screamed as she saw a glint of light behind her comrade; the newest (and final) member of Noble Team watched as Emile, acknowledging her cry, turned from the Elite Zealot he'd just killed – and shot a second one point-blank in the head.
"Thanks, Six!" the Assault specialist replied over the com, "All clear here!"
"Keep it that way, will you Emile?" Six asked, a rare dose of amusement lacing her voice, "Watch your back. Pillar of Autumn, this is Noble Six – LZ is clear, though I can't guarantee it'll stay that way for long. You'd better get down here; pick up the package before more Covenant butt in."
"Copy that, Noble Six," Keyes replied, "We're en route to you now."
"You'll have a clear window, sir," Emile added, "I'll make sure of it myself."
"Thank you, Noble Four." Keyes replied as two Pelicans took off from the Autumn, "Good hunting."
As Six shouldered her shotgun and picked up her DMR from where it had been slapped away, she smirked under her helmet. As long and hard as the fight she just went through had been, she wouldn't have it any other way. Watching as the odd curious Phantom or Banshee was decimated by Emile's use of the Mass Driver, Six had to admit to a sense of pride. Whether it would be her or Emile leaving Reach, one of them would leave Reach – Kat was wounded and in cryo on the Autumn, Carter and Jorge were dead...
I've lost enough. Six inwardly seethed, TORPEDO took my squad, Ackerson took my life and used it for his own selfish aims, Reach took Carter, Jorge, Jun, and nearly Kat too – it's going to take Emile... as much of Noble Team has to survive as possible, even if it's just one-third of the team!
Spartan-B312, Noble Six, regained emotional control of herself just enough to shoulder her DMR next to the shotgun on her upper back before reaching for the AI storage device Dr. Halsey had given her. At the same time, Keyes' Pelican had landed, letting the Captain exit with a squad of marines watching the area around him.
"Good to see you, Spartan," Keyes smiled stiffly, "Catherine assured me I could count on you."
"Not just me, sir," Six replied while handing the AI storage device to the Captain. Keyes smiled sombrely, grasping the device as he placed a hand on Six's armoured shoulder.
"They'll be remembered; you have my word." he replied, before turning back to the Pelican... and freezing in shock before reaching to his com-link.
"Cruiser, adjusting heading for the Autumn! Noble Four, I need fire on that cruiser or we're not getting out of here! Do you copy!"
"You'll have the window you need, sir." Emile replied.
As Keyes and the marines returned to their Pelican, two Phantoms entered the area. Managing to blast one, Emile couldn't stop the second from opening fire on the escorting Pelican. The damaged dropship lost control, falling towards Keyes' Pelican – though miraculously the pilot managed to swerve out of the way in time to prevent a crash. Six, meanwhile, dove away from the edge of the pad as the damaged Pelican flipped – slamming into that same edge she had just avoided, before falling to the depths of the canyon below. Emile managed to blast the second Phantom as Keyes' pilot swerved out of the way again, returning to the edge of the pad.
"Get on, Lieutenant!" one of the Marines roared, bringing the femme fatale back to her senses as she stood up, "We have to get out of here!"
"Go, Six – I've got your back!" Emile barked over the COM; the broadcast was heard by the squad that was guarding Keyes, as well as the Captain himself.
"Don't worry about me – there's still plenty of Covenant here to send straight to hell," Emile audibly smirked as the sound of his shotgun booming resounded through the COM, "Who knows – I might survive and meet up with Jun, but in any case I have you covered. As for you, GO! And make sure Noble Team is never forgotten, by the Covenant or anyone else!"
"Always," Six promised before climbing aboard with Keyes and his marines, "Good luck, Emile."
"And to you – but we don't need luck," Emile laughed, "Spartans never die, after all."
"Spartans never die," Six echoed, nodding her head in agreement as the Pelican headed back to the Autumn. Standing on the open hatch, she watched as Emile blasted an Elite Zealot to death, stabbed a second with his kukri, and then kicked a Grunt that had been gutsy enough to follow, crushing its head. The SPARTAN-III assault specialist then returned to the Driver's controls, aiming the mini-MAC Cannon at the core of the inbound warship.
"Here's to Noble Team... and to you, Six." Emile intoned as the cannon fired. There was a thundering explosion as the blast hit the ventral cannon of the Corvette-class Covenant vessel. Explosions tore over the craft as its engines failed and it descended into the canyon, no longer a threat to the docked Halcyon-class cruiser.
"Good guns, Spartan." Keyes grinned, "All stations brace for cast-off."
"Six, it's Emile – whether we meet again or not, I'll see you, Kat, and 117 in Hell when y'all arrive." Emile vowed as the Autumn's engines started firing, "Send some Covenant there for me."
"Of course – good hunting, Emile; and thanks for... everything," Six replied, outwardly calm yet inwardly biting back the urge to hit something as she moved into the Pelican proper and slumped into a seat, "Six out."
Seconds later, the Pelican docked – and the Autumn launched with Noble Six aboard and Emile watching from the wreckage of Aszod's ship-breaking yards.
"This is the Pillar of Autumn," Keyes spoke moments after the Autumn broke Reach's atmosphere, "We're away – and the Package is with us."
Noble Six slumped against the side of the Pelican's hold as the Autumn sped through the upper atmosphere, heading away from the Covenant forces in orbit as the slipspace drives charged... and suddenly she wasn't Noble Six anymore. Carter and Jorge were dead; Kat was recuperating from the Needle Rifle shot she'd taken back in New Alexandria. Jun might've still been alive; however, there was no way to know for certain. And Emile... well, they both knew he wasn't getting off Reach without some serious luck.
Melissa B-312 was the Lone Wolf once again, after the second time in her life where she'd found a group she could actually work with. Letting a pouch on the underside of the battered TACPAD on her forearm slide open, two sets of dog tags fell into her left hand – Jorge's and Emile's, and hung from their chains. Just as Jorge had done before his last act of courage, Emile himself had given Melissa his own tags before their final stand at the shipyards; the memory caused the Spartan to shake her head and clasp the tags in her fingers.
She'd never been much of a team player, especially since Harvest's glassing had separated her from her friends at five years old. Of the five childhood friends she'd had on Harvest and the family friend on Luna that she'd kept in contact with, two of their families refused to leave (and thus were killed by the Covenant) while a third had been caught in the glassing with his father – both of them having just missed the last refugee container off Harvest. The others had managed to escape separate from her. She'd never heard from her family's friend on Luna again, and only found out the other information after running from the orphanage she'd been dumped at on Reach, joining the SPARTAN-III Program and successfully hacking a series of sealed databases in private years later.
Since the information she'd found had contained the fact her two surviving friends were living happily on Earth, it had broken her. Melissa-B312 went from a fiery eleven-year-old girl to a cold loner who wouldn't shed a tear for anything, and with few exceptions had stayed that way for the rest of her life until the present.
She had no way of knowing, at 11 or in the present, that Colonel Ackerson had forged the bulk of that information just for that purpose – to turn even one SPARTAN-III from the innocent child that (even under all the pain and rage) they had been, into what Catherine Halsey called "Hyper-Lethal Vector." Melissa also couldn't have known that her surviving friends were part of the UNSC Marines, and on the Autumn at that moment.
As her training had finished five years later, B-312 had been pulled out of Beta Company; at the time she'd thought she was being rewarded for her excellent solo performance. How wrong she was, despite TORPEDO's result in 2545; for instead of possibly getting to join her legendary predecessors the SPARTAN-IIs in combat, she spent nearly eight years as a lone wolf assassin for Ackerson and others within ONI including her direct superior. The bitterness Melissa had to deal with on her own ended up leaving her even more cold and ruthless on the surface, as she learned that – within ONI, anyway – no one she worked with could be trusted. When she found out her entire former Company had been wiped out during Operation: TORPEDO, she didn't visibly react at all, even as the humanity in her screamed in rage. That same humanity was then buried by her own hand, as one high-ranking ONI officer after another used her for black ops and assassinations.
How ironic that a month on Reach would undo a great deal of that self-forged programming, thanks to a team of Spartans who proved over those thirty-some days just how worthy they were of their destiny; from Visegrad to Sword Base, to battling alongside Kat and Jun over three days in Viery Territory, followed by Jorge's sacrifice during Operation: UPPERCUT and Carter and Emile's sacrifices during the Package delivery, Noble Team had proved their mettle several times over. But more than that, they allowed Melissa to work with them – after the initial distrust during the Visegrad Relay op, the team of five had slowly welcomed her into their number with open arms, Kat even recalling early days of Beta Company training with Melissa now and then. And the rest was history... just dust and echoes. At the same time it occurred to Melissa that she, Kat and a handful of others might be the only Spartans of any generation left. Surprisingly, that combination of facts nearly drove her to tears for the first time in nearly thirty years.
"Foehammer," Keyes smiled as he spoke to the Pelican's pilot, "Thanks for the ride."
"Anytime, Captain Keyes – my pleasure," the female pilot replied.
Melissa removed her helmet, revealing a mane of wavy red-blonde hair, her blue eyes glancing in Keyes' direction as she focused on the memory of her family friend and tuned out the Marines leaving the Pelican; specifically, her mind compared Keyes of the present to a photo she'd kept of an "Uncle Jake" from her childhood... admittedly, the photo was 27 years outdated, but it looked like a younger version of Captain Keyes.
Didn't her father's friend have his hand shattered once? And hadn't Captain Keyes' record shown the exact same damage inflicted to him 27 years ago...?
"Noble Six, are you alright?" Keyes asked, placing a hand on the Spartan's armoured shoulder, "I'm no expert on body language, but you seem distressed."
"Just thinking, sir – though I do have a question for you." Melissa replied.
"Ask away, Lieutenant," Keyes smiled faintly, "My crew is trustworthy; I hand-picked the bulk of them myself. Assuming they even listen, they won't spill your secrets."
"You lived on Luna once, correct?" the Spartan-III asked.
"Yes; it was my home, especially during my teaching stint at Luna OCS – my daughter signed onto the school ten years to the day after the Harvest Campaign's end," Keyes replied, "Why?"
Melissa opened the hard-case attached to her left leg, carefully pulling out a well-worn photograph and examining it before speaking quietly, "Years ago, you sent one Lieutenant Chris Murphy a photo of yourself to give to his adopted daughter, who you considered an unofficial niece. It's been a long time coming, but I do remember one thing – my father wanted me to give this back to you. I've kept it all these years – not even my superiors know for certain that I have it."
"Chris Murphy..." Keyes smiled grimly, grasping the photo with the calloused fingers of his right hand, "I remember. He was a great soldier and a better friend... but all the reports I could find said his daughter died with him on Harvest."
"Ackerson," Melissa growled, surprising Keyes, "He hunted down hundreds of orphans from glassed colonies; turned them all into Spartan-IIIs for use in heavily classified suicide missions. My father died to save my life nearly 30 years ago, and Colonel James Ackerson tore it to shreds anyway. With everything that's happened, Kat and I are probably the only Spartan-IIIs left. I wish I could say more, but I'm breaking several regulations as is."
"Understood," Keyes nodded, "We'll talk more on that subject later on. Melissa?"
Noble Team's final member looked up – and held back any visible shock as Captain Keyes smiled at her before handing the photograph back.
"It's good to have you back; Miranda's going to be happy. Keep the photo, as a memory of better times; I think Chris would want you to have it more than me."
"Miranda Keyes is your daughter, sir?" Melissa's lips twitched as she replaced her photo in its case and her helmet on her head before following Keyes out of the Pelican, "I've heard of her through the grapevine – nothing but good things, under all the nepotism accusations that I just can't buy into."
"Miranda is my daughter, Lieutenant, and an incredible soldier – it's people like her that'll win this war for us." Keyes replied, "She'll probably trump all my meagre accomplishments."
"Of course, Captain," Melissa responded diplomatically even as her thoughts screamed 'Bullshit!', "Sir, Permission to contact my C.O., Colonel Holland – I would like to inform him of Noble Team's current status."
"Permission denied, Spartan; no point," Keyes replied, "Your comrade B320 already tried – while your C.O. knows of your team's general status, there's too much interference to contact him again. We barely got other Spartans out of Reach Station Gamma and into cryo before reaching Aszod."
"Understood," B312 replied with a sigh, "Is Spartan-B320 really up and about?"
"She's on the bridge, actually – she insisted, despite the headache." Keyes replied, "She'll be there when we bring the Package online."
Melissa nodded in understanding; if Kat was anything besides a code breaker, she was stubborn.
If a Scarab couldn't keep her down, what would a sniper do? At least with her shields up, of course... Melissa bit back a grimace; the possibility of what would've happened had she not reminded Kat about her shields back in New Alexandria was enough to make her blood simmer. Thankfully, the anger was overwhelmed by an almost palpable surge of happiness as Melissa saw her only surviving teammate on the bridge, looking at a view-screen showing the view behind the Autumn – specifically, Reach.
"We fought so hard," Kat murmured as she saw Noble Six out of the corner of her eye, "And all for nothing."
"No – we fought for Reach, Kat. For humanity," Melissa replied, "And we won, in a way. As much of Reach's population survived as we could rescue – and so did some of the Army."
"But our team is gone!" Kat hissed, "You and I are Noble Team's only survivors!"
"I know," Melissa's jaw went taut under her helmet, "Which is why we keep fighting. I promised Emile that Noble Team would never be forgotten – Keyes gave me his word he'd make sure of that too. But unless you want what's left of that team to be remembered as a pair of cowards, we keep going – got it?"
"Yes, ma'am," Kat smirked audibly. Melissa blushed under her helmet as the realization came to her that she was basically channelling Carter – and to her former Commander's XO/best friend, no less.
"Sorry," the red-clad Spartan muttered.
"Don't be; I needed that," Kat sighed, "Lieutenant, you look like hell – did you even get some rest after I was knocked out?"
"All of a day's worth at that bunker, Kat; same as you," Melissa retorted, "Of course, getting here with the Package was no picnic."
"I know – Dot kept track of all of you as long as she could, before..." Kat trailed off, looking towards the front of the Autumn, "I hope that Package was worth it."
"Believe me," a familiar voice spoke, "It was."
Looking around for the source of the voice, Six's eyes settled on a holo-tank – on which stood an AI avatar; a short-haired blue-purple woman with lines of data scrolling over her body, otherwise bearing an odd resemblance to Dr. Halsey in looks and voice.
"You're that AI that Halsey had at the underground complex," Melissa realized, "The one who chose me."
"I am," the AI replied, "My name is Cortana – and I was hoping to thank you for getting my upgrade to the Autumn in time; it might lead us to a way to win this war."
"It was a team effort, ma'am," Melissa replied.
"And you and your team have my thanks for what you've done, Spartan-B312." Cortana responded. Even as the FTL drives activated, the two Spartan IIIs didn't flinch; Melissa barely started at the fact Cortana already knew her codename.
"You've read my file." The Spartan deduced.
"I have," Cortana bowed her head, "All of it."
Melissa shrugged; considering what was on her true file to begin with, it wasn't surprising that so much "black ink" existed on the official one, or that Cortana had read beyond the ink. What the Smart AI said next – through Melissa's internal com-link, no less – made her pause, however.
"I've also traced your history, Melissa J. Murphy – I know what Ackerson's done to you and your friends; he will pay for all of it." Cortana vowed, "You're not the only ones he's attacked – or hurt."
"Understood... thank you, Cortana," the Spartan-III nodded, inwardly off-balance – she expected Cortana to have read her true file, but to have traced her history...
Clearly the AI had chosen her for something more than a simple package delivery. And something in B312's soul – a soul long thought nonexistent even to her – stirred with such an idea. The part of Melissa that was still a young orphaned child of Harvest smiled, and the Spartan smiled with her.
"Orders, sir?" Melissa asked, turning towards Captain Keyes.
"Get some rest – both of you," Keyes replied, "You've got pods reserved for you in Cryo 2. When we leave Slipspace, we'll likely need all hands on deck."
"Understood," Kat nodded, "Come on, Six; let's get to Cryo."