Author's Note: Given that it's been literally years, I feel as though I owe you all an apology for letting this sit idle for as long as I have. I would guess that a lot of people assumed this had been abandoned without fanfare, and I know for a fact (because I do read and treasure every review I get!) that several people want to see this continue.
Going into this, I definitely wanted to avoid being one of those fanfic writers that... simply disappeared, and yet that's exactly what I did. For that, I sincerely apologize. Mind you, I can't necessarily promise that you'll like me being here and talking any more than you liked me being completely off the grid, but I'd rather get into that in a second note that I'll put at the end of this chapter. The short version of the bad news is that this story in particular has dropped on my priority list a little over the year and a half since it was last updated.
For those of you that are just now finding this story, thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy it. For those of you that have been waiting (eagerly or otherwise) for further updates to it, again, you have my apologies, and I hope you won't judge me too harshly for it.
I'll have more to say at the end of the chapter. Until then...
Another vibration rattled through the troop bay as the Pelican hit a patch of turbulence. Nanoha practically bounced off the ceiling before the harness she was in caught her and all but slammed her back down to the floor.
"Can't this be tightened any further?" she meekly requested, tugging experimentally at the straps that still hung just a shade too loosely on her.
None of the others in the cargo bay even twitched. Most of the Marines were not even looking at her, sharing side conversations punctuated by the occasional glance at the young girl in their midst. The vibrating roar of the engines just outside made unassisted conversation somewhat problematic, but they were all equipped with comm systems. Due to her last-minute addition to the roster and the rush of their departure, she was not.
"They can't hear me, can they," Nanoha sighed helplessly, the metal wall at her back vibrating in time with the Pelican's engines. "Raising Heart?"
What is it? her device asked silently, using its mental connection to Nanoha.
Isn't there any way for me to talk to them?
I will see what can be done, Raising Heart replied.
Three places away, next to the troop bay doors, the Master Chief stood idly by, waiting for his part of the mission to begin. His thoughts were soon interrupted, though, as the comm system in his suit crackled to life.
"Hey, Cortana, could you reconfirm the coordinates for me?" Flight Officer Carol Rawley, better known by her call sign of Foehammer, asked almost offhandedly.
Almost distractedly, the AI replied, "Wait one, I'm in the middle of something at the moment."
There was a brief pause, and then Foehammer spoke again. "I don't know about this, Chief. How'd we get these coordinates again?"
"We got them from the Time-Space Administration Bureau," the Chief replied shortly. "From what I was told, they're high energy readings or something like that."
"And if the control room we're looking for isn't giving off a lot of energy?" she countered skeptically. "I don't know, I'm just not sure about all this."
"Well, both the Bureau's Chrono and Cortana seemed fairly convinced that we could find the control room this way," the Chief hedged in reply. "Cortana?"
"I said I'm in the middle of something," Cortana shot back, this time with definite irritation. "Could you be patient?"
"Surely you can spare something for-" the Chief started to rebuke her.
The tail end of the complaint, however, was lost amidst a snarled curse through the comms from Foehammer. The Pelican's engines howled as it heeled over and dove sharply, vectoring toward the snowy ground and the canyons below.
"Covenant air patrol," Foehammer explained sharply. "Three Banshees. Comin' in fast and high."
"Can you evade?" the Chief asked.
"We're about to find out," she practically snarled. "Heads up, everyone, we've got Covenant air power inbound. Hold on!"
There was a moment of dead silence, as the Marines in the bay exchanged looks ranging from confident to horrified. The Chief's gaze swept over the bay, reassuring everyone with his presence. Then it froze on one particular passenger. Nanoha was fiddling with her harness again, her eyes fixed on the Master Chief.
As her mouth opened, the Chief sighed heavily, not expecting to hear anything at all over the Pelican's engines. Then a voice burst out from his helmet speakers. "If you open up that bay door, I can do something about the enemies after us!" Nanoha insisted clearly.
The Master Chief stared in silence for a moment, trying to figure out what had just happened. Into that silence, Cortana chirped, "I was busy trying to figure out what her device was doing, but once I compared it to the data from our very first encounter in space over Halo, I realized it was a communications link. It was actually kind of difficult to sort out all of the information, considering the different data structure-"
"Cortana," the Chief cut her off.
"Right. Sorry. Anyway, I linked her Raising Heart into the comm network. She must have caught the tail end of Foehammer's warning."
"Look, Nanoha," the Chief began to explain, "just stay there and let Foehammer do her job. She'll get us to the LZ safely, so there's no need for you to-"
Several things happened at once. Nanoha finally found the release tab, and the crash harness came undone in an instant, releasing her into the troop bay. Then the Pelican shuddered violently as plasma fire began burrowing into the aircraft's fuselage. A near-miss from an enemy fuel rod exploded just behind the port engine, sending an even stronger tremor through the troop bay. Snarling, Foehammer cut in the afterburners, sending the Pelican leaping forward and out of the enemy line of fire. However, Nanoha was already off balance from the enemy fire, and the unexpected surge of acceleration was the final straw. She went flying through the troop bay with a shriek.
The Chief extended an arm and caught the girl just before she would have slammed heavily into the troop bay door. "And this is why you don't mess with that harness in flight," he rebuked her, maintaining a secure grip around Nanoha's waist. Switching channels, he continued, "Foehammer?"
"If we're real lucky, I can get this bird on the ground of my own choice!" she shot back curtly.
"Open the bay door," the Chief replied.
"Wha- Chief, what are you thinking?!" Foehammer yelled back in shock. "Getting yourself killed-"
"Just do it," the Chief interrupted.
The rear gate on the Pelican unsealed with an audible clanking of locks and gears. Slowly, it began to open, unleashing a veritable maelstrom of wind through the troop bay. "I hope you're sure about this, Chief," Foehammer replied in a subdued tone.
Meanwhile, Nanoha set her feet down and leveled Raising Heart. "Let's go!" she yelled into the roaring wind.
"Cannon mode," Raising Heart acknowledged, reforming into the lance-like cannon.
As the Pelican's rear hatch opened fully, the three Banshees behind came into view, easily matching the larger gunship's acceleration. As they closed the distance further, the plasma cannons under each wing flared again, unleashing a veritable rain of fire. In response, Foehammer hauled at the stick, ending the Pelican's dive abruptly and causing most of the fire to miss below. The ramp that the open bay door had become took several hits, and another bolt bounced off the steel floor barely a meter away from Nanoha's foot.
She ignored the hot flecks of metal that sprayed harmlessly over her barrier jacket, her attention fixed on the enemy fighters chasing them from behind and the sphere of energy growing in front of her. As the Banshees outside swept upward to follow the Pelican, one of them strayed into her line of fire.
"Divine Buster!" she called out, before the Banshees could fire again. In the next instant, the sphere of energy resolved itself into a harsh beam of pinkish light. The troop bay's walls were dyed a sharp white as the blast tore out of the Pelican's open rear hatch and arrowed toward the enemy Banshee.
Both of the other Banshees broke off almost frantically. The targeted one attempted to dodge, but its roll had only just begun by the time the energy beam caught up with it, and half of the main body was torn away by the attack. What was left of the craft blossomed into a fireball, showering pieces down onto the snowfield below.
Nanoha charged for the open bay door, heedless of the Marines' stares on her. Before the Chief or any of the Marines could say a word, she had leapt off into space, leaving the Pelican entirely.
"Axel Fin," Raising Heart stated calmly, as a pair of pink wings flared into existence at Nanoha's ankles. A trail of light hung in the air behind her as she flashed away from the Pelican, zeroing in on one of the two remaining Banshees.
As she flew, a ring of energy spheres materialized in the air around her. With almost casual ease, the series of smaller bolts shot out, curving unerringly toward the final Banshee. It rolled in an effort to escape, but two attacks landed cleanly on the left wing, carving out large holes in the Banshee's airframe. Engines flaring and sputtering desperately, it tumbled downward in a steep dive.
Meanwhile, the final surviving Banshee banked and dove toward the canyons below, pulling away from Nanoha as its own engines lit up. A burst of speed gave it a significant advantage in distance over Nanoha as it made for the cover of the stone walls below and off to the rear of the Pelican.
"You're not getting away…" Nanoha grimly promised as she too accelerated.
Back at the Pelican, the Chief informed Foehammer, "One of our passengers has gotten off. Do you have a visual?"
"Gotten off?!" Foehammer replied in a shocked tone. " No, I don't see anyone falling out of my bird! Mind telling me what exactly's goin' on, Chief?"
"That girl from the Bureau," the Chief sighed. "Apparently she can fly."
"You're kiddin' me!" she exclaimed. "How is that…?"
"They have a tendency to call it magic," the Chief not-explained. "Cortana's somewhat dissatisfied with that explanation."
Needing no further prompting, Cortana immediately cut in, "Magic is a figment of the imagination. There must be some rational explanation for the abilities we've seen. If you'd just let me ask some questions-"
"We are kind of in the middle of something," the Chief reminded her.
"And when we had the chance, everyone was 'busy' talking about other things!" Cortana fumed.
"Either way," Foehammer mused, "I can't see her at all… she's nowhere near us at the moment. She can hear me, right?" she confirmed almost to herself before switching to a wider broadcast. "This is Foehammer to… um… any allied units in the area. Do you read me? Over."
There was a brief pause, just long enough to leave her concerned that there wasn't going to be any response. Then the comm came to life. "This is Nanoha, I can hear you," Nanoha radioed back.
"Nanoha, where are you?" Foehammer quickly asked. "I need you covering me in case we run into another patrol, and I can't see you at all."
"I'm chasing that last enemy," Nanoha reported, an unusually grim note in her voice. "I'm not going to let him get away."
Foehammer paused for the briefest moment. "I need you covering my bird," she reminded Nanoha. "Can you still see me?"
"Only barely," Nanoha muttered distractedly. Faintly, Foehammer heard the sharp whine of plasma fire. "He's stopped trying to run so quickly, but you're still moving away."
"Yes, I realize that," Foehammer muttered in irritation. "The point of this exercise is for me to get to those points you all gave us, after all. If we run into another-"
The Pelican rocked violently, cutting Foehammer off. Shouting echoed through the comm link as the Marines made their opinion of the rough ride apparent. Their pilot twisted around in the seat, frantically looking around. "Chief, what's going on down there?!" she shrieked.
"You no longer have a bay door," the Chief calmly informed her, as he looked at the glowing ruin immediately outside the troop bay. "Took a direct hit from a fuel rod."
The question was answered as a Banshee swept past the lurching Pelican from below. The sparking left engine and the shuddering airframe testified to the damage that it had taken from Nanoha's earlier attack, but it proved that it was still airworthy by looping around above the Pelican and setting up for another attack run.
"Get back here now, Nanoha!" Foehammer yelled. "I need backup over here!"
"I'm trying!" Nanoha yelled back. "I can't just disengage from this one anymore, though!"
Plasma fire whistled past the Pelican as Foehammer managed to wrench it out of the damaged Banshee's line of fire. "I'm not going to be able to shake him at this rate!" Foehammer yelled into the comm. "You'd better hurry up!"
Nanoha remained silent for a long several seconds. When she finally broke the silence, a heavy sigh was the first thing she offered. "I finished off that last one, but I don't think I'll make it back in time for a typical intercept. We'll have to try something else."
"Come on!" Foehammer howled angrily. "You can't just leave us hanging-"
From the radio, Raising Heart's voice declared, "Divine Buster, Extension."
From the cockpit, Foehammer twisted around to glance behind her. The Marines and the Chief stared in shock out of the still-open troop bay door. A small spark of pink light from off in the distance rapidly grew into another coherent beam of light, catching the already-damaged target Banshee with a direct hit. When the glare from the explosion faded, that Banshee had simply ceased to exist.
Dead silence reigned for a brief moment. "What… was that?" Foehammer asked with the slightest note of awe in her voice.
"Divine Buster, Extension." Raising Heart tonelessly answered. "A modification to Divine Buster optimized for maximum-range attacks."
"I'm coming back in," Nanoha reported wearily. "At least I got them all."
"Roger that, Nanoha, and thanks for the support," Foehammer radioed back. "I should be able to keep her in the air long enough to get you all to the target zone."
Silence fell over the comm channels as Nanoha began her flight back; it took her no more than a minute or two to rejoin the Pelican. She spiraled around it in celebration as she caught up again, waving to Foehammer as she swept past the cockpit, then fell slightly back again and shot into the troop bay.
As she went to strap herself back in, she idly asked, "Right. Um, can this harness be tightened any further?"
Mutely, the Marine next to her reached over and pulled on one of the straps. After confirming that it wouldn't move, he simply shrugged and replied, "Nope, that's the best we can do."
"Oh. Kinda figured," Nanoha sighed. She relaxed slightly, seemingly eager to take a moment's break… and then tensed up again as a new voice echoed in her head, courtesy of Raising Heart's link to the comm lines.
"We really need to talk," the Chief informed her bluntly.
"About…?" Nanoha asked a little guardedly.
"Do you know why I didn't want you coming along on this mission?" the Chief asked her.
"You didn't…?" Nanoha replied in confusion. "I mean, your Captain seemed a little annoyed about all this, but you…"
"Kept silent because it wasn't my place to speak," the Chief cut in. "There is such a thing as the chain of command. Do you know what that means?"
"It describes how everyone in the military fits into the command structure," the Chief lectured her. "Who is responsible for what, and who takes orders from who."
"Oh! Yeah, I get it," Nanoha cut in cheerfully. "Like how Admiral Lindy gives me orders, right?"
The Chief sighed heavily. "Perhaps, but let me ask you this. If you and Chrono disagreed regarding what to do in a battle, what would happen then?"
Nanoha cocked her head in thought. "Well, um… it doesn't really happen all that often. Usually we just end up fighting. And if we want to do different things, then we just kind of do them." A slight blush colored her cheeks. "Actually, there was the one time…"
Down near the destroyed bay door, the Chief shot Nanoha a glance. Cutting her off, he continued, "What that tells me is that you don't really understand the idea of command. Any one of these Marines will follow my orders regardless of whether or not they understand them, or even if they disagree. That's how it has to work."
"But…" Nanoha protested. "What if the people in charge are making a mistake?"
"People who get promoted usually aren't prone to making mistakes," the Chief shot back dryly. "Nevertheless, there's no need to be mindless about following orders. In the rare instances where a superior doesn't understand something or is doing something unwise, juniors should be welcome to voice their concerns and suggest alternatives." His voice hardened noticeably as he continued, "They should not just do what they please without so much as an explanation, never mind permission."
"Oh," Nanoha said in a small voice. "But… We had to do something about them… You hadn't told me not to…"
"That matters less than you might think," the Chief informed her. "The Captain told me to keep you alive, and I would like to be able to do that. I won't be able to if you insist on haring off on your own. The best that will happen is that you end up getting yourself killed by going off without support."
"You call that the-" Nanoha started to say.
"The worst," the Chief finished, "is that you will cause this entire mission to fail by getting all of us killed. As nearly happened just now!"
There was a long pause. "Yeah," Nanoha agreed in a chastised voice. "That's worse."
"If you're going to be a part of this squad, you need to be willing to fully accept my command," the Chief lectured. "That means following my orders and not acting on your own without them. Can you do that?"
"All right," Nanoha replied slowly. "I understand."
Considering that the two were not talking face-to-face, the Chief's slow nod was somewhat pointless. "Good." The conversation cut off sharply as he closed the comm line. "Cortana."
"Yes, Chief?" the AI responded instantly.
"Get with her AI and figure out what exactly she can do. I need to figure out how exactly I can put her into the squad."
"Understood," Cortana acknowledged. "Her demonstrated capabilities seem to fit into an air support profile, but further information can't hurt."
Meanwhile, down in the middle of the troop bay, Nanoha sighed heavily. I swore to myself, six months ago, that I wouldn't keep making mistakes, that I'd do my best… she thought to herself in a steadily blackening mood. Is that not going to be enough this time?
Her only answer was the howling wind, as the Pelican descended ever further into the winter storm that awaited below.
"Get ready, Chief," Foehammer alerted. "We're coming up on the first of those points that that Bureau identified." After a momentary pause, she continued, "It looks like it's along the canyon wall, not on the ground."
As the Pelican continued to descend, flakes of snow began whipping into the troop bay, driven by a stinging wind that lashed at the now eagerly waiting Marines. Outside the blasted bay doors, dark shadows loomed out of the white-out. Jagged stone canyon walls finally rose above the Pelican as it descended into the canyon.
"Copy that, Foehammer," the Chief replied tersely. "Are you seeing any kind of structures yet?"
"Hard to see in this weather, Chief!" she shot back instantly. The Pelican slowed sharply as she continued, "I see something on the canyon wall there… could be a landing pad of some kind. Wouldn't want to try landing my bird on that thing though."
The Pelican's engines flared as it slowed almost to a stop, hovering just off the platform extending out from the canyon wall. Unlike the dark gray rock of the surrounding canyon walls, though, the landing platform was a metallic grayish silver, and only barely larger than the Pelican hovering next to it. A small entrance into a tunnel in the rock was the landing platform's only other feature.
"All right then," the Chief sighed. "Marines, Nanoha, prepare to disembark and secure the landing pad. Foehammer, once we're off, take a look around and see if you can't find a better spot to put down. Don't get too far off, though."
"Roger that, Chief," Foehammer replied. "When do I come pick you up?"
"We'll call if we need you back here, and we'll stay in touch," he told her. "If we drop out of contact, check back here in half an hour; if no one is there, no one ever will be there."
"Roger that, Chief," Foehammer repeated in a much more subdued tone. The Pelican swung around in midair, leaving the landing platform just below the open troop bay. "Hit it, Marines!"
The Chief and the Marines piled out of the troop bay and spread out over the landing pad, covering every angle with their assault rifles. Nanoha shot out just behind as a streak of pink light, hovering a few feet off the center of the pad.
Nothing else moved as the Pelican banked away and down. "Is there nobody else home?" one of the Marines asked slowly.
"Be nice to beat the Covenant to it for once," another shot back.
"I don't like this," Cortana muttered privately to the Chief. "This doesn't look like a control room."
"Can't tell from out here," he reminded her. To Nanoha and the Marines, he continued, "Keep a watch on the pad. I'm going to take a quick look around."
Nanoha frowned slightly but said nothing as the Chief made his way into the tunnel. A series of bends in the tunnel brought him rapidly out of line of sight, and she sighed heavily and turned her gaze to the gray skies above. Snow rained incessantly down, carried on a biting wind that left her shivering slightly.
After a long minute, the Chief reappeared. "Dead end," he reported. "I don't know what that is in there, but there aren't any controls we can use. Foehammer, can you hear me?"
"Sure can, Chief! On my way back now," her voice replied. And true to her word, the roar of the Pelican's engines faded in shortly afterward. It took them little more than a minute before they were back in the air, flying ever farther into the network of canyons.
"So what was in there, Chief?" Foehammer asked privately.
"Don't know," he told her. "Some kind of energy conduit or generator, perhaps? Cortana couldn't tell what use it might serve. I can see how it might be giving off some kind of energy signature, but there's nothing much we can do with it."
"You realize that's not encouraging, right?" Foehammer shot back. "It's looking like this next one is also up on the canyon wall."
"If it looks the same as last time, skip it," the Chief ordered. "We have a chance here to beat the Covenant to the control room, but we'll lose whatever lead we had if we have to stop and check every little thing."
"You got it, Chief," she replied.
One bypassed cliff-side landing platform later, the Pelican roared downward into yet another canyon. "It's almost looking like there are two in this last canyon," Foehammer reported. "But they're the last two."
"That's not encouraging," Cortana pointed out. "Nanoha, Raising Heart, what were the criteria for these points, anyway?"
Nanoha fidgeted anxiously in her harness. "Um, I don't really know. Amy and the Arthra produced that map, so…"
"Hold on a moment…" Foehammer cut in. "This last target…"
The Pelican descended rapidly. Out of the whiteout below, a massive gray pyramidal structure came into view, embedded in one end of the canyon. The entire area was completely deserted save for the descending Pelican and its passengers; an almost unnatural calm hung over the structure.
"Now this looks interesting!" Foehammer crowed victoriously. "Ready for action?"
Before anyone could answer her, she swung the Pelican around and brought it down for a landing on a rocky patch in the midst of the snowfield. Needing no further encouragement, the Marines charged out of the Pelican once more. Silence greeted them. Snowflakes drifted lazily down from the slate gray sky as the Marines spread out, advancing on the structure in front of them.
"Nanoha, aerial recon," the Chief ordered curtly as he leaped from the Pelican's bay. Practically before the last word was out of his mouth, a white form blurred past, leaving a pink trail as she shot out and upward.
"Everything looks clear on the ground, Chief!" one of the Marines yelled.
From above, Nanoha glanced around the structure. Walkways and ramps were carved into the sides, giving the entire building a terraced appearance; the "top" was a flat, open area with a massive blast door embedded into the canyon wall. Nothing moved anywhere in sight.
"Nothing's moving," she conveyed this information onward. "I don't see anyone else around."
"Excellent," the Chief replied as he gestured the Marines forward. "Foehammer, hold there for the moment, but be ready for anything."
The roar of the Pelican's engines faded out as Foehammer settled in to wait. Meanwhile, the squad cautiously advanced onto the ramps and up the structure, Nanoha hovering above almost impatiently. Before long, they had advanced all the way to the blast door. The Marines spread out, covering the area as they had before; the Chief headed for the door.
"There's something here," Cortana observed dryly. As she said this, the door began to grind open.
"Chief!" Foehammer came on over the radio. "There's something on the radar!"
In the same instant, Raising Heart reported tonelessly, "Something approaches at high speed."
Instantly, the Chief whirled around. "Foehammer, get off the ground!" he ordered sharply. "Defensive positions! Nanoha, you are clear to fire!"
At the base of the pyramid, the Pelican's engines began to warm up again, coming back online all too slowly. Hands tensed on their assault rifles as the Marines scanned the surrounding sky warily, searching for the incoming threats.
Nanoha, hovering a few feet above the center of the pyramid, barely even paused for a moment. Marines glanced over as the lance-like Raising Heart fell into firing position, pointing slightly up and away from the door. Even with the direction apparent, though, their unaided eyes couldn't see a thing through the weather.
A sphere of energy blossomed in front of Nanoha, and a triangular frame bracketed it. A wave of whitish light issued forth from the frame, forming a marked-out column with the energy blast ready in its exact center.
"Divine Buster, Extension!" Nanoha called out, firing a heavy beam of energy off into the distance. A small orange flare flickered and died just as quickly. "Got one!"
Answering sparks of blue and green issued forth, but none of the enemy weapons were anywhere near effective range. Plasma rained down on the canyon floor off in the distance.
The Chief cursed. "Foehammer, get out of there!"
"I'm trying, Chief!" she yelled back. The Pelican's engines flared powerfully as the craft began to lift away from the ground.
"What about us?" Cortana pointed out sharply.
"Everyone inside!" the Chief ordered, gesturing to the still-open blast doors.
"What about-" Nanoha began to ask, a moment before a stray plasma bolt arrowed in and slammed into the Pelican's port engine. Echo 419 spun wildly out of control as the engine, along with the entire port wing, disintegrated with an echoing boom.
Nanoha shot out and away from the blast doors. "I'm going to try and help!" she yelled back.
"Make it fast!" the Chief yelled back, now able to make out the Banshees and dropships with his own eyes.
"You're letting her?" Cortana asked mildly.
"She's mobile enough," the Chief responded. "The Covenant won't be able to cut her off."
The incoming plasma fire was growing much more accurate, and the airspace around the crashing Pelican was filled with a hail of fire. Foehammer fought the controls desperately, trying to bring the crippled bird down as gently as possible.
"Wide Area Protection," Raising Heart intoned, as Nanoha shot into position directly above Foehammer's Pelican. The hail of energy fire suddenly ceased entirely, hammering into a barricade in front of Nanoha with devastating force. She screamed in surprised pain as the strain of holding back the attacks hit her, and the wide barrier shuddered violently.
The moment of respite, however, gave Foehammer all the time she needed. The Pelican landed heavily on the rocky ground, and the entire frame shuddered as the no-longer-airworthy craft hit. The troop bay simply disintegrated into a mass of twisted metal. However, while it could not have taken off again, the Pelican remained more or less in one piece, and while Foehammer was jolted heavily by the crash landing, she survived it.
As Foehammer leapt out of the cockpit, however, one of the incoming dropships opened up with a heavy tri-barreled plasma cannon, and two of the Banshees fired fuel rods. As the plasma fire hit, hexagonal ripples of light spread from the impact points. Then the fuel rods hit almost in unison, and Nanoha's barrier shattered like glass. She frantically dove downward, dodging the incoming plasma fire by virtue of pure speed.
Foehammer had a moment to glance upward before the flying girl dropped out of the sky next to her. A hand latched firmly around her wrist, and then Nanoha took off again. For a moment it felt like her arm had been wrenched entirely out of its socket, but the pain lessened as Foehammer reached around and grabbed Nanoha's wrist with her other arm.
"Sorry about that!" Nanoha called. "But we need to be leaving!" A pink trail of light traced its way to the peak of the pyramid and then through the blast doors, right over the Chief's head.
"Everyone get back!" the Chief called out loudly as Nanoha's return registered. "Find some cover and prepare to hold against the Covenant!" His gaze swept over the wide, open corridor, noting the total lack of any kind of functional cover, aside from some ridges along the walls.
Then the blast doors began to grind shut again, cutting off their view of the Covenant dropships now hovering over the canyon outside. They closed with a crash of metal on metal, and one of the Marines shrugged. "Are the doors going to let the Covenant in, like they did us?"
"Get ready for action, if they do," the Chief ordered, advancing down the corridor. "Nanoha-"
"Yes?" she asked, from a sitting position along one of the walls up ahead.
"Are you all right?" the Chief asked a little belatedly.
"I'm a little tired," Nanoha told him. "But I'll be fine."
The Chief looked her over appraisingly. "Be ready for another defense," he told her. "It might be the only cover we get in here."
"Chief!" one of the Marines yelled out from ahead, poking his head back from around a corner. "I think we've found something!"
Without hesitation, the Chief hurried over to the Marine and took his own look. "Down that way, Chief," the Marine prompted, pointing to a door just as it slid closed. It hissed open again obligingly when the Chief approached, offering him a clear view of the room beyond. Spread out before him was a vast cavern, dominated by a holographic display of the ring world. A glass walkway led out into the center of the open chamber, before splitting into a circular walkway around another smaller holographic display of the nearby planet. Dead ahead was something that could only be a control panel.
"We've found the control room," the Chief sighed in something almost like relief. "All right, everyone, bunker down and get ready to hold the line against the Covenant!" To Cortana, he continued, "We'll need some support out here. Can you get in touch with HQ?"
"Not through this mountain I can't," Cortana replied bluntly. "Nanoha should be able to call Chrono, but that's the best we can manage."
Almost before Cortana finished, Nanoha groaned audibly. "Actually, he just called me..." Every Marine in the hallway turned to look at the young girl, whose face had gone a sickly shade of white. "They're in trouble too."
Author's (Second) Note: Okay, I promised more to say about this story. Might as well get to it.
As I said earlier, the short version is that this story isn't as high on the priority list as it used to be. The long version... well, to some extent fanfiction in general stopped being important to me, which is why I let my stories and my account here fall completely silent for as long as they did, but in all honesty my interest in writing this story specifically was fading by the time that I fell silent.
In part, that was because of the direction the story was taking. I realized somewhere along the line that I was effectively rewriting the original Halo story while allowing a substantial number of otherwise doomed Halo characters to survive. Particularly, that last scene you just read where Nanoha saves Foehammer (at least for now) was what drove that home for me. And I was agonizing quite severely over whether or not I wanted to be writing that kind of story.
Now, it's not all bad news: I have no intention of fully abandoning or cancelling Lost Logia Incident Report: Halo Array. However, I think it's likely that this is "officially" going to go on hiatus for a bit, as I work on writing other stories and seriously think about what I want to do with it. And this is where you all come in - because you can help me think about it.
As I see it, I have a few options for how this story goes from here. Regarding rewriting the story of the original Halo, that's something I'm just going to have to make my peace with... at least for the next chapter, anyway, and after that the story was going to start diverging fairly significantly from the original Halo one anyway. The harder question is how dark this story should be. Obviously, the original Halo was more towards "kill them all", while Nanoha is much more lenient to its named human characters. And back when I was first thinking about this story, I was more leaning towards the latter, as evidenced by the fact that Fate is injured, rather than killed.
So really, the question is simple: Which would you all prefer to see? Which do you think would make a better story? Am I worrying over nothing regarding the course the story is taking? If you all could let me know what you think, that would be great! And in return, I will make this promise: I will finish writing this. I can make no promises about timing! It may be a long time yet before I actually write the last word of this story. But that day will come.
Until then, thanks for reading, and let me know what you think!