HIGHCOM Facility Bravo-6

Sydney, Australia

Standard Military Calendar

June 14, 2575

1934 hours

The room was pure white, phosphorescent light bathing the small space with stark clarity. In the center of the room was a small, metal desk of the same color, complete with a complementary swivel chair nailed onto the smooth, tiled floor. Seated on the chair was a man in a black uniform. He was middle-aged, small, and slightly balding. What remained of his short hair was graying at the temples. His face was stern and tanned, wrinkled around the edges of his cheeks. He had eyes as gray as flint; his subordinates called him Arrow-Eyes, as his stare seemed to cut right through you. Right now, he was leafing through several sheets of stacked papers, checking if all was right and orderly. He inserted the pile into a thin, manila folder to his right and placed it down on the tabletop. He inhaled steadily, waiting for his appointment to start. Just in time, the door in front of him slid with a beep, and his man stepped inside. A secretary dressed in a black business suit ushered the man in politely, being careful not to impale him with her high heels. She nodded to the seated man and typed in a command in a pad on the wall. She stepped outside and the chrome door closed soundlessly. The newcomer wore a crisp, white uniform, with the insignia of a Fleet Admiral pinned onto his chest. He had wavy, white hair folded back under a formal, navy hat. He had clear blue eyes and a wrinkled and baggy face, lined crudely with years of stress and fatigue. He was, after all, the leader of the UNSC.

"Whatever you may have to say better be worth my time, Admiral," said Fleet Admiral Lord Terrence Hood with a deep sigh.

The man seated behind the desk smiled and stood formally.

"Lord Hood, thank you for coming to meet with me today. I assume you know who I am?" the man spoke with a deep, German accent.

"You are Admiral Eckhardt Nagel, head of ONI's Section III "Black Ops" Division, and also the prime reason why I canceled a meeting with the Sangheili Council." He answered, a hint of impatience in his tone. Nagel noticed this and a small smile tugged at his lips. He gestured the British man toward a chair in front of his desk.

"Come, sir. Sit. We have much to discuss."

Hood grunted and complied. Nagel, satisfied with the arrangements, started.

"As you know, after our war with the Covenant, our alliance with the Separatists has been strong. Threat from inside the Orion Arm seems unlikely now that hostilities with the various races have ended for the time being. However, the mysteries of the Forerunner Empire and The Flood have placed a metaphorical stump before our feet. Our scientists are doing the best they can to unlock Forerunner technology, and even with the help of the Sangheili not much has been found. So, we did what we could: Explore."

"Then we made the United Exploration Organization, a project funded by both the UEG and the Confederation of Allied Species, made up of humans, Kig-Yar, Sangheilis, Unggoy, Separatist Jiralhanae, etcetera. The purpose of this coalition is to venture into the unknown and discover the secrets space holds, whether Forerunner or something else. I am aware of these facts, Mr. Nagel. If I was summoned here to be taught a history lesson, I believe I am wasting valuable time." Hood said, annoyance evident in his voice.

"Haben sie geduld, Admiral. Have patience. I am getting to the point." Nagel soothed. He took the folder from the desk and opened it. He gave the stack of folders to the irked Fleet Admiral. His annoyance changed into curiosity as he flipped through the papers.

"What am I seeing here, Eckhardt?" he said softly, eyes scanning the various pictures and words.

"What you are seeing, sir, is highly classified information. This was held secret and known only by a few people. Margaret O. Parangosky, myself, and a few select others."

"But not I," Hood replied.

Nagel grinned and raised both his arms.

"I called you here, no?"

Hood cleared his throat and dropped the folder back on the desk.

"Answer my question, Admiral."

The smile vanished from Nagel's face and he grew serious. He looked through the folder and took out a white sheet of paper and gave it to Hood. On the picture was a photo of a large ship being constructed in what looked like an underground shipyard. Numerous cranes, lifts, trucks, and other construction equipment were gathered around the ship. Workers and personnel swarmed around it like ants. The shape of the ship itself was familiar to Hood, but it was the size that startled him.

"It looks like an oversized Halcyon-class cruiser." He stated bluntly.

"Correct. We didn't have the time and resources to construct a ship solely for the purpose of exploration. So, we took a decommissioned cruiser and modified it. We made some major repairs, added shields, outfitted it with stealth technology, and even upgraded Covenant weaponry. We called it the Conquistador.

Hood shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

"You are saying this ship is going to be used to explore what's out there?" he asked.


Hood raised an eyebrow. He was about to speak when Nagel interrupted him.

"The Conquistador has already been sent on its mission to deep space."

Terrence Hood's face grew livid, eyes bulging out of its sockets in surprise.

"WHAT! YOU MEAN THIS SHIP HAS-" he exclaimed.

"Calm down, sir." Nagel said softly.

"Don't tell me to calm down, Admiral Eckhardt! The fact that I wasn't aware of this covert operation before the launch tells me my trust is sorely unappreciated!" he roared, spittle flying from his mouth. Nagel paled considerably but held his ground.

"Do not worry, Lord Hood. Alles ist gut."

"Don't speak to me in bloody German, Admiral." Hood barked.

Nagel closed his mouth.

After a tense moment of silence, Hood spoke up.

"Why wasn't I told of this?" he whispered.

"You must understand, this operation was top-secret. We didn't want anyone to know about it; even the top brass of the UNSC couldn't have known. The risk of a leak was too high, and we didn't want to have any scares, like Insurrectionist attacks or Covenant Loyalist ambushes." The German explained hastily.

"About the CAS. Do they know about this?" Hood asked, pinching the bridge of his nose in frustration.

"As you know, The UEO is a joint Human-CAS group, so of course some of them know. A few are the Arbiter, the Council, and Rtas' Vadumee."

Hood sighed and slumped in his chair. He mumbled something about ONI spooks and spoke again.

"Are they safe, Nagel? Will they be okay out there?" he said.

Nagel nodded, confirming the question.

"Yes. The Conquistador has MACs, Archer missiles, and plasma turrets built into it. They should be considerably out of danger."

"The problem is, Admiral, we don't know what's out there."

"What's out there doesn't know what we have." Nagel said.

Hood looked up from his defeated posture and smiled. Those hard, gray eyes look mean, but the man is a nice fellow, he thought to himself. He sat up and grabbed the folder, looking through it once more.

"Will they have sufficient military personnel onboard?" he inquired, not looking up from the papers.

"The armed crew consists of over four hundred Marines, a few squads of ODST's, Grunts, Jackals, Skirmishers, some Brutes, Elites, including Spec Ops, and Hunters." He answered switching to the crude names for the CAS soldiers.

"That all?"

Nagel smiled.

"And some Spartans."

Onboard the Conquistador

Three Earth days from launch

Standard Military Calendar

June 14, 2575

2100 hours

Lieutenant Vincent-123 polished his M45 Tactical Shotgun, blocking out the sounds of the noisy mess hall around him. He looked into his reflection on the shiny metal of the weapon. He saw a golden visor, its rippling sheen gleaming under the shine of the artificial light. He stood up and placed his shotgun on his back, sliding it through the magnetic clip built into his armor.

At 6'8, he was an imposing figure, even without his red, Mark VI armor. As a soldier, he was highly skilled in combat. He had fought Insurrectionists, other terrorists, and the remnants of the Covenant hegemony. He was a Spartan-IV, and he and his brothers and sisters were the latest and, as decided by the government, last addition to the Spartan program. He vaguely remembered his early age, since he was chosen by scientists as a suitable candidate for the super-soldier project. They sought to improve the flaws the former Spartans had, and be more like the Spartan-II's of old. More like the legendary John-117. He and the other kids were forced to undergo rigorous training, things no seven year old should go through. He remembered one day, during a particularly rough game of Capture the Flag, he had sprained his ankle sprinting through a creek bed. The medics retrieved him and treated his injury. He recalled one of the medics comforting him, not telling him to "shut up and quit your bawling" like the others. The man said to him,

"When all this is done, you'll look back and say this was all for the best. You're doing this for the safety of mankind. So suck it up and press on."

After the brutal genetic augmentations, he and one hundred and thirty two others became the first Spartan IVs. During the course of his life, he would remember the words of the medic, and he would apply it to his life every single day. He felt a tap on his shoulder and turned.

His friend, Xavier-071 removed his helmet and smiled at him. Xavier was short for a Spartan, standing at 6'4 with his armor. But what he lacked in height he made up in skill. Xavier was heavily muscular, and by far the strongest Spartan IV alive. He could easily lift a Scorpion tank, and even throw one several yards. He also wore Mark VI armor, but his was olive-green. Xavier had handsome features: a strong jaw, fair hair, and clear, blue eyes. He was popular among the Spartans, since he had a friendly nature at heart. Xavier playfully socked Vince on the arm. Vince felt his shields flare a bit. That was how strong Xavier was.

"How come you never take your helmet off, Vince?" Xavier had a high voice, comically contrasting with his intimidating stature.

"I've told you before, Xavier, I'll tell you again. I don't feel comfortable without my helmet on." Vince said. He had a deep voice, although not too deep to be a baritone. Xavier shook his head.

"Look, Vince. You don't always have to be such a serious guy. We're not on the battlefield!" He raised his arms, gesturing to the crowded cafeteria. "We're in a high-tech ship millions of miles away from any danger!"

"From danger we know of." Vince added meaningfully.

Xavier rolled his eyes and left him. He plopped down on a seat next to a gaggle of ODSTs.

"So, guys. How's it going?" he asked playfully.

The elite soldiers glared at him with undisguised contempt and ignored him, returning to their food.

"He's different from the rest of us." A voice said from behind Vince. He turned and saw his other friend, Courtney-020, walk up next to him. She also had her green, Mark VI helmet off. As a girl, she was more pretty than beautiful, with attractive features adorning her heart-shaped face. She had green eyes and red hair, cut to a thin buzz. The only feature marring her face was a jagged scar running from her left eye to her chin, a result from a near-miss from a sniper during a mission on a partly terraformed Harvest. Vince nodded in greeting and agreement. He turned back to Xavier, who was now flirting with a good-looking ensign woman.

"He isn't serious. I'm afraid that might get him killed." He responded.

"He's right though," she said.

Vince turned back to her, raising an eyebrow behind his helmet.

"There's a time for everything, Vince. You don't have to be so grim all the time."

Vince shook his head.

"You don't understand, Courtney. I can't let my guard down. I don't want to fail this operation."

Courtney sighed and rubbed his shoulder pad. She then left to talk with Xavier. Vincent remembered something and called out to his teammate.

"Where's Harry? Have you seen him yet?" he asked. He was talking about their other group member, Harold-164. Altogether, the foursome made Valor Team. The name was a tribute to the Noble Team that helped at Reach, during its attack in 2552. Courtney shook her head.

"I haven't seen him, but I heard he was talking with the Captain." She turned and resumed her conversation with Xavier.

Vince sighed and walked into the hallway to his right, exiting the noisy mess hall. He wanted to talk with their team leader. Someone who could understand him.

Major Harold-164 walked into the Bridge, surveying his surroundings. Dozens of crew and personnel were milling about, doing several tasks and other stuff Harold didn't really care about. Some technicians were sitting in their seats, checking the status of the ship, if shields were operational, weapons alright, etc. A Huragok, a CAS Engineer, hovered above a control panel, tentacles whizzing around as it repaired the small metal rectangle. A couple of technicians were gawking at the sight. He saw the Captain hunched over a large holo-table, along with several of his trusted crew members. A small, silver figure stood on a little pad built into the side of the metal table. It turned and saw Harold approaching and whispered to the Captain. The white-uniformed man straightened and turned to face Harold. Captain Francisco Ayala was a tall man, standing at a little over 6'5. He had a lightly tanned face, pockmarked with little depressions and wrinkles. The Captain had coal-black eyes, which the female personnel on the ship somehow found attractive. He had jet-black hair, usually combed back, but now it was slightly mussed and haphazard, like he just woke up. Pertaining to his age, he was thirty five, having climbed the ranks of the UNSC at the age of twenty three. Harold once told him he had the potential to be something greater, but the lax Captain waved him away.

"Captain's fine for me. Not too much work, good pay," he remembered Francisco telling him. Harold smirked behind his helmet. His superiors would compare him to Captain Cutter, a famous military man who captained the Spirit of Fire, which was declared lost with all hands early in the war. Harold transported himself back into the present when Ayala offered his hand.

"Thank you for coming, Harold," he said as he gripped the blue-armored Spartan's hand, "We have a situation."

He said the last bit with a twitch in his left eye. He fidgeted nervously, adjusting his suit and looking about the spacious Bridge. Harold sensed the Captain didn't want the crew to know about this.

"What can I do to help?" Harold asked.

"Come. I'll show you."

The pair walked back to the holo-table. Ayala dismissed the other men and women around it, and they obediently left. All who were left were Harold, Ayala, and the silver figure. Said figure bowed in greeting.

"Señor Harold, it is good to see you once more." The figure said. The small man was dressed in the style of a 13th century Conquistador, complete with a brass helmet and musket. A brown mustache adorned the image's face. His name was Manuel, and he was the primary AI of the ship. He was a third generation AI, smarter than his past cousins. This was his first time operating on a ship, so he decided to be formal at all times. That's why Harold didn't even bother to saw he had just talked with him a few hours ago.

"Manuel." He responded in kind.

They looked back at the holo-table. A miniature image of the Conquistador floated a few centimeters above the surface, surrounded by little balls of light representing stars. What surprised Harold was the big spherical object a few feet away from their ship.

"Atmosphere comprised of mainly oxygen and nitrogen, landforms consisting of several deserts, lakes, mountains, plains, forests, etc. Oceans salt-based, biosphere similar to that of Earth." said the AI.

"Flora and fauna?" Harold asked, eyes riveted on the large planetoid.

"Flora substantial. I wasn't able to read any life signs that suggested any animal life." Manuel continued, "However, I did a quick scan of the planet and found several large structures situated deep in the center of a large tropical forest." Manuel glanced at Captain Ayala, and the Captain nodded.

"Architectural design and technological readouts suggests that it's Forerunner."

Harold snapped from his reverie and looked at Ayala.

"Is he speaking the truth?" he whispered.

"Yes. He is." The Captain himself seemed excited, eyes wide and gleaming. For a moment. He remembered his task, and his demeanor changed from giddy to serious.

"We'll be approaching the planet in about two hours. That should be a significant amount of time for you and your team to get ready."

"Sir?" Harold asked, then it dawned on him.

"You want us to explore those structures."

"Correct. I'll be sending a team of Spec Ops Elites with you. That should be enough for you to get in, look around, get back, and tell us what you saw. Manuel will be accompanying you, inside your armor of course."

Harold was quiet for a bit.

"Captain," he said after a while, "I don't feel the need to have an AI with me."

Ayala furrowed his brow in confusion.

"How so?"

"I think one of my own team would be more suitable with AI integration. His name is-"

"Major?" a voice said from behind them.

The three looked back to see a tall, red armored Spartan walking towards them.

"His name is Vincent." Harold said, smiling behind his helmet.

Vince approached his team leader, the Captain, and Manuel slowly. Harry walked over to him and clapped a hand down on his shoulder.

"Just in time, Vince. Looks like we got a mission on our hands."

Vince blinked in surprise.

"This early?"

"You didn't expect to be utilized so early in the game, huh?" Captain Ayala teased. The Spaniard gestured to Harry with his chin.

"He'll tell you what you need to know. For now, follow your leader." He went back to the large table, conversing with the AI in Spanish. Harry moved to exit the bridge.

"Let's go, Spartan. We got work to do."

The pair entered a large hallway, passing a wooden bulletin board as they walked. Two bickering Unggoy saw them and instantly shut their mouths. They stumbled to make room for the Spartans. Marines walking by them saluted, gazing at them in awe and admiration.

"We're approaching a habitable planet the AI found in its radar. We and a few Elites are going to drop in there, look at some structures, and get out." Harry told him.

"Are the structures Forerunner?" Vince asked.

Harry chuckled.

""You're a fast one. Yes they are Forerunner."

They reached a large door that slid open as they approached it. Rows upon rows of weapons lay ready for use on several racks. Harry nudged him.

"I'll go get the rest of the team. Go pick your weapons." With that, he left. The door closed behind Vince with a beep. He walked over to the nearest rack and took a small handle-like object. He pressed a button and it ignited. Two shining blades of energy burst from the pommel, curving and coming together in a deadly point. He admired the energy sword, whirling it about his body. It hummed steadily as he worked it.

"A most admirable weapon, no?" a deep voice said to his right.

Vince whirled around, sword gripped in a defensive stance. A black-armored Elite leaned on a pillar, mandibles clicking in amusement.

"I am not your enemy, Spartan. Not anymore, at least." The Sangheili said.

"You're Spec Ops." Vince said warily, dropping the blade a fraction.

"Correct. My six brothers and I are the resident Spec Ops warriors on this ship," he came off the pillar and inspected a needler on a rack. "Of course, we are not the only Sangheili."

"Since you are Spec Ops, you must know-" said Vince, speaking about the mission.

"I am aware. Your Captain informed me and my team earlier. I assume you are picking out your tools of battle?" he asked.

Vince nodded, turning off the sword and clipping it to his waist. He walked to the other side of the rack and grabbed some grenades: two Fragmentation and two plasma. The Elite spoke from the other side of the room.

"My brothers are waiting for me outside. Is your team waiting too?"

"Not exactly. My two teammates are coming soon to pick their weapons."

The Elite grunted in understanding.

"What do you think we'll find down there?" the Elite asked.

"You know, you're awfully chatty for a split-face." Vince called.

Too late did Vince realize his mistake. He had just enough time to raise his arms in surrender when the Elite rushed him in a dark flash. The Sangheili stood a head taller than Vince. His body frame was huge, easily larger than the Spartan's. He growled menacingly.

"I tried friendliness, human. If you want to insult my people, then by all means, let us fight." He said.

Vince dropped his arms.

"I'm sorry. It's a slang term I've been hearing a little too much. If you want to hit me, go ahead." he answered, voice low.

The Elite huffed loudly. He stepped away from Vince and waved a hand.

"You are forgiven, Spartan. Everyone has flaws."

"Would you have hit me?" Vince asked, curious.

"We are comrades-in-arms, human. I would not lay a hand on you unless the time calls for it." He turned to leave.


The Sangheili paused mid-step.

"I never did get your name." Vince stated.

"My name is Zor' Mawasari. Yours?"

"Vincent-123. You can call me Vince."

"Vince." The alien rolled that over in his tongue. He nodded, and left the armory.

"Was that a Spec-Ops Elite?" a familiar voice said.

Xavier and Courtney strolled inside the armory, helmets on. They started to pick weapons from the racks, but the question still hung.

"Yeah. Almost got into a fight with him, but we reconciled." Vince explained.

"What'd you do? Did you step on his foot? Call him a squid?" Xavier asked lightly, holstering a silver Magnum.

"Accidentally called him a split-face." Vince answered, ashamed.

Both Courtney and Xavier inhaled sharply.

"Good thing you guys made up." Courtney said.

Xavier and Vince walked out of the room, ready to go. Xavier had a MA5C Assault Rifle clipped to his back, with a pistol at his side. Vince sighed.

"What's taking Courtney so long?"

"Hold on! I'm almost done….there!"

She skipped out of the room, holding a large, black weapon. Xavier whistled.

"Spartan Laser? Dang, Courtney."

She smiled. The Weapon/Anti-Vehicle Model 6 Galilean Nonlinear Rifle was the most powerful infantry weapon in the UNSC. Battery-operated, it emitted a powerful laser beam capable of destroying tanks, aircraft, and soldiers. That wasn't all. On her back was M41 Surface-to-Surface Rocket Launcher, a powerful weapon that created a very big boom. She exhaled.

"Now I'm ready." She said.

They walked over to the Hangar. A Sangheili walking past them gawked at Courtney for a moment, then went away, laughing to himself. Courtney's smile became even bigger. They reached the hangar, where Harry, Captain Ayala, and the black armored Spec Op Elites were waiting. They were tall and menacing, every inch the warrior the stories said they were.

The spacious hall wasn't filled with too many people. There was the occasional Huragok repairing something, or a lone Marine looking for somewhere to catch a smoke. Various ships were sitting on the ground, CAS and UNSC alike. The Captain smiled in greeting at the three Spartans.

"Bueno. We are all here. I have already informed the crew of the planet, so no one will be suspicious of your departure. You will all be flying in on a Phantom dropship, once we enter the planet's atmosphere. Luckily, we will be stationed near the structures, so you won't have to travel far. You all know what you have to do."

He reached into his pocket and took out a small, metal disc. He gave it to Vincent, who took it in confusion.

"What's this, Captain?"

"Inside that disc is the ship's AI, Manuel. He will be telling you important information on your mission. Put it behind your helmet, over there."

Francisco told Vince where to insert the disc, and instantly a whir of energy filled the Spartan's head.

"Es muy cómodo! Well, hello, Spartan. I am Manuel, your partner on this little expedition." Vince heard in his head.

Harry could tell by his squad member's position that he was not comfortable with the new intrusion.

"You'll get used to it, soldier." He said, chuckling.

"Now that everyone's accounted for, lets head to your ride."

While they were walking, Vince looked at the Elite group. He counted six.

"You're wondering why there are only six, ?"

Vince almost jumped. He growled.

"Would you stop talking in my head?"

Xavier looked back at Vince, raising an eyebrow. Then he remembered the AI. He turned back, smiling to himself.

"The reason why they are only six is because they left one behind at the ship. For security purposes, of course. I believe it was Zor' Mawasari's idea."

Vince looked at the giant Sangheili warrior. He stood tall and proud amongst his brothers, obviously the leader of the group. Vince stored that info in his head. Finally, the group reached the Phantom. The purple ship was surrounded by Kig-Yar, who were apparently eating their food away from the human-filled cafeteria. Captain Ayala made a harsh screeching sound, spinning his arms in wild movements. The Jackals screeched back and left their perches. Courtney looked at the captain.

"You speak Kig-Yar?" she said, surprised.

"Yes, I do. And numerous others." Ayala said, pride evident in his tone.

Harry ordered his team to get inside. The side doors opened slowly, letting the Spartans enter the interior of the ship. The Elites came in next, with one heading straight to the pilot seat. When they were all in, the dropship rumbled to life, unsteadily rocking back and forth in hover position. The pilot skillfully steadied the ship. The Captain waved in farewell as the Phantom flew forward. The hangar door opened slowly, revealing a clear blue sky, puffy clouds floating in the distance. The Phantom left the Conquistador and entered the skies of the unknown planet.

They left the side panels open, so the occupants could get a breath of fresh air. Cool wind filled the ventilators of Vince's armor, and his body temperature went down considerably. The Elites were getting a kick out of the freedom, closing their eyes in appreciation. Xavier took off his helmet and breathed deeply. Vince looked down and saw a sea of treetops, a wide stretch of green as far as the eye could see. Gigantic mountains bordered each side of the forest, tall and unmoving, like rocky sentinels. In the distance, gray buildings peeked out from under the tall trees. He pointed at them.

"Over there. The structures."

The Phantom veered to that direction.

"Let us land over there." Zor said, indicating a small clearing. A thin creek ran through the center of the clearing, the ground beside it eroded and shallow. The Phantom hovered a few feet off the ground, letting the soldiers jump and land on the forest floor. Vince felt muddy soil give way beneath his feet. He stood straight. In front of them was a huge edifice, soaring towards the sky. Foreign symbols glowed on the surface of the structure, giving the whole place an eerie, supernatural aura. Harry crept over to Vince.

"Hear that?" he whispered.

Vince shook his head.

"I don't hear anything, Major."

"Exactly. I know there are no animals, but it's just downright creepy."

Harry was right. The sounds that usually accompanied a tropical forest were nowhere to be heard. Vince felt a twinge of unease, but he quickly crushed it. There was work to be done, he said to himself. The group cautiously headed to the buildings, weapons primed and ready. They came to a place where two of the buildings were separated, leaving an empty space between the two monolithic constructs. On each building were metal doors. They had come to a fork in the road. Harry opened up a public channel to the group.

"Looks like we're splitting up. Vince, Courtney, Xavier, you're with me. Elites, go through the right door."

"Affirmative." The Elite said into his mike.

The group split, the aliens going one end, the humans going to the other. Xavier approached the door gingerly, assault rifle up and ready. The lights on the door flashed once and opened. Xavier leaped inside and inspected the hall. He turned back to the Spartans.

"All clear."

The super soldiers moved in, surveying the room. It was huge, as big as the hangar of the Conquistador. Pillars stood at each end of the room, supporting the giant hall. They were engraved with strange images. Vince put a gloved hand on one and brushed it. One the pillar was a carving of what looked like a spaceship entering a portal. Next to it, the ship was coming out the other side of the portal and next to a planet.

"Strange," Manuel said. "Normally, Forerunner artifacts are not composed of carvings and engravings. Seems to primitive for a race of such technological advancement. Let me take a quick scan."

Vince felt a his armor hum quietly.

"Time frame seems appropriate. These pillars must have been made during the height of Forerunner power. It still is quite peculiar."

"That's an understatement." Vince murmured under his breath.

"I can hear you, tonto."

"Hey guys, take a look at this." Courtney called from the other side of the room.

Vince weaved through several pillars and found his friend looking at a holographic panel at the end of the hall. The rest of his team joined him as they inspected the panel. Suddenly, Manuel yelled inside Vince's head.

"Aye! Let me in there, Spartan. I believe I can decode those symbols."

Vince complied and reached over and removed the disc from behind his helmet. Manuel's figure appeared in his hand. He raised his musket and pointed to a thin compartment beside the panel.

"Put me in there, Lieutenant."

Vince inserted the disc. Manuel's voice echoed throughout the chamber as he spoke.

"Hmmm. It seems this is some sort of control room. This panel holds the activation procedures. Interesting. Open a link to Zor and his compadres."

Harry touched the side of his helmet and spoke to Zor.

"What've you guys found?"

Zor's deep voice was heard by all the Spartans.

"One thing is for certain. These structures are definitely Forerunner. We're in a spacious hall, with pillars on either side. I found a lil' panel with Forerunner glyphs. My team and I are around it now."

"Good! This is good! Now tell them to press the flashing red button on the count of three." Manuel ordered, voice high with excitement.

"Okay, I know I haven't seen much action, but I know pressing the red button is always the wrong idea." Xavier said.

"Just do it. It says that this place acts as a summoning device, used to call the 'Monitor of the Gate World'."

Xavier and Courtney spoke at the same time.


"Gate World?"

Harry hesitated.

"I don't know…Shouldn't we take this up with the Captain first?"

"No time. We'll do it later." Manuel snapped.

Harry sighed and relayed the instructions to Zor. The Elite had the same misgivings, but he obeyed.

"Uno, dos, tres!"

Vince pressed the flashing red button. There was a moment of silence. Suddenly, a voice spoke.

"Hello, I am 777 Loyal Hound, Monitor for Gate World Installation 01. Who has awakened me from my slumber?"