"Come on out and fight me like a man you ape!" the woman screamed, racking the pump to her M90 shotgun.

A few moments later, a Brute emerged from the darkness behind the woman. The Brute held a large dagger, pointed downwards, and aimed directly at the woman's neck. She heard a single footstep, and she quickly whipped around, and let loose a blast from her M90. The shot blew right through the Brute's shoulder. He fell to his knees, and roared in rage and pain.

"I will rip your spine out with my bare hands worm!" the Brute screamed, rising back to his feet.

"Try ripping buckshot out of your head first, you bitch." The woman delivered one more shot to the Brute's head.

The Brute's head exploded, showering red-blue colored blood, and chunks of gray-matter onto the walls, floor, and even the human herself.

"It's finally over…" the woman murmured, falling to her knees. "It's finally over."

Of the nine people who were caught in the closed asylum, only three emerged alive. A female Sangheili, and two humans, one male, one female. A few minutes after the woman finished the Brute, the two remaining survivors emerged from two different underground passages. The group had split up in order to find and kill the Brute. They had decided if they were going down, they weren't going without a fight. The three embraced each other, until they heard the sound of a Pelican gunship. They all ran to the roof as quickly as they could. There, multiple soldiers were waiting, armed to the teeth.

"Is anyone else down there alive?" a soldier asked.

"No… everyone's dead…" the female Sangheili replied.

"Damn it… Alright boys, bag 'em and tag 'em. We're searching for bodies; keep on the lookout for environmental hazards."

The soldiers fanned out across the area, and searched every nook and cranny. One of them ran back upstairs, and tapped his Sergeant on the shoulder.

"Sir… we found Brute-blood. But no body."

Just then, the radio went into static, and a Marine's voice came over.

"Holy shit! Contact, contact! Fall back, I repeat, fall back!"

And the movie ended right there. Everyone in the crowd stood up and began to clap. Except for some of the mildly disturbed/frightened members of the audience. Such as Tara. She was shaking, her voice was weak, and she turned pale. Joseph sat beside her, with a hand on her shoulder as he tried to calm her down.

"Remember, it's just a movie. Nothing but a movie, it's all fake." Joseph whispered in a soothing tone. It didn't help Tara any however.

"Why… why would he use a knife to do that?" Tara asked herself, as she began to question all forms of logic.

"It's a movie… come on, you need to get some rest." Joseph said, standing up. He gently pulled Tara out of her seat.

Tara was still shaky as the two walked down the halls. A few Marines and a few Sangheili were sparsely scattered in the halls, conversing about the movie, or other non-important and trivial things. Tara was still tightly clenching Joseph's hand, to the point where it was numb. Joseph stopped in front of Tara's room, and glanced around. He opened the door for Tara.

"See? Here we are, nice and safe at your room. Nothing bad happened at all." Joseph said in a light tone.

Tara paused, and swallowed a lump in her throat. She hated asking a stupid question. "Could you… never-mind…" Tara replied, walking into her room. She tried to close the door, but the Rookie managed to squeeze his hand in-between the frame and the door. He murmured in pain, but didn't let out a sound.

"What did you need to ask me?" Joseph asked, pushing the door open.

"I know this is a ridiculous question…" Tara looked down to the floor. "I… could you stay with me until my other guards return from their leave?"

Joseph had to hold back laughter. "Is that it? I'm your guard; it's what I'm supposed to do. I'll be right out here if you need me."

Tara smiled slightly. She took relief in the fact that she had an armed guard standing outside her door. Though a guard can't really help against nightmares. Joseph stood outside Tara's door for an hour and a half. At that point, Joseph heard a blood-curdling screech coming from inside Tara's room. Joseph, assuming the worst, drew his service M6G pistol, and threw the door open. To his surprise, he simply saw Tara sitting up in her bed, with the covers strewn about as if she had thrown them off. Joseph holstered his weapon, and sat on the bed next to Tara. He wrapped his arm around her.

"Nightmares?" Joseph asked.

Tara nodded, not removing her gaze from the dull blue wall that sat across from her bed. The Rookie sighed, and nodded.

"You wanna talk about it?"

Tara shook her head. Joseph shrugged, and stood up. He extended his hand to Tara, who simply stared at him dully.

"Come on. We're going for a walk."

Tara stood up, and followed Joseph out the door. Tara couldn't help but to wonder where and why they were going. But she wasn't complaining. She would happily do almost anything to get her mind off of those terrible nightmares she had.

Joseph led Tara down multiple corridors, and to a service elevator. They boarded the elevator, and Joseph hit the "UP" button. The elevator jerked upward, and knocked both of its occupants off balance. The two rode in the elevator in an uncomfortable silence. After a moment, the elevator stopped, and the door slowly opened. Joseph stepped outward first, and waved for Tara to follow.

The two stepped out onto what appeared to be a large balcony. Upon further examination, it was revealed to be a large watchtower.

"This is a Crow's nest for snipers. But they never use it. When I feel like I need to just get away from it all, I come up here at night." Joseph said, leaning against the metal railing.

Due to being in a three-sun system, Sanghelios only gets a few hours of full night. The rest of the time, the suns just crest over the horizon, leaving the land in a dull brightness. Now, however, it was night. Two moons could be seen, if you look at just the right angle. They projected a light-blue hued shade across the trees, the buildings, and every other part of the landscape.

"The view is beautiful…" Tara said, completely forgetting about all of her problems. "It's breathtaking."

"Yeah. Of course, when it's daytime, it gets way too hot to handle up here." The Rookie replied.

The two sat in relative silence for a few minutes. The only sounds you could hear from the watchtower were the sound heavy machinery from the workshop, radio chatter from below the tower, and every once and a while, the elevator behind them moving up and down. After a moment, Tara placed her hand on the railing next to Joseph's. The Rookie looked at her and smiled.

"Something on your mind?" Joseph asked.

Tara took a deep breath, and looked away. "I'm ashamed of myself. I'm fully matured, but here I am, having nightmares."

Joseph placed a sympathetic hand on Tara's shoulder. "It's alright. No one's perfect."

Tara stepped away, and turned her back to Joseph. "It's not alright. Our culture puts emphasis on bravery and strength, but I feel as weak and helpless as a newborn."

Joseph stood up straight, and walked over to Tara. He grabbed her shoulder, and turned her around. He stared at her.

"You're acting strange. What's going on with you?" Joseph asked worriedly.

Tara averted her gaze to the floor.

"Tara, look at me."

Tara still didn't move. Joseph brought his hand up under Tara's chin, and raised her head.

"What's wrong?"

Tara paused for a moment. "It's… it's a female problem…"

Joseph's eyes widened. He stepped back, and slapped himself across the face. He should've guessed that it was 'a female problem'. Right, right?

"I-I… damn it, I'm stupid…" the Rookie murmured. He turned to Tara. "I'm sorry… I'm so stupid… If I did anything stupid, or if I embarrassed you… can we just forget that this night never happened?"

Tara's once serious features slowly turned into a playful smile. She walked to the elevator, and hit the "DOWN" button. As the elevator doors closed, Tara smiled more.


Joseph scratched his head. "What the hell just happened?"

And on that note, Joseph began the excruciatingly long walk down the stairs of the watchtower. At least a hundred flights of stairs that wrapped around the solid concrete tower. Joseph quickly made it back to his bunk, and fell asleep.

Joseph awoke to the sound of his pager going off. He picked up his pager, and stared at it. It was from the Sarge. He read it to himself over and over, hoping he had got it wrong. But he didn't. Sarge said that he was going on a training mission, and needed to gear up right away and meet him at the helipad. The Rookie groaned, and got his armor on. Of course, he made sure to send Darok a message to tell Tara that he would be late for guard duty today.

Tara woke up feeling surprisingly refreshed for being up half the night. When Darok delivered the news, Tara frowned to herself. She had planned on asking Joseph more about Earth. Of course, this training mission would put a damper on things, but of course, he was a Marine before he was Tara's guard.

Tara spent the rest of the day sitting inside, next to a window, where she had a perfect view of the helipad. Every time a Pelican landed, she would stand up from anticipation, only to sit down a moment later when an unfamiliar crew got out. After five hours of waiting, the last Pelican of the day landed. Tara didn't even bother to stand up, thinking it would just be another false-alarm. But then she saw Sergeant Harry dragging the Rookie out of the Pelican, and towards the Med-bay. Ashley rushed out after them, with Rico and Rat coming after them. Rico walked in the completely opposite direction, and Ryan slowly moved towards the Med-Bay as well. Tara shot to her feet, and walked as quickly as she could, since her robe didn't give her enough room to move her legs enough to run.

When Tara found her way to the Med-Bay, the Rookie was lying on a medical table, while Doc Andrews worked on patching him up. He wasn't severely hurt, but he was covered in bruises, cuts, and small amounts of blood. The Sergeant was shaking his head at the Rookie.

"I told you not to use the M90. It's got too much kick for you to handle kid!" Sarge snapped.

"Lay off the kid. He's gut multiple lacerations and contusions, and it seems likely that he has a Grade 2 concussion. What the hell did he do?" Doc Andrews asked, using a flashlight to examine the Rookie's cuts.

"He fell down a hill. Kept rolling for two minutes straight." Ashley replied, leaning on a wall with her arms crossed.

"I'm assuming there were rocks on the hill…" Doc Andrews picked up a packet of sterilizing wipes, and scrubbed down the Rookie's cuts.

"Lots of 'em…" Joseph mumbled, though one eye was closed due to severe irritation.

Tara stepped forward, and ran her hand along Joseph's arm in an attempt to comfort him.

"Are you alright?" Tara asked.

"Fine… Hurts like hell though…" the Rookie murmured.

"Get him to bed, and give him an ice pack. He'll be fine." Doc Andrews said, dismissing the group.

Darok, who stood silently, stepped forward. "I will carry the human to his quarters."

Joseph put his hand up. "I can walk buddy. Just need a stabilizing element…" Joseph carefully drew to his feet, nearly collapsing on himself when he actually hit the floor. Tara reached out to him, and wrapped her arm around him to help him walk.

"Thanks…" Joseph said, slightly dazed.

"No problem." Tara replied with a smile.

Tara helped Joseph limp back to his bunk. Afterwards, the two sat around for half an hour. Then, Joseph insisted on going to the lounge, where soldiers and other base personnel went to spend their free-time. Joseph and Tara took a seat next to the large TV screen, where the news was currently playing. Currently, there was a piece about Covenant Loyalists.

"And in more recent news; a Loyalist freighter was captured by the UNSC Marine Corps. The Head-Command was so happy about this that they have announced they will be rewarding all military personnel, no matter their branch of service. It is currently unknown exactly how the plan on rewarding the soldiers, but we can all rest assured that morale will be up." A reported explained onscreen.