Chapter II

September 5, 2545. (Military Calendar) 1200 Hours.
Epsilon Eridani System, Planet Reach. B-5D Armory M11
Darius gripped the overhead railing of the Pelican dropship when he felt the craft start to descend steadily towards the Beta-5 Division M11 armory where he and his team were being sent for his new and first mission as head of Spartan team Valor. Turns out being the leader of a Spartan Fire team working directly under a Beta-5 spook had its perks and one such perk was the MJOLNIR armor.

MJOLNIR Powered Assault Armor, that had made the previous generation of Spartans legendary to the UNSC military and his fellow Beta Company Spartans. They had often been shown video feeds of the Spartan-IIs in their sage green armor engaging massive Covenant forces and coming out victorious time after time again in the name of the UNSC. Beta had studied their combat record, their tactics and fields of war. How they had won against overwhelming odds without casualties.

Every Spartan-III aspired to be like them and Darius was no different in that desire. Today he felt he was one step closer to that goal when he received his own suit of armor the second day he had met his team. The Pelican slowed to a dull hover over a landing pad in the center of a walled off courtyard to a semi-large bunker that he knew was the entrance to the underground armory.

The courtyard itself was fairly empty sides several parked M12 Warthogs next to the bunker. Their armored plates scratched and weathered by years of use and their mounted machineguns were replaced by loading beds. Hogs meant for transport.

The Pelican's rear hatch lowered with a hiss. "Move out!" He ordered.

William was the first one out of the Pelican onto the pad with his SRS99C Sniper Rifle at the ready. He targeted one of the guard towers across the courtyard from the Pelican through his Oracle scope. Next out was Riley and Micheal. They both carried MA5Bs whose barrels silently swept the ground area and they were followed by Miranda and Darius.

Once they had fallen out the Pelican's pilot announced. "Taking off to safe distance until extraction. Be safe Spartans." it lifted off and then disappeared over the wall.

All was silent as Valor checked their surroundings. Then at once they each gave a green light for the all clear and Darius quickly assessed the situation mentally. An ONI funded Armory had not reported in for hours and after a similar situation on another colony where a UNSC Armory had gone silent. The brass in the area chalked it up to communications malfunction and didn't investigate until after three hours passed, investigation team reported a good portion of the armory had been cleaned out. Vehicles, ammunition and weapons alike had been stolen. The UNSC personnel on site had been neutralised with three unaccounted for.

Weapons cases found at the armory were a mixture of assault rifle and magnum rounds. Indicating the Rebels had gotten bold and raided the armory for supplies. That was a huge step up from ambushing their supply ships in space where they could easily disappear in its vastness, but it made little difference since they had still gotten away.

ONI wasn't about to allow that to happen again so Valor had been pulled out of early R-n-R time to handle this case.

"Standard setup," Riley muttered as she raised a gauntleted hand and gestured to the antenna on the top of the bunker. It had been burned up by extreme heat, likely a torch or small scale thermite charge. "Not getting any com traffic either."

"Guard towers are empty." William added his own two-cents.

Darius frowned. There had to be well over two dozen armed and trained guards at this facility and this was Reach, the central hub of the UNSC military and by all rights the most secure location in the galaxy since this planet was the metaphorical Fort Knox of Humanity. Still, every fortress had backdoors and it seemed the Rebels found it.

"Alright, William," He turned to the sniper. "You and Mirada stay up here and guard the entrance, make sure no one gets in or out without my say."

"Sir," The pair nodded slightly.

"Riley," Darius continued turning to the last two. "You and Micheal are coming downstairs with me to secure the facility. If those Warthogs are any indication, I'm guessing the rebels didn't count on us paying a visit mid heist." he said.

The four armored Spartans before him all tensed in what Darius called excitement. After days of inactivity he could understand their eagerness to get back to the thick and dirty. He watched William turn away and move to one of the guard towers to take up a good position over the courtyard. Miranda moved over by the bunker behind one of the hogs for cover.

Darius, Micheal and Riley stepped into the large bay doors into the Bunker in a loose V formation with Darius at its head. Once they stepped inside Darius ordered them to secure the area, it was empty except for the seven bodies on the floor against one of the walls. Upon closer inspection Darius saw they had all been executed by shots to the head, brutal but painless. He could respect that.

"Got three more in the door control room," Riley reported over the com. "Casings suggest M6C handguns."

Darius found similar casings on the floor by the seven he found. "I have the same here, Micheal, what do you have?" he asked while standing from his crouch and tossing the 12.7 AP casing of a M6C handgun off to the side.

"Nothing yet," Micheal replied coolly. Darius had sent him to search the back offices for anything. "It's clear, regrouping with you." the com closed.

"Alright, first level clear," Darius commed William and Miranda outside. "We're going down into the main facility now, coms will be either inactive or choppy at best. If we don't report back in an hour, assume the worst."

Their lights winked green on his HUD.

"Riley," Darius and Micheal stepped over to the large elevator shaft in the center of the large bunker. It went below ground to the actual armory where Beta 5 kept some of the most advanced weapons for their Asymmetrical Action and other Spartan teams. "You got elevator control?"

"Give me a sec," she replied. Three seconds passed. "Now I do along with camera control." she reported, "Well, I got sights on four armed innies with an almost fully loaded elevator bed of goods. They're just finishing up the loading process, my guess is they'll be coming up shortly to load up their hogs."

Darius blinked. That was convenient in ways he couldn't fathom and the rebels didn't even suspect a thing, they were overconfident that they would be loaded and gone before the UNSC called foul play. Their mistake, "Alright, Micheal, take up a good firing position near the elevator, I'll do the same across from you." Darius ordered quickly. "Riley, once they start to ascend up to us, you take up a position near the elevator and on my signal we open fire."

"A regular turkey shoot," Micheal chuckled through the com. "I like it."

Darius agreed wholeheartedly. He loved getting the drop on his enemies and their surprise made taking their objective easier during training exercises and this would be no different. After a moment of preparation they were position for their ambush. Darius made sure they took down the four on the elevator efficiently so he had ordered them to switch to Frag rounds rather than the normal AP.

After two minutes Riley commed him. "Here they come, ETA is thirty-five seconds. Taking firing position now." Darius looked over to the control room and saw Riley take up a good angle position to the right of a support beam, she levelled her MA5B and waited patiently. Darius took a breath, in their sage green Mark IV MJOLNIR armor the shadows overtook them and made them almost invisible.

He listened to the elevator hydraulics carry the large loading deck up and finally the first signs of the Insurrectionists appeared along with their cargo. The four were armed with handguns and only one carried an MA3A, an older model assault rifle, for added firepower.

They were also relaxed. The leader with the assault rifle ordered one to bring a hog into the bunker so they could begin loading their loot and the man gave a light-hearted salute before turning to the exit.

Darius winked a green light and fired a three round burst from his MA5B. The rounds tore into the leaders upper back with spurts of blood, he crumpled forward onto the deck. Two more went down as they too took Frag rounds to their chest, the semi-explosive rounds shattered when they hit bone effectively turning into tiny fragmentation grenades inside the body. Their internal organs were likely slop now. The fourth reached for a radio, only reaching it halfway before the back of his head exploded in a shower of gore from one well placed shot from Micheal.

Four for four, a perfect score. "Riley, get that radio and patch into their com chatter. See if they heard that," Darius moved out from his cover and moved over to the loading deck and examined what they had been after. Riley moved over to one of the bodies and took its radio.

A moment of key tapping later. "I'm in," she informed them without looking away from the radio. "Chatter is garbled. Signals from below and up here ain't connection well," she tossed the radio aside and lifted her MA5B when the loading deck began to descend downward again. "Looks like they heard something." she said smoothly.

"Right," Darius looked to them both. "Alright, onto the elevator, we're going down." He waited until the pair were on the elevator before he explained his plan. "Once we go down to the lower level. Assume they are alert," he pulled two M4 Stun grenades, or more commonly known as Flashbangs, from his belt and held them up. "I'll toss these once they're clear. Should give us enough time clear a good portion of them before they start returning competent fire. We clear?"

Micheal gave him the thumbs up sign. Riley nodded. "Good, be ready. Anything past this point is to be treated as hostile. Shoot to kill." He hefted up his MA5B when a voice called out to them.

"What was the noise up there? Robert get jumpy!?"

The elevator slowly cleared the shaft and through the ever growing opening as they lowered into the room Darius identified seven other insurrectionists, five of which were readying more cases for the elevator while the last three were on lax guard duty. The man who had called out briefly caught the flash of the three golden visors before he opened his mouth to shout a warning to his fellows.

Riley's MA5B gave a burp of gunfire that shredded his face from the nose down. The others quickly reached or raised their weapons to fight back when two cylindrical objects flew into their midst and the more alert guards caught the design and tried to turn away as the two flashbangs detonated. Robbed of their sight and hearing the loaders dropped their crates and clutched at their ears while rubbing their eyes to try and clear them.

"Micheal, concentrate on the guards," Darius ordered. He raised his MA5B.

Micheal beat his order though, by the time he finished one of the guard who had been lucky enough to turn quick and only get deafened was about to open a full auto shower of lead on the Spartans was cut down by two well aimed bursts of Frag rounds, his upper shredded the man fell to the ground holding the trigger of his MA3A and spraying the wall beside him.

Riley hopped off the elevator and sighted a loader who was just getting his vision back. A single shot to the head and the floor behind him sported a new crimson paintjob. Darius lazily put two rounds through the two closest loaders.

Micheal put down the other two guards and after Riley executed the remaining innies Darius declared the loading area all clear. Darius stepped over the body of one of the guards and into the central security room that housed several monitors and consoles that controlled security measures across the armory. He frowned slightly, "Riley. Get into the system, recover any security logs that lead up to this. Me and Micheal will proceed further into the facility, give us a location of any hostiles you spot."

Riley stepped into the security room. Observed the three killed security techs in the corner of the room still on their chairs before moving over to the consoles with a quick word of assent before she was lightning tapping at the keys on the console in concentration.

Darius stepped out of the room and nodded to Micheal before turning to the double doors that lead into the main armory facility. Micheal ejected his half spent magazine in favor of sliding a fresh one home with a satisfying click! before following after Darius with his weapon raised.

The doors hissed open and the pair stepped into the larger room. Along the walls were cabinets and cases, closed and open, filled with ammunition and weapons alike. In the back Darius could even make out a crate marked "M9 HE Fragmentation" in bright white. Beside him Micheal let out a slow whistle.

Darius agreed. To a Spartan an armory like this was like akin to a child being free to roam a toy store. He grinned slightly behind his visor before he was back to business, "Keep your wits about you," he said over the com to Micheal before he swept the area again more slowly. There were support pillars placed across the room that could easily hide two or three people and with their positioning Darius and Micheal were at the disadvantage for a firefight.

"Go right, be thorough." With those orders Darius and Micheal split up down to each side of the room from the way they came inside and slowly made their way across it to the two other doorways at the end of it. Both were unlocked.

They cautiously passed the pillars and despite the half ton of MJOLNIR armor encasing their bodies they were silent as ghosts in the wind. Micheal reached the first door on the right, he pressed his back against the side of the frame and watched Darius to the same to the left door. He gave a thumbs up that he was ready to open and clear the next room.

Darius paused and commed Riley. "Riley, we got two doors here, where does each go?"

He waited for the reply for only a second before her voice filtered through his com. "The one you're beside leads to the bathrooms." The dullness of the tone revealed that she was really trying hard not to chuckle. "As for Micheal's own, that leads to the restricted materials armory. Hold." she went silent for two seconds. "Got three innies past the second set of doors down the hall when you enter it, looks like they're trying to cut their way into the restricted armory with torches."

"What are they packing?" Darius asked.

"Looks like commandeered MA5Bs and M6Ds," Riley reported, "Frag grenades on their waists. Body armor too, UNSC standard issue marine armor, looks new too. I'd recommend switching to Armor Piercing rounds before taking them on."

Darius nodded to Micheal and the pair ejected their Frag rounds for magazines loaded with 7.62x55mm FMJ/AP ammunition. The rounds packed a hell of a wallop and with the heavy weight of the MA5B the aim drift wasn't too unbearable combined with the MJOLNIR armor strength enhancing capabilities made them a match made in Heaven.

"Lets go," he tapped the door controls. They hissed open and he and Micheal stepped into the hall and moved down the corridor until they came to the set of doors. Darius sighed, he knew the M6Ds were loaded with 12.7x40mm AP HE rounds, so that even the hardened plates of their MJOLNIR armor would stop those if they were straight shots.

He looked to Micheal. The other nodded back and then, he tapped the door control and they hissed open. "Go!"

Darius stepped into the room, raising his MA5B and sighting one of the armored insurrectionists. Micheal stepped in beside him and did the same. They pulled their triggers when the men were halfway turned to face them, upon seeing their weapons the two guards leapt to the side in time for the opening volley of fire to only scrape their armor plated shoulders. The tech who had been trying to cut into the restricted armory section however was cut down.

The two insurrectionists took cover behind a pair of support pillars. Darius and Micheal were again at the disadvantage of having little to no cover sides two large trolleys, both of which were kicked over and ducked behind when one of the Insurrectionists returned a bout of retaliation fire forcing the two Spartans to duck down behind their respective trolleys.

Darius shrunk himself as flat to the floor as he could when the Rifles rounds punched through the half inch thick metal plating of the trolley bed, he grunted when one round pinged off his shoulder, he shifted more to the side. He glanced to Micheal who was in a similar situation since both insurrectionists had taken to pelting both their positions with fire.

A moment later a break in the rifle fire provided Micheal and Darius with their chance. Micheal crouched up from his trolley while Darius rolled from his, they levelled their own rifles and let loose a roaring stream of gunfire, pelting the pillars and floor with rounds. The two insurrectionists ejected their magazines, reloaded and waited for the break of their own.

Darius watched the ammo counter of his rifle count down as he held the trigger before he rolled back behind his trolley, he ejected his spent magazine, slid a new one into place and chambered another round. Micheal's rifle clicked empty and he ducked back down when the innies fired back again.

"This is getting tedious!" Micheal muttered through the com. Darius again agreed, he pulled a frag grenade from his waist and nodded to Micheal. Micheal nodded back and reloaded, gripped his rifle tighter and readied to suppress the enemy to allow Darius to throw the grenade.

A soft and ominous ping caught their ears before a M9 fragmentation grenade flew over between their trolleys and rolled to a stop in their sights.

Darius cursed and tried to roll away. Micheal outright jumped forward over his own trolley before a deafening explosion rang out. A wave of heat washed over Darius, prickling his skin beneath his armor before a massive pressure wave sent him skidding into the wall a few feet away back first. His vision swam and he shook his head to clear it while his ears rang.

He blinked stars from his eyes and when he opened them again there was a pair of armored boots in his view. Looking up he saw it belonged to one of the insurrectionists. Darius could see the grizzled expression, years of war in the mans dark eyes and blank expression, this man was a veteran. "Don't move, Spartan."

Darius saw his MA5B lay behind the mans feet. The man himself pointed a M6D at his visor threateningly. He settled for glaring at the man silently while raising his open palms to show he was unarmed, he waited for his chance to strike. At this distance he just needed a moment of distraction in the man so he could disarm him.

That distraction came when the man's partner flew across the room with a resounding crack! against the wall where he fell to the floor limp. The grizzled man turned his head. Darius' hands shot out, gripped the man's armed wrist and pulled him down so roughly the man's shoulder popped. He raised his other hand and slugged the man across the face. He hit the deck with a thud.

Darius stood, stared down at the man and aimed at him with the M6D handgun. He looked over to Micheal who walked into view with his MA5B in hand, muttering something about damned innies. "You alright?" he asked.

Micheal nodded. "Yeah, played possum, kicked him." he turned to the limp insurrectionist, then fired a quick burst into the man's skull for good measure before turning back to the one that Darius had taken care of. "You gonna finish him?"

"Nah," Darius replied, "I think command might like this one alive for a good long chat."

Micheal chuckled. "His unlucky day then," he turned to the dead tech, double tapped him then turned back to Darius. "Guess we're clear?"

"Riley," Darius commed their tech specialist. "Area secure?"

"Checking cameras…" A pause, "We're clear, sir."

"Alright, Micheal. Take him, will ya? And be extra gentle." Darius turned and walked out of the room to avoid seeing Micheal tossed the man over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes before following after Darius back to the elevator room. Once they regrouped and Riley got the security logs from the console the three were on their way back up to the bunker complex.

A short ride later they stepped into courtyard where William and Miranda were waiting for them. "Hey boss," Miranda waved from her post, "How was the party?"

"Explosive," Darius replied flatly as he opened a channel to their extraction Pelican. "Pelican Foxtrot five forty-two, this is Valor. We're down here and need extraction. Have a POW with us too."

A moment of static. "Understood, Spartan. Coming in now, be there damn quick. Command will like that. Foxtrot five forty-two out." the com closed.

Darius turned to his team. "We're dusting off, command will send marines to secure this place once we're good and gone." He smiled at them, "Good work team."

"He's getting mushy," Miranda teased before she and Micheal bumped shoulders. A sign Darius knew was one of affection between them. Riley and William stayed silent, simply giving him a nod. He remembered how worried he'd been when he met them, that they would alienate him since he wasn't their original leader and while their was a certain distance they kept between themselves and him. It wasn't an extreme one that was detrimental to their unit cohesion.

He was their leader and they accepted it as best they could. So he accepted that.

End of chapter 1