July 19th, 2557

1301hrs GMT

Sydney, Australia Province

HIGHCOM Facility Bravo-6

/\/\

ONI agent, codenamed "Mr. Anderson," hurried along across the parking lot to the entrance of the secure building in the UNSC. Namely, the Office of Naval Intelligence's Alpha Site. To top off the look of the 20th Century secret agent, it was raining. No, it was pouring. Nobody had mentioned this when he was transferred over to Austrailia, but when it rained, it rained. So much, that it was often necessary to wear an overcoat over the overcoat.

As soon as he got inside, he walked right up to the secretary behind the desk in the middle of the small room. Without missing a beat, or looking up, she said, "Welcome Mr. Anderson. Mr. Smith is expecting you on level D, block 41." The secretary flashed a smile, her expression forced. After all, who in ONI actually had their heart worn on their sleeves?

"Thank you," replied Anderson as he walked into the elevator and pressed the letter "D" to bring him to that level. Even he didn't know how far level D was beneath Earth's surface, and it was likely he never would. Although, scuttlebutt from several Naval and Marine personnel said that the facility stretched a whopping three kilometers down. He could tell he was going far when the pressure in his ears began to build up until the elevator stopped. Popping his ears, Anderson waited for the doors to open, revealing a dimly lit hallway, which extended to what looked like infinity.

Walking out, he noticed doors on both sides of him, all identical save for a single varying number, he could only guess what lay beyond them-weapons experiments? Top secret meetings? He finally reached door number 41 on his left and placed his finger on the biometric scanner, the device reading his index finger and opened the door with a beep of acknowledgment. Room 41 was blacked out, save for a table illuminated by a single overhead light, on one side sat Anderson's fellow ONI agent Smith. Smith with his black suit, tie and blacked out sun glasses was one of the most mysterious ONI agents aside from the council, and their sneaky work dwarfed all ONI. On a side note, Smith looked remarkably similar to a 20th Century movie character in which he lead a resistance movement in a sick, twisted version of the internet. Smith just happened to be named after the villain, while Anderson was the complete opposite; looked like the villain, named after the hero. Oh, it took a while for those jokes to go away.

Anderson walked over and sat down opposite from Smith, smiling. "How was vacation in the 111 Tauri System?" asked Smith.

"It's hard to imagine that the system was once a warzone between us and the Innies; there hasn't been any activity there since the end of the war, which I am particularly thankful for," replied Anderson. Smith nodded. "But that's not your real question," said Anderson. He was beginning to think Smith was about to ask a very eye-opening question.

"Indeed it's not. Tell me Mr. Anderson, how many SPARTAN II's and III's are really MIA?" Smith asked with an emphasis on really.

Anderson raised an eyebrow. "Why bring this up now ,en medias ras?" replied Anderson with a serious tone.

"Just answer the question please, I will explain when you are done," Smith shot back, seemingly un-phased by the question.

Anderson sighed and remembered what he had been given about SPARTANS that were truly MIA, not the ones that were dead but listed MIA to keep morale up during the war. "James-005, Randall-036, Soren-066, Alice-130, Jerome-092, Douglas-042, Joshua-029, Gray Team, Team X-Ray, Team Katana is still trapped in those Forerunner pods, although the Huragok are getting them out, Jun-A266, and of course John-117," He finished with a sigh.

Smith was clapping his hands, "Well done Mr. Anderson I do believe you hit the mark; let's not forget the entire crew and ship of the Spirit of Fire as well," he said.

Anderson nodded. "So why in the hell did you just have me name off all missing SPARTAN personnel?"

"Because, something extraordinary has happened, something did I knew wasn't possible but it happened anyway. We have received an encoded slipspace probe carrying a data message by people that claim to be Gray Team," Smith said with a stern look. "We found it when it came out of slipspace just beyond Pluto."

"Well? Have you decoded it?" demanded Anderson.

"We have, it has UNSC military encoding signatures, but the message itself is pretty unnerving, which you will now see," said the other Agent. Smith pressed a key on the table and a holographic screen appeared in the darkness to Anderson's right, the white lettering of the message big as ever.

He could not believe what he was reading, it read,

"TO ANY AND ALL UNSC PERSONNEL READING THIS MESSAGE, WE HAVE SENT AN EMERGENCY S.O.S SIGNAL THROUGH REMAINING SLIPSPACE PROBE. THIS IS SPARTAN GRAY TEAM CONSISTING OF JAI-006, ADRIANA-111 AND MIKE-…."

"We unfortunately found that a portion of the message was damaged in the journey through slipspace, it could not be recovered," Smith interrupted. Anderson kept reading.

"AFTER THE BATTLE AT THE RUBBLE, WE SECURED AN ONI PROWLER FOR MISSION TO COVENANT HOMEWORLDS. SUCCESSFULLY CAPTURED COVENANT CORVETTE WITH STAR MAP OF COVENANT SPACE.

CONTINUED TO COVENANT WORLDS WITH ORIGINAL OBJECTIVE. SUCCESSFULLY LAUNCHED ATMOSPHERIC DEPRIVATION MISSILES TO HOMEWORLDS OF GRUNTS, JACKALS, AND BRUTES, DID NOT HAVE ENOUGH FOR ELITES, HUNTERS AND PROPHETS.

THE BASTARD'SWORLDS ARE NO MORE THAN FLOATING FIRE BALLS, WHAT A TREAT WHEN THEY RETURN.

IN JUNE OF 2552, WAS DISCOVERED BY COVENANT FRIGATE, TOO POWERFUL TO FIGHT HEAD ON WITH PROWLER, MADE EMERGENCY JUMP BUT FRIGATE LAUNCHED SOME SORT OF EMP, MADE EVERYTHING HAYWIRE, THE JUMP LANDED US SOMEWHERE IN DEEP SPACE IN DELTA QUADRANT, NEAR A PLANET WITH UNKNOWN CRAFT AND LIFE-FORMS PRESENT.

SIGNIFICANT LIFE FORMS DETECTED ON SURFACE, NO COVENANT SIGNATURES DETECED. THIS PROBE WAS LAUNCHED ON APRIL 16th, 2553. EXPECTED TO ARRIVE SOMEWHERE AROUND 2556, ACCORING TO MIKE'S CALCULATIONS. GOOD THING WE HAVE HIM OR ELSE NO ONE WOULD KNOW THE GALACTIC COORDINATES OF EARTH BY HEART. OUR OWN COORDINATES ARE 83748.12.

THIS IS OUR FULL REPORT, WE ARE AWAITING RESCUE AS PROWLER IS UNDER-POWERED AND WE HAVE MANAGED TO SUCCESSFULLY LAND ON THE CITY PLANET WITHOUT BEING DETECTED BY ITS INHABITANTS. HAVE SUCCESSFULLY INTEGRATED INTO SOCIETY VIA TRAINING, YOU SHOULD SEE THE AMOUNT OF ALIENS HERE."

ARE AWAITING RESCUE,

GRAY TEAM

As Anderson finished reading the seemingly impossible message, he rubbed his head in frustration, what in the hell was going on. This had to be some sort of dream. "Please tell me this is some sick joke." He laughed.

"Unfortunately it is not, it has everything from the right UNSC codes to the corresponding finger prints from Jai-006 placing the memory bank into the probe." Smith said. That made Anderson put both of his hands on head. This was just a bad day, for the ONI agent. First, he had to take his two young sons to preschool, remind his teenage daughter not to take drugs, and had listen to rumors of border skirmishes between human and Sangheili colonists in the renewed Harvest system.

"I know it sounds like something you would hear from my stepmother on meth, but we have every reason to believe this is the original Gray Team," Smith said, seeing Anderson's reaction.

Anderson held up his hands, "Alright, alright, so what do you expect us to do? It's not like we're rebuilding from the near extinction of our entire species," he said sarcastically.

Smith nodded and replied, "I believe we can spare one of the old stealth frigates to go on a little rescue mission."

Anderson raised his eyebrows. "You're kidding right? What captain in his right or insane mind would want to go into the Delta Quadrant with absolutely no idea where he's going and jump smack dab into a hive of aliens, not to mention keep the trigger happy marines back from gunning them all down?" he demanded.

"I've got one officer in mind, and once he hears that he'll be rescuing Gray Team, I'm sure he'll be happy to oblige," Smith said.

"You're gonna have a hell of a time getting this past the coun-"

"I've already cleared it. You need not worry about that," Smith smiled.

"How in the hell did you do that?" asked Anderson.

"Called in all the chips I had saved from our "poker games"

"Right."

"Now that this business is done, I have one more favor to ask of you," said Smith casually.

"Let me guess, you want me hold down the fort while you go off on a fairy tale of a rescue mission," replied Anderson sarcastically.

"I want you to come with me, along with Agents Fullerton and Diaz," Smith shot back with a determined glare.

"And why would I do such a thing?" demanded Anderson.

"Because you're the only one I trust that will help me get the information that is required back to the council. Listen, Anderson, we need all the SPARTANS we can get our hands on to help us sooth things out with the former Covenant races, and if it means traveling light years to rescue three of them, I'm all in. The question is, are you?"

Anderson stared at Smith for God knew how long, but he wanted to scream obscenities at Smith for using precious resources on a rescue mission for SPARTANS that had voluntarily gone behind enemy lines; they weren't even supposed to survive! After all, what if they got there and Gray Team was gone, dead? What then? There was a multitude of counter-points Anderson could bring up, but he eventually turned away and sighed.

"Alright, I'll go. But it had better be worth it, or I'm asking for a raise," said Anderson.

"I figured you would," Smith replied with a smirk.

"Oh and another thing, what happens if we get there and we find out they're dead?" asked Anderson.

"We survey what they've found to report to the council."

"Give me two weeks to be with the family and get organized," Anderson demanded kindly.

"You have one and a half," came the swift order from Smith. "Meet us at the Henderson-7 Space Docks on Luna in ten days." With that, Smith slid his chair back into the darkness behind him and was gone.

He had a habitat for leaving that way.

July 29th, 2557, 1446 GMT

Luna, Southeastern Quadrant

UNSC Navy codename "Henderson-7" Space Facilities

UNSC Midsummer Night

First Officer Ignatio Delgado stood on the bridge of the UNSC Midsummer Night. Gone was the Ignacio who grew up under Insurrectionist influence, who was taught that the UNSC was full of greedy, corrupt politicians who only wanted to exploit them to save themselves.

No, he had cut all ties to the Insurrection after the Battle of the Rubble, not regretting a thing; from then on, he fought for humanity, not a rebellion that had no future.

When asked by the ONI agent codenamed "Mr. Smith" why he wanted to join the UNSC Navy, he claimed he wanted to shoot down Covenant ships. Which he happily did as a tactical weapons officer aboard a destroyer, the Raptor's Dusk.

Now a first officer, he was hoping to retire into the construction business, where he hoped he would be more useful than in the military. Retirement, the word sounded like it was calling to him but he shook it off. Because of the massive amount of time his body was in the vacuum of space and the mysteriousness of Slipspace, his physical age had come to almost a stand still, he should be in his late forties, but he still had the body and looks of a guy still in his mid-thirties, earning him winks from the women of the fleet. He laughed at the thought of retiring now; it seemed so distant, and it was only increased when Mr. Smith came back to offer him a mission.

A chance to locate and rescue Gray Team. Gray Team had saved his own life at the Rubble countless times during the battle, it only seemed fair that he would return the favor.

He looked around at the bridge crew as the communicated with the space dock personnel and with each other on the final preparations for separation. They had all learned about the mission in the last week or so, although some where uneasy about going into uncharted space, they had all trusted Delgado and Captain Kawasko to bring home victory, and Gray Team, if they were even still alive. He had convinced Captain Kawasko to go along with the mission, which was relatively easy since he too had served aboard the Midsummer Night at the Rubble and had gotten to know Gray Team.

As he came out of his remembrance, he realized that the Captain and Mr. Smith, along with three other ONI agents were standing there with him. Captain Kawasko had just finished making a ship-wide mission broadcast and was conversing with Smith.

"Well Smith, I'd never thought I'd be taking up a rescue mission as a death wish," the Japanese descended commander said with a trace of humor.

"As much I would like to agree with you Captain, what is at stake here is a multitude of knowledge, as well as an intact SPARTAN team, both of which are invaluable," Smith said. Smith smiled as he saw Delgado walk up to them.

"I know what you mean," Delgado said as he shook Smith's hand.

"Ah yes well, well, well first officer isn't it? Come a long away for a former rebel," said the spook.

"I've made sure to erase that part of my history," Ignacio said coldly.

"Which you have," said Kawasko. "Jones, let's get underway," he said to a small figure standing on top of a holographic projector. Jones, the ship's A.I., had the appearance of an 18th century sailor.

"Yes sir, separating from space dock, will be in green light for slipspace jump in three minutes," said the A.I. Delgado watched as the dock slowly pushed the Midsummer Night away as its main engines came online. With current slipspace technology spliced together from Forerunner and Covenant artifacts, the journey was expected to take three weeks total, where all but Delgado and Kawasko would be in cryosleep.

One of the ONI agents spoke up, "So, have we all agreed that what we'll find on this mission will change the course of humanity yet again?"

Smith answered, "I do believe it is worth the risk Mr. Anderson."

Jones spoke up. "Captain, ready for jump on your command."

"Punch in galactic coordinates 83748.12," ordered Kawasko.

Jones flicked something off his right thumb using his index finger. "Course laid in," he stated.

"Let's punch it."

Delgado thought, if it meant repaying the favor to a trio of friends, then this was worth the risk of losing his life. A gigantic purple wormhole appeared right in front of the bridge, which the Midsummer Night continued directly into and into infinity.

Hold on guys, I'm coming for ya', was Delgado's last thought before jump.