"Always look both ways before crossing a street! Your safety is of the utmost importance..."


The seemingly flustered voice seemed to blare through his internal speakers. The AI, as helpful and comforting to have as it was, never seemed to shut up. The alleyway that he fled to flickered with its dim fluorescent lights. The Rookie stopped and caught his breath. The events of the day took their toll on his stamina. Even ODSTs, mighty and brave, were only human. His leg was still in pain and he didn't have any of his weapons, not even his knife anymore, probably confiscated for evidence if those were authorites. There was not much he could do except gather his strength and plan his next move. He slumped onto a crate beside the wall and inspected the world around him for the first time without immediate duress.

It was familiar, in a way. The towering city reminded him of the skyscrapers of New Mombasa and Reach, if a little more drastic and sleek. There were stores, and families, and slums. He'd never seen alien cities before, but this one was slightly comforting in its similarity; even if all the locals were blue women, they were normal people.

However, a lifetime of war didn't help to ease his mind. The Sangheili "Elites" as they were once known had proven to be valuable allies, but humanity still knew them as the monsters who took everything from them. It might be a lingering case of xenophobia, but Rookie wasn't ready to introduce himself to an entirely new alien species quite yet. After all, the UNSC didn't have a good track record of First Contact. All things aside, he'd be able to move around more inconspicuously during night. He'd look for some kind of safe house to shelter in but for now, this run down alley he had taken refuge in would have to do. He sat down in a small niche so that he would be hidden from passing eyes. Until night fell, he was just going to have to rest.

On the terrace

"I can't tell you what I don't know!" Detective Santeas was almost ready to throw herself into open sky again. Perhaps just by their manner of occupation SPECTREs always assumed somebody had more information than they told. She'd already told Shepard everything she could about the man in armor, and the pod, and the cache of strange weapons inside. One of Shepard's companions spoke up with an idea:

"Maybe I can track him down, Shepard. If what Detective Santeas is saying is true, our mystery man could be a handful if we just let him run around unchecked." Garrus made some good points.

"Okay, but take Miranda with you too. And don't do anything stupid." Shepard trusted him with her life. She could trust him with this too. Garrus accepted the order, calling an air car and radioed the Cerberus operative for the manhunt.

"I'm coming too," Moya chipped in, "I know this city, and this is my pain in the ass to deal with."

Hours Later

The images in his dreams flashed through his head like a lightning storm. The Ark, Dare, the AI, the drop. But everything else was a blur. His memories would be sorted out with time, and there was a recorded log embedded within his helmet. He'd access that later when he was off the streets. The flickering lights that turned on as dusk made its way into night. And he rose as he always did. Quietly. Steadily.

For the Rookie things on the surface things seemed as normal as a civilian would assume. Night life in the vast city could be heard bustling even over the roar of air cars. But a veteran soldier's instincts, an ODST's instincts, warned him of very real danger. That danger lurked in every crevice and corner. And now that it was fading into night it would creep out like an infection.

He could hear a few faint gunshots out in the fading dusk above the din of the city. The AI sent a small message across his HUD.

"Network uplink offline" It sat there blinking for a few seconds. He knew what it meant. No support, no intel. No ONI spooks or superior officer to give him direction. The most important thing right now was to find a safe house and some information about this place. A city this big shoul-

BANG

A gunshot and a cry for help caught his attention before he could finish his thought. The Rookie snapped to attention and looked down the alley where the sounds came from. It was way down the other side, but even through the badly lit passage he could see what was happening.

Another one of those blue women. A civilian, by the looks of it, and she was being harassed by a trio of gang members, along with a bulky automated droid. She was holding her leg with one hand where she had been wounded. In the other, a sidearm aimed at the leader of the pack. It looked like they were toying with her. Perhaps she owed money or just pissed off the wrong people. They started talking, but it sounded like gibberish through the helmet's audio filters. The AI was going to have to work on some new translations.

He should help. But he knew better than to risk exposure. Involving himself against 4 opponents while injured was just asking for an early trip to his grave. Better to just wait until those thugs finished up and left.

The very loud pinging in his ears quickly shook him out of this train of thought. His VISR display turned on, highlighting the alleyway and marking the thugs as enemies in a deep, pulsing crimson. The AI disagreed with his inactivity it seemed. Deep down he half agreed with it. His time with a dying Gage Yevgenny back on New Jerusalem reminded him to do whatever he could to save those that would otherwise be helpless. He knew better than to disrespect that memory. If it was just some regular thugs he could take them out quickly before they could even notice him. And he knew just how to do it too.

He stepped out of his shadows into the flickering lights.