Small Steps Can Take You Big Places
September 2, 2555 1156 hour
UNSC Decommissioned Weapons Base
SpecOps Major Ryau 'Cinotee [ACTIVE]
Naki kicked Ryau's leg as the Pelican settled into the hangar. "Wake up Ryau," she said.
"Huh, oh we're there?" Ryau asked half awake.
Naki nodded, "yeah, we're here."
The Pelican touched down onto the landing pad and the back hatched opened up. Ryau hopped onto the ground and paused a moment. "Three years ago I stood here human. Now I stand here as a Sangheili... not as big of a change as I would have thought."
"Something wrong, Ryau?" Naki asked.
"No, just remembering the last time I was on this planet." Ryau looked around at the cave hangar. It was set up like the upper hangar in Crows Nest. A squad of Army Troopers in the old armor marched by the Pelican down a ramp to the motor pool. It felt good to be in that hangar, there was a lot of activity.
A Technician from the Tahoma walked up to Ryau and nodded. "Major, Colonel Hartford wants to see you in the Ops Center. The rest of your team will follow Sargent Foss to Bunk room zero-seven."
"Very well, Petty Officer." Ryau nodded. But then he stumbled forward as he was bumped from behind.
"Apologies, Major." A Sangheili Ultra said coming out of the Pelican, his armor was consistent with current permutations. "I did not see you standing there."
"It is alright, Excellency. I was not aware there were other Sangheili on the Tahoma."
"I was sent by ONI as an information officer and sniper support . My name is R'tae Kastumai "
"Very good to meet you R'tae Kastumai, now if I may, I need to go." Ryau said and headed for the lift. "See you in the bunk room Naki," he called to her. Ryau walked down the stairs into the bowels of the bunker. Water stains lined the walls and the stairwell smelled heavily of mildew. It was apparent that this section had been abandoned for quite a while. Ryau walked through the security checkpoint and entered the Ops Center. Colonel Hartford sat by a Captain, the same Captain that was in charge when Ryau was last on this base.
"Welcome to my facility Major Cinotee." The Captain greeted him with a nod.
"SpecOps Major Ryau Cinotee is formally Spartan one-zero-two, the same Spartan that went MIA early on, on this planet. He is now acting as our Sangheili consultant on this mission." Hartford said.
"Ah, then I guess its welcome back Major." The Captain chuckled."
"Good to be back... excellency." Ryau said with a laugh of his own. "Sir."
"How was you mission? I presume it went well based on what the pilots have said."
"I say it went better than expected. We informed the local population of the result of the war and they seemed to accept it as the truth, but the Jiralhanae did not act happy." Ryau said. "The local Armory Aid wanted to come with us. She was checked out by the Lieutenant and is currently in the squad bunk room."
"I see, when she's free send her up here. Anything else I need to know?" Hartford asked.
"There was talk of a Forerunner structure being unearthed around here."
"So I heard, the people here saw it too. So we're sending you and your team there next. Science Major Cimutee and Corporal Cannon should have a field day there."
"Yes they would." Ryau chuckled. "Is that all, Sirs?"
"That is all, get some sleep, they're set for operating at night mainly here. We'll have you up in time for deployment."
"Very well Colonel." Ryau said. He saluted and turned to head down the stairs, but he stopped, "Excuse me Captain, but are the other Spartans around his base?"
"Umm, they disappeared with my best Sargent returning from a recovery mission..." The Captain said.
"Shit..." Ryau muttered. "Well the only other humans I know are dead..again. Well that's war for you." Ryau headed down the stairs to the bunk rooms. Down there he had to ask directions a few times before he found the correct squad room. Ryau walked in and saw Sargent Foss talking to Kala with Auva translating for her. Ryau walked over to Endesa and sat on the bench. "How are thinks doing here?"
"Its going well, I guess. Naki and Corporal Cannon are about Forerunners, Shan and Corporal Dosh are down at the firing range, and Auva is helping Foss talk to that girl Kala." Endesa said.
"Huh, okay. What were you up to?"
Endesa yawned and stretched. "I? I was napping,"
Ryau started to get up, "Oh sorry, I'll leave you be."
"Eh, its alright." She paused for a second, thinking over what she was about to say. "Do you mind if I ask you a question?"
"Umm sure, go ahead."
"Before we went down to Seettle..." She mispronounced Seattle. "The Colonel said something about you having a history with Spartans and then you said it wasn't a good idea because of sympathizing with the enemy or something. What did you mean by that?"
Ryau sighed. "Well..."
"Its Classified isn't it?"
"No, its just that I don't tell many people about that. But I'll tell you. Back before the war ended, I used to be a Spartan, so I was Human." Ryau paused while Endesa sat up. "On this planet, years ago, I was captured and became one of the test subjects of Project Leau. And that information is Classified. But the result of Leau turned me into a Sangheili."
"I don't believe it." Endesa laughed. "But given the Colonels beliefs then it must be true. Unless you tricked the Humans. You're fighting skills are too much like our own for you to once have been a Human."
Ryau chuckled. "If that's what you choose to believe then so be it... but I just remembered something," Ryau stood up. "Attention-" Everyone came and payed attention. "Colonel Hartford has informed me that we will be deployed tonight to recon a Forerunner ruin discovered here. So get some sleep, I know some of us haven't slept in beds yet. We'll be deploying around midnight. That is all." Everyone nodded and headed to their bunks following orders even though it was still morning. Ryau walked up to Kala and told her that the Colonel would like to see her. He walked her down there and waited for her to finish.
Kala came out about two hours later wearing a Sangheili Minor uniform and her armor in a bag. "They had one of those on the ship?" Ryau asked.
"Seems so Excellency." Kala said. "I'm being told to go to the Vehicle bay after you leave."
"So they found a position for you here." Ryau said.
"Yes, hopefully I wont be killed by some of the soldiers here. The Sargent said that the local population didn't like it that the Humans had allied with us, which is new to me as well, but they cooled down after they learned the war was over." Kala said.
"What will you be doing here?" They walked down the corridor heading to the bunk room.
"They're actually having me go out on a convoy to repair a communications relay." Kala said.
"Now that's an important job if we're to get off this planet." Ryau said as they entered the bunk room.
"Yes it is... I will be going to my bunk now"
"Very well Kala, nice talking to you." Ryau said and walked to his bunk. He removed his armor and dressed in a clothing uniform, white with a green and black rim.
"Science Major uniform, are they still issuing that to you?" Naki asked.
"Yeah, ever since you said I was your assistant, I've been getting these instead of the SpecOps Major uniform."
"That was three years ago wasn't it? I'm sure some one would have noticed by now." Naki sat on her bunk.
"Well, I like the way these feel, they're more comfortable than the standard SpecOps." Ryau chuckled, "And technically I am still your assistant in scientific matters."
"True, true. And the Council never said I was not your mentor either before they were killed." Naki said.
"But the Sangheili High Council did, ha ha. But anyway, I'm going to continue that nap now properly." Ryau lied back down.
"Alright Ryau," Naki went off to sleep as well.
A few hours later Ryau was armored up again and walking through the Mess Hall with his tray of food. He walked over to the others and sat down by Naki. "Well, we've eaten at both groups on this planet. What do you think of them?"
"I liked having food from our own planet." Asau said.
"Yeah I agree," said Endesa.
"I like them both, Human food has an interesting quality to it." Shan said taking a bite of a cheese burger.
Just then over the bases PA system the Captain called for Ryau and his squad. "Echo squad report to Pelican X-ray two-four-zero. Repeat, Echo to Pelican X-two-four-zero."
"Well that us." Ryau stood and put his tray away and headed to the hangar. The only time he stopped was to pick up his Carbine and supplies from the armory. He arrived at the Pelican just as the Human half of his squad arrived. A troop carrier Hog was secured to the back.
They all hopped aboard and the Pilot shouted out of the hatch. "Drop zone is two klicks from your objective, the terrain is too rough for me to put her down with your Hog." The Pilot said.
"Fine, but what do you mean by rough." Ryau asked.
"Dense forest canopy, on the side of a mountain, lots of rocks. Stuff like that."
"Oh so not too hard then."
The Pilot laughed. "Nope not too hard."
Ryau looked over his squad. Endesa had grabbed a Plasma rifle and Carbine, Naki a Needler and a Plasma rifle and Asau had a Fuel Rod gun and a Plasma rifle. Shan on the other hand had three weapons. He was gripping a Needle rifle while a Plasma pistol sat on his thigh and a Beam rifle was strapped to his back. The Humans were each outfitted in ODST armor and issued a BR85 Battle rifle and a M6C pistol. Only Corporal Dosh had three weapons like Shan, a SRS99D Sniper rifle was strapped to his back.
Suddenly the bases Captain came over the radio. "Echo squad, the Flood has been spotted in the area of the drop point..."
"Aww Hell," Corporal Dosh muttered, taking his Sniper rifle off his back. "This is useless now."
The Captain continued, "some members of the Covenant camp may also be in the area as well. Captain Brown out."
Shan and Corporal Dosh took their weapons over to the weapons rack and secured them for some other time. The Pelicans co-pilot leaned back and told them they were five minuted from the drop zone. The rear hatch opened back up as they neared the zone and they got a look at the terrain themselves. The Pelican's search lights revealed that they were flying by the side of a gradual mountain. The forest was under fresh snow and massive boulders sat in clearings.
"Sorta like Alpha Halo isn't it." Naki remarked.
"Yeah, only there's no ring stretching into the sky." Ryau replied. "Considering the threats on the ground, I wish there was."
"Me too..." she said.
The Pilot came over the radio. "Okay, we're over the drop point, spinning her around to give you a view of the objective." The Pelican spun 180 degrees and started to lower into a clearing. Thanks to the search lights Ryau could see a Forerunner tower embedded in a cliff that was blown away from an explosion. Down bellow at the base of the structure the gray skeleton of an elevated highway was barely visible. Only the clearing that was the structure appeared too small to land a Pelican. "I recommend using what's left of that highway for travel, seems like the only way through for your Warthog."
"Alright sounds good," Ryau said.
The Pelican landed on the highway and the roadway creaked bellow it. "Radio check in one hour. Alright, it looks that this highway is more or less intact tell you reach the structure. Clear the back, dropping the Hog." There was a click and the Warthog dropped into the highway.
Ryau and the others jumped down to the roadway and the Pelican lifted off. "Okay, Asau, Endesa, Shan, Cannon and Dosh in the back. Foss up front with me."
Everyone nodded and got into their positions. Ryau hopped into the drivers seat and started up the Hog. He drove down the crumbling highway, swerving around holes caused by plasma bombardment and the remains of vehicles starting to rust away. They sped past the burned out hull of an Elephant leaning dangerously over the edge of a cliff. Trees created a canopy over the highway and some had collapsed over the road.
Along side the highway the Pelican flew by when a rocket streaked though the darkness and impacted the Pelican's engines. Smoke started to billow from the engine and it pulled off. "This is Pelican X-ray two-four-zero, we've taken fire and we are pulling out. The rocket came from further up the highway, keep your eyes open."
They came closer to the location that the rocket come from and slowed to a crawl. Endesa, Asau and Dosh hopped off the back and walked along side the Warthog. Suddenly, five or six infection forms leaped from the forest and splattered across the Warthogs wind shield. Ryau slammed the brakes and a rocket flew from behind a tree. It missed the Hog and exploded harmlessly on the side of another mountain. Endesa and Dosh took cover behind a the remains of a car and fired into the forest followed by a few grenades. Burnt flesh, bark and dirt flew into the air and the Flood returned fire with plasma weapons. Ryau hopped out of the Warthog and joined Naki and Foss behind a overturned pickup truck.
"Grenade out!" Ryau stood up and tossed an Incendiary grenade at a Combat form that emerged from the forest.
The Combat form burst into flames and caught the Carrier form on fire and it exploded. The needles from Shan's Needle rifle detonated in the side of a Sangheili Combat form and blew it apart. The fire from the fight spread from tree to tree. Soon the entire area was ablaze. Burning branches fell onto the highway as a massive column of smoke rose into the sky. There was a loud crack and a massive burring tree fell onto the road and crushed the Warthog. The road supports creaked and groaned under stress and began to buckle.
"Everyone run! Get away from this area!" Naki yelled as she dashed for the mountain side.
Ryau followed Naki off the highway. Behind them the roadway collapsed and slid down the cliff side four-thousand feet to the lake bellow. Ryau stopped to look behind and saw the way they had driven collapse too. Auva and the others watched as well.
"Well, I guess we're walking." Shan said.
"Yeah, but at least we're close." Ryau said. "Everyone okay?"
"We are all accounted for and no one seems too be bleeding." Foss said counting heads.
"Alright lets get moving." Ryau said and headed down the highway on foot.
Snow flakes mixed with ash fell and started to coat the roadway and trees. The orange glow of the fire lit up the area behind them, and eventually they arrived at the Forerunner structure without any more fights with the Flood.
"You know... there are a lot of Flood out here for a place that hasn't been scouted yet." Naki said suddenly.
"Well the Covenant camp has sent plenty of scouts here." Corporal Cannon said.
"But we've seen a majority of Human Combat forms, a good share of Covenant but a lot have been human. How many were lost when the Tahoma went down?"
"Hmm, less than ten from the crash, then twenty something from the Flood attacks. And the Decom. Base said that they haven't lost more than fifteen since the Flood showed up. But before they locked down and only sent scouts for supplies they were losing a lot."
"Well I might just be thinking out loud but there could be another source providing the Flood with bodies. Another survivors camp maybe."
"That's entirely possible." Cannon said. They finished taking and looked at the structure before them.
It was a simple Forerunner design, smooth metal and blue lighting. They walked through the entry way and entered a large open room that was big enough to it an Elephant with ample room to maneuver. A pedestal rose from the center and a massive holographic projection of the planet filled the room. Lights flickered on and holographic banners appeared on the walls. An announcement in the Forerunner language played from a speaker somewhere.
"Naki, Cannon, you two catch that?" Ryau asked.
"All I got was, something Apex station active, what about you Cannon?" Naki replied.
"I never studied the verbal Forerunner language." Corporal Cannon said.
"I see." Naki and Cannon moved on and investigated the pedestal and its holographic projections.
Corporal Dosh and Sargent Foss were checking against the wall for any additional rooms. Endesa, Asau and Shan looked at the rings of white light expanding from the pedestal. Ryau realized that he was overdue for the radio check and called in to report on what happened.
"Hmm this seems to be some sort of map room." Corporal Cannon said.
"Maybe...." Naki reached to touch a blinking red dot labeled Apex Station thinking it will enlarge that portion of the map.
There was a bright flash.
"Major Cinotee? Major Cinotee do you copy...?" There was a click as Captain Brown switched radio channels. "Anyone from Echo squad, can you read me?" He waited a moment.
"Captain, this is Sargent Foss of Echo squad. Major Cinotee and the others vanished in a flash a moment ago."
"Is there any sign of them?" Brown asked.
"Well... we've got an arm."