Part 1: The Beginning of the End
July 14, 2012 1:29 PM
"Nick!? Do you or Michelle need anything to drink?" Nicks mom broke his concentration on the TV screen in front of him.
"No Mom we're good." Nick called back while blowing up a mass of Combat forms.
Xbox 360 controllers in hand, Nick and his Girlfriend were happily playing all the Halo games in order on legendary difficulty to gear up for the release of Halo 4 in the coming months. They were playing Halo: CE and were fighting through the flood-infected halls of the Truth and Reconciliation. Suddenly the speakers filled with static and the screen shuttered. But then it stopped after a few seconds. As soon as the screen stabilized, they found the Master Chief in a new room and the split screen had merged into one. The camera moved and looked around as if in a cut scene, even though Nick nor Michelle had controllers in their hands. They had ever seen that room before. Then Cortana began to talk. "Strange. I've lost connection to the Covenant Battle-net. Reconnecting. Wait what's this?"
"What is it Cortana?" They heard the Chief say. This was even stranger to Nick and Michelle because he hardly ever spoke unless it was a cut scene.
"There was new network, it wasn't labeled and it wasn't the Monitor. But a substantial amount of data was being transmitted over it. Even I couldn't gain access. Its coded very dif-" Cortana was interrupted as the screen flashed and streams of computer code began to fill the display.
"What the hell is this?" Nick said out loud.
"Uh... I don't know. " Michelle replied. Nick got up and pressed the Xbox's power button, the 360's lights went off but the code continued to display. Then he pressed the OFF button on the power strip, the screen flashed and returned to black.
"Damn, that was strange, I think my disk is broken." Nick said waiting for the Xbox to cool down. "Let's just move on to the Halo 2 campaign."
"Alright, sounds good. We were close enough to the end." Michelle said stretching on the couch. Nick went up to the Xbox and ejected Halo and tossed Halo 2 into the tray.
After about two hours of Halo 2 and finishing the ODST campaign, Nick and Michelle decided to take a break and play Matchmaking on Halo 3. They were playing a version of Team Slayer on Sandbox. The game type was Sprockets, and once again they were on the losing team. They both took cover where the missile pod would spawn, and then Michelle asked, "Why are you a Spartan, I thought you loved Elites?" She was an Elite.
"Oh, I was working on a video with my brother last night. I guess I didn't change it back afterwords." Nick said.
Michelle laughed. "Yeah, it doesn't make sense for a Spartan to be called Ryau 'Cinotee."
"I'll change it after the game."
Suddenly the screen again glitched and static filled the speakers. But instead of returning to the loading screen the TV went dark and words appeared where the code had earlier. "Attention. Generating Complete. Inserting targets to acceptable locations. Connection Established." Then a bunch of alien text scrolled across the screen.
Nick and Michelle looked at each other, not sure what to say. Out of nowhere blue rings started to form around them and the air rippled in the room. They were speechless. The room began to fade to black and the last thing they did was reach for each other. And for the moment they touched the next they were gone.
* * *
August 22, 2522
Nick shot up and hit his head on something. There was a reverberating twang of metal vibrating and he blurted out. "Ouch," For some reason his body felt different, stronger yes still smaller. "What the..." He didn't remember falling asleep.
He could hear what sounded like other people sleeping around him. The bunk above him creaked and the lights on the ceiling snapped on. He watched rows of bunks appear out of the receding darkness. It all seemed familiar like a memory, but this was all new to him. Then he noticed a sign painted on the wall, "UNSC Barracks 04B"
A chill ran down his spine. Now other people began to come out of bed. He saw a patch on one of their sleeves, an Eagle talons ready to strike holding arrows in one and a lightning bolt in the other. The word SPARTAN was written underneath the patch. Nick sat on the bed and tried to come up with ways that something like this had happened.
"There is no way this is possible, he mumbled to himself. Yet it felt so real. The idea that somehow he had gotten into the Halo Universe was the only one that somehow felt right. Nick swung his legs out of bed and felt a sudden pressure on his head. Memories, eight years of them, flooded into his mind; the meeting at the ONI amphitheater, the fact that he was 4 years younger than he had been before and years of painful training. All of those new memories yet his mind came to one thought."Where is Michelle?"
Nick scanned the room; there were about forty other Spartans. But Michelle was not among them. The person in the bunk above him jumped down.
"Hey, Nick ready to head to the obstacle course? I bet I can beat you to the end this time." Nick glanced up at the young Spartan and read the name printed on his shirt. The guys name was Brad, his number was 098. Brad gave him a friendly punch on the shoulder.
Nick was silent for a moment thinking of what to say. "As ready as I'll ever be," Nick finally muttered. He shook his head and stood up to open the footlocker at the base of his bed. He opened the lid and sitting on top of a pair of sweats was his MP3 player that he had in his pocket while playing with Michelle.
"Remind me why you like to keep that piece of junk? If Chief Mendez finds out we're both screwed." Brad said looking into the box.
"I..I don't know." Nick said pulling the sweats out from underneath. The sweat pants had the number 102 printed on the thigh, "my service tag?" He thought. He shrugged it off as a coincidence and got suited up in the sweatpants. Nick jogged out beside Brad and hoped that he would at least survive until the end of the his war to come and find Michelle somewhere along the way.
* * *
23rd Age of Doubt (August 22, 2522)
Michelle shot up out of the covers. Sunlight streamed though a window with a red hue. The room itself seemed purple and small indigo lights glided over the opposite wall.
"Ugg... I don't remember going sleep" She though to her self, absentmindedly rubbing her head in confusion, but then stopped suddenly. Her head didn't feel right, she had no hair. A quiet gasp escaped her and she felt her mouth split apart. Michelle screamed and leaped out of bed. Her legs went out from under her and she fell to the floor. Breathing heavily in panic she looked to her hands, she almost screamed again. Two thumbs and two fingers on each. The hand of an Elite.
"Holy shit, holy shit! This can't be real can it?!"
She flexed her fingers and just stared at her hands as moments passed, tears dribbled down her new face and into her palms. But then suddenly she felt a strange feeling of calmness come over her. Like this was meant to be, and that she should stop worrying about her sudden transformation. She sniffled and wiped the remaining tears away and attempted to stand. Her legs wobbled underneath her as she stood back up fully and she gripped a small table for support. Michelle wobbled over to the bed and sat on the edge. Suddenly she felt as if she was under a ton of pressure and was flung onto her back. Memories poured into her mind; still images of an Elite child that resembled her current body running through forests, homes, fields, into the arms of a Father and Mother. Her new name; Naki 'Cimutee, relatives, going to a place called the Varo Military Academy, the culture of the Sangheili. She took deep breaths as the pressure subsided and the memories slowed.
Rubbing her head again she stood up and realized that she could walk fine, she could move her mandibles and could even read what the alien text said. She glanced at the window, its color hadn't shifted or changed its angle since she had woken in the room a little over an hour ago. Walking closer she saw an unlabeled holographic control panel floating on the wall. Curiously she pressed a green button. The red hue sunlight disappeared and revealed a massive purple city. High Charity sat before her in all its glory. Michelle, now Naki sat on the window sill and marveled at the vehicles flying through the air and at the huge Forerunner Dreadnought in the city's center. Behind her the door chimed open. She jumped in surprise and hit her head on the window jam. Standing in the doorway was a Grunt pushing a hover-cart. When he saw her standing there he yelped.
"Sorry Miss Excellency! Nipap hoped to have armor cleaned before you rise," he cowered behind the cart, legs trembling.
"Um, go on." She told him not entirely sure if she was using the correct language.
The Unggoy pushed the cart up to a socket in the wall and quickly waddled away. The cart started to rise up the wall, once vertical the lid opened revealing a shinny light green set of armor.
"Oh that is a very nice color," Naki giggled.
There was a ping behind her and the wall of indigo lights formed into a computer screen. A message had popped up from a Science Major Agu 'Roniee.
Science Minor Naki,
Forerunner be praised. Another scouting party has discovered more Forerunner ruins on a planet in the Sanctum system. The Highrachs want our team to go investigate. I know you need to finish your other studies but I'll have you excused. These ruins look like they still may be in working order. Look at it this way if everything goes as planed, you might be able to graduate a few months early.
Spec-Ops Science Major Agu 'Roniee
She pressed what looked like a reply button and began to type "Sounds exciting Excellency, when and where do we leave."
A few minutes later the reply came back, "After Breakfast, meet in the courtyard."
Naki walked over to the armor and stripped out of the night gown she was wearing. She slipped the body suit on and looked herself over in the mirror. "Hmm, not bad." She thought to herself and gave it a nod of approval. Putting the rest of the armor on was tricky but once all the straps and latches were secured she was ready to go. Grabbing a book and a Data-Pad she headed out her door to her new life and headed down a hallway passing a plaque.
Oath of the SpecOps Science Division
We are here to aid the Highrachs in the exploration and study of the Gods' artifacts they left behind. To advance and continue the march to Glorious Salvation! For the Journey, for the Covenant!
July 1, 2552 2:00 [local planetary season: Winter]
Standard IV Tumble Highway, en rout to Standard Orbital Space tether
The Warthog slid across the ice on the abandoned highway as it came to a stop and Nick jumped out of the passenger seat. A team of Army troopers and Marines hooked up chains to the massive tracked transport stuck in the frozen over swamp. He headed over to the other Spartans gathered at the command hog. Brad 098 stood next to the Spartan III's, Lindsey A204 and James A103. A Lieutenant sat in the passenger seat and stared at a radar screen. A heavy snowfall had blown in and had reduced visibility to twenty feet.
"Zulu spotted some Covie scout teams heading this direction via Spirit. Hopefully we can have this damn Elephant out of the swamp by then,"the Lieutenant said. "I want you Spartans to keep the Covie bastards clear of the area."
"Yes sir, we'll get to work," Nick responded.
A blip appeared on the radar screen and the Lieutenant looked over. "Oh hell, here they come. Two Spirits one klick to the west." He switched to his radio. "All units shut down, we've got covie spirits inbound. Go cold." The Lieutenant's driver shut the Warthog off and all around the vehicles went off as well. A few moments later the alien hum of the Covenant Spirits rose above the sound of the snow storm. Searchlights shown through the storm and barely made it to ground level. Nick and his Spartans froze as they passed. The Lieutenant gave the all clear and everything started up again. The Army troopers and Marines finished hooking up the Elephant to one of the others and the other Elephant pulled the other out of the frozen swamp. "Alright let get moving people. We've got a ship to catch."
Nick hopped back into the passenger seat of his Warthog and the Marine stepped on the gas. The Evacuation convoy rumbled out of the lowlands and onto the crowded raised highway across the forest. The Elephants plowed through the sea of abandoned cars and trucks, clearing a way for the smaller vehicles behind them. "This is going a little easy, don't you think Nick?" Brad radioed from his own Warthog.
"Yeah this seems off," Nick said looking around at the forest.
Suddenly the falling snow to the East was baited in blue light. "Incoming!" An Army trooper yelled over the radio. The Plasma mortars impacted the hillside just south of the highway and ignited fires in hundreds of trees. But one of them managed to hit in front of an Elephant, a section of roadway gave way and the rear Elephant fell into the hole.
"Get everyone out of the back. Move!" The Lieutenant shouted. "Pelican Bravo two-four-five and Echo one-two-one, this is Evac division Charlie we need immediate pickup for roughly forty-five civilians, over."
"Nick head up and cover the other Elephants." Brad said over TEAMCOM.
Nick hopped back inside the Hog's passenger seat and the Marine stepped on the gas. Another volley of Wraith mortars flew over head and impacted the highway. The roadway broke away as well, as the superheated plasma melted the re-bar supports. A hole opened up and Nick's Warthog flew through narrowly missing the top. The front tires struck the frost covered dirt and the Hog flew down the path that sat just underneath the highway.
"You've got to be fucking kidding me! The next on ramp is twenty Clicks away. I guess taking the highway in the middle of nowhere was a great idea." Nick stared at his TACPAD in disbelief. An hour later the Highway veered into a tunnel and they still had not found an intact on ramp. "Great. We're lost wait what's that ahead?" Warthog suddenly stopped and Nick braced himself on the dash.
Chunks of ice and snow flew by as the Hog slid across the frozen ground. Their one remaining headlight revealed a frozen river less than 10 feet in front of the Warthog.
"Damnit, this isn't on the map." Nick cursed as he checked the Nav-data.
Then everything was quiet, the sound of automatic gunfire was in the far distance. But then there was a flicker of light on the other side of the river. The driver killed the engine and the light went out. After about a minute a soft purple light popped out of the trees and glowed in the heavy snow fall. Soon they saw a trio of Elites and about four or five Grunts walking along the river bank with their weapons drawn. They were talking, and Nick's translation software picked up some of their conversation.
"They should be... need one... primarily the Demon."
The conversation was filled with blanks from distance, and Nick's night vision couldn't cut through the snow very well. So they sat there for a little over an hour and the scout party looked as it had passed, Nick leaned over to the Marine.
"We should get moving," he whispered to the driver.
"Agreed," the driver slowly reached for the ignition.
As soon as the Hog started up the other side of the river came to life. The Covenant scout party had not moved on after all. Nick saw a flash green light and it looked like it was coming closer. The driver threw it into reverse and backed up as fast as he could, but it was no use. The Fuel Rod round slammed into the front and caused the already damaged Warthog to explode. The Marine was killed instantly from the force of the explosion and Nick was thrown clear into a nearby snowdrift. With shields down he tried to fight back. But as he stood another round slammed into ground beside him. His left side armor was partially blown off and he was thrown into a tree. His helmet was ripped apart, the main cover was smoking at the bottom of a hole and the rest barely functioned. But yet somehow the translation software still worked as the Covenant moved closer. "Hold your fire, hold your fire! Damn Unggoy almost killed it. Major go with a group of the useless runts and retrieve that Demon."
Nick couldn't move his left arm but he tried to grab a Frag grenade. As he reached over he could hear the cracking of the Covenant crossing the frozen river. Finally he had a grenade out of its pouch. But before he could arm it, an Elite pulled him out of the tree and ripped the grenade from his had tossing it to the river. He passed out a second later.
"Be very careful of our precious cargo, Unggoy; they want it alive" the Sangheili said with a smile.