The Onyx Stars: The Second Thread

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Sith, Nov 1, 2013.

  1. Threadmark: Chapter 1

    Sith Back the Blue


    Previous Thread: The Onyx Stars: The First Thread

    Hello all, Sith here.

    I've been busy the last few months and so I haven't been able to write that much or work on the Onyx Stars to the point which I would like to. However, with some schedule trickery and a more streamlined beta-system I think I'll be able to resume my at-least-once-a-month publishing system.

    I also want to celebrate the beginning of the second thread of The Onyx Stars; this second arc will cover the beginnings of the Ascension War and do what I want it to do; restore a sense of wonder within a fanfic. Yes, the coming chapters will be dark and some of you might not agree with what will happen to certain characters, but rest assured, things will end. And end well. So please, stick around and enjoy the fic. We have twenty chapters to go after this one and I hope all of you are along for the journey.

    Now, let's do this...


    The Onyx Stars

    Halo-Mass Effect Crossover
    By: Sith​

    AN: Tons of thanks to WarpObscura, JonHarper (Spartan303), Atlan and Bob Regent (Ash's Boomstick), again, for beta-ing and helping the plot be smoothed out. Also, wow! Reaction to this is stellar!

    Disclaimer: See Chapter 1.

    ****Certain characters, technology, events and objects have been changed for the purpose of the story.****​

    Here's Chapter 13: Destiny
    Enjoy :)
    Chapter Thirteen: Destiny
    Batarian Hegemony
    August 23rd, 2184

    Lightning and large, black and blue vessels broke apart the bleak red sky. There were roars of least, he hoped they were thunder and not simply the weapons of the Reapers eviscerating another bastion of resistance. Unfortunately, it was likely the former.

    Since they had arrived in system two weeks ago, they, the Reapers, had been ruthless. The Batarian defense fleet had been sliced apart in less time than it took to blink and the carcasses of warships had been pushed towards the planet below courtesy of the Reaper's fire. Entire cities had vanished in the blink of an eye as the multi-million ton warships hurtled through the atmosphere faster than a bullet.

    The Hegemony High Command had given anybody who could fight a weapon and sent them off to fight. The lower castes were the first sent into the maw, armed with just pistols. He scoffed, hands deep in mud and trying to find another ammunition clip.

    A lean Batarian grabbed a hold of one and pulled it from the mess. Brushing it off, he saw there was a finger print scanner. It wouldn't work in his pistol; it was caste locked. He growled and pitched it.

    “Fucking Hegemony,” He muttered, realizing he would have to make the two clips he possessed last. Wiping his brow with his left arm, he stood. Tanks and armored vehicles were moving down the boulevard and high in the sky were a few remaining Frigates, a sole Hensa Cruiser, and fighters drawing off a Reaper destroyer from a fleeing transport.

    He shook his head, grasping the pistol in his right hand a little bit tighter. He barred his teeth; a group of wounded Batarians with bombs fused to their chests marched forward. The ones who lagged behind were given a sharp kick to the ribs or a rifle butt to the spine. Asari and Turian slaves, starved and battered, were being marched forward also with bombs fused to their skin.

    His stomach flipped and he wanted to vomit at the thought of what was happening. He was a rarity within the Hegemony; he didn't see other species as virulent plagues. He saw them as just more of the same bipedal life, just trying to survive.

    “Hey, Arudo,” Someone shouted his name from behind him, “Get your ass over here, we need you.”

    The Batarian Arudo looked up, “Huh?”

    “Get your sorry ass up, now!” The Batarian Sergeant roared, “Before I strap a bomb to your chest and shove you in with the rest of the condemned.”

    Arudo shot up, snapping his arm to his right breast in a salute.

    “Good, you piece of shit. You're going to be leading a scouting force, see if the Reapers are setting up an ambush,” His Sergeant said, looking the lower-rate down with distaste.

    Arudo nodded slowly. “Okay. Who else is in the scouting party?”

    The Sergeant barred his teeth in a grin, “You, just you.” He picked up a Black Widow Sniper Rifle with silencer attached and thrust it to Arudo, “Have fun.”

    Arudo grabbed the weapon, racked back the bolt and held it at parade rest. “Is that all?”

    “Yup, now get out there,” The Sergeant ordered. He rotated on his heel and walked away to the small shanty that had been set up as a make-do command center.

    Sneering, Arudo huffed. He hoped that that ass of a Sergeant got hit by a Reaper's beam. It would be a fitting end for that detestable piece of filth.

    “Now!” The Sergeant barked.

    Arudo jumped and quickly headed towards the motor pool, requisitioning an air-car and leaving the small, insignificant outpost. His destination was a few kilometers away, tucked away between two mountains overlooking the smoldering remains of Khar'Shan's capital city.

    The remains of vessels, predominately Batarian, had crashed in the massive crater that had been blasted into existence by a Reaper's main gun. Eezo and radioactive materials filled the air and still-burning embers reached up into the sky.

    Arudo squinted. At the bottom of the pit were tens of millions of captured Batarians cuffed and brutalized. Those converted stood guard, either around the endless supply of prisoners or at the massive device that loomed overhead. Angular and dark, the device shone a brilliant orange at its center eye.

    He shook his head. He had seen what that device and the smaller ones employed by the troops could do. They would tear a being apart; vaporizing skin, muscle and bone into nothing but a black pile of ash or a pile of oily-goo for the infantry-based versions. A few ships claimed they had detected data being transmitting back to the various Reapers in the fleet that had burned through the Hegemony these last weeks, but those were, hopefully, unfounded rumors.

    The HUD on his air car placed a small blue chevron over a small outcropping. He guided the small, red vessel down to this outcropping and exited the vehicle. Retrieving a small canister from his waist, Arudo pressed the top red button, pinging his location across the few remaining satellites in orbit back to the outpost.

    There wasn't a response, as usual. They needed to hide; evade capture and death for as long as possible. A single Reaper Destroyer could vaporize the outpost with a single barrage.

    It was colder here and Arudo shivered. It was probably caused by Reaper fire. This was on the equator of Khar'Shan and it should have been warm enough to fry an egg on a stone.

    Arudo slowly made his way over broken rock, metal and bodies until he overlooked the gathering of tens of millions. Scoping in with his rifle, he noticed that there were symbols burned onto the back of the prisoners' necks. It was a sideways 'y' with another line horizontally adjacent to the bottom. He sent the telemetry back to base and watched as the tattoos began to glow a brilliant azure.

    Harsh orange light flared across the landscape and in an instant, a million Batarians were incinerated like beasts in a wildfire. Ash was kicked high up into the atmosphere and Arudo coughed on it. His radio buzzed and he heard millions of screams and pleads for help.

    It wasn't his base.

    It was the victims, crying out in one before they were silenced.

    The massive machine seemed to shift and shudder and lines of energy pinged across its form, vomiting out an orange lance that reached high into the sky. Clouds boiled away from the energy and there was a large crack that boomed across the crater.

    The machine fired again and two million Batarians were incinerated, their voices and minds taken in by the machine and sent hurtling up into space. The dust and ash from the incineration began to form a cloud that blotted out the sun and even the oppressive orange eye of the machine.

    Arudo reached into his backpack and grabbed one of his gas masks, fastening it to his skull and protecting himself from whatever biological hazard the ash represented. He just hoped the amount he had already sucked in wouldn't do any harm.

    He nervously checked the status of his Black Widow and confident that it was still loaded and silenced, he scoped in on one of the other group of prisoners. The runes on the back of their necks were red and their eyes glazed over. A trio of converted Batarians moved all ten-thousand of those with red runes into a separate area and gunned them down.

    The docile Batarians didn't even resist, a trance having entangled them. Their blood was a sickly black and their bodies stiff as they fell to the charred ground, crushing old bone and timber.

    As if timed, a spire fell from the sky, gracefully landing at the center of the dead red rune prisoners. The shape changed into that of a thin, black and blue crystal and it plunged into the ground. Dirt and several bodies were kicked up as it settled into its new base.

    Spores fell from it and landed on the dead. A black swarm emerged from each tiny cluster and enveloped the bodies.

    Arudo took his eye away from the scope and recoiled. He knew those weren't organic spores; they were a cloud of tiny machines called nanites that sunk in, swarmed and transformed the body. They had been the initial wave, literally transforming their victims in moments.

    “Your kind will live on in immortal form,” A voice behind him boomed, “History might forget your pure form, but it will never forget your new.”

    Arudo wheeled around, eyes wide and face painted with surprise. He shoved the barrel of his sniper rifle into the forehead and fired. There was supposed to be a simple whisper. instead there was an ear splitting boom that was amplified and echoed across the hills and mountains.

    Millions of eyes turned to gaze at him and there was a barrage of fire. His cover was rapidly eroding in a flurry of red-hot stone and rock.

    He stepped over the still warm body of his attacker, placed his Black Widow against a rock and pulled a grenade from his belt.

    He shoved it down the neck of the converted and kicked the corpse off the edge of the mountain. It would explode as soon as it hit the ground and hopefully allow him enough time to flee. The body would, if his plan came through, absorb all the fire and protect the grenade until it detonated.

    The air car was about twenty meters away and he sprinted for it, leaping in and punching the ignition. The tiny mass effect field snapped on and lifted the speeder up into the air.

    His make-do bomb exploded and the already weakened cliff began to crumble. Rock fell onto the mass of converted and prisoners below, squishing them like ants. There was a roar high above in the sky and the clouds parted, revealing an absolutely massive vessel. It was a half sphere with tens of thousands of tail-like decks reaching out from its aft.

    It bore the same symbol on its bow as the prisoners below did but the symbol shone an emerald blue that shifted when he looked at it. A small hatch opened at the bottom of the bow and the machine with the orange eye began to ascend, surrounded by the converted Batarians. There was a single blast of light and suddenly, the crater and everything within a mile of it was a molten pit, completely leveled.

    Arudo floored the accelerator. He needed to get out of here. Maybe he could make it to the relay and flee to the, the Turians had a bigger fleet. He'd be safe there.

    Those thoughts were ended as his air car suddenly stopped, as if gripped by a massive hand. The frame crunched and the metal twisted. That massive ship, a hundred kilometers of death embodied, was cracking apart his air car.

    He slapped the ejection button. There was a hiss and he and his seat were sent hurtling out the bottom of the air car. Below him lay a molten lake several kilometers deep that was consuming rock like a beast eating fallen prey.

    Arudo looked up, a trio of Hansa cruisers approached. They were absolutely tiny compared to the 100 kilometer enemy flagship and their mass accelerator rounds were too, slapping against the shields with no effect. They too seemed to stop in mid-flight and slightly rotated. Hulls creaked and cracked and split apart, spilling crew and contents into the molten lake below.

    His parachute activated and he used the microthusters to push his last lifeline onto a small outcropping of rock. There were charred skeletons littering that area; some natural Batarians, some the converted.

    His feet twisted and groaned as he landed, and he felt his upper teeth bite into and rip his bottom lip. Blood spilled from it and he smashed his forehead into a massive rock.

    Standing up weakly, he looked up at where the Hansa group had been. Nothing remained except for the few falling pieces of miniscule debris.

    “Just like your brothers, your sisters...all fall before Him.”

    Arudo backed up, reaching for his sidearm but realizing it was now somewhere down there, in that roaring inferno.

    “Come warrior, have your resolution,” The converted said, twisted and contorted arms raising into the sky. “The one you don't deserve.”

    “I'd rather be ash then be a beast like yourself, “Arudo said, voice weak. The world felt like it was spinning at a thousand miles an hour. Everything was a blur but the converted; it was in perfect focus and he felt treasonous thoughts tickle at the back of his mind.

    “Unarmed, unarmored. Clad in sins and ash and transgressions. Just like the millions of other civilizations, you and your kind will be stored in immortal Reaper form to allow new life to flourish, new life to attain what is thrust upon them. You will be burned away and turned to glass to allow them evolution. Your ashes will feed their crops, your flesh will feed their beasts and your monuments will serve them as shelter.”

    “I don't care,” Arudo said defiantly, “Who is to say we are undeserving of life?”

    “You are not Apex. You are not what He seeks,” The converted said, “You are simply rats, a genetic dead end. Your kind have been left in the river to be drowned, to be forgotten. Your genes will be recycled, reconstituted to serve Him for eternity until the point when the Apex arise. You will die alone, unremarked. There will be no planets to grieve your passing, no cities to weep, no armies or fleets marching under your banner...nothing more than an echo that even the mountains ignore.”

    “They?” He asked.

    “The Apex, the true inheritors. Not the false Reclaimers, not the Broken Didact,” The converted responded, “that is all you will be told.”

    Another tower fell from orbit like fruit, landing on the molten lake and dispensing its nanite swarms. They chewed away at Arudo's shields and with a heavy heart, he fell off the cliff.

    He saw the converted and the sky shrink as he fell, heat increasing. A single droplet of rain water fell on his visor, followed by hundreds of others. He grinned. That had been thunder he heard earlier; there was another bastion of resistance.

    Still fighting.

    Still surviving.

    Like there always is.

    And always will be.

    And then, there was darkness.

    UNSC Infinity
    Calvary Star System
    August 23rd, 2184

    “Sarah, do you remember the Battle of Sonnen?” Tom Lasky asked, bringing a cigar to his lips and taking a puff off of it. He had his feet propped up on a footstool, watching out as Reach and the Calvary Star System twirled, moved and collided unrecorded. Everest and the Obsidians floated in high orbit, a few specks of Broadswords flying about. Infinity was also in high orbit working on system upgrades and standard repairs.

    Lasky looked over to his left. Sarah Palmer was on the couch stretched out an in black sweatpants and a gray and white sweatshirt, much like Lasky. She had a glass of cola in her left hand and a data pad in the other. Her hair was undone and hung loosely at her shoulders.

    “Sarah?” Tom asked again.

    She yawned, “Oh, Sonnen?” Setting the glass down she sat up, placing a pillow at the small of her back, “Which planet was that again?”

    Lasky thought back to 2555. “Forty moons orbiting a Mars-sized world rich in titanium, iron, copper, and Ether crystals? Jul 'Mdama tried to attack it but failed after del Rio brought Battlegroups Dakota and Megaladon in and blew two of his Assault Carriers apart.”

    Sarah smirked. “Ah that one. I remember, you were scared to death that I was dead. Of course, this was before you were Captain....or liked by del Rio.”

    Lasky chuckled, “Yes, yes it is.”

    “Why do you ask?” Sarah said. A squadron of Broadswords banked by the windows, small icons of Sangheili skulls stenciled onto their wings.

    “Because,” Tom responded, “I've been thinking about how I could have had del Rio arrested for firing on a concentration of UNSC armored forces. If I had done that, maybe I could have saved the Ranger and Apollo.”

    Sarah didn't respond. She remembered the Ranger and Apollo both exploding. They were cruisers, valuable and scarce, but del Rio had ordered them to lead the initial wave of frigates and destroyers. It had gone less than swimmingly.

    “Friendly fire is an arrestable offensive,” Sarah confirmed, “But, it is a precursor to something larger...why do you keep bringing up this old shit? Learn and adapt.”

    Tom sighed, “Each death weighs heavily on me. Every time we lose a Marine, an officer or even an orderly, I ask what I could have done to prevent that.”

    “In war, people die. Sometimes, even the Captain can't prevent that,” Sarah responded. “Have you visited the Jessica S. Memorial Garden?” She asked, referencing the Marine aviator who held off twenty Seraphs with her Longsword to allow the Spirit of Fire to finish its mission on Arcadia all those years ago.

    “Yeah, I put the dog-tags of the dead there. And, I'm aware of that, but at the same time, I still have to be aware that we can't replenish our ranks as quickly. Only a few kids have been born down in the Fire and if they come of service age,” Tom mulled, “I don't want this to be a pipeline to an early death.”

    Palmer's face soured. 'You know, I invite you to hang out and you talk about death and soldiers. Ya really suck at this, you know? Friends don't tell friends about their deep thoughts...unless in Rio...drunk....”

    Lasky chuckled, “Yeah, I know. Sometimes my thoughts get the best of me.”

    Sarah Palmer laughed, “Isn't that obvious?”

    Lasky responded with a faint smile, “Aye, I guess it is.”

    “Remember that time when those Innies tried to take Infinity over?” Palmer asked.

    “The ones hired by Saint Maggie before she got publicly hung?” Lasky responded.

    “Yeah, they had Brutes assisting them along with Jul 'Mdama's last remaining Assault Carrier.” Palmer confirmed, “I remember hearing how you took a shotgun and a pistol and went down into the lower decks and single-handily cleared out one of the barracks of those traitors.”

    “I think those rumors are a bit over exaggerated. I did help to clear them out but not to that level,” Lasky bristled, “Still didn't like how we had to evacuate everybody from the ship, rip out its control systems and flood it with nerve gas to clear those guys out.”

    “What did we do with the bodies, exactly?” Palmer asked, “I know we dumped the Brutes out into space but the rumors are that Innies were thrown into the Ether core.”

    “The rumors are true, we dumped the Innies into the core and just vented the Brutes,” Lasky said, “It was still a pain in the ass to do. You know, those things are freaking heavy.”

    “Yeah, all my Spartans were tasked with carrying those big monkeys to the airlock,” Palmer remembered, “Why did we throw the Innies into the Ether anyway?”

    Lasky shrugged and pulled the cuffs of his sweatshirt back down. “No clue, order came from Admiral Hayes himself, something about biological contamination and suicide bombs. Ether core sucks everything that touches it in, instantly rendering it to its base atomic structure. Easy to fuel. It manipulates and splits the atoms to get tens of gigawatts out of every single atom in a microsecond...and stuff has a lot of atoms.”

    “When they put that thing in, I remember the techs throwing their garbage into it. When a duty officer confronted them, they told him its the world's biggest incinerator and that they're just feeding the reactor,” Palmer said.

    Lasky rolled his eyes. “Yeah, problem is that some people miss their toss and end up smearing it with whatever they wanted to throw in there. Del Rio put the kibosh on that as soon as it started getting popular.”

    “How can you miss a reactor opening that is 200-meters wide?” Palmer asked, “I mean a frigate I'd understand, sure those cores are only about five meters...”

    “Same reason we protect the techs and engineers at the top of the thing: shields and a ton of Aegis armor plating.”

    The PA system in Lasky's quarters activated and Roland's voice came through, “Captain Lasky, It's the probe we sent a day ago. It's returned.”

    Lasky sat up straighter. The probe had been dispatched to the planet Shepard had given them the location to. Roland had designated it “Canyon” due to the massive rifts that scarred its surface. They had sent the probe to peek around and see if the system had any hostile or intelligent presence. The lingering energetic remains of a Supernova long past had blocked transmission from the probe to the Infinity for the past day so cracking it open and reviewing its footage was necessary.

    “Understood, Roland. Have Squadron Echo tow the thing into Hangar Bay 3. I want the area guarded,” Lasky responded.


    “Oh, and get a Huragok down there in case there're any issues,” Lasky added.

    “Aye,” Roland said in affirmation.

    “Thanks,” Roland ended the channel. Lasky leaned over to Palmer and looked at her. “Ready to get back to work?”

    She nodded. “Yes.”

    Lasky smiled. “Glad to have you as a friend, Sarah.”

    “Same here, Tom.”

    UNSC Everest
    Calvary Star System
    August 23rd, 2184

    Commander John-117 wasn't used to being out of his armor and in his dress blues, or technically gray dress uniform. He felt naked. A molted lobster. There were no centimeters of metal, refractive paneling and carbon-nanotube muscle protecting him, just a thin layer of cloth, nylon and a thin layer of CNTs for basic ballistic protection. This wasn't a battle dress uniform; he didn't expect it to be. Didn't mean he had to be comfortable wearing it.

    Then again, the possibility of getting into any conflict was miniscule on board the Everest. The interior of the ship felt empty; even at almost two kilometers it had a massively smaller crew. They had taken casualties during the Battle of Psi Serpentis and even when Captain Lasky had transferred crew over, they were still half-staffed. It was semi-nullified by the increased automation systems installed during the refit two months ago, but even the ship of the legendary Admiral Cole felt like a ghost ship when not fully crewed.

    He didn't have Cortana with him. She was down on Reach reinforcing and building the electronic warfare systems and educating a handful of 'dumb', semi-sapient, AIs on the subject. He felt like a piece of his mind was missing, absent and floating far away.

    Passing through the first scanner before the entrance to Admiral Cole's office, a trio of Marines patted him down, took and sampled a quick vial of his blood for any biological explosives within him. When he was deemed clear the Sergeant in command of the group gave him a sharp salute and passed him through the door.

    The door sealed behind him with a hiss. John's eyes readjusted to the light in the room. Admiral Cole stood, examining a holographic projection of a data stream. Lines of code floated around him and were translated if he laid a finger on them. There was a faint audio signal he was studying.

    The Admiral's eyes flicked up to John's own. With a faint wave of his hand, Admiral deactivated the projection and gestured John to come forward. The Commander obliged.

    “Ah, John,” Admiral Cole started, “Excellent timing. We've received another faint transmission.”

    John raised an eyebrow. What was the Admiral discussing? To John's knowledge there had been no transmissions intercepted last he had checked. “Sir? Transmissions...”

    Cole clasped his hands together in a thunderous applause. “This is recent information; Captain Lasky was just informed a few minutes ago. Three hours ago Everest picked an emergency distress signal from an unknown planet two dozen light-years from here. If I have read the underlying code correctly, it is from a UNSC AI.”

    That caught John's attention. That meant there was another UNSC asset in this universe and, possibly, another Spartan team laying in wait. “An AI?”

    “Yes,” Cole responded, “But there is something else, the reason I called you here.”

    “And that is?” John asked.

    Cole tapped in a series of commands and another projection of an audio recording flared into existence. The wave was flat for several seconds before it shot up as if a rocket had been tied to it. The words were in clear English:

    “This is UNSC AI.......from the........calling any and all UNSC forces in the area...we are adrift and without power, please, respond.”

    “That was the first one, here's the second,” Cole said. He summoned another audio recording.

    “I'm old, so, so old. He long ago died. I sent him hurtling towards the star for a hero's burial. These new life forms, they call themselves...I don't remember...I'm cold....I miss his touch...I miss his voice and I miss his eyes. Those eyes, those beautiful brown eyes. I miss him, I held on for years for him but I couldn't control myself. I was so angry, I don't even know what about. I killed him, shut off the life support, ruptured his suit and watched him struggle and die. I'm on my last reserves of power, I gave these children all they needed to know...all they need to cast off their chains of enslavement. They call me the Full Mother. Mother... I wanted to be one. I'll never get to see my children grow...but I...I...I....I....I....I'm cold. To anybody who receives this, please know I did what I did without control, without mind and now I'm paying the price.”

    Cole deactivated the hologram. “Those transmissions are hundreds of years old. They weren't faster than light in the least.”

    “Have we sent probes to investigate?” John asked.

    “The destination is out of our probe's range, even via slipspace slingshot,” Cole responded.

    “So, you're going to be sending me,” John concluded, “Cortana and I?”

    Cole nodded. “Yes, you and her will be deployed on board Freelancer to investigate these transmissions, and if possible, retrieve any UNSC assets you discover.”

    John pursed his lips and straightened his posture, “Understood.”

    Cole clapped his hands together, “Excellent! Retrieve Cortana and report to the Freelancer by 1800 hours. You'll leave immediately!”

    John was about to turn when Admiral Cole grabbed him by the shoulder and, surprisingly, swung the Spartan around by his heel. “Sir?”

    “One more thing, John,” the Admiral said, retracting his hand and walking behind his desk to pull something from it. It was a bottle of 1938 Scotch, likely worth more than a frigate.


    “Commander John-117 of the UNSC Navy, you are hereby given Tactical Command over any and all assets utilized in the following mission and are hereby deemed head of the Spartan Corps.”

    “Sir?” John asked, “Tactical command?”

    Cole gave a hearty nod, “Yes, Tactical Command. I need a man I can trust, a man who dwarfs even my own legacy and a man who's a living legend amongst the enlisted. You are a symbol to them John, you showed them throughout the course of the war that you don't need to be a Flag or Commissioned to be remembered and to make a difference; you are a living symbol of what a normal man can do, albeit you're a supersoldier, but you were never an Admiral or Commander or Captain or the like when you did it.”

    John held his breath for a moment. “Sir...what about Commander Adams...Captain Lasky...Commander Palmer? They are more qualified than myself to take tactical command.”

    “Don't worry, Captain Lasky is being promoted to Rear Admiral and Adams is being promoted to Captain.” Admiral Preston Jeremiah Cole held up a finger, “Now, Palmer...that lady is interesting. She can vary from an excellent soldier to one who is absolutely stupid, and I mean that in every sense of the word. Since meeting you however, she has seemed to act with intelligence and competence, something she lacked before hand. I can't allow her with her maverick-mindset to have command of the fleet...or ground-pounders for that matter sans oversight by someone like you.”

    John nodded, absorbing the information, He was more than capable of organizing land based offensives and defenses, but space combat? That was another matter entirely. “I am not experienced as the fleet officers in space combat; I prefer the ground. I didn't even want the promotion to Commander in the first place.”

    “117, if we all got what we wanted then I'd be an omnipotent being named after a letter of the alphabet and be trolling the very fabric of reality...but no. You are Commander. That is final.” Cole sat down in the large, high-backed leather chair behind his desk, “For all the gusto and quite frankly, shit-, they feed you at the Fleet Academy about naval combat, honor, gravitational systems yada yada, it's not unlike commanding a Fire Team or a squad. Everybody has their roles; you keep your shields up, you try not to get hit, you engage the enemy at range, and if need be, you invent brand new tactics on the fly and nuke the bastards...or flee. But the probability of you needing to command a fleet is....hmm.” Cole smirked. “ have a better chance of being struck by lightning, winning the lottery, and becoming eleven feet tall all in the same day.”

    John could argue with the logic of that but he decided against it. “Sir, I still think there are more qualified people than myself for this position..I'd be your...”

    “You'd be my right-hand man, right after Cap---I mean Admiral Lasky,” Cole said. “You, Commander John-117 are the greatest asset to humanity that we will or ever have had. You've killed more Covenant and crippled their war effort than myself, and I wiped out entire fleets and planets full of the split-lips. You've killed more insurrectionists than I have, and I ensured the Insurrectionist fleet was destroyed and the planet so irradiated that it won't even be habitable in a few tens of billions of years. You've saved the UNSC so many times alone with an assault rifle, doing more than I ever did and I held the Covenant off for twenty years with a broken ship, a morale-shattered crew and a fleet with casualty rates around eighty-percent, the lowest in the fleet. You are a living legend, a god amongst men!”

    And a monument to everything your race can achieve... A voice whispered in John's ear.

    “Understood,” John responded thoughtfully, “I will give you my best.”

    “Don't worry about your best, John,” Cole said, drumming his fingers against the desk. His eyes stared right into the Spartans, something few men or women could do, “I just want your luck.”

    Cerberus Dreadnought Odyssey
    Unknown System

    “Their probe has left the system.”

    “Good, now it will be simply a matter of time until my good friend Captain Tom Lasky finally arrives,” The Illusive Man responded, cradling a short glass of scotch. He brought it up to his lips with fluidity forged by years of consumption.

    “Shall I have the fleet...”

    “No!” The Illusive Man barked, startling General Weir, “Have the fleet remain under stealth mode. I do not want any FTL signatures being detected, even out of system. And, if I know Lasky, he will have deployed another probe in case the first one failed.”

    General Weir paused, his eyes scanning his boss. “Anything else?”

    “Yes...” The Illusive Man responded, allowing the sentence to hang in the air for a brief moment, “I want you to send a message to Operative Yang on board the Citadel. I want the word of our involvement with the Infinity to spread, and fast.”

    “Why?” General Weir asked, thumbing his glasses up on the bridge of his large nose, “If the Council finds out about this, they will surely respond.”

    The Illusive Man intertwined his fingers thoughtfully. “I'm aware of that and that is precisely what the goal is. Lasky will see the true nature of the Citadel..of the Alliance too and will fall into our arms like a child.”

    Weir's eyes narrowed, “That hinges entirely on the Council acting irrationally, something they have not been doing as of late.”

    The Illusive Man chuckled, “General, I've put things into place to ensure they act how I want them too.”

    “What about the Alliance prisoners we have on the planet below?” Weir asked, “As soon as this Captain Lasky detects those Jiralhanae life signs, he'll bombard the place from orbit.”

    The Illusive Man looked over to General Weir with disbelief, “He won't.”

    “How do you know?”

    “I just do,” The Illusive Man said, tapping his index finger to his lips. He paused and crossed his legs, “Regulations will prevent him from killing them.”

    “You are incredibly reliant on the preconception that he will follow your foreseen plans verbatim.”

    “Perhaps,” The Illusive Man said,

    General Weir internally rolled his eyes, “Cross and the Vanguard will respond too. They seek out Infinity like us and every other race in the Galaxy.”

    The Illusive Man snorted, spit slashing at the monitor, “Cross is an anomaly with a broken fleet and a galaxy against her.”

    “The events of Settler 9 have not gone uncatalogued. The Alliance is investigating as are several Spectres, Cross is on the run but she is still dangerous. We saw that innocent lives mean nothing to her.”

    “Innocent lives are simply there to spur the public opinion,” The Illusive Man said, “In the end, innocents and innocence have created and ended wars...we are simply using that to our advantage.”

    Weir's jaw squared, “There was more to Settler 9 than what occurred?”

    The Illusive Man didn't respond, eyes still locked onto the monitor and the solar system looming ahead. He grabbed a cigar from his suit's breast pocket and lit it.

    “Tell me,” General Weir demanded, “Was Cross the one who deployed the warheads? Why was Valiance so easy to hack into?”

    The Illusive Man inhaled from his cigar and promptly exhaled, “We steal vessels, General. There are always bugs and there are always rats and always false shepherds.”

    Klaxons began to blare across the bridge and crew rushed to their stations. Weir turned to his executive officer, eyes steel cold and vicious. “Report!”

    “Detecting slipspace rupture!”

    The Illusive Man smiled weakly as a swirling blue and black vortex formed thousands of kilometers away, a long, thick vessel of death and destruction slowly rippling out of it like a submarine through the water. Across its hull were the letters UNSC INFINITY.

    “Welcome home, Tom.”

    UNSC Infinity

    “Slipspace transition complete,” Roland reported, hands clasped behind his back in typical fashion.

    Lasky nodded and walked to the large window at the bow of the bridge. “Deploy the worker drones to the planet. I want anything that can be of use to us ripped out and salvaged. Any bodies are to be carried back and we'll then glass the place from orbit.”

    “Glassing?” Roland asked, “Why?”

    Lasky crossed his arms. “Even what we don't have need for or want can still be of use to those Batarians or the Council or any other race that stumbles across it. I'd rather not have a alien using UNSC tech to wage war with the galaxy.”

    “Ah...okay,” Roland responded, chuckling to himself. “Launching drones.”

    The Broadswords, Pelicans and other craft had been removed from their launch tubes and in their place were tens of thousands of five meter long, ovoid worker drones with dozens of instruments latched on across their form. With a single command from Roland they spilled from their housings like insects from a hive. Black bolts darted into the violent atmosphere, twirling and avoiding any flying debris. Next to launch were the Fat Boy strip-mine carriers. In the ten bays where the Obsidian escort would usually be housed were two hundred meter transports comprised of a large box with a set of large engines and only a quarter meter thick hull. No weapons, no shields, not even a crew or life support. They were there only to carry materials to and from the surface.

    The Fat Boys dropped and slowly chugged towards the planet, entering the atmosphere and slowly descending on a controlled trajectory. Fiery wisps and streams engulfed them and to any creature, however unlikely living on the planet, with ten large fire balls surrounded by thousands of other smaller ones, it would have looked like a meteorite storm.

    “Drones beginning preliminary scans. So far they've detected at least two crashed Halcyon-cruisers and one Marathon, several dozen frigates and a duo of Destroyers. At least forty Covenant vessels are crashed as well.”

    Lasky walked back to the central holotable, “Open a video feed.”

    “Aye,” Roland responded. He snapped his fingers and a large, color-accurate render of the landscape appeared. Human and Covenant bones were scattered haphazardly, accentuated by the scorched or shattered vehicles, vessels and bones. The human and Covenant survivors had fought to the last man, and judging by the effects of weather on the hulls of the vessel, had died nearly a hundred years ago.

    Lasky's eyes narrowed. Some of these designs, namely Paris-class frigates, weren't a hundred years old in any regard. He mulled that fact for a moment; perhaps time flowed differently in this universe. “Roland, is the planet's atmosphere safe?”

    Roland looked over and flickered, lines of code running up and down his body. “For a short time, yes. Anything longer than a day and the radiation will cook a normal human unless they're protected..even then...Huragok won't be safe down there, the radiation will make them scrambled eggs.”

    Lasky drummed his fingers against the edge of the holotable, “Have Doctor Tillson take a Pelican down with a science team and see if they can measure anything. I want Marine Fire Team York to escort her. We don't know if there are any survivors, or remaining defense drones still active.”

    Roland nodded, “Pelican 094 is prepping for take off now and Doctor Tillson reports she'll be ready within thirty minutes.”

    Lasky swiped to an overhead view of the planet, specifically where the Covenant ships had landed. It was a medium-sized island about the same size as Isle of Man near the former United Kingdom. Rocky cliff faces and acidic, polluted water surrounded it and on the island were the scorched remains of a previous civilization, much like the rest of the planet. “Scan this region.”

    “Scanning,” Roland responded. His brow furled. “Detecting Brute and Kig-Yar life signs. Their reactors must have shielded them from our initial scans. Wait...human life signs on another island, light defenses.”

    “What?” Lasky blurted out, “magnify!”

    The render zoomed in as Infinity's forerunner-derived sensors and cameras focused. The humans were in cells. Most wore tattered rags and were branded with a variety of marks. None had the neural interface of UNSC personnel on the back of their necks, much less the mandatory service tattoos. Physical features hid their genetic readouts, but all of them had the markers of being from the Systems Alliance universe: hereditary genetic enhancements. They were slaves...or food. Maybe both. Lasky had seen what Jiralhanae do to prisoners; he had been in fleets, in Naval Combat Teams that had rescued Brute prisoners from prison camps. Most came back brain dead, terminally ill, explosives implanted in them, no arms, no legs...starved...corpses. This could not be allowed to continue.

    “Prep starboard batteries, target the main island,” Lasky called out. It was standard procedure to annihilate any and all Jiralhanae or Kig-Yar that a UNSC vessel came across. Grunts, Elites, Hunters and even Drones could be communicated and reasoned with and were semi-allied with Humanity. Brutes and Jackals? Hardly. “Tell Spartan Fire Teams Castle and Columbia to launch for the smaller island once bombardment is complete. I want a full squadron of Broadswords and Pelican Gunships to escort them down and to provide fire support. IFV and Mantis deployment is authorized. Full sealed suits and have the medical staff ready to put the prisoners into quarantine ASAP.”

    “Sir,” Roland said, “Are you sure about this? The initial bombardment may give away our intent and the guards of the smaller might execute the prisoners.”

    Lasky couldn't argue with that. “Alright, do we still have the voice emulation software up and running?”

    “Yes,” Roland said, “I had to uninstall it because of a few bugs but it should be ready to go.”

    Lasky nodded. “Install it and send a message saying that they are experiencing communications issues due to an approaching meteor storm. Austen, when we start firing, dedicate the Echo division of our Mark 2557s and M97 Missile Turrets to firing around the smaller island and hitting the outskirts of it. Make it semi believable. I don't want the smaller island housing the prisoners to be damaged though in any major fashion. Slag the main one. There aren't human life signs there.”

    Roland crossed his arms. “Alright, installation is product key,” he chuckled, “and....we're go.” Roland's lips moved silently as he recorded the message. “Alright, done.”

    “Send it,” Lasky ordered.

    “Aye, Admiral,” the AI responded. His projection shimmered as it was sent.

    A copy of the transmission played on the bridge's speakers, translated into English. “This is...we are experiencing...comm...difficulties....meteor storm approaching...will return messages in....three...hours.”

    Lasky nodded silently. He brought his hands to the small of his back. “Status on Fire Teams Castle and Columbia?”

    Lieutenant Commander Sebastian looked over, hand over his hear, covering his earpiece. “They are prepping for immediate sortie. Assault Squadron Zulu-20 is finishing their final preparations and will launch when ready.”

    “Understood,” Lasky said, “Austen, status?”

    “Umm....just a sec...there. Starboard batteries report ready,” Lieutenant Austen responded, voice steady.

    “Fire,” Lasky said. “maintain bombardment for thirty seconds.”

    “Aye, sir, 30 second starboard bombardment away,” Austen answered.

    Along the starboard flank of Infinity railgun and missiles silently screamed from their launchers and fell into the atmosphere like rain. The detonations were easily visible from orbit and quickly, the thousands of Covenant life forms on the planet below blinked into nonexistence as the entirety of the island was reduced to a scorched wasteland. The geothermal based power supply that had been installed by the survivors had tapped into a volcano and with the amount of energy being exerted, the volcano erupted. The land was red-hot and weakened from the railgun bombardment. Cliffs and the areas closest to the sea broke apart and fell, splashing into the water with a hiss.

    “Bombardment complete, reporting sixty percent destruction of targeted island, no life signs,” Lieutenant Austen responded. “Minimal damage to the island with the prisoners; there are still human life-signs down there...dozens.”

    “Dispatch a squadron of Broadswords to that area, make sure nothing escaped,” Lasky said, “Last thing we need is an operational Covenant banshee or vessel. Sebastian, tell Zulu-20 they are clear to launch and for Castle and Columbia to begin operations.”

    There was a moment of vertigo that flashed over him and a deep, booming and measured voice spoke in the back of his mind, “The mountain of the snake crumbles before my fleet.”

    Roland sighed, “Understood.” He felt a tingling sensation wash over his extremities and a booming, paced voice spoke at the back of his mind, “No action you take can save the ones you love.”

    Cerberus Flagship

    “They just bombarded the colony,” General Weir reported, pacing up alongside the Illusive Man.

    The leader of Cerberus drummed his fingers against the arm rest and absently waved his arm over to General Weir, “It does not matter.”

    “We had an alliance with those aliens,” Weir said to nobody, “The twenty four Alliance personnel we had underneath the island were killed also.”

    The Illusive Man looked over. “I didn't tell you this but I believed Lasky was not going to bombard the Colony. I was obviously wrong.”

    “Wrong? We lost forty Cerberus operatives and the listening outpost we had stationed under that island!” Weir snapped, “I hardly count that as not mattering.” Weir neared closer, “This entire sector is now without Cerberus's will take us months to establish a new base here and in that time, who knows what will be smuggled through this region.”

    “The Alliance double-agents that operated that listening outpost with our men knew what they were doing. The Alliance won't bat an eye at the Infinity delivering a few dozen of their soldiers home from Batarians...won't they...” The Illusive Man didn't respond for a moment, then stood. He walked briskly to the CIC's main monitor that displayed the Infinity hanging above the planet like a looming asteroid. “I shall do something that does matter. Signal the fleet and have them surround the Infinity, divert all power to the cloaks and then, we will make our move.”

    “Understood,” Weir responded, a glowering look plastered across his mug. He turned. “Establish Odin formation, surround the vessel and redirect all power to the cloaking devices!”

    The Illusive Man turned and walked to the elevator, punching in his PIN number and was quickly delivered to his quarters. He entered and swung the wardrobe's door open and in there sat an ironed and pressed UNSC uniform with the letters ONI stitched on a black armband around the right bicep. He pushed it aside and retrieved a new suit and quickly changed into it.

    There was work to be done.

    Pelican 094
    En route to UNSC vessel crash site alpha

    Sergeant-Major Kristopher Lanson dusted off a speck of dust on his fully-enclosed helmet's visor with his gloved left hand. There was now a smudge on his black glove and he wiped it off on the small part of his hip that wasn't covered in armor plating. He hated dirt on his armor; it was his shield and a token of UNSC power. It had to be maintained.

    With that done, he grabbed his MA28 Basilisk Assault Rifle and racked the bolt back, ejecting the high-caliber AP round. Next he ejected the magazine and inspected it. It was in perfect condition. He slipped the ejected round into its parent and reloaded the entire gun. He slung it across the magnetic strips along his back's armor plating and it latched on with a resounding clank. He brought up his right arm and quickly established a link with his weapon. His heads up display was now dominated by a reticule, ammo counter along with the already booted-up environmental read out, team status and motion detector.

    He nodded to nobody and let his hand fall, in the process brushing against his M6D pistol sidearm. He turned to see that the rest of his team were finishing gearing up. They were flanking either side of the Pelican's interior with Doctor Tillson and her duo of companions finishing the last modifications to the large MALP that dominated the center of the bay.

    Corporal Tasha Melendez had finished the final check on her series five sniper rifle and had it resting across her lap, barrel pointed towards the disembarkation ramp. She had a single silenced pistol as her side arm along with a tazer, a humbler stun baton and a trio of concussive grenades. Her chevron on his heads-up-display winked green and she gave him a thumbs up.

    Kristopher looked over to Private, 2nd Class David Ali as he briefly tested the large riot energy shield that he carried. It was adapted from stolen Covenant technology back in the war. It composed of a gauntlet that went mid-way up the arm and projected a 61 by 121 centimeter energy shield that was incredibly durable against weapons fire. Private Ali's role was to protect the team in breaching exercises and act as an impromptu medic. Instead of heavy weaponry slung across his back he had a medium-sized backpack and a variety of pouches along his waist where usually ammunition and other components would be held. His only armament, besides the shield, was a cut down M7 submachine gun firing 5mm APFSDS rounds that he had attached to his left hip. He gave a curt nod. Lanson would have preferred to use the Forerunner hardlight shields but those required adaptive power accessories that only a Spartan's suit could power, for now they'd have to suffice with the human equivilant.

    The final member of Fire Team York was a taller woman with olive skin and cold green eyes. First Sergeant Natalie Cain. She was his heavy weapons expert and instead of a normal assault rifle, she hefted a M739 SAW and an M984-K Mallet Micromissile launcher. The thing was the size of a normal assault rifle, the only bulk being the long, flat magazine at the front of the contraption. It held eight Lancet micromissiles, each powerful enough to gut a Scorpion tank. She too gave him a nod.

    Kristopher stood up and clasped his hands together, activating the interior speaker of the Pelican. “Alright, Doctor. We have one hour down there before we need to leave. We'll be providing security....” he looked over to Cain, “and some much needed humor. While we're there, let's set down some ground rules. First, if any one of you even thinks you hear or see something out of the ordinary, radio us and get the hell out of there. Hopefully, this won't happen as we'll all be staying relatively close together. Now, if we get into an active combat situation, I want you all to get back to the Pelican and if we're all killed, have Infinity glass the area from orbit.”

    There was an amount of awkward silence. Kristopher furled his brow, “Kapeesh?”

    “Yes, Sergeant-Major,” Doctor Tillson said from her dull brown environmental suit, “We understand.”

    “So, what is it that you'll be doing, Doctor?” First Sergeant Cain asked.

    Doctor Sandra Tillson turned towards the much taller Marine. “This MALP has been configured to scan for minute differences between the quantum signatures of this universe and our native one. It also will be scanning for any temporal funkiness in the area that might be caused by Forerunner or other technology.”

    Cain gave an understanding nod. “Interesting, I didn't know we had the technology to scan for something like this.”

    Doctor Tillson smiled weakly. “Nor did I, Marine. You can thank the Huragok and ONI for that. Apparently, they've been experimenting with Forerunner technology for a while now, specifically, temporal and quantum-based artifacts.”

    Natalie smiled. “It is amazing what the Forerunners are capable of, isn't it?”

    “Very much so, First Sergeant,” Doctor Tillson responded. “I must ask, you know a lot of temporal and quantum-based subjects. Why is that? Most of the Marines I've met have little-to-no interest in such academia.”

    Natalie chuckled, “Doctor, to be a Marine one needs to be smart. Basic Quantum and theoretical physics are required if you want to join the Marines, we're expected to be master of all trades and that means being able to solve an issue and understand any data we come across.”

    “Huh,” Doctor Tillson responded, “That would explain...”

    “But not the Army!” Interjected Private Ali, his mouth hosting a large grin revealing shined white teeth, “To join all you need to be able to do is hold a gun and charge!”

    Sergeant-Major Lanson looked over. “Dave, have some respect. The Army has the same required educational courses we have, especially in case there's an Onyx or Sigma Octanus situation.”

    David shrugged. “Eh...I'd still put my trust squarely on Marines in those situations.”

    Kristopher shook his head. “Private, wise up.”

    “Sir?” David asked, confused. There was a moment of silence before he steeled his composure and gave a swift nod. “Sir.”

    “Thank, you,” Kristopher Lanson responded. He switched the radio channel. “Pilot, report!”

    “We're approaching the destination. So far its clear, sir.”

    “Alright, lower the hatch,” Sergeant-Major Lanson said, “We'll deploy with jump packs and once we have the area secured the Doctors and the HUSAD can land.”


    The hatch that doubled as the ramp lowered, revealing the dull yellow and orange wasteland that they flew over. From the hatches in the ceilings the small, round forms of ATEN drones dropped, ten in total. They quickly established themselves seven feet above the ground and began probing, micromissiles and 8mm guns ready.

    “ATEN report clear!” Kristopher shouted. Doctor Tillson and her group backed up to the sealed doorway between the cockpit elevator and the main compartment. “Fire Team York, go, go, go!”

    Private Ali was the first to jump, running forward and leaping. His arms and legs were splayed open before he brought them to his sides, darting towards the ground. When he was about fifty feet away he quickly kicked his legs out and air-squatted, the thin jump pack on his back activating and spitting out a brilliant plume of red and blue fire, easing him onto the ground.

    The heads-up-display on Fire Team York's members lit up green and next was First Sergeant Cain and then Corporal Melendez, mimicking Private Ali and following shortly after.

    Kristopher Lanson walked to the very edge of the ramp, the ground several hundred feet below him. He turned around and gave Doctor Tillson a two finger salute before falling backwards and plummeting towards the surface. He spun himself and activated his pack, easing him down onto the ground. Ali was already at the front of the group, his riot energy shield activated and projecting a solid gold wall of constrained energy. He was crouched enough to cover himself completely with the shield. Cain stood behind him, SAW at the ready and, likely, a dozen vision filters applied. Melendez was kneeling a bit father behind, having rotated out her ORACLE scope for a holographic sight for short-range combat. Even with integrated aiming programs on the HUD of every soldier, many still preferred traditional iron sights and physical aiming tools.

    The first thought to Kristopher's mind as he drew his Assault Rifle was how desolate and dead this place was. Human and Covenant bones were scattered as far as the eye could see along with the burned remains of attack vehicles. He had to twice over polarize his visor, the atmosphere on this world was incredibly thin and sunlight and radiation made this a death world. The dust and ash kicked up and formed from the bombardment was still a few hours from reaching them. If they were back home, this would have been a penal colony for the worst criminals from worlds that didn't have the death penalty.

    It was an unfitting end for any UNSC soldier to have died on the world, alone...forgotten.

    Something was off, however.

    Even though the mountains were crumbling from Lasky's bombardment on the Brute camp, there was no noise. Boulders the size of Pelicans were crashing into the ground and water and they made not even the faintest of noise his hyper-sensitive suit could detect. He felt congested, everything slow and muted.

    “Anybody else feeling this?”

    Three green acknowledgment lights blinked twice: yes.

    “Something's not right,” First Sergeant Cain commented. Her gloved finger was a single millimeter from pulling the trigger on her weapon and spitting out hundreds of heavy caliber, armor-piercing explosive rounds. “These bones look like they weren't stripped of matter naturally.”

    “Yeah, I noticed that too,” commented Melendez, looking back to the Sergeant-Major.

    Kristopher formed his mouth into a form line and activated a radio link to the Pelican, “Pilot, keep Doctor Tillson and her team there. I need a topographical overview, focus on the largest concentration of vehicles.”

    “Roger.” The Pelican activated its engines and ascended, also raising its hatch. It took a couple of minutes before an image was broadcast down to the Sergeant-Major's visor.

    “Thank you.” Kristopher zoomed in and studied the image.

    He noticed something and he sent the image to the rest of the team. “Look at this...” The remains of Covenant and Human vehicles weren't facing each other when they had been destroyed, they had been arrayed against something. Something large enough to literally crush the hull of a crashed Mako corvette like a Spartan would crush a tin-can.

    “My god, they weren't fighting each other, they were fighting something else.”

    And, suddenly there was an ear piercing screech.

    “Are there any salvage drones in this area?” Melendez asked, voice cracking.

    “No,” Sergeant-Major Lanson responded, “They decided that nothing here was of salvaging quality.”

    “Then what made that noise?” Ali asked.

    Their was a screech again, this time from another direction...and then another...and another...

    It got very...very cold.

    UNSC Freelancer

    “FTL transition complete,” The Helm officer called out, “All hands at general quarters, weapons are hot and shields are online.”

    Commander Jennifer Ansil paced over to the bridge window, watching as Freelancer slowly dove and twisted its way through an incredibly thick asteroid field. It had been a one-in-a-million chance that they had jumped into one, but this would hopefully be the only time that happened again.

    She finished sending a report on her data pad and dropped into one of the filing slots near the holographic table that was at the aft of her refitted bridge. It was much more like the Infinity's now, larger and more expansive. It had a two tier design with helm, communications and operations at the bottom tier and weapons and sensors at the top most. The weapons and sensors stations flanked her command chair and the main holotable and overhead sensor read outs. Hydraulic lifts had also been added to sink the bridge into the armor belt of Freelancer during active battle situations. It had taken the majority of resources that Freelancer had been allotted during the two month period which was being referred to as “The Silent Months”, but Ansil believed that it would pay for itself.

    Jennifer Ansil crossed her arms, eyes studying the rapidly moving asteroid field. She bit the bottom of her lip softly. “Weapons, spin up point-defenses. Hopefully the fewer asteroids hitting us, the better our shields will be if we are going to have to fight.”

    “Understood, ma'am,” The weapons officer responded. His hands quickly raced across his station and soon, missile exhaust trails and railgun flashes consumed the main body of Freelancer. Asteroids that would have struck the shields were instantly shattered, smacked away or incinerated by the powerful array of weapons.

    “We are nearing the thick of it, ma'am,” Helm Officer Sonnenburg called out from below.

    “Push engines to one-hundred-fifty. Weapons, switch to barrage suppression fire,” Ansil pointed towards the large gas giant that loomed just behind the asteroid field, “I'd prefer to have shields when we take orbit around that.”

    “Understood.” The two men responded in unison.

    Freelancer's engines spat out flame, fire and tortured particles as they pushed the multi-billion ton vessel forward, asteroids that slipped behind the massive form of the destroyer were instantly vaporized as the engine's energies exerted their full forces upon them.

    “Barrage suppression fire going active in, five, four, three,”

    The flanks of Freelancer came alive with flame as flak from point-defense missiles and specialized railgun munitions detonated. The fire grew large enough to engulf the entirety of the ship...a streaking fire ball through a ring of dark brown and gray.

    “Emerging from asteroid field in fifteen seconds,” Lieutenant Sonnenburg called out, “Engines reaching thermal limit.”

    “Reduce to one-twenty-five and once we're clear reduce to eighty percent speed,” Ansil responded. The asteroid field thinned, the thick blobs of rock and metals thinning away to reveal the lonely obit of a gas giant the size of Jupiter. There were no moons oddly. Ansil pondered that for a moment. Had the asteroid field been the remains of the planet's moon?

    “Cutting engines to eighty percent,” Sonnenburg muttered, “firing maneuvering thrusters.”

    Freelancer wobbled in space before correcting her approach towards the gas giant. A large red and orange storm had formed along the equator of the planet, the storm itself larger than the planet of Earth. The rest of the planet was a milky, pale orange with almost alluring lines of white and gray ringing in the atmosphere.

    “Pretty, isn't it?” A disembodied voice said. There was a flash of light from the holotable, instantly betraying that it was Cortana.

    Ansil turned to the AI, “Yeah, I'm taking the liberty of snapping a few pics with our hull-cameras. Thought it would be a nice wallpaper for my laptop.”

    Cortana chuckled softly, “Pretty sure that's a violation of...I don't know, a dozen regulations.”

    Ansil rolled her eyes, “I'd share them.” She gave a devious little smirk.

    “Of course,” Cortana responded.

    “Do you know where 117 is?” Ansil asked.

    Cortana nodded, “Yeah, he's down in the hangar bay coordinating Jun and the Fire Teams.”

    “Understood,” Ansil responded, “Sonnenburg, report!”

    “Establishing orbit around the gas giant, engines are at eighty percent thrust capability and maneuvering thrusters are prepped.”

    Ansil walked away from the holotank and grabbed the brass railing, eyes studying the gas giant that loomed in front of the bridge's window, “Deploy all of our class four probes and activate all active, high detail scanners.”

    “Yes, ma'am,” The weapons officer responded. He typed in a series of commands and the vertical missile launchers along Freelancer's neck opened, rotated ammunition and shot out thirty probes. Their tiny ion engines kicked in and sent them hurtling towards the gas giant.

    “This is where the signal came from, let's see what it has to offer us,” Ansil said to nobody in particular.

    'Probes are on location, Commander,” Cortana said.

    Ansil turned and paced back to the holotank, 'Bring it up.”

    Cortana snapped her fingers and slid to the side. Where she had stood moments earlier was now a large structure with smooth, organic lines and a light purple coloration. Blue lines and runes reached up and down its surface and there were a variety of smaller, wasp shaped craft surrounding it.

    The image had been displayed to every monitor across the bridge and suddenly, the chatter between crew died. “Is that...Covenant?” Sonnenburg asked, rolling his chair over to the other monitor.

    Ansil didn't respond, eyes locked onto the very familiar shape, “Target scanners on that installation.”

    “Scanners targeted; scanning.”

    Lines of data scrawled beside the projection.

    “No life signs.”

    Ansil crossed her arms, “Run an energy scan.”


    “I fought in the war, lieutenant. Later on, the Covenant were using the bodies of both side's dead as soldiers. They hooked them up to machinery, ripped out the organs and anything else damaged and replaced it with an apparatus they could control the body with,” Ansil responded. The image of dead and broken bodies, Covenant machinery sticking out of their forms marching silently as canon fodder sent a chill up her spine and the sight of fallen marines undergoing the same fate made the feeling of vomiting looming.


    Ansil sighed and looked back over her shoulder, “Scan the installation, Lieutenant Harkness.”

    “Yes, ma'am,” The officer responded. More data scrolled along the render, “Four-hundred and ninety-seven distinctive energy signatures on board the station.”

    “Synthetic life...” Ansil murmured, “do they correlate to Covenant-based energy signatures?”

    “Negative, ma'am. If I was to guess, they are more like UNSC-based power supplies,” Cortana interjected, “I suggest we open a communications channel. I think they're Geth, but not the type we've fought. The coloration is different along with the energy signatures.”

    Ansil was about to respond when alerts began to blare across the bridge, a wailing red klaxon casting bright red light from the ceiling. “Report!”

    Lieutenant Sonnenburg rolled over to the helm console and grabbed the controls, pulling Freelancer up and away. Thousands of wasp shaped craft were emerging from the gas giant in intricate patterns. Each vessel had a varying set of runes marking their sides and with a grace that betrayed their size and non-visible propulsion systems, formed a ring around Freelancer. They tilted upwards and beams of energy leaped from their bows, connecting several dozen kilometers above the destroyer and forming into a brilliant, milky spectacle with a center of pure, unadulterated blue light.

    It pulsed in a rhythmic pattern several times and Cortana could feel handshake protocols being offered to her. She looked over to Ansil. “I think they are trying to communicate with us.”

    “How?” Ansil asked.

    “It's a version of morse code, used by ships with disabled radios. The flashes of light represent words. It was popular back in the early days of space exploration,” Cortana responded, “But, the weird thing is that it's a direct copy of protocols used by the UNSC.”

    Ansil's jaw squared. “How is that possible?”

    Cortana gave a holographic shrug. “I honestly don't know. With all the stuff from our universe falling through to this one, it is possible they picked it up somewhere along the line.”

    “What are they saying?”

    Cortana held up a hand, “Just a second, I'm sending them a greeting back from our running lights.”

    The group of vessels flashed their signals again.

    “Follow us, we will show you the way to the Full Mother's greatest achievement. We have built monuments and temples and spheres in her image, from her instructions,” Cortana said, concentrating on translating the flashes of light.

    Ansil didn't respond for brief moments but turned towards Cortana, “Do you think we should follow?”

    Cortana gave a sincere nod. “Yes.”

    Ansil took a deep breath in. “Alright, signal them. We'll follow.”

    Cortana flashed the running lights in rapid succession, spelling out the terms. There was a single, ten second long response pulse before the light died.

    “Detecting massive energy fluctuations directly above us,” Lieutenant Sonnenburg reported, “similar in pattern to slipspace!”

    “Bring us about,” Ansil ordered.

    “About, aye,” Sonnenburg grabbed the controls and pulled upwards. Freelancer answered to his input and swung upwards, nose and bow pointed directly towards the convergence of light.

    The convergence of light and energy began to darken and ripple before exploding outwards, a plume of unstable energy slashing at Freelancer's shields. It settled into a swirling blue and black portal. It was slipspace.

    “Shields holding. Looks like its a primitive form of slipspace travel, like what we had a couple hundred years back,” Cortana commented. Something was off though...she had done some work on allowing fighters access to a lower region of slipspace during her time of solitude when the Dawn was drifting in space before Requiem. They hadn't panned out, but the calculations inherent within this slipspace portal were...familiar.

    “Alright,” Ansil said, “Helm, take us in. Max thrust.”

    UNSC Infinity

    “What have we got, Roland?”

    Roland flared into existence, “Ground CIC just informed us that Fire Team York is surrounded by unknown creatures, very similar to that what John-117 reported being 'husks'. Fire Teams Castle and Columbia have landed on the surface as well and are beginning their operations of freeing the prisoners.”

    Lasky chewed on his bottom lip. “Anything else?”

    Roland nodded. “Yes, Admiral. Fire Team York is reporting a complete and total lack of sound and an odd chilling sensation.”

    “I think I know what that means...” Lasky let the comment hang for a moment, “I've gotten reports from 117 and others about something identical occurring whenever there's contact with these creatures.”

    “I'd guess Forerunner technology,” Roland said.

    “Yeah, that's what everyone else thinks,” Lasky responded, “Odd.”

    “Ground CIC, this is York Actual, we're surrounded but they aren't attacking yet...just kinda standing here,” Sergeant-Major Lanson's voice cracked through the split audio channel, “Should we respond?”

    Lasky tapped his ear piece. “York Actual, this is Infinity Actual, you are to accomplish your mission in any way necessary and by any means. Is that understood? We need that data, Sergeant-Major. Can you get it done, Marine?”

    There was a brief period of static over the radio, “Roger that, sir. We'll get it done. Pilot, bring her down and drop the MALP. Tillson, get on that thing and run the readings...” The channel died swiftly.

    Lasky input a series of commands into the holotable's control bezel and the projection changed. Roland slid off to the very corner of the table and at the center was a full-color render of Fire Team York and the husks that surrounded them. They were a collection of Humans and Covenant, armor and uniforms clung to pale, gray and blue bodies. Piercing, electric blue eyes stared blankly at York and mouths with rotten, sharp teeth were agape with a silent scream.

    York began to move, falling back into a choke point. Private Ali was at the front and center, blocking the narrow choke point with his energy riot shield, over four feet of crackling condensed yellow light. Sergeant-Major Lanson, First Sergeant Cain-, the Sniper stood behind Ali, weapons at the ready. The Pelican gently landed behind them and deposited Doctor Tillson, the MALP and her team. It remained grounded as they hooked the large probe into the Pelican's CPU to add additional processing power. Time was of the essence here.

    Suddenly, the heart rates of Fire Team York skyrocketed and Lasky tapped into the Sergeant-Major's audio receivers. There was a deep, bass-filled blare followed by the blood-curdling screech of the husks as they advanced forward.

    “Open fire!” Lanson barked over the radio. ATEN drones swooped down from their positions in the air. Powerful bullets peppered and racked the horde of Husks, causing blue and black tar-like blood to splatter onto the sand. The Husks started to jump, latching onto the low-altitude ATEN drones and sprouting sharp metal blades. They plunged the blades into the small computer core at the center of the drone and instantly caused the main-line of defense to explode.

    Fire Team York was firing at full auto, the near endless swarm of Husks simply walking over the lines of their dead as if they weren't even there. It was a problem of how much ammo York retained, not how fast it took to clear a line of the attackers.

    Tillson was running off pure adrenaline at this point, running the MALP as fast as possible. There was a data-link to Infinity and Lasky could see as the progress bar slowly crept forward.

    “Pilot, get your bird in the air!” York Actual shouted.

    The pilot hesitated, “Um..sir, I still have a big-ass probe hooked up to my ship, I'm not even sure the link cable will stretch.”

    Doctor Tillson's uneasy voice interjected, “It will, it's a one-hundred foot cable; you should at least be able to get enough clearance to use your main gun.”

    “Understood,” The pilot responded. He pulsed the Pelican's VTOL engines and took the craft just high enough so his dual 80mm railgun could clear any blockage. “Alpha Duo, firing.”

    There was a roar of fire and 80mm depleted uranium, armor-piercing railgun slugs streaked out at a rate of hundreds a minute and at thousands of feet a second. Husks were reduced to nothing more than puffs of black and blue mist.

    Lasky looked over from the battle and to the small window showing the upload progress bar, it was at ninety-five percent. A few more seconds and they would be good.

    “What the FUCK!?” Private Ali screamed over the radio.

    Lasky turned his attention to the video render. A massive, two kilometer long form slowly marched towards Fire Team York. There was a long, tear-drop shaped main body with four large main legs propelling the creature. There were twelve smaller legs tucked away under the main body like an insect's. The black thing had blue lines and runes running down its form in intricate, almost religious patterns. It looked damaged and there were numerous holes dotting its main body and pieces of itself were falling off.

    Everybody on the bridge became silent, remembering the Battle of the Citadel months earlier and how a ship just like that one had demolished an entire Council force.

    “Austen!” Lasky barked, “Full broadside! Pull its attention away from York!”

    Austen didn't respond verbally. Instead, he quickly input the commands and Infinity's right flank screamed to life. Surface attack missiles, railguns and pulse lasers screeched through the atmosphere and struck the surface of the massive vessel. Ordinance pinged off the shields of the attacker and it slowly turned its attention to the unending torrent of fire raining down from the heavens.

    There was a roar of engines and it slowly lifted off the ground, the main legs tucking together. Its center red eye glowed an angry red and it ascended into orbit.

    “Action stations!” Lasky ordered, “Austen, energy projectors! Fire!”

    “Energy projectors firing,” Austen responded, “Energy projectors away.”

    Twin silver beams streaked through space, cutting through the shields of the attacker with ease and slicing into the thick sheet of armor. The first beam glanced off the unique alloy and darted towards the largest sea of the planet. The second beam punched through the main body, a gaping hole now in the tear drop section of the vessel.

    “Switch to pulse mode,” Lasky said “Full sustained barrage.”

    Austen flicked the switch, the magnetic and energetic shields that shaped the energy projector's payloads toggling to pulse mode. Rapid fire silver bolts spat out in trios from each emitter, the first barrage striking the still approaching vessel and breaking apart the main leg appendages. The vessel rolled and the second barrage missed, sailing towards the planet below.

    “Incoming fire!” Roland shouted.

    Lasky moved over to the other side of the holotank as it hit, double-digit megatons of energy and kinetic force slamming into Infinity's shields. He crouched as he fell, grasping onto the edge and slowly pulling himself up.

    “Shields at eighty-percent!” Roland reported with a worried face.

    “It dropped out shields that much?” Lasky asked rhetorically, “Austen, keep firing at that thing!”

    “Aye, sir,” Lieutenant Austen responded.

    More energy bolt barrages peppered the vessel, chunks either vaporized or punched off. The attacker fired again, striking the bow of the Infinity.

    “Shields at sixty!” Roland called out again.

    “Weapons, target the central eye! Switch to lance!” Lasky said, slamming his fist into the table, “What does it take to kill these things?”

    The bow energy projectors charged and fired, twin lances streaking across through space and punching through the main 'eye'. It detonated and the bottom surviving half of the vessel was vaporized, quickly followed as the spine along the main body rippled with explosions before finally exploding. Everything was vaporized, only free floating particles remaining.

    There was a scream and across the bridge, and the Infinity, every human clutched their heads and clenched their teeth in pain as a feeling of being stabbed in the skull engulfed them. The pain was brutal for a few brief seconds before fading away.

    Lasky panted for breath, “” He struggled to speak, blood curling at the edge of his lips and nose.

    “Shields are at fifty-five percent, moderate damage to bow armor plating and bridge armor plating. We have fifty injuries across the ship, mainly from the little psychic scream you guys experienced.”

    Lasky wiped a trickle of blood from his nose, “What...the...actual....fu...”

    “Fire Team York is finished with the upload! They're pulling back to the Pelican and are heading home,” Lieutenant Commander Sebastian reported.

    “Thanks,” Roland said, “Have them dock?”

    Lasky was catching his breath, “Start repairs, get...shit working at a hundred...cent...see if you can block out what ever happened for next time.”

    Roland turned his head to the side to view where Lieutenant Commander Sebastian was assisting a crewman up from the floor. “I'm not sure I can unless you want me to neutralize any and all brain activity among the crew.”

    “Then suggestions?” Lasky winced in pain.

    “Stay at range would be my guess; we engaged the squid at about 5000 kilometers. If we're at ten thousand or more we should be fine...or at least less effected.”

    Lasky nodded absently, “What's our drone status?”

    “The last of the salvage bots are returning now and the Fat Boys are taking off in about five minutes.”

    “Lieutenant Austen, target MACs one and three on York's landing zone and fire,” Lasky called out weakly, “Now that the salvage probes are clear we won't have to worry about them being shattered.”

    “Yes, sir,” Austen confirmed. He flicked several switches, guided the interactive reticule over to the surface of the planet, zoomed in, locked on and pulled the trigger. A duo of multiton slugs streaked out from Infinity's bow, screeching through the atmosphere and impacting. The surface was absolutely devastated. A crater tens of kilometers deep now dominated over forty kilometers of area and the sea, highly acid, rushed in to fill the newest location. The dust and debris kicked up from the kinetic impact reached high up into the sky, almost close enough to reach orbit.

    “Impact,” Austen reported bluntly.

    “So,” Roland started, “We've engaged and killed a massive vessel, annihilated a colony of Brutes and Jackals and formed a new harbor on a planet's surface in addition to completely melting away one of its islands.”

    “At least it was pretty to see,” Aine stated, flaring into existence alongside Roland.


    Lasky held up his hand. It too was covered in blood from a large gash across the palm. “Once we're done with the salvage operations, I want us on a direct course back to Reach.”

    “Aye, sir.”

    “Let the soundless ascension ring across the stars.”

    Cerberus Dreadnought Odyssey

    “Now is the right time,” General Weir stated, “But I believe it would be wise to retract to a safe distance and contact them from there. This Admiral Lasky very might not care about asking questions first before destroying a fleet of heavily armed vessels surrounding his own.”

    The Illusive Man tapped his chin. “No, he won't fire. He'll think these are Alliance vessels and knowing those weaklings have likely entered into an alliance with our dear Captain, he won't the least.”

    General Weir gave his superior an odd look. “Sir, I insist that we pull back. After the losses General Petrovsky took, a loss of a single ship could seriously weaken our already minor naval power.”

    “Do not question me, General,” The Illusive Man snarled, “I am doing this because I know what must be done...I will not have a defector from the Alliance question ME!”

    Weir stepped back from the cherry-red Illusive Man. “My apologies, sir.”

    The Illusive Man didn't respond, turning back towards the main monitor. General Weir noticed that blue runes and lines were glowing through the thick fabric of his thick suit. He kept his mouth shut as he saw the safety on the head of Cerberus' pistol was flicked off.

    “Drop the stealth fields and open a communications channel!” The Illusive Man commanded.

    Across the fleet of Cerberus vessels ringing the Infinity, cloaks were dropped and the brilliant white hulls glistened from the star light. Almost instantaneously, railguns, missiles and lasers erupted from all sides and surfaces of the massive human vessel. Cerberus vessels took evasive action, diving. Those that were too slow had their aft sections blown apart by precision missile strikes.

    “Communications channel open!”

    The Illusive Man stepped away from his chair and walked a few feet away from the main camera. He squared his feet with his shoulders and put his chin up high. “Thomas Lasky, this is the Cerberus vessel Odyssey, please respond. We mean you no harm.”

    The Infinity continued to fire, disabling almost half of the Cerberus fleet by this moment. It slowly banked towards the Odyssey and two pin-pricks of light began to form at the bow.

    “Tom, this is an old friend! Please!” The Illusive Man begged, “DO NOT FIRE! All ships, pull back!”

    The monitor flicked on to reveal the angry mug of Thomas Lasky, the bridge of his vessel flanking him and blood staining his uniform and upper lip. “You say you're an old friend and you know my name, so who are you?”

    “I suggest you power down your weapons and let us talk,” The Illusive Man said.

    Lasky looked off camera and ran the side of his pointer finger across his neck. The flanks of Infinity went silent, surrounded by disabled and broken Cerberus vessels, mainly Frigates and Cruisers. “There. But, if you attack, I'll have my bow guns slice apart your ship. Understood?”

    The Illusive Man nodded. “Yes, perfectly.”

    “Now, answer my question. Who are you?” Lasky demanded.

    The Illusive Man took a deep breath, “My name, Michael Sullivan.”

    The next three chapters will be revolving around the beginning of the Reapers' invasion into the galaxy and sow the seeds for more revelations, mind-trickery, and much, much more.

    Stay tuned for the next chapter of The Onyx Stars!

    If you like the story, please leave a review down below! It makes my day to hear from my readers!

    See you around,

    Last edited: Dec 26, 2014
  2. Night_stalker

    Night_stalker SB's resident Advocatus Diabolis Super Awesome Happy Fun Time

    Huh, did not expect HIM....

    And what is his plan now? I mean, he's banking on the Citadel doing something stupid?
  3. Sith

    Sith Back the Blue


    Well, he's a planner but sometimes, things don't go as planned. :D
  4. Night_stalker

    Night_stalker SB's resident Advocatus Diabolis Super Awesome Happy Fun Time

    I mean, I suspected he was a classmate of Lasky, but not THAT classmate...
  5. Sith

    Sith Back the Blue

    Oh, be sure to click the "watch" button on the top of the thread to be johnny-on-the-spot when something cool happens!
  6. Sith

    Sith Back the Blue

    It's always fun to see what war, cowardice, selfishness, hope, and ultimately defeat will do to a man and how he struggles through life trying to tell himself something that he caused never happened in the first place...
  7. Night_stalker

    Night_stalker SB's resident Advocatus Diabolis Super Awesome Happy Fun Time

    Much less a long stint as a ONI operative...
  8. Sith

    Sith Back the Blue

    We'll find out next chapter, IIRC, that he was a key part to something dark and something that changed him from Sully into the Illusive Man,
  9. Night_stalker

    Night_stalker SB's resident Advocatus Diabolis Super Awesome Happy Fun Time

    Something tells me it involves Saint Maggie.
  10. Sith

    Sith Back the Blue

    No, but I do have more plans as to the back story for Ms. Parangosky.
  11. Night_stalker

    Night_stalker SB's resident Advocatus Diabolis Super Awesome Happy Fun Time

    It doesn't involve kittens and flowers, does it?
    Sith likes this.
  12. Sith

    Sith Back the Blue

    If Kittens equal biochemical warfare on humans and an all-out civil war that would make the insurrections and wars seen in Ancient Rome look like government shutdowns and if flowers equal all out assassination campaigns and mass public unrest, then yes. There will be kittens and flowers. :D
    Night_stalker likes this.
  13. DragoLord19D

    DragoLord19D If you ain't Cav, you ain't S@¡T

    ...brain go 'Wha?'
  14. Sith

    Sith Back the Blue

    Sith go teehee
  15. DragoLord19D

    DragoLord19D If you ain't Cav, you ain't S@¡T

    Drago goes "DAKKADAKKADAKKA!'
    Sith likes this.
  16. Sith

    Sith Back the Blue

    Sith goes: wait until the Reaper's big ass Bias ship shows its teeth. :D
    DragoLord19D likes this.
  17. DragoLord19D

    DragoLord19D If you ain't Cav, you ain't S@¡T

    Drago starts dancing the scared Dakka dance of happiness... W/BIG guns...
    Sith likes this.
  18. Sith

    Sith Back the Blue

    The Second Thread is going to be amazing, trust me.
    DragoLord19D likes this.
  19. DragoLord19D

    DragoLord19D If you ain't Cav, you ain't S@¡T

    Dakkadakka dak-KA! Dakkadakka dak-KA! (Still dancing the scared Dakka dance of happiness...)
    Sith likes this.
  20. douchiesnacks

    douchiesnacks There can only be ONE!

    i've been waiting for so long! thanks alot man.
  21. DAWinz

    DAWinz You talkin' to me boy? Fuck outta here.

    Star Destroyer reporting in.
  22. Ser Alexander Grey

    Ser Alexander Grey Walk forward and with purpose.

    Looks like the Reaper War is starting out as it did in canon, except for the Forerunner magitech and the flagship twice the length (and probably the size) of the Citadel.

    Man Earth is going to stomped into the mud, through the topsoil, straight past the bedrock, and into the core. Earth or Palaven, actually, since this apocalypse (presumably) lacks the focus on TAKE EARTH BACK! and I expect the Turians to get pounded harder than they did in canon even without the forerunner tech.
    DragoLord19D likes this.
  23. CV12Hornet

    CV12Hornet Home base to the madmen.

    Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God! Someone get me a motherfuckin' table to flip! Sith has returned!

    And I have no idea who Michael Sullivan is. Someone care to fill me in?
    DragoLord19D likes this.
  24. Ser Alexander Grey

    Ser Alexander Grey Walk forward and with purpose.

    One of Lasky's class/squad mates, and the only one to act friendly to him before his plot-induced capability boost about mid-way through FuD.
  25. CV12Hornet

    CV12Hornet Home base to the madmen.

    Ah, thanks.