If you have not read chapter 1 first, please do so now…
33 Years Earlier…
Beep… Beep… Beep… Beep… The telemetry monitor on the wall beeps out a steady rhythm as the nurse leans in to give the patient an injection. Beep… Beep… Beep… Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep… “He’s crashing Doctor.” “50cc’s of epinephrine, stat!” barks a voice from the shadows. The nurse leans in and injects the drugs into the now motionless patient. “No effect. What do you want next?” The doctor edges from the shadows with a dejected look on her face, “What’s the point? Will there be any difference from the others?” Doctor Catherine Halsey steps toward the patient for a closer examination. “Damn! I had such high hopes for him too. Patient Sierra Zero One Two, time of death, fifteen forty-three.” The nurse wheels the gurney down a long dark hallway. The walls are cold and damp this far down in castle base. A slight squeak from the gurney’s wheels is heard as it winds the labyrinth of halls in ONI’s top secret research center buried deep underground on Reach. Finally the nurse stops and enters a small medical bay. Already in the room are five other gurneys with nurses by each one. A group of officers enter the room led by a diminutive, elderly woman. As soon as she enters the entire room is aware of her presence. “What’s their status?” she demands. The lead doctor in the room turns to her and informs her, “Good to go Admiral.” “Good, wake them up.” Each nurse leans over to plug the heart monitors back in. As the monitors begin to beep again, each patient is given an injection and they begin to come out of their state of unconsciousness. They each awake and look around the room. They glance down at their physical form having just undergone the final phase of their painful augmentations. They were true Spartans now. The elderly women walks forward to address them, “Men, I am Admiral Margret Parangosky. I am the head of ONI and your new commanding officer. You have all been pulled out of the Spartan project for a special assignment. Codenamed Echo Team, you will be going on top secret missions led by me directly. You report to me and me only. Each of you possesses a certain skill or attribute that make you invaluable to this team. Your training with Doctor Halsey is over. You belong to ONI now.” The spartans look at each other and snap to attention and salute the Admiral. She returns a salute and exits the room.
Over the next few days the members of echo team begin getting used to their new physiques. They adapt quickly to their changes, being able to run faster and jump high than ever before. They’re able to lift three times their body weight and have the reflexes of a cat. Several days later the members of Echo team meet with Parangosky.
They enter the Admiral’s office and line up in front of her desk standing at attention. She greets them with a stern voice, “At ease men.” They wait as she examines a field report, reading it through a pair of bifocals slid down to the tip of her nose. She looks up at the spartans with an examining look and removes the glasses. “Men, this team has been assembled for one reason and one reason only, to carry out my orders. When I give an order I expect it to be carried out, no matter the cost. Is that understood?” Echo responds, “Yes Admiral,” in unison. “Good.” She walks over to stand in front of Jack. “Jack, you are now the leader of Echo team. I am promoting you to Lieutenant Junior Grade. Command of the team and its success depend on you.” Jack steps forward so Parangosky can pin the bars on his shoulder. He salutes her and steps back into line. The decision makes logical sense. Jack was always seen as a critical thinker. The others looked up to Aaron more but Parangosky saw in him a disobedient side. He was never shy to question orders or change plans in the middle of an attack. Sometimes his plans seemed wild and outrageous. Jack always had sound reasoning and judgment behind his strategies while Aaron tended to use gut feelings and intuition to lead him. Parangosky continues, “Your first assignment is the planet Arcadia. We have had several reports of increased insurrectionist activity planet side. The UNSC Point of no Return will take you there and serve as your operations platform. You will receive your orders once you reach Arcadia. You will be making one stop on the way. Chi Ceti IV has a special operations and weapons testing facility where you will receive your new armor. Good luck Echo.” The team salutes and leaves the office. After Echo leaves, one of Parangosky’s aides looks over at her, “I thought the Mjolnir armor wasn’t ready?” “By the time they get there, the first sets will be finished,” Parangosky replies. “Halsey is not going to like you stealing her armor,” quips the aide. Parangosky gives a glare back, “What Catherine doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”
At the ship yard, Echo team gathers the few personal belongings they have and enter their new home. The UNSC Point of no Return is a stealth cruiser utilized by ONI section three as a reconnaissance and top secret operations platform. Commanded by Nathanial J. Tolbertson, the ship carries a crew of 539 on board as well as an entire squadron of long swords and pelicans. The ship is the largest in the fleet to possess stealth capabilities. Those stealth capabilities make it the ideal platform for launching special ops missions. Echo team finds their way to their cramped quarters. “At least we don’t have to share beds,” Evan states with a smirk on his face. “Not funny,” replies Silas looking unamused. At over seven foot tall, the spartans barely fit in their bunks. “Apparently the UNSC has not made all the ships spartan accessible yet,” Vince says with a joking expression and a playful elbow to Silas. “It makes no difference anyway, we’ll be hitting the cryo tubes shortly,” Jack informs his team. The team finishes getting settled and they make their way to the cryo-chamber deck. The journey to Chi Ceti IV will take a month and a half. The second leg to Arcadia will only be a couple days and won’t require cryo. The rest of the ship’s crew settles in for the long trip as the ships A.I. takes over the long trek.
Several weeks later the ship comes out of slip space and enters orbit around Chi Ceti IV. Echo team boards a pelican bound for the surface. They fly up to a large base with a maze of interconnected buildings. Once landed, they are quickly escorted to a room with a strange elliptical looking machine in it. A team of engineers enter and call Jack forward. He enters the machine and it starts to move. The robotic arms making a whirling sound as they place pieces of armor on his chest first followed by his arms and legs and then a helmet to top it off. The machine returns to the start position and Jack steps forward awkwardly trying to gain his balance. The armor clinks and ratchets a bit as he moves. 064 emblazoned on his chest plate, he begins to walk around getting used to the movements of the armor. The more he moves the less stiff and awkward it looks. Aaron steps up next to receive his armor followed by the rest of the team. Once they all have gotten their armor and assured it’s in proper working order they board the pelican and return to the ship. The ships engines give a thunderous roar as it enters slip space and disappears. Echo team uses the next few days to break in their armor. They fight each other testing the armors durability and maneuverability. They throw each other around the hanger bay like a bunch of wild kids, playfully laughing as they land without pain or damage. Soon the fun and games would come to an end as their mission approached.
Arcadia is a planet covered in dense jungles and large oceans. The three million people who call Arcadia home are concentrated in large cities. Deep in the jungle, several miles from the city of Daylam is an ONI outpost. The outpost was engaged in research on some Forerunner ruins in the area but as of recently had suffered several raids from insurrectionists looking for weapons and supplies. Admiral Parangosky comes up on the ONI secure channel to brief Echo team personally. “Several weeks ago a Skyhawk jet crashed deep into the jungle. Before we could reach the wreckage a group of insurrectionists had pillaged the craft taking with them four scorpion missiles. They also unknowingly took the jets CPU drive which has led us straight to their hideout. I want you men to infiltrate their encampment and burn it to the ground. Secure the missiles and radio for pelican retrieval.” Jack stepping forward asks, “What about prisoner’s ma’am.” “Take none, it’s time we send a message to these rebel scum,” she answers with a look of distain. The Admiral had little respect for the rebels which made her ruthless when dealing with them. She also tended to underestimate their enginuity. Echo loads into their drop pods for their fourteen mile plunge. The Point of no Return takes up its position in low orbit above the suspected insurrectionist base. With a click and a thud the pods are in free fall mode hurdling toward their landing zone. The flame and heat are intense as the pod punctures the Arcadian atmosphere. Nearing the ground the pods braking rockets give a quick blast as the pod jerks back slowing to meet the ground. With a large thump the pod lands. The front door pops open and the team exits their pods. Ryan brings up a quick map of the area as Jack and Aaron begin to plan. “I don’t like this, something seems off,” Aaron states. Jack looks at him with a puzzled look, “What is it? I figured you would be the first one to charge in there.” “It doesn’t feel right. These guys are smarter than this. It smells like a trap,” Aaron says, a look of concern weighing heavily on his face. Jack thinks for a minute and weighs his options. “We have our orders. We must complete them.” Aaron shakes his head in disagreement but reluctantly follows the rest of the team. If they were going to die, then they would die together. The team walks several miles through the jungle to the coordinates provided to them.
“What the hell! Where is it?” Vince exclaims as they are in an empty field. Jack, confused, turns to Aaron as a rocket whistles past his head. “Incoming! Hit the deck!” shouts Aaron. The entire team hits the deck as gunfire begins to rain down upon them. They take refuge in a drainage ditch dodging the gunfire whizzing past them. Aaron looks around as best he can for an escape route. They are completely surrounded. Aaron looks over to Jack whose face is still buried in the ground and shouts, “What are your orders sir.” Jack lies there, unable to move or speak. Aaron realizes he is going to have to act if they are to survive this. He looks over to Silas, who is carrying an M41 rocket launcher. He signals Silas to hand it over. Aaron turns and fires upon a wall that several rebels are hiding behind. The rocket glides through the air leaving a trail of white smoke as it finds its target. With a large explosion the wall comes tumbling down as rock and fire go flying through the air. In the confusion, Aaron directs his teammates through the hole in the wall. They quickly make a hasty retreat. Aaron looks back to see Jack, still lying on the ground, unable to move. He grabs ahold of him looking directly through his helmets shield. “Do you want to live?” he screams to Jack. Jack nods his head in agreement. “Then move your ass soldier,” pointing to the hole in the wall. The two of them make it through the wall and they fall back several hundred feet to gather and regroup.
The entire group looks at each other wondering what had just happened. Their first mission a failure, there would be hell to pay with Parangosky. Aaron looks at the rest of the men pondering what to do next. He looks over at Jack who has his head in his hands. He’s a complete wreck, unsure of anything now. Aaron wondered if he would be any good to them at all. “What’s your status?” Aaron grumbles at Jack. “How could I be so stupid? Why didn’t I see that coming?” Jack questions himself. Aaron kneels next to him, “Any one of us could have missed it.” Jack looks Aaron in the eye, “You didn’t. You saw it coming as soon as we landed.” Aaron draws in closer to Jack, “We still need to get out of this mess. What are your orders?” “I’ve had my chance and failed. We all know Parangosky should have made you leader anyway. What are your orders?” Aaron stands and looks at the rest of the team. They all look back at him, looking for guidance. He ponders for a second and lets out a sigh. “All right, Ryan, bring up the map.” Ryan pops up the 3D map out of his TACPAD on his wrist. Carefully examining the local terrain Aaron points to a river. “There, any kind of encampment is going to need fresh water. If we follow that small stream we should eventually find them.” “So we are going after them?” Vince questions. “Yes, we have to complete our mission. We are just going to do it the way we should have in the first place.”
Walking through the Arcadian jungle, Echo makes their way down river. The stifling heat, the uneven terrain, and the dangerous wildlife lurking about make it all the more challenging. Evan walks a few hundred feet in front of the rest of the team scouting what lies ahead. The river comes to an elevation change which creates a spectacular waterfall. Down below Evan spies the insurrectionist encampment. “I’ve got them Aaron,” he radios back to the team. Aaron signals the others to stay put and take cover as he moves forward to have a look for himself. The encampment is right next to a holding pond at the base of the waterfall. It has several large tents with a make shift building or two. Aaron uses his HUD to identify the scorpion missiles. Aaron radios back to Jack and the others, “Missiles located, move forward to my position.” Aaron places Evan at the top of the waterfall as sniper protection. The rest of the team moves down the valley to the outskirts of the camp. Aaron tells Jack to take Vince and flank the side of the base once the three of them move in. They take up their positions and begin to move forward. They move into the outskirts of the camp like a cat on the prowl. Once they are in position a shot rings out from Evan’s sniper rifle. The bullet goes whizzing through the air as it finds its target. With a thwamp and a thump the lookout in the tower falls to the ground in a heap. The entire camp is startled as Echo moves in with ferocity and precision. A small exchange of fire takes place. The rebels try in a vain effort to put up a fight but to no avail. Echo moves so fast through the camp that many throw down their arms and run in fear. They finish sweeping through the last of the buildings and secure the camp. “Ryan, radio to base. Enemy camp located and secured. Send the pelican.” Aaron looks back to the wooden shack where the scorpions were located. He throws open the door and to find all four missiles sitting in the middle of the floor. He looks to the others and smiles, “Mission accomplished men. Good work.” A short time later the pelican flies over head and lands. One of Parangosky’s subordinates is on board. “What the hell are you doing way over here,” he shouts. Before Jack can answer Aaron steps forward pointing to the ONI officer, “Look here you little paper pushing nobody. Thanks to your crap intel, we walked right into a trap. We found the encampment, we found the missiles, and I sure as hell am not going to listen to you question me and my team. Do I make myself clear?” The ONI agent has a look of terror on his face as Aaron is aggressively shaking his fist at him. The agent quietly sits down on the pelican’s bench and doesn’t say a word all the way back to base. Echo team lights the buildings on fire and blows the ammo dump before boarding the pelican. Echo team is in a jovial mood on the flight back to base. Aaron hangs on to the back lift gate as his team sits there joking happily about their successful mission, proud of what they’ve just accomplished. Aaron gives a bit of a gleeful smirk then turns to look at the ground speeding by them. Their first successful mission behind them, Aaron contemplates what he will say to the Admiral.
Thanks for taking the time to read my fan fiction, if you like it please leave a comment. Chapter 3 is now posted and you can read on here.