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LORC: Beginnings Act 1 Pt 10 and 11
Posted By: HWPD<Disaster.nick@gmail.com>
Date: 16 April 2016, 1:42 am

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Part 10
The Storm

Twenty-Fourth Solar Cycle, 147 Cycles: 9th Age of Reclamation [August 24, 2552: 0025]
DDS-Class Carrier Leveling Strength
SpecOps Major Ryau 'Cinotee

The Spirit settled into the cradle of anti-grav supports and opened its sides. Naki hopped off the door and onto the platform off the side. She hurried over to a waiting troop of Unggoy and retrieved a hover-cart for K`an. Ryau and Sig carried K`an out of the dropship and set him on the padded cart.

"I am, in all certainty, fine. It is merely a flesh wound." K`an pleaded.

"You can't walk, K`an..." Ryau sighed in annoyance. "You need to go to the medlab and get your leg set properly."

"It went through the bone, didn't it?" K`an chuckled, he was on painkillers, so it was unlikely that he felt anything.

"Yes it did!" Sig shot sharply. "You ought to be more careful."

"Hey, hey, hey… you alright, kid?" K`an looked over at Sig on the other side of the cart.

Sig's voice sounded hurt. "I won't be able to handle your loss of you too." Sig sighed. "It would crush me"

K`an gave him a strange look. "It's okay, Sig… I will have a mold of my erect genitals made up for you in case I perish in battle."

"Even in face of horrid injury, the classic K`an was still there somehow." Sig laughed nervously.

Ryau glanced at the two, and took a step away from the cart. It was extremely awkward. "Well... uh here's the medlab. Naki alerted them to our arrival." The small group of medical personnel were waiting just inside the doorway.

A pair of passing Majors glanced down at the SpecOps lance carting K`an towards the Medlab and gave a huff of distaste. Ryau remembered that most Sangheili believed medical attention was for the weak and dishonorable. Though the small booklet Ryau had been reading about the history of the state of Zelso mentioned that those that lived in the region did not believe the same.

As soon as they entered the medlab, the medical personnel took over and pulled K`an over to a station against the wall. They transferred K`an onto a bed and removed the gel pad that Ryau had fitted over the wound. They checked the leg out and discussed if surgery would be needed.

Sig walked over to K`an's bed, but Ryau remained by the doorway. A staff member walked over. "Excuse me, Major. There is someone in the waiting ward who wishes to speak with the three of you." She said.

Ryau shrugged. "I don't think that 'Retmaree has said anything against guests."

She walked off behind a doorway. The other personnel around K`an vacated the area, leaving only one attendant, who K`an was busy trying to get their contact information. A familiar Sangheili entered the room, D`rok had survived.

"How did the ground operation go without me?" D`rok asked as he walked to the end of K`an's bed. "And what happened to K`an?"

No one else responded, Sig and K`an didn't seem to notice D`rok had walked in. For a moment, Ryau feared that he was hallucinating for some reason, and that D`rok was indeed dead after all. Ryau pushed that thought out of his mind. "Well... It was not that bad. Considering that we all thought you were dead. K`an threw a Major named Sremm off an overpass." Ryau chuckled at that, Sremm had been an asshole. "But K`an got shot in the leg just a hour ago on a rooftop."

"Huh.. Sremm was on this op?" D`rok paused. "And pissed off K`an to the point of friendly fire? Absolutely glorious!" he chuckled.

"We picked him and a few others up at a crash site. Unfortunately, Sremm was the only one that we know survived. Well... he was alive after he hit the ground." Ryau said. "I hope Rtik got out." That last sentence was spoken in a whisper. Ryau felt a twinge of guilt for leaving the young Minor behind.

D`rok sighed, at that moment, Sig noticed the person speaking at the end of K`an's bed was their dead Lance leader. "D`rok!" Sig exclaimed.

D`rok turned and greeted the smaller Sangheili. "Hello, Sig!" Sig saw an opportunity and embraced him in a hug of sorts, a bit difficult to achieve wearing the armor they have. "Are you going to be okay?" D`rok asked.

Sig pulled away and went back to standing in a more professional manner. "Yes... sorry. K`an has sustained injuries." he said softly.

"I can see that." D`rok said.

Ryau pulled himself out the the conversation, he glanced down and pulled his data-pad out of his thigh pocket. Sangheili and Humans were very different, but very similar at the same time. This small squad, or lance as the Covenant called it, was another exception to the rule. They acted differently than most other Covenant forces Ryau had encountered so far. "They've all mentioned that they're from the Zelso area.. maybe that has something to do with it."He thought.

"How!?" K`an's screams brought Ryau's attention back to the others. "How do you do that!" K`an was waving his arms at D`rok and then to Ryau, as if he thought that Ryau could be any help in explaining the return of their leader. Ryau did not know either, just that he had returned earlier and no one else noticed, so he just shrugged, assuming that the gesture translated the same thought to a Sangheili. It seemed that it did, and K`an rubbed his face. "I..I cannot take this, ugh. I do not like ghosts."

The doors slid open and Ryau turned his head to see Naki walking into the medlab. She had a pack strapped to her orange armor, her helmet was also attached to her thigh by some kind of energy field. Her eyes went wide when she saw D`rok standing at the foot of K`an's bed. However she did not say a word as she slipped in beside Ryau. He smiled at her and she gave him a nudge with her shoulder.

"What happened?" K`an asked.

"Basically my phantom got hit, got redirected, and we crashed on the other side of the mountain range. Only myself and an Ultra survived." D`rok explained.

"You were that close to us?" K`an raised an eyeridge.

"I suppose so." D`rok shrugged himself, further confirming Ryau's assumption.

Out of nowhere, K`an switched his gaze to Naki. "Hey beautiful," he smiled.

"Shut up, K`an." Naki quickly shot back fiercely.

Ryau glanced over at K`an with a bit of annoyance on his face, though it seemed that was enough for D`rok to put his hand out to prevent Ryau from attacking K`an.

"Aww, that is harsh... What did I do wrong, my sweet doctor lady?" K`an teased.

"You can hit him if you wish..." D`rok told Naki. "However, be warned that he may like it." Ryau glanced over at K`an, who seemed to be grinning at the idea.

Naki shifted her footing and crossed her arms. "No, I'll just let him suffer." She smiled herself, just adding fuel to the fire.

K`an leaned back down in the bed and chuckled. "Damn it."

With that situation over, D`rok turned his attention back to Naki. "Hello once again, miss 'Cimutee. How are your endeavors?"

"They are going quite fine. I was actually coming here to collect Ryau." Naki paused with a slight sigh. "I have been requested at an excavation site by one of my former students. A SpecOps Science Major Alea 'Vinika."

K`an cut in from his bed. "Don't take Ryau for too long... Sig can hardly do without a male partner for a day."

Ryau rolled his eyes. While he was not interested in Sig that way, it was apparent that Sig was, and K`an's bantering made him seem oblivious, or just plain insulting.

"Please do be safe.." Sig said, he lowered his hand and he had trailed off as if there was something left to be said.

"We should only be gone for a few hours..." Naki said.

"Okay, good. I was just talking with the Shipmaster, and we are shipbound for the rest of this operation." D`rok explained.

"Understood, we should get going then." Naki nodded.

"Take care. Report back to me when you return." D`rok waved them off.

"Will do," Ryau said as they turned and hurried through the doorway. "So what are we going down to?" he asked as soon as the doors closed behind them.

"Well I'm not entirely sure. From what she sent up to me it appeared to be a cartographer. However it seemed a bit damaged." Naki said, walking through the corridor.

"A Forerunner cartographer? On Re- this planet?" Ryau censored himself. They were walking through a common hallway after all.

"It is not unusual, we already know of at least two Forerunner locations, there are bound to be more." Naki said. "They would not just place two structures in random places on the surface... though one does appear to be a crashed ship of some kind."

"Hmm. A bit of this is starting to come back to me." Ryau said. While he still had a good understanding of what will be occurring in the coming months, some of the exact details were lost to time.

"Yes, same here.. sort of a bit of San'la..." Naki said.

"What's San'la mean?" Ryau asked, he had not heard Naki use the phrase before, nor had it's meaning been programmed into his mind with the rest of the Sangheili language.

"Is our phrase for... um...Deja Vu." Naki said seemingly trying to recall long forgotten information. They reached the hangar, and she took him to a waiting Phantom. "It is a somewhat regional phrase. Probably why you don't automatically know what it meant."

"Makes sense." Ryau said. Naki stepped into the grav-lift and was whisked away into the interior of the dropship. Ryau followed her up and stepped into the secure point beside her. The Phantom was filled with cargo, and its markings were not that of the Leveling Strength.

"She sent one of her own Phantoms to collect us, diverting from a supply run. I told her that I could get transport to myself, but as she was a former student, she insisted on taking the burden of travel." Naki strapped herself in to the side of the craft.

Ryau did the same, latching the straps into the ports on his armor. "So, how long were you a teacher?"

The Phantom rumbled as it lifted off and accelerated out of the hangar. Naki glanced over at him. "Oh, seven solar cycles, it is somewhat of a requirement of scientists to participate in the guidance of the next generation. I had many great students, none as good as myself I might say," She boasted. "But the way of the Sangheili places military over knowledge and then knowledge in the hands of the San 'Shyuum. I guess it has always been diminishing, but the Ministry of Special Sciences' San 'Shyuum leadership has hardly been accepting new students."

"Probably the San 'Shyuum trying to consolidate the Science and Technology sectors back down." Ryau said. "Its probably has always been their main-"

The Phantom, that had been flying relatively smoothly for the past few minutes suddenly shook and nearly rolled. It's stasis fields activated and held them in, working in conjunction with the straps. "What's going on?" Naki shouted to the pilots.

"There is a large storm approaching the site. We are flying through the leading edge." The pilot responded.

"What is the course of the storm?" She asked.

"It appears to be on courses to strike the site head on., Major." the co-pilot said. "Its eye will pass directly over it."

"Of course it would." Naki brought her hand up to her face and rubbed her brow. "Ryau, we may be there for a bit longer than expected."

"Alright, well its nothing we have control over." Ryau said.

"Very true." Naki sighed.

The Phantom banked and slowed. "The landing pad is currently enduring heavy winds. We will not be able to remain stable for long. Go now."

Ryau unbuckled his harness and grabbed hold of a support strut as he stepped free. The dropship shook as the wind buffeted the side. The doors opened and rain blew inside. It was hard and cold, he could feel it through his body suit. Naki placed her helmet over her head and she hopped down to the pad below. Ryau followed her down and landed on the slick landing pad.

Ryau slid to a halt and looked around at the site. Waves crashed along the pier, raining down on the Human bodies that the earlier team had killed. This was only the leading edge of the storm, it was going to get worse. "Oh what have we gotten ourselves into..."Ryau thought. Being stranded on the surface of a planet that could get glassed at any moment was not something he wanted to be.

Up ahead was a large structure, the triangular logo of the Office of Naval Intelligence adorned the metal doors. They slid open as a Sangheili in green armor strode out into the storm.

She put her arm up to shield her face from the wind and rain. "Science Major Cimutee. It is an honor to see you again. I apologize for the weather, it was unexpected."

"Its fine, it is not like this is another weather control station Naki said.

"So you heard about that..." Alea muttered, "Quickly we need to get inside." Ryau glanced to Naki for some kind of explanation, but there she remained quiet.

Alea turned and headed through the doors, Ryau looked over to Naki and they both followed behind their guide. The door slid shut and sealed, the storm now a near silent rumble outside. The interior was dark, but lacked any apparent damage. It seemed that the Covenant had managed to take the installation fast enough that they either stopped the Humans outside or further into the facility.

Ryau followed Naki and Alea across the onyx walk way. Now that he was starting to remember more, he noticed that ONI architecture was like a dark mirror of Forerunner styles. Up ahead, there was the first sign of a struggle inside the building, the doors had been pried apart and red blood coated the floor on the other side.

"The Humans seemed to be unaware of our arrival at first. We were able to take this facility fairly quickly. As for when I learned of your arrival, it felt like the Gods were listening. It has been difficult to fully unlock the technology below this structure." Alea said.

"Well then lead the way, I will see what I can do." Naki replied.

"Yes, it is just down here." Alea lead Naki down a ramp.

Ryau followed them down, but snuck away down a corridor. His attempts to find communications equipment in New Alexandria had failed, but an ONI facility was bound to have some sort of hardlink system. The corridor was labeled Communications, and the lack of damage hinted that the system may still be online.

He entered a room, only to find that the systems console had been smashed. A dead ONI officer was slumped against the wall, he had died of a self inflicted gunshot wound. Ryau sighed and gave the body a pat down. There was a data pad in their front pocket. He took it out and glanced over it. The data-pad appeared to be in functioning condition. If he could find a working uplink in the server room, he could use the pad as an interface.

The door to the server room was just across the hall, he stuck his head out and made sure it was clear. He slipped across and entered the chilled room. Server stacks had been pulled out of the coolant and smashed, yet there was one in the back that had a single blinking light.

Ryau pulled the cord from the data-pad and inserted it into the open port. The screen flashed and an ONI prompt appeared. He made his way through the system, to where he used to file squad reports. If he had been reported MIA, then a report showing up in the old inbox would be an immediate red flag.

He glanced around to confirm he was alone, he activated the Data-pad's mic and began to speak.

"This is Sierra one-zero-two. Ident: five-five-Seven Beta Gamma zero. Emergency flash transmission. Captured on Standard IV by Covenant forces. Proceed to experiment with Device of unknown origin." He paused on how to word the fact that he had been turned into a Sangheili by the device. In the end, he decided to be blunt. "Device, now known to be Forerunner. Altered me physically and am now appearing to be a Covenant Elite. Currently engaged in deep cover with a Covenant SpecOps team. Cannot leave, being tracked. Location unknown. ONI facility on Reach." He had to pause again, he thought he heard something. However nothing else happened.

"If message received in time, and a recovery mission launched. Enemy troop estimates around two hundred. My appearance is a two-point-five meter Elite in black armor. There is a female Elite wearing orange ranger class armor who is sympathetic to Humans. Will assist us if she is captured. Am standin-"

The door to the server room opened and someone walked inside. Ryau shut off the data-pad and quickly grabbed the body of a Human, another self inflicted gunshot. He unclipped his Plasma rifle and fired once into the bullet hole and twice in the head, to hide that the body had been dead for hours. He tossed the body onto the ground and stepped back.

"What is going on in here?" A Sangheili Major asked, hurrying around a server stack with his own Plasma rifle drawn.

Ryau cleared his throat. "I found this vermin attempting to call for help." He gave the smoldering body a kick. "I think it may have gone through."

The Major glanced down at the body and then back to Ryau. "I have not seen you before, what unit are you with? I did not believe we had any of the SpecOps here."

"I came down with Science Major 'Cimutee. I heard a sound from this room while Science Major 'Vinika was taking us down to the artifact." Ryau explained.

"Hmm," the Major relaxed. "Excellent work Major, my warriors had thought this room clear. I will put them on alert for a counter attack." The Sangheili nodded to Ryau and left the room.

Ryau sighed and looked down at the pad. Message Sent flashed on the small screen. He figured that he should make his way back to Naki. He left the server room and followed the corridor down to where she had gone. Naki and Alea were waiting at a large door.

"There you are." Naki said. "Where did you go?"

"I had to take care of a security breach. A Human had survived the base assault." Ryau said.

Naki's mandibles formed a slight frown. "Well then, okay.... Alea carry on."

Alea pushed open the door and walked through. The corridor beyond was carved in the rock. They walked for a few minutes, the path slowly sloping downwards. The tunnel was not carved by Humans, it was too smooth and the small symbols etched into the walls were a dead give away that this was a Forerunner creation.

The tunnel emptied into a cave. Ryau glanced up and saw that the roof was actually an artificial cap. They were inside a bowl, or more accurately, an impact crater. In the middle of the crater, a Forerunner pod sat, leaning to the side. a single light on the top flashed like a strobe.

Naki walked around the structure, looking it over. She took out her data-pad and made a few notes on the pods general condition. "Okay, so let's see the inside."

Alea nodded and walked up to the structures door. "We know it is some kind of cartographer, though I am having a difficult time deciphering what it says. You should know I never fully understood the Forerunner written language." She looked away from Naki in embarrassment.

"Yes, 'Vinika, I do remember. I almost did not let you graduate for that," Naki said.

"Well I'm glad you did not." Alea said, still refusing to make eye contact with Naki. She tapped a button beside the door and it slid open. The three Sangheili walked into an open chamber. The ceiling danced with colored lights.

A holographic representation of Reach and the surrounding system was projected from the walls. If Ryau had a complete mouth, he would have whistled.

Naki nodded and paced around the outer ring of the hologram. She consulted a map on her data-pad and then tapped a slowly blinking point on the hologram. The point had various lines extending out into space and to a few other points on the planet. "We are here." When her finger passed through the point, it pulsed, and then a series of arrows started pointing north towards a new point that flashed brightly. "...and that is the ship that deployed this."

"A ship, are you sure?" Alea asked.

"I believe so, this pod appears to be an emergency beacon." She pointed to the lines that branched off into space. "These are the current communication lines that received the distress call. The text here does say that the ship crashed in this planet's northern hemisphere."

"We should alert the Fleetmaster at once!" Alea said. "A team needs to secure that area as soon as they can."

"Well, according to our most recent surface scans, the crash site is currently home to a human military installation. Which, as I last heard, is now under our control." Naki immediately had a map of the specific region on Reach projected from her data-pad.

"Then as soon as this storm clears, we will be on our way." Alea insisted. "I really need this discovery, I do not wish to be relieved of duty..."

"Yes, when the storm clears, I'll help you. So will Ryau." Naki said.

"Hmm? How can I help?" Ryau asked.

"You have a particular set of skills and knowledge that will help in navigating the Human installation." Naki nodded her head slightly, out of Alea's view.

"Ah, yes. That I do," Ryau smiled. "I'll be happy to assist."

"Well... Since the two of you will be staying, let me lead you to our quarters." Alea turned and walked back into the facility.

After four days of harsh weather, Ryau stood up in one of the ONI base's outer watch towers. The wind howled and rain pounded the roof. ONI had thought ahead and constructed an effective sea wall between the docks and the main entrance, it had kept the storm surge out for the time being. However, this was the back side of the storm, usually the roughest.

The pilots still refused to fly through the weather, so they remained grounded for now. Ryau had alerted D`rok of their situation, just so he didn't worry about them not returning on time. He continued to look out at the raging ocean, it was hard to believe that there was a planet destroying war going on beyond the horizon. If he remembered correctly, Reach would be lost in just a few more days.

Suddenly two flashes of light appeared in the distance, and a moment later, the sea wall exploded. Water flooded into the courtyard, sweeping away supply crates and Unggoy unfortunate enough to be in the way. Within a second, the courtyard was completely submerged. The main doors to the facility held the water back from flooding the interior, 

Four water craft sped inside the walls, turrets mounted on their rear opened fire on the other Covenant forces that had taken shelter on the catwalks. Ryau ducked behind the wall as a few bullets pinged off the ceiling. 

"The Humans are attacking!" Screamed an Unggoy moments before it was ripped to shreds. 

The boats pulled off to a clear section of catwalk and deployed Marines from a troop bay. Ryau wasn't sure if they were here because of his message or because ONI just wanted their facility back, but he was not going to stand by and find out if it was the latter. He grabbed his Needle rifle and hurried down the ramp into the building. An Ultra was down in the lobby organizing a response to the Human counterattack. Ryau ran passed into the the tunnels. 

"Major, where are you going?!" the Ultra shouted after him.

"My main priority is Science Major Cimutee!" Ryau called back. 

Water flowed down from some other breach in the facilities exterior, there was already nearly half a meter of water in this section. Ryau pressed through the water to the door that lead down to the artifact. He keyed it open, and allowed the water to flood the lower chambers. 

"Naki, Science Major 'Vinika. I need to get you two out of here now!" Ryau called.

The water level dropped and Naki looked up the ramp. "What's going on?" 

"The Humans are attempting to retake the facility." Ryau said. "I'm taking you to a Phantom. Get your data and get up here." 

There was a bit of a scramble from below, and Naki and Alea hurried upstairs. They each carried a crate, of what Ryau assumed was their data and materials. He motioned for them to follow him and headed for the landing zone. The pilots had secured their Phantoms on the back side of the facility, it should have been shielded from the storm surge and the Humans attack. The path to the landing pads took them over the main lobby with a window looking in.

Ryau could see that the Ultra was putting up a good fight against the Humans, but he had already lost too many of his forces. The bodies of Sangheili and Unggoy floated in the flooded lobby alongside the plasma singed corpses of the Marines. More Humans were dropped off by the landing craft, soon they would overwhelm this small Covenant science garrison. The door ahead slid open and allowed the wind and rain inside. The last place Ryau had seen a pilot was sleeping in the cockpit. He grabbed the crates from Naki and Alea, and tossed them into the troop bay of the nearest Phantom.

After pushing the two other Sangheili aboard, Ryau pulled himself into the belly of the ship. He hurried into the cock-pit and gave the sleeping pilot a kick. "Wake up, Pilot."

The sleeping Sangheili grumbled and shifted in the command chair. "By the Prophets, what do you want?"

"The facility is under attack, and you're sleeping." Ryau said, he was truly playing the part of a Sangheili very well. He had already spent nearly a month and a half as one and heavily embedded in their culture. The thought occurred to him that he had begun to act differently the moment he was changed. But he shoved that thought out of his mind, he had to concentrate on the moment at hand. "We're getting Science Major 'Vinika and Science Major 'Cimutee out of harm's way." 

The pilot sat up in the chair and looked at the view screens at the storm outside. "I apologize Major, but I can not take off in this weather." 

Ryau frowned and let out that bit of Sangheili anger. "Pilot, if you do not take off this instant, I will throw you out the hatch and fly this transport myself. You can die with the rest of the stubborn warriors down there." 

It seemed that his intimidation had worked. The pilot put up his hands, "I am sorry. I cannot take off immediately but I will begin preflight procedures. Give me five minutes." 

"Fine," Ryau nodded. "I'll go see if I can give the others some more time." He decided to even the tension he had created by placing his hand on the pilot's shoulder. Ryau turned and nodded to Naki before he dropped back out the grav-lift hatch.

Ryau was really headed back to check to see if the Marines were there to pick him up or just raiding the station. He hurried through the doors and looked down at the lobby. The Marines had managed to clear out the defenders, the body of the Ultra had joined those that floated in the back of the room.

The ground of the walkway began to rumble At the far end of the hall, the door opened to reveal a group of retreating survivors. Ryau waved them towards the door to the landing pads. "Phantoms are that way. Wake the pilots and prepare to move on." He avoided using the word retreat or evac, it really wasn't the Covenant way.

Ryau activated his radio connection to Naki. "I'm going to be a few minutes. Don't worry."

"What could you possibly need to do?" she replied.

"I just need to take care of something. Have to give the other Phantoms a chance to warm up." Ryau cut the comm link. He felt bad leaving Naki out of the loop, but he doubted she would be as open to his idea.  

He crept down the stairs, and found the water had filled the corridor up to his knee. It would be up to a Human's waist. Sloshing through the water, he hid behind the door to the lobby. "If I just walk out there, my shields should be able to hold for ten seconds if they shoot first…"

"Enemy contact!" A Marine shouted from behind him.

"Wait! Hold your fire. I..I think it's him." Another stammered.

Ryau slowly raised his hands above his head. "You're looking for Sierra-One-zero-two, correct?" He asked, switching back to his native English.

"Drop any weapons, and turn around slowly," one of the Marines ordered.

Keeping his hands above his head, Ryau pressed a button on his tactical pad and deactivated the magnetic clamps holding the guns to his back. He turned to face the Marines, they were armed with shotguns, he was lucky that they weren't going to kill him.

"Ugly son of a bitch, Sarge." another muttered.

"We were told there were two of you. Where's the other?" the Sergeant, named Goinard, asked.

"Up on the landing pads, with the rest of the Covenant forces that survived. If I'm getting pulled out, she might not be coming with." Ryau said.

"Don't know about that. The Spooks want to speak to you," Sergeant Goinard lowered his shotgun, and the others followed his lead. "They're waiting in the other room. Go on in."

Ryau let his arms down. "Alright, Sergeant." he turned and walked into the main lobby. The Marine squad followed him in.

There were at least two other Marine squads in the room, most standing out of the water on the raised platforms along the walls. There were two ONI Officers standing up on a platform in the corner, looking at something on a functioning wall console. They were dressed identically to the other Marines, except it was all painted black; typical for Spooks. As Ryau approached, they looked up towards him. As unusual as it was, the ONI Officers were wearing tags. The two that had come to meet him were a Captain Chiang, and Captain Smit.

"Sierra one-zero-two, reporting." Ryau said. "If I'm being pulled out we'll have to cut off a tracking device on my leg."

The two Officers looked him over. "Negative Spartan, we are not pulling you out. In fact, we want you to stay with them. Help assist an operation that is beginning in a few days." Captain Chiang said.

"If that is the case… Then I need to send a message to the Phantom waiting for me." Ryau said.

"Do what you need to." Smit answered and pulled out a data-pad.

"Just a moment." Ryau nodded and reactivated his radio. He cleared his throat and switched back to Sangheili "The Humans are headed to the landing pads with rockets, take off now! I will try and sneak out the back of the facility. Head inland and wait for me there."

"Understood Major! Moving to a hiding pattern. Come quickly, we cannot hold for long." The reply came immediately, the pilot must have bought the fake urgency in his voice.

"Holy shit, what did the bastard say?" One of the Marines, Corporal Guo, shouted, instantly they all had their weapons on him again.

"Stand down Sergeant, all he did was send the Phantoms away." Captain Smit said, having read the translation on his data-pad. "He spoke flawless Covenant, amazing," he muttered to himself. "Colonel Hartford is going to love this."

Once again, they lowered their weapons. "So he's really one of ours?" Corporal Guo asked.

"He is," Captain Chiang said. "That's all you need to know."

There was a general murmur of the word Spartan from among the Marines. Captain Smit pulled what looked to be a Covenant equipment case out of his pack. "This contains a small transmitter you can use to send periodic updates and has a homing function form when the operation launches."

"Is it possible for it to remain offline and not receive or broadcast at all? The Covenant are very good at tracking our transmissions." Ryau asked.

"Yes. It will remain inert unless you activate it." He said.

Ryau took the case and attached it to his back. "Understood, what's the time frame for the Op?"

"Operation Red Flag launches in the next few days. So tomorrow at oh-five-hundred hours make sure to be in a position to receive information over the comm device." Chiang said.

"Got it. Anything else?" Ryau expected them to be very interested in how he became what he was now. Their apparent lack of interest was confusing.

"The Scientist that was supposed to speak to you didn't survive the trip over. Give us a moment to communicate with command." That answered Ryau's internal question nicely.

"Uhm, alright." Ryau shrugged and sloshed through the water to where the Marines waited. "Sergeant, I'd like to thank you for not immediately shooting me."

"Not a problem… Spartan. We were under orders after all." Goinard nodded.

"Now, avoiding any classified information… You got anything cool in that armor?" one of the other Marines blurted out.

Ryau looked over his armor, "I didn't get rid of all my weapons…" He activated the energy daggers on both of his hands which hissed upon contact with the water.

A few of the Marines jumped back in surprise. "Damn, that's fuckin' cool. Think we can get some of those?!" Corporal Guo shouted over to the ONI Spooks on the other side of the lobby.

"We are working on imitating their weapons, but we are still a long way off." Smit replied.

"Damn, those things would cut through Grunts and Elite shields instantly, probably." The Corporal shrugged.

Ryau looked down at his wrists and detached one of the small metal attachments. "Think he could keep it, sir?"

Smit looked up, and then over to Chiang. The two Spooks conversed in a hushed tone, then Smit looked back over. "We will have to look it over, but we suppose we didn't see anything."

Ryau tossed it to the Corporal. Guo caught it and turned it over in his hands. "Thanks, sir. And friendly Spooks, howboutthat."

Another Marine, which had been standing in the back, stepped forward. "What are they like.... like... on a personal level?" Corporal Dijk asked.

"What do you mean, Corporal?" Ryau asked.

"Well... What are they like when they are not fighting?" He clarified.

"Honestly?" Ryau said. "They're not that different than us. Their soldiers are stuck up assholes. If we weren't at war I would say we could have been allies."

That got a laugh from the Marines. "Huh… Well what do their ladies look like?" Dijk asked.

"Not much different from the males, especially when wearing armor. You may have seen one before." Ryau joked.

"Oh! Have you gotten any yet?" Guo questioned. The other Marines looked among one another and laughed again.

"No, not at all. Though if you're interested in that, there's a guy I think you should meet. When we win the war that is." Ryau nodded, thinking of K`an. He wasn't sure if these Marines would survive the fall of Reach, but Ryau hopped so.

Before the Marines could continue to ask their random questions, Captain Chiang called over to Ryau. "Spartan. Command wants you outbound ASAP, we'll have to get an interview as soon as Operation Red Flag is complete. Sergeant Goinard, will you and your Marines escort him to the exit?"

"Affirmative, sir." The Sergeant said. "Spartan, if you'll follow me." Sergeant Goinard waved his arm towards the door and started off down a corridor. Ryau turned and followed the Marines through the flooded base. They finally left the water and walked up to a dry floor.

Before Ryau left, Corporal Guo stopped them and pulled a camera out from a pocket on his boot. "Hey, I want to get a picture of this. No one is gonna believe us."

Sergeant Goinard glanced back down the hallway and shut the door between them and the staircase. "Alright, I want a copy of this. Fall in if you want a copy."

The Marines glanced around at each other and then moved around Ryau. He was in the middle and Guo quickly placed his camera on the ledge before moving back into the group. Ryau didn't know what to do, so he stuck both fingers up in the air in an attempt at the age old 'peace' sign. The camera flashed and imitated the click of a shutter.

"Alright, I need to run. Maybe I'll see you all again someday." Ryau said. "Post the image in the net, when the war is over."

"Likewise, Spartan." Sergeant Goinard said. "Good luck undercover."

Ryau headed out, past the Marines' nods and into the storm. The land outside the facility was mostly forest, he hurried in a half crouch down a muddy service road that ran parallel to the perimeter fence. He activated his radio once again. "I made it out. I'm approaching the clearing above the artifact. Meet me there."

There was silence for a moment on the other end. Then the Phantom flew low over the trees above him. "I read you, Major. The clearing should shelter us from the storm. Setting down now." The pilot responded. 

Before he reached the clearing, Ryau knelt down and covered the upper part of his armor in mud. He had to make it seem like he had been running from the Humans. Ryau entered the clearing and waved at the Phantom. It flashed its searchlight and activated the grav-lift. He ran up and let the lift pull him in. Ryau dropped to his feet in the troop bay and pretended to be slightly out of breath.

"Are you okay?" Naki asked, with a bit of worry in her voice.

"Yes, I'm fine… just had to out run a squad of Ma- Humans with their shotguns." Ryau leaned against a supply crate.

"By the Prophets, I am surprised you survived." Alea said.

"Most definitely." Naki added. "Those weapons can tear through our shield systems."

"Well, anyway now that you are aboard, we can go north to that Forerunner site. Pilot, make it so." Alea commanded.

The pilot huffed in response, and the Phantom pulled up in an attempt to fly over the storm. The flight was rough, but Ryau made it into a harness. "Where did the other Phantoms go?" he asked.

"They returned to their ships. Alea wants to check out the other site before we do the same, it's a half day flight from here." Naki sighed. "Though I am glad you're alright."

"Thanks… It was a close call." Ryau lied. "This is mostly over the ocean correct?"

"Yes it is, thinking of getting some rest in this moment of ease?" Naki asked.

"Of course." Ryau leaned back and strapped into the crash seat. "Wake me when we get there. I could probably sleep for a while." Naki nodded in agreement and Ryau closed his eyes.

Ryau was shaken awake many hours later by the Phantom suddenly dropping altitude. "What's going on?" He asked.

"We just started to approach the area, but we were hit by some kind of shockwave." The Pilot called from the cock-pit.

Ryau sat up and looked over to Naki. She and Alea were standing over a portable console, looking at a camera feed from the main turret. "We should be able to see it by now." Naki said.

"But there is nothing there." Alea said. The Phantom started to circle around a newly formed crater in the ice shelf. Steam and smoke billowed out of the cracks. "It should be directly… below us…" Alea's voice was filled with defeat.

"It seems the Humans beat us to it." Naki said. "They have destroyed the site. I'm sorry Alea, I know you needed this." Naki placed her arm on Alea's shoulder. "Come back to the Leveling Strength instead of your ship. It will be nice to have another member of the Ministry on board."

"Hmm…" Alea looked off at the sky beyond the crater. "I think I will take you up on that offer. I have no personal effects onboard the other ship. Let us go, now," she said.

"Pilot, return us to the Leveling Strength immediately," Ryau spoke up.

"Understood… Major." He responded from the cock-pit.

The Phantom settled in one of the Hangars of the carrier and the pilot shut off its engines. Ryau sighed and hopped out onto the flight deck. He helped down Naki and Alea, who instructed a group of Unggoy on where the cargo would need to go.

"Ryau, go wash yourself down. You've been covered in mud for nearly a day." Naki said. 

"Well… will do," Ryau laughed. "Meet you at your cabin when I'm done." 

Ryau left the two females and walked to the nearest armor cleaning station. It was a glorified shower, but to wash down before a warrior removes their gear, He stepped inside the small stall and activated the water. It was cold and gritty, with some sort of polishing additive to the water.

He scrubbed the dried mud and leaves of his combat harness, careful not to get the water on his face. It wasn't the best design for cleaning, but it made sense if they didn't want to get blood and gore into the more populated parts of the vessel.

With his armor looking pristine once again, Ryau dried off and stepped out. The cleaning bay was empty, and Ryau threw the towel into a receptacle. Zeik had shown him the bay after he had gotten his armor nearly two months ago. Ryau wondered how the Ultra was doing, if he was located on Reach or had stayed behind with the first ship Ryau had been aboard.

As soon as he left the room, the ship's speakers chimed. "Attention Warriors. We are leaving orbit in pursuit of a Human vessel. Prepare for immediate slipspace maneuvers."

Ryau hurried down the hallway towards Naki's quarters, only to duck through a service hatch by the outer hull of the ship. Hopefully, if the Covenant were able to track the transmission, he hoped they would assume it was a passing piece of debris. He popped open the small storage compartment on his back and pulled the transmitter out.

The small device flicked on and received a single data packet before shutting it's transmitter off. The data packet was an audio message, he made sure the volume was down before pressing play.

"Emergency Flash transmission. Operation Red Flag aborted do to Covenant threat. All forces are to redirect to the defense of Reach."

"Goddammit... I should have known this would happen." Ryau shut off the device and placed it inside of an Unggoy cargo container. The box appeared to have come up from the surface, judging on the dirt marks on the bottom. If they had managed to track that quick burst to the inside of the ship, he didn't want to be caught with it and he hoped that they would believe it was smuggled aboard some other way.

Now that the operation was canceled, he no longer had orders from ONI. He was back to just maintaining his new life. Ryau sighed and decided to go to the Far Beyond Provocation lance room instead of Naki's cabin, he should probably check in with them first. Ryau was left wondering where this ship will take him next.

Part 11
A Somber Lull

Twenty-Fourth Solar Cycle, 151 Cycles: 9th Age of Reclamation [August 30, 2552: 0646]
DDS-Class Carrier Leveling Strength
SpecOps Major Ryau 'Cinotee

Ryau walked down the corridor and sighed. The ship beneath him rumbled as it left the system. He reached out and grabbed a wall strut to steady himself. He was halfway to the Lance room, but a sudden thought crossed his mind. The planet he had been trained on, spent many years of his life, the people he had worked with, had all just been reduced to glass.

He had been trained to deal with emotional trauma when he was young, but his world getting turned upside down when he found out Naki was Michelle completely messed with his mind. All that training went out the window. Lost memories had returned and brought the repressed emotions and urges back from the depth of his body.

Those Marines he met on Reach were probably dead now, as well.

Ryau slowly walked down the corridor of the Carrier, wandering the halls until he found what he was looking for. The doors parted into the large open chamber and Ryau looked around. The room was dimly lit and he followed the carpeted path. Objects of Forerunner origin floated on pedestals every few meters and a multitude of hanging fabrics muted the usual open repercussions of the hangar like space. Members of the Covenant were hunched over in prayer to their Gods.

He came to a stop in front of a mural, it was a visual rendition of the war between the San 'Shyuum and the Sangheili. A visual history of the Covenant. Ryau sighed and looked down at the floor.

"Are you alright, brother?" Someone asked beside him.

Ryau glanced up, a Sangheili Major was standing nearby, looking up at the mural. "I believe so..." he trailed off.

"Are you sure?" The Major asked.

"I...I think everyone I know may have just died on that planet." Ryau looked down again.

"Oh.. might you have a seat?" The Major turned and waved his hand over to the benches that ran parallel to the carpeted walkway. Ryau nodded slowly and took a seat, the Major sat to his left. The Major took a breath. "Friends...Friends will always be lost in military engagement... as much as it is horrible to deal with, it is just another factor that one must come to peace with.

"I know... but.. everyone I trained with..." Ryau paused and thought up some sort of lie. "Their ship was destroyed before we left."

"I am sorry to hear that, would you like to talk about it?" the Major asked.

"...There isn't much I can talk about," Ryau got quiet. "I never really considered the thought that they'd all die."

The Major turned his head. "Is your faith being challenged?"

"No... it's just that.. I don't know."

The Major seemed very persistent on helping Ryau. "Do you have any questions?"

"What do we say, what happens to those who die?" Ryau asked.

"Before the Great Journey... those that fall wait until the divine wind guides them to the path with all others that believe. Until then, they remain in limbo. As that is what is taught by the hierarchs."

"I just don't know what to think." Ryau said. He knew that was meant for the Covenant soldiers, and that they didn't believe in the Humans getting the same treatment. Before the Major could continue talking, he shushed himself and nodded up to a female Sangheili that had just stepped onto the platform.

She was a priestess, dressed in hanging fabrics and clothes. She spoke about the history of the Covenant, and the basis of the Great Journey. Ryau recognized a lot of it from what the Unggoy Deacon had said when Ryau had first been captured.

The priestess clasped her hands together. "Thousands of solar cycles ago, the Sangheili and the San 'Shyuum revered the Holy Forerunners, yet as each he their own beliefs of what was sacred and what was not. When our great races met, we clashed and through battle, we Sangheili saw the true light.

The Gods left behind their technology as gifts for their followers. As aids for us to follow their righteous footsteps and transcend into paradise. Not objects to remain in temples, untouched. We Sangheili, and the San 'Shyuum united and formed the Covenant. With the Gods watching above, the ancient words of the Writ of Union were written to combine our great races.

Though as all know, we are not the only kind in the Covenant. Centuries ago The Gods lead us to another group of believers. the Kig-Yar, the Unggoy, and Jiralhanae were brought into our holy empire with the Gods blessing. We all work together to find the path to glorious salvation.

The Great Journeys holy path is windy and full of challenges. The Humans, a species that has fallen too far from the path to be saved, are one such challenge. So with heavy hearts the Hierarchs ordered them cleansed." She stopped and stepped away from the podium. "The path has many temptations and methods to walk... How many of you have come here for the first time?"

Ryau didn't feel like calling himself out, so he kept his arms down. However a few other Sangheili did lift their hand into the air. The priestess nodded, "There is a point in everyone's life where they have not quite experienced their driving force behind their own personal Journey. So, anyone who raised their hand, please come up to the platform."

The handful of species stood and slowly made their way onto the stage below the mural. They spoke together in hushed voices, Ryau couldn't hear what they were saying from where he was, but it was over quickly. In closing, she gave a prayer for all others that have yet to fully experience the enlightenment of the Great Journey to find their personal paths soon.

Ryau sighed as the event wrapped up. He knew that most of the Covenant religion had been formed from a miss-understanding of Forerunner inscriptions and protocol, but there were parts that were adapted from older Sangheili religion, which may have some truth somewhere.

Ryau stood quickly and waved to the Major. "I need to get going... farewell."

"Goodbye, brother. I will see you around here again," he replied.

Ryau hurried out of the room and into the corridors. All that talk of religion and belief was unsettling and made him feel uneasy. He figured he should go to the Lance room where D`rok and the others were, Ryau could probably get some sleep there.

Before he had even reached the next corridor intersection, Sig appeared. "By the Gods! Ryau, There you are!" He was seemingly upset about something.

Ryau stopped walking. "Huh? What is it, Sig?"

Sig sighed. "I need your help, Ryau. K`an has gone out drinking, and he shouldn't. I tried to stop him, but he wouldn't listen!"

"Why shouldn't he?" Ryau asked, as far as he knew, a broken bone didn't prevent someone from drinking if they wanted.

"He was just shot recently! His leg has hardly been set and he demanded a hover chair from the nurse and left!"

Ryau sighed. "Where is he now?"

"He is headed for the bar in the nose of the ship. I believe it is on deck seven." Sig said.

"Alright then, I'll go talk to him." Ryau said, and started walking towards the bow.

"Will you need assistance, Ryau?" Sig began to follow.

Ryau put his hand up and stopped Sig. "No, I can handle this."

"Okay, good luck Ryau." Sig said, he sighed and walked back towards the Lance room.

Ryau found his way through the bowels of the ship thanks to the gravity conveyor. It dropped him off at the intersection of two major corridors. Since he didn't think K`an's hover chair would be able to take the lift system, he should be coming down one of these two halls. Sure enough, after a few minutes had passed, along came K`an in his mobile chair. Ryau stepped out from the wall and stopped him.

"K`an," Ryau said.

He hovered to a stop. "Hello Ryau... are you here to stop me as Sig tried?"

"Well, Sig did tell me to try," Ryau said. "But I'm not." He walked behind K`an's hover chair and began to push it in the direction of the tavern.

K`an just shook his head and resumed hovering forward. "You may have not noticed this, but Sig worries way too much. I mean... really... I am fifty-two solar cycles old! I can go to the bar whenever I wish."

"I don't know why he thinks that going to the bar is a bad idea," Ryau said. "But, I know for a fact that I could use a drink" They came to the entrance to the tavern. The large door slid open to a fairly stereotypical scene, bar table in the center, and various chairs around the room.

"Well it has something to do with the 'recovery' process. And about how 'The alcohol will mess with the bones as they fix back together' as he says. but whatever... I've broken bones plenty of times and no alcohol has ever stopped them from healing."

"Is that what the nurse says? I doubt Sig has medical training," Ryau asked.

"I don't know what she thinks... but I'll ask her later when I get back to the hospital room." K`an wiggled his eye ridges. Ryau chuckled and pushed K`an up to the counter. He took a seat beside him. K`an sighed and looked down. Suddenly he laughed, "I guess I owe you a drink."

"So you say" Ryau nodded.

"Well I do, do I not?" K`an glanced over to Ryau.

"I think so"

"Is it my choice?" K`an asked, a smirk slowly appearing on his face.

Ryau nodded again, "If you think that's fair." He sighed, he was doing plenty of nodding today.

"Of course." K`an chuckled very slightly. "And you'll drink it?"

Ryau paused for a moment to contemplate if that was really a good idea, but then he decided to go against his better judgment. "Sure."

K`an immediately waved the bartender over. The older male walked over. His crimson armor denoted that he was a Major, this was probably his job aboard the ship. "Give us two 'Pelt Burners' please," K`an asked.

The tender nodded and walked over to his work station to craft the beverages. Ryau heard the name and became worried, "Oh God, what's this going to be..."

K`an let out a hearty laugh. "Don't worry, Ryau... You'll be fine. Just remember; you drink with me, you drink for keeps!" The bartender returned with two cloudy red drinks. He set the relatively smaller glasses in front of K`an and Ryau. "Have you ever drank a Pelt burner before?"

Ryau gulped quietly. "No, I haven't."

"Heh," K`an scoffed. "Do you know what they are?"

"No, not at all." Ryau said.

He smiled and sat back in his chair, as if it would help recall the story. "Well... most don't really know why they are named as such, however I am a well versed connoisseur of alcoholic crafts." He reached for the drink and uses his other hand to showcase the red concoction. "A 'Pelt Burner' was the end result of a surprisingly non violent argument between two Sangheili and Jiralhanae brewing companies... Long story short, the Jiralhanae said that the Sangheili could never make stronger alcohol than they could... and after many rounds back in forth... this was created.

It was a drink to completely trump the apes, it was made so well and so strong that the Jiralhanae judges couldn't handle it. It churned them harsher than anything they could make by far, and claimed defeat. That is, one hundred percent, truth and history. Look it up" K`an handed Ryau the other glass. "Now lets drink."

"Is this the kind of drink that you take down all at once, or a little at a time?" Ryau asked.

"For your throat's sake, down it." K`an said.

"Well... here it goes." Ryau held the cup up to his throat, paused for a moment, and then poured it down. The alcohol burned as it traveled down to the stomach. Ryau gagged and coughed, but managed to set the glass back on the bar.

K`an slammed his glass on to the counter. "Yeah!" He laughed. "What do you think, Ryau?"

Ryau coughed again and held the drink down in his stomach. "It really does burn."

He chuckled. "We don't have to have another round." The tender returned to check in on them, and K`an held up his hand. "Something lighter, please.... For what it's worth, Ryau. Tonight's on me, enjoy yourself, alright?"

Ryau sighed, exactly what he needed to do, "Thanks."

"Well... what were you up to before Sig found you?" K`an asked. The tender returned with another set of glasses with a lighter, more pleasant smelling drink.

"I was... in the worship room." Ryau said quietly. He took a glass and a sip of the new liquor.

"Oh?" K`an asked, interested.

"A priest was giving some sort of sermon..." Ryau began.

"Oh, spare me the details." He interrupted Ryau, waving his hand. "I'm not much for the whole 'worship and sermon' stuffing that is involved with the Covenant. It just always kind of bothered me that there seems like there is no freedom for anything else... it's just like..." K`an began to speak in a mocking authoritative tone. "If you feel the need to stomp on our religion, let it be known that you may do so in the privacy of your home, but if you say that shit in public, we'll kill you." He shook his head. "No thank you."

"Hey..." Ryau chuckled. "That's pretty much what they say."

K`an looked around at the other patrons in the bar. "Come on... let's go to the booth in the corner... talk like this shouldn't be so open."

"Hmm... agreed." Ryau said. The two gathered their drinks and moved to a booth in the back corner where they would have more privacy for their slightly heretical conversations..

Twenty days had passed since Reach fell, and Ryau walked with Naki through the corridors of the Leveling Strength. He had been keeping track of how long he had been 'captured by the Covenant, and there was something about the current date that had Ryau thinking. "September nineteenth... Why does the nineteenth feel so important in my head."

He just couldn't place his finger on the source of the importance. Sure, it was D`rok's wedding day, but that would not make him feel like he was missing something. "Naki... does the date September nineteenth, ring any bells?" He asked.

Naki stopped her stride and looked over to him, with a confused expression on her face. "I... I don't know. Something in the back of my head..."

"Same with me. Hopefully something will jog our memory." Ryau sighed.

Over the last week and a half he hadn't seen much of D`rok as he was with his future wife, and Ryau and Sig had battled it out in a holographic strategy game. Though, in that short amount of time, K`an had managed to get with half the females in the medical ward, and Ryau was pretty sure that Alea had been hanging out with him whenever she wasn't working with Naki.

K`an and Sig were already at the wedding area, them being long time friends with D`rok. Ryau and Naki were invited as crowd patrons. The two had gotten their armor polished just before the day, and Ryau thought it was even cleaner than the day he had first seen it in the cell.

The news that D`rok was getting married had spread throughout the fleet, thanks to slipspace communication, something Ryau knew Humans had yet to achieve. Although it was still impossible to travel between ships while they were in the other dimension, the wedding would be broadcasted to the other ships as some kind of entertainment.

Ryau and Naki entered the auditorium and found their way to the seats that had been assigned to them. Since there were so many attendees, everyone that said they were coming got a seat. They took their seats as the ceremony began.

A San 'Shyuum was standing at the center of the stage, waiting for the others two parties to arrive. After a moment, K`an and Sig walked out in front of D`rok. They walked up to the San 'Shyuum and the two Major's moved to flank the Officer. D`rok and the San 'Shyuum shared a nod. "The alter now welcomes Special Operations Officer D`rok Tallaham." The San Shyuum said. "And now I invite M`riana 'Casmee to the altar."

Ryau looked to the other side, as the door slid open. D`rok's future wife came out with her companions. Her bronze armor shone brightly in the lighting of the amphitheater. She took her position and her escorts moved back to their positions on either side, mirroring K`an and Sig.

"Welcome. Sir and Miss." The San 'Shyuum bowed to the two. "Let us begin." He nodded towards the crowd, and began. "A millennium ago, two races from different worlds were in a great feud. But within time, they united and formed a writ of union... Now... today, we celebrated two Sangheili of different keeps to form their own writ of union, a bond of blood and love. 'Tallaham, born of un-unionized Sanghelios territory and by hail of the State of Zelso; and 'Casmee, born of the State of Vadam and by hail of the State of Zelso... Today, the two have chosen to unite their keeps under one name." He paused to smile to the two. "Tallaham? Would you care to share how you two met?" He glanced towards D`rok.

"The two of us came to know each other about two months ago just outside of the Varo-Cleavete Spaceport. I was driving home when I found this lovely female struggling with her luggage on the side of the road. I kindly stopped and offered the service of my vehicle as transportation." D`rok chuckled to himself. "And... we almost got to her residence when the main road was rendered unusable due to a storm. We decided to just stay at my place of rest until I could take her home. The rest is... just childish love and happiness... and no one really wants those details." He laughed, which triggered laughing in the audience.

"Very well..." The San Shyuum continued on with the sermon. "These two have chosen to unite two families in a sacred bond, to walk the sacred path together and go as one onto the Great Journey... D`rok 'Tallaham and M`riana 'Casmee, one, together for eternity. We are gathered here to celebrate their commitment to each other. 'Tallaham, do you take 'Casmee to be your wife?"

D`rok smiled. "Yes."

"And 'Casmee, do you take 'Tallaham to be your husband?" The San 'Shyuum asked.

"Yes I do," She smiled happily.

The priest nodded towards K`an and one of M`riana's escorts. The two stepped forward and offered the two each a small box, with gifts for one another. D`rok took the box from K`an and removed a gold necklace from inside. He carefully placed it around M`riana's neck. She returned the gesture and slowly placed a ring on one of D`rok's fingers.

The San 'Shyuum smiled, and began his closing words. "Now let the two be one." And at that moment, D`rok and M`riana kissed, by what Ryau could guess was locking their jaws together. The crowd clapped and cheered. Alcoholic drinks were handed out from the back and slowly made their way foreword.

Ryau got a glass and passed one to Naki, she smiled and accepted the glass. She took a drink. "You know, this is the the first wedding I've been to as well." Naki said.

"It's a nice ceremony," Ryau said, taking a drink himself. "Once this war is over, we-"

A shot from a Carbine sounded from the stage, followed by by a barrage of more. Ryau turned and saw D`rok on the ground and one of M`riana's escorts with a Carbine, firing on K`an. Another sound opened up as Sig returned fire. It seemed that everyone had still had weapons on them, must have been some kind ceremonial thing, Ryau only had the energy blades on his wrists. He pushed his way through the crowd.

Naki was caught up behind as gunfire erupted from the fringe of the audience. She pulled her Plasma rifle off her hip and fired back. "Ryau, where are you going?" She shouted.

"I have to go help D`rok!" Ryau activated his energy blade and stabbed a bronze armored Sangheili that had begun to fire on Sig from the base of the stage. His blade cut through their neck and they dropped to the floor. Ryau pulled himself up onto the stage, but suddenly there was a rumble from the back end of the ship.

There was a defining wash of static and the ship groaned. Ryau froze, it sounded like a sudden deceleration from slipspace. First came the rumble, then the continued momentum. The ship stopped, and the internal dampeners did everything they could to help, but Ryau was sent sailing across the polished floor.

Ryau slammed into K`an, knocking him away from his support. The two Sangheili slid towards the edge of the stage, and not a moment later, they fell off. K`an landed first, falling into what would stand as an orchestra pit. Ryau went over a millisecond later, landing on top of K`an.

There was a loud crack as K`an's brace broke under Ryau's weight. He screamed and Ryau rolled off as fast as he could. Ryau knelt down to check on K`an's injuries, only K`an growled and slammed his fist into Ryau's unarmored side. "You stupid motherfucker!" K`an screamed in Ryau's ear.

Ryau coughed at the blow, "What the hell, K`an." He placed his hand on the ground to take the weight off his midsection.

Sig and Naki both dropped down from the stage to join K`an and Ryau. The shooting had stopped right before the ship decelerated. "Are you two alright?" Naki asked, catching her breath.

"No I'm not fucking alright! My fucking leg is broke thanks to that fucking fat ass!" K`an shouted through the pain as he pointed to Ryau. "What kind of stupid fucking question is that?!"

Naki knelt by Ryau. "Ryau, what happened to you? Did you get hit?" She asked.

Ryau shook his head, "No, I'm fine. Just gotta catch my breath."

"Naki, Ryau! Help me with his leg!" Sig said from beside K`an. Ryau moved over and held K`an's leg steady as Naki used her own wrist blade to slice through the useless brace. K`an grunted while she removed the torn plastic and metal from around the wound. Sig gave K`an a dose of painkiller just above the broken bone. "Okay, help me rest the leg."

"What!?" K`an protested.

Sig held K`an as Ryau took hold of the leg. With a few quick pulls and jerks, Ryau had managed to get the bone back into place as best he could. K`an growled and clenched his mandibles from the pain, he relaxed when Ryau and Naki moved away.

"What just happened?" Ryau sat against the edge of the stage and slid down onto the floor.

"I don't exactly know." Naki sighed, and joined him. She placed her hand up to her head as if she was listening to the radio. After a few moments. she seemed to have a better understanding. "It was like the whole wedding was just a ploy, after the explosion M`riana and the others fled the chamber. Commander 'Vadumee and the Shipmaster have organized a ship wide search." A silver armored Sangheili dropped down from the stage and began to talk to Sig. "Well, there is Commander 'Vadumee now." Naki said.

"We dropped out of slipspace didn't we?" Ryau asked.

"Yes, thankfully they only sabotaged the drives power supply. The Huragok's are already working on it, though it will take some time for it to warm back up," Naki said. "The fleet continued on without us."

"I knew it felt like an emergency drop out. They've probably left the ship by now." Ryau suggested. "Do we have any slipspace capable small ships?"

"Yes... we do. The search party probably won't find any of them then." Naki commented.

The two had been ignoring what Commander 'Vadumee and Sig had been talking about, until Ryau heard his last name dropped in conversation. "...persuasion towards 'Cinotee, 'Cimutee, and yourself to take him back to your barracks. I would give aid to the task however I am currently required here." He said.

Ryau glanced over to the other group of Sangheili, "What of K`an?" Sig asked.

"A much as it would please me to have him spaced, I will bite thy tongue and make sure that he gets his medical attention." 'Vadumee shook his head slightly.

Naki sighed. "I'll stay with him until the medical team arrives."

"Ooh, I get to stay and flirt with the lady!" K`an joked. Naki responded silently and slowly pressed her boot onto K`an's leg with a smirk. Ryau looked to Naki and chuckled.

"Very well." Sig looked down to K`an while ignoring Naki's retaliation. "I will come visit you after D`rok has come too, alright?"

"Yeah, yeah. You should be there anyway. We wouldn't want him to cry too much, would we?" K`an waved them all off. Naki rolled her eyes as K`an wiggled his eye ridges as he passed an intoxicated smirk towards her.

As the group began to disperse, Ryau pulled himself onto the stage and reached back to help Sig up. They pulled D`rok off the ground and took him out of the auditorium. As they passed other Sangheili, they offered condolences to the unconscious figure. They had made it halfway to the Lance room before Sig decided to speak.

"I still have no idea what really happened. It was so quick.." Sig said. "What did you see?"

"Not much at first, Naki and I had just received our drinks when the shooting started. Out of the corner of my eye, she seemed to shove something underneath his chest piece... that's it," Ryau said.

"What after that though? Like, where did all the other militants come from?" Sig asked.

"They were with her..." Ryau said. "...like her bridal escorts and some of the crowd were responsible for the attack."

Sig sighed and looked down at the passing floor plates. "Well... what do you think the motive is though? Why would they do this today, to D`rok?"

"I don't know," Ryau admitted with a grumble. He didn't understand who the militants were supposed to be. They could possibly be Covenant Heretics, but why would they group on a ship and then sabotage a wedding.

"Okay then. Let's get him back to the barracks and then you may return to the amphitheater, if you wish," Sig offered.

"There isn't really a need to go back." Ryau shrugged.

Sig perked up. "Well I would love to actually have another male to talk to..." He paused to readjust his grip on D`rok.

Ryau's train of thought stopped, he didn't want to get into another session of long conversation with Sig. Just a few days ago, Sig had tried to inquire about Ryau's 'preferences.' While Ryau had nothing against Sig, he didn't like him that way. "Wait... Naki is back there, and I should probably apologize to K`an."

Sig gave a quick but saddened nod. "Yeah... you're right."

They finally reached the Lance room and carefully set D`rok in the cot closest to the door. Ryau and Sig used the quick release on the chest plate and removed all his armor above the waist. With a final nod, Ryau left Sig to treat D`rok's minor wound.

He walked back through the ship, and saw some of the damage the sudden deceleration had caused. The Gravity conveyors were out of service ship wide, Ryau had a twinge of sympathy for whoever was inside them when the ship dropped out. Panels had been thrown from their brackets and wires hung from exposed maintenance passages in some places. A trio of Unggoy walked by complaining that the Methane suites on a lower deck had been ruptured.

Ryau ran into Naki and a hover-chair riding K`an midway through the ship. "Is D`rok okay?" K`an asked.

"Physically? Just a small puncture wound. But mentally? I don't know." Ryau said.

K`an parted his mandibles to speak, but before he could respond, an announcement came over the ship wide speakers. "Attention, Slipspace drive has been repaired. Resuming jump operations... brace for sudden acceleration." The ship shuddered as its systems returned to working order, and it slid into the other dimension. K`an just sighed and glared around the room.

Ryau turned and walked behind the two as they headed back the way Ryau had come. The speed that the Huragok worked was apparent. Many of the broken panels had already been replaced in the five minutes since Ryau passed through, the pink creatures cheerfully floating back into their maintenance passageways.

Sig was alone in the Lance room when they returned. "Where's D`rok?" Ryau asked.

"He awoke and went into his private room to be alone." Sig said with a slight frown. "Commander 'Vadumee arrived while you were gone, they are talking."

Once again, the overhead speakers crackled to life. "Attention, Dropping out of Slipspace in 5..." The intercom began to count down in its usual fashion.

"Didn't we just re-enter Slipspace, just half an hour ago?" Ryau asked Naki.

"We must have caught back up with the fleet." Naki suggested. "They might have either dropped out to wait for us, or we arrived at the destination."

"All hands! A...Attention to Forward camera!" The communications officer spoke quickly.

Naki activated the holographic window for the Lance room and tuned it to the forward camera's display. They all saw it, and Ryau realized why this day was so important. What they saw on the screen made Ryau whisper a long forgotten tune.

Naki looked to him, with her mouth agape. But she did not speak a word.

It was a Halo ring.

Note: D`rok, K`an, Sig and M`riana belong to my fellow co-writer sgtlegedkiller. Writer of the Fate Twister series which runs parallel to my own. Many scenes in the last few chapters with his characters were co-written with him,