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Literature
IRD 16
Orion looked at the white phosphorus gas, as it was slowly beginning to spread into the core room, and looked back to Luc, and the others who were able to fight.
“I don’t know about you, but I know Daniel. He was a bit weird, but I didn’t think him capable of submission to the Hive”
“Willing, submission to the Hive… it’s pretty rare, I take it?”
“Yeah, we only know of 10 cases of it, in the course of our bloody battle against them. Hundreds of billions of people killed, and then brought back to life to fight the survivors. It’s a sickening process”
The remaining doors around the core chamber sealed, as the group continued to deliberate, the wave of fire was slowly approaching them. Orion, largely silent until now, spoke a single sentence, looking through the fire towards the hangar.
“A Traitor to his own kind… just like Vail”
Orion looked back to the broken corpse of Vail, and then to the damaged assaul
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Literature
IRD 15
Within the barracks, everyone heard the loud crash, as something impacted near them, sending fragments of concrete and dust in all directions, as the lights flickered from the impact. For the males outside the Barracks, they saw all hell break loose, as a large pod landed nearby, and Hive Grunts began spilling out from the crater… that was once a small shopping district. Matt was already out there, setting as many of them ablaze as possible, while the full time marines, gun turrets, and new recruits from the local population opened up on the hostiles, automatic rifles, grenades, and other infantry weapons fire being traded between the two sides, as the grunts fell back to the crater, and used it as cover.
“What the hell is going on out there?”
“Full hive assault pod, to the south… requesting heavy armour deployment”
The factories within the base, although taking some stray shots, whirred to life, as they began assembling the necessary parts to create
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Literature
IRD 14
Reach and Roxie both looked up, seeing the fire in the sky stop traveling over their heads, and start to travel towards them, as the fires began to dissipate from the objects, the organic nature of the incoming objects made its intentions clear to everyone in the vicinity.
“Holy shit… THE HIVE”
Reach and Roxie both turned to the gun shop owner, with the look on their faces similar to we already told you they were coming sort of deal. They then looked back to the 3 chevrons astronaut, seeing the look of despair on their face. They thought it was the beginning of the end.
“We can help”
“Think of it as a favour for an old friend”
Everyone present turned towards the wind-like voices, and saw a surprisingly odd couple. The one of the left, the more feminine, and shorter than average, was composed of what appeared to be living water, as she got to work putting out the spot fires around the crashed escape pod. The other, taller and more masculine, was
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Literature
IRD 13
“You leave us no choice, Houston”
“No, the Hive has left us no choice. Give the order to the Defence grid. They need to start shooting now”
“… It is done”
Up in the Asia defence station, the contacts they had on their radar were suddenly outlined in red, accompanied by a priority message from the council, to engage immediately. It also picked up the 10 or so larger vessels behind the three lead ships. Their sensors also detected an energy spike, large amounts of radiation reaching their sensors. Yi, the resident communications officer and the only person currently watching their sensors, sent the message through to the rest of the station, and the rest of the grid. The contacts may have been 1000 kilometres out, but they were well within range… for both the Hive’s, and the human’s weapons.
“All defence platforms… hostiles detected, prepare firing solutions immediately”
They received no reply except for confir
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Literature
IRD 12
“So, what happened up there exactly?”
Orion and Mark were talking within one of the recreational rooms, secluded from the others, Mark with his helmet off, Orion sitting cross legged on a red couch.
“What part would you like to know Orion: the launch, or the recon?”
“Sure, go and use my given name why don’t you? I don’t need to know anything beyond the amount of guns they had”
“Looked like rail guns, or some other type of magnetically accelerated cannons. In addition, they had some curious looking hatches… let me bring it up”
The TV in front of Orion sprung to life, and was displaying a section of Mark’s footage… including the approach to the largest of the ships in the fleet, dwarfing all others. It included a diagnostic of his ship; in comparison to theirs… his ship he had flown was maybe 20 metres long. The largest Hive ship was over 100 times that. It looked somewhat like a dolphin, if the tail had
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Literature
IRD 11
“We are gonna need more guns… you know who to call”
“Ghost busters?”
“No. The other ones”
“The army, wait no… the militia?”
“YES. JUST CALL THE NUMBER DAMN IT, BEFORE WE GET SHOT TO PIECES”
Meanwhile…
“When do we start shooting?”
“The moment they try to send out a call. It should appear on a display in front of you if they do”
“They are calling… pizza hut?”
“Seriously, that cannot be right”
“Tapping into their call, setting the gun to auto track them”
“… NO, I DON’T WANT A PIZZA. I WANT TO TALK TO THE FREE AMERICAN MILITIA”
“So that is a pepperoni pizza with extra cheese, delivered to your current location?”
“NO”
“Then what do you want?”
“I would like to speak to the local militia”
“Meat lovers… with extra bacon and BBQ sauce”
“ARGH”
“The
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Literature
IRD 10
“Surely there is more…”
“Unless it really, really matters, I am not about to tell my story of personal hell hole that I went through for the last two years”
“Sorry”
“I can accept that… how knowledgeable are you with regards to military tech?”
“Not particularly… not modern tech at least”
Orion, a 2.2 metre tall winged demon like creature, talking to a very human looking male, his cousin James… a little on the odd side. But none the less, they made it back to an area James had cleared before, climbing 5 sets of stairs. Only to find a floor James thought was clear, the Armoury, with foundry for refining metal, and factory for production, swarming with Sec-troopers.
“Damn. Told you so”
“Doesn’t matter now… we could try sneaking around them”
“Could”
“But you don’t want to”
“Not really, no”
*Sigh* what do you have in mind?”
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Literature
IRD 9
“Was that your psionic beam? If so, it kinds of leaves a smell of ozone in the air, like during a lightning storm”
“Yes, that was… and I am surprised you can smell the ozone over the smell of burnt flesh”
“… That is horrid, how the hell do you deal with the stench?”
“How long has it been since the end of the conflict, the destruction of the invader’s vanguard?”
“2 years, at least”
“I have been stuck down here without so much as a glimpse of sunlight since then, captured by the government when my unconscious body fell to earth”
Orion and James were debating this in a corridor that was now on fire in places, the stench of burning corpses and ozone permeating the air… as for the security team, some of them were little more than dust. Others had been torn to pieces, while they were still alive, by the unbridled frenzy of Orion.
“Did these guards do anything to you?”
“Every guar
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Literature
IRD 8
Orion awoke in darkness, the sound of water flowing through his enclosure providing his only point of reference. The lights in here were offline… which was odd. Usually, they at least provided dim light, in a similar cycle to that of the moon, when the inspectors were done for the day. But that they were still like this, and he was awake, was odd. The fact he also had no nightmares that night also surprised him… he uncurled himself from his bed of leaves and dry grass, and got up, looking around, and seeing only silhouettes, due to the lack of any light source. It took about 3 seconds for him to notice he was being watched, as he clicked his fingers, sending out a pulse of sound, while sniffing the air. The grass had been watered, and was alive again, and the trees too were growing leaves after a long period of death. He ignored his observer, and headed to the stream, which had not run since he was restrained.
After a quick drink of water and running the cool water over his
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Literature
IRD 7
“Ok… what did you do today?”
“Was it that obvious?”
“I passed two cop cars on the way in. Something happened today, probably related to you”
“5 of the Japanese international students decided that I was not allowed in their spot. I think it is the same 5 individuals who crashed their car not too long ago, a crappy old silver car”
“You heard about that today then?”
“They tried to stab me”
“What?”
“They all had little pocket knives, and pulled them out when I refused to move. So I blinded them temporarily with dry grass and dust, got some distance, and created a non-lethal weapon based on a shotgun’s frame”
“Created?”
“Yeah… I will show you when we get home what I can do”
“What do you mean non-lethal?”
“It literally just blasted them away, and when they got up, they were completely unharmed. I tried shooting them off a roof as well, wh
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Literature
IRD 6
“Morning Steve”
“Morning Orion… whatever constitutes as morning down here”
“So… any report on my family?”
“Do you want me to BS, or the truth?”
“You know what you expect from me. I expect the same from you, and I will know if you are lying”
“Then you know I don’t bring good news”
“Lay it on me then”
“You remember talking about the hive yesterday?”
“The grey semi-solid alien, yeah… why?”
“Well… they’ve appeared”
“Stop being vague”
“They are in our solar system”
Orion's jaw dropped.
“Oh”
“They have a fleet of warships”
“Crap”
“And they have been plotted coming for us. So it isn’t really your family perse, but the entire planet is at risk. So far, everyone with access to a telescope could see them, if they knew where to look”
“What are we facing?”
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Literature
IRD 5
“You are telling me, you have the power of a focused nuclear detonation at your disposal?”
“For lack of better terms yes”
“How do you know that it is worse than what you felt in a nightmare?”
“Because I tested it on myself...”
“Excuse me?”
“I tested my own abilities on myself, and other inanimate objects when I first developed the ability to do so”
Steve's facial features seemed to soften almost immediately, and he lowered his voice as he walked up towards Orion, far closer than he probably should have gone. But Orion did not react.
“You are nearly invulnerable to your own attacks, when they are based upon psionic energy. You said so yourself, and I tested it”
“Doesn’t mean I didn’t feel it... that shotgun blast from you before your scheduled execution is currently throbbing”
“What?”
“I still feel everything that hits me, and although it is less than what I woul
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Literature
IRD 4
The flight to the meeting point was largely uneventful, apart from me trying to make myself comfortable with my wings and tail… not to mention the spikes running down my spine. The cargo mesh used for seating on either side of the Chinook leaves much to be desired. Eventually though, I had a view of the outside, as well as a comfortable position to enjoy the flight. It wasn’t particularly fast, being what it was, but it did the job. The guards were relaxed, only looking at Mark and me occasionally, to make sure we were still there. Captain Hudd, on the other hand, was going back to sleep, even over the dull throbbing of the Chinook’s engine rotors. The weather was amazing during the flight, no other way to describe it. Even though it was roughly midday, in the middle of summer, the winds were extremely calm today, barely causing any movement to the Chinook. The few clouds there were could not affect the flight.  So, when we did eventually reach out destination on
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Literature
IRD 3
“You are telling me, that I should believe that a guy like you is called Steve?”
“I like Minecraft ok? It’s a nickname given to me by some of my colleagues”
“Sure”
“You realise our conversations are recorded…”
“Yep, I assume it helps the specialist’s figure out if any of your kind is getting too attached to any individual subject. Even giving me a name to call you would be a risk to me… were I not down here”
“How many times… we are not here to torture you for information. We are simply trying to keep you from going on a murderous rampage, as you seem prone to doing in the story you have told me so far”
“Self-defence”
“Sure, sure, the lawyers will believe you. Not as if you are a creature clearly capable of violence”
Orion glanced up towards the observation deck, where Steve was looking down at him. His gaze shied away when Orion looked up, focusing instead on on
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Literature
IRD 2
“Vitals appear stable… your assessment, doctor?”
“This is a unique case Jess. Based on the physical damage, he should be dead right now. Multiple cases of internal damage from shattered bones, likely due to the shockwave of the explosion… surprisingly though, his right leg has evidence of recently having a shard of metal lodged in it, which was cauterised and cleaned properly. No signs of infection in there so far. The worst would be the damage to his spine, a direct hit from a tree cutter’s axe. But, with that said, it is in much better shape than I thought possible, considering the size of the wound. The spine seems to be largely intact, with no clear damage caused to it”
“How is that possible?”
“As I said, this is a unique case, one that I need your expertise on… take a look yourself”
The nurse stifled a gasp, as the the doctor pulled the sheet off of their patient, revealing the black, scale covered tail, and i
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Literature
IRD 1
So… from the title, you may have guessed, this is based on real life… somewhat, if it was incredibly distorted. Most characters within this novel are based on someone who I know in the real world. Also, I have taken what they said they would do in a given situation, and used it in this… even though they may not under the circumstances, respond in that way. Anyway, this is the story of what happens, when the worlds you weave together through plot and computer, begin leaking in the real world…
It wasn’t noticeable at first, but one day, when I was walking home from the bus, I noticed there was nobody around. Usually, at this time of day, there would be cars driving along the road past me, and at the very least, maybe one person waiting in the bus stop. But it was completely deserted. Even the wildlife that is present in Australia was silenced. I could have continued walking on the concrete path, but instead, I walked behind the bus top, as close to the back
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So, I watch this guy:

MonsieurBerds 


And he got tagged in this. He finished with "If you wanna go ahead" I want to, if only to introduce a potential charecter, without spoiling too much about them. They shall remain nameless for now, but I have already thought of it.



1) They have a wife and a single child. While it will likely never come up, their family was their entire life, their decisions revolved around keeping them all safe, happy, and together.


2) They had what might be called an obsession with land vehicles, old motorbikes in particular. They purchased an older model Indian Motorcycle, and fixed it up to it's factory configuration, forging some parts that they couldn't buy from scrap metal.


3) When they were younger, they obsessed over dinosaurs. But they weren't interested in the T-rex or triceratops. They liked Raptors. Fast, lethal teeth and talons, and they work together in packs to take out larger prey. At least, that was the information available to them...


4) They distrust flying vehicles of all types and sizes, both currently and in the past. Something about the nature of flight, it feels unnatural to them. Which was a problem, early on in their working career.


5) While they are a bit rusty now, they enjoyed creating music, as well as listening to it. Their preference was the guitar, but they had a working knowledge of how to use most orchestral instruments, including brass, woodwind, and string instruments.


6) They abhor violence. Not much else to say about that, but they cannot stand violence. Especially done against the weak. In situations where they were the target, they ran, or tried to find peaceful resolutions without violence. More often than not, it was running away from problems.


7) Living in a large city in asia has it's perks. That's how they met their wife, after all. But they could not afford to live in the increasingly populated and poluted city centre, and living outside of it was too expensive. Thus, his skills in maintenance, while not as developed at the time, lead to a position working with large machinery.


8) Their memory is largely fragmented after that. The last event they remember is moving into their new house in Brisbane. An old, single story house, near a large bush-land reserve, one of many within Australia. Their child, Del, grew increasingly attached to nature, as did they and their wife, with frequent walks through their own paradise.



And I tag... no one. Anyone can, and should, take up the torch, however.
Orion looked at the white phosphorus gas, as it was slowly beginning to spread into the core room, and looked back to Luc, and the others who were able to fight.


“I don’t know about you, but I know Daniel. He was a bit weird, but I didn’t think him capable of submission to the Hive”
“Willing, submission to the Hive… it’s pretty rare, I take it?”
“Yeah, we only know of 10 cases of it, in the course of our bloody battle against them. Hundreds of billions of people killed, and then brought back to life to fight the survivors. It’s a sickening process”


The remaining doors around the core chamber sealed, as the group continued to deliberate, the wave of fire was slowly approaching them. Orion, largely silent until now, spoke a single sentence, looking through the fire towards the hangar.


“A Traitor to his own kind… just like Vail”


Orion looked back to the broken corpse of Vail, and then to the damaged assault gun he had carried. With little effort, the barrel was back into a useable shape and the firing mechanism able to receive shells. He picked it up, left hand holding a carry handle, right hand on the trigger, and turned towards the door. He glanced back, unspeaking, before walking through the fire. Luc just looked on, dumbstruck by his complete disregard of the risk, even more so when James and Mark followed him through as well, with most of the phosphorus now pushed to either side of the corridor. Luc was then able to see straight through, as the Valkyrie was peppering the doorway with regular, solid shells. He looked back to the two pilots, then again to the doorway, and the mini gun he was carrying… he sighed, and he too passed through the fire filled corridor.


He emerged into an area of chaos, as Mark was summoning automated turrets, though small, that were returning fire at the Valkyrie, though doing minimal damage. James was moving to a better firing position, rocket launcher in hand, while Orion was flying around the hangar, literally flying circles around the less manoeuvrable transport. When Mark was done summoning his turrets, he too joined Orion, helping spread their fire away from the ground. As Luc stepped out into the open, he activated his armour’s inbuilt stabilisers, locking him into the ground, and fired, non-stop, at the Valkyrie. And then the Valkyrie’s eyes opened, all 4 of them, and locked with Luc, firing at them constantly, and ripping chunks out of its flesh with each shot.


“Luc, MOVE NOW”


The warning came too late, as the Valkyrie spontaneously grew two tendrils, each 20 metres long, and wrapped one around Luc. The stabilisers kept him rooted to the ground, but immobilised… he was barely able to drop his weapon before it was crushed in the tendrils grip. He could feel its pressure through his thick armour, constricting him. It had nothing preventing it from crushing him in a moment… which it began to do.


Orion, seeing this, dived from above, summoning his Chitin blade in favour of the assault gun, and raised it in front of him, aiming for the tendril. His dive took him to his maximum speed, before he hit the tendril, taking a large chunk out of it, and it released its grip on Luc, no longer able to control over three quarters of its total length. This cut was then followed up by Orion’s tail and talons, which tore off the damaged section entirely. It fell to the floor, missing Luc’s weapon, as he released himself from his anchored position, and nodded to Orion, before picking up his weapon again, and continuing firing… ignoring the damaged plating of his armour.


The second tendril, however, struck out at Orion, knocking him out of the air as he was trying to ascend once more, flinging him into a nearby structural column. Dazed, he watched James unleash two rockets at the creature from his position, and their explosions temporarily blocked his view of the main craft. When the fire cleared, however, the Valkyrie appeared to have taken no damage. Its guns then opened up on Orion, pinning him behind cover, and Luc, who ran behind the column next to his. Orion made a link with Luc’s mind, if only to ease shouting over the gunfire. Luc seemed confused at first, but quickly accepted this new form of communication.


“Luc… you said that this had happened before”
“Who is this?”
“Orion and we are communicating via thought, before you ask. We are going to be here a little while, at least until the ship reloads, or targets Mark and James”
“I see. And yes, I said it had occurred 9 times before. This is the tenth”
“It would be prevalent for us to know in advance what these traitor units are capable of…”


The gunfire hitting their cover stopped for a moment, and Luc peaked out of cover. The moment he did so, the Valkyrie was able to chase James back to Orion’s cover, and it switched back to Luc, as the tendril swiped at Mark. Orion added James to the mental conference, if only as a spectator.


“Fine, I will tell you”





Roxie stood amongst a pile of corpses, primarily those of the Hive troopers, the underequipped soldiers used to protect the Nimbus, with shotgun shells and SMG casing scattered all over the scorched floor. Behind her, cowering somewhat behind cover, were the Marines, with Jane and Reach standing in front of the rest, keeping watch on the corridor. Roxie turned, her armour pockmarked from the gunfire she had taken, as she walked back towards the main group of Marines.


“That’s how many waves now?”
“Too many… we cannot hold here forever”
“Agreed, there are too many entrances to cover. We should move back to the Hangar we entered through”
“Ideally, yes. But there is no cover in there. None, unless you want to get up close and personal with more of the Hive’s monstrosities”


The lance corporal shuddered at that.


“No more of my men shall die by their hand… but if they send some ranged units at us in the Hangar, we will be cut down”
“Can’t we just block off some of the doors? Weld them shut or something?”
“If we had the tools to do so, then yes”
“This is a maintenance bay. There is bound to be some welding torches, or whatever it was the aliens used to do the same thing”


The Lance corporal glanced over at the 6 marines she had positioned to punch through deeper into the ship.


“Advance squad, back here… You’re needed to help search for something”
“And that would be, rookie?”
*sigh* “A welding torch, or something along those lines. We need to better secure this room”
“You would have the UNSC’s finest, to go on a fetch quest? You have got to be kidding me”
“You know full well who the true UNSC’s finest is. And it isn’t you lot. So you will find us a welding torch”


Matt, saying nothing, moved to one of the doors that was not as well guarded, and burned away the flesh covering it from this side. The door opened, revealing an empty corridor. He moved away, and the door closed automatically, and he got to work, effectively spot welding the gap between the two halves of the door.


“We got a living one, right there”


Matt stopped, and glared at the particular Marine who said that, his flames flaring up, but unspeaking. After a moment, he continued his work, and turned what were two separate halves of a circular door into a single piece of metal. He approached the door once more, and melted the actuators that opened the door, before he was satisfied with his work. Because of how the door opened, there was no way it could be broken, not even by the chargers brute strength.


The Marine squad begrudgingly began searching for a welding torch. Instead, they found a strange weapon. It appeared to be some sort of trident, but none of them could pick it up. Jane, curious, approached it, and reached out with her tendril. It seemed to stick, and she lifted it, watching as her watery body began to fuse with the trident. Before long, she had absorbed it, and it was nothing more than dust. However, on command, she could reform the trident, now infused with her living water-like skin, and could effectively control it while in was in flight, which she discovered after throwing it.


“This is… strange. Why would the Varian’s have this?”
“Odd, yes, but it could explain how the hive developed its ability to adapt its creations, and those it has captured”
“The swarmers, in particular… they look like us. Like humans”
“Like the flood…”


The lance corporal was nearby, of course, and overheard that last part.


“The Flood… as in parasitic organism, which takes control of its host, and uses it to further spread itself Flood?”
“The very same… why is this so similar to something we have fought in the past?”
“Is it possible, that Orion created it? I mean, if the captain was to be believed, we shouldn’t even be here right now… yet we are”
“I had family, back on earth… and they weren’t there. Hell, most major cities I saw down there, they are all much smaller, and almost backwards in comparison to what we are used to”
“It is certainly curious. But Orion is incapable of creating sentient life. That is beyond his abilities”
“You know this how?”
“We are his sisters. We have seen what he is capable of first hand. Sure, he might have been able to form the Spirit of Fire… but not its crew”
“Cogito ego sum”
“Sorry?”
“You always were a bit uncultured, weren’t you carpenter? I think, therefore I exist. It’s more applicable now than ever”
“What are you implying?”


The marine, a private, sat down on a small crate he had found, as did the other marines, Reach, Roxie, and the lance Corporal. The private, maybe 30 years old, continued his theory.


“What if, Orion was incapable of generating objects from thin air?”
“Go on… but I have seen him generate weapons and armaments that do not exist anywhere but his mind”
“Fair point… but how were we created?”
“We came with the Spirit of Fire…”
“What if, somehow, Orion, Mark, and maybe even the Spartan… were capable of pooling their mental resources… and pulled us from our world”
“What?”
“It’s a concept I have been toying with for a little while, in-between missions. And in particular, on the flight here”


Matt, seeing a lack of progress, began work on a second door, same procedure as for the first one. The marines from the first door had spread out around the remaining doors, effectively reinforcing them. The private continued his theory.


“You said it yourself; Orion is incapable of creating sentient life. Too complex, I would think, given that leading scientists, even from where we come from, still don’t understand how we think. Given that… and the variation in technology”


Another marine, female, finished the first’s sentence.


“We have travelled back in time”


The theorist, sort of chuckled to himself for a moment, before continuing, almost in direct response to the female private.


“Perhaps we travelled back in time… but I doubt it. I am more inclined to think that we are merely fiction in this universe. Something that shouldn’t exist, perhaps ever”
“Then why do we?”
“Because those three, Echo, the Harbinger, the Mandolrian Knight… if I understood Forge correctly, they shouldn’t exist either. We have no records of them, and it would appear most of the world here doesn’t know about them either. Oh sure, the divided military forces of earth would know of them, as would their respective governments, but I doubt any”
“I’m going to cut you off there. Orion and Mark have had contact with the Australian Military, and representatives from our government. Part of the reason why he was held in a secure facility, at least for a little while”


The Theorist looked a little shocked at that, but smiled. He was expecting this, to an extent.


“Further proving my point, they wanted to keep him for themselves, use his powers in whatever war or conflict they had going on at the time”
“The first engagement with the hive, in fact… Orion got involved, if only because he was capable of doing so. Then, he just disappeared for two years…”
“And now he is back, yes I know”
“Are you saying… that you travelled through a dimensional rift or something?”
“The possibility had crossed my mind, yes”
“Ok then… Orion is stronger than I thought”
“What?”
“Stronger in will, they are”
“Dude… I know, like you love your star wars… but come on. No Yoda shit here”
“As you wish”


Reach and Roxie stood up, excusing themselves from the group. In the time it had taken them to talk, Matt had sealed up 2 additional doors, leaving only 2 for the Marines to cover. He cleared the corridors of each of the Hive’s corruption, his flames scorching but undamaging the metal corridor underneath. All he was trying to do was remove any cover that advancing forces could use. With that done, he returned to Reach and Roxie, his fire reverting back to smoke, drained as he was of energy from sustained fire.


“Sorry we couldn’t help you there”
“Its… fine”


Matt collapsed to the floor; his body now nothing but smoke, still somehow staying within a moving gas cloud. The marine medic, the female who was talking to the Theorist at the time, heard Matt hit the ground, and turned to help him… until she realised she had no idea how he was even alive right now, let alone how to heal whatever ailed him. As such, she turned back to her conversation, almost whispering once the other Marines had gone back to their guard duties.


“Is what you said… true?”
“As far as I am aware, yes; despite me posing it as a theory, I have no doubts about it. At no point in our years of service have we seen a sentient gas cloud, or mass of water. More importantly, is that both of them were human, and somehow were changed”
“I would love to know how the Hive was capable of doing so”
“The hive cannot innovate, at least assuming it follows the same rules that the flood did. It can only consume, and gain knowledge from those it takes, i.e. the captain of a star ship, or an engineer”
“If that is so… then how did they develop the ability to do… that?”
“The coalition, the aliens that were assisting the Spirit, is more than one race. Like the covenant, the coalition appears to be made up of a number of different species.
“Sort of like the Covenant, right?”
“Yes, but unlike the covenant, there does not appear to be any species directly in charge of the others. More like modern democracy or something along those lines”
“Interesting…”
“Think how the rebellion effectively ceased once the Covenant showed up. Most of their number joined the UNSC, and those that didn’t took the fight to the Covenant themselves”
“True, that is similar, again”
“In times of complete genocide, even factions within a species will unite to fight a common foe”
“Did anyone ever tell you, you should be a sergeant or something?”
“Multiple times”


The two marines were quite close to each other now. The lance corporal looked over, sighed, and gave them orders to take positions at the same door. There, they continued their conversation, albeit in quiet whispers. Reach also glanced over, before Matt sat up, and looked at her, two pinpricks of light roughly where his eyes should be.


“I really, need to stop doing that”
“No shit”
“Anything happen while I was… unconscious?”
“No”
“That’s… good to hear. Just let me rest a little while”
“We aren’t about to go anywhere, and your work has helped secure our position”


Matt sighed, and positioned himself so he was up against one of the toolboxes, anchored to the floor as they were, and the lights in his eyes went out, but his smoky body remained roughly coherent.


“How long do you think he is going to be out for now?”
“Hard to tell, but I would say at least half an hour, if not longer”
“At least we aren’t planning on moving anywhere anytime soon”






“Where do I begin then?”
“First encounter with a traitor unit. What can they do, how does it help the hive, that sort of thing”
“The first one we encountered was on a routine patrol, before my home world was taken. I was not the overall commander of the Draconian forces at the time, just a lowly ship captain, on a vessel much smaller than the Harmony. We called it the Napalm class, and it was used similarly to a patrol ship… destroyer?”
“Modern navies, at least… yes”
“So, we were on patrol, nothing abnormal going on, when we feel something impact our hull. Whatever it was, it was big, roughly 1 quarter the size of our ship. It knocked us out of our orbit, to which I ordered our helmsman to correct, and an assault team to clear the impact area, when the ship’s internal diagnostics detected a hull breach, but no decompression, in sector 4”
“Would that happen to have been towards the rear of the ship, on the right side?”
“Yes. So, I was monitoring the assault team’s advance, via their armour’s inbuilt cameras, when I first saw how quickly the hive could spread. Within the space of 2 minutes, the entire corridor was flooded with spores from the seedlings, and the hive biomass was already coating the corridor”
“Not good”
“When did James get here?”
“Doesn’t matter”
“Continuing on, I watched as our assault teams burned the flesh, and the spores… but one of our newer recruits, while cleaning up, found a seedling the others had missed. And instead of following protocol and destroying it… they removed their helmet, and breathed in deeply of the Hive spores. Almost instantaneously, they turned on the rest of the assault team, firing high explosive rounds with full intent of killing the rest, as they were setting the boarding pod alight. Two were injured before they even realised what was going on”
“What happened next?”
“I was getting to that. So, me, being the reckless captain I was”
“And still are, given your insistence on coming with us”
“I donned my own suit, the one I am wearing now, and my rotary gun. It was originally added in case of mutiny… but I found a use for it, ripping apart the tough armour of the traitor”
“I take it wasn’t as easy as just shooting them”
“You would be right about that… The hive had reinforced the traitors armour, to levels beyond which were capable by normal engineering”
“Explains how the Valkyrie took no damage from my rocket barrage”
“In addition, they were speaking… our native tongue. They said, that the Hive was the key to immortality, and was more than willing to offer it to all”
“Heh…”
“… You know more than you let on”
“If I told you, you would think me insane. Hell, my own cousin does, after I told him”
“As you wish”


Orion cut the mental conference call, as Mark was chased into cover, to the point where all of them were being supressed. Mark called out over the sound of the gunfire.


“ANY IDEAS”
“WE NEED BIGGER GUNS”


Luc glanced over to his mini gun, resting underneath the Valkyrie, along with Vail’s auto cannon.


“Don’t even think about recovering them. You will be cut down”


Luc glanced over at Orion; his mouth unmoving again, as light began spilling from his mouth, as wisps of smoke appeared in front of Luc and James.


“Give me covering fire”


As he said that, a rotary gun, much larger in both size of the gun, and size of the shells it fired, was formed in front of Luc. James got a similar weapon, albeit smaller, with only three barrels. And Mark… he summoned his own weapon, a tank cannon made of energy.


“On my Mark”
“What?”
“I said, on my… fuck it. FIRE NOW”


With a throaty roar, Luc stepped into the open, rounds pinging off of his armour, and let loose the full power of 10,000 rounds per minute, 30mm anti-tank shells… Orion had summoned for him the GAU-8, the same weapon mounted on the A-10 thunderbolt, a plane built around this monster of a mini gun. James stepped out of cover next, moving away from the rest of the group, firing his own three barrelled mini gun, spent shell casings following him in his wake. Mark stepped out next, unleashing a barrage of plasma at the Valkyrie, finally making a dent in the armour, while moving to the right, spreading out the troopship’s 2nd CIWS gun away from Orion… who let loose the focused power of the sun, unleashing a beam of energy hot enough to boil the air around it, and melt the corrupted hive flesh off of the Valkyrie.


The moment the armour underneath was exposed, the sheer volume of rounds pummelling the Valkyrie began ripping it apart, as Orion and Mark continued to strip the Hive armour from the Valkyrie. Inside, Daniel was screaming, the heat of the plasma projected from Mark burning him, as Orion continued to strip the armour from the vessel. By the time Orion had finished his ten second burst, the underside of the Valkyrie was little more than slag metal, the engines keeping it aloft sparking wildly, and failing. Orion moved back into cover, as a well-placed burst of fire from Luc hit one of the now exposed engine pylons, ripping it from the rest of the craft. It remained aloft, but began spinning out of control, its CIWS weapons firing wildly at anything they could hit.


The resulting explosion sent a wave of heat throughout the hangar, as smoke began to rise to the top of the hangar, and temporarily blocking most people’s vision, both from the intense heat of the fuel burning inside the craft, and from the smoke obscuring their vision. But Orion saw Daniel somehow climb out of the Valkyrie, and charged into the inferno. If anyone was going to kill this traitor to mankind, it was going to be him. He could hear as Daniel roared in anger, his most effective means of dealing with the enemies of the Hive now destroyed. He was worthless, useless, to the Hive now. Unless he could convert at least one of the invaders… he too was as doomed as they were. He could hear Orion calling his name, despite the fire, and climbed on top of the Valkyrie.


“YOU WISH TO FACE THE FULL MIGHT OF THE HIVE?”
“Yes, I do. Because you just lost”


Daniel charged forwards, locking onto the sound, but there was nothing there once he got there. Just smoke and fire, limiting his vision, and slowly cooking him inside the Hive flesh that would have, should have kept him alive.


“COME OUT AND FIGHT ME LIKE A MAN… OR ARE YOU TRULY AN ALIEN, UNWORTHY OF MY RESPECT?”
“I’m right here”


Daniel whipped around again, and tried to punch the air… he only heard a chuckle, again from behind him.


“Oh Daniel… you naive fool. What did the Hive offer you?”
“IMORTALITY”


Daniel struck out again, using his blade like arm to try to pierce Orion’s armour… but again, he wasn’t where he thought he was, while Orion chuckled again, low and menacing.


“You do realise what you have willingly sacrificed, in order to save your own skin”
“MY PERSONAL FREEDOM IS INSIGNIFIGANT, WHEN COMPARED TO THE UNITY OF THE HIVE”


Orion sighed… he could not be saved. He could not be reasoned with. Just like Vail had said. He continued his charade, however, dodging out of the way silently as Daniel began flailing wildly, his spike of an arm probably sharp enough to gut him. But instead of continuing, a rain of foam began coating the craft, smothering the fire underneath… the smoke began to dissipate, and Daniel was able to see Orion clearly, the singular being that he was.


“NOWHERE TO RUN NOW”
“Tell me this then. Throwing away your own humanity… was it worth it?”


Daniel did not reply, instead electing to stab Orion, his spike piercing Orion’s torso. He smiled, seeing Orion appear to be surprised… but then smiled as he disappeared again. His voice seemed to come from all around Daniel now, making him extremely confused.


“Daniel… oh Daniel… even I, a creature far less human than you look, still retain my empathy. I am still willing to forgive your actions… and yet, you are still determined to kill me, to kill those that I trust?”
“NOT IF YOU GIVE YOURSELF TO THE HIVE WILLINGLY, LIKE I HAVE DONE”
“Not a chance”


From the smoke, Orion dived down from above, accelerating as he readied his tail.


“No Mercy for the damned”


Orion had given Daniel a chance… certainly more than what Vail had been given. As he fell, he was picking where to target… his intention was to pin Daniel to the floor. Instead, he cut his head apart, his tail getting stuck inside of the remains of his skull. And yet, it still tried to gore him. And then it stopped, and a voice came from the remains of Daniel’s head. It was oddly commanding, almost arrogant in its demeanour.


“GIVE YOURSELF OVER TO US…”
“AND YOU MAY YET LEAVE THIS PLACE”


Orion glanced over at Daniels head, noting it was somehow knitting itself back together. He summoned his shotgun, and aimed it at the creature’s head.


“Give me one reason why I should listen to you. You have tried to kill me, let alone the rest of my species, for long enough”
“I AM NOT WHAT YOU THINK I AM”
“So you’re not the voice of the apparently all powerful Hive then?”
“That’s what I thought”


Orion let loose a barrage of solid slug rounds into the mending corpse of Daniel… and then remembered the chainsaw like bayonet on the end. He revved it up, seeing the Hive’s puppet about to pull itself together again, before cutting it apart, spraying crimson, congealed blood everywhere.


“You are the reason why I am here. Why I exist like this. Your life is forfeit”
“NOOOOO”


Orion, now standing in a pile of viscera and blood, climbed down from the Valkyrie as the smoke began to clear. Waiting for him were those that he truly trusted… and one, not so trustworthy Xeno.


“You finished up there?”
“Yeah… you don’t sound too happy”
“Good news: There is nothing stopping us from leaving right now, so I armed the Tsar bomb”
“And the bad news is… Oh”


Orion glanced at the hull of the Butane, ripped apart from 20mm CIWS guns, the two mounted on the Valkyrie. To say that its hull would be unable to pressurize was an understatement. It was incapable of flight, with both of its wing mounted engine pods ripped apart, not to mention sections of the Butane’s hull that collapsed inwards. Orion kicked the machine once, and the fixed rear engines fell to the floor.


The impact of the engines, heavy as they were, destabilised the hangar floor even further, and took out a large chunk, the sound of metal shearing underneath the weight. Orion rolled out of the way; closer towards the original breach James had made with his SPNKR launcher, and leapt upwards, taking flight. He looked down into the hole, seeing something he did not expect. Rows upon rows of what looked like Varians; all within some kind of organic sleep pod… curiosity overcame his common sense, as he descended towards the closest one, and poked it. The surface parted, much like water, startling the occupant inside. As their eyes tried to focus on Orion, he ascended, out of their vision, and returned to his friends.


“How long… do we have?”
“20 minutes”
“Shit”
“Follow me; we need to get to your sister’s Pelican”
“No, not yet”
“This had better be good, Orion”
“There are thousands, if not over a million Varians, right below us, all secured in life support pods”
“And they are… normal?







“How long has it been since the last wave?”
“About 10 minutes, Private… and don’t even think about saying what I think you’re gonna say”
“But”
“NO. Have you never watched horror movies?”
“I’m sorry, I came from a dimension where total war with an alien conglomerate was the norm, and service effectively mandatory when they hit Earth”
“Just… don’t say it”


The Theorist grumbled angrily, as he returned to his post. The female medic was there waiting for him.


“What were you going to say?”


The Theorist smiled.


“Lance corporal Rookie hard-ass over there said not to say anything… but that doesn’t mean I can’t whisper sweet nothings to you”


He leaned in close, making sure their helmets inbuilt microphones were off, before speaking.


“Quiet… too quiet”


The pair of them paled when they heard an unearthly screech, echoing down the corridor. They both raised their weapons, along with the rest of the marines who were supposed to be watching the open door, as all of them turned on their rifle mounted tactical lights, illuminating the corridor in white light. They could see up to a corner in the corridor. They heard a second screech… but realised too late it wasn’t just one creature making a racket. It was almost a hundred, screaming creatures, out for their blood. The first rounded the corner, little more than a black silhouette with so much light in the corridor, and began charging towards the firing line the Marines had set up, even going so far as to set up a tri barrel Mini gun on a stand, behind some sandbags, to better protect against the troopers that had been harassing them. But whatever was coming at them now… was something else entirely.


The first one was easy enough, although well armoured, given its small size. Almost looked like it might have once been human, wrapped up in a tight, Hive ship plating suit. The one that had approached them at a sprint first seemed to have some sort of drill, replacing a large portion of its left arm, and some sort of high calibre firearm attached to its right.


“PRIVATE PETERSON!”
“Hello to you too, Hard-ass”
“You said it, didn’t you?”
“Said what?”
“You said it was too quiet…”
“Yes, I did, so what?”
“You’ve doomed us all”


The screeching of the horde of Hive units grew louder.


“SOMEONE GET ON THAT MG, AND RELOAD ALL WEAPONS. NOW”
“YES MAM”


Any marine that was not already their posts, jumped up from whatever they were doing, some knocking over a table, sending cards and poker chips all over the floor. Others just grabbed their rifles and took positions with clear lines of sight on either corridor… including Reach, and Roxie. Jane and Matt also took positions, placing themselves where they would be able to move and support whichever corridor needed it the most.


“HOLD POSITION”


The next of the new monstrosities rounded the corner, and got a lot closer before being cut down by a hail of assault rifle fire. The marines reloaded again, while Jane went forwards to retrieve the corpse, to better understand what they were facing. She wouldn’t get the opportunity, as another one rounded the corridor, then two, then four, then 10, then 20… until the corridor was filled with the shrieking horde. All covered in blood red chitin, all horribly mutated… and all feral.






“Shush, be quiet… you hear that?”
*sigh* “No, Orion, we didn’t hear that”
“Sounds almost like a shrill wail, albeit different. Wrong”
“Motion detector’s going crazy. Like the whole ship is moving around us”
“Umm… that isn’t good, right?”
“No, Luc, It isn’t”
“We should move a little faster”
“And what, leave the pilot’s behind?”
“They are more a liability now, without weapons”
“Says the person who summoned a GAU-8 for Luc to use”
“We have training with auto-rifles…”
“But the assault rifles I know of, aren’t what you trained with”


Orion stopped for a moment, holding up a hand to his lips, then pointed three fingers to the ceiling. Three hostiles ahead, it was a signal they had all agreed on, while walking. Orion clicked his talons together, softly, receiving successful pings on their exact locations… and found there was far more than three. He edged away from the corner, and whispered.


“Correction, more than 3”
“Orion… how many?”
“Too many to track, so greater than 10”


Orion clicked his fingers again, and noticed that the hostiles were headed away from them. He poked his head around the corner, seeing 11, Hive units, heavily armoured in thick crimson chitin.


“Looks like the Hive got itself some heavy hitters. Heavily armoured, more-so than even the Officers”
“You mean the Sword Bearers… this is new”
“No shit”
“The Hive appears to be pulling out all the stops. It isn’t playing nice anymore”
“Was it ever?”
“Probably not”


Orion clicked his talons a third time… and found the crimson clad Hive had passed around the corner, out of sight.


“Move quietly… they don’t know we are here”
“James… might be a good idea to pay close attention to that tracker”
“Already on it, but there is a lot of interference right now”
“Do what you can”


Orion glanced back, seeing one of the Varian’s he had awoken, following along behind. He gestured for them to move forwards to his current position, and the lead ones did so, captured Hive weapons at the ready. None of them could speak their language, so the assault team was making do with hand signals to communicate with them.


“Doesn’t help that we freed all of the Varians from those sleep pods”
“At least there wasn’t as many as I thought. Probably just a backup maintenance crew or something… I guess we will find out later”
“Hey, at least they didn’t turn on us when they saw Vail’s corpse”
“I still regret mentioning them”
“Quit your bitching Orion. If you didn’t spot them, one of us would have. And I knew Vail, a lot better than you. His species is peaceful usually”


Orion snorted, releasing a cloud of visible water vapour in front of him, which dispersed quickly into the air around them.


“We shall see if they truly trust us”
“What’s the worst that could happen?”
“Death, betrayal, crushed by a wave of people… not to mention the threat of a nuclear bomb exploding”


Orion clicked his talons together, sending out another ping to see where the crimson clad heavies had gone.


“Corridor’s clear, seems this section of the ship had been locked down from the rest. Our path to the hangar is clear, but not free of hostiles”
“Then let’s keep moving, and deal with them as they come”


Luc took point, Gau-8 still at the ready, and began moving through the corridor. James and Orion weren’t too far behind; flanking Luc. Mark had positioned himself at the rear of the Varians they were evacuating, covering the rear from any threats. They shouldn’t have to worry too much about attackers from that direction.


“Why were those heavies moving away from us?”


Orion heard as some familiar weapons began firing, at least ten thereof, before stopping.


“James… the Marines are engaging them. We may need to find another route”
“One moment… Ok, I am looking at the floor plan now. We need to turn back, and head down to the other end of this corridor”
“Wait. What if the Marine’s sealed up some of the alternate entrances? It’s what I would do”
“Good point, Luc. We know that entrance is open, at least for the moment”
“But whatever the Marines are engaging… they are pulling all of the forces that we should be engaging to them. I find that worrying”
“Whatever is going to them, we can handle it”
“I am more worried about friendly fire, if they have set up the way I think they have”


Luc stopped, and turned to Orion, hefting the weight of the Gau-8 like it was little more than a toy to him.


“I think they should be more worried about friendly fire from us”
“Perhaps”


The familiar assault rifles opened up again, some stray rounds pinging off the corridor nearby, as the smell of discharged gunpowder began wafting down the corridor. All 4 of the assault squad heard a shrill wail, and spotted one of the heavies at the end of the corridor, seemingly being consumed by a second creature. Although similar in size, and in appearance, it seemed to move differently. Certainly a lot faster and stronger, as it ripped the head off of the heavy, and then turned to the assault squad, and shrieked. Orion had to cover where is ears should be, the frequency and volume of the noise too great for him to handle. Luc, however, lined up his shot, and fired off over 300 30mm shells, in the space of 2 seconds.


“You think that was overkill, Luc?”
“Perhaps”
“Why… did I give you that weapon?”


Orion had fallen to the floor, the sheer volume of the Gau-8 nearly bursting his eardrums at close range. James turned to him, and dropped his tri-barrelled mini gun, to help Orion up. He accepted the hand, and ended up leaning heavily on James.


“Thank you”
“Family looks out for each other. You would have done the same”


Orion smiled weakly at that, as he pushed off of James, able to stand on his own, as he de-summoned Luc’s weapon.


“What? Why?”
“You risk tearing open the side of the ship with that weapon… in addition to drawing attention to us, and, I don’t know, incapacitating me?”
“Ah”

Luc instead opted for James’s abandoned tri-barrel, and hefted its weight. It wasn’t much heavier than his first weapon, and the built in bullet shield wasn’t the worst thing in the world to have. James unslung his shotgun from his back, and reloaded some shells into it. Luc noticed their initial appearance was a little squarer than the weapon in his hand, but paid it no mind. Orion summoned his now signature shotgun, and with his free left hand, clicked his talons against each other. What his pulse found stopped him in his tracks, as did James’s motion tracker information.


“James… what’s on your motion tracker?”
“One big, red, angry blob, on our level, around that corridor. Multiple contacts”
“Confirmed… shit”
“What?”
“There is over twenty of those sirens…”
“What the hell is a siren?”
“No time to explain. They are moving, fast”


Orion stepped out into the corridor, and revved up the chainsaw on his shotgun. This got the attention of every single one of them.


“COME AT ME”


James took position on the right hand side of the corridor, switching to his rocket launcher, as Luc moved to the left side, with the bulk of his armour hidden behind cover as rounds started streaking past, leaving a trail of black smoke in their wake. Orion charged forwards, pumping round after round of solid slug shotgun ammunition, but ducked as James fired of two SPNKR rockets. The rocket hit dead centre of the horde, scattering them and knocking them to the ground, but not eliminating them.


“Tough armour… let’s see how they like this”


Orion approached one of the knocked down sirens, and brought down his chainsaw bayonet on top of it. It began shrieking in pain as the hardened metal teeth of the chainsaw began ripping through its natural armour, much to the annoyance of Orion. A second one picked itself up from the floor, and swung out at Orion. He was able to see it, and block the strike with his tail thanks to his echolocation picking up the siren’s wail, but it didn’t make it extremely uncomfortable as James ran up, shot the second siren in the chest, then punched it in the side of its head with a titanium armoured fist. Orion removed his chainsaw from the downed Siren, seeing as most of its head and chest had been ripped open, and turned to the 18 or so other Sirens, who had also picked themselves off the floor. Luc called out, as Orion heard his mini gun begin to get up to speed.


“GET DOWN”


Orion pulled James to the ground as Luc began firing over their heads. Orion, seeing some of the Sirens began to get closer, unleashed hell with his automatic shotgun, James on his right firing at any he missed, and weren’t taken out by the shots he was laying onto them. That was, until Orion heard a click from behind them, as Luc’s mini gun jammed.


“What the hell?”


Orion stood up, as pressure began to build in his throat, and light began spilling out from between his teeth. He lowered himself to a crouch, helping James up, before unleashing the heat of the sun’s core down the corridor, melting the flesh of everything in front of him. James’s visor dimmed automatically, but even that was not enough to fully block out the blinding light being focused from Orion… after 5 seconds, everything that wasn’t made of metal in front of Orion had boiled, melted, or otherwise been disintegrated by the intense heat. The metal itself was no better, as the ambient heat from the psionic beam melted light fittings and doors on either side of the corridor, along with the remains of seats, bins, and piping.


“You can stop now…”


Orion cut off the beam, and glared at Luc.


“How the hell did you jam that weapon?”


Luc held up the ammunition belt… no bullets left.


“Not jammed. Out of ammo”
“Of course… in game, they only had 200 rounds they could fire like that”


Orion simply moved forwards, seemingly oblivious to James and Luc. He turned around, and saw one of the armed Varians staring at the chaos they had wrought. He gestured them forwards, and spoke in their language. James was torn for a moment between following his cousin, and keeping an eye on Luc. But given the outburst, he decided to stick near Orion for now, help keep him as stable as possible.


“What the hell… they’re retreating?”
“DON’T QUESTION IT, AND HELP GET THIS THING OFF OF ME”


Peterson looked to the medic, pinned underneath a still living Siren, as it tried to impale her head with a razor tipped appendage. A single aimed shot to the creatures head, especially from a shotgun, seemed to do the trick. But its head was dangerously close to the Medics, and he risked shooting his loved one. Reach, seeing this, aimed at the one still living Siren, and fired, the high calibre anti-tank round ripping through its torso, killing it instantly as she hit its heart. The creature, and its additional appendages, fell limp on top of the medic. Jane helped the medic out from underneath, and the two of them got to work checking on the injuries sustained from the horde.


“Another group like that, and we are toast. We don’t have the guns to keep them down”
“Too close… Far too close. How many are dead?”
“2 mam, another 5 injured”
“Damn”


The lance corporal was holding a pistol, her assault rifle having run dry, and at the time, she couldn’t reload. She checked the mounted gun they had set up… it was low on ammunition.


“Damn. Ammunition’s running low and we don’t have any more from the Pelican we can bring in here”
“So we are in agreement then? We cannot hold this position any longer, not without reinforcements”


The heard a crack as something was impacted, hard from above. It was the same place they had seen the Spartan. And when said Spartan dropped down from above, shotgun in hand, the Marines present were dumbfounded.


“It’s an honour… sir?”


James reached up, twisting his helmet sideways and then up, and looked to Roxie, standing on guard near the door, with a gash along her right arm, her armour battered.
“Roxie… damn good to see you still alive”


She took a moment to process James’s appearance, as her eyes widened.


“How”
“Am I here? You saw me before. Orion is too, not too far away now. There might be a slight problem though”
“What is it?”
“We have less than 5 minutes to get out of here. And due to reasons I cannot explain, we found Varians, unchanged, within our entry point”
“What?”


The Lance corporal, overhearing the conversation, butted in.


“How far away are they?”
“100 metres and closing fast”


As they said that, they saw Orion at the end of the corridor… with James, wearing battle scared Spartan armour, running at full speed down the corridor. As Orion spotted Roxie, talking to what appeared to be James; he stopped, holding the James next to him back, as he sent a silent message to her.


“The Spartan near you is a fake. No damage to his armour. James has been with me since our entrance. Eliminate the one near you”


Roxie turned to the apparently fake James… and saw for herself the pristine armour. No way was that possible with the amount of enemies in the Nimbus. She had to test.


“Hey, James”
“Yes”
“How many did of these you kill?”


She said, pointing to the corpse of the Siren.


“I have killed about a dozen of them by myself”


Orion, still connected with Roxie’s mind, sent the answer he should have said, after consulting with James.


“He should have said: We killed about twenty of them on the way here… Orion did most of the heavy lifting”


Roxie asked another question.


“How many of the Varians did you rescue from the hangar?”
“I released over 100 of them. Sadly, they all died”


Same deal as before, but Orion answered for James.


“Wrong answer, we saved about thirty, that was the total amount .They are all still with us, Mark is covering the rear”


Roxie nodded, as if to acknowledge his unfortunate comment, and left her head down low.


“That sucks. I always wanted to see one of the Coalition members. Are you OK with their deaths?”
“No. They could have helped advance our society. And one of them in particular… they were fighting with me”
“That’s… terrible”


Roxie rested her hand on the Fake James’s shoulder… and found it slimy. Solid, like it should be, but slimy. She sent a thought back to Orion.


“Spartan armour isn’t slimy”
“Nope”
“Then we have a confirmed infiltrator. Send the message to Reach”


Orion spotted Reach, nestled in her position towards the outer edge of the ship, rifle lined up on the corridor. That was all he needed.


“Reach. The Spartan near you is an infiltrator, capable of taking any form. Shoot it now”


Reach, without question, aimed at her apparent cousin, before pausing, and thinking, knowing Orion would receive the thought.


“Are you certain?”
“100%, James has been with me the entire time, and his armour is battered to all hell from the times the Hive got too close”
“Doesn’t he have energy shields?”
“The infiltrator shouldn’t. As for the real James… they can fail, given enough punishment”


As James went for his helmet, Reach fired her rifle, her armour-piercing round going straight through its skull, and out the other side. The Lance corporal, seeing this, drew her pistol on Reach, until Roxie drew her attention back to the infiltrator, as it collapsed, it’s disguise failing. The Lance corporal was dumbfounded, until Orion, and James entered the maintenance bay, with the Varians close behind.


“We need to move, that thing wasn’t lying about the time limit. The bomb is set, we have no time”
“YOU HEARD HIM, GET TO THE PELICAN”
“But what about”
“Forget it. Anything that isn’t on your person gets left behind”


The lance corporal took another look at the infiltrator, now returning to their original form of a bipedal, four armed creature, before following her own orders, and moving towards the hangar bay. Orion and James, the real one, remained in the Maintenance bay, ushering the Varians through… Mark was up the rear, as was Luc. He removed his helmet, as did Mark, and they were speaking quietly, their expressions grim.


“Luc… you look like you’re in trouble or something. How much time do we have left on the bomb?”
“Well, the good news is that it should have gone off by now… and it hasn’t”
“That’s also bad news”
“Yep”
“You better not be thinking of detonating it manually”
“I am”
“I mean, I haven’t known you for a long time, but why?”
“Because it is the right thing to do… Besides, my armour will take the worst of the impact”
“IT IS A 100 MEGATON BOMB. Nothing… will survive standing right next to it”


Luc sighed, looking at the ground for a moment, before looking back to Orion.


“Trust me. If someone doesn’t go and detonate that bomb, the lives forfeited by the Coalition means nothing. I am nothing but a pawn, my home world destroyed. I will not let that happen to another species”

Orion looked down, spotting the corrupted Varian fighter at the bottom of a shaft it had made. It was swarming with creatures… that were climbing up the walls. He looked back to Luc, seeing a determination in his eyes.


“I take it you always wanted to take the hive out with you, if presented the opportunity”


Luc simply nodded, as he refitted his helmet.


“In which case, I will make sure you get there”
Orion, focusing his energy, reformed the Gau-8 right into Luc’s hands, moulding it from the marine’s emplacement. The wispy energy quickly turned to steel, as the weapon formed in his hands.


“To make sure you get there. Infinite ammo, because why not?”


Luc smiled, lifting the weapons weight.


“This shall do… oh, and Orion?”
“Yes?”
“Keep your family close. You never know when you are going to lose them”
“I know that all too well…”
“Good Luck in there”
“And god speed, Luc”


Luc smiled again, underneath his helmet, as he heard the sirens from before, and charged into the corridor, revving up his mini gun on the way, yelling a battle cry in a language no one else present could understand. This was shortly followed by a constant roar as the weapon was fired in a confined space, as the door sealed behind him.


“Let’s hope he waits until after we load and evacuate the Varians and ourselves, before detonating the Tsar bomb”
“That implies he isn’t going to enjoy his rampage through the ship first”


James sighed at that, before moving on into the hangar, with Mark and Orion close behind. The pelican was prepared to leave, as Roxie, Reach, matt, and Jane boarded onto the Pelican, and the rear door sealed behind them. James, seeing no other ship, stated the obvious.


“We need a transport”


Orion just glared at him for a moment, before looking at Mark, as his eyes began to glow.
“Custom built?”
“Custom built”


Mark too, began emitting light, faint as it was and spread around his armour. James could only watch on, as wisps of smoke began to coalesce into a large transport ship, with Orion and Mark both contributing to the design.


“It should be sleek, and curved, similar to the design of that Varian fighter”
“It will need VTOL capability, as well at atmospheric engines”
“S.A.B.R.E. engines, they shall do us well”
“Any defences?”
“Minor CIWS, maybe 4 turrets”
“And a 5th, forwards mounted turret for attack”
“Sure, why not… needs to be pressurized”


Within their linked minds, they began forming the basis of the vessel, with 4 rotatable SABRE engines, capable of switching between atmospheric and space flight modes, with an additional 6 fixed engines on the rear. The CIWS turrets, although small, were each equipped with quad linked .50 calibre machine guns, similar in design to the air cooled M2 browning.


“Sliding side doors or rear door that fold downwards?
“Side doors, that fold downwards”
“Covenant phantom, I like”


The doors, able to be sealed and effectively act as airlocks, were small, unable to load cargo, but were large enough to load the Varian’s quickly. In addition, fuel was added in a shielded compartment above the cargo bay, so its fuel would feed in easier to the 10 engines.


“What about interior? Spartan, or furnished for a king?”
“Neither, but some comfort. I will be flying this thing for some time from our current orbit. I want to enjoy the ride, as will you and our passengers”


The seats, along with the 5 point harnesses, appeared in the ship, as the side doors opened. James began loading the Varians into the craft, as Orion and Mark were putting on the final touches.


“Small fusion reactor”
“Check. O2 and food supplies”
“Check. Piping for fuel, hydraulics, and air?”
“Check. Anything else we need?”
“A flight deck, suitable for our physiology”
“Then it’s a good thing I left space near the front of the transport then”
“Do we have adjustable seats and a door?”
“Check”
“Two handed flight controls, with interlink for a pilot and co-pilot?”
“Check, flight and engine instruments?”
“Check, do we have clear visibility?”
“We do now”


As James made his way into the flight deck, a third seat appeared on the right side, including more detailed engine information that what was available to the pilots, and a second terminal on the other side with cameras viewing the outside of the craft, as well as 4 on gimbals, that tracked with the turrets. James looked at the view given from within the craft, and was surprised when he saw that a large portion of the front of the transport had become transparent. He quickly checked on the outside, and saw no glass or plastic, nothing that appeared to be transparent. He shrugged as he boarded, seeing the light Orion and Mark were emitting begin to fade, and they boarded shortly after, heading straight for the flight deck.


“Sealing exterior doors”
“Left airlock sealed, right airlock sealed”


James did a quick headcount of the Varians they had rescued. All 30 of them were present and accounted for, while Orion realised a pressingly important part of the flight critical equipment. They were missing a radio, and a transceiver to transmit and receive radio signals. A quick edit of the flight deck was all that was required, and a two curved domes on the each of the twin boom tail sections.


“Alright… marines, can you lot hear us?”
“Loud and clear, our call sign is Bear. Confirm?”
“Confirming marine pelican as call sign Bear. One moment”


Orion clicked off the transmission button, as he looked over to Mark as he adjusted his seat, positioning himself as far away from the linked controls as possible.


“We need a call sign”
“How about… Weaver”
“It’ll do for now”
“Bear, confirm our call sign as Weaver”
“Call sign Weaver for the Varian shuttle”
“Let’s get the hell out of here”


Both spacecraft rose, and the Pelican turned to face the hangar entrance they had come through. At some point, it had sealed over, but it was little effort for it to fire it’s remaining missiles, ripping through the still repairing hull plating, and blast open a hole large enough for both itself and the Weaver. Orion lifted the 6 landing legs once they were in the air, and used the rear engines to glide through the now open hangar. Thankfully, it wasn’t particularly difficult, as the doors had blown completely open. James made his way up, and sat down in the engineer’s seat.


“What do all the dials mean?”
“Doesn’t matter, just make sure all the needles are in the green, and keep an eye on the passive sensors”


Mark leant back in his chair, and placed his hands behind his head, as he rested.


“Where are we headed?”
“Home”


Luc felt explosions from the Pelican’s missiles, then the whoosh of air as the hangar depressurized behind him. He fitted his helmet, checking the seal one last time, before heading deeper into the ship, back towards the undetonated nuclear bomb. He could hear the others clearly, as they made their radio calls back and forth, at least until the hull of the ship blocked their transmissions. He knew they were away, and began moving forwards. As he did so, however, a song began playing inside of his armour. It was a war ballad, of his people.


What was Luc to do? A lone Draconian in a ship full of hostiles, with the best weapons and armour he could possibly have. He let the thumping of the drums, and the plucking of the guitar guide him once more, as a horde of troopers emerged into the corridor in front of him, firing on sight. The throaty roar of the Gau-8 replied, ripping apart the corridors and the effectively unarmoured soldiers. But the roar of the Gau-8 was dulled by the war song in Luc’s armour, as his movements quickened, in tune with the song. One of the heavies they had seen before emerged from behind, and tried to bash his armour. Luc moved forwards, and then spun around, spraying rounds into the left side of the corridor, before the bullets met with the heavy, as they were knocked back by his armoured tail. They were able to let off a few rounds, but they simply pinged off of Luc’s armour.


He turned back, and began running, now sure his allies were at a safe distance, firing at anything that moved in his way. By the hundreds, the troopers died, their corpses crushed underfoot by the unrelenting force of Luc and the Gau-8. The grunts, elites, and officers, while better armoured, were still no match for the lone armoured Draconian that walked their corrupted halls. The few heavies that tried to catch him were simply too slow, their own heavy armour too heavy for their own bodies, and slowing them down significantly. As for the sirens… although they had the numbers, they were torn in half when Luc ploughed through them, now immune to their psychic screeching. If anything, the sirens shied away from his roars of anger.


“THIS IS FOR MY HOMEWORLD. THIS IS FOR MY FAMILY… THIS IS FOR DRACK”


It continued like this for the 759 metres he had to travel to return to the Tsar bomb and the puddle that was the remains of Vail. But he had no idea how to activate the weapon, at least until a second wave of troopers lay dead at his feet. The somewhat soothing voice of Orion came through into his mind, the hull unable to block the signal. Whilst initially confused, Luc responded in thought.


“Luc… we are at minimum safe distance”
“How do I detonate the bomb?”
“There is a key in the control panel, on the rear of the bomb. Twist it until you hear an audible click”
*Click* “Now what”
“Two red covers should have flipped open, revealing two switches. Flick both of them up”
*Click* *Click* “A red button is flashing now… the warhead is armed, and ready to be detonated”
“You sure you can’t set up the timer to detonate?”
“The timer broke, remember? It’s on -600 seconds”
“Damn… I’m sorry, Luc”
“No. Thank you, Orion. Humanity, and the rest of the galaxy, may yet live”


The bomb made a clunking sound, as something moved inside of the bomb, as Luc pushed the button in with a gauntleted fist.


“Goodbye”





The sensors on the Weaver picked up an intense heat source from behind, as Orion accelerated away from the Nimbus. The rest of the Hive fleet, and Coalition fleet, were too far away to see what effect it would have. But Orion, Mark, and James were given a good view of the detonation, as Orion spun the ship on its vertical axis, facing the ship towards the Nimbus. They watched as fire began spewing out of holes in the hull, fuelled by the air inside the Nimbus. The explosion spread from within the ship, escaping through the various breaches made by the strike fighters and coalition fleet, but heating the superstructure of the Nimbus, ripping it apart.


Orion could hear as something screamed, the Hive mind itself, as it sent out a psychic death wail… the superheated gasses from the Tsar bomb reaching it’s well armoured core, burning it’s flesh. The ship’s original structure was never designed to take an impact like this from the inside, as the ship began breaking apart, the supporting structure unable to withstand the intense heat… the front and rear of the ship opening up like a flower, as the core of the ship began to separate, leaving 6 separate hunks of metal floating around Jupiter. Orion, somewhat solemn, spoke softly.


“It is done”
IRD 16
As Orion said: It is done














For now.
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Within the barracks, everyone heard the loud crash, as something impacted near them, sending fragments of concrete and dust in all directions, as the lights flickered from the impact. For the males outside the Barracks, they saw all hell break loose, as a large pod landed nearby, and Hive Grunts began spilling out from the crater… that was once a small shopping district. Matt was already out there, setting as many of them ablaze as possible, while the full time marines, gun turrets, and new recruits from the local population opened up on the hostiles, automatic rifles, grenades, and other infantry weapons fire being traded between the two sides, as the grunts fell back to the crater, and used it as cover.


“What the hell is going on out there?”
“Full hive assault pod, to the south… requesting heavy armour deployment”


The factories within the base, although taking some stray shots, whirred to life, as they began assembling the necessary parts to create additional Grizzly heavy tanks. A few of the LRVs, the Warthogs, drove into the fray, and were almost immediately destroyed by the volley of armour penetrating rounds that came from the crater. A number of the marine squads moved up, and took cover behind the wrecked LRVs, continuing to lob grenades into the crater, along with the occasional rocket. The din of the constant gunfire was near deafening, as the females within the barracks exited, and saw the chaos for themselves.


They stayed as a group, and dived for the cover around the outside of the barracks, some ending up next to the initial marines who had been killed in the first wave. Reach found herself a long rifle amongst the scattered corpses and forgotten weapons, and directed her gaze towards the crater to the south. The moment one of the Hive officers poked their heads above the crater, she fired, removing it from the rest of their body, letting off a second shot almost immediately towards an Elite nearby, grenade in hand. Roxie, on the other hand, charged forwards, recovered shotgun in hand, towards the forward most wreck, as yet untaken by any of the squads.


Seeing this, the Grunts began peppering Roxie with gunfire, but a strange swirling mass of water protected her, in fact throwing their own rounds back at them, killing enough of them that they redirected their fire to another advancing marine squad, who was cut down just before they could reach cover. Jane materialised from the swirling mass of water as it dissipated, the moving water that made up her body now moving a lot slower. She looked to Roxie, her energy somewhat drained, as she fired at an approaching Hive officer, the shotgun blast knocking them back into the crater.




Also disrupting the relative calm of one of the Nimbus’s fighter bays, another wave of Hive troopers had come in, and had pinned James down behind a structural column. Mark’s energy shields were down as well, so he had taken cover next to Orion. The turrets were still firing, but Vail and Luc were nowhere to be found. They, along with Rebecca and Hudd, had taken the Tsar bomb towards the core of the ship, towards its optimum detonation point. Orion was too distressed by the bullets flying overhead to summon anything new, so had to make do with his bull pup rifle, which he was blind firing over his cover, while worrying about Mark.


“Why worry about me? We haven’t really talked much for the last two years”
“And yet here we are, on an alien space ship… pinned down by gunfire”


Orion thought to himself, as he went to reload his rifle, that although he never admitted it, he considered Mark a close friend, one he could trust. Not someone who he would ever wish death upon. That said, he glanced over towards James’s position, and saw the rocket launcher on his back.


“Wait, one moment. JAMES. SPNKR”


James dropped his shotgun, as Orion stood up out of cover, and began raking the troopers with gunfire, directing their attention towards him, and away from James. As he did so, James let off two rockets towards the closely packed troopers, and the resulting explosions ripped through the floor, and the troopers standing on it. Their bodies were ripped apart by the force of the high explosive warhead, and the lack of heavy armour like what the grunts, let alone the officers, had equipped.


The recoil, and reduced gravity within the Nimbus, sent James flying backwards, into another pole behind him. The impact jarred him, but he began reloading the rocket launcher, as Orion and Mark shakily stood up, and looked at the hole in the hangar floor, from which air was equalising… only, the air was not exactly good for human consumption.


“The air from below is toxic, high levels of Co2 and phosphorus”
“Not to mention the background radiation… extended exposure is not advised”
“We don’t have much choice, waiting as we are for the assault squad to take out…”


Orion heard a click, as something made a sound from within the Valkyrie. He held up his free left hand, with a single finger over his lips. The others took the hint, and readied their weapons.
They heard as someone cursed from within the ship, and Daniel poked his head over the side of the cargo bay. Seeing three aliens, all armed, he stuck his hands in the air. Mark kept his weapon, a cannon made of energy, aimed at the Valkyrie, as James approached him. He climbed up the side, having reacquired his shotgun, and aimed it at the unarmed pilot.


“Name and rank: now”
“Daniel Horncastle, pilot officer with NASA… Who, or what, the hell are you three?”


James went to remove his helmet, but stopped when he remembered the radioactive particles within the air flowing into the hangar.


“The Mandolrian knight, or MK, is the name you’ll call me. As for my friends… the Harbinger, the one in silver plate, and Echo, the black alien”
“Hey, Harbinger is more of an alien than I am”
“What?”
“You should remember my cousin, at the very least”


Daniel was silent for a moment, as he studied the black clad alien… and then it dawned on him who it was.


“Orion… there is no way it is you”


Orion smiled.


“In the flesh… or whatever my skin is now. Glad to see you again, but you should probably stay in that ship, and seal it. The air here is contaminated”
“How is that?”
“Radiation, the lethal kind”
“Alpha and beta radiation… you have no defence against it if you stay in the open”


Daniel wasted no time in re-sealing the Valkyrie, and got onto the inbuilt radio. Mark and James both received its signal loud and clear.


“Right, so why are you three still in the hangar?”
“Guard duty, until the rest get back. Hey, does the Valkyrie have any weapons?”
“A pair of CIWS guns… why?”
“We could use the extra firepower when the next few waves of Hive come through”


It was at this point the transmission was cut, as an intense gunfight could now be heard, coming back towards them. Orion summoned his Custom shotgun, and headed for the door, with James taking cover on the opposite side of the door. Between them, they had the corridor covered, as Vail and Luc, rounds pinging off their battle damaged armour, were fleeing towards them. Orion couldn’t see Hudd or Rebecca behind them, but quickly forgot that when the corridor filled with strange, ant like creatures, with large pincers. It was clear they had been shot at, with some oozing purple blood, but it didn’t seem to slow them down in the slightest.


Orion pulled out of his cover on the left side of the door, and opened up, as did James, on the charging Hive units. The first shot from each of them tore through the charger’s thick carapace, slowing the next 4 chargers behind them, as they crushed the corpses of their fallen allies. Mark dropped into the middle of the doorway, and let off an intense beam of heat, light, and electricity, melting most of the Hive infested corridor, with the Chargers still inside. Squealing in pain and agony, the flaming bodies of the chargers ran straight into the hangar, and dissolved… the energy from the attack too much for them to deal with. Two chargers, however, remained standing, and charged at Mark. Orion stepped out of cover, and started up the chainsaw on his shotgun, rushing forwards towards the chargers. He got a glimpse of two grunts that had been standing behind the chargers, now little more than puddles of goo and ash, their weapons scattered and broken on the floor.


Mark watched on as the charger on the left ran straight into him, and Orion cut through their head, sending blood and bits of brain matter spraying over the charred corridor. The second charger, as it passed him, had its right legs sheared off, as Orion used his tail to slice through them, while he was still cutting through the first one. As it slid, Orion turned to it, and began cutting it from behind, shearing through its relatively weak thorax, largely unarmoured like the rest of its body. It screamed, as bloody chunks were ripped from its body. Although somewhat obscured, he could have sworn he heard Orion laughing, somewhat insanely.



The fire fight raging at one of the UNSC’s outposts had quietened down, with the arrival of 3 Hornet VTOL attack craft. The crater had been secured, with Reach, Roxie, Matt, and Jane leading the charge. It was then that they received the news. There had been no contact with the Spirit of Fire for 10 minutes or so, and their final message sent to the coalition was they were going in. and given the lack of additional resources from it, they could only assume that the Spirit of Fire was little more than space debris. This also meant any equipment they had must be rationed, as ammunition for their weapons would be hard to come by. They sent out two marine squads to recover the equipment from dead marine squads nearby, and they came back with some battered assault rifles, rocket launchers, grenades, and some ammunition. But it would not be enough.


“Too bad Echo isn’t here… his ability to summon objects would really come in handy”


One of the marines was talking to another, with a small puddle of water nearby. The second marine, also a male, responded to the first, after looking around at anything that might be observing them, speaking in a lowered voice, and gestured for his companion to do the same.


“How do you even know about him?”
“We received word from the sergeant forge, our current commanding officer, with the fall of the Spirit. Anyway, he was briefed on Orion’s capabilities”
“Where is he anyway?”
“Forge?”
“No, the freak”
“I wouldn’t call him that. But from what I know, he is in space right now, assisting with the boarding operations on the Hive’s largest carrier”


As the marine’s continued their conversation, they didn’t notice as the puddle moved of its own accord, towards a ragtag group of marines… one who appeared to be made of fire, and with no weapons. Jane reformed from the puddle, and briefed the rest of the group on what she had heard, with Reach and Roxie paying particular attention to the marine’s knowledge of where Orion was.


“Surely not”
“It would appear as if there is some truth to their words. Why else would he not be here?”
“If he was dead or imprisoned”
“As much as I hate to deny it… humanity needs those of us who were changed by the Hive. He is no exception”


Reach looked back to the marines near the barracks, as they had begun a small arm wrestling competition. She was cradling her borrowed rifle, and had gotten most of the remaining ammunition for it from the Barracks. She looked back to Jane, determination in her eyes.


“How do we get up there?”
“There isn’t a way up there, not from here. Australia doesn’t have a space program of its own”


Her determination, as quickly as it had come, evaporated, and she started sobbing into the nearest solid object… in this case Jane. She had no idea what to do, and just stood there, as Reach sobbed into her, absorbing her salty tears in the process. Between sobs, Reach was able to speak.


“He could die up there. Or worse…”


It was up to Roxie to comfort her.


“He can take care of himself, especially now. You heard what the Marines said. He can create anything from nothing”
“I have seen him bleed. So have you. He is not invulnerable”
“Neither are we. And we might get in his way… but I share the sentiment. If we could help him, I would be the first to stick… whatever this is up”


Roxie looked to Jane, after Reach released her, and she held up her gelatinous appendage, forming it into a hand in one moment, the next into a barbed spear. When it returned to its default, shapeless tentacle like form, one of the Marines tried tapping her on the shoulder, only to find his hand go straight through. It certainly got the group’s attention though.


“If I may… there is a Pelican inbound in 20 minutes. One bound for Jupiter, hitching a ride on one of the coalition ships. We need volunteers, are you four willing?”



“OH god…”
“What the hell happened here?”


Orion was faced with the remains of Rebecca, her bloodied corpse scattered into multiple pieces, her limbs having been ripped off by the charger’s pincers. The Tsar bomb was abandoned in the side of the room, with a second splatter of blood painting the once white bomb red on one side. Orion’s hearing, however, picked up a gurgled breath, as something was taking breaths through water filled lungs. He followed the sound, around to the other side of the bomb, kicking Riley’s rifle on the way, until he saw the prone, bloodied body of his friend.


“Hudd… oh shit. JAMES, GET OVER HERE”


James rushed over, already removing his first aid kit from his armour, and began doing what he could.


“So… much… pain”
“Hang in there Riley. James? How bad is it?”


He turned away from his work, removing his helmet. His face was one of concern, and empathy.


“There isn’t much I can do for him. His blood levels are dangerously low… and his legs are hanging off by a few tendons”


Orion looked back at Riley’s ravaged legs, at the pool of blood that had accumulated around him.


“… What are his chances?”
“Little, to none”


Hudd, although his body slowly failing him gripped onto Orion’s closest arm, and pulled him close. His voice was barely more than a hoarse whisper, as his blood continued to seep out of the wounds given to him from the chargers.
“Kill… this… place”


Orion somehow pulled away from Riley’s death grip, and looked to his own body, then back to Riley. His mind was made up, and he cut through some of the exposed leathery flesh on his hands, enough for his luminescent blood to begin welling up.


“Do what you can to stop the bleeding”
“I already have”


Orion sighed, and applied his cut hand to one of the lesser wounds, that James considered to be less critical. He saw the agony in his face as his blood began mixing with Riley’s, and he was put in even further pain as Orion’s modified blood began changing his insides. As those present watched, however, the wound which Orion had placed his palm over sealed up, as if by magic, over the course of 10 seconds.


“We need to get him to the Butane… it’s the highest chance he will survive”
“I will take him”


Mark gingerly picked up Riley, and positioned him with his torso over his bulky shoulder, and began heading back to the hangar bay, as Vail came through, assault gun in hand. His armour was scuffed, and in some places ripped open, and the later had been hastily patched up with a type of expanding foam. He looked at the blood covered giblets, the little that remained of Rebecca, and the bloodied corpse-like form of Hudd, as Mark rushed past towards the shuttle.


“I’m sorry; those chargers seemed to just shrug off our rounds… more so for these two”


Orion turned to Vail, blue fire raging in his eyes.


“And you just… left them behind? You didn’t even try to help drag them away”


Orion pointed to the remains of Rebecca.


“Look at her. Look at the consequences of your cowardice”


Vail stood up taller, somehow beating Orion’s height, and towering over James as well.


“And the alternative was for either me or Luc to sacrifice ourselves, to save a wounded soldier. Like it or not, this is a war”
“That doesn’t mean you have to treat it like one… honourless cur”


Vail was getting angry underneath his armour, as he dropped his cannon, and walked up in front of Orion, trying to intimidate him with his armoured bulk. Orion remained unfazed, but silent, his fury bubbling and swelling within him.


“You have no idea what we have been through… what I have been through”
“Oh is that so? Then tell me, who created us? Who turned us into monsters that don’t exist?”


Vail was silent, as James said his piece.


“Think, for a moment, Vail. You turned 3, or more, normal humans, into weapons of war”
“I had no part in it”
“But you were aware of it, were you not? You could have prevented the Draconians from changing us, from upsetting our lives forever. In my case, it isn’t so bad… but look at him, look at Mark”


Vail’s gaze was not as hard as it was before, but still remained hidden behind his visor, as he turned to Orion. He was still seething, barely containing his rage at this point… rage directed at him.


“I don’t know about you, but he doesn’t even look remotely human, and he can’t even hide it. A human trapped in an alien body, both to him, and the rest of the world, and for what?”
“Without you, we would fail, and all sentient life in the galaxy is doomed”


Orion spoke again, his barely contained rage slowly simmering.


“The ends… never justify the means. America… ended one of the bloodiest wars in history, with more death. You intend to do the same, and seem to have lost any regard for the lives of those under your command”
“The Hive cannot be reasoned with. Believe me, I have tried… not even your loved ones will remember you once they are consumed”


James continued his small rant.


“Even if you do know about it from your past, it makes no difference. We, as alien as we are to you with our strange customs, are your allies. So were Rebecca and Hudd. And you left them to be consumed by the very thing you claim to hate… if only to prolong your life”


Orion dropped his shotgun, and summoned his blade, making a sharp crack as he did so from forming the chitin blade too quickly. Vail took a step back, towards his gun… he didn’t like where this was going. Orion spoke, his voice dripping with a rage stronger than any he had ever felt before.


“Never, ever, abandon your comrades, your crew, your friends, and your family. At least, that is what I would do. Is that what you did, I wonder? Sacrificed an entire ship, to save your own skin?”
“I HAD NO CHOICE. It was either flee, or die at the claws of an enemy that I could not fight”
“And you left, everyone you cared about died. Is it better to live for yourself, or die for your family?”
“Living is always preferable”
“Then you have no place on our planet”


Orion’s blade whipped forwards, going straight through Vail’s chest plate. James cried out, as Orion pushed the blade in even deeper.


“Orion, we need him, At least for now. The Tsar bomb…”
“The Tsar bomb is already in the right place, isn’t it Vail?”
“With a bomb this powerful… it doesn’t matter where it is. Everybody dies”


Orion twisted his blade in Vail’s stomach, and pulled it out, black ooze coating the blade where it had stuck. What Orion didn’t expect was for Vail to throw a punch that cracked his jaw, and sent him flying into the wall, the loud crack from the punch reverberating off of metal walls.
James pulled out his own blades, his twin green lightsabers lighting up the core room they were in. He glanced over to Orion, who seemed to be out of it from the blow, then back to Vail, his gauntlet glowing from Orion’s blood. He was far more wary of this bipedal fish now, and let him speak, as he removed his helmet, blonde hair spilling out from underneath. Vail spoke to him, trying to reason with James.


“You, of all out Xeno allies, should appreciate the truth… and yet, you have your weapons drawn. Your cousin is unstable, and is proving himself to be… unreliable and useless”
“Unstable from the very thing that you crafted him into, not to mention two years of isolation from the outside world… you deserve the suffering you feel, the anguish that you should be in, from abandoning this ship to the enemy”


James’s words finally struck home, and Vail swung at him. James simply laughed, dodging out of the way. Orion was caught unawares, and thus the strength of the power armour caught him out. But Vail was slow while wearing it. Too slow, like a walking tank, giving James the ability to dance around to the fish man’s right side, slicing at some of the hydraulic cylinders that powered his armour. The dual strike severely damaged the system, as lime green fluid leaked out of the armour for a moment, and Vail’s movement in that arm became more sluggish. He roared, both in anger and annoyance at this more agile foe.


“YOU KNOW NOT THE PAIN I HAVE SUFFERED FOR NEARLY MILLENNIA, KNOWING I AM THE LAST OF MY KIND”
“The only reason that is the case, is because you were unwilling to do something to protect those you love”


James had moved, and positioned himself directly between Orion, and Vail, as if to further hammer home the point. Vail’s eyes were still somewhat trained on James, but were more focused on eliminating the unusable asset.


“Get out of my way, and I may yet let you leave this ship”
“How about, no”




Back on earth, however, there was someone receiving one last hug from their parents. Roxie, unwillingly accepting the hug, found her mother unwilling to let go.


“Why do you have to go?”
“Love him or hate him, Orion is our brother”
“And if it takes us to go through hell to get him back? Then we would do it. We can take care of ourselves”
“Not to mention the 14 or so marines that will be coming with us”


One of said marines was standing nearby, shotgun in hand.


“Mam, I understand. I would do anything for my children as well… albeit they appear to not exist here. I go on this trip, not because I want to fight the enemy, but because I know it will further humanity as a whole”


A second marine, equipped with a battle rifle, approached the group. Roxie noted it was the same sergeant rank from the Asian defence platform.


“I go to avenge those that lost their lives, but also to redeem myself for my failure”


Roxie’s mum released the hug, and looked at Reach, with a sort of questioning look on her face.


“No, no hugs for me”


Reach had somehow gotten herself some more advanced combat armour, recovered from a woman who had dropped in in the initial wave of troops from the Spirit of Fire, her helmet obscuring her face.


“We will come back with Orion. We owe him that much, for forgetting about him for two years”
“We need to start moving now, if we have any hope of reaching the Nimbus in time”


Roxie pushed away from her mother, and she reluctantly relinquished her grip on her child.


“Make sure you all come back in one piece, alright?”


Roxie smiled, as the rear ramp of the Pelican shut. She took her seat, as she heard the 4 powerful engines increasing their power, and the sudden feeling of acceleration upwards, as the Pelican took off vertically. She looked out the rear ramp, the small viewport allowing her a glimpse of the ground, and her mother looking up towards them, before the Pelican accelerated forwards, leaving her and the UNSC base behind. The quartermaster began handing out O2 cylinders, along with sealed helmets, and airtight sections of armour.


The marines began fitting them with practiced ease, leaving the helmets resting on their knees for the most part, as they continued their ascent into space. Jane and Matt were sitting opposite Reach and Roxie, the 4 of them closest to the door. Neither Matt nor Jane had any sort of body armour… as neither could have it fitted to their ever changing forms. That, and they had tested to make sure that they could breathe in a vacuum… turns out they didn’t need air anymore. That said, Matt’s flames were significantly less intense, the low of oxygen in the cargo bay unable to fuel his fire. Reach looked over to the two of them, and tried to yell over the sound of the engines… to no avail. They were simply too loud for a civil conversation, at least while they were entering orbit.


It was some time later that the sound of the engines died down, and Reach unbuckled her seatbelt, and floated over to the viewport, getting a glimpse of a new dawn over the pacific. She sighed, the water vapour in her breath coalescing in front of her, before blocking the view. She tried to clean it off, and instead ended up floating towards the front of the cargo bay, past the marines who had now fitted their helmets, and were hooking up the O2 supply. When she reached the opposite end of the cargo bay, she rebounded off of the wall, like an Olympic swimmer would in a pool, and began floating back towards her seat, now spinning out of control. It took Reach and Jane, using her tendrils to slow Reach down, to get her back in her seat, as they began fitting the airtight gloves, boots, and provisions for breathing in the event of decompression.


“Note to self… no gravity”
“No shit, not in this bird”




Vail, seeing James no longer as saveable, went low, and tried to sweep his legs out from under him. This caught James off guard somewhat, but it was little effort to leap over the leg… and then over his head, making full use of his limited force abilities, as the Mandolrian Knight.


“Too slow”


With a roar of rage, the armoured Vail punched upwards, catching James mid leap, sending him higher into the air… and as he fell, Vail went for his assault gun, and aimed it at Orion. Seeing this, James pulled in his arms, and fell faster, lightsabers ready to cut through the gun. But he was too slow, as Vail pulled the trigger, and a near deafening roar of the heavy cannon as it unleashed its explosive payload… but that was all it did. James continued to fall, but had effectively stopped the explosive round from impacting Orion. He landed, feet first; again blocking Vail’s shot at Orion.


“I am only going to tell you once. Get, out, of, my, way”
“And I am going to tell you once. No”


Vail shrugged, and instead fired at James. Not anticipating this, James was hit dead on by the explosive shot, and the impact knocked him backwards, the flames licking at the edges of his Spartan armour’s plating. It was at this point he remembered the launcher, currently on his back, as he dropped the lightsaber in his right hand, as Vail reloaded his assault gun. He looked up, and saw the rocket launcher in his hands, and dodged out of the way, as the rocket obliterated part of the floor, and Vail’s assault gun.


Now enraged further, and seeing a gap between him and Orion, Vail charged forwards, knocking James out of the way, with full intention of crushing Orion’s skull underneath his steel-clad boot. He brought his foot down, hearing the squish as his brain was obliterated by the sheer weight of his armour, and turned back to James, who had a look of horror on his face. James was too busy comprehending the murder of his cousin to pay attention to his words, but his ears perked up when he heard a second voice speak after Vail, one that was beyond enraged, but familiar none the less.


“I am going to enjoy taking you apart”
“As am I… coward”




“What the hell happened up here?”
“We can’t see anything from back here pilot. Tell us what you see…”
“Rookies, you might want to see this”


The more experienced marines looked in disdain, as the two female recruits near the door, now used to walking with their new boots, walked along the pelican’s cargo bay, towards the cramped flight deck. They took one look at the debris in front of them, seeing the remains of a titanium hull plate. As it rotated around, they caught a glimpse of the lettering on the plate, which had but one word on it: Spirit, the rest of the name having been ripped off from this section of armour.


“No way… is it gone?”
“It would appear that way. Thankfully, most of the Hive fleet is preoccupied right now, chasing after the remnants of the Coalition fleet that supposedly helped us out… we can see how well that went”


The pilot gunned the engines, passing by the scarred remnants of almost a dozen ships, all alien in origin, but not the Hive. They appeared to come from a variety of races, given the differences in design. Some plates were curved, others angular. Some thick, some thin. They even passed by the wreckage from a larger vessel, one that they decided to fly through, to use as cover, on their route to the Nimbus, which had been left alone. They could see why shortly after. Large chunks of its external armour had been ripped to shreds, and as they flew around the back of the 1km long vessel, they saw its ruined rocket engines, all of which were turned to slag; the few more functional ones were sparking occasionally, but nothing that would be able to move the behemoth of a warship.


“I suggest you buckle up, we are going to have to make our own entrance”
“How are we going to rendezvous with the other assault team?”
“There is a tracker on the Valkyrie, we have its signal. It’s also safe to assume that where it currently is parked is pressurized. I would rather keep it that way”


Everyone on board felt the vibrations as the pilot let off a volley of rockets towards the Nimbus, with Reach being able to see them breach a separate hangar, not too far from where the pilot had pointed, the blackened flesh covering the hangar the Valkyrie was parked in.


“Hang on back there… we are going in”
Orion lashed out with his tail, coiling it around Vail’s throat. His sword still lay on the ground, but James could hear another sharp, series of cracks, as something shifted and morphed. But with Orion somehow holding up Vail, with his back to James, he had no idea what was going on.


“You call yourself a Varian, that you have a proud history or some such”
“Humans are not worthy of space travel… I see it now”
“And you are not worthy of having commanded an entire vessel, if you were so willing to abandon it”


Vail kicked backwards, hitting Orion in the chest, knocking him backwards, but his tail remained tightly around his neck. If anything, the pressure he was exerting got tighter. And unfortunately for Vail, he could see exactly what had made the sound of bones breaking, reforming, and ultimately, he could see the 4 talons that had replaced Orion’s once human hands. He snarled, low and menacing, and if he could… Vail would have backed away from this wild, feral creature.


“Do you see now, James? I told you, it is unstable… and must be destroyed”
“I am not an IT”


The pressure around his throat increased, and James could hear as the metal began to fail, and was being compressed around his throat.


“You created this monster. NOW DEAL WITH IT”


Orion raked Vail’s faceplate with his new claws, shearing apart the transparent visor, revealing his face. The pressure continued to build, both in his throat, and from his tail, as James stood back, seeing an anger he had not witnessed for a long time, bubbling over from his cousin. It wasn’t something he was willing to intervene in.


“What say you now, Vail? Like a pearl inside a clam, only the pearl is a vile, cursed object. You have one chance, or you die. Why did you leave your own crew, your family, behind… to the Hive?”
“I… already… told you. To… save my…self… from eternal… torment”
“Wrong answer”


With a mighty roar, Orion let loose his psionic beam, point blank, straight at Vail’s exposed face. After three seconds, the remnants of his visor melted… 5 seconds, his brain began to boil. He let out a choked gasp, and one word, before Orion crushed his windpipe beyond repair, and he began suffocating from the pressure exerted by his own armour. Orion kept holding him in place, ignorant to his cries.


“Me…r…cy”


At 10 seconds, his eyes exploded, and brain matter and fluid began leaking out, pressed up as it was against the inside of his skull. At 13 seconds… Vail’s head exploded within the remains of his helmet. But Orion didn’t stop there, his own face splattered with the remains of Vail’s. He released the bulky deadweight of Vail’s headless corpse, and continued his concentrated beam of heat into the rest of his armour. At 30 seconds, it was all slag, melted onto his corpse as whatever blood remained in his system boiled. Orion ripped open the slag casing around the corpse, taking a moment to rest, but continued on.


This second burst effectively atomised what little remained of Vail, as Mark rushed back inside, seeing Orion standing over the puddle of molten metal and flesh that was once Vail, and looked to James, who was refusing to look at this anymore. Mark tapped James on the shoulder, unsure of what had gone down in here while he was gone.


“I missed something big, didn’t I?”
“Yeah… Vail effectively left behind our comrades… one of which was the bloodied corpse you hauled out of here. An old friend of Orion’s, who I have met once or twice”
“Oh”
“Think that is overkill though?”
“What, the mouth projected laser?”


Orion ceased blasting what remained of Vail, and collapsed, severely weakened from the strain of sustained drain on his abilities. He looked up, seeing Mark return, and looked back to his talons.


“What’s with the talons?”
“No idea. They just… grew, and he used them to rip open Vail’s armour like how a normal human can rip apart bread and paper. They are really, really sharp”
Mark spotted Orion’s blade on the floor, and grabbed its hilt. He was able to pick it up, and hold it out, blade pointed towards the floor, and offered it to Orion, as he shakily stood up from the floor. He took the blade, and dispelled it, along with his shotgun, and looked back at the Tsar bomb.


“That thing is in the right place, at least”
“Since Luc isn’t with you, I assume he is looking after Hudd?”
“Correct”
“Then let’s arm this bomb, and get home”
“Wait a minute there, James… my sisters are here”
“How… or better yet, why?”
“Your guess is as good as mine, at this point”
“Then we should let them find us”


Orion looked to James, after looking at a wall for a few moments, and shook his head.


“I think they need our help more than we need theirs. Mark, try to keep track of where we are… this might take a while to get back otherwise”
“Probably should tell Luc what we are doing”


James turned, and headed back for the fighter bay, as Orion and Mark looked at each other, somewhat awkwardly for a moment.


“Shall we go?”
“Of course… but one question before we go”
“Go ahead”
“How much does your humanity mean to you?”
“Very little, right now… especially given the Xeno’s disregard for human life”
“Surely then, you would care more, if you realised you were losing it?”
“Mate… my humanity has been gone for a long time”


Mark stopped his inspection of the Tsar bomb, and turned to Orion. He had removed his helmet, revealing the pale, unnaturally bluish white skin underneath and a serious lack of hair on his head. Orion, however, got the full brunt of what Mark smelled like, having not washed himself for some time, in addition to the metallic smell of blood from his earlier escapade.


“MARK! Have you not had a shower? You reek”
“Well excuse me for helping rescue you ass… and I have had a busy week”
“Pretty sure you can’t smell it anymore, but the smell of your blood… it’s like rotten eggs, with a whole jar of vegemite, along with the smell of a decaying corpse. Short version: IT’S HORRIBLE”
“That explains that…”
“What?”
“Never mind, we should get moving”
“For both our sakes, put that helmet back on. This entire ship could depressurize at any moment, and I cannot stand the smell of your blood. Not to mention, the Hive will probably smell you coming”


Mark, somewhat begrudgingly, donned his helmet once more, relieving Orion’s nose somewhat. But the smell of mixed sweat, blood, and faecal matter wasn’t going to leaving this room for a little while.


“You say that… but I have not detected a single weapon fire from this ship for the last half hour. Every second we have been aboard, not a single weapon, nor single hangar, has been opened normally”
“Any hangers opened with explosives?”
“Yes, actually, about… 1 minute ago”
“That’s my sisters. We need to get to them”
“Are you sure?”
“I know their psionic signature; they are definitely on this ship”
“Then follow me, keep close, and try not to rip anything else to shreds on the way there
“Don’t have to tell me twice… HEY, that’s not fair”


“FALL BACK”


The marine’s push into the ship was routed, and the group, now minus a few marines, were falling back towards the Pelican. Waiting for their return, weapons readied, was the 4 rookies, two of which lacking body armour, and seemingly made of fire and water, respectively. Reach was further back, her rifle’s bipod resting on one of the few metal surfaces within the hangar, a small bottle of white liquid resting within easy reach. Roxie stood much closer to the entrance, along with Jane and Matt. She had a clear view, as the marines charged into the corridor, fleeing at full speed for their lives. It didn’t take them long to find out why.


Behind them, was a horde of shambling creatures, each with sharpened spikes for their forearms, the vague shapes of once human test subjects barely recognisable, with Hive material infused with their own flesh… some were completely covered in Hive flesh; others only had been exposed slightly, with only their arms covered. The Marines were spraying their assault rifles at the shambling creatures, but they were fast. The moment Reach got a clear shot into the corridor, she opened up, and the sound of the rifle stopped them for a second, allowing the Marines to continue out, away from the doorway. This gave Roxie a clear shot, and she fired, the buckshot from her shotgun spreading out and hitting multiple targets, as did her sister’s shot, which tore through over 5 separate targets, severing the first one’s head.


It was at this point that Matt unleashed his own brand of firepower, washing the entire corridor in superheated flames… the flamethrower like wave melting sections of the walls, both the Hive flesh and the original metal walls. When he stopped, and allowed the smoke to clear, none of the Swarmers remained standing, but Matt collapsed to the floor.


“I overtaxed myself… I cannot continue”


The flames that made up his body nearly extinguished, Roxie moved forwards, flanked by Jane, and they executed the remaining Swarmers that were still alive. The smell of gunpowder was thick in the air, when Reach came into the corridor, SMG in hand, rifle slung over her shoulder, as she caught up with her sister.


“Is Matt going to be OK?”
“He should be fine”
“I would hope so… just give him time”


The trio continued moving through the corridor, finding the bloodied corpses of the 4 marines that had been leading, and then had been at the rear when the swarmers came out. Janes sighed, and continued onwards, while Reach and Roxie scavenged their corpses for any ammunition they could use, before heading through the next door. It seemed to lead into a maintenance bay of some sort, with large mechanical arms, long disused, overhead, and corrupted Varian craft resting on 4 jacks, the screw like thread running up from the base of the jack to the ship. Jane scowled at the machine… this was not how it was supposed to function.


“We should destroy that”


As she said that, 3 eyes, glowing red, opened on the underside of the fighter, and their gaze was focused on Jane.


“Well, shit”


It screamed, as its engines fired, and it lifted off of the jacks, somehow having enough room to move within the maintenance area. Initially, this would not have been an issue, until it began firing twin linked machine guns, pinning Jane down behind one of the Jacks. Reach got some distance between her and the rogue machine, switching back to her long rifle, aimed, and fired at one of its eyes. The round tore through the hive flesh, bursting the eye, and it began leaking fluid over the metal floor. As it did so, the fluid coalesced into a larger, slime creature, which then turned to the nearest opponent, being Roxie. She opened up with her shotgun, ripping apart whatever sorcery kept it together, but it remained standing, and fired a glob of itself at her. It pinner her in place, and it seemed as if the rest of the creature was about to absorb her, but Reach fired off two shots at the creature, and would have done a third, but her rifle clicked empty.


The rounds tore through its gelatinous body, further weakening the bonds that were keeping it together. It continued moving towards Roxie, until it was hit by a high pressure water blast from the side, as Jane drew the water vapour in the air, and a little extra from her own body, and unleashed a torrent of water at the creature. The interaction of her water, and the Hive gel, separated the bonds holding it together, and it returned to a puddle on the floor, unmoving. Jane drew back the water she had used, reforming the body parts that had been shortened, before the three of them heard a click, as the ship finished reloading its machine guns, and pinned all three of them down. The Marines, hearing the gunfire, rushed into the maintenance bay, and began firing at the creature.


The rounds spraying off of it from the marines, the rogue machine lowered a fourth machine gun, and began spraying rounds at the Marines, cutting down 3 more of them before the rest dived for cover. One of them in particular, the space station sergeant with her battle rifle, ended up next to Jane.


“Nice of you to drop in like this”
“Any of you bring heavy ordinance?”
“No…”


While they remained pinned down, Roxie moved around the maintenance bay, away from the area being suppressed by the curved fighter. She found a way up onto a catwalk around the sides of the maintenance bay, above the corrupted fighter, and dropped down onto the top of it, two grenades in hand. Jane saw her as she leapt off, two grenade pins in hand, and roughly three seconds after, two explosions hit the side mounted engines, the primary lifting devices for this craft. It began falling to the ground, when a third explosion, larger than the last pair, hit the rear engines, and the craft flipped over onto its back, it’s engines now accelerating its descent, as it ploughed through the floor of the maintenance bay. Roxie looked up to the observation deck overlooking the bay, and saw the shattered windows, and a Spartan, in light blue and white armour standing up there, launcher in hand.


They leaned out through the window, looking down into the pit the corrupted fighter had made, the now smoking wreck little more than scrap metal after powering through 5 levels of the Nimbus, along with the destruction of a broadside cannon. He looked back up, towards the group of marines, and recognised Orion’s sisters among them. He gestured for them to get closer, and the two of them, confused why both why a Halo Spartan was here, and why it wanted to converse with them. When they did get within 5 metres of the Spartan, James removed his helmet, and Roxie immediately recognised their cousin.


“James?”


He smiled, reloading the rocket launcher, and then switched back to his shotgun, which he held loosely at his side. He tossed a small USB through the shattered window, which Reach caught and pocketed


“Who else would it be?”
“Why are you here?”
“I was… abducted, for the express purpose of boarding this ship. We can see how that turned out”
“There doesn’t look like there is a way over to you from here”
“No, but this floor meets up with yours not too far from here. About 100 metres from my position, 500 from yours, there is a set of stairs… unfortunately, it goes through some heavily contested territory, which Mark and Orion are trying to hold as we speak”
“Then let’s go”


James turned back, and began heading through the door to Orion, when Reach called out to him.


“Is Orion… ok?”
“He’s fine. You lot will need our help more than we need yours”


He fitted his helmet back over his head, and shouldered his shotgun, as they heard the sound of gunfire erupt from further down the corridor. Roxie sighed, and the two sisters headed back down to the remaining Marines. Most of them, were understandably confused, but had been securing all entrances to the maintenance bay. The NCO, the sergeant from the station, had taken command.


“Keep all exits controlled. Ah, good. What happened with the Spartan?”
“He’s with Orion, and we are to meet up with him”
“Did you get directions?”
“No, but he gave us this”


Reach pulled out a small USB like device, and handed it to the Lance corporal, who fitted it into her helmets receptacle. It gave her a path to follow, to meet up with the other group, along with Mark’s and James’s locations, in real time. They were holding their ground, but barely.


“We need to move. You 6, with us”
“Yes mam”


Less than 50 metres away, but through layers of metal and Hive flesh, Orion and Mark were holding a corridor, as rounds pinged off of the metal, and ripped through the flesh covered walls. Orion was crouched behind the wall via echolocation, the sound of their gunfire allowing him to keeping track of the advancing elites and officers, while Mark was peeking out of cover, and returning fire with his own, impressive as it was, they were getting closer. Mark drew back, into cover, drawing his blade, as Orion held up all 8 of his talons… they were almost close enough to charge at.


“FUCK IT”


Orion ran out into the open, hearing a lull in the constant din of gunfire, and charged at the elites. And although all of them had blade weapons, of various lengths, they could not match the ferocity Orion was bringing to bear on them. The first one, the officer, was ripped to shreds by his claws, while the elite next to him had their head decapitated, crimson blood spraying into the air.


The three elites behind the first two opened up, but Orion used the Officer’s corpse as a shield, charging forwards, and rounds pinging off of the corpse. He withdrew his talons from the corpse, continuing his momentum over the top of the Officer as they fell to the ground, and tore into the Elite on the left side, the talons ripping through their flesh, as his tail went through the middle elite’s torso, the bladed tip ending up out the top of their torso, splitting their head open. The third, however, turned to Orion, and unloaded on him as he was retracting his tail from the corpse. Orion didn’t have to engage the third Elite, as Mark unleashed an energy blast at the Elite, setting them ablaze, then shortly after their torso-less corpse keeled over, blood pooling on the floor.


All that was left was the creature that hadn’t been shooting, something akin to Vail’s powered armour, corrupted by the Hive. This mechanical suit seemed to have an inbuilt rotary gun, which began firing at Orion… but he was no longer where he was standing. Its rounds went straight through the illusion into a wall, and it continued firing at it for a good 2 seconds longer before it realised it was fake. But it was too late, as Orion cut through its back, and ripped its systems apart from the inside. It turned around, spraying black hydraulic fluid all over the corridor, smacking Orion backwards, but he just got straight back up, and continued laying into this slow, mechanical monster.


Mark was just watching on at the brutal efficiency Orion was displaying, as James jogged up to him, shotgun readied… it quickly lowered, seeing the corridor full of corpses, and Orion finishing the violent disassembly of the Varian powered exoskeleton. He noted the once integral 3 barrel rotary gun, discarded to one side, along with the black hydraulic fluid and bullet impact damage from the weapon. He looked to Mark, without a single scratch on his armour, and figured out the rest for himself.


“Orion went full rage mode again, didn’t he?”
“Not quite as bad as it was with Vail… but yeah. You might want to check on him once he finished disassembling that Corrupted armour”


Orion severed the machine’s limbs, leaving only its head and torso, battered as they were, to stare at him, while he went around, and executed any of the elites that had somehow survived his wrath. James and Mark quietened their conversation… just in case.


“What got him so fired up this time?”
“Vail’s betrayal, I think, is still affecting him. And for the record, I am not going anywhere near him like this”
“You are in full Spartan armour”
“He ripped apart armour that was much thicker, and heavier than mine. There is nothing stopping him from killing me, besides the fact we are bound by our family ties”
“And, that is not important. He is protecting those he sees as allies. That includes me and the Marines on the lower level”


Orion finished the Corrupted suit, and noticed his own blood dripping onto the floor, lighting it up in places from the quantities he had lost. He looked to James, before collapsing, clutching at his cracked scales from where the power armour suit had hit him, both with 15mm rounds, and its fists. James, still observing, moved forwards, checking on his medical gear for any expanding foam, to stop the bleeding. Thankfully, he had some, and applied the cylinders to the wounds, sealing them. James then got to work inspecting the rest of Orion’s body for any additional wounds, and found none that were life threatening, little more than cracks in his chitin armour, and bruises from being flung into the wall and floor just starting to develop, as Orion’s skin turned red in those areas.


“You should be good to walk, which is a good thing. Luc wants us back at the core room… with the Tsar bomb”
“Well shit”


Orion sat bolt upright, knowing full well what he was going to ask them about… and Vail’s black blood, although well hidden on his talons, his brain matter was still smeared all over his face. He took a moment to clean it off with a summoned rag, before hanging his head low, unspeaking.


Meanwhile, Jane had gone back to Matt, and helped him up from his position. His flames had re-intensified, to the point where he would be able to walk, but not much else. His formless body was still mostly smoke, drained as he was from his earlier attack. They met up in the maintenance bay, with Roxie and Reach about to go deeper into the vessel.


“You two ready to move on?’
“Yes”
“Good, we could use the fire support”
“I take that means, literally”


Matt continued forwards, until he saw what they were referencing. Blocking the route James had recommended, was a wall of Hive flesh, blocking the corridor. It was clear the Marines had made a few attempts at breaking through, but to no avail. Their weapons were simply not strong enough, nor did they have ammunition to try for long. So instead, why not get the fire elemental to burn through it? Matt sighed, and channelled his flames into a more precise cutting beam, of sorts, and began cutting a door into the flesh. While he was doing so, the sisters were having a small discussion, via radio, with James.


“Sorry about this, but we are needed back at our entry point. You will have to come to us”
“I understand, but that doesn’t make it any better”
“Based on the creatures we have fought through so far? I don’t like our odds of success”
“Then wait for us, and hold position. Was there no other way into your entrance hangar, apart from the maintenance bay?”
“None that we saw, the bay itself has multiple entry points, but the Marines have them all covered”
“That is something, I suppose. Just”


The radio clicked off, as the interference from the ship completely cut the rest of his transmission.


“Damn. THE SPARTAN WANTS US TO HOLD THIS POSITION”




“You killed Vail… the last of his species”
“Yes, I did”
“Why?”
“If I may interject, this trial can wait another day. The longer we deliberate here, the longer the Hive has to prepare something far worse than…”


The four of them all heard as the Valkyrie’s engines began spooling up, and the sound of running as the two pilots from the Butane came running in. In-between gasps for air; they said what was going on. They had seen one of the Hive’s seedlings approach Daniel, the Valkyrie’s pilot, and he willingly accepted integration into the Hive. They had run when the hive material spread onto their ship, choking their engines with the thick, fire resistant material, and nearly caught them inside the transport. As for the Valkyrie, it was worse of, corrupted by the seedling.


“Damn… Wait what?”
“He willingly accepted the Hive… in fact, he deliberately approached the seedling”
“What’s a Seedling? Sorry, we haven’t heard of this”
“The Seedling is the Hive’s means of spreading its genetic material. Usually, it is done through force, or done to corpses. But, if it takes a willing recipient”
“It’s bad, let’s leave it at that”


The 6 of them all heard a click as a magazine was fitted into place, and the Valkyrie, now airborne, began suppressing the doorway, firing a non-stop barrage of incendiary shells at the doorway. The pilots initially shied away from the heat, finding themselves choking on the phosphorous within the shells.


“This is really bad”
IRD 15
What was originally intended as the final part.

In addition: BUGS. BUGS EVERYWHERE. Just another normal day down under.
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Reach and Roxie both looked up, seeing the fire in the sky stop traveling over their heads, and start to travel towards them, as the fires began to dissipate from the objects, the organic nature of the incoming objects made its intentions clear to everyone in the vicinity.


“Holy shit… THE HIVE”


Reach and Roxie both turned to the gun shop owner, with the look on their faces similar to we already told you they were coming sort of deal. They then looked back to the 3 chevrons astronaut, seeing the look of despair on their face. They thought it was the beginning of the end.


“We can help”
“Think of it as a favour for an old friend”


Everyone present turned towards the wind-like voices, and saw a surprisingly odd couple. The one of the left, the more feminine, and shorter than average, was composed of what appeared to be living water, as she got to work putting out the spot fires around the crashed escape pod. The other, taller and more masculine, was wreathed in smoke and fire, looking up towards the incoming pods. The Sergeant spoke up, her fear turning to curiosity, at least for the moment.


“Why are you here?”


The female turned to her, and approached… standing right in front of her. Despite the water based changeling being shorter, she was still stronger and faster than most humans.


“I don’t know about my fiery friend over there, but I am here to find a friend. Goes by Orion, or Echo”


Reach stepped forwards, and spoke to the polar opposites.


“Before I can tell you about my brother, why do you want to find him?”


They looked to each other, and back to her. And just like that, their voices changed no longer the wispy voices of spirits, but the voices of two human beings. The voice from the water spirit, the second one who spoke, she recognised.


“We are looking for our friend, who freed us”
“He could not prevent… this, but he has coped with it. Certainly better than we have”


Jane lifter her hand in front of her face as she said that, peering through her own hand, and dropped it when she realised what Reach had said earlier, and glanced at Roxie, before replying.


“You know where he is”
“He is our brother”
“We should know where he is?”
“So? Tell us”
“He’s… not here”


The smoke coalescing around the male began heating up, morphing from smoke to flame.


“Where, is, Orion?”
“We don’t know. After the carrier was destroyed, we have no idea where he went… for all we know, he could be in space right now”


Jane and Mathew looked to each other, then back to Reach… as the flames went back to smoke.


“Sorry about that. I should introduce myself. The name was Matt… not sure what I am now”
“Jane, but you should already know me”
“You could say that”


Before they could speak further, a shockwave sent them reeling, as dirt and scorched grass was flung in every direction from the impact of one of the Hive’s drop pods. It was massive, carrying over 200 troops per pod, along with any essential equipment. As the smoke cleared, the tendrils buried themselves into the earth, and a hatch opened in the pod, releasing a number of more heavily armoured grunts onto the soccer field. Reach grabbed her borrowed rifle, which had ended up next to her, and pushed the bolt forwards and down, aiming at the oncoming horde. She looked to the gun shop owner, who had also ended up amongst the tree line, and he shrugged his shoulders. Neither of them could see Roxie, Jane, or Matt. But they could see the still groggy members of the APS, as the grunts, now coloured to better match the greenery around them, went to begin dragging them back to their mobile command base. Which is when the smoke cloud near their base dissipated, revealing Matt, now a blazing inferno, and Jane, something akin to a sea serpent made of water, and appeared out of the smoke, directly in the Hive’s path. Roxie kept herself hidden within the APS escape pod, but made her position known to her sister via a quick text.


The grunts were conflicted for a second, before opening fire on their uncontrolled experiments. Jane’s body parted, allowing the magnetically accelerated rounds to go right through her. As for Matt, you can’t shoot something that is made of fire. His flames distorted for a moment, then reignited, hotter than before, some of it catching the ground around him. The two of them charged, which is when Reach and the gun shop owner made themselves known, picking off those carrying the groggy astronauts as a priority. Roxie ran out, shield in hand, and began helping them up, and away from the immediate conflict area. The shield, surprisingly, protected against the Hive’s weapons, the inherent magnetic field within the metal frame slowing the rounds, to the point where they just bounced off. Between shots, when they were both reloading, Reach called out to the gun shop owner.


“What is your name?”
“Sorry?”
“What is your name?”
“Oh, right. Name’s Henry”


There were too many, however. As Matt and Jane were gradually being pushed back to the tree line in which Reach and Henry were still firing. Seeing this, they began falling back, towards the main road. By now, most of the cars in the area had fled, the fire fight on the soccer field scaring away most civilians. The Australian astronauts, were now recovered enough to walk on their own, to which they somewhat did, towards Henry’s gun store. Henry and Reach were the second line from the fight, firing and trying to keep pace with the astronauts when they could. The front line consisted of Roxie, Matt, and Jane, all of which were slowly falling back. Despite Matt’s incendiary abilities, their armour was capable of resisting it, along with Jane’s high pressure water blasts.



“Damn”


From above, the Spirit of Fire took a look at the bigger picture, seeing the Hive’s assault all across the area covered by the Asia pacific station. The captain stroked his grey beard, waiting for the confirmation he needed to launch the marines, and more importantly, the ODSTs, planet side. They finished mopping up the remainder of the Vanguard, while they got into contact with the alien fleet, using the same frequency as before.


“Hailing the alien coalition ship, the Harmony: earth’s orbit is secure, for now… any information on the position of the Hive’s main fleet, over?”


He was met with only silence. He tried again, broadcasting on all frequencies, directing the broadcast away from Earth.


“Any ships of the Alien Coalition Fleet, please advise status. Earth space is secure, over”


Again, nothing but silence… he ordered that transmission to loop, and sent a third transmission, both to the other defence stations, and to all radio signals planet side… on all used radio frequencies.


“Attention. This is the UNSC Spirit of Fire, hailing any and all military units in combat with the Hive. Hold out, we have support inbound. I repeat. Help is on the way”


A nod from the logistics officer was all he needed, as he confirmed launch of as many temporary bases, and ODST’s as possible.






Reach’s handheld radio, a part of her SES equipment she had thankfully forgotten to take off, sprung to life.


“…UNSC Spirit of Fire… combat with the Hive… support is inbound, I repeat… on the way”


The message was clear enough for her to understand. They had continued falling back, with a quick stop over in Henry’s store for extra ammunition and guns, and they were currently holding just outside a Woolworths on the other side of the road from the major shopping centre, taking cover behind structural pillars and damaged cars, with Matt and Jane holding the flanks. The transmission came in during a lull in the combat, when the Hive was preparing another wave of units, and everyone was taking a breather.


“YOU ALL HEARD THAT. FRIENDLY FORCES INBOUND”


Roxie yelled back, too far away from Reach to hear the broadcast.


“WHAT FROM?”
“UNSC SPIRIT OF FIRE, OR SOMETHING”


Roxie’s jaw dropped.


“YOU SURE ABOUT THAT”
“THAT PART OF THE MESSAGE WAS CLEAR”


Roxie jogged towards Reach, her captured Hive rail gun in hand, and whispered into Reach’s ear.


“The Spirit of Fire… Hell, the UNSC, doesn’t exist. This means one of two things”
“Which are?”
“One… the Hive is fooling us. Or two…
“It’s Orion”
Reach seemed uncertain, less so for Roxie, after a momentary thought. Reach spoke first, mulling over what little information they had on the Spirit of Fire


“That captain, or whoever it was, didn’t sound like him”
“Perhaps not, but the UINSC… it’s from Halo. The Spirit of Fire, from an RTS game, within the halo universe”


Reach’s face went from a hard, blank stare, to sudden realisation.


“He owned that game, didn’t he?”
“Played it a lot, before… all of this”
“ANOTHER WAVE IN SIGHT”


Henry, crouched on the roof behind the Woolworths sign, saw the next wave of Hive spilling out of the pod, and they immediately began running towards their holdout position. He steadied his rifle using a bipod, and zoomed in… whatever had just come out of the pod, was a far cry from the organic soldiers it had been pumping out just one minute earlier. These creatures were more like oversized spiders, or ants… having massive pincers and a tough armoured carapace. Reach had switched to the emergency frequency, and received yet another garbled transmission. Instead of remaining silent, she tried to reply.


“All units… inbound…”
“Unknown sender, say again?”


A short silence, maybe thirty seconds, while the unknown sender got a little closer, as did the horde of killer ants charged towards them.


“Civilian unit, this is the 10th armoured. We are inbound to support. ETA 2 minutes”




“All changelings loaded, along with the Tsar Bombs. ETA to launch: 10 minutes.


Hudd and Rebecca were in the flight deck of the Valkyrie, along with an old friend of Orion’s: Daniel. He was the assigned pilot of the X-01, and was finalising his pre-launch checks. Riley and Rebecca looked back, into the cargo bay, seeing the 50 odd people who had volunteered to come. More were on the ground, waiting for transport to the Asian coastline, and eastern Russia, in light of the incoming hive troops. And right in the middle of the enlarged shuttle, were the three Tsar bombs, secured with various tie ropes and chains… just visible under the three solid tarps that covered most of the bombs. Riley was checking again and again over his light machine gun, while Rebecca inspected her pistol and blade. She looked to him, as she began cleaning the visor of her helmet.


“You really think those will make a dent in the Hive fleet?”
“We have to hope so, at this point”
“And hey, even if we don’t make a dent in the Hive, we will at least have tried”


Daniel got back to his checklist, when he received no response. Both Rebecca and Riley donned their helmets, and spoke only over the integrated radios in their power armour space suits.


“I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust that guy”
“How’s that”
“The way he acts? His willingness to die in combat… if Orion was here”
“I know, he could read his mind”
“No, I was saying he would know him better, and would be able to tell us if something external was affecting Daniel”
“But you have to admit, being able to read minds would be useful right now”


Rebecca sighed, and turned to Riley, seeing only the golden visor and white armoured plating on his suit.


“I know it has been a while since you last saw him, but he changed”
“What, more?”
“No, it was his mind, not his body. It may be partly due to what we were doing to him, but he is more… violent. More prone to attack without mercy”
“That’s not a bad thing, at least to engage the hive and to show them no mercy”
“Yes… that’s what we thought too. But when he turned on some of his handlers, without warning?”


Riley, underneath his helmet, had his mouth agape for a moment.


“So… his cousin let out a potential psychopath?”
“No. He let out his cousin. But when they engage the Hive, we need to be careful. And for both our sakes, we need to keep this to ourselves”
“Shouldn’t we warn the Changelings?”
“And tell Daniel in the process? No”


Riley mused for a moment, looking over to Daniel’s progress with his pre-launch checklist. 3 minutes left, before launch. Rebecca spoke again, hearing his silence.


“We don’t know for certain where anyone’s allegiance lies. Especially him”



“Launch in T-minus 5”


The loading arms moved out of the way, the fuel lines disconnected, and millions watched on, both from nearby, and from across the globe, as the spacecraft they had designed in secret were finally going to be used.

“4”
“3”
“2”
“1”

With a throaty roar, the engines burst to life, sending superheated gasses down and through the concrete launch pad, and metal grates. And across the globe, 500 aircraft, designed in secret, launched from 250 military airfields. These fighter craft, the X-75L, were designed to fly to orbit, only ejecting auxiliary tanks, have enough fuel to dog fight for 3 hours, and return to Earth. Granted, they would have to refuel at the defence stations, one of which was no longer operational.


On board the X-01, the Valkyrie, 50 of those changed by the Hive’s first strike checked their weapons, and seals on their suits. Their job was simple. Escort the bombs to each of the carriers, and detonate them. Some were more willing to die than others, and had volunteered to activate the bombs, should the remote detonators fail. But little did they know, that a fight was currently raging between the Hive, and the coalition fleet… just outside of Jupiter’s orbit, and with the Harmony barrelling towards the fight, and the two transports, and Mark, waiting for the blue light to go.





Orion checked, doubled checked, and tripled checked both his, and James’s weapons and environment suits. Although, for him, it was just oxygen he needed, he still checked over each of his weapons, summoning, checking and then dissipating each one he had. James had his now signature Spartan armour on and sealed, along with a shotgun and rocket launcher. Mark too, was performing diagnostics on his armour’s systems, confirming everything was in working order. When they were sure they were ready, they looked over to the ragtag group of alien troopers, all still checking over their firearms, still dressed in basic, terrestrial combat armour. In the case of the Boron however, they didn’t feel the need to wear combat armour, their tough rocky hide surely more than enough to deflect the Hive’s weapons. What they didn’t expect was that Vail would come over to their group, equipped in a loose fitting robe… with small trolley behind him. One look at the trio, and he dropped the handle, and disrobing, and pulled on a tight fitting suit.


“Need any help with that?”
“No, I am fine”


Vail continued, hooking up the environmental support systems, and then fitting surprisingly heavy, hydraulic assisted armour… with some rather unnecessary ornamental ribbons of cloth. He then pulled from the trolley the sort of weapon that would usually be mounted onto a light tank, and checked its weight… it felt more like an assault rifle with the hydraulic assistance provided to him.


“You are more important than just an engineer, aren’t you?”
“Yep”


Vail was not willing to go into any further detail, as he fitted the helmet over his head, and the under suit expanded slightly, as water began flowing through it. If Orion was to compare it to anything, the space marine armour from War hammer 40k didn’t look that far off. Heavy, bulky armour… and yet, the ornamentation of the armour was unusual. Mark took a look at the curved armour, and then went back to his own work, before saying.


“You may have designed the ships first, but that armour makes you look like a commander… someone with rank”


Vail ignored his comment, and climbed into the Butane, and gestured for Orion and James to follow him in, which they did. They were followed by Luc, also wearing a powered armour suit, with more organic plating, and angled armour, when compared to Vail’s armour, featuring organic looking curves, but metal plating. Orion spoke up, looking to Luc as he held his helmet underneath his left arm, carrying some sort of heavy machine gun in his right, from a carry handle above and behind the barrel of the weapon.


“You two are kitted for war… but why come with us?”


Vail looked over to Orion, his eyes blank behind the metal cowl. When he spoke, his voice was dead-pan serious, not anywhere near the same, slightly musical voice as the Vail they had spoken to earlier.


“I am on board this ship to guide you to your objective… and help clear out hostiles on the way”


Luc fitted his helmet, the 6 blue lights on either side coming to life, illuminating the hold of the Butane.


“Vail, you don’t need to come on this shuttle if you don’t want to”
“No. But the Nimbus is the largest of the carriers. It was the final stronghold of the Varians. I need to do this”
James looked outside, at the motley crew of soldiers, boarding the other transport. Like Luc and Vail, they were slowly fitting each other with each race’s version of the powered exoskeleton, save for the Boron, and also equipping similar heavy weapons to what Vail and Luc were holding. Ranging from machine guns to grenade launchers, battle axes and barbed spears to anti-tank guns, they were prepped for war. He turned back to Luc, who was also looking out the window at the assault force.


“These are our finest troops”
“Why station them all on the Harmony? Putting everything important in the one place”
“It doesn’t usually end well, no. But the Harmony is not a normal vessel”
“The Harmony features some upgrades that were planned for the Nimbus, including stealth capabilities. It is how we were able to end up behind the Hive fleet”
“Wait what?”
“The Hive fleet, it’s now engaging the rest of the coalition fleet. It’s why we are engaging now, in part”
“If you hadn’t said that we needed to go, we would have asked you to”


Orion had a look of confusion on his face for a moment… and spoke out what he realised.


“The rest of the fleet, or as much of it as possible, hid within Jupiter”


James spoke up, his voice sounding slightly different through the armour… much deeper in pitch, and somewhat synthesized, as if a computer was speaking.


“So what the ships we saw coming towards earth on our observatories?”
“They were the main bulk of the Coalition fleet. Nothing more than a distraction, at this point”





“We can’t hold this place forever… where the hell is the tenth armoured?”


Most of the astronauts had fallen back inside, with Roxie, Reach, Matt, Henry, and Jane holding the pillars, now speckled with bullet holes, and crumbling in places. The corpses of the chargers, the 6 legged ant-like creatures, littered the car park, their purple blood splattering on cars, and dissolving the plastic somewhat, along with the corpses of the grunts, their weapons strewn amongst the wreckage. Roxie ran out to collect a second rifle for Reach, along with as much ammunition as she could, before the next wave came, pinning her down inside of a sushi shop, in the kitchen. She had her phone on speaker, and a call went out to Reach.


“What the hell are you doing? Shoot them?”
“I don’t have a good angle, for a start… and I have no rounds. Or did you forget why you decided to expose yourself?”


Henry joined in on the call, his own phone resting next to a bottle, pilfered from a shop across the car park…


“If you two stopped bickering… Reach, get your own gun. I will try to cover Roxie”


A shot rang out, as he killed one of the chargers trying to enter the shop… and again, as an elite, pinning her down with suppressive fire, received a .45 calibre round straight through their head. They toppled forwards, their weapon resting on the car they had used for cover. Reach moved, as some of the grunts changed where they were firing, and aimed at the sniper… a stray round hit the bottle, and sent the alcohol within spraying everywhere.


“DAMN IT”
“Focus, Henry. You’re probably the best shot here”


Reach darted forwards, and dived into cover behind a van, and reached around to where she thought a gun was… her hands found a corpse in its stead. She pulled back, and looked to the road, and saw a rather odd convoy of vehicles, driving along the main road. She was surprised when they stopped, seeing the gunfire to their left, and two of the smaller, 4 wheeled transports, drove towards her, human soldiers clearly visible and exposed, sitting within the confines of the roll cage mounted on the back of the vehicle. Reach’s radio then received a transmission from the convoy.


“Civilian unit, this is the tenth armoured. Here to support”


One of the larger vehicles, about the same size as two rigid trucks, side by side, had a second, moveable part on top, with two long metal cylinders attached to it, which could move up and down independent of the rotating turret. As for the main chassis itself, it seemed to have 4 sets of caterpillar treads, two on each side, and the entire thing was painted a dull green, olive drab sort of colour. Reach spoke softly, but enough that Roxie could hear her over the gunfire.


“Roxie… use the back exit”


Reach darted back towards the Woolworths, a rifle in hand, as the unknown tank fired both barrels towards the clustered Hive soldiers, now charging into the sushi shop. The rounds flew closely overhead of Reach, and the damaged cars, hitting the shop as Roxie exited by the back, and the Hive grunts were well and truly inside the shop… the rounds detonated, sending bits of blood red chunks of flesh careening in all directions, and twisted hunks of metal that might have once been firearms. Reach’s radio spurted to life again, the now familiar voice of the tenth armoured commander coming in loud and clear.


“Hold position here, we will take care of the Hive unit down the road”


The convoy began moving again, reorganising until the 4 tanks within the convoy were in the lead, the transport jeeps not too far behind. On the rear jeep, the soldiers waved to Henry on the rooftop… he returned it, turned, and fired at one of the chargers that had climbed up the side of the Woolworths building… it’s corpse landed in front of Reach, as Roxie, covered in dust from the exploding concrete but otherwise unharmed, sauntered towards her, ending the call as she did so.


“That… was close”


She handed Reach half of the ammunition she recovered, 10 magazines in total for each of them. Reach pocketed the mags, removing the empty ones for the borrowed bolt action rifle. Roxie moved towards the road, looking at the convoy as they rolled down the largely empty street, running over a few of the corpses, courtesy of Henry’s practiced marksmanship.



To the north, on the other side of the Brisbane River, some people were going about their business. In particular, 5 apprentice engineers at Qantas, working on one of their smaller Dash eights, a twin engine, high wing commercial aircraft for short flights across Queensland and beyond… were on break, after a late night shift… they were planning on going out to a local bar.


“Still can’t believe we all got apprenticeships, especially so in the same place”
“Well, everyone but Corey, at least”


Cam, the largest of the group, was off by himself, looking to the sky. He still remembered that conversation he had with Orion… it was the last time they had spoken. As he watched, he saw fire erupt in the sky, and at the same time, 6 F/A-18s, screamed overhead, at low altitude. The other apprentices turned, and jogged to the entrance of the hangar to watch their flight. They suddenly pitched up, and began flying vertically up, towards the fire.


“What the hell is going on?”


While the rest were trying to figure out what was going on outside their hangar, Ses stepped outside, and raised his hand to block the early morning light, spotted something extending from the fire… as it spread out into multiple, separate incoming objects… all aiming for the airport.


“Cam… don’t you recognise the material? It’s not human made”


The silence was deafening, until more of the apprentice engineers came out, looking to the sky, as the fires became recognisable… whatever they were, they were not human made, let alone made of rock, like a meteor usually was. A few seconds passed before it registered. Mike spoke, his voice betraying his fear.


“The Hive… they’re back”


As they watched, however, the F/A-18s began firing at the incoming Hive Pods… and unleashed their full load of missiles, to limit the damage the Hive could do. Multiple Hive pods fractured, and the vague remains of corpses, machinery, and flesh, were now simply falling debris. The group retreated inside as the parts started to rain down upon the apron in front of them, blood and oil splattering the pavement, and heavier, more durable chunks of metal embedding into the concrete.
Some of the apprentice avionics technicians came out, after removing themselves from their hammocks, including the only person there who was a qualified pilot there at the time. Ritchie looked out onto the apron; saw the raining debris from above, and hearing the whine of the F/A-18s, and their gunfire, now out of missiles. He looked back to the Dash eight, and saw it looked mostly intact, and did a quick run around. Cam noticed, and called out to Ritchie.


“Umm, Ritchie… what the crap are you doing?”
“Preserving company property… Now all of you get on board. We got fuel, we got engines, and we got hydraulic pressure… we are good to fly”
“You sure you can fly that thing?”
“It’s close enough to the bug smasher’s I fly. And unless you want to be crushed by falling debris”


To further hammer home his point, one of the heavier sections of a pod hit the hangar ceiling, shearing through the steel roof, and crashed into one of the tool racks near the side of the hangar, sending tools flying everywhere.


“… I suggest you sit near the wings, Cam”


The boarding door opened, and all personnel there, including the supervising staff, climbed on board… it was a full house in the back, without cargo. Jake climbed into the front of the aircraft, along with Ritchie, once he had found the aircraft’s flight manual.


“You need this?”
“It would help, but we don’t have time”


After engine start, Ritchie applied half power, sending the aircraft out onto the apron, narrowly avoiding another pod that slammed through the hangar, and ended up hitting where the Dash eight had been 10 seconds earlier. Applying the brakes, on one wheel selectively, he turned rapidly, squishing Cam against the side of the aircraft, along with Payam, and other apprentices from ATAE originally. Seeing the empty taxiway, that ran parallel with one of the runways, and that it was currently unobstructed, Ritchie activated the park brake, and went to full throttle. The shaking caused by high engine RPM was throwing apprentices all over the place, until Ritchie released the brakes, and the Dash 8 leapt forwards. He did one final check of engine RPMs, and airspeed indicator, before pulling back on the controls, and the plane lifted off the ground.
But despite Ritchie’s experience, the Dash eight is not a manoeuvrable aeroplane. And given it was taking off, likely above its maximum take-off weight, it still barely off of the ground. It was far enough that he was able to avoid smacking a new bit of debris that cracked the taxiway in front of him, but he did not see something coming from above. Jake looked up, seeing the shadow, as one of the few intact pods, much larger than the aircraft, was coming down right on top of them.


“OH SHI”


He was unable to finish his sentence, as the pod slammed into the aircraft, forcing it back down. However, that was not the main problem. The pod was still hot, easily over 800 degrees Celsius… aviation fuels instantaneously combust at 250 degrees Celsius… and it would be less for a piston engine aircraft. The heat transfer took a few seconds, but once the fuel inside the wing tanks reached 250, they were just above the ground, the weight of the pod, which was now stuck to their aircraft forcing the nose down. Within 5 seconds after impact, the fuel in the wings ignited, and exploded.




“Lightning 3, say again?”
“Brisbane Tower, a Qantas Turbo-prop took off from the maintenance hangar, confirmed collision with pod”
“Roger. Do you see any survivors?”
“Negative. The fire is intense enough to destroy the pod that collided with it… which then separated. What’s left of the plane looks like it has been squashed underneath the pod, I think”
“Damn”


The F/A-18 that was transmitting to tower turned back to its duties, and did a quick ground run on the pods that landed, before it was out of ammunition for its Gau-8. It began heading back towards Amberley, to re-arm its missiles… it passed another flight of F/A-18s, on the way out to cover the airfield, with a C-17 not far behind, loaded with ADGs to secure the airfield.




Meanwhile, near Jupiter, the ambush fleet was surfacing through the thick gas storm that is Jupiter’s observable surface, to help support the heavier ships, currently engaged with the Hive fleet. It was with some surprise, when a vortex, courtesy of the Harmony, appeared in front of them, and they passed through into the fight. Their immediate goal was to avoid being hit by bits of debris from the Hive’s ships… but to their dismay, there was additional wreckage within the combat zone… the rocky surface of a Near, one of the Boron heavy cruiser’s hull passing by the windows of the Butane, the still molten magma and cracked armour providing a temporary refuge, and means of hiding the two transports from the Harmony.


“Butane, this is Vapour… any survivors from the Boron Near cruiser?”
“Negative… they are all but dust now”
“Then we better make their sacrifice count”


Mark whisked past the windows of both transports, already locked onto his target. He burst through a section of the thick stone-like armour, directly in the Cirrus’s path. By the time their close defence weapons could fire, he had made an entrance, and vented part of the ship, and its crew, into space. He sent one final transmission, before the interference of the Cirrus stopped his transmissions.


“Boarding successful… time to have some fun”


It was at this point the much larger ship… the Harmony, warped into the battle, firing off all weapons. For their convenience, James and Orion were privy to the radio conversations between the larger capital ships, while the pilots of the transports had to deal with the sudden influx of friendly strike craft.


“Coalition, this is Harmony… We’re here to help finish this fight”
“Thank the makers… we might win this yet”


Orion smiled at that underneath his re-breather, and looked over to Vail, who remained silent and unmoving since taking a seat on the transport. Luc wasn’t much better, constantly checking and rechecking his weapon. Luc, seeing his interest, stopped cleaning his gun, and asked a question to no-one in particular, as he reassembled his dual belt fed machine gun.


“Are you ready to die?”
Orion looked to him, then to his hands, then to James, before replying.


“I am not ready to die… not until the Hive is gone. But that doesn’t mean I am unwilling to die, if it means that I ensure their destruction”


Vail smiled, and lifted his head towards Orion.


“Perhaps there is hope for us yet”
“What?”
“Your friends, from Earth…”
“What, the Spirit of Fire?”
“No”


As he said that, a pair of the X-75L Strike fighters, based heavily off of captured tech from the Hive, and from secret deals with the Coalition, took position around the Butane. Another pair took up flanking positions around the Vapour, the second transport from the Harmony.


“Butane, this is Ghost 1. Need an assist?”
“We could use the escort”


As they said that, they flew out of the wreckage of the Near, the segments of the destroyed cruiser no longer hot enough to hide them, and James and Orion could see for their own eyes what they were up against… there was enough ships to dim the light coming from the sun, blocking it’s light. Luc moved up to the window, and pointed an armoured fist towards the largest ships within the millions of the fleet.


“There… there are our targets”
“Then where is…”


A sudden burst of light came from the other side of the Butane, and the 4 man squad within the transport cabin looked towards it… a massive fireball, roughly spherical when it spread, was coming from a large ship… one that Mark had gone inside. As they watched, a swarm of over 100 fighters, just like the ones escorting them, flew past in formation, directly towards the waiting fleet. But Orion and James were more interested in the wreckage of the Cirrus… watching, waiting for any sign of Mark getting out of there. The cabin shook, as something from the exploding carrier hit them. The pilots, knowing what it was, opened up the rear cargo door, and Mark floated inside… they pressurized the hold shortly after, once the door was sealed again.


“Mark?”


Orion rushed up to him, and twisted Mark’s helmet to the side, depressurizing the suit’s internal supplies of air. Mark’s face was pale, more so that it had been before… and James saw why not long after. His armour had been punctured at some point by gunfire on board the Cirrus. The leak was relatively small, but it would have been more than enough to drain his supplies.


“Mark…”


He coughed, and gasped, as his lungs received much needed oxygen, which then transferred to his brain. His breathing stabilised, but he remained unconscious. Orion looked to James, concern and worry mixed with anger… probably more at himself for letting Mark go by himself, visible as the corners of his snout turned down, and some of his teeth showed themselves underneath his lips.


“Orion, he is alive… his breathing is normal. He may have only just went unconscious, maybe for a second or more”


Orion’s expression softened, and his lips sealed once more, as he saw some colour return to Mark’s face.


“I don’t know if you can hear me or not… but how stupid are you, for going in by yourself?”


A transmission kicked to life, the Butane’s radio finally receiving a signal… from a rather out-dated radio transceiver. It came with an encoded name… the X-01 Valkyrie.


“Butane, this is the Valkyrie. The package is delivered to the Cumulus, and now in the safe hands our combined assault forces. We are heading to the Nimbus now. We need you”


One of the pilots looked down into the cargo bay, towards Luc, then Vail.


“Sir, how do I respond?”
“Tell them we will be ready to rock once we get there…”
“… Sir, it’s been an honour”
“We aint dead yet”

The pilot just sighed, and returned to the flight deck, as Orion continued kneeling near Mark, trying to get him to wake up… but not going so far as to cause physical pain. Vail just looked on for a little, and then turned back to the battle unfolding in front of them, with Luc following his gaze a little while later, as they sped towards the Nimbus, and the still strong escort fleet. But Vail had noticed that some of the ships had ceased firing all weapons.


“The plan… it’s working”


Luc saw what Vail had not long after… and saw that sections of the corruption that plagued the now disabled vessels, were simply turning white, and falling off… dead.


“We might have made a dent, but we still got more to go”


A second flash came from the Nimbus… or rather, a series of flashes, as the squadron of X-75s released their payload. Each of them was carrying a low yield tactical nuke, roughly the size of a conventional artillery shell, or man-portable missile. These detonations could be seen clearly, as they were ripping apart the hull of the Nimbus, the small projectiles going unnoticed by the CIWS guns.


“Nimbus assault team, this is Killer 1. Confirmed hits on the Nimbus… the path should be a bit safer now”
“Killer one, this is the Butane. Thanks for the assist”
“Wait… Vapour, Valkyrie, confirm any and all civilians extracted from the Hive ships”
“Ashes… we got ashes on the outside of our craft, if that counts”


Vail slumped slightly, his head tilted downwards. And Orion could make out a prayer mutter under his breath. A prayer for the thousands, if not millions, that were about to be killed. Orion lifted an arm, and placed it on his armoured shoulder. James looked as if he was about to speak out, but Orion glared at him, light beginning to cascade from his eyes. James sat back down. A minute passed in total silence, save for the thrumming noise of the Butane’s engines, and the chaos of the battle around them… it was silent. They were still unnoticed by the Hive. They had more important vessels to keep track of.


The Diversionary fleet, what was left of it at any rate, began pulling back out system, trying to accelerate past the Hive fleet… the Hive let out a sigh of satisfaction, as tendrils lashed out from its vessels as they passed too close, ensnaring the remnants of the Coalition fleet, and began corrupting them… But a new ship, one that the Hive’s vanguard had failed to destroy, finally arrived, its arrival heralded by its 5 round volley, fired at 5 separate ships, then the subsequent rounds fired from the deck guns, not to mention the launch of additional broadsword strike craft.


Orion saw a pair of them fly past, the green flying wings surprisingly difficult to spot amongst the chaos. As he was looking, he saw a heavily battered, but still function Boron cruisers, as it limped past, fire spewing from sections of the hull as it continued to receive fire from the Hive. But the Spirit of Fire was focused, as it fired another volley of MAC gun rounds, severing the connections between the Hive ships, and the fleeing Diversionary fleet. The rounds tore through the weak tendrils, and the corruption of the ships immediately reversed, unable to sustain itself without the energy of the ship’s energy cores, and the ships continued their rush through the fleet… sustaining heavy fire in the process.


“Assault crew, we are 10 minutes from the Nimbus. Do your final checks now, while you still can”


James checked his weapons yet again, while Luc and Vail inspected their combat armour… Orion gave up on waking up Mark, and readied his own weapons. His blade, pistol, and shotgun were in good order, as he looked upon the ever increasing in size Nimbus, and saw the X-01 fall into their formation through the rear viewport. It had its own pair of X-75s escorting it, which peeled off, along with the pair originally escorting the Butane, as they accelerated ahead of their escort, to draw fire from the close in weapons systems, away from the transports.
Luc headed up to the flight deck, and looked at the behemoth that was the Nimbus… and spotted a hole in what looked like a set of hangar bay doors, the ones originally mounted on this Varian Carrier craft. The two X-75s dropped their ordinance on the hangar door, busting it open enough for the transports to pass through, but were pegged by fire from the Hive’s captured CIWS weapons. He watched them explode, the light of the fire temporarily blinding the transport pilots, but they adjusted course easily enough, aiming directly for the breech into the hangar.


“ETA: 20 moments”


Orion tried one last time to wake up Mark, and although he began to stir, the Butane’s rear door opened before he could come to his senses completely. Luc rushed down from the flight deck, and charged past Orion, James, and Vail, spraying bullets from his machine gun to clear the immediate area, as the X-01 came in close behind. Orion and James jumped out of the back, feeling their reduced weight due to the depressurized hangar, and its artificial gravity being damaged or offline. Orion saw the first Hive, aimed, and fired while still falling to the ground, the recoil of his shotgun sending him backwards into James, after he had taken out another hostile with his own shotgun.


Luc followed them, along with Vail, falling out of the Butane, and landing before James and Orion did. They began clearing the floor, as the Butane landed at the far side of the hangar, with the Valkyrie close behind… and it began opening its hatch, and a small group of changeling’s leapt out of the transport. Including Hudd, Rebecca, and the mercenary squad, all fully kitted up in their hydraulically assisted armour. Orion felt the reverberations of the ships landing through his feet, dug into the metal/organic deck plating but continued firing, as James switched weapons, and fired off two rockets at a blast door, at the direction of Luc.


The door buckled under the first shot, and ripped open almost akin to a flower, further depressurising the Nimbus’s corridors. The explosion pulled out a group of Hive, without adaptations for oxygen supply a vacuum, and Orion saw them clutching their necks as the air escaped from their lungs. James too, looked up, and saw some similarities between them, and Vail. Vail, unreadable underneath his armour, charged into the breach, shortly followed by Luc. James followed behind, but waited by the door when Orion went over to the Valkyrie, and got a radio code. He shared it with James, who then set his armour’s internal communications to that frequency.


“You lot, keep the Valkyrie secure. That includes you humans as well”


Off the eastern coast of Australia, a ship had launched a small drone, at the behest of the Australian military, to scout Brisbane airport, and locate landing zones of the Hive… then destroy them by any means necessary. The drone they launched was a glider, with long, thin wings, with a smaller, quad copter slung underneath the glider. After launch, a small propeller, mounted in-between the two pylons that lead to the mirrored tail of the aircraft coughed to life, and began pushing the glider through the air, to gain height.


“Camelot, this is Lightning actual. You see anything we can shoot?”
“Negative, our drones are long haulers… not speed demons. Give us a minute to get into position”
“Roger. Just tell us what to shoot”


Meanwhile, they were sending a second glider drone, painted blue instead of white like the carrier drone, headed for a heavy combat area within the CBD, along the banks of the Brisbane River. A mobile base had been deployed from orbit, by the Spirit of Fire when it was in orbit, and it was currently using the resources they had stockpiled to produce armoured combat vehicles, much like the ones currently supporting Reach and the recovered astronauts on the south side of the river. A few civilians watched as aircraft flew overhead, huddled within the ruins of a local coffee shop. They looked up, and saw the small blue drone, flying low and circling nearby.


“Charlie actual, we found survivors on the Southside. Requesting their immediate evacuation to a safer location”
“Camelot, we read you. Sending out a pelican now, just keep tabs on their position”


The drone flew overhead of the coffee shop, dropping a small package, hidden inside the drone’s hull. One of the survivors darted out into the open, grabbed the delivery, and brought it back inside, opening the package. The message read that they were to stay put, military assistance was inbound. They looked back to the drone, as it continued circling the coffee shop. They didn’t have to wait long, as the green jet VTOL transport aircraft landed in front of them, with a pair of human marines armed, and standing at the door gesturing for the civilians inside the coffee shop to board the transport. Cautiously, they stepped out into the open, then the 8 of them dashed into the transport, and it took off, heading for Ipswich, currently the closest secure area for civilian extraction.


“Camelot, this is little bird. Civilians are en route to the safe zone. See if you can find anyone else”


“Tenth armoured to Firebase Bravo. How long until you lot are set up?”
“Give us 20 minutes, and we will be able to provide reinforcements”
“Damn. We are going to need them sooner than that”
“Then ask the civilians”
“Detachment alpha here… these guys are quite capable, actually”
“Ok then. Bravo, requisitioning ground transport to your location. Get those civilians kitted out like proper marines”


Reach watched as the two transports, now unloaded of their burden, drove right up to in front of the Woolworths, and honked their horns. Roxie poked her head out of cover, and saw the 2 drivers waving them over. She gestured similarly to the Station survivors, and walked out into the open, then towards the waiting troop trucks.


“Why the hell do you want us?”


The marines they had offloaded were taking defensive positions around this area of the shopping centre, getting some of their number inside and on top of the local buildings, for extra defence and superior firing positions on the road. The driver Roxie approached looked directly at her, after turning down the volume of the radio, blasting music from the rock radio station, 104.5.


“Mam, you and the rest of your team are probably the best soldiers this side of the river, currently not equipped for war. We have orders to get you to firebase Bravo, and kit you out properly”


Reach followed Roxie’s lead, and asked the lead driver a question of her own.


“Where the hell has the rest of the tenth armoured gone?”
“To clear out the soccer field and school down the road. They will provide suitable landing zones for reinforcements, and for additional base deployment should we need it”
“Sounds good to me”


Reach climbed up the side of the truck, and took a seat within the protection of the roll cage. She looked to Roxie, then Mathew, Henry, and Jane, and gestured for them to get in. Without a word, they did so, with the station survivors loading into the rear transport, and they took off, back down the road the tenth armoured had come from… certainly a lot faster too. They passed a few wrecked cars on the way, damaged by stray gunfire, and saw corpses of Hive units that had passed their position, headed for the firebase.


By the time they actually got to the firebase, it looked far more fortified, with sandbags, with marines standing close by, and stationary gun turrets set up around the base, with small factories, warehouses, and a control tower around the base. But the warthogs drove up the smaller, cylindrical building, lying on its side and somewhat embedded into the ground. The primary driver turned his head to the civilians in his transport, his eyes lingering on Jane and Mathew for a second longer, before stopping the vehicle, right in front of the building. The building itself had a flag flying outside, a bird with its wings spread, with the letters UNSC underneath the symbol.


“Welcome to the barracks”


The barracks itself was largely empty, but what the marines drew their attention to was an armoury, towards the rear of the building. It was wide open, with an array of fairly standard looking firearms, from rocket launchers to assault rifles, pistols to shotguns. Reach dumped her captured rifle, and picked up a 36 round burst-fire assault rifle, with its magazine’s contents displayed on an LED type display. Roxie selected a short, 60 round SMG, complete with silencer and red dot sight. Most of the astronauts, who had now suited up in the same green body armour as the marines, picked up the 32 round assault rifles, of which there was a surplus, which also had the LED display.


“You don’t want body armour?”
“Give us some privacy then, marine”


The full time marines, both male, looked to each other, then back to the females, and sighed as they left the barracks, shortly followed by the other astronauts who were already equipped. That only left the 3 chevron astronaut, Reach, Roxie, and Jane, the latter remaining and watching the door.



(NOPE)




“Approaching target”


Orion did one final check of Mark, before checking over his weapons. Luc and Vail had both finished their checks, and had donned their helmets once more. Orion had done the same, and re-fitted Mark’s helmet, as well as checking the seals on James’s Spartan armour. Now, they were simply waiting for their signal.


“ETA: 20 seconds”


James tightened the grip on his shotgun, as Luc and Vail took positions by the rear ramp. Orion too, climbed out of his seat, and readied his own rifle. He took one last look at Mark, before a red light came on within the cargo bay, replacing the white light that had been on up until then. He looked over to James, who stood up, as they passed through the hull of the Nimbus, into one of the hangar bays of the Nimbus.




Meanwhile, outside, the Spirit of Fire was taking a beating from the Hive vessels, their corruption unable to take hold of the non-existent vessel. Meanwhile, the majority of the Coalition fleet had bugged out, their losses too great to continue the fight until they re-grouped. This included the Harmony, albeit it was one of the last ships to leave the combat zone. The Hive let them go, more preoccupied with the Spirit of Fire when it rammed into one of the larger capital ships, ripping it in half due to the mass of the Spirit, and due to the nature of its existence. It then aimed for one of the larger clumps of Hive vessels, numbering at least 100, and burned full towards them. The ship, although it didn’t look it, had taken serious internal damage in the fight, and couldn’t go on for much longer.


“Coalition, this is the Spirit of Fire… we’re going in”


They did not receive a reply, as they reached the clump… and fired their damaged FTL drive. The resulting hole in space ripped apart everything around them, as the rupture in space teleported over 1/10th of the Hive fleet into oblivion. All that was heard by the assault forces on the Nimbus and Cumulus… was silence.


Orion, however, felt a massive drain lift from him, as the fragments of the Spirit of Fire began to dissipate, leaving only a faint blue smoke, which even that only lasted for 10 seconds. He took one last glimpse at Mark, as the rear cargo door opened, and the Nimbus strike team was faced with clearing out this fighter craft hangar. Luc and Vail opened up with their heavy weapons first, mowing down the corrupted crew of the Nimbus, and clearing out an area around the Butane. James and Orion followed not long after, with James covering the rear of the heavies, while Orion began summoning cover and automated turrets to protect the Butane, no longer burdened by the sheer mass of the Spirit of Fire. But while he was focusing on doing so, one of the Hive officers, wielding a blade, had snuck around the front of the Butane, and was about to cleave Orion in two with the freshly sharpened blade, when a pulse of energy blasted him away, that originated from inside the craft.


“Orion… the Spirit of Fire”
“It’s gone, I know”


Orion finished his cover, and ducked behind it as a number of grunts entered the hangar, and began spraying rounds in his direction. Mark, meanwhile, was running towards them, while Orion continued to summon the defence turrets, shrugging off the Hive’s weaponry thanks to his natural carbon based armour. Meanwhile, Luc and Vail had pushed forwards, and had cleared most of the hangar floor, while James had jumped up to higher ground, and taken out another Hive officer on a mounted gun. He took command of the gun, and began spraying the fresh grunts, using their own weaponry against them.


With the combined firepower of Luc, Vail, Mark, and James on the mounted gun, the reinforcements were held at bay, and in fact driven back deeper into the ship, while Orion finished the defences. When a wave came from the other side of the hangar, he was ready, as were the 30 turrets around the Butane. They mowed down the Hive without mercy, their rotary 15mm guns more than capable of ripping even the officer’s armour to shreds in less than a second.


The advanced force fell back once they secured the corridor, and saw Orion surrounded by the dead bodies of Grunts, Elites, and Officers, his turrets searching for any additional movement, yet ignoring those friendly to Orion. Mark approached him, and rested his gauntleted palm on Orion’s shoulder, startling him.


“Damn it Mark, don’t sneak up on me”
“You didn’t see me coming?”
“I did, but I didn’t. What happened on the Cirrus?”
“That is a story for later. We have a job to do”


As he said that, they felt the rush of air as the hangar depressurised further, sending the Hive corpses into space, as the Valkyrie landed closer to the exit, and opened the top. Within it were James and Rebecca, both armed and equipped for space operations, lifting the Tsar bomb out of the shuttle. Mark jumped up to help them, as James went back up to the mounted gun he used earlier, and ripped it off of its mounting. Orion finished summoning the turrets, and went over to them, as a thought suddenly struck him.


“Mark… did I ever tell you how my father died?”


Mark stopped what he was doing, still holding the last Tsar bomb, and looked to Orion, tipping his head to the side quickly. James continued, but Rebecca also stopped, and she spoke up.


“No records from the facility ever contained that. And given that it an event that lead up to your change, it was disregarded”
“I think it might be important that you all know. Brain Haemorrhage”


Mark dropped his end of the Tsar bomb, and leapt up to a nearby console as the hangar doors sealed, and it re-pressurized… freshly grown tissue covering the gaping holes made by the human strike craft. James perked up, having studied this after his cousin’s father’s death.


“Haemorrhage… blood congealing?”
“In the brain, it usually takes years to kill those affected, depending on how large the clot is”


Orion looked away, towards the sealed doors, the blackened material too similar to be ignored.


“What usually might take a year or two killed my father in months. His brain slowly deteriorated, and I visited him, seeing as the man I once knew disappeared more and more”


Rebecca looked down to her weapon, then back up to the task at hand.


“What does this have to do with the current mission?”
“Nothing, it has to do with the pain and suffering inflicted upon me”


Orion held up his hand, first looking at his leather covered palm, then the hard black plating that protected the other side, and most of his body.


“When did I develop this armoured coating?”
“It was there before you were captured, and held for two years”
“No, wrong question… I am sure I have mentioned the nightmares that plagued me two years ago, during a 6 month period”


Rebecca took a moment, as she pushed the Tsar bomb off of the Valkyrie, at its impact was absorbed by the semi-solid floor. Mark spoke next, his voice showing some understanding of what was going on.


“You always were an outsider, even in our high school group under the maths building. You mainly kept to yourself, despite our best efforts”
“Even later on in life, you refused to even speak with most of the investigators who were trying to get you to speak about your past. Most, if not all of our information, was from Steve”
“It may be a literal shell, but it represents my introversion”
“Then why speak about it now?”
“I think… there is more to this Hive invasion than we know. It represents something greater”
“And that would be?”
“Think about it. The events the last two years… what if we told ourselves from three years ago this is what would happen to us?”


A brief silence sunk in, as the group pondered their situation.


“I would have said that there is no way I would ever get to space”
“That I would be in charge of a facility to contain non-human creatures is absurd”
“That I would never own a function set of power armour, let alone a rocket launcher”
“The ability to summon objects at will, without any prior evidence of being able to do so”


Orion remained silent, looking to the rest of the group.


“It’s insane. No other way to say it… everything about this, including this mission, is flat out insane”
IRD 14
So, I somehow forgot that I created 16 parts, not 15... don't ask how. 2 more to go after this one.

(before you ask, IRD has been done for some time, I have been editing the first few parts when I had the time, so they better made sense as the story changed as I wrote. For instance, Orion brought it up that he was called a different name. That was true, at one point. Better hope he isn't capable of doing it again.

How the hell do I catagorise this mess anyway? One one hand, unexplained, magic-like powers. On the other, realistic space combat. Going with fantasy for the moment.
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“You leave us no choice, Houston”
“No, the Hive has left us no choice. Give the order to the Defence grid. They need to start shooting now”
“… It is done”


Up in the Asia defence station, the contacts they had on their radar were suddenly outlined in red, accompanied by a priority message from the council, to engage immediately. It also picked up the 10 or so larger vessels behind the three lead ships. Their sensors also detected an energy spike, large amounts of radiation reaching their sensors. Yi, the resident communications officer and the only person currently watching their sensors, sent the message through to the rest of the station, and the rest of the grid. The contacts may have been 1000 kilometres out, but they were well within range… for both the Hive’s, and the human’s weapons.


“All defence platforms… hostiles detected, prepare firing solutions immediately”


They received no reply except for confirmation pings, as the other two stations in range began preparing to launch… and Yi ordered the gunners of the Asia station to hold fire, until the Europa and Pacific stations had fired, and they were to fire when the shots from the three stations would impact their respective targets at the same time. The Asian station was targeting the lead bogey, so had to wait until the other shots had passed by. Yi watched as the radiation increased in intensity, and was finally able to identify what it was… high amounts of electromagnetic and something resembling radio waves were pinging off of them. But for the latter, they were operating at frequencies as yet unobtainable by human technology.


Meanwhile, in the Hive vanguard, the three combat vessels saw their opponents preparing to fire, and prepared their defences, as well as their own weapons. They saw some unfamiliar weaponry on the enemy stations, but no defences. The overall commander of the Vanguard grinned; this was going to be an easy fight. His second in command, however, had doubts.


“They have known about our presence for 2 long sleeps, surely they would have prepared something more effective than a simple defence station, without defensive countermeasures”
“Does it matter? Our weapons will chew through what little armour the stations have”
“Our weapons are almost ready, if you think this so easy. Our defences should prevent the worst of their assault”


As the Hive’s Vanguard and the Earth Defence Grid made their preparations for the long-range fire fight, the people from plus eight to plus ten GMT looked to the night sky, and saw the light being radiated from their protector, the station they helped to build. And among them, was the people of Brisbane, in a small house with a white picket fence, not too far from a 7-11 petrol station, three women were looking to the sky, seeing the strange lights after their dogs were barking at it.


“What do you make of that… think it’s from Orion?”
“I doubt it. We haven’t heard from him in over 2 years…”
*WOOF*
“RJ… BE. QUIET”


RJ shut up immediately at the older woman’s outburst, sticking his tail in between his hind legs, shaking as the one who had yelled at him approached him.


“Look what you’ve done now, Mum. You know he has been like this since Orion left”
“And before that, too”
“I know that perfectly well, Reach”
“You also know how we think he was treated by his previous owners”
*Sigh* “I know, Roxie. I know. I miss him”
“We all do”
“It’s just… you have heard the rumours. The Hive… they could be on our doorstep, and we would never be the wiser, not without a telescope”
“And the launch of those four scientific stations, to provide better lives for all under them”
“Orion… wherever you are, I hope that you are doing right by us”


With a start, Orion sat bolt upright in his chair, startling James, sitting next to him. They were well out of Jupiter’s orbit, and were approaching a specified meeting point with the Harmony, in orbit around Saturn. Mark had calmed down; being in space for so long was quite boring, surprisingly. He looked over, seeing the fire in his friends eyes, and knew what it meant. Orion looked into his cousin’s eyes, then to his friend’s, and remained silent as to what he had seen, as the fire in his eyes waned, and eventually they returned to normal.


“What the hell was that about, Orion?”
“Sorry… just listening in on a lesson on aerodynamics… and realising the shape of this transport is something humans thought of in the early 70s”
“They had some weird ideas about the future in the 60s, 70s, and even the 80s and 90s”
“Even now, what we think of the future approaching us, we still do not know exactly what the future holds for humanity… when we have access to alien tech from the Hive”
“Whatever is coming, will be after the Hive is dealt with… until then. Oh god”


Orion lost focus, seemingly staring off into the emptiness of space, looking back, seemingly through Jupiter.


“Thinking of Earth, so soon?”
“Something’s wrong, something with malice and hate is approaching the Earth… but at the same time, whoever is sending out those signals of malice is confident of their success”
“Oh…”
“The Vanguard”
“Yes, and we are in no position to help”
“Let me focus, maybe I can tell what is going on”


“FIRE”


“There is some hope”
“Tell us”
“4 stations, including the ISS, form the Earth Defence grid. They protect our planet… from three native hive ships”
“Oh”
“Behind the escorts, 10 transports are following, waiting for an opening… each with tens of thousands of troops, waiting to be disgorged, and to secure our planet before the main fleet arrives”
“Why would the Hive send some of their fleet individually? Why not Zerg rush, and send them all at once?”
“Let our stations use all their ordinance, then warp in, finish the job… it’s what I would do”
“If so, the first battle for Earth will be the last”


The three in the cargo bay mulled over what they had just come up with, as Luc came down from the bridge, seeing their expressions, and having heard their conversation thus far. He looked around at the seemingly defeated, those that his species had put a lot of effort into making them weapons, and his efforts at keeping them safe. But safety would do nothing to help their planet. Like it or not, he needed to expedite this meeting with the Harmony.


*Sigh* “Look, the other Draconians, the ones aboard the Harmony, are not above having a conversation with you. That is why we are going to the Harmony. But, I see you are having doubts that we will do as we say”
“I don’t care. You need to take us back to earth”
“We don’t have the fuel to do it. So, I have organised for the Harmony to come to us”


As he said that, a ball of energy, seemingly sucking in the light around it, opened, and began pulling in the Butane. The pilots knew what the Harmony was doing, and made no move to resist the pull. Those inside the cargo bay, on the other hand, watched in awe as the miniature wormhole pulled them in, and took them back into the void of nothing… but it was different. What appeared to be some sort of electromagnetic storm surrounded them, revealing they were in some sort of tunnel, made of energy. Everyone on board sat back, and relaxed, as the arcing energy from the storm struck all around the shuttle.


“I take it this is the true warp of your people… how the hell did you develop this?”
“Abusing wormholes, getting them to take us where we want to go, is one thing. Creating a means of generating them, creating two arbitrary points in space, and going through them is another matter”
“And not technology you are willing to share with the human race”
“No”
“Oh well, couldn’t hurt to ask”


And as suddenly as they were pulled into the void, they exited it, with a single, lone ship in front of them, similar to the Butane, in all but size.


“The Harmony”


Mark, James, and Orion looked out at the gargantuan ship… and all three of them smiled.


“We might just have a chance”


The Harmony, lined with obvious gun mounts on all sides of the ship, bar the front and rear. The three of them estimated it to be roughly 3/4s of a kilometre long, not quite as long as the Rivet, but certainly better armed… probably over equipped, if it was a human battleship. Luc claimed it was simply a better use of space. The rear was dominated by a massive bank of rocket engines, all with the same conventional fire that the Butane had. The rest of the ship, however, was a different story. There was no clear bridge on the top of the ship, or near the front. The front, in and of itself, looked a lot like the heads of the Draconians, with heavily sloped armour and a gaping maw, open as it was, as the Butane was being drawn into the Harmony. The armour on the reasonably sized door was extremely thick, easily 3 metres, if not more, of synthetic overlapping scale like armour, made from an unknown compound, and an under layer of an unfamiliar metal, the two seemingly infused, but not interrupting each other.


The pilots made their way to the open parking bay, and landed as the hangar began to close behind them. They had done this procedure dozens of times before, and were used to it. Their passengers, on the other hand, were fully aware of the fact they were just eaten by the Harmony.


“We were just eaten by a giant ship”
“What of it?”
“There is some irony to it”
“The Hive, wish to consume all sentient life, as far as we have seen”
“… And your ship just ate us”
“No, it didn’t, we just entered the hangar”
“Not our fault that your people designed it like that”
“If you are done mocking our design choices”
“I did not mean to mock… more just point out the irony of your… unique, hangar door”


Luc sighed, happy to have the humans out of his horns, as doors embedded into right side of the transport opened, and they filed out through the closest doors, into the waiting aliens. There were representatives from each of the species within the fleet, and James’s eyes were first drawn to one of the Varian, clearly an aquatic species, their skin wet, and covered in small scales. They looked down upon the human, and looked to Luc, who had ended up with him.


“Sorry, we had to test how subtle the abilities could be made, with regards to physical changes. I think you will agree we succeeded”


The Varian, still intently looking at James, remained silent, as he picked himself up off of the floor, and got his first proper look at the Varian. As he had suspected, they were an aquatic species, their shape well streamlined, and he had only just noticed the gills, and webbed fingers. His brief look at their legs made them look more like twin tails, better suited for the sea than for land. The Varian, in turn, was looking over the human, as the Spartan armour disintegrated off of James. But he noticed something moving behind him, and looked up, towards the transport, and saw the next two climb out of the transport, immediately recognising the dark, winged one.


“The black one…”


Orion looked around, confused, until he too looked at the Varian. He had not expected such a deep and commanding voice from a yellow amphibian, probably native to a world covered in 90% or more water. A smile crept along the Varian’s face as he looked over the Draconian’s first experiments, his eyes shifting from Orion to Mark.


“And the river man”
“How am I a river man?”
“The river man, in our tongue, means something like the Harbinger, or Death, to you”
“Ah”
“The Black one, I assume you mean me?”
“Yes. Or perhaps you have a different title I can call you”
“Echo will do”
“Well, Echo will do…”
“… Orion”
“Ok, Orion”


More and more of the alien species crowded around the Draconian’s guests, yet keeping a safe distance. Luc stepped away, into the crowd, and turned back to the humans he had brought back.


“This is our Pantheon... if you will now introduce yourselves?”
“Orion, or Echo, depending on what you prefer”
“Mark or Harbinger”
“James, the Mandolrian Knight, or MK”


One of them stepped forward, with a seemingly living coating of grey rock covering their body, only small pinpricks of white light where their eyes should be.


“My name is Bur, and I represent the Boron, a strong and proud species who live amongst the still burning world after our ancestor’s final war”


Bur stepped back, and another of the Pantheon stepped forward. With a thick, hard, sky blue carapace, likely some kind of organic body armour, but it was unlike the seemingly living rock of the Boron.


“I am York, and represent the Carrack. Our traditions are as old as our first breaths, strong, and our armour tougher”


York stepped back, and the unidentified Invar stepped forward, resplendent in light, flowing violet robes, made from a synthetic thread. Out of the aliens assembled, they were the closest to the human form, besides the different skin pigmentation, currently a hue of emerald green, and that they were closer to three metres tall, with long, slender limbs and body.


“Pleasure to make your acquaintance, for I am Ova, of the Invar”
All that was left was the amphibian Varian, who did not step forward, until the others of the Pantheon were looking at him. He sighed, and stepped forward, light rippling off of the water droplets spread across his body, as if he had just come out of a shower, or swim.


“I am Vail, of the Varian. Forgive me if I am quiet, but I have my own issues to deal with right now”


They returned to their half circle, all looking at their combined genetic tampering… led by the Draconian’s selection, they had evolved these humans to combat the Hive from within, but now they were here. This was not in the plan they had made, but needs must, as they might say.


“Luc, why did you bring them here?”
“You know precisely why, Vail. I know you are preoccupied right now”
“Understatement of the centurion, from the Invar… as usual”
“Cease the worthless bickering, and get to the point. Luc”
“As you wish, envoy of the Carrack... they are here to work with us”


Luc remained silent, as did the rest of the Pantheon, as they waited for their guests to respond. Seeing this, Orion stepped up, and cast his eyes over the members of the Pantheon.


“Under normal circumstances, none of us would be here… Hell, I don’t want to be here. These are not normal circumstances. The Hive, an enemy both to us and to all other life in our galaxy, is the reason you sought to modify us”


James too, joined in.


“Our intentions are simple. We will destroy the Hive before they can hit earth, by disabling or destroying their captured Varian Carriers”
“While this is occurring, we need covering fire, so we can either board, or bomb them with impunity”
“And we can’t do that with the Harmony?”
“You want to face off against over a million ships, Carrack?”
“No…”
“Thought so… Orion, what are you doing?”


Orion’s eyes were glowing bright, and Mark too, was focused elsewhere. Although the armour of the Harmony was thick, with no clear bridge or viewports, they were there. The entire Pantheon spread across the hangar floor, along with the Draconian crew, their eyes searching the space around the Harmony, and found a curious distortion in space on the right side. It was not unlike the Varian’s FTL method.


And as they watched, something began forming in front of them, roughly 1km long. James was next to the Varian at the time, and looked over to him… they had a smile on their face, as they saw whatever it was begin to form in front of them.


“You have seen this before, Vail”
“There were legends from my people, of 3 who could alter the world around them… out of the Pantheon; I was in charge of doing research on human weapons… and yours? Should not exist”
“Huh, didn’t think you cared”
“And your friends…”
“Orion’s my cousin, a close family member”
“Family… right, similar to a Varian clan unit”
“I have seen them do this before… but never to this scale”


As James commented that, the name of the ship appeared on the upper surface of the gigantic ship, on its gunmetal grey hull… the Spirit of Fire. A ship, in the Halo universe, that was lost in space, and was originally a colony ship. Filled with military equipment, it was a carrier craft, retrofit to support ground based operations from its original colonising purpose.


“The Spirit of Fire… Damn”
“That, should not exist”


As Vail said that, a pair of broadsword bombers, green flying wing type craft used for carpet bombing and orbital dogfighting, flew past their window. Vail continued to smile, as the rest of the Spirit of Fire was constructed.


“With the Spirit of Fire, we might just be able to protect Earth… or we could use it in the assault against the main fleet”
“Why not do both? Get the ship to deploy its foot soldiers to Earth, and then join the fight against the Hive”
“You know, that might work”


James heard a thump of metal collapsing onto the floor, as the Spirit of Fire was nearing completion. He turned away from the massive vessel, and looked towards Mark, collapsed on the floor, and Orion, seemingly glowing with energy, still summoning the massive ship. Despite not knowing Mark well, he rushed towards him, and tried to help him up… he was out cold. He then turned back to his cousin, obviously straining from the effort of creating the ship. As he was doing so, Luc came up to him, carrying a small radio, roughly the same size as a 20 litre back pack, and placed it on the ground in front of James, Orion, and Mark. He pressed a button on the device, and it showed the human commander of the Spirit of Fire, as a hologram. Old, grey haired, and his eyes looking curiously at the two aliens and human in front of his view… he spoke.


“Why the hell am I speaking to a human?”


Orion perked up, upon hearing the grizzled veteran’s voice, and looked towards the hologram, staring into the eyes of the captain as he stood to his full height. James, however, replied before he was able to.


“You are familiar with the flood. I’ve read the reports, and I am as surprised as you are that you are here, now. We face a similar enemy, the Hive”
“And you have made a pact with aliens to defeat them”


Orion made his voice heard, in response to the captain’s comment.


“Things are… different now, the covenant is little more than a long forgotten memory. You have been in stasis for a long time”
“So, it can speak English… an oddity, in and of itself. Tell me, then, how you learned to speak English”
“This is my native language, believe it or not”


Mark began to rise, but fell down again, his strength unable to lift his unpowered armour.


“And you want the assistance of the UNSC, when you two are little more than children?”


The captain turned around, to see the variety of aliens now standing behind him.


“I should have mentioned… this ship is not ours. It’s theirs”
“Well… given they haven’t shot at us yet, I have reason to believe that you are a friendly alliance”
“Brought together to fight a common foe”
“And get revenge for the planets they have conquered”
“And justice for the species they have wiped out”


The captain stroked his short beard, looking out away from the people assembled before him, towards the alien ship he had woken up alongside. Sighing, he turned back to the James.


“My duty is to protect Earth, and we are within our home system. Whether or not Earth remembers us is another matter. If the Hive threatens Earth, then we shall fight by your side… Oh god”


The transmission cut out, as the Spirit of Fire began their burn towards Earth. They accelerated quickly, for a ship of its size, and were already passing the Harmony without a second thought. James turned back to his cousin, seeing him drained of energy, and helped to support him as he began swaying.


“I might have overdone it”
“Just a little”
James didn’t care, taking nearly the full weight of his cousin, and sitting him down against the Butane. He dragged Mark closer as well, gouging the floor with his armour. Vail helped him, for reasons unknown to James, but he accepted the help none the less.

“You think? You created life”
“A copy, nothing more”
“Still, sentient life”
“It will only last as long as we focus on its existence”


A look of understanding flowed over the aliens present.


“You did that to protect Earth…”
“Damn… right”
“Easy… don’t try to get up. I know I can’t expect you to tell me what they are doing”
“We have… to wait, until they return, or they are destroyed”


James looked at his cousin and Mark, who was still somewhat out of it, and then looked to the Pantheon.


“The Hive will know where you are now, if their sensors are good enough, or geared to detecting anomalies… and the Spirit of Fire is a big ass anomaly”
“You know… what you must do”


No words were said as all but Vail headed deeper into the Harmony, leaving Vail, and the Draconian ground crew, to mind their guests. As the time passed, Orion came around fully, still somewhat emanating the strange energy he was before, as was Mark. Surprisingly, the light that was being cast around them was a similar hue, extremely similar to the colour of Orion’s eyes. As the rest of the Draconians lost interest, they began wandering back to their tasks, leaving Vail behind to mind the humans.


“So, why were you left behind?”
Mark had finally come out of his stupor, and was addressing Vail, after removing his helmet. Orion did the same, dissipating the facemask as he did so.


“As far as the fleet is concerned, the Varian fighter craft are theirs to command. I am not needed at their war council”
“Are you using words we understand because it is easier, or because you know them?”
“Bit of both”
“That didn’t answer my question though”
“The Pantheon consists of the primary members of their species; Diplomats, generals, royalty, and leading industry leaders. I am but a lowly engineer, the designer of the carriers that the Hive has taken”
“So you can show us the schematics…”
“I know where this is going, so don’t bother with the rest. Just follow me”


Vail waved over two soldiers, standing near the door to the rest of the Harmony, to escort them to their destination. They were more than willing, armed with short, but vicious looking blades, along with some sort of long rifle crossed with a shotgun, and armoured with more of the tough, organic armour that coated their ships, albeit much thinner. With some hesitance, James and Orion followed, as Mark was looking in wonder at some of the technology evident in the access corridors, their lighting being the first thing he noticed.


“These lights… how are they functioning?”


The lights themselves, lining the sides of the 4 metre wide corridor, surprisingly had the same warmth and light as a stick of wood set on fire, with an equally pleasant smell, something akin to fresh air from outside of major cities, in the more rural areas. One of the guards, probably the senior of the two given their standing, responded.


“They remind us of our home world, and the fiery mountains upon which all life is said to have been born… which most of our technology revolves around. The manipulation of heat, and flame”


The rest of the walk to Vail’s mystery location was silent, but the sign above the door, although in an alien language, Orion could understand… surprising the guards, Vail, and his cousin. Mark, oddly enough, was expecting it, given Luc’s praise of the one who waited.


“… Cur di hennas. Combat… map projection? Something along those lines”
“Since when could you read the Draconian tongue?”
“Since now, apparently”
“Not too far off, either. This room contains our projection of a potential combat zone, in all aspects, and can be scaled depending on the situation at hand. It can go from a strategic overview of a planet, to a security operation in someone’s home”
“Security, I think you mean police”
“Errors in translation, as always”
“Shall we?”


Vail held the door open, and gestured for the others to enter first, closing the door behind them. In the centre of the room, was a device, scaled up from the backpack holographic projector Luc had brought out earlier, but certainly a similar device. Orion noted various pipes and hoses running across, embedded in the floor, along with electrical cables hooked up to the central table. With a few swift strokes of the control panel, the projector was displaying the Nimbus, the Hive’s largest Carrier craft, from the outside. Orion and Marked looked around, spotting at least 6 heat sources around the room, including one above, and the projector console itself. Together, they were projecting their light into the centre, with the exact same ship Mark had spotted on his reconnaissance. Oddly, the ship pictured showed the sign of the Hive’s corrupting influence, most of the original hull consumed by the fleshy exterior of the Hive.


“That is the Nimbus, our target”
“It was a different name before”
“Does it matter? It is corrupted, and beyond saving with current technology. At least, that is how it seems”
“Not quite. The three Varian carriers are all projecting a signal to the surrounding warships. 90% of them are corrupted; the remaining 10% are the Hive’s initial fleet”
“It is my belief that if you were to disable or destroy the carriers, the Hive’s transmission would fail, and they would lose control of the fleet of captured ships”
“That has to be the first bit of good news I have heard for a while”
“The bad news is that you will have to fight your way through hundreds, if not thousands, of those corrupted. And getting into a prolonged fight will kill you”
“Right, speed and subterfuge are our allies. Mark?”
“I could take one of the smaller carriers alone, if necessary”
“Dividing firepower is not ideal, but would put them off balance if successful. Maybe you are the river man”
“Doesn’t matter what I am to you, the Pantheon, or the rest of the fleet... but to the Hive? I am the Harbinger of their doom”
“If you can show us the interior now, we can get a feel for what we are up against”


A single button rolled the ship 90 degrees, so James, Mark, and Orion were looking from the top of the Nimbus. As they looked, the different floors of the ship separated out, showing the different floors, known machinery, and estimated influence of the Hive within the ship, to alter its functions. James’s mouth gaped open, seeing how much ground they had to cover. The ship was 2km from nose to tail, and there were over 50 floors within the ship… so easily over 100 km to cover, in length alone. Without a map, it would be impossible to navigate the leviathan that was the Nimbus.


“Damn… and every floor will have hostiles”
“Have you been able to pinpoint any known weaknesses?”
“Well”


As Orion said that, three points on the 25th floor were outlined in red. The forward one was within a hangar bay, the central one was in what appeared to be the main reactor of the Nimbus, and the rear was amongst the fuel and rocket bank at the rear.


“See those points? With a tactical hydrogen bomb, placed in each of those locations, the ship will be gutted, little more than a husk”
“When you say tactical, you mean 500 KT’s worth of force… what if I told you I could get a 100 megaton hydrogen bomb?”
“Well, if you could, you would only need the one. Within the atmosphere of the ship… it would be ripped apart from the force”
“We can get three of them”
“The National aeronautical space agency… right?”
“They are already preparing to launch, within the week. We were supposed to be a part of their plan to board, deliver, and remotely detonate the bombs”
“Humans are more resourceful than I thought”
“You’re telling me… what the hell were these dirty bombs designed for anyway?”
“Let me explain. The humans had a sort of stalemate between two world superpowers, in the age of a nuclear arms race. One of them designed this bomb… the Tsar Bomb”
“To date, it is the single largest WMD humanity has ever detonated”


The younger of the two guards whistled, only just beginning to comprehend the levels of which humanity had once stooped to.


“And how is the Earth not a smoking crater, like the Boron’s?”
“A thing called mutually assured destruction, or MAD. You shoot me, I shoot back, and everybody dies”
“Damn… you humans are crazy”
“We are also the species that you turned to for help… so you win some, you lose some”


The older of the two guards turned away, looking towards the fire of one of the wall mounted projectors.


“Maybe, just maybe, we might get through this”


The others were too busy planning their infiltration of the Nimbus, while Vail watched and listened, confused about their references.


“Shortest route is by ripping apart the hull, maybe using the escape pods like they did in the first halo”
“What are you two going on about?”
“I thought you researched human history, Vail. The Halo series of video games is ancient, roughly 30 years ago now. In the original game, there was a section where the your main enemy of the game uses the holes left by escape pods to board”
“That... is actually possible, with the amount of Varian who made it off of the Nimbus, Cumulus, and Cirrus”
“Through it, we can board, and clear a path for the Tsar”
“As I said, you humans are crazy. That will never work”
“If I was a regular human, I would agree with you. But the three of us are anything but normal”
“All we need now, is transport, and the bombs”




“FOCUS FIRE ON THE LEAD SHIP”
“Weapons primed, charged, and awaiting the fire command”


Yi was staring at the approaching contacts, biting his nails, and holding the transmit button, so he could call the fire command whenever he needed to.


“Sir…”
“Hold…”


As he watched, the radiation being emitted from the hostile ships suddenly spiked, then died off… and his sensors picked up multiple fast moving objects, closing in on the station.


“FIRE”


Yi felt the resounding boom as cannons and missile launchers across the station roared to life, firing everything they had loaded at the incoming ships. But the incoming projectiles from the Hive ships weren’t going anywhere. Clipped onto a shelf above Yi’s sensor station, was a photo. Yi unstrapped himself from his chair, and pushed himself up level with it, hitting the ceiling of the cramped station. He unclipped it, and looked at the photo, staring at the face of his Japanese wife. Pushing off the ceiling, he moved back into his chair, to watch his impending doom, his wife’s smiling face now in a more prominent position.


“Confirmed, all weapons unloaded… your orders?”
“Where the hell is Yamato?”
“She is on a spacewalk right now. You are the senior officer… she won’t make it back in time”
“Reload, and prepare the next salvo”
“Affirm”


The radio clicked silent again, leaving Yi to watch the incoming shells in silence. He knew, as well as the crew, that their station was not designed to take hits. It had a composite shell, highly advanced and well formed, but it had been tested against the Hive’s captured weapons… it could withstand one, maybe two shells, if supported correctly. Yi’s sensors had over 48 different inbound projectiles, from the three armed escort ships. He looked back at the photo of his wife, and looked back at the shells… his people had enough time to get out, if he called it now. It was a decision made for the sake of his crew, nothing more.


“All hands, evacuate immediately. I repeat, all hands, evacuate”


All throughout the station, the gunners and maintenance personnel heard the alert. They knew not to question it; Yi would not call it if he thought the station would survive. So, they began moving to the 8 4 man pods… if anything, they had too much capacity for a station of this size. As soon as they were safely within their pods, the explosive bolts ejected the pods, and they began burning retro to land somewhere on earth… they didn’t really care where, and the design reflected it. Unfortunately, Yi remained behind, waiting for Yamato to return…


On the exterior of the station, Yamato had finished doing maintenance on one of the stations solar panels, as the guns turned to track an unknown target. She didn’t know if it was a drill or not, so continued her maintenance on the remaining panels damaged by a small rock shower, and doing patchwork on the exterior composite hull. She was caught unaware as the guns fired suddenly, the entire missile racks being emptied not long after. The moment that occurred, she knew she had to get back inside… but the airlocks were shut. She was effectively trapped outside the station. That was, until the pods launched. They depressurized the immediate corridor around them, and given the circumstances, it did not matter if the air was vented into space. With that in mind, she made her way to the remaining life pod, and waited for Yi, as the station around her began to re-pressurise. Of course, Yi did not know she had returned, so never came. And again, he spoke his orders, and began floating towards the final pod, his head in defeat. But as he made it to the final door, he heard a click, and then silence, as the corridor in front of him depressurized, as the final pod jettisoned from the station.


“Confirming human escape pods from the lead defence station… the cowards”
“Do we engage?”
“Of course we engage the human filth. FIRE”



“AMS, this is the Pacific overwatch… is anyone there? We are reading all escape pods launched”
“Pacific, this is the EUS… they are not responding to any hails. We have to believe that all of their crew is gone, and is burning retro to return to earth”
“Let’s hope so, I am seeing 48 contacts inbound on their station… moving fast”
“Speaking of fast contacts… I am seeing a large contact, inbound from Saturn”
“How big we talking here?”
“1km long, easy”
“Damn… that can’t be one of ours”
“To anyone on this frequency, this is the UNSC Spirit of Fire… we are coming home”
“No… Freaking… WAY”













From below, Orion’s close family, still watching the sky, saw a mighty fireball erupt from the station’s usual position. One that, although small, marked something extremely bad and they knew it.


“Wasn’t that?”
“The AMS… the Hive is closer than we thought”
*WOOF*
“Be quiet RJ… we are about to have a really, really bad time”


Reach ran inside, and grabbed a set of old, bulky binoculars from Orion’s room, and brought them out, and trained them at the night sky. As she watched, she saw 8 smaller flames, erupting from small objects, seemingly ejected from the station.


“The good news is that there are survivors…”
“And the bad news…”


As the rolling fireball dissipated amongst the inky black sky, Reach could pick out 6 separate sections of the space station, thrown about…


“The station is gone”
“That’s bad, isn’t it?”
“We, along with the rest of Asia, and Eastern Russia, is open for invasion”
“So, really, really bad”
“We all saw the effect of the Hive, and the quality of their troops. Imagine what they will be able to bring to bear now?”


Reach lowered the binoculars, and headed back inside. Roxie looked in after her, and yelled.


“WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU GOING?”
“To prepare for the inevitable”
“Orion, you all right… your face looks a little paler than usual”
“Look for yourself, and see beyond our physical limitations”
“No thanks”
“Eh, suit yourself. The Hive have destroyed one of the orbital defence platforms, and thousands of troops are dropping through the hole in the defence grid as we speak”
“Can’t say I don’t regret not wanting to see that”
“Damn right”
“Well, some of us don’t have a choice, when your family calls you out, like they have been the last couple of hours”
“So, what do we do?”
“Call NASA”


Vail, who had ushered the two guards out of the projector room, turned back to the changed humans upon hearing that.


“And reveal our position?”
“Our options are running out. If the Vanguard is capable of taking out the defence platform…”
“I highly doubt humanity has better defences on the ground than they do in space”
“We can give you an itemised list of all human conflict”
“Starting with some of the deadliest, and by far worst losses of life in our history… industrialised warfare”
“2 major conflicts spanning across multiple countries”
“40 years of the Cold war tensions”
“And the more recent War on Terror”
“Not to mention the centuries of armed conflict prior to our industrial revolution…”
“And that means what, to me?”
“Ground combat is our specialty. I severely doubt the Hive will use tanks”
“Tank… what is a Tank?”
“Armoured assault vehicles, usually with 120mm main guns, mounted on turrets, with machine guns to back it up. Nearly invulnerable to small arms fire”
“When was this designed?”
“The first were little more than steel boxes… and designed in in the First World War. Primitive and slow, they were first deployed in 1916, or thereabouts”
“We have had over 100 years to perfect this tech. And unless the Hive has shoulder mounted rocket launchers, or artillery, then the Hive has no chance against the armoured battalions, in combination with our air superiority”
“They have rail guns”
“Their small arms hit about the same as conventional weaponry, at least on earth”
“Right, your planet has an extremely strong field, more so than most. You were able to use it to navigate in your early history, but it has prevented useful magnetic based weaponry from being developed, until now”
“Yeah, most of our soldiers are still equipped with standard ballistics, using gunpowder as propellant”
“Rail guns, from what I know, are limited to naval ships and some newer aircraft… and some more secret projects that I am not supposed to know about”
“Mark… what did you see?”
“A quick fly over of some Airbases around the world, nothing more”
“Mark…”
*Sigh* “The Sabre from Halo reach, or an aircraft to that effect, going above and beyond the normal limits for aircraft… there weren’t many, maybe one or two of them per airfield”
“You realise how many military airfields there are on earth? There could be hundreds, perhaps a thousand, of those seemingly orbit capable strike fighters”
“Maybe… just maybe, humanity stands a chance”






“I am interested in acquiring some guns, rifles or shotguns in particular, and all the ammunition you have to spare”
“I take it you have a licence to own bolt action and pump shotguns, and the necessary storage requirements?”
“No, I have neither. But I know you saw the fire in the early morning light. It’s why you opened early, isn’t it?”
“Look, lady. I got a store to run. If you don’t have the licence, at the very least, then I won’t sell"


Reach, frustrated, looked outside, and saw a blazing fireball streaking across the sky, and getting bigger with every passing second. Curious, the owner of the Browns plains hunting store came out as well, looking to the skies with a rifle scope.


“Dear god… the station is gone… I thought it was fireworks, from a local school”
“I told you”
“Look, I tell you what. I can give you the guns, but I recognise the pod. It’s one of ours. We need to help anyone inside”
“You think it is landing nearby?”


As Reach said that, the pod suddenly appeared to be a lot closer, flying low over the shopping centre, and shortly after, crashing into a nearby grass soccer oval. The owner ducked back inside for a moment, after selecting one of the rifles he had in a locked case. Reach ran her hand over the smooth wood, and took the magazines he offered with it, stuffing them into her orange SES uniform, with deep pockets to accommodate the ammunition.


Without another word, they drove separately towards the grass oval, Reach noting the scorched earth around the small pod. She could make out the remains of an Australian flag on the rear of the pod, before she heard a hiss, and she dove to the ground. The gun shop owner, standing a little further away, shouldered his own rifle, a semi-automatic sport rifle, aware of possible capture or deception. Reach pulled herself up, and saw the 4 unconscious human figures inside, and chose to ditch her rifle, in order to begin pulling them out of the pod.


As Reach was pulling out the people on board, Roxie and their mother were grabbing any medical supplies they had to spare, seeing the flaming pod touch down nearby, as well as Roxie grabbing her “Survival Knife” and an old, clear Perspex shield, sitting abandoned and forgotten in Orion’s room.
The ground immediately behind the pod, although warm to the touch, was cooling quickly in the winter night air, as was the pod itself. A mostly composite structure of carbon fibre and ceramics, to withstand the intense heat of atmospheric re-entry, roughly 7 metres long and 1 metre wide. The gun shop owner lowered his own rifle, and upon seeing Reach drag out a human from the pod, joined in to help her get everyone out of the pod. In all, there were 4 Australian born astronauts on the pod, all having their ID and their country of origin clearly shown on their black T-shirts. And as they were coming to, Roxie came running up, carrying a duffel bag, her machete, and the clear acrylic shield. Reach turned to her, on her arrival, and saw her equipment.


“Why the hell did you bring that shield?”
“Thought it might come in handy”
“It can cover your torso, I suppose… but the medical supplies aren’t needed, the people who were in the pod are only unconscious. And given the time right now, no one was on the field. Anyone who was would be beyond saving regardless”
“What do we do with them then, if you know all the answers?”
“000”
“Doing it”


The gun shop owner got on the phone to the ambulance, while Reach checked over all of the people in the pod… no injuries, not even a scratch on any of them. And they were breathing normally. It was only a matter of time before they awoke; they just had to keep an eye on them until then. A few minutes passed, until one of them, with three chevrons marked on her shoulder, woke up, and looked towards Reach, standing over her. She looked further, seeing fire in the sky… lots of fire.


“Look to the skies… we failed”


Reach did, and saw the incoming objects… they appeared to be manoeuvring, and their descent was somewhat controlled. But what drew her attention most was the tendrils, long and thick, that grew from the objects as they passed through the stratosphere, and levelled off somewhat, as they picked new landing zones.


“I’m not the only one seeing the tendrils from those pods, right?”
“No… it’s not one of ours, is it”


Meanwhile, above the Earth, the Spirit of fire was colliding with the Vanguard fleet… literally, as the rear ships began launching their drop pods towards earth; they too launched their temporary bases and troops towards the surface.


“Confirmation of contacts: 3 unknown cruiser class ships, heavily armed. In addition, 10 ships dedicated to troop transport, they fall under the Frigate weight category, given their lack of weapons. Size is larger than the cruiser class”


The captain, seeing the targets on his view screen, pointed to the two smaller objects, away from the main fleet.


“What are those?”
“They are attempting to hail us, Sir… they have been since we arrived from the warp. Seems like an SOS call”
“Do not respond, but engage the hostile fleet. Starting with the transports”


The operator, knowing what would come next, turned back to his console, and activated the alarms to launch the Broadswords, and ground support equipment.


“Attention all crew, report to your combat stations immediately. Enemy vessels are approaching, and charging weapons… We need every marine planeside to help defend our home world”


All across the Spirit of Fire, the marines, the main bulk of UNSC forces, prepared their equipment, and every crewmember headed to their posts… in the engineering bay, in the hangar, wherever they were needed.






“Commander, we have the unknown ship locked”
“Excellent. Fire”
“What?”
“I said, give the order to fire. It is a direct threat to our planet-side landing”


The second in command turned to the weapons operators, and gave them the confirmation to fire at the larger human ship. It had come out of nowhere, and was positioning itself to block the outbound troop shuttles. And moments after the order was received, the escort ships fired in unison towards the larger ship, and waited until their rounds hit the target, so sure that they would penetrate the armour of the ship. They didn’t have to wait long, as the ship began turning towards the fleet. They caught a glimpse of the name, written in white along the upper surface of the ship, before their view was blocked by the impact of their weapons… and they waited. There was no secondary explosion.


“… What?”
“I tried to tell you. That thing has better armour than us”
“So? We have energy shields, as do our transports”


As he said that, they saw a series of 5 rounds fired from the Spirit of Fire, as they slammed into the troop ships… and went straight through their shields, the kinetic impact knocking them in odd directions, some of them colliding with each other… that was shortly followed by three core detonations, as the unstable cores of the troop ships detonated from the damage the ships had sustained.


“… What?”
“I guess our shields aren’t as good as their weapons”
“ARGH…”


As the commander screamed in annoyance, a series of small, rocket assisted projectiles slammed into their sides, passing straight through their shields, and rendering them unable to move, or fire.


“What trickery is this?”
“High levels of magnetic interference detected… enough to short out most systems”
“Damage report, now”
“Rocket banks are offline, as are out manoeuvring engines. Shields are gone, but due to the magnetic interference, not so much kinetic damage. Weapon tracking is down…”
“How about you tell us what is working?”
“Exterior visual connection re-established… we can see what is going on around us”


The bridge crew were greeted to the sight of one of their sister ships, now listing heavily, and leaking atmosphere, careening towards their target… and they were swiftly ripped to pieces by some sort of deck guns mounted on the Spirit of Fire.


“Scanners are online; we are piggybacking off of the transports”
“Is there any good news?”
“The enemy ship is launching strike craft”
“I asked for good news”
“They are on a course towards the transports”
“THAT IS EVEN WORSE”


The commander climbed out of his seat, a sucking sound could be heard as he removed himself from his post, and moved towards the scanning console… and ran the operator through with a blade. Their chair readily accepted the commander, despite them causing damage to the ship’s crew. A swarm of tentacles pulled him back in, and secured him in position, to prevent further damage. The commander did not care, knowing, and expecting this to happen. The 2IC just sighed, and relinquished the temporary control they had of the ship. The situation was just as helpless, as the green strike craft flew low over the disabled escorts, the remaining two ships unable to fight back. And they watched, as the troop ships were pounded by both the stations and the enemy ship…


“Communications online”
“Send the message… we failed”



In orbit near Pluto, a swarm of gargantuan ships awaited… they had moved back when they spotted the anomaly, and the 1km ship that had been pulled in near Jupiter. When it had pulled away, they had tried to contact the lead ship of their vanguard… they waited an hour, while the Spirit of Fire was burning towards earth, to protect humanity. Only then, did they receive any hails from the Vanguard… a simple, but somewhat garbled message. It came through in its entirety once.


“We have failed”


The Hive mind, spread out throughout the thousands of corrupted star ships, screamed in anger at the loss of the Vanguard… their finest ships. And although no one on earth could hear it… they certainly felt it, as everyone on that water filled planet clutched their heads, in agonising pain for a few moments. The Hive knew what it had to do, as they began preparing to demolish the pitiful coalition fleet of their defeated enemies, and to burn the human’s world.


This included those who were on the burning station, staring into the night sky, and those still on board their own… but the Spirit of Fire fought on, demolishing the troop ships before they could land the bulk of their forces planeside… but too many got through. The marines were still prepping, the factories on board the Spirit of Fire still warming up, the troop ships and bases still being loaded, and prepped for launch. And in the coalition fleet, the three worst affected were the three the draconians had selected for their experiments, as they clutched their heads, and the three of them tasted blood. Vail, seeing this, caught Orion before he fell to the floor. Luc ran in shortly after, clearly in pain, but wanting to make sure his project was still usable. Seeing the state of them though… made him think again.


“I… can stand by myself”


Shakily, Orion pushed himself away from Vail, and remained standing for a moment, before going over to James and Mark, and picking them off of the floor. Of the two, Mark was the more difficult, having to support himself with the wall until the Hive’s wailing stopped.


“This happen often?”
“No… someone just destroyed the Hive’s Vanguard”
“There is nothing else that can anger them so”
The trio looked to each other, smiled, and turned back to Luc.


“Get the Coalition’s best soldiers, and load them onto the Butane… and any other transports you may have”
“If the destruction of the Vanguard caused that… then imagine what the loss of the Nimbus, Cumulus, and Cirrus would do”
“Dibs on the Cumulus”
“MK, I guess we are both going for the Nimbus then?”
“I guess we are”
“Then let’s go”


With an open jaw, Luc just stood there, as the three of his test subjects walked past him, towards the hangar. The shock lasted for nothing more than a moment, as he went about rallying the best shooters and team specialists to take on the Cirrus. Vail remained in the planning room, staring back upon the plans of the ship… and then sent the plans for the three carriers to the respective teams they needed to go to. He watched as what he might call a shoal of troopers from the various species headed out, towards the hangar bay… and saw Luc stick his head back into the planning room.


“You told them you were an intellectual, the person who built those ships”
“I know”
“We both know better than that”
*sigh* “Why are you so insistent that I go with your abominations?”
“Two reasons. First: you are the best shot on this ship, without compare. Two: Your expertise and skillset will turn the tide of battle”
“Just because I was able to defeat them on the ground before, does not mean I can do it again. And do you recall how many good people we lost?”
“You know I wouldn’t ask you this, if I didn’t think it was important. I know who you lost”
“As does everyone, but the humans”
“I know how much you cared about her… but sitting here, and moping about it, will change nothing”
“…”
“And I never said anything about going on the Nimbus or Cumulus… unless of course you want to”


Meanwhile, back on Earth, over 500 orbit-capable fighters were preparing to launch, from airbases, silos, and rocket launch facilities around the globe… all to support NASA’s launch of the X-01… with a payload destined for the carriers. And at the base of the Shuttle’s booster rockets, stood over 50 of those who had been affected by the Hive during their first visit, one way or another. Standing in front of them, in a powered exoskeleton, Rachel stood. A simple tap on her helmet’s microphone silenced those assembled.


“Your training has got you here, to this day… but you are about to be tested to your limits. This, as you know, is the X-01…”
“CALL IT BY its NAME”
“… The Valkyrie has an over 300 megaton nuclear payload. You are to help escort it and guide it’s delivery to the three carriers within the Hive’s task force. You are being escorted by over 500 strike fighters, more than capable of outmanoeuvring the enemy both in the air, and in space”
“JUST GET ON WITH IT”


Rachel’s gaze swept over the crowd assembled, her eyes resting on Riley and Rebecca, both already wearing space suits, which had been modified. Now, they more resembled power armour, with plating and hydraulic actuators also shrouded in armour, but the gleaming chrome was visible when they made any significant movement… such as Rebecca cleaning her sword, not so much paying attention to the speech Rachel was making.


“You know why you want to do this”
“REVENGE”
“JUSTICE”
“A PRE-EMPTIVE STRIKE”
“TO SECURE OUR WORLD”


Rachel smiled at that.


“Then go”
IRD 13
Silent night
Holy night
all, is calm,
all is bright...


How's the rest of the song go?
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Inspiration cane come from just about anything... from things you see to things you feel. But I am writing this to ask those who seem to pay attention to my stuff some of the things you get inspiration from. Doesn't matter what the inspiration ended up going towards, whether it was a story, painting, or even a building... 

My brief example. IRD, insane reality distortion. Without spoiling the story too much, I look up at clouds often, doing so for over an hour at times while on public transport. A particular cloud looked a lot like a solid rivet, a semi-circle on one end, connected with a circular rod. These are the earliest type of rivet designed... but it gave me inspiration for a ship design. As I said, the title is insane reality distortion... anything can happen, sometimes based purely off of feelings I have. 

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TR-219's Profile Picture
TR-219
N/A
Australia
was it worth it?

maybe...
Interests

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:iconmaurili:
Maurili Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
hello :D
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:icontr-219:
TR-219 Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2017
What are you doing here... this is strange
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:iconmaurili:
Maurili Featured By Owner Edited 2 days ago  Hobbyist Writer
YYou like airplanes and what rpgs you know
You like tf also? If so what kind of tf and side effects?
You like soft-ft setting yeah?
Just asking
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:icontr-219:
TR-219 Featured By Owner 2 days ago
I like many things... aircraft is one, games in general is the second... the main reason I exist on deviant art is to find half decent stories (unlike mine... which is somewhat half-assed)
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(2 Replies)
:iconmaurili:
Maurili Featured By Owner Jun 18, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
i agree... strnage lol
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:iconglandziu:
Glandziu Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
Happy Birthday m8! :D
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:icontr-219:
TR-219 Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2017
Thanks, although I experienced it yesterday. Timezones and all that. 
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:iconglandziu:
Glandziu Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2017  Hobbyist Writer
;P
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