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LORC: Beginnings Act 1 Pt 1
Posted By: HWPD<Disaster.nick@gmail.com`>
Date: 17 March 2015, 10:31 am

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The Beginning of the End

July 14, 2012 1:29 PM
Auburn Washington, Earth
[Civilian] Nick Gentry

The sun shown brightly over the Auburn valley, driving away the moist morning fog. It was one of Washington's moderately warm sunny days. However, close pair of 17 year olds sat snuggled together on a couch in a dim basement, instead of enjoying the sun outside.

A gray pattern sewn blanket covered the two as were silent, no words were exchanged as they battled through the virtual icy canyons of Halo: Combat Evolved. Their mental link was severed when Nick's Mother called down, forcing him to pause the game.

"Nick! Do you or Michelle need anything to drink?" She called from the top of the stairs.

"No Mom we're good." Nick called back and took a sip of his can of soda.

He un-paused the game and finished up Assault on the Control Room with his Girlfriend Michelle. They were playing all the Halo games in order on legendary difficulty to gear up for the release of Halo 4 in the coming months. They had finished the Reach campaign the night before and started on the first game that morning.

Almost immediately after taking the Gravity Lift back into the belly of the Truth and Reconciliation on the next level, the TV speakers filled with static and the screen shuttered like someone had just bumped the Xbox. But then it stopped after a few seconds. As soon as the screen stabilized, they found the Master Chief in a new room and the split screen had merged into one. The camera moved and looked around as if in a cut scene, an aspect of the Halo games that wasn't introduced until Halo 3 ODST. They had never seen that room before.

Then Cortana began to talk. "Strange. I've lost the connection to the Covenant Battle-net. Reconnecting... Wait. What is this?"

"What do you have, Cortana?" The Chief asked.

Nick was confused, the Master Chief never spoke unless it really was a cut scene.

"There was new network, it wasn't labeled and it wasn't the Monitor. But a substantial amount of data was being transmitted over it. Even I couldn't gain access. Its coded very dif-" Cortana was interrupted as the screen flashed and streams of computer code began to fill the screen.

"What the hell is this?" Nick said out loud.

"Uh... I don't know." Michelle replied.

Nick got up and pressed the Xbox's power button, the 360's lights went off but the code continued to display. A few words appeared, August, then twenty-second. But that didn't stay long as Nick pressed the OFF button on the power strip, the screen flashed and returned to black. "Damn, that was strange. I think the console's life is coming to an end." Nick said, waiting for the Xbox to cool down. "Let's skip the rest and move on to the Halo 2 campaign."

"Alright, sounds good. We were close enough to the end anyway." Michelle said stretching out her limbs on the couch.

Nick went up to the Xbox and ejected Halo and placed Halo 2 into the tray. He looked at the disk and it was fine, no scratches or heat marks, he shrugged and set it back in its' case. The next few hours went by slowly. They had gotten through the opening of Halo 2, and switched over to ODST after Regret jumped out of New Mombasa. Their campaign lasted well into the evening and Nick's mother had brought pizza down for the pair.

Once the sun had set outside their window, Nick and Michelle decided to take a break from co-op and play against each other in custom games on Halo: Reach. They loaded up Nick's Forge World map he had quickly named 'My base'. The location they happened to spawn was on the pillar, next to a small house like structure Nick's friends had dubbed The Bang Shack. The name was rooted in an inside joke based on the small nature and secluded location of the structure.

Nick's accidental GUNGNIR clad Spartan and Michelle's Green Minor Elite, dueled it out for a little while and waited to see if one of their friends would get on and join the game. But after an hour and no responses from anyone, they ceased hostilities and just jumped around the rocks.

In the down time, Michelle got the chance to ask; "Why are you a Spartan, I thought you loved Elites?"

"Eh, I was taking some screen shots of my Spartan for drawing reference. I guess I didn't change it back afterwords." Nick said.

Michelle laughed. "Yeah, it doesn't make sense for a Spartan to be called Ryau 'Cinotee."

"Yeah I know. I'll change it in a minute, the game is about to end." Nick said as the game clock clicked down to zero.

Suddenly the screen again glitched and static filled the speakers. But instead of returning to the loading screen, the TV went dark and words appeared much like the code had earlier."Attention. Generating Complete. Inserting targets to acceptable locations. Connection Established."

Then lines of alien text and code scrolled across the screen. It became apparent that some of it resembled a mysterious script from the Halo universe.

Nick and Michelle looked at each other, not sure what to say. Out of nowhere blue rings started to form around them and the air rippled in the room. They were speechless. The room began to fade to black and the last thing they did was reach for each other. And for the moment they touched the next they were pulled apart and thrust through the black void in opposite directions.

The void was timeless, Nick did not know what was happening, and he began to pass away into unconsciousness. However, before he did, he was shocked by an electrical charge. He felt himself being ripped apart. He tried to scream, but not a sound was made in that deep dark void.


Nick suddenly felt something below his body and shot up. He hit his head on something solid above him. There was a reverberating twang of metal vibrating "Ouch," he blurted out. For some reason his body felt different, stronger but yet still slightly smaller. "What the...hell?" He could hardly remember what had happened to him before this moment.

He could hear what sounded like other people sleeping around him. The bunk above him creaked and the lights on the ceiling snapped on. He watched rows of bunks appear out of the receding darkness. It all seemed familiar like a memory, but this was all new to him. Then he noticed a sign painted on the wall, "UNSC Barracks 04B"

A chill ran down his spine. A moment later, other people began to come out of bed. He saw a patch on one of their sleeves, an Eagle talons ready to strike holding arrows in one and a lightning bolt in the other. The word SPARTAN was written underneath the patch. Nick sat on the bed and tried to come up with ways that something like this had happened.

"There is no way this is possible, he mumbled to himself. Yet it felt so real. The idea that somehow he had gotten into the Halo Universe was the only one that somehow felt right. Nick swung his legs out of bed and felt a sudden pressure on his head. Memories, eight years of them, flooded into his mind; the meeting at the ONI amphitheater, the fact that he was 4 years younger than he had been before he appeared here,and years of painful training. All of those new memories flooding his mind, it took awhile to sort through them, but eventually a question pushed its way though the mess. Where is Michelle?

Nick scanned the room; there were about forty other Spartans. But Michelle was not among them He began to question whether or not she really existed. "Was that all a dream? Brought on from head trauma from Mendez's weekly sparring sessions?" He could remember getting beat by none other than Jorge, Spartan 052, the day before. He couldn't tell which set of memories were real anymore.

The person in the bunk above him jumped down.

"Hey, Nick ready to head to the obstacle course? I bet I can beat you to the end this time." Nick glanced up at the young Spartan. Nick remembered his name was Brad, his number was 098. Brad gave him a friendly punch on the shoulder.

"Uhh." Nick replied, he seemed to remember that Brad always lost to him. "I don't think so, I always beat you."

"Well today is different." Brad said.

Nick shook his head and stood up to open the footlocker at the base of his bed. He opened the lid and sitting on top of a pair of sweats was an old, scratched MP3 player. It looked similar to the one in his other set of memories, but this one showed the wear and tear of five hundred years of passed down family history. However, his Spartan memories said that he had found it in this footlocker when he arrived here at the beginning of training.

"Remind me why you like to keep that piece of junk? If Chief Mendez finds out we're both screwed." Brad said looking into the box.

"I..I don't know." Nick said pulling the sweats out from underneath and hiding the MP3 player under the spare training uniform. The sweat pants had the number 102 printed on the thigh, "My service tag?" he thought. "Or was that part of the dream influenced from this too?" He shrugged it off and got suited up in the sweatpants. Nick jogged out of the barracks and onto a field, tall trees stretched to the sky and a massive mountain pierced the clouds. "Wow... amazing..."

"Come on, Nick. You lost?" Brad said, heading along a path.

Nick turned and followed him to a maze of rope ladders and cargo nets. It matched the description in both sets of his memories. The other young Spartans were moving to the shooting range or doing morning stretches and other exercises, he remembered it was one of the very rare days where training was at their own discretion.

"Ready, in three...two...one." Brad counted down. When he hit zero, they both sprinted down the field.

30 Years Later
May 30, 2552 1123hrs
Planet Siberia
UNSC Resupply and Refit Planet

The day was warm, a direct contrast to what this planet was named. Nick lied on his belly in the tall grass as a Covenant Wraith hovered over his head. The Wraith fired and recoiled back into the ground just behind his feet. If he was any further back, he would have been crushed. Nick pulled the anti tank mine from behind him, the ball was larger than the mine he wanted to use but this was all he had at the moment. He activated the magnets and attached it to the Wraiths undercarriage. Set to remote detonation, he would blow the charge once he and Brad get clear.

Nick waved over to Brad who was under an Anti-air Wraith. Brad replied with a flash of his green acknowledgment light, he had just finished planting his bomb too. Nick gave the fall back hand motion and started to crawl out from below the Covenant Mortar tank. He met up with Brad about forty meters out, and behind a divider bush the local farmer had made to divide his fields.

"Piece of cake." Brad said. "Let's fry those beetles."

Nick held his hand up, detonator in his palm. "High five."

Brad returned the gesture, armored gloves clapping together. The detonator beeped. "Ka-boom" Brad said. On the other side of the bushes, twin plumes of fire, plasma and metal exploded into the air.

"Second squad. Fall back secured. Set timers and get the hell out of there." Nick radioed to the other half of their team, two smaller Spartans, Nick guessed they were the Spartan IIIs he seemed to remember existing. Ever since they started working together, Nick and Brad had felt the need to be more loose. Their cold, calm demeanor that they had when they began seemed to bother the regular Marine troops.

"Copy zat, setting timers for fifteen minutes." Dani replied in his slight Germanic accent. Second squad was aboard the Covenant Corvette that sat just a kilometer away, all they needed to do now was get back in their Hornet and jump ship. Marine fire teams were providing a distraction just outside the kill zone and a small artillery strike had taken out the Corvette's sensor array.

Nick scanned the sky, a small ball of fire erupted out of the side of the Corvette. It was too early to be the demolition charges, but likely another distraction to ensure that second squad got out without taking any fire. Soon a small dot shot out of one of the Corvette's destroyed weapon ports. The small dot grew bigger until it grew wings and a figure was standing on the skids. The Hornet flew down and slid across the slick grass. When it came to a stop, figures in heavy armor emerged.

"Welcome back to Siberia." Nick called to them.

"Yeah, with balmy thirty degree temperatures all year round. Whoever named this planet was an idiot." Lindsey replied, with a laugh.

A muffled explosion echoed throughout the farming valley. A massive explosion blew out the underside of the Corvette a moment later. The Covenant ship listed and fell toward the surface, its engines unable to remain active with the loss of their power source. It slammed into the ground in a ball of fire, the shock wave causing the Spartans to almost lose their balance.

A heavy voice came over SATCOM "Spartans, the UNSC Farlow. A whole new Covie fleet just jumped in. Pop smoke and prep for evac, there's nothing we can do now." The Frigate's Captain said.

"Understood, sir. Popping smoke." Nick sighed and grabbed the smoke canister from his pockets. He primed the grenade and tossed it a few yards away.

"Great... another planet lost. This was one of our major victory sites ten years ago too," Brad said in defeat.

"That only meant that they knew where it was and would be back to finish the job later, like Arcadia." Nick said. "It was bound to happen eventually."

A D77-TC Pelican emerged out of the oily smoke billowing from the wreck of the Corvette. "Spartans, this is Echo Five-five Charlie. We're coming in for your pick up. Is the LZ clear?"

"Affirmative, Echo five-five Charlie. The LZ is clear." Nick responded.

"Got it, coming in now." The Pelican pulled around and extended its landing gear. It's jets scorched wheat crop and the rear hatch folded open. The Pelican's armor was scorched and burned, purple blood was dried across the cockpit window.

"Alright Spartans! Lets get out of here." Nick waved them on. The Pelican shook as the four Spartans, in a ton of MJOLNIR step inside. Nick looked in the cockpit and the pilot nodded. "How'd you get Elite blood on your wind screen?"

"We flew through a flight of jump pack Split jaws at mach one." The pilot chuckled. "Bastards didn't even know what hit them." He leaned down and flipped some switches "Now step back sir. We're going to leave the atmosphere soon."

Nick nodded and moved back to the troop compartment. The cockpit pressure door eased shut with a hiss.

"I hate this part, we cant see anything and there could be a Seraph on our six about to take us out." Lindsey said.

"We'll be fine, we've got a Longsword escort, saw it arc around when I was up front." Nick reassured her.

The Pelican soared through the atmosphere, and spun around to dodge a blazing piece of a UNSC Frigate that had detonated in the sky above a few moments before. The UNSC Farlow sat in low orbit, collecting a series of Pelicans and Albatrosses that were speeding from the surface. The Covenant CSO-Class Super Carrier dominated the main video screen. The massive ship had taken out three other frigates, and only sustained minimal cosmetic damage.

"Communications! How long until Admiral Duca jumps out?" Captain Landry barked at the COM Officer.

"Sir, the Mists of Fire is already on an exit vector." The Officer replied.

"Captain, a Pelican from the Admiral's ship just docked. They've got coordinates to our rally point after the random jump." Lieutenant Harvard said from Tactical.

"Engineering, get our drive charged ASAP. Are all our Pelicans accounted for? And the Evac Shuttles?" The Farlow maneuvered around a spinning piece of the planets space tether. The frayed cables scrapped along the side of the Frigate.

"Pelicans are all on board, and the Evac shuttles have just completed their exit jumps." Someone responded.

"There are still people down there, we can't just leave them!" One of the technicians said in the background.

"Recall our fighters. As soon as they're on board, initiate a randomized jump out system." He turned to the technician. "Get off the bridge. If we stay we die too." The ship shook as its point defense guns took out a Covenant Seraph, which proceeded to crash into the side of the Farlow.

The last of the Longswords returned to the hangars and heavy Frigate broke orbit. It accelerated out past the moon and initiated a random slipspace jump out system.

The Covenant Super Carrier detected the jump and broke from its assault on the planet. Four smaller ships also disengaged. Among them was the modified CCS-Class Battle cruiser Mercy and Betrayal. They formed up and jumped, following the course of the doomed Human ship.

26 days later
June 25, 2552 0542
Paris-class Frigate UNSC Farlow FFG-345

The UNSC Frigate Farlow had dropped out of Slip-space over the planet Standard IV half an hour ago. Captain Landry sat in the command chair and watched the refueling probe dock. The planet was home to a decommissioned weapons storage facility. But twenty years into the war with the covenant, there wasn't much left in there. Two other frigates clustered around the Cruiser Mists of Fire as it too refueled.

"Sir, STC saying they're picking up slip-space whispers out by SF-one-seven-one." The COM Officer reported.

"Keep an eye on it, and alert Admiral Duca. We initiated a textbook evac following the Cole Protocol, there's no way they could have followed us."

Space was calm for another few minutes, but then five slip-space ruptures flashed off in the distance. Their bright blue glow contrasting the darkness of space. A massive super carrier emerged first, followed by a small complement of frigates and battle cruisers. Almost the same type of formation they were in, only almost five times the strength. "Sir! Damage and markings confirmed. That this is part of the same fleet we encountered over Siberia." Lieutenant Harvard said from Tactical.

Landry activated the COM and paged the Cryo bay. "Bridge to all Cryo bays. Get everyone thawed out immediately."

"All Hands, this is a combat alert alpha two." The COM Officer announced over the ship wide intercom. "Prepare to re-engage the Covenant."

The Super Carrier ignored the small fleet of Human vessels and headed straight for the planet, dropships and fighters launching from its hangars. However the Super Carrier's escorts did not. The four frigates moved in formation right for the human fleet, plasma glowed along their lateral lines.

"Get those Spartans up and ready now!" Landry shouted.

The leading Covenant Frigate opened fire, the boiling mass of plasma accelerated towards the Farlo. Explosions resonated through the ship as the port side emergency thrusters fired. But it was not enough, the plasma struck, and melted the port side engine assembly.

"Sir! We've lost the port engine, we can not maintain proper forward momentum." The Officer at Engineering said.

"Reduce power to ten percent, use maneuvering thrusters to keep at those Frigates, prepare to blast full power and divert extra to the MAC."

Down in Cryogenics bay three, automated systems came to life and the technicians manned their stations. The pod shook and the deck creaked as Nick came to. The dream was the same one he always had after being pulled rapidly out of cryo sleep. It was him and the girl, around eighteen, he remembered her as Michelle and they were playing a video game version of this universe. Everything was fuzzy but he had all the evidence he needed, there was an old MP3 player that dated back to the twenty-first century with the soundtrack from the game and some pictures of him and the girl. Records showed that the soundtrack never existed.

His eyes opened and the Cryo pod's hatch hissed open. He stepped out onto the deck and his armor systems booted up. His GUNGNIR Helmet sat in the storage bin along with the miscellaneous contents of his armor's pouches. He grabbed the helmet and threw it on, just as the rumble from the ship's MAC blasted through the room.

Alarms sounded as the ship shuttered again. The intercom buzzed. "We've got a hull breach on deck E! Everyone- hold on!" the deck shook again as the port emergency thrusters ignited.

"I sure hope they haven't found Reach." Brad said.

"Doubt it, we haven't been in cryo long enough, check your HUD." Lindsey, A204 said. She was right, the display put their date at June twenty fifth, Siberia had been too far out to get to Reach in that time, they should be about half way there.

Their radios cracked "Spartans, this is Captain Landry, I need you on the ground ASAP. Covenant landing parties are already hitting the spaceport and the planet's cities."

"Understood Captain, what is the estimated Covenant strength?" Nick asked as he ran for the Armory.

"Four Light Frigates, and a Goddamn Super carrier." One of the deck hands answered through the link. Then Captain Landry came back on. "The Admiral sent the Harvest Night to warn Reach and call for reinforcements."

"Understood sir" He and his Spartans reached the armory and armed up. Nick took a DMR and grabbed a few clips out of the crate. Lindsey and Dani grabbed their normal weapon choices, MA5B's and M6C's.

"Sir is this a ground Op?" Brad asked.

"Yes Spartan." As soon as the Captain responded, the ship shook again and another series of alarms went off.

The ship's PA system lit up with alerts. "All hands, abandon ship. Ground teams to your Pelicans ASAP. All crews, stand clear of cargo pods, dropping in ten."

"Time to get out of here," Nick said. Brad grabbed his sniper rifle and followed them to the hangar. Deck crew and technicians ran for the lifeboats. Fires raged and a team of Covenant Elites burst through an airlock. A few firefights later, Nick slid to a stop behind a pillar and opened fire again. "We need to hurry." He said over TEAMCOM.

"Tell me about eet." Dani said, his assault rifle cutting through the Elite's shields. "The Captain called the last evac notice five minutes ago."

"The Pelican is still waiting in the hangar, we're only seven meters from the doorway." Lindsey said. "We just need to get through these covie boarders."

"Cut the chatter everyone. Let's ram through this." Nick stood up and unloaded his DMR into the head of an Elite until it went down. "Come on let's go." They ran the remaining distance and slid into the hangar. A lone pelican remained sitting on the launch pad. A Marine stood on the back, manning the M247, a pile of Covenant bodies lay outside the bay.

"Spartans, about time you got here. Welcome aboard." The Marine moved the turret back into the recess so they could board. As soon as they were on the hatch sealed.

"We left enough bodies back there to swim though ." Nick said.

"Well then, we're out of here." The Pelican lifted off and headed for the planet below. Behind them the Farlow and all its raging fires accelerated towards the Covenant Frigates. It's MAC fired point blank and tore the first Frigate down its spine. The Farlow's bow crumpled and collapsed moments before it exploded in a brilliant flash.

One of the remaining UNSC Frigates broke off the battlegroup and headed planet side. "This is the UNSC Frigate Leron. We're going to escort you up to jump zones." The frigate radioed down to the Spaceport.

Nick and his Spartans got another COM transmission from Admiral Duca. "Spartans, Captain Landry's Lifepod landed near the ocean, he is currently out of radio contact. Your commanding officer on the ground will be Lieutenant Wilson. He's part of Kilo Company tasked with defending the Spaceport."

"Understood sir." Nick said. The COM line clicked off and he turned to the Pelican's Crew Chief. "What do we have on board?"

He pulled a box that was stowed below the crash seat close to the cockpit and popped it open.. "Twelve kilos of C-12, and enough ammunition for twelve MA5Bs." He slid the box back. "All I could grab before the Captain dropped the cargo pods."

"Good enough." Nick took a MA5B and attached it to his back, beside his DMR. He filled his remaining pouches with ammunition. "Dani, take a few satchels of C-12." He nodded and took the materials from the crate.

The Pelican streaked over the spaceport and Nick looked down at the battlefield. Kilo Company had bunkered Scorpion Tanks along the cliff highway that led into the spaceport and space tether, and 30mm chain guns cut down an army of Grunts that clambered up the cliff side.

A Banshee streaked below the tree tops, its Fuel rod cannon charged, and released an orb of plasma toward one of the forward tanks. The Scorpion's coax cut through the Banshee's canopy and it spiraled into a parking garage. However the fuel rod slammed into a Scorpion's gun and melted the barrel, the tank was useless now.

The Pelican spun around and settled on a landing pad behind the parking structure. Nick and his fellow Spartans hit the ground. "Lieutenant Wilson, this is Spartan one-zero-two. We've hit the ground and are coming to your position, where do you want us?" Nick radioed.

"Copy that, We've got Elites chargin' up the south roadway. I had Delta there but they've been virtually wiped out. Get there." Lieutenant Wilson replied.

"Got it." Nick changed directions and moved south. He waved his hand forward and the broke into a sprint.

The south roadway was really just a service road in the forest that lead up to the Spaceport. It was too narrow to use Scorpion Tanks, but that also meant a Wraith would not fit either. Four Marines were all that were left of the original squad here. One of them looked up out of cover and tossed a grenade at a standard Covenant squad that was making its way up the road. Another punched his shoulder. "Hey, Jake, we've got back up."

The first Marine, IFF tagged him as Corporal Gentry, looked back. "What type of .. oh Spartans! Ha. We could really use you right now."

Nick crouched down behind the sandbags and the others set up along the Spaceport's walls. "What's the situation?"

"Elite strike teams are trying to take us out, they're throwing Grunts and low rankers at us to waste ammo and then the heavy guys come up when we're reloading." Corporal Gentry said. "We lost half our squad even when we staggered our shots."

"Alright," he scanned the area and came up with a plan. "If we detonate our C-Twelve below the ground, we can cause a land slide to take out this entrance, sealing it off for now." Nick looked over to Dani. "A103 Plant those charges, get rid of this hillside."

"Got eet sir." Dani nodded and pulled the pocket tool from his thigh and hurried for a manhole cover.

"Cover him!" Nick shouted. They popped up and opened fire on a group of Grunts that started advancing up the bottom of the hill. Their bullets ripped through the Grunts' thin armor and penetrated their methane tanks. Blue fireballs erupted and took out the other Covenant soldiers behind them. Two Jackal snipers fired simultaneously but struck the sand bags in front of the group.

Nick switched to his DMR and sighted them down range. Two shots and both were dead. Dani hopped over the sandbag wall. "Charges set, detonating on your order."

"Everyone, get down. Detonate." Nick ordered.

Dani pressed the detonator and the ground rumbled. The explosion cut through the other sounds of combat around the spaceport and rained burning pieces of moist soil upon the group. Below them, the ground gave way and began to slide down into where the Covenant troops were held up, burying them alive.

"Lieutenant Wilson, south entry has been plugged up, we collapsed the hillside." Nick sent over the radio.

"Good, now they won't be flanking us. We've managed to get this area under control for the moment. Evac Ops in the next city over have hit a snag, I'm sending you over there." Wilson replied.

6 days later
July 1, 2552 Standard IV Highway 042
en route to Standard Central Space tether

The Warthog slid across the black ice on the abandoned highway. It came to a stop a meter away from a charred civilian vehicle and Nick jumped out of the passenger seat. A team of Army troopers and Marines hooked up chains to the massive tracked transport stuck in the frozen over swamp. The highway was too damaged here for an Elephant to roll across so the pilot tried to go around. He chose the wrong direction.

He headed over to the other Spartans gathered at the command hog. Brad stood next to the Spartan III's, Lindsey and Dani. Lieutenant Wilson sat in the passenger seat and stared at a radar screen. A heavy snowfall had blown in and had reduced visibility to ten meters.

"Zulu spotted some Covenant scout teams heading this direction via Spirit. Hopefully we can have this damn Elephant out of the swamp by then,"the Lieutenant said. "If they do touch down I want you Spartans to keep the Covie bastards clear of the civvies."

"Yes sir, we'll get to work," Nick responded with a nod.

A blip appeared on the radar screen and the Lieutenant looked over. "Oh hell, here they come. Two Spirits one klick to the west." He switched to his radio. "All units shut down, we've got covie spirits inbound. Go cold."

Lieutenant Wilson's driver shut the Warthog off and all around the other vehicles went off as well. A few moments later the alien hum of the Covenant Spirits rose above the sound of the snow storm. Searchlights shown through the storm and barely made it to ground level. Nick and his Spartans froze as they passed.

Once the scouts passed, the Lieutenant gave the all clear and everything started up again. The Army troopers and Marines finished hooking up the transport to one of the others and the Elephant was pulled other out of the frozen swamp.

Wilson nodded "Alright let's get moving people. We've got a ship to catch."

Nick hopped back into the passenger seat of his Warthog and the Marine stepped on the gas. The Evacuation convoy rumbled out of the lowlands and onto the crowded raised highway across the forest. The Elephants plowed through the sea of abandoned cars and trucks, clearing a way for the smaller vehicles behind them. "This is going a little easy, don't you think Nick?" Brad radioed from his own Warthog. "Haven't seen any resistance since we left the city."

"Yeah this seems off," Nick said looking around at the forest.

Suddenly the falling snow to the East was baited in blue light. "Incoming!" An Army trooper yelled over the radio. The Plasma mortars impacted the hillside just south of the highway and ignited fires in hundreds of trees. But one of them managed to hit in front of an Elephant, a section of roadway gave way and the rear Elephant fell into the hole.

"Get everyone out of the back. Move!" The Lieutenant shouted. " Any Pelicans in our grid, this is Evac division Charlie we need immediate pickup for roughly forty-five civilians. I know you've got your hands full up there but we can't move these people on foot in this weather!"

"One-zero-two, we don't have anyone covering the other Elephants." Brad said over TEAMCOM.

"On it." Nick replied

Nick hopped back inside the Hog's passenger seat and the Marine stepped on the gas. Another volley of Wraith mortars flew over head and impacted the highway. The roadway broke away as well, as the superheated plasma melted the re-bar supports. A hole opened up and Nick's Warthog flew through narrowly missing the top. The front tires struck the frost covered dirt and the Hog flew down the path that sat just underneath the highway.

"You've got to be fucking kidding me! The next on ramp is twenty Clicks away. I guess taking the highway in the middle of nowhere was a great idea." The driver groaned and slapped the Hog's tactical display.

Nick stared at his TACPAD in disbelief, the Marine was right. An hour later the Highway veered into a tunnel and they still had not found an intact on ramp. "Great. We're lost… Wait, hold up, what's that ahead?" Warthog suddenly stopped and Nick braced himself on the dash.

Chunks of ice and snow flew by as the Hog slid across the frozen ground. Their one remaining headlight revealed a frozen river less than five meters in front of the Warthog.

"Damn it, this isn't on the map." Nick cursed as he checked the Nav-data.

Then everything was quiet, the sound of automatic gunfire was in the far distance and the Hog's hydrogen engine shut off. They sat there for a little under ten minutes, Nick had re-tasked a Stealth Tactical Aerial Reconnaissance Satellite to do a live topographical search, and so far, there was no way to cross the river in the Warthog.

There was a flicker of light on the other side of the river, but then it disappeared behind a tree. After about a minute a soft purple light popped out of the trees and glowed in the heavy snow fall. Soon a trio of Elites and about four or five Grunts were illuminated walking along the river bank with their weapons drawn.

They were talking, and Nick's translation software picked up some of their conversation. "They should be... need one... only the Demon."

The conversation was filled with blanks from distance, and Nick's night vision couldn't cut through the snow very well. So they sat there for a little over an hour and the scout party looked as it had passed, Nick leaned over to the Marine. "We should get moving," he whispered to the driver.

"Agreed," the driver slowly reached for the ignition.

As soon as the Hog started up the other side of the river came to life. The Covenant scout party had not moved on after all. Nick saw a flash green light as they opened fire.

The driver threw it into reverse and backed up as fast as he could, but it was no use. The Fuel Rod round slammed into the front and caused the already damaged Warthog to explode. The Marine was killed instantly from the force of the explosion and Nick was thrown clear into a nearby snowdrift. With shields down he tried to fight back. But as he stood another round slammed into ground beside him. The armor on his left was partially blown off and he was thrown into a tree. His helmet was ripped apart, the main cover was smoking at the bottom of a hole and what was left on his head barely functioned.

But yet somehow the translation software still worked as the Covenant moved closer."Hold your fire, hold your fire! Damn Unggoy almost killed it. Major go with a group of the useless runts and retrieve that Demon."

Nick couldn't move his left arm but he tried to grab a Frag grenade. As he reached over he could hear the cracking of the Covenant crossing the frozen river. Finally he had a grenade out of its pouch. But before he could arm it, an Elite pulled him out of the tree and ripped the grenade from his hand tossing it to the river. He passed out a second later.

"Be very careful of our precious cargo, Unggoy. They want it alive," the Sangheili grinned.