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- Marok Gaust
- Adon Jastenon
- Prophet of Justice
The years is 2584. The Human-Covenant War is long over, humanity is allied with the Sangheili and they have found several new races in the galaxy, such as the cyborg people of Kastella, the Machina and the nomadic shapeshifters, the Plainsfierians. The Covenant has been driven into the outer territories and suffering from an internal power struggle. All appears well. However, though humanity has recovered and defeated their enemy, the galaxy is far from a safe place.
Humanity is tested once more when the colony of Orpheus is attacked by a mysterious Forerunner warship. The ship only leaves two clues behind for the UNSC and their allies to follow; a large pit in the middle of one of the settlements, and over three thousand men and women disappeared without a trace. To solve this mystery, Team Bravo, a special forces unit, is dispatched into the unnstable Border Region, where someone might know what exactly attacked Orpheus. But it's a race against time; whoever attacked Orpheus are looking for keys to open the gates to unfathomable power. And they'll stop at nothing to obtain these keys.
0743 HOURS, MARS 7, 2584 (MILITARY CALENDAR)/CENTAURUS ALPHA SYSTEM, OUTPOST 3, PLANET ORPHEUS
Michael Norwich yawned loudly. He had been up too late last night. He had been stupid enough to go on a friend's party even though he knew he had the early morning shift the next day. Michael regretted his mistake, but it was too late to do anything now. Besides, it would likely be possible for him to get some sleep on the job. It was rare for things out of the ordinary to occur at the outpost.
Outpost 3's purpose was to identify unscheduled arrivals and alert the authorities. But few ships arrived at all to Orpheus. The colony was largely self-supplying; everything proceeded on its own, contact or trade with other colonies was largely unnecessary. The most common visitors were pirates, both human and others, hoping for some easy plunder.
However, the pirates soon learned to leave Orpheus alone. Even though it was largely isolated, three UNSC Heimdall-class Frigates patrolled the system, ready to engage whenever something arrived. While it wasn’t enough to protect a planet from enemies like the Covenant Remnants, it more than sufficed to keep raiders and pirates away, who often used leftover vessels incapable of putting up a fight.
Mike relaxed, putting his feet on the control panel. He closed his eyes.
He had almost fallen asleep when something beeped. Cursing quietly, he corrected himself in the chair and tapped some buttons on the control panel. The layout for the Centaurus Alpha System appeared on a screen in front of him. A red dot winked on the outskirts of the system, moving slowly towards Orpheus.
Mike pressed more buttons, initiating a scan of the new arrival. After a few minutes, a holographic image of the ship appeared in a separate window. None of its features matched that of any human vessel. Mike ran a quick search through the comparison archives, showing that the vessel was neither of Covenant, Elite, Plainsfierian or Machina origin, although parts of the ship seemed to have built-in Machina parts. The rest of the vessel appeared Forerunner, according to the comparison charts.
Most likely, some Machina had found a Forerunner ship that was either incomplete or damaged, and then filled the incomplete or damaged sections with their own constructions. However, the fact that Machina would have found a Forerunner vessel, kept quiet about it and then make an unscheduled arrival in an isolated system confused him.
The Machina appeared terrifying, because of their size and the appearance of their frames, but they were actually very friendly. They had been enthusiastically introduced into the galactic community, and inter-species relations had been friendly.
Unlike other races, the Machina "cyberized" themselves when they reached maturity; replacing their organic parts with machine parts. In the end, little more than their brain remained organic; everything else was machines and cybernetics, what the Machina referred to as a frame.
He opened the COM and linked to the UNSC Carolina, the commanding vessel in orbit. A man with graying hair and bushy mustache appeared on the screen.
"Outpost 3, report." The man replied.
"Captain" Mike started. "There's a vessel on the edge of-"
"I'm aware of it." The Captain fingered with his mustache. "What I want to know is if your long-range scans have identified exactly what it is and who it belongs to."
"The vessel's definitely of Forerunner origin. However, parts of the ship has Machina infrastructure."
"Machina!?" The captain appeared surprised. Not that Mike could blame him. The Machina Federation, the Machina's government, didn't even have borders to UNSC space. This meant either there had been a communication delay, or it was a rogue group they were dealing with. A rogue group in control of a Forerunner ship could be trouble. Especially for just three UNSC frigates. "All right, Outpost 3. We'll attempt contact. If they get violent, we engage. Send a message back to FLEETCOM and alert all ground forces. Just in case it's out of our hands." A Forerunner ship was probably well out of their hands, but Mike didn’t dare say it.
"Aye, sir." He added nervously.
We just confirmed it. Orpheus has indeed been attacked. And attacked damn hard it was. The battlegroup in orbit never stood a chance.
After the battlegroup had been torn to pieces, the ship engaged in surface activity. Unknown exactly what it did or wanted, but it was willing to turn upside down on a town looking for whatever it was after. Before it went offline Outpost 3 claimed the ship was of Forerunner origin with some Machina infrastructure. Guess we’re going to have a few chats with both the Machina and the Guardians. Of course, remember that this is classified; word spread that human colonies are attacked by Machina and it might cause a serious political crisis. The last thing we need is a war with a race as powerful as the Machina.
Keep me updated on everything that happens on your end. I’ll be meeting with some counterparts in the USR to discuss this problem. Even though it’s unlikely the Machina were involved with the attack, we don’t want to take any unnecessary risks by letting them participate in the meeting.
//press ENTER to continue//
2034 HOURS, MARS 10, 2584 (MILITARY CALENDAR)/DEEP SPACE, CONFERENCE ROOM, UNSC HIGHWAY
The UNSC Highway was a Minerva-class Prowler, used to lying in deep space, the space between systems. However, today, something strange would be going on at the ship. Here, in deep space, secretive individuals from both the UNSC and the USR (United Sangheili Republic, the Sangheili’s government) would be discussing a matter of great importance in the Prowler's conference room. All rooms near the conference room had been sealed off for the crew, leaving little room for them to maneuver on the small vessel.
Hank, to everyone else known simply as CODENAME: FALCON, entered the conference room. He instantly realized he was the last one to be there, as the doors were shut behind him and all individuals sitting down started to stare forward. Hank took a seat in the only remaining chair.
There was six individuals in the room, including himself; three humans, three Sangheili. It was a meeting on equal terms, a fine example of the improved relations between the Sangheili and humans compared to just after the Human-Covenant War. Hank had been born shortly after the war had ended, so he knew nothing of it from personal experience. However, he still felt happy that the Sangheili were on humanity's side, a feeling that struck him every time he met a Sangheili.
"The meeting can begin" the human to Hank's right started. "I'm sure all of you have been briefed on the situation? The attack on our colony of Orpheus?" Since everyone simply gave a slight nod and remained silent, the man, whose face was covered with scars and bruises (no doubt a sign of that he had seen his share of combat up close), continued.
"Dorve, I believe you had some sleeper agents on Kastella that started to investigate whether the Federation had a hand in the event or not?" One of the Sangheili nodded.
"They turned up nothing" he replied. "Not a trace of anything suspicious going on. I also questioned the parliament through the official channels, but they decline any involvement. There's no proof that they even knew of the vessel that attacked Orpheus."
"Then either they’re hiding it well" Hank interrupted "or they are innocent. My gut tells me that it's the latter." He could see the others mumble in agreement.
"But then the question is" one of the Sangheili added "who is really behind this? And why?"
"Personally?" Hank said. "I think it's some sort of rogue group. Maybe Machina rebels or outcasts or something, although that leaves me wondering what they want with one of our colonies. The only clue of their activity on Orpheus is a dug up town and thousands of citizens that completely disappeared."
"You sure they weren't just killed?" The bruised man on Hank's right asked. Hank scratched his neck, feeling satisfied as the itching stopped.
"No, then we would have found bodies, and we didn't. So, either they disappeared mysteriously, or the raiders captured them."
"Maybe they wanted slaves?" one of the Sangheili suggested. "Or wanted to sell them to someone or something that need slaves in exchange for something they need?"
"If that is the case" the bruised man on Hank's right continued "then we only know of two factions that they would sell them to. The Covenant Remnants or the Kig-yar Pirates. The Covenant can probably be excluded, as there's an internal power struggle going on. But the pirates..."
"If we're right about this" the third human (who had remained silent until now) exclaimed "then this is our chance to deal a blow to both these Machina raiders and the pirates, maybe even a killing blow!"
"Don't be too ambitious." The bruised man interjected. "We take one thing at a time. First off, we need to track down the raiders. I'll make sure an ample amount of Prowlers are redirected to investigate the neighboring systems to Centaurus Alpha. Hopefully they'll find a trace of the slipspace jump, something we can follow."
"Might I suggest" Hank said "that we run investigations out near the border region? It’s a lawless area where somebody's bound to know every shady thing going on. If we're dealing with a crime syndicate or warlord, someone in the border region might know something."
"It could be worth a try." The bruised man said, and the others nodded approvingly. "But who do you suggest we put on the job?" Everyone stared at Hank now, waiting for his answer.
"I happen to know of a group with the guts, balls and ability to pull it off, the best thing next to a Spartan in this case. If there's something to find, they'll find it."
MARS 10, 2584, 23rd CYCLE, 40th DIGIT (FORERUNNER CALENDAR)/GAUSTUS FAU SYSTEM, SPACE ABOVE UNCHARTED WORLD
It had taken Marok Gaust some time to get used to the Forerunner calendar. But ever since they had found this vessel, Silverframe had made it clear they would all use the Forerunner calendar from then on. And no matter how unnecessary or annoying it was, they did as he said. After all, all of them on this vessel owed everything to Silverframe. He had given them a family, home and riches that they never had, that no one else had bothered to give them.
Silverframe, whose real name was Silvor Mako, had apparently been stripped of his name and then banished long ago, but for what reasons he had never revealed. When asked, he always said "you'll see" or "you'll understand one day", as if they were his children. Though in a way, they were his children. All of them had lost their parents somehow, and he had offered to take them in. He took them away from wasted lives at an orphanage and gave them importance. Over the many years that now had passed, they had now formed their own lineage, commonly called Silvor to honor their leader.
The Silvor had proceeded to forge their own territory by building outposts on uncharted worlds, expanding their power. And on one such uncharted world, they had found this vessel. Silverframe saw the unparalleled potential this ship had, he said it could be the key to the Silvor Lineage's rise to power.
But it wasn't just the ship itself; some surviving ship logs had mentioned objects known as The Keys, who apparently unlocked something the Forerunners had kept hidden out of fear that their enemy would get their hands on it. One of the keys had been found on the vessel, and another on the planet’s surface. The ship logs mentioned that the keys numbered seven in total, and each key showed the location of the next key, with the final key showing the location of The Gate, which presumably led to a relic or several relics of great power.
All had gone well so far; they had found the third key on the human colony Orpheus, and the new key showed the next one's location; a Sangheili colony not too far away. But before they went after the fourth key, they had something to take care of.
Silverframe entered through a door. Marok went up to him, taking position on his right, while another Machina, Ador Jastenon, took position on his left. The trio quietly approached the COM device in what they suspected to be the ship's conference room. The hologram of a San 'Shyuum appeared above the device.
"How did it go?" The frail-looking creature asked.
"We found the third key" Silverframe said without hesitation. His voice was full of confidence, and although Marok couldn't see it, he felt that the Prophet was somewhat nervous when talking with Silverframe. But there was a reason for that; Silverframe's frame inspired fear in his enemies, with black and blood-red spikes protruding from various places in the silver-colored armor. On his back, the giant Machina carried an enormous axe with similar color and spikes, the only remaining memory that he was once from the Mako lineage. The frame had recently been reinforced with Forerunner technology, especially a Sentinel beam built into his shoulder and a shield module reinforcing his already powerful shields. He would be a near-invincible opponent in battle.
"And what about my other request?" The Prophet asked. Silverframe appeared just as normal as always, he didn't even flinch at the question, as if the Prophet hadn't talked to him. But before the Prophet assumed he hadn't heard and prepared to repeat, Silverframe cut him off.
"We have over three thousand humans in our brigs, I’ll drop them off on the place you designated. You will, with luck, have your shipyard and factories built soon, as long as they're willing to work. Then you'll have that little extra advantage over your competitors that you desired."
"Not quite" the Prophet interjected. "I still need more slaves – and the keys."
Silverframe still didn't flinch, but his voice was slightly annoyed. "Do I need to remind you exactly what the deal was? We agreed that I would find the keys and The Gate. Then I would take my share of what's behind the gate, and then give you the keys."
"I know what we agreed to." The Prophet's voice was calm. "I just wish that you hurry. The longer it takes, the more chance the other Prophets will surpass me in the struggle. Deliverance is on the rise. I need all the advantages I can get."
"And you will have them" Silverframe replied, now also calm. "Of course, I hope you uphold your end of the bargain. We'll deliver the slaves, so I expect you to give us what I wanted in return."
"The things you requested are waiting where you will drop off the slaves. But I hope you won't take any detours."
"My people comes first" Silverframe said, his voice almost a whisper. "Your goals are a secondary objective."
"Then place a higher priority on your secondary objectives." The Prophet's hologram disappeared, leaving the room dark.
1417 HOURS, MARS 18, 2584 (MILITARY CALENDAR)/LAMBDA TAU SYSTEM, TAU CITY CENTER, PLANET TAU II
Charles felt uncomfortable to travel in civilian clothing; he felt so unprotected, helpless. It wasn't helped by the fact that they were in a system in the Border Region.
The Border Region consisted mostly of uncharted worlds unclaimed by the UNSC, USR or Covenant Remnants. It was a safe haven for criminals of varying degree, from petty thieves to crime syndicates and warlords. As living there was hell, the civilian population was too small, which had now resulted in the various gangs and syndicates robbing and killing each other in vicious turf wars. In the end, the only winners were the assassins and mercenaries contracted for various missions by one side on the other side, and of course, the information dealers. Men, women and aliens who was skilled at finding information and then selling it to the highest bidder.
Information dealers were a threat to every side, but at the same time they were too important to get rid of. Therefore, the dealers could continue their game safely while winning huge amounts of credits.
The rest of Combat Group Bravo walked towards a tall building. The large sign above the entrance said 'Dreams of Reefs', officially their hotel for the duration of their visit, in reality a UNSC outpost in this Tortuga-esque city. It would be their base of operations while in the system, right under the noses of the rest of the population.
The members of Combat Group Bravo passed through the entrance. Their leader, Jack Roberts, showed an ID to the woman at the counter, who nodded approvingly and directed them to rooms 43 through 46. The group, counting 16 members, had to use two elevators twice to get everyone up.
Charles, Jack, Joshua and Samuel entered room 43, while the others tried to decide who would go in which of the remaining rooms. Jack looked through the room, until he stopped in front of a mirror. He lifted it off the wall, revealing a hole in the wall. Inside four M7 Body Armor suits waited, as the group had been informed before the trip to Tau.
The group was gathered in room 43 to review their mission. It was very narrow, which left little space for every group member. This was made evident as Rod was pushed up against a wall, desperately telling Otto to move away. When they had settled down, Jack started.
"Our mission is..." He dug through his pocket and retrieved his COM pad. "To capture the most prominent information dealer in town; a Majoran named Mangul Zeral."
"A Majoran?" Rod asked. "Since when are they in on information dealing? I mean, they're barely up on the galactic stage yet."
"There are exceptions with every race" Charles said. "Just like there may be cowardly Elites or brave Grunts."
"Exactly." Jack continued. "The point is, if anything shady is going on here, he'll be the one to know it. So, we're going to retrieve him and bring him here for interrogation."
"Can't we just buy information from him?" Joshua asked. "That would be easier."
"We can't be certain he's reliable" Jack replied. "Information dealers often alter information they sell to make it more appealing and to keep the most important secrets to themselves. They might also be bribed by those they get the information from to not sell it. Thus, the only way we can get reliable information is if we bring him here and interrogate him. Charlie." He pointed towards Charles. "You'll be leading the capture attempt. Josh, Dolly and Dave will follow you. You leave the hotel at midnight through the backdoor, which the staff will 'forget' to lock. Sneak through the alleys to Mangul's place, it's a basement beneath the night club 'Flip'. Understood?"
He made sure that everyone had nodded or mumbled a 'yes, sir' before he dismissed them.
Charles woke up 12 minutes before midnight. A minute later, the whole team was in the room, putting on their M7 Body Armor suits. They dressed quietly, even though it wasn't really necessary. 2 minutes before midnight, they were all fully dressed in M7 armor and wielding M7A SMGs with silencers and laser sights attached.
They used the emergency stairway to get to the lower level. They approached the back door, which was indeed open. Charles took point into the alley, moving fast but stealthily. For several minutes they moved through various maze-like alleys, until the path suddenly ended, leading to the open street. To his right, Charles saw the night club. There were still people inside, judging from the sound of glass and someone singing, but they appeared busy. Unlike the two Brute guards standing in front of the basement entrance. They wore black armor, what Charles guessed was their equivalent of black suits. They stood on alert, ready for anything that approached.
Charles signed to the others to pick their targets. After he had picked a target himself, he gave the signal to fire. Bursts from four rifles were enough to penetrate the guards' armor and send them to the ground, but silent enough to not get any attention from the people inside the club. They moved to the entrance, checking the guards to make sure they were dead.
When they were sure no one watched them and that the guards were dead, he kicked in the door.
0019 HOURS, MARS 19, 2584 (MILITARY CALENDAR)/LAMBDA TAU SYSTEM, TAU CITY CENTER, PLANET TAU II
Charles scanned the room. Directly opposite to the kicked in door, a Majoran sat behind a oak-wood desk, appearing somewhat calm judging from the fact that a human commando just killed his guards and kicked in his door. There was a moment of silence.
"So you came." The Majoran finally said.
"You knew we were coming?" Charles asked. The Majoran nodded.
"Of course I did. Remember that I not only sell information. I gather it as well. Besides, I expected humans would come for me ever since the attack on Orpheus. But before you try to drag me off, I strongly advice you don't."
"And why's that?" Josh asked, with a grim look in his face. Charles was most surprised by the fact that the Majoran had somehow figured out exactly what they were planning.
"If you take me outside the office" Mangul continued "I'd be killed within a minute. The one you're looking for wants me out of the picture. I haven't left the office in a week because of that, relying on hired help to keep me safe."
"How can you know who we're looking for?" Charles asked, suspicious but curious.
Mangul shook his head. "Isn't it obvious? The one behind the attack on Orpheus? You wouldn't come here for a different reason, now would you? Tell you what humans? I'll tell you what I know about Orpheus, and in return you protect me; a fair deal, no?"
"Our orders are to take you in for interrogation!" Josh exclaimed. "You can't weasel your way out of-"
Charles raised his hand, telling Josh to stop. "Dave, Josh, take position near the entrance, Dolly, just inside the door." All three looked as if they wanted to protest, but did as he said, taking up their positions. "Now" Charles continued "what do you know about the attack on Orpheus?"
As far as Charles could tell, Mangul looked satisfied, although it was hard to read a Majoran. "You ever heard of someone called 'Silverframe', human?"
"No" Charles replied. "Who is he?"
"As the name suggests" Mangul started "he's a Machina. A powerful one. Originally known as Silvor Mako, he was stripped of his name and banished long ago."
"What were the charges?" Charles asked.
"Rumor says he sold out some of his friends to a terrorist group. Resulted in their death. However, let us not dwell in the past. Silverframe recently formed his own renegade lineage, called the Silvor – his followers' way to honor their leader I guess – and rumor says they found a relic on one of the uncharted worlds in the region."
"The ship" Charles whispered. Mangul nodded.
Shortly after the rumors about the ship had leaked out, he bought lots of information about Orpheus, its defenses, characteristics etc. I never understood why – and still don't. Why he would attack such a world is beyond me. Maybe it's part of the deal with the Prophet of Justice, I don't-"
"WAIT!" Charles exclaimed. "The Prophet of Justice? Who is he? Did Silverframe and he strike a deal? How do you know about this?"
"One question at a time" Mangul said patiently. "Starting with the last one. The Prophet paid me to establish contact with Silverframe, sometime before the attack I think. And about your other question; the Prophet of Justice is a Prophet in the Covenant Remnants, apparently one of those running for power."
"Do you know what interest the Prophet could’ve had in Silverframe?" Charles asked, his heart beating faster out of curiosity.
"Maybe the ship." The Majoran suggested. "Or perhaps something on the ship."
"Or" Charles interrupted "Something on the ship that showed the location of other artifacts. Then he could have ordered Silverframe to attack Orpheus because of the possibility of a relic being hidden there. If our theories are correct, then-"
He was interrupted by a loud sound of an explosion. He turned around, only to see Josh fly through the entrance and into the room's far wall. Damn, Charles thought to himself. Seemed Silverframe was gonna do a permanent cleanup.
0026 HOURS, MARS 19, 2584 (MILITARY CALENDAR)/LAMBDA TAU SYSTEM, TAU CITY CENTER, PLANET TAU II
Charles raised his rifle and rushed for the entrance, only to see Dolly roll away as the wall burst apart. Through the smoke and splinters a Brute entered. The brute was huge; at least nine feet eight inches, perhaps ten feet, though it was nothing compared to how broad and muscular it was; the range between the shoulders must've been four and a half feet, and its arms were thicker than that of any brute Charles had seen before. On top of it all it wore the bronze-gold armor of a War Chieftain and carried with it a Plasma cannon that it held like a normal gun. Charles could also spot a Fuel Rod Gun and a Gravity Hammer on its back.
Without thought Charles screamed and fired his rifle. The bullets zinged off the energy shield, and the brute barely reacted at all. The Brute turned its shaved face in his direction and fired the Plasma Cannon on full automatic. Charles ducked behind Mangul's desk, but then had to jump away as the plasma round shredded the whole thing and set the splintered wood on fire.
Charles spun around and fired again, to no good. He ducked as the brute once again fired a salvo that tore giant burning holes in the wooden wall behind him. Charles rolled and tossed a Fragmentation Grenade. The brute jumped away with surprising speed judging from his size, avoiding the blast. But the explosion tore a hole in the floor and opposite wall. Loud creaks were heard over the gunfire. That gave him an idea.
"Dolly, to the entrance!" he shouted. She rolled out of the way for another plasma salvo and then rushed to the entrance. For a split second, Charles looked over towards Mangul; the frail Majoran had been split in half by the plasma fire, his blood covering the wall.
Charles rushed to the corner in front of him. There, he stood still and waited the second it took for the brute to turn and fire towards him. He rolled, the plasma burning through the wall. Charles rushed for the entrance, tossing a grenade into the fourth corner. A few plasma bolts hit him in the back, but the energy shield protected him. He rushed through the opening as the sound of cracking and breaking wood became louder. He looked the Brute into the eye for a split second. The eyes told him: This is not over.
The walls of the basement crumbled, with the floor above falling in. The Brute seemed to try to hold the falling debris up, but then he fell to the floor, shortly followed by bits of wood, metal and plastic. For several minutes there was silence. Dolly was the first to break the silence.
"NO!" She was crying, covering her face in her palms. "Dave, Josh."
Charles was just frozen. Just a few minutes ago, he had seen Josh fly through the entrance. It seemed to have been a lifetime ago. And now, he saw Dave's remains on the ground in front of him, over a dozen holes in his suit, with burned flesh underneath. He felt guilty, as if he had sent them to their death. Maybe he had. He had ordered them to guard outside the building instead of doing what he was ordered to.
Then he woke to life; he still had a job to do. He couldn't let their sacrifice be in vain. The situation wouldn't change no matter how guilty he felt. He clapped Dolly on her shoulder. She lifted her face out of her hands and stared at him.
"Let's go" he whispered. "We need to report this to Jack." She looked back at the collapsed building and at Dave's mauled corpse, then turned around and walked back into the alleyway. Charles followed.
A few minutes after they left an armored paw rose out of the wreckage. Soon after, the whole Brute pushed away everything weighing down on his back. He stood up on his legs, growling at the pain and pushing off dust from his armor.
Karackalus gave off an angry roar. He was the best enforcer and bounty hunter in the entire region. He wasn't supposed to fail. And yet he had. Silverframe wouldn't be happy with him. But despite this, he grudgingly admitted that there was nothing more he could do tonight; he was in pain and had suffered injuries. He would need to recover. But then, he would strike hard. So hard that those humans would be too mauled to be reborn in hell.
MARS 19, 2584, 8th CYCLE, 12th DIGIT (FORERUNNER CALENDAR)/ASCENDING EXECUTOR SYSTEM, PLANET VORLAK
Silverframe overwatched his subordinates on the ground a hundred meters below him through the ship's cameras. They were keeping up with schedule. Carrying the containers to the gravity lift and leading the human prisoners to their selected work camps had taken less time than he thought. He guessed everyone was in good spirit because they had found another key. But then, so was he.
With all the material the Prophet of Justice provided in return for the slaves, they would be able to build more structures at their outposts. With luck, they would soon be able to connect some of the outposts into settlements. And then, when they had taken what was behind the gate, their power would expand enough to either force the Machina Federation to recognize them and have them join, or to establish full colonies and carve out their own empire.
In the end, they would not side with the Remnants or the Prophet of Justice unless necessary. Silverframe had even played with the thought of using the relics he would find to destroy the Remnant permanently, earning the favor and a special place in the Alliance of United Races.
But for now, he needed the Prophet's help, seeing as none of the AUR factions would accept what he was doing. Had he explained what was at stake to them, they would claim it for themselves. Silverframe couldn't allow that. His people needed that power more than the others, they deserved it. They had all suffered the hardships of life. They would have to be repaid somehow. The caches of Forerunner relics seemed a fitting payment. Not that the other races would understand.
He had led his people, he had raised them. To them, he was the father they never had, the leader they looked up to for guidance. He couldn't fail them. He had to succeed. No Prophets, Humans, Sangheili, nothing, would stop him.
Team Bravo investigated the Border Region, managing to get some information from the information broker. However, the broker and two of them were killed by a rampaging Jiralhanae. Only managed to defeat him by making half a night club fall on top of the bastard. It's evident that the one attacking Orpheus didn't like the thought of us finding out.
Bravo learned that the one behind the attack was a rogue Machina called Silverframe, or Silvor Gaust, and a rogue lineage that he formed. Apparently he set up bases in the uncharted worlds and then found the ship. They also suspect that Silverframe might be working on the behalf of the Prophet of Justice, one of the Prophets in the Covenant Remnants struggling for the leadership title, probably to find Forerunner relics for them. You ask me, it sounds more plausible than anything else.
Given what they’ve been through, I decided to have a Stealth Frigate, the UNSC River Dance pick them up and take them back to UNSC space. But don't worry; I also ordered the Prowler Duce to carry Delta Team into the region to investigate the uncharted worlds. Hopefully, they'll find Silverframe's bases and get some information about where the ship is.
As always, keep me updated on everything that happens on your end.
//press ENTER to continue//
Don't be too easy on your subordinates, FALCON. They're supposed to deal with losing comrades. But, I suppose it's not my thing to decide. Just don't screw anything up just because you think somebody deserves a vacation.
Nothing much on my end. The politicians are mad, but that's nothing new. Rumors about Orpheus have gotten out into the public, not surprising, things like that do eventually. Hope you can deal with this soon, I want this to be over with as soon as possible.
Because you're my pal, I'll give you a word of caution; Achilles Ponton, some big shot in ONI, have been given tactical command of the operation to stop Silverframe, and he isn't as lenient as you are. The guy doesn't like failures. So, you fail to produce results, he'll have you removed.
Hope to hear from you soon.
//press ENTER to continue//
EIGHTH CYCLE, 12 UNITS (COVENANT CALENDAR)/SYSTEM TAU, OUTSKIRTS OF TAU CITY, PLANET TAU II
Karackalus woke up and stepped out of the medical station. Finally, his aches were gone, and his injuries healed. He had spent several days in it in order to recover. Apparently, his back had been fractured and several of his organs had suffered from internal bleeding. But now it was healed.
Now it was time to plan his vengeance. Not just because of his hurt pride, but also because Silverframe would want some kind of retribution in return of losing the Majoran information broker and humans with information survive. This time, he would have to be more cautious.
"Are you alright, Chieftain?" Karackalus turned to see a Jiralhanae Captain in turquoise armor looking at him. It seemed as if the Captain had stood watch for some time.
"I am" he replied. "But my pride is hurt. I will need to reclaim it."
"While you were recovering" the captain, Maurlus, started "Me and the rest of the pack tried to locate the humans. One of the information brokers have spilled that the humans will be shipped off-world in a human Stealth Frigate late tomorrow night." His pack knew almost too well of what he would want them to do, even if he didn’t order them. He chuckled a little and placed his paw on his captain's shoulder.
"Impressive work as always, Maurlus." Karackalus said with a smug grin. Maurlus returned with a curt nod. Karackalus walked through the exit from the medical bay and out into the corridor of his lair.
After defecting from the Jiralhanae Alliance to seek fortune in the Border Region, Karackalus and his pack had managed to assemble an outpost in the outskirts of the main settlement, protecting the battlecruiser they had arrived in. The ship hadn't been used in some time, as the pack's business had been largely limited to the planet and to the main settlement itself, but the Huragok that they had managed to obtain before defecting was constantly keeping it in shape and clean. It was a good thing, because Karackalus had a feeling that he would need it soon to take his well-deserved vengeance.
He entered the base's barracks, and all pack members inside stood up in attention as he entered. He looked over them; perhaps not the finest force out in the galaxy, but he was proud of every single one of them.
"Are you hungry?" He growled. The pack roared in approval.
"Then be glad" he continued, grinning wider than ever "Tomorrow night, we feast on human flesh!"
2320 HOURS, MARS 23, 2584 (MILITARY CALENDAR)/LAMBDA TAU SYSTEM, TAU MAIN ROAD, PLANET TAU II
The two troop transport Warthogs sped over the cement road as the sun's last rays disappeared and left the area in complete darkness, except for the lights from the two vehicles. It was just enough space for all members of the team, which caused them to remember that they had lost two members. Ever since he and Dolly had returned to the base and told the others about what happened, Charles had received angry looks from many of the others, including Rod and Simon. He couldn't blame them. He had put the Majoran's safety before Dave and Josh's. Jack had insisted that it wasn't anybody's fault and that Charles had done the right thing. It didn't change Charles' feeling of guilt, Rod and Simon's hatred against him or Dolly's continued silence.
She had barely said or did anything after that night. The others had been forced to force her to drink and eat, through more or less violent means at times. She still appeared pale and had bags under her eyes, implying she hadn't slept much or at all.
Apparently command suspected they had been horribly shaken, because they had announced that a Stealth frigate, the River Dance, would pick them up outside the city and bring them back to UNSC space, while another team would scour the uncharted worlds in the area to look for Silverframe's bases. He just wished that the new team didn't experience the same things Bravo had gone through in the area.
He was knocked out of his thoughts as he looked out over the dark fields. He could have sworn that he heard something like a vehicle out there. It appeared that he wasn't hallucinating, because the others in the transport compartment had reacted the same way. Charles tried to listen harder, and now he heard the distant sound of one, no several vehicles moving through the fields on the left side of the road. But what was most disturbing was that the sounds got closer.
"Jack!" Charles shouted over the roars of the warthog's engines. "We're being followed."
"I know" Jack replied, focusing on his driving. If they were indeed followed by enemy vehicles, they would be in trouble. The Troop Transport Warthog was only meant for transporting soldiers, it didn't have a turret for defense like the normal warthog did. They would have to rely on their own weapons, and they didn't have much in the way of anti-vehicle arsenal.
Charles picked up a sniper and pointed it towards the origin of the sounds. He zoomed as much as possible, but still couldn't spot anything clearly. He activated the sniper's night-vision mode, and now Charles clearly saw five one-wheeled plow/bike-like vehicles move for the road.
"Choppers" Charles said. "Five of them, moving towards us."
"Brutes again?" Barney, the team's close quarters expert asked.
"John" Jack exclaimed while moving the warthog faster "call the River Dance, tell them to send us backup fast, or we're toast."
John did as asked, while Charles handed over the sniper rifle to the team's sniper expert, Victoria. She aimed for several seconds while the Choppers got closer and closer. Then she fired, and Charles could barely make out something falling out of a Chopper and guessed it was one of the brutes. But now the Choppers were close enough to fire their own weapons.
The 35mm Autocannon rounds from the choppers painted the road, tearing holes in the cement. Charles ducked as one round passed just above his head. Several more rounds came dangerously close to the warthog. Charles picked up a Battle Rifle from underneath his chair and fired towards their closest pursuer, but knew that it was useless, since it was too dark for him to make out the brutes from their vehicles. He emptied his magazine on the chopper, to little or no effect.
Suddenly another round from the Chopper tore off a large chunk of the back left section, including the wheel. The car spun around and out of control. He could see Jack trying to get it stable again, but then it drove over a rock and tipped over.
Charles' vision was getting dark, but he ignored it, putting everything he had into remaining conscious. He loosed himself from the seat and fell to the ground. He could see the others, except for Jack, do the same. While the others crawled away from the warthog, Charles noticed that Jack was stuck. He prepared to help him when Jack held his hand in a stop motion.
"I can take care of myself" he said "get out of this thing before-"
But he never heard the rest of the sentence. At that moment, the warthog's front compartment was crushed. Blood spattered from the wreckage onto Charles' face, and part of an arm flew clean off. He turned around and saw a Chopper. That brute was responsible for the death of their leader.
Filled with rage, sadness and panic at the same time, he finally blacked out completely.