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|Halo: Fragile Peace|
|Final Peace (M).jpg|
|Author's Rating||M for Violence, Blood, Mild Language|
|Next Story||Halo: Shattering Trust|
Months after the Prophet of Truth was killed and the Human-Covenant War ended, the Humans and the Sangheili struggle through their uncomfortable alliance. Though the Sangheili, dubbed Elites by the Humans, have aided them in the waning days of the war, a chasm of anger, suspicion, and the urge of retaliation still hangs between them, for the Sangheili had aided the Covenant kill billions of Humans, and the latter of millions. Although the UNSC wants the keep the peace and strengthen the alliance, HIGHCOM has decided to take it slow for the sake of the public and to further observe the Sangheili. ONI operative Lieutenant Commander Reagan Torch has been dispatched to Sanghelios in a civilian transport under the guise of a diplomat to seal the truce but with the true intension the spy on them.
0545 Hours September 13, 2553 (Military Calendar - Earth Time) 0620/2000 Pavilion Time
Mount Horizon, Pavilion, Delta Pavonis System
Lt. Commander Torch jogged alongside Second Lieutenant Dowl as they trekked through small strip of land at the edge of the foot of Mount Horizon with Dowl's platoon and Token's local militia. The sun was rising and the sky was beautifully streaked with purple and red. “Didn’t you grow up here?"
The Lieutenant started at him, surprised. Torch hadn't spoken the whole time since they left Token's borders. "Yes sir, but I was sent off world to Sol for escape the Covenant when I was nine." He sighed. "Feels strange to be back from the cities of Earth."
Torch moved up along a path so worn down it can be barely seen. He stopped short and said softly under his breath, "I know your family is loyal to the UNSC. I'm sure they have nothing to do with this insurrection."
"Thank you sir," replied Dowl, although not at all reassured.
The Marines approached a small valley with a small stream running through it. The jagged rocks on the other side of the valley looked ideal for a trap and Torch pointed it out to everyone. Torch unslung his MA5E and Dowl did the same with his BR55HB and scanned the mountain range through the Trijicon scope and after a while, lowered the rifle. "Clear."
Torch slid down halfway down the granite of the inside of the valley. He looked behind him. Dowl's men followed closely. Police Sergeant Opaka however, a large well built constable and the leader of the militia force just stood there, with the militiamen behind him, not moving.
"What are you waiting for?" No answer. They were just standing there.
A shot rung through the air as a sniper on the other side of the valley picked off a private. Dowl dove for a small cluster of rocks. "Take cover!"
Torch hit the ground as a shot passed where his head was. Dowl's entire platoon opened fire and the mountain side on the other side exploded and rubble rained down a upon the green valley floor as the assault and battle rifles loaded with custom HE rounds battered at the rocks. But it seems as if there were a hundred snipers on the other side. Shots with flying in all directions and in less than five minutes, only sixteen of the forty-two man platoon was still combat effective. A corporal dragged a limp, bloody Marine to a corpsman taking cover near Torch. Torch broke cover and sprinted over to the corpsman and helped her spray the Marine with biofoam and patch his wounds.
Dowl, as his Battle Rifle clacked empty, threw it on the ground and shouted to Torch a few meters away, "Damn cowards. The militia ran. They sealed the entrance and therefore, our exit."
Torch turned to look at the narrow passage way, or where it used to be. The rocks above it collapsed and black burnt marks shows that it has been caused by pre-planted explosives. "They were never on our side," forced to face the truth, Torch swore and barked commands on the team channel, "It's a trap! Fall back towards the exit. Dowl, get your men to blow our way out."
"Yessir! Haley, Winnit, get to it! The rest of you, cover them."
As the Marines scrambled for the rocks, the snipers easily picked them off. Along with four other Marines, Winnit hit the ground and rolled back down the mountainside with a bloody hole in his helmet, with shattered pieces of bone and brain jutting out. Haley let off a burst at the snipers. "Sir, Winnit had the explosives!"
Dowl swore loudly through the team channel. "Change of plans. Take cover."
"Try to contact the Iowa, and call an airstrike on that mountain," Torch shouted over the gunfire and screams.
"But sir, there's a village over the mountains, hitting the mountain would bring rocks down on it."
"There’re also a couple of sharpshooters trying to kill us over there. Just do it." Torch dove behind a rock as two sniper bullets pinged off of the mountain rock. He pressed a switch on the side of his helmet and spoke loudly through it. His words were magnified by the voice amplification device and the sound waves bounced off the the sides of the mountain. "This is ONI Agent Codename: Alpha-Jumper Actual. Those in the village near the mountains, please evacuate. I repeat, please evacuate. An airstrike would be hitting the mountains now. Please evacuate immediately."
The sniper fire paused for a few seconds, and thinking it was the trick, the snipers continued the merciless barrage against the mountainside. Torch took advantage of the short ceasefire to dash to Dowls position and placed his rifle down, exhausted. He whispered, aware of the mountain's ability to transmit what ever he says to the enemies on the other side of the valley, "How's it going? Do you have them through?"
"Yes sir. They're asking what in the hell were you thinking."
"Have a Shortsword-bomber intimidate them. Scare'em a bit. Just make sure it stays out of their firing range."
"What about the airstrike?"
"There isn't going to be an airstrike." A scream broke through the air as another Marine got hit. The corpsman ran over to him and started executing medical procedures.
Dowl, confused, hissed, "What do you mean? There is no time for jokes. Our men are dying here!"
"You saw how the stopped firing back there. They're worried. If they see and hear our aircraft, they're gonna believe it. They'll run and the Shortsword will take out the barrier." Torch said as he pick up his weapon and let loose the rest of his clip to where he thought a sniper was. Dowl was speaking so quickly and quietly into the microphone attached to his helmet, Torch doubted that whoever was on the other line would understand little more than a basic idea of what he was saying. His suspicion was confirmed as Dowl started to get frustrated and forced himself to speak slower and clearer. Finally, Dowl turned to Torch and gave a grim thumbs up. "Okay, everyone, fall back to the larger rocks and take cover whatever happens, don't move until I say so."
The Marines once again moved and dragged and carried the injured with them. As Dowl broke cover and made a run for the rocks, a round went between his shoulders and he fell to the ground, belly down. A corporal attempted to get him to safety as a second shot penetrated Dowl's helmet, shattering the faceplate and splattering brains and gore onto the corporal. The corporal pulled away in disgust and ran to rejoin the others.
The eight active Marines pressed their backs against the rocks and clutched their rifles. Nothing but the sound of sniper rounds hitting the hard rock and the tortured yells of the wounded and dying had filled the air for what seemed like hours. Torch felt the sun against his cheek and checking his digital time display: 06:49.
Soon enough, the all reassuring sound of a Pelican roared in Torch's ear as he sighed in relief. Its gray hull gleamed in the mourning sun and it hovered about three hundred meters from the Marine's locations. The sharpshooters diverted their attentions and fired off at the gunship but the bullets bounced off an inch before it hit the metal exterior. The Marines stared in awe at the Pelican as it let loose a stream of projectiles from its 80mm chaingun and shattered the rocks where the snipers were hiding. Screams of terror produced from the other side of the mountain as the terrorists fled. Torch, however, was not happy. He frowned and gave an order to the radioman, "Contact Captain Ranshad. Patch him through immediately."
The Pelican stayed hovering in the sky and a two bulkier Pelican landed on the valley floor. The survivors scrambled clumsily, tiredly, and gladly towards the Pelicans. Two Army corpsmen jumped out of one and ran towards the group. Torch reached the Pelicans last and as it was about to take off, he spoke quietly to the radioman, "I still want contact with the Captain. Make it quick."
"Yessir." The Marine started fumbling with knobs on a small transceiver. Torch took off his filth-covered helmet and set it down besides him. A sound of a distance Albatross flying nearby rang through the thick interior of the Pelican, possibly carrying reinforcements to clear the area and collect the bodies. The newly emerged sound of radio static could barely be heard over the roar. The radioman shouted, "Ranshad on the other side sir."
Torch picked his way through the crowd of Marines and approached radioman who offered the phone connected to the radio to him. He snatched it out of the radioman's hand and spoke into it, "This is Alpha-Jumper Actual. Is this Captain Ranshad?"
Feedback screeched across the line. The answer was faint. The radioman readjusted the signal and a voice filled the inside of the Pelican. "Yes, this is Ranshad. Lieutenant Commander Torch, I assume you saw the new D77-ASG Pelican (Epsilon). It's a new prototype, right outta the factories. Made from tech the Elites gave us. Also has the Hornet's VTOL ability."
"What the hell were you thinking?" Torch demanded.
"Lose the tone Lieutenant, or I'll report insubordination." A small chuckle was heard from Ranshad.
Torch looked like he could have flown the Pelican into the bridge where Ranshad was currently in. "I am not joking. You could have destroyed the entire village on the other side. That was not the aid I requested."
The radio signal jumped to Torch's helmet HUD. A private tossed it over to Torch and he placed the sound-proof helmet on and Ranshad's tone turned serious, "I had orders directly from HIGHCOM to extract you as soon as possible. You are being redeployed. But I am to get you to the ONI orbital station near Eros. Much of this is blacked out. Something about a diplomatic for the Elites."
"This discussion is not over. We'll continue after I give a report on the mission." Torch closed the connection and was silent for the rest of the ride.
After sending the two thousand word report with media attachments from helmet recorders to ONI and FLEETCOM, Torch rose from the terminal and left his private quarters for the bridge. "Time for that talk with the puppet." He thought outloud. A passing technician eyed him suspiciously and then saw the ONI pin on his dress uniform.
Torch reached the bridge access and showed his identification card to the guard and scanned it on a pad by the door. It slid open and Torch walked in, looking around for the captain. The bright lights and screens contrasted greatly against the dull metal of the bridge. Torch found Captain Ranshad looking over the shoulder of communications officer. He walked up to Ranshad and saluted, who returned the salute.
"At ease Lieutenant Commander." Ranshad took one last look at the comms screen before turning his attention to Torch. "I would assume you would like to further discuss my orders for the gunship?"
"Yessir." Torch said as Ranshad slid a pair of magnetically attached seat to where Torch was standing. The two officers sat and Torch eyed the Captain. "Sir, I would like to know why you almost killed an entire village population."
Ranshad leaned close to Torch and whispered in his ear, "You were requested by FLEETCOM on an operation on Sanghelios."
"That could have waited." Torch said quietly.
"Our terms with the Elites is a higher priority than the allegience of a single colony."
"How could the UNSC survive if it cares more about what others think of them than their own people."
Ranshad banged his closed fist on the armrest. "The Elites nearly killed us during the war!" he roared. The crew turned their attention to the arguement playing between them. "Come with me." Ranshad said less loudly.
Torch followed him without response to the captain's private quarters. Ranshad checked if anyone was listening in and spoke just as Torch was about to. "You of everyone should understand this hellbent situation. You're ONI."
"I'm not like some of the others. I was an Army trooper once you know. I'm not a lifeless, loyalty obsessed agents you might be referencing. Not everyone is like that you know." Torch pointed out.
"I guess that's why they chose you for the mission." Ranshad exited the room, leaving Torch inside.
After waiting five minutes, Torch returned to his own room and layed down on his bed. He thought of the anti-insurrection op from earlier that day. He thought of the snipers, the Marines, death itself. He had been on five other anti-innie missions over the course of the past few months, none of them had been as bad as this. Torch had thought he long understood the nature of life, of war, and of human nature. He was wrong.
2000 Hours September 21, 2556 (Military Calendar - Earth Time)
Briefing Room 7, ONI/FLEETCOM Station, Sol System
The Army lieutenant cross-checked Torch's identity on his datapad and then nodded. The other guard lowered his MA5E and punched a fifteen digit code into a keypad and the unusually thin soundproof door slid open. The lieutenant gestured in and followed Torch in. The doors slid close and he stood by the door while Torch walked over to the large conference table in the middle of the room. Seven men and women already sat at the table. Torch saluted to the pair at the other end of the table. The man stood up and returned it then sat down. "At ease."
Torch took a chair beside an aged female who bore the rank of a Lt. General. The man who greeted him with a salute stood back up and opened the meeting, "Ladies, gentlemen. Today, is a very important day, full of decisions that would change the future of not only the UNSC but human-kind. First, I would like to remind you all that this meeting, its content, dialogue, and all other information is disclosed at a classification of level HIGHJUMPKILO. Any exposure of information in any form without the codeword is punishable by imprisonment and or death by execution. Now listen carefully. All of you," he glanced at the lieutenant who nodded. "The codeword is 'stallion fast rider for liberty'. Now, let's begin. Holly?" He sat down.
The Lt. General besides Torch opened a presentation hologram of Sanghelios in the projector on top of the table through a small terminal on the side of the table. "Thank you Lord Hood. The Council of Sanghelios has extended an olive branch towards us. They are proposing an alliance with the UNSC. They want an answer by the New Year of Earth. If yes, then we send an ambassador to Sanghelios to work everything out, which I think we should have done months ago. I suggest we take the proposal in the good of the UNSC as our primary and only proposal."
A man across from her spoke out, "Now this is just too soon, only months from when we were kickin' each other's asses. You should know that Lt. General Sanders."
"Admiral Harper, if it weren't for the Elites, we would have pretty much been screwed."
Lord Hood held up his hand and ended the exchange. "Now, I expected banter or even argument on this topic but let's keep at a friendly level here. Let's not get into a fistfight."
"Sir." The two responded. Harper sat back down as Sanders continued, "I assume you all know of the Flood." Everyone nodded and shifted uncomfortably. "Based on the Elites understanding of the Forerunners, their powerful society was overwhelmed by the Flood. We had entered the space age only a few centuries ago. And already, we had encountered the Flood and the Covenant. Who knows what would be lying in wait for us as we prosper and expand our civilization into the stars. God forbid there is something worse than the Flood out there. Waiting for us. Waiting for our fatal mistake, our screwup. A strong alliance with the Elites will give us a change, to fight back against the horrors and the cruel reality and nature of this never-ending universe. And let's use the UNSC as an example. It was created to fight a common enemy. We and the Sangheili bonded for the same reason. We have survived. I'm sure this will."
Harper growled, "This is different. Now it involves an entirely different species."
Sanders ignored him, "And more, with their superior technology they could provide us, we, the UNSC, could grow twice as fast. They had already been generous, donating sample technology to and build gunships and improve society. Imagine the technological and financial opportunities."
"A great argument. But we must consider the cons of such alliance. Who would like to speak against the alliance?" Lord Hood said with a satisfied tone.
Admiral Harper sprung up."I would sir."
The hologram of Sanghelios dissipated, replacing it was a collage of video and imagery of the Covenant, slaughtering UNSC forces and helpless civilians. Some on the people in the room looked uneasy as they recognized some of the scenes playing before them. Harper paced over to the other side of the table, and stopped between Holly and Torch. He gestured towards the bloodshed unfolding before them. "This is the Covenant. The single most ruthless empire known to humankind. And humans have known many empires: the Roman Empire, the British Empire, the Spanish Empire, the Persian Empire, the American Empire. And among the Covenant was the Elites, the so called Sangheili."
"But--" Lt. General Sanders started to protest but Harper held up his hand.
"These videos was taken during Admiral Cole's campaigns of Harvest, Great Bear, Alpha Aurigae, and many others. Also there are some from Reach, Sigma Octanus IV, Arcadia, and even one from Earth, filmed from my very own cruiser." Lt. Gen. Sanders winced as a Zealot drove his Energy Sword upwards into the ribcage of an unarmed Marine. "These are very bloody scenes that will probably never be disclosed to the public. But let's leave Epsilon 5 to that.
"As you can see, physiological trama is a deep blow to families and friends of the fatalities of war. Their grief is not cureable. It can't go away. We cannot just waived these bastards. A few months ago, my ship was blown apart. I had a friend, W.P. Sancher. Lieutenant Commander Sancher. Know Webster since fleet training. He was my first officer. He received plasma burns. By the time we reached a Bumblebee, he died in my hands. I know pain. And I was just his friend. I personally informed of it to his family, people I have know for years. Believe me, it's not time."
Hood nodded said, "As you can see, our opinions differ. We need someone to go negotiate terms and relay information back to HIGHCOM. Not only political or diplomatic, but military and things from everyday lives. We need to learn about the Sangheili. They are a very militaristic species. We need to know every aspect of an average Sangheili's wife."