November 2552, Unknown Location.
Last Known Realspace Location: Onyx.
The warm breeze and radiant sun that dots the robin egg sky betray the reality facing Dr. Catherine Elizabeth Halsey. What seems like an Elysian paradise, in all actuality, resembles that of a prison. Moments ago she, Senior Chief Petty Officer Mendez and a band of Spartan-II and III supersoliders entered a Slipspace bubble at the core of the world known as Onyx. The Forerunners, a long-vanished, highly technological alien race, had built other Shield Worlds like Onyx to protect them from succumbing to infection from the virulent Flood parasite and their own galaxy-cleansing superweapons, the Halos.
Yet that plan had failed and now Halsey and her group were visitors to a world not meant for them with no way out.
However, they were now the safest beings in the galaxy and to Halsey, that was all that mattered. She had perused into a rival’s files, discovered Onyx and lead her Spartans to this place to escape the iron hand of the Covenant war machine. Onyx, though, contained more than she could ever have anticipated. Kept from her for nearly 20 years was a new class of Spartans, the Spartan-IIIs. All of her research had gone into making them, but Colonel James Ackerson had made short-cuts. No longer were the Spartans the Herculean warriors Halsey had made them to be, but cheap, suicide soldiers meant to buy time for humanity. Had she known, Halsey would’ve raised hell at the Office of Naval Intelligence and brought the project to a halt. But not even she can turn back the clock, yet she can make up for lost time.
Halsey turned towards her ragged group and for the first time in several hectic hours evaluated who she had saved. Chief Mendez, the trainer of her Spartan-IIs and Ackerson’s Spartan-IIIs, stood by a tree talking with his newly christened lieutenant, Fred-104, one of Halsey’s Spartans. No doubt the two were discussing their plans for their extended stay in Onyx, food, shelter, the basic needs. Standing by a large rock dashed with onyx streaks were Linda-058 and Kelly-087. She could only guess their conversation, but she could guess it was more of the same. With more intrigue, she gazed at the Spartan-IIIs and could not help but feel a pang of sorrow.
Lucy, Tom and the newest class of Spartan-IIIs known as Team Saber gathered around the members of Team Katana still held in suspended animation inside Forerunner pods. They weren’t dead, but remained in a form of limbo and it obviously troubled the IIIs. The smallest of them, Lucy, placed her hand on one of the pods, soon after another III named Tom put his arm around her. They may not have been her Spartans, but their grief was all to familiar, it was silent and controlled, much like all of their actions.
“Dr. Halsey!” Fred called out.
Halsey turned to see Mendez waving her over to him and Fred. The doctor smoothed her wool skirt and walked as fast as he could over to the two. Mendez was fumbling with something in his right pocket, but both he and Fred were focused on a datapad Fred held. It was a list of all of the supplies they had managed to collect before fleeing into Onyx’s core and at first glance, it didn’t look promising and Halsey could guess where the conversation was heading.
“Since your the Forerunner expert,” Mendez grunted, “What should we be looking out for ma’am? It’d be a shame to escape from the Covenant and then die of hunger.”
“I wouldn’t worry too much about that Franklin, the Forerunners could manipulate space and time, build stars and wipe out all life in the galaxy,” Halsey said dryly, “I doubt they wouldn’t have left their own people without a full pantry. However I haven’t been in a shield world before so I might have to find several buildings with Forerunner glyphs to get my sense of this place.”
Mendez sighed, “So we’ll be living off the land for a while won’t we?”
“Well then lieutenant we better start fanning out and getting acquainted with the local fauna and flora.”
Fred nodded and shouted, “Spartans, span out and look for anything that looks edible and check for structures. Regroup back her at camp in two hours. We don’t need people getting lost here. Understood?”
Both generations of Spartans, except for Lucy who winked a green acknowledgment light on Fred’s HUD, replied in the affirmative and broke up into squads. Fred, Linda and Kelly formed Blue-1, the IIIs Ash, Mark and Olivia formed Blue-2 and Tom and Lucy formed Blue-3. That only left Halsey and Mendez as their own unofficial group.
“Are you good to walk ma’am?” Mendez asked.
“Yes, let’s take a look at what the Forerunners have gone to all this trouble to hide, shall we Chief?” Halsey replied.
Let’s see what you have left to hide too, Mendez, Halsey thought.