Imperial II-class Star Destroyer Indomitable

Endor, Moddell Sector

KLA-09 hadn't been able to pry the grimace off of her face ever since she and her two squads of Stormtroopers had arrived at their assigned battlestation following the "Prepare to repel boarders," command that had passed through the Indomitable via message runners.

It was a kriffing poodoo-pile of a defensive position, and every one of her nineteen troopers knew it.

There wasn't a damn bit of cover within the entire fifty-meter long corridor, save for a sharp turn in the passageway that created a small corner to duck behind right before the closed blast door that sealed them off from the rest of the deck. KLA-09 had positioned her E-Web team and her medic behind the corner cover, but she and the rest of her troopers were very much out in the open.

"I don't like this…" one of her men said, a Sergeant designated JH-2736.

"Doesn't matter if we like it or not," KLA-09 replied, "We have our orders."

"Yes Lieutenant," JH-2736 said.

KLA-09 took a deep breath to help steady her nerves. In truth, she didn't like it either. An unknown alien force had launched EVA boarding parties at the disabled Indomitable for unknown reasons. She tried to think of who could be operating in such a secluded, remote part of the galaxy but her mind came up blank. Rebels? No, Captain Bkaara's orders had said to expect alien attackers. He would have recognized Rebels.

They had been tasked by the Captain with defending a section of corridor within the 'topmost' deck of their Star Destroyer. Hers was just two of dozens of other Stormtrooper squads deployed throughout the deck directly beneath the outer hull of the Indomitable that the incoming boarders were set to land on.

The second round of message runners had delivered the information that the enemy boarding force was visually estimated to be between 600 and 1200 attackers. KLA-09 questioned that too — did these aliens really think that they could batter down 9700 Stormtroopers to take the ship for themselves? She scoffed at that though, daring them to try. If they wanted a taste of the resolve of the Galactic Empire's Stormtrooper Corps, she would be sure to give it to them.

Main power was still out throughout the ship, including the artificial gravity. Taking advantage of the situation, KLA-09 had some of her troopers affixed via their magboots to the walls and ceilings of the corridor as well as the floor deck. The entire hallway was bathed in nothing but emergency red lighting strips.

Ship power wasn't the only thing that was offline — their suits were also operating on nothing except for basic life support. It was stuffy inside of KLA-09's helmet without the environmental controls running, and they didn't even have helmet or weapon lights to help illuminate the corridor they were supposed to be defending. It would get bright enough if blaster bolts started flying, the Stormtrooper Lieutenant mused.

There was a clang above them, further down the corridor.. KLA-09's eyes went wide, her breath catching in her throat. Several more followed, seemingly directly above them, penetrating the pronounced silence. Her troopers perked up, looking towards the ceiling and tightening the grips on their E-11 blaster rifles.

"Keep it tight troopers," KLA-09 said, trying to put some calming reassurance behind her words. "Maintain your lanes of fire."

The clanging above increased in volume. She could hear the individual steps of boarders — enemy aliens — moving around the outer hull directly above them. She could feel her heart rate spike when the clanging stopped, only to be replaced by jets of fire searing through the hull twenty-five meters down from her squads's position. The boarders were cutting their way through the Indomitable's outer armored hull. It would take them a while, but it made their intentions clear. They were here for hostile intentions.

"Steady," KLA-09 said, "Steady troopers. We are the men and women of the Empire's Stormtrooper Corps. What do we do when the enemy comes calling?"

The response from her squads echoed throughout the dimly lit corridor. "We blast them to hell!"

"Kriffing right we do!" she shouted back. KLA-09 wished she felt nothing but the aggressive bravado the saying implied, but in truth, she was afraid.

She feared the fact that unknown contacts would be coming through the ceiling in a few short moments. She feared the fact that her two squads were more or less trapped in this corridor, with blast doors shielded shut on either end. She feared the fact that their comlinks were down, meaning they wouldn't be able to report their situation or request assistance from nearby squads.

Most of all, as she watched increasing streams of sparks and jets of hot fire penetrate into the corridor, she feared what kind of weaponry these boarders possessed if they had equipment that could cut through the armored plating of the Imperial Navy's most powerful ship-of-the-line.

"HG-5445, PO-7819, prep thermal dets," KLA-09 ordered. "Throw them towards the breaches when they open on my mark — remember, flat trajectories. Push, don't throw."

"Yes ma'am," the two troopers said, withdrawing one thermal detonator each from their equipment belts.

"LP-7777, MN-8330, keep that E-Web blasting when I give the word. Hose down the entire corridor," the Stormtrooper Lieutenant said next.


There was nothing to do now but wait, while the hostile contacts burrowed their way through the hull of the Star Destroyer. KLA-09 flexed her gloved hands on the grip of her E-11, sweating profusely within her armor. A minute ticked by, then two, as the twenty Stormtroopers watched with bated breath while the cutting torch worked its wide, lazy circle.

Silence filled the corridor as the cutting torch suddenly stopped. The air evacuated rapidly between the seams as the new exposure to vacuum tore away at the corridor's atmosphere, taking the sound with it. The section of hull that had been cut away was pushed down into the corridor, the heavy chunk of metal - seared and molten on the sides - being pushed down by forces above.

HG-5445 and PO-7819 pushed their thermal detonators towards the new hole in the ceiling, the grenades floating in flat trajectories in the zero-G. They were on mechanical timers instead of contact detonation, and KLA-09 only got the briefest glimpse of limbs climbing through the hole before the detonators silently exploded, enveloping the descending forms in fire before she could get a good look at them.

Twenty tense seconds passed. There was no movement from above - had the aliens all been killed by the thermal detonators? KLA-09 doubted that, but maybe they had become disoriented by the blasts, or dissuaded from continuing their assault into the ship? She stepped forwards through the formation, her feet feeling sticky with the magnets on her boots keeping her anchored to the deck, and tapped on the shoulder of Sergeant JH-2736. She held up three fingers, then waved them towards the breach. Take three. Investigate.

The Sergeant nodded, pointing to two Troopers in the formation and motioning for them to follow him. Before he could take a step forward, KLA-09 tapped him again, then laid a flat palm on his chestplate. Careful.

JH-2736 gave a thumbs up. Slowly, he and two other Troopers advanced down the corridor towards the breach, E-11's raised. The Sergeant gave a quick series of motions, and one Trooper took to the left wall, while the other inverted himself in the null gravity and attached himself to the ceiling. The Sergeant waved a halt a few feet away, and then had the trio advance quickly to positions where they could just barely peer through the breach.

Several things happened in quick succession.

The Trooper on the wall acquired a target and fired a flurry of blaster bolts through the breach. Near simultaneously, a line of sapphire blue globs shot back from the other direction and stitched into the man, boiling and burning through his plasteel plating. His blaster floated in place as his body went limp, his chest, arms, and head smoking and bubbling.

The head and arms of a creature poked through, a grey weapon with pink spiked sticking out grasped in one hand. Sergeant JH-2736 raked the thing with blasterfire, but not before it got off a stream of pink projectiles that curved through the air into the Trooper on the ceiling's chest. As the creature's head smoldered with blaster burns, each of the pink projectiles knifed deep into their target's chest.

The Trooper exploded in a burst of pink shards and bloody red mist. His chest popped open like a bursting balloon, coating the area in 360 degrees with gore, reaching as far back as the rest of the Stormtroopers holding several meters away.

A smear of blood splattered across KLA-09's visor, and as she instinctively reached up to wipe it away with her glove she saw a glowing blue orb thrown down towards Sergeant JH-2763. It adhered isself to the end of his E-11, and not a second too soon the Sergeant threw the blaster upwards back towards the breach, where it exploded in purple-blue fire.

JH-2763 threw himself back towards his comrades, deactivating his magboots and flying back, when several more blue orbs fell through the breach behind him. They detonated in a second, scorching and cratering the deck where they had fell — then the enemy was upon them.

Squat, bipedal creatures in vac-suits, with large tanks of breathable gas on their backs. Six of them came through the breach, each holding a weapon in thick, clawed hands. KLA-09 didn't recognize them, her mind sorting through dozens upon dozens of species profiles that had been drilled into her during Academy in a second.

She was the first to open fire. A trio of well-aimed blaster bolts impacted on one of the descending alien's chest, burning through its vac-suit and into the flesh underneath. Whether through sudden vacuum exposure or blaster wounds, the alien went limp, pink needle weapon floating away from its hand.

The rest of her Stormtroopers followed suit, the corridor suddenly filling with ruby red of two squad's worth of small arms fire. The five other aliens crumpled against the barrage, but KLA-09 noted with alarm that twice as many of the things had crawled through the breach behind them.

Bright flashes beside her signaled the E-Web opening up, the heavy weapon tearing off alien limbs and puncturing clean through bodies and heads with each rapid-fire round. The corpses of the new hostiles started littering the space of the corridor, but more and more kept coming, and some started surviving long enough to return fire.

Green globs of bubbling energy started striking the front ranks of Stormtroopers holding the line. One was hit square in the helmet, his body twitching as his central nervous system boiled away. Another Trooper had a glob hit him in the hands, melting them and his E-11 into a smoking mess. The woman's screams were kept silent within her helmet, silenced soon as more incoming fire splashed across the rest of her.

A track of pink needles came towards a Trooper who had positioned himself on the left wall in a crouch. Thinking fast, the man shot off the wall towards the opposite side of the corridor, but the projectiles curved after him. They pierced into his body in a ladder-type fashion, and while they didn't explode like they did with the other Trooper, but the needle that pierced his heart killed him all the same.

KLA-09 had lost five Troopers within fifteen seconds, and more of these aliens kept streaming through the hole in the Indomitable's hull. The abject lack of cover in the kriffing corridor was going to kill them all. She had just snapped a thermal detonator off her belt to toss downrange when she felt an iron vice grip on the same arm, by the wrist. She gasped in surprise, head snapping around — and her face turned white.

There was another alien peering at her, face hidden behind a thin slit of a clear visor. It was two or three meters taller than her, a long neck - like a Kaminoans, yet much thicker - craning down to look at her. An environmental suit covered its body, thick white armor plating trimmed with purple above a hexagonal black bodysuit. Reptilian eyes glanced at her orange shoulder pauldron, then swatted the thermal detonator and the E-11 she tried to swing around out of her hands as if they were toys. The iron grip clamped down around her neck, lifted her effortlessly off of her magnetic lock on the ground, then threw her with immense force backwards into the wall of the corridor.

KLA-09 hit the wall flat and hard, the air rushing out of her lungs and darkness clouding around her vision. She saw more of the new aliens, four in similar armor, colored blue, sweep through the rear of her squads. Each was holding a twin-bladed sword in a three-fingered hand - wide and curved near the horizontal hilt, tapering to thin points - the weapons sizzling with light and energy.

The Lieutenant's thoughts were cloudy with the sudden pain and lack of oxygen from being flung into the wall, but two words immediately sprang to the forefront of her mind. Lightsaber. Jedi.

The four blue-armored aliens carved through her Troopers with alarming speed and grace, even in the zero gravity. In some kind of macabre dance they swung and thrust their blades with practiced precision, severing limbs, separating heads from necks, piercing through chests, or even cutting through entire torsos with ease. There was no blood, the blades must have instantly cauterized the wounds, and KLA-09 would have screamed in desperation watching her men and women being butchered if her lungs weren't still trying to suck in air from her suit's supply.

It was over quickly. The corridor grew dim again as the light of small-arms fire ceased. KLA-09's neck pulsed from where she had been held and thrown, her head throbbed with violent intensity, and she felt a sharp knife of pain in her chest each time she took a shaky breath, a broken rib or two, likely. In her peripherals she could see the blast door behind them, a neat rectangular section carved out. They had come in behind us while we were busy up front. She chided herself for not checking their rear - a fatal mistake which had cost her the lives of her squads, and hers soon, she was sure.

The white-armored alien came back into her field of vision. His helmet flared upwards at the back, two sharp wings split down the middle. Decorative? Comms gear within? It reminded KLA-09 of the swords that had sliced through her alien looked through the carnage in the corridor with impassive body language, corpses floating in zero-G or still clamped to the deck with magboots. It circled an arm, getting the attention of its four blue-armored comrades. It pointed in succession towards six of her Troopers, remarkably more intact than the others around them, who had been disarmed and thrown into ceilings or against walls just like KLA-09 had.

The aliens moved quickly, pulling the arms of her Troopers behind their backs and affixing pairs of pulsing blue wrist restraints to them. In her foggy state she just now realized that these Troopers were still alive, watching some of them struggle against their assailants. It was to no avail, these tall, imposing creatures were obviously much stronger than they were.

The white-armored alien stepped up to her, and KLA-09 tried to go for the vibroblade at her belt. The alien's arm shot out quicker than her eyes could follow, once again clamping down on her wrist with impossible strength before she could get even halfway to her last hope of resistance. It looked at her again, shaking its head slowly back and forth. No.

The thing wrenched her arm, spinning her around as KLA-09 cried in pain from the movement, before she felt the wrist clamps close around her as well. Several of the squat bipeds that had served as distraction for the real attack had plodded over to the, picking up blasters and equipment from her Troopers that had been scattered. A trio swarmed the E-Web, looking over it for a moment before disassembling the tripod, cannon, and power supply into their transport sections with surprising dexterity.

In an instant, everything made sense. They were taking prisoners. This had never been an attempt at a ship-wide takeover - it was a snatch-and grab. KLA-09 felt a warmth start at her wrist, then her entire body was wracked with the pain and shock of a thousand needles in each nerve.

Darkness followed.

Naomi-010 moved like a ghost through the Covenant Battlecruiser, death following in her wake.

Another two bursts from her suppressed M7S SMG, another two Grunts who had the contents of their skulls splattered through the air, blood and bits of skull suspended in the air in wispy streaks.

She had used a breaching charge to gain entry to airlock, bursting in and dispatching the four Jackal guards with deadly efficiency. The Jackals hadn't had their powered arm shields on, and while a couple of plasma shots had splashed across her while she whirled in the zero-G, her own working shields absorbed them just as intended.

No reinforcements had been summoned. The Covenant comms must have been down the same as the UNSC's were.

She had inserted near the ship's bulbous bow, and her destination was the reactor core near the engines, at the stern of the ship. It was a lot of ground to cover, more than 1000 meters, and while she was alone, Naomi had several distinct advantages.

One: The vast majority of the Covenant infantry embarked on the ship had jumped off to assault the white wedge ship, leaving only a token amount of guards and crew behind. So far it seemed that nearly all of the Elites had left the ship, based on how little she saw — then killed quickly — as she travelled throughout the ship.

Two: Her MJOLNIR was fully powered — shields, motion sensor, visor modes, reactive circuits, the works. Compared to the Covenant she had encountered so far, who didn't seem to have comms or shielding of any kind, she was exponentially smarter, faster, more aware, and more protected.

Three: Naomi had undergone hundreds of hours of zero gravity training and participated in dozens of EVA missions throughout her service career. The exposure had forced her to become comfortable in the weightlessness of the null G, and she used it to her advantage. The Spartan flew through corridors with all the speed her powerful legs and arms could propel her with, and when she had to affix herself to the metal surfaced of the Battlecruiser she found herself on the walls and ceilings as much as she did the actual deck. The Grunts, Jackals, and few Elites she came across did not seem so acclimated, moving too slow and awkwardly to offer real resistance.

Four: She was alone. While some may have considered that an immense disadvantage when boarding an enemy capital warship, to her it meant that she could move with maximum speed and intensity that only another Spartan-II could match, without having to worry about babysitting a fireteam of Marines or ODSTs.

Five: She had BB. The intrepid AI was guiding her as she assaulted her way into the Battlecruiser, giving her impeccable directions through the ship and warnings of enemies ahead.

Six: She had a nuke.

"We're going to have to go through the hangar bay," BB said, his voice not in her ear, but in the back of her skull.

Naomi flashed her status light green. She didn't have to use words to say that she didn't like that fact, BB knew as well. It would be the largest, most open space they would have to traverse to reach the reactor room, and potentially the most populated.

As the Spartan worked through the emergency-lit corridors on training and instinct, leaving Covenant corpses still attached to the floors with magboots swaying in place, part of her mind started to wander.

What was really going on here? There was no question that the Forerunner X-Ring — the behemoth of an orbital structure that they had found — was involved in their current situation. But what exactly had it done? Where had it delivered them, shutting down almost everything with a power source in the process?

Perhaps most pressing in her mind, who were the occupants of that unknown wedge ship? The design was unlike anything she had ever seen. Too elegant to be UNSC, too sharp and angular to be Covenant, too large and advanced-looking to be Insurrectionist, and too small to be Forerunner.

Her ruminations were cut short as she came up one of of the large double doors that would lead into the hangar. Naomi looked it over, knowing she wouldn't be able to pry this one open with her hands. She started setting explosives, noting the pings on her motion tracker.

"Twenty-three inside the hangar, by the starboard bay," BB said.

"Is it pressurized in there?" Naomi asked. She needed to know that before she blew the door open to make entry.

"Yes," the AI replied. "I saw the atmospheric barriers online on our way in."

Naomi switched her SMG for her BR-55 Battle Rifle. Stealth wouldn't be needed now. She back up from the door until her back was pressed against a wall, evaluating her entry strategies. She settled on one taught by Chief Mendez, during their first zero-G trainings. It stemmed from one of her favorite books, a novel that was required reading for all of the Spartan-II candidates — Ender's Game.

Naomi pushed off the wall, bringing her knees up to her chest, her Battle Rifle pointing outwards from between her legs. As she diverted the majority of her MJOLNIR shield strength to her lower body, she triggered the breaching charges, flying into the hangar bay at speed through the fire and smoke, already sighting in targets.

The enemy's gate is down.

KLA-09 came to with a start, the immense feeling of disorientation clashing with the flood of memories as to what had happened. She had been captured. Alien boarders had gruesomely killed most of her Troopers.

She wasn't on the Indomitable anymore. She peered up through her helmet visor at the cathedral-like ceiling of an immense chamber. Her head rolled, seeing dozens of unfamiliar craft and vehicles placed about in neat rows. Her arms floated behind her, still bound together by tight restraints. Still in zero-G.

She rolled her head the other way, and her heart jumped when she saw six more of her Troopers, floating by the tall aliens who had cut through the rest of her squads with swords of crackling energy. Lightsabers? Several of the more squat bipedal aliens were present too, a few sporting blaster scorching on their armor and large atmosphere tanks from near misses by her Troopers.

KLA-09 tried to identify the Troopers still with her, but without her visor's automatic IFF tagging or comms, the only one she could make out was Sergeant JH-2763, white N.C.O. pauldron on his right shoulder.

The squat aliens killed around, poking at the weapons they had confiscated from her Troopers, shrill yet muffled barks and yips emanating from behind their closed masks. The tall aliens, knees bent backwards the wrong way, had formed a group where they were conversing in a guttural sounding, unfamiliar language. The white-armored one, obviously a leader, pointed towards the captured troopers. KLA-09 heard a single word that registered in her mind — Human.

She was sure the thing had spoken in Basic. Any further thoughts on that revelation were cut short by the noise or an explosion to her rear. The aliens all perked up suddenly, raising weapons towards the disturbance. Then, three of the blue-armored tall aliens' heads exploded in showers of viscous purple blood, adding to the splatter already obscuring some of her visor. Six of the smaller bipedal aliens fell limp a second later, a neat hole in each of their skulls, a fine trails of brain matter and bone wisping out the back.

Only then did barking reports of weapons fire register in her mind. Had the Indomitable sent counter-boarding teams to rescue them? As the remaining aliens scrambled for cover, abandoning their holds on their captives and moving slowly to nearby cover with the constraints of their magboots, she heard more sharp cracks echo through the huge chamber. No, it wasn't blasterfire.

KLA-09 twisted her head, trying to find the source of the noise, her body spinning in reaction as she did so. The two tall aliens - the one remaining blue-armored one and the white-clad leader - were returning fire with the whine of their energy glob weapons. More whipcracks of lightning, bursts of three at a time, and more of the shorter, stockier aliens died. They were panicking now, turning their backs and flailing their arms above their heads, yipping and crying wildly.

Their rescuer came into focus suddenly, KLA-09's eyes centering on the movement and the flashes of light. It was hurdling towards through the null gravity at immense speed, legs bent out in front, the weapon flashing in near-automatic pace. Blobs of sapphire energy - the same kind that had boiled through the thickest parts of her Troopers armor - splashed against a shimmering barrier of hexagonal energy: personal shielding.

The last blue-armored alien shuddered as a trio of shots buried into its long neck, nearly severing the elongated head from the rest of its body. The white-armored alien grabbed his fallen underling and thrust the shivering body in front of him, using it as a shield while lancing the air with return fire.

The surprise assailant of their captors smashed into them a second later.

Naomi kicked out with both boots right into the chest of the dead Elite Minor, slamming the body into the Elite Ultra using it as cover with immense force. The move would have halted her forward momentum if she hadn't triggered her back jump-jets which propelled her forwards after the tumbling Elite Ultra.

The Ultra crashed into the side of a tethered Phantom with a heavy thud, tossing aside the crumpled body of the Minor. Naomi - her current magazine for her Battle Rifle having run dry - snapped the weapon to a magplate on her chest and dove towards the Ultra with her knife in hand. Without energy shields, all she needed was a clean thrust into the Elite's neck.

The Ultra saw her move, shifting to a side so that the Spartan's knife buried itself into the skin of the Phantom all the way to the hilt, a severe demonstration of Naomi's armor-enhanced strength. The Elite reached out a hand and grabbed onto her forearm, using his newfound hold to swing himself and the Spartan around. The Ultra had likewise returned his Plasma Repeater to his hip, going for the thin hilt of his energy sword, but Naomi's free hand shot forwards and clamped down on the wrist in much the same manner that her enemy had done to her.

Using his momentum, the Elite finished spinning Naomi around and slammed her into the side of the Phantom hard. Her shields flashed from the impact, and she felt a lance of pain in her lower back, right where the HAVOC nuclear mine was clamped.

The Elite did something that surprised her next. He spoke to her.

"Stop!" he shouted, voice tinged with the strain brought from their grappling. "Spartan! We do not need to do this!"

Naomi could look into the Elite's eyes through the clear visor of his helmet. They were more reptilian than human, yet she thought she could see alarm, and… recognition in them?

The Spartan-II headbutted the Ultra as hard as she could. The Elite's head snapped back as his body went limp, knocked unconscious by the ferocity of the blow. She acted quickly, spinning the Elite around and stripping him of his weapons and equipment. She found a set of shock-restraints, which she affixed to the Elite's wrists before leaving him floating in the air.

"Uh, Naomi?" BB said, concern in his voice. "Could you check the nuke for me?"

Her eyebrows raised, remembering she had hit the nuke hard during the brief fight. She reached and retrieved the mine from the small of her back, dismayed to see the front access panel severely dented inwards. Carefully, she pried it off, allowing her to look at the internals inside — including the chronometer she would use to set the nuke's timer.

Naomi's eyes widened fully, and her heart skipped a beat. The chronometer had been clearly damaged. It had inadvertently been set, and was currently counting down through a severely cracked glass screen. Three minutes and thirty seconds.


She left the damaged nuke floating in the air.

Her head swiveled around the hangar bay, mind going into overdrive. No chance taking a transport out of here, if the Covenant's Banshees and Phantoms had been operational they would have been in use currently. She could try launching herself out of the magnetic containment fields into space at maximum speed, but no, she wouldn't clear the blast zone in time.

There, in the corner, a drop pod bay.

BB could see where she was looking. "Those can be launched without power."

Naomi was moving in an instant. She grabbed the still unconscious Elite Ultra, hurling his body through the air towards the drop pods. She was about to push off after him when flashes of white caught in her peripherals.

The soldiers from the wedge-ship. At least, that's what she assumed they were. Certainly not UNSC, nor Covenant. They had to have been captured during the raid the Battlecruiser's infantry corp had embarked on. They stood out like sore thumbs, floating restrained in the zero gravity, white armor the same color as the triangular ship outside.

"Do we leave them?" BB asked the question that was already working through her brain.

It would be easier to just leave them, Naomi knew. Curiosity won out a split-second later. If nothing else, they were intelligence assets. It would be useful to try and figure out the information they knew… but she couldn't do that if they died in nuclear fire.

She used her jump jets to rocket towards them, reloading her Battle Rifle and having it at the ready. "Who are you?" she boomed towards them, external audio speakers amplifying her questions.

They all had been watching her the entire time she had been fighting, she guessed, but only one of them spoke. A female voice, in English.

"You speak basic?" she said. Naomi could tell she was frightened, beneath a top layer of feigned confidence.

The Spartan switched questions. The clock was still ticking down. "Are you Human?"

The one who had spoken answered, nodding her head as she said breathlessly, "Yes, we all are."

Naomi maneuvered over to the woman until she was right in front of her. A mirrored black visor obscured any view of her face. Instead, she reached forwards and grabbed the sides of the helmet, pulling it off the restrained soldier's head.

Underneath, a pale, white woman with dark freckles and auburn hair in a small bun looked back up at her with sharp green eyes. They darted all over her, from her opaque hexagonal visor, to her thick, angular chest plating, and the arsenal of weaponry she was carrying.

"Are you from that wedge-ship?" Naomi asked.

The woman worked moisture onto her dry lips with her tongue, saying, "The Indomitable? Are you with the aliens who attacked us?"

"No," Naomi replied, gesturing towards one of the Elite Minor's whose skull she had opened with rounds from her Battle Rifle. The Indomitable… she had a name for their mystery ship now, more than she started with. "What's your name soldier?"

"KLA-09," she replied with automatic efficiency.

Another piece of information. Alphanumeric designations in place of actual names. "Do you want to die on this ship KLA-09?"

She shook her head emphatically, as did some of the other restrained soldiers around her.

"Are you sure about this?" BB asked, "We know nothing about these guys."

"Enemy of my enemy," Naomi said back to the AI privately. She had made her decision, and she could always shoot them if she needed to. She spoke to KLA-09 again, saying, "We have two minutes and forty-five seconds to get out of here before this ship turns into a small sun. If I take you out of these restraints will you try and shoot me?"

"No ma'am," she replied quickly, desperate relief playing across her features.

Ma'am, Naomi thought with a second's amusement. She did suppose she had definite command of the current situation. Naomi put the woman's helmet back over her head, noting the automatic seal the black undersuit made. She spun her around in the null gravity like a child's toy, cutting through her shock restraints with her knife.

The Spartan worked through the restraints of the other white-armored soldiers in turn, each one quickly scrambling for the floating pieces of their gear and weaponry that had also been taken by the Covenant raiding team. She pointed towards the corner of the Hangar Bay, where the drop pods were. "Over there, go. Anyone raises a weapon and I put a bullet in their skull."

Five of the soldiers pushed off immediately for the drop pods. Two, including KLA-09, Naomi physically grabbed and threw through the air at speed. She followed, Battle Rifle raised, ready to eliminate anyone who gave her undue concern.

Naomi found the manual release for one of the large drop-pods doors, gesturing the white-clad soldiers inside. "Get in."

They followed her direction without hesitation. Lastly, she grabbed the limp body of the Elite Ultra and dragged him into the pod, hitting the release to shut the door behind them.

"Sixty seconds," BB warned.

The soldiers were milling about the center of the pod, obviously unfamiliar with the alien design. It was one of the large pods able to accommodate an entire Lance of ten Elites.

Naomi took KLA-09 — identifiable by a steak of Elite blood across her helmet — by the arm and pushed her into an awaiting crash cresh, the liquid shock gel confirming around him. Seeing her example, the other soldiers quickly followed suit.

The Spartan put the unconscious Elite Ultra in the cresh next to her, then found one for herself. It was the commander's cresh, with the pod controls embedded into a built-in control panel. She slammed the manual launch button, and plasma rockets fired them out of the hangar bay and away from the doomed Battlecruiser above.

There was a section of the drop-pod's flooring that was semi-transparent, enough so to make out the evident increase in ambient light as the HAVOC mine detonated within the Covenant cruiser they had left behind, and showed the forested surface of the planet below quickly approaching.

They hit the atmosphere, the vision through the floor window obscured by re-entry flames. The pod shook with vigorous violence, lacking any of the automated turbulence controls or inertial dampening that would have been offered with full power.

Naomi ignored it all, focusing intently on the approaching ground as they broke through the top levels of the atmosphere. She would have to manually activate the landing rockets, and if she misjudged it they would splatter onto the ground.

The emerald green of the forest rushed up towards them, and her hand hovered over the descent controls. She was about to activate the descent rockets when something… interesting happened.

A large swath of ground, trees, rocks, cliffs, even a river, folded downwards into the earth along an octagonal seam. Naomi had seen only one instance of such a thing in her life — the outer shell of the Forerunner Shield World turned ONI research base of Onyx opening up to allow entrance into the inner Dyson Sphere.

She paused on the descent controls, the pod racing through the sudden hole in the earth and into the 'crust' of the planet. Darkness gave way to light, then massive voluminous clouds, and once they passed through those, sprawling snow-white mountain ranges. She activated the descent rockets, her cresh spinning around to face her the opposite way towards the outside of the pod. The G-forces of the deceleration compressed her chest even through her MJOLNIR, but within seconds the pod hit the ground with a forceful shudder, and the panel in front of her exploded outwards.

Naomi leapt out of the pod, Battle Rifle raised, scanning the surroundings. Snow, mountains, the occasional pine-needled tree. She looked upwards, seeing a darkening blue 'sky' dotted with streaks of clouds, a bright manifestation of a sun hanging low in the sky. She increased the zoom of her visor to maximum, looking towards the hole in the forest planet that they had fallen through. She witnessed the sharp edges of the crust molding itself back together, the shimmering metal of the lower panels replaced with the same coloration of the 'sky' around it as it sealed back up.

The Spartan took quick stock of the situation. This wasn't just a planet, it was a Forerunner installation, or at least, it seemed to be. She had fallen through the first level of the surface, and down below into the real inner world contained within. Presumably, she was completely cut off from the ships in orbit, the Port Stanley and the Blazing Sun and any UNSC support. She had an unconscious Elite Ultra as a prisoner, and seven armed soldiers - Human soldiers - who had come from the unknown wedge ship they had seen in orbit, who she knew almost nothing about.

"Well," BB said, breaking his long silence. Evidently he had been processing things just as much as she had. "What now?"