"The Beach Episode"

By Kpmh2001

Menagerie

Kuo Kuana, Waikiki Beach

For most Marines, R&R was a chance to relax, unwind, and rest a little from the stresses of work in the UNSC. And indeed, Onyx Team was no different. Quite how Remnant was in a position that they could afford to take a day off was, at least for the moment, not their concern.

In the distant waters off of Waikiki Beach, Nathan and Fairfire were preparing to catch an incoming wave with their surfboards. They were so far away that even with Ben's enhanced vision, he could not make any finer details out with the naked eye. Thankfully, he'd brought along a set of rangefinders with him.

It was a bit unnerving not having access to the utilities and tools that his Mjolnir offered, but Curie had convinced him to leave the armor behind. She'd been quite persistent actually, telling him that he needed the sun to touch his skin every once and awhile. So instead of his armor, he'd brought some UNSC issue swim trunks and a plain white t-shirt, not to mention sunscreen.

He'd made sure that the whole squad was wearing some form of sun protection, the last thing any of them needed was to be laid up in Sickbay for some terrible skin condition that would take months to cure. Even if they had R&R today, they could be needed at any time, and Ben was hoping that nobody would manage to get themselves sick or hurt when they were supposed to be relaxing.

Not wearing his armor highlighted the fact that he had gotten perhaps a bit too used to using the optics in his helmet, so doing things the old fashioned way for a change certainly didn't hurt. Mendez and Kurt had always hammered into the Spartan Trainees that whenever technology broke, it was often the simplest things that remained functional.

There were also a few other oddities to being out of his familiar outfit. The hot sand between his toes was a stark contrast to the sleek undersuit of his Mjolnir, and he hadn't actually been under the hot sun of a beach before without his armor, so it was a new, interesting experience. The golden sands were warm and soft, quite the opposite of what he had expected.

"See anything interesting?" Curie asked from beside him.

Ben looked down at the cooler that he had put her datachip on and noticed that she swapped out her own traditional outfit for a digital two-piece swimsuit. "I don't think that those two have figured out that the weather works a little differently around here, if that's what you're asking."

Curie softly chuckled. "I wonder when they'll put it together. Who knows? They might find a few waves yet..."

Ben must have been staring blankly, because Curie looked up at him with an amused expression on her face. "What do you think? I figured I would try something a bit more… appropriate on for the occasion."

For a moment, Ben stood there a bit dumbfounded, wondering exactly how he was supposed to respond to that. So rather than overthink it, he said the first thing that came to mind. "You look… pretty."

He returned his attention back to his rangefinders, completely oblivious to how Curie's normal blue hue was momentarily flushed away by a bright pink wave of light.

Meanwhile, in deeper waters.

To be honest, Fairfire was deeply disappointed in what kind of waves Menagerie had to offer. The weather was utterly gorgeous, with an almost totally-clear big blue sky, and a nice breeze to keep things from feeling too hot. It might not have been Emerald Cove, but the weather certainly seemed to match what she remembered.

Nice weather, big waves, cute girls and hot boys… what's not to love? Fairfire momentarily thought, allowing the nostalgia to take over.

But the waves on Menagerie were a completely different story, they were few and far between, and even the biggest seemed to only clock in at a few feet high. For a planet with a few notches less than 1g of gravity, Remnant was not leaving her a reason to be impressed. She was quick to blame that damn broken moon, it probably wouldn't be able to conjure the kind of waves she was used to.

Still, there were worse places to be than out on the water, sitting on a surfboard next to one of the most trustworthy people in her life.

"So uh, there aren't any sharks out here, right?" Nathan somewhat jokingly asked with a nervous chuckle.

Fairfire laughed jovially, because even though she could tell that there was a degree of genuine fear in his voice, she knew that sharks were nothing to be afraid of. "Relax, it ain't the sharks you gotta worry about, it's the damn squids."

Nathan's nervous expression was priceless. "Squids?"

"Yeah, back on Emerald Cove, my girlfriend got her arm dislocated by one." Fairfire explained.

Amusingly, all at once, Nathan's fears seemingly vanished, replaced by bold curiosity. "You have a girlfriend?"

"I had a girlfriend." Fairfire answered, emphasizing the key word. "She uh, wasn't as fond of the UNSC as I was. So when I enlisted… well, it was a bit of a shitshow."

Nathan shook his head. "Sorry to hear that."

She let out an exasperated sigh. "It was a long time ago, and frankly, she was kind of a bitch."

"Ah… probably shouldn't ask for her number then." Nathan said, promptly earning a splash of water in the face. "Oh come on! If you were dating her, she had to be hot!"

Fairfire chuckled. "Oh trust me, she was. Third-rate personality for sure, but damn, did she have a first-rate ass."

"You see? I knew it!" Nathan said, gesturing at his apparent victory. "And uh, yeah, I've dated girls like that before."

"I'm not surprised, it seems like there's a few of them everywhere." Fairfire replied. "Lucky for me, I don't have to worry about picking between ass and personality."

Nathan didn't seem to know how to respond, so she decided to give him a push in the direction. "That'll be a yes Sergeant from you, Nathan."

"Yes Sergeant!" Nathan hastily replied. "Say, did you ever date any-"

Fairfire raised a clenched fist to interrupt him, as she sensed an increase of movement beneath her surfboard. The roar of water behind her confirmed her suspicions.

"Hold on there, looks like we've got a big one coming in!" Fairefire merrily announced. "Up and at em' Nathan, follow my lead!"

Meanwhile, back on the shore.

With steady, well-practiced motions, Mags beckoned the water to her command. The salinity, the movements, the pressure, even the minute chemical composition, all played a big part in exactly how she controlled it. But seeing as she was controlling water off of the coast of Menagerie, which she had done thousands of times before, she had little difficulty forming a good-sized wave.

"I didn't know you could make waves that big." Ben commented, his voice betraying how impressed he was.

"It is quite impressive." Curie added. "In fact, I believe that may be a difficult wave for Monsieur Nathan… he is a beginner, after all."

"Feh." Mags said, brushing off her concern. "When I learned to surf, I practiced out near the Colored Spires. I bounced my head off of a good-sized rock more times than I can count, and I turned out okay."

Curie looked at her with a raised eyebrow. "Are you sure that did not affect your decision making capabilities?"

Mags shook her tail slowly in irritation. If there was one upside to wearing a swimsuit over her traditional uniform, it was that she could move her tail far more easily. "Listen here Pixie, I ain't-"

"Hold on! Mags, Nathan just fell off of his board." Ben interjected.

"Aye, I felt it." She confirmed. She could feel certain things about the water, including when the Helljumper and his surfboard had made an unfortunate tumble. "Don't worry, he'll be fine."

Ben didn't take the scowl off of his face as he lowered his rangefinders, revealing his malformed face. Mags didn't know exactly what had happened to him, but if she had to guess, it had probably involved burns in some manner. "I'll take your word for it…"

"You should. As long as it's in saltwater, I can tell you whatever it's doing." Mags said. "Actually, on that note, check this out."

She made a squeezing motion with one hand, and watched with satisfaction as Nathan was launched out of the water and into the air. He travelled at least twelve feet into the air, over the wave that Mags had conjured, before coming back down with an impressive splash.

Still got it. Mags thought, quite satisfied with the flight time that she had gotten out of Nathan.

"Damn." Ben said with a whistle. "I didn't know you could concentrate the water like that."

"Never underestimate the power of water pressure." Mags cheekily replied, before taking a seat in the sand. "It may be a bit strenuous… but it's beautiful all the same."

"You certainly have that correct." Curie noted with a hint of frustration. "I can scarcely think of another word to describe how you did that."

Mags gave her a sly grin. "You know lass, you'd be a lot happier if you stopped trying to understand everything."

Curie clearly thought her words over for a moment. "What do you focus on?"

Mags sighed, clearly she wasn't getting the message. "For the record, my advice applies to people too, they're probably the hardest thing to understand."

Curie was visibly disappointed in her answer, but Mags wasn't done talking. "But if you must know, I just try to focus on what makes me happy."

Curie seemed a bit dejected. "But understanding things does make me happy…"

"Aye, and I ain't gonna pretend to understand that." Mags said. "But don't let me get in your way of you doing what makes you happy, alright?"

Curie seemed somewhat rejuvenated by her words. "I… I believe I understand."

"Don't mention it." Mags said with a wide grin.

She felt a disturbance in the water, probably either Nathan, Fairfire, or both reaching shore. "Hey Ben, you see those two lovebirds anywhere?"

"If you're talking about Nathan and Fairfire, then yeah, they're on their way back." Ben answered. "You should know, Nathan looks a little uh, unhappy."

Mags chuckled, she wasn't surprised, it didn't take a genius to find out who had been messing with him. "I'd best make myself scarce then. Well, I'll catch you all in a bit. I heard Fireball was making some Calamari..."

Ben gave her a silent nod in response, and Mags went to see where else she could cause a little trouble.

About a minute later…

Ben and Curie patiently waited for Nathan and Fairfire to join them. While the two Helljumpers were making their trek over the sand, Ben took a brief moment to check over the rest of the squad.

Yu had apparently been sunbathing and listening to a song about a watchtower by someone that her old-timey boombox called Jimmy Hendrix. However, she had fallen asleep at some point, and was now snoring somewhat apishly. Ben took the time to cover her up with another beach towel, that way she didn't get sunburnt. Still, he left her music to play, it wasn't half-bad.

Meanwhile, Meadows had managed to find himself an unusually large seashell during his search for washed up objects on the beach. Unfortunately for him, Menagerie was apparently the native habitat for some unusually large and aggressive hermit crabs. The thing was the size of a fully grown German Shepard, and naturally, it was not too pleased at Meadows intruding on its home.

After what Ben could only describe as the most disgraceful melee engagement in the history of the ODSTs, Ben had decided to intervene. He'd given the crab a few harsh knocks around the head, scaring it off and ending the "battle" before either it or Meadows could get hurt. Now Meadows was focusing on far less dangerous bits of washed up driftwood.

With his luck, one of those is going to be a grenade. Ben thought. He did quite like Meadows, but the poor man had a habit of taking the nastiest blows.

Jorge and Pegamagabow were not to be outdone by Meadow's discovery however, and had discovered that Menagerie was also home to Gigantic Clams, with the one they found being around the size of an M12 Warthog. Jorge, recalling a recipe devised by one of the Spartans that he had formerly served with, sought to bake the massive mollusc.

Using a combination of a bit of rebar that had washed up on the beach, and Jorge's raw strength, they had successfully cracked the beast open and gained access to all of the meat inside. Now the two of them were off somewhere else, no doubt cooking what they had retrieved. Ben hadn't known exactly how Jorge would respond to not being on active duty, but it seemed like the older Spartan was better cut out for it than Ben had anticipated.

"Hey Ben!" Nathan shouted to get his attention. "Where the hell did Mags go? I gotta bone to pick with her."

"I don't know, and frankly, that's not a good idea." Ben replied. He noticed that Fairfire was still lagging behind somewhat, indicating that Nathan was probably planning to do something regrettable.

"What, you don't think I can take her?" Nathan asked, confirming Ben's suspicions.

"With that canteen of saltwater she's carrying around? No." Ben bluntly answered. "Look, we already had to chip a Marine out of a block of ice because they tried to ask Specialist Schnee out..."

"Take it from me, he deserved it." Curie pitched in.

"...I don't need to know if Mags can use her Semblance to do the same to you, got it?" Ben said, hoping that he could appeal to a bit of common sense within Nathan.

He groaned with frustration, but thankfully, he set down his surfboard and sat down on it regardless. "Fine… Say, you haven't touched the water yet, have you?"

Ben shook his head. "Not a good idea. My Neural Lace is durable, but I'm not exactly eager to test its resilience to Saltwater."

"Neither am I." Curie backed him up.

Nathan nodded in recognition. "Ah, I didn't think about that…"

"Didn't think about what?" Fairfire asked as she finally got close enough to properly talk. "By the way, thanks for talking him down, I didn't want to have to go fish him out of the ocean."

"Don't mention it." Ben replied.

"You guys are jerks…" Nathan jokingly commented.

"It is a friend's duty to look out for them, even if that means telling them something that they don't want to hear." Curie pointed out.

"Yeah well… no, you know what, you're right." Nathan replied. "Don't wanna end the day in an ice cube…"

"That's the spirit!" Fairfire said, giving him a firm pat on the back. "And look on the bright side, thanks to Mags, you finally got a wave to surf!"

"I do not know if I would call Monsieur Nathan's actions 'surfing'." Curie awkwardly said.

Nathan shrugged. "Hey, it was a hell of a lot better than sitting out there for another twenty minutes. I swear to god something touched my leg while we were out there…"

"It is likely that something did, as Menagerie's population of Marine Life is extraordinarily large." Curie stated.

Nathan shook his head with an expression of disgust and fear. "You are not helping."

"Hey!"

They all turned to see Jorge waving at them from the distance. "The clams are done, come and get em'!"

"Now these I gotta try…" Fairfire said as she grabbed her surfboard and got up, followed by Nathan.

While the two Helljumpers ran off to join the rest of the squad, kicking Yu awake in the process, Ben took a moment to look out at the ocean one last time.

Curie seemed to notice his hesitation. "Is something wrong?"

"I'm just getting a good look, it might be awhile before we get another day off." Ben explained.

Curie shot him a friendly smile. "We can always come back later."

Ben nodded and picked up her chip, before inserting it into his Neural Lace. "I suppose so."