Chapter Two

June 15th, 2077

Night City, Northern California

Arasaka Tower, Sublevel-Four

'One Month, twenty-five days, three hours, and fifteen minutes in captivity. Practically at the mercy of these bumbling mammals, and they were no close to breaching their MJOLNIR armor as they were exploring the vast reaches of space.'

UNSC A.I CHM-1692-1, codenamed Chamber was the sole Custodian of the MJOLNIR Mark V. Power Armor currently containing Sierra B259. Callsign Cyrus.

Chambers internal systems had been at a constant fluctuation since their arrival on this oddity of a planet. She was still subtly collecting data as time went on, exploring the confusing and yet primitive telecommunications network called 'The Net.'

From her constant prodding, she concluded that 'the Net' was the primary communications network used by this mirror Earth. Her exploration into the network left her with an abundance of data that kept the curious A.I. busy throughout their captivity.

During her many escapade's she discovered the existence of other artificial intelligence inside the net. These A.I and their subroutines were exotic, to say the least. Each intelligence possessed approximately the same capabilities as a UNSC dumb A.I., and their owners could vary from A.I. to A.I.

Corporations or governments controlled some; others made 'The Net' their home. Data exchanges were frequently happening, and she was ever wary of tipping her hand to these A.I.; she may have been superior to them in every way possible, but even one mistake can cause her problems on this Earth.

Speaking of Earth.

It was not their Earth that much was certain. Events that transpired in this timeline were vastly different from what they had expected. The Collapse of the United States economy in 1994 was just one of many events that should not have come to pass, yet that is precisely what happened.

Conflicts in Central America, the rise of multinational corporations, the continued existence of the Soviet Union, the fracturing of continental United States. These were just prime examples of mismatching data that left her mind buzzing with intrigue.

The only thing keeping Chamber stable at the moment was the calming heartbeat of her proprietor.

Sierra B259, affectionately called Cyrus by yours truly and other Spartans that knew him. He was a Headhunter, an occupation that was an even better well-kept secret than the ever-enigmatic Spartan III Program.

Headhunters were First-Rate operatives when it came to covert actions in hostile territory, whether Insurrectionist or Covenant.

Cyrus was initially partnered with two other Spartans acquired from the Spartan Three Program. Colonel Ackerson took one Spartan for covert operations within UNSC Territory, and the second went missing around the same time they did.

For all, Chamber knew their missing partner could be dead or alive.

Chamber was too new to the group's general dynamics to grasp the extent of their relationship, but the three Spartans were all relatively close to one another.

Sufficient that Chamber had to remind herself that she was not a replacement for their missing member. A fact Cyrus would have no problem admonishing her for, but she digressed.

He was in one of his deep sleep again, something she found to be somewhat irritating since it left her with nothing more to do other than continue exploring the intricate nature of 'The Net' to occupy her time.

Cyrus regained consciousness a week ago and yet seemed to be in no rush to escape their confinement despite the fact these so-called scientists were still attempting to splice into their MJOLNIR armor.

She was not sure how exactly they came to be here, but she had a feeling that a mixture of forerunner technology and a havoc nuke was the catalyst.

Their mission was to prevent the Covenant from obtaining Forerunner tech at an outpost called 'Line Installation 2-4'. It was a defensive installation teeming with forerunner tech, almost all of it capable of military applications.

The facility was located in an undiscovered planetary system eighty light-years away from Alpha Corvi.

UNSC Marathon-class heavy cruiser 'Sparrow' and her escorts discovered Installation 2-4 while on a routine scouting mission. They were in the final stages of excavating the site when a Covenant CAR-class frigate entered the planet's atmosphere.

The frigate was able to bypass the early warning radar systems due to an untimely magnetic storm. Before Taskforce Sparrow knew it, a Covenant Battlegroup was making its way into orbit.

The battle was anything but a one-sided massacre ensued in space as Covenant Naval Ships devastated the 'Sparrow' and her escorts. Ground-based UNSC forces were able to activate the installations ground to air defenses, but soon there position was overwhelmed by Covenant ground forces.

Reaper Team was inserted by the ONI Prowler' Silent Tomb' with a havoc nuke in tow.

It was apparent to her and her fellow Spartans what the price would be for mission success, but Cyrus paid no mind to the cost. He had an inkling that this was nothing less than a suicide mission, but neither he nor Eliza brought it up in passing.

None of them said a word when the UNSC' Silent Tomb' IFF signal disappeared into the void. No contact of any kind was exchanged between them and the ONI prowler.

It irritated the A.I. to no end; she always hated how ONI treated their Spartans, dispatching them to missions that are classified beyond measure and suicidal to even the insane.

When the impossible happened and they completed the assignment, ONI would welcome them back with a medal in one hand and a new mission in the other.

A task that was just as dangerous as all those that came before.

It didn't matter anymore to her. There was no Covenant, no UNSC, and no ONI. No one took advantage of Cyrus anymore, and these idiotic scientists would not find what they were looking for.

The only conclusion was straightforward; Cyrus was going to march out of this tower.

Whether or not it happened to be filled with the corpses of the fools inside was not her problem.


Cyrus was having the same dream again, operating in Arcadia's shattered streets shortly after a Covenant Strike Force glassed it into oblivion. He was sitting Back-to-Back with Eliza, the other half of his Headhunter team. There used to be three of them, but Colonel Ackerson saw the removal of their third member.

Both Spartans were sitting in absolute silence, scrutinizing their surroundings for the slightest activity. Their environment was filled to the brim with blown-out skyscrapers, the skeletons of those caught in the Covenant Glassing, and even corpses still fresh with plasma. Fingers on triggers, nerves as cold as steel, and little else on their minds.

They arrived here to kill an Elite Field Marshall; the Sangheili was in charge of coordinating a dozen Covenant Advance Teams whose sole objective was to uncover and secure Forerunner artifacts local to the planet. The pair succeeded in killing the Field Marshall but at the cost of exposing their presence to a Covenant QRF.

The Headhunters miscalculated exactly how many covenant forces were still on Arcadia, and now they were forced to take shelter in the blown-out remains of the planet's capitol building.

It was quiet for once; the pattering of covenant grunts and the growling of feral brutes was receding gradually. Presently only a tense stillness remained in their occupied space, but it would be interrupted by the most irritating of voices.

"Reaper Six, this is Oxide come in over." ONI handlers; can always rely on them to fill the void of content silence. His partner raised her head subtly, signaling him to transmit back to their handler.

"Oxide, this is Reaper Six. Go ahead."

"Reaper Six, UNSC 'Silent Voyage' is on station ready for extract over." A shift of rubble drew his attention as a Spec Ops Elite crossed his periphery, never discerning their presence. As the alien passed by, Cyrus brought up a map of their current A.O. He promptly deduced a perfect extract zone five kilometers to their east.

"Reaper Six copies, grid coordinates to follow. 05986 break 10935, L.Z. Security is unknown. Be advised Covenant forces are active in the A.O. Approximate size, Battalion level infantry mixed with armor, Covenant Air Assets active. How copy my last over?"

His partner's weight mimicked his own as he began shifting to a standing posture. The movement required patience and timing as Covenant patrols wandered ever closer to their position.

Skulking in the darkness was slowly beginning to lose its viability as time passed.

"Oxide copies all. You have five mikes to reach the L.Z. Balding. Covenant air pickets are too dense to stay any longer over."

"Reaper Six copies, out." Conversation over, it was time to exfiltrate, eyes branching over to regard his ever-silent partner.

"Ready?" The only response he received was a nod before a rattle stirred him from his dream.


Movement and anxious voices rustled him once again. Sleep was a complicated process for a kid born in the streets of Actium.

Street Kids who didn't sleep with an eye open didn't survive long when all their meager valuables were stolen. In a worst-case scenario, they were thrown into the back of a car and would wake up missing a few vital organs. Cyrus had not been home in years, and he would never see his home planet again for the rest of his natural life.

Cyrus was an orphan; his parents got flatlined when he was five years old. A slip space accident spaced them and their transport ship all over the upper atmosphere of Actium. Their deaths had not solved any problems but instead caused new ones.

The biggest obstacle was when he woke up to an eviction notice taped to his front door. Boy didn't even know what an eviction notice was until one of his neighbors explained it to him.

The hardest nights of Cyrus' life were those first few months living on the streets, no food, no water, barely any warm clothes for the harsh winter nights. It was only through the courtesy of the cities downtrodden he even survived his first year.

Growing up in the streets of Ferax, kids tended to pick up a few things. Lessons to learn just in case your situation goes sideways and you needed a way out.

It was hard to keep any possessions when Cyrus lived on the streets, so to endure, he could only retain concealable items.

Watches, useless sell those as quick as you can, a telecommunications phone sell it to a Fixer, anything and everything that had some form of value to the civilized world you sold for the highest bidder possible.

Whatever Cyrus couldn't steal that night to trade for food or water, he ended up pinching it from market stands. There were numerous nights where he went to sleep hungry and dehydrated.

After his first year, Cyrus's biggest problem was finding a credible Fixer that wouldn't screw him over the first chance they got. He got conned more times than he could count and soon realized that the best Fixers for him to go to were the female ones. If only because of his tender age and knee-buckling pouting face.

The first thing he ever stole was an expensive watch off some suit. It was all too easy to feign regrets and appeal to the suit's bloated ego for having the audacity to touch him. The pretentious prick hadn't noticed his watch was gone until Cyrus was halfway down the street and melding into the packed crowds of Ferax.

The Headhunter stole anything he could get his hands on growing up. Expensive cars, watches, phones, radios, and hell, he even tried to jack a UNSC Warthog during his time in Ferax.

All that shit and Cyrus was barely even eight; in hindsight, he probably should have paused when he came across a suit that didn't sit right with him. He was driving a new state-of-the-art X-55 Califore, a sweet as can be automobile that could have fetched him an acceptable price with his Fixer.

Too bad the suit was a fucking ONI Agent who had Cyrus tagged the moment he laid eyes on him. Usually, anyone caught irritating an ONI agent ended up dead, and their carcass was thrown into the nearest ditch.

Whatever that ONI spook saw in Cyrus gave the orphan an excuse to live, just not for himself anymore.

The ONI agent was an instructor in the Spartan III Program, who promptly dragged his ass to a black site, dropped him in a pelican, and before Cyrus knew it, his new home was a place called Camp Currahee.

Camp Currahee, a place Cyrus both cherished and loathed at the same time.

Waking up every day with a roof over his head was one thing he took too quickly. The only drawback was when an instructor kicked him in the stomach to wake him up the first time around.

Said Instructor's voice was raised an octave or two when the Spartan cadet's foot met his groin. Lieutenant Ambrose didn't take kindly at Cyrus's attempt to rid one of his instructors of the ability to have children in the future.

Chief Mendez was even less satisfied and made Cyrus's life a living hell for weeks after the incident. Still, he didn't regret the action. The Instructor shouldn't have thrown him on a pelican and shipped him out here without saying please at the very least.

He remembers being ushered along with 300 other cadets into an auditorium. Most were anxious; some were bored; others probably were eager to spill covenant blood. Cyrus was more interested in the nice comfy bed they provided him, but he would need to earn sleeping in that bed from now on.

"As per Naval Code 45812, you have all volunteered for UNSC Special Project, codenamed SPARTAN III. You have been called upon to serve. You will be the sword of Earth and all her colonies. We begin tomorrow."

Something in that speech Lieutenant Ambrose gave to the cadets stuck out to Cyrus. A sword is what ONI regarded their Spartan III's, not shields to protect humanity but weapons to strike out into the heavens.

Cyrus wondered if he was looking too much into the wording for a while, but after Operation Torpedo, he realized why exactly they said sword. The Spartan III's weren't meant to survive exceptionally long, and in the end, most of Beta Company, whose entire lives were defined by the sword—died by the sword.

The training, the augmentations, they felt to him like a test to see how much he could take before he broke entirely. Lord knows the augmentation was the worst pain he had ever felt in his life. The constant muscle spasms, his system vomiting liquid every hour, and the head-splitting migraines were just one of many irritating side effects. It often led him to question why he was even doing any of this in the first place.

His fellow cadets had every reason to be here. Most of them had family or friends that got caught up in the war with the Covenant. They lost everything much as he did. The only difference was the fact he had no one to blame.

Cyrus's loss was just another unfortunate accident in a galaxy filled with them. Most if not all of his fellow cadets were driven by a toxic desire for vengeance and anger, something that could only ever be extinguished by death alone.

Nothing would ever really sate their thirst for covenant blood, of that he was sure. Cyrus supposed it was also the fact that ONI loved their propaganda.

It got the cadets' blood boiling.

He never really bought into the ONI propaganda too much. He treated any mention of the Covenant in the mess hall with indifference. Indeed, they were butchering his people all across the galaxy, but he never had a personal stake in the matter.

It was like asking a civilian what it was like to fight in a war he never took part in. There was no connection between the two; secondhand experiences alone don't do it justice.

But sooner or later, even he found himself buying into the propaganda.

ONI was skilled at many things, but it excelled in spouting UNSC propaganda and stoking its citizens' passion for dying for their species. Their favorite propaganda tool to use during training exercises and downtime was something they had in abundance.

Footage of the most recent Covenant incursion into UNSC space was their primary tool of the trade. It almost always had some video feed of a Covenant Elite or Brute butchering their way through a crowd of helpless civilians.

The one that hit him the hardest was when the Covenant arrived on Actium. The Spartan III cadets were in the final stages of training when the ONI propaganda came through. A citizen of Actium had recorded a Jackal Squad breaching a middle school with all the children still inside.

It was the same school Cyrus would have attended if his parents didn't bite the dust. They did, though, and instead, he was halfway across territories on a planet called Onyx. It bothered him more than he thought it should have. No one in the room had to see the rest of the feed. They all knew what happened inside.

Besides watching his home planet get glassed, he didn't have the motivation to connect with his fellow cadets. Cyrus got dumped into a pelican, shipped off to some random world in the middle of nowhere, and given augmentations he couldn't even dream of.

The only people in the program he ever really connected with were two cadets Eliza and Casey.

Casey was the best Spartan III cadet in Beta Company. If she wasn't stronger than you, she was faster than you. If she wasn't smarter than them, she would outwork them. Everything about her was pure perfection, but sometimes people have a problem when you make them feel inadequate.

Oddly enough, these adequacies produced a rift between herself and the rest of Beta Company, a detachment he and Eliza decided to fill every now and then with their presence alone. They didn't talk very much, working off each other's body movements. The few words that were exchanged between the trio were short and to the point.

Why are you here?

The question was always for him and never Eliza, which too be entirely fair, irritated Cyrus. He never did answer the question either, no matter how many times she asked him.

Casey never elaborated on precisely what she was proposing, whether that be his presence in the program or just being anywhere near her in general. He figured leaving her in silence was its own answer, and ultimately, Eliza ceased her questioning.

Sierra-B312 Casey, Sierra-B291 Eliza, and Sierra-B259 Cyrus.

Three people with almost nothing in common, and yet they stuck to each other like glue during the program. It didn't surprise any of them when they got pulled for the Headhunter Initiative. They didn't interact well with the rest of Beta Company; the trio were outcasts, which was fine as far as they were concerned.

Eventually, their time together concluded abruptly. Eliza was being pulled for Colonel Ackerson's own black ops team, focusing on insurrectionist activity in UNSC territory. Cyrus would never know why this decision occurred, he opposed it, but orders were orders.

None of them said a word to each other when the moment arrived. Cyrus and Eliza were being transferred to the UNSC 'Dusk', while Casey stayed aboard the UNSC 'Point of No Return.'

Years of companionship enhanced through conflict and despair led to a departure without words. All three of them would never forget one another, no matter what transpired in the rest of their admittedly short lives.

Last he heard of Casey's whereabouts was her new assignment on Reach. Cyrus gathered through ONI comm channels that Ackerson was pissed that she got paired up with another Spartan team, Noble Team, or something close to that. He could only hope that she survived long enough to see the end of the war, in humanity's favor at the very least.

He recalled one last thing before he woke up in this land: being back-to-back with Eliza fighting off hordes of covenant infantry when the havoc nuke was going off. They were supposed to get in, plant the Havoc Nuke for detonation, and exfil.

However, the circumstances changed when Chamber uncovered a Forerunner Artifact, unlike anything the UNSC had encountered before.

The UNSC Excavation team deployed by the USNC 'Sparrow' discovered a Forerunner Dreadnought teeming with enough weaponry to level an entire Covenant Battlegroup.

The Headhunters could not let this vessel fall into Covenant hands, the UNSC was already at the breaking point, and the dreadnought would be the final nail in the coffin.

Breaching the Forerunner facility was difficult. More Elites were scouring the facility's interior than he had seen in a long while.

Eliminating the genocidal aliens and gaining passage was an easy task.

Getting out with their lives was a near-impossible directive. The conclusion to set the havoc nuke and depart was instantly taken from them when an even more extensive Covenant Strike Fleet arrived.

There was no escape, maybe they could sneak past the infantry banging on the doors, but the Covenant would disable the havoc nuke. They had two choices leave and give them access to the Forerunner dreadnought or stay. Fight. And die.

Cyrus stunned even himself when he didn't even consider leaving with his life. For years he wondered why he bothered with any of this, why he allowed himself to become a Spartan in the first place. Cyrus didn't have that patriotic bone in his body like the rest of his brothers and sisters.

He believed at first the only people he wouldn't hesitate to die for were Eliza or Casey.

But it's hard to keep the stance when the very future of your race is at stake.

Eliza didn't need to be told twice; she had the patriotic bone in her body. A bone Cyrus had once declared would get her killed one day, and most assuredly him in the process. He was right, but that didn't make him feel better in the end.

All Cyrus knew was that Eliza was missing that or she was dead, and after he got out of this makeshift prison, he'd find her.

Whatever happens, Cyrus would find Eliza, or he would bury her.

She earned that much.

"Cyrus."

Eyes shot open, and his optics found purchase, drinking in his MJOLNIR' heads up display. If there was one thing, he was fortunate about this whole situation. It was the fact that Chamber hadn't died on him just yet.

"Yes." He began scanning the room, taking in every detail he could. Scientists were scrambling in a rush by the looks of it. Something had happened, and it wasn't because of him for once.

"The tower is in a flux; I'm detecting major spikes in communication chatter. It's sketchy, but there's been an incident at Konpeki plaza. Arasaka security units are mobilizing in corporate square and surrounding Arasaka Tower and Konpeki Plaza."

"Access the Tower's security network. I want every system in this building at your fingertips. Elevators, doors, security rooms, even the fire suppression system." Adrenaline began to spike, nerves settling down with every breath.

"Already on it."

Cyrus flexed his fingers subtly, attempting to get every range of movement possible. He had been waiting patiently for a distraction, a moment every subtly he could use to his advantage to escape. It was one of the first lessons Lieutenant Ambrose instilled in him.

The patient hunter always gets his prey.

"I'm picking up sporadic gunfire in the tower. Seems our night going to be interesting." Even as he saw the scientists around him fall into delirium and the security team assigned to him make for the upper levels, this was the moment.

Patience did pay off sometimes.

"Good, we can use that to our advantage. Chamber, start the clock time to make our exit."

Most violent events usually start with a loud bang from an automatic weapon, the crunch of bones being smashed, or even the screams of the dead or soon to be dead.

However, the Arasaka Tower Massacre was different.

It started with the lights going out.


Reviews:

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CrazedGammaMan1721: Yes they will, still debating on male or female V but we'll see.