Earth. 2556. On the Mantle's Approach.

A hail of Assault Rifle fire struck the advanced hardlight shielding of a resurgent Ur-Didact. The Forerunner raised his hand to greet Spartan-117, the Master Chief as, above them, the UNSC home fleet poured hellfire down onto the Mantle's Approach's shields. The scarlet energy emanating from the Composer shook the ship, the beam from the Forerunner weapon falling down onto a part of the Earth that Chief didn't know. Gritting his teeth, the Spartan wanted to push through the powerful, focused gravity field that the Didact sent at him, to keep him pinned onto the hardlight bridge, but little could he do.

He watched as the black hulls of UNSC ships flew overhead, with artillery pouring down onto the shields, but to no avail. No shot could pierce the nigh-invisible barrier that protected the massive Forerunner ship. Their only hope now was that the chief utilized the HAVOK nuke he'd brought with him to destroy the ship... Stop the Composer from destroying anymore cities. John felt himself hoisted up as the field the bastard created pushed him over the edge as he held one of his long-winded, annoying speeches... He listened little, eyes focused on the Havok that now lay on the ground.

He heard Cortana's voice... "Then you won't mind if we return the favor!" as her Clones emerged from the hardlight bridge, forming holographic shackles for the Didact, one of which wrested his control over the Chief. Grabbing onto the ledge of the Bridge, he climbed... Climbed... And took out a Forerunner Field Grenade... He watched as the Didact tried to fight, then slammed the bomb into the bastard's chest.

With an explosion knocking the Didact off before he could utilize that damned gravity field, Cortana let go of him... The Didact fell into the Composer's Abyss, a swirling whirlwind of energy and darkness... Not to be seen by the Chief again. This left the Havok. Chief crawled. He crawled toward the WMD with all the strength left in his upper body. Grabbing onto the device, he looked up... The UNSC Navy fought, still. Cannon fire, MAC rounds, Missiles, all disappeared, sent off by the unseen walls. He took one last look at Earth... Then looked at the bomb and slammed the detonator without hesitating...

A white light overtook him. The flash from the explosion, even though his visor was polarized to the max, was blinding. He inhaled, but felt no burning. He tried to move, but he felt held in place. He couldn't look around, his armor had locked. With a grunt, he wanted to speak, but failed to do so. The Spartan relaxed. Perhaps this was how it was just after death. Complete paralysis. Just nothingness... He closed his eyes... And darkness came...

Then, a voice...

"... n! ... ohn!"

It was faint. But familiar.

"John! John!"

She was calling out. Cortana?

"JOHN! WAKE UP!" She then yelled, this time loud and clear. The Spartan gasped for air and gripped tightly onto something hard. Opening his eyes, he saw space spinning all around him. Glimmering white dots surrounded him in a sea of inky blackness and he felt his joints mobile again, so he moved them, feeling what he gripped locked to his boots. He looked down at what he was settled upon and found a piece of Forerunner alloys, inscribed with all sorts of symbols and torn from the Mantle's Approach. The nuke did that. Radiation pinged off the singed metal like it did back during the Kurt event.

"Cortana, I'm up. Give me a status report." Chief asked as calmly as he could, returning to his stoic military demeanor... Something was off, he felt. He shut that feeling in the back of his mind, then looked at the Armor status. The MJOLNIR set was holding off Cherenkov Radiation, resembling more and more the event where Kurt went MIA. He breathed in, to steady himself, then fired his armor's Thrusters to steady himself on a calm trajectory.

"Thank God..." He heard Cortana breathe out in relief. "John, you woke up just in time."

"Where are we?" He asked, looking around.

Cortana nodded, then said "Above a planet, John, just not Earth. Our current course has us crashing directly onto its surface." bringing up a 2D map showing their descent through to the planet's surface. Ahead of them, a debris field. Asteroids. And half a moon... The Chief would ask a load of questions about this, but for now, they needed to survive the Crash Landing.

"We're going through a debris field. Can you adjust?" John asked.

Cortana hummed, then said "A moment." then flashed a few calculations in a corner of the Spartan's HUD. She hummed again, then said "Got it. Mind if I drive for a bit? I'll lock down your armor, so you won't feel a thing as we go through." as she set up a map on John's HUD. The descent map with the added course corrections. John sighed, then nodded. He hated Armor Lock, but would live with it for now if it meant surviving another fall from outer space.

He watched as the debris appeared ahead of him and felt the jerk of Thrusters firing as Cortana made course adjustments, whilst also keeping hold of the piece of debris they needed for re-entry. This felt oh-so-eerily familiar. The last tour of duty on Earth started much the same way, with him falling out of space. Except this time he went through some strange version of Slipstream, as far as he could tell. Only Slipstream gave off this much Cherenkov Radiation.

A dodge to the left, a veer to the right, a sudden spin to avoid a really big chunk of rock and that was the debris field. Whatever held those rocks in place, they were tidally locked to the Broken Moon in the sky. He huffed when he felt a sudden deceleration, as the forward thrusters were fired. He watched as the sun of the solar system appeared from the horizon and the continent they were gonna land on materialized from the darkness. Grassy fields, plateaus and mountains. John also saw faint lights somewhere on the planet's surface.

"ETA until we start burning?" John asked... His visor automatically polarized as the fire overtook the plate below him, flaring his shields as the Spartan and his makeshift heat shield entered the atmosphere. John sighed, then said "Nevermind." as he heard a sly giggle from Cortana. He watched as dawn hit the unknown planet below him and heard a ping in his Radio.

"We just passed in contact with a Radio wave of some sort. It was powerful, so the antenna transmitting it is close." Cortana said, trying to pinpoint it "Found it... We're landing in the middle of a compound, Chief. Brace yourself. I'm detecting automated defenses currently active within it." She then warned while making the adjustments for landing.

"This is gonna be interesting... Might I suggest clenching your teeth?" Cortana noted rather jovially as the Spartan saw the quickly-approaching ground lit up in an orange hue. He sighed, then gritted his teeth and felt the armor harden further. A sudden deceleration and a nauseating feeling of an almost instant, not to mention harsh impact with the ground, sent Chief tumbling away from his makeshift heat shield. He heard thunder crack as he smacked through what felt like two trees, then felt himself grind to a sudden, slightly painful halt as his shields almost instantly burst and the warning alarm blared in his helmet.

He tasted a coppery liquid in his mouth as the armor lock was soon gone, freeing him to move. He lay there for a few seconds, trying to get his bearings. He opened his eyes and let out a breath he had been holding onto for long enough and felt pain in the right side of his chest. Exhaling, painfully, he then spoke "Cortana, give me a damage report."

"The armor's a little scratched." She said dismissively, then turned to a more serious tone "You, on the other hand, are lucky... As usual..." John heard her add under her breath, but with relief to her voice. "You've got the right rib number 10 broken and it just missed your right lung by inches. Armor lock helped soften the blow, but you can't really protect that well against almost ten thousand PSI of impact force. Add to that that we lost the makeshift heat shield after slamming into the dirt and, well, you can tell the results. Does it hurt?"

John managed to stand up without much fuss, answering Cortana's question mutely. He sighed, then asked "Cortana?"

"Yeah?" She asked, a slight bit worried.

"Do you actually believe in God?" He then asked mockingly as he patted off the dirt, dust and wood chips that had embedded themselves into his armor. His shields flashed, then reactivated, covering him once again in the invisible blanket of Hardlight energy. He swallowed the blood and bit back a grunt, stowing the pain away as he started walking. The sun lazily rose ahead of him, due East, lighting up a strange, conical antenna a few hundred feet away from him. It lay on a reinforced concrete tower and John now saw what he had slammed so hard against. Walls made of similar concrete mounted anti-air and anti-infantry turrets resembling of Gatling and Auto-Cannons. He watched as the weapons snapped to and fro, aimed at only the outside of the wall. Dozens of them lined up the wall surrounding the compound, laser scanners active, sweeping outside.

"It was spur of the moment." Cortana answered him in amusement "We made a pretty nasty crack in the wall behind us. The turrets are busy with other things, it seems. None of'em bothered to shoot at us... Then again, it's probably because of our reentry speed and direct trajectory, but someone within this compound must've noticed us." She then added, rebooting John's HUD. His visor flashed, lit up cyan and then showed all information necessary once more, including the Motion Tracker, which showed only him.

"If they did, they aren't in a hurry to send anyone after us." John commented dryly as he started walking toward the Antenna. Cortana hummed in agreement.

"John. The Antenna doesn't only work as a Radio source... As far as I can tell anyways. I've examined its patterns now. Television, a planetary Intranet full of info... Et Cetera. Could be helpful if you got me into the system." Cortana explained to the Spartan. He agreed. They needed intel and damn well lots of it. This place didn't feel like any Colony or Insurgent World he knew of. Not this advanced to have everything outsourced through one Antenna.

He saw a console at the base of the antenna and moved for it. The closer he got, the more details he could make out, including its seeming operating system. A holographic console with several screens and a port for chips that, as luck would have it, fit Cortana's chip. She chirped in "Yank me." to which the Spartan removed the chip from his helmet, then locked it into the console. He swiveled about and drew his M6 Magnum(Which was still somehow attached to his hip) and aimed it around. He heard Cortana calmly hum as she looked through the Data...

Then he heard her say "Well... This is interesting. Chief, yank me and let's get out of here. Looks like I tripped a little failsafe protocol that may or may not have us walking out to a fight. There's a rather massive settlement close by you can... I was going to say 'blend into', but considering you're wearing a MJOLNIR set..." She sighed "Just follow the NAV Point."

They walked out of the compound, with Chief's eyes locking onto one of the gun turrets sat by the walls, scanning for targets. It trained on him and his armor's warnings blared, so he prepared to sprint out of there under threat of fire, but then it turned away, satisfied with the quick scan. He hummed, then asked "Any idea what that was about?"

"... I'm gonna say they're probably not searching for us. At least not to kill." The AI responded more slowly than usual. John reminded himself that she was parsing through the data they got out of the system. He continued forward, into a rather large Forest dead ahead, following the waypoint. He was stuck with only a side-arm for the time being, so he had to avoid combat as much as possible. He wasn't sure what kind of contacts he'd meet on this planet, if they were UNSC or not, or if he was gonna run head-first into the Storm Covenant's troops again.

"Cortana." Chief started, keeping his head on a swivel in the forest. His HUD flashed

"Hmm?" She vocalized.

Pushing aside a branch and stepping forward through the bush, he asked "Is this place one of our colonies?"

"Not that I can tell. The antenna wasn't using UNSC frequencies. Not even UEG civilian frequencies, for that matter." She responded, "So, watch out. There's still two of us in here."

He hummed, pushing deeper into the forest, toward the NAV Point. The Spartan walked for half an hour, before winding up by the side of small houses and rows of corn and other crops, lined neatly in fields. Bugs chittered, animals made their characteristic noises and farmers worked their fields while children played outside. Farther in the distance, past the many crop fields, the tall buildings of a city could be seen, with air traffic and vehicles alike pouring up and down a raised highway. The next NAV Point was centered roughly on the city itself. He eyed massive, floating fortresses up above, all lined up with guns and shaped like arrows, going by the design.

"We taking a detour?" Cortana asked, "Not sure we wanna bother the farms."

John shook his head, "Straight through. Crop fields should hide us... Keep an eye on my motion tracker for me and let me know if we got approaching."

"Will do." The AI chirped, then she murmured, "Just another thing for me to focus on." and 'smiled' playfully. John could only tell it was 'a smile' because of the more jovial tone she had taken. They proceeded forth, through the crops and trying not to damage any of them. God only knew how much food these farms provided to the city. Another half an hour of avoiding the civvies, the Spartan and his AI compatriot had arrived near the outskirts of the city.

Taking cover in one of the alleyways, the Spartan caught his first glimpse of the boulevard. Occupied by cars and flanked on each side by sidewalks and buildings resembling those of medieval Europe, the lively road of four lanes had commuters going about their business. He hummed, then asked, "Cortana? Any progress on that data?"

"I've got an incredible volume to work with here, John. It's going to take a few days. What I can tell you right now is that we're in a city called Vale... And I'd... Say it's about the size of a small nation." Cortana started, humming, "Curious... The population count seems a bit overblown, but then again..."

"Cortana." John started.

"Right... Sorry." She chuckled, then started "The Failsafe I must've triggered has alerted some local folk. I'm picking up chatter on the local net about the meteor. About us. Our best bet would be to go deeper into the town, unless I'm reading between the lines wrong."

"Huh?" John raised a brow.

"I'll put it this way, John... I think our best bet right now would be with the local authorities. We don't know a lot about where we are. And we won't know until I read through all of this." She explained, "I'll try to get through the important data quickly, so we have some idea of what we're walking into, but..."

"We'll stay out of sight for now." He noted, sidestepping back into the Alley and checking the only weapon he had with him:His pistol. A round in the chamber, a full mag and about four more mags' worth of ammo. He sighed, sliding the weapon back onto the mag-lock on his thigh, before moving toward the alleyway across as fast as he could, then continuing across through the alleys around.

"John. I got local reports from the Police... Some sort of situation developing a few blocks away from us." She noted, "We gonna steer clear?"

"Yeah." He answered, hand wrapping around his handgun. He drew it, moving more carefully down the alleys and keeping his eyes open. Just in case things did go bad for the two, he wanted to have his gun at the ready. A farther march down the streets had the Spartan stopping just near the next wide road. He leaned against the wall, watching as the people around him passed by. He'd hidden himself behind a dumpster, undesiring of being spotted at the moment. He tracked two police cars as they moved down the main road toward the reported incident in the area, then he moved forward, past the people and deeper into the city of Vale itself.

In another alley, the man stopped to gaze up at the massive airships floating menacingly overhead. Three heavily-armed vessels hovered overhead, in what looked liek a standard defensive pattern. Around them, smaller VTOL transports and gunships buzzed. Some flew low, giving a clear view of white plating and the Coat of Arms on their wings. He hummed, then turned to ask.

"Atlas. Another kingdom of the planet... One of four, actually." Cortana smirked, "Also the most militarized."

"Mhm..." He hummed. Maybe Atlas could provide some sort of better area for him to use his expertise. They continued onward. The Chief, however, paused just as he was going to cross to the next set of alleys. He turned over to face another part of the city, looking up at what resembled a castle hanging high on the face of a cliff. He raised a brow, then his gaze swept the street ahead.

He hummed, listening as silence fell around him. No people remained on this side of the street, strangely enough. Nor across from him. He listened, gazing upon his motion tracker. One faint dot remained from the hundreds that once permeated the small screen. Cortana started, "John..." as she set the scouting range to a mere 50 meters, to give a better picture. Their contact was behind and above them...

"I see it." He murmured, grip tightening around his handgun.

"We should run..." She noted.

"Not yet." He answered. He turned his head and looked up, watching as a figure clad in a strange uniform, like ones you'd see on teachers in old Earth stories, with a white shirt, black skirt and long thigh-highs, black heels and a strange, witch-like cape with black on the outside and purple in. She was a blonde, her hair in a bun and with the curl on the right. Two piercing emerald eyes locked onto the Chief's visor as she landed. In her hand, she wielded a riding crop, of all things.

She raised said riding crop like a weapon, then said "Hold it right there." in an authoritative voice.

"Well... So much for running?" Cortana quipped, "... I'll figure something out. For now, can we just not shoot at each-other, John?"

He hummed, then answered positive quietly. Sliding his pistol onto his hip, he turned to fully face the woman, before speaking "I mean you no harm." and he saw the woman hesitate. She lowered her riding crop, then gave the soldier a once-over. She hummed, then pulled a strange device out of her pocket. She opened it with the touch of a button and put it to her ear.

"I wonder..." Cortana hummed, then she sighed.

The woman looked to John again, then said "You are close to the site of a burglary. Are you related to it?"

"No." John shook his head. She hummed.

"For the sake of the people of Vale, I must ask you to follow me. You will talk with the man I work for. He wants to know what someone such as yourself could be doing in Vale's borders." She spoke, hanging up the 'phone' she had just used. She slid it back into her pocket, then showed Chief to follow while Cortana chuckled. The AI put the NAV Point onto the woman walking way from him and the Chief rolled his eyes ,following along.

"I'll be working on a cover story, John." The AI Gal noted, "Feel like we'll need it. I've read up enough about Vale and Atlas to have an idea of what we can use. Well, that and the culture of the planet we're on, Remnant."

"Hmm." John had figured they were on a different planet from the simple fact that the woman before him hadn't recognized the Spartan armor. Still, he felt like he should've been thankful that that was the case. It meant that the Mantle had been taken with them. The Spartan and his 'guard' moved to an open area just as civilians and cars were cleared to repopulate the street by the police.

Approaching a poorly-armored VTOL ship, its engines set on spindly wings, the woman looked back to him, then motioned for him to board the transport. He complied, entering the airship and sitting down. She, too, boarded and signaled the pilot to lift off. The two small engines thrummed to life, pushing the craft up and out of the plaza, up into the sky and soaring high. The flight revealed the many viaducts in the city, leading to and fro between the districts. John had to assume that he'd entered the city through the agricultural district.

"It just stretches on." Cortana observed in a quiet, amazed murmur. She sighed, then said "I've almost got your little backstory complete, John... Let's keep me a secret, by the way. Atlas doesn't seem too... Keen... On people having a stick bigger than theirs."

He hummed in response.

"Don't worry... We'll be fine." She spoke reassuringly, "It's you and me after all. We can get out of any mess."

He slightly tilted his head forward. Yeah, she was right. Any mess.

"Plus." She chuckled, "If things do go wrong, we can shoot our way out. Mix things up a little." She then stated. John leaned back into his seat and sighed a sigh of relief. He felt the tension in his bones begin to dissipate as he simply stared at the woman ahead. She stared back, calm. The corner of her mouth quirked up into a smirk as she tilted her head to her left. John looked as the aircraft flew higher. Toward the cliff.

Toward the small town on its top.

Small habitation blocks were lined up nearly behind a set of central buildings, which included a tall clocktower that acted as both the time-teller it had on its face and, seemingly, as a beacon. A faint green light pulsed inside, slowly growing stronger as the sun was falling. He leaned forward, looking at it, the architecture surrounding it and the massive landing pad near the cliff face. Below them, a massive reservoir lay, with a small waterfall from the top of the cliff and just below the landing pad.

"Huh... Place looks nice." The AI spoke, "Think we get to stay?"

... They had no idea what they were getting into, did they?

AN:Alrighty! so! With this up, y'all should probably know that I am rewriting Spartan Assault. Presumably, I'll have posted the AN talking about its deletion before I post this, so ya know...

I plan on making this version, the third tryout at something like this, slightly more streamlined. I know I said the same thing about SA the original, but... Ya know, I'll figure it out.

Anyways, I'll hopefully have a normal schedule for this one and I'll hopefully also get back to properly writing Princesses of Remnant by the time this is posted. Enjoy!