Merry Christmas (or other non/religious holidays) to all my readers. Personally I don't really celebrate Christmas at all; being a strong atheist but you guys are more than welcome to have my unused cheer and joy. :P
Chapter 10: Out of the Fire
Space flew by at a snail pace compared to the speed of the infinity even if Katherine knew she was moving faster than any land vehicle could even hope to achieve. Stars lazily drifted by without a care in the universe during their near immortal lifespans. Observing this put things in perspective for Katherine; she had even realized a few things. Nodding her helmet-less head from one hand to the other she sighed. Hours had passed since she had left the Infinity and had begun her search and rescue op.
“Space is boring...” She had to admit it. Without any glowing nebulae or stars moving at impossible speeds, it all seemed quite dull. Giving up on her venture of stargazing through the iced over screen of the Cloak 'n' Dagger's cockpit she stood up and walked out of the room looking for something more interesting to do. Walking down the main dorsal corridor of the ship, she began to explore the rooms and facilities available to her. She didn't need to be at the cockpit to find A042. The ship would notify her if it picked anything up.
The first room she came across was a medical bay with a compliment of machines to aid in dire emergencies. Three beds were placed along one side of the room to her left while the right side revealed a large work surface that spanned from one end of the room to the other and contained racks of medical supplies, from syringes to scalpels and a few small tanks of bio-foam. Leaving the room she approached the door directly opposite in the corridor. Opening it she was greeted by a blast of icy wind as she discovered the room was a rather small cryo-bay. The room was around the same size as the medical bay but the large pods and equipment that powered and maintained them used a very large portion of the room. There were six pods in total, an ample amount for her and A042 should all go to plan.
'Funny' she mused to herself. Why did she keep calling him that? She knew his real name yet she almost always referred to him by his official designation. Shaking it off as nothing more than Spartan instinct she left the room to its own and walked down the corridor to the next room. Whacking her fist against the open button on the door's frame it began to whir open at a speed Katherine was not quite happy with. After what seemed to her like an eternity, while being only five seconds, she had access to the ships armoury. Stepping inside and observing her surroundings a large grin slowly spread across her face. Perhaps one of the most maniacal grins she had ever pulled. Katherine had expected a few racks of fire-arms and that would be all. What she was greeted with was a vast assortment of weapons from both UNSC and Covenant manufacturers. True, not all members of the old covenant were against the human race, only a few factions with largest being the 'Storm' were truly opposed to humanities existence. Katherine,s smile soured a moment. No matter how much UNSC and loyalist co-operation had come along in the last few years, she knew there were those who would always have issues, 42 being one of them. To him it didn't matter if you were loyalist or storm. A-042 would rather hold a box of explosives for his local neighborhood Innie rather than work with a squid lip or any other alien.
She put the thought out her mind and looked more acutely at the weapons available to her. All the UNSC weapons models were up to date and she had a large variety from Magnums to Rocket-launchers and even a Spartan-laser. The Covenant side was a tad more outdated in some respects. True, there were weapons from the current Covenant rebellion such as the Storm Rifle that was manufactured by the rebels, but she couldn't see a single updated Beam Rifle or Fuel-rod Gun. However there were quite a few relics among the collection. Brushing her hand along the rack she pulled out two weapons she hadn't seen in years. In her left hand rested as Plasma Rifle with a production date imprinted on the grip that out it close to the end of the Human-Covenant war. In her right hand sat a Plasma Repeater, there was no production date anywhere on the body but it must have been extremely old because the Repeater was discontinued a few weeks before the invasion of Reach and the main blue alloy that coated its surface was beginning to give way to a more dull and grey tone underneath. She put the weapons back to their separate storage clips and began waltzing around the room to pick some weapons more suitable for her taste. Covenant weapons weren't really her style.
After a few minutes of careful choosing she came up with a light yet sufficient load-out. Her chosen tools of destruction were a model BR85HB aka the Battle Rifle, an M7 SMG and finally a titanium nano-fibre blade sheathed to the top right of her breast plate. Giving both guns a silencer and the SMG a red-dot sight she had created what she believed to be a light and stealthy reconnaissance load-out. Stepping towards the end of the armoury she picked through a rack of armour abilities to use. Selecting Active Camouflage and putting an old Armour Lock module in her tactical case she stepped out of the armoury and walked over to the second to last door down the corridor.
She found nothing of major importance to her inside what she now recognised as a minor vehicle depot. The only things in there were some maintenance tools and two mongooses. She was about to turn and leave when she noticed another, slightly larger object residing beneath a large cloth. Stepping over she grasped the edge of the fabric and whipped it off in one swoop of her arm. Underneath where the cloth had been sat something Katherine found very interesting. A Type-32 RAV otherwise known as a Ghost, sat inactive on the ground with a glittering sheen suggesting it was brand-new. The model definitely matched up with the more recent production notes but there were one or two differences here and there. Nothing major except the usual Covenant hieroglyphs were scratched off and instead were replaced with metal replications of the UNSCDF logo which here stuck on in some way Katherine couldn't see. That explains why this door was sightly larger than the others. Leaving the Ghost in the room she stepped out and decided to walk to the end of the corridor despite knowing what was on the other side of the final large door.
On the other side of this door was a relatively large drop bay and had been the one she had entered through upon first boarding the ship. The bay itself had little to no insulation and would be almost as cold as the endless field of space around her. She decided it was best not to open it quite yet and freeze herself to death. Turning away from the door she was about to walk to the small maintenance ladder which would take her down to the engine room when she felt a large rumble through the ship which threw her off balance slightly and caused her to grip the solid cables running the walls for support. The rumble quickly subsided but was followed by a small feeling of inertia as the ship twisted to the right slightly from what Katherine could feel. Taking this as a bad sign she quickly dashed up the corridor to the flight deck and entered the room with great haste. Not bothering to close the door behind her she immediately leapt over the back of the pilots seat and landed on the cushioned pads with a loud 'thwump'.
She observed the display screens which had lowered over the main viewing window and saw no anomalies other than the slightly altered course. Radiation levels and and interior pressure were standard. Star charts of the known area indicated that there should be no objects to hinder her flight path. Perhaps she had passed a stray asteroid and had been shifted slightly on her path by its gravitational pull. Not wanting to be assured on hopes and guesses she quickly flipped the displays up over her head and observed space with her own eyes only to be met with a sight that was both beautiful and rued to her at the same time for different reasons. Before her sat a large planet with swirling clouds and a brilliant blue atmosphere with slight hints of green and sections of wispy green gases seeping off the the planet to create a celestial wave effect. All in all it reminded her a lot of photos of Reach taken from space well before its destruction. What had filled her with rue was that if the ship had turned to the planets presence it meant that it had caught her in its gravitational grasp. Why the ship's displays had not picked this world up she did not know but what she did know was that this was close to A-042's drop off point from slip-space and most likely had him on its surface and she would be damned if she was also going to crash upon this planet and strand them both here.
She pulled the main piloting stick away from the dashboard and began hammering in commands to the engine from the primary console. Jerking back hard on the stick she felt little to no movement from the ships previous path towards the large turquoise marble. She applied more power to the engines for a reverse thrust but still met similar results. She repeated the process in vain for nearly three minutes before the ship rumbled again and she could feel the ship begin to heat up slightly. Looking through the main window she could see that a heat cone was already beginning to form this high up in the atmosphere that she had just begun to enter. An anomaly she would investigate later, given that she would survive this first. She buckled up with every possible form of restraint to keep her in the seat and began a mighty wrestling match with the control stick and the ship's engine. She fought hard and true but could not budge the ship from its unintended path. It was obvious to her at this point that external forces were acting upon her at this point, it had to be Covenant. Most likely the Storm faction seeing as no other hostile force could obtain technology of this standard. Refusing to give in and die, Katherine continued to wrestle with the controls as the cockpit built up to heats almost no human could bear but she was a Spartan and she quickly slipped on her helmet to help her compensate with the unbearable temperatures. Merely around 20 seconds before impact the controls suddenly responded to the engine and the ships movement freed up allowing her as much control as she could muster on this descent. However there was nowhere near enough space to pull up and escape so she flattened out the craft as much as she could and cut some speed with a bit more friction. Of course the added resistance from the underside of the ship caused some panels from the outer hull to simply rip off in a cacophony of screeching metal.
Reaching behind her back she unplugged her Active Camouflage and plugged in her Lock-up module in its steed and prepared for a risky gamble. Seconds away from impact Katherine smashed the controls to the side and activated her Armour Lock-up at overdrive capacity. The ship responded to her actions and suddenly jerked sideways and continued to move in a more curved, swooping angle. The first part of the ship to touch the ground was the right wing which quickly carved large gashed into the landscape beneath her. Trees and other wildlife unfortunate enough to get caught in the ships path were instantly smeared and upturned by the massive hulking wreck of the ship. The rest of the ship soon followed suit with the right wing and bit by bit dug into the dirt. The entire ship was now at this point skidding along the ground at speeds not suitable for the overall integrity of the ships structure. Sizeable chunks flew off behind the ship as it coasted along on its destructive course but Katharine’s gamble had paid off and though the right wing has practically disintegrated at this point; acceptable damage had been done to the cockpit allowing a larger survival chance than if the ship had crashed nose first. The ship continued to skid and Katherine held on until a large object unrecognizable to her in the moment of stress, had flew off the wall and now shot at her forehead at great speeds. The large item would have taken her head off were it not for the Armour Lock-up and served only to smack her across the face and rebounding up over her head. Before the crash could even finish she was subjected to blackness as her limbs went limp in the seat but only stayed in place from the the now solidified energy shielding of the Lock-up effect. Her last thoughts of the moment before fully giving in were of how pissed the Captain was going to be that she wrecked one of his ships.
Elsewhere on the planet a blue figure ran at tremendous speeds over hills and through forests to reach the crash...