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Zanzibar/Last Resort Blood Gulch / Coagulation Red Team: Silver (assault rifle) Gunner (pistol) Damin (rocket launcher) Gary (sniper rifle) Rocky (battle rifle) Silver's shadow disappeared, melding with the windmill blades as it lifted up, blocking out the sun. Silver felt the slight temperature change through his Mark VI Spartan armor. So far, the upgrade had done well with him, showing a faster recovery rate and, to his hidden delight, was much, much lighter. After being away from his new base for a week (a nasty fever that had broken loose in Halo and Earth for some unknown reason), he was glad to be back. Well, not completely "glad" per-se, he was in a war after all. Still, it was good to return to his friends that he had lived with for the last few years. He knew them all very well, except for Rocky, who had replaced his old commander John. He missed John the most, the others knew deeply. Silver, while not smiling behind the golden circular helmet that he chose, was happy in a way. It had taken him a few days, but he now knew, once and for all, that he was free of Jimmy. Jimmy, a sniper and teammate at his old base at Blood Gulch, had been a spy, and nearly killed them all-Red, Blue, and a team called Black-to find an object that could bring the dead to life. He planned to revive a Covenant master, who is one of two who knew the secret to activating Halo, and take over the universe with an army of clones. Only Silver, John, a man named Narrator, Colin, Andrew, and Black were able to ultimately stop and kill him. In the end, except for a few dead, it was as if it had never happened. Silver had put it all behind him, and so had the others. Of course, they didn't tell anybody what happened, it was too...personal? It was a story of betrayal, death, and a device that could bring the dead to life-if anyone believed them, searched for it, and found it they-well, they would hold a load of power. Silver and the others had agreed not to tell anybody about it. And, so far, they had held to it. A second blade attached to the large windmill, which had some unknown purpose, passed by Silver's extended shadow and, for a moment, they were one. The wind was still, the air quiet and free of the familiar white noise of earth and the constant cricket's chirp that Silver was accustomed to on Blood Gulch. The sound was replaced by smells-the ocean beyond the stone ruins that dotted Last Resort (formally Zanzibar), kept the air filled with a salt-like taste that, without a helmet, would burn anyone's nose and lungs to the complete, spiritual core. The creak that had first been the only noise had disappeared with the windmill's reactivation and a few cans of oil. The man crept forward, afraid to break the strange, complete silence. His assault rifle was on his back, a pistol on his leg holster, and two frag grenades on his chain-mail belt (that was part of the upgrade-steel belt to light chain-mail). The front door of the base was just a doorway-the original door had been lost many years ago and they were waiting for a replacement. The young man used the back of his black glove patched with silver steel to knock lightly against the left side of the stone doorway, letting the echo bounce around for a moment before being covered by the shifting of soldiers. The first to appear, clutching a pistol in his grip tightly, was Silver's friend Gunner. Gunner had, back at Blood Gulch, seemed to be one of the two smart Reds. But times had changed and now they all had their worth. At first it was a different feeling, thinking they were all near the same level, but that had went with time. Just like memories of Jimmy. "Jesus, Silver, you scared the crud out of me!" the man exclaimed with relief, giving a second show of it with a sigh. "It's been real quiet 'round her, man. I don't think Blue army has seen it fit to take this place yet. I guess we got real lucky, huh? Getting this base and all-and nobody wants it!" He laughed nervously, as if he would jinx them. The feeling crept into his throat, shutting his mouth with a telekinetic-like power. "Good to see you too, Gunner." The men shared a quick embrace, before Silver slid by, looking around the base. "Where is everyone? I'm disappointed-there wasn't anyone standing guard outside." Gunner looked away nervously, his brow sweating and stinging his green eyes beyond his golden visor. "Yeah, everyone but me and Rocky is gone." Silver stopped, frigid in the summer-vacation warmth. He turned slowly, regretting the answer he was expecting. "Where are they?" Were his fears going to be answered? Would Gunner be a savior and hold it back? He didn't. "They've been called to command for relocation. I'm leaving tomorrow." The unsaid words, slipped through the air heavily. I'm sorry, but we're leaving. Silver, feeling the attachments to each of his friends stretching away, could only keep his knees from buckling and melting, but nothing was done to the tears that would come. He had lived with these people for several years, and now they were leaving. They were like his brothers now. They had had their fights and their moments. They were a team, not just issued, but mentally. They couldn't leave, not now. "Gunner..." he couldn't' finish. His voice began to crack, though he was almost twenty-five. Gunner sighed, feeling the pain, though not as much. He wrapped his arms around Silver, leading it to look like a gay moment. "Gunner...I can't let them go." "I know...just...they'll be back later tonight. You can say your goodbyes, at least." "Yeah..." It wasn't much comfort, but the thin cushion would hold. A flash brightened the dimly lit rectangular room for just a second. "Look at this. When I signed up, I didn't think I'd have to deal with two lovers." Rocky was sitting on the ledge of the second floor, which was just a walkway around halfway up, which led outside and to the center of the windmill. His armor was completely red, unlike Silver's which was red and silver and Gunner's which was red and green. In his hand, dangling over the edge was the camera that had flashed as the picture was taken of the two. Lying on the ground, its barrel poking over the walkway, was Rocky's battle rifle. The diamond-grid pathway groaned as Rocky pushed himself to his knees, and then his feet, using the guard rail as a crutch. "What's this about anyway? Is the Blues comin' to kill us all, so you have t' 'fess up your love for each other?" He laughed heartily, letting true accusation leak through his teeth. Did he really think they were gay? Yes, yes he did. Gunner looked away, blushing behind the visor, knowing it really did look that way. "The team is leaving." answered Silver, trying not to let the newbie's words burn the open wound. He wasn't in the mood for jokes. "And?" he asked, as if his CO was going to continue. When he didn't, he began to chuckle quietly. "Oh, I see. I guess I got stuck with Team Homo. I'm not sure if I should keep laughing, feel sorry, or feel afraid." And, under his breath, he muttered just loud enough for them to hear: "God, I didn't think the army would be like prison." "It isn't. In prison, you're taken. Last I heard, Rocky, you were going willingly." Silver spun and crouched like a true soldier, his fast hands gripping and lifting the silver pistol from his leg's side holster and the second wrapping around a grenade, sliding it free from the belt. But when he saw Damin standing in orange armor, leaning against the far door with a smirk, he stood and walked over to his friend. "Nice comeback." Gunner watched Rocky kick his battle rifle off the ledge and walk through the large, open windows that dropped a good fifteen feet to the ground angrily. Silver began to shake hands with Damin, but when their fingers touched he pulled him in, embracing strongly with one arm. "Glad to see you, Damin." "Hey, watch it." Damin pushed himself away, rubbing the armor where his spine was. "I don't want you breaking the steel in my spine." There it was-Jimmy's fault. Back in the final battle, Silver had been the only Red left alive at the end. Good thing they had the life-giving device. Of course, even though they were alive, they still had some problems. "Yeah, why don't you tell us about how that piece of 'nade shrapnel pierced near your ass, too? Don't pretend you forgot about that-that small bomb nearly took your arm too." Gunner laughed at Silver's jest. It was true, after all. "So..." Silver tried to ask the question, but sadness spilled from him, covering his aura. After a moment of silent preparation, before he could ask, Gunner did it for him. "Where are you being put?" he asked, plainly and bluntly, with a pained tone that hinted that he didn't want an answer. But God didn't care what they wanted-just what they needed. "Sidewinder-or Avalanche as it's being called now." Damin tried to rub his cheek, a hobby he had growing up, even in the army he tried to, even though he couldn't. He never got past it. "Where are the others? Are they back yet?" asked Silver. Memories of Damin-related conversations from the past flashed through his head all at once. "Not yet. Cheer up, dude. It's not like you'll never see us again-I'm not leaving for a few days." "How long is a few days?" he asked, feeling a cushion of relief, though far below the bar labeled 'hope.' A quick unanswered silence, then, "A week at the latest." A week....better than nothing, and more than Silver had hoped for. He would enjoy a week, but he was thinking it would have been three days. The conversation had reached an awkward dead end of unconventional silence. Silver turned, a mixture of anger and terror for the future flaring in his gut, surrounding his heart with a dry-ice orb. He walked away, towards the vehicle's exit, a large open doorway filled with cement road blocks that could be lowered via a computer on the second floor. He slipped between two of the blocks and out into the open. The last Damin and Gunner saw of him was when he walked behind the four power poles that had something to do with the windmill. Damin spoke up, suddenly feeling confident about a thought. "Gunner, he shouldn't be that sad just because we're leaving. I am right, after all, I got his information too-he's going to be with me." Damin, while looking calm, was genuinely concerned. "Damin..." Gunner began. He took a deep breath, filling his lungs with cleaned air-air that barely burned at all-and tried to continue as best he could. It wasn't his story to tell, really. "Damin..." he let out a huge sigh, as if he was carrying more weight than ever before. "Silver's wife, Maria, died the other die. She was sick with that virus that's been spreading, but she never checked in...the military issued a world-wide biohazard warning, and several countries are being entirely quarantined. " Damin knew that Silver losing his wife would be hard, but something didn't seem right. "So what happened to his kids? Are they sick? Shouldn't he be out of the army, then, so he can watch them? He doesn't have any other family." Gunner looked down, then shoulder-checked to see if Silver had come back. He hadn't. "The virus doesn't kill. In some people it does nothing. In others...it makes them go insane." "So how did she die?" "She apparently starting seeing visions and thinking that the apocalypse was coming. She killed her kids," he stopped, letting the sentence sink into his own mind. "Then she committed suicide." Damin's face was the same, but slowly changed to one of pity and horror. They didn't move for several minutes, Gunner's eyes on Damin, Damin's eyes on the steel floor of the base, wide and horrified. "And he's still here...fighting for his world. That's dedication." "That's the only thing he has left-us. And now we're leaving. Damin, don't let him down. You have to help him any way possible." "I've got it!" Damin exclaimed, an idea popping in his head, on like a light bulb. "Come on, Gunner, follow me." Damin started to follow the same path Silver had taken out, Gunner on his trail with a confused look. "Where are we going?" Damin pressed a button just under his ear on his helmet, turning on the resident radio. "Silver? It's Damin." The voice was heard by Silver and Gunner, but did not repeat through to the speaker. Damin's headset crackled to life with static and Silver spoke sadly. "What?" "Come back to base for a minute." It was a command spoken sweetly. Damin, outside, jumped over the side of the lone Warthog-a dark green light reconnaissance jeep with two front seats and a belt-fed machine gun mounted on the back-and flipped the switch that turned it on in place of a key. Silver came from the other side of the windmill to see Gunner step onto the metal plating on the back and clutch the turret with strong hands. Silver jogged over with some energetic curiosity. "What are we doing?" he seemed desperate to know. "Get in." Damin commanded. He did, on the passenger's side. "Now where are we going?" "You'll see." Damin replied, wearing a knowing smile that had crept to his face when he wasn't paying attention. He drove them past the large windmill, through the arched entranceway to the beach, turned to the right (away from the blazing orange setting sun) and along the beach, kicking up a cloud of sand behind them the entire way. They reached the end and continued their drive through a cave they had traversed a few times before. Silver and Gunner both knew now. The tunnel was about a mile long and they reached the exit quickly. They were in Blood Gulch for one final time. Damin drove them around the outer edge of the box canyon, going with its many curves and keeping a safe distant from the craggy mountain wall. They rode beside the cliff-side, a walkway halfway up the mountain with a slope to the ground near the red base and halfway through the canyon. They avoided a large pile of scattered boulders that fell from the cliff when Halo was fired and decimated a large portion of the Covenant fleet. Around the empty blue base and next to the ramp that led up to a second cave that, in eventuality, hit the first cave that led to Last Resort and also to the top of the cliffs surrounding Blood Gulch. They passed the cave they came through, going for another run-around. All the while, Silver watched while hundreds, thousands, of memories flooded his mind. Good memories, bad memories, they all came as his eyes passed by spots. Damin and Gunner also remembered, but their past thoughts were, in ways, remembered wrong in some way, and they had memories Silver had not. Silver, though, knew it all perfectly. "Damin, stop." It was a command, filled with Silver's original emotionless voice that said 'I am your leader and you will listen to me.' So Damin did him and Gunner both wearing a smile. Silver jumped from the jeep behind red base and slowed as he approached the back door, which was wide open for anybody. His path turned, unexpected by either of his friends. He went to the left-usually he would move to the right if he changed direction anywhere. He walked up a ramp on the left that dug into the base. He stood on top, seeing the base's top and his mind putting in the people like a projection. Silver's hand gripped his battle rifle tightly, his right hand pulling the trigger back as far as possible with energy still pushing. Bullets fired continuously, most hitting the metal base and ringing loudly, thought covered by the booming sound of the gun's fire, and bouncing to the grass. Others hit the grass-and-dirt ground directly. Tears streamed down his face and his gun, empty dropped to the ground, hitting the edge of the open sunroof that Jimmy had fallen through more than once. The gun and something else, something larger and heavier, clattered noisily. Silver's hand grabbed the leather grip of a knife in his belt and pulled it free quietly and quickly. He stabbed himself in the same way, at least to him. The other two heard the screech of tearing metal. A crimson flower blossomed on his gut; the red bulb pulsated darkly, shivering, before exploding as it pushed past the stabbed steel armor. The knife was enveloped with the sticky liquid of life. It flooded his armor as he fell, and shuddered as he hit the ground, and again as two terrified friends lifted him up by the elbows and dragged him down the ramp and in their old base. "Is he ok?!" A voice echoed in Silver's ears, but wasn't heard. Gunner... he thought weakly, wishing his friend was gone and didn't know him. "He stabbed himself! It doesn't look like he's hit anything important except for maybe his stomach." Damin... Silver thought, once again just knowing the sound and not hearing. "What do we do?" A pause, and a deeply held breath that was soon released. "Cut the flag of the pole and give it to me," Damin ordered. Cloth was cut and Silver felt slight pressure below his chest as Damin tried to quickly wipe up most of the crimson liquid. "Yeah, he's fine for now, but we have to get him on a transport." Something in the distance that Silver could not and, quite frankly, did not care to understand. He wasn't in the mood to care for anything at the moment. But, Damin and Gunner heard it clearly. The message repeated over a loudspeaker built into the Spartan Mark VI armor. "Come out of the base with your weapons unloaded and hands in the air!" "Shit!" shouted Damin. "Gunner, watch him, I'll be right back!" Damin ran from the room in a quick frenzy; he needed to help Silver. Gunner crept over to Silver's body sadly, hoping that Damin would be back soon-quicker than soon. "Silver, don't give up. You still have us-and you're being transported to Avalanche with Damin, you're not going to be left alone." He informed the dying man, trying to lift his hopes to live. In the quiet, Gunner listened past Silver's heavy breathing. There was...fighting? Struggling? And gunshots! Someone shouting...and then three people, are wearing some type of blue armor, invaded the room with various weapons. Surrounded on all sides in an ambush, a shadow fell over the lone able red. Gunner looked up to the man in cobalt armor that was blocking out the sun. "Well, well, looks like we got ourselves some red scavengers. Take 'em prisoner." The man commanded. Several hands wrestled Gunner to the ground and handcuffs clicked around his wrists. "Wait!" Gunner called out. "My friend's hurt, please help him!" One of the blues pumped a shotgun, aiming it at Silver's still body. "Don't shoot him." The man above commanded. "I said 'taken prisoner' not 'killed.'" Interlude 1 The shadows danced in the darkness. Can there even be shadows in the darkness, or is it one being? A strange question to ask when one is dying, but Silver's mind was flourishing with forgotten memories and questions he had never asked. Was he dying or dead, or somewhere in between? The life was drifting away from him without looking back, slowly fleeing through the blocked, torn area of his lower chest. He was unconscious, lying in the infirmary underneath blue base. "It doesn't look like he's going to make it, sir," Announced one of the two Blues in the small room built for four patients. The Commander in Cobalt hmphed in a gruff tune as if he wasn't sure whether to rejoice in an enemy death or complain about a dead patient/prisoner. "It was a simple procedure, yes? That's what you said." The medic nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, sir, but I believe he is suffering from some type of depression, so he is keeping himself from living." The Commander nodded and hpmhed again. "Darin said something about the other captives' questioning, and he had some recent trauma. Would that be it?" The medic nodded immediately. "Absolutely, would you mind if I questioned them about it," after a second, he added, "Commander Ryman, sir." Ryman yawned loudly, his instincts telling him that it was time for beer and bed. "Do whatever, just try and keep him alive." He thought for a moment, keeping the need for an alcoholic beverage in the sides of his mind, and answered a second time. "Or do whatever and let him die." The thought-at-the-sides became his main picture, and he mumbled "I'm gonna get a beer." And so he did.