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  #2291
Naked Crook
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San Angeles – Firebase Mediterranean – Subterranean Forerunner Facility – Vanguard’s Antechamber – 0000 Hours - February 2nd 2540
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Anaconda, along with The Consultant and Nova Team had entered a large antechamber. They had come to a halt, as they stood before a large door that separated them from the final corridor that would lead them to Vanguard.

The Consultant: Well gentlemen…there you have it. It is Zero-Hour. It seems fitting.

Anaconda looked at The Consultant, but he did not say anything.

The Consultant: Alas…this is it…through that door is where Vanguard awaits.

The Consultant paused, as she hefted the rifle in her hands.

The Consultant: This feels daunting…

Anaconda was silent. The Consultant then looked at Anaconda.

The Consultant: Before going at this thing, we should have a plan of action…an offensive game plan.

Anaconda did not reply. He simply glared at the large door.

The Consultant: Any thoughts, big guy?

Anaconda growled, as he turned and glared at The Consultant.

Anaconda: Do not call me that.

The Consultant: But Nighthawk…

Anaconda: You are NOT Nighthawk.

The Consultant sighed.

The Consultant: Alright…fine…ANACONDA…

The Consultant scoffed.

The Consultant: Do you have any recommendations as to how we should engage this thing?

Anaconda: There is no proper way to engage this thing. You either survive…or you die. The best I can say is this; try not to die. Do whatever you have to do to survive. Do not stop shooting Vanguard, and do not give it an inch! Do not hesitate, and do not allow it to intimidate you.

Anaconda paused.

Anaconda: Most importantly…do not get in my way.

The Consultant looked at Nova Team, and nodded at them. She then turned back to Anaconda.

The Consultant: That won’t be a problem. We will do everything we can to provide support fire. We will leave the heavy hitting to you.

Anaconda: That’s the idea.

As Anaconda said this, he looked at The Consultant and growled.

Anaconda: Open this door! Our time is limited.

The Consultant nodded, as she approached the door, and pressed her hand against a wall mounted terminal, and the large door opened. Anaconda began to step forward, as The Consultant and Nova Team allowed him to take the lead. However, as soon as Anaconda crossed the threshold of the door, a large energy barrier went up, separating Anaconda from The Consultant and Nova Team. Anaconda stopped in his tracks, as he turned and slammed his fist against the energy barrier; snarling at The Consultant in the process.

Anaconda: Treacherous Human!

The Consultant shook her head, with a panicked tone on her voice.

The Consultant: We didn’t do this!

Anaconda growled again, but, he slowly began to realize that The Consultant may be telling the truth.

The Consultant: You have to believe me! We didn’t do this! It must have been Vanguard! The AI wants to do battle with you, above all else. This must be its way of guaranteeing that it gets what it wants.

Anaconda snarled in frustration.

Anaconda: Go back and find Nighthawk! See if he can find a way around this barrier.

Anaconda let out a low pitch growl, emanating deep within his chest, as he slowly turned, and looked down the long dark hallway that would lead him to Vanguard.

The Consultant: What about you?

Anaconda: Vanguard wants to fight me. I am going to give it what it wants.

The Consultant: Alone?

Anaconda began to walk down the corridor. As he did, he said one final thing.

Anaconda: Alone…

Anaconda walked down the long, dark corridor, his Gravity Hammer in his right hand, and one of his Spikers in his left hand. With every step that he took, Anaconda knew that he got closer and closer to the one thing that he never believed he would ever see again, the one foe that he truly considered to be a real and viable threat to his own life. Anaconda did not often attribute much to his foes, but, Vanguard was the one exception, where he had a very honest respect for how dangerous this construct was. Deep down inside, Anaconda knew that there was a chance that he was walking to his death, and this did not sit well with him. For all of his bravado, and for all of his bragging and chest pounding that he had done through the years, Vanguard was the one thing that sent a chill to his bones, and he was about to face it again. He was about to fight a battle that should not have ever come to fruition.

As Anaconda drew closer and closer to the heart of the facility, he found himself becoming tenser. As Anaconda reached the end of the corridor, he came to one final door, which opened as he approached it. Once the door had opened, Anaconda stepped inside and looked around the room. The room itself was massive, the ceiling itself being over 50 feet high, with the walls extending 100 feet in both directions. However, at the dead center of the room, was a massive device that could remotely be described as a massive holotable. The size of this device, however, could have easily accommodated a Prowler sized vehicle. Anaconda instinctively knew that what he was looking at was, undoubtedly, The Forge; Vanguard’s end game. As Anaconda gazed at this device, he noticed that Vanguard was hovering right above the Forge, at the exact dead center of the room, surrounded by dozens of much smaller constructs, and further guarded by a localized energy barrier. Anaconda stepped forward, with his eyes locked on Vanguard, watching as the smaller constructs flew very rapid circles around Vanguard, as if they were eagerly orbiting Vanguard. As Anaconda got closer, he noticed that the smaller constructs were using some type of energy beam to, literally, materialize armor onto Vanguard’s frame. Anaconda knew that this was due in no small part to how Anaconda had bested Vanguard before. Anaconda knew that Vanguard was fully prepared for a physical confrontation.

Anaconda finally stopped in his tracks, as he finally did what was expected of him; he called out to Vanguard…with the sole intent to challenge the Construct.

Anaconda: VANGAURD!

Anaconda’s voice echoed in the room, as he shouted at the top of his lungs. His call did not go unanswered, as Vanguard’s eye fully illuminated, and the smaller constructs moved away. The light from Vanguard’s eye shifted around, as it locked onto Anaconda’s position. Vanguard glared at Anaconda for a moment, before it began to slowly move downwards towards Anaconda. Vanguard finally stopped about 15 feet from Anaconda, as it began to speak to him.

Vanguard: I have waited for this moment for many cycles.

Vanguard paused.

Vanguard: To finally be within striking distance to correct an aberration.

Anaconda simply remained silent.

Vanguard: You do not believe that victory is possible. You assumed that a numerical advantage would enable you to achieve victory, but, your allies failed you, and now you stand alone…

Vanguard paused.

Vanguard: I will make this simple for you; Submit…now, and I will provide you with a rapid death. Resistance will be punished most severely.

Anaconda scoffed at Vanguard, as he raised his Spiker, and began to fire at Vanguard. However, Vanguard simply remained where he was, and allowed the projectiles to bounce off his energy shields.

Vanguard: Your efforts are useless. I cannot be harmed!

Anaconda, however, was not so easily dismayed, as he holstered his spiker, and charged at Vanguard. Vanguard simply watched as Anaconda quickly closed the gap, before he simply teleported out of the way. Anaconda stopped in his tracks, as he looked around; trying to get a fix on Vanguard’s location. It was only a moment before Vanguard reappeared behind Anaconda, with the accompanying bright yellow flash.

As Anaconda turned, he growled once more as he once again charged at Vanguard, and once again, Vanguard teleported out of the way. With Vanguard teleporting away the second time, Anaconda knew that this tactic was not working, and that he needed to start thinking ahead. With that, Anaconda stopped in his tracks, quickly turned around, and jumped forward, through the air, as far as he could with the anticipation that Vanguard would, once again, attempt to appear behind him. Sure enough, as Anaconda had done this, Vanguard reappeared once more, only to face the full brunt force of Anaconda’s Gravity Hammer. The force of impact caused Vanguard’s body slam into the ground. However, Vanguard did not remain immobile for long, as it once again teleported away, only reappearing about 15 feet back from where it was, already suspended in flight. Vanguard glared at Anaconda for a brief moment, before it spoke.

Vanguard: You cannot harm me. My power is unmatched.

Vanguard paused for a moment, as its eye began to glow an even brighter red.

Vanguard: You will know true power! You will regret your resistance!

Anaconda began to back off, as Vanguard charged up its particle laser, and began to fire. Anaconda jumped to the side and began to run, as Vanguard followed Anaconda path, pursuing him with the particle beam.

Vanguard: You cannot escape your destruction. It is all but certain!

Vanguard ceased firing for a moment, as he aimed ahead of Anaconda, and proceeded to fire a short burst, as he hit Anaconda right in the side, and knocked him right off his feet, all while sending Anaconda flying several feet to the side. As Anaconda hit the ground, he lost the grip on his Gravity Hammer, as he groaned in pain.

Vanguard: That…is but a taste of my power…a glimpse of the agony that is waiting for you!

Anaconda shook his head to try and shake off his daze, as he tried to climb back to his feet. However, before he could get back to his feet, he was once again blasted by Vanguard, the force of the impact sent him sliding across the floor.

Vanguard: I could destroy you at any time! I could end your meaningless existence at any point!

Vanguard paused.

Vanguard: You are no match for me.

Anaconda was breathing heavily, as he continued to struggle to get back to his feet. Vanguard simply watch as Anaconda struggled to get back to his feet. Vanguard, however, was not impressed.

Vanguard: You are fragile…weak. You cannot hope to stand against me! You cannot hope to win.

Anaconda growled in defiance, as he began to charge at Vanguard. However, before Anaconda could even get close, Vanguard once again charged his laser, and blasted Anaconda back, sending him flying back through the air, and crashing to the ground, as Anaconda rolled and slid across the ground from the force of impact. As Anaconda lay on the ground, unable to get back to his feet, Vanguard simply moved towards him, speaking as he did, stopping about 5 feet away.

Vanguard: Foolish creature of blood and flesh. Only now, at the end, do you truly understand my power. Only now…do you see that my might cannot be matched.

Vanguard paused, as it glared at Anaconda.

Vanguard: Your defiance is pointless. You prolonged the inevitable! Your future is as empty as your efforts.

Anaconda groaned in pain, as he began to push himself upwards, back to his knees.

Anaconda: My defiance?

Anaconda paused.

Anaconda: You have not seen anything yet…

As Anaconda said this, he reached to his side, and grabbed one of his incendiary grenades, and threw it at Vanguard. This caught Vanguard off-guard, as it was quickly enveloped in flames. With Vanguard in a ball of flame, Anaconda lunged back to his feet, and dodged around Vanguard, as he began to run as fast as he could, in the hopes of recovering his Gravity Hammer. As Anaconda neared his Gravity Hammer, he leaned to the side, and scooped it off the ground. With his Gravity Hammer back in Hand, Anaconda glared at Vanguard and began to charge once more. As the flames around Vanguard began to die down it turned its attention back to Anaconda, just as Anaconda was in the process of swinging his Hammer at Vanguard. Anaconda managed to land one direct hit in the side of Vanguard’s chassis, causing Vanguard to crash into the ground once more. Anaconda capitalized on this, as he took a few steps back, and then swung his Hammer once more; slamming the sledge right into Vanguard’s eye. Vanguard made a rather odd mechanized hissing noise, as it engaged its anti-gravity thrusters, and slammed itself into Anaconda at full speed. The force of the impact caused Anaconda to fly back with great force. As Anaconda hit the ground, he groaned in pain, as the force of impact had momentarily knocked the wind out of him. Anaconda took several deep breaths, as he climbed back to his feet, and recovered from being winded. Once Anaconda was back on his feet, he noticed that Vanguard’s eye began to glow brighter, as it prepared to fire its particle laser once again. Anaconda growled as he charged at Vanguard, knowing that he would not be able to get close enough before Vanguard retaliated. Despite this, Anaconda did not break off. Instead, he threw his Gravity Hammer at Vanguard with as much force as he could muster. Before Vanguard could fire off his particle laser, the Gravity Hammer had impacted Vanguard right in its center of gravity; the impact managing to throw Vanguard off balance momentarily. This gave Anaconda the time and opportunity he needed to get close the gap between him and Vanguard. As Vanguard rebalanced itself, Anaconda leapt at the construct; climbing on top of it. As Anaconda situated himself on top of Vanguard, and began to slam his fist into Vanguard’s energy shield. Anaconda punched Vanguard a dozen times before Vanguard teleported away.

Anaconda growled in frustration, as he fell to the ground. After a moment, Anaconda shook his head, as he climbed to his feet and turned around to see Vanguard reappear in front of the Forge. As Anaconda turned, he leaned over and grabbed his Gravity Hammer, and then began to run towards Vanguard. However, an energy barrier erected around the Forge, as if done to protect Vanguard from any further attack. As Anaconda stopped in his tracks, Vanguard began to speak.

Vanguard: Your attacks are pointless. This shell is only a vehicle. Destroying this body gains you nothing.

Vanguard paused.

Vanguard: You are but meager dust, struggling against a great force you can never hope to comprehend. You are incapable of defeating me. Would it not be so much easier to surrender, and accept your fate willingly? Your resistance merely prolongs the inevitable.

Anaconda growled, as he paced back and forth.

Anaconda: You are all talk Vanguard, but, for all of your words…you have to hide behind an energy barrier the moment I put a scratch on you. You have to hide…and cower…

Anaconda paused for a moment, before he bared his teeth and snarled.

Anaconda: You’re afraid…

Vanguard: impudent bacteria…

Anaconda: You ARE afraid of me!

Anaconda paused.

Anaconda: Prove me wrong, Vanguard! Come and get me! Come and do what you claim to be so good at; come and destroy me! Prove how inferior I am…prove how powerful you are!

Vanguard’s eye began to glow a bright red, as a loud mechanical sounds began to fill the room. Anaconda stepped back, as he noticed that the Forge was powering up.

Vanguard: So be it…

Vanguard simply waited as The Forge began to power up. However, without any notice what-so-ever, The Forge suddenly powered off and went silent. Vanguard was taken aback by this, as the light on its eye began to dim.

Vanguard: WHAT!?

As The Forge went dark, the energy barrier that had surrounded The Forge also shutdown, leaving nothing between Vanguard and Anaconda. As the energy barrier fell, Anaconda grinned, and let out a growl.

Vanguard simply glared at Anaconda for a moment.

Vanguard: Your confidence stems from ignorance; ignorance of the destruction that awaits you.

Vanguard paused.

Vanguard: Very well, bacteria…if you so desire to be cleansed, then I shall indulge you. I will personally bring about your annihilation!

Vanguard began to move towards Anaconda.

Vanguard: You will know pain before you are destroyed!

Anaconda gripped his Gravity Hammer in both hands, as he and Vanguard stared at one another, locked in a death gaze.

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San Angeles – Firebase Mediterranean – Subterranean Forerunner Facility – Vanguard’s Antechamber – 0015 Hours - February 2nd 2540
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The Consultant held her tablet in her left hand, as she worked with her right hand. She was busy trying to find a way to disengage the energy barrier that stood between her position and Vanguard. Nova Team, on the other hand, paced back and forth, keeping tabs on the area, as The Consultant worked.

Anubis: Any luck, Ma’am?

The Consultant shook her head.

The Consultant: No…it seems that this energy barrier is not controlled by anything we currently have access to.

Anubis: Would it be possible to use the teleportation grid to get by?

The Consultant: That was the first thing I tried. It seems that this energy barrier extends beyond these walls, and seems to surround Vanguard’s position. I cannot even get a set of coordinates locked in behind this energy barrier.

Anubis scoffed. Imohtep then chimed in with a recommendation.

Imohtep: Can we overwhelm the energy barrier with weapon’s fire?

The Consultant: With sufficient firepower, you can overwhelm anything. However, I seriously doubt we have sufficient firepower currently at our disposal. Even if we do, we need that firepower for Vanguard, so I would be hesitant to try.

The Consultant frowned.

The Consultant: God damn it! I cannot find a way passed this barrier!

The Consultant scoffed.

The Consultant: Where the hell is Nighthawk when you need him? I am pretty sure he must have an idea or two rattling around in that head of his.

Osiris: If you cannot figure it out, Ma’am…I doubt Nighthawk could figure it out.

The Consultant cracked a grin, as she shrugged.

The Consultant: Two heads are better than one. Even if he we both half a solution…together, that is a complete one.

The Consultant scoffed, but, her attention was peaked, when she heard someone approaching. Nova Team heard this as well, as they all turned, and raised their weapons, and readied themselves.

Anubis began to issue orders to the other members of Nova Team, as he made hand gestures to direct the other three members to strategic positions around the room. Once the other three members of Nova Team were in position, Anubis turned to the Consultant, and directed her to cover. Each member of Nova Team set aside the Forerunner weapon’s that they were carrying, and they returned to their conventional weaponry; disengaging the safety mechanisms on the weapons, and taking aim.

Anubis: Ma’am…stay behind me.

As Anubis raised his weapon, and moved to cover with The Consultant, he saw Dangerus, Vhat, and Xyrho approaching their position from down the corridor. Anubis could see that all three of the Covenant contacts had their weapons drawn, and were ready for fight.

Anubis: Three contacts; two Elites, one Brute. Nova Team…open fire!

All four members of Nova Team nodded, as they began to lay down fire on Dangerus, Xyrho, and Vhat. Nova Team had far superior position when compared to Xyrho, Dangerus, and Vhat, who, had no cover at all, and were essentially in the open with nothing to take cover behind. However, this did not stop Dangerus, Vhat, and Xyrho, as they pushed forward, through the gunfire, firing their own weapons in response.

The Consultant drew her Magnum, as she emerged from cover, and took aim at Dangerus. However, before she fired, she took a look at her adversaries, and it quickly dawned on her that she had seen these contacts before; she recognized Dangerus and Xyrho.

The Consultant: Nova Team…stand down. I think these are the same Covenant forces that attempted to apprehend Vanguard on The Ulterior Motive. This changes everything.

The Consultant paused

The Consultant: Stand down Nova Team…stand down!

Nova Team was very hesitant to stand down, however, they begrudgingly complied, as they fell back into cover, and held their fire.

Osiris: Ma’am…this is a very…unwise course of action.

The Consultant: Possibly, but, we managed to get Nighthawk and Anaconda on our side. That was also an unwise course of action, but, we pulled it off. The Covenant is not that much of a stretch. If these guys are here to kill Vanguard, then, we may have enough common ground to talk this out!

The Consultant sighed, as she stepped out of cover, and stepped forward. As she did, she was spotted by Dangerus, Xyrho, and Vhat. Vhat and Xyrho took aim with their weapon, but Dangerus raised his hand, as if to call them off their attack. However, Dangerus made no clear indication that he was stopping in his tracks, nor did say a word about what he was going to do, as he moved forward, towards The Consultant.

The Consultant: Hold your ground Nova Team…

The Consultant continued to step forward, taking each step slowly. She watched as Dangerus quickly approached her. As Dangerus got closer, the Consultant stopped, and began to step back. She knew from Dangerus’ body language that he was in no mood to talk, and that he had very little patience. This became abundantly clear to Nova Team, when Dangerus stepped up to The Consultant, and grabbed her by the throat; lifting her into the air, and pinning her against the energy barrier. However, Dangerus did not go any further than this. He simply glared at The Consultant, as he grasped her throat in his hand.

When Nova Team saw what Dangerus had done, they all raised their weapons and took aim at Dangerus. Dangerus growled, but he did not take his eyes off of The Consultant. Vhat and Xyrho, however, raised their weapons once more, but they held their fire.

Xyrho: Chieftain! The Humans have their weapons on you!

Dangerus ignored Xyrho, as his attention was squarely on The Consultant.

Dangerus: You are the Human that helped Vanguard. You are one of Vanguard’s acolytes!

Dangerus scoffed at The Consultant.

The Consultant: Not the way I would put it, but, yes. I am the Human that brought Vanguard back into this world, so to speak. May I ask who you are? I don’t think we have been formally introduced…

Dangerus snarled.

Dangerus: Where…is it? Where is Vanguard!

The Consultant struggled in Dangerus grasp, as he tightened his hold on The Consultant.

The Consultant: Behind me…behind the energy barrier. We can’t get to it! We were going to destroy it, but, before we got close, this barrier came up, and we have been trying to get through ever since.

The Consultant paused, as she struggled in Dangerus’ grasp.

The Consultant: You want to destroy Vanguard, do you not? We want the same thing!

Dangerus grunted.

The Consultant: If you even want a chance of destroying Vanguard…release me.

Dangerus growled.

The Consultant: The only alternative here is that you get to see what your brain looks like! If you don’t want to see what your brain looks like, I highly recommend that you put me down! Release me…now! One word…is all it takes!

Dangerus: You are the servant of Vanguard! Why should I believe ANYTHING you have to say?

The Consultant: I can’t answer that! All I can say is that you either trust me, or we kill each other. If we kill one another, then Vanguard wins. I doubt you want Vanguard to win!

Dangerus scoffed. However, Xyrho spoke up.

Xyrho: This Human is not wrong, Chieftain.

Xyrho paused.

Xyrho: I know better than anyone how easy it is to be fooled by Vanguard, and I know better than anyone that Vanguard’s true nature is enough to turn even the most loyal of worshippers against it!

The Consultant laughed.

The Consultant: I don’t worship the damn thing. It is technology…nothing more…

Xyrho: My point is…it is not unheard of for someone to turn on Vanguard when the truth of what it is, is revealed!

Dangerus growled. However, he reluctantly released The Consultant, dropping her to the ground, before turning away to rejoin his compatriots.

Dangerus: Alright…”Humans”…if it is your desire to destroy Vanguard, then I will forego killing you…for now.

Dangerus scoffed, and growled, as The Consultant got back to her feet, rubbing her throat as she did.

Dangerus: I make no guarantees as to what happens after that…

The Consultant grinned.

The Consultant: That makes two of us…

Dangerus turned sharply to glare at The Consultant. He did not like the sound of that statement. It was then that he knew to be very weary of this Human, as she was, no doubt, capable of great deception. The Consultant, on the other hand, sighed as she nodded at Nova Team. Nova Team nodded back, as they lowered their weapons. With tensions dropping, The Consultant look at Dangerus, as she continued to speak.

The Consultant: Now, if you don’t mind…I need to find a way to get to Vanguard. Otherwise, we are going no further!

Dangerus growled, as he looked to Xyrho.

Dangerus: Xyrho!? Can you get us to Vanguard?

Xyrho: Without knowing more about this facility? Unlikely.

Dangerus snarled in frustration. However, as he did, Nighthawk entered Vanguard’s antechamber from the corridor; approaching both groups from behind.

Nighthawk: Well, this is an interesting development.

As Nighthawk said this, everyone turned and looked at Nighthawk.

Nighthawk: Let me guess; everyone in this room is united in their mutual desire to kill Vanguard?

Xyrho spoke up, and spoke for Dangerus and Vhat.

Xyrho: In so few words…

The Consultant then chimed in.

The Consultant: Pretty much.

Nighthawk laughed.

Nighthawk: I like it when people work together. It gives you hope for the future; something to live for.

The Consultant: None of us will have a future if we don’t get this energy barrier down.

Nighthawk walked forward, passing Dangerus, Xyrho, and Vhat. He stopped when he was face to face with The Consultant. However, before he had a chance to speak with her, Xyrho spoke up.

Xyrho: It seems we are not the only ones who have forged unexpected alliances.

Nighthawk turned to look at Xyrho.

Nighthawk: In my line of work, picky is a word that does not exist. I do not have the luxury of telling either The Covenant or…THE TRUST…to screw off when I am faced with a situation like this. As much as I dislike The Trust, and as much as I dislike The Covenant, enemies like Vanguard force me to set aside the little details.

Nighthawk paused, as he looked at Dangerus.

Nighthawk: By the way, I make no apologies for what I did to your fleet several days ago. It had to be done. I have a special affinity for the world you were going to take down.

Dangerus glared at Nighthawk, and snarled.

Dangerus: YOU…YOU caused the antimatter explosion that destroyed the other fleet!

Nighthawk: Yeah. Keep that in mind the next time the words “let’s attack Midnight” crosses your mind.

Dangerus snarled, as he wanted nothing more than to thrash the life out of Nighthawk for what he did. However, Dangerus knew that there was a time and a place, and now was not the best time.

As Nighthawk turned to face The Conmsultant, he could see that she was grining, no doubt because of what Nighthawk had just revealed. Nighthawk looked at her for a moment, before he spoke.

Nighthawk: Where is Anaconda?

The Consultant: He is on the other side of that energy barrier…fighting Vanguard…alone. I cannot get comms in, or out, with this energy barrier up.

Nighthawk: That explains why I could not reach him.

The Consultant: We got cut off from him. The moment he passed that threshold, this barrier came up, and I have been unable to bring it down. He went on ahead, without us. It was almost as if Vanguard wanted to fight him one on one. Tell me you can get this barrier down.

Nighthawk looked at the energy barrier for a moment, before he turned and looked back at The Consultant.

Nighthawk: Yeah, I know a way to bring this barrier down.

Nighthawk put his hand to the side of his helmet, as he began to speak.

Nighthawk: HAWK? Do you copy?

HAWK answered almost immediately.

HAWK: More, or less. What do you need?

Nighthawk: There is an energy barrier between me and Vanguard. I am in what appears to be some type of antechamber. I think the Forge is just beyond this energy barrier.

The Consultant nodded at Nighthawk, confirming what he said as correct.

Nighthawk: Are you still connected to the uplink chip?

HAWK: Affirmative.

Nighthawk: Can you try and find a way to bring this barrier down?

HAWK: Already working on it. I will need some time, however. There is so much here…so much data. The data structure is unlike anything I have ever seen. You could spend a lifetime trying to catalog everything here, and it would only be the tip of the iceberg. If only you could see it the way I do.

Nighthawk: HAWK…focus on getting this energy barrier out of the way!

HAWK: I am trying to! It is difficult to shift through this much data. It is like trying to find a needle in a very large haystack.

HAWK was silent for a moment, before he spoke once more.

HAWK: Wait…I think I am on the right track here. Stand by…

Nighthawk did as instructed, and simply waited. The wait paid off, as the energy barrier shut down, clearing the path.

HAWK: Alright…that did it. That energy barrier should not be a problem anymore. In fact, there should be no energy barrier left in that facility. The path to Vanguard is as clear as it is going to get.

Nighthawk: Good work. Keep an open comm link.

Nighthawk turned, and looked at The Consultant.

Nighthawk: Easy as pie.

The Consultant grinned.

The Consultant: No bad…not bad at all.

The Consultant turned to Nova Team, and nodded to them.

The Consultant: Nova Team…take point!

Nova Team began to move forward, as they raised their weapons, and took point on the advance. The Consultant stood her ground, as she looked at Nighthawk, and waited for him. Nighthawk, on the other hand, turned and looked at Dangerus, Xyrho, and Vhat.

Nighthawk: Are we doing this, or are you going to sit this one out?

Dangerus growled, as he stepped forward, and walked passed Nighthawk. Nighthawk watched as Xyrho and Vhat followed in tow behind Dangerus. Nighthawk waited for a moment, as he allowed this scenario to sink in.

Nighthawk: First The Trust and now The Covenant? I am making some very precarious friends. I better watch my back. The last thing I need is to be caught between these two.

Nighthawk sighed, as he began to walk, following behind Dangerus, Vhat, and Xyrho, though, opting to keep his distance to avoid any problems. Nighthawk knew that this trifecta was very precarious, and it was not going to last. The only thing he could hope for was that it would last long enough to defeat Vanguard.

As Nighthawk walked, The Consultant moved up beside him, and drew her weapon once more. As Nighthawk and The Consultant followed up from the rear, The Consultant nudged him.

The Consultant: Is it true?

Nighthawk: Excuse me?

The Consultant: Did you really offline a Covenant fleet to protect Midnight?

Nighthawk: Yes.

The Consultant: Why would you do that? I mean…it is not your job to take on high risks missions like that.

Nighthawk: Know this, Consultant; under this mask…there lies a Human being, who has watched for far too long as his species was systematically wiped out by The Covenant. I will never stand for it. I am in the position to do good in ways that very few people can also lay claim to. I have a moral obligation to do so, when the need arises.

The Consultant: I am surprised Anaconda was alright with that.

Nighthawk: He has no love for The Covenant. Besides, he was the one who supplied me with the antimatter weapon to do the deed.

The Consultant: Well, Nighthawk…you saved Midnight. In spite of everything else, you are a hero.

Nighthawk: No…I did not save Midnight. I was proactively making up for what I am about to do.

The Consultant: What do you mean?

Nighthawk shook his head.

The Consultant: What are you going to do?

Nighthawk: Something that I will never forgive myself for…something that will keep me awake at night for the rest of my life.



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