The thin bed was cold, but not as cold as the stares that Trak drew from the brethren around him. He lay back and pulled the thin sheet of material over his bare skin. The whispers began again, slowly rising like a crescendo. The subject of each and every whisper was evident, Trak Basamme.
Trak let his thoughts wander as his mind slowly drifted from reality. He was in the military academy. For the second time. He was older than any recruit in his unit by two whole cycles. The only reason he had been allowed in was because of the Prophets. Tracing his fingers over the fresh burn Trak sighed.
A small object struck the back of Traks head, no doubt thrown by one of the insolent youths. Trak moved slowly, silently. He heard another object fly through the air, the minute whistling picked up by his straining ears. Rolling over quickly Trak caught the small piece of paper in his hand. A recruit on the other side of the room gasped, astonished. Trak rose and quickly crossed the purple floor.
“I believe this is yours. It would do well if you did not throw it again,” Trak said slowly to the elite. He was at least half a foot taller than the younger elite and he imposed himself even more by throwing out his chest. The elite looked up coldly into the eyes of the Traitor.
“I do not care that the Prophets allow you back into our society, in My eyes you are a traitor,” he said snarling his lower mandibles.
“What you say is heresy. Do you wish to lose your life now? I can make it quick, painless compared to what the Prophets can do,” Trak said slowly tracing his finger over the scar on his chest once more.
The elite looked down at the floor, submission evident in every gesture. “I am sorry,” he said slowly.
“As am I,” Trak said before walking towards the doors of the barracks.
“Where are you going?” the elite questioned, puzzled.
“When I was here we never got enough food. So we practised are stealth at night by… acquiring, more food,” Trak grinned slightly.
The elite stepped forwards cautiously, “May I… May I accompany you?”
“If you are caught, you are by yourself, understand?”
“Absolutely,” the elite replied hurriedly, “My name is Iyo Dillar by the way.”
As the two approached the door several more elites rose from their beds to follow. It seemed as if the entire company wanted to come.
“This is stupid,” Trak said aloud, looking over the group, “And dangerous. Only five shall follow me tonight. We have less chance or being caught. Another five shall go tomorrow and so on. What we bring back we share, same with everyone else. Understand?” Trak finished, feeling as if he was a leader talking to his troops.
“Yes Sir,” the assembled elites replied in unison, further compounding the feeling of leadership.
“Who here knows the way to the kitchens?” Trak asked quickly.
A lone elite stepped forwards, an anomaly similar to Trak. “I… I do Sir,” he said timidly.
“Good. I need three more,” Trak replied. Instantly every elite stepped forwards. Trak looked over the eager faces, some too eager he thought. Pointing to Iyo and two others who looked stealthy Trak turned to the doors.
“We shall be no more than one unit, any longer and you must all return to your bunks and deny all knowledge of where we have gone.”
“Yes Sir,” came the reply once more.
“Come,” Trak said finally to his team before leaving.
The hallway was deserted, the entrance to the outside area just beyond the corner. Slipping into the recesses of the corridor Trak moved silently towards the door.
“Which way is it from the door?” he asked the anomaly quietly.
“Two hundred spans to the right of the door. In the main building, at the back.”
“How do you know all this,” Trak asked.
“I learn quickly, the schematics for this structure are simple. I know every nook and cranny,” the anomaly finished with a grin.
“What is your name smart one?” Trak asked, aware that they were wasting time.
“Fera’ Kilmanne, and it has been a long time since anyone has praised me, thank you.”
“Thank me when we return with our bounty. What would you say is the best way of getting in and out?”
“There is a supply shoot at the rear of the main baking area, the Ungoggy use it to receive deliveries of food. It has no lock and is easily scalable from inside.”
“Very nice,” Trak replied genuinely impressed. “Do you wish to come inside?” Trak asked, conscious of the fact that Fera may not condone all actions of violence, as Trak had once not. Fera lowered his head and took in a deep breath, before he could reply Trak answered for him, “Very well, you are the lookout. Warn us of any approaching patrols before hiding. Your mind is more valuable than our skill at this moment.”
Fera looked up in gratitude, “Thank you,” he finally whispered as they approached the door.
Trak slipped silently across the hallway and rested his hand on the door controls. Slowly he opened the small door and looked out across the academy. Deserted except for a few green horn warriors. They rested against the smooth walls of the compound, talking in small groups. The night watch was more a punishment than a duty.
Trak took a final look back at his group and nodded. They slithered out of the door in a single file towards the far end of the compound. Reaching a corner of the large building Trak waited for the others to reach him. Fera came last, almost out of breath.
“Where now?” Trak asked the panting elite.
Raising a finger Fera pointed towards a small dark panel recessed into the wall of the compound. Trak whistled quietly and motioned two of the elites to the panel. It slid open easily and they looked inside the dark shaft.
“How far does it go?” Trak asked.
“Less than twenty spans at thirty degrees,” Fera replied quickly.
“Will you be alright out here,” Trak asked finally.
“If I am not, it is my fault,” Fera answered moving to look around the corner of the building.
Trak approached the chute and looked down for himself. Fera was right, Trak could already see the bottom.
“Follow me,” Trak said before quickly moving into the shaft. He slid down silently and landed like a cat at the bottom. Slipping to his left he made room for Dillar and the others. Looking over the darkened room Trak felt his stomach churn in anticipation.
“Take only what you can carry quickly and quietly. Anyone who takes too much will get the amount dropped deducted from their next raid,” Trak said, unsure as to whether or not he should have made the threat. If they did try and take too much they would be slower, more likely to be caught. But taking too little would not please the waiting Sangheili.
Trak moved to the ration storage and looked at the bars, instead he opened the crate to the right and pulled out Arcturian Hamg Snaks. The small animals were very tasty and filling considering their size. Grabbing a piece of cloth Trak wrapped up several of the animals and hung the temporary bag over his shoulder.
Iyo came forwards, a box of Tritits in his hands, Trak shook his head at the box in admiration. Tritits were a highly intoxicating plant, half of the roots could leave a fully grown Hunter sprawled on the floor.
“On your head be it,” Trak said reaching for more dishes and delicacies. Finally after only minutes the four were ready to leave. But Trak stopped looking up the shaft, it would be difficult hauling their load up. Maybe even impossible. But a thought struck Traks mind, looking at the shaft Trak glanced around at the group, they were all tall enough he finally reasoned.
“Place your items here,” Trak said indicating the ground in front of the shaft, “Iyo, you first. Climb up until you are five spans away from the entrance, call Fera to help you. Then you,” Trak said pointing at the second tallest elite, “You go up until you are five spans down from Iyo. And you another five down. We pass the items up like a ladder. Once the last item has passed you can climb out fully. Any problems?” Trak asked finally, pleased with his plan. Seeing no heads shaking he nodded at Iyo who began his ascent.
The process was very simple and soon boxes and packages of food were moving swiftly up the organic ladder. With their backs wedged against the walls of the shaft hands moved quickly back and forth passing their cargo onto the next rung. Fera stood at the top carefully placing the items of the ground while looking around for patrols. After less than five minutes they were done, Trak the last one to leave the chute.
Picking up his quarry Trak moved to the corner and waited for the others. Fera came up to him and pulled the bag from his shoulder.
“You are better with your hands, let me take the burden,” he said quietly.
Nodding Trak released the bag and looked once more around the corner. He nodded and shot out from his hiding place across the courtyard to the door. Opening it up he took a rapid glance inside and motioned for the others to cross. Fera came first, followed the two unnamed elites and finally Iyo. As soon as Iyo cleared the door Trak closed it and followed the others in. The noise was audible before Trak had even rounded the bend. Walking into the room he frowned.
“Silence,” he commanded, “We have the food but how long we keep it depends on how much noise you make eating it.”
The feast began once more, the food handed out in equal portions to each. One of the two unnamed elites brought over a handful of food for Trak which he took gratefully.
“My name is Akil Baharre,” he said while chewing on a plant.
“You moved well tonight Akil,” Trak said over his own chewing.
“Tell me,” Akil continued looking around at the room before settling his gaze on Trak, “What are they like, the humans?”
“Weak,” Trak said with a snort. Akil laughed as well.
“I see brother,” he said with a grin.
“You consider yourself a brother to me already?” Trak said with a sardonic glance at the younger elite.
“In this company,” Akil said motioning to all the others, “We are all brothers.”
“Eat your meal,” Trak said walking of to his bunk while receiving many compliments from the assembled elites.
That night Trak slept soundly. No nightmares or horrid visions. No snickers or objects thrown at him. He was a brother to a family he truly belonged in. And it felt like home, finally.
The morning brought with groans from some of the youngest elites. Many had not tried Tritits before and so now suffered the inevitable side effects. Trak smirked at himself, it reminded him of the human alcohol. The doors at the end of the barracks opened and the commander walked in, his red armour glistening in the early morning light from the windows set in the walls.
“Up,” he shouted at the recruits. At once Trak sprang from his bed and was stood rigidly by the end, arms straight down, face forwards. The commander was called Kanabi Hu’ Mhander. He was a long time veteran, but the loss of a leg resigned him into a position of training new warriors. And he hated it. The artificial limb was awkward and not as fast as his previous organic limb. He had once unscrewed it and used it to beat an insolent youth Trak had heard from one of the other recruits.
Stalking down the centre aisle Kanabi stared menacingly at each of the elites. Trak could not decided whether he was normally this mad or if something had pissed him off, like the food. Trak thought quickly though, it could be blamed on the Ungoggy. They could easily be held accountable. The commander stopped in front of Trak, turning to face him.
“Name,” he spat in Traks face.
“Trak Basamme, Sir,” Trak said keeping his eyes forwards.
“Basamme, Basamme,” the commander said trying to remember where he had heard the name before.
“Is your father the great Ruis Basamme?” he asked questioningly.
“Yes Sir,” Trak replied quickly.
“And so that would make you the traitorous scum, his third child. Now I know where I had heard the name. The prophets should have given you that mark and then fed you to the Lekgolo,” the commander snarled gesturing at the Mark of Shame.
The commander turned away and walked back to the doors. “I want every recruit assembled outside the armoury in less three minutes. Go!” the commander shouted.
Trak took off with all the others, rushing through the door to the outside he looked across the courtyard to the armoury on the other side. Over a thousand spans away, “easy,” thought Trak.
Arriving first Trak stood rigidly once more waiting for the commander. The others fell into place behind him. Finally after more than half a unit the commander came walking up to them, he shot an evil gaze towards Trak at the front before opening the door and sending them in.
Inside stood all the weapons and armour they would ever need. Trak looked over the assortment of plasma weapons, pistols, rifles, needlers, grenades. And then the full suits of armour, each one waiting for an occupant.
“Find your armour and don it quickly. No weapons today,” the commander said aloud to the recruits.
Trak stepped quickly inside and walked up to the racks of armour, he quickly located his, it was the tallest of the lot. The name tag written in the covenant language identifying him personally. Slipping on the black under suit Trak felt a sense of nostalgia come to him. The last time he had worn this he was on the planet that sent him of path so far it took two cycles to get back on. Slipping the gleaming blue metal pieces of the armour on Trak carefully checked each piece. It was perfect.
Stepping out of the armoury Trak stretched his muscles and tried to become re-acquainted to the weight and limits of the armour. It felt a lot light than before and Trak felt as if he was bigger than his armour, rather than how it had felt before. The commander still stared at Trak as he moved around the recruits.
Finally the other recruits were all ready, each looking down at his armour and testing their movements.
“Follow me,” the commander ordered as he walked towards a path in the forest walls. Eventually the large group reached a clearing filled with artificial rocks, mounds, metal walls and other assorted obstacles. The commander turned around and faced his troopers.
“Somewhere in here is a very important object to me. It is a ceremonial blade. This group of soldiers,” the commander said pointing towards the obstacle course first and then a collection of elites, jackals and grunts, “will be guarding it. Your task is to retrieve that dagger. Ghost plasma only. If you are hit stay down.”
The commander turned to the fake soldiers and nodded, at once they moved out into the obstacle course to get ready. Returning to the recruits he kicked a box next to him. It opened with a jerk revealing yellow plasma pistols and rifles. The ghost plasma looked realistic but caused no damage on impact. Perfect for training. At once all of the elites rushed forwards to grab a weapon. Trak reached over and removed a rifle, checking the sight on it.
Walking around behind the group the commander watched as the recruits armed themselves. Finally he roared, the sign to begin, and walked off into the trees. Probably to an observation point Trak thought.
Some of the elites rushed forwards immediately but Trak called them back.
“If we are to succeed, we must work together, as a team. As brothers,” Trak said to the assembled recruits. There were twenty one in total, more than enough to overwhelm this enemy, if used correctly.
“Seven is the holy number and we will use it today. Three teams, each of seven. I will lead Gold team, we will proceed straight through the course. Iyo, you pick six others and form Silver team, take the right flank. Stay hidden and attack on my command. Akil, you shall take Red team. Same as Iyo only you take the left flank. Let’s go,” Trak said finally.
The commander watched from his perch. Usually the young and arrogant recruits just swarmed the base, many failing. But this Basamme seemed to pull them together. True he had prior experience, but he was supposed to be a coward and a traitor. Kanabi had seen neither trait so far, not even in their raid on the kitchens the night before.
Trak moved forwards swiftly using the large obstacles as cover. As silver and red team moved around the edges Trak fired several shots over the top of the rock he was hidden behind to draw attention away from the flanks. A volley of plasma suddenly erupted lancing the top of the rock but causing no damage to the elites.
Slinking forwards once more Trak looked between a crack in two rocks at the awaiting base. It was dug half into the ground, small windows lining the sides. Enemies could be seen eagerly awaiting their prey. But something struck Trak. There was no visible form of entry. The roof was perfectly flat, there were no doors, nothing. Pulling back he spoke to another elite telling him to carry on forwards. The elite looked confused at first at his commanders cowardness, but decided to press on.
Trak circled around the entire course, passing Iyo on his way. The elite looked surprise as well, but Trak silenced him and continued his journey. At the far side of the course Trak found what he was looking for. A small ramp appeared behind a large rock, almost hidden completely from view. Facing the course Trak let out a roar and then moved back to the ramp. From behind and in front the sound of rushing plasma filled Traks ears. A grunt ambled past in the corridor, Trak smacked it to the ground quickly.
An enemy elite rounded the corner, Trak dropped to the floor and emptied his weapon into the beast until it over heated. The elite looked down at its chest before deciding to lie down. Picking up the elites rifle as well Trak moved forwards once more.
He had reached it, the bunker, Trak thought as he looked down the corridor. Two more plasma rifles and a plasma pistol were attached to his armour now and he knew he would need them. All of the enemies were fighting avidly out of the windows, not one looking behind. Trak took a deep breath and sneaked up to the entrance way.
Within seconds Trak had unloaded the entire battery of his two main rifles into the room. Before he could even breath he brought the second pair up to bear and repeated his volley, taking out all of his enemies. Dropping the searing weapons Trak moved in cautiously. A growl, from behind, Trak whirled. A red elite stood behind the entrance, a rifle held securely in its hands.
Trak dived as the plasma rushed past. He reached for his plasma pistol and held the trigger down while it was still in its holster. The weapon grew hot, as did Traks leg. Playing dead Trak waited while the elite cautiously stepped forwards. Trak spun on the ground, his feet knocking the elites out from under itself. Trak jumped up and raced to the elite. Holding the overcharging plasma pistol near it’s face Trak grinned, before unleashing the ghost plasma.
Movement outside. Trak twirled snatching up a rifle lying on the ground. Akil appeared in one of the narrow windows. He looked at the devastation in the room before grinning at Trak.
Commander Mhander’s office was located in the central command block. Trak stood with as much control as he could in front of the commander. Eventually the commander looked up at Trak.
“The soldiers playing your enemies tell me you were the one who raided their base. The soldiers on your side tell me you were the one who lead them,” Kanabi said slowly.
Trak blinked nervously, what did the commander want with him he thought desperately. They had won, he should be congratulating the company.
“Well, what do you have to say for yourself?” the commander continued.
“A full assault would not have worked Sir,” Trak said quickly, “I knew we had to be more cunning. I didn’t break any rules Sir. We won.”
“Yes,” the commander replied, “Yes, you did win. And I must say with the least casualties of any unit. Well done,” the commander said looking Trak straight in the eyes.
“Thank you Sir,” Trak answered, feeling more confident by the minute.
“I have been watching the way the others in your unit respect you and follow your command. I am offering you the position of squad leader. Do you want it?” the commander asked finally.
“Sir, it would be an honour to lead these warriors into battle in the name of the Covenant.”
“Good, then leave and prepare your troops. You will have your first true test in one week. There are some heretics the Prophets want taken care of and I feel it would be a good training op for the young recruits.”
“Thank you Sir,” Trak said one last time before leaving, a smile bursting forth inside. Squad leader, he had command, power. He had been accepted and now given command.