Well I’ve lost it all, I’m just a silhouette, A lifeless face that you’ll soon forget, My eyes are damp from the words you left, Ringing in my head, when you broke my chest. Ringing in my head, when you broke my chest.
It’s late August, 2552. After their victory at Sigma Octanus IV, Blue
Team is called to return to their old stomping grounds on Reach. All the
remaining Spartan-IIs that are not entrenched in deep-cover ops are
summoned as well. Once gathered, they meet with Dr. Halsey who doesn’t
hesitate to tell them all the grim truth: in spite of the UNSC’s
bravado, humanity will not survive much longer against the Covenant
onslaught. And so Operation: RED FLAG is outlined - a plan to send the
Spartans to capture a Covenant ship and take it deep into enemy space,
then kidnap any an all Prophets they can locate in a last-ditch attempt
to broker a truce with the aliens. All the Spartans willingly volunteer
for the mission, and Dr. Halsey is able to provide them with some new
equipment that just might give them the edge they need. Including Mk. V
MJOLNIR Armor that now comes with personal energy shielding technology,
and a uniquely created smart AI meant to specialize in infiltration,
called Cortana. After testing both these systems and experiencing the
impressive results first-hand, the Master Chief is confident that the
Spartans just might be able to bring an end to the Human-Covenant War. The series of events that followed would change John-117 and Kelly-087′s lives forever, more than anything either of them had endured before.
Before Anyone Else
After receiving their upgraded armor and their orders, the Spartan-IIs depart Reach aboard Captain Keyes’ vessel Pillar of Autumn, but their trip is cut incredibly short (‘The Fall of Reach’, chapter thirty-two):
Something was wrong. John felt it in his stomach first: a slight lateral acceleration - that became a spin strong enough that he had to brace his legs. The Pillar of Autumn was turning. Every other Spartan in the storage bay felt it as well; they paused as they unloaded equipment from crates and readied the cryo tubes for their journey. The lateral motion slowed and stopped. The Pillar of Autumn’s engines rumbled like thunder through the hull of the ship. Kelly approached him. “Sir? I thought we were accelerating to enter slipspace?” “So did I. Have Fred and Joshua continue to prep the tubes. Have Linda get a team and secure our gear. I’ll find out what’s going on.” “Aye, sir.”
Naturally Kelly-087 is the first to conference with John-117, and without missing a beat he issues her the task of delegating orders to the rest of their squad. Captain Keyes soon arrives on deck to deliver the reason for their change of course himself. The Covenant have attacked Reach, and both the Autumn and the Spartan-IIs are being reassigned to defend the planet.
Unwilling to give up on RED FLAG so soon, John then explains to the Captain how he and his team might just be able to secure a Covenant ship during the battle and still continue with their previous mission. After dismissing Fred-104 and Linda-058 to do some prep-work, John approaches Kelly with another important task; and the two share another thoughtful moment amid the uncertainty of this new development:
The Master Chief approached Kelly. On a private COM channel, he told her, “Crate thirteen on the manifest has three HAVOK nuclear mines. Get them. I have the arming cards. Ready them for transport.” “Affirmative.” She paused. The Master Chief couldn’t see her face past the reflective shield of her helmet, but he knew her well enough to know that the tiny slump of her shoulders meant that she was worried. “Sir?” she said. “I know this mission will be tough, but…do you ever get the feeling that this is like one of Chief Mendez’s missions? Like there’s a trick…some twist that we’ve overlooked?” “Yes,” he replied. “And I’m waiting for it.”
The ability to read the cues in body language is something pretty much all the Spartans share as a result of their training, and with regard to the long years they’ve spent together the Spartans know the subtler signs that can be seen between themselves as well. Still, I like how the text here takes the time to emphasize that John knows Kelly’s own signals well enough that her worry is clearly evident to him even without her face being visible.