The oceans and lakes in Stuttgart have an odd purple tint to them, due to a harmless-to-humans bacteria that resides in the water. These bacteria are part of the reason why the planet is so rich in metal.
They were loud and unpredictable. They panicked easily, they screamed and ran from him just as readily as they did from the Covenant. wailed for their parents and fought. And so he didn’t usually do kids, preferring to let the task of rescuing them fall to Fred or to Kelly, someone with a more nurturing disposition than him.
But she stood there, stock still and silent, in the aftermath of his battle with the Sangheili. She never whimpered, never cried, even when he’d snapped the alien’s neck in the end with a resonating crack. He turned to look at her, and blue eyes locked on his with an intensity that made him feel, for just a moment, as if she could see right through his polarized visor. He had no idea how old she was, he was terrible at that sort of thing, but she was far too young to be so serious, so quiet.
She reminded him of himself.
“… Come on.” He took a knee for a moment, holding out his hand and beckoning her close. She didn’t hesitate or argue, there were no favorite toys being clutched close and no protests about mama and daddy - she knew what had happened to them, the blood spattered across her face and her clothes made that painfully clear to him. She hooked her little fingers into the crevices of his armor and let him settle her carefully on his arm, leaning fully against him as he stood. In his armor, she was as light a load as a feather pillow.
“I’m getting you out of here,” He said, and she nodded, holding tighter to his armor as if she was worried that she might get in his way if she weren’t nearly adhered to him. “But you’ll have to be very brave, and very quiet for me. Can you do that?”
Another quiet nod, and he took a moment to check his weapon, reloading it carefully. Her eyes fixed on his hands, on what he was doing, as if memorizing the process.
“What’s your name?”
“Call me Chief, Alyss.”
“Everybody is dead.”
“You’re not. And I intend to keep it that way. I’ve got you, and I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”
She seemed to take his words as fact, like she’d take the statement that the sky was blue, and didn’t protest as he headed out, weaving his way around debris and overturned cars, trying to stick out of sight wherever he could. Alone in a combat zone, with an unprotected civilian child on one arm, the last thing he wanted to do was engage in a firefight. Alyss, for her part, was silent throughout the trek, though occasionally he felt her fingertips dig into the subarmor and bodysuit of his MJOLNIR, and after the first few times, he put two and two together, watching the red dots that wandered at the edges of his HUD.
She wasn’t flinching at the sight of the occasional torn and battered corpse they passed.
She was watching his six, being the eyes in the back of his head. She would have been a good little soldier, a good little Spartan, if she’d been born a handful of years earlier.
Years of training and special instruction paid off - between his luck and a knack for finding an unguarded path through combat zones and Alyss watching intently behind them, their progress went smoothly and quickly. They passed through the lines of Marines and ODSTs guarding the last working evac station on planet, a few glancing up to begin a snarky remark born of battle-shot nerves. But none of them spoke when they caught sight of the cold-eyed child, still gazing back out over the Master Chief’s shoulder until they were far enough behind the lines that she felt safe enough to relax, taking a second to lean her cheek against him. Adrenaline, he figured, was finally wearing thin.
He waited with her until the shuttles came, neither saying a word - he was terrible at comfort, and she was either just fine saying nothing or too traumatized to say much, though his money was on the former. She didn’t protest when the relief worker came to take her from his arms, though she did look vaguely annoyed at the way the woman started cooing at her to comfort her.
“We’ve got her from here, Chief.”
“See to it that she’s well taken care of,” He said sternly, taking one last glance into those blue eyes before he turned away. There was still a hell of a lot to do, planetside, and he’d already failed one person today.