Auri jerks out of bed for a moment and glances around the her dark bedroom, waiting for her eyes to adjust. She sits up in bed and yawns before she reaches for the light switch on her lamp nearby when she hears a sudden creak of metal outside. The Four freezes for a moment and listens hard.
She hears the creak again only this time it is fainter, sounding off farther down.
Is someone trying to get in? the commander thinks to herself as she gets out of from under the warm covers. Once her bare feet hit the cold metal flooring, she's grateful she had slept in warm clothes. The winters at this base were brutal, the captain had told her and he was right. The Four reaches into her nightstand nearby and picks up her pistol before she pads quietly across the room to her door. She eases it open and glances out. Blue eyes squint into the darkness before she opens the door.
Silence greets the Spartan as she steps out into the dark hallway. She looks left and right before walking forward down the hallway in front of her.
Maybe it was just my imagination or the wind screwing with me, she thinks as she walks past the base's living quarters where the rest of the staff slept. Outside, the snow came down in drifts, covering any footsteps that were left behind. She nears the Mess Hall when she hears the same metallic sound again. Her head whips around towards the noise and adrenaline shoots through her. Her finger rests lightly on the trigger as she cautiously walks towards the sound. She pushes open the Mess Hall doors and walks in. She makes out the outlines of the tables and chairs placed throughout the area as she walks over to the front. Something- a pot?- skitters into her path and she instantly aims her gun at it. Noise could be heard from behind the counter and Auri stands on her tiptoes to get a better look when something small and furry shoots out from under one of the draws and hops onto a nearby table.
Using what little moonlight that filtered in through the shuttered windows, Auri spots a marine's cat named Sienta. The commander lets out a relieved sigh.
"It was only a cat," she murmurs to herself as she walks over to the cat and scratches its ears and under its chin. Suddenly, the cat freezes, orb-like eyes focused on a spot behind the Four. Auri furrows her eyebrows together when she faintly hears light footsteps coming from behind her. A large cold object slams into her, knocking her pistol from her grip and causing the cat to sprint off into the hallway. The wind is knocked out the woman's lungs as her head smacks hard against the ground. Tears spring from her eyes and she blinks them furiously away as she focuses on her attacker. All she could really make out through her blurred vision is the three dots of light that are typically associated with the CIO helmet. Strong hands pin her own to her stomach and another covers her mouth.
"Finally got you now, Commander," a male voice purrs behind the helmet. Her eyes glare at the hidden ones as she struggles to get free. The man's hands clamp down hard on her wrists and a tiny muffled squeak escapes her lips.
"I'm sure you're wondering how I got in," the man continues. She could hear the smile in his voice. "Your guards don't know to look up. Also, the security this place has is for shit. Took me only a two minutes to break in." The man then takes a moment to glance around the area.
"Horrid place they got you set up in, Commander. This is where you've been hiding from me these past few weeks? Pfft." His armored hand moves away from her mouth just enough so that she could talk and rest on her neck with just enough pressure to let her know it was there.
"Gee, it took you... that long to find me?" she asks, her voice hoarse. "Some assassin you are." The man growls at her then composes himself.
"I'll... admit I did have some difficulty tracking you down. Seems you had some sort of guardian looking out for you. I've never met someone with that high level of skillset. You should give me their name so I can thank them."
Auri cocks her neck a bit and spits on his visor.
"Fuck you. I'm not telling you shit."
"You will tell me how you got a hold of that data package," he growls and presses down on her throat. Panic shoots through her as her oxygen is cut off. Her hands try to wriggle free from their place on her stomach to claw at his hands.
"If... you kill... me... now... You'll never find... out how... I did... it," she chokes out. The man presses down on her neck for a few more seconds until he relents, her words sinking in. She feels him lean back slightly off her and she takes that chance to twist out from under him. She somehow manages to wriggle free and strikes out as fast as she can with her legs. She feels her left foot connect painfully with his helmet as she gets up to run out the door. She throws the doors open and skids to a quick halt, head swiveling back and forth in an attempt to decide which way to go. She takes the right hallway and sprints as fast as she can. She reaches the armory that is a few hundred meters away from the Mess Hall and, out of habit, snags her sniper rifle and two pistols. Auri then spots the silent alarm mechanism that was used only during emergencies.
This is most definitely an emergency, she thinks to herself as she thumbs it and flees the armory. The Spartan then reaches the back end of the base and stumbles out into the cold and snow in her pajamas. Her feet sting as she trudges through the snow and her left foot hurts horribly after hitting that armored helmet. Once outside, she spots red patches where the guards, that the assassin took down, lay. She grits her teeth in anger and holds her rifle at the ready as she searches for her pursuer.
She doesn't have to wait long. The Four senses a presence behind and looks up into the nearby guard tower to see the black armored assassin crouching on the tower's rooftop staring down at her. He hops down off the thirty feet tall sentry tower and lands in the snow, stirring up a few flakes.
"Lovely isn't it?" he asks her as he slowly walks towards her. Auri backs away, her rifle aimed right at his head. "Fresh powder. Ah..." He sighs as he scoops up a handful and lets it filter through his fingers.
"Why'd you have to run off like that, Commander? That kick to the head hurt me something awful."
"Bullcrap," she snaps back and flicks the safety off her gun. The click reaches his ears and he holds up his hands.
Oh come on! Where're the others?! she thinks frantically as she backs away from him.
"At least you were smart to look up," he continues, holding his position. "Not like the others."
Then, the sound of other voices from across the compound reach their ears.
"Commander Auri? Where are ya?"
"Times up," she says to the man in front of her as she adjusts her hold on her rifle. "You're outnumbered three to one."
"Three to one? I like those odds," he purrs. A sliver of pure fear pierces the Four's heart.
"You may have been smart to look up," the assassin says, "but you weren't smart enough to check behind you." Auri's eyes narrow and then widen when she sees the assassin's form distort and fade away.
"A hologram...?" she breathes. "But how...?" Auri spins around when she hears the click of a gun safety being turned off. The Four looks up and, silhouetted against the clear dark sky and full moon sits the assassin, crouching and aiming what appears to be a Promethean binary rifle at her. The twin red lasers land on her chest. Auri's heart pounds like a frightened bird against her chest bone as she turns around and begins to run to through the knee high snow. She's just about to call out for help when she feels the bullet pass through her shoulder. The pain momentarily disorients her but that isn't what forces her to stop.
Beginning from her right shoulder down, orange ash-like flakes drift off her body and into the air. They sting a bit coming off when the burn grows and envelops her body. The Spartan falls to her knees as the pain becomes too much for her to handle. Mouth opened up in a silent scream, she watches her body turn to orange ash as she feels herself begin to be Composed. Pain is the only thing she could feel apart from the cold. Very dimly, as she feels herself collapse on the soft white snow, Auri could hear soft footsteps walk over to her. The moonlight shining on her face is blocked out by a figure. Her eyes move up to where the assassin stood over her.
"Nighty night, Rachel," the man says in a sing songy voice. "See you in the morning."
Auri's eyes roll back into her head as her body gives into the shock.
The team rushes over to where they heard the shot go off. They didn't see a dark shadow flee the scene, quietly laughing as he escaped knowing his quarry was now captured and was currently being transported over to a terminal at his base. All the squad saw was leftover ashes from the commander. Her sniper rifle lay on the cold ground. They knew she never left without it.