Two Hundred And Four Reasons: Part 6 – Thinking of You

After the fall of Reach, and the events that unfolded on Installation 04, the Master Chief was thought to be the last surviving Spartan-II. John-117 wasn’t willing to give up on his teammates so easily however; and fortunately, a small number of his Spartans had indeed survived the Covenant’s assault on their mutually-adopted homeworld. Risking everything to rescue them, he was soon reunited with the remnants of his family – including Dr. Halsey. But it seemed the Chief’s legendary luck could only stretch so far. Because mere days after almost losing her to a Hunter pair’s cannon-fire (and nearly sacrificing his own life to protect her), John’s closest friend and most stalwart right-hand, Kelly-087, was separated from him yet again. In the weeks that followed the two would face extraordinary challenges that would test the limits of even the greatest super-soldier – which both of them are the most paramount examples of in their class. But no matter how far apart John and Kelly were physically, they never seemed to stray very far from each other’s thoughts.

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Thinking of You

When Kelly-087 was summoned to the medical bay of the Gettysburg prior to Operation: FIRST STRIKE for further treatment of the wounds the sustained on Reach, she hardly expected that to be the last time she would see Blue Team for quite some time. Unfortunately for her though, Dr. Halsey had other plans (‘First Strike’, chapter thirty):

“Lie down please, Kelly.” The doctor gestured to the contoured treatment chair. “Just a few more injections and we’re done with your burn therapy.”
Kelly sighed and eased herself onto the reclined chair.
Dr. Halsey removed a cloth covering a pair of injectors. She clicked them into the ports on Kelly’s MJOLNIR armor ports that threaded directly into her subclavian and femoral veins. “Keep doing your physical therapy, and the dermacortic steroids will remove most of the scarring and restore your full mobility within another week,” she explained.
“A week?” Kelly growled and struggled to rise. “Doctor, I need to be one hundred percent ASAP. The Chief has a mission…”
Dr. Halsey activated the injectors, and they hissed their contents into Kelly’s body. She relaxed and slumped back on the table, unconscious.
“No, Kelly,” Dr. Halsey whispered. “You’re not going on the Chief’s mission. You’re going on mine.”

In spite of the fact that she had just recently barely escaped death several times over, Kelly is still determined to get back into the field and support her team leader as well as her teammates. This kind of selflessness is seen in many Spartans, but I feel like it is particularly pronounced in Kelly due to her almost constant position as Blue-Two. And it is just one of the many things that are so admirable about her character.

Convinced that humanity was still going to eventually lose the war, at this point Dr. Halsey’s primary concern was for the survival of the few Spartan-IIs that were left. She had also gotten wind of another Spartan Program being headed up on the planet Onyx, and desired to investigate – choosing Kelly to be her escort, willing or not. She then steals a stealth-class ship and departs.

By the time the crew of the Gettysburg is aware of Dr. Halsey’s flight, there is little anyone can do to stop her before she enters slipspace and disappears. John-117 has little choice but to continue on with FIRST STRIKE; his team now consisting of just Fred-104, Will-043, Linda-058, and Grace-093. Their plan is to infiltrate a Covenant space station, the Unyielding Hierophant, and destroy it along with as many ships docked there as possible. As the fleet that is amassing at the station is intended to be the first part of the invasion force headed for Earth. During their initial push to the station’s reactor core, Grace is killed by an ambush of Brute warriors. The rest of Blue Team manages to fight off the attacking Covenant, set the reactors to overload, and then make their escape in several hijacked Banshees. After returning to their dropship, Blue Team is hailed by a familiar signal – and it seems that John can’t help but hope it’s from his missing teammate (‘First Strike’, chapter thirty-five):

Fred snapped on the external speakers. Six tones beeped, stopped, and then repeated.
“Oly Oly Oxen Free,” John breathed. “Send the countersign, Fred.”
“Aye, Chief. Sending now.”
Who could have sent that signal? There was no other living Spartan in this system. Unless it was Dr. Halsey and Kelly. Had they somehow tracked them?

The signal actually turns out to be from Admiral Whitcomb, who was hailing them to return to the Gettysburg. Once there, Blue Team then learns that the advanced slipspace drive from their captured Covenant vessel, the Ascendant Justice, has been retrofitted onto the UNSC frigate. And that Admiral Whitcomb himself, along with Lieutenant Elias Haverson, have taken the now crippled alien ship back towards the Unyielding Hierophant in a ploy meant to draw in the enemy fleet as close to the station as possible – thus ensuring maximum destruction when the reactors explode, but sacrificing themselves in the process. The operation is a success and buys Earth some much needed time as the Master Chief, Blue Team, and the rest of the Gettysburg’s crew finally head back to Earth to warn them of the invasion that is still undoubtedly coming.

In a moment of peace after the battle, John is then left to make his official report and take stock of the cost of this latest mission. And out of all those lost in the last few weeks, a certain Spartan’s ambiguous fate is still of particular concern to him (‘First Strike’, chapter thirty-six):

He strode to the three forward viewscreens and stared into blackness. He wanted solitude, to gaze at nothing, and complete the task that he dreaded.
John pulled his team roster onto his heads-up display. He ran down the list, designating all those who had died on Reach, and afterward, as Missing In Action. James, Li, Grace…and all his dead teammates who would never officially be “allowed” to die. And in his mind, they would never find any peace until this war was won.
He paused at Kelly’s name.
John listed her as MIA, too. She was ironically the only Spartan truly missing, whisked away by Dr. Halsey on some secret private mission. John knew that whatever the doctor had planned, she would protect Kelly if she could. Still, he couldn’t help but worry about them both.

It must have been exceptionally hard for John to put Kelly’s name alongside Sam’s, and so many others, that he knew were actually KIA and not MIA. And though he seems to be slightly reassured that he did last see her alive, this doesn’t stop him from worrying what may become of her.

After this, things move forward into the events of the game ‘Halo 2′. The Covenant do eventually make their way to Earth, and quickly begin their assault. The Master Chief is sent down to the planet’s surface to the heart of where the alien invasion force is landing – the city of New Mombasa, Kenya. During his traverse through the city, his Blue-Two comes to mind as he sets to make a mad-dash across an exposed area of the battlefield (‘Halo: Evolutions’, “Palace Hotel”):

He began looking for a path to the mouth of the inbound tunnel – moving along the line of booths until he found a straight shot with no obstructions. It was seventy-three meters to the entrance. That meant he would be out in the open for about four and a half seconds – enough time for one of the Banshees in the air overhead to make a positive ID. He slung his rifle and hunkered down.
Kelly had always been the fastest in their class – easily making her the fastest human being who had ever lived – but as he tore across the plaza, he was certain that his performance would have made even her take notice.

This part of the story never fails to make me smile. Once again we see that, even though he should probably be occupied with more pressing concerns, John’s thoughts can’t help but turn to Kelly. It’s especially amusing due to how the text describes his mindset, about Kelly “taking notice” of his performance…John, I hate to say it, but this might not be the best time to be wondering how impressed your best girl would be with how fast you ran just now. This is also yet another instance where just how much respect and admiration John has for Kelly is made evident, as he unequivocally refers to her as the “the fastest human being who had ever lived”. He truly thinks of her as a force of nature, and it is incredible. It’s like no matter where he is, or the distance between them, John’s constant state of being is bent on complimenting Kelly. It’s also interesting to note that this is the only time in any of the ‘Halo: Evolutions’ short stories that another Spartan-II from Blue Team is mentioned by name.

Meanwhile, as John-117 and the remainder of Blue Team are busy defending Earth, Dr. Halsey arrives at Onyx. And though it is still unknown exactly why Halsey selected Kelly-087 for this excursion – whether it was for her loyalty, her resilience to injury, or some other factor – she is well aware that Kelly would not have left the other Spartans if she had been given the choice (‘Ghosts of Onyx’, chapter sixteen):

“I’m sorry, you would have never come on your own,” she said. “Spartans are attracted to suicide missions like moths to flames. But this is much more important than any military solution.”

Kelly is still unconscious at this point in time, but Dr. Halsey then administers a drug that counteracts the ones already in Kelly’s system that were keeping her sedated. The Spartan-II is quick to react (as expected) to waking up in unfamiliar surroundings, as well as question the Doctor’s motives:

Kelly stirred, shook her head clearthen lightning fast she ripped through her
restraints, hooked one foot around the chair base, and held up both hands,
poised cobras, ready to fight.
“At ease, Spartan,” Dr. Halsey said. “You’re with me. Safe.”
“I was drugged.” Kelly looked around the bridge; her hands dropped a bit, but not completely.
“Correct. The last stage of dermacortic steroid treatment is overly stimulating. It would have been unpleasant for you.” This was, of course, true, but it was nothing a Spartan couldn’t have handled.
“Where are we?”
“On Governor Jiles’s ship. We have appropriated it for a new mission.”
“John and Admiral Whitcomb?” Kelly dropped her hands.
“They know,” Dr. Halsey said. Also technically not a lie. They undoubtedly did know that Dr. Halsey had kidnapped one of their Spartans and stolen this ship.
Kelly cocked her head. “Doctor, this is highly irregular. There is a strict chain of command, protocols to…”
“Which were followed,” Dr. Halsey assured her. “New developments occurred while you were unconscious.”
It was impossible to read Kelly’s expression behind the polarized faceplate of her MJOLNIR armor. She looked, however, to Dr. Halsey, unconvinced.

I find it interesting how Kelly switches from referring to John as “the Chief”, to just using his first name here. The sudden drop in formality seems at odds with her tone from before Dr. Halsey put her to sleep. It’s like she’s not interested in the mission so much anymore, as she is simply wondering if her best friend knows where she is and what is happening. She’s also clearly displeased that Dr. Halsey isn’t telling her the whole truth. Unfortunately there is little time for her to get a better handle on the moment, as their ship suddenly comes under attack by Forerunner drones coming from Onyx, and crashes.

The force of the impact renders Dr. Halsey unconscious, and it is left to Kelly to assess their situation – stranded in the wilds of a planet she still knows little about, or why she was even brought here to begin with (‘Ghosts of Onyx’, chapter eighteen):

Unfamiliar frustration coursed through Kelly. She resented not being briefed
about this new mission, being thrust into the middle of a conflict she knew nothing about, and worst of all having no way to fight.
But maybe it had happened too fast for John and the others to revive her. Everything had happened too fast since the fall of Reach. Still, something didn’t add up.
Kelly understood, though, that she wasn’t getting any answers from Dr. Halsey in the near future, assuming either of them had a future.
First things first. Locate your enemy.

Kelly’s confusion at her current predicament is palpable. And it also tugs at my heartstrings a little as she wonders whether John and the other Spartans would have tried to prevent her from being taken away if they’d had the chance. And the fact that it is Kelly, the fastest Spartan, saying current events had all “happened too fast” really puts into perspective how much the last few weeks have been hard on her. Even still, she buckles down and immediately takes charge of both herself and Dr. Halsey in order to try and ensure they come out of this alive.

The situation on Onyx escalates as Kelly and Dr. Halsey come into contact with the long-lost Kurt-051 and Chief Mendez, as well as a squad of their Spartan-IIIs – whom the former have been training on Onyx in secret in the years since Kurt was deemed MIA. The planet has become unstable as Forerunner Sentinels have begun appearing all over and attacking virtually anything that moves. A group of Covenant have also set their sights on Onyx, looking to take advantage of the Forerunner technology housed there. And after receiving a call for help from Dr. Halsey, Blue Team (sans the Master Chief) make their way to planet as well. The Spartans all eventually meet up, and it is revealed that Onyx itself is an artificial construct concealing a portal to a hidden Forerunner Shield World. The group then heads into the interior of the planet, where Will-043 and several of the young Spartan-IIIs are killed in battle with the Covenant. Eventually they find the slipspace rupture that leads to the Shield World at Onyx’s core, and an injured Kurt elects to stay behind and detonate two bombs that will prevent the pursuing Covenant forces from gaining access.

After going through the portal, Blue Team, Halsey, Mendez, and the remaining Spartan-IIIs are safe…but also without a known way out of the Forerunner Installation. As the others prepare to explore this new world, Kelly can’t help but wonder aloud if a certain someone close to her is still alive and well too (‘Ghosts of Onyx’, chapter forty-one):

Kelly whispered, “You think John’s still out there? I mean alive?”
“Yes,” Linda said.
“He has to be,” Fred told her. “He’s the only one left to stop the Covenant.”
“While we’re stuck in here.” Kelly kicked the grass. “What’s your take on the others? Team Saber?”
“They’re kids,” Fred said. “But so were we once. I think they’re Spartans, like us.”
Ash trotted up to them, Olivia and Mark trailing behind, hefting packs.
“All ready, sir,” Ash said.
“Good.” Fred set a hand on Ash’s shoulder, and nodded to the others.
“Welcome to Blue, Spartans,” Kelly said. “We’re going to make a great team.”

Once again Kelly’s emotions betray her here. She looks to her comrades for reassurance while also expressing her frustration with being stuck in a situation that is outside of her control or ability to fight. As well as, I think, her sincere desire to not have left John’s side – seeing as how he is the subject of the first question she asks, rather than anything actually pertaining to the problem at hand. As always though, she puts her own needs aside and resolves to be the support player her teammates need her to be. Demonstrating this fully by extending her traditional Blue Team greeting to the Spartan-IIIs.

John still weighed heavily on Kelly’s mind however, as the group proceeded to trek through the Shield World and search for a means of escape. Until at one point she can hold it in no longer, asking Dr. Halsey the same question she previously presented to the other Spartan-IIs (‘Glasslands’, chapter eight):

“Do you suppose John’s made it?” Kelly asked. It was right out of the blue. That meant it had been on her mind for some time and she couldn’t keep it battened down any longer. “And the others.”
“Of course he has,” Halsey said. She was setting up camp in the entrance lobby, unpacking the contents of her bag and laying out all her electronics. “He was always the luckiest of you all. And the most bloody-minded.”

This part of the story is being told from Chief Mendez’s point of view, and to him Kelly’s distress over John’s fate is quite clear – as well as is the significance of the fact that she’s asking such a question without prompting. And in spite of Dr. Halsey’s sentiments echoing Fred and Linda’s from earlier, part of me doubts that kept Kelly from continuing to wonder whether or not John was alright.

Eventually, with the help of some friendly Engineers they find, Blue Team and Co. are able to get a message out of the concealed Shield Installation to the UNSC. But with this communication they are given some very saddening news – due to the time-dilation that exists inside the Shield World, it has actually been several months on the outside since they were lost when the portal, as well as Onyx itself, collapsed. Blue Team effectively missed the end of the war that they spent their whole lives fighting, and sacrificed so much for. On top of that, they are also told about what happened with the Master Chief at the Ark, and how he has since been listed KIA (‘Glasslands’, chapter fifteen):

Fred just shook his head. Linda and Kelly stood frozen.

Kelly and Linda had taken off their helmets and their expressions were completely transparent. Like Fred, the news about John had hit them hard. Halsey could see it from the way the two women stood with their eyes fixed on the ground.

All three Spartan-IIs are clearly upset, but also at a loss as how to process the fact that their leader and friend, the one they were sure would come out on top of everything, was just gone. Not much else is said about Kelly’s reaction to this revelation beyond this point…but I can’t help but wonder how much she was truly hurting. Wondering if her doubts about John’s safety had somehow been her bond with him telling her that all was not well, in spite of her teammates’ platitudes. How much blame might she have put on herself for not being there to help him when he needed her the most? How much would she regret not having gotten the chance to say goodbye to the one person she cared for more than anything?

We know that the Spartan-IIs would later be present at the Voi Memorial, but again we are not given any additional description of their reactions to the ceremony. I imagine it still wasn’t much easier for Kelly to endure though…

Blue Team would continue to operate in the field in the years following their rescue in 2553. And in that time I doubt that John-117 was ever completely out of Kelly-087’s thoughts. Fortunately for her though, the goodbye she never got to give him would become irrelevant once they were reunited after John’s return to Earth in 2557. Like ducks to water, the pair would immediately fall back into their routine of being Blue-One and Blue-Two as though nothing had changed. And moving forward into a somewhat uncertain future, only time will tell how the unbreakable bond between these two lifelong friends will be tested, and perhaps strengthened even further.

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