Another flash of lightning arcs across the sky, a streak of red against the cold blackness of night. A lone figure crouches amongst high boulders and watches the narrow valley below. In the flash he sees them moving about the crash site, picking amongst the pieces of the downed ship and squabbling amongst themselves over their finding. One of them, towering a good six or seven feet taller than the rest, stands apart from the group and watches the surrounding hills. He shifts his weight from one foot to another, as if to keep himself from pacing impatiently. In a low, guttural voice he growls some order to his smaller bird-like companions. They glance around nervously, mostly at their apparent commander, and start scavenging through the skeletal wreck more quickly.
With a near silent snick the Spartan’s rifle zooms in, giving him an up close and personal view of the small force in the valley below. A light rain falls from above, causing a small trickle of water to flow from the mouth of the canyon at his back. He shifts his weight to one knee to steady himself and takes stock of the situation below. The Covenant force is a small one, probably a scouting party. A lone Elite stands guard and barks orders in his harsh alien tongue, towering above them and wielding one of their typical blue plasma rifles menacingly. Four of the jackals sift nervously through the debris as quickly as they can, while a fifth one stands guard from the top of the wreck.
Another snick and the Spartan focuses closely on the fifth Jackal. What’s left of the Pelican is half-buried in the mud, its right side and wing jutting from the ground as if reaching skyward. Pieces of the ship are scattered everywhere. The rear of the ship has been torn open to reveal the cargo and passenger bays inside. The Jackal is taller than his companions and a large frill of feathers stands out from the back of his head like a headdress. He holds a long, narrow rifle, a Covenant beam rifle and sweeps the valley; his head darting back and forth like a bird. The Spartan moves his scope to the Elite below. Simple, blue armor shows him to be a minor Elite, with no adornments or tokens of rank.
The Spartan puts his reticule square on the Elite’s head. Another flash of lightning lights up the sky. The Elite turns to shout at his troop and exposes for just a second his split-chinned, fanged mouth. Thunder reverberates across the valley and thick, blue liquid bursts from the back of his head as the bullet passes through his throat and exits his helmet. Perfect, the Spartan thinks. The Jackal scout atop the ship doesn’t even turn in time to see his leader fall. He perches on the crashed ship’s wing, looking the other way. A second burst of thunder rips across the valley, this time without lightning preceding it and a spray of viscous alien blood spurts from the Jackal as a bullet tears through one side of his head and out the other.
Jackals come loping out of the exposed cargo at the sight of their leader’s dead body bouncing down the slanted wing into the mud. One of them spots the Elite’s lifeless form and begins screeching in shock and confusion. They move to activate their shields too slowly. Machine gun fire bursts through them with a deadly spray of bullets and three of them fall shrieking to the ground. The fourth dives and rolls, but not quickly enough. The Spartan comes out of nowhere in a blur, and the last thing the Jackal feels is his skull being crushed inward by a large, armored fist.
With a nod of satisfaction the Spartan moves into the ship. He salvages another clip of assault rifle ammunition and a pistol. He finds a first aid kit and thanks his lucky stars. The cockpit is smashed beyond recognition. He won’t be calling for help anytime soon. He takes one last look around and leaves the downed ship behind. He reaches the other end of the valley and begins a steep climb to the mountainous terrain. He knows of a settlement amongst the cliffs there, and with the help of his new supplies, he might just live long enough to find it.