- He stood by a case of pinned butterflies. On the floor, facedown in front of that case, was a Jackal. It was dead, crushed flat. There was an imprint of a large boot where the creature’s back had been. Whatever had done this had easily weighed a ton.
- The Master Chief spotted a few blood-smeared prints leading away from the Jackal … and into the west wing.
- Off to one side, however, were two creatures. The Master Chief hadn’t seen them at first—because they were so motionless … and so massive. He had no doubt that one of them had crushed the Jackal that had gotten in its way.
- The Master Chief got scared all the time. He never showed it, though. He usually mentally acknowledged the apprehension, put it aside, and continued … just as he’d been trained to do. This time, however, he couldn’t easily dismiss the feeling.
- The two creatures were vaguely man-shaped. They stood two and a half meters tall. It was difficult to make out their features; they were covered from head to toe with a dull blue-gray armor, similar to the hull of a Covenant ship. Blue, orange, and yellow highlights were visible on the few patches of exposed skin the creatures sported. They had slits where their eyes should be. The articulation points looked impregnable.
- “And this one,” she said. The image changed to his firefight with the gigantic Hunters. “At any time did you see these things interact with the other Covenant species?”
- “No, ma’am—” The Master Chief reconsidered. “Well, in a manner of speaking, yes. If you could review the recording at time minus two minutes from this frame, please.”
- The holo paused and then blurred backward.
- “There,” he said. The video played forward as the Master Chief and Fred examined the crushed Jackal in the museum.
- “That impression in this Jackal’s back,” he said. “I believe it is the armored alien’s bootprint.”
- “What do you mean, son?” a new man asked. His voice was older and rough.
- “I can only offer my opinion, sir. I am not a scientist.”
- “Offer it, Master Chief,” the same scratchy voice said. “I, for one, would be very interested to hear what someone with firsthand experience has to say … for a change.”
- There was a rustle of papers in the shadows, then silence.
- “Well, sir—it looks to me like this Jackal simply got in the larger creature’s way. There’s no attempt to move it, and no deviation in the path of the following footfalls. It simply walked over the smaller alien.”
RAW Paste Data