Halo: Escalation Issue 11
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On May 8, 2558, a UNSC spy drone scouts the barren surface of the unclaimed planet Ven III, located at the borders of the Joint Occupation Zone. While investigating a structure, the drone finds the diseased corpses of several Kig-Yar in a laboratory. Aboard UNSC Infinity, Captain Thomas Lasky is briefed about the situation by Admiral Serin Osman over remote communications. Osman explains that the Kig-Yar were killed by an unknown type of biological agent and that Lasky needs to contain the situation exercising extreme caution before the weapon can be used against humanity. After Osman signs off, Lasky's hand-picked team, Spartans Gabriel Thorne and Naiya Ray, enter the room. Lasky explains that Ven III is home to a small number of Jackals who attempted to use an old Covenant research laboratory on the planet. After the demise of the Kig-Yar in the lab, the UNSC observed a sole Sangheili Storm exiting the structure wielding a mysterious canister—one that is likely to house the new bioweapon. The UNSC believes the Sangheili may be an agent of Jul 'Mdama and may have double-crossed the Kig-Yar in the lab, or that they released the bioweapon on themselves by accident. Thorne and Ray are to capture the Elite for interrogation; Fireteam Majestic will not accompany them as Lasky must use the smallest team possible to avoid detection and losing their target in Ven III's extensive tunnel systems.
A prowler deploys Ray and Thorne onto Ven III. On the surface, the Spartans encounter a small number of wandering Jackals but no organized resistance. The duo enter a narrow canyon where they lose communications with Infinity due to a jamming field. As the Spartans proceed further into the canyon they are observed by the Sangheili, who is revealed to have destroyed the UNSC drone delivering the feed to Infinity. Roland immediately alerts Lasky to this as well as the communications blackout, suggesting that Infinity change course toward Ven III to provide backup for the ground team. Having been ordered to avoid direct engagement, Lasky instead has Roland summon Commander Palmer.
Back on Ven III, Thorne and Ray enter a Covenant structure after observing it for some time. Just as they make it inside, they are ambushed by the Elite and a contingent of Jackals. However, the Spartans escape the structure using armor-integrated thrusters and engage their attackers. During the skirmish, the Sangheili attaches a device on Thorne's armor which knocks the Spartan unconscious. The Elite takes Thorne aboard his Ghost and escapes.
On Infinity, Lasky proposes they send in another two-man team as backup for Ray and Thorne, but Palmer insists that they either deploy an entire Spartan team or do nothing. However, she believes Lasky to be incapable of the latter; the captain reproves her about this, stating that she should know him better than that due to their experiences together over the past year. Roland then receives a transmission from Ray, who is giving chase to Thorne's captor and has now moved out of reach of the communications jammer. She enters a deep subterranean tunnel where she discovers an enormous pirate hideout filled with Covenant vessels and vehicles, including Liches, Phantoms, Type-26 Wraiths, Spirits and a single Ceudar-pattern heavy corvette. Ray estimates the Jackals' numbers to be in the hundreds of thousands as opposed to UNSC intelligence's estimate of hundreds. There are black market arms dealers and slavers selling captives from the Covenant fringe—including humans, Unggoy as well as unidentified humanoids (seemingly Yonhet). Ray then spots the Sangheili she was pursuing and a Kig-Yar carrying Thorne's unconscious body into a bay. However, a Jackal sneaks up on Ray and her signal terminates. Palmer asks Lasky whether he will heed her advice now; Lasky orders Roland to carry out the proposed course change and call all teams on deck.
The issue marks the first canonical appearance of Halo 5: Guardians' Spartan abilities mechanic; the abilities are showcased when Ray and Thorne battle their ambushers, using at least the thruster pack and possibly the ground pound ability.