Halo: Shadows of Reach
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Halo: Shadows of Reach - A Master Chief Story is a Halo novel written by Troy Denning, originally set to be released on September 22, 2020 but later delayed to October 20, 2020. It is the fourth installment of the A Master Chief Story project. Limited-edition copies exclusive to Wal-Mart contains an additional short story, Sacrifice.
The story opens with the Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 and the other Spartan-IIs of Blue Team—Fred-104, Kelly-087, and Linda-058—aboard the UNSC Special Delivery, an Owl stealth insertion craft, en route to the surface of the Reach, a once-thriving colony and the heart of the UNSC military that had been glassed by the Covenant seven years prior to their mission. Blue Team had been ordered to retrieve potential war altering assets from within CASTLE Base, hidden deep under the Highland Mountains. The Owl's small flight crew of three of the UNSC's best remaining operatives—crew chief Stella Mukai, pilot Major Eznik Van Houte, and co-pilot First Lieutenant Maks Chapov—had been tasked with the delivery of Blue Team and their excavation equipment to the planet's surface. However, they soon realize that the simple snatch-and-grab mission will be considerably more difficult than expected. The Special Delivery is spotted and attacked by enemy aircraft. They narrowly makes it to the ground while under fire from Seraphs.
Back on solid ground, the Spartans aren't given much time to recover before the attacking Seraphs make another pass. Blue Team is forced into a defensive hold while attempting to unload their cargo and crew from the wreckage of the Owl. After briefly gaining control of the situation thanks to Fred's improvisation with the excavation equipment's plasma drill, John notices the sigil of the Banished on the hull of a downed Seraph, revealing that the ruthless faction of mercenaries had occupied Reach. As per protocol, the Owl is destroyed via an internally-stored octanitrocubane charge to cover their tracks.
Meanwhile, Castor, a Jiralhanae Dokab of the Keepers of the One Freedom, investigates the charred remains of the insertion craft, considering why the humans might have come to Reach. He and Inslaan 'Gadogai, a Sangheili blademaster serving the Banished, consider the possibility that it may be for the same reason that the Banished and their newly acquired factions—the Keepers of the One Freedom, the Legion of the Corpse-Moon, and the Ravaged Tusks—are on the planet. War Chief Escharum had sent forces to the glassed world to search for a fabled portal to the Ark. Atriox had contacted him, ordering the portal to be found and opened for him to return to the galaxy. As such, Castor orders his forces to follow the humans in hopes that they will lead the way to the portal.
Blue Team gets clear of their landing zone and starts the long trek to CASTLE Base. Not long after they get moving, another wave of Banished reinforcements close on their position. With very little in the way of cover, Blue Team is soon forced into the Arany Basin where a number of pioneer settlements had been set up by colonists intending to retake their homeworld. The Spartans notice that the nearest of these settlements had been raided and taken over by the Banished. As they move into the basin with the intent of reaching the settlement, they are attacked by waves of Banshees; John's leg is critically injured and Fred receives a severe concussion. Before reaching the outpost, John, Fred, and Kelly are forced to take shelter in a winding passage beneath the glass. John's MJOLNIR [GEN3] armor stabilizes his wound, but Fred will need greater medical attention than his armor can provide. While John recollects himself, they are found by members of the Viery Militia and taken back to their makeshift base of operations. Linda and "Special Crew," as the flight crew of the Special Delivery had come to be called, found their own way through the subterranean caves of glass.
Castor meets with Deukalion, leader of the Legion of the Corse-Moon, and Ballas, leader of the Ravaged Tusks. He convinces them that the humans must also be looking for the same portal that they are and that their two factions should assist the Keepers in a plan to follow the humans to their prize.
At the militia's base, John learns that most of the surviving humans on Reach are former inhabitants of the planet before its fall. The Viery Militia are initially hesitant to work with the Spartans, but their suspicion is soon overtaken by the hope that the supersoldiers were sent to assist in their war against the Banished. John tries to tell them that they have a more pressing mission, but their leader, Colonel Sasa Boldisar, refuses to listen. The Spartans are treated for their injuries and taken to meet with the Militia's officers. Eventually John gets through to them, saying that they have other obligations beyond helping the militia and that their mission takes precedence even over fighting to take back the planet that they too had called home. However, it becomes evident that the only way to get his team back on the move toward their objective at CASTLE Base is to help the Viery Militia. Linda and Special Crew reach the base on their own, and they all organize a strategy to take the nearby settlement of New Mohács. John contacts the UNSC Bucephalus, their Eclipse-class prowler stationed in orbit, and requests assistance from the UNSC Infinity.
Using the excavation equipment brought by Blue Team to bore a passage under New Mohács, the Spartans slip into the Banished-occupied settlement under the cover of night. They split up, silently eliminating groups of enemy combatants and planting explosives across the base. John and Fred focus on sabotaging the Banished's aircraft and armored vehicles while Kelly and Linda prepare to disable the shield barrier that had been set up around New Mohács. Soon, the explosives are detonated and members of the Viery Militia stream into the settlement to reinforce the Spartans. There are many casualties, but the settlement is once again taken by the militia. However, the Banished launches a massive counterattack that threatens the militia's hold on New Mohács. Thankfully, the UNSC reinforcements arrive in time to stave off the encroaching Banished forces. Hundreds of Spartans led by Commander Sarah Palmer are deployed into the settlement via drop pods.
With New Mohács secured for the time being, Blue Team and Special Crew are supplied with a Pelican and a wing of F-41 Broadswords to escort them to CASTLE Base. Determining that the humans were headed for the Highland Mountains, Castor had his men comb the area for any sign of either the humans or the Forerunner slipspace portal they were looking for. While the dokab oversees the search, Escharum himself arrives in a Banished intrusion corvette to check on Castor's progress. As Escharum berates Castor for his inability to locate the portal, the flight of human aircraft is seen approaching the remains of Menachite Mountain. This is all the evidence needed to find the portal, so Escharum sends squadrons of Banshees and Seraphs to deal with the approaching humans while the portal complex is excavated.
Blue Team's Pelican is shot down near CASTLE Base and Chapov is mortally wounded. Leaving him an M57 Pilum to take a few Banshees with him, the Spartans and the remainder of Special Crew continue on. Reaching a rise overlooking the location of CASTLE Base, they see the Banished already doing their work for them by excavating the entrance. With assistance from UNSC GA-TL1 Longswords, the surrounding area is cleared of hostiles save for a strike force that makes it down the vertical shaft leading into the base.
Descending thousands of meters into the planet, Blue Team realizes that the Banished is not after CASTLE Base at all, but something beneath it. John remembers the Forerunner complex that they had visited beneath the base during the Fall of Reach. After a tense vertical skirmish, the Spartans secure the entrance of CASTLE Base and the bottom of the shaft beyond. John and Kelly enter the ruins of the base and search for Dr. Halsey's laboratory while Fred scouts the path the Banished had taken deeper into the mountain. Kelly enters the lab to be confronted by a surviving subroutine of the AI Kalmiya. She provides the correct code of "Whateverittakes" and the subroutine allows her access to the assets: three cryobins and a lockbox emblazoned with the symbol of SWORD Base. Fred stealthily creeps down the passage to be confronted by none other than ONI operative Veta Lopis, who gives him a message to relay to the UNSC: Atriox has returned to the galaxy. Veta and her team of Spartan-III Ferrets—consisting of Ash-G099, Olivia-G291, and Mark-G313—had infiltrated the Keepers of the One Freedom, posing as members of the faithful. She disappears into the darkness and Fred regroups with Blue Team.
Escharum, Castor, 'Gadogai, the Keepers, and various Banished forces gather in the portal room to witness Atriox's return. The leader of the Banished exits the portal in a Lich that lands in front of the welcome party. Atriox and a number of his lieutenants exit the Lich and meet with Escharum and then Castor. The dokab makes it known that he intends to abandon the Banished and travel to the Ark, which he and the Keepers consider sacred and the location at which to begin the Great Journey. For this treachery, 'Gadogai is ordered to kill Castor as Atriox and his forces vacate the portal room to leave Reach aboard Escharum's corvette. However, Castor convinces 'Gadogai to join the Keepers where he will be welcomed with open arms. They and the Keeper forces—including Veta and her Ferret team—then leave for the Ark with the intent of lighting the rings.
Blue Team and most UNSC forces still on the planet return to the UNSC Infinity to escape the system. The Spartans deliver the assets to Dr. Halsey, who plans to use them to give humanity a much-needed edge during the Created Crisis. Just as the Infinity prepares to enter slipspace, sensors reveal the imminent arrival of one of Cortana's Guardians, alerted by the increasingly intense conflict ranging on the planet. The Infinity escapes, but Reach will fall once more under Cortana's iron fist.
Cover art artwork