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Sacrifice is a short story that is included as additional content in the novel Halo: Shadows of Reach in limited-edition exclusive copies sold by Wal-Mart, in stores or online. The short story is fully self-contained, though connected to the Shadows of Reach novel in a "unique way". The story is uncredited to a specific author, only credited within Shadows of Reach to 343 Industries.
Sacrifice takes place on Installation 00, a few months before the events of Halo: Shadows of Reach and at some time following the end of the Awakening the Nightmare expansion for Halo Wars 2. It follows Chieftain Minas of the Banished, who had been sent by Atriox to lead an operation into the abandoned Forerunner Keyship. His mission is to recover shards of a slipspace crystal aboard the vessel in order to open a portal to Reach. Upon entering the Dreadnought, the Banished strike teams are ambushed by surviving members of the Covenant, who had remained there since the battle that had ravaged the installation nearly seven years prior. Despite the unexpected resistance, Minas and the captain of his guard, Choros, led the strike teams deeper into the Keyship. Eventually, they reached the Adytum, which contained the desired shards. However, overwhelming Covenant forces nearly prevented their escape, with roughly two thirds of the Banished force—including Choros—killed in battle.
Three Phantoms approach Mahsko, the name given to a costal region on the Ark. Chieftain Minas rode in one dropship with Choros and his third of the strike force while Blademaster Okro 'Vagaduun and Captain Zeretus rode in the other two with their own teams. Upon a massive basalt column, the Keyship sits dwarfing the ancient structures surrounding it. Nearly seven years earlier, the Prophet of Truth had left the vessel to activate the Halo Array. As Minas considers the majesty of the Keyship, the dropships approach the vessel from three different angles. In the case that its powerful point defense weapons remain active, this would keep the Phantoms from all being destroyed in a single blast. After Minas becomes confident that the Keyship showed no notice of them, he orders each dropship to land at the massive crux wrapping around its central assembly. The Chieftain watches their approach through the Phantom's open troop bay doors while his right hand man, Choros, stays in the cockpit. The pilot of Minas's Phantom, Bomarus, lands the craft at the designated access port on the crux, dispensing its complement of warriors. The other two dropships follow suit.
Leaving the pilots to stay with their Phantoms, the three groups—consisting of Jiralhanae, Sangheili, Kig-Yar, and Unggoy warriors—approach the access port. Choros and his men secure the surrounding area as Itka, a Kig-Yar weaponsmith with a talent for hacking Forerunner technology, gets to work on the door controls. As Itka works his magic, Minas considers the previous occasions when a team of armed warriors forced their way into the Anodyne Spirit. The first time had been during the conflict between the San'Shyuum Reformists and Stoics. The former had broken into the Keyship and used it to escape their homeworld. The second time had been toward the end of the violent war between the San'Shyuum and the Sangheili that ultimately resulted in the formation of the Covenant. Desperate to find a way to combat the seemingly unbeatable Keyship, a team of Sangheili managed to infiltrate the vessel and slaughter a sizable portion of its crew. This event was partly responsible for the eventual truce between the two species. Minas considered the possibility that he might be staring at the very same access point used in both pivotal events.
Still working on the door controls, Itka notes that he is being confronted with both old and new security measures, the latter of which bear striking similarities to those used by the Covenant. However, the Kig-Yar easily bypasses these and the door rumbled open. The strike teams proceed cautiously into the black maw beyond the open access port, finding themselves in a large, vacant corridor that stretched for over a kilometer. Soon enough, they come to the conclusion that the Keyship is indeed abandoned. However, they acknowledge that the Forerunners were masters of autonomous machines and that there could be other dangers aboard.
Choros leads the group deeper into the Anodyne Spirit, as he had served the Prophets and his uncle Tartarus aboard the sacred vessel before Great Schism and was familiar with its layout, certainly much more anyone else in the strike force. The shards of the Forerunner slipspace flake that they sought would be stored in a location called the "Adytum," where the Keyship's own slipspace drive was situated. Finally, the corridor ends in a wall with several doorways and Choros leads them through the fourth door from the left. The strike force then follows a smaller, dimly-lit corridor into a large chamber with vaulting walkways meeting at a central lift. Here, hundreds of transport cylinders sit waiting to launch personnel up toward the bow of the vessel. After Minas selects a cylinder that could accommodate all three strike teams, Itka inputs a special access code into the nearby interface. The Banished had recently managed to discover this code amidst the debris field of High Charity.
The lift door closed]s and the transport cylinder shoots upward, reaching an alarming speed. When it cones to a sudden stop, many warriors in the party are left disoriented. The lift door opens into a vast arcade that looks to be a kind of park and common space filled with walkways and delicate platforms, all overrun with swaths of dense foliage. Clearly, the gardens here had gone unchecked for years. Flocks of exotic birds can be seen flitting about in the space's upper reaches.
Choros begins explaining the purpose of this chamber to Okro 'Vagaduun, when the Jiralhanae warrior is knocked to the floor by a plasma blast. The strike teams immediately dive for cover while under fire by plasma bolts and carbine rounds. Minas scrambles to Choros and moves the stunned, but uninjured, warrior to cover behind a stone barrier. As the Chieftain collects himself, he realizes that their assailants are using Covenant weapons, meaning that they are not Forerunner machines. The Banished strike force pushes into the jungle of overgrown foliage to press a counterattack. It doesn't take long before they defeat the attackers and realize that they were Covenant Jiralhanae, which suggests that they had all survived within the Keyship for nearly seven years. Choros notes that the ship likely had enough supplies stored to last the crew seventy years, no less seven. Minas contacts Bomarus back on his Phantom and informs him the enemy presence on the vessel as the force presses on to their next destination before the Adytum, the clerestory.
Fifteen Banished warriors had been lost in the firefight, mostly consisting of Kig-Yar and Unggoy. Leaving the overgrown arcade, the group comes to a walkway that ends in three doorways. Choros takes them through the rightmost door into a narrow hallway. They file through the dimly-lit transparent corridor which spans one of the Keyship's largest interior spaces. In the gloomy depths far beneath them, Minas notices out innumerable receptacles holding specimens that would have been used to reseed worlds with life after the Halo Array's activation long ago.
Their walk along the corridor terminates at a brightly lit curved balcony with a small lift leading to the Keyship's drive controls—and the Adytum—suspended in the blackness hundreds of meters above. Minas realizes that the lift platform is far too tiny to transport their entire force in a single trip, meaning that they would need to split up. Zeretus observes that the top of the lift would make for a perfect ambush location, with the Covenant remnants surely knowing that the entire Banished force could not fit on the lift. Minas agrees but knows that they have no other choice. His strike team would ascend first and then send for the other two teams when they knew the platform was clear. Itka activates the lift and Minas's team soars toward the distant ceiling above. However, they only find an empty balcony much like the one they had just left. A single sealed door waits on the far wall of the balcony. As the strike team steps off of the lift, it immediately begins its trip back to the lower balcony to pick up the next team. Itka works the door controls and the team takes position, preparing for the ambush that surely must be waiting for them inside this final chamber. However, even this room proves to be vacant.
Inside the well-lit spherical room are tiered circular platforms that line its rounded walls. Each platform holds terminals presumably used to perform all manner of duties. At the center of the room is the Adytum, an oblong bronze monolith that hovers just short of touching both the floor and ceiling. Terminals and interfaces cover its exterior, and are accessible from the platforms situated along the room's walls. Choros and Itka immediately begin the process of extracting the shards they seek from within the Adytum. Minutes later, the two of them are still busy retrieving the shards when the distinctive sounds of impulse drives fill the chamber. Peering outside, Minas observes two distinctly Covenant Phantom dropships approaching their position. Okro 'Vagaduun, who, along with his team, is nearing the upper balcony on the lift, notices it too and assures the Chieftain that they would be there to assist. Minas then contacts Zeretus, ordering him to stay where he is and have his team secure the bottom of the lift so that they could escape swiftly and safely. As he does this, two more Covenant Phantoms appear behind the first two. With Itka almost done extracting the shards, the strike team prepares to defend against the incoming dropships and the warriors that they certainly carried.
Covenant Kig-Yar are the first to enter, but they are instantly cut down by a barrage from Minas and his men. Then the Jiralhanae enter and the fighting grows fierce and bloody. When the smoke clears, only three Banished Jiralhanae besides Minas remain—Choros, Burekos, and Sopruuz. Minas finds his second-in-command paying his respects to Itka, who had been killed by spikes during the skirmish. Out on the platform, he can see the blademaster and his Sangheili fighting off even more Covenant. Wielding a Ravager, one warrior lands a direct hit on the turbine of one of the Phantoms, sending the dropship careening into the darkness below. Holding an onyx box of Forerunner design, Choros informs Minas that the crystal shards are secure. Choros, however, is deeply troubled by all the men that they had lost, so he asks the Chieftain what it was that Atriox had told him when they first met. He tells Choros how Atriox said that "everyone must die for something," which Minas interprets to mean that everyone should die on their own terms for something that they truly believe in. After he shares this wisdom, he announces that they should hurry back to the lift before the Sangheili are overrun. Choros offers the case to Minas, saying that it is for him to deliver to Atriox.
By this time, only two enemy Phantoms remain and many of 'Vagaduun's men had fallen. The blademaster himself stands confidently in the open, unleashing a torrent of plasma from the rifles he held in each hand. As Minas and his handful of men make their way back to the lift, they can see six more Phantoms approaching in the hazy distance. Choros deftly uses his Skewer to destroy one of the two that were still assaulting the balcony. The team reaches the lift and Choros begins working at the controls. Just then, Minas hears a noise behind him and turns to find a massive Covenant Jiralhanae carrying a similarly immense gravity hammer. With a single swing of the weapon, the bodies of Burekos and Sopruuz are crushed and flung from the platform. Minas fires his plasma rifle at the Jiralhanae with little effect. Three Sangheili warriors ignite their blades and lunge at the creature in response. 'Vagaduun pulls Minas onto the lift just as Choros steps off of it. The captain had realized that the incoming Phantoms would be able to easily track the lift's descent and pick them off. Minas and 'Vagaduun need both protection and a distraction. Before the Chieftain can reason with him, Choros slams his fist onto lift's release, sending the Chieftain and the blademaster speeding back to the clerestory below.
As the platform above dwindles from their sight, Minas and "Vagaduun can see plasma fire being exchanged between the six dropships and whatever Banished forces are still alive. At the bottom, Zeretus is shocked that only the two of them had returned. They and the last remaining strike team then flee the Anodyne Spirit before the Covenant loyalists can catch up to them, so that the sacrifice of those brave warriors on the platform above were not in vain.
The short story was not written by Troy Denning, but by the people at 343 Industries. It was written when Troy Denning was revising Halo: Shadows of Reach as 343 Industries saw a chance to expand on a detail in the book to tie-in and prepare for something else.