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Naked Crook
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San Angeles – The King Raven – Hanger Bay 1 – Distant orbit of San Angeles – 0025 Hours - February 2nd 2540
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Tye and Cameron were waiting in the hanger bay of The King Raven. They stood near the main entrance to the hanger bay; both men leaning on the wall as they both gazed at the large hanger bay door, as if they were waiting for something.

Tyber: You know…I have to be honest…I hate this.

Cameron looked at Tye.

Cameron: Sir?

Tyber: I hate the fact that we are up here, and not down there. You and I should have been sent after Vanguard. Instead, Jennifer pulled us back, and ordered a full retreat back to The King Raven.

Cameron: I think we both know why she did that.

Tyber: Yeah, I know…

Tye paused.

Tyber: Because she thought Nighthawk was going to destroy San Angeles.

Cameron: It is safe to assume that she pulled out to prevent anyone from getting caught in that decision.

Tyber: Yeah, but…we are soldiers, Cam. We belong on the front lines, no matter what. Sitting up here and waiting it out is not what we are supposed to do.

Cameron: I agree. However, orders are orders. As much as I would like to be down there, going toe to toe with Vanguard, Captain Frost wants us here. She is very correct to assume the worst, and she is only trying to do what is best for us. Remember, she is in command. It is her responsibility to make informed decisions. If she sends us down there, she may as well be sending us to die.

Tye sighed.

Tyber: Perhaps you are right, Cam. I am just not used to being sidelined.

Tye paused.

Tyber: I never sit on the sidelines. It is not my style. It is not the kind of man I am.

Cameron: I think she knows that. However, nothing changes the fact that she is concerned for our safety, especially with what Nighthawk is seemingly capable of.

Cameron paused.

Cameron: However, if it is any consolation, I completely agree with you.

As Cameron said this, a Pelican entered the hanger bay. As the Pelican passed through the security barrier, Cameron nudged Tye, as if to direct his attention.

Cameron: Look alive, Tye.

Tye looked at the Pelican, as it touched down, and powered down its engines. Tye stood up straight, as he grabbed one of his SMGs, and disengaged the safety. Cameron followed suit, as he grabbed his Assault Rifle, and held it in his hands.

Tyber: Let’s get this prick locked up. The sooner the better.

Tye and Cameron approached the Pelican, and circled around it, stopping as they reached the rear hatch. After waiting a moment, they watched as the rear hatch opened, and Cochraine and Jacob stepped out. As Cochraine and Jacob stepped off the Pelican, and onto the hanger bay floor, Tye spoke up.

Tyber: Welcome aboard, Lieutenant Commander.

Cochraine: Thank you Commander. As previously agreed upon, I am releasing Captain Sharpmen to your detention.

Tyber: We can take it from here.

Tye looked at Cameron, and nodded. Cameron then stepped forward, and grabbed Jacob by the arm, and pulled him forward, directing him towards the exit.

Jacob: Grabbing me isn’t necessary. I came here of my own volition. If I didn’t want to be here, I wouldn’t be.

Tyber: On this ship, I will be the judge of what is necessary.

Cameron did not release Jacob, as he guided him away from the Pelican. Tye watched Jacob for a moment, before he turned back to Cochraine.

Tyber: The Office of Naval Intelligence thanks you for your cooperation, and you have my personal gratitude for your assistance in this matter.

Cochraine: I am happy to have been of help.

Tyber: If you wish to be of further help, then I suggest that you report to the bridge. Captain Frost wishes to speak with you.

Cochraine: About what, if I may ask?

Tyber: She did not say. All I was told was that I was to send you in her direction when you showed up. So please, report to the bridge.

Cochraine: Very well. Thank you, Commander.

With that, Cochraine nodded, and proceeded to walk off, heading towards the interior of the King Raven. Tye, on the other hand, approached Cameron and Jacob. Tye glared at Jacob for a moment, before he spoke.

Tyber: I don’t even know what to say to you. Every time I see you, I think about the 20 soldiers you killed…20 good men and women.

Jacob: It wasn’t easy…

Tyber: You sure as hell made it look easy. You sure as hell did not pull your punches with me, either.

Jacob scoffed.

Jacob: You are one to talk. Look what you did on The Vigorous Inferno.

Tyber: How many people died? Give me the number.

Jacob was hesitant.

Tyber: The number…give it to me.

Jacob winced his eyes in frustration, as he reluctantly answered.

Jacob: Zero.

Tyber: Precisely. Nobody died. You know why? Unlike you, I know how to pull my punches. I know how to adjust my aim. I know where, and when, to shoot.

Tye paused.

Tyber: You joined The Trust, of your own volition, and 20 people died as a result. What you did is, in my opinion, unforgivable.

Tye scoffed.

Tyber: Why did you do it? I don’t get it! I still don’t understand! Why did you do it? What did you gain? What was it for?

Jacob: I thought…I thought I could bring them down from the inside. I thought I could learn something about them. The Trust always had an interest in me, and I took advantage of a rare opportunity. I did what I thought was right…

Jacob paused.

Jacob: Why don’t you understand? Tye…you were also a member of The Trust. Surely…you should understand my reasons. You should understand why I made the choices I did. You and I are more alike than you care to admit. We both have been into the heart of the beast, and we have seen them up close. You know what The Trust is like. You know what they do to people.

Tyber: Jacob, I don’t know what you think happened to me, but, you and I are nothing alike as far as our affiliation with The Trust is concerned. I was lied to. I was deceived. I was manipulated and I was being controlled. I was experimented on and I was turned into a weapon. I did not have a choice in the matter. By the time The Trust had revealed itself, it was too late. The moment I had a fleeting chance at freedom, I broke free from their hold, and I never looked back with any sort of longing or regret over my decision to leave. When I found out what The Trust was, I did everything in my power to escape it! I watched my friends get destroyed by The Trust. I had to kill my best friend. I lost the only woman I ever cared about. I lost my humanity, and I lost my dignity to The Trust. My identity was stolen from me, and the man I once was, was destroyed. I spent years trying to rebuild my life; to reconcile everything that I had been through, with the man that I once was, and the man I wanted to be again. I struggled every day to try and keep what The Trust did to me in check; to keep it caged up and buried…out of sight…little more than a distant memory. The torment and the hell that I went through would have destroyed a lesser man. I have paid my dues…I have done my time.

Tye scoffed.

Tyber: So, Jacob, do not ever compare yourself to me. If you had even the faintest idea what I went through, you would not even dare make the comparison.

Jacob glared at Tye for a moment, before he spoke.

Jacob: Be that as it may, I see no difference between you and me. We have both killed people. We have both worked with The Trust. The only difference I see is that I am the one being arrested, and I am the one going on the chopping block. Tell me, does it hurt when you are this hypocritical, or, is this a required skill for you ONI Spooks? Dare I say…is this a bit of Black 6 that I am seeing? If this is the kind of man that you were as Black 6, then you are worse than I could have ever hoped to have been.

Tye scoffed.

Jacob: Yeah, sure, I don’t know your full story. I don’t know the little details, but I get the broad strokes of it. I know enough to know that you were a member of Black Team. That, in itself, tells me what kind of blood you had…HAVE…on your hands. Despite that, I was hoping that you, of all people, would understand, or have an understanding of why I did what I did. I thought that you would, at the very least, vouch for me, or stand up for me, or try to rationalize my decisions. You know, there was a time when we were friends. There was a time that we would have died for one another. After all that we have been through, after all of the close calls, how can you be so disconnected? How can you be so ruthless? You have no right to be acting like this! You were Black 6! You have no right to judge me on my actions, yet, here you are…detaining me for crimes that are no different than yours. You get to walk a free man, and I am put behind bars. You have a future, I have a tribunal. You get to fight, and I get to die! Are you so gutless that you would stay silent while ONI cuts me down!?

Tye was silent for a moment, before he responded.

Tyber: What I did 25 years ago…has no bearing on what happened at San Angeles, today. This isn’t about me. This is about you, and only you. TO directly answer your question; I am not going to say one damn thing. I am going to watch, in silence, with the strictest composure, as ONI puts you to death for treason. Hypocritical? Absolutely. However, I have lived with worse, so, I won’t lose sleep over it. I plan on watching you go down in flames for what you did. I have paid my dues, Jacob. I have already died for my service to The Trust. Now, it is your turn.

Jacob glared at Tye.

Jacob: You gutless son of a bitch! You are a fucking coward! You are a lying, gutless, coward!

Tye scoffed, as he used his SMG to strike Jacob in the face as hard as he could. With one blow, Tye knocked Jacob to the ground.

Tyber: One more word out of you, I will toss your ass into an airlock and I will space you.

Jacob looked up at Tye, and scoffed.

Jacob: I believe you. After all…killing your friends is what you do best.

Jacob’s statement infuriated Tye. Tye raised his SMG and aimed it at Jacob. However, before Tye could pull the trigger, he was pulled back by Cameron.

Cameron: Commander!

Tye continued to glare at Jacob.

Cameron: Tye!

Tye looked at Cameron.

Cameron: It is not worth it. You are better than this. This is not who you are.

Tye paused for a moment, as he took several deep breaths and composed himself. Tye lowered his weapon, and took a step back.

Tyber: You’re right, Cam…you’re right…

Tye sighed, as he holstered his SMG

Tyber: I am better than this. This is not who I am.

Tye paused, as Cameron grabbed Jacob and got him back to his feet.

Cameron: Sir, you should get some rest. I will deal with this. GO to the medical bay, get yourself looked at, and clear your head.

Tyber: Good thinking…

Tye glared at Jacob, and then looked back at Cameron.

Tyber: Cam, make sure this garbage makes it to the brig.

Cameron: I will see to it, sir.

Cameron then nudged Jacob with his Assault Rifle, as if ordering him to start moving. Jacob got the message, as he began to walk towards the exit to the hanger bay. However, as he walked, he said one final thing.

Jacob: This isn’t over! IF you think I am going to go quietly into the night like this, you are dead wrong! One way or the other, ONI will know what happened here…they will know EVERYTHING! You are NOT going to get away from what you have done!

Tye watched, and listened to Jacob’s threat. If one thing was very clear, it was that Jacob had every intention of brining as many people down with him as possible. Tye once again found his thoughts shifting to the idea that it may be better for everyone if he simply killed Jacob, and put an end to this once and for all. Tye knew that this would solve no shortage of problems, but, at the same time, he knew that it would create new ones, and that there was no escaping what was coming.

Tye knew that ONI was going to find out about everything, absolutely everything. ONI was going to find out about Jacob’s action…about Vanguard…about Nighthawk…and about Tye’s own past. Whether it was going to be Harrison or Jacob, one of those two men was going to bring everything into the light, for the entire world to see. Tye was very uncertain about what was in store. Everything that has happened was so surreal that there was no way to guess how ONI would react. However, one thing was for certain; when ONI learns about Tye’s past, when they learn about his background and his involvement with The Trust, it is either going to be met with great skepticism due to the clandestine nature of The Trust, or, it fill finally shine a light on The Trust, revealing them once and for all. Despite the uncertainty of what was going to happen to him, Tye took solace in the fact that The Trust would finally be exposed, once and for all.

Tye sighed, as he finally took off his helmet, and held his helmet under his arm, as he walked out of the hanger bay. He knew that his role in this fight was over, and that all he could do now is watch as the endgame unfolded. There was nothing else he could do to help, and that the future was now out of his hands. Tye did not like being rendered helpless like this, but, it could not be helped.

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San Angeles – The King Raven – Main Bridge – Distant orbit of San Angeles – 0025 Hours - February 2nd 2540
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The moment that Cochraine had stepped onto the bridge of The King Raven, she knew that she was stepping into the fray. Cochraine looked around the bridge of the King Raven, and saw no shortage of Officers moving back and forth, as they were undoubtedly preparing for battle. Cochraine moved between the officers, as she approach Captain Frost, who was sitting in the command chair; her eyes forward to the front of the bridge.

Cochraine: Captain Frost!

Jennifer turned her chair to the left, as she looked at Cochraine.

Jennifer: Lieutenant Commander! I am glad you could make it! I trust that Jacob is now in our custody?

Cochraine: I left him with Commander Vernette and the Spartan.

Jennifer: Well done. I am impressed.

Cochraine: I will admit Ma’am…I am somewhat shaken up over the entire situation. I…acted in a way that…could be seen as unbecoming. I have never threatened the life of a fellow soldier before. I have never had to bluff the way I did. I have never taken a side against a fellow soldier. I admit…looking back…I did not recognize myself.

Jennifer: Desperate times call for desperate measures, Lauran. In this line of work, sometimes we have to do things which do not always fit our character. The trick is to never doubt that you can do the unthinkable. Clearly, you knew that, you just were not aware of it.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: You found Jacob, you got him out of there, and you got out of there in one piece. You did well. Anything you had to do to get the job done, was justified, given the circumstances.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: You undertook a dangerous mission, and you were successful. That is all you need to know.

Cochraine nodded, as she let out a sigh.

Cochraine: Thank you Ma’am.

Cochraine paused.

Cochraine: You needed to see me? Commander Vernette said you wanted to see me.

Jennifer: Yes, that is correct. As you know, I am about to take The King Raven into battle to assist the UNSC forces currently engaged with The Covenant. That being said, I find that I am in need of your services once more. I need an executive officer. I am about to take this ship into battle, and I would prefer not to do it alone. Besides, I have come to respect your methods. I am curious to see how they would hold up in a situation like this.

Cochraine: Ma’am…to be honest…I am not sure if I would be the best choice for you. I mean, I have no experience commanding ships of this classification, and it is no secret that your style of command and my style of command are two vastly different things.

Jennifer laughed.

Jennifer: I think you are selling yourself short, Cochraine. You might surprise yourself.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: I think you underestimate the value of mixing two different command styles. Sure, it may be tough to work with, but, I think we could benefit from having greater perspective.

Cochraine sighed, before she finally nodded.

Cochraine: Very well, Captain. If you need a right hand, I can step up.

Jennifer grinned.

Jennifer: Good. Take your station, Lieutenant Commander.

Jennifer gestured her hand towards an empty seat to the right of the command chair. Cochraine complied, and sat down in the executive officers chair. Cochraine examined the terminal that was just off to the right of where she was sitting, and quickly discovered that from here, she could easily delegate tasks to any department on the ship, at a moment’s notice. Cochraine had access to the entire ship manifest from this one terminal, and she knew that she needed to become comfortable with the sheer amount of access at her finger tips, and she needed to do it fast.

Jennifer: Helm! Take us to the combat zone, best possible speed!

The helmsman confirmed the order.

Helm Officer: Yes Ma’am. Plotting a course…now…

Jennifer nodded, as she leaned over, and opened a comm channel to all points on the ship.

Jennifer: All hands…battle stations!

As Jennifer said this, the lights on the bridge dimmed, and alarms began to go off across the ship. Cochraine looked around the bridge, as she took notice of the shift in atmosphere and demon or on the ship. The one thing that Cochraine noticed was how differently the crew responded to the prospect of battle. Cochraise had always been more accustom to seeing an anxious anticipation in the people around her when faced with the prospect of engaging a superior enemy. However, these people were eerily confident and determined, as if they were no strangers to what they were walking into the. There was an over-abundance of confidence, and it struck Cochraine as rather odd. Why were these people so confident?

Cochraine: Captain? I have to admit…I am somewhat new to this. On The Mind’s Attrition, I never had anything like this on our bridge. These people…is this an ONI thing?

Jennifer laughed.

Jennifer: No, Cochraine. This is a King Raven thing. All of these people have been hand-picked. Everyone here is the best of the best, top of their classes, experts in their fields, veterans in their style. My commanding officer believes that only the finest should serve, so, he only takes the finest. Now THAT is an ONI thing, but, he has rigidly applied that idea to his command style, and what you see is the result. I will be honest, there was a time you would never catch me in this chair, dead or alive. However, after I served on this ship, I quickly realized that if I wanted to stay, I had to fit in with situations like this. There isn’t a single person on this ship who is not prepared to fight their way into hell.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: I am sure you have realized that I can be somewhat of a bitch when the situation calls for it. You have seen me talk back to Harrison, you have heard how I am not afraid to pull the trigger on anyone who stands in my way, and you have seen that I can be as cold as ice when it comes to crossing someone off. All of that is because I serve on this ship. If I was anywhere else, on any other ship, under anyone else’s command…I would be far less than I am now.

Cochraine sighed. She was taken aback by how honest Captain Frost was being. It was one part refreshing, and one part terrifying. If there was one thing that Cochraine had to admit, it was that seeing the behavior on this ship certainly gave her a lot to think about with her own style of leadership.

Cochraine: Well…I have to admit…this ship is no home for uncertainty. It is a lot to take in.

Cochraine paused.

Cochraine: Hell, I am overwhelmed by this terminal in front of me. I never had this much micromanagement over our personnel. At most, I was there to offer tactical recommendations. This is a whole new level.

Jennifer: Frigates are smaller ships than Halcyons. A ship of this size requires specialized delegation, micromanagement if you will call it that. The larger a crew manifest becomes, the harder it becomes to automate it. My role as first officer was to delegate and prioritize tasks, as well as offer relevant tactical evaluations to the commanding officer. I need you to be my right hand; to give me information I can make decisions with. I need to know when and where something is going on aboard this ship. I need to know if you are keeping the crew on its toes.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: I am well aware that Frigates do not require such specialized attention, and that your duties on The Mind’s Attrition may be vastly different than what I am asking you to do here. However, when you get down to it; you have to be my right hand. I believe that you can do this, Cochraine. I have seen you handle yourself in more difficult situations.

Cochraine: I am sorry Ma’am…I just hate learning something new when I am flying into battle with The Covenant. I have always believed that there is a time and a place for everything.

Jennifer: Well, you better make it the time and the place Cochraine, because this is about to get ugly really fast!

Jennifer paused when the tactical officer spoke up.

Tactical Officer: Ma’am…we are now in weapon’s range. We have dozens of Covenant bogies breaking off from The Vigorous Inferno, and they are coming right at us!

Jennifer: Bring all forward point defense cannons online, and fire at will!

As Jennifer issued this order, Cochraine chimed in.

Cochraine: Captain, we have a CCS Class Battlecruiser on approach. They are moving into battle formation, in direct response to our arrival. They are matching our course and speed, however, there is no weapons lock as of yet.

Jennifer: Break off our approach, and skim the battle field. Keep our guns locked on the smaller bogies, and try and give some breathing room for Harrison and Reynolds! Comms…open a channel to The Vigorous Inferno and The Mind’s Attrition.

Comm Officer: Channel open, Ma’am!

Jennifer: Admiral Harrison, Captain Reynolds…does anyone read me?

Jennifer waited a moment before Harrison responded.

Harrison: Captain Frost…if our circumstances were different, I would not be responding with words. Better late than never, I suppose.

Harrison paused.

Harrison: You put me at a serious disadvantage. Without ARC, coordinating a counter offensive has been an uphill battle. Thanks for that…

Jennifer: Admiral…I am not here to exchange barbs. I am here to save lives. Surely we can put the unpleasantness aside and deal with what is happening now!?

Harrison: Make it quick, Captain. I do not have all day. As you can tell, I have my hands full The Covenant, and I do not have time to waste.

Jennifer: Believe me Admiral, I can see that plain as day. The Covenant is what we are here to help you with. We currently have a CCS Class Cruiser sizing us up for battle, and we are going to need to coordinate our efforts to take that ship down. However, we need to deal with these bogies first and foremost.

Harrison: Agreed. If you have any ideas on how to quickly clear out these bogies, I am listening. We have been in a stalemate, and we are quickly losing deck guns.

Jennifer: We are working on that now. Standby…

Jennifer looked over to Cochraine, who was busy trying to come up with a plan to help cut down the Covenant’s small craft support.

Cochraine: Captain Frost…according to the ship’s inventory, we are hauling a very large contingent of Longswords. We should consider deploying them to engage The Covenant. The additional points of contact may be what we need to cut through The Covenant’s small craft support.

Before Jennifer could say anything, Harrison chimed in.

Harrison: Was that Lieutenant Cochraine?

Jennifer: She is aboard The King Raven, along with anyone else who was sent to Firebase Mediterranean. Everyone has been evacuated, and nobody was left behind.

Harrison: I must give you credit, Captain. I did not expect that sort of generosity from ONI.

Jennifer rolled her eyes. However, as Harrison said this, Reynolds chimed in over the comms.

Reynolds: Lauren? Are you alright?

Cochraine: I am fine, Marcus…for the most part, anyway.

Reynolds: I am glad to hear that! I look forward to your report when you return.

Cochraine: Understood, sir.

Jennifer scoffed.

Jennifer: As much as I enjoy this discourse, we have a CCS Battle Cruiser breathing down our necks, and more Covenant small crafts than we can shake a stick at. We need options, or we are going to lose this!

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: Cochraine; you recommended that we begin deploying Longswords. I agree. Get every Longsword we have, and get them out there. Their orders are to engage Covenant small crafts exclusively.

Reynolds: With coordinated fire from my vessel, and The Vigorous Inferno, complementing those Long Swords and The King Raven, we should be able to turn the tide of battle, and we should be able to clear the skies., and free up our tactical resources to engage that CCS Battle Cruiser.

Harrison: Even if we clear the skies of these bogies, and even if we destroy that CCS Battle Cruiser, there is more where that came from! The Covenant will simply double down on us, or send that Assault Carrier after us! We will not survive an engagement with an Assault Carrier.

Jennifer: Agreed. We need to steer clear of that Assault Carrier at all costs.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: Reynolds, Harrison…if there is ANYTHING that you are holding back in terms of firepower, now is the time to bring it to bear on The Covenant!

Reynolds: I have put every asset I have on the field.

Harrison: I still have a dozen squads of Longswords on standby in case things got bad. However, if we are putting all of chips on the table, then it is time to go all in. I will start deploying the last of my Longswords.

Jennifer: Acknowledged…

Jennifer looked at Cochraine.

Jennifer: Cochraine, what is the status of our Longswords?

Cochraine: So far, we have managed to deploy seven out of the 18 squads we are carrying.

Jennifer: Keep it up. The more squads we can get onto the field, the faster we will be able to wither The Covenant down through numerical superiority.

Just as Jennifer said this, the sensor officer spoke up.

Sensor Officer: Ma’am…we have several wings of Seraphs closing in on our position, and the CCS Battle Cruiser has altered its course. It is coming right at us. They are targeting us!

Jennifer: All power to engines! Evasive maneuvers!

As Jennifer issued this order, Harrison could be heard speaking over the comm.

Harrison: Captain Reynolds, adjust targeting parameters, and prepare to draw fire from that Battle Cruiser. Hit it with everything you have!

Harrison paused.

Harrison: Captain Frost…if you are carrying any Shiva Warheads, I recommend that you target that Battle Cruiser and fire at will. We are going to need mall the firepower we can get if we are going to breach their shields.

Jennifer: Copy that Admiral. Stand by…

Jennifer looked at the Tactical Officer.

Jennifer: Lieutenant Monroe…cycle all even numbered hard points and switch Shiva payloads. Target that CCS Battle Cruiser, and fire at will.

Tactical Officer: Cycling payloads…

As the tactical officer said this, the King Raven violently shook from an impact.

Operations Officer: Ma’am…we have sustained a direct hit from the Battle Cruiser. We have a hull breach on deck 7. We are venting atmosphere in section 13. Emergency bulkheads are responding.

Jennifer: Helm! Full axis rotation to port. Do not let The Covenant hit us in the same spot twice!

As Jennifer issued this order, Cochraine looked at her with a concerned look.

Cochraine: How the hell are we still alive after a direct hit?

Jennifer: ONI spares no expense retrofitting its vessels, Lieutenant.

Cochraine: How many hits like that can we take?

Jennifer: The most we have ever taken is nine. After that, your guess is as good as mine. Mind you, we don’t get hit often. This sort of engagement is not what we look for, and it is rare we get into these sorts of situations!

Cochraine partially rolled her eyes, as she gave an uncertain look. She had to admit, she had to give credit to ONI for their ability to keep a ship together after being hit by a Covenant Battle Cruiser’s weapon. She had seen ships sheered in half by the same weaponry. However, she did not feel much safer aboard The King Raven than she would any ship, given the situation.

Cochraine: Well, let’s makes sure we get out of this situation!

Jennifer nodded, as the tactical officer spoke up once more.

Tactical Officer: Payloads have been fully loaded Ma’am! Awaiting further orders…

Jennifer looked at the tactical officer as she spoke.

Jennifer: Target that CCS Battle Cruiser, and hit them with everything we have, dispersal pattern sierra!

The tactical officer nodded, as he began to target the CCS Battle Cruiser. Once a full target lock had been established, The King Raven began to fire off a hailstorm of Shiva Missiles. The firing pattern ensured that there would be optimum fallout and coverage from the EMP that would be created by a Shiva detonation.

As the Shiva Warheads impacted the shields of the CCS Battle Cruiser, The Vigorous Inferno and The Mind’s Attrition followed up with a volley of their own. Both ships targeted the CCS Battle Cruiser, and began to unleash a wave of Archer Missiles, in an attempt to break through the cruiser’s powerful shields. However, after all three ships had expended their weapons, and were now cycling their hardpoints, the CCS Battle Cruiser still had its shields up.

Harrison: Damn it! It was not enough! If we do not keep up that level of offensive power, their shields are simply going to regenerate! We need to keep hitting them!

Jennifer: Copy that, Admiral. I will see what I can do.

Jennifer paused, as she looked at her tactical officer. However, before she could speak, The King Raven shook violently once again.

Operations Officer: Hull breach on Deck 12, section 18…emergency bulkheads are not responding! We are venting atmosphere!

Jennifer: Evacuate the surrounding area, and seal the bulkheads at section 21 and 15!

The King Raven shook again, this time even harder. As the ship shook, the lights on the bridge began to flicker.

Operations Officer: Hull breach on deck 15! We have damage to the secondary power grid!

Jennifer: Divert power away from the damage section! Cut all power to compromised areas!

Cochraine scoffed, as she looked at Jennifer.

Cochraine: That cruiser is going to carve us up like a roast if we don’t do something! If we lose the primary power grid…

Jennifer glared at Cochraine, snapping at her.

Jennifer: I know, Cochraine!

Jennifer sighed, as she looked at the tactical officer.

Jennifer: Divert emergency power to the MAC gun, and chamber the MAC for four successive shots!

Tactical Officer: Ma’am…out gun is not rated for four. Even with emergency power…

Jennifer: Divert power from non-essential systems. Scrape the god damn ions from our engines if you have to, just get me power for four successive shots!

Tactical Officer: Acknowledged…chambering for four successive shots…

Jennifer looked at the helmsman.

Jennifer: Lieutenant Cohen…prepare to alter our course; bring us about on a heading of 281 by 34

Helm Officer: Ma’am…that is taking us right at that cruiser!

Jennifer: Yes…set a collision course!

Cochraine glared at Jennifer.

Cochraine: Are you insane!?

Jennifer grinned at Cochraine.

Jennifer: No, but I am inspired. I find myself recalling something my CO once told me about Covenant ships; in order to fire their pulse laser, need to punch small holes in their shield grid in order to hit their enemies.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: That opening appears for approximately 3.7 seconds. If we can slip a MAC round through one of those openings, we can take that cruiser down.

Cochraine: Ma’am…that is a huge gamble! We literally need to fly right at that ship and ALLOW them to hit us in order to take a shot!

Jennifer: The riskier the gamble, the bigger the payout, Cochraine. You know as well as I do how difficult it is to take these cruisers down! We need someone to attempt the big play, and I am making the attempt! We are going to thread the needle!

Cochraine gave an exasperated sigh, as she did not fully agree with this course of action. However, there was no arguing the point.

Tactical Officer: MAC gun is ready to fire on command…

Jennifer looked at the tactical officer, and nodded.

Jennifer: Stand by…

Jennifer looked forward at the officer sitting at the helm.

Jennifer: Helm? What is our current status?

Helm Officer: We are on a direct course with that CCS Battle Cruiser. On our present course, we will collide with their vessel in 28 seconds.

Jennifer: Maintain course and speed!

Jennifer paused, as she called out to the tactical officer.

Jennifer: Lieutenant Monroe…be ready. The instant I give the order…you fire the MAC…

Jennifer watch out of the front of the bridge, as The King Raven closed in on the CCS Battle Cruiser.

Helm Officer: 23 seconds until collision…

Jennifer: Maintain course!

Sensor Officer: Enemy ship is charging a full barrage of weapons. I am detecting 12 different weapon locks…

Jennifer: Lieutenant Monroe…get ready. Target one of those pulse laser points…

Tactical Officer: Target locked…

Jennifer took a deep breath, as the Sensor Officer spoke up.

Sensor Officer: The enemy ship is firing!

Jennifer glared at the tactical officer, as she stood up from her chair, and pointed at him.

Jennifer: NOW MONROE! FIRE!

Monroe slammed his hand down on the firing control. As soon as he did this, The King Raven fired four successive shots at the CCS Battle Cruiser. The first two shots missed their target, and were unable to thread the needle. However, the third and fourth shots managed to successfully thread the needle, as both shots managed to pass through the small opening in the shields, and impact the hull of the CCS Battle Cruiser. As the MAC rounds penetrated the hull of the CCS Battle Cruiser, the cruiser began to veer off to the side, as the ship began to lose attitude control.

Sensor Officer: The Cruiser’s shields are down!

Jennifer walked to the front of the bridge, and put her foot on one of the consoles, as she clenched her fist.

Jennifer: Fire everything we have! Take that cruiser down!

The King Raven began to fire all of its Archer Missiles at the crippled CCS Battle Cruiser. As The King Raven fired its weapons, Reynolds and Harrison chimed in over the comm.

Reynolds: I have to admit…that was a very nice move!

Harrison: We will celebrate later! Reynolds…target that cruiser, and fire at will! Let’s bring these bastards down a peg!

Jennifer grinned as she listened to the comm chatter. She turned and looked at the holotable that was on the bridge, and she watched as The Vigorous Inferno and The Mind’s Attrition began to fire on the crippled CCS Battle Cruiser.

Jennifer: Lieutenant Monroe…continual fire! Hit that cruiser with everything we have left!

The coordinated fire from The King Raven, The Vigorous Inferno, and The Mind’s Attrition was enough to finally finish the crippled CCS Battle Cruiser off. All three commanding officers watched as the cruiser broke in half, and began to drift apart, each part of the ship burning in space.

Harrison: Well done everyone! That is how it is done!

Reynolds: Most of the thanks goes to Captain Frost! That was one hell of a shot, Captain.

Jennifer: The bigger the gamble, the bigger they payout, gentlemen.

Jennifer grinned, as she turned and walked back to the command chair. As she sat down, Cochraine looked at her, and had to give a nod of approval.

Cochraine: Not the most conventional tactic, and by no means the safest. However, I will admit…it was damn good. I will have to remember that one for the future.

Jennifer: Chances are, it will save your ass at some point!

Jennifer grinned. However, before she could say anything else, the sensor officer interjected.

Sensor Officer: Ma’am…all of those Covenant Seraphs are in full retreat! They are breaking off!

Jennifer: Music to my ears!

Just as Jennifer said this, however, the sensor officer’s grin turned to a look of horror.

Sensor Officer: Uhhh…Ma’am? We are in serious trouble…

Jennifer: What is it?

Sensor Officer: While those Seraphs ARE hightailing it…The entire Covenant fleet is coming right at us. Every ship has powered weapons, and they are locking onto us. They will be in weapon’s range in 45 seconds.

Jennifer frowned, as she called out to Harrison and Reynolds.

Jennifer: Admiral! Captain!

Reynolds was the first to respond.

Reynolds: Captain? If this is what I think it is about, then yes, I see it to. The Covenant is moving everything they have against us.

Harrison: We were outgunned before. Now this is just suicide! There is no way we can hold this position against a fleet of that size!

Reynolds: Agreed! We should fall back, and try to out-maneuver The Covenant! We need new positioning!

Jennifer: I also agree! There is no way we can take on a dozen Covenant ships at once! Perhaps if we split them up, but not at once! We need to fall back!

Harrison: All ships, reverse course…maximum speed! Let’s try and put some distance between us and The Covenant! If we can keep the planet between us and them, we may be able to buy some time to come up with an alternate course of action. We may even get lucky, and we may even catch one or two of them alone!

As Harrison said this, Jennifer nodded to her helmsmen, as The King Raven came about and retreated alongside of The Vigorous Inferno and The Mind’s Attrition.

Harrison: I am content with a single cruiser kill, for now! They know we can make them bleed, and they don’t like that. Let’s see if we can use this to our advantage!

Cochraine then spoke up.

Cochraine: Sir? What if we cannot outrun The Covenant ships? What then?

Harrison: If we can’t outrun them, then we will be forced to turn and face them. I don’t like the idea, but I like the idea of cutting and running even less. If we do have to abandon San Angeles, I am going to make sure that there is nothing left that will be worth the time of The Covenant.

Cochraine: What do you mean, sir?

Harrison: I have no idea what the current status of Firebase Mediterranean is, but, I will know its status when I wipe it off the face of the planet with the heaviest payload at my disposal. If there is even a chance that there is something down there that The Covenant can use, I am going to take the steps necessary to deny the enemy their assets.

Cochraine: What about the people that have yet to evacuate? Are we going to leave them? There are still millions of people down there!

Harrison: I don’t know, Lieutenant Commander. I want to help them, but, it may not be possible. I know you may not like that answer, but, it is the best I can do if everything else fails.

Jennifer sighed when she heard this.

Jennifer: The best we can do is deny The Covenant access to what The Trust was after…

There was an awkward pause on the comm line, before Harrison spoke up.

Harrison: Speaking of the Trust…where the hell did The Ulterior Motive go? We cannot see it on sensors anywhere!

Jennifer frowned, as she jumped out of her seat, and walked over to the holotable.

Jennifer: I don’t see it either! The ship is NOT at its designated coordinates! I saw this ship not but 10 minutes ago! It was here!

Jennifer paused for a moment.

Jennifer: Oh shit…

Reynolds: What is it, Captain?

Jennifer: That explains it…

Harrison: Explains what, Captain?

Jennifer: When we were down at Firebase Mediterranean, My Team, along with Cochraine and Fireteam Harmony, were attacking the facility’s CIC. We breached it, but, when we got there…something happened.

Harrison: Can you clarify what you mean by “something”?

Jennifer: We had Spender and his compatriots cornered, and then, they simply vanished into a bright light. At least, this is what I was told!

Cochraine: It is true! I watched it happen…whatever “it” was.

Cochraine paused.

Cochraine: The Trust vanished…into thin air.

Reynolds: That is impossible!

Cochraine: I know what we saw! Fireteam Harmony saw it! Commander Vernette and the Spartan saw it!

Harrison: What does this have to do with anything?

Jennifer: It is possible that the Trust’s vanishing trick had something to do with the fact that The Ulterior Motive is now missing.

Harrison: I find that hard to believe. However, The Ulterior Motive is missing, and it needs to be found! That ship contains evidence we need to bring down The Trust! We need to find it!

Jennifer: Agreed. I will see if I can contact the personnel we stationed on the ship. We may be able to track it down that way. Standby…

Jennifer looked at the communications office.

Jennifer: Ensign…contact anyone we had stationed aboard The Ulterior Motive, and patch their comm line directly into the fleet channel.

The Communications Officer did as instructed. Once they had carried out their task, they turned to Captain Frost, and nodded.

Comm Officer: Channel open, Ma’am…

Jennifer: This is Captain Frost to ANYONE stationed aboard The Ulterior Motive. Does anyone copy?

Jennifer waited a moment, before she repeated her transmission.

Jennifer: This is Captain Frost to ANYONE stationed aboard The Ulterior Motive. Does anyone read me?

Jennifer waited again, but this time, she got a response.

Spender: Captain Frost...

Spender paused.

Spender: It is regrettable that you survived your confrontation with Mr. Kolya. It was my understanding that he walked all over you and Commander Burke. Please tell me that Dr. Burke is dead. It would be such joyous news…

Jennifer scoffed.

Jennifer: Oh no…your rabid attack dog failed to cross off Dr. Burke. He is still alive.

Spender: A pity.

Spender paused.

Spender: I will give credit where credit is due…you did a pretty good job taking down that CCS Battle Cruiser. That was an inspired tactic. We will have to remember that one! However, I am not known for complimenting the enemy, so I will put an end to it right here and now.

Spender paused.

Spender: No doubt you are looking for my vessel. Unfortunately for you, you will not find us. While Harrison was busy with The Covenant, and while you were busy at Firebase Mediterranean, my people managed to retake The Ulterior Motive right from under your noses, and they were able to repair the stealth generator. That little engagement with that CCS Battle Cruiser was all we needed to slip away unnoticed. Oh, and in case you are wondering…every single Marine you had on my ship, is now dead. Black Team was quite ruthless in their methods. In fact, it is my understanding that we just finished spacing the last of the bodies.

Jennifer: You gutless son of a bitch!

Spender: Their mistake for daring to cross me.

Jennifer: Why don’t you show yourself, and we can settle this, once and for all! I can show you a few more inspired tactics…first hand!

Spender: No. I would much prefer to watch you die from a distance. Besides…I am still banking on Vanguard! After all…The Trust is still winning…Captain. Everything is still proceeding along a path that we have desired. You…are losing this fight.

Jennifer scoffed, as the anger in her voice was now very audible.

Jennifer: We will see about that, you chain smoking mother fucker!

Spender: You do have quite the temper, don’t you? Try to keep that in check. It doesn’t suit you. Good bye, Captain. This will be the last time we EVER speak.

With that, the line went dead, as Spender cut the comm line, and abruptly ended the conversation.

Harrison: Damn it…if Spender is back in control of The Ulterior Motive…that is a serious setback! The bastard took advantage of the fact that we were battling the Covenant, and he took his ship back. Damn it!

Jennifer: If his stealth generator is active, there is no good way to find him!

Harrison: Do we have any options?

Jennifer: Negative! He was smart. He spaced the bodies of all of our Marines so as to prevent us from tracking IFF signals of the dead Marines. That bastard knows what he is doing!

Harrison: Damn it.

Harrison paused.

Harrison: Does anyone know the current status of Vanguard?

Cochraine spoke up.

Cochraine: I do, sir. It is my understanding that Vanguard was fully operational and ready for battle at approximately the same time that I went into the depths of Firebase Mediterranean to retrieve Captain Sharpmen.

Harrison: Excuse me, what? When did this happen?

Cochraine: I guess you were not informed.

Cochraine paused.

Cochraine: Shortly after Jacob requested an evac, he went ventured into an underground portion of Firebase Mediterranean to locate and eliminate Nighthawk. I believe he was acting under your orders, sir.

Harrison: I did mention that Nighthawk had to be stopped.

Cochraine: Well, Nighthawk, along with Anaconda, had also ventured down to the underground facility in order to locate and eliminate Vanguard. Jacob went after them, and I went after Jacob. I managed to retrieve Jacob and extract him, before he had a chance to kill Nighthawk. I had to use very persuasive means to get him to stand down.

Harrison: You did WHAT!? Err…never mind. Get to the point, Lieutenant Commander!

Cochraine: To summarize this; I know that Vanguard is functional. I know that Nighthawk and Anaconda are down there. I know that Trust operative known as The Consultant is down there, and I know that a small Covenant strike team is down there.

Harrison: It is obvious what Nighthawk’s intentions are, and it is clear why The Consultant is there. I think it is also clear why The Covenant is there.

Cochraine: More, or less, sir.

Harrison sighed.

Harrison: I don’t like this one bit. I hate the fact that NIGHTHAWK is our best chance at the moment to stop Vanguard.

Cochraine: I believe he has good intentions, sir. He seemed very adamant on stopping Vanguard. Above all else…he was driven by stopping Vanguard.

Harrison: That man is evil, and he should have been killed. Stopping Jacob from killing Nighthawk was a terrible mistake on your part, Lieutenant Commander. I hope you don’t live to regret that decision.

Jennifer scoffed, as she interjected.

Jennifer: Sir, if you don’t mind…I would like to point out that we STILL have to deal with The Covenant. We should return our focus to THAT!

Harrison scoffed. He was very unhappy with what he had just learned.

Harrison: Very well, Captain…

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