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Naked Crook
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Midnight – The King Raven – Geosynchronous Orbit over Federal Heights City – Hanger Bay 1 – 1030 Hours - February 6th 2540
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Captain Frost and Commander Burke were standing next to one another in the hanger bay, facing the large hanger bay door, as they patiently awaited the arrival of a team of ONI Agents who had been dispatched by The Citadel. Commander Burke’s arm was in a sling, as he was still recovering from a broken arm that he had suffered several days earlier. While the two officers stood in silence for the first few moments, Jennifer, who had been looking at Burke off and on, finally spoke up.

Jennifer: You know, David, my offer to give you some time off was legitimate. I was being serious.

Burke: I know. However, I cannot stand taking time off. It is just a broken arm. I am more than capable of performing some of my duties. Besides, I should be 100% in a few days, once the mesh has had the time to knit my bones.

Jennifer laughed.

Jennifer: Stubborn as a mule, I see. Well, the offer is still on the table in case you change your mind.

Burke: Don’t worry, I will be fine.

Just as Burke said this, an alarm went off in the hanger bay, signifying that there was a Pelican on approach.

Jennifer: Alright Davidshow time.

Jennifer and Burke both stood at attention, as a black Pelican, with an ONI logo painted on the side of the hull, passed through the security barrier on the hanger bay entrance, and landed in the docking space that was right in front of Jennifer and Burke. A few moments passed before the sound of the Pelican’s rear hatch could be heard. Beneath the sound of the hatch opening, the sound of footsteps could be heard on the floor of the hanger bay floor, as the passengers of the Pelican began to disembark. It did not take long for both Burke and Jennifer to realize who exactly had stepped off the Pelican. Jennifer and Burke both looked at one another, very briefly, as neither of them had expected the individual that stood before them.

Jennifer cleared her throat, as both she and Burke saluted the officer that stood before them.

Jennifer: Ma’amwe did not expect to see you here. Surely a prisoner exchange did not necessitate the presence of Section 1s Director

Hand: You will forgive me if I respectfully disagree with that claim, Captain Frost.

Hand paused for a moment.

Hand: At ease, the both of you.

Jennifer and Burke relaxed, as four Agents walked up behind Director Hand, and stood silently, as if waiting to be addressed.

Hand: Allow me to take this opportunity to introduce my entourage. Captain Frost, Commander Burke, allow me to introduce Strike Team Zero; ONI’s blackbook team of Agents.

Jennifer: I have only heard stories about Strike Team Zero. Nothing concrete, only rumors.

One of the Agents stepped forward.

Corvo: Have you heard anything good, at least?

Jennifer: Mostly good thing. Eliminating high profile Covenant targets, shutting down Covenant armor and infantry, eliminating Insurrectionist activity, even crossing off a few turn-coats.

Corvo: There is truth to all of that. Suffice to say, my team and I are specialists in the fields of making problems go away.

Corvo extended his hand and shook Jennifer’s hand.

Corvo: My name is Agent Nicolas Corvo. Level 8.

Corvo directed the attention to his other Agents.

Corvo: My team...Agent Bashir Rahm, Agent Robert Mackentyre – or Mack as he prefers to be called, Agent Anthony Blackwood and Agent Samantha Morgan.

Jennifer nodded.

Jennifer: A pleasure to meet all of you.

Corvo: Likewise.

Burke interjected.

Burke: Socrossing off turn-coats? I guess you were hand-picked for this assignment.

Corvo: Pretty much.

Director Hand looked at Burke and Captain Frost, as she interjected on the exchange.

Hand: As much as I would enjoy the continuation of this diversion, I feel I must ask one very pressing and important question; where is Captain Sharpmen?

Jennifer looked at Director Hand, and promptly answered.

Jennifer: I sent two of my men to retrieve the Captain from the brig. He should be here any minute now.

Just as Captain Frost had said this, Tye and Cameron entered the hanger bay, with Jacob walking between the two men. Jacob was in civilians clothing, and his hands were bound.

Jennifer: Speak of the devil.

Tye and Cameron remained silent, as they approached Director Hand, and pushed Jacob forward. As Jacob stumbled forward, Agent Corvo and Agent Mack stepped forward, and grabbed Jacob. Jacob, however, opted to remain silent, as he knew there was nothing to get from any further discourse.

Jennifer: As promised, Director. Captain Jacob Sharpmen. He is all yours.

Director Hand glared at Jacob for a moment, before she looked at Corvo and Mack.

Hand: Agent Corvosecure him in the Pelican.

Corvo: Yes Ma’am.

Corvo and Mack each grabbed one of Jacob’s arms, as they pulled him towards the Pelican that Director Hand and the Agents had arrived on. Director Hand, however, held her ground, as she looked at Tye and Cameron, looking at them from head to toe, before turning back to Captain Frost.

Hand: Captain Frost?

Hand paused.

Hand: Where is Preston Vernette?

Jennifer was silent for a moment, as she carefully considered her answer.

Jennifer: The last I had heard, he was on Midnight. He left The King Raven in a hurry a few days before the battle at San Angeles broke out.

Hand: Well, he is NOT on Midnight. Sowhere is he?

Jennifer: If he is not on Midnight, I have no idea where he is. All he told me is that he was on Midnight.

Hand: Well, he is AWOL, and I want to know why!

Hand frowned, as Tye Interjected.

Tyber: I am sure there is a very good reason for my brother going AWOL. He usually has very good reasons.

Hand paused.

Hand: For your sake, I hope you are right, Commander.

Cameron: Is there a problem, aside from the fact that he is AWOL? Why do you need to see him so badly?

Hand paused, as she looked at Cameron.

Hand: I would say “it is classified” but I seriously doubt that excuse would wash with the lot of you. To be honest, I was hoping to extend him a courtesy, as opposed to a bombshell.

Tyber: What do you mean?

Hand sighed.

Hand: Wellthere is no easy way of saying thisso I will justsay it.

Hand paused.

Hand: Captain Frost, Commander Burke, Commander Vernette, and Spartan-Z091I am hereby placing you all under arrest, and you are all to be detained pending further questioning concerning your possible involvement in the destruction of San Angeles. You are to surrender your weapons, and submit yourself to the custody of The Office of Naval Intelligence.

Burke: This is a joke, right? I can never tell with you.

Hand: No joke, Commander Burke. This is very serious, very real, and this is happeningone way or the other.

Tyber: This is what you meant by bombshell, isn’t it?

Hand: I wanted to discuss the matter with Preston Vernette beforehand. I wanted him to convince the four of you to submit yourselves to questioning, as opposed to me flat out detaining you. However, his absence leaves me with no options that I can see. I have the UNSC Security Council breathing down my neck to take action and find answers.

Jennifer, Burke, Tye, and Cameron all looked at one another for a moment. Director Hand watched as the quartet exchanged a few looks, before speaking once more.

Hand: I have a lot of respect for the four of you, and I hate to do this, but, it is necessary. For what it is worth, Admiral Harrison has also been detained. Captain Reynold and Lieutenant Commander Cochraine have also been detained. All the command level officers at San Angeles have been detained. I am hoping the four of you, as members of ONI, can understand my predicament. There are a lot of questions that need to be askedand a lot of people that need to be exposed.

Director Hand paused, as she stepped forward and began to whisper.

Hand: You know what I mean, don’t you? Not many people know about The Trust. I am one of them, and I am hoping that the four of you can help me expose them.

Tye interjected.

Tyber: You know about The Trust?

Hand: Yes, I do. I have known about them for a number of years, but, I have never been able to track them down, or even find any trace of them. If Captain Frost’s report to me is to be believed in full, the four of you have gone toe to toe with The Trust at San Angeles. I am sure that you all have insight that would be invaluable. I need that insight.

Cameron: So, to get that insight, you will arrest us.

Hand: It is a formality put in place to satisfy bureaucrats and pen pushers. In reality, I am looking to gather intel on The Trust, so I can finally strike at them. Yes, there will be hard questions, and yes, there will be pushback against you for the roles you played, but, I have to make this look good. We need answers, and we need the truth.

Hand paused.

Hand: You will be much better off putting your trust in me, than anyone else, I can guarantee you that.

Jennifer looked at Director Hand. She was skeptical of the offer that was being made. However, Jennifer knew that this was an issue that was not going to go away, and that sooner or later, it was going to catch up with her with a vengeance.

Jennifer: Alright, Director Handwe will do it your way.

Burke, Tye, and Cameron looked at Jennifer; their body language was one of total shock.

Tyber: Ma’amthis is a terrible idea! Surrendering ourselves so we can be detained by ONI is not a smart move! How the hell are we supposed to fight The Trust if we are stuck in an ONI interrogation room?

Burke: Tye is right, Jennifer. We don’t belong in an interrogation room. People like Harrison and Jacob belong in an interrogation room! They impeded our job at every turn!

Jennifer: That may be true David. However, we have to realize that what happened at San Angeles is too big to ignore, and we cannot run away from it forever. The Trust needs to be stopped, and that begins by exposing them for the world to see.

Jennifer looked at Tye.

Jennifer: This should mean everything to you, Tye. You, of all people, should know how important this is! We can finally cut Constantine Spender down. If we don’t do this, then The Trust will have won! They will have proven, beyond any doubt, that they can act with impunity, and nobody can stop them! We cannot let them get away with this! We cannot let them bury this! We cannot allow them to bury US!

Hand interjected.

Hand: Captain Frost is right. If we can prove Spender’s involvement in what happened, it will go a long way to exposing The Trust. I have always believed that Spender was dirty. If you can help me prove that, once and for all, it will all be worth itI promise you! We can stop The TrustI just need you all to have faith in mebelieve in me!

Hand paused.

Hand: I am asking for you toTrust me.

Tye sighed with a great deal of uncertainty. He did not like the idea of surrendering himself to ONI’s custody. If the decision was his, he would not do it, so, he deferred to Captain Frost.

Tyber: Jennifer? Do you trust Director Hand?

Jennifer looked at Director Hand once more. Jennifer had to admit; Director Hand had a very cold and sterile demeanor. However, there seemed to be an honesty in her voice that even the most masterful liar would have trouble reproducing.

Jennifer: I do. I believe that she has our best interests at heart. I trust her.

Tye looked at Hand, and then back at Jennifer.

Tyber: Good enough for me.

Burke sighed, and gave a shrug.

Burke: Who am I to argue?

As Burke said this, all eyes went to Cameron; the most lethal and most difficult to stop of the group.

Hand: What say you, Spartan? I doubt anyone here could physically subdue you, so we have no way of forcing you to submit. Therefore, I am counting on your good sense and your integrity.

Cameron looked at Director Hand for a moment, before he reached up and did something he had never done before in the presence of non-Spartans; he removed his helmet. As Cameron removed his helmet, he held it to his side, under his arm.

Cameron: I have no concrete reason to trust you, nor do I have a concrete reason to distrust you. All I have is my good sense. You care to guess what it is telling me? It is telling me not to go along with this.

Cameron paused.

Cameron: You are asking me to make a massive leap of faith. What you don’t get about me, is that I have been betrayed by countless people whom I was supposed to trust unconditionally; my fellow Spartans. Most of them have turned on me, or, turned on ONI, in one way or another. The Risk TakersHammer TeamLucien. These are but SOME of the names that have destroyed my very notion of trust. I am not really big on the whole “trust” thing. That is a dirty word as far as I am concerned. To me, it means the opposite of what it is supposed to mean.

Cameron paused.

Cameron: The only way that I will go along with this, is if I am ordered to, by Captain Frost. If she orders me to stand down, I will. If she orders me to go along with your little plan, I will. She has earned the right to give me those orders. She has proven her loyalty to both ONI, and me.

Cameron paused.

Cameron: However, if she orders me to start shooting

Cameron proceeded to put his helmet back on.

Cameron: You are going to have a HELL of a time relinquishing me of my weapon. You better call for Backup, Director, because you are going to need every Agent you have in the Citadel to stop me.

Director Hand was silent, as she looked at Cameron. She could tell by the tone of his voice that he was very serious about what he said. Director Hand then turned to Captain Frost, and simply waited for her to speak. Sure enough, Captain Frost turned to Cameron, and shook her head.

Jennifer: Cameronstand down.

Cameron looked at Jennifer.

Jennifer: We are all on the same side here. Director Hand wants the same things that we want. There is no need for threats.

Cameron nodded.

Cameron: If you say so, Ma’am. If that is your decision

Cameron looked at Director Hand.

Cameron: I will abide by it.

Director Hand sighed in relief.

Hand: Well, I am glad that we managed to avoid a potentially bad situation.

Jennifer nodded.

Jennifer: I agree. We need to work together if we are to stop The Trust.

Hand: I am glad that you see that, Captain.

Hand paused.

Hand: Now, we have work to do. So, if the four of you don’t mindwe have a procedure to follow.

As Hand said this, Agents Rahm and Hunter stepped forward, both men looking at Captain Frost.

Blackwood: Captain Frost, I am going to have to ask you, and your officers, to turn over your sidearms.

Jennifer side, as she reached to her side, and drew her Magnum. She looked at her gun for a moment, before handing it to Agent Blackwood. Burke, Tye, and Cameron followed suit, as they each surrendered their weapons. Once Agent Blackwood had finished disarming Jennifer, Burke, Tye, and Cameron, he looked at Director Hand, and nodded. Director Hand then nodded, and looked at Jennifer and her associates.

Hand: Alright. From here, we should proceed to the Citadel. From there, we can begin to piece together exactly what happened on San Angeles.

Jennifer: How exactly is that going to work?

Hand: There will be several high ranking ONI Officers that will be involved with the questioning. I will be one of them. In addition to me, you will be questioned by Vice Admiral Adrian Wolfgang, Vice Admiral Jeffery Skinner, Lieutenant General Dylan Everet, Brigadier General Marshell Winters, Commodore Mallorie Dunham, and Vice Admiral Thomas Crown. You will each be questioned individually, day by day. It will be a grueling process, and an extensive one, but, it is a tried, tested, and true method to ensure that we arrive at the truth. It should also be noted that you will not be permitted to make any contact with one another for the initial round of questioning.

Hand paused.

Hand: I cannot speak for the other ONI Officers, but, I will be on your side the entire time, if only to bring to light information that will expose The Trust. I will make sure to stop as many of the curveball questions as I possibly can.

Burke: I know Vice Admiral Skinner, as well as Everet and Winters. Skinner can be blinded by a deviation from procedure, but Everet and Winters are good men. Those two defiantly understand how dangerous the Trust can be. Hopefully that will work to our advantage.

Cameron: I agree with Burke. Winters and Everet were with us when we assaulted a Trust facility on Midnight’s moon, Tesla. They should know damn well that The Trust exists, and they should be on-board with any effort to take down The Trust.

Hand: Let’s hope so. The more of the senior brass that agrees with us, the better off we will be, overall.

Hand paused.

Hand: I know this sounds daunting, but, I believe that we can pull this off, and I firmly believe that we can finally expose The Trust, where ever they may be hiding. If we work together, we can do this.

Jennifer nodded.

Jennifer: You have us convinced, Director Hand. I will admit, I did not think that I would be facing a board of inquiries upon the completion of the San Angeles campaign, but, I will happily face that music if it means putting an end to The Trust.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: You will have our full cooperation, so long as you have our backs.

Director Hand nodded.

Hand: Alright

Hand turned, as she looked at the three Agents standing behind her.

Hand: Agent Blackwood, Agent Morgantake Captain Frost and her associates to the Pelican.

Agent Blackwood and Agent Morgan stepped forward, as they both looked at Captain Frost.

Blackwood: Ma’am, If you would kindly follow me...

Captain Frost nodded, as she waited for Blackwood to move.

Jennifer: IWe are right behind you Agent.

Jennifer, Tye, Cameron, and Burke all nodded, as they followed behind Agent Blackwood; making their way to the Pelican. Jennifer, Tye, and Burke sat down across from Jacob; keeping to themselves and not saying a single word. Cameron, on the other hand, opted to stand. Despite the silence, Jennifer, Tye, and Burke all glared at Jacob, and Jacob glared back at them.

Director Hand, and the Agents she was with stepped aboard the Pelican, her Agents all sat down in some of the available seats. Hand, conversely, remained standing. Once everyone had situated themselves, Hand began to shout orders at the pilot in the cockpit.

Hand: Pilot! Seal the rear hatch, and return us to the Citadelbest possible speed!

As Hand said this, the rear hatch began to close, and the engines on the Pelican began to fire up. The ONI Pelican departed the King Raven, and returned to The Citadel.

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Midnight – The Citadel – Gamma Wing – ONI Debriefing Room Alpha AKA: The Black Room – 0900 Hours - February 7th 2540
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Admiral Harrison was walking through the main corridor of The Citadel’s Gamma Wing, as he was escorted by several ONI Agents, two of them in front, and two of them behind him, to where he had been scheduled to be questioned by Director Hand and her ONI Compatriots. Harrison was eventually led to a large set of ominous-looking doors, with the words “The Office of Internal Affairs” written right above them. As Harrison approached the door, the two Agents that were walking in front of him stopped, as the one on the right proceeded to enter an access code into a small panel located to the right of the door. As the panel beeped to signify authorization to enter, the ONI Agent on the left looked at Harrison, and gestured his head towards the door.

ONI Agent: Proceed inside, and have a seat at the table located in the center of the room.

Harrison nodded, as he walked through the doors, into a very dark room. There was a single light that hung above the table and chair at the center of the room, as well as a very narrow and dimly lit walkway leading up to the table and chair. From where he was standing he could see a large judge’s bench, with seven individuals already sitting behind the bench. These individuals were barely visible, but, he could see that the person sitting right in the middle, was none other than Director Hand. Harrison was taken aback by this setup, as it seemed overtly Orwellian. Suffice to say, Harrison stepped forward and sat down at the table located in the center of the room. As soon as Harrison sat down, he was addressed.

Hand: For the record, state your name, rank, service number, and current position.

Harrison took a deep breath before he spoke.

Harrison: Harrison, Fredward Jeremy. Rank, Vice Admiral. Service Number, 00973-24386-FH. Current position, Commanding Officer – UNSC Vigorous Inferno.

Hand: Very good.

Harrison watched as Hand look to her left, and then her right, as she addressed the other Officers who shared the bench with her.

Hand: Proceed

There was a moment of silence, before Harrison heard an unfamiliar voice address him.

Skinner: Vice Admiral Harrison, you should be advised, that we have compiled the collective reports of every Senior Officer that managed to survive San Angeles, and we are fully aware of the course of events that took place. However, there is still much we need to understand about WHY certain events happened.

Skinner paused.

Skinner: In your own words, please describe the series of events that led up to your shift in focus from The Covenant, to The Trust.

Harrison sighed.

Harrison: I suppose

Before Harrison could even continue, he was interrupted.

Skinner: This board will ask you, but once, to refrain from supposition, unless directly asked to do so. I will repeat the question; explain the series of events that led to your shift in focus from The Covenant to The Trust.

Harrison scoffed.

Harrison: The Trust became the primary target of UNSC hostility the instant I had been made aware that they had been directly interfering with UNSC effort to repel Covenant incursions on San Angeles. The first notable event that could be classified as direct interference, was during the battle of White Water, in which ODST Black Team attempted to eliminate Commander Vernette as he was evacuating Regional HQ Bravo.

Harrison paused.

Harrison: That being said, at no point did I cease hostility towards The Covenant, even when advised to do so, notably by Captain Frost.

Skinner nodded, as another officer spoke up.

Everet: Tell us about your working relationship with Captain Frost.

Harrison: At first, it waseffective. She had always projected a sense of caution and nervousness in a command position, but, she knew what she was doing. It was that sense which made her easy to work with, as she naturally deferred to authority.

Everet: Yet, you two came to a rather explosive crossroad, wouldn’t you say?

Harrison: We had a disagreement over how to handle Nighthawk and Anaconda, among other things. Her opinions on those two were bold, to say the least. She had some rather glaring double standards in play, the most obvious was her condemnation of Jacob Sharpmen over his alleged disloyalty and Commander Vernette’s past with Black Team. Frankly, she was very passionate about her stance towards Nighthawk and Anaconda, and downright blind when it came to Commander Vernette. Her orders, as a result, became questionable, and, the rest is history.

Harrison paused.

Harrison: Ultimately, I had no idea she was with ONI until she had revealed it to me shortly after we had captured The Ulterior Motive. I would never have found out had she not have said anything. In that respect, she was a master liar. No offense to present company, of course, but, it seems that being ONI means being a very good liar; very good at hiding who she was. That being said, I started to realize that her initial projection of caution and nervousness was a ploy to divert attention away from who she really was; a ruthless and cold officer with a background in a ruthlessly efficient organization. She attacked my ship, abducted a high ranking Trust operative, and wounded some of my combat personnel. The fact is, she is dangerous and unpredictable, and I realized that little too late. Her loyalty to her feelings trumps her loyalty to the uniform.

Everet: So why did you work with her against The Covenant? After everything she had done, one would think you would be more cautious.

Harrison: We were outgunned by The Covenant. Despite her shortcomings, she was still ONI, she is still Human, and she was offering to assist. I have learned never to look a gift horse in the mouth. Despite our disagreements, she was still willing to go toe to toe with The Covenant. It was not an easy decision, but, I prefer to let my judgement, not my feelings, make the game-saving calls.

Everet: Fascinating.

As Everet stopped speaking, another officer chimed in.

Winters: Vice Admiral Harrison, I believe a discussion about loyalty is much needed. Tell us, does your loyalty to Jacob Sharpmen trump your loyalty to your uniform? You seem very comfortable accusing Captain Frost of this, but, one could argue that you face the same conflict of interest as Captain Frost does.

Harrison: Part of loyalty to the uniform involves loyalty to the people who wear it.

Winter’s raised an eyebrow, and grinned, as he was impressed by the remark.

Winters: Indeed.

Winters paused.

Winters: However, suffice to say, Jacob did something very bad; he turned coat on people who believed he was an ally. Do you contest this fact?

Harrison: I contest the word “turncoat”. Jacob is not a traitor.

Winters: Then what is he?

Harrison: Jacob is a good man who places more importance on doing what is necessary than doing something by the book. This has always served him well, it has served Humanity well, but, it evidently does have its pitfalls as well.

Winters: So, you defend his decision to kill 20 UNSC Marines during the UNSC’s assault on the Apex Applied Research Building?

Harrison: Of course not! Part of me is disappointed in Jacob in that respect, but, Jacob would not be the first person who has been forced to kill an ally while under cover.

Winters: Jacob was not undercover, Admiral. There was no order put in place to give Jacob the green light to engage in that level of subterfuge.

Harrison was silent.

Winters: In my honest opinion, Jacob IS a traitor. He acted AGAINST ONI without authorization.

Winters paused as he looked at a tablet that was in front of him.

Winters: According to the report given to us by Captain Frost, she firmly believed that Jacob made an effort to return to the UNSC because he was exposed to something that he could not stomach on a personal level. This is supported by the fact that Jacob contacted The King Raven during the initial stages of Operations against The Ulterior Motive and by the fact that Jacob admitted to Captain Frost, during an interrogation, that he took steps to help the UNSC, and even Anaconda, with the sole intent of stopping the Vanguard weapons platform; that is, the device that The Trust was planning to put into play.

Winters paused.

Winters: Given these facts, can you say with 100% certainty that Jacob would have returned to the UNSC had Vanguard never have been a factor. To be clear, would Jacob STILL be with The Trust if he had not have encountered Vanguard? Speculation is, of course, permitted.

Harrison: I refuse to speculate on that, because there is only one realistic answer. I won’t say it. That is what you want, isn’t it? You want me to say what you want to hear. There is no way in hell I am going to fall for such an old trick.

Winters: That answer says enough, Admiral.

Wolfgang interjected.

Wolfgang: I don’t think we need to ambush Admiral Harrison like this. I think when all things are considered, Harrison made the best of a disastrous situation.

Wolfgang paused.

Wolfgang: That being said Admiral, let us talk about a disaster, shall we?

Wolfgang grinned, as he glared at Harrison.

Wolfgang: Let’s talk about Nighthawk and Anaconda. Tell me, Admiral, how could you have EVER entertained an alliance with those two, given your history with them?

Harrison sighed.

Harrison: I have been asking myself this question over and over, and the fact isI dont know why.

Harrison paused.

Harrison: Deep downI knew it was a bad idea, from the MOMENT they became part of the equation. However, they came onto the scene just as The Trust did, when we were at our most desperate. You know how it is, right?

Harrison scoffed.

Harrison: You’re on the ropes, looking death in the eyeand then, out of nowhere, Nighthawk and Anaconda show up to pull your ass from the fire with an unwarranted act of compassion, and BAMthey earn the bare minimum of trust necessary to warrant your tolerance. They weasel their way into the fold, like a parasite, as if they are supposed to be there. You put up with them, and you TRY to cut them some slack for the good of the people you are trying to protect. When they start to wear thin, and you get annoyed with their methods, they drop a piece of intel SO VALUABLE and SO PRECIOUS that it is impossible to turn them down, and once again, they find a way to stay in the fold, like a parasite.

Harrison scoffed.

Harrison: If you read my report, you would know what I am talking about.

Harrison paused.

Harrison: The act of compassion; extracting Commander Vernette and Spartan Z-091 when they were on a mission to rescue Lieutenant Commander Cochraine from enemy hands. They show up in White Water to help my forces secure and defend Regional HQ Bravo from The Covenant and then The Trust. They save Captain Frost from The Covenant at UNSC Airfield Mayweather.

Harrison paused.

Harrison: The precious intel; the information on Firebase Mediterranean, the information on the Apex Applied Research Building, getting us access to the Covenant battle net, interrogating Hoffman

Harrison scoffed.

Harrison: They are insidious.

Wolfgang: Clearly.

Wolfgang paused.

Wolfgang: Tell me Harrison; why did you allow Nighthawk to interrogate Hoffman? According to the reports, it was said that Nighthawk attempted to perform Protocol Alpha Ilo Durango on Hoffman. Why was this permitted?

Harrison: We needed answers. Hoffman was not cooperating.

Wolfgang: Surely you could have found other ways to get that information?

Harrison: No. Hoffman was a stubborn as a jackass. He was not going to give us anything. At least Nighthawk stood a chance of getting something out of Hoffman. Despite my reservations about letting Nighthawk get his hands on Hoffman, we needed the intel.

Wolfgang: But, that intel proved useless?

Harrison: I will admit, it seemed like a pointless exercise after Jacob had helped Captain Frost pinpoint the exactly location of The Ulterior Motive.

Wolfgang: What ultimately caused your falling out with Nighthawk? What happened that convinced you to go hostile with Nighthawk?

Harrison: It was frustration with the state of affairs at the time. Nighthawk was made privy to information concerning The Trust, as well as information pertaining to Commander Vernette’s past, while I was intentionally left in the dark. For most of that battle, I was excluded, undermined, and otherwise intentionally left in the dark about critical events. I finally snapped, and I directed my hostility towards the root cause of that behavior; Nighthawk and Anaconda.

Wolfgang: And I presume that led to your falling out with Captain Frost?

Harrison: As it was stated earlier? Yes. She believed in Nighthawk and Anaconda. I believed they were a threat. Our difference of opinion led to problems. The rest is history.

Wolfgang: Well, for the record, I believe that you did the right thing. Turning on Nighthawk and Anaconda, and attempting to eliminate them was the correct decision.

Harrison: I believed so. I still do. If there is ONE thing I am absolutely committed to going forward, it is the elimination of Nighthawk and Anaconda.

Harrison paused.

Harrison: To be honest, I am sure all of ONI believes that.

Wolfgang: Why is that, if I may ask?

Harrison: Didn’t you know? Nighthawk used to be ONI. He told me that he left ONI because of how pervasive the Trust had become in ONI. He knew that the red tape would stop him from fighting it, so, he left, and took his expertise with him.

Wolfgang: Nighthawk is ex-ONI? That explains everything. We had no idea that Nighthawk was ex-ONI.

Harrison: At first, I had a hard time believing it. However, upon reflecting on it, I came to realize that a lot of Nighthawk’s methods could bhe found in ONI’s playbook.

Wolfgang: If Nighthawk is ex-ONI, then he possesses a dangerous level of intelligence on how our organization conducts its operations. It is no wonder that he has been able to evade us at every turn. I guess at the very least, we can adjust our tactics.

Wolfgang paused.

Wolfgang: Thank you, Vice-Admiral. This intel has been very helpful.

Wolfgang simply grinned. However, as he did, Mallorie Dunham spoke up, and began to question Harrison.

Mallorie: Putting aside Nighthawk and Anaconda for a moment; I believe it is worth asking about the Vanguard weapons platform. Vice-Admiral Harrison, do you know about it?

Harrison: Close to nothing. The most comprehensive information I got on Vanguard was from Anaconda who claimed that Vanguard was created by the same beings that The Covenant worship as Gods.

Mallorie: Is this true, or, is this part of their dogmatic views?

Harrison: I cannot say for sure. There is no comprehensive proof that the gods of The Covenant actually exist. Or ever existed. All I can say for sure is that Vanguard was real.

Mallorie: Did you ever see Vanguard?

Harrison: No.

Mallorie: Did anyone ever see Vanguard?

Harrison: Jacob did. Nighthawk and Anaconda must have, at some point. Beyond that, I don’t think anyone else saw Vanguard.

Mallorie: I find that difficult to believe.

Harrison sighed.

Harrison: FranklyVanguard was the Trusts trump card. They protected it with everything they had. Their sole purpose was to keep the UNSC and ONI away from Vanguard, and in that respect, they almost completely succeeded. Save for the fact that Jacob saw it, and presumably Nighthawk and Anaconda did battle with it, The Trust did a masterful job in protecting Vanguard from exposure.

Mallorie: So you had close to no proof that Vanguard existed, yet, according to all of the reports that we have read, many, if not all of the decisions were made in the latter part of this conflict, were based around Vanguard. How do you justify this?

Harrison: It is difficult to explain, to be completely honest. It boils down to the fact that the very idea of The Trust POTENTIALLY having access to such a dangerous weapon, was enough to bring about a response. We had very little to go on, and very little evidence, but, the threat was so great that I could not dismiss the potential danger. The way I saw it, I needed to make a leap of faith in order to justify my actions. Jacob was a witness to Vanguard, and Nighthawk did substantiate the existence of Vanguard. I needed to give orders that would take that threat seriously, and keep us focused. It was not an easy task.

Mallorie: Do you not find it hypocritical to use Nighthawk’s testimony as a source of justification for your decision on San Angeles, all while maintaining a staunch opposition to him, overall?

Harrison: It is a precarious situation, I give you that. I have no respect for Nighthawk, but nothing will change the fact that he was right about Vanguard being a threat. I feel that belief entitles me to a bit of leeway as far as Nighthawk is concerned.

Mallorie Dunham was not fully convinced by this reasoning.

Mallorie: You will forgive me if I accept that logic with a grain of salt. I have no further questions at this time.

As Mallorie said this, Vice Admiral Crown spoke up.

Crown: Admiraldo you believe that Nighthawk and Anaconda were killed by the weapon they built to destroy San Angeles?

Harrison: I would say yes. It was a weapon of last resort, such was my understanding. That typically implies someone you use just before failure or death. It is my firm belief that both Nighthawk and Anaconda were KIA on San Angeles.

Crown: I see.

Crown paused.

Crown: What do you know about the weapon that was used to destroy San Angeles?

Harrison: I cannot say how Nighthawk got his hands on a slipspace core, but, I do know that the power requirements for a weapon of that classification is immense. I am reasonably certain that the planet was phased out of our reality by the quantum stresses of slipspace.

Crown: I am looking for something more along the lines of a technical knowledge.

Harrison: I have no technical knowledge of the weapon.

Crown: Did you make any effort to locate the weapon when you first found out about it?

Harrison: I sent out as many UAVs as I could to search, but, a single UAV can only cover so much ground. I was hesitant to send ground forces, out of a dreaded certainty that they would fail en-masse to locate the device.

Crown: So, what you are saying that you could not locate where the weapon had been activated from?

Harrison: That is one way of looking at it, yes.

Crown: Do you have any speculation as to how the weapon was deployed?

Harrison: No. I knew nothing about the design or implementation of that weapon. Honestly, before I saw it, I thought it was impossible to open a slip space rift THAT big.

Crown: That is terribly unfortunate, Vice-Admiral. If we ever find ourselves in a situation where Nighthawk deems it necessary to use that design again, a lot of people could die.

Harrison: Do you think I am unaware of that?

Crown: I am more inclined to say yes. However, I think what you need to realize is that your failure to properly identify how Nighthawk and Anaconda destroyed an entire planet leaves us hilariously unprepared for when they decide to do it again!

Harrison: I have already handed everything I had over to ONI concerning he matter. If ONI believes that it can find something that I missed, then be my guest. I assure you, however, that you will not find anything that I didn’t. For your information, as far as this stuff is concerned, I am a god-damn subject matter expert.

Crown: I am sure you are

Director Hand interjected.

Hand: Gentlementhat is enough! This discourse is accomplishing very little.

Hand paused.

Hand: Baseless accusations are not going to get us anywhere. The entire point of this is to get to the truth! It is imperative that we keep this fact in mind!

Hand paused.

Hand: Vice Admiral Harrison; it is your belief that Nighthawk and Anaconda are dead, correct?

Harrison: Yes ma’am.

Hand: It is your assertion that The Trust was a greater threat than The Covenant, correct?

Harrison: As a result of The Trust having possession of Vanguard, yes.

Hand: Do you have anything to add to this initial round of questioning?

Harrison: I do.

Harrison paused.

Harrison: The destruction of San Angeles is something in which blame can be assigned. It is my honest opinion that there were many factors that played a role in the avoidable loss of San Angeles. Primarily, the loss of San Angeles can be blamed, in large part, on Nighthawk and Anaconda, and to a lesser degree, on ONI. For the entire campaign, my singular concern was the protection of the planet and her colonists. AT every turn, I was faced with challenges on every front. While I went into the battle fully expecting a bloody fight with The Covenant, I never dreamed that I would find myself in a conflict with The Trust; an organization that hides within ONI, nor, did I ever believe I would find myself in direct conflict with the REAL ONI, in the form of Captain Jennifer Frost and the crew of The King Raven. I did not believe for one moment that my chain of command would fall apart and schism over how to deal with Nighthawk and Anaconda. Had ONI had done its job, Nighthawk and Anaconda would not have been a variable in the conflict, and San Angeles would still be here, and I would still be therefighting to defend her!

Harrison had a frown on his face.

Harrison: I am not impressed by the Office of Naval Intelligence today, nor am I impressed by how uncooperative ONI was during the conflict at San Angeles. I have seen your work up close and personal, and I am disgusted by it. The general incompetence and uncooperativeness of ONI during the battle of San Angeles is something that I will never forget, and it is something that I will forever associate with ALL OF YOU. To be frank, I am not holding my breath over whether or not you are actually going to subject Captain Frost and her crew to disciplinary action. From her insubordination, to the role she played in helping a terrorist destroy San Angeles; Captain Frost and her crew should not have a future in ONI.

Harrison scoffed.

Harrison: I have nothing more to say.

Hand: Very well, Admiral. You are dismissed pending further questioning. Until further notice, you are to remain at the Citadel.

Harrison: Understood.

With that, Harrison stood up, and left the room, without saying a single word more.

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