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Naked Crook
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Midnight – The Citadel – Gamma Wing – ONI Debriefing Room Alpha AKA: The Black Room – 0900 Hours - February 12th 2540
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David Burke, accompanied by several ONI Agents, entered the Black Room. Upon entering the Black Room, Burke was directed to proceed to the center of the room to sit at the desk that was waiting for him. Without any hesitation, Burke did as he was instructed. As Burke sat down, he looked at the panel of Officers sitting in front of him. Burke recognized every single one of the officers that were there to question him.

Hand: Doctor…how is your arm?

Burke: It is on the mend.

Hand: I am glad to hear that.

Hand paused, as she looked at the tablet that was in front of her.

Hand: You should know, Doctor, that I have spent a bit of extra time brushing up on your service record in order to prepare for this. Your experience with the Class-0 Spartans in something that is of great interest to this investigation.

Burke: In what way?

Hand: Well, seeing as The Risk Takers and Hammer Team are composed of Class-0 Spartan IIs, it stands to reason that they would be of interest to this investigation, seeing as they are currently identified as Trust Operatives.

Burke: I see. Well, if you have questions about Class-0…then I am the man to ask. I spent considerable time with them during their formative years.

Hand: I am glad to hear you will be forthcoming. That being said…we should get started. We have quite a bit to discuss.

As Hand said this, she leaned back in her chair; opening the floor for anyone to speak up. It only took a moment before Wolfgang interjected.

Wolfgang: Doctor Burke, after reading your report, the one thing that dawns on me is that you were skeptical of working with Nighthawk and Anaconda.

Burke: To a degree, yes.

Wolfgang: Yet, despite that skepticism, you did very little to actually oppose any sort of alliance with those two terrorists.

Burke: While I have always been skeptical of those two, I was forced to concede that they had a certain utility which could be only described as…vital. The information that they had on The Trust was not something we could so easily pass on. When you put that on top of the fact that Nighthawk and Anaconda also assisted us in our fight with The Covenant, it is hard to turn them away. They were far too useful.

Wolfgang: You realize that you are talking about the same two people that destroyed San Angeles, right?


Burke: I am fully aware of what Nighthawk and Anaconda did. I am fully aware that they are responsible for the loss of San Angeles, but, I am also fully aware of the overall role that they played in that campaign. To deny that they did, in fact, render assistance to ONI and the UNSC would be a lie. I give credit, where credit is due.

Wolfgang scoffed.

Burke: I am going to assume that you know the full extent of their involvement in San Angeles.

Wolfgang: I do not need to be reminded.

Wolfgang paused.

Wolfgang: However, nothing changes the fact that 40 million people died because of that man and his beast.

Burke: Of course not. What happened to San Angeles was a tragedy. Nighthawk and Anaconda are completely responsible for the loss of San Angeles. However, we must not forget that there was a very good reason for why those two destroyed San Angeles.

Wolfgang scoffed.

Wolfgang: I am curious, Doctor Burke, in your own words, what was that reason?

Burke: That reason was Vanguard.

Wolfgang: Of course. That seems to be the common theme.

Burke: It was very hard not to take Vanguard seriously. Spender admitted to the fact that Vanguard was real. Everything The Trust did was to help Vanguard. We needed to launch an offensive, not only on Vanguard, but also on The Trust. Nighthawk and Anaconda provided us with the intel and expertise necessary to do both.

Wolfgang frowned.

Burke: Given how aggressive and underhanded The Trust was, especially given the fact that The Trust BROUGHT The Covenant to San Angeles, I believe that the decision to involve Nighthawk and Anaconda, while uncomfortable, was absolutely necessary. If I had the chance to go back, and do it all over again, I would do everything exactly the same.

Wolfgang: So, you condone their activities?

Burke: If those activities involve burying The Trust, you are damn right I do. The Trust has been a problem for far too long! Frankly, I hope Nighthawk guts every single one of those bastards.

Burke paused.

Burke: While I cannot approve of his actions pertaining to the destruction of San Angeles, I can understand full well why he did it. When I realized the odds we were facing, that plan made sense from the perspective of asset denial. Vanguard was far too dangerous to be allowed to exist, and it was far too dangerous to be allowed in the hands of the enemy.

Wolfgang: You are willing to put the lives of 40 million people up against that claim?

Burke: Yes I am.

Wolfgang: How can you say that?

Burke: How many people have died so far, Wolfgang? How many planets have been glassed by the Covenant? How many ships have been blasted to pieces? How many servicemen and women have died? How many cities have fallen?

Burke frowned.

Burke: Several billion lives have already been lost. Dozens of worlds. Over a hundred major cities. Hundreds of smaller cities and towns, farms, communities. Hundreds of ships, warships, colony ships. All of this…wiped out by The Covenant, and you have the audacity to sit there and say that denying The Covenant access to Vanguard’s technology was unacceptable.

Wolfgang: I never said that was unacceptable.

Burke: You are categorically opposed to the destruction of San Angeles. That is synonymous with being opposed to denying Covenant access to Vanguard’s technology.

Wolfgang frowned.

Burke: Without that technology, The Covenant has eradicated more Human life than we ever thought imaginable. Try to imagine what they could do WITH that technology. Try to image a world where The Covenant has access to Technology that is far beyond even what they have access to. When you begin to visualize that reality, the number 40 million gets a lot smaller.

Burke scoffed.

Burke: Now, imagine how many horrible things The Trust could do with that technology.

Burke paused.

Burke: Nighthawk and Anaconda did the wrong thing for the right reason. That much is obvious. That much should be clear. To say otherwise, is deluded.

Wolfgang frowned at Burke.

Wolfgang: The wrong thing for the right reason…

Wolfgang scoffed.

Wolfgang: That excuse is used FAR too often to justify what Nighthawk and Anaconda did!

Burke: It is what ONI says, isn’t it?

Wolfgang frowned.

Burke: If that excuse is good enough for ONI…

Wolfgang slammed his fist down on the desk.

Wolfgang: NIGHTHAWK IS NOT ONI!

Wolfgang was breathing heavily. He was clearly very angry.

Wolfgang: That son of a bitch is not ONI…

Wolfgang paused.

Wolfgang: You…people…

Wolfgang paused.

Wolfgang: The very fact that you can sit there and defend Nighthawk makes me sick to my stomach. You are a member of the Office of Naval Intelligence. The VERY FACT that you have ANYTHING good to say about Nighthawk is appalling! That son of a bitch is EVIL!

Burke: Appalling? Evil? No, Vice-Admiral. What is appalling is how you spare no indignation on Nighthawk, but find nothing but indifference for The Trust. What I find to be evil, is The Trust.

Wolfgang: Nighthawk is a terrorist, and his beast is…well, he is no better. They are both terrorists.

Burke: Believe me, IO used to think so. However, I have come to realize that Nighthawk and Anaconda are NOT terrorist. They were branded terrorists. We were told they were terrorists. However, they seem to exhibit no behavior that is consistent with terrorist activity. In fact, every target that they have ever hit, has had at least some tie with The Trust. The only people that they are “terrorizing” is The Trust. To me, that makes them, not terrorist, but rather, assets.

Wolfgang shook his head.

Wolfgang: Doctor Burke…you are a fool.

Burke frowned.

Wolfgang: I can see that trying to convince you of how dangerous Nighthawk and Anaconda are, is a waste of my time. It is very clear how you perceive those two, and it is very clear that you are completely unreliable as far as dealing with them. You are a terrorist sympathizer, Doctor. ONI does not go easy on terrorist sympathizers.

Burke: And you, Admiral, defend traitors. Your sit there, condemning Nighthawk as a threat, all while ignoring the very real danger posed by The Trust. That says a lot about you, as a person. You are a gutless, ignorant man.

Wolfgang: You are out of line, Doctor.

Burke: Yes I am.

Director Hand watched as the two men went back and forth. Before Wolfgang had a chance to rebuttal, Hand interjected.

Hand: Gentlemen…that is enough!

Burke and Wolfgang looked at Director Hand.

Hand: Bickering back and forth does not accomplish anything. If there is nothing of substance left to say, then we should move on!

Wolfgang looked at Burke for a moment, before he scoffed, and sat back in his chair.

Wolfgang: I have nothing more to say at this time.

Wolfgang sighed, as he winced his eyes. He was very clearly annoyed with the discussion, and it was very obvious to everyone in the room. However, despite this, the discussion had to move on, and Skinner was the one who interjected to move the questioning forward.

Skinner: I think we need to shift gears. It is clear that the current topic of discussion is not an easy one to discuss.

Skinner paused, as he looked at Burke.

Skinner: Doctor…we should discuss The Covenant.

Skinner paused as he looked at his tablet.

Skinner: Doctor, according to your reports, you were in command of The King Raven for a period of time, correct?

Burke: That is correct. I was placed in command after Captain Frost proceeded to the surface to engage in ground operations.

Skinner: Did you not object to that course of action?

Burke: Yes I did. I made it abundantly clear that her place was on the bridge of The King Raven. Suffice to say, she proceeded to the surface anyway, and left me in command.

Skinner: And you just allowed her to leave?

Burke: I have a professional respect for Captain Frost. I did my duty informing her of the risk to her personal safety, as well as her responsibility to The King Raven. However, her decision was final. She left me in command, and I fulfilled those responsibilities to the fullest extent.

Skinner: I see.

Skinner paused.

Skinner: While you were in command of The King Raven, can you elaborate further on exactly what you did?

Burke: During my time as the commanding officer of The King Raven, I assisted Admiral Harrison and the UNSC Navy with counter operations against The Covenant Navy, as well as coordinating ground support for our teams on the ground. Additionally, I managed to utilize the medical facilities of The King Raven as a place to evacuate and treat the wounded.

Burke paused.

Burke: The King Raven, in addition to other UNSC vessels were involved in several skirmishes with small portions of The Covenant fleet. However, these engagements were typically smaller in scale, as we had to resort to smaller and quicker attacks due to how heavily outclassed we were compared to the Assault Carriers that were present.

Skinner: Were you able to destroy any Covenant ships?

Burke: I can confirm that under my command, 6 Covenant ships were destroyed. 4 Corvettes and 2 destroyers.

Skinner nodded.

Skinner: I see.

Skinner paused, as he looked at his tablet, skimming the information on it.

Skinner: I am curious about something, Doctor; did you have any objection to the fact that military focus had shifted away from The Covenant and towards The Trust?

Burke: I was concerned about the fact, but, I did not have any objections to focusing military efforts on The Trust.

Skinner: Concerned?

Burke: I was concerned that The Covenant would capitalize on the fact that we had less pressure on them. Fortunately, we managed to keep up on offensive on The Covenant long enough for The Covenant to shift its focus.

Burke paused.

Burke: The Covenant began to engage The Trust, specifically. I am not sure why The Covenant decided to begin focusing its hostility on The Trust. I was just thankful that we caught a break.

Skinner: Is there any reason that you can think of as to why The Covenant shifted their focus on The Trust?

Burke: It obviously had something to do with Vanguard. From what I had heard from Commander Vernette, there was a Brute Chieftain and an Elite Zealot aboard The Ulterior Motive attempting to prevent The Trust from leaving with Vanguard. The Covenant’s shift in priorities had something to do with Vanguard. That is my best guess.

Skinner: That is a reasonable hypothesis.

Burke: Whether it was, or wasn’t…the fact of the matter was that any alliance or cease fire with The Covenant would not have lasted in the slightest. The entire situation was advantageous, but, nothing more.

Skinner nodded, as he took a few notes on his tablet.

Skinner: I see. No further question.

As Skinner fell silent, Winters interjected, and began to speak.

Winters: Doctor Burke…

Burke looked at Winters.

Winters: What can you tell us about The Trust Operatives that were at San Angeles?

Burke: There was a lot of them.

Burke paused.

Burke: You will have to be more specific.

Winters: Deputy Director Yates, that is, former Deputy Director Yates.

Burke: From what I gathered from Vice-Admiral Harrison; Yates was one of the higher ups in The Trust. If I am not mistaken, Yates was the executive officer to former Director Spender. Yates was the smoke screen; he showed up to cover up the bullshit that The Trust was engaging in. That did not work out so well for him. As we all know, Yates tried to pull the red tape over Harrison, but, that quickly backfired when Harrison would not have any of that bullshit. The rest is history.

Burke paused.

Burke: Yates was always a bureaucrat! I have known him for a long time, and while I cannot say for certain when he joined The Trust, I can say for certain that he has always been an asshole. I never had any respect for that man.

Winters: So, you believe that Yates was instrumental in covering up various Trust operations?

Burke: Absolutely. Red tape was what Yates excelled at. He could bury anything with enough of it. Without Yates, exposing The Trust is all but certain. We know that he is one of them. We know that he is a traitor. Frankly, if we can find the bastard, he should be taken out.

Winters: I see.

Winters paused for a moment, as he looked at his tablet.

Winters: What about Dr. Novak? What do you know about him?

Burke: I know that he is a disgrace to the medical profession. I know that he is the one who created ODST Black Team. He is a monster, to sum it up in a few words as possible.

Burke paused.

Burke: I have never personally met the man, but, I have heard enough about him from the UNSC Medical Board of Ethics and Commander Vernette to get a pretty damn good idea of who he is. There is absolutely no moral imperative for that man. He conducted criminal medical experiments for The Trust, and did everything he could to hide what he was doing. I cannot say, for certain, how much involvement he had with San Angeles, but, that is ultimately irrelevant. The things he has done in the past should be enough to warrant a death sentence.

Winters: These are very strong opinions, Doctor.

Burke: I have every reason to hold these opinions. Novak is an exceptionally villainous monster in my eyes. That man offends everything that I hold dear. Every moral standard that I hold is held in contempt by Robert Novak.

Burke paused.

Burke: And, you know…it does not matter who you ask me about; be it The Consultant, Spender, Kolya, The Risk Takers, Hammer Team, Black Team, Nova Team…they are all traitors, and they all deserve to die! They are the enemy, as much as The Covenant is. The very existence of The Trust is to undermine ONI and the UNSC for selfish reasons. These are dangerous people, malevolent people. If we do not put them down, if we do not deal with them with decisive action, they are going become more dangerous, more vicious, and more ambitious. We cannot allow that to happen! If we allow The Trust to go unchecked, as Vice-Admiral Wolfgang so badly desires, we will pay for it with blood.

Winters raised an eyebrow at Burke.

Winters: Well, that is all well and good, but, how do you propose we find these traitors? I am not sure if you have heard, or not, but The Trust has gone totally dark. With Spender having been removed as Director by the UNSC Security Council, and his compatriots being branded traitors, they have all gone into hiding. What more do you want?

Burke: If you honestly believe that The Trust’s infiltration of ONI was limited to Spender, and a few others, then you are mistaken. No cabal in Human history is ever composed of a handful of people. The Ulterior Motive had a full crew compliment, and they had several facilities on San Angeles.

Burke paused.

Burke: You should know, as well as I do, that The Trust has never had a shortage of man power. We must never stop hunting for these people. We have to remain vigilant.

Burke frowned.

Burke: I have no idea how we will find these traitors, but we have to remain vigilant. We cannot allow ourselves to become complacent, and we cannot allow ourselves to believe, not even for a moment, that The Trust is not a threat to ONI. We cannot allow ourselves to think like Vice-Admiral Wolfgang.

Wolfgang scoffed, as he glared at Burke. However, he remained silent.

Winters: Believe me, Doctor, we are vigilant. ONI is doing everything imaginable to locate and shutdown The Trust. We are not being complacent.

Burke sighed.

Burke: I hope not, for all of our sakes.

Winters sighed, as he looked at his tablet. Winters took a moment to review some of his notes, before he continued.

Winters: All of that being said, Doctor, I am curious about one thing…

Burke raised an eyebrow at Winters, as he waited for Winters to ask his question.

Winters: Why did you allow Hoffman to fall into the hands of Nighthawk and Anaconda? At one point, Hoffman, a known Trust operative, was handed over to Nighthawk for questioning, and on a second occasion, Hoffman was handed to Nighthawk and Anaconda, at which point he was physically assaulted by Anaconda. Why were these actions permitted?

Burke: I didn’t allow anything. To be clear; none of those decisions were mine to allow. Harrison made the call to allow Nighthawk to interrogate Hoffman, and, it was Captain Frost that allowed Hoffman to be handed over to Nighthawk and Anaconda AFTER he was taken from the Vigorous Inferno.

Burke paused.

Burke: I was skeptical of allowing Nighthawk and Anaconda access to Hoffman, but, in the end, Hoffman was a traitor, and he did not deserve to be protected from Nighthawk and Anaconda.

Winters: Perhaps, but, you did nothing to object to these decisions.

Burke: No, I did not.

Winters: Why?

Burke: Hoffman was a member of The Trust. He deserved everything that came to him. Any trouble I had with reconciling what Nighthawk and Anaconda did to Hoffman to get information out of him, was soothed with the knowledge that Hoffman was a God-damn traitor. Traitors do not deserve sympathy. They do not deserve to be protected from men like Nighthawk and Anaconda.

Winters: Does that same belief extend to Captain Sharpmen and Commander Vernette?

Burke: To Jacob? Yes. To Tye? No. There is a difference between those two men. Jacob IS a traitor to the UNSC and ONI. Tye was a victim of The Trust.

Winters: So I have been told.

Burke: Then you should already know the reasons why. Jacob joined The Trust to cross off Nighthawk and Anaconda. Tye was manipulated and experimented on and FORCED to work for The Trust. There is a big difference.

Winters: Commander Vernette hid this fact from ONI for 25 years.

Burke: And, in that 25 years, Tye has had an exemplary service record, with honors and commendations matched by very few. Yeah, Tye lied. However, that is a very minor point, in a much larger story. I think in the grand scheme of things, when you look back at what he had been through, and you couple that with how faithfully he has served the UNSC and ONI, I think that deserves a pass. Tye has earned the right to let one lie of omission slide.

Burke paused.

Burke: How many lives do you think Commander Vernette has saved in his life, through his actions, directly and indirectly? Thousands? Tens of thousands? Do you think those people care that he LIED about his augmentations at the hands of The Trust? I doubt it. The amount of good that Tye has managed to do in those years utterly eclipses the unfortunate events that he was forced to endure. The fact is, it boils down to the finer points. Tye was manipulated and lied to.

Burke frowned.

Burke: But Jacob…he is a different kind of problem. Jacob KNEW what he was doing. Jacob had a choice! He didn’t have to join The Trust. He didn’t have to do any of it. Jacob chose his path.

Winters sighed.

Winters: It is the same thing…over and over.

Winters frowned.

Winters: Cameron said the same thing. Tye gave the same defense. Now you, Doctor, have uttered the same words.

Burke: It’s because it is true.

Winters: Is it?

Burke: Yes, and, I am certain that when you question Captain Frost…she will say the EXACT same things I have just said. Jacob is a traitor…and the punishment for treason is quite clear.

Burke paused.

Burke: That bastard deserves to die. He killed 20 good men and women. For what?

Burke frowned.

Burke: For nothing…

Winters sighed, as he looked at Burke, unsure of what to say.

Winters: Well, if one thing is clear to me, it is that there are two very different opinions of Jacob. It seems that the crew of The King Raven have complete condemnation for Jacob.

Burke: Can you blame us? Those 20 marines that died, were from our ship. They were ONI. They were part of our crew. We protect our own, or have you forgotten that?

Winters: No, I have not forgotten that, Doctor.

Winters sighed.

Winters: But, I have no further questions.

As Winters put his tablet down on the desk, Everet looked at Burke.

Everet: Doctor Burke…

Burke looked at Everet.

Everet: How would you describe the leadership of Vice-Admiral Harrison?

Burke: Capable, reliable, proven.

Everet: And…Harrison himself?

Burke: Harrison is an intelligent man. Much like his style of leadership, He is a capable, reliable, and proven officer. He is very analytical and sure of his decisions. He is someone you could depend on to make good decisions, most of the time.

Everet: If you believe all of this, then why did you provide the exit strategy for Captain Frost, Commander Vernette, and Spartan Z-091 when they assault The Vigorous Inferno in an act of defiance against Vice-Admiral Harrison?

Burke: Captain Frost is my commanding officer, and she is ONI. She believed that Harrison was in error about how to handle The Trust and Nighthawk and Anaconda, and I agreed with her. Like I said, you can depend on Harrison…most of the time.

Burke paused.

Burke: Harrison allowed his judgement to be clouded by his hatred for Nighthawk and Anaconda, and his partiality towards Captain Sharpmen. These two factors made him an unreliable asset late in the campaign. As such, I felt that I could no longer follow his orders.

Burke shrugged.

Burke: That, and he was suspected of being a Trust operative. And, I guess, even on top of THAT, he was directly interfering with an ONI operation. We had every operation right to give him the end run, and do things our own way. There are ONI procedures in place, and we enacted them. I believe Directive Helios gives us that right.

Burke paused.

Burke: Am I wrong?

Everet shook his head.

Burke: Thought so.

Everet: Still…it begs the question; do you believe that Harrison is a Trust operative?

Burke: There was evidence to support the belief. First and foremost, it is almost a given that anyone who hates Nighthawk and Anaconda are typically Trust operatives. Secondly, Harrison was too quick to jump to the defense of Captain Sharpmen. Third, Vice-Admiral Harrison tried to take control of our investigation of The Trust. Given the first two facts, that was deemed highly suspect. Finally, his efforts to take control of an ONI operation was the final nail in the coffin. Would you trust a man who had exhibited that many signs of potential Trust involvement? I mean, there was already one traitor on his ship? Who was to say there was not a second?

Everet raised an eyebrow.

Everet: That evidence is pretty circumstantial. You were not standing on very solid ground with that kind of evidence.

Burke: We are ONI. We are allowed to act on circumstantial evidence.

Everet: Still, that was a pretty big risk.

Everet laughed.

Everet: I mean…Captain Frost started a firefight on his ship, and you provided the exit strategy. Hell, you gave the order to use the chain guns on the Prowler to provide suppressing fire. You crossed a lot of lines, Doctor.

Burke: We do what we have to do. The Trust needed to be taken down, and Harrison would not give us the operational leverage we needed. We took matters into our own hands.

Everet raised an eyebrow.

Everet: That is a pretty extreme way to take matters into your own hands, Doctor. That was a little far.

Everet sighed, as he shook his head, and looked at his tablet, before looking back at Burke, and resuming his questioning.

Everet: That being said…let’s talk about Captain Frost.

Everet paused.

Everet: I take it you have faith in her leadership abilities?

Burke: Yes. She is a loyal officer, and a skilled leader. She wears ONI’s uniform well.

Everet: So, would I be correct in assuming that you completely support her decisions to accept help from Nighthawk and Anaconda?

Burke: Yes. While I am skeptical of Nighthawk and Anaconda, I am confident in Jennifer’s decisions, and her decision to trust them was enough for me.

Burke shrugged.

Burke: Like I said, I didn’t completely trust Nighthawk and Anaconda, but, there was some degree that I did have confidence in them. Combined with my confidence in Captain Frost, and my desire to see The Trust taken down, I supported Jennifer’s decisions.

Everet: I have noticed that you are on a first name with Captain Frost. Why is that?

Burke: As much as she is my superior officer, she is also my friend. When you fight along someone long enough, the formalities begin to blur, and a different dichotomy is formed. We are typically on a first name basis, and rank is the exception, not the rule. The informality we share is just an extension of the mutual respect we have for one another.

Burke paused.

Burke: And yes, that respect extends to Tye and Cameron as well.

Everet: So, you claim you have complete loyalty to your shipmates. Did that loyalty ever shake when you learned about Tye’s involvement with The Trust or Captain Frost’s support of a dangerous terrorist?

Burke: Not for a single moment. Like I said, I support Jennifer’s decisions. She has proven that she is capable of making informed decisions for the good of the people around her.

Everet: But, don’t you find it odd that she has such a good relationship with Nighthawk? I mean, she and Nighthawk coordinated their efforts A LOT. Hell, there were even reports that Captain Frost, prior to the assault on Firebase Desert, was seen riding in Nighthawk and Anaconda’s Warthog. Doesn’t that make you think?

Burke: I do not understand what you are trying to get at.

Everet: Those two seem FAR too comfortable with one another.

Burke: So?

Everet scoffed.

Everet: Doctor…

Everet paused.

Everet: Surely, you must realize, that seems a bit suspicious. Nighthawk and Anaconda were actively hostile to EVERYONE except Captain Frost. Hell, Nighthawk went out of his way to rescue Captain Frost at Airfield Mayweather.

Burke: Nighthawk went out of his way to rescue Tye and Cameron when they were trying to secure Lieutenant Commander Cochraine from The Covenant. What is your point?

Everet scoffed.

Everet: My point is…

Everet paused.

Everet: Anyone who makes it their business to be on good terms with Nighthawk and Anaconda, should be subject to intensive scrutiny. The fact that you are not suspicious of Captain Frost’s relationship with Nighthawk is deeply troubling.

Burke: I know, for a fact, that Captain Frost was acting in the best interest of the people under her command. Her association with Nighthawk, during the course of the battle, was in our best interest. Captain Frost should not be subject to scrutiny for knowing that being on good terms with Nighthawk and Anaconda was rewarded with strategic intel on the enemy.

Burke folded his arms.

Burke: I see nothing suspicious about that.

Everet gave an exasperated sigh.

Everet: Alright, Doctor…very well. Have it your way.

Everet dropped his tablet on the desk. It was very clear that he had become very frustrated with Burke’s answers.

Everet: I have no further questions at this time.

Everet leaned back in his chair, as he scoffed at Burke. Burke looked back at Everet, as an uncomfortable silence overcame the room. However, after a few moments, Vice-Admiral Crown interjected.

Crown: Doctor Burke; according to your report, you became fully aware of Nighthawks plans just prior to the attack on Firebase Mediterranean.

Burke: Correct.

Crown: Specifically, you became aware of his plan to destroy San Angeles?

Burke: Yes.

Crown: Yet, you did nothing to stop that plan? You made no effort to prevent Nighthawk from destroying San Angeles?

Burke: There was nothing to do. The way I saw it, There was no way we were going to be able to defeat The Trust, The Covenant, and Vanguard. Perhaps we could have beaten one…perhaps two…but to stop all three? That feat was impossible. We simply lacked the resources. The odds were stacked against us, but, it did not stop us from trying. Nighthawk was set on locating and destroying Vanguard. Harrison was intent on fighting The Covenant. Naturally, our target was The Trust. Captain Frost, Commander Vernette, Cameron, and I went to firebase Mediterranean in order to try and stop The Trust, regardless of anything else that may have happened.

Burke paused.

Burke: That weapon that Nighthawk built, was a weapon of last resort, or so he claimed. The plan was to only use the weapon if we were unable to secure the planet from all three threats. If we could not defeat The Trust, or The Covenant, or Vanguard…the weapon would have been used. The weapon was used, because we were unable to win on every front. We needed to win on all three fronts, and we didn’t.

Burke paused.

Burke: It would have been unacceptable to allow Vanguard’s technology to fall into the hands of our enemies, and it would have been unacceptable to allow Vanguard to live. It became a matter of asset denial. All I know is that the Slipspace weapon ensured that Vanguard was destroyed and our enemies did not get their hands on a dangerous piece of technology.

Crown: So I have been told. The same thing, over and over again. Commander Vernette said it. The Spartan said it. Now, you are saying it.

Crown scoffed.

Crown: Asset denial. I am getting tired of hearing the same excuses over and over again.

Burke: Tired of the same excuses? You will get the same answer if you ask the same question over and over. It WAS asset denial, sir. It was a tough call, but, it had to happen. You may not like the answer and you may not like the decision, but, it was absolutely necessary.

Crown scoffed.

Crown: What you call asset denial, I call killing 40 million people.

Burke: You are generalizing the entire situation, sir.

Crown: Am I?

Crown paused.

Crown: You allowed Nighthawk to carry out his plan because, by your own admission, you needed The Trust, The Covenant, and Vanguard defeated. You needed to prevent The Covenant and The Trust from getting their hands on Vanguard’s technology, and you needed to prevent Vanguard from potentially leaving San Angeles.

Crown paused.

Crown: You admitted that stopping The Trust, The Covenant, and Vanguard was nearly impossible, if not completely impossible.

Burke: Yes, but, we still tried. We did everything we could to avert that disaster, but, the odds were stacked against us. We did everything we could. We routed The Trust and we put up a fight against The Covenant. We did not stop fighting until that portal opened!

Crown: And then40 million people died. Why did that portal open? What prompted it to open?

Burke: Obviously, Nighthawk did it. He was the only one who could have done it.

Crown: Yeah…Nighthawk.

Crown shrugged.

Crown: Let’s be honest here, Doctor; do we even know what happened to Vanguard during its fight with Nighthawk? What if Nighthawk found a way to defeat Vanguard? Was that weapon activated before or after Vanguard’s defeat? Did it even need to be activated? Nobody seems to have an answer to that question. Was the activation of that weapon a necessary step.

Burke: I have no idea what happened between Vanguard and Nighthawk. I have no idea how that battle went down. All I know is that SOMETHING happened to necessitate the activation of that weapon. Perhaps Vanguard was defeated by Nighthawk, and the weapon was activated to stop The Trust or The Covenant from getting their hands on any of Vanguard’s technology. It is not unrealistic to assume that Nighthawk had no knowledge of how the fight was progressing on other fronts. He had every reason to believe that The Covenant destroyed the Navy, or, The Trust defeated ONI. Perhaps Vanguard defeated Nighthawk, and the weapon activation was a failsafe. We may never know, for certain. All we do know is this; The Trust and The Covenant will NEVER get their hands on Vanguard’s tech…thanks to that weapon, and our decisions to allow Nighthawk to perform the asset denial procedures. Regardless of the outcome…that technology was too dangerous to exist. It had to be destroyed. Vanguard, and all of its technology, needed to be destroyed. The Covenant would have never stopped pursuing it, and The Trust would have its operatives surrounding it, and we would be none the wiser. Nighthawk mitigated a very real threat, and I stand by every decision that was made, that enabled Nighthawk to do it.

Burke shrugged.

Burke: I don’t trust Nighthawk, but, he knows how to deny access to an asset. I give credit where credit is due.

Crown scoffed, as he looked at his tablet, and began to tap his fingers on the screen. After a moment, he put his tablet down, and looked at Burke.

Crown: Doctor Burke…do you even care that 40 million were killed by Nighthawk?

Burke: Of course I care. It was a tragic loss of life. As a Doctor, I am sworn to protect and uphold the sanctity of life, and to do no harm. However, there comes a point where even I must face the divide between my responsibilities as a physician and my responsibilities as an ONI Agent. When I am one, I cannot be the other. These are two diametrically opposed ideas that simply cannot co-exist. I must, frequently, move between these two lives, as it is needed. The part of me that is a physician feels a very deep pain for the loss of life, while, the part of me that is an Agent realizes the necessity of what had to be done. It is a tough reality to face for Agents with my professional background.

Burke paused.

Burke: I needed to be resolute. I needed to show courage in the face of a difficult situation. I didn’t have the luxury of taking a limp-wristed approach to the situation. I was on the front lines, in the heat of battle, in a life or death, do or die situation. The fact is; we didn’t have time to argue and debate the situation. We needed to make the tough call. We needed to allow Nighthawk to take the fight to Vanguard, and we needed to keep The Trust off his back. We needed to give Nighthawk the best possible chance to stop Vanguard. Most importantly, we needed…I needed to be able to accept the fact that the ideal endgame was nearly impossible to attain.

Crown scoffed.

Crown: In other words; you believe that by allowing Nighthawk to have the option to destroy San Angeles, and the freedom to do battle with Vanguard, without interference from The Trust, you felt that enabled to most likely chance to deny assets to the enemy.

Burke: In so few words, yes. All options were on the table.

Crown: What bothers me is that we have no idea what happened in the fight between Nighthawk and Vanguard. We have no idea how that battle went down. We can only speculate. Without any concrete facts, too much about that battle is left unanswered. For a battle as pivotal as the confrontation with Vanguard, we have considerably very little information.

Burke: Unfortunately, that is how it played out.

Crown: Yes…very unfortunate.

Crown frowned, as he set his tablet down on the desk.

Crown: I have to go on record and say that EVERYTHING about how this operation was conducted bothers me to no end. The very fact that ONI Agents could ally with people like Nighthawk and Anaconda, and allow the destruction of an entire world, is very disturbing. There is NOTHING about this situation that I find to be palatable in any way.

Crown frowned.

Crown: Commander Burke, I have to say it; the very fact that you, and your compatriots, could even entertain the idea of working with someone like Nighthawk, makes me question your commitment to ONI’s anti-terrorism policies. Your failure to apprehend or terminate Nighthawk at first sight is nothing short of gross incompetence.

Burke: We did what we had to do to survive. If the situation had been different, our response to Nighthawk would have been different. We needed him. It is as simple as that.

Burke paused for a moment, as he glared at Crown.

Burke: I realize though, that no matter how many ways I explain it, you simply won’t accept what I have to say. You cannot accept what I have told you because you are unable to actually conceptualize the danger of what we had to face. You are unable to accept anything else, other than the fact that Nighthawk destroyed San Angeles, and that we allowed him to do so. Nothing else matters to you, so, this is a pointless discussion, and I have no intention of going any further with it until you show some willingness to understand our predicament.

Crown frowned.

Crown: Very well, Doctor…

Crown glared at Burke for a moment.

Crown: I guess there is nothing more to discuss.

Crown fell silent, as he turned his head and looked at his colleagues for a moment. Crown was visibly angry, and it was clear that he wanted to push the conversation further. However, Crown knew that he was likely stretching his colleagues’ patience thin.

Crown: Just know this, Doctor; This is far from over. The events of San Angeles will never go away. You may be able to walk out of this room today, feeling as if you somehow evaded your reckoning. However, you can be certain that Someday you will answer for what you partook in. Someday, and I do not know when, you WILL be held to account for your decisions. Of this, you can be certain.

Crown paused.

Crown: Eventually, the whole truth will be learned. Eventually, we will know every detail surrounding the disaster at San Angeles. At that point, you will no longer be able to hide behind uncertainty and supposition. San Angeles may have been destroyed, but, the truth is ethereal, and it cannot be destroyed.

Burke: It is so noted…sir…

Crown’s frown did not dissipate, as he leaned back in his chair, and fell silent. As he fell silent, Mallorie Dunham spoke up.

Mallorie: I must say, that was a rather interesting discussion. Such passion…

Mallorie grinned, as she looked at her tablet.

Mallorie: It seems that Nighthawk’s role in all of this seems to be the point of contention. I had a feeling it would be a sore spot for ONI.

Burke: Nighthawk is typically a sore spot for ONI ma’am.

Mallorie: Yes, well, I much prefer to discuss Nighthawk’s job, as opposed to Nighthawk himself. As you so eloquently put it Doctor; Nighthawk was there to do battle with Vanguard. I am curious about Vanguard. Do you have anything noteworthy to share about it?

Mallorie paused.

Mallorie: I realize I am asking a lot. I realize that Vanguard was a mystery to just about everyone. I realize that the number of people who encountered Vanguard are few. However, given the fact that the very existence of Vanguard was such a pivotal decision making point, I feel there needs to be a line of questioning on this topic.

Burke nodded.

Burke: It makes sense. I do agree that Vanguard was a major part of this entire mess.

Burke paused.

Burke: As far as strategic information on Vanguard is concerned, I doubt there is any in existence. I do not believe that anyone has any strategic intel on Vanguard.

Burke paused

Burke: That being said, I do know a bit about Vanguard, but, most of it is second hand from what Nighthawk mentioned to us. I know there are a few people here who place no value on anything Nighthawk says, but, it is all we have.

Burke paused again.

Burke: I do know that Vanguard was NOT a Covenant AI. I do know that whatever technology it was composed of, it was FAR beyond The Covenant in just about every way. In fact, it was my understanding that a certain part of The Covenant wanted to kill it.

Mallorie: Yes, we are aware of that fact. I believe this was mentioned during our discussions on The Covenant, and the fact that they were rendering combat assistance against The Trust during the attack on The Ulterior Motive.

Burke: Of course…

Burke paused.

Burke: I guess it should also be mentioned that Anaconda had previous exposure to Vanguard. At least, this fact was heavily implied with how intimate Anaconda’s knowledge of Vanguard was. From what we could see, Anaconda hated Vanguard with a passion. That had to have come from somewhere.

Mallorie: Interesting. Do you think Nighthawk also had prior contact with Vanguard?

Burke: I doubt it. Honestly, the impression I got was that Nighthawk has little to no personal or actual experience with Vanguard. From what I could see, Anaconda was the only one who ACTED as if he had some prior contact with Vanguard. It is very possible that Anaconda’s contact with Vanguard predates his partnership with Nighthawk.

Burke paused.

Burke: I think Vanguard has been a problem long before we found it on San Angeles. I think this has been yet another chapter in a fight we never knew was happening; a fight that The Trust just dragged Humanity in to.

Burke paused.

Burke: I think it is safe to say that whatever was going on between Vanguard and The Covenant, we are now a part of that fight.

Mallorie: But, Vanguard is dead…

Burke: Perhaps, but, “Vanguard’s acolytes” are still alive…

Mallorie: Vanguard’s acolytes?

Burke: That was the name given to The Trust, by The Covenant soldiers who were fighting Vanguard. At least SOME Covenant soldiers now know The Trust as such, and I doubt they will stop until Vanguard’s acolytes are dead.

Burke paused.

Burke: Like I said…we have been dragged into a fight.

Mallorie looked at Burke, as she let out a sigh.

Mallorie: That is a very troubling notion. It is never good when The Covenant finds another reason to destroy Humanity.

Burke: I don’t think it is the entire Covenant. We only ever observed a small amount of Covenant soldiers in direct opposition to Vanguard and The Trust. In all of our past engagement with The Covenant, they have never failed to field insurmountable numbers to fight us. However, on The Ulterior Motive, there was only a dozen Covenant soldiers, and only two of them fought with Commander Vernette, and his team.

Burke paused.

Burke: I think what we have is a very small cabal of soldiers that are exclusively dedicated to fighting Vanguard, and I get the feeling that The Covenant, as a larger entity, is unaware of this cabal.

Mallorie: What makes you think that?

Burke: The small number of soldiers is a big hint. On top of that, there is also the fact that they had very little issue fighting side by side with our soldiers in an attempt to destroy Vanguard and The Trust. These Covenant soldiers never went out of their way to create trouble for us the two times we encountered them.

Burke paused.

Burke: This is keeping in mind that the SAME Covenant soldiers that were on The Ulterior Motive showed up at Firebase Mediterranean with the sole intent of fighting Vanguard. We know this, because Lieutenant Cochraine and Jacob encountered a Covenant strike team that, based on their reports, shared many similarities with the description of the Covenant soldiers encountered by Commander Vernette and Cameron on the Ulterior Motive.

Burke paused.

Burke: If one thing was clear, it was the fact that there was a small cabal of Covenant soldiers acting against Vanguard.

Mallorie: That is a fascinating development if I have ever heard it. Is there any way that this helps us?

Burke: Honestly? I cannot say for sure. We don’t even know who these Covenant soldiers were. Without that basic information, we would have no hope of ever making future contact with them. That being said, if Vanguard is dead, which is highly likely, there would be no need to contact them. Then again, it is equally possible that those Covenant soldiers are dead.

Mallorie: So, you doubt that there is any further tactical value in this information?

Burke: All information has tactical value. We have no idea how numerous the anti-Vanguard cabal is inside The Covenant. It could be dozens or even thousands. All we know is that The Trust is now known to The Covenant as servants of Vanguard, and that alone could have use in the future.

Mallorie: I see.

Mallorie paused, as she thought for a moment.

Mallorie: It is unfortunate that so little is known about Vanguard. While I have boundless intel on the people and events surrounding Vanguard, I have to be honest and say that the total lack of strategic intel on Vanguard troubles me.

Burke: Viable intel on Vanguard was scarce to begin with. I believe the only people who could tell you more about Vanguard would be Nighthawk and Anaconda. Beyond that…there is no known alternate source of intel on Vanguard. However, getting those two to sit down and talk with ONI would be downright impossible now.

Burke paused as he looked at the other officers.

Burke: I think we all know why that is.

Burke shrugged.

Burke: Alas…that is literally everything I know about Vanguard. Everything I know, is on the table. You have all heard it, and there is nothing left to hear. Anything further and you are trying to get water from a rock.

Mallorie looked at Burke and nodded.

Mallorie: Very well, Doctor. I have no further questions in that case.

As Mallorie tapped on her tablet, as if jotting down a few notes, Director Hand spoke up.

Hand: Commander Burke…you seem certain that there is nothing else you can add to this investigation.

Burke: I am very certain of that. Anything further is just baseless speculation, and we both know that baseless speculation is not permitted here.

Hand: Well, you are not wrong, Commander. However, I am going to make an exception.

Hand paused.

Hand: I need to know what you think…

Hand paused.

Hand: I need to know what you think of The Trust, as a whole. How dangerous are they? How far will they go? What do you think?

All of the other officers looked at Director Hand with a rather suspicious look on their faces. However, they all kept silent.

Burke: The Trust is exceedingly dangerous. There is nothing they will not do. There is no limit to their treachery. There is no end to their deception. In my honest opinion, The Trust is a threat to EVERYTHING our system is built upon. If they could, they would tear it all down in a heartbeat. It is what they tried, and failed, to do with Vanguard.

Hand: I see.

Hand paused.

Hand: An opinion like that forces me to wonder; how pervasive is The Trust? How big is this organization?

All of the other officers continued to look at Director Hand.

Burke: I have no idea, but, it was big enough to place one of its operatives as the Director of ONI Section 0. It was big enough to have the resources off an entire ship, and hundreds of soldiers and personnel. It was big enough to hide Vanguard from the rest of the UNSC. It was big enough to perform illegal experiments on soldiers they recruited, and it was big enough to recruit Spartans.

Burke paused.

Burke: I believe that it is big enough to do serious harm to the UNSC. I believe that it is big enough to potentially kill a lot of good people.

Hand winced at Burke, as she paused for a moment.

Hand: This is just…speculation?

Burke: Just speculation…

Burke sighed.

Burke: I have seen how The Trust works on a few occasions. These people are ruthless and insidious. They are not to be underestimated or trifled with. They are to be taken very seriously.

Burke scoffed.

Burke: After everything that happened at San Angeles, I am now convinced that the Trust has placed numerous operatives inside of ONI. Frankly, that is the only thing that can explain how they managed to operate with impunity on San Angeles and NOT be discovered. We now know that Spender and Yates were members of The Trust. We know that Hoffman was a member of The Trust. How many more flag officers are loyal to The Trust? How many more traitors are standing in our midst?

Burke paused.

Burke: The only good thing that came out of San Angeles was the exposure of The Trust. Before San Angeles, The Trust, as an organization, has been nothing more than a ghost; something that nobody believed existed, and only a few people took seriously. Now, they have large and uncomfortable spotlight on them

Burke paused.

Burke: And the next move is ours. We can either take The Trust seriously, or, we can continue to ignore them, and we can wait until their next great atrocity before we mention them again. Personally, I would much rather make a move against them. We should be hunting these bastards down, and we should cross them off! Spender, Yates, Kolya, The Consultant…all of these people need to face justice for what they did.

Hand: What about Nighthawk and Anaconda?

Burke: Small fish, compared to The Trust. The Trust is a more immediate threat. Some people may disagree with that…

Burke looked at Wolfgang for a moment, before turning back to Director Hand.

Burke: But those people are fools. Those are people who care more about some guy and a Brute FIGHTING the Trust, than The Trust itself.

Wolfgang frowned.

Burke: Unfortunately, it is not my decision on what to do next. That is your decision, Director Hand. You have to decide what is more important. Is grilling loyal officers over the logistics of a battle more important than finding treachery in the ranks?

Burke looked at every single one of the officers in front of him.

Burke: You all need to get your priorities straight. The Trust should be the only thing you people should be caring about at the moment. If The Trust is not your single biggest concern, then you are all failing at your jobs.

Burke shrugged.

Burke: Of course, this is just my opinion.

Director Hand looked at Burke for a moment, before she finally spoke up.

Hand: Quite the opinion…Commander.

Burke: I know what The Trust is capable of and I know what bureaucrats are incapable of. Either we survive or they do.

Hand thought for a moment, as she looked at Burke. What Burke had just said resonated with her, and it actually concerned her a great deal. Han was silent for a moment, before she looked at the other Officers that were sitting next to her.

Hand: You are all dismissed. This tribunal is to be resumed tomorrow morning at 099 hours.

All of the other senior brass looked at Director Hand for a moment, before they all stood up, grabbing their tablets as they left their seats, and proceeded to make their way towards the exit. Director Hand, however, stayed where she was, as she simply looked at Burke. Burke looked back at Director Hand; knowing full well that she wanted to speak with him in private.

As the other senior brass left the room, Director Hand turned her attention to the Agents that had originally escorted Burke into The Black Room. She simply gave those Agents a nod.

Hand: Wait outside…

Without any hesitation, The Agents turned and left The Black Room, leaving Burke and Director Hand alone.

Hand: Commander…you really have me thinking…

Hand paused.

Hand: You have me thinking about The Trust…and about what they are capable of. I am no stranger to The Trust, and I get the impression that you have your fair share of experience with them as well. My question to you is this…

Hand paused, as she leaned forward and glared at Burke.

Hand: How far do you think they will go?

Burke: How far?

Burke paused.

Burke: As far as necessary to ensure they have absolute control of everything. The Trust wants power, and they will go as far as need be to get it. If it means killing every ONI Agent to get what they want…they will do it.

Hand sighed.

Hand: Are you describing a coup d’état?

Hand paused.

Hand: You are, aren’t you?

Burke: I guess you can call it that. If you read Commander Vernette’s report on his time with The Trust, you would know that Operation Blind Eagle is what they would call it.

Hand: You think The Trust is going to try and take over?

Burke: Honestly? Yes…yes I do. I think it is going to be sooner rather than later. The Trust is now exposed. Knowledge of The Trust is now common place. This puts pressure on them to accelerate their plans, if nothing else. We need to be ready. You need people you can trust…people you can rely on.

Hand: People like you?

Burke: People like Captain Frost, Commander Vernette, Spartan Z-091…and yes, me.

Burke grinned.

Burke: Rear-Admiral Vernette is also a given. If there is ANYONE you can trust, it is him.

Hand: Yes, Preston Vernette is someone I do trust.

Hand paused, as she let out a sigh.

Hand: Commander Burke…I fear you may be correct. As much as I hate to admit it, The Trust MAY try to make a move against ONI.

Hand paused.

Hand: Believe me, Commander Burke, I know that you and your compatriots are loyal officers, and I do agree that I will need people I can rely on. However, for now, I need to let this tribunal continue on.

Burke: Why? We are of no use to you while we are tied up in this…bullshit!

Hand: This bullshit, as you call it, allows me to keep my cards close to my chest. Between you and me, we both know what is going on, and we both know the score. If I call this tribunal off, The Trust will know something is up.

Hand paused.

Hand: At the very least, we can use this tribunal to let The Trust THINK ONI is tied up with these proceedings. It may buy ONI some time; time that I will need to organize against The Trust. We need time, Commander Burke.

Burke sighed.

Burke: I guess you are right.

Hand: Of course I am right. This tribunal will allow me to keep you, and your compatriots close to The Citadel…close to me. If and when I need you, I can get you into the field. For now, all I ask is that you trust the system…trust me…

Burke looked at Hand, and sighed.

Burke: Very well, Director.

Director Hand nodded.

Hand: Thank you, Commander.

Director Hand paused.

Hand: I give you my word, I will keep you in the loop as much as possible. When the time comes to strike against The Trust, I give you my absolute guarantee…you and your compatriots will be there, and you will be the tip of the spear.

Burke nodded.

Burke: Understood.

Hand: Dismissed, Commander. The Agents outside will see you back to your quarters.

Burke nodded, as he stood up, and left The Black Room. As soon as Burke exited The Black Room, he was approached by the ONI Agents waiting outside, and he was escorted back to his quarters.

=============================================================
Midnight – The Citadel – Gamma Wing – ONI Debriefing Room Alpha AKA: The Black Room – 0900 Hours - February 13th 2540
=============================================================

Captain Frost, along with several Agents, entered The Black Room. As Jennifer entered The Black Room, she immediately noticed the tablet at the center of the room, and the senior brass officers that were sitting, and waiting, for her to take her seat.

As The Agents stopped, and stood at the exit of the Black Room, Jennifer continued to walk forward, taking her spot at the center of the room. As soon as Jennifer sat down, she heard Director Hand speak to her.

Hand: Welcome, Captain Frost.

Jennifer gave a slight nod.

Jennifer: Hell, Director Hand.

Hand: I trust that you fully understand why you are here?

Jennifer: Yes, I fully understand. We can skip the pretense.

Hand: Very good.

Hand paused, as she looked to her left and her right.

Hand: If there is anyone here who would like to begin, please…by all means…

As Director Hand opened the floor, Vice-Admiral Wolfgang quickly spoke up.

Wolfgang: Captain Frost…

Wolfgang glared at Jennifer, as he paused for a moment.

Wolfgang: You…are a terrorist sympathizer.

Jennifer raised an eyebrow.

Jennifer: You sure did not waste any time pulling that one out.

Jennifer sighed.

Jennifer: I assume by “terrorist” you mean Nighthawk, and by extension, Anaconda?

Wolfgang: Exactly…

Wolfgang paused.

Wolfgang: Nighthawk and Anaconda…

Wolfgang paused again.

Wolfgang: The two SOBs that you are so fond of.

Wolfgang paused.

Wolfgang: The two bastards that DESTROYED San Angeles.

Wolfgang scoffed.

Wolfgang: I really want to know what the hell you were thinking when you allowed yourself to become so…enamored with those two.

Jennifer: Enamored is not the correct word, sir. Nighthawk and Anaconda were useful. I utilized their expertise.

Wolfgang: Utilized their expertise?

Jennifer: Yes sir; their expertise against The Trust and their expertise against The Covenant. Those two provided us vital assets to fight both The Covenant and The Trust. They provided us with vital assistance against The Covenant and The Trust. I was not of liberty to reject that help.

Wolfgang: Those two are wanted fugitives.

Jennifer: Yes, they are. However, what does it say about those fugitives when they help the people who are trying to eliminate them? You may call them fugitives, sir, but, I see something much different.

Wolfgang: I don’t care what you see, Captain. Those two are wanted by ONI, and above all else, you are required to carry out your duties in either capturing or killing them. The very fact that you did NEITHER of those things, makes me seriously question your judgement.

Jennifer: Before San Angeles sir, I would agree with you. However, the events of this conflict gave me a very new and refreshed opinion on those two. Yes, they are fugitives, and yes, one of them is a Brute, and yes, Nighthawk can be a condescending and arrogant prick, but, those two…they saved lives. They fought on our side, they risked their lives, not only for ONI personnel, but for civilians and UNSC personnel as well. You can certainly doubt their methods, but, you cannot doubt their intentions.

Wolfgang scoffed.

Wolfgang: Yes, I CAN doubt their intentions. I have every right to doubt their intentions! You are talking about two sociopaths who…

Jennifer interjected.

Jennifer: There is nothing sociopathic about those two.

Wolfgang: Oh no? You’re telling me that a history of betrayal, and the willingness to destroy a planet does not qualify as sociopathic? You’re telling me that a man capable of retrofitting a slipspace core into a weapon of mass destruction that can envelop an ENTIRE planet is NOT a sociopath?

Jennifer: I will admit that such behavior is cause for concern, but, none of this is a sign of sociopathic tendencies, especially when you consider the context.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: Nighthawk designed the slipspace weapon as…

Wolfgang interjected.

Wolfgang: A weapon of last resort against The Trust, The Covenant, and Vanguard. I have heard this same, tired argument before, Captain.

Jennifer: Then I need not explain the details. The fact of the matter is, you are fully aware of WHY that weapon was built.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: Yet, no matter how much you hear it, you refuse to accept it. The technology that The Trust unearthed was a serious threat to Humanity. That technology was too dangerous to be allowed in ANYONE’S hands. The Trust and the Covenant HAD to be denied that technology at ANY cost. If that technology was not destroyed on San Angeles, then it would have been used again, and I am certain that any subsequent abuse of that technology would proceed without ONI intervening to stop it. It would have been done without our knowledge and with our total inability to stop it.

Wolfgang: And that justifies destroying an entire planet?

Jennifer: It does. It is a heavy price, but, it had to happen. San Angeles needed to be destroyed.

Wolfgang: You would condone the sacrifice of an entire world…

Jennifer How many worlds have we sacrificed in this war, Admiral? San Angeles was not the first, and it won’t be the last! How many worlds have been sacrificed to protect Earth? Reach? Where is your indignation there, Admiral?

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: Nighthawk destroyed San Angeles, so we would not have to. He gave us the luxury of being able to blame someone else. He gave us the luxury of being able to sleep at night, while we point fingers and assign blame to everyone else, except ourselves.

Jennifer frowned.

Jennifer: I think the worst thing Nighthawk did was enable men like you to masquerade as some righteous crusader. You sit there, high and mighty, with some undeserved sense of moral superiority; judging me for seeking out Nighthawk, and judging Nighthawk for making the hard choices in our stead.

Wolfgang scoffed at Jennifer.

Jennifer: I am curious Admiral; what exactly are you mad at? Are you mad about the fact that we lost San Angeles, or, are you mad about the fact that Nighthawk and Anaconda destroyed it? Is this a Nighthawk and Anaconda thing, or, is this a San Angeles thing.

Wolfgang: You are not the one asking the questions here, Captain.

Director Hand interjected.

Hand: I think it is a fair question. I am going to allow it.

Director Hand looked at Wolfgang.

Hand: I am also curious Admiral; what exactly is your issue here? Is this about Nighthawk and Anaconda, or, is this about San Angeles?

Wolfgang glared at Director Hand.

Wolfgang: Both.

Wolfgang paused.

Wolfgang: My issue stems from the fact that two wanted terrorists worked with ONI, and then turned around and destroyed an entire planet. My problem stems from the fact that the ONI personnel on site FAILED to do their duty in eliminating those two terrorists.

Wolfgang turned and looked at Jennifer.

Wolfgang: You FAILED, Captain. You failed to carry out your duty.

Jennifer: I failed to make a mistake, Admiral.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: Nighthawk helped us. He saved my life. He saved the life of two of my best men. He gave us intel on The Trust and The Covenant, and he helped us fight our enemies. Whether you like it or not, Admiral, Nighthawk and Anaconda were on our side. I was not going to knife them in the back after all they did for us.

Wolfgang: So, you sympathize with terrorist?

Jennifer: They are not terrorist, Wolfgang! They are fighting the same enemies that we are! They are fighting The Trust! They are fighting The Covenant!

Wolfgang: Is that so?

Wolfgang scoffed?

Wolfgang: How do you explain their assassination of former Director Kapsky? How do you explain their attack on the Mercury shipyards? How do you explain their actions on Genesis?

Jennifer: I can’t! However, I am sure there is a damn good reason for their actions.

Wolfgang: What is that based on?

Jennifer: It is based on my own personal experience with them.

Wolfgang: Your own personal experience…

Wolfgang scoffed.

Wolfgang: Alright Captain, if your own personal experience is enough to judge the merit Nighthawk and Anaconda, then, by all means…tell me more about Nighthawk and Anaconda. What makes them tick?

Jennifer: They are motivated almost exclusively by their desire to eliminate The Trust. Barring that; they will always act in self-defense when attacked. Anytime Nighthawk and Anaconda have gone head to head with “our side” it was because we were the instigators. When they were met with hostility and suspicion, they reacted negatively. When they were met with a willingness to cooperate, they were useful. They become a problem when we give them a reason to be a problem.

Wolfgang: So, what you are saying is that we are the problem for enforcing our own counter-terrorism policies?

Jennifer: The counter-terrorism policies are not the problem. It is your inability to properly classify a terrorist that is! We would not have a problem with Nighthawk and Anaconda if ONI could figure out exactly how to deal with them.

Wolfgang: You are aware that it is Preston Vernette, your commanding officer, who is in charge of apprehending those two, right?

Jennifer: I am aware of that. However, apprehending someone and trying to kill them are two very different things. Rear-Admiral Vernette has never tried to flat-out kill Nighthawk and Anaconda. Rear-Admiral Vernette’s methods are not based on killing them.

Wolfgang: So what do you want ONI to do? Ignore them? What kind of message does that send?

Jennifer: Why don’t you try listening to them.

Wolfgang: Are you kidding?

Jennifer scoffed.

Jennifer: Sir, do you understand what causation is, relative to Nighthawk and Anaconda?

Wolfgang didn’t answer.

Jennifer: Like I said, sir; Nighthawk and Anaconda exist to fight The Trust. The believe that ONI, and to a certain extent, The UNSC, has been infiltrated by The Trust, at the highest levels of command. We know that Nighthawk is a former ONI Agent, and we know that Nighthawk complete lack of faith in the reliability and trustworthiness of ONI forced him to seek out a non-human compatriot for the sole purpose of eradicating The Trust from our ranks. We know from Commander Vernette testimony that The Trust has always had sights on hijacking the leadership of the government and military. To put it simply; The Trust is the cause, and Nighthawk and Anaconda are the effect. We need to stop fighting Nighthawk and Anaconda. We cannot ignore them, and we cannot brush them off. We need to listen to them, and we need to help them because their survival is our survival.

Wolfgang winced his eyes.

Wolfgang: We don’t need Nighthawk and Anaconda to help us deal with The Trust. They are not necessary. We don’t need them to fight our battles for us. We don’t need their help or their protection. Nighthawk and Anaconda are WOEFULLY under-equipped when it comes to the full might of the UNSC. One guy, a Brute, an AI, a Frigate, and a couple of fancy guns is no match for the UNSC. Anything they can do, we can do infinitely better.

Jennifer: You are making a mistake.

Wolfgang: No. The mistake would be allowing ourselves to ask those two pricks for help. We don’t need their help! We have never needed their help! There is nothing that they can offer The UNSC.

Jennifer: That is where you are wrong, sir.

Wolfgang: Am I wrong, though? Do we really need two malcontents, who would never follow orders, working alongside our personnel? You may not object to such lunacy, Captain, but, I do. I don’t trust those two to be reliable assets.

Wolfgang paused.

Wolfgang: The Trust will be dealt with, and they will get what is coming to them, and that will not involve Nighthawk and Anaconda to any degree.

Jennifer: Well, I doubt they will abide that wish. I doubt they will sit on the sidelines while a conflict with The Trust is in full swing.

Wolfgang: Believe me…they will not get the chance to sit on the sidelines. They will be dead before ONI even has the chance to deal with ONI.

Wolfgang paused.

Wolfgang: It will be much easier to kill them if you provide us with more information on Nighthawk and Anaconda. I am sure there is more you could tell us about those two.

Jennifer glared at Wolfgang for a moment, before she shook her head.

Jennifer: I don’t know anything else. Everything I know, I have already said.

Wolfgang: Are you sure about that, Captain?

Jennifer grinned.

Jennifer: Yes.

Wolfgang glared at Jennifer for a moment, before he broke eye contact, and looked down at his tablet.

Wolfgang: No further questions.

Wolfgang began to tap his fingers on his tablet, as he fell silent. As Wolfgang fell silent, Winters spoke up.

Winters: Captain Frost.

Jennifer looked over at Winters.

Winters: I have several questions pertaining to the situation involving Commander Vernette.

Winters paused.

Winters: The first, and most pressing question; what was your reasoning behind hiding Commander Vernette’s augmentations?

Jennifer: I suppose you are referring to my decision to withhold Tye’s augmented status from Vice-Admiral Harrison? Honestly…I made that decision to protect Tye. I didn’t feel that it was my place to bring that information to the forefront, especially information that was disclosed during a Victor-997.

Winters: On what grounds?

Jennifer: I did not believe it to be mission-critical intel. People knowing about Tye’s past would not have improved overall effectiveness against The Trust. It was not “need to know” information, especially for non-designates.

Winters: So you withheld information from non-ONI personnel. Fair enough. My question is; would you have told ONI? Would you have withheld that information from us as well?

Jennifer: I was honestly considering it. Again, it was not something ONI needed to know either.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: If Tye wanted that information buried, I would have buried it. However, he decided to reveal it in the end. The most important thing was that it was his decision to disclose his augmented status, and I did not reveal his secret. I did not feel that it was my place to reveal his secrets.

Winters: You realize that unsanctioned augments are illegal.

Jennifer: Tell that to The Trust and ODST Black Team.

Winters: You also realize that there are very harsh penalties for harboring illegal augments, as well as withholding information pertaining to illegal augments?

Jennifer: I am aware of that. However, I stand by my decisions.

Winters: You don’t seem too concerned about those consequences, Captain.

Jennifer: I have very little need to be, quite frankly.

Winters: Why is that?

Jennifer: Well, for starters, I doubt ONI is going to want to waste its time on something so trivial when it has The Trust to worry about. ONI has better things to do, at the moment, then go after me for withholding information on something that was not mission critical. Secondly, Tye is one of ours. This is not some rouge operator that is acting outside the auspices of ONI. While I am aware of ONI’s unwavering protocols for dealing with illegal and unsanctioned augments, I think it would be a short sighted decision to eliminate such a valuable individual like Tye. I acted to protect that asset. Lastly, and this is mostly concerning me; I doubt you are going to want to do away with someone who is not afraid to face a little bit of fire for a decision. I realize that by making the decision to not personally inform ONI of Tye’s augmentations, I was in breach of protocol. However, I feel that given the circumstances with The Trust, you can’t afford to lose someone like me; someone who is loyal to ONI, and the people she serves with. You need people like me; people who understand loyalty, and is niot guided by the idea of “I was just following orders”. There is a time and a place to follow orders, and it takes an exceptional officer to know when to follow orders and when to take matters into their own hands.

Winters: Withholding information from ONI is your definition of loyalty?

Jennifer: Standing alongside and protecting the people I serve with is my definition of loyalty. That is exactly what I did, and I do not apologize for it.

Winters: True, but, by your own admission, you still had every intention of withholding information from ONI. How can we be sure that you will be completely forthcoming with information in the future? How do we know you won’t have something else to hide in the future? How do we know you are not hiding anything else?

Jennifer: You don’t. Then again, that is a risk you take when dealing with anyone. I can guarantee you that, at some point, you have had a discussion or a meeting with a Trust operative who is POSING as an ONI Agent, and they are hiding something far worse that what I was willing to hide. There are traitors in our organization who will withhold information that could get people killed, or will jeopardize ONI’s very existence.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: Ask yourself; did I hide anything that jeopardized ONI? Did I put anyone in danger as a result of withholding information pertaining to Tye’s augmentation?

Winters: Truthfully, and as far as we know? No, you did not.

Jennifer: That is why I am not too worried about those consequences you speak of. Now, I may be wrong, and I may face a whole litany of consequences for my actions on San Angeles. However, I am perfectly willing to accept, and face, any and all consequences that are a result of my actions. That being said, I am willing to bet that given the circumstances, ONI has much bigger problems to deal with. Between my withholding of non-critical information to protect Tye, and The Trust running clandestine operations under false pretenses…I am fairly certain what the consensus will be when asked who the priority is.

Winters winced his eyes.

Winters: You say that, but, you are speaking to the same committee that placed a formal reprimand on Lieutenant Commander Cochraine’s permanent record for aiding and abetting Nighthawk.

Winters paused.

Winters: In fact…she was following your orders, if I recall correctly.

Winters frowned.

Winters: If you think for one second that you are getting out of this unscathed, without any sort of punishment, then you are far more delusional then I thought.

Jennifer winced her eyes at Winters as he said this.

Winters: Do not think for one second that you are going to get away with anything that you did on San Angeles JUST because you are ONI. You have a lot to answer for.

Winters paused.

Winters: Be that as it may; you are also someone who can shed light on quite a number of questions we have. It goes without saying that cooperation is in your best interest.

Jennifer: If you say so.

Winters raised an eyebrow, as he glared at Jennifer for a moment.

Winters: Captain? What can you tell us about Vice-Admiral Hoffman?

Jennifer: Hoffman was a senior level Trust operative. As far as we could tell, the only person that he was answerable to was Director Spender.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: Hoffman was capture by Fire team Harmony, during our raid on the Apex Applied Research building. From what we were able to gather, it seems that Hoffman was overseeing some sort of R&D that was related to Vanguard.

Winters: How do you know? What proof do you have of this?

Jennifer: After the engagement, ONI marines were sent to secure the facility. During that time, a very through sweep of the facility was conducted. The ONI teams that were dispatched were able to recover security footage that showed one of the Risk Taker Spartans extracting a device of unknown origin. The device’s aesthetics were consistent with the aesthetics that were present in the facility located under Firebase Mediterranean.

Winters: I assume you still have this evidence?

Jennifer: Yes. This data was recovered, and is currently stored on the computers aboard The King Raven.

Winters: I trust you are willing to turn this data over to us?

Jennifer: A copy of it, yes.

Winters raised an eyebrow.

Jennifer: The more copies of the data, the better.

Winters: Of course…

Winters scoffed.

Winters: I am curious though; do you have any other data that might be of interest? Perhaps additional data on Nighthawk and Anaconda?

Jennifer shook her head.

Jennifer: Negative. I don’t have any additional information on Nighthawk. However, I do have access to the information that Jacob stole from The Ulterior Motive. Additionally, I also have access to some Intel that was pulled from Firebase Tropic. Again, all of this data is stored on The King Raven’s mainframe.

Winters: Like I said, we are going to ask you to turn all of that information over to us.

Jennifer: Understood.

Winters paused for a moment, as he looked at his tablet. Winter let out a sigh, as he looked at Jennifer.

Winters: Captain Frost…I have to go on record and say that I seriously question the choices that you made during the San Angeles campaign. From your abduction of Chairman Hoffman from Vice-Admiral Harrison’s custody, to your decision to hide Commander Vernette’s past, you have demonstrated serious lapses in judgement. While I am certain that you disagree with that assessment, nothing will change the fact that you showed preferential treatment to a terrorist and nothing but secrecy to your fellow officers. I am not sure what the opinion of the rest of the brass is, but, I believe that you deserve nothing less than a formal reprimand on your permanent record.

Director Hand interjected, as she looked at Winters.

Hand: I am not entirely convinced of your assessment. While I agree that some of the decisions made by Captain Frost were questionable, they were not necessarily bad for ONI. In fact, I dare say that many of those questionable decisions were beneficial for ONI in some way. Her orders may not have been by the book, but, they sure as hell were necessary.

Winters looked back at Director Hand.

Winters: Is that so, Director? Tell me…how does hiding Commander Vernette’s past with The Trust benefit ONI? How does allowing Nighthawk and Anaconda to interrogate Trust operatives help ONI? These actions do not help ONI.

Hand: I disagree. Tye’s past is a polarizing topic, and it could be viewed, by some, as an internal security issue. By withholding that information, Captain Frost was protecting ONI from suspicion. More importantly, she was protecting Tye from the Trust operatives that we know are hiding in our ranks. Tye is one of us, no matter his past. ONI protects its own. We must not allow ourselves to turn into a pack of dogs that eat one another when questions about our past are raised. We have to keep in mind that even though Tye was working with The Trust for some time, he never acted against us. Captain Frost is only protecting a loyal officer.

Hand paused.

Hand: We must also keep in mind that Captain Frost’s decision to allow Nighthawk to interrogate Chairman Hoffman was not without its own merit. Nighthawk is permitted to use interrogation methods that we may not be comfortable with. Nighthawk gave our Agents more operational flexibility, and I believe this fact is being deliberately overlooked.

Hand paused.

Hand: I don’t know about the rest of you, but, I simply cannot abide a reprimand on Captain Frost’s personal record for nothing more than protecting ONI.

Director Hand looked at Winters, and frowned. Winters looked back at Director Hand, as he let out a sigh.

Winters: I am curious why you are so defensive of Captain Frost? I am not seeing very much impartiality from you.

Hand: Like I said; we should protect our own. I protect my own. I protect ONI Agents above all else.

Winters: Sounds like you are giving Captain Frost a free pass.

Hand: I am giving her the benefit of the doubt. I am allowing her to have her operational liberties and freedoms. I am allowing her to do her job as an ONI Agent. Never forget, Brigadier General, that our ONI Agents need their operational freedom to do their jobs. We cannot punish one of our agents for exercising their rights. I will not allow this committee to curtail the rights of our Agents. So, Brigadier General, I highly recommend that you back off before this gets really ugly.

Winters looked at Director Hand and winced.

Winters: Very well, Director…

Winters looked back at Captain Frost.

Winters: Tell me Captain; what do you know about Constantine Spender?

Jennifer: He is, rather, was the Director of ONI Section 0. I know that he is the head of The Trust, and that he is a ruthless man. He is power hungry and utterly without remorse in everything he does.

Winters: Not a very glowing review.

Jennifer: We are talking about a man who was in charge of internal affairs, while at the same time, committing acts of treason, and operating to undermine ONI. This man has devised plans that would totally destroy ONI’s entire operational apparatus. Spender is, by far and large, the most evil man that I have ever encountered.

Winters: Really, Captain? Can you really say that?

Jennifer: Yes, I can say that! We are talking about the man who brought The Covenant to San Angeles with the sole intent of trying using them to dig up the planet! You have to very insidiously evil to do that!

Winters: I see. And here I thought I was going to get something a bit more…substantive.

Jennifer: We already know what Spender is guilty of! We all know that Spender was the guy who authorized the experiments on ODST Black Team. We know that Spender has aspirations of a coup in ONI. We know that Spender has been conducting Trust operations under the guise of ONI. This bastard has no love for ONI, and his selfish ambitions are self-serving. This man commands the loyalty of a number of treacherous, and very dangerous, soldiers and we know that he commands the loyalty of many high ranking officers that we are totally unaware of! And, for all we know, it is still comparably limited compared to what a man like Nighthawk knows. If you want substantive, talk to Nighthawk.

Winters: We both know that will never happen.

Jennifer: Your loss, then.

Winters sighed.

Jennifer: Let me be frank with you, sir…

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: When it comes to The Trust, it matters not who we are talking about. You can ask me about Spender or Kolya or Novak or anyone else, and you will get the same answer. All of these people; Spender, Novak, Yates, Kolya, Black Team, Nova Team, The Consultant, and so on. They are all traitors. They all share Spender’s vision. They all want power. They all want control. They all want to destroy ONI because ONI is the one thing that stands in their way. The UNSC is so consumed with its fight with The Covenant, they are totally oblivious to The Trust. ONI is the only organization with the depth of vision to see The Trust for the threat it represents. ONI is the only thing that can actually stand against The Trust.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: Yet, for all of that, you are more concerned about Commander Vernette. You are more interested in questioning the loyalty of Tye, than you are about going after Spender and his cohorts. The sad part is, there was a time when you actually played a role in fighting The Trust. I am aware of the events that took place 20 years ago on Harvest. I am aware that you helped Preston Vernette cut The Trust down after they tried to, not only recruit him, but try to kill him after he refused. Now, it seems, that you cannot be bothered with facing the threat that The Trust clearly represents. You strike me as someone who is totally disinterested in The Trust.

Jennifer scoffed.

Jennifer: I doubt there is anything I can tell you about Spender, or anyone else in The Trust, that could reignite your interest or your zeal.

Jennifer grinned.

Jennifer: Thankfully, there are other people who ARE interested.

Winters glared at Captain Frost for a moment, before he finally spoke up.

Winters: I have nothing further to add. No further questions.

Winters set his tablet down on the desk and fell silent. As Winters fell silent, he looked around at the other officers on the committee, waiting for someone to speak up. There was a moment of silence before Everet began to speak.

Everet: Captain Frost; could you please detail your professional opinion of Vice-Admiral Harrison?

Captain Frost sighed, as she thought for a moment.

Jennifer: Vice Admiral Harrison is, in my honest opinion, a terrible leader. This is not to say that he is not a very capable officer. What I am saying is that when Harrison is in a leadership role, he is a control freak and he is unable to defer to the people around him on any subject matter. He does not understand the operational procedures of ONI, and he is unable to work around them. Harrison does not accept his place in things, and as such, makes very questionable leadership decisions.

Everet: Your reports detailed your dissatisfaction with Harrison’s leadership. I assume this is why you abducted Chairman Hoffman from his custody, and acted independently of his chain of command?

Jennifer: That is correct. Vice-Admiral Harrison attempted to sideline ONI in the final hours of the San Angeles event. As we were getting close to locating The Trust, Harrison became increasingly hostile to ONI.

Everet: According to reports from Vice-Admiral Harrison, his attitude towards ONI stemmed from the fact that he was not made privy to a great many details about the conflict.

Jennifer: Due to the internal security concerns raised by The Trust, I was well within my rights to withhold information, as needed. I believe this has already been explained.

Everet: Of course. Continue…

Jennifer: Like I said; Harrison became very hostile towards ONI. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I refused to remove the nanite from Jacob’s brain on his direct order. I am not convinced that Jacob is on our side. In fact, I strongly believe that Jacob is, in fact, a Trust Operative. Jacob is a traitor, and I refused to remove his nanite. While I was content to allow Jacob to resume his duties given our shortage of manpower, I was unwilling to remove the nanite from his brain, thus, removing our best failsafe option. Wanting to remove the one insurance policy we had against a repeat betrayal was simply non-negotiable. It was after my defiance that he made a very bone-chilling threat. Harrison was quite clear that if I did not withdraw all ONI forces, he would order his soldiers to shoot us on sight.

Everet: That seems excessive.

Jennifer: I protested his decision, but, he refused to listen. It was at that point that I knew that I was not going to get anything more from Harrison. I knew that if I withdrew to The King Raven, the situation would have rapidly deteriorated at an uncontrollable rate. I needed to take action, and I could not get sidelined by Harrison. My options were limited, so, I coordinated with Commander Burke, Commander Vernette, and Cameron in order to abduct Chairman Hoffman. I knew that the only way to get to The Trust was through Hoffman.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: Our extraction was pretty rough. We were forced to injure multiple Vigorous Inferno crewmembers. We tried not to kill anyone, but, I cannot be 100% sure if we accomplished that goal.

Everet: Clearly, your actions only exasperated the situation.

Jennifer: I am certain of that. However, I was left with no choice. I needed to act.

Everet: I see…

Everet paused, as he looked at his tablet.

Everet: So, I assume you bear no ill-will towards Harrison?

Jennifer: Nothing personal. I just doubt his leadership abilities. I question his bias against ONI, and his partiality to Jacob Sharpmen. It is fair to question his leadership abilities given the situation.

Everet: That is a fair point. However, I would like to talk about Jacob, if you don’t mind. Why do you still believe he is a traitor?

Jennifer: Jacob has a jaded past when it comes to The Trust. It has only recently come to my attention that Jacob had prior contact with The Trust, early in his career. In fact, it is my understanding The Trust tried to recruit him.

Everet: What is your point?

Jennifer: My point is; Jacob has had many years to examine The Trust, and he has been on their radar for many years. A lot can happen to someone to change their outlook and perspective. I have no idea what Jacob has been through in his life, but, I do know that very little of it has been easy. A career spent fighting a losing battle against The Covenant, combined with a dislike for Nighthawk and Anaconda, and a lack of Trust in ONI could have easily pushed Jacob into the hands of The Trust. When people accept hopelessness and when they become desperate…they tend to do extreme things. Jacob could have very easily joined The Trust possibly due to a sense of hopelessness against The Covenant, or out of sheer hatred for Nighthawk and Anaconda or ONI, He could have joined The Trust and simply acted as an undercover operative; spying on our ranks and keeping tabs on the actions of the people around him, until an opportune time for a betrayal presented itself.

Everet: Go on…

Jennifer: Firebase Desert was that opportune time. We got within striking distance of The Trust, and that was the moment of Jacob’s betrayal. Seems very convenient for The Trust.

Everet: I am curious though, how do you explain his decision to abandon The Trust during the raid on The Ulterior Motive?

Jennifer: Counter-Intelligence. The Trust knows how to exploit people, and I believe they successfully exploited Harrison’s partiality towards Jacob. By ordering Jacob to claim that he was “undercover” and “gathering intel on the enemy”, The Trust managed to save face with Jacob, and successfully plant him BACK into the UNSC ranks, even after his blatant betrayal. The Trust is taking advantage of all of us. They are taking advantage of our refusal to believe that Jacob could be a traitor. They are taking advantage of the fact that he was our friend. They are taking advantage of Harrison’s refusal to accept the truth. They counted on Harrison’s sympathy towards Jacob, and it paid off. What they underestimated was ONI skepticism. Jacob, a known Trust operative, is once again in the UNSC ranks, reporting on us to The Trust. I have no doubt that unless Jacob is incarcerated, and dealt with, he will continue to slide the knife deeper into the back of ONI. Do we really need to be betrayed by Jacob a second time?

Everet: That is a serious accusation. While I will admit that your theory has merit, it is only a theory. We have no proof that Jacob has ever been a Trust operative.

Jennifer: We do have proof. We know, that at the very least, that for a short period of time on San Angeles, Jacob carried the Trust’s flag, and he waved it with pride. He was a Trust operative. He fought alongside The Trust. Jacob stole strategic information from us at Firebase Desert. He killed 20 ONI Marines at the Apex Applied Research facility, and he did everything he could to hinder our progress against The Trust. The only reason he is here, is because he surrendered himself to us, when he had nowhere else to go. Had we have never boarded The Ulterior Motive, Jacob would still be with The Trust. He is one of them, and the sooner we accept that fact, the sooner we can deal with him like the traitor he is. This was not someone who was undercover in The Trust. He was undercover FOR The Trust.

Everet: You believe Jacob is guilty of treason?

Jennifer: Yes. Jacob is a traitor. There is no doubt in my mind.

Everet: I will admit, your concerns do give me pause. Part of me doubts your claims. However, I am forced to admit that I cannot ignore your concerns either. I cannot ignore a threat to ONI. I cannot allow it to go unaddressed. This may be something that I will need to discuss with the other senior brass at a more appropriate time. For now, we should avoid derailing this investigation. We will deal with Jacob at another point in time.

Jennifer: Understood, sir.

Everet paused for a moment, as he looked at his tablet.

Everet: I am curious as to why you showed very little animosity towards Captain Reynolds and his crew? Your reports say very little about them.

Jennifer: I did not have much of an operational problem with Reynolds or his subordinates. Personally, I am indifferent to him. In fact, I found his subordinates to be rather easy to work with.

Everet: Funny you should say that. Reynolds does not think very much of you. He said you were a “disgrace to the uniform” and blamed your “ineptitude in dealing with Nighthawk and Anaconda” as the main reason for the destruction of San Angeles.

Jennifer: I don’t care what Reynolds thinks. If Reynolds had a problem with my handling of Nighthawk and Anaconda, he should have grown a pair and taken it up with me. Pardon the vulgar expression.

Everet: I was just about to say…harsh words. Déjà vu…

Jennifer: Reynolds is not my concern. He is UNSC, and he does not understand how ONI works. I don’t take pointers from non-designates.

Jennifer shrugged.

Jennifer: I am more inclined to listen to Nighthawk. At least he understands ONI.

Everet: Many take issue with that fact.

Jennifer: I am sure they do.

Everet sighed, as he leaned back in his chair.

Everet: I can see Preston Vernette’s stubbornness in you. It is a quality that easily rubs off on the people that work under him.

Jennifer: I will take that as a compliment.

Everet: It doesn’t matter anyway. That is beside the point. However, take my advice, Captain; nobody likes someone who is as stubborn as Preston Vernette. Don’t let his stubborn nature define who you are. Don’t be like him. I have worked with the man in the past, and I have fought shoulder to shoulder with him. He is tough as nails, but, about as approachable as a cactus. He is not someone you can work with. You can only work for him. He is too stubborn and abrasive to be a team player. Don’t adopt those qualities.

Jennifer: Noted…

Jennifer simply grinned.

Everet: No further questions.

As Everet fell silent, Vice-Admiral Skinner spoke up.

Skinner: Captain Frost; with all this talk about traitors and terrorists, we are ignoring the elephant in the room.

Jennifer: The Covenant, I presume?

Skinner: Very astute.

Skinner paused.

Skinner: I want your take on The Covenant. Our encounter with The Covenant was unlike anything we have had before. This time around was…different.

Jennifer: That is an understatement, but, it is accurate. While The Covenant was still a tactical threat to UNSC assets, we were not the only “hostile” force that The Covenant did battle with. The Trust managed to catch the attention of The Covenant to such a degree that The Covenant helped us battle The Trust on The Ulterior Motive.

Skinner: Your report mentioned this fact, but, it did not elaborate as to why.

Jennifer: Vanguard. Vanguard was the reason. There was a portion of the Covenant invasion force that shared our desire to stop Vanguard.

Skinner: Captain, we have no solid proof that Vanguard even existed. While there is the report from Jacob Sharpmen which alleges that he spoke with Vanguard aboard The Ulterior Motive, there is no way to substantiate this claim. Jacob, by your own admission, is a traitor and a liar. The only other person who could have possibly seen Vanguard is Nighthawk, and his status is unknown. So, I ask you, how do you expect us to take Vanguard seriously?

Jennifer: I would not expect you to, given those parameters. However, there was one other person who saw Vanguard. Someone who wasn’t Nighthawk and someone who wasn’t Jacob. That person was me. I saw Vanguard. I watched it have a verbal spar with Nighthawk and Anaconda aboard The Ulterior Motive, shortly after Harrison flipped his lid at Nighthawk. I have seen this thing with my own eyes, I can tell you that it is very real.

All of the senior brass was taken aback, as they all looked down at their tablets, and began to shift through Captain Frost’s reports. They were looking for any mention of this revelation, but, they could not find anything that would have suggested that the alleged encounter took place.

Hand: Captain Frost…you never mentioned this anywhere in your report.

Jennifer: I am aware of that. I felt it was best to withhold that piece of information. I was not sure how ONI would handle that little tidbit. Clearly, ONI is not too keen on facing the reality of Vanguard’s existence. There seems to be a very keen desire to deny Vanguard’s existence.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: However, no matter how much you try to deny what really happened, nothing will change the fact that I saw this thing on The Ulterior Motive. I know what happened. Now, you can try to call me a liar and you can try to discredit me, but, try as you might, I stand by the assertion that Vanguard was real.

Skinner glared at Jennifer for a moment, before he spoke up.

Skinner: Alright, Captain…fine…

Skinner scoffed.

Skinner: I will give you that much. I will concede that Vanguard was, in fact, real. I will let you have that much.

Skinner frowned.

Skinner: So…The Covenant turned their hostility towards The Trust because they discovered that The Trust was trying to weaponize Vanguard. Why? What was it about Vanguard that so easily convinced The Covenant to shift their focus to destroying Vanguard and The Trust?

Jennifer: Well, according to Anaconda, whatever Vanguard is, The Covenant widely revere it as holy…sacred if you prefer.

Skinner: If that is the case, why was The Covenant trying to destroy Vanguard?

Jennifer: If you look back on my report, sir, you will notice that I mentioned that it was a small cabal of Covenant soldiers that had a vested interest in destroying Vanguard. This cabal included a Brute Chieftain and an Elite Zealot. There were a few others, I think, but, those were the two most prominent Covenant contacts that wanted to destroy Vanguard.

Skinner: According to our intelligence reports, Chieftains and Zealots are among the most loyal of the Covenant.

Jennifer: Be that as it may, they are also the highest ranking that we are aware of. Rank comes with certain privilege, such as the ability to act covertly.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: If one thing was clear, it was the fact that, at the very least, a small cabal was acting in order to stop Vanguard. I cannot say why, exactly, but, this cabal wanted Vanguard stopped, and they were willing to help us do it. We know that Anaconda had done battle with Vanguard previous to the events of San Angeles. Anaconda claimed that he did not revere Vanguard as sacred or holy, as he did not subscribe to the religion of the Covenant.

Skinner: Are you saying Anaconda is…an atheist?

Jennifer: I would surmise so. I have no idea what he believes. All he said was that he refutes the religion of The Covenant.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: That rejection of The Covenant religion which would otherwise tell him to worship Vanguard, possibly combined with a personal and deep-seeded hatred for Vanguard, is what fuels his hatred for the construct. Anaconda said he hides his atheistic beliefs for political reasons. He may not be the only one who does that. It is possible that the Zealot and Chieftain are cut from a similar cloth; rejection of The Covenant’s religion.

Jennifer shrugged.

Jennifer: It would make sense. The Covenant’s religion mandates that Humanity is destroyed. Any Covenant member that rejects that religion would be open to an alliance with Humans.

Skinner rubbed his chin.

Skinner: Fascinating. It seems that the integrity of the religious beliefs in The Covenant seems to be a weak point; ripe for exploitation.

Skinner paused.

Skinner: We may be able to capitalize on this.

Jennifer: Spender believed the same thing.

Skinner glared at Jennifer, and frowned at her.

Skinner: It is no less a valid observation.

Skinner raised an eyebrow.

Jennifer: If you say so…

Jennifer glared at Skinner for a moment, before Skinner began to speak again.

Skinner: Tell me one final thing, Captain…

Skinner paused.

Skinner: In your honest opinion, do you think we would have been able to stop The Covenant at San Angeles? If The Trust or Vanguard were not even factors, would it have been possible to save San Angeles?

Jennifer looked at Skinner for a moment, before she sighed, and shook her head.

Jennifer: When have we ever been able to save a world that was attacked by The Covenant?

Skinner: We seem to always be on the losing end of this conflict.

Skinner paused.

Skinner: One cannot help but think…perhaps The Trust had the right idea. Trying to exploit technology that is more advanced than the technologically advanced empire that is trying to destroy us…

Skinner shrugged.

Skinner: It sort of makes sense when you consider how many worlds have fallen to The Covenant.

Jennifer: Sir? What are you saying?

Skinner: I am not saying The Trust is right, per say. However, I am saying that perhaps some of their methods are worth examining. They had a plan to defeat The Covenant. We had a plan to evacuate a planet. It doesn’t seem right.

Jennifer: The Trust never had a plan worthy of any sort of examination. Vanguard…was never going to help Humanity. Vanguard wanted to destroy everything. The Trust had nothing right. The Trust would have brought about our deaths faster than The Covenant could have ever hoped to achieve.

Skinner: If you say so…

Skinner paused, as he set his tablet down.

Skinner: I have no further questions, at least, not at this time.

As Skinner fell silent, Crown looked at Captain Frost, and spoke up.

Crown: Captain Frost…

Jennifer turned to look at Vice-Admiral Crown.

Crown: I will admit, that I have reviewed your report multiple time. I have read it and re-read it over and over in an effort to make sense of ONE thing, and one thing alone; and that is the fact that you were the person who provided the slipspace core that Nighthawk needed to destroy San Angeles.

Jennifer: That is correct.

Crown: Why? Why did you provide that madman with a slipspace core?

Jennifer: Asset denial in the event we were unable to secure San Angeles from all viable threats.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: As you are well aware, we were unable to defeat The Covenant, The Trust was not decisively defeated, and Vanguard’s status was unknown. The destruction of San Angeles guaranteed that The Trust and The Covenant would be denied access to Vanguard’s technology.

Crown: Do you not think that such a decision was…overzealous? Surely there were other options at your disposal?

Jennifer: Truthfully, I believe the total destruction of San Angeles was the correct course of action. If you consider the alternative outcomes, I think you would agree.

Crown: Would we?

Jennifer: I believe so. Consider, for a moment, if San Angeles had not have been destroyed by the slipspace weapon. We would be in a situation where, in all likelihood, all UNSC and ONI forces at San Angeles would have been eliminated by The Covenant or The Trust. Being forced to fight two battles on two separate fronts would have been unsustainable for a prolonged period of time. Eventually, we would have been eliminated. Without the UNSC or ONI, The Trust and The Covenant would have only one another to destroy, and I think we all know, based on the sheer number of victories The Covenant has, how that would have turned out.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: Now, you may argue that I am selling the UNSC and ONI short, but, let’s be honest…our side took incredible losses against The Covenant. We lost dozens of ships in the first engagement alone. I seriously doubt The Trust would have been able to put up any more of a fight than we could have. In all likelihood, had I not have given Nighthawk the means to destroy San Angeles, Vanguard’s technology would be in the hands of The Covenant. Any technology that is more advanced than anything The Covenant has is not something we want falling into the hands of The Covenant.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: And yes, I am aware that this is the worst case scenario outcome, but, the nature of our jobs is to evaluate the worst case scenario, and make our decisions from there. I could not allow my personal bias to influence such a critical decision. I needed to evaluate the worst possible outcome of the battle. Once I realized what was at stake, San Angeles needed to be destroyed. It was a tragedy, but, I believe it is the least of possible tragedies.

Crown: So, the worst case scenario was your justification for playing a role in the destruction of an entire world?

Jennifer: We needed to deny an asset from falling into enemy hands. So yes, you can say that.

Crown: So, there is no part of you that believes that The Trust and The Covenant could have been defeated?

Jennifer: I did not believe it was possible. I still do not believe it was possible. Even with reinforcements, The Covenant had us severely outgunned. Even if we had more ships than The Covenant, historical data indicates that we would still suffer a defeat. By destroying San Angeles, we reaped the highest gain for the smallest expenditure.

Jennifer sighed.

Jennifer: San Angeles was doomed, no matter what happened. I just made sure that when San Angeles was doomed, everything belonging to Vanguard was doomed along with it. I made sure that everyone walked away equal opportunity losers.

Crown: Yes…Vanguard. Of course, it all comes back to Vanguard.

Crown paused.

Crown: While I acknowledge that you have seen Vanguard first hand, I am still very skeptical of any excuse that uses this thing as a basis. The fact of the matter is, we know so little about Vanguard, and yet, it seems that major decisions were made with Vanguard being the central focus. Do we, honestly, know how powerful this thing is? Do we actually have data to fully quantify the upper limit of this…thing?

Jennifer: We have it on good authority that…

Crown: Good authority? Captain…are you telling me that you destroyed a planet on the premise of “good authority”? I don’t want speculation or supposition. I want facts. Do we have any measurable facts pertaining to Vanguard’s functional abilities?

Jennifer: No.

Crown: Well, that troubles me.

Crown paused.

Crown: To think that an entire planet was destroyed without any considerations to the facts deeply troubles me.

Jennifer: Sir, it was abundantly clear that Nighthawk and Anaconda had a firm understanding of Vanguard’s technical potential.

Crown: Alright. So, where is their documentation? Where is their supporting data? How did they know Vanguard’s technical potential?

Jennifer: Anaconda claimed to have previous experience with Vanguard.

Crown: And you accepted that at face value?

Jennifer: I had no reason to doubt the claim. After all, Nighthawk and Anaconda were already very knowledgeable of Vanguard, and everything that they told us about the Trust, as well as Vanguard, was confirmed. I considered their information to be reliable.

Crown: All you are telling me is that we are back to trusting the claims of terrorists. We are back to square one, Captain.

Jennifer: What else do you want me to say? I am telling you the truth, as it happened.

Jennifer paused.

Jennifer: The fact of the matter is, Vanguard knew who Anaconda was. This proves that Vanguard had prior encounters with Anaconda. If Anaconda says that Vanguard was dangerous, I am inclined to believe it. He had experience that we didn’t, so, I accepted his assessment.

Crown looked at Jennifer with a skeptical look in his eyes.

Crown: Well then, Captain…I think that says it all. I think that tells us everything we need to know about your decision making process. You have no regard for where your information comes from. You will work with known terrorists, and you will allow the destruction of an entire world based on information gathered by terrorists.

Crown scoffed at Jennifer.

Crown: 40 million people died because you got too close to a terrorist. You allowed yourself to be used by a terrorist. You were compromised.

Jennifer: Nighthawk is not a terrorist.

Crown: Oh, Captain…stop deluding yourself! When are you going to realize that you were played for a sucker by a master liar, and his pet gorilla?

Jennifer scoffed.

Jennifer: I was not used. I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. If I had the chance to go back, and do it all over, I would not change a thing. I stand by my choices. Make of it as you will.

Crown: Oh, we will. Be certain of that.

Crown set his tablet down, as he glared at Jennifer.

Crown: I have nothing further to say at this time.

Crown gave a very dirty look to Jennifer, before his eyes shifted down to look at the tablet in his hand.

As the room fell silent, Commodore Dunham began to speak.

Mallorie: I guess that just leaves me.

Jennifer looked at Mallorie Dunham, and simply waited.

Mallorie: Captain, I must say that I am very interested in any other information you may have on Vanguard.

Jennifer: I have already spoken about Vanguard, but, I will attempt to answer your questions to the best of my abilities.

Mallorie: That is all I ask.

Mallorie paused, as she looked at her tablet for a moment.

Mallorie: You mentioned that Anaconda had allegedly done battle with Vanguard in the past, correct?

Jennifer: Correct.

Mallorie: Did Anaconda mention anything specifically about his encounter with Vanguard?

Jennifer: Well, the most obvious thing was that, at some point, Anaconda did battle with Vanguard, and defeated it. According to Anaconda, the first time he did battle with Vanguard, he used a Type-2 Gravity Hammer to defeat Vanguard.

Mallorie: So, Anaconda actually defeated Vanguard once before?

Mallorie raised an eyebrow with intent interest.

Mallorie: And he used a Gravity Hammer to defeat it?

Jennifer: That is what I was led to believe.

Mallorie: Is there any proof of this?

Jennifer: Possibly. From what I could gather; Vanguard had prior knowledge of Anaconda. It was Vanguard who recognized Anaconda, even going so far as to address him by a different title.

Wolfgang interjected.

Wolfgang: What was this title?

Jennifer: Chieftain…

Wolfgang: Makes sense. I knew it was odd that a Stalker would wield a Gravity Hammer. Our intel suggests that Gravity Hammers are not a Stalker’s M.O.

Wolfgang paused.

Wolfgang: It would explain why Anaconda is, for a creature that dresses like a Stalker, so upfront and confrontational. Stalkers are typically more methodical.

Wolfgang shrugged.

Wolfgang: I will make note of this intel.

Mallorie looked at Wolfgang with a scoff.

Mallorie: Yes, you do that.

Mallorie sighed, as she turned back to Jennifer.

Mallorie: Captain…I have to know; did Anaconda ever mention what the nature or the circumstances of his first conflict with Vanguard was?

Jennifer: No, he did not dig too deep into that aspect. I am guessing that it must have been personal, however. Then again, I have no idea what goes through the mind of a Brute, so, I can only speculate.

Mallorie: That is unfortunate. I am very curious as to why Anaconda would fight against a symbol of his religion. There must be more to this Vanguard construct than we know.

Jennifer: I am not sure, but, much of what Anaconda does eludes even the most basic understanding. However, I am certain that he is, what we would call, an atheist. He admitted that he did not subscribe to the religion of The Covenant. How he got this way is another question.

Mallorie: You mentioned that.

Mallorie sighed.

Mallorie: Even with what you have told me, there are still many questions. There are still many questions surrounding Vanguard, and how it is perceived by The Covenant. All we seem to know is that a small minority of Covenant soldiers hide their lack of belief; their atheism, while the vast majority subscribe to the dogma. Those who subscribe, would no doubt worship and respect Vanguard, while the secular minority would seemingly oppose it.

Mallorie paused.

Mallorie: If only we had SOMETHING on Vanguard to actually measure the danger of this thing. Alas…we have nothing.

Mallorie shrugged, as she shook her head.

Mallorie: Unless there is anything else you can think of, Captain, I doubt there is anything left to discuss.

Jennifer: Everything that I know about Vanguard, I have already put forward.

Mallorie: Very well. Thank you, Captain.

As Mallorie fell silent, Director Hand spoke up.

Hand: I think we have heard enough from The Captain for today. We have enough information to review. We are done for today.

Director Hand looked at the rest of the senior brass.

Hand: You are all dismissed. We will resume tomorrow morning at 0900 hours, local time.

As Director Hand said this, the other members of the brass stood up, and began to file out. However, Director Hand kept her eyes locked on Jennifer, as if she was silently telling the Captain to remain seated. As the room cleared out, and Director Hand was left alone with Captain Frost, Hand began to speak.

Hand: Captain Frost, I must ask you a very direct question, and I want you to be honest.

Jennifer looked at Director Hand for a moment, and nodded.

Hand: DO you trust Nighthawk?

Jennifer was silent for a moment, before she took a deep breath, and answered the question.

Jennifer: He and I…see eye to eye on a number of things. We both consider The Trust to be a very serious threat to both ONI and the UNSC. Do I trust him? In a pinch, I do. He and I have developed a type of…professional rapport.

Hand: How far does your loyalty to Nighthawk go?

Jennifer: Not further than my loyalty to ONI, but, far enough that if he needed my help, right now, I would not hesitate to fight by his side.

Hand: I see.

Hand sighed.

Jennifer: Director Hand…Nighthawk can be trusted. He is one of us. He fights the same enemies we do. He fights the same battles we do. Nighthawk is ex-ONI. He knows what it means to be ONI, and he has not forgotten this for one moment!

Hand: I am aware of this, Captain. However, I am the Director of ONI. I cannot allow myself to be compromised by a possible association with someone who is perceived to be a terrorist. I HAVE to keep my distance!

Jennifer: I understand that, Ma’am. I understand that your hands are tied when it comes to Nighthawk and Anacondas. Appearances are everything.

Hand: Indeed they are, Captain.

Hand grinned.

Hand: To ONI, you appear to be little more than a Nighthawk sympathizer.

Director Hand frowned.

Hand: Which is why, in my official capacity as Director of Section 1, and your superior officer, I am hereby ordering you to discontinue any and all communication with Nighthawk and Anaconda. You are hereby forbidden from engaging those two in any sort of dialogue. Is that clear, Captain?

Jennifer: Yes, Ma’am…

Director Hand nodded at Jennifer, before standing up, and walking around the large table that the brass had been sitting at. As Director Hand approached the small table where Jennifer had been sitting, she stopped, and looked at Jennifer. Director Hand was silent for a moment, before she raised her right hand to her own neck, and pulled the ONI insignia soff her left and right neck collar.

Jennifer: Ma’am?

Hand: Captain Frost? Are we friends?

Jennifer: I don’t know. We…don’t talk much.

Hand: My loss…

Hand paused.

Hand: We are, at least, fellow soldiers.

Jennifer: Yes.

Hand: Then what I am about to say, is as a fellow soldier, who thinks exactly like you, who has been where you are now…

Hand paused.

Hand: Disobey my order…

Jennifer: Ma’am?

Hand: The Trust is very dangerous, Captain. I have seen them first hand. I know what they are capable of. I fear that there is a day, not too far over the horizon, where we will be forced to fight The Trust to the death. It will be them, or us. The death toll will be high, and we are going to lose a lot of good people.

Hand paused.

Hand: Nighthawk will be an asset in that fight. We will need him. Don’t let Nighthawk slip into obscurity. Stay in touch with him, and help him. Help him, so that when the time comes, he will help us.

Jennifer was silent for a moment, before finally speaking up.

Jennifer: I will do what I can, Ma’am.

Hand: Just remember one thing, Captain…

Director Hand placed the two ONI insignia’s back on her left and right collar.

Hand: While I wear these insignia on my neck, my hands are tied. Appearances ARE everything! I am in a very dangerous spot right now, and if I am sloppy in my work, I will not live very long.

Hand paused.

Hand: I cannot always defend you, on record, but, I need you to be resilient. I need you to continue what you are doing. I will do everything I can to help you from the shadows. However, I must always tread carefully in the light. I must be impartial.

Hand paused.

Hand: I am counting on you, Captain.

Jennifer: You can count on me, Ma’am.

Hand nodded.

Hand: You are dismissed, Captain.

Captain Frost nodded, as she finally stood up, and left The Black Room, Once again, Director Hand was left alone to her own thoughts. There was a lot on Director Hand’s mind at the moment. The more Director Hand partook in these hearings, and the more she learned about what exactly had transpired on San Angeles, the more and more she felt that The Trust was gearing up to make a major power play against ONI. Director Hand was certain of at least one thing; The Trust had become very bold, and their exposure would only back them into a very uncomfortable corner.

Hand could not escape the idea that The Trust had eyes everywhere; that The Trust had infiltrated ONI at every level. If Constantine Spender, the leader of The Trust, could be the Director of ONI Section 0, then ANYONE in ONI could be answering to The Trust. There were so few people that Hand could trust, and a seemingly endless number of people that she was very skeptical of.

Last edited by Naked Crook; 10-09-2016 at 11:42 AM.
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