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Novak: Excellent idea. The Excalibur is capable of matching The Ulterior Motive in terms of offensive capability. Any advantage we can get would be most beneficial.

Spender nodded in agreement. He then looked at his tactical office.

Spender: Bring all weapons online.

Spender then pressed a button on his arm-rest, as he spoke over the entire ships intercom.

Spender: All hands to battle stations! This is not a drill.

Within moments of saying this, an alarm went off across the ship to signify combat readiness across the ship. Spender then looked back at Novak.

Spender: Novak...we still have to brief ODST Black Team one final time. We should take care of that now as we proceed into battle.

Spender and Novak stood up, and left the bridge. The two men walking through the corridors, making their way towards hanger bay 1. As they walked, they conversed with each other.

Novak: The Space engagement with The Excalibur concerns me.

Spender: Why?

Novak: The situation is very uncertain. The presence of The Insurrection could tip the scales in any direction. There is a lot of uncertainty.

Spender: Funny...I am far more concerned about the ground engagement.

Novak: Why?

Spender: ODST Black Team. While I have faith in 5 out of the 6...number six concerns me. He is uncertain.

Novak: Black 6 is ready. He may be rough around the edges right now...but he is ready. He has proven this time and again in the simulations. He knows what has to be done.

Spender: I am sorry if I do not share your optimism Doctor. I don’t think he is ready.

Novak: I assure you, he is ready. I ran Black 6 through some very intense and…morally questionable scenarios. He carried out each and every single one of his orders without the slightest hint of hesitation. He seems to be very indifferent about his current assignment, and his attitudes have changed for the better.

Spender: Have they really?

Novak: I would defiantly say yes. The insubordinate behavior was quickly subjugated by the end of the first day. I have refined my methods, and I can assure you…that there will be no further incidents…no matter what happens. He is ours now.

Spender: You better be right Doctor. The only reason he is on this assignment is because of your assurance. I cannot afford another setback. I cannot afford to have a soldier, of still questionable allegiance, spiral out of control and endanger this entire operation.

Spender paused.

Spender: I will no longer tolerate any kind of failure. I should not have to rely on variables. I should not have to depend of the questionable. I demand positive results. It is all I ask of those who serve under me.

Novak: To be frank sir…Black Team, given the circumstances and the time frame I was given to work with, I consider Black Team to be an overwhelming success.

Spender: An overwhelming success with a single defective soldier.

Novak: With all due respect…sir…Black 6 is not defective. He is…was…an anomaly that you thrust upon me. I was not prepared for Black 6. His development was different. It required a most excellent level of improvisation to get him this far. So yes, I do consider Black Team, as a whole, to be an overwhelming success, despite our difficulty with Black 6. To be honest, I am surprised that Black 6 was the only one of them to resist. I have done the impossible; the almost complete reprogramming of the human psyche.

Novak paused.

Novak: So let’s agree to disagree on this issue.

Spender simply scoffed, as he reached into his pocket, and pulled out a small tin. Spender opened the tin, and removed a cigarette. Spender put the tin back in his pocket, put this cigarette in his mouth, and then proceeded to light the cigarette up.

Once Spender had lit his cigarette, he proceeded to walk into the hanger bay, along with Novak. Upon entering the hanger bay, he managed to spot ODST Black Team on the far side of the hanger bay, prepping their gear into a Pelican. Spender and Novak walked to where ODST Black was. However, as they got closer, they both noticed something somewhat peculiar; Black 6 was nowhere to be seen.

Before Spender or Novak had said anything, Black 1 snapped to attention.

Black 1: Black Team...formation!

Each of the five present members of Black Team stopped what they were doing, and saluted.

Spender: At ease gentlemen. We are not standing on ceremony here.

Black Team eased up.

Spender: Where is Black 6?

Black 1 gestured his head towards the Pelican.

Black 1: In the Pelican sir. He has not been too chatty as of late. He does not engage us at all.

Novak and Spender exchanged a quick look, and then they both looked back at Black Team.

Black 2: However…he seems to be cooperating at the very least. He does as he is told, carries out his orders, and seems to know to walk the line pretty well. The only problem is that he is not very talkative.

Spender: Doctor Novak…is this going to be a problem?

Novak: How would I know? There is no precedent for this. All I can say for sure is that if he is not talking, he will not talk back. This could just be his way of showing compliance.

Black 5 spoke up. He looked at both Spender and Novak.

Black 5: Sirs…I speak from experience when I say that this isn’t like him. What happened to him? What was done to him?

Spender looked at Black 5.

Spender: That’s classified Black 5.

Black 5 sighed.

Black 5: Well….whatever happened…this is not like him. It is like he is a totally different person.

Black 5 then began to recall the last conversation he had with Tye. Tye’s words echoed in his ears

Tyber: I cannot believe what I am hearing…from you…of ALL people. I don’t know who you are anymore! I do not know what you are…but you are no longer the Eli Decker that I have come to respect.

Black 5 frowned behind his helmet. He knew that the tables have turned, and Tye was now the one who was very unlike the person that he had come to know over the years.

Black 5: Is he ever going to snap out of this?

Novak: Chances are…yes. He simply needs time to acclimatize. This is all new to him…but he is aware of what he has to do. In the mean time…do not be afraid to give him any…”difficult” orders. Be sure that he can be relied upon to get his hands as dirty as they need to be. Test him. Push his limits. DO what you have to do to make sure that he knows that out here…this is all the real deal.

Each member of Black Team nodded.

Black 1: Yes sir.

Each member of Black Team then gave a salute to signify that they fully understood the score.

Spender: Now that we have an understanding...we can move onto more official business; your objective.

Spender paused.

Spender: As you already know...Admiral Smith is here, at Draco III, to eliminate one of the largest Insurrection cells in UNSC space in order to effectively put an end to one of my most vital operations. His attack is a multi-vector attack, with a space component and a ground component. Both engagements are ongoing concurrently. I will be using the resources of The Ulterior Motive to secure the local cluster, and offline Admiral Smith. You mission will be to hit the surface, and eliminate all UNSC and/or Trust forces that have engaged The Insurrection.

Spender paused as Novak chimed in.

Novak: Remember…the ultimate goal of this mess is to keep The Insurrection alive so we can continue to exploit their efforts, as a means to expand Trust influence in the military branches. There is nothing we would like more than to totally eliminate The Insurrection now…but…they are needed to carry out our future plans.

Black 2 spoke up.

Black 2: What if we come under fire from The Insurrection? There is a high degree that they will fire on us.

Spender: Do whatever you can to minimize Insurrection casualties and deaths.

Black 2: Understood sir.

Spender paused.

Spender: Is there anything else?

Black 4: What about civilians? Chances are they are going to get caught in the cross fire.

Spender: Civilians are expendable. If they get in the way…kill them.

Black 3: Can we expect any friendly contacts down there?

Spender: You will be on your own. I will not complicate a deployment by putting my ground forces down there alongside Smith’s soldiers. It will get confusing very quickly.

Black 5: Sir…what kind of hardware will we have access to down there?

Spender: We will be unable to deploy you with any vehicles or equipment beyond what you take with you if that is what you are asking. However, you are free to commandeer any vehicle that you need to complete your mission or use any weapon that you can find during the course of your mission. DO whatever you need to do, but just make sure that when your mission ends, The Insurrection on Draco III survives.

Spender paused.

Spender: I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough. The future of The Trust...and mankind...depends on this.

Each member of Black Team gave another nod.

Spender: Well...I leave this in your capable hands. I suggest that you prep yourselves for immediate departure. You will be deploying in a hot every second counts. The moment I give the green light to go, you must be on your way towards the surface. Good luck down there Black Team...not that you will need it.

Spender then stepped forward, and whispered to Black 1.

Spender: If Black 6 steps out of line...kill him. Do not jeopardize your mission on his account.

Black 1: Aye sir.

Spender then took a few steps backwards, before turning, and leaving the hanger bay with Novak. As Spender left

Black 1 then turned to face the rest of Black Team.

Black 1: Black Team...form up, load up the Pelican, and get ready for departure. Black will be our pilot.

Black 2: Yes sir!

Black 1: Black 3 and Black 4...finish loading up our gear.

Black 4: YEs sir.

Black 1: Black 5...check on Black 6. Make sure he is still...all there.

Black 5: Right away.

Each member of Black Team split up to carry out their orders.

Black 5 watched as the others did as they were told, and then sighed. he knew that he had the most arduous of the tasks assigned. Black 5 simply turned, and walked towards the rear hatch of the Pelican. Once Black 5 had a clear view of the rear compartment of the Pelican, he saw Black 6 sitting on one of the seat, his foot propped up on a weapon case, his arms folded. Black 6 didn't even move, he simply sat still, unflinching and unmoving.

Black 5 looked at Black 6 for a moment, and then spoke up.

Black 5: Tye...

Black 6 didn't respond.

Black 5: Tye!

Black 6 remained still. He didn't respond.

Black 5: Black 6!

Black 6 turned his head, and looked at Black 6.

Black 6: What?

Black 6's voice was uncharacteristically cold.

Black 5: I am just checking in. We are going to be deploying soon. I want to make sure that you are ready.

Black 6 was silent for a moment, and then spoke up.

Black 6: Yeah...I'm ready. I am as ready as I will ever be. I don't need to be checked on like some new recruit. I know what I am doing. This isn't my first mission.

Black 5 was not used to this kind of attitude from Black 6. He had never thought he would see a day where a person who he had come to know as outgoing and extrovert6ed, would become so jaded and devoid of any kind of joy or expression.

Black 5: I know. I am not here to check on your readiness. I am here to check on you.

Black 6 turned his head away.

Black 6: Don't even bother. I'm...I'm...

Black 6 stuttered and trailed off, as he tried to think of a response.

Black 6: I'm...fine. I have never been better.

Black 5: Is that so?

Black 6: is. I finally understand what you were talking about. I finally realize what Spender was talking about. It is like having a moment of absolute clarity. I get it now. I see what the point of all of this was.

Black 5 gave a nod.

Black 5: Well...that's good. I'm glad we see eye to eye again.

Black 6 nodded.

Black 6: So am I. The thought of letting something like this destroy our friendship was...unthinkable.

Black 5 was going to reply, but he was cut off by Spender's voice over the team's comm line.

Spender: ODST Black Team...this is Admiral Spender. I hope you are all ready down there. We are about to engage The Excalibur and this is going to be a heavyweight fight.

Black 5 and Black 6 listened as Black 1 spoke over the comm.

Black 1: Sir, we are just about ready to deploy. We are loading the final equipment onto the Pelican now.

As Black 1 said this, Black 5 and Black 6 watched as Black 2 walked into the Pelican, right into the cockpit. Black 3 and Black 4 then walked in, carrying a few cases of weapons and ammo. They began to secure the gear inside of the rear compartment, under the seats.

Black 1: We will be ready to deploy on your order.

Spender: Good. Here is the plan; after we engage the Excalibur, and we begin to draw their fire, The Ulterior Motive is going to come about, and Hanger bay 1 will be facing planet side. We will be carrying out a very strict monitoring of The Excalibur's weapon cycles. You will be given the order to deploy when their point defense weapons begin their full cycle. At that point, you will have the cover of The Ulterior Motive's superstructure, and the advantage of The Excalibur's weapons going through their cycle to ensure that you reach planet side safely. We will give you every chance possible to get down there alive. Beyond will be up to your training, experience, and reflexes to punch through the breach.

Black 1: Understood sir. Don't worry...we will not fail.

Black 1 then paused.

Black 1: But sir...what about you? What about The Ulterior Motive? The Excalibur and The Ulterior Motive are equally matched.

Spender: Do not worry about me, or The Ulterior Motive, Black 1. I know how to handle Admiral Smith...and I am no stranger to naval warfare.

Black 1: Understood sir. We will await your order for departure. Black 1 out.

Black 5 and Black 6 heard the comm line close. They then heard the footsteps of Black 1 approaching the Pelican. Both of them turned their heads, and watched as Black 1 stepped onto the Pelican.

Black 1: Black Team...I trust that you all heard the conversation I just had with Spender?

Black 3: Yeah...we all heard.

Black 1: Then you know what is expected of us. I want this bord ready to go on demand. Black 2...are we ready for launch?

Black 2: Yes sir!

Black 3, Black 4...are we all loaded up?

Black 4: Yes sir.

Black 1 then looked at Black 5 and Black 6.

Black 1: Are you two ready?

Black 5 nodded.

Black 5: Yeah...we are ready.

Black 1: Good. Let's get to station, and await further orders.

With that Black Team began to situation themselves in the Pelican. Black 2 and Black 4 entered the cockpit. Black 2 sat in the piliot's seat, while Black 4 took the support and forward gunner seat. Black 1, Black 3, Black 5, and Black 6 remained in the rear compartment.

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive – Main Bridge – Draco System - Currently on course towards Draco III - 0815 hours - May 22nd 2515.

Spender was on the bridge of The Ulterior Motive. Spender stood over the holotable, watching the live display of the entire arena. He watched as The Excalibur finished off the last of the Insurrectionist ships. Novak was standing at the other side of the holotable, with a keen eye on the Insurrectionist ships. HE sighed when the last one went offline.

Novak: Things are looking bad out there. The Excalibur did a lot better than what I was prepared to give her creit for. This may be more difficult than originally thought.

Spender: I agree. The Insurrectionist ships did not do nearly as much damage as I thought they would. However, there is still something we can exploit.

Novak: That is?

Spender: There is above normal hull stress on the port quarter of The Excalibur. That should be our focus. If we can focus our fire on that area, we could compromise the super structure of The Excalibur, and we can defiantly capitalize.

Novak: The port quarter has nothing critical however. The typical Marathon class design does not place any critical systems in that area. It is curious why The Insurrection were focusing on that part of the ship exclusively. Perhaps they knew something that we didn’t?

Spender: It does not matter either way. In the end, it is a weak spot that I am going to attack.

Spender then looked right at Novak.

Spender: Doctor…I think you should get to the medical bay. I am going to be sending you casualty after casualty…and I need them back on their feet ASAP. Your finesse in the surgical bay will be needed.

Novak raised his brows and gave a tired sigh.

Novak: Understood.

With that, Novak turned and left the bridge, and headed back to the medical bay.

Spender, on the other hand, walked to the front of the bridge. As he did, the comms officer spoke up.

Trust Comms Officer: Sir…we are receiving a transmission from The Excalibur. Admiral Smith demands to know what we are doing here.

Spender: A think Smith deserves a response…

Spender looked at the tactical office.

Spender: Commence firing pattern Spender-Omega-4.

Trust Tactical Officer: Pattern Spender-Omega-4 locked.

The weapons of The Ulterior Motive locked onto the maneuvering thrusters and communications array.

Spender: Tactical…

Spender turned and sat down.

Spender: Fire at will!

The Ulterior Motive came about, and began to fire on The Excalibur. As planned, the attack pattern carried out by The Ulterior Motive, combined with the sneak attack, caused significant damage to the maneuvering thrusters and communications array of The Excalibur.

Trust Tactical Officer: Multiple direct hits. The Excalibur’s engine output has dropped by 31%. Their communication systems has been critically damaged.

The sensor officer then spoke up.

Trust Sensor Officer: Sir…The Excalibur has weapons lock. They are firing.

Spender: All point defense guns, commence rapid fire. All stations, brace for impact.

The Archer missiles from The Excalibur locked onto The Ulterior Motive, and flew towards their target. The point defense guns on The Ulterior Motive began to fire off at the missile cluster. One by one, the point defense guns of The Ulterior Motive cut down the Archer missiles, reducing the total amount of missiles to a fraction of what was fired. The remaining missiles impacted the broadside of The Ulterior Motive, causing moderate damage to an isolated section of the ship.

Trust Operations Officer: Sir...moderate damage on Deck 14, section 21...damage control teams are responding.

Spender: Take us about on a heading of 139 mark 16. Perform a 35 degree rotation to starboard, and fire all Dorsal deck cannons. Begin targeting The Excalibur's point defense weapons.

The Ulterior Motive altered its course, as it came about in front of The Excalibur. The large deck guns on the dorsal side fired off, impacting specific spots on The Excalibur, damaging several point defense cannons.

The Excalibur, however, returned fire immediately, as it fired off another barrage of Archer Missiles at The Ulterior Motive.

Trust Sensor Officer: Incoming weapons fire...Archer Missiles, in a Sierra formation firing pattern.

Spender: Bring our point defense weapons to bear on the cluster!

The point defense cannons on The Ulterior Motive came to bear on the cluster of Archer Missiles, but they were not fast enough, as dozens of missiles impacted right down the starboard side of The Ulterior Motive.

Trust Operations Officer: Sir...we have damage down the starboard side of the ship, on decks 6 through 8---sections 14 through 56. Several large bulkheads on deck 7 are not responding.

Spender: Begin evacuation of those areas.

Spender looked at his armrest, as he activated the comms, and contacted Black Team.

Spender: Black Team...this is Spender...prepare for immediate deployment. Enemy weapons are in cycle, and you have a clear window towards the planet. Go now!

Black 1 responded over the comm.

Black 1: Aye sir...deploying now.

Spender closed the comm., and returned his focus to the battle with The Excalibur.

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive – Hanger Bay 1 – Draco System - Currently in orbit of Draco III - 0830 hours - June 5th 2515.

The Pelican carrying ODST Black Team launched from the hanger bay, at best possible speeds, as it flew downwards, right at the planet below.

Black 2: Hold on everyone, we are entering the atmosphere at critical velocity.

Black 1: Ease up Black 2…or this thing will incinerate.

Black 2: Trust me…I got it under control.

The Pelican began to shake a bit, as each member of Black Team steadied themselves in their seats.

Black 2: We will be entering the lower stratosphere in 5…4…3…2…1…

The Pelican stopped shaking, as it began to ease up, and steady itself.

Black 2: We are clear.

Black 1 walked into the cockpit of the Pelican, and looked at Black 2.

Black 1: Black 2…hell of a job with the piloting…but I better not see that again unless our lives depend on it…clear?

Black 2: Crystal, sir.

Black 1: Good. Now, start scanning for any communication channels which coincide with known communication channels used by ground forces stationed on The Excalibur. Let’s see if we can pinpoint their current location. Scan in stealth mode using a no response algorithm. I don’t want any of Smith’s people catching on to the fact that someone is attempting to isolate their communications.

Black 2 nodded, as he carried out Black 1’s orders.

Black 2: Scan in progress. Stand by.

Black 2 fell silent, as he monitored the scan readout. Black 1 simply waited for a report.

Black 2: I have detected an active communications net approximately 45 Km from our current location. The communication frequency coincides with a known frequency used by The Excalibur.

Black 1: Adjust our course and heading to put us on a direct course.

Black 2 nodded.

Black 2: Already done.

Black 1 nodded, and then turned and walked back to the rear compartment. Black 1 looked at the members of Black Team in the rear compartment.

Black 1: Alright listen up guys. Once we begin our approach, we are going to come under fire. We are going to be landing and going in hot. Once our boots hit the ground, we will be in a free fire zone. We are taking kill safeties off.

Black 3, Black 5, and Black 6 took the safeties off their weapons.

Black 1: Remember...our priority targets will be UNSC personnel...and NOT insurrectionists. This is not to say that we are helping The Insurrection...quite the opposite. If The Insurrection does get in our way, we are permitted to use lethal force, so long as we keep their casualties to a minimum.

Black 3 laughed.

Black 3: I find it so ironic how we were recruited to stop The Insurrection...but here we are trying to keep them alive, just so we can help Spender kill them at a later date.

Black 1: We are not paid to think about this stuff Black 3. We are paid to follow orders. Now I hope this won't be an issue?

Black 3 shook his head.

Black 3: No issue. No Issue at all.

Black 1: Good. As long we there are no problems, we should complete this assignment with no incident.

Just as Black 1 said this, he fell the Pelican take a hard turn. Black 1 shifted to the side, and grabbed onto the wall to balance himself. Black 1 then contacted Black 2 on Black Team's comm line.

Black 1: What the hell is going on up there Black 2?

Black 2 responded over the comm line.

Black 2: Sir...we are under fire from UNSC ground forces. A UNSC Scorpion Tank just took a shot at us...missed us by a few meters. We would be in pieces right now had I not moved us out of the way.

Black 1 scoffed.

Black 2: Sir...we the amount of Hardware that Admiral Smith has deployed...we are not going to get very far. We need a way to balance out this engagement.

Black 1: What do you suggest Black 2?

Black 2: Well...this Pelican is equipped with weapons. We have a chin-mounted turret, a rear mounted turret, and wing-mounted Missile pods. Black 4 has already prepped the missile pods, and the chin-mounted chain gun. I can always pop open the rear hatch, and let you take the gun back there.

Black 3 and Black 5 looked at each other, and then at Black 1.

Black 3: Black 5 and I could provide small-arms support, taking out strategic personnel, and weakening their lines. We can fire right out the rear of the Pelican.

Black 1 nodded in agreement.

Black 1: Alright...sounds like a plan. get it done!

Draco III - Draco III Insurrectionist Facility - Command Information Center - 0845 hours - June 5th 2515.

Vixen was in the CIC of the Insurrectionist facility, coordinating the defense against The UNSC Marines that were moving on the facility. Vixen stood over a large holotable, watching in real-time as her forces were slowly getting cut down by the UNSC forces.

Vixen had a stone-cold expression, but on the inside she knew that her cell of The Insurrection was in serious trouble, and facing its immanent destruction.

Insurrectionist: Vixen...our forces on the east side of the facility have been breached. The UNSC is moving in.

Vixen: Order Foxtrot team to move in and suppress the advance.

Insurrectionist: Ma'am...Foxtrot team has not been checking in. We cannot raise them.

Vixen: Check their life signs!

The Insurrectionist issued a few commands on his computer, and then shook his head.

Insurrectionist: They are all null ma'am. Foxtrot is dead.

Vixen: Do we have anyone to fill in the gaps?

Insurrectionist: All of our combat personnel is currently deployed.

Vixen: Are you telling me that we have nobody left here?

Insurrectionist: Aside from the non-combat ma'am. However, we do have forces en-route back to our current location. If we are lucky, we may be able to flank the UNSC on the south side.

Vixen: How long until our forces get back?

Insurrectionist: Based on the last report...roughly 20 minutes.

Vixen sighed. She had become very desperate.

Vixen: Send the order to everyone in this facility...every scientist...every technician...every medic...every nurse...everyone....that they are to gear up, and grab a weapon. Anyone who can hold a now enlisted personnel.

Insurrectionist: Yes ma'am...I will radio the order to all points.

Vixen watched as the Insurrectionist she was talking to carried out her order. Vixen did not like ordering non-combat personnel to take up arms, but she was officially out of options.

Vixen hung her head, but as she did, she noticed an unidentified Pelican show up on the holotable, flying right up the west side of the facility.

Vixen: What the hell?

Vixen then watched as The Pelican fired half a dozen missiles right up the west side, cutting right into the UNSC line that was advancing.

Vixen: Did anyone else see that pelican on the west side?

The Insurrectionist that was dealing with the communications turned back to Vixen.

Insurrectionist: Ma'am...we have confirmation on the west end that a Pelican has launched an air assault on the UNSC forces. Visual reports seem to indicate that this is a military grade Pelican. The UNSC is shooting at itself.

Vixen laughed.

Vixen: Well...this is unexpected.

Insurrectionist: Ma'am...I don't like the sound of this.

Vixen: To be frank...I don't care what you like or dislike. The fact is...we have a Pelican that is assaulting and cutting down UNSC forces. That is all I need to know. Tell our boys to keep their focus on the UNSC , and hold their fire on that Pelican. Every little bit helps.

Vixen turned as she grabbed an Assault Rifle, and ran towards the exit of the room she was in. She yelled out one final order.

Vixen: No matter what...we are not going to surrender. We make our final stand HERE!

UNSC Marathon Class - The Excalibur - Main Bridge - Draco System - Currently in orbit of Draco III - 0900 hours - June 5th 2515.

Admiral Smith was on the main bridge of The Excalibur. He was standing over the holotable, watching the attack patterns of The Ulterior Motive, as he was delegating the orders to his crew.

Rear Admiral Smith: Helm...take us about, 45 degrees to starboard. Commence a half rotation to starboard, and do not let them get a shot on our aft quarter.

Smith looked up from the holotable, as he shot a glare at his weapons officer.

Rear Admiral Smith: Lieutenant...commence rapid fire of all ventral Autocannons and Deck cannons. Target everything we have on The Ulterior Motive. Get off as many hits on them as you can before they cycle their Archer pods!

The Excalibur began to fire off its secondary weapons, impacting the port side of The Ulterior Motive, scoring several direct hits, dealing major damage to weakened areas of the ship.

Trust Tactical Officer: We scored several direct hits sir. We have damaged several exposed sections on the port side of The Ulterior Motive.

Rear Admiral Smith: Continue targeting those areas. If we can critically compromise structural integrity in those areas, we should be able to cripple The Ulterior Motive...and we can end this skirmish!

Smith had to grab the holotable to keep his balance, as the entire ship shook from a weapons impact.

Trust Operations Officer: Hull Breach on Deck 5...we are venting the medical bay...

Smith frowned, but he kept his focus on the battle at hand.

Rear Admiral Smith: Return fire...

Smith was cut off again as the ship shook even harder this time.

Trust Operations Officer: Multiple hull breaches...decks 4 through 8. Emergency bulkheads are not responding.

Rear Admiral Smith: Evacuate those areas.

Smith paused.

Rear Admiral Smith: What is the cycle time on our Archer pods?

Trust Tactical Officer: 15 seconds.

Rear Admiral Smith: Bring us about, get us as much of a direct course as you can. Once the Archer pods are everything we have! Get all pods to ready...and fire at will!

Smith paused once more.

Rear Admiral Smith: Place exclusive target on their main power system! We have to offline this bastard!

The Excalibur shook again, harder than the previous two times, as the force sent Admiral Smith flying towards the ground. Several of the other bridge officers were thrown from their stations as well. As Smith climbed back to his feet, he shouted across the bridge.

Rear Admiral Smith: Damage report!?

Trust Operations Officer: We took a direct hit to Deck 4. We have multiple cascade breeches on that deck. We are losing structural cohesion in section 12 through 52. Structural collapse is imminent. A primary conduit running to the MAC gun has been ruptured. MAC gun is now offline.

Rear Admiral Smith: Evacuate those sections immediately! Get our people out of there!

Smith shot a glare at the tactical officer.

Rear Admiral Smith: Where the hell are our weapons!?

Trust Tactical Officer: Weapons are primed sir...ready to fire on your mark.

Smith stepped forward and clenched his fist.

Rear Admiral Smith: FIRE!

The Excalibur came about and fired off every Archer missile that it had prepped. The Autocannons and Deck cannons fired off towards The Ulterior Motive. Multiple Archer Missiles impacted various points on The Ulterior Motive, with a majority of the impacting near the ship's main reactors.

Trust Tactical Officer: We scored multiple direct hits...but there doesn't seem to be any fluctuations in The Ulterior Motive's power systems. However, we have caused serious hull damage in several vital areas. The Ulterior Motive is venting atmosphere.

Smith remained silent as he watched the holotable. He could see that The Ulterior Motive was breaking off. Smith knew that Spender was trying to put some distance between the two ships.

Rear Admiral Smith: Spender is breaking off.

Trust Tactical Officer: Orders, sir?

Smith looked at his tactical officer, and then his helm officer.

Rear Admiral Smith: Reverse course. Let’s move off. Take a defensive position, and begin repairs of critical systems. Keep our weapons primed and ready to counter any offensive.

Trust Tactical Officer: Aye sir.

Smith looked back at the holotable, with his eyes pinned on The Ulterior Motive.

Rear Admiral Smith: What are you up to Constantine?

Smith sighed in anger. He never thought he would see such a level of infighting in the ranks of The Trust.

Rear Admiral Smith: Do we have any updates from our ground teams?

Trust Communications Officer: Hull Yes we do sir. Our ground teams were reporting a great deal of success in pushing towards the Insurrectionist facility. However, an unmarked Pelican had entered the battle arena, and began to fire on our forces, in support of The Insurrection.

Rear Admiral Smith: An unmarked Pelican?

Smith paused.

Rear Admiral Smith: Didn't we detect a Pelican being launched from The Ulterior Motive?

Trust Tactical Officer: Yes we did sir.

Rear Admiral Smith: Spender deployed teams to the surface to stop stop us from destroying the Insurrection at Draco III...

Smith paused.

Rear Admiral Smith: He is trying to stop US from stopping HIM. He has gone completely rouge!

Smith's eyes got wide, as he contemplated the full repercussions of what Spender was doing.

Rear Admiral Smith: He is going to destroy The Trust! He is going to tear us asunder!

Smith scoffed.

Rear Admiral Smith: Open a communication's channel to The Ulterior Motive! Priority one!

UNSC Marathon Class - The Ulterior Motive - Draco System - Currently in orbit of Draco III - 0920 hours - June 5th 2515.

Spender: Damage report?

Trust Operations Officer: We have casualty reports coming in all over the ship. Novak is reporting that, so far, 39 are dead, with another 13 in critical condition, and 63 others have been moderately injured.

The Operations Officer paused for a moment.

Trust Operations Officer: We have sustained damage to Deck Cannons 4, 5, and 6 and they are currently offline for repair. We have sustained dozens of hull fractures, and several critical breeches. Emergency bulkheads are not responding.

Spender sighed, as he started to light up a smoke.

Trust Operations Officer: There is a fire in barracks 4. Suppression systems are offline, and repair crews are having difficulty containing the blaze. Repair crews are unable to vent the deck due to the airlock controls being fried.

Spender raised an eyebrow.

Trust Operations Officer: Hanger bay 4 has been destroyed. 13 crewmen are missing and unaccounted for.

Spender: Pity.

Trust Operations Officer: We have exhausted 42% of our Archer Missiles and the MAC gun is offline due to a series of fried power junctions.

Spender: Damn it. We could have used that MAC gun right about now.

Spender paused as he took a drag of his cigarette.

Spender: Can you get me a status update on Black Team?

Trust Operations Officer: Negative. Our sensor resolution has fallen below 65% due to a failure in Processor Kai 448. I am unable to bypass the damage.

Spender: Can you raise them on the comms?

Trust Communications Officer: I can try...give me one moment sir.

Spender paced back and forth as he waited.

Trust Communications Officer: Sir...we have an incoming transmission

Spender: Source?

Trust Communications Officer: Its coming from The Excalibur. I think Smith wants to talk to us.

Spender: Very well. Open a channel. Let's humor him.

The Communications Officer issued a few commands to his controls, and then turned back to Spender and nodded.

Trust Communications Officer: Channel open sir.

Spender walked to wards the front of the bridge, as he saw a view of Smith's bridge appear on one of the large screens mount on the wall.

Spender: Admiral are looking well.

Smith scoffed at Spender.

Rear Admiral Smith: Cut the crap Spender. I am not here to exchange quips with you.

Spender: that the pleasantries are out of the way, I will cut the crap. What the hell do you want Smith?

Rear Admiral Smith: What do I want? What do you want? You are the one who is here, firing on your allies.

Spender: You and I differ in our definition of an ally.

Rear Admiral Smith: What does that mean?

Spender: You are trying to kick me out of a very exclusive club Admiral.

Rear Admiral Smith: We are pushing you off the Board of Chairmen because you have proven that you lack the subtly to lead The Trust.

Spender: What I lack in subtly...I make up for in my grandness of scope.

Spender paused as he took a drag of his cigarette.

Spender: Do you want to know what has precipitated this confrontation Smith? This was all because you and the rest of the Board of Chairmen lacked my instead of stepping up and becoming turned coat and stabbed me in the back like weasels. I will not stand by as weasels determine the future of The Trust. I have given my life for The Trust, and I would rather die trying to save it, than simply allow men like you to destroy everything that men like I have worked so hard to build.

Rear Admiral Smith: Is this what this is all about? You are angry that your vision is not our vision?

Spender: Your vision would stagnate The Trust. Your vision would see The Trust diminished in its role. As Humanity moved forward, you would have us left behind! My vision takes a far more proactive role in shaping Human destiny!

Rear Admiral Smith: No Spender...I think it is more than that. I think this is about power. I think this is about your desire for power. Ever since you joined The Trust, all those years ago, you have been a power hungry maniac.

Smith paused. He scoffed in disgust.

Rear Admiral Smith: Tell me you honestly think you can succeed? Do you honestly thing the ENTIRE Trust will simply allow you to continue on with this madness?

Spender: As a matter of fact Smith...I expect that The Trust will allow me to continue on. You see...I have something that will allow me to put the ENTIRE Trust under my control.

Spender grinned.

Spender: After it is all said and done...The Trust will be operating under my administrations...and The Trust will be taking a leading role in shaping Humanities destiny and potential.

Rear Admiral Smith: Over my dead body Spender!

Spender laughed.

Spender: That is the idea Smith...that is the idea.

Spender looked at his tactical officer, and nodded. The Tactical officer nodded back, as the officer prepped and readied every Archer pod on the front of the ship.

Spender: For the record Smith...I always hated your guts.

The Ulterior Motive began to fire off all its weapons. As the weapons fired off, Spender watched as Smith tried to counteract the barrage of missiles that were heading for them.

Rear Admiral Smith: Bring our weapons fire on that missile barrage off the port-bow!

As Smith said this, the barrage of missiles began to impact The Excalibur. Spender watched as the bridge of The Excalibur began to shake. The audio transmission began to fill with static, and the image began to glitch, culminating in the image feed going black, and the comm line going dead.

Spender: Begin targeting The Excalibur with every available deck gun and autocannon. I want that ship blown from the sky!

Trust Tactical Officer: With pleasure sir!

The Ulterior Motive began to fire its larger deck guns and Autocannons, hitting The Excalibur with everything that it could muster. With each hit, The Excalibur took more and more damage, with secondary and tertiary explosions on the ship further escalating the damage. The Excalibur was burning in space, as it began to lose its orbit, as it got pulled down towards the planet.

Spender watched as The Excalibur started to lose orbit. He let a grin run across his face as he took another drag of his cigarette.

Trust Tactical Officer: Sir...The Excalibur is going down. She is being pulled into atmosphere. Should we continue our assault?

Spender: Of course we should. Resume firing. I want to see how many pieces the Excalibur can go down in.

Trust Tactical Officer: Yes sir.

Spender stood up, and looked at the tactical officer.

Spender: You have the bridge. I will be in the observation deck...relishing in my victory.

Trust Tactical Officer: Aye sir!

Spender walked off the bridge of The Ulterior Motive, as he made his way to the observation deck. As he walked in, he approached

UNSC Marathon Class - The Excalibur - Main Bridge - Draco System - Currently in orbit of Draco III - 0935 hours - June 5th 2515.

Smith was laying face down on his bridge. His vision was blurry, and his ears were ringing. He could hear the faint sound of alarms, and the muffled sounds of people in a panic. Smith then felt a very thick, warm liquid drip off his face, as he began to notice the puddle of blood that was forming below him. Smith touch his head, and he could feel a very nasty gas running along his forehead.

Smith began to groan, as he shook off his daze and climbed back to hi9s feet. As he got back to his feet, he looked around his bridge. He could see multiple crewmen, laying on the ground, either dead or seriously injured. He saw some of the crew trying to free other members of the crew who were trapped under broken and fallen bulkheads. Smith could see that the lights on the bridge had failed, and that a good number of stations were now fully ablaze.

Rear Admiral Smith: Damage report...anyone?

Nobody was able to acknowledge Smith's request, as they were all too panicked and preoccupied to even notice that their commanding officer had regained consciousness.

Rear Admiral Smith: DAMAGE REPORT!?

Smith began to breath heavily, as the smoke on the bridge began to contaminate the air. Smith then began to cough, as he heard an automated announcement from the ship.

The Excalibur: Airborne contaminants detected in air filtration system. Filtration systems are offline. Lethal exposure in 9 minutes and 42 seconds.

Smith began to move towards the operations station on the bridge, but as he started to move, he heard another automated announcement.

The Excalibur: Warning...overload in main power grid detected.

Smith stopped, as the station he was walking towards exploded. SMith was tossed back by the force of the explosion, with several crewmembers who were closer being killed instantly. SMith covered his eyes, as more of the bridge consoles began to explode, one by one due to the overload.

The Excalibur: Failure in main engines. Attitude control is offline.

Smith began to climb back to his feet once more. As he did, he looked out the front of the bridge, and he saw that The Excalibur was being pulled down into the atmosphere, and was gaining speed.

The Excalibur: Warning...structural integrity is approaching critical levels. Hull breaches detected on all decks.

Spender looked around helplessly, as there was nothing he could do to stop the destruction of his ship. The Excalibur was going down...and he could not stop it.

The Excalibur: Critical failures in all systems. Structural integrity has exceeded maximum tolerance. Emergency protocols...engaged...

Smith began to notice that the automated voice was starting to fail.

The Excalibur: Main offline...unable to re-route to backups...

Smith scoffed.

The Excalibur: Emergency Protocol Omega-1...abandon ship...abandon...ship...abandon...

Smith cringed as he heard nothing but static and distortion fill the speakers, as the ships main computer had started to fail.

Smith started to look around his bridge again, but as he did, the ship shook again, and Smith was thrown off his feet again. The Excalibur continued to get pelted by shots from The Ulterior Motive, as the interior of The Excalibur was falling apart, piece by piece.

Smith struggled to climb back to his feet, as he started to move towards the exit of the bridge. As Smith reached the exit, he heard someone shout his name.

Trust Tactical Officer: Admiral! Help!

Smith turned as his attention was drawn to his tactical office, still alive, pinned under a ton of fallen debris and bulkheads.

Trust Tactical Officer: Sir…please…help me! Don’t leave me!

Smith saw the office pinned under debris. He began to walk towards the office, but only after the second step, did Smith have to recoil back, as more bulkheads collapsed on top of the officer, burying him beyond any hope of survival.

Smith looked on in horror, as he started to back up. He quickly turned, and ran off the bridge, as he looked for the escape pods on that deck. Smith didn’t have to go far when he found a group of Marines piling into a bunch of escape pods that were lined up in the corridor. As Smith got closer, he drew the attention of one of the Marines.

Trust Marine: Sir…you’re alive! Thank God! Get in sir…quickly!

Smith looked at the Marine.

Rear Admiral Smith: Do you know anything about the rest of the crew?

Trust Marine: Communications are gone. I have been unable to reach any deck. It is possible that everyone is either dead, or evacuated by now…but there is no way to be sure. All I know is that we have to go…

The Trust marine was cut off as a junction behind the Marine exploded, sending a piece of shrapnel right into the back of his head. Smith watched as the Marine fell dead in front of him.

Rear Admiral Smith: Oh…fuck!

Smith knew that every second he wasted, was an extra second that he could be killed if he didn’t get to the escape pod. Smith shook off the shock, as he jumped into the escape pod.

Rear Admiral Smith: Pilot! Get us the HELL out of here!

There was no hesitation in the order as the escape pod pilot sealed the door behind Smith.

Trust Pilot: Right away sir!

Smith sat down in one of the seats and strapped himself in, as the pod fired off from The Excalibur. Smith couldn’t help but glance out the rear window, as he saw The Excalibur burning, going down into the planet’s atmosphere, crashing down without any mercy. Smith was enraged by this sight. His anger was unlike anything he had ever felt. How many people on his ship died because of Spender’s ambition.

Rear Admiral Smith: Damn you Spender. Damn you to hell!

Smith took a moment to recompose himself, as he began to think how he could possibly recoup from this defeat. He knew that Spender was never going to quit until every single crewmember of The Excalibur was dead.

Rear Admiral Smith: This fight isn’t over…far from it…far from it…

Draco III - Draco III Insurrectionist Facility – Outer Defense Perimeter - 0950 hours - June 5th 2515.

ODST Black Team was still making sweeping passes with their Pelican, cutting down the Trust forces that had been attacking the Insurrectionist facility. Black Team had managed to single handedly break every offensive line, and force a full retreat of the Trust Forces that were moving in.

Black 1: Look at those bastards run! That’s how it’s done boys!

Black 1 laughed as he fired off the chain gun from the rear of the Pelican, cutting down a squad of Marines below.

Black 3: I think you are enjoying this a little too much sir.

Black 1: You’re damn right!

The Pelican started to make another pass, but as they did, they started to come under fire from Trust forces below.

Black 2 then spoke over the comm..

Black 2: Watch out back there…they are firing at us again.

Black 1, Black 3, and Black 5 adjusted their aim. Black 1 began to fire his turret, while Black 3 and Black 5 provided long range fire support while they stood at Black 1’s side. The combined fire from the three members of Black Team was very quick in cutting down the offensive.

Black 1: These guys just don’t get a clue. They are no match for us up here!

However, just as Black 1 said this, several Warthogs broke through the tree line, each of them equipped with chaingun turrets. The Warthogs began to lay down fire on Black Team’s Pelican, hitting the sides of the craft.

Black 2: We have Warthogs at 5 o’clock. Hold on back there…I am going to let Black 4 takes these guys down.

The Pelican came about, as the missile pods got a clear shot of the Warthogs.

Black 4: Missiles away…

The Pelican fired a full spread of missiles, as the explosions blanketed the Warthogs, destroying all of them in a single volley.

Black 4: Contacts down!

However, just as Black 4 said this, two more Warthogs broke through the tree line, except these Warthogs were mounted with Guass turrets. The Warthogs wasted no time in firing on the Pelican, with the high-impact shells hitting the wings of the Pelican.

Black 2: Damn it! We’ve been hit! I’m moving us off!

The Pelican began to break off, but as it did, it took another hit right to the side of the hull.

Black 2: We have lost thruster control in Wing-B. Hold on back there…I am going to try and get us out of range.

As the Pelican turned and tried to fly off, Black 3 had a clear shot of the Warthogs. Black 3 took aim, and fired off a single round, killing one of the turret-mounted Marines. Black 3 then adjusted his aim, and shot the other turret-mounted Marine, effectively nullifying the threat posed by the Guass turrets.

Black 2: I have to seal the rear hatch. You guys need to strap yourselves in…because I am losing control of this bird and we are going down fast!

Black 1, Black 3, and Black 5 stepped back as the rear hatch began to close. The three then strapped themselves into their seats, as the Pelican started to shake.

Black 2: Impact in 10 seconds. Hold on back there…I am going to try and bring this bird down as easy as I can.

The four members of Black Team all looked at each other as they counted the seconds till impact.

Black 2: Impact in 3…2…1…

The Pelican hit the ground, and the Pelican violently shook, as the Pelican skidded across the ground. The Pelican showed no signs of slowing down as it continued to skid across the ground, smashing through small trees and brushes. After a few moments, however, The pelican eventually came to a stop, and the rear hatch opened, although with great difficulty.

Black 1, Black 3, Black 5, and Black 6 all removed their safety harnesses, as they stood up. As they did, Black 2 and Black 4 emerged from the cockpit.

Black 2: Are you guys alright?

Black 2 watched as everyone gave a nod.

Black 5: Pretty good…all things considered.

Black 1 brushed himself off, as he grabbed his Assault Rifle, and readied the weapon.

Black 1: Alright…we had a rough landing…but we are still able to walk. Get your boots on the line boys…and let’s finish this. Smith still has a ton of his asshole lackeys out there causing trouble…and we have to put them down. Let’s move out!

Each member of Black team grabbed their gear, as the exited the Pelican. As the six ODSTs moved away from the crash site, Black 5 spoke up.

Black 5: We should check in with Spender and The Ulterior Motive…see how things are going up there.

Black 1 nodded in agreement, as he readied his Assault Rifle.

Black 1: Good call.

Black 1 tapped the side of his helmet, as he opened an encrypted channel to The Ulterior Motive.

Black 1: Ulterior Motive...this is Black 1...confirmation code Jango-Jango-Omicron-5-5-7. Do you copy? This is Black 1.

Black 1 waited a moment for a response. It was not long before he got a response.

Spender: Black are things going down there? I assume everything is going to plan?

Black 1: For the most part sir. We managed to break the siege on The Insurrectionist facility...but our Pelican was shot down by Smith's forces. It seems Smith had managed to deploy some heavier hardware. We were taken down by a few rounds of a Gauss Turret.

Black 1 paused.

Black 1: However...we cut through their forces none-the-less. We are currently on foot...attempting to pursue Smith's forces to finish the job.

Spender: Perhaps I can assist you with that. Stand by.

Black 1 simply waited. It was a few moments before Spender spoke up.

Spender: According to our scans...a large portion of Smith's forces have started to fall back towards a remote urban center, roughly 20 miles south-west of your location. It would seem that Smith's forces are re-grouping at this location...possibly to carry forward their offensive.

Spender paused.

Spender: seems that those forces will be getting some backup in very short order.

Black 1: Is The Excalibur deploying reinforcements?

Spender: In a matter of speaking...

Spender began to laugh.

Black 1: Sir?

Spender: The Excalibur has been destroyed. She fell apart as it crashed into atmosphere. As The Excalibur came crashing down...she managed to eject about two dozen escape pods. The escape pods were all on course for the small Urban center that I mentioned.

Black 1: Can you identify the Urban any chance?

Spender: Of course. The urban center in question is known as New Sacramento.

Black 1 nodded, as he gestured his head to the rest of Black Team, as they all broke out into a rapid pace, and began to run.

Black 1: Alright sir...we are on our way. We will radio in when we get into range. Black 1 out.

Black 1 closed the comm line, as Black Team proceeded on foot, running to their destination.

Draco III - Draco III Insurrectionist Facility - Outer Defense Perimeter - 1000 hours - June 5th 2515.

Vixen was checking the wounded amongst her soldiers, as she made her rounds, ensuring that the entire perimeter was clear. As she moved around the perimeter, Vixen was in contact with the Insurrectionists inside the facility.

Vixen: What do you mean you detected a ship entering orbit?

Insurrectionist: Well...I guess "entering" is the wrong word. One of the satellites we hacked into in orbit observed a battle between two Marathon class cruisers. One of the cruisers went crashing down into the planet. It literally broke apart.

Vixen: Why would the UNSC be shooting at each other?

Insurrectionist: I don't know ma'am...but there is something you need to know.

Vixen: What is that?

Insurrectionist: The ship that won...was The Ulterior Motive...the ship that we engaged at Madrigal.

Vixen froze when she heard this. She knew that Spender was here.

Vixen: Oh God...HE is here...again.

Insurrectionist: Ma'am...there is something else. When we checked the logs, we managed to catch an unmarked Pelican being launched from The Ulterior Motive. When we compared the visual records with the Pelican that helped us break the UNSC siege...they were a 98% match.

Vixen was now confused.

Vixen: Are you sure?

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